Greens want 2 deputy PMs

April 19, 2014

Green co-leader Metiria Turei wants to be c0-deputy Prime Minister too.

The Greens could share the deputy Prime Minster role in a coalition with Labour, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman last month said he was keen on the role.

Ms Turei said she would like to be deputy Prime Minister along with Dr Norman.

“There’s no rules that stop there from being more than one deputy Prime Minister,” she told told The Nation.

“Russel and I have had a co-leadership role in the Greens that’s worked very well for the Green Party. I think something similar would work very well for the country as well.” . . .

That is very much a matter of opinion.

From the outside the co-leadership looks very much like tokenism with Norman being the leader in all but name.

He appears to do far more speaking on the party’s behalf than she does.

In spite of National’s popularity and the distrust and disarray on the left, it is possible the left could still be in government.

But when Labour has spurned the Green Party its won’t be keen on one Green deputy let alone two.

And what would happen when the Prime Minister was overseas – would there then be two acting PMs?

 

 

 


Welfare numbers back to pre-rescession levels

April 19, 2014

The number of people receiving welfare has dropped back to pre-recession levels.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the latest benefit figures showing a five year low confirm New Zealand welfare numbers are back to where they were pre-global recession.

Benefit numbers have dropped five percent or nearly 15,000 to 295,320 in the past year (March 2013 – March 2014).  This has resulted in 17,700 fewer children living in beneficiary households compared to March last year and a whopping 29,500 children fewer than two years ago.

“Beneficiary numbers have fallen to the lowest level since March 2009.  When the Government took office in late 2008, the global financial crisis was already beginning to bite with benefit numbers increasing in the three quarters prior to and including the election,” says Mrs Bennett.

“The big success is the 10 per cent drop in sole parents and their children coming off Sole Parent Support. 

“More than 8,600 sole parents have come off Sole Parent Support in the past 12 months, making up almost 60 per cent of the total reduction.

“Particularly pleasing is the 13.4 per cent decrease in young parents aged 18 on Young Parent Payments.  We know that going on a benefit as teenager with children puts that person and their kids at huge risk of becoming trapped in welfare dependency. 

“In fact 70 per cent of the country’s future liability welfare bill can be attributed to people who first went on benefit in their teens.

“The reductions we’re now seeing will mean fewer people on benefit in the years to come.  We have more young people getting education and training through our Youth Service support which means we’re going to see healthier, more prosperous households,” says Mrs Bennett.

“Post peak recession in March 2010, beneficiaries made up 12 per cent of the working age population.  This has dropped to 10.6 per cent as at the end of March. 

“This Government is putting more money than ever before into the welfare system.  We are supporting people earlier, being clearer in our job expectations and putting more focus on at-risk teens.  All of this is making a significant difference.

“Only a few weeks ago New Zealand was judged the best country in the world to live in – our latest welfare figures show things are just getting better,” says Mrs Bennett.

Full benefit data is available at: http://www.msd.govt.nz

There are obvious financial benefits for the individuals on welfare and the country from having fewer beneficiaries and their children.

Just as important are the social outcomes which go with work rather than welfare – better health and education outcomes, less crime . . .

The decrease has been achieved by improving economic conditions and active engagement with beneficiaries to help and encourage those who could work to do so.

Photo: Welfare numbers are now back to pre-recessions levels.

 

 


Which lane?

April 18, 2014

Slow lane or fast lane.

Backwards or forwards.

Left or right.

Wrong or right.

Labour or National.

The difference is stark, the choice is clear.

Photo


Andrew Bayly Nat candidate for Hunua

April 18, 2014

Andrew Bayly has won the National Party selection for Hunua.

Andrew and his wife have raised three sons in Franklin.

Andrew co-founded a strategic advisory firm that lists governments, local authorities, NGOs and Australasian corporates among its clients. He has led multi-disciplinary teams to deliver projects across the health, infrastructure, property, food and agriculture, economic development and tertiary sectors.

Formerly an Officer in the New Zealand Territorial Army and British Parachute Regiment, Andrew is comfortable in the outdoors and the boardroom. He dragged a sled 112 km to the South Pole in the summer of 2012/13 and is a keen mountaineer, having conquered many mountain peaks including Mt Cook.

Andrew was born into a farming family and his father, Phil, is a respected racehorse owner/breeder. With his twin brother Paul, he has owned a 4,500 acre hill country farm and a range of other businesses, including an award-winning composting and recycling environmental business that services horticulturalists and orchardists.

As a trustee of Enterprise Franklin Development Trust, he led the initiative to further develop a motorsport hub in the Franklin area, assisting the Manukau Institute of Technology to establish a satellite campus in Pukekohe.

During his corporate career he has been the chair and a director of several companies, including independent chair of the board of New Zealand Financial Planning. Andrew is a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management, the NZ Chartered Institute of Corporate Management, and the UK Chartered Association of Certified Accountants.

National has selected another candidate who provides a stark contrast with the stale Labour caucus, many of whom have spent years in parliament and who had achieved little if anything before they got there.

 


Electorate boundaries finalised

April 17, 2014

Electorate boundaries have been finalised with changes to 46 seats.

The Electoral Act 1993 imposes strict electoral population limits binding on the Commission.  These provide an overall constraint to ensure that there are approximately equal numbers of people in each electorate so that they have equality of representation in Parliament.  All electorates must contain electoral populations varying not more than ±5% from the following quotas which are calculated in accordance with the Act:

  Quota ±5% Allowance
North Island General Electorates 59,731 ±2,986
South Island General Electorates 59,679 ±2,983
Māori Electorates  60,141 ±3,007

There’s an interactive map of old and new boundaries here.

Jadis, guest blogging at Kiwiblog has winners and losers:

Winners:

, Auckland Central – Having won and held Auckland Central by less than a thousand votes in 08 and 11 Nikki will be overjoyed to see ALL of Grey Lynn move into Mount Albert. . . .

, Christchurch Central – I am really pleased for Nicky as she was gutted when the provisional boundaries came out as they made it a strong red seat. . .

, Hamilton West – Hamilton is unique as it is the only urban centre held by the Nats .  Similar boundaries to the provisionals means that by crossing the river MacIndoe has gained some strong blue areas in a high growth zone.  . .

, Waimakariri – While there are no changes since the provisional Waimakariri is well and truly one of the most marginal seats in the country. . .

Losers:

Ruth Dyson, Port Hills – Dyson is the biggest loser in this boundary review.  Her majority has been reversed with the Nats stronghold of Halswell moving into the seat, and Anderton’s old stomping ground of Sydenham moving into Christchurch Central. . .

, Hutt South – This is the surprise of the final boundaries.  Mallard has gained all of the  Western Hills (good Nat territory) and lost super red areas of Naenae and Rimutaka. Labour should have been able to stop this occurring but appear to have put up no fight.  Mallard should be furious with his party for failing to keep Hutt South a real red seat. . . .

, Maungakiekie – Labour were grumpy in 2008 when Sam took one of ‘their’ red seats in Maungakiekie, so they will no doubt be pleased that the blue booths have almost all been taken out of Maungakiekie.  Beaumont would be silly to think her win is a foregone conclusion as Sam will throw everything into his beloved electorate and is able to cross party divides for electorate support.  This seat is too close to call.  Another true marginal.

It looks like National has gained more and lost less than Labour which could well end up with fewer electorates than it has now.

Does this mean Labour, having failed to get its dead wood to go voluntarily is prepared to lose seats in the hope of renewal in three year’s time?

Or is it just another sign the party can’t get its act together?

 


Interesting or important

April 17, 2014

Don Brash posts on Facebook:

What intrigues me about media reaction to the book so far is that almost all of it has focused on either (a) my personal life (which occupies a very small part of the book) or (b) my relationship with John Key, and what he and I may or may not have agreed in a motel room in Blenheim late in 2004. Oh yes, and Kim Hill spent quite a bit of time in her interview with me talking about the Exclusive Brethren.

I have seen no comment at all on my views on drug policy; or the importance of treating all New Zealanders as equal before the law; or the importance that we should attach to all immigrants signing up to key aspects of the New Zealand way of life (equality of men and women, access for girls to education, freedom to worship God or not to worship God, etc.); or my worries about religious fundamentalism; or my views on our relationship with China; or my concern that a very high rate of immigration in recent decades may be contributing to both our slow rate of growth in per capita income and our over-valued real exchange rate; or my overall assessment of the Key Government; or indeed my concern for the future of democracy.

It’s a slightly depressing reflection on what the media think interests the general public.

Only slightly depressing?

We do get some good analysis in the media but too often, as Brash observes, what might be considered of interest gets attention and what’s really important is ignored.

Andrei left this comment yesterday:

Good Lord – this is inane.

We are on the brink of the Third World War, perhaps the only hope of staving it off is a conference in Geneva due to take place
tomorrow and as we speak any hope of that conference taking place is being sabotaged by evil men

This is Holy Week and very unholy it is, blood is being spilled to advance the cause of darkness and chaos.

Apologies for the threadjack.

If you pray, pray for peace.

How many of us know what he’s talking about?

How many of us understand the issues?

How much coverage and analysis are we getting on them?

 


A stupid, stupid man

April 17, 2014

Think about Labour policy announcements this year and what comes to mind?

Debacles.

Wrong figures, wrong impressions, wrong strategy.

The latest is what has been dubbed a clustertruck – the proposal to restrict trucks to the slow lanes of three and four-lane highways.

Truck drivers said preventing them from using the outside lane on three- and four-lane highways would be unworkable and unlikely to reduce congestion.

The Automobile Association (AA) also questioned the policy, saying its members had never cited trucks as a cause of congestion. . .

Then there’s another problem with the transport policy:

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says Labour leader David Cunliffe has got himself in the most astonishing predicament on TV3’s Firstline this morning, by claiming the National Land Transport Fund is “going to be in surplus very soon,” so it’s time to give some of it back to taxpayers.

“We know Mr Cunliffe is under significant pressure from his own caucus, having announced policy on the hoof yesterday without telling the team back at Labour’s war room,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Now, when asked by the media this morning to explain where the forgone revenue from this policy would come from, Mr Cunliffe has resorted to making things up, presumably thinking no one would call him on it.

“The fact of the matter is the National Land Transport Fund is by its very nature incapable of achieving a surplus, or a deficit – it is what it is.

“This is an ongoing fund which is used to fund the National Land Transport Programme, which for the years 2012-2015 will see $12.3 billion invested in road building, road maintenance, public transport, and which includes $300 million a year for targeted on-road Police enforcement.

“The fund might be above or below forecast at any point in time due to factors like the performance of the domestic economy, or fuel prices, but this is a dedicated fund, with all its money coming from Road User Charges and Fuel Excise Duty on an annual basis.

“All of that money is spent on New Zealand’s roads and public transport through the National Land Transport Programme; the question of surplus or deficit simply never arises.

“What’s more, thanks to changes in driver behaviour – in particular more efficient use of vehicles by large transport fleets using GPS technology – and increasingly fuel efficient vehicles, there has been greater financial pressure on the National Land Transport Fund in recent years, not less.

“Despite that, over the past six years this government has invested more in our land transport system, following a sustained period of under investment, and that’s just starting to pay off for all New Zealanders.

“We know this is increasingly difficult territory for Labour.  They don’t want to talk about building roads because they don’t want to offend their Green coalition partners.

“But if Mr Cunliffe believes there is a surplus to be had in the National Land Transport Fund, he needs to explain what bits of the fund’s programme he is going to cut.

“If there’s some mystical way of creating a surplus inside the National Land Transport Fund without cancelling planned investment, David Cunliffe needs to tell us.

“I’d love to know what document he has seen that suggests this fund has, or will soon have, more money than it needs.”

Paul Henry says it all:


Deja Moo

April 16, 2014

That feeling you get when listening to David Cunliffe deliver Labour policy:

New word for the week?

Hat tip: the Farming Show


Forecast brighter

April 16, 2014

Finance Minister Bill English delivered good news in a pre-Budget speech yesterday:

The Budget next month will show growing surpluses over the next four years, starting with a small surplus in 2014/15.

At the same time, we’ve set out on a longer-term path to repair the damage to our economy caused by excessive borrowing, consumption and spending under the previous Labour government.

So together with households and businesses, we’re rebuilding the economy’s capacity to deliver more jobs and higher incomes over the next decade.

And we’re starting to see positive results.

Employment is rising across the board, wages on average are increasing ahead of the cost of living and consumer and business confidence has lifted.

So the Government has shifted its focus from managing our way out of recession to managing a growing economy.

In particular, we’re aiming for sustainable growth – the kind of longer-term growth that can deliver consistently more jobs and higher incomes.  

A short, sharp uplift would lead only to disappointment if we did not work on the longer-term economic fundamentals of investment, skills and productivity.

The Government is taking a long-term view, because some of the factors driving the economy today will peak over the next few years.

Export prices are likely to return closer to normal levels, housing supply will eventually catch up and the Christchurch rebuild will peak and eventually slow.

And the New Zealand economy faces ongoing global risks, including uncertainty about the performance of our two largest and linked trading partners, China and Australia.

Against the background of a growing economy, we have the opportunity to lock in the gains New Zealand has earned over the last six years.

That will mean more investment, better skills and a growing export base – all flowing into higher incomes and more jobs.

But that depends on more of the policies which are delivering good results.

This year is likely to see a political debate between a determined Government and complacent opposition parties who already believe today’s good times are permanent.

And they think we can go on an immediate taxpayer-funded spend-up.

We paid the price of complacency in the years up to 2008.

Until the mid-2000s, New Zealand generally enjoyed a period of low inflation and relatively high growth.  

Complacency then led to a rapid pick-up in government spending, policy that undermined competitiveness, soaring house prices and an unprecedented increase in household debt.

By 2008, households faced mortgage rates of almost 11 per cent and business rates exceeded 9 per cent.

Inflation exceeded 5 per cent and, by 2008, the export sector had shrunk significantly since the early 2000s, smothering our earning capacity.

The high cost of capital brought an end to investment and job growth and by early 2008 – well before the global financial crisis – New Zealand was in recession.

We can avoid those problems this time round.

But not with a change in government.

Opposition policies show they haven’t learned the hard lessons from their mistaken belief that more taxes and higher spending will deliver a different result than they did in the noughties.

While some increase in interest rates is an inevitable consequence of a growing economy, we need to do everything we can to ensure they don’t rise too sharply in the next few years.

A lower interest rate cycle will mean less pressure on households with debt, more investment in productive businesses and less pressure on the exchange rate for our exporters.

It is in that context that we will present the Budget next month.

Budget 2014 will build on our success so far.

You will see the Government continuing to be careful with its spending. And we will lay out an ongoing programme to lock in the benefits of sustainable growth.

If governments make large cash injections into the economy when house prices are already high and economic growth is building, interest rates will rise sharply.

We won’t make that mistake.

National’s new spending over the last five and a half years has slowed considerably compared with new spending by the previous government – and public services have improved.

Opposition parties’ answer to every problem is more government spending, despite clear evidence that high rates of government spending have little or no impact.

This was noted by the Salvation Army in its State of the Nation report in 2008. They noted that large increases in spending over the previous five years seemed to have contributed very little to New Zealand’s social progress.

We don’t need large lumps of new spending to get better results for our communities.

There’s a significant difference between quality spending and quantity.

The Budget next month will be about thoughtful targeted spending, not a spend-up. It will invest in better healthcare, more effective education, safer communities and less welfare dependency.

This Government has taken time to improve the quality of government spending, rather than just cut costs.

We have invested significantly more in areas where we can make a positive difference.

Where possible, we’ve reprioritised spending out of areas that were not delivering results and we’ve used that money more effectively.

This has resulted in falling crime rates, fewer sole parents, reduced welfare dependency and higher levels of educational achievement.

In welfare alone, we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars up-front to support more people off welfare and into work, training or education.

We’re finding we can improve people’s lives and reduce spending pressure if we really understand who we are dealing with.

For example, there is a group of around 2,000 six- to nine-year olds who had the worst start in life. They will cost taxpayers $750 million if we do nothing to prevent them getting into trouble.

We’ve only recently been able to measure this figure.

The information creates a moral and financial imperative to act more effectively in the interests of these children and the wider community through the Children’s Action Plan.

In another example, the number of young mothers on a main benefit has fallen from more than 4,200 in December 2009 to fewer than 2,600 in December 2013.

The Government has invested in each of them to make sure they have access to a supervising adult who can provide some stability in their lives.

Because of that investment, they have better lives and it’s good for the Government’s books when they succeed.

That’s why we’re confident we can maintain responsible fiscal policy over the next three years and at the same time improve results from public services.

That will include debt repayment, resuming contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund, and replenishing the Crown’s balance sheet.

It will also allow us to invest a little more in priority public services – providing that doesn’t push up interest rates or restrict our ability to get debt down.

A little more is significantly different from a lot more funded by higher taxes which is what the opposition is threatening with us.

We will have more to say about the Government’s future framework for fiscal policy in the Budget.

But, as the Prime Minister confirmed two weeks ago, the Government will stick to its $1 billion Budget allowance for the 2014/15 financial year.

This is the responsible thing to do.

Imagine the effect on interest rates – and the rest of the economy – of a return to the $3 billion-plus annual Budget allowances we saw under the previous government from 2005 to 2008.

By containing government spending, we will help to restrict interest rate increases. This makes a significant and positive contribution to family budgets.

Every one percentage point movement in mortgage interest rates is worth around $40 a week – or $2,000 a year – for a family with a $200,000 mortgage.

So when you hear politicians promising to ramp up spending to pay for expensive election promises, you should remember that this would come at a significant cost to households and businesses.

We know from experience up to 2008 that runaway government spending was one driver of high interest rates.

That cost us twice – first through higher taxes then through higher interest rates.

The other driver was runaway house prices.

The Productivity Commission has noted that the biggest issue is the limited supply of new houses when demand is growing.

House prices doubled between 2001 and 2007, and prices have resumed their upwards march in most areas since the GFC.

There are a number of reasons for this, but there is little doubt that planning processes and rules are important drivers of land and housing costs.

It is now difficult to build some types of affordable housing in our least-affordable cities.

To take a couple of examples, planning rules in Auckland require apartments to be at least 40 square metres.

And balconies are now required to be 8 square metres.

These two rules alone add around $80 per week to the rent.

A range of other rules set minimum subdivision size, ceiling heights, bedroom size and even the width of your front door. All of these push up the cost of housing.

When planners get down to this level of detail they’ve well and truly overstepped the mark.

Local body planners and councillors are not aware of the wider social and economic effects of their complex rules and processes.

I see three major consequences.

First, higher house prices created by excessive planning rules put pressure on interest rates, reducing business investment, lowering productivity and hitting household budgets.

And housing supply that is unresponsive to demand causes price volatility and the risk of a severe correction.

Second, as the cost of housing consumes a greater proportion of income, pressure goes on councils and the Government for greater assistance.

Around 40 per cent of households that are renting receive accommodation support from the Government. This will increase if housing becomes less affordable.

The third consequence is that rising house prices drive inequality.

Inequality in New Zealand has been flat since 2004, but the situation could have been better had housing been more affordable.

That is why we’re working with councils to ensure New Zealanders have access to more affordable housing.

We have signed a Housing Accord with the Auckland Council, and this is already delivering results.

And we’re working to sign more accords with councils in Christchurch, Tauranga, Queenstown and the Wellington region.

We’re reforming the social housing system to bring in community housing groups, increase competition and get social houses where they are needed the most.

We’re reforming the Resource Management and Local Government Acts to cut red tape and reduce costs.

And we’re continuing to invest around $2 billion annually in accommodation support for Kiwi households.

So we’re making steady progress to deliver more affordable housing to more New Zealanders.

It takes time to change the way councils make decisions on housing and for developers to get more projects up and running.

That’s why it’s important that we continue to focus on every measure that can reduce the cost of housing over the next few years.

The biggest pressure on house prices is low supply and councils have a significant impact on that.

Before finishing today, I want to highlight the opportunity we have to lock in the benefits of sustainable and broad-based economic growth.

Despite our good progress, we still have much more to do to improve New Zealand’s economic growth and to support higher incomes across the board.

Containing government expenditure and improving housing supply are steps along the way.

The Budget will also set out the next stage of the Government’s wider programme to continue building on our competitiveness so we can lock in the gains for households and businesses.

As I said earlier, this is not the time to think about putting our feet up.

A third-term National-led Government will build on the momentum we’ve achieved across our programme.

Quarterly GDP or current account statistics are not, in themselves, what matter to families. Jobs, higher incomes and opportunities to get ahead are what really matter.

Everyone’s situation is different and many families are still finding times are challenging.

But the benefits of a sustainably growing economy are tangible and meaningful. Let me give you an example.

Over the past two years, as economic momentum has picked up, the average full-time wage has increased from $51,700 a year to $54,700 – an increase of $3,000.

Looking ahead, in the Budget next month Treasury will forecast annual GDP growth of between 2 per cent and 4 per cent a year out to 2018.

Based on that growth, Treasury’s preliminary Budget forecasts show the average wage will rise further to around $62,200 a year in four years’ time.

This would mean an increase of another $7,500 by 2018.

So, if you take that six-year period as a whole, the average wage will have gone up by $10,500, or around 20 per cent, compared to inflation of just over 12 per cent over the same period.

National’s responsible economic management means wages will keep rising faster than inflation: http://bit.ly/1eCrJl1

The Budget forecasts will also show around 170,000 more people working by 2018. Together with a falling unemployment rate, this will build on the 66,000 jobs created in the past year alone.

That’s what a sustainably growing economy actually means for hard-working New Zealanders.

And that’s why it’s important that we remain focused on our programme of considered and consistent change over time.

Under John Key’s leadership, this Government, alongside households and businesses, has managed New Zealand through some of the most significant challenges we’ve seen in generations.

Providing we stay the course, we will have a faster-growing, more sustainable economy. Wages will continue to increase faster than the cost of living and tens of thousands more jobs will be created every year.

We will provide more elective operations, we will help more New Zealanders off welfare and into work, and the crime rate will continue to fall.

We’re on track to surplus next year and larger surpluses in subsequent years, which will give us choices. And we’ll soon be able to start reducing debt and investing a bit more in priority public services.

The alternative is to put all of this at risk at the election and radically change direction.

We’ve already had a taste of what that change of direction would involve: a combination of high government spending, economic experiments from the 1970s and a lack of focus on what really matters.

That is a backward-looking policy prescription, particularly when New Zealanders’ impressive resilience is starting to pay dividends.

We now have the opportunity to significantly improve New Zealand’s economic fortunes and provide a better future for New Zealand families.

We are making good progress, but there is a lot more to be done.

Providing we stick to our plan, I’m confident that we will build the brighter future New Zealanders deserve.

We’ve got a strong foundation but only a National-led government will deliver policies which build on it sustainably.


To be seen or not to be seen

April 16, 2014

Campbell Live wanted to do a series on party leaders at home.

It is the sort of publicity politicians can’t buy and an opportunity to show voters the people behind the politics.

John Key was first up last week.

Peter Dunne and Winston Peters declined to take part.

David Cunliffe was scheduled for Monday evening this week  but he pulled out.

. . . Mr Cunliffe has also cancelled an invitation for a second time to have television cameras in his home for an election year leaders series. Mr Parker says Mr Cunliffe has a young family and a right to privacy. . .

His family does have a right to privacy but if last week’s session at home with the Keys was anything to go by, there would have been no need for the family to be involved.

It is much more likely he doesn’t want people to see he doesn’t live in a modest house, in a modest suburb.

The family was a silly excuse and his decision an error of judgement similar to turning down the invitation for a weekly interview on the Farming Show.

It has been compounded by his not turning up in parliament at Question Time, choosing to address some business leaders instead.

We’re not hearing him on the Farming Show, we’re not see him on TV and we’re not seeing him in the House yet only last week he was complaining because he wasn’t going to be seen enough with the Royals.

Does he want to be seen and heard or doesn’t he?


Howling at the moon

April 16, 2014

Security staff, alerted to a disturbance at parliament last night, discovered opposition leader David Cunliffe howling at the moon.

Chief security officer Ian Sure said at first all they could make out was repeated cries of “It’s not fair”.

“Then he started crying and shouting. It was difficult to make out what he was saying at first, but then we realised he was cursing Gaia.

“One of our officers asked if he wanted to speak to one of the Green MPs, being as they seem to know a bit about that sort of thing but that just made it worse.

“He said it wasn’t fair, the grass is green, the bush is green, the sea and sky are lakes are blue all day, every day but the one night there’s a bit of red in nature with a blood moon, the clouds cover it.

“He kept shouting and saying all he wanted was a photo op. He said that the National and the Greens got nature showing their colours every day and all he wanted was his fair share.”

Mr Sure said his staff let him cry himself out then they took him inside for a cup of tea and a lie down.

 

 

 

 


Do we believe him?

April 15, 2014

Kim Dotcom said he was talking with a sitting MP who was keen to join the Internet Party.

Now he’s saying the talks are over:

Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party says discussions with a sitting electorate MP who was poised to join the party have ended due to the prospect of a tie up with Hone Harawira’s Mana Party. . . .

Today the party said: “Following the recent decision of delegates at the Mana AGM to continue negotiations with the Internet Party regarding a possible alliance, the current MP and the Internet Party have mutually agreed to end further discussions.”

Every MP who was asked denied any intention to jump ship.

Either the MP in questions was lying, the one who was going to jump ship wasn’t asked, or there never was a potential jumper.

Who do we believe?


Welfare reform that works

April 15, 2014

Robert Doar writes on welfare reform that works and he does it from the inside:

. . . From early 2007 until the end of 2013, I was the commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA), the agency with the 1960s-era name that occupies 180 Water Street. And before 2007, going back to early 1996, I worked at, and for a time led, the state agency that was responsible for overseeing many of the government-assistance programs administered by the city. But while my perspective is that of an insider, the facts speak for themselves: From 1995 until the end of 2013, New York City’s cash-welfare caseload shrunk from almost 1.1 million recipients to less than 347,000 — a drop of more than 700,000 men, women, and children.

The achievements of welfare reform in New York City were about more than reducing the number of people on cash welfare. There were also big increases in work rates for single mothers (up from 43 percent in 1994 to 63 percent in 2009) and large reductions in child poverty (down from 42 percent in 1994 to 28.3 percent in 2008). Even in the wake of the 2008 recession, child poverty in New York City in 2011 was almost ten percentage points lower than it had been the year before welfare reforms started.

Welfare-caseload declines, work-rate increases, and child-poverty declines all happened largely because, for eight years under Mayor Giuliani and twelve years under Mayor Bloomberg, New York City required welfare applicants and recipients to work, or look for work, in return for benefits. We aggressively detected and prevented fraud and waste (although we didn’t stop all of them); and we enforced these requirements with a vigilance that every day led to hundreds of case closings and welfare-grant reductions as we made clear that welfare came with responsibilities. . .

He gives 10 tips on welfare reform which includes:

Always promote personal responsibility. The minute an applicant believes that government will solve all of her problems, she loses. Accepting responsibility for one’s own future is the vital first step to moving up. . .

Employment is far better than training and education. In the years leading up to the passage of the federal welfare-reform legislation, study after study showed that programs that encouraged training and education over rapid employment proved less successful at getting people into jobs that lasted.  . .

The priority should be work first, then education or on-the-job training as a supplement.

Making work pay is welfare reform too. Being off of cash welfare does not mean a person is off of all assistance. Not only are a lot of former cash-welfare recipients still dependent on some form of assistance, but the increasing use of these programs means that total spending has not been reduced as a result of federal welfare reform. It has actually increased.

Food-stamp benefits, child-care vouchers, and public health insurance all were part of this arsenal of non-cash “work supports” that we promoted in New York. And so long as these forms of government assistance went to working people, the public was supportive. . .

Be honest about the importance of married two-parent families. Very few families with married and involved parents, both working, ever need any form of welfare. This is why I came to believe that it was dishonest for us not to talk about the importance of parents’ marriage in reducing the poverty of children. Children need stable, two-parent families. No government or public program can replace a missing parent. It was the recognition of government’s inadequate response to the problem — and my desire to be honest about it — that led us to put together the city’s public-messaging campaign about the consequences of teen pregnancy.. . . 

Caseworkers don’t cost much; benefits do. I understand the temptation to rail against bureaucrats and bureaucracy, but in welfare the money is spent mostly on benefits to clients, not the administrative costs of the agency. Welfare-administration costs are typically less than 5 percent of a program’s total costs. . .

Welfare recipients (and workers too) will try to “get over.” “To get over” is a very New York expression meaning to steal – usually from government and usually to obtain benefits that one isn’t entitled to. There’s no better opportunity for it than welfare programs. Turning a blind eye to the potential for fraud and abuse is naïve.. .

The vast majority of expenditures in welfare programs are consistent with program rules and not fraudulent. But the overall size of the spending is so great that even a 5 percent error rate is significant. And, more important, taxpayers have a right to expect that spending on programs be managed properly. . . .

When it comes to the disabled, trust but verify. Obviously a work-based welfare program can’t be successful if someone is too sick or disabled to work. But accepting disability claims at face value isn’t the right answer either. That’s why we set up a whole separate (and, yes, bureaucratic) process for welfare applicants who claimed they could not work because of some physical or mental condition. . .

Over the years, we found thousands of people who said they could not work but in fact could. We helped an equal number improve their underlying conditions so that they could go to work. And we helped those who really did qualify for the federal program gather the documentation necessary to apply.Always cheer for the economy. I spent seven years running New York City’s welfare programs for Michael Bloomberg, and as proud as I was of what our social-service programs provided to poor New Yorkers, I never forgot that perhaps the most important key to helping struggling families was a vibrant economy that offered an abundance of entry-level jobs. That’s why I was always first in line to support and encourage every kind of thoughtful economic-development idea that promised job creation.   . .

To make welfare programs succeed, always cheer for the economy, and those who nurture it. . .

All of these factors apply just as much in New Zealand as New York.

Welfare reforms that work are better for the people who move from welfare to work, or who get the right help because they can’t work.

The benefits aren’t just economic they’re social too with improvements in positive statistics like health and decreases in negative ones like crime.

Welfare reforms that work pay-off for us all.

Hat Tip AEIdeas


Are we in denial?

April 15, 2014

Are we an nation in denial?

This is the question Sir David Skegg, president of the Royal Society of New Zealand asks:

. . . Every New Zealander knows that one of the worst threats to our natural environment is the degradation of rivers and lakes.

Some fresh waterways that were previously clean and inviting have become choked with weeds, slime and algal blooms – with adverse effects on insects, fish, and birds as well.

Two other facts are widely known. First, a major reason for the pollution of waterways is the expansion of the dairy industry.

Second, dairy products are New Zealand’s biggest source of export dollars.

Every one of us benefits from the success of the dairy industry. Without its recent expansion, our economic situation might be gloomy today.

Driving through the South Island, I have seen small towns that were dying rejuvenated by local dairy conversions. And I am conscious the sectors in which I work – health, education and research – are crucially dependent on a vibrant economy.

In November, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment issued a report in which she concludes that New Zealand faces ”a classic economy versus environment dilemma”. Jan Wright’s advice is worded diplomatically, but her message is blunt.

Unless New Zealand takes urgent steps to slow the expansion of dairying, many more rivers and lakes will be degraded. None of the steps being taken to lessen environmental impacts can reverse this trend in the near future.

This sobering conclusion emerges ineluctably from analyses linking two models – one predicting changes in land use between now and 2020, and the other predicting the amounts of unwanted nutrients (especially nitrogen) running off farms into streams and rivers.

Dairy farming has become more intensive, leading to a remarkable 60% increase in productivity per hectare over the past 20 years. This has been achieved by applying more water, more supplementary feed and more nitrogen fertiliser to the land.

While good news in terms of revenue, such intensification leads to increased run-off of pollutants into rivers. But the modelling in Dr Wright’s report shows that although intensification is an important factor in the degradation of rivers, the conversion of more and more land to dairy farms is having the greater impact nationwide.

Despite rhetoric from critics about ”dirty dairying”, many farmers have made sterling efforts to reduce the run-off of nutrients from their land. Measures taken include fencing streams and planting ”riparian strips” along river banks.

Unfortunately, such precautions have a limited effect on the seepage of nitrogen (mainly from animal urine patches) into waterways. Other measures – such as employing nitrogen fertiliser more efficiently or breeding animals that excrete less nitrogen – may eventually yield benefits.

Yet a group of experts convened by the commissioner concluded that even taking an optimistic view, plausible improvements by 2020 could at best balance the effects of likely further intensification.

They could not counteract the much greater threat from expanding the number of hectares used for dairying.

Forecasts based on modelling can never be exact, and sometimes they can be wrong. In the four months since Dr Wright’s report was released, however, I have seen no expert rebuttal of her main conclusion.

I have tried to read all the statements issued by agencies involved. That has been a depressing task, because so many have ducked the key point. Consider a couple of examples.

DairyNZ assured citizens that it is ”working with farmers, regional councils and other stakeholders to contribute to desired water outcomes”. IrrigationNZ rubbished the report and thought ”a far more useful question to be tackled is how we grow farming whilst at the same time improve water quality”.

Two of the most cautious and realistic responses were from Fonterra and Federated Farmers.

The Minister for the Environment was less troubled. While acknowledging the need for more work, she was ”confident that with the combined will of our council, communities, iwi, and water users – and with the support of our science community – we will see significant water quality gains within a generation”.

Scientific research certainly has a role to play, but unfortunately investment in this area has been ramped up only recently and is still modest in comparison with the size of the industry.

There is an urgent need to build scientific capability, and I hope the proposed National Science Challenge (”Our Land and Water”) will help to achieve this. We need to be realistic about what can be delivered in a short period: Dr Wright’s experts did not envisage any breakthroughs that could improve things materially by 2020.

The Government has targets that appear mutually contradictory. One target is to double the value of agricultural exports by 2025. As part of this effort, irrigation schemes are being funded to expand the areas suitable for dairying.

On the other hand, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management requires that the overall quality of fresh water within each region must be maintained or improved. In the light of Dr Wright’s report, can anyone explain how these aims could be reconciled?

We face urgent and difficult choices. If we want to restrict the expansion of dairying in vulnerable river catchments, are we prepared to contemplate a less buoyant economy – at least in the short term?

If we do not limit the expansion, what will be the impact on our second major export earner (tourism) as well as on our quality of life?

How could restrictions be implemented in a way that is equitable for farmers and regions? But before it’s too late, let’s stop pretending that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Sir David has very clearly outlined the issues, acknowledging both the need for clean water and economic growth.

There are already restrictions on dairying in some places.

There is also far more effort going into cleaning up waterways that have been degraded and in maintaining and improving on those with higher quality.

And there is a pressing need for more science capability and for new technology such as the system designed to eliminate waste water on farms:

A new Kiwi designed water filtration system which can eliminate waste water could save New Zealand wineries thousands of dollars annually, has significant export potential for international wine producers and is already being championed by the local dairy industry.

The new waste management process created by Scott Biotechnologies and Allan Scott winemaker Matt Elrick, is designed to rapidly filter the winery’s waste fluids allowing the clean, odourless by product to be reused as irrigation for the vines.

Elrick says the new prototype was created to deal with the Allan Scott winery’s wastewater after growing frustration with traditional wastewater disposal methods, which were expensive, created ponding and associated issues.

He says wineries throughout New Zealand have already tried and failed to come up with a better system for dealing with waste-water at peak times, but many simply revert back to the simple septic tank system.

“With a traditional tank system wastewater settles in a tank, overflows into the next tank, settles there then overflows into the next tank. This means at harvest there often isn’t enough settling time so solids and nutrients tend to jump through the systems faster than the system needs to allow it to be treated, that means you end up with a pretty bad smell,” he says.

The new system which Elrick helped design, means wastewater will now be pumped through a spin separator which uses a cannon to create a centrifugal force and allow clean water to be ejected out of the top and sludge to be forced out of the bottom.

“The clear water goes direct to a discharge tank where it is further filtered and discharged via drip irrigation line onto the vineyard. The remaining sludge waste solids goes through a series of chambers where it can be easily scattered around the vineyard to release its nutrients,” he says.

Elrick believes the technology has significant potential for both wineries and other industries which produce wastewater – including the growing dairy industry.

It is capable of rapidly processing the waste product from winery’s entire harvest without any delay or loss of production efficiency.

“Excess waste production is a huge issues for New Zealand’s horticultural and agricultural industries. In addition to making us more environmentally friendly, this cost reduction technology will also make us more competitive internationally.” says Elrick.

“Essentially we are using our winery wash-downs to create a reusable resource, which is reducing the amount of water drawn from the bore to irrigate our vineyard,” he says. . .

I don’t think we are in denial.

There should be no debate about the importance of clean water.

It’s what we drink, wash with and swim in.

But nor should there be any debate about the importance of economic growth for the social and environmental benefits it can provide.

We can’t have our cake and eat it too. But with good science and improved technology we should be able to have high environmental standards and economic growth.

 

 


Supersize tax

April 15, 2014

Ask the Green party a question and what’s the bet, more and higher tax is the answer.

Tools such as taxation, regulation and legislation should be used to help curb the obesity epidemic, Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague says.

Hague was speaking in New Plymouth last night. Earlier he told the Taranaki Daily News the same tactics used to fight smoking should be used against type-2 diabetes. . .

Taxes work to discourage smoking but people don’t have to smoke.

We all have to eat to live and taxing certain foods might persuade some people from choosing them but it won’t necessarily help them choose something any more nutritious instead.

Photo: The Greens want to impose extra taxes on fast food. What do you think? www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9929165/Greens-want-junk-food-legislation

 


Press freedom

April 14, 2014

New Zealand’s in the top tier again:


Attracting regional investment

April 14, 2014

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is to establish a new regional investment attraction programme to encourage more international firms to invest in New Zealand’s regional economies, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

NZTE will work in partnership with regions around the country to create comprehensive investment profiles that outline the strengths of the particular regional economy, the opportunities for investment, and what the region can offer to investors.

“We know there are big opportunities for New Zealand from the massive growth in the numbers of consumers across Asia. However, companies these days can invest their money wherever they like around the world. The challenge for each of New Zealand’s regions is to showcase the real opportunities for competitive businesses in their region, and this programme will help them do it in a more systematic way,” Mr Joyce says.

The NZTE regional investment attraction programme is part of the agency’s work to mobilise capital from domestic and international sources to help lift exports and grow New Zealand’s economy. This includes the new “Better by Capital” service which helps companies to understand the capital raising process to fund their international growth.

“The regions that are doing the best are those that have a clear positive approach that welcomes investment and new opportunities,” Mr Joyce says.

“The profiles will allow regions to clearly lay out the advantages they offer investors in terms of natural resources, infrastructure, the availability of skilled workers, and innovation hubs that support investment.

“NZTE will also provide a toolkit, training, and assistance for regional economic development agencies to better support investor engagement, guidance, and due-diligence.”

To help create and further develop these investment profiles, the Government is commissioning a number of Regional Growth Studies to evaluate growth opportunities in particular regions. These detailed in-depth reports will identify areas of existing economic strength and where opportunities for further growth lie, with a particular focus on the primary sector.

“In commissioning the Regional Growth Studies, the Government will work alongside regional stakeholders such as regional councils and economic development agencies. Local input into the reports will be vital to ensure they are evidence-based and comprehensive,” Mr Joyce says.

“The first study, for the Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay region, arose out of discussions with Regional Councils last year and is nearly complete. A request for proposals for the Northland study was released yesterday by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment alongside the Ministry of Primary Industries, and additional studies will be considered in partnership with other regions.

“The latest data shows that it is the regions that have been clearly leading New Zealand’s recovery out of the GFC. Today’s announcements will further accelerate this progress.”

The left demonise foreign investment, but it brings significant benefits:

A $70 million investment in Hawke’s Bay that future-proofs one of the region’s biggest employers was celebrated yesterday.

Japan-owned Pan Pac in Whirinaki, north of Napier, has upgraded its grade of wood-pulp exports thanks to a new $50 million plant that bleaches the product.

A $20 million investment was also made so that treated waste was “better than it has ever been before”, pulp mill manager Roger Jones told dignitaries touring the plant.

Previously, Pan Pac sold only newsprint pulp to its owner Oji Holdings for the Japanese market but now exports two grades of pulp throughout the world, with the US an increasingly important customer.

Pan Pac has the country’s largest Market Mechanical pulp mill and thanks to a recent third shift of workers, now has the country’s most productive sawmill. . .

This investment safeguards jobs, it’s already brought in foreign money and some of the export earnings will remain here for on-ging maintenance and development.

Investors who come from cities whose population is bigger than that of the whole of New Zealand might not be aware of the potential for investment like this outside our main centres.

But lower costs for property and generally stable workforces could make regions attractive to overseas investors.

These factors ought to be considered by domestic investors too when close proximity to a larger market isn’t a consideration.


Seeking interest in social bond pilots

April 14, 2014

The Ministry of Health is seeking groups interested in social bond pilots:

A new and innovative alternative to the way social services are delivered has come a step closer, Minister of Finance Bill English and Health Minister Tony Ryall say.

The Government last year agreed to a social bonds pilot and people are now able to register their interest in becoming an intermediary in the pilot programme.

An intermediary is a person or group who brings investors and service providers together. The intermediary uses their skills in project management and finance to raise funds and drive performance to achieve agreed outcomes. 

“The Government does not have all the answers to our communities’ problems and social bonds are one new way to involve investors and private or not-for-profit organisations in improving social outcomes, while achieving value for taxpayers,” Mr English says. 

Mr Ryall says social bonds give service providers greater freedom and flexibility to use private capital and expertise to deliver services to their communities – with the Government paying a return depending on achievement of agreed outcomes.

“This shifts risk from the taxpayer and provides an incentive for our investment community to use its expertise for generating results in the social sector,” Mr Ryall says.

Social bonds trials are underway in the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia where examples of their use include targets of reducing reoffending, increasing employment, improving outcomes for children in care, and improving management of chronic health conditions.

In New Zealand, service providers have submitted their ideas and a shortlist is being compiled by the Ministry of Health, which is leading cross-agency work on the pilot.

“We’re still in the early stages here but progress from the overseas pilots is encouraging,” says Mr Ryall.

“We see potential for social bonds to deliver better results and attract investment to preventative services and we think the time is right to pilot this model here.”

Mr English says there is a strong alignment between the social bonds model and many of the other initiatives being put in place across government like Better Public Services where the focus is on achieving results for the investment New Zealanders make in public services through their taxes.

“If successful, the social bonds pilot might attract investment and offer lessons that could be used for contracting in future, including further social bonds,” Mr English says.

How refreshing, and encouraging, to have a government which admits it doesn’t have all the answers and is willing to try a different approach to solve problems.

Rewarding achievement puts the risk with the provider while giving them a strong incentive to succeed.

This isn’t just throwing money at problems, it’s aimed at getting solutions.

More information of Social Bond Pilots is here.


Dotbomb divides Mana

April 14, 2014

Kim Dotcom’s reverse Midas touch has infected the Mana Party:

Sue Bradford and other leading Mana Party figures have walked out of the party’s AGM over its decision to continue negotiations towards an alliance with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party.

After discussions which went into the night at Mataikotare Marae near Rotorua yesterday, Mana’s branches “unanimously” agreed to move forward with the negotiations.

The party has given its leaders a month to negotiate, before they put any proposed alliance out to the party’s local branches for consultation.

However, Mana President Annette Sykes this morning said : “Our movement, I was concerned that it may be fragile and some of our membership – I don’t know whether some have chosen not to come back today.”

“There’s quite a number. We’re not talking hundreds, but we’re talking people who I think are leaders young and old and they are principled people who I have respect for. They’ve gone back to reflect with their branches.”

Ms Bradford this morning confirmed she was among those who had walked out.

“We left us last night so she perhaps includes us among those people because there was deep debate, deep dissension and resistance to the idea of going into an alliance with the Internet Party.”

“Some of us, both Maori and Pakeha, are really disturbed by the idea of going into an alliance with a neo-liberal billionaire.”. . .

The Internet Party has policies but it’s difficult to detect clear priceless principles.

Th Mana Party has principles and some of its members are principled enough to care enough about them than to be wary of the Dotbomb which could well leave the wreckage of their party in its wake.


Devolution of economics

April 13, 2014

It’s a very long since I studied economics (and I only did so because the lectures were later than the other subjects I was contemplating) but I think I get this:
Embedded image permalink


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