7/10

April 5, 2014

Only 7/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


8/10

March 22, 2014

8/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.

One of those I missed was the one about Len Brown – my answer was wishful thinking.


Conspiracy theories

March 3, 2014

Yesterday the NZ Herald started a story headlined  Green MP’s 800km taxpayer-funded trip questioned by saying:

Questions are being asked about a taxpayer-funded trip for deaf MP Mojo Mathers to be interviewed on a small provincial radio station.

The Green MP says the 800km trip on the taxpayer dollar was essential, but a taxpayer group queries whether it was fiscally and environmentally responsible. . .

That sounds like the taxpayer group prompted the story by asking the question.

The story continues:

On Friday, Parliament’s only deaf MP flew from Christchurch to Wellington, then drove to Masterton, to participate in ArrowFM’s Wheels on Fire programme for people with disabilities.

ArrowFM is one of 12 Community Access Radio stations in New Zealand, and the only community station in Wairarapa. Its audience is not known, but its Facebook page has 132 “likes”.

Last night Ms Mathers said the journey was a necessary expense because it was “almost impossible for me to do live interviews over the phone”.

 She needed to be face-to-face with the interviewer in order to lip read, she said, especially for a one-hour show.

“As the only disabled Member of Parliament it is really important I represent disabled New Zealanders, which make up one in five New Zealanders,” she said.

“MPs do have to fly a fair bit to get out to our communities. All Green MPs offset our air travel and try to minimise it as much as possible.

“I consider all requests to meet very carefully, including this one, and I felt it was really important to take this opportunity to speak to disabled New Zealanders living in rural communities.”

She did not know the cost of the trip, she said, but it would be declared as part of her expenses, and was planned in line with other work she had to undertake in Wellington.

Planned in line with other work in Wellington means the cost of the airfare wasn’t just for the trip to Masterton, so the extra expense was just the rental car.

But still:

The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.

“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said. . .

That, with the headline and first paragraph strongly suggest this story came at the instigation of the Taxpayers Union. But it didn’t.

This morning there has been some criticism of my comments in a story on the Herald website about a trip Mojo Mathers took to Masterton from Christchurch apparently just for a short interview on a community radio station.

For clarification:

  • The Taxpayers’ Union did not seek media attention on this story. There is no associated press release. The Herald called yesterday evening asking for comment, as happens often.
  • The Taxpayers’ Union operate 24 hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues. Yesterday’s call came through to me and I was asked whether it was value for money for an MP to fly 800km for a radio interview on a small community station. I said it was not value for money when the interview could have been done on Skype as well as the comments that are quoted in the story.
  • I’ve made no comment about Ms Mathers disability. In fact, if the travel was necessary I would not criticise the spending. But answering questions posed by the Herald, on matter which as far as I know are completely unrelated to her disability, is legitimate.
  • Accusations that I (or the Union) sought to go after Mathers are ridiculous. To repeat, we were asked for comment by the Herald who were running the story. The comments would have been the same whoever the MP.
  • Accusations that the Taxpayers’ Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare. Seehttp://info.scoop.co.nz/New_Zealand_Taxpayers’_Union 

On reflection, I wonder why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint choose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype. Perhaps Ms Mathers had other engagements in Masterton. If so, that was not the information provided to me at the time by the Herald reporter.

I too wondered if the interview could have been done on Skype but Ms Mathers tweeted that the quality wasn’t high enough for lip reading.

The story looked like an attack on Ms Mathers instigated by the Taxpayers’ Union which was petty to start with and even more so when you take into account the information she planned the trip around other work.

The explanation provided later by the TU shows it was merely responding to a question and it looks like it didn’t have the information that the trip was planned round other activities.

Here’s the conspiracy theory – was the story a set up to discredit the TU?

The group was set up as a counter to all the left wing groups which are continually asking for more money, regardless of whether or not it gives value.

The TU by contrast:

We stand for value for money for government spending

We want our politicians spending money as if they’d worked as hard as us for it and believe that new taxes should only be introduced when there are equal decreases in other taxes.  We believe in a fair and efficient tax system.  We are not a political party, or aligned to any.

We promote sensible restraint of government expenditure by:

  • Scrutinising government spending;
  • Publicising government waste;
  • Arguing for an end to corporate and union welfare; and
  • Promoting an efficient tax system.

 We are independent and incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 to pursue the following objectives:

  • To give taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power;
  • To educate New Zealanders against excessive and wasteful government spending;
  • To scrutinise government spending;
  • To publicise government waste;
  • To promote an efficient tax system;
  • To promote discussion on the balance of activities best undertaken by the private sector and the public sector;
  • To promote public policies to advance New Zealanders’ prosperity;
  • To identify, research and monitor issues affecting these objects;
  • To co-operate or join with other associations or bodies having similar objects; and
  • Generally to do all such things as would help to attain or further the Taxpayers’ Union’s objects.

The aims of the Taxpayers’ Union are:

  • To reduce wasteful spending by central and local government;
  • To increase transparency and accountability of government spending;
  • To increase institutional checks on government spending;
  • To enable New Zealanders to easily scrutinise government spending;
  • To lower the tax burden on New Zealanders; and
  • To promote evidence based public policy.

If getting attention for wasteful spending is any gauge the TU has already been successful – and contrary to accusations it’s biased towards the government, is hasn’t been partisan in identifying and publicising waste.

It has been critical of the government.

That should alert all politicians and bureaucrats, in central and local government, to the risk that wasteful spending will be outed.

Those on the left will have greater cause for concern than those on the right who usually, but not always, have greater regard for careful use of other people’s money.

That gets me back to the conspiracy theory.

The Herald headlined and opened the story with the assertion questions were being asked about the trip and quotes only the TU.

It doesn’t say who asked the initial question, nor who told the reporter about the trip and the paper could well use the right to not divulge its sources to keep that in confidence.

But it does leave a question over whether the aim of the story was really to discredit the TU.

If so, while it is justified at feeling aggrieved by a set-up, it could take that as a compliment that it is worrying people and parties who don’t have its regard for the necessity for fiscal prudence.

In the interests of transparency – I have made a donation to the TU.


9/10

March 1, 2014

9/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


10/10

February 15, 2014

10/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


10/10

February 1, 2014

10/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


8/10

December 21, 2013

8/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


TIme to go

December 18, 2013

Front page editorials are rare, today’s from the NZ Herald, telling Auckland mayor Len Brown it’s time to go, is unprecedented.

When news broke of the Mayor’s two-year affair with Bevan Chuang, this newspaper suggested that if Len Brown’s family could forgive him then the city should, too.

Two months on, that sentiment is no longer sustainable. An issue far more important than the mayor’s private life is now at stake. Tomorrow, Auckland councillors will not only formally censure Mr Brown but begin a process designed to clip the wings of the mayoral office. If that happens, the Super City may no longer have a leader with the independent authority to drive things forward. The only means of avoiding that outcome is for Mr Brown to resign. He must go in the interests of Auckland and Aucklanders. . .

Going into next year, however, the joke will be on all of us if the Super City governance is compromised. The corrosive nature of all this is compounded by doubts that remain and the questions still unanswered – . . .

The affair and all the apologies are one thing but the lax accountability over grace, favour and entitlements and the potential emasculation of his office by the council leave little chance of him regaining the respect of Aucklanders.

Some of the prurient details of Mr Brown’s affair with Ms Chuang probably ought to have been censored. He is about to be censured by the city’s councillors. Now, it is surely time for him to come to his senses – and go.

This is damning but I doubt it will influence him.

He can’t do his job properly but that’s not a sackable offence.

He’s showing no signs of any willingness to fall on his sword which leaves Auckland saddled with a lame-duck mayor for the next three years.

That won’t be good for the city and given it’s size, it won’t be good for the country either.

 


Where were the subs?

December 17, 2013

The ODT and NZ Herald often run the same columns.

Today they both published one by Bob Jones.

The ODT subs did what they were supposed to do and edited out a paragraph in which Jones delighted in a protester committing suicide after he’d told him to.

But where were the Herald subs? They left the offending paragraph in until readers reacted.

The ODT column isn’t on-line. The Herald’s edited version is now with an apology for causing offence to some readers.

Keeping Stock has the original version.

Jones enjoys a reputation for blunt speaking and writing but he crossed a line with this column. The Herald subs ought to have realised that and edited it, as the ODT ones did.


9/10

December 14, 2013

9/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz (though question 9 repeats the answers to question 8, but I did know the name of the sportsman).


9/10

December 7, 2013

9/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.

I think it should be 10/10 though because I don’t think the answer to question 6 is correct.


Subverted, discredited, corrupted

November 30, 2013

The Herald gives another reason to vote yes in the referendum on the partial sale of a few state assets:

When the Greens couldn’t get their own way in Parliament they were wrong to use a device for citizens who can’t be heard in the House.

This is the fifth referendum held under CIR legislation.

But this one is different in one respect. Previous referendums were initiated by groups outside Parliament, they were genuine citizens’ initiatives.

This one was initiated by the Green Party. A democratic device designed to give a voice to citizens outside the House of Representatives has been co-opted by citizens who already have a tax-funded voice in the House.

Not only that, the Greens used some of their parliamentary funding to pay people to circulate the petition. All this because they failed to get their way in the House. They have discredited – not to say corrupted – the citizens’ initiative, reducing it to a second serve for privileged players.

CIR’s are supposed to be for citizen’s outside parliament who want to make a point to politicians. They are not supposed to be used by those already in parliament.

They are designed precisely for issues where a considerable body of public opinion feels it has not been heard with sufficient force in Parliament or any other forum. It would be hard for the most inveterate opponents of asset sales to argue their view hasn’t been represented with enough force in Parliament and the media.

The case against asset sales could not have been made more strongly than it has been by Labour and the Greens. Labour made the issue the central plank of its last election campaign, plastering the landscape with anti-sale billboards. Both parties then fought the legislation at every stage and finally, on the eve of the first float, announced an electricity policy that helped devalue the stock.

Their view accorded with the majority in every poll on the subject but the issue has hardly made a dent in the support of National overall. Clearly many voters who do not like asset sales, like the Government nevertheless. The referendum will say nothing new. . .

I’d be surprised if a majority vote yes when those who want more than 49% could add to the no votes. But some people might vote yes simply to vote against the subversion of the process and the Greens who have put so much effort, and money, into doing that subversion.


NZ’s best university city

November 21, 2013

Dunedin is New Zealand’s best university city for several reasons.

It is the site of the country’s first and best university – Otago. *

The city itself has only about 120,000 residents so the 20,000 or so students plus staff make a significant, and largely positive, impact on it.

The majority of students come from outside Dunedin and most live on or near the campus creating a student-friendly environment not found anywhere else in the country.

It didn’t however, feature in London-based Quacquarelli Symonds’  annual Best Student Cities ranking because the qualifying criteria include being a city of at least 250,000, and having at least two world ranked universities in the city. So Dunedin – like some other small university cities, including Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, Princeton in the US, and St Andrews in Scotland, wasn’t considered.

The Herald has picked up the story and is running a poll to determine the country’s best university city.

The only one to pick is of course Dunedin.

* in my totally biased and subjective opinion.

 


9/10

November 16, 2013

9/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


NZ Herald’s 150th birthday

November 13, 2013

The New Zealand is celebrating 150 years of publication.

Today we proudly mark 150 years of publication of The New Zealand Herald. We look forward with confidence to our journalism in print and on digital devices continuing to be a substantial and positive voice for the public interest and progress in this country. . .

With today’s paper and in a special interactive feature on nzherald.co.nz, we chart the Herald’s life and times through 150 years of great New Zealanders. These are the people who made the country; each day’s news columns being history in the making.

A warts-and-all appraisal of the paper makes clear how much the Herald has changed. The great issues of the day in 1863 were the ‘native rebellion’ just south of Auckland – and the threat to Auckland’s place as capital and leading centre of the colony. The Herald’s stridency in favour of the British forces and highly charged antagonism towards Maori fighters may have been true to the attitudes of ‘white’ New Zealand at the time, but are no less distasteful given the context of hindsight. That was then – over the past generation the paper has been a consistent advocate for confronting and righting grievances through the Waitangi Tribunal and other settlements. . .

The Herald has adapted many times to great change. We are at once a daily newspaper, instant news agency, video channel, website, smartphone and tablet app and presence on social media; the Herald is ‘consumed’ daily in seven distinct digital forms. . .

The Herald still holds a powerful position in covering the area with the country’s biggest population.

But technological changes and the increasing use of digital media will continue to challenge it.

Very few young people of my acquaintance get a daily paper now and an increasing number of older ones are opting to catch up on-line rather than with print editions.

One of the biggest challenges the Herald and other traditional media outlets face is how to generate the revenue to pay for quality journalism when so much on-line is available without cost to the reader, listener or viewer.

#gigatownoamaru is grasping new technology in its quest to be the southern hemisphere’s first gigatown.


7/10

November 2, 2013

7/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.

#gigatownoamaru is on track for 10/10 in the quest to be Southern Hemisphere’s sharpest town.


8/10

October 3, 2013

8/10 in the Herald’s test on road rules.

These are the 10 toughest questions from the class 1 learner licence theory test.

I got the first one wrong, as did the Herald reporter.

 


6/10

September 21, 2013

Only 6/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


10/10

September 14, 2013

10/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.


New face, old ideas

September 1, 2013

Yesterday’s speeches by Labour’s aspiring leaders (reported in the Herald, Stuff and Kiwiblog) show that even when the party has a new face it will still have old ideas.

Their ideas are focussed on redistribution rather than growth.

Their ideas are based on higher taxes to enable higher spending.

Their ideas are bad ideas.

They are worse than those of Helen Clark’s government which put New Zealand into recession before the global financial crisis hit the rest of the world.

They are ones which show they haven’t learned from recent history and that they are blind to the improvements National has made, delivering better results with less money.

They are the ones which reward their union funders with policies which are ultimately to the detriment of workers.

They are the same old failed policies which would take the country backwards, make it poorer and make life even more difficult for the most vulnerable.

Regardless of which face is pedalling these old ideas, he will provide everyone who understands the stupidity of veering left, undoing the good that’s been done, and reversing much needed improvements, with the imperative to vote centre-right.


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