Word of the day

31/08/2022

Gallivaster – one who gallivants; a brash, boastful man; a gasconading fellow.


Sowell says

31/08/2022


Govt U-turns on new tax

31/08/2022

NewsTalkZB has just announced breaking news: the government has done a u-turn on its decision to impose GST on KiwiSaver management fees.

Could Three Waters be next?


Rural round-up

31/08/2022

Weathering another policy debacle – Neal Wallace:

The government could spare itself embarrassing backdowns by learning to listen.

As many predicted, government policies to address the environmental impact of intensive winter grazing are a shambles.

The absence of common sense means that in the past two years the government has backed down on four elements of the intensive winter grazing (IWG) component of its Essential Freshwater policy: crop resowing dates, slope maps, pugging limits and now consent conditions.

Government officials are running out of time to have Freshwater Management Plan criteria for IWG, an alternative to resource consent, ready by the November 1 deadline as promised. . .

Sheep farmer struggles to control huge, hungry hoppers – Country Life:

Back in the 1950s, a group of wallabies turned up at Wainui Station… and never left.

Before farmer Walter Cameron was allowed to use poison on the pesky marsupials, a hired gun was killing up to 3,500 a year.

Walter remembers first seeing a wallaby on his family’s 12,000-hectare hill-country property when he was still in nappies.

A few years later, he was allowed to go hunting for them with his father. . . 

Sri Lanka shows how not to go organic – Allan Emerson:

There’s a lesson for NZ, where there’s no shortage of elitist greenies giving advice.

In Australia there has been considerable media coverage on the crisis in Sri Lanka and its causes. Strangely, that coverage hasn’t been replicated in New Zealand. 

Basically the country has gone from one of relative prosperity to near bankruptcy in less than three years. It’s a basket case.

The reason for the crisis? They went organic. . . 

Any move to strengthen RSE scheme supported by Horticulture NZ:

Horticulture New Zealand supports any move to ensure the ongoing success of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and give growers access to a skilled seasonal workforce, as growers look to the next harvest season.

Horticulture New Zealand and other industry groups will continue their discussions with the Governments of New Zealand and the Pacific, ahead of decisions due any day now about how the RSE scheme will operate for the coming harvest season.

There is no tolerance for employer behaviour that is contrary to the spirit of the RSE scheme. We must ensure the scheme continues to operate successfully for the Pacific as well as for New Zealand.

For the past 15 years, the RSE scheme has helped Pacific economies to develop and communities to flourish, through the skills RSE employees develop and the money that they earn. . . 

UK Trade Minister to visit low-carbon dairy processor Miraka during first visit to NZ:

Taupō dairy processing business, Miraka, which has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world, will host the United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Trade, the Right Honourable Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP during the Minister’s first visit to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Chairman of Miraka, Kingi Smiler said it was an honour for Miraka to host a senior UK government minister with responsibility for trade and trade relationships.

“Minister Trevelyan is the most senior UK government minister to visit New Zealand in a very long time, particularly since the COVID pandemic began in 2020. We are delighted that the Minister is visiting our geothermally powered manufacturing plant to learn about our business and in particular, how we apply Te Ao Māori principles in operating our business, engaging with people and exercising kaitiakitanga; caring for our taiao – the natural environment and resources, as best we can.”

Minister Trevelyan will arrive in the region on Saturday and will be welcomed at a pōwhiri at Oruanui Marae, north of Taupō. . .

Irish farmers say they will be forced to cull cows to meet climate targets – Rory

Government plan to cut agriculture emissions by 25% by 2030 will drive many farms into bankruptcy, say critics

Donald Scully gazes at his herd of 208 cows munching grass and clover in a verdant field, as a light breeze ruffles the stillness.

“There is an enjoyment for me to come out and look and see how healthy and happy these cows are,” says Scully, 47, a third-generation dairy farmer. “Every single cow has her own personality, they’re all individuals.”

The pastoral scene in Ballyheyland, a landscape of rolling hills in County Laois, is replicated across rural Ireland. Ireland has 7.3 million cattle, substantially outnumbering humans, and a long history with the animal stretching into myth, including the Cattle Raid of Cooley, an epic tale considered the Irish Iliad. Agriculture dominated the economy well into the 20th century and moulded a vision of Ireland that still enchants visitors. . . 


Left-leaning media

31/08/2022

Liam Hehir at The Common Room looks at the left-leaning media:

 


Of course we can trust them – can’t we?

31/08/2022

You can see all of Garrick’s cartoons, and his other art,  here.


No systemic racism in health

31/08/2022

The extensive and expensive restructuring of the healthy system creating a separate Maori organisation has been driven by the argument that the there was systemic racism in the old one.

The New Zealand Initiative found no evidence for that:

Fiction over fact is the basis for the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) new policies, research by think tank The New Zealand Initiative reveals.

The fact that neither the Government nor the MOH could produce objective data to support their claims that systemic racism is significantly to blame for poor Māori health outcomes is the most alarming revelation in the Initiative’s new report, Every life is worth the same – The case for equal treatment.

The research, conducted by the Initiative’s senior fellow Dr Bryce Wilkinson, also analysed the Government’s prescription to remedy the situation by prioritising health spending for Māori, especially in Pharmac’s medicine procurement.

“The large differences in average health, educational and economic outcomes across racial groups in New Zealand are troubling,” says Dr Wilkinson. “The reasons for them should be rigorously identified. But raw differences do not justify discriminating against those in other racial groups who are doing as badly or worse. Nor do they justify better treatment for those doing better in a ‘priority’ group than those doing worse in other groups.”

“It is your circumstances that should count, not your group classification,” Dr Wilkinson said.

Need not race, or any other factor not backed up by evidence, should be what counts.

Writing in his foreword to the report Professor of Medicine Des Gorman (Ngāpuhi) says, “Data is needed to separate the relative impacts of genetics and epigenetics from the direct impacts of social factors such as housing, education and employment from any inherent and institutionalised racism within our health system.”

“We can all agree that the time to address the underlying causes of this inequality is well overdue. However, what is needed are objective data about what leads to improved outcomes rather than political rhetoric,” says Professor Gorman, who supports the Initiative’s findings.

The report makes the point that correct medical treatment relies on evidence-based diagnosis. Government policies should require the same.

There is no doubt Maori are over-represented in negative health statistics. There is considerable doubt that the disparities are a result of systemic racism rather than poverty and associated poor housing and nutrition, lower educational attainment, higher unemployment and other factors which have nothing at all to do with race or racism.

Dr Wilkinson writes:

. . . As documented in this report, the dominant political and official diagnosis in current health policy is that racism is a significant cause of those poor outcomes. Overt racial preferences for staffing and delivery are part of the remedy.

Start with that diagnosis. This report evaluates the most authoritative empirical evidence the Ministry of Health could provide in support of the Director-General of Health’s testimony that personal and institutional racism is a significant cause of the poor health outcomes for Māori.

On examination, the supplied material is shockingly silent overall about both causation and significance.

Where there is no serious interest in rigorous evidence-based diagnosis, there can be no serious interest in the quality of the outcome. Taxpayers, Māori and non-Māori deserve better.

The report uses the case of Pharmac to show how the prescribed remedies depart from the principle of equal treatment for equal need, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Those wishing to see better health outcomes for all New Zealanders will have to wait until there is a serious policy interest in problem diagnosis and remedy evaluation.

The wrong diagnosis will inevitably result in the wrong treatment and outcomes, not just for Maori but for others whose need is as great or greater but who are denied priority treatment because of their race.

The report Every Life is Worth the Same – The  Case for Equal Treatment is here:

In the Foreword Professor Gorman writes:

. . . I am not arguing that racism does not exist in our ‘health’ system. Indeed, as the Australian philosopher Peter Singer points out, racism is an inherent human characteristic that lies somewhere in the spectrum between a mother’s special love for her own children and speciesism. This is the reason why our health worker inducation programs commit so much time to introduce both non-Māori and Māori students, many of whom are not strong in tikunga, to the spiritual, philosophical and cultural domains of Māori wellbeing. These efforts are unfortunately undermined by our unsustainable and extensive reliance on overseas trained doctors and nurses.

Rather, I am suggesting we should focus on what has been shown to be effective in improving Māori wellbeing. This is all about valuable outcomes,
where value is determined by the community rather than by providers and funders. The issue of value has been a cornerstone of debate about health
system performance since it was highlighted by Michael Porter almost 20 years ago. At about the same time, Michael Marmot wrote his influential
paper on the social determinants of health inequalities. It is self-evident that the value of any health system per se, as compared to an injury or
illness management system, will depend upon a focus on and attention to these social determinants.

Dr Wilkinson sought objective and preferably published data from the government and the MOH, which is eminently reasonable. Such data are needed to separate the relative impact of genetics and epigenetics, from the direct impacts of social factors such as housing, education and employment, from any inherent and institutionalised racism within our ‘health’ system. This is no easy task given that these factors are intrinsically interrelated,
interdependent and consequential. 

It comes as no surprise that Dr Wilkinson was not shown any objective data to establish a causal relationship between institutionalised racism
and relative ill-health for Māori. This has much to do with the quantity, quality and nature of the relevant research, and the difficulty in
identifying and measuring valuable outcomes. However, beyond the issue of cause, is the perhaps more critical issue of the vulnerability
of causal factors to interventions that will make a positive difference.

Dr Wilkinson’s paper is brave. It is also important, not so much in respect to his specific observations but more so in his willingness to shift the debate
from unhelpful rhetoric to pragmatic science. This is much to be encouraged and hopefully will form the basis on which the new Māori Health Authority determines its investments.

In the introduction Dr Wilkinson takes issue with the Pharmac Review Panel’s report:

. . . There are good reasons why, in general, government policies should treat people in equal circumstances as being of equal value, regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or group affiliation. Tax policy gets this right. People with the same taxable income pay the same amount in personal tax. Race, gender nd religion are irrelevant. Such “horizontal equity” is a long-standing tax policy principle.

Why would government schools, hospitals and welfare agencies not treat people as being of equal value? If two households are experiencing the same levels of extreme hardship, why would the state treat them as different priorities because of irrelevant differences? To do so is to affront individual human dignity.

The large differences in average health, educational and economic outcomes across racial groups in New Zealand are troubling. The reasons for
them should be rigorously identified. But raw differences do not justify discriminating against those in other racial groups who are doing as badly,
or worse. Nor do they justify better treatment for those doing better in a ‘priority’ group than those doing worse in other groups. Christianity surely
decrees that compassion should be race neutral. It is your individual circumstances that should count, not your group classification.

Finding out what assistance works best for the individual should, of course, respond to relevant differences in cultural and other norms. That is
an important delivery issue.

The interim report’s recommendations above depart from these “equal treatment” principles in two ways. The first is the elimination of the concepts of individuality and individual need. Group membership is what matters. Diversity of need within the group is almost irrelevant. The
second is the focus on race.

Rather than treat individuals as being of equal worth, as would the Initiative, the Panel repeatedly endorses the concept of “priority populations”. The implication is that a well-off member of a priority population is more deserving than someone outside the group who might be a lot worse off. . . 

Not treating people as individuals of equal worth is racist.

Treating a well-off member of a priority population as more deserving of health treatment than someone outside the group who is worse off is apartheid.

This is the sort of policy rightly deplored in Nazi Germany, South Africa and other countries where people were not treated as people but sub-groups based on race.

The report reaches two main conclusions:

First, the articles cited by the MoH in support of the Prime Minister’s speech and of the DirectorGeneral of Health’s statement fail to support either the assertion of racist causation or the assertion of its significant materiality.

This is a disturbing finding. Perhaps rigorous empirical analysis does exist that establishes both causation and materiality. That remains an open question. But if the MoH has such evidence, it would have surely cited it in its response to the OIA request. Instead, it seems that it is making strong assertions of a polarising nature that it cannot justify when asked.

Second, the Pharmac Panel’s recommendation to force Pharmac to depart from treating all New Zealanders as of equal value when making subsidy decisions must result in less health benefits for New Zealanders overall from its given Pharmaceutical Budget. It could even make Māori worse off.

That would be ironical, and appalling – the policy designed to favour Maori would do more harm.

Public policy formation on the MoH appears to have fallen into the very traps that Simon Chapple warned against more than 20 years ago in a labour market context.

Those who are serious about wanting to close the gaps should be serious about assessing causes and finding what works. On the evidence reviewed in this paper, Officials are not seriously interested in assessing the causes of poor outcomes for Māori and others. This is a very discouraging finding; billions of dollars are being spent annually. No wonder outcomes remain poor.

The strident insistence in the material reviewed above that poor health outcomes on average for Māori are due to ethnicity and racism disempowers all Māori. It makes them victims and conceals the fact that many Māori do better than many non-Māori. People need to have hope that they can improve their circumstances with their own efforts. Self-agency matters.

As with health care itself, health policy cannot hope to solve real problems if it does not first identify real causes.

The causes of poor health outcomes for Māori and non-Māori alike may be alleviated by good health policy, but probably not by much. Poor health outcomes, like poor educational and housing outcomes, poor welfare and imprisonment outcomes, are symptoms rather than causes.

The hand of government is heavy across all such outcomes. There is much that could be done to identify the deep causes and find out which programmes to improve matters work. What is evidently missing is the political and institutional will to undertake the necessary research.

Sadly, what this report has uncovered is obfuscation on a grand scale. Unequal outcomes are conflated with inequity and racism. Correlation is taken to be causation. Materiality is merely asserted. On the assessment of more expert authors cited in this study, contentious fictions are promoted about partnership and Treaty principles. Strident assertions discourage reasoned debate.

The Pharmac Panel’s recommendations are derivative of a broader political drive to divide New Zealanders on racial lines with unequal treatment. The Panel has gone with the flow.

There needs to be a return to real concern with poor outcomes for far too many households, regardless of racial classification. It is invidious to treat people as being of different value because of their ethnicity or race.

None of this is to deny the existence of invidious and harmful prejudices that divide people into categories based on actual and perceived differences, whether they be race, colour, gender, age, religion, political views, height, weight, strength, literacy, academic attainment, and much else.

Race is a particularly harmful one. Unsupported accusations of racism are dangerously irresponsible. Those who really care about public policies to help those who are struggling will really care about doing something about the real causes. Otherwise, they are merely doing their best with symptoms, perpetuating misery instead of turning things around.

This report is not denying there is a serious problem. There is a massive welfare problem as we explained in our 2016 report, Poorly Understood, the State of Poverty in New Zealand.

Nor is this report making a case that nothing should be done. Much that is vital to do well is not being done.

Specifically, deep causes must be identified, and policy must seek to rectify them at source. Second, programmes to help people must be rigorously evaluated to determine whether they really work.

Good intentions are not good enough if people really are to be helped to live better lives. The time to identify and address real causes is long overdue.

The government implores us to trust the science about climate change.

It implores us to trust the science about Covid-19.

This report shows us that it hasn’t got scientific back-up for its expensive creation of a separate Maori Health system.

The irony is that changing from a system where there was no systemic racism has created a new one where there is.

A system with two classes of treatment, where someone with a serious illness could get lesser treatment than someone with a less serious one is a bad one.

The time for a government that bases its policies on need not race is long overdue.


Word of the day

30/08/2022

Antistrophon – an argument or accusation turned back onto the person who has just accused you of it; the turning of an argument against the one who advanced it; an argument retorted against an opponent.


Sowell says

30/08/2022


Rural round-up

30/08/2022

Race against time on winter grazing – Neal Wallace :

Last-minute discussions are underway to ensure farmers can winter livestock on crops next year without swamping regional councils with urgent resource consent applications.

Farming leaders, regional councils and the government are rapidly trying to find a solution after it emerged that officials are unlikely to have finalised Freshwater Management Plan criteria in time for planting intensive winter grazing (IWG) crops.

This process is an alternative form of approval for non-compliant winter graziers and without it, thousands of farmers may need resource consent for next winter. 

Farming groups are calling for a year’s deferral of the new rules, citing the absence of a freshwater plan. . . 

My beef with George Monibot – Diana Rodgers:

Many, many people have forwarded me the latest piece by George Monbiot and asked me to comment, so here it is.

At first, I felt incredibly frustrated because Robb Wolf and I address his worldview in our book, Sacred Cow – and this really is a battle of worldviews. 

George is of the view that nature (wild animals) is more important than human livelihoods and our nutritional status… and that uprooting people who live in rural communities, dishonoring their way of life and food culture, and testing unproven food like substances on them all in an effort to preserve wilderness is perfectly noble.

Robb and I on the other hand believe that sustainable regional food systems that take the local environment, human nutrition, food culture, and economy into account are the right path forward.  . .

Mushroom farm in Havelock North to cut jobs and stop production – Tom Kitchin:

A mushroom farm which got a $19 million loan from the government will let around 100 of its staff go and close much of its factory.

Te Mata Mushrooms, in Havelock North, is the second largest commercial mushroom farm in the country and supplies mushrooms around the Central North Island and Auckland.

It also has one of the largest non-seasonal horticultural workforces in Hawke’s Bay.

It was given the Covid-19 Infrastructure Investment Fund loan in 2020 to help expand and improve its facilities, with former infrastructure minister Shane Jones excited about “sustainable full-time employment for more than 200 people”. , , 

Kiwifruit growers to appeal Sungold licenses being included in property RV

The group that represents New Zealand’s kiwifruit growers says it’s disappointed in the recent high court decision appeal ruling that SunGold kiwifruit licenses can be included in the rateable value of a property.

The Bushmere Trust, a kiwifruit grower, took the Gisborne District Council to the Land Valuation Tribunal last year after the Council changed its ratings to include the value of the licenses in the property’s capital value.

That took the nearly six hectare property’s rateable value from $2.8 to $4.1m.

The Tribunal ruled the capital value was only $2.8million, and the kiwifruit license was “not an improvement to the land or for the benefit of the land”. . .

Fieldays Innovation Awards announced 2022 prize package details with additional sponsors :

Innovators across the food and fibre sector stand to be rewarded this year as the Fieldays 2022 Innovation Awards prize

package grows, thanks to new sponsors joining the returning partners of the awards.

The Fieldays Innovation Awards are the ultimate launch platform for Primary Innovation, and are a globally renowned

awards programme. The total prize package is over $60,000 worth of cash, services and products. . . 

‘Like sending bees to war’: the deadly truth behind your almond milk obsession – Annette McGivney:

Dennis Arp was feeling optimistic last summer, which is unusual for a beekeeper these days.

Thanks to a record wet spring, his hundreds of hives, scattered across the central Arizona desert, produced a bounty of honey. Arp would have plenty to sell in stores, but more importantly, the bumper harvest would strengthen his bees for their biggest task of the coming year.

Like most commercial beekeepers in the US, at least half of Arp’s revenue now comes from pollinating almonds. Selling honey is far less lucrative than renting out his colonies to mega-farms in California’s fertile Central Valley, home to 80% of the world’s almond supply.

But as winter approached, with Arp just months away from taking his hives to California, his bees started getting sick. By October, 150 of Arp’s hives had been wiped out by mites, 12% of his inventory in just a few months. “My yard is currently filled with stacks of empty bee boxes that used to contain healthy hives,” he says. . . .


Left or Right

30/08/2022

Paula Bennett explains at The Common Room why she chose the right answer rather than the left one:


“I would expect there to be specificity and certainty when spending public money.”

30/08/2022

Auditor General, John Ryan, has raised serious concerns about the government’s cost of living payment:

. . .I have concluded that the payments made to ineligible people do not constitute unappropriated expenditure. However, in my view, good stewardship of public money required greater care when designing and implementing the COLP – ensuring that the criteria were clear and that the data used by Inland Revenue was adequate. I have a number of concerns about these matters.

In this letter, I outline that:

  • Speed and expediency were prioritised over certainty and accuracy.
  • There is a lack of clarity about what “present in New Zealand” means.
  • Using a physical address in New Zealand as a proxy for being present in New Zealand is problematic.
  • Inland Revenue does not know, and has said it may never know, how many ineligible people might have received the payment.

In my view, Inland Revenue should now consider what steps it can take to identify how many ineligible people have already received payments. I encourage Inland Revenue to also focus on future payment tranches to ensure that payments are reaching only the people the Government intended them to go to. I also encourage Inland Revenue to remind ineligible recipients that they are obliged to repay any payment received immediately. . .

The Ag said payments made to people not present in New Zealand wasn’t unappropriated expenditure, but he added a big but:

In reaching this view, however, I had a number of concerns about the lack of clarity in the criterion used, the inadequacy of the evidence to establish whether the payments were being made to individuals who met that criterion, and that public money has been paid to people who were not eligible to receive it.. . 

Recently I have commented on the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme that prioritised speed and expediency over certainty and accuracy. There may be justification for doing this, but it is still important to be sure that public money is being spent appropriately, and in accordance with the key policy intent.

As I outline below, I am concerned about the uncertainty of what “present in New Zealand” is intended to mean, and the accuracy and fitness for purpose of the information used to determine that. I would expect there to be specificity and certainty when spending public money.

Taxpayers deserve specificity and certainty when the government spends our money.

As I have said recently in relation to the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme, where there are criteria, it is important that they are sufficiently clear to enable decision makers to apply them accurately and to assess whether they have been met. . . 

The government didn’t learn, or didn’t apply the lessons, from mistakes which paid money to tourists operations that didn’t need it.

I am concerned that the Government does not know how significant the scale of payments to ineligible people is. The Minister of Revenue has been quoted by media as saying that it could be around 1% of payments. Inland Revenue told my staff that it is doing some work to improve the accuracy of future payments, but does not know, and may never know, how many ineligible people might have received the payment. This is, in my view, unacceptable.

Inland Revenue is not able to provide assurance that it has paid the COLP only to those individuals who were intended to receive it and not to those who were ineligible. In my view, the public can reasonably expect Inland Revenue to consider what steps it can take to better identify the scale of any payments to people who may not have been eligible.

Cabinet agreed that the Commissioner of Inland Revenue would not actively pursue repayment of any mispayments unless fraudulent or wilfully misleading information was provided. Section 7AAA of the Tax Administration Act requires that ineligible people who receive the payment immediately repay it. The Inland Revenue website does state this, but in my view, Inland Revenue might want to consider whether to communicate this message and its expectation for repayment more proactively.

No-one had to provide any information so those who got it and shouldn’t weren’t acting fraudulently or wilfully, but people who now live overseas, or are dead, are unlikely to be regular readers of the IRD website.

Concluding comments

The COLP was developed to achieve the Government’s objective of supporting low- to middle-income workers experiencing increased living costs due to inflation. Although criteria were set to manage the scope and scale of support that would be provided, for the reasons set out above they have not resulted in the funding being provided only to people who met the eligibility criteria. In my view, good stewardship of public money required greater care when designing and implementing the COLP – ensuring that the criteria were clear and that the data used by Inland Revenue was adequate. . . 

This isn’t a government that demonstrates good stewardship of public money.

It gave the money to anyone earning less than $70,000 not on a benefit,  and in doing so not only people living overseas and dead people got it, so too did people with high-income earning partners.

The National Party’s Finance spokesperson, Nicola Willis, who made the complaint to the AG has been justified:

The Auditor-General’s damning investigation into the cost of living payment has embarrassed the Government into making changes to the rollout of the scheme, National’s Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“It was obvious from the start that the cost of living payment had been desperately rushed out with no attention to detail. That’s why I wrote to the Office of the Auditor-General earlier this month to ask them to examine the delivery of the cost of living payment.

“Today it’s been confirmed that the Auditor-General did carry out an investigation of the scheme.

“The letter released today following this investigation is damning and confirms that the cost of living payment has been an expensive failure, stating that ‘good stewardship of public money required greater care when designing and implementing the [cost of living payment]’.

“It is clear that the Auditor-General’s investigation has forced the Government into making changes to the cost of living payment.

“It was obvious after the first payment ended up in the bank accounts of London expats, French backpackers and dead people that the Government had not done the work to ensure that only eligible New Zealanders could get the payment.

“The Auditor-General makes a good point, but one that should have been obvious to any responsible government, in suggesting changes be made to future payments to ‘ensure that the payments are reaching only the people the Government intended the payment go to’.

“The Government has been unable to answer questions about how many ineligible people received the first payment, and has shown little interest in finding out.

“Rightly, the Auditor-General is asking Inland Revenue to ‘consider what steps it can take to identify how many ineligible people have already received payments’.

“It’s shocking that it took a stern word from the Auditor-General for the Government to take taxpayers’ money seriously.

“Labour has a complete and utter disregard for taxpayer money. Kiwis deserve a government that treats public money with respect and don’t need a public slap-down to do so.”

The $350 payment would make a small and only temporary difference to people who were struggling to buy bread and enable a bit of jam and cream for those who didn’t need it.

National’s plan for tax cuts would give permanent help to everyone.

It would also be less inflationary because it would take some pressure off the need for pay increases.


Word of the day

29/08/2022

Lycanthropy – the mythical transformation of a person into a wolf; a delusion that one has become a wolf; a mental disorder in which the patient believes that he is a wolf or some other nonhuman animal.


Sir Ray Avery leaving NZ

29/08/2022

Sir Ray Avery is giving up on New Zealand.

He’s sick of the tall poppy syndrome and is moving to Australia where, he says, they’re more appreciative of high achievers.

In contradiction to Sir Robert Muldoon’s quip that New Zealanders moving to Australia improve the IQ levels in both countries, Sir Ray’s move is our loss and their gain.

 


Rural round-up

29/08/2022

Farmers are receiving mixed messages – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Around the world, restricting food production to reduce environmental impact will have the consequence of decreasing food availability and escalating food prices – so what do governments actually want from farmers?

Farmers are receiving very mixed messages.

Globally, food security concerns have escalated due to war, floods, fire and drought.

In a worst-case scenario, McKinsey is predicting a food deficit representing a year’s worth of nutritional intake for up to 250m people – or 3 per cent of the global population. . .

Starting our pasture to plate journey – Barbara Kuriger:

Like many of you, I’m so over the uninformed knockers of primary industries.

People who are swayed by a headline, a social media post or a slick advertising campaign, without any in-depth knowledge of why sectors within it, operate the way they do.

One area which often gets a bad rap from these faultfinders is fertiliser.

Fertiliser, like many pastoral and arable practices, grew out of necessity. . . 

Fonterra ramps up opportunities in complementary nutrition partnership :

Fonterra and Royal DSM, a global purpose-led company in health, nutrition and bioscience, are establishing a new start-up company to accelerate the development and commercialisation of fermentation-derived proteins with dairy-like properties.

The start-up is a next step in Fonterra and DSM’s long-standing joint development relationship. They have been working together since 2019 to build a comprehensive understanding of how to use precision fermentation science and technology to produce proteins similar to those found in dairy.

To date, this work has created valuable intellectual property for which Fonterra and DSM have filed patents. The new start-up company will enable the acceleration of commercial product solutions utilising this intellectual property, while continuing to focus on further precision fermentation research and development.

Fonterra and DSM are also collaborating to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, by exploring applications for DSM’s methane-inhibiting Bovaer® technology in the New Zealand pasture-based farming system. . . 

Rockit Global is Hawkes Bay ASB Exporter of the Year:

Rockit Global has been named ExportNZ Hawke’s Bay ASB Exporter of the Year for 2022 for the second time.

The Hastings apple business was presented with the award last night by ASB Executive General Manager for Corporate Banking, Nigel Annett, at the sold-out awards dinner at the Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre.

The judges remarked that Rockit Global’s commitment to excellence across their entire operations – quality, health and safety, gaining skills from outside the sector, growing skills from inside the sector – combined to produce outstanding results, and a solid platform for continued strong future growth.

Earlier in the evening, Rockit Global won the T&G Global Best Established Award, going head-to-head with the other category winners for the top award – Starboard Bio, producer and supplier of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical ingredients (winner of the ContainerCo Best Emerging Exporter Award), and Pultron Composites from Gisborne (winner of the Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence in Innovation Award). . .

Proposal to introduce new wasp to Manawatu-Whanganui :

Manawatū and Whanganui could soon be home to a new foreign wasp.

On behalf of the National Biocontrol Collective – a consortium of regional councils, unitary authorities and the Department of Conservation – Horizons Regional Council has applied to import and release the bud-galling wasp to control the spread of an invasive acacia shrub.

Biosecurity and biodiversity manager Craig Davey told Morning Report the insect had been shown to stop most seed production of the plant.

“It is only existing to live on Sydney golden wattle. So when we release it, if the application is successful, it’s only going to live on those acacia that are in our coastline.” . . .

 

Pāmu achieves another good financial result, declares dividend:

Landcorp Farming Limited (trading as Pāmu) has reported an EBITDAR (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and revaluations) of $75 million for the year ended 30 June 2022, a 23% increase on the previous year ($61 million). The company has declared a dividend of $5 million.

Chief Executive Mark Leslie said the result reflected good product prices and steady revenue growth across the business.

“The result is particularly pleasing given the significant input cost pressures farmers are facing because of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian-Ukraine conflict impacting feed, fuel and fertiliser costs, and general inflationary pressure. As well, farm production and earnings were constrained by extreme weather events, including floods on the West Coast and in the Manawatu, and drought in the Te Anau basin.

“The team managed these external pressures well both on farm and at a corporate level, to produce a very good result.” . .


Bureaucracy City

29/08/2022

Camryn Brown speaks from The Common Room on Bureaucracy City:


Where’s the money gone?

29/08/2022

Danyl Mclauchlan writes of an administrative revolution:

He starts with the strain on hospitals, nursing shortage and the government’s inexplicable failure to put nurses on the green list for fast track residency:

How to explain this? It doesn’t seem to be industry protectionism, since nursing industry organisations were furious about the situation. There’s been some suggestion that it’s a form of gender discrimination. Nursing is a traditionally female occupation; if you look at the roles that are on the green list − engineering, construction, primary industries, ICT − they’re mostly male-coded. Or was it racism, because migrant nurses tend to come from the Philippines? I asked someone in the government if they thought either of these were the case, and they doubted it. To them this was probably just an oversight, an error at the ministry of business, innovation and employment (MBIE), but the opposition attacked the government over it so the government dug in its heels and now here they were, forcing nurses to go through a two-year residency process while people died in hospital corridors. This theory is so bleak, there may be truth in it. But I want to explore an alternative, more elaborate explanation. 

The crisis in the health system is happening alongside an $11 billion project to reform the health bureaucracy. Also underway is the centralisation of the polytechnics. These used to be funded and monitored by the Tertiary Education Commission, but this work has been transferred to Te Pūkenga, a new organisation dedicated to the polytechnic sector (and this new organisation is overseen by a new department in the TEC). Te Pūkenga is already in dire financial trouble, with its CEO on paid leave for a period while not responding to media enquiries (he has now resigned). So far the merger has cost $200 million, and the government is cutting back teaching and administrative staff at the polytechnics to pay for it all. The whole debacle has been attacked by former Otago Polytechnic CEO Phil Ker who told the Otago Daily Times: “Those hundreds of millions have just gone into structural stuff. Not a single dollar has been put into improving outcomes for learners, not a single dollar to strengthening the regional providers, and so the issues that we had before Hipkins started this misguided venture, are not only still there, they’re worse. The initial goal was to build a system that delivered more education to more people – particularly Māori, Pasifika and people with disabilities – and to do it better… It just hasn’t happened.”

On the same day Ker made his complaint, Stuff reported that the next phase of the government’s Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport infrastructure project – “a detailed business case involving no construction” – would cost more than $120 million and take three years to complete.

Note that Wellington’s infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating. Also that day NewsHub reported that the government was spending a billion dollars a year on consultants, with Imogen Wells writing: “Back in 2018, the cap on public servants was removed with the aim being to reduce the Government’s contractor and consultant spend. Since then, the number of public servants has grown, but the government’s still spending just as much taxpayer money on contractors and consultants.” . . 

Mclauchlan then moves on to the crisis facing the fire service.

National’s internal affairs spokesman Todd Muller pointed to spending on contractors and consultants increasing from $4.5 million in its last year as the fire service, to more than $140 million over the past five years, since it was centralised as FENZ.

“FENZ had $468m capital expenditure in the last five years and firefighters are questioning where the money has gone,” Muller said. “There has been no improvements to resourcing over that period… We are witnessing fire trucks breaking down across the country.” . . 

Next the government’s attempt to improve mental wellbeing of school children.

 It had allocated $44 million to fund counselling at primary, intermediate and small secondary schools for four years, with the Ministry of Education claiming it would deliver 100,000 hours of counselling each year. But it looked set to provide just 9600 hours this year

In the story, National party mental health spokesperson Matt Doocey said it appeared the government was spending more than $500 per counselling session. “Normally counsellors charge about $150, so you’d have to ask: Where is this money going?” . . 

Where is not just that money but all the other money going? It’s a multi billion dollar question.

Where IS all the money going? In the past few months the government has created a new anti-terror research centre, committed $300 million to replace the school decile rating system with an equity number, created a a new ministry for disabled people, a new national health provider, a new health authority for Māori, a new ambassadorship for Pacific gender equality, a new supermarket watchdog. It’s hard at work creating a new mega-sized public media entity – estimated cost $350 million – and establishing four new regional wastewater entities at an estimated cost of $296 million (the total three waters reform is priced at about $2 billion). It has purchased Kiwibank for $2.1 billion. 

Some or all of these might turn out to be worthy enterprises but there’s a huge assumption in this government and on the left more broadly that they can only be Good Things – that questioning the rapid expansion of the administrative state can only be right-wing hate speech, part of a covert neoliberal plot to gut health, education, welfare. 

Aren’t we seeing an erosion in state capacity alongside all this centralisation and expansion? Aren’t outcomes in health, education and welfare trending down rather than up?

Yes.

What’s going on? You can’t have effective public services without bureaucracies, but it’s not clear that the torrents of money flowing into them are delivering more value to the public or to the marginalised communities some of them are named after. It’s almost as if the primary role of the administrative state is shifting from serving the people to the redistribution of wealth to the staffers, lawyers, PR companies, managers and consultancy firms that work in them, or for them. A billion dollars a year in public sector consultancy is an awful lot of money when you’re running out of teachers and nurses because you don’t pay them enough, and the fire trucks are breaking down.

And when you’re compounding staff shortages in the private sector by competing for workers.

I sound a little conspiratorial when I talk about this, as if there’s a smoky room filled with senior ministers, high-ranked public servants and partners at consultancy and law firms all laughing as they cut frontline services and stuff wads of cash into each other’s underpants. And a certain amount of this happens under every government. But I think there’s something else at work here. 

In 1994 the US historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch died, and a year later his final book The Revolt of the Elites was published. Lasch started his career as a socialist and ended it as a hard-to-categorise hybrid of anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist pro-environmental conservative. The revolting elites in his book are the professional managerial class: the educated technocrats who occupy a commanding position across post-industrial economies, not by direct ownership of capital or overt command of the political system but by managerial  control of all our institutions. They run everything. I’ve written about the professional managerial class before – I don’t think you can understand 21st century politics without them – and for Lasch their most important qualities are: a) they’re a global class; b) they’re more concerned with the virtual and abstract than the physical, and, c) the primary purpose of their politics is therapeutic. 

Could we add to their concern for the virtual and the abstract terrifying ignorance of the practical?

Lasch mourns the decline of the mid-20th century socially democratic left; the working class movement that built the modern welfare state. And he notes that the PMC often imitates their rhetoric but primarily employs the state as a means to appropriate the public’s wealth for themselves while defecting from its core institutions. He notes: “They send their children to private schools, insure themselves against medical emergencies… In effect, they have removed themselves from the common life. Their only relation to productive labour is that of consumers. They have no experience of making anything substantial or enduring. They live in a world of abstractions and images, a simulated world that consists of computerised models of reality.”

And this disconnection from the physical world and their fellow citizens means their politics is increasingly therapeutic rather than material; it’s the politics of personal self-esteem, emotional wellbeing, self-expression, self validation, relentless positivity. Jacinda Ardern gave a nice demonstration of this in a recent interview on TVNZ’s Q+A with Jack Tame. When asked about her government’s failure to deliver across multiple policy areas and what she’d learned from these mistakes, she replied: “You know what, I would not ever change the fact that we have always throughout been highly aspirational. We have always focused on how we can make New Zealand better…  In setting out a vision for what that should look like, you will still hear me talk about New Zealand as a place that should be free of child poverty. Absolutely, because anything less in my mind… anything less demonstrates that we don’t believe that things can and need to improve.”  

It’s hard to criticise aspiration, but it’s useless if the aspiration and vision aren’t met by practical policies to ensure that things not only can and need to improve but do, and do considerably.

The vision is everything. In 2019 the government unveiled its Road to Zero campaign. This approach to road safety, funded at $3 billion over the next three years, “adopts a vision of a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes”, which it pretends it will realise by 2050, and which is accompanied by a $15 million advertising campaign (including the famous $30,000 in illuminated zero signs). The transport agency delivering the campaign, Waka Kotahi, has seen a dramatic increase in staff, especially comms staff. NewsHub reported it has “more than doubled its PR team since 2017 – when Labour took power – from 32 staffers to 88, 65 of whom are earning $100,000 or more.” It has more managers, more HR administrators, more accountants. It spent $25 million refitting its offices. But road deaths are trending up even though petrol is more expensive so commuter miles are down. RNZ reported that Waka Kotahi have only installed a fifth of the median barriers they were supposed to, and fewer than a fifth of the side barriers. There are numerous media reports about worsening road conditions around the country. 

And,  from Lasch’s perspective, this all makes total sense. For his managerial class the primary purpose of the transport agency and the rest of the state is to create high income jobs and lucrative contracts for the cognitive elite – they are the true value creators, after all – and to deliver media campaigns celebrating the bravery of their visions, the nobility of their aspirations; to affirm that they are the good and smart people. The actual safety conditions of provincial roads are largely irrelevant. And if we circle back to the beginning of this essay, he’d see the decision not to fast-track nurses into the country the same way. Nursing is a credentialed, moderately well paid profession. But nurses are not knowledge workers the way medical doctors and some other health professionals are. Nurses work almost entirely in the real not the abstract, therefore they can’t be adding “real” value to the health system, any more than safety barriers installed by uneducated manual labourers can reduce traffic fatalities, or fire trucks can put out fires.

I’d disagree with the opinion that nurses aren’t knowledge workers but they do work in the real.

When you write about class – or race, gender, faith – it’s hard to avoid the sin of essentialism where you lump a huge, diverse group of people together and declare them all intrinsically good or bad. But what Lasch describes is a cultural and social logic rather than a group of evil people. I’m part of the PMC myself; we’re (mostly) decent on an individual basis. It’s the political outcomes of this class relentlessly following its own self-interest that are bad. In his book Capitalism, Alone, the inequality researcher Branko Milanovic describes the tendency for educated elites to practise “assortative mating” – forming highly credentialed dual-income couples that can afford residential property close to hub cities, where their investments are artificially inflated through strict zoning regulations. This happens all over the world and no one co-ordinates it. Lasch notes that because the PMC is meritocratic it tends to strip-mine non-elite communities of their best and brightest, elevating them into the cognitive class. So anti-managerial movements tend to be disorganised, incoherent, leaderless and easily captured by bad actors. We’re seeing that all over the world, too. . . 

Did we see that in the protest camp at parliament?

There were a lot of people with a lot of grievances, some of them real, but they were largely disorganised, incoherent and leaderless.

A survey showed that contrary to the rhetoric that the majority of the protestors were not right-wing extremists and white supremasists:

. . . 64% of protesters sampled were European, 27% Māori, 4% Asian and 3% Pacific.

There were almost twice as many Māori respondents amongst the sampled protesters as compared to their share of the adult population. Pacific and Asians were under-represented and the proportion of Europeans was very close to their population share.

45.7% of protesters sampled voted for Labour or the Greens. 27.8% voted for National or ACT. Other significant parties voted for were New Conservative 8.7%, Advance 6% and Māori Party 3%. (When those who did not vote are removed).

19% of protesters sampled did not vote. This seems in line with the election results which saw 82% turnout, so around 18% of enrolled adults not voting.

Of the five parties in Parliament the most over-represented are the Māori Party which has three times greater supporter amongst protesters than in the election and the Greens who have twice as much.

ACT has 1.6 times as much while National and Labour voters are under-represented.

Maori Party voters are very unlikely to be white supremacists but given Maori were over represented in groups with lower incomes they are more likely to be harder hit by the expense on theoretical and impractical policies at the expense of those that make a positive difference.

People from the provinces were over represented at the protest as well.

They’re the ones not just geographically but culturally distant from the bureaucrats and consultants.

They have been hard hit by the impractical regulations that have been spewed out by the growing bureaucracy and the deteriorating economy and over stretched public services for which those bureaucrats, consultants and the government that’s spawned them must take some of the blame.

How do we counter this administrative revolution and get policies that make a positive difference for the public, rather than just for the public service?

Could it be as simple as culling the fat from the bureaucracy and using savings to improve pay, conditions, and the number of people on the front line – the ones who work in the real world and face real consequences for getting things wrong which those working with the theoretical rarely, if ever, do.


Word of the day

28/08/2022

Unction – the action of anointing someone with oil or ointment as a religious rite or a symbol of investiture as a monarch; treatment with a medicinal oil or ointment; the act of anointing as a rite of consecration or healing; something used for anointing; ointment, unguent; a slave; something soothing or comforting; religious or spiritual fervor or the expression of such fervor; exaggerated, assumed, or superficial earnestness of language or manner.


Milne muses

28/08/2022


Sometimes

28/08/2022

SOMETIMES by David Whyte

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest,
breathing
like the ones
in the old stories,
who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,
you come to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and
to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,
questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,
questions
that have patiently
waited for you,
questions
that have no right
to go away.

Hat tip: The Marginalian


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