366 days of gratitude

November 25, 2016

Friends turned up this afternoon with a parcel wrapped in Christmas paper.

We’d agreed a few years ago that we wouldn’t do Christmas presents but they explained it was in Christmas wrapping but not a Christmas present, just something they thought we’d like and we should open it right away.

My farmer did – inside was a flag bearing our company logo.

They were right – we did like it, so much so that we took it outside immediately, lowered the Argentinean flag we’d hoisted for our visitors last week and replaced it with the new one.

Though strictly speaking you’re supposed to lower a flag at sunset, it’s still flying and we’re both grateful for it.


More than a little stupid

March 29, 2016

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, which is stupidest of all?

Strong arming banks and legislation was rightly met with indignation.

Then came 200 bucks for “free”, funded from tax paid by you and me.

And now you want the flag to change by whatever process you arrange.

If you think you’re going to pick it, you know just where you can stick it.

 

March hasn’t been a good month for Andrew Little, the Labour Party and anyone with hopes they might soon be fit to lead a government.

Little’s attempt to get onside with farmers by suggestions of strong arming banks and legislating to force them to reduce interest rates was met with the derision it deserved.

Then he came up with the proposal of a Universal Basic Income which, as the Herald points out is an idea that’s more bad than good  :

. . . The economy would suffer under punitive levels of taxation, avoidance would be rife, and the benefits would be illusory. . . 

The Taxpayers’ Union points out a UBI would require income tax rates of 50% or more:

A Universal Basic Income which avoided superannuates and beneficiaries being made worse off would require a flat rate income tax of more than 50% or drastic cuts in government services to pay for it, according to a new report released today.

The report, Money for all: the winners and losers from a Universal Basic Income, by economist Jim Rose, examines the Labour Party’s “Future of Work” proposal for a UBI and the more modest proposal by the Morgan Foundation.

A more affordable version of Labour’s scheme, such as that proposed by the Morgan Foundation of $11,000 per annum ($210 per week), would cost $11 billion dollars more than the existing welfare system, while making solo mothers $150 per week worse off. For superannuates, a UBI at this level would see their weekly income reduced by $50.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“We find it startling that the Labour Party would be floating the idea of a replacement to the welfare system that would see those most vulnerable in society being far worse off. A UBI replaces helping those most in need with handouts to the middle-class and millionaires.”

“If you take Labour’s assurances that no one will be left worse off under their UBI, the amount would need to be so high that Treasury’s economic modelling suggests that a flat income tax of between 50.6% and 55.7% would be needed to pay for it.”

“Here is a political party which for years has rightly been telling New Zealanders that current superannuation entitlements are unaffordable. Now they want to effectively extend the same scheme to every New Zealander from the age of 18.”

“The Morgan Foundation proposes to pay for its more modest UBI with a tax on those holding capital. Such a tax would incentivise all those modern and innovative industries Labour want to encourage, to shift off-shore.”

Jim Rose, the author of the report, says:

“We don’t believe Labour have fully considered the consequence of a UBI on labour supply and economic incentives. People would almost certainly work fewer hours meaning that the burden of supporting the programme would be borne by a fewer number of taxable working hours, potentially requiring even further tax increases.”

“Even the Labour Party’s own paper concedes that the taxes that would be required to fund a UBI higher than $11,000 per year may be ‘unrealistically high’. The analysis in the report certainly backs that.”

Key points and conclusions:

• The Morgan proposal would cost $10 billion more than the current welfare system but leave those most in need worse off.

• For a UBI to achieve any reduction in poverty levels, or to avoid it costing those in society who most need help, much higher taxes are required. These reduce the incentives to work and economic growth.

• A UBI which allowed those currently receiving benefits and/or superannuation would need to be at least $15,000 per year (equivalent to the current average level of benefits). To pay for this, Treasury estimate that a flat income tax of between 45% and 56% would need to be introduced (assuming other taxes stayed equal).

• Child poverty is not reduced by a UBI less than $15,000 per year because single parents receive no more income support than before.

• A UBI would likely push the New Zealand economy into recession off the back of the reduced labour supply from the windfall increase in incomes alone.

One of the National-led government’s successes is a reduction in number of people in long term benefit dependency with all the financial and social costs that go with it.

A UBI would reverse the good done by that and encourage more people into welfare dependency.

Not content with these two bad ideas, this morning Little has come up with another:

In the wake of the flag referendum, the opposition leader said he voted against the alternative as it “doesn’t reflect anything about New Zealand at all”.

“I’m pleased to say we haven’t adopted it,” he said. 

Mr Little said the country should revisit the issue “sooner rather than later”, suggesting a flag that “genuinely represents who we are, the diversity that is New Zealand”. 

Doesn’t reflect anything about New Zealand at all? Anyone’s views on the merits of the alternative flag are a matter of opinion but there is no arguing that the Southern Cross reflects New Zealand’s place in the world and that the fern is recognised as a symbol of New Zealand here and abroad.

It was used long before sports teams adopted it and they did so for that reason.

That aside, there is a mood for change but Little can’t lead it.

He voted for the legislation which set the process, campaigned for Labour with a policy to change the flag then, after the election put political expediency before his principles by criticising the process, the timing and the cost.

The time to criticise the process was before voting for it.

If the timing was wrong last week, it can’t be right this week.

And if the cost of the process we’ve just gone through was too high, another process “sooner rather than later” is even higher.

The party partisan part of me is amused by the way Little stumbles from one demonstration that he’s more than a little stupid to another.

The rest of me is concerned that the leader of the second biggest party in government keeps showing he’s ill-fitted to lead the Opposition let alone a government.

 

 


56.6% old 43.2% new

March 24, 2016

A small majority of voters has opted to stick with the old flag.

Silver Fern Flag915,00843.2%
Current New Zealand Flag1,200,00356.6%

Informal Votes  – 4,9420.2%

Total Valid Votes  – 2,119,953100%

This is the preliminary result, the final result will be declared on March 30th.

That result is a lot closer than polls indicated but sadly, in my opinion, not close enough.

However, by the time you take people who voted for the staus quo because they didn’t like the alternative, the cost or the process, or for partisan political reasons, rather than genuinely voting for it, this shows there is a mood for change.


366 days of gratitude

March 24, 2016

The flag I ordered got delayed then we had to reinstall the flag pole.

That’s done and the flag which is distinctively New Zealand’s is now flying.

flag

We’ll find out whether enough people share my preference for this rather than the old flag at about 8.30 this evening.

Whether or not they do, I’m grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to choose a flag and that we are free to have differing views on this and other issues.

 


Can you describe the flag?

March 24, 2016

One of the reasons for changing our flag is that it is too easily confused with Australia’s.

It has intrigued me during discussions on the referendum that a lot of people, including most who support the status quo, aren’t able to confidently describe our flag and differentiate it from Australia’s.

Everyone has been sure both are blue with a Union Jack in the upper corner and that both have stars.

But when I asked how many stars each flag has and what colour they have most falter.

So, can you describe our flag and say what makes it different from Australia’s?

If you’re with others, please ask them too, and let me know the results.

 

 


Could the polls be wrong?

March 22, 2016

Polls have consistently shown a significant majority of people will vote for the current flag rather than the alternative.

Polling companies haven’t been calling the people I’ve been asking.

We were with 10 New Zealanders in Tasmania three weeks ago, all but one were voting for the new flag.

A week later we were on a farm tour in the North Island with 41 people. Only two of those were voting for the status quo, one didn’t like the alternative but was planning to vote for it in preference to the old one and the others were definitely voting for change.

At a dinner last week, four of six were voting for change.

Does that mean the polls will be proved wrong?

Sadly, I don’t think so.

Between people who don’t want change, people who do but don’t like the alternative enough to vote for it and people voting against change for political reasons I think the polls will prove to be right.

But whatever the outcome of the referendum, we’ve got a new flag and we’ll continue to fly it.


Why he’s voting for change

March 4, 2016

The voting on which flag will be our official has started and the debate continues.

Simon Wilson in Metro gives one of the best analysis I’ve seen of the issues and explains why he’s voting for change:

The flag referendum should be a vote on whether we take a step forward as an independent, liberal democracy. It still could be.

This is where I start. We have a flag that carries a symbol of the old colonial country – the Union Jack – and I think we should take the first chance we get, which happens to be now, to chuck it out. . . 

Our national character, we like to think, is a humble but chaotic mix of pioneering women’s suffrage, fearless announcements about knocking the bastard off, outrageous sporting talent and the raw genius that splits atoms and wins Academy Awards.

It runs very deep. We work out how to do things our way, and we do it so we can make things better.

Maori, in the Land Wars, pioneered guerrilla warfare. Much later, we found a way to interpret the Treaty of Waitangi that would allow us to evolve as a nation on the basis of justice and respect between peoples. Yes, it has been difficult to make the promise come true, but did anyone expect otherwise? We grasp the nettle. On the whole we do not flinch from that, and we should be proud of it.

We have led Britain and the world, not just on issues of gender and race . . 

The thing every New Zealander curious about going into the world learns is that Kiwis do well because we are independent, resourceful and above all unbowed by the weight of class and colonial expectation. We don’t know our place. It’s a good thing. . .

And yet, we do also honour our bicultural founding. We do admire the spirit of Curnow and all the other pioneers of our modern cultural life. We strive today to be as comfortable in Asia as we have long been in Europe. So why, really, are we shrugging our shoulders about the flag?

People who once were keen to see the Union Jack gone, but will not vote for that now, give several reasons for their decision.

1. John Key is for it

It’s so unfortunate that John Key has politicised the flag process. But at least he has been consistent. Key has always been in favour of changing the flag, he said he would abide by the process and he has. He actively supports the chosen alternative even though it was not his personal choice.

But the leaders of Labour and the Greens have also politicised the process, and they have done so hypocritically. They used to favour change. So did most of their MPs, and so did most members of their parties.

The reason – the only reason – they oppose change now is that John Key supports it, and they think they can use it as a weapon against him. I understand the temptation:  . . . They’re desperate and they’ve seized their chance. They want some bragging rights.

But what will they brag about? Key, presumably, has been happy to politicise the debate because it allows him to make his opponents look like cynical opportunists. And they have fallen for it.

He will lose nothing from this debacle, because he has been consistent. For the centre-left, however, the old flag will become the symbol of two things: their failure to stand on the side of progress, and their willingness to abandon their own beliefs and principles. Neither will do them any good at all.

Yet it could have been very different. If they had been true to themselves and supported change, the flag referendum would have risen above politics. We would be voting on what the flag stands for, not on who supports it.

What’s the referendum been reduced to? The ego of the party leaders.

A pox on all of them. It’s not supposed to be about politicians. It’s supposed to be about us. It’s our flag, not theirs, and we should refuse to let them define the debate for us.

2. It’s a waste of money

Democracy costs money.  . .  But decisions on constitutional and democratic processes should be decided on their intrinsic merits, not their cost. It’s good we have a robust democracy and it’s not a problem that we spend money on it.

3. The process has been wrong

This is true: the process was very wrong. It would have been far better to have a vote or public consultation on our preferred national symbol (silver fern, koru, Southern Cross or something else?), and then to have design experts work up options for a new flag, and then to have a vote. . .

Actually, the best way to get a genuinely outstanding piece of aesthetic design would have been to decide the whole thing completely undemocratically. Just appoint three people with very good taste to make the decision. Most of us would not have liked what they chose, possibly for many years, but eventually we would come to love it. But is that a good way to choose a flag?

The fact is, the process is always wrong. Democracy is an imperfect system, but it’s better than the rest. History is a dirty, compromised and ongoing process, but that’s how progress happens. The flag referendum gives us a chance to take a step along the way.

4. I don’t like the new flag

I don’t like the new flag much myself. I would have liked a koru, but the one the panel selected was probably the worst koru I’ve ever seen. . . 

And it’s not important, not now. Because the option we’ve got has been democratically selected. It’s not what I wanted, but it is what we wanted.

Put it this way: what were the chances that any one of us would get a flag design that was exactly what we wanted? Not high. And even if that happened, what were the chances that most of us would agree we had got exactly what we wanted? Vanishingly remote. Democracy doesn’t work like that.

If you’re waiting for a flag design that you and a majority of others really like, you will probably be waiting forever. . . 

If you want to keep the colonial symbol of the Union Jack on our flag, by all means vote for the old flag. You would be true to yourself. But if you want it gone, voting for the new flag is the only way on offer to help make that happen. . . 

5. We’d be stuck with it

There’s no rule that says we’ll be stuck with anything forever. . .

Will having a new flag now hasten or delay the bigger constitutional debate?

It will hasten it, because this vote is a marker for us. If we discover ourselves to be a people who can vote for a symbolic change like this, it will unlock something in our aspirations and imaginations. And yet, because it is a small and relatively simple test, failure will make us so much more reluctant to try again.

6. It doesn’t matter

In many ways that are important to us, it doesn’t matter. No child will be brought out of poverty because we change the flag. It will not cause anyone to write a better novel or score a better try.

But the referendum does ask us this. Are we really the children of Kate Sheppard and Ed Hillary, proud to have learned the trick of standing upright here? Or have we become the “Yeah, nah” people?

After this election, our flag will be the symbol of our answer.

The referendum is political but it shouldn’t be partisan.

It’s a referendum and like all referenda the choice is binary – one thing or the other.

We are not being asked about the cost or any other side issues. The choice is the old flag or the new one.

The new flag isn’t perfect, but nor was the old one and unlike the old one the new one is distinctively New Zealand’s which is why I’m voting for change.


%d bloggers like this: