Priorities?

December 13, 2017

KidsCan faces losing government funding:

The charity, which has been in operation for 12 years, provides food, clothing and healthcare to 168,000 children across 700 New Zealand schools.

Executive Julie Chapman told Checkpoint with John Campbell she was told last week by Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children that it would lose its government funding – $350,000 worth – on 1 July next year.

“There’s going to be quite a big impact on our ability to get the support to kids in need.

“If this funding does go … children are going to go hungry, they’re going to have to wait longer without clothing, without shoes, all those things that they’re in urgent need of.” . .

This government has made reducing child poverty a priority.

Why would it cut funding to a charity which provides basic necessities for children whose families either can’t or won’t?

Paula Bennett is right to question their priorities when they spend $400,000 to take the word vulnerable from the ministry’s name and cut $350,000 funding from a charity which helps the vulnerable.

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How much to change whole Ministry?

December 12, 2017

The Taxpayers’ Union says government name calling doesn’t help vulnerable kids.

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Government for wasting $418,000 of taxpayers’ money, meant to help the country’s most vulnerable kids, on a ‘rebranding’ of the Ministry of Vulnerable Children to Oranga Tamariki.

“This is a shameful waste of money and precisely the sort of Wellington nonsense which gets up the nose of taxpayers,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

“No one resents paying taxes to help those most in need, but wasting nearly half a million dollars of money earmarked for helping vulnerable kids on marketing experts, logo designers, and sign writers, is disgraceful.”

Changing the name might widen the scope of the Ministry. If it does it will take the focus off those who need help.

If it doesn’t then it’s a name change for change’s sake and an expensive one at that.

If it costs $480,000 to change the name, It will be eye-wateringly more to change not just the name of the Ministry for Primary Industries but create, set up and staff the separate ministries which will replace it.

It’s little wonder the Minister, Damien O’Connor, is refusing to disclose just how much it will cost.


Let’s not need bread deciders

December 12, 2017

Eric Crampton writes on why clean GST is better:

. . . Just imagine the conversations the bread deciders might have at cocktail parties.

“Oh, what do you do for a living?”
“Well, I’m a bread decider.”
“A what?”
“A bread decider. I decide whether or not things are bread.”
“But doesn’t everybody know what’s bread and what isn’t?”
“Ah, but think about a mini ciabatta, which is an interesting borderline case.”
“But why would anybody care?”
“Well, taxes …”
“And you’ve not shot yourself yet?”
“Well, I also have a side-gig as a pizza decider …”

We do not know how lucky we are in New Zealand. We have no need of bread-deciders. So far. . .

Anyone who thinks complicating New Zealand’s GST is a good idea should think again.

New Zealand’s GST is uniquely, and admirably, clean. It applies broadly. Every producer has an incentive to report honestly because they also report the GST they paid to their suppliers on every item when claiming GST on their inputs.

That’s a very important point, keeping the system simple incentivises honesty.

Were New Zealand to exempt healthy foods from GST, we would well be on the slippery slope. It is one of those things that sounds really easy, but would be an utter disaster in practice.

What counts as healthy? Not only does the medical evidence keep changing, but there would also be a string of boundary cases needing adjudication. If beans are healthy, what about frozen beans? Beans in a can? Beans in a can with pork fat and sauce? How much pork fat and sauce before it is taxable? What if we use Jamie Oliver’s recipe and fly him in to say it’s good?

Even worse, think through the consequences of tax exemption.

Under the current beautiful broad-base, low-rate system, companies gather all their receipts for everything they purchased when making things and claim the GST on them. They then charge GST on the full value of their final product. Their net GST is on the value they added to their inputs along the way, since they netted out the GST from the inputs. Nice, clean and easy.

If some goods were exempt from GST, we would have problems. Imagine you were a food manufacturer making two products. One attracts GST and one does not. It is possible to charge GST on one product and not the other, but all the point-of-sale terminals would need to be reprogrammed – feasible but expensive. But how do you start thinking about claiming the GST on your inputs if you are selling an exempt product. You will need to justify how you apportion all your plant’s shared costs across the different product lines. And Internal Revenue would worry you were loading costs onto the taxable line to claim GST where you shouldn’t. The auditors would be kept busy.

And an industry would quickly emerge to make everything seem easier – and to prevent it all from ever really being easier. The political case for exemptions is dangerously tantalising. And when you’ve granted one, it is almost impossible to resist granting others. . . 

A little exemption is like a little bit pregnant, it doesn’t stop there. You become more pregnant then you have a baby and the baby grows  . . .

Any exemptions to taxes add complications which add compliance costs and incentives for avoidance all of which is a handbrake on productivity.

Let’s not get on the slippery slope to bread deciders and beyond.

Simple taxes are better taxes.

New Zealand GST is simple and it should stay that way.


Naive virtue-signalling

December 11, 2017

Australian columnist Miranda Devine says Jacinda Ardern should stop meddling:

NEW Zealand’s new Labour PM Jacinda Ardern has a hide.

Her repeated offers to take some of the asylum seekers now causing trouble on Manus Island is just naive virtue-signalling.

Ardern should know that her meddling runs the risk of putting what Indonesia calls the “sugar” back on the table for people smugglers.

The last time a Labor leader did that in Australia, 1200 people drowned at sea, and we are still dealing with the backlog of 50,000 unauthorised arrivals. The problems on Manus Island are the legacy of Kevin Rudd’s virtue signalling. We don’t need a Kiwi version of Rudd.

Australia’s policy of stopping people smugglers before they reach the ocuntry is tough but it has stopped the boats and the loss of many lives.

Ardern is sending a message to the people smugglers that Australia’s borders could have a back door via NZ.

She is giving them a product to sell to gullible economic refugees who risk their life only to end up in detention centres.

Surely, as a new PM she has enough on her plate in her own back yard. We love our Kiwi cousins but please mind your own business.

The continued needling of Australia by offering to take a relative few of the Manus Island assylum seekers might appeal to some of her supporters, but will do nothing for genuine refugees.

It’s also cheap grandstanding when, as Bernard Lagan writes, Australia is lapping us on refugees:

. . .Australia can’t accept New Zealand’s offer without breaking its core vow: that no asylum seeker coming on a people-smuggler’s boat will be allowed in. With New Zealand citizenship, they would be free to enter Australia. The Australian Labor Party has the same policy.

By continuing to hector Australia, Ardern has antagonised the Turnbull Government and demonstrated a shallow appreciation of the realities Australia faces in deterring people smugglers. The seaborne asylum-seeker traffic to Australia peaked in 2012 when more than 17,000 arrived. The number reached just under 5000 in one month. Nearly 2000 have drowned at sea trying to reach Australia in a dozen years. The flow – and drownings – stopped only when Australia began turning back boats and shipping to its offshore detention centres those who made it.

The Key and Bill English governments knew that some of the boats turned back by the Australian Navy had New Zealand as their ultimate destination.

Lest anyone consider Australia closed to the neediest, it is worth remembering that in the past year, the country accepted 22,000 refugees, most referred to it by the United Nations refugee agency. New Zealand? Its annual quota is a miserable 750, which might increase – Winston Peters permitting – to 1500 under the new Government. . . 

It’s easy to be sanctimonious when the risk of boats laden with desperate refugees are very unlikely to make our shores.

Australia is closer to the countries from which the desperate flee and it is already accepting many more refugees than we do.

If Ardern really wants to help more refugees, there are plenty New Zealand could take from other places without trivialising the very real problem Australia faces with people smugglers.

 


Labour throwing money at wrong end of education pathway

December 7, 2017

The government has announced some details of its fee-free tertiary education policy:

From 1 January 2018 all New Zealand students who finish school in 2017, or will finish school during 2018, qualify for a year of free provider based tertiary education or industry training.

This policy will also benefit those who aren’t school leavers. Adults who have previously studied for less than half full time year of tertiary education or industry training also will qualify for fees free. . . 

This includes overseas students and those studying courses which may or may not have personal benefit but appear to be of  little if any benefit to the country:

Labour must explain why it believes taxpayers should be paying more for people to study golf, homeopathy and skydiving, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Government was reluctant to provide any detail on its multi-billion fees-free policy and now we know why – today’s announcement has confirmed a return to the bad old Labour days of funding international hip hop study tours and family reunions.

“Under the criteria outlined today, fees-free study options will include a Diploma in Tournament Golf from IGQ Golf College, a Diploma in Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine from the New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine and a Diploma in Commercial Skydiving.

“While it makes sense that golf students ‘have an in-depth understanding of golf theory’ is it really a high priority for new spending?

“This is just bad policy. This is on top of the Government’s own estimates showing hardly any more students will be enrolling because of this policy, when Labour has justified this spending by saying it wants greater participation in tertiary education.

“Most of the 80,000 students that will benefit would have enrolled anyway and were prepared to make some contribution to the cost of their study because they saw the lifetime value in it.

“New Zealand’s tertiary education system is already heavily subsidised and the average student loan is paid off in less than seven years. This policy will just give even more money to people who will earn high incomes and should contribute something to the cost of their education.

“The policy represents a colossal missed opportunity and grossly untargeted spending. Surely it would be better to invest public money into targeting the very small group for whom cost is a barrier?

“And with all the money being sucked into supporting every full-time student in their first year, it leaves nothing to invest in the tertiary institutions themselves so that they can deliver world-class education that equips the next generation of Kiwis to be internationally competitive.

“The tertiary education sector has been left in the dark for months and it’s only now getting the details of this major policy. It gives the sector less than a month to prepare for the changes – and all for a policy that acts as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.” 

About 80,000 students will qualify for the fee-free year but how much will it cost and how many extra students will enrol because of it?

The Government expects its $339 million first year fee-free tertiary education policy will see an additional 2000 people enter into study or training next year.

That’s nearly $170,000 per extra student, who may or may not go on to finish the course which may or may not be of any more than recreational value.

Meanwhile New Zealand’s literacy score has dropped for the first time in 15 years.

The government can’t be blamed for that result but it can be challenged on why it’s throwing money at first-year tertiary students when it would be far better used much earlier in the education pathway to improve the literacy of school children.

It probably wouldn’t take $170,000 per pupil and it would be addressing an urgent need which the fee-free policy is not.

Labour is throwing money spraying it round the upper end of the education pathway when there’s urgent need for more to be spent at the lower end, carefully targeted at children who are failing at primary school.


Threats to DOC staff beyond appalling

December 6, 2017

The Department of Conservation is appalled at threats to its staff:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) confirms that it has asked New Zealand Police to investigate after receiving a second threatening letter from an anti-1080 protestor in Taranaki.

The aggressive letter intensifies threats against DOC staff and claims more sika deer will be released unless DOC stops its use of 1080 to control predators.

Appalled would be a mild reaction to these very serious threats.

It follows an anonymous letter in October which said sika deer were being released in Taranaki forests in retaliation for 1080 operations.

The Director General of Conservation, Lou Sanson says DOC will not be speculating on who wrote the letter or why, as it is now a matter for the police to investigate.

“However these threats to DOC staff are taken very seriously and will not be tolerated. I am appalled that someone would threaten our staff in this way as they are trying to go about their daily work to protect our native species and wildlife.”

“DOC is responsible for managing more than a third of New Zealand’s land area and it’s important our staff are able to get on with their job of protecting conservation areas without fear of being harmed or harrassed,” Mr Sanson says.

DOC has put measures in place to protect staff and contractors, including asking staff to be more vigilant as they go about their daily work.

Overall the level of 1080 protest has been relatively low this year and most have protested lawfully. “Apart from a few isolated cases, the feedback we get is that most New Zealanders strongly support DOC’s work to protect our native species and habitats and understand why we need to use 1080 as part of our war against predators,” Mr Sanson says.

1080 isn’t perfect but in some areas it’s not only the best, it’s the only way to kill introduced animals that prey on native birds, destroy bush and carry disease which can spread to farm animals and people.

Not everyone is convinced by the science and they are free to protest against 1080 lawfully.

Going beyond lawful protest to threats against public servants is beyond appalling.


Aussies right on animal rights Bill

December 6, 2017

Australian legislation will force animal rights activists to put animal rights before media opportunities:

MOVES to force animal rights activists to hand over visual evidence of animal cruelty to relevant authorities promptly, instead of delaying its release to bolster emotive, anti-farming media-driven campaigns, are being recharged by the Coalition government.

The Criminal Code Amendment Bill was first pursued by former WA Liberal Senator Chris Back ahead of his recent retirement and will now be spearheaded by his replacement, Slade Brockman – a former chief of staff to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

The Bill survived the previous parliament and is now due to be freshly debated by warring political factions with varying views on animal welfare standards in agricultural production and the role of animal rights activists, later this week in the Senate.

It aims to alter the Criminal Code Act to include new offences and penalties for failure to report visual recordings of malicious animal cruelty or for interfering with the conduct of lawful animal enterprises, like livestock facilities. . .

 The move is being opposed by animal rights groups who are calling it ag-gag.

But Senator Brockman said the Bill was about expediting the reporting of animal cruelty incidents while protecting livestock farmers and others who work in animal-related industries from “malicious campaigns”.

“The Bill was originally put forward by former Senator Chris Back who was a veterinarian a with a great passion for the welfare of animals but also a passion for ensuring farmers and others working in close association with farmers, like the animal handling and processing industries, were protected from malicious campaigns that try to destroy their livelihoods,” he said.

“We had the very ironic situation of where people who were holding themselves up as paragons of virtue defending animal rights were actually sitting on footage of animal cruelty for months and months and months, developing media stories, and not giving that footage and images to the relevant authorities to act on. . .

This has happened in New Zealand.

Instead of reporting abuse to the SPCA or Ministry for Primary Industries, groups have waited many months so to make the maximum splash in the media.

Any animal rights groups worthy of that claim would put animal health and wellbeing first.

Sadly some don’t, preferring to run campaigns which damn whole industries instead of allowing the authorities to immediately investigate, ensure animals get any help they need and, if there are grounds, prosecute anyone abusing them.

Legislation isn’t always the best answer to a problem. But if concern for animals they purport to protect isn’t enough to make people and groups do the right thing, a law change must.

 


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