Winston’s dowry

June 21, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a policy cost-tracker Winston’s Dowry:

With Winston Peters now the Prime Minister, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is launching a new policy cost tracking project – to calculate the cost of Mr Peters and his Party in forming the coalition Government.

“Marriage can be expensive, but normally the guests aren’t given a bill at the end of the ceremony,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

“In a political marriage, the cost of attendance can be significant. ‘Winston’s Dowry‘ calculates the total cost to taxpayers from the demands of two-time coalition divorcée, Winston Peters.“

“Our economic staff will be updating the Dowry regularly as new vanity projects, and pork-laden policies are announced.”

“So far, Winston’s Dowry includes the Provincial Growth Fund, significant increases in spending for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Ministry of Defence, a vanity project re-branding of the Ministry for Children, and a tax credit for hot horses, among other initiatives.”

“As it stands, Winston’s Dowry is already $5.1 billion – or $2960 per New Zealand household.  With Mr Peters’ now the Prime Minister the figure could grow significantly in coming weeks. Taxpayers had better hold on tight.”

Details of Winston’s Dowry are available at www.winstonsdowry.nz.

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Public servants paid too well?

June 21, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union has some facts to dampen public sector wage claims:

Over the last 25 years, public sector incomes have grown much faster than the private sector, while public sector employees also enjoy a higher rate of sick leave costing taxpayers $173 million, according to Public Sector Wage Gap: The taxpayer-funded premium for working for the government, a new report we’ve released today.

If you work for the Government, you earn a third more on average, with taxpayers footing the bill.

This report seriously undermines the public sector unions’ claim for 9-15 percent pay hikes for their members. It blows to bits claims the last Government did not pay bureaucrats enough.

The public sector pay gap nearly doubled since the 1990s. If anything, a wage freeze, not hikes, would be fairer.

Left wing activists and unions would have the public believe that the public sector has undergone nine years of neoliberal hell. But this shows that to be a lie.

Public servants generally have better job security than those in the private sector.

They are also supposed to have a commitment to public service.

Both these factors ought to be reflected in lower pay rates than in the private sector.

Key findings of the report:

  • The gap in weekly earnings between the public and private sectors has grown since 1990, from 18.9% of private sector earnings to 34.6% in 2017. The gap peaked in 2010 at 38.4%. The premium is even higher for hourly earnings (as public sector employees, on average, work fewer hours).
  • If the Government had retained a public sector earnings premium of 20%, taxpayers would save $2.5 billion per year, or $1,445 per household in lower taxes or reduced Government debt.
  • The public sector took an average of 8.6 and 8.4 days of sick leave in 2016 and 2017, compared to the private sector average of 4.7 days per year.
  • If the public sector reduced its rates of sick leave to private sector levels, the taxpayers would save $173 million per year, or approximately $100 per household per year in lower taxes, or reduced Government debt.

Is there something in the public sector that causes more sickness, are public servants less healthy than those in the private sector or is there another explanation?

The Taxpayers’ Union recommends:

  • The Government should set a goal of returning to a 20% public sector earnings premium by placing constraints on public sector wage growth and focusing on growing productivity.
  • If private sectors stagnate or decline (such as in a recession) the Government should be willing to cut public sector wages to match.

The public service is in competition for staff with the private sector.

If it wants high calibre staff it needs to pay them well but this report suggests it’s paying too well.


Govt costing $100/week

June 20, 2018

The government is costing us $100 more a week:

The Government needs to start thinking about the impact of its tax and bad economic policies on Kiwi families and stop loading the costs on to their weekly bills, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

“The Government’s policies are costing Kiwi families over $100 a week and that’s an unacceptable burden on New Zealanders who are trying to get ahead.

“The biggest immediate hit will come from the double whammy of the new petrol taxes, with the legislation to impose it progressing through Parliament this week. Nationwide petrol tax increases at the same time as a new regional fuel tax that is already being felt around the country, together adding around $15 a week to the cost of living, is too tough.

“And it’s on top of already rising fuel prices. The Government needs to cancel it and get the transport agency and Auckland Council to do a lot better job of prioritising their spending.

Fuel price increases impact on all goods and services that are transported.

“Today we also have confirmation from the University of Otago that basic healthy food costs for a family of four in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin increased by up to $21 a week over the past year. Much of this is due to the higher costs flowing from government policies and regulations, in addition, new fuel taxes are only going to push prices up further.

“You also have rents rising by an average of $20 a week and that will only get worse as Labour drives mum and dad investors out of the housing market with its changes to tax policy and more regulation. And its restrictions on overseas investment and the increasing uncertainty around KiwiBuild policy will slow housing construction and drive prices up further.

“On top of that every middle income family is missing out on the thousand dollars a year – or $40 a week that Labour cancelled to give money to first year university students. That is money these families could have used right now.

“Finally, with slowing GDP growth leaving families around $10 a week worse off, and fewer jobs being created as a result of this Government’s low growth policies, there will be fewer opportunities for New Zealanders to get ahead.

“Together, these bad policies and poor priorities are leaving New Zealand families significantly worse off.

“The Government can’t pretend it’s concerned about New Zealand families, particularly those on lower incomes, and then turn around and implement policies that make things worse.

“They are placing themselves squarely in the firing line as the cause of cost of living increases. They need to cancel their fuel tax increase and start thinking about Kiwi families.”

The government has been boasting about its family package helping families.

But they’re giving with one hand and taking away with the other through the higher cost of living.


Rural round-up

June 19, 2018

In wake of M. Bovis, look after each other

To those who in some way are in the depths of New Zealand’s farming world, or part of the sector in some way, and to those who might not read this because they are not farmers — I’m thinking of us all, writes Mischa Clouston.

This Mycoplasma bovis is colossal. It will reach far and affect many of us in some way. In a huge, indescribable way.

I’m scared for my cattle owner friends; it must be such a heavy weight to carry just now, knowing you could lose so much.I’m scared for fellow managers or milkers; if there are no cows, do we even have a job in the dairy and beef industries? .

I’m worried for the health sector, helping support the strain and worry. But let’s not forget the agribusiness owners whose business is on farms or with product or services for cattle — the small business owners relying on the spending from farmers who may, in time, have little left in their own pots. . .

Otago water rights: ‘It’s time for this to be sorted out’ :

Water is the new gold in Otago and there is a mountain of work to bring water allocation in the area in line with the rest of the country before time runs out.

The Otago Regional Council is working to have the region’s antiquated water take regime brought in line with the Resource Management Act by the October 2021 deadline.

Water rights in Central Otago and parts of the surrounding districts were first allowed as mining rights to aid in the extraction of gold in the mid 19th century. . .

Down to earth and sharing the view glamping style – Sally Rae:

Patrick and Amber Tyrrell are genuinely living the dream.

It sounds a little like something out of a film script:  South African farmer’s son meets Waitaki Valley farmer’s daughter in a co-operative agricultural community in the Israeli desert.

Eventually, they move to the Waitaki Valley, where they build an off-the-grid home with spectacular views, and  focus on getting down to earth — literally. In February last year, Mr and Mrs Tyrrell launched Valley Views Glamping  (glamorous camping) on their property in the foothills below Mount Domett.

“It feels like we’ve found our calling in life,” Mrs Tyrrell said . .

Government needs to rethink Landcorp:

The Government needs to shrink their ownership of farms through Landcorp and use them to give young Kiwi farmers the opportunity to lease and ultimately own some of these farms, National Party spokesperson for Agriculture Nathan Guy says.

“The Government owns massive tracts of productive land through Landcorp, 385,503 hectares – or around six times the size of Lake Tāupo, even though there is little public good from Crown ownership.

“Landcorp not only provides a poor financial return to taxpayers but the Governments’ ownership of these farms is keeping Kiwi farmers out of the market. . . 

Northland farmers gain insights on Queensland beef sector:

Northland sheep and beef farmers Kevin and Annette Boyd were among a group of 20
farmers who attended a week-long educational beef tour in Queensland last month
organised by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank.

The tour featured two days at the world-renowned Beef Australia event in Rockhampton
as well as visits to a range of beef operations throughout Queensland including
Brisbane-based meat retailer Farmer in the City, Grassdale feedlot in Miles, the Roma
saleyards and Emerald-based Clissold Downs (beef trading) and SwarmFarm (agritechnology).

The tour was organised by Rabobank to provide the bank’s local and international beef
clients with an opportunity to network with other farmers and to learn more about beef
operations in Queensland. . . 

Lack of decision support tools in forestry:

Recent comments by officials and “experts” on planting one billion trees, the plight of hill country forestry and woody debris flows, have not touched on the total lack of decision support tools so that farmers and other local forest investors can make the right decisions. Without engaging a costly consultant, farmers are expected to take a risk on a 25-year land commitment in an information vacuum.

Unlike the plethora of levy and government funded systems and tools available to farmers on agricultural decisions, there is next to nothing on forestry. The forest grower levy is mostly consumed by overseas owned forestry corporates looking to protect and enhance their assets, to maintain a social license to operate in a foreign land. As a result the forest levy doesn’t get spent expanding a local forest industry. . . 

Bayer North Canterbury Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018 announced:

Congratulations to Zoe Marychurch from Bell Hill who won the Bayer South Island Regional Young Viticulturist of the Year competition on Friday 15th June.

This is a new regional competition added to the Young Vit competition this year and is open to contestants from Nelson, Canterbury and Waitaki. The winner goes through to represent their own region so Marychurch will represent North Canterbury in the National Final in August.

Four contestants battled it out at Greystone in Waipara – three from North Canterbury and one from Nelson. “The calibre of the contestants was high and it was great to see their enthusiasm and passion for viticulture evident throughout the day” says Nicky Grandorge, National Co-ordinator. They were tested on a wide range of skills including budgeting, trellising, pruning and pests and diseases. . . 


So bad so soon

June 19, 2018

How did it get so bad so soon?
It’s a mess of ministers
acting like goons.
My goodness how the
mess has grewn.
How did it get so bad so soon?

With apologies to Dr Seuss, how did it get so bad so soon?

Audrey Young writes that Jacinda Ardern will forgive Winston Peters for anything, even the unforgivable.

A National MP joked this week that the Opposition didn’t want things to get so bad under Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave that the country was desperate for her return – they just wanted a medium level of dysfunction.

That threshold was almost reached this week even before the big event, and things got worse as the week wore on.

Ardern’s faith in Winston Peters being able to manage the inevitable bush fires that will flare when she is away must be seriously undermined given that he and his party have caused many of them.

A series of accidental and deliberate mishaps has raised questions about a series of important issues including basic coalition management, ministerial conventions, the application of the “No Surprises” policy, and when a minister is not a minister. .  .

Stacey Kirk calls it a three ring circus with one ringmaster at the centre .

Consensus government in action, or a bloody awful mess? 

It’s difficult to characterise the past week as anything but the latter and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be worried about whether she’ll have a Government to come back to when she returns from maternity leave. . .

Patrick Gower wants the old Kelvin Davis back.

Patrick Gower on The AM Show. Credits: Video – The AM Show; Image – Newshub.

Kelvin Davis is a “wounded man walking” who better watch out, says Newshub national correspondent Patrick Gower.

The Corrections Minister on Wednesday announced plans for a new prison, but appeared to be unaware how many of its inmates would be double-bunked.

Corrections boss Ray Smith interjected after Mr Davis froze, confirming Newshub’s suggestion it would be around half.

“I get nervous before interviews,” was Mr Davis’ explanation, when asked about it on The AM Show. . . 

Duncan Garner describes government MPs as misfit kids.

. . .It’s taken them three minutes to look as shabby, arrogant and as broken-down as a third-term government suffering rampant hubris and pleading to be put out of its misery.  . .

Sue Bradford thinks the Greens are in mortal danger.

The Green’s water bottling decision exposes potentially fatal flaws and complacency at the heart of Green Parliamentary operations 

The Green parliamentary wing seem to be clueless about the mortal danger they face following news this week that their own minister, Eugenie Sage, has signed off on the sale and expansion of a water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs. . . 

Hamish Rutherford writes with Winston Peters in charge everything could be up for grabs.

. . . These are extraordinary times. Suddenly, with a Government already battling to keep business confidence up, with a story that the economy keeps on rocking, it seems as if everything is up for grabs.

We are now being handed lessons that have been coming since Peters walked into the Beehive theatrette on October 20 and announced he was forming a Government with the Left.

A Government so broad that the issues on which there is division become so amplified that they could almost appear to outnumber ones where there is consensus.

Where previous coalitions since the creation of MMP managed to keep together because the centre of power was so obvious, the timing of Peters’ action will be further unsettling. . . 

Health Minister David Clark has been accused of trying to gag a health board chair.

A leaked voicemail message appears to show Health Minister David Clark attempting to gag top health officials over the woeful state of Middlemore Hospital buildings. 

Clark has rejected the accusation, which has stemmed from audio of him telling former Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Rabin Rabindran it was “not helping” that the DHB kept commenting publicly.  

Emails suggest he also attempted to shut down the DHB from answering any questions along the lines of who knew what, and when, about the dilapidated state of Middlemore buildings. . . 

Peter Dunne asks is the coalition starting to unravel?

Almost 20 years ago, New Zealand’s first MMP Coalition Government collapsed. It was not a dramatic implosion on a major point of principle, but was provoked by a comparatively minor issue – a proposal to sell the Government’s shares in Wellington Airport – and came after a series of disagreements between the Coalition partners on various aspects of policy.

There has been speculation this week in the wake of New Zealand First’s hanging out to dry of the Justice Minister over the proposed repeal of the “three strikes” law that the same process might be starting all over again. While it is far too soon to draw conclusive parallels, the 1998 experience does set out some road marks to watch out for. . . 

Michael Reddell writes on how the government is consulting on slashing productivity growth.

 . .  I have never before heard of a government consulting on a proposal to cut the size of the (per capita) economy by anything from 10 to 22 per cent.  And, even on their numbers, those estimates could be an understatement. . . .

Quite breathtaking really.   We will give up –  well, actually, take from New Zealanders –  up to a quarter of what would have been their 2050 incomes, and in doing so we will know those losses will be concentrated disproportionately on people at the bottom.   Sure, they talk about compensation measures . . 

But the operative word there is could.  The track record of governments –  of any stripe –  compensating losers from any structural reforms is pretty weak, and it becomes even less likely when the policy being proposed involves the whole economy being a lot smaller than otherwise, so that there is less for everyone to go around.  The political economy of potential large scale redistribution just does not look particularly attractive or plausible (and higher taxes to do such redistribution would have their own productivity and competitiveness costs). . . 

And the Dominion Post lists mis-steps and mistakes and concludes:

. . .Some of this has been simply amateurish.

Such things are often a sign of a government that has outlived its mandate and begun to implode around the core of its own perceived importance. In its tiredness it can trip over the most obvious hurdles.

This Government is barely nine months old. It needs to find its feet, and quickly.

Has there ever been a government that has attracted this sort of criticism just a few months after gaining power?

How did this government get so bad so soon?


Science when it suits

June 18, 2018

The government has been quick to act on the advice of its chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman over meth testing in state houses. 

Wouldn’t it be good if a similar respect for science was shown for other policy?

Had they done so we wouldn’t be facing a ban on off-shore exploration for oil and gas.

If they did so, we could be confident they’d agree with National’s principles for a bipartisan approach to climate change:

  • taking a pragmatic, science-based approach,
  • utilising innovation and technology,
  • getting the incentives right to drive long-term change rather than short-term shocks
  • acting as part of a global response, and
  • considering the wider impacts on the economy, jobs and incomes

If they did so, we could have confidence that they making policy changes for the good of the country and the people and not blindly following political ideology.

It would be good but it’s very unlikely when we’ve got a government that accepts science only when it suits.


Common ground on climate change

June 16, 2018

National leader Simon Bridges wants to take the politics out of climate change:

“Today I have written to the Prime Minister and Minister for Climate Change offering to work with them to establish an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission which would support emissions reductions by both advising on carbon budgets and publishing progress reports on emissions,” Mr Bridges says.

“National recognises the importance to New Zealanders – current and future – of addressing climate change and responsibly playing our part in a global response.

“Long-lasting change requires broad and enduring support, so I want to work with the Government to make meaningful bipartisan progress on climate change.

“This will be challenging and require compromises on both sides. But the prize is too great not to try, and the consequences on our economy, jobs and the environment are too serious if we don’t do so responsibly.

“The design of the Commission will be critical, but both the Productivity Commission and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment have offered a clear steer as to what they see as an enduring model to drive long-lasting change.

“I am confident that we can work constructively together to establish an enduring non-political framework for all future governments when considering climate change issues.

Mr Bridges also said that simply getting the institutional arrangements such as carbon budgets right isn’t enough – we also need to address the specific policy choices that will be taken to reduce emissions over time.

“Of course there will be ongoing debate and differing views about what steps are appropriate. National want to see sensible, practical solutions, not extreme policies that would damage the economy and unnecessarily drive up costs for Kiwi households.

“National have a core set of principles that will guide the work we do on climate change:

  • taking a pragmatic, science-based approach,
  • utilising innovation and technology,
  • getting the incentives right to drive long-term change rather than short-term shocks
  • acting as part of a global response, and
  • considering the wider impacts on the economy, jobs and incomes

“Addressing climate change isn’t easy. We all know that.

“But if we are all pulling in the same direction we can help ensure that our beautiful natural environment is preserved for our grandchildren and their grandchildren,” Mr Bridges says.

 

This announcement came in a speech at the Fieldays:

. . . My time as Economic Development Minister underlined for me the importance of the primary sector and regional New Zealand.

There can be a lot of talk from politicians about diversification away from primary industries – moving away from farming into areas like IT and finance.

Promoting other industries is good, but we must remember that you are the engine room of the economy.

Other industries could take lessons from how the primary sector operates.

It is full of people that are outward looking and back themselves.

People who constantly innovate so they can be the best at what they do.

People who care about conservation and the environment.

People who know that if you put in the hard yards, you reap the rewards.

These values are at the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander.

These attitudes are part of the reason why New Zealand is filled with fantastic opportunities right now.

They’re why in the two years before the last election, 10,000 new jobs were being created every month.

Why the average annual income increased by $13,000 between 2008 and 2017 – twice the rate of inflation.

They’re why the proportion of Kiwis in work is the third highest in the developed world.

New Zealand is a successful, prosperous, confident country, filled with people and businesses that can foot it with the best in the world.

I know that as Leader of the Opposition I’m supposed to complain about everything.

But that’s not my style.

I genuinely believe we are doing really well as a country, although we can always do better.

This success wasn’t always the case – ten years ago 30,000 people were leaving New Zealand every year to move to Australia, because that’s where the opportunities were.

As of last year there are more coming the other way.

We’ve made great progress – but we must keep pushing hard to ensure all Kiwis enjoy the gains.

I’m concerned that more and more of the Ardern-Peters Government’s policies will put those opportunities at risk.

While they talk a lot about good intentions, the policies like higher fuel taxes and a reversion to 1970s style pay agreements are anti-growth. They’ll shut down opportunities for our young people to get a job, and they’ll increase costs on New Zealand families.

Almost half of businesses believe the economy will deteriorate over the next six months. Half. That’s not an environment where people are hiring another employee or investing for growth.

I talked about values earlier, and there is one other value that I believe makes New Zealand so special.

And that’s our belief in doing the right thing, in giving a helping hand to those in need.

People like the single parent who needs taxpayer support to help raise their children.

And the worker who has just been laid-off and is trying but struggling to find their next job.

Most recently we’ve seen it in the primary sector too, with the M Bovis outbreak.

This is an extremely challenging time for farmers and the rural community.

These are animals that you have bred and cared for, and now your livelihoods are on the line.

I’m not going to dwell on how we got where we are, but I am pleased that farmers finally have certainty.

I feel for those who are having their stock culled – truly taking one for the team

For National’s part, we’re not going to play politics with this issue. That’s my commitment to you.

Our primary sector team of MPs, led by Nathan Guy, is here to support farming families and to advocate for you through this painful process.

I want to talk about more than just M Bovis today.

You know we always have to look ahead – to next year and the year after, to how you want your farm to be operating in five years’ time, and perhaps even to how your children and grandchildren could take over one day.

Just like you, much of what I do is driven by what I want for my kids when they grow up.

My wife Natalie and I have three amazing young children. Emlyn who is six, Harry who’s four, and little Jemima who is a whole six months old.

As a politician sometimes there are sacrifices you make, and that includes spending less time with your children.

But it also means that when I go to Parliament, I’m driven by the desire to make New Zealand an even better place for all our kids when they grow up.

One of the big long-term challenges we face is protecting the environment.

In a hundred years, when we’re all long gone, I want to be sure our grandchildren will be living in a New Zealand that is still the envy of the world because of its stunning natural environment as well as its prosperity.

I want them to live in a pristine New Zealand, where they can take their children to swim at Piha, or tramp in the Waitakere ranges like I did growing up.

I want our grandchildren to know that all of us have done what we can to protect the environment – our most precious natural resource. 

I doubt there are any New Zealanders who don’t think like this.

We can have the best sportspeople, the finest scholars, and the most innovative entrepreneurs.

We can have a world class economy and the prosperity to pay for education, hospitals, infrastructure, social services and care for our vulnerable.

But none of that is worthwhile if we haven’t protected the natural environment as well.

I’ve charged our environmental MPs, led by Scott Simpson, Todd Muller, Sarah Dowie and Erica Stanford with the task of modernising our approach to environmental issues. To run a ruler over our policies. To ask the questions and to push us harder.

And that is also true of climate change.

I know there might be some surprises about a National leader talking about climate change at Fieldays.

But I know this sector is committed to conservation and environmental sustainability.

You don’t get enough credit for that.

We’re not doing anyone any favours if we can’t have a robust conversation about the steps we need to take to protect our natural resources.

New Zealand feeds the world. We produce more food per person than any other OECD country.

Unfortunately being a large food producer means our per capita emissions are high.

But we are also the most efficient food producers. The world needs to be fed and we know how to do it well. 

But simply being the most efficient isn’t enough. We need to do more to reduce emissions further. I know that, and every farmer I talk to knows that too.

Despite our small individual profile of one fifth of one per cent of global emissions, our size does not abdicate us from our responsibility.

National recognises the importance to New Zealanders – present and future – of addressing climate change, and playing our part in the global response.

We’ve made good progress recently, but we need to do more.

We implemented the world-leading Emissions Trading Scheme, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic productivity.

When I was Transport Minister I implemented a significant package of measures to increase electric vehicle usage, so that we use fewer fossil fuels.

New Zealand is a great place for electric vehicles, because almost 90 per cent of our electricity is renewable. That’s the fourth highest in the developed world. 

There are now as many new electric vehicles in New Zealand each year as there have been in Australia, ever.

I want us to do more of that.

Since 2008 our greenhouse gas emissions fell, despite a growing economy and growing population.

That is a big deal. In the previous 18 years emissions increased by 25 per cent.

But we now need to wrestle them down further.

I am proud to have been a part of the previous National Government which signed New Zealand up to the Paris agreement with its ambitious challenge of reducing our emissions to 30 per cent less than 2005 levels by 2030.

I was there in Paris as the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues and I stand by our commitment.

It will be challenging to achieve, and will require an adjustment to our economy. But we must do so.

In order to drive long-lasting change, broad and enduring political support is needed for New Zealand’s climate change framework – on the institutional arrangements we put in place to support a reduction in emissions.

Both the Productivity Commission and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment were clear about this.

Stability is required to allow people and businesses to plan and respond.

It requires a consensus between the major political parties on the overall framework through which we address climate change issues. . . 

Seeking consensus with a common ground approach to climate change is the only way to make enduring progress.

The principles National wants to guide the process are sensible and sustainable.

  • taking a pragmatic, science-based approach,
  • utilising innovation and technology,
  • getting the incentives right to drive long-term change rather than short-term shocks
  • acting as part of a global response, and
  • considering the wider impacts on the economy, jobs and incomes

The test will be whether other parties will accept them or put politics before progress.

 


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