NZ 3rd for material living standard

July 31, 2015

Trans Tasman points out that child poverty lobbies are wrong on living standards:

Lobby groups which bleat about child poverty in NZ took a knock this week when independent research showed NZ households have the third highest material living standard in the world for households with a teenager. The research also dealt a blow to those who contend there is growing inequality in NZ society. Using a new measure for wellbeing, Researchers at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research found NZ ranks just behind the US and Canada, and ahead of Aust and all the Scandinavian countries.
Motu is a not-for-profit, non-partisan research institute and received funding for this work from the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of NZ. Dr Arthur Grimes, one of NZ’s most respected economists, says “our new measure focuses on actual consumption of households, which is a better measure of living standards than income. What we found is that we have very high material wellbeing levels. I think this should call into question the widespread negative impression of living standards in NZ compared with other developed countries.” Grimes and Motu researcher Sean Hyland worked from a dataset of household possessions for almost 800,000 households over 40 countries, including all OECD countries.
“Our results show NZ is still a great place to bring up children, at least in material terms. Not only do we have wonderful natural amenities, but contrary to what GDP statistics tell us, most kiwi families have a high standard of material wellbeing relative to our international peers” The study also looked at the degree of inequality in household material wellbeing, which fell in most countries, including NZ, over the period 2000-2012. In 2012, NZ ranked twentieth of 40 countries in terms of inequality, with levels similar to those in the US, Canada and the UK.
Grimes points out most public policy concern is with the living standards of ordinary people, especially those closer to the bottom of the wealth distribution curve, whose living standards are well captured in the data. “If we look across the Tasman, Australia’s households are not quite as wealthy as their NZ counterparts but inequality in Aust. is lower than that in NZ. Overall, these figures suggest we may need to reassess how we look at this country’s economic performance.”

This doesn’t mean everyone has enough nor that we can ignore the needs of those who don’t.

But it does contradict the people who keep trying to tell us that inequality is growing and that up to one in four children are living in poverty.


Quote of the day

July 31, 2015

New Zealand isn’t very good at political sex scandals.

This week from the United Kingdom we had a peer of the realm, a man in charge of enforcing conduct standards in the House of Lords, filmed wearing a red bra and sniffing cocaine off the breasts of prostitutes.

Now, that is a sex scandal.

In New Zealand, we have some sex that didn’t happen, and some bad poetry.Rob Hosking


So many shades of stupid

July 30, 2015

Andrew Little’s latest desperate ploy for publicity merely demonstrates so many shades of stupid.

. . . Labour leader Andrew Little has described God Defend New Zealand as “a dirge” and claims many Kiwis prefer to sing along to the Australian anthem. A dirge can mean a mournful song or a lament for the dead. . .

I will concede that the anthem is sometimes dirge-like and have blogged on that.

But that is only when it’s played that way.

If played at a decent tempo it is rousing as an anthem should be.

But to claim that many of us prefer to sing Advance Australia Fair?

As anthems go, it’s a good one but if many of the Kiwis he mixes with prefer to sing along to the Aussie anthem than our own it suggests he’s in touch with a sad subset of people and out of touch with the majority.

The stupidest thing about this outburst, though is the timing when he’s doing the best to sabotage the flag-change process in spite of being on record saying he not only favours a change he supports the referendum process for it.

Here’s Labour’s official policy from 2014:

Labour will: review the design of the New Zealand flag involving flag design experts and with full public consultation and involvement.

We believe that the time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public.

And in case that isn’t clear enough, here’s his personal views from last October:

Q: Should NZ change its flag: What’s your personal opinion? Should there be a referendum? If you want the flag changed, what’s your favourite design?

A: Yes, my personal opinion is we should have something more relevant to an independent, small Asia/Pacific nation. I think a referendum is a suitable way to deal with an issue that can be very polarising. . .

Had Labour, perish the thought, got into government then not gone ahead with the consultation and referendum it would stand accused of breaking an election promise.

Going back on the commitment to change for petty political purposes and thereby politicising the process when the government has done all it can to involve other parties is at least as bad.

Given Little’s precarious position, when he’s failed to gain traction for himself and his party and he’s now even less popular than Winston Peters, he should be very careful about making funereal references.

Ask not for whom the dirge plays, it could be playing for his political ambition.

And to those who say the flag issue is merely bread and circuses to distract the masses, you have a very low opinion of the ability most of us to care and do something about more than one thing at a time.

 


Referenda in right order

July 29, 2015

The Bill on the referenda on changing our flag completed its second reading yesterday.

This bill establishes a process for the holding of two postal referendums on the New Zealand Flag. The first will determine which alternative flag design is preferred by voters, and the second will determine whether that alternative flag or the current flag is to be the New Zealand Flag.

The Minister responsible Bill English said the bill would ensure debate about the flag was completed in a respectful way.

A number of people questioned the order of the questions being asked, but the committee by a majority decided to stick with bill as drafted. Mr English said he believed it was the logical process to follow so people could decide between alternatives.

The wisdom of having two referenda in this order was confirmed for me by the results of Gareth Morgan’s flag competition.

The winner of the Morgan Foundation’s $20,000 flag competition is “Wā kāinga / Home”, designed by Auckland based Studio Alexander.

Economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan set up the competition because he had strong views on what the flag should represent but he couldn’t draw one himself. In particular he wanted to see more flag designs that honoured the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi – two partners agreeing to share this land and look after each other.

Morgan felt the government competition wasn’t delivering on this respect because the design brief wasn’t clear. So he created his own design brief and threw in some prize money to flush out some genuine designers. This appears to have worked – Morgan’s competition attracted just under 1,000 entries and as a result the diversity of entries in the government process has also improved.

To judge the winner Morgan enlisted the help of a team of designers Mark Pennington, (head designer Formway), Catherine Griffiths (designer and typographer) and Desna Whaanga-Schollum (Nga Aho co-chair). The judges focussed on the flag design, while Morgan was more interested in the story behind the flag. Wā kāinga / Home was the one design they could agree told a strong story and adhered to the principles of good flag design.

Studio Alexander chief Grant Alexander said they entered because “our imagination was captured by the Morgan Foundation’s professional approach. A good brief, design professionals judging and an appropriate financial reward.”

The winning design brings the different parts of New Zealand society together, similar to the South African flag. The three coloured triangles symbolize Maori (red) who invited their Treaty partners to share the land, the heritage of British settlers (blue), and our modern multicultural society (black). These three influences are brought together by the white space, which is also reminiscent of the Maihi (the diagonal bargeboards) on the front of a Maori meeting house.

 

I am open to a change of flag but if this was the one which was put up against the existing one I’d vote for the status quo.

If we are to have a new flag, I want one which is distinctively New Zealand’s and this one isn’t.

This is why the referendum to decide which design could become the new flag must come first, otherwise we’d be voting blind and could end up with a design most of us don’t like.

 

 


NZ open for business and people

July 27, 2015

Prime Minister John Key today used his speech to the National Party conference yesterday to reiterate his Government’s commitment to an open economy which embraces free trade and immigration.

. . . Earlier generations could never have imagined the global opportunities opening up for New Zealand.
I want to lead a country that embraces those opportunities.
An open and confident country that backs itself on the world stage.
As I’ve said many times, we won’t get rich selling things to 4.5 million New Zealanders.
But we could by selling to 4.5 billion people overseas.
Our Party supports strong international connections.
We value the benefits that free trade agreements deliver and the opportunities they offer.
I back our farmers, our manufacturers, our ICT companies and in fact all our export industries to succeed.
If we can get an equal crack at world markets, we’re up there with the best in the world.
That opportunity is what free trade is about for New Zealand.
When the previous Government, with the full support of National, signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, our annual exports to that country totalled $2.5 billion.
Since then, they’ve quadrupled and China is now our biggest trading partner.
That FTA has had huge benefits for New Zealand.
Just a few months ago, I was in Seoul to witness Tim Groser signing another free trade agreement – this time with Korea.
When that agreement comes into force, half our exports to Korea will immediately be tariff-free, and almost all the rest will follow.
I can tell you that the kiwifruit growers of Te Puke are going to be delighted when the 45 per cent tariffs they currently face are finally removed.
We’re also in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
TPP has been a big focus for our Government.
A successful conclusion will mean a trade agreement with a number of countries, including the giant economies of the United States and Japan.
This is something that successive governments in New Zealand, of both stripes, have been actively pursuing for many years.
That’s because it will mean better deals for Kiwi producers and exporters, better access to world markets, and better prospects for growing those markets in the future.
It will help diversify the economy through a broader range of trade and investment relationships.
And it will flow through to higher incomes and more jobs for New Zealanders.

The ability to export freely and earn the returns from exports unhampered by tariffs and other protective measures is one part of our international connectedness.

Immigration is the other.

New Zealand’s connectedness with the world is also about people coming to New Zealand to live and work.

Immigration benefits New Zealand because people coming here provide more of the labour, skills, capital and business links we need to grow.
A lot of people coming to New Zealand settle here in Auckland.
But as I go around other parts of New Zealand, mayors and employers often tell me they can’t get enough workers of the type local businesses need.
Southland, for example, is always crying out for workers in the dairy sector.
Across the whole South Island, in fact, the unemployment rate is a very low 3.6 per cent.
I can assure people that New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs. That will not change.
And Auckland, as our largest city, will continue to grow.
But I believe we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors.
So today I’m announcing some changes to our immigration settings.
The first is aimed at encouraging people who come to New Zealand as skilled migrants to take up jobs in in the regions.
Around 10,000 skilled migrants get residence each year, together with their family members, and almost half of them come to Auckland.
We want to balance that out a bit, by attracting more people into other parts of the country to help grow local economies.
Currently, skilled migrants with a job offer get 10 extra points if that job is outside Auckland, and those points count towards the 100 they require.
From 1 November, we will treble that, and give them 30 extra points.
In return, they’ll have to commit to a region for at least 12 months – up from the current requirement of three months.
New Zealand also needs entrepreneurs to start new businesses, expand existing firms and create jobs.
So the second change we’ll make is to encourage entrepreneurs wanting to come to New Zealand to look for business opportunities in the regions.
Last year we launched an Entrepreneur Work Visa, targeting migrants who offer high-level business experience, capital and international connections.
Currently, people applying for this visa get 20 extra points if they set up a business outside Auckland, and that counts towards the 120 they require.
From 1 November, we will double that to 40 extra points.
Immigration New Zealand expects to approve up to 200 people next year under this visa.
With the changes we’re making, we expect to see most of these entrepreneurs setting up or growing businesses outside Auckland and creating new jobs across the country.
The third change I’m announcing will help employers find out faster whether New Zealanders are available to fill a particular vacancy, before they lodge a visa application with Immigration New Zealand.
From 1 November, they’ll be able to contact Work and Income directly to check availability.
This is a small measure, but it’s been really appreciated by employers in Queenstown and we’re extending it across the country.
The fourth announcement I want to make today is that the Government intends to provide a pathway to residence for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.
These people and their families have been in New Zealand for a number of years.
Their children are at schools. Their families are valuable members of their communities. And they are conscientious workers paying their taxes.
Their employers want to hold onto them because there aren’t enough New Zealanders available.
Around 600 overseas workers in lower-skilled occupations in the South Island have been rolling over short-term work visas for more than five years.
We envisage offering residency to people in this sort of situation, who commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.
We’ll set out the details of this pathway early next year.
Finally, the Government will consider a new global impact visa.
This would be targeted at young, highly-talented and successful technology entrepreneurs and start-up teams, who want to be based in New Zealand, employ talented Kiwis and reach across the globe.
There’s been quite a bit of interest in this idea and we’re going to look at it carefully over the next few months.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Taken together, the changes I’ve announced today will contribute to a better balance in our immigration settings.
They will help spread the benefits of migration across the country, particularly in those regions crying out for workers, skills and investment.
As I said earlier, we need to be more connected with the world, because that’s where our opportunities come from.
This is just one small part of that approach.
We’ll also continue to press on with free trade agreements, build stronger investment links, and embrace the openness and connectedness that characterises successful countries in the 21st Century. . .

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said:

. . . “Thousands of people from all over the world are moving to New Zealand because it is a good place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Those people make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economic growth by providing skills, labour and capital we need, along with valuable cultural and business links.

“New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs and that won’t change,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Currently, many new migrants settle in Auckland, which faces infrastructure challenges as it transforms into a truly international city. At the same time, business owners in other parts of New Zealand often struggle to find enough skilled workers to meet their demands.

“While there are already incentives to encourage migrants to move to areas outside of Auckland, we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors,” Mr Woodhouse says.

New measures to take effect from 1 November include:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points.
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

In addition, from mid-2016 a pathway to residence will be provided for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.

“Unemployment across the Mainland is nearly half that of the North Island, and labour is in short supply,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Most workers in lower skilled jobs must apply to renew their work visas every year. Some of these people have worked hard and paid tax to New Zealand for many years. They are valued at work and in their community, but have no avenue to settle here permanently.

“We’re looking at offering residence to some migrants, who have applied at least five times for their annual work visa. In return, we will require them to commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.”

These are very welcome changes which will make it easier for immigrants to settle in the regions and for employers in the regions to attract and retain staff.

I know a family who will benefit from the new policy to allow people on temporary visas who’ve been here for at least five years to settle.

They’ve been here for a decade, working, paying tax and contributing to the community.

They’ve spent 10s of thousands on immigration consultants but don’t have enough points to gain residency.

They are good people who would make good citizens and now they will be able to stay in the place they call home.

That’s good for them and the small town where they live.

Mr Woodhouse says the Government is also considering a new Global Impact Visa to attract high-impact entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams to launch global ventures from New Zealand.

“I will announce further details later this year, but we envisage this visa would be offered to a limited number of younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley,” Mr Woodhouse says.

This announcement shows National is open to business and people, a policy from which we’ll all benefit.


Quote of the day

July 27, 2015

John Key's photo.

New Zealand’s connectedness with the world is also about people coming to New Zealand to live and work.

Immigration benefits New Zealand because people coming here provide more of the labour, skills, capital and business links we need to grow. – John Key


Free trade deals save millions

July 24, 2015

Free trade deals have saved multi millions of dollars, Beef + Lamb New Zealand says.

By its calculations, New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) delivered tariff savings of more than $160 million on sheep meat and beef exports last year.

Beef and Lamb chief executive Scott Champion said those savings would grow as tariffs continued to come down and exports grew.

“The good news, I guess, is how big some of the savings are compared to if those free trade agreements weren’t in place.”

Dr Champion said red meat was one of the most protected products in the world and, especially for beef, the amount of tariffs being paid was still significant.

“It’s about $161 million saved, compared to not having FTAs in place, but the total tariff bill is still about $326 million.

“We have a lot of discussion – often publicly – around whether we should be doing free trade agreements, or shouldn’t we, and what this data really suggests is that… free trade agreements deliver significant savings to sectors, and particularly primary industries.”

Protection limits choice and adds costs for consumers, distorts markets and reduces income for producers.

It can also facilitate corruption as those seeking market access or to limit access for others seek to influence those with the power to confer favours.

The only real beneficiaries from trade restrictions are politicians, bureaucrats and the protected businesses who gain at everyone else’s cost.


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