Would you trust him?

21/11/2022

If National had ruled out working with New Zealand First in 2017, would it have made a difference?

Polls showed about half of NZ First’s supporters wanted the party to go with National, but we’ll never know if ruling the other party out would have helped National.

Now that Winston Peters has apparently ruled out working with Labour, would it help National to rule out working with him?

I say apparently because there is wriggle room in his statement:

“No one gets to lie to me twice,” he says this week.

“We are not going to go with the Labour Party, this present Labour Party crowd, because they can’t be trusted.

“You don’t get a second time to lie to me, or my party and they did.”

He starts with the Labour Party then says this present Labour Party crowd but what does that mean?

If Labour had a different leader, which is possible if the polls consistently show it would be unlikely to win a third term, would that be enough for Peters to change his mind?

Who knows? Would you trust him?

If we can learn anything from the past, it’s that what he says doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what he’ll do.

Apparently being clear about ruling out Labour ought to give voters certainty but there is some wriggle room, and it also takes away his party’s options which weakens it, making it more like the Greens and Maori Party who will never go with National, and Act who will never go with Labour.

The party could sit on the cross benches and if National and Act or Labour, the Greens and Maori Party didn’t have more than half the MPs needed to govern. They would they would then be forced to negotiate with Peters issue by issue.

That would be a disaster.

The country is in a mess and the mess will be worse by next year’s election.

A mess that bad needs a government we can trust and gives us certainty, neither of which can be assured if NZ First is in the mix.

Besides, one of that party’s strongest platforms is policy that both National and Act would deliver without it anyway – one person, one vote, no co-governance of public assets, and assistance based on need not race.

What then would we get if enough people vote to allow NZ First back into parliament? Uncertainty and instability if it was needed in government or sitting on the cross benches. Both could still allow Labour back into government.

That brings me back to the final comments in my previous post. If people don’t want a Labour-led government after next year’s election, they must vote for a National-led one and the only way to get that is to vote for National or Act.


Five Waters – where’s the outrage?

21/11/2022

It started with Three Waters but Graham Adams points out it’s it’s now Five Waters :

Thomas Cranmer notes it’s goes even further to Five Waters and a park:

Mike Hosking calls it a stinker of a policy:

Given all this, Bruce Cotterill is right to ask where is the outrage?

. . . Even without knowing the contents of the revised bill, haste is something we should be concerned about. It’s a pace of activity that is usually reserved for matters that the Government wants dealt with immediately; either because it is vital for the national interest or it is so unpalatable that they want to shut down the debate as quickly as possible. It would seem that the latter was their only justification. 

I’m told by a highly regarded former MP that for a matter of this nature, it’s a pace that is unusually rushed, and in the context of Parliament’s rules, technically inappropriate.

Not that we can do too much about that. Let’s face it, this Government has been in an “inappropriate” hurry on Three Waters from the start. Despite the changes not yet being signed into law, they have already recruited a heap of people and leased high-quality and expensive office space in Auckland at least and possibly elsewhere. Every step has been action ahead of the democratic process. . . 

They process has been appalling. From the advertisements telling us how bad our water was, when it wasn’t, saying it would be voluntary for councils to opt in, when it isn’t, saying they’d listen, when they didn’t to the truncated select committee process and Friday’s late afternoon document dump with the addition of two more waters plus parks and reserves.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the Three Waters legislation is about the management of freshwater, wastewater and stormwater. However, as result of the select committee’s most recent rewrite, it’s no longer just about Three Waters. You see, they’ve added a couple of new categories. Hydro, the water that flows through New Zealand’s world class and sustainable electricity system is one.

Oh, and they also added another category. Coastal. That’s right folks, the seabed and foreshore is back in play. This time, with the highly controversial and undemocratic co-governance proposals locked in.

And finally, just for good measure, they’ve also seen fit to include, at the eleventh hour, an option to include parks and reserves. Parks and reserves currently owned and operated by the ratepayers through the councils that represent them.

New Zealanders should be upset or even angry. We’re not though. We either don’t know about the changes being proposed, don’t understand what’s going on, or don’t care. I deeply suspect that, if Kiwis understood what was happening we would care very much. . . 

A lot of people I’ve talked to do know what’s happening but don’t know what to do about it when the government is determined to steamroller the legislation through.

We should be ropable that this is happening. And we should be stomping mad that neither of our top-rating TV news channels ran the story of the bill’s passing on their 6pm bulletins on Thursday evening. What the hell is going on here NZ?

This is major constitutional reform, involving the deliberate confiscation of assets from ratepayers and the councils that represent them, to a government and a policy that will be controlled by iwi-based or tribal interests. The consultation process around it has been minimal and most of us would say what little consultation has occurred has been ignored.

The French would have people marching in the streets and tractors blocking the freeways if this was occurring in their country. Not us. Let’s just sit back and let it happen! . . .

If a policy this bad was being promoted by a National-led government the left would be marching in the streets.

Why’s no-one up in arms now? Labour supporters don’t usually march against their own, and people on the right are much less likely to protest.

Despite not mentioning it during the 2020 election campaign, the new majority Labour government hit the ground running immediately after the election and launched a plan that would see the Government taking control of the infrastructure and services that deliver all three water assets – drinking water, wastewater and stormwater.

Despite the fact that, in most parts of the country, our fresh water is among the best in the world, they used a single event in Havelock North a few years ago as an example of what could occur if reform didn’t happen quickly.

Has anyone seen any data showing that our water is anywhere near as bas as the government is trying to make us think it is?

Has the government bothered to look at any other answers to the problems that exist in some areas?

Has anyone got any idea how much we’ll be paying for our water once they impose this overly-bureaucratic system on us?

Their plan was accompanied by a very expensive and highly misleading advertising campaign telling us that we would have brown sludge coming out of the taps unless the Government took control of the water assets from the councils.

Organisations like The Taxpayers’ Union and Democracy NZ have funded court action which asserts that the minister and her government have acted illegally. That court action is ongoing. Farmers and business owners have banners out the length of the country asking the powers that be to “Stop 3 Waters”.

And yet, despite ever-increasing opposition from a wide cross-section of New Zealanders, the Government has pressed on with its plans. Centralisation of water assets, they say, will occur, just like the already unsuccessful centralisation efforts in Health and Tertiary Education.

Most of us don’t have daily interactions with the health and tertiary education systems. All but a very few of us depend on the safe delivery of fresh water and proper dispersal of waste water many times, every day.

As a result, we have the latest steps, as outlined above, that will see Three Waters expanded to Five Waters and maybe even a few Parks.

So we see, finally, after all this time, what Three Waters has been about all along. It’s not about brown sludge coming out of your taps. In fact, it’s not about water at all. It’s about an asset grab of not only the water assets we thought, but also for a slice of our hydro schemes and for the highly contentious foreshore and seabed. By the time the third and final reading comes around, you can bet that the country’s parkland will no longer be an option. It will be included.

Perhaps the inclusion of the foreshore and the parkland will get us animated and angry.

We should be staggered that this legislation, delivering major constitutional change, is sleepwalking its way through Parliament via an aggressive majority government, while it appears that there is nothing that opposition politicians can do about it.

You see, unless New Zealanders do something, I’m guessing that the third and final reading will go much like the second reading this week. A few opposition politicians putting up a brave fight against the tyrannical majority before quietly leaving the stage defeated and deflated.

By the time next year’s election campaign is run, Three Waters final reading will have been completed and this most extraordinary and controversial series of changes will have become law. The assets will be operated by undemocratic Government-appointed boards, and the councils that paid for them will be left out of pocket, and we, the people, will be one step closer to losing our collective democratic voice. Despite overwhelming opposition, Three Waters will be law.

It would be tempting to throw in the towel. And yet, despite everything that has happened, Three Waters should continue to be a central election issue in 2023. Those parties currently in opposition must run a campaign to totally repeal this legislation and if elected they must do so promptly.

And we may as well brace ourselves for it now. Taking things away from people is always much harder than giving them out. Repealing this law will be messy and disruptive and difficult. But it must happen.

That’s why we have elections. When governments become this corrupt, they and the laws they created must go.

National and Act have both been very clear they will repeal the Three (now Five) Waters legislation and replace it with a better system in proper consultation with the councils that own the infrastructure.

If we don’t want this dreadful, racist policy we have to vote Labour out and the only way to do that is to vote for a National-led government.

Doing that means voting for National, which is my preference, or Act.

Any other vote will not guarantee a change of government or will be a wasted vote.


Rural round-up

25/08/2022

Dairy farmers hit hardest as fuel, fertiliser costs surge :

Cost inflation in the rural sector hit boiling point over the past year, but is expected to reduce to a simmer, an agricultural economist says.

Westpac senior agri-economist Nathan Penny said input prices across all farm and orchard types, skyrocketed 13.7 percent in the 12 months to June.

That rise came on top of a record high annual charge of 9.9 percent in June.

Penny said those increases were driven by several factors, but they were all essentials that farmers could not really do without. . . 

Farmers bearing the brunt of rising costs :

“If the Government wanted to try and lower prices at the checkout, it should reduce the regulatory burden that is rising production costs on farm,” says ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson and Ruawai Dairy Farmer Mark Cameron.

“Rabobank has warned that rising costs on-farm will flow into higher costs for consumers, while slimmer margins for farmers will also mean less spending within rural communities. They have also described farmer confidence as being the lowest on record since the pandemic began.

“Granted, some cost increases are driven by global issues, but the Government’s regulatory onslaught has a compounding effect that is totally unnecessary and makes life tougher for farmers. Not to mention the rampant inflation brought about by Labour’s economic mismanagement.

“Freshwater reforms, winter grazing rules, Zero Carbon Act, limiting migrant workers, other ideological climate policies, Significant Natural Areas, taxes on utes… The list goes on. Farmers have taken a hammering from this government. . . 

 

Calls for hold on winter grazing rules :

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has called for winter grazing rules to be put on hold until November 2023.

Under the new regulations, which were released late last year, farmers who graze livestock on an annual forage crop over winter, and do not meet a range of permitted activity criteria, are required to either gain a certified Freshwater Farm Plan or to apply for resource consent from 1 November 2022.

The industry good organisation, along with DairyNZ and Federated Farmers, wrote to Environment Minister David Parker, calling for a delay and asking him to work with the sector on a practical solution in the interim.

It’s not the first time B+LNZ have raised the issue. . . 

Safer Farms welcomes new CEO :

Agricultural industry safety group Safer Farms is excited to introduce its new Chief Executive Officer, Dr Lyndsey Dance.

Dr Lyndsey Dance takes up her new role in September following seven years at Stats NZ, most recently on the Executive Leadership Team as the General Manager of Strategy and Investment.

She is the first Chief Executive Officer of Safer Farms and comes onboard as the group finalises its Farm Without Harm strategy to protect farming people from preventable harm, every day.

The agriculture sector is one of the most dangerous places for New Zealanders to work, with high harm statistics and 17 workplace deaths a year. . . 

Support a disease outbreak response by signing up to MYOSPRI:

Sheep farmers are being encouraged to play their part in protecting the industry from exotic diseases by signing up to the new online portal MyOSPRI.

Over 1000 sheep farmers have already ditched paper-based Animal Status Declarations (ASDs) and are now using MyOSPRI to send both farm-to-farm and farm-to-meat processor electronic Animal Status Declarations (eASDs).

The eASDs provide accurate, reliable and readily accessible data about movements of sheep mobs and where farms and other places animals have been or are located.

In any future response, rapid access to accurate information about animal movements will be vital for minimising the size of any potential future outbreak. . . 

 

 

Farmers get opportunity to tune into top minds :

This month farmers have the opportunity to access the knowledge of some of their industry’s leading thinkers, in a new podcast series covering everything from grazing to governance.

“The Tune Up” is produced by farm reporting software company, Trev. Formed in 2018, Trev is designed to help better collate, organise, and report on critical farm KPIs to provide owners, staff, rural professionals, and shareholders with actionable farm business information and insights for decision making.

CEO Scott Townshend says the podcast series has provided an opportunity for Trev to tap into its deep network of respected industry leaders, happy to share their knowledge.

“I’m sure everybody will recognise some or even all of the podcast guests. But for many of us, having access or the time off-farm to chat with these people is difficult so it’s great to be able to share their wisdom and insights with a wider audience.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

19/08/2022

Better methane measurement will make an impact – David Anderson:

Recognition is urgently needed on a new measure for short and long-lived greenhouse gases and their impact on global warming.

That was the strong message given to attendees at the recent Red Meat Sector Conference by Dr Frank Mitloehner of the University of California Davis – a world expert on livestock emissions research.

He explained how the measure of GWP (100) – the matrix used to calculate the impact of different gas emissions on warming for the past 30 years – is “problematic” when methane levels are falling.

“It has real strong limitations when livestock numbers are constant and/or falling and methane is being reduced.” . .

Call for changes to GE laws – Leo Argent:

New research shows that New Zealanders are becoming more open to the use of genetic engineering advances to progress our agriculture sector.

Christchurch-based survey and product development company Research First recently published the results of a survey on the use of GE in NZ. It found the use of gene editing in humans for medical and disease prevention purposes was viewed in an overwhelmingly positive manner. Meanwhile, although it still had majority support, the research found less backing for gene editing to improve biodiversity and farm health.

ACT spokesman Mark Cameron says New Zealand needs to liberalise its laws on genetic engineering to allow our agricultural industry to “lead, not lag”.

“ACT has always said if we want to get serious about reducing agriculture emissions we should be looking at technological advancements like this before taxing and destocking.” . .

Carbon farming rocket has taken off – Keith Woodford:

Nothing matches carbon-farming economics on sheep and beef land

This last week I spent two days in Rotorua at the New Zealand carbon-forestry conference where I was also one of the speakers. Both I and others presented perspectives on the path ahead for this new industry. There were close to 300 attendees plus an international online audience.

Although there was diversity of perspective as to how the industry might develop, I sensed no doubt that we all saw ourselves as being involved in something big that, one way or another, is transformational for New Zealand

Most of the attendees were either forestry people already in the business, or alternatively service-industry people who either are already or in future want to be part of this new industry. There were also some Government and Climate Change Commission people there to help explain the current regulatory framework.  . . 

 

Pork sector releases plans of its own :

Alternative to ‘unworkable’ government plans has support of industry, says NZPork 

New Zealand’s pork sector has come up with an alternative to what it sees as unworkable plans proposed by the government.

They include reducing the maximum time farrowing crates can be used from the current 33 days to no more than seven, increasing the minimum space allowance for grower pigs and eliminating the use of mating stalls for housing sows.

The changes would place New Zealand’s standards beyond those required in the United Kingdom, European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and China – which collectively produce most of the world’s pork and supply most of the pork exported to NZ. . . 

Visiting a country where they love their farmers – Alan Emerson:

Alan Emerson spoke to a few Aussie farmers about taxing burping and farting cows and they suggested he must have been drinking.

We’re currently in Australia and it is great to be here after the winter we’ve experienced. 

Boringly, we go to Port Douglas, north of Cairns, and stay in a serviced one-bedroom apartment complete with a full kitchen, bathroom and laundry. 

Having done the maths, there’s not a lot of cost differential between a holiday in Port Douglas and one in Queenstown. . . 

Cream rises to the top in dairy property sector :

The latest Bayleys’ Rural Market Update for the dairy sector compiled by its Insights & Data team points to buyer confidence, buoyant demand, and a positive outlook for the 12 months ahead on the back of strong long-run milk prices and global demand for New Zealand products.

Last financial year, Bayleys transacted over 100 dairy property deals – more than one-third of the total dairy farms sold nationwide.

In releasing the report, Bayleys’ national director rural, Nick Hawken said REINZ figures show the total value of dairying land sold across New Zealand exploded in the 12 months from 1st April 2021-31st March 2022, to $1.524bn – more than double the value sold in the 2020-2021 period.

“In total, 40,958ha of dairying land was sold nationwide in 2021-2022 according to REINZ. . . 


7 questions on 3 waters

06/07/2022

Barrie Saunders asks where’s the business media  on the $100b nationalisation?

If the Government gets its way, around $100 billion of community owned three waters assets, will be effectively nationalised. They will be placed in the hands of the most convoluted monopoly structure I have seen, with iwi leaders substantially in the drivers’ seat.

One might have thought a transaction of this scale would have attracted the attention of our business journalists, capable of going beyond the so called co-governance aspect.

Are property rights too boring for business journalists these days to matter? . . 

The Three Waters proposals haven’t attracted nearly as much media analysis as they ought to have, and too much has centered on criticisms of racism against anyone who questions the role of co-governance.

There are some who think journalists have been bought off by government money. That will be true for some cases but I suspect it’s more likely they are either happy to ride along with the proposals, or are simply too scared of the critics, to engage in this important issue.

Either way it reflects very badly on our business media and leader writers. When I compare the risks take by war journalists and those who live in authoritarian countries such as Russia and Hungary, I know where courageous journalists live. It is not New Zealand.

It’s not too late guys. Just read the Bill and look at what some non mainstream media is publishing.

These are key questions to ask:

  1. Are the three waters operations across the country so uniformly bad, wholesale state control is justified?

  2. How should local authorities be compensated for their loss of property rights?

  3. If there is to be forced aggregation is four entities the right number, or should it be more like ten to allow some natural groupings to form?
  4. Why are they not based regional council boundaries and why is Gisborne lumped in with Wellington and Nelson?

  5. How can captive customers ensure the new entities are not typical flabby monopolies that gold plate their systems?

  6. Why should iwi have a dominant governance position of assets created by communities since 1840?

  7. Could the new system lead to the entities paying iwi royalties for water which originally comes from the skies?

When the Taxpayers’ Union 3 Waters Roadshow was in Oamaru, Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher said there would be some reduction in rates if the council lost control of three waters.

That’s only part of the story.

Rates might reduce, but we’ll all be charged for our water usage and with four layers of bureaucracy that will be far, far more expensive than any savings in rates.

National and Act have said they will repeal Three Waters if/when they are in government.

It would be far better to stop the changes happening at all.

The more submissions against the Bill, the greater the chance of that happening.

Submissions can be made here.


Public funding of political parties political poison

26/05/2022

The Taxpayers’ Union says the idea of public funding of political parties must be nipped in the bud :

Responding to the terms of reference for a new review into electoral laws, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on politicians to rule out supporting taxpayer funding for political parties.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Taxpayer funding for political parties is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, the criteria for allocating funding will necessarily benefit incumbent political parties, amplifying those already in power and drowning out political outsiders. This goes against the spirit of our liberal multi-party system.

How would the funding be calculated – the vote at the previous election, the number of members  . . .?

There is simply no way taxpayer funds could be allocated fairly.

“Secondly, shifting away from private funding towards public funding will shield party leadership from accountability to their grassroots supporters who currently pay campaign bills. In other words, politicians will get sucked further into the Wellington bubble.

Good MPs value and listen to party members, understanding the important role they play in helping them win elections and also keeping them in touch with issues and concerns in the real world.

“Thirdly and most simply, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund the promotion of views they disagree with or find abhorrent. It’s one thing to fund MPs to do their jobs in Parliament – it’s another thing entirely to fund their propaganda.

If parties can’t attract sufficient funds from people who support them, there are absolutely no grounds for giving them funds from people who don’t through taxes.

“Instead of pouring more public money into the political process, we should be taking this opportunity to scrap the archaic ‘broadcasting allocation’ which funds election night broadcasts from fringe political parties too hopeless to fundraise for themselves.

Yes. If parties wish to broadcast advertisements they should be able to do so but only at their own expense.

On the potential for restrictions on private donations to political parties, Mr Houlbrooke says:

“Limiting donations to political parties won’t stop the wealthy from influencing elections. It risks the rise of American-style ‘super pac’ organisations with shadowy funding sources campaigning on the parties’ behalf. At the very least, wealthy donors may simply redirect donations to advocacy groups like the Taxpayers’ Union or Greenpeace. Even if we would benefit from such a change, we cannot in good conscience support it.

Current disclosures of larger donations from groups of individuals is part of an openness and transparency in the democratic process, but as long as that is robust, there is no need to place limits on the donations, especially when, as is the case now, there are limits on how much parties can spend in the regulated pre-election period.

Contrary to the concern that money can buy elections, post-election disclosures show that often more money per vote is spent by parties which lose.

Political parties are voluntary organisations.

There are no more grounds for taxpayer funding of them than there would be for funding service clubs or religious groups.

If National and Act are true to their principles they will be opposing this vehemently.

I have no doubt they will because the idea is political poison.

Opponents to it have only to rank the many, many high priorities for taxpayer funding, including the frontlines of health and education, and then ask where taxpayer funding of political parties comes in.

It won’t even make the list.


When the pendulum swings too far

16/03/2022

Who said this?:

. . .Here I come back to the government’s aim of closing the gaps between rich and poor, and the way in which it was overtaken in public understanding by the subsidiary goal of closing the gaps between Maori and the rest. I don’t describe the second goal as lesser than the first out of any wish to minimise the effect of growing inequality on Maori people. What I mean is that from the point of view of a democratic government, the first goal can encompass the second, but the second can’t encompass the first. If the government’s goal is to reduce inequality, it follows that it will do whatever it can to improve the position of Maori.

How goals like this are achieved is the whole business of politics. It is not particularly easy politics, because the racial element always makes politics difficult, however you handle it. In this country there is the history of dispossession and displacement. There is the growing number of people who identify as Maori. There is the growing number of those who wish to wield political power as, and on behalf, of Maori, and increasingly have the means to do so. These are challenges to the political process, but they are not insurmountable.

Democratic government can accommodate Maori political aspiration in many ways. It can allocate resources in ways which reflect the particular interests of Maori people. It can delegate authority, and allow the exercise of degrees of Maori autonomy. What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does that, it isn’t a democracy. We can have a democratic form of government or we can have indigenous sovereignty. They can’t coexist and we can’t have them both.

That is clear and correct – it is either democracy or Maori sovereignty. It is impossible to have both.

This brings me to the preoccupation of successive governments with the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is with no disrespect for Maori feeling for the treaty that I have to say it means nothing to me. It can mean nothing to me because it has nothing to say to me. When I was in office I understood that the government had succeeded to certain legal and moral obligations of the government which signed the treaty, and that in so far as those obligations had not been met it was our responsibility to honour them. But that is the extent of it.

The treaty cannot be any kind of founding document, as it is sometimes said to be. It does not resolve the question of sovereignty, if only because one version of it claims one form of sovereignty and the other version claims the opposite. The court of appeal once, absurdly, described it as a partnership between races, but it obviously is not. The signatories are, on one side, a distinctive group of people, and on the other, a government which established itself in New Zealand and whose successors represent all of us, whether we are descendants of the signatories or not. The treaty cannot even resolve the argument among Maori themselves in which one side maintains that that you’re a Maori if you identify as such, and the other claims that it’s your links to traditional forms of association which define you as Maori.

As our increasingly dismal national day continues to show, the treaty is no basis for nationhood. It doesn’t express the fundamental rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and it doesn’t have any unifying concept. The importance it has for Maori people is a constant reminder that governments in a democracy should meet their legal and moral obligations, but for the country taken as a whole, that is, and must be, the limit of its significance.

Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the treaty in statute. The treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts. It is a bald agreement, anchored in its time and place, and the public interest in it is the same as the public interest in enforcing any properly-made agreement. To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.

The treaty is a wonderful stick for activists to beat the rest of us with, but it could never have assumed the importance it has without the complicity of others. It came to prominence in liberal thought in the seventies, when many who were concerned about the abuse of the democratic process by the government of the day began to see the treaty as a potential source of alternative authority. It’s been the basis of a self-perpetuating industry in academic and legal circles. Many on the left of politics who sympathise with Maori aspiration have identified with the cause of the treaty, either not knowing or not caring that its implications are profoundly undemocratic.

I don’t think it any coincidence that the cause gained momentum in the eighties and nineties, when the government retreated from active engagement in economy and society and in doing so weakened the identification between government and governed which is essential to the functioning of a democracy. It isn’t in the least surprising that undemocratic ideas flourish when democracy itself seems to be failing.

I think that in practice the present government will find it difficult to draw back from its public commitment to the treaty, and that this will almost certainly rob it of its chance to build a more cohesive society and a more productive economy. It has, in the public mind if nowhere else, adopted a goal whose pursuit is inevitably divisive, and it is spending its political capital on it almost by the hour. The result, if the worst comes to the worst, will be a fractured society in which political power will be contested in ways beyond the limits of our democratic experience. . . 

Who said that?

A racist?

A right wing extremist?

I don’t think either of those descriptions could be applied to  David Lange who said this in the 2000 Bruce Jesson lecture.

Nearly 22 years later we’ve got more of what he was concerned about:

Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the treaty in statute. The treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts. It is a bald agreement, anchored in its time and place, and the public interest in it is the same as the public interest in enforcing any properly-made agreement. To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.

The current government has gone further than any any other, it plans to go further still and anyone who questions that risks being called racist.

It would however, be difficult to call a Maori who criticises the dangerous path down which this government is headed racist and Shane Jones is doing that in saying stop dragging Treaty of Waitangi into policies where it’s of dubious value:

As the Covid virus continues to move through the community, another virus spreads across our political system.

Just as there is ignorance about the exact origins of Covid, the public does not recall giving the Labour Party permission to impose its Treaty of Waitangi co-governance master plan. A dogma that thrives where visibility is weak, debates are shallow and agendas are murky.

Take for example the bog known as Three Waters, a reform designed to avoid a repeat of the 2016 Havelock North drinking water crisis.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has a superior agenda in mind which will be in our best interests, not only for drinking water but also storm and wastewater – providing it goes through her Treaty purification plant.

The Government wants to forcibly transfer all our publicly-owned water assets into four jumbo corporations and then hand over 50 per cent control to iwi – a radical move from contaminated water to toxic politics.

According to the Government, this is necessary to satisfy Treaty articles of faith and accommodate the fractious iwi leaders collective, who should stick to their rūnanga knitting rather than whinging in Wellington. . . .

It is high time to call time on how the Treaty of Waitangi is being dragged into policy areas where it is of dubious value, alienates people, and eats away the goodwill of past decades.

It is critical that the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal be reviewed and changed. It is no longer fit for purpose, it indiscriminately strays into matters where it lacks competence and adds no value. Whilst the legal truffle hunters may encourage it to be expansive, it is overdue a political pruning. In 2025, which will be in the next electoral cycle, the tribunal will have existed for 50 years. Why should it still exist and for what purpose?

Treaty co-governance is being grafted onto our political system without any public consent or informed debate. Labour did not seek the approval of the electorate in 2020 for this divisive agenda. Quite the opposite.

He Puapua, which is behind much of the treatyfication being rammed through by the government was kept hidden from the public until well after the election.

We had no say in legislation that was rushed through under urgency taking away the right to veto Maori seats on councils, a separate Maori health authority with a veto over the other non-Maori one was presented as a fait accompli and consultation on giving Maori 50% control over Three Waters was a farce.

The wellbeing statistics for whānau remain woeful but the political leadership is pitiful.

Rather than deal to the Tribesmen gang, which now appears to own the Waikato Expressway, our Māori MPs encourage tribal ambitions to control the health system. The case for establishing a separate Māori Health Authority with budgetary veto powers has not been made. The same for the proposed Māori Education Authority.

No doubt these structural changes will lead to more statutory Treaty references which then leads to more litigation whilst the gang nephews run amok.

These whānau want practical results, not superficial linguistics where everything gets a Māori title but whānau circumstances don’t markedly improve. Kāinga Ora is a case in point, where the Māori grammar is inversely related to the actual housing outcomes for Maori. Rather than indulging the Mongrel Mob tenants, put them in a tent until they learn to respect their neighbours.

Tiriti co-governance is an artifice that will hobble economic activity and worsen statutory processes such as those in the Resource Management Act. A developer’s deathtrap bogged down with red-tape, surrounded by loose hapū cannons that threaten to spike economic development unless their two cents worth is handsomely paid for. Consultation is a part of democracy, however, it needs to be tightly defined and not allowed to morph into either green or brown mail.

The Three Waters project is doomed to fail because it is not sustainable in our democracy for a $185 billion public utility programme to be 50 per cent controlled by iwi. These are public assets, not tribal baubles.

The current Government can shroud its agenda with artfulness but the result will be the same. Any iwi co-governance legislation it arrogantly forces through Parliament will be undone by a future government.

Such a government should be formed on the clear basis that there will never be political privileges such as the iwi co-governance plot.

The pressing issues confronting the average rangatahi are very basic. Rather than tribalised Three Waters, they need three affordable staples, veges, meat and milk.

The political agitators and those driving the political gravy train have a lot to gain if the government allows the tentacles of the Treaty principles to stretch further.

But the treayification does nothing to improve the lives of those who are disproportionately represented in negative statistics for crime, education, health and welfare dependency and it undermines democracy.

A year ago Barrie Saunders asked democracy or partnership, what do we want?

. . . At present New Zealand has a quality democracy.   We have fairly-drawn electorates, an easy voting system, and a reasonable level of political literacy.  Money struggles to buy Government policy, which is all as it should be.  

However, we have no reason to be smug, because this democracy is under threat. Governments since 1987 and the Courts have been entrenching a modern view that the Treaty of Waitangi means there is an ongoing “partnership between the Government and Iwi”.  Some Maori leaders want a form of co-governance between Parliament, elected by all New Zealanders, with one which has to negotiate policy with iwi leaders.  

The partnership concept has been advanced in small steps, without the Government first holding an honest conversation with all New Zealanders.  Apart from concerns about the costs in the early stages of the treaty settlement process, New Zealanders have basically remained silent while governments negotiated settlements and wrote the subsequent legislation.   . . 

For the record, while I prefer they don’t exist, separate Maori seats or even Maori wards, do not undermine our democracy, provided each is based on the same electoral numbers as general electorates and wards.  Nor do I think a requirement for central and local Government to have regard for the views of Maori, destroys democratic integrity, provided the consultation process is genuine, and also that it doesn’t necessarily mean agreement must be reached.  

These provisions help create social cohesion that is critical to successful democracies.  However, we could soon reach a point when the word “democracy” will not accurately describe our form of government.         

For anyone who thinks I may be exaggerating the threat to our democratic model, I strongly recommend they read the 2010 iwi-sponsored 129 page “The report of Matike Mai Aotearoa – the independent working group on constitutional transformation”.  It is all laid out with a plan to achieve the transformation by 2040.  The recommendations are not about making the Treaty fit within the current constitutional arrangements; rather it creates a whole new form of Government based around a minority view of what the Treaty means. . . 

There is reasonable agreement that Maori were mistreated by the government and that their land was stolen. There is broad support for Treaty settlements to compensate for that and acceptance that there is a place for Maori solutions to Maori problems.

But the pendulum has swung too far with a separatist and divisive agenda that makes some more equal than others.

Most of the support for Treaty settlements is for them to be full and final, not for repeated renegotiations, nor the growing erosion of democracy through the insertion Treaty principles into all sorts of places where they have no place and certainly not for  co-governance.

Jones has been silent since losing his seat in parliament last year.

His opinion piece could well signal the start of his campaign to return with New Zealand First and it should come as a warning.

The trend in recent polls shows Labour and the Green Party couldn’t govern without the support of the Maori Party.

That could well push wavering voters towards the right rather than the left.

But if National and Act aren’t quite clear that co-governance and democracy are mutually exclusive they will open the door to New Zealand First and history shows the risks that could come with that.

 


Too early to get excited but . . .

04/12/2021

The latest Roy Morgan poll putsOpposition parties ahead of ahead of Labour and the Greens.

Support for New Zealand’s Labour/Greens ‘coalition’ government was down 3.5% points to 46.5% in November as support for the Labour Party dropped 3.5% points to 36%. Support for the Greens was unchanged at 10.5%. This is the lowest level of support for Labour since the election of the Jacinda Ardern-led Government in October 2017 with 36.9% of the vote.

For the first time since the election support for the Parliamentary Opposition National/ Act NZ/ Maori Party has now overtaken the Government at 47% in November, up 3% points since October. However, it is worth noting there is no formal agreement between these three opposition parties.

While the Maori Party is counted as opposition the likelihood of it supporting National and Act in government is slight.

Support rose for all three opposition parties with National up 0.5% points to 26.5%, Act NZ up 1.5% points to a new record high of 17.5% and support for the Maori Party hitting its highest for over five years since January 2016, up 1% point to 3%. . . 

It’s too early to get excited, but this poll does follow the trend of other recent ones with the government losing popularity and National and Act gaining.

That has mostly been due to a surge is support for Act.

Now that National has a new leader, it will almost certainly become more popular.

Some people who moved to Act may swap to National, but that won’t help the centre right become the government.

The challenge is to regain those voters who moved left in such numbers in last years election and thereby increase the centre right support.


Rural round-up

09/11/2021

Signing of the methane pledge is irresponsible :

“Minister James Shaw’s signing the methane pledge is irresponsible and weak”, says FARM Chairman, Robin Grieve.

“There was absolutely no need for New Zealand to join this jamboree because we don’t have high fossil sourced methane emissions, we don’t have lots of leaky pipes and inefficient processes. What we do have is biogenic methane mostly from our ruminant livestock and this is quite different to fossil sourced methane. It is an amateurish mistake to conflate the two”.

“Industrial nations with high fossil sourced methane emissions have pledged to fix leaky pipes and improve processes to reduce fossil sourced methane by 30%. This pledge makes sense for them because leaky pipes should be fixed in any case and it is an easy and economical fix which will have environmental benefits”. . . 

Act now to meet climate’s growing unpredictability, farmers warned :

Farmers and growers are being told they need to adapt to growing food under increasingly dry conditions.

Three National Science Challenges, Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, Our Land and Water, and The Deep South Challenge held three webinars and a symposium recently to kick-start a research based conversation about climate change adaptation in the food and fibre sector.

A report summarising those talks, Growing Kai Under Increasing Dry, shows farmers need to begin to adapt now.

The report calls for regional councils to undertake clear planning for likely future climate scenarios in their regions, and to engage with farmers and growers to develop a shared understanding of the scenarios’ implications for the primary sector. . . 

How many cows need to go?

“The Government needs to answer how it’s going to meet its pledge to cut biogenic methane emissions,” says ACT’s Primary Production spokesperson Mark Cameron.

“The Government has pledged to cut biogenic methane by 10 per cent on 2017 levels by 2030, and by between 24 to 47 percent lower by 2050.

“According to James Shaw this does not require any new initiatives due to pre-existing Zero Carbon Act commitments, but there are still a range of questions to be asked.

“How are they planning to do this? Is it herd reductions or is it through new technologies? When will the Government bring farmers into this conversation? It’s their livelihoods at stake. . . 

Dairy prices up 3.7 percent as commodity prices reach record high :

Commodity prices have shot to a new record, with dairy, aluminium and meat fetching strong prices.

The ANZ World Commodity Price Index lifted 2.1 percent last month.

The report says freight prices are stabilising, although costs remain elevated, with persistent supply chain disruptions.

It said rising freight costs were inflationary, and expected to drive up New Zealand’s consumer price index to a peak of just under 6 percent by year’s end. . . 

New Zealand apple industry appoints new chief executive:

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc. (NZAPI) today announced the appointment of its new Chief Executive, Terry Meikle.

Mr Meikle joins NZAPI with an impressive track record of strategic management and international trade relations, having led NZ agriculture and horticulture interests across the Americas including roles as Agriculture Counsellor at the NZ Embassy in Mexico City, Regional Manager North America for Beef and Lamb NZ and as First Secretary Agriculture and Trade for the New Zealand Embassy based in Washington.

“My networking, advocacy and leadership experience has been in both the public sector and through representing a levy funded organisation. These collaborative leadership roles have involved close partnership and engagement with a variety of public and private sector stakeholders,” says Mr Meikle. . .

 

Grape fungicide approved for use :

A new fungicide which controls bunch rot and powdery mildew in grapes has been approved for use in New Zealand, subject to conditions.

Kenja contains the active ingredient isofetamid, which is new to New Zealand but already approved for use in Australia, Europe, the USA, Canada, and Japan.

The applicant, ISK New Zealand, sought approval to import Kenja as a concentrate to be applied to grapes using ground-based methods.

During the application process, ISK submitted that its product helps to combat fungicide resistance, and is less toxic than other fungicides. It noted that Kenja doesn’t carry any human health hazard classifications. . . 


Rural round-up

29/04/2021

Marlborough firm looks at marketing reject apples for stock feed: Sally Murphy:

A Marlborough company is looking whether using excess or reject apples from Nelson orchards could be used as stock feed in dry areas along the east coast.

Farmers around Seddon and Ward are struggling with extremely dry conditions. Many have started to feed out early, with concerns supplementary feed will run out before the winter.

Kiwi Seed owner Bruce Clarke said apples were used as feed by some farmers last year and with difficulties getting peas and barley more are interested in the fruit this year.

Before marketing apples to farmers, Clarke is investigating what nutritional benefit the fruit may have. . . 

Sam Vivian-Greer crowned New Zealand winner of top agri-award in impressive setting:

The future looks extremely bright for Sam Vivian-Greer of Masterton, who received the coveted 2021 New Zealand Zanda McDonald Award this morning, at a dawn ceremony at Whangara Farms, north of Gisborne.

Vivian-Greer, 31, is a Farm Consultant at BakerAg in the Wairarapa, working alongside farmers who are keen to improve and better their farming operations, and has developed mentoring groups to further develop farm managers and agricultural professionals.

The annual Award, regarded as a badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented and passionate young professionals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. Vivian-Greer will receive an impressive prize package centred around mentoring, education and training that is 100% tailored to his needs.

Zanda McDonald Award Patron Shane McManaway says “Sam is a warm and professional person, who has a strong passion for agriculture, and is having a really positive influence on the sector. The judging team was really impressed with his dedication to his role, his leadership and spirit. We’re excited to see what the future holds for Sam, and look forward to helping him carve out his path through the opportunities provided by the Award, in particular the trans-Tasman mentoring package.” . . 

Winter grazing rules show Wellington doesn’t understand farming:

“Today’s release of the winter grazing standards again show a Government out of touch with the primary sector,” says ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.

“It’s in a farmer’s best interest to look after their land and their animals but Government can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this.

“Farmers are continually improving their practices but the Government is intent on sharing the virtues of what it thinks should be on farm practices, without ever having done it.

“Farmers are the best custodians of the land and hold animal welfare to the utmost standards. Sadly here politics often suffocates practicality. . . 

Public access group takes LINZ to court to protect access to iconic back-country road:

Public Access New Zealand (PANZ) has launched legal proceedings to improve and protect public access to one of New Zealand’s most iconic landscapes.

Molesworth Recreation Reserve is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular backcountry areas and the iconic Acheron Road which runs through it has been used by the public for over 150 years. But public access to the area is being unlawfully restricted by the Department of Conservation (DOC), which manages the reserve.

PANZ has filed proceedings in the High Court in Wellington to seek declarations confirming the status of the public roads running through Molesworth Recreation Reserve, with the aim of guaranteeing public access.

PANZ spokesperson Stewart Hydes says Molesworth occupies a special place in New Zealand history and must be protected. . . 

Dark sky park an option to extend tourism in Fiordland:

Fiordland’s brilliant night sky could soon be as much an attraction to domestic and international visitors as its stunning daytime scenery.

Great South has been working with the Fiordland community and stakeholders on the possibility of it becoming an accredited Dark Sky Park with the International Dark Sky Association.

Great South GM Tourism and Events Bobbi Brown said the night sky over Fiordland was of exceptional quality and early indications suggest it would meet the required level for international designation and potentially add another string to the bow for tourism operators.

“If Fiordland National Park received IDA Park designation it would make it the second largest Dark Sky Park in the world, second only to Death Valley National Park in the USA.” . . \

Beef farm on verge of destocking due to all-Wales NVZ :

A beef farming family in Glamorgan have warned they may have to give up keeping cattle if the Welsh government’s new all-Wales NVZ rules are not adjusted.

Beef and sheep farmers Richard Walker and Rachel Edwards run Flaxland Farm – a 120 acre farm outside of Barry, Glamorgan.

They have warned they may have to sell their cattle if the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) rules are not amended to incorporate recommendations made by industry groups.

In January the Welsh government announced that it will introduce an NVZ designation across the whole of Wales. . . 


Foot in mouth outbreak at Massey

02/11/2020

A Massey University professor is suffering from foot in mouth:

National and ACT have become “vanishingly irrelevant” in Parliament following the Greens’ acceptance of the cooperation agreement offered by Labour, a politics professor believes.

The deal has locked in a political arrangement that will see Labour and the Greens “monster the Parliament” for the next three years, according to Massey University’s Richard Shaw, with a combined 74 of 120 seats held by the parties. . . 

“The National Party, ACT, and the Māori Party – assuming that the specials mean they keep Waiariki – are vanishingly irrelevant to what occurs in the Parliament,” Shaw told Newshub on Saturday.

He says the agreement – which the Greens will sign in a ceremony on Sunday – marks the largest political alliance in New Zealand’s parliamentary history.

It is the first time under MMP one party has gained more than 50% of the vote. But the political alliance isn’t very much bigger than the 2008 National-led government with 58 National MPs plus five each from Act and the Maori Party and one from United Future.

“It’s really hard to overstate how much the legislative agenda and the executive agenda will be driven by Labour with some support from the Greens, it’s a really remarkable state of affairs,” Shaw says.

Oh dear, it’s really hard to overstate what a very ill-informed remark that is. How can a professor of politics not understand how parliament works?

Unless it’s a minority government, the government has a majority as a result of which it passes the legislation it wants to. This one doesn’t have to negotiate with partners, but the major parties in previous governments could use their confidence and supply agreement to get their allies to support their Bills.

“And if you’re a National or ACT MP, you would be sitting there thinking, ‘Shit, what am I going to do for the next three years? I’m going to be surrounded by Opposition members in all of the select committees’ – it’s just dominated by Labour’s policy.” . . 

Yes it’s dominated by Labour policy and Act and National will be surrounded by government MPs. But good Opposition MPs won’t be wondering what they’ll be doing for the next three years. They’ll do what they’re paid to do – work very hard to to get better legislation, not by opposing for opposition’s sake, but by working with and against other members of select committees as appropriate, and on some, albeit rare, occasions they might even support government legislation.

If they hold a seat, they’ll also be very active in their electorate supporting and advocating for their constituents, and  a good list MP will also be doing electorate work.

They will be drawing up Members’ Bills in the hope they’ll be drawn out of the ballot too.

National MPs will be working very hard to be loyal members of a united caucus that doesn’t leak and will be contributing to policy development that is consistent with the party’s principles and philosophy unless they want to contribute to an even worse result for the party in three years time.

If they have spare time, they might also,  in an act of public service, help to extract the foot from the mouth of the professor of politics, and educate him on how the political system works and the essential democratic role a hard-working opposition plays in that no matter how outnumbered its members might be.


Too much of a good thing?

14/10/2020

When I do a questionnaire on which party I support, National always comes first and Act usually comes a reasonably close second.

If actual voting reflects the latest polls, Act would well have 11 MPs and that might not necessarily be good for the party or parliament.

Most small parties that have had a big increase in MPs have struggled to maintain unity and, if memory serves me correctly, all  have lost several MPs at the next election and all but the Green Party and NZ First have disappeared from parliament.

Act could buck the trend.

But if National supporters think ticking Act instead would be a good idea, it isn’t.

I’d be happy with few more Act MPs but 11 might well prove to be too much of a good thing.

 


Should the election be postponed?

17/08/2020

We’ll learn this morning if the election will be postponed. Should it be?

Labour and the Green Party seem happy to stick with September 19. National, Act, and New Zealand First would prefer a delay.

There is some self-interest in these positions but elections aren’t just about politicians and political parties, they are for the people.

Delaying the election will cause a lot of work for the Electoral Commission which will already have booked places to be used as polling booths and employed people to staff them September 19.

That isn’t by itself a reason to stick with the date. The early announcement of the election date only began with John Key for the 2011 election. Before that the Prime Minister of the day used to leave it until a time he or she chose to announce the date, often only a few weeks before polling day.

In the normal course of events announcing early is better for the Commission, giving it plenty of time to get organised, makes it fairer for all parties and gives the public plenty of notice.

However, events are not coursing normally.

Auckland is in level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country is at level 2. On Friday we were told that these levels will be maintained until August 26th.

If parliament is dissolved today and the election goes ahead on September 19, overseas voting will start a week later and early voting a few days after that.

It’s not just that parties and candidates need time to campaign, it’s that people need time to get to know them, to meet them, listen to them and equally importantly talk to and question them.

And it’s not just the election but two referendums that will be held at the same time. While all of these may be of great interest to political tragics and those who feel strongly on the referendum issues, many people haven’t begun thinking about them yet.

There is also the concern many elderly people and others who are immune compromised could be unwilling to go to polling booths so soon after this cluster of community transmission.

There is no guarantee there will not be another outbreak of Covid-19 in the run up to a new date, but if the government and health officials learn from their mistakes, chances are we will be at level 1 for long enough for a near normal campaign.

The likelihood of at least a few weeks’ delay increased yesterday with a media release from deputy PM, WInston Peters in which he released an open letter to the PM telling her the election should be delayed.

Although that doesn’t alter the PM’s right to decide the election date, it does mean a majority of parliament favours a delay.

Disregarding that, and the other factors supporting a delay would be doing a disservice to democracy.


For the sake of the children

21/07/2020

Lindsay Mitchell points out two contrasting approaches to welfare:

Perhaps the single-most underrated and under-reported issue in New Zealand is the practice of adding children to existing benefits. Oodles is spoken and written about child poverty, particularly by the Prime Minister who appointed herself Minister of Child Poverty Reduction in 2017. But the fact that 6,000 children are added to an existing benefit and a further 3-4,000 are reliant on welfare by their first birthday never rates a mention. The numbers have varied only slightly over the past 30 years and persist at very high levels. One in ten babies goes home from hospital to a benefit- dependent family.

Most of those one in ten babies will be behind most babies who go home to a family where at least one adult is in work from the start.

The links between welfare dependence from birth and poor, if not disastrous outcomes, have now been well-explored by institutions like AUT and Treasury. The latter identified 4 indicators:

1)    a finding of abuse or neglect;
2)    spending most of their lifetime supported by benefits;
3)    having a parent who’d received a community or custodial sentence; and
4)    a mother with no formal qualifications. . . 

The outcomes for those children are much poorer than for children in families not dependent on benefits.

They are more likely to have contact with Youth Justice services, leave school without qualifications, follow their parents onto a benefit, and be jailed. They are also more likely to be Maori.

Is it kind to perpetuate this intergenerational failure?

Is it kind to contribute to these bad outcomes?

Is it kind to foster the causes rather than address them?

Act doesn’t think so.

 They point out that it isn’t acceptable for these families to keep having children when other families wait and sacrifice, and sometimes never have their own or additional children. More to the point, it is entirely unacceptable for children to be carelessly thrown into environments that harm them and rob them of their potential.

ACT’s policy says that if someone already on a benefit adds another child their benefit income will thereafter be managed. Rent and utilities will be paid direct, with the large part of the remainder of their benefit loaded onto an electronic card to be used in specified retail outlets. Work and Income already has the technology to do this. They operate income management for Youth and Young Parent beneficiaries in this fashion.

Under this regime children should be guaranteed a secure roof over their heads instead of the insecure transience resulting from unpaid rents, evictions and homelessness. Their schooling would be less interrupted with increased geographical stability. They should have adequate food in their tummies in and out of term time (not assured under school lunch programmes).  Their  mother may be encouraged to take advantage of the fully- subsidised, highly effective,  long-acting contraceptives now available, ameliorating the overcrowding which is a significant factor in New Zealand’s horribly high rate of rheumatic fever. Perhaps most importantly their parent(s) will actually decide working is a better option if they want agency over their income. There is a risk caregivers will try to supplement their incomes in other undesirable, illegal  ways but no policy is risk free, and this almost certainly already happens to some degree.

Increasingly throwing money at dysfunctional families provides no assurance parents will suddenly become better budgeters, or not simply spend more on harmful behaviours. Gambling and substance abuse don’t just hurt the parent. They hurt the child directly (damage in the womb, physical abuse or neglect under the influence) not to mention indirectly through parental role-modelling that normalizes bad behaviours, especially violence, to their children.

The last National government took an actuarial approach to benefit dependence, worked out the long term cost and began putting more money into preventing benefit dependency. It was working but the current government has undone that good work.

There is a need for a welfare safety net and with the Covid-19 induced recession numbers needing benefits are already increasing but welfare should not be a life sentence.

There are sound financial and social benefits to stopping people going on benefits and getting those on benefits off them as soon as possible.

The current government’s approach could be seen as being kind. It stopped sanctions against people who could work but don’t and women who don’t name the fathers of their babies.

That isn’t kind to the adults and it’s even worse for the children.

The two approaches to child benefit dependence are a world apart. One continues the ‘freedom’ of the adult to use taxpayer’s money as they wish; the other prioritizes the best interests of the child -their right to security, stability and safety – or, as ACT puts it, what the taxpayer thinks they are paying for.

The country cannot go on merely paying lip-service to the idea of ‘breaking the cycle’. Now is not the time for more of the same. More than ever New Zealand cannot afford the social cost and lost potential that occurs monotonously in an easily identifiable portion of every generation.

The choice at the election is stark – a vote for any of the parties currently in government that are perpetuating the cycle of benefit dependency and the poor financial and social outcomes that result  or a vote for a National-Act government that will address the causes and break the cycle.

The truly kind way is to vote for change for the sake of the children.


Reds’ policy path to poverty

29/06/2020

The Reds have announced an $8 billion tax grab:

The Green Party have unveiled a sweeping new welfare policy that would guarantee a weekly income of at least $325, paid for by a wealth tax on millionaires and two new income tax brackets on high-earners. . . 

The $325 after-tax payment would be paid to every adult not in fulltime paid work – including students, part-time workers, and the unemployed. The student allowance and Jobseekers benefit would be replaced. . . 

It would be topped up by $110 for sole parents, and the current best start payment would be expanded from $60 per child to $100 per child, and made universal for children up to three instead of two.

This guaranteed minimum income plan would cost $7.9b a year – roughly half what is spent on NZ Super, but almost twice what is spent on current working age benefits.

Paying for all this would be a wealth tax of one per cent on net wealth of over $1 million and two per cent for assets over $2 million. The party expects this would hit only the wealthiest 6 per cent of Kiwis.

This would take the form of an annual payment and would only apply to those who owned those assets outright – not someone who still had a mortgage on their million-dollar home, for example.

That looks like everyone could avoid the tax by never paying off their mortgage, but the party wouldn’t be that stupid, would it?

Any party that thinks up this sort of economic vandalism could be.

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Green Party’s proposed wealth tax as bureaucratic economic vandalism that would hammer job creators.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams says, “The proposed wealth tax would mean the return of the dreaded compulsory asset valuations that made a capital gains tax so unpopular. A bureaucratic valuation scheme would incentivise people to hide their wealth, or shift it offshore. It would be a dream for tax accountants but hell for small business owners.”

“The policy also appears not to differentiate between asset types.  It would tax entrepreneurs creating jobs the same as someone sitting on an art collection. Ultimately it would cost jobs at the very time New Zealanders need entrepreneurs to create them.”

“Wealthy iwi groups sitting on often unproductive land would also be smashed under this scheme.  It’s bumper sticker type policy which is poorly thought through.”

“Any party that says you should raise taxes in the middle of a recession is divorced from reality. It is scary that all the work James Shaw has done to try and make the Greens more economically credible appears to be for nothing.”

Commenting specifically on the Green Party’s income support policy, Mr Williams says, “Under the Greens’ policy, a family of five with both parents on the dole would receive $1180 a week in taxpayer funds, assuming one of the kids is younger than three. That goes beyond generosity: it is using taxpayer funds to encourage long-term unemployment. Combined with the policies to tax job creators, this package would take a sledgehammer to New Zealand’s productivity.”

There’s no good time to increase taxes and a recession is an even worse time.

Recovery from the economic carnage wrought by the Covid-19 response requires investment, expansion and increased employment opportunities.

This policy will be a handbrake on all of those and an accelerator for benefit dependency which is a pathway to increased poverty.

This policy is typical of a party that’s more red than green and doesn’t understand that a greener country has to be well and truly in the black and you don’t there by taxing more.

New Zealanders gained a glimpse today of what a Labour Greens government would look like, and it involves a lot more taxes, National’s Finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, said today. . . 

At a time when we need our successful small business people to invest and create more jobs, the Greens want to tax them more.

Rather than celebrating Kiwis doing well, the Greens seem to want to punish them.

The Greens never have the influence to get their way entirely, but they would push a Labour Greens coalition in the direction of higher taxes.

Labour have so far refused to rule out taxing people more if they win the election.

The very real fear many New Zealanders have is that this current government, which has $20 billion available for election spending, will spend whatever it takes to try to keep its poll numbers up until the 19 September election.

Then on the 20th, if they win, the smiles will drop and New Zealanders will be presented with the bill – higher taxes.

National has committed to no new taxes for Kiwis in our first term.

While the economy is going down, the Greens want to tax us more, and Labour haven’t ruled out doing the same.

That’s another very good reason to vote for a National/Act government that will focus on policies which foster the economic growth necessary to provide a pathway for progress.


Safe better than essential

01/04/2020

The government is deciding what is an essential business or service, Act says it would be better to determine what is safe:

 . .. If the objective is to stop the spread of COVID-19, then the test should be whether something can be done safely, not whether it is essential. Moving to a test of safety rather than necessity would be a much better way of fighting the virus while salvaging businesses.

‘Essential’ Compromises ‘Safety’

The Government rightly says it is essential to have food available. Once food is available in an area, no other activity is permissible. But making people travel further to visit a smaller number of bigger and busier stores undermines our goal of reducing the spread of the virus. Supermarkets have remained open because they are essential but they have only undertaken safety mechanisms more recently. Under a safety approach, only food stores with safe processes would be allowed to open, but all stores with such processes would equally be able to open. . .

It would be just as safe for butchers and greengrocers to be open, following best practice of allowing one customer in, one out and keeping everyone two metres apart, as it is for supermarkets, perhaps even safer if it meant fewer people in supermarkets.

Couplands announced yesterday it will close its South Island plant because it mostly supplies its own shops in the south and these aren’t deemed essential.

The bakery supplies about a third of the South’s bread. The plant closure will cause shortages and panic buying. Again, providing the stores have practices which keep their staff and customers safe, they should be able to stay open and lower the pressure on supermarkets.

Instead of the objective test ‘can this be done in a way that is safe’ we are facing a subjective test ‘does the Government think you need this.’ This level of government power is not sustainable.

Breakdown Of The Rule of Law

Subjectivity leads to absurdities and a breakdown of the rule of law. The Government has decided that eating halal meat is a goal important enough to justify opening some butcheries. Driving to the beach for a walk or a picnic is not. Which one is safer? . . .

Halal meat can be bought from supermarkets and a halal butchery isn’t any more or less safe than any other butcheries. It’s the safety practices they follow to protect staff and customers safe that matter, not religious practices.

If the decision to close butcheries isn’t reversed millions of dollars of meat will have to be dumped. That would be an unconscionable waste.

The closure of butchers is also risking animal welfare:

The Government’s decision to exclude independent butchers from the essential business list during the COVID-19 lockdown will cause an animal welfare crisis in the New Zealand pork sector, says an industry group.

All independent butchers across the country have been classified as non-essential businesses and been forced to close as part of the Alert Level 4 lock-down for COVID-19.

However NZ Pork said the decision would likely result in the sector having no place to house up to 5,000 surplus pigs on farms every week.

“By not being able to sell fresh carcass pigs to the independent butchers and other segments, we will be faced with a significant animal welfare issue,” said chief executive of NZ Pork David Baines . . 

Back to Act:

Trust The People

Underpinning the ‘essential’ approach is a belief that people can’t be trusted to judge what is safe. (Can I do this without coming within two metres of others?, without touching things other may have touched?).

Safety Approach: Essential For The Recovery

We are going to have to recover as an economy. Free Press is approached daily by businesspeople in a state of despair. Their working capital may or may not last the first four weeks, it certainly won’t last further. Being able to operate under a safety approach is, to borrow a term, essential. Essential to what? Essential to people protecting their livelihoods in the coming months. . . 

The more businesses that continue operating, the more people who are able to keep working, the less the economic and social damage the lockdown will inflict and the faster the recovery will be.

What Would A Safety Approach Look Like?

A safety approach would involve a basic set of rules that people must follow. A two metre rule (Free Press regrets this would exclude televised dance competitions). Can you do this whilst remaining two metres from others? Yes or no? A ‘touched object’ rule. Can you do this without touching objects others outside your household have touched? Yes or no? A regular testing approach. Can we guarantee regular testing and contact tracing is possible? Yes or no? Obviously there is more to do, but we need to start developing a safety approach rather than an essential approach, pronto.

The only justification for the lockdown is to keep us all safe.

Whether or not a business can operate safely should be the only criteria for allowing it to do so through the lockdown.

That won’t compromise personal health and will help economic and social health.


It’s about trust

02/02/2020

National leader Simon Bridges has ruled out working with New Zealand First after this year’s election:

Bridges’ messaging is all about bundling New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens together saying: “a vote for NZ First is a vote for Labour and the Greens.”

It was three years ago even though around half the people who voted for NZ First wanted it to support National in government.

“I don’t believe we can work with NZ First and have a constructive trusting relationship,” Bridges says.

“When National was negotiating in good faith with NZ First after the last election, its leader was suing key National MPs and staff. I don’t trust NZ First and I don’t believe New Zealanders can either.”

It’s about trust and Peters can’t be trusted.

This makes NZ First dependent on gaining at least 5% of the vote on September 19 unless it wins a seat.

That’s very unlikely unless Labour throws it a lifeline by campaigning for the party vote in a seat it holds.

That would be rank hypocrisy from both parties which have vehemently criticised for National holding back to help Act in Epsom.

But hypocrisy is not unusual in a politician who can’t be trusted.


Just say no

27/01/2020

If National had ruled out a deal with New Zealand First three years ago, would the latter have got less than five per cent of the vote and the former still be leading the government?

We’ll never know.

But we do know that around half the people who voted for NZ First hoped the party would go with National and that a lot of them are still very unhappy Winston Peters chose Labour and the Green Party instead.

We also know that while Peters was supposedly negotiating in good faith he was also working on legal action against National’s deputy Paula Bennett and then-minister Ann Tolley.

That tells us, once again, that Peters can’t be trusted.

Simon Bridges has said he will announce well before the election whether or not National will rule out New Zealand First.

I hope he does say no to them which will make it quite clear to voters that a vote for that party is a vote for a Labour-led government.

There are risks.

In spite of their many criticisms of National not trying to win Epsom so that Act will get into parliament, Labour and New Zealand First could come to a similar arrangement in another seat in an attempt to secure an electorate for a New Zealand First candidate. If that worked, NZ First would not need to secure five percent of the vote to stay in parliament.

New Zealand First could get back, with or without an electorate,  and National could have too few seats to form a government without it and so be back in opposition.

But there are bigger risks in not ruling out New Zealand First.

It would send the message to voters that New Zealand First might go with National, even though the chances of that are very, very remote.

It would enable Peters to pretend he’ll listen to voters even though last time more opted for National than Labour.

It would give Peters the power he’s had too many times before to play the bigger parties off against each other and extract too high a price for putting them into government.

The worst day in government is supposed to be better than the best in opposition. But if the choice is government with Peters, I’d opt for opposition.

Tracy Martin says this year feels like the beginning of the end for Peters:

. . .So is it time to write Peters off?  Peters has cleverly played up his part as Labour’s handbrake, just as he once pitched himself as a bulwark against National’s extremes.  It’s how he has survived so long in politics – even after the “baubles of office'” fiasco, or Owen Glenn donations scandal.

But you can only play one side against the other for so long and it feels like Peters has played one too many hands.

So is the extraordinary Peters era coming to an end? He is our most familiar face on television; as recognisable as the theme tune to Coronation Street, as well worn as a pair of old slippers.

 But even soap operas eventually have their day.

National ruling out NZ First would make the end of the Peters soap opera much more likely.

Please, National,  just say no.


It’s only one poll

14/10/2019

The slide has started:

The age of Jacindamania is over. Brand Ardern has taken its biggest knock yet – and when Labour’s magic weapon loses its power, the party does too.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll shows just how wounded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour have been after the string of crises that have beset them.

Labour was the only party to lose support in Newshub’s poll. It’s now on 41.6 percent – smacked down by 9.2 percent.

Most of that went to National, which is on 43.9 percent – up 6.5. This is enough to overtake Labour, and that’s manna from heaven for the Nats and leader Simon Bridges. . .

It’s only one poll,  has a margin of error of 3.1%, and remember the last Newshub-Reid Research Poll, had National much lower and Labour much higher than the TV One poll that came out the same night.

On this result Labour and the Green Party could still form a government and National and Act would be a couple of seats short.

But while Party support ebbs and flows the trend is more significant, and this echoes other polls which show Labour losing support.

And support for the Prime Minister tends to peak and then fall.

Personality matters but it doesn’t pay the bills and while warm words are well received they can’t counter the fact that the year of delivery has been one of disappointments.


Politics changed, facts haven’t

28/03/2019

Sir Michael Cullen is being paid $1000 to sell the capital gains tax.

It’s a task made more difficult by records of his views on a CGT  which the parliamentary library holds from his time as an MP:

Stuff reported that although the chairman of the Tax Working Group once called a capital gains tax “extreme, socially unacceptable and economically unnecessary”, he has since changed his mind.

New documents compiled by the Parliamentary Library for the ACT party reveal just how far he shifted since leaving Government in 2008.

The 84 pages of research included every reference Cullen ever made in the House in reference to a CGT between 1987 and 2008. . . 

They include:

. . . “I think it is extremely hard to make that connection between a capital gains tax and the affordability of housing, insofar as there has never been a theoretical argument put forward about a capital gains tax on housing. It is more in the direction of a level playing field around investment; it is not around the notion that it will make houses cheaper. Indeed, it is very hard to see how it would necessarily make houses cheaper,” Cullen said at the time.

On June 20, 2007, when Bill English asked Cullen about explicitly ruling out a capital gains tax, he responded saying: “One of the problems with a capital gains tax – apart from the fact that if it were done, it should apply to all asset classes—is that countries overseas that have capital gains taxes have significant inflation in house prices on occasion”.

Then on June 21, 2007, he was asked about the possibility of combining ring-fencing with a capital gains tax on all investments except the family home, and more Government investment in low-cost rental housing.

He responded saying: “I think it is fair to say that, if one was looking at a capital gains tax, which I am certainly not, it would apply to all asset classes. I think the arguments in favour of such a tax, which probably 20 years ago were quite strong, become much, much less strong in the intervening period of time, for a whole host of reasons. So I think that that is actually not a very worthwhile avenue to explore, not least because it comes, in effect, at the end of a process, rather than trying to address the over-investment at the start of the process”. . . 

He says he was Finance Minister at the time and following the government line.

When asked why he changed his mind, he quoted John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind”.

What facts have changed? It wasn’t a good idea then and it still isn’t, for the same reasons.

As Robin Oliver, former deputy head of Inland Revenue, former Treasury advisor, an expert on the tax system, and one of three dissenters on the Tax Working Group said:

There’s a strong argument for taxing capital gains, as you put it, in theory, the problem is the practicality and of making it work. . .

Kathryn Ryan asked him if, all things being equal and as a tax expert would it be good to do it and her replied:

In the actuality of what you have to do to get such a tax in place, no.

Most of the arguments in favour of a CGT are theoretical ones based on a notion of fairness, whatever that is.

Most of the arguments against it are practical based on facts including that it has done nothing to rein in house prices elsewhere and has led to overinvestment in housing, underinvestment in business, and acts as a handbrake on succession.

The politics have changed but the facts haven’t.

A CGT with exceptions as recommended by the TWG would be expensive to administer, contain loopholes which would only provide work for lawyers and accountants, promote over-investment in housing, stifle investment in productive assets, and result in lower tax revenue in tough times when capital gains fall.


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