Compassionate conservatism trumps good intentions

February 15, 2018

Bernard Hickey writes of Bill English:

. . . He talked of his admiration for his father-in-law’s family ethos and hard work in raising a big family in Wellington, despite the struggles of arriving with little from Samoa in an unfamiliar city. He also talked about a quiet chat he had with a kaumatua on a marae about the problems of Māori youth, and the need for strong communities with their own resources. His point was that he admired the self-reliance and quiet conservatism of family and community life. He saw his role as helping those communities and pulling Government out of the way to let them get on with it. It wasn’t an ugly or dry form of libertarian scorched-earth politics. It was a deeply humane and thoughtful approach where Government was supposed to treat people with empathy and dignity and as individuals, rather than as just another beneficiary locked into welfare for life. His views on helping to lift people out of poverty were a precursor to his championing of the social investment approach, which he was only just starting to roll out through the Government as Labour returned to power in late October.

As he spoke about his in-laws and his wife and the dignity and self-reliance of those conservative Samoan and Māori communities, he stopped for a few moments. The tears rolled down his nose and splashed onto the lecturn. You could hear a pin drop. The audience was with him though. English’s story was utterly authentic and thoughtful and showed a depth of humility and humanity that struck a chord that night. He got a standing ovation when he finished.

Since then I’ve listened to English give countless speeches off the cuff that connect with audiences of all types up and down the land. Some thought he was a dry policy wonk who would struggle on the campaign trail, but I was sure he would connect if he was able to make his case on his feet in debates and in interviews, rather than in scripted speeches. . . 

I have heard Bill speak like this countless times – from the heart, eloquently showing both compassion and intellect.

His essential conservativeness often shines through, particularly on macro-economic issues and in challenging the good intentions of public servants.

“Whatever the fashions, sound economics matter. They might be a bit boring, but if you stick to them that’s what works. People are always trying to find shortcuts and leapfrogs and I’ve seen most of them come to grief,” he said.

He said he had learned that the effects of the public sector on the economy and people’s lives were often under-estimated, and often negatively.

“Good intentions are not enough. They’re not even a start, because there’s been a lot of money wasted and lives wrecked on the basis of good intentions expressed through public services,” he said. . . 

His work and policies showed the importance that more spending isn’t always better.

It’s not what you spend but how that matters, quality rather than quantity.

One of Bill’s legacies is proof that well thought-out policies, based on his compassionate conservatism, backed by effective spending, make a positive difference where good intentions don’t.

 

 


Tweeting panel

August 8, 2015

TV3 asked me to join The Nation’s tweet panel with Generation Zero co-founder Kirk Serpes this morning.

It was an interesting exercise.

Good interviewers listen to what interviewees say and base their next question on what they hear. I tried to do that with my tweets but kept missing the next point as I was tweeting on the last and trying to keep up with other tweets coming in.

Lisa Owen interviewed Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings talking about the farm gate milk price announcement today. This was followed by  reporter Torben Akel discussing governments appointing ex-MPs to government boards and an interview with American journalist Ben Taub who’s been writing about why teenagers’ journeys to jihad. 

The studio panelists were Heather du Plessis-Allan, Jacqueline Rowarth and Bernard Hickey.

Having Heather on the panel was very good marketing for Story which she’ll be co-hosting with Duncan Garner. It starts this Monday.

You can see the tweets here.


Change of govt poses risks to farming

June 12, 2014

Bernard Hickey was one of the speakers at Alliance Group’s Pure South conference a couple of weeks ago.

I wouldn’t have put him at the blue end of the political spectrum but his list of risks to farming under a Labour/Green and whichever other parties they would need to govern could well have been used to recruit people to National.

The annual KPMG Agri-Business Agenda picks up on some of those risks:

Leaders in the agri-business sector fear the loss of the traditional political consensus favouring free trade agreements if there’s a change of government, but are equally fearful that a Labour-Greens coalition will see heavier regulation against environmental harm and will start charging farmers to use water and other “natural capital”, says the annual KPMG Agri-Business Agenda publication.

While enthusiastic about Labour’s research and development tax breaks, which could help develop new technologies to improve environmental outcomes, farming and food sector leaders fear the lack of visible progress towards environmental goals could see what the report coyly refers to as “a new coalition government” impose new costs and regulation on the industry to force a faster clean-up.

“The need for the primary sector to improve its performance around core sustainability issues, such as water quality and nutrient management, is not disputed,” KPMG’s global head of agri-business, Ian Proudfoot, writes following a series of “roundtable” meetings and surveys with sector leaders around the country.

“While significant investment has been made to address these issues, the benefits are not immediately apparent. There is a concern that the lack of runs on the scoreboard may result in a new coalition government increasing the regulation on the industry and imposing charging mechanisms for the use of natural capital.”

A major concern is the prospect that the “time the industry needs to resolve its challenges may be reduced or completely removed.”

Degradation of waterways has happened over time and has many causes. A lot of work is being done to repair, protect and enhance water quality but problems which developed over years aren’t solved overnight.

On trade policy, the report suggests that agri-business leaders regard the expansion of “high quality” free trade agreements as “higher priority” than in the past, at the same time as Opposition parties appear to be cooling towards them.

“This reflects the benefits that are being derived from the agreements in place, and constraints being experienced when competing in key markets, such as Europe and South Korea, where competitors have preferential market access over our companies.”

However, there were indications the history of cross-party cooperation on trade policy “may no longer be guaranteed”, especially given the extent of opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, currently under negotiation but apparently stalling.

Labour’s policy on trade liberalisation is confused. The Green Party’s is clear – and negative.

The report also suggests the sector has a poor image among urban communities and needs to take a coordinated approach to communicating its importance to the country. . . .

That image isn’t helped when Labour and Green politicians are anti-farming in general and dairying in particular.

A change of government poses serious risks to farming and the people who rely on it.

Given how big a contribution it makes directly and indirectly to the economy, and exports in particular, that’s all of us.

 

Photo: We’ve helped primary sector exports hit record highs, and there’s more to come with exports expected to grow 22 per cent for the five years to 2018. http://ntnl.org.nz/1hxY6lZ

The KPMG report is here.

 


More tax, higher costs, fewer jobs

June 2, 2014

The Green Party plans to impose a carbon tax on us:

. . . Co-leader Russel Norman wants to scrap the current carbon pricing system – the Emissions Trading Scheme.

In its place would be a tax of $25 per tonne of carbon on industry polluters. . .

Critics of the tax claim the tax is a burden on households, who pay higher electricity and fuel costs.

However, the Greens say their levy would be offset by a ”climate tax cut” on the first $2000 of income. 

”We can reduce our emissions without hurting household budgets,” he said. ”Households will be on average $319 better off every year under the Green party policy.” . .

Imposing a tax with one hand and giving a tax with another won’t make anyone better off because the tax will lead to other cost increases on fuel, power and food which will passed on, in part or full, to consumers.

Agriculture – which is currently exempt from the ETS – would pay a reduced rate of $12.50 per tonne. This works out as an 12.5 per cent hit on farmers’ income. This includes 2 per cent on the working expenses of the average farm. A Berl Economics report, released with the policy, said dairying will be ”adversely affected.”

Dairying won’t just be adversely affected by the carbon tax, it will be hit by other Green policies too.

But it adds: ”However, at the currently projected pay-out for milk solids, even dairy farms in the lowest decile would remain well above break even in the face of an emissions levy.”

What happens when the payout drops to its long-term average which is well below the $7 forecast for the coming season?

What about the environmental impact of less efficient farmers in other countries increasing production because our produce is more expensive which makes it easier to compete with us?

And what about the poor people who will face higher prices for dairy products, power and fuel?

Other gas-emitting industries – such as electricity and road fuels – are less likely to be affected because they would be able to ”pass-on any production cost increases to households.” . . .

That will be the households whose earners will be getting a tax cut, the benefit of which will be less than the cost increases from the extra tax.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said the levy may threaten jobs. 

“Our approach should be unlocking business solutions rather taxing business more,” he said. 

As a “small open trading economy” New Zealand should participate in international emissions trading schemes.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said the tax will make dairy farmers “less competitive” in international markets. . .

Less competitive means lower returns which means less export income which means less economic growth which means we’ll be less able to fund the first world education, health and other services we need.

However green they want to paint it, this is a red policy which will add costs, put downwards pressure on wages and threaten jobs.

Bernard Hickey told last week’s  Alliance Group Pure South conference that the election will be close.

He then went on to list the policies that farmers could expect to adversely affect them under a Labour/Green coalition with whichever other left-wing parties they’d need to govern.

They included: capital gains tax, compulsory KiwiSaver and water restrictions and charges.

Those are three very good reasons to vote National and the Green carbon tax is another.

And Steven Joyce points out some inconvenient truths:

 

 

 


Why not just print more money?

February 27, 2012

Bernard Hickey wants the government to print more money.

I don’t know which is more frightening, his suggestion or the number of comments supporting him, for example:

The NZ dollar needs to lose 40% of its value, and massive public works projects can be funded – workers employed, taxes paid, the mental state of the nation immensely improved. BUT sale of land, houses and public assets MUST be blocked or the foreign locusts will pounce aided by the devalued NZ dollar. It’s crucial that the two go together – devaluation and regulation of asset purchases by foreigners.

And:

By choice I would, by law, insist that all loans were replaced with local borrowing, and thereby remove our balance of payments burden at a stroke. In addition, the RB would have control over liquidity without having to rely on the OCR (which has little leverage).

And

All the Banks you mention, including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand are controlled by the Rosthchild banking family, so you would have all New Zealanders pay more for products, fund the interest costs on this fake money and fall deeper into debt to the international Bankers?
 
If less of our hard earned “real money” was sent offshore to pay interest costs to these people we would all be better off.
Printing more money would devalue our currency which immediately makes the foreign debt we owe – as a country and individuals – higher.
The upside of a lower valued currency is that our exports would earn more but the downside is that imports would be more expensive. That doesn’t just mean luxuries, its basic food items like flour and fruit; vehicles, machinery, fuel; medicines . . .
The other consequence of printing money is inflation.
We were in Argentina a couple of weeks ago. The official inflation rate there is about 12% but several people told us it’s really around 24%. It’s less than 30 years since we had that sort of inflation rate here – it helped speculators but ruined savings and investment which is what we need to be encouraging.
The other argument against printing more money is that it doesn’t address the underlying problems in our economy – we’ve been spending too much and earning and saving too little.
The solution to that is not printing more money. It’s export-led growth, more savings, more investment and reducing the burden of the state.

Rural round-up

October 23, 2011

Success stories: how Glowing Sky grew from printing T-Shirts in Stewart Island to makigna nd selling merino clothing through its own chain of stores – Bernard Hickey:

Cath Belworthy still seems surprised at her business success as she tells her story to a business conference in Dunedin.

“We’ve taken it to a level that we would never ever have dreamed of all those years ago,” said Belworthy, who co-founded Stewart Island-based clothing company Glowing Sky Merino with her husband Dil in 1997.

But she is rightly enthusiastic and proud of all the hard work, sacrifice and inspiration that led to that success . . .

The trade environment: Future of WTO, beyond Doha TPP-regional FTAs – Bruce Wills (speech toInstitute of International Affairs:

. . .After talking to Federated Farmers staff about the long running saga that is the Doha trade round, one staff member relayed to me a political joke, if such a thing is possible, which may just hit the Doha nail on the head.

In Moscow, not long after the communist takeover, a factory worker trudging past the city gates noticed a revolutionary guard intensely scanning the horizon.

In mud, snow, sleet and rain, this worker trudged past the same guard above the same gate, year in, year out.

One snowy day, our worker stopped, looked up and summoned up the courage to yell out, ‘comrade, what exactly are you doing up there?’

The guard stood to attention and with snow falling from his tattered greatcoat proclaimed proudly, ‘I am the lookout for the global communist revolution’.

‘Oh’, our factory worker innocently shoots back, ‘it’s a job for life then!’

That possibly sums up where the Doha trade round is right now. Despite much heroic effort by NZ trade officials, ten years on from when it all started; it seems to be where it started. . .

Who should hold the power of prosecution? – James Houghton:

The Auditor-General might be worried about regional councillors’ personal bias when the authority is deciding to undertake prosecutions, but I wonder if the staff can be totally fair either.

Following a recent recommendation by the Auditor-General, Waikato Regional Council is asking its staff to review the role our elected councillors take in deciding what prosecutions it should be pursuing.

At the moment the decision whether to initiate a prosecution or not is made by a regulatory committee of councillors. I guess the worry is they could be tempted to consider their re-election chances when weighing up the options whether or not to prosecute when a person has breached the law . . .

Processing changes may not mean better capacity alignment –  Allan Barber:

The meat industry will see a number of processing initiatives taking effect over the next 12 months, all of them designed to create greater efficiency for their owners. They may not necessarily lead to better alignment of capacity with predicted livestock numbers for which B&LNZ Economic Service forecasts an increase from 2011 of 5.7% to 20.1 million lambs, second lowest in more than 50 years, and 1.8% more cattle, mainly cull cows . . .

Tasty and healthy, venison is set ot tkae over your dinner table

NEW YORK (WABC) — To indulge your love for red meat without detriment to your health, venison is the meat choice for you.

Grilled, pan seared or smoked, venison is the new “it” food, according to Chef Brad Farmerie and he should know. At his Soho restaurant Public, he prepares and serves about 10 thousand portions of it each year.

“I know for a fact, this is going to be a rockstar meat going forward, next year, the year after and everywhere from then on,” he says.

He cooks with cervena venison. It’s farm raised in New Zealand, grass fed and one of the most popular dishes from his kitchen. . .

How much water do we use? Daniel Collins:

One of the arguments being used at the moment to promote water storage and irrigation schemes is that much of the water that falls on New Zealand flows to the sea, not to the farm. Conor English, CEO of Federated Farmers, wrote in an opinion piece earlier this year:

“It’s not that New Zealand is running out of water, it’s that water is running out of New Zealand.”

As it turns out, about 80% of the water that falls on New Zealand flows out to sea, the rest evaporates back into the atmosphere. . .

Chica the bright red car:

Children expecting a visit from Rainbow Place’s nurses and therapists can now look forward to shorter waiting times, thanks to the gift of a bright red Nissan car to be named ‘Chica’, donated by Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) at the weekend.

The therapists and nurses at Rainbow Place – an arm of Hospice Waikato – travel thousands of kilometers each month throughout Waipa, Waikato and Coromandel, supporting children and young people who are coping with serious illness or bereavement . . .

My New Hero Kenyan Farmer Kimani Maruge! It’s never to late to learn – Pasture to Profit:

It’s been an amazing week! What with the Rugby World Cup. I am very proud to be a New Zealander & to see the fantastic rugby the
All Blacks play. A very interesting week on UK pasture based dairy farms too.

This week I watched an amazing DVD called “First Grader” an award winning 2011 film about the Kenyan hero “Kimani
Maruge”. Kimani Maruge (a farmer) was a 1950’s Mau Mau veteran who arrived at a tiny rural primary school as an 84 year old man determined to get an education after the Kenyan government offered “free education for all”. Kimani holds the record as the oldest person ever to start primary school. His determination to get an education was truly
inspirational.

Latest results from Shearing Sports NZ:

New Zealand representative Dion King had to put in one of his better performances of quality shearing to beat a top quality lineup and deny the legendary David Fagan a memorable double in the new season’s first North Island shearing competition in Gisborne on Saturday.

Shearing at the Poverty Bay Show, which attracted almost 100 shearers and woolhandlers, Te Kuiti gun Fagan was trying to add victory in his first show as a 50-year-old to his last at the age of 49 at Waimate a week earlier, and also complete a double he had scored last season. . .

Mortgagee sale of prime Wakatipu land:

A prime piece of land on the shores of Lake Wakatipu is to go to mortgagee sale following the developer going bankrupt.

The 38-hectare Walter Peak Estate is across the lake from Queenstown. It has consent to build a luxury lodge or several homes . . .


Did you see the one about . . .

September 18, 2010

An email from Matt McCarten – Whale Oil received a thank you from Matt.

It’s not all doom and gloom despite the earthquake and SCF collapse – Beranrd Hickey finds 10 reasons to be cheerful.

Proof: Wellington council wardens are ticketing against council policy – Big News cuaght them at it.

Science explained Something Should Go Here Maybe Later, who’s made a welcome return to blogging, illustrates the differences between biologists.

Milestone for Beattie’s Book Blog – post 10,000 in a little under four years 1311 visitors for the day by lunchtime on the day the post was written.


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