Public support spending cuts

18/08/2022

Yesterday’s increase in the official cash rate (OCR) was expected and unwelcome::

In a massive blow to homeowners, out-of-control inflation has pushed the Reserve Bank into once again hiking the Official Cash Rate by a dramatic 50 basis points, National’s Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“Today’s statement is yet more bad news for New Zealanders, confirming inflation is set to stay higher for longer, growth will be lower and interest rates will have to be hiked even higher to bring things under control.

“The cost of living crisis is hitting everyone across the country and it’s not going away anytime soon. Runaway prices are crushing household budgets. Rapidly rising interest rates are crushing mortgage-holders. Today’s statement confirms both these things are set to persist for many months ahead.

“Concerningly, today’s forecasts from the Reserve Bank suggest inflation now won’t return below 3 per cent until the middle of 2024 and won’t get back to its target midpoint until 2025.

“Instead of throwing up their hands and blaming international factors, the Government needs to take action to bring inflation under control. Broken immigration settings and runaway spending are choking off supply while overheating demand – a recipe for more inflation.

“The Reserve Bank acknowledged ‘labour shortages are a major constraint on business activity’, but the Government is still failing to fix our broken immigration settings. Businesses and consumers will continue to be squeezed by widespread skills shortages until that changes.

“The Government should adopt National’s five point plan to fight inflation – return the Reserve Bank to a single focus on price stability, reduce costs on businesses, remove bottlenecks in the economy, rein in government spending, and prioritise tax relief for workers.”

Labour MPs are always critical of National’s calls to rein in government spending, but the policy has public support:

The Taxpayers’ Union says that cuts to Government spending are a far better way to deal with the inflation crisis than the Reserve Bank of New Zealand hiking the Official Cash Rate – and the public agree. Kiwi voters understand the drivers behind inflation and the latest Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll demonstrates that they want cuts to Government spending.

Responding to today’s OCR announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“As part of this month’s Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll, we asked New Zealanders if the Government should be increasing, decreasing, or maintaining spending levels in response to high inflation. The most popular response – 45% of respondents – was that Government should decrease spending.”

“Only 12% of respondents thought increasing spending was the right idea and 27% said spending should be kept the same.”

“Next time Labour MPs try to troll National Party leader Christopher Luxon with claims he will ‘cut spending’ Mr Luxon should say he will. This poll shows that it is precisely what most voters want him to do!”

“We also asked about tax cuts and 59% of voters support a temporary 10% reduction in overall income tax for all families to help with the increased cost of living.”

“As Grant Robertson recently acknowledged, tax relief is less inflationary than Government spending. Swapping out Government spending to leave more money in taxpayers’ pockets would both help with the costs of living and ease the pressure on inflation.”

“Something that the Beehive should take note of is that Labour voters are the most in favour of a temporary package for across-the-board tax relief!” 

The results for the August Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll can be found here – https://www.taxpayers.org.nz/inflation_polling

This government has demonstrated time and time again that more spending doesn’t always result in better outcomes.

Time and time again they’ve shown that they are not good managers of other people’s money.

The TU poll shows the public understand that and favour being able to keep more of their own money.

 


When politics get personal

16/08/2022

Have you noticed how Labour has started attacking National leader Christopher Luxon?

Richard Prebble explains why:

The commentators are busy writing off National leader Christopher Luxon. One wrote that he is “starting to look more like a Todd Muller“. Another claimed “the number of people who dislike Luxon is very high for a new leader“.

It is total nonsense. Luxon is nothing like the hapless Muller. The only politicians who no one bothers to dislike are those who are totally useless. Around a third of the electorate are committed lefties. They dislike Luxon because they think he can win. Labour would not be testing attack ads if their polling did not say the National Leader is a threat.

Objectively, Luxon’s achievements as a leader are astonishing. When he took over as leader the National caucus was a poisonous bear pit.

It is a remarkable turnaround. He could now boast to his conference that his “MPs have their hopeless Labour counterparts on the run”. He now leads what appears to be a cohesive team.

Luxon has been in Parliament for less than two years and leader for just eight months. It takes most MPs six years and three elections to become effective. What is remarkable is not his occasional slip-up, but that he has made so few.

National received just 25.58 per cent of the vote in the last election. Now it is New Zealand’s most popular party. . .

David Farrar explains just how significant that turnaround is:

I don’t think people realise how remarkable that swing has been. They were 25% behind Labour at the last election and now lead them in every major poll. A swing of 10% is considered significant. A 25% swing is huge. Here’s what the swing has been for every MMP election (gap between  and Labour):

  • 1999: -15%
  • 2002: -12%
  • 2005: +18%
  • 2008: +13%
  • 2011: +9%
  • 2014: +2%
  • 2017: -14%
  • 2020: -32% . . .

Only in the last election, when Labour was assited by Covid-19 and national disfunction has the swing been greater.

Back to Prebble:

Luxon has the great advantage of not only having a good CV, but of looking like a prime minister. Nothing else has changed, so he has to be given the credit for National’s revival.

He has united caucus, gained the support of the wider party and is convincing the voting public that National would lead a much better government than Labour.

The next election is now Luxon’s to lose. Labour’s only hope of re-election is to politically destroy the National leader.

There is a tried and tested formula. Accuse the Opposition Leader of having no policy. And when he does announce some policy, put it on trial and find it guilty.

When Luxon announced a detailed youth unemployment policy on Sunday, some 15 months before the next election, Labour could not wait to find it “guilty”. The attacks would have been more effective if ministers could agree on what is wrong with National’s policy. Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says it is because the policies have no merit. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is because the policies “already exist”. Of course both could be true.

If both exist why is the government expending effort and money on policies that don’t work?

The apparatchiks are surprised Luxon has chosen youth unemployment as that is not an issue in any poll. Luxon also identified the cost of living as a crisis when inflation was not an issue. His identification of the issue and Ardern’s dismissal of any cost of living crisis is the reason why voters now say National is better able to handle the economy.

There is great unease over how the young are faring under Labour. Just 46 per cent of pupils attended school regularly in term one. There is a 49 per cent increase in the number of young people on the Jobseeker benefit. When Luxon says “get the kids back to school” and that young adults need to “find a job and become independent”, the country agrees.

Not getting the kids back to school and not helping them find a job and become independent isn’t just failing them. It’s causing problems that will haunt the country for decades and the high truancy and benefit numbers can’t all be blamed on Covid-19 and winter ‘flu.

Luxon’s statement to the National Party conference that – “as a nation, we all bear the costs when welfare becomes not a safety net to catch people if they fall, but a drag net that pulls the vulnerable in” echoes Norman Kirk. Kirk used to say that welfare needs to be not a safety net that catches, but a springboard that propels back. . . 

Margaret Thatcher said I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.

Labour’s attacks on Luxon personally and politically reflects well on him and poorly on them.

It shows they recognise how well he’s doing, that they have nothing substantial to criticise him on and no substantial policies to counter his attacks.

The contrast between his decisive reaction to revelations about one of his MPs and Jacinda Ardern’s trade mark equivocation in response to her MP, Dr Gaurav Sharma’s public complaints – ramped up yesterday with screen shots of messages from other MPs –  clearly shows who is the better leader.


A tale of two leaders

15/08/2022

When the news of Sam Uffindell’s schoolboy attack broke Christopher Luxon said there had to be a place for redemption, providing there was contrition and he told the MP to front the media, which he did.

When fresh accusations about Uffindell as a student broke, his leader stood him down pending an independent inquiry.

There was some criticism about that and Uffindell won’t be the only one who is worried about how something they did years ago might turn up. But it is fair to seek answers to questions about what happened and it gives a couple of weeks breathing space while that process goes on.

Contrast that with Jacinda Ardern when Speaker Trevor Mallard accused a parliamentary staff member of rape – accusations that subsequently cost the taxpayer more than $330,000 to settle.

She let him keep his job as speaker, a role which holds considerable power, and has subsequently rewarded him with a diplomatic post.

Then last week Hamilton West Labour MP Dr Gaurav Sharma wrote a column in the NZ Herald raising issues of bullying.

Ardern’s answer to that was to insinuate he had issues managing his staff.

. . .”Starting out as a new MP can be challenging and one of the toughest parts is navigating the new environment but also the role you must play as an MP managing others.” . . .

Where’s the kindness in that?

He responded with a Facebook post and a timeline of events:

Over the last 24hours many of you would have read the op-ed I wrote in NZ Herald. I want to start by thanking a large number of you who have contacted me from across the country with support. I have also had a few people who have tried to harass me without knowing the fully story. Due to being busy with constituent work and more recent matters I haven’t had much time to follow the comments on social media, but from what I have seen there are many genuine questions out there.

In order to give context to the issues I raised yesterday, I am sharing the following timeline of events:

⁃Before I took my oath I was assigned a Relationship Manager by Parliamentary Services to look after me and my staffing levels. This person had a direct conflict of interest in their role due to being a Labour member who had tried to stop me getting selected as a candidate. I raised this on Day 0 with a senior Parliamentary Manager who assured me that this would never be an issue. ⁃In February 2021 I had an underperforming staff member but instead of listening to my concerns, this was actively turned into a major project by the Labour Party Whips to bring me into disrepute and to rein me in. I sat in meetings after meetings being told I was doing a terrible job and that 9/10 times the MP is a bully so we refuse to listen to anything you have to say. I wrote numerous emails to Parliamentary Services and Whips Office asking for support, providing significant evidence of underperformance by a staff member but I was told in clear words “if you are staying up and working until 3am, you should work until 5am to make up for your staff’s incompetence.” Issues I raised involved staff being drunk at work, not showing up to work, being sent on leave without any notice or approval, and a significant wastage of taxpayer’s money. But all I was told was that I need to shut up and do a mentoring course on managing people. I had hundreds of pages to prove that my staff wasn’t doing the work they were hired to do and it affected my ability to provide services to my constituents but I was never listened to. The main bully was Kieran McAnulty who kept gaslighting me, shouting at me, degrading me in front of caucus members and other attendees at events and telling me that I was a terrible MP. His staff members at the Whips Office were the same. One of the most clearest examples was on the night of the America’s Cup final race where he asked me to come to his room for a meeting on a very short notice, but when I got there I was advised that he had to be in an important meeting so couldn’t make it. I spent close to 2 hours sitting with Kieran McAnulty’s staff in his office being told how terrible a manager I was, with no right of reply. But what was most sickening was that when I came out I saw photos of him drinking and celebrating the America’s Cup final while I sat in his office like a school kid at the headmaster’s office.

⁃In August 2021 I found that a Member of Parliament of the Labour Party and a Parliamentary staff member (also a Labour Member) were misusing taxpayer’s money. As someone who took an oath to uphold and protect the interests of this country I raised my concerns with the Relationship Manager at Parliamentary Services. Instead of protecting my identity and looking into this matter, Parliamentary Services forwarded my concerns to the Labour Party Whips and alerted them of what I had said.

The issues of bullying and mismanagement of staff have been the major focus.

This accusation of the Labour Party and a parliamentary staff member misusing taxpayers’ money ought to be getting at least as much attention.

⁃Following this incidence, I was put through further bullying. I was told by then Junior Whip Duncan Webb that what I did was wrong and I should be ashamed of myself. I was told that it was lucky that this Parliamentary Services Relationship Manager (who I had raised issues re conflict of interest on day 0) who is also a Labour Party member informed the Whips Office, because it could have fallen into the wrong hands which could have caused trouble. I was then told by Duncan Webb that an accusation like this could mean that the government could get into trouble, lose the election etc and such issues needed to be contained rather than discussed freely. I was then told by Duncan Webb in clear terms that “the only way this country can succeed is if Labour is in government. Government means Labour. So the Party comes first and foremost before the country.” The matter was never looked into and everything was hushed.

⁃Due to my outspoken stance on squandering of taxpayers money and other policy issues I was further bullied. I was called to last minute meetings with no notice and no support person (but once when I managed to take a caucus colleague with me).

⁃My staffing issues created through the mismanagement of the Whips Office and Parliamentary Services continued. My messages to the Parliamentary Services Relationship Manager were often not returned and I was repeatedly deflected to instead sort it out with the Whips. The same Whips who would bully me and had no legal right to begin with in a triangular relationship between Parliamentary Services (employer), my staff (employee) and myself (day-to-day-manager). I went to the Manager’s Manager but nothing came out of it. I went to the CEO of Parliamentary Services, I wrote emails and made calls – I was promised support to help with the staffing issue but all I got was silence. Many weeks after meeting the CEO I was told that I should go back and talk to the Whips.

Slowly I fell into a cycle of stress, depression and lack of hope as I found myself stuck. I remember one of my former patients sending me very kind message on World Mental Health Day about how I had helped her as a doctor a while ago. I thought to myself about how despite listening to and assisting many of my constituents with bullying and harassment issues, I had to put a bold face up as I struggled everyday with the thought of contemplating suicide. The Labour Party Whips Office and the Parliamentary Services removed all my mānā and didn’t give me any fair process to express my concerns. Slowly I started withdrawing from all the social events in Wellington. Every time I saw my bully Kieran McAnulty speak or smile, it made me sad and angry at the system and the process.

⁃I came to a point in 2021 where I advised Duncan Webb that I had had enough, and because I hadn’t received the support and justice I had been seeking I would go to the media to present the whole issue and tell them how I was being mistreated and there was no investigation into serious claims I had made about the incompetence of a staff member. This is the first time they listened. I was told that they would fly up to Hamilton and talk to me face to face to resolve my issues, which I declined because I had been in meetings after meetings with them for months with no resolution. Their solution included paying a severance pay from taxpayer’s purse to a person who had been repeatedly underperforming. I refused on principle, doing this would mean a double wastage of public money. I kept being pushed to concede but I refused. Eventually they cut a deal with the staff member to encourage them to resign from my office (I did not pay this person out because I stood by my claims which were never and still haven’t been investigated).

⁃After this, the bullying continued in many ways, simplest of which was a freeze on hiring staff. I challenged this and asked them to openly and fairly investigate my claims. But it was refused. For months on end I continued to be short staffed in providing support and services to my constituents who deserved better. I was told that I wasn’t an employee of the Labour Party, or its caucus or Parliamentary Services. My employers were the constituents – but my resourcing was halted by the Labour Party Whips – who were not legally even part of the triangular relationship. A fourth wheel which I continued to challenge shouldn’t be able to make decisions for my constituents especially when they were themselves the bully. When I tried to contact the Parliamentary Services they stopped taking my calls or replying to emails, instead again asking me to talk to the Whips.

⁃I went the only place I felt I could to seek help in December 2021. The Prime Ministers’ Office. The advice was always clear – do not give anything in writing and do not expect anything in writing. Everything can be OIA’ed. So I met the Chief of Staff of PMO for over an hour of meeting which was supposed to be only a 30mins appointment. I took with me hundreds of pages of evidence – emails, timelines, issues etc to explain my case. I very clearly said that Kieran McAnulty was a bully. That I was being bullied. That other caucus members were being bullied by Kieran McAnulty. Few weeks after the meeting when I had not heard from PMO, I contacted the PMO with a written complaint on 18th of December 2021. An investigation was never done. My bully still walks the halls of power with his head held up high, while a “messenger from Caucus” advised me yesterday after my op-ed in Herald that I should take the basement exit and try to avoid Parliament. The kick in the guts however is that despite raising concerns about Kieran McAnulty, not only by me but as I understand by other members of the caucus too (which I had clearly said to the PMO) he was promoted to being a Minister of the Crown. This is our justice.

⁃The issues with Parliamentary Services are even more complex & detailed and have continued. My current staff member has also raised significant concerns about the support from Parliamentary Services and has essentially been ghosted and stone walled. They have had no support in terms of expectation settings & annual review and have been underpaid for a significant amount of time. They went on to raise similar concerns as me re the Relationship Manager (the Labour member with conflict of interest) but it was only after 17months that this person was removed but never investigated for a serious breach of confidentiality (in my case raising concerns re taxpayers money) and in other cases re appropriate support and training.

⁃I know that some people think that I had for some reason tried to time this with what was happening with the issues at the National Party but that is far from the truth. I was told in an email in May by Parliamentary Services that there had never been an investigation against me despite me asking for an official review on multiple incidences. In April this year I contacted a range of lawyers in Wellington and eventually engaged someone to help me draft a legal challenge to the issues I had been facing. I was open about this to the Parliamentary Services and the Labour Whips from the moment I hired the lawyer but they thought I was bluffing. Due to a recent overseas trip and the staff shortage it has taken me a bit longer than I had anticipated to put together all the notes for my grievances and concerns (I am at 40+pages but still writing). Last week I had written to a new Manager at Parliamentary Services asking for a report on some serious complaints I had made (over a year ago). This Manager had promised me 4months ago that things would be looked into but I had not heard back. In reply to my most recent query the Parliamentary Services Manager advised me that they would instead first like to meet me with the Labour Whips and then they would give a written reply. Don’t forget that Parliamentary Services is part of the triangular employment relationship, but Labour Whips aren’t. Hence my comments yesterday about seldom replying and often from behind the Whips’ table.

⁃To me this meeting on Thursday was another attempt to silence me, to bully me and to put me in my place. But unlike other times this time they had given me a slightly longer notice for the meeting. Having been in numerous meetings where I had no support person and was being talked at by 3-4 people often, I decided to take my lawyer Phil Mitchell with me to the meeting to support me. The meeting was called by the Labour Party Whips in their room with the presence of Parliamentary Services on the day of their choosing. They weren’t expecting me to bring a support person let alone a lawyer. Suddenly the conversation in the room was about moving forward. The staffing issues that PM and Whips office claim they had been working with me in good faith to resolve had been going on for 1.5 years but now somehow with the lawyer in the room and threat of a legal case hanging about their head, I was advised that all was forgotten! That I just had to move forward, drop my complaints about Parliamentary Service and significant issues of drunk staff, staff with serious complaints from constituents etc because they didn’t want to investigate these claims. I was told that I was relitigating old matters. At the Thursday meeting I continued to say that Kieran McAnulty is a bully and if they would investigate him. I was just given blank stares and told to move on. I was also told by Duncan Webb that making such claims against a sitting senior Labour MP can affect my career projection.

⁃But they agreed to resolve the staffing issues. Within 30mins of a meeting with my lawyer I had been emailed by two Managers at Parliamentary Services that everything would be resolved and we were moving forward. The ads and roles for staffing were sent to me and I was free to hire asap, something that couldn’t be done in 1.5 years was done in a short meeting with a lawyer. ⁃The reason the op-ed came out yesterday was because the meeting was called by the Labour Whips yesterday at a time and place of their choosing and in that meeting they continued to laugh on my face saying in front of my lawyer “how will you even sue us, you have no legal rights” while repeatedly refusing to investigate anything I have said or investigate me for any issue.

⁃In summary, I stand by my claims that I have been subjected to ongoing bullying by the Parliamentary Service and the Labour Whips and none of my concerns have been investigated. Neither has there been an investigation into any claims against me as per the last written contact from the Deputy CEO of Parliamentary Service. I didn’t just wake up on the wrong side of the bed one day and made these serious claims. For 1.5years I have been trying to seek independent investigation, justice and support from Parliamentary Service, Labour Whips and the PMO. I also want to clearly state that despite what Duncan Webb says it has always been my belief that the country should always come ahead of any party. If I ever have to choose between party and country my allegiance will always be with the country first.

Misusing taxpayers’ money and bullying are very, very serious claims, not in the past as accusations against Uffindell are, but in this term of government and continuing.

There are also accusations from a staff member against another Labour MP, Anna Lorck.

Christopher Luxon has showed strong leadership in seeking an independent inquiry into the claims about his MP’s past and standing him down pending the results of that.

Jacinda Ardern is showing none of the kindness on which she lectures the rest of us, and she’s showing poor leadership.

Serious accusations deserve a serious response that includes an investigation into how much, if any, substance there is to them.

And that doesn’t mean the usual word salad and answering another question than the one she was asked, which is Ardern’s usual way to handle interviews which test her.


Welfare that works

08/08/2022

Christopher Luxon’s speech to the National Party conference yesterday included a firm stand on one standard of democracy, equal voting rights and no co-governance of public services and policy on welfare that works:

The video you just saw told a little about my life before politics. It also gave you a glimpse of the three most important people in my life: Amanda, who you met yesterday, and our children William and Olivia.

The lives of all children, and the circumstances in which they raise their own families, will be shaped by the decisions political leaders are taking right now.

My vision is for a more confident, positive, ambitious and aspirational New Zealand than we know today.

A country with a government that backs those who want to get ahead, manages a more productive economy, respects taxpayers, and actually gets things done.

I envisage a society built on New Zealanders’ rights and responsibilities to each other, and to our country.

A New Zealand where young people go overseas to act on a bigger stage, not to escape the cost of living and lack of opportunities here at home.

A country with welfare and education initiatives that help people flourish.

A country that meets its emission reduction targets.

A country that holds on to its ethos of fairness, including to the generations that follow ours. A country that fosters social mobility, and that encourages government, businesses and communities to work together.

I want New Zealanders who can’t support themselves to know they will always be looked after.

For everyone else, taking personal responsibility, and being proud of it, should be part of what it means to be a New Zealander.

That point was missed by several commentators. There is a difference between people who are unable to support themselves and those who are unwilling to support themselves. The former will always need support, the latter might need temporary support but have the responsibility to support themselves.

Don’t we all want to live in a New Zealand that embraces diversity and multi-culturalism, recognises the Treaty, acknowledges Auckland as the biggest Pasifika city in the world, welcomes needed migrants, but that first and foremost serves the common cause of all New Zealanders.

A country that emphasizes what unites us, instead of what divides us. A country that says absolutely, explicitly, that there is one standard of democracy, equal voting rights and no co-governance of public services.

That’s the New Zealand I want to live in.

Under Labour

However, Labour’s view is for a dependent society where big government squeezes out business and community initiatives.

Labour MPs wouldn’t have a clue how it feels to be responsible for a business whose employees’ jobs depend on that business succeeding.

I know that feeling. I’ve borne that sense of responsibility.

And I say to the Government, let businesses compete.

Stop piling on extra costs, like Fair Pay Agreements dreamed up to appease Labour’s union backers.

Make New Zealand open to the world, engaged and confident in its ability to find solutions.

New Zealanders don’t need the Government to tell them to be kind.

We need the Government to tell us when we’ll get an appointment at the hospital.

We need the Government to keep us safe from gangs and street violence.

We need the Government to get kids back to school.

Being in government isn’t about telling people that you care.

Saying you care, while taking no meaningful action, is empty.

Caring means identifying the problem, devising a solution and getting things done.

That’s what a National Government that I lead, will do.

And it’s what a Labour Government led by Jacinda Ardern, demonstrably cannot do.

Labour has shown time after time that it cannot deliver the things New Zealanders want and need.

From hospital waiting lists to being able to afford a first home. From parents desperate to get mental health support for their kids, to an increasing number of people living in cars and the thirteen hundred more children living in poverty since Labour came to office – the very things that Jacinda Ardern campaigned on are all worse.

Instead of devising solutions, Labour announces working groups.

Maybe they report back. Maybe they don’t. The general sense of Labour being overwhelmed by the burden of office, does not change.

Instead of solving problems, ministers put Band Aids on top of Band Aids.

The Government made up the cost-of-living payment to cover its own mismanagement of the economy which has seen inflation overtake wage growth every quarter for the past two years.

And then they so mismanaged delivery of the payment, that your taxes are being given to investment bankers in London, French backpackers, and dead people.

Labour cannot deliver anything.

They conflate spending more with doing more, when those are two very different things.

Labour doesn’t understand the difference between the quantity of spending and the quality.

Since Labour came into office, 50,000 more people are dependent on the Jobseeker benefit than when National was in office five years ago. It’s a Government failure that I’m going to talk more about in a minute.

That would be bad enough at any time, it’s inexplicable when so many employers are desperate for staff.

Since Labour came into office, there are four times as many people living in cars, four times as many on the state house waiting list, and 4,000 kids in motels – at a cost of a million dollars a day.

The Government is spending $5 billion more a year on education, but now only 46 per cent of our children are attending school regularly.

These are economic and social failures under Jacinda Ardern’s watch, yet she never holds herself or her ministers accountable for them.

It’s shameful.

It’s not only shameful it comes witha very high cost that we will be paying for years, possibly decades.

Government Spending

A massive increase in government borrowing and spending over the last few years has overheated the economy and super-charged the cost of living crisis.

This year, the Government will spend $51 billion more than National did only five years ago.

That equates to about $25,000 per household of additional new spending this year alone.

This year’s Budget included by far the most new spending of any Budget in New Zealand’s history, and it was delivered when the economy was already overheated and inflation was rising.

Grant Robertson is addicted to spending. He was overspending long before anyone had even heard of Covid. He has missed every new spending limit he has set for himself over five Budgets.

So, it’s not surprising that, as Nicola said yesterday, to pay for all this spending during Covid, New Zealand has borrowed more than any OECD country, apart from the United States.

You couldn’t run a household or business like this, and you shouldn’t run a country like it either.

None of those doing this spending have run a business and their reckless spending is a result of that.

If you think of the economy like a car, then the Government and Reserve Bank have been squashed together in the driver’s seat, pushing the accelerator flat to the floor. Now, like some terrified passenger realising the car’s going too fast, the Bank’s pressing down hard on the brake. The car’s got the wobbles and there’s a very strong likelihood it’s going to crash.

The impact of this hair-raising mismanagement of the economy is that homeowners, some who bought during the record house prices reached under Labour, are lying awake at night fearing that the next interest rate rise will be the one that forces them to sell up, likely at a huge loss.

Worst of all, for all this government spending, nothing is being achieved.

Economic Management

It can be different. I know it can.

The last National government came into office in 2008 inheriting a set of Treasury forecasts showing deficits stretching out for a decade.

In fact, every incoming National Government since 1960 has inherited an economic mess from Labour. In 1975. In 1990. In 2008.

We certainly know what to expect in 2023.

But the last National government got the country’s books back in order very quickly.
Its Ministers managed public spending with the same care that people manage their own household’s budget.

And did it by reducing backroom waste without cutting frontline services.

The contrast between National and Labour’s approach to economic management could not be starker.

National knows how to turn things around.

We have a five-point plan to beat inflation, and another five-point plan to make New Zealand wealthier so Kiwis don’t have to work for an hour to earn what an Australian earns in 45 minutes. National’s plans will be implemented by a capable administration that holds itself accountable.

National will not only lift New Zealand’s economic performance, it will restore New Zealand’s confidence too.

Bureaucracies & Centralisation

Labour believes in an over-bearing State that thinks people need to be told what to do and how to do it. They believe in centralisation and control.

Just look at the mega-mergers of our polytechs, health system and Three Waters. It’s always the same story. Labour thinks that Wellington knows best, and better than the rest of New Zealand. They’ve spent more money, hired 14,000 more bureaucrats, and got worse results.

Only Labour could spend so much to achieve so little.

I reject that approach.

National believes those closest to the problems should be closest to the answers. That’s why we back community-led solutions. For example, the Covid vaccine roll-out showed that bureaucrats in Wellington don’t always know best how to reach people. Just ask the Maōri organisations who had to take the Government to court so they could get people vaccinated.

National also believes in personal responsibility. We back Kiwis to make the best decisions for themselves, their families and whānau.

Welfare

I want to come back to welfare because New Zealand is rightly proud of its history of supporting people through adversity and a government I lead will build on that legacy.

In fact, we will do more, using the social investment model that Sir Bill English introduced. It uses long-term data to work out where and when targeted actions should occur to change the course of a person’s life – and taxpayers’ liability – for the better.

That is so much more effective than this government’s spray and walk away approach.

National wants all New Zealanders to be able to pursue their aspirations. A good education, followed by a job, is the best and usually the only long-term path to achieving this.

When it comes to welfare, every New Zealand government, Labour or National, will always support those who permanently cannot work and those who are temporarily unable to work.

Making the point again that too many commentators have missed. national agrees with the need for support for people who can never work and those who are temporarily unable to work.

But when it comes to those who can work, Labour and National’s approaches differ.

Having a job in early adulthood sets you up for success throughout your working life. Conversely, if you’re on a benefit before you turn 20, across your lifetime you’re likely to spend 12 years on welfare.

I know people are worried about this. I was talking to a mum in Wellington whose son has been absent from school for so long that he’s been unenrolled, and now he’s going to go on the benefit and she’s worried sick about what his future will look like.

She’s right to be worried.

Welfare dependency pushes people further away from the rungs of social mobility. It locks them out of the opportunities, sense of purpose and social connections that jobs provide.

Benefit dependency not only harms the person trapped on a benefit, but it also can harm the children who grow up in benefit-dependent households. And under Labour, there are more of them. There are now one in five children in New Zealand growing up in a household that depends on welfare. One In Five.

That comes at a high social and financial cost.

As a nation, we all bear the costs when welfare becomes not a safety net to catch people if they fall, but a drag net that pulls the vulnerable in.

I will not be a Prime Minister who allows young people’s lives to be going to waste when there is something more that could be done to propel them along a more fulfilling life path.

I will not be a Prime Minister who thinks it’s okay that the numbers of young people who are able to work, but who instead are on a Jobseeker benefit, is growing during a period of almost full employment.

I will not be a Prime Minister who thinks that work is punishment and that it’s kinder to people to prioritise their entitlement to a benefit over their responsibility to work if they can.

Right now, with businesses crying out for workers, there are 50,000 more New Zealanders on a Jobseeker benefit than there were under National.

As you know, their benefits come from the taxes paid by other New Zealanders who would gratefully have kept that money, if they hadn’t had to pay it in tax.

Every measure of dependency on the Jobseeker benefit has increased under Labour.
Disturbingly, 34,000 under-25 year olds are on it – a 49 per cent increase under Labour’s watch.

Worse still, the number of young people who’ve been receiving the Jobseeker benefit for a year or longer has almost doubled.

That’s right. The number of under 25s who’ve been on the Jobseeker benefit for more than 12 months has just about doubled – in a time of acute labour shortages.

This doesn’t make sense to anyone.

It’s not a sign of a Government that cares. It’s a sign that this Government talks itself up but doesn’t know how to deliver. It’s a sign that this Government has no ambition for the people who most need help. And it’s a sign the Government is abandoning young New Zealanders.

But National cares. National cares deeply. A Government I lead will do more to steer young people away from a life of isolation and dependence on welfare, and towards a life of independence and participation through work.

National thinks that if you’re young and you can work, you should. And if you can’t find a job, you need encouragement to keep taking active steps till you get one.

Some young people have barriers to employment like, say, not having a driver’s licence, or having an addiction.

Whether they are simple or complex, the earlier problems are identified and tackled, the sooner they can be addressed.

What we’ll do

So, today I’m announcing a new approach to getting young people at risk of long-term welfare dependency into work.

The increasing numbers of young people on welfare shows that the Ministry of Social Development is not giving them priority.

A National Government will not keep funding failure by government departments. If government departments can’t deliver, we’ll find someone else who can. So, in this case, we will bring community providers into the mix, redirecting some funding from the Ministry of Social Development, and getting community providers to do the job instead.

We’ll contract them to provide under 25 year olds, who’ve been on a benefit for three months or more, with a dedicated job coach to help them get into work.

Young jobseekers will get more support, with a proper assessment of their barriers, and an individual job plan to address those barriers, and find a job.

If we don’t do that, they’ll be on and off welfare for years.

A Government I lead won’t waste human potential and we won’t give up on people who could and should be contributing.

Currently people are not, as standard practice, required to have a plan to obtain employment until they’ve spent 12 months on a benefit. That is far too late.

And you don’t have to have a case manager, though you can call an 0800 number if you want one. That is far too casual.

Under a National Government, if you’re young and on the Jobseeker benefit for longer than three months, whether or not you ask for it, you’ll be getting help.

The very clear expectation is that your responsibility is to find a job and become independent. I know that there are many parents, just like that mother in Wellington, who don’t want welfare to be the easy option for their kids that it is today.

Unfortunately, the course for many young people is that they find a job, work for only days or weeks before quitting or failing, and going back on the benefit.

So National will offer a $1,000 bonus to a person who is under 25, has been on the benefit for 12 months or longer, and who then starts work and stays off the benefit for the next 12 consecutive months. In other words, they have successfully broken their welfare dependency.

On the other hand, those who blatantly do not follow their agreed plan – meaning they don’t turn up for courses, don’t apply for jobs or don’t engage with their jobs coach – will face sanctions.

Under Labour, the use of sanctions has fallen dramatically, so perhaps it’s no surprise there’s been a big increase in the numbers on a Jobseeker benefit, and in how long they stay on it.
If Labour thinks it’s being kind to set young people up for a lifetime of dependency, even when there are jobs they could be doing, National doesn’t.

National’s approach will be about people’s potential to contribute, not just their entitlements. That’s what a society built on rights and responsibilities is all about.

Any changes need to be fair to jobseekers, and fair to taxpayers. I believe this policy has that balance right.

In summary, I have messages for three groups of people.

First, to young people trying to find a job: That is a hard place to be and, if there was a National Government, you’d get more support and encouragement from your own job coach.

Second, to young people who don’t want to work: You might have a free ride under Labour, but under National, it ends.

Third, to taxpayers: National is on your side.

Fellow National Party members, this is a great country and all of us are so, so lucky to live here.

But under Labour, New Zealanders can see and sense that we’re heading in the wrong direction. Today, we feel insecure about things we once assumed were solid. Things we’ve taken for granted now seem uncertain.

I sense it. I see it. And that’s why I came to Parliament. What I’ve seen in the short time I’ve been in politics only motivates me more to win the next election so that a National Government can take New Zealand forward.

The election is going to be incredibly tight. Labour knows we’re back and they’re under threat. They’re trying to spin, deflect and distract from their own inability to deliver.
New Zealand needs a turnaround. And a National Government I lead will deliver it.

Only National can provide the hope that things can be different. Only National can deliver the prosperity New Zealand deserves. Only National can build the strong economy New Zealand needs.

National Party members, my enduring promise to you all is that, under my leadership, National will be the government that New Zealand needs, and National will take New Zealand forward.

Thank you all – let’s get to work. Let’s go and make it happen!

The all carrot-no-stick approach to welfare that Labour has adopted has had the inevitable result of increasing welfare dependence.

National’s plan has plenty of carrot to help young people get into work and stay there.

It also has some stick to apply to those who could work but won’t.

National accepts the government has a responsibility to help people through welfare but it also accepts that those who can work have a responsibility to do so and that there must be consequences for those who can but won’t.

This is good policy and also good politics.

After all how could anyone with both a wise head and good heart think this government’s policy of encouraging welfare dependency in young people who could work if given some help is the right thing to do?


Quotes of the month

01/07/2022

A 2021 Canadian law on assisted suicide contains a provision that will allow doctors to provide assisted suicide to the psychiatrically ill starting next year. Given that severe psychiatric disorder tends to cloud the judgment of those who suffer from it, one wonders who will benefit most from this law, if passed. Certainly, it might remove from society people who are often difficult, unproductive, and expensive for others. They might be encouraged to shuffle off this mortal coil as a service to their relatives or even to their county. The distinction between the voluntary and the compulsory might become blurred. – Theodore Dalrymple

An illness may be serious but not fatal; it may be bearable or unbearable, but whether it is the one or the other is not simply a technical question that can be answered by ticking a few boxes on a form. An easy way out will always tempt people to take it who might otherwise have carried on. And in times of economic stringency, they might well be encouraged to take it. Our hospitals, after all, are full, and often urgently in need of beds for those who can be helped.

On the other side of the question is the fact that everyone can easily imagine circumstances in which he would rather die than carry on and would appreciate an easeful death. The principle of double effect, according to which doctors are permitted to prescribe drugs intended to comfort the dying but that will also shorten their lives, has long been in operation. It is not a perfect solution to the dilemma—but then, there is no perfect solution. –Theodore Dalrymple

WHETHER NANAIA MAHUTA followed the conflict-of-interest rules set out in The Cabinet Manual hardly matters. A dangerous political narrative is forming around the appointment of, and awarding of contracts to, Mahuta’s whanau in circumstances that, at the very least, raise serious questions about this Government’s political judgement. Enlarging this narrative is the growing public perception that the mainstream news media is refusing to cover a story that would, in other circumstances, have attracted intense journalistic interest. The conflation of these two, highly damaging narratives with a third – the even more negative narrative of “co-governance” – has left the Labour Government in an extremely exposed and vulnerable position. – Chris Trotter

Since the widespread assumption among Pakeha New Zealanders is that co-governance and representative democracy are fundamentally incompatible, Labour’s willingness to be presented as co-governance’s friend runs the risk of being cast as democracy’s enemy.

Of even greater concern is the inevitability of this anti-democratic characterisation being extended to an ever-increasing fraction of the Māori population. Statements from Māori leaders appearing to discount the importance of, or even disparage, the principles of democracy have done little to slow this process. –

The problem with this willingness to indulge in ad hominem attacks on people holding genuine reservations about the Government’s proposals is that more and more of them will decide that they might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and embrace the very racism of which they stand accused. In this context, the revelations that some members of a Māori Minister of the Crown’s whanau have been the recipients of Government funds, and appointed to roles not unrelated to the furtherance of the Minister’s policies, will be taken as confirmation that all is not as it should be in Aotearoa-New Zealand. – Chris Trotter

The result could very easily be the emergence of what might be called a “super-narrative” in which all the negatives of co-governance, media capture, and Neo-Tribal Capitalism are rolled into one big story about the deliberate corruption of New Zealand democracy. The guilty parties would be an unholy alliance of Pakeha and Māori elites determined to keep public money flowing upwards into protected private hands. In this super-narrative, the structures set forth in He Puapua to secure tino rangatiratanga, will actually ensure the exclusion of the vast majority of New Zealanders from the key locations of power. The only positive consequence of which will be a common struggle for political and economic equality in which non-elite Māori and Pakeha will have every incentive to involve themselves. Chris Trotter

What lies ahead, as the institutions of co-governance take shape, is the coming together of two very privileged birds of a feather: the Pakeha professionals and managers who have taken command of the society and economy created by Neoliberalism, and the Māori professionals and managers created to produce and operate the cultural and economic machinery of Neo-Tribal Capitalism.

This, ultimately, will be the spectre that arises out of the controversy swirling around Nanaia Mahuta. The spectre of the worst of both the Pakeha and the Māori worlds. Worlds in which the powerful trample all over the weak. Where tradition constrains the free exploration of ideas and techniques. And where the petty advantages of separation are elevated above the liberating effects of unity. Where “Aotearoa” creates two peoples out of one. – Chris Trotter

Crying in the movies and in response to really compelling stories, it actually shows … you have a strong empathy response and empathy is one of the five key characteristics of emotional intelligence, so it’s a strength. – Deborah Rickwood

People who are high in emotional intelligence have better social and intimate relationships, and it helps you to deal with stress and conflict, and I guess it just means that you’re more aware and attuned to your emotions, and as long as you can regulate them, that makes you better able to be socially connected, get along with other people. – Deborah Rickwood

Crying is basically a way of getting over getting upset and humans are the only animals who emotionally cry.

“Crying releases endorphins in your brain. I mean, [for] most of us, if you have a really good cry, you’ll notice you need to go and have a little sleep afterwards. You’re kind of drained, you’re more relaxed, it is a release of emotion that’s good for us.  – Deborah Rickwood

You hear particularly from people who become parents and especially men when they become fathers, they find that when they see movies about fathers and sons … they will cry and really respond to that, which they wouldn’t have before they became a father.

So, I think the older you get, the more experience of social connections, the more things you pay attention to that are meaningful to you, so more things then emotionally arouse you. – Deborah Rickwood

I’d love New Zealand to establish a Victims of  Museum which details all the mass deaths caused by communism. It could even include half price entry for people living in Aro Valley.David Farrar

When I was Governor of the Reserve Bank I used to talk about the contrasting fortunes of my uncle and me, to illustrate the effect of inflation. In 1971, my uncle sold an apple orchard he had spent a life-time developing and, being of a cautious disposition, invested the proceeds in 18-year government bonds at 5.5% interest. Perhaps fortunately, by the time those bonds matured my uncle and his wife were dead, because the $30,000 for which he had sold his orchard was by then worth only a small fraction of what it had been worth in 1971. In 1971, $30,000 would have bought my uncle 11 Toyota Corolla cars. By 1989, $30,000 would have bought him just one Corolla, with a small amount of change left over.

By coincidence, in 1971 my wife and I returned from the United States to a very well-paying job in Auckland. We bought a five-bedroom home with a great sea view for $43,000, which was almost exactly three times my substantial salary. By the late eighties, the house was worth more than ten times what we had paid for it, and I have no doubt that today it would be worth several million dollars (I have had no financial interest in the house for more than 30 years).- Don Brash

There are simply no good reasons why an under-populated country like New Zealand should tolerate the ridiculous “house prices” (really, ridiculous land prices) which we currently have. Blame central and local government politicians, not greedy speculators, people with Chinese-sounding names, or the purveyors of building materials.Don Brash

The use of the word “outcomes” (aka results, deliverables) should not be so earth-shattering but our media, entranced by this Government’s strategy of throwing money at problems to make them go away, have now realised we also need ‘outcomes’ or ‘results’.

Luxon and Willis, having grabbed the narrative and set the agenda, are re-educating the media (the public already knew) that it actually is results that we want and we don’t have much evidence of that with this Government so far. Just billions of wasted spending and excessive appointments of highly paid public servants, which National have promised to go through with a fine-tooth comb once they gain office next year. – Wendy Geus

A creative writing course at a British university has withdrawn graduation requirement that students should attempt a sonnet, not on the reasonable grounds that it is futile to try to turn people with cloth ears for language into sonneteers, but because the sonnet is a literary form that is white and Western.Theodore Dalrymple

As a psychiatrist, I understand identity as a crucial part of every person’s self-concept. Each person’s identity is cobbled together from multiple identity fragments: for example, gender, race, religion, nation, family, and ideology. These fragments can include their opposites, a negative identity fragment that represents something that person absolutely is not and defines themselves against. They might include someone’s love or hatred of flowers, sports, or the ballet. Over a person’s lifetime, these fragments may conflict with each other and get reordered and revalued in ways big and small, many times.

In the political and other societal realms, identity conflicts play out in an analogous way to how they play out within individuals. The key conflicts are over the prioritization of identities, particularly which comes first. In a totalitarian society, one identity is required to be the primary focus of all public and private action. This directive can serve as a definition of totalitarianism. – Elliot S Gershon

What seems to be overlooked in the rush toward “equity, diversity, and inclusion” is the fact that when one identity fragment within a population is selected for benefits, or favored for whatever reason, the other fragments are penalized. This has been proven mathematically for Darwinian selection and applies to any other selection within a finite environment. Elliot S Gershon

Identity-based regimes, like the one taking hold in the United States, do not necessarily consider the extent to which people agree with or give importance to the race or gender to which they are assigned. Based on my skin color, I might appear to be white, but I never think of myself as white. My grandfather and other family members were murdered in the Holocaust because they were not white, according to the identity-based regime of the time. So am I white? Not according to me.

Doctrinal identity assignments routinely disregard voluntary identity choices, limit transitions, accentuate distinctions, and generate very severe reactions among those who are assigned to favored and unfavored groups. Persons assigned to one identity are encouraged to see other identities as enemies or oppressors. Identity-based entitlements can therefore generate resentment and even violence, which can become routine, and can be used to justify the continuation of entitlements ad infinitum, even as the institutionalization of entitlements based on state-assigned identity groups creates its own devastatingly destructive forms of exclusion and corruption. – Elliot S Gershon

Gender identity is widely accepted as a matter of choice for everyone. But gender fluidity is a doctrine, and it generates resentments. Many parents of young children resent fluid-gender-identity education programs; they have their own understanding that children in those ages should be encouraged to integrate and solidify the gender identity of their natal sex. Gender transition has also led to widespread resentment when male-to-female transgender athletes win prizes competing against girls and women who are born female. Yet in the same political and social context where gender is held to be a matter of choice, race is considered immutable. Any person can be accused of having “white privilege” or “unconscious bias,” regardless of their actual ancestry or beliefs.

Although there is a case to be made for gender transitions, there is a stronger case to be made for racial transitions. Gender as a social construct is very closely related to biological sex, an unambiguous characteristic of the vast majority of humans. Race is also a social construct, associated with statistical differences among population groups. Race, however, does not have a rational or scientific definition unambiguously applicable to all individuals, and for many people it is impossible to determine—leading to casually racist assumptions based on skin pigmentation or “one drop” theories that lack any legal or scientific currency.Elliot S Gershon

There is nothing pure about race. As a category, it is remarkably fluid. In a modern American urban population, we statistical geneticists frequently find people who self-classify as white or Black but whose genotypes are ambiguous. People with the same amount of “white” or “Black” ancestry may identity with either race, or with neither race. Many people who are identified as “Latinx” by Harvard would identify themselves as “white,” while many “whites” would identify themselves as something else, based on ancestry, upbringing, culture, or personal affinity. Why should the state or private elite institutions be empowered to impose these slippery and often poorly framed identities on individuals without their consent, especially when the social cost to the society of doing so is real?

One way out of our current identity conflicts is to permit individuals to freely choose their own racial and gender identities and at the same time to forbid any societal rewards or penalties based on these identities. – Elliot S Gershon

Pursuing race- and gender-blindness under the law is preferable to enforced alternatives that have consistently failed for more than a century. – Elliot S Gershon

My faith is not a political agenda, right? I am there to represent all New Zealanders, not one faith or one religion, and you shouldn’t vote for me because of my faith, and you shouldn’t reject me because of my faith. –  Christopher Luxon

My faith is actually about tolerance, compassion – not discriminating, not rejecting people. That’s what I think my faith is about. – Christopher Luxon

Every human being in this country is valuable and equal. That’s the guts of it. I want everybody to genuinely flourish and so when I arrive in a business environment and I don’t see diversity being embraced and people being able to come to work as their whole self, that’s a problem. – Christopher Luxon

There is no substitute for personal knowledge of the patient and their conditions. It saves the health system huge amounts of money. If they turn up at an ED in crisis, they end up having scans, tests, all sorts of expensive treatment that good GP care could have prevented.Dr Samantha Murton

When fundamental facts of human nature, and fundamental values and institutions such as marriage and the family are contradicted by law and taught to new generations, of course those who disagree will feel alienated. Some will persevere in dialogue about these issues, but others will find an outlet not just on social media, but, as we have seen, in more militant ways.

Then, keyboard warriors will be the least of our worries. – Carolyn Moynihan

This Government’s activist-driven drive towards a Maori-dominated neo-apartheid political structure, cannot be allowed to continue. We must not just stand by and watch our democratic structure and democracy be overridden and destroyed — particularly by a group of in-caucus-activists driven solely by self-interest and totally, deliberately and fraudulently misrepresenting and misinterpreting the Treaty of Waitangi  in an attempt to justify what they are about.

What we are seeing and being subjected to is a TOTAL abuse of the privilege, power, objective-responsibility and trust and integrity inherent in and expected of those in Parliamentary office. Particularly galling is the fact that it has all been fraudulently sprung on us, following the election, without notice. It is treachery at its very worst — and it must be stopped. – Hugh Perrett

Lying awake at night imagining the worst possible complications – amputations, kidney failure, blindness? That sucks too. People with chronic illnesses will understand this, and this is hardly something I am alone in, but the worst part is the way my diabetes is a shadow over my whole life. It’s a constant companion I live with and try to placate. – Megan Whelan

There are many studies that show deprivation is a significant factor in both developing type 2, and in having complications from it. People who are having to choose between buying fresh vegetables and sending the kids to school camp aren’t quibbling over which protein powder brand is the best. – Megan Whelan

Green energy is a wild bull in the electricity china shop. Australia’s new green government has a $20B plan to “rewire the nation” to connect the spreading rash of wind and solar toys. Eastern Australia recently had a couple of days of high wind, which caused many outages as trees and powerlines were blown down. Imagine the outages after a cyclone cuts a swathe thru this continent-wide spider-web of fragile power lines connecting green energy generators, batteries and markets. – Viv Forbes

Working for Families has given us a mess that may have no solution. Or at least no solution that doesn’t cause other problems.Eric Crampton

A 57 percent Effective Marginal Tax Rate facing families who pay zero percent net tax is a mess. But it does not seem to be the kind of mess that can be cleaned up.

Unlike housing.

Would that governments fixed the problems that can be fixed before putting effort into the intractable ones. Ending the housing shortage and improving supermarket competition could do a lot more good for family budgets than tweaking transfers to middle-income families. – Eric Crampton

In a democracy, as on the marae, matters of collective interest should be decided by robust and respectful debate. The Government should stop trying to curate the conversation and force predetermined outcomes on constitutional matters, because this is backfiring. Exchanges based on racial framings provoke racist reactions; and questions that need airing are being swamped in a tsunami of racist abuse, foreclosing a proper (‘tika’) discussion.Dame Anne Salmond

By using the Treaty ‘partnership’ deception to justify giving control of essential services to the Maori elite, Jacinda Ardern is deliberately robbing New Zealanders of crucial democratic safeguards, placing them instead at the mercy of unelected and unaccountable iwi business leaders working in their own best interests, not in the public good.

The reality is that once co-governance is put in place, the opportunities for tribal enrichment will be endless, with contracts, fees, and other mechanisms able to be used to secure taxpayer funding – exposing the country to the problems that plague all tribal societies including corruption and nepotism.   – Muriel Newman

Jacinda Ardern’s path to co-governance and tribal rule, has barely got off the ground, but is already proving to be a recipe for Maori privilege by an inherited elite that will divide and weaken our society. Their end goal, of course – as outlined in He Puapua – is to ‘take the country back’ to tribal rule by 2040.

Are we really prepared to stand by and let this become the future for New Zealand? – Muriel Newman

It’s just possible that one reason so many MPs are unknown to the public is that the media have largely abandoned their traditional function of reporting what happens in Parliament. And I mean in Parliament – not outside the debating chamber where members of the press gallery (sometimes known as the wolf pack, but perhaps more accurately characterised as a mob of sheep taking their cue from whoever happens to be the most aggressive among them) wait to ambush whichever politician they have collectively decided will be that day’s target.

We are largely ignorant not only about who represents us in Parliament, but also what they do there. The only time the mainstream media take an interest in the debating chamber is when something happens to excite them, such as a squabble involving the Speaker or the inflammatory hurling of an insult.- Karl du Fresne

Much of the time we have no idea what business is being conducted in the House, still less any knowledge of which MPs are making speeches or asking questions. Often we don’t learn about important legislation until its consequences – not always welcome ones – become apparent long after it has been passed.

This means there is a vacuum at the heart of the democratic process. We elect our representatives every three years, and then what? To all intents and purposes they disappear into a void until the next election, with the exception of the handful of activist MPs already mentioned who attract journalists’ attention. The feedback loop that should tell us what all those other MPs are doing is broken.

Yet the right to observe and report Parliament is arguably the most fundamental of press freedoms.Karl du Fresne

My guess is that you’re more likely to see a polar bear in Bellamy’s than a row of reporters busily taking shorthand notes of speeches in the House. As a result, MPs largely escape the public scrutiny that should inform our votes. This magnifies an absence of accountability already inherent under MMP, where a substantial proportion of MPs are answerable not to the public but to their party hierarchy. Call them the invisible MPs.

Online platforms (NewsroomBusinessDeskPoint of Order, to name three) fill some of the gaps in parliamentary coverage, and Radio New Zealand’s The House caters to a small audience of political obsessives. But it’s hit and miss, and the result is that we are arguably less informed about the business of Parliament than at any time in living memory. That can’t be good for democracy. – Karl du Fresne

Wording is no doubt a small thing by comparison with the horror of a mass shooting such as the one of schoolchildren and teachers at Uvalde, but it’s nonetheless of some significance. In all the reports, I noticed that 8, 9, and 10-year-old children were referred to as “students.”

They were not students, they were pupils.

Does it matter what you call them, you might ask? If words matter, then it does matter (and Confucius thought so more than 2,500 years ago, for he wrote that when words were used wrongly, the state and society could not hold).

In fact, nobody believes that words don’t matter, least of all at the present time, when bitter disputes break out about nomenclature and by what pronouns people should be addressed. Such disputes are battles for power rather than for improvement or happiness. Since speech is so central to human existence, forcing people to change their language is an exercise in power over them, which isn’t to say that in no circumstances whatsoever should such changes be suggested or even mandated. It’s true that there are terms that are intrinsically degrading to those whom they designate, but with a few exceptions, struggles over language are not usually concerned with them. –  Theodore Dalrymple

A pupil is a child who is under the authority of a teacher who chooses for him what he should learn. This is because the child isn’t capable of choosing or deciding for himself: If the child were so capable, there probably wouldn’t be any need for teachers in the first place.  . . .

A student is a young person old enough to be at least partly self-directed in the choice of what to learn, increasingly so as he progresses. – Theodore Dalrymple

What does the abandonment of the word pupil signify? In the first place, it’s unctuous and hypocritical, for in practice adults are still obliged to choose what it is that young children should learn, even if they have changed their opinions as to what it is that should be taught.

But there’s something deeper than this, a kind of insincere refusal of authority as such. People now refuse to admit that they are exercising authority even as they are doing so, because authority is supposedly so undemocratic or paternalist in nature.  Theodore Dalrymple

This denial of proper distinctions is a characteristic of our age. For example, the distinction between men and women, inscribed in biology, is increasingly being denied because (what is true) there are some marginal cases. Those who wish to eradicate distinctions, however, start by making the marginal central to all considerations. Failing to agree to this sleight of hand is characterized by the eradicators of distinctions as a sign of intolerance or worse, as if everyone who thought that the marginal should not be made central necessarily is in favor of ill treatment of the marginal, which, of course, is true neither empirically nor in logic. Moreover, few people recognize that the virtue of tolerance can be exercised only in the presence of disapproval or distaste, for unless there’s one or the other, there’s nothing to tolerate. Everyone, surely, tolerates what he likes or approves of. Nor is acceptance of something the same as celebrating it. For example, I accept rock music in the sense that I don’t wish to suppress it, but I don’t celebrate it and avoid it when I can.

No doubt there are some 8-year-olds somewhere who are capable of being students in the sense of choosing what and how to learn, but I think that they must be about as rare as giant pandas, if not rarer. By calling such young children students we’re suggesting that they have authority, and you can’t suggest such a thing without children taking you at your word and coming to think of themselves as authorities. This is abject. – Theodore Dalrymple

The mainstream media tells the public repeatedly that the criteria in the $55 million media fund mandating the promotion of a radical view of the Treaty as a 50:50 partnership are insignificant and do not compromise their independence with regard to reporting on matters such as Three Waters.

However, their unwillingness to contact a highly qualified analyst who is closely investigating the power structures of Three Waters — which is probably the most contentious political issue for the government right now — certainly won’t convince the public they are not constrained by the criteria they signed up to as a condition of receiving handsome amounts of government cash.- Graham Adams,

A good Speaker, like a good person in any public role, needs to know when it is time to go. –  ODT editorial

New Zealanders may not be the most forthright people when it comes to saying what they really think. But in the Three Waters debate, this ‘Yeah, nah’ culture is reaching new heights.

Three Waters is about everything. It is about the government’s new race-relations agenda. It is about the Ardern Government’s direction for the country. It is about the divide between Wellington and the regions.

And yes, it may even be a little about water. But not for everyone.Oliver Hartwich

If skills like reading and arithmetic are not learned, creativity is stunted and well-being is compromised. Without knowledge, critical thinking is empty. If young people cease to learn disciplines like history and science, cultural and technological innovation will gradually grind to a halt. Or maybe we’ll just outsource those things to machines as well. – Michael Johnston

Until Jacinda Ardern became PM, New Zealanders were largely trusting of their Prime Ministers, secure in the knowledge that if they deviated too much from the straight and narrow, the Fourth Estate would hold them to account.

Not so anymore. Labour’s $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund ‘bribe’ has put paid to that.

As a result, through her own actions, Jacinda Ardern has gravely undermined trust in the Government for many New Zealanders.Dr Muriel Newman

Luxury beliefs have, to a large extent, replaced luxury goods.

Luxury beliefs are ideas and opinions that confer status on the upper class, while often inflicting costs on the lower classes. – Rob Henderson

The yearning for distinction is the key motive here.

And in order to convert economic capital into cultural capital, it must be publicly visible.

But distinction encompasses not only clothing or food or rituals. It also extends to ideas and beliefs and causes.   – Rob Henderson

In the past, people displayed their membership in the upper class with their material accoutrements.

But today, because material goods have become a noisier signal of one’s social position and economic resources, the affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs. – Rob Henderson

Expressing a luxury belief is a manifestation of cultural capital, a signal of one’s fortunate economic circumstances.Rob Henderson

Plenty of research indicates that compared with an external locus of control, an internal locus of control is associated with better academic, economic, health, and relationship outcomes. Believing you are responsible for your life’s direction rather than external forces appears to be beneficial. – Rob Henderson

Undermining self-efficacy will have little effect on the rich and educated, but will have pronounced effects for the less fortunate.Rob Henderson

When people express unusual beliefs that are at odds with conventional opinion, like defunding the police or downplaying hard work, or using peculiar vocabulary, often what they are really saying is, “I was educated at a top university” or “I have the means and time to acquire these esoteric ideas.”

Only the affluent can learn these things because ordinary people have real problems to worry about. – Rob Henderson

The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education.

Members of the luxury belief class promote these ideas because it advances their social standing and because they know that the adoption of these policies or beliefs will cost them less than others.Rob Henderson

Why are affluent people more susceptible to luxury beliefs? They can afford it. And they care the most about status.

In short, luxury beliefs are the new status symbols.

They are honest indicators of one’s social position, one’s level of wealth, where one was educated, and how much leisure time they have to adopt these fashionable beliefs.

And just as many luxury goods often start with the rich but eventually become available to everyone, so it is with luxury beliefs.

But unlike luxury goods, luxury beliefs can have long term detrimental effects for the poor and working class. However costly these beliefs are for the rich, they often inflict even greater costs on everyone else. – Rob Henderson

We don’t need last centuries, centralised, one-size must fit all ideology imposed on a vastly different modern workplace. Alan McDonald

The idea of equal suffrage – equal voting rights, regardless of gender, class and ethnicity – has been a pillar of our democracy for decades. All New Zealanders should have an equal say in who governs them; an equal say in appointing the people that make the decisions that affects their lives.

Equally fundamental to our system is the ability to throw poor performers out at the next election – that is the bedrock accountability in our democracy.  – Paul Goldsmith

If we as a country no longer think that equal voting rights apply at one level of government, pressure will build for change in national elections. – 

We recognise the burden of history, but no past injustices are fixed by undermining something that makes this country the great place it is – preserving the pillars of our open democracy. – Paul Goldsmith

If Jacinda Ardern and her  Ministers no longer think that Kiwis should have equal voting rights, then they should make the case and ask New Zealanders whether they agree.

It would be a constitutional outrage to use a transitory parliamentary majority to set a precedent that changes the nature of our democracy so dramatically, without asking the people first.Paul Goldsmith

The real crime with the incompetency is not only were we all affected in terms of their inability to do their job properly, but the fact we had no choice.

The entire Covid response has been a top down exercise in dictatorship. Rules, regulations, and instructions we had no option but to follow.

In this specific case, the testing was a mess because they refused to recognise RATs, labs and private facilities were screaming out to help, to fill gaps, to provide products, and to solve problems. But no, the Ministry knew best. And yet, they didn’t.

It started at the start of Covid the lack of PPE, it rolled on through the lack of vaccine, the lack of testing, and the lack of beds . – Mike Hosking 

This report this week will be dismissed along with all the other reports that got dismissed. When one day we have the Royal Commission, it’ll find all the same stuff, and that will be dismissed as well.

Where was the anger? Where were the demands to be better? Or do the majority these days just enjoy being shafted by incompetence, hence it’s not really news?   – Mike Hosking 

The Bill of Rights is oft-quoted; however, what people forget, particularly those quoting it in order to engage in yet more undisciplined behaviour, is the consideration of whether it interferes with others’ rights. – Wendy Geus

The wish to avoid evident but uncomfortable truths, and to allow people to maintain their blindness to them, makes it difficult for politicians to speak about the real problems that confront their respective societies. One might almost define truth in these circumstances as that which people wish to evade or do not want to hear about. The wish to preserve a treasured worldview is another reason for blindness to the obvious: We prefer our worldview to the world. Such willful blindness is not confined to one political tendency; it is common to all. It is a human trait.

In the modern world—perhaps in all worlds that have ever existed—blindness becomes institutionalized. The very existence of jobs may depend on not recognizing complex verities. Vested interests are, of course, visible in proportion to the square of the distance from the person perceiving them. Everyone thinks that the pursuit of his own vested interests is simply a manifestation of his own desire to do good in the world.Theodore Dalrymple

 I would give his appointment the charity of my silence. I don’t think he’s the appropriate person to send for any sort of diplomatic role but bigger than that it raises a more serious question,” he told AM Ealy host Bernadine Oliver-Kerby.

“Diplomatic roles and jobs overseas of that nature aren’t there to be political rewards for long-servers. There have been a few of them over the years from both parties I know, I just think it brings that whole question into starker relief that you don’t use a plum appointment overseas as an excuse to bump someone off the scene domestically, that seems to be what has happened. – Peter Dunne

Minus 0.2 pecent is a mess. It was avoidable, it is the result of an astonishing fiscal error from the Government and Reserve Bank, and don’t let them tell you differently. Yes, the war doesn’t help. But neither does money we never had tossed at bollocks and expecting it not to wreck us.Mike Hosking

$337,000 for cutting a ribbon. And you wonder why we are broke. – Mike Hosking

What I know from the real world is the Government gave us $50 billion plus to blow on crap, and blow it we did.

But once we had blown it and we needed to pay for stuff ourselves, the price of everything was rising, and we had to cut back. And when you cut back and 70 percent of your economic activity is in the services sector, guess what happens? You go backwards.Mike Hosking

I don’t blame the forecasters; we all get stuff wrong. But if you can’t see a recession when it’s knocking on your door, if you can’t smell the lack of confidence, then it’s time you got off the whiteboard and walked the streets for a while. – Mike Hosking

Economic growth matters for everyone. It has made people in the United States and other rich countries better off. And it has pulled more than one billion people out of extreme poverty. We also have a pretty good idea of what institutions are required for economic growth. One key factor is free trade. Another, as the comparisons of North and South Korea and East and West Germany show, is a relatively high dose of economic freedom. –  Dr David R. Henderson

Three Waters will bail out those councils who neglected their water infrastructure – and penalise those that didn’t. – Frank Newman

It has become more and more obvious that this Government is not governing for all New Zealanders – this united team of five million is actually a disaffected and dissatisfied group with tensions the worst I have seen for decades. Let’s use this Matariki to find the good. – Paula Bennett

Free speech exists for no other reason than to protect minority views from the tyranny of the majority opinion. A language, which encapsulates the soul of a people, articulates a unique point of view. If a politician wants to offer a heartfelt tribute in this language, and your response is to threaten them, you are no better than the extremist who believes that their political or religious views must dominate the discourse, to the complete exclusion of others. – Dane Giraud

But I say all this to remind you that the free speech battle in Aotearoa will not be won in the courts. It will not even be won by convincing politicians that this central progressive value is of benefit to us all.

It will be won when New Zealanders en masse exhibit the tolerance that should define the populations of all democratic nations. Understanding what was lost by Māori, and supporting efforts to reclaim it, would be a good place to start.Dane Giraud

Restructuring rarely succeeds in achieving sustainable improvements. But the Government instead listened to external consultants who, unsurprisingly, are the biggest beneficiaries of this restructuring.

Health structures were not the cause of the workforce crisis and neither is restructuring the (or part of) solution. This is an ABC of health systems, but one that the Government has failed to grasp. – Ian Powell 

There is no way ‘Team Interim’ (aka Health NZ) will turn this crisis around so it makes a tangible difference to healthcare access before the next election.

But what has made the situation doubly worse is the most incompetent decision I’ve seen made by a government in health – in the middle of a pandemic dismantling the system of provision and delivering healthcare in communities and hospitals and replacing it with an untested alternative which, for some time at least, will have an interim leadership.

By the time of the next election the government will be in no position to blame the workforce crisis on DHBs or the previous government. Labour is trending in the polls towards being under Damocles’ Sword. It will certainly be under it by the time of the election. – Ian Powell 

From the outset, Three Waters has been a damning indictment of the Labour Government. Built on lies and misrepresentations, the whole reform programme is shaping up to be a major election issue in 2023. – Muriel Newman

Whichever way you look at the Three Waters reforms, given there are many different ways central government could help councils upgrade their water infrastructure – including emulating the 50:50 shared funding arrangement they use for local roading – the inevitable conclusion is that the primary motivation for the reforms is Minister Mahuta’s desire to advance the interests of Maori in water. Muriel Newman

This is not democracy, as we know it. This is Jacinda Ardern delivering on yet another He Puapua goal – in this case, tribal control of water.

Since Three Waters will not be fully operational until 2024, it will become a defining election issue: vote Labour for iwi control of water infrastructure and services – or vote for the opposition to ensure local authorities and their communities retain control of this crucial public resource. – Muriel Newman

Treasury helpfully publish statistics on Who pays income tax… and how much? (treasury.govt.nz)

Those figures record that in 2020 (the last year for which figures are available) the top 5% of income earners (some 196,000 individuals – the very people that the Greens are targeting) paid a total of $11.31billion in income tax (out of total income tax of $36.85billion paid by the 3.85million individual taxpayers). 

So the top 5% already pay 31% of all tax paid by individual taxpayers. By contrast, the bottom 74% of income earners (2.84m individuals) pay only $10.95billion, which represents only 29.7% of all tax paid by individuals. 

This means the top 5% are already paying more tax than the bottom three-quarters of taxpayers combined.  – Mark Keating

Every day’s Inbox brings pleas about new and surprising regulatory and policy abominations. The combined efforts of Hercules and Sisyphus would not clear it.

In graduate school, my professor of regulation told the class that even if the most an economist might ever achieve is the delaying of a bad regulation by a few months, the value of that breathing space would easily exceed our lifetime salaries many times over. He also reminded us that we’re all part of the equilibrium – things would be far worse without our labours.

He didn’t warn us that we’d wind up envying Sisyphus.- Eric Crampton

Pick a government department, any government department.

All they’ve done to try and fix deep seated, really big issues within our Government departments is hire communication teams to again adapt the jazz hands approach and just not front, they just will not front and you kind of see why.

How do you explain it? How do you justify?

You can’t, so you refuse interviews and you don’t show. It’s appalling. I don’t know how you fix it.Kerre Woodham

Good to see that after five years in power and months into a plasterboard shortage, the Government has again hit the ground reviewing. – Luke Malpass

It is a human trait to harbour a cherished opinion and then torture evidence and employ rhetorical legerdemain in its support as if it were a conclusion.Theodore Dalrymple

The transformation of what is desirable into a right is the delight of politicians, lawyers and bureaucrats, for the more such rights there are, the more they need to be adjudicated and disputes resolved when there are contradictions between them. Moreover, supposed rights to tangible benefits always raise tempers and the temperature of disputes: for what is more outrageous than a right denied? And once a right is granted or, if you prefer, won after a prolonged struggle, it enters the realm of the untouchable. The period before the right was recognised as such becomes, in the minds of those who believe in it, the equivalent of jahiliyyah in Islamic thought, that is to say the period of ignorance before enlightenment was attained. And in a sense, this is logical: for a right to be a true right, it must always have existed, like America before Columbus, albeit in an ethereal or platonic world. It was simply that no one had discovered it yet, usually as a consequence of the malice of the powerful or of wilful human blindness. – Theodore Dalrymple

Where rights alone determine the permissible, the government, from whom rights to tangible benefits derive, becomes the sole arbiter of conduct. “There is no law against it” becomes “I have a right to do it”, even if “it” is bound to cause the antagonism of others. The only dialogue possible is that of the deaf, sure of their rights, and irresolvable conflict is the result. – Theodore Dalrymple

This government cannot get anything done, it doesn’t matter which portfolio you pick up, they’re actually spending more money, hiring more bureaucrats and getting worse outcomes. – Christopher Luxon

For bureaucrats, procedure is holy, a rite that must be followed come what may, however absurd it may appear to outsiders; a bureaucrat’s superior is a god who must be propitiated.Theodore Dalrymple

The bureaucrat who asks the question out of obedience and fear for his position comes to believe that he’s engaged in important work for social reform. There’s no one as shameless as a bureaucrat following orders who has persuaded himself that those orders are for the good of humanity.

Naturally, he must suppress in himself the inclination and even the ability to laugh. He must have no sense of the absurd. – Theodore Dalrymple

While no one likes to admit to himself that he’s performing worthless tasks merely so that he may continue to collect his salary and eventually his pension, in a situation in which the task is as fatuous as asking a 66-year-old man whether he’s pregnant, a subliminal awareness of its absurdity, at least, must defeat the best attempts at denial. The person of whom such a task is demanded therefore lives in bad faith, at one and the same time demanding that a task be taken seriously and knowing that it’s nothing short of ludicrous.

Such a man, of course, is emasculated; at heart, he despises himself, for he knows that he’s useless or worse than useless (which is why he’s so often touchy and defensive). And that’s also why my detestation of idiotic bureaucracy is tempered by personal pity for the bureaucrat whose work it is.Theodore Dalrymple

That such patent absurdity as I’ve described could actually become inscribed in an important institution, one that’s supposedly dedicated to saving human life, an absurdity that probably met with about as much opposition as a piece of tissue paper offers to a monsoon, is an indication of how thoroughly not only our institutions but also our characters have been rotted. – Theodore Dalrymple

Are we running this country on Blu-Tack and paperclips?

We almost had power cuts again this morning and apparently we need to get used to it because this is just the way our winters are going to be from now on.Heather du Plessis Allan

So is this all women’s fault? No: the decline in opportunities for working-class men isn’t a malign feminist conspiracy, but rather an effect of technological developments. It makes little sense to blame women as a sex for structural material changes that have disadvantaged working-class men. But it makes a great deal of sense to point the finger at knowledge-workers as a class for their efforts to wave away externalities, via a self-righteous ideology that often flies under the banner of feminism. – Mary Harrington

A long way from its roots in the labour movement, progressivism has become a story knowledge-class women tell about why their material interests are good in an absolute moral sense. And once you believe that, you can say with perfect conviction that anyone opposing my class interests is an enemy of progress, and thus is by definition a fascist. And faced with this accusation, we may have difficulty persuading working-class men not to turn their ire, frustration and resentment on women — especially while economic shifts that feel like disastrous decline continue to be narrated by the progressive Left as feminist progress.Mary Harrington

Primary care in New Zealand is falling over … it’s been chronically underfunded by the Government and we’ve tightened and tightened and tightened to keep it on the road. But it is now in the process of falling over right in front of us. – Dr Peter Boot

Is it not the height of hypocrisy to laugh along with the atheists who poke fun at the Christian eucharist, only to recoil in horror from the suggestion that there might be something just a wee bit peculiar about offering-up a cooked meal to a random configuration of stars?

For a country which, historically, has eschewed the very idea of a state religion, isn’t it also a little jarring to hear state broadcasters helpfully instructing New Zealanders on the ways in which their new state-sanctioned religious festival can be appropriately celebrated?Chris Trotter 

At times, it can be surprisingly difficult to see clearly from the ninth floor of the Beehive.

To understand what people are thinking out in regional New Zealand, you have to look past the officials in the office buildings arrayed protectively around the seat of power, past the Wellingtonians with their unique take on life, and most of all, past the preoccupations of your own Cabinet and caucus. – Steven Joyce

In regional New Zealand, the only immigration re-set that’s needed is one that brings people to help sustain and grow their communities. – Steven Joyce

Regional people have watched suspiciously as Wellington takes away their ability to run their local polytech or hospital on the grounds that Wellington knows better, with the unspoken corollary that locals aren’t up to it. – Steven Joyce

Regional businesses fear national pay agreements making it harder to run a niche exporter from places like Gisborne and Invercargill – where such businesses are celebrated and all too thin on the ground. And regional people are sick of hearing about vanity projects in Auckland and Wellington with ridiculous price tags, like bike bridges and light rail.Steven Joyce

Few in the regions are under any illusion that the convoluted spaghetti of governance arrangements has been set up to suit Labour’s Māori caucus and pretty much no-one else.

Good luck working out who to call if your “water service entity” fails to fix a sewer pipe, or a stormwater drain causes a pothole in the road outside your gate. In past times you’d ring the mayor and get it fixed. Now you’ll be given an 0800 number and no way of voting the bastards out. – Steven Joyce

Regional people suspect their interests are being sacrificed for Labour’s internal political needs, and not for the first time. They’ve had a gutsful. Steven Joyce

We’ll make it through winter. We always do. But we’ll do it on the sweat and tears and long hours of Kiwi health workers. And maybe we’ll lose some Kiwis who didn’t need to die if only there were enough nurses and doctors to see them. And Labour will have no excuse for not fixing a problem they knew existed five years ago. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

The health system is in meltdown. Call it a crisis, or don’t. It is collapsing around us.

Healthcare staff are at the end of their rope – undervalued and underpaid for years, the wave of strikes is a cry for help. Most are distressed because they know people will die because they can’t access treatment.

As the system buckles, there is incredulity that Health Minister Andrew Little is pushing ahead with a bureaucratic overhaul. Doctors are being asked to work – unpaid – on groups advising the ministry on how to bed in the new regime. No-one seems to know how it will work – the changes are yet another burden that the workforce cannot absorb.

Instead of prioritising a flow of overseas healthcare workers, or returning normal care to reasonable timeframes, his Ministry is pre-occupied with an administrative rejig. The reforms have their merits and are necessary – but staff say they can wait until this storm passes.Andrea Vance

The entire system requires a rethink – inequalities and uneven access need tackling, and the priority must be prevention, and social care.

But workers are too busy dealing with the immediate crisis. Rather than deal with the long term health of the system, we have no choice but to make do with emergency treatment. – Andrea Vance

Who, then, are ideologists? They are people needy of purpose in life, not in a mundane sense (earning enough to eat or to pay the mortgage, for example) but in the sense of transcendence of the personal, of reassurance that there is something more to existence than existence itself. The desire for transcendence does not occur to many people struggling for a livelihood. Avoiding material failure gives quite sufficient meaning to their lives. By contrast, ideologists have few fears about finding their daily bread. Their difficulty with life is less concrete. Their security gives them the leisure, their education the need, and no doubt their temperament the inclination, to find something above and beyond the flux of daily life.

If this is true, then ideology should flourish where education is widespread, and especially where opportunities are limited for the educated to lose themselves in grand projects, or to take leadership roles to which they believe that their education entitles them. The attractions of ideology are not so much to be found in the state of the world—always lamentable, but sometimes improving, at least in certain respects—but in states of mind. And in many parts of the world, the number of educated people has risen far faster than the capacity of economies to reward them with positions they believe commensurate with their attainments. Even in the most advanced economies, one will always find unhappy educated people searching for the reason that they are not as important as they should be. – Theodore Dalrymple

The need for a simplifying lens that can screen out the intractabilities of life, and of our own lives in particular, springs eternal; and with the demise of Marxism in the West, at least in its most economistic form, a variety of substitute ideologies have arisen from which the disgruntled may choose.

Most started life as legitimate complaints, but as political reforms dealt with reasonable demands, the demands transformed themselves into ideologies, thus illustrating a fact of human psychology: rage is not always proportionate to its occasion but can be a powerful reward in itself. Feminists continued to see every human problem as a manifestation of patriarchy, civil rights activists as a manifestation of racism, homosexual-rights activists as a manifestation of homophobia, anti-globalists as a manifestation of globalization, and radical libertarians as a manifestation of state regulation.

How delightful to have a key to all the miseries, both personal and societal, and to know personal happiness through the single-minded pursuit of an end for the whole of humanity! – Theodore Dalrymple

Some ideologies have the flavor of religion; but the absolute certainty of, say, the Anabaptists of Münster, or of today’s Islamists, is ultimately irreligious, since they claimed or claim to know in the very last detail what God requires of us.

The most popular and widest-ranging ideology in the West today is environmentalism, replacing not only Marxism but all the nationalist and xenophobic ideologies that Benda accused intellectuals of espousing in the 1920s. Now, no one who has suffered respiratory difficulties because of smog, or seen the effects of unrestrained industrial pollution, can be indifferent to the environmental consequences of man’s activities; pure laissez-faire will not do. But it isn’t difficult to spot in environmentalists’ work something more than mere concern with a practical problem. Their writings often show themselves akin to the calls to repentance of seventeenth-century divines in the face of plague epidemics, but with the patina of rationality that every ideology needs to disguise its true source in existential angst.Theodore Dalrymple

The environmentalist ideology threatens to make serious inroads into the rule of law in Britain. This past September, six environmentalists were acquitted of having caused $50,000 worth of damage to a power station—not because they did not do it but because four witnesses, including a Greenlander, testified to the reality of global warming.

One recalls the disastrous 1878 jury acquittal in St. Petersburg of Vera Zasulich for the attempted assassination of General Trepov, on the grounds of the supposed purity of her motives. The acquittal destroyed all hope of establishing the rule of law in Russia and ushered in an age of terrorism that led directly to one of the greatest catastrophes in human history. – Theodore Dalrymple

In the end this sinister drift towards authoritarianism in the name of fairness to Maori has to be sheeted home to the feeble quality of Labour’s current caucus. Did none of that slew of low-level lawyers raise questions about “Te Tiriti” let alone its use in a nation-wide move to undermine our constitution by way of co-governance? And about the semi take-over of the MSM that comes with strings attached to the Public Interest Journalism Fund? Co-governance is contrary to the real Treaty that was signed in 1840, contrary to our Bill of Rights, and to international conventions among those countries that believe in democracy. The Fund is contrary to customary democratic standards that govern the relationship between governments and the MSM outside of authoritarian regimes.Michael Bassett

We’re heading into some worse economic times. I do not expect it will lead to better policy. Rather the opposite. – Dr Eric Crampton

The problem is that while New Zealand is increasingly backing the West, the West is not fully backing New Zealand.

Neither the EU, nor the US are supporting their rhetoric of solidarity and unity with the economic deals New Zealand would need to have a true alternative to China.Geoffrey Miller

There is something not right about the whole Mahuta thing. The Foreign Affairs appointment came so far out of left field it made the Poto Williams appointment look like a stroke of genius.

A person who hates flying but is Foreign Affairs Minister. A person who has barely travelled post Covid, telling us the Pacific is fine and we can wait until the Pacific Leaders Forum next month while the Chinese park themselves locally aiming to achieve God knows what, and Penny Wong on a plane most days to try and mop up the potential damage.

There is a power struggle between the Prime Minister and the Māori caucus. There can be no other explanation for the ridiculous defence over a Minister who is low profile, work shy, and letting her portfolios down.- Mike Hosking

The Australians call it the pub test. Does the fact Mahuta’s husband and other family members getting money for contracts pass the pub test? A simple and easy no. Does the fact family members receive high-powered appointments pass the pub test? The answer is a simple and easy no.

The amount of money so far doesn’t appear to be massive but that’s not the point. The question that needs to be asked and answered is, do the jobs and the contracts go to people in the Mahuta family who offer skills experience and expertise that no one else can offer? The answer is an obvious no.Mike Hosking

The whole Mahuta thing stinks. It should never have happened, and they should have been smart enough to know that.

And yet here we are, more mess, more murk, and more reputational damage. – Mike Hosking

But the world has changed since the 1990s, and it’s changed in a way that makes republicanism seem a lot less attractive. For the past 15 years the 21st century has experienced a “democratic recession”: a global decline of liberal democracy, a widespread failure of liberal and democratic institutions. And almost all of this democratic backsliding has taken place in republics: Turkey, the Philippines, Venezuela, Brazil, the ex-communist republics of central and eastern Europe. Even the US system looks shaky. And they’ve failed, or are failing in exactly the way liberal theorists who favour constitutional monarchies predicted they would: via “autocoups” in which an authoritarian leader wins the presidency and then takes over the country, arresting the opposition, deposing judges, postponing elections, taking over the police and armed forces.  –

Under a constitutional monarchy the presidential role is split out into a ceremonial head of state with almost no political power, and the executive that has power but is legitimised by the monarch. You can’t contest the monarchy because it’s hereditary, and when there’s a legitimacy crisis or a constitutional crisis over who controls the executive, all of the politicians, soldiers and police have sworn to obey the monarch, not the head of government. And the monarch can play no role other than to direct them to serve the legitimately elected government, or for the country to hold new elections. They’re the apolitical actor at the apex of the political system.

During the late 20th century, this extra level of stability seemed superfluous: it prevented coups the same way Lisa Simpson’s rock “kept tigers away”. In the 2020s it looks as if this form of liberal democracy really is more stable. Most of the peer nations we like to compare ourselves to – your Canadas and Australias and Denmarks and Swedens and Norways and Japans – use the same system, and seem in no hurry to change it.  –

The constitutional monarchy is not a perfect system: if the UK’s monarch or presumptive heir looked like Edward VIII, or Thailand’s Rama IX, or Prince Andrew, we’d probably be looking for the exit and a new head of state (King Richie? First Citizen Swarbrick? We’d figure it out). But in the absence of any such crisis it’s no longer obvious that the republican model is inevitable, or even desirable. Our current system is not broken and may be far better than the alternatives. Republicanism is not the solution to any of our current problems, and it may create terrible problems of its own. Danyl Mclauchlan

I’m not interested in importing cultural wars into New Zealand. We have a much bigger agenda at play, which is that we have a great country, we have to realise our potential. We’re heading in the wrong direction. – Christopher Luxon

Throughout my electorate, Parliament, and the places I go in between, food and fuel prices are the biggest topics of conversation.

Given what I do, talks quickly turn to another F word — failure.

Failure by the Government to do anything remotely useful to address the crisis we’re all living in.Barbara Kuriger

Co-governance. Partnership. The unrelenting quest to try to refashion the New Zealand Diceyan unwritten Constitution (one of the modern world’s most successful ever, as it happens) into something else never quite specified, and to do so on the basis of a UN declaration that has the most scanty, exiguous, meagre democratic credentials imaginable. A government with a seemingly pathological desire to downgrade the English language (the world’s reserve language, meaning that to have been born into a country where it is the first language is akin – through no acts on your part, just dumb luck – to having won the biggest lottery going) in favour of the Maori language. Identity politics and the elevation of ethnic or group or race-based thinking and policy-making. After having just returned to Australia from a four-day speaking tour across the Tasman arguing against a radical government report, all this and more would unfortunately describe my observations of New Zealand, the country my family and I happily called home from 1993 to 2004. – James Allan

That government-commissioned report I was asked to critique and flown across the Tasman to speak about wants Aotearoa (what else?) to move away from procedural democracy to a ‘co-governance’ or partnership model – one where about 15 per cent of the population are put into one group and everyone else into the other and the former counted as equal to the latter, with an implicit veto on decision-making. That’s identity politics writ large, though in my view no 15-can-veto-85 setup is stable or sustainable (but what do I know, I never guessed Australians during the pandemic would submit sheep-like to the biggest inroads on our freedoms and civil liberties in three centuries, the preponderance of my fellow citizens seemingly welcoming despotic, petty, irrational rules and oversight by a public health clerisy which got just about everything wrong, we now see). Throw in the desire for a written constitution with that U.N. Declaration and an early nineteenth century short treaty stuffed into it – and surely with the unelected Kiwi judges then empowered to gainsay the elected branches on the basis of both – and you have the idea of the path down which this Ardern government is thinking of travelling. James Allan

The science and scientific approach that has delivered the most spectacular increases in human welfare from which all New Zealanders benefit – derisively dubbed ‘Western science’ – is to be put on the same plane as ‘traditional knowledge’? For this report to suggest that somehow this scientific worldview is tainted due to where it emerged in the world, and that it offers no better answers (in medicine, in food production, in international travel, pick any field you want) than so-called traditional knowledge does, is laughable. The claim, one that is likewise advanced regularly here in Australia by the way, can only be put forward because most people are too polite, actually, to laugh. (Test question: If the authors of this radical report were to get very ill, would they opt for ‘Western’ scientific medicine or traditional concoctions? I’ve got a theory on that one.)

Readers, it’s time a lot more of us started to laugh. And to grow a backbone. That goes doubly for my Kiwi friends. – James Allan

And now, with the apparent prospect of a food shortage worldwide – although New Zealand should be well placed as an agriculturally productive country – the selling of prime agricultural land to those planting pine plantations to eventually replace fossil fuels is folly. So is the ridiculous, punitive decision to now tax farmers for the supposed contribution of their livestock to global warming.

Moreover, the fanatical Climate Change Commission and Ministry for the Environment have both confirmed that the current emissions reduction targets have been envisioned to go much further, requiring farmers to help offset warming produced by other sectors of the economy. The damage to this vital industry will very likely drive many out of business. Yet there has not been a single scientific model of agriculture’s warming effect made publicly available.Amy Brooke 


Vacancy for Nat president

23/06/2022

National Party president Peter Goodfellow has announced he will retire from the role at the AGM, creating a vacancy for the role.

In an email to members he said he would seek re-election for one more year as a director but would not be seeking re-election as president.

He had planned to retire in 2016 but following John Key’s resignation as leader he decided to stay on to help ensure a stable transition of leadership and for the following year’s election campaign.

He was been president for some of the party’s highest points and some of its lowest.

He oversaw some significant changes to the party’s constitution which were confirmed at last year’s AGM,  including a more rigorous candidate selection process and a limit on the number of terms a board member could serve.

The party’s dismal poll results have been reversed with the election of Christopher Luxon as leader and Peter is standing down at a good time for his replacement to take the reins with more or less a year until the next election.


Backwards Budget

20/05/2022

The National Party leader labelled yesterday’s Budget a Backwards Budget:

Budget 2022 confirms that New Zealand is going backwards under Labour faster than ever, Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon says.

“This is the Backwards Budget. Kiwis, the economy and outcomes are all going backwards under Labour and today’s forecasts confirm the situation is only going to get worse before it gets better.

“Labour’s spending addiction means the books are going backward. Not content with a $6 billion spending spree, they’ve also raided future budgets – spending $2 billion from Budget 2023 and $0.4 billion from Budget 2024. And that’s before you count climate spending and the cost of living bandaid – which are on top.

They’re pushing out surpluses and shifting the goal posts to clear the way for more spending by lifting debt limits.

“With inflation at a 30-year-high and prices running laps around wages, Kiwis are experiencing the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. The forecasts today show inflation is rampant for years to come.

“More and more Kiwis are falling behind each week, squeezed by growing costs and a Government that refuses to offer them meaningful income tax relief while ramming through the biggest spend-up in New Zealand history.

“Labour’s cost of living package is a temporary band aid. The squeezed middle are paying the price for Labour’s economic mismanagement.

“And despite smashing the record for government spending, outcomes are going backwards. They’ve added more than 10,000 bureaucrats to the public service, yet outcomes are getting worse.

“Under Labour, wait times for surgery and specialist assessments have blown out, literacy and numeracy achievement rates have hit alarming lows and violent crime and gang numbers have exploded.

“New Zealand is going backwards, fast. We simply cannot afford this Labour Government.”

A transcript of his Budget speech is here.

 We’ve got inflation now at just under 7 percent, we’ve got wage growth only at 3, and that means all Kiwis are going back faster than they’ve been going in the last three decades. Mortgage costs are up because interest rates are up, rents are up $150, food prices are up the highest they’ve been in over a decade, and petrol is up over $3 a litre. And I can tell you, Kiwis up and down this country are feeling that pain. And this Budget will be putting Kiwis backwards into the future. . .

So let me be really clear: the cost-of-living package that this Government announced in the Budget today is just a band-aid on a major wound. It’s a band-aid. They deny that there was, in fact, even a cost-of-living crisis for a long period of time, and now they’ve added a temporary band-aid, which just runs out after three months. And I can tell you, what we just saw was inflation’s going to be running at 3 percent right out to 2025, so Grant Robertson’s big solution to the current cost-of-living crisis is a temporary payment to a small group of people. And I have to tell you: if you’re earning $71,000 a year, you get nothing.

And that means nobody on the average wage gets a cost-of-living payment, because these are the people that would have benefitted from income relief through a very good, sensible, logical plan—our plan, which was just say, “Take the current progressive tax system, and in fairness, why don’t you just live the tax thresholds up by the amount of inflation? And an average Kiwi household would have had $1,600 a year to fight this cost-of-living crisis that they’re facing.” But Grant Robertson said, “No.” And why did he say, “No.”? Because the dirty little secret is that inflation, while it destroys savings, it destroys people’s purchasing power, and it gets into an economy. The dirty little secret is that inflation helps Grant Robertson. Why? Because he’s collected $17 billion more in tax revenue because, as prices go up, taxes go up. And Grant Robertson, as we know, is utterly, totally addicted to spending, and that means that he won’t let Kiwis keep a single cent of their own money, because he thinks he can spend it better than them. And on this side of the House, we know Kiwis with cash in their pocket will spend it and save it a lot better than Grant Robertson. . . 

Let me lay out the facts on why the books are going backwards, because it is very, very important that Kiwis register what has gone on here today because of the economic mismanagement and the lack of economic leadership from this Government. Kiwis up and down this country are tightening their belts at their kitchen tables. They are doing it. Grant Robertson should be doing exactly the same, but he’s not. And what we have seen from this Government is a loss of a culture of financial discipline. We’ve seen a loss of targets. They don’t care about every single dollar being spent as if it’s their own, and they should because it’s not their money—it’s taxpayers’ money. But I’m telling you, Grant Robertson has a problem, and his problem is that he is so deeply and utterly addicted to spending, and I want to say that the impact of his addiction on our fiscal books is incredibly clear, and when you think about it, he’s damaging New Zealand’s economy very strongly. This is—be under no doubt—a massive Budget blowout.

This Government—and I want to just step it through—has increased Government spending since coming to power by 67 percent. You haven’t seen a 67 percent improvement in outcomes or services. And, consequently, we’re spending $127 billion this year in Government spending. That is unprecedented, and that is $51 billion more this year than it was in 2017—$51 billion dollars more. And now, let’s just look at this year, because Grant Robertson said he would spend $6 billion in the biggest Budget spend-up in the history of New Zealand, and he’s actually spending far, far more than that. And I want to take the House and the country through this because it’s actually really important everybody understands what’s going on, because he’s trying to make out that he’s fiscally prudent. And the reality is he’s more addicted to spending than he’s ever been before. There’s the $6 billion he’s already announced, and then you have to remember, earlier in the week, he spent $3 billion from the Climate Emergency Response Fund, earlier in the week—a lot on Labour projects and buzz words and strategies and plans and plans for plans. . . 

 For you to spend money and to deliver outcomes, there’s something in the middle called “implementation, execution, delivery”. Those are the things you need to do. But if you haven’t run anything, you don’t know how to get things done, and that’s exactly the story of all of this front bench: they don’t know how to convert the spending into outcomes. And you can pick any topic you want—any portfolio you want—and you’re going to see a consistent pattern: more spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes. 

Let me give you an example; let’s take Chris Hipkins and education because, without doubt, that’s the most damning set of stats I’ve seen since I’ve come into politics, and to this place, 18 months ago. He spent $5 billion more, hired 1,400 more staff—staff earning $120,000 or more has tripled—and yet we have less kids attending school, and we have worse academic outcomes. What we’ve got from Chris Hipkins is more spending, more bureaucrats, and worse outcomes.

Let’s look at Megan Woods and housing, because, if you remember something called KiwiBuild—remember KiwiBuild?—we don’t talk about it anymore, but the flagship KiwiBuild; only delivering 1.3 percent of the promised 100,000 houses. But, even if we put that aside, just think about the four outcomes you actually have to deliver in housing: house prices are up $400,000; rents are up $150; there’s a quadrupling—a fourfold increase—of people wanting a State house; and, sadly, this morning, 4,500 kids woke up in a motel in emergency accommodation. So what I’ve got to say is that from Megan Woods, we’ve seen more spending, more bureaucrats, and worse outcomes.

Let’s talk about Kris Faafoi, because he’s probably going to wake up now. He spent an extra $150 million. He’s hired another 500 people and, on every single visa processing, the wait time has got even longer. What is that? More spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes.

I want to talk about Kelvin Davis just quickly, because we should talk about Kelvin and Corrections. He spent $139 million. He increased the back office staff of Corrections by 50 percent, and then those prisoners that desperately need alcohol and drug rehabilitation services dropped from just over 6,000 down to 1,000. More spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes.

I really want to talk about Michael Wood and transport—that’s the one I really want to get to, because who would have thought that an $800 million bike bridge across the Waitematā was a killer idea? Brilliant idea. And then you go and spend $55 million on consultants looking at it, and then we’re still hiring an empty office building on Auckland’s waterfront to run a cancelled project for $600,000. He’s tripled the communications staff, we’ve had a tenfold increase in those that are paid over $100,000, and even then they still can’t communicate why you need two props of zeroes for $10,000. I mean, you honestly can’t make this stuff up, and I could go through every single portfolio and the story’s the same: more spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes. They don’t know how to get things done.

I just want you to take yourselves back two weeks ago because, two weeks ago, Andrew Little came to this House, and he stood up, and he realised he had a problem with wait-lists on health. And he had a cunning idea, I thought, you know, because the reality is this: there’s been a fifteenfold increase in people waiting more than four months for their first specialist appointment, and that was from when they came to power before COVID in February 2020, and it’s only got worse since then. Anyway, so Andrew Little came to the House and he said, “Look, I can’t just go and create another working group, because that’s what we used to do. We spent nine years in Opposition, we had no ideas, we arrived in Government on day one and we formed 230 plus working groups.” Now, we lost count of them but that’s what they did. So he didn’t just create a working group; he thought about it a bit more and he created what we call a “task force”. That was task force. And the great thing about a task force—this wasn’t just a normal task force, or a bog-standard task force; no, this was a “high-powered task force”, OK. [Cheers from Opposition members] . . .

In closing, let me say that New Zealanders deserve far more than this Government has delivered. Labour has taken so much in taxes, they’ve added so much debt, and they’ve spent so much money, but yet they have delivered so little in public services and outcomes. And this is indeed, sadly, the “backwards Budget”. The books are going backwards, Kiwi households are going backwards, the outcomes are going backwards, and, sadly, the country’s going backwards and we’re heading in the wrong direction. New Zealanders deserve a Government focused on outcomes and getting things done, that listens and works with communities and businesses to do so, and we’re going to do that in the National Party Government that we lead. We do live in the best country on planet Earth. I’m optimistic about New Zealand. I believe we can do so much better than this. I want us to be confident. I want us to be aspirational. I want us to be ambitious. I want us realising our maximum potential—economically, socially, and environmentally. And that’s what New Zealanders can expect, and that’s what they’ll get with a National Government in 2023. Thank you. . . 

 

Nicola Willis says government spending is out of control:

Budget 2022 confirms Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s spending is out of control, National’s Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“Not content with a record $6 billion per year spending spree that he planned, Labour has raided future budgets – spending $2 billion from Budget 2023 and $0.4 billion from Budget 2024.

“That’s before you count climate spending and the cost of living payment – which are on top, taking the total spend-up to more than $9 billion per year of government spending.

“At a time when unemployment is very low, Grant Robertson is running a deficit of $19 billion.

“Having announced by far the biggest increase in spending in any Budget, ever, Grant Robertson expects New Zealanders to believe that he will keep his increases to $2.5 billion for the next two years. That is hard to believe.

“Inflation is at a 30-year high of 6.9 per cent, will remain above 5 per cent next year and is expected to stay high for years, not getting back down to below 3 per cent until 2025.

“While Labour might want to blame inflation all on offshore factors, Treasury has confirmed that inflation is being driven by domestic factors.

“Today’s forecast confirm that Labour’s economic mismanagement means Kiwis, the economy and outcomes are all going backwards.” 

The Taxpayers’ Union echoes the backwards theme, recalling Rob Muldoon:

Grant Robertson is the first Minister of Finance since Muldoon to fail to deliver a budget suplus during a time of economic boom, says the Taxpayers’ Union, commenting from today’s Budget 2022 Beehive lockup.

“With Government revenues booming, it is stunning that Grant Robertson has failed to deliver either tax relief or a surplus,” says Jordan Williams, the Executive Director of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

“The spike to inflation has seen record revenue flooding into the Beehive due to workers paying higher income tax rates and more GST. But despite the inflation, the lowest unemployment since records began, the end of COVID lockdowns, and better than expected economic numbers, Grant Robertson has actually pushed back the return to surplus.”

“It is stunning that, during a cost of living crisis, Grant Robertson has failed to give back any of his windfall gain to the workers who earned it. His failure to deliver either income tax relief or a balanced budget beggars belief: while households tighten belts, Wellington balloons.”

“With Government revenues as strong as they are, the Finance Minister could have today announced both income tax relief and a surplus. Instead, he’s decided to feast on the revenue with a laundry list of spending commitments.”

“The temporary $27-per week ‘cost of living’ payment is a cruel joke. Unlike genuine tax relief, it fails to improve productivity incentives. It’s just a three month handout, and an ineffective one at that. At current prices, it wouldn’t even buy two blocks of cheese!”

“The only silver lining is pushing back by three months the hike to petrol taxes and Road User Charges. With inflation running at 6.9%, the hike to petrol taxes should have been squashed permanently”

And in a touch of irony:

The figures match but a change in tax brackets would continue for much more than the three months the $27 a week will; and the change in tax brackets would help people across the board, not just those earning less than $70,000, excluding superannuitants and beneficiaries.


Redpeace hates cows

17/05/2022

When raging inflation and high debt requires the government to spend every cent wisely, its Emissions Reduction Plan falls short:

National supports the Government’s emissions budgets and emissions targets but is concerned that today’s Emissions Reduction Plan is a poor use of taxpayers’ money, says Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon says.

“We support the goal of reducing emissions in the economy, but see little evidence that this Government will be able to deliver.

“Too much of the new spending will go to corporate welfare and more working groups.

“The Government is proposing to give hundreds of millions of dollars to companies for investments they should be making anyway.

“We expect those companies to be cutting their emissions without help from taxpayers. A significant part of the Government’s plan looks like a corporate carbon bailout.

“There are elements of the plan that we welcome, including investment in research to reduce agriculture emissions and in expanding options for carbons sinks including native forests and blue carbon.

“However, much of the plan lacks the details we would expect to see after more than two years of work.

“This plan is classic Labour. In the middle of a cost of living crisis, Grant Robertson’s big idea is to spend millions of dollars for more consultants, more working groups, and poorly focused initiatives, with no real milestones for success.

“It is disappointing to see poor quality spending and corporate welfare at a time when New Zealanders’ back pockets are hurting and they want assurance their money is being carefully spent.

“Today’s plan will only add to the perception that this Government talks a big game but does not deliver – whether for the climate or housing or mental health or anything else.”

The Taxpayers’ Union makes a similar point about misspending:

James Shaw is exploiting the commentariat’s failure to understand the Emissions Trading Scheme in order to justify costly middle class welfare and handouts for big business, says Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke.

On cash for clunkers:

“This is brazen middle class welfare dressed up as climate action,” says Mr Houlbrooke. “Giving a fat cash enticement for New Zealanders to switch to electric vehicles is unlikely to benefit poorer households, who will not be in the market for an electric vehicle (even a subsidised one). In fact, scrapping used cars will drive up costs for the poor due to reduced supply in the used market.”

“When this policy was tried in the US, it mainly ended up subsidising purchases that would have happened anyway.”

On corporate welfare:

“Shaw has announced he’s sloshing another $650 million into the ‘decarbonising industry’ corporate welfare fund. This is the pot of money that has seen millions handed over to the likes of Silver Fern Farms, ANZCO, and DB Breweries so that they can upgrade their heating systems. Smaller competitors never seem to get a look in. Regardless, as we have previously pointed out, the funding is redundant: based on the Government’s own numbers, big businesses already have a strong enough incentive to replace boilers and avoid ETS levies.”

Handouts from the GIDI fund so far can be browsed here: Round 1Round 2Round 3.

On the elephant in the room:

“The vast majority of interventions announced today will fail to reduce emissions. That’s because, outside of agriculture, New Zealand’s emissions are capped and traded under the Emissions Trading Scheme. Interventions to force down emissions in say, transport, merely free up carbon credits to be burnt in other sectors.”

“As the United Nations’ IPCC put it: if a cap-and- trade system has a sufficiently stringent cap then other policies such as renewable subsidies have no further impact on total greenhouse emissions. Why does James Shaw think he knows better than the UN’s international climate experts? Of course, simply using the ETS to efficiently reduce emissions would make for fewer announcements and fewer photo-ops with schoolkids, cycleways, and electric vehicles.”

Once again the government shows it doesn’t understand the ETS and the waterbed effect of reductions of emissions in one area allowing increases in another for no net improvement.

However, there is some good in the Emissions Reduction Plan:

Federated Farmers is pleased the government has recognised solutions to agricultural emissions lie in new technologies and tools, and is stepping up investment on that front.

“Nitrate and methane inhibitors, gene editing, animals bred for their lower methane ‘burping’ – they’re the kind of advances that will enable New Zealand’s farming sector to continue to perform for the nation’s economy while maintaining our world-leading meat and dairy carbon footprint,” Feds President and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

It will be important to understand how the proposed new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions fits with existing bodies such as the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, the Pastoral GHG Research Consortium (PGGRC) and the international bodies New Zealand partners with, such as the Global Research Alliance.

“New Zealand farmers have been funding millions of dollars into greenhouse gas mitigation tools since 2003 via the PGGRC,” Andrew said.

Do we need another organisation when all of these are already doing good work?

It will also be crucial that our regulatory framework is worked on at the same time as acceleration of research and commercialisation of these tools “so that when they’re ready, we can get on with using them.

“At present there is no category to register feed inhibitors for use on our farms, for example,” Andrew said.

“And Feds again make the point we’ve made many times previously – serious investigation and society-wide discussion is needed on the role genetic technologies – particular gene editing – can play in the thorny environmental issues confronting us. Feds supports giving food producers and consumers the choice with gene editing technology.

“If we are not open to all solutions, we risk losing our world-leading emissions footprint as other countries embrace the innovation we are ignoring.”

Andrew said those who continue to claim the answer lies in just cutting fertiliser and going totally organic need to look at what has just happened in Sri Lanka. “That’s the short-sighted path that nation’s government pursued and now they’re in a food and economic crisis they’re desperate to reverse and get back to where they were.”

That short-sighted path is the one that GreenRedpeace wants:

Greenpeace has dubbed the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan an ‘Omissions Ridiculous Plan’, for its failure to address New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter – the dairy industry.

Lead agriculture campaigner Christine Rose says, “Intensive dairying is the number one cause of climate pollution in Aotearoa, so it’s absolutely staggering to see that the Emissions Reduction Plan fails to include policy that would reduce cow numbers or phase out the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser that drives emissions.””This Emissions Reduction plan is not credible because it fails to deal with the dirty great cow in the room – New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter – intensive dairy,” says Rose.

Where’s the evidence that cows are the number one cause of climate pollution. Does Redpeace understand the difference between methane and CO2?

Despite initial Climate Commission recommendations that New Zealand needed to reduce the livestock herd and area farmed, the Government has not included these policies in the plan. Other nations have been taking such steps, including the Netherlands which plans to cut the herd by 30% by 2030.

The Netherlands aren’t nearly as efficient at producing milk as we are, nor is dairying such a big part of their economy.

The Government’s projections show the ERP will reduce agricultural emissions by as little as 0.33 Mt CO2e over the 2022-2025 period which is less than 1% of the industry’s projected emissions.

The ERP’s approach to agriculture relies heavily on industry self-regulation – through He Waka Eke Noa – which is also expected to reduce emissions by only 1%.

“Instead of just cutting cow numbers, the Government is relying on industry promises, hypothetical, and unproven techno-fixes to agricultural emissions, and the freshwater reforms that the dairy industry is undermining at every step,” says Rose.

The Emissions Reduction Plan gifts $710 million to the agricultural industry – a quarter of the entire Climate Emergency Response Fund which it has not contributed towards.

“Despite the climate emergency, industrial dairy has yet again been given a free pass that now comes with a huge subsidy from the rest of New Zealand.

“This is a kick in the guts for New Zealanders who are effectively subsidising the intensive dairy industry due to the industry’s exemption from the ETS.

“To truly deal with the climate crisis the Government needs a far better plan than they have produced today. A plan that cuts cow numbers, phases out synthetic fertiliser and drives the transition to more plant-based regenerative organic farming,” says Rose. 

Can Redpeace present any reputable science backing their prescription as being both better for the environment and sustainable?

How expensive does Redpeace want food to become?

How much a reduction in export income and consequent reduction in living standards does Redpeace think is acceptable?

The organisation probably hasn’t considered those questions and wouldn’t be interested in the answers.

The diatribe above shows, it simply hates cows, doesn’t care that fewer cows here would lead to more cows elsewhere, where production is much less efficient, and has no idea that the high social and economic costs of its policy would do little for emissions here and lead to an increase globally.


Majority want to keep own money

05/05/2022

More than two thirds of New Zealanders want to keep more of their own money:

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll has found an overwhelming majority want a tax cut from the Finance Minister in this year’s Budget 2022. 

Labour’s dramatic drop in Newshub’s poll has the party under pressure and it’s showing. Meanwhile, the National Party is celebrating.  . . 

The poll put National ahead of Labour. It’s only one poll but does continue the trend of National support growing while Labour’s falls.

It gets worse for Labour because the poll also showed overwhelming support for tax cuts.

It’s bad news for them though, because the Finance Minister appears allergic to the idea. But perhaps the latest results of the Newshub-Reid Research poll will make him reconsider.

It asked: Do you think the Government should give New Zealanders a tax cut in the upcoming May Budget?

A clear majority – 68.7 percent – say yes, hand back over the cash, while only 23.7 percent said no. Even a majority of Labour voters – 54.2 percent – want a tax cut, with 35.7 percent saying no. 

But it’s not going to happen. 

“We do not agree that tax cuts that favour those who earn the most are the priority right now,” Robertson said in Parliament on Wednesday.

The political pressure is piling on from National.

“Kiwis are doing it incredibly tough in this cost of living crisis because of inflation and really what we want to do is be able to give more of their money back to them to spend and save it as they wish,” National leader Christopher Luxon said. .

That’s an important point.

This isn’t the government’s money, it’s the earnings of the people and it’s no surprise they want to keep a bit more of it.

Having the government which is wasting so much taking more of what you earn, or keeping a little more of your own money?

No contest.


Quotes of the month

02/05/2022

Personally, I believe you don’t need two systems to deliver public services, you need a single system that has enough innovation to target for people on the basis of need. – Christopher Luxon

None of the demands of the new left stray from the culture into the material, they are all about flags, statues, word changes, date changes, forced declarations and compelled pronoun announcements, all shielding privilege in virtue. The new green movement’s aim to consolidate international power to control energy production doesn’t seem at all suspicious to the new lefties, I can tell you the old left would have had some bells going off. Edie Wyatt

This agenda to create an elite New Zealand ethnic group is racist, its undemocratic, its destructive, it has no mandate from the people and its directly opposed to the true and communicated intent of Treaty, so to stand against it is a 100% morally defendable position, so stand and do whatever you can, no matter how little. – John Franklin

I was not much surprised after the continual fanatical research by the Thought Police, to read that the Declaration of Independence being displayed at the National Archives in Washington has now attracted a ‘trigger warning’ on one of the original copies. How could we even hope that those resounding words: ‘ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’  would be acceptable in these days of endless virtuous Thought Correction. Valerie Davies

Liberal thinking, modern concepts of liberty, equality, and diversity, whether in terms of race or gender, were not common in previous ages, so most of the great classics, though they often helped to push the boundaries of thought in all these things, are doomed, I fear.

Literature, described by one writer, as the ‘logbook of the human race,’ will struggle to exist if the woke mobs have their say – and history and theories that enlighten and educate and shift our thought processes, and initiate new paradigms. The creativity of uncensored minds is what leads  civilisation and lifts it to greater heights..

Power corrupts, and the power of virtue signallers of all colours seems to have brought about the disgrace and cancelling of numerous forward looking thinkers, of established and reputable writers like JK Rowling, and even of ordinary people who posses the common sense to see things in  perspective and the courage to speak out, and who lose their jobs and reputations as a result of this persecution. – Valerie Davies

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this sort of censorship is the way employees of publishers now seem to hold the upper hand, and refuse to work if they don’t like the content of a book, so that publishers and writers are intimidated. They have become fearful of publishing or writing any book which doesn’t conform to the guidelines of the new groups who demand that we all think like they do.  Valerie Davies

Not only does this sort of policing of our minds and thoughts have terrible similarities both with the Nazi era, and the unforgivable brain washing of the Russian population during this latest unspeakable war, but it also limits the creativity and diversity of thought by which a society itself expands its perceptions, and explores the further reaches of thought and creativity, and the possibilities of the human spirit.

It’s called gaslighting when a person undermines the feelings of another person, making them feel that their feelings have no validity and don’t matter. What is happening to our history, to our literature, to our culture, is another form of gaslighting, which can also be described as bullying. – Valerie Davies

I wish it was different, I wish we had a better leadership, I wish we had more hope and more optimism, and I wish we had people running this place that were just a little bit in touch with the real world.Mike Hosking

One of the criticisms this government faces — and has faced often — is that there is little substance to their policies and at times, little rationale for their decision-making.

There is certainly very little transparency in terms of what’s shaping their thinking, what the intended outcome is, and why they’ve have taken the position they have.  – Rachel Smalley

Forcing local councils into toothless submission via far-reaching national policy directives and rushed legislative change is becoming a familiar refrain. Mike Yardley

Language is central in the culture wars and if you invalidate the words that enable people to articulate their concerns, you strip them of an essential weapon. By characterising users of terms such as “woke” and “political correctness” as alarmist, out of touch and jumping at their own shadows, the neo-Marxist Left seeks to minimise the implications of its radical agenda. The perception that New Zealand democracy is being systematically dismantled as part of a grand ideological project can then be presented as a figment of fevered right-wing imaginations.

Conservative New Zealanders tend to be reticent at the best of times, and are even more likely to keep their views to themselves if they fear being ridiculed for using the wrong words.  – Karl du Fresne

The lesson that arises, which is of acute relevance to the co-governance debate, is that reasonable public consideration of important issues will not take place if it is constrained by a framework constructed by politicians. All that ensures is that the outcome of any such consultation is shaped and ultimately decided according to the partisan political lines dominant at the time.Peter Dunne

The job of the fourth estate is not to take a position and tell anyone what to believe; it is to ask questions and report the answers, and investigate as far as possible and report evidence that may show whether those answers are truthful and comprehensive.

In other words, journalists are not endowed with special powers of insight by dint of their profession – though some may be uncommonly perceptive – and they should not be expected to take either a particularly antagonistic or obsequious stance in order to be seen to be doing their job well. – Andrew Barnes

When people feel afraid, when downtowns are no-go zones when police aren’t there to be seen when Kāinga Ora evicts no one despite the threats to blow you up or burn your house down when you curtail your lifestyle because of fear, and perhaps worst of all when your Government fails to accept any of it is true, just how long can you go rejecting the premise of the question before you are rejecting it from the opposition benches? Mike Hosking

For the record, I was a lousy public servant. Truly. I was the worst of the worst. I was eternally frustrated by the glacial pace of progress, the bureaucracy, the obsession with tiers and titles, a sector-wide fear of ministers, the Wellington-centric view of New Zealand, and the level of waste. – Rachel Smalley

This week, I wondered if the Government had learned anything from KiwiBuild.

Some of its decision-making continues to feel hasty, off-the-cuff, and lacking in strategy and substance. Remember the public sector pay-freeze in the middle of a pandemic? The policy around hate speech that neither Kris Faafoi nor Jacinda Ardern could articulate? The bungled border decisions that left Kiwis stranded overseas? And the little-scrutinised major health reforms announced almost a year ago. – Rachel Smalley

The July deadline is fast approaching and the CEOs of the country’s 20 DHBs have limited insight into what August will look like. In fact, Health NZ is yet to confirm an operating model.

It feels like KiwiBuild all over again. Health NZ began with a big announcement, but there is little substance behind it. The Ministry of Housing & Urban Development couldn’t wait to offload KiwiBuild to Kāinga Ora to manage, and Bloomfield may have timed his exit to avoid having to deal with the inevitable Health NZ mess.

The origins of major reform may lie with ideology, but they must be built on strategy and ‘real world’ thinking. – Rachel Smalley

At universities there has been a strong trend towards what is called “no platforming”, a concept that argues “platforms” shouldn’t be provided for harmful or wrong ideas and debates. It’s essentially the concept of “banning” bad ideas from being available. This concept has led to several speakers and ideas being kept off New Zealand campuses. Not only that, but it has also sent a strong message to academics about the possibility of being “called out” or marginalised if they don’t conform to orthodox views. – Bryce Edwards

In a sense, the left has swung from one extreme in the 20th century, when everything was about economics and class (and important issues around gender and ethnicity were not given their due focus) to one where the focus is much more on culturalist and identity politics. – Bryce Edwards

The modern version of the left – or the “liberal left” – has different ways of pursuing political change. Largely it’s an elite, top-down model of politics, reflective of the left being made up of the highly educated stratum of society. They confidently believe that they know best.

This elite leftwing approach is very compatible with a more censorious approach to politics and that partly explains the authoritarian impulses we are seeing today. – Bryce Edwards

The rise of “culture wars” has been incredibly important for shaping the political atmosphere we are currently in. Rather than debate and discussion, or finding a middle ground, it’s more polarising – with both conservatives and liberals focusing more on personalities. For example, from the left we see widespread labelling of opponents as racists or sexists. There is now a sneering tendency on the left – especially at those who are seen as socially backward.Bryce Edwards

One logical consequence for many on the left is to take an approach of “language policing” and concern for “cultural etiquette”, in an almost Victorian way. Again, this is topsy-turvy – it used to be the conservative or rightwing side of politics that was concerned with policing people’s behaviour, and looking down on the less educated and enlightened.

The contemporary left has a mistrust in the ability of society to make the right decisions or to understand the world. In an elitist way, many on the progressive side of politics view the public as being ignorant or lacking enlightenment. Hence, the view of gender or ethnic inequality or oppression is often understood as something to do with personal behaviour and “bad ideas” (racism, sexism, homophobia) – rather than a fundamental part of how our society is structured. – Bryce Edwards

I think what people would say about me is that I play politics like I played sport.

I mean when I got the ball in rugby, I ran it up the guts. That’s the truth. Because for me if you want to achieve something you look at the best route possible and for me it has always been from A to B. – Louisa Wall

The natural consequence of an ideology that holds the group, not the individual, as the standard of value, is complete disregard for the rights of individuals. If what really matters is the Russian state, who cares if some Ukrainian civilians are sacrificed for that ideal? This sounds callous and brutish to Western ears, precisely because Western culture places great importance on the value of the individual’s life. When that standard of value is lost—when the state or the group replaces it—the door is opened to unthinkable depths of inhumanity. – Thomas Walker-Werth

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an address to the Russian people that he does not believe the invasion is being perpetrated in their name, echoing the view expressed by many that Putin is acting against the values of Russian people. However, although Putin is clearly a madman, his actions are enabled by a philosophy that has as thoroughly permeated Russia today as it had Germany in the 1930s. This truth is borne out in the reaction of many Russian people to the invasion of Ukraine: According to independent polling agencies cited by Forbes.com and other Western sources, Putin’s approval ratings have increased sharply since the war began.14 Many Russian people accept the government’s “justification” for the invasion.15 There are some valiant individuals who resist, and they deserve enormous credit, as do those Russian soldiers who defect or refuse to obey orders to murder civilians. But they are a small minority.

What is happening now in Ukraine is a kind of barbarism many in the West thought was consigned to history. But the collectivism that led to the murder and brutalization of millions upon millions of people in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and numerous other collectivist tyrannies during the 20th century, is still alive and capable of inflicting gruesome harm on millions of innocent people.

The only antidote to collectivism is a principled defense of the very ideas Putin opposes: individualism and individual rights. That is what was missing in 1930s Germany, and that is what is missing in Russia and many other countries today. Nationalist parties inspired by Dugin have made significant electoral gains in relatively free European countries such as France and Germany.16 Collectivist ideology even underpins policies of both major American political parties. It will lead to ever more human suffering—until and unless people come to understand and embrace individualism and individual rights. – Thomas Walker-Werth

Even Dr Bloomfield appears reluctant to join the Prime Minister on stage for a repeat of their hit 2020 performances.

Back then it seemed to matter. Now it has the ring of a Culture Club farewell tour playing to shambolic dive bars while still dreaming of the packed stadiums of yesteryear. – Damien Grant

This administration has the feeling of a dead-man-walking. New Zealand has tuned out. Money, interest and attention has now turned towards Messrs Luxon and Seymour, as there is now a sense of inevitability about a change of government.

Here is my take: Outside of Covid, this administration has a terrible record. Inequality, if you care about that metric, has deteriorated. The only way a working family can now obtain a house is through inheritance. We are toiling longer, with unemployment having fallen, but the wages being earned are worth less thanks to inflation.

Few things better define the Ardern government than the Auckland Harbour cycle path. Announced with great fanfare then quietly forgotten. KiwiBuild, the Provincial Growth Fund, transparency, mental health funding and even the entire Well-Being budget framework have all fallen over. – Damien Grant

The poor now struggle to get credit, thanks to changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act. The poor now have to pay more for their petrol cars, thanks to the tax on dirty petrol cars. The poor now struggle to cover the cost of groceries as prices rise faster than wages, thanks in part to changes to the mandate of the Reserve Bank away from a single focus on inflation.

Other than increasing benefits at nearly the rate of inflation, the Ardern Government has achieved close to nothing outside of Covid, and in many key areas the welfare of Kiwis has fallen. – Damien Grant

Not all of this is Ardern’s fault. Her agenda was derailed by the pandemic and the paucity of competence within her caucus from which to draw talent. There are only so many portfolios you can force onto Chris Hipkins before he loses focus and begins to bait pregnant journalists trapped in Kabul.

There are still a few big projects on the books. The Fair Pay Agreements and unemployment insurance may become law by the next election, but if the past performance is any guide these reforms will not be well-designed and be implemented badly. – Damien Grant

Never, in the history of the world, have we lived in more generally inclusive and accepting societies than those that make up the West nowadays. That is not to say things are perfect and we should consider the job of promoting equality and fairness done. However, it seems the further we have progressed, the more ardently some quarters of our society declare evil to be found everywhere.

Instead of ‘reds under the bed’, these zealots find racists in the pantry, homophobes in between the couch cushions, transphobes in the bedside drawer, and misogynists under the rug. Again, I am not disputing that there are still the odd ‘phobes’ or bigots lurking unwanted, but the insistence that there is an epidemic of these uncouth kinds of folk runs the risk of manifesting them into existence. – Ani O’Brien

Much of New Zealand lives in incredibly multicultural communities – Wellington to a lesser extent and maybe that’s why bureaucrats are some of the worst offenders when it comes to imagining racists.

We, of all backgrounds, attend kindy together, then school. We are friends, neighbours, lovers, life partners, parents, family, and whanau. We cheer for the same sports teams, despair at the same petrol prices, and often share aspects of the same Kiwi sense of humour.

But despite our integrated, though at times flawed, society there are those who will have you believe that every white New Zealander harbours hatred towards New Zealanders of other ethnic backgrounds and especially Māori.Ani O’Brien

The reductive view these privileged theorists take paints the poorest, drug-addled beggar on the street as the oppressor of a successful and wealthy businessperson if only the beggar is white and the businessperson is not.Their concept of racial privilege is so lacking in nuance that a kid who has his shoes and raincoat supplied by a charity and is fed at school will be taught by his teacher that he is privileged over some of his more fortunate classmates because he is white and they are not.

This constant placing of people in diametrically opposite camps based on race is a recipe not for improved cohesion and furthering equality. It is a sure way to increase divisiveness and create distrust and animosity between groups of people.

When already marginalised people are told constantly that they are “bad” because of the colour of their skin, or that people like them need to “sit down and shut up”, and that they have less claim to their country of birth than the bloke next door, they begin to see themselves as outsiders.

And, when the criteria for being a ‘racist’ or a ‘white supremacist’ is so diluted that accusations are flung about as frequently and as flippantly as they currently are, the accused begin to be a larger and larger group. – Ani O’Brien

In this context, a white identity group is being formed not by those it is being imposed on, but by the mostly white, educated, ‘liberals’ who somehow exclude themselves from the characterisations they make about other white people as entitled, greedy, mean, ignorant, privileged, and, of course, racist.

White identity is being manifested by those who most decry it.

People who have always been more invested in a ‘Kiwi Identity’ untethered to race, now find themselves being repeatedly told that they cannot understand their fellow countrymen and women because they are racially different. People who have heartily taken part in the haka and sung Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi at the top of their lungs are now self-conscious and reluctant to attempt te Reo Māori for fear of being accused of appropriation or disrespect. – Ani O’Brien

White New Zealanders are being told “you stay over there in your lane”, while Māori are told “look at those guys over there – they’re racist and hate you”, and New Zealanders of all other races and ethnicities wonder ‘where do we fit into this dysfunctional situation?’

Division is being driven from the top. Government agencies, academia, media, and our education system are all complicit in dreaming into reality a toxic ‘white identity’ that imposes the very worst of fringe extremism on a population that still makes up the majority of New Zealanders. – Ani O’Brien

There is a glorification of making white New Zealanders uncomfortable as if that in itself is an acceptable and entertaining pastime by those at the top. It is inevitably white people with more institutional and economic power sneering at white people with much less than them. One should, in my opinion, rightly be made uncomfortable if they are racist, but often the shaming that happens is gratuitous and not in the pursuit of bringing an end to genuine racism.

Likewise, it seems to be a small group of wealthy, highly educated Māori who are driving the culture war from their end. Your average Māori, just like your average white New Zealander, is uninterested in ‘intersectional politics’ and reckons everyone should just get a fair go regardless of race. They certainly do not profit from the divisiveness like those who get air time and academic papers out of it. 

It is unlikely that the behaviours driving the manifestation of white identity are going to change anytime soon. The establishment white ‘liberals’ are too drunk on the power of denigrating ‘lower’ white people and promoting their own exceptionalism. They will continue to drive wedges between communities that otherwise live pretty harmoniously.

As with much of the antagonism in the culture wars, the accusation of racism is largely a weapon wielded by the powerful and fortunate against those who they see as the great unwashed and uneducated masses. They cancel others with relative power in order to retain control of the narrative and prevent the empowerment of the majority. Cancellations are punishments for deviating from the dominant discourse, but they are also warnings; ritualistic public shamings intended to make anyone who would be inclined to challenge norms, think twice.

There are ultimately more of us who wish to live peacefully in our multicultural country than those who want to pit us against each other. We can choose not to be afraid of the tactics used to make us comply. We can refuse to allow the toxic ‘White Identity’, they are attempting to manifest, to take hold. We should celebrate our shared values and manifest instead a Kiwi Identity that we can all be proud of.Ani O’Brien

When I heard Ukraine’s President Zelensky arguing for a fundamental overhaul of the United Nations, and especially of the Security Council, I recalled our greatest New Zealand Prime Minister and World War Two leader, Peter Fraser. He envisaged just the sort of issue we face today with Russia’s war on Ukraine. Old Peter, a wily, highly intelligent Scotsman, was one of the world’s few prime ministers to attend the San Francisco conference in 1945 that set up the rules for a postwar body to monitor the peace. With support from nearly all the smaller countries represented at the conference, Fraser objected strenuously to the great power veto that enabled any of the five victorious powers – the US, Britain, France, Russia and China – to block any substantive move the Security Council might want to take in the event of a breach of the UN Charter, even if all other countries favoured action. Peter Fraser pointed out that by allowing a veto, one of the five might behave as it pleased, and then act as judge and jury in its own cause. He was right. That’s exactly what has happened several times since 1945. The US has done it and Russia much more often. The veto is why today the United Nations is such a toothless tiger. It is unable to protect Ukraine, one of its member states, from the ruthless onslaught from neighboring Russia. The recent motion to condemn Russia passed the Security Council with a significant majority. Several Security Council members abstained from voting or absented themselves, but Russia exercised its veto, thereby preventing what should have resulted in international punishment, with Russia having to pay reparations for the damage it has done. – Michael Bassett

Wise heads are needed to work out some way of dealing with nuclear blackmail. Over Cuba in 1962 the United States stared Russia down and Nikita Khruschev blinked rather than take responsibility for blowing up the world. This time the US couldn’t be sufficiently sure that Putin wouldn’t push the nuclear button and blow everything up. The problem with high level threats is that one has to presume that both the offenders and the victims are capable of making rational decisions. With modern Russia, this has always been in doubt. Putin has never produced any rational explanation for the invasion he kept denying he intended, and then suddenly launched. There is considerable speculation that after 22 years in office he’s been removed from reality for too long. In his search for some kind of legitimacy for the corruption and looting that he and his oligarch mates have undertaken within Russia he’s become obsessed with Russian Orthodox Christianity which so far has placed a firm stamp of approval on his years in office. Put simply, he seems to have lost it, and to be beyond reason.

If this is so, it raises a further issue that Peter Fraser and the founders of the United Nations hoped they wouldn’t face again once that Adolf Hitler was dead: how to deal with a madman possessed of the wherewithal to blow up the world. In the meantime, a concerted effort to reform the Security Council and remove the veto powers has become urgent. President Zelensky is right. Michael Bassett

To call a belief a myth is usually to denigrate it, though there are beneficial myths as there are noble lies. There’s no doubt that myths can be harmful, however, for they can, and often do, obstruct critical thought.

In Britain, the mythology of the National Health Service (NHS), which now manages to combine the baleful characteristics of Stalinist administration with pork barrel politics, has obstructed necessary reform for decades. Because of the mythology, the NHS is the nearest to a religion that the country comes, according to Nigel Lawson, the second-most powerful British politician during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. Even the Iron Lady feared to reform it fundamentally. It was much more difficult for her than confronting the Soviet Union. – Theodore Dalrymple

It’s therefore difficult to know how representative of the whole any scandal is. But the institution is coated in a kind of Teflon, to which no scandal can stick.

And yet everyone knows that it’s better to be ill in almost any European country than in Britain. The outcomes of various diseases—heart attacks or cancer, for example—are worse in Britain than elsewhere. When the NHS was established, in 1948, British life expectancy was six years higher than France’s. Now it’s two or three years lower. Life expectancy is not determined by health care alone, of course, but the government report that led to the establishment of the NHS stated that health care in Britain was superior to that in most of the rest of Europe. No one would claim that any longer.  – Theodore Dalrymple

I had never heard of a colour-coordinated library. I stood looking at her in total disbelief. After about 20 seconds of stunned silence I managed to blurt out, “Well, my books have to be read! I will not sell any of my books just to be put in a fake library and forgotten. You can’t buy any of these books!” – Ruth Shaw

When I hold one of my mother’s books I remember her; I touch the same page she touched, I read the same words she read. Books collected over many years become part of the family. They have been loved, read and re-read, and have often travelled around the world. They live in silence for years in a family home bearing witness to many special occasions, bringing the reader joy and sometimes tears.Ruth Shaw

This underlines a striking trend in recent years for the mainstream media in New Zealand to align themselves consciously and deliberately with causes that they must know alienate a large proportion of their readers, viewers and listeners. Call it slow-motion suicide.

The bigger picture is that the media have abandoned their traditional role of trying to reflect the society they purport to serve in favour of advocating on behalf of divisive and often extremist minority causes. By doing so they create a perception of New Zealand not as a cohesive, stable society made up of diverse groups with vital interests in common, but as one characterised by aggrieved minorities whose interests are fundamentally incompatible with those of a callously indifferent (or worse, deliberately oppressive) majority.

Media outlets that once tried conscientiously to provide a platform for a range of opinions and ideologies now unashamedly attack, or just as insidiously ignore, views and beliefs that run counter to the narrative favoured by the leftist cabal that controls the institutions of power. The most obvious example is the collective undertaking by major media organisations to ignore any opinion, including those of distinguished scientists, that runs counter to the “approved” narrative on climate change or the effectiveness of policies intended to ameliorate it.

Such flagrant suppression of news would have been unthinkable not long ago. Now it’s official editorial policy.- Karl du Fresne

As an occupational group, journalists have long tended to lean to the left. Earlier generations of reporters countered this by restraining their natural impulses, knowing that media credibility hinged on public confidence that events and issues would be covered fairly, accurately and impartially. That professional discipline is long gone, along with the moderating influence exercised by editors who insisted on the now highly unfashionable principle of objectivity.

We are bombarded daily with politically slanted content masquerading as trustworthy and authoritative reportage. A recent example was an episode of the New Zealand Herald’s newly launched podcast The Front Page (which claims to “go behind the headlines” and ask “hard-hitting questions”), in which Herald journalists Damien Venuto and Georgina Campbell purported to examine the Three Waters project without once mentioning its most contentious feature – namely, the proposal for 50/50 co-governance with iwi.

“High-quality, trusted” coverage as promised by Herald managing editor Shayne Currie? It’s time to revive the Tui billboards, surely. – Karl du Fresne

The war immediately combined the personal and public. And this is probably the fatal mistake of the tyrant who attacked us. We are all Ukrainians first, and then everything else. He wanted to divide us, to shatter us, to provoke internal confrontation, but it is impossible to do this with Ukrainians. When one of us is tortured, raped, or killed, we feel that we all are being tortured, raped, or killed. We do not need propaganda to feel civic consciousness, and to resist. It is this personal anger and pain, which we all feel, that instantly activates the thirst to act, to resist aggression, to defend our freedom. Everyone does this the way they can: Soldiers with weapons in their hands, teachers by continuing to teach, doctors by conducting complex surgeries under attacks. All have become volunteers—artists, restaurateurs, hairdressers—as barbarians try to take over our country. I’ve seen this raise the deepest patriotic feelings in our children. Not only my children, but all the children of Ukraine. They will grow up to be patriots and defenders of their homeland.Olena Zelenska

Blocked, destroyed Mariupol is our terrible pain. That continues. And the Kyiv region has become horrible—that’s what we’ve seen as the Russian army has retreated. The world has learned the name Bucha. This is one of the once-beautiful towns near the capital—but the same horrors can be seen in dozens of villages and towns in Kyiv region. People killed on the street. Not military—civilians! Graves near playgrounds. I can’t even describe it. It makes me speechless. But it is necessary to look at it.

I hope we are not the only ones who see the message Russia is sending. This message is not only addressed to us. This is their message to the world! This could be what happens to any country that Russia does not like. – Olena Zelenska

The democratic world must be united and give a tough response, thus showing that in the twenty-first century there is no place for killing civilians and encroaching on foreign territory.Olena Zelenska

The main thing is not to get used to the war—not to turn it into statistics. Continue going to protests, continue to demand that your governments take action. Ukrainians are the same as you, but just over a month ago, our lives changed radically. Ukrainians did not want to leave their homes. But so often they did not have homes left. – Olena Zelenska

My family—just like every Ukrainian—and my compatriots: incredible people who organized to help the army and help each other. Now all Ukrainians are the army. Everyone does what they can. There are stories about grandmothers who bake bread for the army just because they feel this call. They want to bring victory closer.

That is what Ukrainians are like. We all hope for them. We hope for ourselves. – Olena Zelenska

Change in linguistic usage is normal, and it can either add to or detract from language’s expressive power. It’s much more likely to be sinister when it’s directed by some organization acting in an official or public capacity than when it arises spontaneously from the population at large.

Directed change in linguistic usage is usually done in pursuit of some practical or ideological end, acknowledged or unacknowledged—or both. – Theodore Dalrymple

Why is there this drive to exculpate people totally from their own situation, if that situation is in some way undesirable or worse?

First, there’s the desire for power by those who see their fellow beings as pure victims, that is to say, as inanimate objects acted upon but not acting. But I don’t think that this is the whole explanation.

Another part of the explanation is the debased secularization of Christian ethics. Christian ethics enjoin us to forgive our enemies, to love others as oneself, and to be charitable toward the unfortunate. But the secularized version of these ethics omits one important aspect, namely that we’re all sinners in need of mercy. In the secularized version of Christian ethics, there’s no notion of sin, at least not in victims: Only perpetrators, such as commercial interests and governments, can sin in the new revised version.Theodore Dalrymple

In the older view, a Christian could—and, in fact, should—recognize the sinfulness of every person, including the very fat, but at the same time attempt to be compassionate toward him. For essentially he, the Christian, was in the same boat, if not necessarily with regard to the same sin—but he was a sinner of some kind or another.

Again, it isn’t the case that Christians always practiced what they preached or should have preached. Far from it: They can be as censorious, cruel, punitive, and sadistic as anyone else. But at least, in theory, their belief or doctrine allows them the possibility of recognizing both a person’s sinful part in bringing about his own bad situation and being compassionate toward him. – Theodore Dalrymple

 It wants to be compassionate toward those who suffer. But because it hangs on to Christian ethics with the concept of sin removed, that turns almost everyone, including the readers of this, into inanimate objects, with all the potential for a totalitarian dictatorship and abuse that such a worldview inevitably implies.Theodore Dalrymple

Why do we feature car or motorbike racing as though it is sensible to drive very fast to nowhere in particular, or simply round and round to get back to where we started? – Jacqueline Rowarth

Those of us who want our science free of ideology can only stand by helplessly as we watch physics, chemistry, and biology crumble from within as the termites of Wokeism nibble away. I once thought that scientists, whom I presumed would be less concerned than humanities professors with ideological pollution (after all, we do have some objective facts to argue about), would be largely immune to Wokeism.

I was wrong, of course. It turns out that scientists are human beings after all, and with that goes the desire for the approbation of one’s peers and of society.  And you don’t get that if you’re deemed a racist. You can even be criticized from holding yourself away from the fray, preferring to do science than engage in social engineering. (Remember, Kendi-an doctrine says that if you’re not an actively working anti-racist, you’re a racist.)Jerry Coyne

And everybody knows, though few dare to say it, that what’s happening is the erosion of the meritocratic aspects of science, replacing them with standards of social justice determined by a small group of “progressive” people on the Left. Further, the less that merit is considered and used as a fundamental tenet of science, the slower science will progress. But I suppose the proponents of injecting Wokeism into science would say “merit is an outdated criterion; what we really need is equity.” Perhaps, but the effort is all directed at calling present science riddled with “structural racism.” And that’s not true. – Jerry Coyne

Incitement to psychological fragility is one of the most important enemies of freedom today, especially where the taking of offence requires no justification and confers certain moral rights automatically, including those of censorship, upon the offended. Anyone who does not compassionate the offended compounds the supposed reason for his or her having taken offence in the first place. Moreover, taking offence is the highest proof of that most sterling of all human characteristics, vulnerability. Only the insensitive and hard-hearted lack vulnerability.

To increase people’s vulnerability is thus to improve their character. As it happens, it also creates job opportunities, for example those of so-called sensitivity readers, those youngish women, educated in the humanities, who read books for publishers in order to pre-empt any offence that readers might take. Without people primed and ready to take offence, where would they be?

Of course, only certain types or categories of people must be protected from offence; others may be offended with impunity, indeed it is a duty and a pleasure to do so.- Anthony Daniels 

The more people are protected from that against which they might take offence, the more hypersensitive and easily offended they become, so the more protection they need. Sensitivity reading is a job for life.

It is therefore important to seize all possible occasions to emphasise the fragility of the human psyche.  – Anthony Daniels 

Now I am myself somewhat prudish by nature, especially in the matter of bad language. I think it should be kept in reserve and brought out only on very important or special occasions. If used all the time, it has no real impact and is inexpressive. English is rather impoverished when it comes to bad language and so, apart from being bad in the moral sense, it is bad in point of monotony and uninventiveness. I am told that by comparison Hungarian, for example, is rich in expletives and the like, and it is possible to swear and insult in Hungarian for minutes on end without repetition.Anthony Daniels 

I regret very much the resort to bad language in Anglophone life. In England, the rapid increase in its daily use is almost exactly datable, back to the time when the highly superior theatre critic Kenneth Tynan first pronounced a certain word on BBC television, thinking thereby that he was liberating his fellow-countrymen from the terrible chains of respectability. It is sometimes claimed that the Irish writer Brendan Behan had used it before him, but he was so drunk at the time, and his speech so slurred and incoherent, that nobody could quite catch what he said.

Less than fifty years later, it was more or less compulsory for anyone who wanted to be taken seriously to use the word constantly. – Anthony Daniels 

Warnings that assume that we are a population of histrionic or hysterical personality disorders are common these days. Anthony Daniels 

At whom, then, was the warning aimed? Perhaps this is the wrong question: it should be, “What was the purpose of the warning?”

I think it was to instil in the population the idea that there are large numbers of delicate people—adults—in our society who need protection the way that minors were once thought to be in need of protection, because they are psychologically so sensitive, fragile and vulnerable. This in turn necessitates a great army of sensitivity readers and the like to prevent distress, and counsellors, psychologists and so forth to cure it after it has occurred. At the same time as our culture is unprecedentedly vulgar, crude and violent, we must protect people from representations of vulgarity, crudity and violence. In the words of the old Flanders and Swann song, “It all makes work for the working man to do.” But we have progressed somewhat since their benighted time: it makes work for the working woman too. – Anthony Daniels 

As I’ve always said, I don’t mind using whatever pronouns someone wants to be known by, but the buck stops for me when transgender women are considered as full biological women—and by that I mean women who produce (or have the potential to produce) large and immobile gametes. It’s not the word “woman” I object to; it’s the implicit conflation of biological women with transsexual women in every possible way: the equation of biological women with biological males who consider their gender to be female and may or may not take action to change their bodies. (I don’t care if they “transition” physically or not; I’ll be glad to use their pronouns.) In this case the Post uses “people” instead of “women” because they want to go along with the mantra that “transmen are men”, though transmen who can get pregnant are actually biological women, which is the only reason they can get pregnant.Jerry Coyne

There was once a place called the University. I knew it well – in fact I grew up there. The son of a mathematician, I often spent time in my formative years hanging around campus. I enjoyed interacting with my father’s colleagues. They were people who loved to argue. Even when I was a child they paid me the respect of challenging my thinking. They did so in a manner as generous and good-humoured as it was intelligent and robust. The idea that it might take courage to be a dissenting voice would, I think, have occurred to them as strange.

The people who inhabited that University knew what academic freedom was. They didn’t talk about it, they simply lived it. They understood implicitly that academic freedom was both a privilege and a duty. They understood that the University was an institution at the heart of democracy, that the health of democracy is a contest of ideas and that, as academics, they had leading roles in that contest. Academic freedom – the freedom to say things that are controversial, unpopular, almost unthinkable – kept culture fresh and provided grist to the mill of politics.

The University I grew up in is fading fast. In the New University, academic freedom is all too often seen as an embarrassing relic of the past, or worse, as a tool of oppression. Recent research commissioned by the Free Speech Union (FSU) shows just how far it has fallen out of favour. – Dr Michael Johnston

The Treaty, as well as sex and gender issues, have become sacred cows. There are doctrines about them that many academics feel scared to openly disagree with. – Dr Michael Johnston

I will add only that academic freedom is actually one of the principal mechanisms at our disposal for challenging the status quo. But I suspect that the academic who made that comment thinks that the status quo is simply whatever he or she disagrees with.

I encounter some of my dad’s old colleagues around campus from time to time. It’s always good to see them, but it makes me sad about what’s been lost. They’re in their 70s and 80s now, and they must wonder what’s happened to their university. To dispel any doubt, when I say, “their university”, I’m not speaking of a specific university, but of the spirit of open-minded scholarship they embodied. I hope that, in time, we’ll find a way to rekindle that spirit in the bricks and mortar of our country’s campuses. – Dr Michael Johnston

The Black Death (bubonic plague) in the mid-1300s is reckoned to have killed 30 per cent of Europe’s population at the time. The “Spanish” flu a century ago killed 50 million, 2.5 per cent of the world’s population. Covid-19 has so far killed 25 million, according to the Economist’s measure of “excess deaths” of all causes, 0.3 per cent of today’s population.

Clearly a pandemic in epidemiology is not what I imagined it was. But it therefore becomes more important to ask, were lockdowns ever a proportionate response now that we can see what a pandemic really is?John Roughan

We live in an age of serial expertise. First we were experts in climate change, whether or not we believed it was taking place, and consequently in energy policy. Then, with Covid, we became expert epidemiologists, though most of us would shortly before have been hard put to explain what epidemiology as a science actually was. And now, with the war in Ukraine, we have become expert military strategists. – Theodore Dalrymple

How does one become a panjandrum? Is there a special school for them? If there is, I suppose they teach there such subjects as gravitas and pomposity, pretentiousness and portentousness. No doubt students are selected by natural ability in these subjects, and perhaps psychologists have already developed validated and reliable scales for them, as they have for practically all other human characteristics. (Psychology is another subject of our chronic expertise, of course.)Theodore Dalrymple

As to increasing human capital, delightfully so-called, in the hands of government it is likely to result in an overgrowth of qualifications irrelevant to, and even obstructive of, any productive activity whatsoever, to what one might call, if it were a disease, fulminating diplomatosis. – Theodore Dalrymple

I do not want to cast doubt on the idea of expertise in some kind of know-nothing way. But there is no more important task for the citizen than the recognition of true expertise, as well as the recognition of its limits. Theodore Dalrymple

The delusions of the protesters outside Parliament have been debunked. The delusions of those inside Parliament also need debunking.

The fantasies of anti-vaxxers primarily hurt themselves. The fantasies of our leaders hurt us all. – Richard Prebble

An analysis of the Consumers Price Index reveals most of New Zealand’s inflation is domestic. Actions such as printing $55 billion and government deficit spending have pushed up prices more than either fuel increases or supply chain congestion.

The adult minimum wage has gone from $16.50 in 2018 to $21.20 today. Only a politician could call that a “race to the bottom“. – Richard Prebble

Surrounded by lackeys saying “Yes Minister”, it’s a struggle to keep in touch with reality. – Richard Prebble

When it is leaders who have delusions, it is very dangerous. President Vladimir Putin’s delusion that Ukraine is not a country has brought the world to the edge of nuclear war.

Ministers’ refusal to accept that their reckless government spending is inflationary makes reducing inflation very difficult. At a time of full employment, the effectiveness of the Reserve Bank’s anti-inflationary interest rate rises is being countered by inflationary government deficit spending. – Richard Prebble

Awards did not result in cleaners and bus drivers being well-paid. As Minister of Railways I found that, despite unions, awards and industrial action, railway workers needed social welfare to top up their income. As a law clerk, my union negotiated an award wage that was less than the unemployment benefit.

Despite prohibitions on strikes, the system of awards allowed those with industrial power to extort high incomes. For hours worked, wharfies earned more than brain surgeons.Richard Prebble

Successive studies have found that a factor such as having a fifth of all pupils leaving state schools functionally illiterate is one reason for our poor productivity. The appalling productivity in the unionised state sector is another.

One-size-fits-all union wages and conditions mean few are happy. It is why union workplaces often have industrial unrest.Richard Prebble

This Labour Government is the master of gesture politics. Maybe a majority of voters can be persuaded that inflation is imported. Maybe a tenth of all workers will vote for union sector-wide wage fixing.

What we do know is that gestures cannot change reality. Just saying “inflation is imported” will not reduce our grocery bills.

Fantasies that union bargaining results in “higher quality goods and services” cannot make New Zealand a prosperous country. – Richard Prebble

Governments like scapegoats. A good scapegoat can take the blame for something that is a government’s fault. It can also help justify measures the government was itching to take for other reasons.

When all goes well, a very good scapegoat can do both. – Eric Crampton

Greed is a poor explanation for inflation, not because companies are altruists, but because greed is always with us. It isn’t cyclical.

Should we credit corporate public-spiritedness for the five years from December 2011 through December 2016 when inflation ran well below the midpoint of the RBNZ inflation band?

Of course not. Monetary policy drives inflation, not changes in greed. – Eric Crampton

In short, the minister was wrong from beginning to end. Absolute economic ignorance would be the most charitable explanation, but even then he might have considered asking Treasury’s advice.

More plausibly, Clark was scapegoating the supermarkets to justify populist measures against them, or to deflect attention from his government’s failure to keep the Reserve Bank on target, or both.

Voters should be wary of policies justified by scapegoating – Eric Crampton

New Zealand is one of the oldest democracies in the world. This system of government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ – that treats all citizens as equals before the law – has been a liberating force of human endeavour throughout the ages. We have indeed been fortunate in New Zealand that successive governments have faithfully upheld policies to protect our democracy as sacrosanct.

That is, until now. – Muriel Newman

Do we uphold the foundation of our Westminster Parliamentary democracy, namely one person one vote, where all votes are equal, or do we go down the path towards an Orwellian Animal Farm democracy, where all are equal – but some are more equal than others?

Unfortunately, this is not a trivial question. It’s time for a national conversation about what we want from our democracy, and in particular, whether we want those New Zealanders identifying as ‘Maori’ to be guaranteed greater rights and privileges than everyone else. – Muriel Newman

A key problem New Zealanders face is that the partnership the Government is using to justify what amounts to totalitarian tribal control – through the transfer of democratic power and public resources to the iwi elite – is actually fake. Since it is constitutionally impossible for a partnership to exist between a Sovereign and the governed, it represents a massive deception of New Zealanders by the Government. – Muriel Newman

The resulting upheaval isn’t measurable so much by legislative change as by a profound shift in the political and cultural tone of the country. Ardern’s re-election was like an injection of steroids for the leftist cabal that now exerts control over all New Zealand’s institutions of power and influence, including the media and the craven business sector.

This university-educated and predominantly middle-class neo-Marxist cabal is distinct from New Zealand’s dwindling old-school socialist/communist Left, which ironically now finds itself aligned with conservatives on issues such as free speech and identity politics. But the New Left wields far more power than the comrades of the Old Left ever dreamed of.Karl du Fresne

How is this leftist cabal’s influence manifested? Chiefly through the divisive phenomenon known as wedge politics, and most provocatively through the promotion of 50-50 co-governance between representatives of the European majority and a minority consisting of people with Maori ancestry.

There are now effectively two levels of citizenship in New Zealand, one of which confers entitlements not available to the other. This is evident across a range of public policies that include compulsory Maori representation on local councils, the appointment of Maori activists to positions of power and the splurging of vast sums of money targetted exclusively at people who happen, by what is effectively a genetic accident, to have a proportion of Maori blood.

All this is predicated on the notion that people of part-Maori descent are entitled to redress for the baneful effects of colonisation. These deleterious effects presumably included the introduction of democratic government, the rule of law and the end of cannibalism, slavery and tribal warfare. – Karl du Fresne

Whether decolonisation includes rejecting such innovations as literacy and Western medicine isn’t clear, since the advocates of decolonisation are careful not to spell out exactly what they mean. – Karl du Fresne

. The stark choice facing New Zealand voters at next year’s general election will be between democracy and a different form of government for which we have no name.

But the cultural upheaval goes far beyond that, stoked by state-subsidised media that have abandoned their traditional purpose of seeking to reflect the society they purport to serve, and which instead bombard the public with indoctrination promoting the interests of attention-seeking minority groups.  – Karl du Fresne

This sense of polarisation is magnified by an authoritarian intolerance of dissent and by Stalinist-style denunciations of anyone bold or foolish enough to speak out against prevailing ideological orthodoxy.

Meanwhile, Ardern floats above it all. She’s a shrewd enough politician to have remained largely aloof from the rancour her government has generated, and who avoids entanglement in any unpleasantness that might detract from her carefully crafted image as an empathetic politician. But she cannot disown responsibility for presiding over a government that is promoting the politics of division and destabilising what was previously an admirably cohesive and harmonious society.Karl du Fresne

What were normal people—those who did not have any trouble defining woman, those who found talk of “pregnant people” and “contested spaces” and “rabbit holes” baffling—to make of this obvious discomfort with “women”?  – Zoe Strimpel 

But now these exemplars of female empowerment—educated, sophisticated, wielding enormous influence—seemed to have forgotten what “woman” meant. Or whether it was okay to say “woman.” Or whether “woman” was a dirty word. 

It wasn’t simply about language. It was about how we think about and treat women. For nearly 2,500 years—from Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” to Seneca Falls to Anita Hill to #MeToo—women had been fighting, clawing their way out of an ancient, deeply repressive, often violent misogyny. But now that they were finally on the cusp of the Promised Land, they were turning their backs on all that progress. They were erasing themselves.  – Zoe Strimpel 

By the 1980s, women had won several key victories. Equal pay was the law (if not always the reality). No-fault divorce was widespread. Abortion was safe and legal. Women were now going to college, getting mortgages, playing competitive sports and having casual sex. In the United States, they were running for president, and they were getting elected to the House and Senate in record numbers. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.

In the wake of all these breakthroughs, the movement began to lose steam. It contracted, then it splintered, and a vacuum opened up. Academics took over—hijacked—the cause. – Zoe Strimpel 

It wasn’t just that these academics took it upon themselves to develop fiendishly complex theories about women, dressed up in a fiendishly complex language. It was that this hyper-intellectualized feminism, by embracing this hyper-intellectualized language, excluded most women. It transformed feminism from activism to theory, from the concrete to the abstract, from a movement that sought to liberate women from the discriminations imposed on them by their sex to a school of thought that was less interested in sex than gender. 

Sex, to the academics, was outdated. It was crude, fleshy, obvious—the stuff of everyday women everywhere. Gender, on the other hand, was fascinating—the starting point for an endless theorizing that, with each passing paper or book or conference, became more abstruse, more removed from the daily challenges faced by ordinary women. – Zoe Strimpel 

The new, abstracted feminism had little interest in changing political or economic reality, as the older, grittier feminism had. It was like a fancy garment that only the well off—those who had gone to college and lived in big cities and were fluent in the new vernacular—could afford. Or knew to buy. –

It is not an accident that the rise of gender ideology coincides with the long anticipated petering out of the feminist cause.

That’s because the rise of the one and the decline of the other are closely linked with our fetishization of identity. The fight for transgender rights over and above that of biological women’s rights, just like the war on systemic racism, jibes perfectly with our new identity politics.

Unfortunately, identity politics cannot content itself with simply defending women’s rights or LGBT rights or the rights of black people to be treated equally under the law. It must persist indefinitely in its quest for ever-narrowing identities. (The ever-expanding acronym of gay and gay-adjacent and vaguely, distantly, not really in any way connected communities, with its helpful plus sign at the end, neatly illustrates as much.) Everyone is entitled to an identity, or a plethora of identities, and each identity must be bespoke—individualized—and any attempt to rein in the pursuit of identity runs counter to the never-ending fight for inclusivity. Even if that inclusivity undermines the rights of other people. Like women.

This dynamic, with the most marginal interest trumping all others, easily took over a feminism long primed by whacky postmodern ideas like Butler’s—paving the way for its second, related hijacking. This one by biological males. – Zoe Strimpel 

And so Post-Feminist Feminism has morphed into a dark, strange Anti-Feminism. Anti-Feminism borrows from the language of liberation, but it’s not about liberating women. It’s about pushing women out of college sports. It’s about telling girls they aren’t lesbians or tomboys, but in fact men struggling to find themselves. Zoe Strimpel 

To attempt an answer, any answer, to the question—Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?—would be to re-center women, biological sex, the concrete, mundane experience of ordinary, boring, bourgeois and working-class and very poor women the world over. It would be to attempt to undo the hijacking of the feminist cause and to return it to the people for whom that cause was created so many decades ago.

Returning the cause to the people for whom it was created is the only way to save it, and to stop the many discriminations that girls and women still face: domestic violence; the economic and psychological penalty of having babies; the manifold hurts and crimes visited upon countless women in non-Western countries simply for being women. For now, doing anything about all of that is a fantasy. First, we have to honor the actual meaning of words, like woman. We have to insist that those meanings are important. We have to go back, again, to first principles. That is the only way forward. – Zoe Strimpel 

The simple approach is to require integrity in communication and employ strategies suitable for the target audience. The bureaucracy and “political correctness” the Plain Language Bill promotes are not the answer. A basic principle is to communicate in a manner your audience can understand, as I hope I have. Dennnis Gates

Our business leaders big and small are currently being forgotten for their contribution to society. They put themselves on the line, take risks, worry about paying their staff and their bills and hope to make a profit, although, for many that last one is a distant dream, survival now takes priority. They have been broken by having to close their doors or cut right back and for most, it has been the heartbreak of letting people go they have worked with and cared about for many years.

Those that have survived through the worst of the Covid years now need our support more than ever but instead, they are treated with disdain as cost after cost is piled on to them with regulatory changes that make it harder to stay in business. An extra public holiday, increases in the wage bill, transport costs going up and a struggle to get workers will drive a whole lot out of business. Their contribution is more than the goods and services they provide, it is how they play a vital part in our community, employ us and our neighbours and support the many charities that need them – often quietly and without recognition. We need their entrepreneurial spirit and their dream of the next big thing. – Paula Bennett

 I thought the chance of another civil war in the US was minimal and in a country like New Zealand, neglible. . . The most important single factor is when one or more major parties in a country’s political system doesn’t organise around left-right political values but around identity – race, religion or ethnicity. –  David Farrar

The bottom line is that some of our friends on the left want to shoot at the rich, but they wind up wounding the poor instead by greasing the rungs on the ladder of economic opportunity. – Dan Mitchell

FPAs are a solution looking for a problem.Levi Gibbs

Of course, wages in New Zealand are lower than those overseas – most notably in Australia.

But the strong relationship between productivity and wages indicates the problem is not weak collective bargaining power, but our sluggish productivity growth.  – Levi Gibbs

The problem with misdiagnosing a problem like low wages is that the prescribed cure may in fact do harm.

FPAs are inflexible in the face of technological change – firms seeking to maximise productivity need to respond nimbly to new challenges and opportunities presented by change. Sometimes, such a response will necessarily involve adjusting employment arrangements. – Levi Gibbs

One-size-fits-all FPAs will mean “unproductive” firms with low profit margins, unable to bear the same wage costs as their larger competitors, will exit the market. Denying small firms the chance to grow more productive and forcing them to lay off workers is a short-sighted and unimaginative way to make productivity and wages look higher.

Wage floors will mean those on the outside looking in – including 188,000 job seekers and unskilled young people (NEETs) – will find it harder to find work, as they have not developed the skills to justify the entry-level wage. Higher labour costs will reduce the likelihood of firms hiring additional workers, and force those firms that do not simply shut down to reduce their workforce, cut back hours, or accelerate automation. – Levi Gibbs

The increased influence of trade unions will come at the expense of the vulnerable, the low skilled, and less experienced workers. This threatens New Zealand’s good record of high labour participation and low unemployment.

Improving productivity requires investing in people, taking risks on new ideas and innovative processes. It requires reforming New Zealand’s underperforming education system, attracting foreign direct investment, promoting capital reinvestment, and reallocating resources to the productive sector via tax relief. That is how New Zealand makes up for lost time over the past forty years. The ultimate result will be higher wages for workers and more prosperity.

The Fair Pay Agreement fantasy is an ill-advised, union-driven attempt to hack a shortcut to higher wages.Levi Gibbs

Decolonisation is not only destructive but simplistic. Although cultural knowledge is not science, the science-culture distinction doesn’t exclude traditional knowledge from the secular curriculum. It does however put limits on how it is included. Students can be taught in social studies, history, and Māori Studies about the traditional knowledge that Te Hurihanganui describes as the “rich and legitimate knowledge located within a Māori worldview’. But this is not induction into belief and ideological systems. The home and community groups are for induction into cultural beliefs and practices. – Elizabeth Rata

Ironically, decolonisation ideology is justified using the universal human rights argument for equity. But the equity case misrepresents the problem. As with all groups, it is not ethnic affiliation but class-related cultural practices that are the main predictors of educational outcomes. Māori children from professional families are not failing. Rather it is those, Māori and non-Māori alike, living in families experiencing hardship and not engaging in cognitive practices of abstract thinking and literacy development, who are most likely to fail at school. This is not inevitable. Education can make a difference to a child’s life chances but it requires all schools, Maori medium immersion and mainstream alike, to provide quality academic knowledge taught by expert teachers. Elizabeth Rata

Decolonisation will indeed divide society into two groups – but not that of coloniser and colonised locked into the permanent oppressor-victim status used to justify ethno-nationalism. Instead one group will comprise those who receive an education in academic subjects. These young people will proceed to tertiary study with a sound understanding of science, mathematics, and the humanities. Their intelligence will be developed in the long-term and demanding engagement with this complex knowledge. It is to be hoped, though this cannot be assumed given that the rationality-democracy connection is analogous not casual, that they will have the critical disposition required for democratic citizenship, one that is subversive of culture and disdainful of ideology.

The second group comprises those who remain restricted to the type of knowledge acquired from experience and justified in ideologies of culture. Distrustful of academic knowledge as colonising and oppressive, ethnically-based cultural beliefs and practices will provide the community needed for social and psychological security. In this restricted world they are insiders. And as there are insiders, there must be outsiders – in traditionalist ideologies these are the colonists who are seen to have taken everything and given nothing. And yet the tragedy is that it is the cultural insiders who are to be the excluded ones – excluded from all the benefits that a modern education provides.

A revolution is coming. The government’s transformational policies for education make this clear. It will only be stopped by a re-commitment to academic knowledge for all New Zealand children within a universal and secular education system. Colonisation is not the problem and decolonisation is not the solution. – Elizabeth Rata

Once the principle of one person, one vote is abandoned at local government level, pressure will build for something similar at the central government level.

It is hard to think of a more divisive agenda for any government to be pushing. – Paul Goldsmith

Big, radical changes to our democracy are being peddled in obscure local Bills by backbench MPs – with the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General and others nowhere to be seen.

These rushed, sneaky bills have become the stock-in-trade of this government.

It astounds me that the human rights lobby, constitutional lawyers, the Crown Law Office and other members of civil society are so relaxed about all this. Sadly, it speaks of a climate of fear that stifles open debate on these issues. – Paul Goldsmith

Our country is imperfect. We have many inequities, a fraught history and much work to do. But no inequities will be improved by shifting away from the bedrock of our relative success as a nation.

A core element of the liberal democracy we enjoy is the fundamental principle of one person, one vote.

We should not casually throw it away.Paul Goldsmith

Parliament imposed tough penalties. It meant these crimes to be serious. So consider the constitutional consequences of the police deciding to overrule Parliament. If the police are wrong in their judgments about which crimes to enforce, then there is no way for the rest of us to bring about justice. – Josie Pagani

Road rules are rules, but who decided that bus lanes and doing 110 on a brand new motorway are a higher priority than robbery?

Deciding which laws should be enforced is Parliament’s job. If the police do not have enough resources to enforce acts of Parliament, then democracy demands that citizens participate in ranking their priority offences. I want theft policed ahead of driving in a bus lane. – Josie Pagani

Last year, police attended more than 70,000 events that involved a person having a mental health crisis or attempting suicide (an increase of 60% in five years). Police are called in because they are the social agency of last resort.

But mental health professionals are needed for those cases – trained staff who were promised in the ‘’wellbeing Budget’’ and never delivered. The Government had nearly $2b, and three years, to train specialist staff. They can’t train a psychologist in that time, but they could have trained carers with more skills for mental health than a stressed constable. – Josie Pagani

Campaigning on values, mental health, and fixing inequality was electorally successful for Labour. It has been a shameful policy disaster.Josie Pagani

Call the Budget what you want – ‘’Wellbeing’’, ‘’Wellness’’, ‘’Well Done’’. We don’t care. Just make sure it’s not the police turning up when people need mental health professionals and somewhere safe for loved ones to go.

Tell us why we can’t have the decent mental health care that was promised. Don’t wait until the promise has failed.

Let voters make choices about which crimes to enforce, don’t pretend you’re not choosing.

If you can’t have that honesty then you have stolen our trust, like a scooter thief in the night, knowing you won’t be caught. – Josie Pagani

When it comes to the Three Water reforms, it is subordinating the rights of ratepayers to the interests of local iwi, and doing so without consent or compensation.Damien Grant 

We have a process for settling Treaty issues. Not everyone agrees with the outcome of a Waitangi Tribunal decision, but almost everyone agrees to abide by their decisions. It isn’t a perfect system but it works better than Molotov cocktails and hunger strikes. – Damien Grant 

Central to the reform agenda is the claim made by Nanaia Mahuta that 34,000 New Zealanders become ill each year from drinking poor-quality water. This number is softer than a week-old feijoa.Damien Grant 

Taumata Arowai is the regulatory body set up in response to Havelock North. We can see in this organisation that their focus isn’t solely water quality. According to their website, “Our name Taumata Arowai was gifted to us by Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Local Government”.

Having your name “gifted” by the reigning minister has a North Korean feel to it. This body enjoys a Māori advisory board whom it must consult. The chair of this advisory body is the minister’s sister. – Damien Grant 

If iwi believe their water rights have been compromised they can seek refuge in the Waitangi Tribunal, as they did when some energy companies were up for sale in 2012. (I was uncompromising in my support of the Māori Council’s intervention at the time.)

This is not happening, presumably because any such claim would fail. What possible claim can there be on dams and polyethylene pipes constructed and paid for in the 182 years since 1840?

If we are being asked to enter into a new compact with Māori, where rights that do not exist under the Treaty are to be created, then this does need to be put before the public. – Damien Grant 

Mahuta has no electoral, legal or Treaty mandate for her vision of co-governance, and even the claims of poor water quality are based on weak foundations.

If she wants to remove from ratepayers their legal and property rights, perhaps it is she, and not David Seymour, who needs to be putting this issue to the public.

After all, removing property rights without consent is what got us into the mess in the first place. – Damien Grant 

That this government spends record amounts of our money on political spin and social engineering is evident from propaganda campaigns to which we are subjected – none more reprehensible than the $5.3m commercial on the government’s 3 Waters intention.

Also frequently aired is a puerile presentation aimed at convincing us that a reduction in speed on our roads will increase our safety. – Garrick Tremain

Destroying confidence in the science – culture distinction, a distinction which is one of the defining features of the modern world, will be decolonisation’s most significant and most dangerous victory. According to the International Science Council science is ‘the systematic organization of knowledge that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. It is inclusive of the natural (including physical, mathematical and life) science and social (including behavioural and economic) science domains . . .  as well as the humanities, medical, health, computer and engineering sciences.

In contrast, culture is the values, beliefs and practices of everyday life – the means by which children are socialised into the family and community. For a Māori child, this may well involve immersion in marae life – or it may not.  But the experiences of everyday life should not be confused with the ideology of cultural indoctrination, what I call culturalism or traditionalism and others call decolonisation. It is this ideology which is permeating the government, universities and research institutes, the Royal Society Te Apārangi, and mainstream media. Here we are presented with an idealised Māori culture of what should be, not what it actually is.

It is as much a moral, quasi-religious project as a political one, its religiosity responsible for the intensity, and perhaps success, of its march through New Zealand’s institutions. Indeed, the spiritual is a central theme in decolonisation. The belief is promoted that Māori are a uniquely spiritual people with a mauri or life force providing the link to their ancestors – the  genetic claim for racial categorisation. Political rights for the kin-group are justified in this claim. –  Elizabeth Rata

Given that over 50 percent of Māori already have no religious affiliation, it is doubtful that there is a constituency for a spiritual-based education. This is where decolonisation plays its part with Te Hurihanganui and the refreshed curriculum promoting the ideological version of culture. Those hesitant Māori who are suspicious of the ideology will be outed as ‘colonised’, in obvious need of decolonisation.Those who are now racially positioned on the other side, officially the non-Māori, will require decolonisation to ensure support for the new moral and political order. Numerous consultants are already on hand to provide this profitable reprogramming service. Intransigent dissenters, who determinedly refuse the correct thinking will be ostracised as fossilised racists and bigots. 

The tragedy is that this decolonising racialised ideology will destroy the foundations of New Zealand’s modern prosperous society. The principles of universalism and secularism are its pillars in education as elsewhere. Academic knowledge is different from cultural knowledge because it is universal and secular. We could certainly live without this knowledge – our ancestors did,  but would we want to?Elizabeth Rata

 The formidable task of acquiring even a small amount of humanity’s intellectual canon is made even more complex and remote because abstractions are only available to us as symbols – verbal, alphabetical, numerical, musical, digital, chemical, mathematical – creating two layers of difficulty. While it is unsurprising that the much easier education using practices derived from action rather than abstraction is more attractive, to take this path, as teachers are required to do, is a mistake.

We humans are made intelligent through long-term systematic engagement with such complex knowledge. Yet decolonisers reject the fundamental difference between science and culture claiming instead that all knowledge is culturally produced, informed by a group’s beliefs and experiences, and geared to its interests. Indigenous knowledge and ‘western’ knowledge are simply cultural systems with academic education re-defined as the oppressive imposition of the latter on the former.

What is deeply concerning is the extent to which this ideology is believed by those in education and uncritically repeated in mainstream media.  – Elizabeth Rata

Decolonisation is not only destructive but simplistic. Although cultural knowledge is not science, the science-culture distinction doesn’t exclude traditional knowledge from the secular curriculum. It does however put limits on how it is included. Students can be taught in social studies, history, and Māori Studies about the traditional knowledge that Te Hurihanganui describes as the “rich and legitimate knowledge located within a Māori worldview’. But this is not induction into belief and ideological systems. The home and community groups are for induction into cultural beliefs and practices.

What about the proto-science (pre-science) in all traditional knowledge – such as traditional navigation, medicinal remedies, and food preservation? This knowledge, acquired through observation and trial and error, as well as through supernatural explanation, along with the ways it may have helped to advance scientific or technological knowledge, is better placed in history of science lessons rather than in the science curriculum.

Science provides naturalistic explanations for physical and social phenomena. Its concepts refer to the theorised structures and properties of the physical world, its methods are those of hypothesis, testing and refutation, its procedures those of criticism and judgement.  The inclusion of cultural knowledge into the science curriculum will subvert the fundamental distinction, one acknowledged by mātauranga Māori scholars, between naturalistic science and supernaturalistic culture.Elizabeth Rata

As with all groups, it is not ethnic affiliation but class-related cultural practices that are the main predictors of educational outcomes. Māori children from professional families are not failing. Rather it is those, Māori and non-Māori alike, living in families experiencing hardship and not engaging in cognitive practices of abstract thinking and literacy development, who are most likely to fail at school. This is not inevitable. Education can make a difference to a child’s life chances but it requires all schools, Māori medium immersion and mainstream alike, to provide quality academic knowledge taught by expert teachers. – Elizabeth Rata

Unlike authoritarian regimes, liberalism can tolerate some dissent. What it cannot tolerate is the removal of its very foundations – those principles of universalism and secularism that anchor democratic institutions into modern pluralist society. The separation of public and private, of society and community, makes room for both science and local culture. (The recent commonplace practice of using ‘community’ for ‘society’ is one of a number of indications that the separation is being undermined.) Valuing culture and devaluing science in a merger of the two fatally undermines the universalism and secularism that creates and maintains a cohesive society out of many ethnicities and cultures.

Decolonisation will indeed divide society into two groups – but not that of coloniser and colonised locked into the permanent oppressor-victim opposition used to justify ethno-nationalism. Instead one group will comprise those who receive an education in academic subjects. These young people will proceed to tertiary study with a sound understanding of science, mathematics, and the humanities. Their intelligence will be developed in the long-term and demanding engagement with this complex knowledge. It is to be hoped, though this cannot be assumed, that they will have the critical disposition required for democratic citizenship, one that is subversive of local culture and disdainful of ideology.

The second group comprises those who remain restricted to the type of knowledge acquired from experience and justified in ideologies of local culture. Distrustful of academic knowledge as colonising and oppressive, ethnically-based cultural beliefs and practices will provide the community needed for social and psychological security. In this restricted world they are insiders. And as there are insiders, there must be outsiders – in traditionalist ideologies these are the colonists who are seen to have taken everything and given nothing. And yet the tragedy is that it is the cultural insiders who are to be the excluded ones – excluded from all the benefits that a modern education provides.

A revolution is coming. The government’s transformational policies for education make this clear. It will only be stopped by a re-commitment to academic knowledge for all New Zealand children, rich and poor alike, within a universal and secular education system. Colonisation is not the problem and decolonisation is not the solution.Elizabeth Rata

Which brings us cheerfully to our friendly “be kind”, “listen to the science”, “we’re so transparent” Ardern-Robertson government, which seems to be now acting like a “friend” who would like you to look the other way, so it can get on with what’s good for it, such as getting re-elected. – Kevin Norquay

In 2022 NZ, it’s starting to look more like “of the people, by the party, for the party.” Kevin Norquay

“Listening to the science” now carries a taint, as decisions made could be seen as party political, rather than public health related.

It’s an erosion of trust. Why cover up things that are supposedly done in our best interest? – Kevin Norquay

There’s that “friend” again, telling us all the secrecy was for our own good. Whether MIQ did a good job is not the point here, it’s when that good job might have ended.

You could argue “we listen to the science” remains accurate, with the coda “but our decisions are based on the politics”, but transparency was always a fiction written boldly on a blocking PR wall.

What’s the next slogan: “You’ve got to be cruel to Be Kind?”Kevin Norquay

The truth of Hōne Heke’s rebellion deserves to be more widely-known. His  was the beginning of a proud lineage of anti-tax protest that is today carried on by the Taxpayers’ Union (even if we prefer to use arguments over axes). So congratulations to Hōne Heke for rightfully being recognised as one of the greatest New Zealanders. If it were up to us, he might even be ranked number one. How many taxes did Sir Ed cut, after all? – Louis Holubrooke

You don’t want to live in fear but I’m not going to be blasé about it. We are seeing very sick people every day, it’s not worth the risk at the moment. The more I read, the more bad things I find that this virus can do to your body, particularly your brain. You hear people say ‘might as well get it over with’. Well I wouldn’t want to voluntarily risk taking on a bit of brain damage for any reason.Dr Greg White

Whatever New Zealand does in isolation as its contribution to the world wide battle against climate change, it will have next to zero affect on whether or not we reach or even get close to the IPCC’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions that they say will be required to save the planet.

I can make that statement with confidence that l will be proved right simply because those key nations who have the capacity to collectively turn things around, with or without our help, are in fact increasing their use of fossil fuels at an alarming rate and as a result, increasing their emissions as if there was no tomorrow. In that context, our efforts, no matter how self sacrificial, will be like a blip on the radar as the rest of the world continues to condone the destructive activities of those who could and should be making a difference. – Clive Bibby 

We will watch on from the sidelines seemingly unnoticed by even the UN heavy hitters whose praise we appear to crave.

And in the meantime, we will destroy what remains of our agriculturally based economy at a time when we are emerging from the pandemic suffering from self inflicted wounds that already have reduced our capacity to earn overseas funds when we most need them. Clive Bibby 

It appears that the government is still hell bent on cementing in place policies that will negatively effect the two most important ingredients that will determine our survival as a sovereign state.

The first is economic growth and the second is race relations, both of which are in danger of managed decline because both are reflecting the deliberate implementation of programmes that will have the opposite effect of what is needed now more than ever.

If allowed to be fully implemented, these policies: – the emissions reduction policies such as the halving of our dairy herds and the race based legislation that is being un-necessarily promoted giving control of our natural resources to Maori – have the capacity to propel a sufficiently divided nation into a state where civil war is a serious possibility. – Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby 

I choose my words carefully when discussing these potentially dangerous policies simply because it appears we are not yet prepared to acknowledge that the immediate danger to our collective future comes from within rather than anything from the world at large – including climate change.

In order to have a rational discussion about our future, we need to be acutely aware of the options available to us. In that context, the truth remains our only hope.

We can and must stop this erosion of trust before it is too late. Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby  Clive Bibby 

But if I could go back in time and find a doctor who made me feel like they were treating my health, and not my size, that would have been a real gamechanger. – Megan Whelan

Democratic Socialist. Isn’t that a bit of a contradiction and maybe even an oxymoron?

Presiding over a government that has gone out of its way to decimate democracy by promoting the politics of division, there is nothing democratic in these actions! – John Porter

Don’t you think the way Ardern’s government, its Maori caucus and tribal leaders are surging ahead with their co-governance agenda, is pushing New Zealand close to that point of, if not actual civil war, then certainly civil disruption?

In New Zealand there is a significant degree of apathy and almost total lack of comprehension and knowledge around the subversion of democracy and promotion of Maori exclusivity that is very, very scary.

The overarching concern is that, based on ethnicity, a minority section of the population is being given an absolute right to control the rest of the population without, it appears, any limits on their power or any route for appeal. – John Porter

There is a very small group of those of part-Maori descent, Maori tribal elite, presumably swollen with self-importance because a small part of their cultural inheritance that they are clamouring for co-governance of this country. This co-governance agenda is gathering speed and, dare I say it, credibility at an alarming rate. John Porter

Ardern and her government’s separatist agenda combined with their inept fiscal management, are bringing this country to its knees!

Are we speaking out loudly, are we protecting our democracy, our rights to one person, one vote and do this government actually respect and represent the majority of New Zealanders? – John Porter

It’s either a caricature or merely a hallmark of a modern conservative New Zealand politician to be comfortable with whatever change has happened up to the present, but to think that any more would be a step too far.

This is by and large a positive. The fact that only journalists writing profiles on centre-right politicians, rather than the politicians themselves, ever want to revisit milestones like the marriage equality vote of 2013 means that the country has avoided the destabilising and counterproductive culture wars that have racked the United States for decades. – Ben Thomas

When the government spends $51 million to not build a bridge, that’s inflationary. Spending money on a new hospital that increases the provision of necessary services does not have the same effect. – Liam Hehir

There are six provisions in our law that are so important for democracy that they can only be changed by the vote of 75 percent in parliament or by a majority in a referendum. One is clause 36 of the Electoral Act that guarantees everyone regardless of race has an equal vote. – Richard Prebble

Having unequal voting will not solve Rotorua’s real issues. Here is one. The Labour government has filled our motels with the homeless from all over the Central North Island. There are enough children in our motels to fill a primary school. Borders are reopening. Where are Rotorua’s tourists to stay? – Richard Prebble

For most Westerners, the war unfolding in Ukraine makes no sense. Russians and Ukrainians look the same, speak the same languages, have lived lives that were, until very recently, culturally indistinguishable. Why are they fighting?

The chilling answer is that both sides are commanded by ghosts. It is the unquiet dead, the unpunished crimes, the gagged memories of countless perpetrators and their victims that drive these armies forward. Impulses barely understood, inherited from parents and grandparents who could neither speak about nor forget the horrors they had witnessed or performed.

Two nations to whom great evil has been done are being driven, by dead hands, to do evil in return. Chris Trotter

R for recession comes after I for inflation in the economic alphabet. Then comes v for voter and w for wallet. Get the drift? – Shane Jones

Behind the scenes, officials are working on other ways to make New Zealand less rather than more attractive to prospective students. They have plans to almost double the amount of money each student must bring to New Zealand for each year’s study, and heavily restrict post-study work rights. This is all part of the Government’s immigration re-set, more correctly called an anti-immigration re-set.Steven Joyce

If we are to avoid a recession, which is looking an increasingly difficult goal, we need to encourage more outward facing sectors to grow, rather than be always putting up new barriers to their success. International education is one of the best placed to resume pulling its weight, to the benefit of our country’s education system and the wider economy and society. The Government needs to get over its ambivalence to it. – Steven Joyce

We’ve become accustomed to hearing the words, “I support free speech, but ….” New Zealand is full of people in positions of power and influence who purport to defend free speech, but always with the addition of that loaded word “but”. You can’t say you support free speech and then, in the next breath, put limitations around it beyond the ones that are already clearly established in law and broadly accepted, such as those relating to defamation and incitement to hatred or violence.

We’ve been introduced to phrases unheard of a few years ago: cancel culture, speech wars, hate speech, gender wars, safe spaces, culture wars, trigger warnings, transphobia and no-platforming. We’ve acquired a whole new vocabulary. We’ve seen the emergence of a media monoculture in which all mainstream media outlets adopt uniform ideological positions that effectively shut out alternative opinions, even when those marginalised voices may represent mainstream opinion.

We’ve seen traditional ideological battle lines totally redrawn as people on the left and right of politics unite around the need to save freedom of speech from a new and powerful cohort of people who have co-opted the term “hate speech” as a pretext for banning any opinion that they dislike.

We’ve even seen radical feminists, who were once at the cutting edge of politics, demonised as dangerous reactionaries who must be shut down because of their opposition to a virulent transgender lobby that appeared to spring out of nowhere.

All this has happened within a remarkably short time frame. Mainstream New Zealand has been caught off guard by the sheer speed and intensity of the attack on free speech and as a result has been slow to respond. But what’s at stake here is nothing less than the survival of liberal democracy, which depends on the contest of ideas and the free and open discussion of issues regardless of whether some people might find them upsetting.Karl Du Fresne

The right of free speech, after all, means the right to hear as well as the right to speak. Our Bill of Rights Act doesn’t just talk about the right to speak freely. It refers to “the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and opinions of any kind and in any form”. That seems pretty clear-cut and unambiguous. To deny New Zealanders the right to hear opinions that some politicians and public officials don’t like is a flagrant abuse of power and must be challenged at every turn, which is exactly what this union is doing. – Karl Du Fresne

In other words there are people in the police who apparently think that anyone who criticises the government should be watched. This is how police states begin. Fortunately in this case, wiser senior officers stepped in before things got out of hand.Karl Du Fresne

The reality is that the enemies of free speech have no fixed ideology. Control is enforced with equal brutality whether it’s Nazi Germany or communist North Korea. The only thing the enemies of free speech have in common is a desire to exercise untrammelled power and to forcibly suppress any speech which threatens that power.

As it happens, the present threat to free speech in New Zealand doesn’t come from either the traditional left or the traditional right. It comes from a powerful new cohort that largely controls the national conversation. This cohort is dominant in politics, the bureaucracy, academia and the media and regards the exercise of free speech as serving the interests of the privileged. Free speech to them means licence to attack oppressed minorities and is therefore something to be deterred, if not by law then by denunciation and intimidation.

Depressingly, this group is entrenched in universities and libraries – institutions that have traditionally served as sources of free thought and access to knowledge. Libraries were at the forefront of the effort to shut down the feminist group Speak Up For Women, which was targeted by aggressive transgender activists because it opposed legislation allowing men to identify as female. It was only after this union went to court on the feminists’ behalf that libraries in several cities were forced to back down and allow them to hold public meetings.

A common factor in these instances is the belief that people have a right not to be offended and that this right takes precedence over the right to free speech. It’s as if the woke elements in society have developed an allergic reaction to the robust democracy that most of the people in this room grew up in, where vigorous debate was seen as an essential part of the contest of ideas that democracy depends on.

If a statement can possibly be interpreted as a slur against one’s gender, race, body type or sexual identity, it will be, no matter how innocent the intention of the person who made it. Apologies will be demanded and the ritual humiliation of the transgressor inevitably follows.

The purpose is clear: it sends a message to others that they will get similar treatment if they’re bold or foolish enough to challenge ideological orthodoxy. Yet paradoxically, the same people who insist on the right not to be upset don’t hesitate to engage in vicious online gang-ups and ad hominem attacks on anyone who disagrees with them.

A recurring theme in the speech wars is the notion of safety – not safety from physical danger, which is how most people understand the term, but safety from anything that might upset people or challenge their thinking. – Karl Du Fresne

Safety, then, is a highly elastic concept – critically important for women attending abortion clinics, even if no risk of harm exists, but not a problem if those who feel threatened are white guys in suits.

The enemies of free speech are blind to the contradictions in their position. They bang on about the right to be safe but applaud aggressive and intimidating behaviour against people they don’t like. And they demand protection against hate speech while freely indulging in it themselves on Twitter and other social media platforms, their purpose being to bully people into silence.Karl Du Fresne

I can claim to be something of an authority on freedom of the press if only for the reason that I’ve written two books about it. Back then the concern was with threats to media freedom from outside sources, principally the state. But ironically we’re now in a position where I believe the New Zealand media abuse their own freedom.

They have fatally compromised their independence and their credibility by signing up to a government scheme under which they accept millions of dollars in taxpayer funding and in return commit themselves to abide by a set of ideological principles laid down by that same government.

Defenders of the Public Interest Journalism Fund justify it on the pretext that it enables the media to continue carrying out worthwhile public interest journalism at a time when the industry is financially precarious. They bristle with indignation at the suggestion that their integrity is compromised. But it is. You need only look at the projects approved for funding to grasp that this is essentially an opportunistic indoctrination project funded by taxpayers.

From a free speech standpoint, however, it’s the ideological uniformity of the media that is of even greater concern. The past two decades have seen a profound generational change in the media and a corresponding change in the industry ethos.

News outlets that previously took pride in being “broad church” – in other words, catering to and reflecting a wide range of interests and opinions – are now happy to serve as a vehicle for the prevailing ideology. They have abandoned their traditional role of trying to reflect the society they purport to serve. The playwright Arthur Miller’s definition of a good newspaper as a nation talking to itself is obsolete. The mainstream media are characterised by ideological homogeneity, reflecting the views of a woke elite and relentlessly promoting the polarising agenda of identity politics.

The implications for free speech are obvious. What was previously an important channel for the public expression of a wide range of opinions has steadily narrowed. Conservative voices are increasingly marginalised and excluded, ignoring the inconvenient fact that New Zealand has far more often voted right than left. – Karl Du Fresne

But it’s worse than that, because the prevailing ideological bias doesn’t just permeate editorials and opinion columns. Its influence can also be seen in the way the news is reported – in the stories that the media choose to cover, and perhaps more crucially in the issues they choose not to cover. The Maori co-governance proposals in Three Waters, for example.

Underlying this is another profound change. From the 1970s onward, journalism training – previously done on the job – was subject to academic capture. Many of today’s journalists were subject to highly politicised teaching that encouraged them to think their primary function was not so much to report on matters of interest and importance to the community as to challenge the institutions of power.

Principles such as objectivity were jettisoned, freeing idealistic young journalists to indulge in advocacy journalism, push pet causes and sprinkle their stories with loaded words such as racist, sexist, homophobic and misogynist. In the meantime, older journalists who adhered to traditional ideas of balance and objectivity have been methodically managed out of the industry.

Worse even than that, we now have mainstream media outlets that actively suppress stories as a matter of official editorial policy, and even boast about it. I’m thinking here of climate change, a subject on which major media organisations have collectively agreed not to give space or air time to anyone questioning global warming or even the efficacy of measures aimed at mitigating it. This would have been unthinkable 20 or even 10 years ago. People are bound to wonder what else the media are suppressing.Karl Du Fresne

Robert Muldoon was a tyrant who tried to bully the media into submission, but eventually journalists and editors stood up to him. In the past few years, however, we’ve gone backwards. We now live in a climate of authoritarianism and denunciation that chokes off the vibrant debate that sustains democracy, and tragically the media are part of the problem.

There are positive signs however, and this meeting is one of them. As I said at the start, the sheer speed and intensity of the culture wars caught the country off-guard. Ours is a fundamentally fair and decent society, eager to do the right thing and rightly wary of extremism. For a long time we stood back and allowed the assault on democratic values to proceed virtually unopposed. We were like a boxer temporarily stunned by a punch that we never saw coming.

But the fightback has begun and is steadily gaining momentum. In giddy moments of optimism I even sense that the tide might be turning in the media. Even the most cloth-eared media bosses must eventually realise they have alienated much of their core audience, as reflected in steadily declining newspaper circulation figures and in opinion surveys measuring trust in the media. – Karl Du Fresne

The risk New Zealand runs in 2023 is that the policy promises of the contending parties will be come to be seen by their respective supporters as critical to the survival of the nation. On the Right, the introduction of co-governance will be equated with the death of democracy. On the Left, a racist referendum endorsing the elimination of co-governance will be construed as an all-out assault on the Treaty of Waitangi and the indigenous people it was intended to protect.

In such circumstances, the uncompromising partisans on both sides begin to believe that if they concede defeat there will be no “next time”. At that point the cry goes out for a “continuation of politics by other means”. Bullets replace ballots, and peace ceases to be an option – for anybody.Chris Trotter


Rural round-up

27/04/2022

The loneliness of the long distance rural midwife – Vanessa Bellew:

Pregnant women in one town in Southland have lost the last remaining midwife and are now served by maternity care based 100km-160km away

Te Anau’s only midwife is the latest casualty of the beleaguered maternity system in the South and now it appears the town’s maternal and child hub is being downgraded before it is even fully up and running.

The Southern District Health Board told Newsroom the town and nearby area did “not have sufficient” pregnant women or baby numbers to sustain a maternal and child hub and a full-time midwife in the town.

Health professionals Newsroom spoke to were concerned that the health board was using inaccurate and outdated statistics to justify reducing maternity services further and for not funding a locum midwife. . . 

Christopher Luxon on IPCC climate change report NZ’s dairy herd – The Country:

National Party leader Christopher Luxon is not a fan of culling New Zealand’s dairy herd.

“I’ve got no time for that whatsoever,” he told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Recently, Greenpeace called for the Government to “halve the herd”, following the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Luxon said there was no need for this, as Kiwi farmers were already “the most carbon-efficient in the world”. . . 

Solar powered smart cow collars come to Taranaki farms – Elijah Hill:

The best dressed Taranaki dairy cows this year may just be the ones wearing solar-powered, time-saving, smart collars.

New Zealand tech company Halter, which fits solar-powered, GPS-enabled smart collars to cows, is expanding to the region as well as Central Plateau, Otago and Southland.

Cows are trained to respond to sound and vibrations from the collars which allow farmers to ‘steer’ the cows around the farm.

This allows farmers to call cows to the milking shed using their phone, or set ‘virtual fences’ and break feed while having a cup of tea at home. . . 

Are pine trees the problem or the solution? – Keith Woodford:

Pine-forest regulation proposals are creating lots of heat with big implications for land-use and the landscape. 

Right now, there is a fervent debate underway as to where pine trees fit within our future landscape. On one side stand Forestry Minister Stuart Nash and Climate Change Minister James Shaw. They are proposing that existing legislation should be reversed so that pine trees would only be for production forestry and not so-called permanent forests.

Minister Nash has recently come to a position that only native forests should be permanent, and he is supported by many who hold strong environmental values. Dame Anne Salmond is one of the leaders in that camp.

In contrast, Minister Shaw is concerned that if permanent pine forests are allowed, then too much carbon will be stored in this way and urban people will no longer be forced to modify their carbon emitting behaviours. There are some huge ironies there. . . 

The great Kiwi muster – an ancient tradition with a bougie hut – Olivia Caldwell:

Every autumn, teams of musterers take to the South Island high country to corral flocks of sheep for winter. It’s a custom resistant to change, technology and modern living. Almost. OLIVIA CALDWELL reports.

It’s three o’clock on a cold autumn morning up in the mountains of Lake Heron station.

The first and fittest musterer gets out of bed and walks several kilometres to find where the sheep are scattered around hills.

He’s 17, and it’s called delegating. The seven other team members get to sleep-in until 4am, when they get a wake-up call, followed by a giant breakfast of bacon and eggs. They will need it. Over the next 12 hours, they’ll cover 20 kilometres and 2000 metres elevation on foot. . . 

 

New service to help Ukrainian seasonal farm workers in Scotland :

A new service is to be established to offer vital advice and urgent practical support to Ukrainian seasonal horticultural workers in Scotland.

Ukrainian workers play a key role in soft fruit and vegetable production in Scotland, but due to the war they are facing a range of concerns about their work, their homes, and their futures.

The new Worker Support Centre, run by Scottish charity JustRight Scotland, will provide key support to workers on these issues.

It will also provide immigration advice to enable them to stay and work in Scotland while returning to Ukraine is still unsafe. . .


If . . .

22/04/2022

If the Reserve Bank hadn’t got so carried away printing money. . .

If it had acted sooner to increase interest rates. . .

If the government hadn’t misspent so much money so wastefully. . .

If it hadn’t spent so much more money and achieved so little with it, for example $1.9 billion on mental health with nothing to show for it  . . .

If it hadn’t increased the bureaucracy by so many people . . .

If government agencies hadn’t competed with the private sector, for example Kaianga Ora buying houses and land, and doing it at inflated prices. . .

. . .  then inflation wouldn’t be at a 30 year high of 6.9%.

And if the government isn’t going to admit it is partly responsible we can have no hope it will do anything about it.

Some inflation is imported but some is domestic and the government has no plan to deal with it:

The Finance Minister needs to face up to New Zealand’s cost of living crisis and present a plan to help get skyrocketing inflation under control, Opposition leader Christopher Luxon says.

“Inflation has hit a new 30-year high of 6.9 per cent. It’s a silent thief in your pocket putting Kiwis under massive pressure, and we are seeing a squeezed middle emerge.

“Kiwis are facing the consequences of Labour’s poor economic management, with inflation in New Zealand outpacing Australia’s and many other countries.

“Rents are up $150 a week since 2017, interest rates are rising and wages increases are barely a third of inflation. Kiwis are going backwards under Labour and many families are struggling to make ends meet.

“This is not just an international story. The domestic ‘non-tradable’ element of inflation is the highest on record, at 6 per cent.

“This week the Reserve Bank sent a message that it will need help from the Government to try to get inflation under control.

“Grant Robertson has no plan to help tackle skyrocketing inflation. He must take responsibility for presenting a sensible plan to help combat inflation pressures, reducing costs, removing bottlenecks and ensuring value for taxpayers’ money.

“Instead, at a time when we need careful economic management and spending discipline, he seems intent on pushing ahead with a record $6 billion increase in annual spending in next month’s Budget.

“This is not the time to put fuel on the fire. Instead, Grant Robertson must do his bit to remove inflationary pressure in the domestic economy.

He must start by accepting his government is responsible for a large part of the problem and that the solution lies in both monetary policy, which is the Reserve Bank’s responsibility, and fiscal policy which is the government’s.

A line by line analysis of every Budget item to cut out the waste and sorting out immigration to lessen the pressure on employment would be good places to start.


Quotes of the month

01/04/2022

The absolute low point of the past three years was the public’s passive acceptance of the imposed nanny state. The “Team of five million” and “Be Kind” mantras belong in kindergartens. For me they were unbelievable. I was ashamed to be a New Zealander as common sense went out the window. The Be Kind childishness was particularly outrageous given the unbelievably cruel, unnecessary and illegal prohibition on thousands of Kiwis prevented from returning home, in numerous cases to farewell dying family members. – Sir Bob Jones

 Ardern is not a communist and its pretty stupid to argue that she is. In the continuum of recent Labour Party leaders I would see her as governing in the Norman Kirk/David Lange tradition … full of well meaning but half baked ideas but totally bereft of any understanding of how the economy actually works … and that will be her downfall along with her embrace of of separatist agenda laid out in He Puapua.The Veteran

The most important lesson from the invasion of Ukraine is that we have to be willing to defend our freedom. If we are not, no one else will do it for us. – Richard Prebble

The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride – President Volodymyr Zelensky  

We are the people who can run the economy well … but I also want them to understand we care deeply about people. – Christopher Luxon

In the midst of war, what an uplifting week it’s been in terms of a world that, despite all its many worries, can still largely unite and offer hope. 

Never in my lifetime have I seen such a coordinated, effective, and immediate response to a crisis.  – Mike Hosking

This country should have, could have done more. Two million dollars for aid. As Mark Mitchell said Wednesday, the mongrel mob got more. God forbid, we should be like Australia and fund weaponry. Why help save a country when you can give them blankets when they are displaced?

But most of the world got it, and did something good about it. Thus, proving that in the right time and for the right reasons, we are all still on each other’s side.  – Mike Hosking

After the current price spike caused by bureaucratic incompetence, RATs will soon be ordinary low-cost supermarket items found alongside the Panadol, Tampax, Gillette and Rexona in the toiletries aisle.

As with everything else, Foodstuffs, Countdown and The Warehouse will do an incomparably better job than the Ministry of Health and MBIE at making sure stocks don’t run out. Matthew Hooton

Even were New Zealand at its peak today, we should assume the new normal involves thousands of new daily infections and dozens of people with Covid in hospital for the foreseeable future. But very few will die, even if the authorities continue to count people who are murdered, killed in car crashes or are diagnosed with stage four lung cancer as Covid deaths because they test positive posthumously. – Matthew Hooton

There will be a hangover in the form of inflation, higher interest rates and rising unemployment. The silver lining is that inflation will reduce the value of the $60 billion Grant Robertson borrowed over the past two years, even as the nominal cost of servicing rises.

Consequently, expect governments and central banks to let inflation go higher and stick around for longer than they currently pretend. It’s politically safer to invisibly tax the poor with inflation and the middle class with bracket creep than to transparently raise marginal rates. – Matthew Hooton

For ALMOST two years, we – the press and the population – have been almost hypnotically preoccupied with the authorities’ daily coronatal. THE CONSTANT mental alertness has worn out tremendously on all of us. That is why we – the press – must also take stock of our own efforts. And we have failed.Brian Weichardt

WE HAVE NOT been vigilant enough at the garden gate when the authorities were required to answer what it actually meant that people are hospitalized with corona and not because of corona. Because it makes a difference. A big difference. Exactly, the official hospitalization numbers have been shown to be 27 percent higher than the actual figure for how many there are in the hospital, simply because they have corona. We only know that now.

OF COURSE, it is first and foremost the authorities who are responsible for informing the population correctly, accurately and honestly. The figures for how many are sick and died of corona should, for obvious reasons, have been published long ago. – Brian Weichardt

There is no more weaselly expression in the modern lexicon than “identifies as,” which inherently emphasizes feelings over facts. I can identify as a nice person, but that does not mean that I am a nice person. Indeed, if most people who meet me abominate me, my self-identification as a nice person means nothing except (if I truly believe it) that I am deluded.

Asking people what they identify as is the natural consequence of what might be called the psychology and philosophy of the real me. The real me has nothing to do with the merely external me, the me that other people perceive through my conduct, manners, conversation, etc. The real me is a kind of homunculus who lives inside the merely apparent me, who preserves his innocence no matter what the apparent me may say or do. This is a very liberating psychological and philosophical conception of human life, because it means that a person can retain his belief in his essential goodness while behaving appallingly—as most of us would be naturally inclined to do from time to time.Theodore Dalrymple

Multiculturalism—as an ideology, not as a fact—is another promoter, excuser, and rationalization of bad behavior. All you have to say to excuse your bad behavior is that it is part of your culture. Since there is no way to rank cultures, all being equal, your behavior is placed beyond criticism. And of course, if you must uncritically accept the cultures of other people, other people must accept uncritically what you claim to be your culture.

Everyone knows that cultures change, but almost any mass behavior soon falls under the rubric of culture. I was once the de facto vulgarity correspondent of a British newspaper that was not itself totally foreign to the charms of vulgarity, but which simultaneously thundered against vulgarity in others. The newspaper would send me to wherever young British people were gathering and behaving in vulgar fashion, so it was spoiled for choice, the British being not merely vulgar, but militantly vulgar, as if vulgarity were an ideology. – Theodore Dalrymple

That is why licentiousness and puritanism coexist in our societies, not so much in equilibrium as in a violently seesawing manner. We reprobate pedophilia and sexualize children from an early age. We demand that everyone watches his tongue while the vilest abuse is the common language of discussion and dispute. I demand the freedom to express myself, but that you shut up if what you say offends me.

“Identifying as” is an expression that would be used only in a society of mass egotism, in which the self is an object of auto-idolatry.Theodore Dalrymple

Our obsession with ideological causes, in the absence of clear supporting (multivariate – and multidisciplinary) evidence, and our willingness to sacrifice the needs of higher achievers in order to equalize educational outcomes, guarantee the progressive erosion of educational standards… if you cannot lift achievement at the bottom, then lower it at the top.  The deleterious effect of this on higher achieving students, on education at large, and its ultimate effect on our economy, are considered worthy sacrifices if greater social cohesion is the end result. The fact that it makes us all materially poorer seems of little consequence.  Social cohesion remains elusive due to systemic denial of the real causes of social breakdown and dysfunction. – Caleb Anderson

In this time of distress, that’s the light, the human spirit that is so much alive. Nir Zohar

Finally and while Russia will win the war they will lose the peace. 43,192.122 Ukrainians will never forget or forgive while, for much of the world, Russia will become a pariah state whose word is never to be trusted. The madman Putin has much to answer for … not the least to his own people. – The Veteran

Science has a hard time keeping up with the data. Nature reports results of a large trial on RATs. Plus side: they seem pretty accurate. Downside: data’s all from the first half of 2021, on a variant that’s no longer prevalent, with little sense of whether the results hold with Omicron. Omicron seems to express in saliva before nasal passages, and the RATs generally take nasal swabs. Remember how, when I used to think there was some point in trying to help get to better policy on Covid, I’d rabbit on about trialling different testing methods side-by-side in MIQ as horseraces? We could totally have known, right now, relative performance of a bucket of different RATs against both swab and saliva PCR, for Omicron. Government is just so hopeless. Eric Crampton

As Prime Minister in a pandemic, she ultimately decides just about everything we can do. She can decide to shut shops, close schools, cancel events, keep us confined to home. She even decides what is best for our health. But she doesn’t get to decide what defines us. Not all of us. – John Roughan 

When a Prime Minister on half a million dollars a year tells people on less than 10 per cent of that there isn’t a crisis, the “let them eat cake ” cloak of arrogance is draped ominously on her shoulders.

There is no doubt, we have a cost-of-living crisis, we live it every day.Mike Hosking

The ANZ this week is forecasting inflation to peak at 7.5 per cent. Are wages going to rise at anywhere close to that level? Of course not.

We are going backwards at a rate of knots, if you hear different from this government they are either fudging figures or straight-up misleading you. – Mike Hosking

Non-tradeable inflation, that’s the stuff we create locally, is the second-highest in the world, they can’t hide from that.

Their spending, their borrowing, their scattergun distribution of cash they never had around the non-productive parts of the economy, is now coming back to haunt them.Mike Hosking

National, with tax cuts on offer, will let you decide more of your own economic outlook, while Ardern and Robertson will tell you they know better.

With one speech and one line, in less than a week, Luxon can sit out his self isolation knowing he has turned the tide on his election chances. He has policy alternatives, and he has a government looking removed and out of touch, with a leader pretending what’s in front of every single one of us isn’t real. – Mike Hosking

 It is clear now that the issues around vaccination were but the catalyst for the expression of a deeper sense of grievance and anger that has been building up over recent years. That is what needs to be addressed to prevent similar events breaking out in the future. But that argument will not be won by telling those who oppose vaccination and mandates that they are part of an ill-informed minority rabble, any more than putting a wall around Parliament will stop other protests in the future.Peter Dunne

 There is a significant group of people who feel left out, and increasingly shut out, of what is happening in our country. This runs deeper than just those politically opposed to the present government. Rather, it is a group that feels out of step with all governments, whatever their political complexion.

We need urgently to depolarise politics. That does not mean diminishing the strength of political convictions, but rather, softening the intolerant fervour that increasingly seems to accompany them. – Peter Dunne

Telling people that their views are crackpot and ill-informed, not shared by the mainstream of the population, and refusing to engage with the protest leaders merely fuels their discontent. Likewise, dismissing those who called for a more reasoned approach as basically supporters of the protestors was as incendiary as the petrol and gas heaped on Parliament’s playground last week.

It should be no surprise at all that people who think their backs are being pushed unreasonably against a wall eventually react. And the greater the perceived pressure, the greater the reaction. What is surprising is the belief that telling them they are plain wrong and should therefore go home, will lead to their meekly doing so. Such moral sanctity in a society that likes to parade its diversity when it suits is just humbug.Peter Dunne

The right to dissent must always be upheld in a free society, and, alongside that, the right to promote minority viewpoints protected, as long they are not in defiance of the law or encouraging lawlessness. That should be an absolute given, not the contestable debating point it is seen to be today.

When I was at school a valuable principle was ingrained in me – I have the right to be right, and the right to be wrong. It seems to me that until that principle is more universally applied and accepted, whatever the issue, or however strongly it may be felt, we have no guarantee that the abhorrent events that came to a head last week in Wellington will not occur again. – Peter Dunne

Since this government has come to power, despite all the lovely words and jawboning, on home ownership the average price is up $350,000. Rents are up $7,300 on the same house you were renting four years ago and in state housing we have a four-fold increase, up to 25,000. Last night we had 4,500 kids in motels and emergency accommodations. We’ve got challenges.”

“This government hasn’t managed the housing situation at all, they’ve made it worse. By a dramatic amount, in every aspect, they’ve made it worse. We live in a country the size of Great Britain or Japan, with far fewer people and much higher house prices. This is a problem completely of our own making.Christopher Luxon

The world is taking off big time. Some countries have come through Covid and are looking at how to put the afterburners on. They are thinking quite intently and purposefully about the country they want to see emerge. Others have become so obsessed with Covid, as we have, and haven’t got a sense of direction, of where we’re going. And to be honest, there is no reason to come here at the moment. It’s not an attractive place, you know. The world is moving on and we are playing a very fearful, very small, very inward game. – Christopher Luxon

In short, real freedom is fettered freedom. Your freedom to swing your fist must end before it hits my nose. The reduction or removal of the government mandate would not end the fetters.  – Bryce Wilkinson

One question New Zealanders might ask is what position the country would be in regarding oil and gas supply if the Ardern Government hadn’t stopped enabling new exploration of oil and gas in 2017.  Removing this ban today would have no effect, as it takes years to invest, explore and gain any results, but had it happened in 2017, then there might have been a contribution to global supply. The Ardern Government has deliberately decided to constrain supply of oil and gas, not on economic grounds, not even considering national security, but to virtue signal. – Liberty Scott

My view has always been that there are several reasons for our high inflation, but big government spending in an overheating economy is certainly one of them, and the one the Government can most quickly bring under control.

We should provide tax relief to New Zealanders on the way through, whilst also reining in government spending through a focus on discipline and quality investment.Simon Bridges

The Dunedin and Christchurch studies suggest children are remarkably resilient if faced with one or two life challenges in their first two decades. What causes permanent harm is the so-called cocktail of disadvantage. That means children in stable homes and good schools should cope, but Covid will be the last nip in the shaker for the less privileged. – Matthew Hooton

Turns out that dealing with Covid is difficult when you can’t just throw up the borders, keep it out and let life continue basically normally here. People get tired of changing rules, restrictions and just Covid more generally. In focus groups, there have been niggles over various things for several months. Luke Malpass

In fact, it turns out that the “this” in “let’s do this” was not the communism her more deranged opponents claim, but – from the perspective of the under 30s who backed her so strongly in 2017 – something along the political spectrum closer towards kleptocracy. As a small example, I have personally gained more, tax-free, under Ardern’s Government, without having to work for it, than under any New Zealand Government before. – Matthew Hooton

Yet even as all of this happens, we need to ask ourselves how we got into this situation. How we arrived in a world in which defending people from supposedly offensive words is considered more important than defending our borders. In which we seem to have so little need for the virtue of ‘strength’ that we’re willing to blacklist the word itself for being gendered and stereotypical. This is where the Ukraine war really confronts us. It interrupts, violently, our post-Cold War conceits. It upends our belief that history, in Europe at least, is largely settled, and now we can concern ourselves with petty things like pronouns and sexual identity or with purposely overblown, mission-creating projects for the technocratic elite, like the ‘climate emergency’. This conceit has impacted on almost every facet of public life in recent decades, nurturing the delusion that ours is a post-war, post-borders, post-everything continent, in which the highest aim of public life is either to manage the public or validate individual identities. Those bombs in Ukraine have shattered this Western arrogance and decadence by reminding us that history lives.Brendan O’Neill

As well as living in an age of emotionalism, we live in a time of tribal politics. And these are a strange sort of tribal politics. They are no longer about left versus right, but more about feeling versus reason, of fashionable causes that earn you peer approval versus unfashionable causes that don’t. – Patrick West

To put it crudely, on one side today we have those who channel their feelings, instincts and fear into their worldview, and those who are circumspect and rational – and we are damned for it.Patrick West

 Is Jacinda Ardern a megalomaniac?

Whatever the answer, we know that not only does New Zealand’s Prime Minister have what has been described as libido dominandi, a desire for power, she is also presiding over the most incompetent, destructive government in our history. Its thoroughly anti-democratic attacks on that vital principle of equality for all, under the law, show no sign of diminishing. – Amy Brooke

New Zealanders are suffering under a government viewed as further to the left of socialism and financially incompetent, with Ardern regarded as sly and evasive when it comes to answering questions she dislikes. In spite of her charm offensive, more media are risking her displeasure by voicing concern about the inappropriateness of so many of the control policies widely imposed. Only now reversed, for example, is forcing fully-vaccinated, well people from overseas to enter expensive quarantine facilities while Omicron rampages throughout the country!

The Ardern government’s provision of superior, unprecedented rights for part-Maori who belong to powerful, immensely wealthy, neo-tribal corporations was a factor bringing so many to protest at Parliament recently. Although it was pilloried as run by anti-vaxxers and others against vaccination mandates, the majority of the crowd – apart from an inevitable mob element – was there to protest against the loss of so many of our freedoms. – Amy Brooke

So much for the constant invoking of kindness and well-being, falling so readily from the lips of our leader. One thing was constantly obvious – Arden’s antipathy to those worried enough to voice their concerns. She simply told them to go away. And now our power-wedded leader is thinking of extending the confusing traffic light control system over the country – to cope with the possible emergence of flu this winter. New Zealanders have only just begun to protest. – Amy Brooke

We can all bring sweetness and goodness into our world, even small things like a smile to a passerby, feeding the birds, care for thirsty trees and drooping plants,  a bowl of water by the gate for thirsty dogs and other creatures, acknowledgement of the careful pattern on top of our freshly made coffee to the barista, these tiny things can mean a quality of life, actions which can bring softness into the harsh times in which we find ourselves. Small happinesses which we can give to others, usually make us happy too. And the light of gratitude we feel when we recognise the beauty and bountifulness of nature and the world  – these are the  things that can uplift us –  remind us of the miracle of life which can overcome fear, depression or anxiety.Valerie Davies

It was dear old Samwise in Lord of The Rings who said,
“But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.  Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer”.
Let us hope so. Even the shattered ruins of Leningrad have been transformed into the golden glory of St Petersburg with the passing of time. Let us hope that the devastation we see now will be healed in a real peace between nations whose people do not want to fight – that this Will pass and a new day Will come. And the light of the sun will shine on us all. – Valerie Davies

Jacinda Ardern “rejects” so much these days that New Zealanders are in danger of forgetting what she stands for. Fran O’Sullivan

One of the problems with Western society that has made it not only appear to be, but actually to be decadent, is what might be called its umbilicism, the habit of navel-gazing as if there were no world exterior to itself. Only navel-gazers could imagine that questions raised by transgenderism are serious. The West pretends to multiculturalism but has no real interest in developments outside its own borders. Like spoiled children growing up in the lap of luxury, it can’t imagine a world that doesn’t respond to its whims, let alone that threatens it, and this despite its catastrophic history almost within living memory. The failure of the imagination is almost total.

When authoritarian leaders of powerful countries see statues erected to a man merely because he was killed by a policeman and sanctified though he had led a thoroughly bad and indeed vicious life, they must surely think that the West is an overripe fruit that needs only a little shake to drop from the tree, incapable as it appears to be of distinguishing between a minor event and a major threat. For them, a serious country is one that can lock up thousands if not millions of its citizens with impunity, control access to information, and arm itself to the teeth, with or without impoverishing the entire nation.

Our challenge is to prove them wrong. For all our faults, our weaknesses, our foolishness, our dishonesties, our willful blindness, our errors, our self-indulgence, our way of life is incomparably superior, at least for us, to theirs, and must be defended. The verdict on whether we have the resolve to do so is not yet in, but not all the auguries are good. – Theodore Dalrymple

So having talked myself into a corner, I have to resolve to make the place where I stand the kindest, purest, most honest and most decent place possible. I can only love my corner of the world and try to share love to add to the goodness in the world, and not get bogged down in the pain of the world.

 Philosopher Martin Buber said,”You can rake the muck this way, rake the muck that way …. In the time I am brooding over it, I could be stringing pearls for the delight of Heaven”. He’s right. Yes, brooding is a waste of time, so I will try to string pearls instead of futile brooding over the tragedy of Ukraine – pearls of love and kindness and a little laughter.Valerie Davies

When the opposition is seen as more economically competent the government always loses the election. – Richard Prebble

Inflation is deadly because the solution to inflation is even higher prices, and increased interest rates.

No prudent government lets inflation get established.Richard Prebble

Reducing the excise tax on petrol just transfers the revenue raising to a less efficient tax. There is no Covid fund. It is an accounting fiction. The roads still have to be paid for from taxes or borrowing.

More worrying is the subsidy on public transport. The advice of the OECD regarding subsidies is “do not do it”.

Subsidies are poorly targeted. The winter energy payment goes to millionaires. Those who can afford to take a bus are being subsidised by those who cannot. Subsidies once on are very hard to withdraw. There has never been a social or economic justification for subsidising Gold Card holders’ ferry trips to Waiheke Island. – Richard Prebble

We will discover we are connected to events such as a probable Russian default in ways we cannot imagine. The double-digit food price inflation is just the beginning.

What could cause the price of petrol to fall is a worldwide recession, now a real possibility.Richard Prebble

In politics, it is always later than you think. Labour has just 18 months of effective government before the next election. The way to solve inflation was a year ago, starting with increasing interest rates, 18 months ago to stop printing money, five years ago not to ban off-shore exploring for oil and gas.

Interest rates have to rise but it will not be in time to bring inflation under control before Labour faces the electorate.

The effect of interest rate rises on the mortgage belt electorates will be devastating. The Auckland median house price is $1.2 million. Last year with a 20 per cent deposit, monthly repayments on the loan at 2.50 per cent would be $3793. By election year at 5.25 per cent the repayment will be $5301.

Three months’ fuel tax relief and public transport subsidies is not going to save Labour. – Richard Prebble

To become citizens in a democracy, young people must be taught how to think rather than what to think. – Michael Johnston

What is clear though, is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discuss contentious topics openly. To present a viewpoint at odds with those fashionable can draw opprobrium, censure and even ostracism.  –Michael Johnston

In a democracy, political ideas must not only be contestable but must actually be contested. For democracy to remain healthy, diverse viewpoints must be included and welcomed in public debate.Michael Johnston

In political discourse, the ability to make a sound argument is necessary, but it isn’t, on its own, enough to make a strong contribution to political debate. Certain dispositions are also important. Perhaps foremost amongst these is humility.

Humility entails assuming that there’s something to learn from those we disagree with. It means being open-minded and willing to alter our opinions in the light of new information. It is a quality that seems to be lacking in much of our current political discourse. Adopting a humbler stance when contesting ideas would do much to counteract our increasingly censorious and polarised political culture. – Michael Johnston

Intellectual humility needs to be modelled rather than taught explicitly. If children observe adults practising respectful, attentive and open-minded disagreement, they’re more likely to adopt that way of arguing themselves.

In a democracy, argument has a higher purpose than humiliating our opponents. That kind of argument does nothing to improve our ideas. If instead, we argue in good faith, we can discover things that we would not or could not have discovered alone. Facts, reason, humility and respect are the best guidelines for teachers interested in preserving and enhancing democracy.Michael Johnston

This has gloriously given us insight into the new merciless standards of the puritanical woke.

They would eat their own if they weren’t all vegan. – Martin Bradbury

“Co-governance” in practice is a mechanism for stealing resources that belong to all of us, irrespective of race, in order to satisfy some primeval tribal goal that rackets through the minds of the undemocratically-selected Maori partner. The message is that whenever “co-governance” is proposed, it should be met with fierce resistance. There is no desirable alternative to democracy, majority rule, unless we all want to set off down the road towards an authoritarian, unaccountable tribal world.Michael Bassett

Talking to a friend yesterday, his indifference to Ardern has mushroomed into a visceral loathing. His bristling is palpable. He is sick of being treated like a child, talked to as if he is an idiot. His words.

And when you think about it, living under Ardern has been like being back at school. Where most teachers preached conformity for your own good, or for the greater good, or for the sake of the school community.

Yet anyone who spent a moment reflecting knew that ultimately, you are on your own. You make your own way in the world. You love and look after friends and family, as they do you. But we are each an island. A self-contained intellectual entity. – Lindsay Mitchell

But the spark of human individuality cannot be suppressed indefinitely. Like the lad who mentioned the naked emperor’s actual state. Or the exceedingly brave Russian broadcaster who momentarily yelled to the tv cameras that it’s all propaganda.

Maybe, just maybe, the silver lining from the last two bewildering and stultifying years will be a re-emergence of individual independence – freedom of action, freedom of thought and freedom from fools.Lindsay Mitchell

 No-one should feel unsafe or unable to express their thoughts. That is what New Zealand had become. That place.- Lindsay Mitchell

This is New Zealand’s most conservative government of recent times. Not so much in terms of its political ideology, but more in the way it does things. Its policy prescription, admittedly constrained by New Zealand First’s negativism in the first term, and the persistence of the pandemic so far in the second, has not been at all radical or innovative. And, with half the current Parliamentary term almost over, the prospects of its being able to devise and introduce radical and innovative solutions before the next election seem very slim. Wherever possible the current government has harkened back to earlier solutions belonging to governments of the past to deal with the issues it confronts today.- Peter Dunne

 Labour’s solution to the poor performance of the District Health Board structure it created when last in office is to go back to the system that preceded it. Labour had set up the District Health Boards in 2000 to replace National’s centralised Health Funding Agency and four Regional Health Authorities. It said then it wanted to restore local democracy to health service delivery and get away from centralised decision-making. But now this Labour government is proposing to replace the elected District Health Boards with its own centralised, unelected Health New Zealand entity, supported by a Māori Health Authority and four local commissioning authorities, in a model that, but for the name changes, is virtually the same as the system it got rid of over 20 years ago.Peter Dunne

And yet more progress could have been achieved had Labour involved private-sector construction companies in its plans from the outset, as the first Labour government had done with Sir James Fletcher. But the current government was too focused on KiwiBuild houses being seen as government-built, and therefore solely to its credit, to do so. It was an early sign that the promise of transformation really meant a return to the big central government of the 1960s and 1970s. – Peter Dunne

However, the scale of borrowing to do so has been far more substantial and riskier, especially at a time of rising inflation and interest rates worldwide. Yet the government has seemed content to rely on the tactics of the Muldoon government and its predecessors and pass the repayment of the debt – about $60 billion so far – to future generations to repay. More innovative solutions could have been expected from a government committed to foundational change, let alone transformation. – Peter Dunne

The overall impression is of a very conservative and cautious government, risk averse, wary, and unwilling to devolve any responsibility to local communities or the private sector. It is determined to govern from the centre in the benign “we know best” way governments half a century ago and earlier did, overlooking that New Zealand has changed considerably since then. We are a far more pluralistic and diverse society today, unlikely to take comfortably to a return of stifling, all knowing, big central government.

The problem this has created for Labour, which the polls are starting to reflect, is among those of its supporters who genuinely believed in or were enthused by the prospect of a government of aspiration and transformation. They are now becoming disillusioned that while its rhetoric may be bold, in practice this government is no different from those that went before it. Moreover, by centralising everything again it has put itself in the position where only it can be blamed when things go wrong, or do not live up to what was promised. All that means is many of its erstwhile supporters may not be as nearly as inclined to vote for it again in 2023, as they were in 2017 and 2020. – Peter Dunne

It turns out not to be true that, at heart, all people desire only peace and will respond reasonably if you speak reason to them. The invasion of Ukraine has been, among other things, a lesson in the possibilities of human nature. The surprising thing, perhaps, is that, in Europe of all places, it is a lesson that had to be taught.Theodore Dalrymple

Be that as it may, the Russian invasion of Ukraine purportedly acted on Europe (and the United States) much as the electric current acted on the corpse of Frankenstein’s monster: it brought it back to life. Suddenly, the cobbled-together body of the west began to act as a real organism, and a powerful one at that. There is nothing like an enemy at the gates to give a bit of backbone to a weakling. The speeches of the Ukrainian president, after all, moved everyone in a way that very few speeches by contemporary politicians move anyone. The west had revealed itself to be not so feeble as supposed. – Theodore Dalrymple

While western politicians have appealed to the best in human nature, an appeal that, however insincere or hypocritical, places constraints upon them, Putin has always exploited, so far successfully (if one measures success by survival in power), the worst in it.  – Theodore Dalrymple

Blame for the failure to prepare must lie with the Ministry of Health and the Health Minister. There was no decision to urgently hire or train more staff, and no rapid move to create temporary facilities. “Plans” to upgrade hospitals to cope with Covid patients were announced just three months ago. A pronouncement six weeks ago that the Ministry was “about to start” recruiting offshore for ICU nurses was rightly ridiculed.

These failures are emblematic of the Government’s ponderous approach to almost every aspect of the health response. Provision of PPE, vaccines, RAT tests and new medications have all been very slow, and served with a diet of dissembling and obfuscation.

The ministry and the Government have been way too reliant on the generosity of New Zealanders in accepting restrictions on their freedoms to “avoid putting pressure on the health system”, where too often it has really been about avoiding pressure on themselves. – Steven Joyce

There is nothing you can point to that will improve patient care, nor even a funding formula. Just lots of shallow statements about “fixing the health system”. Oh, and a half-billion-dollar-and-counting price tag.

It was ever thus. Incessant rounds of reforms at the top of the system end up leaving the same people in charge and no plan to improve patient care. – Steven Joyce

I’m all in favour of a greater range of health providers including Māori health providers, who often do a better job of reaching their communities. But it doesn’t make sense that a health provider with the country’s largest number of Māori and Pacific people enrolled gets paid less per patient than one which is Māori-owned. Funding according to the ownership of the supplier means patients miss out.

Similarly we shouldn’t be prioritising provision through government-owned suppliers as we did in the early stages of vaccine rollout, when GP’s in private practice and pharmacists were left on the sidelines. How was that good for patients? – Steven Joyce

Changes are needed in health to make the sector more robust so it can deliver more to New Zealanders. Reform that provides more patient-centred care and a larger workforce will make a difference. Reform with a big price tag that just rearranges the bureaucracy won’t. Unfortunately, the Government is serving up the latter. Steven Joyce

We voters only care about the short term. And our politicians only care about keeping us happy. They’re not nimble or urgent. They’re cowardly.

But ask yourself this: regardless of your political stripes, wouldn’t you prefer a government to be led by its principles than by the polls?

A society deserves the leaders it elects. Once again, Jacinda Ardern’s Government has shown it’s more interested in doing what is popular than what is right.  – Jack Tame

The line between fact and fiction has become thin. In their second term, Labour has become adept at downplaying their mistakes, discrediting those who criticise, encouraging misinformation and diverting attention from bad news, while wrapping themselves in meaningless cultural signals.Andrea Vance 

Politicians are enabled to gaslight us because of the torrent of information in our digital age. Who has time to fact-check every statement? And at a time when every press conference or speech is live-streamed, most of these confident assertions go unchecked.

We shrug off the lies because in a post-Trump world we no longer expect truthfulness, integrity or decency. The most pressing problems: hardship, climate change, the viability of our health systems, are too big to contemplate, so we happily accept slogans over real solutions.

All this gaslighting is enough to make you feel slightly insane. Which, I suppose, is the point. But the insanity would be in continuing to tolerate it. – Andrea Vance 

Media freedom is one of the crucial defining differences between a liberal democratic state and a totalitarian one. Put simply, it can be described as the right to know. It’s arguably at least as important as the right to vote, since a vote is pointless if it’s not an informed one.Karl du Fresne

But here’s the extraordinary thing. In 2022 the independence of the New Zealand media is jeopardised not by threats or coercion emanating from the state, but by the media’s own behaviour. In this respect we may be unique.

Journalistic bias is rampant and overt. It’s evident not just in how the media report things, but just as crucially in what is not reported at all. New Zealanders wanting to be fully informed on matters of consequence need to monitor online news platforms such as Kiwiblog, the BFD and Muriel Newman’s Breaking Views – to name just three – that cover the issues the mainstream media ignore. – Karl du Fresne

Generally speaking, news that reflects unfavourably on the government tends to be played down or ignored. Bias is apparent too in the lack of rigour in holding government politicians to account. – Karl du Fresne

After a lifetime as a journalist, I’m in the unfamiliar position of no longer trusting the New Zealand media to report matters of public interest fully, fairly, accurately and truthfully. This situation hasn’t arisen because of pressure from government communications czars or threats of imprisonment, as in authoritarian regimes such as Russia’s. It’s far more subtle than that.

The Labour government doesn’t have to tell the media what to report, or how, because most journalists, and especially those covering politics and important areas of public policy, are ideologically on board.  They are sympathetic with the government and want it to stay in power. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that this means relinquishing the impartial status on which they depend for their credibility.  – Karl du Fresne

Nonetheless I wonder whether the editors and publishers who lined up to accept the government’s tainted money stopped to consider the full implications. While they indignantly reject claims that they are ethically compromised, they appear not to understand that the public is entitled to suspect that the acceptance of state money has influenced reportage and media comment even when it hasn’t. The public perception of media independence has been irreparably harmed.

To put this another way, in Russia the media can’t be trusted because they are controlled by the state, but in New Zealand the media have spared the government the trouble.  – Karl du Fresne

In other words, of our headline inflation rate, LESS THAN HALF is due to inflation in tradeables. However, if you listen to government spin you’d think the whole of our inflation problem was imported. Yes, President Putin is way less to blame than our domestic policies.

Like what? Like our supermarket duopoly. Like weak competition in our building industry, where some huge companies wield immense market power. Like our Reserve Bank’s bungled $60 billion money printing program which flooded our markets with liquidity AT THE SAME TIME the Finance Minister was boasting how low was our unemployment rate. Alternatively one could partly blame our extreme closed border policies which have led to exploding shortages in skilled & unskilled labour. One could also blame high government spending, financed by borrowing, which PM Ardern “absolutely refutes”.

Can’t Labour just tell a story as it is for once? That would help the country to better address the root of its problems rather than pretending everything is perfect. – Robert MacCulloch

It seems that the Government has to resort to a reactive approach instead of being proactive because it lacks any real underpinning vision about where it wants to take the country. To have direction, political leaders need to have policy, values, and be embedded in a milieu of critical thinking and innovation.

This is traditionally what a political party is. It’s a big think tank of on-the-ground policy development based on a vision of a particular sort of world that it wants to create. The problem for Ardern and her colleague is that this is entirely lacking for them. There is no mass membership party feeding ideas and policies up from its base. In fact, the last Labour Party annual conference showed that the party barely has any debate at all, and certainly no real decision making powers like it used to.

Without a useful anchor in society, the Labour Government is now just floating around, lost at sea, only reacting to events as they arise. It means the party and government have little chance of taking the country anywhere, and voters will eventually tire of its managerial approach. To sell itself based on its competence during the Covid crisis is not going to work again at the next election – especially since much of that competence has been more questionable since 2020. – Bryce Edwards

The Government can jettison the more unpopular parts of its reform programme – especially things like its hate speech law reforms, and perhaps Three Waters – but what will these be replaced with? When a party lacks connection to its voter base, and has no strong ideological underpinnings, it is forced to make up policies as it goes, reacting to opinion polls. It means that badly formulated policies like KiwiBuild are quickly dreamt up, and just as quickly discarded when they become embarrassing. Cycling bridges are announced and then un-announced, again all in reaction to polls.

The even bigger problem is that Labour has forgotten its own traditional voter base. This is observable in the fact that they have overseen a massive transfer of wealth to the rich, while the poor have simply got poorer. – Bryce Edwards

This is why transformation is not possible under Labour at the moment, and why the party has become a conservative one. It’s been cut adrift from its original principles and support bases. This makes it more likely to lose power at the next election. Ultimately Labour needs to find a way to reconnect with some of its original working class constituents and ideologies. That’s the political soul of the Labour Party, and something that seems sorely missing at the moment.Bryce Edwards

Why on earth a government can’t do its job and actually govern, make a decision and announce it – and then stand by it – is beyond most of us.

Is it about power or just plain incompetence? – Barry Soper

There is much about our COVID response that must be put under a microscope.

The Levels, Stages and Traffic Light System. The botched vaccine rollout. The legality and morality of a vaccine mandate that saw New Zealanders lose their jobs – and their minds. A clinical, archaic MIQ system that left Kiwi citizens stranded all over the world. The economic impact of never-ending lockdowns, a two-year border closure (and counting), the multi-billion dollar spend, and a failure to engage or listen to the private sector. And that’s just scratching the surface.Rachel Smalley

What divides democracy and dictatorship? Public accountability.

And all of us need answers. – Rachel Smalley

Farming in New Zealand is under threat and overlooking the cost of fuel on-farm is yet another straw.

There have certainly been suggestions that a change in the way that farmers operate would allow them to remain in business, but none of the suggestions, whether organic, regenerative, veganism or synthetics (vat fermentation) get away from the use of fossil fuel – usually more than is required by pasture-based agriculture and resulting in food at a greater price to the consumer. Jacqueline Rowarth

n this sense, Wellington’s distaste for economists can be understood. Because the profession is not characterized by knee-jerk big-government types, its’ members have become ideologically unacceptable to Kiwi politicians and bureaucrats who thrive on red-tape, centralization, moneyprinting, higher taxes and less competition in the welfare state. – Robert Maculloch

We replaced whale oil as a fuel source a century ago, not because we wanted to save the whales, but because we discovered a much cheaper and more abundant fuel – oil. Now we have to do the same to oil: double down on making the alternative cheaper and abundant.Josie Pagani

We replaced whale oil as a fuel source a century ago, not because we wanted to save the whales, but because we discovered a much cheaper and more abundant fuel – oil. Now we have to do the same to oil: double down on making the alternative cheaper and abundant.

And we should follow the science. Look closely at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report assessing the impacts of climate change and you will see the world has made progress towards limiting impacts. Cool heads, not hot takes, make for better responses. – Josie Pagani

The Bank of America has found that globally, achieving net-zero will cost $150 trillion over 30 years. In a new study, the international consultancy firm McKinsey finds most of the poorest nations in Africa would have to pay more than 10 per cent of their total national incomes every year toward climate policy. This is more than these nations combined spend on education and health.

This is not only implausible but also immoral on a continent where almost half a billion people still live in abject poverty. – Josie Pagani

The answer to the PM’s dilemma is relatively simple. They made too many mistakes, they didn’t admit those mistakes, and they certainly didn’t apologise. They relied far too heavily on ministry wonks who let them down and who also didn’t admit mistakes and apologise. – Mike Hosking

From the very beginning it has been haphazard … the PPE that never turned up for the nurses and doctors, the flu jab last year that got botched, the nurses that weren’t recruited until it was too late, the absurd mess around ICU beds and how you count them, the behind-the-scenes Machiavellian madness of the Ministry of Health refusing any number of Official Information Act requests on detail the media inquired about, the astonishingly cruel MIQ rulings where DJs got clearance and family members of dying people didn’t – the list, if you sit and think about it long enough, is exhausting and really provides the Prime Minister with all the material she needs to see why so many of us didn’t go along for the ride.Mike Hosking

It’s a combination of their inexperience, reliance on officials, arrogance and passion for spin that has led them here.

I don’t know whether the PM knows this and just says she doesn’t, or whether she is genuinely confused. If it’s the latter then they’re in more trouble than I already thought they were. – Mike Hosking

They didn’t take more of us with them because they told us they knew better when they didn’t, they didn’t tell enough truth when they needed to, fundamentally they weren’t up to it from the start. They are “B” teamers handed a crisis, who were exposed for lack of talent and acumen.

A government that got famous early for lack of delivery, did the same with Covid as they did with KiwiBuild or light rail. It’s not hard to understand unless you don’t want to, or you don’t have the wherewithal to get it in the first place.Mike Hosking

Labour’s obsession with the Maori language is destroying trust in the public service as official communications are increasingly being produced in pidgin English, which inhibits understanding, erodes accuracy, and damages public confidence in Government institutions.- Muriel Newman

All up, it’s hard to see those policy changes as anything but a cynical vote grab. They aren’t targeted at reducing costs or increasing incomes for those who truly need it. They’re undoing an otherwise positive effect of high fuel prices on carbon emissions. And they’re unlikely to have a positive effect (and may even be counter-productive) in terms of public transport patronage. Possibly, the government is hoping that the voting public has the same low level of economic literacy that they do. Things may not be that bad, yet. On the plus side, the government now seems to recognise that an excise is a tax.Michael Cameron

#4 In human affairs, there is no perfection.
In one’s own life, there are times when one feels broken or cracked, or fragmented or even malformed.
Like the world dropped you on your head.

But one may choose to address those circumstances and reach for one’s inner super glue – one’s history of healing – one’s memory of recovery on another and better day – one’s capacity to know the difference between an inconvenience and a real problem – one’s capacity to get up and go on, no matter what.
I may choose. The super glue is in my attitude and memory. – Robert Fulghum

 But New Zealand’s economic situation is now overtaking the virus, politically. On one estimate, over 1.7 million New Zealanders either has had or has Covid-19 now. That isn’t to say it is trivial, but the chance of getting it is now just a daily reality for everyone.

But while Covid for most means a sick week or so at home, that light-fingered inflation will be peeking into wallets every week. And ASB’s $150 per week prediction will be scarier to a lot of voters than Omicron.Luke Malpass

The gap between what we have and what we need is widening. We have the fact we waste money at a spectacular rate when we do build stuff. We have the fact that when something starts it doesn’t end on time or on budget. We have the fact things cost more than they need to.  – Mike Hosking

Then you have the ideology of the bike lanes, the bus lanes, and the coloured planter pots. All cost a fortune, aren’t used, and add nothing to the economy. All in the vein of hoping that people will take to them on their new bicycles in city centres they no longer come to town to work in. Mike Hosking

But really, what this country appears to do well is write reports outlining why so much stuff doesn’t work or live up to expectation. This week we’ve had the infrastructure report and the mental health report. $1.9 billion they cried, and for what? Well, the report tells us not much.

The Auckland report. Dysfunction that’s led to the place being the way it is. The literacy report where nearly half kids don’t go to school regularly, and 20 percent of 15-year-olds can’t even read.

It’s a shockingly poor state of affairs.

No one gets it perfect, obviously, but in a single week we have a shelf full of reminders that who we should be is not even close to the reality of what we are. – Mike Hosking

ACADEMIC FREEDOM is one of those “public goods” that most people seldom question. Even in New Zealand, a country not especially hospitable to intellectuals of any sort, academics are seldom identified as persons in need of official restraint. New Zealanders prefer to joke about the otherworldliness and impracticality of academic research – especially in the social sciences and liberal arts. That is to say, they used to joke about it. Over the last few years academics have given ordinary New Zealanders small cause for laughter.

Indeed, it has become increasingly clear to the Free Speech Union, along with many other advocates of freedom of expression, that the place where academic freedom is most at risk is, paradoxically, academia itself. – Chris Trotter

While paying lip-service to the principle of academic freedom, New Zealand’s university authorities have begun to hedge it around with all manner of restrictions. The pursuit of research subjects and/or the articulation of ideas capable of inflicting “harm” on other staff and students has become decidedly “career-limiting”. – Chris Trotter

The simple truth of the matter is that freedom is always and everywhere indivisible. Suppress it in our universities and its suppression elsewhere will soon follow. Those who do not subscribe to freedom have no place in our halls of learning – or anywhere else enlightened human values are cherished.Chris Trotter

And the problem is that, aside from Covid, it feels like things have got harder under them.

All the unresolved disappointments of the last election are still here. And then despite there being a global pandemic, last year house prices still went up 23.8 per cent. It looks like I won’t be able to take the Auckland rail link until after I hit menopause. And now there’s a cost of living crisis. It’s a grim day when houses, petrol and broccoli all start to look unaffordable. – Verity Johnson

I know with inflation and Ukraine it’s not entirely their fault. But they can’t ignore the fact that they ascended to the Beehive trumpeting their emphasis on wellbeing, like archangels with organic body-oil side hustles. They filled us with hope about wellness budgets and affordable living … and now this.

And refusing to call it a crisis just looks like they’re trying to gloss over this, so they don’t look so guilty. Not to mention it’s especially galling to have your frustration ignored by a Government who has been hammering on about kindness like a Care Bear with a jackhammer.

So now, as we come out of Covid, we’re looking to peacetime governance. And we’re faced with the underwhelming choice of staying in a loveless marriage – or cheating with Luxon. This is about as grim as $4.50 for one piece of broccoli.

But it’s true, you can’t stay in a relationship out of gratitude for the past. You have to actually have hope and faith in their future. And I don’t know if I do any more with Labour. – Verity Johnson

 As an intensive care doctor of 20 years I considered the concept of an intensive care to be immutable but now this turned out to not be so.

The inconvenient truth of their scarcity could be at least partially addressed by altering the definition.

A bed is a piece of furniture, incapable of providing any form of care, never mind intensively. To do so it needs a specialist intensive care nurse standing next to it 24 hours a day. This requires five to six intensive care nurses per bed as, inconveniently, they also want to sleep, have families, and not live in a hospital.

Caring intensively also requires equipment, drugs, doctors, a large array of allied health professionals (physiotherapists, pharmacists, radiographers etc) cleaners and administration staff. It costs around NZ$1.5m (£750,000) a year to keep one intensive care bed open, with the availability of intensive care nurses being the rate-limiting step. As the world realised we didn’t have enough, they became one of the most valuable (but not valued) people in healthcare. By necessity, at wave peak, their expertise was diluted. Rather than the optimal 1:1 ratio of critically ill patients to expert nurses, team structures “allowed” them to supervise others with little or no intensive care experience (with an entirely predictable effect on mortality). This may be politically appealing but, as a professor of intensive care medicine at Cambridge University commented, “no one sane would suggest this was the appropriate planning strategy for Covid if you had the opportunity to do otherwise”. – Alex Psirides

The accusation of bullying therefore left me confused but then a light went on in my head.

Of course! Bullying is when you say something with which someone else disagrees. Gavin Ellis

I have been the recipient of a clear message that what I had to say has no value because it did not accord with the views of (I am led to assume) a majority, and I was out of touch with ‘reality’ because I conformed to unacceptable stereotypes. If that was insufficient to establish my unworthiness, I was also deemed to no longer be “a working journalist”.

Those stereotypes were based on assumptions that those over a certain age were stuck in the past, that being Pākeha (“white”) imbues an unassailable sense of social and cultural superiority, and that males are inherently domineering and dismissive. No longer being part of a newsroom assumed I knew nothing of “today’s journalism”.- Gavin Ellis

It is naive to think that the past has no relevance to what we do today. As for journalism, it is downright dangerous to think that the digital age – in which the stereotypers grew up – swept away all that went before and reinvented it.

Yes, there are aspects of journalism that are a moving feast. They reflect society’s own changes and are carried along by them. Take language: Although we have been converting nouns to verbs for centuries, ‘to medal’ or ‘to podium’ would have had the sub-editors of my youth in a state of life-threatening apoplexy.Gavin Ellis

What worried me was the willingness to bring down a shutter on discussion that interfered with a particular world view.

That isn’t a generational phenomenon limited to millennials and Gen Zers. It is a current affliction that spans all demographics and many socio-political beliefs.  – Gavin Ellis

Journalists should have no part of that sort of thinking. Yet I fear this generation of journalists is complicit in some of it.

Matters dealing with race, gender (old men excepted), image and identity are handled with kid gloves. Debate on some subjects – such as the mātauranga Māori letter to the Listener signed by seven scientists – has become one-sided. ‘Old-fashioned’ views have no validity. We can only guess at what subjects get no exposure at all.Gavin Ellis

Limits of space and time and the testing of stories against sets of (often uncodified) news values have always determined that some stories make in into print or on air and others do not.

There are also limits to what the New York Times’ masthead describes as “all the news that’s fit to print”. Outside those limits are such things as hate speech but some sections of the boundary must be contestable in order to prevent their use to stifle legitimate debate. Nevertheless, any redrawing of that boundary must be done collectively, carefully, and conservatively if society is to preserve a meaningful public sphere. Without a shadow of doubt, it should not be an amorphous and arbitrary process but I fear it is heading that way. – Gavin Ellis

Journalists should not use perceived majority views as some sort of selection yardstick. To do so risks falling into what German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann called a “spiral of silence” that stifles alternative opinion. The centrifugal force which accelerates the spiral of silence is fear of isolation and I wonder whether the prospect of falling victim to ‘cancel culture’ leads journalists – perhaps unconsciously – to become party to it.

We will be in trouble if journalists or media organisations start to condition their approach to the news by avoiding those things that might isolate them. It is a form of self-censorship that is little better than imposed constraints. And it, too, is a downward spiral. –  Gavin Ellis

 Populist authoritarian governments in eastern Europe, for example, use various coercive levers to keep media in line. It is another thing entirely to fall into line simply because one social trope or another determines the acceptability of a subject and limits or eliminates criticism of ‘protected’ topics.

Such acquiescence runs counter to what journalism should stand for and, in a perverse way, it takes us back almost 400 years to a time when presses were licenced to constrain what could be published. – Gavin Ellis

 I was not sure what to think of the pandemic when it struck, and am still not quite sure. Like many, I suspect, I find myself veering, or careening, from one opinion to another. Sometimes, I think that it is not so much the illness but the response to it that is the more damaging. At other times, I think that governments had little choice but to act as they did. On this subject, I lack fixed convictions. – Theodore Dalrymple

Where uncertainty is inevitable but the stakes are high, tempers are likely to flare and people to claim insights into the nature of things that they do not have. Humankind, said T. S. Eliot, cannot bear too much reality, but it also cannot bear too much uncertainty: humans then turn to conspiracy theories or cults to alleviate their sense of helplessness. That is why discussions of Covid so quickly become arguments: most people who are not sure of their ground make up for it by dogmatism. – Theodore Dalrymple

Where uncertainty is inevitable but the stakes are high, tempers are likely to flare and people to claim insights into the nature of things that they do not have. Humankind, said T. S. Eliot, cannot bear too much reality, but it also cannot bear too much uncertainty: humans then turn to conspiracy theories or cults to alleviate their sense of helplessness. That is why discussions of Covid so quickly become arguments: most people who are not sure of their ground make up for it by dogmatism. – Theodore Dalrymple

The disrespectful dialogue is reflective of real-life politics. Insults have replaced arguments in debate.Andrea Vance

Politics has always been a nasty sport. But today it seems brutish. And what does all this toxicity achieve – apart from more ad dollars in the bank accounts of tech moguls? – Andrea Vance

Mainstream political reporting thrives on conflict. Protesting in dramatic and disruptive ways captures attention. There is no incentive to break out of incivility, to recalibrate politics. To be nice.Andrea Vance

Personally, I believe you don’t need two systems to deliver public services, you need a single system that has enough innovation to target for people on the basis of need. – Christopher Luxon

Wherever you sit on fair pay agreements, if you support them or not, the timing of this legislation is wrong.  – Rachel Smalley

The government hasn’t read the room, and commentators who criticise the likes of Ardern and Robertson and say they don’t have real-world experience, will now throw their hands in the air and say “see? what did I tell you?! They are out of step with business.” – Rachel Smalley

Here are some of the questions the government should have asked… Will this improve wages? Will it drive productivity? Or, will the prospect of unions knocking on the door, potential arbitration… Will it drive already stretched businesses to the edge? Will it trigger job losses, a collapse in productivity, and will some of our SMEs fall over after two years of hanging on by their fingertips, trying to stay afloat and stay on top of the government’s requirements as it responded to COVID?

Did the government think about how businesses might perceive this? What it signals to me – and I’m sure it will be the same for many business owners – is that the government doesn’t trust kiwi businesses to do the right thing. The government doesn’t believe, without regulation, that businesses will look out for their employees.Rachel Smalley

If you want to improve wages, the government needs to create an environment in which companies can be confident to invest. Confident to grow. Confident to employ people and reward performance. Confident that the government of the day understands that economies – more than ever right now – must be flexible and responsible, not heavily regulated.

Throughout the later part of our COVID response, businesses have struggled with the shackles of political over-reach and control. – Rachel Smalley

What’s happening to democracy in this country, let alone the promised transparency of this Government?

Labour is abusing its absolute power and it seems those opposing it are powerless to do anything about it because majority rules.Barry Soper 

This goes beyond simply controlling the message. Like they say, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Barry Soper 

Unions are always likely to have a place as long as there are exploitative employers. But the business model will have to adapt to explicitly choose to be an ideological movement or be an employment services provider. Needing the Government to prop you up with enabling legislation, like the fair pay agreements, is not sustainable and makes you very susceptible to changes in Government. – Brigitte Morten 

 Unions will have a place in the future if they resist their collective urge to just cause labour shortages and instead focus on delivering policies that serve the country as a whole rather than those that are the lowest-performing. – Brigitte Morten 

With almost no debate, Labour has adopted a radical reinterpretation of the Treaty as a partnership to justify co-governance. With co-governance, there is no democratic accountability when half the power is held by those who do not have to answer to the electorate.

Co-governance was not in Labour’s manifesto. Labour ministers hid from its coalition partner He Puapua – a report that could result in co-governance being extended. Work on this radical document is continuing.Richard Prebble

We do not need a new Treaty. The Treaty is fine as it was written in 1840. [In the English text version] there are just three articles: “Cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty”; “guarantees … the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates, Forests, Fisheries and other properties”; and grants “all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects”.

There is nothing about partnerships or being “a multi-ethnic-liberal democracy”.

As David Lange put it: “Did Queen Victoria for a moment think of forming a partnership with a number of thumb prints and 500 people?” – Richard Prebble

What the Treaty does say is still important today.

Sovereignty was ceded. Sovereignty is indivisible. The Crown is everyone as represented by the executive and the courts.

Property rights are guaranteed.

Citizenship grants the rights from the Magna Carta – no arbitrary taxation and the right to a fair trial with a jury.

Parliament is responsible for the present reinterpretation, and only Parliament can fix it.

Parliament has included in a number of laws the phrase “the principles of the Treaty”, without saying what those principles are. No MP thought that a court might say that a Treaty principle was a partnership. No court has.Richard Prebble

Where Māori have a valid property claim, such as to some of our national parks, then co-governance is a pragmatic solution. It recognises the Māori property interest while maintaining the public interest in preserving the parks.

Labour ministers are now promoting co-governance on the basis that the Treaty is a partnership even where Māori have no property claim.

Māori interest in having access to health is the same as everyone.

As far as water is concerned, Māori only have an ownership interest as ratepayers in the dams, pipes, pumping stations and sewage plants. There is no case for co-governance. – Richard Prebble

Instead of a referendum, Act should campaign that Parliament legislate that the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are those in the Treaty: namely, the Crown has sovereignty, the Crown guarantees property rights and everyone has the same rights of New Zealand citizenship.

When Parliament does that we can again repeat Governor Hobson’s words: “He iwi kotahi tātou: now we are one people”.Richard Prebble

Will Smith walloping Chris Rock across the face live on international television was not a departure from Hollywood norms. In fact, the act was simply the entitlement and privilege of celebrity made manifest.  – Ani O’Brien

These, by and large, are people who are paid insane amounts of money to play dress up and pretend. Many of them have spent more time in rehab than they did at high school and yet they have the audacity to lecture the rest of us about life. 

The problem is that the echo chamber they are ensconced in is completely divorced from reality. Famous and wealthy, they buy into their own mythology. They forget that they are a mirage, a veneer. They are the sum of their most well-known characters to those who adore them and adulation as a result of fictional performance does not qualify someone to instruct the population on politics and morality.  – Ani O’Brien

Acting is without a doubt an art form – when done well. It is a skill and the very best actors should be acknowledged for their talent. But it is high time we stopped allowing actors to pretend they have the authority to ‘educate’ us on matters of importance.

Living in gated communities and with security entourages, many celebrities espouse social policies that they will never have to suffer the consequences of. Their pseudo-moralistic stances are profoundly ill-informed and deeply out of touch. – Ani O’Brien

Overpaid hired clowns do not know more about life than a single mother working as a nurse or a man who delivers packages and stacks shelves. Their bank balance does not qualify them to lecture on the environment, politics, and morality. Nor does the fact that people like to take photos with them.

At what point do we, those they may as well see as dollar signs, refuse to accept their fake profundity? If we all stop paying attention to their grandstanding will they stop? Does a celebrity preaching in a forest, with no one there to hear them, make a sound? – Ani O’Brien

History is a profoundly important subject, as well as being something that can provide an individual with an interest that endures over a lifetime. I read historical fiction and non-fiction for pleasure. Understanding where we come from and how we got here matters. – Damien Grant

Heading up the ministry’s document on the new curriculum is the statement: “If we want to shape Aotearoa New Zealand’s future, start with the past.” Damien Grant

I congratulate the ministry on the transparency of their agenda, although the inclusion of this statement is more likely an indication of the author’s lack of anything approaching a classical education.

The programme shockingly misrepresents our nation’s past and is disturbingly one-dimensional.

In the document outlying the new curriculum, the local population is depicted living in some form of a bucolic harmony with each other and their natural environment, before the catastrophic and violent arrival of the Europeans. – Damien Grant

If we want to get students to seriously engage with our history, teach them about the battles, bloodshed and bravery, not “the ways different groups of people have lived and worked in this rohe have changed over time”.Damien Grant

Because the ministry wants to use the past to shape the future, they are stripping everything from our history that has value and killing any prospect that our children will retain an interest in the topic.

There is no more evidence as to the banality of this interpretation of history that it excludes Te Rauparaha and includes Georgina Beyer.

Beyer is a significant historical figure in her own right and deserves a place in our collective history. She is magnificent and her story inspirational.

But if you are going to memory-hole a military leader who was compared by his contemporaries to Napoleon, well, you are not conducting history, you are re-inventing it. – Damien Grant

The most remarkable aspect of this version of New Zealand’s history is the exclusion of almost any topic that does not impact Māori. Everything is seen through this lens. What happened to Richard Pearse, Charles Upham and General Bernard Freyberg?Damien Grant

There is a strong argument that we do not properly acknowledge the appalling treatment of the indigenous population of these islands by the colonial authorities.

I am in favour of bringing this failure to the attention to the next generation. It is a shameful aspect of our past and the consequences of it live with us today.

If the state wishes to address this by incorporating it into the national school curriculum, that is fine with me. I can get behind a bit of nation building.

But we should be honest about what is being done here. This is not, as the Prime Minister claims, our history. It is a selective part of it, and it appears to be driven by a desire to control how we move into the future. – Damien Grant

Our history has its roots in the migration from Hawaiki and the traditions and people who came on that journey.

It includes the cruelty and crimes committed by the colonial authorities against their treaty partners in the decades after 1840. But our history is more than that.

The New Zealand of today can also be traced to debates in the agoras of ancient Athens, in the marshlands of Wessex, the fields around Hastings in 1066 and the failings of King John.

We are a successor state to a remarkable empire and a proud sovereign nation with, inexplicably, the Union Jack still affixed to our flag.

This new history teaches our children none of that. It is not history at all. It is social engineering.Damien Grant

Yet there are reasons for the decline in trust that should be blindingly obvious to anyone who is not suffering institutional capture from actually working for the mainstream media (or being entirely sympathetic to its approach to journalism).

The most obvious failure is that the mass media’s journalists and editors too often seem to not understand they need to reflect the important debates that are actually happening in society — including on social media — rather than only the ones they approve of. Or if they do cover contentious issues, not to present only one, approved side of the debate. – Graham Adams

As far as I can tell, no one in the media here has reported Lord Sebastian Coe’s warning that “gender cannot trump biology” when deciding whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete alongside female contestants. Yet Lord Coe is eminently quotable as an influential two-time Olympic gold medallist and President of World Athletics.Graham Adams

So here we are in 2022, in a liberal democracy, with a senior lawyer worrying that a court case of constitutional importance might not be covered in the media because journalists are afraid of being called racist or because they don’t want to offend the Government. – Graham Adams

It doesn’t help the mainstream media one little bit, of course, that the Government’s Public Interest Journalism Fund is providing $55 million over three years for a variety of projects and editorial staff positions — all under an agreement that successful applicants will commit to “Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to Māori as a Te Tiriti partner”. Consequently, any failure to comprehensively cover the Water Users’ Group case will be widely interpreted as evidence the media has been bought.

Given that public money with such strings attached is now firmly embedded throughout the mainstream media, the only way it can shrug off that widespread perception is to show that it is, indeed, reporting “without fear or favour”.

Otherwise, its apparent partisanship will kill it, as social media and alternative news sites continue eating its lunch in great bites.Graham Adams


Principles vs politics

23/03/2022

Labour’s election commitment to climate change was supposed to be its nuclear-free moment.

File that along with child poverty, Kiwibuild and so many other grand promises that have been followed by little, if any, progress.

The carbon tax on fuel was supposed to encourage people to use less. The steep increase in oil prices recently ought to have reinforced that.

But National leader Chris Luxon hit the target when he spoke about a cost of living crisis and the government folded.

Its poll-driven decision to reduce the excise tax on petrol, at least for three months, shows what happens when principles meet politics.

It illustrates the problem with so many policies that are supposed to address climate change – they impose too high economic and social costs to be politically acceptable. Too often they have little if any positive impact on the environment and sometimes they make it worse.

European countries are back peddling quickly from their decisions to get rid of coal and nuclear power plants because its left them too reliant on Russia’s gas.

Labour’s rush towards greener power has left us reliant on imported coal that is dirtier than the local fuel we’re no longer permitted to mine.

Its ute-tax achieves nothing because of the way the ETS works and its insistence on a carbon tax on fuel has been undermined by the excise tax cut.

Worse, still, Matt Burgess explains the government’s emissions reduction policies are based on the pretence of necessity:

At May’s Budget, the government will commit $4.5 billion to new spending on climate change, more than $2,000 per household. The government will also deliver its Emissions Reduction Plan, an array of levies, subsidies, regulations and hard bans. The government will say these interventions are necessary and that they will help deliver emissions targets.

Neither claim is true. Existing policies already have New Zealand firmly on track to deliver statutory emissions targets. Parliament has committed to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases. Legislation defines net emissions as gross emissions (for example, from car exhausts) minus offsets (for example, the carbon captured by trees, co-operation with other countries). Offsets are recognised in domestic law and international agreements. They are affordable and available in effectively unlimited quantities.

These facts secure emissions targets. Regardless of how much or how little existing policies including the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) lower emissions, offsets will bridge the gap to targets. New Zealand is not in a position of having to resort to desperate measures to meet its climate change obligations. This country can make reasonable or best efforts to lower net emissions with existing policies and be certain
of success.

Accordingly, further policies are not necessary. We have options. The government could choose not to add thousands of dollars to the cost of imported vehicles from next month with its Feebate policy and be certain of delivering our obligations. Agriculture could stay outside the ETS indefinitely while the country reaches net zero emissions. Only by overlooking offsets can the government maintain the fiction that drastic further actions are necessary. The government bears the burden of proof to show how its new policies improve on existing policies.

Even if existing policies were not enough to reach targets, the government’s strategy would not help. The government has already capped greenhouse gases. Changes to the ETS in 2020 introduced a quantity cap. The new cap will be a sinking lid on emissions, set to fall in line with targets. It is well known that policies cannot reduce emissions from under an emissions cap. Cap-and-trade schemes like the ETS effectively neutralise other emissions policies. Where a policy lowers a sector’s emissions, the sector will buy fewer emissions permits. That leaves more permits for others, meaning higher emissions elsewhere. Overall emissions do not change. New Zealand has one of the most comprehensive ETSs in the world. Nearly all of the government’s policies will be neutralised – regardless of whether existing policies are enough.

The government’s vast new spending on climate change policies could reduce emissions by zero tonnes. If this were business, it would be fraud.

Whether or not the government can be accused of fraud, that is scandalous.

This report reviews the government’s climate change strategy. The strategy is based on a misunderstanding of the relationship between the ETS and other policies. The government is pushing its disruptive policies by misconstruing the legislation and by ignoring every feasible alternative. Officials have mostly abandoned cost-benefit analysis; they reject cost and effectiveness as primary goals; they believe climate policies should manage inequality and historic grievances as well as reduce emissions; emissions policies are rarely checked after they are launched; and poor performance is rarely corrected. It is not surprising that policies regularly spend 20 times more than the ETS to abate each tonne of emissions.

We are witnessing an historic public policy failure. Later this year, when the government delivers its new policies, it will call its policies “necessary” or “vital.” This is the pretence of necessity. It is cover for policies that could not survive any test of their merits. After all, there can be no case for expensive, ineffective, and often regressive policies if they are not needed.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to mount a case for expensive, ineffective and often regressive policies if they are needed.

Inflicting them on us when they aren’t, is bad politics based on flawed principles.

It’s a very bad example of must do something and be seen to be doing it policy on the theory that doing something is better than doing nothing, even when in this case, it isn’t. It’s merely virtue signalling to the green zealots here and abroad.

Like far too many other supposedly green policies it unbalances the three-legged sustainability stool – cutting off the economic and social legs leaving the environmental one that superficially looks strong but will not support the weight of science.

The full report Pretence of Necessity is here.


Nicola Willis takes on Finance

16/03/2022

National leader Christopher Luxon has appointed Nicola Willis as Finance spokesperson.

Luxon announced it this morning after Bridges’ resignation yesterday, saying Willis was the right person to take the Government to tack over the cost of living and “wasteful spending decisions.”

It is a return to the days of the deputy also holding the finance role – as was the case when Sir John Key was leader and Bill English his deputy.

“Nicola has an incredible intellect, prodigious work ethic and proven ability to hold the Government to account as we’ve seen her do on housing. She will build on National’s track record as the best economic managers to help Kiwis get ahead.”

He pointed to Willis’ background as a member of Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee and previously held a number of senior management roles at Fonterra.

He said she also understands how finance interacts with the other portfolios across Government – and prior to politics had a good business and commercial orientation after working at Fonterra.

Willis said it was important to have good people around you, and National had a good team of advisers to develop a fiscal “and most importantly an economic growth plan”. . . 

Chris Bishop takes on responsibility for housing infrastructure portfolios and moves up one place to number three in the caucus. Shane Reti moves up to four and Paul Goldsmith climbs seven places to five.

National lost a lot of political experience last election but a team with the right skills, ability and financial acumen will make a better government than one full of political and bureaucratic experience but little knowledge or experience of life and business outside politics which is what we’ve got now.


Rural round-up

14/03/2022

He Waka Eke Noa caught in crosswinds – Keith Woodford:

He Waka Eke Noa was always going to be controversial. Right now, it is in some trouble.

Four weeks have slipped by since I last wrote about the He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) proposals for dealing with agricultural emissions of methane and nitrous oxide. During that time, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb have been conducting roadshows around New Zealand trying to convince their members to support the HWEN proposals.

If the HWEN proposals are accepted by farmers and the Government, then this will be the framework for agriculture’s greenhouse gas (GHG) levies through to 2050. So, we have to get it right.

My assessment is that the roadshows are not going particularly well. I make that judgement in part from the flood of emails I am getting from upset farmers, but more importantly because of the fundamental flaws within the current proposals. . . 

Rural sector calls for fuel price relief – Sally Murphy:

Rural industries struggling with rising fuel costs are calling on the government to reduce fuel taxes to make it more affordable.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed the oil price up to US$109 (NZ$159) a barrel – resulting in the price at the pump tipping over $3 a litre here.

Rural Contractors chief executive Andrew Olsen said contractors would have to pass the increased costs on to farmers, which would lead to increased food prices.

“When the product lands in a supermarket at a much higher cost it’s probably going to raise eyebrows,” he said. . .

Why are global dairy prices so high? here’s what you need to know :

Recently, global dairy prices hit a record high.

Last week the average price at the fortnightly global dairy auction rose 5.1 percent to $US5065 ($NZ7370) a tonne, after rising 4.2 percent in the previous auction.

The Global Dairy Trade price index hit 1593, breaking the previous record of 1573 set in April 2013.

Prices for other products were up too – wholemilk powder, butter, skim milk powder, and cheddar cheese. . .

Backing rural New Zealand – Christopher Luxon:

In my very first speech as National Party Leader, I said that our farmers are not villains.

Our provincial heartland has felt taken for granted for too long.

I’m proud to lead a party that is committed to standing up for farmers and rural communities – committed to representing you, championing your causes, and reducing the regulatory burden you face.

One of the things I’ve consistently heard loud and clear as a Member of Parliament is how New Zealand’s rural communities are feeling innundated by costs, rules and regulations flowing from Wellington. . . 

Horse and plough add French touch to Marlborough vineyard – Country Life:

A Clydesdale named Gordon is bringing an extra touch of France to Marlborough’s Churton vineyard.

Under the expert guidance of his French handler, Gordon is in training for the autumn ploughing season after a summer kicking up his hefty hooves on this beguiling block of vines above the Waihopai Valley.

Sam and Mandy Weaver set up the vineyard on 51 hectares of former sheep and beef country 30 years ago and are in the process of handing on the reins to sons Jack and Ben.

Biodynamic principles guide them in everything they do so a horse and plough to gently till the strip between the vines fitted in well with their vision for the vineyard. . . 

Boundless opportunities for Bay of Plenty Dairy Ward winners :

The major winners in the 2022 Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards, Scott and Rebecca O’Brien, are passionate about their business and the dairy industry and believe there are endless opportunities at all levels.

The couple were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year category at the Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at the Awakeri Events Centre on Friday night. The other big winners were Hayden Purvis who was named the 2022 Bay of Plenty Dairy Manager of the Year, and Thomas Lundman, the 2022 Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Scott (39) and Rebecca (41) are 50/50 sharemilking over two farms – Rory & Susan Gordon’s 260ha Galatea 650-cow property, and Peter & Cathy Brown’s 100ha, 250-cow property. They won $9,800 and four merit awards.

Scott grew up on a dairy farm, and when it was sold when he was 13, he knew the journey hadn’t ended for him. “I just love working with animals and the diverse day-to-day tasks of being a farmer.” . . 


It’s only one poll

11/03/2022

The 1News Kantar poll shows National ahead of Labour:

IT’s only one poll but it is continuing the trend of National gaining popularity and Labour losing it.

However, under MMP one major party having more votes than the other, doesn’t necessarily mean it could form a government.

National and Act have 37% support.

Labour and the Green Party have 36%.

The Maori Party has 2% and would be far more likely to go left than right.

However, the spectre of a Labour, Green, Maori government could well scare some in the middle ground into going right.

While Jacinda Ardern is still ahead as preferred PM, when those polled were asked who they’d prefer as PM if they could choose only Ardern or Christopher Luxon, there was only one percentage point in the difference:

We’re not even half way to the next election, but for the first time since Covid struck in 2020, the trend is National’s friend.


Crisis or not, it’s top concern

09/03/2022

National leader Chris Luxon’s state of the nation speech included the assertion that we’ve got a cost of living crisis.

Journalists picked that up and asked the Prime Minister if it is a crisis.

. . . I wouldn’t describe it that way, there is an impact that people are feeling undeniably but I wouldn’t describe it in that way,” Ardern told AM.  . . 

Many disagree including :Mum of five Krystine Nation and concerned Kiwi Steve Christodoulou say it is a crisis and families are struggling. . .

“To say there isn’t a crisis… she [Ardern] needs to get on the ground floor,” she said. “I couldn’t understand why we were struggling so much when in the first lockdown I was teaching people how to buy their groceries for $200 a week and live comfortably…In just over a year my groceries have increased $7000 annually. That’s a lot, my husband hasn’t received a $7000 increase in his pay. Not only that there is the petrol, the rent, I have spoken to so many people about this.”. . .

Christodoulou agrees, saying the increased cost of living is impacting his family too even though they aren’t low income. 

“It really irked me when the Prime Minister said this is not a crisis because look I am not going to lie, I wouldn’t classify myself as being on the breadline however there are things we notice changing drastically. . .

Christodoulou says petrol prices are also hitting his family. 

“You really do think before you put your key in the car, ‘do I really need to nip into town now or can I hold off, can I wait until I have to pick the kids up from kindy or have to go to an appointment’.” . . 

Others added their views in a Reddit thread:

One user said Ardern was “simply ignoring facts”, while another called it a “piss poor take” given food, petrol, rent and house prices were “skyrocketing”.

“How is this not a cost of living crisis?” . . 

Every week I have to withdrawl [sic] money from my savings to make ends meet with rent, food and petrol bills. So my full-time wage is not enough to service basic living costs without pulling money from somewhere else,” another user said.

“If it’s not a crisis what is it cause I feel crisis point and upset every day this year so far.” . . 

Whatever Ardern calls it, the cost of living is New Zealanders’ top concern.

. . . Consumer NZ’s Sentiment Tracker survey – a nationally representative quarterly survey – found the cost of living has overtaken previous top concerns of Covid 19 and the price of housing.

The tracker also looked at ongoing financial concerns for New Zealanders, with the cost of groceries ranking highly, superseded surpassed only by housing costs and unmanageable debt.

“We’re concerned about the rising cost of living and how many New Zealanders are struggling to afford their grocery bills. We’ve been campaigning for much needed change in New Zealand’s highly concentrated supermarket industry. With only two main players there is a distinct lack of competition that is contributing to high prices and higher than acceptable profit margins,” said Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ chief executive. . . 

Anyone who puts petrol in their vehicle or shops at the supermarket knows that the cost of living has increased and even people on reasonable incomes are finding their budgets are stretched.

Of course, it’s even worse for people on lower incomes.

That might not be obvious from the Beehive but it is for charities which work with them:

Monte Cecilia CEO Bernie Smith is pushing back on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s statements on Monday that while rising living costs were having an impact, she wouldn’t describe the situation as a crisis.

“From Monte Cecilia’s perspective, we’re working with hundreds of families every day who were already struggling to keep a roof over their children’s heads and food in their bellies, who are now being pushed well past the line. If that’s not a crisis, I don’t know what you’d call it.”

“Between rent, food, fuel and other basic necessities, families are expected to somehow find thousands of dollars extra a year to cover the rising costs. That’s a tough blow for those of us who are doing ok, but for families who were already struggling it’s crushing.”

Monte Cecilia has had to stop taking referrals earlier in the year after its wait list grew to almost 400 families and the government restricted its ability to contract new homes from landlords.

“The level of need in our communities right now is staggering and it’s a gut punch each time we have to tell a family that we’re not able to help them right now. If we as a country don’t do something urgently, the number of families in serious need, and the severity of that need, is only going to continue to grow.” . . 

Whatever she calls it, the PM’s comment makes her look out of touch :

The Prime Minister’s refusal to acknowledge the cost of living crisis shows she is out of touch with how tough it is becoming for Kiwis to put food on the table, says Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon.

“This week the Prime Minister stated inflation will get better this year. But in fact, the Reserve Bank’s forecast shows annual inflation is set to get worse, increasing to 6.6 per cent, while ANZ has today forecast that inflation could hit 7.4 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

“That‘s up from 5.9 per cent, which is already the highest inflation rate in three decades. Not only is annual inflation forecast to increase, but Kiwis’ wages are not keeping pace.

“The cost of everyday basics like food, petrol and housing are all through the roof. The average Kiwi family is worse off than they were 12 months ago and the Government needs to act.

“Instead, Labour is refusing to offer tax relief to Kiwis by adjusting tax brackets for inflation, meaning people will have to dig even deeper into their pockets just to fill up the car and put food on the table.

“It’s time for the Government to take action and deliver tax relief by adjusting tax brackets to account for the rampant inflation we’ve seen under Labour, to help Kiwis struggling under a cost of living crisis.”

The PM, and her government, can’t be held responsible for global shortages and other imported contributions to price rises, but their borrow and spend policies have contributed to domestic price escalations.

So too have the MIQeue of misery,  immigration policy and end of sanctions for beneficiaries who don’t actively look for work. All of those have led to the labour shortages that have left, and are still leaving, fruit and vegetables unpicked and that in turn leads to lower supply and higher prices.

And whatever she calls the problem isn’t nearly as important as what she plans to do to solve it, which so far looks like nothing.


Head and heart

07/03/2022

National leader Christopher Luxon delivered his state of the nation address yesterday.

He started with some of the background that shaped him:

My parents both left school early and were fantastic role models.

. . . Dad was a salesman, and when I was young we moved between Auckland and Christchurch for his work. From him I learned to have ambition and never settle for mediocrity, to work hard, to stay positive and to never let your circumstances define you.

Mum taught me about people, relationships and from her I got my sense of humour. When I went off to uni, Mum joined me to study social work. She established an Alzheimer’s and dementia carers’ support organisation and has gone on to become a respected psychotherapist and counsellor. Mum has helped thousands of people deal with difficulties and complexity in their lives. From her I learnt that life can be complicated, messy and hard – and that we all have a responsibility to support those that are doing it tough.

It’s too easy to judge people by our own experiences and standards. But life is messy, and hard and those of us who can do have a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves.

I’m proud of what I achieved before entering politics.

Yes in business. But my greatest achievement will always be convincing my wife Amanda that I was the person she should spend the rest of her life with, and then having two amazing children together. Children who we’ve had the privilege of watching grow into smart, confident young adults – and who aren’t afraid to give their mum and dad some advice these days!

Being a husband and a father will forever be the role that defines me. Nothing else comes close.

But I’ve been fortunate to have some other amazing roles too.

My first job was at McDonalds, where I had the privilege of running the drive-thru. And I’m still partial to a burger and fries when Amanda’s not around – it’s fair to say she’s a bit more into healthy lifestyles than I am.

After university I joined Unilever.

Living and working across the globe for 16 years I saw the good and bad of different political systems.

Recently, I watched as several Labour Party MPs enthusiastically declared that they were proud socialists.

Whatever you call it, Labour has time and again shown us that it thinks it alone knows what is best for Kiwis and their communities. They don’t trust us to make decisions for ourselves and our families – they insist more and more things should be dictated by politicians and bureaucrats in Wellington.

I simply do not agree.

Working for Unilever it was important to understand the lives of the people who were buying our products.

So, in most cities that I visited, the first thing I did was spend time with local people in their homes, understanding their lives before I met our management teams who often lived a different reality. 

I remember sitting in a modest Moscow flat with a couple in their late 40s on a dark and snowy afternoon. It couldn’t have been clearer that socialism – in terms of Government control of everyday life and lack of rewards for hard work – had abjectly failed and actually created misery.

After Unilever I returned to New Zealand and had the privilege of leading our most iconic company – Air New Zealand – and its team of 12,000 staff.

These experiences shaped my belief that business has a responsibility to engage on the economic, social and environmental issues that will ultimately strengthen our society.

A successful business means more jobs and higher wages – more opportunities for Kiwis to get ahead. . . 

This is a simple truth that far too many people don’t understand.

I entered politics because I care deeply about people.

I joined National because I want New Zealand to realise its maximum potential, and to help build a society where every Kiwi can flourish and get ahead.

Where communities aren’t dictated to by politicians in Wellington.

Where if you work hard you can afford to buy a house.

Where we support those who are doing it tough.

Where our public health and education systems are first class for all Kiwis.

Where we protect our natural environment and play our part on climate change.

That’s my vision for New Zealand – a society of opportunity – where if you put in an honest day’s work, you and your family can get ahead.

And it’s only possible if we have a strong economy to back it up.

A strong economy isn’t the end but it is the means for better services, better lives, a better country.

Unfortunately, right now we have a Government taking us backwards.

We have a Government that believes it alone has the answers and yet has demonstrated time and again a complete inability to deliver anything at all.

Just look at Three Waters – a deeply unpopular change being rammed down the throats of communities that don’t want it.

In too many other areas the Government thinks it’s sufficient to just talk about problems rather than fix them. It is all spin and no delivery.

We have a Government that is deeply suspicious of business, and yet leads a public sector that can’t build houses, can’t deliver better health care, and won’t do what’s needed to improve our education system, all while piling on debt for future generations to pay off.

It’s no wonder Kiwis I talk to up and down the country are frustrated.

They’re frustrated at working ever harder but not getting ahead, at being fed line after line of spin rather than real solutions, at being faced with a sea of bureaucrats and politicians who don’t listen and who don’t represent them.

It’s that frustration that ultimately drives social division.

Our young people are being locked out of the housing market, while rent is up $140 a week under Labour.

They are seeing climate change policies which are all about looking like you’re doing something, but not actually making a difference.

They are seeing falling real wages.

They are seeing the performance of our education system go backwards.

And they are seeing the Government’s approach to hardship actually increase child poverty.

These aren’t the signs of a nation at its best.

They’re signs of Labour’s low expectations and a lack of faith in people’s ability to succeed.

We’re missing trust.

Trust in communities to find solutions.

Trust in individuals to succeed and to make their own choices.

Trust in businesses to look after their workers and to create value that grows the pie for us all.

Trust in people to spend more of their own hard-earned money.

And as a result we’re seeing a lack of trust in our government to do anything other than constrain us.

This is a government characterised by control freakery. It doesn’t trust us and time and time again it’s proven we can’t trust it.

I want to rebuild that trust.

I get things done. It is what I built my career on, and it is what I bring to politics.

So my commitment to you is that you can trust me to do what I say I will do, and you can trust National under me to find solutions to our most challenging problems, and to implement them in a way which takes our country forward – together.

I’m a proud defender of free enterprise because of how much good the system has done creating opportunity and reducing poverty.

It was that system that attracted my ancestor, Thomas Leamy, a poor, uneducated Irishman to come to the West Coast. He was here for opportunity, to get ahead with hard work and merit.

Today, immigrants still come here to New Zealand because they want to be judged by what they can do, freed from being held down because of who they are.

Everyone should have access to that upward mobility just as Thomas Leamy experienced.

But if we’re really honest, I don’t think we’re living up to the deal in New Zealand that no matter where you start out, if you work hard you can get ahead.

The ladder of opportunity seems to be losing its lowest rungs. And that’s not right.

Most New Zealanders I’ve met share a pretty sensible view of how society should work. They want to know that if they work hard, they can get ahead.

But they also want to know that if they or someone they love – or someone they’ve never met before – falls on hard times, that society will be there to help pick them back up.

Labour’s approach is to spend billions on welfare payments that only succeed in making poverty marginally less painful. They’re reinforcing learned helplessness, not supporting Kiwis to become self-sufficient.

It is the subtle prejudice of low expectations.

It’s why the number of people stuck on the Jobseeker benefit for longer than a year has grown by 50,000 under Labour. In fact the number of people on a Jobseeker long-term is now has the equivalent of everyone – both adults and children – from Napier and Nelson combined.

How can low unemployment be something worthy of praise when the number of people on long term Jobseeker benefits has grown?

This is appalling at a time when unemployment is so low. If this Government can’t help people off welfare and into work now, then when on earth can they do it?

It’s not caring or kind. It’s crippling.

National know people can do more for themselves – if they are backed, encouraged, and supported on a path to independence.

We need to replace those rungs on the ladder of social mobility.

In seeing Mum’s social work, I learned how challenging life can be. And the role that we all need to play to support people when they are struggling. A safety net is vital.

Welfare’s ultimate purpose cannot be to make poverty a slightly less miserable experience. Our goal must be to give everyone the opportunity to lead lives of dignity, independence and self-reliance, and above all, work.

A government that truly cares about people must make powerful and targeted interventions on behalf of those with the most complex and challenged lives. With the right resources at the right time in the right place, the State can help people make positive and sustained changes that enable them to rise up and realise their potential. That takes more than just writing a bigger cheque. It takes a good Government.

Being prepared to invest in the right places to secure better long-term results for the most vulnerable New Zealanders, and save taxpayers money in the long run, is what Bill English called “social investment”.

This will be back under National.

Social investment was expensive but it was based on the need to spend more in the short term so less would be needed in the long term and it was working.

But instead of improving lives, Labour’s economic mismanagement is actively making things worse for everyone.

Their only economic tool is to spend more money, with Government expenditure up a staggering 68 per cent since the 2017 election, while the national debt has doubled.

It’s borrowing more and taking more from us in tax but achieving less.

They’re addicted to spending, but it isn’t delivering results. Far too much is being wasted.

Almost a billion dollars has been allocated for the Three Waters Asset grab, 500 million dollars to restructure the entire health care system in the middle of a pandemic, at least 15 billion dollars going towards an underground tram vanity project – yes that’s right 15 billion dollars!

All this poor quality, unfocussed spending is having serious consequences for the economy.

The facts are stark – we have a cost of living crisis in New Zealand.

Inflation is at a three decade high.

With prices rising twice as fast as wages, Kiwi families are worse off than they were 12 months ago.

Food price rises are the highest in a decade, petrol has hit more than $3 a litre, and rents are through the roof.

And if you want to buy your first home, forget about it. The average house price is up almost $400,000 under Labour. Rising interest rates mean interest costs on a $600,000 mortgage are up $7,200 in the last 12 months, and they’re only going up from here.

Increasing spending to support the economy made sense back in 2020.

Times have changed, but Labour’s only solution is to spend up large. Instead of pulling back on the fiscal stimulus, as the OECD has called for urgently, the Government has inexplicably decided to turn the fiscal firehose up to full pressure.

Grant Robertson has given himself a $6 billion allowance for new spending at this years’ Budget. This is the largest budget spend-up New Zealand has ever seen.

Far from trying to make the load lighter for Kiwis, Labour’s approach has been to tax, tax, tax.

The last four years have been a massive tax grab.

There’s the Regional Fuel Tax – extracting hundreds of millions of dollars more from Aucklanders than is actually being spent to fix Auckland’s transport challenges.

There’s the proposed Light Rail Tax – on Aucklanders privileged enough to live near the underground tram.

There’s the 10 year bright line test extension – a capital gains tax by stealth.

There’s the removal of interest deductibility on rental properties – a tax on Kiwi’s who’ve worked hard and put their life savings into a rental.

There’s the new 39 per cent top income tax rate, which is a boon for tax lawyers and accountants, but betrays this Government’s attitude to ambition and will make it harder to attract top talent to our shores.

And perhaps worst of all there’s the latest jobs tax proposal, which would see everyone forced to pay for a scheme that will incentivise those who lose their job not to re-enter the workforce for more than half a year.

We should be encouraging work – not taxing it more and paying people to take six months off.

It’s classic Labour – spend, spend, spend, and then they tax you to pay for it.

Now is not the time to be adding costs on individuals and businesses. We should be letting people keep their hard earned money, not forcing them to hand over more and more to Grant Robertson to spend.

So here’s my commitment to you. When I become PM, I’ll reverse Labour’s tax grab.

National will repeal each of these new taxes implemented by Labour.

One of the other consequences of skyrocketing inflation is that, even as families can afford less and less, their nominal income increases and so income tax goes up.

Labour is using inflation as another tax grab by stealth.

The increase in the tax take through inflation is a perverse disincentive for the government to act to reduce it.

We’ve got the perverse situation where someone on the average wage now has a marginal tax rate of 33 percent. And someone on the minimum wage only has to work a 44 hour week to face a tax rate of 30 cents on the dollar.

That’s ridiculous.

So I’m calling on the Prime Minister and Grant Robertson to give Kiwis a break, and return the extra tax they are grabbing through inflation.

At the upcoming Budget in May, the Finance Minister should use a portion of his $6 billion dollars to adjust income tax thresholds to account for the inflation we’ve seen under Labour.

This would see each of the first three tax thresholds immediately increase by around eleven and a half percent.

This is a policy Simon Bridges has been very passionate about for some time – and I want to particularly acknowledge his leadership on this issue. It was a good idea then, but it’s an even better idea now because of skyrocketing inflation and the massive operating allowance Grant Robertson has given himself for new spending at the upcoming Budget.

Simon has driven a lot of this work, but unfortunately isn’t able to be here today as he’s isolating with his family.

The change would mean the 10.5% tax rate would apply to the first $15,600 of income, not $14,000 as it is currently.

The 17.5% rate would extend to $53,500 rather than $48,000.

And rather than the 33% tax rate kicking in at $70,000 – less than the average wage – it would increase to $78,100.

Someone on $55,000 a year would get $800 in tax relief this year.

Someone on the average wage would be better off by $870 a year.

And anyone earning $78,100 or above would be better off by over $1,000 a year.

We aren’t calling on Labour to change the 39% threshold because it only came into effect recently.

Because Super is indexed to the average after-tax wage, over-65s would also benefit, with the couple rate increasing by around $540 a year.

These changes aren’t going to make anyone rich.

But that’s not the point – they will make things a little easier for Kiwis who are struggling to get ahead under the weight of the cost of living crisis.

Indexing tax thresholds to 2017 would cost just under $1.7 billion – which is relatively modest when you consider Kiwis will be paying an extra $12.5 billion in income tax this year compared to when Labour took office.

These changes would not put further pressure on inflation or require spending cuts in areas like health and education. They wouldn’t mean austerity or a Budget with no new spending. 

They would be met from Grant Robertson’s record $6 billion new spending allowance, and so would simply require Labour to be slightly less profligate with its new spending in Budget 2022.

Even after accounting for the $1.7 billion cost of these tax cuts, the remaining $4.3 billion would still be the biggest allowance for new spending initiatives ever. Or Robertson could even use some of it to pay down debt – but that’s not really in Labour’s DNA.

National would do things differently.

I want New Zealand to be world-leading. A place where good enough isn’t good enough for us.

Our ability to become more prosperous, to enjoy a higher quality of life, depends on the size of our economic engine. And right now, that engine needs serious upgrading.

For too long, Kiwis have been of the mindset that the only way to get ahead is to work longer hours. The average Kiwi works 370 hours a year more than someone in the UK – the equivalent of more than nine extra weeks – but still our incomes lag.

We’re suffering from a productivity disease – the average Kiwi works for an hour to earn what an Australian earns in 45 minutes.

I’m not going to stand here and tell you there is one big bang solution to lifting growing the economy and helping kiwis get ahead – it will take lots of small changes across the economy.

But we do need one major change – mindset.

We need to move away from Labour’s view that the politicians control the economy, and realise that it is Kiwis and businesses all over New Zealand that hold the keys to our success.

It’s the mums and dads who get up early to get the kids ready for school and then head to work to provide for their family.

It’s the tens of thousands of small business owners who risk everything to have a go, to create opportunities for their communities.

It’s our entrepreneurs and innovators like Rocket Lab and Xero, which are building whole industries here in New Zealand.

It’s the kiwifruit pickers and the Uber drivers, the nurses and the teachers, the builders and the farmers, the business owners and their employees.

It is the hard work and innovation of our communities up and down the country that will drive us forward.

We need to back small businesses up and down the country – because National knows that it is business, not government that helps Kiwis get ahead by lifting wages and hiring more people.

In closing, let me say the last two years have been unprecedented, with the shadow of Covid hanging over everything we do. But we need to be careful that we don’t focus so much on Covid that we neglect the society we are trying to build, together.

There’s a big difference between activity and achievement, between talk and action, spin and results. That’s why I’ve come to political life – to get things done.

New Zealanders will have a stark choice at the election next year.

I believe that practical, modern centre-right political principles can help us navigate the social, environmental and economic challenges we face as a country.

That’s why I’m proud to lead National as we work relentlessly to build a society of opportunity for all New Zealanders.

Good leadership and good government require a balance between head and heart.

Former Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English achieved that balance and were rewarded with voter support for it.

For too long since then, voters haven’t been able to see National’s heart and too often couldn’t see the party’s head. That must change.

In an interview before his speech, Luxon showed he recognised that:

We are the people who can run the economy well … but I also want them to understand we care deeply about people.

Yesterday’s state of the nation speech gave some ideas on how National would do that, and show that it has both a good head and a good heart.


Quotes of the month

05/03/2022

This is February’s quotes, a few days late.

Over the past two years we’ve heard it ad nauseam. We’re a team of five million. We are constantly reminded to be kind to each other. And yes, the messages have come from the self-appointed team leader, Jacinda Ardern.

Many of us retired from the team shortly after it was created and it now grates to still be described as members of it.Barry Soper

New Zealand’s universities are at a defining crossroads. Do we remain a universitas, a community of scholars developing knowledge according to the universal principles and methods of science or do we continue down the path of a racialised ideology? – Elizabeth Rata

Unfounded accusations of racism or other silencing strategies muzzle discussion about what is happening in our universities and schools. There are many layers needing discussion – the difference between science and culture, between cultural safety and intellectual risk-taking, between universalism and parochialism. However intense and heated the discussion may be it must take place. Too much is at stake to pretend that all is well. – Elizabeth Rata

University students from all racial and cultural groups tend to come from knowledge-rich schools which provide a solid foundation for university study. These are often the children of the professional class who have benefited from such knowledge in their own lives and insist that schools provide it for their children.

It is access to the abstract quality of academic knowledge and language, its very remoteness from everyday experience, and its formality – science in other words – that is necessary for success. Tragically this knowledge is miscast as ‘euro-centric’. The aim of the decolonisation and re-indigenisation of New Zealand education is to replace this knowledge with the cultural knowledge of experience.

But science is not euro-centric or western. It is universal. This is recognised in the International Science Council’s definition of science as “rationally explicable, tested against reality, logic, and the scrutiny of peers this is a special form of knowledge”. It includes the arts, humanities and social sciences as human endeavours which may, along with the physical and natural sciences, use such a formalised approach. The very children who need this knowledge the most, now receive less.

The science-ideology discussion matters for many reasons – the university’s future, the country’s reputation for science and education, and the quality of education in primary and secondary schools. But at its heart it is about democracy. Science can only thrive when democracy thrives. – Elizabeth Rata

To be clear, I was and consider myself very lucky to be adopted into a loving, caring family. For reasons outlined in this article below I am grateful for the life I’ve had considering the one that was offered to me at birth.  – Dan Bidois

I learned many things from this process. Above all, is that you’re not defined by the circumstances of your birth but by the environment you grow up in. And finally, identity or whakapapa is an important part of one’s confidence, wellbeing, and purpose in life.

Understanding one’s past provides the fuel needed for a happier and more fulfilling life in the future. – Dan Bidois

This whole thing has a Groundhog Day vibe about it. I mean, how come we’re still, as we go into our third year of this pandemic, still being reactive and responding on the hoof.

It beggars belief that lessons have not been learned, plans have not been made, preparations have not gotten into full swing.

We are behind on RAT kits, way behind, it’s woeful, it’s the vaccine rollout all over again. We have no greater ICU capacity than when we started, in fact suggestions are we even have fewer ICU beds than when we started. We have not bolstered our health workforce, we have not advanced our tragic and cruel MIQ system, we have not boosted enough people or jabbed enough children, because again, we were too slow with our vaccine rollout.  – Kate Hawkesby

Why can’t they learn the lesson? Why is the Government so slow on the uptake? Why’d they take an elongated holiday when they should’ve been planning and sorting and preparing?

Why are they so allergic to the private sector and reticent to include them more? Are they afraid of the private sector? Or are they just so arrogant now they think they know best, better than any established business?

Most importantly, why are we still asking these questions? How can all the same mistakes still be made? If you hear from the Government, when they’ve bothered rolling back into the office from the beach, they’ll tell you they’re world leading.

They’re faultless, blameless, it’s all perfect, we should be so proud of them. The fact they’re still peddling this crap and still in self-congratulatory mode also worries me.

It’s delusional. They’re backwards focused.Kate Hawkesby

How many businesses look at KPI’s or performance reviews and go, “Oh well it’s a bit of a mess at the moment but two years ago was really good.”

No one does that, because it’s not real. It’s not relevant, it’s not honest. So why should we be expected to buy into that tosh from our government?

Our Rapid Antigen Testing situation is embarrassing, our MIQ lottery is embarrassing, our hermit mentality is embarrassing, our lack of vaccination coverage for children and booster coverage is embarrassing. Our Covid response looks antiquated and fear driven, and stale. But if you listen to this Government and it’s cheerleaders, we should be over the moon about it.

The disconnect here is actually beyond embarrassing, it’s tragic.Kate Hawkesby

And that’s the tragedy of all this. Have a platform, make a song and dance, get a result. Surely the only message here is that unless you’re going to really publicly and internationally discredit and embarrass the Government, you’re not going to get a spot.  – Kate Hawkesby

A free society needs more than the incentives provided by the rule of law and the discipline of profit and loss. Both are underpinned by and help to reinforce a set of virtues – prudence chief among them. The prudence to buy low and sell high. And the prudence “to trade rather than invade, to calculate the consequences, to pursue the good with competence.”

Prudence matters. – Eric Crampton

The government had been imprudently late in ordering the tests that it ultimately decided were needed for the public health effort.

But no matter. The government had set itself a call option. It could simply take the results of others’ prudential efforts.

When the prudent expect predation, expect less prudence. Expect as well that many businesses will have cancelled remaining test kit orders rather than wait for them to be stolen by a predatory state.

McCloskey emphasised the prudence of trading rather than invading and stealing; of calculating the consequences of actions; and of pursuing the good with competence.

It is hard to see much evidence of prudence in this government. Prudent and imprudent alike will bear the cost.Eric Crampton

At the end of an interview recently, I was asked whether people should express their emotions. I replied that it rather depended on the emotions that they had and their mode of expression. There were some emotions that were best kept to oneself, and some ways of expressing them that were disgusting.Theodore Dalrymple

It seems to me (though I may be mistaken) that, at least in Anglophone countries, there has been a tendency of late years for ever more extravagant public expressions of emotion, which is something that I do not welcome. It leads not to the palace of wisdom, but to crudity of apprehension, and to an unfortunate positive feedback loop: if you want to show how much you feel, you have to indulge in ever more extravagant such demonstrations. – Theodore Dalrymple

This development favours the explicit over the implicit and the bogus over the genuine. Indeed, it reduces people’s capacity to distinguish between the two, or even to understand that there is a distinction between the real and the bogus. No one would now say, as did an old patient of mine upon whom fate had piled undeserved tragedy upon undeserved tragedy, that she would not cry in public because it might embarrass other people and her grief was her own: people would now accuse her of mere unfeelingness.Theodore Dalrymple

The very notion of dignity and seemliness is destroyed by incontinent emotional expression. I haven’t tried the experiment, but I doubt that many people could or would now even attach a meaning to the word seemliness: but seemliness is to self-respect what incontinent expression is to self-esteem, and the difference between self-respect and self-esteem is of great importance. The first is demanding, effortful and social, the second is undemanding, egotistical and akin to an inalienable human right that survives any amount of bad behaviour. – Theodore Dalrymple

There are other advantages to negative emotions: insofar as they are far easier to stoke, can last much longer than positive emotions—joy is rarely more than fleeting—and are usually more intense, they are, in the long run, more rewarding, especially when, as in the present day, the locus of people’s moral concern is political rather than personal. It is surely almost self-evident that the strongest political emotions are negative: for example, the rich are hated much more than the poor are loved.

In such circumstances, expressions of hatred are often mistaken for expressions of love. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down the life of another for some class of person whom he favours in the abstract. Thus vehemence of expression comes to be taken as strength of feeling, and the greater one’s vehemence, the greater one’s strength of feeling and therefore of one’s virtue—virtue now being a matter almost entirely of the opinions one holds. Extreme expression of hatred becomes a virtue. – Theodore Dalrymple

As with so many things, the proper public expression of emotion is a matter of judgment rather than of doctrine or predetermined principle. It is also a question of good taste. . . If I had to choose between them (which of course I do not) I would choose emotional constipation rather than emotional diarrhoea. At least the former can give rise to powerful drama, whereas the latter gives rise to crude soap opera at best. Concealment is more interesting than revelation, and often ultimately more revealing into the bargain.    – Theodore Dalrymple

The government’s response to Omicron over the summer break has had too little method and too much madness. – Eric Crampton

But it is difficult to reconcile the tightening up of test-to-travel restrictions, to reduce risk, with the subsequent move to allow rapid antigen tests instead of PCR tests before travel. If the government considered rapid antigen tests to be safe enough because travellers were entering MIQ, why tighten the window for PCR tests in the first place? –  Eric Crampton

Education, the ladder out of poverty, has been kicked away. In the English-speaking world, New Zealand pupils are worst at maths, science and literacy. Last year, 44 per cent of Auckland students did not turn up for NCEA exams. Richard Prebble

Covid is not responsible for the growth in inequality. Covid infects the rich and the poor.

The growing inequality is the result of government policies and galloping inflation.  – Richard Prebble

The Government is becoming Muldoonist. Like Muldoon, Labour calculates huge “think big” spending is electorally more popular than the pain of tackling inflation.Richard Prebble

Studies reveal that urban rail schemes never come in on budget or on time and rarely meet passenger projections. Worldwide, 75 per cent of urban rail projects have cost escalations of at least 33 per cent. A quarter have cost escalations of 60 per cent or more. The cost of light rail will escalate from the estimate of $15b to over $20b.

Here is another way to think about the cost. For less taxpayers’ money, every passenger could have a free Uber ride in an electric car to where they actually want to go. – Richard Prebble

The Reserve Bank is seeking a soft option. Returning “inflation to target too quickly would result in unnecessary instability”. Now inflation is established, there are no soft options. All that printed money is debt. The bank is yet to tell us how it is going to reduce its bond holdings.

While the Reserve Bank procrastinates, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.  – Richard Prebble

This Government has become like a can of CRC, oiling every irritating squeak which has become a deafening cacophony in recent weeks.  – Barry Soper

I’m not sure if it was the word “loyal” or the long-simmering anger towards the nation of my birth coming to a head, but I suddenly didn’t want to honour New Zealand by choosing a song by one of its legends.

I’m angry at Jacinda Ardern, I’m angry at her parochial and uber-protective policies and I’m angry that I’m banned from the place where – more than any other – I felt I belonged. It’s fair to say I’ve lost faith in the country I once loved and revered.Angela Mollard

The cumulative stories about the human impact of the border policies have sullied New Zealand’s reputation as a fair and decent place.

All countries care about their reputations but it is more important to small countries because they do not hold economic or military power. Being a good international citizen, being an honest broker, doing the right thing has been important to New Zealand. – Audrey Young

The damage to New Zealand is exacerbated by the fact that Arderns’s reputation and New Zealand’s are one and the same. Her international brand, through leadership after the Christchurch massacre, is a caring leader.

Damage to New Zealand reflects badly on her; and damage to her reflects badly on New Zealand. . . She was rightly applauded internationally for the initial response to Covid-19. Now, for the most part, she is rightly being criticised.Audrey Young

This is the insanity of what we’re dealing with. This is a rigged lottery. And I’m talking personally, not as Move Logistics executive director, when I say this: Can we have respect for a system where, basically, citizens are told, you can’t come home?

Non-citizens are told, if you’re an essential worker, whatever that description might be on a particular day. Or if you’re pregnant, and you’re in a third world country, you’re allowed in or not allowed in. So the rules are being made up as people go along. – Chris Dunphy

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the Bellis Embarrassment to understand is what on earth possessed those writing the rules to erect even the smallest obstacles to pregnant New Zealand women returning to their homeland to give birth. For most older New Zealanders, the rule has always been: “Women and children first – and pregnant women before everyone!” We were raised on the tragic example of the doomed “Titanic” – where men gave up their places in the lifeboats for the bearers of the next generation.

What does it say about the current crop of public servants that they were able to create a labyrinth of rules and regulations that made it possible for a British deejay to be welcomed into this country, while denying re-entry to a stranded Kiwi woman and her unborn child?More to the point, what does it say about the current crop of Labour ministers – Chris Hipkins in particular – that they did not intervene, with righteous wrath, to put an end to this unconscionable rejection of that most basic human instinct: the urge to protect, at any cost, mothers and their children?Chris Trotter

But where is the “kindness” in the treatment of Charlotte Bellis, and scores of other pregnant New Zealander women aching to get home? If this desperate, pregnant, Kiwi journalist, stranded in starving Afghanistan, does not deserve kindness – then who does? – Chris Trotter

The risk for Robertson isn’t quite voter revolt – not yet. But the Government did just make it far easier for New Zealanders who spent the past two years in the country to think about moving overseas. Cheaper rent and better pay might not have been much of a draw in 2020 or 2021, when it was paired with longer lockdowns, more Covid-19, and no easy way home if you changed your mind. That won’t be true for 2022. – Henry Cooke

If travel broadens the mind, then perhaps the reverse might also be true.

We have become a more insular country since Covid started, and it is very unattractive. The social media vitriol and judgment directed at journalist Charlotte Bellis for daring to speak out about her predicament last week reflects badly on all who indulged. – Steven Joyce

It was Ms Bellis who was let down by her own country. Forget all the whataboutisms. When she needed to come home, when she needed a safe haven where she could be pregnant and give birth to her child, her country said no. That was simply appalling. It has never been who we are.

It was not just appalling for Ms Bellis. She was simply the human straw that broke the camel’s back. In being rebuffed by the bureaucratic monster that is our managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system, she joins thousands and thousands before her over the past two years who have had their spirits broken in their time of need. – Steven Joyce

There are too many stories to count where a heartless decision-maker showed no empathy, no ability to walk a mile in the shoes of desperate Kiwis overseas, no willingness to make things right.

Somehow, the Government’s sudden ability to find an MIQ slot for Ms Bellis under the public spotlight of the world’s media made an appalling situation even shoddier. It was a brazen attempt at damage control by ministers, presumably breaking the rules their own officials had been zealously upholding. There was no apology for those who had come before, no acceptance that the policy had been wrong, just cold, naked politics at its worst. – Steven Joyce

Special treatment for those prepared to beg publicly is also not our country. What about all those who didn’t want to make waves, who suffered through their life events in silence, hurt by the intransigence of their own countrymen and women?

It is one of the most basic human rights that people be allowed to come home. The Government knows that. That’s why they maintained the legal fig leaf that the border wasn’t closed. It’s just that you have not been allowed to buy a ticket to come here without an MIQ slot. Which you couldn’t get. George Orwell would have been proud. – Steven Joyce

You can argue that in extremis a country can close its borders for short periods in a pandemic to protect the population. The case can be made that stopping the flow of people while a plan is worked on and new health measures are put in place is justifiable.

But not two years, and not while you sit on your hands and do nothing during that period to allow for more people to exercise their fundamental right to come home.

We passed up building more MIQ places, we passed up home isolation, we passed up privately run MIQ facilities, saliva testing, more hospital capacity, a decent booking system, a timely vaccination programme, or even filling the MIQ places we had … we passed up a lot of things that would have reduced the pain and uncertainty of so many Kiwi families. – Steven Joyce

We were a country of voyagers. Striking out to see the world and seek our fortune. We took Dr Seuss’ The Places You’ll Go! to heart. Travel was a rite of passage, which for some turned into careers offshore, with partners and families. We took pride in their success, basking as New Zealand metaphorically punched above its weight on the world stage.

There’s around a million of us who live offshore now — but always able to come home, to see grandparents, siblings, and reconnect.

Until the past two years.

In those two years we have had to stand in line, often behind DJs, children’s characters, performers, sportspeople and Government MPs, all of whom seemed able to win the MIQ lottery while more deserving cases didn’t. Let alone the people whose skills we need to help run our economy, our schools and our hospitals. Good job, some would chortle in their insular way. We don’t need all those bright young foreigners helping to make New Zealand a better place. – Steven Joyce

A wise friend of mine said at the outset of all this that it is much easier to close things down and encourage people to hide away than it will be to open it all up again. And so it seems. Once people have become fearful of the outside world, it’s hard to move beyond that fear.

Yet we must. We must get out and embrace that world again, let our young people take it on, prove themselves, have adventures and live their lives. We must invite people into our home and conquer our virulent insularity.

Let this be the last time we turn our backs on our own people. There must be a better way to protect ourselves in future that doesn’t involve simply barricading the doors.

We should never stop our own citizens coming home to see their dying relatives, or giving birth here. That’s not selfless and kind. That’s not who we are. – Steven Joyce

But open government appears to be on the wane. This is partly because of the growth in the “communications industrial complex”, where vast battalions of people now work to deflect and avoid, or answer in the most oblique manner possible. We journalists are vastly outnumbered by spin doctors.

And it is partly because of the very tight media ship captained by Jacinda Ardern. The prime minister has won plaudits the world over for her empathetic and straightforward communication style. – Anna Fifield

When I was writing about New Zealand’s response to the pandemic for The Washington Post, almost every minister or ministry I contacted for an interview responded with a variation on: I’ll need to check with the prime minister’s office.

Since coming home, I’ve been surprised by the lack of access to ministers outside carefully choreographed press conferences. – Anna Fifield

Perhaps the most alarming, and certainly the most prevalent, trend I’ve noticed is the almost complete refusal of government departments and agencies to allow journalists to speak to subject experts.

Like, you know, the people who are actually implementing complicated reforms and know what they are talking about. – Anna Fifield

We often just get insufficient answers written in bureaucratese.

There is no opportunity to get them to put their words in a more digestible form. There’s no opportunity to ask them to explain the background to a decision.

There’s certainly no chance to ask them anything like a probing question. That, of course, is the whole point of this stonewalling. – Anna Fifield

This obfuscation and obstruction is bad for our society for two key reasons.

One: It’s in everyone’s interest to have journalists understand the complicated subjects they’re writing about. We need to ask questions. We can’t explain things we don’t understand.

Two: It’s called the public service for a reason. They work for the public, aka you. It is the job of the Fourth Estate to hold the powerful to account. So we should be able to ask reasonable questions – like “When will the $1.25 billion Transmission Gully motorway open?” – and expect something that at least resembles an answer. – Anna Fifield

To be clear, our country is free and open compared to many other parts of the world. But I’m not comparing us to Iran (where I used to ask pointed questions at foreign ministry press conferences all the time) or China (ditto).

I’m comparing us to other proudly open and democratic societies. And I’m comparing us to the us we used to be. Where a journalist could ask a straight question and get a straight answer and deliver it to you – straight. – Anna Fifield

But my favourite must be this supremely arrogant line from the Ministry of Health, asked about releasing data during an Omicron wave: “We will release additional information if it is determined that there is a need to do so.”Anna Fifield

I make two further predictions. First, the Ardern government will be utterly decimated in a landslide defeat next year and second, that in the course of time given some perspective, it will be recorded as the most incompetent by a country mile in our post-war history. – Bob Jones

Politicians bright-side scientific advice when they report it accurately, but selectively. They emphasise the politically helpful parts of this advice but omit the careful but politically-awkward provisos that scientists pair with their advice.Nicholas Agar

While there has been little Covid death, the Government’s stance has exacted a price: mental health issues; the interruption of children’s education; the too-long separation of families due to MIQ restrictions; struggling “hospo” and tourism businesses; the inability to source much-needed staff from offshore; and mounting government debt among them. – Fran O’Sullivan

It is too easy to get on and stay on welfare in New Zealand. Labour have enhanced that ease by reducing the use of sanctions to impose work obligations. They recently shifted thousands of jobseekers onto the sole parent benefit because they no longer had to look for a job. The policy settings changed. It is now OK to keep adding children to a benefit to avoid work. That is not a “well-functioning” welfare system.Lindsay Mitchell

Why anyone, however, would trust the Local Government Minister or the Prime Minister to deal with them in good faith after their sustained deception about mandating Three Waters remains a mystery. – Graham Adams

This is a vengeful government, it’s a nasty government, it’s the exact opposite of a kind government, and it’s exact opposite of an open, honest, and transparent government. Mike Hosking

Because here’s a fact we need to accept: no matter how important climate change is to people, it is hardly ever more important than being able to pay your bills or keep your job. Most people will vote for jobs and a warm house before they vote for the climate.

Governments should – and obviously do – bear that in mind. – Heather du Plessis Allan

Scientific studies show that singing has positive effects on mental health. People who sing are more inclined to be content with life.
Group singing seems to induce the production of oxytocin – the binding hormone that can reduce stress and anxiety, and decrease a sense of loneliness.
Singing heals pain and sorrow and increases a sense of well-being. –
Robert Fulghum

A government that allows trespassers to unlawfully occupy and obstruct the entrances to the land and buildings symbolising its authority, and to block the main streets of its capital city, raises questions about whether it is truly sovereign.

Everyone has a right to go to Parliament’s grounds and protest, but everyone else has a right to visit those grounds and drive around Wellington. In more than three decades of watching students, teachers, farmers, unions, environmentalists, Māori and activists on both sides of social issues march on Parliament, none has behaved as disgracefully as the mob who turned up on Tuesday and refused to leave. – Matthew Hooton

Many are so caught up in conspiracism that their problems appear more medical than legal.

Yet the Wellington political, bureaucratic and media establishments should not kid themselves that only a deranged fringe is feeling enraged by the current situation. Two years of pandemic and the long and preventable Auckland lockdown have fuelled a seething anger towards the Government from a much larger and more reasonable segment of the population, even if its source may be difficult to pinpoint. Matthew Hooton

But more is based on legitimate irritation with a Beehive communications strategy seemingly targeted towards children rather than voting adults, and which cannot admit the slightest fault or setback for fear of undermining Ardern’s global brand as Covid vanquisher. – Matthew Hooton

For its part, the Wellington bureaucracy is under so much pressure from its political masters to support the Beehive narrative that it increasingly provides information that is radically incomplete, contradictory or just plain wrong. – Matthew Hooton

The incoherence in the Government’s Omicron strategy means public co-operation is radically declining, including for tracking and testing. The Beehive may think a few more earnest homilies from the podium of truth will turn that around, but the public isn’t stupid. – Matthew Hooton

This is sneaky reform. Three Waters is designed to relieve smaller communities of the inordinate costs of compliance with an excessive regulatory regime already enacted in law. I doubt it will make beaches and rivers one jot cleaner than current regional council efforts can achieve.

All we stand to get is another fungal outgrowth of government, four super-regional agencies, each with floors of box-ticking bureaucrats making work for contractors, consultants, researchers and publicity staff to comfort you and me, the disenfranchised suckers paying for it.  – John Roughan

Just 53 people have died here from Covid, and our prime minister has been lavished with praise as a result. For much of the pandemic, the team of five million went about their lives pretty much as normal, working maskless, travelling domestically and attending large outdoor gatherings in sunny weather, going home in the evenings to wade through tear-soaked emails from contacts abroad marvelling at our apparent Covid success.

But there has always been another team milling in the shadows, the team of one million, the expatriate Kiwis stranded abroad who have paid a heavy price for their home country’s Covid elimination strategy. – David Cohen

Jacinda Ardern’s plummeting popularity indicates a country questioning not only her racist white-anting of our democracy, but the hypocrisy of her kindness and well-being mantras. Her repeated emphasis on ‘well-being’ on which she stressed her intent to focus, instead of on GDP – when introducing her budget in 2019 – is apparently an important part of the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s ‘Great Reset’ agenda.

New Zealanders have been sold a pup. The economic, mental and emotional well-being of New Zealanders has been far from prioritised by her Labour coalition doing extraordinary damage – and determined on more of the same, judging from the controversial legislation it continues to ram through. – Amy Brooke

The European Commission has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to direct its staff not to refer to Christmas, as if mere mention of the word would act on atheists, animists, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Hindus, and no doubt others, much as garlic flowers or crucifixes acted on Dracula (at least as portrayed by Christopher Lee).

Oddly enough in these times of multiculturalism, mere words provoke apoplexy, at least metaphorically, as never before. Euphemism, evasion and renaming flourish — supposedly in the name of tolerance, but really as exercises of power.  – Theodore Dalrymple

The academics, intellectuals and sub-editors of university presses who use the new style evidently believe that the world is populated by people of extreme psychological fragility, and whose self-esteem, which can be shattered by the mere usage of BC and AD, it is their duty to protect.

Thus does condescension and sentimentality unite with megalomania to produce absurd circumlocutions.Theodore Dalrymple

And this is where cancel culture is eating itself. It’s so inane and ridiculous that you now cannot even enjoy being the gender you are, for fear it upsets those who don’t believe in gender.  – Kate Hawkesby

Where is all this going? What’s the end game here? Why do we all have to be the same? And why do we have to bend and change ourselves constantly to fit in with whoever the latest person or group to be offended is? Surely that’s a bottomless pit?  

There will be no individuality left at all, if we go down that track. I mean the Tweeters that are outraged that she’s apparently confused teenagers by saying she loves being a woman, what about the teenagers who’re seeing this bullying backlash against a woman for saying she likes being a woman? What message is that sending them?  – Kate Hawkesby

Whether you agree or not with the people protesting on parliament grounds is not the debate anymore. What this government, that proclaimed it would govern for all New Zealanders, has done is turn its back on a good number of its people.

How hard can it be to at least front up and talk to the people assembled on parliament grounds?

The final straw for me, and what prompted me to go public, is the way government is treating these people – turning the sprinklers on them knowing there was a storm coming, and playing loud music at night so as to not let them sleep and make them feel miserable. No farmer would treat animals like that!

Although this protest has a different focus to Groundswell NZ, we support their right to be heard and cannot understand or agree with the Government’s actions. What is becoming of our once united and proud country? – Bryce McKenzie

Trevor Mallard has officially lost the plot. . . He’s done it under the guise of protection of course – appointing himself as some overarching protector of all – whether they want or need to be protected or not. 

It’s an old school ‘I know best’ approach that reeks of patriarchy and has no place here in the modern world. But what the Government’s tried to do here – and failed in my opinion, is grab the narrative on this protest and shut it down. Problem is they’ve only made things worse. – Kate Hawkesby

Refusing to speak to the protestors, writing them all off as wacko conspiracy theorists, and rabid far-right anti-vaxxers is a big mistake – and has only served to gaslight the situation. Media who’ve ignored Mallard’s instructions, have managed to gauge a large diversity of views from a raft of other people there too – yes there are your fringe nutters, but actually, the anger runs deep and there’re some genuinely aggrieved people out there too.

Only a fool would dismiss them and hope they go away.

Yet that’s what Mallard, Robertson and Ardern are trying to do. Robertson’s rolled out the usual sneering condescending frown down the nose rhetoric which is so popular in the left-leaning sandpit of Twitter.. just writing them off as dangerous rabid crazies. Mallard has taken it next level – he’s stooped to childish antics of pulling dumb – as someone pointed out “boomer” stunts -– like sticking hoses on them and playing them the Macarena. –Kate Hawkesby

Not even the Police support his actions and have distanced themselves from that stupidity. And why give it this much attention if the government line is supposed to be ignore them? Ardern on the other hand has done what she does best – head in sand, fingers in ears – vanish. She’s invisible. But when put on the spot to address it, she joins the Robertson ‘write them off’ camp.

But it’s not working, the protest is only swelling in number, not even a cyclone diminished their enthusiasm.

The other problem for the government is the hypocrisy on display here. Let’s not forget all these MP’s decrying the protest were all proud protestors themselves back in the day. So they support free speech, and your right to protest.. but only if it aligns with their views. I’m not on the side of the protestors here by the way – they’ve blown this by a long shot – it’s a disorganised shambolic out of control mess.Kate Hawkesby

But I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to write them all off as anti-vaxxers and far-right conspirators. There is genuine anger that runs deep in this now very divided country, over mandates and the campaign of control and fear.

So to just write off those protesting without even hearing them, is a dangerous move I think, by a government increasingly out of its depth. –Kate Hawkesby

Although the protestors aren’t necessarily many people’s cup of tea in terms of approach, demeanour and attitude – the general consensus seems to be that they in their own way represent a wider frustration, if not anger, among many of us. 

That’s why there isn’t a leader or a point of contact or a specific cause. hat’s why it’s been a mistake to call them an anti-vax protest or an anti-mandate group. It’s been a mistake to suggest it’s a mistake that they didn’t have a singular point.

That’s the point, about the lack of a point. They represent all of us that right now have a sense that things aren’t right.Mike Hosking

But it is an outpouring of emotion and I admire people who want to give up a lot of time and effort to travel and hunker down and presumably get a sense of some sort of accomplishment.

Which is why Trevor Mallard specifically, and the Government more generally, have misread this so badly. As a tiny collective they can be, and have been, dismissed but that’s to fail to see that they represent a wider mood.

The Government and Mallard in particular are on the wrong side of this. When you start turning sprinklers on, start playing loud, bad music at them, start pumping out covid-19 ads – you’re being obtuse. – Mike Hosking

Telling the media not to talk to protestors is anti-democratic. Opening your Speaker’s Balcony and telling media to look down on the protestors is also anti-democratic, authoritarian and controlling, not to mention the height of arrogance.

The fact so many of the media acquiesced is of deep concern and probably plays into the protestors beliefs that too much of the media is controlled. It’s certainly not open honest and transparent as Labour so often wanted us to believe they are. 

If the protestors need to be moved that is the job of the police, not a jumped bureaucrat with a puffed-up view of their own entitlement. There are no winners in this. But the more the Mallards of this world look to decry, misinform and bully, the sympathy will build behind those who just want to have their say.   – Mike Hosking

New Zealand’s secular liberal saint, Jacinda Ardern, seems to be losing a little of her previously strong odor of sanctity.  – Theodore Dalrymple

In typical bureaucratic fashion, the rules were interpreted strictly, and made no allowance for the fact that to be stranded pregnant in Afghanistan is a good deal more worrying than to be stranded, middle-aged, non-pregnant, and prosperous, in, say, Switzerland. No doubt the bureaucracy wanted to avoid charges of favoritism—one rule for the prominent and another for the unknown—but it did Ardern’s popularity no good that Bellis felt constrained to turn to those well-known feminist humanitarians, the Taliban, for assistance. They seem to have done the trick: Bellis has now been allowed to return to New Zealand; but in the process, Ardern’s government, not long ago praised as the model for all civilized countries to follow, has been made to look stupid, cruel, and weak.Theodore Dalrymple

The bad news is that each time we’ve made the right decision to buy more time, we’ve made it late and with insufficient planning in place. The strategy has served us well, but the execution much less so.

When the Prime Minister spoke to the nation for the first time this year on 20 January, she repeated stressed that ‘every day counts’ and it was urgent to prepare for Omicron, before going on to tell us that over the summer the government and its agencies had done… sod all.

One example: A new testing regime and the introduction of rapid antigen testing was announced, not with the information that the test were in the country and ready to go, but that they were on order, and in insufficient quantities. – Tim Watkin

Government hesitancy or poor management have been as consistent as the ‘buy time’ tactic. The initial lockdown was a week or two late, the testing at the border got into gear weeks after it was meant to, security at MIQs was only sorted after a number of escapes, more ICU beds were only announced 22 months into the pandemic, and – crucially – the move to order the vaccine and roll out a programme was slow, for all its eventual effectiveness. And we’re paying the price for that slowness now, cutting the gap between second and third doses and less widely boosted than we could have been.

The urgent language Ardern has used since 20 January was also needed before Christmas and over summer. National’s Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop on 30 December issued a statement headed “Govt must act on boosters, kids vaccines and rapid tests”. –Tim Watkin

Time and again we’ve done the right thing, but late and lackadaisically. And time and again we’ve got lucky. Or, the rightness of the decision has bought us the time to play catch-up. That, for me, has been the defining story of our Covid response and our consistent ‘buy time’ tactics.

But now we face a new phase for New Zealand. Covid-19 has begun entering the community at a level we’ve never seen before. I give thanks to all that is holy that we have bought time and we are facing this now – informed, vaccinated, prepared, up against a less deadly variant – and not at any other time over the past two years, like so much of the rest of the world. – Tim Watkin

Critics have repeatedly – for the best part of two years – insisted that the government’s tactics have run their course and it needs to change. And they’re repeatedly been shown up. But now we truly are at the end of the ‘buy time’ era. We’ve bought all the time we could and the wave is upon us. Two years in and the government will need to pivot and take a new approach. Let’s hope their decision-making is as sound, but their execution improves. Because the thing about waves is that they keep on coming.Tim Watkin

Critics have repeatedly – for the best part of two years – insisted that the government’s tactics have run their course and it needs to change. And they’re repeatedly been shown up. But now we truly are at the end of the ‘buy time’ era. We’ve bought all the time we could and the wave is upon us. Two years in and the government will need to pivot and take a new approach. Let’s hope their decision-making is as sound, but their execution improves. Because the thing about waves is that they keep on coming.Tim Watkin

The day a Speaker dictates to the media on how a story can be told would be a dark day for democracy.

It fits with the current Beehive though: a government by remote control, refusing to engage with those on the ground who don’t fit their mould and that’s most certainly unwise if not unkind. – Barry Soper

We’re fighting all these regulations and restrictions to keep operating, to keep job security going.. . It’s just decimating and it’s so hard for businesses to figure this out when the rules are constantly changing, we’re just tired of all these changes and restrictions. If it was simple – if it was like just RAT tests, clear, come to work, that’d be great, but it’s not, we’ve got all these minefields to work through.Simon Berry

Our besotted would-be train-spotters seriously oversell the benefits of “light” rail, such as the downtown-airport link. Who would want to trundle along in a train, stopping and starting at 18 stations en route, when an express bus using dedicated bus lanes can get you there in 35 minutes, as it often got me there pre-Covid? – Tim Hazledine

Even without the patently loony proposal to dig a long tunnel under Sandringham Rd, we have here a proposed “light” rail project that will cost New Zealand’s three million taxpayers between three and five thousand dollars each. This for the benefit of about 30,000 Auckland commuters, to improve their access to the higher-paid jobs in the CBD, if that’s still what they want to do. Tim Hazledine

THE NEW ZEALAND liberal or woke left, most of it directly connected to the Labour Party or supportive of it, has lost its mind. How else can you explain its maniacal pursuit of ‘right wing extremists’, ‘Nazis’ and ‘white supremacists’ within the several hundred people dancing to Bob Marley on Parliament grounds? When Rob Muldoon used to be mocked by Labourites for looking for ‘reds under the bed’, today’s Labourites are worthy of our derision as they hunt for Nazis in every occupation tent.  – Against the Current

What the liberal left has been demonstrating is something other than liberalism. It instead owes much to the scourge of identity politics. It has displayed a toxic politics that’s profoundly anti-working class and which has jettisoned tolerance and free debate for  shaming, threats and intimidation. While the folk at the occupation have been remarkably optimistic and good humoured in the circumstances, the liberal left has been petulant, joyless, trivial and status quo-perpetuating. Against the Current

More disturbingly though, the liberal left has displayed a willingness to unleash state violence against dissenters. The mask has come off to reveal something very ugly.  – Against the Current

The liberal left has indeed lost its mind. What we have seen on display for the past eight or so days is a motley rabble of cowardly keyboard warriors who are seeking to extinguish an emerging independent working class politics that owes no allegiance to the political status quo that the woke left benefits from. This is the real ‘crime’ of the Wellington occupation. Against the Current

Shoot me now!  New Zealand’s system of science education continues to go down the toilet (along with Donald Trump’s papers, I guess) as everyone from government officials to secondary school teachers to university professors pushes to make Mātauranga Māori (“MM”) or Māori “ways of knowing” coequal with science, to be taught as science in science classes. All of them intend for this mixture of legend, superstition, theology, morality, philosophy and, yes, some “practical knowledge” to be given equal billing with science, and presumably not to be denigrated as “inferior” to real science. (That, after all, would be racism.) It’s one thing to teach the indigenous ways of knowing as sociology or anthropology (and but of course “ways of knowing” differ all over the world); it’s another entirely to say that they’re coincident with modern science.

The equation of “ways of knowing” like MM with modern science is, of course, part of the Woke Program to “decolonize science”. The problem, of course, is we have a big conflict—one between a “way of knowing that really works“, which is science, and on the other side a reverence for the oppressed and their culture, embodied in MM.  The result is, of course, that the oppressed win, and all over the Anglophonic world science is being watered down, downgraded, pushed aside, or tarred with adjectives like “white supremacist” and “colonialist.” – Jerry Coyne

The purpose of education, at least as I see it, is to impart generally accepted knowledge to students, and to teach them how to think and how to defend and analyze their views. This is precisely the opposite of MM, which is a kind of theology that cannot be questioned or falsified. Under my construal, education is indeed for everyone, but for those groups who have spiritual/religious/moral values that differ from those of other groups, they have to get those things reinforced on their own time.Jerry Coyne

People of Aotearoa: rise up against this nonsense! Do you want your science education to become the laughingstock of the world? For that is what will happen if the benighted keep barrelling along that dual carriageway of science and nescience. – Jerry Coyne

his country survives on trading, often in markets at the other side of the world.

The fact that our standard of living is rated amongst the richest countries on the planet is solely dependent on our exporters having a better product to sell and being able to market it better than our competitors. It follows that the more you sell at these prices, the more we can afford to deliver higher living standards to the whole population of New Zealand. More and better schools and health services. More aged care and handicapped facilities. Better infrastructure, sporting, and leisure facilities.

As the economy grows, we all benefit.Clive Bibby

It says something about the time we are in that politicians cannot state they are listening to a group without it being assumed they are therefore part of that group.- Brigitte Morten

It is unlikely the protestors, now emboldened by seven days in horrible weather, blasting music, and overflowing portaloos, will be easily mollified. But it is clear that the government’s decision to dismiss their views has validated these citizen’s argument that they do not have a voice.Brigitte Morten

Irrespective of where you sit in the mandated vaccination debate, it is an extreme level of government coercion. Some of us will roll with it. In fact, close to 90% of the eligible population has done what the government has asked of it. But enforced coercion must be proportionate to the level of risk to public health and this is where the case for the mandated vaccination enters murky ground for those who gathered outside Parliament. The vaccine will stop our hospital system being swamped, but it doesn’t stop transmission.

You have both removed a citizen’s right to choose what is injected into their bloodstream and you have told them they will also get the virus. Are we really that surprised people have taken to the streets to oppose mandated vaccination? Has New Zealand society ever been this divided and this angry?  – Rachel Smalley

As I write this, the government hasn’t met with any of the protestors. Sure, some of the behaviour has been appalling and there are security issues, but few, if any, of the protestors would describe themselves as feeling recognised and free from prejudice. I don’t agree with their argument, but I support their right to be heard. And if you refuse to listen, the mob just keeps yelling.  Rachel Smalley

Two years into this pandemic, the government and many of its agencies are still heavily distracted by Covid. The focus remains laser-like on the virus, but the protests have shown us what happens when a government loses its peripheral vision across all of society. New Zealand is turning on itself. . . The government is throwing everything at containing the Covid monster but, in doing so, it has run the risk of fuelling another monster that is far, far harder to contain.   – Rachel Smalley

The fight is far from over. Trans activists wield an enormous amount of cultural power, and their ideology is far from discredited in the eyes of progressive politicians, delusional academics, and their media microphones. Many still insist that without sex change surgeries and life-long dependence on drugs, gender dysphoric children will kill themselves—and this threat packs potent power. Yet, from the British Isles to the Continent to the Nordic nations, people are beginning to wake up. Major medical institutions are beginning to put research over ideology. Each time this happens, trans activists lose power that they can never recover. And as the ugly and irreversible consequences of their delusional experiment become clearer, we can begin to hope that their narrative will implode sooner than seemed possible only a short time ago.

For the sake of the children being inducted into lives of perpetual medicalization, I desperately hope so.  – Jonathon Van Maren 

Truth is never absolute. We should be inherently wary of those who proclaim a particular viewpoint – political, religious, or otherwise – with a ferocity that tolerates no possibility of an alternative view, let alone that it may contain some points of validity.

Unfortunately, we live in circumstances where not only has truth become absolute, but also where virtually any actions in defence of that new absolute are considered acceptable. In nearly every aspect of today’s society, reason and considered debate are giving way to uncompromising absolutes, with little room for the traditional middle ground between them. – Peter Dunne

 There is a new vehemence abroad that accepts no good in any contrary view and no acceptable justification in any stand or action taken to promote that view. Because the particular view being expressed is considered to be wrong, all those who hold or even dally with it are mercilessly scorned and vigorously condemned.

The bigger picture, beyond this protest, and beyond Covid-19, is far more disturbing. Something is seriously wrong when protestors can see threatening to execute politicians and journalists because they disagree with them as legitimate. Equally, when political leaders can justify not being willing to engage in any form of dialogue with the protestors simply because they do not like the views they are expressing smacks of high-handed intolerance. It suggests our capacity for rational discourse and reasoned debate about a controversial issue has broken down completely. More worryingly, the vehemence of expression on both sides of the argument makes it difficult to see how differences of this type can ever be resolved constructively while such polarised positions and mistrust endure. – Peter Dunne

Having tasted attention and notoriety this way, the mob will not be easily dissuaded from similar action the next time an issue that riles them arises. We need to redefine the rules of social engagement in such circumstances, in a way that brings respect, reason and debate, rather than abusive slogans and haranguing, back to the forefront of public discourse. However unacceptable or offensive they may consider the views of the protestors, political leaders cannot remain haughtily detached, hiding behind civil authorities such as the police.

At its heart good leadership is about engagement – hearing from and listening to the disparate views of the community at large and then acting in a considered way in response. Good leadership is not simply telling people what to do and expecting unquestioning compliance. It also means having the courage to acknowledge the diversity of public opinion and its right to be expressed.

Personally distasteful it may feel, our political leaders across the spectrum need to initiate some form of dialogue with protest leaders to ease tensions and limit future recurrences. Otherwise, like Covid-19 itself, the new intolerance now emerging will, to our collective detriment, quickly become endemic. Peter Dunne

The transfer of sympathy from the victims of crime to the criminal has been going on for a long time. This transfer is now taken as a sign of broadmindedness and moral generosity, marking out the intellectual from the general run of prejudiced, thoughtless or censorious persons. – Theodore Dalrymple

It is hardly surprising criminals take advantage of a tendency among the educated to view them as the victims of their own conduct. The criminals may be ignorant, ill-educated and foolish, but they are not therefore stupid. They know the emotional and intellectual weaknesses of their enemies or opponents and are prepared to exploit them.Theodore Dalrymple

The root cause of crime is the decision to commit it: indeed, without such a decision, there is, or ought to be, no crime to answer. Of course, human decisions are affected by many factors, among them (but not exclusively) the likely adverse legal consequences for the people who make them. – Theodore Dalrymple

A fascinating political and sociological fault line has opened up – one that defies the normal understanding of New Zealand’s political dynamics. People at the bottom of the heap, as political scientist Bryce Edwards describes them – many of them working-class and provincial, with no formal organisational structure – have risen up in defiance of the all-powerful political class, the urban elites who are accustomed to calling the shots and controlling political discourse. I would guess most of the protesters outside Parliament have not previously been politically active and may not feel allegiance to any particular party. They appear to be angry about a number of things.  Covid-19 and the vaccination mandate galvanised them into action, but it’s possible there are deeper, less easily articulated grievances – such as perceptions of powerlessness and exclusion – simmering beneath the surface. – Karl du Fresne

 Most commentators in the mainstream media are framing the occupation of the parliamentary lawn as being orchestrated by sinister right-wing extremists, and therefore devoid of any legitimacy. How paper-thin their tolerance of the right to dissent has proved to be. The clear implication (where it’s not explicitly stated) is that the occupation is not a legitimate expression of the right to protest by sincerely motivated New Zealanders who present no threat to anyone, but an alarming phenomenon driven by alt-right agitators with an ulterior agenda. But there’s a very marked discrepancy between reports from people who have actually been on the ground at Molesworth St, who generally describe the event as peaceful and good-natured, and those who make judgments from afar and take refuge in simplistic stereotypes about the type of people who are protesting. – Karl du Fresne

I get the distinct impression that politicians from all the parties in Parliament, even ACT, feel threatened by this sudden gesture of assertiveness by the great unwashed and don’t know how to handle it. MPs have done themselves no favours by refusing to engage with the protesters. For one thing, it looks cowardly; for another, it reinforces the perception that the politicians prefer to remain isolated in their bubble rather than sully themselves by talking to a bunch of scruffs who dared to challenge the political consensus. Unusually, this protest is a rebuke to the entire political establishment, which the politicians probably find unsettling because it’s outside their realm of experience.  But they need to get off their high horse; the people standing in the mud outside Parliament are New Zealanders, after all. – Karl du Fresne

As part of the Parliament protest there are conspiracy theorists trying to take advantage to sell their wares, offensive signs, threatening language, destruction of property, and abuse of bystanders and local business.  None of this is okay.

Some use these reasons to treat protestors like they are deplorables; to argue that because some of the group are like this, none of the group should be listened to. But, as we saw in Trump’s America, the deplorables have a vote just like the intellectuals. And they have some valid grievances.Brigitte Morten

No politicians, from any party, have met with the protestors. They are too scared of media reporting contact by them with protestors as if it signified anti-vax sentiment. That is not fanciful. It says something about the time we are in that politicians cannot state they are listening to a group without it being assumed they are therefore part of that group. – Brigitte Morten

There is no such thing as a ‘right to protest’. In our Bill of Rights there are rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. But not explicitly to protest. There is no unfettered right for the protestors to camp on the lawns or increasingly block more roads in the Wellington CBD.

In the same way the government was not able to hold Aucklanders in lockdown as long as they wanted because people simply would not comply; the protestors will also lose empathy for their cause if they continue their hinderance of Wellingtonians for too long. You cannot argue the government mandates unfairly treated destroyed your livelihood while destroying the livelihoods of the businesses surrounding Parliament. The social contract goes both ways. – Brigitte Morten

Those calling for the Police to forcibly remove people from Parliament grounds underestimate how difficult this will be. If the current protesters are violently suppressed, the conspiracy claims of far right inspiration will become real. Thousands of previously apolitical New Zealanders will have seen that our democracy has no place for them, and the language of force is all that is left if they are not to be oppressed indefinitely. – Brigitte Morten

It is unlikely the protestors, now emboldened by seven days in horrible weather, blasting music, and overflowing portaloos, will be easily mollified.

But it is clear that the government’s decision to dismiss their views has validated these citizen’s argument that they do not have a voice.Brigitte Morten

 What are the building blocks of democracy? As “anti-mandate” protesters camp on Parliament grounds and images of police versus protesters fill our newsfeeds, it’s a timely reminder that trust, transparency, informed debate and respect for our civil institutions underpin a healthy democracy.

Beyond the many humanitarian and economic costs due to Covid, we cannot afford democracy and social cohesion to become casualties. – Sir Peter Gluckman

Trust in the political process has progressively fallen, the manipulation of information, the emergence of alternative facts, the blatant loss of transparency and respect for the truth are all features of many so-called democracies. Sir Peter Gluckman

Democracy has always depended on the integrity of both policy and political institutions and transparency in policymaking and knowledge. It requires ideas and policy to be contested civilly both through an informed and empowered opposition and an engaged civil society with the assistance of a robust fourth estate. From Plato’s thinking onwards, an honest and well-informed electorate has been central to effective democracy. – Sir Peter Gluckman

Arguably, there have been other costs, including democracy as an institution itself. There is a sense that decisions have been made without the deep oversight of Parliament and the plurality of external voices that makes for a quality democracy. Issues over Covid testing date well over a year now, including severe criticism from the Auditor-General over contracts, and now the availability of rapid antigen tests. There remains uncertainty about the rationale behind those decisions.

Crisis management is always best served by contesting ideas and approaches before decisions are made. In the private sector and military, “red teams” are commonly used to explore alternatives and ask frank questions of those managing the response. The furore about the role of the private sector and how its operational expertise could be of value has been evident since early in the pandemic and the next phase of the pandemic will be even more complex.Sir Peter Gluckman

Sustaining trust and cohesion is hard and requires real efforts to reinforce transparency and promote open discussion on difficult matters. This involves respecting the value of diverse inputs and avoiding any sense of Government abdicating accountability through confusing language. An informed electorate, open discourse, empowered citizens, and respect for the institutions of civic society are some of the greatest assets New Zealand could have. – Sir Peter Gluckman

Prognostication’s a curse. You can see the train wreck coming, you can shout about it, but you just can’t convince an utterly useless government to do a damned thing about it. 

Bit of a shame that the Herald piece didn’t mention that all of this was entirely predictable, was predicted, and could have been avoided by contracting for more capacity with a testing lab that wasn’t running pooled samples. Eric Crampton

Dismissive arrogance towards the protesters at Parliament is making the situation worse.

That’s not just Parliament’s high-handed approach. Opinion pieces and public sentiment that mock and sneer at people’s sincerely held beliefs serves to isolate those in our community who reckon the Government has got it wrong. – David Fisher

These are just some of the chisels placed in cracks in our civil society. And then the pandemic came along, bringing anxiety, fear and uncertainty and smashed them like a sledgehammer. It caused industries to collapse, businesses and jobs to go, people’s dreams and hopes to disappear. Across our society, there is tension and, among many, the vacuum of despair.

That’s the hole dis/misinformation filled. That’s how it became possible for some people to self-radicalise and how it led to the protest at Parliament.David Fisher

With such absolute surety on both sides, arguing over who is right and who is wrong is pointless. Rational argument and discussion has little place here. Those who have committed to their respective positions will not shift.

To dismiss those people – as the Prime Minister does by citing our 95 per cent vaccination rate – is wrong. To mock those people, as some in Parliament have done, is worse. Isolation is a classic part of the radicalisation process. The further and harder you push people away, the more fixed they become. – David Fisher

For every person that did make the journey, there are many others who wished they were there. They are people who stayed home and expected when they came out it would be over, who got their jabs and then thought that would be it, who had children stuck overseas, who knew someone who couldn’t go to their mother’s funeral, who lost their house when they lost their job. – David Fisher

The way out of the protest is not through the protest but with the protest. Rather than dismiss the protesters, recognise that the views they hold are genuine and hard-earned. Recognise they dedicated considerable thought to their views and adopted a stance that is honest and principled.

Having done so, recognise too that it is the one thing on which we disagree that is making it difficult to see what we like about each other. Finding a circuit-breaker to do that is hard but necessary.

Ultimately, most of those on Parliament’s forecourt want the same thing as those inside Parliament’s walls – for New Zealand to be a free and open democracy in which we are able to live our lives in the best way possible, subject to the freedoms enjoyed by each other.- David Fisher

For me, that’s been one of the interesting little hypocrisies in this whole episode. On one hand, politicians wanted to take a moralistic high ground by refusing to meet with protesters. How dare anyone dignify them with a response?! Only the moralistic high ground apparently didn’t apply to the Speaker, his sprinklers, and his irritating playlist.

Trevor Mallard’s efforts can only have served to antagonise the protesters. And every bit of scorn and hate hurled upon them only reinforces their self-image. The team of five million? Ha. This rabble, confused, misled, and deluded as they may be, felt well and truly left out of the team of five million. They joined together to protest precisely because they felt like outsiders. They felt ostracised. Very little from the past 10 days will have changed their minds. – Jack Tame

Yes, there were terrible, hateful, threatening messages. As far as I’m concerned, anyone making death threats should have been arrested immediately. But in this morass of different grievances and complaints are some very reasonable and articulate concerns around extraordinary state mandates. Personally, I don’t know why any right-thinking person who was only protesting the mandates would choose to stay and be associated
with someone making death threats. But the mandate issue is worthy of protest. I don’t agree with the protesters, but they do have a right to be heard. – Jack Tame

Hindsight is a very effective strategist, but there is one moment police may look back upon as the lost opportunity to nip the anti-mandate protests at Parliament in the bud.

That was on the afternoon of the first day the protesters arrived – Tuesday nearly two weeks ago. Claire Trevett

The poor old police in particular have been made to look like laughing stocks. They appear to have severely underestimated the size and intent of the protest group, despite the social media that prefaced it.

There have been moments that have begged to be lampooned. High among them was Police Commissioner Andrew Coster’s so-called towing crackdown.

Coster did not front publicly until Tuesday – a week after the protesters arrived. He said the protest was now “untenable” and put protesters on notice that if they did not move their cars, the towing would begin the next day. He also admitted they could not find towies to do the job, and the Army didn’t have the right equipment.

The next day the only car that was actually towed was a police car, which had a flat tyre. – Claire Trevett

The protesters have not made serious attempts to storm Parliament, beyond a brief flurry at the very start. Coster’s “de-escalation” strategy appears to be police-speak for hoping like hell the protesters stay that way. Claire Trevett

But the protest has long gone past the point at which police could simply wade into it and break it up. Coster has set out why: moving in with force at this point would be very ugly indeed.

Consent – the consent of the protesters rather than the wider public – is pretty much the only option left. – Claire Trevett

There is a danger the inhabitants of the parliamentary precinct have spent the week missing the wood for the trees. In focusing on the protesters directly in front of them, they seem oblivious to a much bigger mood shift that’s going on around the country.

What if what they are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg?Steven Joyce

There is, however, a large and growing group of New Zealanders who have had their lives severely disrupted by the Government’s actions “for the greater good”, who are sick of having their plight ignored.

And there is a big bunch more who have had a gutsful of the ever-changing rules and restrictions in the face of what they see as a very mild strain of Covid-19. It is these larger groups the Government should be most worried about.

The evidence of discontent and disagreement is growing all around us. – Steven Joyce

 The Covid response has created many losers. We’ve rightly talked a lot about the people caught on the wrong side of the border. But they are not the only ones.

Anyone who owns or works in a hospitality business or a small retail shop is another. People working in tourism or international education have been in a world of woe. Young people have had their education disrupted and their sporting dreams curtailed.

There are people living in pain because their elective surgery or cancer treatment has been postponed to the never-never. They have all been stopped from doing things which were previously part of normal life. Covid has whipped the rug out from under them.

It is perhaps not surprising when so many have had their lives turned upside down through no fault of their own, that a few will turn to conspiracy theories and the like.Steven Joyce

The Government certainly didn’t create the pandemic, but some of their actions have made it much worse than it needed to be. The vaccination delays, the inexplicable obstinacy against new forms of testing, the failure to increase hospital capacity, the layers upon layers of levels, traffic lights and stages which make people’s heads spin. – Steven Joyce

Then there are all the other tone-deaf announcements that heap insult on injury. What planet would you have to be on to think that whacking small businesses with a 6 per cent minimum wage increase and a new social insurance tax, plus the spectre of centralised wage negotiations, were good ideas now?

Why would you think that announcing a $15 billion light rail project for a privileged few in Auckland makes any sense when you are racking up debt all over the place that the next generation is going to be lumbered with? And at the same time as there is a real question mark over the future of commuting as we knew it?

And why would you be consulting on tighter immigration, visitor and student controls when your biggest problem after some pretty shoddy treatment amid two years of closed borders will be persuading enough people to come here?Steven Joyce

The Government’s dogmatic determination to continue with a policy programme made instantly out of date by the pandemic indicates the same lack of flexible thinking apparent in their Covid response. They expect everyone else to adjust and cope but they intend to sail on, determined to do things they thought of six or seven years ago irrespective of current circumstances.

And their blind loyalty to the Ministry of Health and its Director-General is a sight to behold. Dr Bloomfield has been politically dissembling at best about his organisation’s confiscation of RAT test orders. In any other Government he would have been carpeted and there would be talk of resignation. – Steven Joyce

The country’s mood is darkening, and in dismissing the protesters and their motivations, the Prime Minister and her MPs are giving the appearance that they are dismissing all the concerns people are raising, or even just quietly thinking about.

I can’t tell the Government how to get the protesters to go home, although firing Trevor Mallard would probably help. I suspect in the meantime the numbers will only grow.

Ministers need to lift their sights and focus on the wider discontent among the public outside Wellington and outside the Bowen triangle.

If ministers showed a willingness to genuinely listen, adjust their policy response, and convince Kiwis they both care about and will mitigate the disruption in people’s lives, then they can right the ship. At that point the protest will also probably peter out. If they don’t, then a few hundred assorted protesters and conspiracy theorists camped on the lawn at Parliament will be the least of their problems.Steven Joyce

I would say there’s probably a three-tier mandate. So the hairy shirt level is employment and losing your job, the next level down is the irritation level of not being able to do stuff you want to do, and then the third level down, which I think to be perfectly honest probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place, is a kind of mandate creep where we’ve been trying to really encourage secondary school students in that 12 to 17 year old age group to step up and get their doses which they have,” McIntyre said.

But schools have overinterpreted that and are imposing all these unnecessary restrictions on kids in that age group, not being able to play sport, not being able to go and participate in school activities, and it’s all because of their parents’ decisions which they are being punished for,” he said.

And let’s face it, you know, even if they are vaccinated, they are mixing with a whole group of other kids who are very low risk and they’re incredibly low risk now they’ve had their two doses, so I think particularly that third group, the kind of mandate that should never have been there in the first place, so I think that’s really an important one to tackle first. – Peter McIntyre

Why has a school been denied tests whilst it seeks to protect the health & safety of its own students & parents? Why has the government interfered with the contract? Our politicians and public officials would tell you that it has to do with things like MedSafe Approval – that health & safety red-tape is necessary when importing medical-related products.

However, that’s just one half of the truth. The other half is that our government has a very strong ideological problem with private sector involvement in the health-care sector.Robert MacCulloch

Yes, the government doesn’t want buyers & sellers which it doesn’t control coming together to do deals together in the health-sector. Although they say its about public health, it’s equally as much about ideology. Labour has an anti-privatization philosophy. At present, in the context of virus-testing, that philosophy has just become a health hazard. – Robert MacCulloch

Largely Covid-free, New Zealand has been viewed as a paradise for much of the last two years. Jacinda Ardern, already considered by many the Mother Teresa of the Antipodes, excelled in the early stages, acting decisively and with compassion. Appealing to the population to act as one, her “Team of Five Million” approach did wonders for national unity at a time when most other leaders were floundering and failing. No wonder I voted for her – twice.

But times have changed. Once saintly, Jacinda now appears merely silly, having led New Zealand to a place that looks more like a smug cul-de-sac than a nation wholly reliant on overseas tourism and trade. Then again, long-term strategic thinking was never a feature of her government’s Covid response, with “elimination” taking precedence over vaccination for much of 2021.   – Joanna Grochowicz

Not that anyone in New Zealand is really focusing on what she got wrong. Ardern’s $55 million (£27m) sweetener in the form of the Public Interest Journalism Fund has enabled her government to exert tremendous influence over private sector media outlets, as well as tightly control-messaging through state media channels. So much so that any coverage critical of Ardern now originates from pundits in Australia or Britain. Most recently, opposition leader David Seymour had to turn to the Daily Mail to get an opinion piece printed. This is when silly starts looking sinister.

If democracy is built on the ability to question those in power and hold them to account, then the Kiwi media are wholly complicit in Ardern’s swing from immaculate heart to autocrat. The major opposition party National have only made their job easier by offering nothing more headline-grabbing than leadership squabbles. Then again, the opposition’s perceived infighting might just be the PM’s grand media bribe in action. Gosh, she’s good!  – Joanna Grochowicz

Nobody can see the silent assassin at work next door; nor the mental health crisis her government’s Covid response has unleashed on New Zealand, where youth suicide rates are already the highest in the developed world. It certainly doesn’t fit the image of the leader I voted for – the young woman breastfeeding her new born at the UN General Assembly, the compassionate leader who offered succour to survivors of 2019’s Christchurch massacre. Here was a rare thing! A leader who understood both grand gestures and nuance.

Of course, there is nothing nuanced about Ardern’s shameless Covid scare tactics. They’ve worked a treat, keeping the public vehemently opposed to opening the country’s borders, and compliant in the face of tyrannical restrictions even as the rest of the world is emerging from crisis. Especially when combined with the bread of endlessly extended wage subsidies; and circuses in the form of a parade of overseas DJs, sports teams and stage shows that have breezed in without needing to enter the dreaded MIQ lottery.Joanna Grochowicz

Her latest diversion has worked. Terrifying the Team of Five Million, and focusing their fear and loathing on outsiders importing pestilence into paradise, is a highly effective strategy – if a little lacking in originality. Despots for thousands of years have deployed such methods to distract their subjects from something infinitely more damaging to long-term wellbeing – an unchallenged leader.

Ardern’s lack of transparency runs deep. One example, the He Puapua report currently before her Cabinet, was hidden from former coalition partner, New Zealand First. Finally outed as a result of an Official Information Act request, the report recommends a raft of co-governance structures along racial lines. – Joanna Grochowicz

Already, we are witnessing the corrosive impact of these policies and plans on national unity; and yet these issues and many others are being decided behind closed doors, with no regard for democratic process. Governments do this all the time, right? At least, oppressive regimes do.

What’s particularly galling for me is the mind control Ardern has exerted over the population. Coming back here, I’m shocked at how few have lost their faith, and baffled by the self-congratulatory mood that pervades the country. After two years of sermonising from Ardern and nowhere to drink other than from the government fountainhead, New Zealanders have turned into a nation of self-congratulatory, cavorting maenads.

Mea culpa. In voting for Mother Teresa, I unwittingly ushered Caligula into office. The parallels are there: noble and moderate for a period, admired all over the world “from the rising to the setting sun”. Our esteemed leader has become self-absorbed, cruel and dangerous. Where’s it all leading? I’d love to know, but getting to the truth in New Zealand is a tricky business nowadays. I prefer my chances at the London bacchanal – there at least I can be assured in vino veritas!Joanna Grochowicz

There are, of course, complaints and complaints. Some are purely individual or egotistical, but some point to general problems that affect many other people or the whole of society itself. A complaint is then emblematic of something beyond itself and may even become socially useful or necessary. Complaint that is merely about oneself is often akin to whining, and often serves to justify descent into the psychological swamp of resentful self-pity. – Theodore Dalrymple

There is thus an asymmetry between complaint and gratitude: one complains when things don’t work as they should, but one feels no gratitude when they do. There is a similar asymmetry where human rights are concerned: you complain when they are violated but are not grateful for receiving your due.

Perhaps this explains why people seem so angry all the time despite the unprecedented physical ease of their lives. As we grow ever more technically sophisticated as a society, but individually dependent upon mechanisms of whose workings we have not the faintest idea, we come to expect life to proceed like a hot knife proceeds through butter. When things go wrong – the computer crashes, the train is late, the car won’t start, the gutter is blocked, the bank’s website has a temporary problem, the promised delivery doesn’t arrive – we feel a quite disproportionate despair because of our expectations, though the inconvenience we suffer as a result is trivial by comparison with the kind of problems and deprivations that our forebears had to endure even within living memory, and did so with more equanimity than we can muster.Theodore Dalrymple

It is now almost impossible to remain out of range of those with whom we would rather have no contact. Future generations will never know the joys of being incommunicado. The world is too much with us, wrote Wordsworth getting and spending – and that was in 1802! It is not too much with us now; it is with us perpetually, all the time. – Theodore Dalrymple

On the other hand, recognition of what is and is not within our control is an important manifestation of maturity. How far that control extends was the most important intellectual quarrel of the twentieth century, with extremists arguing either that nothing in a man’s life, or alternatively that everything, was under his control. The extreme positions obviate the need for judgment of individual cases, which Hippocrates told us (in the medical context) is difficult. However, that something is difficult does not go to show that it can or ought to be dispensed with. Life is not the passage of a hot knife through butter. – Theodore Dalrymple

Those MPs who are refusing to even meet with the protesters, seem to have forgotten that they were elected to listen to the concerns of constituents and represent their views in Parliament.

Not only have our political elite shown themselves to be tone deaf about the protest, they also appear to be equally uninformed about Omicron, which is now sweeping through the country at a great rate of knots. – Muriel Newman

The political elite in Wellington have misjudged the situation by maligning and dismissing the protesters. Their misrepresentation of those who are standing up for what they believe, will simply harden their resolve, and result in more good Kiwis like Sir Russell Coutts going to Wellington to support a movement that is aimed at ending forced vaccinations and restoring human rights, dignity, and the freedom of choice for New Zealanders. Muriel Newman

We live in a community. Obligations to one another flow from that. At the same time, obligations must be checked by individual freedoms because it is almost impossible for an individual to opt out. The law follows you to the boundaries of the State. Civilised societies try to find the right balance between communal obligations and individual freedoms. People tend to gravitate to societies which are relatively skewed towards individual freedoms. Migration flows speak to that. Empirically, such societies are also the most prosperous. Individual freedoms and prosperity move in sync. – Peter Smith

There is no opposition among the major political parties on combatting the virus, as there isn’t any more on combatting so-called “climate change.” In such circumstances despotism flourishes.

Media today verses yesterday: For sure, much more leftness, greenness, feminisation and callowness; but, dwarfing all of these pernicious trends is a precipitous fall in questioning curiosity, objectivity and common sense. Shows no signs of reversing. – Peter Smith

There’s something symbiotic about the protestors outside Parliament Buildings and the ministers inside who won’t talk to them. Both are motley, arrogant and short-sighted; they radiate confusion and specialize in messaging that is hard to understand. Virtually everything ministers have promised over the last four and a half years has crumpled in their hands, from building 100,000 new houses, abolishing homelessness, lifting people out of poverty, improving education, fixing the country’s creaking infrastructure, and enhancing race relations that have never been in a worse state. – Michael Bassett

The protestors are similarly confused on everything from a clear purpose through to whether they even want to talk to those who don’t want to talk to them. Most in this diverse assemblage of New Zealand’s modern underclass are engaged in a rumble with an “up you” message to the rest of us. As well, there’s a thin layer of brighter ideologues who are worried about the creeping shroud of authoritarianism that Jacinda Ardern is encasing us in. But, for the most part the IQ level on both sides is about equal. Some protestors would have happily joined Trump’s January 2021 Capitol riot; others are drawing welfare rather than having any work obligations. Both sides are mostly on the public payroll. The current ministers have similarly impoverished educational backgrounds and narrow life experience. Both sides seem ill-equipped to talk to produce a constructive dialogue, even if anyone wanted to.Michael Bassett

The Prime Ministerial complaint appears to be that anti-mandate protests are acceptable, but anti-vaccine protesters were beyond some imaginary red line and thus were not to be tolerated.

But – and I realise this will come to as a shock to a few in the Beehive and those who pander to them – our political elites do not get to define the boundaries of legitimate dissent. –  Damien Grant

What the prime minister meant, I suspect, is it isn’t how she and her cohort of performance revolutionaries choose to conduct themselves, where the object was to get the Instagram photo and move on somewhere comfortable for a soy latte and vegan muffin. Getting mud on your designer clothing was to be avoided and being arrested was definitely not on the cards. Thank you very much.Damien Grant

There is a qualitative difference between the theatre of protest and the real thing. Those who marched in Auckland in support of Black Lives Matter or against Donald Trump in the Women’s March after his election, were engaging in performative protest.

Their lives were not impacted, they had no expectation of effecting change, and the wrong being committed was happening in another country. This isn’t to diminish the significance of the issues or the genuine feelings of those who turned out, but we should not confuse these marchers with those who stood in the field at Rugby Park in Hamilton wearing helmets. – Damien Grant

Yet we understand that florid language is the last recourse of the powerless, a final act of impotent defiance against the relentless power of the state. To point at the weakest member of our community, whose pitiful status is the result of your policies, and feign outrage as he scribbles pathetically in chalk is a weak moral position.

It makes sense that Trevor Mallard put on the sprinklers and played bad music at the crowd, because such a strategy would have deterred him and his parliamentary colleagues. Demonstrations were to be done only in fine weather and during gentlemen’s hours.Damien Grant

Those who refuse the vaccines do so for a variety of complex reasons, but if you are willing to lose your career rather than take the jab, then we need to acknowledge that this belief is genuine, if mistaken. But then, many believe all sorts of things are bad for them, from religion to a liking for craft beer.

If you believe that mRNA is going to rewire your genetics, you are not going to take the vaccine no matter how drastic the consequences, despite the fact that you, like me, have no idea what mRNA is.

The solution for most of us, when faced with the mandates, is to submit, whether we want it or not; but not everyone is built this way. Throughout history, we see examples of people taking strange ideological positions and being willing to suffer great hardship rather than compromise. – Damien Grant

But within the makeup of humanity, there is a small percentage willing to die for their beliefs and a larger cohort willing to stand in solidarity in the rain and muck of the parliamentary grounds to defy these mandates.

The prime minister is stuck. She cannot negotiate. She cannot back down. She needs to look upon those on the lawn and despair – for those rabble are the captains now. For as long as they can remain in place, they are the story.Damien Grant

Rather than hailing the achievements of the Labour-led government’s management of the covid crisis, this left should have been decrying the government’s lack of an economic programme for those hurting due to the exacerbation of poverty and inequality. – John A.Z. Moore

What I’ve seen at Ministry of Health level borders on incompetent, and no one is taking advice that in any way shifts their thinking.Ian Taylor

The emergency legislation in response to Covid-19 giving our Government the right to control our freedom of movement is no longer demonstrably justified in removing the fundamental rights to which New Zealanders are entitled.  –  Lady Deborah Chambers

However, section 5 in operation appears to be interpreted as broad enough to drive several trucks through. Our Government has removed our fundamental freedom of movement in a way that no other previous government has done. If the Government’s actions are justified under section 5, then that section needs to be narrowed and strengthened. –  Lady Deborah Chambers

The incessant and futile attempts to impose Covid-19 zero strategies will continue to fall away against the inevitable path towards endemic Covid-19. The never-ending onslaught of emergency powers and inane rules should be replaced now with sensible precautions, encouraged but not legislated by the Government, with an ongoing concentration of treatments, vaccinations, and health resourcing.

Instead, our Government has continued – against international trends – to impose even more draconian measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. –  Lady Deborah Chambers

It is not justified to restrict the fundamental rights of other New Zealanders when we know that it is only a particular group in our community who are vulnerable to a low risk of death from this disease. The better approach in terms of human rights is that citizens who are vulnerable be more cautious and aware. –  Lady Deborah Chambers

The average age of Covid deaths is still higher than the average life expectancy. We do not need a government to talk to us like we are 5-year-olds over these risk factors. New Zealanders know them. New Zealanders know whether they are part of a vulnerable group and should be trusted to act accordingly and take that into account in the decisions they make about their lives without having the Government use that as an excuse to become authoritarian. –  Lady Deborah Chambers

Thirdly, the emergency regulations taking away our freedom of movement fail to properly balance social, educational, economic, and even other medical damage in favour of an obsessive focus on Covid-19 to the exclusion of all else. This is why health bureaucrats and epidemiologists should only ever have been a key source of advice, not dictators of Government policy.

I do not doubt that the Government genuinely thinks it is taking these extreme measures for all the right reasons, but the Government’s rulemaking is no longer proportionate to the risk and does not meet the requirements of the section 5 exemption. The “nanny knows best routine” is no longer justified.

Fourthly, to those who say that our Government’s refrain that they are entitled to claim credit for “keeping people safe” and go even further and demand a continuation of this protection pretense, I say this: It is not the Government’s role to attempt to prevent all death at any cost. –  Lady Deborah Chambers

Part of the reason large elements of the public are entranced by the unachievable goal of permanent insulation from Covid-19 is that our politicians have raised expectations that our Government cannot meet by using paranoia and political one-upmanship.

Some New Zealanders will not be happy until they ruin another school year or chalk up another $60 billion in debt and ruin the early careers of so many young people weighing them down with taxation for decades to come. Those views are not a justification for overriding the fundamental rights of other New Zealanders.

If you are very risk-averse, then the answer is simple: you choose to take the steps you wish to take to avoid infection. The answer is not that our Government removes fundamental freedoms by emergency regulations when we are now in a very different position from when we first faced Covid-19 without vaccines, little knowledge, and a much stronger variant.

Our leaders assure us we are no longer in elimination mode. They urged us to get vaccinated so we could dispense with the restrictions on our fundamental freedoms, but still, we are overwhelmed with onerous and illogical rules and restrictions. –  Lady Deborah Chambers

Most media are addicted to Covid-19 catastrophism, down-playing or ignoring the social and economic costs. Fear is even better than sex at selling newspapers. Oppositions have been too timid to call it out, preferring to profit from outrage and trepidation, preferring to complain about a bungled vaccination rollout when we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and one of the lowest fatality rates.

It is time we elevated civil rights as a key component to decision-making. So far, the influence of the Bill of Rights has been zip.  – Lady Deborah Chambers

The pandemic has provided a stress test for the freedom of movement guaranteed to us and the results are not pretty.

The most common way people give up their rights is by thinking that they do not have any. New Zealanders should be justifiably proud and be prepared to defend the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. It is time we did.

Nothing strengthens authoritarianism so much as silence. – Lady Deborah Chambers

The rule of law needs to be respected and upheld. Should people reach the view they are not bound by it and the right to protest is unlimited, chaos would eventually descend upon us. It is a slippery slope. . . 

While the Bill of Rights reinforces the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of movement, none of these rights is absolute.Sir Geoffrey Palmer

When Labour governments run out of ideas they have usually resorted to centralisation and more controls. In its final term, Peter Fraser’s ministry that had been one of the most creative in New Zealand’s history, centralised as tired ministers hoped their trusted bureaucrats would keep Labour’s faltering show on the road. The ministries of Walter Nash, Norman Kirk and Bill Rowling followed similar paths. Jacinda Ardern’s government, you’ll recall, had very little policy to start with. So little in fact that when it came to office in 2017 it had to set up more than two hundred committees and inquiries to tell it what to think and do. The results were pitiful. Almost no Kiwibuild houses were constructed, homeless numbers increased, poverty figures rose rather than declined, educational achievement standards kept slipping against other countries, and major infrastructure construction fell well behind schedule. Whenever criticised, rookie ministers blamed the previous government, and then Covid. Message? Centralising everything can’t compensate for the absence of carefully-thought-through policy. – Michael Bassett

Despite their lack of specific policies, they had ever-so-itchy fingers. They engaged across a wide front tinkering with everything in sight, thinking some ancient Labour dogma overlaid with a big dose of special privilege for Maori would fix things. The public hospital structure had been set in place by Helen Clark’s ministry. It is only twenty years old, but it is now being turned on its head for no good reason except that a more centralized system makes it easier to favour Maori. Health Department officials who have been under huge stress coping with Covid are also having to restructure a hospital system that wasn’t broken. Nor is there anything so wrong with water and drainage services nationally that they require Nanaia Mahuta’s Three Waters in the form set out in her current proposals. Her centralizing scheme seems to have only one over-arching purpose: control by Maori. Meanwhile, the school history curriculum is being restructured with one special purpose in mind: teaching a bogus version of New Zealand history to school kids about the Treaty of Waitangi. Making Labour’s centralisation work certainly keeps officials busy. Wellington has become a gigantic Lego-fest.Michael Bassett

Over the years, the best ideas behind successful government schemes have always taken time to germinate. If they are specific to places or regions there has to be buy-in from locals who will benefit. And the best way to test the extent of that buy-in is to expect the same locals to own the project and pay the lion’s share. Centralizing everything always means bureaucracy and waste. But then, Jacinda’s ministry is so other worldly that they don’t know these stark realities. Her government is too expensive to indulge any further. – Michael Bassett 

Compulsory wokeness, for example, has had limited success in healing division; while classifying people by what they say, rather than what they do, has not promoted much virtue.

State management of the economy to reduce instability and help the weak now threatens long-run productivity growth.  Meanwhile, support for decarbonisation evaporates as life-changing costs become transparent.   

And the taking by the state of ever-wider powers to regulate our lives to make us better people increasingly creates more problems than it solves. Oblivious of how it looks, we find the most ardent defenders of civil liberties yearning for extraordinary powers.Point of Order

There’s an unmistakeable note of panic in the posturing of the woke Left. They suddenly realise they no longer control the public debate and are wildly lashing out at the scruffy mob that usurped their right to make a nuisance of themselves. How dare they! – Karl du Fresne

The level of condescension and intellectual snobbery on display from people who think of themselves as liberal has been breathtaking. The tone has alternated between sneering at this supposedly feral underclass and alarm at their sudden, forceful presence on the national stage – a stage the wokeists are accustomed to hogging for themselves.Karl du Fresne

Oddly enough, we never hear experts on Morning Report expressing alarm about people being radicalised by the extreme Left, although it’s been happening for decades at the taxpayers’ expense and has succeeded in transforming New Zealand into a country that some of us barely recognise.

Similarly, we should conclude that ideological manipulation is a problem if it’s practised on an ignorant lumpenproletariat, but not when it happens to gullible middle-class students in university lecture theatres, where it flourishes unchallenged. – Karl du Fresne

What we can infer from this barrage of anti-Camp Freedom propaganda is that the woke Left is terrified of losing the initiative in the culture wars. It’s desperate to reclaim its sole right to lecture the rest of us and wants to do so without the distraction of an unruly mob that has the effrontery to adopt the Left’s own tactics.

The irony here is that having spent most of their lives kicking against the establishment, the wokeists are the establishment. They have won the big ideological wars and are on the same side as all the institutions of power and influence: the government, the bureaucracy, the media, academia, the arts and even the craven business sector.

The dissenters, disrupters and challengers of the status quo – in other words the people protesting outside Parliament – are the new radicals. This requires the moralisers of the Left to recalibrate their political thinking, and I get the impression it’s more than some of them can cope with.Karl du Fresne

An unprovoked attack on a peaceful, democratic neighbour has not happened in Europe since World War II. It is a barbaric act that could take us into a dark age. It shakes the foundations of the international order and the world economy.

With the fall of Communism, there was hope for a new, liberal world order. Globalisation was spreading, as was democracy. There was a peace dividend in the form of reduced military spending and less need for autarky, especially in energy. It was the supposed ‘end of history’. – Oliver Hartwich

If the West needed a final wake-up call, this is it. If those who believe in liberal democracy, civil liberties, free markets and the rule of law still care about their values, this is the time to defend them.

Talk of solidarity with Ukraine is good, but it can only be hollow. There is no way to come to Ukraine’s military defence without provoking an even bigger war.

What the free and democratic world must do urgently is to reconnect with its own fundamental values. That requires a reality check. – Oliver Hartwich

We must rediscover the cultural and political foundations of our civilisation. It is the Enlightenment values of freedom and peace that we must defend against illiberalism, both at home and abroad.

It is a historic moment. But it is our choice how to respond to it.Oliver Hartwich

They say having a baby changes what you value and it’s true. I want more for our country now. Nine months ago, a politician could’ve convinced me with a tax break. But now, I want to know that politician has a plan to keep New Zealand as wonderful as it was for us to grow up in. I want to know that our schools are world-class, that our jobs pay well and that our cities are good places to live. I want this boy to want to live here, in the same country as his mum and dad, and never leave for a better lifestyle in Sydney and London and New York. I want things that benefit all Kiwis, because what is good for all Kiwis is good for him. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

A commonality of skin color and associated facial features is as nothing compared to the fact that human beings of all races share the faculty of reason. The former may allow for an interesting group photo once in a while.

The latter is what underlies the accumulation and application of knowledge and gives to the members of all races the ability to produce the goods and services that the members of all races need and desire. – George Reisman


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