Quotes of the year

31/12/2014

Offering to trade fines for sexual favours is not simply sleazy as the judge seemed to view it. It’s about a principle which is absolute, regardless of its nature or monetary dimension. It behoves the Police Commissioner to appeal against this ridiculous sentence so wiser heads can send a vitally important message, namely that corruption is corrosive, strikes at the heart of civil society and will absolutely not be tolerated. Sir Bob Jones

“I love to observe how they process the high school situation. Over the last couple of months I’ve just started to realise that, wow, people in the real world don’t care if your legs aren’t perfect.” Lorde

”I find the chances of it being stolen are pretty minimal, but the chances are even more minimal of it disappearing by itself through two paddocks surrounded by deer fencing,” Bill Keeler

It’s been said that the New Zealand economy is likely to be the “rock star” of 2014 but we all know what happens to rock stars who spend all their money on having a good time. I’ve said it before – the only way we’re going to become a top-tier First World country is by growing the pie.

Sadly, we’ve always been much better at eating them. – Colin Espiner

To judge the dead may give some comfort to the living, but no matter how fervently the misdeeds of previous generations are condemned, they cannot be undone. Therefore, whatever justice we seek to do here and now, let it be to right the wrongs of the present – not the past.

We fair-skinned Polynesians are not – and can never be – “Europeans”. Just as contemporary Maori are not – and can never be again – the Maori who inhabited these islands before colonisation. Both of us are the victims of historical forces too vast for blame, too permanent for guilt.

And both of us have nowhere else to go.Chris Trotter

 

Just 380,000 individuals pay half of all income tax.

If you earn more than $80,000 you are in that group. Most tax is paid by businesses through corporate tax or receipted GST payments. Possibly 80 per cent of the country is taking more from the state than they are contributing.If you are a net contributor most of your money will go to paying for the welfare of others.Most of those who seek to reduce their tax obligations are net contributors to our society. The only complaints against them are they do not pay enough.Beneficiary cheats, by contrast, are providing nothing to start with and seek to enrich themselves further by deception and dishonesty.Judges understand this, which is why beneficiary cheats go to jail for longer, as they should. – Damien Grant

Democracy, certainly at candidate selection level, isn’t generally a process of exquisite delicacy, scrupulous manners and sensitivity to hurt feelings. Oftentimes it’s just a few steps removed from full-on internecine civil warfare, albeit conducted largely out of sight. – Southland Times commenting on Labour’s selection process for the Invercargill electorate.

“The other analogy I have learned quite a lot is this idea that life’s like the drafting race because you learn quickly, farming, all the things that begin with D like drenching and drafting, docking and dagging, getting into debt and dealing with DOC. If you go up the drafting race, even for a ewe you have to look good: You mustn’t limp, head up, eyes forward don’t show your teeth if they aren’t terribly good, clean bum, good digestion, good tits – the whole way – because you want to go to the right, to the mixed age ewe mob, because [then] you get kind dogs and good food. Straight ahead is not much fun because you will end up a chop on the table. – Christine Fernyhough

“Nah, no tear in the eye. I’m from south Dunedin,” he grinned. Brendon McCullum

‘‘A government is a periodic monopoly that needs the threat of other entrants to get it going.’’ – Bill English

We must avoid complacency that might flow from believing today’s good times are permanent.

We don’t want to make a habit of doing the hard work under pressure, then putting our feet up just when the serious long-term gains are within our reach.Bill English

If there are going to be on the ground and social media campaigns, they needs to be led by Australians.  We need to get Australians saying that they want the best products at the best price.  We need Australians to demand choice instead of supermarkets telling them what they’re allowed to buy.  We also need Australians to see how deeply cynical the supermarkets are by reinforcing the values we share, namely, freedom of choice.  This needs to turn Coles and Woolworths market research on its head and hit them where it’ll hurt the most; market share.  That’s the only language they understand.  It is also by reinforcing that Kiwis are kin, something the centennials of the Great War will strongly affirm. – Bruce Wills

Personally, I’ve never heard of an economy taxing its way to greatness but I have sure heard of economies taxed into oblivion.Willy Leferink

And perhaps that’s the every day wisdom of parents at the fore – it’s the minestrone soup solution of life – if you’re short of meal options, throw all the vegetables into a pot, with a sprinkle of flexibility and the seasoning of life, and see what you come up with. – Tariana Turia

The notion that environmental protection and economic development are potentially conflicting goals is not, in my view, a recipe for success. It removes any expectation that businesses should take responsibility for protecting the environment; or that environmentalists need to consider social or economic costs of environmental outcomes.

In my world, economic and environmental considerations are two sides of the same coin. It is hard to be green if you are in the red; but you cannot have long-term social or economic prosperity if you undermine the natural capital you rely on to create it. – Lynda Murchison

People’s first consideration when buying food was price, despite claims they might buy based on factors like organic growth, she said.

While people might think buying organically or from the farmers market was environmentally friendly, research showed carbon dioxide emissions were higher buying that way, Prof Rowarth said. – Jacqueline Rowarth

. . . Even during booms some businesses will fail, and even during recessions some businesses will soar. That is because what ultimately determines the fate of companies is not whether the economy grows 1% or shrinks 1%, but the quality of management and their ability to anticipate and handle changing conditions be they for their markets, their inputs or their processes. . . Tony Alexander

Members of the Opposition believe monetary fairies can make the exchange rate settle permanently lower by forcing interest rate cuts and printing money while letting inflation therefore go up. Given the non-zero possibility that such economically ignorant policies get introduced it is worth getting inflation protection by investing more in property – not less. Tony Alexander

 The global financial crisis was the worst economic meltdown in living memory.

“The 1987 crash was a a blip on the charts by comparison.”

On top of that, the Christchurch earthquakes dealt a massive hit to the government books. “The mythical observer arriving from Mars who saw the accounts in balance after two thumping great shocks like that – you’d have to say someone had navigated pretty smoothly through that.” Donal Curtin

Two thirds of the [welfare] liability came from people who first got a benefit under the age of 20. “So it confirms what grandma told you. “Don’t let those young people get off the rails because when they do it’s very expensive.” – Bill English

That it can sweetly awaken, and joyously strengthen and that you need to give it to get it. Sarah Peirse answering the question: what do you know about love?

“I don’t think our native species care too much as to whether it is public land or private land. Whether it be iwi, or whether it be Sir Michael Fay, what we’re interested in in these partnerships is maximising conservation gain.” Nick Smith

Federated Farmers is an apolitical organisation – “we don’t care who is in government as long as they agree with us”.Conor English

. . . Taxes are not the price we pay for a civilised society. At best they are the price we pay for a civilised government. But they are also the price of overly bureaucratic procedures, unpredictable outcomes, and the loss of freedom to make our own decisions. – NZ Initiative

I make no apology for being a male. I hope I’m seen as a considerate, compassionate and communicable male; I make no apology for that. If I have faults, and I’m sure I do, well I don’t think  I can blame my gender for my behaviour without it being a cop-out. There ain’t nothing wrong in being a bloke if you behave yourself properly! – Chris Auckinvole

Mr Speaker, my second point I wish to make is the importance of valuing hands on learning within our education system. We must appreciate these very important students who in the future will fix things, build things, be it trucks, motor cars, be it buildings, be it bridges, roads, essential infrastructure and all manner of other things.

To do this the education system must equally value these people as much as we do doctors, nurses, lawyers and accountants and design an education curriculum accordingly. Putting it simply, we want to create many Einstein’s, but to create an Einstein you also need 1000 skilled technicians to make those things. – Colin King

“Talking about ponies and horse races, if you think of the economy as a horse race, you know it would be silly to put the hobbles on one of the leading horses so the rest can catch up,”Alister Body.

“I don’t think a party that’s on the extreme edges one way or another is going to be beneficial for Maori,” . . . “I think we as Maori also need to realise that compromise is a part of political involvement in New Zealand politics,”  . . .  Dr Lance O’Sullivan.

. . . if democracy means anything, it means suppressing the savage within and submitting the issues that divide us as individual citizens to the judgement of the electorate as a whole. Even more importantly, it means accepting that collective judgement – even when it goes against our individual contribution to its formation.Chris Trotter

HONG KONG | How did this small city-state of 7.3 million people go from having a per-capita income of only a few hundred dollars per year to a per capita income that is equal to that of the United States in only 50 years? The simple answer is they had the British common law legal system, strong private property rights, competent, honest judges, a non-corrupt civil service, very low tax rates, free trade and a minimal amount of economic regulation. There was no big brother government looking after the people, so they had to work hard, but they could keep the fruits of their efforts. . . Richard W. Rahn

One of our human limitations is that we look at the problems ahead through the eyes of our current technology and from this perspective they can look overwhelming. This myopia traps us into negativity – we think we must go backwards to achieve our goals – Dr Doug Edmeades

For the health-conscious, the prevailing wisdom is that natural food is the best food. But no matter what studies of GMOs say, one scientific fact is inescapable: basically none of our dietary staples are natural. Some 10,000 years ago, our ancestors picked tiny berries, collected bitter plants and hunted sinewy game, because these are the foods that occurred naturally in the wild. Then came agriculture, and with it the eventual realization that farmers could selectively breed animals and plants to be bigger, hardier and easier to manage. David Newland

. . . Most of all they should embrace the modern age and recognise that social and economic salvation and uplifting the underclass does not simplistically lie in ever increasing taxes on the industrious and thrifty and their transfer to the indolent. There’s nothing positive or progressive about that. . . Sir Bob Jones

We think it’s pretty legal, we think these guys are just having a crack and have a bit of an eye for the main chance because it’s an election campaign. – Steven Joyce

I won’t be wanting to see any hint of arrogance creeping in.” . . .

. . . “One of the big messages I’ll be wanting to give incoming ministers and the caucus is that it is incredibly important that National stays connected with our supporters and connected with the New Zealand public.” John Key

“Make sure you know why you’re in it – politics is not about celebrities. And nurture your self worth.

“You can’t afford to mortgage out how good or bad you feel because of tomorrow’s headlines.” – Julia Gillard

New Zealand is not perfect, but we do now have a multicultural society based on a bicultural heritage.Philip Burdon


Politics Daily

08/06/2014

While I link to a range of news stories, the blogs I link to are usually from the centre to the bluer end of the political spectrum or the more reasonable or witty bits of the pink to red end.

You’re welcome to leave links to other news and blogs in comments.

John Banks

Colin Espiner @ Sunday Star Times – Banks’ public fall from grace

Southland Times – The plank must look pretty good

Grant Shimmin @ Timaru Herald – Banks situation a right mess

Dominion Post – Hard lessons for all in Banks verdict

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Tweet of the Day – 8 June 2014

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Geddis on Banks

Michael Cummings @ Manawatu Standard – Stench of corruption may affect election

Rodney  Hide @ NZ Herald – They’re all winners more or less

Kerre McIvor @ NZ Herald – Shame sticks to both sides of this episode

Sunday star Times – Laughing all the way to the Banks

Labour Party

Chris Trotter @ Bowalley Road – The right divide

Election

Jon Sergeant @ Taranaki Daily News – Bad pre-election policy from Left

TV3 – Lisa Owen interviews Epsom candidates

Mike Williams @ NZ Herald – Higher voter turnout could topple Nats

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Mark or Mike? Doesn’t really matter the missing million isn’t really a million or missing

Cameron Slater @ Wahle Oil – Labour’s former general secretary isn’t hopeful for Labour

Economic Development

TV3 –  Lisa Owen interviews Steven Joyce

IMP

John Weekes @ NZ Herald – Dotcom to stand for parliament in 2017

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Dotcom wants citizenship so he can then become an MP

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Citizen Kim – yeah right

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Never going to happen

Other

Andrea Vance @ Sunday Star Times – What’s the real deal on the theories

Beehive – New Akaroa Marine Reserve opened
Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith, opened our newest marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour today. https://www.national.org.nz/news/news/media-releases/detail/2014/06/08/new-akaroa-marine-reserve-opened
Matthew Beveridge – Leaving on a plane

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Nashy’s pimped poor person makes the news, is a Mob associate and owns a pitbull

Steve Braunias @ Sunday Star Times – Secret diary of . . .  Julian Assange

David Farrar – Kiwiblog – Adult Community Education

TV1 – ACT Campaign Manager Richard Prebble on TV1’s Q+A


Better at eating than growing

03/02/2014

Colin Espiner sums up the root of New Zealand’s problems:

It’s been said that the New Zealand economy is likely to be the “rock star” of 2014 but we all know what happens to rock stars who spend all their money on having a good time. I’ve said it before – the only way we’re going to become a top-tier First World country is by growing the pie.

Sadly, we’ve always been much better at eating them.

Any party which promises to spend more and tax more without growing more and which is more focussed on eating the pie than growing it will give us more than economic indigestion.

New Zealand’s growth is good by international comparisons but its fragile and its young.

We need sustained growth and responsible policies which promote that or we’ll be right back where we were at the end of Labour’s last term in government – in a recession of our own making.

 


Put down the sherry

19/01/2014

Andrea Vance calls time on the silly season:

Everyone, please, put down the sherry and get a hold of yourselves. A dose of reality is necessary as the political year really kicks off this week. In the vacuum of the summer season, some fantasies about the outcome of this year’s election have taken seed.

Smacking is not going to be a defining election issue just because Conservative Party leader Craig says it is. He is the leader of a minor party, outside of Parliament.

Once the election campaign proper starts, and the mainstream party machines kick into gear, Craig will find he has to do more than put on a tinfoil hat to get media attention.

Speaking of crackpot strategies, was it the electoral roll of a parallel universe that was going to return Martyn Bradbury ahead of cabinet minister Nikki Kaye or Labour high-flier Jacinda Ardern in Auckland Central?

And since when did left-wing activists like Bradbury start whoring themselves out to businessmen who want to use their vast wealth to exert influence over the political and justice system? . . .

But perhaps we could wait until his policies and candidates are unveiled before prophesising his likely effect on the polls? . . .

Thankfully other commentators have failed to swallow whatever it is that blinds some to Dotcom’s faults.

Duncan Garner also recognises the silly-season affect:

There’s a reason why Kim Dotcom, Brendan Horan and Colin Craig are getting so many headlines right now: All the other politicians are on holiday, and simply don’t give a stuff.

They’re either at their beach houses or overseas, and politics is the last thing on their mind. . . .

So, right now those three are taking their chances with the media, but they will soon have to compete with the big boys and girls for space. It will get that much harder. . .

An internet party got seven percent in Germany, so his Internet Party can’t be written off. But it’s had a woeful start with a hopelessly organised failed launch. Still, it kept him on the front page, I suppose.

The Internet Party will be a place to put your protest vote against John Key, the spies, the establishment and the ruling elite. It could well be a party for those that feel disconnected to the mainstream, disconnected to politics and disenfranchised overall. That makes it a potential threat. But what will it ever achieve? Who will lead it? If Bomber Bradbury is its main advisor – where the hell is it heading? . . .

Sean Plunket says the internet party is amateur and vain:

The imminent but aborted birth of the country’s newest political party this week has been one of the most bizarre non-events in recent political history.

From the first tweet-fuelled rumblings of the human headline that is Kim Dotcom to the ignominious cancellation of the launch party, it has been a study in the politics of naivety and a glowing example of the gullibility of certain sections of the New Zealand news media and public. . .

What shortens the odds however is an uncritical celebrity-obsessed media full of self-appointed pundits and commentators who seem more than happy to entertain the idea that Kim Dotcom and his cronies might actually represent some meaningful and significant change in New Zealand’s political landscape.

Whilst it might rob the tabloid headline writers and breathless young television reporters of meaningless fodder for their daily dross, the cruel truth is as it stands the Internet Party is little more than an amateurish exercise in vanity politics perpetrated by a publicity-seeking convicted criminal. . .

Colin Espiner also says vanity is driving him:

. . . behind the ice creams and the fireworks, the offers to fund our next America’s Cup challenge or a new submarine fibre-optic internet cable, the extravagant parties to which we’re all invited and promises of free wi-fi for all, lies a narcissist desperate for popularity, relevance, and above all, respect.

It’s my opinion that Dotcom’s constant quest for omnipotence stems from his desire to make us – and the rest of the world – understand the value of his achievements (and they are many) while forgetting his criminal past as a computer hacker and convicted fraudster. . .

Fortunately for him, there was a ready audience, thanks to worldwide alarm at the antics of the US over its multi-national bulk spying via mass data collector PRISM and its subsequent exposure by whistle-blower Edward Snowden – and other spying scandals uncovered by WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange.

Dotcom has been quick to associate himself with both.  . .

Dotcom likes the parallels: all are fugitives from justice; campaigners for freedom of information; anti-state and pro-privacy.

The difference, however, between Dotcom and Assange and Snowden is that they released top-secret information held by governments and corporations because they believed it was in the public interest. They did it for free and they did it knowing they were likely to be arrested for it.

Dotcom presided over the world’s largest pirate website, which was shut down for repeated copyright violations he claimed to know nothing about. He made a fortune from it, and he has claimed that while he suspected Hollywood would come after him in the civil courts he never anticipated criminal prosecution.

Many seem to have missed the distinction. Dotcom to them is a hero, a wronged man, a champion of cheap internet and free speech. Money has helped him get the media onside. He cooperated with Herald journalist David Fisher for a largely favourable book about him, thus also ensuring ongoing coverage from the country’s biggest newspaper.

He’s courted other journalists, too . . . 

But assuming it does eventually arrive, will Dotcom’s Internet Party wreak havoc on the election result? Actually, I don’t think so.

Dotcom’s political publicity vehicle is likely to appeal to internet-savvy young people alienated from mainstream politics who haven’t voted before. Therefore it’s unlikely to pull support off the existing major and minor parties. So unless it reaches the 5 per cent threshold – a huge hurdle – or wins an electorate seat, that first-time vote will simply end up wasted.

Because Dotcom himself can’t stand, the chances of any other candidate put up by him winning a seat in their own right are extremely slim.

But that won’t bother Dotcom. His endgame is not a career in politics. . . 

Matt McCarten picks up on the vanity too:

Cynicism suggests Dotcom’s motivation is more about ego and self-interest. . .

By naming his party the Internet Party Dotcom ghettoises himself around a narrow set of issues. . .

Until now, Dotcom has had a dream run from the media. He has become a folk hero. But now he is in the political arena, he’ll get a rude shock. He’ll be treated like every other politician.

The perception Dotcom will have to overcome is that the Internet Party isn’t some plaything of a rich egotist who made mega-millions exploiting other people’s talent and creativity without paying for their work. . .

Dotcom hopefully knows voters want their political parties to serve the people, not platforms for rich men seeking self-aggrandisement. New Zealanders are old-fashioned like that.

Dotcom wouldn’t be the only would-be politician to be driven by vanity but those who make it have a lot stronger foundation on which to build their campaigns than that.

Now the silly season is about to close he’ll find the media have a few more serious contenders and issues on which to focus too.


This isn’t a recipe for growth

16/01/2014

Colin Espiner interviews Labour’s finance spokesman David Parker and finds that:

If Parker is holding the country’s purse strings after this year’s general election, there’s plenty he wants to change. The top tax rate would be 39% on income over $150,000, although the company rate would be unchanged at 28% (and no, he doesn’t think that would encourage tax evasion). He’d introduce research and development tax credits, a living wage of $18.40 an hour for state-sector workers, a higher retirement age and a 15% capital gains tax.

This isn’t a recipe for growth.

Increasing the top tax rate is merely pandering to the sock-the-rich politics of envy. Those on the top tax rate already pay far more than their fair share of tax and adding the burden will increase tax avoidance as it always has in the past.

Treasury and Brian Scott have shown the flaws in the living wage concept.

Only a small proportion of those who get less than that now are single-income families and they get top-ups through Working for Families. Anything they gain through an increase in pay they’d lose through losing WWF. there’s not even any gain for the taxpayer, they’d be paying less in WFF but more in wages.

I’m not opposed to a capital gains tax in theory but if it is to do any good it must be universal and replace other taxes. Labour’s will exempt the family home and will be on top of other taxes.

The underlying theme to all this – and what really seems to drive him – is recapturing the egalitarian spirit he believes we inherited but are slowly squandering. “Not just equality of opportunity,” he says. “I believe in equality of outcome. That doesn’t mean communism,” he adds, pre-empting my question. I ask it anyway. Doesn’t it? “No, no, no. I personally wish I had made more money for myself. I’m not a pauper but neither am I a super-wealthy person. I believe that people should be rewarded for their efforts.”

Redistribution won’t recapture the egalitarian spirit and equality of outcome is impossible without the state playing a far greater role in the economy and society than is desirable and that is communism which has failed.

The best ways to improve life is to have sustainable economic growth.

We won’t get that with more of the higher tax, higher spending policies which Labour promoted  through the noughties and which put New Zealand into recession well before the global financial crisis.


Fair? True?

13/07/2013

Colin Espiner explains the anatomy of a coup and says of Labour leader David Shearer:

. . . Most people have no idea who he is, and those who do know think he’s a shambolic, equivocal, spineless ditherer with the political nous of a first-term MP. 

Shearer is a lovely man. I’d let him babysit my kids without hesitation. But to date he has revealed neither the fortitude nor the authority to lead a political party – let alone be a prime minister. . . .

Barry Soper is equally derisive:

Every time the hapless, Dithering David Shearer stood up in Parliament’s bear pit . . .

Is that fair? Is it true?


Powering back to socialist 70s

19/04/2013

BusinessNZ calls the Labour/Green plan to nationalise electricity wholesalers economic vandalism.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says the proposal would destroy a functioning market and replace it with heavy-handed bureaucracy.

“Inserting an army of bureaucrats between power generators and retailers would destroy price signals, so prices would not reflect the cost of generation.

“In that situation, the taxpayer would continue to pay ever higher subsidies of the electricity system. This is not sustainable.

“The Electricity Authority said only yesterday that the electricity market is as competitive as it has ever been. It can always be improved, and this is where the focus should be.

“It’s only competition that can drive prices down. Governments can’t do this, not without subsidising the sector from taxes.

“A state-controlled sector as envisaged by Labour would drive out private investment. Why would the private sector invest in generators when the state can determine the prices they can charge, while subsidising state-owned competitors?

“The private sector power companies would have to seriously consider their future in the market. Those who have invested heavily would basically find their profits confiscated.

“Interfering in the market in this way would send a signal to the rest of the world that it is not safe to invest anywhere in New Zealand. The knock-on impact from that, on jobs and growth, would dwarf any short-term benefit from artificially reduced electricity prices,” Mr O’Reilly said.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges says the Labour-Greens power plan is incoherent and will kill competition in the electricity market.

“Under the previous Government, electricity prices increased by 72 per cent. It has taken the National-led Government’s reforms to arrest these ridiculously steep increases on New Zealand households,” says Mr Bridges.

“The 2010 electricity market restructure is working. The market now has more players and much more competition than it ever had under Labour.

“New Zealanders are increasingly taking advantage of greater competition and are switching companies for a better deal – in some cases, saving up to several hundred dollars a year.

Since the Electricity Authority’s What’s My Number? campaign began in May 2011, there have been almost 700,000 consumer switches.

“Why scrap the whole electricity market when consumers can already save more than the economically illiterate promises the Opposition is making?

“These types of policies have been considered in the past and rejected for very good reasons. Consumers should be very afraid of them. They may look simple but all they will ultimately bring is higher costs to households,” Mr Bridges says.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce calls it a a half-baked Soviet Union-style nationalisation “plan”:

“This is truly wacky and desperate stuff obviously made up in the last minute in the Koru Lounge between comrades Norman and Shearer,” Mr Joyce says.

“Their crazy idea to have both a single national purchaser of electricity and to exempt Government-owned companies from both company tax and dividends would effectively demolish private investment in the electricity industry overnight. It would also raise real questions as to why any individual or company would want to invest in businesses in New Zealand.

“Even the idea of it is economic vandalism of the highest order, with the timing designed to try and disrupt the mixed-ownership company floats. What we are seeing here is a desperate Opposition that is prepared to sacrifice economic development in New Zealand on the altar of political opportunism.

“The sad truth is that Labour has no idea how to operate a competitive market that keeps downward pressure on prices. Labour made a number of reforms to the electricity market in the early 2000s and the result was power prices rising 72 per cent over nine years.

“This Government’s reforms have halved price increases while maintaining investment in generation and transmission. Labour’s suggestion today is no more than a belated apology for their mismanagement, with a back-to-the-70s solution that would only make things worse.

“You seriously have to question the quality of economic advice the Labour Party is getting. They really need to get a lot more serious if they are ever to be considered fit to manage the New Zealand economy.”

It’s not just the government questioning the policy.

Colin Espiner asks has Labour actually gone insane? As in stark, raving, Monster Loony Party mad?

I’m assuming the answer is yes, judging by today’s incredulity-creating announcement that, if elected next year, Labour will essentially nationalise the electricity industry. . .

The Opposition says it’s going to create a single buyer, NZ Power, that will buy all the country’s electricity generation “at a fair price” and then onsell it to consumers. 

It’ll pretty much give away a 300KW bloc to every household and then charge for additional units. 

At a stroke, Labour is proposing to dismantle the electricity market, ruin Contact Energy and Mighty River Power and decimate the Government’s share float plans for both MRP and Meridian. 

Oh, and sell thousands of mum and dad investors down the Mighty River, since MRP’s share price would almost certainly plummet if the company was forced to retail only through a government department at whatever price it deemed to be fair. 

Already Contact shares dipped 3 per cent on the news, and that’s just a taste of what would come if this policy was ever implemented.

I’m no fan of high power prices – and I don’t own any Contact or MRP shares – but what Labour is proposing is essentially nationalisation a la Brazil or Argentina. This is Third World, funny-money stuff. Goodness knows what the financial markets will make of it. And what message does it send to overseas investors? . . .

It’s extremely rare that I agree completely with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, but his comment today that the plan was “a return to the 1970s-style monopoly provision of electricity…Only North Korea and Venezuela did not think such ideas are nuts” is pretty much spot on.

I agree with Joyce that Labour is virtually sabotaging the economy. 

It is, in my view, also an indication that Labour does not believe it has any hope of winning the next election. In my experience, only political parties that know they have no realistic hope of winning an election propose things they know they will never have to try to implement. . .

There is no virtually about the economic sabotage this policy would inflict.

I was in parliament for Question Time yesterday.

The Government benches were enjoying themselves and Ministers made the most of the opportunity Labour and the Green Party gifted them:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Electricity Authority yesterday released its review of the electricity market in 2012. The report showed 18 percent of customers, around 32,000 people a month, voted with their feet by switching electricity providers in 2012, presumably for lower prices. For the benefit of the Opposition, that is called “competition”. Since November 2008 annual electricity price increases have halved from the 8 percent year-on-year increases suffered by hard-working New Zealanders during the previous 9 years. This follows a number of pro-competitive reforms by this Government, which apparently the Opposition is not aware of. We have reconfigured State owned enterprise assets to increase competition, created the Electricity Authority and made it responsible for promoting competition, allowed line businesses to compete in the retail space, and funded promotion of consumer switching through the What’s My Number campaign.

Todd McClay: Has the Minister seen any other proposals to try to lower electricity prices?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, weirdly, yes, I have. Just before lunch today I received one report, which I believe came from the “North Korean School of Economics”. Apparently, the suggestion there was that nationalising the entire electricity industry would somehow lead to lower power prices. . .

That got a point of order call from Winston Peters to which the Minister responded:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If I could perhaps clarify my answer, I should clarify that I received a report from the local branch of the “North Korean School of Economics”.

I’d like to believe Espiner’s theory that this is the policy of parties which know they’ll lose the next election and therefore never have to implement it.

The only other explanation is that the people promoting them are so economically illiterate they don’t understand what they’re talking about.

Either way, it shows they haven’t learned from history because these policies would power us back to the socialist seventies and it would be all downhill from there.


Blogging takes insiders beyond the Bowen Trianagle

02/09/2010

Colin Espiner has posted his last post at On The House:

 . . . It’s true that blogging has changed the way political journalists write; the style is more colloquial, and the topics we choose to write about are not always the ones that would fill the august pages of The Press or the Dominion Post.

But I’d argue – certainly for myself – that the standards never wavered. Off the record remained just that. Gossip over a glass of wine did not find its way on to these web pages – at least not without the author’s express permission.

For a while On The House became required reading in the Beehive, and I’m proud of the fact that Prime Minister John Key and many of his ministers read most of what I wrote.

I’m even more proud of the fact that he often went on to read what you wrote, too.

Because if there’s one thing that blogging has taught me about journalism it is that the old “sermon from the mount” approach to writing – particularly opinion writing – is no longer acceptable in the new multimedia environment.

Readers expect to have their own say about what is served up to them. I have certainly had to develop a thicker skin to cope with what has been served back to me.

I learned not to question Idiot/Savant on climate change issues, since he’d read all the United Nations reports. I learned to double-check what I wrote about Labour, because if not Jennifer would correct me – all the way from Texas.

I learned that whenever I wrote anything about law and order it would earn a diatribe from Adolf Fiinkensein (is that really your name, Adolf?) or that if I wrote about the smacking debate I was asking for trouble from Alan Wilkinson.

Other regulars on the site . . . helped keep me on the straight and narrow and were quick to correct me when I was wrong – or simply misguided.

It must be all too easy for those inside what Rob Hosking calls the Bowen Triangle – the confines in which political insiders operate in Wellington – to become insulated from other people and views, to think their views are the only views.

Blogging – and the response he got to it – took Espiner beyond the Bowen triangle’s boundaries.

Political analysis and journalism are the better for it.


Budget reaction

21/05/2010

Patrick Smellie sniffs an unusually successful Budget:

What makes the Budget particularly strong is the extraordinary state of the Crown accounts. If net Crown debt is to peak at less than 30% of GDP after the most wrenching debt crisis ever to hit the developed world, then we’re looking in reasonable shape.

If it weren’t for the fact that the Budget economic forecasts still have current account deficits at around 7% of GDP for the foreseeable future, there would be an argument that English could borrow a bit more and get the place really going.

Tax experts say it’s bold and radical:

“The property sector will understandably not welcome some aspects of this Budget,” said accounting firm KPMG’s chief executive, Jan Dawson. The surprise cut to 28% in the company tax rate from next April would help offset any negatives among a raft of changes removing or tightening property investment and other sources of tax deductibility.

The Budget was “the most radical in years”, said Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack, and represented “a big bet on the delivery of the required impetus for the government’s growth strategy.”

The New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants pointed out that it was history repeating. The corporate tax rate was 28% in 1989, while the top tax rate only rose beyond 33% in 2001.

“Ever since then, the tax system has fallen into disarray as governments have tried to apply band-aid arrangements to avoid the 39% rate,” said NZICA’s Craig Macalister. “This is a welcome return to a simpler tax system, and it removes some of the incentives to structure for tax purposes rather than for commercial purposes.”

Chapman Tripp tax partner Casey Plunket said “no one should mourn the passing of the 38% top personal tax rate.”
“It was always a fraud, the cost of which was not borne by the wealthy but by those who earned … income which they could not shelter in companies or trusts,” Plunket said. “People with substantial assets, the real wealthy, were almost completely unaffected by it.”

. . . The New Zealand Property Council wasn’t happy with the investment property tax changes, but called it a “bold Budget” that was “good for New Zealand, at the property sector’s expense.”

Federated farmers applauds the tax incentives but wanted more for agriculture:

Federated Farmers is welcoming Budget 2010 with some misgivings about the ongoing growth of Government spending and the impact of higher Government charges, particularly the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), will have on inflation.

“The Government’s ambition to rebalance the economy in favour of the tradable sector is admirable,” says Philip York, Federated Farmers economics & commerce spokesperson.

“The Government’s emphasis on encouraging sustainable growth, based on productivity and competitiveness is strongly endorsed and we welcome a much improved economic and fiscal outlook. . .

. . . “Federated Farmers is very disappointed the Regulatory Responsibility Bill, something designed to introduce discipline to regulation, continues to languish. There’s actually no need for further consultation, as stated in the Minister’s Budget speech.  It’s a high quality well drafted Bill so let’s get on with it.

“All in all this is a Budget that looks good but it is very much work in progress with more needed to be done if we are to get the tradable sector led growth we all want,” concluded Mr York.

The Business Round table says there are sound steps but no step change:

“The government deserves credit for correcting some of the economic mistakes of its predecessor but is still well away from putting the economy on a strong and balanced growth path”, Roger Kerr, executive director of the New Zealand Business Roundtable, said today.

Colin Espiner writes English sprinkles the  fairy dust:

Somehow, English has managed to please all of the people all of the time – at least, everyone except the unions, Labour, and Hone Harawira. And it’ll be a cold day in the Beehive before those three agrees with anything National does. . .

. . . Overall I reckon this is easily a better Budget than last year’s effort and probably trumps anything Labour came up with in the past nine years as well.  

And over at No Minister The Veteran discusses whose views can be disregarded and why.


Why not mine ours?

23/03/2010

While voices are being raised opposing the idea of mining the odd packet-handkerchief sized corner of our vast conservation estate, Busted Blonde speaks softly in favour:

“We are confident and supportive of any attempt to mine in our back yard. Just as long as they sweep up the yard and put out the rubbish when they leave.”

What a pity Colin Espiner hadn’t read that before he wrote the parks are ours not mine.

Yes, we’re sitting on vast wealth. Yes, if we dug it all up we’d be rich. But what would we have lost? Our countryside. Our reputation. And possibly our souls. I know it’s tempting, Gerry, but sorry, you’re just going to have to leave it in the hills. There are other ways to make a dollar. 

What a lot of emotive claptrap. Our countryside, reputation and souls have survived the mining currently going on throughout the country – including on the conservation estate.

Interestingly most of the 39 comments on this post disagree with his view, including:

Typical NZ NIMBYs, we all happily consume the products of mining, we just don’t want any mining here.

and

IF we can do the mining without destroying the countryside and IF the benefits will go to New Zealand as a whole and not a select few or (shudder) overseas companies then it is worth mining.

I think the Government can show that mining is palatable. It is important they demonstrate the money will benefit everyone because most people seem to believe that multinational companies and a lucky few will be the big winners while everybody else loses out.

and

We want all the toys but expect others like sweatshop workers in Asia to pay all the nasty costs. We whinge on about Australia’s luck with minerals but stupidly leave ours locked up. Careful modern mining will bring income we seriously need if we are to maintain our standard of living and social services. Most of us will never ever go to these wilderness areas and neither will that naive tourist we keep prattling on about. In any case, human activity like mining is itself a tourist attraction – look at Coober Pedy and our own West Coast. Let’s proceed with the care the Government has given us the lead on and stop the crazy exaggerations and hype.

and

Colin, you say “It’s a no-brainer really. Mining is unpopular. End-of-bloody-story.” Really? On what basis do you make that assumption? On the basis of the press articles from Environmentalists?

I think you will find if you ask the general public that mining is not as unpopular as you think.

Here’s an analogy: A rich man owns land that contains a well of water. Outside his property are people who are dying of thirst. They ask him for some water. He says “No, because you will dirty my well”. The people die of thirst. Question: is the rich man being cruel, or is he a “good environmentalist”?

Cactus Kate posts on whining about mining:

The only downside to mining is that New Zealand isn’t enough of an economic powerhouse to have it’s own mining company that could be given the contracts to “drill baby drill” or Kiwislaver and the Cullen Fund were large enough to simply gobble a 100% shareholding in an established overseas mining company to do the work so all profits could remain in New Zealand which would end that argument. Anyway cheers to dreaming on that one.

Adolf at No Minister says dig baby dig.

Keeping Stock concludes a post mining the reaction with:

We know that there will be opposition, and we hope that last week’s jury verdict in Wellington doesn’t send a few tree-huggers over the top in their protests, believing that what they do is for the greater good. Right at the moment, we can’t think of ANY greater good than New Zealand’s economic future.

And Kiwiblog writes:

There is a segment of the population (and associated lobby groups) that is opposed to all mining, everywhere. You could apply to mine in the middle of a gorse laden field, and they’ll be against it, regardless of how much mineral wealth may be there.

That is a legitimate view to hold, but there is a cost – NZ has less money for schools, less money for hospitals, and lower incomes overall.

The previous government increased spending which we can’t afford. The current one can and should cut spending. It shouldn’t increase its income by increasing taxes but it could increase government income and economic growth by following through on this proposal to mine little patches of the conservation estate.


PM shows where to from here

09/02/2010

The Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament  leaves no doubt that the government is serious about the aspirational goals on which it campaigned.

John Key spoke of the need to maintain tight control of spending.

We are keeping a tight lid on new spending over the foreseeable future, which will enable us to get the budget back into surplus and keep public debt under control. Tight control of spending will also help to keep pressure off interest rates, which means lower mortgage costs for New Zealanders.

Overall, our economic policies are aimed at shifting the economy more towards exports and productive investment, and away from consumption and borrowing.

2010 will be about putting in place policies to grow the economy and create sustainable new employment, not just this year but over the longer term. This Government was elected to achieve a step change in our overall economic performance and that is what we intend to deliver.

The Government’s other priority this year is to make significant reforms in social sectors like the welfare system, education, the justice system, health and state housing. New Zealanders deserve a future with less unemployment, welfare dependence, crime and all the social problems that go along these. To secure this brighter future we have to get to grips with some of the big issues in these areas which have long been left unaddressed.

We owe that not just to the people who receive these important public services, but to all New Zealand taxpayers.

Government priorities include include  a growth enhancing tax system:

We need a tax system that creates incentives for people to work hard, improve their skills and get ahead here in New Zealand.

And we need a tax system that encourages saving and boosts the productivity of investments.

In both these ways, the tax system helps to drive economic performance and create jobs.

Furthermore, we need a tax system which is not difficult to comply with or administer, which is regarded as fair, and which limits opportunities to divert income and reduce tax liabilities.

In other words, we want people to pay their fair share of tax. Fairness is a very important consideration to this Government. In working through reform options we are keeping the equity of tax changes squarely in mind.

He also spoke of promoting economic growth through science and innovation, trade, better regulation and unlocking resources:

New Zealand’s natural resources have the potential to significantly raise New Zealand’s economic performance.

It is a little-known fact that in 2008, New Zealand’s third-largest export earner was oil. Last year the Crown received nearly $1 billion from petroleum production with $543 million being from royalty payments alone. This is revenue that has benefited all New Zealanders.

During this year the Government will progress an action plan to unlock New Zealand’s petroleum potential. Estimates are that the petroleum sector could generate many billions more in export revenues by 2025.

There is also extraordinary economic potential in the mineral estate residing in Crown-owned land.

Mining in New Zealand uses just 40 square kilometres of land, less than 0.015 percent of our total land area. The export value of that land however is $175,000 per hectare, which makes mining an extremely valuable use of land.

The Government will shortly be releasing a discussion document for public consultation on potential changes to Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. Schedule 4 is the part of the Crown Minerals Act which prohibits mining or prospecting on specified areas of Crown land.

The discussion document will recommend that some areas of Crown land be removed from Schedule 4 and in addition that some areas currently not in Schedule 4 be added to it.

Notwithstanding the public consultation process, it is my expectation that the Government will act on at least some of these recommendations and make significant changes to Schedule 4. This is because new mining on Crown land has the potential to increase economic growth and create jobs.

I know some people have expressed concern about increased mining but I can assure New Zealanders that any new mines on conservation land will have to meet strict environmental tests.

Moreover, the Government is also proposing to establish a new Conservation Fund, potentially drawing on royalty revenue from mining operations on Crown land. The Conservation Fund would resource special conservation projects around the country. That means that if there is an increase in mining activity, New Zealand’s natural environment would also be improved.

This will upset people who think every square centimetre of conservation land is pristine and beautiful. It’s not. If some which isn’t can yield minerals without damaging the environment it is in our interests to allow that to happen.

I was also pleased to see the emphasis on water:

The Government will also take action this year to remove particular regulatory roadblocks to water storage and irrigation in Canterbury. This will be in addition to the work already being carried out by the National Infrastructure Unit and the Land and Water Forum on progressing water storage infrastructure throughout the country.

Overall, the Government is committed to ensuring that water storage and irrigation projects which meet environmental standards, and which are good economic propositions, can happen in a decent time frame.

The Government will introduce legislation this year to change the regulations governing the aquaculture industry. This is an area where the current regulations are stifling all prospects of growth in the sector.

Reform of the benefit system is another priority:

I need to be able to look taxpayers in the eye and assure them that their hard-earned wages are not being used to support those who lack the will or desire to work as hard for their living as their fellow New Zealanders.     

There are many people on a benefit who will realistically never be able to work, and the welfare net will continue to support them.

But for most people, a benefit should only provide temporary support until they can return to work. In fact there is little chance of a better future for beneficiaries and their children unless they do come off a benefit and work for an income. Long-term welfare dependency imprisons people in a life of limited income and limited choices.

Our benefit reforms will therefore be squarely focused on helping people get back to work as soon as possible, and ensuring that they do so.

He backs up the benefits of this with statistics:

These welfare reforms will have positive effects not just for beneficiaries themselves but for the sustainability of the welfare system.

If, for example, just 100 DPB recipients were to move off their benefit and into work, the welfare system would save close to $10 million over their lifetime. If we were to assist five percent of the sole parents whose youngest child is aged over six years into work, we would save almost $200 million over the next 10 years.

Concern over the increasing welfare bill has prompted the government to  appoint a working group of experts to recommend ways to reduce long-term welfare dependency and thereby reduce the welfare bill future generations will face. 

Kiwiblog gives a summary or the speech and says:

Overall pretty encouraging that the Government is going to pursue some economic reform that will increase the size of the national cake, rather than merely get obsessed with how to divide it up as the left do. If we grow the cake, then everyone benefits in time. . .

. . . Overall I give the package a solid B. If the GST was 100% confirmed (I judge it 90% confirmed) and they had gone for land tax also, I would have gone for a B+. And if they left out the nonsense about the number of liquor outlets being a problem I may have even gone for an A- after a few rum and cokes 🙂

Colin Espiner says: 

Overall, I’d give Key an Achieved, plus a grading of “above the National standard”. There’s still a lot left unsaid, though, and the proof of just how radical National is prepared to be this year won’t be known until May.


Feds don’t wear blue gumboots

17/10/2009

Federated Farmers is sometimes referred to as the National Party in gumboots.

That has never been the case and nor should it be.

Feds is there to look after the best interests of its members and the organisation couldn’t do that if it was aligned in any way with a political party.

Any doubts over whether the organisation wears blue gumboots should have been dispelled by its actions this week.

The organisation put a very strong submission against the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme

“The ETS is world famous only in New Zealand. As the Wall Street Journal showed with several damning editorials, New Zealand is losing business credibility as investors increasingly look at us with incredulity,” says Don Nicolson, President of Federated Farmers. . .

“Federated Farmers made it clear to the Select Committee that the ETS should be repealed and replaced by non-punitive policy measures to transition New Zealand to a low-carbon economy.

Feds is equally vehement in its opposition to proposed increases to ACC levies which could result in a 70% increase in farmers’ levies.

“ACC’s bombshell will hurt farmers already struggling to make ends meet,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers ACC spokesperson.

. . . Instead of significantly increasing levies, it is time the Government made some tough decisions. I realise some of those decisions may be politically unpopular, but ACC must be brought under control. . . “

Feds would never protest as strongly if it was tied to National and it provides a more powerful voice for its members because of that.

This is apparently lost on some unions which continue to tie themselves to Labour. As Colin Espiner blogged:

But the conspiracy theory peddled by Labour and the EPMU (i.e. Labour) . . .

And Kiwiblog commented:

I can never work out if Labour is the political arm of the EPMU or if the EPMU is the industrial arm of Labour.

The benefits of independence are also lost to the Service & Food Workers Union. An email sent to Kiwiblog shows merger discussions between the SFWU and Public Service Association ended over differences on political allegiance:

The primary reason for doing so was the inability of both unions to reach sufficient agreement on the issue of political relationships and affiliations. Both unions have long standing and proud traditions on the issue of political relationships.

The SFWU has a long standing affiliation status with the Labour party, is this week signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party and has explored a formal relationship with the Maori Party. The PSA has an equally strong commitment to remaining non affiliated and independent of political parties.

I don’t recall the PSA strongly opposing Labour and its policies but it is free to do so. However, it would be impossible for either the EPMU or SFWU to counter a Labour in the way Federated Farmers does with National and any other parties whose policies are in conflict with the best interests of farmers.

Governments come and governments go. A lobby group which doesn’t commit itself to a party is better placed to deal with all parties whether they are in power or opposition. If it’s allied to a party the interests of  members will take second place to the group’s political allegiance.

 


Nationality not important in land ownership

23/03/2009

The announcement that the government is to simplify foreign investment rules  has attracted the usual hysterical responses.

Colin Espiner started it:

Slices of the South Island high country and assets such as ports and airports may again be for sale to the highest overseas bidder under changes to investment rules being considered by the Government.

That should read . . . sold to the highest bidder who may be from overseas because the vendor is unlikely to sell to a foreigner if a New Zealander offers a better deal.

Finlay McDonald Macdonald * continued the emotive slant with a piece headlined Bending over backwards for foreign coin.

The critics always see a freeing up of investment rules from the point of view of another buyer who may not be able to pay as much, rather than the seller who will receive more which could then be invested in something else, here or overseas, both of which will have benefits for New Zealand.

Critics also don’t appear to see that if we stop foreign investment here it is hypocritical to reap the rewards from New Zealand investment overseas.

But the worst of the criticism is nothing more than xenophobia based on ignorance.

It’s not who owns land or other assets which matters, it’s what they are permitted to do – or not  do – and that is governed by laws and regulations, including district and regional plans, which apply to everyone.

Those who oppose foreign investment ignore the benefits it brings to New Zealand and New Zealanders.

One of the farms we visited last week is owned by immigrants who brought a lot of money with them when they came. They poured it into their property and have worked hard to increase its productivity and improve it not just economically but environmentally. They employ other New Zealanders, send their chidlren to local schools, are active in the community and have strengthened the economic and social fabric of the district.

They are by no means the exception and if the rules are simplified to allow more people like them to invest here the critics will be proved wrong.

* Thanks to David Cohen  for corrrecting my spelling.


We don’t know how lucky we are

29/01/2009

In the depths of the 1980s ag-sag the Oamaru Mail decided it had a duty to cheer people up and announced a policy to put only good news on the front page.

That didn’t last long because it soon became obvious that it was more than a wee bit silly to give the front page lead to a story of little substance because it was “good” news and put stories of far more substance and importance on page three because they were “bad” news.

Highlighting the positive should be left to censors and propoganda merchants not the media, but that doesn’t mean they should go to the opposite extreme and be prophets of doom.

Alf Grumble has declared war on sad sacks  and I think he has a point – and not just because I was flattered when he saluted me as the bearer of glad tidings   and quoted from my opinion piece  in the ODT (though I don’t think he realised that  it was written by me).

Commentators, analysts and others whose opinions are sought by the media are painting a very gloomy picture and while there is no doubt we are in troubling ecomomic times, out here in the real world things aren’t that bad.

And maybe that’s part of the solution – the doomsayers are breathing the stale air of the big cities but if they got out into the provinces they might realise there’s no need to get depressed.

It worked for Colin Espiner who’s returned to work with a positive outlook after a few weeks out of Wellington and what he’s saying is a fairer reflection of what’s happening in rural New Zealand than the bad news stories which are making the headlines.

A small town retailer told me he’d had the same turnover in the six weeks to mid January this year as he’d had in the whole three months of last summer; the milk payout is down from last year’s record but Fonterra’s $5.10 is still the third highest yet; sheep and beef returns are well up; interest rates, fuel and fertiliser prices are dropping  . . .

I’m not saying we should break out the champagne but like Busted Blonde I can play Pollyanna and see plenty to be happy about so maybe what’s needed is a bit of balance in economic and social reporting so we don’t get talked into a depression.

And maybe we need to remember Fred Dagg and appreciate that we don’t know how lucky we are.


Joined at hip

30/10/2008

Colin Espiner says Helen Clark is running from the story linking John Key to Equiticorp but the Winston Peters-Owen Glenn soap opera is potnetially damaging for her:

It doesn’t look great for Clark, though. It’s clear that she knew of both the donation and Peters’ attempts to push MFAT into employing Glenn, but did nothing about it. I understand why she didn’t – she needed NZ First’s votes  and could not afford to put her government’s majority at risk.

But it gives Key another opportunity to remind voters that Labour and NZ First are joined at the hip, and it’s unlikely that the reheated Equiticorp affair will prevent him from doing this.   

It is also another opportunity to ask voters if the Clark-Peters partnership will help pull the country out of the economic mire.


14 more sleeps

25/10/2008

. . . unitl the election and the thought of a five headed monstor is enough to put anyone off their whitebait.


How much is enough?

08/10/2008

Tracy Watkins thinks John Key is offering enough:

A year ago, Key might have risked over promising and under delivering on those amounts.

But that was a vastly different world..

The failure to deliver more may peel off some soft support among those who were leaning toward National but, because of Working for Families, will not be a whole lot better off.

But the rest will probably agree with Key that it’s a package that’s right for the times.

So is it enough? You’d have to say yes.

Colin Espiner says the tax plan is tailored for the times.

Herald commentators  aren’t impressed:

John Armstrong says families on low wages are not so well off with National but:

Overall, the tax package wins plaudits for being fiscally responsible. It won’t win big in electoral terms because of its generosity – someone on $80,000 only gets $6 a week more than they would from Labour’s package.

As for National’s plan for rescuing the (sinking) economy, there was nothing new today. We’re still waiting.

Audrey Young says:

National’s tax package does what it promised in some respects, doesn’t meet promises in other respects and offers some complete surprises.

One of the surprises was the promise of an independent earner rebate. . . .

. . . But the biggest concern will be National’s commitment to reverse what many see as protections in the KiwiSaver scheme that Labour recently passed.

They stopped a loophole allowing employers to effectively deny KiwiSaver employees pay increases on the basis that they have done deals on KiwiSaver contributions.

National sees this through different glasses, giving employers freedom to give non-KiwiSaver employees pay rises equivalent to their contribution increases to KiwiSaver employees.

Excepting one is pay rise for today, another is one you can cash in only at 65.

It is a recipe for exploitation and unfairness.

Brian Fallow says:

At first glance the big transfer of money in National’s tax package is from KiwiSaver accounts into people’s pockets.

In the short term that gives them more to spend at a time when private consumption is flatlining.

But you can’t have your cake and eat it.

. . . Other elements of the plan are also disappointing from the standpoint of lifting our long-term growth rate – less of an increase in infrastructure spending, and the scrapping of the research and development tax credit.

At least it does not make the rather grim fiscal outlook released by the Treasury any worse. But it is only marginally better.

 Inquiring Mind has done a round up of comments on the blogosphere, which covers a range of views, some of which as he puts it can charitably be described as a partisan perspective.

UPDATE: goNZofreakpower  and Dave Gee  weren’t on Inquiring Mind’s list but are also worth a look.

UPDATE 2: So is Liberty Scott.


There’s a nasty stench . . .

27/09/2008

The ODT can smell it:

Indeed, contempt is a word many voters might well be employing to describe the poisonous state of affairs where the MPs’ behaviour and standards have sunk so low as to bring the very concept of the “people’s representatives” into serious disrepair.

The Timaru Herald can smell it:

To put Mr Peters out to pasture, as Prime Minister Helen Clark should have, would have been to admit Labour were wrong in supporting him. So the man who once made a show of shunning the baubles of office drifts to the end of this Government’s term still holding the baubles, but without the office. Enough said.

The Press can smell it:

So why is it that for the next two months or more, until the shape of the next government is known, he is allowed to retain his ministerial salary and the other perks of the job? The only answer is that it is still politically expedient for Labour to let him cling to the baubles of office.

The Tarankai Daily News  can smell it:

It’s a sweet lullaby of conspiracy and political back-stabbing, played on the strings of a David versus Goliath battle for survival; a lullaby perfectly pitched to filter out the clangs and bangs of common sense and truth and put the listener into a content, compliant trance over the next six weeks.

The NZ Herald  can smell it:

It is stating the obvious to say Winston Peters should have resigned as a minister some time ago. And that he should go now, after the censure delivered by Parliament’s privileges committee. He will not, of course, and, the New Zealand First leader may even see a silver lining in that dark cloud. The Prime Minister has said she will not reinstate him as Foreign Minister, but that he will remain a minister without portfolio. As such, Mr Peters is free to hit the campaign trail with the salary and perks of a minister but none of the responsibilities. This farce will end with voters having to deliver the Don’t Come Monday letter on November 8.

Michael Bassett  can smell it:

Overtly buying political influence by giving large donations to parties and murky private trusts like the Spencer Trust appears on the face of it to be corruption of a kind that has been foreign to New Zealand, and which is always likely to bring any Parliament into disrepute. When will these matters be investigated by the Privileges Committee? Why has Winston, who has always posed as a friend of the old and the vulnerable, been spreading tens of millions of dollars of public money on wealthy racing magnates who don’t need it, rather than on better health care and services for his supporters? And in particular, why has the Prime Minister been a party to all of this by allowing her ministry to fund Winston’s backers? There is much yet that needs unearthing about this whole murky business.

Colin Espiner  can smell it:

. . . it meant Labour and Winston Peters failed to pervert the cause of justice and will of the majority despite the most underhand of tactics. As I’ve said below in this post, Labour’s attempt to politicise the committee and discredit its findings was shameful – amongst the worst things the party has done in the past nine years, in my opinion.

We know Labour and New Zealand First can’t but we won’t know until election night how many of their supporters are prepared to hold their noses.

[ Cicero  and  Keeping Stock comment on Michael Bassett’s column]


Staying true to herself

25/09/2008

In 1998 someone I knew, who knew my National  links, approached me about a young woman who was interested in seeking selection for the party. I made a few suggestions, said I’d be happy to speak to her if she rang and heard nothing more until I was asked if I’d be part of the pre-selection committee for a potential candidate.

The woman we were interviewing was Katherine Rich. My first impression was very positive and she more than lived up to my hopes.

She immediately attracted media interest and it helped that she was young and attractive, but there is a lot more to Katherine than a pretty face. She is intelligent, dedicated, hard working, compassionate, loyal true to her beliefs and herself.

When we lost the 2002 election National had only two MPs in the southern South Island, Bill English and Katherine, and she became buddy MP for Otago where I was National’s electorate chair. Several times in the next three years I said, and still believe now, that she was a better MP for the two Dunedin electorates and Otago than the three Labour MPs who held the seats put together.

Even though she had a demanding workload as a senior spokesperson, commitments in Dunedin and a very young family, Katherine went many extra miles, literally and figuratively, to serve the people and help the party in Otago. 

Like many others, I was sorry when Katherine announced she would be resigning from parliament at the end of this term, but I understand and support her reasons for doing so. As she said in her valedictory speech politics isn’t just a job it’s a life and she chose to put her family before her career.

While her resignaiton is a loss to National and to parliament I don’t think it is a loss to New Zealand because I am sure that Katherine will put the skills and personal attributes which made her such a good MP  to good use in other ways.

Colin Espiner’s report on Katherine is here.

 The NZ Herald’s farewell interview with Katherine is here

TV3’s report on her valedictory speech is here.

Update:

Policy Blog has the You Tube video  of her speech here.

Adding Noughts in Vein comments here.


Media manipulation

23/09/2008

Goodness me, how surprising that on the day the privileges committee report into Winston Peters and the donations debacle is announced there is a major announcement on progress towards free trade with the USA and a make-muck revelation about John Key’s family trust shareholding in Tranz Rail.

Colin Espiner exposes the not so subtle hand of Labour behind it all:

What an amazing coincidence that three big stories would all break on the same day. Wasn’t it?

Um well no, not really. Because it turns out that Labour fed the story about Key’s share trades to TVNZ late on Sunday night for use on Monday, knowing that the privileges committee report was about to blast Winston Peters to smithereens. And Trade Minister Phil Goff leaked details of the FTA announcement to selected media – TVNZ, TV3 and Radio New Zealand – five days ago, on the condition they kept it quiet until yesterday.

Espiner gives credit where it’s due:

Labour’s tactics are not dirty or underhand. They are smart, vicious, and calculated. It’s how you win election campaigns. But it’s still worth pointing out that there was nothing coincidental about yesterday’s yarns.

It wasn’t coincidental, but did the media have to swallow the lines they were fed?

All of the stories were newsworthy so there was nothing untoward about the media running them, nor about the timing, because they wouldn’t have wanted to delay and let their competitors beat them.

Poneke asks if there was anything untoward behind the Dom Post’s decision to put the FTA and share stories on the front page and relegate the Peters report to page three. I tend to go for incompetence rather than conspiracy when people raise questions of media bias here, especially given, as comments on Poneke’s blog pointed out, the Peters story might have been considered stale and the other two were fresh.

That said, had it not been for Espiner’s blog, we might have guessed but would almost certainly not had it confirmed, exactly how Labour manipulated the media.

Roarprawn acknowledges that by offering him a bottle of wine. Keeping Stock  said this exposes Helen Clark as a liar again and No Minister is searching for the quote that will prove that.


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