Quotes of the week

30/01/2023

In the Lebanon, everything depends on which religious community you belong to, even your water and electricity supply (both intermittent and unreliable). Overseeing the whole polity are corrupt, kleptocratic, oligarchic leaders of various religious, political, and territorial fiefdoms, who dispute hegemony among themselves but nevertheless display a certain class solidarity so that nothing should change fundamentally and they remain permanently in charge. Protests and revolutions come and go, but the elite go on forever.

The potential for violence is always there, and indeed often breaks out; but most of the population, accustomed to chaos and breakdown, has become adept at survival. Life for them is a question of overcoming everyday obstacles, combined with evading the conflicts around them. Meanwhile, the elite live well.

No analogies are exact, but Western societies seem to be fracturing into various confessional communities each of which, like the Maronites, Druzes, Shiites, Sunni, and others, claims its share of the politico-economic spoils. They struggle like worms or grubs in the tins in which anglers keep their bait, while an unchanging elite preside, or at least glide, godlike, over the whole. In the meantime, public administration deteriorates, infrastructure rots, and inflation rockets. – Theodore Dalrymple

Go to the ant, thou sluggard, advises or even demands the Bible, addressing itself to the idlers among us, consider her ways and be wise. If I were revising the Bible today, I might write, “Go to the Lebanon, thou citizen, thou investor, consider its ways and be wise.” But the problem is that no one learns from the experience of others, and quite often not even from his own, let alone from valid deductions from self-evident premises. Man is the rational animal that somehow manages never to learn, at least not how to live.Theodore Dalrymple

It’s just a bit of admin. That’s the line given by the SNP and supporters of the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRR) which the Westminster government blocked this week. Letting a male person obtain a female birth certificate just by making a simple statement is no one else’s business. So keep out, shut up.

How maddening when women won’t. But equality law — a confusing, contradictory mess which needs urgent revision — is a delicate ecosystem: rights of trans people set out in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) are balanced against women’s rights in the Equality Act 2010. The GRR lands in this like dynamite lobbed in a fish pond. You can only support the GRR getting royal assent if you’re happy to forsake women’s rights. – Janice Turner

For starters emergency housing is in the social development portfolio. The take-over of motels leading to social mayhem (think Rotorua) has been a tragedy for those housed in them and those in their surrounds. The waiting list for public housing has sky-rocketed since Sepuloni has been Minister.Lindsay Mitchell

Worst of all Sepuloni has overseen a rise in children living in unemployed homes. The damage to their outcomes is well researched and documented. But unheeded by this government whose sole focus has been to lift incomes with their fingers firmly in their ears over the unintended consequences of paying people to do nothing … except have children.

If all of the above is “excelling” I hate to envisage what failing looks like.

Sepuloni has not been a great Minister. That the media are painting her as such demonstrates ignorance and bias. The only thing that has kept the social development portfolio largely away from the headlines is the comparatively worse performance of police, education and health. – Lindsay Mitchell

It’s all well and good that they [World Athletics] are putting restrictions in on the testosterone levels, and extending the number of years to qualify and so on… but none of that matters. They’d still be miles ahead.

I mean, the women’s shot is half the weight [of the men’s]. Apart from all the strength they’ve gained over the years, there is the height advantage, the wingspan, all the things hormones can’t replace… hip angles, lung capacity etc. Training would be easier for them. That’s just a fact.

If this happens I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot of world records fall to trans athletes.Amelia Strickler

Basically all governing bodies right now are under pressure to issue guidelines. We’ve basically been waiting for it. The fact that World Athletics, one of the biggest, has not [put] its foot down, I think it is really, really upsetting. I think these rules really could open the floodgates.

There will be a lot, I think, who say ‘Well, I’ve waited. I’m ready to compete. What do I have to do?’ And you know, women will be out of a job. Even if there are only a handful, do you put the feelings of a few above an entire sex? – Amelia Strickler

I haven’t come across anyone who is like ‘Oh, it will be fine.’ Even the guys are like ‘Yeah, you’re screwed’. There are jokes made [in training] like ‘Oh yeah, I feel like being a woman today.’

I’ve got no problem with trans women competing in a different category. Sport should be for everyone. This is about protecting women at the end of the day. I hope more of us band together to prevent this because it’s going to be the end. – Amelia Strickler

Some of the headlines have been ridiculous. There was one headline I saw the other day about the Prime Minister being driven from office by online trolls. I mean, that is so melodramatic.

It’s just bizarre because, one, it assumes that she’s reading all of the online troll messages from the misogynists and whoever. And second of all, it kind of undermines the fact the polls weren’t going wellRyan Bridge

Any smart politician will look at that and they will say, ‘Do I have another campaign in me? Do I really want to be scrapping with Chris Luxon over the cost of living when I’ve just got us through COVID? I might be going on to some international job after this. The longer I am here, the worse my reputation will be tarnished as I go through a very bloody campaign. Wouldn’t the smartest thing to do would be to pull out now?’ And I think that’s what the Prime Minister’s done. – Ryan Bridge

I think it’s a little bit condescending and perhaps a little naive to say that this [online hate] played a role. 

Nobody gets to be Prime Minister without having a thick skin, nor does any Prime Minister have the time or inclination to spend their time scrolling through Facebook or Twitter comments. – Brigitte Morten

Watching Jacinda Ardern’s departure speech, I reflected that even though I invented the word cry-bully – ‘a hideous hybrid of victim and victor, weeper and walloper, duplicit Pushmi-Pullyus of the personal and the political’ – in this very magazine way back in 2015, it’s never had so many adherents as in the past couple of years, especially in the political arena. From Trump refusing to accept he’d lost an election to Matt Hancock ‘looking for a bit of forgiveness’ from his jungle camp-mates, the age of the over-emotional politician is upon us.

And now here was Ardern – the Adele of Antipodean politics, every trespass against her public judged more in sorrow than in anger because she really did mean well– quitting her role as prime minister of New Zealand after five years and fighting back tears as she delivered her dying swan-song. – Julie Burchill

So much for the crying bit – but what about the bullying? Ardern’s velvet glove concealed a pretty heavy iron fist. She promised to reduce migration, with disabled migrants getting particularly short shrift. Her Covid policy was draconian, preventing New Zealanders abroad from returning and punishing unvaccinated citizens. In a speech at the UN she stressed the importance of not letting climate-change sceptics have freedom of speech on social media. Her hijab-cosplay in the wake of an attack on a mosque was yet another grim example of a privileged western woman showing off by wearing what is for millions of non-western women a living shroud worn under threat of death, as we see most recently in Iran.

But none of this stopped her from dazzling the useful idiots of the liberal press after she became the youngest head of government in the world when elected at the age of 37. – Julie Burchill

 If it was any other politician, her desire to escape a spotlight she seemed to find quite enjoyable as she posed for selfies in shopping malls might cause cynics to speculate that there was a dirty great scandal on the way and that this was just a politician looking to get the hell of out Dodge before the storm broke. But this is the hallowed Jacinda, who must not be confused with your average nasty politico when her public image seemed more in line with that of a religious leader; as the usually tough Beth Rigby tweeted ‘I’ve only ever seen political leaders forced out or voted out… but in Ardern we find a rare exception, who again shows us how to lead differently’.

But impersonating the Dalai Lama butters no parsnips with an electorate who are wondering whether they can afford the price of a pat of Anchor. In 2020 Ardern’s Labour party took more than 50 per cent of the vote – the first time a single party has achieved this since 1951 – but it’s likely that it would now poll less than 25 per cent. And it might be the ladling on of the virtue-signalling which has made former admirers of Ardern even more disillusioned than they would be with regular politicians. – Julie Burchill

Ardern – Big Sister with a side-order of saint – has been used frequently as a weapon with which to beat other unashamedly tough female politicians by Woke Bros who believe that females should happily surrender everything, from toilets to trophies in the name of #BeKind.Julie Burchill

Once more, the demise of a female political leader has made me feel something I’m sure I’m not meant to feel – and that’s nostalgia for the sheer inappropriateness of Margaret Thatcher, barging her way into the twentieth century global village and behaving as no female politician ever behaved before or since. Though I was fascinated by Mrs T, I never once voted for her – I pretended I did, but the tribal pull of my Communist upbringing was still too strong. But watching Ardern shuffle moistly off of the world stage, I do wish that Attila the Hen was still here; how no-nonsense she was compared to the trans-maids of Labour and the Tory dullards May and Truss who sought to imitate her style. I’d love to see her reaction when faced with the idea that women can have penises or that policemen can work from home. Or indeed, the equally outrageous idea that a woman who reaches the top of the political greasy pole at the age of 37 can be some kind of secular saint ­– rather than just a fresh take on a carpet-bagger, whose shtick is now revealed as wearing perilously thin. – Julie Burchill

The abuse that has been directed at Ardern is horrific and it has escalated dramatically since the Delta lockdown. There can be no justification for it. None. It is vile, gendered, and intimidating. Let me state, on the record, that what Ardern endured is beyond unacceptable.

However, if you want to address a problem, you have to look at what’s causing it. Some of the vitriol and abuse is from a deeply ingrained misogyny in our society. It’s prevalent in our communities, in some demographics, and the abuse comes from women too. Sit with that for a minute. Many feminists – and I am one of them – don’t want to confront the existence of female misogyny in New Zealand, but it’s there. Female misogynists live among us. In decent numbers.

But the volume of abuse that has been directed at the Government and Ardern is enormous, and it has escalated. And that’s because of some of the decisions this Government has made. Some of those decisions have left normal, law-abiding people feeling caged, controlled, judged, fearful and trapped – and when people feel controlled, and they can no longer determine their own destiny, income, or their ability to provide for their family – they rise up. Anger becomes rage. Rage becomes abuse.Rachel Smalley

Ardern lost her way this term. She went from being a very good communicator in the first three years, to talking ‘at’ us in her second term. Not to us, or with us. It was at us. Ardern’s communication style changed with the arrival of Delta – it centred on control and fear.

If you, as a Government, tailor your communication so that it divides society and pits the vaccinated against the unvaccinated, if you split families and deny New Zealanders the right to come home, if you make Kiwis enter a lottery to return to their country, if you use the COVID death count as the only method by which you judge the success of your response, and if you don’t listen to people when they arrive on the steps of the Beehive in their thousands and call for change, people get angry. Really angry. – Rachel Smalley

If Chris Hipkins takes away one learning from Ardern’s leadership, it is this. You don’t have to have all the answers. But you do need to listen to the people you govern.

Ardern, perhaps believing it was a sign of weakness, never engaged with some of the brilliant corporate and entrepreneurial minds that offered to help with our economic recovery. The Government never listened to the health sector as they pleaded for more nurses. It didn’t listen to the people running our hospitality and tourism businesses who had come up with ways to protect us, and at the same time enable their businesses to survive. Instead, desperate people who had spent years building a business, had to stand by and watch it collapse. It is people like this who got on social media and raged at Ardern. Rachel Smalley

There can be zero tolerance for the abuse that has rained down on Ardern. However, to ignore the factors that have helped to fuel the escalation of abuse against her and the Government means we have learnt nothing.

This Government, led by Ardern, sat in a silo and listened only to those who supported their narrative. People’s lives and livelihoods crumbled. That fuelled a rage like we have never seen before.

We can learn from it, or we can spend the next year yelling at each other that Ardern was driven from office because of it.

Here is the uncomfortable truth for many. Ardern walked away. It was her choice to do so, and I applaud her for doing what’s right for her and her family. But Ardern wasn’t driven from the job. Ardern ‘is’ human. She likes to be liked and there’s nothing wrong with that. But make no mistake. Ardern chose to walk away from the job. – Rachel Smalley

Ardern knew better than anyone that she couldn’t win this year. She had more critics than supporters. The adoration that gave her a single-party majority government, had left the building. It’s a bitter pill to swallow if you’re one of her backers. I know. Why? Because I voted for her too.

So if you’re a politician, sit up and take note. You aren’t the only humans. Stop thinking of us as nameless, faceless people in polls. Stop thinking of us as numbers. Stop thinking of us as your voter base, or swing voters, or some other way you chose to categorise us. Instead, find better ways to listen to us. Truly hear us.

Because guess what? Just like you, we’re human too.Rachel Smalley

He can say what he wants but the reality is, it’s the same staff, same team, same people, same outcome.

It’s a party that is frankly out of touch with New Zealanders. When you see rapidly rising food prices, you’ve seen business and farmer confidence at all time lows, interest rates going through the roof, schools costs, this is a party that has actually lost touch and is out of touch with New Zealanders – Christopher Luxon

We are going to have a very close election, no doubt about it.

We need to change this country and we need a government that can get things done and that’s what I am going to do. – Christopher Luxon

But neutralising unpopular policies won’t be a game changer; finding a connection with voters with a message that resonates is what sets leaders apart from politicians. That’s the political hoodoo bit – and it can’t be learnt. Just ask Phil Goff, David Cunliffe, David Shearer, or Andrew Little. – Andrea Vance

Ardern’s cult-like status, and the legacy of Labour’s remarkable turnaround under her leadership, was enough to hold the party machine together in the face of such huge problems. Hipkins won’t have that backstop.

If voters fail to deliver him the hoped-for political honeymoon he might find that the runway has suddenly got a lot shorter.Andrea Vance

Ultimately, though, Hipkins’s prospects will be determined by how much New Zealanders paid for their groceries, Christmas presents and holidays at the end of last year, and how firmly the Reserve Bank responds in February.

If any recession is modest or avoided, unemployment stays low, inflation falls back towards the mandated 1-3 per cent band and the All Blacks thrash France at the World Cup opener in Paris on September 8, then Labour should scrape home for a third term. If any of those go wrong, Hipkins is toast. – Matthew Hooton

And lo, it has come to pass. The rise of gender ideology — which for too long was dismissed as too niche and irrelevant to discuss by those too sexist or just too cowardly to listen to women’s concerns — has now exploded into a constitutional showdown, with the UK government blocking Nicola Sturgeon’s wildly unpopular gender recognition reform bill.

For those of us who have been writing for years about the insanity of rewriting the law to accommodate something no one can even define (is gender a feeling? A soul? Simple masculinity or femininity?), this feels a bit like watching your local cult band play at Wembley. Or, to put it from the perspective of those who desperately tried to pretend no problems could possibly arise from a philosophy that tries to rewrite the human experience, insisting being a woman is a mere feeling rather than a fact, this is like having a stain on your ceiling which you tried to ignore, only for it to then cause your whole house to collapse.
It was inevitable the fantasies sold by gender activists would crash on the hard rocks of reality, and not just because of the endless internal contradictions (if gender is different from biological sex, and given that sport is segregated by sex, why are trans women now on women’s sports teams?). The movement is increasingly underpinned by a frothing misogyny that is becoming all too visible to even the most casual observers. – Hadley Freeman

Gender activism has become the permissible face of misogyny for a certain kind of allegedly progressive man. It gives them latitude to call women derogatory names and make spittle-flecked videos, insisting that anyone who has a problem with male-born people in women-only spaces is on the wrong side of history. The effect is men’s-rights activism, but the energy is very incel — shorthand for people who are “involuntarily celibate”. Incels rage online about women who selfishly refuse to have sex with them; gender activists rage at women who won’t just bloody well shut up about their concerns about safety and say what the men tell them to say.
One of the sadder fallouts is the wedge it has driven between women and gay men. Once they were natural allies, not least during the Aids era, when so many women stepped in as caregivers to men with HIV. – Hadley Freeman

Sturgeon is making a big mistake in thinking that by denying science and trashing women’s rights she looks progressive, because the public are smarter than that. And as with all the angry “passionate” men, women won’t forget what she’s done, and they won’t forgive.Hadley Freeman

In just over a year, we have witnessed the disintegration of a leader whose 2020 tenure of absolute electoral driven power started with overwhelming public support, gratitude and reverence but descended into a myopic and confused authoritarian rule. We have graphically endured a lesson of incoherent government and state overreach which has been on a march of portentous marginalisation through the private sector. It has elevated a ballooning and unproductive state sector of ‘bourgeois’ excess.

The descent to implosion started with the alienation of the vulnerable rural poor, sole traders, the unvaccinated, small business and economic sectors that could not adjust to lockdowns and the downstream consequences of dislocation. Then bewilderingly the whole rural sector was signalled as the primary target of climate change ideology that was more like an atheistic religious purge. This however was only ‘opium’ to the urban green economic activists in a Wellington bubble. Not content with this tirade of totalitarianism and messing with the means of production the Labour government drove the ‘out of control’ train of 3 waters, a dual racially divided health system and the continued and extending legislative requirements of ethnic consultation. Indigenous elites can increasingly demand influence and potentially equity before any progressive economic or environmental change can occur.  – Alistair Boyce

The structure is elitest and tribal. This is opposed in its very nature to ‘western’ democratically structured governance with potential equitable redistribution of wealth (i.e. Democratic socialism in action).

This Labour government have significantly eroded the NZ democracy and its sovereignty by caving into an apologist academic elite whose catch cry is to blame all society’s ills on the effects of post colonialism without acknowledging economic, social and political progression and benefits. The prevailing Treaty of Waitangi analysis is opportunistic as opposed to realistic.

Indeed, under this Labour Government the rich and propertied have prospered while by any measure the disadvantaged pains have dramatically increased. Buying a house for most socio-economic demographics is now an impossible dream. The egalitarian socialist democratic ideal has been replaced by a new totalitarianism where ethnic and economic elites prosper, the state sector is elevated in a new realm of ‘woke’ privilege and the disadvantaged now have no hope or aspiration to climb out of the mire of socio-economic depravity. Lawlessness is endemic, on the rise and set to remain, becoming the next government’s problem.Alistair Boyce

Any balanced debate of ‘co-governance’ has been actively stifled through control of the messaging through mainstream media by NZ on AIR and the State Journalism fund to the point where mainstream media business models are no longer sustainable without government funding. Any alternative view or debate on the government led version of co-governance is ridiculously labelled as racism. Most New Zealanders under 30 and substantial other socio-demographic segments no longer trust the simplistic homogeneity of mainstream pro co-governance ‘propaganda’.

The people are not fooled and were never consulted in the 2020 election campaign on the radical policies to come. Consequently large, marginalised segments turned into an active fifth column which proceeded to personalise, taunt and harass the government and in particular the leader responsible. Mainstream media analysis is missing the point. The reaction of the people is an effect of the cause, a betrayal by state sponsored totalitarianism, and they have been marginalised in greater numbers than arguably any NZ constituency ever before. It was a battle of wills. Jacinda Ardern was faced with the impossibility of taking the blame and directing a recourse going against both ethnic and academic elites and still losing an acrimonious and unforgiving election. The PM raised the white flag choosing to leave the field of battle than capitulate in a spiteful and vicious public election campaign.

Now Chris Hipkins inherits the battle and the impossible plan without a compliant and grateful mandate, but still with the power of absolute government. Without political restraint and in the absence of strong and coherent leadership, unrestrained power has been a poisoned chalice for Labour. How Hipkins deals with the Maori caucus and co-governance not only in practice but through the power of the state will determine the fate of Labour and himself. A double down on existing policy will result in an acrimonious division of NZ society and electoral annihilation. The choices of restrained continuance or a ‘cup of tea’ with a modified agenda probably won’t be enough to win the election but it might prevent a 4-term government tenure of the centre right. – Alistair Boyce

 It appears the dangerous and impossible experiment is over and unwittingly, naturally market led Liberal Democracy is winning the battle, reverting it to a skirmish and hopefully avoiding a damaging and unwinnable social war.

The likelihood is Chris Hipkins will hang on uncomfortably until October 14, fighting fires. Hipkins will get burnt like Labour leaders before him. Being a boy from the Hutt with another ‘westie’ (no matter how diverse) for deputy will not save him, as Grant Robertson could probably predict. That story could be breaking news and will wait for another day. In the meantime, Robertson has carefully removed himself and the economic equation from the immediate reckoning leaving the new PM the poisoned chalice and nowhere to run.

The lasting legacy will hopefully be a nonapologetic restrengthening and re-correction of an effective, equitable and democratic policy framework based in proven Western Liberal Democratic traditions. An ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ that might help working kiwis, the disadvantaged in equal measure and small business get through the imminent recession, believing a better future is to come. But for the near future that will be in the hands of Hipkins, Robertson and the dynamic of direct democratic power…hold on to your seats, it will be a wild ride! Alistair Boyce

The menace of misinformation has been used to threaten free speech everywhere, from Nigeria to Russia to New Zealand to France to China. Nowhere, however, has the debate been as heated as in the United States, where Russian dis- or misinformation is widely believed to have influenced the results of the 2016 election which put Donald Trump in the White House.

However, a stunning article published earlier this month in a leading science journal, Nature Communications, suggests that the Russians probably wasted their money. The misinformation gushing across Twitter and Facebook made hardly any impact on voters’ views. After studying election activity on Twitter, a group of American and European experts in social media and politics found that there was “no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior”.

This doesn’t mean that Russia didn’t work hard to sway public opinion – simply that its Internet Research Agency failed. – Michael Cook

The hysteria about the Russians sowed the seed of distrust amongst American voters. If Trump had been elected in a manipulated election in 2016, it was entirely plausible that Biden was elected in a manipulated election in 2020. The researchers conclude:

Indeed, debate about the 2016 US election continues to raise questions about the legitimacy of the Trump presidency and to engender mistrust in the electoral system, which in turn may be related to Americans’ willingness to accept claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election … Russia’s foreign influence campaign on social media may have had its largest effects by convincing Americans that its campaign was successful.

In short, where Russian saboteurs failed, the American media succeeded – they spread discord and division throughout the nation. There is a straight line between gullibility about Russian bogeymen and the “stop the steal” invasion of Capitol Hill.

The question of how much toxic misinformation on social media influences public opinion is far from settled, as the authors of this article acknowledge. But it seems sure that Jacinda Ardern’s dream of censoring the internet deserves to fail.Michael Cook

I think it has been quite a divisive and immature conversation over recent years, and I personally think it’s because the government hasn’t been upfront or transparent with the New Zealand people about where it’s going and what it’s doing. – Christopher Luxon

I think about Kōhanga Reo, I think about Whānau Ora, innovations that were delivered within the coherency of a single system of delivery of public service.”

We believe in a single coherent system – not one system for Māori and another system for non-Māori – for the delivery of public services. Things like health, education, and justice, and critical infrastructure like three waters.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t want Māori involved in decision-making and partnering with Māori, we have a principal objection because New Zealand has one government: it’s elected by all of us, it’s accountable to all of us, and its public services are available to anyone who needs them.”

While we oppose co-governance of public services as just discussed I want you to know the National Party wants a New Zealand where Māori success is New Zealand’s success.Christopher Luxon

Absolutely, a 50 year plan would be fantastic. One that couldn’t be hijacked by ideology or some blue sky thinking. 93% of our goods are delivered by truck and you can talk all you like about how that needs to change, this is what’s happening right now. You want your bread, you want your milk, you want your chicken, you want your furniture. Basically, you want anything that makes your life a life a lifestyle. It’s delivered by truck. And while we have that level of goods being delivered on the road, and while we have this level of degradation on our roads, it’s costing you and me. When the trucking companies have to repair their trucks because of appalling potholes, they don’t wear that themselves. They pass on that cost. And so we all have to pay for the degradation of our roads. – Kerre Woodham

Much has been written about Jacinda Ardern having to deal with the Christchurch terror attack, the White Island eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic. It is worth remembering that dealing with crises and disasters is part and parcel of being a Prime Minister. During his time in office, John Key had to deal with the Global Financial Crisis, two Christchurch earthquakes, the Pike River Mine disaster, and the Swine Flu pandemic.

But he could also point to his government’s significant record of achievement in managing the country from recession to a “rock star” economy – by reducing government spending, lowering the debt, freeing up the labour markets, and reforming welfare to support more long-term beneficiaries out of dependency and into work.

And that’s the problem for Jacinda Ardern. When she looks at her legacy, what has she achieved?

She claims to have improved child poverty, but the record shows otherwise. She claims to have built houses, but 1,500 is not the 100,000 promised.

Instead, tens of thousands of families are living in motels, crime is rampant, immigration failure has created a nation-wide shortage of workers, union control has removed flexibility from the labour market, the welfare system has again become a trap for long-term beneficiaries, and the inclusion of employment and house prices in the Reserve Bank’s mandate has taken the focus off inflation, leading to the serious cost of living crisis that is now enveloping the country. Dr Muriel Newman

On balance, she deserves credit for knowing when to throw in the towel if her heart is no longer in it. But Ms. Ardern leaves with much of her promised agenda unfulfilled. It’s been thrilling to be on the world map. But in the end, her years in power were like those maps that left New Zealand off: flawed and incomplete. – Josie Pagani

In the wake of Ardern’s abrupt resignation, the mainstream media are determined to convince us she was hounded from office mainly because she is a woman and had to fall on her sword to escape unrelenting “gendered abuse”.

The fact Ardern has overseen a bonfire of what was a vast store of political capital just two years ago and was facing a resounding defeat at this year’s election has mostly gone unremarked among the flood of columns defending her as the unfortunate victim of trolls and misogynists. – Graham Adams

Well, journalists and commentators are angry — but not at her. The object of their ire is mainly the allegedly mean-spirited, stupid and ungrateful public, who apparently refused to sufficiently acknowledge and respect her virtues as Prime Minister. Graham Adams

The increasingly visceral reaction to her steady undermining of democracy, and her government’s general incompetence, seems to be interpreted by many commentators as a case of voters failing her rather than the reverse.

Against reason, we are effectively asked to believe that a nation that gave Ardern an unprecedented majority in 2020 — alongside personal popularity ratings in the 70s that outshone anything John Key achieved — has become a deeply misogynistic nation in just two years.

And this despite the fact Ardern herself has denied that misogynistic abuse played any part in her resignation. As she told Newshub when asked whether misogyny influenced her decision: – Graham Adams

It is evident from many reports that women in politics do receive more personal abuse than men but there is nevertheless a glaring imbalance in the type of abuse each sex gets and how they are expected to deal with it. Male politicians are personally abused in ways that would be unthinkable if directed at females.Graham Adams

Usually, a captain abandoning a sinking ship ahead of the officers, crew and passengers in the first lifeboat available is regarded as an unforgivable act of cowardice. The fact he or she might be tired, or stressed, or overworked never trumps their duty to those in their care.

Astonishingly, in New Zealand, most journalists have preferred to blame the passengers for losing faith in their captain despite the fact she has recklessly steered the ship of state, and her party, onto the rocks. The media appears to believe the passengers are at fault for objecting to the fact Ardern was taking them on a voyage they mostly hadn’t agreed to be on.  – Graham Adams

Ironically, Ardern has been complicit herself in an extraordinary legislative move to make misogyny official government policy.

The passing of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act in 2021 — which introduces a self-identification process for changing the sex shown on a person’s New Zealand birth certificate — effectively makes being a woman a state of mind.

By making the definition of a woman a moveable feast that includes biological men she has helped erase the scientific and common-sense definitions that underpin women’s sex-based rights.

Now that’s misogyny. – Graham Adams

Those who continue to ferociously support Ardern, are those who can’t see beyond the health response. Yes, the decision to lockdown in March 2020 was a life-saving and unprecedented decision. The failings came afterwards. The management of our economy, and the failure of the leadership team to horizon-scan on issues like accessing the vaccine, rolling it out, the economic response, and the crucial role that immigration was going to play in lifting our productivity. That was lost, it seems, on Labour’s leadership team who went back to the text books — they opted for ideology as opposed to responding to the dynamic reality we were living in.

Now, that’s what Hipkins has to shoulder. Policy, policy, policy. What is he going to do? – Rachel Smalley

And that’s what Hipkins has inherited. He is going to have to face into the policy and reform vacuum that Ardern has left in her wake. What to keep? What to ditch? And what of the hundreds of millions of dollars, in fact, it will be over a billion, that has been invested in some of these policies that he will shelve. In a country with significant child poverty and inequality issues, that will be a very uncomfortable pill to swallow for Kiwis. Rachel Smalley

I am sure Hipkins is sincere in his belief in state education. His allegations regarding charter schools were reckless. An independent report found they were wrong. Māori and Pasifika pupils greatly benefited from charter schools.

Hipkins has announced he is doing a review of Labour’s policies. Reviewing Labour’s opposition to charter schools would be a good start. New Zealand’s ranking in the international educational comparison tests are the lowest ever. Māori and Pasifika pupils are voting with their feet and fleeing state schools. – Richard Prebble 

The most reliable predictor of election results is the right way/wrong way poll. For around 18 months the polls indicate most of us think the country is going the wrong way.

Hipkins can only win an election if he can produce a new agenda to take us in a new direction. He has no mandate for a new direction. He can only get a new mandate from an election. I do not know if Hipkins can win a snap election. I know if he waits until October Labour will be swept away.Richard Prebble 

The Budget is due in May. With Robertson at the helm, Hipkins has an experienced Minister of Finance in budget processes. But that Minister of Finance is also experienced in spending large amounts of taxpayers’ money. Hipkins has promised to address the ‘inflation pandemic’ but high fiscal spend doesn’t help with this.

Perhaps the hardest thing for Hipkins to be able turn the boat around, is all the Government has said on its reform agenda. Being a senior member of Ardern’s team, he has been rolled out numerous times to defend government policies, thus providing plenty of file footage for use in the media and in Opposition attack ads.

Hipkins’ biggest selling point as the new leader is the experience he brings to the role. But he cannot distance himself from the Ardern era. He received the two-thirds majority needed to get leadership within 48 hours of Ardern’s announcement, which is likely to mean he needed to make a lot of concessions to his caucus colleagues.

Hipkins may be speaking a big game of going back to ‘bread and butter’ issues, but the logistical and political costs are likely to impede any ambitious U-turns.Brigitte Morten

Ihe Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods by John McKnight and Peter Block led me to realise that we, as citizens in the broadest sense, had ceded our power to central and local government at great cost to our sense of agency as communities. And that’s what the aftermath of the earthquakes had restored for a moment in time.

These writers warn us of the dangers of the dependency that results from governments fixing our problems for us; robbing us of our capacity to problem-solve, and reducing our ability to build resilience. And that is something we are going to need in spades as we confront the challenges we know are coming our way. –  Lianne Dalziel

Do we want to be consumers of government services, or citizens active in our neighbourhoods and communities, helping to solve problems that affect us all? Lianne Dalziel

To anyone living with a rare disease, there are new, promising medications being developed constantly, so… don’t give up. Don’t give up on hope. There are always things being developed that can be life-changing. – Judy Knox

Imagine if mainstream British politicians were photographed at a demo at which someone was holding a placard that said ‘Decapitate coconuts’. A demo at which there were open, horrendous expressions of violent contempt for black people who hold the supposedly wrong views. A demo at which it was stated that such sinful ethnic-minority people should not only be executed but eaten, too. ‘I eat coconuts’, one of the signs might say. There would be uproar, rightly so. It’s unlikely the politicians would keep their jobs for long.

Well, the sexist equivalent of this scenario did happen, for real, in Glasgow on Saturday. Politicians were seen standing in front of protest signs that fantasised about visiting bigoted violence, not upon morally disobedient black people, but upon morally disobedient women. TERFs, as they’re called, which literally means ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’, but which really means witch, bitch, scold, hag. Anyone who has witnessed a hardline trans activist spit out the word ‘TERF’ will be under no illusion as to the misogynistic menace that underpins that four-letter slur. Yet while there is concern over what happened in Glasgow, there isn’t as much public fury as one might expect.Brendan O’Neill

 Not seeing two hateful placards is kind of forgivable – not seeing that trans activism now seems to consist of little more than angry men bellowing ‘witch’ in the faces of women who have the temerity to disagree with them is not.

We need to talk about the hatred for ‘TERFs’. It is out of control. It is the most vehement form of bigotry in the UK right now. Over the past few days, we haven’t only witnessed gender-deluded men in Glasgow saying ‘Decapitate TERFs’. We’ve also had Reduxx magazine reveal the identity of the Scottish trans activist – a man – who wrote despicable violent tweets about someone driving a car into one of Kellie-Jay Keen’s gatherings of gender-critical women, so that we might see TERFs ‘exploding like bin bags full of baked beans on your windshield’. The same gender jihadist spoke about murdering Rosie Duffield with a gun and JK Rowling with a hammer. – Brendan O’Neill

A political party that harbours men who dream of battering women, and whose elected representatives are seen next to banners calling for women to be beheaded, and whose councillors compare women who defend their sex-based rights to the people who oversaw the industrial slaughter of Europe’s Jews has a very serious problem, doesn’t it? –  Brendan O’Neill

Sexist hate is a daily reality for women who question the idea that you can change sex. Witness those clips in which mobs of masked men yell ‘fucking scum’ and ‘fucking piece of shit’ at Kellie-Jay Keen and her gender-critical friends. See the rape and death threats visited upon JK Rowling every week. ‘You are next’, a lowlife said to her when she expressed sorrow over the stabbing of Salman Rushdie. Or just behold the low-level intimidation that attends virtually every gathering of ‘TERFs’. There will always be gangs of men outside gender-critical meetings; men horrified by the idea of women speaking among themselves about their rights; men who ridiculously believe that their feeling of ‘womanhood’ and badly applied lippy makes them women, too. Better women, in fact. As India Willoughby tweeted at the weekend, ‘I’m more of a woman than JK Rowling will ever be’. That’s misogyny, too. The idea that a man – yes, India’s a bloke – even does womanhood better than women is testament to the low view of womankind that’s been whipped up by the trans cult.

Any movement that attracts so many bigots really should have a word with itself. Any activist set that helps to make it fashionable again to call women witches really should engage in some self-reflection. For here’s the thing: while it might be the outliers of the trans cult who scream witch and issue death threats and say ‘suck my girldick’, their tirades only express with greater ferocity and spite the misogyny that is inherent to modern trans activism. The root idea of the contemporary trans movement – that ‘transwomen are women’ – is itself misogynistic. Its reduction of womanhood from a biological, social, relational phenomenon to a costume that anyone can pull on, even people with dicks, is profoundly sexist. It dehumanises women. It denies the specificity of their experiences. It turns womanhood into a feeling, something flimsy.  – Brendan O’Neill

The mantra ‘transwomen are women’ underpins the resurgence of misogynistic thinking. There is a traceable line from this mainstream chant to the fringe cries of ‘cunt’ aimed at any woman who says transwomen are not women; that there’s more to being a woman than feeling and image. The violent hatred for ‘TERFs’ might mostly come from unstable individuals online, but it expresses the sexism and intolerance that are absolutely key to trans activism more broadly, and in particular to its belief that a man can be a woman. We need a firmer fightback against the hatred for ‘TERFs’ and in defence of the things that are threatened by this new witch-hunt – women’s rights, freedom of speech and scientific truth. – Brendan O’Neill

Recently, the private schools and in particular some of the more established public schools, remind me of the iceberg that has melted over time, weakened by their misplaced love of child-centred learning and rejection of adult authority over decades. In such a fragile state, when the woke brigade comes searching, these schools flip right over, suddenly and without warning, bowing to the incessant cry against the privileged.

Once upon a time, public schools were bastions of traditionalism, setting the standard for the rest of us. The richer in society used to have a sense of duty towards those less fortunate and these schools made it their raison d’être to inspire young men and women to serve others. Many graduates from these schools would seek careers that would allow them ‘to give back’ and live out their duty. – Katharine Birbalsingh 

Help out at the local soup kitchen? Join the army? Become a teacher? Why do that, when all you have to do is join a Twitter mob that will cleanse you well enough to earn a quarter of a million a year in the City and read the Financial TimesKatharine Birbalsingh 

Hipkins’ actions so far have been positive, enthusiastic, and polished, further encouraging a hitherto increasingly anxious caucus that the party’s fortunes may be about to change. With Parliament resuming in three weeks, this is all good news for Labour. However, the rapture notwithstanding, Labour’s electoral mountain remains as high as ever.

In addition to all the usual problems facing a government in election year, Hipkins faces three potentially insurmountable challenges to conquer before election day – time, the deteriorating economy, and the “Jacinda factor”. – Peter Dunne

Even if he manages to successfully overcome these hurdles, Hipkins still faces the biggest one of all – history. Since Peter Fraser succeeded Michael Joseph Savage in 1940, six prime ministers – Holyoake, Marshall, Rowling, Moore, Shipley and English – who have taken over during a parliamentary term have lost the next election. While Labour’s delight in the smooth way in which this week’s dramatic transition has been handled is understandable and justified, it is but one step in the confirmation process. The final, decisive word rests with voters, who will have their say on election day.Peter Dunne

We are very conscious that lower-income New Zealanders are being absolutely smashed by inflation.

The great shame is that Labour increased the minimum wage so much in previous years, but what you’ve seen has happened is that they have not been able to increase it as much in these inflationary years because they know it will be passed on. – Nicola Willis

Now, every year National was in government we increased the minimum wage – we think that is the right thing to do – but how much you do that by is a very careful balance.

Because what we don’t want is workers on the one hand being paid more, but on the other hand having to pay so much more in costs at the supermarket, on rent and other things that their wages just get eaten up.Nicola Willis

Starmer has unwittingly revealed what ‘Davos Man’ is all about: he’s about escaping the irritating plane of democratic decision-making in preference for the rarefied company of the 21st century’s self-styled philosopher-kings. He’s about liberating himself from the constraints of democratic politics – especially the constraint of being answerable to the masses – in favour of chumming about with the better-educated, better-dressed better people of the World Economic Forum. For Starmer to dismiss Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments, the one institution over which British citizens have some direct and meaningful control, as just a ‘tribal, shouting place’ is depressingly revealing. It reveals his contempt for parliamentary democracy, and it reveals Davos Man’s belief that politics is better done away from us pesky plebs.

The World Economic Forum has been taking place at Davos in Switzerland every year since 1971. It’s an ‘annual jamboree for plutocratic banksters, avaricious industrialists and superannuated spongers to come together in an orgiastic eulogy to global capital’, in the apt words of the Spectator. – Brendan O’Neill

In Britain, a democracy, aspiring PM Starmer is constantly bombarded with tough questions, like ‘Do women have penises?’. He’s forever torn between the Remoaner instincts of probably every single person he knows and socialises with and the Brexit beliefs of vast numbers of ordinary people, including Labour-voting people. He has to go into the House of Commons, that tribal hellhole, and submit his vision for the country to the criticism and even ridicule of his fellow elected representatives. What a nightmare! Far better to be in the cushy surrounds of Davos, far from the madding crowd, in polite, agreeable meetings with polite, agreeable people, where you’ll never bump into a Brexit voter or a ‘TERF’ asking you yet again if women can have penises. Davos is sweet relief for a political class that likes politics but not the public.

This is what Davos has always been about. It is nearly 20 years since the political scientist Samuel P Huntington popularised the term ‘Davos Man’ to describe an ‘emerging global superclass’ of ‘gold-collar workers’. Huntington nailed Davos Man. He’s part of a powerful ‘class’ that is ‘empowered by new notions of global connectedness’, he said. Davos Man is ostentatiously ‘post-national’, said Huntington. These elites ‘have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations’.Brendan O’Neill

This is the key dynamic in globalist politics. Globalism is not a plot by sinister rich people, even if the WEF’s use of phrases like ‘the great reset’ and ‘global redesign’ are a tad chilling. Rather, it is the outward, physical manifestation of national elites’ turn against nationhood; of their search for new forums beyond borders, and beyond public accountability, in which they might make decisions. For much of the postwar period, and with real vim since the 1970s, insulating political decision-making from public pressure has been the great cause of the modern political establishment. Hence, we’ve had the rise of the European Union, the founding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, annual gatherings like COP and Davos – all justified on the basis that there are some issues that are so large and complicated that it is preferable for them to be discussed and decided upon by clever people untethered from the low-information urges of ill-read national populations. Davos is less the cause of the crisis of democracy than its beneficiary.

The end result of this cult of political insulation, of elevating policy from the national sphere to the global one, is the rise of a new elite that views itself as borderline godly. – Brendan O’Neill

There’s a religious fervour to nutty comments like these; a fantastical vision of oneself as the messianic deliverer of humankind from doom. Now we know what happens to the political elites when they free themselves from public pressure, from us: they go mad.

It’s time to bring them all crashing back down to Earth. Back to the terrestrial world of nations and politics and accountability. Back from Davos to London and Washington and Paris. So what if they’re bored with the institutions of national democracy? These are the institutions through which the rest of us can express our interests and keep politics fresh and responsive. The gold-collared superclass might have little need for national loyalty and national government, but the working classes still do.Brendan O’Neill

Prior to Ardern’s resignation, Willis said “It’s well past time for the government to present a real economic plan.” And she said the government had to come back from the Christmas holiday and deliver one. They didn’t. It’s now January 26th, and the government came back from holiday and delivered a resignation. There is still no plan. Inflation is static — a stonking 7.2% – and we can feel the cool winds of a recession blowing in.

The pomp and ceremony is over for Hipkins now. He has to get on and deliver – something his Government has never really achieved in five years. And when he puts forward his economic plan, he does so knowing that a student of one of our most effective Finance Ministers is watching on, and she’s waiting in the wings. – Rachel Smalley

Now, in his first speech as incoming PM, Chris Hipkins said his focus would be on the economy & cost-of-living. It constitutes a full re-branding of Labour. Why do that? To answer that question, let’s first define former PM Ardern’s legacy.

In a line, it was a focus on non-economic and moral issues. If you read Ardern’s Harvard address, it refers to the likes of abortion, gun-control, “misinformation” on the Web, future of democracy & her “kindness” agenda. She never spoke a word about economics. Of course, Harvard students & professors would not take well to being lectured on that subject – but loved every word of her class on the morals – giving her a standing ovation.

But that’s not where it ends. Ardern also tried to be a climate change leader & championed minimizing Covid-related health issues during the pandemic by imposing strict rules, which led to large economic costs. Those economists who advocated quantifying the benefits of these rules against the financial costs were branded cold, heartless types at the time – folks who callously put a monetary value on human life. Robert MacCulloch

Ardern’s leadership only saw an ad-hoc, stitched together set of reactions to put out the many fires blowing up in the Kiwi economy. However, with no guiding economic model behind her, I believe her sincere & earnest attempts to put out those fires proved immensely stressful and over-bearing.

Today, Kiwis are too busy paying food, petrol & mortgage bills to philosophize about trade-offs between freedom of speech and disinformation on the web with kids at Harvard. Surveys show the cost-of-living is our chief concern.

That’s why Hipkins first act as PM was to rebrand Labour. He thinks Ardern’s reputation as a global leader righting the world’s wrongs has morphed into a domestic liability. Hipkins is branding himself as “chippy”, an ordinary Hutt Valley kid who needs to save his own finances before he can save the world. – Robert MacCulloch

 Many commentators are now suggesting that Labour will abandon identity politics and move to the “bread-and-butter” right.

But there’s a deeper problem our new PM must contend with; the issue of trust in institutions, particularly in the government. A recent Herald poll showed that 32 percent of respondents found the government untrustworthy, and 15 percent found them very untrustworthy. The Herald also found that 64 percent felt the country had become more divided.

It is important to remember that leadership choices and decisions have far-reaching consequences. Leaders are responsible for the environment they create. Cheerfully saying that you are happy to create a two-tier society with vaccine mandates after consistently rejecting the idea erodes trust. Trying to vote through an entrenchment clause in the already controversial Three Waters bill does the same. As do financial stimulus packages that exacerbate the gap between rich and poor. Jason Heale

But here’s the thing; as a representative democracy, it is ultimately our responsibility as citizens to hold leaders accountable by voting. During their time in office, we also have the privilege of providing feedback in various forms, whether through writing to them or protesting if we feel we are not being heard. The way we do it demonstrates the trust deficit that many are seeing.

Given that a week is a long time in politics, the election is quite far off. A Curia Poll of people who voted for Labour in 2020 shows that many key policies are unpopular. In fact, our new leader’s primary challenge is rebuilding our trust in the government. That will heal divisions. As Thomas Simpson has written, “there is evidence from the US that political polarisation is now affecting the ability of ordinary citizens to engage with each other on issues which are politically significant.”

The trust challenge is a big ask; Ardern turned her party around within weeks in 2017; Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has to turn the country around in a matter of months. – Jason Heale

Politics has become a struggle between those with knowledge capital, versus those with financial capital. The people left out are those with neither. They used to be called the working class, and I’m on their side.Josie Pagani

AI is picking up the way ‘’progressive left’’ voices present to the world. Thomas Piketty calls it the “Brahmin left”, those who see their mission as clerics instructing the masses. The goal is not necessarily growth or affluence for the many, but a society shaped by their own beliefs.

When did the left stop talking about poverty first, and the hope implicit in lifting people out of it? – Josie Pagani

The left mimicked by AI is not hopeful, it is catastropharian. We are close to extinction, not the authors of a world within reaching distance of being free from poverty for the first time in history.

We were once nation-builders, whose pitch was hope. Norm Kirk put it into poetry at a time when politicians were more preacher than party. He believed everyone wants someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work, something to hope for.

Robots see a left in which optimism and red-blooded moral crusade have been replaced by a professional political class whose 10-point plan beats a 5-point plan. 

The educated class supports a version of ‘’diversity’’ that manages to exclude diversity of opinion or life experience.

I’m not so interested in the horse race of politics – who is up or down. Politics for me is the joyfulness of life, or why bother? – Josie Pagani

Labour, I believed, needed to face some uncomfortable truths. I am not qualified to unpack the origins of misogyny in New Zealand – that needs to be explored by a team of psychiatrists and social anthropologists. However, I do believe the escalation in generalised online anger is fuelled by New Zealanders who, for two years, didn’t have a voice.

The Government didn’t so much run a tight ship through Covid, it ran a submarine.

It engaged only with those who supported its narrative, and never critically appraised its decisions or strategy. For months, we saw only Ardern, Ashley Bloomfield, and Grant Robertson. Progressively, we saw Chris Hipkins too, but our lives were shaped by four people who, collectively, didn’t engage with or listen to the people they governed.

If you deny people their freedom – even if you believe it’s in their best interests – and you don’t provide an opportunity for open communication, you will ultimately create angry, caged animals. This doesn’t in any way justify the horrific abuse that Ardern has received, but it hopefully suggests that New Zealanders can pull themselves back from the horrible, polarised place we find ourselves living in today. – Rachel Smalley

Words are lovely. Saying the right thing is great but doing something, anything, shows you really mean it.

I have no doubt he’ll get there eventually, but if you’re sworn in as Prime Minister on the same day the annual inflation rate is announced and it’s stubbornly stuck at 7.2 percent, you should be asking your finance minister for something, anything that’s in the works or relatively easy to hustle together to announce at your first big, official public moment in the job. – Tova O’Brien

This new regime is promising change in the weeks and months ahead, promising greater support for low and middle-income earners and small businesses. 

Getting out there and listening as the PM is doing with businesses here in Auckland today is important, statements of intent are important. 

But when people can’t afford crumbs, throwing a morsel their way will fill bellies and petrol tanks far more than words and meetings ever could.Tova O’Brien

One of the characteristics of fame is that it is essentially Faustian in nature; to become a celebrity, one must sell one’s soul to the devil. It’s a highly questionable idea — why should there be such a price for being proficient at acting or music, for instance? — but it is one that persists, regardless of continual pushback from those in the public gaze. The reason it does so is not just down to the power of the media but also because it offers a sense of justice, or at least morbid satisfaction, to the public. We can look at the rich and famous, with wealth, status and lifestyles beyond our wildest dreams, and assure ourselves that there has been a terrible cost to their integrity, privacy and ultimately wellbeing, and suddenly the world seems just a little bit more balanced and just. Even the paparazzi, hated and courted by celebrities, have this Mephistophelean quality. – Darran Anderson

What is particularly illustrative and sympathetic about Prince Harry’s relationship with fame is that it was not chosen. In the traditional Faustian transaction, the would-be genius or celebrity sells their soul, knowing that the cost is damnation and believing that the gains will be worth it. With the royals, fame is hereditary, which is as much of a curse as a blessing. The transaction is one-sided. No deal is made and yet the individual assumes precisely the same debt. In a world, even a country, where children are born into horrendous poverty and deprivation, it’s difficult to have sympathy for someone born into immense privilege. Yet it is warranted, given that child we watched walking along forlorn at his mother’s funeral did not choose any of this.

The problem is that Prince Harry is now a man and no longer a lost boy. Though he has chosen an arguably noble route of walking away from an environment that had shunned him, and he has the right to speak his mind and tell his own story, he has not walked away from fame. Sympathy, like any resource, is finite. It is entirely reasonable to wish to escape the stilted environment expected of the royals, the stiff upper lipped omerta that hides a multitude of pain and sins, the expectations to be a well-turned-out blind eye-turning mannequin (some years ago, I found myself in the unlikely company of a drunken lord who informed me that the royals were pitied by the rest of the aristocracy).

It is even more understandable to wish to escape the glare of the lens that played a part in the death of a beloved parent. Having chosen Meghan and America, Prince Harry had the chance to transcend fame and to effectively defeat the presence that has seemingly haunted his life. He could go semi-privately into any number of ventures. Harry was not, after all, a signatory to the Faustian pact. One of the most tragic aspects to what has been unfolding is not just the painful reality of a family schism, but rather that at the brink of escape, Harry decided to return to the table to sign the contract.Darran Anderson

The point where sympathy dissipates is with this issue of fame, the courting of it rather than the walking away. This is where the public’s role in the Faustian bargain comes in. This is what differentiates celebrities from the rest of us, the point of departure, and the judgement can and may well be merciless. By aiming for the echo chamber of the terminally online and the patronage of the American establishment, the wider sympathy is lost. It is especially frustrating as the prince had a chance to get out. – Darran Anderson

Here lies the deeper issue. Whatever you think of Harry and Meghan or the Royal Family, you are expected to think something — whether acolyte or tormentor. The public are the essential piece of the Faustian contract, as much as the media. We are its creditors. When it is signed, what might begin as human sympathy becomes a detached form of judgement. The figures we gaze at become dehumanised, either as saints or demons. The weight of having to play these roles or simply being perceived as such is no small thing, though we can always say they are well renumerated for their troubles. It is worth considering what the gaze of the media does to such figures, and Prince Harry’s life is an ongoing example, but it is also worth considering what it is doing to those of us who watch.Darran Anderson

Accuracy is the cornerstone of journalism, especially when it comes to news reporting. If a man appeared in court, claiming to be a brain surgeon when he was actually a hospital porter, we wouldn’t expect a headline announcing ‘brain surgeon convicted of rape’. The same rule should apply to other obviously untrue claims. – Darran Anderson

At a time when it has become routine for male defendants to be referred to in court reports as ‘she’, such a high-profile case presented newspapers and websites with a stark dilemma. The judges’ bench book, which consists of guidance rather than law, says it is a matter of ‘common courtesy’ to use the personal pronoun and name that a person prefers. Many women and some lawyers, however, think it is ridiculous — and insulting to rape victims — to enforce a pretence that a male defendant is female. Joan Smith

The state the courts have got themselves into by submitting to the demands of gender ideology is vividly illustrated by the judge’s remarks to the defendant in this case: “Ms Bryson, you have been convicted of two extremely serious charges, this being charges of rape”. A woman cannot be convicted of rape, which is an assault involving the use of a penis. In a bitter irony, the prosecutor described Bryson’s evidence as “entirely incredible and unreliable” — yet the court accepted his claim to be a woman.

No one who has seen pictures of Bryson arriving at court in skin tight leggings believes that for a moment. Accepting his claim at face value has dire consequences, because it has been reported that he will be housed in a women’s prison while awaiting assessment, despite being convicted of violence against women.

Journalists should be calling out this nonsense, not going along with it. If editors feel it is being imposed on them by the justice system, why aren’t they campaigning against a blatant attack on press freedom? If it’s trans activists they’re afraid of, they need to get a backbone. Distrust of the media is widespread and this practice of ‘misgendering’ rapists is making it worse. – Joan Smith

It’s often difficult to distinguish the cunning from the stupidity, the foolishness from the evil, of the political class.

In Scotland, a bill has been passed to make it easier for 16-year-olds to change their gender on official documents and to be recognized as their chosen gender (the word sex has, of course, been expunged from the discussion, and will soon be as redundant as the word “unhappy,” which has now been replaced in common parlance by “depressed”). Theodore Dalrymple

The multiple confusions of all this need hardly be pointed out. The term “gender assigned at birth” makes it sound as if the sex inscribed on a birth certificate was decided by the flip of a coin, that it was completely arbitrary and had no basis in objective reality independent of anyone’s will (it’s sex, of course, not gender, that’s assigned at birth). Moreover, to live as someone of the chosen different, that is to say opposite, gender suggests that there’s an essential difference between male and female, which difference it’s the ultimate object of transgenderism as an ideology to deny. If there weren’t such a difference, how could it be recognized that someone had lived as either of the genders? There would be no need for certificates. – Theodore Dalrymple

Naturally, not everyone in Scotland is opposed to the bill and there have been demonstrations (not very large ones, it’s true, but noisy and attention-receiving) in favor of it. I think this must be the first time in recent history, at any rate, that there have been demonstrations demanding what amounts to the abrogation of adult responsibility towards, and manipulation and abuse of, immature young people.

The most important question, perhaps, is what’s next on the progressive agenda, once the right of children to change gender (with present technology, they can’t yet change sex) has been granted? There will surely come a time when progressives will grow bored with the issue and seek another to give meaning to their lives. Theodore Dalrymple

Apparently, political agendas are okay in science so long as it’s your politics being promoted. The sad part is that so much of science is being damaged by the failure of advocates to understand that science is supposed to be largely free from political slants, and when a political viewpoint has permeated science, as in the Lysenko affair, it has always been harmful.  And make no mistake about it—the conception of DEI being promoted as the future pathway to “inclusive equity”, both here and in other science societies, is indeed an ideology, and one that can be rationally debated instead of being taken as a given that must be enforced. – Jerry Coyne

A child’s wishes must be taken seriously, but can be only one factor in reaching an overall decision about their best interests, in a highly charged and complex situation. Given the uncertainty surrounding diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria, the UK should, like Finland, Sweden and France, follow a more cautious path; we should end medication and medical transition for children and adolescents now. Dr David Bell

The city has been badly let down: by a calamitous lack of under-investment in critical infrastructure, a mayor who lacks all the right qualities for leadership. Local emergency management, and critical transport agencies were caught napping. – Andrea Vance

This Government is already on thin ice with Aucklanders. There is no coming back from mishandling the emergency response.

And let’s not get carried away by a promising start. Hipkins is just a fresh coat of paint. The same weaknesses remain – competence and delivery.Andrea Vance

Shuffling the chairs around the Cabinet table, and dumping a couple of policies, won’t be enough to convince a grumpy electorate Labour has really changed. – Andrea Vance

And so it ends. A most remarkable premiership has run its course and all we have left are the memories.

Well. We also have $60 billion of additional sovereign debt, an expanded social welfare roll, inflation, a generation locked out of homeownership, expanded restrictions on free speech, and a container-ship of social meddling, from a ban on plastic shopping bags to a law preventing the sale of cigarettes to anyone born during or after the reign of Sir John Key.

Ardern’s zenith was in the weeks after the Christchurch terror attacks.

Her leadership was powerful and sincere. The collective response to her genuine and empathetic reaction ensured that anger, both domestically and internationally, was directed at the one place it belonged: the terrorist. Damien Grant

However, this brief season of national unity was used to force through a prohibition and compulsory acquisition of a range of firearms with minimal engagement with the usual democratic processes. – Damien Grant

Much has been written about the Covid response and the merits of the decisions taken. We are now in a position to reflect on the costs; both economic and social.

Under Ardern’s guidance we became a nasty team of 5 million.

We hounded the unclean out of their employment and our cafes. For anyone whose understanding of history is more extensive than whatever is taught in our schools, the sight of citizens having to show their papers to board public transport or attend a lecture was dispiriting. As was the public’s uncritical compliance.

Worse was to come. The Fourth Estate cowering on the balcony of the Third Estate as the marginalised, disenfranchised and desperate ranted in impotent rage on the lawn below is a metaphor for how civil society evolved under Ardern’s guidance.

Those protesting were not rivers of filth. They were driven by desperation and often delusion into an act of insanity no more deranged than demanding that a man languish in managed isolation as his father died in a nearby hospital.  Damien Grant

As we look back, it becomes clear that we were in the grip of hysteria that was being used by the state to drive compliance.

What was done was done with pure intentions by those who believe with certainty that sacrificing the individual for the collective good is not only just but necessary. It is a rationale with a troubling legacy.

Yet the real gift Ardern has left the land of the troubled long white cloud is in the area of race relations.

Like most Pākehā I am not that interested in the Treaty. I have read the various versions, written columns on the topic, but like our current Prime Minister I’d struggle to rattle its principles off if put on the spot. And yet I, like most of my contemporaries, am perfectly happy with the process of dealing with historical grievances.

If land was taken, it should be returned, and if it cannot be then compensation paid.  – Damien Grant

I am suspicious about the elastic and ill-defined principles of the Treaty and believe that the Tribunal itself is operating outside its statutory remit.

Equally, I am aware that those whose lands were taken and ancestors attacked and killed by colonial forces breaching the Treaty’s undertakings feel that the regime is far too parsimonious, slow, and the compensation inadequate for the wrongs committed.

If you look around the post-colonial world, New Zealand has navigated these issues far better than most. The cost, in terms of our GDP, has been trivial, and the advantages of having a robust if imperfect process for resolving historical grievances far outweigh any errors at the margins.

Into this delicate balance crashed Ardern and her progressive thoughtlessness. Damien Grant

We are moving from a regime where historical wrongs are being addressed, to a state where one ethnic class has an inherent and enduring political status that is based on their ancestry. This cannot end well.

It is possible that the reform remains in place amid a growing resentment in the wider population.

There will also be disenchantment when it becomes clear that this change does not benefit the rank and file within Māoridom but only those with the skills connections to capitalise on the opportunity. – Damien Grant

Ardern will forever be popular among those who are delighted not by what she did, but who she was.

In this she was the perfect post-modern prime minister for a generation who believe your identity matters more than your character, and where your intentions carry more weight than the outcomes of your actions. Damien Grant

 People have stopped listening to Labour and simply don’t believe their promises. He can cancel a few things – but are they cancelled or just postponed?

Hipkins has been an integral part of the Ardern Government. As a senior minister and a close confidant of hers, he has approved and led much of the work that has been proven to be very unpopular.

Will people believe that he has changed his mind? More likely they will think that he is only cancelling some projects because he wants to win the next election. What happens if they do win? – Paula Bennett

Hipkins has already stated that he wants to see changes to our tax system. That he doesn’t believe the current system is fair, but he won’t make changes before the election. What will those changes be if he is PM after October 14?

We do know what Hipkins stands for. He has led much of the unpopular policy work over the past few years and he has not changed his ideology overnight. At a personal level I wish him well. However, this change of guard will not be enough to change the minds of the majority of New Zealand voters.Paula Bennett

New Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ most urgent task is to convince Labour-sceptical voters his Government is different to Jacinda Ardern’s.

To do that, he needs to cut Three Waters immediately.

Nothing else would signal change as clearly as ditching Three Waters.

This policy is radioactive to voters. It is a symbol of how distracted and arrogant the Ardern government became.

Nothing screams “distracted” more than Labour pouring huge amounts of energy, money and time into water reform while Kiwis struggle to pay their mortgages and grocery bills.

Nothing screams “arrogant” more than Labour forging ahead with a policy voters hate. Hatred is not a strong word in this case. Voters filled town hall-style roadshows opposing it, they erected signs along rural roads begging the Government to drop it. Sixty per cent of Kiwis opposed it. Only 23 per cent supported it.

Few Labour policies generated more negative headlines. From the early dirty-tricks TV advertising campaign designed to scare voters with nonsense threats of filthy water, to Nanaia Mahuta’s attempt to entrench part of the law behind her colleagues’ backs. It’s been a dog from start to finish. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Hipkins will have a Herculean task on his hands convincing Mahuta to kill her darling. She has 14 other Māori MPs backing her up. 

The power behind the throne stays the same. Ultimately, a change in leader changes little.

This will test Hipkins’ mettle. How badly does he want to win the election?

On currently polling, he will lose. He can do any number of other things to try to win over voters: crackdown on crime, relieve cost-of-living pressures, wipe student debt. But, those things take time. Weeks, months, years. If he starts his prime ministership defending and pursuing a deeply unpopular policy, he’ll have lost the argument already. The phone – as they say – will be off the hook. What comes after that is defeat.

This is his chance to prove to upset voters that a Hipkins Government is not more of the same.Heather du Plessis-Allan

Mark it in your diary: the bicentenary of the Gaols Act 1823. The work of the social reformer Elizabeth Fry, this landmark law mandated sex-segregated prisons with female inmates guarded by female wardens. When women were incarcerated among men, Fry observed, they were exploited, terrified and raped. She established a principle which became enshrined in international law, from UN protocols to the Geneva conventions. How, then, was history rewound, 200 years of evidence memory-holed, so that this week the double rapist Adam Graham was remanded in Cornton Vale women’s prison? How could a “robust” risk assessment by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) conclude he was safe? – Janice Turner

It is a sobering reality that among the many pressures young people encounter today the constant barrage or doomsday predictions is taking a devastating toll.  Being told the world will end removes the will to live especially if accompanied by a plethora of other negative impacts.

Many of the predictions are simply rubbish, a product of scientists desperate to hang on to funding or a tenure combined with a media using sensationalism to try and stay profitable.

The psychological pressure is becoming worse.  Not content with playing havoc with young vulnerable minds by piling fear upon fear using unusual weather events as weapons the climate change monsters are now setting impossible targets that they already know full well will be missed creating greater panic and feelings of hopelessness.

This manipulation of impressionable minds is unforgivable. 

‘Net zero’ by 2050 is blatantly unreachable. Owen Jennings

Having aided and abetted the Extinction Rebellion nonsense the catastrophic propounding scientists and their media lapdogs are now teasing the fearful with unobtainable goal setting.  It is evil mind games. – Owen Jennings

Allan’s reform proposals will criminalise Folau’s critics. Are new blasphemy laws really what the Minister of Justice wants? –  Roger Partridge

The decision by Sport Northland to deny ‘Stop Co-Governance’, a community group, use of their Whangarei venue to hold a public meeting is illegal and defies the rights given to all Kiwis to voice their political opinions. This case, yet again, illustrates the contempt held by many for the foundational liberty of free speech, and it cannot be allowed to stand,  – Jonathan Ayling

Ardern was the target of an extraordinary amount of abuse, but the toxicity extends further than the outgoing prime minister. Over the last decade or so, any public figure or politician – regardless of their politics, gender, and ethnicity – has become increasingly targeted for abuse, especially online. It began well before Ardern’s prime ministership.

Any sober observance of John Key’s time as prime minister shows the incredible hatred and abuse directed his way in the eight years he was at the top. This included his family, and Max Key claimed in 2016 that he received “death threats twice a week”.

Some of the aggression towards Key wasn’t even widely condemned. When gallows and death threats were cartoonishly made in leftwing protests, they were generally contextualised as expressions of anger and contempt for some of his policies as Prime Minister.

But a line was crossed in Key’s time – encapsulated by leftwing rapper Tom Scott’s “Kill the PM”, which spoke of assassinating Key and raping his daughter. At the time, the song and its artist had plenty of defenders on the left.

Since then, New Zealand society has become much more polarised. A survey published by the Herald in December showed 64 per cent of New Zealanders believe the country has become more divided in the last few years.Bryce Edwards

Yes, there were and are huge numbers of vile, sexist putdowns directed at Ardern. But the story of her rise to great heights has shown that her gender or becoming a mother while in office haven’t held her back in the slightest. If anything, New Zealanders strongly celebrated the progressiveness of having a prime minister become a mother while in office.

And the fact that the New Zealand Parliament now has a majority of women says something very striking about how gender is not the barrier for electability that it once was in this country. It could be argued Ardern’s gender and motherhood have been an electoral asset rather than a liability. – Bryce Edwards

The leveraging of Ardern’s personality and star power epitomised the trend in politics for election manifestos, policy, and ideology to be de-emphasised. In fact, politics has become “hollowed out”, and substance and depth are now missing in democracy.

Few people join political parties, and the historic ties between parties and traditional constituencies have been eroded. Without the social anchors of strong ideologies and ties to social class and other demographics, elections are more about personality and the attributes of leadership than ever before.Bryce Edwards

The unfortunate flipside of having one personality embody and represent a party and government so entirely is that when the popularity of that institution plummets, it’s the personality at the top who becomes the magnet for all the discontent. Unfortunately for Ardern, by having her personify the Labour Government so totally, this has meant that she has been the recipient of, first the adulation, and now the blame.

Labour’s spindoctors might well have been smart to push Ardern to do the cover shoots, and develop a big media presence around her personality and charisma, but ultimately it became a double-edged sword.

The lesson is that the hyper-personalisation of politics is deeply harmful and unhealthy for all involved. The antidote is to shift away from personality politics. New Zealand political parties must rediscover their soul and substance, and not be based so much around leaders. They need to recruit members again, encourage their participation, and focus on policy development. Politics should not be an elite activity.

The media, too, could learn to focus less on personalities. The total concentration on Ardern’s star power was such easy journalism. But it came at the expense of a policy debate. – Bryce Edwards

We need a debate about polarisation and toxicity in New Zealand politics. An increase in toxicity, and especially the gendered and racial nature of it, is likely to increase. We need to find a better way forward.

But this is very different to presenting Jacinda Ardern as a victim. As some commentators have pointed out, this desire to turn her into a victim of abuse is somewhat paternalistic and patronising. Former prime minister Jenny Shipley has warned, for example, that “If we overemphasize the abuse question, it implies women can’t do this job and that’s not true.”

Even worse, is if partisans and liberal-leftists attempt to use Ardern’s departure to provoke a culture war. By painting a picture of “the deplorables hounding the Prime Minister from office”, such voices are just increasing the toxic polarisation in a way that prevents a sober discussion of the problems.

An unsophisticated condemnation of political opponents just drives up tensions and looks like petty opportunism rather than a genuine concern to help find a solution for a real problem. Instead of reducing the hate and rancour, such “call out culture” methods tend to be counterproductive and are a dead-end.

Instead, what is urgently needed is a better understanding of what is driving social divisions, and an acknowledgement that the increased abuse of politicians comes largely from our unhealthy personalisation of politics.

This focus on individual politicians and New Zealand’s shift away from collective ways of doing politics is fuelling a hyper-individualisation by which political careers live and die, leaving us all the poorer.Bryce Edwards

One can well imagine the Prime Minister going through the Christmas briefing papers with care, then looking at the family, at the unread books, at the sun and the possibility of going fishing – and contemplating resigning. – Brian Easton

It can’t, obviously, be that people get more enjoyment about some things than others, and that making your own mind up about what you’re going to enjoy, and in what measure, is part of the joy of being part of a free society.

The last thing we would want to do, of course, is to organize a whole economic system around that idea.

The advertising of junk food is, to quote Jebb one final time, ‘undermining people’s free will.’ What we need to do, and fast, is to crack down on the office profiterole-profferers and Schwarzwaldkuchen-suppliers and put an immediate ban on all advertising of nice, tempting things.

Only then will be truly free of the scourge of office cake. –  Dr James Kierstead

The Government giving itself only three days to choose a new Prime Minister seemed, at least initially, heroic. If you take them at their word, pretty much nobody except Hipkins knew until Ardern rocked up to caucus and shared the news on Thursday. And yet, magically, consensus candidates for both PM and deputy were arrived at by Saturday morning. It was almost like they knew the answer to the question before they asked it.

The second one still has me scratching my head. Why would the outgoing Prime Minister announce the election date and then promptly resign? Isn’t that one of the most obvious things you’d leave to your successor?

It only made sense if Ardern’s successor and their campaign chair (Megan Woods) were all in on the plan, and everyone had agreed on the new team ahead of time. And my strong hunch is they were.

Third, Grant Robertson was remarkably relaxed about not becoming the leader and sacrificing his Deputy PM role. Now we know why. By jettisoning his Wellington-based electorate yesterday, he signalled he has his eye on the exit sign as well. – Steven Joyce

All this might be considered trainspotting except that it highlights that Chris Hipkins is very much the continuity choice for PM. These are the same people rearranging the deckchairs to make room for the fact that one of their number (quite reasonably) wanted to retire, but to leave everyone else’s position broadly intact.

There was no public debate about policy, no discussion about who best to lead the party and whether it should go in a different direction, just a “Jacinda’s going, you’re up Chris” agreement.

Sure, they will talk about changing things and Hipkins has done little else for the past few days. He of course can read the polls. Ardern was doing the same before Christmas, so even that is continuity.Steven Joyce

And that’s the problem. From Hipkins down, these are the people who, for better or worse, have made all the decisions over the past five years which have landed us where we are. Robertson is responsible for monetary policy settings and the re-signing of Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr. He’s responsible for the huge increase in the tax take that is squeezing Kiwi families and the gargantuan levels of inflation-stoking government spending. He’s allowed his colleagues to go nuts with the regulatory burden on businesses, and the convenient pandemic-driven curb on immigration is straight out of his “Future of Work” playbook.

New Deputy PM Carmel Sepuloni has overseen the explosion in the use of motels as emergency housing and the rise in the number of working-age people on a benefit despite low levels of unemployment.

Hipkins himself has driven a massive expansion in the size of the public service, a poorly executed centralisation of the polytechs, and shrugged off some of the poorest attendance records our school sector has ever seen. To say nothing of obstinately refusing to alter some of the most egregious settings during the Covid lockdowns and border closures which left such a sour taste with so many New Zealanders.

Even if the four at the top really wanted to repudiate some of their previous decisions in order to win re-election at the end of the year, will the key factions within the Government allow that to occur?

There are two big decision drivers in this Government, the unions and the Māori caucus. The unions bring the money and the volunteers, and the Māori caucus can count. Not only do they have the biggest bloc of votes in the Government, they are the only group in parliament which can at least theoretically side with the Opposition and defeat the Government in a vote. None of that has changed. – Steven Joyce

There is nothing wrong with continuity when the people are broadly happy with their lot. In 2016, continuity was the imperative. But when the polls are dropping and the public says you are heading in the wrong direction, continuity is not what you need. If those at the top of the tree can’t shed some of their pet beliefs and deliver real change, the public will no doubt deliver it themselves.

So when the new Prime Minister talks about a re-set, are we talking about change to the core belief systems that landed us where we are today? Or are we being set up yet again with more of that pre-eminent skill of the sixth Labour Government, its sophistry, albeit this time delivered in a more folksy, self-deprecating manner? – Steven Joyce


Quotes of the week

16/01/2023

Once upon a time, a fully realised person was something one became. Entailing education, observation, experimentation, and sometimes humiliation, “coming of age” was hard work. When the project succeeded, we developed a gradually richer understanding of what it means to be human and what constitutes a fruitful life. This ongoing project was halted only by death. Maturity was the result of accumulated experience (some of it dire) and much trial and error (both comical and tragic), helping explain why wisdom, as opposed to intelligence, was mostly the preserve of the old. We admired the “self-made man”, because character was a creation — one constructed often at great cost. Many a “character-building” adventure, such as joining the Army, was a trial by fire.

These days, discussion of “character” is largely relegated to fiction workshops and film reviews. Instead, we relentlessly address “identity”, a hollowed-out concept now reduced to membership of the groups into which we were involuntarily born — thereby removing all choice about who we are. Rejecting the passé “character building” paradigm, we now inform children that their selves emerge from the womb fully formed. Their sole mission is to tell us what those selves already are. Self is a prefabricated house to which only its owner has a key. –  Lionel Shriver

I further submit: throwing kids who just got here on their own investigative devices — refusing to be of any assistance aside from “affirming” whatever they whimsically claim to be; folding our arms and charging, “So who are you? Only you know” — is child abuse.Lionel Shriver

We haven’t given these young people a job. Contemporary education strenuously seeks to assure students they’re already wonderful. Teachers are increasingly terrified of imposing any standards that all their wards will not readily meet, so everyone gets a gold star. The Virginia school district of the once-renowned Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology now aims for “equal outcomes for every student, without exception”. A pedagogical emphasis on student “self-esteem” became dislocated from “esteem for doing something” decades ago. Why should any of these kids get out of bed? No wonder they’re depressed.

Minors don’t know anything, which is not their fault. We didn’t know anything at their age, either (and may not still), though we thought we did — and being disabused of callow, hastily conceived views and coming to appreciate the extent of our ignorance is a prerequisite for proper education. Yet we now encourage young people to look inward for their answers and to trust that their marvellous natures will extemporaneously reveal themselves. With no experience to speak of and no guidance from adults, all that many kids will find when gawking at their navels is pyjama fluff.  – Lionel Shriver

There’s nothing shameful about being an empty vessel when you haven’t done anything and nothing much has happened to you yet. Telling children, “Of course you don’t know who you are! Growing up is hard, full of false starts, and all about making something of yourself. Don’t worry, we’ll give you lots of help” is a great deal more consoling than the model of the ready-meal self. We demand toddlers determine whether they’re “girls or boys or something in-between” before they have fully registered what a girl or boy is, much less “something in-between”. Placing the total onus for figuring out how to negotiate being alive on people who haven’t been given the user’s manual is a form of abandonment.

Adults have an obligation to advise, comfort, and inform — to provide the social context that children have none of the resources to infer and to help form expectations of what comes next.  Instead, we’re throwing kids helplessly on their primitive imaginations.Lionel Shriver

This notion of the pre-made self is asocial, if not anti-social. It separates personhood from lineage, heritage, culture, history, and even family. You are already everything you were ever meant to be, never mind where, what and whom you come from. But seeing selfhood as floating in a vacuum is a recipe for loneliness, vagueness, insecurity and anxiety.

By contrast, a self constructed brick by brick over a lifetime has everything to do with other people. The undertaking involves the assembly of tastes and enthusiasms, the formation of friendships and institutional affiliations, participation in joint projects, and the development of perceptions not simply of one’s interior nature but of the outside world. Character that is rooted in ties to other people is likely to be more solid and enduring. The elderly are most in danger of desolation when they’ve outlived their friends and relatives. Who I am partially comprises decades-long friendships, my colleagues, my fierce devotion to my younger brother, a complex allegiance to two different Anglophone countries, and a rich cultural inheritance from my predecessors.

In my teens, we employed the word “identity” quite differently. We thought having an “identity” meant not only being at home in our own skins, but also having at least a hazy notion of what we wanted to do with our lives. It meant connecting with the likeminded (I found kindred spirits in my junior-high Debate Club). An “identity” was fashioned less from race or sexual orientation than from the discovery of which albums we loved, which novels we ritually reread because they spoke to us, which causes we supported, which subjects interested us, and which didn’t. It meant figuring out what we were good at (I was good at maths, but in second-year calculus I hit a wall) and what we couldn’t stand (me, team sports). – Lionel Shriver

We were as self-involved in our determination to be individuals as Gen Z, but that particularity was commonly assembled from the cultural smorgasbord of other people and what they’d thought and made: Kurt Vonnegut or William Faulkner, Catch-22 or The Winds of War, Simon and Garfunkel or Iron Butterfly, hostile or gung-ho positions on Vietnam. Naturally this is a version of identity subject to change. That’s the point. It’s supposed to change. I no longer listen to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

The self is not found but made, because meaning is made. Rather than be unearthed like buried treasure, meaning is laboriously created, often by doing hard things.Lionel Shriver

Of course, in constantly reforming and refining who we are, we can lose aspects of ourselves from earlier drafts that we should have kept. I no longer dance alone for hours in the sitting room, and I miss that abandon. For years I crafted ceramic figure sculpture, and I’m not sure that substituting journalism as my primary side-line to fiction writing constituted an improvement. Towards the very end of our lives, many of us will drop pretty much every paragraph we ever added, and we’ll go from novel to pamphlet. – Lionel Shriver

Clearly, some aspects of character, of self, are determined from the off. I’d never have become a nuclear physicist no matter how hard I tried. But the conventional “nature versus nurture” opposition still eliminates agency: you act mindlessly as whatever you were born as, or you are submissively acted upon. Where on this nature-nurture continuum does the object of all this theorising have a say in the outcome? Lionel Shriver

Following the modern script, 14-year-olds have learned never to say, “I’ve decided to be trans”, because all my friends are trans and I feel left out, but always, “I’ve discovered that I am trans”. This passive, powerless version of self has implications. We’re telling young people that what they see is what they get — that they already are what they will ever be. How disheartening. What a bore. Whatever is there to look forward to? Many victims of this formulation of existence, which apparently requires little of them besides all that being, must reach inside themselves and come up empty-handed. – Lionel Shriver

By withholding the assurance, “Don’t worry about not knowing who you are; you’re just not grown up yet, and neither are we, because growing up isn’t over at 18 or 21 but is something you do your whole life through”, we are cultivating self-hatred, disillusionment, bewilderment, frustration, and fury. Young women often turn their despair inward — hence the high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and cutting. Young men are more apt to project the barrenness of their interior lives onto the rest of the world and take their disappointment out on everyone else. Lionel Shriver

An authentic sense of self commonly involves not thinking about who you are, because you’re too busy doing something else. It is inextricably linked to, if not synonymous with, a sense of meaning. Nihilism, an oxymoronic belief in the impossibility of believing anything, can prove literally lethal. Young men who feel no personal sense of purpose are inclined to perceive that nothing else has a purpose, either. They don’t just hate themselves; they hate everybody. In telling people who’ve been on the planet for about ten minutes that they already know who they are, and that they’re already wonderful, we’re inciting that malign, sometimes homicidal nihilism. Because they don’t feel wonderful. They’re not undertaking any project but, according to the adults, inertly embody a completed project, which means the status quo is as good as it gets — and the status quo isn’t, subjectively, very good.

Transgenderism may have grown so alluring to contemporary minors not only because it promises a new “identity”, but because it promises a process. Transforming from caterpillar to butterfly entails a complex sequence of social interventions and medical procedures that must be terribly engrossing. Transitioning is a project. Everyone needs a project. Embracing the trans label gifts the self with direction, with a task to accomplish. Ironically, the contagion expresses an inchoate yearning for the cast-off paradigm whereby character is built.

We should stop telling children that they’re the “experts on their own lives” and repudiate a static model of selfhood as a fait accompli at birth. Sure, some inborn essence is particular to every person, but it’s a spark; it’s not a fire. We could stand to return to the language of forming character and making a life for yourself, while urging teachers to exercise the guidance they’ve been encouraged to forsake.

As we age, we’re not only that unique essence in the cradle, but the consequence of what we’ve read, watched, and witnessed; whom we’ve loved and what losses we’ve suffered; what mistakes we’ve made and which we’ve corrected; where we’ve lived and travelled and what skills we’ve acquired; not only what we’ve made of ourselves but what we’ve made outside of ourselves; most of all, what we’ve done. That is an exciting, active version of “identity” whose work is never finished, full of choice, enlivened by agency, if admittedly freighted with responsibility and therefore a little frightening. But it at least provides young people something to do, other than mass murder or gruesome elective surgery. – Lionel Shriver

The pretence that we are each of one ethnicity only will not serve us well. It is encouraging racism by the government always choosing to describe people as Maori whenever bad outcomes are being discussed.

We need good and accurate information if we want race and ethnicity to play a reduced role in determining the future of a child in New Zealand.

Or we could focus on improving outcomes for all who are being held back by others and by societal choices, knowing and appreciating that this will benefit disproportionately those who identify at least in part as Maori. Hilary Calvert 

  • Dreary, despondent headlines about pollution and climate change are the norm. But they are not painting a full or accurate picture.
  • While Earth is still no Garden of Eden, many countries are making serious efforts to become clean and green. The results are scientifically notable but underreported by the media.
  • Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource. In a world filled with bad news, that’s a fact worth celebrating. – Cameron English 

Most people undoubtedly accept that climate change, air pollution, and deforestation are very real problems we ought to take seriously. What fewer of us seem to realize, however, is that the world has taken these issues seriously and made significant progress toward solving them as a result. This observation leads us to an important but oft-overlooked conclusion: Economic growth and technological innovation are making our planet a cleaner, safer place to live. – Cameron English 

One of the best ways to bring a nation out of grinding poverty is to boost its agricultural productivity. The introduction of high-yielding crop varieties during the Green Revolution, led by plant pathologist Norman Borlaug, nicely illustrated how this phenomenon works. According to a July 2021 study, enhanced crops developed between 1965 and 2010 increased food production by more than 40%, saving the world a whopping $83 trillion. Addressing the environmental impact of agriculture, the authors didn’t mince words:

Our paper also sheds light on a concern, often expressed in the literature, that agricultural productivity improvements would pull additional land into agriculture at the expense of forests and other environmentally valuable land uses. We find evidence to the contrary… the Green Revolution tended to reduce the amount of land devoted to agriculture.”  – Cameron English 

Of course, climate change is the elephant in the room. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased in recent decades, which has led the WHO and others to warn about the looming public health impacts of heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters caused by global warming. Even here, though, the disaster projections that so often make headlines are out of step with the evidence.

For one thing, improved infrastructure (such as widespread air conditioning) has helped prevent a lot of weather-related mortality. Deaths due to natural disasters more broadly have also plummeted: A century ago, natural disasters commonly killed more than a million people annually. Today, that figure hovers somewhere between10,000 and 20,000 deaths per year.

Recent research has shown that fossil fuels have generated far fewer GHG emissions than projected by commonly used climate models, a divergence that “is going to only get larger in coming decades,” climate researcher Roger Pielke, Jr. explainedin November 2020. This means that the worst-case climate scenario grows “increasingly implausible with every passing year,” climatologists Zeke Hausfather and Glen Peters argued that same year in the journal Nature. These results led the New York Times to report in October 2022:

“Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years. [Emphasis added] – Cameron English 

Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource. We have always faced serious threats to our well-being, but we’re also very good at developing long-term solutions to those problems. In a world filled with bad news, that’s a fact worth celebrating. – Cameron English 

Since I bought my eco dream car in late 2020, in a deluded Thunbergian frenzy, it has spent more time off the road than on it, beached at the dealership for months at a time on account of innumerable electrical calamities, while I galumph around in the big diesel “courtesy cars” they send me under the terms of the warranty. – Giles Coren

And if the government really does ban new wet fuel cars after 2030, then we will eventually have to go back to horses. Because the electric vehicle industry is no readier to get a family home from Cornwall at Christmas time (as I was trying to do) than it is to fly us all to Jupiter. The cars are useless, the infrastructure is not there and you’re honestly better off walking. Even on the really long journeys. In fact, especially on the long journeys. The short ones they can just about manage. It’s no wonder Tesla shares are down 71 per cent. It’s all a huge fraud. And, for me, it’s over. – Giles Coren

There are, of course, plus sides to electric ownership. Such as the camaraderie when we encounter each other, tired and weeping at yet another service station with only two chargers, one of which still has the “this fault has been reported” sign on it from when you were here last August, and the other is of the measly 3kWh variety, which means you will have to spend the night in a Travelodge while your stupid drum lazily inhales enough juice to get home.

Together, in the benighted charging zone, we leccy drivers laugh about what fools we are and drool over the diesel hatchbacks nonchalantly filling up across the way (“imagine getting to a fuel station and knowing for sure you will be able to refuel!”) and talk in the hour-long queue at Exeter services about the petrol car we will buy as soon as we get home. – Giles Coren

And then, as I inched off the dual carriageway at our turnoff, begging it to make the last mile, children weeping at the scary noises coming from both car and father: “Gearbox fault detected.” CLUNK. WHIRRR. CRACK.

And dead. Nothing. Poached elephant. I called Jaguar Assist (there is a button in the roof that does it directly — most useful feature on the car) who told me they could have a mechanic there in four hours (who would laugh and say, “Can’t help you, pal. You’ve got a software issue there. I’m just a car mechanic. And this isn’t a car, it’s a laptop on wheels.”)

So Esther and the kids headed for home across the sleety wastes, a vision of post-apocalyptic misery like something out of Cormac McCarthy, while I saw out 2022 waiting for a tow-truck. Again.

But don’t let that put you off. I see in the paper that electric car sales are at record levels and production is struggling to keep up with demand. So why not buy mine? It’s clean as a whistle and boasts super-low mileage. After all, it’s hardly been driven. – Giles Coren

As the self-satisfied laptop class never tires of telling us, misinformation is the kind of ‘wrong’ information that supposedly dumb people share online – usually something they’ve picked up from some scary populist. Disinformation, meanwhile, occurs when someone – a government official, say – knowingly disseminates something false, to sow confusion and discord, demoralise a target population or harm a political opponent.Jenny Holland

As soon as the affirmative-care model came under rigorous expert scrutiny, its problems were there for all to see.

However, pushing back against this insanity will require more than just support from credentialed doctors like Hilary Cass. After all, a frequent tactic of trans activists like Levine is to co-opt the language of credentials and science.

We must instead simply trust our own judgement and common sense. When presented in plain English, the lunacy of ‘gender-affirming care’ is clear for all to see. It means pumping people (including children) with synthetic cross-sex hormones and cutting off healthy breasts, penises and testicles. I don’t need a doctor to tell me this is a dangerous course of action.

It is totally legitimate to question the wholesale acceptance and widespread celebration of such radical procedures, especially those performed on minors. It certainly doesn’t constitute ‘misinformation’, as Levine would have us believe. In fact, Levine’s attempt to discredit opposition to gender-affirming care is itself an example of disinformation from a government actor.

Governments, media outlets and tech companies talk constantly about the dangers posed by ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’. But it is clear that these are just the latest rhetorical tools in an attempt to control what the masses think. And what’s more, it is the same people who complain about these problems who are often the biggest culprits. – Jenny Holland

We’re witnessing the Californication of a Prince. The old bantering, streaking fun Harry who later signed up for military service has been replaced by a self-pitying celeb who squeals with glee when he gets a text message from Beyonce. Warring royals once marshalled armies and battled it out in muddy fields; now they write tear-stained tell-alls about their hurt feelings. God help us. –  Brendan O’Neill

Pushing your brother is normal; making your brother a spectacle before the world is not. Harry has betrayed William in a way that will likely deepen their rift considerably. I reckon every man who has a brother is feeling for Will right now.  – Brendan O’Neill

For all of us who scribble for publication, at however low a level, all activities other than writing take on at most a secondary importance. Even meals, necessary as they no doubt are, can come to seem unwanted interruptions of the real business of life, which is writing. We are apt to forget that reading in general, and of our work in particular, is not of the same importance to 99.99 percent of the population, including that part of it that has great power over our lives, as it is to us. It is a humbling thought (humbling, that is, for scribblers) that in many small towns it is easier to find an electronic cigarette or have oneself tattooed than to buy a book.Theodore Dalrymple

I have long thought that entertainment, or rather the ubiquity of entertainment, is one of the greatest causes of boredom in the modern world. And boredom is itself a much underestimated state of mind in the production of human misconduct and therefore of misery.

The reason that too great a proportion of entertainment in a person’s life leads to boredom (though it is not easy always to decide whether the chicken of boredom comes before the egg of entertainment) is that reality can rarely complete with it for raw stimulation and excitement. Reality, the real world, moves very slowly by comparison with the world as depicted in entertainment, but people for the moment have still to enter the real world from time to time; they cannot lead wholly virtual lives.

When they enter the real world, therefore, they find it dull and boring by comparison with their entertainments; it takes mental discipline and training to find the real world of interest in an age of distraction. – Theodore Dalrymple

We’re sold this dream that marriage equals perfect happiness and conflict-free living. Too many of us haven’t seen our parents practise conflict resolution. In my case my parents divorced when I was young and for a long time in my early married years whenever my husband and I had a disagreement my immediate reaction was – marriage not working, we’re not compatible.

I know when I separated, I thought I didn’t like my husband any more. It was while we were apart that I began to appreciate who he was. I saw him caring for our children with different eyes. I began to appreciate what having two loving parents meant to our children. I began to look at my husband with fresh eyes or maybe it was old eyes, the eyes that had made me want to marry him.Victoria Carter

Before you call time-out think about the cost of two homes, legal fees gobbling up your savings and the emotional and financial impact on your children. Talk to anyone in a long marriage and they’ll tell you about its richness and rewarding qualities and how it’s helped each partner be happier and more whole. – Victoria Carter

Here, laid bare, is the intolerance and priggishness of people who probably think of themselves as liberal yet can’t tolerate any departure from approved groupthink.Karl du Fresne

There’s a lesson here: think carefully before you befriend a writer. They can be a spiteful, duplicitous and disputatious lot, and you can never be sure the friendship won’t come back to bite you. – Karl du Fresne

Of course, people generally don’t respond well to being embarrassed and exposed in public. And in the ensuing years, I’ve learned something about truth: It’s way more complicated than it seems when we’re young. There isn’t just one truth, our truth — the other people who inhabit our story have their truths as well.Patti Davis

Years ago, someone asked me what I would say to my younger self if I could. Without hesitating I answered: “That’s easy. I’d have said, ‘Be quiet.’” Not forever. But until I could stand back and look at things through a wider lens. Until I understood that words have consequences, and they last a really long time. – Patti Davis

Silence gives you room, it gives you distance, and it lets you look at your experiences more completely, without the temptation to even the score. Patti Davis

I’ve learned something else about truth: Not every truth has to be told to the entire world. People are always going to be curious about famous families, and often the stories from those families can resonate with others, give them insight into their own situations, even transcend time since fame flutters at the edges of eternity.

But not everything needs to be shared, a truth that silence can teach. Harry seems to have operated on the dictum that “Silence is not an option.” I would, respectfully, suggest to him that it is. – Patti Davis

While the term “gender identity” has exploded in popularity as a way for transgender individuals to express the feeling of “misalignment” with their bodies, a group of scientists says that there is no empirical evidence for its existence in biology. 

According to an international group of over 100 clinicians and researchers, there is currently no biological evidence for “gender identity” and no laboratory test that can distinguish a trans-identified person from a non-trans-identified person. Despite this, the belief in “gender identity” is used as the basis for medically transitioning thousands of children and adolescents.

“The assumption of the core biological underpinning for ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender dysphoria’ remains an unproven theory: while biology likely plays a role in gender nonconformity, currently, there is no brain, blood, or other objective test that distinguishes a trans-identified from a non-trans identified person once confounding factors such as sexual orientation are controlled for,” (emphasis original) said the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine (SEGM) in an article debunking false and unproven assumptions used to medically transition children.  Christina Buttons

One of the myths is that “gender identity,” which underlies gender dysphoria, is a biological trait, according to the article. There is evidence that roughly 60–90% of children who identify as transgender but do not socially or medically transition will no longer identify as transgender in adulthood, and many will grow up to be gay adults. – Christina Buttons

Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Quentin Van Meter has said that there is “zero point zero zero” evidence that the concepts of “gender fluidity” and “gender identity” have any scientific basis. 

Manhattan Institute fellow Leor Sapir says the motivation for attempting to prove that “gender identity” is an “innate, immutable trait” is for political and legal reasons.Christina Buttons

What they want is a government to come in and turn things around and be able to get things done and that’s really why I think we’ve been having some success. – Christopher Luxon

It creates bureaucracy. It doesn’t create localism. It doesn’t create devolution. Those are big principles for the National Party that we hold dear to.Christopher Luxon

We’ve had a government flat on the accelerator with massive stimulus spending – a billion dollars more a week, we’ve had a constrained economy with very little immigration, actually meaningful immigration, coming into the country and we’ve had a Reserve Bank that was printing an awful amount of money for a long period of time and actually creating massive asset price inflation and has only just recently taken the foot off the accelerator on to the brake.

But you’ve still got the Government going flat out on the accelerator, the Reserve Bank’s pumping the brakes real hard and the economy’s still very constrained, so you know that’s been the reality of it and I do say it’s been huge economic mismanagement. – Christopher Luxon

I’m more convinced a year into this job, two years into this place in Parliament, that we’re totally, utterly, completely going in the wrong direction. We need a big turnaround, and we need to be able to go get things done for the New Zealand people and that’s what we’re going to work hard to do.Christopher Luxon

There has to be a better way of improving Maori literacy than jamming it down our throats whilst mangling the English language in the process. – Wendy Geus

In the story of Harry and Meghan, we see an uncomfortable truth. Not about the royal family or the state of modern Britain – but about the state of anti-racism, a once radical movement that has been warped beyond all recognition. It has become a plaything of some of the most privileged people imaginable – a means to demonise any criticism and burnish their moral status.

Where the old anti-racism was radical, brave and fought from the bottom-up, this new ‘anti-racism’ is hectoring, pompous, even aristocratic. No wonder our prince has taken to it so effortlessly. – Tom Slater

Our monopoly soviet health system has all the wrong incentives. All the school dental nurses go on holiday because the children are not customers who have a choice. It’s the school dentist or nothing.Richard Prebble

The country is wrapped in the red tape of costly regulations.

Government departments regard the production of new laws and regulations to be a core function. Hundreds of civil servants spent their time producing new regulations.

There is not one civil servant whose job description is to stop unnecessary regulation. – Richard Prebble

What about a Regulatory Review Department whose task is to recommend regulations that should be repealed?

Every new spending proposal cannot go to cabinet until it has a treasury report. What if every proposed new regulation had to be assessed by the Regulatory Review Department? New regulations are supposed to have a cost/benefit review. The review is done by the proposing department. The departments never say “this regulation will cost far more than any possible benefit”.

What if before a department can propose a new regulation it has to find two existing regulations to repeal? – Richard Prebble

Let me declare myself. I am an orthodox Christian who welcomes criticism and satire, even ridicule of my faith. I welcome them because they sharpen my own thinking and they give me an opportunity to talk about what I believe.

Hate speech legislation will kill so much of what I enjoy. It will coerce self-censorship and encourage me and nearly everyone else to be a hypocrite, indeed it is remarkably close to making hypocrisy compulsory. And it does that because perpetrators are infatuated by the cult of diversity, inclusion and equity (DIE) and muddled about human rights. And in that fog of muddle and infatuation there is no fresh Nor ’wester permitted to clear the air. – Bruce Logan

Understanding “self-evident” is critical. It is peculiar to Western civilisation’s belief in humanity’s connection to the transcendent. For example, our dignity and consequently understanding of freedom, which we all claim to possess, is given to us by God and not by the state.

Self-evident rights include the right to religious belief and expression, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of movement, freedom to assemble together and probably freedom to buy and sell. Once recognised they create the duty for the state to let people get on with them. Their definition does not depend on what the state says.

Then there are other “rights”; the right to education, the right to warm and dry housing, and most recently the right to be able to choose one’s gender. However, these are not rights, they are claims that must be delivered by the state and paid for by the taxpayer.Bruce Logan

Progressives assert that hate speech legislation will enhance freedom when it will do exactly the opposite. They think that hate speech legislation will give us free “profanely sacred” choice. They assume that protecting one’s chosen identity is the self-evident good; equality for all after all. Hate speech, although without clear definition offends the Progressive’s dignity. Opposition is heretical. – Bruce Logan

Religion configures culture and for that reason it must always be open to satire and criticism. Race, ethnic or national origin are morally neutral. Hate speech legislation will give them political identity and power by default. Instead of ameliorating racism it will intensify it, identifying race or ethnicity above citizenship. Legislation censoring speech is an expansive industry because its foundation is political.

The desire for hate speech legislation in the present cultural context is deeply ironic. It is a critical tool for those who are in the process of wanting to establish a civil religion to replace a de-Christianised morality. Its focus is to place the new identity culture beyond criticism.

The irony is implicit because the progressive notion of human dignity is parasitic. Dignity, for the progressive, rests on a tautology. I have dignity because I’m human; I’m human therefore I have dignity.Bruce Logan

Faith in the authoritarian state’s declaration of dignity replaces the freedom we enjoy and taught to us by the biblical notion of dignity. Hate speech legislation is simply an alternative way for the state to say that truth and consequently freedom begins and ends here. It is a necessary step in the development of a civil religion to reinforce the cult of “Diversity and Inclusion”.

The consequence is to make criticism of the rising civil religion too dangerous. We already have its avant-garde entrenching the cancel culture of its shock troops in the universities, media and virtue signalling commerce. In the wake of hate speech legislation dissenting debate will become impossible for everyone, but especially for a Christian whose understanding of dignity and morality absolutely confronts the progressive underpinning of the civil religion. – Bruce Logan

We live in an age of suspicion to a degree that I don’t remember from my youth—though I admit that my memory is fallible, and I may be mistaken in this. Perhaps we are no more suspicious of the motives of those with whom we disagree than ever we were, and we always thought that those who disagreed with us were not merely wrong, but evil.

Whatever the case may be, it’s now difficult to discuss anything contentious without the discussion swiftly descending into an examination of the motives of the opponents, as if the truth of what anyone said were dependent on his reasons for saying it: reasons which are themselves usually a matter of conjecture rather than of ascertainable truth.

I doubt that anyone is, or has ever been, entirely free from the temptation to resort to the ad hominem in argument, but name-calling is now a pervasive rhetorical device, especially in discussion of whatever touches on cherished political beliefs but which, on the face of it, should be a matter of objective fact rather than political viewpoint. – Theodore Dalrymple

One suspects that it’s belief that determines the evidence rather than the evidence that determines belief. – Theodore Dalrymple

Once motives rather than evidence and argument are made the focus of disagreement, one enters a labyrinth from which exit is rare.Theodore Dalrymple

What is true today may be false tomorrow, without anyone having committed an error, let alone fraud. Human psychology isn’t like the trajectory of a planet, which is a natural fact unaffected by observation: it’s reflexive. For example, how I react to something depends on my expectations, and my expectations depend on a very complex number of factors. But psychology as a study seems often to treat the human mind as if it were the solar system, to all intents and purposes unchanging. – Theodore Dalrymple

The end can sometimes justify the means, but often it can’t: it all depends. And what it depends on is that great intangible, judgment. Most people prefer absolutely clear-cut principles that they think can assure them in advance of always being right, whereas judgment, being variable and uncertain, will often lead them into error or wickedness. Nevertheless, life requires judgment and not just principle. Theodore Dalrymple

What has really happened is that belief in biological sex has been redefined as bigotry. Standing up for women’s sex-based rights has been rebranded as transphobia. So Rowling’s perfectly normal views, which are likely shared by most people out there, can be talked about as hate crimes when they are nothing of the kind.

This is deeply authoritarian too, this cynical repackaging of dissent as ‘phobia’. Let’s not forget what a phobia is — a malady of the mind, an irrational way of thinking. This echoes Stalin’s antics too, when problematic people were likewise written off as mad and consumed by spite. Rowling has nothing to be ashamed of, but her intolerant erasers do. – Brendan O’Neill 

It must be discombobulating for those, here and in China, or even say Victoria or Western Australia, who fully accepted their government’s then-line that there was no cost too high in the pursuit of zero Covid, to experiencing the current position of those same governments. I know the likes of Michael Baker finds it very confusing.

To the rest of us, it proves one thing. The management of Covid-19, particularly once vaccines were available, was as much a political decision as anything else. Politicians were fond of declaring they were just following the science, but they weren’t especially.

The science didn’t change that much. What changed was the political calculus. Once it was clear that scaring the bejesus out of people and locking them down was no longer politically profitable, politicians quickly moved on to playing down the virus and normalising it.

All this underlines that there wasn’t only one way of doing things. We had choices, particularly once vaccines became available in early 2021. And particularly in this country the second half of 2021 could have been very different if alternative but equally valid political choices had been made to those that were. – Steven Joyce 

There are those of course who think we should forget about going over the entrails of the Covid response. They think it is pointless to look in the rearview mirror. Except that it isn’t the rearview mirror.

We are still living with the impact of the decisions made during the pandemic and the huge financial cost of those will be with us for years to come. The billions lost through quantitative easing could have bought a bunch of new hospitals or paid for a fair few water pipes.

The decision, unique to New Zealand, to shut down massive transport projects during lockdowns has now likely cost billions of dollars and years in delays, as reported just prior to Christmas. The massive fiscal burden has only been reduced by an inflation-driven rise in the tax take, which adds to the cost of living squeeze on kiwi families.

And then there is the human toll. There seems little doubt that some of the anti-social behaviour we are seeing and our falling education performance are a result of people being told that what society previously signalled was important didn’t turn out to be so important during that long 2021 lockdown – like going to school.

In bestowing a knighthood on the Director-General of Health so quickly, the government appears to have already passed judgement on its own performance. The rest of us should be more thoughtful. As our changing attitude to Covid risk in the last year shows, it is possible to make different choices with fewer long-term costs in calmer, more rational times. This, surely, is a lesson we should take from the last two years. – Steven Joyce 

Stanford University has published, to much-deserved derision, a kind of index of prohibited words, that is to say words that could possibly cause anyone, even animals, distress. Of course, if you treat people as eggshells, eggshells is what they will become, especially if they derive some kind of benefit, financial or other, from their fragility.

The university has almost as many administrators as students, in the way that the Bolivian navy had admirals; and in the absences of any other or higher purpose, administrators do not administer, they manufacture administration. They do so both to give themselves things to do and, if possible, to create a need for even more of their kind. A director of something or other soon needs a deputy director; he or she then needs an assistant deputy director, and he or she needs a personal assistant who will soon be so overwhelmed by work that he or she will need a deputy also. And all this, of course, requires the hard work of the human resources department, to ensure that the appointed persons are demographically representative of the general population—only more so, some groups needing special protection like endangered species.

One can just imagine the very hard work, so-called, by the committee that produced the list of prohibited words—breakfast meetings, hastily snatched lunches, and so forth, all to convince them that they were engaged upon something worthwhile and important. In the modern managerial world, no distinction is drawn, alas, between activity and work. – Theodore Dalrymple

Every day the language policing gets more and more ludicrous, but this example, from the School of Social Work of the University of Southern California, takes the cake.  I can no longer say that “my field is evolutionary biology” because that is racist language. The connection, as outlined in the official letter below from the USC group, is that enslaved people went “into the field” in the antebellum South. That makes the word “field” off limits. But farmers were going into the field long before that!

Now the recommended verbiage is “my practicum is evolutionary biology.” At that point people will say “Whaaaat???” And, as several readers note below, the words “field work” for biologists is also unacceptable; I suppose the alternative is “ecological work in the great outdoors”. – Jerry Coyne

The thing that strikes me is that someone had to see the world “field” as racist, and then take action to expunge it from USC’s language. You have to be sniffing around very hard for offense to do something like that. And I suspect that their goal, in fact, isn’t any of the ones they state, but simply to assert power.  How bizarre that these initiatives actually work in today’s America! Jerry Coyne

There are good cases to be made for changing some language, but this isn’t one of them. –  Jerry Coyne

I could not do now, the sort of jobs I’ve done in the past because New Zealand has become so prissy and so specific. I hate the term woke, but there’s an element of truth to it. I just wouldn’t bow down to that now. I’m just a bloke and I’m just calling it as I see it. – Paul Henry 

You can avoid saying anything that may vaguely upset anyone, but then what you’re doing is avoiding saying anything at all — and you’re just becoming another script reader. – Paul Henry 

Seriously, people, I get no pleasure from calling out wokeness (even using that word gets me excoriated), for along with that comes opprobrium from the ideologically pure. Even worse: I feel awful that academia, and especially biology, is being distorted and corrupted by ideologues.

One of the examples I used at the Stanford free-speech conference was the inability of people to recognize that, biologically, there are only two sexes in humans. Just two. In our species sex is effectively binary, with only a tiny handful of people who are “intersex” (these exceptions constitute about 0.018% of the species, or about one person in 5600).  Sex is not gender, for the latter is a true social construct because there are far more sex roles or sexual identities than two, although even gender is bimodal, with most people identifying as traditional male or female. A frequency plot of sex would look like two huge lines, each about 50% of the population, with one of the lines at “male” and the other at “female”, and a few almost invisible blips between those lines. A frequency distribution of gender would look more like a bactrian (the two-humped camel), with more intermediates. But the humps would be high. – Jerry Coyne

I believed it was self-evident that sexual dimorphism lies at the heart of female oppression, and that it is the foundation for feminism — yet it is now controversial to claim that the oppression of women is sex-based. It contradicts the idea that women are not oppressed because they are female (many now consider it neither necessary nor sufficient to be female to be a woman) but on the basis of an internal gender identity. I have never understood how such oppression could work but felt that saying so would cause pain. So I remained silent and continued to read New Scientist, sure that the truth would clarify the conversation and heal the hurt.

Unfortunately, “the truth” has done no such thing, and New Scientist is no longer the safe haven it once was. I did not realise how much of my sanity relied on its recognition of the existence and importance of two sexes in humans until articles began to appear which seemed to deny this entirely.  – Octavia Sheepshanks

 After reading one article in which miscarried male foetuses were given a sex (“boys”) but the women who had suffered miscarriages were not (“pregnant people”) I wrote a long and passionate letter to the editor about how it had made me feel (not good). I received no reply, and I began to wonder if my strong belief in the significance of sexual dimorphism in humans was inaccurate and hateful after all. This was the most popular weekly science publication in the world, and it was reporting science as it was. I must be the problem.

Then I encountered the most befuddling article yet. A new form of contraception “for people” had been discovered. After a minor brain adjustment, I established from the sentence “a gel that is applied inside the vagina has been shown to block sperm injected into female sheep”, that this was a new contraception for women. The article was so strange to read that I sought out the original journal article to witness this bizarre wording in situ. When I read the first sentence of the abstract, “Many women would prefer a nonhormonal, on-demand contraceptive that does not have the side effects of existing methods”, I was astonished. Science had not changed; New Scientist had. It had lied to me. (Gaslighting is an overused accusation but resonates here. I intend to avoid one-sided love affairs with magazines in future.) – Octavia Sheepshanks

There is nothing trans-inclusive about pretending humans are a hermaphroditic species. If we were, trans people wouldn’t exist. Perhaps New Scientist, if it wants to include trans people in future(for example, trans men in a study on female contraception) could do so by writing about them? Just a suggestion! Accuracy does not have to mean using the words “women” and “men” — “males” and “females” would include those with all gender identities, including non-binary people.

The alteration of scientific studies to avoid naming the demographic previously known as “women” has serious consequences for anyone female.Octavia Sheepshanks

Miscarried male foetuses are given a sex and make it into the headline, but the only mention of the women suffering these miscarriages is indirect: “stressful events may activate non-conscious evolved mechanisms in pregnant people to spontaneously abort fetuses that have less chance of thriving in tough environments”.

Presumably, anyone female has these “non-conscious evolved mechanisms” if they exist. – Octavia Sheepshanks

I look forward to a day when I have a place to read about the physical and social implications of research into women’s bodies and health, without limitation. In the meantime, I note that New Scientist remains happy to acknowledge gonochorism in other animals; it recently rejoiced over a study of female robins that discredited the sexist theory that only male robins sing. Maybe I’ll support the liberation of female songbirds until I can read about my own species. In fact, if there’s a rally for feminist robins, I’ll be there with a placard the size of my thumbnail, desperately seeking a new safe haven of sanity.Octavia Sheepshanks

The respectful compromise would be to introduce a form of legal self-identification for gender identity for trans people while clarifying that this does not change someone’s sex for the purposes of the Equality Act. A clear distinction between gender identity and biological sex in law would balance the legitimate rights of trans people and those of women, protecting both groups against discrimination but establishing beyond doubt that it is lawful to provide female-only services for women as a matter of privacy, dignity and safety. But in Scotland and Westminster, self-described progressive politicians have proved too gutless to advocate balance and compromise. It is marginalised women – in prison, in domestic abuse services, and who require intimate care as a result of disability – who will bear the consequences of their cowardice. – The Observer

Harry and Meghan have gone to the right place. America laps up the celebrity milk that curdles in British stomachs, and the milk they are providing is perfectly flavoured for contemporary taste – sappy, vulnerable victimhood coupled with humourless ultra-sensitivity to the slightest reference to race.

This phase of public puritanism is relatively recent and the older royals will have made jokes they would not make today. Harry and Meghan are milking the zeitgeist for all it is worth in the celebrity market and they are making a fortune. – John Roughan 

Is that how this Shakespearean tragedy ends, with a boring Duke and a botoxed Duchess living out their days in California while the British monarchy, modernized by Charles III, celebrates the enduring reign of William V and looks forward to George VII? Possibly. – John Roughan 

The dying Stuff fleet of newspapers, purchased for the excessive price of one dollar and now fighting for survival, willingly prostituted itself to the government bribe in return for the taxpayer’s unwitting subsidy in numerous different forms, but mainly ridiculously unnecessary full-page government Department advertising and bogus news stories reflecting government policy. The government did this on the pretence of helping sustain the print media but in fact solely to sustain their own political support. Thus the Herald’s competent cartoonists during the disgraceful bribery time were pretty much confined to non-political topics, albeit no longer. Stuff on the other hand, couldn’t afford cartoonists and run ridiculously pointless humourless efforts that have absolutely nothing to say. Sir Bob Jones

The buying of the print media, so cleverly summed up by Garrick’s cartoon, was nothing less than political corruption of a scale hitherto unknown in New Zealand. – Sir Bob Jones

Since Labour’s arrival in power in 2017 many billions of dollars have been spent on major infrastructure projects. The Government’s Wellbeing Budget 2022 advises it plans to spend a further $61.9 billion on infrastructure investment over the next five years.

In spite of Cabinet directions that Treasury should provide Cabinet regular reports on the performance of all significant investments, not a single major projects performance report has been provided by Treasury or reviewed by Cabinet in the last five years.

According to Treasury’s website, reporting on the performance of major government projects was discontinued in 2017 “due to changes in ministerial priorities.” The verbal version of this provided to us in 2020 was “Ministers have no appetite for this type of report”.

These reports are not supposed to be optional though, for Ministers to decide whether they want them or not. The reports provide important performance mitigation and public accountability functions. – Grant Avery

Large infrastructure projects are notoriously poor performers. The average government infrastructure project globally runs over budget by 40% and projects in New Zealand have been found in a high-profile performance survey to under-deliver their promised benefits by more than 50%.

Transparent reporting on the performance of projects is widely known to mitigate these issues.

Why are Treasury not complying with Cabinet’s directions on investment performance reporting? Why is Government not demanding this accountability? And why is the Auditor General not holding Treasury and Government to account for the absence of these reports? – Grant Avery

I was very, very resolute in what I wanted to do with my life and my career, to the point that the school called in various counsellors and my parents to have a meeting because they thought that, my aspirations were thoroughly unachievable and I should go and work at Tiwai Aluminium Smelter as fitter turner, because I was good with my hands Peter Beck

I wanted to be able to build the rockets, because there was no way I could go to university and learn how to build rockets, and the engine bolting systems and construction systems and all those kinds of things. –

I figured the best way would be to have the hand skills to do that first. So that’s what I went and did. I ultimately ended up at Industrial Research, which is now Callaghan Innovation or the old DSIR. –

Engineering is cool, but the thing I like about space the most is just the sheer impact you can have on so many people.

“If you build a bridge in a city, the people use that bridge, and it obviously has a tremendous impact on that population group.

“But the wonderful thing about space is you can put literally a little box of electronics on orbit, and it can affect millions, tens of millions, even billions of people, whether it’s providing communication services or weather services or imagery, or whatever.Peter Beck

I’m very sensitive to aesthetics. So if you look at Rocket Lab, whether it be launch vehicles or any kind of branding or materials, we really care about … we have a saying here, ‘we make beautiful things’….whether it be a rocket or spreadsheet. That’s one of the key elements of the success of the company and the reason why our stuff works, we take the time to make it functional, but also beautiful. – Peter Beck

I have tremendous admiration for an astronaut. I know every nut and bolt there is on the launch vehicle and I also know the risks with space flight, there’s not a lot of margin in the vehicle. And it takes tremendous courage.

When you know too much about something, then it depletes your courage. So, I would be the worst astronaut you can imagine. I’d be looking for wires on every single bolt.

Astronauts just have this amazing ability to turn all that off, focus on the mission at hand, and go and execute it. Some of us are made to do that, some of us aren’t – I’m not. – Peter Beck

In New Zealand … we don’t tend to think big enough. If you’re going to go and do something, it’s no more painful to do something really big than it is to do something really small.

If you’re building a company, you might as well just go and do the really big thing, and just go for it. And if it all doesn’t work, then well at least you had a crack and no harm, no foul.

So choose the thing that you’re really passionate about, then make it big are the pieces of advice that I would give to people.

You’re on this planet for an excruciatingly short amount of time. Choose something that you want to do, and something that you believe is going to have an impact.

At the end of the day … the question that ultimately you reflect back on is ‘well, what did I get done? What did I do with my life? What impact did I have?’

And nobody ever measures impact by the size of their house, or what kind of flashy car they’ve got or anything like that. The true way to measure impact is ‘what did I do for the world?’

Following your passion, and keeping that as a North Star is what I always challenge everybody to do, because ultimately that’s how you define how successful your time on this planet was. – Peter Beck

If a law is objectively evil, but backed by the majority, then the law cannot be questioned. Democracy grants legitimacy to the whims of the majority.

How this plays out in the United States is best answered by those who have a deeper understanding than some itinerant tourist, but in our own land the tyranny of the majority remains a central challenge to those who believe in the sovereignty of the individual.Damien Grant

A king, de Tocqueville writes, only has physical power, but the majority has both the force and the power of morality to enforce its will on the minority.

He saw the perils of democracy. Sadly, we have perfected them. – Damien Grant

I really don’t have a lot of stomach for this. Most Māori are working and law-abiding like most non-Māori and the constant racial identification of people only feeds resentment and division.

BUT if the Prime Minister wants to crow about what she has achieved for Māori let’s look at what she hasn’t achieved for Māori. – Lindsay Mitchell

If this is the Prime Minister’s idea of achieving for Māori, then she is even more self-delusional than I’d previously entertained.

And if she is returned on this record then we are all deeply in trouble. All of us together. – Lindsay Mitchell

So perhaps New Zealand should adopt its own astrology calendar and make it the Year of the Farmer, a year-long — and beyond — celebration of the country’s food-producing champions.Sally Rae

Let us not forget what side our bread is buttered on and how it was farming — not our previously greatly-lauded tourism sector — which kept the economy ticking through the global uncertainty and disruption of Covid. – Sally Rae

As well as a celebration of our food producers, may 2023 bring more co-operation, collaboration, communication and common bloody sense when it comes to the relationship between the Government and our rural sector.

2022 was another year of angst and frustration for farming folk, with more protests organised by farming advocacy group Groundswell New Zealand, in response to the raft of regulations.Sally Rae

Solutions require collaboration — carrots, not canes — and regulations must be achievable, and involve proper consultation, proposals not solely dreamed up by city-based bureaucrats who have never set their squeaky-clean feet on a rural property and do not know a Hereford from a hogget.

Some recognition from the Beehive of the importance of the sector and acknowledgement of the hard mahi that goes on daily in the milking sheds, sheep yards, grain fields and processing plants around the country would not go astray.

Pride must be restored in being a farmer, otherwise there will be no incentive for the next generation — or even some of the current generation — to farm the land.

The urban sprawl — and a plethora of pine trees — will continue on some of the world’s best food-producing soils and New Zealand will be much the poorer for it, increasingly importing products from countries with far less stringent animal welfare controls. – Sally Rae

So bugger the bunny. Let’s make 2023 the Year of the Farmer; remember synthetic is just a fancy word for plastic, so clothe your families and clad your homes in natural, sustainable products, and support — and salute — your local food producers who are outstanding in their field year-round. Literally.Sally Rae


Quotes of the week

09/01/2023

Kiwis used to do this sort of thing well; we would go out of our way to help people who needed it. As a country we have always prided ourselves on being small but efficient.

Have we lost that? And what else have we lost? – Tracy Watkins

So here’s my wish for 2023, though it’s the same as last year. That we have a serious conversation about this country’s future, and a pathway through; that we debate a future for our young people without resorting to soundbites, cheap shots and populism.Tracy Watkins

I’m passionate about stories because stories reach out and help people to make decisions about their own lives.

It’s fiction and stories that are a unique human capacity. It’s only humans who can understand fiction. It’s only humans who can understand the metaphors of music or understand the way a movie can help you make a decision to change your own future. – Dame Miranda Harcourt

We all understand the power of great teaching and how that can lift somebody out of themselves to achieve their ambition and to be the best person they can be.

“That’s what I aim to do is use the tools of great teaching to help actors achieve an inspirational performance because then, of course, it reaches out and inspires people all over the world when they see it and creates change in itself.Dame Miranda Harcourt

Since 2013, some 2800 medicines have been listed in Australia. That’s almost one a day. For New Zealand, we have funded a trifling 350 medicines for the same period. And yet in Australia there is very little fanfare accompanying medicine funding announcements, unlike Pharmac boasting it is funding a drug it considers “new”.

Why? Because in Australia, their governments see the public funding of medicines as a right, whereas in New Zealand, governments see it as a luxury. – Dr Malcolm Mullholland

All of this uncertainty and lack of transparency leaves patients wondering what’s changed. Pharmac’s arrogant and out-of-touch culture is still there for everyone to see, resulting in the Minister being left red-faced and having to provide media advice to the Crown entity he is responsible for, on how to make public health announcements. As well the minister overturned, in the lead-up to Christmas, the agency openly considering depriving children of cancer medicines.

Pharmac’s perverse culture aside, patients want to know what each political party is prepared to do with Pharmac as the election draws closer. Will Pharmac come under Te Whatu Ora, rather than continue to be a law unto themselves?

Will they heed the advice of the review and amend Pharmac’s statutory objectives? Will they instruct Pharmac to follow Treasury’s wellbeing framework? Will funding decisions have a timeframe that Pharmac will be held accountable for?

The biggest question is how much money are they prepared to give Pharmac?Dr Malcolm Mullholland

It should also be clear that unless Pharmac is funded properly, its wish list of over 70 medicines will continue to grow with no plan as to how it might fund the other 280 medicines grinding their way through Pharmac’s notoriously slow process.

Even if Pharmac was able to reach the dizzying heights of putting a dent in trying to be average in the OECD by funding all 350 medicines that sit with the agency, we are still miles off funding every medicine in the world. That’s how far behind we are.

We should not have to wait another five years or so for a government to better fund Pharmac so that patients can access what are seen in other countries as a valued human right. That is, the right to life. – Dr Malcolm Mullholland

It is a rather curious feature of New Zealand universities today that they swarm with quite a lot of part-Maoris who share a set of common practices somewhat at variance with the free and open exchange of accurately established knowledge.Bruce Moon

Falsely posing as the victims of British colonisation and harking back to a non-existent Maori paradise of the past has brought rich, and far too often, illegitimate, material gains to some people of part-Maori descent and great damage to democracy in New Zealand.  – Bruce Moon

The genius of a horoscope is ambiguity.Damien Grant

Alas, forecasts by newspaper pundits are as worthless as horoscopes. What we scribes for shillings lack is the ability to see the unseen, so we tell you the obvious. – Damien Grant

For myself, I believe we are on a turkey farm. It is my view that the economic path we have been following since the GFC has been setting us up for a massive economic correction on a scale similar to 1929.

I think that when this happens democratic governments will react in the same heavy-handed way they did then, in the same oppressive way they did in response to the pandemic, and that this will exacerbate the economic calamity into years of disruption and misery.Damien Grant

How can you step back and look at the explosion of sovereign debt, unwinding of decades of monetary prudence combined with sustained disruption in the global supply chain and, oh, a massive war in the heart of Europe, and not conclude that there is risk of total economic collapse?

The west has been reduced to an economic model where business is sustained by consumer spending funded by debt and maintained by printed cash. It cannot continue and it will not continue. Something has to give. Of course, it is possible that we can navigate a path forward that does not involve wiping out the pension savings of two generations and eviscerating the economic fundamentals that sustain those on the margins of economic life; but isn’t at least possible that we can’t? – Damien Grant

I still consider being a school teacher is perhaps the most noble and ennobling career that anyone can have, especially the teachers of the smallest children …like kindergarten teachers, preschool educators and mothers. – Dr Sir Haare Williams

As we look into the New Year, there are a lot of crucial issues facing the country – how do we deal with the ongoing unaffordability of housing (notwithstanding the recent fall in house prices); how do we increase our rate of productivity growth so that we can afford the good things of life that wealthier countries take for granted; how do we improve the serious problems in our education and health sectors; how do we deal with the longer-term fiscal crisis caused by our ageing population.

But of all the problems we face, perhaps none is as important as this: do we want to continue to be one of the few democracies in the world where every citizen has equal political weight, or do we want to become a society where political influence is determined by who our ancestors were? – Don Brash

The increasing use of Maori words in official documents, on signs and in taxpayer-funded media is nuts if it is intended that most of the population understand what is intended. I have always supported taxpayers’ funds being used to support the teaching of the Maori language to those who wish to learn it. But it is crazy to imagine that the Maori language will ever be more than a curiosity, in much the same way that some Catholics still hanker after the continued use of Latin. New Zealand is hugely fortunate that English is our primary language, as it is the nearest thing there is to a truly international language. Using taxpayers’ funds to teach kids who can’t read and write English effectively how to speak a few words of Maori is crazy. – Don Brash

Before Europeans arrived in New Zealand, Maori society was very basic by any standard – no written language, no wheel, no metal tools, no concept of legal ownership, widespread cannibalism and female infanticide. The inter-tribal Musket Wars of the early part of the nineteenth century resulted in a massive loss of life – more deaths in the few decades before 1840 than in all the subsequent wars that New Zealanders have been involved in.

The Treaty of Waitangi was intended to put an end to that, and was eagerly sought by many of the tribal leaders as a way of ending those inter-tribal wars (and perhaps as a way of fending off a French conquest). It involved the chiefs accepting the sovereignty of the Queen, and being guaranteed in return the full possession of their property and “the rights and privileges” of British subjects. In other words, the Treaty unambiguously guaranteed all New Zealanders equal rights.

Indeed, if it had not guaranteed equal political rights, we would now have to discard it and start afresh because there can be no lasting peace in any society where some citizens have a preferred political status by virtue of birth. – Don Brash

Today, diversity in our formal cultural outlets, from gallery and libraries to publicly funded arts, is measured by identity much more than by social or economic class, lived experience or diversity of values.

Working people are seen in crises and crimes. Formal culture is about working class people more than it is of or for them. Those of us eating the wrong food, driving the wrong car, or having the wrong views apparently need to be corrected and educated.Josie Pagani 

Lest you think I am attacking straw people, there is a cultural purge in our elite institutions. – Josie Pagani 

What is really going on is a form of cultural cleansing: Local is more valuable to us because it ‘’tells our stories’’. But our cultural institutions are telling only some of our stories.

Local is not always more relevant. The music of the Beatles, Adele, Mozart and Ed Sheeran is more relevant to us than Kāpiti driftwood art. The Rolling Stones and Beethoven are global because of their excellence.

Editorial choices will always be needed. Cultural collections need to be curated. My argument is not against selection, but against chauvinism.

If we want to understand which of our creators are genuinely excellent, we need to expose ourselves to world-class alternatives so that we can understand what makes the best as good as they are.  – Josie Pagani 

We are a culturally divided country. Trust in the media is dropping, particularly among people with more conservative views. You might not worry if your views are left, but it does matter in our democracy if a chunk of citizens don’t feel represented. – Josie Pagani 

Today, 55% of New Zealanders regard the media as a “dividing force” in society, against 23% who saw it as ‘’unifying’’.

Intellectual conformity in our elite cultural institutions is leading to division in New Zealand. – Josie Pagani 

It would be too easy, however, to attribute Britain’s manifold problems to one man’s incompetence and lack of principle. This would be to evade thinking about the deep cultural roots of the country’s present malaise, some of them traceable, it is true, to past political choices: but when policies are entrenched, they become cultural.

The opposite of frivolity is not seriousness but earnestness, which is, if anything, even worse than frivolity, for it persuades the earnest that they are working with the best of intentions and dissuades them from consideration of the actual effects of what they do. Earnestness is a kind of moral chain mail that protects against the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism. It also encourages an unholy alliance between sanctimony and self-interest. It dissolves the distinction between activity and work.

In Britain, under the influence of earnestness, a collapse has occurred in the standard of public administration, such that it now inclines both to bullying and ineffectiveness, to making an immensity of shadow work and avoiding real work. Public administrators have found the secret of being frantically busy and doing nothing at the same time. Hypertrophy of rules and interference go hand in hand with anarchy and inefficiency. Those who work in the public administration or are paid from the public purse are assured of pensions of which those who do not work for it or are not paid from it can only dream: and they believe, of course, that they deserve this immense privilege, for, unlike others, they have worked all their lives for the public good rather than for private advantage. That the administrators are protected from the hazards of inflation by their index-linked pensions naturally gives the rest of the population the impression that the people are now there to serve the government, not the other way around.

Every day, one encounters evidence of the incompetence and unseriousness of the public administration, of activity without real purpose. – Theodore Dalrymple

At every turn in Britain, one discovers the same lack of straightforward intellectual and moral probity, a form of corruption worse than the financial kind, insofar as the latter is—in principle, at least—easy to correct. But to correct moral corruption, once it takes hold, is like trying to unscramble an egg.Theodore Dalrymple

The investigation and adjudication of complaint in a quasi-judicial manner is the perfect instrument for increasing the powers of administrators. That is one reason it wants its workforce, those in subordinate positions, to be as supersensitive to racism and bullying as possible, defining both racism and bullying by the perception of the supposed victims, often requiring no objective correlative of the accusation. This creates an atmosphere of constant suspicion, mistrust, fear, and pusillanimity throughout the institution and promotes the very phenomena it is supposed to reduce or eliminate, for nothing intimidates as much as the threat of being found guilty if accused. While such an atmosphere is hardly conducive to securing the aims of the institution—in the case of universities, high-level teaching and research—one should remember that these are not the aims of the administration. Wokeness is the perfect ideology for the hegemony of an administrative class that it would be an insult to much of humanity to call mediocre. – Theodore Dalrymple

The commissars of equity, diversity, and inclusion had so insinuated themselves into every committee and every hiring decision that they were like spies. For a man who had achieved his eminence by dint of ability and hard work, at a time when, however imperfect, these things still counted for more than the dark arts of bureaucratic ascension, and who still valued the primary academic goals of universities, life became intolerable. He left the university, which he had tried to serve faithfully. It was now a place in which saying what one did not believe was obligatory and saying what one did believe was forbidden, as has always been the case in any totalitarian country: and this in an institution supposedly dedicated to the search for and propagation of truth! Theodore Dalrymple

Before the professor left the university, the Department of Human Resources, already a horrible renaming of the Personnel Department (the humble issuer of employment contracts), had become the Department of People and Culture, a name that out-Orwells Orwell. One of its functions, presumably, was to prevent, sniff out, or punish thoughtcrime in the university and to eliminate culture as it was once conceived.

None of the above, alas, is in any way unexpected or unusual nowadays. On the contrary, it is the “new normal.” The atmosphere of suspicion, fear, querulousness, lying, hypocrisy, pusillanimity, denunciation, and paranoia, all in the name of some vaguely defined justice, that Conrad describes in Russia before its second revolution (which, of course, made all of it a thousand times worse), is now commonplace. In human affairs, there is no new thing under the sun, and examples of almost anything can be found in history: it is prevalence of things that changes. I do not recall ever having lived in so pervasive an atmosphere of untruth as that of the present. It is as if a demon of untruth had not merely insinuated itself into institutions but into men’s souls. The faculty of truth, like all other faculties, withers with disuse. A kind of cynical skepticism results, leaving power as the only reality—exactly as Nietzsche suggested. – Theodore Dalrymple

I suggest, though, that the incontinent expansion of tertiary education has much to answer for, producing graduates whose knowledge or skills are divorced from any real economic function. (I am not suggesting that the only purpose or function of education should be economic.) The economy must somehow absorb these graduates, despite their economic uselessness, or they would become dangerous, like the underemployed lawyers of the French Revolution. The easiest way to employ them is by expanding bureaucracy, and extending regulation serves this end. Wokeism encourages this expansion, for it can make indefinitely shifting and imperious demands in the name of righting wrongs, many yet to be discovered.Theodore Dalrymple

These processes are not unique to Britain. In hospitals, schools, and universities in the United States, the overgrowth of bureaucracy has been startling. But Britain is peculiarly susceptible to the retarding effects of this frivolous but earnest bureaucracy. It has little industry left; it imports half its food and much of its energy. It has a large public debt, much underestimated in size because it does not include public-pension liabilities. It has run a government deficit for decades; its commercial deficit with the rest of the world approaches 10 percent of GDP. Private debt is astronomical. Both government and individuals are addicted to living beyond their means, the country consuming far more than it produces, a profligacy achieving the status of a custom. It is hard to think of strengths that might offset these defects.

This, then, is a time for seriousness—but what we will likely get is earnestness as the handmaiden of overweening personal ambition, the looting of the public purse, and a spiral of impoverishment. – Theodore Dalrymple

The biggest problems in New Zealand’s schooling system are poor literacy and numeracy. This results from factors such as too little direct instruction as compared to child-led learning, inadequate use of phonics, and “fads” such as modern learning environments. We also lack a knowledge-rich national curriculum that gives all New Zealand students a good educational start in life, and with this a basis for democracy and civil society. The evidence is that socio-economic background is the main determinant of differences between Māori and non-Māori educational achievement.

Given all this, it is surprising how much emphasis the Ministry of Education (MoE) is giving to race as a key variable in education. MoE seems more focused on promoting Māori racial and cultural identity than, for example, professional identities. “Māori succeeding as Māori” is a recurring trope. A wisely sardonic Māori kuia once said to me that New Zealand has too few Māori in the professions and too many professional Māoris (sic). This was decades ago, and she spoke in a whisper. By now the prevailing zeitgeist will have silenced her completely. – Dr Peter Winsley

In MoE documents references are made to te Tiriti creating an equal partnership between chiefs and the Crown. However, it is impossible for Māori to be both subjects of and equal partners with the Crown. The “equal partnership” argument is a modern invention absent from the 1840 documents and devoid of credible scholarship.

MoE contends that te Tiriti includes “a promise that Māori would retain their sovereignty (tino rangatiratanga)”. Equating ‘sovereignty’ and ‘tino rangatiratanga’ is invalid. Article 1 of the Treaty/Te Tiriti transfers to the Crown “sovereignty” (in English) or in Māori “kawanatanga” (governorship). Māori acceptance of Crown sovereignty is clear from records of debate among Māori at the Treaty signings in 1840, from the later discussions at the 1860 Kohimarama conference, and from many other sources.

Tino rangatiratanga protects Māori property rights and reflects Magna Carta principles. It could also mean economic self-determination at the individual, whanau and hapu level. However, it cannot mean sovereignty and the right to make laws  as set out in Treaty/Tiriti Article 1. – Dr Peter Winsley

MoE assumes two major “ways of knowing” in New Zealand: science and mātauranga Māori. However New Zealand has long been a multicultural society. Every ethnic, racial or cultural group has a different body of traditional knowledge and belief. This is typically shaped by past learning, the wider physical, technological and social environment, and the influence of ideas, technologies and flows of knowledge from other people and from cross-disciplinary sources.

MoE documents show little real interest in the traditional knowledge and beliefs of New Zealand’s large Asian and other minority (non-Māori) cultures. However, people from these cultures tend to succeed through their own endeavours.Dr Peter Winsley

All advanced countries invest substantially in science that transcends cultures and is universal. Science follows agreed disciplinary rules internationally rather than local and culture-specific rules.

As Diamond (1997) noted, people in Eurasia and parts of the Americas had the domesticated crops and animals to support economic surpluses, and the trade and other connections to learn from others. However, isolated and migratory groups were limited by their resource base and poor access to new technology and ideas. Some such groups became so isolated that their technological capabilities stagnated and sometimes went backwards. Aboriginal Tasmanians gave up bone tools and fishing gear. Polynesian societies lost pottery-making skills, and Māori whose ancestors sailed to New Zealand on multi-hull sailing canoes (waka hourua) reverted to single hull canoes and forgot how to build and sail larger ocean-going vessels. – Dr Peter Winsley

Before European contact, Māori had no trade connections with the outside world that could open up access to new ideas and technologies. As a result, New Zealand Māori delivered no significant innovation in 800 or so years of pre-European settlement. This had nothing to do with lack of curiosity or intellect. Had the Māori population included Thomas Edison, James Watt, Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, Ross Ihaka and Steve Jobs they would still be “sucking the cold kumara” in abject poverty because the conditions for science-based innovation were absent.

Science aims to continuously advance knowledge and seek universal truth. In contrast, much traditional knowledge or belief such as mātauranga Māori is local. MoE states that “a mātauranga Māori programme will be locally based, drawing on the knowledge and understanding of the iwi and hapū of the locality where the schooling is located. For an interface between mātauranga Māori and science to be successful, a science programme should also be locally derived.”

MoE’s support for a local focus for mātauranga Māori is intellectually limiting, hampers scalability, and reduces the generalisability of the learning undertaken. It also undermines the vision of a national curriculum that delivers powerful knowledge to all New Zealand students on an equitable basis. – Dr Peter Winsley

Mātauranga Māori is proposed to be woven into our national science curriculum. This may create risks when science and myths are confused. For example, no “mauri” or indeed any other “life force” exists within inanimate objects. Therefore, including such concepts in any science curriculum harms students’ education.

New Zealand graduates need to compete in domestic and international marketplaces. Our qualifications need to be respected internationally and remain portable to other countries. We may value mātauranga Māori, however we cannot expect it to be valued outside New Zealand.

Science involves understanding of how and why things work as they do. It is not limited to learning what is, but also why things have come to be. Knowing how to prepare karaka berries is knowledge; trying to find out why and how they are poisonous, and how preparation removes the poison, is science that can then be a platform for other applications It is these platforms that achieve scalability and leverage off rapidly diminishing marginal costs.

Traditional knowledge is rarely accompanied with a deeper understanding of causation. However, such knowledge can trigger rigorous scientific analysis that can lead to significant advances. – Dr Peter Winsley

Science needs connections to others’ research, and reliable ways of storing and disseminating information. Oral cultures require ways of organising knowledge so it can be transmitted through the generations.  – Dr Peter Winsley

In Māori culture whakapapa became a means of structuring knowledge and facilitating its recall. Māori also encoded useful knowledge in memorable tales. An example is the story of Mahuika’s fury with Māui for wasting her nails and flame, with her last embers deposited in the kaikomako tree. This tale reminds future generations that kaikomako wood can be used to make fire.

Fundamental to New Zealand’s future is its capacity to engage with and learn from the wider world. We must be an open society and be part of the global “Republic of Science”. Our science must be delivered in the language and style appropriate to people overseas. If we talk only to ourselves no one else will listen and over time we will have nothing left to say.

Some argue that mātauranga Māori knowledge can only be known by those inside Te Ao Māori and skilled in kaupapa Māori. It is fundamental in science that no knowledge is protected from challenge, including from outsiders. Knowledge that requires protection is belief, not science. – Dr Peter Winsley

A risk we are creating is that some of New Zealand’s finest minds may be diverted into ideological “research” and political advocacy and fail to develop fully their skills in critical reasoning and rigorous scientific method. Society may reinforce this while it is the prevailing zeitgeist, and then it will walk away, leaving misled graduates in the wrong fields with devalued degrees and angry with a system that duped them.

Mātauranga Māori reflects what Māori have learned or come to believe through centuries of observation. Beliefs that are erroneous need to disappear and not be protected. While mātauranga Māori resulting from observation of environmental processes can be ongoing, modern scientific method has taken over from most traditional “ways of knowing and believing” internationally. Rather than funding mātauranga Māori we will get more value from applying modern science to the priorities Māori and other New Zealanders have and engaging more Māori in outwards-looking science that matters for the world.Dr Peter Winsley

It is great that science and ways of learning are stirring increasing interest in the Māori community. We should manage science education so we deliver more people of the calibre of Shane Reti, Ross Ihaka and Garth Cooper. We must avoid creating a generation of embittered identarians who blame all that is wrong with their lives on “western science” and colonialisation. – Dr Peter Winsley

We are now at a point where we are not a rich country, we’re a country that needs to get rich if we’re going to have as many nurses per capita as Australia, for example. I do think that we’re in a fight to maintain being unequivocally a first-world countryDavid Seymour

As we watch the Chinese Government transition from its old, hardline, Covid-19 elimination strategy, characterised by long and uncompromising lockdowns, to a new, laissez-faire, wide open borders (and bugger the health system) strategy, uncannily like our own, we have confirmation that not even the totalitarian regime of Xi Jinping’s Communist Party can operate indefinitely without a social licence.

Not that our own government is returning the compliment by acknowledging the lack of genuine social licences for its own flagship policies – and changing them. There is more than a whiff of totalitarian indifference to public opinion in the Labour Caucus’s blunt refusal to change course on Nanaia Mahuta’s Three Waters project. – Chris Trotter

Undeterred, Labour doubled-down. Constitutional conventions became confetti. The co-governance provisions of Three Waters became stronger and their likely impact on Māori-Pakeha relations even more divisive.

And this situation looks set to be made ten-times worse the moment the public cottons-on to the fact that the cost of borrowing the billions required to “fix” their drinking-, storm- and waste-water systems is to be extracted from the pockets of the poor schmucks who “own” – but do not control – the four vast “entities” at the heart of the Three Waters project. A bitter realisation, that will hit home about the time they open their new-fangled water bills. – Chris Trotter

Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine has dealt what looks like being the final death-blow to the “international rules-based order” overseen by the United Nations. What we deplored, then ignored, in Syria, has come home to the cursèd bloodlands of Eastern Europe.

The global economic system, already rendered dangerously fragile by the financial measures required to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, has received a vicious kick in the gonads from Russia’s combat boots. Rising inflation has ignited multiple cost-of-living crises – even in the world’s wealthiest countries – precipitating social and political conflicts not seen for nearly half-a-century.

But Vladimir Putin’s aggression has done something else. It has stimulated martial feelings long thought dead and buried in the materially abundant (but spiritually impoverished) societies of the West. – Chris Trotter

When the heroism and sacrifice of war seem preferable, and more honourable, than an enervated peace, it is, truly, a terrible year.Chris Trotter

2022 may have exposed the terrifying scale of Big Tech censorship, but events this year also reminded us of the incredible power of free speech – to unsettle, and perhaps even to topple, our authoritarian elites. So, here’s to 2023 – and to being the dread of tyrants. – Tom Slater

We were told: you have no other option but to surrender. We say: we have no other option than to win. – President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

The march of moral relativism has not made a freer, more content society but an agitated, uncertain one. Post-truth, post-reality, even post-biology, the individual is not liberated, but lost, left utterly alone to ‘arrange things reasonably for himself’. – Brendan O’Neill

Nothing is good or bad in itself, everything depends on the consequences that an action allows one to foresee.’

We see this cult of calculation everywhere today. Industry and growth are judged not according to whether they will be good for us, but through the pseudo-science of calculating their impact on the planet. Human activity is likewise measured, and reprimanded, by calculating the carbon footprint it allegedly leaves. Parenting has been reduced from a moral endeavour to a scientific one – you must now follow the calculations of parenting experts and gurus if you don’t want your kids to be messed up. Benedict was right about our world of calculation – it chases out questions of morality, truth and freedom in preference for only doing what the calculating classes deem to be low-risk in terms of consequences. When everything is devised for us by a calculating elite, freedom suffers, said Benedict – for ‘our freedom and our dignity cannot come… from technical systems of control, but can, specifically, spring only from man’s moral strength’.Brendan O’Neill

No, I do not share Benedict’s belief in God. I am an atheist. But Benedict’s agitation against the idea that humanity is a consequence of evolution alone was a profoundly important one. A key part of today’s functional rationalism is evolutionary psychology, a science particularly beloved of Dawkinites and the so-called Intellectual Dark Web. It holds that virtually everything human beings think and do can be explained by evolutionary processes, as if we are indistinguishable from those monkeys that first came down from the trees; as if we are propelled into tribal affiliations and warfare and sex by traits stamped into us by the ceaseless march of nature. This, too, chases out the small matter of morality, the small matter that we have risen above our nature and now really are ‘more than all other living beings’, in Benedict’s words. We are capable of choice, we are capable of good. Good – a terribly old-fashioned concept, I know. – Brendan O’Neill

What makes man wonderful?’, argued humanists and theologians in the past. ‘Why is man so shit?’, ask the rationalists of the 21st century. Against their technocracy, misanthropy and evolutionary fatalism, Benedict made a searing cry: human beings are special, human beings are good. This atheistic humanist, for one, found more to cheer in the reason espoused by that Pope of Rome than I did in the petty anti-religiosity of educated secularists. It is no surprise to me at all that some of the heavyweight ‘rationalists’ of the God Wars – Philip Pullman, Stephen Fry – have now fallen for the cult of genderfluidity, a religion infinitely more unhinged than any of the great world religions. This treachery of the rationalists confirms that their guide was not humanistic reason, but mere hostility to religion, especially the Catholic one. If you want to understand reason and truth and why they are so central to human exceptionalism, read not Fry, but Benedict. RIP, Your Holiness.Brendan O’Neill

How easily we assume that the underdog has virtues, more or less ex officio, as underdog, despite the many times that we learn or discover to our dismay that the underdog, once he becomes top dog, has (at least incipiently) precisely the same vices as the people who previously and until recently persecuted him! The small nation that is liberated from the tyranny of a larger nation immediately begins to oppress a smaller nation. How often has the first fruit of freedom for some been tyranny for others! The drive to tyrannize is a strong one that requires conscious efforts to subdue. I feel it in some small way myself, and consciously suppress, not always successfully, it when I do.

That is why we often find egalitarians to be among the most determined of dominators, who espouse in theory and at a distance what they are unwilling or unable to practise near to themselves. – Theodore Dalrymple 

As we enter 2023, we desperately need to cut the technocrats down to size. The great lie of technocracy is that the experts are best placed to make decisions in the national interest. That they somehow stand above the wayward passions of the electorate or the ideology of elected representatives. In reality, technocrats tend to simply pass off their own prejudices as superior insight. – Fraser Myers

The challenges of our times call for fresh and bold thinking, not plodding managerialism or discredited groupthink. What we need is for the public to be brought back into politics, not relegated to the sidelines or treated with suspicion. This year, we must take on the technocrats. – Fraser Myers

A tactical withdrawal is said to be the most difficult of all military operations. A commander has to take his troops backwards while maintaining contact with the enemy and not being pushed into headlong retreat. The challenge is to not lose discipline during the operation.

It can become necessary when the enemy is simply too strong and an army needs to leave the battlefield to avoid a crushing defeat, or it can be simply to pull back to reach an area that is easier to defend.

Trailing National in the polls, Ardern has decided to retreat and present a smaller target to opponents by postponing the implementation of contentious policies or reducing their scope. –  Graham Adams

Despite the Prime Minister predictably painting a retreat as a result of her government having ambitiously taken on too many issues to deal with adequately, it is obvious she is making a virtue of necessity.

Alongside the government’s well-deserved reputation for being incompetent in delivering even the basics of what the public wants — including roads free of potholes — it seems to have a perverse desire to give them what they don’t want, not least an expensive unemployment insurance scheme and a merger of RNZ and TVNZ.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, but not everyone is convinced Ardern’s prescriptions will help. – Graham Adams

Having been humiliated by her own Minister of Local Government as well as being snookered by the leader of a minor party in short order, Ardern is looking like she belongs to an unfortunate group of commanders — a general whose luck has run out.Graham Adams

My mother, Valerie Davies, used to remind me when my babies were crying or not sleeping that it was their only way to tell me what they needed. And babies need company and cuddles. Wriggling away from a nappy change or spitting out food wasn’t to annoy but to communicate their likes and dislikes before they could talk.

She had a simple rule: unco-operative or misbehaving children were usually either tired, thirsty, hungry or needed a cuddle and it’s amazing to this day how often it’s true! – Victoria Carter

Imagine not being able to say how you are feeling because no one in your family has helped you understand your feelings of sadness, anger, hurt or puzzlement. What would it be like to never hear regular encouragement or praise, just know a clip on the ear?Victoria Carter

The police spend more time on family harm incidents than anything else. Every three minutes, on average, the police are called to one. And don’t forget it’s widely believed most of it is not reported.

The more reading I did the more I thought how bloody obvious it is: that if a small child is exposed to violence – either being hit themselves or seeing family members being hurt – moves house regularly, doesn’t get enough food, has no routine, their development is impacted. What was really disturbing was the new research on brain development or lack thereof from the home environment. – Victoria Carter

We need to restore the mana of parenting. We need a social movement for this purpose, it’s not a moral judgment but based purely on what we know from research and science. Emotionally responsive nurturing, especially from birth to around 3 is vital for the healthy development of the brain. – Lesley Max

Nearly 30 years ago the British Medical Journal identified parenting as the most important public health issue facing society … not much has changed in the intervening years. – Lesley Max

If we know this, when are government agencies going to develop strategies to better support good parenting? When are we as a community going to say stop the hitting, any kind of violence? When are we going to agree the most important job is bringing up healthy children and put in steps to make sure that the right support structures are there?

If it takes a village how are we going to get that social movement on the mana of parenting? It’s probably the most important job any of us will have.

I want to see political party manifestos that tackle this issue and offer genuine solutions for children and young people to thrive. Instead of the criminal focus this might do more to nurture good citizens. Which political party is going to focus on the beginning – the parenting – rather than focusing on the crime? Victoria Carter

Perhaps this will come as a shock to purists, but parents — good ones, at least — do not always tell their children the truth. Preparing a person to live in the world as it is, as opposed to the one they might like it to be, does not always involve confronting them with harsh realities. You ease them in, making difficult judgements about what to reveal, what to withhold. This isn’t dishonesty or pandering; I consider it pragmatism. – Victoria Smith

Having grown up in a household where “just being honest” could be wielded as a weapon to make others feel ugly and stupid, I try to take care over what truly needs to be said. Thereare some truths which I consider important but which I know will not stick, at least not yet. I hold them in reserve.Victoria Smith

My aim as a parent is not to create individuals who echo my own beliefs. I want them to be people whohave the confidence to be questioning in their own right. Plus, I have enough confidence in my own politics to think they can withstand said questioning without recourse to forced compliance.  – Victoria Smith

When one person’s perception of reality (usually, but not always, the eldest male’s) is prioritised over everyone else’s, the family is patriarchal. I do not want my sons to grow up in a household in which everyone else either has to gaslight themselves into going along with one person’s truth, or must pretend to do so out of fear. 

Young adults who boast of “schooling” their “bigoted” mothers are model patriarchs. They might have won the power play, but they have lost the moral argument. Maybe one day they will find a politics that can bear the weight of scrutiny, ceasing to treat others as mirrors reflecting their politics back at them at several times its actual validity. That is what I had to find for myself, and what I want my own children to discover, in their own time.  – Victoria Smith

Were anyone to suggest incorporating the Genesis account of creation into the school science curriculum, it’s certain that such a suggestion wouldn’t even be listened to, let alone taken seriously. Yet the Ministry of Education considers that Maori creation myths should be woven into the NCEA science curriculum.

How can this be possible in a scientifically and technologically advanced First World country such as New Zealand? – Martin Hanson

To most lay people, science is a body of knowledge about how the world works. But to the scientifically educated, it’s the organised process by which such knowledge is obtained. It usually begins with an observation, leading to questions and a tentative explanation. If this can be tested by experiment, it becomes a hypothesis; if not, it remains speculation. If experimental results do not support the hypothesis, it’s back to square one and a new hypothesis must be tested by more experiments. Only if repeated experiments by other, independent researchers, have results that support the hypothesis, can such knowledge be said to be ‘scientific’.Martin Hanson

Ironically, it didn’t seem to have occurred to Hendy, Wiles and their supporters, that in their extreme reaction to the Listener letter they were doing a far more effective demolition job on the scientific merits of matauranga Maori than the restrained and polite efforts of the seven professors. They seem to have conveniently forgotten that what most clearly separates science from myth and superstition is the challenging of established ideas in rigorous, public debate. In seeking to prevent criticism and debate they were unwittingly admitting it was not science, but doctrine, thus by implication proving the professor’s case for them. – Martin Hanson

It’s all too easy to despair of the extent to which New Zealand science has become suffocated by matauranga Maori. Certainly, it’s difficult to see how it can be brought back from its present state.

As I see it, the only way of forcing kiwis to realise how ludicrous is the incorporation of Maori mythology into the teaching of science would be to engineer a new Scopes-type trial, for which we’d need a volunteer to put his or her head on the block. All it would require of the ‘kiwi Scopes’ would be a few carefully chosen words to a science class, such as:

“To say that rain is the result of tears shed by the goddess Papatuanuku is fine in social studies, but to say that it’s science is rubbish or, to use Richard Dawkins’ more colourful phrase, ‘bollocks’”.

That should light the blue touch-paper all right. The government would have to choose between two equally painful courses:

  • take the red pill and accept scientific reality or
  • take the blue one, kowtowing to the Woke Inquisition, thereby inviting international contempt.

Even without a latter-day Scopes trial, the government would have deservedly painted itself into a corner. Either way, those of us who have long despaired for New Zealand science education can look forward with keen anticipation to the outcome. – Martin Hanson

The country has not got enough eggs. Our dairy could not get enough bread. Since ancient Rome, food shortages are a way to lose popularity.

This time next year, Christopher Luxon will be prime minister. – Richard Prebble

To win, Labour would have to suspend Parliament, illegally put Opposition MPs into home detention, close magazines, commandeer the airwaves for government announcements, have the Reserve Bank flood the economy with printed money and have a massive taxpayer-funded advertising campaign. Would the Government do that again?Richard Prebble

Hamilton West indicates none of the antivax parties will make 5 per cent.

Winston Peters will not be the kingmaker. For his own selfish reasons, he gave us this Labour Government. – Richard Prebble

2023 will be challenging. Next winter, the health system will be overwhelmed. School pupils will continue to vote with their feet. With 45,000 active P users, no neighbourhood will be crime-free.

Co-governance is unworkable. Centralisation cannot deliver the promised results. The polytechnic reorganisation, the broadcasting amalgamation, and trying to run health from Wellington will be a series of trainwrecks.

Election year is no time to implement a massive compulsory unemployment insurance scheme – the job tax. Labour may postpone or just pass the legislation and make it an election issue.Richard Prebble

2023 will reveal there has been fundamental change. New Zealand has always been a destination of choice for immigrants. Not anymore.

InterNations surveyed immigrants’ experiences. Out of 52 nations, New Zealand was ranked the second-worst country. Only Kuwait is worse. Immigrants are shocked by our cost of living and low pay. Immigrants tell me our schools, health system and crime were unpleasant surprises.

The Government treated new residents appallingly. During Covid, parents were split from their children for years.

The biggest advertisement for immigration is the immigrants’ experience. Today, they are saying “do not come”. Many are planning to leave. – Richard Prebble

Labour is dropping the immigration criteria, but is failing to attract immigrants we need.

Not only are we failing to attract the skills we need, but skilled Kiwis are leaving. Those who are staying are the ones our schools failed to teach. New Zealand is de-skilling. – Richard Prebble

Sex-based data tells us, for example, that girls do better than boys in higher exams; that women earn less than men; that men are more likely to die by suicide than women. This information allows government to develop targeted policies — but once men can easily and legally become women, and vice versa, it ceases to have any value. A sudden spike in suicide rates among women, or in boys achieving A grades, might be the result of individuals changing their legal sex. How would we know?

It is remarkable that a government would knowingly choose to undermine its own ability to make good policy — and even more remarkable that MSPs would vote for it. – Kim Thomas

So here are two big reasons that free speech is always valuable, and a third that’s particularly relevant for 2023.

The first is that we are meaning-seeking beings. Free speech allows us to discover sources of truth and meaning so that we can organise our lives around them. If we don’t do this deliberately, through the free exchange of ideas and beliefs, it will happen to us by default, as when we simply absorb current ideological fashions or whatever institutions like the state and the market tell us to think.

Passively absorbing ideas also stunts our development. A fully human life involves agency, the ability to make decisions that matter, which is supported by the ability to share and receive ideas and information.

Yes, this includes making mistakes and getting things wrong – and learning and growing in the process.

The second reason to value free speech is that it helps us to realise when we’re wrong and to make better decisions. No-one’s right about everything, so we need others to tell us where we’ve gone astray even when that might offend us or challenge our deepest beliefs.

That’s why true viewpoint diversity leads to better outcomes. Unfortunately, New Zealand research reveals that too many academics are afraid to engage with sensitive topics like te Tiriti or gender, or even to raise differing perspectives. Not surprisingly, many Kiwi students are afraid to discuss similar issues in their lecture theatres.

Now consider that the media, which creates and maintains an essential part of the public square, are mostly drawn from the ranks of university graduates and increasingly see their role as “educating” rather than reporting. This creates a feedback loop or, less politely, an echo chamber which pushes questions underground and questioners to the margins of society, fuelling polarisation and social distrust.

The third reason to value free speech is that it helps hold us together as a society. This year we’ll have another general election. Some of us will get the outcome we want and some of us won’t. If we expect the losers to accept their loss gracefully or, at least, peacefully, we need to give everyone a fair shot at participating fully and making their case.

If some groups feel they have legitimate views that can’t be shared or that are met with hostility, they either won’t participate or won’t accept the outcome of the election. That’s how nations start to unravel.

Freedom has been described as “a very good horse to ride, but to ride somewhere.” In other words, freedom is not absolute; what it’s used for matters and there are limits to what we should tolerate. Alex Penk

It’s important to debate the details of the Government’s bill and the Law Commission’s review. But we need to start by acknowledging not just that hate speech is bad, but that free speech is good. – Alex Penk

In 2023, political parties on the campaign trail will need to bear in mind that voters are newly sceptical of being promised something for nothing. And that if they were planning on fundraising by releasing NFTs, they should go back to the drawing board. Ben Thomas

The benefit system was originally about providing secure income for those genuinely unable to work. That inability to work did not include causing one’s own incapacity or having dependent children.

It has since evolved to become a government tool for equalizing incomes between the employed and unemployed and advancing other ideological goals like the financial emancipation of the female parent from the male parent.

To some degree benefits have become an alternative source of income for those uninterested in the obligations and constrictions involved with being employed. Those who disagree with that statement argue nobody would willingly choose to live on a meagre benefit income.

That may hold water for single people. But the latest incomes monitoring report from MSD shows a couple on a benefit with two or more children receives over $800 weekly after housing costs. Lindsay Mitchell

Until 2016 wage growth outstripped inflation hence the growing gap. Since 2019 benefits have been indexed to wages. Previously they were only indexed to inflation. Accordingly, the report notes the 2022 “main benefit increases reduced the gap”. That is, income from work became less attractive. Lindsay Mitchell

So, the income support/benefit system is contributing negatively to the economy in that regard.

But worse, it is being used by the Prime Minister to achieve her primary goal of reducing child poverty.

According to the report, using Labour’s chosen measures which show percentage drops since 2017, she has been successful in this endeavour.

What is omitted from this report is the increasing number of children reliant on benefits.

Is this increase a reasonable trade-off for reducing child poverty? If the higher incidence of neglect and abuse for children growing up on a benefit is acceptable, then the answer is yes.

I disagree. The increase may even be described as the exploitation of children to make the Prime Minister look good. There is no reason why the welcome downward trend for state-dependent sole parents would have reversed bar financial encouragement. – Lindsay Mitchell

Asian households feature the lowest percentage of children experiencing material hardship – around 4% compared to the Pacific rate of around 24%

And yet when it comes to income support:

Eligible families with Asian parents had low estimated take-up in recent years. The late 2010s was a period of rapid growth in the Asian population of Aotearoa New Zealand. Low awareness, uncertainty about entitlements, administrative, personal and cultural barriers to claiming, or reluctance to claim payments among recent migrants may be factors explaining the trends. 

So the benefit system cannot be credited with low Asian hardship. Something else is protecting their children. Probably the self-reliance and work ethic of their parents.

The government can fiddle all it wants robbing Peter to pay Paul under the guise of ‘fairness and equity’. But the downsides to this interference are corrupting incentives which will continue to blight New Zealand’s future.Lindsay Mitchell

Potatoes aren’t particularly good swimmers and don’t like being submerged in water for long periods. – Chris Claridge

Won’t someone think of the feelings of paedophiles? It seems some public bodies have, and they are willing to change the language of their output to accommodate the sensitivities of this most dangerous group. Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Police Scotland were blasted for referring to those who abuse children as ‘minor-attracted people’, or ‘MAP’, in a report for a European Commission project. It seems that, just as fat people are now euphemistically referred to as ‘plus size’, and men in dresses have been rebranded as ‘transwomen’, child abusers are considered, by some, to be just another minority whose preferences deserve respect.Jo Bartosch

Notably, MAP is the word preferred by groups who campaign to remove the ‘stigma’ associated with adults who want to sexually abuse children. It is a term often used by dangerous people who believe they have been victimised by a hostile society. It must be resisted. – Jo Bartosch

More recently, the odious euphemism has been given a veneer of scholarly legitimacy by academics. It seems fair to assume that organisations aiming to remove the stigma of paedophilia are influencing policy. Who exactly advised the European Commission to adopt this kind of language remains a mystery, but there are several organisations that push it.Jo Bartosch

Perhaps universities are a soft target because people who work in the realm of ideas are more likely to be detached from their real-life consequences. In a lecture hall, to talk of paedophiles as a stigmatised, marginalised minority might simply sound edgy rather than dangerous. It might even attract grant funding. But for victims of child abuse, these matters are not simply theoretical.

The academic war on ‘stigma’ of all kinds makes it easier to sneer at anyone who tries to warn about the influence of paedophiles on public bodies. They can be dismissed as hysterical and backward. Ironically, to be seen as judgemental or morally absolutist carries the heaviest stigma today. – Jo Bartosch

This time there is a greater risk that paedophilia could be successfully rebranded. A cadre of queer-theory-addled academics seem to believe that all social barriers exist to be destroyed. Today’s abundance of pornography is also encouraging some people to seek out ever-more extreme sexual fantasies. Meanwhile, many dangerous communities have emerged online, where disordered and depraved individuals anonymously seek each other out and build cultures based on abuse.

It is hard to avoid the feeling that society is now primed for this last taboo to fall. And if it does, there will be those who cheer, and think the social acceptance of paedophiles is progress. Plain-speaking and honesty might be our last defence against this. We must reject the sanitising term ‘minor-attracted people’. This attempt to sugarcoat the reality of child abuse is profoundly dangerous.Jo Bartosch

The one prediction I am truly confident in is that we will never know what the future holds.

Like those economists who’ve predicted six of the last two recessions, forecasting is a mug’s game. You might as well drive a car blindfolded and get instructions from a person looking out the rear window.

Best to focus on what we are uncertain about, and what we can fix today. – Josie Pagani

Mass hysteria is the spontaneous manifestation of a particular behaviour by many people. There are numerous historical examples: Middle Age nuns at a convent in France spontaneously began to meow like cats; at another convent, nuns began biting one another. In 13th-century Germany, spontaneous dancing broke out and entire city populations danced until exhausted. But perhaps the best-known mass hysteria was the Salem Witch Trials, where people, seized by visions, accused others of bewitching them. Many were executed.

But hysteria episodes are not only historical. They have occurred in modern times as well. Remember the daycare panic of the 1980s, when daycare workers were accused of horrible crimes against children, including satanic abuse. Many falsely accused spent years in jail. Lives were ruined. The strangest thing about that mass hysteria is that it spanned continents. – Brian Giesbrecht

Could it be that some of us are even now victims of self-induced mass hysterias?

For example, what are we to make of the insistence that a man who chooses to live as a woman actually becomes a woman? To most of the world this claim is nonsensical. It is neither scientific nor factual. A woman has XX chromosomes, while a man has XY. Case closed. But to others, a man actually becomes a woman simply by stating that s/he is one. In the future, will this strange thinking be considered a mass hysteria? – Brian Giesbrecht

And are the most extreme of today’s anti-fossil fuel exponents caught up in some version of a mass hysteria? I’m not referring to people with legitimate concerns about global warming and the need to find cost-effective, non-polluting energy. I mean those who insist that everyone must give up all fossil fuels by a date they invent. Will history judge this to be a hysteria? – Brian Giesbrecht

 If you never crowed in public that you have more hair than your baldy bro. If you wished your widowed dad joy with his new partner rather than begged him not to remarry. If you have more tact than to tell your sleepless sister-in-law she has “baby brain”. If you keep your drug and virginity yarns for private late-night laughs. If you didn’t miss your grandmother’s last moments because you were arguing about travel plans. If you can resolve a brotherly beef without an unseemly bundle or, having had one, not speed-dial your shrink.

If you disdain the wittering of psychics, can tell greedy sycophants from loyal counsel and, above all, cherish loving friends who sometimes tell you to shut up for your own good, then you are better than those who live in royal palaces. Take a bow. – Janice Turner

The final version of the New Zealand History Curriculum contained no significant changes in spite of widespread concerns. The consultation process was an exercise in window dressing. The review panel was stacked, dissenting historians were silenced, the terms of reference limited, the period of consultation constricted, and the outcome predetermined.

What has been produced is not a “history curriculum” as such. What has been produced is a perspective on history that is fundamentally based on Critical Race Theory. – Caleb Anderson

We should not be concerned that there are controversial ways of looking at history, debate is the lifeblood of the historical method. But alternative perspectives can be deliberately suppressed for personal or political gain, and in order to advance one perspective alone, creating the impression that alternative perspectives are not credible. As a consequence, critical knowledge is cast to the wind, perspectives become untethered from the events which gave rise to them, and the deliberate selection of some facts, and denial of others, can create questionable conclusions, unbalanced views, and unjustified causes.

Being open to alternative perspectives forces the consideration of inconvenient facts. This is how ideas are sifted, shaped, refined, tested, some last and some don’t. Legitimate historical inquiry is a natural bulwark against extreme ideas and intentional manipulation. Of course, history practiced legitimately is something of a rough and tumble exercise, you can be confronted with perspectives you find offensive, and you may have to concede or modify a position in light of new facts. But there are nearly always reasons why some facts are left out, or understated, and why some are included, and sometimes overstated. When critiquing a historical perspective, it is often a very good starting point to ask yourself precisely which critical information is left out, there is always a reason for this. – 

With respect to colonisation, we are never told that intertribal slavery existed in almost every colonised land prior to colonization, or that the earliest slave traders were not the nations of Europe, or that tribal groups often lived in perpetual fear of their more powerful and ambitious neighbours, or that colonisation was sometimes a lifeline to smaller tribes fearful of annihilation at the hands of larger tribes.

We are not told that traditional societies were generally highly stratified, with almost no upward mobility, that tribal life was often brutal and short, that cannibalism was sometimes practised, that pantheistic and spiritualistic religions made people fearful, that primitive and labour-intensive technology exposed people to a life of toil, and regularly to the vagaries of famine.

We are not told that sometimes the colonising powers were very reluctant colonisers, that a piece of land purchased by a settler may have been paid for at least a dozen times to multiple owners, that missionaries and foreign service officials were often the most ardent advocates for the protection of indigenous people, that the punishment of indigenous children for speaking their native language at school was often at the behest of their parents.

We are seldom told that the anglo nations were the first in the world to legislate against slavery, that colonisation brought advantages … more comfortable homes became possible with the arrival of nails, written language with the arrival of the alphabet, warm clothing and blankets with the arrival of textiles, better diets with the introduction of new crops, more accountability (and justice) with the arrival of a legal system, a more coherent set of propositional ethics with the arrival of Christianity. It is easy to trivialize these things from our twenty-first-century perspective, but these changes yielded no small gain, and help to explain the eagerness of many colonised people to engage with the colonisers.Caleb Anderson

Colonisation was often, and ultimately, a brutalising process, and the impacts of colonisation endure. But the history of the world is one of constant colonisation, of the over-layering of people groups, of subjugation and integration, and worse, over and over again. There are almost no exceptions to this. People moved when they needed to, and displaced others when they could. Stronger tribes prevailed, and weaker tribes were assimilated, enslaved, or exterminated. Similarly, the nations of Europe emerged from tribal beginnings and, as a result of often protracted territorial conflicts between these tribes, national borders emerged.

Colonisation is a manifestation of the outworking of universal principles, and reflects powerful human instincts to survive at a minimum, and to thrive at best. Judgment of historical realities needs to be tempered with a realistic, and balanced, vision of human nature, not a myopic and idealised one, and not one which attributes vice almost exclusively to some, and virtue almost exclusively to others.  The proposed new curriculum is not a balanced presentation of the facts, but a cut-and-paste justification for an unbalanced and agenda-ridden view of history. Its core assumptions are selective and highly challengeable.

If anything, history teaches us that we are not so different from those who have come before us, or from those who inhabit a different part of our planet. We have similar motivations, good and bad. Individually, and collectively, we repeat the sins of earlier generations, nuanced and rationalized to our time and context, and commensurate with our ability to do so. We can be cruel when the opportunity for gain presents, when our interests are threatened, or when we are fearful. We sin against others, not always in equal measure, but we sin against them nevertheless. The same precipitating motivational drivers exist for us all, adjusted only to scale and circumstance. This should create within us a reluctance to point our fingers. It is sometimes right to seek redress, but we should be honest about the actions of our forebears too, we should not rest our arguments on convenient facts alone, and sweep inconvenient facts under the carpet.

Radical re-sets, always accompanied by a historical cut and paste exercise, usually do not go well, and can be ultimately catastrophic. –  Caleb Anderson

Perhaps worst of all, in the grip of something akin to a mass psychosis, people began to turn on each other. Knowing what happens when ideas are pushed to (or beyond) their limits (which invariably happens when competing perspectives are disregarded) gives us a taste of how badly things can actually turn out. We could never end in such a place, how sure are you of that?

Repeated comments by the Maori Party, and others on the left of politics, that Maori were subjected to genocide, and a holocaust, are an object lesson in where you can end up when you play loose with the facts of history, and when you can come to believe your own lies. What do they know, if anything, of the experience of the Jewish people throughout the ages? To equate the planned, systematic extermination of six million Jews with the colonisation of New Zealand is unforgivably ignorant. Loose-lipped commentators in the United States have been stood down, and forced to apologise, for anti-semitic comments of lesser magnitude than this, and yet the New Zealand media have barely commented, or challenged, such baseless assertions, it largely passed without notice, more than once

In short, history is impossibly complex, as are the people it seeks to represent.  As there is no truth, but many truths, there is no history but many histories.  Thus what makes history exciting, is also what makes it prone to abuse.  The new curriculum is not a history curriculum in any valid sense. It is a selective view of the past, based on questionable assumptions. The new curriculum seeks to enshrine Critical Race Theory as the primary lens through which we make sense of past and present realities. It silences dissenting views, narrows perspectives, pits people groups against each other, attributes vice to some and villainy to others, and contaminates our national consciousness.

Perhaps worst of all it contravenes the duty of all educators to ensure that their students have a right to their own worldview, to question without fear, to seek the fuller picture, to ascertain motive, and to weigh in light of broader considerations. In short, our students have a right to be free from indoctrination by those who have no tolerance for those who see things differently or who are easily offended.

Critical Race Theory is cleverly hidden throughout this insidious document but it is there nevertheless, the subtle twists of phrase, and the occasional concessions to good sense, make it all the more dangerous. All indications are that this government will muster every mechanism at its disposal to see that this document is implemented to the letter. Instructions to schools have been clear, and problematic books have already been removed from libraries.

Three Waters will not be this government’s legacy, The Aotearoa NZ History document will be its true legacy. As they are consigned to the opposition benches, as they soon will, the left will console themselves that the seeds have been planted … in our institutions, in our schools, and in the minds of the most impressionable, and it is only a matter of time before they will get to water these seeds again. With the left, it is always the long game that counts.Caleb Anderson

History done well is an adventure, if done poorly, it is best left alone! – Caleb Anderson

By now most of New Zealand’s public is aware of co-governance, Three Waters and efforts to normalize the Treaty of Waitangi as central to much of New Zealand life and society. In this multi-cultural nation that we have become, it is critical that we respect Māori, and value the good things that Matauranga Māori has achieved for Māori over centuries, but stand firmly against any movement that attempts to place one ethnic or cultural group above others. Our entire society cannot, and should not, be re-configured to enforce the world view of one small, self-identifying minority. Nor should we give ourselves over to the notion that traditional knowledge is somehow the equal of modern science.

How many of the general public are aware of what is happening in education right now? We should be deeply concerned about the refresh of the national curriculum currently in progress within the Ministry of Education and related organizations. The proposed new curriculum is referred to as Te Mātaiaho: A draft Te Tiriti-Honouring and Inclusive Curriculum Framework. We are told that Mātauranga Māori will sit at the heart of the learning areas and that key competencies, literacy and numeracy, will be woven explicitly into each learning area. (Ministry of Education, 2022a)David Lillis

The entire initiative very frightening indeed, especially the dishonesty whereby we are being led to believe that a Treaty-based curriculum is for everyone and that all of us must get on board. The arrogance and, indeed, deceit and bullying of those three activists and others in forcing a retrograde agenda on all students in New Zealand, regardless of social, ethnic or religious background, for decades to come is more than astonishing and we must now stand up to them and to a Ministry of Education that is complicit in perpetrating a highly-dangerous falsehood. – David Lillis

Sorry – but the refreshed curriculum certainly does not better reflect the aspirations and expectations of all New Zealanders. Quite clearly, the agenda is to empower one ethnic group and bully everyone else into submission and we must not allow ourselves to be taken in by the accompanying misleading and, frankly, dishonest rhetoric.David Lillis

Again, sorry – but the curriculum refresh panders to activists from a small minority and must be resisted at all costs. If we fail, then several generations of New Zealand students, from all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and cultures, are going to have this agenda forced on them every day of their primary and secondary education. Pacific students, Asian students, Pakeha students and indeed, Muslim immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East, including those fleeing violence in Syria, the Ukraine and parts of Africa, will be forced to absorb the language and traditional knowledge of one self-identifying ethnicity and cultural group as a significant part of their primary and secondary education.

We are told that the current curriculum disadvantages Māori. Does it? Why? Where is the evidence? Māori underperformance in education does not emerge from the curriculum, but instead results mostly from unfavourable socioeconomics. If the curriculum disadvantages Māori, then does it not also disadvantage Pacific students and others? Why only Māori?

The issues for Māori and others are not hurt and pain because of denigration of mātauranga Māori, but rather the validity of indigenous knowledge, including mātauranga Māori, embedded across an entire curriculum, but especially as an alternative to modern science that can be taught in science class. – David Lillis

Always, socioeconomics emerges as a significant predictor of performance (and, indeed, underperformance), while ethnicity becomes largely non-significant. David Lillis

We may or may not agree with the stated intent of the curriculum refresh to honour matauranga Māori, but should not the primary aims of any curriculum be to support learning for all and enable students to acquire and develop the knowledge, know-how and skills that will enable them to compete in the domestic and international marketplaces? Never should it be the function of a national curriculum to support the nation’s constitution, treaty or other founding document or, indeed, to ensure equality of outcomes. Instead, the objectives should be the support of equality of access and opportunity and to underpin first-class education that enables students to learn and succeed. – David Lillis

Teaching students of science that a special force exists within inanimate things constitutes willful neglect of duty on the part of Government and the relevant Ministries, compromises the education of future students and will bring our national science curriculum and, indeed, the entire NCEA system into disrepute.

Of course, in daily life today we don’t take myths and legends as truth but we do recognize that they are important for the descendants of indigenous people and are part of the great history of mankind. However, we are coming dangerously close to teaching such concepts as truth to young and impressionable children within our revised national primary and secondary curriculum.David Lillis

Only good can come of teaching our children to respect the views of others. Some class time devoted to Te Reo and Māori culture and history will give all New Zealanders a greater appreciation of Māori culture, their history and their very significant contributions to the New Zealand of today. It stands to reason that we should also introduce students to Pacific cultures, Asian cultures, African cultures and the cultures of Islamic immigrants from the Middle East.

Both Te Reo and Mātauranga Māori should be treasured and preserved. However, imposing large proportions of class time to Te Reo and Mātauranga Māori to all learners, especially if presented as science, must be opposed, given other demands on children’s lives and given a noticeable decline in New Zealand’s recent academic rankings relative to those of other nations (see, for example, Long and Te, 2019). Our children must acquire not only qualifications, but the skills and knowledge that are obligatory if they are to compete in tomorrow’s New Zealand and international marketplaces. – David Lillis

The assertion of systemic bias or racism as a cause of disparity, and thereby providing justification for major policy and legislative change, is evident in domains other than education; for example, in public health and employment in the sciences and academia generally. However, the extent of systemic bias within these domains is difficult to determine objectively and could only be evaluated through research rather than anecdote. Possibly, in many jurisdictions systemic bias acts in favour of minorities, rather than against them, but indeed we must be vigilant in identifying bias and countermanding it wherever it occurs. David Lillis

Nor should disparate outcomes provide a sole justification for significant change that clearly is intended to benefit one group disproportionately, when other demographic groups are also disadvantaged. Thus, not only Māori have poorer outcomes in education, but also Pacific people and, reviewing the official statistics on health and wellbeing in New Zealand, we see that Pacific people are even more disadvantaged than Māori on certain indices (Lillis, 2022). But Pacific people will not receive a dedicated health ministry within the foreseeable future and nor will anyone else who is non-Māori. – David Lillis

I repeat what I have said before – labels such as racism, systemic bias, conscious and unconscious bias and colonialism have some traction. However, not only may such labels be applied without justification, apart from anecdote, but possibly they may detract from our efforts to address the real causes. The true agents of disparity, principally socioeconomic in nature, may lie largely outside the jurisdictions of education, health and science, and we have duty of care to address those causes.

Finally, conferring special privilege to one ethnic or cultural group will not repair inequality; nor will consuming scarce resources to address structural racism and bias if these factors are small, or in practice no longer present, and if the core structural and systemic problems lie elsewhere.

We must resist the curriculum refresh with all our might. Future generations of New Zealanders are depending on us.David Lillis

For most of the last century, the “progressives” have been taking over the nation’s education system at every level. Pick any teacher, professor, or administrator and the chances are high that he or she is utterly dedicated to the Leftist project of replacing our liberal (in the true sense of the word) society with their vision of a properly regulated one. By controlling education, the Leftists implant the ideas they favor into students (including collectivism, egalitarianism, and acceptance of authority) while at the same time repressing ones that work against them (such as individualism, skepticism of authority, and belief in the spontaneous order of liberty).

Due to the phenomenal success of that project, school and college curricula are saturated with hostility to Western civilization. Teachers are trained in “education schools” that promote failed pedagogical concepts while at the same time demonizing anything that’s remotely conservative or libertarian. Overwhelmingly, the people who work in state education bureaucracies have been steeped in leftist ideology. They are far less concerned about how well students learn to read, write, and do math than with turning them into zealous advocates for their pet causes.

And once students get into college, the drumbeat for “progressivism” continues. Not every student succumbs, of course, but the heavy leftist slant has a big impact on many of them. – George Leef

Conservative leaders need to wake up to the peril we face from control of education by dedicated Leftists. There cannot be any peaceful coexistence with them, for their intention is to radically transform the nation by indoctrinating its young people. As important as issues like taxes and regulations are, their most important (and most difficult) task is to restore control of education to people who actually want to educate. George Leef

The speed limit on motorways should be reduced to 64mph. Restrictions could be imposed on going from one part of your city to another. Short-haul flights might be banned, and rings of cameras built around every major town to levy charges on anyone moving in and out. Almost every day brings calls for some kind of curb on travel. And yet, underneath them all is one simple force: a movement by green extremists to take us back to the dark ages. It is effectively a plot to reinvent feudalism, a time when people rarely left their own villages and were taxed if they dared do so.

That’s why, for all the temptation to ridicule the Great Unwashed, we have to take their politics seriously.Matthew Lynn

The environment should be protected. Carbon emissions need to be brought down and air quality improved. It might even be sensible to encourage people to travel at different times to ease congestion, or to create more pedestrian zones to make urban areas more livable. But that isn’t what this is about. Instead, climate change is being used as cover to wage war on the very concept of travel.

Those wanting to restrict it forget that the economy, science, culture and health all depend on people and goods getting from one place to another. There are few forms of economic activity that don’t rely on the movement of these things. Science would make fewer breakthroughs without experts meeting at conferences. Music would be unimaginably duller without the cross-pollination of rhythms, melodies and beats between continents. Our language would be poorer, too.

It is surely not a coincidence that we began to emerge from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance and then into modernity when travellers started linking up Asia, Europe and America, carrying plants, technologies and, most of all, ideas. We risk shutting down that infinite channel of progress with foolish green virtue-signalling.

Working from home won’t save us, and nor can the internet replace real communication. The world of green extremism is closed and neo-medieval, offering about as much opportunity to people as that enjoyed by a 12th-century serf. Even the Great Unwashed couldn’t survive that. – Matthew Lynn

Amongst his assertions is a claim that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan. That’s not how you behave in the Army; it’s not how we think. He has badly let the side down. We don’t do notches on the rifle butt. We never did. – Colonel Tim Collins

From a security perspective, there is the unwritten assumption that nobody publicly discusses kill counts for the principal reason that it can have security repercussions.

There should be no pride taken in scalps accumulated in any battles. – Tobias Ellwood

The idea that soldiers are trained to see the enemy as chess pieces to be swiped off the board is wrong.

It’s not how we trained people. It’s potentially damaging to say this and the Taliban has exploited his words to accuse him of war crimes. – Colonel Richard Kemp

He has chosen a path that is alien to us in the UK and the Commonwealth, pursuing US identity politics and casting slurs or racism around where none exists in any manner comparable to the USA.

I wonder whose path he has chosen? In the end, I see only disappointment and misery in his pursuit of riches he does not need and his rejection of family and comradely love that he badly needs.Colonel Tim Collins

Politicians almost universally believe that timely, appropriate and voluntary action to remedy structural economic imbalance should be avoided at all costs because it amounts to political suicide.  Consequently, as studies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show, in eight out of 10 cases over the past decade, reform was left until the developing imbalance had collapsed the currency or caused some other costly economic or social disaster.  This is the point at which the government that failed to take timely action is normally thrown out of office, and a new party is elected to carry out reforms that could (and should) have been undertaken years sooner.

The idea that governments can retain power by refusing to make necessary and valuable structural reforms is, in fact, nonsense.  It inevitably leads to the downfall of those foolish enough to believe it.  Rather, it is quality decisions, which strengthen the economy and improve the medium-term prospects of the voting public, that are the key to any party’s hopes of re-election. – Sir Roger Douglas

Implementing quality decisions also provides an important insight into the nature of political consensus.  Most governments believe they must have consensus support for reforms before they are enacted, otherwise the actions they take will not be politically sustainable at election time.  The inevitable result is compromised policies.  Our experience in New Zealand shows consensus develops progressively, after the decisions are made and deliver satisfactory results to the public.

No party holds power forever.  Sooner or later we all find ourselves out of office.  That is the reality of life in a democracy.  We may as well use the time we have to do something worthwhile.  Genuine structural reform, carried through without compromise, delivers greater gains in opportunity and living standards in the medium term than any other approach to political decision making.

What the voting public wants most from politicians is the guts and vision to make decisions of real benefit to them and to their children.  Their future depends on it.Sir Roger Douglas


Quotes of the year

02/01/2023

It has two sides, like day and night. The night part is dark, it has pain, it has sadness, I’m not free from that. At the same time, the night gives hope that soon it is going to be over and the sun is going to come out. – Farid Ahmed 

Everyone has that capacity to forgive, it is just a choice. If we decide with our own willpower that we want to choose love, then it is easy. Farid Ahmed 

You might be forgiven for wondering who won the Cold War, so prevalent have Stalinist and even Maoist ideas and procedures become in the West, especially in the academy and among intellectuals. It seems almost as if we are reliving the 1930s, when similar groups of people, in response to the economic crisis and dislocation of the times, were captivated by the supposed charms of totalitarianism. – Theodore Dalrymple

We become, if we are white, not born-again Christians, but born-again anti-racists, though whether we shall ever be forgiven is doubtful, for there is the small matter of original sin and pre-destination to consider. – Theodore Dalrymple

By accident of birth, we are racist (if we are white), no matter what we do or whatever position we occupy; by accident of birth we are victims of racism (if we are non-white) whatever we do or whatever position we occupy. So change is both necessary and impossible, a perfect recipe for permanent political agitation, guilt on the part of whites and resentment on the part of non-whites.

Happily, there will always be work for the “experts” in diversity and inclusion to do. Now and forever—Amen. – Theodore Dalrymple

It isn’t difficult for them to find racism, of course, because it is everywhere; by definition it is present wherever and whenever it is perceived, by whomsoever it is perceived. A person accused of racism is guilty of racism by virtue of having been accused of it: there can be no such thing as misunderstanding, let alone malice, by accusers. – Theodore Dalrymple

No need, then, for such irrelevancies as evidence, or for the objective correlatives of an accusation. As guilt in communist countries derived from the class ancestry of an accused, so in the authors’ brave new world of racial justice it derives from the racial ancestry of an accused.

The underlying condescension and indeed racism of this should be obvious: persons of color who accuse do not rise to the level of true human beings because they are incapable of such human possibilities as misunderstanding, exaggeration, and lying. They are inanimate truth-telling machines without true consciousness. – Theodore Dalrymple

It is boring to have to argue against this intimidatory drivel, but not to do so is to let it spread unopposed, fungus-like, through both institutions and minds until it is too late to stop it.Theodore Dalrymple

There is thought for people’s welfare overseas but here it seems like it is only important that the system is being upheld without a thought for the people in it. – Vincent Rall

The rallying call, ‘transwomen are women’ is simply not true. Rowling is right – sex does matter – but it is also the clear distinction between transwomen (who are male) and women (who are female). People can claim to be whoever they like – I might fancy being the King of Siam – but male and female are not the same.Debbie Hayton

Misinformation risks people’s lives. It’s highly likely that people became seriously ill and died because of vaccine misinformation.

Some of this misinformation came intentionally from individuals against vaccinations, and others came from the unintentional effects of comments from politicians. Let’s just say that comments made in mainland Europe affected people in Africa. – Professor Sir Andrew Pollard

Like many of the significant shifts we have seen in education and NCEA over the last few decades, the current debate is underpinned by slogans and little if any evidence. . . 

By the way, the slogan underpinning this declining performance in mathematics is “we (NZ) teach knowledge with understanding and they (everyone else) teach rote learning”. Evidently we don’t teach much at all, while other nations give their children life skills.Gaven Martin

The current slogan for the NCEA changes appears to be, “Many Māori are disengaged from science because they don’t see their culture reflected in it”.

There is no evidence that such a claim has any bearing on education success rates. The issue is not about groups or individuals seeing themselves in the curriculum. It’s about the way our children are tau​ght, and the knowledge and skills teachers bring into the classroom. – Gaven Martin

This policy, however, will reduce welfare (wellbeing would be more politically correct), increase unemployment, increase the duration of unemployment, reduce income, increase inequality, and lead to higher inflation. This outcome is robust and well-known in the field of macro-labour economics.Dennis Wesselbaum

In conclusion, you will be paying higher income taxes, have lower income, and pay higher prices such that the Government can implement a policy which will be harmful for the economy in many ways and reduces welfare – which this Government claims to be its raison d’être.

This reform is against every lesson economists have learned.

In my opinion, this shows the Labour Government does not care about designing useful economic reforms that would lead to better outcomes, but rather does whatever is required to transform Aotearoa into a socialist welfare state with a central government controlling all aspects of life. – Dennis Wesselbaum

Your job as a support person is not to cheer people up. It’s to acknowledge that it sucks right now, and their pain exists. Megan Devine

There is a sneaking suspicion that lower speed limits are the favoured tool of the anti-car lobby, who may perhaps not be happy until we are back to cars travelling at walking speed with a little man in front waving a red flag. – Steven Joyce

 We need to get on with building a safer, more fit for purpose, regional roading system. We’ve already wasted four years, let’s not waste more. – Steven Joyce

Ninety percent of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer couldn’t name a single symptom before they were diagnosed.

It’s a crisis in women’s health and we need to talk about it, and we need to act on it. – Jane Ludemann

As long as I’m still living from this cancer, I will keep fighting for changes to improve women’s outcomes and to grow the organisation so it can be strong when I’m not here. – Jane Ludemann

It would be amazing if I could live my life and focus on me, but if I did that, nothing would happen. – Jane Ludemann

Ordinary working New Zealanders, busy raising families and paying off mortgages, have little chance of countering the influence of the highly motivated, publicly funded ideologues who increasingly shape public policy. Karl du Fresne

It seems obvious to me that no statue should be erected to him. Victimhood is no virtue and can’t redeem a crime. To erect statues to him is nothing short of disgraceful and to turn him into a hero is—or ought to be considered—an insult to black people everywhere.

However, feeling as I do about this doesn’t entitle me to pull the statues down where they’ve been erected legally. I can argue against them, campaign and start petitions for their removal, and so forth, but I can’t take the law into my own hands.

Moreover, even if I succeeded in my campaign, I should be inclined to preserve the statues somewhere or other rather than to destroy them—as monuments to human folly and moral confusion. It’s always timely to be reminded of human folly and moral confusion. – Theodore Dalrymple

In particular, New Zealand cannot afford to destroy its pastoral industries, with these alone earning $NZ30 billion of foreign exchange per annum.  But strategies for emission reduction will be needed, and there are ways that this can be achieved.

I am hugely frustrated that most of the urban community, and many of the politicians, do not understand that it is food and fibre exports that provide the overseas funds that allow New Zealand to purchase the fuel, vehicles, machinery, computers, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals that make our lifestyles sustainable.  They simply do not ‘get it’.

Just tonight, I heard for the umpteenth time on television how ‘agriculture has to pay its way’.  The idea was that agriculture has to contract. I could only sigh and shake my head, because there was no point in screaming at the box that food and fibre is how all of New Zealand ‘pays it way’.Keith Woodford

At some stage the rest of the world is likely to question the economic sustainability of New Zealand. If that occurs then the exchange rate will crash.

If the exchange rate crashes, then that will be very bad for most New Zealanders. The exception will be for those New Zealanders who produce products for export.

A significant decline in the exchange rate may be what is needed to convince New Zealanders that export industries lie at the heart of our national well-being. – Keith Woodford

The harder the elitists, the media and the academics push for the adoption of Māori language, Māori ownership, Māori control, the adoption of ill-defined terms, the incorporation of Māori factors into science and, particularly, if the courts continue down the path of judicial activism by embracing ethnic and cultural values into judgements and judicial process the greater the problems will become.Owen Jennings

The problem is there is no clear definition of many of the terms and concepts that the conceited want to impose.  They cannot even agree among themselves.  Because they are revisionists they will force the most extreme position.   – Owen Jennings

Uncertainty halts process.  Progress ends.  Investment stops, decisions get deferred or just not made, wrangles emerge, division and antipathy grow.  Instead of a nation of “one people” we are being cleaved down the middle – the totalitarian elitists on one side and the hoi polloi on the other.  The arrogant writing their own cheques on the back of those who have no claims, no acceptable blood. The anger is now evident.  The push is too far, too fast.  The future looks bleak, even bloody. Owen Jennings

This uncertainty, confusion and growing unresolved claims plays havoc in the business world.  It kills entrepreneurship, smothers risk taking and investment and jobs go.  The low paid jobs go first.  The crème le crème are not affected.  When their bloated salaries are insufficient they sell their over-rated service under contract and double their income.  They become a consultant and double it again. – Owen Jennings

What to do?  Can paradise be regained?  Ultimately power lies with the people.  It may take a decade, it may take a century but eventually the masses prevail.  If we do not want a split nation, a fully totalitarian state, a country of even greater ‘haves and have-nots’, a basket case economy where long proven values of free speech, freedom of association, freedom from state control are lost, we need to take action now.  We either do it now by talk and the ballot box or we do it later by more dramatic means. – Owen Jennings

The Great Awokening has not crowded out Millennial Socialism. It has absorbed it. (Or maybe it was the other way around – I am not quite sure, and it makes little difference.) This new Woke Socialism uses the methods of the Culture War, and applies them to economic discourse. Being branded a ‘Thatcherite’ now seems to be almost on a par with being branded a ‘transphobe’, a ‘racist’, or an ‘Islamophobe’.

Thus, the Culture War is by no means ‘beyond economics’. Instead, economics has become a major front in the Culture War. – Kristian Niemietz 

New Zealanders of all stripes have been very accepting of the need to redress historical wrongs perpetrated towards Maori. For the most part, these wrongs have been redressed by way of monetary and property settlements to the present-day Maori tribal authorities. But New Zealanders have become concerned as these claims have become more outlandish, encouraged in part by poorly-drafted legislation that has become the enabler for spurious claims for possession of everything from water resources to the entire coastline of New Zealand. But even these claims pale against the agenda that was outlined in a document that the current New Zealand Government tried to keep secret – the report known as He Puapua [PDF download].Kiwiwit

I believe most New Zealanders want to accommodate Maori aspirations for self-determination, but few will be prepared to accept the imposition of new constitutional arrangements that have the effect of making non-Maori second-class citizens in their own country. A government that sets itself against the will of its people cannot last – or at least, not as a democratic government. We need a genuinely open debate on how New Zealand is to be governed in future without anyone who expresses a contrary view being labeled racist. I have always thought the most important clause in the Treaty of Waitangi was Article 3, which envisaged that we would all be British subjects – in modern parlance, equal citizens. That is the aspiration that should drive all consideration of how New Zealand is to be governed in future. – Kiwiwit

More than anything, losing them taught me that life is so precious and you have only got the one life. I just don’t want to find myself languishing,Lucy Hone

Resilience psychology is about working out how you get through whatever you’re facing, examining and being aware of your thinking patterns and whether they are helping you or harming you towards your goal. – Lucy Hone

I really encourage women to believe in themselves physically and not let other people’s opinions or what they’ve done as they’ve grown up, their family norm, establish what is right for them,” says Hone.

And to take on a challenge that intrigues them because the growth you get from doing those hard things is fantastic and massive and we can do hard things – even though it’s sometimes not fun and involves tears.Lucy Hone

In my experience, the best way to achieve fiscal control is to actually solve the problems of the people who are driving the spend. Bureaucracies are very reluctant to admit that what they’re doing is not working … but we shouldn’t pretend when we know we’re failing. – Bill English

The first thing for governments to do is admit what they’re not good at,. And what they’re not good at is complexity – that is, people who need multiple services, and don’t fit the boxes. So those people are all getting little doses of commodity services that usually wear them out rather than have any impactBill English

[Identity politics is] saying that who you are determines what you will be; and, of course, that’s the kind of thing a lazy universal system would say. – Bill English

People on middle-class incomes … have no idea what it’s like to be enmeshed in 10 different systems (of payments) … these people are worn out … and we give them bad service.Bill English

 A person develops learned helplessness when he is subjected to unpleasant situations that he can do nothing to avert. He generalizes his helplessness to unpleasant situations about which he can do something, such that he acts as if he were helpless when he is not.

I would like to extend this observation to a condition of learned stupidity, that is to say the stupidity of people who are by no means lacking in intelligence but who nevertheless make stupid decisions that people of lesser or even much lesser intelligence can see at once are stupid. Learned stupidity explains how and why highly intelligent people, faced with a choice, repeatedly choose a stupid, if not the most stupid, option, time after time.

In order for people to learn to be stupid in this sense, they must both undergo a prolonged education or training and be obliged to perform acts or carry out procedures that do not engage their intelligence and may even be repugnant to it, while simultaneously being under surveillance for compliance and conformity. Politicians generally fulfill these conditions. They are not alone in this, far from it: A good swathe of the general population also fulfills these conditions. People who are selected for intelligence and then denied the use of it are particularly apt to become stupid.

Politicians are denied, or deny themselves, the use of their intelligence by their need to curry favor, not necessarily of the majority, but of at least the most vocal minorities. It is a human propensity to come to believe what one is obliged, either by self-interest or by virtue of one’s subordination in a hierarchy, to say. That is why, in my professional life, I’ve heard so many intelligent people arguing passionately for the most evident absurdities, with all the appearance of believing in them.Theodore Dalrymple

It is difficult to see how a system of government permitting 15 percent of the population to determine the fate of the remaining 85 percent can end anything other than badly. Pretty early on in the piece, the Māori nationalists, like the Pakeha liberals of the 1980s and 90s, will also be forced to choose:

Do we preserve our ideological victory and defend our hard won political supremacy by force – or not?- Chris Trotter

 Ministers have been treating good news about Covid as political, and failures (such as border testing) as let-downs by public servants, for the past two years. Ben Thomas

There is no doubt Omicron will be swift as it makes its way through the community, but at the end, along with our high vaccination rates, there will be potentially additional widespread herd immunity. This may in fact, if we are lucky, put brakes on the pandemic. It could draw the threat of Covid-19 to a close. Covid-19 will not go away, though; it will still circulate, it will be just less dangerous.

My prediction is that the pandemic will end in six to 12 months, and we will be living in our new normal. Covid-19 will still be with us – that’s a given – but we can all play a part in helping to slow the spread of the virus in our communities.- Dr Bryan Betty

 Two years since the option to go home – a human right, and a lifeline for expats – was ripped away from most Kiwis. Jacinda Ardern spent press conferences referring to those back home as the “team of five million” and urging people to “be kind”, while the one million New Zealanders who live overseas looked on in desperation, the message clear: you are not welcome here.Molly Codyre

 It’s been two years since most overseas Kiwis have been able to hug their families. It’s hard to express the mental toll that takes on a person – the constant uncertainty, the tearful FaceTime calls, the human desire to simply be near the people that you love. – Molly Codyre

Except in the worst-case scenario, you may not be able to get home. The Facebook group Grounded Kiwis recently obtained government data under the Official Information Act outlining how many emergency allocation spots had been approved in the period 1 July 2021 to 6 September 2021: just 7 per cent of applications for those suffering the death of a close relative were approved; only 10 per cent of people with a terminal illness themselves were allowed to go home. –  Molly Codyre

For the second Christmas in a row, just four of our five family members will be able to be together. This time, I’m the odd one out. The concept of hugging them all in February was getting me through. Now I just feel spent. I’m sick of shouting about how angry I am, I’m sick of writing articles and letters and telling the devastating stories of those who have been locked out of their country for months and years. I’m sick of watching athletes, pop stars and international DJs get coveted spaces over the average citizen.

I want to hug my family and be near the people I love. I just want to go home.- Molly Codyre

The innocent words “principles of the Treaty of Waitangi” were included in the SOE Act only because Lange’s then attorney-general (Geoff Palmer) assured the cabinet the phrase was meaningless.  Thanks to some judicial musing, this initial phrase became loosely associated with “partnership”.  About 30 years on, this link was subtly extended to the “principles of partnership”. Then that meaningless phrase was gradually manipulated into a linkage with co-governance. Now we have He Puapua working on converting that link into a string of “principles of co-governance”.

Thankfully, most New Zealanders see through the word games. They know that the big constitutional issues that affecting their lives and well-being can only be determined by their formal votes, and not by merely manipulating the language.- Barry Brill

First, my qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students (and I’ve had many others, by the way) face a negligible chance of being offered university research positions, despite stellar scientific dossiers. This is partly because of Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity mandates (my preferred acronym: DIE). These have been imposed universally in academia, despite the fact that university hiring committees had already done everything reasonable for all the years of my career, and then some, to ensure that no qualified “minority” candidates were ever overlooked. My students are also partly unacceptable precisely because they are my students. I am academic persona non grata, because of my unacceptable philosophical positions. And this isn’t just some inconvenience. These facts rendered my job morally untenable. How can I accept prospective researchers and train them in good conscience knowing their employment prospects to be minimal? – Jordan Peterson

We are now at the point where race, ethnicity, “gender,” or sexual preference is first, accepted as the fundamental characteristic defining each person (just as the radical leftists were hoping) and second, is now treated as the most important qualification for study, research and employment. – Jordan Peterson

How can accusing your employees of racism etc. sufficient to require re-training (particularly in relationship to those who are working in good faith to overcome whatever bias they might still, in these modern, liberal times, manifest) be anything other than insulting, annoying, invasive, high-handed, moralizing, inappropriate, ill-considered, counterproductive, and otherwise unjustifiable? – Jordan Peterson

And if you think DIE is bad, wait until you get a load of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scores . Purporting to assess corporate moral responsibility, these scores, which can dramatically affect an enterprise’s financial viability, are nothing less than the equivalent of China’s damnable social credit system, applied to the entrepreneurial and financial world. CEOs: what in the world is wrong with you? Can’t you see that the ideologues who push such appalling nonsense are driven by an agenda that is not only absolutely antithetical to your free-market enterprise, as such, but precisely targeted at the freedoms that made your success possible? Can’t you see that by going along, sheep-like (just as the professors are doing; just as the artists and writers are doing) that you are generating a veritable fifth column within your businesses? Are you really so blind, cowed and cowardly? With all your so-called privilege? Jordan Peterson

And it’s not just the universities. And the professional colleges. And Hollywood. And the corporate world. Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity — that radical leftist Trinity — is destroying us. Wondering about the divisiveness that is currently besetting us? Look no farther than DIE. Wondering — more specifically — about the attractiveness of Trump? Look no farther than DIE. When does the left go too far? When they worship at the altar of DIE, and insist that the rest of us, who mostly want to be left alone, do so as well. Enough already. Enough. Enough. – Jordan Peterson

The reluctance to let the public in on its thinking as it is developing, to engage in public debate and test ideas, to challenge the views of the favoured experts with the views of other experts, here and abroad, has been a sad hallmark of the government’s approach throughout the pandemic.

This prevailing mood of secrecy, dressed up as an “abundance of caution” has been a major contributor to the uncertainty and fear that has gripped the community, and frustrated businesses and cost jobs over the last two years. The Prime Minister’s comments so far this year suggest this approach is set to continue. – Peter Dunne

The point that arises from all this, fuelled by the government’s unwillingness to be completely open with us all and the steadily negative and therefore unrealistic utterances from its public health advisers, is that our whole approach looks more and more like putting a finger in the dyke every time a crack appears, rather than working out how to live with the problem.

While that approach was understandable, even justifiable, in the early days of the pandemic, when knowledge and science were developing, it is no longer the case. It is unrealistic for New Zealand to expect that it can suppress the virus here in a way that no other country has been able to do, unless of course the intention is we really do become the hermit kingdom some have feared. – Peter Dunne

While Jacinda Ardern claims she runs an open and transparent government, we now know that is a lie. Her election-night promise to govern for all New Zealanders, was also a lie. Without any public mandate, she has taken away democratic rights from communities and freedoms from individuals.

Not only has she embedded the radical socialist agendas of the United Nations and the World Economic Forum into our legal and regulatory framework, she is now attempting to replace one of the world’s oldest democracies with tribal rule. These are the actions of a totalitarian regime.Muriel Newman

So being Maori is about understanding all of your heritage, not just a portion of your heritage, and that includes my European side as well and having respect for both.

And that’s why I think that inclusiveness is really, really important because I don’t like being told I have to either be a racist and a colonist or be a Maori. – Nicole McKee

So it’s more really about the here and now and what we are able to do for the country, and those that are stuck in the past will always remain stuck in the past. But we can’t go backwards. We can only go forwards. – Nicole McKee

We think that if you can offer better opportunities for mental health, better opportunities for education, then it’s better opportunities full stop.

If you look at the Maori that go over to Australia and get in the mines, they do so incredibly well. “And I know that we all have the ability to do incredibly well. It’s just we shouldn’t have to leave the country to do it.

And I think a big part of that is they don’t have any incentive to do well because they can be handed everything on a plate, whereas my mother brought us up to get educated and get out there and make a difference. – Nicole McKee

This is going to be a busy and difficult year for Government. It is planning major changes to the health system, tertiary education, local government (the “Three Waters”), environmental rules and wage-setting arrangements – while also struggling with Covid and the disaster that is housing policy.

None of these initiatives looks well thought through. All are being justified on the basis of good intentions. The established formula is: “this is a problem, something must be done, our policy proposal is something, therefore it must be done”. The Government’s contentious and divisive proposals for Three Waters epitomise this approach.

Unfortunately, good intentions are not good enough. Particularly when it comes to public policy. There are always unintended and undesired consequences. Responses to a misdiagnosed problem will often make things worse, not better. – Bryce Wilkinson

The situation smacks of the final years of the Muldoon era where every policy was pulling against at least one other policy. The policy contradictions mount until they overwhelm an administration. It took the succeeding Lange government years to extricate the country from the policy mess.  – Bryce Wilkinson

Removing commercial assets like water infrastructure from council balance sheets could ease the infrastructure funding problem. But this could be done without imposing the convoluted governance arrangements the government proposes for the three waters.

Unhappily, the Government’s proposed Natural and Built Environment Bill promises to pull in the opposite direction by making “the environment” more important than housing. – Bryce Wilkinson

The ban in 2018 on offshore gas and oil exploration is another example of incoherent policy. Under New Zealand’s Emission Trading Scheme, the ban can make no difference to New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions to 2050 and beyond.

It is effectively a subsidy for imported coal to produce electricity. Environmentalists groan, while an eliminated industry moans and other investors wonder who will be next. The unprincipled removal of interest deductibility for landlords answered that question.  – Bryce Wilkinson

Why is rigorous official analysis of policy proposals so uncommon? The only answer can be that decent analysis is dangerous for constituency politics. If enough people knew what outcomes could really be expected, they might thwart the policy.

Politicians are then forced to pretend that the inclusive overall public interest is at the centre of what they propose, even when the proposal might really be partisan.  – Bryce Wilkinson

But ultimately it is results that count. As mental health professionals have been pointing out since the 2019 Budget, pledging to spend a lot more money because it looks caring is one thing. Making a real difference is another.

Nor is Treasury above professing good intentions. For years now it has beaten its chest about its supposedly world-leading Living Standards Framework. It asserts that our wellbeing is at the centre of everything it does. Yet no framework for policy analysis has emerged from this effort. The tangible output is a dashboard of indicators. They have nothing to say about whether government policies are making New Zealanders better off or worse off.

Absent a policy framework, the risk is that the discrepancies they inevitably reveal as between aggregate categories of people will trigger yet more of the “something must be done” impulse to ill-considered policy action. – Bryce Wilkinson

Policy analysis is set to get worse. A new form of collectivism is in the ascendancy. Its narrative is that groups whose economic and health outcomes are worse than the population average must be ‘disadvantaged’ by others. The “oppressors” may glibly be the likes of foreign investors, capitalism, white colonisation, and the better off who are, by presumption, guilty of unconscious bias. Glib presumption displaces problem diagnosis. Individuals have no individuality.

The polarising focus on the collective or group, as if it is a homogenous whole with sharp boundaries, undermines horizontal equity. This is the notion that those in equal (needy) circumstances deserve equal treatment, even if they do not belong to a ‘disadvantaged’ group. More broadly, the focus on group membership undermines the importance of individual dignity, values, choice, liberty, initiative, work ethic and enterprise. Social cohesion becomes at risk. – Bryce Wilkinson

The Government faces a tough year in good part because it is locked into promoting major changes whose public interest justification is thin and whose nature is polarising. Worthy aspirations and fine intentions do not answer hard questions about likely effects.

For opposition parties, this is an opportunity. For those who care about public policy, it is a train wreck. – Bryce Wilkinson

Finally, businesses receive approval to bring RATs into the country and they have been operating very well. Until, the ministry decides to play catch up and has consolidated orders into this country. They call it consolidate, others say, requisition.

Even if there was a problem, what in the name of all that is holy makes the Ministry of Health think it can rollout Rapid Antigen Tests? Show me the evidence that the ministry could in fact see a problem and solve it.

It has shown itself to be inept when it comes to the distribution of PPE, and worse than that, it refused to listen to the pleas from the people on the ground who are most at risk in that first wave of COVID, who said there isn’t enough PPE. They utterly refused to listen to the people on the ground, so not just inept, but cruel.  – Kerre McIvor

This is yet another egregious example of an incompetent, shambolic ministry that was in utter disarray for many years. They are showing that they are out of their depth and playing catch up yet again and sensible, proactive, nimble New Zealanders who have foresight and preparedness are the ones who pay the price. – Kerre McIvor

It was tardiness of a different kind that caught the Government out on Wednesday. After repeatedly talking down the importance of rapid antigen tests (which were – to be fair, less useful during the Delta outbreak), and blocking their import, the Government quietly changed its mind and began diverting orders intended for businesses into its own stocks.

Well, that’s what the Government said. Distributors were slightly more blunt, arguing the tests were “seconded” “requisitioned” – many versions of “nicked”, essentially.

Politics is, at its heart, a language game. Control of language is a good proxy for political control, but it is difficult not to squirm a little at the notion there’s nothing smelly about the Government “consolidating” something that belongs to someone else and that it alone will choose when that person gets what they originally ordered.

Theft by any other name smells as foul. – Thomas Coughlan

After months of talking down RATS and blocking their import, the Government then over-restricted their use, while faffing its own order. Now, it appears the Government wants millions of the things, and instead of getting its own, it’s “consolidating” them from the businesses that it was blocking from receiving the tests just months ago.

And on that “consolidation” malarky – at least some distributors are concerned the Government applied its significant market pressure to force manufacturers to drop smaller orders in favour of the Government’s large order.  – Thomas Coughlan

The Government seems convinced the clear benevolence of the Covid response is an excuse for common thuggery – it is not.

Gangs seize the goods they want – Governments procure them. Ends do not justify means, especially not now. Don’t be surprised if the Auditor-General decides to go sniffing. – Thomas Coughlan

Unlike the early stage of the pandemic, when a bit of chaos could be excused by the fact the Government was responding quickly to a challenge that no one fully understood, this latest incident appears to show a Government covering its back having failed to act quickly enough to procure tests it should have acquired a long time ago.

The fact the Government’s silence on its procurement pivot appears to have something to do with the embarrassment it faces belatedly adopting a form of testing the opposition has been calling for since last year only adds to that embarrassment. – Thomas Coughlan

It takes a special kind of gall, and/or arrogance, for a government to turn up last week having been literally invisible for a month during a pandemic and announce without even the slightest hint of embarrassment, that one, you haven’t been off skiving, and two, you actually have a Covid plan for the year. When, as it inevitably turns out, no such plan exists. – Mike Hosking

As we enter the third year of Covid, we have had various forms of lockdowns, then levels (various forms), then lights (various colours), and now we have phases or stages.

Stage 1 for Omicron is the “stamp it out” stage … surely the most farcical of all the ideas so far. Mike Hosking

At every step along this torturous journey, as well as being hopelessly ill-prepared, the Government has insisted things that can never happen will somehow magically happen here. – Mike Hosking

But the part that infuriates me most is not the incompetence of the Government, that’s now well established. No, the inexplicable part is the rationale of those who still believe all of this is somehow acceptable.

To expect and accept so little is an indictment on a country that once aspired to so much better. – Mike Hosking

The recent spike in the afforestation of sheep and beef farms is not the result of consumer driven demand, but heavy-handed and short-term Government policies designed to incentivize more trees, regardless of whether or not they are the right tree in the right place. – William Beetham

Overseas Investors can simply plant pine trees, claim the credits, sell them and take the huge profits overseas, while New Zealanders carry the consequences now and into the future. – William Beetham

Quite simply, those wanting to use land to continue farming for the future prosperity of Aotearoa New Zealand are being out-bid. There is little benefit but a huge cost to future generations. – William Beetham

In addition to teaching the knowledge associated with specific academic disciplines, it is the mission of universities to prepare students to think critically.

Critical thinking requires us to engage with ideas we find disagreeable, difficult and even offensive, and to learn to bring to bear reason and evidence, rather than emotion, when we respond to them. One of the core principles that have historically enabled universities to fulfil this mission is academic freedom. – Dr Michael Johnston, Dr James Kierstead,  Dr David Lillis, Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, Professor Lindsey White, Professor Brian Boyd

Academic freedom – and the benefits to human knowledge it brings – requires the tolerance to hear and engage with ideas to which one objects. To be sure, such tolerance often doesn’t come naturally, which is why academics must model it to students.

But the importance of this kind of tolerance goes beyond the academy. The free and open society we, perhaps, take too much for granted depends on the willingness of its citizens to tolerate the expression of rival opinions. – Dr Michael Johnston, Dr James Kierstead,  Dr David Lillis, Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, Professor Lindsey White, Professor Brian Boyd

The Ministry of Education is currently reviewing the achievement standards for NCEA science, in large part to infuse them with understandings from mātauranga Māori. It seems essential that scientists, philosophers and experts in mātauranga Māori should be able to conduct an open, public debate to inform that review. If we get it wrong, it may harm both sources of knowledge.                                         

One of the things that defines scientific inquiry is that it brooks no sacred claims. True science is never ‘settled’. Even when theories seem to explain observed phenomena perfectly, new information and fresh insights may throw everything up in the air once more. – Dr Michael Johnston, Dr James Kierstead,  Dr David Lillis, Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, Professor Lindsey White, Professor Brian Boyd     


In science, ideas must be tested against evidence, never against what we would prefer to believe. For example, religious conviction does not provide a valid basis for objection to a scientific idea. Neither is it ever legitimate in science to allow personalised attacks to substitute for reasoned, evidence-based argument.    – Dr Michael Johnston, Dr James Kierstead,  Dr David Lillis, Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, Professor Lindsey White, Professor Brian Boyd

 I am a researcher and former academic. I have been involved in many robust debates over my career. Inevitably these will hurt the feelings of various groups or individuals including those whose theories are being challenged. Its not a reason to shy away from such discussions. If avoiding upsetting some people becomes a key feature of universities we may as well close them down now. – Paul Callister

At what point do we begin to demand better from our Government? At what point do we stop accepting mediocrity? At what point do we start demanding a Government that delivers results? A Government that is proactive, forward-thinking, and delivers meaningful solutions rather than half-baked ideas delivered through a web of PR nothingness? – Nick Mowbray

I reflect on our Covid response, and we are not learning any lessons. Frighteningly we borrowed more money per capita than any other country in the world outside the US in 2020 and 2021. This was despite us being least affected by Covid due to our geographic location (ease of shutting borders) and low population density. – Nick Mowbray

And what do we have to show for the doubling of our national debt? Better hospitals? No. More ICU beds? No. More nurses? No. Wasn’t this the Covid fund? Two years later and even the most simplistic initiatives have not been executed. The learnings we’ve been able to witness internationally from our less fortunate geographic neighbours have not been integrated into our Covid response, common sense and basic strategic thought has not been applied, and consequently, the most basic of infrastructure has not been integrated into our short, medium or long-term plans.

We should demand better than this. – Nick Mowbray

The problem is now that we are more than 90 per cent vaccinated and we are still not getting on with life. Whatever way the Government wants to spin it, the reality is we are now, and will continue to live with a variant that has a very low hospitalisation rate and even lower death rate. Yet, because we have not improved anything over the past two years, we are having to live in fear that our public health system is not ready. – Nick Mowbray

What is truly worrying is the absence of research undertaken by our Government to learn from the actions taken by other countries. New Zealand was perfectly positioned to closely monitor the strengths and weaknesses of respective global efforts to tailor the best possible localised plan, proactively. It was clear a year ago Rapid Antigen Tests were going to be key to living with Covid, yet the Government has seemly spent its time communicating efforts around an idyllic, unrealistic elimination strategy rather than proactively securing supplies that will ultimately enable New Zealanders to get on with their lives. Every other country has had them available widely for well over a year. Like with everything we have been the slow to react and seems not learnt our lessons from our vaccination roll out. – Nick Mowbray

Our economy is high on a sugar rush from the past two years, but that will soon wear off. Inflation is running rampant, the cost of living is soaring, house prices are up 45 per cent. Companies and businesses like our own cannot get out into the world. How long can this go on for?

In Australia, 86 per cent of people now cite their biggest concern as the cost of living. Consumer spending in the US is down 27 per cent Q3 vs. Q1 – the flow-on effect of this is going to be monumental, and it’s only just getting started. At what price do we stop and say enough is enough? At what point do we demand better of our Government?

Surely that moment is now. – Nick Mowbray

Let’s start by being charitable. If the Government wanted to spread Omicron through the community as fast as possible, its actions over the last six weeks have been exemplary. Matthew Hooton

A government wanting to stop spread would have cancelled major events like the three-day Soundsplash music festival in Hamilton. Instead, the Ardern Government — which since September has had a weirdly specific fixation on ensuring music festivals proceed — stood by, deciding only after the festival that Omicron was spreading in the community sufficiently to justify moving to red. The release of information about Soundsplash-linked cases was delayed. – Matthew Hooton

 Again, to be charitable, what would a government do if it wanted Omicron to spread through the community as fast as possible? It would encourage 8000 teenagers and early-20s from all around the North Island to gather at a music festival, thrash about together in mosh pits and sleeping bags, just before returning home to start school. 

If spread was the goal, the Government deserves a gold star. New Omicron cases have risen more than five-fold over the last four days, at least as fast as in Australia in December. – Matthew Hooton

The Ministry of Health, having finally decided it wanted as many RATs as possible, moved to stop their distribution to organisations which had ordered them as part of their business continuity plans. The ministry will instead ensure RATs get to the “right” businesses, as if health bureaucrats really understand which organisations are essential to maintaining basic infrastructure and food distribution as hundreds of thousands of us get sick with Omicron in the coming weeks. – Matthew Hooton

 The Government stands accused of laziness, negligence, incompetence, panicked authoritarianism and opacity over its response to Omicron. It is far too charitable to think it planned any of this. The wheels have come off its spin machine. Matthew Hooton

Wouldn’t you love a government that lived within its means as you and I are trying to do? Wouldn’t you love a government that was fully accountable for it’s decisions as you and I are in our lives?

Those of us that work really hard just to afford a moderate life with the odd bit of fun, continue to be used as human ATMs for ministers of the crown who appear to think that hard work equates to hard times in the debating chamber.  –  Roman Travers

When the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – safe haven, you know your situation is messed up.Charlotte Bellis

My lawyer has taken MIQ to court eight times on behalf of rejected, pregnant Kiwis. Just before the case, every time, MIQ miraculously finds them a room. It’s an effective way to quash a case and avoid setting a legal precedent that would find that MIQ does in fact breach New Zealand’s Bill of Rights. – Charlotte Bellis

The decision of who should get an emergency MIQ spot is not made on a level playing field, lacks ethical reasoning and pits our most vulnerable against each other. MIQ has set aside hundreds of emergency rooms for evacuating Afghan citizens, and I was told maybe, as a tax-paying, rates-paying New Zealander, I can get home on their allotment. Is this the Hunger Games? Pitting desperate NZ citizens against terrified Afghan allies for access to safety? Who is more important – let’s let MIQ decide. Charlotte Bellis

I am writing this because I believe in transparency and I believe that we as a country are better than this. Jacinda Ardern is better than this. I am writing this to find solutions for MIQ so that New Zealanders both at home and abroad are safe and protected. I write this for the people who send me messages every day: I need treatment, my father has months to live, I missed my loved one’s funeral, I’m in danger, or my visa has expired, I have nowhere to go…
…and I’ve been rejected. I do not have a pathway home.

Our story is unique in context, but not in desperation.

The morning we were rejected, I sobbed in my window overlooking Kabul’s snow-covered rooftops. I wasn’t triggered by the disappointment and uncertainty, but by the breach of trust. That in my time of need, the New Zealand Government said you’re not welcome here. It feels surreal to even write that. And so, I cried. I thought, I hope this never happens again. I thought, we are so much better than this. I thought back to August, and how brutally ironic it was, that I had asked the Taliban what they would do to ensure the rights of women and girls. And now, I am asking the same question of my own Government. – Charlotte Bellis

Jacinda Ardern recently told an American television host that she finds it ‘slightly offensive’ when outsiders assume every other New Zealander starred in Lord of the Rings. Quite so. New Zealand has only one real film star in 2022, and that’s the Prime Minister herself. But the way things are heading, she might best suit an adaptation of Lord of the Flies.  – David Cohen

Most striking of all, though, is the question of how any political leader this side of China could do all this without so much as the mildest challenge from what passes for the local media and scientific establishment, much less the culture at large. – David Cohen

Kiwis are not politically screamy like the Americans, still less given to kicking back against bureaucracy like the British. Shortly after arriving in New Zealand from London in the late 1930s, Karl Popper marvelled over what appeared to him to be ‘the most easily governed’ people on the face of the earth. The champion of open societies did not mean this as an un-alloyed compliment. David Cohen

Racial minorities are no different from other human beings, in that we do not appreciate being spoken for or told how to think. The fetishization of identity politics is a superficial solution that rewards its believers with self-righteousness but won’t actually eradicate racism. I hear frequently from non-white individuals in my audience who do not believe their race is the most important thing about them, who are tired of being lectured by woke white people. – Debra Soh

At the heart of the RATs issue lies two problems; this Government’s failure to plan, first with the slow roll-out of the vaccination programme and now the failure to purchase enough RATs in time for Omicron, and then its increasing insistence on applying the draconian powers it has at its disposal under the Covid-19 Response Act.

The fact that the hand of Big Government is still being utilised, when the prime minister and Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins talk about Kiwis taking ‘personal responsibility’ in regard to Omicron, only highlights the pervasive role Big Government now has in our lives.

It’s the same reason the Ministry of Health and the Government initially rejected saliva testing. It wasn’t accurate enough, they cried. What it really meant was that saliva testing gave people a degree of autonomy and allowed them to take on the responsibility which only now the Government is asking us to do.Janet Wilson

This week the prime minister was at it again, saying that RATs “have a large variation in accuracy rates – some as low as 30 per cent”. It’s a case of if your own lack of performance is in the spotlight, throw doubt on the effectiveness of the product. What the Government seems to have completely forgotten is that personal responsibility flies out the window when you can’t get tested. – Janet Wilson

What the RAT issue epitomises is that while this Government wants us to prepare for the wave of Omicron that will reach our shores, it hasn’t done enough preparation of its own. If it isn’t prepared, how can all of us be assured that we’ll cope? Without access to cheap, easily available rapid antigen testing, how can we know if we’ve got Omicron in the first place? We can’t. Janet Wilson

Picture this; as we face this next phase of the pandemic, with thousands of cases sweeping through communities a day and PCR testing overwhelmed, rapid antigen testing will be a vital tool to help us negotiate Omicron’s vicissitudes, as it has in the UK, the USA and Canada. Except you won’t be able to purchase it easily. Instead, it’ll be a man from the ministry who decides whether you get it or not.

It might make for a plotline from House of Cards but what it simply does is rob us of responsibility and self-determination – qualities we’ll all need in the coming months. – Janet Wilson

 I don’t think it takes rocket science to know that New Zealand and Afghanistan do not have equivalent healthcare. – Charlotte Bellis

The number of stories I could tell you about maternity care in Afghanistan…The UN said just recently they expect an extra 50,000 women to die over the next three years, giving birth here.

That takes the total up to 70,000 women, which is unfathomable in itself. But for the [New Zealand] Government to say ‘no stay in Kabul, I’m sure the healthcare there will be just fine’ – shows complete disregard for the wellbeing of your citizen. – Charlotte Bellis

They just need to use their brains and their hearts and think, ‘this person is a New Zealand citizen’.

At what point did we get so bogged down in these rules we’ve come up with that we can’t see that she’s a Kiwi in need of help and she needs to come home?Charlotte Bellis

After that blissful summer break, how disappointing to find ourselves in exactly the same position we found ourselves at the end of last year.

Once again, authorities appear completely unprepared for something we could all see coming: Omicron.

That’s the real reason for the Government taking rapid antigen tests (RATs) off private businesses. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

It’s hard to fathom what basic errors were made at Government level. Did ministry staffers take too long off for summer? Did they not consider the possibility Omicron would arrive so soon in New Zealand? Had they not looked overseas and seen how important RATs had become to various countries’ Covid responses?

Either way, they were unprepared. And so they took the RATs away from those businesses that had prepared.

Businesses are extremely angry at this, and rightly so. They are being forced to risk their ability to remain operational because health officials and their government bosses dropped the ball. Again. This is the vaccine roll-out all over again: something obviously necessary left to the last minute, ultimately requiring a panicked scramble.Heather du Plessis-Allan

This debacle will do nothing to repair the already-strained relationship between Cabinet and business. It will also do little to improve the reputation of health officials, who increasingly look like a department full of candidates for the cast of any future remake of “Yes Minister”.

Apart from the RATs debacle, the Government is quite obviously unprepared on many other fronts as well.

Two medications meant to reduce the need for hospitalisation if taken early in a Covid infection haven’t yet been approved in NZ. Both molnupiravir and paxlovid are already available in the UK, the US and Australia. By last count, we now have fewer ICU beds than we did at the start of the pandemic.The Prime Minister’s three stage plan for Omicron is so vague it’s clearly a case of Cabinet making it up as they go along. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Uncertainty is bad for people and bad for business. Businesses need certainty. They need to know that they can open their doors and that customers can come to visit them. They need to know that product will arrive when it’s meant to and that orders can be filled. They need to know what their bankers and landlords expect of them.

Caution does not come naturally to the spirited business owner. – Bruce Cotterill

Alongside the inevitable and ongoing questions about our Covid response, we now have to consider inflation, interest rates, debt levels and an out of control housing market that must surely come to a sudden halt soon.

The troubles with the global shipping cycle leave a small isolated country at the bottom of the world vulnerable in terms of supply of necessary goods.

We’re short of talented people too, and the good news is that there are a heap of those overseas waiting to come home. But we won’t let them. And then there’s the fact that while we’re distracted by this stuff, a government that seems intent on socially re-engineering the country gets on with the job of dismantling our democracy. – Bruce Cotterill

This week’s fiasco around the confiscation of privately imported rapid antigen testing kits reflects a government more intent on controlling the pace of our response, than the effectiveness of it.

That desire for control is one area where they have made progress over the last year. I refer to the gradual threat to democracy. Last year saw the early stages of the implementation of the Three Waters legislation, the installation of unelected representatives onto local authority councils and related boards, and the establishment of government bodies that are not representative of the population at large. – Bruce Cotterill

Not to have to talk to anybody for two days, what a luxury! An even greater luxury was not having to listen to what anyone said. Silence, blessed silence! Most talk, after all, is pure bilge, verbiage to fill the gaps in time. This applies as much to ourselves as to others, if only we stopped to listen to ourselves. A couple of days of silence is like a detoxification of the mind, much as hypochondriacs undergo detoxification of their bodies by enemas and starvation diets—except that detoxification of the mind is much more necessary than that of the bowel. – Theodore Dalrymple

But now, as Omicron gently settles there, Ardern’s New Zealand has lost any remaining halo of Covid superiority. It looks neither ‘compassionate’, nor even ‘tough’ or ‘hardline’ but completely pathological. Mad. Bonkers. Pitiable. And not without a whiff of totalitarianism.

You might think that a lefty as vocally committed to social justice and human rights as Ardern would shy away from draconian curbs based on a chimaera (zero covid). In the absence of a credible threat, it is a strategy whose main effect would be to destroy people’s livelihoods and will to live.

In fact, those who purport, like Ardern, to be the most virtuous and “inclusive”, the keenest on helping the marginalised, are often all too comfortable playing fast and loose with the little people’s lives: and the keenest on controlling everyone. They love power – so long as it’s in their hands – and Covid has provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for grabbing it. – Zoe Strimpel

Ardern’s obsession with iron-fisted power is the only explanation for an escalation in restrictions that, in January 2022, makes no sense whatsoever.

To the increasing horror of trapped New Zealanders, Omicron-affected NZ households must now isolate for up to 24 days, while gatherings are capped at 100 in hospitality venues (25 if vaccine passports aren’t being used). But home-testing has effectively been outlawed: only ‘trained testers’ or medical staff can perform Covid tests, and the import of rapid antigen tests, such as those we in Britain rely on by the bucketload to keep life going, could end up in prison.Zoe Strimpel

But the most chilling aspect of Ardern’s monomaniacal leadership is the complete lack of respect for borders – not their inviolability (she has shown that aspect of them to be firmly intact) but their prison-like oppressiveness.

Previously, it was possible to enter New Zealand, by winning a coveted slot in a quarantine hotel, where you would be watched over by military personnel throughout. But since the Omicron Nine, the country has now closed itself to all travellers. Tourism was once New Zealand’s biggest export, but too bad: the Dear Leader’s obsession with total control comes first. – Zoe Strimpel

Saint Jacinda, so woke, so feminist, so unimpeachable, has blinded the world with her virtue, and in so doing has made controlling Covid not a balance of risks, but an iron-fisted moral mission. Within that context, almost any amount of masochism can be justified.

Yes, New Zealanders may be “safer” from Omicron than any other population on earth, but, thanks to Ardern, they are being robbed of the freedoms that make life worth living, with no end in sight. – Zoe Strimpel

We care deeply about people. That’s why we’re here…It’s not caring and it’s not kind to people…just to write them off. – Christopher Luxon

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

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

This 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

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

In 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

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

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

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

The provocation of fragility requires a bureaucracy of defenders to alleviate its consequences. The more fragile people become, the more they will run to the authorities for protection, as children run to their parents when they imagine witches at the window. A fragile population requires protectors, for the fragile by definition are incapable of protecting themselves, for example by confronting or moving away from a starer, but the would-be protectors themselves are cowards who prefer imaginary enemies to real and dangerous ones: thus is the dialectic between fragility and public employment on futile tasks created and maintained. – Theodore Dalrymple 

We in the anglosphere have become so used to conducting our business affairs in a “marketplace” that we take it for granted and if we give it any thought at all we ignore how fundamental it is to our way of life, preservation of our liberties, and to the health of our democracy. It is no accident that those who seek to destroy those liberties and democracy must first destroy the market economy by either state ownership on the Lenin model or an ersatz market place on the Russian and Chinese models. But what do we know about the history of this phenomena. Anthony Willy

This means of organising society by allowing the untrammelled myriad daily personal decisions of the market place fulfils our most basic needs of food and shelter leading to the intellectual drive involved in the rise of science and the arts in what we call our civilised society. Above all it contributed to what may be mankind’s greatest achievement; the flowering of democracy which for many years we have taken for granted. However all is not well in the free market garden. Until recently the law was clear that any trader incorporated as a company with shareholders and a board of directors, (and that is most of the larger traders) the directors owed duties solely to their shareholders, and their only function was to maximise the profits of the company for the benefit of the shareholders with whose money they had  been entrusted. Increasingly this is no longer the case and there is a growing tendency for governments and pressure groups to require the directors to be influenced in their decision making  by extraneous matters such as global warming and gender politics. The Human Resources departments of many of New Zealand companies have responded enthusiastically to these demands with the result that the company is no longer able to trade freely and maximise the returns to the shareholders. In some cases this has resulted in the company ceasing hitherto profitable ventures with the loss of autonomy that entails.  Over the longer term nothing could be more destructive to the survival of free markets particularly as these are not constraints suffered by competitors in the totalitarian economies with whom we do business. In addition to these self imposed fetters there are of course ever present and more malign alternatives.   Anthony Willy

That Marx’s prescription for substituting a system of state control for the free market is contrary to human nature has been amply borne out by the experience of those despots who have tried to impose it. The reason is simple, nowhere in the world has it flourished by the voluntary acceptance of the people. All such despots have failed sooner or later and will continue to do so, including those, such as the Peoples Republic of China and Russia who have attempted a bit of both by allowing a “market economy” to operate but only with the consent of the state and without democracy. The toll in human suffering when the state snuffs out private enterprise has been incalculable. Anthony Willy

The other alternative to democracy and the free-market system and one gaining a lot of airtime among the “intelligentsia” in New Zealand is that of tribal control of the means of production and exchange whereby each tribe owns and controls its own assets and, human nature being what it is defends them from the covetous eyes of its neighbours. This alternative to free markets and communism was that practised by Maori tribes in New Zealand before the arrival of the Europeans, and it no doubt worked throughout their uninterrupted occupation of the country. It has shortcomings however as a means of maximising the wealth of society not least of which are: nobody owns anything and therefore cannot prosper from their labours (no pumpkin man), it invites tribal warfare if one tribe is being seen to do better than the neighbour, it creates no enduring “wealth” and causes envy and disaffection when eyes are cast  over the fence at those tribes enjoying the fruits of their labours. – Anthony Willy

There is nothing exceptional about this course of events, it is to be found in the remaining tribal societies mostly in Africa. It is always accompanied  by horrendous violence such as the genocide that occurred in Rwanda and to a lesser extent Kenya. Unsurprisingly after the bloodletting this is now in the past as most African countries have rejected communism and tribalism and have embraced free markets and democracy (albeit a bit dodgy at times). But astonishingly in New Zealand with a record of a settled and prosperous society second to none separate Maori tribal representatives, egged on by other worldly academics are promoting a tribal take over of our hitherto democratically elected institutions based solely on race.  –  Anthony Willy

Languages exist for one reason only — to communicate meaning. To this end they evolve with time and what is useful endures and what is not withers. And that’s it. That’s the inevitable, immutable, blind process, and nothing we say or do will alter it. Languages cheerfully borrow from each another. English has adopted hundreds of Maori words, largely to describe things that exist here and nowhere else — pukeko, rimu, mana and so on. And Maori has taken on board no end of words from English to describe the materials and ideas that settlers brought. But having borrowed them a language makes them its own. It fits them into its own structure. So while there is some overlap of vocabulary between te reo and English, there is none of grammar or syntax. The languages remain grammatically distinct.

The RNZ National announcer appeared to be speaking a new and hybrid tongue, part te reo, part English. In reality she was speaking English — the language she used to convey meaning — and she was dropping in chunks of te reo for a moral or political purpose. And language evolution scoffs at moral or political purposes.

In short, she was wasting her time. In doing so she was alienating Ms Plum, educating noone, patronising Maoridom and barking up a barren linguistic plum tree.- Joe Bennett

One of the most witless, inane and paradoxically evil ideas to contaminate contemporary culture in recent years is kindness, or, as what amounts to a campaign slogan says, ‘Be Kind’. On the surface, what could possibly be wrong with being kind to each other? Only brutes and criminals would find something wrong with such an obviously decent notion. The problem, though, is that beneath its beautiful and superficially moral surface, kindness, in its contemporary iteration, is surreptitiously ideological and smuggles into everyday life entirely new ideas of metaphysics, logic and epistemology, ones that have profoundly negative consequences for liberal democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.Roger Franklin

We’ve established that kindness per se is not a sufficient condition for decent behaviour because political ideologies determine who can be treated with kindness and who can be treated with cruelty. This gets to the crux of the present situation because underpinning the current notion of kindness is the contemporary moral and ethical system of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), which has been introduced into almost every institution in Western liberal democracies. The HR department in your workplace, and workers’ rights legislation in your state or country, will almost certainly be infused with this ideology.

The problem, though, is that the politics of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — wokeness, in other words — establishes a hierarchy of the saved and the dammed through the postmodern notion of identity. Where you sit on the hierarchy of marginalised groups, or whether you are intersectionally oppressed — perhaps doubly, triply or multiply oppressed — determines your saintly status. Individual rights, then, are no longer the sine qua non of liberal democracy. What we have, essentially, is irrationalism as a new metaphysics. – Roger Franklin

How are individual rights being supplanted by group rights, which are the modus operandi of all authoritarian regimes? How has this occurred in a liberal democratic political system where debate is a constituent part of its philosophy? It’s simple: institutional capture. Individual rights have been hollowed out from the inside by ideologues. What’s most depressing, though, is that the whole unedifying spectacle has been performed in the plain sight of our governing elites, who, while often hard-working and honest, are seldom intellectually sophisticated. Roger Franklin

While kindness is the slogan, the Trojan Horse of the ideology is the triple strategy of equivocating speech with violence, subjectivism and the weaponising of mental health. It’s a tapestry of confusion where all the threads fit together.

Conflating speech with violence means that hurt feelings, rather than damaged bodies, are utilised as a weapon of the ‘oppressed’. Hurting someone’s feelings — subjectivism, in other words — is viewed as violence. This is important because liberal democracy, at its core, rejects violence. Violence, as any civilised person should know, is always the last resort in adjudicating conflict. Consequently, indulging in violence, especially towards a disadvantaged person or an identity group, is the very definition of discrimination.

Modern subjectivism is based on the postmodern claim that truth is a fiction — bizarrely, even logical and scientific truths. – Roger Franklin

“Truth”, in its modern iteration, is defined as the epistemology of straight white males, who are viewed as the purveyors of all that is destructive in modern history. According to postmodernists and intersectional feminists, though, there are other ways of understanding the world, amongst them the ‘lived experience’ of identity groups , which are presented as equally valid. Feminists, for example, have claimed for decades that witchcraft and alternative medicine have been ‘marginalised’ by male ways of knowing, and that these epistemologies are as legitimate as the scientific method. That this is nonsense needs to be stressed because the idea that all opinions are valid has become a constituent narrative of contemporary culture. The irony is that postmodernists could not flourish if they followed their own philosophy, because irrational people live sub-optimal lives or simply die.Roger Franklin

The expansion of mental health psychology into areas that, until recently, were considered the existential and ordinary facts of life, is not coincidental. The phenomenon runs parallel and in conjunction with the rise of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Feelings are now the gold standard of whether one is suffering from a mental health problem, not an imprudent lifestyle choice or any of the dreadful psychological conditions that make life a misery for people whose minds or brains are not working in a functional way.

The three strategies are equally important to the ideology, and they shift, twist, intertwine and turn depending on the situation. Put them all together and a comprehensive strategy exists to curtail freedom of speech, individual conscience and, inevitably, liberal democracy. – Roger Franklin

What DEI means in practice is not what its proponents advertise to the world. In practical terms the ideology works in the following way: Diversity stresses a plurality of group identity and not a plurality of opinion. Equity is an impossible dream which can only be enacted, with dreadful consequences, by force. And inclusion, by definition, welcomes different identity groups without criticism, and no-one else. Remember that, according to the theory, subjective feelings, which are denied validity by individuals and society lead to mental health issues, while truth itself is grounded in the identities of race, sex, class and gender. Everything must be affirmed rather than rejected or criticised because words which offend are construed as violence or are damaging to a person whose “identity” is questioned or criticised.

This is why statues are being pulled down around the world; why people with what were, until about five years ago, moderate views are called bigots; why supporters of free speech are called Nazis; why J.K. Rowling is called transphobic; why bad works of art by minority figures are replacing Beethoven, Shakespeare and Renoir (or, at the very least, how they are presented in concert halls, theatres and art galleries). It’s why those who offend are hounded from their jobs and see their reputations and livelihoods ruined. And all this is being perpetrated by ideologues with a fanatical zeal and, ironically, not a shred of kindness.Roger Franklin

Nothing solid survives this pernicious attack on everything of value, and it’s why the cult of kindness and its three subordinate strategies — equating speech with violence, subjectivism and weaponising mental health — undermine the entire edifice of liberal democracy, which is a form of government based on individualism and the robust claims of negative rights. Two things define liberal democratic philosophy: don’t do this, and you’ve a right to offend. In straightforward terms, you can be an absolute bastard if you don’t commit a crime or perpetrate violence on your fellow citizens. That’s about all people can ask for or expect.

The rest of the noise about rights is virtue-signalling nonsense, money-making scams, or snake-oil drenched in false morality. Sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind. And sometimes you just need to be kind. Woke kindness is the inverse of the normal conception of kindness and it is toxic to individual rights. Don’t fall for the nonsense, linguistic equivocation is one of the oldest tricks in the book. – Roger Franklin

Just because you are Māori does not make you an expert in anything except being Māori. The government, in their determination to divide this nation racially, are mixing too many things together and hoping you won’t notice.

Clean water is one thing, and we all want it. Hijacking democracy for ideological purposes around race, we don’t.

This fight is far from over, and as such Friday’s update changes nothing. – Mike Hosking

Some defenders of Three Waters argue that the regional representation groups made up of iwi and council representatives are so removed from the day-to-day control of the water assets that anyone asserting iwi will play a significant role as co-governors can only be intent on making mischief. But if that argument is correct, Mahuta should have no trouble at all in dropping iwi members from her proposed set-up.

The fact the minister shows no sign of bending on co-governance — no matter how intense and overwhelming the opposition — will only convince increasing numbers of voters that the whole point of Three Waters is to function as a Trojan horse to hand unelected iwi members control over billions of dollars’ worth of community assets.Graham Adams 

The belief that free speech is a “Right-wing conservative” ideal reveals a very limited knowledge of history. In different generations, the Left and the Right have both advocated for and opposed free speech. That’s why free speech is not a Left-Right issue; it’s a liberty-orientated vs authoritarian issue. – Jonathan Ayling

Now, that word “racist”. I believe a racist is someone who thinks certain races are inherently superior to others and therefore entitled to rights not available to supposedly “inferior” races. That’s a meaning we can all agree on. But the moment you stretch the definition beyond that, the word can mean anything the user wants it to mean. In the contemporary New Zealand context, that means it can be applied to anyone who disagrees with you – for example, on issues such as 50-50 co-governance with iwi. But the people who throw the term “racist” around don’t realise that they have stripped the word of its potency. “Racist” should be the most offensive epithet imaginable, placing the accused person on a par with Adolf Hitler or the Ku Klux Klan. But the word is so overused as to have become meaningless, so Shelley’s wasting her breath there.Karl du Fresne

There is a unique record of co-operation, harmony and goodwill between the two main racial groups. That’s manifested in the history of inter-marriage which today ensures that every person who identifies as Maori must also own up to some European blood, which means their supposed oppressors included their own white forebears. I’ve yet to see anyone reconcile those awkward truths. If we’re to move forward as a society we need to acknowledge that all our forebears did bad things in the distant past and then put them behind us. We have too much in common to risk fracturing a society that the rest of the world has long seen as exemplary.

Where we run into trouble is where the Maori activist agenda collides with democracy. Democracy isn’t a white supremacist invention imposed to keep minority groups firmly under the heel of their oppressor. On the contrary, it’s a system whereby every citizen’s vote – Maori, Pakeha, Pasifika, Chinese, Indian, whatever – carries the same weight. I believe absolutely in democracy because ultimately, everyone benefits from it and everyone has a say. It is the basis of every free and fair society in the world, and those who undermine it need to think very carefully about what form of government might replace it. I can’t think of any that would appeal to me – certainly not one that grants special rights, privileges and entitlements on the basis of ancestry. We have a name for that: feudalism. We were smart enough to abandon it several centuries ago.

To finish, I am Tangata Tiriti and proud to be so. Like all Pakeha New Zealanders I’m here by right of the Treaty, a point often overlooked by Treaty activists who talk as if it grants rights only to Maori. My forebears came here in the 1870s and 1890s and New Zealand, therefore, is my turangawaewae. The thing is, we’re all beneficiaries of the Treaty and we need to think very long and hard before unravelling the many threads that bind us.- Karl du Fresne

The real tragedy of the wage rises of that size is that they are, of course, adding to the very problem they are trying to solve. If you are paying more because you are making more, selling more, and getting higher returns that’s good. But if you are paying more merely to hold talent so you don’t go bankrupt then that serves no one well in the long run. – Mike Hosking

If you are offering work to all who want it through expansion, and as a result of expansion everyone shares in the success with wage increases, that’s your economic sweet spot.

But if you are in a country that doesn’t let people in, has an economy that’s stalled because growth is not possible due to lack of staff, but those staff get paid more anyway, then you have a pending disaster.

It’s grinding to a halt. It isn’t good for anyone. And when your jobless rate doesn’t go down even when there are jobs galore and no one coming in to take them, that is a seriously large red flag. – Mike Hosking

Ultimately what counts most in a democracy is what the public thinks and why people vote the way they do, and there can be few people more poorly qualified to assess the public mood than press gallery journalists. The narrow world they’re exposed to is simply not the world most New Zealanders live in.

It would be a useful grounding exercise for them to listen to talkback radio for an hour or so each day. I wouldn’t pretend that’s the key to understanding what real New Zealanders are thinking, but it would expose press gallery reporters to a more authentic world than the one they inhabit, which largely consists of fellow members of the political class. (Of course it wouldn’t happen, because the typical political journalist probably regards talkback callers as the untermenschen.)Karl du Fresne

If this seems a rather sweeping condemnation of the entire gallery, I plead guilty. I acknowledge there are capable political journalists who make an honest attempt to do the job well. It’s just unfortunate that they are tainted by association with others who come across as self-absorbed, over-confident and, dare I say it, sometimes not very bright.  – Karl du Fresne

In my fairly long experience as a doctor, I discovered that many were those who willfully, knowingly, and unnecessarily sought misery. They did things that they knew in advance would end disastrously, often in short order. I also discovered that the ways of self-destruction were infinite: One could never enumerate or come to the end of them.

Among the proofs that we were not made for happiness but on the contrary often seek out its opposite is the fact that so many of us follow the news closely, though we know it will make us wretched to do so. We pretend that we have a need to be informed and are shocked when we meet someone who hasn’t the faintest idea of what is going on in the world. How can he bear to be so ignorant, how can he be so indifferent? It is our duty as citizens of a democracy to be informed, or to inform ourselves, even at the cost of our own misery; because, of course, news rarely gives us reasons to rejoice.Theodore Dalrymple

To observe happiness in others and to think of misery is, of course, the sign of an unhappy or discontented life. There are those who would look at the Taj Mahal and think only of how absurd it was, how unjust to the toiling multitudes, that the wife of an emperor should be memorialized in this extravagant fashion when all she had was the accident of beauty and the luck to be beloved of an emperor; these are sour people who would prefer the perfect justice of universal ugliness to an unevenly and unjustly spread beauty. – Theodore Dalrymple

It is clear that Ardern’s government plans to produce a document which sets out a future plan for Maori only, at the expense of parliamentary democracy and the civil and human rights of 84% of the New Zealand population. They are following exactly the same strategy they have in imposing “co-governance’ and compulsory acculturation of the New Zealand population throughout the public service, education system, health, welfare and justice, plus the enforced establishment of Maori wards in local authorities.Henry Armstrong

The Declaration Plan feedback document contains many proposals which will effectively establish a race-based,  separatist Apartheid structure in New Zealand. Mainstream media have deliberately downplayed the huge adverse implications for New Zealand going forward and have purposely contributed to the Ardern government’s ongoing strategy of deception, untruths and misinformation.

If we believe Ardern (who has a habit of reneging on her previous statements, such as taxes), the NZ public will be “consulted” sometime this year, with no guarantee that this “consultation” process will in any way affect the Plan, once decided upon, for to do so would mean Ardern and co are themselves racist – and we cannot of course have that, can we?

And you thought Putin is evil?  – Henry Armstrong

Do not let low unemployment fool you into thinking everything is fine. It might well be the opposite .- Oliver Hartwich

Bad rules and regulations are more common than you think. Although the worst offenders eventually prompt action, it’s the costly (but not too costly) rules that accumulate over time that kill an economy by sclerosis Sam Dumitriu

Anyone who asks the question “what is a woman?” is thereby revealing that they have the intelligence of your average garden slug. This is why we shouldn’t trust these so-called “archaeologists” who claim to be able to determine whether those ancient skeletons they’ve uncovered are “male” or “female”. This is pure pseudo-science. Next they’ll be telling us they can work out their pronouns by measuring the femurs.

Let me settle this matter once and for all. A woman is anyone who says she is a woman. A woman is a feeling, a shimmering nimbus of possibility, an echo of distant dreams reverberating gingerly through a winter’s gloaming. She is a mewling constellation, a bagful of semi-felched pixies, the enchanted stardust that pirouettes luminously on the spindle of time.

It’s got absolutely nothing to do with tits. – Titania McGrath

 It shouldn’t come as a surprise that so few people are familiar with Maori. For all the current chatter and virtue-signalling, the language is not taught as a compulsory subject in a public school system where young Maori kids, especially boys, already leave early in disproportionately high numbers.

If Ardern’s government really wanted to make a difference, it could do more to encourage deprived Maori kids to stay on in education. As it is, it seems more content to change road signs and baffle visitors with startling name changes.David Cohen

I find it unacceptable that despite our feedback over several decades, the government are still coercing the Pakeha identity on New Zealanders with European ancestry and am sure other ethnic groups have a similar frustration. – John Franklin

In this day and age where a boy is permitted to change his gender identity to female on the way to school at a whim, why are we being forced to assign to an identity we clearly don’t want?

The truth is that no one else’s opinion matters regarding our identity, we don’t need anyone’s permission, we don’t need a team of language experts, we don’t need a hui, it’s 100% our choice so all we need to do is to make a decision and then demand that our rights are respected.John Franklin

There will always be those who will throw out their hate anchors to stop New Zealand from healing and moving forward but we can’t let them divide us further with their racist policies in the guise of indigenous rights.

Anything that undermines every New Zealander’s right to be treated equally or gives extra rights based on ethnicity is racist, it’s wrong and will have bad consequences. Don’t be fooled by the twisted use of the equity philosophy employed by those who want to justify their special privilege, only equality can be the foundation of our rights and freedoms. If the UN thinks the answer to divisive history is to elevate the rights of one ethnic group above the others, then they are just meddling fools that should be ignored as that undermines the foundation of equality which in turn undermines the rights and freedoms that are built on it. – John Franklin

The “woke” always surprise me with their high boredom threshold, for one would have thought that nothing could be more boring than always looking at the world through the narrow distorting lens of race, gender, and so forth and always coming to the same conclusion about it.

However, one has to give it to the woke: Just as you think that their idiocies can go no further, they come up with something new. They display a kind of malign inventiveness in finding new ways to provoke people of more sensible dispositions. The woke manage to be inventive and boring at the same time (as Marxists used to be); and while it’s boring to have to argue constantly against bores, it’s necessary to do so, because otherwise the undecided will come to think that the arguments of the woke are unanswered because they’re unanswerable. – Theodore Dalrymple

I think rather that wokedom is analogous to diseases such as Kuru and Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans and scrapie in sheep, caused by particles called prions that infect the brain and cause it to degenerate, resulting in strange and disturbed behavior ending in death. Unless a remedy is found, what will die, however, isn’t an individual human being, but ultimately a culture and a civilization.Theodore Dalrymple

The problem with being a social justice advocate in a progressive liberal democracy is that there isn’t always enough overt sexism and racism from which to draw the requisite amounts of indignation. – Damien Grant

This country can stand rightly proud on what we have achieved when it comes to equality and diversity, even if serious mahi needs to be done in some areas.Damien Grant

Investing with the disreputable Simon Henry provided an eight-times better return than with Companion of the NZ Order of Merit recipient and My Food Bag co-founder, Theresa Gattung.

This will be a surprise to no one who understands commerce, but to those who think EBITDArefers to a new grouping of intersectional identity, this result will have come as a bit of a shock. – Damien Grant

In years to come some government agency may run a slide-rule over similar comments to assess if they breach beefed-up hate-speech laws, but for the moment the only consequences are public scorn and the associated commercial risk of having said something objectively awful.

This is appropriate. Free speech isn’t speech without consequences. In a free-market, people can choose who they do business with, who they work for, and who they associate with. – Damien Grant

While many in the media were content to report and comment on what Henry said, others decided that they are guardians of a new morality.

It isn’t enough that sunlight be applied to Henry’s choice of language. There isn’t any point in being a Social Justice Warrior if you don’t occasionally bayonet the wounded. – Damien Grant

Is it possible that the search for outrage is inadvertently manufacturing it?Damien Grant

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is widely misinterpreted as an effect where the observer changes what is occurring by their observation. It is possible that, through the manner in which the fourth estate has covered this event, they have created the very thing upon which they now breathlessly report on. – Damien Grant

Being a member of Parliament can bring out the best and the worst in people. You have to be slightly bonkers and have a high degree of confidence just to want to be an MP – unfortunately, that can click into arrogance really easily when you get there if not kept in check. I should point out that this arrogance is not the domain of just one political party. – Paula Bennett

I can’t believe that just three weeks ago Poto was denying there is a gang problem in NZ. But the PM has probably consoled herself that it’s not arrogance but incompetence and, as we see daily, that is acceptable in her Cabinet. – Paula Bennett

What should increasingly be worrying the PM is the arrogance of Trevor Mallard and the damage this is doing her. From badly handling the actual Parliament protest and then badly handling the aftermath by trespassing ex MPs and unforgivably giving Winston Peters a platform to crow from to generally running the debating chamber with ridiculous rulings that mean people can’t actually debate, it is time for him to bow out.Paula Bennett

It is high time we stopped using History as a weapon, and started relying upon it as a guide. – Chris Trotter

Before we all became mesmerised by the internet, humans spent much of their time in a little place called the real world. Here, people tended to interact with each other face to face, in the flesh, and as such, one could get a good sense of a person’s character by observing their behaviour.

This all changed with the rise of social media. The transition from a world in which people interact in person to one in which people interact through text led to a shift in the way we define and judge people. With little visibility of a person’s deeds, we had to focus on their words. And so we began to define people primarily by their opinions.

Since opinions are now the basis of public interaction and identity, there’s a new pressure to have a point of view. If you don’t have a perspective on the thing everyone else is talking about, it becomes difficult to socialise—you basically don’t exist. The result is that people feel compelled to take a stance on everything. – Gurwinder

Research suggests that when humans are pressured to have an opinion on an issue they know little about, they’ll often just hastily make one up, ad-libbing without regard to facts or logic, rather than admitting they don’t know. To compound the problem, people dislike changing their opinions (as it requires admitting they were wrong), so their impromptu views, which they cobbled together from whim and half-remembered hearsay, will often become their new hills to die on.

Essentially, the pressure to have an opinion in the digital age can cause people to resort to believing, or professing to believe, babble. – Gurwinder

Since people are now defined chiefly by their opinions, there’s not just pressure to have an opinion, there’s pressure to have the best opinion—the smartest, most sophisticated, most high-status. Digital society has become a beauty contest for beliefs, an opinion pageant.

Clearly, if people are simply improvising their opinions, they’re not going to have good opinions, let alone the best ones. So people will often employ a different strategy: copying the opinions of others.

They typically do this by outsourcing their thinking to professional commentators, who offer prepackaged “designer opinions” that people can wear like haute couture to become the envy of their friends.Gurwinder

However, just because a commentator is offering their opinions for sale, doesn’t mean their opinions are good. On the contrary, opinion-sellers often sell poorly considered opinions, because not only are they under the same pressure as everyone else to take stances on issues they know little about, but they must do so quickly. For a professional commentator, being the first one to think of a take is everything. As such, opinion-sellers will often rush their opinions out, and then, since they can’t change their view without looking bad, they’re forced to stick with it. – Gurwinder

Opinion-sellers make life easier for themselves and their customers by selling not just isolated opinions, but “opinion packages”. These are simplistic worldviews from which a set of consistent opinions on almost anything can be easily computed, equipping the bearer to opine on virtually any matter that comes up in conversation.

Arguably the most fashionable opinion package in the West today is what some refer to as “wokeness”. This is a kind of conspiracy theory that uses a lexicon of dubious concepts, such as “white fragility” and “toxic masculinity”, to portray Western society as “systemically” racist, misogynistic, and transphobic, and to scapegoat such problems on white people generally, and on straight white men specifically.Gurwinder

Woke opinions are popular for several reasons. For a start, they lift a great burden from the brain; there’s no need to understand a complex world if you can just blame everything on bigotry. But arguably the most important advantage of woke opinions is their success in the opinion pageant. They’re an effective way to improve one’s social standing, because constantly calling out bigotry makes one look unbigoted, compassionate, and socially aware—all values with high social capital.

The social capital offered by wokeness makes it an indispensable opinion package in image-oriented industries like media, academia, Hollywood, and public relations, which may be why wokeness is most dominant in these spheres. – Gurwinder

But the trouble with opinions is that one cannot know for sure whether or not they’re sincerely held, which leads to another problem of the opinion pageant: fraud. Just as designer clothes can be counterfeited, so can designer opinions. Except opinions cost nothing to fake.

Ersatz beliefs are now common in the business world. Savvy corporations have realised that in the opinion pageant, they must take a political stance to secure relevance, and since wokeness is the most high status suite of opinions, they almost exclusively subscribe to that package.Gurwinder

Wokeness offers corporations, celebrities, and other status-conscious entities the most prestigious package of views in the opinion pageant, but it’s increasingly having to contend with competitors. Perhaps the most notable of these is the “based” worldview. This opinion package is often sold by conservatives, but it’s less defined by what it’s for than what it’s against. And what it’s against is the reigning champion of the pageant, wokeness. – Gurwinder

The division of people into based, woke, and other competing worldviews has had an unfortunate side effect. It’s created a culture war between the various customer bases, a war that’s phony because most of the combatants are fighting for beliefs they haven’t properly considered, since they idly plagiarised them instead of concluding them through careful reasoning.

But the worst thing about the culture war is that it perpetuates the opinion pageant. When people become divided into factions, there becomes even more pressure to pick a side and have an opinion, or else one risks being known as a fence-sitter, a coward, or even worse, an enemy (“silence is violence!”, say the woke). The result is that even more people take a stance on issues they know little about.

The end result of the opinion pageant is a fraudulent world, a world where most people’s opinions are not their own. It’s a world of puppets being ventriloquised by strangers—strangers who are likely themselves puppets. In such a world, where words matter more than deeds, and opinions matter more than character, being “smart” requires no gift for thought, only a gift for mimicry, and being “good” requires no heart of gold, only a silver tongue & brazen nature. – Gurwinder

In the end, opinions are a hopeless way to define people, because, like designer clothing, they’re both faddish and easily counterfeited. If you want to know someone’s true nature, look beyond their words, and scrutinise the one aspect of their character that’s costly to fake—their actions. – Gurwinder

While news from Ukraine has mainly been about infrastructure destruction, a small miracle is taking place in the war-torn country. As Putin’s forces continue to bombard their cities, Ukrainian authorities have already begun reconstruction. . .

The road holes where the shells exploded have been repaired. Water and electricity are back on.

Amazingly, even large pieces of infrastructure have been rebuilt. Among them were road and rail bridges that were destroyed by the Russians in the first weeks of the war.

Irpin’s main bridge is now replaced with a temporary bridge measuring nine meters wide and 245 meters long. It took five days of uninterrupted work to complete it. – Oliver Hartwich

So let’s send Waka Kotahi to Ukraine. And if they find Ukraine’s infrastructure secret, we may allow them to return to New Zealand Oliver Hartwich

It is well known in all agricultural circles that the nitrogen fertilisers are the major contributor to lifting the third world out of poverty and why now, obesity is a bigger world-wide issue than malnutrition. And the peasant farmer getting richer is why the third world birthrate is dropping. But the watermelon Malthusians don’t want that.. You can’t establish a centrally planned world order in that environment. – Chris Morris

Bureaucrats sitting in Wellington are invariably highly skilled and the Ministry has some of the brightest public health advisors on staff too.

But I still feel they fail to realise the true impacts of the decisions they make on the lives of New Zealanders. – Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

Governments always talk about solutions being developed and decided closer to where the problems exist.

I couldn’t agree more. Communities do know what’s best for them. But with health that appears to be a “no go” area.

Communities are not trusted enough to be given the opportunity to have real input into planning and designing services.

They know the difference between primary and secondary healthcare and they know where they can make a meaningful contribution. – Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

We are in a warped world now, where work of minimal use and skill is better paid than what you might call a profession.

A world where reward comes from closed borders and a determination to limit the labour supply.

This is the recipe for economic ruin. It’s why today’s Budget will be in deficit, why the debt will be higher, and why the growth numbers will be anaemic if not non-existent.

A nurse starts at $53,000, a teacher $52,000, a dental assistant $46,000 and a lollipop person? $46,000.

You’ve got to be kidding me.Mike Hosking

They have corrupted a crusade to save the planet into sleazy pork barrel politics. Labour and the Greens new climate change policies are just vote buying.

The climate change policies announced this week will not bring New Zealand one day closer to net zero emissions but will fund, to name one policy, changes to school curriculum and NCEA so we “embed an understanding of the collective nature of our wellbeing.” Our schools will be teaching socialist dogma.

It just proves we cannot trust politicians with our money; they will spend it on buying votes. – Richard Prebble 

Even those schemes that will reduce emissions will not alter the country’s path to net zero emissions. The path is already in place. The ETS requires all carbon producers to buy credits equal to their emissions. The total amount of emissions is capped and will decline to net zero by 2050.

The policies announced this week will not alter this path. Under the ETS scheme every unit saved from say switching to an electric vehicle frees up a unit for some other activity such as driving an eight-cylinder gas guzzler.

All these new policies will do is enrich some at the expense of others. Many, such as corporations, who will be feeding at the pork barrel, can finance their own route to zero emissions.Richard Prebble 

A carbon credit from New Zealand forests has the same effect on the planet as a credit created from a tropical forest in the Solomon Islands.

It matters. While New Zealand is the world’s most efficient producer of milk we will never be the most efficient at growing forests to absorb carbon. An equivalent tropical forest absorbs four times more carbon.

New Zealand should be assisting poor countries like the Solomon Islands to regrow their tropical forests and earn ETS credits. Instead international investment funds are buying up productive New Zealand farms and turning them into inefficient carbon sinks.

Climate change in one country means the spot price of New Zealand carbon credits is $76.50. The world price is just US$20.81 – Richard Prebble 

Market price signals – not politicians – should decide the best way to allocate the carbon credits.

No marketplace would ever fund a “cash for clunkers” scheme. Everywhere it has been tried the scheme has proved a very expensive rort. When my daughter was training to be a teacher and needed a car to get to her rural school on section, I bought her an old clunker. Under this scheme she could trade that old clunker, get the $10 thousand subsidy, plus help from me, and buy a new car. I could drive the new car and let her drive my old car. She no longer has that car but you can see how easy the scheme is to rort.

Similar criticisms can be made of every one of the announced initiatives.

It is old fashioned centralized planning. Saving the planet is no reason to bring back failed socialist central planning. Combating climate change is so vital it is essential we use the most powerful and successful economic tool, the free market.Richard Prebble 

When one surveys the various idiocies pursued by Western governments of late years, one cannot help but marvel at the stupidity of this branch of the human race, without immodestly guaranteeing that one would have done better than the buffoons and poltroons had we been in charge.

One of the reasons we could not guarantee this is that a condition of attaining power in modern democracies (other than insensate ambition and inner emptiness) is that those who seek power must promise six impossible things before breakfast to their credulous electorates. They must promise to square the circle, to part the Red Sea, to turn back the waves, to reconcile the irreconcilable. Afterward, they are trapped by their own rhetoric. When the circle refuses to be squared, the person who promised it becomes a figure of hate, ridicule, or contempt. It goes without saying that no electorate ever blames itself, any more than any fly blames itself for being a nuisance. –

For many years, the policy of several Western governments has been, by various subterfuges, to live beyond their means, to spread largesse they do not have, to put off the reckoning to another day, to deceive the electorate into thinking that what cannot continue will nevertheless continue, and moreover continue forever. No doubt it is economically primitive of me (by comparison, say, with the new monetary theorists), but I believe that the greatest economist who ever lived, or at least lived in a certain sense, was Mr. Micawber:Theodore Dalrymple

To be frank, climate change is not high on my list of prioritise personally. I’m not a denier, I just don’t care terribly.

So, I’m not unhappy about this announcement today, because I feel like I’ve dodged a cost bullet again.

But I do wonder what the heck they’ve been up to if it’s taken them this long to pull together a plan that has no plan in it.  – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Since Grant Robertson became minister of finance, government spending has gone up 68 percent. With all of the growth forecasts slashed and most of the increased tax revenues spent, there is little in the Budget that shows the government is doing anything to stop the country from going backwards.

Granting everybody’s wishes may be fun, but it is unsustainable.Brigette Morten

Labour’s failure to order the Covid vaccine on time looks to have cost the average Kiwi household around $7000. Don’t worry. That average household has already forked out around $5500 in extra taxes to help pay for it. We’ll pay the rest later. – Matthew Hooton

In Auckland in particular, the preventable lockdown also drove more family businesses broke, ruined a second school year for tens of thousands of students and worsened already fragile mental health.

Yet no one in the Beehive or the bureaucracy has even apologised for the failure to begin our mass vaccination programme six months earlier.Matthew Hooton

The vaccine fiasco underlines that it is more often managerial competence than the amount of your money ministers boast they are spending that determines the efficacy of government programmes. Government didn’t ignore Pfizer’s 2020 offer because it was underfunded but because it was gormless.

Yesterday, Robertson boasted that he plans to spend more money than any of his predecessors. For 2022/23 alone, core Crown spending is now picked to be $127.1b, up another $6.9b over what was estimated as recently as December, already factoring in Robertson’s planned $6b of extra spending. This is not a sign of success but of failure, or at least that things are going wrong.

The increase over the December forecast is an extra $3500 per household. In 2022/23, Robertson now expects to spend $35.9b more than he and his predecessor Steven Joyce did in 2017/18. That is a 45 per cent increase, or nearly $20,000 per household.

To pay for it, Robertson estimates he will collect over $14,000 more per household in tax than he and Joyce did together in 2017/18. By the middle of next year, each household will carry over $50,000 more in net core Crown debt than when Robertson took the job — and debt will grow again in 2023/24. – Matthew Hooton

But if ministers, the media and the public continue to see increased government spending as a sign of success, not failure, then future finance ministers should do nothing. Demographics alone will allow them to boast big increases in spending, yet with no improvement in access, services or outcomes. – Matthew Hooton

The lesson from the 45 per cent increase in spending over which Robertson has presided is that the Government is taxing and borrowing quite enough. It has more than enough money to do a reasonable job at providing the services and support expected of it. But none of those services and support will in fact get better until the conversation turns to competence — and where governments at least apologise for things like unnecessary multibillion-dollar lockdowns. – Matthew Hooton

Here I am with my pronouns – Cactus Kate NPUWYWS (not putting up with your woke shit). Bite that as a pronoun.Cactus Kate

Government spending has increased by 66 per cent since Labour came into Government. That means that they are spending $51 billion more than in 2017. I really want to repeat that. $51 billion. The Labour Government won’t be worried that I repeated that number, because most of you don’t think in billions and so you won’t be too bothered because the number is so big it is unrecognisable to the average person.

So let’s make it relatable. That is $10,000 per New Zealander. Yes, you have paid $10,000. So far. Well actually they have borrowed most of that, so your kids and grandkids will have to pay that back. When people say that spending $145 million on consultants at our transport agency Waka Kotahi is chump change, you’re the chump. – Paula Bennett

There are a whole lot of things going up under this Government. The number of kids not regularly attending school has gone up. Not your problem as you’re a good parent who can afford to read Premium? Well, it is as those kids are disengaged from society, some illiterate as they haven’t learnt the basics, they are going to be problems in the future. At best they will spend a lot of time on welfare, at worst they will join the growing crime spree as they feel they have nothing to lose.Paula Bennett

Pattrick knows how to include her research so that it’s a background wash rather than a foreground blob. – David Hill

Yes this inflation is not temporary, it is not “transitory”. New Zealand will NOT be achieving its agreed inflation target, not even remotely, over the “medium term”. My question is: since when can a Finance Minister and a Reserve Bank Governor put their signatures to an “agreed” course of action, then willfully ignore it? In monetary economics, we call it a loss of credibility.Robert MacCulloch

https://breakingviewsnz.blogspot.com/2022/05/hilary-calvert-government-must-come.html

The Decolonisation of New Zealand Education

The energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine disabused many politicians of the notion that the world could make a swift transition to green energy powered by solar, wind and wishful thinking. As food prices skyrocket and the conflict threatens a global food crisis, we need to face another unpopular reality: Organic farming is ineffective, land hungry and very expensive, and it would leave billions hungry if it were embraced world-wide. 

The rise in food prices—buoyed by increased fertilizer, energy and transport costs—amid the conflict in Ukraine has exposed inherent flaws in the argument for organic farming. Because organic agriculture shirks many of the scientific advancements that have allowed farmers to increase crop yields, it’s inherently less efficient than conventional farming. – Bjorn Lomborg

A small country depends on our ability to sell stuff to the world with clear rules that everyone follows. The alternative is a trading world tilted to the powerful, where we’re forced to take sides and we survive by transferring wealth to our economic masters. – Josie Pagani

The explosion in trade mirrored almost exactly an unprecedented decline in extreme global poverty.

Despite record levels of international trade last year, that pace of growth is slowing. Slower growth in globalisation has coincided with slower progress in reducing poverty.

While we welcome the US commitment to security in the Pacific, there is a gaping lack of a real trade and economic agenda.

Without market access, the US cannot hope to counter Chinese influence in the region. – Josie Pagani

There is nothing a strong government likes more than a weak people; and therefore, whether consciously or not, everything is done to render the people ever feebler. Not physically, of course, we are raising up giants of a size and strength never before seen, as can be seen on any sports field, but psychologically—which is why psychology is the handmaiden of soft authoritarianism, it teaches people their vulnerability.

The more vulnerable people can be induced to believe themselves to be, the more they need assistance to keep themselves going. Such assistance (which is self-justifying, though never sufficient, or indeed even partially effective) requires a vast legal and other infrastructure, put in place and regulated by the government. The government is the pastor, the people are the sheep.Theodore Dalrymple

Are men now like sugar that dissolves in the slightest moisture? It seems so. Surely at one time men could have withstood or laughed off an insult or two without bursting into tears or seeking compensation for the terrible trauma to their ego that such an insult did. Of course, where a perceived harm is actionable at law, more such harm will be perceived. It is an established fact that in countries in which whiplash injuries as a result of car collisions are not legally actionable, people do not suffer from the kind of whiplash injuries that they experience when there is the possibility of compensation. The real cause of whiplash, then, is not accident but tort law, and it is the lawyers whom the sufferers from it should be suing, not the people who ran into the back of their cars. – Theodore Dalrymple

The more lawyers we train, the worse things get. As the French Revolution amply proved, underemployed and disgruntled lawyers are a very dangerous class, and they therefore have to be employed somehow. What better way of doing so than by promulgating a constant deluge of ever-changing regulations and ensuring that a population is made of eggshells? The proliferation of helplines (most of which are exceptionally busy today, that is to say whenever you ring them) indicates this.Theodore Dalrymple

Better a society of cheats than one of informers. The fact is that informers are not thinking of the betterment of society but of settling scores with those they inform upon, or they take a malicious pleasure from inflicting discomfiture on others. – Theodore Dalrymple

Such qualities as resilience and fortitude are the deadliest enemies of any modern government bureaucracy.Theodore Dalrymple

In the city, you’ve got consistency, convenience and control,” says Lim. “When we lived in Auckland, we got My Food Bag delivered, or you could pop out to the shops and get something when you felt like it and very quickly. Down here, it’s the complete opposite. Nature dictates when you’re going to have it and how much you are going to have. There isn’t any consistency. You just have to work with what you’ve got. – Nadia Lim

 I didn’t necessarily want to be on a big farm, I would have been quite happy on a lifestyle block, but Carlos wanted to do the proper farming thing.

“And I always felt, more so probably in the past five years, this overwhelming sense of responsibility to not only be part of the process of preparing food – teaching people how to cook and use these ingredients – but to also be part of the process of how the ingredients get to your plate. How you grow your food, how you raise it . . . I want to complete the full cycle.Nadia Lim

There is no black and white. I don’t buy into the idea of people saying farmers should do things this way, or that way. There are far too many variables and there are pros and cons to all systems, whether they be conventional or organic or spray-free or regenerative.

“People watch documentaries or read an article, and of course humans like things to be made simple . . . I can 100 per cent put my heart on the line and tell you it’s not. – Nadia Lim

When it comes to growing food, to me it is the most simple, natural thing in the world – there is no such thing as an ecosystem that does not have plants AND animals in it. It’s not as simple as ‘livestock bad, plant good’. It comes down to who is helping curate the balance of the two.Nadia Lim

Our leaders need to stand up, back our police and give them all the support and resource they need to keep us safe. It does not help when leaders like our current mayor reportedly state that there is a perception that our city isn’t safe. It is not a perception, Mayor Goff, that is insulting to the woman cowering in her own lounge as bullets explode around her property.

The violence can no longer be ignored by the Government and by us. It is no longer something that is happening among them – it is happening to us. – Paula Bennett

I worry when my kids are in town, I hate them going in there. They tell me town was OK, “only about 3 fights,” that they witnessed.

So just the 20 bullet holes, the 3 fights (that we know of), and the suburbs filled with opportunists hitting people up for cash.

Welcome to Auckland – what a cool place to live.Kate Hawkesby

As I’ve been pointing out now for a couple of years, the obvious gap in the plans of our betters for a carbon-free “net zero” energy future is the problem of massive-scale energy storage. How exactly is New York City (for example) going to provide its citizens with power for a long and dark full-week period in the winter, with calm winds, long nights, and overcast days, after everyone has been required to change over to electric heat and electric cars — and all the electricity is supposed to come from the wind and sun, which are neither blowing nor shining for these extended periods? Can someone please calculate how much energy storage will be needed to cover a worst-case solar/wind drought, what it will consist of, how long it has to last, how much it will cost, and whether it is economically feasible? Nearly all descriptions by advocates of the supposed path to “net zero” — including the ambitious plans of the states of New York and California — completely gloss over this issue and/or deal with it in a way demonstrating total incompetence and failure to comprehend the problem. – Francis Menton

Bottom line: I’m not trusting anybody’s so-called “model” to prove that this gigantic energy transformation is going to work. Show me the demonstration project that actually works.

They won’t. Indeed, there is not even an attempt to put such a thing together, even as we hurtle down the road to “net zero” without any idea how it is going to work.Francis Menton

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is backfiring for Russia on every front. For now, it has given the EU an advantage. How Brussels will use it may be a different matter.- Oliver Hartwich

Win $2 million in Lotto and you’re celebrated. Earn $2 million busting your arse to help other people and you’re criticised. Welcome to New Zealand.Lani Fogelberg

Someone could be busting their arse in a business capacity and the good they’ve done won’t be celebrated. There will be an undertone that encourages people to envy them or ask why they should have $2m? But they may have worked hard and gone through quite a lot to have a genuine contribution. – Lani Fogelberg

The tall poppy syndrome here is worse than in Australia. The responses are pretty aggressive and it’s getting worse. If you’re successful in business, people treat you well to your face but behind your back, it’s different. They don’t want to be associated with successful people; rather than being celebrated, they’re viewed as someone not to hang out with.Lani Fogelberg

A lot of New Zealanders think the only way you can be successful is using other poor people, walking over them for their own profitability and benefit, that’s the mindset of this country because we’re taught everyone must be equal. – Lani Fogelberg

My God! The amount of shit you get for owning a Ferrari. I’m a petrolhead. It’s no different to a woman being passionate about fashion.Lani Fogelberg

In the Great Game of the 21st century, face-to-face diplomacy is perhaps the single most valuable tool – as Australia’s Penny Wong and China’s Wang Yi successfully demonstrated over the past week. The global geopolitical temperature is steadily rising. New Zealand needs to ensure it can withstand the heat. – Geoffrey Miller

 Humanism valorizes the individual—and with good reason; we are each the hero of our own story. Not only is one’s individual sovereignty more essential to the humanist project than one’s group affiliation, but fighting for individual freedom—which includes freedom of conscience, speech, and inquiry—is part of the writ-large agenda of humanism. It unleashes creativity and grants us the breathing space to be agents in our own lives.

Or at least that idea used to be at the core of humanism.

Today, there is a subpart of humanists, identitarians, who are suspicious of individuals and their freedoms. They do not want a free society if it means some people will use their freedom to express ideas with which they disagree. They see everything through a narrow affiliative lens of race, gender, ethnicity, or other demographic category and seek to shield groups that they see as marginalized by ostensible psychic harms inflicted by the speech of others.Robyn E. Blumner

 Rather than lifting up individuals and imbuing them with autonomy and all the extraordinary uniqueness that flows from it, identitarians would divide us all into racial,  ethnic,  and  gender-based groups and make that group affiliation our defining characteristic. This has the distorting effect of obliterating personal agency, rewarding group victimhood, and incentivizing competition to be seen as the most oppressed.

In addition to being inherently divisive, this is self-reinforcing defeatism. It results in extreme examples, such as a draft plan in California to deemphasize calculus as a response to persistent racial gaps in math achievement.2 Suddenly a subject as racially neutral as math has become a flashpoint for identitarians set on ensuring equality of outcomes for certain groups rather than the far-more just standard of equality of opportunity. In this freighted environment, reducing the need for rigor and eliminating challenging standards becomes a feasible solution. The notion of individual merit or recognition that some students are better at math than others becomes racially tinged and suspect.

Not only does the truth suffer under this assault on common sense, but we start to live in a Harrison Bergeron world where one’s natural skills are necessarily sacrificed on the altar of equality or, in today’s parlance, equity. – Robyn E. Blumner

But nobody should be under any illusion: the Government’s ongoing stimulatory fiscal policy is contributing to the need for the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates, something which the Treasury warned the Minister just weeks before the Budget when the Minister decided he wanted to dole out some cash sweeteners to help low income New Zealanders with the cost of living.

It’s like a car being driven with one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator – the more the Government stimulates the economy with fiscal policy, the harder the Reserve Bank will need to apply the brakes of higher interest rates.Don Brash   

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 

Independence does not mean never taking sides. That would be neutrality.

Independence does not entail never deploying one’s military, either. That would be pacifism.

Independence means to make one’s own choices based on one’s values.

Such value-driven choices can (and indeed should) lead towards taking sides when democracies and dictatorships collide. – Oliver Hartwich

With tens of thousands of jobs currently going begging, it surely remains a fiscal and moral failure that tens of thousands of fully able working-age Kiwis are sticking with the dole.Mike Yardley

Welfare dependency has rapidly expanded since Labour took office nearly five years ago.

In December 2017, there were 289,788 on a main benefit, or 9.7% of the working-age population. That has grown to 11% today. – Mike Yardley

Under Labour’s watch, jobseeker support recipients have soared from 123,042 four years ago to 173,735 today.

Despite the recent downtick, that still represents a 42% increase in four and half years. – Mike Yardley

How is it kind to stand idly by and allow so many people to diminish their horizons and wither their lives away in a perpetual state of dependency?

And what meaningful efforts are being made to enhance the work-ready potential of so many jobseeker recipients who have specified health issues? They aren’t serious enough health-related issues to have their benefit status changed to the supported living payment. – Mike Yardley

So don’t blame cows. Ruminants have been roaming the planet for millennia. Blame people. Climate change is a man-made problem.

The primary sector is responsible for 80 per cent of our export income. This pays the bills for a country which, in the next few months, will depressingly have 80 per cent of the population receiving some sort of state benefit. – Jamie Mckay

The country has lost its mojo after a decade of feeling good about itself. – Oliver Hartwich

The biggest contributor to New Zealanders’ grumpiness is the discrepancy between political promises and reality. Without constant promises of world-class performance, even mediocre results would be easier to bear.Oliver Hartwich

NZTA is symptomatic of a much wider problem in New Zealand, even though it is only a small puzzle piece. Faced with a serious problem, the government sets an ambitious long-term goal. It then launches massive public relations campaigns. Following that, it blows up the bureaucracy but fails on deliverables.

It is the same story in practically every major policy area. – Oliver Hartwich

New Zealanders used to be proud of their education system, which was considered world-class.

Today, the only measure by which New Zealand schools lead the world is in declining standards. – Oliver Hartwich

Aside from such big policy failures, New Zealanders are bombarded with worrying news daily. There are GPs reportedly seeing more than 60 patients per day. Patients are treated in corridors at some hospitals’ A & E departments, where waiting times now often exceed ten hours.

As gang numbers have grown, gun crime has also become a regular feature in news headlines. Ram raids, where youths steal cars and crash them into small shops, have become common.

Rather than dealing with these and many other issues, the government appears determined to add new challenges to doing business. It is about to introduce collective bargaining in the labour market and an extra tax on income to fund unemployment insurance.

And these are just the big-ticket items. Practically every industry can tell its own stories about new complex regulations, usually rushed through with minimal consultation, if any.

Furthermore, there is growing unease about the government’s move towards co-governance. It sounds harmless but it would radically alter how democracy operates in New Zealand and undermine basic principles of democratic participation.

All in all, the picture that emerges is that of a country in precipitous decline. That would be alarming enough. What makes it even more so is a perception that the core private and public institutions lack the understanding of the severity of the crisis or the ability to counteract it. – Oliver Hartwich

New Zealand needs to be careful not to turn into a failed state. That does not mean it should expect civil unrest, but a period of prolonged and seemingly unstoppable decline across all areas of public life.

The only way to reverse this process would be for New Zealand to regain its mojo: its mojo for serious economic and social reform. It has happened before. And it must happen again. – Oliver Hartwich

Although we “returned” to the university campus this past semester, students are reluctant to physically attend classes. They can’t see a future. Their mojo & buzz are gone. Despondency rules. One student said she’ll never know what opportunities may have arisen these past years & what doors may have opened had nearly her entire course not been on Zoom. Many say they want to leave NZ after graduating for foreign climes offering higher pay and lower living costs.

What did the government do to them? How did it manage to suck the oxygen out of the air they breathe? An answer has now emerged. It took away their dreams. – Robert MacCulloch

The proportion of people with high levels of psychological distress increased by far the most for 15-24 year olds between 2020 and 2021. It stands at record levels, rising from 5% in 2012 to nearly 20% in 2021. By contrast, for over 55 year olds, distress has fallen these past years to just 5% today. New Zealand has become a country for oldies to enjoy whilst the young silently drown.

There’s more evidence of our youth’s angst. National now polls better than Labour for voters under 40, an incredible turnaround for the PM. Gone are the days when the young embraced her. Their concerns about saving the world from itself have given way to anxiety about personal survival. – Robert MacCulloch

For starters, NZ’s virus policies, which included stringent lock-downs for everyone, regardless of age, were primarily designed for the benefit of the elderly. – Robert MacCulloch

What’s more, the Reserve Bank’s $52 billion money-printing programme during the pandemic favoured the asset-rich elderly. It inflated their wealth by increasing the value of their property and shares, crushing the young’s dream of home-ownership. – Robert MacCulloch

They’ve been robbed of income, since their cost-of-living-adjusted wages are dropping at the same time that inflation is “creeping” them into higher tax brackets.

Most students are hard up, but on the way up. They don’t want to live off the State. They want to be successful. Independent. Yet rewards for achievement don’t figure in our politics. Instead, it is dominated by David Parker-style talk about the evils of inequality between the top 1% and bottom 1%, as if the 98% don’t exist. – Robert MacCulloch

So all told, the unwillingness to vote of young, ambitious, non-work-shy Kiwis, except with their feet to leave the country, is not hard to explain.Robert MacCulloch

With methane, scientists know that the flow of methane into the atmosphere from New Zealand ruminant animals is close to what it was 30 years ago.  As a consequence, and linked to the scientific knowledge that about eight percent of methane molecules decompose each year, an approximate balance in the atmospheric ‘bath tub’ has been reached and the atmospheric cloud of NZ pastoral-sourced methane is close to stable. Hence, this argument goes, New Zealand’s agriculturally-sourced methane is contributing to further global warming in a minimal way. – Keith Woodford

If the new system is to have any hope of giving Kiwis the health services they deserve, there is only one certainty – the Government is going to need the buy-in of those on the frontline.

There is every sign of the opposite being the case.

Imposing another health system restructure on them at a time when workers are already exhausted by one of the most demanding health crises in decades, and especially when they already feel undervalued and misunderstood by the Government, is not a great way to start.Tracy Watkins

It’s very Ardern to gloss over the reality and spin the theory. – Mike Hosking

The vast amounts of money given away by officials to businesses who did not need it has cost each taxpayer several thousand dollars and all the surplus cash started an asset price bubble.

This has impacted on the wellbeing of many New Zealanders by greatly increasing inequality, unaffordable housing, child poverty and inflation. The predictable outcome was the opposite of what the Government said that it wanted to achieve.

The failure of public servants to act in the public interest and the lack of accountability and transparency has highlighted the need for the public service to have greatly improved financial objectives and standards.

A royal commission of inquiry could investigate the management of taxpayer funds since March 2020 and recommend reforms. – Grant Nelson

But everyday life seems to be getting more difficult, more costly, more tiring.

Sorting even the simple things appears harder than it used to be. Slower, dearer, harder seems a suitable motto.Kevin Norquay

New Zealand’s economic foundations are starting to crack pretty severely.

“If we do not see a substantial change in economic direction, there is a risk the whole house gets blown down.

You need those strong economic foundations and more and more of the pillars are starting to take knocks. A lot of warning bells are starting to ring. We are not heading to a nice place. – Cameron Bagrie

We’ve got a very divided society, ethnically, the haves versus the have-nots, wealth inequality… and educational attainment levels, whether you look at actual achievement, or attendance.

If you wanted to pick a variable as to where New Zealand is going to be economically 30 years out, educational attainment today would be probably the best predictor.

The fact that we’ve let that one go for a long time is flashing warning signs about where we are going to be about 30 years down the track.Cameron Bagrie

We can’t just say New Zealand is broken. New Zealand is a great place, but … cracks are appearing very quickly, and they’re big cracks, and not the sorts of things you can ignore.

You can’t ignore inflation. You can’t just keep on spending and think it’s going to fix inflation. – Cameron Bagrie

There’s a shortsightedness. 

They don’t think ‘if I train really hard and get good at this, I can make a load of money for myself, and have my freedom, and the sorts of things that people want’.

Whether it’s a general problem with society, the youth can’t see a way out. It’s ‘I’m never going to own a house, I’m never going to have that’, so they just give up, and just do what’s easiest to get by. – Duncan Field

Angry people on Twitter is not a legal basis. I’m amazed WCC don’t realise this. – David Farrar

John Cochrane, another American economist, asked why free trade agreements are so long; thousands of pages.

He says that these trade agreements should say no more than: “We do not charge tarif