Quotes of the Year

December 31, 2019

You can volunteer to take life seriously but it is gonna get you, they are going to win over you, it is harsh, but you can either break down and complain about how miserable your life is or have a go at it and survive. I think that is the basis of it all. – Billy Connolly

Working for Families is a policy that satisfies few on the Left or the Right. Compromises rarely do. They are imperfect by their nature. They are necessary, however, because people are imperfect and always will be. If things were otherwise, we wouldn’t need government at all. – Liam Hehir

The greatest threats to our native wildlife – and our rural economy – may yet be science denial and conspiracy belief. – Dave Hansford

Those elected to positions of authority need to understand that the human condition rarely engages in deceit and halftruths as much as when rehearsing or inventing the science behind their personal environmental concerns.Gerrard Eckhoff

When our total emissions account for 0.17 per cent of total global emissions, leadership isn’t being first, fast and famous. Leadership is taking what we already do well, food production, and doing it even better over time by investing in innovation and technology.  Todd Muller

People have a choice with how they respond to adversity in their life. Creating a positive attitude gives you more control over your circumstances. By staying positive, it means you can make the most out of your life no matter what gets thrown in your direction. – Emma Barker

Being part of a baying mob, for that is what much of our modern commentary has been reduced to, isn’t brave and nor is it radical.

Standing up to them is. – Damien Grant

It is stupid and dangerous. But, we are on private property and we’re just having a bit of fun.

No-one has got too hurt yet … we are not stupid about it. – Patrick Ens

The first challenge is that urban New Zealand does not understand the extent to which our national wealth depends on the two pillars of dairy and tourism.  Yes, there are other important industries such as kiwifruit and wine, and yes, forestry, lamb and beef are also very important. But rightly or wrongly, our population has been growing rapidly, and the export economy also has to keep growing. There is a need for some big pillars.

Somehow, we have to create the exports to pay for all of the machinery, the computers, the electronics, the planes, the cars, the fuel and the pharmaceuticals on which we all depend. . . Keith Woodford

Believe passionately enough in something and you’ll be shouting at the younger generation well into your eighties. – AnnaJones

We realise that Pharmac has a budget, but there seems to be a never ending open budget for welfare. New Zealand surely isn’t so broke that we have to pick and choose who we let live and who we let die. But that is currently where we find ourselves.Allyson Lock

The problem with numbers is that they don’t fudge.They’re definite. Exact. Numbers don’t lie. But people lie.People fudge. People lie about numbers. People fudge numbers. But numbers are the truth.  . .

I think there’s a political lesson here for this government. Watch the numbers or your number’s up. – Andrew Dickens

My take away from all this is that referendums do have a place, even binding ones. But it is best to call on these when the issues are clear and easily understood by everyone in the community. Brexit or not might have seemed clear at the time, driven as it was mainly by fears of uncontrollable immigration across the Channel. But it was not of this genre. As Oscar Wilde remarks: ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’. In such cases, perhaps best leave it to parliaments. That way we’ll know who to blame it if all goes wrong.Professor Roger Bowden

All kinds of wild ideas that are untested and are demonstrably bad for them and demonstrably wrong – these ideas can spread like wildfire so long as they are emotionally appealing. Social media and other innovations have cut the lines that previously would have tethered the balloon to Earth, and the balloon has taken off. – Jonathon Haidt

Pettiness is on the increase, too, in the constant calling-out of sometimes-casual language that was never intended to offend or harass, and even may have been written or uttered with well-meaning intent. – Joanne Black

Why then did I leave Greenpeace after 15 years in the leadership? When Greenpeace began we had a strong humanitarian orientation, to save civilization from destruction by all-out nuclear war. Over the years the “peace” in Greenpeace was gradually lost and my organization, along with much of the environmental movement, drifted into a belief that humans are the enemies of the earth. I believe in a humanitarian environmentalism because we are part of nature, not separate from it. The first principle of ecology is that we are all part of the same ecosystem, as Barbara Ward put it, “One human family on spaceship Earth”, and to preach otherwise teaches that the world would be better off without us. Patrick Moore

There were rituals, prayer every night, communal eating, some adults staying at home looking after children while others went to work.

Looking back, it was one of the sweetest memories for me. It was a very secure, loving home with lots of uncles and aunts, and no shortage of cousins to play with. There wasn’t a lot of money, but an abundance of aspiration. – Agnes Loheni

We need to be 90 per cent women. Not 46 per cent women. – Jill Emberson  (speaking on the inequity of funding research for ovarian cancer)

These messages of envy and hopelessness—messages that lead to an insidious victim mentality and that are perpetuated by those who say they care more and are genuinely concerned for the communities I grew up in—lead to an outcome that is infinitely worse than any hard bigot or racist could ever hope to achieve. To take hopes and dreams away from a child through good intentions conflicts with the messages of aspiration, resilience, and compassion that I and my Pasefika community were exposed to as we grew up. That soft bigotry of low expectation is the road to hell laid brick by brick with good intentions.

Hope, resilience, compassion—these are the only messages that have any chance of succeeding and changing our course toward a better New Zealand. These values are not exclusive to my migrant parents; they are New Zealand’s values. They fit hand-in-glove with our Kiwi belief in hard work, enterprise, and personal responsibility. Agnes Loheni

Politics is an odd kind of game that sometimes requires a ruthless self-interest and at others altruistic self-sacrifice. It’s a patchwork of ideals and deals, virtue and vice, gamble and calculation. – Tim  Watkin

Small business would pay the costs, large business would spend thousands avoiding the costs and tax advisors and valuers would have a field day. AndrewHoggard

 There are limits, even to the immodesty of the self-proclaimed First Citizen of the Provinces, the wandering bard with the bag of pūtea, bestowing largesse on the forgotten hamlets of Aotearoa. – Guyon Espiner

Once we recover from our grief, do we slide back into being passively a “good” country? To simply “not be racist” when what is required of us is to be outspoken “anti-racists”? I don’t want thoughts and prayers. What I want to see is bold leadership, standing up and uniting in this message: that hate will not be allowed to take root and triumph here. And to then act on that message. I need us all to be courageous and really look inwards at the fears, judgment and complacence we may have allowed into our hearts, and look outward to demand a change in the conversation. And to be that change. Saziah Bashir

Words matter because when we isolate groups of people who don’t make up the majority of those we see, we turn them into “others”. And when we turn them into others we dehumanise them and make it easier to commit harm against them. – David Cormack

Being right wing to me means believing in free market ideals, open immigration where skills are needed, free trade and access to international markets, as little government intervention as possible and having the best people in your country to help your country become better. It means more opportunity for hard working immigrants. Quite often we ARE those bloody immigrants!

It’s not about closed borders. It’s not about denying people opportunity to build their businesses if they’re hard working and wish to contribute to a country. It’s not about wounding and killing people in places of prayer or on the streets. – Cactus Kate

New Zealand can never succeed, on any measure, by cowering behind a wall. Not just our economic destiny but our national identity depends on us maintaining the sense of adventure that brought us all here and extending manaakitanga to those who want to join us, visit us, do business with us, or take a holiday or study here.

Those of us who believe in these things should no longer reject the term neo-liberal, so often used as abuse, but reclaim it. What is the alternative: to be old conservatives? The political right needs to get back on track. – Matthew Hooton

We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. We are alive, we are together, we are determined to not let anyone divide us.

To the families of the victims your loved ones did not die in vain, their blood has watered the seeds of hope. – Gamal Fouda

We like to tell our food story and we have terms like market research and consumer behaviour that help us as we pick what to produce and how. Put simply, what we’re really doing is asking what does that person want and how can we make them happy? We’re seeking understanding. We’re listening to people we don’t know as much about. We could use more of that in our everyday lives right now. – Bryan Gibson

Wise politicians pick no unnecessary fights that focus people on differences instead of on values they share.StephenFranks

The way I’ve looked at married life is this – You make your bed, you lay in it.

“You get married and you think everything is a long tar-sealed road that is beautiful.

“And after a few years, you get a few potholes. And if you don’t fix the potholes, they get bigger.

“You have to keep fixing them. – Jack van Zanten

NZ First feels like the stumbling, drunk boyfriend that the cool girl brought to the party. She’s too good for him, and everyone can suddenly see it.  – Heather du Plessis-Allan:

 It was never clear to me whether anyone was doing anything useful or just pretending to do stuff to feel better about ourselves. How do you actually make the world a better place? – Danyl Mclauchlan

Social media and the changed nature of other media have obscured the capacity and need for real conversation. Ideas are not contested civilly, rather people are attacked, falsehoods multiply. Our evolution as social animals required mechanisms for group consensus and group rules. Democracy is a manifestation of that social dynamic and works best when publics are informed not manipulated,and can have a civil contest of worldviews, values and ideas informed by robust evidence. –  Sir Peter Gluckman

I worry there is a drive to sanitise life. When the end gets difficult, we are saying, right, that’s enough, let’s cut it short. There are alternatives. There are other choices to ameliorate suffering of all types. Assisted death is not necessary.

How we die says a lot about our society. Having held a few hands of the dying, I know that those moments are sacred. I didn’t swear the oath of first doing no harm, to then participate in an activity with multiple harmful effects to both the living and the dying.  – Hinemoa Elder

Reasoned communication is the way across the divide of difference. It requires leaving the past and its animosities behind. But this is very difficult. The past gives us a sense of security and belonging. The institutions of modern society which unite us don’t have the same pulling power as the rallying cries of the isms. No wonder ethnic nationalisms, nativisms, and populisms with their ‘us not you’ and ‘our culture not yours’ are winning out. Unexamined belief is more satisfying than reason – and its easier.  – Elizabeth Rata 

People’s wellbeing, even their lives, are at risk while well-meaning people make statements based on inappropriate and flawed research. – Jacqueline Rowarth

Only around 20 per cent of the population lives in the countryside, and decisions are being made about them and for them by predominantly urban people, many of whom have little understanding or empathy for their rural neighbours. – Dr Margaret Brown

Such is the far left’s belief in their own moral superiority that, while they point the finger of blame at others with alacrity, they appear to lack the self-awareness and self-reflection that would lead them to at least wonder whether they themselves are complicit in contributing to a divisive and hateful society. – Juliet Moses

I want to turn to our Māori people, because I believe it is time to switch your political allegiance back to yourself, to your own tino rakatirataka. The political tribalism of saying we only vote for the party is not doing us any favours. You must demand on every politician that walks across your marae ātea that they show you the proof of their commitment to working hard for you before you give them your vote, because talk is cheap, whānau. Actions, ringa raupā—the callused hands—those are what spoke loudly to our conservative tīpuna, and it is time to demand politicians show you their calloused hands, their ringa raupā, as evidence of what they have achieved for you. – Nuk Korako

However, the real danger to meddling in our sound and proven speech laws is that institutions, agencies and interest groups with their own social and political agendas will likely have a disproportionate influence that is not in the national interest. There will be some whose sole intent is to undermine the free speech we already enjoy. – Joss Miller 

It’s easy to take it for granted that we are mostly led by politicians who are motivated to do their best by us; one look around the world today shows us how easily it could be different.

Politics in New Zealand has undoubtedly become more tribal since I started but beneath the rhetoric the differences are really not so great.

I leave here firmly believing there are no good guys or bad guys; the various parties may have different solutions to the same problems but fundamentally there is the same will to solve the problems. – Tracy Watkins

I realised two things that day. I would never, ever, let anyone I cared for enter a life of politics – and that politicians bleed, just like the rest of us. In the years since, I’ve tried to remember the power of words to hurt. – Tracy Watkins

My clear thrust in politics has been around … actually what we’ve just seen in Australia, what ScoMo called the ‘quiet Australians’, they’re here in New Zealand too. All they really want from a government is a strong economy, good public services and for us to get out of the way, and let them get on with their families, and that’s what drives me – Simon Bridges

I don’t think we do anyone any favours by pretending it’s easy, because it isn’t. I don’t think you can have everything all at once. – Linda Clark

It is the private sector that will do the heavy lifting. Nothing will happen unless and until the owners of companies take the decision to invest more, hire more people, and take a risk on economic opportunitySteven Joyce

The more you pay people, the fewer people you can afford to pay. Unless of course you sell more, and you only sell more if people feel good about buying. – Mike Hosking

I am living the way my forefathers lived, who left the footprint for me. It was good enough for my people, for my parents, my grandparents, who bought the house in 1887 – it is a tribute to them. – Margaret Gallagher

If I won the lottery, I would still live here. I am a rural rooted spinster. – Margaret Gallagher

Preachers of tolerance and inclusion must no longer seek to silence and condemn those with opinions that make them uncomfortable but are nevertheless opinions based on another person’s own beliefs and values systems. While we need to stay vigilant and investigate people who post offensive material online, we need to be equally concerned about any move in this House to restrict freedom of speech, a move which has all too often been used by those in power to silence those with differing opinions or ideas. This doctrine, peddled by those who pretend to be progressive, asserts that the mere expression of ideas itself is a limitation on the rights of others. This is preposterous. We must always run the risk of being offended in the effort to afford each citizen their freedom of expression, their freedom to be wrong, and, yes, unfortunately, even nasty. We must let the punishment of those with hateful messages be their own undoing.  Paulo Garcia

 It’s a blunt instrument that doesn’t always work, but parents love and understand their children. They are uniquely placed to make them see sense and not rush off with some jezebel or fall pregnant to some ageing lothario.

Welfare is a merino-covered sledge hammer that smashes these traditional bonds. Teenagers are freed from the financial constraints of their family and can turn to a new parent, the state, who will not judge, lecture, or express disappointment in their life decisions. . .

When you design a system that disenfranchises parents and undermines families you are rewarded with a cohort of lost children and will, in a few short years, find yourself taking babies off teenagers who are unfit to be parents. Damien Grant

Pasture-based New Zealand dairy production is the most carbon efficient dairy farming system in the world. In fact, you can ship a glass of New Zealand milk to the next most efficient country (Ireland) and drink it there and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk. – Nathan Penny

Kids are kids. PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that. Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/co-parenting situations, terrible media influences … and we are going to give the excuse that the KIDS have changed? What did we expect them to do? Kids behave in undesirable ways in the environment they feel safest.

They test the water in the environment that they know their mistakes and behaviours will be treated with kindness and compassion. For those “well-behaved” kids – they’re throwing normal kid tantrums at home because it’s safe. The kids flipping tables at school? They don’t have a safe place at home. Our classrooms are the first place they’ve ever heard ‘no’, been given boundaries, shown love through respect. – Jessica Gentry

In a nation like ours, immigration is a kind of oxygen, each fresh wave reenergizing the body as a whole. As a society, when we offer immigrants the gift of opportunity, we receive in return vital fuel for our shared future. – L. Rafael Reif

We should be very wary of underplaying the progress and successes we’ve already made as food producers and custodians of the land.  If we pay too much attention to the critics, it saps motivation and puts more stress on the shoulders of farmers and their families. – Katie Milne

The opportunities in the agri-food sector are endless, even if you live in the city. You just have to be passionate – James Robertson

The choice really is clear. Do we want to be remembered in the future for being the generation that overreacted and spent a fortune feeling good about ourselves but doing very little, subsidising inefficient solar panels and promising slight carbon cuts — or do we want to be remembered for fundamentally helping to fix both climate and all the other challenges facing the world? – Bjorn Lomborg

My starting point for this with public health is very simple, I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives, but I intend to help people get information that forms the basis for making choices. – Sylvi Listhaug

Pastoral agriculture is a pretty simple and slick system. We turn a natural resource that we can’t eat (grass) into something we can eat (meat and milk) with grazing animals. The land we (the world) use to do this is, by and large, not suitable for the production of sugar or the other 40 ingredients needed for cultured meat. Or, for the ingredients required in the less-terrifying, but no-less-processed plant-based “meats”.

Some people can’t stand the thought of an animal being killed for their food. So be it. Let them eat cake… or felafel. But, when it comes to meat, there is no substitute for the simplicity and safety of the real deal. – Nicola Dennis

But at times like this the public more than ever look to the media for impartial coverage. Is it too much to expect that journalists set aside their personal views and concentrate instead on giving people the information they need to properly weigh the conflicting arguments and form their own conclusions? –Karl du Fresne

Governments who are put in place by voters to help those that have been missing out enact policies that ensure those people keep missing out.

And those same Governments store up economic imbalances that bring real risks for our collective future security. All for the sake of short-term policies that appear popular in the here and now. – Steven Joyce

The whole idea of tearing the heart out of a nation’s economy to reduce methane emissions from livestock is an unbelievable display of scientific, technological and economic ignorance. It goes far beyond simply not knowing or being mistaken.  It is profound ignorance compounded by understanding so little it is not even possible to recognise one’s own ignorance which is then made malignant by thinking it must be imposed on everyone else for their own good. – Walter Starck

Everyone that’s being fired and publicly embarrassed about a misdemeanor and being called a Nazi — there are real Nazis who are getting away with it. This must be amazing for real racists to be out there, and going, “It’s all right, everyone’s a racist now, this is a great smokescreen, we’ve got people out there calling people who aren’t Nazis, Nazis. . . . They don’t know the real Nazis from people who said the  wrong thing once!” . . . It plays into the hands of the genuinely bad people. – Ricky Gervais

I get the equality movement – it’s valid and important. But I also know the dangers, firsthand, that mindset can play if we encourage everyone to see themselves as the same, instead of embrace the differences God intentionally created us with.

I have been more successful as a professional, a wife and a friend once I learned to embrace myself as different, not equal.  – Kate Lambert

The creation of wealth should not be confused with the creation of money and the amount of money in circulation at any given point. – Henry Armstrong

For me, it was South Island farmer Sean Portegys who articulated best what so many farmers are feeling – he told me that in a drought, you don’t despair because it’s always going to rain. In a snowstorm, the sun will come out eventually. When prices are bad, and he said they’d just gone through a rough patch a few years ago, it’s always going to come right eventually. The problem is now, he said, the situation that farmers are facing is a lack of hope. He says he just doesn’t see a future in what he’s doing. And if farmers don’t see a future, then the future of New Zealand Inc looks bleak. –  Kerre McIvor

The problem is, if you propose a set of rules that are unachievable you don’t get community buy-in and if you don’t get community buy-in, you don’t actually make any progress,- David Clark

There are no perfect human societies or human systems or human beings.  But that shouldn’t stop us celebrating our past, our heritage, our culture –  the things that, by opening to the world, made this country, for all its faults and failings and relative economic decline in recent decades, one of the more prosperous and safe countries on earth. – Michael Reddell

The productivity commission says – in a much nicer way than this – that most councillors are a bunch of useless numpties with no understanding of governance of finance, and so really aren’t capable of handling the big stuff. – Tina Nixon

If you cannot even state an opponent’s position in order to illustrate the benefit of arguing with that opponent, then free speech is over. Because no dialogue then is possible. Professor Jim Flynn

Freedom of speech is important because it is a contest of ideas.

When you forbid certain ideas, the only way you can be effective is by being more powerful. So it becomes a contest of strength. If you shut ’em up, not only does that make it a matter of `might makes right’, you haven’t proved that your views are more defensible, you’ve just proved that you are stronger. Further, that must be the worst formula for finding truth that’s ever been invented. It’s either a contest of ideas or a contest of strength. Professor Jim Flynn

 A free society cannot allow social media giants to silence the voices of the people. And a free people must never, ever be enlisted in the cause of silencing, coercing, cancelling or blacklisting their own neighbours. Professor Jim Flynn

People have to grow up. Being educated is getting used to hearing ideas that upset you. – Professor Jim Flynn

I see precautionary investment against climate change as equivalent in political decision-making, to expenditure on defence. Both require spending for highly uncertain benefit. No one can know whether we genuinely have an enemy who will attack. No one can know if our precautions will be effective. Hopefully the investment will be untested. We can’t know until afterwards whether it is wasted. Yet it is rational to try, because the catastrophe could be so overwhelming if the risk matures without resilience or mitigation precautions.

But such investment remains foolish if it is unlikely reduce CO2 levels materially, or to improve New Zealand’s ability to cope if change happens nevertheless. Given NZ’s inability to affect the first, an insurance investment should focus primarily on resilience. The Zero Carbon Bill does neither. So my government is wasting the elite political consensus that ‘something must be done”. Instead they’re conspicuously trumpeting their “belief” in climate change, and their intentions to act. If the law is enforced it will likely increase emissions overseas, and not influence foreign governments to mitigate the risk, who can affect the outcome. – Stephen Franks

The brute facts of New Zealand history suggest that if it’s blame Maori and Pakeha are looking for, then there’s plenty to go around. Rather than apportion guilt, would it not be wiser to accept that the Pakeha of 2019 are not – and never will be – “Europeans”? Just as contemporary Maori are not – and can never be again – the Maori who inhabited these islands before Cook’s arrival. Would it not, therefore, be wiser to accept, finally, that both peoples are victims of historical forces too vast for blame, too permanent for guilt?Chris Trotter

As I have gone through my horrible journey, I have realised why ovarian cancer support doesn’t gain the kind of traction that breast cancer does. It is because we are small in number, and we die really quickly, so we don’t have the capacity to build up an army of advocates. With breast cancer, there is a lot more women who get it, therefore they can build and build their army of advocates and they are able to raise more money, get more research, and get better outcomes, so they live longer. We need the support of breast cancer survivors. We need them to link arms with us to grow our army for ovarian cancer, which will then help us get more funding fairness. Funding leads to research, and research leads to longer lives. – Jill  Emberson

This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re politically woke, and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting with may love their kids and share certain things with you. – Barack Obama

I can’t make people not afraid of black people. But maybe if I show up every day as a human, a good human, maybe that work will pick away at the scabs of your discrimination. –Michelle Obama

In South Africa, pressure is not having a job or if one of your close relatives is murdered. In South Africa there are a lot of problems, which is pressure. – Rassie Erasmus

We shouldn’t subsidise the smelter.  Rather we should stop forcing Southlanders to subsidise Aucklanders.  We should also revert to a more gradual water plan that gives farmers time to adapt, and we should let Southland retain control of SIT.  Then we should get out of the way and let the sensible practical Southlanders get on with making a success of their province. – Steven Joyce

All of us face trials and tribulations. No-one always wins, in the end we all lose. We lose friends, marriages, money, get anxious, our bodies break down, our minds go, and then we die. Isn’t life great?

But actually, isn’t living also a lot of highs? Births, marriages, beaches, trips abroad, friends, sporting victories, pets, pay increases, leaves sprouting in spring, fish and chips on a sunny day. – Kevin Norquay

You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient. We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate. Kerry Emanuel

Knowledge in long-term memory is not a nice-to-have. Rather, it is an integral part of mental processing without which our working memories (which can hold only about four items at a time) become quickly overloaded. – Briar Lipson

None of it convinces me from my position that there is no “I” in meat but if you look closely you will find the words me and eat.  That should be good enough to convince tree huggers and hippies that they should be switching back to natural. – Cactus Kate

It [managerialism] undermines the ability of state services to help citizens, but empowers it to infantilise us.

We’re discouraged from acting on our own, and forced to bow to experts. Yet systems and fancy talk prevent experts taking substantive action for fear of career, safety, or arbitrary consequences for taking the “wrong” action. In these environments, there are no career prospects for heroes.  Mark Blackham

It used to be that people joined the Labour Party to make their lives better off. Now they join to make someone else’s life better off. – Josie Pagani

If all the new Tory voters wanted was more from the state and more lecturing on how to live their lives, they would have voted for Labour. These voters want a hand up, not a handout. If you give people things and make them reliant upon the state then next time they will vote for those who will give them more things. – Matthew Lesh

. . .It matters because the still-cherished principles of secular humanism, which continue to inspire the multitude of moral arbiters who police social media, come with provenance papers tracing them all the way back to a peculiar collection of Jews and Gentiles living and writing in the Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago. Ordinary human-beings who gathered to hear and repeat the words of a carpenter’s son: the Galilean rabbi, Yeshua Ben-Joseph. Words that still constitute the core of the what remains the world’s largest religious faith –  Christianity.

It matters, also, because, to paraphrase Robert Harris, writing in his latest, terrifying, novel The Second Sleep: when morality loses its power, power loses its morality. Chris Trotter

Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas DayJim Hopkins


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2018

That’s creative thinking – if I had known that I probably would have joined them. –  Inspector John Kelly on the New Year revellers who built a large sandcastle in the middle of the Tairua estuary in an attempt to avoid the liquor ban.

Among western leftists, morality had become culture-specific. If imperialism’s victims asked for support, then they would be given it, unquestioningly. If not, then they would tend to their own political gardens exclusively.

The problem for western feminists is that, in spite of these cultural and political self-denying ordinances, the only garden currently showing unequivocal signs of flourishing, is their own. Across vast regions of the planet, not only are women’s rights not flourishing, they are being diminished. – Chris Trotter

Any family, in any part of the country, dealing with any one of those challenges, would find it difficult. But when you have all of those at once, it is incredibly difficult to see how a family could navigate their way through all of that on their own.

And you sure as heck, can’t have an official sitting in Wellington waving a magic wand, and fixing it for them. – Louise Upston

If I look at my colleagues, they get up and go to work every day because they care so much. . .Why would we do that if we didn’t care? Why would we do that if we didn’t care about individuals and actually want something better for their lives? Louise Upston

Men who have been inculcated into a culture of toxic masculinity need to regularly top up their King Dick Metre, which can only be fuelled by the disempowerment of someone else. And that someone else is very often a woman.

Their feelings of strength only come when someone else is in a position of weakness. They can only feel valid when they are able to invalidate someone else. They only feel like they have won when someone else has lost. – Kasey Edwards

Could you imagine a return to a world where the only people that gave dairy farmers grief were sheep farmers and bank managers?

Could you imagine the next time Fonterra was in the news, it was for a collaboration with Lynx in producing a deodorant that smelled of silage and cowshit, that dairy farmers could put on if they used too much soap in the shower?

Maybe we can hope that our on-farm processes continue to develop, along with scientific developments, adoption of best practices and consumer preferences, as opposed to at the whim of vote-hungry politicians, misinformed urban housewives and the combined armies of anaemic vegans, animal rights activists, goblins and orcs.

Maybe we could hope that we can reverse the trend that has seen rural folk and farmers become an ethnic minority in this country – a minority that is now seen by many New Zealanders as dirty, destructive and somehow freeloading on resources, with less credibility then prostitution. . .  –  Pete Fitzherbert

We welcome the government’s focus on tracking the number of children in persistent poverty and hardship. However, setting multiple arbitrary targets for reducing child hardship is easier than actually helping people extricate themselves from their predicaments. – Dr Oliver Hartwich

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

 . . . the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there. – Fran O’Sullivan

Peters’ inability to contain his bitterness suggests the coalition negotiations were a charade. His resentment towards National is deep-rooted, and since the election, the feeling is reciprocated. It is unlikely that National’s change of leader will diminish Peters’ toxicity.  – The Listener

It strikes me as rather unfair that while we’ve been up in arms over where the country’s burgeoning cow population does its business, our burgeoning human population has been fouling up the waterways with what comes out of our own backsides. We can’t berate dairy farmers for dirtying the rivers if we’re content for our biggest city to keep using its waterways as one giant long drop. – Nadine Higgins

Over-reacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward. It’s creating silly distractions from real issues.Jennifer Lawrence

The incident has also highlighted the danger of a government full of academics, health professionals, public servants, teachers and career politicians picking business winners.

The idea that councils around the country would rail or truck their rubbish to Westport for incineration is one of those ludicrous ideas that only regional development officials would think is a flyer. – Martin van Beynen

Getting policy right matters. In the end, lots of money and good intentions is never enough. You’ve got to get the policy right. – Nicola Willis

So consumed are they with the grassy vistas opening up in front of them that they are oblivious to their drawing ever closer to journey’s end, namely the holding yards of the local freezing works. – John Armstrong

Businesses, by and large, are better at coping with bad news than they are at coping with uncertainty. You cannot plan for it or adapt to it. Hamish Rutherford

Feminism is about choice, the right to have one, the right to be equal. It is not about trampling men to death in the process. It is not about spending so much time telling girls that “they can do anything” that they become curious and confused as to why you keep telling them something they already knew.

Guess what? The girls we’re raising haven’t had it occur to them they can’t do anything. – Kate Hawkesby

I’m not sure what affordable means but I am sure I’m not alone in that. It’s bound to be a complicated formula with one of the variables being the price of avocados. I just hope it doesn’t add up to borrowing from KiwiBank to buy from KiwiBuild during the KiwiBubble resulting in KiwiBust.James Elliott

 If we believe that correcting harmful inequities lies in asserting an inherent malice and/or obsolescence in all people with a specific combination of age, gender and ethnicity then we have already lost the fight. The real enemy is the unchecked and uncontested power exercised through institutions, social norms and structures which privilege one group over another.    – Emma Espiner

A tagged tax has to be a tagged tax, otherwise it’s a rort. – Mike Hosking

While the Greens are dreaming of compost, wheelbarrows, chook poo and quinoa, the rest of us wouldn’t mind getting on with business. And that means we need water. – Mike Hosking

Certainly a rational person, and especially one convinced of the threat of global warming and the possibility of more droughts, would increase, not stop investment in irrigation?

That is not to argue that water quality and nitrate leaching are not problems – they are. But to stop irrigation as a solution is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The rational approach is to find ways of reducing nitrate leaching even under high-producing irrigated pastures. This requires more science, more evidence, more rational thinking. – Dr Doug Edmeades

Businesses — it doesn’t matter what they are — require reliable steady staff; not rocket scientists but reliable steady staff. Unless we have those types of people available our whole economy has an issue. – Andre de Bruin

There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. – Michael Bruce Curry

The well-being of all communities can be enhanced by enabling greater levels of social solidarity, empowering people in their personal and community lives, enhancing social infrastructure and establishing opportunities for dignified work and alternative livelihoods. – Tracey McIntosh

Tough on crime is popular with the insular and ignorant when it comes to justice policy, while restorative approaches with enduring outcomes that help people stay away from jail because they offend less are not popular, not sexy and seen as “soft on crime”. Chester Borrows

Everyone can do something amazing once. You’ve got to back it up and do it again – Rowland Smith

The money spent on eliminating risk in one area means less available to fix problems in other areas. In other words, the consequence of lowering risk in one sphere can hinder minimising risk in another one. Chew carefully on that one. – Martin van Beynen

That’s what the call for diversity means. An endless slicing and dicing of society into every thinner minority groups with everyone scrambling for quotas and box ticking.

It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. It’s also a complete denial of individuality. You are not important. All that matters is what boxes you tick. It’s the boxes that define you, not what you do, what you think or what you produce. – Rodney Hide

We went to do a story about an American billionaire buying up wineries in Wairarapa. Local wine makers were going broke and in stepped the American billionaire. I went down with a TV crew expecting locals to be up in arms about the ‘foreigner’ buying up the land. But I couldn’t find one voice raised against him.

There is one thing worse than a foreign buyer, they told me, and that’s not having a buyer at all. – Guyon Espiner

It feels like a Dear Winston moment really – Mike Jaspers

We grow up thinking the world is fair, but it’s not, so you’re not always going to get the results you’re looking for. The challenge is to pick yourself up again when you have those days.Joe Schmidt

I believe rugby is similar to society, where it is about interdependence and us trying to help each other. Imagine if everyone in life became the best version of themselves and made life easier for those either side of them. – Joe Schmidt

The very premise of our system is we learn from our mistakes and wrongs and are given freedom to make amends.Mike Hosking

Grown-ups know that being short $60 a week is not what ails and troubles our most vulnerable children. Proper parenting can’t be bought for $60 a week. – Rodney Hide.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people. – Jessica Stillman

Feminism has descended into a cauldron of cattiness; of nasty factionalism. It doesn’t empower. It  scrutinises and judges groups within groups. Like extreme left or right politics, the creed is hardest on those most like it – those who should know better but fail. – Lindsay Mitchell

Regional development is about more than funding a few projects; it’s about allowing people to make a living. – Paul Goldsmith

This image of Anglo-Saxon culture isn’t grounded in the up-to-date distinct cultural traditions or practices of the United Kingdom. It is a cover of a misremembered song, played by a drunk who forgot the words mid-song and so started humming. – Haimona Gray

Imagine the world today if William Wilberforce and Kate Sheppard had refused to engage with people whose views they found repugnant. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr had decided not to argue back. If Desmond Tutu and Te Whiti had seen no point in suffering the slings and arrows of their opponents because, hey, nothing’s gonna change.

The twist in this debate is that the Molyneuxs, Southerns and other so-called champions of free speech only win when their shouting drowns out other voices. Voices of conciliation and peace. Because regardless of the polarisation we see today, people can change. We can learn. And, even if we still disagree on some profound issues, we can find other things to agree on and other things to respect in each other. Tim Watkin

The day that this country’s dictated to by the social media trolls is the day that democracy dies. If we are to be spooked into compliance by what an anonymous moron threatens by the swipe of a cellphone screen then we’re little better than they are. – Barry Soper

It is unfortunate, but the world seems to have lost the ability to disagree well. Civility in our discussions and debates over contentious issues seems to have been lost. We are increasingly polarised in our views with recourse to extreme positions in order to ‘prove’ or force our point. However, the answer is not to avoid difficult and, at times, confronting conversations. Rather, community leaders, and universities in particular, play a vital role in leading our communities in those discussions, as difficult as they may be, applying the principles of informed discussion, compromise, enlightenment of the points of view of others, and if all else fails, respectful disagreement. – Chris Gallavin

But where is that line that we need to find as a Parliament between being culturally sensitive to people that may not see things in the way in which New Zealand’s own cultures have developed, and, on the other hand, being firm enough that, actually, no, these things, regardless of culture, are not right. Nick Smith

We have an education system that does not reward excellence and does not punish failure. Decades of bureaucratic hand-wringing has delivered a broken system that relies on the personal integrity and good intentions of those who choose teaching as a profession. – Damien Grant

After all, as long as we can discern the truth clearly, love it passionately, and defend it vigorously, we have nothing to fear from open debate; and if we can’t do those things, then why are we claiming to be a university at all? – Dr Jonathan Tracy

The answer to suffering, physical or mental, is affection and good care. This should come first and as far as possible from family and community, supported by institutions.

“Finishing people off” may suit our current individualistic, utilitarian, impatient culture, but it will degrade us all in the end. – Carolyn Moynihan

In a liberal, democratic society, there will always be speech in the public domain that some people find offensive, distasteful or unsavoury. Unless that speech is manifestly doing harm to others, there is no case to ban it, only a case for arguing strongly against it or ridiculing it. Recourse to suppression is redolent of authoritarianism, not democracy. – Chris Bishop

The irony is that although the elimination of subsidies started out as a kind of political punishment, it wound up becoming a long-term blessing for farmers. We went through a difficult period of adjustment but emerged from it stronger than ever. . .

 We became ruthlessly efficient, which is another way of saying that we became really good at what we do.

We also improved our ability to resist regulations that hurt agriculture. Subsidies empower politicians, who can threaten to cut off aid if farmers refuse to accept new forms of control. Without subsidies, we have more freedom to solve problems through creativity and innovation rather than the command-and-control impulses of government. – Craige Mackenzie

But as someone who’s spent a bit of time writing and talking about the important, and not so important, issues in life, there is one thing I know which will never change.

Truth always wins. If you report the facts you can never go wrong. – Peter Williams

We can’t prosper by taking in our own washing so, strutting it on the global stage has to be our modus operandi.And I mean strutting, not just selling low value stuff that rises or falls on the rise or fall of the NZ dollar. Strutting starts with the daring of the ambition and is sustained by the ability to execute.  Ruth Richardson

The frightening retreat from sane economics. Free trade is the path to growth, protectionism is the path to decline. Ruth  Richardson

This is an accidental government formed on the fly and governing on the fly.–  Ruth Richardson

Death of great science on the alter of doctrinal and PC positions doesn’t strike me as the smartest choice.  – Ruth Richardson

I’m satisfied within myself. I’ve got more to do with my life than look at that. Barbara Brinsley

Each of us has made different life choices and, actually, that gives women everywhere role models.

It’s legitimate to choose. We don’t have to be the same, we don’t have to judge each other, we make our own choices. – Dame Jenny Shipley

Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind, highly likely to go to prison, highly likely to commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem or problems, die at an early age, have an addiction – drugs, gambling, alcohol or smoking. Virginia Crawford

I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne. I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin. I am a victim. I did not choose to be a victim. – Maanki 

If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop, the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.

How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand. – Maanki

The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.

No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. – Maanki


The Senate, collectively, could not find their own arses with a sextant and a well-thumbed copy of Gray’s Anatomy
Jack the Insider

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that God’s table is a smorgasbord of theological truths with some in conflict with others and some more important that others.    People are free to pick and choose from that smorgasbord and do so based on what is important to them. – The Veteran

But I can’t remember not having books. I’d go to the library every week, search every shelf with children’s books, then go home with a stack. . .   Every choice was my choice. Then I could control what went into my head by plugging into new worlds, learning new things and just imagining a different life. . .

When we only look to reinforce our taste and beliefs we lose the opportunity to browse and the opportunity for serendipity, and that’s unfortunate. – Maud Cahill

It was sort of total irritability associated with feeling hungry that would manifest as grumpiness. This void in my stomach would create a void in my sense of humour and my ability to tolerate things. – Simon Morton

This is a partnership designed by a drover’s dog and a clinical psychologist who have absolutely nothing in common except they both have experience dealing with rogue steers who don’t believe in being team players. – Clive Bibby  

I live down in the South Island, and there’s been a lot of farmers trying to curtsey. Most of the time they’re in gumboots. – Dame Lynda Topp

In the west food is produced by a few to feed the many and when people are relieved of the duties of working on farms and subsistence farming the job is handed to a few and people move to the cities and that is when they become disconnected. – Anna Jones

Class is a commodity that doesn’t seem to be in conspicuous supply in politics at the moment. – Chris Finlayson

New Zealand’s real problems are not identity politics, no matter what the left may think. They are that the welfare state has failed. Too many kids don’t get educated. Too many working aged adults are on welfare. Too many are in jail because there is too much crime and they’re never rehabilitated. Housing has gone from a commodity to a ponzi scheme. Our productivity growth is anaemic. With government’s and councils’ approach to regulation, it’s amazing anyone still does anything. Andrew Ketels

I certainly don’t celebrate diversity for its own sake. You have to distinguish pluralism from relativism. Relativism tends towards ‘anything goes’ and that can’t be right

Pluralism is the view that although some ways of living really are wrong, the list of possible good ways to live a flourishing human life and have a good society contains more than one item. – Julian Baggini

We didn’t need a tax on stones, there wasn’t a concern about ‘peak stone’ and we didn’t need to stage protests in front of the chieftains’ caves to argue for the use of bronze. It came down to developing the new technology, which had benefits over the old technology, and disseminating the knowledge. – Andrew Hoggard

I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment and that is the glue that holds this country together. – Kurt Fearnley

It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means that you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like – to use an analogy I am certain will find favour – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow. – Queen Elizabeth II

When I noticed that I was spending far more time scrolling through my email and Twitter than I was playing on the floor with my son, I realized that the problem wasn’t with screens warping his fragile mind. It was that I’d already allowed my phone to warp mine. So these days, my husband and I try not to use our phones at all in front of our son. Not because I think the devil lives in my iPhone, but because I think, to some extent, a small part of the devil lives in me. – EJ Dickson

The proper purpose of journalism remains as Kovach and Rosenstiel defined it – not to lead society toward the outcome that journalists think is correct, but to give ordinary people  the means to make their own decisions about what’s in their best interests.Karl du Fresne

I’m bloody angry at New Zealand for fighting over Santa and I want us to stop. This is not what Santa’s about. Santa is not about angst and Santa is not about Santa hate.

Santa is about hope, Santa is about dreams. Santa can come down the chimney even when you don’t have a chimney. Santa can come in the ranch slider, Santa can drink craft beer. Santa can drink strawberry-flavoured Lindauer for all I care. – Patrick Gower

The expectation that we rustics just need to lean on the gate chewing a straw and making obscure pronouncements about the weather in impenetrable accents for picturesque effect is entertaining until it dawns on you that your role apparently really is just to provide background local colour and not disturb the peace too much.  Rural places are workplaces — stuff happens down on the farm and that stuff can be noisy.  And not just on the farm — gravel quarries, jet-boat companies and the construction sites of all those new houses that didn’t used to be there. – Kate Scott

Rose-tinted nostalgia strikes us all from time to time, but when it comes with a side of imported urban world view where non-working weekends and the notion of property values is accorded more worth than building community resilience, I begin to feel resentful of the twittering worries of suburbia intruding on my bucolic peace with its soothing soundtrack of barking huntaways, topdressing planes and chainsaws –Kate Scott

I had a gentleman come to my office three years ago. He was a Labour candidate. He ran for the Labour Party. He was coming to see me because he’d been to see his own team—they wouldn’t help him with an issue, so he came to me. Did I say, “Oh, sorry, you’ve been a Labour candidate. I’m not going to assist you. I’m not going to help you.”? No, I didn’t. I actually helped him with his issue, because that’s my job as a member of Parliament. I don’t care whether you support New Zealand First, I don’t care whether you’re a supporter or member of the Labour Party, the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, or the National Party—if you come and ask for help and support, you will get it. That’s my job.-  Mark Mitchell

The only positive outcome from the UN’s 2009 Copenhagen fiasco was the launch of New Zealand’s Global Research Alliance (GRA) to reduce methane and nitrous-oxide emissions, which account for 22 per cent of the world’s GHG total. More than 50 countries are now involved. If the GRA develops science to cut agricultural emissions by two-thirds it would be the equivalent of the US becoming a zero emitter. If it eliminated them, it would be like China going carbon zero. This would benefit the world at least 100 times more than New Zealand becoming net-zero domestically. – Matthew Hooton

No one bets on a horse with a dud jockey.  Simon Bridges

Ms Ardern promised to lead the most open and transparent Government New Zealand has seen. That doesn’t mean picking and choosing to be open and transparent when it benefits her. – Tova O’Brien

Shaw and his comrades have a vision of a different economic model, one that sane people have tunnelled under barbed wire fences to escape. Alas, the sacrifice required to achieve this gender-fluid post-colonial paradise requires a reversal of most of the economic gains of the last 50 years.Damien Grant

The less you trust people, the more distrustful they become and so the more law you need in order to trust them. A good society would not have too much law, because people would do the right thing he says. But in New Zealand we have a lot of law. – Professor Mark Henaghan


Surpluses at risk

August 7, 2018

Treasury is warning the government that forecast surpluses are at risk:

. . . It pointed out the latest set of indicators painted a mixed picture of the economy with wages continuing to grow strongly while retail spending weakened.

It said the slump in business sentiment, a cooling housing market and fears of a trade war could knock the economy and the tax take.

If that happened, the government might be forced to curb its spending plans, Treasury said.

The government keeps saying it’s business-friendly but its actions don’t match its words.

Damien Grant writes about the risk policies like the 10 days leave for victims of domestic pose for your business:

We, the business people of this land, are those who create wealth, build roads and dispense antibiotics at 3am. We are responsible for making the payroll, collecting the State’s revenue and satisfying the tyrannical demands of customers.

We are not responsible for solving this country’s problem with domestic violence. At least, we should not be. When we employ someone we are obliged, by law, to give them 10 paid public holidays in addition to 20 annual leave days and up to five sick days. On average, one day in eight, a Kiwi worker can have off on full pay.

Apparently this isn’t enough.

The Domestic Violence-Victims Protection Bill passed this week. Now an employer, who has the misfortune to employ someone impacted by domestic violence, must gift this person another 10 days paid leave.

Forever.

That’s like providing another whole year’s statutory holiday entitlement for any employee who qualifies.

It does not matter if the employee wasn’t the victim, so long as they were impacted by the violence. Nor does it matter if this crime happened decades before they began working for their current employer.

What employer would question someone’s claim to have been affected?

Once you can prove that you have been a victim of domestic violence you are, forever, entitled to be compensated by those whose only mistake was to offer you a job and you cannot contract out of this right. Which means some employers will quietly avoid employing staff they suspect will seek this new entitlement, limiting the employment options for victims of domestic violence. . . 

National was criticised for not supporting the legislation but it was right to be cautious:

When the bill first came up at Parliament it had a strong National Party backing, but following a select committee process in which amendments were made to reduce an employer’s say in the matter, the party got cold feet.

Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell said that was mostly because of the impact it could have on small-to-medium sized businesses which, he said, could end up in arbitration or strained for time or finance.

“There’s often a second- or third-order effect, and we have to be careful that we understand what those effects may be. At the moment we feel this bill could have an adverse outcome so we’re being very cautious and very careful with it.” . . 

Domestic violence is a scourge but imposing extra costs and uncertainty on all businesses isn’t the solution, especially when, as Kerre McIvoer writes, it won’t help domestic abuse victims: 

I fail to see how this new provision for victims of abuse will save any lives whatsoever.

Every single victim of domestic abuse who has phoned me on talkback over the years has said they were so ashamed and embarrassed by their situation, they couldn’t bring themselves to let friends or family know what was going on behind closed doors. Particularly the men.

The notion of asking for help was anathema to them and abusers know that. Despite the fact that it’s the abusers who should be feeling shame, they are master manipulators.

So the concept of someone who has been knocked about, emotionally and physically, being able to find it within themselves to approach their boss and come clean about their domestic situation seems unlikely.

And it’s not just the financial burden for small- to medium-sized employers that’s most concerning – what about the health and safety ramifications?

If one of their employees tells them they are living with a violent partner then begs them not to tell anyone, and later that employee ends up dead, will the employer be held liable for not divulging that their staffer was at risk? . . 

I absolutely agree that our domestic violence stats are a source of shame and our violent homes are a breeding ground for future offenders. But I really don’t think Logie’s bill is the answer.

And while I don’t have a solution, I would suggest that others do. When Counties Manukau police attend a violent domestic situation, they give it a couple of days to allow all parties to cool off, then go into the home with trained counsellors and try to work out the root of the problem.

The children are asked their opinion – it’s a holistic, wrap-around approach to domestic abuse which gives the people involved the chance to save themselves and their family.

Putting money and energy into that sort of initiative makes a whole lot more sense to me than making businesses cough up 10 days extra leave.

Business is risky.

The more costs and uncertainty the government imposes on businesses, the more risky they become. The more risky businesses become, the less likely they are to invest, the less secure existing jobs become and the less likely new ones will be created.

Less business investment, fewer hours for existing employees and fewer new jobs for would-be workers all result in less tax paid, that means lower surpluses and that in turn constrains government’s ability to fund existing and new initiatives.


Less for more or more for less*

July 3, 2018

Governments have choices when giving assistance.

They can make it universal – giving to more people, but each getting less; or they can target it – giving it to fewer people but each getting more.

With two payments starting this week, the government opted for the less for more approach.

There was $65 a week for a year for all parents of new babies and $450 to help all beneficiaries with winter heating – or whatever else they choose to spend it on – whether or not they needed it.

The baby payment can’t be claimed with Paid Parental Leave so single-earner double-parent households will get it and those earning less than $79,000 will get the payment for up to three years.

But some families still won’t have enough with it and others will have more than enough without it.

Most beneficiaries who get the winter heating payment will need it, but among those receiving it are pensioners, including those still in paid work, in receipt of more than one pension and/ or with more than enough other income.

Act Mp David Seymour says:

Around 9 per cent of superannuitants earn over $60,000 a year – more than the median income and three times the level of the pension.

“Their slice of winter energy payments will cost taxpayers about $73 million. . .

Eloquently as the gentlemen at Point of Order argue for a mate who will use the payment to power up his electric Mercedes, most of us would find more pressing needs for that $73 million.

There are costs to targeting but it would have been very simple with the heating payment.

Had it been opt in most of the better-off pensioners wouldn’t have bothered to claim it. Since it’s opt-out few will bother to turn it down.

Both these payments are part of the nanny state Damien Grant says insulates us from the consequences of failure:

. . . Children protected from the rigours of life fail as adults. We all understand this and parents grimace as our children stumble through the same mistakes we made. Yet we have unlearned this obvious truth when it comes to the wider community.

What happens to an individual when the consequences for failure are removed? What happens to families whose parents are not expected to provide for their own off-spring? What happens to a community over multiple generations of dependency?

We have been taught that we are not responsible for providing for our own education, paying for our healthcare or even scrabbling for food. The existence of poverty is never the fault of the individual but of the wider society who, as a consequence, must bear responsibility for the poor life decisions of all its citizens.

We can see the result, as most OECD nations have been conducting an inter-generational experiment on shielding their citizens from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Controversial-yet-influential American political scientist Charles Murray’s 1984 book Losing Ground outlines a theory that welfare can increase poverty because it rewards self-defeating decisions, such as avoiding employment. His writing contributed to then-US President Bill Clinton’s limited wind back of federal welfare in 1996.

In New Zealand, every citizen is a beneficiary. We are all eligible for free healthcare, pensions, TVNZ and a welfare system that is so invasive that my local district health board keeps sending me requests for a stool sample. (Seriously, cut it out!)

We are insulated from the full consequences of failure and hampered by a progressive tax and social regime that places a drag on success. The results are rising numbers of single-parent families, record levels of incarceration and persistent pockets of poverty and low academic achievement.

The response to this ongoing failure is ever-increasing intervention.

Today makes the start of the Orwellian Working For Families programme, where middle-class parents receive even more government cash paid for by scrapping the last government’s tax cuts. 

We have become infantilised by this paternalistic managing of much of our economic life and are unwilling to embrace the freedom and responsibility of adulthood. 

It is very difficult to design a welfare system that helps those in genuine need without trapping them; to give people enough without incentivising them to stay dependent; to give hand- outs that provide hands-up without holding people back.

But targeting extra payments would be a good start.

* I know that should be fewer not less, but whenever has correct grammar got in the way of a headline?

 


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Zero-sum fallacy

November 4, 2013

Damien Grant says inequality isn’t the fault of the rich:

A recent book edited by Max Rashbrooke, Inequality; a New Zealand Crisis, portrays an alarmist view of an unfolding dystopian disaster. However, Rashbrooke and many of those concerned at rising inequality fall for the zero-sum fallacy; the idea that there is a set amount of cash in the economy.

The fallacy goes that if Bob has made an extra dollar then he must have taken it off someone else; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The easiest way to dismantle this illusion is to imagine two farmers. The first is content with his lot but the second works extra hours to build himself a new cow shed, making his farm more valuable. He has become richer but not at the expense of his neighbour. . . .

Not only has the farmer not become richer at the expense of his (or her) neighbour, s/he may well have helped increase someone else’s income by using more goods and services and/or employing more people.

Economic growth is driven by innovative entrepreneurs adding to the total economy. They sometimes become rich by retaining some of the extra wealth they created. Equally, a surgeon who works long hours will derive a large income, but only as a result of repairing the lives of his patients; both benefit from the transaction. We can reduce inequality by restricting the amount of operations he performs, and rising income tax has that effect.

However, that will not reduce poverty, it will exacerbate it. The rich will buy the reduced number of operations and the poor will miss out. . .

The focus on inequality is driven by the belief that life isn’t fair; that those with more have taken advantage of those with less and that there’s little or nothing those with less can do about it without state intervention – higher and more taxes and more redistribution.

Life isn’t fair but the easiest way to reduce inequality is to make the rich poorer which doesn’t help anyone.

The problem isn’t that some people have more than others, it’s that some people don’t have enough.

The causes for that are many. The state has a role in helping address some of those including poor education and health either directly through its own programmes or indirectly in funding other groups to help.

It also has an obligation to do so in a way that tackles the real problem of poverty, not one that merely addresses the symptom of inequality.

#gigatownoamaru is seeking to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs by becoming the fastest town in the Southern Hemisphere.


Popular politics poor policy

August 13, 2012

Good politics can be bad policy.

Damien Grant makes this point in commenting on Labour’s imprudent policy to raise the top marginal tax rate from 33 cents to 39 in 1999.

This was politically popular with people who earned less than $60,000 and the army of indolent people who thrived under the fifth Labour Government. The idea was to raise more money from the wealthy. It failed.

Government revenue did rise, from 31 per cent of GDP in 1999 to a high water mark of 34.5 per cent in 2006 but this extra tax was not paid by the rich, it was paid by the middle class, workers in PAYE jobs who lacked the ability or creativity of the wealthy and self-employed to do what any self-respecting plumber does – evade tax. . .

Avoid maybe, evade no – that’s illegal.

. . . The share of tax paid by top income earners did not increase once the top rate of marginal tax was raised. More importantly, the cost to the economy of each dollar raised at the rate of 39c was more than the tax collected. Total tax revenue rose as middle-income earners moved into the top tax bracket because of inflation.

When the top tax rate decreased to 33 per cent, the level of tax paid by the top 10 per cent remained the same. . .

The policy might have been good politics, dog whistling to the sock-the-rich constituency. But it didn’t cost the rich as it was intended to and did cost middle-income earners, some of whom then became eligible for welfare through Working for Families.

It would have been far better for those individuals to leave more money in their pockets than churn it though the tax and welfare systems.

And it would have been far better for the country to have people concentrate on maximising their income rather than welfare receipts nor  minimising their tax liabilities.

If good politics can be bad policy the reverse is also the case. Good policy can be bad politics.

That is why we don’t subject all policy to referenda.

Sometimes the majority isn’t right and it needs a government strong enough to stand up for the minority to enact good policy in spite of the politics.

It is possible to get good policy which is also good politics. A government which manages that by taking people with it is a government which is better placed to last more than a term or two.

That might be more likely in these tough times because fewer people are likely to be swayed by vote-buying election platforms when they no there’s no latitude for belt loosening.

But it takes an educated and willing public to buy good policy that’s bad politics which is why bad policy that’s good politics still sells.


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