Quotes of the month

June 1, 2020

Our primary industries are the ones that have propped it [the economy] up. We can’t keep borrowing money. Money doesn’t come from out of thin air and if there are jobs there, let us work.

“Don’t give us job centres for queues of people lining up for jobs that aren’t there. We have these jobs sitting under our noses. – Tania Gibson

We need you to accept that there is a problem, see what the problem is, and fix the problem and make sure that the problem never happens again. – Dr Jan White

Vaccine shortages have dogged previous flu and measles campaigns, and doctors have called this year’s flu campaign a “complete debacle”.

It has become abundantly clear that despite the Government’s rejection of such an assertion, a debacle is exactly what it is.  Michael Morrah

The stakes are higher than any election since 1984 because a second-term Ardern Government will have a mandate and an appetite for the largest expansion of the state since Robert Muldoon’s Think Big schemes and endless tinkering beggared the country.  – Damien Grant

The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion. – Jenée Tibshraeny

The calamitous way in which Parliament turned Inland Revenue into a small business lender , without a single MP realising they were doing so, is a sign that the time is well past for greater scrutiny to return.

The Government’s refusal to release the advice it used as the basis of its decision to place New Zealand into a highly restrictive lockdown is coming close to an abuse of the extraordinary trust the public has granted it.Hamish Rutherford

No policy decision is costless. Advocates of a longer extension expound the benefits of the approach they advocate; they often are less forthcoming on the costs. The costs of our lockdown could well be slower coming through than the corona virus itself, they are costs that we as the citizens will sooner or later have to bear. – Wyatt Creech

He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. Nate White

One of the worst effects of a lack of understanding of risk management is the precautionary principle. This is the belief that unless you have complete knowledge about the likelihood and impact of the risk, either you shouldn’t take any action at all (e.g. not allowing the trial of a new drug) or you should go all-out to prevent the risk eventuating (e.g. locking down the population in a pandemic). – Kiwiwit

We’ve elected politicians without enough prior life tests and career leadership experience  to exercise democratic control. Without authoritative experienced oversight, some official cultures will inevitably become immune to their own convenient cruelty. “Be kind” means nothing without the leadership diligence that makes it practical, everyday, and integrated among all the other demands of hard decision-making.  Stephen Franks

People talk a big game about moving away from eating meat, and no doubt tell researchers they are vegetarian when asked – but when they get home they are tucking into a big porterhouse. – Trent Thorne

We are very good at managing weeds and pests. Had the Department of Conservation taken it over I don’t know that the same standard of management would have been there to look after it. They don’t have the budget.

“And it would be devastating to watch it fill up with wildings and be overrun by rabbits again.

“They’re very complex places to run and if all of the high country farmers stopped farming it would be a huge burden on the taxpayer to actually manage that land.Andrew Simpson

A lot of farmers, particularly our young farmers, have found themselves in a very lonely place in the last five years.

“I like to think the understanding might shift as people get to understand where their food comes from.

“And it’s our interests to tell our story so that people do understand. We still grow food, and we love the land. The two can coexist. – Andrew Simpson

A human life, it will be said, is of incalculable value, and in some metaphysical sense this is so. Usually we do not value people’s lives in dollars and cents, and we would regard anyone who did so with horror or disgust. But at the same time, we know that in practice we do place a value on people’s lives. We would think it right to spend more on saving a child’s life at the age of 3 than to spend it on prolonging the life of a 95-year-old by five minutes. The relative values of human lives may not be calculable in any precise sense, but where choices have to be made and resources are scarce (as they always are), we make them.

Sacrificing life to maintain normal life may not therefore be a monstrous policy, though the question of how much life can be sacrificed for how much normality is very difficult to answer, because neither the quantity of life sacrificed nor the amount of normality preserved can be known, certainly not in advance, and perhaps not even in retrospect, for there are so many variables that might account for differences. Besides, the two—life lost and economic collapse—are incommensurable. – Theodore Dalrymple

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers. – Derek Cheng

Fundamentally, this is a story of two governments and their differing response to the crisis. The Australian Government has committed to preserving jobs by keeping the economy going, no doubt aware that creating a job is so much harder than preserving one. On the other hand, the New Zealand Government chose instead to shut down the economy. As a result, I believe thousands of businesses will close or drastically shrink, and unemployment will grow significantly.

The initial focus by Governments in both countries was quite rightly the health and well-being of the citizens. Australia and New Zealand have achieved admirable results compared to many other countries, particularly the comparatively low number and rate of deaths from COVID-19. The number of deaths per 100,000 population in both countries is much the same. However, the big difference is that Australia will emerge with their economy virtually intact, while we have done serious damage to ours. There is significant business failure happening now in New Zealand that could have been avoided, and still can be in my opinion. –  Lee Short

I see a stark difference between the wealth creators and those untouched and shielded from the impact on the business world. They are not having their pay slashed and are not suffering unemployment or the threat of it. Business owners and employees provide the wealth that funds those in the public service. They take risks, many borrowing substantial sums, some making sacrifices for years. The result is companies that pay tax and employ staff who pay tax. These taxes keep those in public service in employment.Lee Short

Those of us whose adult lives have largely played out over the last four decades should be grateful that we have lived through the best of times, but we owe it to our children and grandchildren to give them at least the same opportunities that we have had to enjoy happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. How we handle the recovery from Covid-19 will determine whether we do so.Kiwiwit

There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.  A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is. Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. – Paul Henry

No opinion is worth expressing that is not also worth contradicting (except, perhaps, this one); nevertheless, clichés have their attraction. They are the teddy-bears of the mind, or, to change the metaphor slightly, the mental lifebuoys we cling to in times of stormy intellectual or political weather. They are the sovereign remedy for thought, which is always a rather painful activity. –  Theodore Dalrymple

 Is mastery of this kind of meaningless verbalisation, eloquently empty and passionately delivered, the key to political success? And if so what does it say of us, the citizens of democracies? – Theodore Dalrymple

As is quite often the case, hiding in the great mound of high-sounding bilge are quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously (which thankfully they will not be), lead straight to a totalitarian society. . . It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. – Theodore Dalrymple

Except that people will remember the sectors that helped them get through – agriculture and horticulture. They might also remember that the air became cleaner during the pandemic, and that the rivers ran clear. The environmental impact of reduction in transport has been noticed globally. The clarity of waterways has featured on RNZ with commentators noting bird song and clear water… because building and roadworks had stopped. No mention was made of the fact that agriculture and horticulture continued, nor that there had been no reduction in animals. – Jacqueline Rowarth

I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness. Michael Woodhouse

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands? – Heather du Plessis-Allan

You can’t spend your way back to surplus. You can’t tax your back to surplus (without decreasing economic growth). You need to grow your way back to surplus. So most important of all we need policies that will not just get us through the recession but lead to a strong growing economy for the decade that follows. – David Farrar

The budget was heavy in numbers. A few hundred million here, a few billion here – there were big spending initiatives for everything.

But it was light on demonstrating how these programmes will help repair the country. As KiwiBuild showed, good intentions plus government money do not automatically equate to success. But that lesson appears to have been forgotten and Budget 2020 is just KiwiBuild on steroids. – Oliver Hartwich

It’s easy to get lost in all of the big numbers today. The four-year projections of spending, the extra of billions in debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio.

We forget that each of those numbers, all of the numbers in fact, represents a bigger challenge. The burden we place on New Zealanders and the responsibility we have to them.

We forget that a decade of deficits and debt means fewer choices for our kids down the road.

The obligation we as Parliamentarians have to make sure the next generation is better off than we were. That they have more choices, more opportunities, and more ability to succeed in the world because we back them, not burden them with debt.Simon Bridges

Next time, with substantial administrative improvement and a whole lot more political honesty (surely an oxymoron if ever there was one!), there may be some justification in claiming the government’s responses and directives as a  “masterclass of communication” – but definitely not this time. – Henry Armstrong

Whether the virus is quelled or not, in four months’ time the wreckage of New Zealand’s economy will be visible from space. Last week, leaked documents showed the Ministry of Social Development is preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications in response to mass unemployment generated by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be a seer to guess that material concerns and a desire for economic and logistical competence will likely trump all other considerations — including abstract notions of “wellbeing” and admonitions to “be kind” — in choosing the next government.Graham Adams

You have had the five million locked up in Cindy’s Kindy with a daily political party broadcast with an incredibly compliant media who have been in her bubble. – Michelle Boag

Our Prime Minister is daily lauded for her leadership in times of crisis.  In the immediate glare of publicity, kindness and empathy are endearing qualities.  The cold reality is that those qualities will not pay the bills.  Gestures of 20% pay cuts are welcomed but 20% of a heck of a lot is no real sacrifice.  Real leadership involves more than optics and safeguarding political gains. It requires tough and hurtful decisions.Owen Jennings

If ‘helicopter’ cash and ‘shovel ready’ projects are the best you can come up with, think again.  If dressing up green initiatives and sneaking through climate change penalties are on the menu, forget it.  If asking us to pay new taxes is in the budget, pull it out again.  Our burden is already too heavy.  Focus on what might hold back private sector initiatives, frustrate investors, limit progress and delay the recovery.  Prune such fearlessly.  Waiting seven years for a consent to increase a water take when your city is running dry isn’t helping anything – the environment, the economy, thirsty businesses or my vegetable garden. –  Owen Jennings

I would like to change the way we treated our farmers and our primary industries for the last while. ‘They are the heroes of our economy and I think they are being treated as though they were the villains.  It is really important to show how valuable the agriculture and primary industries are to New Zealand. They are the basis of our economy, and valuing that is really important to me.  – Penny Simmonds 

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these. – Heather Roy

Australia is currently co-optimising the wellbeing of the Covid outbreak and the wellbeing consequences of the economy better than New Zealand.  If we don’t martial the best possible team for both recovery and reform, we will exacerbate the slide against our greatest comparator and lose even more of our most precious asset, our people.That risks a younger generation not only inheriting greater debt, but also makes Aotearoa a less desirable place to live with substantially less wellbeing. Fraser Whineray

I trust the prime minister a lot more than her critics do. But I also believe that a lot of her cabinet ministers are incompetent, and others are highly unscrupulous, and that this government makes operational and policy blunders on a scale we haven’t seen in our last few decades of technocratic centrism (as I was writing this the news broke that the entire lockdown may have been illegal). And they’re currently making huge decisions based on incomplete information because there is no expert consensus or reliable data available. – Danyl Mclauchlan

So I think there’s value to disrespectful questions and politicised critiques, and even some of the contrarianism, even if a lot of it is misguided or in bad faith, or simply wrong. And I think we need a space for those critiques in our mainstream politics and media instead of shouting it down and leaving it to circulate on the shadowy fringes of the internet. Because the experts are not always right and the government is not always trustworthy. If contrarians warn about the danger to our freedom in this moment, and it makes us more vigilant and we remain free, does it mean the contrarians were wrong? – Danyl Mclauchlan

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team; This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.  This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand. Todd Muller

The problem with this government is they’ve two or three strong performers and 17 empty seats in CabinetTodd Muller

Poker machines are a de facto tax on the brain-dead. As a taxpayer I resent having to support no-hopers when in the case of these addictions, their problems are self-inflicted. – Bob Jones

A modern democracy, we should not forget, is a people of the government, by the government, and for the government.Theodore Dalrymple

What the “employed and unemployed workers” of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people’s children whose father’s pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare – repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare. – Lindsay Mitchell

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects. Alfred

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.Adam Creighton

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures. – Adam Creighton

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent. – Adam Creighton

The real problem with the Ardern government is they have no idea whatsoever apart from how to throw money at things, – Roger Douglas

In any case, it wasn’t outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the ­brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care unit beds and few ventilators — far fewer than Australia per capita — it was woefully underprepared. Ardern is more popular than ever, and by all accounts is a good person and a great communicator. But if a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive, New Zealanders may come to question her wisdom as they fall further down the global pecking order. Without economic growth, there won’t be money for more ICU beds. – Adam Creighton

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects.  – Alfred

They’ll make excuses for her, that’s what left supporters and the media do to prop up failed politicians. It’s not about results, it’s about virtuous ideas and statements. The voters least affected – the latte sipping urbanites will keep supporting her, while the poorer people, whom she has vowed are the ones she’s trying to help, will suffer.Melanie

If you, as small business owners, give just one of your newly unemployed neighbours a job before Christmas, you will be the heroes of the economic crisis, the way that our nurses and doctors and all five million of us who stayed at home and washed our hands were the heroes of the health crisis, –  Todd Muller

National does not start by saying everything should be closed unless the Government says it can be open. Instead, our guiding principle is that everything should be open unless there is good reason for it to be closed.Todd Muller

Ethnic communities don’t want tokenism or special treatment; we simply want to be treated as equals and live in an inclusive society. We don’t wish to question or demonise anybody’s “whiteness”. We should all be able to celebrate who we are without fear or favour. – Gregory Fortuin

Muller is still an unknown quantity and has taken over National at the worst possible time for a prime ministerial aspirant. His best hope is that by the election on September 19, unemployment has rocketed, the cult of Winston has shattered, the economy has tanked and voters are starting to worry about how the country will ever pay the billions back.

Then voters might start to think empathy is all very well, but we need a leader capable of some hard- headed decisions that look beyond the lens of political correctness.Martin van Beynen

Don’t be fooled, Winston Peters declarations are not about principle. His game is political expediency. . . Will Winston Peters last the distance or are we seeing the tactic that’s been so successful in the past being reeled out for a third time? Peters shows yet again he will call the shots and for a party polling well below the 5 percent threshold he has nothing to lose. – Heather Roy

Months of monotony, with nothing to look forward to and nothing to distinguish one day from another, is an experience which fundamentally conflicts with most of the ways societies throughout history have found to give structure to the passage of time. Most religions recognise the importance of marking time: celebrating rites of passage, appointing seasons for feasting and fasting, getting together at set times to celebrate, pray, or mourn. As religious holidays die away, secular society invents its own alternatives.

Over the past few months, we’ve been stripped of all that. Those keeping Easter, Passover, Ramadan or other commemorations have had to do so at home and online, for many a very imperfect substitute, and non-believers have lost their rituals too: no birthday parties, no graduations, not even the weekly trip to a favourite coffee shop. We’ve been deprived of almost every conceivable form of public, shared experience — perhaps most painfully of all, with restrictions on funerals, the rituals of grieving. These are anchors, and without them we drift.Eleanor Parker

We’re all hypocrites. Outrage is selective. Personally I’m much more concerned with the fact we’re staring down mass unemployment and a generation-defining economic crisis than the fact Todd Muller has a Trump hat. – Jack Tame

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.Andrea Vance


What would change change?

May 19, 2020

Last night’s Newshub Reid Research poll has produced the inevitable proclamations of the political death of Simon Bridges.

But what would changing National’s leader change?

It wouldn’t change the circumstances that have led to the high support for Labour and its leader and the corresponding fall in support for National and its leader.

David Farrar pointed out yesterday that polls during a crisis almost always result in high support for whoever is in charge as patriotism trumps politics.

In Australia Scott Morrison has gone from a -20% net approval rating in the February Newspoll to a +26% rating in the April Newspoll.

In the UK Boris Johnson has gone from a +6% rating in March Opinium to a +29% in April.

Even in the US, Donald Trump is seeing his approval rating increase, despite a pretty terrible actual response to the crisis. Gallup had him at -9% in January and at +4% in March. . . 

The poll also showed that  91.6 percent of respondents backed the decision to go into lockdown.

What the raw number doesn’t show is whether or not that many backed the details.

I backed the lockdown but not the way decisions on which businesses could operate were based on the debatable criteria of essential instead of safety.

Sticking to the former has wrought much greater economic devastation than was necessary and day by day the impact of that on businesses, jobs and lives will be get worse.

And day by day the difference in the ability of National team and the Labour one to repair the damage will become evident.

In spite of the overexcited claims of commentators, changing leaders wouldn’t make much difference to the polls.

What will make a difference is a plan that clearly shows a better way forward for New Zealand, a better future for New Zealanders and a competent and united team to deliver it.

Labour has the unity but it doesn’t have the plan or the competence.

National has a plan and the competence. If caucus keeps its collective head and stays united it will have a much better chance of regaining popularity than if it panics and starts showing disunity because changing leaders won’t change the circumstances that fed the poll results and voters don’t vote for disunity.


No plan, wrong people

May 15, 2020

If you were looking for a Budget with a coherent plan for recovery, you wouldn’t have found it in yesterday’s:

Today’s Budget doesn’t have the plan we need to get New Zealand working again, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Kiwis have sacrificed so much through the restrictions of the lockdown, our collective efforts have so far worked well, now we need to get our economy cranking again.

“With a thousand people a day joining the dole queue we needed a proper plan. Spending money is the easy part. But investing billions where it will make the most difference was what we needed.

“Today we are seeing an extra $140 billion of debt. That’s $80,000 per household and it’s our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it. That’s equivalent to a second mortgage on every house.

“We will have $100 billion in deficits for the next four years.

“The Government will spend more than $50 billion, more than any Government has ever spent in any one Budget.

“It needed to be spent in a responsible and disciplined way. What this Budget lacks is any detail and accountability of how it will be spent and what it will achieve. . . 

This Budget had to be a big spending one, but did it have to be this big?

Today’s Budget reveals the sheer scale of the economic challenge New Zealand is facing, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“We’ve just been through a dramatic health crisis, now New Zealanders can see the scale of the economic challenge and just how serious is.

“Unemployment is set to skyrocket to 9.8 per cent highlighting why the first priority must be to save jobs.

“With an extra $140 billion in debt, we’re facing debt levels not seen in decades, that’s nearly $80,000 per household.

“The Treasury predictions of future Government tax revenue and economic growth appear highly optimistic. New Zealanders should brace themselves for worse if this Government carries on.

“We welcome the limited extension of the wage subsidy however the $50 billion slush fund is totally unacceptable. The Government has cynically set aside more than $20 billion that it can spend before the election.

“There is very little in the way of a growth plan in this budget, beyond $230 million to encourage entrepreneurship and some announcements in infrastructure that we all know they will struggle to deliver.

While we agree that Government support is necessary to save jobs, we must be mindful that every dollar spent in today’s Budget will need to be paid back.

“What we need now is a genuine growth plan and careful economic management to pay down debt and get us back to growth without the need for higher taxes. . .

The lack of a plan is a point Paul Henry made:

“I think there is a good chance we [New Zealand] will miss the opportunity. I was hoping that there could be a bounce forward not a bounce back. It’s the human way – a life of least resistance. I’m not depressed, I’m disappointed.” . .

“I haven’t seen a long-term plan yet. I think the last six weeks I’ve seen us fighting a fire and trying to get back on our feet. We need a long-term plan. The world’s changed, and it’s changed for many years to come.” . . 

“There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.

“A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is.

“Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. . .

David Farrar scored the Budget against 13 principles and found it wanting.

Grant White, owner of Logitech, is disappointed in the Budget too:

. . .Covid-19 package estimated to save 140,000 jobs over two years, and create more than 370,000 new jobs. I can’t see it and I await the detail of just how that will be done.

What I do know is what the government clearly doesn’t understand. There is only one thing the economy needs right now – confidence. And this budget is not going to generate it, indeed its failure to stop short and medium term redundancies is going to lead to an even greater reduction in confidence.

Bryce Edwards calls it a Budget with big numbers but little vision:

. . The problem for the government is that it has already been struggling to keep to its promise of being transformative. Previous budgets have shown Robertson and his colleagues have been unable to break free from their cautious instincts.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the opportunity was handed to the government to reset the economy and society, and deal with some long-term problems. Robertson even spoke about this during the leadup to the Budget, saying that now was the time to address intractable problems of economic dysfunction, inequality, and environmental decline. He talked of not wanting to “squander the opportunity”. And yet, many will look at today’s big-spending Budget and ask: “Is that it?

The problem isn’t just there’s no real plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COvid-19 response, the government has the wrong people to lead the recovery too.

Empathy and communication are valuable commodities in politics but they’re nothing without the ability to make a good plan and make it happen.

Does anyone who remembers the many and gradually less ambitious Kiwibuild promises really believe that Labour will build the 8,000 houses promised yesterday?

How much faith can we have in a Cabinet with Phil Twyford, Minister for the Kiwibuild fiasco and now Minister for the failed Auckland light rail project?

Or Labour deputy and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis who after being notably absent while his sector faced the sector’s equivalent of foot and mouth disease, only popped up to do a possum in the headlights cameo with Paul Henry?

Does Minister of Health, David Clark, who was sidelined during the worst health crisis the country has ever faced give you confidence? Or what about his deputy Julie Anne Genter whose responsibilities include vaccinations? Remember the measles epidemic and the on-going flu vaccination debacle?

This government doesn’t have a plan and it does have the wrong people.


Don’t panic but . . .

March 13, 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that that COVID-19 is a pandemic.

In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled.  

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. 

Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals.

In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. 

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.

We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.  

WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases.  

And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.

We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.  . .

WHO has rung the alarm bell. Has our government heard it?

As I said on Monday, just looking at the number of cases and the number of countries affected does not tell the full story.

Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea – have significantly declining epidemics. 

81 countries have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less.

We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.

If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.

Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this virus. 

Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled. 

The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same – it’s whether they will.   . .

New Zealand is not dealing with large clusters or community transmission – yet.

This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight. 

I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact.

Let me summarize it in four key areas. 

First, prepare and be ready.

Second, detect, protect and treat.

Third, reduce transmission.

Fourth, innovate and learn. 

I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate and scale up your emergency response mechanisms;

Communicate with your people about the risks and how they can protect themselves – this is everybody’s business; 

Find, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact;

Ready your hospitals;

Protect and train your health workers. 

And let’s all look out for each other, because we need each other.  . . .

Are you confident that the government is taking this as seriously as it should be?

Friends flew home from South Africa a couple of days ago. In Singapore everyone in transit was asked lots of questions about where they had been, and their passports were checked to confirm what they’d said.

When they got to Auckland there were only two border staff on duty, all the disembarking passengers were crowded together in the queue. Nothing was said about Covid-19 but the the officer put a piece of paper in her husband’s passport which gave information about the disease.

A friend flew from the USA a couple of days ago, found only a couple of border staff on duty and a similarly low-key approach to the risk of Covid-19.

This does not seem to be taking WHO’s directive to detect and protect seriously enough.

That large public events are still going ahead, including the commemoration of the anniversary of March 15’s mosque massacre doesn’t seem to be taking the directive to reduce transmission seriously enough.

Are our hospitals ready? Are health workers trained and protected?

The health system is over-stretched at the best of times. What is being done to ensure it, and the people working in it, cope with what could be the worst of times?

And what’s being done to ensure people with symptoms self-isolate?

The government must pay people who stay away from work because they have the illness or have been in close contact with people with it.

These workers must not be left out of pocket or forced to go to work because they can’t afford not to and businesses should not have to cover that cost either.

That is one of the recommendations from David Farrar .

Should the government be unsure of what to do, following them would be a good idea.

There is no need to panic but there is urgent need to do everything possible to ensure everyone is doing everything possible to minimise the harm from the pandemic.


Quotes of the month

February 29, 2020

Hallelujah! A victory for sanity and the reasonable belief of most New Zealanders that personal mobility in the form of cars, trucks and motorbikes will continue to be the norm well into the future, even as the fuel that drives those vehicles radically changes for the better. – Steven Joyce

When they’re older, Anahera and Māia can look at that image knowing they are descendants of the Māori chief in it and the English-born photographer who took it. However, I hope they will recognise the multifaceted aspects of their whakapapa and understand they are first and foremost themselves – individuals who have the freedom to determine their own paths in life without being constrained by historical events that occurred before they were born.

That’s right, none of us was there when the treaty was signed, nor were we there when some of our ancestors stole land from some of our other ancestors, and I’m talking about my Māori ancestors – don’t get me started on the Pākehā ones. Complicated isn’t it? And, no, I’m not proposing “we are one people”, aka Hobson’s Pledge. How about “we are individuals”?Steve Elers

It’s customary these days to criticise politics as too tribal but, the case of the New Zealand Labour Party, at least, it’s the wrong analogy: in practice, it’s less tribe than sect.

Whereas tribes tend to protect their own, and forgive individual sins in service of the collective good, a sect is unforgiving of perceived heretics. Shane Te Pou

Children in arts-rich schools do significantly better at the basics than schools which focus on measuring literacy and numeracy outcomes. The arts build the key skills that employers value most highly: risk taking, collaboration, curiosity and an ability to think across rather than in disciplinary silos.

The arts train the imagination. The imagination is vital for individual and social well-being because we can only make our own and others’ lives better if we can imagine a different, a better world. The arts are carriers of hope, and young people need hope like a fish needs unpolluted water.

When schools deny children the arts, they deny them their imagination. We know the arts train us to think critically, to see things in different and multiple ways, that creativity is part of the puzzle of making democracy work. Education systems that train children how to answer questions rather than question answers leads us into the traps of demagogues and their easy recipes. –  Peter O’Connor

But the point is most Kiwis – most humans – want to earn what they own, not take it from those who already have it. – Kerre McIvor

We’ve become so consumed by climate change, we’ve lost the ability to think rationally. Which is why everyone is running around panicking about Huawei and no one is wondering about a much bigger problem: where their next sandwich is coming from. – Jeremy Clarkson

I’ve said many times before I’m proud of my whakapapa, I’m proud of my English, my British heritage. Ultimately… I’m a New Zealander first and foremost … if I think about Waitangi Day, what I see is a day that yes, that is historic in its significance but is ultimately, at its most basic, about good relations between New Zealanders. – Simon Bridges

For whereas the Left generally prefers to discharge its moral obligation to others through the transformation of society, the Right — sceptical of the grand plan — prefers to discharge it through particular acts of individual kindness and practical generosity.  Though not ever believing that such acts will totally change the world, the Right fights back against the darkness nonetheless, little by little and at local level. Without the showy drama of the revolutionary, the Conservative responds on the human scale, organically.Giles Fraser

Which is all a long and convoluted way of saying that lamenting Waitangi Day for not being a day of national unity misses the point. There are many great things about our country’s history that we can celebrate in an unadulterated way, but the events and subsequent history of Waitangi do not lend themselves to that. They are occasions for introspection, discussion and – yes – argument.

And there’s nothing wrong with having one day in the year for that.  – Liam Hehir

In fact, it’s a stretch to call the arts a “community”. In politics, a community tends to be defined, however broadly, in terms of its interests. Those interests could be based on geography, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, or economic imperatives. The arts are a community more in the sense of the Balkans after the fall of communism – an intractable, internecine turf war based on ancient and obscure grudges. – Ben Thomas

We need people to see that this is not Paharakeke (Flaxmere) , this is not what we do behind closed doors. And to bring the mana back, the aroha back, because unfortunately, from what’s happened to that baby, it’s just gone and broken. – Lynsey Abbott

If there is a solution, it cannot be legislated. If there is a solution you won’t find it in Wellington. If there is a solution, you won’t find it in council … we need to take a look in the mirror.Henare O’Keefe

Paharakeke deserves better, Flaxmere families deserve better. Each and every one of us deserves better. . . Whānau isn’t harden up, it isn’t hide. It’s open up, share. It’s where you be vulnerable. If we can change our family unit, we change our community.  – Michael Ngahuka

The city of sails? Sadly no, the city of fails . . . in a world of work-life balance, it’s all work, little balance.Mike Hosking

In a zinger that already sounds dated the ascendant John Key described Clark and Cullen’s administration as “a Walkman government in an iPod world.” As Ardern and Robertson consider the influence of their former employers and political forebears, they may think Key was being too kind: the ghosts of the fifth Labour government are still firmly tuned in to the wireless. – Ben Thomas

I don’t think New Zealand as a whole has particularly valued research in science and therefore things like opportunities and funding and chances to grow are really quite limited in this country. – Professor Jane Harding

Kids will do better when the adults and the country they live in does better. – Lindsay Mitchell

You can recover from an economic recession, but you can’t recover from a President who thinks the job of the Justice Department is to only apply the law to his political opponents.David Farrar

I am no right-winger, but I find myself unusually in the space occupied by the right – that is, I cannot fathom how property rights can be trampled on in this way, nor how Labour and the Greens can tolerate it. – Sue Bradford

The Washington Post observed after Ardern hobnobbed with the wealthy worthy in Davos that, while many were enthralled, ­others saw the NZ PM as being cut from the same poseur cloth as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, only less annoying and with an easier country to run. – Graham Lloyd

But let me be really clear: we cannot afford to panic. When we panic, we actively harm our ability to respond to difficult situations. So, let’s stay calm and start preparing. What happens in the months to come is going to depend on how we all behave. Siouxsie Wiles


Thickness of political blood

February 7, 2020

The adage that blood is thicker than water applies to politics.

There is no better illustration of the thickness of political blood then the failure of USA senate to impeach President Donald Trump.

The Republican majority prevailed with only one voting on principle rather than partisan politics.

David Farrar calls him the only honest Republican senator:

If Clinton or Obama had done ever 5% of the misdeeds of Trump, every Republican Senator would have voted for them to be removed from office. With one exception they put party before country.

 will go down as the last honest Republican Senator. He had nothing to gain from voting to convict and will face massive abuse for doing so. So why did he? Here’s some pertinent extracts from his statement:

The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Yes, he did.

The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The President’s purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

What he did was not “perfect”— No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine. . . 

As they say these truths are self-evident.

In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, “I stand with the team.” 

Thick blood puts the team before the truth.

 I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.

If only others were so brave.

I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?

It takes a lot of strength to stick to your principles when everyone else in your team can’t see past the thickness of their political blood.

We met people in Trump country on an irrigation tour 18 months ago.

One told us that his faith, his marriage, his family and his party were the four most important things in his life.

The only answer to the question of how he could reconcile his faith and his support for his President was the thickness of political blood.

And apropos of that thickness, unless the Democrats get their act together that President will hold office for another four years.


$484k per job yet there’s a worker shortage

December 9, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund gets a lot of publicity but the results are a long way from matching the rhetoric:

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions. . . 

Roads? We’re paying higher fuel taxes but that money is going on public transport in Auckland not much-needed upgrades to roads in the provinces.

And the bus and rail not roads policy is costing jobs as businesses finishing roading  projects have no more work ahead of them.

Rail? That’s a very limited option that doesn’t go very far from routes taken by State Highway 1.

While politicians squabble over whether enough jobs are being created in the regions, the PGF is managing to create well-paid jobs here in Wellington.

The unit in charge of the fund’s doubled in size over the past year. There are now 116 employees. And 71 of them earn a salary of more than $100,000.

That’s around one job in Wellington for fewer than 20, full and part time in the provinces.

David Farrar calls the number of jobs created pitiful:

By comparison in 2016/17 there were 137,000 new jobs created which was 66 new jobs every working hour.

So Shane Jones has spent $300 million over two years and created what was basically one day of job growth under National!

New and growing businesses creating more jobs ought to be applauded, but in some areas the problem isn’t no jobs, it’s a shortage of workers for the jobs in already established businesses.

Employers in dairying, horticulture and hospitality are struggling to find staff willing and able to fill their vacancies.

The provinces would get more value from initiatives that would provide employable workers than they’re getting from the money scattered through the PGF.


Delivering disappointment

October 18, 2019

This was supposed to be the government’s year of delivery.

David Farrar posted this on Kiwiblog a couple of days ago and got pushback from a Minister’s office:

A Minister’s Office has said that there has in fact been 149 million trees planted. The official policy is to include trees planted by the private sector as part of business as normal. They are correct this is the official Government position today but neither the pre-election policy or the coalition agreement stated the billion trees would include other plantings. In fact the coalition agreement says:

A $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including … Planting 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme

That very clearly implies they would find 100 million trees a year, and has nothing about including non-funded trees that would occur regardless of the Government.

So I stand by my position that the Government promised to fund one billion trees and has only funded 2.5% of that to date.

This shifting of goalposts is typical of the government. They’ve done it with police numbers too.

The Government has shifted the goalposts in its promise to deliver more frontline police after what seems like a slip of the tongue by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

It promised to “strive towards adding 1800 new police” over three years but in a game of semantics, it is now saying it will deliver 1800 new trained recruits by next month.

The move has drawn the ire of the Police Association who say it is not good enough and that the Government has broken its promise to police. . .

The Government has insisted that 1800 extra new officers was never a target, but an aspiration. . .

Not a goal, but an aspiration.

That’s the government summed up in six words and the result is a year of delivering disappointment.


Counting down

June 30, 2019

David Farrar has been doing a regular count-down on what’s required for the government to keep its KiwiBuild promise:

I don’t usually gamble, but am confident to wager they’re not going to make it, even with all the new ministers.


Which poll is right?

June 9, 2019

Or:

David Farrar says both can’t be right:

. . .You basically can’t reconcile these . One (or both) of them seem to be outside the 95% confidence interval, ie is the 1 in 20 “rogue” result.

The only other plausible explanation is that as the ONCB poll started a few days after NRR, Labour had a massive drop in support after those first few days. But the difference in dates is unlikely to explain the massive gap.

The polls ever show the direction of change differently. One has Labour down 6% and the other up 3.3%. National is up 4% in one and down 4% in another.

The NZ First result is also outside the margin of error. A 5% and a 2.8% result is outside the 95% confidence interval. . .

Both can’t be right, and just a few weeks ago all the pollsters were wrong about the Australian election.

 


Budget shambles

May 30, 2019

Yesterday the government and Treasury kept saying Treasury had been hacked.

At 9pm the night before David Farrar had a less sinister explanation:

. . . That possibly the material was put up on a website of some sort and someone found it. Treasury are calling it  because they didn’t think it was open to the public. But there is a difference between  a secure computer system, and locating information that is on the Internet (even if hidden).   . .

This morning police say there wasn’t a hack:

The people who accessed Budget information from the Treasury website did not act illegally.

Instead, they appeared to have used a search tool on the Treasury department’s website, which “does not appear to be unlawful”, police advised Treasury.

The person or persons were able to “exploit” the system because Treasury staff had been preparing a clone website in the background that they intended to swap over with the live website on Budget day.

To do this they began uploading some Budget information onto the clone site.

Although not publicly accessible, some of the information could be seen when a search was made on the website. . .

This is supposed to be Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s day to shine. Instead at least some of the spotlight will be on the shambles at Treasury, the government department for which he’s responsible.

Budgets aren’t the super-sensitive documents they used to be when the value of the dollar, tariffs and taxes would change at the stroke of a government pen.

But it’s supposed to be be a positive focus for the government.

Instead Opposition leader Simon Bridges has stolen the limelight thanks to some simple technological tinkering by someone who, contrary to the accusations, was not acting illegally.


Poverty stats government’s shame

April 3, 2019

The nine child poverty statistics that will be used as the baseline for improvement show released yesterday by Stats NZ show all but one have got worse under the current government:

David Farrar compares the stats under National and Labour:

  1. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% of median, before housing costs. 156,000 in June 2008 and 156,000 in June 2017 so no increase under National (rate dropped 0.3%). In June 2018 increased by 27,000 and rate increased 2.3% for Labour’s first year.
  2. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% of median, after housing costs. 329,000 in June 2009 (no data for 2008) and 247,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 82,000 under National (rate dropped 8.1%). In June 2018 increased by 7,000 and rate increased 0.4% for Labour’s first year.
  3. Percentage of children in households in material hardship. 196,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 140,000 in June 2017 so dropped 56,000 under National (rate dropped 5.4%). In June 2018 increased by 8,000 and rate increased 0.6% for Labour’s first year.
  4. Percentage of children in households with income under 60% of median, before housing costs. 252,000 in June 2008 and 243,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 9,000 under National (rate dropped 1.3%). In June 2018 increased by 38,000 and rate increased 3.2% for Labour’s first year.
  5. Percentage of children in households with income under 60% of median, after housing costs. 355,000 in June 2008 and 314,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 41,000 under National (rate dropped 4.6%). In June 2018 increased by 27,000 and rate increased 2.2% for Labour’s first year.
  6. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% housing costs for the base financial year. 258,000 in June 2008 and 236,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 22,000 under National (rate dropped 2.5%). In June 2018 increased by 18,000 and rate increased 1.4% for Labour’s first year.
  7. Percentage of children in households with income under 40% housing costs for the base financial year. 156,000 in June 2008 and 178,000 in June 2017 so an increase of 22,000 under National (rate increased 1.6%). In June 2018 dropped by 4,000 and rate dropped 0.4% for Labour’s first year.
  8. Percentage of children in households in severe material hardship. 84,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 74,000 in June 2017 so dropped 10,000 under National (rate dropped 1.0%). In June 2018 dropped by 9,000 and rate dropped 0.9% for Labour’s first year.
  9. Percentage of children in households in material hardship and under 60% median income after housing costs. 96,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 86,000 in June 2017 so dropped 10,000 under National (rate dropped 1.1%). In June 2018 increased by 12,000 and rate increased 1.0% for Labour’s first year. . .

Who would have thought it? Seven of the child poverty measures dropped under National, one was static and one went up.

And under the Labour/NZ First/Green government that purports to be compassionate and set reducing child poverty as a priority?

Seven of the child poverty measures worsened and only two improved.

What’s behind the difference?

Former Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English was determined to search out the risk factors which lead to poverty and the disastrous social outcomes that usually accompany it.

Having found them he used the social investment approach – spending more upfront on helping those most at risk. The higher short-term cost was justified by the expected reduction in the long-term human, social and financial costs should those at risk not be helped.

The compassionate and intelligent response of the Labour/NZ First/Green government would have been to continue and build on what was working.

The failure to do so is this government’s shame.

Instead it sabotaged business confidence, wasted money on policies including fee-free tertiary education and winter heating subsidies for people who don’t need them, and got soft on policies that used both carrot and stick for those who could be working but don’t.

Early days is no excuse, this government is almost half way through it’s first term.

It can’t blame National for what’s going wrong when under it, seven of the measures were improving, one was static and just one was going the wrong way.

The government has only itself and its ideological blindness to blame which will be no comfort at all to the families whose situation has worsened.

Lindsay Mitchell blogs on the causes of poverty:

The Canadian think-tank, the Fraser Institute has just released a paper which suggests an elegantly simple framework in finding three causes of poverty: bad luck, bad choices and enablement. The first two need no explanation. The third is described thus:

We can say that poverty is “enabled” when systems and structures are in place to discourage the kinds of efforts that people would normally make to avoid poverty, i.e., find employment, find a partner (especially if children are present), improve one’s education and skill set, have a positive outlook, and take personal responsibility for your own actions. Ironically, it is government programs (welfare, in particular) that are intended to help the poor but end up actually enabling poverty.

In NZ, many of our current influencers (MPs and media) pooh,pooh the idea that bad choices are responsible for poverty despite this being self-evident. They base their disdain for the idea on a belief that greater systems, for example institutional racism, drive bad choices. Of course when they do this they excuse bad choices and even compensate the person making them. Undoubtedly, most of those sitting on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group would hold views of his nature. . . 

The soft bigotry of low expectations is not a cliche, it’s a fact.

This government’s low expectations are enabling poverty and turning around the improvements that National’s policy of social investment were making.


Judging by words not deeds

February 12, 2019

If the latest Newshub poll is to be believed, the public is judging the government by its words not deeds.

There’s been a lot of words, but they haven’t been matched by positive action, rather the reverse:

As for the poll and commentators saying it’s a disaster for National:


Mad, bad or both?

October 18, 2018

Is Jami-Lee Ross mentally ill, just behaving really badly, or both?

Amateur diagnosticians are using terms like manic depression, bipolar and narcissism to describe his behaviour.

Former colleague, Mark Mitchell, who is in a better position to know spoke to Mike Hosking yesterday about mental illness and said: “He has to take responsibility for his actions, but he must look after himself first.”

That was before the release of the tape that didn’t appear to be the smoking gun Ross said it would be, but did needlessly insult other people, all of whom responded with dignity.

Maureen Pugh tweeted:

Chris Finlayson said:

“Any suggestion that I am upset about the tape is just wrong,” he said.

Finlayson noted he had said plenty of nasty things about people himself over his career that thankfully had not been taped.

“I can wound with my tongue at 100 paces,” Finlayson said. . .

David Carter was equally untroubled:

Mr Carter also said he was not in the slightest bit bothered by comments made about him by Mr Bridges.

Mr Carter said Mr Bridges was clearly set up by Mr Ross in the phone call.

“Looking at renewal that’s inevitably needed by all political parties, I take no offence at all about what was said by Simon Bridges.”

Mr Carter has confirmed he will not be seeking re-election as a list MP.

“He’s made two contacts with me, one before he was leader and one after, on both occasions he actively encouraged me to stay – he said I was very valuable contributor to caucus discussions and particularly in a mentoring role to many or our new MPs.

“I have told him I will stay and complete this term but have no intention of standing beyond the election of 2020.” . . 

These are just three of many needlessly dragged into the mess Ross has made. David Farrar writes of the terrible personal cost:

. . . This self-inflicted scandal is taking a terrible human toll. I’ll focus on the politics in another post, but I find it really sad the damage that has been done.

  • Jami-Lee’s career is destroyed and he may not even be employable in NZ. He’s gone from being a newly promoted front bencher to a pariah
  • His wife has the humiliation of what should be private matters between them laid out in public
  • His children will grow up with articles on the Internet about their father’s relationships with other women. As a father this upsets me greatly. No kid should have to endure that.
  • The four women in the article have obviously been through a horrible experience. I’m not the most sensitive soul out there but I found it hard to read the article. It impacted me emotionally. Forget politics. Those women have had a terrible time.
  • In at least one case, a marriage has split up and you’ll have a husband and children hurting
  • Simon Bridges has had someone who was one of his closest mates in caucus secretly tape record him. That is a huge betrayal of trust. Forget the politics. How would you feel if one if your mates did that to you?
  • Maureen Pugh has been humiliated by the release of the tape with a harsh description of her. She is incredibly upset, as is her family. And those who have campaigned for her and supported her are also upset. Maureen’s public response has been magnanimous and classy. But’s let’s not pretend how terrible she must feel.
  • 40,000 National Party members and supporters are upset. The vast majority of these people don’t want to be MPs. They don’t expect to gain anything in return for their hard work door knocking, donating, delivering etc. They just think that New Zealand does better when National is in Government. They feel betrayed and disappointed that this fiasco undermines their hard work

So there is a terrible personal cost to all this. It is very sad and I hope it stops. . . 

Mental illness might explain the behaviour but it doesn’t excuse it nor justify the hurt inflicted.

As a party member I am appalled that any other member, let alone an MP, could behave in this way and inflict so much damage.

If memory serves me correctly, my electorate donated money to help Ross win the seat in the by-election through which he entered parliament.

The party is strong enough to withstand it and winning the by-election will prove that.

Ironically Ross’s actions have also strengthened Simon Bridges’ position. Even if there was some disquiet about the leadership – and I have no knowledge of any –  everyone in caucus knows they must show 100% discipline and unity so as not to reward Ross.

He may well try to release more of what he sees as ‘proof’ but the media needs to ask itself, if it would be in the public interest and safe for his mental health, to carry on publishing it.

Much of what we has become public was not.

Modern media is in a very difficult position, knowing that if they don’t publish something, it can still become public through social media but that doesn’t justify hurting those who will become collateral damage and there is even more need to tread carefully if someone’s mental health is at risk.


If don’t need them now . . .

September 21, 2018

The government has lost its second minister this month.

Jacinda Ardern has relieved Whaitiri of her ministerial responsibilities which will be taken over by other ministers.

This begs the question – if the government doesn’t need two more ministers now, why were taxpayers burdened with the costs of having them in the first place?

It also raises the question of how many more ministers could we happily do without.

And while we’re asking questions, why did it take Ardern so long to get to the conclusion Whaitiri had to go?

Why did she go to the trouble of a lengthy investigation when she could have simply summoned Whaitiri into her office, asked her what happened and sacked her then and there?

And just a day after 125 years of women’s suffrage was celebrated, David Farrar notes:


15 years fomenting happy mischief

July 27, 2018

Kiwiblog marks 15 years of David Farrar’s fomenting happy mischief * today.

To maintain both the quantity and quality of posts every day for so long is no small achievement.

David has a readership that would be the envy of many professional pundits and media outlets.

His blog is one of relatively few that is consistently well reasoned and reasonable.

He is partisan but will give credit and criticism where it’s due regardless of political hue.

His was the first blog I ever read, it’s one I read every day and I look forward to the next 15 years and beyond of essential reading.

* Fomenting happy mischief was adopted by David as a slogan after a letter to the NZ Herald by Peter Davis, husband of then-PM Helen Clark, accused the paper of doing that.

 


10% can’t be counted

July 17, 2018

The release of data from this year’s census has been delayed because not enough people participated in it:

Stats NZ has revised the date for first release of census information from October 2018 to March 2019.

We will confirm the exact response and the coverage rates for the census after we complete our reconciliation processes. Stats NZ’s interim calculations show that full or partial information for at least 90 percent of individuals was received, compared with 94.5 percent for the 2013 Census.

As with previous censuses, we will use statistical methodology to compensate for missing data. For the 2018 Census we are revising this methodology because of the lower-than-expected response. We are discussing this new methodology with our technical customers. We’re also undertaking analysis on how to improve data for small populations, subgroups, and small geographies. The new date for our first release will give us time to develop revised methodology for processing and analysing census data. We are committed to delivering a high-quality and accurate dataset.

There is a long term, international trend of declining census response rates. Because of this we have made a strategic decision to use more administrative data to improve the quality of census data.

Stats NZ is in a good position to adopt this approach as we have been investigating future census models that would supplement census data with administrative data.

How significant is the drop?

Over at Kiwiblog David Farrar says:

. . .The Minister of Statistics should call for an independent review of this failure, to ensure the next census has a much higher participation rate.

Also we should not be given spin for months about how great the census went and then find out only now, how bad the participation rate was.

The last Australian census had a 96% response rate. They regarded 93.3% as the minimum required.

The Canadian census had a 98.4% response rate.

A better way to look at it is the non response rate. In Canada is was 1.6% and in NZ it was 10% – six times higher.

The move to on-line forms was supposed to make it easier to complete the census.

We won’t know if completion would have been worse if Stats NZ had stuck to the paper-based system but there were lots of complaints from people about the difficulty of dealing with the call centre by those requesting paper forms.

We were in Queenstown on census night. Nothing was said at the hotel when we checked in but there were papers under the door when we left at 6:30 next morning. I picked them up, stuffed them in my bag and forgot about them until I got home when I found forms at the door.

We had breakfast with around 50 farmers from Australia and New Zealand so I did a census on census completion and asked everyone if they’d done it.

One of the hotels had run out of forms, none of the Australians had completed them and all of the New Zealanders had done theirs at home, as if they were at home.

A woman who gave forms to tourists staying at her B&B was told where she could put them.

A friend has a holiday home in Wanaka with two houses and one mail box. She presumes her tenant would have got the letter fromStats NZ that went to every household, but would have filled it in for only one of the houses.

Anecdotes don’t make good data but they do illustrate problems with this year’s census.

With the old system someone visited every house and some census staff went many extra miles. A friend was climbing in the Southern Alps on census night and was presented with forms by a worker who came to the hut.

The on-line census was easy if you have a computer and are comfortable using it but that’s not everybody and problems with the call centre didn’t help.

It would have been more expensive to have people calling on every house as they used to do, but it would have ensured a better count which is important for planning and funding.

It’s also necessary for working out electorate boundaries and the delay in the data release will delay the final release of new boundaries which in turn will delay the candidate selection process.

As National’s Statistics spokesman Nick Smith points out:

. . .There is over $10 billion of health funding allocated to the twenty DHBs each year based on census population data. The funding formula for the operating grants for our 2500 schools is derived from the census as are decisions about the allocation of resources in social services, police, sports, transport and many other services.

“It also has major implications for the Representation Commission. The number of general and Maori electorates in Parliament are determined by the Census and the process for determining the new boundaries was due to start in November.

“Changes in population figures as small as 1 per cent can impact on whether there is, for instance, an extra or the removal of one of the Maori electorates. This process will now not be able to start until April next year and the compromised statistics will affect the integrity of the make-up and boundaries for the 2020 and 2023 elections. . . 

The significant drop in completion rates and consequent delay in releasing data are concerning.

Having 10% of the population not counted is serious, especially when it is likely to include more people who for example have intellectual or mental disabilities, don’t speak English, are illiterate or for other reasons are more likely to be in need of publicly funded support.

A review must determine what went wrong and why, and ensure that it doesn’t happen again in 2024.


Electoral law isn’t working

May 23, 2018

The Electoral Commission is investigating an advertisement exhorting people to vote for New Zealand First.

It’s not hard to join the dots between tax breaks for fast horses and racing interests who back New Zealand First.

. . . Winston Peters has repaid the electoral support of the racing industry with changes to the bloodstock tax rules and plans for an all-weather track. 

Peters announced $4.8m for tax deductions towards the cost of breeding high quality horses, in Thursday’s budget. The change would encourage new investment in the breeding industry, he said, enhancing the country’s racing stock and making it a more financially attractive industry.  . . 

NZ First has not disclosed its party donors in the annual declarations to the Electoral Commission, this month, but Peters did have outspoken support at last year’s election from the Waikato thoroughbred and bloodstock industry.  . . 

Industry leaders were vocal in their support of NZ First, with thoroughbred breeders Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan taking out a full-page advertisement in industry newspaper The Informant to encourage racing participants to party vote NZ First in September last year.  . . .

It is permissible for people or groups to advertise in support of a party but Andrew Geddis raises some questions about this advertisement:

The advertisement definitely encouraged people to vote for New Zealand First. It was here on Sunday but if you click that link now you’ll get access denied. However it is in the link to the story at Stuff above and says:

There is only one horse to back, it’s New Zealand First. It has the race record.  It’s now imperative that you all take this opportunity to have what we want by  making our PARTY VOTE IN FAVOUR OF NEW ZEALAND FIRST.. . 

And under the signatures it says:

PLACE YOUR PARTY VOTE FOR NEW ZEALAND FRIST

It’s possible the Hogans and the industry magazine didn’t know the electoral law about third party promotion but ignorance isn’t a defence.

Although, like far too many instances when questions are raised about possible breaches of electoral law, the investigation is far too late, this horse has well and truly bolted.

Months after the election is far too late so whether or not there has been a breach of electoral law, this yet again raises questions about the effectiveness of the law.

However, it’s not too late to address any conflict the issue of Peters as Racing Minister.

David Farrar points out:

Jacinda Ardern said NZ First Ministers can’t be Minister of Fisheries due to their donations from the fishing industry. Yet she makes Winston Minister of Racing despite figures in the racing industry running advertisements campaigning for NZ First. . . 

If NZ First MPs can’t be Ministers of Fisheries because of donations from the fishing industry, this advertisement should disqualify Peters from being Racing Minister.


Who do members want

February 21, 2018

It amuses me to read  commentators stating that National Party members favour this candidate or that one for the leadership.

They write as if the membership is a single being with a single view.

I doubt that is true for any party and it certainly isn’t for National.

It’s a broad church party, the only one in New Zealand still able to measure its membership in 10s of thousands, and one which values individual rights, including the right to different points of view.

The members of that broad church have a range of views on just about everything, most don’t go to regular meetings nor do most press their views on MPs, even on such an important internal matter as the leadership.

They might agree with David Farrar on the factors which are important in the party’s leader.

But if there is any consensus on the issue it will not be on which candidate is best.

It might be gratitude that caucus is sufficiently gifted to have five strong contenders.

Members might also agree that whoever the next leader is s/he must have what it takes, including a wise head and warm heart, to lead the party back into government sooner rather than later.

And I think all will agree that once the leader is decided, caucus must unite behind her/him and address itself to both holding the government to account and ensuring it is much better prepared for government than the current one was.


Empathy no substitute for effectiveness

January 31, 2018

The child poverty legislation introduced by Jacinda Ardern yesterday is long on intention and very short on substance:

The Government’s proposed child poverty legislation is predictably full of positive intentions but contains no substance to address the drivers of deprivation, National Party leader Bill English says.

“The Prime Minister has announced plans to introduce legislation that requires Ministers to report publicly on the number of children in poverty, to set targets, and to develop a strategy.

“National shares the Government’s goal of reducing child poverty. But you don’t need new legislation for any of this. In fact, the public service is already reporting publicly on the exact measures the Government is proposing.

Thanks to National’s economic stewardship, the Government has had the luxury of being able to allocate surplus cash to lift family incomes, picking up National’s Family Incomes package, with some additions.

“But what is much harder is changing the lives of our most vulnerable families trapped in deprivation by long term benefit dependence, low educational achievement and recidivist crime. Poverty isn’t just about lifting incomes.

The causes of poverty are complex and solving the problem takes a lot more than giving families more money.

Inexplicably, the Government last week announced it will abolish the Better Public Services targets we designed to tackle these issues, seemingly for no other reason than they were National’s initiatives.

“The targets we designed focused the public service on reducing benefit dependence, increasing educational achievement and reducing crime, to name just a few.

These measures addressed the causes rather than just treating symptoms.

“During our tenure we found the ability to eyeball the specific Minister or public servant responsible for delivering a particular target drove significant change. I’m enormously proud to say we reduced the number of children living in material hardship by 85,000 over the last five years by taking that approach.

“By getting rid of these targets, the Government has thrown away the very tools to attack these drivers of poverty.

“But the Government’s new proposals are so high level and general that they refer to no one in particular, and no one will be held responsible for any lack of progress.

“A plan that will really, truly tackle child poverty must address the drivers of social dysfunction and hold the public service accountable, not just rely on the Government’s good intentions.

“The National Party is committed to reducing child poverty, achieving tangible results and promoting evidence-based policies that actually work. . .

The Taxpayers’ Union says the Bill will deliver socialism rather than better lives for children:

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Tying poverty measures to the median income is simply a target for socialism. It means that as long everyone is equally poor, Labour will have met their goal.” . . .

“The saddest thing about these proposals is they suggest Labour’s claimed concern for kids in hardship was fake all along. This is leftist ideology with no mention of economic growth, getting people of welfare, productivity, employment, and entrepreneurship.”

David Farrar pointed out that when she was in opposition Jacinda Ardern had two members bills, neither of which got anywhere for very good reason:

. . .Her first bill on adoption was a press release pretending to be a bill. It merely instructed the Law Commission to go write the real bill and have the Government introduce it. The bill was so bad even the Greens voted against it. It actually undermined the real work done cross party by Kevin Hague and Nikki Kaye who met with all the stakeholders, with law professors, adoption groups and wrote a detailed law reform bill.

Her latest bill is much the same. It is labelled the Child Poverty Reduction and Eradication Bill. It basically sets up a a Child Poverty Reduction Board! That’s it. It’s a sound bite not a serious law.

In no way do I think Jacinda doesn’t care about gay adoption and child poverty. She does. But the consistent pattern in her career has been that she prioritises empathy over effectiveness. . . 

With all the resources available now she’s Prime Minister, she ought to have done much better with the child poverty bill.

Instead it looks like she is continuing to prioritise empathy over effectiveness in government.

 

 


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