Quotes of the month

01/07/2021

The cult of celebrity, as a quality in itself irrespective of the value of what it attaches to, is likewise mysterious to me. Many are those who seek celebrity detached from anything else of discernible worth. Fame for its own sake is sufficient for them. But what does it mean that people can be famous for being famous? – Theodore Dalrymple

The celebrity must be such that, fundamentally, he is one of us, the great mass of mediocrities. In fact, a celebrity could have been me if things had been only a little different. Modern celebrity is thus the screen on which mass daydreams are projected. Theodore Dalrymple

Where celebrity is both more desired and more prevalent, it will attach to people of less and less accomplishment. To be completely unknown becomes a wound, a humiliation, a sign of failure; celebrity is the sole guarantor of personal worth. To be known for nothing of any importance is infinitely better than not being known at all. – Theodore Dalrymple

There should be term limits of about 15 years and then you should have a compulsory sabbatical. If you want to come back, it’s over to you, but you’d be pretty stupid to. – Chris Finlayson

 Patel evokes such insensate fury in her opponents not because of her actual practical politics, which could be opposed or disagreed with in a normal way, but because she represents a threat to a worldview. She is the child of refugees, and she experienced racial insult and abuse as a child; therefore, it was her duty to play the professional victim for the rest of her life. Instead, she says that her heroine was Margaret Thatcher, who inspired her to go into politics. By not claiming to be a victim, and by climbing up the greasy pole through sheer determination, she has proved herself a traitor to her class and her race.

Worse still, Patel is a threat to all those who aspire to climb that same greasy pole by denouncing elitism, privilege, and racism as the principal sources of all evil. And there is a growing danger that a substantial proportion of various ethnic minorities will come to think like her. – Theodore Dalrymple

Labour’s record is going to be blowing 30 years of fiscal prudence and creating $100,000 of debt per household. Plus closing down the country and avoiding a mass outbreak of Covid, but how hard was that?Richard Prebble

What if making people dependent is a cause of poverty? What if Labour’s benefit increase traps more people in dependency? Bill English’s Better Public Services programme that provided wrap around services to assist beneficiaries off dependency achieved better results. – Richard Prebble

Spending $486 million restructuring health to a centralised system won’t provide a single extra operation. Andrew Little achieved nothing in three years in justice except expensive hui. He has yet to learn about project optimism. It is the rule that says projects cost twice as much and take four times longer than estimated. The unexpected always happens. – Richard Prebble

The evidence of the last thirty years is that, given the choice, workers prefer not to be represented in their wage negotiations by unions. Unsurprisingly, they choose to have a direct relationship with their employer. This may be bad news for unions, but it is not a systemic weakness in the labour market.

And that is the real reason why the claims in Minister Wood’s Cabinet paper don’t stack up. New Zealand’s labour markets are working well for both firms and workers. But they have not been working well for unions. That is the only “entrenched weakness” of the current framework. And it is only a weakness if you are a union official. For anyone else, the case for FPAs does not compute. – Roger Partridge

Of the services classed as essential during the Covid lockdowns last year, it is important to remember that the only ones supporting income for the country were those to do with food and fibre. The other essential services were … essential, but most, including the public servants now on a wage “pause”, were supported by the Government. 

Farmers and growers working through were not.

Just as the primary sector was vital to maintain the economy during Covid, it is now vital to contribute to debt repayment. It therefore makes little sense to shut down any part of it without considering the full implications and alternatives. – Jacqueline Rowarth

Organic, regenerative production systems do not and cannot yield as well as conventional systems. Globally, depending on crop and season, about 60 per cent of conventional is average.

Occasionally the yields are similar, but generally only on individual harvests – not on a five- or 10-year calculation. And most of the calculations overlook the need to bring in animal manure as nutrient replacement. Green-laundering refers to the fact that this manure has often been created by animals being given conventionally grown food. – Jacqueline Rowarth

The National Science Challenge Our Land and Water has funded research on organic versus conventional yields and people’s willingness to pay. The report indicated that a premium of 38 per cent would be required to offset yield decrease. People were apparently willing to pay an extra 36 per cent, though reality suggests that most people don’t.

It is also important to remember that a premium is paid for something that is not the norm. If everybody is organic or regenerative or whatever, there will be no premium. – Jacqueline Rowarth

Regulation cannot create excellence in anything but compliance, and compliance with regulations set in urban environments, where context is not understood, cannot assist with debt reduction for the country. – – Jacqueline Rowarth

In the four minutes it took to read this column, the national debt increased by $353,333.

Who will pay off this debt if the farmers and growers are out of business? – – Jacqueline Rowarth

Putting New Zealanders first when it comes to local employment is all very well. But it has to be based on more than wishful thinking. It needs to be properly evidence-based that the goal can be achieved. Despite the government’s optimistic rhetoric, there is no substantive evidence of a large number of New Zealanders showing any interest in doing the necessary work that migrants currently carry out. – Peter Dunne

The faster we get that jab into arms up and down this country, the faster we’ll be reconnecting with the world. Heather du Plessis-Allan

 So, her visit was disappointing. Confirming that dogma dictates decisions, while reason runs for cover. Grass doesn’t need water. Tractors don’t need drivers. Regenerative farming makes Lincoln redundant. Maori wards will make gangs evaporate. Pine forests make air travel harmless. Nevertheless, we pray that rain and sanity may one day return to us here in drought land. – Tim Gilbertson

Labour’s problem with the Bill is that it offers choice, when they believe there should only be one choice for the second language – te reo.

“One minute Labour MPs are celebrating Samoan language week in Parliament, next minute they are killing a piece of legislation that would better equip schools to teach Samoan – or Hindi, or Mandarin, or Tongan, or Punjabi or any number of languages widely spoken in communities around New Zealand.Paul Goldsmith

 Confirmed, yet again, is the unhealthily large number of “suck-up, kick-down” personalities currently at large in New Zealand’s Fourth Estate.

So many contemporary journalists appear to be in the job for trophies. Not the sort of trophies one displays on the mantelpiece (although they like them too) but the sort of trophies big-game hunters hang on their walls. The current Press Gallery’s definition of a good political journalist would appear to be based on how many politician’s they have “bagged”. As if stuffing someone’s career is something to be proud of. – Chris Trotter

There is already enough ego and ambition in Parliament to go around – we certainly don’t need to be stoking either in a person before they have even been selected or elected. Monique Poirier 

The victim is the modern hero and also the highest moral authority: for who would dare to question, let alone oppose, the opinion of a victim on the subject of whatever has made him or her a victim? Thus, we listen to victims with a kind of awed and uncritical, but also terrified, reverence even when they speak of abstractions. If they say something which we suspect or even know to be untrue, we fear to let on to others our derogation from the holy word. To disagree publicly with a victim, to question the undiluted veracity of their story, is to increase the harm they have suffered, and in effect to victimise them a second time. – Theodore Dalrymple

 It is small wonder, then, that in a cultural climate such as this, some people are willing and able to claim the status of victim even when what they suffered is only one of the inevitable inconveniences of having been born human. It is as if were prayed not for the Lord to make us strong but to make us fragile. Psychological fragility, of course, is romantic in a way in which strength of mind is not: it is the moral equivalent of the blood that romantic poets coughed up prior to dying early. Apart from anything else, psychological fragility gives one the standing from which to discourse at length upon one’s favourite subject, the subject on which one is a world authority, namely oneself. – Theodore Dalrymple

If you’re ugly, old or badly-dressed, don’t expect crying to work; if you’re male, it’s a gamble; and if you’re not in the in-group, you can forget it. But if your face fits (and you don’t ugly-cry) then you can do what you like. And as long as you sob in public now and then, you’ll be considered a paragon of compassion. – Mary Harrington

In my 20-year plus time as a journalist, this Government is one of the most thin-skinned and secretive I have experienced. Many of my colleagues say the same. Even squeezing basic facts out of an agency is a frustrating, torturous and often futile exercise.Andrea Vance

It’s now very difficult for journalists to get to the heart and the truth of a story. We are up against an army of well-paid spin doctors. – Andrea Vance

But it is the New Zealand Transport Agency that take the cake: employing a staggering 72 staff to keep its message, if not its road-building, on track – up from 26 over five years. At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information. – Andrea Vance

Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the nation’s journalists do not concern you. Why should you care? Because the public’s impression of this government is the very opposite.

They see a prime minister that has captivated the world with her ‘authentic’ communication style, intimate social media postings, daily Covid briefings and proactive releases of Cabinet papers. It is an artfully-crafted mirage, because the reality is very different. This is a Government that is only generous with the information that it chooses to share. Andrea Vance

Our current monetary regulatory regime works to protect the vested interests of those with capital at the exclusion of those seeking to acquire it. This applies to people wishing to purchase a house, obtain capital for a business or in some cases even open a bank account. This harms the poor and entrenches the wealthy. For historical reasons Māori are over-represented in our lower economic demographics. The Reserve Bank is not doing anything to improve their lot, and in many ways is making their lives harder. – Damien Grant

We’re losing a lot of the satire and the greater comment about what is going on, because people are afraid of what the reaction is going to be. – Matt Elliott 

It’s quite hard to navigate comedy, particularly if you want to do social satire, in these conditions… you really have to twist yourself in knots to not offend. – Ginette McDonald

Some people still continue to have the sense that comedy is the ability to say whatever you want, and that that has always been the case. That’s never always been the case. There’s always been lines and the audience will tell you where that line is, by reacting against it – Te Radar

The only reason we get away with that irreverence and edgy stuff is because on the flipside is heart. – Oscar Knightley

I don’t have rules but ‘stay in your storytelling lane’ is one anyone can trust. Everything (especially the painful stuff) should have an autobiographical pebble in it, because then it resonates. In my experience that’s how marginalised audiences feel seen, which is why I got into comedy writing in the first place. – Jessicoco Hansell 

But comedy’s not like ice skating. You don’t get points for degree of difficulty.” Sometimes, crossing the line can be thought-provoking. Laughter is a physical reaction. It’s honest and instant, and it’s interesting for the audience to laugh and sometimes wonder if it was OK to laugh.

The list of forbidden topics is always changing, and comedy evolves, like society, and it’s the job of the comic to feel where the line is. Sometimes you only find out by tripping over it. I’m sure if you’re the guest speaker at a KKK rally, the line is in a different place than for my audience. – Raybon Kan

The only rule in stand-up comedy from my perspective is tell jokes that you want to tell. Don’t tiptoe around other people because they might get offended. As a comedian, you have to stay true to your craft. – Dave Batten

There are some things that you can try and do something about. And if you want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, then you’d damn well better do something about them. – Arif Ahmed

Material living standards aren’t everything by any means. But they do seem to count for quite a lot.Michael Reddell

The conversations around the sustainability of red meat – which is often dominated by issues and matters prevalent in the northern hemisphere – means it is important to contribute a New Zealand-centric explanation of how we produce our meat.

The fact is, our system is the ‘EV car model’ of farming. Very efficient at raising animals on pasture and converting inedible grass into high quality, nutrient-dense food.Derek Moot

Kiwis must realise there’s no us and them – farmers are part of New Zealand; an integral part of our country’s welfare. A cursory glance at the rest of the world and we’d recognise how lucky we are here in Aotearoa.

New Zealand is the only OECD country with its economy based on agricultural production. It’s something that we do really, really, well. New Zealand farmers are good at agriculture and Kiwis can be proud of it. – Derek Moot

I’m reminded of the old Soviet Union, where word would spread like wildfire when a fresh delivery of bread or potatoes arrived at the supermarket and people would run to join the queue. Perhaps the government has chosen the same the mode of delivery for the Pfizer rollout. – Karl du Fresne

I don’t know who’s making these calls but I have to say, if you’ve got middle level bureaucrats sitting at their desk in Wellington, they do need to remember that their decisions will affect real people. – Dr Tim Mackle

New Zealanders, on the whole, are a tolerant, decent people, of many cultural and ethnic backgrounds. who abhor racism and inequality and indeed any other “ism” which purports to establish some sort of domination or superiority. “Jack is as good as his master” is a colloquialism long espoused in New Zealand to describe our egalitarian approach to life. There is no doubt whatsoever that any person in New Zealand today, if they have the ability, can aspire to and achieve whatever they want. The opportunity is undoubtedly there. In recent times, the highest offices of the land have been held by distinguished New Zealanders of multiple ethnicities – Maori, Fijian Indian, and yes, those of European or Asian descent. Ethnicity, gender or religion, amongst other political identities, has been no barrier to New Zealanders achieving their goals and dreams. We, all of us – Maori, Pakeha, Pasifika, Asian, African – attended school together, have worked together, played sport together, served and died for our country New Zealand together, and have intermarried to the extent that virtually every person of Maori descent today has a European or Asian ancestor. Few other countries around the world can claim such egalitarian, inter-cultural and relatively peaceful outcomes. – Henry Armstrong

This is not to say we should not be indifferent to the cultural identification, beliefs, needs and practices of cultural minorities, including our Pasifika, Asian and Maori communities – we should of course acknowledge and respect those cultural differences where appropriate. But equally, the same attributes pertaining to the current ethnic majority also need to be acknowledged. Terms like “white privilege” and “white supremacy” are racist insults which have NO PLACE in New Zealand. – Henry Armstrong

Racism goes both ways and is equally hurtful, no matter what a person’s ethnic or cultural identity. My Irish and Polish ancestors, as well as our Pasifika and Chinese brothers and sisters, have all experienced racism in New Zealand. Let’s unite and stamp this out-wherever it comes from, including from Maori! . . .

There is no excuse for justifying and supporting insulting accusations of racism of any type in New Zealand, be it by Pakeha or by Maori, or indeed by anybody else who uses ethnicity as a point of difference. Let us condemn ALL racism, overt, covert or inverse. – Henry Armstrong

If it’s true that a new form of overt racial antagonism is emerging in New Zealand, then its origins are almost certainly domestic. I’d go further and say that the primary provocation is coming not from shadowy white supremacists, as the Dominion Post story speculates, but from the opposite direction – from proponents of critical race theory, the Marxist view that societies such as New Zealand are built on oppressive, systemic racism.

To put it another way, the divisive, polarising race rhetoric that we are bombarded with daily is coming overwhelmingly from one side, and it’s not from Pakeha. If we really to want to identify what’s destabilising race relations in New Zealand, we should point the finger at those who relentlessly promote an ideology of apartness – conveniently denying, as I’ve pointed out in this blog, that even the most strident activists carry the supposed curse of European blood. – Karl du Fresne

The problem for these part-Maori agitators (should we call them Maokeha?) is that if they acknowledged their European descent, the ideological narrative that we are two races, immutably divided into exploiters and exploited, would be deprived of much of its force. But as long as they continue to identify exclusively with their Maori heritage, they lay themselves open to the accusation that they do it because it enables them to exercise power and influence that would otherwise not be available to them.

These are the people who are dialling up the heat in the race debate, and no one should be surprised if a redneck backlash develops. Nothing is more likely to give oxygen to the small minority of true racists in New Zealand – people like the woman Tukaki encountered – than the perception that New Zealand is being reshaped along race-based lines that would advantage those of part-Maori descent. The danger is that the vast majority of New Zealanders who are liberally minded and racially tolerant are likely to get caught in the middle of an unlovely clash between extremes. Karl du Fresne

In reality, the world seems every more filled with what the French call “langue de bois,” that wooden language in which apparatchiks of various apparats, governmental, academic, and commercial, put words to their lack of thoughts. – Theodore Dalrymple

Sentences, which are no more meaningful in the negative than in the affirmative, and whose negative indeed confers nothing to the mind different from the affirmative, are uttered with a gravity intended to suggest that something important is being said.

But it would be a mistake to suppose that, just because the words and sentences uttered have no clear meaning, that they have no purpose. On the contrary, they have a very important purpose. The mastery of this kind of language is the managerial equivalent of freemasons’ ceremonies: it distinguishes the managers from the managed.Theodore Dalrymple

Again, if I may be allowed a paradox, meaninglessness is not without meaning. To talk in verbiage is to commit yourself to nothing, to promise nothing, and therefore to prevent yourself from being held to anything. It therefore excludes nothing.

It facilitates, or is a disguise or smokescreen, for complete ruthlessness: for having uttered something without meaning, without any tether to concrete reality, you may do anything you like without breaking your word.

Where such language is used, there can be no trust, only suspicion, for no one utters anything to which he can be held. All that is left is a struggle for power, the achievement of which has come, ever since Nietzsche and his death of God, to seem the highest, even the only, good. – Theodore Dalrymple

In an age where we are surrounded with everybody’s best version of themselves presented on social media, confidence is king. On reality TV, all shyness and self-consciousness is discarded for 15 minutes of fame. Contestants readily make fools of themselves to gain some notoriety. These incredible levels of confidence shouldn’t be our norm, nor considered healthy.

Before diagnosing yourself with imposter syndrome and chanting affirmations in the mornings, consider that being a little bit self-aware and self-critical is not, in fact, a problem, and perhaps a society which values confidence over self-reflection is.Rachel Peters

The mantra of ‘They Are Us’ repeated over and over like a prayer soon began to lose its meaning. After March 15, many of us felt more isolated than ever before. We looked over our shoulders when we walked through a crowd. We felt our chests tightening while walking into a mosque. Some of us stopped taking our children to Friday prayers.

Others questioned whether or not to abandon wearing the hijab in search of safety. We were all waiting for more attacks to come, and we did not know where they would come from, or when. – Mohamed Hassan

All of us were grateful for the beauty we witnessed in the days that followed, the empathy and warmth and shared grief we were able to experience as a country. It was a moment that shaped us, gave us a path forward through the darkness. But that process has not ended. We are not healed. We are not ready to move on, and the road is long and difficult. –

There were times when ‘They Are Us’ felt hollow. A promise made but not kept. A pat on the back for a job not yet done. – Mohamed Hassan

In its essence, it is a story about an act of white supremacy that is centered around white voices, white feelings and white heroism. The irony is nauseating. The lack of self-awareness is profound. – Mohamed Hassan

But this is not an inspiring story. It is a tragedy, one that must always be centered around the Muslim victims and their families. No one else.

And when they are ready to speak again, the rest of us must sit down and listen. – Mohamed Hassan

At every such juncture, we’ve been admonished to “believe the science.” But this is not science; it’s politics. Science demands a reflexive posture of skepticism toward received wisdom, tempered by trust in empirical evidence. Bowing habitually to expert authority on the strength of titles and credentials is the antithesis of the scientific mindset. Leighton Akira Woodhouse

The scientific establishment, like the political establishment, is a human institution. It’s not an impartial supercomputer, or a transcendent consciousness. It’s a bunch of people subject to the same incentives and disincentives the rest of us are subject to: economic self-interest, careerism, pride and vanity, the thirst for power, fame and influence, embarrassment at admitting mistakes, intellectual laziness, inertia, and ad-hoc ethical rationalization, as well as altruism, moral purpose, and heroic inspiration. Scientific experts deserve the respect due to them by dint of their education and experience, and they deserve the skepticism due to them by dint of their existence as imperfect actors functioning in complicated and deeply flawed human networks and organizations. If you “believe in science,” you don’t bow to their authority. You don’t transform them into living legends and teach your children to follow the example of their lives. You don’t light votive candles to them and castigate anyone who dares doubt their infinite wisdom.

Instead, you demand the best proof they can offer. You consider their motivations, their ideological biases and their conflicts of interest. You interrogate their advice, and weigh it against that of their critics. You exercise diligence. You ask questions. You trust in evidence, not in people. You think for yourself. – Leighton Akira Woodhouse

Never forget that if it was easy to be in business then everybody would be in business. –  Pita Alexander

Honestly, that whole ‘They Are Us’ phrase really bothers me. I know many disagree with me and I’m not gonna’ fight the fight again, but if we really meant ‘They Are Us,’ the Crusaders would have changed their name. If we really meant ‘They Are Us,’ then we might not have planned massacre anniversary commemorations, knowing that most Muslims don’t mark anniversaries.

If they were us then we wouldn’t us the word ‘They’ at all.    – Jack Tame

How is it acceptable that the cycleway is a velvety smooth carpet of asphalt, while the general roadway remains a rutted, dishevelled patchwork quilt of rough and ready repairs? Motorists feel like they’re being contemptuously treated by a rabidly anti-car council.Mike Yardley

 Up to now, this new “age of enlightenment”, as woke followers would call it, is largely constrained to traditional wealthy democracies found in Europe, North America and Australasia. In other words, most of the world, by population, is yet to feel the woke wave or has decided it’s just not for them. Poor ignorant souls, still able to give their misplaced opinions on issues which have been ruled on by our woke leaders as unfit for public debate. – Derek Mackie

 It’s hard to tell how many people are secretly unwoke but I suspect it is a very large number indeed. Why don’t they speak out? If there’s one thing the woke brigade does well, it’s bully and intimidate. This is an age-old human tactic for getting your own way but what makes it particularly hypocritical in this case is the endless woke calls for fairness, kindness and freedom of expression. Like most movements born out of an urge for radical change and revolution, these laudable aims only apply to their own supporters. Anyone who dares to disagree or argue an alternative viewpoint is shouted down, vilified and verbally beaten into submission. –  Derek Mackie

In the last 70 – 100 years the great unwashed, that’s you and me by the way, have gained enormous freedoms and opportunities, not least regular baths and showers, which were denied to our ancestors. I don’t believe we will give these rights up easily. Like all radical movements, Woke will degenerate to more extreme and intolerant ideas, continuing to divide us by race, colour, gender and sexual orientation. These policies will become irreconcilable with preaching the same facade of understanding and fairness.

I hope that, despite the indoctrination planned for future schoolchildren, many will rebel and challenge the woke elite. However, this is likely another generation away, at least. In the meantime, the Great Unwoke need to band together, as best they can, and speak out at every opportunity to encourage others to follow suit. To stay silent and live a quiet life is no longer an option. Let’s bring on a new great age where we can discuss all issues in public life without fear of being branded something repugnant. –  Derek Mackie

I hope the greenies are still enjoying their gas ban and the fact we don’t mine much coal nowadays.

Because both of things mean we’re hurting the planet more than we otherwise would’ve done. Heather du Plessis Allan

That the CCC and the Government have got this far without encountering very much in the way of pushback from the public (farmers don’t count as the public) is because New Zealanders have no idea how much their day-to-day lives will be affected if Carr’s masterplan becomes Government policy. Everybody pays lip service to fighting global warming, but beyond occasionally catching a bus, or walking – instead of driving – to the chippie, it’s business as usual. Hardly anyone is prepared for the radical change of lifestyle which Carr’s recommendations would require. So, when the climate change penny finally drops, all hell is going to break loose. – Chris Trotter

Carr’s plans are typically elitist in their lofty disregard for the lives of ordinary New Zealanders. Indeed, the burden of this plan of his will fall most heavily upon those Kiwis least able to bear it. Is the cleaner living in South Auckland, who travels miles each day by car to reach her workplace, seriously being asked to buy an electric vehicle? And even if the government finances her into one, how is she supposed to power it up? – Chris Trotter

The fact that Labour is surprised at our outrage tells me they don’t understand Middle New Zealand voters.

They badly misjudged how much we would object to this spend and how much we would hate the pay freeze just a few weeks ago. They don’t know what we prioritise.

After years of living in a Wellington politics bubble or a university bubble or a union bubble they’ve stopped bumping into normal people. They are relying on focus groups to try to understand us, but focus groups have limits. Focus groups measure people through a series of questions. People are more complicated than that.

To Labour, Middle New Zealanders are a curiosity they occasionally venture out to study like a zoologist heading out to watch a pack of passing giraffes. –  Heather du Plessis-Allan

The crime committed around the harbour crossing is now two-fold. The ruinous waste of money for a whole new structure, the only positive aspect being it most likely will never happen. The government, by the way, might want to reflect on that widespread type of reaction.

Why are so many people sceptical? Because their delivery record is abysmal, and it’s now haunting them. Governments should make announcements like this and have support, what they get through their own ineptitude is scepticism. – Mike Hosking

In a country crying out for infrastructural reform, not to mention no money and a shortage of skills and materials, the best they can do is a massive cross water cycle lane.

If you don’t see that as the sheer insanity that it is, you’re either employed at a university, in the Green Party, or you’ve lost your marbles. Roads build economies, cycles don’t. – Mike Hosking

Sometimes you get so bogged down with the day-to-day graft that it is hard to see where small improvements can make a big difference. If we stop seeing health and safety as compliance and look at it as productive farming with thriving staff, we might see an improvement in our pretty miserable track record of injuries and deaths on farm.Jake Jarman

Pandemics require two things: The efficient administering of effective vaccines, and truth.

I need reassurance that the country is receiving both. – Gavin Ellis

An army of spin doctors in the ministry and an elite force of them in the Beehive may be responsible for narratives which, if not conflicting, are not perfectly aligned. Either way, information is being manipulated and we would be näive to think otherwise. It’s the way politics and government works.

Nonetheless, it has no place in a pandemic.

When “Can I believe it?” passes the public’s lips in these hazardous times, it’s a signal to reset the strategy. – Gavin Ellis

The truth has a wonderful habit of revealing itself but, with a deadly virus waiting for an opportunity to thrive, we can’t wait a year to hear it. – Gavin Ellis

We need to hear leaders condemn all support for terrorism and all terrorism equally whatever the source, target, and circumstances, and even when it is not politically expedient to do so. – Juliet Moses

The Commission concedes that it is not possible to model the future but then bases its report on modelling.

A Shaman examining the entrails of a goat could make a forecast of GDP in 30 years’ time that would be just as valid. – Richard Prebble

The Commission is using climate change to advance an agenda for a transition to a “fair, inclusive and equitable” society, the eternal justification for socialism.

The report’s recommendations will make reaching zero emissions more costly while making New Zealand less fair, more divided and poorer. – Richard Prebble

If the term “the Establishment” means those who hold power in society and whose ideas dominate the public conversation, then what we thought of as the conservative Establishment in the latter part of the 20th century has long been extinct. We’ve done a 180-degree flip, to the point where what was then considered radical has become mainstream. But just like the old Establishment, the new one is oppressively conformist, authoritarian and intolerant of different ideas and different ways of doing things. That’s the nature of Establishments. – Karl du Fresne

When a major event occurs or a policy proposal announced, your first thought in today’s news feed culture is not your own original idea but almost inevitably a headline or commenter appealing to your worse biases.

Playing to the rawest elements of human nature, today’s social media-driven outrage machine has done great damage to intellectual life, destroying our ability to think independently, and discuss productively across lines of difference.   – Matthew Nisbet

When TV news does report on climate change, portrayals tend to exaggerate the threats, without providing information about what audiences might be able to do to protect against them, a style of fear mongering that can result in feelings of powerlessness or forms of denial. – Matthew Nisbet

In the quest for climate progress, the goal is not to broker cross-alliances between the center-right, center-left, and left wing, drawing on the best ideas that those factions can offer, but rather to build progressive power.

In doing so, the vast complexity of climate politics is reduced to a Manichean storyline that features a battle between the forces of “good and light” and “evil and darkness.” 

Progressives not only see climate change as an epic battle to stave off catastrophe, but also an opportunity to transform the world into their vision of an ideal society. – Matthew Nisbet

Absent the ability to read deeply, reason analytically, or argue effectively, generations of college students are at of risk of missing out on the most essential skills needed to sustain a liberal democracy. – Matthew Nisbet

I applaud and congratulate people who question the official line on any matter, even if sometimes they are in error. There is a freedom to err, a right to be wrong. – John Bishop

Those who say on any matter that the debate is over are propagating their ideology and advertising their power to squelch opposition. They are the enemies of free speech, freedom and democracy, even if they cloak themselves as being on the right side of history. – John Bishop

Today, if left unchallenged, cancel culture, de-platforming speakers, or decrying anyone who strays from the “correct” ideological line will lead inevitably to a denial of free speech rights. People will become afraid to exercise those rights. How can that ever be good?John Bishop

The Government’s announcement on Sunday of subsidies for electric vehicles did not make any case that the benefits to the public would plausibly exceed the costs. To fail to demonstrate positive net benefits is to fail to make a public wellbeing case for the measure.

The puzzle is why a Government that prides itself on having a wellbeing focus seems to have so little regard for it in this and other cases. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

The Government’s press release covered the absence of a wellbeing benefit case with specious spin. For a start, its claimed environmental benefits are spurious. The ETS caps net emissions. If there are fewer emissions in transport, there will be more emissions elsewhere unless the cap is reduced. The same is true for other “chest-beating” policies such as decarbonising public transport and ‘revitalising rail’. Reducing the cap without subsidising electric vehicles could achieve more while costing less. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

On the Climate Change Commission’s analysis, the ETS could come close to achieving the government’s net zero goal at a cost of only $50 a tonne of CO2. Why then did the Commission propose a raft of choice-reducing measures that would cost up to and possibly beyond $250 a tonne?

The Commission’s answer in essence is that we, the public, would cut net emissions in the wrong ways. We would not inflict enough pain on ourselves. We would plant too many pine trees. We would also fail to walk and cycle enough. We would drive cars too much. Government needs to change our behaviour in specific ways.

In so doing, the Commission explicitly abandons achieving net zero carbon by 2050 at least cost, as perceived by those incurring the costs. It seeks to force on New Zealanders an unchanged net emissions result at a higher cost. That harms the public’s wellbeing, as perceived by those affected. It does so for no environmental gain. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

The branch of economics that has studied how best to assess whether a policy might improve people’s experienced wellbeing is welfare economics. People’s own assessment of their wellbeing is at the heart of that analysis. That makes it inherently non-elitist.

The contrast is with paternalistic policies that treat people’s preferences as the problem rather than something to be respected. People who have choices will make the “wrong” choices. Instinctively, paternalists wish to reduce the public’s scope for choice. They may want to prohibit what is not mandated. The Commission comes close to both on petrol versus electric cars. The Government may have the same instincts. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

The Government’s press release on Sunday is a masterclass in the use of a false comparison. None of the claimed benefits are benefits relative to the ETS.

To cap it all, a tweet a few days ago by a former senior Labour adviser decried heavy imports of SUVs. With supreme elitism it ended: “It’s surprising we allow this at all.” Well, whose country is it? – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

But if the goal of the rollout was to safely vaccinate New Zealanders in the fastest possible time, the government and our health ministry have surely failed. We can’t look back at the initial response to Covid-19 and toot our horns, comparing ourselves favourably with almost every other country on Earth, whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that we are making the amongst the slowest progress with vaccinations in the developed World. – Jack Tame

It seems to me we’re in a funny middle ground. We haven’t done the noble thing. And for whatever reason, we haven’t done the fast thing, either. – Jack Tame

The whole thing has at times felt a bit ramshackle and inconsistent.
I’ve heard politicians say it’s not where we start but where we finish. It’s true that we won’t be entirely safe until our full population is vaccinated. Even then, we face a risk. But the speed of the rollout does matter. Every day someone in our community isn’t vaccinated, we face an increased risk of a community outbreak. The more people are unvaccinated at any one time, the greater the risk. – Jack Tame

The hypocrisy from the political left to conveniently ignore facts which do not suit their political agenda appears to have no shame.

Politicians constantly advertise what they claim are the sparkling clean, green credentials of EVs. I believe these politically driven, so called “noble” assertions are badly misleading and dangerous for the New Zealand public to blindly accept without debating the environmental credibility of EVs and fully understanding the downstream costs to taxpayers. – Troy Bowker

The point being missed, ignored, or not properly debated, is the total cost on the environment from the manufacture, use, and disposal of EVs versus petrol or diesel cars.

There is plenty of research to suggest EVs are actually worse for the environment overall than fossil fuel cars, just as there is research they are better.

None of that research properly deals with the CO2 emissions from the disposal and recycling of batteries. The EV industry lobby groups all tell us to not to be concerned and to “hope” that technology catches up so that the production and disposal of EV batteries will at some stage have a much lower carbon footprint. Surely this is putting the cart before the horse . Why can’t they address the elephant in the room regarding disposing of millions of EV batteries in a climate friendly manner and provide hard facts to support this? They can’t and they won’t because they simply don’t know. – Troy Bowker

A $6000 subsidy on a $60,000 EV is hardly relevant when all of your disposable income is paid in rent, food and heating your home.

I believe that when these issues are fully understood by the public, and the inconclusive message of how clean and green EVs are is replaced with reliable facts and sensible debate, Labour’s car tax will be seen for what is, political left ideology and hypocrisy at its worst. – Troy Bowker

To allow EVs to drive up to 500km in a single charge, these batteries weigh over 350kg and are made out of lithium, cobalt, copper, graphite, and nickel – mined in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The manufacture of these batteries does not come without an environmental cost. Once CO2 emissions from the production of batteries are taken into account, Germany’s Institute of Economic Research argued EVs do more harm to the environment than a modern Diesel engine. – Troy Bowker

Manufacturing is only the start of the problem. After an EV battery loses its ability to hold its charge, the metals and chemicals inside them contain toxic substances that are currently very difficult and expensive to dispose of cleanly. Technology hasn’t developed enough globally to come up with a way to either dispose of them safely, or recycle them in the volumes required.

If Labour wants all of New Zealand’s approximately four million vehicles to be EVs, then before they tax us even more can they please outline the plan to dispose of millions of toxic used EV batteries generally driven by the urban elite? This is not an unreasonable request. – Troy Bowker

Huge areas of land would need to be converted to graveyards for toxic used EV batteries. Suddenly the clean, green future with EVs that Labour advocates looks extremely dirty.

Used EV batteries are prone to spontaneous combustion, emitting poisonous gases into our air. The gases from the fires would travel large distances and be a huge risk to animals and humans. – Troy Bowker

Compared with normal fires, EV fires will be very difficult to put out. Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) national manager Paul Turner recently warned of the risk to human life from EV battery fires.

He reports EV battery fires trigger an irreversible chain reaction called “thermal runaway”, with fires burning at 1000C. FENZ is currently warning of the risks with the influx of a few thousand more EVs, let alone the four million that Labour want to bring into New Zealand. – Troy Bowker

Even more horrifying are the human rights violations in the production of EV batteries in the Congo, where over 50 per cent of the world’s cobalt is mined. A CNN investigation tracked the cobalt used for the production of luxury EVs to mass Congolese child-labour camps, involving children as young as 7. Adult supervisors were filmed assaulting children for not following instructions. – Troy Bowker

Proponents of identity politics and critical race theory, its ideological stablemate, hold that all people of Pasifika or Maori descent have experienced subjugation and have needs and interests that are at odds with those of the white oppressors. The aim is to secure political advantage to atone for their mistreatment, but unfortunately this can only come at the expense of social cohesion that benefits us all. – Karl du Fresne

Denial of one’s European heritage is a necessary starting point, because otherwise those claiming to be descendants of the oppressed must confront the fact that they are also descendants of the oppressors. The proponents of identity politics don’t seem to have yet worked out a way to reconcile this dichotomy without weakening their claims, so they ignore it.

Do they, at the same time as they cry out for justice on behalf of their dark-skinned forebears, also experience paroxysms of self-reproach for the behaviour of their pale ones? Karl du Fresne

It’s a sad reflection of the times we live in that there is an industry of fact-checkers. These usually come in the form of online services that you can access to check the facts surrounding something you’ve seen or heard.

In a world where documentaries, the current affairs reading material we choose, and even the words of our elected officials, don’t always present an accurate view of the facts, fact-checking has become a necessary service. – Bruce Cotterill

We live in a environment where anyone with a mobile phone and an ability to write can be a publisher. And there are many mechanisms to distribute one’s opinions, most of which rely on some form of social media.

As a result there is more information out there than ever before, none of which has been subject to the normal safeguards around checking what is true and what is false. And unlike the news-gatherers of old, there is no obligation on the new age publisher to be accurate. Or honest. 

In my opinion, this puts an even greater onus on the traditional media to call out the inaccuracies. Now, more than ever before, they should be our unchallengeable source of the truth.

In fact, while the old media companies are busy trying to find ways to remain relevant, I suggest that there is an obvious path for them: honest, accurate journalism that can be relied on by readers, viewers and listeners. – Bruce Cotterill

For most of us, when we make promises we should at least have an understanding of how we are going to deliver on them. For our current crop of political leaders, that doesn’t appear to be a consideration. In fact, they appear to see the ill-informed landscape not as a chance to put things right, but an opportunity to further confuse and mislead.

That’s a great shame. I don’t want much from our politicians. But I do want them to be people who tell us the truth, who give us the best information they can give us, and who make good decisions on behalf of the electorate, without hidden agendas, dishonesty or bias.

The problem with misleading people is this: the more you get away with it, the more likely it is to continue. At its worst, we must prepare for a Government that deliberately and frequently lies to us in order to hold on to power. Such behaviour, left unchecked, would put us into irreversible decline. – Bruce Cotterill

Can you credibly believe any policy that says plant your food productive land in exotic trees so you don’t have to change your behaviour? 50 Shades of Green

In normal times, fiscal profligacy is, at base, an act of selfishness at the expense of future generations. It is the same attitude that has seen us pollute our rivers, overfish our seas, use up non-renewable resources, plunder our forests and generally behave in a fashion without thought for our own grandchildren and their grandchildren…My fiscal policies were, as far as possible, about looking to the long term, not spending up to the hilt in the good times. Rainy days do come, and are more likely in New Zealand than in many other countries. – Sir Michael Cullen

Whanau is at the core of humanity. Let’s stop pretending we are ‘kind’. It’s a buzz word that no longer applies to the way we handle those suffering the most for the rest of us. – Sir Ian Taylor

Everybody needs a bit of luck, but luck isn’t a strategy. We need to have a system that holds up, – Sir Brian Roche

The unbelievably insane proposed $800 million ‘cycle bridge’ attached to the Auckland harbour bridge, WILL NOT HAPPEN. Why? Because the understandable uproar across the country has been such, no government could survive such craziness and all governments principal motivation is survival. – Sir Bob Jones

The second reason I suspect a conspiracy behind the $800 million cycle-bridge announcement is because no government is that dumb. It amounted to a plainly ludicrous straw man for the government to earn public points by subsequently cancelling it. Sir Bob Jones

I expected that I was paying this fortune, all this time and energy, to learn how to think. But they are forcing you to think the way they want you to think. – Yeonmi Park

Voluntarily, these people are censoring each other, silencing each other, no force behind it. Other times (in history) there’s a military coup d’etat, like a force comes in taking your rights away and silencing you. But this country is choosing to be silenced, choosing to give their rights away. Yeonmi Park

There is a problem and it needs to be fixed. It is one of short-sightedness in understanding that jobs defined by officials as low skilled, low paid and low priority are actually vital links in keeping a longer and deeper interconnected supply and delivery chain ticking all the way into the market to ensure we can sell the products and services we supply and in return contribute to our national, regional and local economies. – Michael Barnett

We classify our sports in order to pitch like against like and to keep people safe. Heavyweight boxers never fight flyweights. From puberty, the sexes compete separately in most sports most of the time. These are long accepted norms. Or were. – Tanya Aldred

By conflating gender and sex, I would argue we fudge the very reason we have sex categories in sport: the male performance advantage. Without a separate category for females, there would be no women in Olympic finals. – Tanya Aldred

The science is young. Stop. Breathe. Trans women should be able to live their sporting lives to the fullest so if research can find a way for them to participate in female sports without advantage, brilliant. Until then, remove the idea of gender altogether and revert to sex-based categories – a female category and an open category that can cater for trans men who have taken testosterone, trans women and men.

But above all, there needs to be a realisation that you can’t always have it all. Just as women and trans men can’t dominate in men’s sports; and men can’t enter women’s sport; trans women shouldn’t be able to push open a door that was locked for a reason. It isn’t fair. –  Tanya Aldred

Lowering of testosterone is almost completely ineffective in taking away the biological differences between males and females. – Ross Tucker

You take the best part of you, the thing you love and enjoy the most, and you take it away. It’s probably the cruellest thing you could do to somebody.Gray Todd

The so-called low skilled workers were essential and frontline workers through lockdowns. Prioritising visa relaxations based on workers’ skills or the capacity to generate wealth is not only against basic human rights, but is not aligned with brand New Zealand as known internationally. –  Anu Kaloti

Migrants here are left in no doubt whatsoever that this government does not want them and does not value them. – Alastair McClymont

As well as superior height and bone density, males gain a far larger amount of muscle and strength during puberty than females, and multiple studies show this is largely maintained even after an extensive period of testosterone suppression in adulthood. – Dr Emma Hilton

Too many today think that acknowledging the biological differences between the sexes is sexism. This is nonsense. Of course, cultural norms exacerbate biological differences, but there is no escaping the reality that most men are considerably stronger than most women.Jo Bartosch

It is no more offensive to admit that, on average, men outperform women in sport than it is to acknowledge that men can’t give birth. It is, however, offensive to reduce the biological reality of womanhood to a testosterone marker. With training and dedication there was a possibility that Hubbard could have become a champion male weightlifter. But what is certain is that Hubbard will never be a woman. – Jo Bartosch

It’s over-ambitious, under-endowed with talent and too impatient to re-invent the wheel. The bureaucracy is struggling to keep up, and it’s showing. A popular leader isn’t enough to compensate for (or disguise) incompetence, fatigue and hubris. – Karl du Fresne

Roads that keep farms supplied and enable crops and livestock to be transported for processing will be neglected so that affluent Aucklanders can cycle over the harbour on a summer’s day for a leisurely Saturday morning latte. – Karl du Fresne

A government that was rewarded only last year for its empathy and sensitivity is rapidly turning into one that looks arrogant, incompetent and defensive. – Karl du Fresne

Two years on, can we conclude the much-vaunted 2019 Wellbeing Budget was really just a feel-good budget? – Ben Thomas

We’re journalists, we’re not criminals. The fact that the Crown is treating the media like this when we have exposed bad practice in a government department is incredibly disappointing and very heavy-handed. 

If that’s the way Crown Law is going to treat the media then we should be afraid because that’s not the Aotearoa New Zealand that we believe that we’re living in.

Our job is to hold power to account. That’s what we did, that’s what we do and that is what we will continue to do. The Crown being so heavy-handed and ridiculous in taking this case is certainly not going to stop that. – Melanie Reid

Labour’s and the Greens’ sharp swing to the left, in cultural terms, may be acceptable to New Zealanders in the professions, the public service, the universities and the communications industries. After all, these are the highly-educated elites who, in practically all the advanced economies of the West, are the most comfortable, temperamentally, with the politics of race and personal identity. It is not acceptable, however, to the culturally conservative 7-15 percent of the electorate which “switched sides” in 2017 and 2020. They are becoming increasingly alarmed and confused by the Labour Government’s unheralded direction of travel. – Chris Trotter

What Labour would like us to believe is that they are skating on a solid sheet of ideological ice, more that capable of carrying the weight of their cultural revolution. In reality, the ice now bearing their electoral weight is wafer thin. Sadly, Labour’s leaders remain utterly oblivious to the currents surging just below their party’s fragile crust of support. They have no idea how very strong they are, nor how deathly cold.Chris Trotter

We live in a society that abhors discrimination on the basis of many traits. And yet one of the major forms of discrimination is lookism, prejudice against the unattractive. And this gets almost no attention and sparks little outrage. Why?

Lookism starts, like every form of bigotry, with prejudice and stereotypes. – David Brooks

The language of Critical Race Theory is designed to obfuscate, not to enlighten, and its use of language is key. Critical Race Theory has used English to hide within plain sight an entirely new dialect where nothing means what we think it means; where words may not be pronounced differently, but where they have different meanings to the initiated, and these meanings are deeply interlinked with one another, and referential to one another.  – Effi Lincoln

Western civilization has succeeded as much as it has because we have adopted the concepts of liberty, universal human rights, democracy, free enterprise and equality before the law.  We believe that there is an objective truth that is accessible through reason, and we believe in the concept of the reasonable person.

Importantly we recognise the imperfections of our society, but we know that through reason, through scientific method, and through the application of the law, we can continue to improve. –  Effi Lincoln

Liberalism seeks to understand where we are now, and how we arrived here, and to use reason to take people forward to a better future

And the breath of life for Liberalism; its oxygen, is free speech. –Effi Lincoln

To Critical Race Theorists and thus to the Woke, all inequity, no matter how random, is an expression of racism.

For them, any outcome gap between two identity groups must be due to racism – Effi Lincoln

Leftist ideology exists on a continuous downward slope to absurdity because it has no external arbiter of truth. In leftist thought there is no objective truth, no reasonable person standard.  There is only your truth and my truth. And these truths, which emanate from Lived Experiences, are ranked by identity grouping with the most oppressed identity always being bestowed the status of Most Truthful.

In Woke, even the way we speak is seen as part of the power matrix to be dismantled – Effi Lincoln

The aim of the Woke movement (and, integral to it, the Critical Race Theorists) is to enact a social and cultural revolution with the goal of seizing the means of cultural production and flipping society over in such a way that the cultural capital that holds our society together is destroyed;  destroyed in such a way that turns the perceived oppressors into the oppressed and makes those oppressors pay, in perpetuity, for the sins of themselves, in upholding systemic racism, and of their forbears, who first created the systemically racist institutions and then stole from the ancestors of the Critical Race Theorists, their utopian world. – Effi Lincoln

The fact that we have human rights, and a Human Rights Commissioner to uphold those rights is a direct result of Liberalism. 

Critical Race Theorists however see human rights as subservient to the group rights of the identity politics they practice instead. – Effi Lincoln

It’s not hard to see why wokeness is so frequently compared to a religion. The metaphors are everywhere: the washing of feet, the prostrations, the proclamations of faith, the sacraments, the martyrs, the confessions, the heretics, the hallowed ground, the Original Sin, the evangelism. Last summer’s protests for racial justice often had the look of a religious movement. Many of its practitioners saw it explicitly in thoseterms. Even the snarky phrase for this moment of mass political enlightenment, “The Great Awokening”, is derived from the name of an early American religious revival. – Leighton Woodhouse

If religion gives meaning to the lives of the faithful, there are a lot more Americans now who lack that meaning than there used to be, and they’re concentrated on the left side of the political spectrum. It’s not difficult to imagine these people seeking the kind of meaning that religion would otherwise have provided them  — a sense of belonging to a larger community; a feeling of collective purpose; an affiliation with a temporal reality that transcends the duration of a single human lifespan — in other things. In their politics, for example.

The problem is that politics is, in important ways, the very antithesis of religion, and in a democratic society, the more politics takes on the shape of faith, the more intractable and dysfunctional it becomes. That’s because politics, when put to its proper use, is the search for what disparate groups share in common, and the bargaining over their differences. Religion is practically its inverse; at its root, it’s tribal. And so as our politics have taken on the character of religion, they have become tribal, too. – Leighton Woodhouse

Once upon a time, politics served the purpose of weaving together livable compromises out of divergent interests and values. We didn’t rely on political identities to give our lives meaning. Political parties, factions, and institutions were merely the instrumental means through which we brokered a relatively peaceful co-existence with those who didn’t see eye-to-eye with us. Occasionally, and often heroically, it was the basis upon which we mobilized opinion to annihilate those with truly anti-social agendas. But ultimately, it was the toolset with which we built a practical working peace.

Today, politics is a competition for tribal allegiance, the means by which we proudly declare our intractable differences with others. Like religion, it is an instrument we use to forge communities of kinship with one another, but only by declaring war on those who lie outside of them. It is no longer the basis for co-existence in a pluralist society, but the stick with which we draw our battle lines. It is the domain of sectarian holy war. In a democratic society, it will be the vehicle for our undoing. – Leighton Woodhouse

While these reforms are often referred to, quite accurately, as free-market reforms, another way of looking at them is as the removal of an incalculable number of privileges that each benefited the few at the expense of the many. These privileges meant fewer opportunities for New Zealanders to reach their full potential. Once these shackles came off, innovative and entrepreneurial Kiwis started countless new companies and even created new industries. – Nicholas Kerr

While New Zealand has avoided large numbers of COVID-19 deaths or infections, it’s wrong to suggest that this is due to astute policy choices or excellence in their execution. Rather, it had few choices and got lucky. – Nicholas Kerr

New Zealand was able to prevent a major COVID-19 outbreak for two main reasons. First, it’s fortunate to be a remote island nation, so it was feasible to shut down the country’s borders. Second, it has a unicameral legislature and no constitution. – Nicholas Kerr

Once again, New Zealanders will have more limited employment choices. While they might like to trade off salaries or conditions with their preferred employer, that will no longer be possible as the entire sector they are seeking work in will have those locked in place. The least skilled will be priced out of jobs altogether. – Nicholas Kerr

If you value liberty and free markets, you need to continually make the case for them.  – Nicholas Kerr

Free markets allow everyone to reach their full potential and deliver morally sound outcomes. Most of us who understand this would prefer to use our time producing and innovating. But if we truly care for the thing that allows us to be productive—the free market—we need to devote some of our energy to defending it. – Nicholas Kerr

At a business summit earlier this week, the subject of the Prime Minister’s occasional tendency to argue black is white came up. A particularly acute observation was that Ardern was really speaking to her base and giving them the message she wanted them to hear. When it comes to the OECD and Covid, a higher level of truth is required. Fran O’Sullivan

Throughout this pandemic, the burden of a slow government response has been borne by the general population. Excessive personal restrictions have become the go-to tool, in preference to officials having their feet held to the fire by impatient politicians. – Steven Joyce

When there is no clear and present danger, most people can’t be bothered pulling out their phone to scan a barcode every time they go into a shop or cafe.

Unfortunately it looks a lot like the government has the same attitude, shrugging its shoulders and wombling along with a slow vaccination rollout. It fills in its time instead writing policy papers on the utopia that awaits us once they have completely re-organised our previously successful economy some years after the pandemic has passed. – Steven Joyce

The difference between an overly relaxed population and a sleepy government is that we are paying them to look out for our interests. It is their job, and they should be working much harder and with more urgency at getting the place back to normal so people have the freedom to live their lives. – Steven Joyce

Great Britain, the US, Europe are all doing everything in their power to return to normality as quickly as possible. Certainly, they have had it tougher.

But they are also much more realistic that free money and constant government borrowing can’t work forever as a substitute for a vibrant, connected economy. And to them the freedom of their citizens and the ability to go about their lives is important. – Steven Joyce

Beyond the vaccines, the Prime Minister should show some leadership by declaring her intention to get our border back to normal and allow reasonable freedom of movement as soon as is safely possible. She needs to put the boffins and the Fabian Society theorists back in their boxes, and declare that our post-pandemic problem is a shortage of labour, not a surplus. – Steven Joyce

Most importantly, the government needs to grow a backbone when dealing with the public service. They’ve stuffed it full of money and people. It is not Ministers’ job to justify a lacklustre performance. It is their job to demand more on our behalf. – Steven Joyce

Winston Peters’ reappearance in public last weekend was a reminder of the damage he has done to our democracy. When he put the Labour Party into office after the 2017 election, he did not just disappoint the winning party and its voters, he distorted the election’s reflection of public opinion. – John Roughan

Supporters of the winning party assert their views with new confidence thinking most people now agree with them. People who do not share those views become less confident to say so, more likely to keep their concerns quiet for the time being.

This is what has happened since the 2017 election. Ever since Peters put Labour in power its supporters have believed they won that election, despite the fact National had received 44.4 per cent of the vote to Labour’s 36.9 per cent. Even when Labour and Green voters were added together they did not outnumber National’s supporters that year. – John Roughan 

Last year Labour was re-elected with a majority in its own right, the first time any party has won an absolute majority since 1951. It attracted a swag of National votes thanks entirely to Jacinda Ardern’s appeal in a pandemic. But the result has reinforced the confidence of progressive folk that New Zealand has radically changed. They think it might even be Aotearoa.

They are mistaken. You don’t have to be very clever to know there is a subterranean rumbling in the land about a suspected agenda of Māori empowerment. You need only move beyond the bubbles of media, academia and public relations to hear it. – John Roughan

New Zealand has been blessed with very stable government on the whole, because voters normally give plenty of notice when most of them want a change of government. Polls turn against the incumbent a good year or two before the next election, plenty of time for the alternative party to drop or dilute positions it has taken for opposition purposes. – John Roughan

We got a Government unprepared for power and we know how. It need never happen again – John Roughan

Over the last 20 years, the Treaty has been wrenched out of its 1840s context and become the plaything of those who would divide New Zealanders from one another, not unite us. – Don Brash

I love the punctuality and the cleanliness of Pākehā funerals, but I do think they lack a bit of time in terms of spending time with their loved one, with families and just being able to cry and talk and sing and laugh together, instead of having all turn up on the final hour on the day of the funeral and doing it all then. That’s a bit tough to be honest. – Francis Tipene

Among the positive things about journalism are creative listening and humanity, and the voice the media can give to the overlooked and marginalised, and to raise ideas whose time has come. – John GIbb

Twitter is the new Colosseum and its inhabitants are the new mob, deciding what opinions, statements and beliefs can be expressed publicly and what cannot. – Schreibmaschiner

Now it is true that the character of a person wrongfully killed is not germane to the wrongfulness of his death. The law does not distinguish between saints and sinners as victims of murder. It is no defence to a charge of murder that the victim was a swine. . . .a man does not become good by being wrongfully killed. A mother loves her son because he is her son, not because he is good, and therefore the grief of his family is understandable and easily sympathised with; but for others to turn him into what he was not, a martyr to a cause, is to display at once a moral and an intellectual defect. – Theodore Dalrymple

Hate speech laws are always confusing because the concept is subjective. There is no objective test. What makes you feel unsafe is totally subjective. Some people feel unsafe in the dark. Hate speech will be whatever the authorities decide. – Richard Prebble

The government wants to add groups that should be exempt from ridicule and has suggested “religion, gender, sexuality, and disability”. The paper does not explain why these groups. We can easily think of others. Why not the vertically challenged? Height matters. Most US presidents have been over 6 foot tall.

Then what about the most misunderstood? Old white men, a group with which I feel some affinity. There are university courses on “white privilege” that seem designed to make old white men feel “unsafe and unwelcomed”.

Once we are protecting people’s feelings the list of groups is infinite.  – Richard Prebble

Cancel culture is sweeping the West. It is identity politics. Persuading voters that they are victims who need protecting. – Richard Prebble

Why is free speech important? Free speech is the building block on which democracy is constructed. Out of discussion and debate we test ideas. Only by allowing the advancement of false propositions can we prove they are wrong. – Richard Prebble

It is important that the state protects religious freedom including the right to hold no religious belief.

Religious freedom does not extend to the state giving special protection to religious opinions. – Richard Prebble

In a democracy, it is not the role of the government to protect us from having our beliefs challenged no matter how “unsafe and unwelcome” that may make us feel. The risk of being offended is the cost we must pay for having the right to say what we think. Once we empower the state to protect us from being offended we are no longer a free society.

Free speech is our defence against tyranny. It is our ability to say that the government is wrong. – Richard Prebble


Quotes of the month

01/05/2021

No other new government in the last half century has been as ham-fisted as this one. Fancy initially announcing a policy that had been the subject of no research! Then spending to start that research, and then establishing a new unit to consult the public, look at options and produce costings. – Michael Basset

Light rail comes on top of Kiwibuild, ending child poverty, and housing the homeless. This government is nothing more than a collection of willful children blundering about clutching the taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ credit cards, shifting from one cow pat to another. – Michael Basset

One of the economic lessons we are determined not to learn is that government cannot regulate prosperity. Each generation must learn, from scratch, this lesson. Helpfully, we already know the script.

A successful economy is, over time, corroded by a growing layer of restrictions. Each set of regulations imposes an unintended and unanticipated cost or outcome. This necessitates further rules and government oversight. Eventually the entire system becomes so overwhelmed that it either grinds to a halt or there is a sudden and dramatic economic liberalisation – Damien Grant

The businesses, entrepreneurs, financiers and investors who are essential to maintaining our quality of life will all react to the new restrictive environment. Some changes will be large, some firms will fail. Other developments will be incremental: investments will not be made, staff not employed and opportunities lost.

Few of these will be notable, but the collective impact is that we will be a poorer nation as a result, our economy will underperform and, over time, we will slide further away from our potential until, at some point, we will begin to resemble a Polish shipyard. – Damien Grant

The first rule for a government minister put in charge of a New Zealand industry should be: “don’t break it”. Even a small sector has thousands of actors, most of whom have been living and breathing their industry for years and will likely know much more than the minister. And as a small country with relatively thin markets, breaking a sector is easier than you might think.

The second rule is: when designing a policy, have a clear idea what the objective is, and then look for levers that will help you get there. Think through the effect each lever will have, or you might fall foul of the law of unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, quite a few ministers in the current Government seem to be unaware of these important rules of thumb. In industries as diverse as housing, energy, tourism, international education and broadcasting, ministers are being highly interventionist in ways which will depress investment and generally make a bigger mess. Messes that will thwart their objectives and which we will all end up paying for. – Steven Joyce

The Government’s stated objective in the energy sector is to reduce carbon emissions, which is a laudable public policy goal. However the levers it is pulling to achieve that outcome are both expensive and delivering results that counter its objective. – Steven Joyce

Simply put, Onslow is the wrong solution in the wrong place. It will chill other renewable electricity investments and either force up our already rapidly rising electricity prices or leave a massive bill for taxpayers. – Steven Joyce

Ministers need to more carefully think through the consequences of their actions. Right across the economy, poorly thought-through interventions risk damaging industries, discouraging investment and providing poor outcomes for kiwis. Its almost like Muldoonism and the command economy never went away. – Steven Joyce

But even in a crisis you have to lift your head above the parapet and start mapping out a path for the future, and the first step along that path must inevitably involve gradually reopening our borders. – Tracy Watkins

Vaccines work and they’re critically important, and when my turn comes, I’ll get mine with enthusiasm. – Dr Shane Reti

The Ardern Government has decided to avoid awkward questions about its pathetic record for per capita income growth by trying to focus attention instead on “well-being”, as if well-being can be improved in a sustainable way while per capita income growth is negligible. The new head of the Productivity Commisson’s definition – “Productivity = applying our taonga to deliver wellbeing” – says it all. – Don Brash

Road congestion is of course a very real problem, as tens of thousands of motorists understand only too well almost every day – the result of underinvestment in road networks over decades. But why not adopt a modern form of congestion pricing? Such systems work brilliantly in cities like Stockholm and Singapore and, according to surveys by the Automobile Association, are popular among motorists. To make them even more popular, the revenue from congestion pricing could be used to reduce the excise tax on fuel – cheaper fuel and less congestion – what is there not to like? – Don Brash

Investing huge sums of our limited capital in low-yielding vanity projects is what got us into this hole in the first place.  – Don Brash

Advised by impressively credentialled and highly experienced public servants, today’s Labour MPs feel obliged – by the meritocratic principles central to their personal identities – to do exactly what they’re told. And if they discover subsequently their advisers have lied to them, well, they must have had a very good reason for doing so. A reason they simply aren’t qualified to understand – or challenge. Not when the only alternative is allowing the people to decide. Because, seriously, what do they know? – Chris Trotter

The gods of political correctness are jealous gods: they will not have any other gods before them. Unfortunately for worshippers, however, there is a whole pantheon of them, and their demands may conflict. – Theodore Dalrymple

These days, professional politicians are so avid for office, and so much in the public eye, that all their activities must be interpreted politically, from their musical preferences to their diet to their visits to churches and other institutions.Theodore Dalrymple

“Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” (false in one thing, false in all) used to be a legal dictum applied to witnesses in court who had once told a lie on oath; it is no longer applied in most jurisdictions, but now, in our intolerant age, we hold it true with regard to opinions. One bad opinion makes a man bad in all other respects, unfrequentable by the decent person in fact. – Theodore Dalrymple

The ultimate object of the monomaniacs is not only to make certain things unsayable, but—because they are never said—unthinkable. As the good totalitarians they are, they want everybody to think alike. – Theodore Dalrymple

The fact the government is now prepared to face the potential emotional backlash involved in turning citizens away from the country’s border suggests to me that matters may really be turning pretty dire, and so a temporary removal of the right to enter is justified. Or, at least, I hope and trust that is the case. Because if the government has gotten this one wrong, it’s a betrayal of everything that citizenship is meant to promise. – Andrew Geddis

The worst form of racism perpetrated against Maori is that “they all think the same way.”Lindsay Mitchell

New Zealand has tended to pride itself over many years about the incorruptibility of public life. Unfortunately, we have seen too many cases over the last few decades that suggest this is more folk myth than reality, although clearly there are many places worse than us. But “many places worse than us” is simply not an acceptable standard; rather it expresses a degree of complacency that allows standards to keep slipping a little more each time, with excuses being made (“not really that big a deal”), especially for those who happen to be in favour at the time. But those sorts of cases, those sorts of people, are precisely where a fuss should be made, where mistakes or rule breaches should not be treated lightly. Integrity – and perceived integrity and incorruptibility – really matter at the top, and if there is one set of accommodations for those at the top, and another (more demanding) standard for those at the bottom it simply feeds cynicism about the political system and about our society. – Michael Reddell

It’s partly an art – you’ve got to have good technique, you’ve got to persist, you’ve got to train hard. If you’re going to write anything, there’s only one way to do it – you do it.Brian Turner

How does a man cope with that? You get a grip, mate! You just get on with it! – Brian Turner

 At the heart of their weaknesses is that they are a government of designers. They are effective at the stuff they can do with a “stroke of the pen”. – Bruce Cotterill

Increasing taxes, eliminating interest deductions and extending the brightline test (or capital gains tax) for property owners are a function of the same activity. Design. A stroke of the pen. A series of proposals that become rules that others will abide by. Design. A stroke of the pen.

And like much design, the outcome will not solve the problem it was invented for. The reality is that, if we have a housing crisis, it will be resolved by a simplified resource management process, more land becoming available and new houses getting built. In other words, engineering and execution. Instead, these new policies will see rents increase and property developers and owners spending their time restructuring their affairs to minimise their now heightened tax obligations and not much more. – Bruce Cotterill

When we look for engineering and execution, there seems to be an extensive array of failed promises. These breakdowns are in the initiatives that require more than a stroke of the pen. They require governments and their numerous personnel, having changed the rules, to actually do something. To make it happen.

There are now a number of major policy areas where outstanding public relations campaigns have trumpeted design, planning and vision while the delivery teams have completely failed with the engineering and execution. – Bruce Cotterill

There are times when good design alone, is enough. However, in most cases, good design of everything from grand visions to workable solutions needs to be accompanied by good engineering and ability to execute.

As we approach the three-quarter mark on this Government’s current six-year term, it would seem that the designer will ultimately fail due to its inability as an engineer.  – Bruce

Paternalism is an ugly concept we’ve long decried, having witnessed the damage it did throughout the British Empire, when colonisers treated indigenous peoples like naive children who needed instructing.

But paternalism is what is unfolding here: one group imposing restrictions on another, against their will, stemming from an attitude of superiority. We think we know what’s best for them. We might not.

The Cook Island’s Prime Minister is an adult, elected by his country to run his country. He must weigh up the risk of Covid-19 against the risk to his economy. He must decide if the country is equipped to mop up any outbreaks. It’s not our place to question his capacity to make those calls. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Our healthcare system is gaslighting us. This arrogant culture contributes to misdiagnosis, long wait times, and lower survival rates for illnesses. And just as we’ve been brushing off women’s symptoms, we continue to ignore the gender imbalance at the doctor’s surgery. – Andrea Vance

Constantly blaming racism for the problems faced by Māori is wrong. We can’t move forward as a nation if that is our only response. Rather than using such divisive language, our Government should be uniting New Zealanders behind good ideas that lift everyone up.Karen Chhour

That leads into the second problem with Mythical Plan Chart B: It appears to be completely made up. When Bishop asked Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins for the data underlying the chart, so that the Opposition and media can better hold the Government’s rollout to account against its own aspirational targets, he said there were no numbers behind it. Instead, he said that Mythical Plan Chart B “is intended to be illustrative and approximate”. – Marc Daalder

A proper plan would be built around targets that are not merely achievable but aspirational. It should be epidemiologically informed, not based simply on Ministry of Health bean-counters adding up vaccine supply, expected demand and workforce availability.Marc Daalder

The Ministry of Health won’t give out daily vaccine data, ministers and officials can’t say what percentage of the frontline border workforce meant to be vaccinated by early March has actually been immunised and now an unvaccinated border worker has tested positive for Covid-19 and no one has any clue why. Making it up on the fly has failed us – it’s time for the Government to give us a plan. – Marc Daalder

How do we best manage our renewable water for environment and human use? Thinking will help turn luck into a valuable resource. It’s what Kiwis have done in the past and can do again – as long as regulations enable innovation. Jacqueline Rowarth

The cold, hard irrefutable fact is that in all human activities the private sector always outperforms the state. The state’s prime role is as a rule setter and it should only supply services which are necessary but unprofitable, such as our railways, police and so on. Bob Jones

My father has been my teacher, my supporter and my critic, but mostly it is his example of a life well lived and service freely given that I most wanted to emulate. His ability to treat every person as an individual in their own right with their own skills comes through all the organisations with which he was involved.Princess Anne

Economists like to talk about “optimal policy instruments” – essentially, policies that achieve their objectives more effectively or efficiently than the alternatives, and have minimal unintended consequences. Judged by those criteria, the New Zealand government’s recently announced package of housing policy instruments is a long way from optimal. You might even call it a shambles. – Norman Gemmell

Science is a method for inquiry—guided by intellectual humility, skepticism, careful observation, questioning, hypothesis formulation, prediction, and experimentation—that is open to everyone, that aims to advance knowledge and improve the lives of all. While indigenous epistemologies are certainly worthy of study, and valuable in their own right, such epistemologies should not be promoted as superior to, or as a replacement for, Enlightenment epistemologies. – Samantha Jones

I do know how important it is to have a husband—a partner—who is a source of strength and a rock in times of trouble. – Theresa May

 Of course, if we don’t celebrate physically blocking trade, we shouldn’t celebrate any other means of blocking it. Like the gambler’s fallacy, the fallacies of protectionism, can be exploded with just a bit of logical thinking.Tom Palmer

The desire to compensate people for the historical wrongs done to their ancestors isn’t an altogether dishonorable one (except that the desire is usually to be fulfilled at the expense of someone else). – Theodore Dalrymple

The doctrine that is indoctrinated doesn’t have to be true to have real psychological effects, only to have emotional resonance. Every totalitarian, or would-be totalitarian, knows this.Theodore Dalrymple

A child who has spent all or most of their life dependent on their parent’s benefit is very likely to migrate onto their own benefit as a young adult. In my experience as a volunteer it wasn’t uncommon to find the parent encouraging this event as it upped the household income. – Lindsay Mitchell

The people of New Zealand, businesses under dire strain and families desperate to reunite across the Tasman have every reason to feel angry and upset.

We have been let down again. Surprisingly, however, the public and much of the media seem relatively blase. It is as if we think we will again get away with the mistakes, the slackness, the false assurances. After all, we have mostly in the past.ODT

But we yet again have a Government, full of high-sounding words, that struggles to perform. All border workers should have been vaccinated with the first dose or removed from the front line before now.

We again have a director-general of health who reassures us all is well and under control. But we again find some of those reassurances are false. – ODT

After the stinging criticisms from the Simpson-Roche and Kitteridge reports (both kept from the public for many months), we must have doubts about both the wider vaccine roll-out and about the extent of Government obfuscation.ODT

So it seems fair to ask what would be the bigger lie: an individual signing a false declaration about testing. Or the New Zealand public being told that testing was already mandatory and occurring. – Duncan Grieve

 Increasingly it looks as if the Government wants safer borders in the same way that I want to lose weight every New Year’s Day. That is, we would both be delighted if it happened, somehow, but there’s no real link between our goals and our subsequent actions. – Ben Thomas

We’re not looking after babies until we look after their mothers, and the story reminded me I am just one of countless women who have a tale of trauma about our maternity system; a system firmly based on the belief that baby-care is an innate female skill. Virginia Fallon

WHEN GOVERNMENTS EXTEND the state’s power to monitor their citizens’ ideas and activities, we should all be on our guard. Even when such extensions are introduced in response to a terrorist atrocity, we need to ask ourselves: would these new powers have prevented it – Chris Trotter

The state can punish Lone Wolves, but it cannot stop them. In attempting to minimise the terrorist threat, however, the state can eliminate our freedoms.Chris Trotter

Because people aren’t dying, it is tempting to confer retrospective competence upon a bureaucracy which, in the months since the decisive battle against Covid in March and April of 2020, has demonstrated almost unbelievable ineptitude. The government’s response to these repeated failures has been insufficiently forceful to prevent their recurrence. What’s more, in the absence of bold measures to reconfigure and reinvigorate them, our public institutions’ disturbing propensity to fuck things up may finally overwhelm Godzone’s good luck. – Chris Trotter

It’s good to know the Government and Health Ministry can still surprise us, even as a growing number of us thought the levels of ineptitude couldn’t possibly get any worse. – Mike Hosking

This is just sheer dumb luck that you can mess it up, know as little as they do, refuse to improve the way they have, and still be moderately unscathed. It’s little short of a miracle.  –

Surely in your quiet moments, you have to be wondering to yourself just how it is they can be this useless and still be in work.

They literally can’t deliver a thing. Not a house, not light rail, not a shovel-ready project, not a mental health programme, not a flu jab rollout, not a PPE rollout, not a Covid vaccine rollout, not a comprehensive secure border rollout. – Mike Hosking

This incompetence is absolutely outstanding. The stonewalling and obfuscating from the Government is appalling.

I think it is just there to prevent the world from seeing they haven’t got a bloody clue, and I maintain, looking at this record from the past year, that it is dumb pure luck. – Kerre McIvor

We need to be treading carefully when legislating against people’s thoughts. It shouldn’t be the Government’s role to dictate what people can and can’t say. – Simon Bridges

Including political belief in hate speech laws is a grave threat to free speech. There may be a case for laws against vilifying someone for immutable characteristics such as sex and age and disability but to extend that to religious and political belief is just staggering. – David Farrar

Much of the business community is keeping its head down and playing a wait and see game on new investments as they worry which sector is going to be the next to be negatively impacted by a government decision. Last week it was freedom campers and Air New Zealand. This week it’s livestock exporters. Next week? – Steven Joyce

A big part of this sense of drift is the growing realisation that the current Government, while good at stopping things, is having a real problem actually making anything happen. – Steven Joyce

Let’s be blunt. In the last nearly four years since the change of government, almost nothing of substance has been built. There have been announcements up the wazoo, some funding has been allocated, but there’s been precious little action. – Steven Joyce

Another part of the problem is that the obsessive anti-car lobby always carries outsize influence in Labour governments relative to their constituency. These are the people who believe a lane on the Harbour Bridge should be given over to cycling, or that all road-building induces more traffic. Which it sort of does, along with economic growth and jobs and houses and useful stuff like that. – Steven Joyce

But as Australia and other places accelerate faster than us out of this pandemic we wouldn’t want the view to take hold again that New Zealand is a place you leave in order to succeed. Over the last decade or so our country has built a reputation as a more vibrant well-connected happening place. We don’t want to lose that. – Steven Joyce

When the history of New Zealand’s management of Covid-19 comes to be written, it will record that almost every government action to protect the country happened too late, and then only after politicians and officials were forced into action because a sceptical journalist (there are still a handful, thank God) or alert opposition MP (not a lot of them either) exposed glaring deficiencies in their performance or flagrant porkies in what the country was being told. – Karl du Fresne

What matters, especially to a Government that seems to have lost its way and is treading water on more pressing issues, is that banning live exports will make a lot more people happy than it annoys, and the people who do get annoyed by the ban probably weren’t going to vote for them in the first place. – Craig Hickman

Activities that we farmers undertake without second thought may in fact be very large risks to our industry, and the live export of animals was one such risk. If enough people object to a farming practice, regardless of the facts of the situation, we slowly begin to lose our social license to operate. We lose public support, and it becomes increasingly more attractive for the Government of the day to take action. –  Craig Hickman

New Zealand figures other democracies can do the fighting. New Zealand can meanwhile sweet talk China and clean up businesswise. But it may be worse than that. I think woke culture is also to blame. “New Zealand’s foreign minister is dizzy with her new age earth worship and old nature gods. For her, China is an ally in the fight against global warming, which seems to her far more important than the danger of war. China would be laughing.Andrew

In general, the lifestyle leftist values autonomy and self-realisation more than tradition and community. He finds traditional values such as performance, diligence and effort uncool. This is especially true of the younger generation, who were so gently guided into life by caring, mostly well-off helicopter parents that they never got to know existential social anxieties and the pressures that arise from them. Dad’s small fortune and mum’s relationships at least provide so much security that even longer unpaid internships or professional failures can be bridged.

Since the lifestyle left has hardly come into personal contact with social issues, they are usually only marginally interested in them. So, they do want a fair and discrimination-free society, but the path to it no longer leads via the stodgy old topics from social economics, i.e. wages, pensions, taxes or unemployment insurance, but above all via symbolism and language. – Sahra Wagenknecht

A society in which people must affirm political doctrines in order to maintain employment and respectability is no better than one in which atheists must pretend to accept religion to get by.Spencer Case

When a particular expression is expected from everyone, refusing to go along is automatically a countermessage. There’s no possibility of opting out of significant political communication altogether. We’re in danger of ending up in a society like this. – Spencer Case

Politics has its place, but that place shouldn’t be everywhere, all the time. When politics is pervasive, it is worse. There must be space for political neutrality, and this means that we must be able to remain silent on political matters in most contexts without (too many) adverse social consequences.Spencer Case

Sadly, as society increasingly politicizes, political silence becomes harder to maintain. And there’s reason to worry that what we say can and will be used against us in a different sort of court. – Spencer Case

Even if it were possible to measure the strength of a man’s beliefs or fears on a valid and reproducible scale, the fact is that none of us either does or can spend his life examining the evidence for all that he believes or fears. At best, we can do so only intermittently and in bursts. We are obliged to take much on trust or according to our prejudices.Theodore Dalrymple

The fear of immunization against Covid-19 seems to me exaggerated and irrational. The fact that none of us can be fully rational does not obviate the need for us to try to be as rational as possible. – Theodore Dalrymple

If we were to take notice of a 1 in 936,364 chance of dying from something, all human activity whatsoever would cease. Even if half the cases were missed, the figure would still be 1 in 468,182. To adapt Dr. Johnson slightly, nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible dangers must first be avoided – Theodore Dalrymple

Child poverty stats are a joke. If grown-ups get collectively poorer, children get richer (relatively).  – Lindsay Mitchell

There is so much documented evidence, here and internationally, that shows benefit dependence – especially long-term – is detrimental to children’s outcomes.  Benefits erode family cohesion and they discourage work. – Lindsay Mitchell

Societies have always comprised collectives of minority groups and ALL members of ANY society can claim to be in a minority-be it age, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender (yes, males are now a minority in New Zealand), sexual orientation, socio-economic status, the list is endless. We can all claim to be a member of a minority-which is actually and factually, at the base of governmental problems. – Henry Armstrong

Yet, the Ardern government has deliberately opted for diversity over merit (skills, experience, competencies, and management ability), so is it any wonder they are floundering around achieving almost nothing-except of course, keeping Ardern in front of the cameras, giving her trademark, almost daily, theatrical performances?

 Representational politics based on minority interest groups, can only result in ignoring the needs of the majority, ie everyone else-but then majoritarian democracy is long dead in New Zealand under MMP. So, is this government acting in the best interests of ALL New Zealanders? – Henry Armstrong

On any of the well-accepted criteria of good governance, the Ardern government has to be described as an abject failure. Attempts to portray our shared history as being based on oppression, is ostensibly untrue. Attempts to portray “old white men” as being responsible for all of the issues which beset New Zealand society, are not only insulting, they are deeply offensive and divisive.

The treaty offered us all an opportunity to progress which, by and large, as citizens of New Zealand, of every ethnicity and creed, we have achieved. This government seems to be, through its total incompetence, determined to divide us.Henry Armstrong

However, we also need to talk about them because our language is falling victim to the ‘righteous’ indignation of those who confuse offence with harm and take it upon themselves to be offended on behalf of others. – Gavin Ellis

I believe it was the result of our language becoming sterilised, as more and more develop what I might call idiomatic mysophobia or a pathological fear of the use of certain contaminating words in case someone might have their feelings hurt.

Saying ‘man’ or ‘woman’ does not amount to a harmful failure to acknowledge those who nominate another gender identity. Frankly there are far more serious forms of discrimination against those groups and individuals that should concern us.Gavin Ellis

You’re either startlingly arrogant or thick or quite possibly in this case both, that you can stitch up something as shonky as this, not ask a single legal mind a single question, slip it out at Christmas, and then assume nothing is going to come back to bite you.  Add it to the list of stuff they’ve cocked up and we’ve paid for. If National and ACT are taking notes, they’re going to have an astonishing list set to go by 2023. – Mike Hosking

Instead of a system that refuses to tolerate their destructiveness, we get a system which rewards them with no-strings-attached cash and plenty of excuses for their defection from the rest of society. Nobody has explained to them that the social security system was born out of shared values, shared compassion for genuine need, and shared commitment to fund it. – Lindsay Mitchell

Someone needs to get – and someone needs to give – the correct message: you can’t keep biting the hand that feeds you. Don’t hold your breath for that someone to be the person in charge though. – Lindsay Mitchell

I don’t want any racist tirades about this issue, I want some reasoned discussion. And for me, it comes back to this. I believe in the concept that all people are equal, that in this country everybody’s vote is as important as everybody else’s. We are all New Zealanders. – Peter Williams

At the heart of our Judeo-Christian heritage are two words. Human dignity. Everything else flows from this. Seeing the inherent dignity of all human beings is the foundation of morality. It makes us more capable of love and compassion, of selflessness and forgiveness.

Because if you see the dignity and worth of another person, another human being, the beating heart in front of you, you’re less likely to disrespect them, insult or show contempt or hatred for them, or seek to cancel them, as is becoming the fashion these days. You’re less likely to be indifferent to their lives, and callous towards their feelings. – Scott Morrison

Appreciating human dignity also fosters our sense of shared humanity.This means that because we are conscious of our own failings and vulnerabilities, we can be more accepting and understanding of the failings and vulnerabilities of others.

True faith and religion is about confronting your own frailties. It’s about understanding your own and our humanity. The result of that is a humble heart, not a pious or judgemental one. – Scott Morrison

Human dignity is foundational to our freedom. It restrains government, it restrains our own actions and our own behaviour because we act for others and not ourselves, as you indeed do here this evening. That is the essence of morality. – Scott Morrison

Liberty is not borne of the state but rests with the individual, for whom morality must be a personal responsibility. – Scott Morrison

Freedom therefore rests on us taking personal responsibility for how we treat each other, based on our respect for, and appreciation of, human dignity. This is not about state power. This is not about market power. This is about morality and personal responsibility.

Now, morality is also then the foundation of true community. The place where we are valued; where we are unique; where we respect one another and contribute to and share one another’s lives. Where we pledge faithfulness to do together what we cannot achieve alone. – Scott Morrison

The determination to step up and play a role and to contribute as you are indeed doing this evening as part of this amazing organisation. Not leaving it to someone else, to another. That is the moral responsibility and covenant, I would argue, of citizenship. Not to think we can leave it to someone else. 

But there are warnings. Where we once understood our rights in terms of our protections from the state, now it seems these rights are increasingly defined by what we expect from the state. As citizens, we cannot allow what we think we are entitled to, to become more important than what we are responsible for as citizens. – Scott Morrison

Now together and individually we are each responsible for building and sustaining community, and we each have something unique to bring. Because community begins with the individual, not the state, not the marketplace. It begins with an appreciation of the unique dignity of each human being. It recognises that each individual has something to offer and that failure to appreciate and realise this, as a community, means our community is poorer and it is weaker.

In short, to realise true community we must first appreciate each individual human being matters. You matter. You, individually.

And in this context I would also argue we must protect against those forces that would undermine that in community, and I don’t just mean, as I’ve recently remarked, the social and moral corrosion caused by the misuse of social media, and the abuse that occurs there. But I would say it also includes the growing tendency to commodify human beings through identity politics.

We must never surrender the truth that the experience and value of every human being is unique and personal. You are more, we are more, individually, more than the things others try to identify us by, you by, in this age of identity politics. You are more than your gender, you are more than your race, you are more than your sexuality, you are more than your ethnicity, you are more than your religion, your language group, your age.

All of these of course contribute to who we may be and the incredible diversity of our society, particularly in this country, and our place in the world. But of themselves they are not the essence of our humanity.

When we reduce ourselves to a collection of attributes, or divide ourselves, even worse, on this basis, we can lose sight of who we actually are as individual human beings – in all our complexity, in all our wholeness and in all our wonder.

We then define each other if we go down that other path by the boxes we tick or don’t tick, rather than our qualities, skills and character. And we fail to see the value that other people hold as individuals, with real agency and responsibility. – Scott Morrison

So my message is simple: you matter, you make the difference, you make community. And together with family and marriage and the associations of clubs and community groups, faith networks, indeed the organisations we’re here celebrating tonight, and so much more, they are the further building blocks of community on that individual, providing the stability and the sinews of society that bind us one to another.

And upon that moral foundation of community we build our institutions of state. Within that moral context we operate our market place. – Scott Morrison

You matter. Community matters. In a democracy, it matters especially. It’s a tremendous source of strength and it’s why foreign actors seek to sow discord online, in many other ways, inflaming angers and hatreds and spreading lies and disinformation.

Of course, the right to disagree peacefully is at the heart of democracy, I’m not referring to that. But democracy is a shared endeavour, and the civility, trust and generosity, they are the currency that mediates our differences. – Scott Morrison 

Farmers need the best tools and technological solutions to grow enough crops – using fewer natural resources to produce sufficient high-quality food, respect the environment, safeguard consumers and support themselves.  Allowing them to use the right tools at the right time for the right crops will assist them do this.  Helping farmers build a stronger and more resilient agricultural economy, requires an open and transparent dialogue and collaboration between scientists, academia, innovators, politicians, regulators, NGOs and all along the food value chain from farmers to consumers.Mark Ross


Quotes of the month

01/02/2021

How do we prevent child abuse? First, we have to stop racism. That message has lately invaded the child-welfare system. The triumph of today’s fashionable ideological nonsense in this particular field carries exceptionally high costs — and abused kids will pay them. – Naomi Schaefer Riley

Kindness is as kindness does. And the one thing kindness cannot do is force people to be kind. – Chris Trotter

Of course, to assume that her missive would be engaged with in the spirit in which it was intended, is to make the mistake of imagining that the identitarian left is broadly committed to secular, rational discourse. It is not. Its activist component has transmogrified into a religious movement, which brooks no opposition and no discussion. You must agree with every tenet or else you’re a racist, sexist, transphobic bigot, etc. Because its followers are fanatics, Rowling is being subjected to an extraordinary level of abuse. – Petra Bueskens

The norms of civil discourse are being eroded, as we increasingly inhabit individualised media ecosystems, designed to addict, distract, absorb, outrage, manipulate and incite us. These internecine culture wars damage us all. – Petra Bueskens

If you deal primarily in subjective experience and impulse-driven reaction, under the assumption that you occupy the undisputed moral high ground, and you’ve been incited by fake news and want to signal your allegiances to your social media friends, then you can’t engage in rational discussion with your opponent. Your stock in trade will be unsubstantiated accusations and social shaming. – Petra Bueskens

Trans women are women is not an engaged reply. It is a mere arrangement of words, which presupposes a faith that cannot be questioned. To question it, we are told, causes harm—an assertion that transforms discussion into a thought crime. If questioning this orthodoxy is tantamount to abuse, then feminists and other dissenters have been gaslit out of the discussion before they can even enter it. This is especially pernicious because feminists in the west have been fighting patriarchy for several hundred years and we do not intend our cause to be derailed at the eleventh hour by an infinitesimal number of natal males, who have decided that they are women. Now, we are told, trans women are women, but natal females are menstruators. I can’t imagine what the suffragists would have made of this patently absurd turn of events. – Petra Bueskens

COVID has shown us that voters will excuse an astronomical level of incompetence, excused by collective amnesia, and the subsequent human toll as long as they believe they’re being kept safe. Fear really is the opiate of the masses. – Gemma Tognini 

We want a simplistic story sometimes – big naughty chicken companies are ripping us off – but it’s more complicated than that. It’s biosecurity, it’s iconic birds, it’s minimum wage and animal rights, which are all things the public support – Tim Morris

It should not be controversial to centre victims in discussions about crime and justice. In fact, it isn’t. The real world doesn’t play out like a Twitter timeline. For most New Zealanders the abolition of prisons is utterly insane and our government would be wise to remember that. – Ani O’Brien

 In the desire for an easy prey, hunters and journalists are the same.Theodore Dalrymple

Ideology is what all this ‘ethics’ crap is about – it has nothing to do with ethics as I understand the term. ‘Ethics’ has become a smokescreen for ideological vetting of research proposals and keeping findings that may not square with PC doctrine out of the academic literature. – Barend Vlaardingerbroek

So far I have lived—stayed safe, if you like—through predicted global cooling, global warming, mass famine, nuclear winter, asteroidal collision, and viral and prion-disease epidemics. . . Just because no catastrophe has yet touched me, then, it does not mean that none in the future will ever do so. That is why anxiety springs eternal in the human breast.Theodore Dalrypmple

And far too few of those who make the laws and regulations governing our lives will get anywhere near a farm, let alone develop a deep understanding of how agriculture works. If they did understand, there’d be much less chance they’d make laws that didn’t account for something as fundamental and unalterable as the changing of seasons. – Stephen Barnard

But “mother” is a fundamental biological, emotional, familial reality. It captures the irreplaceable bond between a baby and the woman who bore her in her womb. That others can be excellent guardians — a fact no one disputes — can’t justify extirpating Mom from our vocabulary. (For that matter, the political erasure of “dad” is also dehumanizing, because it ­entails the loss of our capacity to describe relationships that define what it means to be fully human.) – Abigail Shrier

By all means, call people what they prefer. But language in the law, by definition, ushers words into action. Words grant rights or take them away. Words can enhance or diminish status, placing people and concepts beyond the bounds of legal protection. . . That’s where we’re headed, isn’t it? Erasing “mothers,” and “women,” because the concepts are insufficiently inclusive to gender ideologues. The rights women struggled to win become undone, paradoxically, in the name of ­inclusion. – Abigail Shrier

The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society. It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘cancelled’.

It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn. So it is scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob and it fills me with fear about the future.Rowan Atkinson

Tarrases, on the other hand, are rare and getting rarer. Tarras with its tiny store and its tinier school. Tarras with its searing summers and its biting winters. Tarras with its bleached grasses, its merinos, its huge stations, its distilled New Zealandness. Leave it alone, you greedsters. Do you hear me? Leave it bloody well alone. – Joe Bennett

We all sense something is wrong. Our money is worth nothing to the banks. There is a rush to convert cash into assets. Houses selling as soon as they list. Those who cannot buy assets are just spending their cash. Every credit-fuelled recovery has ended in a recession. Richard Prebble

We are not allowing people to come into Scotland now without an essential purpose, which would apply to him, just as it applies to everybody else. Coming to play golf is not what I would consider an essential purpose. – Nicola Sturgeon

Rock-bottom mortgage rates, comparatively low unemployment, and our freedoms from Covid restrictions are there to be relished this summer, but perhaps not taken for granted. – Tom Pullar-Strecker

Of course, any tax is popular with the people who won’t have to pay it and who think the proceeds will be spent on, or at least trickle down to, them; but given human nature, the main attraction of the tax is probably more that of the certainty of inflicting pain on others than of the hope of benefiting oneself. – Theodore Dalrymple

The purpose of the wealth tax is only tangentially to raise money at a particularly difficult time . . . The purpose behind it is thus social reform, not the meeting of an economic necessity. The crisis is an opportunity: to advance the centralization of power and the permanent boosting of government powers vis-à-vis the population.

There is, however, one small potential fly in the ointment of my argument, namely that I haven’t fully worked out an alternative. But whatever the problem, incipient totalitarianism isn’t the solution.Theodore Dalrymple

Until a few months ago, American elections were the model for the world: fair, transparent and the results implemented. That reputation was undermined tonight, when armed protestors targeted elected representatives and tried to stop the ‘sacred ritual’, as it was described by President-elect Joe Biden, of confirming the election result.

That we are witnessing such scenes speaks to the extent that President Trump has degraded his office – and our politics. And I write this as a lifelong Republican. His behaviour since the election has not been for the benefit of the American people, but for the ego of a man who cannot bear to lose. His narcissism and obsession with winning cost the GOP two Senate seats in Georgia last night, handing full control of Congress to the Democrats. Today, it cost all of us our deepest privilege of being citizens of a country where ballots cast do not result in bullets shot. – Kate Andrews

This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic. I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election. – President George W. Bush

Note that I say the politics of race rather than race relations, because relationships between people of different ethnicities in New Zealand – including Maori and Pakeha – remain overwhelmingly respectful and harmonious. But how long this will continue, when ideologically driven agitators are doing their best to create grievance and division, is a moot point. – Karl du Fresne

There are environmental impacts associated with the production of food, period. The dairy industry does have an environmental impact, but if you look at it in the context of the entire U.S. enterprise, it’s fairly minimal. Associated with that minimal impact is a very substantial provision of high quality, digestible, and well-balanced nutrients for human consumption. Robin White

I always advocate for higher wages but there is a Catch-22, when the minimum wage is increased we see workers’ hours cut, or they lose their jobs. – Chloe Ann-King

Whether you are individualistic or collectivist, liberal or conservative, politics is not a culture war, it is about electing governments to act on our behalf to better people’s lives. It’s not just about one person’s outsized ego, it is about voters and their aspirations. That is democracy’s strength — and why it will endure. – Steven Joyce

So not insubstantial sums from Pharmac’s budget are already being spent for training when they should be used for medines. For Maori and anybody else who needs them. – Lindsay Mitchell 

And while, despite my best sewing efforts, little bits of shame still peek through sometimes, I can comfortably say that that’s not my, or other disabled people’s shame to carry.

There is nothing wrong with having a body that looks or works differently.

Our bodies are beautiful, just as they are.

We are worthy of love, just as we are.Erin Gough

Thus literal-mindedness is the enemy of freedom of expression, and represents also a disturbing loss of mental sophistication. But in any case, attachment to freedom of expression as an ideal seems to have lost much of its salience in the western world, having been replaced as a desideratum by that of virtue, moreover virtue of a peculiar but easily achievable kind, not that of acting well, but that of thinking and expressing the right thoughts. The certifiably right thoughts, which can change in an instant, are those that are in conformity with the moral enthusiasms of the moment. –Theodore Dalrymple

Antipathy, dislike, ridicule, and insult are, of course, normal phenomena of human expression, and furthermore are often justified. Without them expressions of more favourable attitudes would probably not be possible either, for they would mean nothing without the possibility of expression of their opposites. Even to contemplate outlawing such normal human reactions displays an alarmingly totalitarian mindset, all the more so in combination with the Scottish government’s desire that people should report so-called hate crime to the police. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia seem to be its models. –  Theodore Dalrymple

Trying to eliminate antipathy, dislike, ridicule, and insult from the human heart and mind is a task to make that of Sisyphus seem like an afternoon stroll: precisely the type of task that authoritarian governments love, for it gives them the locus standi to interfere ever more intimately with the lives of their subjects. Hatred is hydra-headed, the task is never done, it grows with its very elimination, or rather the attempts by government at its elimination. Failure is the greatest success, since it requires ever more of the same, namely control over society. – Theodore Dalrymple

Nations rely on institutions: political institutions, the public service, universities, companies, churches, families. These all have different roles and duties that serve the societies that encompass them. And part of their purpose is to mould the individuals that pass through them, imbuing them with values that ensure they serve their institution and community instead of just themselves. Simon Bridges

The people who occupy our institutions increasingly understand those institutions not as moulds that ought to shape their behavior and character but as platforms that allow them greater individual exposure and enable them to hone their personal brands. – Yuval Levin

I emerged from what could have been an ordeal, with the knowledge instead, that goodness, kindness, courage, and laughter are as much part of our world as all the misery we read of in the media. I had been reminded that these are the things that keep the world turning, not politics and mayhem. Happy memories and gratitude and the knowledge of the goodness of life, are the lasting after- effects of another profound experience with which life has gifted me. In that alternative universe where goodness triumphs, all is well  and all manner of things are well, as Mother Julian reminded us.Valerie Davies

Coarse speech is as old as language. What has changed is that the decline in manners and the decline of religious observance – two phenomena that are probably connected – has obliterated the distinction between the vulgar and the polite. Language once considered unacceptable in public is now the norm, especially if it’s about sex or religion. Television has blazed a trail here. ‘Your’ ABC, for instance, never tires of having its ‘comedians’ or characters in its tedious attempts at drama refer to God or Christ in some expletive-tainted phrase. The ABC is scrupulous, when anything supposedly offensive to Aborigines is coming up, in interpolating an unctuously-voiced ‘warning,’, but never feels obliged to warn Christians when a torrent of blasphemy is on the way. – Christopher Akehurst

Statistics and everyday observation show that the future of Christianity in Australia is far from rosy. Christians are more liable to be mocked than respected. Semi-pagan beliefs about Gaia are filling the vacuum of faith. We can already see that, along with our belief in our religion, we have lost our belief and our pride in the uniqueness and, yes, superiority of our culture. That way lies extinction. Thanks for 2021? Not specially.Christopher Akehurst

What this all means is that bleeding heart versions of our history (Australia’s John Howard called it “black armband history”) need to be treated with great caution. Those who push the line that everything was lovely in Aotearoa until the colonists arrived, and that they were responsible for depriving Maori of their ancestral lands, are telling selected and often misleading bits of our story.  In reality, Maori society was in a parlous state when colonists arrived in significant numbers in the 1840s and 1850s. Yes, governors, politicians and settlers wanted access to Maori land. Some cut corners acquiring it. But even the most scrupulous land purchasers found many parts of Maori society a minefield of ancient hostilities and were worn down by conflicting assertions about historical ownership. It needs to be remembered that while the wars of the 1860s did terrible damage to what remained of the Maori economy, much damage had already been done to it by other Maori before the colonists arrived. –   Michael Bassett

Teaching a fair and accurate version of New Zealand history won’t be easy unless the Ministry of Education seizes control of the process and ensures that it doesn’t become the preserve of single-minded fanatics claiming to be historians but with axes to grind. They have the potential to stir unwarranted racial animosity in a country which, for much of its existence, tried to be fair to all people according to the norms of the day. – Michael Bassett

Believers in conspiracy, however, would rather be the victims of a plot than of chance because plots make the world seem pliable to human will, whereas chance by definition escapes human control. A world pliable to human will, even where malign, is more understandable, and therefore less ontologically frightening, than one in which things happen that no human ever intended to happen. – Theodore Dalrymple

ns, none of them pleasant. And we do not live in times of social resignation or passivity. We have already gone through the revolution of rising expectations and reached that of rising, or risen, entitlements. When something to which one believes oneself entitled is not forthcoming, one is more aggrieved than by living at a far lower level without such entitlements. –Theodore Dalrymple

In summary we may say that unfunded government and personal expenditure, which creates the illusion of wealth and social security, necessitates low interest rates, low interest rates favour asset inflation, asset inflation favours the already possessing classes, which in turn leads to social rigidity and frustration down below in the lower reaches of society. Social classes rigidify into castes, and many people become fatalistic without contentment. But fatalism without contentment can undergo a sudden change, the emotional equivalent of a gestalt-switch, and become insensate rage. – Theodore Dalrymple

Taking full advantage of free education, being ambitious to enjoy a full life, making sacrifices for the long term pay-off; all obvious actions totally lacking in the no-hoper sector in our varyingly soft western societies. Thus, at the cost to the majority, governments insist on doing for these failures what they make no effort to do for themselves.Sir Bob Jones

Why did one have to switch energy providers and set a mobile phone alert for bin day, only to find out you can not set an alert because your phone storage is full, so you decide to pay for more storage (until you die), only to find you don’t know your password. By the time you retrieve your password you are sixty-five and howling into the abyss. – Susie Steiner

This cannot end well.  With the New Zealand economy shut in its bubble, Covid-19 ravaging all our international trading partners, local business suffering and unemployment rising, the market is propped up solely by the historically low interest rates upon which all profit projections are based.  But even a small change to those interest rates could prove devastating to many of my new clients.  There may be no greater fools left.  Because in 2021 all the shoe shine boys have become property developers … – Guest Poster at Kiwiblog

Simply put, the opening of the border does not depend on anything that happens in New Zealand but on the virus being brought under control globally. Like every other multilateral issue from climate change to free trade, that has little to do with what happens in Wellington and everything to do with decisions and operational competence in the likes of Washington, Beijing, Brussels, Brasilia and New Delhi. On the border, we are ultimately a policy taker, not a policy maker. – Matthew Hooton

But under the Ardern government, old-fashioned notions about property rights, due process and the rule of law are susceptible to being overturned when protesters can wave the Treaty of Waitangi and toss words like “colonialism” and “stolen” into their rhetoric. – Bob Edlin

I don’t think people realise the intergenerational commitment they’re making, in terms of totally removing choice over the land in the future, unless some other magic [CO2 sequestration] technology springs up. – Dave Frame

From the New Zealand perspective, there is not enough land to plant forests that would be equivalent to the amount of emissions that we’re emitting. – David Hall

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other, not as adversaries, but as neighbours. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward. – Joe Biden

Let’s begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured. – Joe Biden

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like — look like you or worship the way you do or don’t get their news from the same source as you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus — rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.

If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we are willing to stand in the other person’s shoes — as my mom would say — just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life: there’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days, when you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. – Joe Biden

I used to think the PM so loved her position and the cheers of the adoring crowd that she would not do anything that risked losing or lessening her position at the pinnacle of admiration. I have now moved away from that to the much less charitable view that she doesn’t know what to do. She has no real vision of what she wants New Zealand to be like, beyond the usual clichés. – John Bishop

She is the Eva Peron of New Zealand politics: warm, compassionate, caring, kind, smiling, seemingly ever good-humoured, but her Government is piecemeal, fragmented, without an overall direction and seemingly without coherent analysis of issues and a strong strategy. – John Bishop

Her champions in the media, and there are many of them, are sycophants, excuse makers, processors of handouts evidencing uncritical laziness – and that’s without going into those who are openly biased in the left’s favour. John Bishop

What has happened to us? Why do we find noise a necessity? Why do we create soundtracks for our every move? Why does a lady walk past my house at 10.30pm every other night with her phone on speaker, tuned into the radio? Why, twice a week, does a guy wander past around midnight, shouting into his phone, his voice ringing out through the dark as he does circuits of the streets around my home? Why can’t we just be with the world, and listen to the music being made around us every day by the natural inhabitants of the earth? –  Michelle Langstone

The paradox, of course, is that to achieve “equity” you have to first take away equality for individuals who were born in the wrong identity group. Equity means treating individuals unequally so that groups are equal. – Andrew Sullivan

Take the trans question. Most decent people support laws that protect transgender people from discrimination — which, after the Bostock decision, is already the law of the land. But this is not enough for Biden. He takes the view that the law should go further and insist that trans women are absolutely indistinguishable from biological women — which erases any means of enforcing laws that defend biological women as a class. If your sex is merely what you say it is, without any reference to biological reality, then it is no longer sex at all. It’s gender, period. It’s socially constructed all the way down. – Andrew Sullivan

You don’t get to unite the country by dividing it along these deep and inflammatory issues of identity. And you don’t achieve equality of opportunity by enforcing its antithesis. – Andrew Sullivan

Even the very rich now feel a psychological or social pressure to do something for money, even without any economic imperative. I leave it to others to decide whether the disappearance of a leisure class is a good or a bad thing, though viscerally I feel that, overall, it is bad, inasmuch as a leisure class is able in theory to devote itself to the higher activities of a civilization. When the rich (of whom there are more than ever) involve themselves nowadays in conspicuous consumption, it is usually in bad taste. Good taste requires discipline and knowledge, which few are either able or prepared to exercise or acquire. – Theodore Dalrymple

 …the more that activities, particularly managerial, are professionalized, the more amateurs—that is to say, people who do things for their own sake, for the sheer enjoyment of them, or for the public good—are decried and, even more, feared. People whose career depends on doing nothing useful for high pay have much to fear from those who do something useful for nothing. – Theodore Dalrymple

Is this obstructionism a manifestation of stupidity or malice (of course, the two are not strictly incompatible, malice often lending a certain cunning to stupidity)? I have every respect for the stupidity of British—as of other—bureaucrats, but I think stupidity alone does not quite cover the case. The fact is that, at some level of consciousness, the bureaucracy realizes that a vast national campaign using volunteers is an existential threat to their careers. If much can be achieved for nothing, why is so little so often achieved for so much? Who knows where things might end if voluntarism were allowed to achieve something? Social solidarity might increase without the intermediary of the state to inhibit it, and that would be a terrible disaster that has at all costs to be headed off. – Theodore Dalrymple

Be that as it may, the fact is that even if an intelligent person in authority were to try to do something to put an end to the idiocy, he would soon be defeated by the unintelligent, for in any large bureaucracy it is unintelligence, at least in the absence of an end other than the very institutional survival that protects careers and guarantees pensions, that emerges triumphant. Stupidity multiplies unnecessary procedure, intelligence decreases it; therefore stupidity is the more functional from the bureaucratic point of view. One way of defeating intelligence and benevolent intention was long ago discovered and summarized by the Spanish colonial administrator who received his orders from Madrid: Obedezco, pero no cumplo. I obey, but I do not fulfill.Theodore Dalrymple

If you happened to be lucky enough to have a house 20 years ago, you’re living in clover. You didn’t? You’re screwed – absolutely screwed. The Government doesn’t even want to fix it. The biggest single issue facing the country is we’ve got an underclass [with] not a dog’s chance of moving into their own home, they cannot live comfortably on the current [average] income… it’s a serious problem. – Don Brash

In brutal terms, there are votes to be won in a broken housing market. And this week is the first week of the 2023 election campaign. – Jonathan Milne

It’s easy to laugh about the latest fads of the woke, and to cheer as smug Guardianistas disappear up their own purity spirals, but the assault on reality from transgender extremists is serious. The public have a right to know the truth about crime, and accurate sentencing and reporting is necessary for a cohesive and functioning democracy. One has to question why the feelings of trans offenders matter more than the rights of their victims. – Jo Bartosch

We can still have social media, just as we still have railways and energy companies. However, they must be equitable, accountable, competitive and pay their dues (be they taxes or fees to reuse material others have paid to create). In other words they must be safe vehicles we are happy to have on our roads.Gavin Ellis

This in turn brings us to the value that we place on human life. We live in an age, after all, in which we hope to wage war without losing a single soldier. In a sense, this must represent a moral advance over a time when generals could send thousands, even tens of thousands, of young men to their deaths for the sake of a military advance of not more than ten yards of muddy ground. And the fact the lives saved by strict sanitary measures that are destructive of everyday life will be mostly those of over eighty will not be allowed to enter into the public debate because to allow it to do so would be to devalue the lives of the old: even if, in our hearts and our daily life, we do not really value them. – Theodore Dalrymple

Too often, National has talked about its economic priorities as if these are the end goals in and of themselves – bigger economy, fewer regulations, smaller government, stronger businesses.  On their own, these things aren’t what is really important. They are only important because they are what ultimately drives prosperity, creates jobs and lifts incomes. Judith Collins

A strong economy means more opportunities for New Zealanders. A strong economy is what will ultimately help lift children out of poverty. A strong economy means more money to invest in our health system. A strong economy will help our kids into their first job and give them the chance to do things and be things we’ve never even dreamed of.  That’s what matters – the things that a strong economy allows us to do. That is why a strong economy matters. –Judith Collins

The old media had needed happy customers. The goal of post-journalism, according to Mir, is to “produce angry citizens.” – Martin Gurri

The intent of post-journalism was never to represent reality or inform the public but to arouse enough political fervor in readers that they wished to enter the paywall in support of the cause. This was ideology by the numbers—and the numbers were striking. – Martin Gurri

The history-reframing mission is now in the hands of a deeply self-righteous group that has trouble discerning the many human stopping places between true and false, good and evil, objective and subjective. Martin Gurri

To be sure, producing and burning coal and oil have significant environmental impacts. But what goes unmentioned are the extensive benefits of affordable, reliable energy provided by coal and oil to make cheap electricity, power cars and underpin a modern economy.

The ironic kicker is that economic wealth allows a nation to regulate and clean up the environment: its air, soil, water and emissions. Coal and oil are not green, but the wealth they create cleans up the environment. And, only wealthy nations such as the U.S., U.K. and Germany have been able to afford to begin to transition beyond coal for power generation.  –  Scott Tinker

So why not just switch from dirty coal and oil to clean and renewable solar and wind? Two reasons: They are not renewable and they are not clean. Sure, during non-cloudy days and windy times, the wind and the sun can be captured and turned into electricity. But because the amount of energy is not “dense,” it takes scads of land and collectors — solar panels and wind turbines — to capture it.  

It also takes oodles of batteries to back up intermittent solar and wind so that everything keeps running uninterrupted. There is also replacement. The panels, turbines and batteries wear out after 10 to 20 years, and the metals, chemicals and toxic materials required to make them must be constantly mined, manufactured and disposed of in landfills. Coupled with some carbon dioxide emissions associated with those processes, solar and wind are neither renewable nor clean.  – Scott Tinker

All Maori children have mixed ethnicity. But before they are Maori/Pakeha/Pacific/Asian/other they are tiny human beings. Tiny human beings whose best interest the grown-ups should be able to agree upon free from political agendas. – Lindsay Mitchell

But “racial equity” is emphatically not the same as treating every person as of equal value regardless of their ethnicity. It does not mean, in the words of Martin Luther King (who must surely be turning in his grave, not least by being given a shout-out in that Biden speech) judging someone by the content of their character rather than by the colour of their skin. It is the precise opposite. It is a doctrine which holds that white people are intrinsically racist; that the west is therefore intrinsically racist; and that therefore black people in the west should be privileged over white.Melanie Phillips

There is more than a modicum of truth in the old joke that the definition of a ‘racist’ is anyone who is winning an argument with a leftist.  When a woke leftist’s evidence and logic don’t stack up, a bit of name-calling (‘racist’, ‘bigot’, ‘deplorable’, etc.) will enable them to seize the presumed moral high ground and thereby claim victory, at least to their own satisfaction.  Moral one-upmanship is the woke leftist’s go-to position: ‘I’m good, you’re bad, so just shut-up’. If you’re of the Left, it’s the all-purpose, not-so-sotto-voce debate clincher.  – Phil Shannon

For those of us in the media, there’s a real challenge to confront: a wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversation, to stifle debate, to ultimately stop individuals and societies from realizing their potential. This rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibility. Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy. – Rupert Murdoch

I firmly believe that government needs to be as responsible with your funds as you are, and it seems to me that Covid has been used as a cover for a plethora of other projects and spending initiatives that we are not able to cover through tax revenue. – Michael Woodhouse

The events of this week should lead to permanent improvements in MIQ and if nothing else, wipe away the smugness for a while. – Audrey Young

My child’s right to see the Wiggles doesn’t trump anyone’s right to say a final goodbye to a loved one. – Vera Alves

But nonetheless it is interesting to see how quickly the local NZ narrative might be shifting from congratulation at a job well done towards fear of being left behind. New Zealand’s political decision makers are surely aware that this is a race, with no prizes for mediocre performance. – Point of Order

Those people who won’t gave a vaccine or don’t believe Covid is real they so are dumb right?  Some of them will die because of their beliefs, some of them will infect others because of them. Science, ‘big pharma’, ‘jews,’ the government is lying to them. These people with little understanding of virology or epidemiology know better than those who have devoted their lives to studying these subjects..

But should any of us be surprised that when Covid is happening before our eyes, some people choose to close theirs ? Other kinds of anti-science arguments are now part of our culture and are now considered not only acceptable but “radical”. – Suzanne Moore

So if biological reality does not exist (biological essentialism), or indeed science which sees us as mammals (we are mammals not slugs or fish or is this now controversial to say so ?) then  we are to understand that sex is not binary and that we are not a sexually dimorphic species.  If women don’t exist really what is feminism for?  Apparently it’s for everyone . Except obviously woman like me.Suzanne Moore

 I’d be worried about the humanity of an individual who didn’t consider the ethics involved; so let me share my perspective. For a start, sanctions do not work. No tyrant has moderated his behaviour once they were imposed. Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and dozens of African kleptocrats provide a mountain of evidence for the thesis that tyrants are impervious to external economic forces. Governments that are subject to political and economic pressures at home can be bullied into behaving better domestically. South Africa is the most obvious example but there are others. Such niceties are utterly ineffective against true dictatorships such as Cuba, North Korea and China. – Damien Grant

If sanctions worked imposing a short-term economic harm on ourselves to help free an oppressed people would be the right thing to do. But they don’t. They impoverish the civilian population, sometimes resulting in their death, for no material advantage. – Damien Grant

Today, the super-power of human rights abuses is China and the outgoing American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, declared that China was committing a genocide against the Uyghur. Surely if we are ever to draw the line, it must be at genocide?  To understand why the answer is no, consider that we do not trade with a nation. We trade with firms, individuals, collectives or whatever enterprise has been established to undertake commerce.  To refuse to trade with the factories, farms and supermarkets in China because of the crimes committed by those running the Communist Party is to engage in collective responsibility and punishment. We are harming one person for the crimes of another and doing nothing to assist the victims while the perpetrators live in undiminished luxury. – Damien Grant

While threats of economic pain for their citizens do not deter dictatorships, those running these regimes have demonstrated a desire for respectability. China in particular appears highly sensitive to criticism. We may be economically impotent but our voice carries a heavy moral weight. We should use it.

If Beijing elects to retaliate that is beyond our control; but while I believe we should trade with China, we should not become a vassal state in the process.Damien Grant

In 2021 numbers in the underclass continue to accelerate. And they will keep on doing so do until parents are held to account for raising the children they bring into the world. But of course this solution doesn’t have a good political ring to it in 2021 any more than it did in 2008. Those children, however, are usually the ones who never get a good education, whose health is more often neglected, and who are more likely to end up at the bottom of the heap, and consequently unlikely to enjoy equal opportunities, let alone have any chance of an equal outcome from life. – Michael Bassett

Myths are welcome comforters, but have never been a sure guide for the future. The second Ardern government passed its 100 days this week. It seems to be propagating a new myth: that kindness is enough. But if you are a child at the bottom of the heap, kindness can be rare indeed. – Michael Bassett


Basset, Brash and Hide

16/01/2021

There’s three new voices from the right on the blogging block – Michael Bassett, Don Brash and Rodney Hide.

Political historian Michael Bassett CNZM is the author of 15 books, was a regular columnist for the Fairfax newspapers and a former Minister in the 1984-1990 Labour government

Don Brash was Reserve Bank Governor from 1988 to 2002, and National Party Leader from 2003 to 2006

Rodney Hide is former ACT Party leader, and Minister in the National-ACT Government from 2008 to 2011

 


Democracy doesn’t exclude

15/01/2021

Dan Lander argues against the petition seeking a referendum on a Maori ward for  New Plymouth/Ngamotu :

The petition circulating in our rohe (district) that could force a binding poll on whether or not a Māori ward should be established in Ngāmotu is anti-Māori.

It’s about excluding Māori from meaningful participation in local government, and it’s an affront to the principles of partnership set out in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. . . 

How can that be about excluding Maori who have the same rights as everyone else to participate meaningfully and excluding anyone from standing in council elections on the basis of race would be illegal?

The work to exclude Māori from meaningful participation in local government in Ngāmotu is a total disregard for Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is a program of assimilation.

How can it be assimilation when people who represent a range of ethnicities, gender, backgrounds and views can be elected onto councils?

It is an active commitment to preserving the status quo, a status quo that privileges whiteness, inhibits the process of justice, reconciliation and peace in our rohe, and the prohibits the honouring of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the way it should be.

Ultimately, it is activity that stifles the creation of real unity in Ngāmotu and, rather than strengthening, weakens democracy. . . 

Saying it doesn’t make it so. On the contrary, giving any person or group rights that others don’t have and basing representation on race weakens democracy.

In a Māori ward provides an opportunity for this to become a reality. A Māori ward in our community presents an opportunity to begin the journey toward real and transformative unity.

Giving one group rights not available to others is the antithesis of unity.

It is an opportunity for our community to learn, strengthen and benefit from a uniquely Māori perspective in new and liberating ways. A Māori ward in our community is a vital step forward in our shared journey. . . 

Don Brash responded there’s nothing democratic about racist wards:

. . . we are in no way opposed to Māori representation in local government. What we do oppose is local councils foisting race-based wards on their cities and districts without the agreement of their ratepayers.

What we know is that almost wherever ratepayers are asked for their opinion on race-based wards, they give a very strong thumbs down (the only exception being Wairoa District Council).

What we know is that the number of Māori New Zealanders elected to local government has been steadily rising over the years, from 4.3 per cent in 2004 to 10.1 per cent in 2016, without the crutch of racially-based wards.

What we know is that in Parliament the number of Māori MPs considerably exceeds the proportion of Māori New Zealanders in the total population, with roughly a quarter of all MPs being Māori. The number of Māori MPs would fully reflect the share of Māori in the general population even without the long-outdated Māori electorates.

This time last year, the leader and deputy leader of the National Party, the leader and deputy leader of NZ First, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, the co-leader of the Green Party, and the leader of the ACT Party were all Māori, and only one of those was dependent on a Māori electorate to be in Parliament.

National and Act, which are often criticised for their lack of diversity, were the parties whose Maori leaders and deputy were supported first by their parties then voters because they were able candidates in general seats, there as the best people not because of their race.

What that shows is not only that Māori New Zealanders are absolutely capable of winning election without the crutch of racially-based electorates, but also that Māori New Zealanders are no more homogeneous in their political views than other New Zealanders.

Some Māori New Zealanders have radical views; some Māori New Zealanders have more conservative views. In that, they are no different from all other New Zealanders, whether of European, Asian or Pacific Island ancestry.

Rather than being racist and judging people by their race, this is acknowledging all people as individuals with diverse views.

Local government is primarily about issues like local roads, libraries, water supply, drainage and similar matters: it is entirely unclear why there would be a distinctive “Māori view” on any of those issues.

There is no more a distinctive Maori view than there is a distinctive view for any ethnicity, gender or any other identity on these, and probably any other, issues.

Mr Lander stated that the Treaty of Waitangi somehow mandated, or at least implied the need for, separate Māori wards. But that is self-evident nonsense.

The Treaty was not in any meaningful sense a constitution. It simply involved Māori chiefs ceding sovereignty to the Crown; being guaranteed in turn the ownership of their property; with the additional benefit that all Māori would have “the rights and privileges of British citizens”.

We are on a very dangerous path if we are attributing a separate constitutional status to those who chance to have a Māori ancestor – today, with ancestors of other ethnicities too of course. That path would take us to a very dark place.

Rather than agitating for discriminatory wards, why don’t the people who want Maori representation find Maori who would be good councilors, nominate them and help them campaign?

Council elections are democratic and democracy doesn’t exclude – people of any and every ethnicity are eligible to stand and eligible to vote.

The Waitaki District is often regarded as being conservative and monocultural.

In the last council election a Pacific Island woman was elected in the Oamaru ward. It’s possible some voted for her because of her ethnicity but her share of votes indicates that she was elected because people thought she would be a good councillor, as she is, and that’s how it should be.


Is freedom of speech under threat in New Zealand?

12/09/2020

Don Brash was invited to speak at Victoria University by the Shalom Students Association.

In an email from the Freee Speech Colation Jordan Williams says:

Last night Don Brash gave his speech to a handful of people at Victoria University.  I say a handful because the University limited those who could be in the room to just ten!

Other events are the University are fine with much larger numbers.  But for some reason COVID is much more a concern when it is Don Brash, or when his speech is about free speech…

The Free Speech Coalition thought it deserved a wider audience.

Here it is:

IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER THREAT IN NEW ZEALAND?

On the face of it, that’s a silly question.  In New Zealand, freedom of speech is enshrined as one of our fundamental rights in the Bill of Rights Act of 1990.  Section 14 of that law, headed “Freedom of expression”, notes that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”

That sounds pretty unambiguous.  But as you probably know that piece of law is qualified by another, namely Section 61 of the Human Rights Act of 1993, which states:

“It shall be unlawful for any person –

    • to publish or distribute written matter which is threatening, abusive, or insulting, or to broadcast by means of radio or television or other electronic communication words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting; or
    • to use in any public place…, or within the hearing of persons in any such public place, or at any meeting to which the public are invited or have access, words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.”

By comparison with a great many other countries, New Zealand stacks up pretty well.

In most Muslim-majority countries, for example, there are laws which make it a criminal offence to speak ill of Islam, or to make an attempt to convert people from Islam.   Laws against blasphemy – speaking ill of Islam – can get you killed in Pakistan.   Even suggesting that Muslims are free to vote for a non-Muslim as Governor of Jakarta can get you jailed in Indonesia, as the former Governor of Jakarta discovered to his cost.

A couple of years ago, a Turkish writer who had been invited to give three lectures in supposedly modern Malaysia was detained and forced by the religious affairs authority in that country to abandon his third lecture.  His crime: arguing that Islam should never use coercion either to win converts or to keep those who are already Muslim in order.

Nor is it only Muslim-majority countries which seek to suppress free speech in the name of religion.  Since 2013, insulting the feelings of religious believers has been a criminal offence in Russia.

In many countries, anti-defamation laws are used to control political opponents.

Thailand, for example, prohibits even the slightest criticism of its king, who is believed to be semi-divine.  Anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” can be imprisoned for up to 15 years.  The government which seized power in 2014 has charged scores of people with lese-majeste, and a great many more for violating an order forbidding public discussion of a proposed referendum. 

Even in ultra-modern Singapore, government officials have sued and bankrupted critics for statements that politicians in many other places would have disputed, laughed off or simply ignored.

In the United States, the first amendment to the constitution appears to provide a strong guarantee of freedom of speech.

But in recent times we’ve seen increasingly aggressive attempts to shut down free speech, perhaps especially at US universities. 

In early 2014, Brandeis University, one of America’s leading universities, revoked its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its commencement ceremony.  Protestors had accused her – a strong advocate for the rights of women and children, especially in the Middle East – of being “Islamophobic”.

Three years later, in 2017, there was the celebrated case when Charles Murray was unable to speak at Middlebury College, with the female host of his lecture suffering injury as she tried to extract him from the melee of rowdy students.  And Charles Murray’s offence?  Though he is an anti-Trump Republican, and the author of such notable works as Human Accomplishment and Coming Apart, he is still blamed for what is seen as an unforgivable sin, namely suggesting in a book he co-wrote with Richard Herrnstein more than 20 years ago that some races might be slightly brighter, on average, than other races.

The same year, Berkeley’s KPFA Radio cancelled a planned interview with Richard Dawkins.  The interview had been planned to discuss Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene, which had been named the most influential science book of all time by the Royal Society a week earlier.  The interview was cancelled because of Dawkins’ alleged attacks on Islam – which Dawkins strenuously denied.

And the intolerance has spread beyond the universities.  There was, for example, strong opposition from some members of the orchestra when conservative commentator Dennis Prager was invited to conduct the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra.  Prager was on record as favouring the adoption of a child to a married man and a woman, in preference to a single person or to a same-sex couple; and as noting that, if there is no God, ethics are subjective.  Happily, the orchestra held fast, and Prager conducted the orchestra.

Even more happily, in the last few years there has been a strong push-back against these attacks on free speech.  The University of Chicago has issued a firm statement, since adopted or endorsed by more than 30 other colleges and universities, including Princeton, Johns Hopkins and Purdue, which states that its role is not “to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive”.  

A letter sent to the incoming class went further: “we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings’, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’”.

Well, what of New Zealand?  The debate about what should be allowed has been well and truly joined in the last few years.

In 2016, there were two speeches which triggered complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

One was by Muslim cleric Shaykh Mohammad Anwar Sahib, at the time the secretary of the Ulama Council of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.  In his speech, he said that “Jews are using everybody because their protocol is to rule the entire world.”  He went on to say that “Jews are the enemy of the Muslim community”, and made offensive remarks about women.  Then Ethnic Communities Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga responded quickly, reminding everybody that hate speech is prohibited in New Zealand under Section 61 of the Human Rights Act.

The second speech was by self-proclaimed Bishop Brian Tamaki.  Quoting the Book of Leviticus, he stated that the Bible made it clear that gays, sinners and murderers were responsible for the recent earthquakes.

Perhaps it was these speeches, perhaps it was recent developments at US universities, or perhaps it was the reaction to the suggestion that there should be a club for “Europeans” at Auckland University, but something provoked Professor Paul Moon, History professor at AUT, to launch his petition in defence of free speech early the following year.

It was a relatively short petition, but made some essential points:

“Freedom of speech underpins our way of life in New Zealand as a liberal democracy.  It enables religious observance, individual development, societal change, science, reason and progress in all spheres of life.  In particular, the free exchange of ideas is a cornerstone of academe…

“Individuals, not any institution or group, should make their own judgments about ideas and should express these judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas they oppose, without discrimination or intimidation.

“We must ensure that our higher learning establishments are places where intellectual rigour prevails over emotional blackmail and where academic freedom, built on free expression, is maintained and protected.  We must fight for each other’s right to express opinions, even if we do not agree with them.”

Voltaire’s famous line comes to mind: “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

In short order, Professor Moon got 27 well-known New Zealanders to sign the petition – New Zealanders as diverse as Tariana Turia and Don Brash!

But in some respects things have gone backwards since that time.

In April 2018, physicist and retired historian Bruce Moon was invited to give a speech by the Nelson Institute, in the Nelson public library.  He chose to speak about the “fake history” which is too often being used to reinterpret the Treaty of Waitangi.  Shortly before he was due to speak, the Nelson library cancelled the booking on spurious “health and safety” grounds.

In the middle of 2018, two so-called alt-right Canadian speakers were prevented from speaking at venues owned by Auckland Council on grounds which Auckland mayor Phil Goff argued at the time related to what they might say (though Auckland Council had had no problem in allowing Kim Dotcom, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to use the Town Hall a year earlier).

That prompted Jan Thomas, the Vice Chancellor of Massey University, to pen an op-ed for the New Zealand Herald in July that year asserting that “the right to speak freely is a bedrock principle of democratic society.  This includes the right to hold opinions and express one’s views without fear and the ability to freely communicate one’s ideas.  History is littered with examples of tyrants who have sought to stymie this freedom of expression and, conversely, reveals the tragedy of those whose voices have been silenced under such oppression.”

But she went on to argue that “freedom of expression is one thing, hate speech is another”, endorsing Auckland Council’s decision to ban the two Canadians from speaking at a Council-owned venue.

And the following month she banned me from speaking on the Massey Palmerston North campus, ostensibly on security grounds but actually because she thought that in talking about my time as the Leader of the National Party I might chance to say something that might offend some of her staff.  It was an outrageous ban, and when her emails were released under the Official Information Act, it was quite clear that she had lied in claiming I had been banned on security grounds.  She should have resigned, or been fired.

In March last year, New Zealand saw the tragedy of 51 Muslims killed, and many more injured, by a man who clearly hated Islam with a passion and who saw it as his duty to kill as many Muslims as he could.  No sane person could condone such an atrocity and the perpetrator has rightly been sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

But the event has prompted serious discussion about whether New Zealand needs laws prohibiting so-called hate speech, with both Attorney General David Parker and Justice Minister Andrew Little talking publicly about the need for laws to criminalise hate speech.  The Human Rights Commissioner has also called for such laws.

But it’s a hugely tricky area, and perhaps that explains why we haven’t yet seen any draft legislation which would restrict hate speech. 

What does “hate speech” actually mean?  Nobody defends the right for people to urge violence against persons or property of course.  But beyond that opinions will differ.

Should Israel Folau be allowed to point out that the Old Testament says that gays will go to hell after they die unless they repent of their homosexuality?  I would argue “yes”.

Should Muslims be allowed to argue that gays, adulterers, and those who abandon Islam should be killed, thus implicitly condoning murder?  I would argue “no”.

But those are, at least to me, relatively straightforward cases.  There are many other areas where societal attitudes are effectively shutting down discussion or debate, with mainstream media simply refusing to entertain debate in areas where views differ strongly.

For example, it is judged to be too insensitive, or too judgmental, to suggest that the children brought up by their two natural parents are likely to have a much better start in life than those brought up in single-parent families, or in families where the adult male changes at irregular intervals.

It is regarded as quite inappropriate to recommend that adoption be regarded as an alternative to either abortion or single parenthood.

It is regarded as verging on treason to question whether human-induced climate change is really the most serious challenge facing humanity, despite the contrary views of people as different as Canadian Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, and Matt Ridley, a well-known British science writer.

It is regarded as far too judgmental to suggest that some cultures are superior to, or more advanced than, others.

It is regarded as quite inappropriate to publicly question the wisdom of allowing as immigrants people who believe that adulterers should be stoned to death. 

And you dare not suggest that the Enlightenment civilization brought to New Zealand by the early British settlers was significantly more advanced than the Maori culture of the early nineteenth century, even though early nineteenth century Maori had no written language, had not yet invented the wheel, and were still practising cannibalism.

You may not even question the proposition that Maori are indigenous, even though Maori themselves talk about Maori arriving by canoe from a distant place within the last 1,000 years, vastly more recently than humans arrived in North America some 15,000 years ago, or in Australia more than 50,000 years ago.

It is regarded as racist to suggest that all New Zealanders should have equal political rights, despite that being the clear meaning of Article III of the Treaty of Waitangi and the only basis for a peaceful society in the long-term.

And the mainstream media censor any who would argue that case.  As you may know, Casey Costello and I are the two spokespeople for the Hobson’s Pledge Trust, an organisation committed to advancing equal citizenship in New Zealand.  We get almost no media coverage, despite issuing umpteen press statements, and when we do get media coverage most of it is focused on me: I can be caricatured as an elderly white male racist.  Casey can’t be: she is a young woman of Ngapuhi and Anglo-Irish ancestry, so doesn’t fit the need to describe Hobson’s Pledge as a male, white, organisation.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about the way in which affirmative action in favour of Malays had damaged most Malays, based on an article from the well-respected British weekly The Economist.  I noted the parallels with New Zealand.  I submitted the article in turn to the Sunday Star Times, the Herald on Sunday, the Otago Daily Times, and the Listener.  All declined to publish it.

Hobson’s Pledge is routinely described by our critics as “racist”, which surely is a totally Orwellian use of the word.  It is those who argue for preferential rights for some based on their race who are, of course, the real racists.

As long ago as 2017, well-known writer and former editor of the Dominion-Post Karl du Fresne noted that then Police Commissioner Mike Bush had talked to the Human Rights Commission about the possible need for a law prohibiting “hate speech”.  Mr du Fresne commented:

“A hate speech law would mark a radical and dangerous extension of existing police powers: from protecting people and property against clearly identifiable threats, such as assault and theft, to making value judgments about whether a citizen has crossed the blurry line between fair comment and something much darker.

“Such a law would be welcomed by activist minority groups which want the state to protect them from any comment they see as hurtful or oppressive.  But freedom of speech is far too precious in a democracy to be undermined by subjective judgments from police officers about what constitutes incitement to “hate” as opposed to a robust expression of legitimate opinion.”

OK, but what would I do with the speech by the Muslim cleric?  Given the long and appallingly negative effects of anti-Semitism, for me it’s a line call. But on balance I think I would allow it, as long as I am allowed to argue publicly that people who hold such misogynist and anti-Jewish views should not be allowed to become permanent residents or citizens of New Zealand.

And the speech by Brian Tamaki?  Again I would allow such speech, as long as I am free to note that the guy is a nutter, and that the Book of Leviticus also bans the eating of meat containing blood and the wearing of any garments made of two types of fibre.  No rational person takes such strictures as relevant today.

I don’t know whether I am optimistic or pessimistic about the future of free speech.  A very noisy number of New Zealanders – who unfortunately control at least the taxpayer-funded media in New Zealand, and the editorial policy of our two major newspaper chains – have a narrow view of what can be shared with the wider public.

On the other hand, when the Auckland Council banned the two Canadians from speaking in Council-owned facilities back in 2018 a very diverse range of New Zealanders – from Chris Trotter on the left to Lindsay Perigo on the right – quickly formed the Free Speech Coalition, and raised money to take the Auckland Council to court arguing that banning the Canadians was quite contrary to the Council’s obligation to Auckland citizens.

And after I was banned by the Massey Vice-Chancellor I was phoned by a former Parliamentary colleague – a member of the Alliance Party no less – who told me that while he and I differed on almost every policy issue, we were at one on the importance of free speech.

A podcast of the speech and the Q&A that followed it is here.


Personal or political?

01/05/2019

Is the media’s determination to claim the scalp of National leader Simon Bridges personal or political?

Two months ago John Armstrong said the media script required Bridges to end up as dog tucker:

The media have proclaimed Simon Bridges to be dog tucker. Having issued that decree, the media will do its darnedest to make sure he does become exactly that – dog tucker.

That is the ugly truth now confronting Bridges in his continuing struggle to keep his leadership of the National Party intact and alive.

It might seem unfair. It will likely be regarded in National quarters as irrefutable evidence of media bias.

It is unfair. Some pundits had made up their minds that Bridges was the wrong person to lead National within weeks of him securing the job. Those verdicts were quickly followed by bold predictions that it would not be long before he was rolled by his fellow MPs. . . 

Those predictions are heating up again, but why?

Is it personal dislike of him?

Probably not.

There were similar campaigns against Bill English and Don Brash when they were opposition leader.

So is it partisan?

The media were just as quick to criticise and slow to praise Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little so no, it’s not necessarily partisan.

But is it political?

The media tends to be liberal on social issues and Bridges is more conservative.

Could the sustained campaign against Bridges be because he has said he will vote against the Bill to legalise euthanasia and is likely to oppose any liberalising of abortion law?


365 days of gratitude

08/08/2018

The furore over Don Brash being banned from Massey isn’t all bad.

It’s brought the importance of free speech to the fore and showed that people can put aside political bias to stand up for a principle.

I’m grateful for that.

 


Thugs’ veto working

07/08/2018

When the Free speech coalition withdrew its urgent application for a  judicial review of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues,  coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin said it would turn its focus to the thugs’ veto:

“The second issue remains – will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture “safety concerns” to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?”

“All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs’ Veto in this case. It may have been against a Council whose Mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand.”

The need for such action has been confirmed by news that the thugs’ veto is already working at Massey University:

“Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas should resign after cowardly barring Don Brash from speaking at the University”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“After veiled threats from a left-wing thug in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, she capitulated this morning and prevented Dr Brash from speaking on ‘security’ grounds.

“A student wrote to the Vice-Chancellor: “I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this matter and steps you will take to ensure the safety of those attending. Remember in light of their type of “Free Speech” does not come Free of Consequences.’”

Brash, a former Reserve Bank Governor and Opposition Leader, was due to speak to the Politics Society tomorrow.

“I have long feared that American-style anti-intellectual, violent intolerance would come here.

“It has appeared at Massey this week and the university has completely failed to the test.

“Education Minister Chris Hipkins should follow the British and defund universities that do not protect freedom of speech in their campuses.

“Universities exist to promote robust debate, educate, and search for the truth.

“They do not exist to coddle students and protect them from views they might disagree with. . . 

Dr Cumin adds:

In blocking former Leader of the Opposition and Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash from speaking on campus tomorrow, Massey University disgraces an important tradition of free speech on university campuses and a fundamental tenet of a liberal democracy.

Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor appears to have capitulated to the veiled threats of protesters, cancelling the event for ‘security’ reasons.

Free Speech Coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin says, “Publicly-funded universities in New Zealand and across the western world have a proud tradition of upholding freedom of speech. If we allow the ‘heckler’s veto’ to shut down contentious speech at a university, a place that should be a bastion of free expression, what hope can we have for free speech anywhere else?”

“Hecklers and thugs have been emboldened by Auckland Council’s recent capitulation on similar grounds. That’s why the Free Speech Coalition is pressing ahead with court action to prevent a dangerous precedent where a minority can shut down any speech by threatening violent protest.”

“The Police need to put their hands up and restate their commitment to protecting freedom of speech from would-be violent protesters.”

“Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas must reverse her decision *and ensure that she works with authorities to provide a safe environment for the expression of ideas on her campus. The fundamental role of universities is to foster dissenting views, debate, throw light on and challenge the establishment, but certainly not shut down speech. This is a disgraceful act from a university leader.”

Would the vice-chancellor give in to threats from a hard-right group should the speaker be , for example, advocating Maori sovereignty or special treatment for refugees? Would she let right to life activists silence proponents of abortion or euthanasia?

If she didn’t she’d be guilty of political bias, if she did she’d be allowing the thugs’ veto again.

That’s the danger that follows what she wrote about constraining free speech and her decision to ban Dr Brash.

She is setting herself up as an arbiter of what is a permissible view and what’s not; which opinions can be aired and which can’t and she’s setting a very dangerous precedent which let hecklers and thugs silence people with whose views they disagree.


Privacy only a right when you’re left?

27/10/2016

If there’s an award for hypocritical statement of the year this is a contender:

. . . privacy (like freedom of speech) is an essential part of a person being able to develop their personality and beliefs. It’s as crucial and fundamental as that. Privacy is about being able to develop a sense of self, about being able to develop our ideas (making mistakes, changing our minds) and about figuring out our relationships. Sometimes it is about very private things that we want to keep secret: family problems, sexuality, special likes and dislikes, and fears and hopes that gradually make us who we are.

I know as a writer on intelligence that most people by far aren’t being spied on. But if the idea or fear is around that our lives aren’t private, it undermines this vital stuff about who we are. . . 

It is awful if people wonder needlessly whether someone is reading their private email, or decides they’d better not be involved in politics, or generally shrinks down and limits who they are because of an unnecessary fear of surveillance. Because, unfortunately, the fear that we’re being watched does almost as much damage as the reality would. 

Why is that hypocritical? It comes from Nicky Hager the man who used other people’s private emails and published them in books.

He had no concern for the privacy of people like Cameron Slater, David Farrar and Don Brash. He didn’t worry about the affect his breaches of privacy would have on the people who had written or received the emails he made public.  He believed he had a right to abuse their privacy to further his political agenda.

Privacy isn’t only a right for people you like and whose views support your own.

Privacy isn’t only a right if you’re left.

Privacy, like freedom of speech, is a universal right.

 


Inflation is theft

18/04/2016

Low inflation is boosting household spending power:

Low inflation is helping New Zealand households get ahead, with wages on average continuing to rise faster than the cost of living, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Inflation was only 0.4 per cent for the year to March 2016, according to figures released by Statistics New Zealand today. Inflation for the March quarter was 0.2 per cent. 

Much of quarterly increase was driven by cigarettes and tobacco, which rose 9.4 per cent following increase in excise duty in January. Food prices were up 1.2 per cent in the quarter, but were down 0.4 per cent over the whole year.

Lower oil prices contributed to the low cost of living increase. Petrol prices fell 7.7 per cent in the first three months of 2016, following a 5.7 per cent fall the previous quarter.

“We are in the unusual situation of having solid economic growth, more jobs and rising wages at the same time as very low interest rates and inflation,” Mr English says. “This is helping New Zealand families get ahead.

“Households with mortgages have the double benefit of low cost of living rises and lower mortgage servicing costs, which will be particularly welcome in regions with increasing house prices.

“Since the start of 2012 the average annual wage has increased by more than 10 per cent to $57,800, considerably faster than inflation which has been only 3.1 per cent.”

An additional 175,000 jobs have been created over the last three years, with a further 173,000 expected by 2020.

“Overall, New Zealand is doing well and New Zealanders are reaping the benefit of a growing economy.”

When Don Brash was governor of the Reserve Bank he called inflation theft and it is, eroding the real value of money and investments.

Now, wage-rises outpacing inflation combined with low interest rates are giving households more spending power.

When people seek government help it usually requires more spending.

The government’s concentration on keeping a tight rein on its finances doesn’t usually get much credit but it is one way it can influence inflation and in doing so it protects and enhances the value of what people earn, invest and save.


Stuck in anger

23/02/2016

After our first son, Tom, died I found myself getting angry over all sorts of things that normally wouldn’t have worried me.

It was only at a Women in Agriculture day, entitled beyond aspirin for feelings that are a pain in the neck that I worked out why.

I didn’t blame anyone for Tom’s death. He had a degenerative brain disorder and we had both had the best possible care from the start of my pregnancy.

But what I learned that day made me realise that although I didn’t blame anyone and it was no-one’s fault, I was still very angry that the son we’d loved had died.

The facilitator taught us to name, claim and tame our feelings. Once I’d named the anger and claimed it – worked out what I was feeling, why and the effect it was having on me – I was able to tame it and pull myself away from it.

I was reminded of this while reading about the man who allegedly chucked the muck at Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee:

The man who allegedly tipped a chocolate and flour mixture over Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee lost his son in the February 2011 earthquake.

John Howland arrived at the Christchurch District Court on Tuesday on what would have been the 20th birthday of his son, Jayden Andrews-Howland.

He said he attacked Brownlee “to prove a point”. . . 

“The Government, they’re heartless.” Howland said.

“They don’t listen to people. They don’t care about us, don’t care about nobody.”

Howland said he had been planning the move on Brownlee “for a few years” and hoped his actions would make the Government “get their s… together and sort this blimmin city out and all the people that are suffering. It’s just bulls…. I’ve just had enough”. . . .

The only point he’s proved is that he’s stuck in anger.

Attacking the Minister at any time would be wrong. To do it after yesterday’s memorial service to quake victims was also insensitive and lacked respect for the others who were at the service to commemorate their own losses.

This is the third time a government minister has had something thrown at them by angry people in the last couple of weeks.

The first was the dildo that Steven Joyce copped at Waitangi, to which he responded in good humour.

The second was the glitter-bombing of Prime Minister John Key at the Big Gay Out.

And the muck chucked yesterday completes the shabby trifecta.

In an editorial, published before yesterday’s muck-chuck, the Listener opines:

Josie Butler wasn’t exactly breaking new ground when she hurled a rubber dildo at Cabinet minister Steven Joyce on Waitangi Day. Her choice of missile may have been novel, but the nature of the act was ­wearisomely familiar.

Elements of the protest movement clearly regard physical assaults on politicians as a legitimate tactic. Don Brash, then leader of the National Party, was struck hard in the face with a clod at Waitangi in 2004. More recently, brothers John and ­Wikitana Popata assaulted Prime Minister John Key at Te Tii Marae in 2009 – an act that their uncle, Hone Harawira, then a Maori Party MP, gave every ­impression of excusing.

It doesn’t need to be Waitangi Day for the angry and dis­affected to justify hands-on attacks. Act MP John Boscawen was speaking in a debate during the Mt Roskill by-election campaign in 2009 when a rival candidate, campaigning on a “People Before Profit” ticket, smeared a lamington on his head. And when broadcaster Paul Henry tried to enter Auckland’s SkyCity Casino for a charity lunch – unconnected with politics – in May 2015, he was jostled, menaced, abused and spat on by a screaming mob purporting to be concerned about child poverty. . . 

Butler’s dildo attack prompted a commendably droll response from Joyce, who tweeted that someone should send a video to British comedian John Oliver – noted for his lampooning of New Zealand as a weird place – and “get it over with”. Sure enough, Oliver devoted more than four minutes of his HBO show Last Week Tonight to the item. But amid all the chortling, he made a serious point: “If you threw something at a politician in this country, you’d be dead before the dildo hit the ground.” That, at least, is a point of difference about which New ­Zealanders can be proud.

Levity aside, there’s another serious issue here. Physical attacks – whether with a dildo, a lump of earth, a lamington or a gob of spit – are not part of the repertoire of legitimate protest. They are an intrusion on the rights of others. They are also a sad admission that gestures of inarticulate rage are too often preferred over the skills of reasoned debate.

It matters not whether any serious harm is done in such incidents. In a civilised, liberal democracy, people engaging in politics are entitled to expect that basic rights, such as freedom of speech and movement, will be respected. It’s legitimate to ask what would have happened had the Waitangi attack been aimed at Jacinda Ardern, say – if she had been hit in the face by a big rubber teat thrown by a skinhead protesting about refugee immigration.

Some might consider it not to be funny if a woman gets hit. Yet a female journalist was in fact struck on the breast by Butler’s dildo after it bounced off Joyce.

There is no question that throwing a missile hard enough to hit two people constitutes assault, though Butler appears to have escaped prosecution. So what happens now if young people are punished for throwing rubber missiles at teachers or students with whom they disagree? Are they not entitled to cry “hypocrisy”?

The reality is that Brash, Key and Joyce were entitled to go to Waitangi to celebrate our national day without risk of assault. Similarly, Boscawen was entitled to take part in a political debate without being subjected to the humiliation of having a lamington planted on his head. The boundaries of reasonable protest will always be blurred but ­physical intimidation is never acceptable. It constitutes an assault on democracy itself.

It’s also counterproductive, since it conflicts with most New Zealanders’ views about how public life should be conducted. This may not bother hard-core protesters but it is a problem for the wider left, because as long as ideological zealots continue to parade their angry intolerance, the mainstream left will be tarnished by association. . . 

There is a place for righteous anger but there was nothing righteous about these protests.

The first two were political, the third partly political and partly what appears to be unresolved grief.

Regardless of the motivation, throwing toys, glitter bombing and chucking muck are not legitimate forms of protest.

Freedom of expression brings with it the responsibility to express it without infringing other people’s rights.

In New Zealand we have remarkably unfettered access to our Members of Parliament.

People who let their anger overcome them as these three protesters did, do nothing for their cause, potentially endanger their targets and innocent bystanders, and threaten the accessibility the rest of us have to politicians.

 

 

 

 


H is for . . .

14/08/2014

Another election, another shock-horror book from left-wing conspiracy theorist Nicky Hager.

. . . The book starts with what is already known: that a prime ministerial operative, Jason Ede, regularly feeds information to Cameron Slater, who writes the blog “Whale Oil” and who Mr Hager described as “obnoxious” at tonight’s book launch at Wellington’s Unity Books. 

The book builds on that information though: in an echo of Mr Hager’s most famous effort, The Hollow Men, the book contains leaked emails between National Party figures. 

The book also alleges Mr Ede hacked into Labour Party computers and fed the resulting Information to Mr Slater. 

Mr Hager says he got the information through “a lucky break” because, after Mr Slater’s blog attacked West Coast residents as “ferals” earlier in the year, the Whale Oil blog was hit with a series of denial of services attacks.

As a result of these attacks – and here Mr Hager has been somewhat vague – emails were obtained and these found their way to Mr Hager. . .

Somewhat vague, well yes, he would be wouldn’t he, just as he was more than vague about the source of  then-National leader Don Brash’s correspondence that found its way into his hands.

There’s nothing vague about the timing of the book’s launch though.

It is politically motivated in an attempt to influence the election outcome.

If the talk-back test is any indication, Hager could be very disappointed.

Kerre Woodham introduced the topic on Newstalk ZB last night and few listeners showed much interest in it.

The book has a chapter devoted to David Farrar who responds:

I’ve had a quick read through the chapter on me, and a few things I’ll point out.

  • Hager thinks my setting Kiwiblog up was due to my involvement in the IDU. That’s nuts. I’ve been debating politics online since 1996, originally through Usenet. I set Kiwiblog up because I like debate. It was not encouraged by anyone, and I was surprised it has turned out influential. In fact in the early days quite a few in National put pressure on for me not to blog.

  • I get e-mails from numerous people, including Jason Ede, pointing stories out to me, or suggesting things I may want to blog on. I get them from lots of ordinary blog readers, from friends, from some staff, and sometmes even an MP. But I decide what I blog, and they always accord with my political views.

My blog isn’t nearly as well-read as Kiwiblog or Whaleoil but I also get emails with tips or suggestions for posts.

Sometimes I ignore them, sometimes I use them and when I do it is my own point of view on them. I am open about my involvement with National but have never asked anyone in the party for information. No-one inside or outside the party has ever told me what to write.

  • A tiny proportion of what I blog comes from National sources. Way under 5%. I write Kiwiblog, and people send me ideas – and this is somehow a conspiracy. Very very very occasionally I might proactively ask for some info – maybe every couple of months, if that.

  • Most of what I blog is pro-National, as you would expect. But most weeks there is an issue I disagree with them on. I did multiple posts attacking the Government on the proposed copper tax, and even had Kiwiblog join an aggressive campaign against National on this. I have several times lobbied minor party MPs not to support National on bills or amendments. I recently said I think John Key should have accepted Gerry Brownlee’s resignation.

  • When Curia first set up, it of course had only one client. Since then it has grown nicely. At last count around 60+. The initial staff were mainly people I knew through National, as I took over what had been some internal polling, but today we have well over 100 staff and I don’t think any of them are Young Nats. The 2ic for Curia is a Labour supporter who told me the first time we socialised together that for a right wing bastard, I’m not totally bad. We poll for many clients, whose politics I do not share. I’ve polled for former Labour and Alliance MPs. I’ve polled for Family First, and disagree with them on 90% of their issues.

  • Nicky seems to think it is a secret I am National’s pollster. A bloody badly kept secret. It’s on my website. It is referred to often.

  • He is also excited that my staff do some canvassing work for National candidates or MPs. Yep. It creates extra work for my staff which is great. But we don’t just do it for them. While most of our work is polling, if people want to utilise our call centre, and pay for it, they can. Just last week I had one client contract our call centre to make 18,000 phone calls on their behalf – this is a totally non-political client. I’ll work for pretty much anyone who pays (so long as not a conflict of interest)

Most of the book is on Cam. Cam does some great stuff and he sometimes does some appalling stuff. Cam does not work for anyone, or even take guidance from anyone. He is his own force of nature.

He, like David, will criticise National people and policies and is sometimes complimentary about those on the left.

Hager basically doesn’t like the fact the right now have voices. He basically says no media should ever use me as a commentator. He is threatened by the fact we finally have one organisation (Taxpayers Union) arguing for less government spending, to counter the 2,000 or so that argue for more.

My final comment is to note that people thought his book may be on the NSA and GCSB intercepting electronic communications. It would seem the person who is the biggest recipient and publisher of intercepted electronic communications is in fact Nicky Hager. If someone published a book of e-mails between a group of left-wingers, he’d probably call it a police state, and demand an inquiry.

Does anyone else see even hypocrisy in someone writing a book by the recipient of intercepted emails criticising someone else’s intercepted emails?

The left would be incandescent if it happened to them, but as Liberty Scott notes they are already angry:

. . .You see, attack politics are actually normal.  It’s the norm for many politicians to be pejorative.  The left’s primary pejoratives are to claim policies are “racist” and “sexist”, or that those on the right “hate the poor” and are only in politics for the money (they of course, donate most of their salaries to charity), and finally there is the anti-semitic attacks on John Key and the childish “fuck John Key” contribution to intelligent discourse.

What is apparent is anger.  Anger from those who think they are entitled to spend other people’s money without their consent, anger from those who want to tell other people what to do with their property, anger from those who don’t like foreigners, or foreigners buying things they themselves can’t or wont buy, and conversely anger from those who are fed up with being told they owe others a living, fed up with being told that some people are entitled to be listened to more, because of some aspect of their background.   The anger in politics is due to polarisation.  Those on the right are becoming more clearly cynical of answers that involve more government, while those on the left are less inclined to compromise with business, with those arguing to be left alone, and those who offend and upset them.

Hager’s book from what little has percolated out simply seems to report that some bloggers are affiliated with the National Party.  Who knew?!?  Hager wont write a book about those affiliated with the Labour Party, or the Greens, or heaven-forbid the Kim Dotcom/Alliance Revival/Harawira Whanau First Party, because they are who he wants to have in power.  He talks about how bloggers deliberately try to get media attention to support one political point of view, yet he is guilty of exactly the same tactic when he puts out his books.

Hager’s biggest problem is that what he purports others to do, is exactly what he is trying to do himself.  Pass himself off as “independent” and dedicated to exposing secret political deals, but he is anything but independent, and completely ignores anything going on on his side.

That’s because he’s not an objective journalist, he’s a very subjective conspiracy theorist.

The book will excite the left, those biased in the other direction, like me, will treat it with disdain.

Will anyone other than political tragics be interested in it?

I suspect it will just confirm their poor view of politics and its practitioners.

P.S. the book was launched at Unity Books – that might explain why Stephen Franks calls it a bookshop for book burners:

A significant part of Wellington’s literary set have a poisonous consensus against views they do not favour. In effect they define their tribe by what it agrees to hate. What they hate is drearily predictable, including road improvements (particularly fly-overs), Israel, and any challengers to their clerical view of what is ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’.Thomas Sowell refers to this class as the anointed.  Their world is divided into the righteous and the unrighteous.

Our Prime MInister is among the un-righteous, obviously. Making a fortune is irredeemable, especially out of investment banking, then being overwhelminly popular with voters who have to attract voluntary customers for a living.

Accordingly Unity book-shop has attempted to minimise its sales of John Roughan’s biography of John Key.  Since it was published it has been on the floor behind other stands whenever I or a friend has checked. Much of the time it was face down.

I tackled a person who appeared to be an owner or manager.  He said it was his staff who put it there, and he couldn’t stop them from doing it. Each time he tried to turn it face side up or give it more prominence they would return it to where people would have to ask for it expressly. . .

Last time I was in Wellington I went into the shop, saw the books upside down on the floor, picked up several and placed them right-side up on the table.

I wonder how long it took for staff to put them back on the floor?

 


Politics Daily

07/06/2014

John Key in the Pacific

Claire Trevett @ NZ Herald – Key’s Pacific visit an election entrée

John Banks

Brook Sabin – PM to consider refusing Banks’ vote

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Don Brash on John Banks

Liz Banas @ RadioNZ – Power Play

Fran O’Sullivan @ NZ Herald – Act needs to move on and Banks needs to do the decent thing

Tracy Watkins @ Stuff – Farcical options for Banks

Scott Yorke @ Imperator Fish – Move along please, sir.

IMP

Matthew Beveridge – The Internet Party candidates on Twitter

Internet Party – Internet Party candidate shortlist

Ian Apperley – Mana and Internet Party unholy alliance is an insult to all NZ ICT workers

Election

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Labour candidate seeking a poor person

Taxpayers’ Union – Election funding for satire no joke

Abbie Napier @ The Press – Electoral commission grant to ‘fun’ political party criticised

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Broadcasting allocations

John Armstrong @ NZ Herald – Right-left jockeying real news of the week

Verity Johnson @ NZ Herald – Make politics sexy

Other

Pattrick Smellie @ NBR – TPP to live on in other acronyms even if it fails: Groser

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Sledge of the day 7 June 2014

Dominion Post – Today in politics: Saturday, June 7

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Can you name the politician?

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – A bit of a history lesson

Matthew Beveridge – Twitter Stats : 6 June


Electoral law reform needed

07/06/2014

Don Brash on Facebook:

So the court has found John Banks guilty. Three observations. First, I have known John Banks for 30 years and have not found him to be anything other than an honest man. Second, it is a huge tragedy for a man who has overcome great personal difficulties; served with distinction as a Member of Parliament, as a Minister, and as the mayor of Auckland; and helped to raise three Russian orphans.

But third, when I contrast what John Banks was found by the court to have done with what Helen Clark’s Labour Party did in 2005 – without the slightest attempt by the Police to call her to account – the offence of which he has been found guilty is utterly trivial.

In 2005, the Labour Party spent Parliamentary funding to the extent of more than three-quarters of a million dollars on explicit electioneering, despite having been warned against doing so by both the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer just weeks before the election. Yes, they eventually repaid that money, but only under strong protest. And of course by that the time the election was won.

And what they could not undo, and were never held to account for, was grossly overspending the legal limit on spending in that election. The Police, in a disgracefully biased decision, decided not to prosecute, despite the Labour Party’s own auditors finding that the Party had unambiguously breached the legal spending limit if spending on their infamous “pledge card” was election spending. And did anybody who saw that “pledge card” think it was NOT part of Labour’s election campaign?

Whatever John Banks did in trying to raise money to finance his mayoral campaign in 2010 did not affect the outcome of that election. By contrast, Labour’s illegal behaviour almost certainly did affect the result of the 2005 election.

This doesn’t excuse Banks.

It shows electoral law either isn’t up to scratch or it isn’t working.

It takes an inordinately long time for the Electoral Commission to refer anything to the police and the only time I can recall that they’ve gone onto lay a charge recently was Labour candidate Daljit Singh.

It took a private prosecution to get this case to court.

If we had the electoral law we need and it worked well, that wouldn’t have been needed.

 


Interesting or important

17/04/2014

Don Brash posts on Facebook:

What intrigues me about media reaction to the book so far is that almost all of it has focused on either (a) my personal life (which occupies a very small part of the book) or (b) my relationship with John Key, and what he and I may or may not have agreed in a motel room in Blenheim late in 2004. Oh yes, and Kim Hill spent quite a bit of time in her interview with me talking about the Exclusive Brethren.

I have seen no comment at all on my views on drug policy; or the importance of treating all New Zealanders as equal before the law; or the importance that we should attach to all immigrants signing up to key aspects of the New Zealand way of life (equality of men and women, access for girls to education, freedom to worship God or not to worship God, etc.); or my worries about religious fundamentalism; or my views on our relationship with China; or my concern that a very high rate of immigration in recent decades may be contributing to both our slow rate of growth in per capita income and our over-valued real exchange rate; or my overall assessment of the Key Government; or indeed my concern for the future of democracy.

It’s a slightly depressing reflection on what the media think interests the general public.

Only slightly depressing?

We do get some good analysis in the media but too often, as Brash observes, what might be considered of interest gets attention and what’s really important is ignored.

Andrei left this comment yesterday:

Good Lord – this is inane.

We are on the brink of the Third World War, perhaps the only hope of staving it off is a conference in Geneva due to take place
tomorrow and as we speak any hope of that conference taking place is being sabotaged by evil men

This is Holy Week and very unholy it is, blood is being spilled to advance the cause of darkness and chaos.

Apologies for the threadjack.

If you pray, pray for peace.

How many of us know what he’s talking about?

How many of us understand the issues?

How much coverage and analysis are we getting on them?

 


Cunliffe chickens out, Norman steps in

06/11/2013

Advertising on the Farming Show used to be the most expensive on the Radio Network.

It probably still is because it’s now broadcast nationwide. It’s listened to by a broad audience and not just beyond town boundaries.

I do an occasional spot on the show and often meet people from all around the country, urban and rural, who’ve heard me.

Host Jamie Mackay has a successful recipe with a blend of farming and wider rural issues mixed with sport, music and politics.

It’s the sort of show you’d think an aspiring Prime Minister would want to appear on but one has chickened out:

There’s a certain irony in the position I find myself in with Labour leader David Cunliffe.

You see, David C has red-carded me.

Meaning, for the first time since 2000, when then Prime Minister Helen Clark agreed to a weekly slot, I will not be interviewing the Labour leader on the Farming Show.

Rightly or wrongly, Cunliffe says he won’t get a fair hearing, that we will make fun of him. Heck, we make fun of everyone, including ourselves.

Jamie does make fun of some of his interviewees but the political segments are usually pretty straight. In fact with my ever so slightly blue bias I think he sometimes let Cunliffe’s predecessors and agricultural spokesmen away too lightly.

Had Cunliffe or his media team bothered to listen to the show archives, available here, they’d have known that he’d get a fair go.

I think he has unfairly pigeon-holed me. He needs to understand some of my political history before he consigns me to the National Party lackey file. . .

Brought up in a family where Norman Kirk was admired more than Keith Holyoake, Jamie voted for Social Credit in his first two elections, in 1984 he voted against Rob Muldoon and for Bob Jones, didn’t get round to voting in 1987 and had his first vote for National in 1990.

Even then it was a vote more for a candidate than a party because I liked the cut of a young buck the Nats had dragged down to his home province of Southland from The Treasury in Wellington.

His name was Bill English and he looked like he at least had a bit of spark in him.

However, considering I’m probably in the 10% of New Zealanders who pay 70% of the tax, considering I’m a self-employed business owner with farming interests and considering I still bear the farming scars from some incredibly short-sighted, militant union behaviour in the 1970s and 80s, why would I vote Labour now? 

There’s nothing for me in their policies of higher tax, greater environmental and economic handbrakes for farming and re-unionising the workforce. . . .

So here’s my message for PC David C, which unfortunately I can’t pass on personally. 

If you really want to be the next prime minister, get your teeth into some issues that affect middle and low-income NZ – jobs, education, health, and the minimum wage are traditional Labour strongholds.

Attack National where you have an inherent political advantage and where it might have dropped the ball.

On second thoughts, I might save that message for my new Farming Show correspondent, Dr Russel Norman.

I heard Jamie a couple of weeks ago saying Cunliffe wasn’t coming on the show and he said the same thing this week.

I thought he meant just those days, after all what politician would turn down the opportunity for nationwide publicity on the radio?

But no, it wasn’t just couple of instances that didn’t suit his diary, he’s given the show a flat no for the worst of all reasons, that he wouldn’t get a fair hearing and he’d be made fun of.

How precious is that?

A politician who can’t stand the very gentle heat of the Farming Show isn’t going to cope with the much hotter temperature in other media and parliament.

He wouldn’t have been made fun of unfairly on the show but he will be now.

Jamie’s column is in the current edition of the Farmers Weekly which is delivered free to every rural mail box in the country and sold in book stores and dairies. It’s in the FW’s digital edition and on the website (to which I’ve linked above).

It will be on the Farming Show website soon.

I’ve already heard Jamie mention Cunliffe’s no-show and he’ll keep doing it. he’ll probably mention it to his cousin, political journo Barry Soper, who has does a spot on the show each Friday.

Prime Minister John Key has a weekly interview on the show. He sometimes get a little borax poked at him by Jamie and handles it well. His customary good humour and ability to laugh at themselves will continue to provide a contrast with Cunliffe who was scared of a gentle ribbing.

Deputy PM and Finance Minister Bill English, Minister  for Primary Industries Nathan Guy and Deputy Speaker Eric Roy,  are also regulars on the show. So are Labour’s Primary Industries spokesman Damien O’Connor and former MP now Vice Chancellor of Massey Steve Maharey. In the past former PM Helen Clark, then-National party leader Don Brash, former Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton, former MPI Minister David Carter and Cunliffe’s former leader David Shearer were all on each week.

Since Cunliffe won’t front, Jamie has invited Russel Norman to replace him.

All of these people are or were willing to front Jamie regularly but Cunliffe isn’t.

But worse than this – one of his challenges was to assert himself as leader of the opposition, a position Norman had assumed while David Shearer led Labour.

Instead, he’s handed his rival a free pass to a slot that should have been his own on the Farming Show.

In doing so he’s shown himself a little too concerned with his own image and a little less confident of his own ability than he would like the world to think.

#gigatownoamaru doesn’t chicken out.


Could a list MP lead?

26/08/2013

In the unlikely event Shane Jones wins Labour’s leadership selection he won’t be the first list MP to lead a party.

The Green Party is led by two and NZ First is led by one.

He wouldn’t be the first to lead one of the bigger parties either – Don Brash was a list MP when he led National.

If it hadn’t been for Helen Clark’s desperate and expensive election bribes and the media focussing on the exclusive Brethren’s influence while ignoring the pledge card scandal he might have been Prime Minister.

There are advantages to leading as a list MP. It would enable greater concentration on the leadership without the distraction of an electorate.

But that is also a disadvantage – electorate helps keep MPs grounded and in touch with constituents in a way most list MPs aren’t.

That is one of the reasons that even after more than a decade and a half of MMP list MPs are still regarded as somehow not quite as legitimate as those who represent electorates.

There is no reason a list MP couldn’t become Prime Minister but not having a seat could make it a wee bit harder.


Number four

24/08/2013

Jim Bolger was Prime Minister when Helen Clark became leader of the Labour Party, and the first woman to lead the Opposition.

She almost won the 1996 election but it was run under MMP and Winston Peters allowed Bolger to remain in power.

Jenny Shipley deposed Bolger and became our first female Prime Minister but Clark won the next election.

Shipley lost the leadership to Bill English but he lost the next election.

He usually gets the blame for that but it wasn’t all bad. It did get rid of much of the dead wood – those long serving MPs who ought to have resigned to let fresh blood contest the election but didn’t. He should also get credit for the rule changes which under his leadership, with the help of then president Judy Kirk and general manager Steven Joyce, made National a much stronger party and laid the foundation for its eventual return to power.

Don Brash ousted Bill, boosted membership and funds, and nearly won the 2005 election.

When Brash resigned, John Key won without a fight, and with a unified caucus helped in no small part by his deputy, English, who was, and is, 100% loyal to the leader and party. Key also had, and has maintained, strong, unified membership and good finances.

When Key won the 2008 election, Clark resigned and handed a poisoned chalice to Phil Goff. He, and the caucus, didn’t learn from what happened with National, kept most of the dead wood and lost the 2011 election.

Goff resigned and David Shearer took over, still saddled with the dead wood, disunity in the caucus, the shadowy influence of Clark and dissent in the wider party.

Labour’s about to elect the fourth leader to face the Prime Minister but changing the leader won’t be enough.

The caucus is still full of dead wood and further damaged by disunity.

Membership is low, it’s not united either and party finances are far from healthy. Clark’s shadow still looms large and there’s also the spectre of the unions which most on the right and many in the centre distrust.

Helen Clark defeated outlasted four National leaders and lost to the fifth who had a strong, unified caucus, a strong, unified party and little competition in Opposition from the wee parties.

Labour is about to elect the fourth leader to face Key but he will be fighting fires on several fronts.

He’ll have to unite his caucus and his party and also stand head and shoulders above Russel Norman and Winston Peters who’ve been doing a much better job of leading the Opposition than then man he’ll succeed.

Number four might be able to do what the three before him haven’t, but winning the leadership will be the first and easy step in a steep and challenging climb.


Could single issue party succeed?

13/04/2013

New parties without a sitting MP have always found it difficult to make traction with voters.

But could a single-issue party succeed where other broader based ones have not?

Behind the pay wall at the NBR Rod Vaughan reports that a party aiming at ending what it call racial separatism is preparing to contest next year’s election.

The report says it aims to be a “one issue, one term party intent on stopping New Zealand spiralling into racial division”.

One of the biggest shifts in political popularity in recent times happened after Don Brash’s Orewa speech in which he sought one law for all.

The suspicion that some New Zealanders are more equal than others is still bubbling away under the surface and a well organised, well funded party could cause it to erupt again.

However, Brash had the foundation of the National Party on which to build after his speech.

A one-law-for-all party could attract support from across the political spectrum .

But it doesn’t have a solid foundation on which to build and the five percent threshold is a hurdle which has defeated most who’ve  tried to tackle it without a sitting MP.


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