Nick Smith’s valedictory

11/06/2021

National MP Nick Smith delivered his valedictory speech last night:

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National): Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Last month I saw this quirky cafe sign that appealed to my nerdiness that 31 years equates to a billion seconds. Bar a few thousand, it’s been a blast and an enormous privilege to be part of governing this amazing little country we share. My time here has had many ups and downs—in fact, as many as the southern mountains that I studied in my PHD thesis.

I acknowledge you, Mr Speaker; past and present National leaders from Jim Bolger to Judith Collins; all my parliamentary colleagues; and my family and friends in the gallery. I also want to acknowledge the many good MPs who post – election 2020 did not have this opportunity.

I came to this Parliament 30 years ago with a passion for enterprise, for science, and for nature. I wanted New Zealand to be prosperous, where hard work was valued, and where every Kiwi has the opportunity to succeed. One of my first duties as a 25-year-old MP was attending the Waimea College prize-giving, where I was dutifully asked to present the academic awards. All miked up, I made the standard congratulatory comments as each student crossed the stage: “Well done. Good effort.” It started to feel tedious, so I changed my message: “What uni are you thinking of attending?” I asked an attractive young woman, “What are you doing after school?” Quick as a flash and loud enough for everyone to hear, she responded, “It depends what you had in mind, young man.” I have since kept my congrats to the safe and boring in the hundred or so prize-givings I’ve attended since.

In my maiden speech I talked of a nation that had lost its confidence and its way. Our economy was a basket case with high unemployment, rampant inflation, and high debt. Our best and brightest were leaving in droves. I do not wish to diminish our current challenges, but we are a much better country today. I caution those in Government who wish to decry the reforms of that era when they’ve been the foundations for the much more successful and resilient nation we are today. I worry that this year’s Budget has public debt ballooning out to $200 billion and back up near 50 percent of GDP, as it was when I was first elected. Imposing the workplace policies of the 1970s is not the answer to the challenges of the 2020s.

I came to Parliament when the seniors were David Lange and Rob Muldoon. I will never forget Sir Robert gruffing at me in the lift: “So you’re a doctor. Are you one of the ones that make you well or are you one of the ones that make you sick?” Sir Robert would be much happier with our deputy Dr Reti.

The luckiest fortune of my first term was the friendships I forged with what began as the under 30s caucus, but got branded the “brat pack”: Roger and Shirley Sowry, Bill and Mary English, Tony and Kara Ryall have become the closest of friends. Many wrongly assumed the strong friendships between the four of us meant that we agreed. We have been on opposite sides of many of National’s policy, conscience, and leadership debates. Our annual week-long shared holidays rotating between the upper and lower and the North and South islands over 30 years have enabled us to enjoy watching our 16 children grow up together.

My first ministerial job was conservation. I know all in this House would want to wish the current Minister Kiri Allan a full recovery. Conservation is the best job in the Cabinet room. To get it once is lucky; to get it twice is to be truly blessed. My appointment to the role was in the aftermath of the Cave Creek disaster. My job was to put in place the systems with director-general Hugh Logan to ensure the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) thousands of structures and facilities would be safe. We also established in 1999 a conservation rangers programme that has trained over 600 since to do the school DOC fieldwork professionally and safely.

My first big Nelson project was advocating for the Kahurangi National Park. We opened it in 1996 with Prime Minister Jim Bolger, Denis Marshall, and I tramping the journey between Mount Arthur and the Cobb Valley. It was a joy to mark the 25th anniversary this Easter with Denis and the key DOC staff involved by retracing the same route. The highlight was the noisy dawn chorus in the Cobb that was silent at the opening, a tribute to the pest control work of both DOC and volunteers. During my second stint as Minister, we did the Great Walks partnership with Air New Zealand, then led by Chris Luxon. That has helped enable takahē to return to this park after an absence of over 100 years. Another highlight in that portfolio was working with Lou Sanson to protect the Lords River on Stewart Island in ’98, then initiating the process for establishing the Rakiura National Park in ’99.

Conserving a good chunk of our landmass for nature was the challenge of last century; the focus needs to shift seaward. I’m a strong supporter of New Zealand’s sustainable fishing industry, and I do not support the Greens’ call for a blanket ban on bottom trawling. It’s no more practical than prohibiting ploughing. But, just as on land, we need to set aside marine protected areas. The Marine Reserves Act was passed by National in 1971, but only one reserve was created by the time I came to Parliament in 1990. This was at Leigh and opened by then fisheries Minister Jim Bolger in ’77. I’ve worked hard all over New Zealand to expand that network. Making the Poor Knights a no-take marine reserve in ’98 was pretty controversial. When visiting the site near Tukukākā, I faced a barrage of protest from recreational fishers. I required a police escort after a death threat was made. I was confronted only a few years ago at Whangārei airport by a cheeky local who introduced himself rather unnervingly as the guy who had made the threat. He jocularly told me not to worry, as he now thought it was such a great idea that he would shoot anybody that would undo the reserve!

I’ve subsequently been involved in creating 17 marine reserves around New Zealand in special places like Kaikōura, Akaroa, Punakaiki, and the sub-Antarctic. I am disappointed the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, covering an area twice the landmass of New Zealand and 10 percent of our ocean, has not progressed. The commercial fishing there is negligible. The history of customary fishing is minimal. This is about New Zealand—Māori and Pākehā stepping up and doing our bit globally to better care for the world’s oceans. My original Government bill got through to the second reading stage and then, post-Election 2017, transferred to Minister Parker but has since gone nowhere. I created a further member’s bill for the sanctuary that I’ll pass on to Scott Simpson. I urge progress on either or both bills.

Prime Minister Jenny Shipley added corrections to my conservation portfolio in ’98. I remember the Opposition interjecting that my only qualification for the job was being descended from convict stock compulsorily deported to Australia. Now, my 86-year-old father in Cairns would want me to put the record straight. Our ancestor Jeremiah Smith migrated to Australia in 1791 by choice. It was seven years in Australia or hanging! The Kiwi contingent of my family still think it would have been a difficult choice. Initiatives I took in corrections were separate youth prisons, the introduction of random drug testing, and expanding drug and alcohol treatment. I remain unapologetically today an arch-conservative on drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse and addiction is at the heart of so much crime, hurt, and tragedy. I don’t buy this line that going soft and being more permissive will see less use and less harm. It’s not a choice of enforcement or treatment. We need to do more of both.

I’m also counting on my colleagues Simon Bridges and Michael Woodhouse to continue the campaign started with the Matthew Dow petition in Nelson to get on with random roadside drug testing. Every month of delay costs another six lives. I’m so relieved New Zealand rejected the legalisation and commercialisation of cannabis. Anybody that believes age limits work have not parented teenagers. There is a scourge of vaping sweeping through our intermediate and secondary schools that makes a joke of the regulated age limit. I also fear we’re being sold a pup on vaping with the claim it’s just a healthy replacement for smoking. We’re actually allowing another generation to become addicted to nicotine.

The 1990s were groundbreaking for Treaty settlements, and for a period I was the associate to Sir Douglas Graham during the historic Ngāi Tahu settlement. What was then considered radical became standard, as Chris Finlayson supercharged settlements during the Key years. My involvement was in the natural resources elements. It was particularly satisfying settling the eight Te Tau Ihu claims covering Nelson and Marlborough, completing the process in the South Island.

I’ve introduced 50 bills to this Parliament, and 45 have passed. Two members’ bills I’m particularly proud of are the Royal Society of New Zealand Act and the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act. Science and technology are key to improving productivity and our environment. I commend the Government and the country on the way that we have embraced the science associated with COVID. The cuts to science funds in Budget 2021 are short-sighted. I strongly endorse the ambitious plans of Judith Collins and Andrew Bayly to have our tech sector recharged.

I also want to challenge this Parliament, and particularly the Greens, on their reversion to biotechnology. The GE-free campaign was a con. None of the scary scenarios predicted 20 years ago have occurred. Our outdated laws are holding back opportunities for innovation on climate change and pests and weed control and also in health treatment.

The most satisfying chapter of my career was being part of the Key-English Government. We shared a vision of where we wanted to take New Zealand, and we built a strong relationship in policies in Opposition to work as a team. My work involved creating the Environmental Protection Authority and a fast-tracked but robust consenting process. This enabled us to get on with important projects like Waterview in Auckland, Transmission Gully in Wellington, and Christchurch’s Southern Motorway. I disagree with the Government’s aversion to building roads on the basis of climate change. The answer lies in changing what we drive on our roads, as well as investing in public transport.

Practical laws I’m particularly proud of are those requiring all rental homes to be insulated and to have working smoke alarms. The ACC portfolio was financially challenging, but our reforms got the scheme to be fully funded for the first time in its history.

The work of the Land and Water Forum enabled significant strides in improving water management, including the first legally binding national policy. We do need to lift our game on fresh water, but doing it with farmers and not to farmers will achieve far more. Water storage is part of the solution, and I’m pleased with the role I played in enabling the central plains scheme from Canterbury and the Waimea Community Dam in Nelson.

The last issue from the Key era, which I wish to note with a word of caution, is that of Pike River Mine. John Key’s commitment in the days following that tragedy to do everything possible to recover those 29 brave men was genuine and compassionate. We were as gutted as the families and the nation to be told in 2016 that it could not be done. It was wrong, in 2017, for Labour to promise the recovery of those men when, by then, 800 pages of technical reports said it was not possible. I’m proud to have delivered on my commitment to Bernie Monk of the Paparoa Track and the Pike29 Memorial Walk. I hope we can find a way in the future to avoid national tragedies becoming political footballs.

There is an issue I got wrong. In 2013, I voted against gay marriage. The error is all the more personal, with my 20-year-old son being gay. I want to put on the record today my apology to New Zealand’s LGBT+ community. I pay tribute to Louisa Wall, Fran Wilde, and Amy Adams for their leadership that has improved the lives of my son and thousands of other New Zealanders. I also acknowledge Jenny Shipley’s courage as the first PM to attend a gay pride parade in 1999.

My greatest thanks this evening is to my wife, Linley. She is my rock, my soulmate, and my best friend. I also want to acknowledge my first wife, Cyndy, who supported me through six elections. She jokes that Linley got off lightly, having to only do five. Linley and I are very proud of our blended family of Hazel, Logan, Samantha, and Alex, who are in the gallery. I thank them, as sometimes this job has negative impacts on them. I also thank my wider family, including brother Albert and sister Margo, who have travelled from overseas.

I got good training for Parliament as a child. Each dinnertime, our dad would sit up like Mr Speaker and ask each of us eight children to give a report on our day. I am sure this and my mum’s passion for education influenced my three sisters, all of whom have made great contributions as teachers and principals. In later years when retired, dad campaigned full-time for weeks for each of my 10 successful campaigns. COVID proved a bad omen and kept him away in 2020.

The year I was born, he founded a small construction company. Learning to drive heavy trucks, bulldozers, and cranes was just part of my teenage life. I’m proud of the nationwide contribution my siblings have made to our nation’s infrastructure in each of their businesses, with projects like the wind turbines at Scott Base, the Arthur’s Pass viaduct, the Waikato water pipeline to Auckland, and dozens of bridges and walls around New Zealand. My brother Tim did not sleep for three days in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake so he could ensure that every one of his cranes were assisting the rescue effort. He booked to join us today but had to cancel yesterday due to doing emergency bridge repairs in Temuka. It will be good to re-join the family business, doing more and talking less. I’m looking forward to projects like the Turitea wind farm that will help us meet our Paris climate change commitments.

I must secondly thank the National Party, its board, and its volunteers. My Nelson electorate chairs, from Dan Strong, Dan Dollish, John Sandstone, Russell Wilson, Graham Sutton, to John Weirs. My campaign chairs, Murray Balaise, Max Spence, Bill Dahlberg, Paul Matheson, Garry Stocker, Trevor Cameron, and an army of volunteers—too many to name. A special thankyou to those who helped found the Bluegreens in 1998, Guy Salmon and the late Sir Rob Fenwick. Enterprise and the environment must work together. I also acknowledge my Bluegreen buddies in caucus, like Maggie Barry, Nicky Wagner, Hon Jacqui Dean, Stuart Smith, Erica Stanford, and Nicola Willis.

Nelson has been a very special place to represent, and I congratulate my successor, Rachel Boyack. It’s the only seat in this Parliament that has retained the same name since 1854. I love Nelson’s entrepreneurial businesses, its stunning environment, its creative arts sector, its rich heritage, and its caring community. My greatest concern for Nelson’s future is the centralisation of core services like education and health, with the loss of local control of our polytechnic and health board. My experience as education Minister was that the closer the funding decisions were made to the children, the more likely they were made in the children’s interests. If more central Government was the answer, KiwiBuild would be a roaring success. I’ve enjoyed the constituency role of getting to know thousands of Nelsonians, often over difficult situations. It’s been a pleasure to help many, but also a disappointment where I could not. This grassroots work was invaluable in exposing the parts of Government that are not working and for advocating reform.

Throughout these three decades, I’ve been supported by numerous talented staff, many of whom have become lifelong friends. Trevor Hill who gave 26 years and Nan Ward. It’s wonderful to see more than 20 of my former staff in the gallery.

I sincerely thank every one of them, alongside the backup staff, the Clerk’s office, select committees, library, travel office, cafe, and security teams who make this place work.

Now, the Speaker and I have had our moments, but the worst thing—the worst thing—he’s ever inflicted on me was actually when he was trying to be kind. We were in Turkey on the Speaker’s tour, returning from the Gallipoli Peninsula back to Istanbul. The motorcade consisted of a car for the Speaker, as the head of delegation, a van of MPs and their partners, and motorbikes back and front. Linley and I got a bad tummy bug, and the Speaker took pity on us, offering us the flash Merc for the 400-kilometre return journey. It got complicated when the interpreter decided he had to go in the van with the head of delegation, leaving Linley and I with a driver who did not understand a word of English. My plight was trying to explain to a drive doing 130 kilometres per hour in an escorted motorcade that I was desperate to go to the loo! It was an excruciating three hours. When we finally arrived at Istanbul airport, I tore out of the car so quickly that I caused a security furore.

The thing that struck me most from the Speaker’s trip to Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Turkey is how well-intentioned Governments over time get tired and arrogant. Regular changes of Government are essential for a healthy democracy. Nor should we ever take for granted the importance of free speech and a politically neutral public service. I thank the press gallery—you can be a pain, but our democracy would be limp without you. I pay a final thankyou to the hundreds of dedicated public servants who have helped me in my work. My favourite are those hardy DOC field staff, out in the wet and cold in the most rugged corners of New Zealand, repairing tracks, killing pests, and protecting nests.

I want to conclude on four observations of how this place has changed over three decades. Firstly, it’s much more diverse, by age and gender and ethnicity, and that’s a great thing. My hope for the future is that we also diversify the skills mix in this House. The second change for better is that Parliament is a healthier place, where you are far more likely today to meet your colleagues in the gym than in the bar. The most notable change for the worse is how lame select committees have become today. They’ve become perfunctory rubber stamps. Worthwhile inquiries are blocked. It’s got worse with the distraction of iPhones and laptops. Select committees need revamping to be more collegial, with Government and Opposition MPs genuinely holding Government departments to account for their spending and performance.

There is one last difference I celebrate in signing off from this 53rd Parliament. This morning I woke to the birdsong of tūī from my Hill Street flat, and, on my walk here, saw a beautiful kererū in Parliament’s trees, something you would have not seen or heard 30 years ago. It’s this stunning wildlife, whether you are Māori or European, Pasifika, Asian, or whatever, that helps define who we are as New Zealanders. May the birdsong forever be heard here at Parliament and across our land, to remind us how blessed we are to call these islands home.

 

Winning and holding a red electorate for 10 terms when you’re a blue MP takes a lot of hard work, a lot of helping people and a lot of building relationships.

It’s takes someone who not only knows the meaning of public service, but who practices it.


Quotes of the month

01/03/2021

In olden times, journalists were like children – seen but not heard. Now if the public had three wishes it would probably be for us to please shut up, shut up, shut up about ourselves. – Jane Bowron

Climate policy is incredibly complex. Yes, science sits at its core – but there are also economic, social and political implications to be considered,”  – Tim Mackle

Any new outbreak will have major health, economic and social costs. But there will also be another significant casualty. Until now, politicians and public health officials have been able to draw on their social capital, the trust they have earned. But that trust is conditional. If leaders are seen as failing to act and letting foreseeable failures happen, that has the potential to seriously weaken the collective support and compliance that is absolutely pivotal for current public health measures.The ConversationBernard Walker

It is not necessary for anyone actually to have been offended for an utterance to be considered offensive; on the other hand, if someone has taken offence at it, this too proves that it was offensive. That the person who took offence was a paranoiac whose  outrage was completely unreasonable, or expressed in the hope of compensation or some other advantage, is no defence, for one of the criteria of offensiveness is simply that someone says that he has taken offence, the other criterion being somewhat more Platonic, namely that someone might take offence.  – Theodore Dalrymple

But playing our part to best effect, doing the most good that New Zealand can do, means finding the most cost-effective ways of abating greenhouse gas emissions – regardless of where they are. It turned out that the best way of getting cars wasn’t by building them in Petone, but by growing them in other parts of the country. It could easily turn out that the best way for New Zealand to sequester carbon is not to plant trees here, but to fund replanting efforts elsewhere.

If we could achieve twice as much or more by helping to fund mitigation efforts abroad, the climate would not thank us for pursuing less effective measures here at home instead – Eric Crampton

Western civilisation is built on the sovereignty of the individual, sovereignty derived in large part from the Christian concept of man being created in the image of God and being equal in His sight, be we king or commoner, free or slave, white or black.  . . As sovereign individuals we have agency, but with agency comes personal responsibility.  By adopting a group approach, personal responsibility can be avoided and politically correct faux virtue-signalling used to cover the real aim – the pursuit of power. Thus when the principles of government are based on classifications or groups rather than individuals, the results are almost invariably bad.  Examples include Communism, Fascism, Nazism, apartheid, the Indian cast system and, more recently, gender identity and ‘woke’ prescriptions generally. In short, the currently fashionable emphasis on group rights rather than individual rights must be rejected. – Anthony Carr

Progress requires bad practices to be replaced by good, not justified as part of a culture frozen in aspic. – Anthony Carr

Our society’s success depends on people making themselves useful, taking education seriously, working hard and conducting themselves properly with respect to their families and society as a whole. If taking personal responsibility for one’s life is avoided, no amount of aid or intervention from any source will ever succeed. We are sovereign individuals and avoiding responsibility only ensures that one is neither granted nor actually deserves any genuine respect. – Anthony Carr

The backlash against wokeism will be made much more aggressive by the difficulties its opponents encounter in making their voices heard. The mainstream news media – and especially the state-owned media – have become increasingly intolerant of ideas and opinions which directly, or indirectly, challenge the wokeists’ view of the world. Stuff, the largest newspaper publisher in the country has embraced wokeism wholeheartedly and set its face resolutely against the errors of “racist” New Zealanders. Even more significantly, citizens determined to spread “unacceptable” ideas can no longer rely upon the major social media platforms for their dissemination. Increasingly, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are “de-platforming” individuals and groups (including a former President of the United States!) whose beliefs have been anathematised by the woke. – Chris Trotter

Imagine you are an idealistic young Labour MP. Let’s call you, say, Grant, or Chris, or Jacinda. You realise you’ve just overseen the greatest transfer of wealth from those who work to those who own in the history of our country. David Seymour

We have a country that’s practically uninhabited, but somehow it has a shortage of land you’re allowed to build on. Only governments can manufacture famine from plenty … they’re like a reverse Jesus – David Seymour

It goes without saying that the justice with which the iconoclasts and vandals are obsessed is always of a very peculiar sort (it continues to surprise me how little protest there is against the very expression racial justice, than which few expressions could be more racist); but at any rate they are always judging the past, as they judge the present, against an impossible standard of perfection—perfection, that is, according to their own conception of that the world ought to be.Theodore Dalrymple

The gap between people’s impression of Ardern and her actual performance as a leader has widened to a gulf. So long as enough modern Tacituses write gushing Ardern portraits, her superstar status will not change. – Oliver Hartwich

So, let’s make Waitangi not just about airing grievances. There is much to celebrate in the advances Māori have made. Surely it is time to drop the victimhood and inspire younger generations to build? –  Fran O’Sullivan

It’s quite a skill, really, making announcements about a policy without any sort of plan to achieve it, and then have the country believe that what you’ve just said is significant, transformative or, as we heard this week, foundational. National was criticised for this all the time and often quite fairly. Under this government, however, such expediency has almost become a form of art.  – Monique Poirier

The good thing about debt is it can mask a lot of stuff and buy you time. But it never stops being debt and it never stops needing to be paid back. And $100 billion and counting is a lot to pay back.Mike Hosking

Every culture must treat women as equal to men, and afford them the same rights in every aspect as they afford men. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

The middle path needs to be actively promoted and defended. We need to shrug off the image of being spineless fence-sitters who get bullied into sell-out compromises by those at the extremes. Being a middle-pathster does not mean having no firm principles. We have our bottom lines too which we will not surrender to either the extreme left or the extreme right. The political spectrum is best represented not as a straight line but as a circle in which extreme left and extreme right meet. The middle path is diametrically opposed to both – and for much the same reason: their erosion of liberty. It is liberty that defines our bottom line. – Barend Vlaardingerbroek

If the New Zealand news media persists in the folly of “cancelling” all those listeners, viewers and readers who fail to pass ideological muster, then we will see the emergence of our own version of Fox News – with all that entails for the health of our country and its democratic institutions. Who would lead it? Do we have a Hannity, or a Tucker Carlson, waiting out there in the wings? Where to start looking for a talented right-wing contrarian, boasting years of professional broadcasting experience, who is currently between jobs? – Chris Trotter

It’s just the same broken system with a new letterhead. Karen Chhour

I had people that helped me to believe in myself just enough that I could see my way out. – Karen Chhour

. . .ethnicity and culture should not be how we decide what is in the best interests of children. Oranga Tamariki should be colour-blind and open to whatever will ensure a child’s wellbeing and safety. – Karen Chhour

As someone who has experienced three elements of placement – non family who wanted me, family who didn’t and extended family who did – I can tell you, as a young person you’ll take love, compassion and stability wherever you can find it. – Karen Chhour

I think we spend far too much time on the (isms) in this country, racism, sexism, and classism. I firmly believe these can be used as a weapon to distract us from the important issues instead of focusing on what needs to be done in these areas. – Karen Chhour

The consequence of constantly putting labels on things seems to be that we have created an environment where expectations are lowered and personal responsibility is no longer a requirement. I want to focus on people being the best that they can be and celebrate their successes in these areas, instead of constantly focusing on the negatives that give these people the platform they desire. – Karen Chhour

We’re in urgency today on a local democracy bill making fundamental change. Am I the only one who sees the ridiculous irony of that? There’s an anti-democratic local democracy bill. That’s literally what we’ve got here, because the other side is putting this through—it’s ramming it through—in urgency.Simon Bridges

In relation to the wards themselves, personally, I find it hard when we come to special separate representation for Māori. As a Māori man, it says I’m not good enough, because of my whakapapa, because of the colour of my skin. . . This bill, to me, says that I’m not good enough to win a vote of a non-Māori. Well, I am good enough. I am good enough. – Simon Bridges

Central planning fails not just because we cannot predict the future but because the Climate Commission can never know enough to make better decisions about you, your family or your business than you can. The commission says its decisions will be based not just on science but “equity”. What the commission thinks is fair. As an example the commission says the rules for Māori should be different. “Māori collectives” should get “free allocation.” 

Politics will decide what is fair. It will be a lobbyist paradise. Some firms will get privileged allocations and get their competitors’ products banned. It will be like the days when some firms got import licenses and grew rich while others were refused. Bureaucrats will decide which businesses to reward and which to ruin. A central plan cannot even guarantee the result will be net zero emissions. – Richard Prebble

Attacks on freedom of expression are coming from multiple directions: from a government that proposes to place new limits (conveniently vague at this stage, so as not to cause too much alarm) around what people may say on subjects such as race and religion; from woke vigilantes in mainstream and social media who campaign for the defenestration of non-woke broadcasters; and from cowed media bosses and corporate advertisers who show no commitment or loyalty to the values of the free, capitalist society in which they operate, and for whom defence of democratic values is less important than winning brownie points on left-leaning social media platforms.   – Karl du Fresne

Companies operating in the field of news and current affairs have a responsibility not shared by purveyors of other commodities. As shapers of public opinion and providers of information of vital public interest, the news media perform a role central to the functioning of democracy.  This imposes obligations of fairness, accuracy and balance; but as long as we profess to be a free and open society, it also requires them to reflect the full spectrum of public opinion. Karl du Fresne

The people we have most to fear from are not shoot-from-the-lip provocateurs like Banks, but the authoritarian zealots who insist that they be silenced. The threat these censorious prigs pose to a democratic society is potentially far greater and more far-reaching than anything a bigoted talkback host might say to his limited band of followers. As the British columnist Bernard Levin once put it: “Any legally permissible view, however repugnant, is less dangerous promulgated than banned.” Karl du Fresne

Trust; that’s a crucial factor here. The Left has always had a problem with trust. Leftist apparatchiks fret that people who are left to make up their own minds will make the wrong choices, so seek to lead them by limiting the range of ideas and opinions they are exposed to – which is why freedom of expression is such a crucial battleground in the so-called culture wars. Karl du Fresne

Here’s another canard: the reason voters have rejected Maori wards whenever the issue has been put to a referendum is that voters are racist. But I don’t believe for a moment that people vote against Maori wards because they don’t want Maori councillors. They do it because they intuitively understand that democracy is supposed to be colour-blind, and that candidates should get elected on the basis of merit rather skin colour. Voters get that, even if the Year Zero cultists in the government don’t. Karl du Fresne

It’s unclear whether, following this flip-flop, Speaker Mallard will now acquire the nickname of ‘The Jandal’. – James Elliott

While an MP bridles against neckties, voters who oppose Maori wards are being told to get knotted – Point of Order

I made a great choice when I got married. You’re very lucky if you get that one right. –Sir Eion Edgar

We spent a lot of time bringing up our children, and they’ve turned out well because we put the time and effort into them. – Sir Eion Edgar

Plunket was hectoring, abrasive, shallow, belligerent and generally obnoxious. In other words exactly what you want in a populist talkback jock pandering to a certain market segment. He is a cultural warrior on the side of the deplorables.

Talkback is not a counselling session where every caller is taught to be reasonable and sensitive. It is not a barber shop or a hairdressing salon where the attendant listens politely and asks a few friendly questions. I imagine that most callers are ill-informed cranks who a talkback host must tolerate and perhaps egg on in the hope the next caller has a coherent view, but clearly a lot of people do enjoy it. –  Martin van Beynen

Like a lot of people, I’m struggling with the rapid change in the new moral and political climate. The silencing of Plunket suggests mainstream broadcasters are so concerned about toeing the politically correct line that someone who echoes a sceptical and possibly prejudiced public cannot be tolerated. This appears to be on the basis that if we get rid of everyone who disagrees with current trends, the audience will just go away and reform. – Martin van Beynen

Sometimes media organisations just have to tell advertisers to get lost in the interests of higher principles like the value of the fourth estate and free speech. – Martin van Beynen

We need to remember we are not a powder keg nation. An off remark will not set off riots in the streets and see shops burnt down. We can take it and should not expect all debate to be sensitive, respectful and totally reasonable. Surely we are not so fragile that a controversial talkback host who challenges the new orthodoxy, even if he is a reactionary, cannot be tolerated. – Martin van Beynen

The beautiful thing about Valentine’s Day is that unlike a lot of other more prescriptive annual celebrations, it’s incredibly flexible. While films and advertisers might have told us otherwise, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day for dramatic grand gestures featuring diamond bracelets and white tablecloth dinners. It’s a lot more enjoyable if you instead set it aside as a day for sweetness and tenderness. It’s about “e iti noa ana nā te aroha” – a small thing given with love.Charlotte Muru-Lanning

It certainly has its faults, but amid the routine of everyday life, Valentine’s Day is a much-needed reminder to celebrate the sweet things that make your heart flutter. Just like any relationship, it’s worth loving, in spite of its faults. – Charlotte Muru-Lanning

 It is entirely reasonable to aspire for personal responsibility while acknowledging that compassion will always be required – and that sometimes this has to take the form of government intervention.Monique Poirier

If we aspire to live in a society where reliance on the state is all but non-existent, we have to break the cycle of poverty. If parents are unable or unwilling to do this, it cannot be left up to the children to do it themselves. – Monique Poirier

The government is quite happy to throw $55m at the media, rush constitutional law changes through urgency, debate supplements, and snipe at the opposition. But child poverty? All we hear is some statistics on supposed measures improving, while conveniently forgetting to mention that the very one that matters – material deprivation – is not. – Monique Poirier

What is the answer? I don’t know. What I do know, however, is this shouldn’t be a partisan monopoly for the left. It is nothing short of reprehensible that New Zealand still has so many children living in poverty, and our politicians and leaders should be ashamed.  – Monique Poirier

Every serious moral philosophy, every decent legal system and every ethical organization cares deeply about intention.  It is the difference between murder and manslaughter. It is an aggravating or extenuating factor in judicial settings. It is a cardinal consideration in pardons (or at least it was until Donald Trump got in on the act). It’s an elementary aspect of parenting, friendship, courtship and marriage. A hallmark of injustice is indifference to intention. Most of what is cruel, intolerant, stupid and misjudged in life stems from that indifference.Bret Stephens

Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.  Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.

That ought to go in journalism as much as, if not more than, in any other profession. What is it that journalists do, except try to perceive intent, examine motive, furnish context, explore nuance, explain varying shades of meaning, forgive fallibility, make allowances for irony and humor, slow the rush to judgment (and therefore outrage), and preserve vital intellectual distinctions?

Journalism as a humanistic enterprise — as opposed to hack work or propaganda — does these things in order to teach both its practitioners and consumers to be thoughtful. There is an elementary difference between citing a word for the purpose of knowledge and understanding and using the same word for the purpose of insult and harm. Lose this distinction, and you also lose the ability to understand the things you are supposed to be educated to oppose. – Bret Stephens

A journalism that turns words into totems — and totems into fears — is an impediment to clear thinking and proper understanding. So too is a journalism that attempts to proscribe entire fields of expression. “Racist language” is not just about a single infamous word. It’s a broad, changing, contestable category.Bret Stephens

We are living in a period of competing moral certitudes, of people who are awfully sure they’re right and fully prepared to be awful about it. Hence the culture of cancellations, firings, public humiliations and increasingly unforgiving judgments. The role of good journalism should be to lead us out of this dark defile. Last week, we went deeper into it.Bret Stephens

Climate change is a real, manmade problem. But its impacts are much lower than breathless climate reporting would suggest. The UN Climate Panel finds that if we do nothing, the total impact of climate in the 2070s will be equivalent to reducing incomes by 0.2-2 percent. Given that by then, each person is expected to be 363 percent as rich as today, climate change means we will “only” be 356 percent as rich. Not the end of the world.

Climate policies could end up hurting much more by dramatically cutting growth. For rich countries, lower growth means higher risks of protests and political breakdown. This isn’t surprising. If you live in a burgeoning economy, you know that you and your children will be much better off in the coming years. Hence, you are more forgiving of the present. If growth is almost absent, the world turns to a zero-sum experience. Better conditions for others likely mean worse conditions for you, resulting in a loss of social cohesion and trust in a worthwhile future. – Bjorn Lomborg

 If all the rich countries in the world were to cut their carbon emissions to zero tomorrow and for the rest of the century, the effort would make an almost unnoticeable reduction in temperatures by 2100. – Bjorn Lomborg

The last 30 years of climate policy have delivered high costs and rising emissions. The only reliable ways to cut emissions have been recessions and the COVID-19 lockdowns, both of which are unpalatable. Expecting nations to stop using cheap energy won’t succeed. We need innovation. – Bjorn Lomborg

We should spend tens of billions to innovate the price of green energy below fossil fuels. Spending trillions on enormous and premature emissions cuts is an unsustainable and ineffective First World approach. Bjorn Lomborg

Here, though, is the detail that haunts me. For every patient who dies from Covid-19 in hospital, from the moment they encounter that first masked paramedic, they will never see a human face again. Not one smile, nor pair of cheeks, nor lips, nor chin. Not a single human being without barricades of plastic. Sometimes, my stomach twists at the thought that to the patients whose faces I can never unsee – contorting and buckling with the effort of breathing – I am no more than a pair of eyes, a thin strip of flesh between mask and visor, a muffled voice that strains and cracks behind plastic.

Of all Covid’s cruelties, surely the greatest is this? That it cleaves us from each other at precisely those times when we need human contact the most. That it spreads through speech and touch – the very means through which we share our love, tenderness and basic humanity. That it transforms us unwittingly into vectors of fatality. And that those we love most – and with whom we are most intimate – are the ones we endanger above all others. –  Dr Rachel Clarke

 For however bleak the times, however grim our prospects seem, human kindness finds a shape and form: it will not be locked down. –  Dr Rachel Clarke

Any straight person who uses a pronoun is definitely tattooing themselves as one thing – a bit of a wanker. Any gay person using the same, yeah still. – Cactus Kate

Pigeon holing people into the LGBTQIA community for quirks in their behaviour or preferences that are not stereotypical to society, is something social engineers have been trying to do to swell the numbers in those minority communities.  Not only is it an insult to people who genuinely belong to those communities, it is in itself creating the sort of division and anxiety the engineers are claiming to now use six figure government department jobs to remove. Do not be a wanker. Refuse to become a pronoun.  – Cactus Kate

My working hypothesis has been that MoH is just a wall of “Computer Says No” because the whole system’s held together with bailer wire and they know they can’t trust themselves to try to adjust anything. But some moves reduce the riskiness of the whole shambles. Daily testing in MIQ makes the whole thing less risky. – Eric Crampton

We do not have to inhabit a fantastical dystopian universe to imagine that one day, not so far away, Amazon will be pressured by customers or staff to eradicate Rowling’s spawn for the greater good. We can only hope that these platforms eschew the snivelling self-abasement that we have seen recently and uphold individual autonomy, but an oxymoronic Union of Individualists may have to join forces with brave small independent distributors to defeat the moronic mob. – Juliet Moses

The whole point of our parliamentary democracy is that the actions of Government and the policies of government and the statements of government are scrutinised, and the reason they’re scrutinised is because without scrutiny, governments can do what they like. Chris Bishop

The UK is not New Zealand. So everybody says ‘ah, New Zealand, New Zealand, it’s all terrific’, but as I’ve pointed out before on the media, they’ve got quite a lot of sheep in New Zealand, and they are a million miles from anywhere and it’s a lot easier if you want to put up border controls for New Zealand than it is here. – Professor Sir John Bell 

Publishers must realise they rely on readership and advertising. Treat these two groups with respect by giving them news and a platform for their views and they will succeed.Nick Smith

However, given that Tauwhiro means to tend or care for as a verb in Māori, or social worker if it’s a noun, putting the fear of God into gangstas is probably not what this police initiative is about. Bloody hell. Give me a Strike Force Raptor any day over an Operation Tend and Nurture when it comes to the gangs. . . The Government will proclaim it a huge success and the Police Commissioner will praise his task force. And during that six months, the gangs will have survived and thrived and laughed all the way to the bank. You want to try being kind with the new breed of gang members? Let’s just see how that works out, shall we? – Kerre McIvor

More generally, RNZ’s “product” reflects the network’s reckless abandonment of the middle way. The sensible notion that, as a public broadcaster, RNZ should do its best to reflect the public, has been set aside, and in its place a regime of extreme cultural didacticism has arisen. National Radio is no longer a station where the broadest possible range of New Zealanders’ ideas and opinions is broadcast for their fellow citizens to hear and judge. The views of those who remain unconvinced by the new orthodoxies of identity politics have been rigorously filtered out, and those espousing them “de-platformed” with extreme prejudice.- Chris Trotter

Breathlessly inoffensive, punctiliously politically correct, “The Panel” has made the penitential journey from seditious to soporific – and kept on going. – Chris Trotter

Not every New Zealander born between 1966 and 1986 subscribes to the extreme “wokeism” that is currently masquerading as the default ideology of RNZ’s listeners. Most of them would, however, be glad to hear its contentious propositions debated.Chris Trotter

An RNZ which refuses to acknowledge the full diversity of belief and aspiration in New Zealand runs a terrible risk. When the mood of the nation inevitably shifts, the worst possible position in which the public broadcaster could find itself is so far out on an ideological limb that its enemies feel completely safe in sawing off the branch altogether. An RNZ so bereft of friends and allies that no effective defence is any longer possible. There is a very good reason why the public broadcaster should do everything within its power to be the citizens’ friend and comforter. It’s so those same citizens will always have a reason to be the friends and comforters of public broadcasting – when its enemies come a-calling. – Chris Trotter

The utterly disgraceful reality is that local governments have conspired to drive up housing costs to absurd levels – among the highest in the English-speaking world relative to incomes – by tightly constraining the availability of land (in a country among the least populated in the world) and by imposing long and expensive delays on the construction of houses. Damien Grant

Nobody should take Jacinda seriously when she says she is concerned about child poverty. Until she is willing to face the reality that child poverty is going to continue to get worse as long as house prices continue to rise faster than incomes, she’s crying crocodile tears. – Damien Grant

The costs of confusing public health messaging are suffered more by some groups than by others, but this can all too easily be forgotten by progressive elites in the rush to signal inclusiveness. . . The elaborate dance involved in avoiding using words such as “mother” and “breast” offers those at the cutting edge of political discourse the opportunity to demonstrate their status at no cost to themselves. That does not, however, mean there is no cost to be borne by anyone else. – Louise Perry

The public’s best interest lies in full transparency and two extra weeks to digest the commission’s work and make thoughtful submissions. The hurdles are only manufactured deadlines on the road to an objective some 30 years hence. – Kate MacNamara

The most offensive use of urgency is when it is done for political convenience.Nick Smith

How could anyone of his intelligence fail to realise that, though as ever there was much wrong with the world, attempts to put everything right at once by the implementation of petty intellectual schemes are fraught with danger, and have a history of mass slaughter behind them?- Theodore Dalrymple

No transgression of sensitivities is so trivial that it will not invite a moralizing rebuke on social media. No cultural tradition is so innocuous that it needn’t be protected from the slightest criticism, at least if the critic has the wrong ethnic pedigree. – Bret Stephens

But in the humorless world of Woke, the satire is never funny, the statute of limitations never expires. . . In the game of Woke, the goal posts can be moved at any moment, the penalties will apply retroactively and claims of fairness will always lose out to the perpetual right to claim offense.  Bret Stephens

Since the 1990s, there is now about 36% less land farmed for sheep and beef. Yet the sector is in a very strong position and remains one of the fundamental engines that drive our economy. – Rob Davison

Whoever controls the dissemination of information controls the culture. And whoever controls culture controls thought. This was true in Nazi Germany, it was true during my childhood in Catholic-nationalist Ireland, it was true in communist-controlled eastern Europe, and it’s true now in the public sphere dominated by the left-wing woke ideologues of Big Tech. The problem will get worse before it gets better. – Declan Mansfield

We live in a postmodern world where truth is conditional on holding the right opinions, which are, conveniently, the beliefs of the most educated generation in history – at least in relation to computers and social media – and the most uneducated in, literally, everything else. They know nothing except what they are feeling, and they’ve been told what to feel, which is that someone evil or something intangible is responsible for the ills of the world – or, in a new iteration of an old rhetorical fallacy, that their anxiety or the ache in their toe is the reason why free speech should be curtailed. It’s solipsism, narcissism and anti-reason manifesting on a global scale. And it’s all done with smiley emojis, conspicuous compassion, virtue signalling and socially sanctioned empathy.

The name of this intellectual disease is wokeness, or identity politics, and it is an assault on logic, common sense, kindness and decency. It’s also, most importantly, a philosophy with no notion of forgiveness. Once you have sinned against its ever-changing tenets, you will be cast out of society. Ritual displays of contrition, repentance and obsequiousness will have no effect on your humiliation. Redemption is absent from the woke catechism. And, after destroying someone’s life, the modern-day Jacobins who champion this ideology congratulate each other, paradoxically, on their morality.Declan Mansfield

Every local authority is the servant of the people. The powers given to Local Government are to increase the local authority’s ability to serve all the people and to increase its capacity for such service. It is not, nor should it ever be about named selective service. – Gerry Eckhoff

Here in New Zealand some 57 years later our Government legislates that people are indeed to be judged but only by the colour of their skin. Sometimes we really do need to protect our country from our Government. – Gerry Eckhoff

You do not defend free speech by demanding it for yourself but by demanding it for others, especially when you reprehend the use to which they put it or what they say. Freedom to agree with yourself is no freedom at all and inevitably ends in tyranny.

But increasingly a tyranny of self-proclaimed virtue seems to be the aim of university-trained intellectuals who, in the name of their own beneficence, seek to silence those whose opinions they find objectionable. It is the very class that one might have supposed had most to fear from censorship, both legal and extra-legal, that most strongly advocates it. – Theodore Dalrymple

What seems to me clear is that central governments and the managers of lesser or subordinate institutions, such as the police and universities, increasingly think of themselves in the way that Stalin thought, or said that he thought, of writers: namely as the engineers of souls.

This they deem to be necessary because, left to themselves, people are inclined to think the wrong thoughts, and wrong thoughts are very dangerous, especially to those who invariably have the right thoughts.

Indeed, so dangerous are wrong ideas that their expression should either be criminalized or those who express them socially marginalized, preferably ostracized; but since prevention is better than cure, children, adolescents and young adults should be immunised against them by indoctrination. – Theodore Dalrymple

The simple act of self-compassion can lift a whole lot of stress and pressure off your shoulders. And it makes it easier to find compassion for others: to recognise they stuff up, get it wrong or aren’t as helpful as they should be. – Dougal Sutherland

In a high-trust, low-enforcement environment, which we’ve been working under, people must comply or we have to change the way we do things. The “Be Kind” mantra needs to become a “Be Responsible or You’ll Suffer the Consequences” edict. – Kerre McIvor

An organisation confident in its recommendations should not fear transparency about its modelling. – Oliver Hartwich

While the gas BBQ is becoming a distant memory, I for one, miss them. It is still BBQ weather after all, probably because the rest of the world hasn’t bothered to cut its emissions. – Steen Videbeck

The roughly $1080 paid to a full-time worker in South Auckland forced to stay home for 14 days leaves barely $100 in the bank after rent. – Jo Moir

Getting the country to play ball for the next six days and once again nip Covid in the bud is the biggest test the country’s faced in quite some time. – Jo Moir


Trampling democracy

22/02/2021

Fast forward to a future political cycle when National leads a government with Act’s support.

Neither party campaigned on radical changes to local government legislation but the government decides to make them under urgency.

It introduces a Bill that reinstates the right for residents to petition a council for a referendum on Maori wards and it goes further.

It adds a clause to allow people who own more than one property, a vote for every property whether or not they are in the same local authority area.

It then cuts the Select Committee process form its usual six months to six days and the time to lodge submissions from 20 days to just one.

Adding anti-democratic insult to authoritarian injury it advises groups it knows will support the move six days notice to prepare submissions for the Select Committee and alerts those it knows will oppose the Bill just one day before submissions are due.

Imagine the uproar that would ensue.

The Minister responsible would be pilloried by the media which would also give wide coverage to anyone who took issue with the Bill and the process.

Why then has there been hardly a ripple to the way Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is doing exactly this:

The Government’s parliamentary process on its Bill to allow Councils to have separate Māori Wards has been a sham, National’s Local Government spokesperson and Electoral Reform spokesperson Christopher Luxon and Dr Nick Smith say.

“Electoral law is important as it determines how we are governed, yet the Government is running a sham process and giving supporters an unfair advantage through the short Select Committee process,” Dr Smith says.

“Labour cut the normal Select Committee process from six months to six days and the time for submissions to be lodged from the normal 20 days to just one day,” Mr Luxon says.

“What’s more appalling is that Councils supporting the Bill were told on Friday February 5 of the Bill’s timeline, that the Select Committee process would be exceptionally short and to prepare to lodge their submissions by February 11.

“Giving those who support the Bill six days’ notice and those opposed just one day would be called insider trading in the business world.”

“To have read the submission on the Bill in the timetable set by the Government, I would have had to read three submissions every minute with no sleep for three days,” Dr Smith says.

“Further, the Labour Chair told the Committee there was insufficient time to consider any amendments to the Bill, raising the question as to why the Government bothered with a Select Committee.”

“Labour is making a mockery of Parliament with this Bill. New Zealanders deserve a better process on the laws that determine how we are governed,” Mr Luxon says. 

The Taxpayers’ Union says the process has been so badly screwed the Bill should be referred back to the Select Committee:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is condemning Local Government Minister Nanaia Muhata’s decision to give local councils supporting her Māori wards legislation advance notice of the short submission process.

This decision was revealed by National MP Dr Nick Smith during Question Time this week.

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The Minister gave her allies a five-day head start to prepare submissions on the Bill to entrench Maori wards. Meanwhile, members of the general public were given just one day’s notice to prepare for the disgracefully short two-day submission window.”

“The Minister knew perfectly well what she was doing. The decision to warn her mates before blindsiding the general public can only be read as a cynical attempt to manipulate the consultation process and limit the contributions of New Zealanders opposed to the Bill.”

“The Taxpayers’ Union has 60,000 subscribed supporters, thousands of whom would have likely produced personalised submissions on the legislation, had they been given the time. Instead, these voices were effectively silenced while the Bill’s allies were able to spend six days writing screeds for the select committee.”

“If a National Government did a favour like this for corporate special interests, Labour would rightly be up in arms.”

“This is a complete betrayal of the promise of open and transparent government. It shows a complete disrespect for not just the public, but Parliament as an institution. It undermines trust in the Select Committee process and justifies the Speaker stepping in so that public submissions are reopened.”

Local body elections are nearly two years away. There is plenty of time to go through the proper process of consultation.

That her government has a majority is even more reason to follow correct processes.

By using urgency, truncating the submission process and giving her allies nearly a week more to prepare than the Bill’s opponents, the Minister is trampling all over democracy and opening herself, and her government, up to accusations of acting like a dictatorship.

 


Govt hasn’t learned

04/06/2020

The government hasn’t learned from mistakes it made in deciding which businesses could operate at alert level 4:

Dozens of marine engineering jobs in Nelson are at risk over a Government policy to refuse entry to ships during the Covid-19 pandemic, delivering a hammer blow to the international repair and refit industry.

Aimex Service Group managing director Steve Sullivan said about 40 jobs were under threat at the Port Nelson-based company he founded in 2009.

“Forty per cent of our revenue comes from the international refit business,” Sullivan said. “It’s all under threat.”

Two major contracts were cancelled just before the alert level 4 lockdown, leading to a loss of about $4 million to the wider Nelson economy, Sullivan said.

“We … will have to put more people out of work if the policy does not change,” Sullivan said, referring to the 40 jobs at risk.

Both he and Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith urged the Government to lift the blanket ban and consider the entry of each ship on a case-by-case basis.

The catalyst for prompting Sullivan to speak out publicly was the Government refusal to allow entry to the Captain Vincent Gann, a tuna boat now at sea in the eastern Pacific and in need of urgent repair.

A fault with the Captain Vincent Gann’s reduction gear that provides propulsion meant it was able to travel at half its usual speed only. It was also at risk of further damage. The repair work was expected to take about six weeks and would deliver about $600,000 to the wider Nelson economy – $400,000 to Aimex and $200,000 to associated businesses.

The Captain Vincent Gann’s last port of call was American Samoa, which had no reported cases of Covid-19 and had closed its borders in late March.

TNL International shipping agent John Lowden said the American-owned Captain Vincent Gann had been fishing out of Pago Pago for the past 18 months.

“The crew has been at sea since … 15th May and by the time it gets down here, they would have been at sea for a month,” Lowden said. “They don’t pose any threat at all.”

Sullivan said the crew members could easily be tested for Covid-19 and were prepared to be quarantined on arrival, if necessary. . . 

This exchange in parliament yesterday gives no hope that common sense will prevail:

 Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Customs: Does she agree with the statement by Steve Sullivan from Nelson’s marine engineering company AIMEX that “The Government’s policy to refuse entry of vessels for engineering and maintenance work is costing jobs and millions of dollars in work”, and does she stand by her department’s decision to refuse entry to the fishing vessel the Captain Vincent Gann?

Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister of Customs): I do stand by Customs’ decision to give effect to immigration rules. This Government’s position has continued to be that the best economic response is a strong public health response. While I appreciate this is an incredibly difficult time for many businesses in New Zealand, our Government has made unprecedented support available for businesses like AIMEX. I encourage them to take up any and all support that they are eligible for from the Government during this unprecedented time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister saying it’s better for New Zealand for companies like AIMEX to take a wage subsidy rather than actually letting them do the work that earns the company and the country income.

Hon JENNY SALESA: The question is mainly about whether or not we allow a fishing vessel like this to come through. The decision made by the Government has not been to open up our border. We are 12 days into having zero COVID-19 cases, with only one active case. In terms of foreign ships, on 26 May a foreign fishing boat emerged as one of the points of transmission where a foreign-flagged, foreign-crewed vessel with 29 members of its crew being COVID-19 positive was heading towards the Pacific. A vaccine is not yet available for COVID-19, so the fact is that we are focused on saving lives and focused on public health. We are now looking at the recovery of our economy, but I stand by our Government and our response.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Why did she state yesterday in this House that the Customs refusal to allow entry of the Capt. Vincent Gann from American Samoa to New Zealand was based on advice of the ministry and Director-General of Health, when her department has admitted it never sought any advice from the Ministry of Health or the director-general on that vessel from American Samoa. . . 

Hon JENNY SALESA: The question that the honourable member asked me yesterday was whether I stand by Customs’ policies and actions—a very general question. Then he followed up with the question about this particular vessel. Had he put down a specific question like that, I would have been able to answer in specific ways.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does she accept that the COVID-19 risks for the fishing crew from American Samoa are far less than from the film crew that’s been allowed in by the Government from California, when American Samoa has had zero cases and zero deaths, and California has had 115,000 cases and 4,200 deaths?

Hon JENNY SALESA: I reiterate that this particular ship was a foreign-flagged, foreign-crewed ship. They were not all Americans or American Samoans on that particular ship. Customs enforces the rules and laws that Parliament and Cabinet set. The exemptions for visas are by the Minister of Immigration and the exemptions for jobs are by the Minister for Economic Development. The honourable member who has been a member for many, many decades—more than me—should know if he was to put down this kind of question who the right Minister is to ask about these sorts of issues. . . 

The government’s insistence on its own arbitrary and inconsistent definition of essential during the alert level 4 cost more jobs and did much more damage to the economy than had any business that could operate safely been permitted to do so.

Its refusal to let this boat when the crew has been isolated at sea for more than two weeks, are prepared to be tested and if necessary quarantined, shows it hasn’t learned from that.

There are plenty of other examples of the immigration lottery:

The Avatar film crew has been allowed in but there’s still no certainty over whether America’s Cup crews will be.

Dairy farmers are desperate for migrant staff to return:

. . . Ryan Baricuatro has worked on McFarlane’s 550-cow family farm near Carew, west of Ashburton, for seven years.

In early March, with no cows on the farm following the cull and Baricuatro’s wife due to have a baby in the Philippines, McFarlane encouraged him take some leave and return to his home country.

“We didn’t expect him to be gone for two months and not knowing when he’ll be back is tough,” McFarlane said.

“With his knowledge of the farm and the way we operate, he’ll be integral to getting us back and running after Mycoplasma bovis and at calving. He’s virtually irreplaceable for us, we’re desperate to get him back.” . . 

Geraldine farmer Tom Hargreaves shares McFarlane’s concerns.

Last May, his sheep and beef farming family bought the property next door and hired two staff, including Uruguayan Patricia Grilli, to run a 420-cow dairy operation.

After a successful first season on the farm, Grilli took time off to return to Uruguay for her father’s surprise birthday celebrations. . . 

Despite their best efforts, including providing Grilli with a letter from her employer and a lawyer, she was turned away by customs officials at the airport in Uruguay.

That’s left Hargreaves worried and his team stretched thin to cover Grilli’s role through winter.

“We don’t really know what’s happening. Nothing has been shown to us, so we’re really in the dark and getting more and more nervous,” he said.

“The dairy farm should start up from August 1, but we really needed her over winter as well. Our dairy farm manager didn’t have a day off and the sheep and beef guys would help out but only he and Patricia know the milking shed.” . . 

As of Wednesday, DairyNZ was aware of at least 40 skilled workers who had taken ill-timed holidays and are now unable to get back into New Zealand. 

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle agreed it could become a human and animal welfare issue if dairy farms were understaffed or had staff with the wrong skill-sets come calving.

As well as the workers stuck offshore, the industry was facing a much bigger problem if lower skilled workers already in the country couldn’t get their visa extended, he said. . . 

It’s not just workers who can’t get in.

Schools and universities could be attracting foreign fee-paying pupils and students from the northern hemisphere to start study in July but they too have yet to gain permission for entry.

Eric Crampton discussed why getting safe entry at the border matters:

The government seems to have everything backwards currently. It results in horrible inequities and the usual amounts of muppetry because they’re starting at the thing from the wrong end.

Right now, if you want to enter New Zealand and you’re not a returning resident or citizen, you have to convince the Minister that you’re important enough to be let in. That kind of regime was hard to avoid during the worst part of lockdown because you also needed exemptions from piles of other mobility restrictions if you were coming in as an essential worker to fix Wellington’s sewer pipes. But it’s got things the wrong way around now that lockdown is over. Instead, the principle should be that if you can enter safely, you’re allowed in – with no sign off from the Minister unless that were somehow already required for whatever visa you’d be coming in on.

Starting from the economic necessity of getting particular people in has the government picking winners – it’s the aristocracy of pull all over again. James Cameron has pull; some poor guy whose pregnant wife is here in New Zealand while he’s in Australia doesn’t. Because being allowed in is a function of their having the Seal Of Approval, safety gets less consideration than it should. Tom Hunt’s story from yesterday of quarantine-bound Avatar film crews mingling in hotel reception with regular guests – that kind of muppetry absolutely cannot be allowed to happen. And maybe it didn’t – the story relied on a non-quarantined guest’s reckon that the crowd she went through at reception was that film crew. But it is the kind of thing that’s more likely to happen if the guiding principle is “Movies are important and Avatar Sequels about that main Avatar and the other Avatar – that’s what matters and it matters so much that we’ll pay them tons of money to make those movies here”

You need to flip it.

If people can come in safely, they should be allowed in. . . 

The government was too slow to close the borders before the lockdown and too slow to insist on quarantine for anyone who came in.

Now it’s gone to the opposite extreme with arbitrary and inconsistent exemptions instead of working on the safety principle.

There would be a slight risk of someone bringing Covid-19 with them but providing everyone who comes in was required to quarantine at their own expense, the risk and cost would be minimal when compared with the benefits of businesses and jobs saved.

It would also give us some hope that it was able, and willing, to learn from its mistakes.


Govt playing fast and loose with referendum process

13/11/2019

The government is taking power from parliament with its approach to next year referendum process:

The Government’s Referendum Bill which was reported back to Parliament last night from the Justice Select Committee is unfair and undemocratic, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The Government is playing fast and loose with referendum at next year’s election. It is manipulating the rules to satisfy NZ First and the Greens and to get the referendum result it wants.

Why bother with the expense of a referendum if the government’s ensuring the result before we vote?

“It is wrong that this Referendum Bill transfers the decision on the topics and wording of referendum at next year’s election from Parliament to Cabinet. Every previous referendum since 1853 held at a general election has been determined by Parliament.

The Government’s justification for this change that ‘Parliament cannot be trusted’ is deeply concerning.

Many might agree that parliament isn’t to be trusted but that lack of trust will extend as much, possibly more,  to Cabinet.

At least if parliament determines the process, it does so in public and not behind closed doors as Cabinet will.

“The Government’s own officials said the Bill is contrary to ‘free and fair elections’. While former MP Peter Dunne has described the bill as ‘Putin-esque’ and ‘reminiscent of the plebiscite approach adopted in countries where democracy in any form is but the thinnest of veneers.’

“It is inconsistent for the Government to be supporting a referendum on euthanasia but not on abortion, when both are sensitive life and death issues at the beginning and end of life. It is also inconsistent that Parliament is having a say on the topic and wording on the euthanasia referendum, but being excluded from any input on the referendum for recreational cannabis.

The hypocrisy of the Referendum Bill is that it only applies to the 2020 Election. This is the Government writing the election’s rules to suit itself but not wanting any future Government to have these new powers.

If the government can’t trust future government’s with these powers, we can’t trust this one with them.

“It is also inappropriate for the Government to be setting up a new unit in the Ministry of Justice to manage and monitor the public debate on these referendum. The Government has a clear preference of outcome on these referendum and any controls on free speech need to be completely independent such as the Electoral Commission.

National wants a consistent and principled approach. We need to respect our democratic traditions. The topics and wording of questions for referendum at General Elections needs to be subject to a proper public and parliamentary process.”

The government’s inconsistent and unprincipled approach to the process is an affront to democracy and undermines the integrity of referendums.

It’s bad enough that the government wouldn’t leave the decision on these issues to MPs who ought to have been fully informed on all sides of the debate.

That it is now undermining the process and potentially biasing the question and therefore pre-determining  makes it even worse.


Quotes of the year

31/12/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It feels like a Dear Winston moment really – Mike Jaspers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


All power no trust

17/08/2018

How has New Zealand First got away with a $300,000 gagging contract for its MPs?

Revelations that Government MPs are required to sign a legally enforceable contract meaning they must pay $300,000 if they do not follow their Leader’s instruction is an affront to our parliamentary democracy, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The 2016 amendment to NZ First’s constitution states its MPs must pay damages of $300,000 if they personally disagree with Winston Peters, turning them into indentured workers with an extraordinary price tag hanging over their heads.

“It means every time an NZ First MP votes or comments on an issue, they have 300,000 reasons why they should just parrot Winston Peters and not to speak out even if doing so would be in the public’s best interests.

“This is abhorrent. These types of contracts are illegal in other workplaces and would be unconstitutional in most democratic countries, so why are they at the core of our current Government? They turn elected representatives into puppets of a party leader who is now attempting to impose the same restrictions on free speech on Parliament’s other MPs, in spite of universal opposition to the Waka Jumping Bill.

“It is a sad commentary on the NZ First Party and Mr Peters that such draconian contracts are required to maintain caucus discipline – and now to keep the Government together.

“It also contradicts Mr Peters’ previous hollow position that MPs ‘have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party’.

“The contracts were revealed after I was contacted by a concerned NZ First source who advised that all NZ First MPs had signed them except Mr Peters.

“NZ First must publicly release the full details of these contracts, outlined in article 57 (h) of its constitution, so the public can see the restrictions imposed on its elected MPs. This is even more important with NZ First playing such a pivotal role in the current Government.

“Disclosure is also required to be consistent with the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, a claim looking increasingly ridiculous when even the Minister responsible for Mr Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill, Andrew Little, had no idea about the clause.

“That’s despite his legislation increasing the legal weight given to party rules and his acknowledgement that MPs should be able to do their job with being subjected to such restrictions.

“New Zealand needs MPs who are not bound by orders or instructions but whose responsibility is to act as representatives of the people.

“The existence of these contracts opens the question as to whether New Zealand needs additional protection to prevent its parliamentary democracy from being manipulated by these sorts of oppressive contracts.”

NZ First leader WInston’s Peters response that no one is entitled to . . . just walk off without any regard to the proportionality of the vote at election time is another example of his double standards.

When he won the Northland seat from National a couple of years ago, NZ First got another list MP leaving parliament with one fewer National MP and one more NZ First one than voters delivered at the election.

But such sauce for the goose not the gander is standard behavior for him as is the attempt to control his MPs with a contract.

It shows again that he has all the power in his party but no trust in his MPs.

It also shows a gap in electoral law that allows the acceptance of a party’s constitution with a gagging clause.

 


Not a single supportive submission

04/05/2018

Quelle surprise – the Justice and electoral Select Committee has not had a single submission in support of the waka jumping Bill:

The Ardern-Peters Government should withdraw its Bill that enables party leaders to dismiss an MP from Parliament following unanimous opposition to it, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“All three governing parties appeared shocked by the strength of the 43 submissions in opposition to the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill.

“We have had over 20 constitutional law experts from four universities, the Human Rights Commission, the Law Society, two former Speakers, former Green MPs and even the Clerk of the House of Representatives express strong concerns about it.

“There was not a single submission that supported the Bill’s purpose to allow a party leader to dismiss an elected constituency MP, and only two supporting the provision for list MPs.

“The major objection from submitters is that it increases the power of party leaders at the expense of MPs and voters, that it will have a chilling effect on the free speech of MPs in Parliament, and that it breaches the Bill of Rights.

MPs are selected by their parties but elected by the public.

A party can expel an MP from its party but it does not, and should not, have the right to expel one from parliament. That is the voters’ right.

“Other concerns include the effect of undermining the requirement for governments to retain the confidence of the House, the damage it will do to New Zealand’s reputation on democracy and human rights, and preventing the evolution of new political parties.

“This Bill has become an early test to as whether the Coaliton Government takes the parliamentary and select committee process seriously.

“It would be breathtakingly arrogant for the Government to pass legislation – particularly on constitutional and electoral matters against this unanimous chorus of submissions opposing it.

“The fundamental problem with this Bill is that it has never been about improving our Parliament democracy but about propping up this fragile government.

“We must not undo centuries-old democratic principles for the vain ambition of Mr Peters to have absolute power over his New Zealand First MPs. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Dr Smith says.

The Labour Party was forced to swallow this particular rat last time it needed Winston Peters’ support to stay in government, having done it once it might not find it quite so hard to swallow it again.

But this must be a very difficult rat for the Green Party to digest when it argued against it so strongly the first time and its MPs will know how strongly its members, including former co-leader  Jeanette Fitzsimons  argued so strongly against it:

It breaches the Bill of Rights. It denies freedom of speech and association. It is contrary to international and NZ precedent. It is opposed by an impressive array of senior legal, constitutional and political experts. The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill – or “waka-jumping bill” as it is better known – is unnecessary to address any real problem.

Integrity cannot be legislated for. It is a matter of conscience and judgement. In some cases leaving one’s party is an act of integrity – as when the party has departed from the policies it took to the election, or has abused proper process. In other cases, it may be just self-serving political expediency. Normally the law has the sense not to intervene here. Personal judgements will differ on whether an action is carried out with integrity and only the voters can be the judge of that. In our system of three-year terms, they don’t have to wait long for the opportunity and in the past they have exercised it, generally returning members who changed their allegiance on well founded principle, and getting rid of the opportunists.

Dissent is a valuable part of the political process. Without it, MPs are just clones of their leader. Having dealt with it as co-leader of the Green Party caucus at times, between 1999 and 2009, I know uncomfortable it can be but the remedy is inclusiveness and listening and wide discussion, not shutting down the political process. . . 

David Farrar was among those who also made a well reasoned submission strongly opposing the Bill:

 . . . Outside the two major parties, every new party in Parliament under MMP (bar ACT) has got here through current MPs defecting. This bill will protect incumbent parties and prevent that natural evolution of new parties.

The history of New Zealand is you can’t just lump every MP who leaves a party in together. For every Alamein Kopu you have a John A Lee. For every NZ Independent Coalition party you have the New Labour Party.

Parties have splits. MPs fall out. There are disagreements on policies. This is part of politics. And the NZ public have proven very able at sorting it all out at general elections. Our democracy will not be well served by a law that gives party leaders and their caucuses a power previously reserved for voters, to remove an MP from Parliament.

The Green Party has always prided itself on its integrity. This is a big test for that claim and one which it looks like, contrary to its principles and the strong feelings of its members, it is about to fail.

This is not, as the Bill’s name would have us believe about integrity.

It is the very opposite.

It is about nothing more than Winston Peters’ fear at least one of his caucus will tire of asking how high? every time he says jump.


10 major changes to RMA proposed

22/01/2015

The government will be including 10 major changes to the Resource Management Act in the second stage of reforms:

Overhauling the Resource Management Act (RMA) is critical to addressing housing supply and affordability, and maintaining the momentum of economic and job growth as well as better managing New Zealand’s environment, Dr Nick Smith said today in his 20th annual speech to Nelson Rotary.

“The Resource Management Act has produced over 80,000 pages of plans and rules across New Zealand’s 78 councils. This 10-metre mountain of red tape is holding back the development of new houses and jobs, and it is not performing well enough in managing key resources like freshwater,” Dr Smith says.

“The Government is planning the most significant overhaul of the Act since its inception 25 years ago. We want to modernise the purpose to make it more practical and relevant, standardise council plans and simplify the process for gaining consents.”

It shouldn’t be necessary for every council to have their own individual plans and rules for every aspect of resource management and planning. At least some of these could be standard across the whole country.

Dr Smith today also released an independent report by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research – commissioned by the Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – into the impacts of planning rules, regulations, uncertainty and delay in residential property development.

The report concludes that the RMA is adding an extra $30,000 to the cost of an apartment, an extra $15,000 to the cost of a home, and that it is reducing the capacity of housing development by 22 per cent.

“This report is consistent with the conclusions of the Productivity Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in highlighting the high administrative burden of our system of environmental regulations, but also adds new information by estimating the actual cost of its flaws. It indicates that over the last decade, the RMA has added $30 billion to the cost of building and reduced new housing stock by 40,000 homes,” Dr Smith says.

Dr Smith also cited practical examples in his speech of where the RMA had wasted health and education funding, and where councils were using the RMA to unnecessarily interfere in people’s lives.

“Our first phase of RMA reforms has made a positive difference in getting consents processed more quickly, including for major projects like the Waterview Connection in Auckland, but we have always made plain more substantive change was required,” Dr Smith says.

Dr Smith outlined ten major changes the Government would be including in its second phase of reforms in 2015:
• Add natural hazards
• Recognise urban planning
• Prioritise housing affordability
• Acknowledge importance of infrastructure
• Greater weight to property rights
• National planning templates
• Speed up plan-making
• Encouraging collaborative resolution
• Strengthening national tools
• Internet for simplicity and speed

“Today’s speech sets the direction for reform. We have a power of work ahead to do with officials, our support parties and Cabinet committees to finalise and draft the required Bill. Our ambition is to have the Bill before Parliament and through a full select committee process this year,” Dr Smith says.

“These reforms will be pragmatic and moderate. We want to reduce the mountain of plans and rules that make the RMA a barrier to new housing and jobs, but retain the core environmental controls that ensure we keep New Zealand special and such a great place to live.”

The proposed changes won’t discount the importance of the environment but will ensure that environmental, economic and social considerations are in balance.

The full speech is here. In it Dr smith says:

The big challenge in the environmental area is finding a path that better manages New Zealand’s water, air, oceans and native flora and fauna while
enabling our economy to grow and prosper. Key priorities this year will be passing a new Environment Reporting Act to give greater clarity to New
Zealand’s important clean, green brand. . . .

Environmental protection and enhancement and economic development aren’t mutually exclusive.

 . . . the most challenging of my jobs this year will be the reform of the Resource Management Act. The Act, in governing the use of water, land, air and the coast, and which is responsible for protecting heritage, native plants and animals is so wide-ranging that it has implications right across the economy and into almost every facet of life.

There is not a single official anywhere who understands this huge pile of RMA plans and rules. Even at a local level, only a few individuals working in council or in planning consultancy will fully understand how the rules work in their city or district. . .

If they don’t understand it how can anyone else?

  The OECD published in November a comparative study of its 34 member countries on the cost burden of environmental regulation. In most OECD reports New Zealand ranks very well as a good place to do business and create jobs. We ranked bottom when it came to the administrative burden of the Resource Management Act. I have no problem where there are costs to achieve good environmental outcomes. The OECD study actually showed that many countries had more stringent
environmental policies than New Zealand but a far lesser administrative burden.

A key difference of the New Zealand system of environmental regulation under the RMA is that we have a very fragmented system where there are
differing rules in every district and region, and secondly that we require consents for most activities when most other countries simply had national
standards that had to be met.

National standards would be far better for many activities.

Examples can be more powerful than national or international studies. I get inundated with hundreds of complaints from all corners of New Zealand and
from people from all walks of life with frustrations over their experience with the RMA.

My first example is the Stoke Medical Centre, a typical suburban GP clinic on Main Road Stoke, employing 15 full-time staff. Three years ago the practice
wanted to expand its staff and extend its permissible opening hours. This required a change to their resource consent which Council ruled under the Act
had to be notified. Six months and $57,000 of bills later the amended consent was granted with the requirement that they had to provide seven new bike
stands. And this cost excluded the time doctors and practice staff had spent on the process. The bike stands cost $35 each but the bureaucratic paper
associated with each meant they ended up costing over $8000 a stand. The tragedy of this case is that the $57,000 consent cost will ultimately come out
of the health budget and people’s GP charges in an area where there are many low income struggling families and retirees.

It is not just health dollars that are being wasted under the RMA. The resource consenting process for Nelson’s new Young Parents’ School
officially opened by the Prime Minister last year was a fiasco. The new school is smart social policy aimed at supporting teenage mums by enabling them to
continue their education, while also ensuring their pre -school children are engaged in education from an early age. The school is sited at Auckland
Point School where the roll is a lot less than the school’s capacity. The Principal and Board of Trustees fully supported the initiative being on their
school site.

The problem was that the school is designated under the RMA for “primary education” and the Young Parents School was about providing education for
secondary school age mums and early childhood education for their children. This meant under the RMA a change of designation, notification of neighbours
and a full Commissioner hearing at a direct cost of $64,000. There would have been no change out of $100,000 if you included the considerable staff
time of the Education Ministry, Kindergarten Association and school. This process also delayed the Young Parents School’s opening by more than a
year. More was spent on the RMA bureaucracy than on the facility for the specialist teachers, young mums and their babies.

The nonsense of this case is that the RMA is meant to be about protecting the environment and whether Auckland Point School has primary, pre-school or
secondary students, makes not a jot of difference. The early childhood regulations and building consent requirements are separate and ensure the facilities are safe and appropriate. More good would have been achieved for the environment had the $64,000 of cash been deposited in the school’s composting bins.

I could give hundreds of examples of the RMA wrecking Kiwi family dreams of building their own home. I choose this Nelson example because it illustrates how far council planners under the RMA are now intruding into people’s lives. A couple in their 60s bought a 630 square metre flat section in Sanctuary Drive in the Marsden Valley. Their architectural designer produced plans for their dream home that included an internal access garage in the front corner to minimise the portion of the section used for the driveway and located their living area so as to maximise the sun. The orientation was similar to 14 other homes in the subdivision. They were gobsmacked to have their consent application declined on the basis of a new RMA rule that had just come into
effect in late 2012. They were told they had to relocate the garage out the back and have their living area face the road. 

The RMA justification for rejecting the design was that the house failed to provide for a “positive private to public space relationship”. In plain language they wanted the living area to face the road so the residents would keep a safe eye on the street. The couple abandoned the section at a cost of many thousands of dollars. So much for a person’s home being their castle.

The RMA is being used to micro-manage building designs down to the extent of what direction people should look.

This sort of madness has been repeated in Auckland and had property magnate Bob Jones venting his spleen late last year. He owns a 17-storey CBD building and wanted to re-establish a ground-floor shop window that had been blocked off by a previous tenant. Not only did this minor work require a $4500 resource consent, but because it would have people looking out on a designated heritage site, the consent required a cultural impact statement and consultation with 13 iwi. This is all for permission to replace a window!

This isn’t only madness, it’s expensive, wasteful and the triumph of bureaucracy over common sense.

These and many other examples show why change is needed.

The Motu Economic and Public Policy Research report is here.

 


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