Quotes of the month

June 1, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Social Market Economy explained

May 2, 2020

The New Zealand Initiative’s Executive Director Oliver Hartwich presented to the Epidemic Response Committee on 23 April 2020, where he outlined his vision for New Zealand’s social, political and economic future.

Oliver recommended economist Ludwig Erhard’s principles-based approach to New Zealand, which Erhard called the “Social Market Economy.”

But what is a Social Market Economy? Our Research Intern Luke Redward explains all the details in this video.

Oliver Hartwich’s full speech to the Epidemic Response Committee is available here:


Quotes of the month

January 31, 2020

Work without hope is as bad as hope without work. We need both the shovel and the inspiration. –Nikki Verbeet

At heart, both the excessive respect and disrespect for Nature are the products of sentimentality, a sentimentality that leads to a failure to make proper distinctions. Both the excessively respectful and the disrespectful suppose that Nature has intentions toward us, good or evil as the case may be. Excessive respect supposes that Nature is so benevolent that nothing in it can harm Man, provided only that he is worshipful toward it; disrespect supposes that Man knows best and can perfect not only himself but the universe. Theodore Dalrymple

But, on the Left, casting our adversaries as stupid bigots strikes me as obviously misguided. Likewise, our tendency to lord it over others with a hyper-abundance of certainty in our superior virtue is obnoxious; our refusal to contemplate the possibility of good faith among those with whom we disagree, alienating. Liberal condescension, paired with an unforgiving approach to ideological purity, risks sending perfectly well-meaning people into the arms of our adversaries or to retreat from politics altogether. – Phil Quinn

So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god, and fuck off.Ricky Gervais

It’s easy to understand how expensive gift bags and millions of dollars would make anyone feel qualified to lecture other people on public policy, private morality, global warming, or the complex geopolitical issues in the Middle East. – Bridget Phetasy

We are cautious around the bereaved, as though pain is contagious, as though keeping a distance will make the loss smaller. Yet again, I find the opposite to be true – the nearness of things, the nearness of others, is really all that matters for now. We move from numbness to the littleness of the everyday, knowing that this is life going on, that no grand gestures are needed, that compassion is in a nod, a wave, a smile, all the gentle tokens. I count my blessings. Suzanne Moore

Freedom of opinion is a very good thing, but so is freedom from opinion—since a very high proportion of opinions, especially among publicly funded academic intellectuals, do not even rise to the value of drunken barroom talk. Oh for a world free from opinion!—or at least freer from opinion.

Alas, the social media have provided an echo chamber for cranks, monomaniacs, extremists, psychotics, enthusiasts of every stripe, the unheard whose prior muteness was their greatest virtue and highest quality, the echo chamber being the whole world. – Theodore Dalrymple

There are a range of ways that have always been used to hold people to account. We’ve now added these extra dimension where some people actually want the total destruction of that person.Russell Blackford

Nevertheless there’s been no wars between nations this century. The last was in the 1990s between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a disputed territory. Knowing each country I’d heavily back the Dannevirke rugby club against both their armies. – Sir Bob Jones

In other words: all knowledge has a hierarchy. Inversion of this hierarchy turns children who were ready to begin learning “into passive parrots able to recite – and unable to think.” Teaching conclusions about complex processes without the platform of knowledge to understand or assess how those conclusions were derived violates that hierarchy, rendering students able to repeat the propaganda those conclusions, but not able to understand how they were arrived at. They become simply Pavlovian puppets. Peter Cresswell 

There is an insidious crusade afoot aiming at controlling what the public sees, hears, thinks and believes. This project, which seeks hegemony in various Western cultures, is no less pervasive and thoroughgoing than previous attempts at thought control by totalitarian and theocratic regimes.

But since this campaign to control the narrative has no name, and does not promote an explicit ideology, its significance tends to be underestimated, even by those who oppose the many attempts to police language and thought. – Frank Furedi

The paradox is that while an increasing number of people reject the idea of the Christian God in favour of a range of secular belief systems, Christian values still underpin Western concepts of justice, freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It’s no coincidence that the world’s freest, fairest and most prosperous countries all have Christian roots.

Granted, Christian teaching has been twisted and corrupted for reasons that have little to do with God and a lot to do with human vanity, greed and the desire to exercise power and control. But although no longer a Christian myself, I don’t think we should discount the possibility that our God-fearing forebears recognised transcendental truths that we, the best-educated generations in human history, are too myopic or conceited to see. – Karl du Fresne

For those New Zealanders not lucky enough to earn a politician’s salary, a five dollar note represents a meal, or the bus fare for a job interview. That small sheet of polypropylene can be the difference between hunger and happiness, poverty and opportunity. – Louis Houlbrooke

If climate change alarmism is the new religion, then scepticism – or denialism, to use the more damning term favoured by climate-change activists – is the new heresy.

There’s a disturbing whiff of totalitarianism in the way this secular religion permits no dissent. If you believe that it’s dangerous in a democracy to allow one view to hold complete and unchallenged sway, denialism starts to look like an honourable stance, purely on principle.Karl du Fresne

Environmental problems are certainly real, but alarmists do a disservice to the cause of tackling those challenges when they use cataclysmic language to describe the near future. . . . Environmental challenges should be taken seriously. And just as with so many other problems humanity has faced, environmental problems should be solvable given the right technology and spreading prosperity. The world will still exist a dozen years from now. – Chelsea Follett

Americans wrongly think the rest of the world is hurting us with unfair trade practices, but New Zealand really is hurt badly by the unfair trade practices of others (which protect farmers in rich countries.) – Scott Sumner

Sir, Simon Pegg states that he and other well-paid people should pay more tax (Thunderer, Jan 23). Fine and dandy, but he should do it first. Whether in the US or the UK, it is possible to pay more than the legal minimum in tax. Both countries will send thank-you letters. When Pegg shows us his, perhaps we’ll listen to his calls. Until then, I’m not bothering. –Tim Worstall

Who cares about being accurate. The point of being a journalist is to tell people what to do. But after twenty years of propaganda the punters are still not getting the message, so Faye Flam (her real name) thinks it’s time to stop using “climate change” and switch back to “global warming”. Apparently a five year old Yale Study suggests that it’s more scary, and Flam has discovered it just in time to wring a bit more propaganda value out of the Australian fires. “Lucky”. eh? –  Jo Nova (Hat Tip Not PC)

To make housing affordable, we need to liberalise our planning regime, incentivise councils for housing development and, if privately, fund new infrastructure. If we don’t implement these reforms, Demographia’s future reports will continue to document our housing crisis. – Oliver Hartwich

I knew what I wanted and I knew that you’ve got to do a bit of work to get there. – Paul Whakatutu 

So is it time to write Peters off?  Peters has cleverly played up his part as Labour’s handbrake, just as he once pitched himself as a bulwark against National’s extremes.  It’s how he has survived so long in politics – even after the “baubles of office'” fiasco, or Owen Glenn donations scandal.

But you can only play one side against the other for so long and it feels like Peters has played one too many hands. – Tracy Watkins

Rapidly expanding welfare is Labour’s record. It flies in the face of all of the posturing on well-being. Hard metrics don’t lie. Entrenching dependence and sapping the will to work by surrendering on sanctions and failing to enforce work-test obligations is simply indefensible. Mike Yardley

There is something speech restrictions can do; in fact, it’s the only thing they can do. They can help you win political arguments by limiting the parameters of discussion. That’s assuming the argument is able to take place at all.

Speech restrictions aren’t a solution to racism. What they are is an expression of reactionary tribal politics, and a solution to dissenting thought.  – Dane Giraud

Capitalism is the best system for creating wealth we’ve been able to find in the last 300 to 400 years, and we should want to create wealth. But it has no regard for how that wealth is created, so for instance it can be created by children going up chimneys and working in factories. Nor does it care how wealth is distributed. So we’ve always known that there needs to be other systems that deal with those two issues. – David Kirk


Just when you think it can’t get worse

May 30, 2019

Treasury allowing Budget information to be found from a simple search on its own website was bad enough.

Calling it hacking and involving the police without properly investigating first was worse.

And just when the organisation ought to be showing it’s learned a lesson and taking extra care it does the opposite:

. . . 10:30am – In a major blunder, Treasury staff mistakenly handed out copies of the budget to journalists and political commentators.

Newshub’s Political Editor Tova O’Brien tweeted that she was given one of the top secret documents. When the recipients questioned whether they were supposed to see them before going into the lock-up, she says an official asked “Are you not Treasury?” before hurriedly taking the copies back. . . 

It’s a simple human error but given the lead-up it shouldn’t have happened.

So will heads roll?

Treasury bungled badly and Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Winston Peters made baseless accusations against Simon Bridges.

Will there be resignations or even apologies?

Don’t hold your breath.


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It feels like a Dear Winston moment really – Mike Jaspers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Word of the day

August 19, 2017

Subsidiarity – a principle of social doctrine, in the Roman Catholic Church,  that all social bodies exist for the sake of the individual so that what individuals are able to do, society should not take over, and what small societies can do, larger societies should not take over;  the principle of devolving decisions to the lowest practical level or closest to where they will have effect; the principle that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level that is consistent with their resolution; the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level.

Hat Tip: Oliver Hartwich


Disunited Kingdom

June 25, 2016

The United Kingdom is a disunited kingdom.

The UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union but two of the four countries which comprise it did not.

England and Wales voted to go, Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay.

This could prompt another move for Scottish independence and possibly a push to reunite Ireland.

The decision already has its casualties.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced he’ll stand down, saying he thought the ocuntry need fresh leadership and couldn’t captain the ship to its next destination,

Reports that Morgan Stanley would move 2000 jobs to Dublin of Frankfurt were later denied but both the pound and euro fell after the referendum result was announced.

The pound dropped below the crucial $1.40 mark amid fears that the UK would vote to leave the European Union. Sterling fell as much as 10% early on Friday, and is on track for its worst one-day fall in history. After trading at $1.3262, down nearly 9%, as of 5.27am BST, the currency recovered slightly to 1.3394 as of 6.05am BST.

The euro fell the most since it was introduced in 1999 while other currencies in Europe also took a hit, Bloomberg reported. . . 

The wheels of politics and bureaucracy grind very slowly so there will be no immediate changes but Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor sent an email to farmers saying:

  • The EU and UK are New Zealand’s most valuable sheepmeat markets and Brexit could have significant implications.
  • It is unclear right now exactly how this will play out as Prime Minister Cameron has not confirmed that he will act upon the results. There are three key issues we are focused on at present:
    • Ensuring that we maintain our overall quota access into the EU and UK as the UK renegotiates its access into the EU. This will take some time and we will be able to work with the NZ government and EU/UK governments to understand the process and ensure the best possible outcome for NZ sheep and beef farmers;
    • Understanding the impact of Brexit on the sheep and beef markets in the UK and EU. The EU currently takes 90 percent of the UK’s sheepmeat exports.
    • Other indirect impacts could be appreciation of the NZD against the EU and UK.

NZ quota access into the EU & UK

  • New Zealand currently has a quota of just under 228,000 tonnes of sheepmeat into the EU at zero duties. This represents over half of New Zealand’s total global sheepmeat exports. The UK currently takes half of our exports to the EU by value.
  • New Zealand also has a smaller quota of 1,300 tonnes of beef into the EU at an in-quota duty of 20%.
  • As the UK negotiates its exit from the EU over the next couple of years it will be negotiating how much of these quotas will be transferred solely to them and on what terms.
  • Under WTO rules, New Zealand’s overall levels of access to both the EU and UK will have to remain the same, but we will lose the flexibility to decide which of the two entities to send our exports to depending on demand from customers.

Potential impact on EU and UK Markets

  • There will also likely be disruption on UK and EU markets.
  • The UK exported 90 percent of its sheepmeat exports to the EU last year. It currently faces zero tariffs into the EU.
  • If it loses its preferential access into the EU then its domestic market will be oversupplied, further reducing demand for NZ product, but this could potentially improve our market into the EU. 

The process of Brexit as we understand it at present:

  • There will be no immediate change to any access conditions until the UK officially ‘exits’ the EU which will take around two years, if not longer.
  • The departing Member State must notify the European Council (the leaders of each Member State) that it has decided to leave, and after this the departing Member State and the remaining Member States must negotiate the terms of exit.
  • The terms of exit must be agreed between the departing Member State, and a qualified majority of the remaining Member States. A qualified majority means 55 percent of remaining Member States, representing 65 percent of the remaining EU population.
  • European Union membership will automatically cease two years after the departing Member State gave notice of withdrawal if no agreement is reached. However, if there is unanimous agreement from all Member States, the negotiation process can be extended.
  • Under the WTO rules, the UK and EU would be legally obliged to retain New Zealand preferential access conditions (quotas) for red meat, however how this would be achieved is a cause for concern for the sector.

Federated Farmers says New Zealand needs to milk Brexit for all it’s worth:

With Britain voting to exit the European Union today, Federated Farmers is urging diplomats and export companies to be quick off the block and first inline for meetings to push New Zealand’s agenda.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston said: “Britain leaving the EU will create a considerable degree of political and financial uncertainty but we must consider what new opportunities might be won. This could be a great opportunity to work with lamb producers in the UK to get better outcomes for both countries.

“We have a shared history with the UK and want to ensure this outcome works in both countries’ interests. We need to emphasis our common thinking and remind Britain we are an important ally.

“The key thing for farmers is assessing how this change will affect trade to Britain as well as Europe and what this means for our free trade negotiations.

“The vote suggests a significant threat against the trends of globalisation and trade liberalisation. New Zealand as a small open economy will be a loser if protectionism prevails.” Dr Rolleston said.

Currently New Zealand primary exports to Britain are at three percent and 11 percent to Europe. Farmers are in a very different position than we were when Britain entered the European Union 43 years ago; at that time 40 percent of our exports went to Britain. Before that in the 1950s over 80 percent of New Zealand exports went to Britain.

Charles Finny echoes the need to move quickly:

What has happened today is hugely significant for New Zealand.
The UK is still a major market for us the official stats of $1.651 billion is probably understated. Taking the UK numbers out of the EU total reduces our goods exports to the EU to $3.738 billion – $1 billion less than our exports to ASEAN.
Our FTA negotiation with the EU has just become hugely complicated.
And we have our quotas into the EU – hard fought for and then hard defended potentially up for re-negotiation.
I think markets are over reacting. Nothing will happen to trade flows overnight. Moreover we can do a FTA with the UK fast and help to negotiate access for the UK into Asia that will be superior to that the EU will. And I think the chances of a UK-US FTA is also higher than a TTIP being concluded.
I don’t think that the consequences for UK trade with the EU will be as negative as many have been suggesting. Even in a worst case scenario of no FTA type relationship there will be almost zero negative impact apart from in agriculture
I don’t think the negatives for NZ will be as big as some have suggested – so long as we move fast.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, writing before the result was known,  says we should keep calm and carry on:

. . .Such political uncertainties aside, there is no need to panic. Not even in case of Brexit. The slogan has to be ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

Even a Brexit vote would not mean that Britain is out of the EU straight away. It would only give the UK government the mandate to inform Brussels of their wish to withdraw. They would not have to do so immediately though. If Prime Minister Cameron had to go, he would most likely leave this task to his successor.

Negotiations would only begin once the EU is officially notified. Under Article 50 of the EU Treaty, these would take at least two years.

Over all this time, nothing would change. Britain would have access to European markets. And they could well retain it depending on the outcome of the negotiations.

So we will watch the count of the referendum with excitement. But let’s keep calm no matter what the result. There is no need to panic either way.

The referendum result will mean big changes for the UK and will almost certainly prompt change in the EU.

The UK’s entry to what was then called the European Common Market  caused a great deal of angst and difficulty for New Zealand because the UK bought so much of our produce.

Its exit shouldn’t be nearly so problematic because our trading eggs are in far more baskets.

Where there are big changes there are also opportunities.  New Zealand should make the most of them and continue to promote free trade and seek deals with individual countries and trading blocks.

 

 


Quote of the day

July 20, 2015

. . . What New Zealand needs is a departure from the way we finance our two tiers of government in a way that both of them are appropriately incentivised toward the goal of economic growth and development.

Imagine if both local and central government tax revenues reflected economic performance more directly.

Under such a system, we would see a different attitude of local communities to a range of activities from mining to housing.

It would provide a more balanced view to projects that at the moment would mainly be seen as a costly loss of amenity.

If Auckland could share in the increased income tax revenue that would flow to central government, Auckland could accommodate more people and this would better enable the council to finance the needed infrastructure. It would also make it easier for the council to make the case for residential development to the existing population because there would be something to be gained out of new development.

Such a system would also reduce the need for central government to intervene in local affairs. No longer would local government need to be pushed toward development because councils would be doing it out of self-interest. . . Dr Oliver Hartwich


Quote of the day

March 18, 2015

In self-proclaimed intellectual circles, it has long been fashionable to belittle the idea of economic growth. “GDP is not the same as happiness”, some critics of growth will explain. Others will warn that excessive growth could destroy the environment and leave our planet uninhabitable. Others still will warn that the finite nature of our resources does not allow continuous growth in any case.

This kind of critique has become a pastime of the chattering classes. It is now part of polite conversation in the better suburbs of developed world cities. To question the value of growth at dinner parties in air-conditioned or heated houses while sipping French champagne and eating Italian prosciutto presumably adds a sense of intellectual gravitas to one’s physical well-being. These people probably do not even realise the self-contradiction in condemning economic growth while enjoying its blessings.  . .

Economic growth is no silver bullet to all the world’s problems. But it comes close. There is overwhelming evidence that the unprecedented economic expansion humanity has experienced roughly over the past three centuries has been a great force for good. It has made our lives better in ways that would have been unimaginable to previous generations.

This should also be the response to the aforementioned critics of growth. At which stage in history do they believe we should have proclaimed the end of economic development? Certainly not in Plato’s time (4th century BC) since that would have prevented the invention of the canal lock (3rd century BC) and paper (2nd century BC). Development should not have stopped at the time the Gospels were written either since otherwise we would not even have invented the wheelbarrow (2nd century AD).

To move to more modern times, had economic development stopped when Ernst F. Schumacher suggested it should (Small is Beautiful was published in 1973), we would have never seen CD-ROMs, the Internet or the first vaccine for meningitis. And even if we had only stopped to grow and develop when Pope Francis told us to in November 2013, we would have never seen the first human clinical trials in the United States for a wearable artificial kidney – or the new iPhone 6.

Economic growth is the driver behind all of these developments because at its core, economic growth is not mainly about the production of more but about the discovery of better (though often it is both). Economic growth helps us to find new and improved ways of combining resources. The outcomes could be a new medicine, a faster way of travelling, a healthier way of eating or a better way of learning. . . Dr Oliver Hartwich

This is an extract from the New Zealand Initiative’s report The Case for Economic Growth by Eric Crampton and Jenesa Jeram.

 


NZ up 1 to 17th for global competitiveness

September 8, 2014

New Zealand has improved its rank on the Global Competitiveness Index and extended the lead over Australia, in the World Economic Forum’s annual survey.

The country is now ranked 17th on the Global Competitiveness Index, up one place from last year when it broke into the top 20 for the first time. This is New Zealand’s highest position to date, and represents an overall improvement of eight places since 2012.

In contrast, Australia’s highly restrictive labour markets continued to drag on the country’s competitiveness ranking, which slipped one place to 22 – well short of the 15th position it occupied in 2009.

A change of government here would reduce labour market flexibility, making it more risky and expensive to employ people.

The damage a Labour/Green/New Zealand First/ Internet mana government would inflict on the country can be seen by the damage the Australian Labor government did there.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative – which helped compile the survey data – said the continued improvement reflected the strength of the country’s institutions and regulatory settings, particularly in the education, health and labour sectors.

“The investments that this country has made over time into things like the rule of law, property rights and flexible labour markets are paying dividends now, and the results can be seen in our high rate of GDP growth,” he said.

Hartwich said the report emphasised the need to continue investing in the factors that contributed most to business competitiveness, and not to take the complacent attitude to economic reform seen in Australia over the past few years.

“This country has huge economic opportunities sitting right on our doorstep with the emergence of Asian economies such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia onto the world stage,” he said.

“If we want to grasp these opportunities and improve the lives of everyday New Zealanders, we need to not only double down on the areas where we are strong, but also focus on where we are weakest, such as the quality of our business networks and infrastructure investment.”

Hartwich said a number of other factors could also boost the country’s competitiveness, such as unpicking the restrictions of foreign direct investment, freeing up capital for investment by tackling the housing affordability crisis, and reducing bureaucratic red tape.

The annual Global Competitiveness Report is compiled from 111 indicators, categorised into 12 pillars of competitiveness in four main sub-indices: basic requirements, efficiency enhancers, and innovation and sophistication factors.

The next most competitive countries were Switzerland, Singapore, United States, Finland, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Sweden.

The full report is here.

Competiveness matters for the health of existing businesses and the jobs which depend on them and for attracting new ones.

 


More to gain from migrants

May 27, 2014

It’s not long ago that the opposition was complaining that too many people were leaving New Zealand.

Now the migration tide has turned in our favour, they’re complaining that too many are coming here.

In doing so they are resorting to dog-whistle anti-immigration sentiment and ignoring the fact that inwards migration helps the economy:

For a country with such a long history as a migration destination, it is astonishing just how quickly new migration can be portrayed as negative or even a threat. As the Treasury papers show, it is neither. 

On the contrary, the projected uplift in migration figures comes just at the right time for the New Zealand economy and provides ample economic opportunities. There are two caveats, however: New Zealand needs to attract the migrants it needs and it needs to lift its game to accommodate these migrants.

To put the Treasury’s forecasts into perspective, it is worth looking at long-term population trends. The Treasury predicts the population will increase by a quarter of a million people, from 4.46 million in 2013 to 4.72 million in 2018. That is an increase of just over a quarter million, which may sound substantial but it is important to realise two things about these numbers. 

First, more than half of the increase (57%) is natural (that is, more births than deaths) and only 43% is due to net migration. Second, by New Zealand’s historical standards, a population growth of 1.1% a year is not high. In 85 out of the 128 years where data has been collected, population growth rate was above this level.

A net migration gain doesn’t just mean more people arriving, it means fewer are leaving and among those coming are New Zealanders returning, most of whom we should be welcoming back.

The population growth forecast should be welcomed rather than feared. It comes at a time for the New Zealand economy when, figuratively speaking, we need all hands on deck. 

Yes, the population number will rise (as will the labour force) but the total number of people in employment rises even faster. This means the unemployment rate is forecast to go down to just 4.4% by 2018, even despite a slight increase in the labour market participation rate from 67.9% last year to 69.0%. 

To put it simply, there is no shortage of jobs for new migrants. They are entering a labour market, which is edging toward full employment, with labour shortages reported in parts of the country and across many industries. 

Without migration, pressure on wages and therefore inflationary pressures would increase. There can be no doubt new migrants will make a positive contribution to the development of the domestic economy. They will add to its productive capacity and also strengthen demand.

It certainly would not be in New Zealand’s interest to curb migration. Our ability to fine-tune migration figures is limited since a large part of the net migration intake consists of returning Kiwis. For example, people who once left for Australia and now return home as the Australian economy no longer looks that promising. 

These people have a right to reside in New Zealand and cannot simply be turned back at the airport. . .

On the contrary, they should be welcomed, at least some of those will be people whose leaving was lamented as contributing to the brain drain.

Politicians should face it: New Zealand is a migration destination – and it is all the better for it. Because we are such an attractive destination for potential migrants, we can afford to select those we need most. 

We can strategically define the skills we need to build our economy. But we should also ensure those who come here also subscribe to New Zealand values – that they speak our language, respect our laws and become part of the community.

I say all this as a migrant myself – and as a father of a Kiwi son who cares about this country and wants to make it better. I was once part of New Zealand’s net migration statistic. 

Maybe I pushed up house prices at the margin when I arrived. But I am doing my best to make this country a better place. Even if it means defending the positive impacts of migration against populist responses in an election year.

It’s not the quantity of immigrants that’s a concern, it’s the quality.

The author, Dr Oliver Hartwich, is right that we can afford to select immigrants we need most.

We can, and should, also ensure those who come here subscribe to our values, speak our language, respect our laws and become part of the community.

That will happen much more easily if we are welcoming and willing to help migrants adapt to their new home.

It will be made more difficult by the xenophobia which opposition MPs, to their shame, are encouraging.

Aaron Schiff (Hat tip Matt Nolan) points out we gain from immigrants:

. . . We should celebrate because on the incoming side, skilled immigrants provide New Zealand with a significant free gift. Some other country has paid the cost of their birth, childcare, childhood medical care, education, etc. They turn up in New Zealand effectively bringing all that investment with them and this benefits the country. Sounds good to me.

Sounds very good to me.


NZ up good, Aust down bad

September 5, 2013

More good news. We're on the right track.

For the first time in the history of the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness index, New Zealand is ranked higher than Australia.

New Zealand has outperformed Australia on the latest Global Competitiveness Index for the first time, according to an annual report compiled by the World Economic Forum.

New Zealand climbed five places from last year to come in at 18th on the overall ranking of global competitiveness, while Australia slipped one place to drop out of the top 20 for the first time with a score of 21.

The annual Global Competitiveness Report is compiled from 111 indicators, categorised into 12 pillars of competitiveness in four main sub-indices: basic requirements, efficiency enhancers, and innovation and sophistication factors.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative – which helped compile the survey data – said the improvement reflected the steady recovery of the local economy and prudent pro-growth policies that have been put in place to support it, helping New Zealand hold its competitive ground while other countries slipped back amid a weaker global growth outlook.

That contrasted with Australia, which is New Zealand’s second biggest trading partner, where deteriorating labour market conditions (ranked 54th globally, down 12 places from last year) and a heavy regulatory burden (ranked 128th in the world) weighed on the country’s competitive ranking.

“The performance is more startling when you consider that just five years ago New Zealanders were staring at ballooning deficits and a deep recession while the Australian government was debt free and riding the tailwind of a mining boom,” said Dr Hartwich.

New Zealand was ranked among the top 10 in the world for the quality of its institutions, health and primary education, higher education, goods and labour market efficiency, and financial markets development.

Dr Hartwich cautioned against complacency, noting that the country had failed to make any improvement on its innovation and business sophistication factors, ranking 27th globally – behind both Puerto Rico and Qatar.

“We need to focus on boosting our capacity to innovate and in areas of the economy besides our traditional agricultural strengths,” Dr Hartwich said. “The urgency for this is underscored when you consider that Switzerland, which was ranked second in the world for both innovation and business sophistication, was named the most competitive economy in the world for a fifth year straight.”

The next most competitive countries were Finland, Japan, Germany, Sweden, the United States, the Netherlands, Israel, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

New Zealanders enjoy beating Australia but we shouldn’t let trans-Tasman rivalry blind us to the down side of these results.

That New Zealand’s competitiveness has improved is good but Australia going backwards is bad for them and us.

They are our closest neighbour and one of our most important trading partners.

If their economy is less competitive it makes it more difficult for our companies which trade there.

Our improvement and Australia’s backslide can largely be credited, or blamed, on different government policies.

In a column at the New Zealand Initiative, Hartwich, writes:

. . . Many of our New Zealand members have extensive business relations across the Tasman and are intimately connected to the Australian economy. It has been palpable in recent months how their perceptions of the two economies have changed. While they have become more and more buoyant about New Zealand’s domestic prospects, their assessment of the Australian economy has gradually deteriorated. . .

The survey of Australian business leaders, conducted by the Australian Industry Group, revealed that the most problematic factors for doing business in Australia are restrictive labour regulations, inefficient government bureaucracy, tax rates and tax regulations.

New Zealand, on the other hand, shows an altogether more promising picture. The greatest objective difficulties are macroeconomic circumstances and, unsurprisingly, market size. However, the country scores high for the quality of its institutions, its education and health systems, its goods and labour market efficiency as well as the development of its financial markets. The areas in which kiwi business leaders see the greatest need for improvement are infrastructure, the education of the workforce and the country’s capacity to innovate.

Again, I would take issue with the WEF’s macroeconomic assessment. On New Zealand, it seems too pessimistic to me.

There are some obvious macroeconomic dangers for the New Zealand economy, in particular an overheating property market. On the other hand, fiscal policy has been going in the right direction for the past five years. The current government has maintained spending discipline in the most adverse circumstances.

When Bill English became Minister of Finance in 2008, he not only had to confront the repercussions of the global financial crisis, but also inherited an economy in recession, a collapsed non-bank finance sector and the prospect of deficits for years to come. To make matters worse, two earthquakes destroyed the CBD of the country’s second largest city, Christchurch.

Despite this, the New Zealand government remained committed to returning the budget to surplus while trying to provide some stimulus through income tax cuts. The strategy worked: The New Zealand budget will be in surplus from next year and growth is steady.

This macroeconomic outlook directly translates into the economic mood. According to the ANZ Business Outlook survey, a net 48.1 percent of New Zealand firms expect general business conditions to improve in the year ahead, down from a 14-year high of 52.8 percent in July. In contrast, last month’s National Australia Bank’s survey of Australian business confidence fell to its lowest level since November 2012.

Just this week, Newport Consulting revealed that almost 60 per cent of Australian business leaders believe that Canberra is working against them. Only 13 per cent of New Zealand business leaders said the same about their own government in Wellington.

The same survey also showed that a vast majority of Australian executives experienced a slow-down in the Australian economy, whereas only 37 per cent of New Zealand corporate leaders said the same about their own economy. . .

This reflects well on New Zealand and the National-led government’s policies but there is absolutely no room for complacency here.

The policies which helped New Zealand’s competitiveness have been consistently criticised by the opposition and the policies promulgated by Labour’s aspiring leaders are those which are doing the harm in Australia – restrictive labour regulations, inefficient government bureaucracy, tax rates and tax regulations.

The improvements in New Zealand’s economy which have boosted our competitiveness have taken a long time and a lot of hard work. that isn’t finished yet but all the good could be undone in a very short time with a change of government.

If we don’t have a government determined to maintain spending discipline and focussed on policies which make it easier to do business and employ people, we’ll be following Australia backwards.


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