Just a Little extra tax

April 3, 2017

The ink is barely dry on the Labour and Green Parties’ attempt to convince voters they won’t overtax and overspend which includes a promise for no tax increases.

But Andrew Little is already calling for a new tax:

Labour leader Andrew Little wants a “tourist tax” charged at the border to help pay for tourism infrastructure, rejecting Tourism Minister Paula Bennett’s concerns it risked making New Zealand look like a “rip-off.”

Little said a “modest” levy would be ring-fenced to pass on to local councils to use on tourism-related infrastructure. . . 

On Friday Rob Hosking pointed out the difficulty with the Labour-Green framework:

The real question is about the other promises Labour and the Greens are making and how these might fit within that framework.

The short answer is, they don’t.

The ability to fund free tertiary education and start payments into the NZ Superannuation Fund alone will test the limits of that framework. Those two policies alone will cost literally billions of dollars.

That is going to make it difficult to fit within one of the other joists in the Labour-Green fiscal framework: keeping government spending at around 30% of GDP.

One of these things is sheer spin: either the promises of new spending policies or the fiscal framework itself.

Take your pick.

Little’s suggestion of a new tax just days after the attempt to convince us of the Labour and Greens fiscal prudence has shot a very big hole in the framework.

There is a case for more spending on tourism infrastructure but Lincoln University professor of Tourism David Simmons has calculated that the government made a $630m surplus once tourism related costs – such as those for Tourism New Zealand and Department of Conservation visitor services – were deducted from the GST take.

We don’t need a new tax, whether it’s levied on New Zealanders or visitors.

A new tax is a tax increase by another name. That Little is considering the idea shows how flimsy the fiscal framework is.


Opposition hasn’t changed

December 6, 2016

The left is excited over Prime Minister John Key’s decision to step-down.

They see an opportunity because the popular man leading the popular government won’t be in the limelight anymore.

But nothing has changed in the Opposition.

MMP drags governments to the centre and Labour has been dragged left by the Green Party, leaving those disaffected by that but not keen on National to go to New Zealand First.

Opposition parties might get a bit of a lift in polls while people wait to see what the new leader does but they haven’t given any but polls consistently show support changing within the left not growing by taking votes from the centre.

The opposition hasn’t been giving swinging voters anything to vote for and a change in National leadership won’t change that.

National has been cohesive and united under its current leader and the caucus knows that if it wants to win the next election it must maintain the same cohesion and loyalty under the new one.

A change in leadership will provide an opportunity for further refreshment in cabinet but it won’t bring a radical change in direction or change the focus on strong economic management which is needed to fund much-needed infrastructure and social policy that works.

 

 


MMP votes in middle

June 1, 2016

If getting attention was the goal of Labour and the Green Party with their memorandum of understanding they’ve succeeded.

However, attention doesn’t necessarily translate into votes and this strategy could well lose more votes than it gains.

All parties need to keep their core supporters happy, that’s the foundation on which they build electoral success .

All but the most deluded of Greens will understand that if they’re going to be in government it will be a Labour-led one so this arrangement is unlikely to worry them and may even please them.

But the Green Party is on Labour’s left flank and the harder left in Labour might welcome the MoU but the more moderate among its members might be less happy.

On current polling these two parties together still won’t gain enough votes to govern without at least one other party. The Maori Party could go left, but a Labour-Green government will almost certainly need more than the couple of of extra seats that would give them.

That plays into the hands of Winston Peters who is likely to hold the balance of power and who refused to go into coalition with Helen Clark’s Labour-led government if the Green Party was in the mix.

Peters’ past behaviour isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of what he’ll do in the future. Some of his socialist policies would be more at home in a Labour-Green government than a National-led one.

But he won’t commit himself until after the votes are in and he will seize on the opportunity this new relationship provides to gain votes from undecided voters and those luke-warm to Labour who would rather move towards the centre than the left.

Working together to oppose National makes sense for Labour and the Greens but these two together will still be hard-pressed to outdo Peters, the master of opposition politics.

More overt co-operation could make the two parties look more like potentially viable partners in a coalition.

But their pact only benefits them both and their ambition to be in government if the support they gain together is greater than that they are getting separately.

It is difficult to see that happening when the MoU moves Labour left and under MMP the votes which change governments are in the middle.

 


Global problem requires global solutions

May 18, 2016

The Green Party continues its blinkered approach to the environment with its call to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme:

The call comes in the wake of a study, part funded by the New Zealand Government,1 showing that global warming pollution from agriculture must be cut significantly to keep global temperatures below a 2° rise, and that currently not nearly enough is being done to achieve this.

“National needs to stop making excuses and set a deadline to end the growing levels of climate-damaging pollution from agriculture,” said Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The National Government has repeatedly refused to push the agricultural sector to reduce climate damaging pollution, despite this being a requirement for the energy sector, transport providers and nearly every other New Zealander.

Wrong.

The government was the prime mover behind the establishment of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural GHGs which is using international collaboration to find  solutions. It’s also working with farmers who are paying for research into methods to reduce emissions without the financial and social costs that the Green’s solution would impose, not just on farmers but the wider economy.

“All New Zealanders, including farmers, want to preserve a safe and stable climate for future generations. That means facing reality, and committing to an end to pollution-intensive farming. . . 

Facing reality means accepting that global problems require global solutions.

That means understanding that reducing food production here would increase emissions because production would increase in other countries with far less efficient farming methods than those employed by most New Zealand farmers.

It also means accepting good science which could show that genetic modification is one of the solutions.

AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified ryegrass that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% but biotechnology experts warn regulations could delay its use.

Though it has several environmental benefits and could boost production it faces regulatory hurdles here because it has been genetically engineered.

The scientists have shown in the laboratory the ryegrass, called High Metabolisable Energy (HME), can reduce methane emissions from animals by 15% to 30% while modelling suggests a reduction in nitrous oxide of up to 20%.

It has also shown resilience to dry weather and can increase milk production by up to 12%.

Environmentalists have berated agriculture for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions but if laboratory results are replicated in the field, HME could reignite the GM debate.

UN research shows New Zealand farmers can cut climate damaging pollution with current technology, by as much as 17 percent. The Government shouldn’t be pinning all its hopes on a silver bullet solution to agricultural pollution.

“Leading dairy farmers are showing they can increase profit and cut pollution by optimising stocking rates and by shifting production to high-value, low-impact organic dairy farming. We need all farmers to follow suit,” said Ms Sage.

Of course reducing stock would reduce emissions here but it would at best do nothing to reduce world-wide emissions and would almost certainly lead to an increase as less efficient producers elsewhere increased their production.

The Green solution would reduce food production and lead to increases in both the price of food, which would impact hardest on the poor, and emissions.

Farmers are doing all they can to reduce emissions globally rather than the smoke and mirrors approach of cuts here replaced by increases there the Green Party is promoting.


Farmers back Ruataniwha

April 28, 2016

The success of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS), always depended on farmers backing – and they have:

Irrigation New Zealand is delighted to see the Ruataniwha project is now in a position to proceed.

HBRIC today (Wednesday 27 April 2016) announced it has 196 Signed Water User Agreements, the numbers needed for the project to proceed. CEO of Irrigation New Zealand Andrew Curtis said: “This is good news for Central Hawke’s Bay as it will re-invigorate the shrinking communities of Waipukurau and Waipawa.

“This result shows farmer backing is strong for the project. This is not surprising given the Ruataniwha Plain’s current and future susceptibility to drought.

Mr Curtis said: “The mix of land-use is, as Irrigation New Zealand predicted, dominated by traditional mixed cropping, and sheep and beef finishing systems. This is what Central Hawke’s Bay has and will always do well. There is also some permanent horticulture in the mix, and given the boom in the orchard and wine industries currently it is very likely this area of opportunity will be expanded further in future.

“The land-use mix should alleviate any environmental concerns for the Tukituki River. This, when combined with the dam’s ability to release water to guarantee summer flows alongside mimicking natural flood events that cleanse it, means the Tukituki River is in a great position to maintain and improve upon it’s predominantly good water quality.

“Irrigation New Zealand is now looking forward to both the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Crown committing investments to this community dam project and the ‘land swap’ court issue being resolved in a timely manner.

Mr Curtis concluded: “No one disputes the Hawke’s Bay needs water storage. The local community has now demonstrated its support for the Ruataniwha project. It’s time for regional and national communities to do the same.”

Sadly some people do dispute Hawke’s Bay’s need for water storage including the Green Party which wants the dam dumped.

But at last farmers have confirmed their willingness to invest in the scheme that will drought-proof between 20,000 and 30,000 hectares of land with good potential for increased agriculture, horticulture and viticulture.

The climate and soils in the area will give farmers more  choice over what they grow with the water than those with irrigation in many other areas.

The scheme will bring environmental, economic and social benefits to the region and the country.


Feds challenge NZ Greens to follow Aus Greens on GMOs

January 11, 2016

Federated Farmers is challenging the New Zealand Green Party to follow Australian Greens on moderating their stance on Genetic Modification.

Federated Farmers has welcomed a shift in thinking by the Australian Green Party and encourages their New Zealand counterparts to be equally open minded about the benefits of genetic modification.

Over the past week Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale has conducted a series of interviews in which he has opened the door to changing the party’s longstanding opposition to genetically modified organisms.

He told ABC radio that “the concerns are less around human health and much more around the application of the technology when it comes to giving farmers choice.” In another interview with The Land he said he did “not have a blanket objection to the use of genetically modified crops” and that “it’s a bit simplistic to say GMO’s are safe or they’re not safe.”

“This is entirely in line with Federated Farmers’ position of giving farmers choice about what and how they farm, and assessing the benefits and risks of genetically modified organisms on a case-by-case basis,” says Federated Farmers National President Dr William Rolleston.

“It’s refreshing to see such an open minded approach from the Australian Greens on what we see as a key issue for the agricultural sector, and we encourage the NZ Green Party to also review their policy on genetic modification.”

“If you look at some of the biggest challenges facing farmers at the moment, such as drought and pressure from some quarters to reduce biological emissions. These are both things that likely have a scientific solution,” says Dr Rolleston.

Dr Rolleston said genetic modification has been used extensively around the world, to the benefit of farmers and the environment, without any incident of harm attributable to the GM aspects of the application.

“Although no crops using GM are approved or grown here yet, this vitally important science is being used successfully in New Zealand. GM products such as food enzymes, medicines and animal feed are now commonplace.”

“We ask that the Greens open their minds to the agricultural sector also taking advantage of these rapidly evolving technologies,” he said.

Di Natale, like Rolleston, is a medical doctor:

. . . Senator Di Natale – whose medical career included practicing in regional areas – said he personally had no philosophical or ideological objections to the science of GM.

He said genetic modification was “something we’ve done for a long time in medicine”.

“I do not have a blanket objection to the use of genetically modified crops – I absolutely don’t – and it would be hypocritical for me to say that because I support the use of genetic modification in medicine,” he said. . . 

In response to this, Grant Jacobs writes at Sciblogs:

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks much of the ‘debate’ on GM is unhelpful.

Below are a few suggestions to those thinking about this issue, or who wish to offer public comment. . . 

 

  • Remember that genetic engineering (GE) has applications far wider than just crops, and more than just herbicide-tolerant crops.
  • If your concern is food safety or environmental issues, talking about ‘GMOs’ is a distraction away from issues (if any). It is the traits of each crop or animal variety that determine if there might be risk, not how the crop or animal was first bred.
  • If your concern is over transgenic organisms, say ‘transgenic organisms’ not ‘GMOs’.
  • If your concern relates to business aspects, make sure those concerns are real, related to GMOs and avoid straw-man arguments.
  • If your concern relates to international trade, give examples of it being an issue (rather than ‘what if’-style claims).
  • Be aware of misapplied or inappropriate cultural memes, or conflation with separable things.
  • Aim for discussion, not ‘debate’ or argument. . . 

If you follow the link you can read his elaboration on each point.

A lot of the debate on GMOs is based on politics and misinformation rather than science.

Caution on any new technology is wise, but a blanket ban on GMOs is not.

 


Quote of the day

September 30, 2015

. . . Labour’s problem may be summed up in two words: proportional representation. New Zealand’s MMP electoral system allows minor parties to thrive, thus removing the pressure on opposition supporters to transfer their allegiance to the party best placed to defeat the Government. By denying Labour the 5 to 10 percentage points it needs to become a credible competitor to the National Party, proportional representation and the Greens are encouraging the Right to contemplate permanent political ascendancy. . .  Chris Trotter


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