Bias only wrong when it’s right

January 16, 2018

Green Party candidate Hayley Holt is to join Jack Tame as a host on TV1’s Breakfast show.

Holt, 36, stood for the Green Party in John Key’s Helensville electorate in last September’s general election. At 17th on the party list, she missed out on a place in Parliament.

A former New Zealand snowboarder, she previously hosted alternative sports news show The Crowd Goes Wild on Prime and the breakfast radio show on More FM. . .

If this was a National candidate there would almost certainly have been an uproar from the left.

They petitioned against Mike Hosking hosting pre-elections debates because of his views but he’d never been a candidate.

The left won’t be campaigning against her appointment because in their eyes and ears political bias is only wrong when it’s right and it’s alright when it’s left.

She’s not the first former candidate to front such a show. Paul Henry who fronted breakfast shows on both TV1 and TV3 once stood for National.

Many years before that, Brian Edwards who had been a Labour candidate, was an interviewer on political programmes.

Bias doesn’t necessarily make people wrong for such work and if  they are politically biased it’s better to be out in the open than hidden.

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Who’s Winston wary of?

December 19, 2017

The waka jumping Bill is an affront to democracy:

The Coalition Government must be deeply worried about maintaining internal discipline within their own Caucuses given they are attempting to ride rough shod over our democratic processes by preventing individual MPs from standing up for the voters that elect them, National’s Justice Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Last week the Coalition introduced what is colloquially known as ‘Waka Jumping’ legislation. It might be more accurately called the ‘Winston Peters Self Preservation Bill’ as it was clearly his bottom line for entry into the Coalition.

“The Bill would effectively prevent individual Members of Parliament from speaking out on points of principle and policy, and ensuring the voices of their communities are heard. Worse still, it would enable party leaders to advise the Speaker that a Caucus member isn’t acting as the leader would want and then move to force that member out of Parliament.

“This makes individual MPs more answerable to their party leader than to the voters that elected them. Allowing party leaders to overrule the wishes of voters is fundamentally wrong,” Ms Adams says.

MMP gives far more power to parties than First Past the Post did and this Bill gives them even more power.

“This is about ensuring the factions within New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens are kept from raising objections to the direction of the Government or threatening the leadership of their respective parties.

“The reason the Coalition Government wants to push this piece of legislation through as one of their first bills is to ensure unhappy MPs don’t jump ship. From going soft on crime and immigration to removing benefit sanctions to pushing up taxes on New Zealand families, New Zealand First are having to swallow a whole lot of dead rats which their voters just do not support.

“Overriding democracy to entrench your own political position is an abuse of power of the worst kind.”

Supporting this legislation is a big rat the Green Party will have to swallow.

This affront to democracy ought to stick in the craw of liberal members of the Labour caucus too.

The first waka jumping legislation had a sunset clause. If this doesn’t it is sure to be repealed when Peters is no longer in parliament which begs the question, who in his caucus is he wary of, who can’t he trust?

A leader confident of his caucus wouldn’t need this legislation.

That he does shows Peters isn’t nearly as sure of the loyalty of his MPs as he needs to be and the Bill to strengthen his hand shows he’s weaker than he purports to be.

 


Satire or serious?

November 29, 2017

Act’s newsletter Free Press says it’s learned from a usually reliable source what’s in the secret coalition document:

First Things First: Why is it Secret?
It is very damaging in a democracy for Jacinda Ardern to keep secret what the Government has pledged to its coalition partner. Why the secrecy? There are significant new extra spending promises. Labour does not want the Treasury to know or the extra spending will be added to the Treasury forecasts due to be published shortly.

Running out of Other People’s Money
Already the treasury forecast will show Labour’s election spending promises were understated and there is a blow out. Add the new secret spending promises and New Zealand’s credit rating is at risk. A credit rating decline means everyone’s mortgage payments go up.

Second
There are or were 38 pages to the Labour-New Zealand First agreement. As the PM has almost admitted it has been edited down to 33 pages and Labour is trying to get it lower. The missing five pages are still part of the coalition agreement but both governing parties have conceded it will be very damaging if they are ever published.

The Two Governments Agreement
What is in the agreement? In effect the document creates two governments, A Labour/Green government and a New Zealand First government. Winston Peters is granted a veto over the Labour/Green government but in the New Zealand First government his powers are untrammelled.

Labour/Green Government
The government budget must be submitted to NZ First (Winston) for approval
Labour has agreed to a 10 percent a year increase in the Foreign Affairs budget.
Labour has agreed that NZ First manifesto promises will have priority. The Northland port and railway, for examples
New Zealand First nominations will be approved. For example to the port inquiry.
No concessions can be made to the Greens without prior approval from New Zealand First, think Kermadecs
No new policy not contained in the coalition agreement can be advanced by Labour Ministers without NZ First approval.
All government appointments must be approved by NZ First
New Zealand First Government
Foreign Affairs budget to be increased and Mr. Peter’s Foreign Affairs budget requests cannot be vetoed. Mr Peters can spend his budget how he chooses.
All budget requests from New Zealand First Ministers that have been approved by Mr Peters must get priority.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Peters has the sole right to nominate all Ambassadors and other diplomatic posts not just Washington and London but he cannot be stopped from appointing his mates to be consuls as he tried with Owen Glenn.
As Minister of SOEs Mr Peter’s has the sole power to appoint all the chair and directors of every SOE. Dozens of appointments.
New Zealand First can nominate, over three years, six people to be knights (or, theoretically, Dames) and its nominations will be favourably considered for other honours.
New Zealand First will appoint the next Chief of Defense
A provision requires all Ministers to refer any request from or to a New Zealand First Minister to go through Mr Peters office.
The PM has agreed that she will not dismiss any New Zealand First Minister, MP or appointee without Mr Peter’s approval and the PM has also agreed to dismiss any NZ First minister, MP or appointee if asked to by Winston Peters.
Unbridled Power
No previous Prime Minister has had the power and patronage that Winston Peters has been given. He can appoint his cronies to be Ambassadors, SOE chair and directors and he can give them knighthoods. He has an iron grip over his party. Winston in effect controls the government budget and can spend billions of dollars on his pet projects while vetoing the plans of both Labour and the Greens.

Snookered
No wonder the Prime Minister, who foolishly thought none of this would become known, is desperate to keep it secret. We suspect that at some stage some of the document will have to be released but as the PM is now denying even the existence of five pages of the secret deal it may be years before we know.

We Need Some Responsible Adults Here
The Secretary of the Treasury should demand to see the full 38 pages. If the government will not let the Treasury see the full secret coalition agreement then the Secretary of the Treasury must tag the Government accounts saying that the Treasury had asked and been denied access to the full coalition agreement and future spending may be significantly greater than the forecast.

For the country’s sake I hope this is satire, but I think it’s serious.

We’d know which it is if the document was released to the public as Peters said it would be but Jacinda Ardern is refusing to do.


It’s not what she did

November 28, 2017

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman worked as a lawyer for the Rwanda tribunals.

That sounds admirable and worthy work doesn’t it?

Would it sound as admirable and worthy if  it was clear she was not working for the prosecution to indict those accused of genocide but for the defence to clear them?

Good defence is an integral part of fair justice and that requires defence lawyers. There’s nothing wrong with being one of those.

But it is wrong to hide the fact and give a very strong impression that she was working for the prosecution, as she did elsewhere, not the defence.

Over at Kiwiblog David Farrar writes:

Now I had no idea before reading this article that her work in Rwanda was defending the war criminals, not prosecuting them. I doubt anyone else knew either. Let’s look at what her Green Party CV says:

Her studies at Oxford, and work as a lawyer for the United Nations and in New Zealand, have focused on enforcing human rights and holding governments to account. Golriz has lived and worked in Africa, The Hague and Cambodia putting on trial world leaders for abusing their power, and restoring communities after war and human rights atrocities, particularly empowering women engaged in peace and justice initiatives.

Now 99% of people who read that would think she was working at prosecuting the abusers, not defending them.

Look at this Guardian article from a few weeks ago:

It was in this South Pacific melting pot, says Ghahraman, that she acquired the confidence to study human rights law at Oxford University, and, later, to stand up in court representing the UN in tribunals prosecuting some of the world’s worst war criminals, including perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

Now again 99% of people reading this would assume she was prosecuting in Rwanda. But she was actually defending the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

Former Labour staffer Phil Quin has actually worked in Rwanda with the survivors of the genocide there. He is highly unimpressed:

Quin has lots of texts including this one:

.@golrizghahraman to be clear, the human rights that preoccupied you were those of some of the worst mass murderers in history. What about the rights of thousands of women with children born of rape; countless orphans; friends that lost entire families; 800,000 dead.

Everyone deserves a defense, but please don’t preen as a human rights advocates when you dedicated a year to keeping these killers from justice. And defense underfunded?? Don’t make me laugh. ICTR spent 500m defending these guys.

 

The wrong-doing isn’t that Ghahraman defended people accused of genocide.

It’s the selective use of information to give the impression that she worked for the prosecution.

It’s not what she did but the impression she and her party gave of what she did that’s created the controversy.

At the very best this was a lie by omission from the Green Party and MP.

Imagine the uproar from the left if a National or Act MP did work like this, let alone gave an altogether different impression of the work.


Mining personal grief for political ends

November 19, 2017

When politicians make promises do you take them at their word?

Under MMP that’s harder because they can always use the excuse, that was their policy but had to let it go during coalition negotiations.

But if it was a promise made by the two parties in government and their coalition partner outside government that one can’t be used.

In August, leaders of Labour, United Future, the Maori Party and the Green Party signed a commitment to reenter Pike River mine.

National, rightly, put lives before politics:

Environment Minister Nick Smith responded to the commitment and said the parties were either making empty promises to the families or proposing to water down a law intended to prevent future workplace tragedies. 

“It is a hollow political stunt for parties to promise manned re-entry of the mine by the end of 2018,” he said.  

“It would be reckless for politicians to override the 800-page detailed assessment that concluded that manned entry deep into this drift was too risky to life.

“There is no cover-up. There is no conspiracy. Pike River was a horrible industrial accident that unnecessarily killed 29 men.

“The greatest duty we owe the memory of these men is to take the risks of explosions in gassy coalmines seriously and to comply with the new workplace safety laws that stemmed from the Royal Commission of Inquiry [into the Pike River Mine Tragedy].”

Winston Peters said he’d be one of the first to go back into Pike River and manned entry was one of New Zealand First’s bottom lines.

Such promises are oh so easy in opposition, but what happens when the reality of government bites?

Pike River Mine minister Andrew Little says he cannot guarantee a re-entry of the mine and has told family members that he will do what he can but safety is the top priority. . . 

“Ultimately, and the families are very clear, the first principle of the set of principles that are governing what we do is safety, the safety of anybody involved in the re-entry project. I’m not going to put anybody at undue risk. I’m simply not going to.”

He did not intend to legislate for any exemption to the health and safety laws or immunity from liability for the Pike River Agency.

Safety was the priority of the previous government in the face of harsh criticism from the Pike River families and then-opposition parties supporting them.

That was the right position.

The Pike River disaster was a tragedy. There are many unanswered questions on how it happened and the shortcoming that led to it happening.

Some of the answers to those questions might be found if it was possible to safely reenter the mine.

But safely is and must always be the operative word.

The bottom line that National and the mine owners stuck to still stands: no lives must be endangered, no lives must be lost, to retrieve the dead.

Some families have accepted this.

Some have not and put their faith in the politicians who promised them manned entry would be undertaken.

Little will be criticised for his safety-first stance, but this time it’s the right one.

The wrong one was making a promise that he and the other politicians, including his leader, Jacinda Ardern, should never have made.

Those politicians were mining personal grief for political ends.

It was despicable behaviour.

 


Govt business what not how

October 30, 2017

The Green Party is sticking to its plan to reduce dairy farming:

Prior to the election, the Green Party said it would pay more than $136 million for farmers to move to more sustainable practices and if it were in government it would invest in a Sustainable Farming Fund.

Green Party leader James Shaw said a priority would be putting together a package to help farmers make the transition from dairy farming.

He said the Greens wouldn’t be pushing for a cap on the number of cows.

But Mr Shaw said dairy farmers would need help to change.

“A lot of dairy farmers are still heavily in debt from the acquisition of the land and also the conversions and also it’s a pretty difficult time when the price of milk is still somewhat depressed.

“So you know the thing we’re going to be pushing hardest on is making sure that there is a package available for farmers to help them make that transition.”

Mr Shaw said dairy farmers needed to make the transition to more sustainable methods of farming.

Setting standards for water quality is the business of government.

Dictating how that is achieved is not.

It might be that dairying isn’t appropriate in some places. But other land uses aren’t necessarily any kinder to the environment and it could be that a change in management could make dairying a better option than any other form of farming.

Dairying has got a bad reputation, some of which might be justified. But some is based on historical practices no longer in use and some on alternative facts not supported by science.

Some of the latter comes from organisations with an anti-dairying agenda.

Jamie McFadden, a member of Federated Farmers North Canterbury executive, rightly asks is our freshwater fishery really in crisis?

Last year Fish & Game sought and received approval from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to place a winter fishing ban on all North Canterbury rivers below State Highway 1.

At the time, Fish & Game claimed the North Canterbury freshwater fishery was in crisis and it was because of farming.

Both DoC and the Rural Advocacy Network have requested the evidence supporting these claims. After 18 months no evidence has been forthcoming. DoC now realise they have been misled and have said they will not renew the fishing ban unless Fish & Game provide evidence.

Earlier this year I attended a public meeting in Rangiora organised by Fish and Game where the fishing ban was discussed. I presented our submission challenging the lack of evidence behind the fishing ban, particularly for the Hurunui and Waiau rivers. A show of hands was taken and the clear majority of the 70 attendees felt the ban should not apply to these rivers. Of those who fished the Hurunui and Waiau the majority thought these were healthy fisheries. . . 

Clearly there are a range of factors affecting our freshwater fishery and increasing fishing pressure, particularly near Christchurch, is one of them.

A local fishing guide has for several years been undertaking the annual trout spawning surveys in the Waimakariri River. This year he reported better numbers than have ever been seen and some superb stream improvements by many farmers – the future is bright.

In late autumn I checked the middle reaches of the Hurunui River catchment and photographed numerous shoals of 10-20 trout. In one pool alone I counted 65 good-sized healthy trout.

A balanced report on the state of our freshwater fishery would acknowledge there are some healthy fisheries, concerns with some other fisheries and a range of factors affecting both. It is disappointing that Fish & Game has made no attempt to correct their misinformation in the media.

Many farming families are Fish & Game licence holders and enjoy the recreational opportunities our rivers provide. Farmers want to know what they need to do to fix any water quality problems they are causing.

There are many examples of farmers actively engaging in improving water quality and undertaking stream enhancements. Farmers want to work with organisations like Fish & Game but the continual attacks on farmers undermine the ability to achieve this.

We would like to see Fish & Game publicly drop the anti-farming broad brush ‘dirty dairy’ campaign, correct their misinformation in the media and develop a more constructive approach to freshwater issues.

Farmers, and others, are working to improve water quality and this report from Seven Sharp showing definite improvements in Taranaki dairy country.

Meanwhile, science is making progress with pasture species:

Research is in progress but plantain-based pastures may be useful for reducing nitrate leaching while maintaining or increasing milksolids production.

The urine patch is the major source of nitrogen loss to the environment on dairy farms and different forages can be used to reduce nitrate leaching, either by lowering the nitrogen loading in urine patches or increasing the nitrogen uptake from the urine patch.

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL)

Research in Canterbury and Waikato the FRNL programme has found that urine-N concentration of cows grazing plantain was 56% lower than those grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures, and 33% lower for cows grazing 50/50 pasture-plantain.

Within FRNL, diverse pastures that include plantain were identified as a promising tool for reducing N leaching. Modelling estimated that, at commercial scale, N leaching could be reduced by 10 and 20% when the area of the farm sown in diverse pastures was 20 and 50%, respectively. This was because of lower total urinary N excretion and lower urinary N concentration (Beukes et al. 2014; Romera et al. 2016).

Sustainability balances economic, environmental and social concerns.

Dairying generally gets ticks for its economic and social contributions and farmers and industry bodies like DairyNZ, are making good progress to address environmental concerns .

DairyNZ acting chair Barry Harris said last season saw dairy export earnings reach $13.4 billion, which is on par with the five-year average, and illustrates how well farmers have responded to the low milk prices of previous seasons.

“I see the decade ahead of us to be transformational for our sector. Never before have we had a stronger mandate for the dairy sector to concentrate on productivity – to produce more from less, and to do so sustainably,” says Barry.

“We support initiatives that incentivise farmers to use the best environmental practices. While the 2010s have been about dairy positioning itself for the changes ahead, I see the 2020s as heavily focused on making those changes.

“New Zealand’s environmental reputation, the reputation that gives us an advantage on the global market, relies on us upholding and improving our sustainability.” . . 

Thanks to good science, herd numbers can decrease while production increases.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said in 2016/17 national cow numbers fell to 4.86 million from 5 million previously, with the average herd size dropping five cows to 414.

“Yet production per cow set a new record – increasing by 9kg per cow (381kg MS/cow).” . . 

 

The government and its partners needs to stick to the what, not the how.

Good progress is being made and it will continue to be made not by political dictates but by good practice based on sound research.


Voters here and there

October 23, 2017
  1. Does this mean people living here and experiencing what was happening had a greater appreciation that National had the country going in the right direction than those living overseas who had to rely on the media?
  2. Will at least some of these people who voted Green in a much greater proportion than people living here did, come home and face the consequences now their party has some influence in government?

 

Votes within NZ: Labour 36.86%; Green 6.06%; NZ First 7.3% and National 44.61%.

Overseas votes: Labour 38.2%; Green 15.23%; NZ First 2.88% and National 37.35%

 


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