Naive virtue-signalling

December 11, 2017

Australian columnist Miranda Devine says Jacinda Ardern should stop meddling:

NEW Zealand’s new Labour PM Jacinda Ardern has a hide.

Her repeated offers to take some of the asylum seekers now causing trouble on Manus Island is just naive virtue-signalling.

Ardern should know that her meddling runs the risk of putting what Indonesia calls the “sugar” back on the table for people smugglers.

The last time a Labor leader did that in Australia, 1200 people drowned at sea, and we are still dealing with the backlog of 50,000 unauthorised arrivals. The problems on Manus Island are the legacy of Kevin Rudd’s virtue signalling. We don’t need a Kiwi version of Rudd.

Australia’s policy of stopping people smugglers before they reach the ocuntry is tough but it has stopped the boats and the loss of many lives.

Ardern is sending a message to the people smugglers that Australia’s borders could have a back door via NZ.

She is giving them a product to sell to gullible economic refugees who risk their life only to end up in detention centres.

Surely, as a new PM she has enough on her plate in her own back yard. We love our Kiwi cousins but please mind your own business.

The continued needling of Australia by offering to take a relative few of the Manus Island assylum seekers might appeal to some of her supporters, but will do nothing for genuine refugees.

It’s also cheap grandstanding when, as Bernard Lagan writes, Australia is lapping us on refugees:

. . .Australia can’t accept New Zealand’s offer without breaking its core vow: that no asylum seeker coming on a people-smuggler’s boat will be allowed in. With New Zealand citizenship, they would be free to enter Australia. The Australian Labor Party has the same policy.

By continuing to hector Australia, Ardern has antagonised the Turnbull Government and demonstrated a shallow appreciation of the realities Australia faces in deterring people smugglers. The seaborne asylum-seeker traffic to Australia peaked in 2012 when more than 17,000 arrived. The number reached just under 5000 in one month. Nearly 2000 have drowned at sea trying to reach Australia in a dozen years. The flow – and drownings – stopped only when Australia began turning back boats and shipping to its offshore detention centres those who made it.

The Key and Bill English governments knew that some of the boats turned back by the Australian Navy had New Zealand as their ultimate destination.

Lest anyone consider Australia closed to the neediest, it is worth remembering that in the past year, the country accepted 22,000 refugees, most referred to it by the United Nations refugee agency. New Zealand? Its annual quota is a miserable 750, which might increase – Winston Peters permitting – to 1500 under the new Government. . . 

It’s easy to be sanctimonious when the risk of boats laden with desperate refugees are very unlikely to make our shores.

Australia is closer to the countries from which the desperate flee and it is already accepting many more refugees than we do.

If Ardern really wants to help more refugees, there are plenty New Zealand could take from other places without trivialising the very real problem Australia faces with people smugglers.

 

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Quote of the Year?

December 8, 2017

Voting has opened for Massey University’s Quote of the Year.

The finalists are:

“It’s deeply disappointing, but it’s not gay.”– Actor Jatinder Singh after Nigel calls a dropped pie “gay” in Rainbow Youth’s advertisement. 

“Excuse me for laughing, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been ravaged by a toothless sheep.”– Winston Peters on Gareth Morgan. 

“This is my generation’s nuclear free moment.”– Jacinda Ardern on climate change. 

“I’m embracing my new feather duster status.”– Paula Bennett, ending her tenure as Deputy Prime Minister. 

“First ladyman? Who knows? …Aiming for Michelle Obama, probably gonna be a little bit closer to Prince Philip.”– Clarke Gayford. 

“I am a different shade of brown.”– Student Jai Selkirk of the Dilworth School team winning “Word – The Front Line Poetry Slam” competition. 

“Please tell me that’s not your penis.”– Shortland Street’s Dr Chris Warner (actor Michael Galvin) confronting his son about a photo. 

“If humour is common sense dancing, John Clarke was Nureyev.”– Don McGlashan on the death of John Clarke. 

“…in NZ elections, we all vote then take the ballots—chuck them out—and ask a man called Winston Peters who won.”– Ali Ikram. 

“I’ve not seen the data about the risk factor of death by falling fatty; I’d imagine it’s similar to the risk factor of death by Sharknado.”

– Fat activist and scholar Dr Cat Pause, when asked if fat people are a hazard because they could fall on you.

I’m not sure what the criteria was but for brevity, conviction and passion I would have added Bill English’s line from an eleciton debate – I got up again.

 


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.


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.

 


Rural round-up

November 13, 2017

Fresh Food – Out of Reach:

Amy Wiggins writes in the front page of the NZ Herald on Friday November 10th 2017, that as the prices for fresh fruit and vegetables rise they are becoming out of reach for low income families. The article goes on to say that many New Zealanders are struggling to afford to buy enough fresh produce to feed their families a healthy diet.

I agree with both of these statements and in fact when you take into account the land use restrictions on the horticultural industry, contained within the Healthy Rivers Proposed Plan Change 1 (PC1); this is going to create extremely serious food security problems into the future.

A huge percentage of the country’s population rely on the Waikato Region’s fruit and vegetable producers for security of their food supply and with the restrictions on horticultural land use that occur as a result of PC1, they are going to lose the security of supply that they currently have. . . 

TPP back on with new name, Canada apparently back on board – Pattrick Smellie:

Nov. 11 walked away from the deal, but returned to the negotiating table claiming “a misunderstanding”.

Briefing New Zealand media ahead of the APEC Leaders’ Retreat in Da Nang, Viet Nam, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said : “I wouldn’t want to speculate but I think probably we’re in a more stable place than we were yesterday.”

Asked whether Canada was back in the tent and TPP was back on she said: “I would characterise it in that way, yes.” . . 

Red Meat sector welcomes TPP deal and its significant boost to regional growth:

Beef and Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) welcome the announcement a deal has been struck to move ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which is now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ, says the CPTPP will deliver significant gains to the sector. . . 

The death of rural programmes – Craig Wiggins:

The announcement that NZ on Air funding has been cut for the Rural Delivery television programme has not come as a surprise to me, having witnessed the demise of support for the Young Farmer Contest from those in control of the programming and funding of what we get to watch on television.

The time slot allocations and in turn the lack of viewers engaged in the topics being covered don’t stack up against the mind-dumbing and increasingly popular reality television series we get these days.

It’s a sign of the times that people turn on their televisions to escape reality and be entertained, not really informed now.

I would suggest that if Country Calendar didn’t have as much of an entertainment and voyeuristic content as it does then it would be in for the chop as well. . . 

Sheep shearing in New Zealand -World’s toughest jobs:

If you think you’re tough enough to do sheep shearing in New Zealand, here’s what you need to know…

About the job

Summer (December to March) is usually peak season, but this can vary by location and type of sheep, and there tend to be some opportunities available throughout the year.

The work is physically hard and whilst sheep shearing is a skill that takes years to perfect, the more basic work is ‘crutching’ which is something you can learn in a week or so. Crutchers shave just the rear legs of the sheep to keep them clean through the summer. In general, crutchers get paid around $0.50 per sheep and after a couple of weeks should be churning out around 400 – 600 sheep per day, or $200 – $300 per day (£103-£154).  . .


Organisation matters

November 7, 2017

Until just a few weeks ago, one of the big questions over Labour’s suitability for government was its inability to organise itself.

Those questions quietened when Andrew Little resigned and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern.

But Labour still hasn’t got it all together:

Ceremonies to open New Zealand’s 52nd Parliament have kicked off with National threatening to gatecrash Labour’s party over the election of new Speaker Trevor Mallard.

The election is normally straightforward and comes straight after all MPs swear an oath of allegiance.

However, things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges asked whether MPs who were not present today and therefore not sworn-in could vote. . . 

However – in what is an embarrassing oversight for the new Government – at least five of its MPs were absent.

That meant it lacked the numbers to have Mallard elected, and things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges raised a point of order.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister David Parker are on their way to Manila for APEC. Green MP Gareth Hughes was also absent.

“Where’s Winston when you need him?” Bridges taunted the Labour benches.

“Get used to it,” another National MP commented.

After hurried discussions between Bridges and Labour’s leader of the House Chris Hipkins, Mallard was finally confirmed as the new Speaker. . . 

National’s delaying proceedings can open it up to accusations of pettiness.

Probably only political tragics will take any notice.

But the government has a wafer-thin majority and it can’t afford to be sloppy over process.

Organisation matters for a party and even more for a government.

UPDATE: In discussion over Labour’s lack of a majority, National got Labour to agree to increase the number of select committees from 96 to 108.

UPDATE 2: Counting and calmness matter too – Labour did have the numbers but panicked when challenged.


Popular yes but will it work?

November 1, 2017

Labour will make residential property ‘sensitive’ which will be a de facto ban on foreign buyers.

Anyone who was not either a citizen or resident of New Zealand would not be allowed to purchase existing homes.

“The Government will introduce an amendment to the Overseas Investment Act to classify housing as ‘sensitive’ and introduce a residency test,” Ardern said in her first post-cabinet press conference. . .

Ardern expected the legislation would be introduced by Christmas and passed in the new year.

“This does not impact our Korean FTA, nor will it impact the TPP – if we pass it before it takes effect,” Trade Minister David Parker said.

“Our underlying ethos here has been that if you have the right to live here long-term you have the right to buy here.”

The ban needed to passed fast because if New Zealand signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without passing the legislation the TPP provisions allowing foreign investment would then effect other trade agreements under “most favoured nation clauses,” effectively taking away the right to do this for good, Parker said. . .

National’s Finance spokesman Steven Joyce describes the proposal as half-cooked:

The first and strangest thing about Labour’s announcement is that it isn’t an actual ban. Putting houses through a sensitive land purchase criteria is definitely bureaucratic but does not constitute a ban on such sales,” Mr Joyce says.

“There are also all sorts of definitional questions. Is an apartment on the fourth floor of a building ‘sensitive land’? Is a two hectare property with two houses on it that’s being sold for development able to be sold to an international investor?

“This proposal would also be a massive compliance cost for house buyers of all types. For example, will somebody with a foreign sounding name have to prove their citizenship to the real estate agent?

“The whole announcement was very strange,” Mr Joyce says. “There has been no paperwork released and the Prime Minister indicated many of the detailed decisions remain to be made.

“This smacks very much as a ‘bright idea’ with absolutely no detail or evidence base behind it. The Prime Minister even spoke as if the Auckland property market was still rapidly appreciating whereas in actual fact it’s been flat to falling for the last year.

“Finally, if the idea gets over all the hurdles, would it actually work in terms of satisfying the concerns of our trading partners? It appears on the face of it that it would treat investors from other countries less favourably than New Zealand investors.

“This is a policy that’s designed to solve a political problem. Evidence in both Australia and here in New Zealand is that overseas buyers don’t have a significant impact on the housing market.”

Eric Crampton writes on the issue at Offsetting Behaviour and asks whether those on work-to-residence visas will be able to buy houses under this policy.

Even if they can, migrants on work visas will be caught by the ban. That will be many of the skilled people we need for jobs that we can’t find New Zealanders willing and able to do.

Liam Hehir also questions whether the proposal would be effective:

. . . Figures released earlier this year showed that home buyers without citizenship or residency accounted for about two percent of transferees. So while it might be effective as a ban, I wouldn’t be holding my breath about it doing much more than the scratching of a populist itch.

This will be popular but will it achieve its aim of making it easier for New Zealanders to buy houses?

Popular policy isn’t always good policy and only time will tell if this will help make housing more affordable without compromising any free trade agreements and deterring skilled migrants from coming here.


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