Another step forward together in confidence

May 23, 2020

Todd Muller’s first speech as National Party leader:

The past few months, our country has made many sacrifices.

You have made many sacrifices. You have put a lot on the line to get us through this crisis.

Now, we must begin taking another step forward together, with confidence. 

The confidence to rebuild our country, rebuild our economy and to restore the livelihoods of New Zealanders.

Only a National government can provide the leadership to do that.

That is why we must win the next election.

Nikki and I, and our team, understand that the task for the next Government is immense. We’re honoured by the opportunity to lead this Party.

We take it seriously.

I would like to thank and acknowledge Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett.

Simon has worked hard as Leader, given the job his all, and the caucus is grateful for his service.

Both he and Paula have served the Party and our country well.

Thank you to my wife Michelle and our three children for supporting me on this journey.  Kids, Dad will be home soon.

I want to pause here and acknowledge New Zealand’s tremendous response to the health crisis ravaging the world.

We should all be proud of what we’ve achieved together. 

But regardless of these efforts, COVID 19 has hurt us.

My absolute focus as National Party Leader will be New Zealand’s economic recovery.

We will save jobs, get the economy growing again and we will do so by leveraging our country’s great strengths: our people, our communities, our great natural resources, our values of hard work, tenacity, innovation and aspiration.

I know the size of this task and I will bring my all to it.

Yes, I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account.  I can tell a good one from a bad one.  And yes, I’ll bring those skills to the Prime Ministership.

But that’s not what drives me.

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.

For too long this economy, your economy – and your life – has been invisible to decision makers in Wellington.

This must change. And under my National government it WILL change. The economy that I believe in – is the one you live in – it is the economy of your community.

If we can rebuild that – we can rebuild our country.

This is what you can expect from my leadership: First and foremost – I’m about what’s best for you and your family – not what’s wrong with the Government.

And I’m not interested in opposition for opposition’s sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics.

I’m about ideas that get results.

I’m proud of working across Parliament on the Zero Carbon Act. 

Wherever I have the opportunity to work with other parties for our country’s good, I will do so. 

Will I criticise the government?  Yes.

But ultimately, values and ideas are what ground me.

Like the idea that you can shape your own future and are free to do so.

I believe in enterprise, reward for hard work, personal responsibility, and in the power of strong families and communities.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe that for each and everyone of us to do better, someone else has to be worse off.

Those are National’s values. They are New Zealand values.

I don’t believe the right values or the right management skills are guiding our country as it confronts its biggest challenge since the end of the Second World War.

I will lead a party that rises to the great challenges facing us as a nation.

Labour has failed against every measure it has set for itself in Government- KiwiBuild, Light Rail, child poverty, prison numbers.

If we continue on this track of talking a big game but failing to deliver, we simply won’t recognise the New Zealand we are part of in a few years’ time.

Because New Zealanders know, whether or not they support National, they can have confidence that National will meet the challenges our country faces.

New Zealand, it is time for your sacrifice to be repaid, and for your community to be rebuilt.

Today, that work has just begun.

Thank you.

Clarity, direction and positivity on a base of practical experience, this  is what the country needs.

Over at Kiwiblog, you can listen to a Taxpayers’ Union podcast interview with Todd, recorded a few days before his leadership bid.


Delivering disappointment

October 18, 2019

This was supposed to be the government’s year of delivery.

David Farrar posted this on Kiwiblog a couple of days ago and got pushback from a Minister’s office:

A Minister’s Office has said that there has in fact been 149 million trees planted. The official policy is to include trees planted by the private sector as part of business as normal. They are correct this is the official Government position today but neither the pre-election policy or the coalition agreement stated the billion trees would include other plantings. In fact the coalition agreement says:

A $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including … Planting 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme

That very clearly implies they would find 100 million trees a year, and has nothing about including non-funded trees that would occur regardless of the Government.

So I stand by my position that the Government promised to fund one billion trees and has only funded 2.5% of that to date.

This shifting of goalposts is typical of the government. They’ve done it with police numbers too.

The Government has shifted the goalposts in its promise to deliver more frontline police after what seems like a slip of the tongue by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

It promised to “strive towards adding 1800 new police” over three years but in a game of semantics, it is now saying it will deliver 1800 new trained recruits by next month.

The move has drawn the ire of the Police Association who say it is not good enough and that the Government has broken its promise to police. . .

The Government has insisted that 1800 extra new officers was never a target, but an aspiration. . .

Not a goal, but an aspiration.

That’s the government summed up in six words and the result is a year of delivering disappointment.


A plan so cunning

July 3, 2019

Blackadder might be coming back:

Beloved British comedian Rowan Atkinson has reportedly told friends he is planning a reboot of the cult black comedy Blackadder and is “extremely excited”.

The Mr Bean superstar is set to team up with his original co-stars again to bring the 80s series back to life, including Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, The Sun reports.

It had been previously reported the cast would perhaps consider a one-off show, but now it’s believed a full fifth series is being considered.

The original series ran for four seasons between 1983 and 1989, with each season taking place in a different period of history.

The new season – according to a source of the Sun’s – will be set in the “modern day”, in which Edmund Blackadder (Atkinson) would be a university lecturer. . . 

Another series and set in a university?

That is, to quote Blackadder, . . . a plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

Hat tip: Kiwiblog


Micro matters not minor matters

September 11, 2018

BusinessNZ says the Employment Relations Amendment Bill is harmful and oppressive:

None of the provisions that most concern business have been removed by the select committee considering the Bill. . .

55% of submissions were against the Bill and thousands of emails sent to Parliamentarians by concerned businesses. EMA, Business Central, the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Otago Southland Employers’ Association ran a high-profile campaign asking the Government to explain the reasoning for the Bill’s harmful provisions.

“Given current low levels of business confidence, especially among small business, it is unfortunate that the Government has neither listened nor explained its justification for the Bill.

Low business confidence is not political pique. It’s based on genuine concern about policy like this which will make it more difficult, and expensive, to run a business.

“Business cannot support this Bill and will be making our position clear as this Bill progresses through Parliament.

“BusinessNZ is also considering pursuing a claim to the International Labour Organisation or International Court of Justice on parts of the Bill which are contrary to international law.

“Business strongly objects to this Bill’s ability to harm employment relations, jobs and commercial value in New Zealand enterprises.”

The EMA is bitterly disappointed no heed was paid to concerns raised:

The EMA, along with its fellow regional associations, actively lobbied and campaigned for four key areas to be modified as it believed these will not deliver to the Government’s stated aims of a high wage and high performing economy, nor help businesses to be more productive. The joint Fix The Bill campaign resulted in at least 2254 emails being sent to Government MPs seeking clarification on how the changes will help their business succeed.

The four aspects of the Bill that were particularly worrying for business were:

– Employers with 20 employees or more will lose the right to include 90-day-trial periods in employment agreements. However, findings from a nationwide survey of employers found that the 90-day trial periods were useful for businesses of all sizes, to give prospective employees a chance.

A trial period is not just good for employers, it’s good for other employees. If a new worker isn’t up to scratch it impacts badly on workmates.

– Businesses will be forced to settle collective agreements, even if they don’t or can’t agree

And even if they can’t afford them.

– Allowing union representatives access to workplaces without permission

Any access, any time is not conducive to productivity.

– Not allowing businesses a choice to opt out of a multi-employer collective agreement (MECA)

This will not only means saddle businesses with agreements they can’t afford, it will stop a business offering staff better pay and conditions.

With more than 50% of New Zealand businesses employing fewer than 100 staff, the EMA is deeply worried the changes in the Bill combined with the raft of other legislation in the pipeline will unduly burden smaller operators.

Furthermore, despite rhetoric from Government that it is listening to business, this is a tangible example that ideology rather than solid public policy driving decisions and does not bode well for business going forward.

Throughout this process the EMA has been puzzled by how any of the proposed changes to the industrial relations framework will take the country forward in terms of the Government’s goal of developing a modern, nimble and high performing economy.

Taking industrial relations back to the 1970s will not take the country forward and it will harm rather than help the economy.

Steven Joyce writes:*

. . .Economic policy is in fact a three-legged stool, fiscal policy, monetary policy, and microeconomic policy. You can’t successfully operate an economy, especially a small one like New Zealand, without all three working together.

Microeconomics is everything that operates at the firm level in the economy – all the regulations and policy settings that impact directly on businesses. These are things like employment law, immigration settings, competition law, resource allocation, innovation settings, tax policy and the government’s investment in infrastructure.

It is microeconomics that drives much of firms’ actual operating conditions. Along with interest rates and exchanges rates, it is access to capital, skilled people, resources, markets, the necessary infrastructure and importantly the consistency of those settings, that tell the owners of businesses that it is a good time to invest and grow their business.

If you start playing with those settings in an arbitrary way while ignoring the economic consequences of those changes, then firms will simply stop investing. They’ll either wait until there is more certainty, or not invest at all. . .

Microeconomic matters, including employment relations legislation, are not minor matters.

They have a huge influence on the business environment and economy.

Any changes which add to the complexities and risk of employing people will have the opposite affect from the government’s stated aim of developing a modern, nimble and high performing economy.

But this legislation shows that this aim comes a very poor second to Labour’s need to pay back unions for their financial and personal support.

The legislation will be good for unions but not the whose interests they purport to represent nor for the businesses which employ them.

* Hat tip: Kiwiblog


15 years fomenting happy mischief

July 27, 2018

Kiwiblog marks 15 years of David Farrar’s fomenting happy mischief * today.

To maintain both the quantity and quality of posts every day for so long is no small achievement.

David has a readership that would be the envy of many professional pundits and media outlets.

His blog is one of relatively few that is consistently well reasoned and reasonable.

He is partisan but will give credit and criticism where it’s due regardless of political hue.

His was the first blog I ever read, it’s one I read every day and I look forward to the next 15 years and beyond of essential reading.

* Fomenting happy mischief was adopted by David as a slogan after a letter to the NZ Herald by Peter Davis, husband of then-PM Helen Clark, accused the paper of doing that.

 


365 days of gratitude

April 22, 2018

It’s 10 years today since I started blogging.

My introduction to blogs came through reading Kiwiblog which introduced me to other blogs, including No Minister, Lindsay MitchellNot PC, Whale Oil, and the sadly gone but not forgotten Cactus Kate and Keeping Stock.

Reading led to commenting and that led to the thought I could start my own blog. I happened to mention that thought to a friend who is much more computer savvy than I am, she said it would be easy and thanks to WordPress, it was.

Once I started blogging I found other blogs and different news sites which, for a while supplanted books.

A trip to Argentina for a couple of weddings when I had no internet access for several days at a time persuaded me that less blogging would be more healthy and I cut back on computer time.

Every now and then I contemplate giving up altogether and perhaps I will one day.

But not yet.

I still enjoy the writing and, whether or not I agree with them, the contribution from those who leave comments.

Without them this would be a very one-sided conversation. With them there’s variety and for that, and the people who provide it, I’m grateful.

 

 

 


Zero chance of zero carbon

December 20, 2017

Federated Farmers Climate Change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard  says it’s impossible to get methane emissions from a cow down to zero:

“It’s a biological system, it’s not going to happen. I guess the key thing is we’ve got to remember the global context her and that New Zealand’s food producers here are one of the most efficient in the world at producing food for the least amount of carbon.”

 

Hoggard was responding to news the government is aiming to get New Zealand’s net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050.

That doesn’t mean animal emissions would have to get to zero. In theory it could be achieved by off-setting those emissions but David Farrar points out at Kiwiblog:

 The reality is that achieving zero net emissions will be incredibly costly and painful. It will involve massive trade offs.

New Zealand’s emissions from farming are unusually high for the developed world because we produce so much food.

Most of that food is exported. Other countries will have much lower emissions from farm animals but they eat the food we produce and if we produce less of it other less efficient farmers will produce more.

Emissions here would reduce but global emissions would rise.

What those calling for a reduction in stock, especially cattle, also forget is that the food we produce and export is what largely pays for the goods and services which we need to retain first world status.

Cue, this cartoon by Tom Scott from 2008:


When you’re lying you’re losing

May 30, 2017

Labour was blindsided by the support other Opposition Parties – the Greens and New Zealand First – have given to national’s Budget.

That is no excuse for lying about the details Andrew Little said:

“National’s Single Child Tax will see a family with one child lose as much as $830 a year in Working For Families payments.

“Whenever you’re putting these packages together, there’s always a complexity about it. But I’d be surprised if they understood there’s 20,000 odd single-child families that will now be worse off – but that’s the reality. ” 

No it’s not.

Getting something more, even if it is less than someone else is not losing.

[Finance Minister Steven] Joyce said those families still saw an overall gain, and Labour was failing to see the bigger picture. 

“The abatement changes mean they don’t get as much from the Working for Families part of the package, but they gain more from other parts of the package, in particular the tax changes. They may also in some cases gain from the Accommodation Supplement Changes.

“It’s important to note that these people are already receiving Working for Families so currently get more than couples with no children who don’t get anything from Working for Families. They continue to get more until the Working For Families is fully abated,” he said. 

“One of the aims of the Family Incomes package is to focus Working for Families on lower income families and that middle income families are less dependent on Working for Families and keep more of what they earn through the tax system. This is an example of that occurring.” . . 

It is better and more efficient to allow people to keep more of what they earn than take more in tax, churn it through a bureaucracy and give some back.

Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar points out that Labour is also lying about health expenditure:

. . . Now let’s look at what at what Vote Health has done between 2008 and Budget 2017.

  • Nominal Vote Health – increased by $4.85 billion a year from $11.92 billion to $16.77 billion – a 40.7% increase
  • Real Vote Health – increased by $3.00 billion a year from $13.77 billion to $16.77 billion – a 21.8% increase
  • Real Vote Health per capita – increased by $341 a year from $3,233 to $3,574 – a 10.5% increase

You can claim it is not enough. You can claim more is needed. You can claim growing elderly population needs more funding. But you cannot claim it has been cut. That is a lie. . . 

When you’re lying, you’re losing and Labour is.

If it can’t convince other Opposition parties to stay with it against the government, how will it convince voters to let it run the country?

 

 


Could be a silly precedent

September 13, 2016

Labour is clearly rattled by the latest One News Colmar Brunton political poll which put the party down three to 26% since June.

Leader Andrew Little called it a bogus poll and now the party has released its internal poll results.

 

The Roy Morgan poll a couple of months ago which showed National on 53% was off-trend but the latest One News poll is far closer to others than Labour’s.

Kiwiblog has the four most recent poll results for National and Labour:

Individual polls are probably only of interest to political tragics but others might take more interest in the trends which have National in the mid 40s and suggest the UMR poll is an outlier.

Labour could have set a silly precedent and dug a hole for itself by releasing its own poll.

The media will want to know what the party’s internal polling shows next time one of the public ones doesn’t fit the party’s narrative.

If Labour doesn’t release it the obvious conclusion will be that it isn’t favourable either.

Had it not lost its spin doctors, one of them might have warned the party of that.


Surplus challenges

May 16, 2016

The government is facing challenges, Finance Minister Bill English told the National Party’s Mainland conference at the weekend.

The prospect of economic growth is good but brings with it the challenge of dealing with ongoing surpluses.

The government books scraped into surplus last year but few would have been surprised if they slipped back into deficit given low dairy prices and the various problems facing many of our trading partners.

However, the government is now looking ahead to multi-billion dollar surpluses in the short to medium term which provides the challenge of how best to use that money.

The opposition and the usual other suspects who think the quantity of spending matters more than quality have been calling for increased spending in all sorts of areas. Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar has calculated that meeting the demands would require a top tax rate of 100%.

But this government has a much better focus than the quantity of spending.As the Finance Minister saidWe measure spending by results rather than the level of spending.

Some issues do require more money now in order to reduce future costs and that is why the government has taken an investment approach to social spending with a whole-of-government approach.

At the conference, Justice Minister Amy Adams spoke about this and explained that getting better results in her portfolio didn’t require more money for it. What was needed was spending that addressed the drivers of crime – welfare dependency and poor education and health.

Few would argue with that, but increased surpluses don’t only give the government the ability to spend more, it also has room to take less.

Last week’s announcement that there won’t be tax cuts in this year’s budget disappointed some, but I think most people accept Prime Minister John Key’s view hat there are other priorities this year.

National had looked at around $1 billion for tax cuts in the Budget the year but it was discarded because it would have delivered $7 or $8 a week to many households, Key told Newstalk ZB.

He said the choice they were faced with in the short term was either a billion dollars worth of tax cuts which would deliver a small amount of money to New Zealanders, or spend the money on other things such as cancer drugs.

Labour was, rightly, pilloried for its chewing gum tax cut and this government wouldn’t get any thanks for offering something similar.

However, people won’t be so patient when there’s a prospect of on-going billion dollar surpluses which give the potential for meaningful cuts and the PM gives room for hope:

“Philosophically we believe in lower taxes and smaller government, and government’s definitely getting smaller,” he said.

“The point is if we’re going to have a tax programme – we’re not ruling that out in for 2017 or campaigning on it for a fourth term. But having probably a bigger one, to be blunt.”

When asked how much was needed for meaningful tax cut, Key responded: “$3 billion I reckon.”

He wouldn’t reveal the budget surplus forecast for next year, but it was nowhere near enough for that.

He said it was realistic to forecast the tax cuts without voters considering it a ploy to be re-elected. 

Tax thresholds would probably change because of the increase in wages, he explained.

“The average income is going up and we think in a few years time the average income will be say $68,000, well the top rate cuts in at $70,000. If you don’t adjust thresholds over time you get to a point where the average income earner is paying the top personal rate of tax. That can’t be right.” . . 

Bracket creep erodes the value of wage rises and needs to be addressed.

Tax cuts  also help retirees. Superannuation is linked to after-tax wages. When taxes drop, after-tax wages increase and so do superannuation payments.

A party conference mid-way through a government’s third term could have been subdued. Confidence that the government will rise to the challenges of growth, continue to focus on the quality of its spending and results helped contribute to a buoyant mood.

It’s far better to be dealing with the challenges of growth than those of recession facing many other countries.


Taking drops from the ocean

April 19, 2016

A new report by the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) says oceans could rise by a metre this century if we don’t stop emitting huge amounts of carbon and methane.

Around 95% of New Zealand’s rivers flow into the sea.

If we had a considerable increase in water storage and irrigation would that make a difference or would that be so insignificant that it would just be taking drops from the ocean?

While we’re on the topic of climate change, (via Kiwiblog),  fracking is good for the environment:

. . . As a nation, the United States reduced its carbon emissions by 2 percent from last year. Over the past 14 years, our carbon emissions are down more than 10 percent. On a per-unit-of-GDP basis, U.S. carbon emissions are down by closer to 20 percent.

Even more stunning: We’ve reduced our carbon emissions more than virtually any other nation in the world, including most of Europe.

How can this be? We never ratified the Kyoto Treaty. We never adopted a national cap-and-trade system, or a carbon tax, as so many of the sanctimonious Europeans have done.

The answer isn’t that the EPA has regulated CO2 out of the economy. With strict emission standards, the EPA surely has started to strangle our domestic industries, such as coal, and our electric utilities. But that’s not the big story here.

The primary reason carbon emissions are falling is because of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. . .

Yet those of a dark green persuasion are strongly opposed to fracking.

Fracking technology for shale oil and gas drilling is supposed to be evil. Some states have outlawed it. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out against it in recent weeks. Schoolchildren have been bombarded with green propaganda about all the catastrophic consequences of fracking.

They are mostly lies. Fracking is simply a new way to get at America’s vast storehouse of tens of trillions of dollars worth of shale oil and gas that lies beneath us, coast to coast — from California to upstate New York. Fracking produces massive amounts of natural gas, and, as a consequence, natural gas prices have fallen in the past decade from above $8 per million BTUs to closer to $2 this year — a 75 percent reduction — due to the spike in domestic supplies.

This free fall in prices means that America is using far more natural gas for heating and electricity and much less coal.

Here is how the International Energy Agency put it: “In the United States, (carbon) emissions declined by 2 percent, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.” . . .

Science and technology have achieved far more than politics and emotion.


Basics beat side shows

April 11, 2016

National’s three-point rise to 50% in the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll has come as a surprise to some commentators.

Labour’s four-point fall to 28% was probably not.

It is only one poll and anything could happen between now and the election but Kiwiblog shows where the two parties were at the same time in the last election cycle:

In April 2013 National was at 43% and Labour 36% – a 7% gap.

In April 2016 National is at 50% and Labour 28% – a 22% gap.

He points out that Labour leader Andrew Little is on only 7%, three points behind Winston Peters.

This isn’t a strong position from which to launch a winning election campaign.

In another post, Kiwiblog looks at party favourability:

. . . National is viewed favourably by 58% of NZers. That helps explain why 47% voted for them.

Labour is viewed favourably by just 35% of NZers. . . 

National has the least unfavourable – only 28% of NZers dislike National. This will come as a surprise to hard left activists who live in a bubble where 100% of their friends dislike National. . . 

Labour is on 41% for unfavourability.

National at +30% is the only party to have net favourability:

PartyNetFav

National’s continual popularity confounds its critics and many commentators.

There are several reasons for it and one of the biggest is that the government focuses on the basics while Labour gets distracted by sideshows.

That doesn’t mean everything the government does works well. I am tribal National and there are some things the government does I don’t like and some it doesn’t do I’d like it to, but those things don’t matter as much as the basics – the economy, education, health, welfare, and security.

And of course, one big reason National is doing so well is that Labour isn’t.

National can’t rely on that if it wants to win a fourth term, a viable government needs to be there for better reasons than a hopeless opponent but Labour’s continuing focus on side-shows and showing its incompetence in opposition keeps demonstrating it is not a viable government-in-waiting.

 

 

 

 


Positivity beats petty and prevaricating

January 18, 2016

Summer holidays provide what many regard as a merciful break from day to day politics in the news.

That in turn provides an opportunity for an opposition leader who wants to get into the hearts and minds of voters to get noticed.

I came across a couple of news items in which Labour leader Andrew Little was quoted but neither was positive. In one he was petty and in the other he was prevaricating.

In the first he criticised Paula Rebstock’s New Year’s honour as political favouritism:

Ms Rebstock has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the state. . . 

 

He’s trying to make a political point and criticise the government and in doing so is making a slur on a woman who has years  of work in and for  the public service.

This was both petty and personal.

The second story repeated his assertion that Labour would defy the Trans pacific Partnership.

In the interview he is questioned about how he would do this and repeats what he’s said before about any government he leads picking and choosing which bits of the agreement it would keep.

That sounds definite but it is prevaricating because he knows that once an agreement is signed parties to it can’t decide which bits of it they will honour and which they won’t.

Kiwiblog’s poll of polls show National finished the year polling about 5% higher than it was three years ago and  Labour is about 5% lower.

One reason for this is that National’s leader John Key is usually positive which trumps  petty and prevaricating which is how Little often appears.

 

 

 

 


Quote of the day

October 8, 2015

FTAs aren’t solely about tariff elimination. They are also about the ability to trade with as few impediments as possible. In this respect, TPP looks comprehensive at first glance, with the promise to breakdown compliance and non-tariff barriers across the Pacific Rim. These benefits are significant, especially for smaller economies and companies. . . .

Closer connectivity with the major players on the trade and investment scene adds another string to our bow. The likes of the United States, Japan and Canada have some of the highest incomes and thus purchasing power of all countries. New Zealand isn’t the lowest cost producer in many sectors anymore and needs access better market access to wealthy consumers to capture margin, and to deliver on the “value-add” strategies that many sectors are pursuing. . . 

There is a raft of empirical evidence suggests trade liberalisation benefits overall welfare and lifts nationwide GDP, particularly for open trade dependent economies like New Zealand. Studies by the Peterson Institute suggested that the gains to New Zealand from TPP would cumulate to around 2% of GDP by 2025. Some of the numbers being bandied around by Government officials look a little on the high side, but considering the surge in two-way trade between New Zealand and China following the signing of the FTA less than a decade ago it leaves little doubt as to benefits on overall trade (and GDP) from increasing trade liberalisation. . . ANZ

Hat tip: Kiwiblog


Rural round-up

August 3, 2015

Ballance delivers cash to shareholders up front:

. . . Farm nutrient co-operative Ballance Agri-Nutrients has fast-tracked its 2014/15 rebate and dividend payment to get much-needed cash to farmers early.

On 31 July, the co-operative will begin its distribution of an average $60 per tonne, seven weeks ahead of its normal payment schedule. The rebate, averaging $55.83 a tonne along with a 10 cent dividend per share will see a total distribution to shareholders of $76 million – equating to 94 percent of its $81 million gross trading result.

Chairman David Peacocke said today that the co-operative’s solid performance meant it could support its shareholders and move quickly to do so. . .

Mixing style, substance and ambition – Sally Rae:

Chanelle Purser is possibly the most stylish calf rearer in Crookston.

Her fur jacket might usually remain in the wardrobe while she is in the calf shed, but brightly painted fingers dispense milk to hungry charges.

Mrs Purser (42) is somewhat of a dynamo, farming with her husband Phil in West Otago and running a successful retail business in Gore, but she takes it all in her well-manicured stride. . .

Strong demand for good farm dogs – Diane Bishop:

A shortage of good working dogs pushed prices up at the Gore dog sale.

PGG Wrightson Gore livestock manager Mark Cuttance said the top heading dogs fetched $5500 to $5700 while the top huntaways made about $5600 at the sale on Wednesday July 29.

Cuttance wasn’t surprised.

“We expect that sort of money for the top end dogs,” he said.

Cuttance said there was a shortage of good working dogs, because of less shepherds on the land, and vendors saw the Gore dog sale as the perfect opportunity to achieve market value for their dogs in a competitive environment. . . .

Mid Canterbury farmland sold to foreign-owned Craigmore Farming – Jack Montgomerie:

A company associated with a South Canterbury rich-lister has bought more Canterbury farmland.

An Overseas Investment Office decision released on Friday stated the 95 per cent foreign-owned Craigmore Farming NZ Limited Partnership had received approval to buy 83 hectares of land.

Craigmore planned to incorporate the cropping land on New Park Rd, located about 15 kilometres southwest of Ashburton, into its Wairepo dairy farm operation. . .

End the squabbling over free range – David Leyonhjelm:

TO scramble the metaphors, various thin-shelled types are running around like headless chooks over free-range eggs, proclaiming the sky will fall if the law doesn’t tell us all what the term means.

Facts and evidence are as scarce as hen’s teeth, while market forces are disappearing faster than a randy rooster.

The cause is the fact that consumers are increasingly choosing free-range eggs over cage eggs. There are no health, welfare, nutritional or environmental advantages to this. Cage and free-range eggs are no different, although free-range eggs are more likely to be contaminated by chook poo. . .

 Pretty Woman protecting soils:

JULIA Roberts is getting dirty with the aim of helping agriculture.

The Academy Award winner and star of such films as Pretty Woman and Mystic Pizza, has become the latest in a line of international VIPs to call for action to protect soils.

The Hollywood actress has become the newest face of the Save Our Soils initiative, following in the footsteps of several dedicated environmentalists including the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, activist Vandana Shiva and conservationist Douglas Tompkins. . .

Green dilemma – a GE rice that reduces greenhouse gas emissions – Kiwiblog:

This will pose a dilemma for the Greens. Scientists have developed a genetically engineered rice crop that has significantly reduced methane (the most powerful greenhouse gas) emissions over normal rice.

So if the Greens truly believe their rhetoric that greenhouse gas emissions are the biggest threat to Earth today, surely this means they will drop their opposition to genetically engineered crops and welcome this GE rice?

Nature Magazine reports:

Atmospheric methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and is responsible for about 20% of the global warming effect since pre-industrial times1, 2. Rice paddies are the largest anthropogenic methane source and produce 7–17% of atmospheric methane2, 3. Warm waterlogged soil and exuded nutrients from rice roots provide ideal conditions for methanogenesis in paddies with annual methane emissions of 25–100-million tonnes3, 4. This scenario will be exacerbated by an expansion in rice cultivation needed to meet the escalating demand for food in the coming decades4.  . .

Apropos of which with a hat tip to Utopia:


Racism risks trade backlash

July 16, 2015

BNZ economist Tony Alexander joins the discussion on Auckland housing and the part played by foreign buyers:

. . . So we remain in the dark about the extent to which Auckland’s housing market is truly being driven by offshore buying. But as emphasised previously, there are three key points which I shall keep repeating regarding Auckland housing and house price pressures.

1. The fundamental cause of rising prices in Auckland is a shortage of supply and until that gets addressed prices will stay highly elevated and perhaps keep rising out to late-2017 this cycle.

No matter what tinkering is done to reduce demand by restricting foreign buyers won’t change the fact that there is a shortage of supply.

2. Whatever the true magnitude of Chinese buying has been these past few years it will get much greater. Chinese families are growing wealthier, so naturally they will seek offshore assets. Chinese people wish to get assets off the mainland and this week’s massive intervention in sharemarkets by the Beijing authorities illustrates why people have high distrust of the environment on the mainland in which they would hold assets. And Chinese authorities have yet to relax hefty restrictions on people getting their funds offshore. When they do, well then you will see something entirely new hit the world’s residential property markets.

3. We should as soon as possible adopt Australia’s rules restricting foreign buying of anything other than new housing unless resident for 12 months.

But here is the fourth point which to date I have not emphasised but now will do. Adopting Australia’s rules as they stand won’t be the panacea many are hoping for. In Australia’s case people have been able to get around the restrictions quite easily. The regime is now being enforced more rigorously, but that does not necessarily alter what is being seen as a huge problem – something which people in Hong Kong have been seeing more and more of in recent years.

Many Chinese who buy properties never, or rarely, occupy them. They sit empty. This applies even to newly built apartments sold to Chinese buyers. Chinese simply want an asset away from any control by the CCP. There was an article on this in The Australian newspaper this weekend, page 6.

What this means is the following. As Auckland very slowly goes vertical in areas like New Lynn, developers will find they can very easily get offshore financing for their projects and hefty sales off the plan to Chinese investors (we Kiwis prefer to touch and feel before buying). These investors may never occupy or even rent out their investment. Thus while on the face of it the Aussie rule that a foreigner may only buy a newly built house or apartment sounds like a grand idea, it could leave the housing supply situation unchanged from a no-rule regime.

Thus, were we to adopt the Aussie regime we would need to add in an extra clause along the lines of apartments having to be made available for rent, actually rented, or something like that.

When might we see the adoption of some form of restriction on foreign home buying in New Zealand? Maybe within two or three years. About three years ago I recommended that we adopt the Australian regime. That was/is not because I feel Chinese buying is currently the big buying force people believe it is, but because the buying will grow and the eventual popular backlash against such buying and introduction of legislation in that heated environment would risk a backlash. The Chinese leadership may feel we were targeting them and getting above our station. Trade retaliation would be likely.

That is still the position I hold and the earlier we adopt Australia’s rules with the extra twist noted above, the better for everyone, including exporters to China wanting good access for many years who may feel nothing needs to be done on foreign home buying. You are the ones most at risk should this situation turn bad in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years time.

If there needs to be restrictions on foreign non-resident buyers they must apply to all foreign non-resident buyers.

Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar points out that Labour’s policy of treating Australians more favourably than Chinese would contravene the free trade deal which that party signed when it was last in government.

Even if it didn’t, putting higher hurdles in the way of those from one or more countries while applying less restrictive rules to others is discriminatory and could lead to tit for tat repercussions which would endanger trade.

That would impact on the whole country when the housing problem is essentially Auckland’s and the solution to it lies not in restricting demand but increasing the supply.

 

 


Rural round-up

June 13, 2015

 Farmer Wellness Big Breakfast – Nathan Guy

The title of my speech today is “Managing Through Tough Times”.

I came up with the idea of this function when I was out running about six weeks ago and felt the time was right for the Government to communicate two very important messages to our farming families and communities.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that these are challenging times for many farmers and the wider rural community, particularly in the dairy sector, but that we expect much improved conditions in the longer term.

Secondly, I wanted to reinforce the message that if farmers are struggling, or have concerns about how things are going, you are not alone and help is out there.

We know there are plenty of challenges this year, as there always is with farming. . .

$500,000 boost to help rural mental health:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have announced a $500,000 funding boost to support mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities.

“Rural depression is a significant issue. The physical isolation as well as the uncertainties of being reliant on the land creates different pressures to those living in an urban setting,” says Dr Coleman.

“The Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries have each contributed $250,000 to the one off funding boost. . .

Federated Farmers Fielday Seminars: “The essence of farming: water, land, capability”:

Agribusiness expert, Jaqueline Rowarth, has told a Federated Farmers seminar at the Mystery Creek Fieldays this afternoon that investment is necessary for ensuring supplies of sufficient farm water, but meanwhile maintaining water quality.

She said this investment is only possible if primary produce meets the huge challenge of attracting good prices.

Professor Rowarth told the 50 odd people at the seminar New Zealand has both water quantity and quality, which farmers are capturing and using responsibly. . .

 

Greenhouse gas study tour winners announced:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced the two winners of the 2015 Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) – World Farmer Organisation Study Tour in Argentina later this year.

Doug Avery and Zach Mounsey have been selected as winners by a panel including Mr Guy and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew after giving presentations at Fieldays this year.

“The purpose of this study tour is to increase global understanding and engagement on agricultural greenhouse gas research. These two winners will have an important role as ambassadors for New Zealand in sharing environmental management practices that support sustainable productivity. . .

Breeder confident of sheep’s safety:

A Canterbury sheep breeder with stock on board a major shipment to Mexico says she has been in touch with the destination farm and has no concerns about the animals’ safety.

Penni Loffhagen, who is one of the biggest Suffolk stud breeders in the country, has sold 15 young pedigree sheep to a Mexican farm for breeding.

Her ewes and rams are among 50,000 sheep now at sea on the way to Mexico. . .

They’re not ‘our’ sheep – Kiwiblog:

Newstalk ZB reports:

Labour wants assurances that tens of thousands of sheep and cattle being shipped to Mexico won’t be killed when they get there.

The shipment leaves Timaru today.

Leader Andrew Little told Newstalk ZB’s Rachel Smalley the regulations are clear – you can export live sheep for breeding purposes, you can’t for slaughter. . .

PGG Wrightson lifts annual earnings outlook for a second time, warns of weak farmer confidence – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson, the rural services firm controlled by China’s Agria Corp, lifted its annual earnings outlook as second-half trading comes in ahead of expectations, but warned weak farmer confidence may weigh on future sales.

The Christchurch-based company expects annual operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to be between $66 million and $69 million in the year ending June 30, above the February forecast for earnings between $62 million and $68 million. That in itself was an upgrade from previous guidance to beat last year’s earnings of $58.7 million. . .

New Zealand Avocados Achieve Record Sales Volume:

New Zealand’s largest ever avocado crop has been successfully harvested, packed and marketed with a massive 7 million trays sold during the 2014-15 season.

Jen Scoular, Chief Executive of NZ Avocado, today announced the new record volume which was 43 per cent higher than last season, and up from a previous industry high of 6.1 million trays sold in 2011-12 and a great industry return.

“Growth in the consumption of avocados in our key markets continues to be very impressive. . .

Best Young Butchers in the Region:

Two of New Zealand’s top young butchers have been named following the Alto Young Butcher & Competenz Butcher Apprentice of the Year Lower North Island regional final yesterday.

Havelock North local, Justin Hinchco from New World Havelock North took out the Alto Young Butcher category and Vernon Atutahi from New World Marton finished first place in the Competenz Butcher Apprentice category. . .

 

Body condition score to become a breeding trait:

Body condition score (BCS) is to be included as a new trait in Breeding Worth (BW) from February 2016.

Breeding Worth provides farmers with an economic measure of genetic merit (profit per five tonne of dry matter) and is calculated for all dairy cattle. During a National Breeding Objective Review in 2012, BCS (particularly late lactation BCS) was identified as an important trait with economic value to farmers. . .

 

Wool values ease:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that the North Island offering this week, made up predominantly of short coarse Second Shear wools compared to the more varied South Island longer selection last sale on 4th June, saw prices ease despite the weakening New Zealand dollar.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies came back by 1.95 percent with a 98 percent clearance of the 9,400 bales on offer. . .

NIWA’s Fieldays stand a winner:

NIWA’s Fieldays team is today basking in the glory of winning the Best Indoor Agribusiness Site awarded by the National Agricultural Fieldays organisation for the 2015 event.

Dr Mark Bojesen-Trepla, NIWA’s manager of marketing and industry engagement, said the win was a great endorsement for the team who had worked extremely hard to put together a space that would be eye-catching and relevant to farmers.

“We are delighted our efforts have been formally recognised but are also looking forward to meeting more farmers during the rest of Fieldays and showing them how we can help.” . . .

 

 


Judges’ decision

January 30, 2015

Miriama Kamo, convenor of judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014 responds to Eleanor Catton’s criticism:

Esteemed academic Peter Munz once said to me, “The wonderful thing about the humanities is the lack of one answer to any issue, there is always debate, there must always be discussion and there may not ever be consensus.”  

 I’m reminded of this as I watch, with a mix of admiration and dismay, the debate fuelled by Eleanor Catton’s comments about the political state of our nation and her feeling that she is a victim of a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. I am interested in listening to all of it, but wish only to comment, as the convenor of the judging panel of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014, on the continuing conversation surrounding our decision-making.

The New Zealand Post Book Awards is a multi-category, multi-genre competition. It is quite unlike the Man Booker competition, which considers only fiction. The Luminaries won the Man Booker competition, a thrilling achievement. Last year it went on to win the New Zealand Post Book Awards prize for fiction.  In doing so, it won New Zealand’s equivalent of the Man Booker. It then went into contention for the supreme prize against three other exemplary finalists of different genres.  It did not win that supreme prize; Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer did.  

I’m as impressed as I am bemused by Eleanor Catton’s belief that The Luminaries should have won the supreme prize. I’m impressed because we don’t have a proud history of owning our achievements, of proudly proclaiming our talents. Perhaps this is a by-product of a nation that did suffer a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Comments like Eleanor’s make me believe that this is changing. But I’m bemused because, putting aside that it diminishes the achievement of the supreme prize winner, Jill Trevelyan, it betrays a belief that our judging panel should have fallen into line with an international panel of judges. This is at odds with Eleanor saying that she grew up with the erroneous view that Kiwi writers, and by extension Kiwis generally, were somehow less than British and American ones; that we did not, and perhaps do not, back our own opinions or our own talent.

There was no sense on our judging panel that it was ‘someone else’s’ turn to win. We made a literary judgement, not a political statement. Given that our opinion did happen to align with the Man Booker judges and we did award The Luminaries our top fiction prize, it is at least churlish and, at most, mischievous to suggest that The Luminaries did not win its due in New Zealand.  

But then, that’s the beauty of the humanities. Such decisions rightly inspire debate. Like the Man Booker judges, we were a group of individuals making a collective decision. We worked hard at the task in front of us and, in my view, we made wise and well-placed decisions. I was proud to honour Eleanor’s incredible work, The Luminaries. I was proud to award prizes to all the finalists that night of the New Zealand Post Book Awards, and to crown, as supreme winner, Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer.  It deserved to win.  But in the grand tradition of debating and discussing the arts, I urge you to read all of our finalists before making up your own mind.

Well said and isn’t it good that she says it by way of addressing the criticism and not criticising the critic?

David Farrar also responds to Catton reasonably at Kiwiblog and Trans Tasman opined:

Catton . . . 
illustrated the old wisdom “artists are children,” and it is a little baffling why people seem to expect profundities about politics from them.  In Catton’s case, she is only the latest in the long tradition of NZ literary types who feel their country is too grubby and philistine for them to bear for too long.

It is one of the most tiresomely adolescent aspects of the Kiwi arts scene, and it gets more intense whenever their fellow NZers are so uncouth as to elect National Govts.

Catton isn’t a “traitor” though, despite what talkback host Sean Plunket – increasingly resembling a retired Rotarian – called her on his programme. It is just another case of artists being a bit silly. There is no need for this sort of over-reaction.

Quite.


2014 blogging in review

December 31, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 450,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 19 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Among the stats are most viewed posts:

The top referring sites:

  1. nominister.blogspot.co.nz
  2. keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz
  3. kiwiblog.co.nz
  4. twitter.com
  5. lindsaymitchell.blogspot.co.nz

No Minister is consistently the site from which most visitors come.

Keeping Stock is still a top referrer even though, sadly, it has gone into recess.

And the five most active commenters:

 

  • 1 robertguyton 1286 comments
  • 2 TraceyS 1197 comments
  • 3 Dave Kennedy 1045 comments
  • 4 Mr E 984 comments
  • 5 Andrei 645 comments

Thank you all for reading and even more for contributing to conversations.

I’ve been blogging much less since late September. Readership has dropped as a consequence – I’m hoping that’s a case of less quantity and more quality. 🙂

P.S. Thanks to WordPress and its staff who provide the platform for this blog, give prompt and helpful assistance when it’s required and provide such good service.

 


Foulers cry foul

September 14, 2014

Internet Mana  is complaining about Prime Minister John Key’s decision to declassify documents which will prove accusations against him are baseless.

. . .In a joint statement, Mr Harawira and Ms Harre say the reported intention of the Prime Minister “to arrange the selective declassification and release of documents for his own political purposes” represents an abuse of the Prime Minister’s authority in his capacity as the Minister in charge of the GCSB and the SIS. . .

If the PM didn’t release documents they’d accuse him of hiding something but when he says he will release documents they’re still complaining.

This is a case of the foulers crying foul.

They’re the ones who’ve allowed themselves to be bought by Kim Dotcom who is doing his best to interfere in the election.

The PM not only has the right to release this he has a duty.

This isn’t just about him. It’s about New Zealand, New Zealanders and our security.

Those who don’t understand that should read Charles Finny’s excellent guest post at Kiwiblog:

. . .  The Labour Government that saw us through World War II, and those from 1957-60, 1972-75, 1984-90 and 1999-2008 have not sought to change our position in “five eyes” because the leaders and senior Ministers of those Governments have realized how lucky we are to be part of this agreement and knew how fundamental the intelligence derived from it was to the security of New Zealand.  Ultimately the most important function of government is to protect the people.  “Five eyes” plays a very important role in our ongoing security.  There was a wobble under Lange which saw New Zealand denied access to some processed intelligence from the US, but access to the raw communications intercepted by the four allies continued throughout.  Under Helen Clark the full flow of processed intelligence resumed.

I cannot believe what I have just heard saying about today.  What we now call is as much a creation of Labour as it is the National Party.  It is crucial to our continuing security.  It protects us against the hostile actions of foreign governments, terrorist organizations, and international criminals.  Of course the same foreign governments, terrorist organizations and criminals hate the ‘’fives eyes agreement” and want it dismantled because it stands in their way.  I can’t believe that a Labour Leader would align himself with these forces and put this agreement and our position in it so much at risk.  If his senior colleagues do not call Cunliffe on this, shame on them too.  Our national security is too important to be put at risk by short term political opportunism.

Even when Helen Clark thought we lived in a benign strategic environment her government didn’t short-change  or subvert our security the way the left is now attempting to.

 

 


%d bloggers like this: