Who knows best?

November 15, 2017

The last Labour government was criticised for nanny-statism and the new one is already in danger of courting the same criticism:

Parenting 101 from your friendly Labour Government.

New parents may relish the idea of both parents being home together, able to bond as a family in those first few weeks of a newborn’s life.

But the Government advises “no”, that’s not necessarily in the interests of your baby.

That’s why it intends to vote down a National Party amendment to the Government’s paid parental leave extension, that would let both parents take their paid leave together.

“Our concern with that is the likelihood it would reduce the amount of time that baby has to bond with their primary caregiver,” said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

Who knows best what’s best for babies and their parents – the parents or the government?

If both parents were off at the same time, it would reduce the total amount of time that baby’s parents would be on leave. National’s amendment would allow for parents to make a choice – it does not compel them to take leave at the same time.

There’s no compulsion, no we-know-best. It would just give flexibility to parents who could choose to take none, some or all of the leave at the same time, depending on what suited them and their babies.

In all likelihood, Labour doesn’t really believe it knows better than parents what suits them.

So they’d put politics before parents, and babies and risk the accusation of nanny-statism because it’s not their idea.

That’s simply pettiness.


Rural round-up

September 16, 2017

Young farming families able to buy Landcorp farms:

A National Government will help young families into their first farms by allowing young farmers to buy state owned farms after they’ve worked the land for five to ten years.

“The Government owns a large number of commercial farms through Landcorp, but there is no clear public good coming from Crown ownership and little financial return to taxpayers,” Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“We think that some of these farms are better off in the hands of hard working young farming families who are committed to modern farming and environmental best practice. . .

National to strengthen bio-security rules:

A re-elected National Government will strengthen biosecurity rules, toughen penalties for stock rustling and help exporters add value, National Party Primary Industries Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“These policies will help grow and protect the primary sector sustainably, and support our goal of doubling the value of our exports to $64 billion by 2025,” Mr Guy says.

“We are proud to support the primary sector which is the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy, helping us earn a living and pay for social services. . .

Adapting dryland farming to climate change:

Seven years of dry weather and relentless wind erosion in the early 2000s had devastated the Flaxbourne-Starborough landscape of South Marlborough, one of the country’s earliest farmed areas.

Doug Avery’s Grassmere farm Bonaveree was one of those affected. “Over-grazing during the long dry was harming the financial, environmental and emotional sustainability of the farm,” recalls Barbara Stuart, regional co-ordinator of the NZ Landcare Trust (NZLT). “People like Doug were stressed, heartbroken, even a bit ashamed about what was happening.” . . 

AFFCO’s first chilled shipment unloaded in China – Allan Barber:

AFFCO chairman Sam Lewis visited China last weekend to greet the first container of AFFCO chilled meat to arrive for distribution to eager food service and retail customers throughout Henan Province in east-central China. The arrival was marked by an official reception at Zhengzhou attended by the NZ Trade Commissioner Liam Corkery, MPI representatives Dave Samuels and Steve Sutton, and a Kangyuan executive. According to Lewis the speed of customs clearance for the consignment was a record for meat shipments, taking no more than three hours for the whole process.

The distributor, Kangyuan Food Company, has cool storage and frozen storage facilities and imports more than 10,000 tonnes of meat annually from New Zealand, Australia and South America to supplement its own domestic processing capacity of 600,000 sheep and 100,000 cattle. Kangyuan is also the largest distributor of Halal product in China. . .

Time to walk the talk – Allan Barber:

There are large operators, small suppliers, traders and third party agents and, in times of tight livestock supply, the lines between them start to get a bit blurred and the classifications move around, depending on who is making the judgement.

From a competitor’s perspective one company’s large supplier is a trader who is always presumed to earn a massive premium over schedule, far higher than loyal suppliers who don’t have the same bargaining power. Of course it’s invariably other companies that are the guilty parties when it comes to using third party agents, generally the stock firms. As always the truth isn’t quite so simple. . .

Irish dairy farmers fortunate that consumers drinking ‘real milk’ – Caroline Allen:

While Irish liquid milk producers have been protesting about the possibility of a milk price war, there is still an appreciation of milk as a healthy natural product in this country, Mary Shelman, former director of Harvard Business School’s agri business programme, told AgriLand.

Shelman who is the “absentee owner” of a 475ac farm in Kentucky, which is a cash grain operation divided between corn and soya beans, was in Dublin last week to deliver a number of addresses. She was at UCD’s Michael Smurfit School and also delivering lectures for Bord Bia’s talent programmes, including the Origin Green Ambassador programme. . . 

 


Before the Budget

May 26, 2016

Finance Minister Bill English will deliver his eighth Budget this afternoon.

Before it’s delivered, Prime Minister John Key offers some briefing notes:

1. More than 200,000 jobs have been created over the past three years – that equates to around 180 new jobs every day.

2. New Zealand has the third highest employment rate in the developed world.

3. We’re on track for annual economic growth of about 3 per cent for the next few years.

4. We’re also on track for rising surpluses and falling debt – we were one of the first developed countries to be back in surplus after the global financial crisis when we posted a surplus of $414 million last year.

5. Budget 2016 will contain $1.6 billion in new spending. We’ve already announced funding for more lifesaving drugs, emergency housing, and to support our thriving tourism sector.

This year’s Budget will further advance our work to support a strong, growing economy. It’s only through a strong, growing economy that we’re able to create more jobs, lift wages and deliver better public services to those who need them most.

Labour’s last Budget in 2008 was forecasting a decade of deficits.

In spite of the GFC, Canterbury earthquakes and other unforeseen hurdles, the government books were back in surplus last year and, with continued careful management, are expected to stay there.

This isn’t about a surplus for surplus’s sake. It’s the only way to sustainably fund public services, reduce debt, look after those who need help and leave us all with more of our own money.


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.

 

 

 

 


NZ open for business and people

July 27, 2015

Prime Minister John Key today used his speech to the National Party conference yesterday to reiterate his Government’s commitment to an open economy which embraces free trade and immigration.

. . . Earlier generations could never have imagined the global opportunities opening up for New Zealand.
I want to lead a country that embraces those opportunities.
An open and confident country that backs itself on the world stage.
As I’ve said many times, we won’t get rich selling things to 4.5 million New Zealanders.
But we could by selling to 4.5 billion people overseas.
Our Party supports strong international connections.
We value the benefits that free trade agreements deliver and the opportunities they offer.
I back our farmers, our manufacturers, our ICT companies and in fact all our export industries to succeed.
If we can get an equal crack at world markets, we’re up there with the best in the world.
That opportunity is what free trade is about for New Zealand.
When the previous Government, with the full support of National, signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, our annual exports to that country totalled $2.5 billion.
Since then, they’ve quadrupled and China is now our biggest trading partner.
That FTA has had huge benefits for New Zealand.
Just a few months ago, I was in Seoul to witness Tim Groser signing another free trade agreement – this time with Korea.
When that agreement comes into force, half our exports to Korea will immediately be tariff-free, and almost all the rest will follow.
I can tell you that the kiwifruit growers of Te Puke are going to be delighted when the 45 per cent tariffs they currently face are finally removed.
We’re also in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
TPP has been a big focus for our Government.
A successful conclusion will mean a trade agreement with a number of countries, including the giant economies of the United States and Japan.
This is something that successive governments in New Zealand, of both stripes, have been actively pursuing for many years.
That’s because it will mean better deals for Kiwi producers and exporters, better access to world markets, and better prospects for growing those markets in the future.
It will help diversify the economy through a broader range of trade and investment relationships.
And it will flow through to higher incomes and more jobs for New Zealanders.

The ability to export freely and earn the returns from exports unhampered by tariffs and other protective measures is one part of our international connectedness.

Immigration is the other.

New Zealand’s connectedness with the world is also about people coming to New Zealand to live and work.

Immigration benefits New Zealand because people coming here provide more of the labour, skills, capital and business links we need to grow.
A lot of people coming to New Zealand settle here in Auckland.
But as I go around other parts of New Zealand, mayors and employers often tell me they can’t get enough workers of the type local businesses need.
Southland, for example, is always crying out for workers in the dairy sector.
Across the whole South Island, in fact, the unemployment rate is a very low 3.6 per cent.
I can assure people that New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs. That will not change.
And Auckland, as our largest city, will continue to grow.
But I believe we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors.
So today I’m announcing some changes to our immigration settings.
The first is aimed at encouraging people who come to New Zealand as skilled migrants to take up jobs in in the regions.
Around 10,000 skilled migrants get residence each year, together with their family members, and almost half of them come to Auckland.
We want to balance that out a bit, by attracting more people into other parts of the country to help grow local economies.
Currently, skilled migrants with a job offer get 10 extra points if that job is outside Auckland, and those points count towards the 100 they require.
From 1 November, we will treble that, and give them 30 extra points.
In return, they’ll have to commit to a region for at least 12 months – up from the current requirement of three months.
New Zealand also needs entrepreneurs to start new businesses, expand existing firms and create jobs.
So the second change we’ll make is to encourage entrepreneurs wanting to come to New Zealand to look for business opportunities in the regions.
Last year we launched an Entrepreneur Work Visa, targeting migrants who offer high-level business experience, capital and international connections.
Currently, people applying for this visa get 20 extra points if they set up a business outside Auckland, and that counts towards the 120 they require.
From 1 November, we will double that to 40 extra points.
Immigration New Zealand expects to approve up to 200 people next year under this visa.
With the changes we’re making, we expect to see most of these entrepreneurs setting up or growing businesses outside Auckland and creating new jobs across the country.
The third change I’m announcing will help employers find out faster whether New Zealanders are available to fill a particular vacancy, before they lodge a visa application with Immigration New Zealand.
From 1 November, they’ll be able to contact Work and Income directly to check availability.
This is a small measure, but it’s been really appreciated by employers in Queenstown and we’re extending it across the country.
The fourth announcement I want to make today is that the Government intends to provide a pathway to residence for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.
These people and their families have been in New Zealand for a number of years.
Their children are at schools. Their families are valuable members of their communities. And they are conscientious workers paying their taxes.
Their employers want to hold onto them because there aren’t enough New Zealanders available.
Around 600 overseas workers in lower-skilled occupations in the South Island have been rolling over short-term work visas for more than five years.
We envisage offering residency to people in this sort of situation, who commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.
We’ll set out the details of this pathway early next year.
Finally, the Government will consider a new global impact visa.
This would be targeted at young, highly-talented and successful technology entrepreneurs and start-up teams, who want to be based in New Zealand, employ talented Kiwis and reach across the globe.
There’s been quite a bit of interest in this idea and we’re going to look at it carefully over the next few months.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Taken together, the changes I’ve announced today will contribute to a better balance in our immigration settings.
They will help spread the benefits of migration across the country, particularly in those regions crying out for workers, skills and investment.
As I said earlier, we need to be more connected with the world, because that’s where our opportunities come from.
This is just one small part of that approach.
We’ll also continue to press on with free trade agreements, build stronger investment links, and embrace the openness and connectedness that characterises successful countries in the 21st Century. . .

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said:

. . . “Thousands of people from all over the world are moving to New Zealand because it is a good place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Those people make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economic growth by providing skills, labour and capital we need, along with valuable cultural and business links.

“New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs and that won’t change,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Currently, many new migrants settle in Auckland, which faces infrastructure challenges as it transforms into a truly international city. At the same time, business owners in other parts of New Zealand often struggle to find enough skilled workers to meet their demands.

“While there are already incentives to encourage migrants to move to areas outside of Auckland, we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors,” Mr Woodhouse says.

New measures to take effect from 1 November include:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points.
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

In addition, from mid-2016 a pathway to residence will be provided for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.

“Unemployment across the Mainland is nearly half that of the North Island, and labour is in short supply,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Most workers in lower skilled jobs must apply to renew their work visas every year. Some of these people have worked hard and paid tax to New Zealand for many years. They are valued at work and in their community, but have no avenue to settle here permanently.

“We’re looking at offering residence to some migrants, who have applied at least five times for their annual work visa. In return, we will require them to commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.”

These are very welcome changes which will make it easier for immigrants to settle in the regions and for employers in the regions to attract and retain staff.

I know a family who will benefit from the new policy to allow people on temporary visas who’ve been here for at least five years to settle.

They’ve been here for a decade, working, paying tax and contributing to the community.

They’ve spent 10s of thousands on immigration consultants but don’t have enough points to gain residency.

They are good people who would make good citizens and now they will be able to stay in the place they call home.

That’s good for them and the small town where they live.

Mr Woodhouse says the Government is also considering a new Global Impact Visa to attract high-impact entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams to launch global ventures from New Zealand.

“I will announce further details later this year, but we envisage this visa would be offered to a limited number of younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley,” Mr Woodhouse says.

This announcement shows National is open to business and people, a policy from which we’ll all benefit.


Do we have consensus on tax?

July 20, 2015

Labour finally answered the calls to show us some policy last week with an announcement on proposed changes to provisional tax:

The bad news for Labour was that it wasn’t its own fresh policy it was reheated National Party policy:

Acting Minister of Finance Steven Joyce has congratulated Labour Party Leader Andrew Little on finally announcing his first “new” policy after eight months in the job, although unfortunately for Labour it’s a cut and paste of a previous Government announcement.

“Labour announced today it was launching a discussion document on changes to provisional tax for businesses. However it seems to have overlooked that the Government launched its own discussion document containing almost identical proposals back in March,” says Mr Joyce. “These in turn were based on National Party policy at the last election.”

The Government has already consulted on proposed changes to provisional tax including a business PAYE, changes to use-of-money interest and penalties, increased use of tax pooling and the use of tax accounts. A Green Paper was launched on 31 March this year and submissions closed on 29 May.

“Feedback on the Green Paper’s suggestions has generally been supportive, and provisional tax was the part most commented on. As we’ve said previously, the changes will require new technology to be implemented, which will be developed as part of the IRD’s Business Transformation project,” says Mr Joyce.

“Quite why Labour has started its own consultation is beyond me.

“Submissions are now closed but the Government would be happy to accept a late submission from the Labour Party in support of the proposal,” Mr Joyce says. “We also appreciate its implied endorsement of the Business Transformation process that will make these policy changes possible.”

A link to  the March announcement can be found HERE.

A link to the Government’s Green Paper, Making Tax Simpler, can be found HERE.

A link to the National Party’s 2014 election policy on this issue can be found HERE.

Act supports the ideas in the green paper which the government released in March, last week New Zealand First also mooted a similar strategy and the Green Party is also open to the proposed changes.

The good news for all of us is that this could mean there is consensus on provisional tax which is very unpopular with businesses for good reason.

They have to pay on expected income without the benefit of a crystal ball that can give them an accurate forecast of their futures costs and income.

A reasonably accurate estimate is difficult enough for any business, it is particularly taxing in farming where there are so many variables and a lot of income is lumpy.

Dairy farmers get monthly payments for their milk but last year the pay out was far higher than expected, this year it is much lower.

Cropping, sheep and beef farmers and many horticulturists get most of their income in a very few payments a very few times a year. Estimating what they are likely to produce, how much that will cost and what they’ll be paid for it months in advance with any deegree of accuracy is next to impossible.

The changes proposed by the IRD which now seem to have support across the political spectrum would simplify the tax system.

Simpler taxes are less expensive to comply with and administer. That reduces costs for businesses which is good for them and the people they employ, service and supply.


Frugal new normal

May 23, 2015

This is good news:

The days of big Budget handouts are long gone and New Zealanders need to get used to the “new normal” that is frugal Government spending.

That was the message of Prime Minister John Key in his post-Budget address at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle function this afternoon.

“The days of Budgets being these massive hand-outs of money we don’t have, I think, are gone,” he said.

“The new normal is the Government learning to live with about a billion dollars – maybe a billion-and-a-half dollars.

“Those days of three, four and five billion dollars’ worth of extra expenditure are over.” . . .

Frugality has been forced on National since it came to power in 2008.

It made a conscious decision to protect the most vulnerable from the worst of the global financial crisis by not taking a slash and burn approach and committed to helping Canterbury recover from the earthquakes.

But it has taken a necessaryily Presbyterian approach to spending in other areas  and required government departments to do more with less which is as it should be.

We need to return to surplus and once there need to reduce debt in order to be ready for the next crisis.

But the return to surplus should not be taken as a licence to return to the big spending budgets in which the lst Labour indulged.

A concerted effort must be made to ensure that government becomes and stays a smaller part of the economy.

That would leave more money in the pockets of the businesses and individuals who earn it and put the country on a stronger economic foundation for sustainable growth.


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