Rushed law is bad law

December 4, 2019

This headline is a lie:

Government to ban foreign donations

So is the first paragraph:

The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

It isn’t banning foreign donations, it’s lowering the amount foreigners can donate from $1,500 to $50.

Concern about foreign influence on elections is real, but why the lies and why rush the Bill through under urgency?

Why not give parliament and the public at least a little time to scrutinise it and recommend improvements?

One such improvement would be making it quite clear that donations to a foundation set up to fund a political party would be treated like, and subject to, the same requirements for disclosure as, donations to a party.

Winston Peters claims the New Zealand First Foundation is a similar model to the National Party Foundation.

But National the National Foundation has a website on which the purpose of the capital-protected fund and the uses to which investment proceeds are put is explained.

It also discloses donations to the foundation as donations to the party.

This openness contrasts with the secretive nature of the NZ First Foundation and the way in which it appears to have funded the party’s operational and campaign expenses.

The Electoral Commission is investigating claims it breached the law.

Whether or not it did, this Bill is an opportunity to make it quite clear that donations to party foundations should be disclosed as donations to parties, whether or not proceeds from foundations are donated or loaned parties.

Rushed law is bad law and this one is no exception. This omission could have been corrected and further time to consider could well have discovered other faults and allowed for improvements to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Not so popular

December 3, 2019

There is little doubt that Jacinda Ardern’s leadership enabled Labour to gain enough votes in the 2017 election to cobble together a coalition government.

Her fans among the commentariat would have us believe her popularity is unquestioned.

But over at Kiwiblog David Farrar has the numbers that tell a different story:

    • Governing Party – Clark Labour 45%, Key National 55%, Ardern Labour 39%
    • Opposition Party – English National 39%, Goff Labour 33%, Bridges National 46%
    • NZ First – 2001 2.7%, 2010 3.1%, 2019 4.0%
    • Greens – 2001 6%, 2010 4.5%, 2019 7.0%

And how is the PM as Preferred PM

    • Clark 2001 41%, Key 2010 56%, Ardern 2019 36%

Popular yes, but not as popular as her predecessors.


Rural round-up

November 15, 2019

Talking key on young farmers’ road home – Alice Scott:

The pressures of the modern world are taking their toll on the mental state of the country’s young people. Alice Scott talks to a young rural lad who has been through it and come out the other side.

Ticking along in his tractor at 11kmh, Harry Railton is drilling the last of the 100ha of oats for the next season, the ryecorn paddocks are up next and then that will be him for the season, as far as tractor work goes.

We establish that his location, in Tekapo, is somewhat outside the Southern Rural Life delivery zone, but, he agrees, it doesn’t matter; battling one’s own inner demons is a universal issue and one that is becoming more important to talk about as the modern world becomes just too much to take for some . .

National and Freshwater November 2019 – Elbow Deep:

I was less than enthusiastic at the thought of attending National MP Todd Muller’s water meeting in Ashburton last month. This wasn’t through any fault of Muller, National’s spokesperson for agriculture, but rather his party’s approach to the raft of challenges farmers are currently facing.

National’s proxies have been advocating for public protest both openly on social media and behind closed doors with industry groups. Protest was a disaster for farmers at the last election and, no matter how good it may have been for the National Party, I still don’t see it as a constructive or useful tool.

Another reason for my antipathy was the recent policy announcement coming from the National Party leaders; the dog whistling has been so loud my Labradors are in a constant state of confusion. Even if there was evidence unvaccinated children of solo mums had caused the measles outbreak in Auckland, and there isn’t, cutting the benefits of those parents still wouldn’t have prevented it. . . .

Political parties and GMOs: we all need to move on – Grant Jacobs:

Recently more than 150 post-graduate students and young scientists presented an open letter to the Green Party via The Spinoff, encouraging them to reconsider their position on genetic modification. Their target is tackling climate change issues.[1]

Can any party continue to be dismissive about genetic modification (GM) contributing to better agriculture?

We all want safe food, and the environment and climate change are important issues to tackle. New varieties can contribute, including those developed using GM. . . .

Couple’s jersey venture promoting wool:

Two years ago, Lawrence farmers Julie and Murray Hellewell decided to seize the day and find their own answer to the dire state of New Zealand’s strong wool industry.

”We just got sick of seeing people not wearing wool. Everyone is going on about doing something about the state of the wool industry but no-one ever actually does anything. We just decided we might as well have a go ourselves,” Mr Hellewell said.

The Hellewells teamed up with wool buyer John Milne of Balclutha’s Ken Milne Wools to establish contacts in the wool sector. All of the fleece is from the Hellewell’s Perendale lamb flock; at 30 microns, the lamb fleece is used for the outer shell of the jersey and lined inside with New Zealand merino wool which is supplied through the knitwear factory. . . .

Dairy sheep open day draws huge crowd– Mark Daniel:

300 plus rurals turned up at the fifth annual Spring Sheep Co open day at Matangi near Hamilton.

The high turnout was little surprise with New Zealand’s bovine dairy industry under the pump. Pushing the message ‘Discover New Zealand’s Gentlest Milk’, building on advantages for those struggling to digest cow milk, the presenters talked the audience through Spring Sheep’s journey so far.

That journey centred around bringing together aspects like the NZ production environment, building a scaleable supply chain, understanding the needs of consumers and new product development. . .

Red meat ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk – Abi Kay:

Red meat is the ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk, according to a leading nutrition expert.

Professor Robert Pickard, emeritus professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University, said the agricultural industry had been ‘the butt of an enormous journalistic effort to sell copy by producing totally indefensible headlines’ about red meat causing cancer.

Prof Pickard also hit out at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report which claimed processed meats ‘definitely’ cause cancer and lean red meat ‘probably’ causes cancer. . .


Sustainable NZ good in theory but

November 12, 2019

Ever since MMP was introduced, New Zealand has been in want of a party that stands for something and sits in the centre, able to coalesce with National to its right or Labour to its left.

The Maori Party could have been that party, but in spite of being the last cab off the rank when Helen Clark led Labour, and in government at National’s invitation its natural home was towards the left.

The many iterations of United Future rarely stood for anything more than keeping its leader, Peter Dunne, in parliament and government.

New Zealand First, similarly stands for keeping Winston Peters in power and his strong antipathy towards National now makes it a natural ally for Labour rather than a true centre party.

The Green Party could have been that centre party if it wasn’t so red. But its hardline social and economic agenda put it to the left of Labour.

Now a new player the Sustainable New Zealand Party has enterer centre stage:

. . .Sustainable New Zealand is neither left nor right wing but is focused on sustainability.  We are able to work with parties of the left or right to get the best deal for the environment. Sustainable New Zealand’s approach is to work with business to innovate and to correctly price ‘externalities’. We will be led by the science when finding solutions and developing policy. Our future will only be sustainable with technological and scientific innovation.

Sustainable New Zealand’s focus is on being ‘practical environmentalists.’ We will work with rather than against our farmers. We favour a regulatory light-touch where possible but with a willingness to act decisively on core issues. We will foster innovation to transition our economy from one that relies on chopping down, digging up, burning or milking something for economic growth to one that is environmentally-benign and makes us all richer. We know that nothing is free. We need to be prosperous to ensure that we can afford to look after our people and our environment. . . 

There’s a lot to like in that and an environmental party that sits in the middle is a good idea in theory, but will it be strong enough to get at least some MPs in to parliament?

One avenue would be to reach an agreement with either Labour or National to allow it to win a seat, the way Act does in Epsom.

But doing that would compromise its ability to work with left or right.

Besides Labour is very unlikely to sour its relationship with the Greens by throwing a seat to a rival and it would be a big risk for National.

Peter Dunne already held the seat when National voters were asked to back him. They did and had to endure three long terms of him supporting Labour governments before National got back into power. He stayed in cabinet and thwarted National’s agenda several times, most notably its attempts to improve the RMA.

Rodney Hide won Epsom by his own efforts, taking it from a sitting National MP who was trying to hold it. Voters have continued to back an Act candidate in the seat but a majority of them give their party vote to National.

Asking a sitting National MP to throw the seat for a Sustainable NZ candidate, or expecting a new National candidate to campaign only for the party vote is a very different and much riskier strategy.

So could Sustainable NZ make it to 5%?

History would say no.

The Progressive Green Party broke away from the red Greens and fielded 15 candidates in the 1996 election but could muster only .26% of the vote.

No new party has made it into parliament without a sitting MP.

However, small parties generally get punished for their performance in government and the Greens will have lost support from both those who think it’s been too left and those who think it hasn’t been left enough.

If enough of the former were joined by those disenchanted by Labour and NZ First and perhaps some of the blue-greens who’ve supported National it might, but the chances of it doing so are slight.

Sustainable NZ has had reasonable publicity since its weekend launch but that will be hard to sustain and it will need a lot of people power and the money they bring to have any hope of turning a good theory into practical electoral success.


Living better lives

November 7, 2019

National’s welfare proposals have been condemned as beneficiary bashing by the usual suspects, but the party’s welfare spokeswoman Louise Upston says their aim is to help people live better lives:

. . .When people are in need, it’s important we support them to get back on their feet and give them a hand-up. We believe there should always be a safety net for Kiwis who need it. . . 

A safety net for those in need should not be confused with a hammock for those who could but don’t support themselves.

 At the heart of our policy proposal is the Social Investment approach. The previous National Government designed it, and it transformed lives – using data to identify the best ways we can solve the problems faced by Kiwis. Underpinning it all is the idea that the best interventions are the earliest ones.

This approach targeted spending, often at a greater initial cost but with a much lower long-term cost and it worked.

We know that families are the best form of welfare we have, so in helping families, we’re helping all Kiwis to live better lives.

That’s why National’s committed to investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. We know that not all mums and dads feel prepared for what life as a parent will bring, so we’ve proposed a range of ways we can support young parents.

Whether that’s more home visits for all families in the first six months, or a focus on intensive home visits for vulnerable young mums who are at risk, we want to ensure we’re supporting families as they navigate their first moments with a new baby.

Plunket nurses used to visit all homes with new babies every week at first then gradually reducing the visits unless there was a need for more. There was no stigma attached as because visits were universal.

That’s why we’ve committed to giving all new mums a guaranteed three day stay in a hospital or postnatal facility just after giving birth, and why we want to change parental leave so parents can take it at the same time, for the whole family to help each other out and bond in those early days.

By getting Kiwi kids off to the best possible start, we’re giving New Zealanders the best chance to reach their full potential.

Better starts for babies improve their chances of better lives and provide a foundation for happier fmailies.

We’re looking for solutions that break cycles of poverty and tackle the root causes, not just the symptoms of disadvantage. We want to measure the success of those solutions using targets. Targets work, ensuring clear, focussed goals on positive outcomes for Kiwis.

When we introduced targets for immunisation, rates went up. We introduced targets for the number of people achieving NCEA level 2, and the numbers went up. We know targets are effective.

This Government scrapped targets – but we’ll reintroduce them so that we can help more and more New Zealanders to live better lives.

Targets are about spending taxpayers’ money responsibly – and we believe in spending taxpayers’ money responsibly. We wouldn’t have social welfare at all without the hard work of New Zealanders every single day, paying their taxes.

National believes work is the best route out of poverty, through the security of a regular pay cheque and the chance of career development. Children do better when their parents are in work, and parents do better too.

A relatively few people have health problems which mean they will never be able to work. But those who could work, should work and those who need it should be given help to be work ready and secure employment.

National is committed to having the right mix of obligations and sanctions, so that those who can work, do work, with all the opportunities that brings. We want to reduce the number of children in benefit-dependent households.

We want to hear your feedback on how we can best support New Zealanders, ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly and give all New Zealanders the opportunity to live better lives. Please have your say at www.national.org.nz/social_services.

Sir Apirana Ngata’s prediction that welfare would destroy Maori has become true but not just for Maori.

The statistics are clear, people in work are much likelier to live better lives than those on benefits.

The government must look after the most vulnerable but it also has a responsibility to help those who could look after themselves to do so.


It’s only one poll

October 14, 2019

The slide has started:

The age of Jacindamania is over. Brand Ardern has taken its biggest knock yet – and when Labour’s magic weapon loses its power, the party does too.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll shows just how wounded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour have been after the string of crises that have beset them.

Labour was the only party to lose support in Newshub’s poll. It’s now on 41.6 percent – smacked down by 9.2 percent.

Most of that went to National, which is on 43.9 percent – up 6.5. This is enough to overtake Labour, and that’s manna from heaven for the Nats and leader Simon Bridges. . .

It’s only one poll,  has a margin of error of 3.1%, and remember the last Newshub-Reid Research Poll, had National much lower and Labour much higher than the TV One poll that came out the same night.

On this result Labour and the Green Party could still form a government and National and Act would be a couple of seats short.

But while Party support ebbs and flows the trend is more significant, and this echoes other polls which show Labour losing support.

And support for the Prime Minister tends to peak and then fall.

Personality matters but it doesn’t pay the bills and while warm words are well received they can’t counter the fact that the year of delivery has been one of disappointments.


Too much of a good thing

October 9, 2019

The government has posted a $7.5 billion surplus:

The Government has unveiled a bumper $7.5 billion surplus and the lowest debt levels in almost a decade, the latest Crown accounts reveal.

That level of Government surplus has not been seen since at least 2008, just before New Zealand felt the full effect of the global financial crisis. . . 

It’s taking all that money yet failing to deliver on its promises.

Surpluses are good, but $7.5 billion looks like too much of a good thing.

The government is either taking too much, spending too little, or both.

National’s Economic Development spokesman Todd McLay says:

“The Government should be looking to stimulate the economy by letting New Zealanders keep more of what they earn.

“Instead, it has piled on more and more taxes to the point where Grant Robertson is sitting on a big surplus while those living outside Wellington’s beltway struggle with rising living costs.

“One of the reasons debt is lower than forecast is because the Government is failing to invest in the infrastructure New Zealand needs.

“It has cancelled or delayed a dozen major new roading projects right across the country and replaced them with projects that weren’t ready, and won’t be ready for some time yet.

This isn’t just taking more tax and doing less with it. Stalling new roading work risks a loss of skilled people who will head overseas if there’s a gap between current projects finishing and new ones starting.

“Meanwhile, the Government has been piling on taxes. It has legislated to milk an extra $1.7 billion from motorists through fuel tax hikes and extra GST, while its misguided housing policies have pushed up rents and burdened landlords with extra costs and regulation.

“National legislated for tax relief that would have put more than $1000 a year extra into the back pockets of New Zealanders. This Government cancelled that. 

“We will index tax thresholds to inflation so that New Zealanders aren’t taxed more by stealth every year because of the rising cost of living.”

Sound economic management requires much more than creating surpluses.

The government must take enough, but not too much, and it must scrutinise all its decisions to ensure its spending effectively and prudently.

The large surplus suggests the government could be investing more in infrastructure and filling some of the gaping holes in the health system.

It also shows it is taking far more than it needs and it could be leaving us all with a little more of our own money by way of tax cuts.


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