Quote of the day

July 31, 2015

New Zealand isn’t very good at political sex scandals.

This week from the United Kingdom we had a peer of the realm, a man in charge of enforcing conduct standards in the House of Lords, filmed wearing a red bra and sniffing cocaine off the breasts of prostitutes.

Now, that is a sex scandal.

In New Zealand, we have some sex that didn’t happen, and some bad poetry.Rob Hosking


Quote of the day

July 6, 2015

We do not belong to those who have ideas only among books, when stimulated by books. It is our habit to think outdoors — walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful. – Friedrich Nietzsche.

Hat tip: Rob Hosking in a post on walking – ‘that suspensive heaven’ which is topped by a stunning photo above Lake Wanaka and that anyone to whom walking, thinking, and just slowing down appeals and noticing will enjoy.


Quote of the day

March 17, 2015

. . .  I’ve never disliked religion. I think it has some purpose in our evolution. I don’t have much truck with the ‘religion is the cause of most of our wars’ school of thought, because in fact that’s manifestly done by mad, manipulative and power hungry men who cloak their ambition in God. – Terry Pratchett

Hat tip: Rob Hosking


Spies spy

March 6, 2015

Our spies are spying.

That isn’t news, it’s what spies do.

If there’ sandy news, it’s that some people appear to be surprised by this. Rob Hosking writes:

So. It seems we have a spying agency which, we learned today, spies on foreigners.

If anyone is surprised, let alone shocked, by this, they really are too gentle a soul for this cruel world.

Spying on foreigners is pretty much what comes on the label when you set up a spying agency. It’s what they do.

Unless you thought David Lange’s Labour government set up the Government Communications Security Bureau to run the country’s pest destruction boards, or to play Farmville on their neat new computers, what on earth did you think the agency has been doing?

The fact GCSB is spying on “friends?” First, those friends have some rather dubious friends and matters such as money laundering of criminal and terrorist activity are key parts of law enforcement these days. . .

We need to know what’s happening in our neighborhood.

To do that we must keep an eye not only on our neighbours but those who might be trying to influence  them.

If there’s anything to raise concern it’s not that our spies are spying, it’s about the oversight of them.

One can accept that, in today’s technologically advanced era, spy agencies are in a permanent race to keep up.

The unspoken assumption of Mr Hager and his excitable supporters seems to be that New Zealand’s GCSB is under some sort of obligation to not do what everyone else – government, citizen, criminal, lobbyist, activist – can do.

That is just silly.

But if a government agency is – as it clearly has done – is now undertaking the kind of surveillance on the scale in which one would expect in today’s world, there needs to be a stepped up level of independent oversight to match the increased spying activity.

There has been some increase, in the amendment legislation passed in 2013, but it is small compared to the rise in activity.

The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, as the old wisdom has it. This applies to the activities such as the GCSB in two ways: one is we need to expect it to be vigilant in New Zealand’s interests, especially in our “backyard.”

But such vigilance also needs to be applied to an agency with such sweeping, and increasing, powers as the GCSB – especially if it is acting, as it appears to be, at least as much for other governments as it is for our own.

Our spies need to keep their eyes on our neighbourhood and someone needs to keep an eye on them.

 


Clearing out dead wood

November 24, 2014

Tweet of the day:


Labour’s numbers don’t add up

September 6, 2014

The NBR has interviewed tax experts who say that Labour’s expert panel couldn’t sort out the complexities of the CGT in time to prevent a revenue hole.

The print edition has fuller coverage by Rob Hosking which says that wishful thinking and invention play too large a part of Labour’s fiscal policies.

. . .  The questions do not just involve the much discussed capital gains tax  – although this certainly features prominently.

Also under question are assumptions about an unspecified tax crack-down which is supposed to net $200 million ain extra tax revenue a year.

But more critical is the framework of all this – something highlighted by Labour leader David Cunliffe’s floundering response to a challenge by Prime Minsiter John Key in this week’s leaders’ debate in in Christchurch  . . .

One over-riding problem with the plan is the need for the panel to resolve technical issues and tax changes ready for the next financial year.

“I just can’t see them being able to do that,” says Ernst & Young tax partner Aaron Quintal. . . .

Deloitte technical director of tax Robyn Walkers . . . also warns the capital gains tax could be higher than Labour is promising. . .

Labour’s policy is for 15% CGT but the Green and Internet Mana parties want it to be levied at the individual’s marginal tax rate which will mostly be the top one.

The other question that could affect that narrow surplus target is promises for even bigger tax crack-downs that Inland revenue has been running in recent years.

Labour’s budget plan involves an assumption this crackdown will bring in $200 million a year in tax revenue.

“That is just a made-up figure says Deloitte tax specialist Alex Mitchell. . .

The other ‘revenue hole’ comes back to the capital gains tax and this is to do with the gap between rhetoric and the reality of such a tax.

The political and emotional attraction of a CGT is that it will combat inequality but it doesn’t gather enough to do that.

“Capital gains taxes do not raise much revenue,” Mr Quintal says. “In the UK it is around 1% of the tax take: in Australia it is half of 1%. . .

” . . . In New Zealand realistically we are only looking at something around $500 million a year probably.

“That is not going to do what they say it is going to do.”

The $200 million in extra revenue isn’t the only thing that’s been made up, so is the assertion that IRD have been consulted on the CGT.

Duncan Garner asked David Cunliffe if he’d consulted the IRD on Labour’s capital gains tax.

Cunliffe said he hadn’t personally but the party had.

Garner asked IRD and got a response saying they’d had no discussions on it:

Labour’s big spending promises are based on more and higher taxes based on rhetoric which won’t be matched in reality.

That would be bad enough if the party was able to govern alone. The higher spending and tax policies of the mis-matched group of parties it would need to from a government make the outlook under a labour-led government even more dire.

If the numbers don’t stack up nor will any of the other policies which depend on them.

John Armstrong says Labour is the living dead after its tax fiasco.

It’s suffering from a variety of self-inflicted wounds, not least of which is that its numbers don’t stack up.


Low spending, lower interest rates

June 12, 2014

Quote of the day:

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler can only show restraint on interest rate rises if New Zealanders show restraint of their own.

This is Rob Hoskings’ introduction to a column headlined: Want low interest rates? Keep lid on spending.

We all have a role to play in that through our own spending and saving and also what we expect of government.

National has made it quite clear it won’t be doing an election-year lolly scramble.

The return to surplus hasn’t been easy and it’s not going to blow the hard-won gains by profligacy.

Opposition parties try to give the impression they accept the wisdom of careful management of public funds. But their strong attacks on every single measure National has introduced to curb spending and their propensity for big-spending promises show they don’t really mean it.

They’re wringing their hands over the Reserve Bank’s small increase in interest rates from historic lows and today’s expected rise, while not resiling from the borrow and spend policies of the noughties which pushed interest rates into double figures and led New Zealand into recession before the rest of the world.

New Zealand has recovered well from the recession, but continued good economic health requires more of the prescription of increased savings and investment and restrained spending from all of us.


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