Quotes of the year

December 31, 2018

That’s creative thinking – if I had known that I probably would have joined them. –  Inspector John Kelly on the New Year revellers who built a large sandcastle in the middle of the Tairua estuary in an attempt to avoid the liquor ban.

Among western leftists, morality had become culture-specific. If imperialism’s victims asked for support, then they would be given it, unquestioningly. If not, then they would tend to their own political gardens exclusively.

The problem for western feminists is that, in spite of these cultural and political self-denying ordinances, the only garden currently showing unequivocal signs of flourishing, is their own. Across vast regions of the planet, not only are women’s rights not flourishing, they are being diminished. – Chris Trotter

Any family, in any part of the country, dealing with any one of those challenges, would find it difficult. But when you have all of those at once, it is incredibly difficult to see how a family could navigate their way through all of that on their own.

And you sure as heck, can’t have an official sitting in Wellington waving a magic wand, and fixing it for them. – Louise Upston

If I look at my colleagues, they get up and go to work every day because they care so much. . .Why would we do that if we didn’t care? Why would we do that if we didn’t care about individuals and actually want something better for their lives? Louise Upston

Men who have been inculcated into a culture of toxic masculinity need to regularly top up their King Dick Metre, which can only be fuelled by the disempowerment of someone else. And that someone else is very often a woman.

Their feelings of strength only come when someone else is in a position of weakness. They can only feel valid when they are able to invalidate someone else. They only feel like they have won when someone else has lost. – Kasey Edwards

Could you imagine a return to a world where the only people that gave dairy farmers grief were sheep farmers and bank managers?

Could you imagine the next time Fonterra was in the news, it was for a collaboration with Lynx in producing a deodorant that smelled of silage and cowshit, that dairy farmers could put on if they used too much soap in the shower?

Maybe we can hope that our on-farm processes continue to develop, along with scientific developments, adoption of best practices and consumer preferences, as opposed to at the whim of vote-hungry politicians, misinformed urban housewives and the combined armies of anaemic vegans, animal rights activists, goblins and orcs.

Maybe we could hope that we can reverse the trend that has seen rural folk and farmers become an ethnic minority in this country – a minority that is now seen by many New Zealanders as dirty, destructive and somehow freeloading on resources, with less credibility then prostitution. . .  –  Pete Fitzherbert

We welcome the government’s focus on tracking the number of children in persistent poverty and hardship. However, setting multiple arbitrary targets for reducing child hardship is easier than actually helping people extricate themselves from their predicaments. – Dr Oliver Hartwich

Good intentions are not enough. They’re not even a start, because there’s been a lot of money wasted and lives wrecked on the basis of good intentions expressed through public services. Bill English

 . . . the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there. – Fran O’Sullivan

Peters’ inability to contain his bitterness suggests the coalition negotiations were a charade. His resentment towards National is deep-rooted, and since the election, the feeling is reciprocated. It is unlikely that National’s change of leader will diminish Peters’ toxicity.  – The Listener

It strikes me as rather unfair that while we’ve been up in arms over where the country’s burgeoning cow population does its business, our burgeoning human population has been fouling up the waterways with what comes out of our own backsides. We can’t berate dairy farmers for dirtying the rivers if we’re content for our biggest city to keep using its waterways as one giant long drop. – Nadine Higgins

Over-reacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward. It’s creating silly distractions from real issues.Jennifer Lawrence

The incident has also highlighted the danger of a government full of academics, health professionals, public servants, teachers and career politicians picking business winners.

The idea that councils around the country would rail or truck their rubbish to Westport for incineration is one of those ludicrous ideas that only regional development officials would think is a flyer. – Martin van Beynen

Getting policy right matters. In the end, lots of money and good intentions is never enough. You’ve got to get the policy right. – Nicola Willis

So consumed are they with the grassy vistas opening up in front of them that they are oblivious to their drawing ever closer to journey’s end, namely the holding yards of the local freezing works. – John Armstrong

Businesses, by and large, are better at coping with bad news than they are at coping with uncertainty. You cannot plan for it or adapt to it. Hamish Rutherford

Feminism is about choice, the right to have one, the right to be equal. It is not about trampling men to death in the process. It is not about spending so much time telling girls that “they can do anything” that they become curious and confused as to why you keep telling them something they already knew.

Guess what? The girls we’re raising haven’t had it occur to them they can’t do anything. – Kate Hawkesby

I’m not sure what affordable means but I am sure I’m not alone in that. It’s bound to be a complicated formula with one of the variables being the price of avocados. I just hope it doesn’t add up to borrowing from KiwiBank to buy from KiwiBuild during the KiwiBubble resulting in KiwiBust.James Elliott

 If we believe that correcting harmful inequities lies in asserting an inherent malice and/or obsolescence in all people with a specific combination of age, gender and ethnicity then we have already lost the fight. The real enemy is the unchecked and uncontested power exercised through institutions, social norms and structures which privilege one group over another.    – Emma Espiner

A tagged tax has to be a tagged tax, otherwise it’s a rort. – Mike Hosking

While the Greens are dreaming of compost, wheelbarrows, chook poo and quinoa, the rest of us wouldn’t mind getting on with business. And that means we need water. – Mike Hosking

Certainly a rational person, and especially one convinced of the threat of global warming and the possibility of more droughts, would increase, not stop investment in irrigation?

That is not to argue that water quality and nitrate leaching are not problems – they are. But to stop irrigation as a solution is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The rational approach is to find ways of reducing nitrate leaching even under high-producing irrigated pastures. This requires more science, more evidence, more rational thinking. – Dr Doug Edmeades

Businesses — it doesn’t matter what they are — require reliable steady staff; not rocket scientists but reliable steady staff. Unless we have those types of people available our whole economy has an issue. – Andre de Bruin

There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. – Michael Bruce Curry

The well-being of all communities can be enhanced by enabling greater levels of social solidarity, empowering people in their personal and community lives, enhancing social infrastructure and establishing opportunities for dignified work and alternative livelihoods. – Tracey McIntosh

Tough on crime is popular with the insular and ignorant when it comes to justice policy, while restorative approaches with enduring outcomes that help people stay away from jail because they offend less are not popular, not sexy and seen as “soft on crime”. Chester Borrows

Everyone can do something amazing once. You’ve got to back it up and do it again – Rowland Smith

The money spent on eliminating risk in one area means less available to fix problems in other areas. In other words, the consequence of lowering risk in one sphere can hinder minimising risk in another one. Chew carefully on that one. – Martin van Beynen

That’s what the call for diversity means. An endless slicing and dicing of society into every thinner minority groups with everyone scrambling for quotas and box ticking.

It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. It’s also a complete denial of individuality. You are not important. All that matters is what boxes you tick. It’s the boxes that define you, not what you do, what you think or what you produce. – Rodney Hide

We went to do a story about an American billionaire buying up wineries in Wairarapa. Local wine makers were going broke and in stepped the American billionaire. I went down with a TV crew expecting locals to be up in arms about the ‘foreigner’ buying up the land. But I couldn’t find one voice raised against him.

There is one thing worse than a foreign buyer, they told me, and that’s not having a buyer at all. – Guyon Espiner

It feels like a Dear Winston moment really – Mike Jaspers

We grow up thinking the world is fair, but it’s not, so you’re not always going to get the results you’re looking for. The challenge is to pick yourself up again when you have those days.Joe Schmidt

I believe rugby is similar to society, where it is about interdependence and us trying to help each other. Imagine if everyone in life became the best version of themselves and made life easier for those either side of them. – Joe Schmidt

The very premise of our system is we learn from our mistakes and wrongs and are given freedom to make amends.Mike Hosking

Grown-ups know that being short $60 a week is not what ails and troubles our most vulnerable children. Proper parenting can’t be bought for $60 a week. – Rodney Hide.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people. – Jessica Stillman

Feminism has descended into a cauldron of cattiness; of nasty factionalism. It doesn’t empower. It  scrutinises and judges groups within groups. Like extreme left or right politics, the creed is hardest on those most like it – those who should know better but fail. – Lindsay Mitchell

Regional development is about more than funding a few projects; it’s about allowing people to make a living. – Paul Goldsmith

This image of Anglo-Saxon culture isn’t grounded in the up-to-date distinct cultural traditions or practices of the United Kingdom. It is a cover of a misremembered song, played by a drunk who forgot the words mid-song and so started humming. – Haimona Gray

Imagine the world today if William Wilberforce and Kate Sheppard had refused to engage with people whose views they found repugnant. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr had decided not to argue back. If Desmond Tutu and Te Whiti had seen no point in suffering the slings and arrows of their opponents because, hey, nothing’s gonna change.

The twist in this debate is that the Molyneuxs, Southerns and other so-called champions of free speech only win when their shouting drowns out other voices. Voices of conciliation and peace. Because regardless of the polarisation we see today, people can change. We can learn. And, even if we still disagree on some profound issues, we can find other things to agree on and other things to respect in each other. Tim Watkin

The day that this country’s dictated to by the social media trolls is the day that democracy dies. If we are to be spooked into compliance by what an anonymous moron threatens by the swipe of a cellphone screen then we’re little better than they are. – Barry Soper

It is unfortunate, but the world seems to have lost the ability to disagree well. Civility in our discussions and debates over contentious issues seems to have been lost. We are increasingly polarised in our views with recourse to extreme positions in order to ‘prove’ or force our point. However, the answer is not to avoid difficult and, at times, confronting conversations. Rather, community leaders, and universities in particular, play a vital role in leading our communities in those discussions, as difficult as they may be, applying the principles of informed discussion, compromise, enlightenment of the points of view of others, and if all else fails, respectful disagreement. – Chris Gallavin

But where is that line that we need to find as a Parliament between being culturally sensitive to people that may not see things in the way in which New Zealand’s own cultures have developed, and, on the other hand, being firm enough that, actually, no, these things, regardless of culture, are not right. Nick Smith

We have an education system that does not reward excellence and does not punish failure. Decades of bureaucratic hand-wringing has delivered a broken system that relies on the personal integrity and good intentions of those who choose teaching as a profession. – Damien Grant

After all, as long as we can discern the truth clearly, love it passionately, and defend it vigorously, we have nothing to fear from open debate; and if we can’t do those things, then why are we claiming to be a university at all? – Dr Jonathan Tracy

The answer to suffering, physical or mental, is affection and good care. This should come first and as far as possible from family and community, supported by institutions.

“Finishing people off” may suit our current individualistic, utilitarian, impatient culture, but it will degrade us all in the end. – Carolyn Moynihan

In a liberal, democratic society, there will always be speech in the public domain that some people find offensive, distasteful or unsavoury. Unless that speech is manifestly doing harm to others, there is no case to ban it, only a case for arguing strongly against it or ridiculing it. Recourse to suppression is redolent of authoritarianism, not democracy. – Chris Bishop

The irony is that although the elimination of subsidies started out as a kind of political punishment, it wound up becoming a long-term blessing for farmers. We went through a difficult period of adjustment but emerged from it stronger than ever. . .

 We became ruthlessly efficient, which is another way of saying that we became really good at what we do.

We also improved our ability to resist regulations that hurt agriculture. Subsidies empower politicians, who can threaten to cut off aid if farmers refuse to accept new forms of control. Without subsidies, we have more freedom to solve problems through creativity and innovation rather than the command-and-control impulses of government. – Craige Mackenzie

But as someone who’s spent a bit of time writing and talking about the important, and not so important, issues in life, there is one thing I know which will never change.

Truth always wins. If you report the facts you can never go wrong. – Peter Williams

We can’t prosper by taking in our own washing so, strutting it on the global stage has to be our modus operandi.And I mean strutting, not just selling low value stuff that rises or falls on the rise or fall of the NZ dollar. Strutting starts with the daring of the ambition and is sustained by the ability to execute.  Ruth Richardson

The frightening retreat from sane economics. Free trade is the path to growth, protectionism is the path to decline. Ruth  Richardson

This is an accidental government formed on the fly and governing on the fly.–  Ruth Richardson

Death of great science on the alter of doctrinal and PC positions doesn’t strike me as the smartest choice.  – Ruth Richardson

I’m satisfied within myself. I’ve got more to do with my life than look at that. Barbara Brinsley

Each of us has made different life choices and, actually, that gives women everywhere role models.

It’s legitimate to choose. We don’t have to be the same, we don’t have to judge each other, we make our own choices. – Dame Jenny Shipley

Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind, highly likely to go to prison, highly likely to commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem or problems, die at an early age, have an addiction – drugs, gambling, alcohol or smoking. Virginia Crawford

I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne. I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin. I am a victim. I did not choose to be a victim. – Maanki 

If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop, the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.

How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand. – Maanki

The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.

No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. – Maanki


The Senate, collectively, could not find their own arses with a sextant and a well-thumbed copy of Gray’s Anatomy
Jack the Insider

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that God’s table is a smorgasbord of theological truths with some in conflict with others and some more important that others.    People are free to pick and choose from that smorgasbord and do so based on what is important to them. – The Veteran

But I can’t remember not having books. I’d go to the library every week, search every shelf with children’s books, then go home with a stack. . .   Every choice was my choice. Then I could control what went into my head by plugging into new worlds, learning new things and just imagining a different life. . .

When we only look to reinforce our taste and beliefs we lose the opportunity to browse and the opportunity for serendipity, and that’s unfortunate. – Maud Cahill

It was sort of total irritability associated with feeling hungry that would manifest as grumpiness. This void in my stomach would create a void in my sense of humour and my ability to tolerate things. – Simon Morton

This is a partnership designed by a drover’s dog and a clinical psychologist who have absolutely nothing in common except they both have experience dealing with rogue steers who don’t believe in being team players. – Clive Bibby  

I live down in the South Island, and there’s been a lot of farmers trying to curtsey. Most of the time they’re in gumboots. – Dame Lynda Topp

In the west food is produced by a few to feed the many and when people are relieved of the duties of working on farms and subsistence farming the job is handed to a few and people move to the cities and that is when they become disconnected. – Anna Jones

Class is a commodity that doesn’t seem to be in conspicuous supply in politics at the moment. – Chris Finlayson

New Zealand’s real problems are not identity politics, no matter what the left may think. They are that the welfare state has failed. Too many kids don’t get educated. Too many working aged adults are on welfare. Too many are in jail because there is too much crime and they’re never rehabilitated. Housing has gone from a commodity to a ponzi scheme. Our productivity growth is anaemic. With government’s and councils’ approach to regulation, it’s amazing anyone still does anything. Andrew Ketels

I certainly don’t celebrate diversity for its own sake. You have to distinguish pluralism from relativism. Relativism tends towards ‘anything goes’ and that can’t be right

Pluralism is the view that although some ways of living really are wrong, the list of possible good ways to live a flourishing human life and have a good society contains more than one item. – Julian Baggini

We didn’t need a tax on stones, there wasn’t a concern about ‘peak stone’ and we didn’t need to stage protests in front of the chieftains’ caves to argue for the use of bronze. It came down to developing the new technology, which had benefits over the old technology, and disseminating the knowledge. – Andrew Hoggard

I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment and that is the glue that holds this country together. – Kurt Fearnley

It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means that you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like – to use an analogy I am certain will find favour – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow. – Queen Elizabeth II

When I noticed that I was spending far more time scrolling through my email and Twitter than I was playing on the floor with my son, I realized that the problem wasn’t with screens warping his fragile mind. It was that I’d already allowed my phone to warp mine. So these days, my husband and I try not to use our phones at all in front of our son. Not because I think the devil lives in my iPhone, but because I think, to some extent, a small part of the devil lives in me. – EJ Dickson

The proper purpose of journalism remains as Kovach and Rosenstiel defined it – not to lead society toward the outcome that journalists think is correct, but to give ordinary people  the means to make their own decisions about what’s in their best interests.Karl du Fresne

I’m bloody angry at New Zealand for fighting over Santa and I want us to stop. This is not what Santa’s about. Santa is not about angst and Santa is not about Santa hate.

Santa is about hope, Santa is about dreams. Santa can come down the chimney even when you don’t have a chimney. Santa can come in the ranch slider, Santa can drink craft beer. Santa can drink strawberry-flavoured Lindauer for all I care. – Patrick Gower

The expectation that we rustics just need to lean on the gate chewing a straw and making obscure pronouncements about the weather in impenetrable accents for picturesque effect is entertaining until it dawns on you that your role apparently really is just to provide background local colour and not disturb the peace too much.  Rural places are workplaces — stuff happens down on the farm and that stuff can be noisy.  And not just on the farm — gravel quarries, jet-boat companies and the construction sites of all those new houses that didn’t used to be there. – Kate Scott

Rose-tinted nostalgia strikes us all from time to time, but when it comes with a side of imported urban world view where non-working weekends and the notion of property values is accorded more worth than building community resilience, I begin to feel resentful of the twittering worries of suburbia intruding on my bucolic peace with its soothing soundtrack of barking huntaways, topdressing planes and chainsaws –Kate Scott

I had a gentleman come to my office three years ago. He was a Labour candidate. He ran for the Labour Party. He was coming to see me because he’d been to see his own team—they wouldn’t help him with an issue, so he came to me. Did I say, “Oh, sorry, you’ve been a Labour candidate. I’m not going to assist you. I’m not going to help you.”? No, I didn’t. I actually helped him with his issue, because that’s my job as a member of Parliament. I don’t care whether you support New Zealand First, I don’t care whether you’re a supporter or member of the Labour Party, the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, or the National Party—if you come and ask for help and support, you will get it. That’s my job.-  Mark Mitchell

The only positive outcome from the UN’s 2009 Copenhagen fiasco was the launch of New Zealand’s Global Research Alliance (GRA) to reduce methane and nitrous-oxide emissions, which account for 22 per cent of the world’s GHG total. More than 50 countries are now involved. If the GRA develops science to cut agricultural emissions by two-thirds it would be the equivalent of the US becoming a zero emitter. If it eliminated them, it would be like China going carbon zero. This would benefit the world at least 100 times more than New Zealand becoming net-zero domestically. – Matthew Hooton

No one bets on a horse with a dud jockey.  Simon Bridges

Ms Ardern promised to lead the most open and transparent Government New Zealand has seen. That doesn’t mean picking and choosing to be open and transparent when it benefits her. – Tova O’Brien

Shaw and his comrades have a vision of a different economic model, one that sane people have tunnelled under barbed wire fences to escape. Alas, the sacrifice required to achieve this gender-fluid post-colonial paradise requires a reversal of most of the economic gains of the last 50 years.Damien Grant

The less you trust people, the more distrustful they become and so the more law you need in order to trust them. A good society would not have too much law, because people would do the right thing he says. But in New Zealand we have a lot of law. – Professor Mark Henaghan


Rural round-up

September 10, 2014

Freshwater Fund for Wetlands?

Federated Farmers have been working with DairyNZ to analyse the $100m freshwater fund policy, recently announced by the National Party. The outcome was very positive with both parties agreeing the fund could deliver improved water quality around New Zealand.

Federated Farmers believe NZ Landcare Trust and Queen Elizabeth II National Trust could both play a key role in delivering the new fund.

“The Fund to retire farmland would be perhaps better interpreted as a policy to create on-farm wetlands. Instead of looking at this as a linear purchase of land, or trying to recreate MAF’s old farm advisory division, think more along the lines of NIWA’s guidelines for constructed wetlands,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson and Member of NZ Landcare Trust Board of Trustees.

It is estimated a fund of $10 million a year could purchase at least 286 hectares. Using NIWA guidelines and if turned into strategically located wetlands, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers believe it could remove 60-70 percent of Nitrogen from around 9,500 hectares of farmland. . .

Thorny question of wool levy benefits – Allan Barber:

Sheep farmers have the chance to vote for or against a compulsory levy under the Commodity Levies Act (CLA) in October. The Wool Levy Group’s proposal indicates a levy of 3 cents a kilo which would raise $4.7 million to be spent on a combination of education, communication, advocacy, R&D and administration. This is either too much, far too little or a worthwhile beginning which depends on your point of view.

 In this week’s Farmers Weekly Ruth Richardson argues very strongly against wasting any more farmer money on a compulsory levy, citing quite justifiably the enormous waste of funds both by the Wool Board and on its subsequent disestablishment. On the opposite side of the fence sit the Wool Levy Group and its supporters. . .

Referendum on wool levy seen as hope for industry –

A referendum seeking to reintroduce a wool levy gives some hope for a remedy in a stagnant, dysfunctional industry, Lindis Pass farmer Russell Emmerson believes.

A referendum is being held in October, when farmers will be asked to approve a levy of between 2c and 5c for each kilogram of greasy or slipe wool at the first point of sale.

That equated to $4.6 million at 3c a kg for 154,000 tonnes of wool annually, if the 17,000 farmers eligible to vote agreed. . . .

Record avocado crop a challenge:

The new avocado export season is underway and the industry is bracing itself for the challenges of selling a record crop.

The harvest this season is forecast to top seven million trays, of which almost five million are expected to be exported.

New Zealand’s previous biggest avocado crop was 6.2 million trays in 2011-12. Last season, about three million trays were exported from a medium sized harvest.

The country’s largest grower group, AVOCO, is responsible for 65 percent of production and said a record crop would test the industry and its ability to manage the fruit. . .

Nominations for Hayward Medal:

NOMINATIONS ARE open for the kiwifruit industry’s Fresh Carriers Hayward Medal.

The award last year went to ex-chair of the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board, John Palmer, for his efforts to bring the kiwifruit industry through the fiscal crisis in the early 1990s.

The judging panel awarded Plant & Food Research plant breeder, Russell Lowe the inaugural award in 2012 for developing and helping commercialise the Gold kiwifruit variety Hort16A, adding over $3 billion to the industry and New Zealand. . . .

Barker’s Success Spreads with Four More Award Nominations:

Barker’s of Geraldine has been chosen as a finalist for four of its products across three categories in the 2014 New Zealand Food Awards.

The maker of New Zealand’s favourite preserves has been nominated in the “beverage” category for its special edition Mountain Moonshine. It also has been named twice in the “dry” category for Anathoth Farm’s jams & curds (for its Lemon Curd and Quince Conserve) and Anathoth Farm’s chutneys & relishes (for its Sweet Chilli Relish and Garden Chow Chow). Anathoth Farm joined the Barker’s family in 2007.

It has also been nominated in the “novel ingredients” category for BreadshotsTM an innovative flavour mix for bread bakers. . .


PEFU – on track to surplus

August 19, 2014

New Zealand is on track to Budget surplus this year, backed by good growth, more jobs and higher incomes under the Government’s economic programme, according to Treasury’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update issued today.

“The Pre-election Update confirms New Zealanders have the opportunity to build on their hard-won gains of recent years – providing we stick with the Government’s successful programme,” Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Now is certainly not the time to put New Zealand’s good progress at risk with more taxes and sharply higher government spending.

“The forecast Budget surplus for this year is still modest at $297 million and the forecast surpluses in subsequent years are not large – and yet we already have political parties making expensive promises and commitments.

“We saw how this approach damage New Zealand under the previous Labour government, when the spending proved unsustainable and we went into deficit. The economy collapsed into recession before the global financial crisis, cost of living increases soared above 5 per cent and floating mortgage rates reached almost 11 per cent.”

The Pre-election Update confirms the outlook for New Zealand’s economy and the Government’s books have not changed significantly since the Budget in May.

“Some of the drivers of growth are expected to be a little stronger than forecast in the Budget, while others have weakened a little,” Mr English says.

The latest Treasury forecasts include:

The Government’s operating balance before gains and losses is expected to be in surplus by $297 million in 2014/15 – down from $372 million in the Budget forecasts. Surpluses in each of the following three years will be smaller than forecast in the Budget.

Core Crown expenses are forecast to fall to 30.3 per cent of GDP by 2015, down from 35 per cent of GDP in 2011.

Because residual cash deficits continue for a year longer than forecast in the Budget, net government debt is expected to fall below 20 per cent of GDP in 2020/21 – when contributions are now scheduled to resume to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

Annual average GDP growth for the year to March 2014 was 3.3 per cent compared with the 3 per cent Budget forecast. Growth for the year to March 2015 is forecast to be 3.8 per cent (compared with the previous 4 per cent forecast) and then largely in line with previous forecasts.

There were 83,000 more New Zealanders in jobs in the year to June 2014. Treasury’s Pre-election Update forecasts another 151,000 new jobs will be created by mid-2018. 

Unemployment is forecast to fall to 4.5 per cent by 2018 – down from 5.6 per cent in the June quarter of this year.

In the two years to March, the annual average wage has increased by around $3,000. The Treasury forecasts it will increase further by around $6,600 to $62,000 by mid-2018.

“So on all of the key indicators, the Pre-election Update confirms that New Zealand is on track and heading in the right direction,” Mr English says.

“The economy is making good progress and public agencies are delivering better services in areas that really matter to communities – such as lower crime, higher educational achievement and more New Zealanders moving from welfare into work.

“While this progress is encouraging, we have more work to do. Should we have the privilege of being re-elected, the National-led Government will maintain a busy programme of policy reform aimed at supporting more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders.”

The Pre-election Update is available at: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/forecasts/prefu2014

Pre-election economic and fiscal forecasts

(The last column doesn’t fit the page, if you click the link at the top you’ll find it).

We have Ruth Richardson to thank for the PREFU which ensures no government can fudge the figures for electoral advantage.

The PREFU shows the country is still on track to surplus and it is on the right track with other economic indicators.

It also shows the need for a continuation of careful management with no room for big spending and anti-growth tax policies.

Staying on the right track requires the right government which is the centre-right National-led one.

A left government will put us on the wrong track and take the country backwards.


Most fundamentally important task

May 18, 2014

Photo: We’ve committed an extra $500m in the Budget to support children and families. http://ntnl.org.nz/1sCYDoh

No-one should contradict the first half of this sentence – parenting is the most fundamentally important task in society.

That they need support should be beyond debate too.

However, the nature of that support and who gives it and how much is given is debatable.

Parent with babies and young children used to be able to rely on getting practical and moral support from  extended family, friends and neighbours.

Then the state got involved through family benefit.

A generation ago all mothers received the FB for each child from birth until the end of the year the child turned 18.

It wasn’t a lot, about $5 a week from memory, though to put that in perspective the rent on my first flat, in 1976, was $7 and the next year rent was only $4.75.

The FB was dropped by Ruth Richardson on the grounds that it was ridiculous for someone like her to get the money when she and her family didn’t need it while other families needed more.

Various forms of more targeted help for families have been introduced since then.

One of those is Paid Parental Leave – targeted not on need, but whether or not the mother was in paid work for the required length of time before the baby was born.

That means wealthy families in which the mother has been working get help for jam while poorer families in which the mother wasn’t working might not have enough for bread.

The importance of time together for mothers and babies to bond is beyond debate.

In the past that meant most women stopped working for some time and the family lost income as a result.

It’s now the norm in most western countries to pay some form of PPL to give some financial support to women who stop work to care for their babies.

But it still leaves the question of whether there should be help for families in which the mother wasn’t in paid work, if not universally at least for those on lower incomes.

There is of course another question – whether or not it’s the taxpayers’ role to provide financial support for any new parents and the wealthier ones in particular.

But once a benefit like PPL, it’s politically difficult to cut it.

I’m still left with another question, though – would the practical and moral support parents used to get from extended family, friends and neighbours be at least as valuable for many as the financial help from the state?

Regardless of your financial position, it’s very difficult doing the most fundamentally important task of parenting in isolation.


Rural round-up

October 27, 2013

Great staff equals farm success:

Investing in the relationship with farm workers can boost productivity and improve farm performance according to a visiting academic.

 Associate Professor Ruth Nettle, University of Melbourne’s Rural Innovation Research Group, is visiting Massey and Lincoln universities as a guest of OneFarm: the Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Management.

She is here to discuss mutual research opportunities with New Zealand agriculture academics. . .

Dairy firms share DNA and pioneering approach – Tim Fulton:

Synlait and Bright Dairy work well together because of compatible DNA and a pioneering approach, former Finance Minister Ruth Richardson says.

New Zealanders have become familiar with the story of Synlait, starting from nothing on farms and eventually building a factory to supply the world from central Canterbury.

But Richardson said Bright Dairy’s entry to Synlait’s share register three years ago was just as innovative in that Bright was the first Chinese dairy company to invest offshore.

In some ways the move was similar to Synlait deciding several years before to leave the ranks of the New Zealand dairy co-ops, Richardson said at the China Business Summit. . .

Cereals gain from the good oil – Joanne Bennett:

One need not travel to Tuscany to see vistas of golden fields – 1900 hectares of the South Canterbury landscape is glowing with rapeseed in full flower.

It’s a crop that grows well here, thriving in heavy soils with high rainfall, withstanding cold winters and hot summers. . .

‘Horror stories’ in wake of the big blows- Tony Benny:

Forest owners shouldn’t give up on their crop and assume damage wrought by last week’s and last month’s gales is terminal, says Canterbury forestry consultant Allan Laurie.

“We’ve dealt with well over 150 properties and we haven’t seen one yet that we don’t believe we can extract some value out of so it would be very disappointing for me if people were being told that they have no value in their trees,” Laurie said.

“We’ve already heard some horror stories of where people are being told they’ll get their trees cleaned up for nothing and you could walk away feeling somehow happy. Well, we’re a bit perturbed by that and we don’t see too many stands where you wouldn’t extract some value.” . . .

Genetics merger will benefit farmers – Gerald Hall:

A proposed merger of Ovita, Sheep Improvement Ltd (SIL), and the Central Progeny Test offers strong research and commercial benefits for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers.

Together Ovita, SIL, and the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test are the glue that holds together sheep genetics research and development in NZ and supports industry improvement.

These are key ingredients in the profitability and competitive positioning of sheep and beef farming. . . .

 Barley shows promise in cosmetics – Annette Scott:

Locally grown barley could be a game changer, forming the base of the next generation of cosmetics.

When cereals are mentioned it is usually food that comes to mind. But cereals can be used for a number of non-food purposes.

At a Women in Arable meeting in Ashburton, Dr Nick Tucker, of Plant and Food Research, revealed more opportunities for cereal growers looking to maximise returns, including using barley for cosmetics.

Common plastics are made of polymers, large molecules consisting of many small building blocks. Cereals also contain polymers, polysaccharides and proteins. . .

Travellers – are they really a problem?

A drama of immense proportions has been playing itself out near our farm in Elsham, which adjoins a sleepy village close to the Humber bridge.

One Sunday we were informed by text that travellers had arrived with 10 caravans and were making themselves comfortable on our land. They had arrived and unpacked and the area was covered with dogs and children.

The policeman in charge of the local countryside watch rang the current husband and suggested that the pair of them go and visit the newcomers and assess their intentions. Meanwhile, the jungle drums started up. The nearby industrial estate employed security guards overnight to patrol. The village was up in arms with phone calls asking Andrew what he was going to do about it and the occupiers of the adjoining runway (Elsham was a bomber airfield) were threatening to erect an earth barrier around the travellers, blocking them in or out, depending on the time of day. . .


Where’s the context?

April 26, 2013

Critics of Margaret Thatcher and her policies have long lists of what she did wrong and those who were worse off as a consequence.

But few of the criticisms I’ve come across in the wake of her death have put what she did in context.

The British economy was in a parlous state and the country was hostage to militant unions which led regular and prolonged strikes.

Something had to be done and Thatcher did it.

Whether she did the right things in the right way can be argued, but that she needed to act is beyond dispute.

Critics of “failed” policies of the 80s and 90s in New Zealand and their architects Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson take a similarly blinkered view.

They too have a list of what was wrong without even a nod as to why it was needed. The dire economic situation in which New Zealand found itself after years of over generous public funding, Budget deficits and protectionism required urgent action.

There might have been other ways in which to tackle the problems  but had they had to be tackled and more of what caused them would not have provided a cure.

The policies which caused the problems won’t work now either but the LabourGreen lurch to the left threatens to impose them on us again.


Higher rate, lower take

August 4, 2012

More than 20 years ago then Finance Minister Ruth Richardson produced graphs which clearly showed that the tax take had increased after tax rates were reduced.

Higher economic growth might have had something to do with the higher tax take but lower rates were also a factor.

People decided the rates were fair and put their energies into making money rather than avoiding tax.

Now Treasury research shows that the higher tax rate imposed by Labour in 2001 resulted in a lower tax take from the wealthy:

Far from its intended purpose of increasing the contribution by wealthy people to the cost of running the government, the 2001 tax increase spurred the highest income earners to find ways of avoiding tax, the “Elasticity of Taxable Income in New Zealand” paper found.

Published on the Treasury website, the research paper tracks the proportion of income tax paid by different income bands between 1994 and 2008, and finds the top 10 percent of income earners had begun to pay an increasing share of total income tax in the years immediately preceding the tax rate increase and peaked at 38.9 percent at the time the tax rate increase was announced.

“However, following introduction of the 39 percent rate, it fell to 33.9 percent in 2001,” the report says. “Between 2001 and 2009, the share of taxable income obtained by the top decile fluctuated between 33.7 percent in 2008 and 34.6 percent in 2005.”

Treasury warned the results should be treated with caution, but that it showed “the elasticity of taxable income is substantially higher for the highest income groups”, meaning the higher the income bracket, the more capacity that group of earners has to manipulate declared income.

Adherents to politics of envy liked the higher tax rate on upper income earners, at least in theory. Accountants and lawyers who got a lot more work from people looking for ways to minimise their tax liability did too.

But the tax increase was motivated by politics and, just as its critics foretold, it didn’t work in practice – the higher rate resulted in a lower take.


MMP fails governance test

November 14, 2011

Former Finance Minister Ruth Richardson says the question voters need to be asking about the electoral system is: will it produce a government capable of governing?

Primacy must be accorded to the ability to  form an effective government and to be rid of that government if it is judged by the electorate to have failed in that quest.

MMP rarely delivers that. The most popular party will almost always be beholden to one or more of the wee ones for a majority and MPs an electorate gets rid of can return to parliament on their party’s list.

The awful truth is that MMP has condemned New Zealand to a regime where party and brand count for more than policy and a plan.

This regime has tended to produce craven politicians who judge it in their best interest to tow the party hierarchy line and has certainly corroded the quality of decision making as first-best policy is sacrificed to a lowest common denominator bargain.

The last thing a country needs in a global financial crisis is a government crippled by indecision and inaction; where the daily hand is forced by counting political not financial numbers.

While it is possible for a party to have an outright majority under MMP, it is very unlikely and the need for post-election wheeling and dealing has been very costly.

The jury is no longer out on the MMP experiment; the verdict is in and the evidence shows that coalition building has fuelled a rise in public expenditure and a drop in the quality of public policy leadership.

Ms Richardson goes on to quote Edmund Burke who said that:

“your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you, if he  sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Under MMP, MPs have to sacrifice their judgement not only to the opinions of the people they represent but to those of their coalition partners.

One of the reasons a slim majority of people voted for MMP in the first place was that they were sick of MPs implementing radical policy without a mandate.

Ironically that is even more likely under MMP because a lack of a strong party in the centre means the bigger parties are pulled towards more radical policies by the need to appease coalition partners.

That almost always means acting in the interest of small minorities at the expense of the public interest.


Is politics and parenting an impossible dream?

June 25, 2010

Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard said * she made a choice to go into politics rather than be a parent. 

She was once reported as saying a mother would never be Prime Minister but she says she was misquoted

“It is not what I said, not what I meant and not what I believe,” Gillard responds fervently, adding: “I look forward to a time when a mother is Prime Minister in this country.” 

For some time, when speaking publicly about the pressures in women’s lives, Gillard has rhetorically asked the question, “Could John Howard or Peter Costello have had quite the same careers if they were women?” The question is intended to be a humorous way of getting her audience thinking. 

The point she is making, she explains, is that it is easy for some men to look at women’s choices and offer a critical view without thinking for themselves what they would have done if faced with exactly the same choices. 

“I was trying to say we need to be talking about the pressures for women,” she continues. “Not just for politicians, but for women right across the nation who live the juggle of trying to put work and family together.” 

Gillard describes the stress she sees in the life of her friend Kirsten Livermore, the Federal Member for Capricornia. Livermore is the mother of two young children and her huge electorate is based in Rockhampton in North Queensland. She regularly brings her children to Canberra, but even with her husband’s support, Gillard says, “It’s unbelievably tough to work in a highly pressurised workplace and deal with family issues at the same time.” 

It appears to be even tougher for some people than others and more of those people happen to be women. 

Does that mean politics and parenting are mutually exclusive, or at least a lot harder  for women? 

Many men manage to combine the two roles but a lot fewer women do. 

That may be because fewer women who want to be mothers also want to enter politics; or that more women who enter politics don’t want to be mothers. 

But I suspect it is also because, in spite of the gains made in gender equality, women still find it harder than men to manage demanding careers and parenthood, and politics is a particularly demanding career. 

Jenny Shipley combined motherhood and politics, but her children were at secondary school by the time she reached cabinet and young adults when she was Prime Minister. 

Helen Clark chose not to have a family. 

Ruth Richardson had a young family but in her autobiography wrote of how difficult it was to juggle pregnancy, babies and politics. 

Katherine Rich often spoke of how family-unfriendly parliament and politics were and she decided to retire at the end of the last parliamentary term because she wanted to spend more time with her family

Lots of sitting MPs, here and in other countries, are parents; some of them are women. But fewer women than men reach the upper rungs of the political ladder. 

There will be lots of reasons for that, among which is that some – like some men –  may not have the desire or ability. 

But some don’t aim for the top because they put their families first, some do by choosing not to have children, few manage both parenting and the political heights. 

The Australian says Julia Gillard’s ascension fulfils feminist dream

But at least for now it appears that the feminist dream requires women to choose between politics and parenting and that  combining politics and parenting is still an impossible dream for most women. 

* Sky TV last night, not online.


Avoiding tax not only preserve of wealthy

January 22, 2010

A drop in the tax rate doesn’t always mean a drop in the tax take.

 Kiwiblog reminds us that in the 1980s when tax rates dropped the tax take increased. I rememberthen- Finance Minister Ruth Richardson showing a graph which illustrated the same thing happened in the early 1990s.

The inverse is also the case. If tax rates go up the tax take may not increase as expected because people find ways to avoid paying.

The Tax Working Groups said:

. . .  an Inland Revenue sample of 100 of the highest wealth individuals in New Zealand, data indicate that only about half are paying the highest marginal tax rate on their income. These taxpayers are not necessarily doing anything wrong but are merely taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the current system to shelter income from higher rates.

Tax evasion is illegal, avoidance isn’t. When the top tax rate increased to 38% and Working for Families was introduced, lawyers and accountants had a field day with clients looking to minimise their tax liability.

It wasn’t just minimising tax, it was minimising their income so they’d qualify for WfF and this isn’t confined to the wealthy.

A friend has a business in which employees often work a lot of over time. When WfF was introduced he found several of his staff didn’t want paid for all the hours they worked because the reduction in what they got from WfF had the effect of giving them a high marginal tax rate and it wasn’t worth their while.

Some wanted to work the extra hours and be paid cash or in kind so that their earnings could escape the notice of the IRD. That is not avoidance, it’s evasion and our friend declined to abet them.

Not everyone will be that honest.

That’s why rises in tax rates, or measures like WfF which have a similar effect, don’t necessarily result in a corresponding increase in the tax take and might even reduce it.

And cuts in the rate may increase the take because people stop trying to avoid taxes and put their efforts into earning more instead.


Confidence and contacts

November 27, 2009

What did you get from the Kellogg Rural Leadership programme? 

I asked this of fellow graduates at the programme’s silver jubilee celebrations last night. The answer was that we had all gained confidence and contacts. 

Kellogg started at Lincoln 30 years ago but hasn’t run every year so the current intake was the 25th

One of the people who’s spoken to every group is Ruth Richardson who addressed us last night. 

She left us with two messages: public policy matters; and the most important meeting we have each day should be with ourselves – i.e. we should always make time for an hour of exercise. 

The other speaker was Dr David Hughes, Emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College London.

He pointed out that the developing economies where we’re hoping to sell more produce eat a lot more white meat than red.

He also said that New Zealand’s reputation for very high standards of food safety is our biggest asset. But while people overseas think we produce good food most can’t name anything we grow because we produce more ingredients than value added food.


Is it because they’re female, successful or both?

September 10, 2009

Trans Tasman makes an interesting observation on Labour MPs’ attitude to National Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley.

We have noted before Labour’s viscerally venomous attitude towards National Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley. This goes way beyond the normal tensions of political conflict. Labour MPs – especially their women MPs – appear to find the very existence of Bennett and Education Minister Tolley infuriating. You can almost see the wall of red mist descending over Labour’s front bench every time those two Ministers get up to speak.

 . . . The attitude is actually an odd kind of snobbery. There is an unspoken “how DARE you?!” from Labour’s front bench towards Bennett and Tolley. It is a rage these women, who in Labour’s eyes should be, firstly, on a benefit themselves somewhere and, secondly, loyally supporting Labour as a consequence. They don’t like the fact the two have made rather more of their lives.

This antipathy to National women MPs isn’t new. In her autobiography, Making A Difference, Ruth Richardson wrote:

. . .. . .  Jonathan Hunt, the Chief Opposition Whip, himself a bachelor, had shown both kindness and understanding to me when I was pregnant by promising me a pair . . . But Jonathan had not counted on the cattiness of his female colleagues. Apparently I had failed the political correctness test in their eyes; failed to conform to some sisterhood code of which I knew not.  . . . My pair was withdrawn, much to Jonathan’s abiding embarrassment . . .

Whether it’s because they’re women, successful or both it’s appalling behaviour.

You’d think people who wail about the glass ceiling which keeps women down might practice what they preach.

If we judge them by their actions rather than their words, we could be excused for believing that they are only interested in women having careers if they sing from the same political song sheet as they do.

Trans Tasman is a weekly political and ecnomic newsletter. You can subscribe here.


Mainland conference gems

May 10, 2009

It’s not uncommon for people to ask me why on earth anyone would you join a political party.

Sometimes I struggle to answer, but I’m just home from the National Party’s Mainland Conference which reminded me that  it’s a way to meet like minded people; to help make the world, and this part of it, a better place and that’s it’s also a lot of fun.

When it was suggested the National Party’s two South Island regions, Canturbury-Westland and Southern, combine for a Mainland Conference, there were some questions about the wisdom of this move.

But the organisers were determined to make it succeed and they succeeded in doing that. The couple of hundred people who spent the last day and a half in Timaru agreed that the combined conference not only worked, it worked exceptionally well.

It provided the opportunity for delegates to hear from and speak to more MPs than would have been possible if we’d had seperate conferences and gave volunteers from throughout the South Island a chance to meet, learn from and inspire each other.

It was not only the first Mainland Conference, it was the first regional conference which John Key addressed as Prime Minister and being back in government after nine long years in the political wilderness of opposition certainly added to the good humour which was evident in speakers and delegates.

Journalists reporting on conferences generally stick to the formal bits of speeches. Bloggers have more licence and a couple of the anecdotes which tickled me were:

*Children reading cards on flowers sent to a funeral came to one and read out: From John Key and his circus colleagues.

* Bill English told of taking then Finance Minister Ruth Richardson to Dipton when the nation’s books were full of red ink. The man introducing her noted that having the Minister coming to talk about the economy at that time was similar to having the hydatids man coming to look at your dead sheep hole.


The PREFU isn’t pretty

October 6, 2008

Thanks to Ruth Richardson we don’t have to wait until after the election to find out the state of the nation’s books.

She is responsible for the requirement to have a pre-election economic and fiscal  update (PREFU) so we all know that the fair weather Finance Minsiter has left the cupboard bare.

The executive summary  says:

We are now expecting weaker economic growth over the next few years, resulting in slower growth in tax revenue and higher government expenditure. Combined with increases in the costs of some existing policies, these factors lead to sustained operating balance deficits and higher debt-to-GDP ratios.

 

The economic outlook is weaker …

Imbalances have built up during nearly a decade of sustained growth, including inflation pressures, an overvalued housing market, high household debt and a large current account deficit, with implications for interest rates and the exchange rate. With the economy slowing, these imbalances are starting to unwind – as are imbalances in the global economy – but there is a long way to go.

 And who will we trust to take us there? The academics who helped get us into the mess by focussing on redistribution, or the business people with the knowledge and skills to get us out of it with policies which focus on growth.

Other views:

Keeping Stock, No Minister,  Kiwiblog and No Right Turn


Budget medicine

May 22, 2008

The first Budget I remember listening to (yes, listening on the radio in the evening because – as Poneke reminded me – that was how you first received the news and when Budgets were delivered) was in 1975, my first year at university.

 

I was hoping for increased help for students. That we already got our fees paid; a living away from home allowance if our course necessitated moving from home to study; A or B Bursaries of $150 and $100 respectively (when weekly rents were about $7); anyone who had a vague notion that they might one day entertain the possible thought of teaching applied for and almost always received a studentship; and that people on pretty modest incomes were paying 60% taxes in part to fund all this largesse, was irrelevant.

 

I’ve forgotten what, if anything students received which supports the contention that we don’t appreciate what Government’s give us; and I don’t recall anything about subsequent Budgets until Roger Douglas’s first in 1984. That was the one was brought farmers kicking and screaming in to the real world by removing subsidies.

 

The sudden removal would have been difficult enough but the impact was worsened by raging inflation, high interest rates, a relatively high dollar and low commodity prices. While we had to face the real world, the labour market was still strictly regulated and there were tariffs on imports so while our incomes went down costs did not. The damage was compounded in North Otago where we were also facing another of the recurring droughts which dogged the district.

 

The economic and social deterioration of the ag-sag compounded as inflation and interest rates climbed, buoyed mostly by city property prices and the share market. Meanwhile farm prices plummeted and many of us found we’d gone from having reasonable equity to theoretical bankruptcy as our debts became greater than the value of what we owned.

 

Perhaps we were fortunate there was safety in numbers. Stock and station firms and banks to whom we owed so much knew that if they pushed a few they might start a landslide which would only aggravate the situation. By the end of 1987 the share market crash meant it was no longer just farmers and rural communities which were in financial disarray.

 

It took years to recover but the changes Douglas, and subsequently Ruth Richardson, made helped contribute to that recovery. So while we didn’t like Douglas’s medicine at the time and could argue about the method and timing of its delivery, few would disagree that farming and New Zealand are economically healthier because of it.

 

 

 


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