Freedom only for those with whom agree?

December 9, 2014

Judith Collins’ first column in the Sunday Star Times has provoked an outpouring from the left about media bias and right-wing conspiracies.

The column was about an issue of health and safety in the building industry which a constituent brought to her notice.

It wasn’t party political. It’s highlighting the sort of issue which comes to MPs’ notice and which the good ones act on.

The condemnation from the left wasn’t universal. Brian Edwards  defended the column.

But others from that end of the spectrum threatened to cancel their subscriptions.

They appear to not grasp the concept that freedom of expression isn’t only for those whose opinions with which you agree.

 

 

 


Dare we hope?

October 29, 2012

The Sunday Star times reports that New Zealand has been tipped to quit the Kyoto Protocol.

Kiwiblog points out that isn’t the case. We’ve committed to the five-year period which ends in 10 weeks.

There is no international agreement for any commitment after that.

There is growing speculation the Government’s silence is because it could save face internationally by waiting for big players like China and the US to refuse to sign up to the second Kyoto round, before following suit.

Of course, as it would be economic and environmental madness to have an agreement without them (or India).

But not unilaterally agreeing to a future binding commitment, is vastly different to walking away from a current commitment. If reporters can not understand this, then here’s an analogy.

If I lend you $1,000 and you agree to pay me back $200 a year, and then after five years you have paid me back, are you walking away from your commitment if you don’t keep giving me money in the future?

But OM Financial carbon broker Nigel Brunnel thinks New Zealand will sign up to new commitments in Doha, but then delay ratifying them. That could buy time to pursue aligning with a group of Asia-Pacific partners, and adopting voluntary emissions targets outside of Kyoto.

That fits into two of the Government’s climate-change themes, New Zealand doing its share, and not damaging competitiveness by enforcing heavy carbon payments on businesses when trading partners like the US and China do not.

Because of that, about 85 per cent of world carbon emissions are not covered by international reduction agreements, and it is said in government circles that China’s emissions increase daily by New Zealand’s entire annual carbon output.

It is simple. Any agreement which doesn’t include binding targets by China is worthless in an environmental sense.

The Kyoto Protocol was the triumph of politics and bureaucracy over science and common sense.

It was riddled with inconsistencies for example the liability for some products fell on producers, for others on consumers.

It also used a blanket approach which took no account of individual countries’ differences. The clause which required trees to be replanted where previous ones had been cut down might have made sense if the aim was to preserve native forests. But it made no sense in New Zealand where it might be better to use flat land where pine trees had been felled for pasture and plant trees on steeper land where they would prevent erosion.

It also took a local approach to a global problem which could have perverse consequences. New Zealand has a very high proportion of carbon emissions from animals but we’re also leaders in efficient production of food. Nothing would be achieved for the environment if costs here led to lower production here and higher production from less efficient farmers elsewhere.

So the SST is wrong. We’re not quitting Kyoto but dare we hope New Zealand won’t make any commitment for a second phase and instead put scientific efforts and money into initiatives that really will help the environment without wrecking the economy?


More urban land than rural foreign owned

July 9, 2012

The idea that New Zealand was passing into foreign hands is a myth according to Terralink managing director Mike Donald.

The Sunday Star Times (not online) reports that 280,000 hectares of rural land has been consented for sale over the last seven years.

That’s less than 1.5% of the country’s total rural land and most of it has been bought by people or organisations based in the USA, Britain and Israel.

Furthermore the amount of productive land bought by foreigners each year has dropped sharply over the last decade.

Overseas Investment Office figures show 15,242 hectares of farming and forestry land was consented for sale to foreign buyers in 2011, significantly down from the 48,828ha in 2001 and the least since 2007. The total combined area of the Crafar Farms was 7900ha. Rather than the nation’s dairying being put up for grab, it was commercial and industrial land that outstripped other categories.

Nearly 5 per cent of all industrial land in New Zealand has been consented for sale to overseas person or entities.

It isn’t clear if that includes land already owned by foreigners or whether it was all sales of land owned by New Zealanders.

Whichever it is, that’s not a big area of rural land which highlights the stupidity of Green co-leader Russel Norman’s Bill to prohibit the sale of “sensitive” land to foreigners.

He defines “sensitive” as anything more than .05 square kilometres (about 12 acres) but the figures show that if there’s a problem with too much land in foreign hands, it’s with urban land, which is sold in smaller parcels, rather than rural which is usually sold in larger blocks.

Why would it be alright to sell a horticultural property or lifestyle block to foreigners but not a livestock or cropping farm? Why is farmland more sensitive than land for factories, housing or shops?

That said, Donald does point out there could be grounds for concern if consents for sales of farmland to foreigners continue at the same rate as they have been over the last seven years.

The discussion then shouldn’t be on how much land an individual foreigner can buy but how much land in total should be owned by foreigners.

I don’t have any concern about less than 1.5% of farmland being in overseas ownership and I would be opposed to a blanket prohibition of farm sales to foreigners. However, I can see cause for concern if too much land was in foreign hands.

Quite how much is too much is a matter of debate and it would be far better if the effort was put into determining that rather than banning foreign ownership of farms outright.

 

 


Facts missing from figures

February 11, 2012

The Sunday Star Times put the sale of the Crafar Farms into perspective with a story on how much land has been sold to people from which countries in the last five years.

Figures released by the Overseas Investment Office show that of the 872,313 hectares of gross land sold to foreign interests over the past five years only 223 hectares were sold to Chinese.

People from the landlocked principality of Liechtenstein had purchased 10 times more land than the Chinese – 2,144ha in the same period.

The top buyers were the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Israel. The United States had 194 purchases for a total of 193,208ha.

The figures do not show if there are any New Zealand ownership shares involved.

Nor do the figures show how many of the purchasers were sales from foreigners to foreigners and Inquiring Mind points out the difference between net sales and gross sales.

Nor do they include how much land owned by foreigners was sold back to New Zealanders.

Last week the sale of land to foreigners got a lot of attention but the purchase of foreign-owned shares in Dairy Holdings by New Zealanders has not got nearly as much attention.

Yet this sale brought a 25% share in 58 farms covering nearly 15,000 effective hectares, back into local ownerhsip.

Another omission from the discussion on sales of land to farmers is facts on what they do with it.

A farm in our neighbourhood is owned by  Frenchman. We have friends from Wales and the United States who own land here and whose farming and environemtnal practices and community involvement would put many New Zealand farmers to shame.

It isn’t where the owners come from, it’s what they do with the land that really matters.


How to eat a jellybaby

September 11, 2011

How to eat a jelly-baby isn’t something I’ve ever given much thought to, but it is one of the questions in the Sunday Star Times nationwide politics and psychology survey Brainscan.

Answering puts you in the draw to win an iPad.

I think I eat the whole jelly-baby at once.


For better, for . . .

September 11, 2011

Quote of the week:

…confidence and supply agreements: “They’re like marriage documents – they’re not just for Christmas…They’ve given the government great balance.”

It comes from John Key in a Sunday Star Times profile.

It says a lot about the man and his attitude to commitments he makes.

In coalitions, as in marriage, choosing the right partner in the first place is important and he deliberately ruled out one:

No one believed me, but I was absolutely convinced that on election night 2008, if Peters held the balance of power, I was going to ring Clark and say `it’s all yours’. Because I knew I might be able to put together a government – vaguely – but it would never last. He’s never lasted. Every prime minster has sacked him in the end – it’s just dysfunctional.”

That, in contrast to his predecessor, is very clear evidence that this is a man a principle who does not want power at any cost.


Edwards 1 – SST 0

February 11, 2011

The media is supposed to be one of the guardians of free speech, why then would a national newspaper seek to muzzle a blogger?

Brian Edwards has had a series of blog posts on Amanda Hotchin and the Sunday Star Times. 

His second last post on the matter was a carefully worded one in which he reported on four affidavits from witnesses who backed Ms Hotchin’s story. It was a model of how to give the facts without disclosing an opinion.

The SST has responded by threatening him with defamation.

The email informing him of that is headed not for publication:

I have chosen to ignore that advice. The Sunday Star Times is a national newspaper with a circulation massively bigger than my website. It has a large and powerful voice. If it is unhappy with what is said about its content or its writers, it has the opportunity, not available to the average citizen, to make a public response which will reach a large audience. Instead, in this case, it has chosen to send me a lawyer’s letter, marked “Not for Publication.” My response is that I am not prepared to be bullied or intimidated, and certainly not in secret.

Edwards 1 – SST 0.

The blog is probably read by only a few hundred thousand people but the threat ensures it will be read by many more.

It was referred to a post on the journalist’s chat group Journz last night.

It’s made the  NZ Bloggers Union see red. Cactus Kate , Kiwiblog and Whaleoil,   three  of New Zealand’s most widely read blogs, have taken up the fight for free speech.

And the paper’s only rival, The NZ Herald, is loving it.

What would have been a story read by a few hundred people is now reaching 10s of thousands.


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