Did you see the one about . . .?


Moira Deeming and the death of Australian liberalism – Nick Carter :

How easy it would be if transgender ideology really was the benign force it claims to be – if trans activists really were campaigning for more love and kindness, and that those who stand in their way were merely hate-filled extremists.

Those naive assumptions are now the bipartisan consensus in Victoria’s state parliament in Australia. Even the centre-right Liberal Party opposition has surrendered to the zeitgeist. Last Friday, Victorian Liberal leader John Pesutto successfully engineered the expulsion of Moira Deeming, a young conservative MP. Her supposed crime was to have joined women’s rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) at a rally in Melbourne earlier this year.

Deeming’s belief that sex is determined by biology is now considered an extreme position in the Liberal Party.  . . 

There are, as ever, complications in the story that blur the edges. The Let Women Speak rally in Melbourne on 18 March was invaded by some 30 members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), bearing banners with slogans including ‘destroy paedo freaks’. Videos show police allowing the masked men into the Let Women Speak buffer zone, where they were able to take up a prominent position and deliver the Nazi salute.

The incident gave opponents of the protest licence to slur the Let Women Speak organisers as in bed with white supremacists. Victoria’s Labor Party premier, Daniel Andrews, predictably jumped at the opportunity to tar Deeming and the Let Women Speak protest with a crude fascist brush. ‘Nazis aren’t welcome’, Andrews said. ‘Their evil ideology is to scapegoat minorities – and it’s got no place here. And those who stand with them don’t either.’

Less predictable was Pesutto’s impulsive decision to turn on Deeming and move to force her from the party. In the aftermath of the rally, he announced his intention to expel her, stating: ‘This is not an issue about free speech, but a member of the parliamentary party associating with people whose views are abhorrent to my values, the values of the Liberal Party and the wider community.’ . . 

Pesutto’s inability to compromise by finding space for Deeming reveals his real intent. He wants to ‘modernise’ the Victorian Liberal Party, which means moving it towards the perceived centre of political opinion. It doesn’t help that he represents the seat of Hawthorn in the wealthy eastern suburbs of Melbourne. His constituency is heavily populated by university-educated professionals with luxury beliefs on climate change and other hot-button social issues of the day.

The rapidity with which trans activists have cowed mainstream Victorian politicians into submission is frightening to behold. They have marched ahead to impose their radical agenda with no barrier in sight.
The left was onboard with their agenda pretty much from the start – the Greens first, followed quickly by Labor. The capitulation of the right became apparent in late 2020, when Andrews’ Labor government in Victoria passed a parliamentary bill that purported to outlaw gay conversion therapy, with the Liberals’ support.

Conversion therapy is, of course, a practice that almost every Australian – Christian or non-Christian – would abhor. The bill was presented as a victory over bigotry, prejudice and hate speech that would end an injustice overlooked by previous generations. In reality, it was a Trojan horse for activism of the most insidious kind.

The bill effectively mandated the practice known as ‘gender-affirming care’. If a teenage girl claims she is a boy trapped in a girl’s body, or vice versa, the clinician must accept this as the final and unchallengeable diagnosis. It is now illegal to do otherwise in Victoria. This reduced the job of doctors, psychiatrists, teachers and parents to applying a rubber stamp. Loose drafting even made prayer illegal in certain circumstances, for a priest must accept the child’s verdict as gospel rather than seek guidance from above. . . 

The passage of the legislation was declared as a victory for the LGBT movement. Yet the attempt to align this movement with grassroots campaigns for equal rights or same-sex marriage is a sham. The majority of lesbian, gay and bisexual people who gender activists claim to represent are not familiar with the movement’s true aims and would not support them if they were.

Trans activists have succeeded in mainstreaming their movement by framing it as the next chapter in a long and heroic journey towards true civil rights. Yet gender ideology began in the universities, not on the streets. It is not moved by the plight of those suffering from the relatively rare condition of gender dysphoria. Rather, it is a movement that seeks to overthrow every institution and start again. Its leaders are people who mess with language in a calculated fashion and aim to destabilise seemingly fixed categories like male and female.

The actions of trans activists flow from a worldview that is obsessed with hierarchies of power and cultural grievances. Everything is reduced to a zero-sum political struggle. It is an attack on the institution of the family, the foundation of social stability in Liberal thought. It is an ideology that hastens the demise of citizenship – the notion that everyone is equal under the law and that race, biology or any form of identity is subservient to our common national identity.

The rise of identity politics, to which transgender activism belongs, is a sign of civilisational decay. As Victor Davis Hanson writes in his book, The Dying Citizen: ‘An entire generation of youth has grown up and been educated on the now mainstreamed premise that their ethnic and / or gender identifications define who they are at the expense of their commonality as Americans.’ The same unfortunately rings true for Australians.

Most people, regardless of their faith or political persuasion, who make the intellectual effort to see what lies behind gender ideology’s cant, shudder at its agenda. But Liberals should be among those most concerned. Trans activism is the antithesis of the liberalism of Edmund Burke, a philosophical marker stone for Australian Liberalism. It is also opposed to the pro-family egalitarianism of the Liberal Party’s founder, Robert Menzies.

It is not easy to see who might defend this ground now that the parliamentary Liberal Party is beating the retreat. What is certain, however, is that the activists will not be appeased. Transgenderism as a political cause still seemed like an absurdity until relatively recently. Who knows what absurdity the identitarians will attempt to mainstream next – and who is going to stop them.

“There’s no emergency” – dissident climatologist Dr Judith Curry on the ‘manufactured scientific consensus’ on climate change – Nadya Swart :

There are particular fields in which those that stray from the official narrative are instantly shunned as dissidents. Climate change is one of these. Dr Judith Curry, Professor Emeritus and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has become known as one of the outspoken scientists who doubt the “scientific consensus” on climate change. As a result, she was “academically, pretty much finished off” and “essentially unhirable”. However, this didn’t slow down the bold climatologist. . . 

Dr Judith Curry on the “scientific consensus” on climate change :

First, I’m going to talk about the sociology of why certain people have been separated out as heretics or even called deniers. The basic facts of the situation are pretty clear. Global temperatures have been warming. Humans emit CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 has an infrared emission spectra which overall acts to warm the planet. But there’s a lot of disagreement about the most consequential issues. How much of the warming has been human caused? How important is human-caused warming relative to solar variability, ocean circulation patterns and so on? So, there are some very legitimate disagreements about this topic and myself and others that are in this category that you’re talking about; we don’t dispute the basics. 

What we do object to is the idea of a manufactured consensus for political purposes. This is not a natural scientific consensus that has emerged over a long time. It’s a manufactured consensus of scientists at the request of policy makers, which has been too narrowly framed. There’s too much politics in it. And that’s what I object to and there’s a number of other scientists that object to this as well. And we’ve also been critical of the behaviour of some of the more politically active scientists who are exaggerating the truth in the interests of a good story or political objectives. . .

It’s very far from gloom and doom. People are being sued left and right over bad weather. Governments, oil companies and everything because they’re not doing enough. People who think that they can control the climate… It’s just a pipe dream. Even if we went to net zero, we would barely notice. It would be hard to detect any change in the climate. The climate is going to do what the climate’s going to do. And there’s a lot of inertia in the system. If the carbon dioxide that we’ve put in is as important, as bad as some people seem to think, those effects are going to be with us for a very, very long time. And stopping now isn’t going to change that trajectory very much. So, we just need to look forward and try to understand what’s happened. But thinking that we’re going to control the climate by going to net zero very quickly is not good.

Pre-industrial is held up as some sort of golden age that we’re supposed to go back to. Well [in] pre-industrial [times] the weather was horrible. This was at the end of the little ice age. It was the coldest period of the millennium. There were horrible famines, extreme weather and extremely, terribly cold winters and springs and things like that. That was not good weather. The weather now is much better. Even [when you] look more recently, at least in the US, where I’ve looked most carefully, the weather was much worse in the 1930s by any measure. You know, forest fires, droughts, heatwaves, hurricanes, everything that you can imagine in the US was much worse in the 1930s. Does anybody remember that? Well, no. Most of those people are no longer living. 

But if you look at the data there, it says [so]. Most people just look at the data from 1950 or 1970. The 1970s and 1980s was a relatively benign period of weather. And so, if you just do the trend since 1970, “Oh, the weather is worse now”. Well, yes, but it’s not worse than the 1930s or 40s or even the 50s. And people are much more prosperous. Globally, poverty is way down. Life expectancy is up. We’re doing very well as we reduce poverty and human development advances. A lot of that has been fueled by petroleum and coal. Are there better fuels out there? Well, hopefully in the future there will be advanced nuclear and stuff like that, very promising advanced geothermal. But right now, this minute, having our entire energy infrastructure relying on wind turbines and solar energy is going to cause a lot of harm to a lot of people, not just to the overall economy. You can’t run an industrial economy on wind and solar, at least not in the way it’s currently envisioned. It requires a huge land footprint. 

People haven’t thought this out and there’s no emergency. Economically, we’re all expected to be four times better off worldwide by the end of the 21st century. And a little bit of that might be shaved off because of damages from global warming. But we’re all going to be better off moving forward through the 21st century unless we do really stupid stuff like destroy our energy infrastructure before we have something better to replace it with.  . . 

The biggest climate risk right now is a so-called transition risk; the risk of rapidly getting rid of fossil fuels. I’m no fan of pollution and crazy price spikes and whatever. I’d love to see inexpensive, cleaner, reliable, secure energy, better than what we have now. But going to 100% renewables is not a better solution.

Even if we’re going to transition to all wind and solar, we’re going to need a lot of fossil fuels to accomplish that, to do all the mining and establish the supply chains and all the transport and everything else. So, in the near term, even if the plan is to go to all renewable wind and solar, then we’re going to need a lot of fossil fuels to get us there.  . .

On whether the Earth warming is a bad thing

No, it’s not. This whole issue of “dangerous” is the weakest part of the whole argument. What is dangerous? It’s a whole Goldilocks, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the fairy tale about “too hot, too warm, just right”. Everybody has a different idea of what’s good. In the US, people are migrating south; Florida, Texas and California. These are southern states. This is where people are migrating in the US. They’re going south, not north. They don’t like cold winters. And that’s the biggest, dominant thing. So, nobody is moving north. The only harm from warming is sea level rise. And that’s a slow creep, unless something catastrophic happens, say, to the West Antarctic ice sheet. And if something catastrophic happens there, that’s as likely to be associated with under ice volcanoes as it is to be with global warming. So, the only real danger is sea level rise. And people can manage sea level rise and move inland.

The Tenancy Tribunal overrides contracts in favour of tenants – Heather du Plessis-Allan :

You want a perfect example of the kind of rules that people think are good for tenants, but actually end up backfiring on them?

The two rulings that allowed tenants to keep pets despite explicit agreements that they wouldn’t, in both cases. . .

If you listened to talkback today, you’ll know this is freaking landlords out. They want to know that if there is an agreement that is reasonable it will be upheld, and saying no to pets is reasonable because there are other properties that will take pets. 

Houses are expensive. That is a lot of money tied up in that investment, and fixing the damage of a pet costs a lot. . . 

Not every landlord is going to freak out about this, heaps of landlords have bought houses specifically for renting and will be fine with a good tenant having a pet. But I reckon there will be plenty of people who thought about turning the holiday home over for a short term rental or putting their own house up for rent while they take a job up somewhere else —like we did— who will just not do it.

Because they don’t want pets in their home, and they now can’t be sure that any agreement will hold.

Because the signal this is sending is that anyone who takes the house can bring in a pet, even if they promise not to.

And when we have a rental shortage, every house pulled off the market makes it worse.

So for any good this is doing on an individual level, it’s doing much more harm.

Mixing Maori and English bastardises both languages – Dennis Gates :

We now live under the provisions of the Plain Language Act which came into force on the 21st of April 2023. It’s designed to improve communication between government agencies and the general population. The intention of the act is clear and laudable. However, the implementation is clearly going to be determined by the mandarins in our bureaucracy. As we all know, to effect change in any organisation is not easy. To achieve change in the culture of the monoliths of government departments is a minor miracle. The consequence is that a lazy approach to the desired objectives of this Act will occur and is occurring. . .

– the lazy approach referred to above will continue.

By that I mean the random inclusion of Maori words in what are substantially English language texts. This seems to be a one-way phenomenon at present. If one compares the language of the empowering legislation, the Plain Language Act, it is in English throughout. The intention is clear, namely to communicate the provisions of legislation in a coherent manner complying with the grammatical requirements of the language to ensure precision and certainty. In summary the legislation is written with the integrity of the language to the fore. . . 

Our bureaucrats would be well advised to follow these examples from our legislature. When communicating to the public those communications have to be done with the integrity of the medium to the fore. Not all New Zealand citizens have English or Maori as their principal and primary language. For many, English is a second or third language. Again this is recognised by our bureaucrats as many of their missives are provided in multiple languages. The distinguishing feature of these alternative (from Maori or English texts) is that they do not include random words from a third language.

To mix Maori and English, as is becoming a common practice, is to bastardise both languages for the benefit of neither. In correspondence with the Human Rights Commission on this point I was advised that this practice was acceptable because everyone is doing it.

That argument is wrong. Not everyone is doing it as the script of the two pieces of legislation I have referred to demonstrate. Those unfamiliar with either English or Maori are not doing it. Dyslexic people are not doing it. Rather it is a current fashion with the “woke” in positions of influence that see this practice as acceptable.

The provisions of the Plain Language Act should be brought to their attention for the sake of both the English and the Maori language, namely, to benefit and improve communication between government agencies and the public, not between minority “woke” sectors and their like counterparts within the bureaucratic environment and their acolytes.  . . 

Lia Thomas wants ‘respect’ — well, so do women – Jeanna Hoch :

Georgia Tech hosted the 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championship last week. Par for the course, perhaps — I’d never paid much attention to competitive swimming. But this year was different. Lia Thomas, the 24-year-old University of Pennsylvania athlete swam for the women’s team for the first time after having begun hormone replacement treatment (HRT) while still on the men’s team in May 2019. NCAA rules allow male athletes to compete in the women’s division so long as they have a year of HRT under their belts, and with a little over two years on HRT, 2021/2022 was Thomas’ year. He blew the female swimmers he began competing against out of the water, posting the NCAA season-best times in the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle, as well as setting Penn records in those events and winning three individual races. In the 500 free, he beat the second-place finisher by nearly 13 seconds. In just months, a mediocre male swimmer had become a champion “female” athlete, moving from a #462 ranking in men’s swimming to a #1 ranking in the women’s division.

Penn swim parents as well as some athletes protested, sending letters to the NCAA, Penn, and the Ivy League, asking that Thomas be ruled ineligible for women’s competitions, as he had gone through puberty, which gave him enormous advantages over female athletes. Sixteen members of the UPenn women’s swimming team signed an anonymous letter, saying, “when it comes to sports competition… the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity.”

The NCAA didn’t respond to parents, but UPenn’s athletic director, Alanna Shanahan, sent an email to the team, saying that the school “fully support[s] all our swimming student-athletes and want[s] to help our community navigate Lia’s success in the pool this winter.” She added, “Penn [a]thletics is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive environment for all student-athletes, coaches and staff, and we hold true to the commitment today and in the future.” If swimmers were upset about Thomas, Shanahan said, the athletes could “utilize robust resources available to them,” for example, the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services department.

But no amount of therapy can make up for the unfairness of having trained for years, only to lose out to a man, equipped with physical strength and attributes unattainable for women. On Thursday, March 17th, media across the US reported that Thomas had made history, becoming the first “transgender NCAA champion in Division I history” to win the women’s 500-yard freestyle. In truth, he did make history, becoming the first man to accomplish such a feat. . . 

Much of what is considered to be the liberal mainstream media reported his win in the women’s division with wide smiles, but few cheered him on at the Georgia Tech complex hosting the championships, and the athlete declined to participate in the post-race news conference required by the NCAA. The brave women of Save Women’s Sports and Standing for Women who traveled from the UK and from across the United States to protest in Atlanta and document this scandalous event booed, naming Thomas as a cheat.

For months leading up to the 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championship, Thomas was featured in numerous media reports, heavily photoshopped — his images manipulated in an attempt to trick the public into believing this man was female enough to compete on the women’s team. Even if I believed “female enough” were something obtainable by a man, Thomas is nowhere near it. . . 

Thomas insists this is an issue of “respect,” and that the world accept his identity without question. “I’m not a man,” he told Sports Illustrated. “I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.” But Thomas seems not to have considered that his inclusion is disrespectful to women. He is not being threatened by “transphobic” policies, preventing him from achieving in life. Born William Thomas, he is the poster boy for rich, white, male privilege, having grown up in a wealthy part of Austin, Texas, and marginalized by absolutely nothing. . . 

Save Women’s Sports and their supporters protested inside and outside of the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center for three days with very little resistance or disapproval. Numerous people approached us to thank us for standing up for the women athletes. Parent after parent and athlete after athlete told us they felt unable to speak honestly about the unfairness of a man’s inclusion in the division created for women. One mother of a diver told me that her daughter’s sport is subjective, so if she speaks up, and a judge disagrees with her protests against men competing in women’s sports, that judge can dock her points and ruin her chances to win. This mother told me her family is effectively silenced until her daughter graduates, and that this is true for many families she knows, trying to support their daughters’ athletic careers.

I spoke with Rose Pouch moments before she became the first Division 1 swimmer to voice concern and show her face, telling Savannah Hernandez, host of the Rapid Fire Podcast, “it’s a common conception that we are all very disappointed and frustrated.”

“It’s heartbreaking to see someone who went through puberty as a male and has the body of a male be able to absolutely blow away the competition. Then you go into it with a mindset that you don’t have a chance,” she explained. Twitter suspended the Rapid Fire Podcast’s Twitter account after the interview with Pouch got 1.8 million views. . . 

We worked tirelessly to encourage people to stop being afraid. An elderly man cried, telling me about his granddaughter — a USA Junior National Team member who trained every day, two hours before school and two hours after school, for 15 years. His family shared a deep sense of devastation for the young women who have or will lose opportunities, accolades, and championships to this giant man that everyone knows is a man but is forced to pretend belongs in a space intended for women. I embraced this stranger, and we wept together at the injustice for women and girls in all sports and for my own little girls who will never know single sex competition unless we stop allowing men access to spaces intended for women and girls.

I left Atlanta with a sense of victory, and the knowledge that we inspired people to overcome their fears of being called transphobic in an effort to save women’s sports. Thomas’ presence on a women’s sports team is not a triumph for “inclusion” or “respect” — it is an embarrassment and a scandal. The more of us who show up and tell the truth, the more will feel emboldened to speak up for women and girls, and the more likely it will be that institutions will be forced to stop the lies and show Thomas and other men in women’s spaces for what they truly are: men.

All things being equal – Theodore Dalrymple :

It goes without saying that there should, for reasons of social justice, be full representation of all demographic groups in all human endeavors: for example, in scientific fraud. There is, apparently, a lamentable underrepresentation of women in biomedical research papers subsequently retracted because they are fraudulent in some way, such as in the manufacture of data or in the falsification of pictures. . . 

In a sample, admittedly small, of biomedical papers that had been retracted, 59.2 percent of those that were first-authored by men were retracted for fraud or research misconduct, while only 28.6 percent of those first-authored by women were retracted for that reason. In short, men, at least in the biomedical field, are twice as likely as women to commit fraud or research misconduct. A disgrace!

Since, of course, it is easier to commit fraud than to eliminate it, there seems to be only one possible solution to this gross disparity (all disparities being unjust, of course): the encouragement of women to commit fraud. No doubt they will need a little tuition to begin with, but I have little doubt that they will soon get the hang of it.

It is just possible that the disparity is caused by a differential in the rate of examination for fraud of scientific papers by men, but that seems a little far-fetched. No, more women scientists must learn to make up their data or forge their photographs. . . 

Given the incapacity of modern governments to reduce the criminality of their populations as a whole, there is an obvious solution to the gross and unjust disparities that I have outlined above: namely, to encourage more women to kill more women, thus restoring the sex balance both of those guilty of homicide and of victims of homicide.

I was glad to see, on a flight across the Atlantic to the United States, that Hollywood is doing its bit to make the world a more equal, and therefore a more just, place. I don’t watch films on flights, but I could not help but notice the films being watched by the passengers around me. Many of them seemed to involve athletic and muscular women wielding weapons ranging from knives to machetes to swords, from revolvers to heavy automatics, from bazookas to lasers, which they used to slaughter people (presumably bad people, luckily I couldn’t hear the soundtrack) in large, indeed in industrial, numbers. The world will never be right until women are brought up to scratch in the matter of mass killings, it being inconceivable that any policy will eliminate them entirely among men.

It is essential, then, that little girls should be familiarized with Kalashnikovs from an early age, so that mass killings be rendered non-gendered, say from kindergarten age. Let them overcome what some mistakenly believe is their natural disinclination to violence; that disinclination is socially constructed, not innate, and has been part of their problem down the ages. If only they had been more vicious in the past, and not had to resort to that women’s weapon, namely poison. How much better it would have been for them and everyone else if they had behaved more like men and hacked and shot their way to equality! . . 

A Russian athletics official was standing in front of a tractor with such an athlete, a Tamara Press figure, and he was saying to her something like (I forget the exact wording), “You’re not a woman. A real woman would have been able to change that tire in less than five minutes.”

Anyone who laughed at such a joke now would be regarded as a dinosaur at best, a fascist at worst; but the aim of the thought reformers (thought reform being the main task of educators these days) is to ensure that future generations do not even realize that the cartoon was a joke. They will be like the mother of a friend of mine who, on seeing the Guinness cartoon with the legend “I’ve never tried it because I don’t like it,” said, “Yes, that’s right, that’s why I’ve never tried it.”

The safest course these days is in any case to refrain from laughter, because jokes are always upsetting to someone, because the composition of human beings is 60 percent water and 40 percent eggshell. . . 

Quotes of the day


The EU reassures society and welcomes tourists – “zero pollution” is the soundbite.

New Zealand alarms residents and puts doubt in the minds of people planning to visit.

The UK Times stated that “New Zealand’s reputation as an environmental oasis has been damaged by official findings that show the national ‘religion’ of dairy farming has left almost half of the country’s rivers too polluted to swim in”.

The articles have muddled the various components of water quality, but the main swimmability criterion is bacterial contamination. – Jacqueline Rowarth

The EU and UK monitor bathing sites at intervals of less than a month during the bathing season – from May 15 to the end of September in England.

The EU bathing water directive states that for reporting purposes, samples taken during short-term pollution can be disregarded and replaced with a sample taken within a week. 

In contrast, New Zealand’s reporting on swimmability in Our Freshwater 2023, is based on a model for the whole year.

Further, the predicted average infection risk is the “overall average infection to swimmers based on a random exposure on a random day, ignoring any possibility of not swimming during high flows or when a surveillance advisory is in place; actual risk will generally be less if a person does not swim during high flows”.

This means that the “estimated 45 per cent of New Zealand’s total river length not suitable for activities like swimming, covers heavy rain incidents, and non-swimming seasons”.

The EU and UK reports stick to the times when people are swimming.Jacqueline Rowarth

Oranga Tamariki’s data sits in stark contrast to that of the Police.

What is going on – or not going on – at Oranga Tamariki is of grave concern. All families and their intimate circles have the right to make provision for their own children if safely able to – Māori and non-Māori. OT’s stated goal that ‘no tamaiti Māori will need state care’ is indisputable. My fear though is that reducing numbers of entries into care has the same etiology as reducing numbers of surgeries performed in hospitals. Fewer operations do not mean the population is getting healthier.

On the balance of evidence, the answer to ‘Are children safer or not?’ is most likely negative. In which case, regrettably, there is no good news after all. – Lindsay Mitchell 

This does not quite rise to the level of schizophrenic verbigeration—the repetition of nonsensical phrases or fragments of phrases seen in severe cases—but it is very near it.

I do not mean to be disparaging. It takes great skill to use language in this fashion. I suggest that, if you don’t believe me, you try to do likewise. I have tried but not succeeded: Whatever I say, meaning keeps breaking through. Evidently, I am too attached to language as an instrument for the conveyance of thought to succeed as an academic art historian in the Western world.Theodore Dalrymple

Art history is not the only field in which people have turned themselves into verbiage-generating machines; far from it. The person who produced the above example could easily change careers and become a manager in Britain’s National Health Service, having so triumphantly mastered the art of high-flown meaninglessness combined with vague but false connotations of innovatory thought. Indeed, in the modern Anglophone world, any ambitious mediocrity can rise far in any hierarchy simply by mastering this language—although, as I have intimated, this is not at all easy to do. The main requirement for success in achieving such mastery is determination; then, with a little ruthlessness and willingness to stab people in the back, the sky is the limit as far as a career is concerned.

University College, London, is funded mainly by public grants and student fees, and I regard the promotion of the polysyllabic drivel that I have quoted above as a form of legalized theft, both from the public purse and from the pockets of private persons; though I repeat, to make it clear to libel lawyers, that it is theft morally speaking, not juridically.

Its purpose (in this context) is to advance the careers of those who want the status of scholar without the dreary necessity of actual scholarship. The endless recombination of a few phrases hinting at a small repertoire of half-formed thoughts, with a lacing of neologism, is all that is required. – Theodore Dalrymple

If we ever recover from this academic sickness, which at the moment looks rather doubtful (for as the American senator said, you can’t get a hog to slaughter itself), we will wonder how, when, and why the sickness started. I don’t have a definitive answer; no doubt the process was insidious and crept on us unawares, more like old age than a declaration of war. Tracing disasters to their origins can in a few steps take us back, not very usefully, to the Garden of Eden and the idea of original sin; nothing, after all, has ever been right since the fruit of the tree of knowledge was first bitten into by our ancestors. But we must bear in mind that what explains everything explains nothing.

If I had to plump for a single cause, then, it would be the expansion of tertiary education, especially in the humanities. “More means worse” was the cry of reactionaries who were against this expansion, and they have been proved right. This may not be so in the exact sciences, where it is easier to maintain standards, but genuine humanistic scholarship is inherently and rightfully intense and of small scale. The attempt to make it a mass phenomenon was bound to dilute its quality, and so it has done. Homeopathic doses of real learning now seem to go a long way in academic careers.

The production of graduates of the humanities in large numbers was dangerous. One of its principal effects was to greatly increase the prevalence and scope of pretentiousness. What word better conveys the quality of the keynote speaker’s summary than pretentious?

Pretentious teachers teach pretension to new generations, who must then be found occupation to flatter their pretensions. Thus, the process is self-reinforcing and self-reproducing like a colony of bacteria in a petri dish. The only thing that will halt the expansion is the irruption of reality, for among other things, the pretension is always reality-denying. Let us hope that the irruption of reality will not be violent. – Theodore Dalrymple

Spending the better part of quarter of a million pounds annually on employing multiple people to impose ideological positions on students and staff while not a single person is employed or a penny spent on free speech compliance is also completely unacceptable.

Having lobbyists who publicly espouse one side of highly controversial and contested issues on the university’s court is also completely incompatible with the most basic requirements of institutional neutrality. – Andrew Neish

While most people would agree to free speech in principle, in practice it gets threatened by self-censorship which follows in the wake of overt, aggressive, denunciatory attacks on individuals or censoring of debates. So you need to do more than just assert the principle, you need to discourage self-censorship and encourage openness and free debate. Neil Thin

For the past five years, LGBTQ activists have been refusing to debate gender critical feminists, claiming their views are ‘harmful’ and smearing them as bigots and TERFS [trans-exclusionary radical feminists]. As a consequence, they’re losing the argument in the public square and setting the cause of trans rights backwards. –  Toby Young

The Fore people of New Guinea once suffered from a strange neurological disease, ending in dementia and death, known as kuru. It was caused by an infectious protein called a prion, which entered their brains after they indulged in funerary cannibalism.

It sometimes seems to me that a metaphorical prion, that of wokeness (to use a hackneyed term), has entered the minds of the intelligentsia of the West. Of course, no analogy is exact: one of the symptoms of kuru was outbursts of uncontrolled laughter, and if there is one symptom those infected with the prion of wokeness do not suffer from, it is laughter, uncontrolled or otherwise. – Theodore Dalrymple

The contrast between the way in which a huge publishing company and a professional football team go about recruitment is both sinister and alarming: for it suggests that the quality of football is more serious and important to us than the quality of our intellectual life. Football is too serious to be interfered with on the supposed grounds of social justice, whereas intellectual and mental life can and ought to be judged by criteria other than its quality. No doubt the word decadence has been overused in the past, sometimes for sinister purposes, but it seems appropriate in this instance.

It is quite clear that the policy of PRH is racist, among other things, in the sense that it accords to race a great, and even determining, importance. This is obvious from the following consideration: humanity is divisible by an almost infinite number of characteristics, such as height, weight, intelligence quotient, etc.  – Theodore Dalrymple

If, therefore, you recruit by demographic features, you have to choose which demographic features you consider important and relevant. Are not those who choose race as the most important quality indicating that they are, in a very real sense, racists?

I have long thought that the Soviet Union won the Cold War in the cultural and intellectual sphere, and the very form of language that the chief executive of PRH employs, to say nothing of its content, makes that assessment plausible. The worst is that the new totalitarianism is not imposed by a dictatorship, it is freely chosen. Such totalitarianism is the opportunity and salvation of ambitious mediocrities. Theodore Dalrymple

I love sitting on a header. There’s nothing more satisfying than sitting on a header and harvesting 10 to 12 tonne per hectare crop of wheat. It’s better than anything. Sex is good but only lasts for a short time. Driving a header, it goes on all day and all night. – Allan Pye

It showed me that if you want to get anywhere, you have to get stuck in. I was just keen to get ahead. Allan Pye

I learned pretty quick that an acre on my own would have been better than two acres with my sisters. – Allan Pye

The crops are growing, we’re getting a good return, we’re making money.

When we get a balance sheet – I get the figures every three months – we’re making really good money and it’s really satisfying. I don’t want to be playing golf or bowls or billiards or anything else. I’m just satisfied here on the farm.Allan Pye

It’s important to have a good education. I was no good with a pencil and paper and no bloody good at school, I was just keen to get out and earn some money. But I would still encourage people to stay at school for a bit longer than I did. – Allan Pye

If Labour decides on a tax at the next election, it could be either a wealth tax or a capital gains tax.

Either could be designed so they hit only the wealthy. But either could also be allowed to hit a lot more taxpayers, especially the CGT, which works better if it hits all significant New Zealand assets. Assets like beach houses, rental properties and KiwiSaver accounts.

So be careful what you wish for. Because it’s possible the mood to tax could get away on us. Especially if Labour proposes a tax switch. In that case, Labour would propose to the wealthy, then use that money to give tax cuts to the average Kiwi worker. That – by Parker’s definition – is someone earning $80,000 and less.

I’m happy to tax the rich to give money back to average Kiwis. We all are. Until we find out we are the rich.

So, until you see the exact detail of Labour’s tax plan, be careful what you wish for.Heather du Plessis-Allan

Andrew Neish, Neil Thin, Toby Young, Allan Pye,


Quotes of the day


Of all the open invitations to fraud ever issued, the concept of mental health must have been among the most successful. In the past, there was the idea of mental hygiene, which conjured up images of experts pouring disinfectant into people’s minds and giving them a good clear-out, but it was never as popular an idea as that of mental health, which allows people such as Prince Harry to present themselves as unwell and therefore worthy of pity, especially of self-pity.

No doubt the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, which is produced more or less on the same principles as those of a carpet salesman haggling over the price of a carpet in a Moroccan souk, will one day turn self-pity into an illness, after which the self-pitying will be able to pity themselves for being so self-pitying, meta-self-pity as it were. Indeed, they will be able to take time off work to struggle with, as the phrase goes, their self-pity: a struggle that is doomed to failure, as was the attempt to kill the hydra by decapitating it. – Theodore Dalrymple

Where mental health is the cynosure of every person seeking time off work or early retirement on medical grounds at the expense of others, it is not surprising that supposed fragility should be deemed both desired and desirable. Self-sufficiency in such circumstances seems almost callous and unfeeling. Mental fragility, besides, is a source of employment for all those who want to turn their compassion into cash—who are not a few, and growing more numerous by the year, if not by even shorter intervals.

A population trained up to fragility is therefore highly desirable from a certain point of view. Such a population will be the helping professions’ milch cow, the goose that lays its golden egg. If I believed in conspiracies, I would say that those who indoctrinate children about the imminent end of the world because of climate change are in the pay of the monstrous regiment of mental health workers, who require a timid, shallow, anxiety-ridden population in order to guarantee their future income by promising to restore it to that mirage-like entity, mental health. Theodore Dalrymple

If Mrs. Goodenough’s child, who probably started worrying about these matters from the age of 10 or 11 at the latest, is a typical child, as the newspaper implies, it is perfectly obvious that those who teach children about climate change at such an age are, in effect, child abusers. They have no idea of childhood as an age of innocence or carefreeness. In their view, children ought to be inducted into the most pressing of abstract concerns almost as soon as they are able to speak. (I do not enter into the question of how far these concerns are actually realistic or justified.)

A psychologist to whom the newspaper spoke suggested that there was only one real solution for the children’s anxiety, and this was for them to become activists—millions of Greta Thunbergs, I suppose. The climate should be to children what Hitler was to the Hitler Youth or communism to the Young Pioneers. That it was possible that children were not in a position, and did not know enough, to pronounce on how the world should be organized, did not cross the mind of the authors of the article. For them, childhood was not an age of innocence but of knowledge and wisdom.

Concern for the environment is not the same as dragooning children into fascistic regiments of humorless automata. The problems are undoubtedly huge, but they are also complex. Moreover, no age has been without its threats and dangers, and in many respects young people today are immensely privileged by comparison with their forebears, though they are too ignorant to know it and their teachers are too ignorant to teach it. – Theodore Dalrymple

No one died from a lack of empathy,” was how Brown responded to Jack Tame’s persistent baiting on another of Bush’s findings, that the residents of the Super City were ill-served by the mayor’s less than emotive response to the rapidly deteriorating weather that overwhelmed the city. And Brown is right.

I appreciate we live in a post-modern world where intentions matter more than outcomes, but really, just fix the culverts so I don’t have to judge if the depth of the water covering the road is higher than the air intake of my engine.

I don’t want empathy. I want drains that work and reliable weather forecasts. – Damien Grant

Brown is confronted with a $295 million gap between revenue and spending, and is proposing to do something no other political leader in the last 40 years has seriously attempted: a reduction in spending.

Even more remarkably, he is outlining in advance the services he wishes to cut and asking those who live within his jurisdiction to comment on the proposals. – Damien Grant

The point is that Auckland has a mayor who is doing what he said he would do, or at least he is attempting to do so. His authority is restricted by the cumbersome structures he must work within.

You may not agree with his proposals or style, but he is being honest about the problems and canvassing the hard decisions a responsible political leader should be discussing with their electors.

If you look beyond his undiplomatic demeanour and contempt for those he feels are contemptible, we see a political leader more interested in outcomes than optics; and given his sartorial selections, he clearly isn’t worried about optics.

Meanwhile, the extent of the economic and institutional malaise in the capital is an order of magnitude larger than that facing the Super City. Regardless of your political perspective, Brown is providing a model for how democratic leaders can confront the serious challenges that lie before us.

Perhaps our national politicians should trust the electorate and the electorate may surprise them with a willingness to accept that hard decisions need to be made. Damien Grant

The political hyenas that reside in The Beehive are rounding on the Greens. There’s a whiff of fresh blood in the air. This week, the party has been in self-sabotage mode, feeding information to the media about Tai Rāwhiti-based Green MP, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere.

The writing is on the wall. It’s tickets for Dr Kerekere. Her political career is all but over.

Her crime was to call the party darling, Chlöe Swarbrick, a “crybaby” in a misfired WhatsApp message to the wrong group of Green MPs and staff. The media didn’t need to know about it. In terms of political errors, it was hardly the worst crime in the world. So why did the Greens leak this information to journalists?

It’s simple. The Greens need a reset. Some Green MPs have been running riot in our democracy over the past few weeks, using reckless language, fuelling polarisation in our communities, and acting like hapless student protestors. Dr Kerekere has, quite by accident, put her name forward to be the sacrificial lamb, and has given the Greens the perfect opportunity to look principled and rein in some of their rogue MPs who shoot first, and think later.   – Rachel Smalley

 You could be forgiven for assuming ‘labelling’ is a Green Party policy – if you have criticised a Green policy and you weren’t labelled a Boomer, a Terf, privileged, a climate change-denier, a Nazi, a transphobe, or a pale, stale, male, can you truly claim to have even lived? 

Marama Davidson leads from the front on this issue. The Greens co-leader is proof the fish always rots from the head, most recently labelling “white cis men” the cause of all the violence in the world. And Davidson robustly refuses to apologise.  – Rachel Smalley

There were shades of David Cunliffe in Shaw’s reply. Who could forget the former Labour Party leader apologising for being a man in 2014? Shaw’s retort suggests one of two things: that Davidson is actually in full control of the party, or Shaw concurs with Davidson’s “white cis men” assertion. Either way, Shaw has lost credibility among all but the party’s staunch base.

The most concerned by all of this will be the Prime Minister. If he’s to form a government in October, Chris Hipkins will need the Greens and he finds himself in an interesting conundrum. Hipkins has moved his party so far to the right that he could probably find more common ground with National. He’ll be feeling vulnerable right now. The Greens are unpredictable and increasingly fanatical; and, given the proximity of the election, they pose the biggest risk to Labour’s hopes of re-election – and it’s a risk Labour will struggle to mitigate.  – Rachel Smalley

If the Greens are capable of true self-analysis, they should recognise the need to reset the party’s communication strategy. And if they’re smart, they’ll use the opportunity to reposition themselves as authoritative, disciplined, and virtuous – three key attributes the Greens do not possess, and they’ve proven as much in the past month. Their reckless use of language and their bullying behaviour was on display throughout the tortuous Posie Parker affair. 

The Greens’ inflammatory, and at times frenzied, commentary on social media most certainly played a key role in fuelling the rage, unrest, and entitlement on both sides of the argument at last month’s Albert Park anti-trans rights protest. And it should not be lost on Davidson that it was two cis-gendered white men that stepped in to add some nuance to the situation.  

Former chief science adviser to the Prime Minister, Sir Peter Gluckman, was the first to speak up on an issue that is important to trans and cis-gendered women. And he was followed by chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt. Both men were concerned for the social cohesion of our country – and our national unity. 

Sir Peter said: “We’ve seen the weaponisation of narrative, particularly through social media, and these things polarise people, make people scared, which in turn reinforced the ability for people to be more polarised.”Rachel Smalley

Commissioner Hunt said as much too. He said if women are concerned about an erosion of their rights, particularly in women-only spaces, they should be able to speak to those concerns. The message was clear: it’s okay to talk. Constructive conversation in a calm and reasoned space is 100% the right way forward.

But that’s not how the Greens see it.

In our rapidly changing society, the Greens resort to what they know best – student activism. They become emboldened and battle-ready. Forget Posie Parker. She was the canary in the coal mine. It’s clear the Greens will continue on their mission to silence fair-minded New Zealand women who want a seat at the table, and to contribute to the Government’s changing political language around women, and access to women-only spaces.

The Greens won’t move on this issue. Women will be described as people who bleed, chest-feeders, and parenting people. If you suggest there might be a better way, you’re called a transphobe and you’re cancelled. It’s the Greens way, or the cycle way.

There is no way to sweeten this message. Given the Greens’ recent behaviour, the prospect of a Labour-Greens coalition in October is troubling. Diplomacy will take a backseat to activism, and when you consider the Green’s sizeable digital audience and a willing and waiting media that feeds on outrage, the Greens present a very real risk to social cohesion and the stability of our democracy.  – Rachel Smalley

It’s only a matter of time before the election mantras start circulating. I’d wager a bet that, before too long, National, Act, and New Zealand First will roll out something along the lines of: “Vote Labour, and we’ll throw in the Greens too.” 

And, if the Greens continue their reckless rhetoric, it might be the only line the Right needs.Rachel Smalley

Stop and Go signs are now emerging in Maori – has New Zealand reached peak stupid?

Labour would be better off improving child vaccination rates to keep our babies safe. – Wendy Geus

All decision-making by the NZ Transport Agency should be based on safety first, not ideology. Motorists need to be able to react quickly and confidently. How can they do that when the language is different and a moment’s pause or panic reaction to the change might result in an accident?

We need a government that can use common sense, logic and reason when making decisions: not dogma or pure bloody-mindedness even when it’s clear they are wrong.Wendy Geus

Pragmatic and practical decision-making with the public’s best interest and safety in mind should be the mantra for government public servants who are paid by the public they serve.

However, I have full confidence that we are not fully ‘there yet’ and more examples of this Labour Government’s ideological lunacy will arise.

This is at a time when Maori babies have the lowest vaccination rates in six years, dropping to 67% (from 90% in 2017), and risk catching measles, whooping cough, and meningococcal disease. Three babies have died already this year from whooping cough.

Retaining public service targets that National adopted would have done more for Māori health and well-being than wasted millions spent on plastering Māori words over every spare surface, sign, and public document and ramming the language down our throats through the media (tokenism, according to Kiri Allen). – Wendy Geus

Accountability is scary and requires hard work rather than just announcements and haemorrhaging of money never to be accounted for. Where were the journalists questioning this dangerous move? It is only now I see articles decrying this treacherous Government’s removal of accountability. Wendy Geus

Six years ago Maori childhood vaccination rates were not much lower than other ethnic groups, hovering around 90%; so our current Labour government cannot put their gross failures down to poor housing and poverty or their favourite: they are a ‘vulnerable’ group of people.

National, having inherited much lower rates from the Clark government, achieved much better results over nine years with sheer hard slog by the health workers and government ministers actually doing their job on the ground and not directing things from their offices while hoping for the best. – Wendy Geus

Regarding the ‘vulnerable’ label, it is part of the ‘culture of excuses’ to which Chris Luxon referred. It is a gross insult to label these groups, ‘vulnerable’ as with the right help from a government prepared to roll their sleeves up and put in the work, these people could be in a much better position today. Wendy Geus

It is a toss-up between Jan Tinetti or our former education minister, our current PM, as to who has been the most useless.

Chris Hipkins, who presided over the introduction of the contentious cancel culture (history) curriculum and had Shaneen Lal (the individual who helped incite the Albert Park riot and then miraculously was named Young New Zealander of the Year) as an advisor on Gender Studies, probably tops the bill.

Concentrating on promoting their radical agenda, using our children as guinea pigs could be one reason why the reading and maths results are so atrocious.

As a former teacher, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined we would come to this. And, thanks to our media’s blind devotion to our corrupt Labour Government, many New Zealanders are still completely oblivious as to what is going on, as the media endorse it. – Wendy Geus

How have we got to the point where our lowest-waged workers are now paying tax rates that were set up to sock it to those on higher incomes?

If you’re a minimum wage earner who works more than 40 hours a week, you’re now in the middle $48,000 tax bracket, paying 30% on any additional earnings.

Inflation has dragged you into a higher tax bracket.

To make things worse, the higher bracket at such a modest income level is a tax on ambition that risks killing the incentive to upskill, gun for promotion or take on a side gig.

The idea that drives progressive taxation is that as people become better off, they should pay higher taxes. We need to rethink this logic. The trouble is that our so-called progressive rates have become regressive, hitting minimum-wage workers.

Far from abiding by the old adage that there should be no taxation without representation, meaning only Parliament should set the tax brackets and rates, inflation moves earners into higher brackets by stealth. Ruth Richardson

The place to start is not with tax levels, but with spending demands. Tax and borrowing levels are designed to cover spending demands and as we have now (re)discovered to our cost, undisciplined spending drives unsustainable inflation. – Ruth Richardson

My 1994 Fiscal Responsibility Act set out five principles of responsible fiscal management: reducing public debt to prudent levels, requiring an operating balance to be maintained on average over a reasonable time, maintaining a buffer level of public net worth, managing fiscal risks, and maintaining predictable and stable rates of taxation.

The breach of these principles on the spending side has imperilled not just the quest for stable rates of tax but price stability itself, a monetary policy imperative. –

Any government is free to hike taxes if they dare, but this should be done transparently and with scrutiny. That means collecting advice from the Treasury on how the tax hike will affect New Zealanders and overall productivity.

It means presenting any proposal to Parliament and fielding questions from MPs. It means setting out a clear rationale for your tax hike and the cost/benefit analysis so voters can cast judgement come election day.

Without this due process, Jane Average’s extra $2000 tax bill is a dishonest, undemocratic money grab. Taxpayers could be justified in invoicing Grant Robertson for their money back.

Any promise of tax relief that does not involve ongoing indexation should be protested as a sleight-of-hand: A partial refund of stolen wages attached to a promise to keep on stealing. – Ruth Richardson

These obvious tax injustices demand remedies.

The first port of call is to tackle tax rates. A government could decide to adopt a flat tax, which would avoid both the disincentive to progress and the scourge of fiscal drag. Or the steep five-step bracket regime could be collapsed into two, with the top bracket kicking in at, say, twice the minimum wage.

Second, the stealth tax needs to be slayed forever by legislating for an automatic annual inflation adjustment to the chosen tax brackets. After all, that has become standard practice on the other side of the ledger as benefits and minimum wages are now inflation adjusted.

We expect our finance ministers to rein in inflation by limiting the splurge of taxed and borrowed money into an overheated economy. But here’s where perverse incentives kick in: How can finance ministers be trusted to fight inflation when, thanks to bracket creep, they profit from it?  – Ruth Richardson

The belief that distant descent confers psychological characteristics and moral qualities is one with a rather unfortunate history—besides being merely false, of course. But it’s a tool in the hands of politicians for whom all is good that conduces to power. – 

All four of my grandparents were refugees, my mother was a refugee, and her sister was a refugee twice by the age of 42. I, however, have never been victimized or persecuted, except by my own foolishness, and therefore I have no special moral standing, nor do I deserve consideration from others because of my descent. – Theodore Dalrymple

We are still far from judging people by the content of their character rather than their membership of this or that demographic group.

While this is so, it will always be tempting for politicians in an electoral system to appeal to groups by means of their own descent, and it’s easier to make such an appeal if you believe yourself to be a member of such a group, and furthermore that such membership is morally, psychologically, and politically important or relevant. And it’s only natural for politicians to claim the descent that they think will give them the most votes.Theodore Dalrymple

Quotes of the day


Labour’s water reform process has become such a confused and garbled mess it may turn voters away from even trying to understand what’s going on.

Certainly, Labour hopes that’s what happens. Razzle dazzle the country with alarming facts on water and supply and quality issues, then confuse everyone by harping on about a term some consultant handpicked – called ‘spreadsheet’ balance – then announce more entities, saying this will fix it then back it up with some nonsense forecast that claims future savings are massive if we go this way.

Great stuff – a perfect smoke screen in which to hide the real reason and the remaining reason why people are still outraged over this trainwreck change.

Co-governance. More on that soon. But, in the meantime, more cheap talk.

Cheap talk can work to defuse and delay and confuse in the meantime, especially when your own Māori caucus has boxed you in, got you by the gonads, and won’t budge on this thing called co-governance. – Duncan Garner

In politics, talk is cheap but mostly that’s what politicians do. They relaunch, reheat, they fill gaps; their brains aren’t always attached to their mouths and they say things they think people want to hear.

Like, for instance, much bigger savings in the years ahead – but only if we keep this current Government in power and let them push through their new Affordable Water Reforms.

How on earth do you save money on future costs that are yet be finalised when you haven’t spent the money yet?

And, anyway, when did a recent New Zealand infrastructure project of this magnitude come out cheaper? Who trusts this public service and this Government to announce they’ve come in under budget on anything? – Duncan Garner

Labour’s Māori caucus has insisted Māori have influence on the boards governing water in New Zealand. (While each entity will be run by a professional board, strategic oversight and direction would be provided by local representative groups with every local council in the country, as well as mana whenua, getting a seat at the table.)

Ardern barely addressed the issue while she was in power and, on the way out, couldn’t explain why it was necessary.

Now, equally, PM Hipkins looks like he’s been in three rounds of boxing tag with various Māori MPs from within the Labour Party.

Every time someone gets tired, a new Māori MP joins the fray; problem is, Hipkins is the punching bag every time and he’s failed to rein in or convince his Māori MPs how unpopular the concept is. – Duncan Garner

This is all not much more than lipsticking the pig, really.

The savings being talked about are pie in the sky and quite irrelevant to the issue.

First, do we need to secure our water systems and make them better and healthier and more sustainable?

Yes we do, because people have died and continue to die because our water systems are old, unreliable, and can’t be trusted.

But, in the process of cleaning up our water supplies, Labour allowed Māori to fundamentally rewrite our approach to co-governance and how we view the Treaty of Waitangi itself.

And that just got left untouched by Hipkins who didn’t want an election-year fight with his own MPs. Last time this happened, the Māori Party was formed by outgoing Labour MP Tariana Turia.

Hipkins just got rolled. Make no mistake.

So, who is running the country? Willie Jackson and Nanaia Mahuta?

Surely not…Duncan Garner

For many, youth and old age are mere facts of life that one must confront. But at the University of Exeter, they merit a trigger warning. –

Youth and old age are as unproblematic as the moon and the sun, or trees and grass, so where do you stop?

“What we have now are trigger warning obsessives in search of a never-ending mission. – Professor Frank Furedi

What does politics produce when mixed with violence and intimidation?

Sadly nothing constructive, plus a humungous helping of anger, division, recrimination, spleen and confusion. Oh, and headlines. Lots of headlines. – Tim Wilson

First, we must acknowledge the genuine human anguish in these exchanges. Some charge that Posie Parker deliberately created the melee by holding an outdoor meeting. However, it’s difficult to feel genuine joy at the sight of a diminutive woman being escorted by security through a baying mob. Moreover, the activist who threw the tomato juice has a tortured history of being shamed and disparaged for their gender journey. Wounded people wound.

Next, beware the ideology cartoon. Jargon like “anti-women” and “TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist)” hinders rather than helps. Such vocabulary exacerbates division. Political movements throughout history have used words to drain the humanity from their opponents. Let’s syphon the cortisol from the lingo.

(It is not to the media’s credit that it accepts and repeats these crude summaries in the service of an equally dangerous idol: The Clickbait-Inducing Headline.)

Free speech expert Jacob Mchangama contends that free speech has historically assisted the vulnerable, for example during the American Civil Rights battle.

Another reflection: Majorities aren’t always right and don’t always support free speech. More than 2000 protestors were against Posie Parker, wanting to stop her from speaking; her own group was significantly smaller. Yet free speech expert Jacob Mchangama contends that free speech has historically assisted the vulnerable, for example during the American Civil Rights battle.

Moreover, context is essential. Given the vehemence in and around the issue of trans rights and how they may impinge on the rights of others, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we have a problem with trans people here. Not so; apparently, we’re world leaders in respecting transgender rights.

Lastly, hate (no matter how self-righteously obtained) cannot extinguish injustice.Tim Wilson

These days, everybody—by which I mean every person who considers himself intelligent and educated—must have an opinion about everything. It would be socially irresponsible, even antisocial, not to be able to opine on each of the thousand burning questions of the day. The natural result is that opinion comes before its own justification, and most intellectual activity consists of finding reasons for what one already thinks. Perhaps it was ever thus. – Theodore Dalrymple 

But self-interest is not always on the side of the devil, and though I have not studied the question deeply—nor even shallowly—I suspect that the move to electric cars is based upon a giant confidence trick, foisted on corrupt governments all too willing to be duped by smiling entrepreneurs. (One may smile, and smile, and be a villain, as Hamlet said.)

The questions about the electrification of vehicles are many and obvious. How is the electricity necessary for the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of such vehicles to be generated and distributed? How are enough minerals for the batteries to be mined? How are the extinct batteries to be disposed of? Is not pollution merely being transferred from one area of the globe to another in what one might call blatant imperialist fashion?

The answers to these questions are technical and are no doubt additionally complicated by the prospect of technological advance—which, however, cannot be predicted with certainty. Curiously enough, however, the questions do not seem to be discussed very often, or even raised. – Theodore Dalrymple 

I have not the time, nor the patience, nor the technical engineering capacity, to answer the questions properly, and so I stick firmly to my belief, which I am prepared to argue for in any bar or over any dinner table, that electric cars are a giant fraud perpetrated on the public by the corporatist state, in the process punishing the poor who will have to pay dearly if they want to go anywhere—which, of course, the Duke of Wellington, reacting to trains as a cheap means of transport for the multitudes back in the early part of the 19th century, thought they shouldn’t anyway. Theodore Dalrymple 

We live in a world where a man who masquerades as a sportswoman is showered with praise and money while an actual sportswoman is branded a ‘stupid fucking bitch’ and punched in the face. A world where a bloke can be paid thousands of dollars to prance around in a sports bra in a grotesque parody of a female athlete while a real female athlete is set upon by a seething mob and told to ‘go the fuck home’. A world where a man in leggings doing a sub-Dick Emery satire on womanhood is held up as a role model while a young woman who trained her whole life to be an elite athlete is damned as a bigot and – direct quote – a ‘transphobic bitch’. – Brendan O’Neill

 A man in women’s sportsgear is fawned over by the right-on while a woman who wants to protect women’s sports is monstered by them. A man does a sardonic take on women’s ‘girly’ workouts and progressives cry, ‘Go, girl’. A woman stands up for the right of women to have their own sports and progressives shout, ‘Shut up, bitch’. The confluence of these two stories is perfect. It captures what a devastating impact the trans ideology has had not only on women’s rights, but also on the entire category of womanhood. That the elites feel more comfortable with a man’s frivolous performance of womanhood than they do with a woman’s passionate, reasoned defence of womanhood confirms that the trans ideology has laid waste to truth, science and sexual equality. All that is left in the wake of this deeply misogynistic ideology is the skin of womanhood, the accoutrements of it, the mask and the drag and the lippy. That’s why, in certain circles, Dylan Mulvaney is a more respected ‘woman’ than Riley Gaines – because he performs the caricature so much better than she does.Brendan O’Neill

Gross parody of my sex’ – those words ring in my ears whenever I see Dylan Mulvaney. And many of the other ‘transwomen’ we’re meant to treat as actual women. ‘Trans women are women’, as the mantra goes, a mantra that was bellowed with medieval ferocity in the face of the witch, Riley Gaines. Today, though, there’s more than ‘kneejerk etiquette’ demanding that we recognise these fellas with stubble and hirsute fingers as women. An entire new machinery of authoritarianism has been fashioned to pressure us to believe that transwomen are women and to punish those, like Gaines, who dare to demur. Public shaming, blacklisting and even violence are now used to force all to acquiesce to the idea that someone like Dylan Mulvaney is a girl.

Mulvaney’s schtick is incredibly sexist. His diary of ‘girlhood’ gives the impression that femaleness is an act. You thought womanhood was biological, cultural, historical and relational, a thing of real substance and meaning? Think again. It’s drag, basically. It’s eyeshadow and hair extensions.  – Brendan O’Neill

Let’s be clear about this: the idea that a man becomes a woman simply by having a facelift and popping a few pills and maybe having his knob removed is profoundly misogynistic. In Greer’s words from 1989, it promotes the idea ‘that the female is no more than a castrated male’. These days a bloke doesn’t even have to be castrated to become a woman. The demeaning of women as castrated males has been replaced by the even more repugnant demeaning of them as dolled-up males. Fellas, if you have access to mascara, wigs and tucking tape to hide your cock, you too can become a woman. Put on your leggings, do a couple of high kicks, open your mouths to make yourselves look dim and vacuous, and hey presto, you’re a lady. Anyone can do it.

The trans ideology has rendered womanhood meaningless. It has emptied it of its truths and reduced it to mere costume, one that anyone can don. As Greer has argued, the trans ideology is entirely counter-feminist, in that it treats ‘femininity’ as the core truth of womanhood. Femininity is a ‘role you play’, says Greer, ‘and for that to become the given identity of women is a profoundly disabling notion’. It really has become the given identity of women. Mulvaney is a celebrated ‘woman’ precisely because he performs femininity so enthusiastically, while Gaines is a demonised woman because she has the audacity to push back against the idea that womanhood is a performance and argues that, actually, it’s real. Biologically, culturally real. That Mulvaney’s gross parody of womanhood enjoys greater validation than Gaines’ sincere defence of women’s rights speaks to the misogyny that has been unleashed by the trans cult.

The problem isn’t Dylan Mulvaney himself. It’s the fact that the chattering classes, the White House and big businesses like Nike Women and Bud Light are all falling at his feet and saying: ‘Yes, Dylan, you are a girl.’ In doing so, they don’t only flatter one bloke’s delusions – they also give official sanction to the sexist idea that womanhood is nothing more than cosplay. And if women aren’t real, what’s the need for women’s rights? It’s a short step from treating womanhood as a joke to treating women as jokes. – Brendan O’Neill


Quotes of the day


The party that Key did a deal with back in 2008 was a party that believed in what we called localism and devolution… This is a party that now believes in two separate systems and that is something we cannot support. – National Party

This party, the Green Party in New Zealand, has changed as well. It is a more socialist party now rather than an environmental party, if we’re honest about it.

James Shaw and Eugenie Sage​, they genuinely care about the environment – but the other eight MPs actually are all interested in a whole bunch of other random stuff. That makes it really difficult.Christopher Luxon

One of the last things Jacinda asked of us in her valedictory speech yesterday was that we “take the politics out of climate change”

I hope the MPs in that debating chamber completely ignore that.

Because think about what that means.

What Jacinda asked our MPs to do was to ignore what we the voters want, and just ram through whatever they consider necessary for climate change.

Because that’s what politics is, the contest of the different things that different voters want. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

The Government would start charging farmers for their emissions from tomorrow. That would mean up to a quarter of sheep and beef farms could shut down.

It would put the fuel tax back on petrol, so you would pay another 25c per litre effective tomorrow.  

It would drive the price of carbon up to $120 per unit as recommended, pushing your electricity bills up 5 percent, your gas bills up 7 percent, your diesel cost up 8 percent and your petrol up another 5 percent. 

There is a good reason none of that’s happening, because it would hurt us, it would make you and I poorer than we already are.

You can’t take the politics out of something like that, because voters should have a say on whether they want their lives that deeply affected. A governing party can’t just do that to people without their consent.

It’s remarkably hypocritical that she says that on her last day in Parliament, when she didn’t take the politics out of climate change herself.

She could’ve forced the climate levy on farmers when she first announced it, using a hay bale as a podium six months ago- she didn’t. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

It’s a bit rich to not do something and then try to shame the people you leave behind into doing it.

Jacinda’s not naïve, she would’ve known no one’s going to heed that call. But it looks good in the media, doesn’t it?

Especially for someone off to a position on the board of Prince William’s Earthshot Prize.

So no, let’s not take the politics out of climate change, and let’s see this request for what it is.

It’s a play to get good international headlines, and a bad idea that we should all ignore. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

In fact, she could be described as an ‘accidental’ PM – thanks to the ‘kingmaker’ Winston Peters in 2017 choosing not to form a government with National – the party that won the most votes – but with Labour instead. 

And just as Labour was not ready to be in government back then, nor was Jacinda Ardern ready to be PM – her inexperience and arrogance clearly on display through her “Captain’s Calls”, which were made  without public consultation, official advice, or sometimes even Cabinet approval.

That was certainly the case when, just a few months into her administration, she banned new offshore oil and gas exploration on the eve of an overseas meeting of world leaders. And while the decision gave her bragging rights on the world stage and helped her build her international profile, at home it was described as “economic vandalism” and a “kick in the guts” for the region, that not only put at risk 11,000 jobs and a $2.5 billion industry, but led to the tripling of imports of ‘dirty’ Indonesian coal, as New Zealand’s reserves of clean burning natural gas continue to decline.  – Muriel Newman

Conflating weather events with climate change and dramatising the effects enabled Jacinda Ardern to not only introduce the most stringent carbon restrictions of any country on earth, but to boast about it on the world stage.

It didn’t seem to matter to her that the policies she was introducing would destroy the backbone of our economy – the farming sector – nor that New Zealand’s enormous sacrifice would make absolutely no discernible difference to  global emissions. – Muriel Newman

Unsurprisingly, Jacinda Ardern did not mention Labour’s toxic He Puapua blueprint to replace democracy with tribal rule, that underpinned so much of their Maori agenda. She didn’t explain that she had deliberately kept it hidden from her Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and from voters during the 2020 election campaign – presumably to avoid “the hilly bits”, like public opinion. 

Nor did Jacinda mention that ‘co-governance’, which has become code for ‘Maori control’, was a central component of the failing reforms she introduced for the polytechs, the health system, and Three Waters.

The polytech centralisation has turned into a disaster with cost blowouts, declining enrolments, and falling standards. 

The health system centralisation is now in danger of catastrophic failure through a chronic shortage of thousands of nurses, doctors, and medical specialists. Furthermore, health care has now been transformed into an apartheid system based on race instead of clinical need, with Maori prioritised over everyone else.

Three Waters, remains a disaster-in-waiting – a system designed to give control of water to Maori. With the architect of the reforms Nanaia Mahuta no longer in the picture, Prime Minister Hipkins is hoping some window-dressing will enable him to rush the remaining law changes through before the election – and before the majority of voters wake up to the dangerous implications of tribal control of freshwater.Muriel Newman

In the end it was Jacinda Ardern with her absurd claim that her Government was the ‘single source of truth’, that became a major source of misinformation. Ignoring Ministry of Health advice, she imposed one of the world’s harshest lockdowns onto the country – her Orwellian call for ‘kindness’ disguising the cruelty and heartbreak caused when basic human rights were denied and businesses destroyed. – Muriel Newman

But her most glaring disaster will be the way she has left the country so deeply divided and far less cohesive than it was when she first became Prime Minister. 

In this regard alone, her legacy is one of immense damage and shame.

Having embraced identity politics throughout her administration, New Zealand is now a country divided by race, by gender, by sexuality, as well as by vaccination status. And anyone who disagrees with Jacinda Ardern’s view of the world is accused of living in a ‘rabbit hole’ of disinformation.

The situation has been exacerbated by a media that sold its integrity to become an echo chamber for her administration – instead of acting as a public watchdog and holding the government to account.Muriel Newman

Hearing the words “Free speech is a right this House is united in defending” from a leader who attempted to introduce the most draconian new hate speech regulations in our history – that would have outlawed criticism of groups defined by gender, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, employment status, family status, religion, or political opinion – was simply bizarre.

While a fierce public backlash forced her to back down from her planned crackdown on New Zealanders’ right to free speech, she continues to claim her critics are conspiracy theorists. –

The problem is that her call for censorship of the internet has gone too far. Try posting up articles on Facebook criticising the Armageddon claims of climate fanatics, and not only is your post likely to be taken down, but your site threatened with closure.

Try sharing the latest research questioning the safety of the mRNA Covid vaccines from the most reputable sources, and you risk being blacklisted.

Thanks to our Prime Minister, the internet is no longer the free frontier it once was for those who oppose the woke conspiracy. One can only hope that the big internet operators see the danger and follow the lead of Twitter’s Elon Musk to greater freedom not less.

Jacinda Ardern has left our Parliament but still wonders why she is no longer universally loved in her home country. The fact that she has not figured this out for herself is in itself enlightening, and it is that lack of realistic self-reflection that was her undoing.

A kind interpretation of Jacinda Ardern’s tenure is that she was naive and impressionable, and those weaknesses were manipulated, especially by the Maori caucus to advance their agenda for Maori rule.  Other interpretations are much less kind. – Muriel Newman

To paraphrase the late, great Billy T James: “Hey Billy, someone is stealing your gate bro! Aren’t you going to stop him?” “Nah. He might take a fence!”

These days the “takers of a fence” are crawling out of the woodwork, primed and cocked, ready to “take a fence” at any and every utterance made in their direction. Every minority group, every pressure group perceive themselves to be belittled, bullied, subjugated and repressed by one faction or another of the majority.John Porter

The ever-growing numbers of “takers of a fence” are able to be described most appropriately as “thin-skinned”. If you’re thin-skinned, you take criticism, rejection, disappointment, and failure very hard. Being left out of anything could be perceived as a major insult.

But in truth things do not give offence; people do, by their words or actions. While it is quite common to recognise pictures, cartoons, and language as offensive, what is really offensive is that someone has represented them in such a way as to give offence. – John Porter

Contemporary issues such as abortion, homosexuality, transgender rights, multiculturalism and racism have become the battle grounds for cultural conflicts. The cultural warriors of these minorities, often ultra-minority groups, brook no criticism or denigration nor allow any exploration or investigation of their views from the outside.

Expressions and outbursts of entitlement and privilege have become an identifying feature of current times. Almost every leader in every sector is now dealing with angry stakeholders and minority groups.John Porter

 Many people feel pessimistic about their future, that there is a systemic bias in the opportunities available to their particular minority. Many are being drawn toward ideologies that legitimise themselves and create an us-versus-the-majority outlook. Many, also, feel, rightly or wrongly, that the game has been rigged against them, that they are disadvantaged in life and society is marshalled against them.

None are more so “takers of a fence” than the extremely visible and vocal transgender minority. Any attempt to debate this issue quickly becomes toxic and anyone asking any question gets immediately denounced as transphobic.

The transgender lobby and their LGB, intersex and asexual supporters are actually attacking the foundations of a democratic society by suppressing free speech, with bizarre concepts such as “trans women are women,” “gender-neutral pronouns,” or “there are more than two genders”.

There is a certain irony in that these “protectors of public enlightenment” are guilty of the very behaviour that phrase derides. We may dismiss the transgender lobby as just an extremist fringe movement, but the views, claims, rights and recognition they demand and we accept are actually infecting and affecting our politics and our culture. – John Porter

Surely the most effective way to deal with these most virulent “takers of a fence” is to ignore them. How they choose to live their lives is up to them.

More often these days, we see the trans community saying they, as a people, are disadvantaged, at risk and have fewer opportunities in life.

Seemingly, when marginalised groups such as the transgender lobby, ask for (or is it demand) recognition or understanding, it’s an attempt to make their own lives safer and more fulfilled.

Alas, they seem to have a strong desire not to allow us to ignore them. They toil diligently to keep the fires of vitriol and conspiratorial discourse aflame.

And who provides oxygen for those fires? The Main Stream Media! The MSM have a vested interest in promoting the dissent and argument as it is a creator of great headlines.John Porter

The indisputable fact is that warfare is mankind’s greatest failure, invariably caused by dictatorial leaders with expansion ambitions. The passion to lead people is a continuing puzzle to me, I shall write about soon. – Sir Bob Jones

Still, there is a limit to the usefulness of branding within the public sector, which Three Waters and KiwiBuild chillingly illustrate. Three Waters came from from a universally acknowledged issue, in that our drinking water is literally killing people, and our sewage is flowing in the streets. Likewise, KiwiBuild arose out of rampant house price inflation which left working people unable to afford to buy or rent an adequate home, and our most vulnerable living in cars.

There is no political constituency attempting to defend the status quo here. Where Labour has got itself into trouble is in wrapping a brand around its intention to fix something, as opposed to the finished product. The problems exist because they are very hard to fix, thus it was near-inevitable that the fix would not go smoothly. Opponents would say that they compounded this by over-promising to a near fantastical degree in KiwiBuild’s case, or over-complicating in Three Waters’. But regardless, the work was made far harder precisely because there was the convenient hook of a brand around which to hold the conversation.Duncan Grieve

Much of this only happened because the political decision was made to brand the reforms, rather than allow them to plod through as a meat-and-two-veg policy programme. Were that to have happened, they might still have got into trouble, but it would be that routine background noise typified by the RMA reforms, rather than the hurricane strength conspiracy-creating vortex that has enveloped Three Waters.  – Duncan Grieve

It tends to suggest that this government’s reliance on highly engineered communications as needing to be baked into all facets of its work has run too far, and should be deployed much more judiciously in future. Hipkins’ rebranding of Three Waters as a yawn-inducing infrastructure reform programme could be seen as the start of a new campaign to make the public service boring again. Counterintuitively, becoming more invisible might be one thing which actually restores faith in the whole institution.Duncan Grieve

I have seen too many people’s careers and their mental health ruined by spurious allegations of transphobia… there is real fear in the arts. – Denise Fahmy

The tragedy is transgender rights, celebration of transgender humanity and its mainstream acceptance may always be tainted by the violent, self-congratulatory extremism on display in Auckland’s Albert Park.

The very intolerance that protest movements object to can be mirrored in their own protest if it becomes extremist or violent. It is implausible to play the victim and then be the bully, trampling on the civil rights of others. Free speech can die if it is not even allowed to turn into hate speech, let alone corrective debate. The bullied become the bully. Any righteous claim of vulnerability gets destroyed in the venal power of mob rule.Alistair Boyce

The NZ public has no appetite for violent and disruptive protest following the occupation protest which effectively shut down the Wellington city CBD. There will now be a probable hardening wedge between mainstream society and the reactionary protest movement. Parents are simply not going to want their children exposed to the violent, paranoid, self-righteous victim culture that was on active and prominent display. The movement’s public manifestation is now one of violent intolerance and it seems to be spreading with supportive rallies in Christchurch and Wellington. In fact families could now prefer protection from, rather than exposure to, any contact in civil society with protest participants and their wider community. This was the manifestation during and after the parliamentary occupation protest. A protest can produce more societal division than the words that were never spoken, the lies that were never told.

The counter protest can enable the opposite agenda oxygen and a moral high ground. Intolerant bigotry may never be exposed. The vast majority of New Zealanders want a peaceful existence where they can enjoy the fruits of their labour through participation in a tolerant liberal democracy. Posie Parker never mattered to most of us but her forced exit does. The images of violence will be etched into public memory just like the final day of the parliamentary protest. Actions speak louder than words, especially when graphically displayed in mainstream media and to the world.

The Ghandi version of peaceful protest carries sincere weight and longevity of re-inclusive peace. The power to educate and forgive. This would be a far more powerful and effective form of protest than the violence and hateful rhetoric New Zealanders have been witness to. – Alistair Boyce

Elected senior Labour and Greens politicians need to look in the mirror. Hipkins, Wood, Davidson, Whanau et al, all either tacitly approved of the counter protest or were participating and even driving it. Division and differences on the back of identity politics, picking socio-economic winners and promoting ideological agendas are driving a restless sea of division in this country.

The legacy of the 6th Labour government is fast including one of ongoing civil unrest and societal disaffection and division.

I believe the violent furore and controversy of the last few days surrounding the Posie Parker speaking tour will harden latent bigotry bringing only a ‘pot of tears’ to the transgender rainbow and the wider politics of equity, inclusion, minority rights and diversity.Alistair Boyce

In one respect, French law is greatly superior to British or American: It doesn’t allow publishers to alter a text once its author has died. For good or evil, a written work remains the author’s unchanging legacy forever, and if a publisher doesn’t like or is offended by it, that’s tough. The publisher either prints what the writer wrote or refrains from publishing it at all.

This precludes the absurd, but also sinister, retrospective editing of books such as those that Roald Dahl wrote for children, and now Agatha Christie’s detective stories—all in the name of sensitivity to people’s feelings, but in reality to exercise power and control over the population’s thoughts in the best Stalinist manner. – Theodore Dalrymple 

Now Agatha Christie is to be “corrected” by such readers. That she’s the author whose books have sold more than any other in history, in almost every written language, doesn’t suggest to them that perhaps she doesn’t stand in need of correction, or that readers have been able to take any supposedly “offensive” language in their stride. Even where her characters utter sentiments not completely in accord with current sensibilities, no one could mistake her books for “Mein Kampf.”Theodore Dalrymple 


Quotes of the day


The Government’s plan to impose a UK-wide ban on the sale of new, pure petrol cars in just six years and nine months’ time is insanely detached from reality. The country and the technology are nowhere near ready for a full roll-out. Sticking with this preposterous timetable will impoverish and inconvenience millions and trigger a seismic, anti-green popular revolt. – Alister Heath

Until now, the costs of decarbonising society have been disparate or borne by industry – one reason why voters remain supportive. Fuel duty has been frozen. Home energy bills have gone up, but other factors have had a far greater impact on the cost of living. Taxes on long-haul flights have been hiked, hurting British-Asian and African communities, but the general public hasn’t really noticed. Voters have accepted the shift to reusable bags and paper straws and are happy to recycle. But those were easy – in some cases, costless – tweaks that haven’t required massive behavioural change and they fooled our elites into believing that voters will put up with endless misery to go green. They won’t.

Given enough time, a seamless transition to zero-emissions cars that don’t impact a person’s quality of life or their pocket is eminently possible. The same cannot be said of the proposed shift to heat pumps, or decarbonised air travel, or low-carbon construction, or reduced meat diets. These are likely to end up being explosively expensive and unpopular. We will eventually crack a new way of powering planes, but not a commercially viable one by 2050. The public will go wild if every home is forced to stump up a five-figure sum to retrofit a heating system that doesn’t even work properly when it gets really cold, or if foreign holidays are effectively banned.

The growing civil disobedience and furious rejection of low-traffic neighbourhoods and other anti-car diktats is a harbinger of things to come, as is the anti-Ulez movement which is galvanising many outer London and Home Counties demographics. Alister Heath

There are two kinds of environmentalism. The first is the one exemplified by conservationists, nature lovers, green technologists, free-market environmentalists, Elon Musk, Boris Johnson before No 10, or my colleague Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. They love human civilisation as well as the natural world. They believe that new technologies – hydrogen, nuclear fusion, geoengineering, carbon capture, electric cars or cultured meat – are the solutions to environmental degradation. They dream of near-free, abundant clean energy and high-yielding agriculture; they seek new ways of enhancing our quality of life, feeding the world and growing our economy while not disrupting the environment. They support democracy, reason, choice, international travel, rising living standards and the universalisation of consumer goods.

The second kind of environmentalist are control freaks who have hijacked and warped a great cause. They don’t want to save the planet so much as to control its inhabitants. They love net zero – an extreme vision incapable of nuance, trade-offs or cost-benefit analysis – because it is a form of central planning. They are eternally disappointed by real-life human beings and their individualism.

Many have adopted a woke, quasi-religious worldview: we have sinned by damaging Gaia, we must repent, we must self-flagellate. They believe in “degrowth” and a weird form of autarkic feudalism. They dislike freedom and don’t want us to choose where to live, shop, eat or send our children to school. They want to reduce mobility. – Alister Heath

The public backs the first approach, not the latter. The net zero fanatics have already overreached. Our politicians must break with these extremists, or they will unleash a popular revolt that will make Brexit look like a gathering of Davos technocrats. Alister Heath

You should be marrying your best friend. – Donald Carter

You stay home, you have the orchard, the vege garden, the chooks and you eat what you grow and you survive, –  Joy Carter

If you’ve got someone to confide in it makes the journey a lot lighter. . . Through it all the man upstairs never lets you down. – Donald Carter

So far in 2023, National has been releasing a new policy every couple of weeks and Labour has been having a Cabinet break the rules every couple of days.  – David Farrar

The Reserve Bank’s surprise – probably erroneous – decision to throw a 50 basis point official cash rate increase on to the cost-of-living fire has made the job of the finance minister that much harder, as he tucks his next Budget into bed.

The decision will make jobs more precarious, depress house prices even more and potentially create a higher summit for mortgage rates … just as the peak appeared to be in view. – Vernon Small

Alongside the recovery from the recent floods and cyclones, the cost of living crisis is the hungriest beast in the Cabinet room and Adrian Orr and his team have made it harder to feed.

There is only so much that half-priced public transport fares and petrol excise cuts can do. – Vernon Small

Someone must be very proud of the slogan “See it, say it, sorted”, for it is relayed countless times — ad nauseam, in fact — over public address systems in British trains and stations. 

The slogan has the effect that a squeaky piece of chalk had on me as a child — it sent shivers down my spine and made me clench my jaw and grind my teeth. It is preceded by “If you see anything that doesn’t look right, call the British Transport Police …” Recently, however, it was changed on at least one train to “If you see anything unusual, call the British Transport Police …” 

Something unusual — like a well-dressed person, for example? You can go a long way on British trains before you see a well-dressed person, probably longer than you can see someone being aggressive. – Theodore Dalrymple

See it, say it, sorted: what does “sorted” mean in the context of the British police? If the experience of countless millions is anything to go by, it means “sorted” as far as the police are concerned, that is to say an incident is given, often somewhat reluctantly, a crime number. 

I say reluctantly because a crime number for a crime that the police have no intention of investigating, let alone solving, messes up the statistics with which to deceive the public. 

Sorted, indeed! One would have thought that the police were as efficient as a modern diesel car. The slogan is not only vulgar, but an implicit lie. Theodore Dalrymple

National’s policy to strengthen the curriculum would bring much greater consistency. It would provide a common framework for education, to be followed by all schools. – Michael Johnston

National’s testing policy is explicitly designed to identify children struggling with literacy learning as early as possible. Children making insufficient progress can be given further diagnostic tests to see whether they have dyslexia. Michael Johnston

A preponderance of research evidence shows that structured teaching of literacy provides the best assistance to dyslexic students.

Pope-Mayall recognised that. He called structured literacy “a dyslexia friendly approach”. In fact, structured literacy is not only dyslexia-friendly, but also the most effective way to teach literacy to all children. And structured literacy is just what National wants to introduce. – Michael Johnston

And again, National’s policy platform would help, by emphasising structured learning in teacher training and professional development. This, in my view, is the most important of National’s policy announcements.

A strong curriculum and plenty of data would provide important support for teachers. But training teachers in structured literacy is the best way to ensure that children, especially those with dyslexia, learn to read and write.Michael Johnston

Politics in the age of social media is often an ugly beast. Just look around over the last fortnight. The Posie Parker visit, the martyrdom or otherwise of Donald Trump, the opposing views on the legacy of Jacinda Ardern, the hardening of attitudes against China. We can be a virulent lot — at least those who choose to express themselves online.

And every now and then the hate and vitriol spills into real life. The scenes at the planned speaking event at Auckland’s Albert Park didn’t reflect well on anyone, and especially on those who stoked the anger. – Steven Joyce

If the pre-internet days were suffocating and stifling of new ideas, and they often were, then today is the exact opposite. Social media gives a megaphone and a platform to everyone who wants one, and the resulting cacophony can be deafening. The end game is wild polarisation of public opinion.Steven Joyce

Social media thrives on strong views and stronger emotions. Platform owners learnt quickly that indignation and anger drives online activity much better than happiness and agreeability. You only have to observe the difference between the Twitter feed you built for yourself versus the one generated by the algorithm, to know the algorithm writers are trying to find content that literally pushes your buttons.

And nobody attracts many likes or shares by being reasonable. You attract retweets and shares by being quirky and outrageous and standing out from the crowd. The more extreme and polarising your view, the better. – Steven Joyce

It always has been an option for an unscrupulous politician to whip up the mob. You don’t even have to be experienced. It’s a base skill of populists to divide the world into us and them, and ruthlessly attack them. Social media just makes it easier. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we have entered into what appears to be a political age of mindless populism at the same time social media companies have become dominant in the competition for our attention.Steven Joyce

Politicians don’t have to lean into social media, of course. It is still possible for them to transcend the mob mentality and appeal to our better natures. To seek to unite us, rather than divide us. It’s just more difficult in the age of online mobs with megaphones and pile-ons.

Ardern managed it in response to the Christchurch terror attack. She united us all, of every ethnicity, origin and creed in the face of unspeakable and divisive evil. She rose to the occasion and the country benefited. As has been said elsewhere, it was her finest hour and became one of ours.

She was less successful in the response to Covid. She started out okay, but then let the mob off the leash to criticise the vaccine-hesitant, those who sought to cross the border, those who didn’t follow the mob’s rules. People who argued were vilified, and some were made scapegoats by her or her ministers.

We have seen the same divisiveness in the trans debate. Lesser politicians than the Ardern of 2019 aggressively attacked people whose world view they disagreed with, and intentionally or inadvertently licensed the mob to do the same. How much better would the outcome have been if a leader had risen above the partisanship of this culture war and encouraged civility and the ability to tolerate opposing views? It is not too hard to imagine a different, more unifying outcome if that had happened. – Steven Joyce

If only we’d accepted the vaccine-hesitant rather than firing them from their jobs, or found a more compassionate way to look after those found on the wrong side of the border. Or managed not to call those protesting the strictures a river of filth.

That is surely the political challenge of our internet age. To overcome the hyper-partisanship of the public square by demonstrating civility and generosity.

Showing the ability to swim against the tide of aggressiveness and populism and provide truly inclusive leadership which encourages thoughtfulness and tolerance of different views.

It’s not an easy task. Our current leadership seems to find it easier to just agree with the currently ascendant mob rather than lead for everyone. But surely that makes it more important than ever. – Steven Joyce


Quotes of the day


New Zealand is a lost cause insofar as science education is concerned, for the government and educational establishment is doing all it can to make local indigenous “ways of knowing” (mātauranga Māori, or MM) coequal with modern science, and taught as coequal. This will, in the end, severely damage science education in New Zealand, and drive local science teachers (and graduate students) to other countries. It won’t help the indigenous Māori people, either, as it will not only give them misconceptions about what is empirically “true” versus what is fable, legend, or religion, but also make them less competitive in world science—both in jobs and publishing.

Now, I would be the first to admit that indigenous knowledge is not completely devoid of empirical knowledge.  Indigenous people have a stock of knowledge acquired by observation as well as trial and error. This includes, of course, a knowledge of the indigenous plants and their medical and nutritional uses, when the best time is to catch fish or pick berries, and, in perhaps its most sophisticated version, the ability the Polynesians to navigate huge expanses of water. (That, of course, was also done by trial and error, and must have involved the demise of those who didn’t do it right—something that’s never mentioned.)

Is observational knowledge like this “science”?  In one sense, yes, for you can construe “science” as simply “verified empirical knowledge”.  But modern science is more than that: it’s also its own “way of knowing”—a toolkit of methods, itself assembled by trial and error, for obtaining provisional truth. – Jerry Coyne

Because modern science comprises not just facts but a method codified via experience, indigenous knowledge generally fails the second part, for it lacks a method for advancing knowledge beyond experience and verification. Indeed, I know of no indigenous science that has a standard methodology for ascertaining truth. Yes, various plants can be tested for their efficacy in relieving ailments, but this is done by trial and error—in contrast to the double-blind tests used to assess the effects of new drugs and medicines.

Still, indigenous knowledge can contribute to modern science. This can involve bringing attention to phenomena that, when tested scientifically, can be folded into the domain of empirical fact.  Quinine and aspirin were developed in this way. And, of course, local ecological knowledge of indigenous people can be valuable in helping guide modern science and calling attention to phenomena that might have otherwise been overlooked. Nevertheless, what we have is experiential knowledge on one hand—a species of knowledge that rarely leads to testable hypotheses—and modern science on the other, which is designed to lead to progress by raising new testable hypotheses.

The concept of “indigenous science”, then, baffles me, especially if, as in New Zealand, it’s seen as coequal to science. It’s not, though, for it lacks a methodology beyond trial and error for determining what’s true. But because of what philosopher Molly McGrath called “the authority of the sacred victim.”, indigenous “ways of knowing” are given special authority because they’re held by people regarded as oppressed. This leads their “ways of knowing” to be overrated as competitors to modern science. Indeed, MM is a pastiche of real empirical knowledge, but also of religion, theology, ideology, morality, rules for living, authority, and tradition. This kind of mixture characterizes many indigenous “ways of knowing”, making it necessary, when teaching them as science, to not only distinguish “fact” from “method,” but to winnow the empirical wheat from the ideological and spiritual chaff. – Jerry Coyne

Now I’m not sure what’s included in “ethnomathematics”. If it’s just approaching teaching math but using examples familiar to indigenous folk, then it’s not an alternative form of mathematics but a method of teaching. If it really adds stuff to the knowledge of mathematics, I’d like to know what. (Be always wary when you see the term “holistic approach” applied to education. And the notion that ethnomathematics has something to do with “social justice” scares the bejeezus out of me.) Perhaps ethnomathematics is mathematics + ideology, in which case it’s not an eye that sees, but a hand that propagandizes. – Jerry Coyne

Stuart Nash getting in trouble – again – has reminded the public that changing the General doesn’t change the troops. And if you didn’t like them before, you probably won’t like them now.

Hipkins must take some responsibility for the Nash saga getting to this stage. He should’ve sacked Nash two weeks ago. Nash was always going to cause more trouble. It was so predictable that this column actually predicted it a fortnight ago. The only surprising element was how quickly it proved true.

Hipkins is trying desperately to paint this latest indiscretion – the email to donors – as Nash’s most egregious yet. He’s hoping to make it sound completely different to the other indiscretions, to excuse his previous lack of discipline.

But in truth, it wasn’t Nash’s biggest mistake. Yes, an email full of secrets sent to men who donate money is a massive error of judgment. But line that up next to the fact that Crown Law considered prosecuting him for contempt of court and it’s not close. And yet Nash survived.Heather du Plessis-Allan

But the Marama Davidson drama is probably more damaging to Labour, even though she isn’t a Labour MP.

Her “white cis men” comments created huge amounts of anger. Far more anger than the Nash affair.

There were calls for an apology. Hipkins could’ve demanded one. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Hipkins could’ve – if he wanted to – forced an apology out of her. He is the PM. She is one of his ministers.

But he didn’t. He said those were words he wouldn’t have used. Bringing race into it was “not particularly helpful”. Early on, that was enough. But when Davidson started doubling down and refusing to apologise, Hipkins’ action was not enough anymore. Because she was so publicly defiant and because she is a minister, his inaction looked at the very least like a lack of concern, at worst like private agreement.

There are a fair few white men and their wives pretty upset at those comments. Hipkins will need white men and their wives to win the election.Heather du Plessis-Allan

Again, that was probably not the smartest distraction. Not this week anyway. It was just another reminder that Hipkins is dealing with the same old crew, with the same old tired tricks that Jacinda Ardern had to deal with. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

The reality is that most of the high-profile initiatives she had either went backwards or Chris Hipkins has essentially ripped them up.Sir John Key

It is not the Opposition that has absolutely taken the knife to her policies, it’s her successor. – Jim Bolger

All disasters. It has just been a shambles. It’s sad but true.

“I lifted the pension from 60 to 65 and it certainly wasn’t welcome but you can manage these things – I was re-elected the next time as well.Jim Bolger

If you look at the broader issue of race relations, and primarily because of how she mishandled the introduction of co-governance, she has left New Zealand’s race relations in a much worse position.

Her policy failure, her inability to explain what she meant with co-governance, has meant we are going to be more divided on race than we have been for years and years and years.

That is evident everywhere now. People are anxious, concerned, worried, uncertain …and that’s frankly just a failure of leadership in a vital area of society. And Jacinda didn’t provide it. – Jim Bolger

We are now quite divided on racial issues and that is tragic. And it is going to take quite a while to build back.Jim Bolger

One of the peculiarities of our age is the ferocity with which intellectuals and politicians defend propositions that they do not—because they cannot—believe to be true, so outrageous are they, such violence do they do to the most obvious and evident truth. – Theodore Dalrymple

Among the propositions defended with such suspect ferocity is that men can change straightforwardly and unambiguously into women, and vice versa. Now everyone accepts that they can change into something different from ordinary men and women, and can live as if they were of the opposite of their birth sex; moreover, there is no reason to abuse or otherwise maltreat them if they do, and kindness and human decency require that we do not humiliate them or make their lives more difficult than they are. But this is not at all the same as claiming that those who take hormones and have operations actually are the sex that they choose, or that it is right to enshrine untruth in law and thereby force people to assent to what they know to be false. That way totalitarianism lies.

To propound and defend ideas that you know are false is intellectually and morally frivolous, but it lacks the usual enjoyment that frivolity is supposed to supply. It is combined with earnestness but not with seriousness: one thinks of the Austrian saying under the Habsburgs, “the situation is catastrophic but not serious.”Theodore Dalrymple

If we try to look on this episode with the eye of a future social historian, on the assumption (by no means certain) that western societies will someday come to their senses and that their social historians will be at least moderately sensible, what will we hypothesise? How to explain that societies that prided themselves on having overthrown superstition and on basing themselves to an unprecedented extent upon scientific enquiry, and that had a higher percentage of educated people than ever before in human history, nevertheless believed in the grossest absurdities? What could have possessed them? – Theodore Dalrymple

Pity and compassion, formerly Christian virtues, are the virtues that run wild in the modern social liberal’s mind. Indeed, one might almost say that he has become addicted to them, for they are what give meaning and purpose to his life. He is ever on the lookout for new worlds not to conquer, but to pity. In his mind, pity and compassion require that he adopts without demur the point of view of the person he pities, for otherwise, he might upset him; he must not criticise, therefore. In short, if need be, he must lie, and he frequently ends up deceiving himself as well as others. And if he has power, he will turn lies into policy. – Theodore Dalrymple

From our cities to our remote rural areas, cones have become a fixture of the New Zealand landscape, clogging up footpaths, roads and even beaches.

The cone-quest of our islands has become a national phenomenon. It would not be an exaggeration to say that New Zealand is starting to look like a giant VLC media player.

Effectively, road cones are New Zealand’s new national flower. Sadly, they have also begun competing with native kiwi birds and other local fauna. –  Dr Oliver Hartwich

Where we previously advertised our country to the world as “100% pure”, we should adopt a new marketing slogan: “New Zealand: Come for the scenery, stay for the cone-versations!”Oliver Hartwich

As they say on Karangahape Road: “Why did the orange cone cross the road? To annoy the other side!”

The invasion of road cones calls for urgent action. It will take imagination and courage to drive them back, and we are glad to see Mayor Brown on the case. Politicians like him really think outside the cone. – Oliver Hartwich

To address the cone-undrum, the government should recruit an elite army of Cone Collectors. Dressed in bright orange uniforms, they will blend right in as they do their dangerous work of removing cones from our roads.

The cone harvest can be used to build new tourist attractions. Conehenge anyone? Or a Cone of Liberty? Maybe even a Millennium Cone? And Cone-tiki tours between them?

As New Zealanders take back cone-trol of their cities from their orange overlords, they will know who to thank. 

His name is not orange but Brown. Wayne Brown.Oliver Hartwich

We need a real conversation. One informed by reliable research. One in which people with strongly differing viewpoints listen to one another with respect. One in which no one has decided the outcome from the very start.

That is how we do things in a democracy – even if some of our public servants seem to have forgotten it. And there’s nothing more important to democracy than a sound education system. –  Michael Johnston

Recent trials of new standards for NCEA show that two thirds of our 15- and 16-year-olds cannot write at a basic adult standard. One third cannot read at such a standard, and nearly half lack basic numeracy skills.

In large part, the reason for these shocking results is that we have been using teaching methods skills that fly in the face of scientific evidence on how people learn. In recent decades the Ministry has dictated an approach based on ideology rather than evidence.

The solution is clear. We must urgently start following the best evidence on teaching literacy and numeracy. These skills need to be taught in a structured way, taking careful account of the limitations of human memory and attention.Michael Johnston

We need a new curriculum that specifies, in some detail, the knowledge that children need, in order to learn to think independently and develop their ideas in a sound way. A high-quality curriculum would also structure the order in which knowledge is taught and learned much more effectively than our current one. – Michael Johnston

We might expect that teachers-in-training would acquire an understanding of the scientific evidence on how children learn. Unfortunately, most training providers do not equip them with this knowledge.

The criteria for teachers to register with the Teaching Council are the right pressure point to change this. To be granted a teaching certificate, new teachers should have to demonstrate such knowledge, as well as their ability to apply it in the classroom. Teacher training institutions would have to ensure that their graduates hold, and can apply, this knowledge. – Michael Johnston

We’re having a free-speech moment. It isn’t going well.Damien Grant

We no longer engage in debate but in a tit-for-tat escalation of tactical moves to deny those we disagree with the opportunity to be heard or to punish them if they speak out of turn. – Damien Grant

We have graduated to a cultural landscape where commercial intimidation and even physical violence is permissible against people if their views are deemed unacceptable by the cultural, political and media leadership.

Those in positions of responsibility may wish to reflect on this, rather than stoking further escalation.Damien Grant

Quotes of the day


“Why me?” is a question that people who have been careful of their health, in particular those who have followed the latest dietary advice (and moreover imbibed often heroic quantities of turmeric, blueberries, fish oil, nuts, broccoli, vitamin C, etc.), ask when struck down, seemingly at random, by some fatal disease. They have always lived healthily and yet are unjustly attacked by fatal disease! The only answer that can truly be given in the present state of knowledge to the question of “Why me?” is “Why not?” – Theodore Dalrymple

Acceptance of what must be borne is as important as not to accept as mere fate an avoidable evil. The difficulty is in distinguishing the avoidable from the unavoidable, to do which requires both knowledge and wisdom, which are not always found together.Theodore Dalrymple

It is difficult—impossible would probably be a more accurate way of putting it—to be always counting one’s blessings, however great they might be. Nevertheless, it is important to try to do so at least intermittently, or else one would lose sight of them altogether and give in to self-pity, one of the few emotions that can, and often does, last a lifetime. – Theodore Dalrymple

Conspiracy theories are, in every sense, for losers. When your side is losing in ways that you find inexplicable, extraordinary explanations become appealing. The centrists and the sensibles who hold high-status opinions went a long time without losing, but in the past decade have suffered several major defeats. At the same time, conspiratorial thinking has entered the mainstream like never before. Is this a coincidence? A conspiracy theorist would say that there is no such thing as a coincidence and, in this instance, they would be right.Christopher J. Snowdon

There is no logic to a $100 million dollar hospital build budget cut when the same Government is proposing tens of billions of dollars of spending on light rail and Harbour Bridges.

There is no logic when the same agency is spending $600 million finding efficiencies that may result in 1600 redundancies. There is no doubt in my mind that the money spent now will be recouped many fold in the future.

If this is a government that is getting back to basics, there is nothing more basic than building legacy hospitals. It’s doesn’t happen nearly often enough so heed the people of Dunedin and their mayor.

Do it once and do it right. – Andrew Dickens

 just think she was extraordinarily uncomfortable with the media. Even though she appeared to be relaxed she was very uncomfortable with the media. And the more time we had, the less she trusted the media and the media became more sceptical of her and what she had to say. And from her part, it came across as condescending and patronising.

Initially, we had a good relationship. I liked the idea of a young, 37-year-old liberal democrat in the Prime Minister’s chair. I thought this is great for a young country like New Zealand, but it didn’t take long, for me anyway, to realise that it wasn’t quite what it seemed. And she was just ill-equipped to be the prime minister. And, in fact, she had said herself she never wanted to be the prime minister. – Barry Soper

The media didn’t understand Ardern. And she didn’t try to understand the media.Barry Soper

Those disruptive Posie Parker protesters who opposed her presence in Aotearoa, and who have been congratulating themselves over their raucous, aggressive, bullying behaviour, ought to navel gaze a little and look up the definition of hypocrisy.

Don’t preach love, tolerance and respect, then brazenly do the opposite. It’s not a one-way street. Dignity and self-control, whatever the circumstances, matters.

Issues such as gender identification, queer expression, restroom access, puberty blockers and the like are not simple ones. Pretending they are ignores the complex interplay and influence of cultural perspective, philosophy, theology, gender identification and human biology and physiology.

They’re issues with a wide range of views and opinions across the spectrum. They’ve ignited debates of all sorts of hues across cultures, countries, communities, and social strata. – Sam Clements

Too readily those opposed to, or who question, trans demands, are accused of “hate speech”. The term is grossly overused, often misused and loaded. It’s often employed by individuals or groups who appear blissfully ignorant of the concepts of irony, paradox, cliché, and hypocrisy. Sam Clements

Listening, learning, exploring, debating, and ultimately respecting difference of opinion, is important, even if we passionately and angrily disagree.

If opinion advocates violence clearly, unambiguously, and implicitly, we have laws that will result in prosecution of those individuals. Attempting to shut down strong opinions, however unpalatable we might find them, including through attempting to enact repressive laws, is not in the interests of a healthy democracy.

People may never reach consensus, but at least they’ll never be accused of lacking decency. And maintaining decency, particularly in the face of indecency, matters. – Sam Clements

We’re all human. But it matters that we never tire in our endeavours to find common ground, however tenuous and fragile that ground may be, or to forget the human.

Such endeavours can produce great long-term good. That is something all passionate believers in liberty should surely agree upon. – Sam Clements

I have loved being part of the mainstream because I love being part of the conversation on issues that concern the bulk of New Zealanders. I know that I am not apart from the great unwashed. I am as ordinary, unremarkable, and mainstream as anyone in the country. If I have any skill as a journalist, it is knowing what concerns the average Jo/Joe.

And yet for the past three years, I have struggled to get stories published – not polemic, but evidence-based stories – on an issue I know concerns many of these people and that is the impact of gender ideology on women and young people.

After the visit of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull this weekend and the debacle that ensued, I realise that the New Zealand mainstream media no longer exists. – Yvonne Van Dongen 

Apart from one writer who wrote in favour of free speech, the media here universally panned Keen, repeating the slurs of her critics and the contents of a rubbish Wiki entry, which call her a an anti-trans, white supremacist, Nazi simply because of the presence of some LARPing louts doing a Sieg Heil salute at an Australian gathering of women. Their gatecrashing action was dismissed by both the Australian Jewish Association and New Zealand Jewish Council as nothing to do with Keen and publicly denounced by Keen herself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the writers and commentators in the media were male.

So RIP New Zealand mainstream media. They have joined the ranks of the political and public service urban elite pushing a state-sponsored religion – gender ideology. Gender ideology is an unverifiable belief system. There is no such thing as gender. In my view it is a construct and has no business being taken seriously, least of all by the media, politicians, academia, and the public service (as is currently the case). Not to mention with the groups who should be protecting women, such as the National Council of Women, the Midwives Council, and Girl Guides. I know from speaking to friends in many of these groups, certainly those in the public service, that they are too scared to speak out against this ideology, fearing for their jobs.Yvonne Van Dongen 

New Zealand police, presumably desperate to keep their reputation as diverse and inclusive, adopted a hands-off approach while a small group of women were mobbed by a much larger angry crowd. It pains me to say it but the police have clearly been politicised by this government. – Yvonne Van Dongen 

Reporting on this debacle, one in the media had the gall to report the event as a ‘soundscape of resistance thick with joy’ while Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said on Twitter that thousands of New Zealanders knew what they experienced yesterday and ‘overwhelmingly that was love and affirmation’.

Women at the event were scared. An older woman was punched in the face by an activist while a pregnant marshal feared for her safety and unborn child as the protesters surrounded the rotunda where she was stationed. She had to be helped out of the melee by a male photographer. Yvonne Van Dongen 

It’s not just gender ideology that is not examined fairly in the media, there are other issues New Zealanders know are being suppressed, such as differing viewpoints and information on the curriculum refresh, the teaching of science in schools and universities, co-governance, Three Waters and anything to do with Māori politics. The fear is that such stories will fuel racism just as an examination of gender ideology and trans activism is believed to fuel transphobia. Perversely, the suppression of debate on issues like this is dividing the nation like never before. – Yvonne Van Dongen 

What happened on Saturday was avoidable. It was fomented by politicians and mainstream media. They could not have done more to fan the flames of opposition and fear of a small British woman wanting to provide a space where she and other women could talk about what is happening to women and girls. Then the inevitable was allowed to unfold by hands-off police.

Before she arrived here, Keen said New Zealand was ‘insane’. Sadly, this proved to be prophetic.Yvonne Van Dongen 

We have indeed contributed to the global debate about transgender rights – but only by showcasing how intolerant this group is, and how violently they react to ideas that challenge the perceived orthodoxy in our South Pacific hermit kingdom. It has cast a spotlight not only on the violent undertones that exist within parts of the transgender movement; but also on New Zealand’s own appalling record of violence, particularly with regard to domestic violence.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Yes, there is free speech in New Zealand, but there is very little robust debate about difficult or controversial topics. Discussion is routinely closed down by slurs, stigmatizing language and official complaints. Local media often avoids politically or socially sensitive topics. – Thomas Cranmer

Ask Dawkins or Keen about free speech in New Zealand. Ask them how intellectually curious we are. Now, thanks to an unruly mob in Albert Park, many millions of people around the globe have seen how tolerant New Zealand is when it comes to engaging in public discussion.

At the very least, if politicians and leaders of institutions don’t want to pick sides in social issues, they should provide the space in which proper debate can be had by those willing to discuss these issues – whether in a lecture theater or a park.Thomas Cranmer

The reason we’re getting so much street activity is that politicians have opted out.

There’s a whole set of debates where ordinary New Zealanders are simply not seeing their views represented in politics. – Stephen Franks

Unless someone’s inciting violence, I’m all for free speech it doesn’t matter what they’re saying. I want to hear from people I detest.Stephen Franks

I think it left us better informed that this is an extremely divisive issue.

Will they be better acquainted with the arguments on either side? No, probably not – Juliet Moses

There are people who come here and speak…who I profoundly disagree with, people who indulge in antisemitism…. but my view is that it is generally better to let people have their say, as uncomfortable as that might be, than not let them in.

My concern is that if we can’t have these discussions, civil or even uncivil dialogue, it plays into the hands of extremists on both sides and I really don’t think that is a healthy place for us to be as a society. Juliet Moses

Quotes of the day


National knew – or should have, since its own research said so – that Christopher Luxon would beat Jacinda Ardern in a policy-free popularity contest.

By the time she quit, enough voters had worked out that, when it came to running a government rather than emoting, she was a complete flake. – Matthew Hooton

The good news is National has finally worked out that it can’t win a beauty contest between the two. Perhaps by necessity, it delivered yesterday what pundits and voters say we want, which is meaningful policy.

If a government ditching its prime minister and main policies is unorthodox, an opposition releasing serious policy is more so, especially so early in an election year. It hasn’t happened this century.

Luxon may be irritated with speculation that his education spokesperson Erica Stanford is a leadership contender, along with his deputy and finance spokesperson Nicola Willis. But New Zealand’s last two important prime ministers, Jim Bolger and Helen Clark, endured speculation throughout their times as opposition leader about Winston Peters, Ruth Richardson, Doug Graham, Michael Cullen and Phil Goff.

Luxon can take comfort that such talk at least suggests a deep bench. That’s not something National has been accused of since John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce left. – Matthew Hooton

 Education doesn’t make the top issues concerning voters, according to National’s pollsters, Curia. It’s a lowly 11th in Ipsos’ New Zealand Issues Monitor.

Moreover, the policy itself is genuinely statesmanlike, being concerned with outcomes that will fully bear fruit only once Luxon, Willis and Stanford are retired. It doesn’t read as if it was bashed out on Wednesday night after some focus groups. It may even be, as claimed, the outcome of Luxon and Stanford’s personal research over the last year, including in Asia and Europe.

There are no handouts cynically targeted at the median voter, although taxpayers will bear the $10 million annual cost of teacher registration fees rather than teachers themselves. – Matthew Hooton

In a world where we hope each generation will be better than the one before, the data National has obtained reveals that the average 13-year-old in 2019 was actually worse at both maths and science than in 1995. Performance will continue deteriorating as Ardern’s and Hipkins’ Covid kids reach intermediate and secondary school.

But the policy doesn’t brainlessly promise vast billions to fix this. It recognises that far-left education theory, not money, is the problem. As Luxon points out, Grant Robertson has increased education spending by 46 per cent since 2017, from $11.1 billion to $16.2b. The extra $5.1b has had similar results to Robertson’s $1.9b more for mental health.

Nor is head office restructuring and rebranding promised, as Labour focuses on, or changes to school management or teacher payment methods, as right-wing economists might prefer. Instead, the policy is about the nuts and bolts of curriculum reform, initial and ongoing teacher training, new classroom materials and resources, and assessment.Matthew Hooton

The policy can’t help but be popular with parents and ordinary teachers.

It is also detailed and substantial enough to deserve a serious response from Labour and the Greens, plus Te Pāti Māori, which polls currently identify as king-maker.

But, politically, Labour dare not steal National’s policy because its focus on measurability is anathema to the teacher union bosses and ultra-left education theorists who control the bureaucracy and university education departments, and who easily trump students, parents and regular teachers as the education stakeholders Labour most cares about. – Matthew Hooton

Just as National strategists initially had no idea how to respond to Labour’s unorthodox leadership change and policy bonfires, it can be assured no one in the Beehive has any idea what to do if an opposition suddenly starts taking policy seriously. At the very least, National’s bold strike yesterday promises to mix things up a bit – and hopefully avoid Te Pāti Māori deciding whether or not any of it will happen.Matthew Hooton

The “culture wars” are set to be a defining issue in the 2023 election.

Just take a look at what has dominated headlines this week. It’s not been the cost of living, the Federal Reserve’s decision to hike interest rates amid banking turmoil, nor the confirmation by the Treasury and our Reserve Bank that New Zealand will tip into a technical recession this year (it will hurt nevertheless).

Incongruously, while scientists were delivering their final warning on the climate crisis, debate in New Zealand was instead focused on the danger presented by a pint-sized female Brit coming here on her “Let Women Speak” tour. – Fran O’Sullivan 

There is an argument that things have moved too far.

This was underlined by the decision by World Athletics that it will exclude from female competition male-to-female transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty.

World Athletics president Lord Coe said: “We have also taken decisive action to protect the female category in our sport, and to do so by restricting the participation of transgender and DSD [differences of sexual development] athletes.”

So we are entering a vexed time.Fran O’Sullivan 

Just one piece of news in the last week was enough to give the impression that the Government’s great policy bonfire is really smoke and mirrors.

The gobsmacking announcement that the already gold-plated Lake Onslow electricity project has nearly quadrupled in cost yet the Government will forge ahead anyway, confirmed two things. This is the most economically reckless Government since Rob Muldoon, and it has no plans to rein in its own budget to something more appropriate for a country of our size and stage. – Steven Joyce

Burning coal for electricity is an embarrassing feature of this Government’s current energy policy. The decision to ban gas exploration back when climate change was this generation’s nuclear-free moment has made us more dependent on coal-fired electricity generation than we otherwise would be. Gas creates about half the emissions of burning coal, but no matter.

There are plenty of lower-cost, low-emissions solutions to the country’s electricity problems that energy companies would supply if the Government got out of the way and let them get on with it. There are proposed new geothermal schemes, new technologies providing sophisticated demand management tools for industrial users, smaller and cheaper run-of-river hydro schemes, the option of greater storage in existing hydro lakes, and carbon capture and storage technologies which would allow us to keep using natural gas while providing near-zero emissions.

Many of these options would be willingly funded by banks and investors if the Government wasn’t standing over them with a huge taxpayer chequebook threatening to spend $16b and more, and making their investments redundant. For full disclosure, I work with two companies which have technology options which could help bridge a shortfall in hydroelectricity, but there are dozens. In a genuine market of ideas, the best options would get funded but this is not a market of ideas, it’s all about the minister’s preference.Steven Joyce

Even the proposer of the project, the well-meaning Earl Bardsley from the University of Waikato, admits the business case for it won’t stack up unless a “very wide view” is taken of the economic benefits of the scheme. That’s code for including lots of things that aren’t attributable directly to the scheme to make it look better.

Minister Woods is infamous in Wellington circles for her Muldoonist tendencies. Lake Onslow is her version of Muldoon’s “Think Big” energy schemes which almost sent the country broke in the early eighties. The minister likes to decide a preference very early and then defend it to the death despite any evidence to the contrary. Critics are all dismissed as “vested interests” and cost is no barrier to her preferred policy solution. – Steven Joyce

Those supporting Lake Onslow have no money at stake in their advocacy, while those against are clearly prepared to invest and put their money where their mouths are. We used to have a saying in Cabinet that if the only investor in a “commercial” project is the government, it isn’t a viable project.

It is also ironic that the environmentalists and Greenpeace supporting it are the same people who would have laid in front of the bulldozers protesting the scheme in times past.

Lake Onslow is just another of those white elephant ideas that have been kicking around Wellington for 20 years in search of a sponsor gullible enough to take it forward. Light rail is another, and a bike bridge across the Waitematā was yet another. This Government has probably been the most taken with unworkable populist ideas that we’ve seen for decades, which would be amusing except that we churn through hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars proving what was already obvious at a cursory glance.Steven Joyce

And as for the PM, he missed a trick. A revelation that Minister Woods’ pet project had blown out in cost from $4b to $16b was an ideal time to add it to the “policy bonfire”. It would have shown the Government was perhaps serious about fiscal restraint and tackling the cost of living crisis. That he didn’t gives the impression the great policy re-set is a charade, and that some ministers are not for turning, by anybody. – Steven Joyce

What is “woke”? With origins in cultural Marxism, the general view is that it’s a movement that seeks social and political redress for wrongs derived from social injustice and discrimination.

Like the Black Lives Matter crusade in the United States, which attributed police violence to systemic racism, the woke movement embraces ‘Identity Politics’ with its focus on the so-called ‘oppressed’ groups in society including those centred on gender, race, and sexuality.

In their struggle for social justice these groups claim they have been the victims of systemic oppression, and they demand preferential treatment to address the wrongs.

What is particularly sinister is their propensity to attack and ‘cancel’ anyone with a dissenting voice. Muriel Newman

The words of novelist JK Rowling, who opposes all forms of woke repression are particularly appropriate: “If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed a line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justifications.”

While a desire to address social injustice and discrimination is admirable, and something few would argue against, the problem arises when the cause of the “wrongs” is fabricated to suit the political interests of those driving the agenda.

And unfortunately, our politicians seem all too willing to promote such false narratives in order to ingratiate themselves with those activist groups. – Muriel Newman

In really simple terms this country and our education system is shocking. And we know it’s shocking because it didn’t used to be that way.

We have, and continue to, go backwards. Now, that shouldn’t be news to anyone, but when you book mark it the way he did it’s an eye opener

The teachers, largely, are not to blame. It is the way we teach, the work load they are expected to undertake, the lack of confidence they have in the first place and the expectation of a Government or ministry that has completely skewed what is important.

Essentially what National are advocating in their policy is nothing exceptional. It’s simply going back to what we once did, which is basic competency in basic subjects. Mike Hosking

There is no magic. Just, sadly, an appalling hijacking of a system by wonks in Wellington that for some reason have been allowed to run rampant.

What we have by way of an education outcome for so many kids is inexcusable and indefensible.

If you watched Luxon prosecute that yesterday you’d see a bloke who gets it and, more importantly, wants to do something about it.

As more New Zealanders see more of that they will see why the election is nowhere near as close as the polls might suggest. – Mike Hosking

A final thought. Critics of trans peoples’ fantasies are labelled trans-phobic, typical of their ignorance re language. Phobic means fear. The critics are not fearful in the least of these sexually confused folk, rather, specially in the case of male trans for example, women don’t want them in their toilets or with their physical advantages, competing with them in sport. Otherwise it’s entirely their business if they believe they’re born in the wrong body and are really a zebra, Napoleon or the opposite sex Sir Bob Jones

Ours is not an age of acute aesthetic judgment, except in the culinary field. Here there is no question that food (especially for the middle classes in the Anglo-Saxon world) has improved out of all recognition in the last decades. When I look back on my childhood, I recall food that was almost comically bad: it took skill and determination of a kind to render food so unappetising, at least from our current perspective, though we ate it because there was nothing else and perhaps because we knew no better. There was an almost puritanical vendetta by cooks (or rather, those who cooked) against flavour, one which was for the most part successful. I remember dry grey roast meat with vegetables reduced to a mush by overcooking, served carelessly with some of the water in which they had been cooked seemingly for hours, if not for days, as a kind of punishment for those who displayed the human weakness known as hunger. No doubt such crimes against the culinary art are still committed in places, but something better is now to be found even in the smallest towns.

On the other hand (there is always another hand), the fashion in restaurants in which the much better food than formerly is served also tells us something disquieting about modern forms of sociability. In many of the best places—best from the culinary point of view—it is not possible to have a quiet conversation. All sound-absorbing materials have been removed from the décor, and frequently one has to raise one’s voice, even shout, to make oneself heard to the person across the table. Talking thus becomes a physical effort, where it is not an actual impossibility, and is certainly not a pleasure; one leaves the restaurant both exhausted and exasperated. – Theodore Dalrymple

This is in accordance with a world of psychobabble, in which people talk endlessly about themselves while revealing nothing. In such a world, conversation becomes ersatz, at best a series of monologues whose end everyone awaits in order to proceed with his own, only tangentially related to what has gone before. Speech is audible tattooing. Theodore Dalrymple

Human beings are both social creatures and blessed (or cursed) with individuality. They feel the need both to fit in and stand out. Advertisers, who are sincere in their cynicism, are fully aware of this seeming contradiction. They constantly suggest that people should stand out by buying exactly what they hope to sell to as large a number of people as possible. And what, after all, are graffiti of the kind that deface whole areas of cities nowadays but an attempt by young people both to conform and stand out, by imposing themselves on a townscape by doing precisely what so many others do?

Hideous though their efforts are, yet the perpetrators retain some aesthetic sense, if only unconsciously or subliminally.  – Theodore Dalrymple

Few things reveal a man more than his aesthetic judgments, which is why so much art and architectural criticism, at least of contemporary art and architecture, fails to make any. A whole vocabulary is employed to avoid them: they are as much to be avoided as rude remarks at a garden party. Which of the desiderata of truth, beauty and goodness remains standing after the postmodernist assault?Theodore Dalrymple

Indeed, transgender rights has become a totemic issue for the left – an unassailable article of faith. This explains why some of the highest profile victims of the debate have been feminists themselves, the most notable being the writer J.K. Rowling who enraged the transgender community with her tweet in 2020, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Despite facing savage attacks, Rowling has remained steadfast and continues to be a prominent advocate for women. – Thomas Cranmer

Having the ability to present my maiden speech. Because what that did is give some insight into the drivers or the values, the tikanga in my life. It’s not that I got here because I did something. I got here with the support of hundreds of people and the values and protocols and principles they instilled in me are now brought to bear in the house… What a marvellous job!Tama Potaka

Quotes of the day


The culture wars are often viewed as an exclusively American phenomenon, but the reality is that they are becoming increasingly prominent in countries around the world, including New Zealand. Some may believe that they are immune to their influence, but the truth is that these battles have already entered New Zealand politics and are being enthusiastically fought by the Labour government and the political left. Instinctively, right-leaning parties in New Zealand have shied away from culture war issues, preferring instead to focus on their traditional core policies. But whether we like it or not, the game is afoot, and we are all players.

So, what exactly are the culture wars? In essence, they are political conflicts that revolve around social and cultural issues, such as gender, race, sexuality, religion, and identity.  –  Thomas Cranmer

 In recent years, the country has seen heated debates over topics such as transgender rights, hate speech laws, and the role of colonialism in shaping New Zealand’s history. These debates have been driven largely by the Labour government and the political left, who have taken a strong stance on issues of social justice and equity. While some may view these positions as admirable, many see them as a threat to traditional values and free speech. Thomas Cranmer

These debates have, however, left those on the political right feeling excluded and marginalised. The National Party and the Act Party have been vocal in their opposition to the government’s policies, but they have struggled to gain traction in the face of a media and political establishment that is largely aligned with the left. This has led to accusations that the government and its supporters are trying to silence dissent and impose a narrow set of values on the country.

However, it is important to note that culture wars are not inherently bad. They can provide an opportunity for different groups to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate over important issues. They can also bring attention to marginalised communities and push for greater social justice and equity.

The problem arises when culture wars become polarised and divisive, with each side demonising the other and refusing to engage in productive dialogue. This is where New Zealand currently finds itself. The government and the political left have taken a strong stance on issues of social justice, but they have also been accused of being intolerant of dissent and imposing their views on the rest of the country. Meanwhile, those on the political right have been left feeling excluded and silenced, unable to engage in meaningful dialogue or shape the direction of the country. – Thomas Cranmer

While they may dominate the headlines and social media feeds, there are many other important issues facing our country, from health, education and economic matters to criminal justice. We need to ensure that we are not so consumed by culture wars that we lose sight of these other important issues.

In conclusion, the culture wars have already entered New Zealand politics, and if international experience is anything to go by, they will only broaden and intensify. New Zealand has a proud history of progressive reforms going back to the suffragette movement but this shouldn’t be a reason not to engage in good faith debate about the concerns surrounding the current culture wars.  Indeed these issues are so pervasive – going to family, religion and identity – that it will not be possible to avoid their reach forever. For conservatives, that means taking a first principles approach to the debate and objectively challenging progressive alternatives to the status quo. To paraphrase Trotsky, “you may not be interested in the culture wars, but the culture wars are interested in you”.Thomas Cranmer

I’m reluctant to condemn people too harshly for doing whatever they have to do to save their jobs. They may have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay. I’m always conscious that as an independent blogger with a guaranteed income from national super, I’m in the very privileged position of not having to answer to a cowardly employer.

Nonetheless, it has to be said that if everyone cravenly backed down as Panapa and Davis did, freedom of speech would be even more imperilled than it is already. If you say something, you should be prepared to stand up for it.

As it is, the enemies of free speech have triumphed once again – game, set and match. The message is clear to anyone brave or reckless enough to speak their mind.  – Karl du Fresne

No, public wrath should be directed squarely at MediaWorks and the totalitarian zealots who have succeeded, despite representing only a tiny, demented fragment of the population, in so intimidating the corporate world that broadcasters are punished not even for expressing controversial opinions (although that should be their right), but for affirming incontrovertible biological facts, such as that only women can get pregnant. 

As recently as a few years ago, this entire scenario would have read like something from a futuristic, dystopian satire. Now it’s happening. The irony is that 99-point-something percent of TodayFM’s dwindling audience would have regarded the statements by Panapa and Davis as not only harmless but unremarkable. 

MediaWorks doesn’t deserve the privilege of operating in a free and open society. It enjoys the rights and benefits of freedom while at the same time insidiously subverting them.Karl du Fresne

Perhaps the best possible outcome is that MediaWorks will continue on its present course and in the process, commit slow-motion hara-kiri. No one will miss it. – Karl du Fresne

Remarkably, having considered the breaking of protocol alongside the rebuke from the Attorney-General and the breach of the Cabinet manual in calling up the Police Commissioner, Hipkins had decided Nash deserved no further punishment at all.

While Hipkins might think being dropped to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings is an embarrassment and stain on Nash’s reputation, it means absolutely nothing to the public.

If, after two more serious errors of judgment are revealed, you still have a seat at the Cabinet table, then whether you’re ranked 11th or 20th doesn’t matter. Jo Moir

It was already questionable judgment from Hipkins when Nash held onto his forestry, economic development and oceans and fisheries portfolios after the first strike on Wednesday given how much he’d doubled down on having not done anything wrong when first approached about his chat with the commissioner.

Some gave the Prime Minister credit for dealing with it in just a couple of hours and making it clear to Nash there were no more ‘get-out-of-jail-free-cards’.

Forty-eight hours later and Nash looks to have a whole deck of them. – Jo Moir

To see how destructive identity politics can be, how toxic and divisive, look no further than San Francisco’s crazy reparations idea. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors appointed a panel to consider whether reparations should be paid to the city’s black residents for the historic crimes of slavery and racism. The panel decreed that, yes, they should be. Every eligible black citizen of San Francisco should get $5million each, it said. They should also get $97,000 a year for the rest of their lives and be able to buy homes in the city for $1. Incredibly, the Board of Supervisors is seriously considering the recommendations rather than hurling them into the trashcan of crackpot ideas that deserve not a split second’s contemplation, which is where they should be.Brendan O’Neill

The racial divisiveness of what San Francisco is seriously considering cannot be overstated. Splitting the city into victim races who deserve millions of dollars in love and care and culpable races who will have to stump up the cash for this mad plan is one of the most poisonous proposals I’ve heard in a long time. The far right can only dream of so expertly fracturing a city along racial lines. San Francisco’s reparations idea exposes the rotten hyper-racialist heart of woke politics. This fatalist ideology condemns whites to permanent culpability and blacks to permanent pain. It impresses the sins of the father on white folk and the agony of the ancestor on black people, condemning all to live in a forever purgatory of historically determined angst. What a dispiriting and anti-democratic way of life they aspire to impose on us.

That is the worst part of the slavery-reparations idea – its historical determinism. The idea that modern-day blacks are shaped and haunted by the crimes of yesteryear is deeply demeaning. – Brendan O’Neill

Such thinking presents black people as marionettes pulled this way and that by dead events over which they have no control. Their self-esteem, their opportunities (or lack thereof) – all are apparently moulded by the terrifying force of history. This is ahistorical, apolitical and patronising. It disavows the agency of living black communities. In the words of columnist Gregory Kane, the ‘Victimhood Sweepstakes’ of the reparations ideology actually ‘reinforces’ despondency in African-American circles, rather than challenging it.

Reparations are a con. Paying them might provide a moral thrill to wealthy whites, for whom they will become a kind of modern-day Indulgence, a payment of cash to absolve oneself of the moral stain of whiteness. But such narcissistic privilege-checking would come at the cost of social harmony. And claiming reparations might seem like a good idea to some African Americans, who would get to live more comfortably as a result of modern America’s depressing obsession with historic wrongs. But the financial perk of reparations would be completely outweighed by their sinister compromising of individual agency, of autonomy, of the idea that all of us, whatever our background, are responsible for our lives and our destinies.Brendan O’Neill

No matter how good an idea, it takes time for the entire country to hear about it.

But that time has now come for localism. – Oliver Hartwich

New Zealanders do not want Wellington to run their lives, and they do not want to be governed by distant bureaucrats.

Instead, New Zealanders have expressed overwhelming support for localism. They want their communities to have a greater say in local development and reward them for their hard work in making their communities grow.

Localism has become a mainstream idea. That is encouraging, and we may expect political parties to incorporate localist policies into their election manifestos for this year’s election.

After a decade of promoting the idea, we at The New Zealand Initiative are proud to have moved the debate on localism forward.

It is a great idea whose time has come.Oliver Hartwich

The Disinformation Project’s director, Kate Hannah, of Victoria University of Wellington, identifies “Māori, Pasifika diaspora communities, the Muslim community, Chinese diaspora communities, refugee and migrant communities, LGBTQIA+ communities — in particular, trans communities — and peoples living with the experience of disabilities” as victims.

This is important work, which could be expanded to consider disinformation targeted at the community as a whole, including press statements like Wood and Shaw’s and relentless scaremongering from environmental organisations including Greenpeace.

Two issues stand out over recent decades: the relentlessly false political narratives from the far-left about nuclear power and gene science. This disinformation has had monumental implications for New Zealand — far beyond the disruption, violence and idiocy of the Wellington occupiers — and has adversely affected New Zealand’s climate-change mitigation efforts, defence arrangements, productivity and natural environment, including polluted rivers and lakes.

Decades of scaremongering by the political left led to New Zealanders’ inaccurate attitude to nuclear power, which caused us to betray our allies on the cusp of the Cold War being won, and which has compromised our ability to defend New Zealand’s territorial integrity and offshore interests ever since.- Matthew Hootton

Disinformation on both nuclear power and biotechnology was not motivated by science, but by far-left activists’ opposition to the western defence network, capitalism and farming.

For decades, their nonsense was reported, usually unchallenged, even by the state broadcasters, RNZ and TVNZ. – Matthew Hootton

At the same time, New Zealand needs a serious discussion this election year about how to use gene science to reduce agricultural emissions and how to defend our territorial land and sea, and our wider interests, from totalitarian and belligerent states who are averse to our values.

To prevent that, extreme-left activists will seek to subvert any serious discussion with disinformation and false narratives, just as they did in previous decades. We would also be well served if the likes of Wood and Shaw were challenged for making implausible claims about the environmental impacts of their policies, which even their own Prime Minister has now called out.

In recent weeks, the Government has also released health statistics and crime briefings that have turned out to be misinformation, yet DPMC and the Disinformation Project have been curiously silent.

If they are genuinely committed to fighting disinformation that harms New Zealand’s interests, they may need to widen their scope. – Matthew Hootton

Controversy over many subjects remains vigorous among doctors, and in my own career, going back several decades, I have seen medical consensus on many things change. Differences of opinion are always possible, and while they may sometimes be attributable to personal antagonisms, vanity, pride, financial interest, and so forth, often they aren’t. People can disagree without any of them being ill-intentioned. – Theodore Dalrymple

What most alarmed me about the paper in AMA Ethics was that there was expressed in it no attachment to freedom of opinion as a good or desirable thing in itself, independent of its effects: in other words, that freedom is an end in itself, an extremely important value. Even if the CDC, the WHO, or the majority of expert medical opinion were invariably right, it would not be a reason for suppressing dissent by resort “to robust use of [licensing authorities’] powers to take appropriate disciplinary action” by, for example, depriving dissidents of their livelihood. The Soviet Union, it sometimes seems, won the Cold War. – Theodore Dalrymple

Tackling inflation requires a central bank to deliberately cause economic harm and this is not something that any central bank in a democratic state has the appetite to do.

The war with inflation is over. Inflation has won.Damien Grant

One Minister proved himself to be a rooster this week and the Prime Minister turned out to be a chicken.

Stuart Nash may not be the rooster crowing quite so loudly, but he should be a feather duster. His continuous breaching of the Cabinet manual shows a lack of respect for the office he holds and he should have been sacked from Cabinet and stripped of all portfolios. – Paula Bennett

It is very clear what is acceptable and not when you become a Minister. This is not. If, like Nash, a Minister doesn’t read the Cabinet Manual, he still would know as you get a visit when you first become a Minister by very serious officials, most with a legal background, who talk you through it all.

We are now up to breach number four, that we know of. At this point the rooster should be plucked. No good for eating, he becomes a feather duster. But the Prime Minister has proved himself to be a chicken. By not removing him immediately from Cabinet he is sending a message that this behaviour is acceptable. In a position as privileged and powerful as a Cabinet Minister, it is not. Perhaps the Prime Minister needs to be the top rooster and crow from the rooftops about acceptable standards, but instead he just keeps his head down and pecks away.Paula Bennett

Quotes of the day


I pray that somewhere in the departments that waste so much of our money, someone, somewhere, has the spine to stand up and tell the rest of the plonkers that what they are doing doesn’t work. – Mike Hosking

Reminding people about speed and seatbelts and driving drunk is only applicable to the sort of idiot who isn’t susceptible to being told what to do.

Those who are, are already doing it. I am sure deep within the ad agencies they genuinely believe their latest piece of creative genius is the one to crack the code.

And to be honest, if the Government were writing the sort of cheques they are, what fool turns that down?

Which is why we need leadership. Someone at the highest level needs to break the ideology that spending other people’s money for the sake of it makes some sort of difference, when it can be shown it doesn’t. Mike Hosking

If you rounded up the hundreds of millions, if not billions, that has been spent these past five years on nonsense, we wouldn’t be talking about a tax for the clean-up.

We are only short of money because we wasted it. – Mike Hosking

The puzzle of how we become what we are is insoluble. When I was young and callow and a hard-line determinist, I would simply say that we become what we are by the influence of heredity and environment, for what else could there be? Heredity and environment, and that was that.Theodore Dalrymple

Is it true that we act as we do because of how we are? This seems to me either false, or unfalsifiable. To take the latter possibility first, we estimate the rather loose idea of ‘who we are’ by the way we behave, the preferences we have, the habits we develop, and so forth. But then we go on to say that what is to be explained is the explanation of itself. We behave as we do because of how we are, and we know how we are because of how we behave. I have seen this argued in court by psychiatrists trying to exculpate a murderer and once (but only once) saw it work. Poor lambs, the murderers could not help what they did because they had the type of character that inclined them to go round murdering people. – Theodore Dalrymple

In short, saying that we do what we do because of how we are is either true by definition or it is false. If the former, it is unilluminating, and if the latter—well, it is just false.

Then we come to the question of whether we cannot help how we are which, roughly speaking, is our character. Can one decide to have a character other than the one that one has?

It is a matter of common agreement that habit becomes character. For example, I used to have a very bad temper, but realising that it was a bad thing to have, I made a conscious effort to control it, and before long there was nothing, or at least much less, to control.Theodore Dalrymple

I do not believe that anyone could live as if this were true, at least with regard to himself. Amongst other things, it would make consciousness redundant. Why have we developed powers of thought, which include those of considering alternatives and choosing between them, if those powers serve no purpose, by which I mean did not cause us to behave differently from how we would have done without it? We would all be what Descartes thought the lesser animals were, namely automata. We would have to believe that our own conscious thoughts were but epiphenomena and made no difference to anything, and I do not believe that anyone is capable of sincerely believing this. Not, of course, that by itself this would necessarily make it false: it is perfectly possible that, because of our very biological nature, we are incapable of believing something that is true. – Theodore Dalrymple

I do not have a full understanding of how people become themselves, or of how I became what I am myself. It is a mystery that passes my understanding, and I suspect (and hope) that it is a mystery that will always escape human beings: for if it ceased to be a mystery, it would cease only for some and not for others, and those for whom it ceased to be a mystery would almost certainly abuse their superior understanding to harm, exploit, or abuse the rest. Those who understood would be in the position of extra-terrestrials who landed on earth and, observing humans as entomologists observe ants, would be able to regard them as mere animated objects (not, as it happens, that we are very good at controlling ants, and if ever there is a final struggle between man and insect, it will be the insect that wins). But however much the extra-terrestrials thought they understood us, I do not think they would be able to understand themselves. They in turn would need beings who were alien to them to understand them fully; and those aliens in turn would not understand themselves.Theodore Dalrymple

But if we abandon the idea that crazy and ignorant people also need to be represented in Parliament and start setting entry tests on this stuff, well, I have a few proposals.

First up, any MP that can’t pass intermediate micro isn’t qualified. Give a basic tax incidence question, see if they follow the consensus of economists. If they don’t, kick them out. Same if they think rent control is a good idea – there’s a very clear expert consensus on this one.

Next, rules on genetic modification. Clear scientific consensus that GM crops are safe. The rules against them do a lot of harm. We’d kick out most of the Green Party on this one, if any were left after the rent control question. And that could be fine. They’d be replaced by pro-science greens. Don’t you like science? It would be better, right?

How about any MP who thinks that stadium and film subsidies provide net benefits? Both are in clear violation of the scientific consensus. We can retrospectively kick John Key out of Parliament. He loved stadium subsidies.

Kick out of Parliament, and out of the bureaus, anyone who demonstrates through their policy advocacy that they really really do not understand how an ETS with a binding cap works.  – Eric Crampton,

There’s a strange, Year Zero quality to pronouncements like these. They are so freighted with ideological jargon that it can be almost impossible to work out what they actually mean in practical terms. But what they do reveal, vividly, is that council bureaucracies have become highly politicised and detached from the pressing everyday concerns of ratepayers.  Karl du Fresne

Quotes of the day


If free speech does not include the right to make deeply offensive claims that are perhaps antiquated and even abhorrent to the average Kiwi, but that does not incite violence, then we no longer have free speech. And without free speech, we would never have had the Springbok tour protests, the Maori Land Marches, the Nuclear Free New Zealand movement, or many other examples of speech that stood up to prejudice, bigotry and hatred.

Free speech is not free. It certainly runs the risk of allowing incorrect, stupid, hateful, or wrong views to be expressed. But censorship is not free either and the cost is much higher. – Jonathan Ayling

THE NATIONAL PARTY stands at the beginning of an unsealed road which, if followed, might just carry it to victory. The question, now, is whether the party possesses the guts to set off down it. Sometimes politicians hit upon a winning strategy by accident, unaware that they have done so. National’s answer to the Government’s controversial Three Waters project may be a case in point. Wittingly, or unwittingly, National’s policy reflects the principle of subsidiarity – i.e. the idea that the best decisions are those made by the communities required to live most closely with their consequences. Set against Labour’s preference for large, centralised (and almost always unresponsive) bureaucracies, National’s preference for the local and the accountable has much to recommend it.

Labour, meanwhile, may find that its road to October has been closed. Rather than proceed with all speed down the path of repudiation and reprioritisation promised by Chris Hipkins when he became Prime Minister, the exigencies of dealing with the Auckland Anniversary Weekend Floods and Cyclone Gabrielle appear to have provided Hipkins’ caucus opponents with a chance to regroup and push back.

This was especially true of Three Waters. The period within which the unequivocal repudiation of the project remained politically feasible was always dangerously short. Indeed, the slightest delay threatened to make its abandonment impossible. Nor was the threat exclusively internal. The longer Hipkins put off Three Waters’ demise, the greater the risk that National would produce a viable and popular alternative. Which is exactly what it has done.Chris Trotter

National’s decision to restore of local authorities’ property could hardly have come at a more opportune moment, given the very recent judicial observation that the asset base of the Three Waters’ “entities” had, indeed, been “expropriated”, from their local authority owners without the payment of fair and adequate compensation. It is a measure of the reckless radicalism of the Three Waters project that a New Zealand court could endorse such a claim. In no other context is it possible to imagine a Labour Cabinet signing-off on expropriation without compensation – a policy worthy of Lenin’s Bolsheviks. – Chris Trotter

If this is, indeed, what National is planning – and by what other means could citizens escape crippling rate increases and/or water charges? – then it is reasonable to predict a decisive shift in the relationship between New Zealand’s central and local government institutions. If the drift towards ever larger and more remote central bureaucracies is to be halted, then a radically new way of funding local infrastructure and the provision of local services will have to be devised. It is simply untenable for the present practice of central government offloading more and more responsibilities onto local authorities, while simultaneously withholding the funding needed to pay for them, to continue. There is a limit to how much can be borrowed affordably from private lenders, just as there is a democratic limit to the size and frequency of local government rate-hikes.

If National has, at long last, recognised this, then it can present itself as offering something new and progressive to the electorate. Subsidiarity is, after all, entirely congruent with the conservative (but not the neoliberal) view of politics. Conservatives are deeply suspicious of strong, centralised states which have no need to fear the displeasure of their citizens. Democracy, as a means of ensuring political accountability, similarly decreases in efficacy the further away the decisions affecting citizens’ daily lives are made. When the Americans say, “all politics is local”, they’re speaking the truth.Chris Trotter

Making everything worse, are the public misgivings about the way Labour is handling the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle. Intended or not, accurate or not, Hipkins’ downplaying of claims of lawlessness in the stricken communities of Tairawhiti and Hawkes Bay reminded too many people of the Covid emergency’s infallible “Podium of Truth”. Compounding Labour’s difficulties is Forestry Minister Stuart Nash’s inability to fully articulate the locals’ white-hot rage at the forestry companies. The latter’s failure to do anything about the hugely destructive volumes of “slash” that repeated storms have sent crashing into bridges, fences, orchards and people’s homes, has outraged the whole country. If ever there was a moment for righteous ministerial wrath, then, surely, this is it. Action, not yet another expert inquiry, is what the situation demands. Action, and the colourful condemnatory language of a Bob Semple or a Jack Lee. Labour men who really did “move with speed” in a crisis.

For Chris Hipkins and Labour, the state highway to October has been rendered impassable by inaction and political slash. Christopher Luxon and National, meanwhile, have discovered an unsealed road without slips and fallen trees. It’s not their usual way of reaching the Treasury Benches, but, with a bit of luck, it just might get them where they want to go. – Chris Trotter

The London School of Economics has decided that it will not use dreadful words such as Christmas, Easter, Lent, and Michaelmas to designate its term times and holidays. Presumably, its management now congratulates itself that it has made a step toward true diversity, equity, and inclusion, the modern equivalent—irony of ironies—of faith, hope, and charity.

An article in The Daily Telegraph was headed “The LSE’s decision is not just drearily woke. It’s completely pointless.” Alas, if only this were true, if only the decision were merely pointless; but on the contrary, the decision was extremely pointed. It was part of a tendency—I won’t go so far as to say part of a conspiracy—to destroy all links of the present with tradition, particularly (but not only) with religious tradition.

Tradition and pride in institutions are obstacles to a managerial class who prefer people whom they manage to be birds of passage, or particles in Brownian motion in the ocean of time, who are completely fixated on the present moment. The managerial revolution, when it takes place, is very thorough, and nothing is too small to escape its destructive notice. Theodore Dalrymple

That is why those who want to manage the whole of society love the kind of history that sees no grandeur, beauty, or achievement in it, but only a record of injustice and misery (which, of course, really existed, and all of which they, and only they, will put right). The real reason for the enthusiasm for pulling down statues is to destroy any idea of the past as having been anything other than a vast chamber of horrors, and since everyone has feet of clay, and the heroes of the past always had skeletons in their cupboard (to change the metaphor), reasons for destroying statues, even of the greatest men, can always be found. – Theodore Dalrymple

The Daily Telegraph said that it was insulting to Christians, but actually it was far more insulting to non-Christians, such as I, for it assumed that they are so sensitive and intolerant that they are offended by the slightest reference to the Christian religion or to any vestiges of the Christian past of the country in which they live, either permanently or temporarily. In other words, non-Christians are made of psychological eggshells and are so delicate constitutionally that they need the protection of the LSE apparatchik and nomenklatura class—which after all has to occupy itself with something (it held meetings to make this decision, no doubt under the mistaken impression that it was working, even working very hard).

No one wants to live under a theocracy, other, that is, than theocrats (and even they only want to live under a theocracy so long as they are the rulers), but the danger of that is vanishingly remote, at least until Islam becomes the majority religion. It is said that only a minority in Britain now claim to be Christian—about 44 percent—but the Christian past of the country can hardly be denied.  Theodore Dalrymple

Perhaps one day, when decolonization is complete and Newton discovered to have been originally from Burkina Faso, attention will be turned to the triggering effects of so many Christian churches in countries such as Britain, edifices that so powerfully remind descendants of victims of Christian persecution of their ancestors’ traumatic experiences, which they are thereby forced to relive.

To this, of course, there is only one solution: pull them down, raze them to the ground. Likewise, cemeteries should be cleansed, crosses removed, religious inscriptions expunged.

Language, mon dieu, how it needs reforming! The place to start, of course, is schools, where the future of the nation is being developed. Any child who is heard exclaiming “God!” or anything like it should be told that he must in future use the good, solidly secular expletive “Fuck!” (this, of course, is happening spontaneously as well), under pain of punishment. The Bible should be made as illegal to bring into school as it is to bring it into Saudi Arabia, and expressions derived from that triggering work should be removed from common usage. Sufficient unto the day are the unjust social circumstances thereof. –

I am hesitant to write in a satirical vein because, as I and others have remarked, satire is prophecy. A number of current policies would have been regarded as satirical exaggeration only a few years ago. Who would have thought, say a decade ago, that a serious, or at any rate a prominent and powerful female politician (I refer here to the First Minister of Scotland), would argue that a man convicted of rape was actually, that is to say in reality, in fact, in every sense, a woman? Such propositions now elicit only irritation, not laughter; and irritation declines before long to resignation. Absurdity is first discussed, then adopted by a vanguard of intellectuals in search of a cause, and finally becomes an orthodoxy that it is socially unacceptable to question. Intelligent people give up opposition because it is boring to argue against what is not worth entertaining in the first place. – Theodore Dalrymple

Hipkins has tried to rebrand Three Waters by calling it an ‘investment in pipes and infrastructure’ and many other descriptions that are far better than the weird bureaucratic branding it received.

For most voters, it isn’t a vote-changing issue. But “Three Waters” as it has evolved over the past few years, does have a potent mix in it that’s potentially negative for Labour: Wellington-knows-best centralisation, thieving assets off councils and a bit of general secret Government agenda about it.Luke Malpass 

Earlier this month, the White House announced a five-year plan for redressing racial inequality. It is essentially the Biden administration’s version of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plan, like those issued by nearly every major university, only at a vastly larger scale. The policy aims to “advance an ambitious, whole-of-government approach to racial equity and support for underserved communities” by embedding equity goals in every aspect of the government.

From the highest offices of the state down to the smallest local bureaucracies, DEI now pervades almost all levels of American society. And while it was once thought that the fringe racial theories that animate the DEI agenda could be confined to small liberal arts campuses, it is clear that is no longer the case. – John Sailer

To many in the universities and perhaps in the country at large, these values sound benign—merely an invitation to treat everyone fairly. In practice, however, DEI policies often promote a narrow set of ideological views that elevate race and gender to matters of supreme importance.

That ideology is exemplified by a research methodology called “public health critical race praxis” (PHCRP)—designed, as the name suggests, to apply critical race theory to the field of public health—which asserts that “the ubiquity of racism, not its absence, characterizes society’s normal state.” In practice, PHCRP involves embracing sweeping claims about the primacy of racialization, guided by statements like “socially constructed racial categories are the bases for ordering society.”John Sailer

Shorn of any context, the principles of diversity and inclusion strike many people as unobjectionable, and even laudable. But in practice they are used as a shorthand for a set of divisive ideological dogmas and bureaucratic power grabs. Under the banner of DEI, medical institutions that are supposed to focus on protecting human life are being sacrificed on the altar of the racialist ideology.

Because of the ideological project associated with DEI initiatives, critics often highlight their effect on curriculum and teaching. But the more potent effect, in the long run, could end up being on scientific research and scholarship. – John Sailer

In other words, under the new ideological regime that has taken power both inside the federal bureaucracy and in institutions like UCSF, even medical research has become yet another front in a larger ideological battle. Tomorrow’s doctors and medical experts are being selected and trained on the basis of their willingness to “disrupt power imbalances between racialized and non-racialized people.”John Sailer

Choose your Zelensky. He can be either saint or sinner. Either valiant repairer of the liberal international order or compliant puppet of the WEF. Either a one-man defender of liberal democracy or a stooge of nefarious globalists. These are the only two Zelenskys. There’s no in-between. He’s either a Guardian editorial made dashing flesh or the willing jester of Davos Man. Take your pick. – Brendan O’Neill

There’s a very important debate to be had about Russia, Ukraine, the West and war in the modern era. But what we’ve mostly had over the past year is the cheap exploitation of a serious global conflict to score points in petty wars at home. Chaise-lounge Churchills on one side, armchair Chamberlains on the other. And they’re all really talking about themselves, not Ukraine. Let’s change the record. Maybe Zelensky is neither saint nor sinner. Neither the world’s saviour nor its destroyer. Maybe he’s just a man doing what he thinks is best in the most horrifying and existential of circumstances. Call me a brainless dupe of Davos propaganda, but that’s what I’m going with.Brendan O’Neill

My mum and dad have always taught us to have goals, and I realised quite early on that it didn’t matter what car you drive or what material things you have if you don’t have a safe, warm house to put them. – Steph George

Democratic accountability is why we now have elected Government, not Kings.David Farrar

Quotes of the day


The media was acting as the enforcer of its own values and parameters of acceptable thought. This was not journalism.

The media is not, as Orwell imagined it, a tool of oppression used by the state. It has adopted its own set of values and ideas, and uses its power to ensure politicians do not deviate in thought and word from what they have defined as appropriate. – Damien Grant

Threatening to burn as a heretic anyone who questions the prevailing wisdom is evidence of a fragility in your belief system rather than a confidence in it.

We have become in thrall to the shrill, demanding and intolerant. We are not willing to stand up for what we believe in if those beliefs upset millennials armed with nothing more than a keyboard and a sense of self-importance. – Damien Grant 

We are not in Winston Smith’s dystopian world. Those seeking to control our speech, to demand we join in the Two Minutes of Hate, who seek to memory-hole bad ideas and re-write offensive children’s books do not hold real power.

They can demand we reject the evidence of our eyes, as they insist that inflation is caused by Vladimir Putin and not Adrian Orr, or that the Musket Wars never be talked about in polite society; but that is all they can do.

We do not require the courage of Winston Smith to speak our minds and when the cost is so low, why do we cower?

Our political leaders would be doing the nation a service to be more assertive in defending those whose ideas offend these keyboard tyrants; not only because the freedom to follow your conscience is a good in itself, but because there is tangible value in a diversity in views.

Something that we all believe today will, in time, be displaced in the conventional wisdom, and an idea widely reviled today will be vindicated.

Our ancestors believed with certainty things we now know to be nonsense. Are we so sure our grandchildren will not enjoy the same experience? – Damien Grant 

THAT IT COULD BE DONE AT ALL is unfathomable. That professional publishers and editors, supposedly the possessors of post-graduate degrees in English Literature, could even contemplate sanctioning such a desecration is astonishing. Surely, this must be one of those stories we read on “The Onion” website – preposterously funny satire?

No. Wrong on all counts. This story is true.

The publishers (Puffin Books) and current holders of the copyright (Netflix) have colluded in the re-writing of Roald Dahl’s books for young readers.  – Chris Trotter

Words like “titchy, “tiny”, and (with the most extreme prejudice) “fat”, have been purged from the pages of Dahl’s books.

Not at the behest of Dahl’s young readers, of course, they thrill to Dahl’s spiky, misanthropic and just plain naughty vocabulary. Even the dark and scary aspects of Dahl’s work are lapped-up by his young readers – in much the same way that they thrill to the dark and scary elements of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The occasional spine-tingle is a crucial part of the reading experience – at least, it used to be.

And this is important because ….. ? With a stricken North Island to nurse back to health, why should anyone care about the re-writing of Roald Dahl’s books?

The answer, of course, is that children need to know that the world can be an extremely dangerous place. They need to know that it is filled with quirky, alarming, and sometimes downright dangerous people. Children need to be able to reach back into their internal libraries for the sort of role models Roald Dahl specialised in creating: not always good; not always nice; but without doubt clever, brave, and entertainingly resourceful.

When disaster strikes, it matters – a lot – that it does not strike a society raised in the carefully nurtured belief that there are no disasters. That dishonest, abusive and downright dangerous people do not, in fact, exist. That being raised to recognise moments in which behaving sweetly simply will not cut it, is a good thing, not a bad thing. Moments when the resourceful trickster is a better role model than the politically-correct goody-two-shoes who would never dream of calling anybody “fat”. Chris Trotter

Literature, and all the other forms of cultural expression, are not supposed to make us good people, they are supposed to make us real people. That is why when well-meaning people (or so we must assume) decide to “rectify” the works of artists who care about reality, we should all be very worried. – Chris Trotter

Roald Dahl, being dead, cannot object to the behaviour of those in whom he entrusted the safe-keeping of his art. But living artists have no cause for complacency. Once the formerly rock-solid reverence for an artist’s work disappears – as it so evidently has among Dahl’s publishers – no writer, dramatist, poet, painter, sculptor, or cinematographer, alive or dead, will be safe. While we, their audience, will remain, thanks to our censorious middle-class betters, innocent ignoramuses.Chris Trotter

In 1807, Harriet Bowdler edited The Family Shakespeare, a version of the Bard from which anything vaguely salacious had been expunged. Her brother, Thomas, did the same for Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, thus giving the English language a delightful new verb: to bowdlerize, that is, to remove supposedly offensive language from a literary work, thereby weakening it and reducing its impact.

I remember a time when we laughed at the Bowdlers, and the bowdlerizers, as being absurd, prissy, and prudish. We thought that, being fully mature for the first time in human history, we had overcome both the need and the impulse to bowdlerize. How wrong we were.

The desire to bowdlerize, it seems, springs eternal. The latest victims of bowdlerization are the children’s books of Roald Dahl, which have now sold 250 million copies worldwide. Children love them because—dare I say it—they are transgressive. Children, necessarily dominated by adults and required by them to control their impulses, delight to see adults in all their hideousness, physical and moral. – Theodore Dalrymple

The new versions of Dahl’s books contain hundreds of amendments, some pointless, most implicitly doctrinaire, and others outright mendacious—for example, the dedication of a whole book to all doctors, which Dahl never made.

Words such as “father” and “mother” have become offensive not because some children are orphaned, as was always the case, but because some children have two fathers or two mothers, and even more have no fathers. Think of the distress the poor little mites experience if they read the words “father” or “mother!”

The sensitivity readers who go through books anticipating such distress—prevention is so much better than cure—have an immense and never-ending task before them (they need never fear unemployment), for they can always find new fears to anticipate and assuage. – Theodore Dalrymple

The editing is an insult to the sophistication of children, who quickly become aware of the difference between literal and other interpretation of words. This is forgotten, it seems, by some of their elders and betters.

Perhaps the sensitivity readers aim not merely to render certain thoughts and judgments impossible for children but also to create a world in which they will enjoy perpetual powers of censorship—and employment, courtesy of giant corporations such as Netflix, owner of the Roald Dahl Story Company.

Mrs. Bowdler was merely puritanical; the sensitivity readers combine puritanism with political tyranny. Mrs. Bowdler, meet Joseph Stalin.Theodore Dalrymple

Economic history tells us that the best outcomes come from inclusive democracy, secular institutions based on science and reasoning, a market economy with macro-economic stability and micro-economic flexibility, and social risk management policies. New Zealand has such things in place, and yet its democracy and institutions are under attack by advocates for race and tribe-based policies and for constitutional change to transfer power to unelected iwi leaders. What is going on? – Peter Winsley

Democracy also requires an educated population that shares core disciplinary knowledge such as literacy, numeracy, and science.  It requires critical thinking capabilities and a habit of exercising them.

Democracy is majority rule, and minorities must be protected from tyranny by the majority.  These protections include common law, Magna Carta rights, compensation for regulatory takings, and inclusive voting systems, for example proportional representation. Peter Winsley

By around 1950 New Zealand was still near the top in per capita income and lacked extremes of wealth and poverty.  However, while much wealthier in absolute terms compared to a century before Māori still lagged other population groups in relative terms.  Reasons for this included Māori being concentrated in poorer parts of the country, the effects of the New Zealand wars on some though not all iwi, poor educational aspirations and achievement, and prejudicial Pakeha attitudes.

“Colonial institutions” are widely blamed for relatively poorer socio-economic outcomes for Māori.  This may be true for the Native Land Courts from 1865, however key institutions such as schools, hospitals, public research agencies, Parliament, the Reserve Bank, the Commerce Commission and our trade services have worked quite well for New Zealanders.  Some Māori institutions, for example Kōhanga Reo may have performed quite well, while others such as Wānanga have been patchy with many students receiving poor post-study outcomes.

From about the 1950s Māori migration into the cities eroded some whanau and hapu structures, though it also led to economic gains.  Sociological problems co-existed with near full employment.  Māori-dominated gangs had significant presence by the 1970s.  – Peter Winsley

With interventions such as the 1973 domestic purposes benefit, the social welfare system helped create benefit dependency and led to single parent (mainly fatherless) households.  Neglect and abuse are problems for too many Māori children.  Most early European visitors to New Zealand commented on how caring and solicitous Māori parents were with their children, and so traditional Māori culture cannot be blamed for today’s problems.

New Zealand is a successful small democracy.  Māori socio-economic wellbeing has improved dramatically since 1840 and Lindsay Mitchell (2021) demonstrates the progress made under and because of colonisation.  No Māori living today would swap places with one living in pre-European times.

Despite the gains New Zealand has made in its short history there is now a concerted effort to replace much of its democratic system and public assets with control by unelected tribal interests.  Yet there is not a single tribal society in the modern world that has succeeded in delivering high living standards and equity.

Power-driven tribal leaders, politicians acting for one racial group rather than all New Zealanders, academics without scholarship, government-funded journalists, judges behaving like conviction politicians and pusillanimous public servants are undermining New Zealand’s democracy and key institutions.Peter Winsley

It seems that Shakespeare is Kryptonite for tribalists, racialists and ethno-nationalists, probably because his works instantiate all human psychology and therefore are a force for human universality. –

Māori socio-economic outcomes need to improve.  However, rather than taking a needs focus and delivering socio-economic interventions informed by economic science the focus is on Te Tiriti o Waitangi commitments and Waitangi Tribunal deliberations, developing cultural solutions to Māori problems, and constitutional change which includes though is not limited to “co-governance”. – 

The Tribunal does not appear to have strict boundaries over what it can investigate.  Rather than the textualism school of legal interpretation which focuses on the plain meaning of the text that the 1840 signatories actually signed up to, the Tribunal takes a “presentist” approach that imposes 21st century politics, ideology and “language elasticity” on words and actions 183 years ago.

A good example is “taonga” which in 1840 meant a valuable physical object.  Now in 2023 it means anything of value, from objects, language, cultural knowledge, water to broadcasting spectrum, and no doubt sometime in the future to fresh air.

The Tribunal now functions as a cross between a statutory body which can make determinations and a partisan lobby group for a racial constituency.

Tribunal reports now make assertions which are manifestly false and yet which become accepted “truths”.  An example is the contention that the Treaty/Te Tiriti did not involve Māori ceding sovereignty to the Queen, despite the evidence from scholarship, from speeches made by the chiefs who signed the Treaty, again affirmed at the Kohimarama conference in 1860.  –

One thesis is that Māori socio-economic problems result from loss of Māori culture, language and identity.  However, most of the challenges that low socio-economic Māori face are employment, incomes, housing and net worth, not identity problems.  Vast investment has gone into te reo Māori language training and to some extent tikanga .  There is no evidence this has paid off socio-economically.  On the other hand this may not have been the purpose of the provision offered to students. 

Lourie & Rata (2014) assessed the practice and consequences of a culture-based curriculum that is promoted as the solution to educational underachievement by a section of the Māori population.  They argue that the ‘cultural solution’ is itself a contributor to educational under-achievement.Peter Winsley

The constitutional conflict in New Zealand is not between Māori and non-Māori.  It is between liberal democracy and equal citizenship versus birth-ascribed racial identities and tribalism.

Co-governance so far is achieving patchy results.  As one example, Ngāi Tūhoe’s operational entity Te Uru Taumatua has carried out mass destruction of huts in Te Urewera, asserting its authority over what was once a National Park.  This is against the opposition of many other Māori, including Tūhoe, as well as non-Māori.

If the Three Waters initiative is operationalised as set out in the legislation it will be overly influenced by people appointed on the basis of race and kinship rather than merit.  At best this is a recipe for mediocrity, at worse it will lead to nepotism on an unprecedented scale.

If we fail to defend New Zealand’s democracy, we will no longer be an outwards-looking and progressive nation.  We will regress to a hybrid regime made up of a weakened system of parliamentary democracy and racialistic tribalism. – Peter Winsley

A way forward is to meld together the best from Māori identity and cultural affirmation and outwards-looking democracy.  Some tikanga can fit within our common law system.

Tino rangatiratanga in Te Tiriti is best defined as self-determination that starts with individuals and subsidiarity and from this base leads to collective action.  Te Tiriti was signed largely by Rangatira that headed whanau or hapu rather than Ariki that were paramount iwi chiefs. 

Tino rangatiratanga can evoke self-betterment, creating choices in one’s life and innovative collective action rather than being perceived as a political slogan.  It depends on individual self-motivation and purposeful work and endeavour.  It is degraded by welfare dependency, grievance mentalities, and blaming colonisation or events over a century ago for today’s challenges.

In these troubled times many wish for a Volodymr Zelensky to lead us and for the courage of the Ukrainian people.  However, we can all be leaders in our own little ways, and New Zealanders do not lack courage when they understand the issues.Peter Winsley

Before anyone rushes to denounce me, I’m not a climate change denier. I’ m not in a position to deny anything, since I don’t possess the scientific knowledge to make definitive assertions. My own amateur observations tell me the climate is changing; the winters are warmer (we seem to get far fewer frosts in Masterton than 20 years ago) and the frequency of slips on the Remutaka Hill road is a very basic pointer to heavier and more frequent rain. Weather bombs that were once exceptional are now the norm.

Nonetheless, the science on climate change is contradictory and often freighted with ideology – so yes, I’m sceptical. I think journalists and scientists have a duty to be sceptical. – Karl du Fresne

But while acknowledging I’m an ignoramus, I think I have a legitimate question to ask. Even accepting that the climate is changing, what has happened this summer seems qualitatively different. It has not only been brutal and extreme but abrupt, persistent and viciously repetitive – too much so, surely, to have been simply a continuation of a familiar long-term trend. It just seems too easy – too glib, almost – to put it all down to human-induced climate change.

Which brings me back to Hunga Tonga. Notwithstanding my lack of scholarship, it seems obvious to me from the various academic papers published about the HT eruption that it had meteorological consequences. One study, published by the French National Center for Scientific Research, called it the most remarkable climate event of the past three decades. There’s a clue, right there.

Another paper, published by the American Geophysical Union, had this to say: “The violent Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption on 15 January 2022 not only injected ash into the stratosphere but also large amounts of water vapor, breaking all records for direct injection of water vapor, by a volcano or otherwise, in the satellite era.

“The massive blast injected water vapor up to altitudes as high as 53 km. Using measurements from the Microwave Limb Sounder [no, I don’t know what that means either] on NASA’s Aura satellite, we estimate that the excess water vapor is equivalent to around 10% of the amount of water vapor typically residing in the stratosphere. Unlike previous strong eruptions, this event may not cool the surface, but rather it could potentially warm the surface due to the excess water vapor.” –  Karl du Fresne

I admit that much of the paper is incomprehensible to me, but am I wrong to assume that a phenomenon of that scale is going to affect weather patterns?

Yet another study, published in Nature Climate Change, similarly noted that the HT eruption had expelled an unprecedented amount of water into the atmosphere and could cause an increase in global surface temperatures lasting several years. So there seems to be some sort of consensus.

I learned that volcanic eruptions can have a profound impact on the weather when, in a past life as a wine writer, I heard New Zealand winemakers bemoaning the Pinatubo years. – Karl du Fresne

Hunga Tonga, being an underwater eruption that produced a plume of water rather than clouds of dust that absorbed sunlight, had a different effect, leading to the predictions of rising global temperatures.

Either way, it seems safe to assume the eruption will have had an effect on the weather. And being a lot closer to New Zealand than Mt Pinatubo, doesn’t it stand to reason that its impact is likely to be more pronounced?

Bearing all this in mind, it doesn’t seem fanciful to suggest that Hunga Tonga might have played a hand in the apocalyptic weather events of the past two weeks. But I wonder if that likelihood is being played down because it conflicts with the human-induced climate change narrative so feverishly promoted by the Greens and now apparently accepted by the National Party – and enforced by sections of the media.

To put it another way, are we in a Fawlty Towers-type scenario where the implicit understanding is that no one should mention Hunga Tonga? (To quote Basil Fawlty, I just did, but I think I can get away with it.)Karl du Fresne

The problem with politicians is you usually know the answer yourself and you know what they should be saying, but they don’t say anything, and that’s the problem. Politicians I’ve found over the years are verbose to the extent that they talk themselves around a corner, and sometimes a door opens and they go in, and it’s too late to rescue themselves. – Barry Soper

I’ve had to explain to my older kids and apologise to them [as] when you have your first families, you tend to be pursuing your career, trying to make money, buying houses, so you don’t have the same time. Now, I’m an old geezer, far too old to be having kids, and he has been fantastic. He’s the joy of my life. He’s just wonderful. – Barry Soper

I take my hat off even more to what you once were as a solo mum. How on earth you cope as a solo mum, I’ll never know. That it’s so hard, emotionally, work-wise, and lonely. So I take my hat off generally to women that do it, and it’s sort of opened my eyes totally to child rearing. – Barry Soper

Taking the meme ‘Everyone I Don’t Like Is Hitler’ to dizzying new heights, now we’re being told it’s far right to want to drive your car. Motorist and fascist, peas in a pod. Protesters against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and so-called 15-minute cities – policies being adopted in various regions of the UK that will severely limit where and how often a person can drive his car – have been damned as hard-right loons. Who but a modern-day Brownshirt would bristle at eco-measures designed to save Mother Earth from car toxins? One author attended this month’s colourful protest against Oxford City Council’s anti-driving policies and decreed that this motley crew of car-lovers are on ‘the road to fascism’. Only they’ll never get there, presumably, given the elites’ penchant for road restrictions.

The climate fanatics are getting desperate. Of course, they’ve long used the tool of demonisation to try to shame and silence their critics. ‘Denier’ is a favoured insult. Question any aspect of the climate-alarmist agenda, including the harebrained claim that billions will soon die in a fiery apocalypse of man’s making, and you’ll be branded with that D-word. It marks you out as unfit for public life.

Yet the hysterical denunciation of pro-car protesters as maniacs and conspiracy theorists who are one car journey away from becoming open fanboys of the Fourth Reich is a new low. It’s classic gaslighting. The elites are hell-bent on restricting car-use, and this will make life harder for people, especially working-class people. To brand as nuts those who make this correct observation feels like a species of psychological warfare.  – Brendan O’Neill 

The climate fanatics are coming for your car. It’s not a myth. It’s not a conspiracy theory. They’re open about it. In both the UK and the US, eco-thinkers continually talk about using urban planning to socially re-engineer the throng. Let’s remake American cities so that ‘walking, biking and public-transit use’ are prioritised over car-use, says Vox. Don’t call this anti-car, though. Don’t say the establishment longs to deprive us of the great 20th- and 21st-century freedom of getting in one’s vehicle and going wherever one pleases. You’ll be denounced as a crank.

Yes, some hard right-wingers have attached themselves to the uprising against the motorphobia of the new elites. But you’d think the Guardianista middle classes would understand that this is inevitable in a relatively free society. After all, these are the kind of people who attend anti-Israel demos at which you will frequently see the most vile expressions of anti-Semitic hatred and who went on those bitter anti-Brexit marches at which some banners mocked the intellectual inferiority of working-class Leave voters. If the appearance of a far-right twat at a pro-driving protest means that everyone who’s pro-driving is far right, then by the same token you all must have a very serious problem with Jews and working-class folk. That’s how this works, right? – Brendan O’Neill 

It is perfectly legitimate to describe top-down, eco-justified restrictions on people’s freedom to drive as a climate lockdown. No, it isn’t the handiwork of the WEF and it isn’t part of a global plot to imprison us in our homes. But erecting cameras to spy on car-users and fining those who drive to certain parts of their own city, all with the intention of pressuring us to walk instead, is a breed of lockdown. It is illiberal, anti-modern and further proof that our green-leaning elites care little for the freedom or the bank balances of working people. Protesting against this isn’t ‘far right’ – it’s sensible and good.Brendan O’Neill 

Quotes of the day


In truth, I underestimated the Ukrainian people’s resilience, their courage, their love of country. And I was wrong, too, about the Western alliance. After more than a decade of drift and inaction, from the shameful failure to respond to the seizure of Crimea to the near-criminal indifference to the suffering in Syria, I doubted whether any major Western leader would make more than a token protest about the first full-scale European invasion since the Forties. I never expected to see Finland and Sweden jump off the fence and apply for Nato membership. Nor did I imagine that Joe Biden would be so unswerving in his commitment, or so generous with US military aid. Above all, I never anticipated that Kyiv would hold out, that Kharkiv would stand or that Kherson would be retaken. As I say, it’s nice to be wrong. – Dominic Sandbrook

How, then, does it end? If you agree with, say, the late Jeremy Corbyn, then the answer is obvious. Peace is better than war, so all that matters is to make it stop. Go cap in hand to Moscow, and keep offering them territory until Vladimir Putin raises a hand and says: “Enough!” If you want to feel good about yourself, you can dress it up as offering the Russian president an “off-ramp”. Or, if you’d prefer to be honest, you can just call it appeasement.

The alternative is at once emotionally unsatisfying and boringly straightforward. And sadly it involves lots of people dying, because that’s the nature of war. It is simply to keep giving the Ukrainians the aid, weapons and emotional and political support they need, until they have driven every last occupier from their land — or until they’ve had enough and are prepared to cut a deal. But that should be their decision, not ours. After 12 months of war and more than 100,000 casualties, they’ve earned the right to make it. After all, we would want the same, if we were in their shoes. And like them, we’d want our friends to do the right thing.

Good versus evil; right versus wrong. In a complicated world, sometimes it really is that simple.Dominic Sandbrook

There was a time when it was widely accepted that it was a good thing to adapt nature for our own ends. Indeed, that’s the only way we humans can survive. Nature has dragons; left unprotected from them, and they will devour us.

And on our own, compared to nature’s power, we human beings are weak. Left exposed and naked and without the food, shelter and technology produced by our adaptation of nature, if we merely settled for adapting ourselves to nature’s dragons then ever single one of us would struggle for survival. But adapt nature to ourselves — make it more humane and set nature’s processes and nature’s bounty working for us rather than agin us– and then as a species we’re off to the races.

This path — adapting nature to ourselves — was the path of centuries of human civilisation and flourishing, starting all the way back in settlements around the Euphrates, the Tigris and the Nile where floods were tamed and used to produce abundant wealth from the enormously fertile soil.

This is not the view nowadays however. Not so much.

THE PREDOMINANT VIEW NOWADAYS is that protecting ourselves from nature is wrong. That “the environment” trumps human beings. That nature must take its course. That natural processes have rights, but human beings don’t. – Not PC

This is not a climate problem or an engineering problem. It’s an attitude problem. It’s an attitude borne of bad philosophy: of the ethics that says that Gaia comes first, and humans a far distant second.

We didn’t always think this way, or we would never have come so far as a species.

However it’s now a notion that’s philosophically entrenched in present generations, and in most government departments (central and local). It’s also legally entrenched in the RMA (which gives rights to the “intrinsic value of ecosystems,” but not to humans wishing to protect themselves from the often dangerous natural processes inflicted upon us by ecosystems). And don’t think David Parker’s various replacement bills for the RMA will improve things either — to read those legislative tributes to Gaia is to understand they will only make things harder all round.

Just imagine if this attitude was predominant around the Nile in the times of the pharoahs; if instead of taming the Nile and its regular floods to produce abundant crops, invent hydraulic engineering and to build a civilisation the Egyptians ran away instead. As a culture they’d now be deservedly lost to history. As would all the cultures and civilisations (i.e., ours) that built upon those first beginnings in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

And that goes for any culture that opts out of the ongoing battle against the dragons of nature — and it goes for us too.Not PC

The PM’s tenure as Minister of Education has given NZ school students a racialised and unbalanced curriculum

Even if Chris Hipkins is no longer the Prime Minister after October’s election, his legacy will be locked in for some time. –  Graham Adams

Hipkins may, in fact, not even have been the principal architect of the stealthy revolution that has occurred on his watch but it will be seen as his legacy nevertheless because formal power over the education portfolio rested with him from 2017 until he became Prime Minister in January.

Over those years, Hipkins and his ministry have given the nation’s schoolchildren a radical (“decolonised”) history curriculum, which teachers throughout the country have begun implementing this term. “Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories” is now compulsory for schools from Years 1-10, with the subject optional in Years 11-13.

It can perhaps be best summed up as a one-eyed ideological exercise in demonising Pakeha as oppressive colonisers and valorising Maori as valiant resisters. – Graham Adams

Hipkins has been responsible for the disastrous centralisation of polytechnics and the first-year, fees-free university programme — which last week Times Higher Education pointed out had disproportionately benefited the wealthy — but the radical reshaping of school curriculums may be more enduring and difficult to unwind than these flawed programmes. – Graham Adams

And the radical policy prescriptions in education don’t stop with the history curriculum. That is just an early part of a “Curriculum Refresh” which will be implemented fully by 2026, with principals encouraged to begin sooner if they can. Graham Adams

Professor Rata draws particular attention to the concept of “mauri” (life force) being included in the NCEA Chemistry & Biology syllabus. “Vitalism, the idea of an innate ‘life force’ present in all things, has surfaced in many cultural knowledge systems, including European, but has been soundly refuted and is not part of modern science.”

Some of the proposals in the draft are so preposterous that it is shocking they found their way into any official document. What are we meant to make, for instance, of the “Purpose Statement for Mathematics and Statistics in the New Zealand Curriculum”, which states: “Being numerate in Aotearoa New Zealand today relies upon understanding diverse cultural perspectives and privileging te ao Maori and Pacific world-views”? – Graham Adams

Since becoming Prime Minister, Hipkins has told us that the government has failed to explain co-governance adequately to the public, and a principal reason why the policy is so contentious is that it has been “misunderstood”.

Perhaps he could begin the new era of glasnost under his leadership by explaining exactly how partnership and co-governance work in the education portfolio he has just relinquished — and specifically in the makeover of the school curriculum.

The curriculum refresh makes it clear that what is taught will be decided in collaboration with local iwi. It recommends that, “Leading kaiako [teachers]… incorporate te reo Maori and matauranga Maori in the co-design of localised curriculum with whanau, hapu, and iwi.”

Co-designing a curriculum with Maori is, of course, an informal example of co-governance. Perhaps Hipkins could explain why “whanau, hapu, and iwi” should be involved — and especially what educational qualifications and experience they might be required to have to undertake such a prominent and important role.Graham Adams

Public criticism of partnership and co-governance imposed through legislation and policy has so far mostly focused on Three Waters. But once parents get a better grasp on what their children are being taught at school, Hipkins can expect another ferocious battle on that front too. – Graham Adams

It won’t be long, however, before boys will be discouraged from their dinosaur stage by fears that such a stage is the manifestation of a colonialist mindset. After all, dinosaurs were first recognized and studied in an imperialist country; therefore, the study of dinosaurs must be imperialist. Theodore Dalrymple

To be surprised that paleontology is a study pursued mainly in rich countries indicates a complete absence of common sense. I mean paleontology no disrespect—I fail to see how anybody with leisure and opportunity could fail to be at least mildly interested in it—but paleontology, fascinating as it is, would hardly be the first priority for poor countries, even among the natural sciences.

Paleontology is an expensive and, in some sense, a luxurious pursuit. It’s natural that it should be pursued predominantly by rich countries. Paleontologists have, I imagine, no particular thirst for martyrdom, and therefore it isn’t surprising that they tend to shun countries difficult and dangerous to access, when there are plenty of other countries to explore. – Theodore Dalrymple

As science develops it grows more expensive to pursue. But the economic order of the world changes, and countries formerly poor can and do become rich. They will then be enabled to pursue paleontology—if they so wish. They will need to develop a tradition, but it can be done quickly with the right frame of mind.

Thus there can be no need to “decolonialize” or “diversify” paleontology, and the easiest, indeed only, way to ensure that its practitioners are representative of the population of the world as a whole is to abandon it altogether.

It seems that some kind of prion, the minute particle that caused the fatal brain disease known as kuru among the Fore people of New Guinea, has entered the minds of the intelligentsia in the West. In the meantime, boys should enjoy their dinosaur stage while they’re still allowed to do so. Theodore Dalrymple

IT IS ONLY SLOWLY DAWNING on climate change activists that the fight against global warming is lost. Locally, Cyclone Gabrielle has rendered their cause hopeless. By insisting that Gabrielle is slam-dunk proof that climate change is real, and demanding immediate action to mitigate its impact, the activists have, politically-speaking, over-sold their case. The idea of mitigating a weather event as destructive as Gabrielle will strike most people as nuts. If this is what global warming looks like, then most New Zealanders will want their government to help them adapt to it as soon as humanly possible. Increasingly, politicians and activists who bang-on about reducing emissions and modifying human behaviour will be laughed-off the political stage. It will be the parties that offer the most practical and responsibly-funded adaptation policies that win the elections of the future – including the one scheduled for October 14 2023
In retrospect the mitigators’ cause was always hopeless. So long as the effects of global warming were not going to be felt for many years, climate activists would never be able to force the changes necessary to prevent them. Tomorrow, as everybody knows, never comes – especially not in politics. Once heatwaves, wildfires, storms, floods and rising sea-levels start ruining people’s lives, however, their reactions will be different. “Okay, we believe you about climate change,” they will say. “So, now you have to show us how to adapt to this new normal?”- Chris Trotter

 Collectively, the human species is burning more coal, more oil, and more natural gas than ever before. So, how likely is it that New Zealand pulling on a metaphorical hair-shirt and crying “Follow our mitigation example!” is going to stop them? Chris Trotter

But, just how receptive are the poorest peoples on Earth likely to be to a message delivered to them by their former colonial masters which boils down to: “Please don’t try to become as rich as we are – the planet can’t take it.” Are they likely to say: “Yes, Master, we are happy to remain poor – for the planet’s sake.” Or, will they not-so-politely suggest that if the peoples of the West really are so determined to save the planet, then how about they agree to spread their extraordinary wealth evenly across it? Will either side agree to mitigate climate change by making such huge sacrifices? Or, will both sides move as swiftly as  – Chris Trotter

Inevitably, as the world warms, nation states will become even more selfish. When cyclones as devastating as Gabrielle lay waste to forests, farms and orchards, and make plain the worst errors of urban planners, every available dollar is going to be spent on recovery and adaptation. Pleas for financial assistance from developing nations confronting similar challenges are likely to fall on deaf ears. Charity, the voters will insist, begins at home – and their political representatives will not dare to disagree.

It has not helped the mitigators’ cause that so many of them seem to be located on the left of the political spectrum, or that those not identifying as left are fervent advocates of indigenous rights. These climate activists characterise “Carbon, Capitalism and Colonisation” as the three evil giants that must be slain before climate change can be effectively mitigated. They are less forthcoming, however, when asked how this slaughter might be accomplished. This is understandable, given that the chances of destroying Carbon, Capitalism and Colonisation peacefully and democratically are rather slim.

Not that these difficulties are likely to bother the true revolutionaries, since for them global warming has always been the most wonderful excuse for imposing the sort of regime that nobody who believes in individual rights, private property, and the Rule of Law would ever willingly submit to. In the grim summation of George Orwell: “Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” For far too many climate activists, mitigation has always been a Trojan Horse.Chris Trotter

Eric Crampton and I appeared before the Committee last week to speak to the New Zealand Initiative’s submission on the Natural and Build Environment Bill and the Spatial Planning Bill.

The Initiative submitted that the government should withdraw both Bills. While the existing Resource Management Act is demonstrably bad both for the environment and development, in our view the government’s proposals will likely make matters worse. – Bryce Edwards

The first step in assessing the merits of any proposal is to determine whether it identifies the causes of the unsatisfactory effects. The second step is to develop options aimed directly at those causes. The third step is to assess which of those options best enhances the wellbeing of those affected.

The official analysis fails at each step. First it does not consider deep causes. Instead, it simply assumes that the remedy is to double up on prescriptive central government direction. Second, it fails to identify any options other than the government’s proposal. This means it cannot take the third step.

To claim net benefits relative to a failed RMA is not a test of how to best address the situation.

One cannot justify shooting oneself in one foot on a regular basis by asserting that it is better than shooting both feet on a regular basis. The option of not shooting either foot has to be considered.

The Ministry need to show instead that the preferred proposal beats the best alternative option.Bryce Edwards

The Bills’ ‘solution’ to the above problems is more central government direction, gutting local government autonomy in the process. Conflicts of interest will abound in the decision-making bodies. Delays due to hold-out by partisan interests seem inevitable.

The Bills are basically a list of conflicting aspirations. They propose no methods for assessing how much weight to put on which aspiration. That makes purposeful decision-making impossible. A decision one way today could as easily be reversed by different personnel tomorrow.

People who own land will not be able to make long-term decisions about its use with any confidence. The rule of law is undermined when no property owner really knows what the law means, today or tomorrow.

At the Bills’ heart is the fiction that environmental bottom lines exist that can be achieved regardless of the cost to New Zealanders’ wellbeing. In reality, there are only trade-offs. Resources are scarce. More of one thing means less of something else. – Bryce Edwards

Thirty years later agreed bottom lines have yet to be revealed. They will not be revealed in the next 30 years because they do not exist. There are only contentious trade-offs.

The proposed pursuit of agreed bottom lines independently of costs is a perpetual motion machine for dispute and discontent. A cost is a negative benefit. People care about benefits.

These Bill essentially deny private property rights in land use. Your land use rights are blowing in the political wind. The Minister’s claims of net benefits have no merit.Bryce Edwards

Dahl grew up in the repressed world of the British upper class in the 20th century, where his mother was happy to pack him off to boarding school and his country was happy to pack him off to war. His own feelings were unimportant. As a writer, he responded by focusing on the horrible and the uncanny, on revenge and revolution. You can see the BFG—bullied by the other, bigger giants in the book of the same name—as an analogue for the young Dahl at Repton School, small and picked on by the older boys. Miss Trunchbull, meanwhile, is a grotesque version of every teacher who gave Dahl the cane. She deserves everything she gets. – Helen Lewis

Many writers I know have reacted strongly to the news of the rewrites, probably because we know how powerful editors can be. Almost everyone who covers difficult, sensitive subjects can tell you about a time they received a “hostile edit” in which the process of publication felt like running uphill through sand. In such cases, the editors introduce so many caveats and concessions to other people’s perspectives that the work ceases to feel like yours. Those kinds of editors—whose highest goal is a piece that won’t cause any trouble—presumably approach a dead author’s work with an appropriately Dahl-esque glee. Finally, a writer who can’t fight back!

Also, let’s not be cute about it: Sensitivity readers, including those at the company that edited the Dahl books, are a newly created class of censors, a priesthood of offense diviners.Helen Lewis

Given the zeal with which the American right is currently targeting books such as The Handmaid’s Tale, the cultural left should be extremely cautious about championing the censorship of literature, particularly when that censorship is driven by business prerogatives rather than idealism. The Dahl controversy will inevitably be presented as a debate about culture—a principled stand in favor of free speech versus a righteous attempt to combat prejudice and bigotry. But it’s really about money. I’ve written before about how some of the most inflammatory debates, over “cancel culture” and “wokeness,” are best seen as capital defending itself. The Dahl rewrites were surely designed to preserve the value of the “IP” as much as advance the cause of social justice.  – Helen Lewis

But Dahl staggers on, embarrassing the cultural gatekeepers by remaining popular despite being so thoroughly out of tune with the times. The work does so because of the dirty secret that children, and adults, like nastiness. They enjoy fat aunts and pranked teachers and the thrilling but illegal doping of pheasants. Today’s corporations want to have it all, though. They want the selling power of an author like Roald Dahl, shorn of the discomforting qualities that made him a best seller. They want things to be simple—a quality that we might call childlike, if Dahl hadn’t shown us that children can be so much more. – Helen Lewis

Adding in something quite alien when no one was expecting it risks upsetting things, especially those important conventions protecting our electoral infrastructure.

“It also risked transforming and concretising our ecosystem from a flexible and responsive political constitution to a more rigid hierarchical legal constitution and eroding our cherished principle of parliamentary sovereignty. – Dr Dean Knight

I’m open to change and evolution of constitutional arrangements, but if we are going to be taking steps towards the Geoffrey Palmer-Andrew Butler-style of constitution where we lock everything down that will have ramifications for the everyday politics and the constitutional ecosystem. – Dr Dean Knight

If particular political parties or activists want to expand the range of rights that are protected, they can make the case for that, try and find support for that, try and get a majority – have a discussion framing it as a constitutional issue and something that needs broad-spectrum buy-in.

I think generally entrenchment should be used sparingly … but I don’t have a monopoly on what is decided as constitutional and what’s not, with all due respect, members of the committee don’t have a monopoly on that, it’s really for us to discuss and decide as a nation – Nicola Willis 

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr’s boost of the official cash rate on Wednesday was a thudding reminder to the Finance Minister and the rest of us of that other cloud looming over us: the cost of living crisis, which got shunted into the background for a bit as Cyclone Gabrielle entered the scene.Claire Trevett

The easiest remedy for the cyclone crisis is to throw money at it in vast quantities – for the infrastructure, the clean-up and support for the people and businesses hit by it.

The remedy for the cost of living crisis (or at least one of them) is to try to cut spending to help dampen inflation – but Robertson had hoped to spend some of those savings on helping ease the pain for households struggling with their bills.

Then there are the mortgages. As Orr put it, if the Government cuts its spending and raises taxes, Orr might not have to raise interest rates so much.

So Robertson faces a choice of political poisons: people can either pay more in tax or pay even more in mortgages than they already are. – Claire Trevett

Add in the political palatability test to the various remedies and sub-remedies and things get even more complicated for Robertson.

Does he bring in a flood tax to help cover the cost of cyclone damage – and therefore take money out of people’s pockets during the cost of living crisis? Does he resort to doing it all on tick, making the books look worse? Does he rein back what he had hoped to do on the cost of living front?

All of this has added a pickle into PM Chris Hipkins’ “bread and butter” sandwich.

That bread and butter offering is looking increasingly like the home-brand white bread with a smear of margarine.

And that meagre fare may well prove to be the most politically palatable thing to do. There will be little appetite or expectation of election lollies now. Claire Trevett

The flooding disasters are vast in area – from urban Auckland to rural East Coast and Hawke’s Bay.

It has had ramifications on people’s way of living and of making a living. It will hurt the economy and impact the export industry. As quick a rebuild as possible is needed.

And a tax targeted at top earners would possibly leave room to do more on the cost of living front for those on lower incomes.

That won’t stop National from pointing to any such levy as a breach of Robertson’s 2020 campaign promise not to introduce any new taxes this term beyond the new top tax rate of 39 per cent. – Claire Trevett

In the end, what matters is not necessarily whether or not you’ve broken a promise, but whether the voters think it was justified. Sometimes a u-turn on a problematic promise is actually rewarded.

In light of the increasing tendency for the unpredictable to happen, perhaps the lesson there is not to make such promises in the first place rather than whether to stick to them.

That, however, is easier said than done in the heat of an election campaign. – Claire Trevett

But what we have observed over the past fortnight simply puts New Zealand in the Third World category. It is questionable whether the damage from Cyclone Gabrielle — which was again exacerbated by the heavy downpours which took place overnight — wipes out any economic utility the industry has to New Zealand in that part of the country. That’s because the multi-billion-dollar damage suffered by the dairy and horticulture sectors due to the “runoff” of slash exacerbated the scale and impact of the flooding. – Fran O’Sullivan

Royal Commissions of Inquiry are reserved for the most serious matters of public importance. They are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Executive Council. The 2011 inquiry looked into building failure caused by the Canterbury quake.

The part the foreign companies, their managers and contractors and the local councils have played in contributing to this disaster are best explored there — along with hearing from those affected.Fran O’Sullivan

We are still in the response phase, but thoughts must turn quickly to what comes next. While lifelines are being sticky-taped back together for now, they must be made much more robust, and quickly. Whatever else happens in the next fortnight, winter is not far away.

Events like this remind us that, at least outside Auckland, we are a country of geographically isolated towns and villages linked together by ribbons of tarseal that are crucially important but too often taken for granted. – Steven Joyce

This rebuild is another huge job. But it has been done before and it will be done again. We need to lean into our resourcefulness, our practicality and our common sense, to get it happening fast.

That means using structures that harness everyone’s skills. The public sector, the private sector and all our communities. There is no place here for the Covid-era mistake that the Government must run everything. There is precious little chance that bureaucrats in Wellington understand how to rebuild, dare I say it, the Three Waters infrastructure of Napier or Waipawa.

There are five key elements for a successful infrastructure build: the funding envelope; a delivery mechanism for spending it quickly and wisely; the people to do the work; the ability to move quickly without excessive red tape; and a method of paying for it all. Steven Joyce

The Government should take a flexible approach to dealing with each of the key lifeline utilities, recognising where the expertise lies. There is no time to needlessly set up new entities.

Transpower, the electricity lines companies and the telcos are experts in their fields. Their problem will be doing things that improve resilience but which customers don’t want to pay for. In the case of the electricity companies, they are prevented from doing so because the regulator won’t let them recover the cost.

These are sensible models in normal times but they won’t work here. The Government should borrow a leaf from the ultrafast broadband playbook and part-fund the needed investments to get them over the line.

The Three Waters rollout in Auckland, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay should be immediately halted and those working on it redirected to fixing what’s there.

This reorganisation was a luxury in normal times and is a massive distraction now. We need the shortest path to success. – Steven Joyce

The highways are the job of NZTA, but there is a real question mark over whether it can re-focus quickly to do the work.

Urgent flood protection works must be accelerated. This has been on the government to-do list for years, and is the least developed in terms of thinking and delivery. The logical partners are regional councils, but significant funding will need to come from government.

If it was me, I’d re-purpose the broadband rollout company, Crown Infrastructure Partners, as the primary public funder. They are used to partnering with people, understand contracting, and have a good track record of getting things done. They may need some new personnel to come up to speed quickly, but they are the agency most ready to go.

Just spending the money is not enough. One agency needs to have the power to cut through the regulatory thicket of the RMA and all the other restrictive legislation and get things done. Steven Joyce

We don’t have time for long regulatory processes to agree on plans to protect the Esk Valley or Wairoa from more flooding, or to replace the slumped parts of copious highways. We need to get started and design as we go, as with the rebuild of State Highway One around Kaikōura. This will be a real test of a Government whose instincts on planning reform are more likely to slow things down.

Finding enough people to do the work will be challenging. Many decamped for Australia as roading work wound down. Contractors must see a clear pipeline of work over several years in front of them, so they have the confidence to scale up. The Government’s visa announcement made sense, but nothing will happen without that confidence.

As for how the recovery is paid for, that is a political choice. – Steven Joyce

Ministers seem to be limbering up to “not waste a good crisis” and use the floods to institute some good old left wing envy taxes, which sock it to the productive sector.

I suspect there will be little public patience for such politicking when the country’s economy will need to be running on all cylinders to pay for this investment.

Borrowing too much would also be inflationary, but it beggars belief that after spending increases in the tens of billions over the past few years, the Government couldn’t cut its cloth better to help pay for what’s needed. They could start by junking the preposterously expensive Auckland light rail.

There is much to do and no time to waste. Regional New Zealand will be watching closely. It hasn’t fared well under the current Government. The speed of the recovery in Northland, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay will be seen as a measure of how much politicians care.Steven Joyce

Time and again, in his writing for adults as well as children, Dahl championed the bullied against the bullies.

“Yet here we have a kind of cultural assertiveness that strong-arms readers into accepting without alternative – though, happily, not without demur – a new orthodoxy in which Dahl himself has played no part.

“This particular revisionism sits oddly with Dahl’s irrepressibly anarchic outlook, his distinctive combination of mischief and wonder, and, of course, ignores the fact that words, central to a writer’s armoury, are a matter of choice in order to manipulate meaning and conjure effect. – Matthew Dennison

It feels Orwellian that we are having the updated versions forced upon us and has made me weary of ebooks. Clarissa Aykroyd

Quotes of the day


This is curious: The effect, anti-racism, grows ever stronger as the cause, real racism, grows ever weaker. But perhaps this should not altogether surprise us, for as Tocqueville noticed, oppressive regimes do not provoke protest or revolt when they are at their worst, but when they are trying to improve themselves. Thus, it is with the diminishment of real racism that anti-racist rage is expressed, becomes general, and reaches its height. Such rage has the additional virtue that it is an easy way to be virtuous, or to believe oneself such, and it makes no demands other than expression of the rage itself. Moreover, the expression of righteous, or self-righteous, rage is always a pleasure in itself. – Theodore Dalrymple

In everyday life, we often ascribe motives to people that they do not ascribe to themselves. We say that the real reasons that they do what they do are very different from the reasons that they themselves give for their conduct, and we do not necessarily assume that the difference between the reasons that we and they ascribe are because they are lying. On the contrary, we think that we know their reasons better than they know them themselves. To that extent, we are all psychoanalysts.Theodore Dalrymple

However much I try to “understand” the mind of a mass killer such as Huu Canh Tran, by which I mean imagine myself in his place, I find that I cannot—just as well, you might say. When all the data are in, and however minutely examined the antecedents may be, there will remain a gap between the explanation and what is to be explained. It is a commonplace sentiment that there but for the grace of God go I, and in many cases this is no doubt a generous or inspiring thought, a corrective to censorious condemnation, that is to say condemnation that admits of no understanding or extenuation by circumstance. But there are some actions to which this commonplace sentiment cannot apply, and a mass shooting is one of them.

We are condemned by our very human nature perpetually to try to understand such actions, and we are condemned perpetually to failure in the endeavor. And I am glad that we are doomed to failure: Nothing would be more dangerous for mankind than complete self-understanding. – Theodore Dalrymple

We are constantly told that the culture war isn’t real, and that if it is it’s simply a hysterical reaction by the conservative Right to social change and progress: old white men uncomfortable with ethnic minorities, women and LGBT people finally being given a voice, or complaining about being “cancelled” from their huge media platforms. 

The truth is that the culture war is more like a culture surrender. It’s the one-way offensive of an increasingly extreme and anti-democratic “progressive” agenda, focused not on conservatives and reactionaries, but waged ruthlessly against the liberals of the previous generation – whether they’re second wave feminists, free speech advocates, gay people who don’t want to be dragooned into trans and “queer” agendas, or libertarians and classical liberals.

The latest episode is the disfigurement of Roald Dahl’s books, once lauded by liberal parents for their anarchic and child-centred approach, and now to be extensively amended by commisarial “sensitivity readers”. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/02/20/censoring-roald-dahl-proves-culture-war-total-surrender-right/

These were works that were supposed to belong to children rather than adults; that were intended to teach lessons of honesty, courage and independence. They were some of the most popular and ubiquitous works in our culture, and had nothing whatsoever to do with right wing politics and culture.

And yet these beloved and respected works of children’s literature were coldly and ruthlessly targeted by fanatics not in some obscure sociology faculty or modern art gallery, but at the heart of one the largest publishers in the world. This was no flight of fancy. Going “woke” is not only a matter of faith for many in the world of publishing, it’s also a perfect vehicle for dumbing down and softening Dahl to make him more palatable to American audiences and critics.

Like so many targets of the culture war Dahl’s legacy was not picked on because it was uniquely offensive, or a focus of right-wing affection, but because it has power. The culture war is straightforwardly a grab for influence and profit by a coalition of strident and opportunistic ideologues, who have discovered that if they use the right words (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, offence) they will be met with total capitulation.  – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/02/20/censoring-roald-dahl-proves-culture-war-total-surrender-right/

The culture-war is a counter-insurgency and propaganda operation run by people who are already in the corridors of power, who have captured the flag and claimed the castle. We are increasingly governed by people who believe in (or have been bludgeoned into submission towards) a “woke” ideology whose simple intent is the dismantling of Western culture. They employ the language of fairness, equality and liberty, but mean by them something entirely different than how most of us use them. We have a culture war in which one side isn’t fighting back; a culture surrender. Sebastian Milbank

Some good news for Islamist hotheads in Iran: The Great Satan might not be as Satanic as you thought. In fact, some of the inhabitants of the licentious hellhole of the United States of America are on your side, at least when it comes to shutting down scurrilous commentary about Islam. Behold the extraordinary explosion of religious censorship at Macalester College in Minnesota this month. Following complaints from students, officials at this prestigious liberal arts college threw a black curtain – literally – over the work of an Iranian-American artist that depicted women in niqabs revealing their knickers and women in burqas with huge breasts. Hiding blasphemous art behind black sheets lest it cause ‘deep pain’ to Muslim students? They did you proud, Iran. – Brendan O’Neill

There’s an irony here that would be funny if it were not so sickening: a female artist who challenges the forced draping of women in black cloth finds herself being likewise veiled, likewise draped in shame, likewise hidden from public view. A censorship veil thrown over an artist who dared to make fun of the modesty veils thrown over women in Iran.

There was pushback against this disgraceful act of misogynistic intolerance. spiked’s friends at FIRE – the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression – drew national attention to the ‘sinister’ censorship at Macalester. Eventually, the college administrators backtracked on their ayatollahism and removed the shame curtains from the exhibition. But their paternalistic authoritarianism remained intact. The entrance doors to the exhibition were taped up, so that no poor soul would unwittingly glimpse these painful paintings, and two signs were attached to the doors. One was a content warning, the other a student-made leaflet telling people not to attend the show. So the exhibition was reopened, but students were begged not to enter. What a demeaning way to treat an artist whose only ‘crime’ is to make fun of Islamic extremism.Brendan O’Neill

On a liberal campus in 21st-century America, at an elite college that has a special ‘focus on internationalism’, the cry for freedom of brave Iranians was hidden behind a black curtain. It was shrouded from view. It remains, alongside Talepasand’s more provocative works, concealed behind a door smothered in construction tape with a plea to students not to enter this sinful sphere. This was more than just another act of petty tyranny carried out by ‘snowflakes’ and the college administrators who kowtow to them – it was a grotesque betrayal by elite students who enjoy every freedom you could imagine of people in Iran who enjoy so few.

Macalester was basically doing the ayatollahs’ dirty work for them. It did to Ms Talepasand what Iran would have done to her, though less violently of course: it censored her, branded her a social menace. It shoved this dangerous, hysterical woman behind a black curtain. Macalester aren’t the only ones doing the censorious bidding of the Iranian theocracy. Across the woke West, criticism of Islam is frequently condemned and in some cases punished. The Anglo-American world’s justification for crushing anti-Islamic ‘blasphemy’ might differ to Iran’s. We talk about protecting individual Muslims from the ‘pain’ of seeing their prophets and customs being questioned, while Iran focuses on the ‘pain’ caused to Islamic society, and to Allah himself, when people diss Islam. But the consequence is the same: punishment of blasphemy, diminution of freedom. – Brendan O’Neill

People have lost their jobs in the West for making fun of Islam. People have been murdered for ‘mocking’ Muhammad. Virtually every institution frowns upon ‘Islamophobia’, which often just means strong criticism of Islam, and even ‘hijabphobia’, which the Huffington Post describes as ‘unfounded hostility towards the hijab’. That is essentially what the Iranian tyranny is waging a vicious war on – the ‘hijabphobia’ of uppity women who are hostile to the idea that they should always be veiled in public.

The commonalities of wokeness and ayatollahism are chilling. Right-on Westerners have become willing, compliant footsoldiers of Iranian-style intolerance. They think they’re doing something nice and socially just: protecting Muslims from offence. But in truth they’re pushing unforgiving religious-style censorship and demeaning our Muslims citizens into the bargain. The idea that Muslims cannot handle difficult discussion and require educated activists to cover their frail eyes and ears is infinitely more racist than a painting of a woman hiking up her burqa. I’m starting to understand why there has been so little sustained solidarity with the revolt in Iran, which continues, by the way. It’s because so many over here have been inculcated with the belief that questioning Islam, mocking Muhammad and criticising the veil are bad things to do. This is the impossibility of solidarity with Iran’s rebels.

For students on a privileged campus in the US to speak of the ‘deep pain’ of being invited to view an Iranian-American’s rebellious art is actually quite repulsive. Pain? More than 300 protesters dead, scores lined up for execution, others severely injured by batons and bullets – that’s pain. And I have no doubt that your shrouding of their slogan and other pro-women artworks behind a black cloak of moral censure will have exacerbated that pain.Brendan O’Neill

Journalism took a fatal wrong turn when it confused itself with activism and assumed the right to hector the public with ideological lectures, often tinged with an ugly spirit of authoritarianism. Journalists are not our moral guardians, and until they grasp that fact their credibility will continue to decline. – Karl du Fresne

Hipkins should think more about the victims and less about his political opponents in future responses.Audrey Young

The warning came after an entertaining first Question Time in Parliament for the year, in which Chris Hipkins made a pretty fundamental error which revealed his lack of experience in matters budgetary and economic.

He insisted, in answer to a question by ACT’s David Seymour, that Government spending as a proportion of the economy was lower under Labour today than when they came to office.

It isn’t.

In 2017, it was 27.7% of the economy and in the Budget update figures in December it was 29.9%.

Making mistakes about or not knowing numbers happens – it isn’t a quiz show and politicians’ memories are fallible. But arguing you have shrunk the size of government when you’ve clearly made it bigger is a different and fundamental order of mistake. – Luke Malpass


Quotes of the day


Few of us who live in modern countries can see the stars at night, or more than a few at most. This is because of light pollution, the production of artificial light at night that is not strictly necessary (though what is not strictly necessary is probably itself incapable of strict definition—what is unnecessary for you is necessary for me). A recent article has suggested that 80 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Europeans never see the stars. – Theodore Dalrymple

The thought of our own insignificance when we look up at the stars is potentially a dangerous one, though I do not go so far as to say that it has actually been responsible in practice for any of the great crimes of mankind; for if we are totally insignificant, what does anything really matter? If nothing really matters, what does it matter how I behave? And if it does not matter how I behave, then I might as well do whatever I can to achieve my ends, to take maximum pleasure from my fleeting existence. If that involves harm to others, so be it; after all, nothing matters and everything will be the same in the end, indeed very soon by comparison with the age of the universe. Eat, drink, and rob and steal, then, for tomorrow I die.

Wrongdoers often turn philosopher as soon as they are accused of having done wrong. Their philosophizing is always post facto, but they may nevertheless by instinct have mastered rhetorical devices. For example, if accused of theft, they will immediately ask for what they have never asked for before, namely a defense or justification of the system of private property, so unequal in the distribution of its largesse. Since the person thus apostrophized has probably never considered the question himself, he suddenly finds himself at a disadvantage, in an awkward spot. He can only stutter an answer, which makes him look unsure of himself. Thus, the wrongdoer secures a rhetorical victory.

Anyhow, the fact, or supposed fact, that nothing matters is an excellent and reassuring excuse for those who would behave badly to secure an advantage to themselves. Looking up at the stars, then, if they were visible, might conduce to the spread of amoralism.

On the other hand, not being able to look up at the stars, thereby being made aware of how tiny we are, might conduce to self-importance and small-mindedness. Our own affairs then grow in significance and occupy the totality of our minds. We lose the habit, and therefore the ability, to judge the size of our concerns with anything else. We have no sense of the order of things, especially if, at the same time, we do not study history; and minor inconveniences then become for us tragedies of the first magnitude. Thus we become egotistical, self-obsessed, ill-tempered, self-absorbed, and trivial-minded.

As is so often the case, we need a happy medium, or rather the ability to hold two opposite things in our mind at the same time: We are everything and nothing. We are the only beings in the universe (so far as we know) who, or that, can assign importance or significance to anything; but at the same time, we are very small.Theodore Dalrymple

We are, of course, nothing by comparison with infinite magnitude and glory of God; yet we are of special and unique significance to that being infinitely greater than we, who has created us in His image. Hamlet expresses this perfectly:

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! How infinite in capacity! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust!

The paragon of animals, the quintessence of dust: What a perfect summary of our existential situation!

And yet, for all its perfection as an understanding, Hamlet, as we all know, ended badly, as did all those who surrounded him. Man could be defined as the creature who is capable of making the worst of anything! In Russia, they say, all roads lead to disaster—but not only in Russia, perhaps. – Theodore Dalrymple

Thanks to PM Chris Hipkins’ reshuffle, transport minister Michael Wood is going places. Shame about the rest of us.

Transport in New Zealand – both public and private – is poked.

Commuter services (buses, trains and ferries) in our towns and cities are under huge strain, making life a misery for anyone trying to get to work or children to school. Or even a concert.

The road network is collapsing.

At the minor end of the scale, the country’s road surfaces are in desperate shape. No need for the Government to officially lower speed limits, the potholes are bone-shakingly effective judder bars.

More scary is that arterial routes are regularly compromised by slips and subsidence in severe weather.  Andrea Vance

Climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated all these problems. But most predate the virus.

In part, they are due to chronic under-investment (higher taxes and road tolls are not popular policies).

But also, the way transport and its infrastructure is delivered and maintained is fragmented and dysfunctional.

Waka Kotahi, the land transport agency for which Wood is responsible, is currently one of the Government’s most problematic departments.

It is under fire because the road network is in a mess, and it can’t seem to deliver major projects on time or on budget. – Andrea Vance

The agency also has a deserved reputation for being wasteful. From the $51 million squandered on the abandoned cycling and walking bridge project across Auckland’s Waitematā harbour, to the $70m-plus spent on the doomed light rail project.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving (which WK oversees with the local authorities) has spent $83 million – $47m on consultants – and delivered only a pedestrian crossing. In EIGHT YEARS. And the walkway cost an eye-watering $2.4m.

It also has one of the largest PR teams of a central government agency – at last count 88, more than three-quarters of which are earning more than $100,000. If only we paid bus drivers the same salaries as comms staff.Andrea Vance

Around $15m was allocated to an advertising campaign to make roads safer, but recently officials admitted their ‘zero’ target is unrealistic. It missed a target to build 100km of median barriers per year, managing just 13km last year. – Andrea Vance

Councils with large urban centres are driving climate change policies to get people out of their cars and onto public transport.

The trouble is they are neither responsible for the network (in the hands of regional councils, other agencies and private operators), nor have successive Governments funded, nor allowed them to raise money to build, new infrastructure. – Andrea Vance

Not all these problems are Wood’s fault – but they are his to solve. How then can he take on another, hefty job?

Climate change makes transport one of the most important portfolios. Resilience needs to be built into the system – and quickly – as storm events increase. Public transport is also one of the most important elements in the drive to build a net-zero emissions economy.

If the Auckland portfolio is to be anything more than symbolic (or a cynical move to soothe the city), it should command much of a minister’s attention.

The city deserves more than a part-timer, especially now.

And to get transport back on track, Wood can’t really afford to take his eyes off the road. – Andrea Vance

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the term “jumping the shark”. It was coined in 1985 by the American radio personality Jon Hein in response to a 1977 episode of the US sitcom Happy Days, in which The Fonz, played by Henry Winkler, jumps over a shark while on water-skis. It’s a creative – if pejorative – term to describe when something has dissolved into so much farce that it signals it is well past its best and in decline – if not on its way to oblivion. And it could not be a better descriptor for Nicola Sturgeon’s absurd political performance over the past few months.

In the aftermath of the UK Government vetoing her gender recognition law, Scotland’s First Minister has had her head in Jaws’s mouth for several weeks now thanks to her ludicrous stand on Adam Graham, the transgender double rapist.  – Camilla Tominey

In a victory not just for common sense but for women’s safety, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) confirmed that all newly convicted transgender prisoners will initially be placed in a jail based on their birth sex until a wider review is completed. – Camilla Tominey

So what we have here is essentially a complete rejection of the founding principle of Ms Sturgeon’s hare-brained Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which stated that anyone over the age of 16 can self-declare their gender, without a medical diagnosis and with few or any legal protections.Camilla Tominey

I cannot be alone in thinking the world has gone stark, raving mad when a political leader, a supposedly highly educated person, cannot identify an adult human male double rapist when they see one.
Notwithstanding her own political fate, however, Sturgeon’s reality-defying obstinacy has actually done us all a favour.

For the complete implosion of her transgender policy must finally have opened millions of people’s eyes not only to what’s been going on in Scottish prisons, but also to the wider spread of extreme gender ideology in hospitals, schools and companies across the UK.

For far too long these organisations have unthinkingly pandered to the extremists at the fringes of this debate out of some politically correct quest not to hurt people’s feelings, with big corporations insisting that employees state their pronouns and NHS websites providing guidance on menstruation while omitting the word “girl”.
But as we have learnt with cases like Graham’s, feelings don’t matter more than facts.Camilla Tominey

We should, of course, show compassion to all human beings, whether they be male, female or indeed transgender. But that should not mean denying biological sex, or jeopardising the safety of other groups, including women. Transgender people have rights under the Equality Act – but then so do women, as several recent cases have clearly established.

It is the job of our politicians to ensure that these rights are balanced and that the interests of one group are not allowed to trump another.

Not that the extreme gender ideology crowd think like that. It’s a scandal that the “if-you-stand-up-for-women-you’re-a-Terf” brigade of illiberal progressives won’t acknowledge the truth of this matter.
It’s even more outrageous that they portray those who do so as “transphobic” bigots when “biologically correct” would be a more apt description. And they have had some success in recent years in bullying or guilting people into going along with their agenda. – Camilla Tominey

And now, Sturgeon’s blundering policy failures have opened millions of people’s eyes to the fairy tales that they had been led to believe were true.

The only species thought to be able to change their biological sex, besides clownfish, are sharks, funnily enough. Some scientists believe that the big sharks change sex when they reach a certain size, with males becoming females. The switch may ensure survival by allowing the largest, most experienced sharks to give birth to young.

But humans aren’t fish and never have been – although some humans are undoubtedly clowns.

What should be a factual, calm debate has been turned into a theological question about whether you “believe” transwomen are women. In revealing the farcical nature of her flawed arguments, Nicola Sturgeon has given us the chance of a reformation. Camilla Tominey

A survey of Canadian opinion carried out for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute found that the majority of Canadians still think that prisons should remain segregated by sex: to which one is inclined to add, amen to that.

All surveys of opinion are subject to caveat, of course; one can rarely be sure that they’re representative of the population as a whole, or that respondents weren’t trying to please the inquirers, or that the wording of the question asked didn’t affect the outcome.

For me, however, the most significant finding of the survey was that 28 percent of respondents believed that male-bodied prisoners who identified as women should be imprisoned with women, 6 percent more than those who thought they should be imprisoned with men. The rest thought they should have separate facilities of their own.

The evolution of opinion is probably impossible to estimate with any certainty, though it’s possible to guess. The question was never asked 20 years ago, and indeed couldn’t have been asked, so bizarre would it have seemed. The answer probably would have been a laugh rather than a verbal answer, and the very fact that it wouldn’t or couldn’t have been asked 20 years ago is itself highly significant. The question wasn’t then even a question, at least not for the general public: and the year 2003 isn’t yet ancient history. – Theodore Dalrymple

My surmise is that they were younger and more educated than average or than the 72 percent of the people in the survey who thought that prisoners with male bodies should not be imprisoned with women. The sad fact is that, as George Orwell once remarked, it’s necessary to have a higher level of education than average to believe in a certain type of absurdity. This is even more the case today when so much of our education seems to fall into two stages: indoctrination by others followed by auto-indoctrination.

One might have thought that educated people in general, and intellectuals in particular, would be less susceptible to evident absurdity than the uneducated and the great mass of the population: But one would be mistaken. And there’s a good reason for this.

The status of intellectual requires that one has thoughts that aren’t those of the great mass, or at any rate the majority, of mankind (and even with the massification of the intelligentsia as a result of the expansion of tertiary education, the intelligentsia remains a minority). For the modern intellectual, the search for truth becomes the search for rationalizations for whatever strange beliefs distinguish the intellectual from the hoi polloi. Ideology is to the intelligentsia what superstition is to the mass of mankind; and not to have opinions that clash with those of the majority is, for an intellectual, to lose caste, like a Brahmin who crosses the sea. What’s the point of being an intellectual, after all, if you come to a conclusion that everyone already believes to be the case?

The majority isn’t always right or intellectuals always wrong. What was regarded as perfectly normal, acceptable, or even virtuous in one age is regarded as self-evidently monstrous by another, often as a result of the efforts of intellectuals to alert the population or powers that be to the moral monstrosity of what they accept without question.  – Theodore Dalrymple

 It’s the undoubted fact that the majority has often unthinkingly subscribed to a horrible or vile morality that gives the intellectuals their opportunity to promote destructive certainties. A false syllogism goes something like this:

The majority thinks that prisoners with male bodies who identify as women shouldn’t be sent to women’s prisons. The majority is often wrong. Therefore, prisoners with male bodies who identify as women ought to be sent to women’s prisons.

What’s surprising, perhaps, and deeply significant, is that a proportion of the population that’s far from tiny—more than a quarter, if the survey I have quoted is accurate—can be brought to believe something so counterintuitive in so historically short a time. A view that not very long before would have been considered absurd and even unthinkable has become almost an orthodoxy for a certain proportion of the population.

And while it rests a minority view for the moment, it’s the view of what in the long run is the most important part of the population, the intelligentsia: for democracy notwithstanding, the vote of the intellectual has at least quadruple the weight of that of the average citizen, who will either follow him in the end or have his views imposed upon him. – Theodore Dalrymple

Instead of admitting that the Treaty was a contract that established the Queen as our Sovereign, protected private property rights, and gave Maori the same rights and privileges of British citizenship as every other New Zealander, the tribal elite are undermining democracy by promoting the lie that Maori are in a ‘Treaty partnership’ with the Crown to elevate themselves into a ‘power-sharing’ ruling aristocracy.

As an ardent disciple of Marxism and identity politics, Jacinda Ardern’s ignorance about the true meaning of the Treaty led our former Prime Minister to embrace the tribal elite’s agenda, dividing New Zealanders by race and introducing Apartheid into the delivery of public services.

Former Labour Prime Ministers did not allow themselves to be ‘captured’ in this way. Dr Muriel Newman

Even though the Treaty is clear that Maori ceded sovereignty to the Queen – and that it is constitutionally impossible for a partnership to exist between the sovereign and the governed – the ‘Treaty partnership’ fabrication has flourished under Labour.

Critical public services are now controlled by Maori. As a consequence of the health system being under the influence of the tribal elite, we now face the intolerable situation where health care is no longer being prioritised on the basis of clinical need, but by race. Indeed, warnings are now emerging from those working within the sector that some areas are in such a mess, they are in danger of collapse.

Then there’s the universally hated Three Waters scheme that not only confiscates services and infrastructure from councils, to put control firmly into the hands of Maori, but it forces ratepayers to underwrite the massive debts that these new mega agencies are expected to accumulate.

As a result, Chris Hipkins needs to understand that it’s not just co-governance that should be scrapped, but the whole scheme – including the devious Te Mana o te Wai provisions, which effectively give local Maori full authority over the management of water in each catchment area.

New Zealanders need to reject any cosmetic changes the PM is likely to introduce, and strengthen the call for Nanaia Mahuta’s entire scheme to be thrown out. Dr Muriel Newman

In true Orwellian style, iwi leaders have the audacity to claim that those who want every New Zealander treated as equals are racists, while those who want the country divided by race, are not!

For most people, the concept of their skin colour being used to determine their rights, is utterly abhorrent. Kiwis have never wanted to be divided by race, which is why the on-going attempts by separatists to establish Maori seats in local government, failed in almost every referendum.

It is therefore unsurprising that the public is now objecting to enforced racial categorisation. And that’s the bottom line: Kiwis want to be treated as equals, united as one people under one flag, with New Zealand, one nation – a country of equal citizens, not a collection of competing tribes.

This is what Chris Hipkins needs to recognise if he is to succeed as our country’s leader. He must govern for all New Zealanders, if his party is to regain the confidence of middle New Zealand. Tinkering with policies will not be enough.

And that’s also what Christopher Luxon – and his National Party – needs to realise if he is to have any hope of one day becoming our Prime Minister. Governing for all New Zealanders is the only way to build a successful future.  – Dr Muriel Newman

What drives most of us is convenience. It’s why you should never trust polls on matters where the question involves any form of fanciful theory.

What we say and what we do are two different things, not always, but generally.

It’s why the public transport fans have failed so miserably. On a whiteboard it sounds plausible but on any given busy day it’s not real, it never has been real and it never will be. – Mike Hosking

The theory was we would use EV’s and batteries and solar and wind and sunflower seeds. But the reality is none of those things are reliable enough or available enough.

As they currently stand, they aren’t actual answers. They are alternatives of a temporary nature and, given that, there is no point in getting all angsty about profits and wanting to put a windfall tax on them that is talked about.

That gesture is driven by our own anger and frustration at being wrong about the future and wrong about our overall intent.

It’s not BP‘s fault the war started and it’s not BP’s fault we all want to use more and more oil. They are only doing what they have always done, which is supply a demand.

That is why the whole model hasn’t worked – we keep demanding more.Mike Hosking

The zealots are asking us to do something we won’t do, which is go backwards.

Farmers know this. The way to reduce emissions is reduce cows, make less money, eat less meat and do less farming.

The oil zealots want us to catch buses that don’t go where we want to go, even if they turn up in the first place.

We will not do it and we are not doing it.

Our reality, and its smooth operation, will trump ideology every time. – Mike Hosking

The 2022 New Zealand Honours acknowledged and recognised around 200 citizens who had made meaningful contributions to the well-being of our country. 

On reading, I could only identify two or three  who had contributed directly to creating the wealth which fuels our society’s ability to address well-being. 

The list lacked diversity.

New Zealand as an entity is no different than the corner dairy. Its survival and growth depend upon customers purchasing products and services that more or less fall within the general categories of Food, Fibre, or Fun (tourism). New Zealand produces these products and services very well and, in many cases, we lead the world in design, quality, sustainability and reliability. John Wren

So just like the corner dairy, it is only the profit from “New Zealand Inc” that can possibly create the rewards we need to fuel what we refer to as “well-being”.  The government and their supporting bureaucrats appear to be  to how fundamental this is – as we can clearly see in their selection of the heroes who were honoured at the New Year.

The heroes we should recognise are those, who through their commitment, passion and personal risk, have built businesses that contribute to enhancing the well-being of every New Zealander.

Unfortunately, this government and its advisers don’t understand that diversity must be all-encompassing – recognising not only social, ethnic and gender but also productive wealth creation. – John Wren

The government is increasing the minimum wage from $21.20 to $22.70 from 1 April next year. At the headline level this is a 7% increase, which is roughly the CPI increase in the past year. So this is an inflation adjustment, in real terms people on the minimum wage will stay exactly where they were.

But is that true? We know from the EMTR series that the abatement rates are a problem. We also know that the minimum wage is getting awfully close to the 30% tax rate, so bracket creep may mean that we’re not getting full inflation compensation.

Who is really getting the bulk of the minimum wage increase. Spoiler alert – for many of those most in need, the government will be pocketing 80% of the minimum wage increase. They’re asking businesses to pay more, but the lion’s share of that money is going directly into government coffers, not to the people they would profess to be helping.- Paul L.

The bigger problem is when we get into people who are receiving any government support – a partial benefit, accommodation supplement, or working for families tax credits.

Consider someone who is a sole parent with two children, one between 3 and 5 years old, and one over 5 years. Because the youngest child isn’t in school yet they’re working 20 hours a week. Their household income before the minimum wage change was $869.14. After the minimum wage change their income is $874.14, an increase of $5 per week. Their $30 pay rise has mostly been clawed back by the government in abatements. While their pay went up 7% (the inflation rate), their household income has only increased 0.6%. They are 6.4% worse off in real terms, or $55 a week worse off than before the inflation and minimum wage increase. That would be a big impact on a household with two young children.Paul L.

I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be a minimum wage increase. What I’m saying is that when the government claims it’s compensating the lowest paid for inflation, they’re not. Many of these people are worse off, whether because of bracket creep or because of abatements on government programmes. The people who aren’t worse off are the people with no other income, and who are working part time – i.e. students living at home, second income earners in a high income household. The poorest and those most in need are worst off. – Paul L.

  1. People think that inflation hurts rich people. It doesn’t. Inflation has a major impact on poor people for exactly these reasons. Even with a very significant minimum wage increase many poor people are still much worse off. This is why the right wing, and economists in general, think inflation is bad. Not because they’re evil and hate the poor. Because they know it hurts the poor
  2. Every generation seems to need to learn again that inflation is bad. It’s been 30 years since we had serious inflation, most people in power have forgotten about it. There’s still plenty around who know – Helen Clark, Don Brash, Richard Prebble, Jenny Shipley would all be able to articulate why we should have been careful about our monetary policy. We weren’t, we have a mess, and now it’s going to hurt a lot of low income people. We can’t change that now, but we can learn.
  3. Inflation adjusting the minimum wage is better than nothing – I’m in no way arguing we shouldn’t have done it. These people would be worse off without that change.
  4. Actually compensating these people for the cost of living pressure requires changing more than just the minimum wage – all these abatement rates/thresholds need to be touched, and the benefit rates will need to be changed. When inflation is only 2% you can get by with doing it every couple of years. At 7% it’s too big an impact – it will need to be done soon.
  5. When the Labour government claims that they’ve inflation adjusted the minimum wage and it’s fine, realise that that’s not true. And when the media or people on twitter claim that these people are now OK for cost of living pressure, that’s also not true. And it’s especially not true for those most in need – sole parents with kids, people living on their own – those people receiving support from other government programmes.Paul L.

I do not think about or write about aging. I do not think of myself as old – don’t look or act or dress old – and don’t think of myself as a senior citizen. I’m not in denial, I just have more vital things to do and think about and be. I’ve long been at ease with the thought that there was a time when I did not exist, and the time will come when I will not be again. It’s the Way of all Life.
The ticket I got coming in is for a round trip.
OK with me. – Robert Fulghum

If and when the new Prime Minister gets around to his bread and butter reset, the work he has to do on Three Waters is going to be something to behold.

That’s a genuinely complex issue that either most of us don’t get, or don’t want to – or a combination of the two.

And it’s the co-governance aspect of it that kills it.

Co-governance is not the way forward in this country, or indeed any country. The line they are now using is the one where we apparently misunderstand what it is.

So that’s the part I am most looking forward to – what part of us handing over a chunk of the running of our water, or an entity, or the country, don’t we understand? –  MIke Hosking

And that’s why, for all the ground we have made, we have still gone backwards.

Because in trying to address past wrongs we have opened ourselves up to the inevitable mission creep.

The tribunal is now so activist it’s absurd. The only upside is we never gave them actual power outside of recommendation.

And the likes of the Human Rights Commissioner have drunk so much Kool Aid they’ve ended up blurting out a volume of extremism we can only laugh or sigh at in dismay.

We either move forward or we don’t and Hipkins now has the task of explaining why this level of extremism is; 1) remotely acceptable and, 2) more importantly for him, electorally viable. – MIke Hosking

We’ve just seen a prime minister cancel a huge amount of projects that have been a stupendous waste of time, energy and money for New Zealand … it’s quite incredible to me.

It’s been ‘let’s do this’, and then ‘let’s not do this’. – Christopher Luxon

We can do well by doing good … I believe that, you know, deeply.Christopher Luxon

Brad Olsen was on the show late in the Business Hour yesterday arguing the Government had to hike the minimum wage by a full $1.50 yesterday.

Because it had to be in line with the annual inflation rate.

If you look at the minimum wage in the isolation of one year, yes that’s an easy trap to fall into.

But you have to look at the minimum wage over the duration of the last six years of this Government.

It has gone from $15.75 to $22.70.

That’s a $7 increase in six years. That’s 44 percent.

Hands up, who else got a 44 percent pay rise in the last six years? – Heather du Plessis-Allan

So now, what we have is reportedly one of the highest minimum wage rates in the world in an economy that has among the lowest productivity in the developed world.

This doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to keep bumping up the pay of teenagers so they’ve got heaps to blow on new sneakers.

While making it harder for their employers, who might be parents running a small business, to square the books.Heather du Plessis-Allan

SUPPOSE THEY MADE A REVOLUTION, and nobody noticed. Suppose the “Cabinet Office” ordered the nation’s public servants to implement an unmandated revolutionary transformation of New Zealand, and they complied. Suppose one of the leading authorities on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Dame Claudia Orange, confirmed that this revolution was, in fact, a done deal. – Chris Trotter

Now, forgive me, but my understanding of revolutionary change is that it does not, and cannot, take place without the “general public” being aware. The active participation of the people in replacing a regime that has, in their eyes, lost all political legitimacy, is pretty much the definition of a revolution. The idea that not only could such a profound upheaval have taken place, but also gone past the point of no return, without the people either noticing it, or sanctioning it, is, quite simply, absurd.

So what should we call a programme initiated by the “Cabinet Office” (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet?) with the ultimate intention of transforming the nation’s constitutional arrangements in such a way that the “consent of the governed” need not be confirmed by democratic means?

Given that New Zealanders have lived through such a transformation before, when the programme of ruthless economic “reforms” known as “Rogernomics” was unleashed upon them without warning, and without an electoral mandate, between 1984 and 1987, then it seems only fitting that this latest attempt to impose transformational change from the top down be described in the same manner. What New Zealanders have been experiencing since 2019 is a “bureaucratic coup d’état”.Chris Trotter

Were the recommendations of “Matike Mai Aotearoa” and “He Puapua” to be followed, the manner in which New Zealanders are governed, and the rights and privileges they are heir to, would indeed be transformed – out of all recognition.

Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, has responded to the reports by committing himself to the long-term goal of “Eliminat[ing] racism in Aotearoa in all forms, in all organisations whether it’s government, non-government organisations, businesses, amongst our communities.”

New Zealanders anxious to learn how this elimination might be accomplished – especially given the Human Rights Commission’s acceptance that racism and white supremacy are baked-in to New Zealand society – should probably study the “re-education” centres established by the Chinese Government in Xinxiang to eliminate radical Islamist ideology from all mosques, schools, organisations, businesses and communities of the Uighur people.

It is difficult to believe that Labour could be contemplating a bureaucratic coup-d’état even more destructive than Rogernomics. If they are, then – this time – they will provoke a real revolution. – Chris Trotter

If we are going to change our constitutional arrangements in a fundamental way, this needs to be done in a coherent, planned manner, with wide community support, not by Te Puni Kokiri mission creep, or the stumbling we have witnessed so far, where nobody professes to know what’s going on.

We have the longest continuous universally franchised parliament in the world, from 1893 and counting. The Bill of Rights Act reinforces that position, with section 12 stating that elections to the House of Representatives shall be by universal suffrage and by secret ballot. So it should be with all subordinate public decision-making authorities.

Labour’s constitution also states that the natural resources of New Zealand belong to all the people yet, with regard to perhaps our greatest natural resource, the current Three Waters proposal offers equal governance authority to 84% of the population on the one hand and 16% on the other.

There is nothing in the Treaty, our primary source document, that provides for that inequality. It is just plain wrong (and unpopular).

Mana whenua definitely need to be involved in resource management. Co-management under a democratically elected authority is definitely better than co-governance.

Squaring the circle won’t be easy, but a proper, formal process is guaranteed to produce a better result than the slow motion drift to the destruction of democratic accountability. – Sir Kerry Burke

Hipkins is doing a reasonable job of selling the nonsense that burning these bad ideas will help alleviate the cost of living crisis. Of course it won’t. Killing off the merger won’t put food on your table. Saving the $330m it would cost is chump change in the Government’s annual budget.

The truth is, the bonfire just increases Hipkins’ chances at the next election. It means he doesn’t have to waste time and political capital constantly trying to convince voters that these bad ideas are good ideas. Listening to Ardern’s double-speak about all these policies was part of what led to her popularity falling in the end. – Heather du Plessis Allan

Cutting Three Waters will probably be the biggest test of Hipkins’ political management skills. He needs to go far enough to convince voters to accept it, while convincing the Māori caucus to swallow that dead rat. Then he needs to unwind a law already passed.

Time is not on his side. He can’t dawdle so long that he loses the momentum of the current sense of change. Sooner is better so that he can stop looking backwards and start looking forwards.  – Heather du Plessis Allan

Once he’s finished telling us what his Labour Government will not do, he’s going to have to start telling us what they will do.

The list of gripes voters have is long. Retail crime. Potholes. Falling house prices. Rising mortgage rates. Grocery bills. Warnings of winter power outages. Truancy in schools. Falling literacy and numeracy rates. Looming winter strain on a badly stretched health system. More kids sitting on the dole. Traffic congestion in major cities.

Somehow he’s going to have to sell his plan for fixing all of that, while convincing voters that this plan will actually fix those things, unlike Ardern’s plan that didn’t fix any of them. – Heather du Plessis Allan

Even going on just the last couple of weeks, New Zealand’s creaking education system seems uniquely unsuited to dealing with these sorts of disruptive challenges. The idea that its hapless top-down, one-size-fits-all culture could respond quickly and effectively to take advantage of new technologies is laughable.

The latest unsettling evidence of the ridiculous rigidity within education was the debacle that was Auckland’s return to school this year. On the back of the freak rainfall event on Anniversary Weekend, the lumbering Wellington-based education ministry decided on Monday it should close every school in Auckland for the first week of the school year. All 600-odd, plus another 1200 or so pre-schools.

There were some that needed to be closed as a result of flooding, or slips in the vicinity.Steven Joyce

In a sign the bureaucrats are still drunk on the power they took for themselves during the pandemic, they decided individual principals and boards of trustees could not be trusted to make the decision about when it was safe to open their doors. And this despite the fact that these same people are nominally in charge of the education of hundreds of children every day.

The ministry panicked and pulled the pin just as schools were looking forward to their first non-disrupted year since 2019. Once again we demonstrated to a generation of impressionable school-age children that, despite our protestations to the contrary, schooling isn’t really that important. No wonder they can’t be bothered going.

It got worse. About a day later, the officials were apparently having second thoughts. Maybe early childcare centres could open, and then possibly some schools. And then yes, they should open on the Thursday, except for those that couldn’t. It was appalling and cringeworthy. Principals, teachers and parents suffered daily whiplash as bureaucrats and their political masters in Wellington micro-managed Auckland’s schools to within an inch of their lives, trusting no one but themselves despite their all too obvious limitations. –

 The public health wallahs we became so heartily sick of during the pandemic were back to tell us that fully half of all schools should be given government-provided school lunches, and eating a government-provided lunch should be compulsory at those schools so as to not offend anyone.

The airwaves immediately filled with stories about unappetising government-supplied lunches, huge wastage, and parents affronted that only officials in Wellington can tell them what is healthy for their kids. Arguments raged over the lack of choice in government-sanctioned menus.

The contrast is apposite. The bureaucratic machine takes more and more power from schools and parents at the same time as a new piece of technology threatens to literally eat their lunch. We have poorer and poorer academic results in our schools, students are staying away in droves and out-of-control officialdom is busy dumbing us down even further, taking responsibility for the food our kids eat and deciding whether it is safe to open the gates. – Steven Joyce

Health officials in Wellington took decisions to leave hospitals empty for long stretches during the pandemic and in doing so created the longest waiting lists of unnecessarily suffering people of all time. They are apparently going to solve this mess by taking even more power for themselves to micro-manage every public hospital in the country.

Our politicians need to lift their sights. Squashing an ill-advised merger of old-media companies is all very well, but they are missing the main game.

Centralised monopolistic public services have surely reached their limits. Its time to de-power the civil service in Wellington and encourage innovation, experimentation and great teaching in our education system. Yes, even pay more for top performance. Where is the fresh thinking from both sides of politics about how we can get away from the bureaucratic dead hand that is stifling us?

Clever new technologies like ChatGPT are more evidence the revolution is coming. The question is whether our kids will be ready to participate in it, or will even more of them be passed by in the interests of an overweening bureaucracy?Steven Joyce

Amazing what happens when you are staring down the barrel of defeat. All the principles that PM Hipkins had purported to hold over the past five and a half years have just flown out the window. Or have they?- Paula Bennett

To be fair most people weren’t listening too closely to what they wanted to do because they didn’t believe they could actually deliver anything. It was a waste of time listening because the reality of it actually happening was slim to none. Except then the media and opposition started doing their job and asking questions about costs and consultants. The numbers were staggering.

Not many people cared about the RNZ/TVNZ merger until they heard that tens of millions had already been spent and it would then cost another $350 million. The wasted money on investigating the harbour bridge cycleway and light rail was already over $100m. They may not be able to deliver but they sure can spend money on nothing.

Hipkins was one of the three designers of the Government’s policy agenda. He wasn’t a spectator who just did as Jacinda Ardern wanted as he now wants you to believe. He was an integral part of policy development and design. His backtrack this week on a few initiatives is cynical politics at its best.

He helped design bad policies that they failed to sell to the public. They wasted millions of dollars in consultancy fees and public service time. He believes in these policy initiatives that he cancelled this week and has only postponed them because polling told him they are unpopular. He believes in social unemployment insurance and the RNZ/TVNZ merger. As such, you have to believe that these are on hold and not cancelled. You cannot trust that these policies will not be back on the Government’s agenda if they are back in government post-election.  Paula Bennett



Quotes of the day


A constitutional shift could wash up with the Three Waters Reform programme – providing non-elected bodies with the power to tax property owners.

This potential change is contained within the Water Services Legislation Bill, which passed its first reading on December 13 2022 and is now before the finance and expenditure committee. If it becomes law, the legislation will give the the four newly created water services entities the power to tax property owners for stormwater services based on the capital value of their properties.

Normally, taxation powers are confined to governments – central or local – because elected members can be voted in or voted out. Members of the water services entities are not to be elected but appointed, either by local authorities or iwi and hapū. – Dennis Bush-King

The Water Services Legislation Bill contains several checks and balances where the Waters Services Entities will act as if they are local authorities.

Perhaps, this is why the Government proposes giving them rating powers for stormwater services. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the decision-makers will be appointees and this goes against the old adage of “no taxation without representation”.Dennis Bush-King

Chippy carries on the tradition of his predecessor, in that despite the inadequacy of his track record, he is now the PM.

As Minister of Police he oversaw a level of public lawlessness that is new to us. His big idea was fog cannons. Although once he announced it, we realised we hadn’t ordered enough (more on that shortly). Fog cannons are the ultimate ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

Instead of stopping robberies, and instead of playing hardball with the crims, our solution is to wait until they start robbing the store and then blow smoke in their faces.

Announcing before ordering was something he’d done before. As Covid Minister, he told the nation that we were at the front of the queue for vaccines. We weren’t.

Chippy has also been the Minister of Education. In fact, during his watch we have learned that almost half of our kids aren’t going to school regularly, and our educational achievement levels are worse than ever.

However, and again like his predecessor, our new PM is a good communicator. He’s sharp and witty and likeable. He’s youthful. I’m told he has a nice smile. Despite the failures listed above, he’s regarded as trustworthy. Sound familiar? – Bruce Cotterill

Hipkins is going to need those communication and public relations skills too. Because he has a hell of a mess to clean up and some explaining to do.Bruce Cotterill

On the face of it, these decisions are likely to partially appease many of those who have become so angry with this Government. There are just a couple of problems.

First, these projects are the Government’s flagship policies. Whether you agree with them or not, if they are variously watered down or even terminated, what will this Government have left in terms of achievements? Not much.

Second, they have already spent outrageous sums of money on these projects. And sooner or later they are going to have to explain the waste. How much has been spent on these initiatives without an outcome? – Bruce Cotterill

I understand that we have spent $70m on the business case for Auckland light rail alone. Let’s not forget the $52m of consulting fees on Auckland’s bicycle path over the harbour. This is spending that many well-qualified people suggested was not necessary or justified in the first instance. It turns out that they were right. That is now money wasted.

The only people whose business model is working are the consultants.

As taxpayers, many, but by no means all of us, contribute between 20 and 39 per cent of our income to enable these people to run the country. It is downright disrespectful to those taxpayers to spend a whole lot of money, many tens of millions in these cases, only to put politically indigestible policies on hold in an election year.

A decent journo needs to ask the new Prime Minister to explain Labour’s desire to splash the cash. In case they haven’t noticed, we’re borrowing a billion dollars a week. Simply put, it’s like not worrying about your $1m mortgage because your neighbour owes $1.5m. Bruce Cotterill

Auckland’s floods have come at a time when that war chest is empty, its contents largely spent over the past five years by the sixth Labour Government on Covid-19 and a range of unnecessary projects. Hipkins has been one of the architects of that miserable outcome. – Bruce Cotterill

The PR was badly handled. But the public relations slip-ups are not the lead story. There are plenty of other questions that need answering.

One of those questions is about what happened to our emergency response team. We have people on the council payroll whose job it is to help prepare the city and to plan for such events. Many of those people have been in the job a lot longer than Brown and his predecessor Phil Goff combined. Where were those people last weekend?

My suggestion is that we put all the nonsense about Wayne Brown’s press conferences behind us and get focused on what needs to happen. Just like Christchurch before us, we need to rebuild our city. The damage is not as dramatic as Christchurch. But it’s more widely spread, and it’s happened hard on the heels of 10 years of rapidly increasing building costs. It’s going to be expensive. – Bruce Cotterill

But we have some problems too. Where will the money come from to rebuild the roads? In Northland, Coromandel and Waikato we have roads out of action on a holiday weekend. The businesses at the ends of those roads need the tourists they deliver. Some of those roads are now closed for months.

We need to pay for them and we need to rebuild them better than they were before. We have to rebuild stormwater systems and other infrastructure. The money will have to come from savings elsewhere. Cutting spending is not one of this Government’s strengths.

We need know-how too. We are already short of workers. Tradies are in short supply. And we’re short of leaders who know how to get things done. If our officials couldn’t see their way to open up the immigration lines before, they have no choice now.

The reality is we have plenty of politicians who don’t front unless there’s a camera crew, an adoring journalist and a microphone to hold onto.  – Bruce Cotterill

Our new Prime Minister might surprise us. But in a city that needs to rebuild and recover from last weekend, having a Mayor who understands engineering, and knows how to get stuff done, albeit without a microphone at hand, might just turn out to be our saving grace. – Bruce Cotterill

Ever wondered why, in a world that’s said to be about individuals and individual achievement, we still seem to have government support of a tribal system? Any challenge to which, even in the name of simple individualism, is branded “racist.”

What happened? How come these putative leaders see no future for their own various hangers on except through government handouts? What happened to genuine independence?Not PC

The treaty signed at Waitangi by tribal chiefs and a recently-arrived Royal Naval captain promised all these New Zealanders their own Emancipation Proclamation, and held out hope of liberating tribal serfs from tribalism. Instead, 180 years later, we are barrelling down a path back to tribalism. Something Elizabeth Rata has called neo-tribalism“: the intentional production of a neo-tribal elite who are busily “marching through the institutions,” in which they play “a decisive and self-interested role in controlling shifts in the interpretation of the treaty of Waitangi.” [1]

The result: the empowerment of a neo-tribal elite, in which tribal leaders have the upper hand again. And instead of the hope and optimism of those early adventurers, the predominant emotions now are shame and guilt — shame as a necessary precursor to this tribal shakedown.

Something clearly went wrong. – Not PC

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: that instead of the treaty being written to protect individual Māori, it promised instead to placate tribal chiefs. It’s right there in the wording and in all the arguments today about rangatiratanga. It’s understandable. After all, it was their signatures the British Colonial Office was after before allowing colonisation here to receive their imprimatur. “Alive to the record of native extinction that had come with settlement in Tasmania and the Caribbean, and was threatened in Australia,” the treaty’s aim was to “recognise the rights of the Māori as subject in the agreement, with rights and interests to protect.” [2] But in placating those chiefs of the 1840s, instead of promoting individualism and recognising real individual rights, the document has helped promote the neotribalism of today.

It’s been argued — and I’ve been one of those doing the arguing — that the Treaty of Waitangi liberates individual Māori. It should have done — it surely should have treated all Māori as individuals instead of as members of a tribe. But it really does nothing of the sort except by implication.

Instead, as written, it cemented in and buttressed the tribal leadership and communal structures that already existed here — encouraging the survival of this wreck of a system until morphing, as it has done today, into this mongrelised sub-group of pseudo-aristocracy: of Neotribal Cronyism.Not PC

It’s evident from documents of the time that the Colonial Office in London had not intended to lock Māori up into that pre-existing tribal structure. Their intention was, as that last clause almost says, to recognise the same rights in every Māori as were enjoyed by all British citizens.

But the treaty’s wording and practice has essentially limited those rights while elevating chiefly status. It’s the chieftainship, stupid. In other words: the problem is failing to properly recognise and to protect individual rights — and instead to protect and nurture the status of those tribal leaders.

Is it any wonder today’s tribal leaders favour the perpetuation of the tribal structure? Any surprise that the feudal structure continues? Or that today’s neotribalists wish to continue benefiting from their feudal privileges of the past? With the government as “father” and taxpayer as today’s serf … – Not PC

Could it have been different here? Less violent? More rational? More rights-respecting? Yes. Yes, of course it could. But reinforcing tribalism today will not fix a single historic tragedy. And in any case, the guilt-ridden politics of today — shaming today’s New Zealanders by the actions of people in the past — is not primarily about history anyway. 

The shaming of New Zealanders today is intended simply to precede and encourage their ongoing shakedown tomorrow. That’s the effect of today’s neotribalism: to put taxpayers on the hook for the perpetuation of this chiefly privilege.

Because, you see, in this new postmodern neo-tribal age of identity politics and cancel culture, history doesn’t so much provide lessons from the past as an arsenal full of ideological weapons. The neotribalists, and their enablers, are happy to pick them up and use them. You should be ready to counter them.Not PC

It is much easier, and more fun, to denounce bad behavior than to behave well. Denunciation brings its pleasures, among which is the discomfiture, or worse, of the person or persons denounced. We love to imagine the squirming of someone under the lash, or as a consequence of our words. And all this in the name of righteousness! A double delight.- Theodore Dalrymple

In fact, a question has long been present in my mind as to whether it is worse (or better) to be justly or unjustly accused. Both have their psychological advantages and disadvantages. To be justly accused forces one to face up to what one has done, which is always unpleasant; to be unjustly accused, while it may have terrible consequences in practice if the falsity and injustice of the accusation are not ultimately recognized, has at least the consolation of allowing the accused to feel morally superior to his accusers.

The sad fact is that the justly accused are often able to deny their guilt at least as convincingly as the unjustly accused. I am not an especially gullible person (I am probably medium-gullible), but I have sometimes been taken in by vehement denials that subsequently turned out to be false.Theodore Dalrymple

Thanks to PM Chris Hipkins’ reshuffle, transport minister Michael Wood is going places. Shame about the rest of us.

Transport in New Zealand – both public and private – is poked.

Commuter services (buses, trains and ferries) in our towns and cities are under huge strain, making life a misery for anyone trying to get to work or children to school. Or even a concert.

The road network is collapsing.- Andrea Vance

Waka Kotahi, the land transport agency for which Wood is responsible, is currently one of the Government’s most problematic departments.

It is under fire because the road network is in a mess, and it can’t seem to deliver major projects on time or on budget. Even the ones it finishes have to be redone.

The agency also has a deserved reputation for being wasteful. From the $51 million squandered on the abandoned cycling and walking bridge project across Auckland’s Waitematā harbour, to the $70m-plus spent on the doomed light rail project.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving (which WK oversees with the local authorities) has spent $83 million – $47m on consultants – and delivered only a pedestrian crossing. In EIGHT YEARS. And the walkway cost an eye-watering $2.4m.

It also has one of the largest PR teams of a central government agency – at last count 88, more than three-quarters of which are earning more than $100,000. If only we paid bus drivers the same salaries as comms staff. – Andrea Vance

Around $15m was allocated to an advertising campaign to make roads safer, but recently officials admitted their ‘zero’ target is unrealistic. It missed a target to build 100km of median barriers per year, managing just 13km last year. – Andrea Vance

If the Auckland portfolio is to be anything more than symbolic (or a cynical move to soothe the city), it should command much of a minister’s attention.

The city deserves more than a part-timer, especially now.

And to get transport back on track, Wood can’t really afford to take his eyes off the road.Andrea Vance

I believe most New Zealanders want to accommodate Maori aspirations for self-determination, but few will be prepared to accept the imposition of new constitutional arrangements that have the effect of making non-Maori second-class citizens in their own country. A government that sets itself against the will of its people cannot last – or at least, not as a democratic government. We need a genuinely open debate on how New Zealand is to be governed in future without anyone who expresses a contrary view being labeled racist. I have always thought the most important clause in the Treaty of Waitangi was Article 3, which envisaged that we would all be British subjects – in modern parlance, equal citizens. That is the aspiration that should drive all consideration of how New Zealand is to be governed in future. – Kiwiwit

Hipkins has backed himself into a corner where he has to do much more. Tax cuts, bigger subsidies (for childcare, for instance) a boost to working for families – they might all make a difference at the margins, but they all come at significant cost, and the sting in the tail is that they will likely only fuel the very thing that is putting so much pressure on household budgets, inflation.

So the upcoming budget is going to be critical. Not just for what it says about Labour’s prospects but for what it says about our priorities as a country. – Tracy Watkins

But the $64 million question is whether hip pocket policies are where that money should be spent. Or here’s a better way of phrasing that question – is it where you, the voter, want that money spent?

Apart from the widespread devastation, loss of life and stories of individual hardship repeated over and over again in the recent extreme weather events that have hammered Auckland, Northland, the Coromandel, Gisborne and elsewhere, we have seen the effect of neglected infrastructure, years of poor decision-making, and lack of preparedness which are the result of decades of a preoccupation with hip pocket policies.

Policies that might have set us on the path to being a wealthier nation are too often neglected in favour of short-termism at the ballot box.

The chickens are coming home to roost everywhere. – Tracy Watkins

But we’re the real problem. Politicians promise us what they think we want to hear.

It’s understandable that at a time when people feeling poorer is the problem that policies with a less immediate dividend – like infrastructure and skills and technology and the environment – might feel like the wrong answer.Tracy Watkins


Quotes of the week


Auckland’s floods are not our Chernobyl disaster. But they are a devastating disaster nonetheless. We will have to reckon with billions of dollars of property damage, disrupted lives and, worst of all, the loss of irreplaceable human lives.

And while the bureaucracy did not cause the flood, it does seem that a bureaucratic mindset impeded swift decision making and an effective response to protect the public. Which is no surprise because that is the deadening effect that bureacracy and officialdom has on leadership. – Liam Hehir

Bureaucratic structures, like the ones that failed Auckland so badly, are characterised by hierarchical structures, set rules and procedures the and division of responsibility. People with a rationalist mindset love these structures because they think they deliver efficiency and accountability to government operations. In practice, however, they create a diffusion of responsibility through impersonal forces, leading to people refusing to take accountability.

One of the major issues with bureaucracy is that it can create a culture in which people are more concerned with following rules and procedures rather than taking immediate action to address a problem or situation. After all, you can’t be criticised for following the rules. Because responsibility is shared, with no responsibility for the outcome, a sense of detachment sets in even in the midst of suffering.Liam Hehir

Populists often campaign on promises to shake up the status quo and disrupt entrenched bureaucracy, but once they attain power, they often find the comforts and excuse making of bureaucracy too easy to hide behind. This is particularly true in situations where difficult decisions must be made and accountability is required. – Liam Hehir

How much confidence should the public have in authorities managing natural disasters? Not much, judging by the farcical way in which the civil defence emergence in Auckland has played out.

The way authorities dealt with Auckland’s extreme weather on Friday illustrated how hit-and-miss our civil defence emergency system is. In particular, the communications failures made the crisis much worse than it needed to be. – Bryce Edwards

Although the mayor, as well as the emergency systems and authorities, obviously didn’t create the disaster, they had a responsibility to mitigate its worse effects, which they did not do. Lives have been lost, the public has faced significant disruption, and there have been billions of dollars of damage to property. The failures of authorities mean that these consequences have potentially been much worse than they needed to be.Bryce Edwards

Jacinda Ardern quitting seems like a long time ago now given all the news we’ve had since. But I can tell you my first thought was not – oh dear, misogyny forced her out. The true reason of course was the polls, the research, the divisiveness, the polarisation, the fact Labour was on a hiding to nothing with her at the helm.

Epic failures to deliver on so much, the arrogance that had crept in, the fact she clearly couldn’t stand the reality of not being popular anymore. Those jumping to assert that it was misogyny only discredit all women in leadership positions. We’ve had female leaders in this country for years, they hold their own, they don’t need coddling and defending and protecting.

Ardern just didn’t like the idea of losing. She wasn’t up for the grind of election year on the hustings with people giving her a hard time. And fair enough, that’s on her. I don’t begrudge her wanting to pull the pin on her ‘team of 5 million’ when it didn’t suit her. But even she didn’t want the misogyny defence. Even she argued that wasn’t a factor. She just didn’t want to do it anymore. Fair cop.

Although the whole thing did remind me of an Air B&B guest who trashes the place, in our case the country, then leaves without cleaning up. It was not – as may’ve been inferred – some late summer holiday revelation she had either. We now know it was all planned and arranged back before Christmas.   – Kate Hawkesby

Canny and clever of the Labour party? Or Machiavellian? It doesn’t really matter, the point is she’s gone, and somehow the media got sucked into thinking that a new leader means a whole fresh new Labour. 

How? It’s the same old government with the same old policies with the same spending habits and dysfunction that we’ve seen all along. Nothing’s changed. The guy who wouldn’t listen to dairy owners over ram raids, or fix the Police portfolio when he had it, or improve our woeful education or sort our Covid response in a way that didn’t divide the entire country, is now in charge. Kate Hawkesby

 Well last night’s two polls tell us it may be better optics for voters – who also seem sucked into the fiction that a new leader means a whole new approach to governing.

So a honeymoon bump? Or can Chippy turn it around for the party? I mean he doesn’t grate the average Kiwi the same way Jacinda Ardern did, but he’s still Labour, and they’re still useless.

So, my biggest surprise over the holidays was not Ardern quitting or Hipkins coming in, but the sycophantic response to it where he’s been painted as some kind of Messiah, and her as a dearly departed Saint. – Kate Hawkesby

The good news is there is no need to worry about Co-Governance anymore! Co-Governance is a thing of the past now!

The bad news is, we are now entering the stage of governance according to the Maori world view, and that is governance according to Te Ao Maori.

Te Ao Maori means respect and acknowledgement of Maori customs and protocols, it means embracing the Maori story and identity and recognising what that means, not just for Maori, but for all New Zealanders. – John Porter

New Zealand’s education is already in a perilous state. Why are we installing the vision of a minority at the centre of New Zealand’s secondary education system? This, without formal approval from the public, can only be described as a radical step with far-reaching and long-term consequences. – John Porter

If you want to influence and change thoughts or actions, where do you start? In education of course. In particular, the most impressionable: the younger generation.

Using education to influence and change thoughts or actions can be described as employing soft power.

Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one prefers or desires. That can be accomplished by coercion and payment or attraction and persuasion.

Soft power employs persuasion and attraction to obtain the preferred outcomes. John Porter

Very quietly and with no public debate (I can’t find any record of public debate), we see rollout starts in 2023.

To me, this simply continues Labour’s sponsorship of the Maori caucus and activists’ coup-by-stealth strategy.

Say nothing or very little and, lo and behold, we have governance according to Te Ao Maori! – John Porter

And so — pouff! — five and a half years after that interview, Ardern reached the end of the political road as Prime Minister of New Zealand (or “Aotearoa New Zealand” as she prefers to call the country).

Her sudden political irrelevancy was confirmed by polling taken after her resignation. It’s what anyone quitting a job, or a relationship, secretly fears most — that their colleagues or lover will be much, much happier without them.

That appears to be the case for Ardern. Two polls on Monday evening had Labour rocketing up the charts.Graham Adams

Yesterday’s darling, Jacinda Ardern, plummeted to just five per cent — a figure presumably composed of loyal voters who either hadn’t heard she had resigned as prime minister or didn’t want to believe the terrible news, in much the same way the bereaved sometimes can’t believe their loved one is no longer going to walk in the door again.

Despite the brutal confirmation that she had become a liability to her party, and that voters prefer a Labour government without her at the helm, few doubt that Ardern will fall on her feet.

In fact, Ardern’s resignation and political death has undoubtedly been sensible in terms of her future — bringing to mind US writer Gore Vidal’s quip about the death of his literary rival Truman Capote as “a wise career move”.  – Graham Adams

Ardern prudently jumped ship before what promises to be a messy and possibly incendiary election campaign year kicks off in earnest.

And one that would have likely been humiliating for her as well given the intense animosity towards her had already prevented her from campaigning publicly in the Hamilton West by-election in December, which saw the Labour candidate win only 30 per cent of the vote.

By leaping for the lifeboats before the election wrangling gets properly under way, she has at least protected her battered reputation from further damage. – Graham Adams

Curiously, commentators — both here and overseas — have told us that Ardern left “on her own terms”. This is a new and interesting use of the phrase given the polls for both Labour and her personally had previously been in freefall.

In fact, for a Prime Minister faced with a bruising and bitter election campaign when the peculiar diet of empathy and kindness she had recommended as a panacea for the nation’s ills had mostly made things worse, her choice of whether to continue in high office must have seemed to her to have been devised by Hobson himself.

Very few commentators have been unkind enough to point out that Ardern had become Prime Minister in name only — as the entrenchment debacle last November showed.

Has there been a more pitiful sight than a Prime Minister abasing herself by claiming a late-night deal stitched up between her own Minister of Local Government and a senior Green MP to entrench an anti-privatisation clause in Three Waters legislation was a ”team” mistake?

It was painfully obvious that Ardern had to prostrate herself before Queen Nanaia, who remained entirely unrepentant about the humiliation she had visited on her boss (and her new boss, Chris Hipkins, as well, who was obliged to go along with the charade).

Everyone could see who held the whip hand — and it certainly wasn’t Ardern. – Graham Adams

The good news for Ardern is that much of the wider world doesn’t view her as the liability she had become for the Labour Party in New Zealand.

There has long been talk that, as Prime Minister, she was always conducting herself with one eye on the possibility of a plum job at the UN to take up post-politics, but she undoubtedly has other lucrative options as well.Graham Adams

Ardern’s “values” will make her a shoo-in for addressing any “progressive” organisation keen, like her, on crimping free speech, and for those in favour of a “tweaked” democracy where the principle of “one person, one vote of equal value” is seen as “overly simplistic” — as she told Jack Tame on TVNZ’s Q&A last July.

And she will be prized by any organisation, of course, that wants to hear paeans to kindness and empathy, or jeremiads about misinformation and disinformation.

New Zealand has clearly had enough of all that, but the world will soon be Ardern’s glistening oyster. – Graham Adams

Somehow or other we need to rub together and live lives which are productive, where we co-operate with each other, where we compete with each other but we don’t do terrible things to each other. Judge John Brandts-Giesen

There is no point in you playing the colonisation card and saying that it’s all being caused by other people.

Ultimately you make your own luck. – Judge John Brandts-Giesen

Economists write about the “wealth effect”, how rising house prices make us feel wealthy. The average Auckland household has been amazed to discover they are millionaires. Of course, it is only on paper unless they sell their house.

But the wealth effect is real. People feel wealthier; they are more willing to invest and spend.

The poverty effect is just as real. Many Aucklanders have lost 20 per cent of their wealth in the last year. Despite Mayor Brown’s cost-cutting, the Auckland Council faces huge costs. The weekend’s rain event confirms that the city’s infrastructure deficit is enormous.Richard Prebble 

One of the advantages of our housing market is the willingness of Kiwis to move home. It makes for a flexible labour market. Downsizing in retirement means our housing stock is better utilised. A slowing housing market slows the whole economy.

For those forced to sell in a declining market, such as a divorce settlement, the house sale could be a life-changing loss in wealth.

As house prices have fallen all over the country, the poverty effect is countrywide.

There is nothing Hipkins can do about the poverty effect. Every month as the price of houses fall, home owners will feel poorer. Those with mortgages will have a double whammy, higher mortgage costs and a house that has lost value.

No matter how skilfully managed, it is events that overwhelm governments. – Richard Prebble 

The Cabinet reshuffle yesterday was all the confirmation we needed, as I said yesterday, that this is the same old government doing the same old stuff. 

Which is to be expected because they were never going to be able to just bring in fresh new experienced faces to shake everything up, because they don’t have any.Kate Hawkesby

But here’s the biggest scandal in the whole thing, the most absurd, bizarre and inexplicable thing out of yesterday – well actually there’s two. But let’s start with the first one, the main one.

Michael Wood being made Minister for Auckland.

On what planet did Chris Hipkins look at the what Michael Wood’s been doing and go.. you know what? Awesome for Auckland. Let’s give him that.

I mean, come on, this is the guy that Aucklanders hate. And I mean loathe. And it smacks of a Wellington-based politician not to know that and be so disconnected from the real Auckland that he went so far as to put this guy in charge of it.

This is the guy whose genius idea was to build a cycle way across the Harbour bridge, which could not have attracted more protest and fall out before it got so unceremoniously canned. He’s also the guy who wants to lower the speed limits on all our roads. Thus grinding to a halt any productivity left in Auckland at all.

He’s also the guy wanting to dig up Auckland for light rail. As Transport Minister he’s done absolutely nothing about the woeful state of the roads, the potholes, the public transport, all of it’s a shambles.

Not only that – to make matters even worse, he’s also Immigration Minister. The very guy who has kept workers that very sector has been crying out for out of this country. Same guy.

The greatest irony of all was Hipkins comment on it which bordered on farce when he said, “When Auckland succeeds the country succeeds.” And yet, inexplicably, he thinks the guy who can help make that happen is the biggest impediment to success and productivity that Auckland’s ever seen. It beggars belief, doesn’t it?  – Kate Hawkesby

What is Hipkins seeing in these guys that we are not? Or is it, as I said at the start, that the Labour party just doesn’t have any talent and that’s now been laid bare for us all to see.Kate Hawkesby

In a cost of living crisis, does none of this not concern us?

Are there not better uses for the money? Is it not a lesson in working out what you want to do, how you want to do it and how determined you are to actually deliver, before you open the wallet filled with money you don’t actually have anyway?

I just don’t see how a bloke, and they are all blokes, can take a job that doesn’t exist, in an entity that may never exist, accepting tax payers dollars – to twiddle your thumbs in a transition group going potentially nowhere. – Mike Hosking

Events has also taught us another lesson, a potentially dangerous one for a consumer society that requires for its functioning the constant renewal of desire: namely that a great deal of what we covet, desire or think necessary for our happiness is of very marginal or no importance at all to our well-being. But this, too, is a lesson that is likely to be soon forgotten: for if we had truly understood it, we should not have needed to be taught it in the first place. Normal shallowness will be resumed as soon as possible, as power is restored after a brief interruption.Theodore Dalrymple

The emotion caused by an intimation of mortality is difficult to disentangle completely from sorrow in itself at the death of someone whom one has known and esteemed. So long as they lived, I could deceive myself, at least partially, into believing that nothing fundamentally had changed since retirement: that life would go on for ever and that age could not wither us. It can, it does, and it must. – Theodore Dalrymple

The mental picture when that legislation was passed was of someone who would not cause any upset in a women-only changing room, toilet, ward or prison, because everyone would just accept he was a woman. Events of the last few days should have made it vivid to everybody that that is not the cohort we are dealing with now. The trans umbrella is now taken to include people . . . who cross-dress for erotic purposes. Naomi Cunningham

The proof in the pudding that if you hand out free stuff people become addicted, is to be found in the already alarming concerns being expressed as to how life will continue at the end of this month, and then again, at the end of March when the fuel subsidies come off.

The warning is already out from the transport people over the price of everything that’s transported, which is, well, basically everything.

Costs will have to be passed on – it’s the phrase of the age.

It was always going to be that way even though petrol is cheaper now than it has been – oil is at $85 or so a barrel.- Mike Hosking

We do of course still have a cost of living crisis, which the subsidy was supposed to offset.

But as the figures have shown at 7.2 percent, it is clear we don’t have the slightest idea how to reduce inflation and giving out subsidised stuff so that costs can be passed on only leads to more and more inflation. Which leads to us asking for pay rises, which leads to more inflation and so it goes.

The only way out of inflation is to bite the bullet and soak up some pain.

But Governments aren’t into that, especially in election year, and we aren’t into it any year. Especially if we can simply cry that we are poor and we’ll pass the cost on anyway.

False economics aren’t hard to understand, but they are dangerous to dabble in and almost impossible to get out of.Mike Hosking

You can’t understand the economy unless you understand human nature and human circumstance.

The conversations that resonate with me are when I meet with families, and I talk to them about the sacrifices they’re having to make in order to make their mortgage payments; when I talk to small businesses and I understand what their priorities are and what’s driving them nuts and what would actually help them turn the dial.

And you have those conversations when you’re on the ground and when you’re talking to people.

And so I think the hours I spend talking to mums and dads on the doorstep, talking to educators, talking to small business owners will be crucially important and making sure I’m in touch with the real economy. – Nicola Willis

We believe that we are not getting enough value out of the spending that’s currently occurring.

And we put that down to a lack of discipline and the way that that public service has been both instructed and held to account for performance.

We want to have a return to targets, clear, measurable, specific targets that both give clarity of where performance is, but also being encouraging collaboration and encouraging a focus on single issues.

We think this Government’s had a tendency to throw the kitchen sink at public agencies, and they are left wondering which bit to pick up and which bit to relax, and the result is that not enough gets done.

So we want to bring back targets in focus and more discipline and getting execution out of money. – Nicola Willis

There is no question that New Zealand, in order to be able to afford the living standards New Zealanders rightly expect, like the continued progress in improvement in frontline education and health services, then we will need to grow our capacity to pay for those things.

I think the best way to do that is by growing the productive capacity of the economy, and that’s where we have stood historically as a party; that if you want better services, you want to be able to afford the things that we all want, you grow your economy.

You have to back the productive sectors and businesses. – Nicola Willis

We think there are some things that are easily forgotten and that I fear the current administration is forgetting that are critical to growth and investment.

And they are business confidence, business certainty and a stable fiscal and regulatory environment, and by that, I mean some of the orthodoxies matter.

We think the Reserve Bank mandate measures should be focused on price stability.

We think having the willingness to review their performance with the amount of stimulus they did is really important.

We think that having a really laser focus on what is the cost of the regulatory burdens being imposed on our productive sector.  “We think it’s important that you have capital flows working so that people can access funding.

We think it’s important that people can access labour; I think there’s been a tendency to think that the current immigration challenges are short term, are momentary, but I tend to think that we’re going to see a medium term demographic pressure where the rest of the world will be competing for skilled workers.

And we in New Zealand are going to have to make sure we’ve got our citizens and our offering right if we’re to have the people needed to fuel productive growth.

And I do think this question of being disciplined about the way the Crown does its part of the economy, how it delivers outcomes is also important.Nicola Willis

I think New Zealand does get debt, and we are seeing now that a huge part of what’s driving our increase in costs are interest costs.

We are a small country; we are exposed.

We need to be prudent about debt but equally, and this is important; we do see the case for investment in productive infrastructure and infrastructure that supports good growth.

And we do need to make those long-term investments and consider New Zealand’s overall wealth position and not just not just the operating position.

And so those are the things that we’re weighing up.

But will we remain careful? Well, we remain fiscally orthodox. Yes, this is the National Party. – Nicola Willis

The extension is an extremely dumb economic policy; it gives three times as much support to those on the highest incomes who don’t need that much support, compared to those on the lowest incomes who need the support the most. Brad Olsen

New Zealand is the second least corrupt country on earth according to the latest Corruption Perception Index published yesterday by Transparency International. But how much does this reflect reality?

The problem with being continually feted for world-leading political integrity – which the Beehive and government departments love to boast about – is that it causes complacency about the existence of real corruption and shortcomings in our democracy.

For example, one of the biggest failings in New Zealand’s political system is our entirely unregulated system of corporate-political lobbying. Unlike similar countries, we have virtually no laws and regulations to keep the political power of vested interests and the wealthy in check. This means that the lobbying industry is booming, and corporate lobbyists are able to move back and forwards between senior government positions and private businesses with almost nothing to prevent conflicts of interest. – Bryce Edwards

Lobbyists running the Beehive have become quite a recurring theme since Labour came to power. When Jacinda Ardern became prime minister in 2017 she immediately got rid of her existing Chief of Staff, Neale Jones, who straight away became a lobbyist. She then employed another well-known lobbyist, GJ Thompson, who helped set the Government up, employed the staff, and then shifted straight back to the private sector to help corporates lobby the Beehive.

Yesterday we learned PM Chris Hipkins has hired another lobbyist to run the Beehive – Andrew Kirton. The new Labour prime minister has therefore followed Ardern’s democratically dangerous precedent of bringing in someone from the world of corporate power and influence, who is likely to eventually go back to lobbying afterwards. – Bryce Edwards

The conflicts of interest involved in having corporate lobbyists come in and run governments are immense. In other countries, it would be illegal. Here in New Zealand, unusually, there are no rules preventing lobbyists from coming in and out of top political rules.

While lots of media analysis is given to the ministers running the country, especially when there are reshuffles, there is a lack of acknowledgement that it is the unelected officials in the Beehive who often have much more power and influence over what happens.

Therefore, it is disappointing that Kirton’s appointment is not receiving much publicity or scrutiny. So far, the news items about his appointment don’t even mention that he is a lobbyist, and instead there is a vague mention of him being a “PR man”. – Bryce Edwards

It’s time to have some clear rules about ministerial jobs and the lobbying industry. Currently, there is nothing in the Cabinet Manual to prevent the likes of Kris Faafoi or the various lobbyists from moving in and out of the Beehive. And of course, once Kirton finishes his job as Chief of Staff, perhaps in October, he will be free to go straight back into the corporate world lobbying government again.

At the very least, when lobbyists come into positions of political power they should have to manage their conflicts of interest with full transparency. If lobbyists are to be allowed to take on jobs running the Beehive, a condition of employment should be the full public disclosure of the clients of their lobbying firm. But don’t expect to find out who Kirton’s Anacta worked for anytime soon. This isn’t the culture in the Beehive.

When she was prime minister Jacinda Ardern was frequently lampooned for the promise that her government would be the most transparent government ever. We are yet to see how transparent Chris Hipkins will be, and how much he is willing to allow decision-making to be tied up with vested interests. But he is off to a very poor start by giving his top position to a corporate lobbyist.Bryce Edwards

This Government, and the ministries that operate under it, have become far too comfortable with telling people to remain at home, and put their lives on hold.

Telling us to keep our kids out of school for a week is not a solution to a political problem.

It shows a frightening lack of critical thinking – an attribute that every senior leader should possess. – Rachel Smalley

You don’t stop kids in Otara from going to school because you want to clean up the streets in Herne Bay. Thankfully, the order to close has been lifted.

However, it also revealed just how reliant some of us have become on bureaucrats to tell us if our world is safe or not.

Know this. If you are a parent and you’re relying on a civil servant in an office in Wellington to tell you whether it’s safe for your child to go to school in Auckland, then you are doing it all wrong.

You, as a parent or caregiver, are your child’s first and last line of defence.  You decide. You do a risk assessment of your family’s circumstances, and you make the call. You know your child, you know your school, you know your suburb. It’s what we do as parents – we respond and react to the world and environment around us, to help our children learn and grow and negotiate life.

And at the same time, every day we place our trust in our child’s school. We trust them to make the right decisions. To protect them. To respond to a wide set of ever-changing circumstances and to ensure they are safe.  That’s why the Ministry should have passed the decision over to Principals to decide if their school could open or not.Rachel Smalley

Parent. Look around you. You know what to avoid and what to do to keep your child safe. And it may be, in your area, that the safest option is to keep your child at home. Or your school may choose to stay closed. But that’s because you, as a grown-up, have made informed decisions about your child and the situation you’re operating in. You’re not waiting for a government ministry or the local council to tell you how to think.

What else irks me about this? Decisions like a blanket closure teach our children to avoid adversity, and to shy away from any situation that, God forbid it might help them build resilience. We’re teaching them that if it’s a bit challenging outside, stay at home. If you come across a few roadblocks on the pathway of life, step back from them and wait for someone to clear them away for you. Don’t try and find a solution.

And we are also teaching children that they are not in control of their own destiny….that there is no such thing as self-determination, and if in doubt they should always look for an institution or an organisation that will tell them what to do.

Instead, we should be teaching our children that every problem provides an opportunity for a solution. Yes, it’s wet outside. Yes, there are slips and challenges. And yes, it might be a bit scary. But this is how we’re going to mitigate those risks and concerns. It’s called life. And sometimes, it ain’t easy.

Let’s stop living in a nanny state. This is New Zealand, for goodness sake. So if you think it’s safe and you have the means to do so, put some gumboots on your kids, and get them off to school. – Rachel Smalley

That New Zealand has not been out of the top two places for a decade is testament to our commitment to being a transparent and honest democracy.

However, I note that over the years, New Zealand’s score has declined from 91 to 87. It is also concerning that Transparency International has pointed to a ‘gradual decline’ in three of the eight indexes that contribute to our global ranking.Peter Boshier

We live in a world where opinion can pass as fact and misinformation can be easily spread. Now, more than ever, we need a public service, judiciary and government beyond reproach, – Peter Boshier

You can’t provide a clean car subsidy AND subsidise petrol at the same time.  That’s like David Lange banning nuclear warships, and at the same time he’s enriching uranium in Eketahuna.

Honestly, can anyone in our revenue and tax entities in Wellington think critically? Was there another solution? Can’t we support our most vulnerable kiwis in another way?

If you lower fuel prices, it will increase consumption and isn’t it extraordinary, that the same party who told us five years ago that climate change was our nuclear-free moment will now consider it a vote-winner to subsidise a fossil fuel.

If you believe in climate change, then live your truth people. You can’t yell at society to act on climate change, and then drink from a subsidised fuel pump.

There are better ways to provide targeted relief to kiwis – it just requires the Government to implement policy, instead of chasing populism. Rachel Smalley

Social discourse is the tool of social interaction that acts as a carrier of meanings, ideas and values in society.

Wrapped up in that are manners and etiquette.

Etiquette is the set of norms of personal behaviour in polite society, usually occurring in the form of an ethical code of the expected and accepted social behaviours that accord with the conventions and norms observed and practised by a society.

Manners are a way of behaving towards other people. – Steve Wyn-Harris 

I know I’m not alone in thinking that what seems like an old fashioned idea – that good manners are important – is still as relevant today as always.

I’m not religious but the Bible’s Golden Rule, “so in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you …” (Matthew 7:12) is a sound principle. So sound that all other religions have similar rules of conduct.

I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable about the change in social discourse in recent years. Not just in this country but all around the world.

Social media is not the primary cause but it certainly allows keyboard warriors to express their outrage and nastiness, often behind anonymity.Steve Wyn-Harris 

When you hear that your prime minister – whoever that may be – has protection because of the number of death threats but, worse, so do her partner and four-year-old child, also because of threats, a rational and sane person has to believe that this is not the country we want it to be.

The threats need to be taken seriously because the mosque shootings show there are individuals even within this society who go beyond being keyboard warriors.

It’s not just the likes of politicians and journalists who have hate and unpleasantness directed at them in these times. – Steve Wyn-Harris 

None of us is ever going to agree with everyone else’s ideas or policies, and there are some people we may not particularly like.

But don’t we all want to live in a civil society that functions peacefully and where manners are important and other people aren’t threatening our own family members or directing public hatred in our direction?

Well, I do, and it may be a naïve position to take but we as a society should learn from this recent experience and as individuals do everything to discourage this behaviour.Steve Wyn-Harris 

But history will record the Ardern government as our most incompetent with a legacy of disastrous decisions. Not only was Hipkins a key player in those hugely damaging blunders but he lacks any leadership imagery and instead oozes an uninspiring scout-masterly zeal. – Sir Bob Jones

White privilege is a myth. There are white people who are dirt poor and white people who are filthy rich. The racism of the Oscars is a myth, too. Witness the recent stunning successes for Latino directorsKorean directors, black-themed movies. As for Riseborough’s ‘privilege’ – this brilliant, chameleon-like actress has now been brutally reduced to her skin colour alone and there is virtually nothing she can do to push back against that. If she protests, she’ll be accused of ‘white fragility’, of shedding ‘white tears’, of using her power as a ‘white woman’ to harm others. She has been racialised and silenced. Some privilege that is. It’s clear as anything now: the new elites use the shaming accusation of ‘privilege’ to protect and extend the true privilege they themselves enjoy.Brendan O’Neill

The great irony of the current political landscape is that without a viable centre party, Labour and National’s race towards the centre risks being undone by the parties to their extreme. – Thomas Coughlan

This week I see with horror a headline online ‘Three Waters appoints three CEOs’ and my worse fears were realized… Business as usual.

So, this was the kind of bread and butter stuff affecting struggling New Zealanders that Hipkins our new PM was referring to addressing? Fine words Chris, but behind the scenes nothing has changed.

Same circus different ring master – Wendy Geus

Through her great wit, expressed through her characters, Jane Austen offends everyone in her novels. She is the mistress of offence. That’s why we love her work. Students love her too.

But some academics still seem to think their students are snowflakes and need coddling. How often do we have to remind them, and university management, that students are adults? They must stop infantilising them.Professor Dennis Hayes

There are deep problems with “kindness” as a political philosophy. If kindness is the answer to all problems, then the problems must be caused by unkindness. And people who disagree with you must be unkind people. Obviously you don’t have to listen when unkind people try to tell you anything. And you certainly don’t have to offer them the same concern or compassion as other people. Their unkindness is their own fault. You don’t have to do anything for it, or for them. And so “kindness” ends up being without empathy, the opposite of inclusion. Adern’s inability to deal with people who disagreed with or were disadvantaged by her government’s policies was striking. She seldom even attempted to speak to them and seemed incapable of winning over anyone who opposed her. In the end, her promise was empty. When policy problems could not be solved by having good intentions or meaning well, she had little more to offer. About a month before Christmas she announced that from now on she was going to concentrate on the economy, which begs the question: what had she been doing before then? Once she felt the need to grapple directly with the issues that most other responsible politicians concentrate on and struggle to solve, it seems that her motivation ebbed away. A fairy tale is over. Let’s hope there is going to be a happy ending. – Ian Thorpe

Journalism hinges on words. Used properly, they are precision tools. But a generation of journalists has emerged which doesn’t hesitate to use ideologically loaded terms of denigration to discredit people they don’t approve of.

Some of this can be put down to sheer ignorance – the inevitable result of an education system that produces journalists with only a rudimentary grasp of the English language and which does little to encourage respect for the accurate use of words.

To read any newspaper, even some of the more reputable ones, is to gasp at the amateurish writing and the frequency of solecisms that would in the past have been intercepted and corrected by sub-editors. Karl du Fresne 

Ignorance, however, only goes so far as an explanation for the misuse of words.  A lot of it is attributable to prejudice and malice, most of it ideologically based. Hence the frequency with which we see the use of conveniently vague but disparaging terms such as far-right, alt-right, racist, fascist and misogynist – labels used to discredit any political position that doesn’t align with those of the political, bureaucratic, academic and media elites. (It’s another striking paradox that while we supposedly have a proliferation of malignant groups on the right, it’s almost unheard of for the media to describe any person, group or political party as “far left” – still less to suggest that anyone qualifying for that description could have less than wholly noble motives.)

The absurd and dangerous term “hate speech” should be seen in the same light. In the woke glossary adopted by the mainstream media, “hate speech” means any expression of opinion that upsets someone. But the term is used very selectively, because those pushing for the adoption of so-called hate speech laws are not remotely interested in protecting the feelings or opinions of people they dislike. On the contrary, they freely indulge in vile and repugnant invective against them. Hate speech laws are intended by their backers to run one way only: to shield people and ideas they approve of.  – Karl du Fresne 

Perhaps more to the point, the loaded phrase “hate speech” has been promoted with no regard for the real meaning of that word “hate”, which describes an emotion so extreme and intense that historically it has led to genocide and other atrocities. By applying the term to the expression of opinions that do no more than offend sensitive minority groups, the language activists have grossly misappropriated its meaning. But it serves the valuable purpose, for them, of providing a pretext for the outlawing of ideas they don’t like.

All this has implications for public trust in journalism. When readers can no longer rely on words being used with accuracy and respect for their established meaning, and when derogatory labels are used as lazy substitutes for accuracy and considered analysis, with not even a fig leaf of substantiation, journalism loses its moral authority. It risks being reduced to the level of propaganda, vilification and simplistic sloganeering.Karl du Fresne 

 It’s grimly ironic that the same techniques are now used in the Western media by people who smugly think of themselves as liberal. The “othering” of dissenters is an inevitable (and make no mistake, intended) consequence.

I wonder, do those impostor journalists who so freely use damning terms such as “misogynist” stop to think what the words actually mean? – Karl du Fresne 

That such accusations are self-evidently preposterous doesn’t stop those who make them. And the frightening thing is that this virulent bigotry appears to have permeated the highest levels of the news media, where editorial gatekeepers decide what stories to cover and which opinions New Zealanders should be exposed to.Karl du Fresne 

Inflation is high and the government says we’re in a cost-of-living crisis, with groceries and building materials front and centre. But those Korean companies’ roofing steel, along with galvanised wire from Malaysia and China, are hit with anti-dumping duties. So you’re protected from affordable building products. Doesn’t it warm your heart? Tariffs are love.  – Dr Eric Crampton

It is reasonable to wonder whether any conceivable harm to a few on hearing the occasional upsetting term outweighs the harm to everyone in suppressing speech. Or whether overcoming the relatively minor discomforts of an unintentional, insensitive or inept comment might help students develop the resilience necessary to surmount life’s considerably greater challenges — challenges that will are not likely to be mediated by college administrators after they graduate.

Rather than muzzle students, we should allow them to hear and be heard. Opportunities to engage and respond. It’s worth remembering how children once responded to schoolyard epithets: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” Narrow restrictions on putatively harmful speech leave young people distracted from and ill-prepared for the actual violence they’ll encounter in the real world.Pamela Paul 

Most important of all, though, is that the bill has made clear that deadly violence of this sort and words are all on the same spectrum. Making a joke about someone’s God, saying that there are only two sexes – there’s little, of course, to distinguish such things from terrorist atrocities.

This is crucial, since our society has previously been acting on the assumption that speech and violence are significantly different, and that it’s precisely our ability to discuss things that allows us to avoid ghastly violence.

What fools we were! – Dr James Kierstead

When violent crime has increased by nearly a third, ram raids are continuing largely unchecked, and when Kiwis continue to face unacceptably long delays in the courts, any sensible Justice Minister would focus on effective responses to those challenges.

Hate speech legislation by contrast is not needed, and it will unnecessarily narrow free speech and expression in our country.Paul Goldsmith

A fallacy that may have relevance this week is argumentum ad novitatem (‘appeal to novelty’). This fallacy is committed when a claim is made that a new thing is better than an old one, simply because it’s new.

Like other fallacies, the appeal to novelty has intuitive appeal. People like shiny new things and are biased towards thinking they’re better than old ones.

Two political polls were released last Monday evening. They were the first out since Chris Hipkins’ elevation to the Premiership. In both, the Labour government enjoyed increases in support of about five percentage points.

On Kiwiblog, pollster David Farrar listed the change in support for both major parties in the first poll following each leadership change since 1974. Following 17 of the 20 changes, the relevant party’s support rose. Yet only three of those new leaders went on to win the following election. –

Whether or not appeal-to-novelty has anything to do with this week’s poll results, Farrar’s data suggest that it often influences voters’ views of new leaders.

Democratic elections work most effectively if people cast their votes rationally. But the pattern of new leaders enjoying an initial rise in support only to go on to lose, is just one of many phenomena that challenge that assumption.

Even so, free elections entail the freedom to vote irrationally. And despite our all-too-human flaws, democracy has yielded the most prosperous societies in history. – Dr Michael Johnston

As a libertarian when a government cuts taxes I am pleased, even ones that are purportedly a user fee, because in fact so much of what is collected from those user fees is not directed to services consumed by the users – in this case fuel tax and road user charges.  It would, after all, be much better if the amount collected was what is needed to pay to maintain and upgrade the roads, rather than be directed to pet projects designed to “change behaviour” (subsidise transport modes you aren’t willing to pay to use),.

However, it reeks of hypocrisy, as the Ardern/Hipkins Government proceeds to undermine a land transport funding system that once was seen as a shining example in a world where political pork barrelling is so often the order of the day (see Australia and the United States).  It’s much more than that though. – Liberty Scott

So you have a Labour Government that says tax cuts (proposed by National and ACT) will threaten health and education…. but then implements tax cuts, completely blanking out the fact that this either means less money for other spending or it means more borrowing – for tax cuts.  How “sustainable” is that?

It says tax cuts will benefit the rich the most, and then implements tax cuts that do just that.

It says cutting fuel tax will jeopardise spending on transport, and then implements tax cuts on fuel.

Finally, it claims climate change is the great crisis that especially needs New Zealand, the country that emits 0.09% of global CO2 emissions  must radically change how it lives, by constraining private motoring, but then subsidises road use like no government in recent history.

Votes are much more precious that policy objectives though, as is leaving a fiscal bomb for the other side if the election is lost, although if it were up to me, the next government could think long and hard about whether it subsidises public transport and rail from general taxes anyway (assuming it wants to do that), and leaving fuel tax and RUC for roads only.Liberty Scott

In my experience, everyone supports the right to freedom of speech, as long as it’s their own speech or the speech of people they agree with. But most speech falls outside that category. Most people would ask: why support the right of people to say things you hate, or fear or that you regard as dangerous?

That’s an intuitively reasonable question. I like some of what some people say, am indifferent to a lot of what is said and think we’d all be better off if some of what is said was never said. – Ira Glasser

Why defend the right of people to express views when such people, if they gained the power to do so, would eliminate my views, and maybe eliminate me?

For me, the answer is strategic. I can never be certain who will have political power. I can never be certain that the only people who get elected will agree with me. I know – because it has happened many times – that people will gain political power who will, if they can, act to punish me or people I agree with, because of our views. So what I need is an insurance policy. I want insurance against the probability that people in power will suppress or punish me for my views.Ira Glasser

Sustainable energy, infrastructure, climate change mitigation and the continuation of modern life as we know it relies on mining,” Vidal says. “This is why the world is demanding more mining, not less, and certainly not bans on new mining or anti-mining rhetoric to politically play to a few.

“It would be concerning if by taking an anti-mining stance in this Bill, ideology isolated New Zealand from the rest of the world in the quest to resource a better future with minerals, responsibly mined in an employment environment that values worker health and safety, working conditions, and remuneration.

“The way we mine in New Zealand, within strict employment laws and stringent environmental rules and regulations is a benefit. It is not the case the world over. When people start looking at the provenance of their mined minerals, we are a country that stands out on the side of good. – Josie Vidal 

It’s been over a week, and it’s remarkable that Jacinda Ardern has simply disappeared from the politics of a country she exercised almost unprecedented levels of power over, for the previous few years. The (leftwing statist post-modernist identitarian) world has cried out “why”, and far too many have come to the conclusion that it’s no doubt sexism (in the country that gave her the greatest electoral mandate of any Prime Minister since 1951, and had previously had two female Prime Ministers).

However, Ardern’s resignation appears on the face of it to reflect two things:

  • Fatigue from someone who isn’t intellectually or emotionally able to handle the time and the stress of the position
  • Fear of an election campaign during which scrutiny will be its highest and the chance of defeat the strongest yet. – Liberty Scott

Of course in this neo-identitarian political age (a variation on classic chauvinistic identitarianism), Ardern’s age and sex were notable as an “achievement”, enhanced by her clearly being someone who never seemed to covet the role (which is now born out by her fatigability), made her a darling of international media.  The Anglosphere in particular is dominated by mono-linguistic types who pay little attention to the likes of Sanna Marin, the Finnish (young female) Prime Minister who chose to ignore the wrath of Vladimir Putin and seek Finland’s membership of NATO. – 

Ardern was notable for embracing an explicitly sympathetic and emotional image to leadership, and for declaring how kindness in government is a virtue. This is extraordinary from a politician who has led a government that, by and large, has sought to take more of people’s money, borrow more from future generations and to direct and centrally manage and control more intensely than any government since the Muldoon era.

I suppose Ardern will regard the generosity of her government with welfare benefits to be “kindness”, which of course is really kindness with other people’s money.  That “kindness” certainly will have relieved some poverty, but also contributes towards a dependency on other people’s money, and the labour shortage that has emerged since the end of Covid restrictions.Liberty Scott

New Zealand has both a critical skills shortage, a restrictive approach to immigration and is generous to those who don’t want to work, but Ardern can’t connect the dots.  At no point has this government noted that being too “kind” with other people’s money encourages people to be economically idle.

The reality of the “kindness” narrative is no joke to the victims of ramraid attacks, and the growth in crime, because the “kindness” is interpreted as there being an easy ride for perpetrators.  The fact so many of the victims are recent migrants who own businesses is a community that maybe sees less kindness in the rhetoric, particular the notion that the reason some young people drive cars to steal stuff is claimed to be poverty, rather than opportunistic nihilism.

Another group not feeling the kindness includes immigrants who invested time and money into New Zealand and have been told to fuck off back home leave.  – Liberty Scott

Ardern’s Government was kind to the “right” kind of people, such as people working in horse racing, international film producers, America’s Cup syndicate employees, minstrels performing and businesspeople with stands at the Dubai Expo.  Average New Zealanders don’t have that sort of “pull”.

Then there are the Afghans who helped New Zealand forces not getting automatic visas to move to NZ after the Taliban took over.  What could be less kind that for people who worked with foreign forces not being granted residency when their psychopathic totalitarian enemy takes over?  However, the Ardern Government’s attitude to foreign policy was more about signalling virtue than substance.  Calling for a ban on nuclear weapons is the sort of naive student politics that demeaned Ardern, as was calling climate change her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”. Then again if she meant New Zealand taking action that would have no impact on a global issue or problem (which is what the nuclear ban achieved) then she might have been right.

A lot of money has been spent by the Ardern Government, yet the performance of public services continues to be woeful, not least because the incentives of prioritising the interests of vocal professional unions are not on consumers of those services.  – Liberty Scott

The narrative now being conveniently trotted out about Ardern is the abuse she receives from critics, and certainly no one can justify threats of violence against her and her family.  Yet her main opponent in 2020 was Judith Collins, and abuse of her is largely brushed to one side, and of course many of those who decry abuse of Ardern are more than happy to tolerate abuse of male politicians as Graham Adams wrote in The Platform.  I’m old enough to remember the constant references to Robert Muldoon as “piggy”, and the idea that somehow people shouldn’t be able to throw pejoratives at women in power any less than men is rather chilling.  People have the right to call their leaders names and be rude about them, even if it is puerile and they don’t like it, what they don’t have the right to do is to threaten them. Ardern undoubtedly gets some nasty threats, and different ones from men because she is a woman, but it’s intellectually lazy polemics to claim that the country that granted Ardern a remarkable mandate in 2020 is also dripping misogynistic hatred of women in power (despite having also granting a mandate for Helen Clark to govern for nine years), when hatred of men in power is just brushed over as part of the game.

It’s good for Ardern to give up, nobody should be in the job if they find it too difficult, but just over a week on, and it is clear that Hipkins has just tweaked the dials, and done little other than give the impression he’s a bit less woke-authoritarian, and he’s more than willing to extend unfunded tax cuts (fuel tax/RUC discount) and say he’s “reviewing” policies that Ardern and her whole government were dead keen on hanging their hats on. – Liberty Scott

My observation of the week is a lot of people didn’t really perform the way they should have.
But as I have said several times this week, I wasn’t expecting them to.

This country has been littered over the years with various disasters that weren’t dealt to properly because the people who frequent the emergency and civil defence offices are fairly mediocre.

You can add the Ministry of Education in this time around. Blame Wayne all you want but their performance was spectacular in its level of incompetence. – Mike Hosking

Wayne is a cantankerous old sod who doesn’t suffer fools. But here’s the thing – we knew that.

I think I might have had the advantage over many who got all agitated, given I wasn’t expecting much from anyone, I wasn’t disappointed.

You see, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t ignore local body politics the way most people do and then get grumpy when they don’t perform, it’s a two-way street.Mike Hosking

Which brings us to the media. He doesn’t like the media and the media don’t like him.

Add also the fact the media in general take themselves too seriously. So when he calls them drongos, 1) he is right but, 2) they shouldn’t get so tetchy about it.

Wayne isn’t setting the world on fire but equally there is no doubt in my mind the media are out to get Wayne because they wanted Efeso Collins to win and they can’t believe the rest of the world doesn’t think like they do. – Mike Hosking

Which brings us back to the start of this – if we all actually participated in democracy a bit better this whole week might have been a lot different.Mike Hosking

Journalists fawned over Jacinda Ardern and never highlighted her well-documented capacity to say one thing (“He Puapua hasn’t been to Cabinet”) while her ministers were busy implementing its recommendations. When the change came, journalists were happy to accept Chris Hipkins and laud his past achievements without being too specific about what they were. It was left to others to point out that under his watch as Minister of Education 50% of Kiwi kids were now wagging school. – Michael Bassett

Nor has any media outlet that I’ve seen probed the new Prime Minister’s confusing early utterances on co-governance. Yes, journalists informed us that neither Ardern nor Hipkins seemed to know the three short clauses of the Treaty of Waitangi, something in itself I’d have thought warranted comment? Hipkins tells us that he thinks co-governance hasn’t been explained adequately to the wider public who find the concept confusing. One might therefore have expected journalists to delve into what, precisely, the government meant when ministers incorporated this “misunderstood” concept into lots of Acts of Parliament over recent years? It might well have carried different meanings in different Acts. How will we ever know?Michael Bassett

But of course, if the term “co-governance” can’t be adequately understood by the wider public, how on earth can “mahi tahi”? Constant use of improperly translated Maori words for everyday concepts in a world where only 3% of the overall population can speak Maori fluently lies near the heart of the public’s current unease with this government. The rush to re-name government departments, health facilities, universities with Maori names that almost nobody understands, not to mention the errors of fact that lie behind much of the New Zealand history curriculum signed off by Chris Hipkins as Minister of Education, and now taught in schools, is deeply worrying. People have a right to be able to comprehend the world in which they live and pay taxes. The nuts and bolts of co-governance must be spelled out by Labour’s ministers. – Michael Bassett

The longer this government is in power Maori demands keep ratcheting up. A clear explanation of co-governance is urgently needed. It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to provide that. It shouldn’t be left to the unelected Judiciary. Nor can it be left to interested parties to provide their own versions.

What is becoming clear is that this Labour government is swimming out of its depth. In their determination to empower Maori with legislative authority and resources beyond what their population warrants, the wider public sees a growth of racial division throughout the land. Even if the new Prime Minister manages to redefine what he means by co-governance he won’t succeed in convincing 83% of the population of New Zealand that enhancing the rights of a small minority of the population over the rights of everyone else will do anything more than keep irritating the political scene. The reality is that Maori, Europeans, Pacific Islanders, Asians and those from other parts have equal rights if they are citizens of New Zealand. Article 3 of the Treaty that neither Ardern nor Hipkins seems to have read guarantees “the same rights and duties of citizenship” to all.

As they go about their jobs, media editors would be wise to remember that they owe a greater loyalty to the words of the Treaty than to the Labour government that is paying them out of the Public Interest Journalism Fund. It is public money, not a party political handout. Keep on behaving as you are and you guarantee that the PIJF will soon come to an end. Michael Bassett 

Note to trans activists: no amount of cosmetic surgery turns a man into a woman. – Brendan O’Neill 

Just when you thought the trans ideology couldn’t get any crankier, here comes the face reveal. This is when a man who’s becoming a woman, or thinks he’s becoming a woman, takes to social media to unveil his surgically ‘feminised’ face to the world. Gone is his square jaw and big nose, fleshy giveaways of maleness, and in their place is a thinner, more dinky nose and pert cheekbones. Behold my womanly visage! It’s like a woke version of PT Barnum’s museum of freaks. Barnum pulled back the curtain to reveal women with beards – the face reveal invites us to roll up, roll up and gawk at the man who turned into a lady.Brendan O’Neill 

The cult of the face reveal tells us a lot about the woke moment, none of it good. First, there’s the staggering and sexist double standards when it comes to cosmetic surgery. For decades now, the cultural elites have sneered at women who’ve gone under the knife to get a smaller nose or bigger breasts. Whether it was the Baywatch beauties of the Nineties getting silicone implants or even the Essex girls of the Noughties going for a less invasive vajazzle (Google it), the verdict was always the same: what shallow, self-obsessed broads! Yet now we’re meant to fawn over men who undergo insanely more meddlesome surgery in the mistaken belief that it will make them women. The same kind of talking heads who were aghast at vajazzles think a penectomy followed by vaginoplasty is absolutely fine (Google it. Actually, don’t.) – Brendan O’Neill 

The language our society uses changes dramatically when it comes to male-to-‘female’ surgery. Women’s cosmetic procedures are always jobs: ‘boob jobs’, ‘nose jobs’. Words like ‘plastic’ and ‘fake’ are bandied around. Magazines publish lists of celebs rumoured to have fake boobs. Trans surgery, in contrast, is ‘healthcare’. ‘Gender-affirming healthcare’, they call it. One outlet described Mulvaney’s FFS as a ‘trans-healthcare milestone’. It would be a brave soul who referred to a transwoman’s breasts as fake or plastic. They’d be cancelled in an instant. Which is ironic, because transwomen’s breasts are fake. The likes of Pamela Anderson are accentuating their real breasts when they have cosmetic surgery, whereas men who identify as women are basically giving themselves glorified moobs when they take ‘titty skittles’, as Grace Lavery refers to progesterone supplements.

These double standards expose one of the most sinister elements of the trans ideology: its belief that transwomen are not only actual, literal women but are better women than biological women. They’re the truest women. Embrace ‘your true self with gender-reassignment surgery’, surgeons say. We’re told that, through radical surgery, men who want to be women can ‘become their real self’ and find their ‘true identity’. Real, true – it’s about as far as you can get from the ‘fake tits’ discourse that swirls around women who have cosmetic procedures. The implication is that the body of the man who ‘becomes a woman’ is more authentic than the body of an actual woman, because he had to suffer so much to get it. His ‘femaleness’ is hard won, and thus holier.  – Brendan O’Neill 

The entire idea of FFS – as I will be calling it from now on – is misogynistic. It really does reduce womanhood to costume, to performance, a mask that can be pulled on by anyone, including those of us who have penises.  – Brendan O’Neill 

The belief that some hormones, a bit of face chiselling and a name change are all it takes to become a woman is profoundly chauvinistic. It robs womanhood of its biological, social and relational truths and makes it mere garb, to be donned by all who desireBrendan O’Neill 

This is trans activism summed up: the entire category of woman undemocratically reimagined and rebranded to make it inclusive of men. They really are happy to overthrow millennia’s worth of science and truth, especially the truth that women don’t have dicks, just to make themselves feel better when they’re strutting around the pool in a two-piece. –  Brendan O’Neill 

 Here’s the thing, though: Mulvaney is only a zanier expression of the sexist self-delusion that underpins the entire modern trans movement. Dylan, you raised Frankenstein, and now it falls to me to tell you that just as Frankenstein’s monster never became human, so people born male never become female. No matter how much FFS they have.Brendan O’Neill 

The policing of harmless language is becoming more ridiculous by the day.  –Simon Evans

The Associated Press (AP) had a good deal of oeuf on its mush last week, after one of its Twitter accounts warned journalists not to refer to the French as ‘the French’, as this could be dehumanising and offensive.Simon Evans

The French were not singled out by the AP as a sensitive, easily diminished race. They were in a list of categories, with whom equal caution was advised. Most of the others, however, would be more universally pitied or condemned, such as ‘the poor’, ‘the mentally ill’ and ‘the college-educated’. So you can see why the French got le hump. After the French embassy in the US mockingly changed its name to ‘the embassy of Frenchness’, the AP apologised and deleted its tweet.

The AP’s general idea is that when the definite article (‘the’) is used to, well, define articles, to create sets, it can feel restrictive and even narrow to those who find themselves inside those lines. They would like to think they have more to offer to the world than their shackles. And I do understand that. Especially when those words gesture to a stereotype. – Simon Evans

The AP’s view is that one should find softer terms that suggest any given category is just a shade or perhaps a footnote in a person’s life – almost an afterthought, rather than a hard outline. Rather than ‘the poor, the mentally ill and the college-educated’, we should say things like: ‘Those living without funds, those facing mental-health challenges and those burdened by delusions of competence, aka bleeding know-it-alls.’ The problem is that this is only a mincing step away from the knowingly ridiculous, absurdly genteel variations you sometimes hear, such as ‘animals of the canine persuasion’. Simon Evans

It’s all very depressing. And this, remember, is not some deluded student body or a small municipal committee that has been captured by the woke. This is the AP – by some distance the largest and most authoritative news agency in the English-speaking world, and the source of the default style guide to writing elegant journalese. This is the guide hacks resort to in order to avoid getting hacked up by the sub. This is going to affect the copy you read (elsewhere at least).

While it’s obviously delightful, as a rosbif, to see insinuations of Frenchitude treated as if they were as intrinsically insulting as a ‘your mum’ joke, there is a wider if rather joyless point that needs making here, too – about the pointlessness of policing language.

The reason this nonsense is ever coiling around our ankles is very similar to the reason that we have, every day now, some fresh outrage in the name of trans rights or diversity, equity and inclusion. It speaks to a determination to overthrow the tyranny of language. It arises from a suspicion that language itself is to blame for human behaviour – that language has not so much described the world, but has created it.

It is possible, of course, to dehumanise a group by focussing on one aspect of its character, whether it is a nationality or something morally freighted. But you are not going to stop people making assessments of people, and noticing how groups vary. Nor – within limits – should you. Pattern recognition is a key human trait. It’s part of what makes us so adorably goofy. – Simon Evans

It might be hoped that this little French embarrassment alerts the AP to the folly of its Grail quest of creating a more sensitive lingua franca. Every so often, I like to hope that institutions like this, when captured by some mutant form of political correctness, will one day catch sight of themselves in the mirror, and like B-movie zombies – sorry, people living with being dead – recoil with horror.  – Simon Evans

Comment on the merger of polytechnics and industry training boards was conspicuously hard to find when the virtues of new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins were laid out.

No doubt, Labour was keen to give minimal mention to the unwise changes and the costly and delayed transition that was taking place under Mr Hipkins’ watch as minister of education.

The media, in the traditional honeymoon period for new prime ministers, had other focuses. Mr Hipkins, at least for now, received a free pass.

But the merger, ill-thought-out from the start, has been a dog.

It has taken towards four years, has already built an expensive bureaucracy and it will do little to help those who really matter, the “learners”. The establishment budget from the Government to the end of last year was $121million (although costs also have been put at $200million), and a lot more is going to be needed. – ODT

The Government has told New Zealanders that the primary goal of the Three Waters reform is to deliver good water services and related infrastructure in an efficient and financially sustainable manner. And the Auckland floods have certainly underscored the importance of reliable water infrastructure (though whether it is advantageous to wrest the responsibility for stormwater away from local councils, where it sits rather logically alongside urban planning, and centralise it, is an open question). The problem is that next to nobody believes that the plan that’s on the table is going to do the trick.

The WSEs will be so encumbered by a toxic combination of debt and dictates and directives that there is a risk that good water services in New Zealand are never delivered at a reasonable cost. And moreover, there is also considerable risk that one or more of the entities staggers under its massive debt and falls foul of the attendant covenants while in the midst of a multibillion-dollar build programme (recall that the plan is for these WSEs to quickly shoulder debt that amounts to some 8x their Ebitda, a load which S&P describes as “highly leveraged”). – Kate MacNamara

The competencies on the boards will need to include mātauranga Māori, or traditional Māori knowledge. And it’s not hard to imagine how a contemporary interpretation of Māori knowledge might find itself in conflict with some of the other public goods the WSEs are supposed to pursue: efficiency for example or financial discipline.

And there’s more. All iwi and hapū in the area covered by each of the WSEs will have the right to formulate directives, known as “te mana o te wai statements”, for their respective WSE. The scope of these is very loose and could extend to anything from employment and investment goals to environmental protection. We have little idea of how these directives will be used, only that the cost of improving the skills of Māori to participate in guiding the delivery of water services is, according to the DIA, an uncalculated cost and one that it will be borne by the new WSEs and therefore paid by water ratepayers.

There are hundreds of iwi and hapū in each of the water services areas (with the possible exception of area D, the lower South Island), and there may be hundreds of such directives, possibly conflicting one with another or with Wellington’s Government Policy Statement for the entities, or with the strategic direction from the Regional Representative Groups, or with the priorities of local councils and ratepayers, or with the stipulations of either of the two water regulators (economic and water quality). – Kate MacNamara

Hipkins would need a powerful spell to get it past his Māori caucus, but it could earn him a new desk plaque. A cursory search of the internet’s novelty shops for options throws up: Suck less. It’s not much of an election slogan but in the age of aspirational goals in politics, it’s a start. – Kate MacNamara

Trust the Italians to know what a woman is. The land where the twin peaks of femininity are the mamma and the sex bomb has a separate jail exclusively for ‘transwomen’. Julie Burchill

In the current trans debate, both sides see their humanity and dignity disrespected by either of the options on offer (make people with penises use male facilities even if they answer to ‘Penelope’ / allow female facilities to be swamped in male genitalia). Yet whenever a third way is suggested, like the Italian prison solution, it’s notable that the trans activists get very cross indeed. This is telling. If they really fear male violence in public conveniences or other sex-segregated spaces as much as they claim, a third option would be perfectly acceptable to them. But if their desire is to gain access to women’s private spaces, then they will hold out for that option.

Only a very silly person indeed believes that transwomen are only ever shrinking violets who just want to press wild flowers and urinate sitting down. Many of them are dirty great bruisers who could easily work as bouncers if the bottom fell out of the sissy-porn market. Make no mistake, trans ‘rights’ is the first ‘liberation’ movement both inspired and fuelled by pornography. Various ages and trials of a woman’s life can be sexualised, from the trans predilection for dressing up as little girls to the ghastly fake babies (don’t ask), which allow men to ape gestation and childbirth. Lesbians, of course, are the most loved and hated targets of these autogynephiles, which is thoroughly in line with porn-scored desires. – Julie Burchill

Incarcerated women have been failed by society every step of the way. Now, to take their wretchedness to another level, they are asked to meekly submit to an experiment in which convicted rapists are placed among them.

The fact that privileged female MPs who call themselves feminists put the porn-fuelled desires of men, even of rapists, over the rights of the most vulnerable women in society is a very bad look indeed. –  Julie Burchill

A visitor to New Zealand who read the Natural and Built Environment and the Spatial Planning Bills would assume our country was populated largely by Māori tribes whose customs and traditional knowledge could solve resource management challenges. In reading the Bills in more depth she would infer the tribes were impeded in using their knowledge by a powerful, yet unhelpful entity termed “the Crown.” To her relief she would then “learn” that 183 years ago the tribes and Crown had signed a Treaty which stipulated principles and the Crown’s obligations in relation to Māori. Legislation based on these principles and obligations was being enacted to ensure Māori had adequate input into natural and built environment and spatial planning issues.  – Dr Peter Winsley

However, when reading the Bills in isolation she would not realise that self-identified Māori make up only about 16% of the New Zealand population, and almost all have some non-Māori blood. Furthermore, few live on tribal land or live in tribal ways. If our visitor then read the Treaty itself, she would learn that the Crown obligations and principles stated were not actually from the Treaty and had in fact been invented from the 1980s on by judicial, political, and tribal activists. She would be surprised to learn that the Bills largely ignored 84% of the New Zealand population.

However, the biggest surprise of all would be the argument legislators seemed to be making that resources are best managed using Māori tribal customs (tikanga) and traditional knowledge (mātauranga Māori) rather than modern scientific methods and disciplines such as ecology, geology, planning, surveying, architecture, building, infrastructure, and property and contract law. – Dr Peter Winsley

The Natural and Built Environment and the Spatial Planning Bills are part of a wave of New Zealand legislation that departs from the progressive arc of history and are regressive. These Bills create new race-based rights and privileges that further divide New Zealanders.

The 1986 New Zealand Constitution Act marked the point where the Crown’s role was reduced to the symbolic and procedural, and our democratically elected Parliament became sovereign in New Zealand. In a Parliamentary democracy power comes from people’s votes not out of the barrel of a gun, or from tribal, judicial or political activism. Authentic democracy can only function in an open and informed society where people have equal rights and exercise them. This is what we are rapidly losing.Dr Peter Winsley

Instead of treating all New Zealanders as equals regardless of race, this legislation confers extra rights on Māori. Despite some implausible Crown legal advice, the legislation seems to clearly breach section 19(1) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 that ensures freedom from discrimination based on race.

Compared to the current Resource Management Act the proposed new system erodes democracy and accountability to voters. It shifts much decision making to non-elected tribal representatives who may wield power far beyond what their numbers justify. While many of these people will be knowledgeable, skilled and dedicated, the overall impact is to reduce the pool of available (non-Māori) expertise that can be brought to bear in natural environment protection and resource management.

Good law needs to use unambiguous language, be clear in intent, provide certainty, and be workable. That is, people must understand and be able to respond to it. Common law has been built up over many years as precedents have been established and shared understandings have been widely adopted.

Terms such as ‘tikanga’, ‘kaitiakitanga’ and ‘mātauranga Māori’ are core elements of the legislation. Precise definitions of these terms will be needed for the legal system to function effectively. – Dr Peter Winsley

Inevitably there will be conflicts between tikanga and mātauranga Māori assertions and evidence from modern, universal science. The former may depend on custom and authority and the latter on evidence, and it is evidence that must prevail in a modern, open and secular society.

The legislation seeks to make Māori custom or tikanga sources of law within New Zealand.Dr Peter Winsley

The resource management reforms are more about instituting a race-based system than creating a more efficient resource management system. It may be appropriate to intervene to overcome barriers to Māori engagement in resource management or any other such fields. However, the Bills do not remove barriers so much as create powerful new race-based institutions and regulatory processes that privilege Māori over all other New Zealanders.

The government would be wise to withdraw the proposed Bills and replace them with enabling legislation that does not discriminate on race lines. This legislation should vest decision-making in local communities and focus on improving the speed and lowering the cost of local decision-making processes. Decision-making must be accountable to affected communities, including but not limited to Māori. – Dr Peter Winsley

We’ve always considered ourselves a good society, and rightly so. But we’re struggling to maintain that position. The reality is that every aspect of a good and decent society requires serious improvement in our special little country. We may be sliding, but that slide is reversible.

You could say that this is merely a list of issues with little in the way of solutions. However, you can also read it as a list of aspirations or priorities. Aspirations to do better across a variety of areas where we’re currently not doing well. A shopping list for our future leaders if you like. Would you rather spend one billion dollars on helping overseas countries deal with climate change or on three new hospitals? – Bruce Cotterill


Quotes of the week


In the Lebanon, everything depends on which religious community you belong to, even your water and electricity supply (both intermittent and unreliable). Overseeing the whole polity are corrupt, kleptocratic, oligarchic leaders of various religious, political, and territorial fiefdoms, who dispute hegemony among themselves but nevertheless display a certain class solidarity so that nothing should change fundamentally and they remain permanently in charge. Protests and revolutions come and go, but the elite go on forever.

The potential for violence is always there, and indeed often breaks out; but most of the population, accustomed to chaos and breakdown, has become adept at survival. Life for them is a question of overcoming everyday obstacles, combined with evading the conflicts around them. Meanwhile, the elite live well.

No analogies are exact, but Western societies seem to be fracturing into various confessional communities each of which, like the Maronites, Druzes, Shiites, Sunni, and others, claims its share of the politico-economic spoils. They struggle like worms or grubs in the tins in which anglers keep their bait, while an unchanging elite preside, or at least glide, godlike, over the whole. In the meantime, public administration deteriorates, infrastructure rots, and inflation rockets. – Theodore Dalrymple

Go to the ant, thou sluggard, advises or even demands the Bible, addressing itself to the idlers among us, consider her ways and be wise. If I were revising the Bible today, I might write, “Go to the Lebanon, thou citizen, thou investor, consider its ways and be wise.” But the problem is that no one learns from the experience of others, and quite often not even from his own, let alone from valid deductions from self-evident premises. Man is the rational animal that somehow manages never to learn, at least not how to live.Theodore Dalrymple

It’s just a bit of admin. That’s the line given by the SNP and supporters of the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRR) which the Westminster government blocked this week. Letting a male person obtain a female birth certificate just by making a simple statement is no one else’s business. So keep out, shut up.

How maddening when women won’t. But equality law — a confusing, contradictory mess which needs urgent revision — is a delicate ecosystem: rights of trans people set out in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) are balanced against women’s rights in the Equality Act 2010. The GRR lands in this like dynamite lobbed in a fish pond. You can only support the GRR getting royal assent if you’re happy to forsake women’s rights. – Janice Turner

For starters emergency housing is in the social development portfolio. The take-over of motels leading to social mayhem (think Rotorua) has been a tragedy for those housed in them and those in their surrounds. The waiting list for public housing has sky-rocketed since Sepuloni has been Minister.Lindsay Mitchell

Worst of all Sepuloni has overseen a rise in children living in unemployed homes. The damage to their outcomes is well researched and documented. But unheeded by this government whose sole focus has been to lift incomes with their fingers firmly in their ears over the unintended consequences of paying people to do nothing … except have children.

If all of the above is “excelling” I hate to envisage what failing looks like.

Sepuloni has not been a great Minister. That the media are painting her as such demonstrates ignorance and bias. The only thing that has kept the social development portfolio largely away from the headlines is the comparatively worse performance of police, education and health. – Lindsay Mitchell

It’s all well and good that they [World Athletics] are putting restrictions in on the testosterone levels, and extending the number of years to qualify and so on… but none of that matters. They’d still be miles ahead.

I mean, the women’s shot is half the weight [of the men’s]. Apart from all the strength they’ve gained over the years, there is the height advantage, the wingspan, all the things hormones can’t replace… hip angles, lung capacity etc. Training would be easier for them. That’s just a fact.

If this happens I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot of world records fall to trans athletes.Amelia Strickler

Basically all governing bodies right now are under pressure to issue guidelines. We’ve basically been waiting for it. The fact that World Athletics, one of the biggest, has not [put] its foot down, I think it is really, really upsetting. I think these rules really could open the floodgates.

There will be a lot, I think, who say ‘Well, I’ve waited. I’m ready to compete. What do I have to do?’ And you know, women will be out of a job. Even if there are only a handful, do you put the feelings of a few above an entire sex? – Amelia Strickler

I haven’t come across anyone who is like ‘Oh, it will be fine.’ Even the guys are like ‘Yeah, you’re screwed’. There are jokes made [in training] like ‘Oh yeah, I feel like being a woman today.’

I’ve got no problem with trans women competing in a different category. Sport should be for everyone. This is about protecting women at the end of the day. I hope more of us band together to prevent this because it’s going to be the end. – Amelia Strickler

Some of the headlines have been ridiculous. There was one headline I saw the other day about the Prime Minister being driven from office by online trolls. I mean, that is so melodramatic.

It’s just bizarre because, one, it assumes that she’s reading all of the online troll messages from the misogynists and whoever. And second of all, it kind of undermines the fact the polls weren’t going wellRyan Bridge

Any smart politician will look at that and they will say, ‘Do I have another campaign in me? Do I really want to be scrapping with Chris Luxon over the cost of living when I’ve just got us through COVID? I might be going on to some international job after this. The longer I am here, the worse my reputation will be tarnished as I go through a very bloody campaign. Wouldn’t the smartest thing to do would be to pull out now?’ And I think that’s what the Prime Minister’s done. – Ryan Bridge

I think it’s a little bit condescending and perhaps a little naive to say that this [online hate] played a role. 

Nobody gets to be Prime Minister without having a thick skin, nor does any Prime Minister have the time or inclination to spend their time scrolling through Facebook or Twitter comments. – Brigitte Morten

Watching Jacinda Ardern’s departure speech, I reflected that even though I invented the word cry-bully – ‘a hideous hybrid of victim and victor, weeper and walloper, duplicit Pushmi-Pullyus of the personal and the political’ – in this very magazine way back in 2015, it’s never had so many adherents as in the past couple of years, especially in the political arena. From Trump refusing to accept he’d lost an election to Matt Hancock ‘looking for a bit of forgiveness’ from his jungle camp-mates, the age of the over-emotional politician is upon us.

And now here was Ardern – the Adele of Antipodean politics, every trespass against her public judged more in sorrow than in anger because she really did mean well– quitting her role as prime minister of New Zealand after five years and fighting back tears as she delivered her dying swan-song. – Julie Burchill

So much for the crying bit – but what about the bullying? Ardern’s velvet glove concealed a pretty heavy iron fist. She promised to reduce migration, with disabled migrants getting particularly short shrift. Her Covid policy was draconian, preventing New Zealanders abroad from returning and punishing unvaccinated citizens. In a speech at the UN she stressed the importance of not letting climate-change sceptics have freedom of speech on social media. Her hijab-cosplay in the wake of an attack on a mosque was yet another grim example of a privileged western woman showing off by wearing what is for millions of non-western women a living shroud worn under threat of death, as we see most recently in Iran.

But none of this stopped her from dazzling the useful idiots of the liberal press after she became the youngest head of government in the world when elected at the age of 37. – Julie Burchill

 If it was any other politician, her desire to escape a spotlight she seemed to find quite enjoyable as she posed for selfies in shopping malls might cause cynics to speculate that there was a dirty great scandal on the way and that this was just a politician looking to get the hell of out Dodge before the storm broke. But this is the hallowed Jacinda, who must not be confused with your average nasty politico when her public image seemed more in line with that of a religious leader; as the usually tough Beth Rigby tweeted ‘I’ve only ever seen political leaders forced out or voted out… but in Ardern we find a rare exception, who again shows us how to lead differently’.

But impersonating the Dalai Lama butters no parsnips with an electorate who are wondering whether they can afford the price of a pat of Anchor. In 2020 Ardern’s Labour party took more than 50 per cent of the vote – the first time a single party has achieved this since 1951 – but it’s likely that it would now poll less than 25 per cent. And it might be the ladling on of the virtue-signalling which has made former admirers of Ardern even more disillusioned than they would be with regular politicians. – Julie Burchill

Ardern – Big Sister with a side-order of saint – has been used frequently as a weapon with which to beat other unashamedly tough female politicians by Woke Bros who believe that females should happily surrender everything, from toilets to trophies in the name of #BeKind.Julie Burchill

Once more, the demise of a female political leader has made me feel something I’m sure I’m not meant to feel – and that’s nostalgia for the sheer inappropriateness of Margaret Thatcher, barging her way into the twentieth century global village and behaving as no female politician ever behaved before or since. Though I was fascinated by Mrs T, I never once voted for her – I pretended I did, but the tribal pull of my Communist upbringing was still too strong. But watching Ardern shuffle moistly off of the world stage, I do wish that Attila the Hen was still here; how no-nonsense she was compared to the trans-maids of Labour and the Tory dullards May and Truss who sought to imitate her style. I’d love to see her reaction when faced with the idea that women can have penises or that policemen can work from home. Or indeed, the equally outrageous idea that a woman who reaches the top of the political greasy pole at the age of 37 can be some kind of secular saint ­– rather than just a fresh take on a carpet-bagger, whose shtick is now revealed as wearing perilously thin. – Julie Burchill

The abuse that has been directed at Ardern is horrific and it has escalated dramatically since the Delta lockdown. There can be no justification for it. None. It is vile, gendered, and intimidating. Let me state, on the record, that what Ardern endured is beyond unacceptable.

However, if you want to address a problem, you have to look at what’s causing it. Some of the vitriol and abuse is from a deeply ingrained misogyny in our society. It’s prevalent in our communities, in some demographics, and the abuse comes from women too. Sit with that for a minute. Many feminists – and I am one of them – don’t want to confront the existence of female misogyny in New Zealand, but it’s there. Female misogynists live among us. In decent numbers.

But the volume of abuse that has been directed at the Government and Ardern is enormous, and it has escalated. And that’s because of some of the decisions this Government has made. Some of those decisions have left normal, law-abiding people feeling caged, controlled, judged, fearful and trapped – and when people feel controlled, and they can no longer determine their own destiny, income, or their ability to provide for their family – they rise up. Anger becomes rage. Rage becomes abuse.Rachel Smalley

Ardern lost her way this term. She went from being a very good communicator in the first three years, to talking ‘at’ us in her second term. Not to us, or with us. It was at us. Ardern’s communication style changed with the arrival of Delta – it centred on control and fear.

If you, as a Government, tailor your communication so that it divides society and pits the vaccinated against the unvaccinated, if you split families and deny New Zealanders the right to come home, if you make Kiwis enter a lottery to return to their country, if you use the COVID death count as the only method by which you judge the success of your response, and if you don’t listen to people when they arrive on the steps of the Beehive in their thousands and call for change, people get angry. Really angry. – Rachel Smalley

If Chris Hipkins takes away one learning from Ardern’s leadership, it is this. You don’t have to have all the answers. But you do need to listen to the people you govern.

Ardern, perhaps believing it was a sign of weakness, never engaged with some of the brilliant corporate and entrepreneurial minds that offered to help with our economic recovery. The Government never listened to the health sector as they pleaded for more nurses. It didn’t listen to the people running our hospitality and tourism businesses who had come up with ways to protect us, and at the same time enable their businesses to survive. Instead, desperate people who had spent years building a business, had to stand by and watch it collapse. It is people like this who got on social media and raged at Ardern. Rachel Smalley

There can be zero tolerance for the abuse that has rained down on Ardern. However, to ignore the factors that have helped to fuel the escalation of abuse against her and the Government means we have learnt nothing.

This Government, led by Ardern, sat in a silo and listened only to those who supported their narrative. People’s lives and livelihoods crumbled. That fuelled a rage like we have never seen before.

We can learn from it, or we can spend the next year yelling at each other that Ardern was driven from office because of it.

Here is the uncomfortable truth for many. Ardern walked away. It was her choice to do so, and I applaud her for doing what’s right for her and her family. But Ardern wasn’t driven from the job. Ardern ‘is’ human. She likes to be liked and there’s nothing wrong with that. But make no mistake. Ardern chose to walk away from the job. – Rachel Smalley

Ardern knew better than anyone that she couldn’t win this year. She had more critics than supporters. The adoration that gave her a single-party majority government, had left the building. It’s a bitter pill to swallow if you’re one of her backers. I know. Why? Because I voted for her too.

So if you’re a politician, sit up and take note. You aren’t the only humans. Stop thinking of us as nameless, faceless people in polls. Stop thinking of us as numbers. Stop thinking of us as your voter base, or swing voters, or some other way you chose to categorise us. Instead, find better ways to listen to us. Truly hear us.

Because guess what? Just like you, we’re human too.Rachel Smalley

He can say what he wants but the reality is, it’s the same staff, same team, same people, same outcome.

It’s a party that is frankly out of touch with New Zealanders. When you see rapidly rising food prices, you’ve seen business and farmer confidence at all time lows, interest rates going through the roof, schools costs, this is a party that has actually lost touch and is out of touch with New Zealanders – Christopher Luxon

We are going to have a very close election, no doubt about it.

We need to change this country and we need a government that can get things done and that’s what I am going to do. – Christopher Luxon

But neutralising unpopular policies won’t be a game changer; finding a connection with voters with a message that resonates is what sets leaders apart from politicians. That’s the political hoodoo bit – and it can’t be learnt. Just ask Phil Goff, David Cunliffe, David Shearer, or Andrew Little. – Andrea Vance

Ardern’s cult-like status, and the legacy of Labour’s remarkable turnaround under her leadership, was enough to hold the party machine together in the face of such huge problems. Hipkins won’t have that backstop.

If voters fail to deliver him the hoped-for political honeymoon he might find that the runway has suddenly got a lot shorter.Andrea Vance

Ultimately, though, Hipkins’s prospects will be determined by how much New Zealanders paid for their groceries, Christmas presents and holidays at the end of last year, and how firmly the Reserve Bank responds in February.

If any recession is modest or avoided, unemployment stays low, inflation falls back towards the mandated 1-3 per cent band and the All Blacks thrash France at the World Cup opener in Paris on September 8, then Labour should scrape home for a third term. If any of those go wrong, Hipkins is toast. – Matthew Hooton

And lo, it has come to pass. The rise of gender ideology — which for too long was dismissed as too niche and irrelevant to discuss by those too sexist or just too cowardly to listen to women’s concerns — has now exploded into a constitutional showdown, with the UK government blocking Nicola Sturgeon’s wildly unpopular gender recognition reform bill.

For those of us who have been writing for years about the insanity of rewriting the law to accommodate something no one can even define (is gender a feeling? A soul? Simple masculinity or femininity?), this feels a bit like watching your local cult band play at Wembley. Or, to put it from the perspective of those who desperately tried to pretend no problems could possibly arise from a philosophy that tries to rewrite the human experience, insisting being a woman is a mere feeling rather than a fact, this is like having a stain on your ceiling which you tried to ignore, only for it to then cause your whole house to collapse.
It was inevitable the fantasies sold by gender activists would crash on the hard rocks of reality, and not just because of the endless internal contradictions (if gender is different from biological sex, and given that sport is segregated by sex, why are trans women now on women’s sports teams?). The movement is increasingly underpinned by a frothing misogyny that is becoming all too visible to even the most casual observers. – Hadley Freeman

Gender activism has become the permissible face of misogyny for a certain kind of allegedly progressive man. It gives them latitude to call women derogatory names and make spittle-flecked videos, insisting that anyone who has a problem with male-born people in women-only spaces is on the wrong side of history. The effect is men’s-rights activism, but the energy is very incel — shorthand for people who are “involuntarily celibate”. Incels rage online about women who selfishly refuse to have sex with them; gender activists rage at women who won’t just bloody well shut up about their concerns about safety and say what the men tell them to say.
One of the sadder fallouts is the wedge it has driven between women and gay men. Once they were natural allies, not least during the Aids era, when so many women stepped in as caregivers to men with HIV. – Hadley Freeman

Sturgeon is making a big mistake in thinking that by denying science and trashing women’s rights she looks progressive, because the public are smarter than that. And as with all the angry “passionate” men, women won’t forget what she’s done, and they won’t forgive.Hadley Freeman

In just over a year, we have witnessed the disintegration of a leader whose 2020 tenure of absolute electoral driven power started with overwhelming public support, gratitude and reverence but descended into a myopic and confused authoritarian rule. We have graphically endured a lesson of incoherent government and state overreach which has been on a march of portentous marginalisation through the private sector. It has elevated a ballooning and unproductive state sector of ‘bourgeois’ excess.

The descent to implosion started with the alienation of the vulnerable rural poor, sole traders, the unvaccinated, small business and economic sectors that could not adjust to lockdowns and the downstream consequences of dislocation. Then bewilderingly the whole rural sector was signalled as the primary target of climate change ideology that was more like an atheistic religious purge. This however was only ‘opium’ to the urban green economic activists in a Wellington bubble. Not content with this tirade of totalitarianism and messing with the means of production the Labour government drove the ‘out of control’ train of 3 waters, a dual racially divided health system and the continued and extending legislative requirements of ethnic consultation. Indigenous elites can increasingly demand influence and potentially equity before any progressive economic or environmental change can occur.  – Alistair Boyce

The structure is elitest and tribal. This is opposed in its very nature to ‘western’ democratically structured governance with potential equitable redistribution of wealth (i.e. Democratic socialism in action).

This Labour government have significantly eroded the NZ democracy and its sovereignty by caving into an apologist academic elite whose catch cry is to blame all society’s ills on the effects of post colonialism without acknowledging economic, social and political progression and benefits. The prevailing Treaty of Waitangi analysis is opportunistic as opposed to realistic.

Indeed, under this Labour Government the rich and propertied have prospered while by any measure the disadvantaged pains have dramatically increased. Buying a house for most socio-economic demographics is now an impossible dream. The egalitarian socialist democratic ideal has been replaced by a new totalitarianism where ethnic and economic elites prosper, the state sector is elevated in a new realm of ‘woke’ privilege and the disadvantaged now have no hope or aspiration to climb out of the mire of socio-economic depravity. Lawlessness is endemic, on the rise and set to remain, becoming the next government’s problem.Alistair Boyce

Any balanced debate of ‘co-governance’ has been actively stifled through control of the messaging through mainstream media by NZ on AIR and the State Journalism fund to the point where mainstream media business models are no longer sustainable without government funding. Any alternative view or debate on the government led version of co-governance is ridiculously labelled as racism. Most New Zealanders under 30 and substantial other socio-demographic segments no longer trust the simplistic homogeneity of mainstream pro co-governance ‘propaganda’.

The people are not fooled and were never consulted in the 2020 election campaign on the radical policies to come. Consequently large, marginalised segments turned into an active fifth column which proceeded to personalise, taunt and harass the government and in particular the leader responsible. Mainstream media analysis is missing the point. The reaction of the people is an effect of the cause, a betrayal by state sponsored totalitarianism, and they have been marginalised in greater numbers than arguably any NZ constituency ever before. It was a battle of wills. Jacinda Ardern was faced with the impossibility of taking the blame and directing a recourse going against both ethnic and academic elites and still losing an acrimonious and unforgiving election. The PM raised the white flag choosing to leave the field of battle than capitulate in a spiteful and vicious public election campaign.

Now Chris Hipkins inherits the battle and the impossible plan without a compliant and grateful mandate, but still with the power of absolute government. Without political restraint and in the absence of strong and coherent leadership, unrestrained power has been a poisoned chalice for Labour. How Hipkins deals with the Maori caucus and co-governance not only in practice but through the power of the state will determine the fate of Labour and himself. A double down on existing policy will result in an acrimonious division of NZ society and electoral annihilation. The choices of restrained continuance or a ‘cup of tea’ with a modified agenda probably won’t be enough to win the election but it might prevent a 4-term government tenure of the centre right. – Alistair Boyce

 It appears the dangerous and impossible experiment is over and unwittingly, naturally market led Liberal Democracy is winning the battle, reverting it to a skirmish and hopefully avoiding a damaging and unwinnable social war.

The likelihood is Chris Hipkins will hang on uncomfortably until October 14, fighting fires. Hipkins will get burnt like Labour leaders before him. Being a boy from the Hutt with another ‘westie’ (no matter how diverse) for deputy will not save him, as Grant Robertson could probably predict. That story could be breaking news and will wait for another day. In the meantime, Robertson has carefully removed himself and the economic equation from the immediate reckoning leaving the new PM the poisoned chalice and nowhere to run.

The lasting legacy will hopefully be a nonapologetic restrengthening and re-correction of an effective, equitable and democratic policy framework based in proven Western Liberal Democratic traditions. An ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ that might help working kiwis, the disadvantaged in equal measure and small business get through the imminent recession, believing a better future is to come. But for the near future that will be in the hands of Hipkins, Robertson and the dynamic of direct democratic power…hold on to your seats, it will be a wild ride! Alistair Boyce

The menace of misinformation has been used to threaten free speech everywhere, from Nigeria to Russia to New Zealand to France to China. Nowhere, however, has the debate been as heated as in the United States, where Russian dis- or misinformation is widely believed to have influenced the results of the 2016 election which put Donald Trump in the White House.

However, a stunning article published earlier this month in a leading science journal, Nature Communications, suggests that the Russians probably wasted their money. The misinformation gushing across Twitter and Facebook made hardly any impact on voters’ views. After studying election activity on Twitter, a group of American and European experts in social media and politics found that there was “no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior”.

This doesn’t mean that Russia didn’t work hard to sway public opinion – simply that its Internet Research Agency failed. – Michael Cook

The hysteria about the Russians sowed the seed of distrust amongst American voters. If Trump had been elected in a manipulated election in 2016, it was entirely plausible that Biden was elected in a manipulated election in 2020. The researchers conclude:

Indeed, debate about the 2016 US election continues to raise questions about the legitimacy of the Trump presidency and to engender mistrust in the electoral system, which in turn may be related to Americans’ willingness to accept claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election … Russia’s foreign influence campaign on social media may have had its largest effects by convincing Americans that its campaign was successful.

In short, where Russian saboteurs failed, the American media succeeded – they spread discord and division throughout the nation. There is a straight line between gullibility about Russian bogeymen and the “stop the steal” invasion of Capitol Hill.

The question of how much toxic misinformation on social media influences public opinion is far from settled, as the authors of this article acknowledge. But it seems sure that Jacinda Ardern’s dream of censoring the internet deserves to fail.Michael Cook

I think it has been quite a divisive and immature conversation over recent years, and I personally think it’s because the government hasn’t been upfront or transparent with the New Zealand people about where it’s going and what it’s doing. – Christopher Luxon

I think about Kōhanga Reo, I think about Whānau Ora, innovations that were delivered within the coherency of a single system of delivery of public service.”

We believe in a single coherent system – not one system for Māori and another system for non-Māori – for the delivery of public services. Things like health, education, and justice, and critical infrastructure like three waters.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t want Māori involved in decision-making and partnering with Māori, we have a principal objection because New Zealand has one government: it’s elected by all of us, it’s accountable to all of us, and its public services are available to anyone who needs them.”

While we oppose co-governance of public services as just discussed I want you to know the National Party wants a New Zealand where Māori success is New Zealand’s success.Christopher Luxon

Absolutely, a 50 year plan would be fantastic. One that couldn’t be hijacked by ideology or some blue sky thinking. 93% of our goods are delivered by truck and you can talk all you like about how that needs to change, this is what’s happening right now. You want your bread, you want your milk, you want your chicken, you want your furniture. Basically, you want anything that makes your life a life a lifestyle. It’s delivered by truck. And while we have that level of goods being delivered on the road, and while we have this level of degradation on our roads, it’s costing you and me. When the trucking companies have to repair their trucks because of appalling potholes, they don’t wear that themselves. They pass on that cost. And so we all have to pay for the degradation of our roads. – Kerre Woodham

Much has been written about Jacinda Ardern having to deal with the Christchurch terror attack, the White Island eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic. It is worth remembering that dealing with crises and disasters is part and parcel of being a Prime Minister. During his time in office, John Key had to deal with the Global Financial Crisis, two Christchurch earthquakes, the Pike River Mine disaster, and the Swine Flu pandemic.

But he could also point to his government’s significant record of achievement in managing the country from recession to a “rock star” economy – by reducing government spending, lowering the debt, freeing up the labour markets, and reforming welfare to support more long-term beneficiaries out of dependency and into work.

And that’s the problem for Jacinda Ardern. When she looks at her legacy, what has she achieved?

She claims to have improved child poverty, but the record shows otherwise. She claims to have built houses, but 1,500 is not the 100,000 promised.

Instead, tens of thousands of families are living in motels, crime is rampant, immigration failure has created a nation-wide shortage of workers, union control has removed flexibility from the labour market, the welfare system has again become a trap for long-term beneficiaries, and the inclusion of employment and house prices in the Reserve Bank’s mandate has taken the focus off inflation, leading to the serious cost of living crisis that is now enveloping the country. Dr Muriel Newman

On balance, she deserves credit for knowing when to throw in the towel if her heart is no longer in it. But Ms. Ardern leaves with much of her promised agenda unfulfilled. It’s been thrilling to be on the world map. But in the end, her years in power were like those maps that left New Zealand off: flawed and incomplete. – Josie Pagani

In the wake of Ardern’s abrupt resignation, the mainstream media are determined to convince us she was hounded from office mainly because she is a woman and had to fall on her sword to escape unrelenting “gendered abuse”.

The fact Ardern has overseen a bonfire of what was a vast store of political capital just two years ago and was facing a resounding defeat at this year’s election has mostly gone unremarked among the flood of columns defending her as the unfortunate victim of trolls and misogynists. – Graham Adams

Well, journalists and commentators are angry — but not at her. The object of their ire is mainly the allegedly mean-spirited, stupid and ungrateful public, who apparently refused to sufficiently acknowledge and respect her virtues as Prime Minister. Graham Adams

The increasingly visceral reaction to her steady undermining of democracy, and her government’s general incompetence, seems to be interpreted by many commentators as a case of voters failing her rather than the reverse.

Against reason, we are effectively asked to believe that a nation that gave Ardern an unprecedented majority in 2020 — alongside personal popularity ratings in the 70s that outshone anything John Key achieved — has become a deeply misogynistic nation in just two years.

And this despite the fact Ardern herself has denied that misogynistic abuse played any part in her resignation. As she told Newshub when asked whether misogyny influenced her decision: – Graham Adams

It is evident from many reports that women in politics do receive more personal abuse than men but there is nevertheless a glaring imbalance in the type of abuse each sex gets and how they are expected to deal with it. Male politicians are personally abused in ways that would be unthinkable if directed at females.Graham Adams

Usually, a captain abandoning a sinking ship ahead of the officers, crew and passengers in the first lifeboat available is regarded as an unforgivable act of cowardice. The fact he or she might be tired, or stressed, or overworked never trumps their duty to those in their care.

Astonishingly, in New Zealand, most journalists have preferred to blame the passengers for losing faith in their captain despite the fact she has recklessly steered the ship of state, and her party, onto the rocks. The media appears to believe the passengers are at fault for objecting to the fact Ardern was taking them on a voyage they mostly hadn’t agreed to be on.  – Graham Adams

Ironically, Ardern has been complicit herself in an extraordinary legislative move to make misogyny official government policy.

The passing of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act in 2021 — which introduces a self-identification process for changing the sex shown on a person’s New Zealand birth certificate — effectively makes being a woman a state of mind.

By making the definition of a woman a moveable feast that includes biological men she has helped erase the scientific and common-sense definitions that underpin women’s sex-based rights.

Now that’s misogyny. – Graham Adams

Those who continue to ferociously support Ardern, are those who can’t see beyond the health response. Yes, the decision to lockdown in March 2020 was a life-saving and unprecedented decision. The failings came afterwards. The management of our economy, and the failure of the leadership team to horizon-scan on issues like accessing the vaccine, rolling it out, the economic response, and the crucial role that immigration was going to play in lifting our productivity. That was lost, it seems, on Labour’s leadership team who went back to the text books — they opted for ideology as opposed to responding to the dynamic reality we were living in.

Now, that’s what Hipkins has to shoulder. Policy, policy, policy. What is he going to do? – Rachel Smalley

And that’s what Hipkins has inherited. He is going to have to face into the policy and reform vacuum that Ardern has left in her wake. What to keep? What to ditch? And what of the hundreds of millions of dollars, in fact, it will be over a billion, that has been invested in some of these policies that he will shelve. In a country with significant child poverty and inequality issues, that will be a very uncomfortable pill to swallow for Kiwis. Rachel Smalley

I am sure Hipkins is sincere in his belief in state education. His allegations regarding charter schools were reckless. An independent report found they were wrong. Māori and Pasifika pupils greatly benefited from charter schools.

Hipkins has announced he is doing a review of Labour’s policies. Reviewing Labour’s opposition to charter schools would be a good start. New Zealand’s ranking in the international educational comparison tests are the lowest ever. Māori and Pasifika pupils are voting with their feet and fleeing state schools. – Richard Prebble 

The most reliable predictor of election results is the right way/wrong way poll. For around 18 months the polls indicate most of us think the country is going the wrong way.

Hipkins can only win an election if he can produce a new agenda to take us in a new direction. He has no mandate for a new direction. He can only get a new mandate from an election. I do not know if Hipkins can win a snap election. I know if he waits until October Labour will be swept away.Richard Prebble 

The Budget is due in May. With Robertson at the helm, Hipkins has an experienced Minister of Finance in budget processes. But that Minister of Finance is also experienced in spending large amounts of taxpayers’ money. Hipkins has promised to address the ‘inflation pandemic’ but high fiscal spend doesn’t help with this.

Perhaps the hardest thing for Hipkins to be able turn the boat around, is all the Government has said on its reform agenda. Being a senior member of Ardern’s team, he has been rolled out numerous times to defend government policies, thus providing plenty of file footage for use in the media and in Opposition attack ads.

Hipkins’ biggest selling point as the new leader is the experience he brings to the role. But he cannot distance himself from the Ardern era. He received the two-thirds majority needed to get leadership within 48 hours of Ardern’s announcement, which is likely to mean he needed to make a lot of concessions to his caucus colleagues.

Hipkins may be speaking a big game of going back to ‘bread and butter’ issues, but the logistical and political costs are likely to impede any ambitious U-turns.Brigitte Morten

Ihe Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods by John McKnight and Peter Block led me to realise that we, as citizens in the broadest sense, had ceded our power to central and local government at great cost to our sense of agency as communities. And that’s what the aftermath of the earthquakes had restored for a moment in time.

These writers warn us of the dangers of the dependency that results from governments fixing our problems for us; robbing us of our capacity to problem-solve, and reducing our ability to build resilience. And that is something we are going to need in spades as we confront the challenges we know are coming our way. –  Lianne Dalziel

Do we want to be consumers of government services, or citizens active in our neighbourhoods and communities, helping to solve problems that affect us all? Lianne Dalziel

To anyone living with a rare disease, there are new, promising medications being developed constantly, so… don’t give up. Don’t give up on hope. There are always things being developed that can be life-changing. – Judy Knox

Imagine if mainstream British politicians were photographed at a demo at which someone was holding a placard that said ‘Decapitate coconuts’. A demo at which there were open, horrendous expressions of violent contempt for black people who hold the supposedly wrong views. A demo at which it was stated that such sinful ethnic-minority people should not only be executed but eaten, too. ‘I eat coconuts’, one of the signs might say. There would be uproar, rightly so. It’s unlikely the politicians would keep their jobs for long.

Well, the sexist equivalent of this scenario did happen, for real, in Glasgow on Saturday. Politicians were seen standing in front of protest signs that fantasised about visiting bigoted violence, not upon morally disobedient black people, but upon morally disobedient women. TERFs, as they’re called, which literally means ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’, but which really means witch, bitch, scold, hag. Anyone who has witnessed a hardline trans activist spit out the word ‘TERF’ will be under no illusion as to the misogynistic menace that underpins that four-letter slur. Yet while there is concern over what happened in Glasgow, there isn’t as much public fury as one might expect.Brendan O’Neill

 Not seeing two hateful placards is kind of forgivable – not seeing that trans activism now seems to consist of little more than angry men bellowing ‘witch’ in the faces of women who have the temerity to disagree with them is not.

We need to talk about the hatred for ‘TERFs’. It is out of control. It is the most vehement form of bigotry in the UK right now. Over the past few days, we haven’t only witnessed gender-deluded men in Glasgow saying ‘Decapitate TERFs’. We’ve also had Reduxx magazine reveal the identity of the Scottish trans activist – a man – who wrote despicable violent tweets about someone driving a car into one of Kellie-Jay Keen’s gatherings of gender-critical women, so that we might see TERFs ‘exploding like bin bags full of baked beans on your windshield’. The same gender jihadist spoke about murdering Rosie Duffield with a gun and JK Rowling with a hammer. – Brendan O’Neill

A political party that harbours men who dream of battering women, and whose elected representatives are seen next to banners calling for women to be beheaded, and whose councillors compare women who defend their sex-based rights to the people who oversaw the industrial slaughter of Europe’s Jews has a very serious problem, doesn’t it? –  Brendan O’Neill

Sexist hate is a daily reality for women who question the idea that you can change sex. Witness those clips in which mobs of masked men yell ‘fucking scum’ and ‘fucking piece of shit’ at Kellie-Jay Keen and her gender-critical friends. See the rape and death threats visited upon JK Rowling every week. ‘You are next’, a lowlife said to her when she expressed sorrow over the stabbing of Salman Rushdie. Or just behold the low-level intimidation that attends virtually every gathering of ‘TERFs’. There will always be gangs of men outside gender-critical meetings; men horrified by the idea of women speaking among themselves about their rights; men who ridiculously believe that their feeling of ‘womanhood’ and badly applied lippy makes them women, too. Better women, in fact. As India Willoughby tweeted at the weekend, ‘I’m more of a woman than JK Rowling will ever be’. That’s misogyny, too. The idea that a man – yes, India’s a bloke – even does womanhood better than women is testament to the low view of womankind that’s been whipped up by the trans cult.

Any movement that attracts so many bigots really should have a word with itself. Any activist set that helps to make it fashionable again to call women witches really should engage in some self-reflection. For here’s the thing: while it might be the outliers of the trans cult who scream witch and issue death threats and say ‘suck my girldick’, their tirades only express with greater ferocity and spite the misogyny that is inherent to modern trans activism. The root idea of the contemporary trans movement – that ‘transwomen are women’ – is itself misogynistic. Its reduction of womanhood from a biological, social, relational phenomenon to a costume that anyone can pull on, even people with dicks, is profoundly sexist. It dehumanises women. It denies the specificity of their experiences. It turns womanhood into a feeling, something flimsy.  – Brendan O’Neill

The mantra ‘transwomen are women’ underpins the resurgence of misogynistic thinking. There is a traceable line from this mainstream chant to the fringe cries of ‘cunt’ aimed at any woman who says transwomen are not women; that there’s more to being a woman than feeling and image. The violent hatred for ‘TERFs’ might mostly come from unstable individuals online, but it expresses the sexism and intolerance that are absolutely key to trans activism more broadly, and in particular to its belief that a man can be a woman. We need a firmer fightback against the hatred for ‘TERFs’ and in defence of the things that are threatened by this new witch-hunt – women’s rights, freedom of speech and scientific truth. – Brendan O’Neill

Recently, the private schools and in particular some of the more established public schools, remind me of the iceberg that has melted over time, weakened by their misplaced love of child-centred learning and rejection of adult authority over decades. In such a fragile state, when the woke brigade comes searching, these schools flip right over, suddenly and without warning, bowing to the incessant cry against the privileged.

Once upon a time, public schools were bastions of traditionalism, setting the standard for the rest of us. The richer in society used to have a sense of duty towards those less fortunate and these schools made it their raison d’être to inspire young men and women to serve others. Many graduates from these schools would seek careers that would allow them ‘to give back’ and live out their duty. – Katharine Birbalsingh 

Help out at the local soup kitchen? Join the army? Become a teacher? Why do that, when all you have to do is join a Twitter mob that will cleanse you well enough to earn a quarter of a million a year in the City and read the Financial TimesKatharine Birbalsingh 

Hipkins’ actions so far have been positive, enthusiastic, and polished, further encouraging a hitherto increasingly anxious caucus that the party’s fortunes may be about to change. With Parliament resuming in three weeks, this is all good news for Labour. However, the rapture notwithstanding, Labour’s electoral mountain remains as high as ever.

In addition to all the usual problems facing a government in election year, Hipkins faces three potentially insurmountable challenges to conquer before election day – time, the deteriorating economy, and the “Jacinda factor”. – Peter Dunne

Even if he manages to successfully overcome these hurdles, Hipkins still faces the biggest one of all – history. Since Peter Fraser succeeded Michael Joseph Savage in 1940, six prime ministers – Holyoake, Marshall, Rowling, Moore, Shipley and English – who have taken over during a parliamentary term have lost the next election. While Labour’s delight in the smooth way in which this week’s dramatic transition has been handled is understandable and justified, it is but one step in the confirmation process. The final, decisive word rests with voters, who will have their say on election day.Peter Dunne

We are very conscious that lower-income New Zealanders are being absolutely smashed by inflation.

The great shame is that Labour increased the minimum wage so much in previous years, but what you’ve seen has happened is that they have not been able to increase it as much in these inflationary years because they know it will be passed on. – Nicola Willis

Now, every year National was in government we increased the minimum wage – we think that is the right thing to do – but how much you do that by is a very careful balance.

Because what we don’t want is workers on the one hand being paid more, but on the other hand having to pay so much more in costs at the supermarket, on rent and other things that their wages just get eaten up.Nicola Willis

Starmer has unwittingly revealed what ‘Davos Man’ is all about: he’s about escaping the irritating plane of democratic decision-making in preference for the rarefied company of the 21st century’s self-styled philosopher-kings. He’s about liberating himself from the constraints of democratic politics – especially the constraint of being answerable to the masses – in favour of chumming about with the better-educated, better-dressed better people of the World Economic Forum. For Starmer to dismiss Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments, the one institution over which British citizens have some direct and meaningful control, as just a ‘tribal, shouting place’ is depressingly revealing. It reveals his contempt for parliamentary democracy, and it reveals Davos Man’s belief that politics is better done away from us pesky plebs.

The World Economic Forum has been taking place at Davos in Switzerland every year since 1971. It’s an ‘annual jamboree for plutocratic banksters, avaricious industrialists and superannuated spongers to come together in an orgiastic eulogy to global capital’, in the apt words of the Spectator. – Brendan O’Neill

In Britain, a democracy, aspiring PM Starmer is constantly bombarded with tough questions, like ‘Do women have penises?’. He’s forever torn between the Remoaner instincts of probably every single person he knows and socialises with and the Brexit beliefs of vast numbers of ordinary people, including Labour-voting people. He has to go into the House of Commons, that tribal hellhole, and submit his vision for the country to the criticism and even ridicule of his fellow elected representatives. What a nightmare! Far better to be in the cushy surrounds of Davos, far from the madding crowd, in polite, agreeable meetings with polite, agreeable people, where you’ll never bump into a Brexit voter or a ‘TERF’ asking you yet again if women can have penises. Davos is sweet relief for a political class that likes politics but not the public.

This is what Davos has always been about. It is nearly 20 years since the political scientist Samuel P Huntington popularised the term ‘Davos Man’ to describe an ‘emerging global superclass’ of ‘gold-collar workers’. Huntington nailed Davos Man. He’s part of a powerful ‘class’ that is ‘empowered by new notions of global connectedness’, he said. Davos Man is ostentatiously ‘post-national’, said Huntington. These elites ‘have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations’.Brendan O’Neill

This is the key dynamic in globalist politics. Globalism is not a plot by sinister rich people, even if the WEF’s use of phrases like ‘the great reset’ and ‘global redesign’ are a tad chilling. Rather, it is the outward, physical manifestation of national elites’ turn against nationhood; of their search for new forums beyond borders, and beyond public accountability, in which they might make decisions. For much of the postwar period, and with real vim since the 1970s, insulating political decision-making from public pressure has been the great cause of the modern political establishment. Hence, we’ve had the rise of the European Union, the founding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, annual gatherings like COP and Davos – all justified on the basis that there are some issues that are so large and complicated that it is preferable for them to be discussed and decided upon by clever people untethered from the low-information urges of ill-read national populations. Davos is less the cause of the crisis of democracy than its beneficiary.

The end result of this cult of political insulation, of elevating policy from the national sphere to the global one, is the rise of a new elite that views itself as borderline godly. – Brendan O’Neill

There’s a religious fervour to nutty comments like these; a fantastical vision of oneself as the messianic deliverer of humankind from doom. Now we know what happens to the political elites when they free themselves from public pressure, from us: they go mad.

It’s time to bring them all crashing back down to Earth. Back to the terrestrial world of nations and politics and accountability. Back from Davos to London and Washington and Paris. So what if they’re bored with the institutions of national democracy? These are the institutions through which the rest of us can express our interests and keep politics fresh and responsive. The gold-collared superclass might have little need for national loyalty and national government, but the working classes still do.Brendan O’Neill

Prior to Ardern’s resignation, Willis said “It’s well past time for the government to present a real economic plan.” And she said the government had to come back from the Christmas holiday and deliver one. They didn’t. It’s now January 26th, and the government came back from holiday and delivered a resignation. There is still no plan. Inflation is static — a stonking 7.2% – and we can feel the cool winds of a recession blowing in.

The pomp and ceremony is over for Hipkins now. He has to get on and deliver – something his Government has never really achieved in five years. And when he puts forward his economic plan, he does so knowing that a student of one of our most effective Finance Ministers is watching on, and she’s waiting in the wings. – Rachel Smalley

Now, in his first speech as incoming PM, Chris Hipkins said his focus would be on the economy & cost-of-living. It constitutes a full re-branding of Labour. Why do that? To answer that question, let’s first define former PM Ardern’s legacy.

In a line, it was a focus on non-economic and moral issues. If you read Ardern’s Harvard address, it refers to the likes of abortion, gun-control, “misinformation” on the Web, future of democracy & her “kindness” agenda. She never spoke a word about economics. Of course, Harvard students & professors would not take well to being lectured on that subject – but loved every word of her class on the morals – giving her a standing ovation.

But that’s not where it ends. Ardern also tried to be a climate change leader & championed minimizing Covid-related health issues during the pandemic by imposing strict rules, which led to large economic costs. Those economists who advocated quantifying the benefits of these rules against the financial costs were branded cold, heartless types at the time – folks who callously put a monetary value on human life. Robert MacCulloch

Ardern’s leadership only saw an ad-hoc, stitched together set of reactions to put out the many fires blowing up in the Kiwi economy. However, with no guiding economic model behind her, I believe her sincere & earnest attempts to put out those fires proved immensely stressful and over-bearing.

Today, Kiwis are too busy paying food, petrol & mortgage bills to philosophize about trade-offs between freedom of speech and disinformation on the web with kids at Harvard. Surveys show the cost-of-living is our chief concern.

That’s why Hipkins first act as PM was to rebrand Labour. He thinks Ardern’s reputation as a global leader righting the world’s wrongs has morphed into a domestic liability. Hipkins is branding himself as “chippy”, an ordinary Hutt Valley kid who needs to save his own finances before he can save the world. – Robert MacCulloch

 Many commentators are now suggesting that Labour will abandon identity politics and move to the “bread-and-butter” right.

But there’s a deeper problem our new PM must contend with; the issue of trust in institutions, particularly in the government. A recent Herald poll showed that 32 percent of respondents found the government untrustworthy, and 15 percent found them very untrustworthy. The Herald also found that 64 percent felt the country had become more divided.

It is important to remember that leadership choices and decisions have far-reaching consequences. Leaders are responsible for the environment they create. Cheerfully saying that you are happy to create a two-tier society with vaccine mandates after consistently rejecting the idea erodes trust. Trying to vote through an entrenchment clause in the already controversial Three Waters bill does the same. As do financial stimulus packages that exacerbate the gap between rich and poor. Jason Heale

But here’s the thing; as a representative democracy, it is ultimately our responsibility as citizens to hold leaders accountable by voting. During their time in office, we also have the privilege of providing feedback in various forms, whether through writing to them or protesting if we feel we are not being heard. The way we do it demonstrates the trust deficit that many are seeing.

Given that a week is a long time in politics, the election is quite far off. A Curia Poll of people who voted for Labour in 2020 shows that many key policies are unpopular. In fact, our new leader’s primary challenge is rebuilding our trust in the government. That will heal divisions. As Thomas Simpson has written, “there is evidence from the US that political polarisation is now affecting the ability of ordinary citizens to engage with each other on issues which are politically significant.”

The trust challenge is a big ask; Ardern turned her party around within weeks in 2017; Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has to turn the country around in a matter of months. – Jason Heale

Politics has become a struggle between those with knowledge capital, versus those with financial capital. The people left out are those with neither. They used to be called the working class, and I’m on their side.Josie Pagani

AI is picking up the way ‘’progressive left’’ voices present to the world. Thomas Piketty calls it the “Brahmin left”, those who see their mission as clerics instructing the masses. The goal is not necessarily growth or affluence for the many, but a society shaped by their own beliefs.

When did the left stop talking about poverty first, and the hope implicit in lifting people out of it? – Josie Pagani

The left mimicked by AI is not hopeful, it is catastropharian. We are close to extinction, not the authors of a world within reaching distance of being free from poverty for the first time in history.

We were once nation-builders, whose pitch was hope. Norm Kirk put it into poetry at a time when politicians were more preacher than party. He believed everyone wants someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work, something to hope for.

Robots see a left in which optimism and red-blooded moral crusade have been replaced by a professional political class whose 10-point plan beats a 5-point plan. 

The educated class supports a version of ‘’diversity’’ that manages to exclude diversity of opinion or life experience.

I’m not so interested in the horse race of politics – who is up or down. Politics for me is the joyfulness of life, or why bother? – Josie Pagani

Labour, I believed, needed to face some uncomfortable truths. I am not qualified to unpack the origins of misogyny in New Zealand – that needs to be explored by a team of psychiatrists and social anthropologists. However, I do believe the escalation in generalised online anger is fuelled by New Zealanders who, for two years, didn’t have a voice.

The Government didn’t so much run a tight ship through Covid, it ran a submarine.

It engaged only with those who supported its narrative, and never critically appraised its decisions or strategy. For months, we saw only Ardern, Ashley Bloomfield, and Grant Robertson. Progressively, we saw Chris Hipkins too, but our lives were shaped by four people who, collectively, didn’t engage with or listen to the people they governed.

If you deny people their freedom – even if you believe it’s in their best interests – and you don’t provide an opportunity for open communication, you will ultimately create angry, caged animals. This doesn’t in any way justify the horrific abuse that Ardern has received, but it hopefully suggests that New Zealanders can pull themselves back from the horrible, polarised place we find ourselves living in today. – Rachel Smalley

Words are lovely. Saying the right thing is great but doing something, anything, shows you really mean it.

I have no doubt he’ll get there eventually, but if you’re sworn in as Prime Minister on the same day the annual inflation rate is announced and it’s stubbornly stuck at 7.2 percent, you should be asking your finance minister for something, anything that’s in the works or relatively easy to hustle together to announce at your first big, official public moment in the job. – Tova O’Brien

This new regime is promising change in the weeks and months ahead, promising greater support for low and middle-income earners and small businesses. 

Getting out there and listening as the PM is doing with businesses here in Auckland today is important, statements of intent are important. 

But when people can’t afford crumbs, throwing a morsel their way will fill bellies and petrol tanks far more than words and meetings ever could.Tova O’Brien

One of the characteristics of fame is that it is essentially Faustian in nature; to become a celebrity, one must sell one’s soul to the devil. It’s a highly questionable idea — why should there be such a price for being proficient at acting or music, for instance? — but it is one that persists, regardless of continual pushback from those in the public gaze. The reason it does so is not just down to the power of the media but also because it offers a sense of justice, or at least morbid satisfaction, to the public. We can look at the rich and famous, with wealth, status and lifestyles beyond our wildest dreams, and assure ourselves that there has been a terrible cost to their integrity, privacy and ultimately wellbeing, and suddenly the world seems just a little bit more balanced and just. Even the paparazzi, hated and courted by celebrities, have this Mephistophelean quality. – Darran Anderson

What is particularly illustrative and sympathetic about Prince Harry’s relationship with fame is that it was not chosen. In the traditional Faustian transaction, the would-be genius or celebrity sells their soul, knowing that the cost is damnation and believing that the gains will be worth it. With the royals, fame is hereditary, which is as much of a curse as a blessing. The transaction is one-sided. No deal is made and yet the individual assumes precisely the same debt. In a world, even a country, where children are born into horrendous poverty and deprivation, it’s difficult to have sympathy for someone born into immense privilege. Yet it is warranted, given that child we watched walking along forlorn at his mother’s funeral did not choose any of this.

The problem is that Prince Harry is now a man and no longer a lost boy. Though he has chosen an arguably noble route of walking away from an environment that had shunned him, and he has the right to speak his mind and tell his own story, he has not walked away from fame. Sympathy, like any resource, is finite. It is entirely reasonable to wish to escape the stilted environment expected of the royals, the stiff upper lipped omerta that hides a multitude of pain and sins, the expectations to be a well-turned-out blind eye-turning mannequin (some years ago, I found myself in the unlikely company of a drunken lord who informed me that the royals were pitied by the rest of the aristocracy).

It is even more understandable to wish to escape the glare of the lens that played a part in the death of a beloved parent. Having chosen Meghan and America, Prince Harry had the chance to transcend fame and to effectively defeat the presence that has seemingly haunted his life. He could go semi-privately into any number of ventures. Harry was not, after all, a signatory to the Faustian pact. One of the most tragic aspects to what has been unfolding is not just the painful reality of a family schism, but rather that at the brink of escape, Harry decided to return to the table to sign the contract.Darran Anderson

The point where sympathy dissipates is with this issue of fame, the courting of it rather than the walking away. This is where the public’s role in the Faustian bargain comes in. This is what differentiates celebrities from the rest of us, the point of departure, and the judgement can and may well be merciless. By aiming for the echo chamber of the terminally online and the patronage of the American establishment, the wider sympathy is lost. It is especially frustrating as the prince had a chance to get out. – Darran Anderson

Here lies the deeper issue. Whatever you think of Harry and Meghan or the Royal Family, you are expected to think something — whether acolyte or tormentor. The public are the essential piece of the Faustian contract, as much as the media. We are its creditors. When it is signed, what might begin as human sympathy becomes a detached form of judgement. The figures we gaze at become dehumanised, either as saints or demons. The weight of having to play these roles or simply being perceived as such is no small thing, though we can always say they are well renumerated for their troubles. It is worth considering what the gaze of the media does to such figures, and Prince Harry’s life is an ongoing example, but it is also worth considering what it is doing to those of us who watch.Darran Anderson

Accuracy is the cornerstone of journalism, especially when it comes to news reporting. If a man appeared in court, claiming to be a brain surgeon when he was actually a hospital porter, we wouldn’t expect a headline announcing ‘brain surgeon convicted of rape’. The same rule should apply to other obviously untrue claims. – Darran Anderson

At a time when it has become routine for male defendants to be referred to in court reports as ‘she’, such a high-profile case presented newspapers and websites with a stark dilemma. The judges’ bench book, which consists of guidance rather than law, says it is a matter of ‘common courtesy’ to use the personal pronoun and name that a person prefers. Many women and some lawyers, however, think it is ridiculous — and insulting to rape victims — to enforce a pretence that a male defendant is female. Joan Smith

The state the courts have got themselves into by submitting to the demands of gender ideology is vividly illustrated by the judge’s remarks to the defendant in this case: “Ms Bryson, you have been convicted of two extremely serious charges, this being charges of rape”. A woman cannot be convicted of rape, which is an assault involving the use of a penis. In a bitter irony, the prosecutor described Bryson’s evidence as “entirely incredible and unreliable” — yet the court accepted his claim to be a woman.

No one who has seen pictures of Bryson arriving at court in skin tight leggings believes that for a moment. Accepting his claim at face value has dire consequences, because it has been reported that he will be housed in a women’s prison while awaiting assessment, despite being convicted of violence against women.

Journalists should be calling out this nonsense, not going along with it. If editors feel it is being imposed on them by the justice system, why aren’t they campaigning against a blatant attack on press freedom? If it’s trans activists they’re afraid of, they need to get a backbone. Distrust of the media is widespread and this practice of ‘misgendering’ rapists is making it worse. – Joan Smith

It’s often difficult to distinguish the cunning from the stupidity, the foolishness from the evil, of the political class.

In Scotland, a bill has been passed to make it easier for 16-year-olds to change their gender on official documents and to be recognized as their chosen gender (the word sex has, of course, been expunged from the discussion, and will soon be as redundant as the word “unhappy,” which has now been replaced in common parlance by “depressed”). Theodore Dalrymple

The multiple confusions of all this need hardly be pointed out. The term “gender assigned at birth” makes it sound as if the sex inscribed on a birth certificate was decided by the flip of a coin, that it was completely arbitrary and had no basis in objective reality independent of anyone’s will (it’s sex, of course, not gender, that’s assigned at birth). Moreover, to live as someone of the chosen different, that is to say opposite, gender suggests that there’s an essential difference between male and female, which difference it’s the ultimate object of transgenderism as an ideology to deny. If there weren’t such a difference, how could it be recognized that someone had lived as either of the genders? There would be no need for certificates. – Theodore Dalrymple

Naturally, not everyone in Scotland is opposed to the bill and there have been demonstrations (not very large ones, it’s true, but noisy and attention-receiving) in favor of it. I think this must be the first time in recent history, at any rate, that there have been demonstrations demanding what amounts to the abrogation of adult responsibility towards, and manipulation and abuse of, immature young people.

The most important question, perhaps, is what’s next on the progressive agenda, once the right of children to change gender (with present technology, they can’t yet change sex) has been granted? There will surely come a time when progressives will grow bored with the issue and seek another to give meaning to their lives. Theodore Dalrymple

Apparently, political agendas are okay in science so long as it’s your politics being promoted. The sad part is that so much of science is being damaged by the failure of advocates to understand that science is supposed to be largely free from political slants, and when a political viewpoint has permeated science, as in the Lysenko affair, it has always been harmful.  And make no mistake about it—the conception of DEI being promoted as the future pathway to “inclusive equity”, both here and in other science societies, is indeed an ideology, and one that can be rationally debated instead of being taken as a given that must be enforced. – Jerry Coyne

A child’s wishes must be taken seriously, but can be only one factor in reaching an overall decision about their best interests, in a highly charged and complex situation. Given the uncertainty surrounding diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria, the UK should, like Finland, Sweden and France, follow a more cautious path; we should end medication and medical transition for children and adolescents now. Dr David Bell

The city has been badly let down: by a calamitous lack of under-investment in critical infrastructure, a mayor who lacks all the right qualities for leadership. Local emergency management, and critical transport agencies were caught napping. – Andrea Vance

This Government is already on thin ice with Aucklanders. There is no coming back from mishandling the emergency response.

And let’s not get carried away by a promising start. Hipkins is just a fresh coat of paint. The same weaknesses remain – competence and delivery.Andrea Vance

Shuffling the chairs around the Cabinet table, and dumping a couple of policies, won’t be enough to convince a grumpy electorate Labour has really changed. – Andrea Vance

And so it ends. A most remarkable premiership has run its course and all we have left are the memories.

Well. We also have $60 billion of additional sovereign debt, an expanded social welfare roll, inflation, a generation locked out of homeownership, expanded restrictions on free speech, and a container-ship of social meddling, from a ban on plastic shopping bags to a law preventing the sale of cigarettes to anyone born during or after the reign of Sir John Key.

Ardern’s zenith was in the weeks after the Christchurch terror attacks.

Her leadership was powerful and sincere. The collective response to her genuine and empathetic reaction ensured that anger, both domestically and internationally, was directed at the one place it belonged: the terrorist. Damien Grant

However, this brief season of national unity was used to force through a prohibition and compulsory acquisition of a range of firearms with minimal engagement with the usual democratic processes. – Damien Grant

Much has been written about the Covid response and the merits of the decisions taken. We are now in a position to reflect on the costs; both economic and social.

Under Ardern’s guidance we became a nasty team of 5 million.

We hounded the unclean out of their employment and our cafes. For anyone whose understanding of history is more extensive than whatever is taught in our schools, the sight of citizens having to show their papers to board public transport or attend a lecture was dispiriting. As was the public’s uncritical compliance.

Worse was to come. The Fourth Estate cowering on the balcony of the Third Estate as the marginalised, disenfranchised and desperate ranted in impotent rage on the lawn below is a metaphor for how civil society evolved under Ardern’s guidance.

Those protesting were not rivers of filth. They were driven by desperation and often delusion into an act of insanity no more deranged than demanding that a man languish in managed isolation as his father died in a nearby hospital.  Damien Grant

As we look back, it becomes clear that we were in the grip of hysteria that was being used by the state to drive compliance.

What was done was done with pure intentions by those who believe with certainty that sacrificing the individual for the collective good is not only just but necessary. It is a rationale with a troubling legacy.

Yet the real gift Ardern has left the land of the troubled long white cloud is in the area of race relations.

Like most Pākehā I am not that interested in the Treaty. I have read the various versions, written columns on the topic, but like our current Prime Minister I’d struggle to rattle its principles off if put on the spot. And yet I, like most of my contemporaries, am perfectly happy with the process of dealing with historical grievances.

If land was taken, it should be returned, and if it cannot be then compensation paid.  – Damien Grant

I am suspicious about the elastic and ill-defined principles of the Treaty and believe that the Tribunal itself is operating outside its statutory remit.

Equally, I am aware that those whose lands were taken and ancestors attacked and killed by colonial forces breaching the Treaty’s undertakings feel that the regime is far too parsimonious, slow, and the compensation inadequate for the wrongs committed.

If you look around the post-colonial world, New Zealand has navigated these issues far better than most. The cost, in terms of our GDP, has been trivial, and the advantages of having a robust if imperfect process for resolving historical grievances far outweigh any errors at the margins.

Into this delicate balance crashed Ardern and her progressive thoughtlessness. Damien Grant

We are moving from a regime where historical wrongs are being addressed, to a state where one ethnic class has an inherent and enduring political status that is based on their ancestry. This cannot end well.

It is possible that the reform remains in place amid a growing resentment in the wider population.

There will also be disenchantment when it becomes clear that this change does not benefit the rank and file within Māoridom but only those with the skills connections to capitalise on the opportunity. – Damien Grant

Ardern will forever be popular among those who are delighted not by what she did, but who she was.

In this she was the perfect post-modern prime minister for a generation who believe your identity matters more than your character, and where your intentions carry more weight than the outcomes of your actions. Damien Grant

 People have stopped listening to Labour and simply don’t believe their promises. He can cancel a few things – but are they cancelled or just postponed?

Hipkins has been an integral part of the Ardern Government. As a senior minister and a close confidant of hers, he has approved and led much of the work that has been proven to be very unpopular.

Will people believe that he has changed his mind? More likely they will think that he is only cancelling some projects because he wants to win the next election. What happens if they do win? – Paula Bennett

Hipkins has already stated that he wants to see changes to our tax system. That he doesn’t believe the current system is fair, but he won’t make changes before the election. What will those changes be if he is PM after October 14?

We do know what Hipkins stands for. He has led much of the unpopular policy work over the past few years and he has not changed his ideology overnight. At a personal level I wish him well. However, this change of guard will not be enough to change the minds of the majority of New Zealand voters.Paula Bennett

New Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ most urgent task is to convince Labour-sceptical voters his Government is different to Jacinda Ardern’s.

To do that, he needs to cut Three Waters immediately.

Nothing else would signal change as clearly as ditching Three Waters.

This policy is radioactive to voters. It is a symbol of how distracted and arrogant the Ardern government became.

Nothing screams “distracted” more than Labour pouring huge amounts of energy, money and time into water reform while Kiwis struggle to pay their mortgages and grocery bills.

Nothing screams “arrogant” more than Labour forging ahead with a policy voters hate. Hatred is not a strong word in this case. Voters filled town hall-style roadshows opposing it, they erected signs along rural roads begging the Government to drop it. Sixty per cent of Kiwis opposed it. Only 23 per cent supported it.

Few Labour policies generated more negative headlines. From the early dirty-tricks TV advertising campaign designed to scare voters with nonsense threats of filthy water, to Nanaia Mahuta’s attempt to entrench part of the law behind her colleagues’ backs. It’s been a dog from start to finish. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

Hipkins will have a Herculean task on his hands convincing Mahuta to kill her darling. She has 14 other Māori MPs backing her up. 

The power behind the throne stays the same. Ultimately, a change in leader changes little.

This will test Hipkins’ mettle. How badly does he want to win the election?

On currently polling, he will lose. He can do any number of other things to try to win over voters: crackdown on crime, relieve cost-of-living pressures, wipe student debt. But, those things take time. Weeks, months, years. If he starts his prime ministership defending and pursuing a deeply unpopular policy, he’ll have lost the argument already. The phone – as they say – will be off the hook. What comes after that is defeat.

This is his chance to prove to upset voters that a Hipkins Government is not more of the same.Heather du Plessis-Allan

Mark it in your diary: the bicentenary of the Gaols Act 1823. The work of the social reformer Elizabeth Fry, this landmark law mandated sex-segregated prisons with female inmates guarded by female wardens. When women were incarcerated among men, Fry observed, they were exploited, terrified and raped. She established a principle which became enshrined in international law, from UN protocols to the Geneva conventions. How, then, was history rewound, 200 years of evidence memory-holed, so that this week the double rapist Adam Graham was remanded in Cornton Vale women’s prison? How could a “robust” risk assessment by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) conclude he was safe? – Janice Turner

It is a sobering reality that among the many pressures young people encounter today the constant barrage or doomsday predictions is taking a devastating toll.  Being told the world will end removes the will to live especially if accompanied by a plethora of other negative impacts.

Many of the predictions are simply rubbish, a product of scientists desperate to hang on to funding or a tenure combined with a media using sensationalism to try and stay profitable.

The psychological pressure is becoming worse.  Not content with playing havoc with young vulnerable minds by piling fear upon fear using unusual weather events as weapons the climate change monsters are now setting impossible targets that they already know full well will be missed creating greater panic and feelings of hopelessness.

This manipulation of impressionable minds is unforgivable. 

‘Net zero’ by 2050 is blatantly unreachable. Owen Jennings

Having aided and abetted the Extinction Rebellion nonsense the catastrophic propounding scientists and their media lapdogs are now teasing the fearful with unobtainable goal setting.  It is evil mind games. – Owen Jennings

Allan’s reform proposals will criminalise Folau’s critics. Are new blasphemy laws really what the Minister of Justice wants? –  Roger Partridge

The decision by Sport Northland to deny ‘Stop Co-Governance’, a community group, use of their Whangarei venue to hold a public meeting is illegal and defies the rights given to all Kiwis to voice their political opinions. This case, yet again, illustrates the contempt held by many for the foundational liberty of free speech, and it cannot be allowed to stand,  – Jonathan Ayling

Ardern was the target of an extraordinary amount of abuse, but the toxicity extends further than the outgoing prime minister. Over the last decade or so, any public figure or politician – regardless of their politics, gender, and ethnicity – has become increasingly targeted for abuse, especially online. It began well before Ardern’s prime ministership.

Any sober observance of John Key’s time as prime minister shows the incredible hatred and abuse directed his way in the eight years he was at the top. This included his family, and Max Key claimed in 2016 that he received “death threats twice a week”.

Some of the aggression towards Key wasn’t even widely condemned. When gallows and death threats were cartoonishly made in leftwing protests, they were generally contextualised as expressions of anger and contempt for some of his policies as Prime Minister.

But a line was crossed in Key’s time – encapsulated by leftwing rapper Tom Scott’s “Kill the PM”, which spoke of assassinating Key and raping his daughter. At the time, the song and its artist had plenty of defenders on the left.

Since then, New Zealand society has become much more polarised. A survey published by the Herald in December showed 64 per cent of New Zealanders believe the country has become more divided in the last few years.Bryce Edwards

Yes, there were and are huge numbers of vile, sexist putdowns directed at Ardern. But the story of her rise to great heights has shown that her gender or becoming a mother while in office haven’t held her back in the slightest. If anything, New Zealanders strongly celebrated the progressiveness of having a prime minister become a mother while in office.

And the fact that the New Zealand Parliament now has a majority of women says something very striking about how gender is not the barrier for electability that it once was in this country. It could be argued Ardern’s gender and motherhood have been an electoral asset rather than a liability. – Bryce Edwards

The leveraging of Ardern’s personality and star power epitomised the trend in politics for election manifestos, policy, and ideology to be de-emphasised. In fact, politics has become “hollowed out”, and substance and depth are now missing in democracy.

Few people join political parties, and the historic ties between parties and traditional constituencies have been eroded. Without the social anchors of strong ideologies and ties to social class and other demographics, elections are more about personality and the attributes of leadership than ever before.Bryce Edwards

The unfortunate flipside of having one personality embody and represent a party and government so entirely is that when the popularity of that institution plummets, it’s the personality at the top who becomes the magnet for all the discontent. Unfortunately for Ardern, by having her personify the Labour Government so totally, this has meant that she has been the recipient of, first the adulation, and now the blame.

Labour’s spindoctors might well have been smart to push Ardern to do the cover shoots, and develop a big media presence around her personality and charisma, but ultimately it became a double-edged sword.

The lesson is that the hyper-personalisation of politics is deeply harmful and unhealthy for all involved. The antidote is to shift away from personality politics. New Zealand political parties must rediscover their soul and substance, and not be based so much around leaders. They need to recruit members again, encourage their participation, and focus on policy development. Politics should not be an elite activity.

The media, too, could learn to focus less on personalities. The total concentration on Ardern’s star power was such easy journalism. But it came at the expense of a policy debate. – Bryce Edwards

We need a debate about polarisation and toxicity in New Zealand politics. An increase in toxicity, and especially the gendered and racial nature of it, is likely to increase. We need to find a better way forward.

But this is very different to presenting Jacinda Ardern as a victim. As some commentators have pointed out, this desire to turn her into a victim of abuse is somewhat paternalistic and patronising. Former prime minister Jenny Shipley has warned, for example, that “If we overemphasize the abuse question, it implies women can’t do this job and that’s not true.”

Even worse, is if partisans and liberal-leftists attempt to use Ardern’s departure to provoke a culture war. By painting a picture of “the deplorables hounding the Prime Minister from office”, such voices are just increasing the toxic polarisation in a way that prevents a sober discussion of the problems.

An unsophisticated condemnation of political opponents just drives up tensions and looks like petty opportunism rather than a genuine concern to help find a solution for a real problem. Instead of reducing the hate and rancour, such “call out culture” methods tend to be counterproductive and are a dead-end.

Instead, what is urgently needed is a better understanding of what is driving social divisions, and an acknowledgement that the increased abuse of politicians comes largely from our unhealthy personalisation of politics.

This focus on individual politicians and New Zealand’s shift away from collective ways of doing politics is fuelling a hyper-individualisation by which political careers live and die, leaving us all the poorer.Bryce Edwards

One can well imagine the Prime Minister going through the Christmas briefing papers with care, then looking at the family, at the unread books, at the sun and the possibility of going fishing – and contemplating resigning. – Brian Easton

It can’t, obviously, be that people get more enjoyment about some things than others, and that making your own mind up about what you’re going to enjoy, and in what measure, is part of the joy of being part of a free society.

The last thing we would want to do, of course, is to organize a whole economic system around that idea.

The advertising of junk food is, to quote Jebb one final time, ‘undermining people’s free will.’ What we need to do, and fast, is to crack down on the office profiterole-profferers and Schwarzwaldkuchen-suppliers and put an immediate ban on all advertising of nice, tempting things.

Only then will be truly free of the scourge of office cake. –  Dr James Kierstead

The Government giving itself only three days to choose a new Prime Minister seemed, at least initially, heroic. If you take them at their word, pretty much nobody except Hipkins knew until Ardern rocked up to caucus and shared the news on Thursday. And yet, magically, consensus candidates for both PM and deputy were arrived at by Saturday morning. It was almost like they knew the answer to the question before they asked it.

The second one still has me scratching my head. Why would the outgoing Prime Minister announce the election date and then promptly resign? Isn’t that one of the most obvious things you’d leave to your successor?

It only made sense if Ardern’s successor and their campaign chair (Megan Woods) were all in on the plan, and everyone had agreed on the new team ahead of time. And my strong hunch is they were.

Third, Grant Robertson was remarkably relaxed about not becoming the leader and sacrificing his Deputy PM role. Now we know why. By jettisoning his Wellington-based electorate yesterday, he signalled he has his eye on the exit sign as well. – Steven Joyce

All this might be considered trainspotting except that it highlights that Chris Hipkins is very much the continuity choice for PM. These are the same people rearranging the deckchairs to make room for the fact that one of their number (quite reasonably) wanted to retire, but to leave everyone else’s position broadly intact.

There was no public debate about policy, no discussion about who best to lead the party and whether it should go in a different direction, just a “Jacinda’s going, you’re up Chris” agreement.

Sure, they will talk about changing things and Hipkins has done little else for the past few days. He of course can read the polls. Ardern was doing the same before Christmas, so even that is continuity.Steven Joyce

And that’s the problem. From Hipkins down, these are the people who, for better or worse, have made all the decisions over the past five years which have landed us where we are. Robertson is responsible for monetary policy settings and the re-signing of Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr. He’s responsible for the huge increase in the tax take that is squeezing Kiwi families and the gargantuan levels of inflation-stoking government spending. He’s allowed his colleagues to go nuts with the regulatory burden on businesses, and the convenient pandemic-driven curb on immigration is straight out of his “Future of Work” playbook.

New Deputy PM Carmel Sepuloni has overseen the explosion in the use of motels as emergency housing and the rise in the number of working-age people on a benefit despite low levels of unemployment.

Hipkins himself has driven a massive expansion in the size of the public service, a poorly executed centralisation of the polytechs, and shrugged off some of the poorest attendance records our school sector has ever seen. To say nothing of obstinately refusing to alter some of the most egregious settings during the Covid lockdowns and border closures which left such a sour taste with so many New Zealanders.

Even if the four at the top really wanted to repudiate some of their previous decisions in order to win re-election at the end of the year, will the key factions within the Government allow that to occur?

There are two big decision drivers in this Government, the unions and the Māori caucus. The unions bring the money and the volunteers, and the Māori caucus can count. Not only do they have the biggest bloc of votes in the Government, they are the only group in parliament which can at least theoretically side with the Opposition and defeat the Government in a vote. None of that has changed. – Steven Joyce

There is nothing wrong with continuity when the people are broadly happy with their lot. In 2016, continuity was the imperative. But when the polls are dropping and the public says you are heading in the wrong direction, continuity is not what you need. If those at the top of the tree can’t shed some of their pet beliefs and deliver real change, the public will no doubt deliver it themselves.

So when the new Prime Minister talks about a re-set, are we talking about change to the core belief systems that landed us where we are today? Or are we being set up yet again with more of that pre-eminent skill of the sixth Labour Government, its sophistry, albeit this time delivered in a more folksy, self-deprecating manner? – Steven Joyce

The Philistines have taken over the museums


Theodore Dalrymple interviewed for the Taxpayers’ Alliance: