Mt Albert By-Election Results

As expected by everyone, Jacinda Ardern won the by-election after unsuccessful electorate candidacies in Waikato in 2008 and Auckland Central in 2001 and 2014. She goes from being a List MP to an Electorate MP and Raymond Huo will enter Parliament for a few months as a Labour List MP. His chances of remaining past the general election are not great due to the gender quota rule.

The preliminary results are:

  1. Jacinda Ardern 10,000 votes 77.1%
  2. Julie-Anne Genter 1,489 votes 11.5%
  3. Geoff Simons 600 votes 4.6%

Not a great result for The Opportunities Party when you can’t get 5% in a by-election where there is no National or NZ First candidate.

The number of votes cast was 12,971. This is:

  • 34.7% of the votes cast in the 2014 election
  • 27.9% of the enrolled voters (in 2014)
  • 21.4% of the electoral population

No doubt National not standing a candidate was part of this. But of interest in the 2009 by-election David Shearer got 13,260 votes.

Regardless a good result for Jacinda Ardern who now has a safe seat for life, and is no longer dependent on list ranking. Warren Freer was MP for Mt Albert for 34 years and Helen Clark for 27 years. It is quite possible Ardern could beat both those records.

Why not preventive detention

The Herald reports:

An Eastern Bay of Plenty self-styled Mongrel Mob president who terrorised and intimidated a woman over 16 years has been jailed for 18-and-a-half years.

Justice Sarah Katz stepped back from the preventive detention sentence the Crown requested in the High Court at Rotorua today but stipulated Hoani Chase, 54, of Te Teko, must serve half his sentence before being eligible to be assessed for parole.

After a judge-alone trial in October, Justice Katz found Chase guilty of 28 violence and sexual abuse charges including rape.

Other charges were withdrawn during the trial and Chase admitted possessing explosives and receiving.

At sentencing, Justice Katz described Chase’s conduct as a desperate 16-year campaign of terror and intimidation.

She outlined how Chase had, during that time, duct-taped the woman to a chair for three days and repeatedly raped her, as well as how he’d again raped her within days of giving birth to twins by caesarean section.

She was so badly injured she had to be readmitted to hospital.

On another occasion, he had roped her to the back of his car, dragging her down the road.

Justice Katz recounted how at times he knocked the victim unconscious, kicking her with steel capped boots.

So why not preventive detention? Surely 16 years of offending should qualify. 18 and a half years is not a light sentence but the poor victim will have to start worrying in nine years time that he may get parole.

Fake news from Australian Labor reports:

Trent Hunter appeared alongside Evelyn Kathner at a press conference with Labor leader Bill Shorten to talk about the Fair Work Commission’s decision to slash Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for hospitality, restaurant, fast food, retail and pharmacy workers.

“My name is Trent Hunter. I am a retail worker … I rely on Sunday penalty rates … I will now lose $109 a week,” he said.

Mr Hunter said he worked every Sunday at Coles and relied on the money to “make ends meet and to pay for my fuel, my rent and to pay for my food”.

But the supermarket giant confirmed to that Mr Hunter would actually not lose a dollar.

“Store team members at Coles are employed under an enterprise agreement and therefore are unaffected by today’s decision,” the company said.

It’s since emerged that Mr Hunter is a member of the ALP and he has posted photos on his social media accounts attending Labor functions, including a photo with Mr Shorten.

They do this in NZ all the time. Get a party activist to pose as a disinterested person claiming they are badly affected by a Government decision.

A good idea by Trevett

Claire Trevett writes:

National will be hoping for a miracle and in 2014 the miracle came in the form of Kim Dotcom.

The more Dotcom railed against Key, the closer National edged to the 50 per cent mark. Dotcom’s Moment of Truth was the Moment of Salvation.

Dotcom has already made rumbling noises about getting involved in this election as well.

Should an extradition decision go before ministers before the election, they may well be tempted to refuse it just to ensure he is around to offer his unique destruction attempts this time round.

I can think of nothing better for National than Dotcom campaigning against them again.

A great idea for Centreport

Stuff reports:

Quake-hit CentrePort’s should be repurposed as a transport and entertainment hub, a Wellington developer says. 

Ian Cassels has called for the port, which suffered substantial damage after the 7.8-magnitude Kaikoura earthquake on November 14, to become like Oriental Bay with bars and transport interchanges.

A great idea, I have long advocated.

Cassels described the quake as a hidden blessing, allowing Wellingtonians to re-think how the city and the port were best aligned.

“I’m standing in my building looking at the containers on the eastern edge of our port, and nothing could be more inappropriate for the other half of our inner harbour,” he said.

If possible, I’d move the container operation to Seaview.

“It should have magnificent stuff going on. It should look a bit like Oriental Bay. There should be entertainment and bars and water taxis should scoot across there late at night to other parts of the Harbour.”

Water taxis from the port land to Oriental Bay to Shelley Bay. Love it.

90% of rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040

Nick Smith announced:

The Government today announced a target of 90 per cent of New Zealand’s lakes and rivers meeting swimmable water quality standards by 2040, alongside releasing new policy, regulations, information maps and funding to help achieve the new goal.

“This ambitious plan to improve the water quality in our lakes and rivers recognises that New Zealanders expect to be able to take a dip in their local river or lake without getting a nasty bug,” Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The plan is backed up by national regulations requiring stock to be fenced out of waterways, new national policy requirements on regional councils to strengthen their plan rules on issues such as sewage discharges and planting riparian margins, a new Freshwater Improvement Fund and new maps that clearly identify where improvements are needed.

“This 90 per cent goal by 2040 is challenging and is estimated to cost the Government, farmers and councils $2 billion over the next 23 years. It will make us a world leader in water quality standards for swimming, and that’s important for New Zealand’s growing tourism industry. It will return our rivers and lakes to a standard not seen in 50 years while recognising that our frequent major rainfalls mean a 100 per cent standard is not realistic.”

$2 billion over 23 years seems a reasonable cost.

Worth also reading this interview with Nick Smith where he debunks the claims made about the new standards with some good examples.

More sanctions for exploiting employers

The Herald reports:

Employers who exploit migrant workers will be banned from taking on further migrant workers for up to two years under new sanctions from April.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced the new measures this morning, saying allowing bosses to take on workers from overseas rather than locally was a “privilege not a right” and if that was abused, there should be consequences.

“It is simply unacceptable that those employers who exploit migrant workers are still able to recruit from the international labour market and disadvantage those employers who do the right thing.”

This is a good move.

I’d go further. Many of employers who exploit migrants are themselves migrants. If they do not hold NZ citizenship, I’d have them near automatically lose their residency status and face deportation.

Yardley slams fire response

Mike Yardley writes:

Just as we saluted and decorated the vast army of community heroes who shone throughout our earthquake sequence, it goes without saying that the firefighters, helicopter crews and fellow first-responders who have slogged their guts out since Monday last week must be royally recognised for their gallantry, tenacity and extraordinary duty, when this nightmare is finally over.

Amazing job from those on the ground.

Hundreds of residents vented their increasing dismay and disbelief at the apparent failure of the Selwyn and Christchurch mayors to get to grips with the enormity of the ever-billowing threat.

Individuals were pleading with Mayor Dalziel and senior city councillors, via their Facebook pages, to urgently declare a state of emergency. It took a further two hours after Westmorland was suddenly evacuated at 4pm, before the declaration was issued.

I guess the Government could have in theory declared a state of emergency if the local authorities had continued to delay doing so – but that is something that has never happened in recent history.

Some hillside residents had packed and were ready to self-evacuate at 1pm. They could see the situation gravely deteriorating, first-hand. The fact that officials struggled to grasp the gravity of the gathering crisis, even after Minister Brownlee phoned the two mayors to establish their positions, is lamentable.

Not only would a declaration issued much earlier in the afternoon have mobilised the likes of Defence Force resources and the power to enforce road cordons far sooner, but, most importantly, it would have sent a clarion message to the community about the scale of the crisis.

Instead, many residents in the firing line of the blaze were left in a state of relative complacency, only to be propelled into a blind panic by police officers barking orders that they only had five minutes to evacuate their houses.

An extra two hours notice would have made a huge difference.

Then, of course, there is the alarming claim from the Firefighters Union that 10 properties were needlessly destroyed because urban fire brigades were stood down prematurely on Monday, only to be called back later.

Very alarming, if true.

Definitely should be an inquiry into the response to the fires.

Teen solo mums on welfare down over 50%

The Herald reports:

The number of teen mothers on welfare has more than halved since 2009, the Government says.

There were 1836 teenage mums on “main” benefits at the end of last year, down from 4263 in 2009 – a fall of 57 per cent.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said teen parents had some of the highest lifetime costs of any group on welfare. On average, they spent more than 17 years on welfare.

“If we can give young mums opportunities to be independent and successful then that will mean better lives for their children,” she said.

“We know that kids who grow up in benefit-dependent homes are more likely to go on to a benefit, are more likely to be notified to CYF and are less likely to achieve NCEA Level 2.”

This is a great outcome, and a really important one. Preventing people from decades of welfare dependency is essential.

Of course Labour has opposed almost all the reforms that achieved this. Cynically you’d say that is because the more people dependent on the state, the more people likely to vote for parties promising them more money.

Former EMPU lawyer selected for Auckland Central

Stuff reports:

Labour has put forward Helen White as its new candidate standing in the Auckland central electorate after Labour MP Jacinda Ardern left the area to campaign in the Mt Albert by-election. 

The seat has been held by Kaye since 2008.

White is an employment lawyer in private practice. Before that she worked for the EPMU, when it was led by Andrew Little. If she gets a high enough list ranking to get into caucus, that will be another vote for him.

White moved to Freemans Bay when she was three years old and continues to work in the area.

She lives in Morningside with her three children, two attend the University of Auckland and one attends Mt Albert Grammar.

“My family live in the Auckland central area, which gives an accountability to me. 

This is a subtle way of admitting she doesn’t live in Auckland Central herself.

Does Hone regret the Dotcom deal simply because it failed?

The Herald reports:

If Hone Harawira could do it all over again, he would not get into bed with Kim Dotcom.

As he launches a bid to return to Parliament, the veteran community activist and politician has offered an apology to supporters about the deal he struck with the German entrepreneur last election.

“It was a failed strategic relationship,” says Harawira. “The aim was to engage with another entity to help with the party vote, to get someone else into Parliament.”

Would he do it again? “In hindsight, no.”

Harawira says he would not do it again because it failed and he lost his seat. But nowhere does he show any understanding of why it was a bad move for him. He spent decades fighting for workers rights and the poor and then he takes millions from a guy who is accused of paying slave wages to his staff.

What Labour and Greens want to abolish

Stuff reports:

Maori and Pasifika students at one of the nation’s first partnership schools have been congratulated on provisional NCEA results.

Maori students at Vanguard Military School achieved roll-based pass rates of 92.3 per cent at level 1, 90.5 per cent at level 2, and 100 per cent at level 3.

Pasifika students achieve 85.7 per cent, 100 per cent and 100 per cent respectively.

These are terrible results that undermine other schools. Damn the students – such a successful school must be closed down.

Student numbers have risen from 104 to 180 students, since the school was established, in 2014, to the start of 2017.

Even worse, more and more students are attending. Heresy.

Jamie Whyte appointed Director of Research of the Institute of Economic Affairs

The IEA announced:

Jamie has been appointed Director of Research at the IEA. Jamie holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge University and is former leader of the ACT Party of New Zealand. He will take up his role in mid-April 2017. He takes over the position from Professor Philip Booth, who has taken up a role as Professor of Finance, Public Policy and Ethics at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham.

The IEA is a very influential and prestigious free market think tank. It was founded in 1955 and has often been cited as the most influential think tank in modern British history. Great position for Jamie as Director of Research.

Guest Post: #LoveHumanities to ensure big arguments and detection of bullshit artists

A guest post by Sandra Grey, National President of the Tertiary Education Union:

#LoveHumanities is a day of action here in New Zealand which responds to a worldwide and long running attack on the value of the arts, humanities, and social sciences in tertiary education.

These attacks have been ramped up over the past two decades because of narrow government policy requiring tertiary education to meet the needs of the economy and labour market. Policies and funding mechanisms have been used repeatedly to tame public education institutions and make them behave like businesses. Similar approaches that threaten liberal arts teaching and research are seen in Great Britain , Australia , and many other places.

But with the world’s attention fixed on the erratic US President, it seems timely to ask if attacks on the humanities are alive and well in the US?

In January, The Independent reported that an unnamed member of Trump’s transition team had said the Presidency would “eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatise the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” Susan Nossel described it as “an attack on reason itself.”

With the world facing a range of existential crises – environmental degradation, rising inequality, violence in our homes and between nations – now is the very time we need people undertaking studies that train them in critical thinking. In the ‘post-truth world’ where lies are presented as “alternative facts” these skills help us filter out the ‘bullshit’ from the reasonable, plausible, and logical.

You don’t need a BA to spot the latest falsehoods peddled by Trump to advance his anti-immigrant, racist and ethnic nationalist agenda. Realising there was no terror attack in Sweden is just common sense. However, not all issues are as easy to spot.

Mounting a sound argument about why poor people vote for politicians who take away their access to healthcare, for example, needs evidence that isn’t always easy to find. Similarly, understanding any parallels between the direction of geopolitical events today and other times in human history. Answering these sorts of questions requires training in selecting legitimate sources; examining narrative devices; and argumentation.

The humanities and social sciences equip us with these skills and enable robust public debates about the kind of world we want to live in and how we make it happen. As Philosopher Martha Nussbaum said, we have to “understand ourselves better, to see why we have arrived at this state of division, hostility and non-communication.”

Even engaging in debate about the purpose of universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, and wananga, requires an ‘argument’. One that is not only thought out, reasonable, and backed with facts; but one that has stories that help to make sense of the world.

It’s not just the humanities and social sciences we must promote. The fine arts and music enable us to reflect more immediately global events than is possible in academic journal articles. I could spend hours researching and developing arguments opposing Trump’s tyrannical administration, whereas a couple of clever artists can do it in three minutes and reach a much wider audience.

So why #LoveHumanities? Well, alongside the engineers, mathematicians and scientists that help us understand how the world works; alongside advertisers and spin doctors that sell things, realities, and political ideologies; we need sceptical and curious minds that explore the human condition (their own and ours). It is these minds that will ensure we have a future worth living for.

While I don’t agree with everything Sandra wrote, I am a big fan of the humanities. My personal love is Classical Studies – I have scores of books on the old Roman Republic.

Try chocolates before beating her

The Herald reports:

A senior Muslim leader has said using violence against women is a “last resort” for men.

President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Keysar Trad described beating women as “step three” in a process of dealing with issues in relationships, after counselling and buying chocolates or “taking her out on a dinner”.

So the order is counselling, chocolates, dinner then if that fails violence!

Andrew Bolt elaborates:

Some apologists and relativists have told me that this is just a trick – that they could go through the Bible and find similar sexist passages to quote against Christianity.

First, that is false. Christ preached no such things. In fact, he preached the opposite. Seeing a women being stoned for adultery he saved her by saying: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He told her that he could not condemn her. He also famously said: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

In his example and in his preaching he supplanted Old Testament teaching – the “eye for an eye” justice, for instance.

That is the first point. But there is a second equally important one. What the sacred texts of Christianity and Islam say is one thing, but how they are interpreted today by its leading clerics is another.

In the case of wife-beating, Islam’s leading scholars today do not deny the right of men to beat their wives. At best they argue that the Koranic passage above means it must be a last resort. Trad argues it is a last resort that good men will never reach.

But which Pope, cardinal, bishop or moderator or a mainstream Christian church would argue that men have a right – even as a last resort – to beat women? To force her to submit to her husband’s authority?

Basically none in the last few decades.

This is the problem with reforming Islam. The Koran has so many passages that are extremely difficult to explain away, including those purporting to be the words of the founder of the faith himself. This is why Islamic terrorists can do what Christian ones do not: quote the Koran and sacred Hadith to justify what they do – from beheading unbelievers, killing Jews and taking captured women as sex slaves.

Christianity has managed to reform and revise its beliefs. The New Testament itself revises the Old Testament. But neither Testament is seen as the direct word of God, like the Koran is.

That is not to say that this is supported by most Muslims. Not at all. But it does explain why such outrages are met by near silence by leading Muslim scholars. They seem powerless to argue back.

That is slowly changing, though. But the fact remains: the Koran is harder to adapt for a modern, democratic, multicultural and secular society than is the Christian Bible.

Much harder.

Yule wins Tukituki nomination

The Herald reports:

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule is the National Party candidate for Tukituki in the upcoming general elections.

He will be up against Labour’s candidate Anna Lorck in the race for the seat this September.

They are both high profile candidates. Will be an interesting race. I hope Lawrence wins – he has been a good Mayor, and will be a good MP for the area.

The final selection meeting was held last night with three candidates putting their hands up for the party nomination – Mr Yule, Hastings district councillor and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Adrienne Pierce and Hastings resident and former air force pilot David Elliott.

Hawke’s Bay Today understands that Mr Yule won by four votes in the first round of voting.

If this is correct (and it is a secret ballot, but details sometimes leak) then Yule got 34 votes and the other two candidates got 26 between them.

Reasonable prison time

The Herald reports:

Two men convicted of corruption in New Zealand’s largest bribery case have been sent to prison.

Former Auckland Transport manager Murray Noone, and roading contractor Projenz managing director Stephen Borlase were investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and in December found guilty on six and eight charges, respectively, of taking and giving bribes involving more than $1 million.

Justice Sally Fitzgerald this morning at the High Court at Auckland jailed Borlase for five years and six months, and Noone for five years.

Those sentences sounds reasonable. It was a significant level of fraud, over many years and the criminals involved have shown no remorse for their stealing of ratepayer and taxpayer money.

Justice Fitzgerald noted the sums involved exceeded any other domestic conviction for bribery or corruption and damaged New Zealand’s civic institutions and international reputation.

“Offending of this nature has a wider effect, harming New Zealand’s public reputation as a place where corruption is low or nonexistent,” she said.

Yep, which is why you need a deterrent.

Auckland Transport chief infrastructure officer Greg Edmonds, who had overseen Noone, said: “At the heart of this issue is a serious breach of trust by two individuals whose actions are in no way an indication of any sort of systemic failure.”

Oh bullshit. Good systems would catch this early on.

28:1 liberal:conservative professors in New England

Chris Sweeney writes in Boston Magazine:

Last spring, Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, decided to run the numbers. From the start, he certainly expected liberal professors to outnumber conservatives, but his data—25 years’ worth of statistics from the Higher Education Research Institute—told a far more startling tale: In the South and throughout the Great Plains, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors hovered around 3 to 1. On the liberal left coast, the ratio was 6 to 1. And then there was New England—which looked like William F. Buckley’s worst nightmare—standing at 28 to 1. “It astonished me,” says Abrams, whose research revealed that conservative professors weren’t just rare; they were being pushed to the edge of extinction.

It would be interesting to do the same exercise in NZ universities.

Miller is not shy when it comes to critiquing his liberal colleagues, whom he views as being so afraid of offending one another or their students that they are simply teaching affirmation rather than information.

Affirmation instead of information. Sums it up well.

Andrew Dickens on Island Bay cycleway

Andrew Dickens drove from Auckland to Wellington. Among his observations was this:

Wellington was more clogged, even on the weekend, than Auckland. It’s like no-one thought people lived and worked south of the Beehive, which is where everyone works. We witnessed the full horror of the Island Bay cycleway. What used to be a broad safe boulevard is now a skinny death trap.

Will Justin Lester fix the skinny death trap or leave it as it is?

A new Solar System

The Herald reports:

Life may have evolved on at least three planets in a newly discovered solar system just 39 light years from Earth, NASA has announced.​

Astronomers have detected no less than seven Earth-sized worlds orbiting a cool dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1.

The six inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C.

Of these, at least three are thought to be capable of having oceans, increasing the likelihood of life.

No other star system known contains such a large number of Earth-sized and probably rocky planets.

As a former astronomy geek, this is very exciting.

British astronomer Dr Chris Copperwheat, from Liverpool John Moores University, who co-led the international team, said: “The discovery of multiple rocky planets with surface temperatures which allow for liquid water make this amazing system an exciting future target in the search for life.”

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, says: “This gives us a hint that finding a second earth is not just a matter of if, but when.

“You can just imagine how many worlds are out there that could have a habitable ecosystem that we can explore.”

Now we just need to invent faster than light travel, so we can get to them!

Why the Super Board should not be sacked

The Dom Post editorial:

Prime Minister Bill English would be right to sack members of the board of the Super Fund. Their decision to give the fund’s CEO a massive pay increase was a direct challenge to the Government. No state-owned company can defy its owner and expect to get away with it.

Professional directors say their colleagues on the Super Fund board faced a dilemma. The board believed Adrian Orr deserved a massive 36 per cent increase in his potential pay package.The then board chairman Gavin Walker said it didn’t believe the public sector pay scale was the right one for setting Orr’s salary. So it went ahead and paid him the higher sum.

This won’t do. The board is a creature of the state. Board members serve at the pleasure of the Government. If they won’t obey the Government’s wishes they should resign. If they don’t resign, they should be sacked.

I disagree that directors of crown entities are simply there to do what the Government wishes. This is the entire reason we have directors and separate entities, rather than just Government Departments.

Commercial companies (including funds) are there to do what is best for the health of the company. The views of the shareholder, especially a sole shareholder, should be given great deference but should never be binding. Otherwise why have directors.

I’m not saying that some directors might not be reappointed, with this being a factor. But the Dominion Post goes too far by saying that the entire board should be sacked over this one issue.

Little on greedy parasitic employers

Whale Oil blogs:

In 2012, before he had the unions shoe-horn him into the leadership, Andrew Little had quite a bit to say about employers. Back then he said; “The only parasites are employers…”. …

Labour leader Andrew Little took aim at an American food giant, saying a decision to close a profitable Dunedin factory was nothing more than “greed”.

“Cadbury are doing this not because the plant isn’t profitable, they just want more profit out of it. They are doing it for greed.”  

So employers are greedy parasites.

The simple facts are that they are moving the production to the country where they sell most of the goods – Australia. It isn’t that wages are cheaper in Australia (they are not) or less unionised (highly unionised) but that transport costs to their retailers is hugely less.

Taxpayers had paid about $2 million to keep the factory here, and “it would be a pity if this Government, knowing it was going to happen, didn’t do anything about it”.

First I knew of corporate welfare to Cadburys.

Which government paid that? Oh, that’s right, it was Helen Clark’s government. Corporate welfare is evil, and yet again has been shown to be useless.