The Economist on NZ and Key

The Economist reports:

On a long list of yardsticks his country of only 4.7m people—“the last bus stop on the planet”, as Mr Key puts it, has been a striking success. The World Bank recently rated it the easiest place on earth to do business. The Legatum Insitute, a think-tank in London, judged it—by crunching nine different criteria—the world’s most prosperous spot. Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption monitor, reckons it to be the world’s fourth most honest. A clutch of other league tables puts it in the top ranks—for happiness, healthiness, democracy, freedom, among others. Bloomberg recently reported that a growing band of magnates from the United States, Russia and China (among them Jack Ma of Alibaba, reckoned to be China’s richest man) have bought, or want to buy, hideaway homes in safe and beautiful New Zealand.

The bald figures testify to New Zealand’s perkiness. The city of Christchurch, near the epicentre of a devastating earthquake in 2011, in which 185 people perished, is bouncing back. The national economy has been growing at a steady 3.5% a year; unemployment is under 5%. The employment rate is one of the highest in the world. Wages, says Mr Key, have risen by a quarter in real terms since 2008.

The increase in real wages is a big factor is why so many are happy. That is what makes a difference to families.

Mr Key, a former currency trader in Singapore and London whose own wealth has been reckoned at more than $35m, has applied what he calls a policy of “radical incrementalism”. He has lowered income tax rates (to 33% at the top), brought the national debt down to 25% and partially privatised a batch of state utilities. At the same time he has raised VAT from 12.5% to 15%, reformed health care and increased various benefits (for instance, by making prescriptions and visits to the doctor free for children under 13).

And got the books back into surplus.

Whether or not the National Party retains its ascendancy next year, Mr Key must go down as one of New Zealand’s most successful leaders. And New Zealand, under his stewardship, can claim to be one of the most successful countries in the world.

Not a bad tribute.

The Horowhenua Deputy Mayor

Stuff reports:

The Horowhenua District’s deputy mayoralty is up in the air after a meeting descended into farce.

Ross Campbell was voted out by councillors, mayor Michael Feyen moved to reinstate him, councillors voted to appoint Wayne Bishop and then Feyen said he would reappoint Campbell. The council will now seek legal advice. 

“I will, after [the vote] is taken, be exercising my right to choose the deputy mayor that I think I need,” Feyen said, in a controversial and unheralded move on Wednesday.

The Local Government Act seems pretty clear to me, that the Mayor can not just appoint a new Deputy Mayor if his initial choice is removed by the Council.

Section 41A(3)(a) states:

A mayor has the following powers: to appoint the deputy mayor

Which he did. But S41A(4)(a) also states:

However, nothing in subsection (3) limits or prevents a territorial authority from removing, in accordance with clause 18 of Schedule 7, a deputy mayor appointed by the mayor under subsection (3)(a)

Which the Council has done. So what does Clause 18 say?

(1) At a meeting that is in accordance with this clause, a territorial authority or regional council may remove its chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor from office.

Which they did

(2) If a chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor is removed from office at that meeting, the territorial authority or regional council may elect a new chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor at that meeting.

So fairly clear that the Mayor can not appoint a new Deputy Mayor if his original choice is removed from office.

However note 4(b)

A resolution or requisition must indicate whether or not, if the chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor is removed from office, a new chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor is to be elected at the meeting if a majority of the total membership of the territorial authority or regional council (excluding vacancies) so resolves.

So the meeting requisition needed to specify that they would elect a new Deputy Mayor, if successful. So long as they did that, the law is pretty clear.

What numbers for English?

I’ve been tracking public endorsements of MPs on the leadership. So far no National MP has said they are voting for Jonathan Coleman or Judith Collins. That does not mean they have no support – just that their supporters are not publicly saying what they will do.

Bill English has had a number of MPs say they will be voting for him. If he gets to 30 (including himself), then it is basically all over. So who are the public endorsements to date:

  1. John Key
  2. Bill English
  3. Nikki Kaye
  4. Michael Woodhouse
  5. Nathan Guy
  6. Nick Smith
  7. Anne Tolley
  8. Louise Upston
  9. Hekia Parata
  10. Murray McCully
  11. Simon Bridges
  12. Nuk Korako
  13. Sarah Dowie
  14. Chester Borrows
  15. Paul Foster-Bell
  16. Paula Bennett
  17. Brett Hudson
  18. Jacqui Dean
  19. Jami-Lee Ross
  20. Todd Muller
  21. Amy Adams
  22. Chris Bishop
  23. Jo Hayes
  24. Mark Mitchell
  25. Chris Finlayson
  26. Jonathan Young
  27. Todd Barclay
  28. Alfred Ngaro

So English is at 28 confirmed votes.

Note this is based on public statements and media reports only. It is not a predictor of how MPs who have not stated a preference will vote.

I’ll update the list as and if any more MPs state a public preference.

Shearer to quit for UN job

Audrey Young reports:

Labour MP David Shearer is poised to resign from Parliament to take up the tough job of leading the United Nations’ mission in war-torn South Sudan.

The latest political bombshell will mean a byelection in his Mt Albert electorate early next year, the first electoral challenge for the new Prime Minister.

A recommendation for his appointment has been put before the UN Security Council in New York by outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

Once approved this week, Shearer will work alongside the commander of 18,000 peace-keepers, with a budget of about $1 billion.

Any of the Security Council’s 15 members has two days to object, but given Shearer’s previous experience as a senior UN leader in trouble-spots, he is likely to be accepted.

Congrats to David Shearer – he’ll be great in the role.

It has been known for many months that Shearer wanted to exit Parliament, and who could blame him for not wanting to stay in the Labour caucus.

What is interesting is that a very reliable source (from Labour) told me that Shearer was up for an even more prominent UN role in the middle of the year – head of all UN operations in Syria. He had the full backing of the Government for the job. But he got effectively vetoed. Who by? His predecessor at the MP for Mt Albert who thought another NZer getting a top UN job would interfere with her bid for UN Secretary General.

The appointment is a personal one by the UN Secretary-General. It is not one that required a nomination by the Government.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said Shearer, who is Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman, had the strong support of the Government.

“It is a huge deal,” he said.

“[Security Council members have] a couple of days to raise any concerns, so it is not a done deal yet.

“But it is a big feather in his cap.

“This is the toughest peace-keeping assignment on the planet. It is a difficult and dangerous place.”

The three-year civil war in South Sudan has forced more than two million people to flee their homes.

I didn’t realise who big the civil war was there.

Good to see the Government continue the tradition of supporting New Zealanders for top roles, regardless of their political party.

A byelection in Mt Albert will be the second for Labour to defend, following last weekend’s success in keeping Mt Roskill. Shearer won Mt Albert in 2014 with a 10,656 majority.

But like Mt Roskill, National polled higher than Labour in the party vote, by 3536 votes.

There could be a lot of people interested in the Mt Albert candidacy, including existing List MPs.

The party vote figure is a bit misleading as the Greens get a lot of party vote there also. Combined they got 18,000 votes to 14,300 for National.


How the leadership election works

The National Party rules do not dictate how caucus elects the leader. It is left up to caucus to make their own rules. This post is based on what those rules have been in the past. Caucus can change them of course.

  1. Resolve to have a leadership election (not necessary in case of vacancy)
  2. Each candidate can self nominate. No longer need to have a mover and seconder.
  3. Each candidate will make a speech to caucus
  4. Whips hand out ballot papers and MPs write in the name of the candidate they wish to be leader
  5. The whips count the votes
  6. The whips will announce either that a candidate has been elected leader or that no candidate got over 50% (30 votes) of the votes and who the lowest polling candidate is
  7. If needed, then a final ballot is held between the two remaining candidates
  8. The whips will announce the result. The number of votes received by each candidate is not disclosed

After the leader has been elected, they will elect a Deputy Leader. I understand it is likely to be later that day.

There may also be election for Whips. It used to be automatic that the Whips would resign when the leadership changes. However this is no longer the case. However again if the leader indicates a preference for a change, then an election would occur.

Unlike Labour, the leader is the sole decider of who becomes a Minister (Labour has the caucus elect the Cabinet). The new leader will consult colleagues and then make announcements in due course.

Morgan’s Tax policy

The Herald reports:

The first policy of Gareth Morgan’s new Opportunities Party has been released this morning – repeating a call he made earlier this year for a tax on equity to make the revenue system fairer.

The tax policy, which matches the content of a Morgan Foundation report on tax released in April, proposes deeming a minimum rate of return on all productive assets, including housing and land.

Those that already declare at least that level of income will be unaffected and those that don’t will pay more, the party’s tax policy statement said.

It said about 80 per cent of adults will be either unaffected or pay less tax as a result of the suggested tax reform and 20 per cent would pay more. “But don’t fret, we can afford it,” said the wealthy Morgan. “I will pay considerably more tax, so will John Key.”

It would mean people could be taxed for owning the house they live in or even for an expensive car.

Overall, the fledgling party’s package would be tax neutral, with every additional tax dollar collected given back via income tax cuts, it said.

The full policy is here. Somewhat annoyingly it doesn’t give any details of what rate would apply for this asset tax, and what reductions in income tax would be to compensate. Only then can you assess the impact at an individual level.

But let’s look at the policy from a macro level.

The good

  • Designed to be revenue neutral, income tax would be cut to compensate
  • Fits well with best practice of broad base, low rate
  • Has no exemptions, minimising gaming
  • Would reduce tax on income incentivising work

The bad

  • Taxing assets, rather than gains on assets, could be very harsh on some. Say your KiwiSaver account has a bad year and loses 10% of its value. To add insult to injury you then get whacked a tax on the account, despite having had losses.
  • Very tough on asset rich, income poor households, such as the retired.
  • Will discourage assets and savings. Not a problem if was a tax on land only (as supply is fixed)

The ugly

  • Every taxpayer will have to prepare a balance sheet as well as a tax return
  • Likely huge work for accountants with people trying to devalue their asset worth

Bridges endorses English, stands for Deputy PM

The Herald reports:

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has declared his bid for Deputy Prime Minister this afternoon.

He has also endorsed Bill English for Prime Minister.

At a press conference this afternoon, Bridges said English would continue the stability of the John Key-led National Government.

He said that as Deputy Prime Minister, he would provide the “change and rejuvenation part of the equation”.

Bridges said he was confident English would win the leadership race and he had not yet considered being part of another ticket.

The “whole premise” of his bid was an English-Bridges leadership, he said.

Bridges is the only declared contender for Deputy PM at the moment. His public endorsement of English brings his total to 10 – Key, Tolley, Parata, Bridges, Upston, Woodhouse, Guy, N Smith, Kaye and Korako. There are 59 MPs, so taking aside the three candidates that is 46 yet to declare. Some may never publicly declare their preferences of course.

UPDATE: Paula Bennett has now declared she will also seek the Deputy Leadership and has endorsed Bill English for leader.

So if English wins, the two contenders (so far) for Deputy are Bennett and Bridges. Both from West Auckland and both are Maori.

Labour backs down on Nelson, Greens furious

After a huge backlash from local members in Labour Nelson, I am told Labour’s Council has backed down and decided it will stand a candidate in Nelson after all.

This has left the Greens fuming because once again they are getting screwed in the MOU. Greens are standing down in seats to help Labour, but Labour is not giving them anything back.

And even if there is a change of Government, Winston will block the Greens from holding anything more senior than a Select Committee Deputy Chair.

Hosking on Key’s resignation and National

Rob Hosking writes:

Mr Key has already been an exceptionally successful leader for the National Party, and his unexpected decision to stand down after 10 years cements his place in history not just as a successful winner of a record number of elections but also turns the focus on what he has actually done.

For all the hopes and fears of his political opponents, that Mr Key would turn out to be some sort of political equivalent of Jenny Shipley or Ruth Richardson holding a beer, his government has not been noted for a particularly right-wing direction.

That is one of the things which has vexed the Labour and Green parties, whose members have repeatedly hoped Mr Key would do something ideologically rigorous and politically foolish. Mr Key, whose watchword has been flexibility rather than rigour, was not going to be so silly, and it is a mark of how badly his opponents have misread both the man and politics that they have continually hoped and expected him to do so. 

So many years of trying to portray him as something he isn’t.

But his government has done some things that should, theoretically have been politically suicidal.

Selling shares in government assets was one: Putting up GST in the middle of a recession was another.

Holding government operating spending year on year for several years was a third.

Yet Mr Key and his loyal deputy and finance minister – and, it seems, preferred successor if he wants the job – Bill English, managed to pull that trick off.

And his government also stepped up Treaty settlements and, as Mr Key loves to remind people, also put up benefits in real terms for the first time since 1972.

Most importantly overall, Mr Key’s government steered New Zealand through the aftermath of the global financial crisis without doing what its predecessors in almost every economic crisis since World War II have done, and that was to go on a panic-stricken, politically unsustainable and socially ruinous slash and burn exercise.

Plus the welfare reforms, better public services and the investment approach – which may prove the most beneficial in the long term.

That success and his popularity were unusual for a party leader in New Zealand. Mr Key has had a personal popularity, above and beyond that of his party, and his followers have held him in the kind of affection not seen since … Well, there isn’t really a parallel in New Zealand history.

Mr Key hasn’t reached the quasi-sainthood of a Michael Joseph Savage, and neither would he or his party ever have aspired to hold such a near-religious status. He comes close though as a kind of secular symbol of a laid-back blokey brand of New Zealander.

I recall one year at OUSA (Otago Uni Students’ Assn) there was a backlash against a move to set up some new position for the minority of the week. So a group several hundred partially drunk students turned up to the next SRC and successfully passed the creation of a new position called “The Decent Kiwi Joker Officer”.

Maybe that is Key’s secular symbol – the decent Kiwi joker.

Mr Key’s departure gives National a chance to rejuvenate itself for the 2017 election at ministerial and other levels.

It is an administration that very much needs rejuvenation.  It is a long way from reaching the kind of static sclerosis of previous long-serving governments but it was heading that way and a minor reshuffle in the New Year, followed by what was being seen increasingly as an inevitable election win, would see that sclerosis take hold.

It is time, as Mr Key said, for a refresh.

There will of course be some very significant changes now – a new PM, Deputy PM and Finance Minister in all probability. This may ironically remove the pressure for a shake up further down the ranks. But some portfolios will have to be reallocated. Who will take Tourism? If Joyce gets Finance who takes Economic Development, Science and Innovation and Tertiary Education? Will Hekia Parata keep Education until she retires or will that form part of a reshuffle?

Also if the Deputy PM is not the Finance Minister, what senior portfolios will they take?

Craig loses in court again

NewstalkZB reports:

Colin Craig’s copyright suit has been thrown out by a judge who said the case was “vexatious” and a “waste of the court’s time”.

Before Craig was found to have defamed Jordan Williams, the former leader of the Conservative Party filed legal papers suing him and Whale Oil blog founder Cameron Slater for publishing one of his poems.

The piece of writing in question, dubbed the “love poem”, was well documented during the four-week defamation jury trial which concluded with a $1.27 million verdict against the politician.

Craig argued his poem was private and the publication of it by Williams when he showed a copy to Slater and then Slater when he put it on his blog was a breach of copyright.

And because Whale Oil earns revenue through paid content and advertising, Craig argued he should be awarded damages in the sum of $3000 per month it was on the site plus GST.

He also wanted $3000 for the “flagrant” infringement of copyright, an injunction preventing the continued publication of the poem and a written apology.

The total invoice came to $15,000.

But at a civil hearing at the Auckland District Court today, Judge Mary Elizabeth Sharp heard submissions from Craig, Williams’ lawyer Ali Romanos and Slater’s counsel Brian Henry.

The judge granted Slater’s and Williams’ strike out applications, meaning the proceedings won’t continue.

Judge Sharp said she’d seen no evidence either defendant had received any monetary gains from publishing the poem, although she didn’t rule on whether there were fair dealings.

She said allowing the proceedings to continue would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute among right-thinking people” given Craig’s “real argument” was breach of confidence and his reputation.

“This is a vexatious proceeding.

It has been brought for a collateral purpose.”

Judge Sharp said she didn’t believe the process of court was being “fairly or honestly” used by the proceedings and it was being brought for an “ulterior and improper purpose”.

“It is manifestly groundless and without foundation. It serves no useful purpose, even if there has been a technical infringement by the defendants.”

That is a damning judgment from Judge Sharp.

From my perspective as someone who takes a keen interest in copyright law, Judge Sharp is correct. While the publication of a love poem without permission is a technical breach of copyright, trying to claim a commercial loss of $15,000 from it is farcical.

Kaye to stand again

The Herald reports:

National MP Nikki Kaye has returned to Parliament for the first time since she was diagnosed with breast cancer to participate in her party’s leadership contest.

“I’m back, briefly,” she told reporters. “I want to be here to participate in the process.

“I’m still getting some treatment but my plan is to be back early next year to resume full duties.” …

Kaye also confirmed she would stand again in Auckland Central in next year’s election. She has held the seat since 2008 and reclaimed it in 2014 with the smallest winning margin in the country – 600 votes.

The 36 year-old National MP stood down from her ministerial portfolios in September to get treatment for breast cancer.

She spoke today about the support Prime Minister John Key had given her during her leave from Parliament.

Holding back tears, she said Key had given her “every bit of support”.

“I don’t want to cry, but he has been an incredible rock during this period.

“So has the Deputy Prime Minister and the caucus.

“To all of those people who get cancer, and particularly breast cancer sufferers out there, I just want to acknowledge the courage that they have and to say that I could not have more support from my caucus during that period.”

Kaye also thanked media for giving her the space to recover.

Nikki is one of my closest friends, so obviously I am very pleased that her treatment has progressed to a point where she can return to work. The diagnosis came as such a shock, but Nikki has approached this particular battle with the same determination she brings to everything else in life.

Three standing for Leader and PM

There are now three declared candidates for the National Party Leadership and hence to become the 39th Prime Minister of New Zealand. They are:

  • Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English
  • Health and Sports Minister Jonathan Coleman
  • Corrections and Police Minister Judith Collins

Bill English entered Parliament in 1990 and is aged 54.

Judith Collins entered Parliament in 2002 and is aged 57.

Jonathan Coleman entered Parliament in 2005 and is aged 50.

No word yet on any candidates for Deputy.

Exciting to have a contested race, and good to see enough talent in the caucus so there are good choices available.

US Greens persist with pointless recount efforts

Stuff reports:

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is taking her bid for a statewide recount of Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 presidential election to federal court.

After announcing Stein and recount supporters were dropping their case in state court, lawyer Jonathan Abady said they will seek an emergency federal court order Monday.

“Make no mistake – the Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania,” Abady said in a statement Saturday night.

He said barriers to a recount in Pennsylvania are pervasive and the state court system is ill-equipped to address the problem.

Stein has spearheaded a recount effort in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, three states with a history of backing Democrats for president that were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Stein has framed the campaign as an effort to explore whether voting machines and systems had been hacked and the election result manipulated. Stein’s lawyers, however, have offered no evidence of hacking in Pennsylvania’s election, and the state Republican Party and Trump had asked the court to dismiss the state court case.

This is conspiracy nutty behaviour on a large scale. There is no proof of any misconduct in the poll at all. No suspicious patterns. Just a refusal to accept the result.

The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, has said there was no evidence of any cyberattacks or irregularities in the election. And any recount would change few votes, Cortes predicted.

Just a huge scam to raise money for the US Greens

Wellington the startup capital

Alana Christensen in the SMH writes:

New Zealand has been the home to Australian expats for years, and now Kiwis are muscling in on the startup world as low living costs and talented entrepreneurs continue to build the country’s reputation for innovation.

The country, which was ranked No.1 in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank, is increasingly becoming the dark horse in the Asia-Pacific startup world, attracting entrepreneurs from across the globe.

Andrew Lamb is one of those expats building the New Zealand economy. Having moved from Melbourne to Wellington in search of a cooler summer, Lamb and his company, Camshaft, have thrived with the relocation.

“We could run the company just as well in Wellington as we could in Melbourne, but Wellington has in our opinion nicer weather, it was too hot in Melbourne,” he said.

But the attractive lifestyle choice extends far past the weather, to an inclusive and collaborative tech startup community.

“In Wellington, there is a really tight-knit tech startup community where everyone knows everyone else, everyone is willing to give everyone a hand with whatever they’re working with,” Mr Lamb said.

“You can’t help but know everyone, and whenever a new company forms it’s a bunch of people who’ve worked at other companies together previously.”

The ecosystem that Lamb and Camshaft enjoy and Creative HQ sits in is much different to that of a decade ago. With support from the federal government, which has fostered the ecosystem, startups and startup incubators are growing and there’s greater opportunity in New Zealand. 

Creative HQ’s Lightning Lab is the biggest incubator program in the country and has benefited from a more structured and organised approach to innovation.

“When we started 12 to 15 years ago, the scene was very disorganised and very ad hoc, there were no angel investors and very limited talent. So it was pretty much random and sheer luck that any of us got off the ground,” Mr Korn said.

“Over the past four years we’ve worked very hard to structure it … as a result we’re seeing, especially in the past three or so years, dramatically increased levels of innovation coming from the startups, and increasingly so corporates and governments working together to drive innovation.”

We do have many amazing startups in Wellington. Good to see this being recognised.

Hey Clint how do tax brackets work?

Clint doesn’t seem to know how tax brackets work.

The bottom tax rate of 10.5c on the first $14,000 is not paid by just those who earn under $14,000. It is paid by every single income earner. So if you cut the 10.5c tax rate it impacts all 3.3 million taxpayers, not just the 400,000 or so who earn below that.

Leaving on his terms

This is how every New Zealand Prime Minister (since Seddon) has left office.

Defeated at Election (11)

  • Gordon Coates
  • George Forbes
  • Peter Fraser
  • Keith Holyoake (1)
  • Walter Nash
  • Jack Marshall
  • Bill Rowling
  • Robert Muldoon
  • Mike Moore
  • Jenny Shipley
  • Helen Clark

Died (4)

  • Richard Seddon
  • William Massey
  • Michael Joseph Savage
  • Norman Kirk

Deposed by Party (4)

  • Keith Holyoake (2) (effectively)
  • David Lange (effectively)
  • Geoffrey Palmer
  • Jim Bolger

Some may dispute if Holoyoake and Lange were deposed. I go for substance over form. They both wanted to carry on but had lost confidence, even if no formal vote.

Defeated in Parliament (2)

  • Joseph Ward (1) (effectively)
  • Thomas Mackenzie

One could dispute Ward but he resigned as he was facing a confidence motion, and his successor lost a confidence vote months later.

Resigned for ill health (2)

  • Joseph Ward (2)
  • Sidney Holland

Temporary (2)

  • William Hall-Jones
  • Francis Bell

Retired on his terms

  • John Key

So Key is the only Prime Minister in at least the last 100 years to have retired from the job on his terms, rather than get pushed out in some way.

Key retires

John Key has decided to go out on top, retiring after ten years as National Party Leader and eight years as Prime Minister. He leaves National at an incredible 50% in the polls after eight years.

He always said he wanted to go out happy, not unhappy, as being one of a the very few people to have led New Zealand is a privilege.

His resignation takes effect next Monday when his successor is elected.. He has said he would vote for Bill English to replace him as Leader and PM and that Steven Joyce would make a good Minister of Finance. Of course caucus will elect the leader.

Key has said he didn’t want to do a full 4th term and didn’t want to seek re-election of a false promise of doing so.

I am extremely pleased for John that he has gotten to go out on his terms. In fact he will be the only post WWII Prime Minister to have gone out without losing an election or being pushed out by his own team. He has the most extraordinary talented leader and Prime Minister I have known, and am thrilled for him he has decided to leave on top and finally get more time with Bronagh, Max and Stephie.

Obviously National will find it difficult post Key, but this was always a matter of when, not if. It is certainly going to be an interesting next few weeks and months.

UPDATE: His announcement is below and over the break:

Just a few days ago I marked the anniversary of my eighth year as Prime Minister and my tenth as leader of the National Party.

Such an occasion seems a fitting time to not only take stock of the past 10 years, but to look forward.

Being leader of both the party and the country has been an incredible experience.

Continue reading »

Holt to stand for the Greens

The Herald reports:

TV presenter and sportswoman Hayley Holt will stand for the Green Party at next year’s general election.

In a major coup for the Greens, the popular broadcaster, former competitive snowboarder and environmental activist has formally signed up as a candidate and will be added to the party’s list.

And while the Crowd Goes Wild and Back Benches star has not yet been selected for an electorate, she is considering a bid for the Helensville seat held by Prime Minister John Key.

Holt told the Herald she had always voted Green and became a member earlier this year because of her interest in environmental issues, in particular climate change. The Greens’ policies on combating inequality and climate change meant the party was “a natural fit” for her, she said.

Prime Minister John Key is “obviously a very good politician”, she said, but she felt National was not working hard enough for the environment or for New Zealand’s most vulnerable people. She decided to run for Parliament because she “wanted to make a difference herself rather than leave it to other people”.

This is not a big surprise as Hayley has been promoting membership of the Greens this year. Good on her for deciding to stand for Parliament because she wants to make a difference.

PFB vs Tamaki

Stuff reports:

National MP Paul Foster-Bell has announced he is gay, saying preacher Brian Tamaki’s claims about homosexuals causing earthquakes meant he had to speak up.

Foster-Bell, who has never previously spoken publicly about his sexuality, told TVNZ’s Q+A he wanted to stand up for young, gay Kiwis who could be questioning their self-worth as a result of Tamaki’s remarks.

Tamaki’s assertion that “gays, sinners, and murderers” cause earthquakes, repeated after last month’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake, has prompted protests in Auckland and online.

Foster-Bell told Q+A the comments, and other world events, had inspired him to talk about his own experiences.

“There’s been a number of things over recent months, from events in the Middle East with gay people being thrown off buildings, through to even closer to home, gay people being criminalised, being imprisoned and whipped in some of the Pacific nations.

“But, actually, it was Brian Tamaki’s outburst a few weeks ago that really did make me furious, and it meant that it was time for me, really, to speak up.”

Tamaki’s remarks were akin to “throwing petrol on a fire” for young Kiwis who were questioning their sexuality and self-worth, Foster-Bell said.

“You and I can dismiss that as intelligent adults as just being ludicrous, but for those kids, that’s actually a really hurtful thing at an already difficult time in their life.”

Good on Paul for speaking up in opposition to Tamaki. It is not at all an easy thing I am sure to talk publicly about your own sexuality, but doing so can make it easier for others who are struggling with whom they are.


Soper on Labour

Barry Soper writes:

Two years ago Labour’s Grant Robertson declared that he couldn’t stand by and see the party polling at 24 percent and not have a crack at the leadership.

Today his feet must be itching.

The latest Roy Morgan opinion poll’s put Labour’s popularity at just 23 percent, enough to give its leader of two years Andrew Little a nervous tic, looking over his shoulder at Robertson, the man who lost the laborious leadership battle to him by just one percent, thanks in large part to the trade unions’ support for the eventual winner.

Robertson didn’t only win the caucus vote but also the members’ vote. However the unions installed Little.

So what’s wrong with Labour, why is it still languishing in the eyes of the great unwashed? …

By contrast Little comes across as so earnest that he’s more like a trauma therapist and he’s clearly got an uphill battle to convince the punters that deep down there’s a sense of humour somewhere – and there is, but it’s shown about as frequently a solar eclipse.

Being a trauma therapist would be useful in leading Labour!

Venezuela has run out of cash

Francisco Toro writes:

Venezuela has run out of cash. Not metaphorically, mind you: The country literally doesn’t have enough cash to go around.

Two weeks ago, facing an acute shortage of paper money, bank regulators capped cash withdrawals at 10,000 Venezuelan bolivars per day — about $5.25.

As I write this, following an almighty rout on the black market, those same 10,000 bolivars are worth less than half that much: $2.17. (By the time you read this, the real number’s likely lower.)

Stop and think about that: How on earth can a country work when the most cash anyone there is allowed to withdraw from their bank account in a day is two bucks and change?

But they have equality thanks to the wonderful socialism. Everyone is restricted to $2 a day!

There is, certainly, a serious macroeconomic problem underlying the bolivar’s collapse: an enormous, unmanageable fiscal deficit nobody in their right mind would finance. That has led an irresponsible government to create huge amounts of new money out of thin air to cover its spending needs.

Otherwise known as Green Party policy until they backed down.

Even now, with the bolivar trading at 4,600 to the U.S. dollar, Venezuela’s highest-denomination bank note is still the lowly 100-bolivar bill. This summer, it was worth barely a dime. Now, following the latest collapse, the most valuable note in circulation is worth a little more than 2 U.S. cents.

So imagine that anything you buy, you would have to pay for in 2c notes?

In an economy where 30 percent of adults don’t have bank accounts and many transactions are still carried out in cash, you can imagine the kinds of practical difficulties this poses. Paying for even the most trivial of purchases requires carrying around huge, Pablo Escobar-style stacks of bank notes. A Coke, if you can find it, will set you back 1,200 bolivars — 12 of the biggest bills. Lunch at a simple restaurant? At least 40 of those bills. Even a subsidized school lunch costs you at least 20 top-denomination bills. You can see how the numbers get out of hand fast.

Don’t even think about buying a car!
Delis have started using their scales to weigh not only slices of cheese and ham but also the stacks of bank notes needed to pay for them. It’s just quicker that way than counting them one by one. It’s funny, of course, unless you actually have to live this way.
So sad for those living there.