Labour on first readings

Politik reports:

With Ngati Paoa members sitting in the gallery, Labour’s Tamaki Makaurau MP, Peeni Henare said the bill offered an opportunity not just for Tāmaki-makau-rau but, in particular, for Ngāti Paoa, “and for that reason, I am extremely excited.”

“This particular opportunity at Te Tauoma is a fantastic one—one that will allow Ngāti Paoa, in partnership with the council and, of course, with central government, to provide for housing not just for their people but also for the people of Tāmaki-makau-rau,” he said.

“This particular bill provides an opportunity and a start and the platform for Ngāti Paoa, for which we are grateful, and I am sure the people of Ngāti Paoa are, too.”

Mr Henare was in Sydney last night and was unavailable for comment, but Mr Twyford dismissed his comments as a typical first reading speech.

He said first reading speeches were not based on research but almost always were in a situation where the MP had had to take the Government’s Bill at face value.

What a stunning admission by Labour that they don’t do any research on legislation facing its first reading.

Note that the first reading was six days after the Bill was introduced. And it is basically a one page bill.

The reality is that Labour are being NIMBYs. They spend years calling for more housing and then time after time oppose any actual housing development.

PSA: .nz reserved names conclude at 1 pm on Thu 30 March

From the .nz Domain Name Commission:

The reservation period finishes at 1.00 pm on 30 March 2017. Domain names are unable to be reserved for a further period of time. If you have a reserved name you must register this before the above date, or the domain name will become available to register by anyone on a first come, first served basis. More information about registering reserved domain names can be found below.

So if you have a reserved name, the reservation ends at 1 pm tomorrow. If you do not register by then, it becomes generally available.

Soles for Satan

The ODT reports:

A Dunedin satanic organisation’s campaign to collect warm clothes for disadvantaged people across New Zealand is being welcomed by some and leaving others hot under the collar.

Satanic New Zealand recently launched a ”Soles for Satan” online page, which aims to buy new socks, hats, and warm clothing for people in homeless shelters and children living in poverty.

Can just imagine the scene in many family homes. “Oh where did those lovely socks for Jimmy come from” … “Those nice Satanists dropped them around”.

”We’re not in any way anti-Christian; we’re just pro-Satan,” she said.

I wonder how well a pro-Satan group would do in the Middle East!

All clothes collected would be donated to KidsCan, Women’s Refuge and homeless shelters.

It seems Satan works in mysterious ways!

WCC rates

Stuff reports:

Lester also signalled that the average rates increase for the city would be 3.3 per cent, done from the original forecast of 5.1.

It was possible residential rates could drop further, but that depended on revaluation of buildings and homes in late May or early June.

The lower rates rise was the result of saving $11 million, by re-prioritising and re-phasing capital expenditure, better use of council office space, building consent processing in-sourcing from Auckland, increases in energy efficiency, and improved procurement processes.

This is going in the right direction but the Mayor said he would not vote for an average rates increase of over 3% over the next three years. So if it is 3.3% this year then needs to be no more than 2.85% the next two years to remain within the promise.

Also other Councillors who made a rates pledge in terms of maximum average annual increase were:

  • Nicola Young – no more than inflation
  • Andy Foster – 3%
  • Diane Calvert – 2% to 3%
  • Simon Woolf 4.5%
  • Sarah Free 3%
  • Chris Calvi-Freeman – no more than inflation
  • David Lee – around 4.6% (said 30 cents a day for a $500,000 RV)

So that is five Councillors who have said a maximum of 3% on average is acceptable.

Latest poll

I’ve blogged the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll at Curia.

Last month the Maori King said Maori should support the Maori Party. Andrew Little said the Maori Party have achieved nothing and Maori should vote Labour.

The ONCB poll sees the Maori Party go from 0.7% to 4.0%. This is a significant increase in support for them – well beyond the margin of error.

So I guess we know who wins in a contest between Andrew Little and the Maori King.

Little is in 4th place as Preferred Prime Minister behind English, Peters and Ardern.

Hehir says there should be an inquiry

Liam Hehir writes:

Hit and Run, a new book by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, was the dominant news story last week. The book accuses the SAS of participating in illegal killings in Afghanistan. It also suggests that officials have covered up these possible war crimes.

Needless to say, few civilised people would consider this acceptable. If there is anything in them, the claims are troubling. …

The accusations in Hit and Run will blight the reputation of the SAS for too many New Zealanders. We cannot shrug that off.

There is a national interest in giving the public the reassurance of a fresh look at the matter.

The investigations of the time,  no matter how robust or sound, are not enough. Citizens at home are not equipped to evaluate competing narratives about faraway battlefields. We do not have the time, skills or resources to determine what version of events is closer to the truth.

Only a fresh look at the events in light of the accusations will suffice. The person in charge must be of unimpeachable character and the process transparent. It will take  nothing less to persuade Hager’s admirers that crimes were not concealed.

Like Liam I think there is merit into an inquiry – not into war crimes (as that is up to the Police) but into which version of events is correct.

However I have one reservation to this. Stuff reported:

In a statement sent to media on Sunday night, the authors say it’s “actually impossible that the story is wrong”.

Now with such a stance from the authors that it is “actually impossible” that their story is wrong, what use is an inquiry. Unless the inquiry agrees 100% with the authors, they will decry the inquiry as a cover up, biased, wrong etc etc. They have stated it is impossible they are wrong, so implicitly they can not accept any other outcome from an inquiry.

It would be like the 9/11 Commission – no matter what the official inquiry found, there are those convinced it was a conspiracy organised by George W Bush, not Osama bin Laden.

If Hager and Stephenson were open to the possibility that they could be wrong on significant details, then the merits of an inquiry are much stronger.

But their stance suggest an inquiry into their allegations will be no more useful than the inquiry the Greens demanded into Genetic Modification – they rejected the outcome because it didn’t deliver what they wanted.

So there are only two possible outcomes from an inquiry at present:

  1. The inquiry backs the Hager/Stephenson book, and they are vindicated
  2. The inquiry doesn’t back the Hager/Stephenson book and they remain adamant it is impossible they are wrong and the attack the inquiry as a cover up

Can you see why an inquiry isn’t looking so appealing.

Now if Hager and Stephenson made an unequivocal statement that they would accept the findings of an independent inquiry, well then you might be making progress.

Upton to become PCE

One News reports:

Former Environment Minister Simon Upton is all but confirmed as the new Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

The Offices of Parliament committee has recommended that he be appointed for a five year term, beginning October 9.

He’ll replace outgoing commissioner Jan Wright.

Now with the Paris-based OECD group, Mr Upton, a former National Party minister, was in Wellington last week to launch a progress report on New Zealand’s environment.

Normally it would be unusual for a former Minister to be appointed an Officer of Parliament, but the fact Labour and Greens support the appointment shows they think Simon Upton will be independent.

Simon has been head of the OECD’s Environment Division since 2010 and prior to that was Chair of the OECD Round Table on Sustainable Development. He was also theNZ Minister for the Environment from 1990 to 1999 so he has around 25 years of experience in environmental issues.

Left scream betrayal at fiscal rules

Bryce Edwards writes:

Does New Zealand still have political parties on the left in parliamentary politics? Do the poor and working classes have anyone to vote for this year? These are some of the key questions being asked in the wake of the Labour-Green announcement that they will restrain themselves in government from any significant deviation from the economic status quo.

The hardest hitting response has come from former Green MP Sue Bradford, who gave an extraordinary interview on RNZ’s Morning Report today. Bradford rounded on her former party, saying “The Greens have completely sold out on where they started from in my generation of MPs in 1999” – you can listen to her seven-minute interview with Guyon Espiner: “What Price Power” Former Green MP Sue Bradford slams Greens’ deal with Labour.

Bradford explains that the new rules adopted by the left parties – which she calls a “totally business-friendly policy” – will constrain them in being able to depart from the National Government’s main economic settings.

She despairs of what this means: “So what you see here is the Green Party deciding to go after votes on the centre and the right of the New Zealand political spectrum. It wants business in its corner. It wants your National blue-green voters in its corner. And completely abandoning the huge number of people who are in desperate need in the areas of housing, welfare, jobs, and education”.

To Bradford, it’s about political opportunism by the Greens, in order to get into government. She asks: “At what price power, if you sell out everything that your party was originally set out to achieve? I mean, this Green Party here is following the same trail as green parties all over the world – some of who have ended up in coalitions and alliance with really rightwing governments”.

She suggests that some Green Party supporters “are going to end up like some of us already, who have no one to vote for this year. The Greens was perhaps the last hope. This is the death knell for the Greens as a left party in any way, shape or form. They are a party of capitalism. They’re a party that Business New Zealand now loves”

Bradford also expressed her protest on Facebook. This led one Green Party activist and candidate at the last election to comment: “Frankly, I’m very disappointed with the party I belong to for doing this! In fact, I know that many other members (like me) are disappointed and angry. I am reassessing my membership. I knew that this statement was being developed but party members seem to have been largely bypassed in doing so.”

Also on Facebook, Laila Harre, who has now rejoined the Labour Party, questions the apparent assumptions behind the announcement: “Who says voters won’t buy into tax increases on high incomes? I’m sad that our redeemers are capitulating to that rather than making the case for it. Elections are an opportunity to win support for ideas. Not just frame ideas around putative support.”

In a unique move, the Council of Trade Unions has also come out against the announcement, with president Richard Wagstaff giving a CTU perspective: “We support higher levels of Government activity and investment than these rules permit. There is an urgent need. Many countries who are more successful than us socially and economically have much greater government activity” – see Isaac Davison’s Higher spend needed than under Labour/Green rules: Council of Trade Unions.

Wagstaff elaborates: “If an incoming Labour/Green Government is serious about fixing the problems we have in our education, health, housing and other public services, if it’s going to correct the imbalances we have in terms of pay equity, if we are going to really tackle income inequality and our environmental challenges together as a nation, then it will need to be prepared to invest significantly. That will test these rules as they stand.”

This is the biggest political shift in a generation and the media have almost missed the significance of it. The fundamental divide between parties on the right and left tend to be on the size of the state and tax. Right parties are for a smaller state and lower taxes and left parties for a larger state and higher taxes.

It is remarkable enough that Labour have come out and said they will keep the size of the state to the same as National has it after eight years, but even more remarkable that the Greens have said the same.

Add to that Labour have said no tax increases.

Bradford and Harre get how big a deal this is.

Guest Post: school rules

A guest post by Anne Hunt:

If you don’t like the school rules, choose another school seems to be the approach taken by most people who have become embroiled in this latest ‘long-hair’ debate.

What seems to be overlooked is that this was a case of a parent trying to get a response from the principal and board of trustees before a child was enrolled at his in-zone school.

Any child living within the home zone is entitled at any time to enrol at that school. That is the law, not some personal sense of ‘entitlement’.

The fact that this school happened to be Auckland Grammar has fuelled the latest frenzy.

Let’s be clear: James was not breaking any school rules because he is not even enrolled at Auckland Grammar as yet.

Heidi had lived in the Grammar zone for at least a decade before James was born.

On his behalf, Heidi was simply taking the precaution of checking out well in advance whether James would be facing the risk of expulsion if he attended his Auckland Grammar as his in-zone school.

Her father who was already a well-established musician had been expelled from Freyberg High School shortly before he was due to sit University Entrance, affecting his future employment.

Obviously, she did not want James’ education disrupted by similar issues.

So she took the responsible course of action by writing to both the School Principal and Board of Trustees.

In this letter, she stated that James is not prepared to cut his well-groomed hair and therefore realises that he might sacrifice an education at Auckland Grammar if Auckland Grammar adheres to the same rules that cut short the education of his grandfather fifty years beforehand.

She also said that James was prepared to tie his hair back to keep it off his collar.

So James was not seeking preferential treatment.

Heidi pointed that a school’s board must perform its functions and exercise its powers in such a way as to ensure every student at the school is able to attain his or her highest possible standard in educational achievement.

And she also referred to s75 of the Education Act 1989, which says that except to the extent that any enactment or the general law of New Zealand provides otherwise, a school’s board had complete discretion to control the management of the school as it thinks fit.

Obviously Heidi mentioned the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But more importantly, she reminded the school principal and board of trustees that even taking into consideration the sporting and cultural activities James will engage in, he will come under the management of the school for only about forty hours per week.

What about the remaining 120 hours each week when he is not under the management of the board?

Is the board exceeding its authority by imposing a rule that affects a student when he is no longer under the jurisdiction of the board?

James cannot re-attach his hair when he takes his school uniform off.

Heidi could have quietly enrolled James at this prestigious school, and then taken the school to court to test this issue if the school disciplined him for having long hair.

Instead, she wrote to the school principal and the board so that she would be able to make an informed choice on the school James will attend in 2019.

The school did not have the courtesy to respond so she sent her letter to a reputable newspaper.

Fortunately, James is a well-adjusted child and will take the cyber-bullying in his stride.

But by approaching the media, she discovered that the school principal did not see the need to take her letter to the Board of Trustees.

That, as far as Heidi is concerned, is not professional enough when she had also sent a copy of her letter to the board who could access the legal expertise to evaluate the issues she had raised.

When she eventually enrols James at a school, I am confident it will be a school that cares as much about complying with the law as the principal is about enforcing the school rules imposed upon their students.

Anne is the grandmother of James. She is also the author of a book on David Collins, the Judge in the Lucan Battison case.

Goff’s tax in trouble

The Herald reports:

Goff is pinning his hopes on the targeted rate to replace ratepayer spending by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) to attract visitors and fund major events. It would free up $28 million to fund transport and housing infrastructure and help Goff’s election pledge to hold rates to 2.5 per cent.

If the accommodation providers are forced to fully fund ATEED, they should then get to decide what level of funding it gets. Allow them to appoint a majority of the board and you’d soon get better value for money.

Goff said 75 per cent of the feedback so far on the draft budget supported the targeted rate.

Of course it is. You are proposing a tiny number of ratepayers pick up the bill for the other million ratepayers.

Last night, Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said the targeted rate would be a disaster for Auckland and should be withdrawn.

He said visitors to Auckland spend $7.5 billion a year, of which the accommodation sector only accounted for 9 per cent but which is being asked to pay 100 per cent of the targeted rate.

I’m all for user pays, but it should be on all tourism businesses, not just hotels and motels. And they should then get to decide what level of funding for ATEED is deemed worthwhile.

Last week, motel owner Troy Clarry told councillors his Whangaparaoa 14-room motel’s rates would rise from $13,600 a year to just under $40,000.

In 2015-16 he made $529,000 from the motel on 65 per cent occupancy and after taking a $52,000 salary for two people net profit before tax was $27,000.
Much of this was reinvested in the business but the new rate would swallow nearly all of this.

 

So Goff’s tax will mean the motel is no longer profitable.

Reconciling the versions

As the NZ Defence Force and Hager/Stevenson have been giving their versions of what happened in Afghanistan, I’ve been waiting for a media site to go through them and explain to those of us confused, what are the things they agree and disagree on.

The mainstream media have yet to produce such a thing, but Toby Manhire at The Spinoff has, which is very useful.

An extract:

Both sides AGREE that there may have been “civilian casualties”, but DISAGREE on both the scale and identities. While Hager and Stephenson have identified six dead, including a three-year-old girl, and 15 injured, Keating conceded only that civilian casualties “may have occurred – but [were] not corroborated”, based on a report into the raid by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This nevertheless represents a shift from the earlier NZDF position that reports of civilian casualties were “unfounded”, which Keating struggled to reconcile during the press conference.

They DISAGREE on how any civilian casualties may have come about. “If there were casualties, the fault of those casualties was a mechanical failure of a piece of equipment,” said Keating. He said this happened when some rounds of fire from US Apache helicopters fell short, and so were called off.

They DISAGREE on whether Taliban insurgents were killed in the raid. While the NZDF maintains that nine “identified insurgents” died as a result of the operation, Hager and Stephenson say that the insurgents, expecting a reprisal attack, had fled for the mountains, though returned later to funerals of civilians killed. Keating said they did not have a record of their names, but the NZDF has video footage which provides “irrefutable evidence” backing their account of events; it is “classified” but he would explore releasing it.

There may be ambiguity around how the NZDF judged an individual to be an enemy combatant, and it is possible that some of those categorised by the NZDF as insurgents are the people categorised as civilians by sources in Hit and Run.

I wonder if this could explain some of it. Of course relatives are unlikely to say “x was a pro-Taliban fighter”. This would not explain the three year old, but might explain some of the difference.

It would be useful if the NZDF did release the video.

They DISAGREE on the “second raid”. Hit and Run describes a return to Naik about 10 days later, in which houses were destroyed by explosives, with an SAS member quoted saying “it was to punish them”. According to Keating there was a return to Tirgiran but it was many weeks later, unremarkable, and only one small explosive was used to access a building, not to destroy it.

Kudos to NZDF for replying in such detail, rather than just blandly saying the book is wrong. A point by point rebuttal is far more convincing.

Moodys on NZ economy

Stuff reports:

An international ratings agency has kept New Zealand’s credit status at the highest possible level.

Moody’s Investors Service has affirmed the Government’s triple-A issuer rating with a stable outlook and said it was in a strong fiscal position compared to other countries.

“We expect New Zealand’s economy to be among the fastest growing Aaa-rated economies in coming years,” it said.

Factors behind the rating included New Zealand’s economic resilience against overseas and domestic shocks, which remained “very high, supported by strong growth”.

The country was also praised for its “proactive” policies, a vigilant central bank and stable political system which meant it had effective tools to “shoulder downside scenarios”.

Moody’s noted that strong population growth had bolstered the economy’s potential and that longer term, its growth could be higher than many other Aaa-rated countries.

We are one of the very few developed economies to have the books back in surplus, and be paying our way.

Harete Hipango for Whanganui

The Herald reports:

The National Party’s Whanganui electorate delegates have chosen Whanganui lawyer Harete Hipango to contest the September election.

She will go up against Labour’s Steph Lewis and the Greens’ Nicola Patrick.

Speaking on Sunday afternoon, after the voting in the party’s “rigorous and thorough” selection process, Ms Hipango said she felt humbled and very privileged to be chosen.

She plans to transition out of her law duties to campaign full-time for the Whanganui seat.

Politics has always been part of her life, and she intends to make it her career – it will be “embarking on a new adventure”, she said.

Current Whanganui MP Chester Borrows – who has held the seat for National for 12 years but who is quitting politics at the end of this parliamentary term – said it was the first time the party had chosen a Maori woman to contest a seat it held.

“I think that says a heck of a lot about Harete as a candidate.”

The delegates had an excellent field to choose from, he said: Former Wanganui Chronicle general manager Andy Jarden, Whanganui dentist and district councillor Hadleigh Reid and South Taranaki farmer Warwick Fleming.

Congrats to Harete for winning against a tough field.

Chester had a 4,505 majority. If Labour were stending Hamish McDouall again (he is now Mayor) then I think it could have become a very close race. But I think Harete should comfortably hold the seat.

Guest Post: Continuing problems with the new seclusion and restraint provisions

A guest post from the PPTA:

Seclusion

seclude, in relation to a student or child, means to place the student or child involuntarily alone in a room from which he or she cannot freely exit or from which the student or child believes that he or she cannot freely exit

This definition of seclusion, under which it has to meet all three tests is at risk of not actually banning the seclusion rooms that it is designed to prohibit.

To counts as seclusion and be banned it requires all three elements: 1 involuntarily, 2, alone 3 can’t exit or believe they can’t exit.

The question is what does it mean to be ‘involuntarily placed’? Is it involuntary if a student is told to go somewhere and does it, even grudgingly?

The implication of this is that anything that a teacher tells a student to do which they then do is involuntary – i.e. get out your books, go to assembly now etc…

The other contestable phrase is ‘believes that he or she cannot freely exit’. The extent of teachers’ authority  is also in question here – does a teacher telling a student that they cannot leave a room (even until a certain condition is met) mean that they ‘believe they cannot freely exit’?

By including the arguable phrases ‘involuntarily’ and ‘believes that he or she cannot freely exit’ the definition of seclusion is opened up to legal challenge and lacks clarity for schools.

In some situations schools could interpret this to mean that as long as they do not physically place (i.e. drag, lift, carry) a student into a room then they can continue to seclude (i.e. it must have been voluntary as the student willingly walked in her/himself), and in others they may assess that they cannot even use a withdrawal room, as telling a student to go to a room and stay there until a certain condition is met means that they cannot freely leave.

This definition is a mess, and while the sector may have agreed it for use in guidelines that is quite different from agreeing to it in law. We did not expect that it would be written into legislation when we were developing the guidelines and such a statement from the Government does not recognise the majority of submissions from the sector to the Select Committee that were opposed to the proposed definition.  

Restraint

physically restrain, in relation to a student, means to use physical force to prevent, restrict, or subdue the movement of the student’s body or part of the student’s body

 

1)

A teacher or authorised staff member must not physically restrain a student unless—

(a)

the teacher or staff member reasonably believes that the safety of the student or of any other person is at serious and imminent risk; and

(b)

the physical restraint is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

 

Situations this could lead to:

  1. A student squirting a fire hose into a classroom won’t be able to have the hose taken off them, as it is unlikely to be putting safety at ‘serious and imminent risk’
  2. A student steals a device from another student and then goes to walk out of the classroom. The teacher cannot stand in the doorway and block them leaving.
  3. A student is hitting cars parked in the school carpark with a stick. A teacher cannot grab the stick off them.
  4. A student has a tendency to get angry and damage property. The principal and parents have an agreement that a trained staff member can restrain the student until the parent arrives when this happens. This won’t be able to happen in future.

 

The greatest irony is that in the first three of these situations while a teacher cannot intervene, a member of the public could.

Teachers are already very cautious about exercising physical restraint, and there are a maximum of 1-2 cases a year (out of around 50,000 teachers in schools) which lead to complaints to authorities about it. There is no evidence to suggest that this is an area which needs new legislation.

I tend to agree with the PPTA that the solution here, may be worse than the problem.

Five options for tax relief in 2017

The Taxpayers Union has released:

The Government’s failure to index tax brackets to inflation since 2010 now costs the average Kiwi income earner almost $500 each year according to a new report released today by the Taxpayers’ Union. The report, “5 Options for Tax Relief in 2017”, models five options to deliver meaningful tax relief packages which could be part of Budget 2017 with fiscal implications of $3 billion or less.

With Labour now saying they will keep spending under 30% of GDP also, they should also be supporting tax cuts for hard working New Zealanders.

The five costed options are:

  1. A tax free threshold for the first $13,000 of income
  2. Eliminate the 30% tax bracket, so the 17.5% rate applies from $24k to $70k
  3. Eliminate the top tax bracket so top tax rate of 26% applies to all income over $48k
  4. Increase all tax brackets so bottom is up to $25k, second bottom from $25k to $64k, third from $64k to $100k and top above $100k
  5. Cut company tax rate to from 28% to 13%

The report looks at the pros and cons of each option, and the impact it would have on four typical families or taxpayers:

  1. Average worker earning $57,000
  2. Family with two children on $100,000
  3. Low income worker on $35,000
  4. Professional earning $120,000

The report also calls for tax brackets to be indexed against inflation.

Hooray for Labour/Green Budget Responsibility Rules

I’m delighted that Labour and Greens have signed up some Budget Responsibility Rules. This represents a huge shift for the middle ground of NZ politics.

For the last 20 years or so the parties of the left have campaigned on tax increases and massively increased spending. Now Labour and Greens have said that will keep government spending to under 30% of GDP.

In 2008/09 Labour left office with core crown expenditure at 35.5% of GDP.  It took a massive effort by National to get it down to under 30% by 2015. Labour and Greens opposed pretty much every one of those spending cuts or restraints yet now they are saying they will stick to a similar expenditure level. Again, this is a huge shift, and a massive victory for the forces of fiscal conservatism.

What is the difference between spending 30% and 35% of GDP? Around $12 billion a year.

No wonder the CTU is pissed.

Now it isn’t a bulletproof pledge, and I’ll go through the details. And NZ First has not signed up, and there is no way Labour and Greens can form a Government without them, so they may use that to escape their pledge. But even with those caveats, this is a welcome step for them, after nine years of calling for nothing but extra spending, they have pledged to keep the share of the economy the state spends to the same level as National has got it after eight years.

So let’s take their pledges in turn:

1. The Government will deliver a sustainable operating surplus across an economic cycle.

An OBEGAL surplus indicates the Government is financially disciplined and building resilience to withstand and adapt to unforeseen events. We expect to be in surplus every year unless there is a significant natural event or a major economic shock or crisis. Our surpluses will exist once our policy objectives have been met, and we will not artificially generate surpluses by underfunding key public services.

Of course it is National’s hard work that has allowed this pledge, but still good to have it.

However note the wriggle room – our surpluses will exist once our policy objectives have been met. That could be used as an excuse to never have a surplus, as no Government ever ever says all their policy objectives have been met.

2. The Government will reduce the level of Net Core Crown Debt to 20% of GDP within five years of taking office.

To give future generations more options, reducing government debt has to be a priority. By setting a target, provided that economic conditions allow, we will be able to make responsible debt reductions and invest in housing and infrastructure that strengthen our country and prepare us for future challenges.

Good. Only two more years than National. Again some wriggle room around economic conditions allowing.

3. The Government will prioritise investments to address the long-term financial and sustainability challenges facing New Zealand.

The Government will prioritise responsible investments that enhance the long term wellbeing of New Zealanders – such as restarting contributions to the Super Fund. In addition we will invest in infrastructure to support our growing population, and reduce the long term fiscal and economic risks of climate change.

A bit meaningless as National has said contributions will restart also and is investing massively in infrastructure. This target has no measure against it, like the others.

4. The Government will take a prudent approach to ensure expenditure is phased, controlled, and directed to maximise its benefits. The Government will maintain its expenditure to within the recent historical range of spending to GDP ratio.

During the global financial crisis Core Crown spending rose to 34% of GDP. However, for the last 20 years, Core Crown spending has been around 30% of GDP and we will manage our expenditure carefully to continue this trend.

Actually it started to exceed 30% in 2005/06 when Cullen started to go on a massive spending binge. This is the key pledge. This means spending will not increase faster than the economy as a whole.

5. The Government will ensure a progressive taxation system that is fair, balanced, and promotes the long-term sustainability and productivity of the economy.

The Government will ensure a progressive taxation system that is fair, balanced, and promotes the long-term sustainability and productivity of the economy.

Again no hard numbers for this one. We already have a highly progressive tax system. Labour have promised separately no tax increases in their first term – another huge change from decades of arguing for tax increases.

  • The credibility of our Budget Responsibility Rules requires a mechanism that makes the government accountable. Independent oversight will provide the public with confidence that the government is sticking to the rules.
  • We will establish a body independent of Ministers of the Crown who will be responsible for determining if these rules are being met. The body will also have oversight of government economic and fiscal forecasts, shall provide an independent assessment of government forecasts to the public, and will cost policies of opposition parties.

Excellent – a great idea.

But now comes the challenge for Labour and Greens. Over the last two years they have called for billions of dollars of extra spending that would breach these fiscal rules they have just agreed to.  So which of these policies will they drop:

  • $161 million to eliminate school fees
  • $1.9 billion for health
  • $1.2 billion million for Kiwisaver subsidies
  • $163 million for rural roads
  • $92 million for paid parental leave extension
  • $50 million for more refugees
  • $1.2 billion to eliminate tertiary fees
  • $200 million for Housing NZ
  • $500 million for child policy
  • $60 million for youth unemployment
  • $480 million for special needs students

Just those few promises or pledges total around $6 billion a year. They can’t do half of them under their fiscal rules. They need to be up front with New Zealanders about which policies they are going to fund.

Guest Post: Prisoners hairpieces and human rights

A guest post by David Garrett:

On 16 March 2017, Justice Wylie decided that  denying convicted paedophile and murderer Philip John Smith his hairpiece was a breach of his “human rights”; more particularly, his  right to “self expression”. I know nothing of Justice Wylie or his antecedents, and if I did, I would be very loathe to comment on them, for obvious reasons. But surely this decision prompts – at the very least – a discussion on just what “rights” prisoners in New Zealand jails should enjoy?

It has long been a left wing mantra that here in Godzone, prisoners are sent to jail “as punishment, and not FOR punishment”. Decoded, that clause means that the punishment handed down by a Judge is limited to the deprivation of liberty – the loss  of the right to take the dog for a walk, buy an ice cream at the dairy, and have a beer on the deck in the evening. All other human rights supposedly  remain unaffected: now  we see the right to “self expression” being specifically preserved in the form of the right to wear a hairpiece which was employed as part of a disguise used to  escape lawful custody.

The right to “self expression” appears to be one with few boundaries: recently I saw a UK documentary in which vandals quite openly said that trashing public and private property should form part of their right to “express ourselves”. Rather than guffaw in amazement, the interviewer nodded wisely, and appeared to think that was a reasonable argument.

Well, my view is very different.  Fifty  years ago – which of course is an eternity to millenials – bouncing a cheque was considered to be a shameful thing which warranted a short prison sentence. As recently as 1974, Elton John’s then manager served a 30 day sentence in Mt Eden for assaulting journalist Judith Baragwanath. (His sentence was confirmed on appeal).  

Forty odd years later, it is extremely difficult to get sent to prison: on average a prisoner has appeared before the courts  eleven times – that’s eleven appearances, not eleven charges – before he is sent to jail. Therefore, it is fair to say that prisoners are, with very few exceptions, what used to be called “bad bastards.” So what human rights should those bad bastards enjoy? I do not believe that liberty is the only thing prisoners should lose.

Commenters on Kiwiblog frequently argue that the worst  murderers should forfeit life itself; that capital punishment is the only just penalty for deviant humans such as Philip John Smith. The reality is that there will never be a restoration of capital punishment in New Zealand, no matter how egregious the offence, or how certain the offender’s guilt.  I have on other occasions set out the reasons for my view that it would be inappropriate – and indeed counter productive – if murderers  here faced the death penalty, even as a discretionary sentence.

But that is an entirely different issue from what rights are appropriate for prisoners of the New Zealand justice system. Given the reality – that to be sent to prison one usually  has had to be convicted of numerous offences, often involving violence – I nail  my colours to the mast, and say that a prisoner’s rights should be substantially fewer than those of other members of the community.

Prisoners used to be distinguished by what they wore: their uniforms were either arrows (never quite got the rationale behind that) or horizontal stripes; either way, the intent was to make them immediately distinguishable  from law abiding members of society, both within the jails and  if they escaped. Prisoners used to have their heads virtually shaved – today’s equivalent of a “number two”. So long as they behaved, they were fed adequately – somewhat better than prisoners of war – but put on “Number One Diet” if they misbehaved.  Prisoners who were determined to buck the system could find themselves in solitary confinement, potentially for many months.

So here we are, fifty or sixty years later. Prisoners wear what they like. The prison barber will cut their hair as they wish. There is no solitary confinement, or Number One Diet – that would breach the prisoner’s human rights. As of 16 March 2017, bald prisoners’ human rights include the right to wear a hairpiece – even if the wearing of that rug aided their escape.

In my view, the case of Philip John Smith and his hairpiece should prompt a wholesale review of the doctrine that deprivation of liberty is the only punishment prisoners should suffer. It is my personal view that prisoners should leave a whole suite of “human rights” at the prison gate: they have by their actions, disqualified themselves from the right to wear what they like; from the right to have their hair cut as they wish; the right to have their food fads indulged;  from the right to assuage their vanity by the wearing of a hairpiece.

Establishing a set of prisoners’ rights would legislatively be very simple: an Act setting out what those rights were, and an amendment to the Bill of Rights Act (BORA) that made it subject to the Prisoners’ Rights Act. But while the enabling legislation would be simple and short,  the change in culture would be huge – the last two generations before the present have grown up with a focus on their extensive and inalienable rights – and being “non judgmental” is seen as  perhaps one of the most important.

The corollary of that is that prisoners are seen by many as being individuals who just need  help support and compassion – and perhaps a dose of religion – in order to become good citizens. Sadly the reality is, in my view, very different. In short, and with very few exceptions, most prisoners – and almost all of those who have been to prison more than once – will keep offending until age wearies them of incarceration, usually by their 40’s.

So what do I think prisoners’ rights should be? Obviously the right to be adequately housed and fed – but “adequately housed” should not include underfloor heating in cells. If pensioners have to go to bed early in the winter because they can’t afford heating, why the hell should prisoners be better off? Prisoners ought to have the right to prompt and adequate  medical care – but not access to more than basic dentistry. Many ordinary working people cannot afford to get a root canal or a crown, and thus have an extraction – once the pain becomes unbearable. Again, why should prisoners have it any better?

Prisoners should once again have to wear distinctive uniforms, both to reinforce their status, and to make them easier to catch if they grow tired of accommodation courtesy of Her Majesty. They should again have number two haircuts. They should again face meaningful punishments within jail for breaking or disregarding the rules.

I do not expect any of this to happen – I believe our society has gone too far down the road of soft treatment of those who break its rules, and towards a focus on rights to the exclusion of responsibilities. But let us at least have a debate about it.  If a declaration by a High Court Judge that  to wear a hair piece used as part of a disguise facilitating an escape is a “human right”  does not prompt us to reconsider prisoners’ rights, surely nothing else will.

NZDF responds to Hager allegations

From the NZ Defence Force:

NZDF STATEMENT ON HAGER/STEPHENSON BOOK

The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit and Run, is incorrect, says the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties.

Since the release of the book, the New Zealand Defence Force has spent considerable time reviewing the claims contained in it, despite the allegations of civilian casualties being the subject of a NATO investigation in 2010.

Upon review of Hit and Run, it is evident there are some major inaccuracies – the main one being the location and names of the villages where the authors claim civilians were killed and property was destroyed wilfully during a New Zealand-led operation.

The villages are named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, but the NZDF can confirm that NZDF personnel have never operated in these villages.

The authors appear to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals with an operation conducted more than two kilometres to the south, known as Operation Burnham.

The villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain.

The NZDF has used the geographical references in the book and cross-referenced them with our own material.

During Operation Burnham, New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.

The ISAF investigation determined that a gun sight malfunction on a coalition helicopter resulted in several rounds falling short, missing the intended target and instead striking two buildings.

This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established.

Hit and Run does not prove civilian casualties were sustained in the village where Operation Burnham took place.

The NZDF reiterates its position that New Zealand personnel acted appropriately during this operation and were not involved in the deaths of civilians or any untoward destruction of property.

The NZDF welcomes anyone with information relevant to Operation Burnham to come forward and be assured that any allegations of offending by NZDF personnel would be taken seriously and investigated in accordance with our domestic and international legal obligations. 

ENDS

This is very interesting, to say the least.

Elliott for Napier

The Herald reports:

Havelock North resident David Elliott has been chosen as the Nationa Party candidate for Napier in the upcoming general election.

Mr Elliott, who was beaten by Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule for the Tukituki National Party nomination earlier in the year, saw off competition from local businesswoman Deborah Burnside to secure the right to challenge incumbent Labour MP Stuart Nash for his seat.

The nomination was confirmed today.

Born and raised in Hawke’s Bay, the Cathay Pacific airline pilot returned from Hong Kong to live in the region in 2010. 

Stuart Nash holds the seat with a 3,850 majority. However National won the party vote by 8,500 votes so could be an interesting seat to watch.

Why ban Destiny?

Stuff reports:

Serco has banned Brian Tamaki’s son-in-law from offering a Destiny Church outreach programme at its South Auckland prison.

The surprise move has upset former inmates who benefited from the programme, and prompted a case manager at Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility to resign in protest. …

Warren is the national director of Man Up, a Destiny programme which is focused on empowering men to be better fathers and partners.

He is married to Jamie Warren, daughter of Destiny leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki.

Former inmate Billy Baggs was released from prison in November and said working with Man Up while behind bars helped him break the cycle of drugs, violence and gangs he had been stuck in for most of his life.

“It’s had a good effect on me and my whole family,” he said.

“Even my siblings and old associates are looking at Man Up now, because of the changes that I’ve made.”

I am no fan of the Destiny Church but I recognise they do so good works in their communities, and if their prison programme is beneficial to some inmates, it should be continued.

Asylum

Stuff reports:

“When I went to the police station they took me to a cell and gave me a mattress. There were cockroaches crawling and biting me, I thought to myself this is similar to a police station in Afghanistan!”

It’s just after midnight at Auckland International Airport when Khalid, who we agreed not to name to protect his identity, arrived in late August 2012. He’d disposed of his passport during the final transit before reaching Auckland.

His eyes scan the arrivals area. He finds a policeman and declares he is here to seek asylum. “I was taken to Customs to be strip-searched. It was such a shock you know. Because of my religion, this is not something that I wanted to do,” he says.  …

Immigration officers asked Khalid why he’d left Afghanistan, the route he’d taken to get to New Zealand and what had happened to his passport. 

“At the end they said they’d let me know the outcome. I thought they’d let me go at this point but they told me they couldn’t let me walk around the streets.”

Khalid was told he’d be taken to prison.

“My expectation was when I provided some documents and told the truth I would be taken to a refugee camp but they sent me to the police station where I spent the night.” 

Maybe he shouldn’t have destroyed his passport.

There’s conflict in Khalid’s voice as he explains why he used a false passport to leave Afghanistan.

“I had a UK visa, I could have gone there very easily. But the encouragement of my aunt who was already in New Zealand helped make my mind up. I didn’t want to be disloyal to the embassy because as an employee I didn’t want to misuse the visa they had given me.” 

This is key. He had a visa to go to the UK.

Asylum in my opinion is not meant to be like normal migration, where you choose your desired country to go and live in. It is meant to be that if you flee across the border, you don’t get sent back to a country where you will be persecuted.

Information obtained through the Official Information Act revealed there are​ now 11 asylum seekers holed up in Mt Eden Prison; the average length of stay is four months.

According to Immigration New Zealand statistics there were 269 claims for asylum between  2016 and 2017; 71 of those claims were approved.

So around 20% of claims for asylum are found to be legitimate.