Republicans now anti trade

Politico reports:

In a stunning reversal, a large majority of Republicans are repudiating their party’s traditional support for free trade, and falling sharply in line with nominee Donald Trump’s insistence that trade costs Americans more jobs than it creates.

Meanwhile, Democrats, whose representatives in Congress have traditionally been far more skeptical of trade deals — and largely voted against giving President Barack Obama the “fast-track” authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year — are now far more apt than Republicans to see the benefit of trade, according to an exclusive poll conducted for POLITICO and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Forty-seven percent of Republicans surveyed said that trade deals have hurt their communities over the last 10 years, compared to only 24 percent of Democratic voters. Only 18 percent of Republicans surveyed said that trade deals helped, while 33 percent of Democrats believe free trade helps.

Sadly I’d say this kills off TPP.

Fast track authority only got through with massive Republican support. Trump has led the GOP to abandon a belief in trade being good, and this climate will mean even in the lame duck period, there will not be votes for TPP.

Time for the rest of the world to give up on the US as a lost cause, and let’s focus on expanding TPP to China and even India.

Trade has “gone from the gold standard to being something that’s bad,” Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s former chief strategist, told POLITICO. “I think it’s a disaster across the board for the Republican Party, because you’re betting against all these trends [in globalization] that are not going to stop.”

Yep.

Lecturers blame Government for fewer students enrolling in their papers

The ODT reports:

University of Otago staff and students protested against cuts to the  humanities division during a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English yesterday.

Mr English was met by about 70 people, many holding signs with slogans calling for the Government to stop staff cuts,  when he visited the campus to give a talk to commerce students.

In August, humanities pro-vice-chancellor Prof Tony Ballantyne announced plans to cut jobs in  anthropology and archaeology, English and linguistics, history, languages and cultures, and music.

The cuts were necessary because of a decline in the division’s roll since 2010, Prof Ballantyne said.

So fewer students are deciding to do a humanities degree, which of course means fewer staff are needed. This is not surprising, and is how it works. But somehow the precious few at Otago think it is the Government’s fault and that Bill English somehow is to blame.

NZ on Air going platform agnostic

Radio NZ reports:

NZ On Air is shaking up the way it spends public money on programmes. Mediawatchlooks at why the government’s broadcasting funding agency is making the change, and the potential pitfalls in the proposal.

Last weekend, Fairfax Media published a major investigation into racism in the justice system. At the heart of it was a 20 minute video for the stuff.co.nz website by journalists Paula Penfold and Eugene Bingham and videographer Toby Longbottom.

Just last year, all three were producing similar work for TV3’s prime time current affairs show 3D. NZ On Air funding supported the show’s journalism, but TV3 canned the programme because it didn’t attract enough viewers and advertising.

Traditional TV fare shifting online like this is one of the reasons NZ On Air is adopting a “platform agnostic” attitude and – as announced today – planning a move to a single public media fund.

Research on viewing habits commissioned by NZ On Air has shown New Zealanders – especially the young – are increasing going online for their screen time, using on-demand services like Netflix, Lightbox, Neon and YouTube.  

In the past, NZ On Air sought to ensure the public got bang for its bucks by ring-fencing most money for programmes screened by mass-audience free-to-air TV broadcasters such as TV3, TVNZ and Prime.

The proposed new NZ Media Fund will instead create four new streams – factual, scripted, music and platforms – which will mean television loses its place as the centre of gravity.

NZ On Air will still send big budgets to free-to-air broadcasters for TV shows, but online and on-demand services will also be able to bid for money to make a wider range of content.

In principle this is a good idea. If we are to have taxpayer funded content, then it shouldn’t be focused on broadcast media only. So this is sensible.

However as more diverse platforms emerge, it is important to have transparency over how many people view something funded by the taxpayer. Ratings are not the only criteria (as the point of funding is to help produce NZ content that may not be commercially viable) but it is important to understand how many people actually viewed something.

I’d like to see NZ on Air report annually (or more often) on every show funded by them, and including:

  1. Total contribution from NZ on Air
  2. Number of viewers (broadcast, streaming, online, download etc)
  3. Cost per viewer

The issue is not Lavery but those who approved the corporate welfare fund

The Dom Post editorial:

It is extraordinary that Wellington City Council’s chief executive could give large sums to an airline and leave almost no record about it. Kevin Lavery’s decision might mean as much as $8m for Singapore Airlines over ten years. The documentation of the deal is slender, amounting to perhaps two pages. This seems a funny way to do business with public money.

Deputy mayor Justin Lester says the spending was within Lavery’s authority and he would be “highly surprised” if there was nothing else in writing. Presumably the politician is now very surprised, as he should be, although he also offers the thought that Lavery “doesn’t send emails.”

Nobody is accusing Lavery of doing anything dishonest, but his handling of this matter has been far too casual. Anyone with this much discretionary power to spend ratepayers’ money owes them a corresponding accountability. That means carrying out and recording a proper analysis and putting the deal and discussions about it in writing.

The issue is not Lavery, but accountability.

It is the Council that set up a secret slush fund for corporate welfare. It is the Council that delegates spending approval to the CE. Councillors should have a policy that any payments must include a detailed business case and analysis.

It is a failure of Council leadership here.

It’s a sign of Lavery’s extraordinary power at the council that an elected politician such as Lester finds no particular problem here.

So elect a Mayor dedicated to making changes.

The issue is not the CE, but the fact the Council has delegated spending authority with no requirements for transparency and analysis.

Wellington Regional Council candidates

In the Wellington constituency there are 11 candidates seeking five positions.

Some are easy to eliminate. Some candidates have said they wish to waste up to $1 billion on a light rail system that will provide benefits of just $50 million. Yes $950 million down the drain. The Council’s own study has said the BCR is a minuscule 0.05 yet they still support it. This rules them out on rational grounds.

So Paul Bruce, Sue Kedgley, Daran Ponter, Roger Blakeley, John Klaphake and Russell Tregonning are all big nos. It is a pity in the case of Roger Blakely who has a good CV as a department CEO and Porirua Council CEO but I can’t support anyone who ignores evidence as these six are.

So that leaves five candidates you should rank as your top five. They are:

  1. Ian McKinnon
  2. Chris Laidlaw
  3. Keith Flinders
  4. Norbert Hausberg
  5. Sam Somers

McKinnon is my top pick. An excellent former Deputy Mayor.

Laidlaw has not been a favourite of mine but he seems to be doing a good job as Chair and is rational. I’d rank him No 2.

Flinders and Hausberg seem okay so 3 and 4.

Somers does not seem to have any particular background with public policy or governance. But at least he isn’t campaigning to waste $950 million.

Lower Hutt has eight candidates for three spots.

  • Kath Allen
  • Leonie Dobbs
  • Sandra Greig
  • Ken Laban
  • Prue Lamarson
  • David Ogden
  • John Terris
  • Derek Wilshere

I rate Ken Laban highly and would have him in a top spot. David Ogden and Prue Lamarson as incumbents seem good also.

Porirua – Tawa has four candidates for two positions. They are:

  • Jenny Brash
  • Barbara Donaldson
  • Heidi Mills
  • Joern Scherzer

Brash and Donaldson are incumbents and seem solid. Scherzer seems to have a useful transport background.

Kapiti has three seeking one seat. They are:

  • Peter Bollmann
  • Penny Gaylor
  • Nigel Wilson

They all seem quite good. Wilson is the incumbent and seems to have been good.

Hooton on the next reshuffle

Matthew Hooton makes the case for an extensive Cabinet reshuffle and calls for the following MPs to be promoted to the ministry:

  • Todd Muller
  • Alfred Ngaro
  • Mark Mitchell
  • Alfred Ngaro
  • Parmjeet Parmar
  • Andrew Bayley
  • Chris Bishop
  • Barbara Kuriger
  • Sarah Dowie

I don’t have any comment on which individual MPs should be promoted, and which should be told it’s time up. My list would be different to Matthew’s list if I published one.

But what I would say is that I think it is important the National continues its pattern of renewal of both the Cabinet/Ministry and Caucus. The chances of winning a 4th term are significantly harder if your government looks like the same figures as in 2008 and even 2011. This was a significant mistake Helen Clark made – she left renewal too late, and too little.

Key has to date been successful at ministry renewal. The following Ministers have left:

  1. Simon Power
  2. Tony Ryall
  3. David Carter
  4. Tim Groser
  5. Wayne Mapp
  6. Georgina te Heuheu
  7. Chester Borrows
  8. Phil Heatley
  9. Pansy Wong
  10. Kate Wilkinson
  11. Chris Tremain
  12. Maurice WIlliamson
  13. Richard Worth
  14. John Carter

Most did not leave because they were performing badly. Far from it. But renewal means even good performers move on after a while to make space.

And in terms of new Ministers who were not there in 2008 we have:

  1. Amy Adams
  2. Jonathan Coleman
  3. Simon Bridges
  4. Hekia Parata
  5. Nathan Guy
  6. Nikki Kaye
  7. Michael Woodhouse
  8. Todd McClay
  9. Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga
  10. Maggie Barry
  11. Craig Foss
  12. Jo Goodhew
  13. Nicky Wagner
  14. Louise Upston
  15. Paul Goldsmith

So there has been good renewal to date. But this is not a time to sit on one’s laurels. The last time a Government got a fourth term was in 1969. Voters want to see renewal, not complacency.

Being a Minister is not a job for one’s parliamentary life. It is important that new talented MPs who entered in 2011 and even 2014 have opportunities to become Ministers. It’s good for the Government and also good for re-election.

So I hope that any reshuffle in early 2017 is significant to maximise National’s chance in the election later that year.

Another discharge without conviction for a rugby player

Stuff reports:

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy wrote a character reference helping a promising rugby player to be discharged without conviction for a brutal assault.

Wellington rugby player Losi Filipo assaulting [sic] four people, including two women.

So he bashed two guys and two girls and got off because he is a rugby player. Disgusting.

Morgan, 21, said the assault happened in October about 3 o’clock one morning on Wellington’s Wakefield St.

“We heard footsteps running up behind us and it was three guys looking for a fight. We repeatedly told them we didn’t want to fight and to just let us go to our car which was around the corner.

“And that’s when it started, I don’t remember much but I do remember being smashed on the ground and my head being stomped on.”

So it was unprovoked and brutal.

Morgan said he had a potential contract with Wellington Rugby, but following the assault he was told he could never play rugby again.

He was devastated to see the guy who took away his dream go without punishment.

“We had the same potential and it doesn’t feel right that I’m still dealing with migraines and fatigue, and he is enjoying playing rugby.”

It isn’t right, no.

Police charged Filipo with assault with intent to injure, two counts of male assaults female, and injures with intent to injure following the incident.

However, Newshub said the judge opted to give Filipo a chance despite the charges demanding a starting point of at least one-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

The judge ruled Filipo should be able to fulfil his potential, saying  “I have to ask myself are the courts in the business of destroying people’s career prospects?”, Newshub reported.

Wrong question. Filipo destroyed his prospects by assaulting for strangers.

Hayden Williams, 22, another of Filipo’s victims, saw the rugby player about a week after the court case while standing outside a bar in Wellington.

“He walked passed me and I asked him if he was still punching girls,” says Williams. “He signalled out to his friends and two of them came over and yelled at me asking for a fight.

“Losi was laughing at me and kept saying he’d been through court. I felt like he was laughing that he’d been through court and got off.”

So unrepentent. He could have apologised to one of his victims.

“His brother was charged with four lesser charges and was convicted. It’s just not right.”

Presumably the brother was not a rugby player.

After the public shaming, the Wellington Rugby Union has terminated his contract.

Goff’s $150,000 foreign donation

The Herald reported:

A book, two bottles of wine and a $5 note were the star lots at a Chinese dinner that raised $250,000 for Labour MP Phil Goff’s mayoral campaign on Saturday night.

About 350 people attended the fundraising dinner at the Imperial Palace restaurant in Ellerslie where bidding on a book, The Governance of China, written and signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, started at $5000 and sold to a phone bidder from China for $150,000.

There are no issues around having successful fundraisers and auctions.

But I am surprised that there has been no comment on the $150,000 donation from a Chinese resident (not a Chinese New Zealander).

Such a donation is not illegal under the Local Electoral Act but if Goff was standing for Parliament, it would be illegal. The maximum donation from a non-resident or citizen is $1,500 for parliamentary elections.

If Goff was a centre-right candidate who received a $150,000 donation from a Chinese resident, I suspect the left would condemn it as corruption and call for it to be refunded. They’d claim Goff was the tool of Chinese house buyers.

But as usual a double standard applies. Goff’s $150,000 donation from a foreigner doesn’t even get a comment.

19 speeding tickets over 3.5 million kms

Stuff reports:

Crown limousines have clocked more than enough kilometres to drive from Wellington to Auckland 5618 times in the past five years. 

Information released under the Official Information Act reveals that the Government’s 34 chauffeur-driven cars clocked up 3.5 million kilometres during the past five years.

Drivers were also nabbed 19 times for speeding tickets. While individual drivers seemingly picked up the speeding fines, the Department of Internal Affairs confirmed all operating costs for crown limos were paid for by taxpayers.

So on average that is one speeding ticket every 185,000 kms. Remarkably low I would say.

CEO rankings of MPs

As usual the Herald Mood of the Boardroom has asked CEOs to rank the performance of Ministers and senior Opposition figures. The combined ratings (out of five) are:

  1. Bill English 4.51
  2. John Key 4.04
  3. Steven Joyce 3.51
  4. Amy Adams 3.47
  5. Jacinda Ardern 3.37
  6. Nikki Kaye 3.36
  7. Paula Bennett 3.24
  8. Chris FInlayson 3.23
  9. James Shaw 3.21
  10. Jonathan Coleman 3.17
  11. Simon Bridges 3.12
  12. Annette King 3.10
  13. Anne Tolley 3.09
  14. Michael Woodhouse 3.06
  15. Phil Twyford 2.93 
  16. Nathan Guy 2.91
  17. Todd McClay 2.90
  18. Winston Peters 2.90
  19. Grant Robertson 2.86
  20. Judith Collins 2.85
  21. Hekia Parata 2.85
  22. Murray McCully 2.77
  23. David Shearer 2.72
  24. Gerry Brownlee 2.66
  25. David Parker 2.55
  26. Nick Smith 2.52
  27. Chris Hipkins 2.46
  28. Julie-Anne Genter 2.42
  29. Metiria Turei 2.37
  30. David Clark 2.35
  31. Maggie Barry 2.34
  32. Andrew Little 2.22
  33. Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga 2.15
  34. Ron Mark 2.13

A few interesting things to note:

  • Andrew Little has a disastrous rating. He is seen as the least impressive Labour front bencher.
  • James Shaw is well regarded by CEOs. There has been some amusing exchanges on Twitter as Shaw has complained that this aspect has not been highlighted, and others have suggested it may not endear him to their base.
  • Ardern and King the only Labour MPs rated above a three
  • English and Key only MPs rated four or higher
  • National’s average rating is 3.03, Labour is 2.73

UPDATE: Ministers not in the online edition now included

1st Presidential Debate Open Thread

Open thread for live commenting on the 1st Trump vs Clinton presidential debate.

UPDATE:

The first 20 to 30 minutes were quite even, and I’d even say advantage to Trump. He connected better on the economy and has specifics compared to Clinton. And he killed Clinton on TPP. It was depressing however to see him advocate a tariff on basically every import into the United States – a protectionist agenda to the left of most Democrats and also in breach of WTO rules.

But the last hour was not even, and not even close to even. I may be wrong, but thought Clinton overwhelmed him (unlike the first half hour which I thought favoured him). A few stand outs:

  • Clinton was expert at baiting Trump and getting him to bite. She’d bring up his business dealings and he’d then talk in detail about them, rather than about his policies or plans for the US. Who cares about what he did in the 70s.
  • He was tone deaf often. When she said many years he paid no income tax at all, and he responded along the lines that is because he was smart is one example.
  • On the birtherism issue, he was awful
  • Clinton dominated at NATO and foreign policy generally.

Unsure whether undecided voters will shift by this, but my expectation is a lift for Clinton in the polls. We’ll see.

WCC Candidates’ Survey – Southern ward

There are five candidates seeking two positions. Three candidates have kindly completed the Kiwiblog candidates’ survey. The candidates are:

What is the maximum average annual rates increase, if any, you would vote for over the next three years?

  • David Lee – 30 cents a day per household, based on a RV of $500,000.
  • Brendon Bonner – Given circumstances where nothing like the CHCH earthquake occurred, then I would like the maximum average annual rates increase to be no more than 3%. Clearly ratepayers are unhappy with the 4.9% rise this year. Normally I would like to see it around the Local Government Cost index figure, this year 1.9%. However I would like to at least try to get it even lower. In these hard times aiming for a 0% rise would at least show citizens that WCC is listening – this may only be possible with a reduction in services as a quid pro quo and people would need to understand that.
  • Brent Pierson – 3%

DPF comment: Lee’s 30c a day is $110 a year. a house with an RV of $500,000. WCC says the WCC rates on that value is $2,374. So that is around a maximum 4.6% increase. Bonner and Pierson are around 3%.

Do you support the proposed runway extension for Wellington Airport?

  • David Lee – No.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes.
  • Brent Pierson – Yes.

DPF comment – Lee against and Bonner and Pierson in favour

What is the maximum contribution ($ or %) from toward the runway extension you would vote for?

  • David Lee – It a private company, so no public money should be used for private infrastructure.
  • Brendon Bonner – Given that WCC owns 33% of the airport company then that seem like the percentage WCC should pay as it’s share of the runway extension. However given that there is a case to be made that the possible benefits would flow more to the country and the region rather than just the airport owner then WCC should vigorously pursue ‘contributions’ from other local governments as well as central government.
  • Brent Pierson – 90 million

DPF comment – Lee against any contribution, Bonner favours in line with shareholding and Pierson a $90 million contribution.

Can example of current WCC spending that you would vote against in future?

  • David Lee – The indoor arena. We already have such venues and facilities.
  • Brendon Bonner – The Island Bay cycleway
  • Brent Pierson – Not answered

Do you support four laning (through additional tunnels) the Mt Vic and Terrace tunnels at an estimated cost of $250 million?

  • David Lee – Only a Mt Vic tunnel, with the proviso of walking and cycling infrastructure.
  • Brendon Bonner – No. I believe that if public transport was made better and cheaper, then hopefully that would remove a lot of cars from the road as people were economically incentivised (saving $) to use the bus. Folks would use their car only when necessary. The rest of the time, any road trips would be a lot easier because many commuters are off the road happily sitting in their clean, green bus. That would lessen demand on the roading system – and the demand for more roads! I suspect we’d still need to do the 2nd Mt Vic tunnel and ‘cut and cover’ around the Basin. This will probably be forced on us by Wellington’s ever increasing population. However the 2nd Terrace Tunnel proposal needs a lot more scrutiny and the $250 million for both sounds like a builder’s estimate rather than a quote!
  • Brent Pierson – Yes.

DPF comment: Pierson supports both tunnels expanding, Lee one of them and Bonner neither

Do you support a change to the structure of local government in the Wellington Region, and if so to what?

  • David Lee – No – any change must be by way of a referendum.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes. The control of the public transport of Wellington city needs to be returned to the public of Wellington city. We know best how to spend our tax dollars on the public transport of Wellington. It is unacceptable that currently this vital piece of Wellington city’s infrastructure is controlled by a committee of the Greater Wellington Regional Council and that this committee is headed by someone from Upper Hutt. It seems to be be a system set up to fail the public of Wellington – and it is.
  • Brent Pierson – No

Do you support the current closing times for CBD bars of 4am. If not, what time would you prefer?

  • David Lee – No! I support 3am, the social and economic costs of longer hrs outweigh the benefits to the bars and establishments.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes.
  • Brent Pierson – 4 am is okay.

DPF comment: Lee supports 3 am. Bonner and Pierson 4 am,

Do you think WCC should make it a condition for any business tendering for a contract with WCC to pay their staff at least $20 an hour?

  • David Lee – No! But, it should be an evaluation criteria ie. are you a living wage employer?
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes – to me it is simply the right and fair thing to do given the cost of living in NZ today. The business tendering for the contract must be the one actually doing the work – they are not to win a tender and then sub-contract it on to a ‘cheaper’ firm and pocket any difference.
  • Brent Pierson – Yes, the “Living wage”

DPF comment: Bonner and Pierson support the living wage for contractors. Lee thinks it should be a criteria but not a requirement.

Should fluoridation of the Wellington city water supply continue?

  • David Lee – Yes! What next… do away with chlorination, like Havelock Nth.
  • Brendon Bonner – Yes
  • Brent Pierson – Yes.

DPF comment: All candidates in favour of fluoridation.

If Council had an additional 10% revenue, or $40 million, what would be your priority spending areas?

  • David Lee – $20m for earthquake strengthening fund. $10m as seed money to help startups and business activation. $10m to partner up with business to fund graduate programmes, scholarships, apprenticeship, internships
  • Brendon Bonner – Housing
  • Brent Pierson – Help homeless, beggars and community housing

Vegemite or Marmite?

  • David Lee – Marmite
  • Brendon Bonner – Marmite.
  • Brent Pierson – Marmite

DPF comment: Vegemite not wanted in the Southern Ward.

southern

The table above is a simple scoring system of responses against my own personal views of low rates, no subsidy for the runway, four lanes on SH1, 4 am closing, no living wage requirement and pro-fluoridation.

Not a big difference between the three candidates.

The scores on policy are not the only factor in deciding how I will vote. Ability to work with others, communicate, work hard etc all factor in also.

Note Paul Eagle did not respond to the survey but from what I know of him he is a sensible and effective Councillor so would vote for him (despite his Labour candidacy).

The tobacco black market

A good story in Stuff on the black market in tobacco:

For smokers, the habit is getting increasingly expensive as the Government ups its tax to discourage smoking and recoup some of the health costs.

A pack of 20 cigarettes is expected to cost about $30 by 2020. A 50g packet of premium loose tobacco, used in roll-your-owns, currently costs about $78.

That is big money for hard-up smokers who are turning to the black market to buy stolen cigarettes and illicit loose tobacco.

Customs estimates the market for illegally manufactured or smuggled tobacco represents 2 to 4 per cent of consumption and is “not a significant problem”. Its figures are based on a 2013 report by Action Smoking and Health (Ash), which excludes stolen tobacco products. 

Police believe the black market is fuelling armed robberies and burglaries, with criminals targeting dairies and stealing tobacco products for resale rather than for personal use. 

This is the policy challenge. It is clear increasing the tax on tobacco is an effective tool to reduce smoking rates. But the higher the cost becomes, the more enticing the black market becomes. This is the same reason prohibition of alcohol failed in the 1930s – if you have demand, and no legal affordable supply, then the black market flourishes – and crimes become more profitable.

As an example, Stuff  visited an Aranui home and bought 80g of loose tobacco for $80 from 21-year-old Jasmine Lasseter, who was advertising on Facebook.

Lasseter claimed the tobacco was “factory seconds”, sourced from a local business owned by her friend’s father. She got a kilogram at a time so she never ran out.

Initially acknowledging she avoided paying tax on the tobacco, when confronted later she changed her story.

Lasseter’s Facebook page indicates her sales amount to at least 1kg of tobacco each week. She offers discounts for regulars.

Surprisingly sellers like Lasseter appear to be operating unhindered by Customs, which is responsible for collecting the duty on tobacco.

A Customs spokeswoman said the agency would look into reports or information “provided to us” and “enforce any offences discovered in relation to illegal tobacco”.

Customs did not ask for details of Stuff’s sting although those were supplied later.

So Customs is not at all proactive in this area, and even when informed, they don’t even ask for details.

BAT spokesman Saul Derber estimates the size of the black market has at least doubled since the 2013 Ash report.

“I would say 1 to 2 million 30g pouches (worth about $45 each) are being sold on the streets of New Zealand without any tax being paid, without any health warnings applied and no concerns about what age group they’re selling to. Sales are rife of chop chop (illicit tobacco).”

The tobacco giant acknowledges a vested interest — illegal sellers are eating into their profits.

It believes the Government, which collects more than $1 billion in tobacco tax annually, should be more interested in tackling the issue.

Again this is the policy challenge. The more you tax and regulate the legal product, the more the illegal product flourishes which has no age limits for selling, no effective regulation and no tax.

This is not an argument against taxing tobacco and regulating it. But it is an argument that you should always look at the unforeseen consequences and how to mitigate them.

Well intentioned but harmful

The Herald reports:

Maori Party co-founder Dame Tariana Turia has blasted the Government for “institutional racism” in its proposed reform of child protection laws.

She said a proposal to abolish a principle requiring child protection staff to consider the effects of decisions on whanau and iwi, as well as on the child’s well-being, was “a big step backwards”.

“I am going to speak to MPs, and I am going to speak to various iwi around the country to get them to understand what institutional racism really is, which is what we are experiencing yet again,” she said.

Cabinet papers released by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley last weekrevealed that the Government plans to axe a provision that gives priority to placing abused children with foster parents from the same extended family or tribe.

A new law, which will create a new Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamakiri, would require that any child who was removed from its family and cannot be returned to immediate family “must be placed with a safe, stable and loving family at the earliest opportunity”.

The change would remove a provision in the 1989 Children, Young Persons and their Families Act that gave priority to placing a child with “a person who is a member of the child’s or young person’s hapu or iwi [with preference being given to hapu members], or, if that is not possible, who has the same tribal, racial, ethnic, or cultural background as the child”.

The current law is well intentioned but has been a failure. The Government is being brave in confronting this.

If everything else is equal, of course you would want a child to go into extended family rather than strangers. But this ignores the reality of many families. If a mother and/or father are so dysfunctional that they abuse or neglect their child, then often the wider family has significant issues also. Bad parents do not get created out of nothing. So placing a child with an aunt or a grandparent or a cousin often leads to the child continuing to live in unsafe environments.

Instead, the first principle in the new arrangements for children removed from their parents is that “decisions should be centred around the child or young person’s best interests and understanding the views and needs of the child”.

That is the correct focus. If the best interests of the child is with extended family, then that is great. But there should not be a legislative priority to extended family, when our sad history is this is often from the frying pan to the fire.

Turia’s target is another proposed change axing a principle in the 1989 law that “consideration must always be given to how a decision affecting a child or young person will affect (i) the welfare of that child or young person; and (ii) the stability of that child’s or young person’s family, whanau, hapu, iwi, and family group”.

The Cabinet paper proposes replacing this with a single focus on the child’s well-being, proposing a first principle that “a child or young person have a safe, stable and loving home”.

If we didn’t have 30 years of history and evidence, I’d agree with Turia. But the reality is the current law has failed to make children safe, and the focus must overwhelming be on the safety of the child, not the welfare of the wider family, whanau, hapu or iwi.

Turia said a child’s well-being depended on having a good relationship with its family.

Not when they are the problem.

“The principle is that the well-being of the child primarily lies within the whanau,” she said.

If the parents were not coping, she said the law should continue to prioritise finding foster parents within the wider whanau and iwi.

“I’ll use my own [Whanganui] iwi as an example,” she said. “You can’t tell me that within 8000 people connected by our river, you cannot find someone to care for a child.”

Wrong question. You probably can, but will they be the best person for the child?

In some cases, even many cases they may be. But not in all cases. The welfare of the child must come first, second and third.

Current Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox declined to comment on the proposed changes last week. But after Turia issued her statement today, the other co-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell, said children “should be placed with whanau”.

Sadly whanau are often the problem, including the extended family. Listen to the evidence.

$8 million and no paperwork

Hamish Rutherford reports at Stuff:

A decision to subsidise Singapore Airlines new Wellington flights for the next decade saw virtually nothing put in writing.

Documents released by the Wellington City Council show that apart from a presentation made to councillors after the decision was made, the council generated a single two page document, which refers to the subsidy only in passing.

Decision by powerpoint!

In January it was revealed that Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery had approved a subsidy for a new Singapore-Canberra-Wellington route from the Destination Wellington fund. The route launched on September 21. 

The council has never disclosed the maximum Singapore Airlines, one of Asia’s largest airlines, could be paid, but documents suggest it could be $800,000 a year for 10 years.

So $8 million of taxpayer money given to Singapore Air on no paperwork. I’d expect a very detailed economic impact report and business case as a minimum.

The Ombudsman, the authority appointed to monitor the official information disclosures of government agencies, has investigated the council on the information it released, and concluded that no other written documents exist.

The release suggests Lavery neither sent nor received a single piece of correspondence on the request, commissioned no analysis on Wellington Airport and Singapore Airlines’ claims about the route, or had any written contact with Singapore Airlines on the payment whatsoever.

On Monday Lavery and the council refused to comment on the subsidy or the decision making process behind it.

Justin Lester, who as deputy mayor was involved in the negotiations to bring Singapore Airlines to Wellington, defended the process, saying the spending was within Lavery’s authority.

That’s not the issue. Lester is defending $8 million of secret corporate welfare that even worse has no written justification for it. This is outrageous behaviour and there needs to be accountability for it.

Clark still near bottom

The 5th straw poll has seen Clark slip further going from 6-2-7 to 6-0-9. As I said previously I don’t see any credible path to victory.

The net support for each candidate in the 5th straw poll was:

  1. Guterres +10 (12-2)
  2. Jeremic +2 (8-6)
  3. Lajcak +1 (8-7)
  4. Malcorra 0 (7-7)
  5. Turk 0 (7-7)
  6. Bokova -1 (6-7)
  7. Kerim -3 (6-9)
  8. Clark -3 (6-9)
  9. Gherman -8 (3-11)

So only one candidate is below Clark.

Clark’s score’s each round has been

  1. +3 (8-5)
  2. -2 (6-8)
  3. -2 (6-8)
  4. -1 (6-7)
  5. -3 (6-9)

This suggests that the neutrals have now decided her candidacy is untenable and are giving her the signal to exit.

Gould has the solution for Labour – go even harder left!

Please please please please will Labour listen to the advice of Bryan Gould.

This may be where Labour is falling short. It has perhaps failed to grasp that what it is really up against is a hegemonic force – a neo-liberal revolution – that has shaped political attitudes in western democracies across the globe for more than a generation and that now represents a norm so powerful that it is not even recognised as such by those who might be expected to oppose it.

This hegemony cannot be changed or challenged just by nibbling at the edges – by attacking short-term policy failures on specific issues, or by sharpening up campaigning techniques. What is needed is a fundamental statement of what the Labour Party stands for, and a persuasive account of why it will produce a better and more successful society than has been delivered by the current neo-liberal orthodoxy.

Many of those who might consider voting Labour do so precisely because they are looking for a different set of values than those demonstrated by our current Government and than are reflected in today’s New Zealand.

This is the approach taken by the UK Labour Party with electing Jeremy Corbyn – reject basically the last 35 years and try to turn the clock back to the 1970s. And that is working so well for UK Labour isn’t it.

In the same article Michael Cox responds and notes:

You have to give it to Bryan Gould. He is persistent in his claims that the politics of envy and socialism are the only saviours for the people of New Zealand.

As a British Labour MP he failed to convince his own parliamentary colleagues that he should be their leader way back in the 1990’s. Even they rejected his hard left philosophies.

Recently we have seen another socialist government fail dismally. Under President Dilma Rousseff’s Brazilian Workers Party government for the past 13, the once wealthy Brazil has gone down the fiscal tubes.

She led her country into its worst ever recession. The people she hurt the most with her socialist policies were those she tried hardest to protect. One in nine workers is jobless, up a third in the past year and inflation is close to 10 per cent. The economy has shrunk by 3.8 per cent.

This is just another modern day example of how socialism, as proposed by the likes of Professor Gould, doesn’t work.

Just as the Prof was making his bid for the leadership of the British Labour Party, the painful 60 years of Russian Socialism was beginning to crumble and his opponents for the leadership, John Smith and Tony Blair, sensibly moved into the centre ground, leaving Bryan floundering on the left; and he still is.

Just because socialism has failed in every other country that has adopted it, is no reason to stop pushing it eh!

Hide on the left

Rodney Hide writes:

What ails the left? They lack puff and policy.

They were once vibrant, challenging and full of ideas. The right were the dreary, backward-looking ones.

The left now suffer from closed minds and moral smugness. They are moribund and backward-looking.

They run from ideas. Opposing philosophies distress them.

They pillory dissenters as stupid or immoral and often both. There’s no debating or explaining, just abuse for those who step outside received wisdom.

The left have taken to social media with gusto. It only takes 140 characters to abuse and attack.

They fill Twitter and blogs with their righteousness and smugness, puffed up by their own perceived moral and intellectual superiority.

This is of course not true of all on the left. But it is true of a significant proportion.

There’s no allowance that a person with a differing view might offer an opportunity to learn and to strengthen your ideas and perhaps, just perhaps, to change them.

That’s never allowed as a possibility.

Their minds are closed and they gasp and take offence at any idea or opinion different to their own.

Indeed, ganging up against dissenters on social media is what binds them. Their attacks on others proves to them their correctness and superiority.

Social media has provided some with the ability to live in an echo chamber.

The left view their political failure as the fault of voters who must be hoodwinked, stupid, selfish, or suffering some other ethical or intellectual shortcoming. Why else would they not be supporting the left when they are so good and true?

I think the term used by one leftist is “sleepy hobbits”. A belief the voters are stupid and hoodwinked.

NZ Herald interview with Key

A quite fascinating interview with John Key by Audrey Young. Some interesting aspects:

Would you count Helen Clark as a friend now?

Yeah. I don’t think she wants to have barbecues with me but I trust her and my view has been there is such a small group of people that have fundamentally been prime minister, who understand what you go through. And in most mature places in the world – not in some countries where they lock up their former [leaders] – there is a system for saying why wouldn’t we use their expertise for the greater good. You see that in the US system where they’ll be rolling Jimmy Carter out or they’ll be rolling Obama out in years to come. I’ve always just taken the view: why can’t we be a bit more grown-up about it? I’m not competing with Helen for anything. Last time I looked, she’s not coming back to be leader of the Labour Party. I just think New Zealanders would expect me to be a bit more mature about it.

A good way to look at it.

[Bill Clinton] He is the greatest story-teller on the planet. Him and Obama are the two great orators of the world but for completely different reasons. Obama delivers a prepared speech – I can’t think of anyone in the world that does it better. But Clinton never uses notes. He just tells human stories. You feel hopelessly inadequate when you listen to that guy speak. From South Sudan to the Congo, he has been involved. It is incredible.

Clinton off the cuff is quite amazing.

When Clinton was talking yesterday, he was obviously making a reflection on what was happening in the election, he said in life when there are zero sum games, I win and you lose.

That is not the way the world should be and the world should be where there are not zero sum games, where we both can win. His sense at the moment is a lot of Americans think it is zero sum game and they are the person losing. You can go on all you like about the ugliness of the campaigns but there is something happening when, on both sides of the political spectrum, the Bernie Sanders supporters and the Trump supporters feel as though they have been so left out.

Yeah that is very much so. I was chatting to someone from Fonterra about this. Too many people see reducing trade barriers as good for a country only when other countries do it also, when in fact  country gains from reduced protectionism even if other countries don’t reduce barriers. Trade is not a zero sum game where winning is exporting more and losing is importing more.

Are you missing home? You’ve been away a lot.

It’s great when Bronagh’s with me because it’s far more fun travelling with her when I’m away for weeks on end because even when I’m away, then I’m straight back into Wellington, and so I’m away from home. That’s the bit I don’t like. But the kids are so much more grown up. Anyway, we’re the sort of family where we send each other pictures all the time. We send them every five minutes. We got one of the cat eating before.

Eating what?

Its dinner. I really didn’t need that. It’s pretty mundane I’ve got to say.

If it was a rat I’d understand.

No no, it was just its Jellimeat or whatever.

Heh.

You do know half of houses are below the median?

Stuff reports:

Nearly 80 per cent of renters across New Zealand lack the resources for a home deposit, according to new figures which Labour says shows many Kiwis are locked out of the market.

However, Housing Minister Nick Smith says the numbers are “no surprise”, and have not significantly worsened in recent years.

Labour has compiled new data from Statistics New Zealand, saying the figures show the inadequacy of subsidies for Kiwis in search of their first home.

According to the data, 78 per cent of renters or 458,000 households had a net worth of $120,000 or less, meaning they would be unable to afford the 20 per cent deposit for an average house valued at $612,000.

This is a silly and almost meaningless stat.

By definition half of the homes sell for under $612,000. Just because you can’t afford to buy a house at the average (median) value doesn’t mean you are locked out.

In fact almost everyone I know buys a relatively cheap house initially and trades up later.

I’m in no way saying house prices are not too expensive. They are. I’m just saying this particular analysis is a bit meaningless.

Antarctica good for our economy

Stuff reports:

A new report estimates Antarctic-related activities pump $178 million into the New Zealand economy with Canterbury the major beneficiary.

National Antarctic programmes run by New Zealand, the US, Italy and the Republic of Korea contribute $167m annually, buying goods and services from more than 900 firms.

The report said the multiplier effect of downstream and household spending meant the full economic impact for the country was $432m, and almost 7000 jobs – more than half of them in Canterbury – were based on Antarctic-related activities. 

As always be sceptical of multiplier effects, but even without that it is a very useful contribution. Being a major gateway to Antarctica for other countries is good for us.

Chief executive of Antarctica New Zealand Peter Beggs said about 4000 people heading for Antarctica to work passed through Christchurch each season. 

Many of the 3500 internationals stayed on to travel around New Zealand when their stint on the ice ended, and some brought friends and family here to join them.

The report noted future opportunities for Christchurch included the US$300m rebuilding of McMurdo station by the US Antarctic programme, and the Chinese government’s plan to build a research facility in the Ross Sea area. 

Scott Base also needed a major upgrade, estimated to cost $150m, to extend its life and support quality research.

Beggs said they had put a business case for Scott Base to Treasury and hoped to get some funding in next year’s budget.

If the Chinese opted to use Christchurch as their base for the building of their research facility, that had huge economic potential because the stocking and refuelling of just one ship could run to $1m, he said.

Would be great to support a Chinese base also.

Uber unionist complaining bad drivers get dumped

Radio NZ reports:

Association chair Ben Wilson said if the challenge was successful, the group was considering further action over the way Uber handles the dismissal of drivers.

Drivers were being cut off from using the app unilaterally without being given any explanation, he said.

Some drivers had reported they were being deactivated without warning, when their ratings from customers using the service went down.

The rating system is based on the average rating out of five that drivers have received from riders, over their last 500 trips. 

If a driver’s rating fell below an arbitrary number – which the association did not know, but believed to be somewhere below 4.6 – then they faced the chance of losing their jobs, Mr Wilson said.

“Essentially they have no recourse – it’s just, ‘Sorry you’re out, good-bye.'”

So this union thinks drivers who continually get bad ratings should be allowed to continue? I love the fact that Uber drops drivers whose average ratings falls below a certain level. It gives a great incentive for me to stay a customer and for drivers to give excellent service.

Had a driver this week who is a software developer – has set up his own company. He’s driving Uber in his spare time so he has an income stream while the product is developed. Great to see Uber providing the flexibility for someone like him to be an entrepreneur.

“Drivers should be compliant, they should be safe, and driving should be profitable. That’s what we are trying to get to happen,” Mr Wilson said.

The rating system is a great way to ensure safe and compliant drivers. Yet Wilson seems to want to not have low ratings lead to dismissal. And if driving for Uber is not profitable – then don’t. It isn’t compulsory.

An Uber spokesman said the company had a publicly available deactivation policy, “which provides a comprehensive explanation of the policy for drivers”.

“In all situations where an account is at risk of deactivation, driver-partners will be either be warned so they can take appropriate steps to improve their service, or have the opportunity to present their version of events should an allegation be made against them,” the spokesman said.

The deactivation policy stated that each city had a minimum average rating.

“We will alert you if your rating is approaching this limit, and we will share information about third-party quality improvement courses that may help you improve your rating,” the policy said.

“If your average rating is below the city minimum after multiple notifications, your Uber partner account will be deactivated.”

Sounds very fair.