As the proposed Ministry of Vulnerable Children shows, we do not take prevention seriously.

In 1920, someone wrote in the Maoriland Worker, ‘The politician is like the person who would build an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, instead of constructing a good fence at the top.’ The image seems to have been coined in a late-nineteenth-century poem by the English temperance activist Joseph Malins.

Would it be unfair to say that David Farrar considers the mental anguish anti-abortion protestors cause to women about to undergo a termination procedure matters less than the annoyance a voter may feel at having to refuse to accept a political party leaflet? Maybe it would, so read on and decide for yourself ... .

So it's Friday afternoon, deep into intellectual garbage time, and it's been a wee while since I've taken a gratuitous pot-shot at one of my fellow denizens of the blogosphere. What better reasons do I then need for writing the following?

ACT leader distances himself from National's handling of Auckland issues, especially traffic congestion

ACT leader David Seymour backed congestion charging in Auckland and called Transport Minister Simon Bridges "weak" for his inaction on Auckland's traffic congestion, at a local government panel discussion tonight.

Nuk Korako either doesn't understand what his own members bill would do, or he is misleading Parliament. 

At the risk of appearing to be a slightly unhinged obsessive who is fixated upon the trivial, I cannot help but respond to Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's attempted defence in Parliament this afternoon of his frankly abysmal members bill, the Airport Authoriti

Gerry Brownlee has made me see the error of my ways. Two plus two equals five, and Nuk Korako's #noluggageleftbehind bill is a sterling contribution to the very fabric of New Zealand's democracy.

As some of you may have noticed, I put up a couple of blog posts last week in which I said some less than charitable things about Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's members bill, the 

A Professor of Education challenges universities about their purpose.

What are universities really for? was the topic of a recent lecture by Hugh Lauder, professor of Education and Political Economy at the University of Bath (previously on the Canterbury and VUW faculties).

Nuc Korako's #noluggageleftbehind bill not only doesn't do what he says it is meant to do, but it appears that it will do nothing at all. 

As I noted in yesterday's post, Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal members bill - the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment 

Nuk Korako's Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill doesn't do what it says it is intended to do, doesn't need to be in the form that it is, and is intended purely to prevent other more worthy pieces of legislation from being debated. National's 50th ranked list MP is really proving his worth here.

So the very professional Rosanna Price rang me up about Tutehounuku (NukKorako's frankly abysmal members bill, the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill, and accurately

Free movement of labour is often described as one of the four fundamental economic freedoms. Putting it into practice is somewhat more difficult.

To make the intentions of this column clear, I am generally in favour of migration. I am a descendant of immigrants and live in a country in which virtually everyone admits to a migration heritage and which has one of the highest proportions of foreign-born in the world. I am also very aware that future migration will dramatically change the country I love, especially by the Asian inflow.

The Thick of It was a searing satire on how modern politics works (and doesn't work). I don't think it was meant to provide a script for Rugby chief executives who say stupid things when their players get accused of harassing a woman just doing her job. 

What with Northern Districts cricket player Scott Kuggeleijn running a "it wasn't rape because any man would do the same" defence (and thanks for spattering that shit all over me and my 5 year old son, Scott), Chief's lock Michael Allardice thinking it's OK t

How and what we remember is complicated but crucial. So when we consider the Maori Party's criticism of Helen Clark, shouldn't we ask if New Zealand is a better or worse place to be Maori given her three terms in government?

Well, this is a cat amongst Helen Clark's United Nation's pigeons. In the midst of a parliamentary recess when political news is thin on the ground, the Maori Party has told the world – and it's the world that matters in this case – that it doesn't support Clark's bid for the Secretary-General's job.

Our nearest neighbour, New Caledonia, has a very different political economy. Will it vote for full independence from France in 2018 – also leaving the European Union? 

New Zealand shares a continent with the European Union. Admittedly 93 percent of Zealandia is submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean but at its most north-western are the islands of New Caledonia with a total area about half the size of Canterbury. Technically the country is a department of France and so is the closest part of the EU to us.

When academics venture into the media to inform the public about their discipline, they have a basic obligation to be accurate in what they say. I'm afraid that Prof. Chris Gallavin has fallen short of this standard.

In an opinion piece published in Monday's NZ Herald, Professor Chris Gallavin made a number of suggestions as to how the Court

The Government announcement of a Predator Free goal for New Zealand by 2050 sounds good. But the budget for this is woefully inadequate, and comes on top of years of cost cutting - some say the deliberate, reckless weakening - of the Department of Conservation. We need to do more.

One per cent please.                                           

It's not exactly news that our criminal prohibition on possessing marijuana is a really bad policy. But a bunch of news stories this week serve to remind us just how bad it is.

One of the great things about my local paper, the Otago Daily Times, is that it still prints daily reports of all the trials that take place in each of the region's various local courts. For an insight into the manifold frailties and foibles of humanity, as well as a lot of sadness and the occasional spot of humour, it is hard to beat. I read it every day.

In too many areas the government is avoiding taking policy decisions. When it has to its panic measures are knee-jerk and quick-fix 

Just nine years ago, John Key, then leader of the opposition, spoke to the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation about housing affordability which he described then as a ‘crisis [which had] reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.’

Ignore the spin: The United States has backed down after 31 years and confirmed it will send a non-nuclear ship to New Zealand. The super power has lost. But does that mean New Zealand has won?

This is an historic day for New Zealand. The day the world's superpower blinked after a generation-long staring contest. The day America, in any meaningful sense, abandoned its 'neither confirm nor deny' policy. The day the mouse's roar was truly heard.

Prison volunteers as the bridge between prison and civil society

“I have been involved in this strange, fascinating and tragic world of incarceration for over 25 years. I have had many ideas about penal reform in that time, many of the subsequently proved quite wrong. I now think there are two basic things for which one should aim.

Tawera Wichman was caught using a "Mr Big" undercover trap. The Supreme Court (narrowly) said that this was OK - but that there are still problems with how the Police can mount such operations. And now I can tell you all this freely and openly.

As can (finally) now be reported, Tawera Wichman has been jailed for 3 years, 10 months for shaking his 11 month old son, Teegan Tairoa-Wichman, to death some seven years ago.

Turkey's President Erdogan is hell bent on revenge against those who tried to oust him in the country's latest military coup. The round-up of suspects and the crack down on human and civil rights is nothing short of staggering….and concerning.

Turkey’s fifth military coup d’etat was crushed only hours after it began, but the ramifications of those hours of miscalculated actions are immense for Turkey, the region and the wider world.

The rule of strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently, worryingly, been more akin to that of an autocrat than a democratically elected President.

The Reserve Bank cannot deliver affordable housing by itself. Its actions have to be coordinated with the government's. Unfortunately the monetarist framework of the Reserve Bank Act obscures this.

The tensions between the Reserve Bank and the Government over housing policy go back to the mistaken economic thinking in the 1989 Reserve Bank Act. Monetarism ruled and it is that underlying monetarist approach which is creating the tensions.

If the Government was serious about reducing re-offending, the Corrections Department would pay for professional reintegration services instead of relying on well meaning volunteers like Ngapari Nui

Black power member, Ngapari Nui, has been working as a prison volunteer for the past five years trying to steer young gang members away from crime. By all accounts he’s been doing a great job.

Last week's executions in the United States - of five police officers and two young black men at point blank range - should have the shock value to wake up that nation, but it won't. Politics has immediately taken hold, with the black president a sitting target. Apparently it was his job to fix racism because he's black. Apparently he has failed.  

On CNN at the end of last week one of the commentators, sad face on, remarked that “this (the Dallas shootings of police and the latest two police executions of black men) is not America”.

News flash: gun violence is exactly what America is, and its victims are overwhelmingly black..

Too much of pop-economics is misleading to the point close to being lying. No wonder there is a widespread rejection of it by the populace. 

Journalists and other populisers get away with an economics which does not quite lie, but is often very misleading. This applies to Brexit, but let’s start off with the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement).

Tony Blair's spin mastery has worn out. The Chilcot inquiry may not have found him to be a liar, but it would be difficult to imagine his legacy as any but Bush's starry eyed poodle who became jointly responsible for the destruction of Iraq and the catastrophic  consequences we are all witnessing today.

Tony Blair just does not get it.

After the savaging he was dealt by the long awaited, 2.6 million word Chilcot inquiry, Blair spoke to the press for nearly two hours in order to make sure the world knew he did not lie and was in fact a victim himself, deeply sorry while standing by his actions to take Britain to an avoidable.

Bill English wasn't interested in helping with infrastructure a few weeks ago, now National is riding to the rescue. It's a good move, but another sign of a panicked government

Underneath Auckland's housing crisis, both literally and metaphorically, lies infrastructure. One of the reasons for the lack of houses in Auckland is that the city doesn't have enough of it, and you can't build a house if you don't have the roads, pipes and power. So today's announcement from government addresses a fundamental problem.

New revelations demand answers from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about how knew what in the Saudi sheep deal. Has Murray McCully misled cabinet?

It is one of the most puzzling... and troubling... sagas in New Zealand's recent political history. And that's saying something. The Saudi sheep deal's always felt like the sword of Damocles hanging over Foreign Minister Murray McCully, and today that sword may finally have fallen.

Punitive public policy too often ignores its impact on the children involved. 

My last column described how the punitive measures we had for dealing with debtors were only abolished in 1989. Yet others continue to suffer from oppressive legislation – if they are low enough in social ranking.

As the rest of the world moves towards more GE food, New Zealand stands apart. And while that may make little scientific sense, it could be very good for our bank balance

An article published a month ago in the Daily Mail prompted GE Free New Zealand to

Back when I was at school, we used to have to do tests where we'd read a section of writing and then answer questions about it. Perhaps Paula Bennett ought to be given a few of these to sharpen up on, because she seems to have trouble with her comprehension skills.

The Government (and State Services Commission, which really appears to be joined at the hip with Ministers on this matter) seems to have decided on its strategy to deal with the damning Ombudsman's Report into Paula Rebstock's Report on MFAT leaks.

Nineteenth-century migrants may have come here to escape oppressive laws, but the laws migrated too. It was late in the twentieth century that we abolished one of the most oppressive ones. Our origins are less humane than we like to pretend. 

Wilkens Micawber was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. It is said that he is modelled on Charles Dickens’ father, who suffered a similar fate. Meanwhile, his twelve-year-old son had to work in a factory. He hated the experience. A debtors’ prison appears in The Pickwick Papers, as well as David Copperfield, and most extensively in Little Dorrit.

Sick of #Brexit analysis? While most legal proceedings are more boring than watching grass dry, this one crazy transcript will shock and amaze you!

Having tired of perusing the interweb's voluminous reckons on Brexit, I chanced upon a gem of a story regarding an interchange between a defendant and a judge in Georgia (the U.S. variant) that did ... not go well.

The Ombudsman's finding that Derek Leask was badly treated by the State Services Commission is quite damning. It also matters for all of us concerned about the limits on governmental power in New Zealand.

After a long, long gestation - caused in large part by the State Services Commission's (hugely ironic, as we will see) demand for various rights of reply - the Office of the Ombudsman has finally released its report into the State Services Commission Inquir

John Key has over-turned the most difficult decision of his Prime Ministership without answering the central questions this u-turn raises

So what's changed? That's the over-arching and as yet unanswered question that follows National's decision to abandon its commitment to a two year deployment in Iraq.

It's pretty much just a matter of time until aid in dying (or, "voluntary euthanasia", if you're wanting to scare the children) law reform arrives in New Zealand. A couple more signposts for that journey were erected in the last few weeks.

It appears that the Health Select Committee's inquiry into Maryan Street's petition, which itself called for Parliament to "investigat

It is unclear why anyone is voting for Britain leaving the EU nor, in many cases, why they are voting for remain. What are the possible alternatives? How is Britain or New Zealand to function in an increasingly globalised world?

As I put up this column, the Brits are about to vote on Brexit – whether Britain should withdraw from the European Union. We do not know what the outcome will be, for the opinion surveys are all over the place; in any case turnout may be crucial. In 1975 a similar referendum taken a couple of years after Britain joined went two to one for ‘stay’.

When it comes to our homelessness crisis, you can come up with constructive ideas or, it seems, you can blame those living in their cars for bringing it on themselves

Solutions. At least the immediate and practical ones. They've been pretty thin on the ground in the Auckland housing debate, especially when it comes to the social housing crisis. But today another couple of suggestions caught my eye.

Teina Pora has been given the thing he said he wanted most – a formal apology for the 22 years he wrongly spent behind bars as an innocent man. He also has been offered $2.5 million in compensation. Applying the Cabinet’s own principles, it ought to be in excess of $4.5 million.

[As promised here, these are some further thoughts on the announcement that Teina Pora has been given a full apology for his wrongful imprisonment and an offer of $2.5 million in compensation.

How much are 20-something years of a life worth? Later today we'll find out what the Government thinks - but here's some early thoughts on advance reports.

Some brief initial thoughts on the (assumed true) claim that it will be announced today that Teina Pora will be offered around $2 million in compensation for his 21-22 (I've seen both figures used) years in prison.

The economics of information shows that whatever happens, the solution our ailing newspapers to the digital revolution will not be a perfect one. 

An important notion in economic analysis is of a ‘public good’ (which may be a service). Not THE public good (a.k.a. the ‘common good’), which is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community. A public good in this narrow sense has two key features: it is ‘non-excludable’ and it is ‘non-rivalrous’.

Let's not just blindly cheer for Kiwis such as Helen Clark and Steven Adams, let's judge them on merit

I am not supporting Helen Clark or Steven Adams.

Before you choke on your coffee, here’s why. I do not support New Zealanders just because they are New Zealanders. That’s near blind loyalty of the “my country, right or wrong” variety. Neither Helen Clark nor Steven Adams really thrill me and I decline to jump on the bandwagon.

Judith Collins let us know what she thinks about how the Police currently enforce speed restrictions on our roads. Not only did she actually get this wrong, but she probably shouldn't be telling us anyway.

Via RNZ comes a story about Police Minister Judith Collins taking issue in the House with the Police issuing speeding tickets to people who are breaking the speed limit.

$23 million of the proceeds from the sale of your stuff that you were told would go to kids, sick people and better road instead is going to be used to stop people complaining that their new passports cost too much - and you can thank the "Taxpayers' Union" for that!

Just a quick follow-up to a post from back in June of last year, in which I noted how the "Taxpayer's Union" mounted a successful campaign to get the Government to reintroduce 10-year passports.

Do you know what a bezzle is? Here is a book which explains the sophisticated financial system. 

The economic columnist I most admire is John Kay, who writes regularly for the Financial Times. He taught at various universities, was director of the independent think tank, Institute for Fiscal Studies, and has held a host of other interesting and important jobs.

The family of Blessie Gotingco, who was murdered by an offender just out of prison, are crowdfunding with a view to a possible civil claim. The litigation following an earlier similar incident suggests that there are some pretty big legal obstacles in the way of a successful claim.

The family of Blessie Gotingco, who was murdered by Tony Robertson shortly after his release from prison, are crowdfunding the costs of undertaking their own review/investigation of the Department of Corrections’ management of Roberts

In a classic piece of misdirection, we're being urged to look away from the recent Labour-Greens MOU and towards a future with Winston Peters as PM. I did, and there really isn't much there.

In an effort to make sense of the fact that their theories don't really make sense of the Universe, some theoretical physicists posit that we inhabit but one of an infinite number of multiverses, in which anything that could possibly happen does happen.

National is stuck in the bad old days with its obsession with land supply. Auckland now needs something more, and here's what

National has finally published it's National Policy Statement (NPS) to try to slow down Auckland's charge-ahead property market. But NPS may as well stand for No Plan Sorry, because it's an admission of failure; proof it's living in the past.

How cabins in a Te Atatu garden and a Budget 2016 freeze on schools' operating budget could affect New Zealand's prison population in years to come

I addressed a large gathering this week at a beautiful church complex in the Auckland seaside suburb of St Heliers. This was a meeting of the Tamaki branch of the University of the Third Age, usually known by the acronym U3A.

Labour and the Greens are making a match. But there's an ex-boyfriend hovering over proceedings

They've been 'just good friends' for so long. We all knew they liked each other, but neither of them wanted to ask the other out first, in case they looked to needy or weak. Yet today, Labour and the Greens finally came out with their first PDA.

Turns out the government has been wrongly paying some accommodation supplement recipients for the last 23 years. Here's my overly cynical and (I hope) deeply wrong take on the advice MSD will give the government about how to respond.

RNZ's Morning Report led off today with a story about a "coding error" that has meant some recipients of accommodation supplement payments have been wrongly paid since 1993.

A major preoccupation of the budget was preparing for the next major financial crisis. To do so it is reducing government spending relative to GDP. Where do tax cuts fit in? 

Our politics reminds me those weekly serial movies where each week the heroine ends in an impossible situation but next week she miraculously escapes and the action moves on to the next impossible situation.

Power companies attempting to fend off solar power are at risk of following the horse and cart into oblivion

My previous post about the lines company Unison's intention to charge extra to households generating their own power prompted several people to contact me, one of whom directed me to a particular quote:

Housing remains the government's biggest weakness and so National is redoubling its efforts. No, not to build houses, but to contain the political damage

I can't give you a precise day or hour, but some time in the past fortnight, National has admitted defeat over Auckland's housing crisis. You can see it in the calculated attacks on Auckland Council and the lack of action in the Budget; the government's moved into 'managing failure' territory.

Bill English's eight budget ticks boxes here and there, but it will be remembered in history for its complacency and the missed opportunities it represents

Perhaps the most defining feature of Budget 2016 is quite how political, rather than financial, it is. There are numerous aspects of it that only make sense if you place the fact that there's an election in 18 months front and centre in your thinking.

Tony Robertson has a lot in common with Graeme Burton, William Bell & the Beast of Blenheim. They were all serious high risk offenders – but none of them got to attend a rehabilitation programme in prison

Tony Robertson was sentenced to eight years in prison for indecently assaulting a five year old girl in 2005. He was considered a high risk prisoner and the parole board declined to release him on four separate occasions.  He was eventually released in December 2013 at the end of his sentence.

The government has let the housing market deteriorate with measures which are insufficient, late and ineffective. As a first step we need to identify the underlying problems. 

The Prime Minister’s announcement that there is nothing new about homelessness is both an example of his strengths in reassuring the public that there is never really a problem and the weaknesses of the government’s policy approach..

A heart-breaking interview raises hard questions about what to do with the worst of the worst criminals

Tony Robertson is a one percenter. Not the rich kind, but the destructive and callous kind. "Evil"? Maybe. But surely one of this country's highest risk offenders. And we don't seem to have the system to handle these people.

Michael Bennett has taken Teina Pora's story and turned straw into gold. It's a sad and awful book told in a remarkably good way. You should buy it and read it at once.

Michael Bennett’s book, In Dark Places: The confessions of Teina Pora and an ex-cop’s fight for justice, tells a terrible story in a beautiful way. The story’s terribleness lies not in a lack of coherence or plot.

This is a condensed version of a paper given to a WEA Conference on 14 May, 2016, Available in full at  http://www.eastonbh.ac.nz/2016/05/where-is-adult-education-going/

The initial invitation suggested I talk about the future economy and its relevance to adult education. I explained that the best advice I ever came across is ‘don’t make predictions, especially about the future’. You get a sense of the difficulties if you go back thirty years ago, say, and realise any forecasts of today would have been way off track.

A solar tax makes it harder to go green in the short term, but could drive more customers off grid as the appeal of solar power grows

I was astounded to learnt the Hawke's Bay power lines company, a monopoly called Unison, has announced increased line charges for households generating their own electricity. This "solar tax" runs counter to New Zealand's attempts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the most stupid business decisions I've heard of in a very long time.

It's time to call out land bankers and require urgent action, because Auckland's lack of houses is driving people in their cars

If it had come from a less reliable source, I'd find it hard to believe. Sure, it's anecdotal and it's an estimate, but it also leaves you asking what we've come to in this country. One in ten garages in South Auckland, says the Salvation Army's Alan Johnson, is being used as a home. And he knows his stuff. 1 in 10.

A blogger's own campaign to have name suppression laws tightened has resulted in that blogger being refused name suppression after pleading guilty to his own illegal activities. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

By now we all know (or, rather, those of us at all interested in the often schoolyard antics of the NZ blogosphere know) that some blogger who used to be semi-famous has admitted the crime of paying an alleged fraudster to hack into the blog of some lefty enemies in orde

If it necessary to run a budget deficit then it should be spent in the interests of future generations, rather than on increased consumption to be paid for in the future.

It is very easy to demand the government should run, or increase, its budget deficit, that is, it should spend more than its revenue and (one way or another) borrow the difference. Many think that is what Keynes said, but the Keynesian analysis is more subtle than the crudities that the deficit advocates seem to rely upon.

How should New Zealand see itself in world affairs, and does Chile provide a model for how we might do so?

As part of my extensive reading on the wars of the twentieth century, both from personal interest and as a member of the World War One Commemoration Panel, I have recently read “Unnecessary Wars” by Australian historian Henry Reynolds.

The social worth of a person in no way reflects their income or wealth. To confuse the two notions is to play into the values of the rich. 

My brother, Keith, died in the hospital wing of a Christchurch retirement home recently.

Some very quick thoughts on the matter of the PM's lawyer and his lobbying efforts, written on a Friday afternoon while waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport. So don't expect anything too deep and meaningful!

Revelations that the PM's personal lawyer was active in lobbying the Government not to tighten the rules on the sort of foreign trusts fingered in the "Panama Papers" present, as they say, poor political optics. Here's some quick thoughts.

How signing the TPPA and buying New Zealand meat could help the fight against our growing resistance to antibiotics

'Peak Antibiotics' is a catchy headline. Prime TV ran a documentary with that title just this month. Whether that turns out to be a true depiction of this era will depend on changes to policies around their use and regulations surrounding their development.

The parliamentary review of the 2014 election has just been reported. What treats do our MPs have in store for the 2017 campaign and beyond?

In the aftermath of every general election, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee holds an inquiry to review how the process went and identify matters that could be improved.

Bible in schools looks like a class out of time, the remnants of a time that's passed. But 650+ schools still choose to teach it. What are the pros and cons? I wrestle me way through them

On Tuesday, Jeff McClintock and the group of people around him will begin their appeal against a decision to throw out their challenge to the Bible in Schools programme. The legal battle is technical; the underlying debate must more pressing. And it's an issue I see from both sides.

Bible in schools looks like a class out of time, the remnants of a time that's passed. But 650+ schools still choose to teach it. What are the pros and cons? I wrestle me way through them

On Tuesday, Jeff McClintock and the group of people around him will begin their appeal against a decision to throw out their challenge to the Bible in Schools programme. The legal battle is technical; the underlying debate must more pressing. And it's an issue I see from both sides.

My wife and I have been waiting for a total of 11.5 hours now for a tradsperson to arrive to fix our dishwasher. When we can send a man to the moon – and are told customer service is all in the modern economy – how come this keeps happening?

I've just got off the phone to someone responsible for what can only loosely be called "customer service". This is not the first, second or even third time my wife or I made such a call, all in an effort to get a Haier dishwasher fixed by Fisher & Paykel.

Calling them 'customer service' people is laughable. So let's label them as what they are: Time thieves.

Are we too generous about the civilian rights of non-doms, who do not pay tax on all their incomes? 

Bryan Gould has drawn attention to the dangers we face in New Zealand of foreign political interference by funding contributions to political activity. His apposite example is Chinese money being channeled into the change-the-flag campaign.

It's been said that Winston Peters is NZ's great political survivor. He's also been the beneficiary of a fair bit of legal luck along the way.

Let's assume, purely for the sake of argument, that it turns out Mike Sabin actually didn't need to resign from Parliament. Which means that there didn't need to be a by-election in Northland back in 2015. Which in turn means that Winston Peters shouldn't really be the electorate MP for Northland.

Responses to the flag referendum and the TPPA have parallels overseas such as supporting Trump in the US and Brexit in Britain. A sizeable proportion of the population think that the government is not listening to them and doesn’t care about them.

Kiwiblog presents an impressive scatter-diagram which shows that the more an electorate voted for National, the more it voted for a new flag. It seems unlikely that National voters are republican and radical (especially given the views of the leader they endorse).

Trouble-shooting the CYF reforms: Yes,we need to act, but there are two big political calls underlying the radical overhaul that raise questions about whether this is the best way to go

This is what everyone agrees on: Child, Youth and Family needs to change. No-one can look at how we deal with the troubled kids that need help from government agencies and say it's going swimmingly. So the question is not what we do, but how we do it.

Colonial monuments have rightly come under scrutiny. We should not the remove controversial reminders, but we do need to tell a wider range of stories about history in our public places

From South Africa to South Carolina, and from

Provided it was lawfully obtained overseas for the treatment of a medical condition, you legally are permitted to bring up to 31 days worth of medical marijuana into New Zealand. Here's the proof.

Last month I wrote a pair of posts arguing that, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, s 8(2)(l), a person is entitled to bring on their person into NZ up to a month's supply of

A fascinating bit of reporting on our history draws out one particular hater and a bit of nonsense. But the topic itself is an intriguing debate

It's laughable, even a bit pathetic really. But then that's Whale Oil for you. And I've always been of the belief that if you put a story out there to stimulate some discussion, you should be willing to be part of that discussion.

Is the Prime Minister playing fast and loose with intelligence information? We now know that he knew more about those jihadi brides than he first let on

It's times like this you appreciate why people giving testimony in court, in all those old movies, are asked to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". Because "the truth", alone won't do. That's at the heart of Metiria Turei's revelation about just when John Key knew about the jihadi brides.

Are we entering a long period of secular stagnation in which interest rates are low? We cannot foresee all the implications. 

This has not been an easy column to write, and it may not be an easy one to read. Part of the problem is that there is no agreement within the economics profession as how to interpret what is going on.

The story of our national anthems might provide guidance for how to proceed with the flag.

A recent Victoria University graduation ceremony invited everyone to sing The National Anthem. As we lustily, but not tunefully, sang God Defend New Zealand, I avoided the thought that while pedants would point out that New Zealand had two national anthems there are few pedants left in our universities.

Without anyone apparently noticing, the Auckland Transport Board has decided for Auckland ratepayers just when it is appropriate to convey their political beliefs to the world. Can they really do that?

Via RNZ comes this odd story:

What's an affordable house worth in Auckland these days? The Prime Minister reckons 'it depends', but actually it doesn't. Plus, his Trade Me slip up

What's affordable? Usually that's entirely dependent on your circumstances. My six year-old's concept of what's "a lot" – the lego he wants or how much we just spent on groceries – is very different from mine. Yet I had a very wealthy friend who used to say that in his pomp he could hardly go through an international airport without spending thousands on a new watch.

The history of New Zealand is speculation on farm land which stokes up debt, with disastrous consequences when the bubble bursts. The New Zealand industry is going through another one. 

During the Great War, farm land prices boomed. When farm product prices collapsed in 1920, farmers walked off their land. It was not that the land prices were too high. Farmers had borrowed to purchase their farms and with lower revenue they could no longer service the debt.

A technical glitch at Kiwiblog stopped this post on Paula Bennett et al's crusade against Wicked Campers from appearing. Fortunately I've managed to retrieve it and post it for you to read.

[Updated: For the real deal, see here.]

Yesterday's Herald on Sunday carried a big splash story from David Fisher about three National Party cabinet Ministers - Paula Bennett, Maggie Barry and Louise Upton - ganging up to try and force Wicked Campers to stop putting puerile, misogynistic slogans on their camper vans.

A journalist’s list of the ten most important issues politically facing us did not mention inequality and poverty. Why?

A month ago Fairfax political journalist Tracey Watkins listed the following ten areas to watch out for in the political year:

Spies (especially the review and resulting legislation)

I'm probably not the first person to note this, but Donald Trump's presidential campaign presents as an example of life imitating some fairly average art.

This morning I watched Donald Trump rhapsodising about the wall he plans to build on the border with Mexico ("It's going to be so tall ... it's going to be beautiful ... as beautiful as a wall can be") and then glorying in the expulsion of protesters from his rally.

Arthur Taylor's most recent attack on the ban on prisoner voting has failed. But we learnt something about New Zealand's constitution as a result. Oh - and judges really need to think about how their words may sound to all those who read them.

Last Friday afternoon the High Court released its most recent judgment in jailhouse lawyer Arthur Taylor's ongoing legal crusade against the law that bans prisoners from voting (PDF copy of Taylor v Attorney General available here).

Are you a blogger who knowingly writes lies about your political enemies/friends in an effort to sway how people vote? Winston Peters has just won a court case that could see you get jailed for up to 2 years.

The High Court has just handed down a pretty interesting decision that is possibly important for how political commentary can take place in New Zealand, and for the blogging community in particular. It involves Winston Peters and the Electoral Commission, so naturally it's called Peters v The Electoral Commission.

John Key says his budget boost for Pharmac should be enough to get a melanoma drug over the line, after the Pharmac CEO says it wouldn't fund Keytruda even if it had the money. Let's unpack this...

How high is "quite high"?

That's a life and death question having heard both the Pharmac CEO Steffan Crausaz and Prime Minister talk about funding a melanoma drug over the past 48 hours.

Apparently Peter Dunne thinks [update: thought ... see end of post!] I'm wrong about bringing medical marijuana into New Zealand. Here's a longer discussion of why I don't think I am.

Yesterday I wrote this post, leveraging off a RNZ story about a judge discharging a woman without conviction for mailing herself medical marijuana from the

The Republicans started their own fire. But Donald Trump is a whole new kind of arsonist and the party's now burning out of control

There are two competing descriptions of what's going on in the Republican Party right now. One, (which appeals to Donald Trump's modus operandi in business) is a "hostile takeover" of the Grand Old Party.

Australia has just passed the laws needed to allow medical marijuana to be grown and distributed. Once that starts happening, New Zealanders will be able to go across the ditch to get it - and then legally bring it back here.

The whole issue of medical marijuana's (non)-availability in New Zealand has been highlighted by the case of first Helen Kelly and now claims in The Guar

The government is restraining its spending on healthcare – perhaps by over $2 billion a year. Is that what we really want?

A common assumption is that public spending on healthcare rises faster than GDP. There are three reasons behind this assumption.

First, an aging population requires more healthcare. The over-65s consume more healthcare resources than the under65s (and the over-85s even more so).

On the eve of Super Tuesday, the Republicans are torn, Rubio is using Trump to boost himself and Clinton is laughing all the way to the bank

So, finally, Marco Rubio has reached that point. Ted Cruz got their earlier and John Kasich is still trying to hold back (and who cares about Ben Carson any more?). You may call it taking the gloves off, jumping the shark, sending in the artillery or getting down in the mud. Or too little, too late.

Most university classes start today... but is university the smart way to go? And which training leads to the best incomes? Two pieces of research can help you make a wise choice... or even change paths

It isn't too late for university students to change their courses for this year; new students are still likely to be able to change their degrees. At most universities, changes are allowed for the first two, even three, weeks of the semester. While it's a nightmare for university staff, it's a chance for students to rethink and adjust given new information from the government.

As Donald Trump stays way out front in the Republican nomination race, the party hierarchy is in full fret and could have run out of time to stop its current worst nightmare. The next few days will be crucial for the party base, and the privileged old guard.

On the cusp of Super Tuesday - when 14 states and American Samoa vote for their Democrat or Republican Presidential candidate, the stench of panic within the Republican party over the rise of its own bastard child is all pervasive.

There is much chat about how Donald Trump has rewritten all the rules in US politics, but he hasn’t really.

More houses or not more houses, that is the question that's starting to create real tension inside the National Party as one of the government's key economic policies comes under pressure from its own

Internal tension. It's not something National has had to worry about much during the Key years. But that makes the Auckland Council's u-turn on its plans for housing intensification all the more fascinating; because it pits the National Party against some of its core voters.

As select committee hearings on the TPPA draw closer... the arguments against ratification, all together in one place

It's a dangerous strategy for a government to denigrate those who don't agree with them as misguided or ignorant, especially if they are in the majority. A TV3/Reid Research poll last November revealed that a clear majority of the public oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

A simple message to the Herald on Sunday - there is nothing wrong with being naked. Even if you are a Judge.

The Herald on Sunday is running a "shock! horror!" series of stories about a District Court Judge who happens to be a member of a naturist ("nudist") club in Canterbury and had some naked photos of himself posted on the club website.

A (former) judge may be going to say that David Bain is not innocent beyond all reasonable doubt. That doesn't necessarily mean he won't get compensation, but it makes it a bit harder to do so.

 According to the NZ Herald, by way of a fortuitous leak to Jared Savage, the report into David Bain's compensation claim by retired Australian Judge Ian Callinan, QC is in the hands of Minister of Justice Amy Adams. (Remember that a previous report on this matter by Canad

The short answer is all trade reduces sovereignty to some extent. The TPPA is no exception, but its effect is probably small. 

Allow that we had to give away something, such as increased copyright extensions, for better access for our exports; the real issue for us in the TPPA is that it reduces ‘sovereignty’. To report my conclusion at the beginning: all trade and all trade deals reduce sovereignty to some extent. This has been going on in New Zealand since its first European economic engagement.

David Seymour is having a swing at winning over voters with a reheated ACT law and order policy and bit of Rodney Hideism. Which recalls the last time ACT tried this on...

So ACT has decided to reheat it's disastrous policy from 2014, promoting a three strikes regime for burglars.

New Hampshire, the so-called Granite State, was rocked to its political core Tuesday with outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders trampling all around them to win the latest hurdle in the long battle for the job of Leader of the Free World. A scary thought indeed.   

In the biggest night of their political careers outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders swept aside the ‘insiders’ and nailed the New Hampshire primary.

A look at the polls and strategies as the parliamentary year gets under way...

What a limp start to the parliamentary year. John Key went for the jocular shopping list approach, seemingly in the belief that a few one liners implied confidence and rapidly listing a policies already in train suggested good governance.

Is the TPP the current equivalent of New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance? How did it become such a defining issue? And will its impact last?

Among all the controversy and welter of opinions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I have been increasingly wondering, why has the TPP become the litmus test of progressivism in New Zealand?

It is not such a defining issue in other TPP nations; the debate seems particularly fevered in New Zealand.

Perhaps Donald Trump is rewriting the rules of US politics. But let's not forget that's been said before and frontrunners often fade when the voting starts

Today, at last, we will finally start to see past the blarney and balderdash, the polls and projections, to see the outline of the US presidential race. The Iowa caucuses are being held and the voice of actual voters will get to drown out the voices of the candidates and commentators. For a while at least.

A key issue may not be what is in the TPPA, but that by not adopting it we may ruin the other international agreements we are pursuing. 

In the 1960s I was an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was a moral crusade with unrealisable objectives such as withdrawal from SEATO (a now defunct treaty), a nuclear-free New Zealand and withdrawal from ANZUS. The dreams of youth can become a reality.

Donald Trump appears to have set the chickens on the fox with his decision to snub Thursday's Fox News Republican debate. Will anyone tune in now the ringmaster of this circus has gone rogue…well more rogue?  

Donald Trump’s decision to boycott the Republican Presidential candidates‘ debate on Fox ‘News’ is a master stroke - for Donald Trump, and in his world, that is all that matters.

The government's move to start the rail loop in Auckland two years earlier than planned undermines past promises, generates new political risk and creates an unlikely hero

So, sometimes it's useful being a lame duck.

As Donald Trump hits a new poll high of 41% just days before the Iowa Caucus, it beggars belief that he's now hoodwinked God's rather large Republican Evangelical army, and is going to take the first prize in the caucus/primaries. At least it is entertaining.    

Unless you have been living on Planet 9 (Mars is too close), you will be aware that ‘we’ are in the home stretch for the Iowa Caucus....the first of the generators of momentum, consolidation, winnowing and friction within the candidates vying to be America’s new Commander in Chief.

The time is right to be telling the story of New Zealand food production. But what should we say? And are our marketers up to the job?

Is it a perfect storm or are we merely being buffeted by the winds of change? Is this some kind of tipping point? It's an extraordinary moment in time for New Zealand agriculture, with its future economic development at stake. Yet the discussion is more around what shouldn't happen rather than finding a strategy to achieve the prosperity most New Zealanders want.

Three strategies to combat the Islamic State insurgency

I am in the camp that believes Iraq’s current situation is not intractable. With sufficient clarity, political will and coordination, its ethnosectarian strife can be put to an end. Here are some thoughts:

Redrawing borders: a functioning federalism

The statistics from Oregon are clear: the people who have the "choice" of assisted dying are disproportionately white, wealthy and well-educated. Who pays the price for their choice?

So who wants assisted suicide? 

In Oregon, the poster child for New Zealand advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the statistics after 17 years of the Death With Dignity Act are emphatic[1]:

Rhona's death-it was not what she would have wanted.

Rhona and I were married for 54 years and about 45 of those were good, until vascular dementia began to affect our relationship.  She died in April 2014.

Iran has fulfilled all obligations required by the P5+1 nuclear deal, paving the way for immediate implementation, including the lifting of crippling nuclear linked sanctions. No surprise however that a deal of such historic proportions, with no shots being fired,has failed to satisfy electioneering Republicans. 

Late last year after the nuclear deal between the world’s six major powers and Iran had been signed, Republican Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio wrote in Foreign Affairs that the world is safest when America is at its strongest and dealing with Iran has shown America to be weak.

World Sharemarkets Are Sneezing. What Does That Tell Us About the World Economy?

Before discussing the state of the world economy – especially what is going on in China – it is useful to say something about the importance of the sharemarket (Americans call it ‘stock market’). It is far more important in pop-economics than serious economics.

It’s time for opponents of the TPP to stop the gesture politics and answer some questions - like what is the alternative you propose? Do you really believe we can stay out of the TPP on our own? And do you want to pull out of the agreement after it is signed?

Despite a summer of opportunity to read every clause of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opponents of the TPP have failed to produce a clause showing the agreement requires each of us to surrender our first born to the corporate masters of neo-liberalism, and nor have they discovered any other nugget that sustains their vilification of the trade pact.

It's a new year and we're all getting back to work. One of the things you have to add to your "to do" list in the next fortnight is be a good democratic citizen.

Reluctant as I am to start my 2016 Punditing by laying a guilt trip on you, that's what I'm going to end this post with. Some context, first.

Jamie Whyte claims that poverty statistics based on relative measures of poverty are misleading. I explain why his argument is unpersuasive.

Former ACT party leader Jamie Whyte recently wrote that:

There is no poverty in New Zealand. Misery, depravity, hopelessness, yes; but no poverty.

Want to save the world this Christmas? The best way may not be what you think... and may not involve giving up meat

It's the time of year many start thinking about their diet, about turning over a new leaf. An the Paris climate talks may have given that new impetus for those keen to 'save the planet'. But it's abstinence – meaning eating and travelling less – that they should be considering, rather than a new diet or production system.

All I want for Christmas? Sure, less bad sing-alongs, but mostly I want less cynical politics than the December Dump we've seen this year

It's the time of year for lists. The best and worst of the year lists. Summer DIY lists. Lists to write to Santa. But here's a not so nice list created by National in these warming weeks leading into Christmas – the cynical dumping list.

Why turn to fiction for mind-bending exercises in logical absurdity? The real world of the courts provide much stranger fare.

The various adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass appear to have a particular resonance for lawyers.

After the applause has died down, will the Paris Agreement do enough to keep global temperatures down, fund emission reductions in developing countries and hold nations to account?

As expected, a deal was finally done in Paris. This in itself is vital as we tackle the most serious strategic threat to our planet and its people. But it'd be easy to get carried away with hyperbole -- so what does the Paris Agreement actually deliver?

The right’s candidate for mayor isn’t remotely ready to be mayor of a super city.


If you’re going to stand for political office the minimum requirements must surely include some rationale for your candidacy. You want to do the job because you see a job needing doing. You need to have something sensible to say about topical issues and some guide to what you expect to do in office. 

A book on the history of the Literary Fund raises broad questions of how our bureaucracy works.

I was too closely involved with Elizabeth Caffin’s The Deepening Stream: A History of the New Zealand Literary Fund to review it. But it contributed to my understanding of some general issues; I think I am allowed to use the book to share them with you.

So the first round of the flag referendum is done (bar the formal tidying up). What, if anything, does it tell us?

So it transpires* that we'll be voting in March next year on whether to retain a colonial relic or to adopt something that looks like a cheap souvenir beach-towel. Democracy, hell yeah! My kids will have fun making that choice!!

On the vote itself, what can we say?

Here's a trawl through the year in politics and what stood out for me

Well, will you look at the time? The House has risen, weather's improving and Christmas is nigh. And heaps of newspapers, websites and journalists of all shapes and sizes have debated their best, worst, winners, losers and more as they try to make sense of what's been a year of recovery, reinvention and rebound after the crazy events of 2014.

There is no reason to cancel the passport of any so-called "Jihadi brides". And Chris Lynch is a bit of a moron for suggesting that this should happen.

I have had past occasion to poke the borax a bit at Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne. But I have to say that this week he's been a refreshing breath of sensibility on the shock-horror issue of New Zealanders setting out to become "Jihadi brides".

Britain is divided, and the British Labour Party even more so, over its role in leading Western nations. So does it offer lessons for New Zealand?

Last week Britain voted for airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State. The parliamentary debate that preceded the vote was illuminating in the way it mirrored the divide in Britain about its place in the world.

Britain us a united kingdom of four nations. But that is likely to shrink by at least one. 

In his second post from Paris, Barry Coates says the current deal before ministers is not good enough to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees and spells out what's missing

As ministers arrive in Paris from around the world, they have a historic opportunity – and responsibility. While it's now clear most countries want a global agreement, the current draft simply isn't good enough. It will lead us into an era of dangerous climate change.

Judith Collins is back in Cabinet. But let's not forget, her resignation was for an issue separate from those detailed in Dirty Politics, so she has never been "cleared" of the behaviour revealed in the book

It's disappointing – if informative – to see how the government got away with rewriting the story of why Judith Collins resigned from cabinet last year, preparing the way for her return this week.

The strange economic assessment of the proposed extension to Wellington Airport’s runway reduces to a plea for subsidies from tax and ratepayers.

I am sometimes asked to assist voluntary groups with a critique of a commissioned economic assessment of a development project. I decline because of the high standard required from me – one which would stand up as evidence to a tribunal.

Long-time climate campaigner and Green candidate Barry Coates writes from negotiations at Paris to explain NZ's role and what's really happening behind the scenes

The first deadline for climate change negotiators in Paris is upon us. The government officials who have been negotiating for eight long years since talks started in Bali in 2007 have to finish their work today.

During late night sessions, they have been trying to come up with a draft agreement that is ready for Ministers to take the final political decisions.

The Ethnic Future for New Zealand Is Unknown. But It Will Be Diverse and Different 

The promise of increased future ethnic diversity is undoubtedly true, but often the statistical projections are both misleading and obscure the real issues.

A quick note to the NZ Police. You don't own all the information on your computers or in your files - and if academics want to see it, you have to let them do so without imposing conditions. Most of the time, anyway!

For those not caught up on the background story, Jarrod Gilbert is an academic sociologist working at Canterbury University.

A report on social services by the Productivity Commission raises serious problems about the quality of analysis in New Zealand.

There is a widely held perception that the Productivity Commission, which makes recommendations to the government on how to increase productivity, is neoliberal. Partly that is because the commission was set up at the instigation of ACT but that does not mean that its analysis is necessarily neoliberal.

The Government is seeking to retrospectively change the law to match the Ministry of Social Welfare's practice. Retrospective legislation is bad generally, and very bad in this case.

The Government has introduced a Bill which retrospectively changes the Social Security Act 1964 so as to nullify Crown liability to beneficiaries. It is generally accepted that retrospective legislation is generally not a good thing.

While American lawmakers try to stop any Syrian refugees from reaching their shores, Canada is pushing on with a pledge to bring in 25,000 by the end of the year….and that is in full knowledge of a passport complication connected with the Paris terrorist attacks.

The overwhelming number of victims of Daesh are Muslims.

Most, but not all, Syrians feeing their own government and jihadi groups such as Daesh are Muslim.

That one probable fake Syrian passport has threatened the futures of thousands of Syrian refugees is grotesque and so sadly predictable.

Given a long history of numerous trade agreements, why has the public become especially concerned about the TPP?

At a recent public meeting, a retired Secretary of Foreign Affairs pointed out that although he had been involved in negotiating many free trade agreements, the TPP was the first one about which the public had showed any significant interest.

The ISIS attacks on Friday the 13th in Paris, in Beirut, and when the Russia plane was attacked, were an attack on all modern civilisation and society from Lebanon to France. The target on Friday was the values first articulated on Paris streets in the 18th century that led to a modern liberal revolution and eventually liberty in speech and assembly, fraternity expressed in tolerance and plurality, and equality between genders. 

Be clear about what motivates ISIS. It doesn’t massacre Yizadis to stop their drones and protest Yazidi imperialism. It kills them and enslaves their women because of their religion. Salmon Rushdie's Japanese translator was not murdered 25 years ago because of the invasion of Iraq. The mad ideology of ISIS began to be popularised through the insane ravings of Sayd Qutb in the 1950s and 60s.

A hundred years on from Gallipoli, and a few days after the massacre in in Paris, where does New Zealand stand in the western alliance and what is out role in the world's troubles?

As we come towards the end of 2015, it's worth reflecting on what the commemorations of World War One, and in particular the Gallipoli campaign, have been all about. Why do the commemoration resonate so much with the New Zealand public?

The Treaty of Waitangi negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is wrong in his public criticisms of the Waitangi Tribunal. Perhaps the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson could have a quiet word in his ear about the importance of the separation of powers in our Constitution?

Via NewsTalk ZB (and sorry for the full cut-and-paste), it would appear that Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is starting to get a little bit fed up with the Waitangi Tribunal:

Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee (P3C!) is going to have to decide the boundary of fair criticism of the House's Speaker. This should be fun!

According to Phil Lyth on Twitter (hey - it's how you know News is new!), Andrew Little and Chris Hipkins have been referred to Parliament's Privilege's Committee (or, as I've had cause to call it before

New Zealand is leading the way in sustainable agriculture, and that presents an opportunity to cash in

Ending world hunger is now considered a realistic goal.

Australia's mandatory deportation of (many) criminal offenders is causing us in New Zealand to get very excited. And now John Key realises he can't do anything about it, he's getting ugly.

It's one of life's little ironies that a country in part founded by individuals deported for their criminal actions is now so obsessed with ridding itself of those individuals who display the same characteristics. I refer, of course, to Australia's recent enthusiasm for deporting those whose offending demonstrates a lack of "good character".

Labour and National have found a fight they both want to have, as they use the Christmas Island riots as part of their over-arching PR strategies. Yet for once it's National looking rattled

At least it's a proper battle of different world views. There's no Labour-lite or National stealing Labour's policies here. While the fires burn on Christmas Island, we have to two very different stances on the fate of those detainees.

While TPP – any trade deal – compromises sovereignty it does not mean we cannot respond constructively to unsatisfactory aspects such as those involving intellectual property. 

The stupidest thing said about the TPP deal – thus far – is the claim that it does not reduce New Zealand’s sovereignty. Of course it does. Agreeing to it will mean New Zealand will not be able to do things it currently can do. How important this reduction in sovereignty is is a proper matter for assessment for there are gains as well as losses.

It's a big day of transitioning for Labour, as it clears the decks for it's 'small targets' strategy. But one particular new policy caught my eye

After many months of silence or evasion brought on by the need to regroup, lick wounds and do some policy work, Labour's had a busy old policy day today. It's been out with the old and in with some new.

Phil Goff's latest lift of his skirt reveals nothing new about his mayoral ambitions, but something more about his thinking and tactics

Sometimes it's funny to see how news unfolds. Just about every news organisation has run headlines today that, as Paddy Gower revealed this morning, Phil Goff has booked a venue at Westhaven for November 22 to announce his run for the mayoralty. But much of the rest of today's buzz is nothing new.

In 1968 Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was sworn in with a Cabinet of suited white men. Forty seven years later his son has delivered Canada a Cabinet of gender parity, cultural, age and geographical diversity - all in a carnival like atmosphere open to the public. 

It was a spectacle, as expected.

Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister was sworn in today, and he means to get down to business immediately.

Forty-three year old Justin Trudeau announced his new Cabinet and presented them to the public.

The book’s ‘message is as compelling as it is important: the social costs of mental illness are terribly high and the costs of effective treatments are surprisingly low'.  Daniel Kahneman (psychologist and Nobel economics laureate.

In due course this Penguin is likely to become fashionable – like The Sprit Level and Capital in the Twenty First Century – because it touches issues which many people care deeply about while offering some solutions.

Its message is simple.

The rights and wrongs of genetic modification are resurfacing as a political issue, as National signals its intent to introduce more GMOs, despite opposition from some councils and business

National can't believe it's luck. The government announced an historic, controversial decision this week -- the first ever general release of a genetically modified organism in New Zealand. In other words, the first bit of GM stuff to be allowed outside the lab or test paddock. And hardly anyone noticed.

Can candidates for the Auckland mayoralty next year find a way to move the Ports of Auckland? If so, where to and at what cost?

On a recent Sunday I was at dinner in the restaurant in the old Seafarers' building on Quay St, Auckland. Through big picture windows we looked out over the Waitemata harbour on a beautiful spring day. We could see the boats on the water, the houses sprinkled around the North Shore...

Travel extends the mind. Here are some of the things I learned from a recent trip to Greece: about the age of the human condition, about how civilisations end with environmental depletion, about the stresses to the current Greek economy and about how trivial are New Zealand news websites. 

There are remnants of wall frescos from the 3500-plus year old Minoan palace of Knossos in Crete – home of the legendary Labyrinth and Minotaur.

One per cent of the world's population now control half its wealth. 

The concentration of more and more resources in fewer and fewer hands has actually accelerated since the global financial crisis. This is no accident. It is the outcome of policy decisions made – or avoided – by political leaders either unable to learn the lessons of the crisis or unwilling to act on them.  

Since 2008, “middle-class wealth has grown at a slower pace than wealth at the top end. This has reversed the pre-crisis trend, which saw the share of middle-class wealth remaining fairly stable over time.”

An anti-incumbant pro-change wave took hold of Canadian politics this week…thrusting to victory the 43 year old son of one of the country's most enigmatic politicians. Canadians may have had a love-hate relationship with Trudeau Snr., but they sure feel the love for his scion.  

“Justin’s just not ready...nice hair though”.

So went one of the many attempts by Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party to diss the “kid” politician in Canada’s election.

There's a legal saying that hard cases make bad law. But sometimes the opposite can be true - an apparently easy case can lead a Court into some pretty swampy terrain.

The story of Jonathan Dixon doesn't raise much sympathy. He was a bouncer at a Queenstown bar back in 2011. While working there, he observed the English rugby player Mike Tindall - who had just married the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips - "cavorting" with a woman on the dance floor.

The more one is certain about the state of an economy, the more one is likely to be wrong; the more one is certain about the state of an economy, the greater the media coverage. No wonder the public is confused.

I shan’t add to the confusion. In quick summary, the New Zealand’s economic growth seems to be slowing down but we don’t know whether it will go negative and economic activity contract.

* The Australian economy  is in the doldrums.

Violence is rocking Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and all Israel's government can come up with is punish the Palestinians even more. It has never worked before. It won't work now.  

The Palestinian response to the Zionist occupation is a manifestation of the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s maxim that where there is power, there is resistance. 

Israel exercises power in a repressive occupation.

Palestinians exercise power in resisting repression.

The New Zealanders languishing in Australian detention centres are a stone in the shoe of the first John Key-Malcolm Turnbull meeting this weekend, but there are face-saving ways Turnbull could cut Kiwis some slack

When Malcolm Turnbull touches down in New Zealand tomorrow night for his first visit as Australian Prime Minister, there will be much back-slapping and bonhomie between two very similar politicians. But far from what the men would have expected just a few weeks ago, the mutual appreciation society will be over-shadowed by the detention centre issue.

With our leading science organisations 'right-sizing' and science funding stalled, is the government's approach to science meeting the needs of New Zealand now and in the future?

Good quality science, data and insights are required to transform what is done on the land. Deputy Prime Minister Bill English was last year urging farmers to use "good science", while more recently farmers have been urging regional councils to base their policies on facts and evidence.

It is now legal for anyone in New Zealand to get hold of and read a copy of Into the River. This happy ending to a sorry saga demonstrates that it perhaps is time for a change of leadership at the Film and Literature Board of Review.

Caution: contains sweary stuff ... you may need to wash your eyes afterwards.

In the eyes of this upper-middle class, not-quite-very-old, liberal legal academic, the Film and Literature Board of Review has brought a bit of sanity back to the world by deciding that a book openly showing young men (and soon-to-be young men) how bad choices can create bad outcomes ought to be freely available for them to read.

Jane Kelsey's court victory over the evil MFAT/Tim Groser empire is probably too little, too late for her campaign against the TPPA. But it sends some important messages to a range of public actors in New Zealand's governing arrangements.

As mentioned in the media yesterday, Jane Kelsey and a rag tag fugitive fleet of civil society groups were (mostly) successful in their court challenge to MFAT/Tim Groser's refusal to

With just a week to go in Canada's Federal elections, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been roundly accused of racism and dog-whistle politics in order to draw attention away from the failings of his administration. Next Monday he will know if his tactics have worked.

Call it dog-whistle or wedge politics, it is ugly, racist and alive and kicking in the Canadian election campaign.

During the last weeks Conservative leader Stephen Harper has seen his majority threatened by the Liberals and he’s opted for the dog whistle.

A couple of recent cases show that being right about the law isn't enough - you also need to get the courts to do what you want. Because if you can't, you may even end up worse off than when you started.

In any court case, there are (at least) two big questions. The first is, what does the law say about the matter? Then there is the second; given what the law says, what will the court do as a consequence?

How Much of New Zealand Has to Be Owned and Controlled by Foreigners?

This year is the fortieth anniversary of the founding of CAFCA – the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa – a Christchurch-based, but national, activist organisation.

The TPP may not deliver an immediate big bang for our dairy industry. But there's an awful lot to like in it - and New Zealand really has to be a part of it.

Helen Clark had the most succinct and best explanation of why New Zealand had to be part of the TPP. I know for a fact that her late intervention caused some people who were sceptical about the TPP to revise their opinion about the necessity for New Zealand being in TPP.

TPP can help lift incomes in New Zealand but to make a difference for people, there’s a lot more work still to do.

 

The TPP was never going to be the miracle that shot New Zealand to the top of the global supply chain. Neither was it ever going to be the Darth Vadar of deals where American corporations got to destroy the planet. 

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership becomes an Agreement, New Zealand will become bound by a set of "Investor State Dispute Settlement" procedures. What are these, and why should anyone care?

I write this not knowing whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership will become an Agreement or merely a very long, stressful yet ultimately fruitless set of negotiations. I also write this with an admitted lack of expertise in the issue of international trade and economics.

You can't get away with much on a rugby field these days. It used to be different, and some argued that whatever was good enough for rugby was good enough for politics

Of the week’s signpost activities – the kinds of things that give order and sequence to a world that is sometimes devoid of both, Radio New Zealand Mediawatch is high on my list. The voices are familiar but cut through that Sunday morning somnolence with intelligent critique and commentary. It is a nice way to engage with Sunday.

The Greens and National have combined today to add Red Peak to the flag referendum, and in doing so have ensured a troubled process has crossed into slapstick

So, listening or politicking? When it comes to Red Peak's inclusion in the flag referendum, I'm thinking the latter. While the Greens and National are trying to reflect public opinion by adding Red Peak, it seems more like point scoring that got out of control and weak governance by twitter.

You would never know from the Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls that they have lost their battle to defeat Obama on the Iran nuclear deal….but electioneering is not known for being mindful of facts.

Time finally ran out for the majority Republican led push to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal...but you wouldn’t know it.

Still they shout from the debate and election rally pulpits about all the things they will do to what is apparently the most vile of deals.

A year on from the election and we now see loud and clear what defines the John Key government - a willingness to bend to public opinion and give the people just enough of what they want

How deliciously fitting that National should celebrate the first birthday of its third term with the decision to turn down Shanghai Pengxin's bid to buy Lochinver Station from the Stevenson Group, even though the Overseas Investmen

Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee has had a hard look at how social media is being used to report on Parliament ... and decided that everything is working pretty much fine as it is. Hooray!

Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee – it is, apparently, mandatory to refer to it as such in print, so I shall shorten the term to PPPC or P3C – has just put out a report on "the use of social media to report on parliamentary proceedings".

It's one thing to galvinise the base, quite another to win over the general electorate. And it's hard to see a strategy which Jeremy Corbyn can use to achieve that

As a favour for a mate, I penned (keyboarded?) a few lines for The SpinOff on Jeremy Corbyn's election to the Labour leadership in Britain. And a bunch of other commentators did the same. Here are my views:

 

Will taking the Union Jack off New Zealand's flag "open the gates of hell" and give John Key absolute power? No. No it won't.

So last night I had a bit of fun on TV3's Story, commenting on the conspiracy doing the rounds in cyberspace about the real reason behind the push to change New Zealand's flag.

The reasons given for imposing an order stopping anyone from being able to access Into the River do not justify it. The order is wrong.

Yesterday I wrote this post on the decision by the President of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Dr Don Mathieson, to issue an "interim restriction order" in respect of the young adult novel, Into the River.

Just how dangerous can a book be? And in order to combat that danger, how far should our expressive freedoms be restrained?

The young adult's novel, Into the River, certainly seems to divide folks. I should note at the outset that while some unkind souls may say that I behave as if I'm smack in the middle of the book's target demographic market, I haven't read it.

How long has it been since the death of a single child has saved so many other lives? And now that we are paying attention, how do we get the next step right?

When has a single death and a single image saved so many lives? That picture of Aylan Kurdi lying on a Turkish beach has changed everything around the five year refugee crisis started by the Syrian war.

Today’s refugee crisis is one result of doing nothing to stop Bashar al-Assad after he used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Everyone talks about the human consequences of intervention. But we also need to look at the human consequences of doing nothing.

It was a catastrophically wrong decision to fail to intervene two years ago.

The opposite of intervention was never going to be peace. It was always going to be this; children like Aylan Kurdi, dead on a Turkish beach fleeing certain death back home. 8 million Syrian refugees forced to flee their homes.

This was an introduction to a presentation by Stephen Jacobi: "TPP – Where to from Here (And How Did We Get Here Anyway)?" To a NZIIA lecture, 2 September 2015. (Some editing)

It was suggested I first say a few words about the context in which the TPP and other trade negotiations are occurring. At the heart of economic progress is specialisation. That Economics Stage I comparative advantage model that you were taught said that by specialising and trading its surplus a country could be better off.

There are ninety towns in New Zealand with a population between 5,000 and 20,000. If each of those towns took ten refugees, and our larger cities took 100 each, we’d triple our quota to nearly 3000 without any going to Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington.

New Zealand would be a proud example of practical, no-nonsense compassion. 

 

This week, 11,000 people in Iceland offered to house a refugee in response to a Facebook campaign. The country is only obliged to accept 50. A couple spent millions buying a boat to rescue families drowning in the Mediterrean.

The job of the media is to tell, and sometimes show, truth to power and also the public. Editors and journalists who made the conscious decision to publish the photos of the drowned Syrian refugee toddler did just that. The question is will this image be the catalyst to change history as others have in the past? 

Should the little lifeless body of a three-year-old Syrian refugee lying face down in the sands of a Turkish beach be published?

It is a question editors and journalists have been grappling with around the world since the image of Aylan Kurdi was despatched.

New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values - unless it involves the inconvenience of bringing a few more desperate people into New Zealand for a new life.

Back in February of this year, the House debated a Prime Ministerial statement on New Zealand's contribution of some 143 military personnel to help combat ISIS in Iraq.

Talk to social workers and experts trying to get New Zealand's most troubled kids safely through to adulthood and the impression left is that the best thing to do may also be the thing that's most politically anathema to this government

When politicians start talking about "radical overhauls" and headlines speak of "sweeping changes", I confess a little scepticism, even nervousness.

The flag debate tells us something about the quality of design in New Zealand

I am not going to tell you about the right choice for New Zealand’s flag. That would invalidate the point of the column. Certainly I shall vote for one; much of my response will be an instinctive opinion. What I shall probably miss – what we are currently missing – is expert guidance on the characteristics of a good flag.

Blaming the Auckland housing bubble on immigrants is like saying 'cars are too expensive in New Zealand because the Chinese are buying all our cars.’

It fails to correctly define the real problem - which is affordability, not immigration. The average wage can no longer buy the average house.

Europe takes in only a small proportion of the world's refugees yet when you consider the dog whistle politics and lack of human decency towards the men, women and children desperately trying to reach its shores, you'd think it was being wiped out by an alien species.  

According to the late French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, there is nothing more unsettling than the continued movement of something that seems fixed.

Apparently, we have to vote twice to decide whether we prefer the current flag to something else. So why was one vote enough when we were voting on our electoral system?

I really don't care very much about the whole debate over changing the flag. It just doesn't move me all that much. I have no great fondness for the current design, but equally none of the forty alternatives particularly grip my emotions or imagination.

A bit of anger over credit cards could earn Labour a bit of credit with voters, but there's a risk for a party that is still trying to prove its economic bona fides

Labour may just have stumbled on a wee goldmine. Former leader David Shearer has in recent days been taking some pot-shots at the banks. Not all out assaults, but he's been spraying bullets around at the 'big four' Australian-owned banks, complaining about their excessive profits and "rorting" of ordinary Kiwis.

Notes for Radio NZ Nights with Brian Crump: 11 August, 2014

The indications are that economic growth is slowing down from the boom rates of the last few years. The slowdown may turn into a contraction – that is, output may fall. There is a view that the contraction began in the middle of 2015. (It is not possible to be sure. All the data is not in and is subject to measurement error.

Solid Energy has a basically sound business that is being crushed by debt. If Greece’s debt sent it hurtling towards a ‘Grexit', Solid Energy can avoid a Sexit.

Here’s how.

 

The basic business operations of the company, the coal mines, are cashflow positive. Solid Energy makes enough to pay for safe operation and keeping miners in jobs, and that keeps the lights on for downstream parts of the Coast economy who depend on mining - businesses like railways that help to keep other export businesses competitive and could become marginal without coal.

As the milk price falls, Fonterra needs to react by rethinking its strategy

Agribusiness is different. Long investment cycles, equally long production cycles and environmental perturbations combine to erode resilience. The current milk price debacle is a clear case in point.

I wasn't going to, but here are a few thoughts on the debate around Rachel Smalley's comments about John Campbell's new job and the dominance of white male broadcasters in primetime.

I've been sitting here dithering whether I should write something about Rachel Smalley's critique of broadcasting as a male bastion. Or rather, her attack on John Campbell, depending on which way you view it.

With still a month to go before US lawmakers vote on the Iran nuclear deal, the pro and anti sales pitching is officially very ugly....and there's time and energy for more.

The relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken a quantum leap for the worse, as each man ratchets up his case for or against the Iran deal, supposedly in the best interests of their respective countries.

Trust Us?

If you think you know what has been going on with the TPP, you have not been following closely enough. However, here are a few matters for clarification.

The only reason that makes any sense for giving a Saudi sheep breeder an $11 million farm is because we thought it might buy us a Free Trade Agreement with his country. It's a good thing that we're not a corrupt nation, isn't it?

Let's start off by giving the National Government a bit of a lifeline on the whole "Sheep-to-Sand" saga. Bacause by post's end I'll be using it to hang the Government's handling of the matter.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership could yet be sealed in the next few weeks, and if it is we need to think hard about the cost of signing up... and the cost of staying out

As I write this I am listening to a Canadian journalist being interviewed on Morning Report about the prospects of concluding the TPP. His speculation? That Canada will not let TPP be concluded until after the Canadian election, which has just been announced for October 19, just three months away.

Why does it occur, when does it work? 

Allow me to share a puzzle. Public sector outsourcing (a.k.a. ‘contracting out’) has been increasing in recent decades. It is not the same as ‘privatisation’ because the government retains the role as a funder but it outsources the task to a private provider – which may be a corporation or non-government organisation.

The latest Palestinian death should be a hideous wake-up call for ordinary Israelis to do some serious soul searching over the policies of the government they elected, and the damage it is doing to them all.

An 18 month old Palestinian toddler is burned to death.

The parents of Ali Saad Dawabsheh and 4 yr old brother are in critical conditions with burns up fo 70 % of their bodies.

Are we horrified?

Well most of us are.

Should we be surprised?

As the next round of negotiations to try and keep Greece in the European Union get underway, a tangible solution is still not evident, but the sense of despair locally is palpable.

Looking out from the heart of the Cyclades at the glassily calm, crystal clear Agean Sea it takes some imagination to marry this most popular of tourist destinations with the desperation and turmoil that rocks the entire country - islands and all.

Fracking has changed the energy outlook, with major geopolitical implications 

About a decade ago, there was much concern about ‘peak oil’ – that the production of oil would peak and then fall off quickly leaving the world’s transport system stranded. The idea is really an extension of the two hundred year old insight of Thomas Malthus that the demand from an increasing population would exhaust food production with resulting starvation  because land was limited.

Once upon a time, in a land not very far away, there lived a king. True story.

Once upon a time, in a land not very far away, there lived a king. The king was sad; mainly what he knew was Growth, and the cutting of things: taxes, trees, Red Tape. “If only,” he said to the queen, “if only, my queen, there were a way and we would reach the land of Surplus, which I hear tell, is full of sacred Cows and a very fine land indeed.”

A New Zealand High Court has just told Parliament that its law limits rights in a way that cannot be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. In other words, it failed in its basic task as a lawmaker.

The issue of prisoner voting - or, rather, the issue of prisoners not being able to vote - has been a regular bête noire of mine. Here, for example, is my view on the National Government's decision to remove the right, back when I was young and full

The High Court just gave the Government (in the form of officials in the Ministry of Health) a complete shellacking over the way it decided to remove funding from the Problem Gambling Foundation. It's worth going into the memory hole to recall what was said about that decision at the time it was made.

Judicial review of government decisions can sometimes be a bit nit-picky. It's a pretty complicated area of law. The rules around what processes officials and ministers have to follow in order to make "good" or "proper" decisions - in the eyes of the court, at least - are sometimes pretty technical .

Or, in the immortal words of Darryl Kerrigan:

While Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are blindingly different politicians, their current and probably short-lived attraction to their respective bases is eerily similar in the world of anger politics.

How intriguing that on both sides of the Atlantic, politics is presently consumed with polar opposites who are sucking the oxygen out of their respective parties' electoral debates.

I speak of course of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn.

The first wishes to be nominee of the American Republican Party and go on to win the Presidency. He will succeed in neither.

On June 25, Greenpeace New Zealand did an action at Parliament. That afternoon I knew that, were I raising children, it would be as activists

I have no personal memory of the 1981 Springbok tour: I couldn't tell you if I were for or against it because, as far as I can recall, I did not know about it until after.

Treating the Auckland housing bubble as a supply-side problem doesn’t work; neither does blaming some group without a careful analysis of what is happening. What might work?

There are two separate Auckland housing issues which are only loosely linked. The first, dealt with here briefly, is providing sufficient housing in the region.

Lots of new houses are being consented in Auckland, but supply is still not keeping up with demand. So why is National so keen to talk about supply?

It's a moment to tuck away for the 2017 election campaign.

If there's one thing you can bet the house on, it's that housing will be a major issue again at the next election. Even the Housing Minister says the Auckland property market it "over-heated".

Do we need more regulation in the housing market? Probably not -- existing regulation may be inflaming the problem of lack of supply

Auckland’s median house price hit a new high in June - $755,000 - reinforcing the problems of demand exceeding s

After a marathon last push, the world's major powers and Iran have agreed on a deal which restricts and inspects Iran's nuclear programme, in exchange for lifting years of crippling sanctions. No surprises in who sees it as true diplomacy at work and who is screaming capitulation and death to the deal.    

New Zealand’s Presidency of the United Nations Security Council will within days be in the spotlight following the signing of a nuclear deal between the world’s six major powers and Iran.

The win in the deal for Iran is the lifting of the crippling US, EU and UN economic sanctions.

Cries of "racism" have surrounded Labour's release of data on the impact of foreign buyers on the Auckland property market. But what's really upsetting people?

When are numbers racist?

Whatever the answer, what are we going to do about it?

Steven Joyce, Minister of Economic Development and most other economic things, was hardly helpful when he dismissed talk of an economic recession on a recent TV3

Greece extends bank closures; Chinese stock market rises after 10 days of falling prices; US and Japanese officials meet ahead of TPP meeting; Syrian refugees top four million; Nigerian troops arrest bombing 'mastermind' responsible for 69 deaths; and more

Within possibly just hours the fate of Greece could be known. Either way - in or out of the EU - the population of this crippled country faces only more hardship. Some players are more to blame than others, but none is exempt.    

Will she go or will she stay?

She, being Greece. Her travel plans being a ‘staycation’ within the EU, or a ‘Grexit’ back(wards) to the drachma.

National's attempt to downplay economic concerns is like telling the All Blacks not to worry about playing without their front row

"Get it in perspective". That's been the well-worked line from the Beehive this week, as a quiet political news cycle has coincided with a burst of bad economic numbers from here and around the Pacific.

We need to distinguish the sovereign state from the people it governs, and the other political institutions between. 

Things are moving so fast in the financial negotiations between Greece and the Troika (European Central Bank, European Union, and the International Monetary Fund) that there is little point in my trying to comment on them. But there is a structural issue which most commentaries overlook.

Bad things are happening in Nauru. Some of us think Murray McCully needs to do more in response.

Earlier this week I (along with 27 other legal academics) added my name to an open letter being circulated by Professor Claudia Geiringer from VUW. It concerns the worsening rule of law situation in Nauru, particularly as this impacts on a Nauruan opposition MP with strong NZ connections.

Recent publications suggest that the children who live at the bottom in economies with high inequality have reduced life chances.

The grandfather of modern distributional research is Tony Atkinson, a British economist who began in the 1960s a lifetime career studying the British and world income distributions and other related ones.

A start of my post on state housing sales... More to come later, but feel free to start discussing now

When John Key announced the latest and most controversial stage of National's state housing reforms in January – that is, the sale of up to 2,000 homes over the next year with thousands more to come – it was done in the context of "<

New Zealand MPs are so keen to be seen to be "doing something" about cyber-bullying that they are about to pass a poor piece of law that will do something terrible

In January this year, John Key and Andrew Little united in their condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo murders. The Prime Minister described the "freedom of speech and expression" as an attack on "democratic principles", while the leader of the Opposition described the shootings as a "shocking attack on freedom of speech" and "an assault on democracy and freedom of expression".

Parliament - or, at least, a committtee of Parliament - is finally getting the chance to allow the public discussion of end of life choice that (most) everyone says is needed in the wake of Lecretia Seales' court case. Will it now do its job?

Update: Yes. Yes it will.

[Update: That was quick! Turns out this post was pretty much unnecessary!

Parliament's Health Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into whether or not the law should be changed to allow voluntary euthanasia.

The advent of another self proclaimed family-values politician facing a morality-linked comeuppance may be compelling to watch, but the reality is it is no longer a surprise.       

I am watching the Colin Craig train wreck from 14,300 kms away.

I am sure Mr Craig would like that sort of distance from his own, as he calls them, “face-palm moments”.

Cute if you are Homer Simpson...perhaps.

The following response to three questions (in italics) was published in a prestigious Uruguayan weekly newspaper Brecha. It may be of interest because I am responding to the Latin American economic debate which is slightly different from the New Zealand one (but only slightly). Sorry for the included material necessary for an audience outside New Zealand. Thankyou. Nicola, for checking the translation from Spanish

1. New Zealand had a downward trend in terms of GDP per capita and fell behind several OECD countries in the last quarter of the 20th century. What are the main factors that explain New Zealand's relative lagging after the 1970s?

We're told it is inevitable that a boat carrying asylum seekers will one day arrive in New Zealand. This is one imagining of that meeting.

 

There’s a sail on the horizon. 

Not really a sail. More like a blanket on a stick.

And today is suddenly going off-script. The complication of others intrudes. And I’m to be their savior.

*

There may be a question mark as to whether the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club is acting unlawfully in stopping Sikh men from eating at its restaurant. But there's no question that it is acting stupidly.

The Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club has gotten itself back into the media with its dogged refusal to allow Sikhs to dine or drink on its premises whilst wearing a turban. To make it clear, this isn't because the Cosmopolitan Club does not like Sikhs.

Canada's top General has attributed a climate of sexual abuse within his forces to a bit of the old boys will be boys. He called it biological wiring. It all boils down to a telling insight.  

Ever wondered why sexual harassment is alive and well in the armed forces?

The Chief of the Canadian Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson seems to know, but once the full horror of his explanation was pointed out to him, he quickly apologized...sort of.

It looks like Nick Smith and the National Government may be doing what they should have done from the outset - talking to Auckland Iwi about how they can be the developers of housing on the Crown's land in Auckland.

Otto Von Bismark is widely attributed with the remark "Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made." Turns out he never said it, but that doesn't stop the sentiment being any less true. 

Those on the left of politics have a choice between defending their past achievements or taking up the challenges which face us. 

The Democratic Left is in disarray throughout the world. It is mainly out of power (but that has been true for most of its history); when it is in power it looks awfully like the other side (which has not always been true in the past). Its problem is much more than inadequate organisation or inferior leadership; the issue is too endemic.

There appears to be something deeply wrong.

President Obama has made a Trans-Pacific Trade deal is top eocnomic priority, but his own party has stared him down and now the entire deal hangs by a thread

For a man immersed in the nuanced arts of diplomatic speak and what are always called "sensitive trade negotiations", Trade Minister Tim Groser likes to call a spade a spade. Or a trade deal a bit of a mess. And that's his take on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Make no mistake - the live export of 53,000 animals from Timaru to Mexico is worth getting grumpy about

Radio New Zealand National’s Morning Report made me more than a little grumpy this morning. And no, it wasn’t because presenter Susie Ferguson was corralled into another live-on-air taste test of a vile consumer product, but instead because she said this:

The Seales v Attorney General decision was a pretty comprehensive legal loss for proponents of aid in dying. But it is by no means the last word on the matter.

I've waited a few days to post on the outcome of the Seales v Attorney General decision, finding not only that the Crimes Act totally prohibits doctors from providing aid in dying to competent, terminally ill patients but that this prohibition also is consistent with our New Zealand Bill of Rig

Food is being thrown away in huge amounts. Is it because we've just made it too darned cheap? And what New Zealand could do...

Melbourne's RMIT University reported in July last year that 50 percent of household waste, irrespective of socio-economic grouping was discarded food.

Should membership of Kiwisaver be compulsory? Research on how humans behaviour, some of it thirty years old, points in that direction.

The current debate over the future of Kiwisaver is largely bereft of developments in economics over the last thirty or so years. Rather the frame has been an approach to human behaviour which we know does not reflect reality.

 

You should always be careful for what you wish for, in case you happen to get it.

Here's a short little story about the perils of getting what you ask for, courtesy of the New Zealand Taxpayers Union (NZTU).

In which a former confidant of Cameron Slater's claims he was paid to commit a hack of The Standard blogsite; police are investigating

I can't really wax lyrical about the investigation I produced for The Nation into allegations by a 27 year-old IT consultant called Ben Rachinger, that he was paid by blogger Cameron Slater to hack into The Standard.

Rachinger says he strung Slater along for some time before ultimately not doing the hack.

In 2012, the Government promised Auckland Maori that they would have first dibs on any new housing developments on its land. So why aren't they involved at all in Nick Smith's 500 hectare vision?

Further to my previous post on the Government's housing plans for Auckland and the problem that iwi and hapū rights under the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014 may cause, my attention has been drawn to the following matters.

The Government's plans to use the Crown's land for houses for Aucklanders face a bit of a problem - it may not be able to sell them the land on which those houses sit.

It may be a reflection of just how quickly the Government's recently announced plans to free up some 500 acres of land for housing in and around Auckland were developed, but it looks like no-one stopped to ask themselves "can we actually do this?" before

The new Greens co-leader has the job of winning roses from thousands of sceptical New Zealand voters. Can he come across as credible enough? And is his 'no Nats' gamble the right move?

James Shaw walked out of his first ever interview as Green Party co-leader on Saturday and asked me straight off, "how did that go? From a TV point of view?"

The US senate has given trade promotion authority to the President. What next? Will the TPP agreement be acceptable, and to whom? 

Unfortunately trade negotiations are riddled with acronyms. I have listed the ones used here at the end of the article.

 

The Left must learn from the political techniques deployed so successfully in this budget.  Unless we ask ourselves the hard questions the right ask themselves, and are prepared to prioritise and make some tough decisions, we will maintain poll ratings bleakly far behind the Government's. 

Having chucked red meat to its base and changed the Employment Relations Act at the expense of working people, the National government used this budget to show it isn’t hostage to its far right factions. Turns out the problem with the economy isn’t that we’re all taking too many tea breaks ('quelle surprise') and - the real surp

Budget 2015 documents were accompanied by a banner heading A plan that's working. An undoubtedly naive economist, originally ignorant as to the presence of the plan, describes his journey in uncovering the nature of the plan.

Did you know we had a plan? And, did you know that it’s working?

Well, entering the Budget lock-up last week I was confronted on the screen greeting us with the banner: A plan that’s working.

The 2015 Budget did not deal with children's poverty  but it did put a down payment. 

This is based on a presentation to a Child Poverty Action Group Post-budget Breakfast.

 

National has reinforced its capacity to surprise, but also its capacity for making things up as it goes along. And to make ends meet, Key and English have done several u-turns

A closer look at Budget 2015 shows a government making it up as it goes along. While it's a clever political document, it shows National is trying to plug a lot of political holes with a diminishing amount of capital -- both fiscal and political.

We say that it should be the voters and the voters alone that determine who is and who is not a member of Parliament. At least, up until we say that pure chance should decide that matter.

The provincial election in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island finally came to an end a couple of days ago when its last MLA was declared elected following a judicial recount.

(What - you didn't know that Prince Edward Island has just had an election? What are you, prejudiced against Anne of Green Gables or something?)

Here's my take on the Budget... before it comes out.

With a few hours to go before the Budget, it already looks like it's Labour lite all over again; a political repeat of 2014 with National unashamedly doing exactly what opposition parties have been saying they should do and taking credit for it.

John Banks' win at the Court of Appeal hopefully sheds some much needed light on the sorry state of costs in criminal cases.

Earlier today, the National Business Review reported that (paywall): “A legal expert says Crown Law should pay for the “stuff up” which misled the court in the John Banks’ trial.” It turns out that the “legal expert” in question is my colleague and Punditeer, Professor Andr

John Banks should have been declared innocent by the Court of Appeal in November last year. But that doesn't mean he should not have been before the courts at all.

Let me start out by saying that I'm not surprised that John Banks has (eventually) been declared innocent of knowingly filing a false return of election donations.

National has done something so that it looks like it's doing something about Auckland housing. But it reeks of third term-itis when you pretend you're fixing a problem when you're merely tinkering

"So where's the good bit?" Guyon Espiner asked a RNZ guest this morning in relation to National's not-new non-capital gains tax reforms announced over the weekend. The answer is hard to pin down, not because there isn't some value in the changes, but because National's wriggly, squirming messaging makes it so darned hard to understand.

There is a lot of chatter about the government’s budget deficit, but politics aside why does it matter?

Rob Muldoon famously remarked that the typical New Zealander would not know a budget deficit if he or she tripped over it in the street. Knowing a little bit about it I have puzzled as to how one would come across the deficit in the street – perhaps I lack imagination.

 

While the search goes on for the dead, Asia Pacific countries seem willing to leave those starving in the Andaman Sea to their fate

It's the politics of the perverse and a tangled kind of compassion; an example of priorities utterly back to front when we are making the bizarre choice to search for the dead while the living are in such terrible need.

While the search goes on for the dead, Asia Pacific countries seem willing to leave those starving in the Andaman Sea to their fate

It's the politics of the perverse and a tangled kind of compassion; an example of priorities utterly back to front when we are making the bizarre choice to search for the dead while the living are in such terrible need.

Andrew Little recently suggested that ACC's current funding model is more suitable for private insurance, and suggested that a future Labour government might change it - but in doing so failed to get to the heart of the issue.

In a recent interview on Morning Report (reported

You may have been surprised at the outcome of the recent British elections, but New Zealand’s experience shows you should not have been surprised that you were surprised

While writing my history of New Zealand, I wondered about whether it would be possible to assess people’s attitudes before there were surveys. Writers often impose their prejudices, without realising they are doing so.

Us intolerant liberal types who favour using the power of law to put an end to the sort of intolerant words and deeds that we detest should look to Canada and ... ponder.

As I have said before, I have a somewhat conflicted attitude towards the Israel-Palestine situation:

At least that's how it should be. But the politics of Len Brown are undermining Auckland's growth as National plays politics with transport

The tensions between Auckland and Wellington cannot be fudged anymore; it's clear that disagreements between the two are now holding the city back, as they bicker over transport funding.

New Zealand's unusual carbon profile marks it apart from other countries trying to lower greenhouse emissions

New Zealand is facing a Gordian knot in the politics of climate change.

Arts and cultural policy seems to be going backward at the moment. Why? Does it matter? 

In his 1852 inaugural speech as Canterbury’s first superintendent, James Fitzgerald – later to be New Zealand’s first premier – said, ‘There is something to my mind awful in the prospect of the great mass of the community rapidly increasing in wealth and power without that moral refinement which fits them to enjoy the one or that intellectual cultivation which en

Obama to push for regional defense system in Gulf; China to impose harsher punishments for pollution; Japan and Philippines hold anti-piracy exercises in waters off Manila Bay; France expands spy powers; ferry between Florida and Cuba approved; and more

The saga of family carers for the severely disabled is still being written, despite Parliament's attempts to put a full stop on it. It makes for a really interesting constitutional tale.

The story of the struggle of family carers of severely disabled individuals to get paid for the work that they do and the various court decisions, governmental policies and legislative enactments that it has inspired makes for a truly fascinating case study in how New Zealand's constitutional processes work.

Why does the Minister of finance say this is is hardest budget ever? The economy may be doing moderately well, but it is by no means preforming outstandingly.

In 1993 the New Zealand economy began to show signs of an upswing after the seven years of Rogernomics Stagnation. In a public comment I remarked that it seemed to be in the ‘recovery’ phase, which is the economist’s technical term for the stage in the business cycle when the economy leaves the bottom of the business cycle and goes into upswing.

Do the sums and read between the lines, and it looks like something has to give in this year's budget. And I think I know what it may be...

So Bill English hasn't dropped enough pounds... or, at least, dollars. Weight loss is the metaphor Bill English has chosen to excuse his failure to meet the government oft-repeated and top priority of reaching surplus by 2015-16. That's right, it's sayonara surplus.

English's explanation run along these lines:

Can an environmentalist focus solely on sustainability or are they drawn into wider issues such has how fairly the material product of the economy is distributed?

Perhaps heightened by the leadership contest in the Green Party, there appears to be a debate going on about where environmentalism fits into the political spectrum. I am not a member of the Green Party (nor any other, for that matter) but I have been struggling with how the environment fits into the general history of New Zealand which I am writing.

John Key's hair-pulling raises questions about just what kind of player he is, and his interview on The Nation reveals a worrying lack of judgement and understanding of power

John Key's pony-tail-gate controversy seems to have divided people into two camps. The vast bulk of New Zealanders (to purloin a Key-ism) can agree on the fact that it's weird... and out of order. But then there are those who shrug it off and say things like "no-one died, he was just being a dick" and "he didn't mean anything cruel by it".

While the Reserve Bank may have startled everyone by asking the government to take a fresh look at taxation on investment housing, the recent statement by the Deputy Governor indicates that we are inching towards a more holistic approach to macroeconomic policy. 

The April 15 statement  by Grant Spencer, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank and Head of Financial Stability, concluded ‘on the demand side, we consider that greater attention needs to be given to issues relating to the tax treatment of investor hous

The crazy Auckland property market needs reining in. Capital gains tax as a way of controlling house prices doesn't work overseas, but what about a land tax?

Virtually every day there is a new

It isn't just the service men and women of New Zealand whose sacrifice we need to remember at this year's ANZAC Day. Our involvement in World War One came at the cost of some pretty important freedoms as well.

The good folk at Otago's Law Library - the Sir Robert Stout Law Library, to give it its full name - do a great job.

The US Congress has managed to insert itself into the Iran nuclear negotiations but its reasons for doing so are highly questionable - more to do with sucking up to Israeli lobby election dollars and diminishing Obama than the safety of the rest of us - Americans included.   

While the US Congress managed to muscle in on the potential nuclear deal with Iran, other considerable world powers were also getting involved but in a very different way.

Arthur Taylor's tilt at the windmills of Hellensville predictably has resulted in a shattered lance. Now we wait for the outcome of his really interesting court challenge.

As predicted here, Arthur Taylor's election petition challenge to John Key's victory in the Helensville electorate has failed. The court found that Arthur Taylor was:

The deficit-funded tax cuts that National gave the high income earners is still being paid for by borrowing.

When National won office at the end of 2008, they had a mandate to give median income earners a tax cut 'north of $50 a week'. At the time John Key made that promise he explicitly pledged not to increase GST to pay for it.  

"National is not going to be raising GST," he fibbed. "What I am saying is if we do a half-decent job as a government at growing our economy I am confident that won't be happening."

Heh. "Half-decent."

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. John Key spinning obfuscatory defence lines, Bridges warning.

Three fairly clear signs emerged today that the National Party knows Simon Bridges stuffed up in getting his officials to give him all the information needed for National to put together its ill-conceived "10 bridges for your vote!" bribe.

Sharp movements in exchange rates often reflect sophisticated specualtion. Is there much we can do about it?

While the near parity of the Australian and New Zealand dollars got a lot of breathless attention recently,  there was little analysis of why it was happening. Explaining the exchange rate depends upon the time horizon.

Repeat after me: the public service is not a political party's election policy research unit, the public service is not a political party's election policy research unit, the public service is not a political party's election policy research unit.

National's "ten bridges for your votes!" gambit at the Northland by-election is shaping up as one of the worst election policy offerings that a political party has made in recent times. I mean that in a couple of ways.

Most New Zealanders think they've seen the back of legal highs (outside the black market), but the fact is they will be back one day... but the politics is fascinating

Matt Bowden has a grand plan. The godfather of legal highs in New Zealand, he's been talking for a few years now about his determination to make this country famous for its safe, regulated and profitable recreational drugs culture.

The Press Council wants you. Well, if you're an online journalist and know a thing or two

Oversight matters. There's plenty of evidence in the news to reinforce that view. A few weeks ago we joined the New Zealand Press Council so that we were subject to an oversight process of our own. And now the Press Council is looking for an online journalist to join its governing board.

Economic productivity and population growth have impacted New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon trading are an odd construct. Mark Schapiro, writing in Harper’s Magazine (February 2010) pointed out that ‘carbon exists as a commodity only through the decisions of politicians and bureaucrats, who determine both the demand, by setting emissions limits, and the supply, by establishing criteria for offsets.

What we are witnessing is an old fashioned ideological debate, dressed up as economics.

The high dollar and its causes suit people who have a lot of New Zealand-denominated wealth; a lower dollar is better for producers - people who use capital to earn money.

Commentators keep talking of our dollar as if it were some kind of national phallic symbol. They say it is reaching parity with Australia because Australia's economy is terrible and ours is much better. We are much better off here, they claim.

How come we tolerated such appalling working conditions for so long? (And a tick for crusading journalism.) 

Charles Dickens would be appalled. So would Fredrick Engels who wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England, as would New Zealand’s Sweating Commission of 1890. Even Simon Legree, the slave owner in Harriet Beecher’s Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, would be astonished at the working conditions and wages (or lack of) that employers were getting away with.

Iran has promised to abide by the rules as world powers begin the next stage of stripping its path to a nuclear weapon. In return the crippling economic sanctions which brought Iran to the table will go. At this point there is good cause for optimism, albeit of the trust but verify kind. Only an idiot would prefer War over Jaw.

Seventy years ago this July the world stepped into the Atomic Age - the green light for a nuclear arms race and its accompanying dark clouds of Armageddon and nuclear proliferation.

Armageddon - the final struggle between the powers of good and evil - has not occurred.

The Planet Key song and video can be watched, played on the radio and shown on TV without any restrictions at all. It's great that a judge has been able to make the law say what it should do.

Turns out that, contrary to what you may have read in some dark corners of the interweb, you can slate Key on the radio.

We're finally going to find out if we need to change how our election laws limit satirical speech ... after the period for submitting to Parliament on our election laws has ended.

From Darren Watson's website:

News@ 30 March, 2015

Are we paying enough attention to bureaucracy? Are the current bureaucratic pressures changing the nature of society -- and are they doing so for the public good?

David Graeber may be best remembered for coining Occupy Wall Street’s ‘We are the 99 percent’.

The Privy Council says that Teina Pora should not face another trial. Now we can get on with trying to make some reparation for the wrong we did to him.

According to Radio NZ, the Privy Council has recommended that Teina Pora should not face a retrial for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett. This is great news.

What happens when (or if) Winston quits Parliament before he is declared the member for Northland? Nothing very much at all.

In typically-Winston Peters fashion, we've now been told that he will resign as a list MP and thus allow an additional NZ First MP to enter into Parliament.

The loudest message went to National. The loudest clap was for Winston (not NZ First). But each party can take fortune cookies from the result in Northland this weekend.

First National. The secret of John Key's Teflon popularity;  'don’t be what we know you really are - Tories.' When National inhabits the centre ground, and behaves like a Labour-lite government, they're hard to beat. 
After the 2008 election Key’s government kept Labour’s Working for Families tax break and interest-free student loans. After 2011 it introduced free doctors visits for kids under the age of thirteen and extended Paid Parental Leave, a policy they fought to kill fifteen years before. 

Is the Northland by-election pothole just a flat tyre for National or is it a sign this political vehicle is running out of gas? Here are two things to keep an eye on once Winston's tempest has passed

So what does it all mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing. While we know the result in Northland and the unique weather patterns that merged to create Cyclone Winston, it's impossible to yet know whether National can blow those clouds away or whether more rain is on the horizon.

Parliament seems about to drop New Zealand's commitment to the rule of law from the Act underpinning the judicial branch. Retiring Supreme Court judge (and former Solicitor-General) John McGrath thinks that's worrying. He's right. There's still time to lobby the Minister of Justice.

One of the first legislative measures of the young colony, back in 1841, was the creation of what we now know as the High Court. That legislation has been updated over the years, significantly in the 1880s before consolidation in the 1908 Judicature Act. 

A denizen of the Far North observes who got things right – and who got things very wrong – in the by-election

Thirty years on the banks of the Hokianga have had their effect. 

From the first smirking, teasing comments on TV, I was sure Winston Peters would be a winner in the Northland by-election.

Goddam it - Winston Peters went and made a complete fool out of me. Did he have to do it so publicly?

OK - so three weeks or so ago I put up a post confidently saying:

Perhaps New Zealand’s acceptance of the TPPA will depend upon the outcome of the Northland by-election

Prime Minister John Key shortened his trip to Japan and Korea in order to spend more time campaigning in the Northland by-election. Domestic affairs trumped international ones – for a short time anyway.

Choosing to end your life on your own terms in order to avoid an inevitable lingering death is not suicide. So giving someone the means to do so should not be a crime.

A few weeks ago I wrote this post about a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the issue of end of life choice. I asked readers to imagine this scenario: 

The Israeli PM is fiercely backtracking on a claim that won him the election but alarmed the world. After saying there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, he now says he didn't say that…but no one believes him and that's now a problem for everyone.  

It is difficult to know which is worse - the Israeli Prime Minister’s calculated race baiting and dismissal of a Palestinian state in order to secure his own political future, or his pitiful backtracking as he wakes up to the reality that the rest of the world is pretty much sick of his antics.

Arrests in Tunisian museum attack; Beijing and Tokyo officials meet to discuss maritime security; former Thai PM to go on tiral for alleged involvement in rice subsidy scheme; UN to monitor school safety in Pakistan; fresh strife between Kiev and Moscow; and more

 

Tunisian Authorities Make Arrests in Museum Attack

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu has won the largest single chunk of seats in the latest race for the Knesset meaning he's likely to form a coalition government. However his desperation politics of the last few days exposed a man willing to sink so low as to use the future of Palestine as an election ploy…and that's not all he's capable of. 

Imagine the outrage if a New Zealand Prime Minister, a matter of hours before polling booths closed, took to the social media imploring Kiwis to hurry friends to the polling booths because the Maori are going out in droves to vote...being bused in by the left.

Matthew Hooton’s jihad against Imam Steven Joyce and his pork-barrel Muldonism is legendary. 

But in his desperation to find National party flag-bearers to fight the pork-pushers, he’s picked the wrong martyr. 

Simon Bridges is a card carrying porker from way back.

Here’s what Matthew Hooton said this week in his NBR column:

There is no evidence so far that Hillary Clinton retained any classified information when using a personal email whilst Secretary of State but that now questionable decision has proven more than enough for the Republicans to suck her right back into the Benghazi nightmare.

In his scathing polemic of the Clintons ‘No-One Left To Lie To’ the late Christopher Hitchens described the political duo as operating thus: “...the exploitation of mammalian sentiments by reptilian people”.

It is a brilliant summation of the calculations of many at the top echelons of politics.

The Northland by-election demonstrates we do not have a regional development policy. Should we? What might it look like?

The government’s announcement that it would be upgrading ten one-way bridges in Northland was a response inspired by the forthcoming by-election. Whatever the politics, it well illustrated the feeble state of regional development policy in New Zealand.

So that you can have confidence in Pundit's commitment to accuracy, fairness and integrity, we've joined the New Zealand Press Council and will now we held accountable by an independent body

You might have noticed in recent days the logo of the New Zealand Press Council has appeared on our homepage. That's because our concerns about the quality of political and current affairs debate online have led us to joining the council.

What on earth did 47 Republicans think they were going to achieve by writing to Iran's Ayatollah urging him not to trust Obama? Their hate on Obama is so desperate there seem no depth to which they will not descend even if it wrecks what is left of their country's reputation.

In an interview with the outstanding international news network Vice, President Obama has just told the world that he is embarrassed for the 47 Republican senators who wrote to the Iranian government in their latest desperate attempt to sabotage an international nuclear deal with Iran.

National really is pulling out all the stops in Northland... they could hardly be doing more to help Winston Peters win

Try as they might, National seems to be turning every Northland fencepost into a losing one at the moment. For a party with such a strong campaigning record, it seems to be playing into Winston Peters' hands at every turn.

Even if National loses the Northland by-election (which I don't think it will), things won't change quite as much as voters are being told they will. So why all the forecasts of  pestilence, blasting, mildew and locusts if Winston Peters wins?

There is an old Chinese curse that goes something along the lines of "may you live in an electorate which becomes important to the Government's ease of legislating in the House".

David Seymour says he may take Winston Peters to court if he wins the Northland by-election. He doesn't really mean it.

From TVNZ:

Act leader David Seymour says he's looking at challenging the result [of the Northland by-election] in court if Mr Peters wins.

Why did Mark Osborne get to tell Northland it was going to get ten new bridges that it might want, but doesn't appear to need? And why am I paying for him getting to do so?

Let's begin with a degree of realism. Politics is, at its core, about the distribution of resources and deciding who gets what from whom. That's a given until the human race reaches a point of post-material scarcity and develops into The Culture

The Elimination of Child Poverty Requires a Universal Child Benefit. 

The Growing Up in New Zealand Study at the University of Auckland found that half of the 7000 families in their sample suffered measurable material hardship in their babies‘ first years of life.

Labour is in a bit of a pickle, but by opening the door for Winston is making life harder for National and ensuring and a close race in the North

Why does Labour keep ending up in these sort of tangles? From Judith Tizard through to Northland at the moment, Labour often ends up with some tricky calls come by-election time.

As we head into another drier-than-normal season, New Zealand needs to put more thought into water management

Urban rain and rural rain are different. The quality is the same - drops of water that, in New Zealand, fall out of the sky relatively pure - but interpretation of the quantity is very different.

The Israeli PM's speech to US Congress is over with, unsurprisingly, no viable alternative to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, but plenty of fearmongering, victimhood, condescension. Oh and fawning adoration from the mainly Republican audience. Netanyahu should have taken the sage advice to stay at home.

One of the most anticipated speeches of recent times is over.

Was it worth the wait? No.

The increase of the share of those on top incomes has not been caused by market forces but is the result of their more favourable taxation regimes they have experienced since the early 1990s. 

Policy Quarterly has just published papers from a symposium on distributional inequality held last June. There are really interesting papers by Geoff Bertram, Phillip Morrison, Bill Rosenberg and Simon Chapple et al which you may want to read for yourself.

John Key hasn’t made the case for military intervention, which doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

Making the case means understanding what drives people to join ISIS and resisting the temptation to retro-fit our own causes onto theirs. 

It means staring at the consequences of intervening  - and not intervening.

It requires communicating clearly to New Zealanders, the legal premise for intervention, and telling us what peace looks like.

There are a few myths to debunk first.

The fight against Islamic State is not the fight of the oppressor against the disposed and the poor. Its leaders and disciples are mostly educated and middle class, if not wealthy. It’s the victims in Iraq and Syria who are the poor.

I've wrestled with this for days and part of me still wishes we could give peace more of a chance, but the limited and precise deployment chosen by the government seems to be the right choice for the time and threat

Watching the news with my five year-old last week, he was asking about sending soldiers to Iraq. He listened to my school-boy appropriate summation and said, "weeeelll, I don't like to shoot people, but on the other hand I do like to help, so..."

Like many New Zealanders, he was torn over exactly how to meet the threats posed by Islamic State and trailed off without a conclusion.

Jami-Lee Ross appears to be a quite exceptional candidate for the National Party. He does things in relation to money given to him that none of his colleagues do - albeit only in relation to one particular donation.

Further to my previous post about Jami-Lee Ross' curious candidate return, I've been doing a little bit more digging through the Electoral Commission's files.

John Key has put a time limit on our stay in Iraq, but Australia isn't impressed with that kind of thinking, showing the Wellington-Canberra divide on Iraq

John Key and Tony Abbott were putting a brave face on it today, with talk of the countries' "long, strong and intimate partnership", but on Iraq the cracks are showing.

The National Party's treatment of Donghua Liu's donation is strikingly at odds with with how it treated all the other donations it received. That's not only wrong, but it may even be illegal.

The release of individual candidate donation returns following the 2014 election has revealed something interesting about the National Party's financial practices.

Critics of the government are arguing New Zealand's role in Iraq is pointless... dangerous... or not our fight. But what does the alternative look like?

The decision to send 143 Kiwi soldiers to Iraq to help train the Iraq army has exposed the left/right divide on foreign policy more graphically than any other issue in recent years.

Israel's PM needs to come clean on why he ignored his own intelligence service (Mossad) in his crusade to convince that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and so goad the world into bombing it, rather than negotiate for a nuclear energy settlement.

A week before Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the US Congress on his claims of an “existential” threat of a nuclear Iran, his argument appears to have been blown out of the heavy water by the latest release of leaked diplomatic/spy cables.

Auckland is again debating the future of its waterfront and port, but the truth is it doesn't all have to be decided now

The past few weeks have seen a renewed burst of angst about the Ports of Auckland's expansion plans. More wharf here, demolitions there; where to put the cruise ships, cars and people? All the arguments about Auckland's waterfront have been reignited.

The inflation policy target has been missed regularly over the past two years, and will be missed for another year. The evidence is that the target has been moved. So by who? And will we be let in on the secret?

About this time last year, there was an overwhelming clamour from market players that New Zealand's interest rates must go up. I admitted at the time I was perplexed as to why, but presumably wiser heads prevailed. And so up went our interest rates.

And I remain perplexed.

Too much of our national media is located in Auckland and democracy suffers.

Probably most people who regularly read Pundit are in the cyberspace equivalent of the ‘beltway’ – the term for those who live in or work in inner Wellington and are intensely interested as to what is going on there, not just in parliament but in policy-making. (OK, OK, they are interested in the gossip too.) Much of what goes on there is not transparent.

Despite what the "three strikes" law seemed to say, another murderer has avoided a sentence of full-life-without-parole. And that's partly David Garrett's fault.

In a decision (available here) that got a little bit of media attention last week, the sentencing of one Justin Vance Turner tells us something about the way in which courts and Parliament d

I don't really know enough about cricket to say anything clever or meaningful about the World Cup. Fortunately, I've found someone who is able to be very funny about it.

If pushed to identify one problem with Pundit, it would be that Wayne Mapp doesn't post here nearly often enough. If pushed to identify a second, it would be the dearth of high quality sports commentary on the site.

It is time to call ISIS by the acronym of its actual name which just happens to omit reference to both state and caliphate….and while we are at it, have a long hard think about how subjectively the 'T' word is bandied about these days. 

In our daily news there are two terms which need attention.

They are both linked and both ugly.

The first is the false acronym(s) used to describe the bunch of murdering, kidnapping, raping militant thugs who appear on our screens in their slickly edited propaganda execution movies.

Protest outside Nats' summer party a necessary act of defiance in face of welfare and housing reforms 

On Sunday afternoon I spent three hours on the picket line outside National’s ‘Summer Party’ at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club.

 They involve tax rates horrendously high or the minimum incomes so low that ihe UMI is not a viable means of eliminating poverty.

The notion of a universal minimum income has had a long gestation. Some say it originated with a proposal for a ‘social dividend’ by Lady Rhys Williams as far back as 1942 but you can find precursors even to that. The American origin is Milton Friedman’s ‘negative income tax’.

Queensland voters didn't go quite as far as this cartoon recommended. But they did create quite a thorny thicket for their politicians to play in.

While most of the New Zealand media's attention has been directed at the omnishambles that is Tony Abbott's (questioned) reign as Australian Prime Minister, there's been something quite interesting happening in Queensland.

Israel's Prime Minister is using the potential nuclear deal with Iran for his own personal political reasons. While there is still time he should heed the advice of those who actually do value the close and, until now, non-partisan relationship between Israel and the United States.    

If you watched the German Chancellor and the American President in their world security focused press conference this week, you would have good reason to be hopeful that the spectre of a nuclear armed Iran is fading fast.

If Parliament's rules say you aren't even allowed to refer to the existence of a particular court case, then how can the Speaker enforce those rules without letting everyone knows that the court case exists?

The following interchange with the Speaker took place today in the middle of Andrew Little's reply to the Prime Minister's statement to the House.

Andrew Little has wandered off message a bit recently, and as parliament starts needs to give himself a stern talking to if he's serious about earning the trust of middle New Zealand

Politicians are always walking on a cliff's edge. They are one misstep away from disaster. Or at least a twisted ankle or a bit of a fright. Andrew Little in his first few months as Labour leader has seemed as sure-footed as a mountain goat, but heads into the House today needing to remember where the path is.

President Obama wants a public debate on the danger of a religious war against all of  Islam because of the hideous criminal actions of some under the banner of Islam. Like anything done in the US in the name of God, it is fraught with the dangers of partisan politics. 

The behaviour of American politicians leaves no room for doubt over the necessity to talk ‘god’ in the electoral process.

Genuinely or otherwise, God must be invoked as often as possible.

‘He’, because gals that’s religious chauvinism for ya, is as important to a successful campaign as unquestioning support for guns and Israel.

‘Iwi leaders and the Government have agreed on a deadline to sort out Maori interests in fresh water by Waitangi Day 2016.’ (News: 5 February 2015)

Law and economics recognises three distinct aspects of property rights. There is the ability to use the property, the ability to transform it into something else, and the ability to alienate it – that is to transfer the property rights to others.

Canada's Supreme Court just announced that Canadians do not have a duty to live. Why do New Zealanders?

Let's say you are living in Canada. You are suffering from some nasty incurable disease that may or may not kill you, but certainly will give you a future of pain, indignity and despair. What are your options?

John Key thinks our colonial flag is an outdated symbol that needs replacing. So why is our relationship with the Monarchy any different?

While John Key has obviously decided that a change to the New Zealand flag is worth burning political capital on, he's not interested in altering anything more fundamental. Here's what the Herald reports Key as saying:

The rules were pretty clear and the ethnic sports tournament hardly unprecidented, so why the fuss about the Maori Basketball tournament? Is this Waitangi fever?

There's nowt like a wee ethnic bun-fight to kick-off Waitangi weekend, and it's been delivered this year by a pakeha basketball coach who's been told his team can't go to the [basket]ball because he's not Maori. Cue outrage.

Handing someone a "Vote United Future" pamphlet on election day is an offence that can get you fined $20,000. Why is that, and should it be so?

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first of my thoughts on what changes we (or, rather, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee) might think about making to our electoral laws in the wake of the 2014 election campaign.

Online learning is not the solution it was touted to be. You just can't beat real-life interaction with a great teacher

In 2011, approximately three years after Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) registered in people’s minds, 160,000 students enrolled in CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence. Only 20,000 students, 12.5%, completed the course.

Policy announcements do not always reflect careful analysis. Too often the unstated political considerations have too much influence. 

I was once involved with a ministry under pressure over the failure as the result of a very unusual accident of a piece of equipment for which it had a vague responsibility. The public wanted something done. The calls were for actions that were onerous, intrusive and would have had little effect.

We need to go further than just defending Eleanor Catton's right to an opinion, we need to encourage her for doing her job

Eleanor Catton certainly earned her pay this week, especially all that government money everyone was decrying her for receiving while she traitorously criticised our nation's character overseas. She kicked off quite a row.

It is not what Eleanor Catton said about the government, but how we respond to what she said.

Sean Plunket’s intemperate attack on Eleanor Catton is a reminder of just how superficial is tolerance of dissent in New Zealand. I leave others to defend the exact interchange – Danyl McLauchlan was as I normally expect of him.

How do you think the kind of society that Eleanor Catton described in her (now infamous) interview would react to someone like Eleanor Catton saying such things in an interview?

I don't know if he ever got around to actually writing it, but somewhere there is a Borges story about a story that when read brings into being the very story that is the story that has just been read.

John Key took social housing head on in his first big speech of the year and in doing so raised the ideological politics of ownership, trying to cast it in a new light

The thing about being in government is that you get to actually do things. While Oppositions position, pose and chip away, as Andrew Little did this morning, John Key got to talk about, y'know, an extra $40 million in spending on social housing and plans to sell up to 8,000 state houses this term.

Andrew Little kicked off the political year proper with his state of the nation address this morning, and it emphasised that Labour is under new management

It couldn't have been much more different, really. Andrew Little's state of the nation speech was conspicuously different from David Cunliffe's effort one year and one day ago.

I know, I know, it was election year, time was short and there was more on the line last year. And in looking at the different approaches, you can put a lot down to timing. But certainly not everything.

Could John Key's place in Parliament be under threat from Arthur Taylor's electoral petition? No ... no it couldn't.

I see, via Stuff, that Arthur Taylor's electoral petition seeking to overturn John Key's return from the Helensville electorate has commenced in the High Court. Let me go on record as saying that it has zero chance of success. I say that for (at least) three reasons.

Jeff Madrick identifies seven bad economic ideas; Alan Blinder is more cautious. What do economists actually believe, and how does it stack up against what we think economics says?

Jeff Madrick, a highly respected American economic journalist, recently published a book, Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World. It was reviewed in the New York Review of Books by Alan Blinder, an even more respected (Prin

Rules that stop you using your property as you see fit are bad. Rules that stop other people using their property ... are less so.

There's no particular reason to assume that the Resource Management Act is perfect or cannot be improved upon. It's some twenty-five years old now. It's been tinkered around with quite a bit in the interim. That's a bit of a recipe for ending up with poor legislation.

What might a non-ideological capital gains tax look like? 

Someone once told me that a test of being a socialist was whether you supported capital gains taxes. I pointed out that the New Zealand Treasury, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the IMF and the OECD all supported them.

A letter written by the Chief Ombudsman reveals disturbing questions about its relationship with the Corrections Department 

The death of Jai Davis in 2011 has highlighted critical deficiencies in the management and nursing culture at the Otago prison. Now there’s an even wider concern. Documentation has come to light showing the Ombudsman allowed Corrections, albeit unintentionally, to cover up the circumstances surrounding his death which implicate management and nurses at the prison.

The Justice and Electoral Committee will soon be reviewing the 2014 general election. Here's the first of my thoughts on what it might profitably look at.

After every general election, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee holds an inquiry into how things went during it. This is A Good Thing, as it provides an opportunity for looking at (and sometimes even fixing) little anomalies in our electoral processes - a kind of continuous improvement exercise, if you will.

We've seen how ordinary citizens around the world have responded to the Charlie Hedbo terrorism, but how will world leaders react? Is marching enough or is it time for troops?

This week well over a million people marched in Paris to defend the values of the French republic. Forty international leaders accompanied them; it was an impressive display of solidarity with values that are deeply held in most western nations.

Do We Need Larger Local Authorities or Ones More in Touch with the Localities?

The Wellington kerfuffle over whether its eight territorial local authorities and the regional council should unite into a single regional entity might at first seem oh-so-Wellington – petty parochialism with small-minded politicians keen to maintain their remuneration. But other regions are struggling with the same problem.

I stand alongside anyone arguing for freedom of speech. But sometimes also against them. And alongside the other side too, sometimes. Such is walking the moral tightrope

Tightropes are by definition dangerous things; the challenge and appeal is that you could fall off either side and requires incredible balance. Grant Robertson has discovered the danger of not just the act, but the metaphor as well when he tweeted about the Charlie Hedbo killings.

There is no transferring blame away from the perpetrators of this crime. 

Moderate muslims are not to blame.

It is not the disastrous invasion of Iraq, even if this gave jihadists a foothold. France, like New Zealand, didn’t support that war.

 

It was not France’s intervention in Mali in 2012. That was a legal intervention, sanctioned by the United Nations Security council. It was an African-led military force against al Qaeda in northern Mali, after an illegal coup toppled a democratically elected president.

As Borders Fall Are Europeans Losing Their Cultural Identity

Aside from the English Channel, Europe has hardly any significant internal natural borders. Seventy years ago the border between Germany and Poland was settled at the Oder River. At its main crossing point it is no wider than the Waikato at Hamilton, and there is not even a gorge.

The EU remains central to New Zealand’s destiny

Suppose Britain exited the European Union of 28 countries. I am not recommending it; they would probably be worse off economically. Nor am I predicting it, although sometimes politics produces odd outcomes. Rather suppose ‘Brexit’ in order to explore the implications for New Zealand.

What are the words that captured the year in a few syllables and defined 2014? Read on...

Massey University today reported its 'quote of the year' for 2014 is an outburst from blogger Cameron Slater. Except it's a dumb choice.

A little pre-Christmas fun, looking at Treasury's prediction that National will fail to reach its much-promised surplus through some literary lenses

Scene I

Bill English bounces out of his Beehive bed with a surplus of energy, yet feeling rather lacklustre can only pour himself a glass of milk and drag himself to the balcony looking out over central Wellington. He glances over at the electric guitar in the corner of his room and shrugs; it's been months since he's played.

Food has never been more readily available or cheaper. Take a moment to thank the farmers when you sit down to Christmas lunch this year -- and don't overindulge

Christmas is coming. The halls are decked with boughs of holly (plastic), and decorated with snow (artificial). Tips for Christmas (stress-free) have been appearing since November. Children are over-excited and desperate shoppers are looking for the perfect presents for people who have everything. At work, Christmas office parties have popped and fizzled… 

Until we know more about Man Haron Monis and his motivations, John Key should avoid leaping to assumptions and using the case to justify his own political goals

Clunk. That's the sound of John Key mishandling his comments over the Sydney seige.

The hostage drama in central Sydney ended early this morning with three dead, including the hostage-taker. It's a terrible event and it seems likely religious sentiment was part of gunman Man Haron Monis' motivation.

The OECD says yes; how do we respond?

A recently released OECD report concludes that economic inequality hurts economic growth, and has particularly done so for New Zealand. Some of our responses were plain bizarre. Either the non-economic commentators had not understood the issue or had not read the report.

How much should the state be involved in determining who are in a marriage relationship?

The recently released Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG) report on the Complexities of Relationship in the Welfare System and the Consequences for Children tells some ugly stories. Benefit entitlement can depend upon the relationships between adults.

Apparently New Zealand didn't need a register of foreign land owners ... until it did. So is National preparing to change tack or is it just getting itself into even more of a tangle?

As Winston Peters might put it, it seems like an 'I told you so' moment. Having spent many months ridiculing the idea of a foreign buyers register, reports yesterday suggested government officials have been quietly working away at one after all.

Can legislation intended to stop people fighting for ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh instead stop people fighting against ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh?

The whole question of when the State should be able to step in to stop people going overseas to act on their moral principles - in particular, by fighting for them - is a quite fraught one. As I wrote here;

Parliament has passed public protection orders. But will they really be a last resort to contain the most dangerous? Or a means to pursue a more vindictive agenda? 

There’s no point moaning about it now. The Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill has passed its final reading, with a resounding majority of 107:14.

The last thing you might think Judith Collins would be is boring. But apparently that's just what the new, true version really is.

Who would ever have guessed that Judith Collins could make a pretty cut-and-dried workplace safety issue so controversial? As Danyl McLauchlan says; "It is possibly the most boring thing there has ever been a twitter debate about."

It is one thing being in Opposition complaining about what has happened in government; it is another thing to have a viable policy. 

It was unfortunate that the first public issue that Andrew Little had to deal with was the Roger Sutton affair. Here was the leader of the Labour Party grumbling yet again. We’ve had six years of such grumbling; an issue comes up, the spokesperson complains it is not going right, and they (it is often unspecified who ‘they’ is) should do something about it.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is playing games by forcing a snap election because he is desperate to coalesce with the extreme religious right, rather than the centrists who have called him to account.

It is always interesting to dig around the reasons governments proffer for snap elections.

Usually they have a lot to do with the inability of various coalitions to work together...or sometimes as in New Zealand's case in 1984 it was more of a Schnapps election....

How New Zealand businesses succeed internationally.

One of life’s pleasure is sitting with a child on one’s lap reading a book to them: attractive – sometimes mysterious – illustrations, humorous – even mischievous – plots, rhythmic sentences and just enough eccentric words without being obscure. E-readers are no substitute. The children’s section in my local bookshop is growing.

The Egyptian Court's sweeping exoneration of Hosni Mubarak, his henchmen and his sons is an insult to Egyptians who give their lives in support of democracy and human rights. It is also a signal that the new and brutal man in charge has done his job regaining lost ground for his old boss.       

The Egyptian judiciary has fulfilled its purpose.

Its acquittal of former President Hosni Mubarak of conspiring to kill 240 protesters has turned full circle on the January 25, 2011 revolution.

In the words of the court Egypt has apparently “overcome the revolutionary phase”.

In which a little spy agency finds that sometimes you can always get what you want, even if its not what you need.

[A note to readers - the following account is a purely subjective reimagination of history.

Or, rather, he hasn't (yet) been found not-guilty of filing a false election return. That probably will happen later.

The news that the Court of Appeal has overturned the guilty verdict against John Banks' for knowingly filing a false election return in relation to his failed 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign is not surprising. To understand why, you need to remember the basis on which he was found guilty.

How economists think about valuing life when allocating resources for healthcare purposes.

A couple of comments to an earlier column asked questions about the quality of life versus the prolongation of life.

The Gwyn reports reveals much about the failings of the SIS, but it and the government's response to it also reveals much about the political machinations of this Prime Minister

President Harry Truman famously had a piece of walnut wood on his desk in the oval office that read, "The buck stops here", and when the president referred to it in speeches it was to say that he had to make the final decision and take responsibility for what happened on his watch.

A brief cut-and-paste revisit of what I said at the time about the Dirty Politics allegations about the SIS, OIA and certain bloggers whom we don't name.

I'm presently acting as a "parent helper" at school camp in the backblocks outside of Cromwell, so my capacity to comment on recent events is limited (to put it mildly). So I'll simply reproduce this part of this post from August and say ... nailed it!

The Secretary of the Treasury appears to have doubts.

In a speech to economics teachers  earlier this month, the Secretary of the Treasury, Gabriel Makhlouf, argued for a different approach to economics from the one which dominates the profession in New Zealand.

... but there's a long way to go as Labour's new self-described 'coach' tries to mould a winning team from the Bad News Bears of previous years

After The Nation's Labour leadership debate in Hamilton a few weeks back, I said to some of my colleagues, 'if Little doesn't win this, he should be given the strategy job of making Labour relevant again, that's what he seems most passionate about'. Well, he did win the race and his early work as leader suggests he's given himself just that job.

The rising violence between Israelis and Palestinians is extremely worrying, but it is not all one way, and its context cannot new conveniently ignored. 

Here’s a 22 point plan for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Entrench Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.

Never let a chance go by to duplicitously conflate Hamas and some in Fatah with the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL so as to gild the imperiled-Israeli lilly.

Over the next year, John Key faces a choice between his – and New Zealand's – international reputation on one hand and National's support base on the other as he wrestles with reducing our carbon footprint

If you use the language of the Prime Minister's favourite past-time to describe his political style, you'd say he's got a great short game. Short-term, or at least term-to-term, he's proven himself a master reading the public's appetites and knowing his political limits.

How many times have we seen shots of Labour party leaders declaring unity while standing in front of caucus members, smiling the kind of smile you produce by sucking air through your teeth? 

Labour doesn't need more protests of unity. It needs more open debate.

People used to join the Labour party for the policy fights. A contest of ideas was how you sorted  good ideas from bad. Achievements like paid parental leave and the nuclear free policy were achieved only after advocates won the argument; Unity was earned by debate, not by shutting debate down and pretending there was no diversity of opinion on these issues.

The only thing worse than electing the wrong person as leader of Labour is electing him by the narrowest of margins, by virtue of the influence of a handful of individuals acting under instructions. 

Labour just made the wrong choice, in the worst possible way.

Little is the Labour leader despite weak support from his caucus. But they now have two choices: unify or die. And Little has the scope to rebuild from the ground up

So Andrew Little gets to lead the Labour Party, something that many wise heads only a year or two ago would never happen. The promise with which he'd entered parliament seemed to have withered on the New Plymouth vine.

Not any more. He's now Leader of the Opposition.

We should focus more on introducing and adapting the world’s innovations using a skilled workforce.

Our so called ‘innovation policy’, which is at the heart of the government’s growth strategy – insofar as it has one – seems to be fundamentally flawed.

Why the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the status and effect of the Treaty changes nothing - and potentially everything.

The Waitangi Tribunal's just released report He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti: The Declaration and the Treaty, representing its findings

The new Labour leader will be announced on Tuesday. But before choosing Labour members need to decide if they see the rebuild as a three or six year project

The four candidates who hope to lead the Labour Party into the 2017 election have stumped all their stump speeches and debated all their debate points. Now comes the voting. And the party members must be wishing they could vote for one of John Key's four or five headed hydras.

The case for raising the age of eligibility for NZS; and how we can do it. 

I support raising the age of eligibility for NZS but not, primarily, for reasons of fiscal sustainability. Rather it needs to be increased for equity reasons. Longevity is increasing. When the Old Aged Pension was introduced in 1898, life expectancy at the age of 65 was 13 years; today it is 20 years, and it will continue to rise.

University education is a privilege, not a right, and if we treated it that way we might just get better results

Great universities cost big bucks. Government funding, benefactor donations and student fees all add up to support excellence… The debate in New Zealand last month was all about the fees.

The regions are being chipped away at... so here's an idea for a serious shot in the arm

It seems our state-owned enterprises are letting us down somewhat these days. Last week it was Solid Energy dashing the hopes of the Pike River families, today it's Air New Zealand cutting flights to more regions. If we want more zombie towns, this is a pretty good way of going about it. Just cut 'em off.

Air New Zealand is shutting down these routes:

As times goes on the government will spend more on healthcare. That means higher taxes. Is there an alternative?

I was on the Treasury external panel which advised on its last Long Term Fiscal Projections. The great challenges arise from rising demand for government funded services and the aging population.

A revolt is in the air in Auckland, as ratepayers ask whether councillors are looking hard enough at the city budget and whether Len Brown needs his wings clipped

Len Brown is now one year into his second term and will be leading Auckland through until September 2016. But it's a very different political environment to election night 2013, when Len was clearly the popular choice as cheerleader of the city.

Every year around 600 New Zealanders are born with a horrible condition because their mothers drank while they were pregnant. 

The terms Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and its more extreme form Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) have appeared recently in two news items. In a hearing in front of London’s Privy Council the lawyers for Teina Pora and the Crown agreed that Pora suffers from FASD.

The Iran nuclear deal is within grasp but those tasked with finalizing it better hurry in order to avoid its unravelling at the trigger happy hands within the victorious Republican party which now holds both houses of Congress.   

 The Republican routing of the Democrats in the US mid-terms has made one thing very clear. Iran had better be serious and transparent about getting a deal on its nuclear ambitions within the next three weeks.

National's decision to stand alongside our allies but not to 'go to war' strengthens our narrative as a small country with its own mind, but beware mission creep

It is any Prime Minister's toughest decision: whether or not to ask young men to fight and perhaps die in foreign fields. While no western country has sent combat troops into battle against Islamic State, military action is underway and the rhetoric from John Key in recent weeks suggested we might be going along for the ride.

With world leaders failing and New Zealand ranked in the bottom five of the world's worst emitters for climate policy response, conservation campaigners have to think differently about ways to help nature weather the coming storm

The IPCC synthesis report is in and, hopes Bill McKibben:

The Left rejects it’s historic commitment to international solidarity and protecting the innocent when it embraces a growing neo-isolationism. It’s all very well to say ‘not our fight’ in the face of ISIS terror, but the opposite on intervention isn’t peace. 

Stare at that for a moment.

 

The international community didn’t intervene to stop Bashar-al Assad dropping chemical bombs on civilians in Syria. I argued they should.

I think we've found the way to make electoral law interesting to people. Get some sports stars to break it.

News that the Electoral Commission has reported some of NZ's sports royalty to the police for sending out election day tweets encouraging their followers to support John Key's reelection has gripped

National is trying to the 'nothing to see here' line when it comes to its social housing policy, but the truth is it's in a tangle and has no mandate for sale

When Genesis was sold earlier this year, John Key repeatedly said it would be the last asset his government would put on the block, be it in that term or the next. He said he wanted to be very clear about that, lest those tricky opposition parties try to say otherwise. So how come his ministers didn't get the memo?

Sloppy analysis is dividing us into the deserving and undeserving

Being no expert on domestic violence, I looked at the Glenn inquiry’s The People’s Report to see what it had to say about causes. I had expected a summary of the research literature but there was none. All the report did was tell of people’s (often moving) experiences and what they thought should be done.

The labour reforms this week reveal a government that has given up on any hope for a competitive economy and is willing to engage in class warfare on behalf of its 'Judith Collins wing'

Last week, evidence was again made plain of a shocking, unacceptable safety record in ports and forests. The Government responded by passing a new law to remove the right to a tea break.

I'm not saying that John Key is an incurable gossip ... but he sure seems to get told a lot of stuff by random people.

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Key has learned the identity of the entertainer guilty of an indecency charge through the grapevine of people circumventing the suppression order.

The Fonterra boss backs continued dairy growth but can see a day when we might cap cow numbers... and could China steal the milk right from under our noses?

How much is enough? Or even too much? It's a fundamental question for any business or economy when you're dealing with supply and demand. And it's a crucial question when it comes to New Zealand's dependence on the dairy industry. So when do we reach 'peak cow'?

Greg O'Connor thinks the shootings in Ottawa, and the way this was ended, demonstrates the need to routinely arm New Zealand's Police. He's completely wrong about that.

What happened at Canada's war memorial and parliamentary buildings is a pretty Bad Thing. It should, however, be kept in some sort of perspective. 

Chris Trotter wants a Labour purge. Again. 

It’s not often you see a New Zealand political figure compared favourably to Stalin, but this is what Chris Trotter has done to that decidedly non-genocidal non-lunatic Grant Robertson.  

Panic has gone viral quicker than the Ebola virus, thanks to social media.

Not that there isn't something to worry about. Part of an entire continent is presently at risk - that's Africa not America.

It's not just that Ebola sounds like a modern day black plague and probably originated from blood sucking bats living in dark caves - reason enough for people here in the United States to react like there's a Zombie-Vampire apocalypse on its way.

In which I reply to Andrew's post in reply to Phil's post about Grant Robertson... I wrote this at the start of the week but have discovered a glitch that mean it never published!

I think I'll start at the end. Andrew ended his recent post like this:

Labour needs to work out whether they go for the "missing million" or the middle voters. And if they get it wrong they could be looking at another 6 years in opposition

When Labour decides who will be the next leader, it is of interest to all of us involved in politics. After all the person chosen could be New Zealand's next Prime Minister. So the debate on the nature of the choice is not one that is the sole preserve of those who actually get to vote in this contest.

Labour's best chance for returning to government is to form a coalition and campaign jointly with the Greens

Much has been written about where Labour needs to go from here. One issue which doesn’t seem to have generated much interest is what do they do with the Greens?

Grant Robertson is gay. And he likes rugby. And he drinks beer. All of these things are true - so can we now get on with it?

Phil Quin put a post up yesterday chiding Grant Robertson for what he sees as an overly cautious approach to political messaging and urging him to be more warlike in his phraseology because New Zealanders clearly have a deep, deep aversion to politicians who present as pleasant

The EU approach in trade deals is likely to protect the right of states to make public policy

How can foreign investors in New Zealand be sure that we will treat them fairly? If they are not sure perhaps they will not invest here, even though their investment may be valuable to us. (I do not believe all foreign investment is worthwhile, but much is.)

It's impossible to disagree with anything Grant Robertson says.  That's a problem. 

When Grant Robertson tweets that he wants the government to "get alongside communities", I am not at all sure what he means.

Why typical Gen Y's are rife with feelings of entitlement and overconfidence, yet quick to play the victim and often miserable

The United States Declaration of Independence 1776 states: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

There's a lot of smart money going on Andrew Little's bid to lead the Labour Party, but the numbers in New Plymouth don't lie. So what are they saying?

There's a lot of talk about "listening" in Labour circles these days. Announcing his bid for the party leadership, list MP Andrew Little named as his top priority "getting the process underway to listen to the voters who have abandoned us". Grant Robertson agrees, telling reporters last week "as we emerge from our heavy election defeat, we must now take the opportunity to listen".

The election demonstrated deep divisions. Will the next three years make them worse or help heal the rift? And where will the pressure points be?

Will we see New Zealanders marching in the streets during the next three years? I don't mean protests in which the police, while behaving perfectly professionally, are smiling benignly in a sort of agreement. I'm wondering whether we'll see civil disturbances. And I'm not the only person pondering such things – probably even John Key is.

We're already stopping people from using NZ passports to go and fight in the Middle East. So why do we now urgently need to change the law to do this?

Back in February, I wrote this about the legal basis for refusing to grant passports to/revoking passports from those individuals who felt the call to take up armed struggle in groups using terrorist tactics in places like Syria and now Iraq.

John Key has dug his toes in as he refuses to listen to some of the expert advice on poverty reduction, but more interesting is where he's indicating he will move

You'd hardly call it skin on the skeleton, but John Key's comments today about his plans to tackle child poverty and sell-off state housing at least put some sinew and muscle on the bare bone rhetoric he has been using since his win in last month's election.

Unusually for small, advanced countries New Zealand remains heavily reliant on agricultural for its living. So is it time to take a bigger punt on technology?

My last item sparked an email from Mike Smith to discuss economic resilience with Brian Easton at a Fabian Society meeting in Wellington on Monday November 10. I made the point to Mike that I don't see the topic as a left/right issue, but have agreed to the discussion.

As if banning same-sex marriage isn't enough, the Presbyterian Church has gone a step further and removed the clergy's liberty of conscience on the issue

As point scoring goes, this really taks the cake. Literally, a new vote by the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand takes the wedding cake away from any gay person who wants to get married in a Presbyterian Church, because conducting such a service is now banned. But that's only the start.

Some muted thoughts on the legal issues involved in the search of Nicky Hager's house, with only limited added outrage. That may come later.

First of all, the Police are investigating a real crime here. Even certain bloggers whom we do not name have a right to keep others out of their computer systems, and this right is protected by criminal sanction.

Hone Harawira is seeking judicial recount of votes that he doesn't think will change the result in Te Tai Tokerau, and which won't be able to look at the problems he claims existed with voting in that seat. This seems ... misguided.

There's one thing that even Hone Harawira agrees will not change following his sought after judicial recount of the vote in Te Tai Tokerau - the outcome of the election in that seat.

If National can adapt to change, why can't Labour? 

Once upon a time National was a party dominated by farmers and their rural base. Its first townie leader, Sid Holland, had to have a farm bought for him in the 1940s, to maintain his status in the party. It was such a country party that there was a view in the 1960s that as New Zealand urbanised National would lose voter share because Labour was so much stronger in the cities.

The final count of the votes, including special votes, has saved us from having to revisit  our ideas about majority governments under MMP. Oh - and I (sort of) told you so.

As I said here on the eve of polling day (and intimated again here the day after), the 2014 election wasn't over until Saturday, October 4*:

A glimpse behind the door of supply and confidence negotiations reveals the dominant political fact this term - Key is King

What's clear from talking on The Nation this morning to the leaders of the minor parties supporting National, is quite how minor they now are.

Brian Easton's post this week raise questions about the serious and long-term issues facing not only this new government, but several to come. Can a consensus be achieved?

Brian Easton's post on a sustainable New Zealand should invite lots of thought and discussion, but it seems many of the political class are absorbed by the Labour Party's leadership battles. It does look awfully messy at the moment, but maybe all will be forgotten if the new leader can unify the party and get momentum against the government given the challenges it faces...

Who will determine Labour's future – the MPs, the members, the unions? The fact is that after a 24 percent election result they are the wrong people to listen to and the truth may be every hard to hear

As he pops back and forth between New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Shane Jones must look on himself as the luckiest of the three men who took part in the Labour leadership race just a scant 12 months ago.

I know this will make me even more unpopular on The Standard and The Daily Blog. Being Catholic will probably be seen as another reason to question my right to represent the Left; which is odd, given that there is a proud tradition of social justice in the Catholic church.

There’s a lot wrong with the church, but the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and compassion make it not dissimilate to the principles that built the Labour party over a hundred years ago (apologies to National party Catholics, Bill English and Jim Bolger!)

Whether or not Labour changes its leader, the MPs gathered in Wellington today need to stop blaming everyone else and take a long, hard look at themselves

Labour MPs travelling to Wellington today for their first post-election caucus will have their heads crammed full of theories, accusations and advice from all and sundry. But here's the message for them to keep front and centre whichever direction they choose as a party: You've got to earn it.

If voters can see the commonality between Labour and the Greens, why can't political analysts?

Most political analysis in New Zealand seems trapped in the two-party winner-takes-all world, or perhaps they are numerically challenged by the number which comes after two. Whichever, to discuss the National-Labour divide without mentioning the Greens is almost pointless. (I’ll come to NZ First shortly.)