Despite the fears, what it means to be a journalist has changled little. It's journalism itself that's fragmenting. So, in rebuttal of Tim's post last week, it's time to start judging journalists on their merit, not some outdated idea of 'the public interest'

My dad, Frank, was a journalist. So were his two brothers, Brian and George. They're dead now. None of them were university educated. All three left school in Hastings, Sussex and wound up in Fleet St.

According to the Productivity Commission the current tertiary education system is blocking innovation. But in its recent report that promised to put forward New Models of Tertiary Education it delivered none. Its failure should not end the debate. There is an urgent need to bring about change

For more than a year the Productivity Commission has been working on its report, New Models of Tertiary Education (released last week), with the aim of showing us how we can have a more innovative tertiary sector. The report will not make the best seller list – but it is worth a read.

How do New Zealand’s university departments rank internationally?

Once a year the QS World University Rankings on individual subject areas are published. This reports on the 2017 rankings for 46 subjects. 

Almost a week after the release of Hit & Run, we have more questions than answers from the Defence Force and the Government.

Here’s some that have been rattling around in my brain this week:

The Prime Minister has in recent times been prepared to shift some moral ground for political ease. Now he faces the greatest moral test of his short time in power in the face of calls for an inquiry into the O'Donnel raid

I can't help wondering if Bill English is going to church on Sunday. While reports today say the Prime Minister is meeting with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and New Zealand Defence Force heads about the claims in the Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson book Hit & Run, the more crucial meeting that day may be between English and his God.

My anti-apartheid protest convictions nearly kept me out of Canada. Luckily, I had friends in high places. What though of those many people in our world, especially those seeking refuge from war and oppression, who do not?

 

Nicky Hager and John Stephenson’s book, Hit & Run, presents compelling evidence that our SAS was responsible for killing at least six Afghani civilians, wounding at least another fifteen, and handing over a man to be tortured for information. And then we were systematically lied to about what was being done in our name. 

Think of a three-year-old girl. Maybe she’s your daughter. Maybe she’s your niece. Maybe she’s your friend’s child. But think of her.

The 2010 raid in Afghanistan detailed in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson's new book, Hit and Run, was first revealed on a TV interview I produced in 2011. It's time for some official answers

I know as little as most of you about Nicky Hager's new book. It investigates an SAS raid in Afghanistan in 2010, after the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell whilst on patrol that August.

Jamie Whyte thinks it is "legislative lunacy" for Parliament to recognise the Whanganui River as being "a person". Once again, it appears Jamie Whyte doesn't really know much about that of which he speaks.

In an opinion piece published on Monday, former Act Party leader Jamie Whyte decries what he sees as Parliament’s recent “legislative lunacy” in

A recent government report projects huge increases in employment but at least 72 percent of those jobs are to go to immigrants.

I was a bit startled by a report recently released by the Ministry of Business Industry and Employment which forecast an extra 480,000 jobs o

...But that doesn't mean we don't try. An essay in defence of a word and its meaning, at a time when journalism is bruised and battered, but standing strong

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
    "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

Does a murderer really have the right to wear a hairpiece? Are we really living in such mad times? Or might things be a little more complex than that?

I suspect the High Court decision that prison officials acted wrongly in taking Phillip John Smith's hairpiece from him is going to turn the talkback outrage meter right up to 11. Prisoners have a right to wear a toupee? That piece of shit can keep his rug on?

Touching the third rail of superannuation is a brave act by any government, but what about those other curly questions?

Good on you, Bill. I respect political courage. Too often in New Zealand, superannuation promises have been used to buy elections, beginning with Rob Muldoon back in 1975. He made the age of entitlement to universal super 60; it took years of pain and a raft of broken promises to get the age lifted to 65 (back where the old age pension began).

A few things are changing around here... but all in a good way. Just check out our new pundits

Dear loyal readers (and any fickle folk floating by),

The observant amongst you may have noticed that yesterday our list of contributors on the left hand side of the page changed. Some of the folk who have written for Pundit in the past have moved onto other things and, happily, a bunch of new folk have agreed to share their expertise with you.

A response from the Minister of Education to the recent contribution by Steve Maharey (Can we finally agree on how to run schools).

I largely agree with Steve’s comments, in particular his desire to see a personalisation of learning, and a coming together by our educators.

The current approach to social investment suggests we can use big data and new technology to better understand who will access public services and fix them. But this is not social investment

"I am from the government and I am here to help you – even though you did not know you needed help". 

In the wonderfully prescient film Minority Report, the central idea is that the police have found a way to identify who is going to commit a crime before they do it. 

“I understand what the people’s priorities are,” the new ALP premier of West Australia, Mark McGowan, told reporters after winning government on Saturday with a 15 per cent swing, the largest swing to Labor in state election history

“Their priorities are creating jobs, making sure our health system is effective and affordable, creating high quality education for all students, making sure our community is safe and dealing with important issues in transport and regions.”

This is a classic progressive Labour set of priorities. He’s in a position to implement them because of the rest of his agenda.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world where no-one cares what Treasury says and only the only party that seems to give a toss about sustainability is... ACT

The past week in New Zealand politics has been the argument I have every Christmas writ large; and has been just as unedifying.

I'm in my early 30s, which puts me firmly in the millennial camp. And as a millenial, I wasn't all that outraged I'd have to wait two more years to get my super, as Bill English confirmed on Monday.

Regrettably, the government’s recent announcements on the public provision for retirement have added to the uncertainty the young face. 

The Government’s announced proposal to raise the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) is a real botch job. I’ll leave others to write about the political botch; here the focus is on the policy.

What do you make of this way of doing it?

This quick post is a question, more than analysis of an issue. But it's something I stumbled upon today regarding New Zealand's superannuation history... and I'm wondering if it offers us a way forward.

Bill English has made a brave call on super, but is it mere penance for years of bad calls, will New Zealanders face the facts and has he just started a new inter-generational war?

I was talking with a colleague today about Bill English's plan to raise the age of eligibilty for super from 65 to 67 – in 20 years. "What are you," he asked, and I knew immediately what he meant. "Gen X," I replied. "But just old enough to sneak out at 65". He said he'd get caught, I said my wife would too. Then it struck me: This conversation was meaningless.

Why grasp one of the third rails of politics just six months from an election? Well, three possible reasons come to mind...

The interesting thing about Bill English's out of the blue superannuation announcement is not the substance of the policy -- it seems mild enough -- but why he made it six months before an election. After all, the key part of the policy, the shift in the eligibility age from 65 to 67 does not even start for another 20 years.

This is a follow up ‘Brentry: How New Zealand Coped’, setting out some of the challenges which face New Zealand today.

The strategic view that Britain needs to be in the EU remains universal among New Zealand strategists. However the Leaves did not vote geopolitically but on domestic considerations including, apparently, resentment of immigration and of the unequal gains from trade. New Zealand has little alternative but to accept the direction the Brits are taking, albeit with regret.

The Court of Appeal ruling and his critics suddenly championing free speech has left the creator of the famous Planet Key video baffled and asking, who's being satirical now?

It started with a song and a Facebook post and has ended with a baffling court decision, one that seems to have little connection to where we began. Frankly, the whole Planet Key episode has been a very expensive exercise for everyone involved – both the taxpayers and plaintiffs – just to establish a definition of free speech and our right to exercise it.

Jacinda Ardern looks set to become the new deputy leader of the Labour Party as Annette King steps down. But while it looks like a no-brainer and only helps Labour this election year, it comes with its own set of risks

Barely 48 hours ago Jacinda Ardern told RNZ that talk of her becoming Labour's deputy leader was a "distaction". That job, she said, as just "not an issue".

New Zealanders have been arguing about education since the Royal Commission on Social Policy in the 1980s told them the needs of all students were not being met. After thirty years of debate confusion reigns. But there is a way forward

The New Zealand education system is in trouble. Not for the reason usually advanced by the critics of our public schools, but because for far too long we have ben arguing about how to equip young New Zealanders for the rapidly changing times in which we live.

Last week National made some promises about water, and copped plenty of flak on the way. That move signalled the soft launch of National's election campaign, as it starts to tidy up the policies that put victory in September at risk

Old mates Bill English and Nick Smith dragged media to a muddy – but "good enough" – stream in west Auckland last week to announce plans to clean up rivers by 2040. But what the event really signified was National starting to clean up its political house before this September's election.

Is it now legal to use TV and radio to run mean-spirited, hatchet-job attack ads on your political enemies? I decided to find out ... so here's a reprise of what happened, having previously been recounted over at The Spinoff.

In October last year I wrote a somewhat lengthy post about the Court of Appeal's decision in The Electoral Commission v Watson & Jones.

This is based on a note that I prepared for a journalist. It is a lead into the next column which is on ‘Brexit: How New Zealand Might Cope’.

New Zealand has an unusual situation in the world economy. Despite being among the affluent economies, its success is vitally dependent upon the export of some primary products (especially dairy and meat products) whose domestic production is brutally protected in many jurisdictions.

There's a growing number of media calling out President Donald Trump for saying things that aren't true. But does that make him a liar?

The word “lie” keeps appearing in news stories and columns about President Donald Trump. It makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Usually restrained media outlets are using the word casually in a way which doesn’t do justice to the implication of calling someone a “liar”.

As the polls start to swing back into action, a look across the electoral battlefield sees two major party leaders both struggling to get firm footing and take the high ground

Any which way you look at it, it seems impossible. History leans hard on both major parties at the moment, suggesting they are heading into an election year battling against the odds. There are good reasons why both red and blue teams should see this election as unwinnable – and good reasons why they may not want to win – but, thing is, one of them will. But which?

Come September 24, there are really only three likely scenarios as to who could form a government, and odds-on Winston Peters will face two difficult choices

A month ago I wrote that I would be looking at the possible perumtations of likely coalitions that may appear after this year's election. Although the right direction/wrong direction poll clearly favours the incumbent government, I thought it best to wait for the first opinion polls to see how the Bill English premiership has taken with the New Zealand public.

Willie Jackson is right that the low voting turnout amongst younger age groups is a real problem. But he's wrong to blame the Electoral Commission for following the law that Parliament has made.

Now that Willie Jackson has obtained the waiver needed to allow him to stand as a candidate for Labour despite not having been a party member for the required 12 months, he's setting out to prove he's worth the "winnable list placing" th

           Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
           Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
            Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade—
            A breath can make them, as a breath has made:
            But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride, 
            When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
                        The Deserted Village: Oliver Goldsmith

  This column follows on from ‘Whence Europe; Whither Europe’.

Less than a year before he died, Tony Judt, paralysed from the neck down by motor neuron disease, gave a much-acclaimed two-hour public lecture. Shortly after he extended it to a book, Ill Fares the Land: A Treatise on Our Present Discontents, setting out his commitment to social democracy.

Up to 90% of prison inmates have problems with substance abuse and addiction. But Corrections does not require the counsellors who provide rehabilitation programmes for them to have a graduate degree in the assessment and treatment of addictive disorders. In fact, they don't even need a degree - just a qualification.

In April last year, Radio New Zealand reported that the Corrections Department was paying for non-existent alcohol and drug counsellors.

President Donald is going to be a headache for the intelligence community. He can't keep his own secrets safe, so how can they trust him?

The spies will be feeling a chill after a month of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

That includes New Zealand’s spies, now in surprisingly familiar territory as concern about Trump’s behaviour spreads across the intelligence community.

Just because Donald Trump is a shoot from the hip president, doesn't mean we should fall into the same trap

As a personality I find nothing attractive about Donald Trump - he is, frankly, a pig of a man. But we need to avoid being overtaken by emotion when unpicking the state of the world, which is why in my previous column I tried to make the case for balance and moderation as we react to events.

Recent elections and votes in America, Britain and Australia have been brutal and brittle affairs with plenty of rancour, and some fear the same here this year. But I wonder if they're looking in the wrong direction

The mumblings and frettings about how Donald Trump's victory in the US may twist and define our own elections this year have been many and full of dread. And not unreasonably. You only have to look at recent votes and polls in our cultural neighbours – the US, UK and Australia – to see the rise of some ugly politics. But I fear the worriers may be wailing at the wrong wall.

Although completed a decade ago, Tony Judt’s history of postwar Europe presaged some of the challenges that it faces today.

Shortly after the collapse ot the Berlin Wall in 1989, one of our greatest contemporary historians Tony Judt resolved to write a book to sort his thinking out. It took fifteen years, but the resulting Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 is an (almost 900-page) extraordinary achievement.

Could the Labour Party end up in court over its party list? Probably not, but this is the Labour Party we're talking about!

In the wake of Andrew Little's shoulder tapping Willie Jackson for a "winnable" position on Labour's list, along with the selection of Paul Eagle and Greg O'Connor as candidates in eminently winnable electorates, Labour is (once again) facing some strife over the role that gender plays in its candi

In the days of Trump and Brexit, it could be time for those who want a society based on openness, knowledge and new opportunities to revisit an out-of-fashion idea

Since US president Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair departed government, the Third Way political agenda has fallen on hard times.

The inquiry reports into Kiwi issues raised by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are nearly complete. Gwyn's reports are likely to shed great light on how our intelligence agencies operate.

When Edward Snowden’s NSA haul finally turned out a few New Zealand documents, it created an awesome and instant workload for Cheryl Gwyn.

The new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security suddenly had her hands filled. That was almost two years ago.

Big data can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Some recent public research illustrates the former but there are doubts about some private uses

It is not generally realised that Statistics New Zealand has a large research database – the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) – containing microdata about people and households from a range of government agencies, SNZ surveys including the 2013 Census, and non-governme

A message to Kiwi politicians this election year: Must try harder

On September 23rd politicians must give us something to hope for. 

“To be truly radical make hope possible rather than despair convincing” Raymond Williams

Bill English has the chance to be heroic without indulging his inner Hugh Grant. He can be on the right side of history, China and even Ronald Reagan, if he seizes the moment

Love Actually isn't real life. As appalled as we all are my the strongman behaviour of Donald Trump in his first week in office, when he calls Bill English in the coming days, this isn't the time for the new Prime Minister to indulge his inner Hugh Grant.

Economists and policy analysts have paid insufficient attention to the distributional consequences of change. Hence the rise of the angries.

In order to get to this column’s conclusion I am going to recall a little of my scholarly journey.

It's easy to play the anti-establishment and change cards or go on the attack. But the real challenge for our politicians and journalists is to allow voters to hear balance

Whether we like it or not, Donald Trump is now president of the United States. We have no choice but to deal with that fact, and with him. But it's hard to find any New Zealanders who have much good to say about him.

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union is going to keep constitutional lawyers in the UK (and elsewhere in the Commonwealth) very busy for the upcoming months and years. Here's my humble early offerings on it.

The UK Supreme Court surprised no-one on Tuesday when it decided, by 8-3, that Parliament must pass specific authorising legislation before the UK Government can trigger article 50 and so begin the formal process of withdrawing from the European Union (or, "Brexiting").

Far too much public commentary on wealth inequality obscures what is actually is going on. 

This column is a grump about the poor quality of public discourse. It is illustrated by the recent outburst over the distribution of wealth in New Zealand and some rather inept public responses to the recent re-publication of some data, where people with little expertise used the opportunity to pursue their political and ideological goals while displaying, to the expert, their incompetence.

Today's short and grim speech reinforces and reveals how Donald Trump will govern as the 45th US president, and it won't serve his people well

The bully victorious. That's what today's inauguration of Donald Trump means to me.

And why should it mean anything else? That is the very essence of the man we have come to know over the past two years – the man who mocks, grabs pussy, calls opponents childish names, incites violence at rallies and is mollified by no-one. The man is not for turning.

What can we learn about health care systems and the US from the muddle that America is getting into over Obamacare?

Donald Trump is not particularly interested in policy. When he promised to replace Obamacare – the current US health system – with something which would be better, he was responding to the conflicting demands of his supporters and certainly did not have a plan. It will be the Republican-dominated Congress which will lead the way with a bill for him to sign.

The rights and wrongs of National's election strategy will come down to three main points... and coalition partners

For eight years now, the right/wrong direction polls have consistently shown that the majority of New Zealanders believe their country is on the right track. The November 2016 Roy Morgan indicator has the right direction at 65 percent.

In contrast, during the latter years of the Clark-led government only 40 to 45% of the public believed the country was going in the right direction.

International comparisons suggest that New Zealand secondary students are not doing well. It may even be that recent policy measures have worsened their performance.

The 2015 results for the  triennial OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) evaluation were reported just before Christmas so they did not get much coverage. We need to think about them. Many will jump to a conclusion that the current government’s education policy is failing. Certainly the international evidence does not suggest it is succeeding.  

In many respects, Judith Collins has been the worst Minister of Justice and Corrections New Zealand has ever had. She had to go – even if that changes absolutely nothing about how the country deals with the drivers of crime or the growing prison population. And it won't.

The Corrections Department puts out a monthly magazine called, guess what – Corrections Works.

How does a post-truth world work? Some psychological findings may be useful. (The Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘post-truth’ is ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ The Dictionary labelled it the word of the year 2016.)

This columnist is greatly perplexed by how in today’s post-truth world people hold views or which are not true, which may be contradictory but which are held with a tenacity which belies their falsehood. This is sometimes called ‘truthiness’; the views are believed to be true because they confirm beliefs. But that is a label, what is going on?

A recent decision by New Zealand on Air in response to the changing media technologies raises a range of issues about how the platforms are used. 

The announcement by New Zealand on Air that it was changing its mode of funding is a reminder of the current turmoil in the media from the convergence of platforms (delivery systems).

Who stood out for me this year? I want to talk about two people who changed the conversation, for better and worse

I've got half written Key/English blogs to finish and post, but before Christmas I desperately want to share my hero and anti-hero of the year; our better and worse angels.

A book about two psychologists who have altered the way we think about the way we think.

For many people, Michael Lewis is best known for his 2010 book The Big Short and the follow-up film, which describes the carryings-on of the financial sector in the American housing market which underlay the Global Financial Crisis.

The Spinoff last week asked me to consider the political highs and lows of 2016. So I did that and saw there first package come out over the weekend. So here are my thoughts on all that

Champs: Who would you rank as the best performing individuals in politics for 2016?

1. John Key, for perfectly executing the coup against himself, and Bill English, the little engine who finally did.

2. Winston Peters, who starts an election year with stronger polls than ever

3. Michael Wood, for reminding everyone that all politics is local

Why is the Crown fighting a court case it knows it is very unlikely to win? Because doing so stops it from having to face cases it really would prefer not to deal with.

[Update: see important revisory note at post's end!]

Back in September I wrote this post about a Supreme Court decision that found quite a number of prisoners have been unlawfully detained because The Department of Corrections incorrectly had calculated their release dates.

Your In-tray is piled high.

Dear Bill,

I recall when you first entered Parliament 26 years ago, it was widely thought you were prime-ministerial material. You’ve made it. Congratulations.

Despite the polls, an English win at next year's election would be an historic achievement. Which makes the choice of when to go to the country, so very important

Even with a 20 point poll lead over the main Opposition party, history is against Prime Minister designate Bill English. While he will take over the Prime Ministership with plenty of hoop-la on Monday, he will be trying to defeat history as well as Andrew Little (and Winston Peters?) to take the top job again after next year's election.

As David Shearer looks to hit the road, some are asking whether he was Labour's golden opportunity missed. So is that nostalgia or wise hindsight speaking?

I remember talking at a do with a Labour apparatchik in December 2011. The party had a new leader and there was a sense of excitement. "We can get him on the cover of NZ Surfer. When's the last time Labour could say something like that?", this person enthused.

Today the right thing was done for two individuals by public officials who were not forced into doing so. Let's just take a moment to savour an occasion when things worked the way they should.

Back in June I wrote a post about the Ombudsman's pretty damning report on the State Services Commission (SSC) Inquiry into leaked MFAT documents, and in particular the way that this Inquiry treated a MFAT employee, Mr Derek Leask.

As John Key exits stage centre undefeated and to much applause, the question becomes who will be bold enough to take up his mantle in the middle? As voters start shopping around, who's looking the part to succeed him? 

John Key's resignation is an immense shock in a year of immense shocks, but it also lays down a gauntlet to those who would be in government next year.

Could the alienated grumpies have a greater effect on New Zealand political life?

This was written before John Key announced his resignation. Other than perhaps the tense I think there is no need for revision. 

Unfortunately most analysis on the American elections focuses on who voted but, as Bob Chapman pointed out, the Non-Vote Party plays an important role. This is yet another example of Gilling’s law of how you score shaping the game; in this case pollsters tend to score voters and pay little attention to those who do not vote.

A new book leads to ponderings on our technology strategy. 

Technology is an ambiguous notion. Its most common use in economics arises in the following way.

The laws of thermodynamics mean that there exist production functions which relate inputs to outputs. The most familiar ones have a single output generated by inputs of labour and capital, although there can be other inputs such as land, energy, intermediate goods and imports.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dr Andrew Butler propose that New Zealand should have a written constitution. If you're in Dunedin this Wednesday night, come along to the Museum and hear why.

As has been noted previously on this blog, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dr Andrew Butler  have published a book advocating that New Zealand enact a “written” constitution.

The Nation this weekend is telling the story of family carers of disabled adult relatives and the pretty shabby way they've been treated over the years. And it looks like Sam Lotu-liga just doesn't want to talk about that. 

[Make sure you see the update at the end!]

The courts really, really don't like the "three strikes" sentencing regime. And they're doing what they can to avoid having it force them into actions they think are wholly disproportionate.

New Zealand has had a "three strikes" sentencing regime in place for some six years now. It was controversial when introduced.

Can Trump wreck the world trading system?

New Zealand is such a small country that it is very easy to be internationally bullied. Much of our diplomatic effort aims to minimise such bullying, but fear of it lurks behind concerns about what a Trump administration might do, not only to us but the rest of the world. Could the US, big enough to be hard to bully, disrupt the world trading system?

Is it a good idea for New Zealand to try and resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the involvement of the USA? And, if it does so, will the Government have to go back to Parliament and ask it to change a Bill it's just agreed to?

Donald Trump's election as President of the USA was interpreted widely as the death knell for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). That, anyway, was John Key's immediate response following the result.  

The times are a’changing, as recent macroeconomic fashions are being abandoned and old verities are being restated. 

Alan Blinder, an American economist, described as ‘one of the great economic minds of his generation,’ was an economic adviser to President Clinton and was a Vice Chair of the American Federal Reserve (central bank). He is known to many as the co-author of an extremely successful textbook.

The alienated Angries who supported Brexit and Trump are not going to go away.

          If any question why we died,  

          Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Leonard Cohen has died. His music won't. 

To get some idea of just how great the now-departed Leonard Cohen's musical legacy is, you can't just listen to his recordings. You have to look at how his works were standards for so many other artists. His songs were genius, and everyone wanted to make them their own.

Many thousands of Americans looked past Donald Trump's nastiness, abuse and incompetence in search of a time that has gone, tragically rejecting a woman with the potential to have made real change

The world feels a very different place to me this morning. It is a place that leaves me disillusioned and more than a little scared. The America that voted for Donald Trump to be its president has either embraced or looked past so many values that I thought that country held dear.

It is important that judges face criticism―but not attacks like those on the judges who decided the Brexit case

In my other blogging endeavours, I often criticize judges, either for specific decisions or for their broader views of the law and of their own role, on which many of them are fond of expounding extra-judicially

While overall income inequality may have been relatively stable over the last two decades, it appears to be increasing in Auckland (and perhaps in our other big urban centres).

This column honours Bob Chapman (1922-2004), professor of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, remembered for his mentoring of many students including Helen Clark. He was an early New Zealand social scientist who did not just study elections but used the results to explore the social development of New Zealand.

A couple of interesting developments - one on the other side of the world and one here at home. Turns out that the UK's Parliament is still sovereign (who knew?). And I think Gareth Morgan should be given more praise than scorn for wanting to inject some thinking into New Zealand's political scene.

Kris Faafoi has stopped Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal "lost luggage (but not really)" members bill eating up hours of Parliament's time. That's great ... but what will I do now for fun? 

So, according to this Act Party press release:

Finally, we see the Auditor-General's report on the Saudi sheep deal and it's "significant shortcomings", and if you're not angry, you haven't been paying attention. Because here's the real story...

After a decade close to the action – and longer on the peripheries – there's not much in politics that makes my blood boil any more. At its best it is a contest of ideas and visions, but more often these days it is a poll-driven, often cynical, risk averse, strategic battle for swing voters. C'est la vie. But then, we have events like the Saudi sheep deal.

The Auditor General has found that Murray McCully (and the rest of his National Party cabinet colleagues) are not corrupt criminals. They just entered into a deal with a Saudi businessman without really knowing why, what that deal would do, or the basis for giving him some $11 million or our money. 

The Auditor-General's report on Murray McCully's "sheep-to-sand" deal (or, rather, her "Inquiry into the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership") is hot off the press.

A novel about an historical event reminds us of the health redisorganisation of the 1990s, raising issues remaining relevant to today. 

I puzzle at how politicians and advisers can make giant mistakes but are never held accountable. The notion of accountability became fashionable in the neoliberal changes of the 1980s and many people further down in the system now work under tighter surveillance than they did then.

New Zealand has fallen prey to penal populism: our prison population is at an all time high – driven by victims rights groups and the public's moral panic over violent crime

In 2011, Bill English said that prisons were “a moral and fiscal failure” and New Zealand should never build another one. Well said – and achievable – but only if Governments stop pandering to the Sensible Sentencing Trust and the moral panic manufactured by the media whenever a violent crime occurs.

The real scandal isn't that the Police set up a (probably) illegal drink driving checkpoint to get the names of elderly people interested in exercising control over the circumstances of their own death. It's that our law doesn't allow such people an option without having the Police stick their noses in to it.

I'm presently out of New Zealand, enjoying a family break at Joshua Tree National Park in the US of A before immersing myself in the joy and wonder that is end of year exam marking. I guess that means I should be writing you an insightful and searing critique of the US Presidential race, but really ... what's there to say?

Pretending it can, or that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand can function independently from the rest of the world, could generate a financial crash. 

The very joining of monetary policy and fiscal policy into a single phrase is a criticism of the neoliberal macroeconomics. The reconfiguration under Rogernomics assumed that the two could be administered independently of one another, and gave an authority and power to monetary policy beyond what any reasonable analysis would conclude.

The Court of Appeal's decision on the Planet Key's legal status means that we are likely to see and hear a lot more political advertising. And it also renders the Government's just announced reforms of party political broadcasts completely out of date.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal handed down its decision on the Electoral Commission's appeal in the "Planet Key" case, The Electoral Commission v Watson & Jones. You may remember the song and video at the heart of that case.

What does the latest Economics Prize in honour of Alfred Nobel tell us about economics as a science?

Alfred Nobel did not endow a prize in economics. In 1968 the Swedish National (i.e. central) Bank founded a ‘Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel’. The award’s announcement is coordinated with the annual Nobel Prize awards.

The reasons Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler give for their constitution-writing project are not convincing.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler, both of them former legal academics and current barristers, Sir Geoffrey having also served as Attorney-General and Prime Minister in between, have published a book

No, but we need to address poverty. Focusing on poverty targets which are not to be achieved in the time of the government which sets them is wasting energy and opportunity. 

Despite being frequently ignored, Gilling’s Law is one of the most powerful social laws I know. Formulated by Don Gilling, a retired professor of accounting and finance, it states that the way you score the game shapes the way the game is played. A simple illustration is that when they increased the points for a try, rugby games became more attacking in order to score more tries.

A few takeaways from the local body elections, including lessons for Labour and National and the start of 'The Phil & Bill Show'. Whoooo will win?

What can you really take in a political sense from a series of low-turnout elections in which the winners were mostly incumbents and mostly, still, male, pale and stale?

Well, a little bit, but maybe not as much as some claim.

Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and a Nobel Peace laureate, has some thoughts on a person's right to dignity at the end of life that are worth considering. 

Desmond Tutu is something of a living legend (there's a fuller account of his life here).

In which a late night twitter discussion rammed home the importance of candidates having to 'earn it' and the media's coverage of "foregone conclusions" is defended

On Sunday night Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick was feeling fed up with media coverage of the city's election and took to Twitter to express herself. In reply to a tweet saying turnout was tracking only marginally ahead 2013's poor effort, she said:

"I'm optimistic, but again doesn't help that media sold this as a boring one horse race that everyone should just give up on".

A report explains why: small but accumulating biases together on top of adverse early-life social and environmental conditions.

To be frank, this column on criminology is not in an area of my expertise. But in the course of my reading to place economics in a social context – I do that a lot – I came across an old report which I suspect most people who care have not come across earlier either. So this column is really from a journalist telling about a report.

Brash is back and so we have to explain again why his argument is built on rubbish and rubble. And we can do it with his own words.

It's a rare delight in these heavily managed times to see conviction politics and heartfelt arguments. It's just sad the Don Brash-led re-hashed Hobson's Pledge lobby group is so ill-judged and ill-informed.

Brash is back and so we have to explain again why his argument is built on rubbish and rubble

It's a rare delight in these heavily managed times to see conviction politics and heartfelt arguments. It's just sad the Don Brash-led Hobson's Pledge lobby group is so ill-judged and ill-informed.

We don’t need to refresh trade policy; we need to rethink how best to engage with the world in the context of increasing globalisation. 

The Government is ‘refreshing’ its international trade strategy. Refresh is a euphemism. It ought to overhaul it. Here are some guidelines; I begin with the overarching framework.

The Department of Corrections was doing what the courts told it was the law. The courts were wrong about that, so now the Department of Corrections owes prisoners compensation. That's exactly how our law is supposed to work.

On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler's book proposing a written constitution for New Zealand. It was held at Parliament, and may I say that a fine time was had by all.

Stuart Nash is trying to make political hay out of Nikolas Delegat's crime and punishment. The problem is, in doing so he's calling for the undermining of New Zealand's constitutional arrangements. That's ... not a good thing.

On occasion, I've had cause to issue some stern words to Police Minister Judith Collins about her apparent meddling in Police issues that are none of her business.

Meng Foon's giving $20 to a long-time acquaintance  is about respect, not corruption.

A couple of days ago, I was asked for comment* by RNZ News on a story about Gisborne mayor Meng Foon laying $20 on a pub table at a a Father's Day function.

Last week’s report on wellbeing and the household income distribution told us some new things. Are we listening?

Sadly, the latest MSD report The Material Wellbeing of NZ Households, by Bryan Perry, released last week, passed by quickly. It said, broadly, that there is no obviously significant shift in the level of inequality in recent years.

So, it turns out that we don't just have Nuk Korako to thank for wasting Parliament's time on debating how best to advertise lost property auctions that never get held. National Party MP Jono Naylor and Transport Minister Simon Bridges played their part, too.

In my various comments on the frankly abysmal Airport Authorities (Publicisi

Nuk Korako told the House that lots of people had contacted him to praise his proposal to save Airports from having to advertise lost property auctions in their local papers. So just how many of those people earlier told the Government that his proposal was needed? 

At the risk of breaking my undertaking to Gerry Brownlee, I find myself having to once again turn my attention to Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal members bill - the 

The NZRU's investigation is at best meaningless and at worst a cynical circle of lies and spin that leaves everyone involved with a stain on their reputation.

Here's the thing: What exactly did happen during that Mad Monday Chiefs event at Ōkoroire Hot Pools, near Matamata, on August 1? Despite the Rugby Union's "investigation" into events we are none the wiser and yet, amidst a flurry of clichés about "key learnings" and "unwise" and "inappropriate" behaviour, we are supposed to drop our unanswered questions and move on.

Winston Peters says John Key will hold an early election. John Key says he won't. John Key is right - but not for the reasons he says.

On today's RNZ's Morning Report, John Key poured cold water over Wintson Peters' confident assertion that NZ would have an election early in 2017 because the National Government was struggling to hold things together.

Is it possible to have sensible discussions in public?

Last June there was a kerfuffle in the online magazine Spinoff over attitudes to intellectual activity in New Zealand.

What are the possibilities for the future housing prices? What can we do?

Two eminent but retired Reserve Bankers, Don Brash and Arthur Grimes, have argued that house prices should halve. I am not sure whether they actually mean it or are just vividly pointing out that house prices are about double the sustainable level. I probably use a different method of calculation but have come to a similar assessment.

Auckland Transport appears to think that selling houses is a more important activity than trying to influence how people may vote. Is this just a sign of the times, or are they simply wrong?

Back in March I wrote this post in which I expressed scepticism about Auckland Transport's rationale for having a by-law that prohibits the display of election advertising anywhere that is visible from a road, except for the 9 weeks before an election. My argument was: 

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.

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

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.

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]:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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: 

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.

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.

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.

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.