by Brian Easton

New Zealand has got itself into a right proper muddle over methane emissions and their impact on climate change. A simple change to the proposed legislation would sort it out.

The proposed Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill treats biogenic methane emissions differently from all other carbon emissions. The latter are to be measured net so that emissions from fossil fuels can be offset by carbon stored in trees. However, methane from livestock is measured gross.

Many foreign appointments to leading public agencies have proved disappointing. Is that inevitable?

The discussion on the quality of economic advice, which we reported last week, has spilled over into a discussion about whether so many senior appointments should be of non-New Zealanders. Recall I discussed the failure to develop career paths within the New Zealand public service.

The kerfuffle over the budget leaks precipitated a public exposure of a simmering concern about the quality of Treasury’s work.

Before the substantive issue which this column is about – whether there has been a deterioration in the economic advice given to the government – a paragraph about the budget leaks.

It may be that higher levels of inequality have increased the incidence of poor mental wellbeing in the community. A recent book suggests a causal mechanism from one to the other.

International research shows that there is a socioeconomic status (or class) gradient, in which those with low SES experience higher morbidity from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, rheumatoid disorders, a number of cancers, psychiatric diseases, dementia and so on.

Despite its manifesto promise to make the Chief Archivist an officer of Parliament, the government has not yet announced its decision. It is taking so long there must be a problem. Let’s guess an outcome if the officials have their way.

One of the major issues which face a democratic nation is the challenge of keeping its bureaucracy accountable and responsive to the public. Over the years a variety of arrangements have developed with this objective.

Shirley Smith would say that in her childhood she was known as the daughter of (later Sir) David Smith, then she was known as the wife of Bill Sutch and later as the mother of Helen Sutch. Throughout her life she struggled to be a person in her own right.

There are a number of ways of reading Sarah Gaitanos’s biography Shirley Smith: An Examined Life. In my view – I knew Shirley a little – she would want to you to read it as her struggle to be recognised, as a person.

If the Government is serious about redirecting policy towards wellbeing, it is going to have to do a lot more than making the odd statement in the budget.

On the Friday morning previous to Budget Thursday, the Prime Minister gave what amounted to a pre-budget speech. It was not welcomed by the listeners, even though most New Zealanders may have found it promising But the audience was from the Auckland Business Community (ABC) and the speech gave little acknowledgement to them or their concerns.

The Chatham Islands are a world we have left behind.

The Chatham Islands (Rekou in Moriori, Wharekauri in Maori) lie about 800kms to the east of New Zealand but given they are on the other side of the 180-degree meridian one might think of them as New Zealand’s most westerly isles, way past Australia.

Can we consume limited resources forever? Is economic growth just a Ponzi scheme in which we borrow from the future? Is economic growth as we know it coming to an end?

Over two centuries ago, the first-ever professor of economics, Thomas Malthus, predicted that levels of personal income would stagnate. He argued that there was a limited supply of land and that, given diminishing returns, additional farmers would produce less additional food until eventually they would not be able to feed themselves.

The government has promised a ‘wellbeing budget’. No one seems to know what that means. We can set out some preliminary economic understandings.

There is a story of a little old lady who woke up after a close election and was told that the result was a ‘hung parliament’. She responded that she did not know what that meant, but it sounded like a good idea.