Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Qantas and Air NZ to codeshare trans-tasman


As an opponent of anti-trust laws, I don't have a problem with privately owned airlines in an open market getting together. Although Air NZ and Qantas would not have done that had Dr Cullen let Air NZ be 49% owned by Singapore Airlines in the first place, that is now history. Unfortunately Air NZ is now predominantly state owned - and so it is at best, unclear, whether this collusion between Qantas (which so clearly has the political backing of the Australian Federal Government, as it shut out competition for Qantas on one of its most profitable routes) and the state carrier should be allowed.

However, I can laugh at one point - the claim by the airlines that this is good for consumers. Check these claims:

* Air New Zealand customers currently have the choice of 134 Tasman departures per week. Under the proposed codeshare with Qantas this would increase by 63% to 218 departures.

Well, actually customers can choose between all of the airlines. Nobody is forced to use one airline - at best the claim that you can earn frequent flyer points/airpoints dollars on more flights is true.

* Better schedule spread (access to 63 % more flights a week across the Tasman).

OK, there are less flights - are the remainder going to happen at hours that people don't want that much??

* Greater range of connecting options and enhanced seamlessness of service.

You both have deals with each other for connecting to each others' domestic networks already.

* Potential for new destinations and improved frequencies.

So the new route to Adelaide happened because?? You're reducing frequencies - so what is that about?

* Cost savings from extraction of capacity (removal of two aircraft from the Air New Zealand fleet and one from Qantas) will allow sustainability of low fares.

Yes, though there will be less low fares- you use those to try to fill all those half empty planes.

Oh well, as a libertarian I don't advocate the government stop it - but it isn't much good for consumers, particularly those flying from Wellington since only Air NZ and Qantas fly from Wellington to Australia. Meanwhile, remember that this wouldn't have happened had it NOT been for government interference in the first place- why should Dr Cullen have held up Singapore Airlines' investment in Air NZ in 2001?

In New Zealand

OK, I'm here. Can't comment on Air NZ's new Premium Economy Class because I used up my gold airpoints upgrade vouchers to go in the new business class mmmmm - duvets and pillows and flat beds. Rather nice entertainment system fully interactive - not the variety as in Singapore Airlines or Virgin Atlantic, but better than Qantas. Food was excellent and in greater quantities than last time, and I could sleep in the bed, although it was a little hard it compares well with BA's Club Class.

Ahh New Zealand, land of the parochial soooo:

Things I have missed

Family and friends
Empty clean beaches, countryside, roads
Cheap good fresh fruit and veges
Good edible bread easy to get
More fish than haddock and cod that is easy to get
Sun and blue skies
Relatively good service
Lack of crowds

Things i have not missed

Nauseatingly patriotic navel gazing provincialism, as if New Zealand as an entity is important - it just exists and people there have to do things good to be noticed. Just because it is NZ made means nothing unless it is good.
Nasal drawling accents (LA Air NZ lounge I sat beside a blonde woman with the worst accent I've heard in ages - loud, nasal and SO glad she didn't sit upstairs).
Boy racers.
High taxes on alcohol.
Anally retentive customs (you really think most illegal drugs used in NZ come through passengers at airports?)
Low value currency getting lower (good for me for now).
The preponderance of the stupid prickery using the roads (whereas in London they are homeless or riding buses).
Newspapers with large sections dedicated to parish pump pointlessness and bugger all analysis or incisive comment, and virtually no choice of newspapers.
Television virtually devoid of intelligence, unless it comes from foreign channels and awash with cultural cringe.
Radio largely devoid of intelligence (BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4, as leftwing as they are, are like undergraduate tutors compared to National Radio's adolescent students).
The subculture of welfare, drug addiction, crime, abuse and irresponsibility rampant in certain segments of society - and the political tolerance of it (yes I am very aware of it in the UK too, but it is a different but equally troublesome nature).
The perverse criminal justice system that puts a drug trafficker in jail for years, but lets women who beat up kids out in half the time.
The obsession with the road toll - but unwillingess to confront the cause - stupid driving.

OK that'll do, I don't enjoy sitting in front of a computer more than I have to :)

Transmission Gully needs more subsidies

That's right folks - not only was the Hearing's Committee (reported as if it was Godlike) wrong about there being enough money for this billion dollar boondoggle, not only does it have a benefit/cost ratio of less than 1.0 (meaning it produces less benefits that costs), not only does a toll only recover around 15% of the cost of the road (which means if the toll was high enough to pay for it, nobody would use it - showing how little users really want it), not only does Porirua City Council and Kapiti Coast District Council oppose rating the main beneficiaries of the road to pay for it, BUT
apparently (I say apparently because I don't trust the Dom Post much on these, since they got it wrong several times before as I described here and here) Dr Cullen has suggested a regional petrol tax to help pay for it.
This is a fundamentally flawed proposal, despite David Farrar's socialist faith in this think big project, for several reasons:
1. A regional petrol tax means ALL motorists from Masterton and Otaki to Miramar and Island Bay pay for a road that only SOME use. Wairarapa residents might ask why people in Levin don't have to pay, whereas more of them will use it than Wairarapa people.
2. A regional petrol tax means motorists that fill up north of Otaki or in the South Island don't pay to use the road as much as a grandmother driving in Island Bay to the shops.
3. A regional petrol tax means all trucks, buses and diesel and LPG cars don't contribute, since it doesn't apply to road user charges or LPG (and don't even try to apply it to them - RUC is often bought centrally by fleet operators and there is no way of knowing where kilometres bought in advance are being used, and 80% of LPG tax is refunded for non-road users - try having a regional tax on a tax that is mostly refunded)
4. There is no regional petrol tax at present, the last one, introduced by the 1990-1996 National Government was abolished because the oil companies found it administratively simpler to apply to ALL petrol sales nationwide, and hand the Auckland and Wellington Regional Councils the estimated revenue (so motorists in Invercargill paid a tax that was largely meant to apply to only Auckland and Wellington). The only way to change that would be a complicated administration system to account for petrol delivered within regional boundaries, and that means service stations close to boundaries either win or lose.
Now, the DomPost failed to report that the Wellington Regional Land Transport Committee has voted in favour of Transmission Gully - but, and it is a big but - there are still several hurdles left.
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Transit's board has to agree to the appropriate approach, and may decide against Transmission Gully, or decide in favour, or decide in favour, but in the meantime cannot neglect the current route (which it can't). I think it will do the latter - retain its commitment to Transmission Gully as the long term solution, but apply for fundable economic projects on the current route. The median barrier along the coast is one, an interchange at Paekakariki is another - Pukerua Bay Bypass perhaps another. Even then, Land Transport New Zealand needs to approve funding - Transit doesn't do this - something that politicians that helped set up this system (Peter Dunne and Maurice Williamson) tend to ignore in the rhetoric and which most journalists can't be arsed thinking about (they only report anyway).
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The simple point is - the money for Transmission Gully is not there - it does not stack up as a project of anything other than low national priority because it has bad economics, and the users are unwilling to pay, even the councils cheerleading it wont raise a dollar of their ratepayers' money to pay for it (meaning they wont risk their political lives on the issue - there is no risk in demanding others pay).
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So why should you be forced to pay for a road that you aren't going to use or benefit from? and if you are going to use it or benefit from it, then why wont you agree to pay more towards it? Agree to pay the $24 toll that would be required, or go tell the grandmother driving in Island Bay to the shops why she should pay more in petrol so you can go on holiday to Taupo 10 minutes faster?
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You might ask why supposed supporters of the free market like ACT and National, think this is ok. Even Maurice Williamson, who as Minister proudly refused to get involved in decisions on particular projects, because he believed projects should be decided on their merits by people able to weigh them all up objectively is now reported as guaranteeing the Penlink project in Rodney District will get funding approval if National is elected. Roll out the pork barrels.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Light blog

I’m off to New Zealand and Australia for the rest of the month, so will write here eratically during that time. The weekend in Switzerland was wonderful, Switzerland has the plus of being clean, polite, comfortable and efficient, and the minus of often being closed and rulebound.
I miss certain food, space, good tap water, family and friends - but I don't miss the tall poppy syndrome, the Kiwi navel gazing "thinking we're really important" and the insipid political correctness. Oh well, I wish you well and look forward to seeing a few of you in the next few weeks.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tolling Transmission Gully

Well it had to happen - Transmission Gully could not be built as an untolled road, not because of cost, because it wont generate much revenue at all - but because if untolled it would be a subsidy for people commuting from Kapiti Coast and result in substantial amounts of housing development in Kapiti and Horowhenua because taxpayers - not road users and certainly not users of that road - would be paying for it. Tolling will mean two things - the users will be paying around 20% of the cost of the road (including fuel tax and road user charges), but at off peak times most people will use the existing road. Why pay if it wont save you time? BOTH routes should be tolled to pay for it - particularly since the main beneficiaries are those whingers who bought houses along the existing highway wanting a windfall increase in property values by taxpayers paying for a new road that wasn't even seriously considered until the 1990s.
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The Dominion Post continues to fail to report accurately claiming that the Hearings Panel report on public consultation was generated by Transit and the Regional Council, which is nonsense.
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The new regional plan proposes that Transmission Gully could be built for $955 million, in a decade. Of this, $412 million would come from already guaranteed funding, $428 million from special Government loans, and $115 million from loans to be covered by tolls. $955 million is a joke - seriously - this project will face overruns of around 10-20% if other state highway projects are anything to go by. Transmission Gully will cost around $1.1-$1.2 billion. The already guaranteed funding doesn't exist - that funding is actually $405 million and there is no such thing as a special Government loan - yet. A case could be put for it, but I wouldn't be lending money for a roading project which had lower benefits than cost - may as well build a gas to gasoline plant at Motunui.
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So we will see. If Transmission Gully is to go ahead, it should FOLLOW the rail improvements already agreed, and a number of minor improvements to the current route (median barrier, interchange at Paekakariki and possibly bypass at Pukerua Bay) should proceed.
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I still think there is every likelihood Transmission Gully wont proceed - because it is so hienously expensive. The next most expensive project in Wellington is $180 million and for the money spent on Transmission Gully, Wellington city could have a proper inner city bypass (4-lane cut and cover tunnel from Terrace Tunnel to Mt Victoria Tunnel, with both tunnels duplicated and 4-lanes to the airport) and a lot more besides. Such a project would transform the region by dramatically improving access to and from the airport and hospital, remove a third of the traffic from inner city streets - enable the waterfront route along the quays to have a lane removed in each direction, buses would flow far more freely through town.
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Transmission Gully will just knock 5 minutes off the off-peak time from Wellington to Kapiti and perhaps 20 minutes off the peak journey, and remove 60% of the traffic from Pukerua Bay and Mana - both communities very used to through traffic. Transmission Gully wont fix Wellington city congestion.
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Maybe a better approach is congestion pricing to pay for a proper city bypass and Transmission Gully? I simply think the region hasn't thought through its priorities sufficiently and too many are worshipping the cult of Transmission Gully - if they ever get it, they will be very disappointed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Morality and telecommunications.... (unfinished business)

As I rarely forget anything I do remember that I have to respond further to AJ Chesswas's points about my post in response to his one (whew) and I have failed to meet up to what I said a month ago about posting on it. So here is my response. Allan's comments are in italics, with my response in bold.
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Thanks for taking up the challenge Scott. There is a lot of good thinking in there, and as a right-leaning bloke there are a lot of things I empathise with. I agree an individual should be essentially free and encouraged to make his or her own judgments and decisions. However I have a couple of concerns witha purely libertarian/anarchist/individualistic understanding of society, namely;- People being socialised to think of themselves, and their own needs and desires, rather than entering into a bigger picture group consciousness that recognises their role and relationships within a community, as a contributor to and participant in the "happiness" of others.
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I don't think people are socialised to think of themselves, I think it is a biological imperative as part of the instinct to survive. I also don't believe in group consciousness. There is no such thing as a collective brain. While people may share opinions and feelings, the idea of group consciousness is dangerous as it is claimed by those with power - who want to deny the validity or the argument of those who present alternative views. I don't believe that anyone has the right to tell anyone else within a community what their "role" is, besides not initiating force against anyone else. The contribution to and participation in the happiness of others is spontaneous, and is part of being a social being - but it isn't a "role". It is just as legitimate to be a hermit rather than being very gregarious and sociable. You see I think the selfish needs and desires of people are, in fact, the motivation to do everything, even if what you do benefits others. A clear example is trading. You trade to make a living, but as you exchange value for value it benefits those you trade with, and those you purchase goods and services from. You may make a living for yourself, but also your family and to socialise with friends. You may give gifts, buy a drink, play sports or do other things together - you do it because it is something you enjoy and benefit from.
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If you didn't do it because you benefited from it, you'd be sacrificing yourself - and few people want others to sacrifice themself for them. Imagine a relationship which you didn't get anything from, but which you maintained because you thought you should.
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The emphasis on euphoric happiness can result on people neglecting roles and vocations vital to the future and eproduction of a society, such parenting, mentoring and involvement in the voluntary sector and domestic spheres...resulting in the potential for collapse of a civilisation/people - ie The West meets Islam.

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I don't think there is an emphasis on euphoric happiness, just happiness. I think parenting is something people enjoy, as is mentoring and voluntary work. Most people I know doing those things do it because they enjoy it and get satisfaction. I am not endorsing hedonistic self-destruction, but simply enjoying being alive. I think society has existed and progressed because people get satisfaction in producing and teaching and applying their minds and hearts to the world around them. Yes, some people are hedonists and don't give a damn, but experience of groups who have pursued that show that eventually most people give that up because they don't want to live in squalor, and need to work to earn money to get what they want. I don't think people have predetermined roles, but spontaneously, without any central planning - there are people to be doctors, teachers, taxi drivers, engineers, farmers, builders etc - it happens due to freedom, choice and the ambition of most people to live and pursue work they get some satisfaction from.

- People who do not think positively of themselves and their own needs, and as a result have given up a pursuit of happiness largely because of relational disappointments (as relationships are typically crucial to happiness). Such people can be instead prone to destructive behaviour which, because they have chosen it, we redefine as "a pursuit of happiness", discarding our moral apprehensions as a relativistic misunderstanding.

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I agree, and it happens in more areas than you would believe. Alcohol and drugs are obvious, sex less obvious, over and undereating as well, reclusiveness, overshopping, overexercising and the rest. Unfortunately, you as an outside observer can never tell if someone engaging in any of the above is being seriously self destructive, going through a bad patch (e.g. post breakup or mourning a loss) or simply exploring different facets of life. Most people overdo something at some point in their life and learn from it, and nothing the state can do will stop it.

.- People who take advantage of the above people, being motivated by perverse and corrupt desires, whose deeds are discounted on the basis of the redefined nature of morality as discussed above.

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Well I don't know what perverse and corrupt desires are, although I can guess. For me, it is perverse and corrupt to lie, steal, defraud or force someone to do something. If by perverse and corrupt you mean sexual practices you don't like or approve of, then that is a separate discussion. If two adults agree to enjoy their bodies together then it frankly does not matter to me, and I struggle why it matters to anyone else, unless either of them are in a relationship with another that they are not being honest about.

- The lack of structure and guidance in a less ordered society can pose challenges to maturing citizens looking for guidance and direction, and a meaningful role to play in their community. The sociologist Emile Durkheim discussed the condition of anomie which can result when a person's identity is challenged in this way. Furthermore, a poorly structured society is potentially less effective in responding to an emergency or sudden action (ie The West meets Islam).

I understand the point, but this is up to parents and a good start is to teach the first rule of no initiation of force or fraud. Being honest with people, respecting their bodies and property is a cornerstone of civilisation. Then to apply the mind, and reasoning to problems. A person develops identity as an individual and the more that it allowed to flourish, within the context of respecting others, the happier and better off society will be. I believe people will act and respond quickly in times of emergency, in those situations people are willing to give a hand or to fight if need be - they do so out of esteem and respect for the society of independent and free people. One that does not judge people for actions that are not an attack on others.

PC has also posted some salient points on this that I urge you to read.

also, David Farrar was to respond to my response to InternetNZ's submission calling for the government to remove some of Telecom's property rights over its local lines and for everyone else to be forced to pay for high speed internet infrastructure in certain locations. I await it with antici-pation.... But maybe the rain, isn't really to blame (snaps out of Franknfurter role).

Finland - a model for schools?

According to The Economist (pay edition or the 23 March print edition), education policy wonks could do worse than look at what Finland has done with primary and secondary education.
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Finland changed its system from being centralised, with curriculum, schools, teacher pay run from Helsinki to deregulating it to schools and teachers. There is no national curriculum in Finland and few national exams. In essence, says the Economist, the formula was “about getting good teachers – and then giving them freedom”. So that means rewarding good teachers and allowing them to teach what they want, how they want.
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Finland’s 15yos have the highest level of maths and science skills, and reading literacy of any rich industrialised country. In the 1960s it was one of the worst performers. Finland stands above most European countries, as most European countries are at or below the OECD average for mathematics, the top performers are Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Finland.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Lazy frogs go back to work" says airline CEO

The Daily Telegraph reports Philip Meeson, chief executive of jet2.com, a low cost British airline based in Leeds, has called for the French air traffic controllers by asking“lazy frogs to get back to work” on the airline website. He has also complained about French police not clearing away students lying on the runway at Chambery.
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He’s justifiably expressing anger at a monopoly (French air traffic controllers) holding others to ransom, and says they should get back to work or get another job if they don’t like it.
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While disagreeing with the language, a Liberal Democrats MEP has said that France and Italy are in a headlong economic race to be the sick man of Europe. Quite right.
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France is slowly stagnating under the enormous economic millstone of socialism, which means that companies cannot fire staff unless the company is losing money, will lose money for an ongoing period and there are no other positions for the people the company wants to fire. Imagine that – you can’t cut staff until you are unprofitable, so you could be losing money in several areas of your business, but since you are profitable overall you must cross-subsidise those other jobs.
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One final note, noticed how few low-cost French airlines there are? There are none, compared to ten in the UK last time I counted. Fortunately the open internal European market means non-French EU airlines have the right to fly to and from France as they wish – fortunately for French consumers that is.

UN scum judge New Zealand

The UN Special Rapporteur for promoting racist socialism and hating capitalism – or rather on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen has written a report justifying a socialist view of government in New Zealand particularly in relation to Maori. Trevor Loudon rightfully damns it as its writer is a Marxist and therefore "it is entirely predictable that the report supports the Marxist based "Maori Sovereignty" agenda that has done so much to damage race relations in this country".
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It justifies racist pro-Maori policies, but interestingly also states:
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“ return to the assimilationist model appears increasingly in public discourse, redirecting concern about collective rights and the place of Maori as a people within the wider society, to emphasis on the protection of the individual rights of all New Zealanders, including the rights to equal opportunity, due process of law and freedom from illegal discrimination on any grounds, including ethnicity or race.”
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This implies that there are “models” for people treating Maori, instead of simply treating people as individuals. Once the state has no policy for Maori in particular, but treats everyone equally and gives equal respect to individuals of all cultural backgrounds, then all can get on.
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However, as Louden explained Stavenhagen is a right socialist busybody. He recommends:
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“The Treaty of Waitangi should be entrenched constitutionally in a form that
respects the pluralism of New Zealand society, creating positive recognition and
meaningful provision for Maori as a distinct people, possessing an alternative system of knowledge, philosophy and law.”

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Besides being vacuous cultural relativism, what stops Maori using traditional knowledge (though most like using all knowledge at their disposal) and philosophy to act as they wish? As far as law is concerned, if laws are limited to those to protect people from each other and the state – then Maori can choose to sign up to any further provisions that they want socially – but they cannot be “laws” that apply to anyone else. Objective law is not something up for debate.
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He also wants iwi and hapu to be able to claim legal aid, regardless presumably, of their wealth. Companies also ought to be able to claim it at this rate, for they are no different, as should incorporated societies. In fact, legal aid should be abolished except for individuals in criminal cases. He also wants more socialist education funding and an independent commission to monitor the media being non-racist – in other words, an attack on free speech.
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So what is this all about, besides an insidious interference in New Zealand’s domestic politics?
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Well, it comes from the Commission on Human Rights of ECOSOC, the UN Economic and Social Council - a body established originally. The Commission includes among its members China, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe. A bit like having rapists and murderers coming round to your house and telling you that you should vacuum more and it would be nice if you dusted the mantelpiece.
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Why should we listen to a body that is so morally bankrupt that it lets systematic violators of basic individual rights judge New Zealand on its race relations? Unlike many libertarians, I believe the UN should exist -but bodies like the ECOSOC Commission on Human Rights are virtually useless as long as they accept as legitimate members the vilest abusers of human rights in the world. Of course, cultural relativists like the Greens love the UN and think Marxists can teach us something, because the UN almost always supports a socialist state collectivist agenda.

Greens want more democracy for Maori only

Green MP Metiria Turei has called for the Maori electoral option to always be available for Maori voters. She said:
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“A Maori voter might make the decision to move to the Maori roll might because they are unsatisfied with the representation they are getting from candidates on the general roll. Yet because the option only opens every five years, they are forced to stay on the general roll for the next election. This seriously undermines the democratic process and highlights the structural inequalities for Maori of the Westminster system we operate under.”
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What? So you should be able to shift electoral rolls if you don't like your candidates. Wonderful stuff
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The Greens regard Don Brash’s approach to the Maori seats as racist, but what the hell is Metiria on about? What happens if I am unsatisfied with the representation I get from candidates on the general roll?
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I don’t have Maori ancestry (I think) so I’m not entitled to a second option according to Metiria. According to her, it’s just fine that 85% or so of New Zealanders can just put up and shut up if they don’t like representation, but Maori shouldn’t. Furthermore, what are the “structural inequalities” that mean that Maori get two electoral options but everyone else gets one? What sort of Orwellian doublespeak is Metiria going on about? It is unequal and unfair if one group (Maori) get a second option nobody else gets, but can only exercise it every five years?
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What unadulterated racist nonsense. Democracy means one person one vote. To suggest that Maori deserve extra is elevating them and denigrating others, and to suggest they need it for democracy is suggesting Maori when they vote on the general roll don’t really count.
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This demonstrates the Green Party view of democracy is not all votes counting equally. The Maori seats should go – debates about democracy when just over half of Maori are represented by Maori seats, with MPs who claim to speak for Maori, when Maori views are represented across several parties (and the Green Party is a poor performer in the Maori seat). Don Brash is right - the Maori Party after all, is over-represented in this Parliament because of the Maori seats.
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It is not racist to call for separate representation to be abolished, it is the opposite. Don’t let any Orwellian post-modernist cultural relativist socialist convince you otherwise.
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Libertarianz called for the Maori seats to go since 1996, ACT since 1999 and National since 2004.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Human Rights Act shows up its failings again

So there is an issue about a bar prohibiting people under 20 from entering it because it might breach the Human Rights Act. So the arguments about the drinking age become arguments about passing laws, rather than about people regulating their own behaviour. Such nonsense! Bars should be able to ban people of any age they like, indeed they should be able to stop anyone entering on any grounds - after all, bars are private property. If you don't want anyone entering your home you have the right to stop them, right?
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I am opposed to the Human Rights Act applying to private activities. If a person wants to discriminate on the grounds of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, hair colour, musical tastes, politics or body odour it is nobody else's business. After all, it is a private contract between two adults. If I am an employer I should be able to choose the employee I want, similarly if if I am a landlord or a shopkeeper.
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What? You're racist or sexist? No.
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Just someone who believes in private property rights and that you can't force people to engage with others, regardless of how stupid their reasons to discriminate. You see we all discriminate all of the time in different areas of life - you judge people according to their clothes, their bodies, their hair and many other factors. You do so because you instinctively associate with those who you are more comfortable with - and all sorts of incidents in life leave you stereotyping people according to many factors, and often you are wrong.
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However, does this mean people should be able to "get away with" being racist or sexist with everyone who is offended having no come back? No.
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Freedom works both ways. If there was a shop that was owned by a racist shopkeeper, would you shop there? Would you tell your friends about the racism? Would you (if you sold good to the shop) not trade with the shop at all? Freedom to contract and freedom of speech are powerful tools. Someone who acts racist or sexist may deter some customers, and some of those customers may be prepared to publish the embarrassing fact of the bigotry. Consumer boycotts can be powerful.
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Back to the drinking age. There is no need to do anything about this. Leave it at 18 (some countries have no drinking age and don't appear to be worse off than NZ in alcohol related conditions) and let the market decide what people want.