Friday, December 26, 2008

Yes I am returning soon

Basically it's like this - I was in New York - and that is reason enough not to sit behind a laptop, then I had a lot of work, then my laptop became virtually unusable, now I'm in New Zealand.

and I'll be damned if I'm going to spend long periods behind a computer until I return to the UK early in January.

So I hope you all have fun, it is cleansing to spend a month or so away from politics - because you soon realise how empty headed almost all politics really is. However the big political battle of our generation has started, it is NOT an election, it is the battle of ideas. It is free market capitalism against those who point at what is not and proclaim it is a failure, whilst offering nothing besides the failure of the past.

The new US Administration is highly unlikely to embrace open markets and less government. The UK government has already decided today is about mortgaging future taxpayers, more.
The NZ government is saying little, which means, I hope, that lots of hard drives are having "deleted files" recovered to dig up the dirt on the last government. However, you wouldn't have noticed much change - but I'm giving this lot till Parliament sits again, because New Zealand shuts down over summer.

Oh and on that note, it was damned annoying not to be able to go to the supermarket on Christmas Day. That is one law that could do with being gutted - prohibitions on when shopkeepers can open for business. It isn't your business, or the government's, and if you don't want to work there, don't. If you treat it as a religious festival, then good for you, respect that - don't force others to shut down because of your beliefs.

So let's see if any shops get prosecuted for opening on Christmas Day, and if so, what this government's reaction will be. That will tell you a little about how little has changed.

Don't spend time thinking too much about it, it is time to spend this period with loved ones, to enjoy their company and life. I come back this time of year for a reason, and it is obvious when I see the sun, clear skies and the space, and see those I love. The UK this time of year is bleak, enjoy what NZ has.

Have a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Part privatisation of Royal Mail

While New Zealand's new National/ACT/Maori Party/United Future government continues to reject privatisation, Lord Mandelson, Gordon Brown's Industry Secretary today announced that the British government is part privatising the Royal Mail.

The Royal Mail, for anyone used to NZ Post, is a dinosaur. The list of problems it has is long:
- Complicated tariff structures that encourage use of counter staff, not simple stamp purchases;
- No sale of overseas postage outside Post Offices;
- Manual mail sorting;
- Chronic queuing at major Post Offices;
- Limited opening hours, and very limited hours for parcel pickup (often at fairly distant locations);
- Some locations with only cash payment available.

This all with the ever ubiquitous regulator (Postcomm) and government funded consumer representative body "Postwatch", neither of which exists in New Zealand, which maintains high standards of service, without subsidy AND state owned. The UK persistently believes that open markets need regulation, and consumers can't look after themselves. Just small examples of millions of pounds of unnecessary waste.

So a "strategic minority partnership" is sought from the private sector, to restructure the Royal Mail. Taxpayers would take on the £7 billion deficit in the Royal Mail's pension scheme, because those people work so hard for it don't they? It makes a profit, but loses money on its core letter business. It hasn't helped that it lost its statutory monopoly two years ago. New Zealand Post lost its statutory monopoly in 1998 - at the time Jim Anderton leading the Alliance, predicted mayhem.

Funnily enough, standing in a painful queue at a post office recently I was commenting on how it needed to be privatised.

Gordon Brown can do it - yes his leftwing loser backbench waxed on moaning with their northern accents - you have to ask why it can't be done in New Zealand.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Best train food in the UK (and better than Selfridges)

Yes, I know that sounds potentially like the best hotel in Myanmar, but no - it exists, it is very very good, and so, is about to disappear.

It is on National Express East Anglia - between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Not all trains, but around every second train at peak times during the week, including the middle of the day, there is a restaurant car on the train - available to all classes, serving excellent food with fantastic service. I've had breakfasts twice and dinner once on this service, and will have it for the last time later this week. You see National Express East Anglia has decided it can make more money replacing the restaurant car with a carriage with seats - not surprising - but it is sad for those who use it.

You see it has been full the three times I have used it. Last time I got on the train 10 minutes before departure, got one of the last seats, and the Christmas menu dishes had already been ordered. So it is popular.

and the food and service are worth it.

For £14.95 on the 0800 from Norwich on Monday 8th December, I got hot porridge, with an unlimited supply of toast and croissants, and selection of preserves including marmite. Well cooked and delicious. Apple juice and bottomless cups of coffee. Then came the eggs benedict, with two eggs, fresh smoked salmon with lemon on fresh soft buttery muffins and lashings of hollandaise sauce. I have had eggs benedict in restaurants in several countries, and this is seriously one of the best I have ever had. Better than the one I had for hotel breakfast two weeks before. The eggs cooked to perfection, the muffins lightly toasted and melting in the mouth, smooth lemony hollandaise and delicious salmon. It was decadently delicious, and with the coffee and juice, was quite a start to a day. There are plenty of hot choices.

Dinner lived up to standards as well, on the 8.30pm from Liverpool Street on 11th December, with a starter of lobster tails on rocket, a mains of grilled salmon fillet with beans and potatoes, and dessert of white and dark chocolate torte. Fresh ingredients, beautifully prepared and cooked. Salmon that melted in my mouth, a delicious sweet professional chocolate torte, as good as any I've ever had. All up £22 including drinks, complementary rolls and butter. I have had far too many meals in restaurants that aren't a patch on this food - cooked by a chef in a 20 year old train going at 100mph. All with silverware, crockery, and a total of six staff working in the carriage. For 30 patrons.

The service from the waiting staff can also show up those in many restaurants. Friendly, constantly helpful, grateful to be serving. I tipped them on the last trip generously as a result. It is only sad that apparently 40% lose their jobs with the change to the uninspiring "cafe bar" service. Clearly the price of the meals, given popularity, could've been popped up a bit to make more money - but tis a sign of the times - only one meal serving could be made in the carriage for the trip.

The restaurant car is removed for the last time this Friday - 19 December. I will be having my last dinner this Thursday evening on the service. It will be sadly missed.

By contrast, other food on trains in the UK deserves the reputation it has earnt. Virgin Trains between London and Manchester offers free food in first class, it has to be, you wouldn't pay for it. Breakfasts comprise a choice of orange and grapefruit juice, a couple of packet supermarket cereals, and then some cold toast, fried eggs, overcooked bland sausages and bacon, or slivers of toast with a small pile of (if your lucky) reasonably cooked scrambled eggs and a couple of slices of salmon. It is almost barely worth the effort AND the staff service ranges from the quite good to the utterly indifferent. Seriously - Virgin Trains should hire those National Express East Anglia catering staff that are made redundant, to teach its staff some simple courtesies - like looking like you give a damn about customers being happy.

However, I've used Virgin Trains so much my expectations are so low. £180 one way first class London-Manchester gets you 2 class service. The London-Norwich restaurant car isn't part of the fare, but anyone first or second class ticket holders, can use it. Beardie could learn something from NXEA. Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class is good, Virgin Trains has all the signs of a lacklustre monopoly.

So could Marco Pierre White. You'd think a restaurant carrying his name would carry his reputation for first class food, but Frankies in Selfridges (yes Oxford Street) was an ep

Update

Ahh been too busy, with work, planning trip home, buying presents, got a new digital camera, and really been enjoying Christmas. So there! Not going to be too much politics for now, because really it is time to forget the control freaks who think making the world a better place is telling people what to do. Bask in the joy of the mismanaged US car companies panicking like scared children begging for the Federal Government to thieve from others to save their "essential industries", when the better outcome would be to let the least competent fold, and be taken over by others. Bask in the joy of remembering Helen Clark is no longer Prime Minister of New Zealand, and think momentarily of how bloody lucky you are that you don't live in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba, Myanmar, Turkmenistan etc. Remember that - and that it isn't really luck - but the wise choices of your forebears, and those who fought tyranny elsewhere.

On a minor note I will miss one minor luxury - the best train food in Britain.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The new government's plan

Pardon me if I am unenthused. Not PC has a detailed run down of what has been announced, and his views pretty much match my own.

So is there anything to be grateful for?
- Tax cuts (modest though they will be) will be welcome, wont be enough to make a difference to the economy, and the unions will cry that the efficiently run first class service state sector wont be able to function properly without the largesse;
- Tougher bail and parole laws. Something positive here, a step towards the core role of the state actually doing its job. Protecting us from serious criminals.

Meanwhile, there is:
- More state welfare to "help people out" in the recession, when it would be better "spent" in giving people bigger tax cuts, instead of giving people another excuse to NOT be frugal;
- Think Big for the 21st century. Doing what Barack Obama has already indicated, throwing money at "infrastructure". Road projects that aren't worth it, subsidising broadband for those who want to watch more video online and can't be arsed paying for it and more. Not the slightest indication that economic efficiency will be at the forefront and squeezing out the private sector to be avoided.
- DNA testing for everyone arrested of imprisonable offences. Screw the presumption of innocence, the state will treat you as a "likely suspect" for the rest of your life whether you committed the crime or not. Of course nice card carrying members of the National Party and their families don't ever get arrested, so the only people who should fear this are probably guilty of crimes we never caught them doing right? Utterly vile - and the European Court of Justice recently ruled the UK government couldn't keep doing this either.

NOTHING substantive to address the deficit of quality and consumer influence over education or healthcare. Wealthy parents who vote National, of course, will keep paying for a private education (and paying taxes for someone else's kids' education too), middle income parents will be forced to pay for state education and can't afford to pay twice. The teachers' unions will still have the government by the windpipe on pay, the absence of performance pay and the education system will still have a centrally controlled syllabus, full of collectivist, anti-reason dogma. Education will still be the cornerstone of how the left maintains control over the minds of so many New Zealanders. ACT (and the UK Tory) policy of the relatively modest Swedish voucher model, is totally absent.

Healthcare? Likewise - not even a chance that there will be fundamental reform of this queuing based, producer/bureaucratically driven system.

Now you will have noticed tinkering, such as a conference proposed by the Families Commission being canned. Looks like a great saving doesn't it?

Why not can the whole damned thing? Oh I know why, because John Key decided, even though ACT gave him a clear majority, and the Maori Party could too, to enter into a confidence and supply agreement with Peter Dunne.

Peter Dunne, who has kept Labour in power for the last two terms.
Peter Dunne, who voted for the Electoral Finance Act, but now "regrets it" conveniently.
Peter Dunne, who IS a party of one, who couldn't have given National a majority, who has been the biggest political whore of the country since Gilbert Myles (albeit Dunne has 10x the intelligence of Myles).

I await the first bureaucracy to be completely scrapped - and I don't mean having its functions all shift into a new one, or bloating an existing one. I mean abolish it.

Families don't function any better with the Families Commission than they did before - let Dunne throw his toys out of his cot. The only people who care about this bureaucracy are Dunne and its employees.

Zimbabwe's Christmas

You wont be surprised. The cholera epidemic, the kwashiorkor, the continued harassment of MDC politicians and advisors, and Mugabe's continued lavish thumbing of his nose at the world and his people.

and South Africa's blood stained repulsive support for him. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Mugabe to be removed by force if he wont resign. The ANC continues to provide succour to this murderous corrupt autocracy, and you have noticed the mass protests against both the Mugabe regime and the ANC by those who once fought apartheid - seems that dictatorship is only worth fighting if it is racist. President Bush has called for Mugabe to go - a good Christmas present for Zimbabwe would be to arm the MDC, for Zimbabwe's neighbours to isolate it completely, except for humanitarian aid.

How many have to die before military action by Africa will save more lives than it risks?

Another year goes by and Mugabe hasn't had a bullet through his head.

So you are a Minister now...

You’ll already have had a briefing from your departmental chief executives. They will be hoping to train you, it is your job to make sure they don’t only talk to you like you are their boss, but treat them that way. There are twelve things you should make sure you do in the next two months, with whatever department you have charge of:

1. Buy, rent or borrow copies of all episodes of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister. Yes there are differences, but you absolutely, completely cannot understand how officials can treat Ministers without watching this programme. You should have seen all episodes by the time Parliament returns in the New Year.

2. Read up on the roles and responsibilities of your departments, so you know which one to ask about what. Few things will show up ignorance more than not knowing what government agency looks after what activity, because then agencies can play each other against one another.

3. Ask for all Bills in the House that your departments are servicing, seek briefings on why they were introduced, why they should proceed or be amended or defeated. Prioritise defeating those which are contrary to your policy.

4. Start negotiating what you want on the Order Paper for the New Year to get legislation introduced. Even repealing Acts requires this, so start understanding what you need to change through legislation, regulation or by your own executive decision. Legislation obviously takes the longest time, so get focused on that early.

5. Ask every official you come into contact with where the money comes from for what they seek approval for – if the answer isn’t “it is taken from taxpayers” then teach that official a clear lesson about how government is funded and the attitude that should be taken about that money.

6. Make sure you seek analysis of “do nothing” as an answer to any problem crossing your desk. Think of how “do nothing” might change behaviour by allowing people to face the consequences of their decisions.

7. Follow your instincts when you think “why does government do this”. Ask the officials why, ask what would happen if it stopped and what it would take to do this, if you don’t get a clear answer, ask for a briefing within a week.

8. If your department is full of relatively incapable and incompetent people (you ought to figure that out quickly), then seek advice from elsewhere. Treasury is a good start, but by no means enough in many cases. Generally speaking if your department can’t send you an economist or a sharp thinking analyst, it is a lost cause. Bypass it for advice, tell it what it should be doing.

9. You’ll get Ministerials (letters from the public) in droves. You’ll get officials to write responses that you’ll sign. You would save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars annually by giving this up, and letting a secretary screen letters for most of them which are from cranks and idiots. Those from people who you need to consider can be responded to, the rest should be sent a standard letter saying “Thank you. The Minister wont be responding to your letter, please direct your query to the relevant department or the private sector”.

10. You’ll get Official Information Act requests. You can’t ignore them. You have little to fear from these while you haven’t made any decisions, but it will become a check on all papers your receive on topics. Labour used to have adhoc meetings of Ministers and “non-papers” to avoid having to reveal what it really wanted briefings on. This is why you should quickly learn how to use the OIA and how it can be used against you. Learn about LGOIMA too – the local government version. You can use this to get information from local government.

11. Get an IT consultant or someone in the know to recover ALL documents from the hard drives of all computers in your new offices. Demand it, because it is the only way you’ll easily get copies of documents the last government had produced that it has shredded and not saved. Remember most Ministers have no damned clue how to clear this. Don’t hesitate on this one – you’ll find lots of nonsense, but get someone in the party to trawl what is found.

12. Decide early what agencies should go or be merged. Remember Labour restructured the state sector in its image, you need to do this as soon as possible. That includes getting rid of functions.

Go on, it's your honeymoon period. Don't waste it.

By the way, you'll have countless parasites seeking money and favours from you in the coming months - treat them as you would similar creatures at home.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What's wrong with Britain? Welfare culture led by the state

I'm constantly astonished by the belief held by all three main political parties in the UK that local government somehow could ever have sufficient competence to manage everything from education to law and order and welfare. This case in the Daily Telegraph, demonstrates the complete disregard local government has for the money it gets from taxpayers.

The Saindi family has seven children. The mother approached Ealing Council for housing assistance in July, and according to the law the council was legally required to find a seven bedroom property for this family. Yes, seven bedrooms. So it did. The family gets £400 a week in benefits/tax credits, but taxpayers are also paying £12,458 a month in rent to the private landlord for this property. In other words the landlord is making a killing from taxpayers - because the Labour government forces councils to find accommodation for families, regardless of cost.

On top of that the system "enables landlords to find out the maximum amount of money available before a price is agreed", so it allows them to completely screw taxpayers. So this one has, and has no shame about it. "Landlord Ajit Panesar, who is acting within his rights, fixed a value for his Acton property so that the Rent Service – an executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions - could advise the council what it should pay. It came up with a figure of £12,458 a month." An estate agent said that similar properties typically attract half that.

The mother's eldest son 20 said "It's not that we wanted this big house - my mum is not happy because she has to clean all of it. The first day we moved in here we got lost because it was so big". So the family would have been content with less, but no, the warm loving embrace of the Labour government, and its compliant council, is throwing taxpayers' money for people to live in a £1.2 million house - the same taxpayers struggling to pay mortgages.

Central government sets rules to force generous welfare on councils, it sets rules that allow landlords to rip off taxpayers at extortionate rates, even beyond what those receiving the benefits would seek themselves.

So the winners are:
- The Saindi family which gets a large house but pays next to nothing towards it;
- Ajit Panesar who is ripping off the taxpayer by playing with the rules;
- The bureaucrats who are paid and aren't the slightest bit accountable.

The losers are:
- Future British taxpayers who will face higher taxes or less government supplied services to pay the debt for this largesse.

Socialism is wonderful isn't it?

NZ made? so what, promote it yourself

Unless you have the intellectual breadth of a young child, the idea that taxpayers should be forced to pay for a promotion to buy New Zealand was always banal. There is no more good reason to buy a product made in New Zealand over one made in Australia, Austria, Albania, Angola or Antigua because of where it is made, than there is for someone from Karori to buy Karori made over Khandallah made. The rational consumer should trade off price and value from any commodity. That may also include an element of preferring one producer over another, for moral reasons. This is exercised by consumers across the spectrum, because of concerns over environmental, political, religious or philosophical underpinnings of producers. Governments can't predict nor should they interfere with these billions of choices that influence producers to meet what people want. It certainly shouldn't make you pay for a campaign that is about convincing people that where something is made should influence whether it is bought - rather than price and the product itself.

So, it is positive that the new government has abandoned spending any more money on the "Buy Kiwi Made" campaign. A campaign the Greens strongly pushed, as part of their own economic nationalism agenda. Believing it is moral that all New Zealanders, consumers, producers (including importers) should subsidise advertising for New Zealand made products, on the misguided notion that buying more New Zealand made goods is good for the economy.

The truth is that buying a New Zealand made product is good for the producer - it isn't good for the competitors of that producer, or producers of other things you may have bought, or even where you may have invested or saved the money. However, to create value the money you paid for that product should be worth slightly less than the product you bought. Why buy something New Zealand made if it costs more and is poorer quality than the alternative, or simply doesn't meet your needs? After all, why is the producer of the foreign made good - who used initiative to produce something that DOES meet your needs less deserving of your dollar? The only conceivable answer to that sort of discrimination is racism. After all once you have a product you like at a good price, it is up to New Zealand producers to attract business from the foreign producers - which of course, would be easier if there was free trade.

Oh yes, the Greens oppose that too, indeed have actively supported nonsense like "food sovereignty", the latest leftwing campaign against free trade in agriculture, warmly welcomed by the bleeding parasites of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, and Sue Kedgley.

However, stepping back from that, this s not to say that New Zealand producers should not, voluntarily, fund a "Buy NZ Made" campaign if it wins them business. Which they do, and have done so for many years. Air New Zealand, for example, makes a deal about being from New Zealand. However, I'm not flying it back home this Christmas simply because of price - I got a better deal in business class with Scandinavian Airlines (not quite as good but I wanted to spend the extra £1,500 on something else).

You see the government campaign was "Buy Kiwi Made" and has duplicated the privately funded "Buy NZ Made" campaign. Yes there already was and still is an industry led campaign to "Buy NZ Made". Labour and the Greens duplicated it.

Sue Bradford, well renowned economic genius, could put her money where her mouth is and financially support that campaign, and leave everyone else's bank accounts alone.

However, I somehow suspect Sue Bradford's degree of direct support for the privately run "Buy NZ Made" campaign will match the regularity of Green MP's using the train to go between Wellington and Auckland.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Why women don't need to be funny

Christopher Hitchens wrote an insightful piece in Vanity Fair called "Why Women Aren't Funny" and got an expected reaction. His point is simple, men need to make women laugh to attract them - women don't need to do that. Men use humour as a technique of seduction (you all know it, the guy making the girl laugh is a prelude to "let's go back to my place", no girl seduces a guy with humour). An interesting observation.

So watch below as he defends his position.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hitchens on Obama - prepare for disillusionment

Christopher Hitchens, who supported Obama in the US election (predominantly because the McCain/Palin campaign so infuriated him that he could not support it - despite supporting Bush in 2004) has written in Slate about the delusion of so many that everything will be better now merely because Obama has been elected:

"Those who think that they have just voted to legalize Utopia (and I hardly exaggerate when I say this; have you been reading the moist and trusting comments of our commentariat?) are preparing for a disillusionment that I very much doubt they will blame on themselves. The national Treasury is an echoing, empty vault; our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation of Bush-Cheney; the lines of jobless and evicted are going to lengthen, and I don't think a diet of hope is going to cover it."

His concern is that the threats to the Western world aren't going to go away, and that it is time for some sobriety. He worries that Obama's victory emboldens our enemies and that his supporters don't understand that more than a belief that he can make it better will make it so:

"many Obama voters appear to believe that the mere charm and aspect of their new president will act as an emollient influence on these unwelcome facts and these hostile forces. I can't make myself perform this act of faith, and I won't put up with any innuendo about my inability to do so."

Indeed - it is time for those Obama supporters who did so out of thought not blind following of a superstar to recognise the same. The USA, and the entire Western world deserves to be led by substance. The idea that he will be tested by those who wish to observe weakness in the USA remains a concern. Don't forget, Bush remains President for now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

When is Cindy Kiro going to be fired?

This woman sought to nationalise children under Labour, she continues to collectivise everyone, blaming everyone for child abuse (hat tip: NZ Conservative).

She is an authoritarian, she wants the state to monitor all children, and she engages in the philosophy of collective blame and collective responsibility.

The Commissioner for Children has been abundantly useless in its task, children are NOT safer than they were when the office was set up. It should be abolished, so parents can get a few more cents back in tax cuts to spend on their kids. Cindy Kiro will undoubtedly become an academic and continue to live suckling off the state tit, but her doggerel can be treated for what it is - the ravings of a Neo-Marxist academic.

Abused children suffer because of their parents, guardians and families that abuse them - they are predominantly on welfare, disproportionately Maori and that is not the fault of society - society is forced to pay these people to breed. It is time to focus on the offenders, not some generic nonsensical use of "we".

Seven random or weird facts

Annie Fox, Not PC and Elijah Lineberry have both tagged me for this sort of doggerel (no it's not doggerel, but I love using the word - look it up). So here goes:

1. I once was told by a previous employer to look for pornography on the internet to find out how easy it was to find, including illegal material, because her boss wanted to know what all the fuss was about from conservatives in the early 1990s.
2. I once sat on a plane next to Winston Peters. I was in business class from Wellington to Christchurch, and the only other occupant of that cabin was Lockwood Smith (on the other side of the aisle). Air NZ cheekily sat us all side by side, even though all other seats in business class (3 rows) were empty. After take off Winston grumpily moved into the front row. I wasn't unhappy with that, he didn't even say hello - none of his voters, except fellow MPs, ever flew business class.
3. I have committed at least 4 criminal offences in Malaysia given that, the first time I visited, I was with my girlfriend (2 aren’t offences if the couple is married). All of these activities are legal in New Zealand.
4. I went to school with a girl who became Miss New Zealand, although at the time I must have annoyed her intensely as I followed her around a lot (must have been about 7 or 8).
5. I was twice a telephone Santa for Telecom, which was great fun, tempered by rude kids, sad kids (wanting a sick relative to get better) and excessively flirty teenage girls.
6. I was once strip searched at a departure gate at LAX before flying to NZ shortly after 9/11, the reason being that boxer shorts with a small stainless steel button would trigger off the hand held metal detector.
7. Radio Sweden once contacted me to participate in a Q&A programme about welfare policy when I was 22, as it wanted someone from New Zealand to talk about “radical” policies.
8. I spent 10 days at a nudist club when I was 12 years old, as I arrived at night, I didn’t know what it was until I walked out of the bach one morning and noted the tall bearded man with a chainsaw, naked.

Yep I can do 8 too, and since I have not read blogs for weeks I wont tag people who I don't know haven't been tagged. I am resisting reading too much because I know if I read Frog Blog I'll get annoyed, and life is too short to get too wound up too often.

It might be my New Year's resolution - to not get wound up as much :)

Sluttiest land in the west?

Yep I'm in it. The UK according to an AAP report in the NZ Herald.

The study by Bradley University Illinois reports:

"An international index measuring one-night stands, total numbers of partners and attitudes to casual sex also put Britain ahead of second-placed Germany, with the Netherlands third, the Czech Republic fourth and the US sixth.

Researchers behind the study say high scores such as Britain's may be linked to society's increasing willingness to accept sexual promiscuity among women as well as men."

So when your son or daughter embarks on the great kiwi OE to the UK they may be in for a a bit more than sightseeing, although perhaps if they could throw together some rude phrases in Finnish going there could have more success on that front as:

"The country with the highest average score was Finland, while Taiwan had the lowest." in terms of how sexually liberal people are in thought and behaviour.

That itself is telling. If there is some truth to this, is Finland swimming in a morass of social problems any worse than many others? It has the third highest per capita reported crime figures in the world (don't be cocky, New Zealand is second) according to the UN, which of course shows that Yemen, South Africa and Zimbabwe are all safer - which of course may simply reflect that most in those countries never bother reporting. It does top suicide stats, which is interesting and sad (but may also reflect the latitude, with very long dark winters). Its high stats for rape may reflect higher levels of reporting (who can know) in a culture that is quite liberal towards women.

and Taiwan the most conservative? Hmmm.

The ACC hole?

So an apparent NZ$297 million deficit in the ACC non-earners account for this year has appeared since the election according to the NZ Herald. What is that about then?

Well let's remember what ACC is - a state monopoly on basic accident insurance that replaced the right to sue for personal injury by accident. Employment based accident insurance is covered by levies on employers, motor vehicle based insurance is covered by a levy included in the motor vehicle registration and licensing fee (and part of fuel tax), but non-employment based accidents are funded by taxes.

Virtually none of this actually reflects risk as conventional privately provided insurance does. You see the ACC principle is no fault - it by and large doesn't matter whether or not you actually were negligent or not in injuring yourself, or whether someone else did it, you all pay the same and get the same type of payments. It is egalitarian through and through, so it is unsurprising that the Kirk Labour government implemented it.

However that does pose some problems. You see, employers are readily levied, although the monopoly means levies are set at types of employment not individual employers. Risky employers don't pay more, neither do good ones pay less. Motor vehicle accident cover being part of your annual licensing fee isn't entirely unreasonable, but again the safest drivers who drive the least pay not much less (if you take fuel tax into account) than the most reckless ones. Socialism at work - everyone pays the same.

It gets worse with all other accidents. You see nobody pays any levies for that, except you do through tax. So the wealthy book reader pays far more than the poor rugby player, although the relative risks are obvious. In New Zealand you don't worry about accident insurance because your employer does it, you do it through your car and it comes out of taxes - so what do you get? A monopoly that delivers monopoly service and can't manage its own finances.

The solution is simple, get rid of the monopoly and give you back your taxes. Whoa that means you have to buy accident insurance. Yes, like everywhere else in the world.

Now it is ACT policy that all of ACC be opened to competition, that doesn't mean doing away with the compulsory aspect (if that didn't exist then the right to sue would have to be reinstated, and sadly the appetite for investigating that is very low). I think it would be a relatively simple process to change this:
1. Eliminate taxpayer funding of ACC and require everyone to pay an ACC levy for themselves and their children annually, reducing taxes by the appropriate proportion. That levy would provide the cover ACC can afford with such a levy, you could of course purchase additional cover from whoever you want. This at least exposes people to realising that this cover isn't "free" or "hidden", the real cost of accident insurance is apparent. However, it doesn't reflect risk so...
2. Open up provision of this cover to any company willing to offer it. It would remain compulsory initially, and at this point based on your risk to yourself - not others. So what happens if you don't buy it? Well you don't have any cover and you can't sue. So at least you'd have some choice and choice of service quality, but insurance companies bearing the cost of people who suffer accidents that aren't their fault will want to pass that on to those whose fault it is. After all, why should you pay a higher premium because you suffered an accident that wasn't your fault? So...
3. Insurance companies set premiums based on total risk, the risk you pose to others as well as yourself. However, in order to recover from those with inadequate cover or none, the right to sue is reimposed. What about those it isn't worth suing? Well your own insurance will cover that risk, because it is a reality of life - such people pay next to no tax now so are effectively out of the system anyway. What about those without insurance? Well they have no cover, and face being sued. Those with insurance let the insurance company cover their own injuries and injuries they cause others.

However don't expect any of this to be even raised by the current government. At the most it will challenge the ACC employer account monopoly (which National scrapped last time). So we continue with the most socialist accident insurance system in the world - a system which pay quickly, but pays poorly. You don't want to have an accident in New Zealand without additional accident insurance.

North Korea congratulates Key and Mecully

From NK News:

Congratulations to PM of New Zealand
Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- Kim Yong Il, premier of the DPRK Cabinet, on Nov. 21 sent a congratulatory message to John Philip Key upon his assumption of office as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Expressing the belief that the relations between the two countries developing on good terms recently would grow stronger thanks to their joint efforts, the message wished him success in his responsible work.

Congratulations to New Zealand FM
Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- Pak Ui Chun, DPRK minister of Foreign Affairs, on Nov. 21 sent a congratulatory message to Murray Mecully on his appointment as New Zealand foreign minister.

Expressing the belief that the relations between the two countries would further expand and develop in the interests of the peoples of the two countries in the future, the message wished the foreign minister success in the performance of his new job.

and you might expect this....

Congratulations to New Zealand Environment Minister

Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, sent a congratulatory message to Nick Smith on his appointment as New Zealand Minister for the Environment.

The Dear Leader expressed the belief that both countries could learn a lot from each other, and said that Dr Smith could learn much from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) treatment of private property rights, which were designed to suit the interests of the nation and the people. The General Secretary invited Dr Smith to visit the DPRK and learn how a low carbon economy can exist in the 21st century, with the lowest aviation footprint of any country, lowest private car ownership and minimal waste of electricity (with unnecessary lights turned off at night). He earnestly believed that the sagacious wisdom of Dr Smith would be valued in the DPRK, and looked forward to meeting him and sharing views on regulating land for environmental purposes. He wished the minister success in his responsible work.

Alright then, how angry and disappointed I am

Yes I've not been motivated to do this. I have returned from the high of being in New York to oodles of urgent work, and meanwhile there is too much negative to even start on.

Obama has demonstrated that change means trusting Hilary Clinton to look after foreign relations. Wise politically, and Clinton is more of a hawk than Obama, but change? Hardly. However, I should wait until he actually gets into office.

The UK government is making Lenin grin with more nationalisations, RBS now being majority government owned, and new Labour embarking on a borrow spend and hope plan that includes minor tax cuts (VAT from 17.5% to 15%, yes go out and spend big) and signalling future tax rises for the evil rich. The Brown government showing it lacks any imagination and has no answer to its past fiscal recklessness but more of the same.

and NZ? Oh please. The broad church government John Key has cobbled together, using three parties when one would have done nicely, is not about serious reform. ACT has effectively been neutralised by the Maori Party, which it itself has also been neutralised. Sir Roger Douglas wont be getting his second chance, and the Maori Party will, of course, face the next election with Labour being the clear alternative if its supporters aren't satisfied.

What is especially disappointing is how willing Rodney Hide appears to have backed John Key, almost unconditionally. He could have granted support as long as Peter Dunne - creator of the Families Commission, and supporters of two terms of Labour - was shut out. He could have granted support demanding the Environment portfolio to rebuff Nick Smith and as a reaction against the Greens. No.

What you've got, which makes me more angry than anything, is the despicable Nick Smith looking at reforming the RMA so that the private sector can take your land, as Not PC has already posted.

I read this days ago, and frankly I'm too livid to say anything - other than how damned pleased I am that I didn't vote for this. Has Nick Smith said he was misquoted? No. Has John Key sacked him for seeking to erode private property rights further? No. Has Rodney Hide threatened to pull support from the government if it proceeds with this? No.

National, you see, has put in place a Green Party Minister for the Environment in drag, one that doesn't pretend to care about private property rights.

You see somehow those of us who opposed Labour are supposed to be basking in the glow of the change in government. Except, you see, Labour is no longer in power, neither are the Greens, Anderton or Winston First. Peter Dunne still is - funny that. He plus three other parties I didn't vote for.

So maiden speeches will come next week, which I will comment on - and perhaps this angry lack of interest in politics will subside over the next few days. I'm thinking of Xmas and New Year, relieved that Bangkok's airports are finally cleared of protestors (see I'm flying SAS and Thai changing at Bangkok to get home for Xmas!), noticing the cold and thinking more of myself than you lot who voted for a disappointing government.

My question will be this. In three years time, will you say that National or ACT met, exceeded or failed to meet your expectations? Would you vote for them again just to keep Labour out? Do those who vote Labour and the Greens do so just to keep National out (and if so why??)?

I hope I'm wrong - I hope Rodney Hide introduces a new Local Government Bill which reverses the power of general competence, and specifies the activities councils cannot do. I hope that taxes continue downwards, and that the promised "line by line" review of spending sees at least NZ$1 billion p.a. in spending cuts. I hope some government agencies are closed and their functions NOT transferred elsewhere - because they are NOT needed. I hope the welfare state is tackled head on. I hope the government refuses to approve any new spending for at least three months, so it can have some sense of sobriety about things.

In other words I hope, in three years, that I'm saying things are better. Not just not as bad as they would have been under Labour, but that there has been an improvement positively, with less government, better managed government concentrating on what matters, and then to offer a vote for Libertarianz as a vote to accelerate this.

On top of that will the so called "centre right" blogosphere (which I am NOT a part of) be content with what the government does? Will the left just plead like children "more of other people's money" for what it cares about - without actually coughing up money itself?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

29 years to the day after Erebus

and sadly another Air NZ plane crashes. The Airbus A320 was about to be returned to the airline after a lease to XL Germany expired and has been lost on a training flight off the coast of France. With 2 bodies found, the likelihood that the remaining crew (flight engineers) surviving is slim. A tragic day for the families and friends of those on board, and a reminder that training flights are not without their dangers.

Mumbai's Islamist hell

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai, not only in hotels, but even hospitals specifically targeting US and British nationals, as well as local Jews is sadly a wakeup call to us all. Islamist terrorism never went away, it remains outside the Middle East, and has now damaged India - a state not founded on religion, but on pluralism and liberal democracy.

The finger will naturally be pointed at Pakistan and perhaps Bangladesh, both which should unreservedly condemn the attacks and work closely with India, if the perpetrators are from or gain succour from those in those countries. Hopefully it wont result in the rise of Hinduism in reaction, as Hindu nationalism can be equally as virulently hateful and violent as Islamism.

It is a chance for India's erstwhile neighbours to come together to stamp out Islamist (and other) terrorism - what's the chance Pakistan has the means to do so?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back from NYC

Well it was nice to retire from thinking about politics for a number of days. Especially in New York - one remarkable city. Vibrant, continuously. With the full range of people from the very friendly to the dismissively rude, with the wonderful range of cuisine, the art (and architecture) from the Guggenheim to MOMA, to the wondrous scene of this great city from atop the Empire State Building or from the Staten Island Ferry. The enormous diversity of shops and what they sell, the diversity of service from the gracious effortlessness to the Soviet style abruptness. New York is both everything you expect it to be, plus more. There is much that could do with fixing, but I'd rather not think of that - what I do think is that it proves one point of mine above all others - you never know the USA from just one city, and I have been to several US cities in various states (California, Arizona, Nevada, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, DC, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York - not counting those I've sat in airports at).

However, the USA does have two notable qualities that make me smile - they are optimism and enthusiasm. New York has both of these, it is as if 9/11 did not happen, the dusty dark closed platform of Cortlandt Street subway station (which was adjacent to the WTC) is a was the only rather solemn reminder for me.

The optimism is what persuaded me to try NOT thinking about the world of politics while I was there. However, I will be blogging as per usual shortly. Sadly for too much that is pessimistic.

The new NZ government, a cobbled together mishmash of ACT, Peter Dunne and the Maori Party, is not, I bet, what most people who voted for those parties wanted. National has bent over for the likes of Peter Dunne, who should have been sent out to the political wilderness as an unnecessary adjunct, and his piece of pork is Transmission Gully. I will wait and see.

The UK on the other hand is going to "pump prime", meaning borrow from future taxpayers, by increasing spending, cutting some taxes (VAT from 17.5% to 15% for a year - yes don't wet yourself from excitement. Oh by the way, the EU wont allow the UK to drop it further, but no it's not some leftwing organisation is it now?) and increasing taxes on those earning above £150k.

The USA shows us that Change you can believe in actually means putting Hilary Clinton in one of the most powerful positions in the country. This lying power hungry control freak, who started some of the "I'm not sure Obama isn't a Muslim" nonsense is status quo politics par excellence. The "new politics" look rather familiar.

On that note I will make one point. In street stalls and markets around New York there are mountains of Barack Obama t-shirts, badges, hats, mugs and other miscellany - and I don't mean campaign material, but post-election. The man is a superstar, his image is everywhere and, for a moment, I believed it was good that, at least, many people are personally optimistic about the future.

However, that is sadly decimated by why they are optimistic - a politician made them so. Not by wanting to set them free. Martin Luther King Jr. sought that and spoke that. No. Obama made people optimistic because of the word "change". Little about what he proposes is new at all. People are optimistic and love Obama not because of his policies, or what he believes in (which is at best rather vague and oblique), but because of how he can speak, his background and because he is different. He is partly the creation of a news media that fell in love with him, so much of the USA followed. He has a lot to live up to - I am very sceptical that he can meet half the expectations placed upon him.

Though one thing does matter - go to New York if you can - there is so much more I want to see. It is an expensive trip from New Zealand (more than London), but cheap from Europe. It is a remarkable city, too much that is so different from every other city in the USA.

I can't believe it has taken me so long to go - and I'll go again, and again and again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So you’re going to be a Minister? Part one

Now some of you have been Ministers before, some of you will find this your first time. There are a bunch of things you need to know. If you’re friends with a soon to be ex. Labour Minister you may learn a little of this, but be wary. The last time the Nats entered government much of the public sector had already been “socialised” into Rogernomics (with some distinct exceptions). Things have changed somewhat, there are legions of bright eyed bushy tailed mediocrities in the public service who have spent up to nine years serving a pro-active interventionist government, but there are some sources of common sense. So, here’s some advice:

1. Get a Senior Private Secretary who is bright, hard working, sceptical, can handle stress and get on with as many people as possible. This will be an ally closer to you than most of your Parliamentary colleagues. Make sure you look at CVs closely and interview very carefully, this is sometime who you need a watertight relationship with.

2. Read the briefing to the incoming Minister with some scepticism, and get someone else to review it for you who may have past experience in your portfolio. Remember that departments will be reporting on initiatives started by the past government, and being free and frank with you will be new for some of them. The key is to ask what isn’t being reported on.

3. Read the CVs of your departmental Chief Executives thoroughly and ask around about the said individuals. You need to know who you can rely on, and who you can’t. They will all be professional, but remember you are the Minister, you are in charge.

4. Meet your departmental Chief Executives only after you have done points 2 and 3 above. Make the first meeting a relatively relaxed affair, make it very clear what your overall strategic intentions are. DON’T be bogged down in detail (e.g. if you have transport, don’t ask about a particular road) because it will show how easily you can be distracted. Say you have a long list of questions and issues you want discussed, and in particular the purpose and value of the department, and how you could possibly justify its budget or existence. Even if you DO think it is justified, you have been elected, in part, on a platform of more frugal government. Don’t assume that the department you have command of is in fact necessary at all.

5. Read the Statement of Intent and the Purchase Agreement between the previous Minister and your department. These specify exactly what the department is meant to deliver. One of your first priorities is to amend both of these, which cannot be done until you’ve done the line by line review of what is in them and what you want the department to do. Note that if you want it to do more you’ll need the Finance Minister’s approval.

6. You might find there are Crown Entities under your portfolio or even SOEs. They will see themselves as a law unto themselves, which SOEs sort of are, but Crown Entities and Companies are not. Some of them will try to provide competing advice to your core department, some of them will think they aren’t really accountable to you at all. Understand thoroughly what they do and don’t do, what you can do, and remember if you have a Statement of Intent and Purchase Agreements with them, you are in charge.

MORE TO COME

New cabinet?

Oh please, I'd rather not comment much during my break.

For this week, New Zealand is a small country of which I know nothing.

Needless to say the tag I chose for this says it all.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thanks and a short break

Now I'm off to the US today for a while, but will be blogging there - erratically. Thank you for your support, the hit rate has been high since the US election getting around 400 - 500 a day. I may blog from the Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow tomorrow, but I will in the weekend.

Meanwhile what is going on?

Obamania continues, although his fans have to remain calm as he wont have power for a couple of months. News drips out about what he will do, around stem cell research, remove restrictions on funding support for abortion as part of aid programmes, but my biggest fear is on trade.

New Zealand awaits the mind blowing excitement of seeing what portfolio Peter Dunne gets, (racing sounds appropriate), what "Business portfolio" Rodney Hide gets (what's a bet Minister of Economic Development - the portfolio invented by Jim Anderton) and what the Maori Party gets (what's a bet it is Associate Maori Affairs and Youth Affairs). Once the Cabinet is sworn in, I'll be posting a beginners' guide to Ministers - which since I've dealt with five in my previous life as a bureaurat - does have some basis in reality.

The UK - meanwhile - languishes under the cold dead hand of Gordon Brown. If only the unprofitable black hole called the London Olympics could be abandoned!

So farewell, have fun and a rest from political mania - until the special votes are in and the new Cabinet is announced.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Turia's lack of love for Labour

Ah, way to put your foot in it Phil, warning the Maori Party about a deal with National. According to the NZ Herald, Tariana Turia took it quite simply as patronising and patriarchal - the big Labour Party warning the breakaway children not to play games with the mean ol' National Party. Turia rightfully said "Labour didn't even invite us to sit with them in the last government and our people are sick and tired of being told what to do".

That is notable, even though Turia's politics are collectivist and wacky, the one lesson is that the Maori Party doesn't want to be taken for granted. Of course it's rather stuck - the Maori Party, wisely, wants to keep its options open knowing that if it can be the party either might need in a closer race, it can use its leverage to get what it wants. After all the Maori Party isn't about less government, it is about using government to advantage Maori.

So, of course, while National seems less than willing to concede much to ACT - with 3.7% of the vote, how much will it concede to the Maori party with just over 2.4% of the vote.

and who is saying that conceding to ACT is more than likely about spending less (and taxing less), but conceding to the Maori party is almost certainly the opposite.

One thing is for sure - it will take quite a bit for Labour to get the Maori Party onside, despite Labour winning the party vote convincingly. However, I'm not looking forward to the Maori Party having much of a say - unless it really is about abolishing the dole. Of course we don't know what John Key offered, neither do most Maori, what's a bet it is about spending more of your money on what the Maori Party wants?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catherine Delahunty - the Greens' newest enemy of reason

I've written a little before about Catherine Delahunty, she is a hardened socialist who is well to the left of much of the Green Party - and one of its new intake. Her speech a year ago called "State of the Pakeha nation" (you see she likes collectivising people, as do post-modernist identity politics followers) tells much of her scary views of the world.

She dislikes democracy “democratheid (apartheid by majority) in maintaining control of Aotearoa”. Of course she has some truth to this, but she doesn’t believe in individual rights. Oh no. She thinks most of you are racist. Her view is that "pakeha" are a nation and vote as one, compared to "Maori". Her little brain can't conceive that individuals of both groups have a wide range of political opinions, from communism to nationalism to libertarianism. Identity politics followers don't accept that any member of an "oppressed group" that doesn't take a "liberation" based view of politics is truly a member of that group.

She says "there’s the flag on the Harbour Bridge debacle. How can we trust Transit to build bridges when they can’t even fly our two nations' flags together”. You see she just "accepts" the Tino Rangitiratanga flag as representing Maori, because it represents the Maori SHE associates with, though it might not represent those who vote National, ACT or Libertarianz because - well - they aren't really "Maori" from her perspective.

Think of the world she occupies. It gets worse:

“We have plenty of beaten women; gutted communities and whanau living in state housing that have never had proper electricity or water supplies. But lots of Pakeha are drinking wine and surfing, and they say so loudly without saying a word, would you please shut up about the connection between racism and poverty?” "We"? I didn't beat them Catherine, but you don't want to blame those who do. You gloss over that - it's the system, not the subculture of violent hedonistic irresponsibility - you wont ever accept that individuals are responsible for the crimes they commit, will you? Unless they aren't in a "powerless" group.

This crazy nutbar thinks that "pakeha" drinking wine and surfing should "do something" about women being beaten, or Maori living in state housing. Somehow it's "their" fault - it certainly isn't Catherine's fault - she wont spend a cent of her money or find ways to help directly - no - it's the system.

Racism and poverty - yes, people are poor in New Zealand because of racism. Forget those Caucasians in poverty - blank out - ignore. Forget those in poverty who breed without a second thought, who raise children whilst drunk or drugged, who use their kids as verbal or physical punching bags or worse - no - Delahunty says it is racism. It is the most disgusting betrayal of those victims of domestic violence. Though it is not unknown elsewhere on the left.

I'm not responsible because I don’t abuse kids, I don’t rob people, I don’t live a destructive lifestyle that produces victims in my wake because I don’t care about what happens to people around me. YOU are failing them because you remove any notion of personal responsibility from those who have failed and who raise children not only when they cannot afford them, but when they don’t even give them the common decency of love, attention and aspiration. You prefer you’re privileged finger pointing lifestyle of blaming people who have their lives sorted out for those who haven’t – it’s an irrational non-sequitur.

People like Catherine Delahunty are part of the problem, spreading their mindless delusion that individuals don't bear responsibility for their lives and how they treat others.

She goes on and on, but I'll finish with this:

“The severing from ancestors and from the land has brought us material advantage and spiritual emptiness. The denial of this condition assists us in our denial of the tangata whenua indigenous reality and justifies our control of resources.” In other words, because non-Maori came from elsewhere they are "severed from their land" (give me a bag). Spiritual emptiness? Say that to the hundreds of thousands who do have religion in their lives and those who don’t and are quite content. Control of resources? It’s called property rights, you buy, sell, discover and create what you own. You’re against them because you’re a socialist and think everything should belong to everyone.

Catherine Delahunty is dangerous, she thinks of people in terms of groups - by race at least, if not also sex. She judges on background not deed. She thinks crime is the fault of the system not the individual, but she also thinks "resources" are something that just exist, that get "distributed" instead of created and traded.

It is part of the failing of the whole mainstream media that the likes of her get into Parliament with virtually no scrutiny. Think how many regard Sir Roger Douglas as dangerous, when the likes of her is virtually unknown.

Hide not getting his way?

Newstalk ZB reports ACT is unhappy with the portfolios John Key is offering, which given ACT has already pledged confidence and supply, isn't that surprising.

In 1996 Winston gained a huge amount from National because he COULD play off Labour and National. ACT has no such bargaining power, indeed National could entice the Maori Party if it so wished, which ACT - if it were strategic, would let it. After all, what better way to shore up ACT votes than for Hide to say National gave us nothing, and went to the Maori Party - if ACT only gets consumer affairs and say local government (although that does have potential).

National, you see, wants to dictate the terms of government, which it can only do if ACT lets it. ACT rightfully is arguing that Dunne being a Minister is absurd, as he got less than 1% of the vote. Even Jim Anderton's Progressives had over 1% of the vote in 2005. Be clear, Hide can't demand to be Deputy PM, but he can demand a single major portfolio and a minor one - National needs him, unless it wants to be painted as a party that prefers the Maori Party to ACT.

I'd like Hide to get Environment and Local Government - because it would deprive these from the obvious creature who aspires to the first one.

Roy for Consumer Affairs?

Wow, gripping stuff so says the Dominion Post. A job so tough it is currently Judith Tizard's!

To be optimistic, Heather Roy should be able to run rings around the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (a subset of the Ministry of Economic Development). I am heartened by Consumer New Zealand Chief Executive Sue Chetwin saying "an interesting person to do it", which is code for "oh shit, a Minister who might not want to regulate everything so consumers are protected from their own stupidity". Sue Kedgley will be barking like the hysterical harpie that she is, but Roy should say "caveat emptor" over and over again.

Now of course she should do as I recommend and ask the MOCA chief executive what good the Ministry does, why she shouldn't recommend scrapping it in next year's budget and giving all the money back to taxpayers (who are consumers after all). The right answer is NOT because it exists due to legislation, as that will only delay the scrapping a little bit longer.

After all, three years should be long enough to do away with a Ministry that didn't exist before the fourth Labour Government - yes, this was a creation of the halcyon years of Roger Douglas and David Lange.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

John, learn from John

John Key could do worse than emulate the Auckland City Council under John Banks and Citizens & Ratepayers. Together they are slashing spending, containingAll with the intention of keeping rates under check.

The NZ Herald reports
a significant scale back in spending just to hold rates to inflation. It shows a council prepared to turn the clock back on ever growing spending of other people's money. Of course what it raises is the spectre of people who want to know why they can't get what they thought they'd get, forgetting that other people were to be made to pay for it.

After all if you want "training lights on sports field", why do you raise money for it with the sports teams or people who play there? If you think land should be bought to create parks then what is stopping you, or others like you from setting up a trust and doing just that? If you want the footpath outside your home to be fixed, why not suggest to Auckland City Council that you'll buy it and look after it yourself, of better yet let your street do it with a body corporate? All sounds a bit complicated? Well the mafia finds it easier coercing people to do what it wants too, there is more strength (and morality) in being able to convince people of the merits of what you want.

Having said that I do wonder about stormwater spending, given the hoards of money sitting in Auckland Regional Holdings (formerly Infrastructure Auckland) which has come from Port of Auckland dividends and other sources which was meant in part to go to fix the stormwater infrastructure deficit. The ARC would, of course, rather spend this money on railways.

The simple answer to those City Vision councillors and others on the left upset that their pet projects are delayed or cancelled is this - raise the money yourselves. ASK people to pay for it, forget using force use persuasion, persuade people that they should spend money on what you want.

Meanwhile, John Key might want to talk to John Banks about how his ideas could be applied at central government level, but also local government. Wouldn't it be a nice start if all councils had to trim spending to keep rates from rising above inflation? Given this is ACT policy, I would hope that this shouldn't be an issue given the country's largest local authority by value, led by an ex. National Cabinet Minister, can implement it.

After all if many private citizens and businesses are having to retrench during a recession, why should local government expect it can demand more when it can do much much less?

(Oh and in case you think I've become a revisionist on local government, I think the long term case for local government isn't convincing, which means a permanent cap on rates in nominal terms so councils engage in a permanent process of privatisation - but not enough of you voted Libertarianz to enable that policy to be negotiated into government, so...)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Armistice Day

For all who fought and died in a war of empires, states and appalling sacrifice, it is a day to remember. A day to remember all those who paid the ultimate price for the state in the "Great" War, and those who fought for our right to express our views, to vote, to live our lives as we see fit, against tyranny.

Few of us can begin to know what those who went through the First World War went through, but we can acknowledge the loss of almost a generation of young men - and know the lesson learnt.

Goff as Leader of the Opposition

And who remembers when he first promoted the student surtax for university students to pay for the cost of their education.

Yes, Phil Goff voted to privatise Telecom too.

So he is being set up as the fall guy to last a term and an election.

So Sir Roger Douglas might have some fun.

but the Labour Party is irredeemable, stuck with old solutions, entrenched with the unions, vested interests in the state sector and worshipping the totem of state provided health and education of a uniform standard, and sticking with it, even if it is appallingly bad in some places.

So who's new then?

Having said goodbye to a whole bunch of MPs, we shouldn't forget that it isn't the end of the story. We're getting another lot, and one more! Don't blame me, I didn't vote for any of them!

Now David Farrar has kindly provided the list, and while he is generous about most of them (he does love politics and politicians a lot he does), I thought I'd do my dash through the lot to see if there are libertarian reasons to like any of them (or any other random reasons that might make up for anything else). I did, after all, go through all the Labour candidates and didn't have enough time (or commitment, or willingness to sacrifice employment) to go through the Nats. So, because it's harder this way, let's look at the parties in reverse order of number of new MPs.

The rating I'll give an MP elect is tentative, after all what WILL he or she do? However it will be fairly simple: pro-freedom, status quo or anti-freedom with a mild or a strong. Note none are libertarian, being pro-freedom means compared to the status quo, it isn't necessarily consistent.

Maori Party
Rahui Katene (new MP for Te Tai Tonga) Father was cousin of Eva Rickard, she's a lawyer who graduated from Victoria, career been in Maori Legal Services and contracting as a legal consultant to iwis. Nothing that indicates much one way or the other, except she IS in the Maori Party and does mention the Marxist Angeline Greensill. Verdict: Anti-freedom given her party affiliation, but really too early to tell.

ACT
Sir Roger Douglas we all know. Roger does believe in less government, privatisation and more consumer choice, but we also know he likes efficient taxation and maintaining the welfare state and universal health and education access funded by the state. He's pro freedom, but no libertarian.
John Boscawen is significant for being behind the campaign against the EFA, that's enough to say Pro-freedom on this issue at least.
David Garrett from the Sensible Sentencing Trust is more worrying. While I'm supportive of a tougher line on crime, SST wants everyone arrested to have to supply DNA. This is further than National's policy. I'd like David to clarify what he thinks should be done. Anti-freedom if he believes in a Police state to Police us, awaiting clarification.

Green
Kevin Hague. Former Health Board CEO. History of causes from opposing apartheid to promoting Treaty of Waitangi. Another gay MP. Clearly strongly socially liberal but also keen to use the state to compel being liberal. Odds are he wants more governmet. Anti-freedom.
Catherine Delahunty Mad as can be Marxist who believes in overthrowing the capitalist system, is anti science (GE) and anti free trade. Strongly anti-freedom.

Labour
Rajen Prasad Nice guy, but as I said before he is into a carefully constructed society that wipes every tear. Now that isn't that scary when you have met the guy, he is a very gentle man, but it doesn't bode well for less government. Mildly anti-freedom
Jacinda Ardern Member for London. Look if you joined Labour this recently you have to love Nanny State. Anti-freedom.
Raymond Huo Nothing much to tell here, I'll give him benefit of the doubt. Status quo.
Phil Twyford He's firmly on the left loves government. Mildly anti-freedom.
Carol Beaumont Turned a safe Labour seat to National, is ex. CTU and believes in "activism". Wants to strengthen democracy so is deluded about the EFA. Anti-freedom.
Kelvin Davis Actually not half bad, but he's Labour. Status quo
Carmel Sepuloni Believes in participating in all levels of decision making, is involved in local government, believes in social justice and equity, so clearly approves of Nanny State. Mildly anti-freedom.
Stuart Nash. Fairly empty profile, nothing exciting here though DPF says he has real charisma (maybe why he never mentions Labour on his profile). Status quo.
Clare Curran - Dunedin South. Like I said before, vile little PR spinmistress. Promoted How to position National as the “enemies of the people”. Cheerleader of Nanny State and truth stretching. Strongly anti-freedom.
Grant Robertson - Wellington Central Into redistribution, equality and affirmative action. Strongly anti-freedom.
Chris Hipkins - Rimutaka Deluded into thinking NZ led the world on fighting apartheid and the Vietnam War, but he loves the state running health and roads. Strongly anti-freedom
Iain Lees-Galloway - Palmerston North He says "Do we continue with positive, progressive, inclusive change that delivers for all New Zealanders or do we change back to the bad old days of individualism and division? Of the politics of the few at the expense of the community" Strongly Anti-freedom.
Brendon Burns - Christchurch Central Well he's a PR hack for Labour, and got passionate about stopping the privatisation of local power companies. ugh. Anti-freedom

shudder, now the Nats, surely there is some hope here?
National
Steven Joyce. Founder of Energy FM New Plymouth, quite an entrepreneur. Managed the 2005 campaign for National. Mildly pro-freedom given background
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga - Maungakiekie. Lawyer, city councillor, involved in the voluntary sector. Who knows?
Hekia Parata - Ex bureaucrat and runs a "business" selling Maori consultancy services primarily to the state sector. Doesn't tolerate dissenting views. Anti-freedom.
Melissa Lee - Korean born journalist, not many other signs of ideology. Who knows?
Kanwal JS Bakshi Businessman who works in the voluntary sector too, and a migrant. Who knows?
Paul Quinn Big on Treaty issues, businessman, successful in sports. Hard to tell this one. Suspicious of anyone who has been part of the Treaty industry who doesn't explain what's wrong with it. Status quo.
Michael Woodhouse. Private hospital manager, got to be some hope in that. Mildly pro-freedom
Simon Bridges - Tauranga. Calming down from him slaying Winston, he's a Crown Prosecutor, and struggle if I may, I can't figure out what he believes in.
Amy Adams - Selwyn. Lawyer, fought against Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill, believes in personal responsibility. Mildly pro-freedom.
Louise Upston - Taupo. Business woman, project manager and something called a Business Excellence Evaluator (ugh). Who knows?
Todd McClay - Rotorua. A diplomat who believes "that healthcare is a fundamental right that should be affordable and available to all". Mildly anti-freedom, given his father's credentials.
Tim Macindoe - Hamilton West. CEO of Arts Waikato, is a parishioner and appears to have sought local and central government funding for several causes. That's not good for freedom. Mildly anti-freedom.
Aaron Gilmore - Yeah he's ok. Mildly pro-freedom.
Nikki Kaye - Auckland Central - Scientist, training to be a lawyer, but is partly popular due to her looks and unseating Judith Tizard. However, nothing much to say she'll do anything about freedom. Who knows?
Cam Calder - A dentist, website never mentions freedom or individuals, but talks about resourcing health and education. Status quo.
Jonathan Young - New Plymouth. Venn Young's son (As in Venn Young, Muldoon era). Teacher and preacher. Mildly Anti-freedom surely.

So, calmed down now?

Let's wait till the special votes are counted, and then the maiden speeches. Maybe they will tell us more. On balance though quite a few believers in big government and a whole bunch of people who didn't ever say what they thought the role of the state was, or mention freedom, or individuals, or what government shouldn't do.

What DID leftwing campaigners tell some people?

This report that some people rang the Police when the election results were coming through is alarming in several ways:

1. That people thought their benefits would disappear because National was being elected. What sort of untrammelled nonsense have the left been spreading about such a situation? How despicable are those who promote such lies among people who are clearly rather unhinged? How many were persuaded to vote Labour or Green or else their benefits would dry up?

2. What do people think the Police will do? Arrest John Key and Rodney Hide? Call an end to general elections? Do they think when things don't go their way the Police should be called in? How scary is that?

3. Most disconcerting is the helpless dependency of such people who think the only way forward is to remain dependent on money taken by force from others. How insipid has the welfare state become that there are people terrified at the prospect of having to earn themselves a living?

Sorry folks, it's when the word Libertarianz replaces National that you might be worried, but by then the culture would have to have changed so radically that you wouldn't be scared anymore.

Cabinet is for the National Party

Well John Key's playing hardball - it's his government and he wants his people inside Cabinet. ACT will have at least one Minister outside Cabinet and Dunne will be one too - although you have to wonder why he deserves it at all.

Should ACT be disappointed?

On one hand yes, it means not being a part of all central policy discussions by the government. Being a Minister outside Cabinet means you have command of your portfolio, and your party will be consulted on Cabinet decisions that have legislative implications.

However it may well prove to be a blessing in disguise. Being outside Cabinet ACT can criticise government decisions as it sees fit, it can maintain its identity without breaching Cabinet collective responsibility.

Remember under MMP the only parties that have ever had seats at the Cabinet table have been:
1996-1998: National-NZ First
1999-2002: Labour-Alliance
2002-2005-2008: Labour-Progressive

Not much chance to fight a generation of propaganda from teachers that Sir Roger Douglas is "scary".

World weirdly thinks National/ACT is conservative

so says CNN, so think how little you really learn about other countries from such media, when it gets this all so wrong.

Imagine a US party leader who was atheist, who led a party with openly gay members, which doesn't have a party position on abortion and who had a previous leader who was a woman who went along to a gay parade.

Funny how ACT isn't mentioned either - too hard for them to comprehend?

CBS does it too because both relied on a rather poor Associated Press article.

The Observer calls it conservative too

The BBC does a reasonable job though

The Times has an odd article with assertions like: "He surprised many when he took over the leadership of the party in 2006, after his predecessor Don Brash led National to a humiliating defeat." Who did he surprise? How was Brash humiliated taking the party from 22% to 38%? Although much of the rest of the article is quite good.

The Independent describes John Key as "a baby-faced former currency trader" but the word conservative is for "two small conservative parties, ACT and United Future". It gets it wrong twice saying "National and its allies had secured 59 seats in the 120-member parliament"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Helen Clark's foreign job?

There is another country with an ailing leader, for whom Helen Clark would provide strong leadership and be right wing.

Her anti-nuclear credentials would be put to good use, and she'd having nothing to do other than liberalise and get rid of the nuclear arsenal.

It has mountains she can climb too.

I'm not a cruel man, and the idea is rather fanciful, but if she wants to really make a contribution to peace it would be helping this tragic basket case of a country to reform.

The excuse a few on the left will use

Low turnout.

Yet Barack Obama didn't achieve 78% and his victory was somehow legitimate.

Time to take some morphine for sore losers. Under MMP voters had a vast choice, let's consider what all the parties stood for:

Labour - status quo
National - status quo with minor changes and a new team
Greens - leftwing environmentalism
New Zealand First - conservative nationalism
ACT - freer market economics and a cap on government
United Future - something between Labour and National
Progressives - something between Labour and New Zealand First
Maori Party - anything that advances Maori but something between New Zealand First and the Greens depending on who you talk to
Kiwi Party - something between United Future and New Zealand First with a Christian based moral tinge
Family Party - evangelically led Christian theocracy
Bill and Ben Party - having fun and a bit of a joke while voting
ALCP - Legalise cannabis then we disband
Pacific Party - Polynesian based Christian morality
Alliance - socialism
Democrats for Social Credit - lunatic theory on money combined with conspiracy theorists
Libertarianz - individual freedom
Workers Party - communism
RAM - socialism mixed with lunatic conspiracy theorists
Republic of New Zealand Party - Farewell Your Majesty

Now there is no excuse that there isn't a choice, unless you're a Nazi, Islamist or Hindu nationalist perhaps. Indeed, the likelihood of a National led government has been pretty much on the cards for the last year or so, so if the lumpen proletariat didn't like it, they could have voted. The people have spoken - and an overwhelming majority voted against a Helen Clark led government. A majority of voters voted for a government including National or ACT.

They won, you lost, eat that.

Dear Rodney Hide

Well done Rodney, you're now the best hope (with your team) to be the conscience of the incoming government. You did better because National did "me too" far too much, and now you've brought Sir Roger Douglas back to Parliament. John Key needs you, and you want him to need you instead of the Maori Party. So, the next three years are a chance to do what Helen Clark fears, and to lead John Key down a path of reform that is meaningful.

Firstly make it clear that you will only accept a coalition agreement if you get one Cabinet and one outside Cabinet position. Sir Roger Douglas needs to have a special role, because he is too valuable to not use. Your vote partly came from people wanting him to form a part of this government, he has more experience with economic crises than the rest of you combined, him having a role should be a bottomline.

Secondly, make it clear you will support Peter Dunne as Speaker, but not in Cabinet. If a party that gets 0.9% can get a Cabinet position then all your MPs deserve one. Remember Dunne brought us the Families Commission, and that should go.

Here are some ideas when you see John later today:

1. Education. Your policy on scholarships is radical for National, but it was the policy for National back in 1987. Grab this with both hands and make it a bottom line to change education. It means taking on the unions, who are blatantly self interested and will blackmail you all with doomsday scenarios and industrial action, so it needs to be done with extraordinary planning. Go with John Key to Stockholm, sell it to him and talk about what can be done. This will have a far more profound long term impact than almost any other policy.
2. RMA. Yes your policy isn't about getting rid of it, but you understand the problems more than Key. Insist that Nick Smith doesn't get his dripping wet hands on this. He is a Green Party member in drag. The RMA needs a bottom up review as to why such legislation is even needed, and how private property rights should be at the centre of planning policy (if it must exist).
3. Local government. Yes you could have this portfolio, National hasn't a clue on this, you do. It's time to put caps on rates, to repeal the power of general competence and to require water and roads to be in arms length entities. The left's second front is in local government, you can already see the ARC holding National to ransom about electrifying Auckland's rail network.
4. Law and Order. You see eye to eye on this, and three strikes and you're out is a great policy in principle. However, you do need to do a couple of things to stop it all getting worse:
i. Refuse to support a DNA database of all those arrested for imprisonable offences. Restrict it to those convicted of violent and sexual offences. The innocent should not be under surveillance.
ii. Refuse to support "three strikes and you're out" for drug offences and other victimless crimes. Make the "liberal party" slogan mean something, and ask for a review of criminal law with the point of identifying victimless crimes.
5. One law for all. Now you wont get rid of the Maori seats, National just wont do it, but you can address funding and government that is racially based. You could suggest a threeway dialogue between National, ACT and the Maori party to handle this issue, both in terms of reality and perception.
6. Getting rid of useless bureaucracies. Produce a list of departments and agencies that could go. The Families Commission would be a good start, but the Office of the Commissioner for Children should follow. Get Sir Roger to help out, and invite John Key to nominate a couple of Nat MPs to do the job.
7. Tax cuts. Support John Key's tax cuts with one addition, farewell to the 39% top tax rate. It is Labour's envy tax, a tax on the successful, a tax on New Zealanders who would return from overseas, and it has to go at the same time as the other cuts. Yes the left will whinge and say tax cuts for the rich, but remember what "rich" means now.
8. Welfare. National said it would do a little to reform this, it's time to do a little more. Talk to Lindsay Mitchell about the DPB and steps to take to drastically curtail the criteria for claiming it, for starters no more money for additional children whilst on it.
9. Trade. As I said to John Key, he, Tim Groser and perhaps Sir Roger should all go to Washington after Barack Obama's inauguration (and then London and Brussels) to demand a rethink of global trade. That means taking on Obama's protectionist instincts and pushing for a revitalised WTO round. This is critical, make the case before the portcullis of Democratic Party protectionism shuts down hope of an open trading market for agriculture.
10. ETS. You know you need to demand a rethink here. Yes New Zealand is in Kyoto, but it need not lead the way, it's time to renegotiate and consider how best to meet NZ's national interests. A carbon tax is NOT the way, but strangling this close to bottom of the OECD economy will not see you thanked by voters.

Good luck, it's the best chance New Zealand has in the next three years to move forward.

National's first chance to pause a Labour pet project

Rail electrification in Auckland. The leftwing dominated ARC is dying for the incoming government to pay for this, with the regional petrol tax the outgoing government voted for. The NZ Herald suggests National would pay for it, I think the incoming government should get a full briefing on the economic and fiscal position before committing to it.

So whilst I'd just kill it in its tracks so to speak, here is a starting point for John Key:

1. Demand a full economic benefit/cost of the project to be independently commissioned by The Treasury, requesting data from the ARC and other Auckland councils, with support from the NZ Transport Agency and MOT. It should highlight clearly:
- Total project capital costs including optimism bias not identified by ARC, and contingency risk.
- The total operating subsidy expected after the project is completed, on a per passenger basis. Compare this to the subsidy per average bus passenger.
- What proportion of new patronage is expected to come from existing bus passengers, existing cyclists and pedestrians, existing motorists and people making new trips they otherwise wouldn't have done.
- The proportion of those costs that ARC is prepared to pay for and what it expects central government and the new petrol tax to pay for.
- The economic value of travel time and vehicle operating cost savings that motorists will gain from the project, and any reductions in public transport subsidies. This should be a range based on a host of sensitivity tests. In other words, will this reduce congestion?
- The counterfactual. What happens if this does not proceed? What more cost effective alternatives exist? This includes buses, and reforming road governance and pricing.

Auckland wont fold if this project is delayed a year, but you do need a decent view on why congestion exists in Auckland, and it isn't because there isn't an electric railway.

Meanwhile, scrap the regional fuel tax - that will help give the economy a boost, ACT should support you on this, and say that as part of the wholesale review of government spending, central government funding of railways will be put on hold beyond that contractually committed.

By the way John, send whoever your incoming Transport Minister will be, with Bill English on a fact finding tour of the USA to see how little difference urban rail projects have done there in relieving congestion, and how much money they have cost. It might give you a new insight on how to deal with Auckland local government - you might wonder why you should listen to the ARC at all given its wholesale acceptance of the Green Party dogma of railways and Smart Growth.

So while I would scrap it John, at least suspend it - let your government get officials and consultants not involved in promoting the project to review it with tight terms of reference - get the facts about how what real value this will provide.