Friday, September 26, 2014

Forgotten Posts from 2009 : Brown and Darling show what's wrong with democracy

Labour was been in power in the UK for 12 years. For most of that time, the UK economy has grown steadily, to the envy of some its poorer performing continental neighbours. During that time the public sector proportion of GDP has gone from 38.8% to 42%. Almost without exception every year there has been a budget deficit. As Chancellor of the Exchequer and subsequently Prime Minister, health spending has gone up by 66% as a percentage of GDP, doubling in real terms, yet the outcomes are barely an improvement. The economy of some parts of the UK, such as Scotland, is more dependent on the state sector than Hungary was in the latter days of communism.

So the last act, having ridden on a wave of asset price inflation, encouraging massive credit bubbles and then seeing them pop, has been to spend - spend - spend.  To ignore the collapse in tax revenue and the budget deficits since 2001, and to leave a legacy of overspending that the next government will have to face, and then be criticised for being "cruel" because inevitably it will cut spending on welfare, local government and other areas of social spending.

People vote time and time again for governments that spend money borrowed from future voters, and then when confronted with the true costs of those decisions, they will bite back.  What chance the next Conservative government will be a one term government because Labour's client welfare recipients and public servants will bite back.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland votes No

It might have been fear about money.

It might have been dislike for Alex Salmond.

but Scotland voted to remain in the UK.

and so nationalists and socialists in Scotland, and those wanting to kneecap the UK worldwide will weep.

I'm having sparking wine in the Air NZ Koru Club in Auckland Airport....

but it isn't over, since the three main Westminster parties promised substantially greater devolution to Scotland as a last minute bribe.  That means the West Lothian question - the issue that Scottish MPs elected to the House of Commons get to vote on matters that do not affect Scotland - is unresolved.

That is now front and centre.

2014 New Zealand voting guide for lovers of liberty

1. Is there a positive candidate to endorse?
2. Is there a likely winner worthy of tactically voting to eject because he or she is so odious??
3. Is there a tolerable "least worst" candidate?

So I list by electorate, the status of the electorate and who I am endorsing, then if you care, an explanation why.  Just search for the name unless you want to have a very long read...  and of course I am happy to see contrary views expressed.  I am updating this as I am on a series of flights in the next couple of days, and it is dependent on the gap between flights, wifi access and access to laptop power...

2014 New Zealand voting guide for lovers of liberty complete

1. Is there a positive candidate to endorse?
2. Is there a likely winner worthy of tactically voting to eject because he or she is so odious??
3. Is there a tolerable "least worst" candidate?

So I list by electorate, the status of the electorate and who I am endorsing, then if you care, an explanation why.  Just search for the name unless you want to have a very long read...  and of course I am happy to see contrary views expressed.  I am updating this as I am on a series of flights in the next couple of days, and it is dependent on the gap between flights, wifi access and access to laptop power...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Scotland should vote No

Today is the day that most of the Scottish electorate get to decide whether they want Scotland to break away from the UK and be an independent country.  

Well independent notwithstanding the passionate desire by its First Minister to tie it to the Pound Sterling, meaning that its monetary policy and by default fiscal policy (as it will affect public borrowing) will be driven by the Bank of England.  

Now that isn't a bad thing in itself, for if Scotland were to be truly independent, you can imagine the Scottish Pound being worth much less than the already devalued Pound Sterling, primarily because virtually all of the advocates for independence are socialists, committed primarily not to the earning of wealth, but the taking of it and "redistributing it" to those they deem worthy.   Such a vision isn't one that inspires confidence in money created out of nothing.

Furthermore, "independent" Scotland aspires to be a member of the EU, as it will lose EU membership the day it breaks away from it, and seeks to be a member so it can "earn" its cut of subsidies etc, although curiously the "Yes" campaign seems to think Scotland could be like Norway - except, of course, Norway has its own relatively solid currency and is not a member of the EU, because it doesn't want to share its wealth with Bulgaria or Greece, or its fisheries with anyone else.

"Independent" Scotland of course is happy to share its fisheries with the subsidised fleets of the rest of the EU.

"Independent" Scotland will still have the Windsors as head of state.

All of that is just political posturing by a campaign led by a megalomaniacal habitual liar.

There are solid reasons to not vote for independence, but there are also arguments in favour of the union.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Comparing parties' transport policies (in progress)

Given the blogosphere in NZ in terms of transport policy debate is dominated by one (well-meaning) blog that is almost entirely focused on one dimension of transport (how people move about in cities, specifically one city), and with one philosophical perspective (central planning, state funded, as opposed to market driven, user funded), I thought I'd do a quick review of parties' transport policies for this election.

My test for them all is:

1. Understanding of the transport sector:  Most politicians don't know who owns what, who is responsible for what and what exists and doesn't exist.  Those that do deserve some credit.

2. Support for competition, innovation and entrepreneurship:  New entry both of operators and vehicle types, and new modes of transport should generally be encouraged.  This includes those who wish to do what the government fails to do.

3. User pays:  Taxpayers generally shouldn't be subsidising users of transport services or infrastructure, but it does allow cross-subsidisation of marginal users of networks that are inefficient to charge for (e.g. footpaths).  Infrastructure costs should generally be recovered by users of those networks, not by other network users.

4. Economic rationalism:  Where the state does intervene, the net economic benefits should exceed costs, demonstrably.  This includes spending and reducing compliance costs for unnecessary regulations.

5. Wider impacts:  Make this safety, environmental and social impacts, and say I'm being soft.  What this basically means is, will the policy help or hinder reductions in accidents, noxious pollution, and improve people's ability to access what they want (bearing in mind the impacts on others who may have to bear the costs of the measures).

I'll give each a score out of 5, giving a total possible score of 25.  Bear in mind I am looking at land, air and sea transport.  Any party that says nothing about any mode is presumed to agree with the status quo, which is generous I believe.  I am guided only by the parties' expressed policies online, unless there is a statement by a leader or leading spokesperson that gives cause to vary this.


National: 5, 3, 3, 2, 3 = 16 out of 25.  It's about big roads, some of which aren't good value for money, some of which are.  There's a lot for public transport, not enough for the fundamentalists, and spending on Kiwirail is likely to be the best last chance it gets to show it is worth anything.

NZ First: 2, 2, 2, 1, 1 = 8 out of 25.  Suddenly an obsession about public transport, especially reviving long distance passenger trains. Remember the Northerner, the Southerner? They'd be back. Get rid of road user charges, replace them with fuel tax, then replace fuel tax with tolls like road user charges.  Usually silliness you'd expect from a cult that gets one member to write policy.

ACT: 3, 4, 4, 4, 3 = 18 out of 25.  It's all about roads, and having them run like businesses, with user pays for public transport and allowing the private sector to build competing roads as well.  It's light in terms of content, with nothing on other modes, but given air and sea largely look after themselves, that's not a bad thing.  It's a start, and it would mean some of the Nats' pet road projects would come under closer scrutiny.

Labour: 1, 2, 1, 1, 2 = 7 out of 25. "The current government has been obsessed with a handful of hugely expensive projects that it selected for political reasons" then Labour selects the ones it agrees with, for political reasons, including the big Auckland underground rail loop, building a new line to Marsden Point and reopening the Napier-Gisborne railway, so it can carry the 12 truckloads a week it once carried.   Lots of spending, lots of utter drivel, and it supports the so-called "congestion free network" promoted by leftwing/greenie/central planner ginger group "Generation Zero" (which will do next to nothing for congestion on the network people are prepared to pay for).  It's Green Party policy-lite and just as intellectually robust, with silliness on motorhomes and trucks not being allowed in fast lanes on motorways to give NZ First something to admire.

Democrats for Social Credit: 2, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 6 out of 25.  Central planning obsessives with weird statements like "Air New Zealand as an important means of transporting perishable goods to overseas markets".  The mental contortions required to give credibility to the funny money men adds to it (but then funny money is more common than we think).

Greens: 3,1,0,1,2 = 7 out of 25.  So much money wasted on road projects with poor economic returns, stop them and build railways with even worse ones.  Well that's not what they say, but it is the truth. The Green mantra is that walking, biking and riding rail based transport puts you into the promised land, but driving is a curse.  Those who drive are "auto-dependent" and are "forced" to use your car, and you're just aching to walk to a tram stop to wait to ride a tram with lots of other people to go to the place you want to go.  If only everyone could get about this way it would be smart. Except its not. It's a tired, old-fashioned obsession with building your way out of problems, except this is with railways and busways, not roads.  What's got to be most stupid is that unlike green parties in other countries, the Greens have ignored congestion charging as a way of reducing traffic congestion and pollution.  Politics over evidence.  

ALCP: no policy

Maori: no policy

Internet Mana: 2, 0, 0, 0, 1 = 3.  Well you didn't exactly expect much did you?  Rhetoric on nationalising parts of the transport sector that are already government owned, but the big deal is free public transport. Everywhere.  It's an old-fashioned tired old leftwing proposal that claims it would free up the roads, but what it would do is shift a lot of air by rail and bus.   It wont ease congestion, it will cost a fortune (uncosted), and don't expect any innovation or competition, but a large union dominated set of monopolies.

Conservative: no policy

MORE TO COME

United Future:

Focus NZ:

Civilian:

Independent Coalition:



More detail..

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Scotland should vote "No" on independence

Scotland matters to me.  My family came from there, hell I'm named after the place.  I have never lived there, but it is part of my heritage.  I feel warm towards it, I enjoy visiting Scotland and I grew up surrounded by Scottish accents, by elements of Scottish culture and language, and so I have an emotional attachment to the land from whence both my parents were born and raised.

From them and much of my family, I gained a keen belief in the ethic of working for a living, of reaping the rewards of that work, and in not seeking to cheat or live like a host off of the back of others who had achieved.  Call it Protestant work ethic, call it old fashioned self esteem and values, but the impression I got was a cultural background of deep respect for those who put in the effort to better themselves and their family, indeed the stories of my grandparents are of those who strived, against some family members who sneered.

So next Thursday when all Scottish residents 16+ (not people of Scottish descent elsewhere) get to vote on whether Scotland  becomes independent, has become interesting, not least because recent polling showed the strong lead for the "No" side has narrowed to being neck-and-neck.

For a libertarian who believes in a smaller state living in England, there are two compelling arguments for Scotland to say "Yes".  

Scottish voters overwhelming back statist politicians and political parties.  Take away the Scottish MPs from the House of Commons and the Conservatives would have clearly won the 2010 election.  

Scotland's economy is, despite the rhetoric from nationalists, dependent on English taxpayers to sustain a higher level of state spending than the rest of the UK, on average.  For whilst a geographic proportion of tax revenue from Scotland has meant that in some years Scotland contributes a higher proportion of UK tax revenue than it receives in spending from tax revenue, it is still not enough to balance the books.   Scotland overspends by over £12 billion per annum, so remove Scotland and the net impact is positive for UK public spending, but it doesn't mean the public finances in Scotland would be buoyant. 

I wrote in 2007 about the childishness behind calls for independence, and it still stands.

So while there is probably a bigger chance the rest of the UK would have a smaller state without Scotland, I'm asking Scotland to vote No - because that is in Scotland's interests.

I don't want to see my ancestral homeland become a new Venezuela, but moreover I don't want the UK to become smaller, weaker and less important in Europe and the world, and that is exactly what will happen.

An independent Scotland will be a minnow and far from "independent".  

It wont be independent because the intention is not to establish its own fiat currency (which would deservedly be treated with contempt), but to be in a currency union with the rump UK.  Yet all major UK political parties say they would not agree to this, and it is difficult to see how that could be in the interests of the rest of the UK, without imposing strict fiscal rules on Scotland that would limit or eliminate budget deficits for the new country and getting Bank of England approval for any sovereign borrowing by Scotland.  Getting your budget approved in London, and getting London approval for borrowing is not "independence".

If the UK government rejects a formal currency union, the Scottish National Party (SNP) says Scotland will use the Pound Sterling anyway.  That is true, but it would be limited to borrowing only the amounts it could raise at commercial rates.  That would be good for Scotland, but only if it meant shrinking the state, rather than raising taxes.   However, the socialist paradise being sold to Scottish folk can't happen.  For if taxes are raised significantly then the better off will simply leave, it isn't far to move to the UK.  Spending cuts would hit health, education, welfare and pensions, and would be a complete betrayal of what has been offered.

There is no golden egg of independence.

As a small state, Scotland wont be important or influential, or part of an influential state (which it is now).  It wants to join the EU, where its MEPs will be 2% of the European Parliament.  Yet the EU's law will bind much of Scotland's economic policies.  Scotland will have as much influence over those as Slovakia does.

The SNP says it can join the EU but not the Euro, but Euro membership is a condition of EU membership, and has been since the Euro was created.  The UK and Denmark have explicit treaty exclusions to this obligation, and only Sweden remains as the other EU Member State that has not joined the Euro and was an EU Member State at the time the Euro was created.

So Scotland joining the EU and not being required to be on the path to the Euro, would be unprecedented.  Consider also that Scotland will want exclusion from the Schengen agreement that eliminates border control between EU member states, because the rest of the UK excludes itself from it (and if Scotland did join Schengen, the UK would put up border control with Scotland).

The SNP says Scotland will join NATO, but it wants to eject the British nuclear deterrent from the Clyde naval base because it opposes nuclear weapons on Scottish soil.  It wants to be part of a nuclear weapons based military alliance, but its great contribution to that is to weaken it.  How is that credible for NATO members to support?  How can you oppose nuclear weapons, but support them protecting you, as long as you don't have to have any on your territory?

In short, Scottish independence is actually false.  What the "Yes" campaign seeks is independence, whilst using another country's currency and letting that other country veto your public borrowing and budgets.  It is independence, but joining a customs union that will write part of your laws.

However, it is more than that.  Scotland will be financially poorer, but also poorer in terms of influence in the world, and the UK itself will be poorer for that.   The UK has been a successful union, bringing together four nations (notwithstanding conflict and bigotry that plagued one of them), and growing a land of rule of law, relative freedom, prosperity and which had one of its proudest moments holding back the greatest fascist evil the world has ever seen.

I don't want Scotland to leave that, I don't want it to be poorer, I don't want it to drift off to become some northern hemispheric Venezuela, pursuing insane socialist policies on the back of declining oil revenues - because it will bankrupt itself.

Scots may be angry and upset at the recession.  Who isn't?  They may despise politicians for their gutlessness, for their failures, for their lies.  Who doesn't?  However, that is who is exactly keen for them to vote "Yes".

An independent Scotland makes politicians in Holyrood more powerful, makes Alex Salmond a bigger cheese than he is, it feeds their egos and they are willing to lie and deceive to get there.

Most of all, a vote for an independent Scotland is irreversible.

It isn't like a general election which gives a chance to boot out the bastards and reverse what has happened.

Independence is for life.

Virtually every country that has voted for independence in recent years did so largely with a massive mandate in favour, and few regrets or doubts expressed about the wisdom of independence.  These independence movements were almost always due to war or obvious history of ethnic rivalry or previous dictatorship (e.g. Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia).

Scotland's independence campaign has none of this.

I'm going to write in the next day or so about this, it's an optimistic campaign, but it is trying to sell independence on complete fiction and fear, more than that optimism.  It deserves to be consigned to history.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Forgotten Posts from 2009 : Christopher Hitches on Iran

Why wait to disarm Iran?


Iran is as much a pistachio-and-rug-exporting country as it was when the sadistic medievalists first seized power. So it wouldn't be surprising in the least if a regime that has no genuine respect for science and no internal self-critical feedback had screwed up its rogue acquisition of modern weaponry. A system in which nothing really works except the military and the police will, like North Korea, end up producing somewhat spastic missiles and low-yield nukes, as well.


If there's no saber in the scabbard, then at least don't make the vulgar mistake of rattling it.  Against this, we are at least entitled to consider the idea that a decaying regime that is bluffing and buying (or rather stealing) time on weapons of mass destruction is in a condition that makes this the best moment to do at least something to raise the cost of the lawlessness and to slow down and sabotage the preparations. Or might it be better to wait and to fight later on more equal terms? Just asking.


Maybe, just maybe, Iran has moved back from the brink.  It now appear to be with us in fighting the Islamic State, but let's not forget that the Iraqi Shi'a sectarian regime was backed by Iran.

Iran may have moved one step away from the brink, but it still sponsors Hamas, Hezbollah and so intervenes egregiously in Iraq, Syria and Palestine.  It still maintains a system that glorifies death and enslaves the population to Islamism.

Iran's case for having nuclear weapons for defensive purposes can only be if it considers itself at risk from neighbours, and Iraq under the Islamic State would be the most obvious risk.  If the West and Iran together work on nullifying that threat in Iraq, could there be a path for Iran to open up its nuclear facilities?  Or is Iran actually remaining on the path of having an option to take on Israel?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Internet Mana's job creation figures don't add up


invest $1.03 billion each year to fund approximately 100,000 temporary jobs where the labour market is not able to create jobs.

Given the goal is zero unemployment, you'd expect the jobs to be fulltime, right? 

If you divide $1 billion among 100,000 you get $10,000 (gross) per job (let's say generously that it only costs $30 million a year to administer, although I'd argue it is closer to around treble that, given the need for offices, managers, etc).  

$10,000 a year means 260 work days a year if you deduct weekends, and include full pay on all statutory holidays.  So that's $38.46 per day.

Divide that by eight hours a day, you get $4.81 per hour, around a third of the current minimum wage.

So unless Internet Mana wants jobs that involve less than 3 hours work a day (which wouldn't surprise me given its heavily socialist leanings), it proposes funding 100,000 below minimum wage jobs.

If they were minimum wage jobs, the cost would go from $1.03 billion per annum to:

$14.25 per hour x 8 = $114 per day
$114 * 260 = $29,640 per annum
$29,640 * 100000 = $2.96 billion per annum

or let's say $3 billion +

but wait...

Internet Mana wants the minimum wage increased to the so-called "living wage" of $18.80 per hour.

This lifts the figure to an annual salary of $39,104, so a total cost of close to $4 billion if you include administration (and frankly with a "living wage" minimum wage, there would be a lot of unemployment to soak up with state "make work" schemes).

So leaving aside the Internet Party and Laila Harre's commitment to cannabis law reform, and Hone Harawira's opposition to it, the party's own policies on a single website, are contradictory.


Monday, September 08, 2014

I'm voting ACT

New Zealand citizens who live abroad are entitled to vote in the New Zealand general and local elections, provided they have visited the country once within three years.  Since I have been to New Zealand no less than five times since January 2013, it was hardly an issue for me, and I do have an interest in what happens in the land of my birth.   So I am going to vote.

It is just coincidence that Peter Cresswell has written a lot of what I was going to say about ACT, that it has finally become the party I long wished it would be.  

So I'm coming out now to say I am going to party vote ACT.  

Why?  Because it offers the best (indeed only) chance at influencing a future government towards focusing less on violating people's rights, and more on protecting them.  

Yes, there is room for improvement, indeed a lot.  After all, I haven't supported ACT since the 1996 election (and in 1999 I voted for Richard Prebble in Wellington Central if not the party).  Rodney Hide was utterly disappointing as Minister of Local Government, and John Banks is far away from m position on so many issues as to have almost rendered ACT extinct.

However, there are now some people leading ACT who are, by and large, facing the way towards more individual freedom, less government where it should be doing less (whilst undertaking its core role more effectively).  The original principles of the party are coming to the fore. 

The other choices are:
  • to vote for a cozy, comfortable, corporatist National Party, which has lazily slipped into how it traditionally was on policy, by scaring people about the "other lot";
  • to vote for the "other lot", a toxic swill of an increasingly deluded Labour Party led by a smug, self-satisfied bully, grouping with an increasingly confident socialist Green Party expertly shrouding their control-freak instincts with warm words about clean rivers and child poverty, and the corrupt coalition of communists, ultranationalists and Al Qaeda supporters called the Internet Mana Party;
  • to vote for one man bands (Dunne, Peters, Horan) largely focused on their own aggrandisement;
  • to vote for a well-meaning control freak who hasn't ruled out supporting the smug bully (Craig);
  • to vote to legalise cannabis, but otherwise support any of the others;
  • to vote for various other has-beens, or funny money lunatics.
My real choice was ACT, ALCP or National.  Of course I personally support ALCP's policy, but it is highly unlikely to progress, after many years of trying, and although you can argue such a vote is "clean" from a libertarian point of view (you are voting for less government, albeit in one sense), ALCP would grant confidence and supply to any government legalising cannabis.  Including one that would take away many other liberties.  

National ought to be the party of less government, and occasionally you hear the phrases about it wanting people to keep more of their own money.  It isn't the National of Rob Muldoon, but it also isn't the National of Ruth Richardson (and even that barely was).  National will offer three more years of tinkering, more spending and will do absolutely nothing to increase individual freedom or deal effectively to the RMA or the state education system's continued dominance of young minds.

A vote for National may be "safe", but it is a dead-end for freedom.  ACT's chances this time are dependent on David Seymour winning Epsom, but assuming he can (given that ACT managed it with John Banks before), a party vote for ACT can deliver a handful of MPs, and so give National a coalition or confidence/supply partner that will influence it in the right direction.  At a time when the Maori Party is shrinking, Peter Dunne at best will lead a one man band and Winston Peters looms as the back up choice, it makes sense to support ACT now.

Could the campaign have been improved?  Hell yes.  It could have embraced a more positive message for government that is about getting out of the way, that makes it easier for property owners, that lowers taxes by scrapping agencies that few people would ever support, that emphasises school choice with vouchers that will allow far more kids to go to independent schools, that takes on the welfare state and the corporate welfare state equally (a major criticism of the left).  

It could have been the party that attacks privilege granted by the state to anyone, whether it be race based boards, corporatist claims for subsidies, trade unions seeking higher pay for public servants with no performance, monopolies, and all of the rent-seekers wanting government to give them help at the expense of others.  

ACT can survive this election and get around 2% of the vote and build upon that for a result in 2017 that is closer to the 6-7% it got in previous elections.   It can stake a place being the only party that is consistently against more welfare for business and individuals, and less tax for both.

However, that's for the future, for now ACT's transformative changes deserve endorsement.  It really is a party that we can build more freedom on.

As far as electorate votes are concerned, I'll be writing my familiar voting guide for freedom shortly, but for now it's fair to say that two electorate votes matter more than any others right now:

- Epsom - David Seymour (for the reasons outlined above).

- Te Tai Tokerau - Kelvin Davis (Labour), to evict Hone Harawira and so keep Laila Harre and Annette Sykes out of Parliament.

So how does ACT measure up against what I said in 2008 it ought to do?


Friday, September 05, 2014

Forgotten Post from 2009 : Better rules for flying

Given Flight Centre gave this advice, I thought I'd give my cut... some simple rules for people to be civilised when flying...

1. Do not congregate in doorwells or in the middle of airport areas, you're in the way.  Move off to the side.  There are other people about.

2. Take all metal off your person put it in your hand luggage, don't take liquids unless you have to. Few people are more reviled than the halfwits who don't know what security will pick up, that typically means anyone who doesn't fly often.  Here's an idea just don't carry very much.

3. Stand well away from the boarding area at the gate. You almost certainly wont be first to board. You almost certainly haven't paid for that privilege or earned it.  Let the people who subsidise the cheap seats get on first, and of course those needing assistance. You'll appreciate this when you're in the front.

4. Don't ever go forward into a cabin above your class. Only people in those cabins can go back for exercise. Again, you will appreciate this when you're in the front.  The same applies when flying business class and there is a first class cabin, you can't go there either.

5. If there isn't space in the overhead locker, put it under your seat. Take less next time, most people take too much.

6. Don't complain if you didn't pre-select your seat, it's called bad planning. The person who chose the aisle or window is unlikely to want to move.

7. If you don't like the room at your seat, then remember you could have paid more and not travelled like freight. The price of business class today is similar in real terms to economy class 25 years ago, and there are often options for premium economy or extra legroom.  Otherwise, appreciate that your discomfort leaves you money to spend on something else.

8. Don't take your shoes off unless you have a shoe bag, otherwise you'll stink out the person above where your shoes are.

9. Stay in your cabin till the people in the front have disembarked, see rule 4.

10.  Children are feared by other travellers unless they are at least school age, quiet and easily mesmerised by the individual TVs.  

Monday, September 01, 2014

Commuter rail for Christchurch? Cheaper buying them each a Porsche

I'm being a little tongue in cheek here, but the proposal from the Labour Party to spend $100 million to give Christchurch a commuter rail service is so utterly ludicrous that it deserves ridicule.

Anytime a politician says he will "invest" your money, you know that you'd never see it again, and that's exactly what would happen to the $100 million David Cunliffe wants to waste on giving Christchurch a transport service that it neither needs nor is willing to pay for.  In the USA it would be called a boondoggle, a political driven project that has little basis on market demand or economic benefit.

The policy is described here, and then here and here, showing how much effort has gone into something that isn't even important.

I nearly wrote a lengthy post pulling it apart bit by bit, but it's much easier to list what's wrong in a few bullet points.

- Christchurch last had the remnant of a local rail service in 1976 when a once daily, yes once daily, service between Rangiora and Christchurch was scrapped because of lack of patronage.  The last regular service (as in all day service like in Wellington) was between Lyttelton and Christchurch, which ended when the road tunnel was opened in 1972 (the rail service only had an advantage over driving over the Port Hills).  Before that, other services were discontinued during the 1960s as bus services proved more cost effective and car ownership rose.  Christchurch's population grew by over 50% in the period between the end of these services and the earthquake, indicating it was hardly constrained by a lack of passenger rail services.

-  It wont unclog Christchurch's roads.  The Press report says Labour intends the system to accommodate 10% of commuters from the north to central Christchurch.  Phil Twyford says there are 5000 - yes 5000 commuters making this trip (10,000 trips), so it is $100 million for 500 commuters.  That comes to $200,000 per commuter, before any operating subsidies are considered.  In other words, the price of a Porsche 911 for each commuter.  Taking about 400 cars off of Christchurch's roads every morning isn't going to "unclog" them,  it hardly makes a difference, even if it did happen.

- However, what it might do is encourage more people to live further away from the surrounding suburbs closer to the city, because it subsidises living well outside Christchurch.  That's hardly conducive to reducing congestion, nor environmentally sustainable.  It would be far more preferable to focus on finishing renewing the local road network including marking out cycle lanes, than to incentivise living well out of the city.

- A commuter rail service to central Christchurch can't even go there, as the station is 4km from Cathedral Square, in Addington.

- The $100 million is to double track the line to Rangiora, and rebuild some railways stations, but not a new central station (which can't be anymore "central" than the old one on Moorhouse Avenue), nor new trains, although the ex. Auckland ones could be relocated, if a depot could be built, and sidings to put them on were rebuilt as well.

- The rail service would replace commercially viable and some subsidised bus services, but politicians don't find buses sexy.

- The service would lose money, a 1000 trip a day railway service is a joke.  Proper commuter trains in major cities carry that number on one train.  

- If there really is demand for more public transport from the northern suburbs, it could come from commercial bus services.  Clearways could be used for bus lanes and the hard shoulder of the existing and future extended Northern Motorway could be used for peak bus lanes too, if needed.  Trains only make sense if buses are incapable of handling the volumes of demand, and that clearly isn't the case.

- Christchurch was the first major city in NZ to scrap trams, because the grid pattern street network and low density of the city meant there were few major transport corridors to support high density public transport systems, like trams (and commuter rail).  It was also the first of the big four cities to scrap commuter rail altogether (even Dunedin had commuter rail services until 1982 to Mosgiel).   In short, the geography of Christchurch is as poorly suited to commuter rail as it is well suited to cycling.

So when David Cunliffe says "The long delayed recovery of Christchurch hinges on a modern commuter system for the city"  you have to wonder what he's been smoking.
  
Really David? Really?? Not entrepreneurs investing in businesses creating jobs, and so attracting people who want to live there?  

No, David Cunliffe wants a toy, something he can point to and say "I did that", with money taken from motorists (as he wants to divert money collected from motoring taxes from roads to this pet project).  He has no real interest in reviving Christchurch by letting business do business, but to spend up on shiny projects that polish his ego - at your expense.

UPDATE: and the Green Party idea of creating a new bureaucracy called Canterbury Transport is equally ludicrous, because there isn't a governance problem.  Christchurch City Council is responsible for all roads except the State Highways, in the city (and no central government would rightfully surrender national corridors to local politics). It isn't broken up into multiple districts or cities like Auckland was.  Environment Canterbury, like all regional councils, is responsible for contracting subsidised public transport across the region, and planning urban public transport services.  Again, there is no division here.  It's far from clear what such an entity would do that is different from this.

Unless,. of course, you hark back to the "good old days" of council owned bus companies having monopolies and getting endless ratepayer subsidies. A model that saw the near continuous decline in urban bus patronage across NZ for 30 years.  You see at the moment bus services in Christchurch are operated mostly by two companies, one owned by Christchurch City Council, another by a private firm.  They typically compete for contracts for subsidised services, helping keep costs down and providing a check on performance.  The Greens are awfully fond of state owned monopolies, because you can trust politicians and public servants to be incentivised to look after customers and taxpayers' money far better than the private sector competing for both, can't you?