26 February 2023

Is National's proposed water reform enough?

I've been critical of the Labour Government's Three Waters' proposals, primarily because of the bizarre excessive centralisation, the opaque accountability and the lack of any serious measures to link the provision of water services to consumers. The co-governance element has little value and is only an inching forward of a ideological agenda to change public sector governance from one monopolised by liberal democratically elected politicians to one shared with appointed tribal elites.  It is the wrong solution to the right problem.  Besides, it was the hard-left, in the Alliance, Greens and the post-Douglas Labour Party that stopped water reform in the 1990s, so why trust them now?

If it were up to me I WOULD take water off of local government, I'd vest it in companies, owned directly by ratepayers, required to make a profit and transition income away from rates, towards user fees (even if it is a flat fee).  The bogeyman of privatisation, so carefully cultivated in the 1990s, and spread through the education system and much of the media is so stultifying that even ACT is quiet on it, but I think water SHOULD be privatised by handing it to property owners.  Inevitably these companies would merge and acquire one another, going from around 60 to around 10 or fewer, but that should be led by the market, not by Cabinet directed by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and its consultants. For all of the best will in the world, the odds they know what the optimum structure of the water industry should be, are remote. 

It's fair to say the two biggest reasons people are opposed to Three Water are co-governance and loss of local control. 

Regardless of the various theories behind what people think co-governance is, the fundamental point is that it introduces Iwi appointments of half of the members of a selection panel, which itself selects the Board members for the four water entities (which have boundaries that appear to look like they suit some Iwi boundaries, rather than the structure for the water industry).  There is a point that there is traditional Mana Whenua governance of waterways, but fresh, waste and stormwater infrastructure is not about that.  It is quite different to have power over the use of waterways that might feed a water treatment/reticulation system, or may receive waste/stormwater, where there is a genuine interest in the use of the resource (and discharge into it) and the infrastructure feeding it. Indeed I think there is LESS accountability under co-governance, as it is easier for Mana Whenua to hold water entities to account if they aren't part of the management of them.

The loss of local control I care relatively little about. Local government has in so many cases demonstrated that it is incapable of taking a long-term view of water infrastructure, and certainly is uninterested in concepts like user-pays, asset management and other ideas that, I suspect for too many local politicians, are either seen as a "neo-liberal free market" conspiracy, or something confusing to rip off ratepayers. 

So National has proposed the following:

Councils (TAs and unitary authorities of course) will need to deliver a plan for how they will transition their water services to a new model that meets water quality and infrastructure investment rules, while being financially sustainable in the long-term.  The Minister of Local Government will approve such entities.

It essentially means that structural reform will be led by local government, not the DIA and Cabinet, and it gives local government flexibility to determine how best to set up institutional arrangements that will be financially sustainable in the long-term.  It seems difficult to see how this can be achieved without being entities that are politically at arms-length, that are guaranteed revenue from either user fees or a proxy for user fees (hypothecated water rates for example, particularly for stormwater services).  Commercial Council Controlled Organisations may be obvious, but it seems likely that Councils will need to cluster together to be viable.  Central Hawke's Bay, Hastings, Napier and Wairoa have talked of this, but I suspect there needs to be a lot more of that, perhaps no more than four such entities in the South Island and eight in the North Island.

Finally, there is provision for the Minister to step in if Councils are slow in providing viable proposals, which seems appropriate, although you might wonder what happens if a Council that wants to merge its services with others that don't want it.  It has potential to get messy, but options can be developed for this.

Supporting the Water Quality Regulator to exclusively target water quality. It will also cover wastewater and stormwater, with a goal to reduce or eliminate contamination of local beaches and waterways.

It isn't unreasonable to have oversight of drinking water quality, but the inclusion of waste and stormwater is odd, as this is a function of regional councils. Should regional councils lose this function?  If not, will the regulator cover others who discharge waste into waterways?  If regional councils are to retain responsibility for waterways and water catchment, then shouldn't they be expected to perform these functions, and if not, why should they have these functions?  It seems overkill.  The Water Quality Regulator should best just focus on water quality, but it also needs to be moderated itself, so it doesn't seek standards that are excessive.  There are also questions about how it will operate in relation to the water entities.

National will establish a new, independent Water Infrastructure Regulator within the Commerce Commission to work alongside the existing Water Quality Regulator (Taumata Arowai). Water services will be regulated under Part 4 of the Commerce Act, alongside other essential infrastructure such as electricity lines.

This is economic regulation and is effectively a way of ensuring oversight of the new water entities not overcharging or over/under spending on water infrastructure.  It is encouraging to treat them like electricity lines companies, although a lot of work is needed to establish the value of the regulatory base of those assets.  It seems odd that it would report to the Minister of Local Government, it would be more appropriate to report to a Minister of Infrastructure (who also looks after energy and communications).  


National is terrified of the p. word. 

The public ownership of water is not up for debate. Councils will not be able to propose water service models that involve privatisation. National’s plan is to return water assets to their rightful owners: the local communities who paid for them. We want local, public control and ownership of water assets, and that’s what this plan will deliver.

Even Rob Muldoon once considered selling minority shareholdings in Air New Zealand.  This is a pathetic surrender to left-wing scaremongering.  What is actually wrong if one or more Councils say they want private capital to invest in their water infrastructure, in a corporate model that pays dividends?  This would access new capital, and with an economic regulator there is no risk of any form of "profiteering" that Marxists claim would occur under this?  Have a backbone why wont you?  National did, after all, part privatise electricity generation and retail companies, why be scared, or is it up to ACT to propose allowing this?

Finally, what about user pays vs. rates?

The policy essentially leaves this open, so it could be user fees or could be rates based, but rates would need to be hypothecated. The only issue is that if Councils choose to go the user pays path, should there not be means to regulate Council rates downwards so they don't use it as a chance to maintain rates levels as well as user pays?  Why should only water entities have fees regulated, when Councils should have rates regulated more generally?


The proposal has merits, in fact it IS arguably enough. Just.  It lays the groundwork for water being treated as a utility, a service for consumers, and it is difficult to see how the entities that Councils propose can be viable for borrowing large amounts of capital if they are NOT commercial in some form (even in the form of consumer trusts), and it would seem easier to deliver long-term financial sustainability if there is user pays rather than rates (which are, after all, still Council determined).  However, I can imagine it might be necessary to be heavy-handed in making Councils set up entities that will be able to borrow and manage the enormous infrastructural uplift required. It also seems unlikely that central government can avoid putting significant amounts of taxpayers' money into uplifting the infrastructure deficit, but only on a one-off basis.  I suspect the end point in a few years will be around a dozen water companies. 

The fear of privatisation is pathetic, weak and disappointing, when there should be no reason to not argue for the right of local authorities to choose privatisation if they wish.  I know it's there to fend off the even more pathetic, scaremongering hysteria from the left, which will be amplified by idiotic leftwing journalists, but if you believe in local empowerment (!) then let it include the private sector. After all, most of the country's electricity lines companies and all telecommunications are delivered by the private sector, how is the party of business so terrified of it?

Still is it better than Three Waters? Yes, it is.  It has at least some requirements around performance, and oversight. It gives Councils a short time to get their act together to set up entities that will meet water quality requirements, and infrastructure investment requirements.  It is less centralised, at first, and offers more opportunity for some innovation locally, and ultimately both central government regulators will direct the water entities to deliver.

Sure it isn't what I would do, but it has the potential to get not too far away from what would be a good model for the water sector.  

19 February 2023

Good riddance to Sturgeon

Now I'm no fan of Rishi Sunak, the tax raising Chancellor (and now Prime Minister) who has shown next to no interest in embarking on the reforms necessary to raise the UK's economic performance, let alone confront the poor performance of much of the education system, or the national religion - the NHS.

However, he has done a great service to the UK, he has probably helped preserve the Union and he has eviscerate Scotland's most egregiously underperforming leaders in real terms - the odious Nicola Sturgeon, whose brand of hard-left nationalism blamed everything bad in Scotland on the English (and the Government in Westminster) and fuelled historic sectarian hatred of the Scots of the English, even though her and her Scottish National Party (SNP) had unparalleled powers over domestic affairs in the past 15 years.

The SNP has run health, education, police, transport and to a limited extent tax policy over that time, and there are no shortage of scandals.  The ferry scandal which saw the Scottish Government let a contract for new ferries to serve island communities, let to a failing local shipbuilder, which couldn't guarantee that it could build them, and which ultimately saw Scottish taxpayers bailing out the company, to build ferries years late, with the ultimate cost being 250% of the original quote. It was criticised by Audit Scotland, essentially nationalist political instincts combined with socialist economic beliefs cost Scottish taxpayers a fortune.  It even saw a PR stunt held with fake windows painted on, so Sturgeon could have a photo op.

Under the SNP life expectancy in Scotland peaked in 2014 and stagnated dropping in 2019 and since (albeit Covid may be blamed from 2020). Scotland has the lowest life expectancy of all of the UK countries. Deaths from drug abuse are the higher per capita in the developed world, having risen 88% since Sturgeon became first Minister. 

Allister Heath, editor of the Sunday Telegraph writes:

Under the Scottish Nationalist Party’s egregious misrule, Scotland was gradually becoming a failed state, but it was her quasi-religious conversion to the most extreme form of gender ideology that brought her down. Defying public opinion, common sense and reality, Sturgeon wanted 16-year-olds to be able to change the sex on their birth certificate without a medical diagnosis. This meant, among much other madness, that rapists who declared themselves to be women could be housed in female prisons.

This was supposed to be “progress”, but in just a few weeks it had culminated in her extraordinary resignation. Even more remarkably, her ousting was triggered by none other than Rishi Sunak, in his first truly conservative – and cleverest – decision since entering No 10. By vetoing Sturgeon’s gambit, he took what the centrist wimps in his party thought was a major risk: weren’t Conservative prime ministers merely meant to kow-tow to the nationalists, to avoid upsetting them at all cost? Wasn’t it the case that nobody in Scotland wanted to hear from “Tory toffs” in London, and that intervention would backfire and strengthen Sturgeon’s hand? And going so hard on a woke issue – wasn’t that ludicrous, a case of swimming against the supposed tide of history twice over?

The sceptics were wrong. A supposedly “Right-wing” stance (in reality, mainstream majoritarian cultural conservatism) turned out not just to be popular on its own merits but also political dynamite, exploding a fragile Scottish consensus. Support for Sturgeon and Scottish independence slumped. It suddenly became obvious that it is possible to confront nationalists and woke extremists – and win. Opinion is not immutable, or guaranteed to drift ever more Left-wards: a leader can galvanise and radicalise a population’s latent opposition to woke social engineering.

Scotland should have had enough of the SNP, a party that claims that its nationalism is kinder, gentler, more sophisticated "civic" nationalism, but which inflames anti-English hatred, along with abusive conduct against its political opponents, resulting in SNP supporters abusing those in politics who they disagree with:

Holly Moscrop, the 20-year-old chairman of the Young Scottish Conservatives, said she was spat at and grabbed as security staff looked on.

“It was chaos,” she said. “The protesters realised we were Tories and went crazy. They were screaming at us, calling me a Tory whore, calling me Tory filth. It was nasty. Someone grabbed my coat and tugged at it, leaning over the barrier, screaming right in my face.

“There’s always a big push for women to get involved in politics, but incidents like this show why some hesitate. You’re open to a whole other category of abuse. Not every person who wants independence is bad or is going to hurl abuse at people. But people need to look past parties and work together to stop this.”

Nationalism fuels hatred:

... Sandesh Gulhane, a senior Scottish Tory MSP, claimed Ms Sturgeon’s attempts to “inflame her base” by suggesting Scotland was downtrodden had contributed to the angry scenes.

“Nicola Sturgeon says she wants a respectful debate and then comes out and says Westminster are treating us like something on the sole of their shoe,” he said. 

“Everything she’s doing is to inflame her base, simply because, let’s be honest, they’re not delivering. So they’re whipping up their base, they’re whipping up anger and hatred. And look, it’s racist. They hate the English. That is the definition of racism. You’re hating a group of people based upon a characteristic.”

Indeed Editor of The Spectator, Fraser Nelson even gets told he's not really Scottish because of his political beliefs.  That's simply sinister:

This is why when Helen Clark tweeted approvingly of a Guardian article as follows...

I responded in kind:

Not commenting on Clark at all, but that resulted in this:

Sturgeon's SNP has made Scottish politics more divisive, has fuelled more hatred of not just the English, but also opponents of Scottish independence. The record of Sturgeon's government both in advancing a political sphere that is civilised, and in advancing its policy goals, is absymal. That Sturgeon has been brought down by an irrational and reality-evading extremist policy on trans-gender rights is pathetic, but it is worse that Helen Clark would seek to compare Sturgeon, to Ardern. I'm no fan of Ardern, but her record is not at the depths of failure of Sturgeon.

I have Scottish heritage, it's rather repulsive to simply claim Sturgeon resigned because of how "hard done" by she was by media that, in Scotland, was predominantly sympathetic to her. At what point will leftwing female politicians just accept that one of their own (particular one that fires up the sort of nationalistic and political hatred they don't promote) has screwed up, and deserves to leave power? 


There is the missing money in the SNP accounts under Sturgeon. £600,000 raised in 2017 but when accounts are filed in 2020 there is only just over £96,000 and yet only £57,000 was spent on campaigning.  This issue has still not been resolved with accusations of the Police being slow to investigate the money.  Note that CEO of the SNP is Peter Murrell, Sturgeon's husband...

who also loaned the party £107,000 which the party didn't declare initially and which Sturgeon denied knowing anything about, until it came to the media's attention.

So pardon me if I think the politician who spews out complete venom towards her political opponents deserves no sympathy.

18 February 2023

Preventing damaging cyclones

 Let's get something very clear

1.  Had New Zealand cut emissions like the  Green Party/Alliance since 1990, or any other climate change activists wanted, it would have made zero impact on whether or not the cyclone would have happened.  Even accepting that NZ makes a contribution, that contribution is 0.17% of global emissions, according to the Ministry of the Environment.  If that were zero, it would have made no difference to the cyclone.

2.  Had New Zealand cut emissions like activists wanted, along with all of their other policies, New Zealand would have been measurably poorer with less investment, lower GDP, lower population and less tax revenue for government. New Zealand would have had fewer exports, fewer imports and had even less resilient infrastructure, because the hard left would have ensured all infrastructure was underpriced (so having less money for capital) and there would have been no private investment in most infrastructure.  

and if New Zealand DOES slash emissions regardless of cost following this, the odds that another cyclone will devastate part of New Zealand do not change one iota.

Sure, I believe climate change is real and human beings contribute towards it, and efficient reductions in emissions are wise. Yet the best way to respond to the threat of climate change and the threat of natural disasters is wealth, economic growth and building infrastructure for resilience.

Whether it be back-up power for cellsites, bridges that can withstand the debris from cut forests, stopbanks or simply re-emphasising what people can do THEMSELVES for civil defence (non-perishable food, water, batteries for transistor radios).

Shutting down industries, denying people mobility they wish to pay for and kneecapping New Zealand exporters that face competition from subsidised and protected rivals in other countries makes people poorer, it makes it more difficult to pay for more resilience in road, water, communications and energy networks, which ultimately users will (and should) pay for.

It's why Japan survives big earthquakes better than Turkey.

09 February 2023

Abolish the Human RIghts Commission (but give everyone Tino Rangitiratanga)

It was 26 years ago that the Free Radical published an article calling for abolition of the Human Rights Commission (sometimes called the "Human Wrongs Commission" on Radio Liberty at the time).  The main reason for that was how egregiously the entity had been in dealing to what it claimed was unjust discrimination - such as a Wellington hairdresser that charged less for men's haircuts than women's, the Nelson strip club that charged women half price for admittance, the golf club that held a married couple's tournament (discriminating against unmarried couples!) and even weighing in on a political party's proposal to give welfare to a married couple if one spouse remained at home to look after their children.  This all seemed like pettiness pushed by a bureaucracy that was looking for issues that, fundamentally, were petty.

A lot has changed since then, the Human Rights Commission has gone from seeking to stop people being rude to one another, to being the taxpayer funded advocacy for a highly politicised, radical and controversial interpretation of human rights, and indeed of New Zealand society.  The Human Rights Commission is the public sector wing of advocates of a far-left vision of a post-liberal democratic, post-capitalist, post-modernist Tangata Whenua Republic of Aotearoa, where not just your ancestry, but your claimed identity determines who governs you, and the rights you hold.  Whether it be a state within which half of the power is held by Iwi who appoint representatives to the new people's assembly (the logical end-point of co-governance), or two nations in one, whereby Maori are governed by the laws set by their Iwi and everyone else is governed by a state that has limited power over Maori. At least, that's one way of interpreting the radical vision of the Human Rights Commission. It's inconceivable that when the Muldoon administration created this body in the 1970s that it would be seen as the taxpayer funded arm of Nga Tamatoa.

It's helpful to know exactly what the Human Rights Commission has been spending your money on

The Human Rights Commission has produced a 162 page report called "Maranga Mai!"  (don't forget the exclamation mark) which:

combines evidence-based literature and research with the first-person testimony of recognised experts in the field of anti-racism about the impact of colonisation, white supremacy and racism on tangata whenua and communities. This methodology centres and amplifies Māori voices, memories and experiences, the value of which lies in documenting lived inter-generational and cumulative insights of how Māori have experienced colonisation, racism and white supremacy

It is unsurprising that the authorship is collective:

The Tangata Whenua Caucus of the National Anti-Racism Taskforce (2021-2022) and Ahi Kaa, the Indigenous Rights Group within Te Kāhui Tika Tangata | the Human Rights Commission (the Commission), worked together on the development of Maranga Mai!

RNZ does give us a clue as to one of the key contributors, reporting that:

Co-chair of the anti-racism taskforce, Tina Ngata, said the country's constitutional arrangements such as the electoral and justice systems were based on centuries-old racist ideologies and were the root of racism here.

Now Ngata is a far-left activist who appears to see everyone and everything through the lens of structuralism - the "system" from her perspective, is designed to protect patriarchal colonial capitalism - apparently. She is also quite the romantic for life pre-colonisation.  I'm no fan of the view that colonisation was "good" overall (neither because British colonialism may have been better than others, nor the idea that Maori may not have modernised without colonisation), but I'm also no fan of fantasies of a fictional golden age of isolationist nationalism of pre-modernity. Medicine in ALL societies 200 years ago was primitive, and pretending it was "better" than today, for anyone, is deranged stuff.  Ethno-nationalism is often based on myths of a glorious past eroded by the "other".

It's a philosophy that sees malignant intent or neglect in political and legal systems that are deemed to have been designed for and to preserve identitarian privileges.  In other words, ANY system of governance cannot be based on objective principles of reason, rights and justice, systems exist only for those in power.  It is exactly the philosophy of Marxist-Leninists, that you need to destroy the system (and society, and culture, and art) of a capitalist society to liberate the oppressed proletariat. For structuralists, you need to destroy the system of the "racist, patriarchal, colonial settler" system to liberate the oppressed Tangata Whenua.

Taxpayers have paid a group of far-left radical to essentially assert that liberal democracy (one-person, one vote), albeit not constrained by any explicit constitutional limits on power is "at the root of racism", as is the common law based justice system, which has at its roots proof of fact and application (for crimes) a presumption of innocence.  It isn't about people being racist or laws being racist or government policies being racist...

Talking about a revolution...

Hence the recommendation of "Maranga Mai!" essentially for revolution as follows:

To eliminate racism throughout Aotearoa will require nothing less than constitutional transformation and we urge the government to commit to this much needed change. (emphasis added)

So a department of state wants a revolution.  It's a political manifesto. Not only that, it wants a constitutional transformation to be implemented by the government elected by a bare majority, it isn't calling on the general public, it isn't calling on Parliament (representing more than the majority government), but on the government. Pause for a moment to think where and when it is that radical constitutional transformation was implemented without broader public consent, but the Human Rights Commission is uninterested in a nation-state that is governed by the consent of the governed.

You need to understand...

Apparently "The first step in the process is for tangata whenua to tell the truth about the impact of racism on their whānau, hapū, iwi, ancestors, communities and lives".  Of course people can say as they wish, but there's no room for critical thinking here. What IS racism in this context? It isn't just individual behaviour, indeed that isn't the main issue. The narratives wanted are just that...

New Zealanders need to understand that colonisation, racism and white supremacy are intertwined phenomena that remain central to the ongoing displacement and erosion of tino rangatiratanga. The cumulative effects of this are evident in the intergenerational inequalities and inequities tangata whenua suffer across all aspects of their lives, These serious matters are the focus of this report.

Colonisation happened, but New Zealand is no longer a colony. The non-Maori citizens are not "colonisers" but people with as much right to live in the country they are born in, or admitted as immigrants in as anyone else. Inferring anything else is racist, even if it doesn't meet the definition of the post-modernists.  

Similarly, the idea that white supremacy is somehow endemic is ludicrous and deranged.  However, the New Zealand state DOES erode tino rangatiratanga, for EVERYONE, by increasing its power and diminishing the freedom of citizens and residents to live their own lives peacefully.

However, that's not what this report is about, unsurprisingly if you look at the Executive Summary....

Detailing histories of racism and white supremacy in Aotearoa is pivotal to developing an accurate awareness of the past that is sufficient to change the future.

It's not really about history though, in calling for anecdotes of the past, including recollections of what dead relatives said, it's about inculcating a culture that combines anger and hatred, with shame, guilt and repentance.  There's no room for critical thinking, and disentangling assertions, assumptions and narratives to look for objective facts.

The elimination of racism in Aotearoa requires true and authentic acknowledgement from the state that indigenous and tangata whenua rights exist.

Shut up if you disagree...

Actually it requires acknowledgement from the state that individual rights exist, but it isn't enough, because for racism to be eliminated requires individuals to think of people as individuals, not groups.  The Human Rights Commission doesn't do that, nor do the authors of this report.

You can see it in the threatening and racist tone of this language:

Also, that the continued dismissal and violation of these covenants, and Tiriti responsibilities, by the Crown and settler society must cease.

So if you are not Tangata Whenua (bearing in mind that this is a state of mind more than anything else, as all nationalisms are a psychological state), you are a member of "settler society", and you "must cease" dismissing indigenous rights and apparently Tiriti responsibilities that, in fact, do not apply to those who aren't parties to Te Tiriti (as the parties are only the Crown and Iwi signatories).

The Human Rights Commission wants you to cease arguing about the concept of indigenous rights and to cease breaching Te Tiriti.  Perhaps it needs to revisit freedom of speech, or is that a white supremacist concept too?

There is the red herring:

The reliance on the Doctrine of Discovery, to validate the New Zealand colonial state, must also cease alongside a transition to recognise Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the rightful source of kāwanatanga legitimacy in Aotearoa.

There is no colonial state anymore, and almost nobody relies on the Doctrine of Discovery. 

Give us your money...

Tangible actions will be required to atone and provide restitution to tangata whenua, while laying a foundation for healing and constitutional certainty.

Don't expect your bank account to be immune from that, it's a direct demand for taking your money (if not your land) to provide restitution to people who you have never harmed, who may even be better off than you are.  

Racism was invented by white people

There's so much in this report that is revealing, not only of the Human Rights Commission, but of the Labour Government that commissioned this report and has not dismissed it as a doorstop take this quote:

The social construct of race is based on the ideological notion of white supremacy, which is driven in society by racism (p.36)

This is nonsense, as the identification of different races was recorded by humanity thousands of years ago. The ideological notion of "white supremacy" emerged as Christian Europeans in the Middle Ages ventured forth to proselytise, albeit it was primarily religiously focused - but as were the motives of Muslim imperialists at the same time, but methinks that the authors of this report don't care much for breadth of history of many parts of the world.  Genghis Khan, one of the great imperialists and racists was no "white supremacist", but that gets in the way of a narrative of exuding guilt and shame against the vast majority of New Zealanders, and in particular parroting the US-inspired hierarchy of oppression. The anti-concept of "whiteness" is cited throughout the report, without being defined.  Of course if race is a "social construct" (it certainly is a psychological rather than a usefully objective one), then what happens if it gets ignored? Well this report isn't interested in THAT.

Racism is a primitive collectivist fear of the "other", inculcated especially by those with power either by state, religion or other form of collective governance.  Those with power don't want to share it with others, so demonising or diminishing the "other" is key, and it may not even be skin colour, it is fundamental identitarianism.  You see it in Northern Ireland and the Balkans, where people who are indistinguishable from each other physically, "other" different sides based on religious, ancestral and other claims to identity.  It's all in their heads, like all forms of ethno-nationalism.  

Europeans were (and some are) full of their own supremacy against each other, but the notion of "us" vs. "them", with little regard for universalism was commonplace throughout humanity until it started to be challenged by Enlightenment classical liberal thinking, which ultimately saw the rise of universal individual rights.

Unless your group was involved in creating an institution, it is biased against your group

Of course there is the claim that because Maori are not involved in creating institutions those institutions automatically become institutionally racist:

Institutional racism is not always obvious because the underlying prejudice hides behind complex rules, practices, policies and decision-making processes. These are framed, written and confirmed in the absence of Māori. (p.37)

So even if you can't find evidence of institutional racism, it's there. Structuralism teaches you that everyone in power sets up systems of bigotry to prejudice those in power, and because a system wasn't designed by the collective of "Maori", it is institutionally racist. You don't need evidence. Post-modernism regards evidence and empiricism to be eve

Māori in Aotearoa live under a constitutional and legal structure that is foreign to them and which derives from England (p.37)

What does this even mean? Almost nobody in a nation-state has much power to determine constitutional and legal structures, and most people in NZ are not from England. The system has evolved over many years, the electoral system has parallels to Germany, the legislation is passed by a legislature where every adult citizen has a similar say in who represents them.  It is, objectively, no more foreign to one person than another, and many would regard most of the systems and institutions of state to be alien to them. It is only by seeing everyone through a collectivist lens of "us" vs. "them" that perceives "us" finding a system foreign which mustn't be to "them".

Of course the report isn't clear on what should happen to those structures.  However, it appears it is about passing control to Iwi, so they control Maori, not the state.

You can spend a long time going through this document to find all sorts of gems, such as the need to abolish prisons:

Decolonisation, and constitutional transformation based on Te Tiriti and He Whakaputanga, necessarily involves abolishing prisons (p.92) why... because “incarceration does nothing to address the underlyingissues the person may be experiencing”

Because the man (it's mostly men) who raped you, or murdered one of your relatives or friends, should not, fundamentally, be somewhere to protect you. How dare you claim individual rights you white supremacist?  You need to think of the person who violated you or your family, because he is basically a victim.

You see...

Colonisation introduced an Anglo-Saxon centred notion of western justice based on the fundamental principle of individual responsibility. This approach minimises the personal and social circumstances of accused persons (p.89)

Individual responsibility, remarkably, predates both the Anglo and Saxon peoples, and remarkably remains central to justice systems across the world. The report blanks out that personal circumstances are relevant to some crimes, and are certainly relevant to most sentencing. However, of course, it doesn't fit the collectivist mindset, which (as in Maoist China) focuses more on the context of the person who commits the assault, rape or murder, than the act itself.

The Human Rights Commission presumably believes individual responsibility is foreign to Maori.

Of course the report wouldn't be complete if it didn't recommend expanding the powers of the Human Rights Commission. It wants legislation to...

Give full effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Te Reo Māori text) throughout the Human Rights Act 1993. This includes all institutional arrangements for the Commission

and (bearing in mind the Human Rights Commission has quasi-judicial powers)...

Include via preambulatory paragraphs definitions of racism, institutional racism, and white supremacy within the Act. (p.98)

The effect this would have on freedom of speech, and indeed on liberal democracy could be chilling indeed.

It's not all wrong though..

Now there is a LOT that can be done to liberate Maori, such as decentralising education, ending the next to peppercorn leases enforced on some Maori land, granting Iwi (and indeed all) property owners real property rights to use their property as they see fit.  There is plenty of content in the report that rightfully points out the acquisitive, oppressive nature of the state, such as the Public Works Act and the application of local body rates on Maori land, even if that land received no services or benefits from local government. There was legislation discriminatory against Maori, and legislation that generally undermined property rights and individual rights for all New Zealanders, and had egregious effects on Maori. That's what an overbearing state does.  

As a result the report effectively recommends to not levy rates on Maori land, which is fine of course, if you accept that local government should provide no services that support such land.  I doubt the Human Rights Commission wants very small local government though.

and there are seeds of freedom in constitutional reform...

Fundamental to the constitution reform the report wants is for Maori to determine their own lives and make decisions over their own resources.  This is libertarian, it is freedom and property rights.  There remain two questions though...

Is giving Maori this power actually power as individuals with the choice to act together, or purely collective entities? If it is the latter, it is just another form of government, I suspect it is the latter.

Why can this not apply to EVERYONE in New Zealand? Why shouldn't we all be able to determine our own lives and make decisions over our own resources?  The authors would be confused because they will think non-Maori have this, but they most definitely do not.  That's what liberal democracy in a mixed economy without constitutional constraints on government power generates.

Unfortunately, I doubt the vision of a series of far-left collectivist activists really is about liberating individual freedom and opportunity.

Don't be saying no...

The report concludes:

Several barriers stand in the way of fully realising constitutional transformation. The first of these is the inevitable safeguarding of the settler-colonial status quo and the economic privilege that has flowed from that for generations at the expense of Māori. The economic implications of constitutional transformation and addressing racism are significant, because “Many Pākehā won’t oppose racism if it means giving land back and supporting constitutional reform” p.102

The main barrier, surely, is not having the consent of those that would be governed. Especially if this means taking away people's own land, acquired legally and privately. It would be shades of Zimbabwe.

Note that the report effectively accepts that protest, legal or not, and indeed violence must be expected if its recommendations are not followed:

Direct action to respond to and challenge colonisation, racism, and white supremacy are important in the assertion of tino rangatiratanga, as Ihumātao and internationally, the Dakota Access Pipeline, have shown (see Smithsonian Institution, 2018; Meador, 2016). So long as the settler-colonial status quo remains, this will continue to be an effective method of resistance p.104

Direct action is a euphemism for any form of protest that can include trespass, vandalism and violence, the Human Rights Commission is almost endorsing a breaking of the rule of law.

What to do with it?

It's a political manifesto, which the Labour Government commissioned, and it should be debated. Political candidates should challenge and be challenged by the concepts and views expressed in it, and indeed there is nothing inherently wrong with reflecting on state-inflicted racism, both direct and indirect, on Maori, in New Zealand's history.  However, it seeks fundamental constitutional change which, on the face of it, would destroy liberal democracy in New Zealand and severely limit freedom of speech and private property rights. It is a call for ethno-nationalist separatism, which if it were to liberate Maori from the state, I would applaud, but it steers away from that.  For a report purportedly about liberation it calls for a lot of new state institutions and a lot of new taxpayer spending, it is a report wanting more statism, and to transfer state power to collectivist institutions that are meant to represent Maori.  Maori as individuals don't feature much here, except for anecdotes about experiences and feelings, as evidence of institutional racism (although evidence isn't needed apparently).

What it demonstrates is that the Human Rights Commission has been completely taken over by far-left ethno-nationalists who see it as a vehicle to achieve radical political change, rather than to implement government policy - unless of course, this reflects government philosophy, which it may well do.

It's easy to brush Maranga Mai! to one side as ridiculous, but it embodies a philosophy that is being inculcated across all levels of the education system and the wider state. It appears to be shared by the Labour Party, and certainly the Greens and Te Pati Maori.

The easy response would be to abolish the Human Rights Commission, which is what any libertarian would do, but it might be more clever to reform it, legislatively change its mandate to actually defend the rights of the individual to control over his or her body, property and life. Imagine if it produced reports that called for a restructure of the state so individual rights were paramount.

My expectations, however, are low. Hipkins will pretend it isn't important, but will continue to let the philosophy underlying it dominate discourse in education and the state and the state's media. National will barely touch the Human Rights Commission, as it did create it.

What is more important is to have debate and discussion challenging collectivist and post-modernist ideologies for what they are - philosophical positions - not factual renditions of events. 

Colonisation saw many atrocities committed, but it is over.  The non-Maori who live in New Zealand are not "settlers". Liberal democracy and rule of law are not invented to benefit Pakeha, and the only human rights are individual rights, for without the freedom of the individual, everyone is at risk of violence being initiated by the state, Iwi or any other collective that thinks it should govern you.

Set Maori free by setting us all free.

05 February 2023

Bribing voters with their kids' money (and undermining your own policy objectives)

As a libertarian when a government cuts taxes I am pleased, even ones that are purportedly a user fee, because in fact so much of what is collected from those user fees is not directed to services consumed by the users - in this case fuel tax and road user charges.  It would, after all, be much better if the amount collected was what is needed to pay to maintain and upgrade the roads, rather than be directed to pet projects designed to "change behaviour" (subsidise transport modes you aren't willing to pay to use),.

However, it reeks of hypocrisy, as the Ardern/Hipkins Government proceeds to undermine a land transport funding system that once was seen as a shining example in a world where political pork barrelling is so often the order of the day (see Australia and the United States).  It's much more than that though.

Remember the "most transparent government ever"? Remember the commitment to (reducing) child poverty? Remember the belief that New Zealand taking action on climate change is meant to be a demonstrable commitment to values of environmental protection?

It's all bullshit of course.

Remember when Jacinda Ardern said tax cuts would STOP not cut, but stop investment (!) in health and education? This was when National proposed just to raise income tax thresholds, so inflation and wage rises wouldn't result in fiscal creep (when your increases in pay, to offset inflation) putting you into higher tax brackets.  

Remember when National proposed a cut in fuel excise, but Jacinda Ardern said it would mean the roads would fall apart?

"It maintains our roads and it builds our transport projects so if you were to remove excise, which every government has used, you basically remove your ability to maintain roads and build new roading projects," she told AM. 

It's all bullshit of course, because Labour did just that, it cut fuel excise and road user charges, and is paying for it by using "funds set aside for Covid" which are actually borrowings that are unspent.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is maintaining these cuts in tax through till the end of June 2023, not because fuel prices are high (they have been dropping for months), but because, he says, it relieves pressure on households.

Well it does, particularly higher income households. Infometrics research indicates that the highest income households save three times as much as lower income households.  That makes sense, as they pay the most fuel tax, because they drive the most and are likely to have the largest vehicles with the highest fuel consumption, but remember this is the Government that decried tax cuts "for the rich". 

Apparently it's ok to cut taxes for those that earn the most.... if Labour does it.

Transport Minister Michael Wood even said on Newstalk ZB that the tax cut was an "investment". Here's a clue, almost every single time a politician says something, that involves your money, is an "investment", it's a lie, because you'll never get anything back from it. In this case, Wood, known as a leftie in the Labour caucus, has helped us all out...

I agree with him, tax cuts are an investment - an investment in believing people know best how to spend their own money.  It was theirs in the first place. 

What's particularly hilarious is the contortion of the tax cut.  Ignore James Shaw bloviating that it is subsidising fossil fuels

It's bullshit.

For a start, it is cutting a tax, not subsidising the market price of fuel, secondly it is just one "fuel". Diesel doesn't carry excise tax, as diesel vehicles pay per kilometre to use the roads.  New Zealanders are still pay the market price for fuel, plus (for petrol) some fuel tax and GST.  However, you can rely on the Greens to exaggerate for hysterical effect.

After all fuel tax and road user charges do not raise money for general spending, but for the National Land Transport Fund, so that Waka Kotahi can spend money on roads, subsidising public transport and now Kiwirail and coastal shipping.  They are effectively user charges so there is some user pays, although it's worth noting what this government spends the money on, and how far it has undermined the system that was once deemed best practice by the World Bank.

(From the 2021-2024 National Land Transport Programme)

69% of spending is on roads, the remainder is mostly spent on subsidising public transport and Kiwirail (26%), 4% on upgrading footpaths and cycleways and the remainder on administration and subsidies for coastal shipping.

Setting aside the 20% which actually isn't spent by the government, but comes from local government rates (on average half of spending on local roads and a bit less of public transport is from local government), 56% comes from road use fees in the form of tax on petrol, and road user charges on diesel powered vehicles, plus motor vehicle registration/licensing fees. 24% already comes from general taxes (either current or future).

By cutting fuel tax and RUC, Labour is substantially raising the proportion of money derived from borrowing from future general taxpayers, to around the same as fuel tax and RUC.  

Labour is now subsidising roads more than any government for decades.  Of course it is subsidising public transport like no government ever before, to the point that public transport users are now paying, on average, only around a quarter of the cost of paying for the bus driver and the diesel and maintaining the bus (or train). 

This is the same government that has an explicit target of cutting on average, 30% fewer km every year (50% if you live in a city) because it isn't just about climate change, it wants to mould you into a green citizen, that walks and bikes for most short journeys, rides public transport whenever it is available and just drive less. It's a centrally planned and controlled vision that doesn't respect people making the "wrong" choices, it is also supported by cutting speed limits, because it isn't just about safety, it happens to make driving less attractive compared to slower modes of transport.

However, Labour is now subsidising road use, and that includes road freight (note rail and shipping operators don't get any cut in fuel tax or road user charges, because they don't pay any, but they get subsidised anyway by other means).

So you have a Labour Government that says tax cuts (proposed by National and ACT) will threaten health and education.... but then implements tax cuts, completely blanking out the fact that this either means less money for other spending or it means more borrowing - for tax cuts.  How "sustainable" is that?

It says tax cuts will benefit the rich the most, and then implements tax cuts that do just that.

It says cutting fuel tax will jeopardise spending on transport, and then implements tax cuts on fuel.

Finally, it claims climate change is the great crisis that especially needs New Zealand, the country that emits 0.09% of global CO2 emissions  must radically change how it lives, by constraining private motoring, but then subsidises road use like no government in recent history.

Votes are much more precious that policy objectives though, as is leaving a fiscal bomb for the other side if the election is lost, although if it were up to me, the next government could think long and hard about whether it subsidises public transport and rail from general taxes anyway (assuming it wants to do that), and leaving fuel tax and RUC for roads only.

03 February 2023

Ardern's legacy isn't kindness

It's been over a week, and it's remarkable that Jacinda Ardern has simply disappeared from the politics of a country she exercised almost unprecedented levels of power over, for the previous few years. The (leftwing statist post-modernist identitarian) world has cried out "why", and far too many have come to the conclusion that it's no doubt sexism (in the country that gave her the greatest electoral mandate of any Prime Minister since 1951, and had previously had two female Prime Ministers).

However, Ardern's resignation appears on the face of it to reflect two things:

  • Fatigue from someone who isn't intellectually or emotionally able to handle the time and the stress of the position
  • Fear of an election campaign during which scrutiny will be its highest and the chance of defeat the strongest yet.
She is, after all, an almost accidental Prime Minister. She wasn't expected to become Prime Minister after the 2017 election, as National was so well ahead in the polls, it's just that National had "spent" its coalition/support partners over previous terms, and so angered Winston Peters that he chose to swing left.

Of course in this neo-identitarian political age (a variation on classic chauvinistic identitarianism), Ardern's age and sex were notable as an "achievement", enhanced by her clearly being someone who never seemed to covet the role (which is now born out by her fatigability), made her a darling of international media.  The Anglosphere in particular is dominated by mono-linguistic types who pay little attention to the likes of Sanna Marin, the Finnish (young female) Prime Minister who chose to ignore the wrath of Vladimir Putin and seek Finland's membership of NATO. A position of courage, and not remotely a position the likes of Ardern (or indeed Hipkins) would ever take in foreign affairs, as New Zealand's foreign policy since the Lange age has been to be largely weak against those that challenge Western countries (see, for example, how pathetic Ardern/Mahuta were in response to China's trade sanctions against Australia). 

Ardern was notable for embracing an explicitly sympathetic and emotional image to leadership, and for declaring how kindness in government is a virtue. This is extraordinary from a politician who has led a government that, by and large, has sought to take more of people's money, borrow more from future generations and to direct and centrally manage and control more intensely than any government since the Muldoon era. 

I suppose Ardern will regard the generosity of her government with welfare benefits to be "kindness", which of course is really kindness with other people's money.  That "kindness" certainly will have relieved some poverty, but also contributes towards a dependency on other people's money, and the labour shortage that has emerged since the end of Covid restrictions. Lindsay Mitchell has written eloquently on this noting that the number and proportion of people receiving a main benefit at the end of the last six December quarters is up 22% compared to when Ardern first became Prime Minister.  New Zealand has both a critical skills shortage, a restrictive approach to immigration and is generous to those who don't want to work, but Ardern can't connect the dots.  At no point has this government noted that being too "kind" with other people's money encourages people to be economically idle.

The reality of the "kindness" narrative is no joke to the victims of ramraid attacks, and the growth in crime, because the "kindness" is interpreted as there being an easy ride for perpetrators.  The fact so many of the victims are recent migrants who own businesses is a community that maybe sees less kindness in the rhetoric, particular the notion that the reason some young people drive cars to steal stuff is claimed to be poverty, rather than opportunistic nihilism.

Another group not feeling the kindness includes immigrants who invested time and money into New Zealand and have been told to fuck off back home leave.  The former owners of Tennyson Cafe in Napier, who migrated from France, poured $600,000 into the business, brought their children over and had to meet financial targets for the business to get permanent residency.  The pandemic, of course, got in the way, and they failed to meet the targets.

The family’s first year in Cafe Tennyson and Bistro did not go as well as hoped, but the year ended March 2020 was much better and boded well.  The Debords invested more than $600,000 in the business, and the kids Lisa, 10, and Thibaut, 12, had settled in and were thriving at a local primary school. For the past two years, while other cafes around them have closed and laid off staff, the Debords have battled on.

Immigration NZ said because the didn't meet their targets (regardless of reason) they could not be allowed to remain, local MP and Cabinet Minister Stuart Nash supported them, but of course these were the rules set by the government he is a part of and Ardern led. So imagine a family, relocated halfway across the world, setting up a successful business, contributing financially and personally to a community, being told by an unproductive minion of the burgeoning Ardern state to leave.  Claims that it was an administrative decision is ludicrous in the context of a government with a majority able to change the laws to address such discrepancies.  For someone who gained her mandate due to handling of the pandemic, it is a curious blind spot that Ardern literally couldn't care less about people from overseas who contribute demonstrably to New Zealand, being allowed to stay. It's something that foreign fans of Ardern wouldn't believe, because they think she's the antithesis of "Trump" and everything they hate, when in fact she's led a government highly sceptical of immigration, not least because of a strong streak of Maori caucus antipathy towards immigration (and trade union dislike of people who represent competition for their members - this is the left treating individuals as economic units - something that is often decried).

The legions of people who couldn't get home during the pandemic, whereas various minstrels, thespians, clowns, ball players, politicians and businesspeople were given special access to MIQ, was also the other side of the "kind" government, that granted special privileges to those who ticked the right boxes.  Ardern led a government of "pull" as Eric Crampton wrote about.  Ardern's Government was kind to the "right" kind of people, such as people working in horse racing, international film producers, America's Cup syndicate employees, minstrels performing and businesspeople with stands at the Dubai Expo.  Average New Zealanders don't have that sort of "pull".

Then there are the Afghans who helped New Zealand forces not getting automatic visas to move to NZ after the Taliban took over.  What could be less kind that for people who worked with foreign forces not being granted residency when their psychopathic totalitarian enemy takes over?  However, the Ardern Government's attitude to foreign policy was more about signalling virtue than substance.  Calling for a ban on nuclear weapons is the sort of naive student politics that demeaned Ardern, as was calling climate change her generation's "nuclear-free moment". Then again if she meant New Zealand taking action that would have no impact on a global issue or problem (which is what the nuclear ban achieved) then she might have been right.

A lot of money has been spent by the Ardern Government, yet the performance of public services continues to be woeful, not least because the incentives of prioritising the interests of vocal professional unions are not on consumers of those services.  The DHB model was poor, but centralised healthcare is unlikely to deliver innovation or pressure for efficiencies.  On education, the desire for more centralisation is clear, as diversity in education delivery is an anathema to a government full of sympathisers to teachers' unions.  The Ardern Government doesn't want parents directing schools when it has grown the educational bureaucracy in Wellington so much.

That's been the other effect, the massive growth in the Wellington bureaucracy more generally.  A 38% increase in policy analysts, a 43% increase in managers and 56% increase in information professionals reflects a bloating demand by the Ardern Government for regulatory and policy work, and little of it is about getting the state to do less, but rather to do more.  It's part of her belief system in an activist state, but this philosophy hits the reality that you can't make a lot of things "better" by just throwing more public servants at it to analyse what to do, especially since whole ranges of options are completely ruled out politically. It's telling that the Ardern Government wouldn't even look once at commercialising water, even though it has been somewhat of a success in Auckland (for fresh and waste water only), because it is only interested in options that centralise power.

Then there is whole issue of "co-governance" which means that Iwi are treated as equals in government to central and local government, and given power to choose their own people to sit alongside those chosen by election (who are ALSO chosen in part by those selecting Iwi representatives).  It also means abolishing one-person one-vote, as nearly happened in Rotorua.  The fact the Ardern Government is so willing to consider abolishing a core tenet of liberal democracy to placate Maori nationalists is far from kind. Finally Ardern's concern about freedom of speech being a weapon and wanting to suppress disinformation presents an overly confident view of the state benignly suppressing what is "bad", without suppressing what is good or even useful.  It is understandable that she is keen to see less rhetoric that supports the likes of the Christchurch shooter or those claiming conspiracies for all sorts of issues, but her inability to see the importance of freedom of speech created plenty of justifiable criticism.  Her philosophy feeds into the rhetoric of dictators from China to Russia to Nigeria to Venezuela, who simply call criticism "disinformation". 

The narrative now being conveniently trotted out about Ardern is the abuse she receives from critics, and certainly no one can justify threats of violence against her and her family.  Yet her main opponent in 2020 was Judith Collins, and abuse of her is largely brushed to one side, and of course many of those who decry abuse of Ardern are more than happy to tolerate abuse of male politicians as Graham Adams wrote in The Platform.  I'm old enough to remember the constant references to Robert Muldoon as "piggy", and the idea that somehow people shouldn't be able to throw pejoratives at women in power any less than men is rather chilling.  People have the right to call their leaders names and be rude about them, even if it is puerile and they don't like it, what they don't have the right to do is to threaten them. Ardern undoubtedly gets some nasty threats, and different ones from men because she is a woman, but it's intellectually lazy polemics to claim that the country that granted Ardern a remarkable mandate in 2020 is also dripping misogynistic hatred of women in power (despite having also granting a mandate for Helen Clark to govern for nine years), when hatred of men in power is just brushed over as part of the game.

It's good for Ardern to give up, nobody should be in the job if they find it too difficult, but just over a week on, and it is clear that Hipkins has just tweaked the dials, and done little other than give the impression he's a bit less woke-authoritarian, and he's more than willing to extend unfunded tax cuts (fuel tax/RUC discount) and say he's "reviewing" policies that Ardern and her whole government were dead keen on hanging their hats on.

What the polls suggest is that the politics of "kindness" were seen by enough of the public to be empty of substance, but it also suggests that Christopher Luxon has a fair way to convince people that his alternative is one of substance.

A key question will be whether a National-led government is actually going to embark on the sort of reforms needed to turn back the tide on the growing centralising state, and incentivise individual responsibility, entrepreneurship and freedom of choice,