Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tactical voting in Epsom

Aaron Bhatnagar has the results of a push poll which show Rodney Hide statistically tied in Epsom. As he notes, the questions could be leading (though ACT hacks in his comments deny it), but regardless it should sharpen the minds of Labour voters in that seat. As Rodney is constantly reminding people, a victory in Epsom means he and maybe some friends (such as Heather Roy, Muriel Newman and Stephen Franks) get to stay in Parliament. I think stopping that from happening is an excellent reason to cast a candidate vote for Richard Worth.

Overseas voting begins

The polls have opened for overseas voters. So if you're a Kiwi reading this from overseas, and you're on the electoral roll, then you can now vote. You can do it from an internet cafe - its as simple as printing off a ballot paper and posting or faxing it in. Full details (including the finickity rules about eligibility) here.


Vandalised election hoardings are part and parcel of an election campaign, and I have to admit enjoying some of the graffiti (particularly this one). But you have to pity the Labour candidate for Ilam, who had 40 out of 45 signs stolen in a single night in what seems to be a concerted campaign by his opponents to silence him.

There are various responses you can make to this - that its thuggery, an attack on democracy, that it shows the desperation on the right - but I'll go for flippant: those responsible are simply being greedy. Remember guys, one sign each, otherwise there won't be any left for anyone else.

But seriously, if you'd like to help out Mr Blanchard, you can contact him here.

National can't deliver

One of the features of our Mixed Member Proportional system is that it virtually guarantees permanent minority government. Our political landscape makes parties unlikely to gain an outright majority, and memories of the 80's blitzkrieg mean that voters will abandon a party if it looks likely to be able to govern alone (as they did to Labour during the 2002 campaign). Instead, we prefer governments which have to depend on others in order to pass legislation, viewing this as an essential safeguard to prevent 80's-style radical reform from happening again.

This inevitability of coalition means an inevitability of compromise. Parties' election manifestos aren't so much promises of what they will do as what they would like to do, if they can get the support. The acceptance (or at least compatibility) of a party's policy position with that of its allies is thus crucial when assessing whether a party can actually implement what it promises. And here, we have a very clear difference between the parties: Labour's policies enjoy wide support among their prospective coalition partners, while National struggles to get agreement, or even to find partners at all. Their key policy - tax cuts for the rich - has been rejected by Winston Peters and rejected by United Future. The only possible partner who supports their programme is ACT - and they are unlikely to even be in Parliament. The same holds with their Maori policy - while there is more agreement, a core component, the abolition of the Maori seats, has likewise been rejected by their potential partners. Their plans for the Families Commission do not meet with the approval of Peter Dunne, while future privatisations (of LandCorp and the state-owned electricity companies) are opposed by New Zealand First. National's response has been to declare these policies "bottom lines" and insist that any partner must sign up to their complete policy platform. But this has the effect more of ruling them out of power than ruling them in.

Contrast this with Labour's position. While its key policies - zero interest on student loans, an extension of working for families - have been criticised by their preferred partners, the criticism has been that these moves do not go far enough, and there's no question of Labour being able to get the support of the Progressives and Greens to pass them. And in the event that the LPG bloc does not get a majority, the other parties have not shown the outright opposition to these policies that they have shown towards National's. The upshot is that Labour can deliver on its promises. Oh, there will be compromise, tweaking, and horsetrading, because that's what happens under MMP - but broadly, they will be able to deliver. National can't - and that holds even if the centre-right bloc gains a majority. There just isn't the necesary agreement and consensus - or the goodwill - on that side of the political spectrum for National to advance their programme. And their inability to compromise and insistence that every policy is a "bottom line" simply makes getting the necessary agreement harder, not easier.

Guest column: tax cuts and social (in)equality

By Anita

When National offered a tax cut for "all hard-working New Zealanders" I thought, as I guess we all did, "Excellent! I'm hard-working: I wonder how much they're offering" and then, having checked out their calculator and figured out exactly what to spend it on, the next thought was "How on earth will they afford it?" Again, a quick search on the net, or glance at the media answered that question. So I'm good and informed, and I can make my voting decision knowing that National is happy to pay for my overseas holiday, as long as I don't want to rely on them being able to pay for my health, education and superannuation, let alone the rest of New Zealand's.

That seems like a nice simple decision: money in my pocket or money in theirs - and when we look at it on a purely individual basis, it is that simple.

But let's say, for a moment, that we all do want the tax cut, that we do want to take the money. Why won't we all be taking a nice overseas holiday next winter?

The answer is that while we may all be hard-working New Zealanders, National doesn't treat us equally. Their tax cuts benefit the high-earning New Zealanders disproportionately. According to National’s online calculator, someone earning $25k will get $400 extra a year, someone on $100k will get $400 a month. Four times the base salary, but twelve times the tax cut.

This disparity gets even worse when we look at the gender imbalance National creates. New Zealand women earn, on average, less than New Zealand men. Measurements vary, but roughly speaking, women earn on average 85c for every $1 a man earns.1

National's tax cuts magnify that gap. On average, a woman in fulltime employment will get 65c from National for every $1 a man will get.2

The following graph3 shows how this happens. At lower wage rates, where women and men are roughly equally represented, tax cuts are tiny. At the high paid end - where men outnumber women 4:1 - the tax cuts are very generous.


This is not to say there won't be any women getting a very generous tax cut. The women earning over $100k will get the full $4,800, along with four-and-a-half times that number of men. But while, as individuals, some of us will do ok, some of us will do far far worse than ok.

The same calculations would show the same disadvantage for other groups: look at a disadvantaged group in New Zealand society, and you'll find that National will give them less than an equal share of the tax cuts. When you look at the group again, you'll find they'll be even more hurt by the spending cuts National will need to make to pay for the overseas holidays of those of us lucky enough to be the winners in this ideologically pure election bribe game.

It would be unfair to call National deliberately sexist, so we have to assume that they've fallen prey either to sloppy thinking, or to the kind of ideological zeal that just doesn't care about people. Whether they intend to or not, their proposed tax cuts would make the rich richer and the poor poorer, they would magnify the divisions within our society, and take away the supports from the poorest and most needy of our community.


  1. Based on hour-for-hour calculations (weekly earning differentials are greater). See Pay Inequality between men and women in New Zealand and Next steps towards pay equity: a discussion document [doc].
  2. The figures for all women and all men show an even greater gap, but are confused by the presence of beneficiaries in the figures. National has pretty clearly stated that they have no intention of allowing beneficiaries to benefit from tax cuts. If beneficiaries were permitted the (trivial) tax cuts National's plans would give them, then overall the average woman would receive 52c in tax cuts for every $1 a man receives.
  3. Based on 2001 Census Figures, adjusted for wage increases to give projected pay rates at 31 March 2006. Tax cuts are plotted at the midpoint for each wage band. A full spreadsheet is here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Now they have a website - Ho Ho Ho

The Tongan strikers now have a website, at Which at least should make it easier to get news on what's happening over there...

The source of those emails

ACT auctioned them over TradeMe (along with "autographed t-shirts, book posters and documents dating back to before the official foundation of the ACT party") in a desperate attempt to raise campaign funds...

Progress towards biofuels

The government has made the first step towards biofuels, announcing that it will work towards a legal requirement for blended fuel. This would involve blending biodiesel (from animal tallow) or ethanol (from whey or biomass) into the fuel supply; currently we can support a 5% blend of biodiesel, but do not produce sufficient ethanol. However, that will change, the government's public commitment to blended fuel will hopefully spur the market to produce what is required.

This is good news. Blended fuel will not only reduce our reliance on imported oil (and hence our balance of payments deficit); it will also reduce our net greenhouse emissions and make it that much easier to reach our Kyoto target. It will also establish the infrastructure and market, and allow us to progressively move towards a greater mix of biofuels as necessary.

Tactical voting

Via DPF: Che Tibby suggests left-supporters vote tactically in Tauranga:

How this works is that you give your candidate to the blue team, and your party vote to the red team. Simple. Shameful. But simple. And then it's bye bye Whinny while helping the commies get back into power.

I think NZ First will make the threshhold, so I don't think it will mean "bye bye Whinny" - but it will hurt his feelings. And I think that's a goal well worth pursuing.

I can also think of a few other places left supporters might want to vote tactically:

  • for Jim Anderton (Progressive) in Wigram, to ensure that his party gets into Parliament (ideally bringing at least one other MP with him);
  • for Jeanette Fitzsimons in Coromandel, to provide an electorate backstop for the Greens;
  • for Richard Worth (National) in Epsom, to lock out Rodney. As he says, a vote for Richard Worth equals Richard Worth. A vote for Rodney equals Rodney plus friends plus Richard Worth - all of whom would support a right-wing rather than left-wing government. Casting an electorate vote for Richard Worth improves Labour's chances of forming a government - which ought to make it a no-brainer.

These are electorate votes only, of course. If you're on the left, then you should obviously cast your party vote (the important one) for whichever part of the red team you're most comfortable with.

Ruling themselves out of power

National's playing of the race card has produced the expected response from the Maori Party: they have now ruled out any post-election deal which would see National take power. Declaring that abolishing the Maori seats is a bottom line is also likely to cause trouble with New Zealand First, who have ruled out such an extreme measure. The upshot is that National is rapidly running out of coalition options. By offending the Maori Party and deliberately placing a barrier in the road to cooperation with Winston, they have narrowed their potential support bloc down to ACT (who won't be in Parliament) and United Future (who are polling between 1 and 2 % and so will get at most 3 MPs). Which means they have effectively ruled themselves out of any chance at power.

I know it's been said before, but I'll say it again: National doesn't understand MMP. They think that they can win an election alone, or that other parties will just obediently fall into line because of their "natural right to rule". But it just doesn't work like that anymore - and hasn't since 1996. I know they're a conservative party, but you'd think National would have woken up to this, having had nine years to get used to the fact. But instead, they seem to have spent those nine years living in denial, hoping desperately that this messy experiment with democracy will go away, and that we'll all snap out of our "silly infatuation" with representative government. But I don't think that's going to happen - which means National will stay in the political wilderness until it finally begins to understand the fact that it needs friends and must compromise on its agenda, rather than enjoying automatic support simply because they're old and bald.


A vote in the Iraqi Parliament on whether MPs who hadn't turned up to enough sessions should be sacked was ruled invalid - because not enough MPs had turned up.

And now I suppose I'll be slagged off in the sewer for showing insufficient respect for Iraqi democracy or something...

Helping New Orleans

Via Daily Kos: If you'd like to help people in New Orleans, then you can donate to the American Red Cross's national disaster relief fund here.

Some facts on tax and waste

If the government spent $100 a year:

  • $20 would go on health;
  • $18 would go on education;
  • $13 would go on superannuation;
  • $11 would go on other benefits, including family support, the accomodation supplement, and ACC;
  • $7 would go on other expenses;
  • $5 would go on police and the courts;
  • $5 would go on repaying Muldoon's debts;
  • $4 would go on core government services;
  • $4 would go on roads;
  • $3 would go on defence;
  • $3 would go on the DPB;
  • $2.25 would go on the invalids benefit;
  • $2 would go on student loans;
  • $2 would go on the unemployment benefit;
  • 75 cents would go on the sickness benefit;

0.0054 cents would go on hip-hop tours.

Kindof puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

(Data from this handy chart, courtesy of Span, with additional data from the Budget 2005 summary tables and estimates for Vote: Social Development.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

New Fisk

How easily we have come to take the bombs and the deaths in Iraq for granted

No place for Maori under National

Don Brash has rehashed his Orewa speech in laying out National's treaty policy, and in doing so made it crystal clear that there is no place for Maori under a National government. Instead, he wants to disband Te Puni Kokiri and Te Mangai Paho, expunge all references to the Treaty from legislation, abolish the Maori seats, and destroy the Waitangi Tribunal - returning us to the "golden age" of the 1950's when New Zealand had "the best race relations in the world" because it simply pretended Maori did not exist.

Things have come a long way since then. The Maori population has grown both in numbers and political power. Maori culture has undergone a renaissance which is still going on. Thanks to the 1985 amendment to the Treaty of Waitangi Act, the Waitangi Tribunal gained the power to investigate historical claims, and this has led to a settlements process which is finally putting to rest the grievances of the past. And we've seen governments taking Maori problems seriously, and trying - through organisations such as TPK - to ensure that Maori are full and equal participants in our society, with living standards and life expectancies equal to those of any other New Zealander.

Brash's divisive vision puts all of that in danger. Rather than working through and solving our problems, he would introduce new grievances. Rather than trying to close the gaps between Maori and Pakeha in health, education, and employment, he would leave Maori to rot at the bottom of the heap. And rather than try to ensure Maori were listened to, he would ensure they were ignored.

Worse, as his policy for Treaty clauses and the Waitangi Tribunal show, Brash would effectively tear up the treaty, and reduce it to "a simple nullity" which the government had no obligation to keep. Even if you take a minimalist view of the Treaty's meaning, there can be no question that it imposes continuing obligations on the government to protect Maori property rights and ensure that they are equal citizens. Yet Brash is proposing to do away with the very institution and legislative clauses which recognise and enforce this obligation, and instead leave it to "the conscience of the crown" - an approach shown to be manifestly inadequate in the past.

This may go down well with the rednecks in talkbackland, but its not a solution to race relations in New Zealand. You don't bring people together by pretending that one group doesn't exist, and you don't encourage harmony by stripping a people of their rights and systematically blinding government to their interests. Quite the opposite, in fact. And the result will be festering grievances and constant relitigation through the political system until these policies are changed. And on this, time and demographics are not on Brash's side.

Brash justifies all of this on the basis that the Treaty as a 19th century document cannot possibly have anything to say about the modern world. To the contrary, I think it has something very simple and important to say: that Maori must be full and equal participants in our society, and that their needs and interests must be respected and taken into account just as those of more recent arrivals - Pakeha, Chinese, Dutch, Pacific Peoples, Afghans, Zimbabweans - are. I'd prefer a government which took that message to heart and tried to make it real, rather than one which sought to deny it from the outset in the name of grubbing votes from rednecks.

BMR: counting the cost of mismanagement

Last year, the High Court entered a landmark judgement against the Department of Corrections, ruling that the department's Behaviour Management Regime (BMR) was unlawful and inhumane, and awarding compensation to five current and former inmates for their treatment. Since then, a further fourty inmates have filed claims - and the government has passed draconian legislation aimed at letting Corrections off the hook for its failure to abide by fundamental human rights standards.

I've spent the last ten months trying to squeeze information out of Corrections on how the BMR was developed and who was responsible for its development and implementation. In the process, I've uncovered some remarkable facts - that the legality of the scheme was not even considered during its development, that prisoners were placed in the scheme without any documentation (and that this is now being used as an excuse to deny claims), and that no Department of Corrections staff have been disciplined in any way, despite the fiasco having cost the department well over a million dollars. As with the "goon squad" incident, there has been no accountability; management at Corrections get to make poor decisions which violate the law and cost the taxpayer money - and they get to keep their jobs (or even get promoted).

Finally, though, I've got the information I was seeking: how much each of those responsible for assigning prisoners to the BMR has cost us. This will be an underestimate, as only 40 out of an estimated 200 inmates subjected to the BMR have filed claims, only 12 of them can actually be linked to a specific manager (paperwork for the rest being incomplete or entirely absent), and there being no estimate of legal fees (over $650,000 in the Taunoa case and still rising) - but it is a start. And the sums involved, while not enormous, are certainly enough to raise the question of whether these managers should be receiving their annual bonuses.

According to the judge in the Taunoa case, a month on the BMR is valued at $2500. On this basis, the cost of Corrections' mismanagement if current claims are successful works out as follows:

  • Phil McCarthy (General Manager of the Public Prisons Service) placed 3 inmates for a total of 27 months. Total cost: $67,500.
  • Bryan Christy (Site Manager) placed 4 inmates for a total of 47 months. Total cost: $117,500.
  • Kelly Puohotaua (current position unknown, but at the time held a position as superintendent or deputy superintendent of Auckland Prison) placed 5 inmates for a total of 56 months. Total cost: $140,000.
  • 15 other inmates for whom the responsible manager could not be ascertained were placed for a total of 221 months. Total cost: $552,500.

All up, this policy could cost almost $900,000, plus legal fees. And while the new Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Act will almost certainly reduce that, the fact remains that these managers have presided over appalling negligence and exposed their department to significant financial risk. Shouldn't they be held accountable for that?

No connection, no connection

New Orleans is about to be hit by an enormous hurricane, the highlight so far of an unusually active hurricane season. Meanwhile, Americans keep buying SUVs...

Ralph Sims on our energy future

Massey University's Ralph Sims is on National Radio at the moment talking about the prospects for biofuels in New Zealand. In many countries they blend ethanol into petrol for sustainability; in the US they use a 10% blend, in France it's 5%, in Brazil 24%. We don't use any, and its an obvious way of reducing both our dependence on imported oil (and hence our balance-of-payments deficit) and our greenhouse emissions. The age of our vehicle fleet is a limiting factor (older engines are apparantly less able to cope with lower energy fuel), but we can easily handle a 5% blend, using ethanol from whey protein or biomass. This would reduce our net greenhouse emissions by 0.9%, or about a tenth of our excess over the five year first Commitment Period.

He's also talking about the Parliamentary Commisioner for the Environment's report on Future currents: Electricity scenarios for New Zealand 2005-2050 [PDF]. This lays out two future paths for energy policy: a "brown path", where we simply build more and more coal-fired power stations to meet demand (chosen by National), and a "green path" where we use technology and innovation to pursue sustainability and efficiency. An important part of the latter is distributed generation - generation at the point of demand, rather than at a centralised location. While this forgoes efficiencies of scale, it also means no transmission losses - and if you can find some way of using the waste heat, it more than makes up for it. Some large industries (dairy factories, pulp and paper mills) do this already, generating electricity as a sideline to their main goal of generating steam and heat. But there's also scope for domestic use - having a gas hot water system which also generates power, for example - and this would lead to a far more efficient energy system. The problem is the policy framework - at the moment, electricity companies offer a bad deal for selling electricity back to the grid - and this needs to change in order for these technologies to take off.

Supporting the Tongan strike

Global Peace and Justice Auckland is organising a march in support of Tonga's striking public servants. Saturday, 3rd September, starting from the bottom of Queen St at noon.

A cuckoo in the nest

The Cuckoo is a European bird best known for its strategy of brood parasitism. It lays its egg in another birds nest, thus dumping the cost of incubation on the unwitting victim. Worse, after hatching, the young cuckoo systematically evicts its competition, thus monopolising the investment of its "parent".

A similar strategy seems to have been pursued by New Zealand's hard-right in cuckooing Don Brash into the National Party leadership. A pair of articles in yesterday's Sunday Star Times revealed how ACT and a cabal of extreme free-market idealogues had backed Brash's bid for power, providing advice, media training, campaign consultants, and even organising a "strike" among National's financial backers to force the change of leadership. The SST is focusing on the schadenfreude angle - from ACT's point of view, the move has backfired, as National has cannibalised ACT's support and funding. But I think the more interesting story is how Brash was advised and assisted by some very old, very familiar faces from the 80's: people like the Business Roundtable, Michael Bassett, Roger Douglas, and Ruth Richardson. Douglas and Bassett provided detailed advice on organising and staging the coup, while Richardson reassured him during the post-coup period and helped him organise a media strategist. BRT member Barry Colman paid for media training, BRT CEO Roger Kerr and vice chair Diane Foreman provided advice and policy recommendations, and BRT chairman Rob McLeod made sure that the money flowed for National after Brash had taken the reins.

During the 90's, Brash was an enthusiastic and vocal defender of extreme neo-liberalism. He shared these people's ideology. Their support for his leadership bid really does call into question how much of his recent move to the center can be taken at face value - and how much of it is just a regurgitation of his predecessor's politics of deceit, a practical example of his belief in a moral obligation to lie.

A second interesting aspect is who is leaking this. The SST says that the documents came from "a National Party source", and there's no real reason to doubt it. While many of the emails could have been sourced from their sender as well as their recipient, that's an awful lot of people, many without clear motivation to reveal their role. That, and the fact that copies of his caucus speeches have also been leaked, points to a National party source - and likely someone fairly senior (they'd have to be, to get their hands on this stuff). This just screams internal sabotage by someone wanting to preserve their chances of becoming Prime Minister in 2008 - which in turn begs the question of why the electorate should vote for National, when people within the party clearly do not want it to win.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Candidate Survey: Twenty-Seventh Response

From Chris Ford, Alliance candidate for Dunedin South. Chris is 12th on the Alliance party list.

If you could ensure the passage of one act on one issue in the next Parliament, what would it be?

I believe it would be the abolition of all doctor's charges and prescription fees making health care universally free of charge in NZ.

What three other electoral candidates or sitting MPs do you think are most similar to you in their political views?

Keith Locke and Sue Bradford of the Greens are the MPs who hold views closest to those of the Alliance.

MMP is about coalitions: What sitting MP who is NOT in your party do you think is most similar to you in their political views?

See above answer

Do you support or oppose:

...raising the drinking age?

No. The problem with drinking in this country is the culture that surrounds it rather than the legal age at which it can be consumed publicly. I personally support the ALAC Campaign to promote better drinking behaviour.

...legalising marijuana (or pharmaceuticals based on it) for medical use?

Yes. Many people with long-term, pain-related impairment would benefit from such a move, particularly if well administered.

...decriminalising or legalising marijuana for recreational use?

Yes. While having never inhaled or smoked the stuff, I believe that the Alliance's policy is right on the basis that adults should be able to make an informed choice to purchase and smoke the stuff, provided they are aged 18 or over. I believe that marijuana should be subject to the same legal restrictions as apply to alcohol and drugs and that drug and alcohol awareness education should be made mandatory in schools.

...allowing same-sex couples to adopt children?

Yes, absolutely. The current legislation is discriminatory. May I add to that my personal belief that people with disabilities should be legally permitted to adopt children, something not technically permissible under the current Adoption Act which dates back to 1955.

...amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry?

Yes, absolutely. Marriage was designed primarily as a tool of social control and to provide for the determination of property rights. I would prefer to see the Marriage Act repealed and all relationships could be legally recognised on the same basis as civil unions. If people want to go off and have a wedding in a religious sense, that should be their right but it would not be legally recognised as a marriage but as a civil union under law so that there could be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or relationship status.

...allowing voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted suicide?

This presents a human rights issue from my own perspective as a disabled person. However, I would be supportive of euthanasia only if it were strictly regulated to ensure that the person wanted it to proceed, that the person was medically certified as having a terminal illness of no more than six months duration and on the basis that continued prolongation of life would cause unnecessary distress. Euthanasia on the basis of a person having life-long impairment, either through accident or other means, I would oppose as it would impinge on the human rights of disabled people. Depressive illness in the wake of a disabling injury is common and often people who, for example, acquire paraplegia and say that they want to die are more often feeling suicidal as a result of life changes. People with disabilities in this situation are more likely to live full and productive natural lives through good rehabilitation and support. Therefore, I make a distinction between permanent impairment and terminal illness.

...state funding of integrated schools?

I support the state funding of integrated schools on the proviso that they provide free education, teach the national curriculum and are non-discriminatory. Students should have the right to seek information or support on such issues as sex education and contraception on a confidential basis from state agencies where these issues are not able to be taught at an integrated or religiously-based school.

...the retention of sedition as a crime in the Crimes Act?

I think the rendition of sedition in the Crimes Act is a travesty on people's right to express an opinion critical of the actions of the State.

...the retention of blasphemous libel as a crime in the Crimes Act?

I would support its retention on the basis that it was widened to include blasphemous comments against any religion, not just Christianity.

...further restrictions on hate speech?

Yes, provided that there were safeguards to protect free speech. As a disabled person, particularly when I was younger, I was subjected to bullying and that included verbal abuse. Often hatred can be expressed towards disabled people and their existence and incitement towards hatred on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation or other status should be covered under an amendment to the Crimes Act.

...the use of indefinite detention without trial for those subject to a security risk certificate?

I think the appalling treatment meted out to Ahmed Zaoui just illustrates how the system can be abused, so no to indefinite detention without trial.

...restoring the death penalty for serious crime?

No, definitely not. I think the application of the death penalty by US states shows the potential for mistakes to be made. It makes no difference in deterring crime either.

...Georgina Beyer's Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill?

Support the bill. I think it's appalling that people are discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity.

...Gordon Copeland's New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill?

I don't support this measure. I support the right of people to enjoy their own private property in terms of household property but I also support the right of people to enjoy untrammelled access to our beaches and rivers, even if access has to be gained over private farmland. I am the son of a farmer myself but provided good safeguards are put in place, farmers will have nothing to fear as the Government's proposals to allow for roaming will only legitimise a practise that I know much about given that I grew up on a farm property that bordered a river.

...entrenching the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as supreme law?

I would support this happening provided that economic and social rights such as the right to free health care, education and shelter were also included.

...New Zealand's participation in the International Criminal Court?

Yes. George Bush should be put before the ICC in the same way that Slobodan Milosevic has been.

...lowering MMP's threshold from the present 5%?

Being from a party that is currently not represented in Parliament, I would say that it should be examined again, given that it was a key recommendation of the 1986 Royal Commission into MMP.


With the benefit of hindsight, how should the government have handled the Ahmed Zaoui case?

Despite what the right-wing talkback radio hosts and callers say, Ahmed Zaoui is a genuine refugee. The New Zealand, Algerian, French and other intelligence services have all acted to deliberately besmirch his character in order to make it harder for him to gain entry into this country.

As usual, Chris's opinions are his own, and do not necessarily represent those of the Alliance.

Compare and contrast

Don Brash on Agenda this morning, being interviewed about his chauvinistic post-debate comments:

SIMON But when you said you didn’t want to interrupt Helen Clark on the basis that she was a woman. It suggested that you believe men and women to be unequal.

DON No no I did not say that. I was asked – you weren’t shouting and screaming as much as Helen Clark was in the debate was the question. I said look I don’t regard it as terribly mature for adults to shout and scream at each other in any circumstance and particularly inappropriate for men to shout and scream at women. There's too much of that going on now. Now it was a light hearted remark, it did not suggest in any way that I was reluctant to interfere, interrupt, interject against Helen Clark...

Don Brash on Monday night, after being trounced in the leader's debate:

"Well, I think it's not entirely appropriate for a man to aggressively attack a woman and I restrained myself for that reason," he said.

"Had the other combatant been a man my style might have been rather different."

Looks like reluctance to me... not to mention an attempt to rewrite history to paper over his autopodophagy.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Background on Tonga

Today's Herald has a good background piece on the Tongan strike and the social pressures behind it. One of the drivers is the move from a subsitence to a cash economy, which has made money suddenly important. But the more immediate cause is the vastly unequal pay rises given out recently - 100% for public sector managers, 75% for MPs, but often less than 10% (or even nothing) for ordinary workers. This, in a country where the last public sector wage rise was in 1986 and where inflation regularly runs at over 10%.

They also have an editorial pointing out the obvious: that the Tongan monarchy has to change if it is to survive as an institution. People have respect for the present king, but not for his appointed successor; they thus see a continuing role for the royal family in a constitutional monarchy. That role may diminish or even disappear if change is not forthcoming - and it may do so violently rather than peacefully. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British monarchy gradually gave up its power to the people (initially the middle class) in order to preserve itself. If the Tongan monarchy is to survive, it must do the same.

Friday, August 26, 2005

New video

Keepleft has a new video up on the Nat's three-way flip-flop on forestry.

Political cartoons

A couple of cartoons from an anonymous reader:



Things to go to in Auckland

If you're interested in what is going on in Tonga at the moment, or wish to show your support for the Tongan strike or its underlying issue of democracy versus monarchical absolutism, a delegation from the Tongan Public Service Association is in Auckland at the moment. They'll be speaking at the Unite! office in Kingsland at 6pm tonight (details here), and at two public meetings tomorrow: the first at the Auckland University Marae at noon and the second in the Otahuhu Intermediate School hall at 6pm.

I'm looking for other ways people can show their support for the strike or Tongan democracy, and I'll post them if I find any.

More credibility issues

National's three-way flip-flop over forestry policy is an amusing gaffe. But in addition to showing that National is not ready for government, it has also exposed another case of Don Brash talking out of both sides of his mouth. Labour has pointed out that Brash spent three days touring the West Coast last year "telling everyone who would listen he would reopen logging on the Coast":

"Brash's comments were widely reported in the West Coast media last year as a vow," Mr Carter said.

"In the Greymouth Evening Star he was reported as telling one meeting in Westport: If we can do sustainable logging and keep the unique environment of the West Coast, we will.

"The paper also heard National's environment spokesman Nick Smith say exactly the same thing at another meeting in Greymouth, whilst standing next to Don Brash.

This once again pushes the question of Brash's and National's credibility to the fore. And I think here that the answer is clear: you can't trust them on conservation. You can't trust them on health. You can't trust them on foreign affairs. And you can't trust them on the anti-nuclear policy. In short, you can't trust them - which seems to be an entirely sensible response to a party whose leader believes in a moral obligation to lie.

$1.50 a litre for petrol

And at the same time, oil has hit a record price of $68 a barrel, and the trend of a new record price every time there are fears of supply problems doesn't show any sign of slowing over the next year or so. Meanwhile, our two major parties' transport policies remain firmly fixed on roads...

Obviously transport policy needs to take a longer focus than just next year - but that's the problem; it is being driven by immediate crises in Auckland (caused in turn by the systematic lack of investment by National during the 90's), rather than the longer view. And in the longer view, this is a warning for the future. Yes, oil and petrol prices will probably drop in a couple of years as new refining capacity is built. But in the long-term, they're going to rise, as peak oil hits. Shouldn't we be planning for it now, by ensuring we have decent public transport networks built in time, rather than risking waking up one day and finding out that people can't afford to get to work?

Easton on tax cuts

Brian Easton has an interesting paper on "what the tax debate is really about" up on Scoop. He begins by comparing Labour and national's plans, and concludes that a) Labour's targetted assistance, while close to the edge, is "probably within the acceptable fiscal parameters", while National's $10 billion splurge is not; b) borrowing will be much higher under National, as it struggles to cover the shortfall; and c) that this will lead to higher interest rates:

[I]ncome tax cuts will increase household’s incomes. Consumers will spend most of the additional income. But with unemployment as low as 3.7 percent (apparently the lowest in the word) , the economy cannot produce much more. That means that either there will be severe inflationary pressures, or that the extra consumption will be provided by imports or – and this is the most likely – both. Second, there is the additional government borrowing.

The two sides lead to the same prediction. Domestic interest rates will have to rise. They will have to rise as the Reserve Bank takes measures to restrain an overheated economy. They will have to rise because the government will have to persuade overseas investors to hold more New Zealand government debt. Both ways New Zealand borrowers will be hit by higher interest rates. That means mortgage holders will have higher mortgage repayments, and businesses will pay more for their borrowing and defer productive investment.

(Original emphasis) This will in turn cause the exchange rate to rise, and lead us straight into the high interest rates - high exchange rates trap that strangled economic growth in the 80's. In other words, National's plan would lead to a severe economic crisis. So why is Brash - a former governor of the Reserve Bank who knows very well the consequences of is actions - pushing it? Easton concludes

I can't help thinking that National’s underlying agenda is the oft stated right wing strategy of giving substantial tax cuts and then forcing public expenditure cuts to rebalance the budget.

The strategic deficit, in other words - with the end goal of savage but "necessary" cuts to social services, just as Ruth Richardson did in 1991.

The silver lining in this cloud is MMP. Any government is highly likely to be dependent on other parties in order to push its policies through, and this means that

It is possible that the economic individualists could find themselves in office without the power to implement their policies.

Given the noises Winston is making about National's tax plans, I regard that as highly likely. But it's better not to take the risk.

Back to the 90's

National has signalled its clear intention to take us back to the 90's, with its announcement that it would remove ACC's statutory monopoly in the workplace insurance market. National tried this near the end of its last term, and it didn't work; instead of premiums going down due to competition, they in fact went up. And the reason is pretty obvious: private insurers don't just have to pay claims plus overheads - they also have to meet their shareholder's demands for profits. ACC doesn't, and so it can be cheaper.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected this move in 1999 - but National doesn't seem to have got the message. Like the Bourbon restorationists, they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, and want to continue their Revolution exactly where they left off, as if nothing had happened in the meantime.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sacrificing freedom

In the wake of the London bombings, Tony Blair promised "tough" action from his government, including deporting those accused of supporting terrorism to countries where they faced a substantial risk of persecution and torture. His government has now formalised this plan, and announced that it will move "very quickly" to start deportations.

There are two problems with this. The first is that it is grossly contrary to the UK's obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits expelling or deporting someone where there are "substantial grounds for believing" that they would be tortured. While the British government has sought assurances from potential host governments that anyone they deport would not be subjected to such treatment, these are not worth the paper they're written on, and the UN HRC's special rapporteur on torture has already declared that such expulsions would violate the convention. If the person is a refugee, then they would also be covered under anti-refoulement provision in the Refugee Convention. And then there's British law... the UK's Human Rights Act implements the ECHR's provision barring torture, and any deportation could easily be challenged under this.

The second problem is that the criteria include "writing, producing, publishing or distributing material, public speaking including preaching, running a website; or using a position of responsibility" to express views which "justify or glorify terrorist violence". Note not specifically inciting crimes or even advocating that such attacks occur, but simply saying they are morally justifiable. No matter which way you slice it, this is a fundamental attack on freedom of speech. It will be challenged in court, and it is difficult to imagine the court which freed the Belmarsh detainees on the basis that indefinite detention for immigrants but not citizens was blatantly discriminatory upholding similarly discriminatory restrictions on speech. I'll also add that I can think of no better way to alienate moderate Muslisms than to enshrine a double standard which punishes those who defend terrorist violence against civilians, while those who defend US or Israeli violence against civilians suffer no penalty. You don't win a war of ideas through censorship, and you don't win it by that sort of public hypocrisy either.

Christian Taleban backs down?

Christian Taleban Pat Robertson has backed down, saying that his comments over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been "misconstrued". Rather than calling for Chavez to be assassinated, he was merely calling for him to be kidnapped...

Some "backdown".

Tonga: threatening force

A member of the Tongan government is threatening to use the military against the strikers in the wake of another attempted arson. Akauola, Governor of Vava'u and chairman of the Cabinet media committee, blamed striking workers for inspiring the vandalism and attempt to burn down a school:

He said a small team of strikers flew into Vava'u the day before and met teachers all afternoon. They instructed students to stay home.

"Then the computers are trashed and someone tries to burn the school down. Coincidence is it?"

Akauola said there were extremist elements in Tongan society, such as deportees from the United States.

If the damage continued the Government was bound to act. Legislation in place included formidable anti-terrorist powers.

Akauola said the Government, while it would be reluctant to come across heavy-handed, had a duty to govern, particularly if life was threatened or people were burned in their homes.

At this stage, I think New Zealand needs to make it clear to the Tongans that there will be diplomatic consequences if they use the military against the Tongan people.The Tongan police should of course arrest and prosecute those responsible for arson and vandalism. But they should not punish those whose only "crime" is to seek a better deal from their government.

Brash keeps digging

Having dug himself a hole with his utterly chauvinistic post-debate comments, Don Brash is keeping on digging, responding to a redneck voter that "one thing that I am not is a feminist", and then desperately backpedling when queried on this by the media:

Asked afterwards to explain what that meant, Dr Brash said he did not mean to suggest he did not support women's rights.

"A feminist is someone to me who is by definition a woman. Can you have men feminists? I'm strongly in favour of women's rights, strongly.

"I have to admit I didn't see the need for women's rights through my [first] wife, but I saw them through my daughter. And I want women to have every single right that anyone else in the community has, that guys have.

"When I first got married I didn't understand what women were on about, with demanding equal rights. I thought they had equal rights.

"It wasn't until I saw the world through my daughter's eyes that I realised the world was not equal and there were lots of things which were not fair to women. I think I understand that very clearly."

Not clearly enough, judging by his comments on Monday night and the number of women he has fired.

Working around Bush

President Bush's opposition to the Kyoto Protocol (or indeed the very idea that we should try to do anything about human-induced climate change) is well known - but obviously, not everyone in the US shares his views. And so, they're working around him. Officials in nine north-eastern states have reached a preliminary deal to reduce power plant emissions, first freezing them at current levels, then slashing them by 10% by 2020. This is a fairly unambitious target, especially compared with the target of 7% below 1990 levels that the US would have had to meet by 2012 if it had stayed in the Kyoto process, but it's a start. And if it provokes the sort of technological change that saw the UK's emissions improve (a block-replacement of old coal-fired generation plant with new, more efficient gas) then it may succeed by far more than that.

Sedition index

Posts relating to sedition:

See also the Sedition by Example index.

(This is an index page so I have a central location to point to in future)

Guantanamo: Imprisoning the innocent

Via Crooked Timber: The US government has continued to detain people in Guantanamo for up to two years after their own military tribunals have ordered their release. 15 Uighurs were ordered released by a military tribunal in late 2003, 5 for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (a depressingly common reason for imprisonment in Guantanamo), and 10 because they were "deemed low-risk detainees whose enemy was China's communist government -- not the United States". Despite this, the men are still imprisoned. The reason is that the US, in a rare acknowledgement of its responsibilities under the Convention Against Torture, cannot return them to China because they would likely face persecution. The US government has been unable to convince any other country to take them, and so they remain in prison, despite having been declared innocent of any crime. And not just in prison; according to one of their laywers, when he was finally able to meet with his client, he found him "chained to the floor" in a "box with no windows".

But it gets worse:

All 15 Uighurs have actually been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay twice, once after a Pentagon review in late 2003 and again last March, U.S. officials said. Seven other Uighurs were ruled to be enemy combatants and will continue to be detained.

Even after the second decision, however, the government did not notify the 15 men for several months that they had been cleared. "They clearly were keeping secret that these men were acquitted. They were found not to be al Qaeda and not to be Taliban," Willett said. "But the government still refused to provide a transcript of the tribunal that acquitted them to the detainees, their new lawyers or a U.S. court."

Even after the second decision that they should be released, the men were still denied any access to their lawyers for more than a year. It was only through a complicated process called "next friend authorisation" that they were able to obtain legal representation at all - and even then their lawyers had to fight the military every step of the way for access to their clients who had already been determined to be innocent.

As for what should be done, the United States has messed up these people's lives by imprisoning them for four years without charge or trial before deciding they were innocent. They have a responsibility to make good their mistake. And given that they recognise that these men have a well-founded fear of persecution, the obvious place to start is by granting them refugee status.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Candidates and overseas voting

Nominations have closed and the candidates have been announced. 19 parties with 667 candidates will be contesting the list, while 597 candidates will contest the 69 electorate seats. Doing the maths, that means that there are ten times as many candidates as places - 90% of them are going to lose, and yet they're still willing to go to all the effort. Which is a sign that our democracy is still healthy, I think.

Also, if you're a Kiwi, enrolled, and reading this from overseas, you can still vote, either byvoting in person at a New Zealand embassy or consulate (or various other places if you're in Oz), asking for a ballot paper to be sent to you, or printing one off and posting or faxing it in. You have power, and if you want a particular brand of government, you should exercise it.

Correction: D'oh. I forgot about the overlap between list and electorate candidates. The total number of candidates is 739, so a mere 84% will fail to be elected. But I still think that's healthy...

No military solution

Last week, in a scene strikingly reminiscent of the lead-up to America's current foreign policy disaster in Iraq, we saw President Bush blustering against Iran, threatening to use force unless that country ended its nuclear program. Ignoring the ethical question of whether the US can consistently try and deny to another country a right it insists upon for itself, is this even possible? James Fallows considered this question in an article titles Will Iran Be Next? in Atlantic Monthly last year - and the answer is not encouraging for the hawks.

In an effort to get at the issues underlying an attack on Iran, Fallows got together with a group of foreign policy experts and a simulations expert from the US Army's National War College. They conducted an exercise based on a "principals meeting", with experts cast in the roles of CIA director, Secretaries of State and Defence, and White House Chief of Staff, and the simulation controller representing variously the National Security Advisor and top-ranking military staff. In other words, they ran a LARP - but one played by experts, who knew what they were doing, and with the aim of illustrating issues rather than having fun. The issues chosen were the level of threat posed by Iran, and what specifically military options should be presented to the President, rather than whether they should consider going to war at all. The material presented was

as accurate, realistic, and true to standard national-security practice as possible. None of it was classified, but all of it reflected the most plausible current nonclassified information he could obtain. The detailed plans for an assault on Iran had also been carefully devised. They reflected the present state of Pentagon thinking about the importance of technology, information networks, and Special Forces operations. Afterward participants who had sat through real briefings of this sort said that Gardiner's version was authentic.

I'll skip past the discussion on uncertainty and whether Israel should be discouraged from making a pre-emptive strike to the meat of the discussion: what could America actually do? Here, they were presented with three options: puntive airstrikes against Iranian military units, pre-emptive air-strikes on suspected nuclear facilities, and "regime change". The participants were asked to recommend that the preparatory steps to make all three possible be authorised.

As mentioned above, the options were based as closely as possible on contemporary military thinking. The regime-change options relied on using bases in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iraq, which had to be expanded, as well pre-positioned equipment. They also

minimized "stability" efforts-everything that would happen after the capital fell. "We want to take out of this operation what has caused us problems in Iraq," Gardiner of CentCom said, referring to the postwar morass. "The idea is to give the President an option that he can execute that will involve about twenty days of buildup that will probably not be seen by the world. Thirty days of operation to regime change and taking down the nuclear system, and little or no stability operations. Our objective is to be on the outskirts of Tehran in about two weeks. The notion is we will not have a Battle of Tehran; we don't want to do that. We want to have a battle around the city. We want to bring our combat power to the vicinity of Tehran and use Special Operations to take the targets inside the capital. We have no intention of getting bogged down in stability operations in Iran afterwards. Go in quickly, change the regime, find a replacement, and get out quickly after having destroyed-rendered inoperative-the nuclear facilities." How could the military dare suggest such a plan, after the disastrous consequences of ignoring "stability" responsibilities in Iraq? Even now, Gardiner said after the war game, the military sees post-conflict operations as peripheral to its duties. If these jobs need to be done, someone else must take responsibility for them.

The reaction to this was unanimously negative. The US military may not have learned from Iraq, but foreign policy experts have. They went through the obvious glaring flaws; the preparations could not be kept secret, and would almost certainly provoke a response (such as an oil embargo, provoking unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, assisting al-Qaeda, or even a pre-emptive strike) from the Iranian regime; the lack of planning for a postwar government or US exit would lead to mess like Iraq (unmentioned was the wholesale leakage of nuclear material and expertise); any moves in this direction would rule out attempts to resolve the issue diplomatically if they became public. In the words of one participant,

"One, it will leak. Two, it will be politically and diplomatically disastrous when it leaks ... I think your invasion plan is a dangerous plan even to have on the table in the position of being leaked ... I would throw it in Tampa Bay and hope the sharks would eat it."

As for the other options, there was little objection to keeping the option of random bombing of military units open. But most participants did not consider pre-emptive strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities feasible:

The United States simply knew too little about which nuclear projects were under way and where they could be destroyed with confidence. If it launched an attack and removed some unknown proportion of the facilities, the United States might retard Iran's progress by an unknown number of months or years-at the cost of inviting all-out Iranian retaliation. "Pre-emption is only a tactic that puts off the nuclear development," Gardiner said after the exercise. "It cannot make it go away. Since our intelligence is so limited, we won't even know what we achieved after an attack. If we set it back a year, what do we do a year later? A pre-emptive strike would carry low military risk but high strategic risk."

The long and the short of it is that there is no military solution to the problem of Iran's nuclear programme. The only effective tool the US has at its disposal is persuasion.

Christian Taleban issues fatwa against President

No, not the President of the US; President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has called for his assassination, saying

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Robertson's justification for such extreme action? Apparantly, Venezuela is in danger of becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism". According to the CIA World Factbook, Venezuela is 96% Roman Catholic, but why let facts stand in the way of a good fantasy? It's not as if the President does, after all...

Tonga: getting uglier

Things are getting ugly in Auckland over the Tongan strike, with clashes yesterday between police and protestors outside the king's residence there. And they're getting uglier in Tonga, with one of the king's houses being torched overnight and the government drawing up plans to sack striking workers and punish those who return to work. This sort of escalation is not good news, and decreases the chances of a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Sedition by Example: Index

Posts in the "Sedition by Example" series:

See also the sedition index.

(This is an index page so I have a central location to point to in future)

How National will fund its tax cuts: borrow like there's no tomorrow

Keith Ng has found how National is going to fund its tax cuts for the rich: a $12.8 billion increase in gross sovereign debt over three years. It's all buried in an innocuous-sounding phrase in the fine print to the fiscal strategy John Key released on Friday:

Gross sovereign issued debt is forecast to be approximately 1% higher relative to GDP than currently by the end of the forecast period.

Note "than currently", rather than "than currently forecast". Current debt is 25.3% of GDP; forecast debt is 19.1%. That one missing word means a difference of 7.2% of GDP, or around $12.8 billion - very close to the size of National's tax cuts and spending promises.

Now, this could be an innocuous mistake on Key's behalf. But Keith called him, and was fobbed off onto a researcher who could not be reached until morning. As one of his friends (who it must be said is a government spindoctor) said, if he'd had something so basic wrong, Key would have corrected him there and then. It also makes it clear why National has refused to release their projections in a budget-style balance sheet - because they can equivocate in words, but numbers don't lie.

I don't know about you, but I think there's only one word to describe a party which would indulge in Muldoon-scale borrowing to fund tax cuts for the rich: irresponsible. We've spent the last twenty years trying to kick that crack habit, at enormous social cost. Any party which would take us back down that path is simply unfit to hold office.

Again, this could be a mistake. But if so, its easily corrected; all National has to do is release their projections in a balance sheet format, where there can be no doubt about what the numbers actually are.

Update: Keith got it wrong - and yet, reading his retraction, also right. National's phrasing was deliberate, but the baseline is taken from 2006, when National would present its first budget if elected, not 2004, as Keith had assumed. This means gross sovereign-issued debt of 22.3% of GDP rather than the 20.2% Labour had estimated in the budget, or the 19.1% it is currently planning on. The difference is around $3.2 billion - not $12.8 billion as initially reported.

Of course, there wouldn't be this confusion if National had issued a proper balance sheet with its "projections"...

As a final note, the interest on National's proposed borrowing is around $150 million a year. That amounts to a medium-to-large policy, or to use the opposition's favourite currency, about 10,000 hip operations.

Update 2: Made the debt baselines clearer in the above.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Proudly independent

Span has an interesting list of blogs by party affliation. What's striking is how few of the major blogs are independent; most are run by party members (sometimes outright hacks) of one shade or another. On the left, the only major independent blogs are Public Address, Fighting Talk, and the one you're reading right now. On the right, I think you'd need to go diving in the sewer to find one.


A jury has found former ACT MP Donna Awatere-Huata and her husband guilty of fraud.

Good riddance.

New kiwi blog

Comrade Tweek - a "coffee-drinking socialist". Is there any other sort?

More for health

Labour is keeping up its theme of investing in the young with the announcement of a significant expansion of primary healthcare for children. This would include free hearing and vision tests to find problems early before they can affect learning, additional free Plunket visits for preschoolers, and a free health check for all children before they start school. The cost? A mere $13 million; you can do a hell of a lot for very little money in this area. But the effect in ensuring that every New Zealander gets a good start in life should be tremendous.

Again, this displays that clear point of difference, between a government which invests in its citizens and makes sure they have the basic capabilities (good health, education, equality) to achieve their goals, whatever they might be - and one which simply wants to abandon them to the whims of the market.

Winston's list

New Zealand First has finally released its party list. In the process, they've also released their local candidates - something they seem to have been delaying as long as possible because it might distract attention from Winston (interestingly, there's still no general link to candidates on NZFirst's webpage - Winston really doesn't seem to like sharing the limelight).

The actual list seems to be about stability - with no changes at all in the top 7. Beyond that, a few MPs have been demoted to make way for educationalist Susan Baragwanath, and former Cook islands PM Joe Williams has been slotted in at 15. The rest of the list is mostly new faces, but that's primarily because they've doubled its size since 2002. While there's plenty of Maori representation (Tariana can say what she likes; NZ First was a Maori party long before hers was), there's very few women - two in the top 10, and five overall (there's possibly one more, but with no candidate information provided, its difficult to sort out the ambiguous names).

As with Labour, I've done a comparison showing candidate's relative placements with last time.

2005 RankName2002 RankDifference
1Winston Peters10
2Peter Brown20
3Brian Donnelly30
4Ron Mark40
5Doug Woolerton50
6Barbara Stewart60
7Pita Paraone70
8Susan Baragwanath----
9Jim Peters90
10Dail Jones100
11Craig McNair8-3
12Edwin Perry11-1
13Bill Gudgeon12-1
14Brent Catchpole13-1
15Joe Williams----
16John Foote----
17Fletcher H Tabuteau18+1
18Alan Heward----
19Kristin Campbell Smith----
20Kerry Lundy----
21David Fowler----
22Brendan Stewart----
23Brett Webster16-7
24Bob Daw19-5
25Murray Strawbridge----
26Moetu Davis----
27Toa Greening----
28Dave Mackie20-8
29Anne Martin----
30Julian Batchelor----
31Chris Perry----
32Lindy Palmer----
33Brian M Roswell----
34Joe Glen----
35James Mist----
36Howard Levarko----
37Paul Trevor Manning----
38Tim Manu----
39Kevin Gardener----
40Graham Odering----

Further candidate details are currently unavailable.


So, which party decided to stack the audiance with hooting chimpanzees?

They'll keep the red flag flying here

The Anti-Capitalist Alliance is standing candidates in eight electorates - including flag-burner Paul Hopkinson in Christchurch East. I'm sure local capitalists are trembling in fear.

New video

Keepleft has a new video up here.

Betraying Iraq

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the US was lowering its sights on what can be achieved in Iraq - to the extent that it

no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges...

Today, we have an example of just how low that is, with the news that the US is supporting an Islamic republic rather than suffer the bad PR of seeing the new Iraqi constitution delayed by another week. Islam would be "a primary source" of law, and clerics would have authority over divorce and inheritance and possibly sit on the Supreme Court. This is what America's grand crusade for democracy has come down to: the establishment of a shitty theocracy which practices torture. And they killed 25,000 innocent civilians for this?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Creating the strategic deficit

Just Left has a pair of good posts up in response to National's tax cuts. The first costs those cuts at $11.5 billion - about $2 billion more than they said on Friday. The second points out that that $11.5 billion would eat the projected surplus entirely, meaning that there would either have to be a massive increase in borrowing (and I mean massive; currently we're scheduled to borrow a mere $1 billion over the next three years), or savage cuts in spending on core public services. Given that Brash is a dedicated Revolutionary in the same spirit as Douglas and Richardson, I'm picking the latter. The massive tax-cuts will be used to create a "strategic deficit", which will then be used to justify a further attack on the public services needed by the poor. And meanwhile, Brash and his rich friends will laugh all the way to the bank...

Still better off with Labour

Frog has updated his table, and it shows that families earning under $70,000 are still significantly better off with Labour. And they get schools and hospitals too.

I think there's no question which is the better package in terms of what ordinary new Zealanders want. But then, National doesn't represent ordinary New Zealanders, do they?

Tax cuts for the rich

National has finally released its tax-cut policy. It would massively flatten the tax-scale, extending the 15% rate up to $12,500, a 19% rate up until $50,000, and the 33% rate to $100,000, but retaining the 39% top rate for income over that level. I've done some quick and dirty number crunching, and the weekly amount people would benefit by is shown below:

(Interestingly, my numbers differ from those given by National's calculator, which both rounds upward and seems to overstate the benefits to those on lower incomes. I don't think I've missed anything, but if I have, I'm happy to update the figures and graph, but given that this is about the location of threshholds, I don't think it will affect the significant points below in the slightest)

The policy would deliver next to nothing to anyone earning under $38,000, and of course the big gains would go to those on incomes of over $60,000. By way of comparison, according to the latest Household Economic Survey, the lower bounds for the top three deciles of personal income earners are $35,300, $43,300 and $59,200. In other words, the benefits will flow to the top 25% of income earners, rather than the bulk of "hard-working New Zealanders" that Brash likes to talk about. Just as they did in the 80's and 90's.

And the cost of this welfare for the rich? Around $10 billion over three years. That's about the cost of our entire health system for a year, and there is simply no way National can maintain public services at their present levels, spend more on roads and prisons as they have promised to do, and slash taxes in this way. Well, not unless they intend to create another strategic deficit to "justify" radical spending cuts again.

Update: Tweaked spreadsheet and graph; I was including the 15% low-income rebate. As predicted, it didn't make any difference to the core points above - and in fact, the number of those who would substantially benefit is lower than I thought. According to Treasury, those earning over $60,000 will make up only 11% of all taxpayers in 2006. And they're the ones who will be benefitting by thousands of dollars a year. According to the table on Public Address, national's plan would hand those on $100,000 and over a $5000 a year tax cut. Nice if you're in that 3%, I guess...

The ghost of Plato

Over at Marginal Revolution, Robin Hanson approvingly quoted this section of Plato's Protagoras:

Now I observe that when we are met together in the assembly, and the matter in hand relates to building, the builders are summoned as advisers; when the question is one of shipbuilding, then the ship-wrights; and the like of other arts which they think capable of being taught and learned. And if some person offers to give them advice who is not supposed by them to have any skill in the art, even though he be good-looking, and rich, and noble, they will not listen to him, but laugh and hoot at him, until either he is clamoured down and retires of himself; or if he persist, he is dragged away or put out by the constables at the command of the prytanes. This is their way of behaving about professors of the arts. But when the question is an affair of state, then everybody is free to have a say-carpenter, tinker, cobbler, sailor, passenger; rich and poor, high and low - any one who likes gets up, and no one reproaches him, as in the former case, with not having learned, and having no teacher, and yet giving advice; evidently because they are under the impression that this sort of knowledge cannot be taught.

Plato later built on this idea in The Republic to argue that rulership was a skill like any other, and that therefore we should be governed by experts. And he's been quoted approvingly by those who imagine themselves to be experts ever since. The problem is that this fundamentally misconstrues the nature of politics - politics isn't about finding the best solution to a predetermined goal, it's about deciding what that goal is. It's about ends rather than means, interests rather than management. The reason everybody is free to have a say is because everybody has interests, and nobody is qualified in any way to decide for others what those interests ought to be.

Of course it would be assault

Pro child-beating factions are waving a letter from the Police Commissioner in which he says that if Section 59 was repealed, smacking your children would constitute assault and raise the possibility of criminal charges. Of course it would be - that's what happens when you remove a statutory defence. What matters, though, is whether charges are actually brought - and here the police comissioner is quite clear:

The police letter said that - as with all assault investigations - the police would consider the amount of force used and the circumstances before making a decision about whether a prosecution was required in the public interest.

"An aggravating factor in any such decision may be the fact that a child is generally more vulnerable than an adult," the letter said.

The vast majority of assaults result in no investigation and no charges being brought. While there may be a case to answer in law and enough evidence to prove it, the police have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue them. And the same will be true in cases where parents smack their children - they are highly unlikely to be prosecuted unless the assault is considered serious enough to warrant it. At the same time, prosecution is always a possibility, and that uncertainty is part of the point: to "chill" such behaviour, and thereby reduce it - just as we do for other assaults.

Scoop does more video

Scoop is getting seriously into video, with a 23-minute documentary on the Labour and National campaigns. Unfortunately its a little large for dialup users, but if you have broadband, let me know whether its any good.

New Fisk

People torn to pieces, relatives scream - another week in the theme park of death

Sunday, August 21, 2005

And worse...

The facts about the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes continue to get even worse for the London police. Today, it turns out that the surveillance team had concluded that de Menezes was not a threat - that

he was not about to detonate a bomb, was not armed and was not acting suspiciously.

Despite this, the gunbunnies in the armed response unit shot him anyway. Those same gunbunnies have refused to give any account of their actions to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and both the actual executioners have been packed off on holiday - one at the insistence of Sir Ian Blair himself. This stinks of an attempt to subvert the inquiry, and the Met needs to answer some serious questions about its lack of cooperation.

New Fisk

What does democracy really mean in the Middle East? Whatever the West decides

Tea from an empty cup II

Police in Japan have arrested a Chinese student for mugging people - online. The student is alleged to have used a network of software bots in the MMORPG Lineage II to attack characters and steal their items. The stolen items were then sold for cash via online auction sites. There's no question that something valuable was taken from the victims - but was it part of the game or not? And what will the consequences be for other MMORPGs with potentially valuable virtual stuff which allow PVP?

Reality is just going to get stranger and stranger until we work out the balance between the virtual and the real...


Roger Douglas is probably the second most hated political figure of the last twenty years. Even today, "Rogernomics" is a byword for heartlessness and the blitzkrieg, for steamrollering policies through without consultation or consent. So naturally, his worshippers in ACT gave him around half the face-time in their opening address. Then, to top it off, they made sure to mention that the person who beat Douglas in the unpopularity stakes - Valdemort Ruth Richardson - was part of the same ideological camp. And they expect to gain votes from this?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Energy: and more wind...

Unison has been granted resource consent for its 48 MW wind farm project at Titiokura in Hawkes Bay. This brings the amount of windpower consented this year to 141 MW - putting us well on track to meet our annual demand growth of 150 MW from wind alone. Construction is expected to begin late next year, and it should be completed and generating by the end of 2007.

But it doesn't stop there - Unision is already planning an 80 to 100 MW expansion on adjacent land, while Hawkes Bay Wind Farms' application for a 220 MW facility in the same area goes before the council on Monday. Nationally, there's 560 MW of turbines currently in the consents process, and several hundred more that I know of in the planning stage. So why do we need coal again?


The Tongan strike has overflowed to New Zealand. The King of Tonga is currently in residence in Auckland, and yesterday around 50 protestors showed up outside his Epsom house to demand a meeting. They're back again today - except this time there are twice as many. It's good to see the local Tongan community standing up for democracy (and make no mistake, that's partly what the strike is about), and hopefully there'll be more there tomorrow.