Friday, July 25, 2014

Matt Ridley from the UK: Atheists and Anglicans could unite against intolerance

Mike Butler: Waitemata DHB twists treaty



Here’s how the Waitemata District Health Board twists the Treaty of Waitangi to justify the race-based provision of health services. In its Maori Plan 2014-15, the board cites the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 as requiring DHBs to establish and maintain processes to enable Maori to participate in strategies to improve Maori health outcomes.

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi serves as a conceptual and consistent framework for Maori health gain across the health sector”, the board says, and goes on interpret the treaty thus:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mike Butler: ‘Maori economy’ underperforms



Financial commentator Bernard Hickey puts his political correctness on show in his article titled “New Zealand's Maori economy: a powerful force in the Kiwi success story” that is posted on the ANZ website.(1) This promotional piece of advertorial writing from Hickey marks a seasonal event, the Maori New Year, by lauding the Waikato-Tainui announcement that they had assets worth $1-billion.

Hickey cites a 2010 study by Business and Economic Research Ltd for the government's Maori department, Te Puni Kokiri, that estimated the asset base of the Maori economy at $36.9-billion, up 18 per cent from 2006.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

David Round: Democracy!

  
Colin Craig, the leader of the Conservative Party, recently announced that a bottom line in any coalition agreement with the National Party after the general election would be National’s agreement to introduce binding referendums as part of our constitutional arrangements. These referendums would, presumably, be ones initiated by citizens themselves, such as we already have here in non-binding form. (In some countries governments themselves can propose referendums, to run their ideas past the people.) 

Binding referendums are familiar to us from overseas; in California, for example, citizens vote on “propositions’, put forward by a certain minimum number of voters, at the same time they cast their ballots in general elections. The resulting decision of the voters automatically acquires legal effect.

Ron Smith: Tania Billingsley and the Vienna Convention



The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides the essential conditions for diplomats to perform their function, ‘without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country’. At the heart of this is the notion of immunity from the laws of the host country, which applies both to the persons of accredited diplomats and to the official property of the accredited state. 

Since the principle was first accepted in 1815, at Vienna, it has had a remarkable degree of respect and observance, and in the most difficult of circumstances. That is why the occupation in 1979 of the American Embassy in Tehran, and the incarceration of American diplomats, by Iranian revolutionaries, was such a shock to the international community.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Viv Forbes from Australia: Death by Delay


“The difference between taking a part of my life,
and taking my whole life, is just a matter of degree.” 
Anon

There was a time, before the baby-boom generation took over, when we took pride in the achievements of our builders, producers and innovators. There was always great celebration when settler families got a phone, a tractor, a bitumen road or electric power. 
An oil strike or a gold discovery made headlines, and people welcomed new businesses, new railways and new inventions. 

Karl du Fresne: The ruthless logic that drives Hamas


There is a ruthless, cynical logic in what Hamas is doing in the Gaza Strip.
The constant rocket attacks on Israel are largely futile in the sense that they do minimal damage. But Hamas knows that as long as the attacks continue, Israel is bound to retaliate. It can hardly allow its territory and people to remain under constant threat.

Matt Ridley from the UK: On Slippery Slopes


Who first thought up the metaphor of the slippery slope? It’s a persistent meme, invoked in many a debate about ethics, not least over the assisted dying bill for which I expect to vote in the House of Lords on Friday. But in practice, ethical slopes are not slippery; if anything they are sometimes too sticky.

It is in genetics and reproduction that the slippery slope argument gets used most relentlessly. 

Reuben Chapple: Rent Controls Rebutted


It's an unfortunate fact of life that during periods of expanded market demand, tenants looking for housing may have to spend weeks or months in an often vain search for a suitable place to live. 

They might end up renting something smaller than they might like, and/or in a less desirable location. Some have reportedly even resorted to bribes to get landlords to move them to the top of waiting lists.  Meanwhile, they may double up with relatives, sleep in garages, or use other makeshift living arrangements.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Karl du Fresne: The scariest scenario of all


For almost as long as I can remember, experts have been warning us to brace ourselves for catastrophe.

For decades it was the Cold War and the threat of nuclear obliteration that threatened us. In the 1970s we shuddered at the prospect of a nuclear winter, in which soot and smoke from nuclear warfare would condemn the planet to decades of frigid semi-darkness. And who can forget the alarm generated by predictions that acid rain would denude vast areas of forest, kill marine life and even cause buildings to collapse?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Stephen Kirchner from Australia: Improving housing affordability begins at home


Australia's capital house prices rose 10% last financial year, with an even stronger rise of 15% in Sydney. While seemingly a dramatic increase, it is important to look through the short-run variability in house prices to longer-run trends.

On an inflation and quality-adjusted basis, house prices in Australia have increased by around 2-3% per annum since 1970. This is enough to yield a doubling in real house prices every 30 years or so, underpinning a long-term decline in housing affordability and the homeownership rate.

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: Letting kids set the standard is far more likely to hinder than help


Stewart Riddle’s bizarre claim that improving the literacy levels of indigenous children, espec­ially in remote communit­ies, might not be a good thing should not surprise. Ever since English sociologist Basil Bernstein in the early 1970s described working-class children’s speech as “restricted” and the speech of middle-class children as ‘‘elaborated’’, teacher educators have disagreed over what it means to be literate and how literacy should be taught.

One approach, represented by Riddle’s argument that there are multiple definitions of literacy as definitions change over time and differ across cultures, is that the language children bring to the classroom must be valued in preference to teaching Standard English.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Lindsay Mitchell: Teen parents - a real difference


I wanted to get the whole picture before I wrote this post. Yesterday some detail arrived from the Ministry of Social Development.

For years I have agitated about the long-term DPB population being derived from teenage births. The children of these parents form the most at-risk group. But from 2008 the number of teenage births started dropping. In 2013 there were 29 percent fewer than in 2009. But even better, at March 2009 there were 4,425 teenage parents on any main benefit. By March 2014 the number had dropped to 2,560. A 42 percent reduction.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mike Butler: Farms for war veterans -- the facts



In light of a possible Waitangi Tribunal claim that the government breached the Treaty of Waitangi by not giving farms to Maori war veterans, it appears that relatively few farms were provided for ex-servicemen and relatively few Maori fought in the wars.

At an announcement on July 3, 2014, of a new direction for the tribunal, Chief Judge Wilson Isaac said the first hearing would be into the rights of Maori war veterans.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mike Butler: A billion in assets but little charity



Waikato-Tainui’s 2014 report boasts assets of $1.1-billion and distributions of $55-million over 10 years but it is over to anyone interested to work out that charitable distributions of $6.1-million over the past year only make up about nine percent of the tribal corporation’s consolidated net profit of $70.9-million. (1)

The fact is very little goes towards charity from this entity that has charitable status that means it pays very little tax. Charitable distributions for the 2014 year were $2.5-million for education, $1.2-million for marae grants and facilities, $1.7-million for Kingitanga, and $0.7 million towards a range of cultural activities.

Mike Butler: Billion dollar tribe’s slanted history



Did confiscation cause the armed conflict in the Waikato, as the Waikato-Tainui annual report 2014 claims, or was it the other way around? History shows that the Waikato-Tainui version is wrong because government troops entered the Waikato region on July 12, 1863, while a proclamation confiscating land was issued in December 1864, after the fighting was over. The Waikato-Tainui report said on page 27:
In 1863 the Crown confiscated over 1.2 million acres of Waikato-Tainui land and resources spanning from Tamaki Makaurau, through the Waikato Valley to north of the Mokau River. This confiscation resulted in the Waikato Land Wars and led to significant loss of life and property, crippling the welfare, economy, and development of Waikato-Tainui.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Matt Ridley from the UK: Fat and fattening - exploding the myths



The diet police are on the prowl: if you hear a knock on the door, hide the sugar bowl, the butter dish and the salt. A draft report from the scientific advisory committee on nutrition said last week that we should halve our intake of sugar. The campaign group Action on Sugar wants “a total ban on advertising of ultra-processed foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar and salt, and sweetened soft drinks, to protect children”.

I have been curious about this new demonisation of sugar. I now realise that it conceals a grudging admission that fat is not bad for you after all, but the experts cannot bring themselves to say so. There is a strong possibility that the “diabesity” epidemic has been caused largely by the diet police themselves.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek from Lebanon: Fairies, gnomes and mass madness


In 1917, two girls, 16-year-old Elsie Wright and her 10-year-old cousin Frances Griffiths, presented a local English newspaper with photographs of themselves in the company of fairies and a gnome. 

In modern parlance, the story went viral: the media and the public nationwide gobbled it up with fascinated delight. More pictures followed. ‘Spiritists’ – a period term alluding to spirit mediums, clairvoyants and the like – including the New Zealander Geoffrey Hodson, who died in 1983 at the age of 96, converged on the girls. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, wrote a letter expressing belief in the girls’ account.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Mike Butler: Property investors pay $500m in tax



Sick and tired of being the scapegoat that doesn’t fight back, the New Zealand Property Investors’ Federation put in an Official Information Act request to confirm that rental property owners paid nearly half a billion dollars in tax on their rental income in the year ended March 2013.

The new information that became available this week discredits a widely held perception promoted by the Tax Working Group in 2009 that rental property owners have a tax advantage and don't pay tax.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Matt Ridley from the UK: Property rights underground


The government is consulting on whether to amend the law so that you cannot stop a gas or geothermal company from drilling a horizontal well a mile beneath your house, though you can get paid for it. Lord Jenkin of Roding last week pointed out that, under the common law, ownership of your plot reaches “up to Heaven and down to Hades”. Is the government justified in weakening this aspect of your property rights below a depth of 300 metres?

Yes. When air travel began in the 1920s the United States passed a “uniform aeronautics law” to prevent planes being charged with trespass for flying over private property. In this country judges made case law that overflight was not trespass. This is a similar case — shale gas extraction would not work if trespass was held to happen deep beneath your feet.