Saturday, April 01, 2006

Support for Rodney

Good to see some support for Rodney Hide in this editorial from the Gisborne Herald. I disagree with Roger Douglas that ACT would have won 7-8 percent of the vote if it had stuck to policy. The election was a two horse race. The public has reverted to first past-the-post mentality. That is where the battle lies. But if Sir Roger wants to run post mortems what might have made a difference was Rodney being supported to go for Epsom in 2002.

The tail wagging the dog

At a public meeting last year I unintentionally caused considerable offence to one lady (and maybe others who weren't prepared to say so) when I said, "The poor in this country are the tail wagging the dog." Of course, if you were mindful of everybody's sensitivities nothing would ever be said.

What I wanted to convey is, because some people can't afford to pay we have designed our entire system, with government as the middle man, around that premise. But we should let those who can pay sort out their own requirements and treat the needs of the poor as an entirely separate issue.

Everybody would benefit.

The Welfare State We're In

James Bartholomew has a website under the same name as his book, with regular updates pertinent to the welfare state.

Health reform

There is a highly readable article at Adam Smith which outlines the problem with the NHS (which pretty much reflects New Zealand's public health system). Unusually it also proposes a solution.

According to Doctors for Reform taxation-funded healthcare can never meet demand and compulsory insurance in Europe works much better. “The NHS as we know it has had its day”, said the founder of the group, the oncologist Professor Karol Sikora. He added, tax finance is simply no longer fair because people with a healthy lifestyle have to subsidize people, who knowingly damage their health in a variety of ways. Indeed the NHS provides incentives not to bother about one’s health and even to remain ill in order to get the most out of the NHS. It is another example of the welfare state that actually encourages people to the opposite of what it seeks to achieve.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Verdict not guilty

NEWSFLASH: Not Guilty - Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards and his two co-accused have been cleared of sex charges involving Louise Nicholas.

Just one thought. Given the history, is this the end of it?


Just reading about the Tamsin vs Trelise court case being delayed.
And the thought crossed my mind that I am so important somebody is bound to be trading off my name. And I am paranoid enough to check...
Horrors. Look what I found!
Oh no. She's a babe. Half my age and much better looking. Where's my lawyers phone number...

Greens on WFF

"While the Green Party supports the extension of Working For Families, we would also like to see the Government cease to discriminate against beneficiaries," Ms Bradford says.

Gee Sue. I'd like the government to cease to discriminate against people without dependent children. The result of that discrimination will be far more harmful for the country.

Jail for DPB fraud

This woman has been sentenced to twelve months jail for ripping off the DPB. But see how long she was on it? Thirteen years and no questions asked. That's a moral crime. She started on the benefit at 18. She probably grew up on a benefit and now she will cost the taxpayer even more as a B & B guest of the state.

And her side of the story - She said she hadn't advised the change in her circumstances because she and her husband needed the money. They had debts and were poor budgeters.

Most of us have debts and many of us are less-than-wonderful budgeters but we don't commit crimes.

They came for the dogs and then....

NZ workers could be microchipped, according to Stuff this morning.

It isn't often I find myself agreeing with Andrew Little from EPMA but I wholly endorse this sentiment.

"When measures are taken that diminish the foundation for trust and respect then the working relationship starts to sour and people feel affronted,"Mr Little said.

The use of video cameras in the workplace raised "fraught issues" and the union remained opposed to the use of random drug tests, he said.

OECD report card on taxation

The Herald reports, Kiwis do better on tax.
Looking forward to some expert analysis on this and will post anything I spot (and certainly welcome any comments). The relatively low tax wedge seems to reflect our high level of income redistribution. Although the many other taxes we pay are not accounted for in calculating the tax wedge, a further finding shows NZ with the third highest percentage of total tax take being personal income tax. Suggesting that other taxation isn't comparatively high either. I wonder if local government taxes are accounted for. Their revenue is around ten percent of central govts.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tau in trouble

National MP, Tau Henare is in hot water after saying he couldn't stand Tony Blair and calling him a "liar" on the Paul Holmes talkshow yesterday morning.....while the British PM was in the country no less. Watching Blair on John Campbell last night I'd have to say I rate him somewhat higher than Tau Henare. I was impressed with Blair's communication style regardless of whether I agreed with his comments.

The people must be protected

According to Reason
Chinese authorities have banned films and television shows mixing animation with real people. The ban is part of an effort to boost local production and reduce the amount of foreign content on Chinese TV. But media regulators also have a history of wariness regarding material than smacks of the supernatural or fantasy. The talking-pig movie "Babe" was banned several years ago, according to Variety, "on the basis that animals can't talk and some viewers would be confused."

I guess there's not much hope for Animal Farm then.

Liberal Conservatives or vice versa

This is an excerpt from Colin James' NZ Herald column Tuesday (premium content so no link).

"Last week he (National MP, Chris Finlayson) won approval from the party's board to set up a new group -- he is toying with calling it "liberal" or "liberal-conservative" -- with a formal place in the party structure and a role in delineating broad policy parameters and directions.

Finlayson's group succeeds an anaemic "classical liberal" group, which held a breakfast meeting at the 2004 conference but seemed unsure what it stood for. "Classical liberal" is more ACT's style (it calls itself plain "liberal") than National's, except for ACT's "tenth MP", Brash, and a handful of other caucus survivors of the 1990s."

Which word comes first must hold the key. Are they going to be liberal conservatives or conservative liberals? Or 50/50? Does anyone care? They should just call themselves the "compromisers" and have done with it.

Go The Poodle!

The Poodle has a new cause - far worthier than his usual pursuits - finding homes for retired greyhounds.

"I have no doubt that Greyhounds As Pets will provide huge benefits to the greyhound industry and to the people who adopt these dogs as pets," concluded Mr Peters.

I hope there is a home standing by for the Poodle in 2008. Go Winston!

Taxed to the max theme

The Working for Families jingle, the touchy-feely, very-quickly-getting-on-everybody's nerves musical phrase telling you that twittish family will soon be in your living room too, was especially commissioned by our beloved government at a cost of $16,500.

I guess that's a drop in the bucket compared to the total campaign cost but it focusses the mind on the deadweight cost of redistributing income.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hate mail

Trevor Loudon has a post about his "best ever threat". Which reminded me about the hate mail I received when I launched the petition calling for a Parliamentary review of the DPB. Here's one postmarked South Auckland. (Nice sort of Mum to have.)

Dumb law

Yesterday's big issue in talkback land was compulsory micro-chipping of all dogs. There is almost unanimous opposition to this move because people cannot see what it is supposed to prevent or achieve. Occasionally an issue like this acts as a catalyst for a lot of other dissatisfaction. Clearly many people are sick of pointless legislation...just not sick enough to vote out the major protagonists. But Labour shouldn't underestimate this one. If the farmers march on Parliament it will be a bigger affair than the fart tax protest. I'll be doing my bit to urge other dog owners to join them.

The Timaru Herald has a good editorial about the matter today, "The microchipping law, AS A WHOLE, is dumb. If anything it will make the dangerous dog problem worse, not better.


I had a dream about Princess Diana last night. She had on a blue dress and was singing in her debut musical. I woke up thinking maybe Diana is going to feature in the news today. But what's the connection to singing?

Just now I heard Paul Holmes talking about a new book which claims singer Barbara Streisand slept with Prince Charles and Dodi Al Fayed. So did Princess Diana. Weird.

Hodgson strained

Listening to question time Pete Hodgson, Minister of Health, sounds perpetually on the edge of hysteria. Yesterday he issued a statement slating Don Brash's earlier comments on the health system.

He quoted Brash as saying,"…if you offer something for free, the demand will be enormous, and that if you don't use price to limit that demand, you will soon be unable to meet the demand."

"No matter how much is spent on health, there will always be queues unless price or some arbitrary political decision is part of the rationing process."

What's to argue with there (bar the misnomer "free")? But Hodgson uses these self-evident principles to accuse National of wanting to charge people for elective surgery - as if they don't pay now!

Pete Hodgson is thrashing a dead horse. No wonder he is in such bad shape.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tax breaks?

Thousands of families to get tax break
Mr Benson-Pope visited a Wellington call centre handling Working For Families inquiries today where he met call centre worker Nigel Ritchie.

Mr Ritchie is married with two children, one aged three and the other nine months, and earns $37,500. From Saturday his Family Assistance under the Working For Families package would increase to $334 per fortnight, up more than $200 a fortnight.

When the Childcare and Accommodation Supplement components of the Working For Families package are added, Mr Ritchie's family will get around $270 per week -- making them $110 a week better off from Saturday.

If I understand this properly Nigel is getting $14,040 pa from Working for Families. His tax would be $8,336. He is not getting a tax break. He is getting a hand-out. To boot, he is produces nothing of value to add to the wealth of the country (nothing personal Nigel). Some will argue he has produced two children. But there is no guarantee they will stay in NZ - unless all the state benefits make it irresistable.

What a prospect. The multitudes seduced with hand-outs and a Labour government with an insurmountable number of voters....

The size and nature of the welfare problem

A question I have been trying to answer for a long time is, how many children growing up in benefit-dependent homes are at risk of experiencing health or developmental problems? I came across a report at the Ministry of Social Development website that sheds some light on an answer. Here is a piece I wrote about it last week. This links in with the discussion Judge Boshier has sparked today.

Criminogenic programmes

There are around 7,500 people in NZ prisons.

According to the Corrections Department, "For many inmates drug use is a factor in their offending. The Department provides interventions, programmes and special treatment units, designed to help inmates understand the link between their addiction and patterns of offending and to stop using or distributing drugs."

So how are they doing?

Simon Power to the Minister of Corrections (13 March 2006): How many inmates started the 100-hour Alcohol and Drug criminogenic programme in each financial year since 2000/01; what are the numbers for the 2005/06 year to date?

These are the numbers of starts on all criminogenic programmes including alcohol and drug programmes.

2001/02 109
2002/03 233
2003/04 159
2004/05 103
2005/06 80

Impressive isn't it. And how many Psychological Service staff are employed by Corrections?

* Staff (2004/05 full-time equivalent): 116

More staff than there are inmates entering programmes.

Lost in tanslation

According to Newstalk ZB, Australian tourism officials have had to make a few changes to the "Where the Bloody Hell Are You" advertising campaign, because it does not make sense in Japan.

The word "bloody" doesn't translate, so the message has been changed to simply read "Why Don't You Come?"

It took a long explanation about Australian mateship for a conference of Japanese travel executives to understand the campaign.

And elsewhere.....

Doctor's office, Rome:

Dry cleaners, Bangkok:

On an Athi River highway - the main road to Mombasa, leaving Nairobi.

Hotel, Japan:

Hotel, Zurich:

In an Alpine mountain inn:

(Hat tip Adam Smith blog)

Fudging the issue

Despite the statistics, she believed NZ was still the best place to raise children, but "we can do better".

That's Annette King, Police Minister, commenting on the high number of domestic killings happening in NZ.

She is reacting to Peter Boshier, Family Court Judge, who said yesterday;

"We used to say of ourselves that New Zealand was the greatest country in the world to bring up children. If that was ever true, we cannot be so proud or complacent now.

"As judges, we see the damage daily. What is done to one is done to all. Domestic violence has become an issue for all New Zealanders."

I tend to find for Mrs King. Why? Because she is taking an individualist approach. Many families have decided NZ is still the best place to bring up kids. For them the statement is true.

Treating domestic violence as a collective issue will never change anything. I don't accept that it is spread evenly across cultures and socio-economic class. That is a myth the apologists push. And I don't know what the Judge really means by, what is done to one is done to all. That is empty rhetoric. If somebody says a problem has "become an issue for all New Zealanders" you can bet they want to put their hand in your pocket to try to sort it out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

What joy

Defining the opposite of "synergy".....

Policy Sharing Plan - The Labour governments of New Zealand and Britain plan to formalise the way public servants in both countries share policy development during this week’s visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

NHS Doctor Blog

"State sponsored shag" is a post from a frankly highly disturbing but also very funny blog.
"Dr Crippen is angry. He has worked for over 20 years in the NHS. He watches and weeps as the Health Service, slowly but inexorably, is destroyed. He takes a sad, sometimes humorous, sometimes cynical, look at the health care from the inside."

Carping over Commonwealth Games "failure"

In the aftermath, the predictable whining about insufficient government funding has begun. But what ever got better because government threw money at it?
I say abolish SPARC and sack that Jonah, Trevor Mallard!

The Maori Party and Welfare

The DomPost reports today; In her speech to ACT's annual conference in Wellington yesterday, Mrs Turia stressed the similarities between ACT and the Maori Party on issues such as the foreshore and seabed and welfare reform.

She said the Maori Party wanted provision of welfare to be decentralised and all those receiving a benefit to be required to work.

The NZ Herald reports; Mrs Turia said one of the four Maori Party MPs had been opposed to her giving the speech, but she declined to name the person.

Perhaps that MP is her co-leader.

Pita Sharples has said; The Working for Families package does not sufficiently address poverty, or child poverty, in Aotearoa. This package, along with the government’s Single Core Benefit system, rolls out the expectation that all beneficiaries should be in or moving towards paid work (often low-paid work) - regardless of being full-time parents or living in areas of job shortages.

This is at odds with Tariana's proclamation.

The Maori Party has also aligned itself strongly with the Greens on the matter of the Child Poverty Action Group's campaign. Mrs Turia said;
"253,000 children are in households supported by a benefit. It is these children that stand to gain most from the action of CPAG in being granted access to the Human Rights Review Tribunal for its case alleging discrimination in the Child Tax Credit, and the proposed In Work Payment". The Maori Party want non-working beneficiaries with children to receive the same extra payment as those who go to work.

Increasing payments to beneficiaries to a level on par with workers is going to make it harder to get people interested in jobs.

The huge problem for Maori is intergenerational dependency. At the heart of the problem is children growing up in non-working homes. If Tariana is serious about tackling DPB dependency I wish her well. But I am not convinced she is. I hope I am proved wrong.


Dangerous inmates fly around country. If the only female passengers on the plane were an inmate and her guard, who would the unaccompanied child passenger be placed next to?

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Here's a dog portrait I'm working on - a chocolate Lab pup.

I've updated my artist blog

News of the day

"Women who want to delay having babies until their thirties are being urged to think again after stunning new research which reveals that infertility rates nearly double after the age of 26".

That's pretty alarming. But the findings could be expressed differently.

After 26 the chances of being fertile drop from 90 percent to 80 percent.

I wouldn't use this as a reason for rushing into parenthood with the next twit that comes along.

The Chancellor's Budget Speech

This is delightful.

"It is gratifying to be able to report that taxation has risen to such an extent that the average citizen now works until June 3rd for the government, showing what I am sure my fellow members will agree is a touching patriotism and faith in government."

With a little tweaking here and there I am sure Mr Cullen could deliver much the same speech later this year.