Is the Hipkins outfit afflicted by creeping incompetence or crisis-ridden?  

Is  anyone  feeling sorry for the Prime Minister? Here, confronted once more by an errant minister, he has had to use his disciplinary powers, but not to the satisfaction of Opposition parties.

 Michael Wood may have been one of the more effective ministers in the current administration, though that is disputed  by both National and ACT.

Certainly  the failure to dispose of  his holding of Auckland Airport shares while he held the Transport portfolio, though told to do so not once  but six times,  aroused  a  measure of  doubt about his  competency, even more so when it was subsequently revealed  by the NZ Herald that he  declined North Shore Aerodrome’s application  for airport authority status while he owned shares in Auckland Airport, a potential competitor.

Continue reading “Is the Hipkins outfit afflicted by creeping incompetence or crisis-ridden?  “

Finding space in govt policy for indigenous astronomers while mixing in appropriate mythology (and a role for the kūmara)

News of the indigenization of New Zealand’s Space Policy (here) has reached Jerry Coyne, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, whose analysis of it has been posted on Why Evolution is True  (here).

The National Space Policy (as Point of Order noted) is led by robust objectives of:

  • Growing an innovative and inclusive space sector
  • Protecting and advancing our national security and economic interests
  • Regulating to ensure space activities are safe and secure
  • Promoting the responsible use of space internationally
  • Modelling sustainable space and Earth environments

In her announcement, Economic Development Minister Barbara Edmonds said:

The policy identifies stewardship, innovation, responsibility, and partnership as key values for New Zealand in space. Harnessing these values will inform space-related engagements, policy creation and strategies across government


This is an important milestone in our space journey as it provides an overview of New Zealand’s values and objectives to guide future space-related policies and regulation.

This is an ongoing conversation. We will continue to engage with stakeholders and industry…

Continue reading “Finding space in govt policy for indigenous astronomers while mixing in appropriate mythology (and a role for the kūmara)”

Simon says pragmatism should come before principles – thus taxpayers will stump up $354m to lift sole parents’ incomes

Buzz from the Beehive

The announcement from the Beehive somewhat blandly declared: New law passes on child support to sole parents.

Social policy commentator Lindsay Mitchell more pertinently headed her article on the new law: Taxpayer to stump up another $354 million to lift beneficiary sole parent incomes.

The ministerial press statement says a new law enabling sole parents on a benefit to receive child support payments for their children was passed in Parliament yesterday.

The statement provided curious taxpayers with just one figure with a dollar sign:

“This change is estimated to lift as many as 14,000 children out of poverty and give families a median of $20 extra a week,” said Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

Continue reading “Simon says pragmatism should come before principles – thus taxpayers will stump up $354m to lift sole parents’ incomes”

We are told (but not officially) that airport shares have landed Michael Wood in a bit of bother

Buzz from the Beehive

At least one headline-grabbing ministerial announcement had not  been posted on the government’s official website, when Point of Order checked early this afternoon.

We learned from other sources that

  • Michael Wood has been stood down as Transport Minister over over failing to properly disclose shares owned in Auckland Airport; and
  • Rino Tirikatene, Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth, is travelling to Singapore today on a mission (unabashedly discriminatory) to “promote business investment for wāhine entrepreneurs, and explore investment opportunities for  Māori land-based aquaculture”.

Just one new announcement had been posted on the Beehive website when we  checked.  It advised that  Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka will be visiting  New Zealand this week.

Latest from the Beehive

Fiji Prime Minister Rabuka to visit New Zealand

Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka will visit New Zealand this week, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced today. Continue reading “We are told (but not officially) that airport shares have landed Michael Wood in a bit of bother”

Record dairy output ending the dairy  season may help ease higher cost pressures on NZ’s key export producers

Battered by storms, and soaring costs, New Zealand dairy  farmers have countered by  extracting  higher production.

As one commentator  put it, end-of-season production  “has been through the roof” . Westpac senior  agri economist Nathan Penny notes  in a  report in the NZ Herald that we  are probably looking at two record months to end the season, with  April  hitting a record high for an April month—up 7% on a  year ago.

 “It seems  like that continued into May”.

Any  extra inflow of cash from that will be important  to producers to offset rising costs, particularly as the big co-op Fonterra  has  pitched  its forecast payout for the new season beginning this month in a $7.25-$8.75kg/MS range, with a$8 mid-point.  

DairyNZ  CEO Tim Mackie has  pointed out that farmers have seen an increase in their costs in recent years, with total expenses in 2020-21 at $8.13/kg, and forecast to be around $9/kg in the 2022-23 season.

“This has largely been driven by increases in feed, up 21%, fertiliser, up 28%, and interest costs, up 39%”.

Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman John Stevenson says  the financial situation on farms is tight, but the co-op’s advance rate schedule will be welcome. (Fonterra when it announced the new season’s forecast said it had designed a new advance rate guideline to get cash to them earlier in the season, in recognition of the financial pressure  many are under).

The break-even point for farmers, says Stevenson,  will depend  on their costs, and how  much debt they have. 

“Anything around $8/kg  is  pretty close to break-even. I’m assuming that with this opening milk price, farmers will look really  hard at their budgets and tighter their belts  going into  the  new season”.

As Point of  Order  sees it, the  issue  for  the dairy industry is  whether the Chinese market becomes more active, following  the prolonged Covid lockdown.  Some  market  observers  believe the  signs  are  propitious;others are more cautious.  

Meanwhile Fonterra’s farmer-shareholders  will be  counting on the  substantial dividends the co-op  has signalled as a  result of  its buoyant trading in  the  season just past.       

GEOFFREY MILLER: How fake AI images could stoke tensions in the Indo-Pacific

  • Geoffrey Miller writes –

Seeing is no longer believing.

Surprisingly realistic – yet fake – images created by Artificial Intelligence (AI) are here.

To date, most have seemed more like curiosities than genuine deception attempts.

Last month, it was revealed that New Zealand’s National Party had used the AI image generation app Midjourney to produce promotional images. The results included imaginary healthcare workers and fearful-looking citizens worried about crime.

In this case, the use of AI was relatively benign – the AI creations effectively replaced the stock photos that would have been used in the past.

Until a media outlet raised suspicions, few people – if any – had even noticed that the realistic-looking images were actually fake.

While the New Zealand example showed how AI images can be used in election campaigns, we can also expect them to have an outsized impact on international relations. Continue reading “GEOFFREY MILLER: How fake AI images could stoke tensions in the Indo-Pacific”

JACQUI VAN DER KAAY: Why Parliament’s rules matter

  • Jacqui Van Der Kaay writes –  

It could be easy to shrug away Education Minister Jan Tinetti’s referral to the Privileges Committee as just another example of a Minister not following the rules of Parliament. But its significance should be recognised in the fact it is only the second time since 2008 that a Member of Parliament has been referred to the committee.

The cause of the referral is the Minister’s actions but at the heart of it is upholding the integrity of New Zealand’s Parliament.

Tinetti’s referral to the committee by Speaker Adrian Rurawhe arose from not correctly answering a parliamentary question in February when she was asked about her role in the release of school attendance data. She incorrectly answered that it was the Ministry of Education’s role to release the information. Her office notified her of the mistake, but as required by Parliament’s rules, she failed to correct the record as quickly as possible. Continue reading “JACQUI VAN DER KAAY: Why Parliament’s rules matter”

Beehive brays about King’s Birthday gongs and a deal with Japan – but it is bashful about rebuff of a Chinese request

Buzz from the Beehive

The government’s official website – dominated today by announcements of who has been awarded King’s Birthday gongs – also carries news of a development in New Zealand’s relationship with Japan.

This sits alongside the speech which Defence Minister Andrew Little delivered to the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2023 in Singapore, in which he said New Zealand’s most recent defence assessment identified climate change and geostrategic competition as the two greatest security challenges to our place in the South Pacific.

To the first issue, partners engaging and re-engaging with Pacific Island Countries are finding that climate change is a security and existential threat in our part of the world. As defence leaders we cannot view climate change as something that only others must grapple with.

But today I want to focus on that second challenge, increasing geostrategic competition in the Pacific and Indian Oceans regions. That issue poses significant risks of miscalculation – particularly when nuclear weapons are part of the calculus.

Little proceeded to tell his audience of international big-wigs about New Zealand’s concerns without mentioning China. Nor did he mention the United States or Australia.

But it seems he did meet China’s Defence Minister. Continue reading “Beehive brays about King’s Birthday gongs and a deal with Japan – but it is bashful about rebuff of a Chinese request”

BRIAN EASTON:  What do economists do?

 Steven Levitt, famous for his Freakanomics, shows that being an economist is not just mouthing supply and demand.

  • Brian Easton writes –

Anyone can call themselves an ‘economist’. Many do, despite having no qualifications in economics and hardly any formal training; they often make elementary errors. That is the result of a conscious decision of the economics profession which resists barriers to exit and entry. In contrast other professions have restrictions, often for good reasons; I am glad my medical advisers are not only qualified but also registered. However, claiming to be expert on economics to contribute to the public commentary without any expertise, is confusing to those with more humble understandings.

On the other hand there are those who have a high reputation in the economics profession but who don’t seem to be really economists. Consider Steven Levitt, who has written of himself, ‘I am having trouble mastering the tools of my own profession. If you ask my students whether I know calculus, they will say “not very well”. I’m not proud of the fact, but I’m a realist. If you ask the really great economic thinkers like Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy how often I’m right when I try to apply Chicago price theory, they will simply tell you that I am showing a lot of improvement, because they are kind.’ Continue reading “BRIAN EASTON:  What do economists do?”