Funding furore is enough to bug voters (while marring the PM’s image) – and then the covid-19 virus comes along

Is  it  the   kind of headline  that  will  win  votes at the general  election?  “Rock-star reception in   Fijian  village”    followed  by a   sub-head  “Rapturous   greeting for  Ardern  during visit to launch $3m  sanitation project”.

The  reporter  (veteran Barry  Soper, Newstalk ZB’s  political  editor) poses the  rhetorical  question:  “Is there any wonder that Ardern loves going overseas?”

As   well,   there  has  been  the effusive   welcome  from  Fiji  strongman  Frank  Bainimarama  who,  according  to  another  reporter,  is  expecting, even “demanding”,  Ardern to  pressure  Australia  on  its climate  change  inaction.

Point of  Order  suspects  Ardern  may be  less  forthcoming than  Bainimarama  would  like,  when  she  meets  Australia’s  Scott Morrison.  Almost certainly  climate change  won’t be on the agenda  in the  Morrison-Ardern  talks.

Still, that  won’t  diminish  Ardern’s  popularity  with   those  New Zealanders   who  delight    in her   being  billed   as  one of the world’s  leaders,    by global  media   like  the  US  Time  magazine   which  featured  her  in a cover story   recently. Continue reading “Funding furore is enough to bug voters (while marring the PM’s image) – and then the covid-19 virus comes along”

Second helpings (with a price tag in the millions) are served to some PGF beneficiaries

As we acknowledged yesterday, Point of Order must declare a pecuniary interest in the boost to benefits announced by Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.  Some of the team are among the 800,000 people receiving New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension who will enjoy a rate increase by just over 3 per cent.

Should we therefore turn off the Point of Order Trough Monitor?  Perhaps. But not yet.  

At least, not before the Provincial Growth Fund has been exhausted – and probably not even then, because we are confident it will be either replenished or replaced by another trough.

Accordingly we can advise today that the distributors of PGF swill have been busy in recent days, although none of the latest lashings of largess have been directed into Northland.

In some cases, beneficiaries have been served a second helping.

Here’s what the monitor detected: Continue reading “Second helpings (with a price tag in the millions) are served to some PGF beneficiaries”

Spending monitor seeks better deal for taxpayers but a blogger begs for bigger boost for beneficiaries

Whoopee!  A pay rise.

No – to be precise, a rise in the national super which is paid to some of the team at Point of Order.

Super was mentioned in the boost to benefits announced yesterday by Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

Fair to say, this boost did not go down well with the monitors of public extravagance at the Taxpayers’ Union.  The indexation of benefits to wages means taxpayers are treated less fairly than ever, they say.

Martyn Bradbury, on the Daily Blog, is critical too – but his grouch is that the government has been much too stingy.

Point of Order checked social spending as a percentage of total government spending in the latest six-month Crown financial statements.  We were surprised to find it is a smaller portion of than it was 20 years ago.

But first, the announcement. Continue reading “Spending monitor seeks better deal for taxpayers but a blogger begs for bigger boost for beneficiaries”

Conundrum for the Democrats is whether left-wing Sanders can beat Trump – and if not, who can?

US politics ain’t for the faint-of-heart.  Signs of desperation are emerging in the Democratic Party as Senator Bernie Sanders surges to the lead after three key polls – and party grandees worry whether mainstream United States is ready to elect a “socialist”.

Then, Republicans fear the US intelligence agencies, labelled “deep state” by President Donald Trump, are interfering in the election campaign. Intelligence officials briefed Congress this week on indications that the Russians are once again dabbling in US politics.

This caught Trump by surprise because his own officials hadn’t briefed him on what the lawmakers would be told – and led to a blitz of weekend TV on the news that maybe, possibly, the intelligence community had passed on the right “nuance”. Continue reading “Conundrum for the Democrats is whether left-wing Sanders can beat Trump – and if not, who can?”

A green partner for the Nats looks unlikely as Sustainable NZ’s sustainability is tested

The Sustainable New Zealand Party is struggling to demonstrate it has enough political sustainability to last until the election campaign heats up later this year.  Within just a few months media attention has turned from its founding to its foundering.

The New Zealand Herald seems not to have caught up with the foundering bit of the fledgling party’s brief existence (at least, we found no up-to-date report in a quick Google search).  But on November 10 last year it did report on the party’s  establishment under the heading Sustainable NZ Party launches with promise to boost conservation spending by $1 billion.

The party is led by Vernon Tava, a former Green Party member who unsuccessfully stood as co- leader in 2015 against James Shaw, arguing that the party should declare its willingness to partner Labour or National in government. Continue reading “A green partner for the Nats looks unlikely as Sustainable NZ’s sustainability is tested”

The RBNZ’s staff numbers surge – but the governor warns he wants more (especially for supervision)

Staff expenses at the Reserve Bank  – which have increased by an average 4.4% a year since 2009/11 – surged by 14.8% in the 12 months to 2018/19.

Total staff numbers increased by an average 3.4 a year during those nine years  but shot up by 19  in 2018/19 from 255 to 274.

But wait.  We need more – or rather, the governor says he needs more.

The Taxpayers Union reckons we should ignore him.

According to the Dominion-Post, Adrian Orr this week told a parliamentary select committee the bank is anticipating “a much more significant increase” over its next five-year funding period.

“The begging letter is on its way to the Treasury for inspection and then we will be going into our funding agreement discussion with the Minister of Finance in mid-March,” he said.

Orr told Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure select committee he was not comfortable talking about the scale of the possible resourcing increase ahead of those discussions, but said it was “30 per cent perhaps”.

“The biggest percentage change in staff would be in supervision.” Continue reading “The RBNZ’s staff numbers surge – but the governor warns he wants more (especially for supervision)”

O’Connor is accused of being slow to act on bovine tb – but Nats have been slow to raise questions, too

The Nats are accusing Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor of being slow to act on a bovine tuberculosis outbreak in Hawke’s Bay.  Is it a fair cop?

OSPRI confirmed an outbreak in Hawke’s Bay in April last year, but a disease management response wasn’t put in place until October, National agriculture spokesman Todd Muller contends.

There have been more positive tests since then and one third of Hawke’s Bay will be under stock movement controls from March 1.

“Responses like this need to be fronted quickly for the sake of our valuable beef and dairy sector. The Minister needs to be across his portfolio and ensure these issues don’t sneak past him.”

But whether O’Connor has been caught napping depends on when he first learned (a) about the bovine tb and its rate of spread and (b) what was being done to deal with the outbreak – and when he should have first learned those things.

Continue reading “O’Connor is accused of being slow to act on bovine tb – but Nats have been slow to raise questions, too”