Climate change has Boris wilting

Winter by-elections are rarely kind to governments.  But Boris Johnson’s Conservative party held on to a south London stronghold on a low turnout with a tolerably-reduced majority.

More worrying was that 1,400 voters got out of bed (one presumes) on a bitterly cold day to vote for the relatively anonymous candidate of a rebranded populist Reform party.  That’s about as many as the Greens and Liberals could manage between them.

After two years of setting the agenda, the talk now is of Boris losing his grip. But might it be the change in his agenda?

Continue reading “Climate change has Boris wilting”

We don’t recall Ministers drawing attention to their new road-block laws – but Hone Harawira is making the most of them

There were no new statements on the Beehive website when we checked today, which means ministers have nothing fresh to announce – or rather, nothing they want to boast about or let us know about.

Matters such as changes to the Covid laws which determine who can mount road blocks to stop people going where they might want to go.  

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Act (No 2) 2021 was enacted on 20 November 2021.

According to the  Ministry of Health website, this legislation mainly continues to enable the Minister for COVID-19 Response to issue Orders to respond to COVID-19 in a flexible and agile way.  

Many of the changes made by this Amendment Act are technical in nature. These include clarifying some terms in the Act and improving transparency around decision making.

And:

Most of the changes in this Amendment Act will not immediately have direct impacts on the general public. However, future Orders made under the Act using these changes may impose obligations or requirements on individuals to ensure the Government can supress and minimise the impact of COVID-19 and reconnect New Zealand.

The one change that will have a more immediate direct impact on all New Zealanders is the increase of infringement penalties for people who breach orders under the Act. The Government believes these higher penalties will more accurately reflect the risks associated with breaching an Order. Continue reading “We don’t recall Ministers drawing attention to their new road-block laws – but Hone Harawira is making the most of them”

Transitory inflation retires but does not recede

His reappointment as conductor of the world’s monetary orchestra safely in the bag, US Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell let us know that the current bout of “transitory” inflation was a little more than that.

“It is probably a good time to retire that word”, he told the world.

As euphemisms go, it may not acquire the notoriety of the Nixon White House’s description of a previous statement as “inoperative”.

Continue reading “Transitory inflation retires but does not recede”

Pharmac should brace for a dose of medicine to perk up its Treaty performance and (all going well) lift Maori health outcomes

Monitoring the Ministers

A raft of appointments has been  announced over the past 24 hours – an ambassador to Turkey, a consul-general to Guangzhou, a chair for KiwiRail, a deputy inspector-general of intelligence and security and an advisory panel for the same outfit. 

Oh – and remember Clare Curran? The former Labour Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media has landed a job on the board of a Crown company, Network for Learning (N4L).       

In other announcements, the government joined the disabled community in marking and celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall congratulated Covid testing teams around New Zealand for reaching the five million tests milestone.

Another big health-related statement came from Health Minister Andrew Little, who said care for the sickest New Zealanders is getting a major boost from the government, with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on expanding intensive care-type services.

As the country shifts to the traffic-light system, he said (somewhat ominously)

“… we need to make sure we can cope with the unexpected.”

Cabinet has earmarked $100 million of capital funding from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to accelerate these intensive care unit projects.  Another $544 million of operational funding is available to fund ongoing costs like staffing.

But Point of Order was drawn to another of Little’s press statements, issued to accompany his release of an interim report by an independent panel reviewing the national pharmaceuticals-buying agency Pharmac. Continue reading “Pharmac should brace for a dose of medicine to perk up its Treaty performance and (all going well) lift Maori health outcomes”

A new leader gets a chance of definition with early utterings

So what will the world’s leaders make of Chris Luxon’s first pronouncements?

Given the context, they might be surprised to discover that his conversion therapy reference was not to the alchemic process by which an amiable executive became the leader of one of the western world’s historically most successful political machines.

Does it perhaps signify a liking for political philosopy?

If so, the aversion to conversion is odd.

New Zealand has a rich tradition of nurturing doctrinaire cranks proclaiming the truth: Radiant Livers, communitarians, New Ageists, most socialists.  Liberals mostly enjoy and ignore them – unless they break the law.

So how will Luxon take forward his exegetic reasoning.

Is it based on the need for evidence to confirm the existence of the ‘gay gene’?  Or does he essay down the path of evolutionary selection of culture?

There’s risk and opportunity with the latter, because at times most factions have run that argument.

If you subscribe to cultural Darwinism, you can’t really avoid tackling the hypothesis that homosexuality has an evolutionary purpose (apart from enraging certain old-school conservatives).  Which would give big state supporters a chance to urge its active and compulsory promotion (call this reverse conversion, or perhaps reversion on a grand scale?)  Luxon should be able to take refuge in the causes of small government and non-interference.

But he’ll need to be careful of being overly philosophical in debates over selective abortion based on genetic typology – gay gene or not.

Jacinda Ardern does appear to believe in something (however harmful and divisive some people might think it is).  An early job for Chris Luxon – and not an easy one in the circumstances – will be to show that he is not one of those centre-right politicians who will believe in just about anything.

So clarity on his political philosophy – and on its continuity with the historical traditions of the National party – might actually be pretty important. And it might be useful to keep in mind that line from Yeats’s Second Coming (“The best lack all conviction … “) – still something of a gold standard in troubled times.

Righting the Nats may require pitching to voters in the centre – but that need not mean dumping free-enterprise principles

 

National’s   new  leadership   team had  no  need  to  worry  that, as  they stepped  into  office and into campaigning to replace the Ardern government at the next election, they  would suffer  from a shortage of  advice.  Wherever  they looked   they  could  see mountains  of  it.  

There  was  this  kind (from  a  newspaper  columnist) :

“ In short, new National leader Chris Luxon will likely have to come up with policies and strategies to tackle immediate economic headwinds in five areas: a slow economic bounceback, immigration, a slowing China, tourism, and inflation.”

Or this  kind  (from former National Prime  Minister  Jim  Bolger) who said a “disappointing”  National  has  to  reimagine capitalism because   social  inequality is  pushing  countries to  revolution.

Bolger said the dominant global economic model was dividing society.

“Some are getting obscenely rich and others are going to food kitchens.”  Bolger said Labour was not seriously addressing social inequality.”

Parliamentary veteran Winston Peters, once a National Party deputy leader and MP before forming NZ First,  weighed in. What is  needed, most importantly, is a real vision for NZ, he opined from his (somewhat lonely these days) pulpit.

The Dominion-Post  was  at  its most  omniscient:  NZ  needs  Luxon  to  right   the  Nats.

And  to  make  it  plain exactly  where  it  stood,  the  next  days’ edition  carried  as  a  lead  story the  revelation that

“.. soaring  prices  mean new  National  Party  leader  Christopher Luxon  is  effectively  earning about $90,000  a  week  in capita; gains  from his 7 properties which give him the biggest property portfolio of  any  sitting  MP”.

Point of  Order  resists  the  temptation   to  join  the throng in  offering  advice to the  new  leaders.  But we wonder  whether  Chris Luxon and Nicola Willis are  as convinced  as  the  would-be  advisers appear to  be  that the original  principles  of  the  National Party are  so  shop-worn   they  should be discarded.

It  is  true,  of  course,  that  Labour  has  long departed  from the  principles  on which  it  was  founded (remember   the  “socialisation  of  the means  of production, distribution   and  exchange”)  which it  found both unpopular  and, more  to  the point,  unworkable.

That  doesn’t  mean to say that  some  people don’t believe this system   is  superior  to capitalism.  Yet  it  was  clear  that,  in  an  imperfect  world, most  people  given   the  choice  in the days  when Communist Russia espoused the Leninist philosophy preferred  to  live   in the  West.  The Iron Curtain was designed to keep Soviet-bloc people in, not to keep the capitalists out.

Returning to  modern-day NZ, the  question is  about how to win the  middle  ground  in NZ  politics, which – thanks to Geoffrey  Palmer’s  adoption  of the MMP electoral system – a party must do to win  enough seats to govern at general elections.)  National may well be tempted to at least take a hard look at its original  founding principles  of free-market  capitalism  in a property owning democracy.

Critics  may  argue (as   Bolger  does) that some  people  are  becoming  obscenely rich  and  others  are  going to food  kitchens, but  one  may also look to  the  farming  industry as  it  has evolved  in  NZ  for another example  of the operation of  the free enterprise  system.  It  is  proving  not only  to be the backbone of  the  NZ  economy, but  it is a virtual saviour in  terms  of  export earnings  as  Covid-19 renders  others  like the tourist industry  almost  impotent in  terms  of earning  overseas exchange.

And  now  there  is  evolving an equally  successful outcome   for the  capitalist structure to farming  in  the  hi-tech  industry. As   Southland-born Peter  Beck, founder of the spectacularly successful RocketLab, said this week:

“Right now  the tech  sector in NZ  is  raging…I have a lot to do with the venture capital, it’s  the  best I’ve  ever  seen it and  funding a  lot  of  startups. And  I have to  say that the  quality  and  quantity of  startups  now  is the  best I’ve  ever  seen  it”.    

It’s  no surprise  that “obscenely rich” individuals like  Peter  Beck are backers of new  hi-tech  ventures — this  is  what  capitalists  do — and  they  encourage  others  to  do  the  same. The  theory  is  that  it is  better  to  aim at lifting  all boats.   

Point  of  Order suspects  that’s what  Luxon and  Willis want  to  do.

Aussies have been on peace duties in Honiara for a week – but NZ (after waiting to be asked) is deploying help, too

Monitoring the Ministers

A week after violence erupted in Honiara, capital of the politically troubled Solomon Islands, the Ardern government responded to a request to help restore peace and stability.

The New Zealand government has announced that it will deploy Defence Force and Police personnel to Honiara to help restore peace and stability.

Better late than never?

The Aussies responded last week.

But according to the Beehive statement, we were asked for help only this week.  The Aussies reportedly were asked for help almost immediately after protesters arrived on the steps of Solomon Islands’ national parliament in Honiara last Wednesday to demand the prime minister’s resignation.

Anyway, our government has had plenty of other things to consider.

Coastal shipping, for example.  The cumbersomely titled Coastal Shipping Investment Approach State-of-Play report has been released, described by Transport Minister Michael Wood as an important step towards a more sustainable coastal shipping sector, which will further diversify New Zealand’s supply chain.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods has announced legislation in her portfolio patch has been given the Royal assent.

Once in effect The Crown Minerals (Decommissioning and Other Matters) Amendment Bill will mitigate the risk to the Crown and taxpayer of having to fund decommissioning if a permit or licence holder is unable to do so. Continue reading “Aussies have been on peace duties in Honiara for a week – but NZ (after waiting to be asked) is deploying help, too”

Ministers merrily dispense more millions while Crown accounts show big above-budget lifts in Covid costs

Monitoring the Ministers

While Finance Minister Grant Robertson was noting an above-forecast increase in government spending in the first few months of the year, his colleagues were delighting in announcing even more spending.

The biggie was the announcement of a support package intended to help revive economic, social and cultural activities in  Auckland over summer and provide relief for people in hardship .

The sum involved – as often happens in Beehive statements – was buried in verbiage:  the $37.5 million package was put together jointly with Auckland Council and Auckland Unlimited.

The Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark, and Minister for Economic and Regional Development, Stuart Nash, popped up to announce world-class mobile and broadband services had been switched on for the 663 residents of the Chatham Islands.

The network has been enabled by the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG), Government’s Rural Broadband programme and an $11.5 million investment from the Government including $8.6m from the Provincial Growth Fund. Continue reading “Ministers merrily dispense more millions while Crown accounts show big above-budget lifts in Covid costs”

Milk price forecasts are being lifted ahead of critical vote on Fonterra’s capital structure

As dairy farmers prepare for the critical decision  they have to make  on the capital shape of the big co-operative Fonterra,  they  will   be  buoyed  by  the  strong markets across the  globe  for  dairy products — so  strong  that economists are  revising   their forecasts  for  this  season’s  payout.

Fonterra  itself  has  already revised  upwards  its  original forecast range from $7.90 – $8.90kgMS, from  $7.25 – $8.75  kgMS.

The Advance Rate which Fonterra pays its farmer owners will be set off the mid-point of the range. This has increased from $8kgMS to $8.40kgMS.

ANZ  Bank  economists have  raised   their  forecast  to  $8.80  while others,  citing  the  futures  market, see  it  breaking  $9. Continue reading “Milk price forecasts are being lifted ahead of critical vote on Fonterra’s capital structure”

South Korea as the global exemplar? Think about it

Self criticism is a Good Thing.  It’s usually kinder than the external version, and you get a chance to revise your argument.

So what to make of the mea culpa in the Financial Times from Jim O’Neill – the man self-credited with coining the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) acronym back in 2001.  Does he succeed in his mea recta?

Back then he argued that:

“since these countries were likely to continue their striking gross domestic product growth over the next decade, we urgently needed them to play a bigger role in global governance.”

Continue reading “South Korea as the global exemplar? Think about it”