A frustrated champion of transformation will retire – now let’s wait for Peters to declare his intentions

The  Labour-led  coalition  may have to generate  a  second  wave  of  Jacindamania  if  it is to  win another term in the Beehive.

Re-election  is   not  an   impossible  dream, despite  the failure of   Labour to deliver   what  many of  those  who  voted  for it  in 2017  expected.

Retiring   Green  MP   Gareth  Hughes  summed it up when he  told reporters  the government  had not  delivered  “transformation”.

The pace of change, he reckons,  has not matched what he sees as the problems facing the country.

“Across my 10 years here, things have actually got worse. Emissions have increased, homelessness is growing.  I don’t think the government has been transformational.  There’s been pockets of transformation, but I don’t think historians are going  to look back and  say ‘This was a turning point on the scale of the 1930s or 1980s’.  And I think that’s desperately needed. It’s a disappointment that we aren’t seeing the change I think we need”. Continue reading “A frustrated champion of transformation will retire – now let’s wait for Peters to declare his intentions”

Don’t grumble if the police station is closed – the officers will be out on the streets lifting their productivity

As a follow-up to our post about police station office hours for the public and in the cause of balance, we bring positive news – or rather, we are passing on the positive news which the police delivered in a press statement,

It’s all about the productivity gains achieved – it seems – by officers getting out of the police station and on to the streets, aided and abetted by new phone technologies and the apps that optimise their effectiveness.

New Zealand Police has won a prestigious World Class Policing Award for its ‘more street than station approach’ Mobility programme, which has saved millions of hours of officers’ time.

Use of smartphones, other devices and Police-specific apps has resulted in productivity gains of more than 500,000 hours per year. Continue reading “Don’t grumble if the police station is closed – the officers will be out on the streets lifting their productivity”

China and India’s regional trade squabble echoes in Europe

India’s decision not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership promoted by China is politically significant.  But its impact on trade and prosperity is more nuanced, as Bloomberg explains.

It avoids some market opening on both sides (India to agriculture; others to services) that would have been economically beneficial.  But the greater significance of the pact is the restrictions on access it would impose on those outside the regional trade grouping.

“Still, the effect of harmonizing standards at the regional-agreement rather than global level is the opposite of an opening of trade  … The standards that are established across the zone inevitably resemble those of its largest member. That would be fine in a global agreement, but in a regional deal the effect is to raise barriers to nations outside the bloc with different rules.”

The razmataz surrounding international agreements can obscure the importance of the more prosaic drivers of prosperity: openness to trade and competition, a skilled workforce, good institutions and sensible regulatory policy settings.

The risk of locking into the regulatory standards of any bloc is that they turn out to be not very good – particularly if the institutions of the bloc themselves lead to sub-optimal policymaking.  Small and peripheral countries hoping for disproportionate gains in access, risk losing disproportionately from having the least influence on standards and by not being able to buy from the best sources.

This is fundamental to the debate on how the UK will prosper in a post-Brexit world.

Oxford-based academic Ngaire Woods wrestles with the question at Project Syndicate, posing it as a binary choice:

“But assuming the UK does leave the EU, its next government will need to begin the long, difficult process of negotiating new relationships with the rest of the world. That will involve tough choices, one of the thorniest of which is whether the UK should align its regulations in key economic sectors with those of the EU or the United States. Where, then, is Britain headed?”

Aspirations for an increase in the UK’s economic growth rate rest very much on two industries: finance and tech.

Woods explores the case for staying in close alignment with EU standards – stressing finance’s need for access to EU markets and the desirability of joining the EU in curbing tech companies pretensions.

Both premises are worth pondering, not least because there is not just a spectrum, but a veritable universe of choices for alignment / divergence.

However, the hope that full alignment with Brussels’ rules would protect the UK’s role as the EU’s financial centre – and particularly its ability to profit by rationalising Europe’s financial industries and moving their highly-paid jobs to London – always smacked of the delusional, even when the UK was at the heart of the EU. Through the long process of European financial integration there was zero indication that national governments were going to let that happen.

London’s strength is that it provides cutting edge global services – in specific areas such as insurance or derivatives – settled in a political and legal environment which few others can match. This is the source of most of its current European business and future international growth.  It is likely to remain so post-Brexit.

If so, the key for London is not replicating a more extensive and expensive European post-crisis financial regime (itself reflecting a particular balance of EU economic and political forces) but setting distinctive standards within global parameters.

This seems to be where the UK’s regulators are heading.  An early statement of principle by the head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, Andy Bailey, put it this way:

First, can open financial markets and free trade exist on a stable basis?  Second, is the regulatory system so complicated and delicate that it can only exist in a manner that supports free trade and open markets inside regional trade blocs? You will by now be unsurprised to know that my answers to these questions are – yes, free trade in financial services can exist on a stable basis, and – no, it does not have to be confined within regional blocs. Common regulatory standards are a necessary condition for free trade in finance, and they can also be a sufficient condition.”

On tech, the battle lines seem even more clearly drawn.  Europe’s animus for big tech just keeps growing. The latest blast is from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the Financial Times reporting that she wants the EU to assert ‘digital sovereignty’ and take control of data from US tech firms.

The EU’s strategy is two-fold: first to claw money out of the tech giants (taking a leaf out of the US government’s playbook) through competition policy; and secondly, detailed regulation which mandates service provision rather than letting it respond to consumer-provider interaction.  There is a growing pressure for pre-licensing of new developments (eg, for AI – Artificial Intelligence) requiring innovation to conform to regulatory standards before being market tested. 

This won’t necessarily stop tech firms offering services in the EU – as long as there is demand.  But it will cost consumers and harm those businesses that would utilise the latest innovations. And it’s likely to discourage tech development inside the EU.  

If the UK really wants to have the second best tech industry in the world after the US, it will need to be open to skilled personnel, permissive of innovation, remaining close enough to the US environment for interchangeability while offering some valuable distinctions (perhaps the UK liability regime or speed of permissioning).  Sounds rather like the business, legal and regulatory model which evolved for the UK creative sector (ie, film, television, theatre, advertising etc): a highly-skilled internationally-focused domestic industry with seamless trans-atlantic integration.

One thing seems sure.  Adopting the EU bloc’s standards wholesale in the hope of hanging on to marginal business looks like the worst of all worlds.

The smart way to stop subsidising hateful Chinese propaganda would be to stop subsidising international films

While the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Commission are examining  whether New Zealand laws properly balance the issues of freedom of speech and hate speech (whatever that might be), taxpayers are helping to finance  Chinese propaganda.

Hateful propaganda, we suggest.

The Screen Production Grant has handed a $243,000 subsidy to a propaganda film produced by Chinese state-owned enterprises.  

The film’s tagline (reportedly) is ‘Anyone who offends China, no matter how remote, must be exterminated.’

One of Sir Peter Jacksons companies is credited (or discredited) with being a beneficiary of the funding, which has been channelled through the Film Commission.

News of this shameful use of public money did not come to us through the Point of Order Trough Monitor, which is triggered by distributions proudly announced by Ministers of the Crown.

And we confess to missing it when it was reported yesterday in an admirable piece of Stuff reportage.    Continue reading “The smart way to stop subsidising hateful Chinese propaganda would be to stop subsidising international films”

The citizens of Tāneatua are promised a new police station – but they may find it is open for business only sometimes

A “best of luck” message should be extended to the good people of Tāneatua, who have waited patiently for a new police station.

Our experience suggests that if or when they get their new police station, they should check the fine print regarding hours of operation.

We make this suggestions after our experience trying to make contact with the forces of law and order at the Kapiti Police Station in Paraparaumu.

Local shops typically are open for much longer than the Kapiti police, according to this advice on their website: 

Kapiti Police Station

Open hours: 

8.00am – 5.00pm Mon – Fri

Weekends?

Nah. The criminal classes of Kapiti apparently observe government department working hours and take weekends off. Continue reading “The citizens of Tāneatua are promised a new police station – but they may find it is open for business only sometimes”

Here’s why a disappointed blogger is proposing a pay cut for MPs on Parliament’s Justice Select Committee

Malcolm Harbrow, at No Right Turn, has picked up on an important governance issue which our web search (a brief one, we acknowledge) suggests was missed by the mainstream media.

The Referendums Framework Bill was due back from Parliament’s Justice Select Committee yesterday. Harbrow would have been monitoring its progress because he was one of around 15 people who made submissions to the committee.

Today he reports:

But there’s no report on it. Instead, the bill has been bounced back to the House under Standing order 29593) because the Committee didn’t bother to produce one.

They probably tried. But given the membership of the committee (which includes 4 National MPs), and National’s opposition to the bill, they couldn’t pass one. Oddly though they couldn’t even produce a “we could not agree, but let’s fix the typos” report which is usual in such circumstances.

The net result: if you submitted on this bill, congratulations: you wasted your time.   Continue reading “Here’s why a disappointed blogger is proposing a pay cut for MPs on Parliament’s Justice Select Committee”

Why eco-warriors should support the drilling of NZ wells and the export of what flows from them

Iran  has  announced  the  discovery  of  a  new  oilfield containing 53 billion  barrels  of   crude.

So  what  does that  say  about the NZ  government’s move to  be a  world leader  in shutting  down the issue of  new  permits  for   oil and gas exploration – a  move which  Jacinda Ardern characterised   as  her   government’s  “nuclear free moment”.

Critics  say  the   ban on future  oil and gas exploration is  an   empty  gesture  in   the  global  context of   climate change.

They  point out that China is aiming to double the share of gas in its overall energy mix over the next ten years.  Around half of its gas imports  is likely from pipelines, including from Russia.

The remainder will come from imported LNG. China has invested in LNG terminals to facilitate these imports. Continue reading “Why eco-warriors should support the drilling of NZ wells and the export of what flows from them”