The British Navy will get there eventually – a condemnatory statement from NZ will take a bit longer

A British warship sped to help a UK-flagged oil tanker as it was seized by Iran last week – but the frigate was ten minutes too late, according to British media reports.

It took a bit longer for Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters to issue a statement condemning the seizure of two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

The statement, issued yesterday,  said:

“The seizure of commercial ships in this important transit lane is an inexcusable violation of international law, including the freedom of navigation.”

“Iran’s recent actions risk escalating a dangerous situation in the Gulf region.  We call on Iran to release the detained vessels and to engage with the international community in steps that help reduce tensions and the prospect of conflict,” said Mr Peters.

“Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have communicated New Zealand’s concerns to the Iranian Embassy in Wellington.” Continue reading “The British Navy will get there eventually – a condemnatory statement from NZ will take a bit longer”

What’s up, doc? Oh, a sharp difference of opinion on legislation to help the terminally ill

Deep divisions in the medical community have become apparent as David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill is about to return to Parliament – on Wednesday next week – for what promises to be a tortuous clause-by-clause third reading debate.

A group of doctors who support the Bill – which would allow the terminally ill to get  medical assistance to end their suffering – this week accused the New Zealand Medical Association of ignoring international evidence on the issue in favour of “conservative cultural and personal beliefs”.

In a letter to NZMA chair Dr Kate Baddock, the group accused the six-member NZMA board, which opposed the Bill in submissions to the justice select committee, of ignoring international “disciplined, rational, evidence-based scientific medicine” on the issue.

“As such you and the board could be accused of being no more advanced than the ‘anti-vaxers’ or the ‘anti-1080 lobby’, whose beliefs cannot be impinged upon by science, fact or rational thinking,” the letter said.

It was signed by Dr Miles Williams, cardiologist, of Hastings, and 18 other practising and retired doctors. Continue reading “What’s up, doc? Oh, a sharp difference of opinion on legislation to help the terminally ill”

The muting of political fulmination: how pamphleteers were brought to book by NZ’s advertising police

Emma Vere-Jones – according to a website in that name  – describes herself as a journalist, author and copywriter.   What distinctions she draws among those different forms of writing are a moot point, assuming she is the same Emma Vere-Jones who has brought a bunch of political pamphleteers to account as “advertisers” for disseminating material with which she disagrees.

Pamphleteering – we should not forget – was an early form of journalistm and in the days before the advent of the periodical press, pamphleteers were the world’s proto-journalists.

As a paper platform for a spectrum of religious fanatics, eccentrics, social commentators, and satirists, the pamphlet evolved as a weapon of propaganda (forged between the fledgling press and Star Chamber censorship) for powerful vested interest groups, political parties, governments – and revolutionists.

The Guttenberg revolution of the Renaissance provided the spark and the Reformation of the sixteenth century the explosive fuel for the pamphleteering phenomenon.

As the pamphlet form took root, then so English prose emerged from its antique form with an extraordinary rash of stylistic innovations to embrace such unlikely postures as subversive fulmination, cod polemic, ferocious satire, and manifesto. In times of religious ferment, civil war, colonial unrest and revolution, such texts – risky or even dangerous to publish – were often the product of secret presses and anonymous authors. Continue reading “The muting of political fulmination: how pamphleteers were brought to book by NZ’s advertising police”

Economic curiosities include record low unemployment while DOLE numbers and hardship grants increase

Finance  Minister Grant Robertson is  convinced NZ’s  economy is  doing  better than what he calls  its international peers, despite the  “uncertain economic  backdrop and slowing  global growth”.  He reckons there are “many, many signs that things are getting better under this government”.

He was  particularly gung-ho  in Parliament answering a patsy   question from  Kiritapu Allan.

First he  cited   last week’s  BNZ-Business NZ Performance of  Services Index   showing the NZ services sector continuing to grow and expand  in  June.  He said  it is encouraging to see that NZ’s expansionary services index of 52.7 for June was higher than in Australia, the UK, China, Japan, and the US—demonstrating the continued strong performance of the NZ economy compared with our peers. Continue reading “Economic curiosities include record low unemployment while DOLE numbers and hardship grants increase”

When Marcroft got around to asking a good question about the PGF, the Speaker ruled it out of order

NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft – we may suppose – has yet to become a Point of Order subscriber.

We suppose this on the strength of a patsy question she put to Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones in Parliament yesterday.

We must confess we were gobmacked by the gall of the question – she wanted to know what recent Provincial Growth Fund announcements Jones had made.

Clearly she was oblivious to this blog’s regular reportage of PGF distributions, as we record the government spending detected by the Point of Order Trough Monitor.  

More bizarre, the flood of PGF announcements from Jones is recorded on the Beehive website.  Marcroft’s staff (it seems) have yet to show her how to use her computer to find out where the money is going.

Like anyone else, the MP – or her staff – can find them here. Continue reading “When Marcroft got around to asking a good question about the PGF, the Speaker ruled it out of order”

Brexit forecasts are getting more optimistic

As the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU without a formal agreement increases, expectations of the impact are more benign.  Britain’s independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) ran some numbers and chose the scenario (note – not forecast) of a mild recession with a 2.1% drop in GDP in the event of a no-deal Brexit.  It’s a long way from the terrifying 8% crash in GDP scenario (obviously based on different assumptions) put out by the Bank of England last November.

Continue reading “Brexit forecasts are getting more optimistic”

Rebalancing of transmission charges is reckoned to generate $2.7bn benefit to consumers over 30 years

A  reform  to  the electricity  transmission  pricing system helping to stabilise  prices  to  electricity  consumers — and reducing  charges  to  major  industrial users in the South  Island  like  the  Bluff aluminium  smelter —  has been  put  forward  by the  Electricity  Authority.

The reform  has been  kicked  around  since  2009,  resisted  by  powerful vested interests,  and   yet  is  vital to  get fairer  prices across the country.

The new  system is  estimated  to  yield  a net benefit of about $2.7bn over the next 30 years through lower transmission and generation costs.  Even so,  there  are bound to be  screams of   outrage  from  Auckland  and  Northland,  although the  Electricity  Authority  puts a   figure of  $21 a year on an average residential bill in those regions.

The  problem  with the  current  pricing methodology under which the grid operator Transpower operates is that the current peak charge sends the wrong price signals. With a more targeted and accurate way to signal grid congestion, the Electricity  Authority estimates peak prices would be on average 38% lower over 30 years than they are now. Continue reading “Rebalancing of transmission charges is reckoned to generate $2.7bn benefit to consumers over 30 years”

We trust Minister Martin gets the message about wasted spending (but we can provide a translation)

We are not alone – here at Point of Order – in questioning Tracey Martin’s spending on the “translation” of a written press statement into a sign language video. The Taxpayers Union (which also monitors government spending and hollers in protest when it spots squandering) regards the translation into sign language as a waste, when the vast majority of any deaf or hard-of-hearing persons are perfectly capable of reading the statement.

The Taxpayers Union asked the Ministry of Education for the cost of this extravagance.  It reports: 

“In a Friday afternoon media release, the Minister boasted that her statement had been translated into NZ Sign Language. After questioning from the Taxpayers’ Union, the Ministry of Education confirmed the translation cost “less than $800”. Continue reading “We trust Minister Martin gets the message about wasted spending (but we can provide a translation)”

O’Connor travels to the US – and avoids (for now) the turbulence from climate change policies

Agriculture  Minister  Damien  O’Connor   is in  Washington  for   what he calls “timely”  talks with  his    counterpart,  US  Secretary of Agriculture  Sonny Perdue.

He is probably relieved to be  out of the country  while the rural backlash against  the  government’s  scheme to  impose charges  on agricultural   methane emissions  gains  momentum.

The Fonterra  Shareholders  Council,  calling the government’s proposed 2050 methane reduction target  “catastrophic” for NZ,  contends

“… a target which potentially requires almost half of the livestock farming sector to disappear within 30 years would necessitate a rate of change which does not represent a fair and just transition for rural NZ.”

The council  points out  NZ livestock numbers form only a tiny fraction of the 1.6 billion cattle, 1.4 billion sheep and 1.2 billion goats farmed globally.

Point of  Order  will  be surprised  if  O’Connor  has  the nerve to  ask   when   the  US  Agriculture  Secretary   is planning to  impose  any  target  on the reduction of  agricultural emissions in  his   bailiwick.

Yet  the  NZ  cattle  herd  at  just  over  10m  is  just  a fraction of the  95m  in  the  US  herd.

O’Connor    made it  clear  before  he left  NZ    his   goal  in  Washington  is

“ … maintaining good relations as a key component of keeping two-way trade flowing, which in the year ending  March 31 was around $18bn”.

Whether he  will  raise   the issue of  a free trade agreement with the  US is  also  not  clear  but  we would think   if it is, it will only be in  passing.

O’Connor  himself  said  his meetings   (in  Washington)

“ … will provide a timely opportunity to talk about NZ’s expertise in agriculture, our priorities, and the work of the Primary Sector Council and its development of a vision for NZ’s primary sectors“.

Maybe   he will be  able to persuade Perdue  to   come to  NZ   to  find out  why  this country  is  trying to be  world  leader in   reducing   methane  emissions.

Point of  Order  thinks  O’Connor   might have better  luck   when he  joins other primary industry leaders at Stanford University for the annual Te Hono Stanford Bootcamp.

The  Bootcamp is an intensive programme, bringing together a diverse group of around 70 chief executives and leaders who are committed to the innovation and transformation of NZ’s primary sectors.

“We will be immersed in discussion about strategic change, alongside a range of experts from Stanford University.  Moving the vision to action will require stronger government and industry partnership than ever before.

“It’s an ideal opportunity to work through the Primary Sector Council’s vision, its implications and its delivery with the most senior and influential voices from across NZ’s industry”.

Jones seems unstoppable (until he has emptied the PGF trough) – but what are the trade policy effects?

Shanes Jones liberal distributions of public money from the Provincial Growth Fund raise issues far beyond he prudence of government trying to pick winners and the potential for favouring political supporters.

There are trade policy implications, too.

Stuff writer Hamish Rutherford drew attention to this last December, when he examined Jones’ justification for why the Government had decided to lend almost $10 million to debt-laden Westland Milk Products.

Rutherford described the PGF as a $1 billion-a-year pot which NZ First won during coalition negotiations, to fill what he believes is a void. Continue reading “Jones seems unstoppable (until he has emptied the PGF trough) – but what are the trade policy effects?”