Queen breaks law – but badly advised

In a stunning denoument, Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that if you want Brexit, you really need to vote for Boris Johnson.

Well, not exactly …  The Court decided – unanimously – that Boris’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful – and it follows that the Queen’s decision was null and of no effect – in effect Parliament was not prorogued at all. Continue reading “Queen breaks law – but badly advised”

PM’s triumph on the world stage takes the spotlight off shabby stuff at home (at least, for now)

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the meeting between the Prime Minister and the US President in New York this morning is a diplomatic coup.

“Securing a 25-minute long meeting with the US President during the UN Leaders Week is an achievement in its own right given the pressure on the President’s scheduleAll the more remarkable was the level of attendance on the American side. The President was accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the newly appointed National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.What is clear is a very positive discussion was held on a range of international issues and areas of shared interest, including on advancing our bilateral trade interests.

“In the world of diplomacy, this level of engagement is gold. The President’s meeting also followed a meeting with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the Prime Minister’s representation of NZ on climate change, and the Christchurch Call.The so called mega-Monday has been a very good day for delivery of NZ interests on the world stage”. Continue reading “PM’s triumph on the world stage takes the spotlight off shabby stuff at home (at least, for now)”

Stuff and nonsense about whether Morrison trumped Ardern in developing a relationship with US President

Stuff’s latest political editor, Luke Malpass, newly arrived from the Australian Financial Review, needs to do more homework before launching into NZ politics.   In a weekend piece he contrasted the treatment afforded Ausralia’s PM, Scott Morrison, and our Jacinda Ardern in the US this week.

“Last Tuesday, the Beehive announced that Prime Minister  Jacinda Ardern  had  scored a 20 minute bilateral with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of this week’s UN general assembly in New York.

“It was a big deal. Yet a short meet-and-greet with no media allowed pales in comparison with the lavish state dinner thrown for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the weekend.

“Why would Trump lavish such attention – only the second state banquet of his presidency – on our trans-Tasman neighbours? New Zealand last got one when Norman Kirk was prime minister in 1973. Continue reading “Stuff and nonsense about whether Morrison trumped Ardern in developing a relationship with US President”

Jacindamania rages again but pessimistic businesses need stimulation from something else – like a tax cut

Jacindamania is again raging  in  NZ  media  as  the  PM, after  extracting what she  could  from rubbing shoulders with Shinzo Abe and the All Blacks  in Japan, is high-fiving it  with  President  Donald Trump, the UK’s Boris Johnson,  and UN  Secretary-general Antonio Guterres in  New York.

But a   fresh outbreak  of  Jacindamania   may  not  overcome  growth-sapping business pessimism  about the way the government is steering the economy.

Surveys of business confidence in the government have show consistent pessimism about the economy since Labour took office in 2017.

The most recent ANZ Business Outlook found 52% of businesses surveyed expected economic conditions to deteriorate.  And the news that the country’s all-important construction industry is contracting is hardly likely to reverse  the trend. Continue reading “Jacindamania rages again but pessimistic businesses need stimulation from something else – like a tax cut”

Trump and free trade – its complicated

US President Donald Trump’s measures against Chinese trade have been criticised by a few people who you might expect to be sympathetic to a Republican president.  So its helpful to get a riposte from economist Casey Mulligan, who recently finished a year’s stint as the chief economist on Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Mulligan starts off by comparing Trump’s trade restrictions to those implemented by hallowed free-trader Ronald Reagan – seen as a benchmark by some.

Continue reading “Trump and free trade – its complicated”

The science of meetings: the experts find most of them tyrannise our offices and are woefully unproductive

The Cabinet will meet today without Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.  She has arrived in New York to join other world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly – and to meet with some of them.

A meeting with Donald Trump will be among the highlights.  Trade is likely to be top of the agenda. She will meet with Britain’s Boris Johnson, too.

Back on the home front, Winston Peters will chair today’s Cabinet meeting.

We can only conjecture on how many other meetings will be conducted around the country during the day, but in the US – according to an item on the Freakonomics website – 55 million meetings a day are held.

Most of them are woefully unproductive, and tyrannize our offices. The revolution begins now — with better agendas, smaller invite lists, and an embrace of healthy conflict. Continue reading “The science of meetings: the experts find most of them tyrannise our offices and are woefully unproductive”

Fancy dress companies should be reviewing their costume offerings in the wake of Trudeau’s folly

We wonder if Sparkling Strawberry Ltd – and other businesses which provide fancy dress costumes – have been obliged to review the range of garments they offer.

We mention SparklingStrawberry, based in Cheshire in the UK, after stumbling upon its website and running through its list of Fancy Dress Party Ideas

Here’s a few fancy dress ideas to inspire you when planning your Birthday, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay fancy dress costume party. If you need any more excuses to throw a fancy dress party then you’ll find 52 reasons towards the bottom of this page.

An Alice in Wonderland party is one idea, but some of the suggestions in connection with this seem problematic.  The Mad Hatter, for example.  This is bound to give offence to the mentally enfeebled and/or their families.

The White Rabbit and White Queen raise racism issues.

But then we come to the Wild West Party and the suggestion we consider Indian costumes:

Continue reading “Fancy dress companies should be reviewing their costume offerings in the wake of Trudeau’s folly”

Is Trump really a Russian spy?

There has been extraordinary criticism of Donald Trump’s Russian diplomacy from the US intelligence community (aka former spies) after last month’s G7 meeting.  His lobbying for Russia to be readmitted to the G7 organisation and his failure to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine (indeed blaming some of the problems on the policy of former President Barack Obama) led a former Justice Department official to say Trump’s behavior was “directly out of the Putin playbook. We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office.” and another suggested that Trump was currying favor with Putin for future business deals.  Indeed, one former CIA agent was even quoted accusing Trump of behaving like “a spy for the Russians.”

Is there any substance to this or is it another outburst of Trump Derangement Syndrome? Continue reading “Is Trump really a Russian spy?”

Phlegmatic Energy Minister did not share Checkpoint’s perturbation when petrol companies offered differing prices

Radio New Zealand operates in a competitive market but its Checkpoint team has some curious ideas about markets and competition when it comes to the pricing of petrol. 

This was reflected in the question line when they decided to question Energy Minister Megan Woods about the spike in oil prices this week.

Checkpoint was especially exercised by Z Energy and BP raising prices 6 cents a litre for 91 but failing to rush to lower their prices on Wednesday, despite global crude oil dropping more than 6 per cent as concerns about supply from Saudi Arabia eased.

AA fuel analyst Mark Stockdale had told Radio NZ only the fuel companies can actually answer why they adjust their prices according to the current commodity price, and not the price they actually paid for the product.

Checkpoint presenter Lisa Owen nevertheless questioned the Energy Minister (who similarly advised her to question the companies about bringing prices down).

Woods also tried to persuade Owen that motorists had choices about which fuel they bought at which price.

We are not sure Owen got the message.

The Checkpoint item started by noting Radio NZ’s discovery of two petrol stations – barely two kilometres apart in central Wellington – differently charging  $2.41 for 91 and $2.08.

We think competition helps to explain this, but Owen demanded of Woods:

“How can they justify such a wide gap?”

Asking them would be a good idea.

Woods gave it a shot, anyway.  She referenced the Commerce Commission inquiry into fuel pricing which is looking at questions such as this.

And she explained the general rule:  a cent a litre rise at the pump will be the response to a $1 lift in a barrel of oil.

That’s more or less what had happened, she said – but not all oil companies chose to do this immediately.

She seemed keen to say more but was interrupted by Owen, who insisted:

“So what does that tell you because two of them moved with six cent increases and they moved really quickly.

“Yet one of the companies said nah – we’ll wait till the end of the week and see how this plays out.”

The answer was so bleeding obvious that we are astonished the question needed to be asked.

As Woods explained, it tells us different companies are making different commercial decisions – and she supposed motorists would make their decisions accordingly.

Then came another observation from the redoubtable Owen.

Oil prices had dropped since the price spike “but when we got up this morning none of the prices seem to have moved.”

What did the minister make of that?

The minister said the government will be watching very closely.

She again reminded Owen that not all companies had raised their prices and motorists were free to decide where to fill up their cars.

Owen:  “Are they moving fast enough, though, in your view?”

We think we heard the minister sigh, then answer:

“What we do know is that there is volatility in the commodity market for crude oil.  It does move around. We have seen the movements that have been in line with what analysts would predict – as I said – which is about 1c on a dollar increase for a barrel of oil.

“We saw about a six dollar rise in a barrel of oil and we saw 6c at the pump… People will make choices about where they can get the best price for their petrol.  Some companies decided to wait for a couple of days to see how the international situation played out.  Because there were always questions marks over how quickly the Saudi facility would be restored.”

Owen took a different tack :

“Where do you fill up Minister?”

The minister’s reply was instructive:

“Actually I drive an electric car so  I don’t fill up.  But I certainly represent an electorate full of people who do fill up and get constant feedback from my constituents on this.”

Then it was back to those pesky petrol companies and the pace at which they (or some of them) were lowering their prices.

Owen:  “What do you think is a reasonable time frame for the prices to go back down again?”

Woods:  “Well, I think what we saw was the prices increase in parallel with the international prices rising – so I guess if you were going to measure speed based on the speed at which things went up, you would want to look at the speed for which things come down.”

That seems clear enough.

But hey.  This is Checkpoint, whose listeners are assumed (it seems) to want questions like this put more than once.

Owens:  “To be clear Minister, do you think prices should already have gone down at the pump now?”

Woods:  “Look I think they are coming down.  I would want to see that passed on to motorists – yes.”

Owen:  “Do you think the local companies have lowered prices quick enough now that prices have stabilised?”

Woods;  “My point, Lisa, was this –  some never put them up and so I think it’s very hard to generalise …”

The Minister said she would be looking over the coming days to see how those prices are coming down.

Then she tendered some good advice:  she suggested Owen interview the companies about what they intend to do.

“ … because it’s ultimately their responsibility and consumers will make decisions .  I imagine motorists pull in to fill up where they are getting the best p;rice.”

Owen (as sharp as the proverbial tack) was quick to follow up:

“So should we question BP and  Z Energy, you reckon, about why their prices aren’t going down?”

The minister affirmed that they had the answers when it came to timing.

Fair to say, Owen did question Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennett (here) and  Radio NZ has reported (here) the differing positions of Z Energy, BP and Gull.  whose chief executive,  Dave Bodger said its competitors had jumped the gun by increasing prices on “day one”.

But with regard to government policy and the prospect of some intervention by the state – well, maybe we missed the question about what Woods would do if the companies did not behave as Checkpoint would like them to behave.

Classical liberalism, Britain’s Conservative Party – and Brexit

Daniel Hannan is a polite, erudite and humorous author (who also writes a column for The Sun newspaper). He is a self-described Old Whig, and is one of the four surviving British Conservative party members of the European Parliament.

And he is a leading Brexiteer.  In a tolerant globalising sort of way – arguing for freer trade, more skilled migration and protecting the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.

He provides a case study of those classical liberals in the Conservative party who have been won over to Brexit.

Continue reading “Classical liberalism, Britain’s Conservative Party – and Brexit”