Andrew Little should check out hate crime policing in the UK – and the observations of British judges

News from Britain about the policing of hate crime laws should be must holiday reading for Justice Minister Andrew Little, who for several months has been considering making hate crime an offence in this country.

Stuff in March revealed a series of racially-motivated incidents in Christchurch after 50 people were killed in mosque shootings.

The incidents included a Muslim woman being denied entry to a bus and a swastika spray-painted on a fence in the spot where the alleged gunman was arrested.

We would have thought New Zealand had laws enough to deal with the miscreants in those cases but Little saw the opportunity for political grandstanding and declared he was fast-tracking a widespread review of this country’s existing hate speech legislation.

The review would include deciding if hate crime should be established as its own separate offence, as it is in the United Kingdom.

But one British initiative – the establishment in London of a police unit for tackling online hate crime – has brought charges against less than one per cent of internet trolls it has probed.

Continue reading “Andrew Little should check out hate crime policing in the UK – and the observations of British judges”

Xmas thoughts on the redistribution of our wealth: tax collectors have the claws to grab it for politicians to play Santa

Thomas Sowell … he shares his thoughts on Santa and political handouts.

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has alerted us not to the latest bucket of government handouts (seasonally gift-wrapped) but to an observation from American economist Thomas Sowell which mentions both government grants and Santa Claus in a few pithy sentences.

We were tempted to draw Shane Jones’ attention to Sowell’s observation but – hey – it’s Christmas. And why pick on him for special mention?

All ministers have some say in the redistribution of the billions of dollars collected by the Inland Revenue Department.

And we note that Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare yesterday confirmed an extra $50,000 to assist the Whakatāne community with immediate needs following the eruption of Whakaari White Island.

The contribution will be made to the Whakatāne District Council Mayoral Relief Fund and follows an earlier Government contribution of $50,000 to the fund. Continue reading “Xmas thoughts on the redistribution of our wealth: tax collectors have the claws to grab it for politicians to play Santa”

Yep, our net debt will rise but Mike Hosking (among others) should check out the US for eye-watering borrowing figures

Economists quoted in a Reuters report were unfazed by news that the New Zealand Government has cut its growth forecast for 2019/2020 and is flagging a budget deficit along with a plan to invest more than $12 billion on infrastructure projects.

National – to be expected – found fault with the government’s fiscal plans and the resultant implications for the country’s public debt.  The Nats were supported by some commentators.

What the debt fretters would say about the monumental public debt in the United States, where the focus on presidential impeachment proceedings tends to divert attention from the fiscal folly of the nation’s leaders, can only be imagined.

For those who want the NZ numbers, the Treasury has posted them here.

Westpac Bank said the treasury update was a “damp squib” and would have little impact on forecasts for GDP, inflation or interest rates.

Spreading the substantial lift in planned capital spending over many years was “a wise way for the government to run its infrastructure programme”, said  Westpac senior economist Dominick Stephens.

S&P Global was relaxed, saying New Zealand’s sovereign credit rating can absorb more fiscal spending even as it delays a return to budget surpluses.

But hey. What would they know.

NZ Herald readers were treated to the wisdom of broadcaster Mike Hosking, host of the Newstalk ZB Breakfast show,   who declared:

“Nineteen billion dollars of debt is an eye watering amount of money. It blows net core Crown debt to over 21 percent of GDP.”

The capital investment announced by Robertson became a “spendup” in Hosking’s commentary and it resulted (he said) in New Zealand joining

” … too many other countries adding a pile of debt to the next generation to fund our lack of ability to pay for today’s requirements.

“Money might be cheap, but it’s still not our money, and that’s bad economics.”

The New Zealanders who have borrowed $275 billion for housing should take note (if they weren’t aware of how they have financed their way into owning a house).  It’s not their money.

Whether it’s bad economics is another matter.  The same goes for government borrowing.

But we wonder how much eye watering would be induced in Hosking if he mused for a moment on the magnitude of the US Government’s burgeoning debt.   

Early this year the US government’s public debt climbed above $22 trillion,a rise of more than $2 trillion from the day President Trump took office in 2017. 

Over the next 10 years, annual federal deficits — when Congress spends more than it takes in through tax revenues — were expected to average $1.2 trillion, which would be 4.4 percent of gross domestic product. 

This was much higher than the 2.9 percent of GDP that has been the average for the past 50 years.     

Although debt can serve useful purposes, very little of its growth over the last 50 years has been for the right reasons, according economist Pierre Yared.

His paper in the Spring issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives lays out the political factors behind the growing debt and how governments can commit to fiscal responsibility.

An article on the Amercian Economic Association website says Americans of all political stripes are concerned about the growth of national debt. 

Four in five Democrats and Republicans feel their leaders should do more to address the problem. 

They are right to be worried. 

Yared says modern governments—not just in the US but in countries around the world—are behaving like someone who wants to exercise but is never ready to start today.

The current era of political polarization, close elections, and aging societies give politicians strong incentives to leave the debt problem for future leaders.  

The AEA spoke with Yared about the dangers that high levels of debt pose and some potential solutions for bringing it back under control.

A transcript edited for length and clarity is included in the article.

It includes:

AEA: To look at a particular example, US debt levels are over 100 percent of GDP. How concerned are you about the trajectory of US debt?

Yared: That’s a big question. I don’t think anybody has the answer to that. Just to be clear, that number does not net out the debt held by the agencies. And once you do that you get a smaller number of federal debt held by the public as a percentage of GDP. And, the latest number is 76 percent. Nevertheless, you’re absolutely correct. Debt has been on an upward trajectory. What concerns me is the long-term trend, not the specifics of where we are right now. Because over the long term, situations change. It’s better to take advantage of the good times, so that when situations do change we’re not stuck with problems.

Hosking and those who share his concerns about New Zealand’s fiscal position should take note of the level of American net debt – it’s 76% of GDP.

Then he can ease back on the eye watering.  New Zealand’s net Crown debt is around 20 per cent and is far from frightening – at least for now.

Another reason for providing more housing: innovation (an impressive amount of it, anyway) begins at home

The Government in July launched a new approach to industry policy,aimed at growing more innovative industries in New Zealand and lifting the productivity of our key sectors.

The rationale was that New Zealand has a strong economic foundation but productivity has continued to fall behind our main competitors.

To take advantage of the opportunities of the technological revolution the Government announced Industry Transformation Plans would  be developed for key sectors.

Industry Transformation Plans were to be sector-led and government-supported, involving partnership between government and the private sector.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website – 

The Government is committed to working with its partners to grow more innovative industries. Boosting productivity, including redirecting investment towards more productive sectors, is crucial if New Zealand is to lift the standard of living of all Kiwis, and this will be a key initiative for achieving this.

The initial priority sectors for developing Industry Transformation Plans are agritech, digital technologies, food and beverage, and forestry and wood processing. Over time, this could be expanded into other areas such as creative industries, tourism, aerospace, health technologies and renewable energy.

The fellow in charge, ministerially, is Phil Twyford, who took over from David Parker as Minister of Economic Development during a cabinet reshuffle in June. Continue reading “Another reason for providing more housing: innovation (an impressive amount of it, anyway) begins at home”

Partisan senators will be jurors for Trump trial – and the defence team will get help from Senate leader

Some time next month the US Senate will try President Trump and determine whether he should be removed from office.  But there’s no doubt the Republican-controlled upper house will ensure that he remains in the White House, and – if the polls are confirmed – he will be re-elected in November.

Government resumes work in the US capital on January 6 when the Democrats and Republicans will continue sparring over the conduct of the trial. In principle, the Senate has to act as a jury with Chief Justice John Roberts in the chair.

So far, Republicans have shown no indications of neutrality nor any intention of observing constitutional safeguards.

Senate leader Mitch McConnell says he is coordinating the defence with the White House.  He and some of his fellow GOP senators are looking for a quick event. Continue reading “Partisan senators will be jurors for Trump trial – and the defence team will get help from Senate leader”

Will a New Zealander also be the last on Everest?

The Times newspaper reports that the Nepalese government is planning to make trekking companies responsible for removing dead bodies from Mount Everest.  This raises the question about how long the lucrative climbing business is going to last in its current form.

It is barely 65 years, less than an average lifetime, since Ed Hillary summited but he surely would not have imagined quite what it would become. Continue reading “Will a New Zealander also be the last on Everest?”

Too many tourists and cows – but sustainable management policies will treat them (and culling) differently

Concerns throughout the country about tourism and its adverse impacts – crowded towns, clogged roads, dangerous drivers, filthy freedom campers, congested trails – were examined by Mike White in Noted in August. He asked if we need to limit the number of tourists coming here, a question supported by the statistics he produced.

A hundred years ago, 8000 overseas visitors came here (each year, presumably).

By the early 1960s, that had risen to 100,000; then 500,000 in the 1980s. Through the 1990s, international tourist numbers rocketed by 85% to 1.8 million. There were static years after the 2007-2008 global financial crisis, but recently things have boomed again. Encouraged by cheaper jet fuel, more airlines flying here, and the middle classes of China and India beginning to travel, there has been a 40% growth in overseas visitors in the past five years, to 3.9 million a year at present. That’s predicted to expand to 5.1 million by 2025. Nobody is suggesting the growth will stop there.

White acknowledged that tourism is our biggest earner, reaping $39 billion last year ($16 billion from overseas tourists – 20% of our exports – and $23 billion from Kiwis holidaying at home). More than 200,000 people are directly employed in tourism, about 8% of the workforce.

It’s unquestionably a cornerstone of the country’s economy.

But as with dairying, the backbone of the country’s economy, there is a down side. Continue reading “Too many tourists and cows – but sustainable management policies will treat them (and culling) differently”

What we call our cheeses is among the several daunting issues facing Trade Minister

At this time of yuletide cheer we might pause and reflect on the gathering issues confronting Trade Minister David Parker.   While New Zealand  has the CPTPP under its belt and showing results, the wider prospects are daunting with serious challenges arising principally from the European Union on top of the erosion of the capabilities of the World Trade Organisation.

For years   while the EU has uttered endless bromides over prospects for a free trade agreement with NZ, the reality is somewhat different.  There have been some steps forward but no breakthrough. Now the going will become harder, especially as the question of how current NZ exports into the EU are divvied up between the Continent and the UK.

Firstly, for the next 12 months (that is, beyond the general election) the EU will be preoccupied with Britain’s exit and fashioning a new trade agreement across the English  Channel. This will take up most of London’s trade negotiating bandwidth as it will prioritise other trade deals in terms of economic significance.

This suggests NZ will fall well behind, lagging after the United States, Australia and Canada.  President Trump has already tempted UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the world’s greatest FTA, or words to that effect. Continue reading “What we call our cheeses is among the several daunting issues facing Trade Minister”

Climate commission’s challenge is to produce a world-leading plan (dairying included) for a low-emissions economy

Global efforts to tackle climate change have stalled in Madrid.  The  197  parties to the UN  talks  agreed to the need  for  new  emission  cuts, but they stopped  short  of concrete  commitments  and left  the outstanding issues of  the  Paris  Agreement undecided.

Never mind,  NZ  is  showing  the world  what  “meaningful, ambitious and lasting climate action looks like”.

That’s  how  Climate  Change Minister  James Shaw  sees  it.

As the head of the NZ delegation at the global climate talks, Shaw shared  with delegates  to   COP25 the progress the  Ardern government is making

“ … to build a cleaner, safer planet for future generations”. Continue reading “Climate commission’s challenge is to produce a world-leading plan (dairying included) for a low-emissions economy”

Our taxes are to be used to look for gold, reduce waste, restore wetlands and help businesses hurt by a rahui

Oh dear.  A former Green MP has been ired by the government’s decision to lend $13 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to a gold mining project under DOC land on the West Coast.

Now the chairperson of Coromandel Watchdog, Catherine Delahunty said she and her group are appalled that the PGF

” … is being used to subsidise a dinosaur industry at Reefton.

“The old Blackwater Mine at Reefton cost the Government $3 million to clean up and now they are being funded to create more toxic waste.”

“ What is worse is that the proposal is to mine under DOC land .”

We can find no record of Delahunty’s reaction to Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage’s announcements of government handouts for environmental projects.  Continue reading “Our taxes are to be used to look for gold, reduce waste, restore wetlands and help businesses hurt by a rahui”