CHRIS TROTTER:  Te Pāti Māori’s uncompromising threat to the status quo

  • Chris Trotter writes –

The Crown is a fickle friend. Any political movement deemed to be colourful but inconsequential is generally permitted to go about its business unmolested. The Crown’s media, RNZ and TVNZ, may even “celebrate” its existence (presumably as proof of Democracy’s broad-minded acceptance of diversity).

Should the movement’s leader(s) demonstrate a newsworthy eccentricity, then they may even find themselves transformed into political celebrities. The moment a political movement makes the transition from inconsequentiality to significance, however, then all bets are off – especially if that significance is born of a decisive rise in its parliamentary representation.

Te Pāti Māori (TPM) is currently on the cusp of making that crucial transition from political novelty to political threat. The decision of the former MP for Waiariki, Labour’s Tamati Coffey, to step away from his parliamentary career at the end of the current term will be welcome news to TPM’s male co-leader, Rawiri Waititi, who took the seat from Coffey in 2020. There is a good chance, now, for Waititi to turn the Māori seat of Waiariki into TPM’s anchor electorate.

Continue reading “CHRIS TROTTER:  Te Pāti Māori’s uncompromising threat to the status quo”

Letter to the NZ Herald: NCEA pseudoscience – “Mauri is present in all matter”

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  • Nick Matzke writes –  

Dear NZ Herald,

I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland. I teach evolutionary biology, but I also have long experience in science education and (especially) political attempts to insert pseudoscience into science curricula in the USA.

I just read the NZ Herald article on mātauranga Māori and NCEA: How mātauranga Māori is being rolled out in schools, Rangi Mātāmua explains the knowledge system.

Unfortunately, I think the NZ Herald is uncritically repeating an overly rosy take from NCEA and the Ministry of Education. At least amongst scientists and science teachers, there has actually been a huge controversy over the NCEA Level 1 Chemistry & Biology draft curriculum. Continue reading “Letter to the NZ Herald: NCEA pseudoscience – “Mauri is present in all matter””

BRIAN EASTON: Radical Uncertainty

  • Brian Easton writes –

Two senior economists challenge some of the foundations of current economics.

It is easy to criticise economic science by misrepresenting it, by selective quotations, and by ignoring that it progresses, like all sciences, by improving and abandoning old theories. The critics may go on to attack physics by citing Newton.

So it is with considerable pleasure that one engages with John Kay and Mervyn King’s Radical Uncertainty. The authors are senior economists who have taught at major universities. Each has much practical experience. Kay left senior positions in the academy to work as a consultant and as a columnist and he has written a number of earlier books (some of which I should have reviewed); King was Governor of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2013 so that he oversaw the central bank during the Global Financial Crisis.

Because it is a serious critique of economics, the book has to go back into the foundations of the discipline. A useful starting point is the distinction between ‘risk’ and ‘uncertainty’ which faces anybody thinking about, or preparing for, the future.

Briefly, risk is about where there are probabilities attached to future events; uncertainty is where there are not. The latter events include the ‘unknown unknowns’, or as Kay and King call them ‘radical uncertainties’. Continue reading “BRIAN EASTON: Radical Uncertainty”

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Stuart Nash’s resignation shows our leaders need a lesson in civics

* Dr Bryce Edwards writes –
I teach a first-year course at Victoria University of Wellington about government and the political process in New Zealand. In “Introduction to Government and Law”, students learn there are rules preventing senior public servants from getting involved in big political debates – as we have recently witnessed with Rob Campbell – and that government ministers aren’t allowed to interfere in some functions of the state, such as telling the Police where to make prosecutions.

It’s essentially a civics course about how our political system works, and hopefully the 1300 students who take the course each year will go off to work in government departments, businesses and other careers understanding the rules of our political system.

Politicians are fond of complaining about a lack of this type of political education amongst the voting public but, as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, so many of our leaders are themselves unaware of basic political rules.

As with Rob Campbell and other wayward senior public servant appointees like Steve Maharey and Ruth Dyson, Nash has pleaded it was just a mistake and, in defending his actions, he showed his ignorance of the rules. But shouldn’t we expect our leaders to have a much better understanding of the political rules about integrity? After all, Nash is no newbie – he’s been a minister since 2017, and an MP for 15 years. Continue reading “Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Stuart Nash’s resignation shows our leaders need a lesson in civics”

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Labour’s refocus is working

  • Dr Bryce Edwards writes –     

Labour’s shift in focus is working. Under Jacinda Ardern they were a party and government focused on the voters and ideologies of liberal Grey Lynn and Wellington Central. Now under Prime Minister Chris Hipkins Labour has a laser-like focus directed at the working class politics of places like West Auckland and the Hutt Valley. That’s the pragmatic thinking behind the bold redirection of their policy priorities towards the cost-of-living crisis.
It’s paying off in the polls. Last night’s 1News Kantar poll showed Labour in front of National again, and personal support for Hipkins escalating. His preferred prime minister ratings were up four points to 27 per cent, while rival Christopher Luxon’s were down five points to just 17 per cent.
The poll also asked the public what issue would most likely influence their vote, and 48 per cent chose “cost of living”, way ahead of climate change on only 12 per cent. This is in line with the recent Ipsos poll, which showed that a record 65 per cent believed that cost of living is the top issue for the country at the moment. Continue reading “Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Labour’s refocus is working”

BRIAN EASTON:  Gabrielle’s Trumpet challenges fiscal stability

  • Brian Easton writes –

Cyclonic Storms Raise Economic Questions.

Some years back – it was in the time of the Key-English Government so, as usual, this column is not making a party-political point – a friend working in the climate change area wondered to me whether we should be putting more effort into adaptation. Whatever New Zealand does in reducing its global emissions, it would have little impact on global warming. There was going to be some climate change anyway. Perhaps we needed to pay more attention to taking measures which would reduce its effects.

The thinking at that time was on rising sea levels and their impact on buildings and infrastructure close to the shores. (A related issue is tsunamis.) Storms were mentioned but I do not recall anybody discussing adaption policies other than for the threats from the sea. I knew, even then, that cyclones in the central Pacific were more common; I had seen a long-term record for Samoa. I do not recall any suggestions that they might move south with the intensity that Cyclone Gabrielle did – we forgot about Cyclone Bola.

Could we have mitigated Gabrielle? Lurking behind that question is the abolition of Catchment Boards when they were merged into Regional Councils 1989. We were told at the time that their task to restrain the rivers from flooding was largely over. I wonder if the residents of Esk Valley think that today. Dropping a responsibility down in the bureaucratic hierarchy often results in reducing its ability to do its job. Was this yet another example of short term gains to be offset by long term disaster? Continue reading “BRIAN EASTON:  Gabrielle’s Trumpet challenges fiscal stability”

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The Big “consultocrats” debate needs to carry on

* Dr Bryce Edwards writes –

A parasitic blight on our democracy? Or a useful and necessary aid to our government departments? Those are two perspectives on the usefulness of the Wellington consultant class that contract to government agencies.

The role of business management consultants took centre stage last week when National’s Christopher Luxon called time on the over-use of “consultocrats” in his state of the nation speech. Luxon pledged to cut the use of contractors by 25 per cent off the $1.7bn that was spent last year by government departments and agencies such as Te Whatu Ora and Waka Kotahi.

Jackpot for National, disaster for Labour

The debate has proved to be a winner for National, as they have been able to dominate the last week in politics on an issue that very much has Labour on the back foot. At the end of the week, the Herald’s Audrey Young pronounced that National “has finally hit the jackpot” on the issue.

She explained how bad it was for Labour and the Prime Minister:

“it was the first time it had had Prime Minister Chris Hipkins squirming. No matter how much he said he wasn’t going to defend the rising costs of consultants, he had to explain why much of the expenditure was justified which, of course, was pretty much defending the rising costs of consultants. He was squarely in the frame as well because the ministry with the largest expenditure was Education when he was the minister.” 

Continue reading “Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The Big “consultocrats” debate needs to carry on”

Political Roundup: NZ’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership

* Geoffrey Miller writes –

 Times are changing in New Zealand foreign policy.

That seems to be the message from New Zealand’s new triumvirate of ministers with responsibility for foreign affairs and defence – Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta and defence minister Andrew Little.

Jacinda Ardern’s departure as Prime Minister was always going to provide an opportunity to adjust New Zealand’s positioning. In particular, Hipkins’ decision to appoint Andrew Little as defence minister – replacing Peeni Henare – seems to have been a strategic move.

From the top, Hipkins has struck a more ideological tone in his most substantive comments on foreign policy to date, promising in a recent interview that New Zealand would maintain ‘steadfast support for Ukraine and its people as they continue to defend their homeland, and in doing so, the principles that we hold dear’.

The comments appeared notably more forceful than what amounted to the final word on Ukraine made by Jacinda Ardern while she was Prime Minister, made in mid-December when the New Zealand Parliament hosted a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Continue reading “Political Roundup: NZ’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership”