Jacinda Ardern and Labour have time on their side for a change. It may allow New Zealanders to think it's their 'turn', but only if they can avoid distractions like, oh, trans-Tasman squabbles

Timing is just so important in politics, as in so much of life. Plenty of able people don't have the luck – or planning – to be in the right place at the right time. But right now, timing may be Jacinda Ardern's greatest gift.

Equivocation and dissembling have been integral parts of political life. How should we judge them?

Among the sinners the drunk porter in Macbeth welcomes into hell is the ‘equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale’. Equivocation is a theme of the play; Shakespeare is thought to have been influenced by the recently written A Treatise of Equivocation by Jesuit priest Henry Garnet.

Policy is important, but the 2017 election is now about leadership. Change versus the status quo. Who has the X-factor? In six weeks we will know

James Carville, President Bill Clinton's campaign manager back in 1992, famously coined the phrase "it's the economy, stupid" to explain their election strategy. Fair enough, but not that profound. Almost all elections are about the economy. People vote with their hip pocket in mind.

We all have our breaking points. Metiria Turei just reached hers.

Metiria Turei always acknowledged her decision to put a human face on the issue of poverty by revealing that she lied about her welfare entitlements some twenty-four years ago was a high-risk strategy.

Is the church really the one to say what its building should be?

 

The Christchurch Cathedral saga is had so much written about it one hesitates to add to the interminable debate. My purpose is to explain a dimension to the controversy that perhaps has been neglected.

The 2017 election campaign hasn't properly started, yet it has taken another twist as two Greens MPs chose their conscience over party strategy and broke ranks. But who's really been the most indulgent and how might voters react? 

Strategy vs integrity. The long game vs the short. Individual conscience vs the collective good. These are tensions at the heart of politics, tensions that create drama, and which can engulf a party, as they have the Greens right now.

With most parties having announced their lists for the next election, we need to think about how the system works.

  • As some day it may happen that an MP must be found
  • They’re put upon the list - I've got a little list
  • Of political offenders who are always safe and sound
  • And who never would be missed - so I put them on the list.
  • There's opinionated graduates who always are around
  • Who’ve done absolutely nothing but are legislature bound
  • Who know absolutely n

Metiria Turei's admission about past rule breaking looks to have cost her a ministerial position, even if the Greens are part of Government after September. That's a pretty heavy penalty for being overly silly some twenty-four years ago.

While I can’t go so far as to claim Metiria Turei as a full friend, she certainly is someone that I’m friendly with. I’ve been to a party at her home, through my wife’s work with a local sustainable energy trust. I’m certainly on happy-smiles-and-stop-to-chat-on-the-street terms.

So a friendly acquaintance, if you will.

What looked like a campaign set to be dominated by third parties now has suddenly been tilted back towards the big two. Jacinda Ardern's election to the Labour leadership makes many new things possible, but one key thing even more likely

Beware cries of a Labour miracle. While Jacinda Ardern is "a young proposition", she's not just been pulled from the bullrushes, and while the past 36 hours have seen a remarkable 'Jacinda Effect', she's not the saviour. But she has changed this election campaign utterly.

There are still reasons for caution about Jacinda Ardern's rise to the Labour leadership. The fact she may one day have children is not one of them - and Mark Richardson doesn't understand how anti-discrimination law works.

There are, I think, legitimate reasons to sound some notes of caution about Jacinda Ardern's rise to the leadership of Labour. She undeniably has much promise in that role and her performance in the first 24 hours has been stellar. But still ... I am not yet fully converted (because I've been hurt so many times before).

You probably want to read about Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern. But I want to talk about what our recently very busy Court of Appeal has been up to.

I'm aware that all anyone probably cares about today is Andrew Little's decision (helped, no doubt, by some pointed advice from colleagues) to step down as Labour Party leader, to be replaced by Jacinda Ardern.

The acheivements of two outstanding economists who died recently illustrate just how diverse the profession is.

I first came across William Baumol when, as a student, I valued greatly his two text books: Economic Dynamics and Economic Theory and Operations Analysis, both lucid, intellectually challenging and with a gentle humour.

Getting to know our Pacific neighbour is increasingly important if we want to take a meaningful role in our own regional backyard

There was a time two or three generations back when many New Zealanders referred to the United Kingdom as "home". We were a European-focused nation. No more. We are now a Pacific nation and at the core of our foreign policy we take an interest in developments in the Pacific region and its issues.

Yet we have a way to go to make this world view meaningful.

It's late in the day, but the Colmar Brunton poll finally put the question of Labour's leadership front and centre. Under MMP the answers are complex, but it recalls the twists and turns of 1990

In 1990, Mike Moore took on the Labour leadership from Geoffrey Palmer to "save the furniture", as polls suggested they faced a brutal loss that could see them lose a bunch of what were considered safe Labour seats. Tonight, the Labour Party is again agonising over such a decision and what might be rescued just seven weeks from election day.

The 2017 election is weeks away. Parties are focusing on the immediate issues. It should be different. If we are to have a prosperous, secure, sustainable and democratic future we need to be talking the language of the future.

As the Lonely Planet guide says - thank goodness for New Zealand. In a world characterised by instability and insecurity, New Zealand is a source of hope.

Of course, those of us who live here might have different views. While New Zealand does appear to be doing well in comparison to other nations, we know we have problems, some urgent, some far-reaching, that need attention.

It must be just about campaign time, because the dirty deals to game MMP are back in the news. But are they as dirty as they used to be? And do they still matter?

This time there's no cup of new and sod all intrigue. Bill English has simply and directly told National Party supporters to vote for someone else. Or rather, to give their electorate vote to United Future in Ohariu and ACT in Epsom. Even though he seemed to almost forget the name of Peter Dunne's party, the message was clear. More of the same, please.

Effective markets are underpinned by the government. The interventions may be sophisticated and well-thought through or they may be clumsy and ineffective. The neoliberal rhetoric of ‘free markets’ leads to the latter.

In a recent Metro article, Matthew Hooton wrote ‘globalisation combined with free markets has been the most successful economic and social system of the world’. I do not propose to discuss whether we can describe as successful a social system which is riven with mental health and addiction problems or whether we can attribute them to globalisation and free markets.

Former Prime Minister John Key thought a Basic Income was "barking". It seems many countries disagree and are piloting the idea. As new technology threatens the jobs of many, might a Basic Income become an essential polcy?

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons" Woody Allen.

Many years ago, I took part in a public forum where the keynote speaker advanced the radical idea that a Basic Income (BI) be paid unconditionally to all residents.

Some have rallied behind her. Some want to 'lock her up'. But Metiria Turei's confession of potential welfare fraud raises more complex questions for her and her party

The response to Greens co-leader Metiria Turei's admission that she lied to Work & Income (WINZ) while she was a solo mum in the 1990s seems to have split, rather predictably, along ideological lines. Saint or sinner, criminal or victim. But it's just not that simple.

Winston Peters says his price for government is two binding referendums. If we believe him, which we probably shouldn't, then let's note some more problems with his proposal. 

I've already penned something for RNZ's website (which I then fleshed out a bit more over on The Spinoff) as

The growth of farm output may be slowing. Specialty cheeses show an alternative strategy of further post-farmgate processing.

Land for farming ran out in the 1950s. Farm production intensified. We shifted from more dollars of farm output by using more land to getting more dollars per unit of land. Among the challenges we had was to replace the nutrients we were depleting from the soil – notably phosphates. Fortunately the world’s reserves of cheap phosphates have not yet all gone.

Winston Peters won't mind the Greens showing a bit of fight. Rather, Metiria Turei's attack on his "racist" politics is more likely to rattle the cage of another party and send a 'pragmatic' message to voters.. 

Well, you can't say the Greens haven't had plenty of time to mull it over. And it looks like they've decided they're not going to die wondering. Metiria Turei's crack at New Zealand First's "racist, divisise politics" looked like a calculated attack at a time the cameras would be on her, and it sent a message to more than just Winston Peters.

By exploring the multiple worlds she grew up in in New Zealand, Helene Wong’s memoir ‘Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story’ tells us much about our worlds too.

Economists have a predilection for the open economy  because, I think, openness to trade tends to be associated with openness to ideas, to technologies, to people, to opportunity, to the future. So the import controls on carpets in the 1960s meant New Zealand was unprepared for the rise of synthetics which decimated the market for coarse wools, crashing their prices in 1966.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer fears that the Government's response to a Supreme Court ruling may be "deeply offensive to the rule of law and a constitutional outrage." At the risk of challenging a legal Goliath, I must demur. 

Regular readers of my Pundit columns (all eight of you) will be aware that I am on occasion partial to uttering the odd cry of "won't someone please think of the Constitution!" Exhibit A.

Jenny Shipley says the middle class has captured the welfare state. But did she understand what the welfare state actually meant before she began attacking it?

In her interview with Guyon Espiner, Jenny Shipley regretted that the ‘middle class’ were still beneficiaries of the welfare state. Now the term ‘class’ is a summary of a lot of complex ideas useful in social discussions, but I cannot recall it being used by such a senior politician – at least not since Harry Holland.

While Todd Barclay and Labour's interens have sparked some life into election year politics, here's hoping we learn from overseas and scandal isn't the dominate theme of Election 2017

The case for moderation is getting stronger by the day. We're hearing now that it's less than 100 days until the election, and until last week and the Todd Barclay story it had been a quiet build-up so far, with hardly any hype, let alone genuine interest in politics.

Answering that question proves to be challenging. This preliminary assessment suggests the economic benefits to incumbent New Zealanders may not be great.

During the Vogel boom, say between 1871 and 1881, the population of New Zealand doubled, as did real GDP (as best as we can measure). That means per capita GDP was much the same at the end of the boom as it was at the beginning. Was it a boom then?

Did Labour set up an overseas intern scheme in order to evade the limit on political party election expenses? No ... no it did not.

Earlier this year I bought the book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign for my Dad. Here's how one reviewer opens his account of that account:

In case you've been wondering... here's what Press Patron is all about and what it means for you and Pundit.

Whether you visit Pundit frequently or just stop by now and then, you might have noticed recently a new banner across the top of the site and a bright red button on the right hand panel. They're there because the world is changing.

National's problems are entirely of their own making and come down to some bad decisions. But the real concern will be that it now seems the Prime Minister has been involved in a cover-up

Short term: It's been a terrible day for Todd Barclay. A day that started out with the Prime Minister fudging for you, but which is ending with the same PM keeping his distance and his career hanging by a thread. But longer term: It's been an even worse day for the 'Honest bill' brand.

The story of Aaron Gilmore ... sorry, Todd Barclay's ... behaviour towards his electorate staff has just got a lot more interesting, as new details about the efforts to cover it up emerge. Might the Police have reason to again become interested in it?

Newsroom's truly exceptional piece of investigative journalism into the saga of National's Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay, his ex-electorate agent Glenys Dickson, allegations of illegal secret recordings and revelations of a secret taxpayer-funded payout is well worth

If the Commercial Miracle of Newspapers is Over, What will Replace It?

Newspapers have been a commercial miracle. For a very small outlay one got access to a surprisingly wide range of news, opinion and information. Part of the explanation was economies of scale, but the trick was that much of the industry’s revenue came from advertising.

British voters have "had quite enough of austerity politics", says Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. He should know. He came from nowhere to within a whisker of defeating the Conservatives preaching anti-austerity. Are voters thinking the same way in New Zealand? If so which party will benefit in the September election?

New Zealand is not Britain, or any other country for that matter, but we do like to look to the "old country" when it comes to clues for where our politics might be heading. These ties even extend to running campaigns.

Much of the commentary on the budget was shallow. What is really going on is that the changes are small but they reflect a particular political perspective. The financial threat was hardly discussed

Allow me to be irritated by the trivial discussion which surrounds the government’s annual budget. The budget is simply the government setting out its spending, revenue and borrowing plans for the year, as required by legislation and as has been a fundamental part of the constitution for three centuries.

It's a quirky part of our lawmaking processes that important legislative developments may depend upon the right token getting pulled out of a biscuit tin. Today it was the turn of Euthanasia/Aid in Dying and Medicinal Marijuana to come out.

I commence with a quick civics lesson, for anyone who needs it.

Following up my ‘AUT Policy Observatory’ report on ‘Housing Prices Relative to Consumer Prices: An Analysis’.

Last week the Reserve Bank reported stress tests to assess the ability of borrowers to cope with higher mortgage interest rates. Assuming 7 percent p.a.

Despite Bill English's assertion that Gerry Brownlee has found the "right language" to discuss Israeli settlements and New Zealand's position on a controversial UN resolution, the foreign minister seems to still be following his own path

A month ago Bill English gave his Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee what some saw as a gentle rebuke for his comments about New Zealand co-sponsoring a UN resolution condemning Israel's settlement in Palestinian territory.

It seems Brownlee is still looking for that language.

Auckland is like a rat in a maze of the National government's making. But Phil Goff is determined to find his own way out... and he just might be about to find a door

Lisa Owen doesn't look much like Steven Joyce. Or Simon Bridges. Or Bill English for that matter. But Phil Goff didn't seem to notice or care when he sat down to be interviewed by her on The Nation this morning. While Lisa sat across the table from him, it was those men he was talking to.

Or has Labour lost its clothes or forgotten how to put them on.

Some Labour supporters are disturbed that the government seems to be stealing their policies.

Housing may be top of the pops as an election issue for some, but it's not as many as you might think... and it won't be as easy to fix as you might think

Housing is shaping up to be a key issue in this year's election. So says the commentariat at the moment. But in the end, housing concerns will drive the voting patterns of those directly affected by it – not the will of the public at large.

The Court of Appeal has upheld Arthur Taylor's challenge to the ban on prisoner voting under the NZ Bill of Rights Act ... except that he personally shouldn't have been able to bring the case in the first place, and he still won't be able to vote. But still - exciting!

I've been writing on the issue of prisoner voting generally, and jailhouse lawyer Arthur Taylor's various challenges to the 2010 law preventing it in particular, for quite some time now.

... or, rather, the fellow prisoners who joined his application to have the legislative ban on prisoners voting declared inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act win again.  

I'll write more on this later today, but seeing as I don't do social media and there may also be some of you out there in internet land who don't either ...

It's a Key-less budget giving National a new selling point... an Election Year Budget... and a Catch-Up Budget. And it's a budget that starts the thaw after the frozen years. But is it enough for New Zealand and New Zealanders? 

This was a budget almost three terms in the making. Budget 2017 is the culmination of Bill English's determined commitment to surpluses and his ethos that the public sector should do "more with less". This is the year he finally gets to say, 'hey, now you can do more with a bit more'.

Rohan Lord's decision to bail on Labour is perhaps representative of the rise of a political class who aren't prepared to import kumara to earn a seat, but rather take the L'Oreal approach to politics

My, how politics has changed. As with so much of the New Zealand lifestyle it has been streamlined, professionalised and become a much more risk-averse environment in recent years.

Managing the government’s fiscal deficit need not mean cutting social expenditure.

An economic Austerian is someone who advocates cutting government spending, particularly social expenditures, in order to eliminate a government’s fiscal deficits. (The name is a portmanteau of ‘austerity' and ‘Austrian' from the neoliberal ‘Austrian School of Economics'.)

Bill English seems to think that New Zealand could become a part of a new, non-US Trans Pacific Partnership trade bloc without Parliament having to look at the issue. I'm pretty sure he is wrong about that.

As everybody should very well know, the primary rule for surviving a horror movie is: "When it appears you have killed the monster, NEVER check to see if it's really dead." Because if you do so ...

The prison population has hit 10,000 - an all-time high. 56% of these inmates are Maori - another all time high. What's going on?

In February 2017, New Zealand’s prison population hit 10,100 - an all-time high - and an increase of 364% in the last 30 years.  A month later, the NZ Herald reported that 56.3% of that total are Maori - also an all-time high - even though Maori make up only 15% of the population.

Do residential care workers deserve the big pay increase they are getting?

The recent historic pay equity deal for aged and residential care workers raises a tricky clash between quite different accounts of how the economy should work. Many people think that workers should be paid at a rate that reflects their social worth; others – mostly economists – think they are paid at their marginal product,  which I explain below.

The new President of France, Emmanuel Macron, wants French people to "embrace the future". Time will tell if he can make that possible, but his is a better message than the Trumps of this world who want to embrace the past

Emmanuel Macron may turn out to be a success. Then again, he may not. But for now, it is enough to compare his inaugural speech with that of Donald J. Trump's.

Alfred Ngaro appears to think the Government can stop its critics taking part in government programmes. That's not just wrong from a political morality standpoint, it's flat out illegal.

Given the speeches at the National Party's Auckland regional conference, New Zealand's housing situation/challenge/imbroglio/anything-but-a-crisis appea

Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey either means that he's covering up his campaign's criminal links with Russian agents, or he's punishing a top law enforcement official for not doing exactly what he wants. Neither explanation bodes well for the USA. 

Donald Trump's firing of the head of the FBI, James Comey, is remarkable for at least two reasons.

The Irish might be going to prosecute Stephen Fry for blasphemy? Quick - let's amend our laws so that we don't ever end up doing something so silly!

 

Hot on the heels of Ireland's criminal investigation into Stephen Fry's comments about "a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God", it

The report of the Productivity Commission on the Tertiary Education Sector “New Models of Tertiary Education” is complacent.

The report observes that in the decade from 2001 to 2011, the ratio of non-academic and academic staff in the public tertiary educational system rose from about equal to six non-academics to five academics. In fact the number of academic staff has fallen slightly between 2005 and 2011 while non-academic numbers have risen.

Put aside the populism and look at what immigration really brings us and what choices we really face

I saw my first 2017 election pamphlet this past week.

If you know something about a case that a court has suppressed, when can you safely tell another person about it? According the the Supreme Court, it all depends.

There's a certain vicarious thrill at seeing your ultimate boss' name on a Supreme Court decision - it's like being in court yourself, but without any of the hassle or expense.

Matthew Hooton being wrong about something is not usually worth writing a post about. But when he speaks ill of one of my friends ... well, action must be taken. 

Back in February, a Twitter debate took place over the possibility that Rule 8.47 of the Labour Party Constitution might result in the Party being hauled into court to defend its list candidate selections. Rule 8.47, for those of you who don’t know the minutiae of New Zealand political party governance structures, reads:

If Jim Bolger now opposes Ruthanasia, why did he preside over its implementation?

I quite understand Jim Bolger’s rejection of neo-liberalism. Bolger is an active Catholic (as is Bill English); neoliberal ideology is a long way from Catholic social teaching.

Role play any potential United States action against North Korea and you soon see the limited choice they face. So what should the US do? What role can China play? And what's best for New Zealand?

What is the current North Korea dispute about? Is it really about North Korea testing missiles and perhaps a nuclear weapon? Or is it actually about the relationship between China and the United States?

Under the Obama administration there was a general acceptance that North Korean missile tests would not result in military action against North Korea.

With most of the economic policy options for the coming NZ election now in front of us, it would appear we are continuing down the route of GDP growth, low inflation, government surpluses and Triple A credit ratings as measures of economic policy success. But, these are only means towards some desired ends or ultimate goals? 

It's still the economy, stupid. So what economic offerings are in the tea leaves heading towards this year's election?

What odds a policy debate this election? And how do we elevate it above more sensationalism and dirty politics? Here are some dos and don'ts

The news cycle sure is quick these days – and getting quicker. We've long known that today's news is tomorrow's fish n' chips wrapping, but these days articles last mere hours, even minutes, on websites before analytics tell the editors what's being read and what needs to disappear. This hardly encourages deep consideration of public policy options as we head into the general election.

Are Labour’s proposals for the changing the way the Reserve Bank operates sensible or nutty (as nutty as the current legislation)?

Section 8 of the 1964 Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act stated that ‘monetary policy of the Government ... shall be directed to the maintenance and promotion of economic and social welfare in New Zealand having regard to the desirability of promoting the highest degree of production, trade, and employment and of maintaining a stable internal price level.’

Past policies of banging on about economic growth have failed. A new report argues we should strategise differently with more comprehensive goals.

The response by some regional leaders to Julian Wood’s Growing Beyond Growth: Rethinking the Goals of Regional Development while not unexpected was so typical of much public policy disc

Jordan Williams' apparently crushing defamation victory from last year carried within it the seeds of its own demise. And in overturning that victory, the High Court has some less than complementry things to say about his own behaviour. 

This week is shaping up as a banner one for those few unusual individuals who consider defamation law an area

Our nuclear-free stance has become a central part of New Zealand's modern identity, but Sir Geoffrey Palmer has revealed it may never had happened but for one thing

New Zealand's nuclear-free policy is one of the most nation-defining and profound policy decisions this country has made in the past generation; it striped to the bone our traditional alliances for nearly two decades, took us down a path to a more independent foreign policy and reinforced our sense of self as a mouse that can roar. Yet is so easily may not have happened.

The defamation case against Andrew Little did not result in his having to pay any damages. All in all, I think that is a good thing for the country as a whole.

Despite a degree of ambiguity over the outcome, Andrew Little appears to have come out ahead in the defamation action brought against him by Earl and Lani Hagaman. 

Extracted from a paper delivered to Wellington South Rotary; 22 March

1. The US is No Longer The International Hegemon

NZDF has changed it's position on civilian casualties and never explained itself. It has two ministers with different versions. How does any government agency get away with this?

There’s so much to digest in the confusion surrounding the book Hit & Run.

But there is a key shift in the position of the New Zealand Defence Force that has become lost in the chaos swirling around the accusations made.

For six years, the NZ Defence Force maintained that claims of civilians casualties were “unfounded”.

It's too easy to call an inquiry just to put the questions to bed, so the Prime Minister has called it right. Why put people through the mill without incontrovertible evidence?

I don't want to be disrespectful to a fellow pundit, but to my mind Bill English has got it right by deciding not to hold an inquiry into allegations that New Zealand soldiers may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan. The evidential threshold just hasn't been met.

Is the fiscal pact between Labour and the Greens a defeat for the left?

The parliamentary left seems cowed by the neoliberals if the fiscal pact between Labour and the Greens is anything to go by.

The New Zealand Defence Force claims that it has replied fully to the allegations raised in Hit and Run. It hasn't - and what it has said just continues its cover-up of what happened in Afghanistan.

The Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating presented the NZDF response to the book Hit and Run at a press conference on Monday 27 March 2017. For 45 minutes he and his colleagues suggested that everything in the book was incorrect.

We can honour both our soldiers and the Afghans, but only by finding out what really happened on that August night in 2010... though that may not require a full inquiry 

War is different from any other organised human activity. Decades, even centuries, after military conflict, the reasons for it are examined and consequences are measured. A nation's conduct is weighed in the balance.

Despite the fears, what it means to be a journalist has changled little. It's journalism itself that's fragmenting. So, in rebuttal of Tim's post last week, it's time to start judging journalists on their merit, not some outdated idea of 'the public interest'

My dad, Frank, was a journalist. So were his two brothers, Brian and George. They're dead now. None of them were university educated. All three left school in Hastings, Sussex and wound up in Fleet St.

According to the Productivity Commission the current tertiary education system is blocking innovation. But in its recent report that promised to put forward New Models of Tertiary Education it delivered none. Its failure should not end the debate. There is an urgent need to bring about change

For more than a year the Productivity Commission has been working on its report, New Models of Tertiary Education (released last week), with the aim of showing us how we can have a more innovative tertiary sector. The report will not make the best seller list – but it is worth a read.

How do New Zealand’s university departments rank internationally?

Once a year the QS World University Rankings on individual subject areas are published. This reports on the 2017 rankings for 46 subjects. 

Almost a week after the release of Hit & Run, we have more questions than answers from the Defence Force and the Government.

Here’s some that have been rattling around in my brain this week:

The Prime Minister has in recent times been prepared to shift some moral ground for political ease. Now he faces the greatest moral test of his short time in power in the face of calls for an inquiry into the O'Donnel raid

I can't help wondering if Bill English is going to church on Sunday. While reports today say the Prime Minister is meeting with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and New Zealand Defence Force heads about the claims in the Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson book Hit & Run, the more crucial meeting that day may be between English and his God.

My anti-apartheid protest convictions nearly kept me out of Canada. Luckily, I had friends in high places. What though of those many people in our world, especially those seeking refuge from war and oppression, who do not?

 

Nicky Hager and John Stephenson’s book, Hit & Run, presents compelling evidence that our SAS was responsible for killing at least six Afghani civilians, wounding at least another fifteen, and handing over a man to be tortured for information. And then we were systematically lied to about what was being done in our name. 

Think of a three-year-old girl. Maybe she’s your daughter. Maybe she’s your niece. Maybe she’s your friend’s child. But think of her.

The 2010 raid in Afghanistan detailed in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson's new book, Hit and Run, was first revealed on a TV interview I produced in 2011. It's time for some official answers

I know as little as most of you about Nicky Hager's new book. It investigates an SAS raid in Afghanistan in 2010, after the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell whilst on patrol that August.

Jamie Whyte thinks it is "legislative lunacy" for Parliament to recognise the Whanganui River as being "a person". Once again, it appears Jamie Whyte doesn't really know much about that of which he speaks.

In an opinion piece published on Monday, former Act Party leader Jamie Whyte decries what he sees as Parliament’s recent “legislative lunacy” in

A recent government report projects huge increases in employment but at least 72 percent of those jobs are to go to immigrants.

I was a bit startled by a report recently released by the Ministry of Business Industry and Employment which forecast an extra 480,000 jobs o

...But that doesn't mean we don't try. An essay in defence of a word and its meaning, at a time when journalism is bruised and battered, but standing strong

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
    "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

Does a murderer really have the right to wear a hairpiece? Are we really living in such mad times? Or might things be a little more complex than that?

I suspect the High Court decision that prison officials acted wrongly in taking Phillip John Smith's hairpiece from him is going to turn the talkback outrage meter right up to 11. Prisoners have a right to wear a toupee? That piece of shit can keep his rug on?

Touching the third rail of superannuation is a brave act by any government, but what about those other curly questions?

Good on you, Bill. I respect political courage. Too often in New Zealand, superannuation promises have been used to buy elections, beginning with Rob Muldoon back in 1975. He made the age of entitlement to universal super 60; it took years of pain and a raft of broken promises to get the age lifted to 65 (back where the old age pension began).

A few things are changing around here... but all in a good way. Just check out our new pundits

Dear loyal readers (and any fickle folk floating by),

The observant amongst you may have noticed that yesterday our list of contributors on the left hand side of the page changed. Some of the folk who have written for Pundit in the past have moved onto other things and, happily, a bunch of new folk have agreed to share their expertise with you.

A response from the Minister of Education to the recent contribution by Steve Maharey (Can we finally agree on how to run schools).

I largely agree with Steve’s comments, in particular his desire to see a personalisation of learning, and a coming together by our educators.

The current approach to social investment suggests we can use big data and new technology to better understand who will access public services and fix them. But this is not social investment

"I am from the government and I am here to help you – even though you did not know you needed help". 

In the wonderfully prescient film Minority Report, the central idea is that the police have found a way to identify who is going to commit a crime before they do it. 

“I understand what the people’s priorities are,” the new ALP premier of West Australia, Mark McGowan, told reporters after winning government on Saturday with a 15 per cent swing, the largest swing to Labor in state election history

“Their priorities are creating jobs, making sure our health system is effective and affordable, creating high quality education for all students, making sure our community is safe and dealing with important issues in transport and regions.”

This is a classic progressive Labour set of priorities. He’s in a position to implement them because of the rest of his agenda.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world where no-one cares what Treasury says and only the only party that seems to give a toss about sustainability is... ACT

The past week in New Zealand politics has been the argument I have every Christmas writ large; and has been just as unedifying.

I'm in my early 30s, which puts me firmly in the millennial camp. And as a millenial, I wasn't all that outraged I'd have to wait two more years to get my super, as Bill English confirmed on Monday.

Regrettably, the government’s recent announcements on the public provision for retirement have added to the uncertainty the young face. 

The Government’s announced proposal to raise the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) is a real botch job. I’ll leave others to write about the political botch; here the focus is on the policy.

What do you make of this way of doing it?

This quick post is a question, more than analysis of an issue. But it's something I stumbled upon today regarding New Zealand's superannuation history... and I'm wondering if it offers us a way forward.

Bill English has made a brave call on super, but is it mere penance for years of bad calls, will New Zealanders face the facts and has he just started a new inter-generational war?

I was talking with a colleague today about Bill English's plan to raise the age of eligibilty for super from 65 to 67 – in 20 years. "What are you," he asked, and I knew immediately what he meant. "Gen X," I replied. "But just old enough to sneak out at 65". He said he'd get caught, I said my wife would too. Then it struck me: This conversation was meaningless.

Why grasp one of the third rails of politics just six months from an election? Well, three possible reasons come to mind...

The interesting thing about Bill English's out of the blue superannuation announcement is not the substance of the policy -- it seems mild enough -- but why he made it six months before an election. After all, the key part of the policy, the shift in the eligibility age from 65 to 67 does not even start for another 20 years.

This is a follow up ‘Brentry: How New Zealand Coped’, setting out some of the challenges which face New Zealand today.

The strategic view that Britain needs to be in the EU remains universal among New Zealand strategists. However the Leaves did not vote geopolitically but on domestic considerations including, apparently, resentment of immigration and of the unequal gains from trade. New Zealand has little alternative but to accept the direction the Brits are taking, albeit with regret.

The Court of Appeal ruling and his critics suddenly championing free speech has left the creator of the famous Planet Key video baffled and asking, who's being satirical now?

It started with a song and a Facebook post and has ended with a baffling court decision, one that seems to have little connection to where we began. Frankly, the whole Planet Key episode has been a very expensive exercise for everyone involved – both the taxpayers and plaintiffs – just to establish a definition of free speech and our right to exercise it.

Jacinda Ardern looks set to become the new deputy leader of the Labour Party as Annette King steps down. But while it looks like a no-brainer and only helps Labour this election year, it comes with its own set of risks

Barely 48 hours ago Jacinda Ardern told RNZ that talk of her becoming Labour's deputy leader was a "distaction". That job, she said, as just "not an issue".

New Zealanders have been arguing about education since the Royal Commission on Social Policy in the 1980s told them the needs of all students were not being met. After thirty years of debate confusion reigns. But there is a way forward

The New Zealand education system is in trouble. Not for the reason usually advanced by the critics of our public schools, but because for far too long we have ben arguing about how to equip young New Zealanders for the rapidly changing times in which we live.

Last week National made some promises about water, and copped plenty of flak on the way. That move signalled the soft launch of National's election campaign, as it starts to tidy up the policies that put victory in September at risk

Old mates Bill English and Nick Smith dragged media to a muddy – but "good enough" – stream in west Auckland last week to announce plans to clean up rivers by 2040. But what the event really signified was National starting to clean up its political house before this September's election.

Is it now legal to use TV and radio to run mean-spirited, hatchet-job attack ads on your political enemies? I decided to find out ... so here's a reprise of what happened, having previously been recounted over at The Spinoff.

In October last year I wrote a somewhat lengthy post about the Court of Appeal's decision in The Electoral Commission v Watson & Jones.

This is based on a note that I prepared for a journalist. It is a lead into the next column which is on ‘Brexit: How New Zealand Might Cope’.

New Zealand has an unusual situation in the world economy. Despite being among the affluent economies, its success is vitally dependent upon the export of some primary products (especially dairy and meat products) whose domestic production is brutally protected in many jurisdictions.

There's a growing number of media calling out President Donald Trump for saying things that aren't true. But does that make him a liar?

The word “lie” keeps appearing in news stories and columns about President Donald Trump. It makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Usually restrained media outlets are using the word casually in a way which doesn’t do justice to the implication of calling someone a “liar”.

As the polls start to swing back into action, a look across the electoral battlefield sees two major party leaders both struggling to get firm footing and take the high ground

Any which way you look at it, it seems impossible. History leans hard on both major parties at the moment, suggesting they are heading into an election year battling against the odds. There are good reasons why both red and blue teams should see this election as unwinnable – and good reasons why they may not want to win – but, thing is, one of them will. But which?

Come September 24, there are really only three likely scenarios as to who could form a government, and odds-on Winston Peters will face two difficult choices

A month ago I wrote that I would be looking at the possible perumtations of likely coalitions that may appear after this year's election. Although the right direction/wrong direction poll clearly favours the incumbent government, I thought it best to wait for the first opinion polls to see how the Bill English premiership has taken with the New Zealand public.

Willie Jackson is right that the low voting turnout amongst younger age groups is a real problem. But he's wrong to blame the Electoral Commission for following the law that Parliament has made.

Now that Willie Jackson has obtained the waiver needed to allow him to stand as a candidate for Labour despite not having been a party member for the required 12 months, he's setting out to prove he's worth the "winnable list placing" th

           Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
           Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
            Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade—
            A breath can make them, as a breath has made:
            But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride, 
            When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
                        The Deserted Village: Oliver Goldsmith

  This column follows on from ‘Whence Europe; Whither Europe’.

Less than a year before he died, Tony Judt, paralysed from the neck down by motor neuron disease, gave a much-acclaimed two-hour public lecture. Shortly after he extended it to a book, Ill Fares the Land: A Treatise on Our Present Discontents, setting out his commitment to social democracy.

Up to 90% of prison inmates have problems with substance abuse and addiction. But Corrections does not require the counsellors who provide rehabilitation programmes for them to have a graduate degree in the assessment and treatment of addictive disorders. In fact, they don't even need a degree - just a qualification.

In April last year, Radio New Zealand reported that the Corrections Department was paying for non-existent alcohol and drug counsellors.

President Donald is going to be a headache for the intelligence community. He can't keep his own secrets safe, so how can they trust him?

The spies will be feeling a chill after a month of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

That includes New Zealand’s spies, now in surprisingly familiar territory as concern about Trump’s behaviour spreads across the intelligence community.

Just because Donald Trump is a shoot from the hip president, doesn't mean we should fall into the same trap

As a personality I find nothing attractive about Donald Trump - he is, frankly, a pig of a man. But we need to avoid being overtaken by emotion when unpicking the state of the world, which is why in my previous column I tried to make the case for balance and moderation as we react to events.

Recent elections and votes in America, Britain and Australia have been brutal and brittle affairs with plenty of rancour, and some fear the same here this year. But I wonder if they're looking in the wrong direction

The mumblings and frettings about how Donald Trump's victory in the US may twist and define our own elections this year have been many and full of dread. And not unreasonably. You only have to look at recent votes and polls in our cultural neighbours – the US, UK and Australia – to see the rise of some ugly politics. But I fear the worriers may be wailing at the wrong wall.

Although completed a decade ago, Tony Judt’s history of postwar Europe presaged some of the challenges that it faces today.

Shortly after the collapse ot the Berlin Wall in 1989, one of our greatest contemporary historians Tony Judt resolved to write a book to sort his thinking out. It took fifteen years, but the resulting Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 is an (almost 900-page) extraordinary achievement.

Could the Labour Party end up in court over its party list? Probably not, but this is the Labour Party we're talking about!

In the wake of Andrew Little's shoulder tapping Willie Jackson for a "winnable" position on Labour's list, along with the selection of Paul Eagle and Greg O'Connor as candidates in eminently winnable electorates, Labour is (once again) facing some strife over the role that gender plays in its candi

In the days of Trump and Brexit, it could be time for those who want a society based on openness, knowledge and new opportunities to revisit an out-of-fashion idea

Since US president Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair departed government, the Third Way political agenda has fallen on hard times.

The inquiry reports into Kiwi issues raised by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are nearly complete. Gwyn's reports are likely to shed great light on how our intelligence agencies operate.

When Edward Snowden’s NSA haul finally turned out a few New Zealand documents, it created an awesome and instant workload for Cheryl Gwyn.

The new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security suddenly had her hands filled. That was almost two years ago.

Big data can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Some recent public research illustrates the former but there are doubts about some private uses

It is not generally realised that Statistics New Zealand has a large research database – the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) – containing microdata about people and households from a range of government agencies, SNZ surveys including the 2013 Census, and non-governme

A message to Kiwi politicians this election year: Must try harder

On September 23rd politicians must give us something to hope for. 

“To be truly radical make hope possible rather than despair convincing” Raymond Williams

Bill English has the chance to be heroic without indulging his inner Hugh Grant. He can be on the right side of history, China and even Ronald Reagan, if he seizes the moment

Love Actually isn't real life. As appalled as we all are my the strongman behaviour of Donald Trump in his first week in office, when he calls Bill English in the coming days, this isn't the time for the new Prime Minister to indulge his inner Hugh Grant.

Economists and policy analysts have paid insufficient attention to the distributional consequences of change. Hence the rise of the angries.

In order to get to this column’s conclusion I am going to recall a little of my scholarly journey.

It's easy to play the anti-establishment and change cards or go on the attack. But the real challenge for our politicians and journalists is to allow voters to hear balance

Whether we like it or not, Donald Trump is now president of the United States. We have no choice but to deal with that fact, and with him. But it's hard to find any New Zealanders who have much good to say about him.

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union is going to keep constitutional lawyers in the UK (and elsewhere in the Commonwealth) very busy for the upcoming months and years. Here's my humble early offerings on it.

The UK Supreme Court surprised no-one on Tuesday when it decided, by 8-3, that Parliament must pass specific authorising legislation before the UK Government can trigger article 50 and so begin the formal process of withdrawing from the European Union (or, "Brexiting").

Far too much public commentary on wealth inequality obscures what is actually is going on. 

This column is a grump about the poor quality of public discourse. It is illustrated by the recent outburst over the distribution of wealth in New Zealand and some rather inept public responses to the recent re-publication of some data, where people with little expertise used the opportunity to pursue their political and ideological goals while displaying, to the expert, their incompetence.

Today's short and grim speech reinforces and reveals how Donald Trump will govern as the 45th US president, and it won't serve his people well

The bully victorious. That's what today's inauguration of Donald Trump means to me.

And why should it mean anything else? That is the very essence of the man we have come to know over the past two years – the man who mocks, grabs pussy, calls opponents childish names, incites violence at rallies and is mollified by no-one. The man is not for turning.

What can we learn about health care systems and the US from the muddle that America is getting into over Obamacare?

Donald Trump is not particularly interested in policy. When he promised to replace Obamacare – the current US health system – with something which would be better, he was responding to the conflicting demands of his supporters and certainly did not have a plan. It will be the Republican-dominated Congress which will lead the way with a bill for him to sign.

The rights and wrongs of National's election strategy will come down to three main points... and coalition partners

For eight years now, the right/wrong direction polls have consistently shown that the majority of New Zealanders believe their country is on the right track. The November 2016 Roy Morgan indicator has the right direction at 65 percent.

In contrast, during the latter years of the Clark-led government only 40 to 45% of the public believed the country was going in the right direction.

International comparisons suggest that New Zealand secondary students are not doing well. It may even be that recent policy measures have worsened their performance.

The 2015 results for the  triennial OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) evaluation were reported just before Christmas so they did not get much coverage. We need to think about them. Many will jump to a conclusion that the current government’s education policy is failing. Certainly the international evidence does not suggest it is succeeding.  

In many respects, Judith Collins has been the worst Minister of Justice and Corrections New Zealand has ever had. She had to go – even if that changes absolutely nothing about how the country deals with the drivers of crime or the growing prison population. And it won't.

The Corrections Department puts out a monthly magazine called, guess what – Corrections Works.

How does a post-truth world work? Some psychological findings may be useful. (The Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘post-truth’ is ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ The Dictionary labelled it the word of the year 2016.)

This columnist is greatly perplexed by how in today’s post-truth world people hold views or which are not true, which may be contradictory but which are held with a tenacity which belies their falsehood. This is sometimes called ‘truthiness’; the views are believed to be true because they confirm beliefs. But that is a label, what is going on?

A recent decision by New Zealand on Air in response to the changing media technologies raises a range of issues about how the platforms are used. 

The announcement by New Zealand on Air that it was changing its mode of funding is a reminder of the current turmoil in the media from the convergence of platforms (delivery systems).

Who stood out for me this year? I want to talk about two people who changed the conversation, for better and worse

I've got half written Key/English blogs to finish and post, but before Christmas I desperately want to share my hero and anti-hero of the year; our better and worse angels.

A book about two psychologists who have altered the way we think about the way we think.

For many people, Michael Lewis is best known for his 2010 book The Big Short and the follow-up film, which describes the carryings-on of the financial sector in the American housing market which underlay the Global Financial Crisis.

The Spinoff last week asked me to consider the political highs and lows of 2016. So I did that and saw there first package come out over the weekend. So here are my thoughts on all that

Champs: Who would you rank as the best performing individuals in politics for 2016?

1. John Key, for perfectly executing the coup against himself, and Bill English, the little engine who finally did.

2. Winston Peters, who starts an election year with stronger polls than ever

3. Michael Wood, for reminding everyone that all politics is local

Why is the Crown fighting a court case it knows it is very unlikely to win? Because doing so stops it from having to face cases it really would prefer not to deal with.

[Update: see important revisory note at post's end!]

Back in September I wrote this post about a Supreme Court decision that found quite a number of prisoners have been unlawfully detained because The Department of Corrections incorrectly had calculated their release dates.

Your In-tray is piled high.

Dear Bill,

I recall when you first entered Parliament 26 years ago, it was widely thought you were prime-ministerial material. You’ve made it. Congratulations.

Despite the polls, an English win at next year's election would be an historic achievement. Which makes the choice of when to go to the country, so very important

Even with a 20 point poll lead over the main Opposition party, history is against Prime Minister designate Bill English. While he will take over the Prime Ministership with plenty of hoop-la on Monday, he will be trying to defeat history as well as Andrew Little (and Winston Peters?) to take the top job again after next year's election.

As David Shearer looks to hit the road, some are asking whether he was Labour's golden opportunity missed. So is that nostalgia or wise hindsight speaking?

I remember talking at a do with a Labour apparatchik in December 2011. The party had a new leader and there was a sense of excitement. "We can get him on the cover of NZ Surfer. When's the last time Labour could say something like that?", this person enthused.

Today the right thing was done for two individuals by public officials who were not forced into doing so. Let's just take a moment to savour an occasion when things worked the way they should.

Back in June I wrote a post about the Ombudsman's pretty damning report on the State Services Commission (SSC) Inquiry into leaked MFAT documents, and in particular the way that this Inquiry treated a MFAT employee, Mr Derek Leask.

As John Key exits stage centre undefeated and to much applause, the question becomes who will be bold enough to take up his mantle in the middle? As voters start shopping around, who's looking the part to succeed him? 

John Key's resignation is an immense shock in a year of immense shocks, but it also lays down a gauntlet to those who would be in government next year.

Could the alienated grumpies have a greater effect on New Zealand political life?

This was written before John Key announced his resignation. Other than perhaps the tense I think there is no need for revision. 

Unfortunately most analysis on the American elections focuses on who voted but, as Bob Chapman pointed out, the Non-Vote Party plays an important role. This is yet another example of Gilling’s law of how you score shaping the game; in this case pollsters tend to score voters and pay little attention to those who do not vote.

A new book leads to ponderings on our technology strategy. 

Technology is an ambiguous notion. Its most common use in economics arises in the following way.

The laws of thermodynamics mean that there exist production functions which relate inputs to outputs. The most familiar ones have a single output generated by inputs of labour and capital, although there can be other inputs such as land, energy, intermediate goods and imports.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dr Andrew Butler propose that New Zealand should have a written constitution. If you're in Dunedin this Wednesday night, come along to the Museum and hear why.

As has been noted previously on this blog, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dr Andrew Butler  have published a book advocating that New Zealand enact a “written” constitution.

The Nation this weekend is telling the story of family carers of disabled adult relatives and the pretty shabby way they've been treated over the years. And it looks like Sam Lotu-liga just doesn't want to talk about that. 

[Make sure you see the update at the end!]

The courts really, really don't like the "three strikes" sentencing regime. And they're doing what they can to avoid having it force them into actions they think are wholly disproportionate.

New Zealand has had a "three strikes" sentencing regime in place for some six years now. It was controversial when introduced.

Can Trump wreck the world trading system?

New Zealand is such a small country that it is very easy to be internationally bullied. Much of our diplomatic effort aims to minimise such bullying, but fear of it lurks behind concerns about what a Trump administration might do, not only to us but the rest of the world. Could the US, big enough to be hard to bully, disrupt the world trading system?

Is it a good idea for New Zealand to try and resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the involvement of the USA? And, if it does so, will the Government have to go back to Parliament and ask it to change a Bill it's just agreed to?

Donald Trump's election as President of the USA was interpreted widely as the death knell for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). That, anyway, was John Key's immediate response following the result.  

The times are a’changing, as recent macroeconomic fashions are being abandoned and old verities are being restated. 

Alan Blinder, an American economist, described as ‘one of the great economic minds of his generation,’ was an economic adviser to President Clinton and was a Vice Chair of the American Federal Reserve (central bank). He is known to many as the co-author of an extremely successful textbook.

The alienated Angries who supported Brexit and Trump are not going to go away.

          If any question why we died,  

          Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Leonard Cohen has died. His music won't. 

To get some idea of just how great the now-departed Leonard Cohen's musical legacy is, you can't just listen to his recordings. You have to look at how his works were standards for so many other artists. His songs were genius, and everyone wanted to make them their own.

Many thousands of Americans looked past Donald Trump's nastiness, abuse and incompetence in search of a time that has gone, tragically rejecting a woman with the potential to have made real change

The world feels a very different place to me this morning. It is a place that leaves me disillusioned and more than a little scared. The America that voted for Donald Trump to be its president has either embraced or looked past so many values that I thought that country held dear.

It is important that judges face criticism―but not attacks like those on the judges who decided the Brexit case

In my other blogging endeavours, I often criticize judges, either for specific decisions or for their broader views of the law and of their own role, on which many of them are fond of expounding extra-judicially

While overall income inequality may have been relatively stable over the last two decades, it appears to be increasing in Auckland (and perhaps in our other big urban centres).

This column honours Bob Chapman (1922-2004), professor of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, remembered for his mentoring of many students including Helen Clark. He was an early New Zealand social scientist who did not just study elections but used the results to explore the social development of New Zealand.

A couple of interesting developments - one on the other side of the world and one here at home. Turns out that the UK's Parliament is still sovereign (who knew?). And I think Gareth Morgan should be given more praise than scorn for wanting to inject some thinking into New Zealand's political scene.

Kris Faafoi has stopped Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal "lost luggage (but not really)" members bill eating up hours of Parliament's time. That's great ... but what will I do now for fun? 

So, according to this Act Party press release:

Finally, we see the Auditor-General's report on the Saudi sheep deal and it's "significant shortcomings", and if you're not angry, you haven't been paying attention. Because here's the real story...

After a decade close to the action – and longer on the peripheries – there's not much in politics that makes my blood boil any more. At its best it is a contest of ideas and visions, but more often these days it is a poll-driven, often cynical, risk averse, strategic battle for swing voters. C'est la vie. But then, we have events like the Saudi sheep deal.

The Auditor General has found that Murray McCully (and the rest of his National Party cabinet colleagues) are not corrupt criminals. They just entered into a deal with a Saudi businessman without really knowing why, what that deal would do, or the basis for giving him some $11 million or our money. 

The Auditor-General's report on Murray McCully's "sheep-to-sand" deal (or, rather, her "Inquiry into the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership") is hot off the press.

A novel about an historical event reminds us of the health redisorganisation of the 1990s, raising issues remaining relevant to today. 

I puzzle at how politicians and advisers can make giant mistakes but are never held accountable. The notion of accountability became fashionable in the neoliberal changes of the 1980s and many people further down in the system now work under tighter surveillance than they did then.

New Zealand has fallen prey to penal populism: our prison population is at an all time high – driven by victims rights groups and the public's moral panic over violent crime

In 2011, Bill English said that prisons were “a moral and fiscal failure” and New Zealand should never build another one. Well said – and achievable – but only if Governments stop pandering to the Sensible Sentencing Trust and the moral panic manufactured by the media whenever a violent crime occurs.

The real scandal isn't that the Police set up a (probably) illegal drink driving checkpoint to get the names of elderly people interested in exercising control over the circumstances of their own death. It's that our law doesn't allow such people an option without having the Police stick their noses in to it.

I'm presently out of New Zealand, enjoying a family break at Joshua Tree National Park in the US of A before immersing myself in the joy and wonder that is end of year exam marking. I guess that means I should be writing you an insightful and searing critique of the US Presidential race, but really ... what's there to say?

Pretending it can, or that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand can function independently from the rest of the world, could generate a financial crash. 

The very joining of monetary policy and fiscal policy into a single phrase is a criticism of the neoliberal macroeconomics. The reconfiguration under Rogernomics assumed that the two could be administered independently of one another, and gave an authority and power to monetary policy beyond what any reasonable analysis would conclude.

The Court of Appeal's decision on the Planet Key's legal status means that we are likely to see and hear a lot more political advertising. And it also renders the Government's just announced reforms of party political broadcasts completely out of date.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal handed down its decision on the Electoral Commission's appeal in the "Planet Key" case, The Electoral Commission v Watson & Jones. You may remember the song and video at the heart of that case.

What does the latest Economics Prize in honour of Alfred Nobel tell us about economics as a science?

Alfred Nobel did not endow a prize in economics. In 1968 the Swedish National (i.e. central) Bank founded a ‘Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel’. The award’s announcement is coordinated with the annual Nobel Prize awards.

The reasons Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler give for their constitution-writing project are not convincing.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler, both of them former legal academics and current barristers, Sir Geoffrey having also served as Attorney-General and Prime Minister in between, have published a book

No, but we need to address poverty. Focusing on poverty targets which are not to be achieved in the time of the government which sets them is wasting energy and opportunity. 

Despite being frequently ignored, Gilling’s Law is one of the most powerful social laws I know. Formulated by Don Gilling, a retired professor of accounting and finance, it states that the way you score the game shapes the way the game is played. A simple illustration is that when they increased the points for a try, rugby games became more attacking in order to score more tries.

A few takeaways from the local body elections, including lessons for Labour and National and the start of 'The Phil & Bill Show'. Whoooo will win?

What can you really take in a political sense from a series of low-turnout elections in which the winners were mostly incumbents and mostly, still, male, pale and stale?

Well, a little bit, but maybe not as much as some claim.

Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and a Nobel Peace laureate, has some thoughts on a person's right to dignity at the end of life that are worth considering. 

Desmond Tutu is something of a living legend (there's a fuller account of his life here).

In which a late night twitter discussion rammed home the importance of candidates having to 'earn it' and the media's coverage of "foregone conclusions" is defended

On Sunday night Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick was feeling fed up with media coverage of the city's election and took to Twitter to express herself. In reply to a tweet saying turnout was tracking only marginally ahead 2013's poor effort, she said:

"I'm optimistic, but again doesn't help that media sold this as a boring one horse race that everyone should just give up on".

A report explains why: small but accumulating biases together on top of adverse early-life social and environmental conditions.

To be frank, this column on criminology is not in an area of my expertise. But in the course of my reading to place economics in a social context – I do that a lot – I came across an old report which I suspect most people who care have not come across earlier either. So this column is really from a journalist telling about a report.

Brash is back and so we have to explain again why his argument is built on rubbish and rubble. And we can do it with his own words.

It's a rare delight in these heavily managed times to see conviction politics and heartfelt arguments. It's just sad the Don Brash-led re-hashed Hobson's Pledge lobby group is so ill-judged and ill-informed.

Brash is back and so we have to explain again why his argument is built on rubbish and rubble

It's a rare delight in these heavily managed times to see conviction politics and heartfelt arguments. It's just sad the Don Brash-led Hobson's Pledge lobby group is so ill-judged and ill-informed.

We don’t need to refresh trade policy; we need to rethink how best to engage with the world in the context of increasing globalisation. 

The Government is ‘refreshing’ its international trade strategy. Refresh is a euphemism. It ought to overhaul it. Here are some guidelines; I begin with the overarching framework.

The Department of Corrections was doing what the courts told it was the law. The courts were wrong about that, so now the Department of Corrections owes prisoners compensation. That's exactly how our law is supposed to work.

On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler's book proposing a written constitution for New Zealand. It was held at Parliament, and may I say that a fine time was had by all.

Stuart Nash is trying to make political hay out of Nikolas Delegat's crime and punishment. The problem is, in doing so he's calling for the undermining of New Zealand's constitutional arrangements. That's ... not a good thing.

On occasion, I've had cause to issue some stern words to Police Minister Judith Collins about her apparent meddling in Police issues that are none of her business.

Meng Foon's giving $20 to a long-time acquaintance  is about respect, not corruption.

A couple of days ago, I was asked for comment* by RNZ News on a story about Gisborne mayor Meng Foon laying $20 on a pub table at a a Father's Day function.

Last week’s report on wellbeing and the household income distribution told us some new things. Are we listening?

Sadly, the latest MSD report The Material Wellbeing of NZ Households, by Bryan Perry, released last week, passed by quickly. It said, broadly, that there is no obviously significant shift in the level of inequality in recent years.

So, it turns out that we don't just have Nuk Korako to thank for wasting Parliament's time on debating how best to advertise lost property auctions that never get held. National Party MP Jono Naylor and Transport Minister Simon Bridges played their part, too.

In my various comments on the frankly abysmal Airport Authorities (Publicisi

Nuk Korako told the House that lots of people had contacted him to praise his proposal to save Airports from having to advertise lost property auctions in their local papers. So just how many of those people earlier told the Government that his proposal was needed? 

At the risk of breaking my undertaking to Gerry Brownlee, I find myself having to once again turn my attention to Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal members bill - the 

The NZRU's investigation is at best meaningless and at worst a cynical circle of lies and spin that leaves everyone involved with a stain on their reputation.

Here's the thing: What exactly did happen during that Mad Monday Chiefs event at Ōkoroire Hot Pools, near Matamata, on August 1? Despite the Rugby Union's "investigation" into events we are none the wiser and yet, amidst a flurry of clichés about "key learnings" and "unwise" and "inappropriate" behaviour, we are supposed to drop our unanswered questions and move on.

Winston Peters says John Key will hold an early election. John Key says he won't. John Key is right - but not for the reasons he says.

On today's RNZ's Morning Report, John Key poured cold water over Wintson Peters' confident assertion that NZ would have an election early in 2017 because the National Government was struggling to hold things together.

Is it possible to have sensible discussions in public?

Last June there was a kerfuffle in the online magazine Spinoff over attitudes to intellectual activity in New Zealand.

What are the possibilities for the future housing prices? What can we do?

Two eminent but retired Reserve Bankers, Don Brash and Arthur Grimes, have argued that house prices should halve. I am not sure whether they actually mean it or are just vividly pointing out that house prices are about double the sustainable level. I probably use a different method of calculation but have come to a similar assessment.

Auckland Transport appears to think that selling houses is a more important activity than trying to influence how people may vote. Is this just a sign of the times, or are they simply wrong?

Back in March I wrote this post in which I expressed scepticism about Auckland Transport's rationale for having a by-law that prohibits the display of election advertising anywhere that is visible from a road, except for the 9 weeks before an election. My argument was: 

As the proposed Ministry of Vulnerable Children shows, we do not take prevention seriously.

In 1920, someone wrote in the Maoriland Worker, ‘The politician is like the person who would build an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, instead of constructing a good fence at the top.’ The image seems to have been coined in a late-nineteenth-century poem by the English temperance activist Joseph Malins.

Would it be unfair to say that David Farrar considers the mental anguish anti-abortion protestors cause to women about to undergo a termination procedure matters less than the annoyance a voter may feel at having to refuse to accept a political party leaflet? Maybe it would, so read on and decide for yourself ... .

So it's Friday afternoon, deep into intellectual garbage time, and it's been a wee while since I've taken a gratuitous pot-shot at one of my fellow denizens of the blogosphere. What better reasons do I then need for writing the following?

ACT leader distances himself from National's handling of Auckland issues, especially traffic congestion

ACT leader David Seymour backed congestion charging in Auckland and called Transport Minister Simon Bridges "weak" for his inaction on Auckland's traffic congestion, at a local government panel discussion tonight.

Nuk Korako either doesn't understand what his own members bill would do, or he is misleading Parliament. 

At the risk of appearing to be a slightly unhinged obsessive who is fixated upon the trivial, I cannot help but respond to Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's attempted defence in Parliament this afternoon of his frankly abysmal members bill, the Airport Authoriti

Gerry Brownlee has made me see the error of my ways. Two plus two equals five, and Nuk Korako's #noluggageleftbehind bill is a sterling contribution to the very fabric of New Zealand's democracy.

As some of you may have noticed, I put up a couple of blog posts last week in which I said some less than charitable things about Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's members bill, the 

A Professor of Education challenges universities about their purpose.

What are universities really for? was the topic of a recent lecture by Hugh Lauder, professor of Education and Political Economy at the University of Bath (previously on the Canterbury and VUW faculties).

Nuc Korako's #noluggageleftbehind bill not only doesn't do what he says it is meant to do, but it appears that it will do nothing at all. 

As I noted in yesterday's post, Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako's frankly abysmal members bill - the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment 

Nuk Korako's Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill doesn't do what it says it is intended to do, doesn't need to be in the form that it is, and is intended purely to prevent other more worthy pieces of legislation from being debated. National's 50th ranked list MP is really proving his worth here.

So the very professional Rosanna Price rang me up about Tutehounuku (NukKorako's frankly abysmal members bill, the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill, and accurately

Free movement of labour is often described as one of the four fundamental economic freedoms. Putting it into practice is somewhat more difficult.

To make the intentions of this column clear, I am generally in favour of migration. I am a descendant of immigrants and live in a country in which virtually everyone admits to a migration heritage and which has one of the highest proportions of foreign-born in the world. I am also very aware that future migration will dramatically change the country I love, especially by the Asian inflow.

The Thick of It was a searing satire on how modern politics works (and doesn't work). I don't think it was meant to provide a script for Rugby chief executives who say stupid things when their players get accused of harassing a woman just doing her job. 

What with Northern Districts cricket player Scott Kuggeleijn running a "it wasn't rape because any man would do the same" defence (and thanks for spattering that shit all over me and my 5 year old son, Scott), Chief's lock Michael Allardice thinking it's OK t

How and what we remember is complicated but crucial. So when we consider the Maori Party's criticism of Helen Clark, shouldn't we ask if New Zealand is a better or worse place to be Maori given her three terms in government?

Well, this is a cat amongst Helen Clark's United Nation's pigeons. In the midst of a parliamentary recess when political news is thin on the ground, the Maori Party has told the world – and it's the world that matters in this case – that it doesn't support Clark's bid for the Secretary-General's job.

Our nearest neighbour, New Caledonia, has a very different political economy. Will it vote for full independence from France in 2018 – also leaving the European Union? 

New Zealand shares a continent with the European Union. Admittedly 93 percent of Zealandia is submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean but at its most north-western are the islands of New Caledonia with a total area about half the size of Canterbury. Technically the country is a department of France and so is the closest part of the EU to us.

When academics venture into the media to inform the public about their discipline, they have a basic obligation to be accurate in what they say. I'm afraid that Prof. Chris Gallavin has fallen short of this standard.

In an opinion piece published in Monday's NZ Herald, Professor Chris Gallavin made a number of suggestions as to how the Court

The Government announcement of a Predator Free goal for New Zealand by 2050 sounds good. But the budget for this is woefully inadequate, and comes on top of years of cost cutting - some say the deliberate, reckless weakening - of the Department of Conservation. We need to do more.

One per cent please.                                           

It's not exactly news that our criminal prohibition on possessing marijuana is a really bad policy. But a bunch of news stories this week serve to remind us just how bad it is.

One of the great things about my local paper, the Otago Daily Times, is that it still prints daily reports of all the trials that take place in each of the region's various local courts. For an insight into the manifold frailties and foibles of humanity, as well as a lot of sadness and the occasional spot of humour, it is hard to beat. I read it every day.

In too many areas the government is avoiding taking policy decisions. When it has to its panic measures are knee-jerk and quick-fix 

Just nine years ago, John Key, then leader of the opposition, spoke to the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation about housing affordability which he described then as a ‘crisis [which had] reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.’

Ignore the spin: The United States has backed down after 31 years and confirmed it will send a non-nuclear ship to New Zealand. The super power has lost. But does that mean New Zealand has won?

This is an historic day for New Zealand. The day the world's superpower blinked after a generation-long staring contest. The day America, in any meaningful sense, abandoned its 'neither confirm nor deny' policy. The day the mouse's roar was truly heard.

Prison volunteers as the bridge between prison and civil society

“I have been involved in this strange, fascinating and tragic world of incarceration for over 25 years. I have had many ideas about penal reform in that time, many of the subsequently proved quite wrong. I now think there are two basic things for which one should aim.

Tawera Wichman was caught using a "Mr Big" undercover trap. The Supreme Court (narrowly) said that this was OK - but that there are still problems with how the Police can mount such operations. And now I can tell you all this freely and openly.

As can (finally) now be reported, Tawera Wichman has been jailed for 3 years, 10 months for shaking his 11 month old son, Teegan Tairoa-Wichman, to death some seven years ago.

Turkey's President Erdogan is hell bent on revenge against those who tried to oust him in the country's latest military coup. The round-up of suspects and the crack down on human and civil rights is nothing short of staggering….and concerning.

Turkey’s fifth military coup d’etat was crushed only hours after it began, but the ramifications of those hours of miscalculated actions are immense for Turkey, the region and the wider world.

The rule of strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently, worryingly, been more akin to that of an autocrat than a democratically elected President.

The Reserve Bank cannot deliver affordable housing by itself. Its actions have to be coordinated with the government's. Unfortunately the monetarist framework of the Reserve Bank Act obscures this.

The tensions between the Reserve Bank and the Government over housing policy go back to the mistaken economic thinking in the 1989 Reserve Bank Act. Monetarism ruled and it is that underlying monetarist approach which is creating the tensions.

If the Government was serious about reducing re-offending, the Corrections Department would pay for professional reintegration services instead of relying on well meaning volunteers like Ngapari Nui

Black power member, Ngapari Nui, has been working as a prison volunteer for the past five years trying to steer young gang members away from crime. By all accounts he’s been doing a great job.

Last week's executions in the United States - of five police officers and two young black men at point blank range - should have the shock value to wake up that nation, but it won't. Politics has immediately taken hold, with the black president a sitting target. Apparently it was his job to fix racism because he's black. Apparently he has failed.  

On CNN at the end of last week one of the commentators, sad face on, remarked that “this (the Dallas shootings of police and the latest two police executions of black men) is not America”.

News flash: gun violence is exactly what America is, and its victims are overwhelmingly black..

Too much of pop-economics is misleading to the point close to being lying. No wonder there is a widespread rejection of it by the populace. 

Journalists and other populisers get away with an economics which does not quite lie, but is often very misleading. This applies to Brexit, but let’s start off with the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement).

Tony Blair's spin mastery has worn out. The Chilcot inquiry may not have found him to be a liar, but it would be difficult to imagine his legacy as any but Bush's starry eyed poodle who became jointly responsible for the destruction of Iraq and the catastrophic  consequences we are all witnessing today.

Tony Blair just does not get it.

After the savaging he was dealt by the long awaited, 2.6 million word Chilcot inquiry, Blair spoke to the press for nearly two hours in order to make sure the world knew he did not lie and was in fact a victim himself, deeply sorry while standing by his actions to take Britain to an avoidable.

Bill English wasn't interested in helping with infrastructure a few weeks ago, now National is riding to the rescue. It's a good move, but another sign of a panicked government

Underneath Auckland's housing crisis, both literally and metaphorically, lies infrastructure. One of the reasons for the lack of houses in Auckland is that the city doesn't have enough of it, and you can't build a house if you don't have the roads, pipes and power. So today's announcement from government addresses a fundamental problem.

New revelations demand answers from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about how knew what in the Saudi sheep deal. Has Murray McCully misled cabinet?

It is one of the most puzzling... and troubling... sagas in New Zealand's recent political history. And that's saying something. The Saudi sheep deal's always felt like the sword of Damocles hanging over Foreign Minister Murray McCully, and today that sword may finally have fallen.

Punitive public policy too often ignores its impact on the children involved. 

My last column described how the punitive measures we had for dealing with debtors were only abolished in 1989. Yet others continue to suffer from oppressive legislation – if they are low enough in social ranking.

As the rest of the world moves towards more GE food, New Zealand stands apart. And while that may make little scientific sense, it could be very good for our bank balance

An article published a month ago in the Daily Mail prompted GE Free New Zealand to

Back when I was at school, we used to have to do tests where we'd read a section of writing and then answer questions about it. Perhaps Paula Bennett ought to be given a few of these to sharpen up on, because she seems to have trouble with her comprehension skills.

The Government (and State Services Commission, which really appears to be joined at the hip with Ministers on this matter) seems to have decided on its strategy to deal with the damning Ombudsman's Report into Paula Rebstock's Report on MFAT leaks.

Nineteenth-century migrants may have come here to escape oppressive laws, but the laws migrated too. It was late in the twentieth century that we abolished one of the most oppressive ones. Our origins are less humane than we like to pretend. 

Wilkens Micawber was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. It is said that he is modelled on Charles Dickens’ father, who suffered a similar fate. Meanwhile, his twelve-year-old son had to work in a factory. He hated the experience. A debtors’ prison appears in The Pickwick Papers, as well as David Copperfield, and most extensively in Little Dorrit.

Sick of #Brexit analysis? While most legal proceedings are more boring than watching grass dry, this one crazy transcript will shock and amaze you!

Having tired of perusing the interweb's voluminous reckons on Brexit, I chanced upon a gem of a story regarding an interchange between a defendant and a judge in Georgia (the U.S. variant) that did ... not go well.

The Ombudsman's finding that Derek Leask was badly treated by the State Services Commission is quite damning. It also matters for all of us concerned about the limits on governmental power in New Zealand.

After a long, long gestation - caused in large part by the State Services Commission's (hugely ironic, as we will see) demand for various rights of reply - the Office of the Ombudsman has finally released its report into the State Services Commission Inquir

John Key has over-turned the most difficult decision of his Prime Ministership without answering the central questions this u-turn raises

So what's changed? That's the over-arching and as yet unanswered question that follows National's decision to abandon its commitment to a two year deployment in Iraq.

It's pretty much just a matter of time until aid in dying (or, "voluntary euthanasia", if you're wanting to scare the children) law reform arrives in New Zealand. A couple more signposts for that journey were erected in the last few weeks.

It appears that the Health Select Committee's inquiry into Maryan Street's petition, which itself called for Parliament to "investigat

It is unclear why anyone is voting for Britain leaving the EU nor, in many cases, why they are voting for remain. What are the possible alternatives? How is Britain or New Zealand to function in an increasingly globalised world?

As I put up this column, the Brits are about to vote on Brexit – whether Britain should withdraw from the European Union. We do not know what the outcome will be, for the opinion surveys are all over the place; in any case turnout may be crucial. In 1975 a similar referendum taken a couple of years after Britain joined went two to one for ‘stay’.

When it comes to our homelessness crisis, you can come up with constructive ideas or, it seems, you can blame those living in their cars for bringing it on themselves

Solutions. At least the immediate and practical ones. They've been pretty thin on the ground in the Auckland housing debate, especially when it comes to the social housing crisis. But today another couple of suggestions caught my eye.

Teina Pora has been given the thing he said he wanted most – a formal apology for the 22 years he wrongly spent behind bars as an innocent man. He also has been offered $2.5 million in compensation. Applying the Cabinet’s own principles, it ought to be in excess of $4.5 million.

[As promised here, these are some further thoughts on the announcement that Teina Pora has been given a full apology for his wrongful imprisonment and an offer of $2.5 million in compensation.

How much are 20-something years of a life worth? Later today we'll find out what the Government thinks - but here's some early thoughts on advance reports.

Some brief initial thoughts on the (assumed true) claim that it will be announced today that Teina Pora will be offered around $2 million in compensation for his 21-22 (I've seen both figures used) years in prison.

The economics of information shows that whatever happens, the solution our ailing newspapers to the digital revolution will not be a perfect one. 

An important notion in economic analysis is of a ‘public good’ (which may be a service). Not THE public good (a.k.a. the ‘common good’), which is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community. A public good in this narrow sense has two key features: it is ‘non-excludable’ and it is ‘non-rivalrous’.

Let's not just blindly cheer for Kiwis such as Helen Clark and Steven Adams, let's judge them on merit

I am not supporting Helen Clark or Steven Adams.

Before you choke on your coffee, here’s why. I do not support New Zealanders just because they are New Zealanders. That’s near blind loyalty of the “my country, right or wrong” variety. Neither Helen Clark nor Steven Adams really thrill me and I decline to jump on the bandwagon.

Judith Collins let us know what she thinks about how the Police currently enforce speed restrictions on our roads. Not only did she actually get this wrong, but she probably shouldn't be telling us anyway.

Via RNZ comes a story about Police Minister Judith Collins taking issue in the House with the Police issuing speeding tickets to people who are breaking the speed limit.

$23 million of the proceeds from the sale of your stuff that you were told would go to kids, sick people and better road instead is going to be used to stop people complaining that their new passports cost too much - and you can thank the "Taxpayers' Union" for that!

Just a quick follow-up to a post from back in June of last year, in which I noted how the "Taxpayer's Union" mounted a successful campaign to get the Government to reintroduce 10-year passports.

Do you know what a bezzle is? Here is a book which explains the sophisticated financial system. 

The economic columnist I most admire is John Kay, who writes regularly for the Financial Times. He taught at various universities, was director of the independent think tank, Institute for Fiscal Studies, and has held a host of other interesting and important jobs.

The family of Blessie Gotingco, who was murdered by an offender just out of prison, are crowdfunding with a view to a possible civil claim. The litigation following an earlier similar incident suggests that there are some pretty big legal obstacles in the way of a successful claim.

The family of Blessie Gotingco, who was murdered by Tony Robertson shortly after his release from prison, are crowdfunding the costs of undertaking their own review/investigation of the Department of Corrections’ management of Roberts

In a classic piece of misdirection, we're being urged to look away from the recent Labour-Greens MOU and towards a future with Winston Peters as PM. I did, and there really isn't much there.

In an effort to make sense of the fact that their theories don't really make sense of the Universe, some theoretical physicists posit that we inhabit but one of an infinite number of multiverses, in which anything that could possibly happen does happen.

National is stuck in the bad old days with its obsession with land supply. Auckland now needs something more, and here's what

National has finally published it's National Policy Statement (NPS) to try to slow down Auckland's charge-ahead property market. But NPS may as well stand for No Plan Sorry, because it's an admission of failure; proof it's living in the past.

How cabins in a Te Atatu garden and a Budget 2016 freeze on schools' operating budget could affect New Zealand's prison population in years to come

I addressed a large gathering this week at a beautiful church complex in the Auckland seaside suburb of St Heliers. This was a meeting of the Tamaki branch of the University of the Third Age, usually known by the acronym U3A.

Labour and the Greens are making a match. But there's an ex-boyfriend hovering over proceedings

They've been 'just good friends' for so long. We all knew they liked each other, but neither of them wanted to ask the other out first, in case they looked to needy or weak. Yet today, Labour and the Greens finally came out with their first PDA.

Turns out the government has been wrongly paying some accommodation supplement recipients for the last 23 years. Here's my overly cynical and (I hope) deeply wrong take on the advice MSD will give the government about how to respond.

RNZ's Morning Report led off today with a story about a "coding error" that has meant some recipients of accommodation supplement payments have been wrongly paid since 1993.

Power companies attempting to fend off solar power are at risk of following the horse and cart into oblivion

My previous post about the lines company Unison's intention to charge extra to households generating their own power prompted several people to contact me, one of whom directed me to a particular quote:

Housing remains the government's biggest weakness and so National is redoubling its efforts. No, not to build houses, but to contain the political damage

I can't give you a precise day or hour, but some time in the past fortnight, National has admitted defeat over Auckland's housing crisis. You can see it in the calculated attacks on Auckland Council and the lack of action in the Budget; the government's moved into 'managing failure' territory.

Bill English's eight budget ticks boxes here and there, but it will be remembered in history for its complacency and the missed opportunities it represents

Perhaps the most defining feature of Budget 2016 is quite how political, rather than financial, it is. There are numerous aspects of it that only make sense if you place the fact that there's an election in 18 months front and centre in your thinking.

Tony Robertson has a lot in common with Graeme Burton, William Bell & the Beast of Blenheim. They were all serious high risk offenders – but none of them got to attend a rehabilitation programme in prison

Tony Robertson was sentenced to eight years in prison for indecently assaulting a five year old girl in 2005. He was considered a high risk prisoner and the parole board declined to release him on four separate occasions.  He was eventually released in December 2013 at the end of his sentence.

The government has let the housing market deteriorate with measures which are insufficient, late and ineffective. As a first step we need to identify the underlying problems. 

The Prime Minister’s announcement that there is nothing new about homelessness is both an example of his strengths in reassuring the public that there is never really a problem and the weaknesses of the government’s policy approach..

A heart-breaking interview raises hard questions about what to do with the worst of the worst criminals

Tony Robertson is a one percenter. Not the rich kind, but the destructive and callous kind. "Evil"? Maybe. But surely one of this country's highest risk offenders. And we don't seem to have the system to handle these people.

Michael Bennett has taken Teina Pora's story and turned straw into gold. It's a sad and awful book told in a remarkably good way. You should buy it and read it at once.

Michael Bennett’s book, In Dark Places: The confessions of Teina Pora and an ex-cop’s fight for justice, tells a terrible story in a beautiful way. The story’s terribleness lies not in a lack of coherence or plot.

This is a condensed version of a paper given to a WEA Conference on 14 May, 2016, Available in full at  http://www.eastonbh.ac.nz/2016/05/where-is-adult-education-going/

The initial invitation suggested I talk about the future economy and its relevance to adult education. I explained that the best advice I ever came across is ‘don’t make predictions, especially about the future’. You get a sense of the difficulties if you go back thirty years ago, say, and realise any forecasts of today would have been way off track.

A solar tax makes it harder to go green in the short term, but could drive more customers off grid as the appeal of solar power grows

I was astounded to learnt the Hawke's Bay power lines company, a monopoly called Unison, has announced increased line charges for households generating their own electricity. This "solar tax" runs counter to New Zealand's attempts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the most stupid business decisions I've heard of in a very long time.

It's time to call out land bankers and require urgent action, because Auckland's lack of houses is driving people in their cars

If it had come from a less reliable source, I'd find it hard to believe. Sure, it's anecdotal and it's an estimate, but it also leaves you asking what we've come to in this country. One in ten garages in South Auckland, says the Salvation Army's Alan Johnson, is being used as a home. And he knows his stuff. 1 in 10.

A blogger's own campaign to have name suppression laws tightened has resulted in that blogger being refused name suppression after pleading guilty to his own illegal activities. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

By now we all know (or, rather, those of us at all interested in the often schoolyard antics of the NZ blogosphere know) that some blogger who used to be semi-famous has admitted the crime of paying an alleged fraudster to hack into the blog of some lefty enemies in orde

If it necessary to run a budget deficit then it should be spent in the interests of future generations, rather than on increased consumption to be paid for in the future.

It is very easy to demand the government should run, or increase, its budget deficit, that is, it should spend more than its revenue and (one way or another) borrow the difference. Many think that is what Keynes said, but the Keynesian analysis is more subtle than the crudities that the deficit advocates seem to rely upon.

How should New Zealand see itself in world affairs, and does Chile provide a model for how we might do so?

As part of my extensive reading on the wars of the twentieth century, both from personal interest and as a member of the World War One Commemoration Panel, I have recently read “Unnecessary Wars” by Australian historian Henry Reynolds.

The social worth of a person in no way reflects their income or wealth. To confuse the two notions is to play into the values of the rich. 

My brother, Keith, died in the hospital wing of a Christchurch retirement home recently.

Some very quick thoughts on the matter of the PM's lawyer and his lobbying efforts, written on a Friday afternoon while waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport. So don't expect anything too deep and meaningful!

Revelations that the PM's personal lawyer was active in lobbying the Government not to tighten the rules on the sort of foreign trusts fingered in the "Panama Papers" present, as they say, poor political optics. Here's some quick thoughts.

How signing the TPPA and buying New Zealand meat could help the fight against our growing resistance to antibiotics

'Peak Antibiotics' is a catchy headline. Prime TV ran a documentary with that title just this month. Whether that turns out to be a true depiction of this era will depend on changes to policies around their use and regulations surrounding their development.

The parliamentary review of the 2014 election has just been reported. What treats do our MPs have in store for the 2017 campaign and beyond?

In the aftermath of every general election, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee holds an inquiry to review how the process went and identify matters that could be improved.

Bible in schools looks like a class out of time, the remnants of a time that's passed. But 650+ schools still choose to teach it. What are the pros and cons? I wrestle me way through them

On Tuesday, Jeff McClintock and the group of people around him will begin their appeal against a decision to throw out their challenge to the Bible in Schools programme. The legal battle is technical; the underlying debate must more pressing. And it's an issue I see from both sides.

Bible in schools looks like a class out of time, the remnants of a time that's passed. But 650+ schools still choose to teach it. What are the pros and cons? I wrestle me way through them

On Tuesday, Jeff McClintock and the group of people around him will begin their appeal against a decision to throw out their challenge to the Bible in Schools programme. The legal battle is technical; the underlying debate must more pressing. And it's an issue I see from both sides.

My wife and I have been waiting for a total of 11.5 hours now for a tradsperson to arrive to fix our dishwasher. When we can send a man to the moon – and are told customer service is all in the modern economy – how come this keeps happening?

I've just got off the phone to someone responsible for what can only loosely be called "customer service". This is not the first, second or even third time my wife or I made such a call, all in an effort to get a Haier dishwasher fixed by Fisher & Paykel.

Calling them 'customer service' people is laughable. So let's label them as what they are: Time thieves.

Are we too generous about the civilian rights of non-doms, who do not pay tax on all their incomes? 

Bryan Gould has drawn attention to the dangers we face in New Zealand of foreign political interference by funding contributions to political activity. His apposite example is Chinese money being channeled into the change-the-flag campaign.

It's been said that Winston Peters is NZ's great political survivor. He's also been the beneficiary of a fair bit of legal luck along the way.

Let's assume, purely for the sake of argument, that it turns out Mike Sabin actually didn't need to resign from Parliament. Which means that there didn't need to be a by-election in Northland back in 2015. Which in turn means that Winston Peters shouldn't really be the electorate MP for Northland.

Responses to the flag referendum and the TPPA have parallels overseas such as supporting Trump in the US and Brexit in Britain. A sizeable proportion of the population think that the government is not listening to them and doesn’t care about them.

Kiwiblog presents an impressive scatter-diagram which shows that the more an electorate voted for National, the more it voted for a new flag. It seems unlikely that National voters are republican and radical (especially given the views of the leader they endorse).

Trouble-shooting the CYF reforms: Yes,we need to act, but there are two big political calls underlying the radical overhaul that raise questions about whether this is the best way to go

This is what everyone agrees on: Child, Youth and Family needs to change. No-one can look at how we deal with the troubled kids that need help from government agencies and say it's going swimmingly. So the question is not what we do, but how we do it.

Colonial monuments have rightly come under scrutiny. We should not the remove controversial reminders, but we do need to tell a wider range of stories about history in our public places

From South Africa to South Carolina, and from

Provided it was lawfully obtained overseas for the treatment of a medical condition, you legally are permitted to bring up to 31 days worth of medical marijuana into New Zealand. Here's the proof.

Last month I wrote a pair of posts arguing that, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, s 8(2)(l), a person is entitled to bring on their person into NZ up to a month's supply of

A fascinating bit of reporting on our history draws out one particular hater and a bit of nonsense. But the topic itself is an intriguing debate

It's laughable, even a bit pathetic really. But then that's Whale Oil for you. And I've always been of the belief that if you put a story out there to stimulate some discussion, you should be willing to be part of that discussion.

Is the Prime Minister playing fast and loose with intelligence information? We now know that he knew more about those jihadi brides than he first let on

It's times like this you appreciate why people giving testimony in court, in all those old movies, are asked to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". Because "the truth", alone won't do. That's at the heart of Metiria Turei's revelation about just when John Key knew about the jihadi brides.

Are we entering a long period of secular stagnation in which interest rates are low? We cannot foresee all the implications. 

This has not been an easy column to write, and it may not be an easy one to read. Part of the problem is that there is no agreement within the economics profession as how to interpret what is going on.

The story of our national anthems might provide guidance for how to proceed with the flag.

A recent Victoria University graduation ceremony invited everyone to sing The National Anthem. As we lustily, but not tunefully, sang God Defend New Zealand, I avoided the thought that while pedants would point out that New Zealand had two national anthems there are few pedants left in our universities.

Without anyone apparently noticing, the Auckland Transport Board has decided for Auckland ratepayers just when it is appropriate to convey their political beliefs to the world. Can they really do that?

Via RNZ comes this odd story:

What's an affordable house worth in Auckland these days? The Prime Minister reckons 'it depends', but actually it doesn't. Plus, his Trade Me slip up

What's affordable? Usually that's entirely dependent on your circumstances. My six year-old's concept of what's "a lot" – the lego he wants or how much we just spent on groceries – is very different from mine. Yet I had a very wealthy friend who used to say that in his pomp he could hardly go through an international airport without spending thousands on a new watch.

The history of New Zealand is speculation on farm land which stokes up debt, with disastrous consequences when the bubble bursts. The New Zealand industry is going through another one. 

During the Great War, farm land prices boomed. When farm product prices collapsed in 1920, farmers walked off their land. It was not that the land prices were too high. Farmers had borrowed to purchase their farms and with lower revenue they could no longer service the debt.

A technical glitch at Kiwiblog stopped this post on Paula Bennett et al's crusade against Wicked Campers from appearing. Fortunately I've managed to retrieve it and post it for you to read.

[Updated: For the real deal, see here.]

Yesterday's Herald on Sunday carried a big splash story from David Fisher about three National Party cabinet Ministers - Paula Bennett, Maggie Barry and Louise Upton - ganging up to try and force Wicked Campers to stop putting puerile, misogynistic slogans on their camper vans.

A journalist’s list of the ten most important issues politically facing us did not mention inequality and poverty. Why?

A month ago Fairfax political journalist Tracey Watkins listed the following ten areas to watch out for in the political year:

Spies (especially the review and resulting legislation)

I'm probably not the first person to note this, but Donald Trump's presidential campaign presents as an example of life imitating some fairly average art.

This morning I watched Donald Trump rhapsodising about the wall he plans to build on the border with Mexico ("It's going to be so tall ... it's going to be beautiful ... as beautiful as a wall can be") and then glorying in the expulsion of protesters from his rally.

Arthur Taylor's most recent attack on the ban on prisoner voting has failed. But we learnt something about New Zealand's constitution as a result. Oh - and judges really need to think about how their words may sound to all those who read them.

Last Friday afternoon the High Court released its most recent judgment in jailhouse lawyer Arthur Taylor's ongoing legal crusade against the law that bans prisoners from voting (PDF copy of Taylor v Attorney General available here).

Are you a blogger who knowingly writes lies about your political enemies/friends in an effort to sway how people vote? Winston Peters has just won a court case that could see you get jailed for up to 2 years.

The High Court has just handed down a pretty interesting decision that is possibly important for how political commentary can take place in New Zealand, and for the blogging community in particular. It involves Winston Peters and the Electoral Commission, so naturally it's called Peters v The Electoral Commission.

John Key says his budget boost for Pharmac should be enough to get a melanoma drug over the line, after the Pharmac CEO says it wouldn't fund Keytruda even if it had the money. Let's unpack this...

How high is "quite high"?

That's a life and death question having heard both the Pharmac CEO Steffan Crausaz and Prime Minister talk about funding a melanoma drug over the past 48 hours.

Apparently Peter Dunne thinks [update: thought ... see end of post!] I'm wrong about bringing medical marijuana into New Zealand. Here's a longer discussion of why I don't think I am.

Yesterday I wrote this post, leveraging off a RNZ story about a judge discharging a woman without conviction for mailing herself medical marijuana from the

The Republicans started their own fire. But Donald Trump is a whole new kind of arsonist and the party's now burning out of control

There are two competing descriptions of what's going on in the Republican Party right now. One, (which appeals to Donald Trump's modus operandi in business) is a "hostile takeover" of the Grand Old Party.

Australia has just passed the laws needed to allow medical marijuana to be grown and distributed. Once that starts happening, New Zealanders will be able to go across the ditch to get it - and then legally bring it back here.

The whole issue of medical marijuana's (non)-availability in New Zealand has been highlighted by the case of first Helen Kelly and now claims in The Guar

The government is restraining its spending on healthcare – perhaps by over $2 billion a year. Is that what we really want?

A common assumption is that public spending on healthcare rises faster than GDP. There are three reasons behind this assumption.

First, an aging population requires more healthcare. The over-65s consume more healthcare resources than the under65s (and the over-85s even more so).

On the eve of Super Tuesday, the Republicans are torn, Rubio is using Trump to boost himself and Clinton is laughing all the way to the bank

So, finally, Marco Rubio has reached that point. Ted Cruz got their earlier and John Kasich is still trying to hold back (and who cares about Ben Carson any more?). You may call it taking the gloves off, jumping the shark, sending in the artillery or getting down in the mud. Or too little, too late.

Most university classes start today... but is university the smart way to go? And which training leads to the best incomes? Two pieces of research can help you make a wise choice... or even change paths

It isn't too late for university students to change their courses for this year; new students are still likely to be able to change their degrees. At most universities, changes are allowed for the first two, even three, weeks of the semester. While it's a nightmare for university staff, it's a chance for students to rethink and adjust given new information from the government.

As Donald Trump stays way out front in the Republican nomination race, the party hierarchy is in full fret and could have run out of time to stop its current worst nightmare. The next few days will be crucial for the party base, and the privileged old guard.

On the cusp of Super Tuesday - when 14 states and American Samoa vote for their Democrat or Republican Presidential candidate, the stench of panic within the Republican party over the rise of its own bastard child is all pervasive.

There is much chat about how Donald Trump has rewritten all the rules in US politics, but he hasn’t really.

More houses or not more houses, that is the question that's starting to create real tension inside the National Party as one of the government's key economic policies comes under pressure from its own

Internal tension. It's not something National has had to worry about much during the Key years. But that makes the Auckland Council's u-turn on its plans for housing intensification all the more fascinating; because it pits the National Party against some of its core voters.

As select committee hearings on the TPPA draw closer... the arguments against ratification, all together in one place

It's a dangerous strategy for a government to denigrate those who don't agree with them as misguided or ignorant, especially if they are in the majority. A TV3/Reid Research poll last November revealed that a clear majority of the public oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

A simple message to the Herald on Sunday - there is nothing wrong with being naked. Even if you are a Judge.

The Herald on Sunday is running a "shock! horror!" series of stories about a District Court Judge who happens to be a member of a naturist ("nudist") club in Canterbury and had some naked photos of himself posted on the club website.

A (former) judge may be going to say that David Bain is not innocent beyond all reasonable doubt. That doesn't necessarily mean he won't get compensation, but it makes it a bit harder to do so.

 According to the NZ Herald, by way of a fortuitous leak to Jared Savage, the report into David Bain's compensation claim by retired Australian Judge Ian Callinan, QC is in the hands of Minister of Justice Amy Adams. (Remember that a previous report on this matter by Canad

The short answer is all trade reduces sovereignty to some extent. The TPPA is no exception, but its effect is probably small. 

Allow that we had to give away something, such as increased copyright extensions, for better access for our exports; the real issue for us in the TPPA is that it reduces ‘sovereignty’. To report my conclusion at the beginning: all trade and all trade deals reduce sovereignty to some extent. This has been going on in New Zealand since its first European economic engagement.

David Seymour is having a swing at winning over voters with a reheated ACT law and order policy and bit of Rodney Hideism. Which recalls the last time ACT tried this on...

So ACT has decided to reheat it's disastrous policy from 2014, promoting a three strikes regime for burglars.

New Hampshire, the so-called Granite State, was rocked to its political core Tuesday with outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders trampling all around them to win the latest hurdle in the long battle for the job of Leader of the Free World. A scary thought indeed.   

In the biggest night of their political careers outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders swept aside the ‘insiders’ and nailed the New Hampshire primary.

A look at the polls and strategies as the parliamentary year gets under way...

What a limp start to the parliamentary year. John Key went for the jocular shopping list approach, seemingly in the belief that a few one liners implied confidence and rapidly listing a policies already in train suggested good governance.

Is the TPP the current equivalent of New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance? How did it become such a defining issue? And will its impact last?

Among all the controversy and welter of opinions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I have been increasingly wondering, why has the TPP become the litmus test of progressivism in New Zealand?

It is not such a defining issue in other TPP nations; the debate seems particularly fevered in New Zealand.

Perhaps Donald Trump is rewriting the rules of US politics. But let's not forget that's been said before and frontrunners often fade when the voting starts

Today, at last, we will finally start to see past the blarney and balderdash, the polls and projections, to see the outline of the US presidential race. The Iowa caucuses are being held and the voice of actual voters will get to drown out the voices of the candidates and commentators. For a while at least.

A key issue may not be what is in the TPPA, but that by not adopting it we may ruin the other international agreements we are pursuing. 

In the 1960s I was an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was a moral crusade with unrealisable objectives such as withdrawal from SEATO (a now defunct treaty), a nuclear-free New Zealand and withdrawal from ANZUS. The dreams of youth can become a reality.

Donald Trump appears to have set the chickens on the fox with his decision to snub Thursday's Fox News Republican debate. Will anyone tune in now the ringmaster of this circus has gone rogue…well more rogue?  

Donald Trump’s decision to boycott the Republican Presidential candidates‘ debate on Fox ‘News’ is a master stroke - for Donald Trump, and in his world, that is all that matters.

The government's move to start the rail loop in Auckland two years earlier than planned undermines past promises, generates new political risk and creates an unlikely hero

So, sometimes it's useful being a lame duck.

As Donald Trump hits a new poll high of 41% just days before the Iowa Caucus, it beggars belief that he's now hoodwinked God's rather large Republican Evangelical army, and is going to take the first prize in the caucus/primaries. At least it is entertaining.    

Unless you have been living on Planet 9 (Mars is too close), you will be aware that ‘we’ are in the home stretch for the Iowa Caucus....the first of the generators of momentum, consolidation, winnowing and friction within the candidates vying to be America’s new Commander in Chief.

The time is right to be telling the story of New Zealand food production. But what should we say? And are our marketers up to the job?

Is it a perfect storm or are we merely being buffeted by the winds of change? Is this some kind of tipping point? It's an extraordinary moment in time for New Zealand agriculture, with its future economic development at stake. Yet the discussion is more around what shouldn't happen rather than finding a strategy to achieve the prosperity most New Zealanders want.

Three strategies to combat the Islamic State insurgency

I am in the camp that believes Iraq’s current situation is not intractable. With sufficient clarity, political will and coordination, its ethnosectarian strife can be put to an end. Here are some thoughts:

Redrawing borders: a functioning federalism

The statistics from Oregon are clear: the people who have the "choice" of assisted dying are disproportionately white, wealthy and well-educated. Who pays the price for their choice?

So who wants assisted suicide? 

In Oregon, the poster child for New Zealand advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the statistics after 17 years of the Death With Dignity Act are emphatic[1]:

Rhona's death-it was not what she would have wanted.

Rhona and I were married for 54 years and about 45 of those were good, until vascular dementia began to affect our relationship.  She died in April 2014.

Iran has fulfilled all obligations required by the P5+1 nuclear deal, paving the way for immediate implementation, including the lifting of crippling nuclear linked sanctions. No surprise however that a deal of such historic proportions, with no shots being fired,has failed to satisfy electioneering Republicans. 

Late last year after the nuclear deal between the world’s six major powers and Iran had been signed, Republican Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio wrote in Foreign Affairs that the world is safest when America is at its strongest and dealing with Iran has shown America to be weak.

World Sharemarkets Are Sneezing. What Does That Tell Us About the World Economy?

Before discussing the state of the world economy – especially what is going on in China – it is useful to say something about the importance of the sharemarket (Americans call it ‘stock market’). It is far more important in pop-economics than serious economics.

It’s time for opponents of the TPP to stop the gesture politics and answer some questions - like what is the alternative you propose? Do you really believe we can stay out of the TPP on our own? And do you want to pull out of the agreement after it is signed?

Despite a summer of opportunity to read every clause of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opponents of the TPP have failed to produce a clause showing the agreement requires each of us to surrender our first born to the corporate masters of neo-liberalism, and nor have they discovered any other nugget that sustains their vilification of the trade pact.

It's a new year and we're all getting back to work. One of the things you have to add to your "to do" list in the next fortnight is be a good democratic citizen.

Reluctant as I am to start my 2016 Punditing by laying a guilt trip on you, that's what I'm going to end this post with. Some context, first.

Jamie Whyte claims that poverty statistics based on relative measures of poverty are misleading. I explain why his argument is unpersuasive.

Former ACT party leader Jamie Whyte recently wrote that:

There is no poverty in New Zealand. Misery, depravity, hopelessness, yes; but no poverty.

Want to save the world this Christmas? The best way may not be what you think... and may not involve giving up meat

It's the time of year many start thinking about their diet, about turning over a new leaf. An the Paris climate talks may have given that new impetus for those keen to 'save the planet'. But it's abstinence – meaning eating and travelling less – that they should be considering, rather than a new diet or production system.

All I want for Christmas? Sure, less bad sing-alongs, but mostly I want less cynical politics than the December Dump we've seen this year

It's the time of year for lists. The best and worst of the year lists. Summer DIY lists. Lists to write to Santa. But here's a not so nice list created by National in these warming weeks leading into Christmas – the cynical dumping list.

Why turn to fiction for mind-bending exercises in logical absurdity? The real world of the courts provide much stranger fare.

The various adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass appear to have a particular resonance for lawyers.

After the applause has died down, will the Paris Agreement do enough to keep global temperatures down, fund emission reductions in developing countries and hold nations to account?

As expected, a deal was finally done in Paris. This in itself is vital as we tackle the most serious strategic threat to our planet and its people. But it'd be easy to get carried away with hyperbole -- so what does the Paris Agreement actually deliver?

The right’s candidate for mayor isn’t remotely ready to be mayor of a super city.


If you’re going to stand for political office the minimum requirements must surely include some rationale for your candidacy. You want to do the job because you see a job needing doing. You need to have something sensible to say about topical issues and some guide to what you expect to do in office. 

A book on the history of the Literary Fund raises broad questions of how our bureaucracy works.

I was too closely involved with Elizabeth Caffin’s The Deepening Stream: A History of the New Zealand Literary Fund to review it. But it contributed to my understanding of some general issues; I think I am allowed to use the book to share them with you.

So the first round of the flag referendum is done (bar the formal tidying up). What, if anything, does it tell us?

So it transpires* that we'll be voting in March next year on whether to retain a colonial relic or to adopt something that looks like a cheap souvenir beach-towel. Democracy, hell yeah! My kids will have fun making that choice!!

On the vote itself, what can we say?

Here's a trawl through the year in politics and what stood out for me

Well, will you look at the time? The House has risen, weather's improving and Christmas is nigh. And heaps of newspapers, websites and journalists of all shapes and sizes have debated their best, worst, winners, losers and more as they try to make sense of what's been a year of recovery, reinvention and rebound after the crazy events of 2014.

There is no reason to cancel the passport of any so-called "Jihadi brides". And Chris Lynch is a bit of a moron for suggesting that this should happen.

I have had past occasion to poke the borax a bit at Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne. But I have to say that this week he's been a refreshing breath of sensibility on the shock-horror issue of New Zealanders setting out to become "Jihadi brides".

Britain is divided, and the British Labour Party even more so, over its role in leading Western nations. So does it offer lessons for New Zealand?

Last week Britain voted for airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State. The parliamentary debate that preceded the vote was illuminating in the way it mirrored the divide in Britain about its place in the world.

Britain us a united kingdom of four nations. But that is likely to shrink by at least one. 

In his second post from Paris, Barry Coates says the current deal before ministers is not good enough to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees and spells out what's missing

As ministers arrive in Paris from around the world, they have a historic opportunity – and responsibility. While it's now clear most countries want a global agreement, the current draft simply isn't good enough. It will lead us into an era of dangerous climate change.

The strange economic assessment of the proposed extension to Wellington Airport’s runway reduces to a plea for subsidies from tax and ratepayers.

I am sometimes asked to assist voluntary groups with a critique of a commissioned economic assessment of a development project. I decline because of the high standard required from me – one which would stand up as evidence to a tribunal.

Long-time climate campaigner and Green candidate Barry Coates writes from negotiations at Paris to explain NZ's role and what's really happening behind the scenes

The first deadline for climate change negotiators in Paris is upon us. The government officials who have been negotiating for eight long years since talks started in Bali in 2007 have to finish their work today.

During late night sessions, they have been trying to come up with a draft agreement that is ready for Ministers to take the final political decisions.

The Ethnic Future for New Zealand Is Unknown. But It Will Be Diverse and Different 

The promise of increased future ethnic diversity is undoubtedly true, but often the statistical projections are both misleading and obscure the real issues.

A quick note to the NZ Police. You don't own all the information on your computers or in your files - and if academics want to see it, you have to let them do so without imposing conditions. Most of the time, anyway!

For those not caught up on the background story, Jarrod Gilbert is an academic sociologist working at Canterbury University.

A report on social services by the Productivity Commission raises serious problems about the quality of analysis in New Zealand.

There is a widely held perception that the Productivity Commission, which makes recommendations to the government on how to increase productivity, is neoliberal. Partly that is because the commission was set up at the instigation of ACT but that does not mean that its analysis is necessarily neoliberal.

While American lawmakers try to stop any Syrian refugees from reaching their shores, Canada is pushing on with a pledge to bring in 25,000 by the end of the year….and that is in full knowledge of a passport complication connected with the Paris terrorist attacks.

The overwhelming number of victims of Daesh are Muslims.

Most, but not all, Syrians feeing their own government and jihadi groups such as Daesh are Muslim.

That one probable fake Syrian passport has threatened the futures of thousands of Syrian refugees is grotesque and so sadly predictable.

A hundred years on from Gallipoli, and a few days after the massacre in in Paris, where does New Zealand stand in the western alliance and what is out role in the world's troubles?

As we come towards the end of 2015, it's worth reflecting on what the commemorations of World War One, and in particular the Gallipoli campaign, have been all about. Why do the commemoration resonate so much with the New Zealand public?

The Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is wrong in his public criticisms of the Waitangi Tribunal. Perhaps the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson could have a quiet word in his ear about the importance of the separation of powers in our Constitution?

Via NewsTalk ZB (and sorry for the full cut-and-paste), it would appear that Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is starting to get a little bit fed up with the Waitangi Tribunal:

Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee (P3C!) is going to have to decide the boundary of fair criticism of the House's Speaker. This should be fun!

According to Phil Lyth on Twitter (hey - it's how you know News is new!), Andrew Little and Chris Hipkins have been referred to Parliament's Privilege's Committee (or, as I've had cause to call it before

New Zealand is leading the way in sustainable agriculture, and that presents an opportunity to cash in

Ending world hunger is now considered a realistic goal.

Australia's mandatory deportation of (many) criminal offenders is causing us in New Zealand to get very excited. And now John Key realises he can't do anything about it, he's getting ugly.

It's one of life's little ironies that a country in part founded by individuals deported for their criminal actions is now so obsessed with ridding itself of those individuals who display the same characteristics. I refer, of course, to Australia's recent enthusiasm for deporting those whose offending demonstrates a lack of "good character".

Labour and National have found a fight they both want to have, as they use the Christmas Island riots as part of their over-arching PR strategies. Yet for once it's National looking rattled

At least it's a proper battle of different world views. There's no Labour-lite or National stealing Labour's policies here. While the fires burn on Christmas Island, we have to two very different stances on the fate of those detainees.

It's a big day of transitioning for Labour, as it clears the decks for it's 'small targets' strategy. But one particular new policy caught my eye

After many months of silence or evasion brought on by the need to regroup, lick wounds and do some policy work, Labour's had a busy old policy day today. It's been out with the old and in with some new.

Phil Goff's latest lift of his skirt reveals nothing new about his mayoral ambitions, but something more about his thinking and tactics

Sometimes it's funny to see how news unfolds. Just about every news organisation has run headlines today that, as Paddy Gower revealed this morning, Phil Goff has booked a venue at Westhaven for November 22 to announce his run for the mayoralty. But much of the rest of today's buzz is nothing new.

In 1968 Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was sworn in with a Cabinet of suited white men. Forty seven years later his son has delivered Canada a Cabinet of gender parity, cultural, age and geographical diversity - all in a carnival like atmosphere open to the public. 

It was a spectacle, as expected.

Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister was sworn in today, and he means to get down to business immediately.

Forty-three year old Justin Trudeau announced his new Cabinet and presented them to the public.

The rights and wrongs of genetic modification are resurfacing as a political issue, as National signals its intent to introduce more GMOs, despite opposition from some councils and business

National can't believe it's luck. The government announced an historic, controversial decision this week -- the first ever general release of a genetically modified organism in New Zealand. In other words, the first bit of GM stuff to be allowed outside the lab or test paddock. And hardly anyone noticed.

Can candidates for the Auckland mayoralty next year find a way to move the Ports of Auckland? If so, where to and at what cost?

On a recent Sunday I was at dinner in the restaurant in the old Seafarers' building on Quay St, Auckland. Through big picture windows we looked out over the Waitemata harbour on a beautiful spring day. We could see the boats on the water, the houses sprinkled around the North Shore...

One per cent of the world's population now control half its wealth. 

The concentration of more and more resources in fewer and fewer hands has actually accelerated since the global financial crisis. This is no accident. It is the outcome of policy decisions made – or avoided – by political leaders either unable to learn the lessons of the crisis or unwilling to act on them.  

Since 2008, “middle-class wealth has grown at a slower pace than wealth at the top end. This has reversed the pre-crisis trend, which saw the share of middle-class wealth remaining fairly stable over time.”

An anti-incumbant pro-change wave took hold of Canadian politics this week…thrusting to victory the 43 year old son of one of the country's most enigmatic politicians. Canadians may have had a love-hate relationship with Trudeau Snr., but they sure feel the love for his scion.  

“Justin’s just not ready...nice hair though”.

So went one of the many attempts by Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party to diss the “kid” politician in Canada’s election.

There's a legal saying that hard cases make bad law. But sometimes the opposite can be true - an apparently easy case can lead a Court into some pretty swampy terrain.

The story of Jonathan Dixon doesn't raise much sympathy. He was a bouncer at a Queenstown bar back in 2011. While working there, he observed the English rugby player Mike Tindall - who had just married the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips - "cavorting" with a woman on the dance floor.

Violence is rocking Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and all Israel's government can come up with is punish the Palestinians even more. It has never worked before. It won't work now.  

The Palestinian response to the Zionist occupation is a manifestation of the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s maxim that where there is power, there is resistance. 

Israel exercises power in a repressive occupation.

Palestinians exercise power in resisting repression.

The New Zealanders languishing in Australian detention centres are a stone in the shoe of the first John Key-Malcolm Turnbull meeting this weekend, but there are face-saving ways Turnbull could cut Kiwis some slack

When Malcolm Turnbull touches down in New Zealand tomorrow night for his first visit as Australian Prime Minister, there will be much back-slapping and bonhomie between two very similar politicians. But far from what the men would have expected just a few weeks ago, the mutual appreciation society will be over-shadowed by the detention centre issue.

With our leading science organisations 'right-sizing' and science funding stalled, is the government's approach to science meeting the needs of New Zealand now and in the future?

Good quality science, data and insights are required to transform what is done on the land. Deputy Prime Minister Bill English was last year urging farmers to use "good science", while more recently farmers have been urging regional councils to base their policies on facts and evidence.

It is now legal for anyone in New Zealand to get hold of and read a copy of Into the River. This happy ending to a sorry saga demonstrates that it perhaps is time for a change of leadership at the Film and Literature Board of Review.

Caution: contains sweary stuff ... you may need to wash your eyes afterwards.

In the eyes of this upper-middle class, not-quite-very-old, liberal legal academic, the Film and Literature Board of Review has brought a bit of sanity back to the world by deciding that a book openly showing young men (and soon-to-be young men) how bad choices can create bad outcomes ought to be freely available for them to read.

Jane Kelsey's court victory over the evil MFAT/Tim Groser empire is probably too little, too late for her campaign against the TPPA. But it sends some important messages to a range of public actors in New Zealand's governing arrangements.

As mentioned in the media yesterday, Jane Kelsey and a rag tag fugitive fleet of civil society groups were (mostly) successful in their court challenge to MFAT/Tim Groser's refusal to

A couple of recent cases show that being right about the law isn't enough - you also need to get the courts to do what you want. Because if you can't, you may even end up worse off than when you started.

In any court case, there are (at least) two big questions. The first is, what does the law say about the matter? Then there is the second; given what the law says, what will the court do as a consequence?

The TPP may not deliver an immediate big bang for our dairy industry. But there's an awful lot to like in it - and New Zealand really has to be a part of it.

Helen Clark had the most succinct and best explanation of why New Zealand had to be part of the TPP. I know for a fact that her late intervention caused some people who were sceptical about the TPP to revise their opinion about the necessity for New Zealand being in TPP.

TPP can help lift incomes in New Zealand but to make a difference for people, there’s a lot more work still to do.

 

The TPP was never going to be the miracle that shot New Zealand to the top of the global supply chain. Neither was it ever going to be the Darth Vadar of deals where American corporations got to destroy the planet. 

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership becomes an Agreement, New Zealand will become bound by a set of "Investor State Dispute Settlement" procedures. What are these, and why should anyone care?

I write this not knowing whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership will become an Agreement or merely a very long, stressful yet ultimately fruitless set of negotiations. I also write this with an admitted lack of expertise in the issue of international trade and economics.

You can't get away with much on a rugby field these days. It used to be different, and some argued that whatever was good enough for rugby was good enough for politics

Of the week’s signpost activities – the kinds of things that give order and sequence to a world that is sometimes devoid of both, Radio New Zealand Mediawatch is high on my list. The voices are familiar but cut through that Sunday morning somnolence with intelligent critique and commentary. It is a nice way to engage with Sunday.

The Greens and National have combined today to add Red Peak to the flag referendum, and in doing so have ensured a troubled process has crossed into slapstick

So, listening or politicking? When it comes to Red Peak's inclusion in the flag referendum, I'm thinking the latter. While the Greens and National are trying to reflect public opinion by adding Red Peak, it seems more like point scoring that got out of control and weak governance by twitter.

You would never know from the Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls that they have lost their battle to defeat Obama on the Iran nuclear deal….but electioneering is not known for being mindful of facts.

Time finally ran out for the majority Republican led push to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal...but you wouldn’t know it.

Still they shout from the debate and election rally pulpits about all the things they will do to what is apparently the most vile of deals.

A year on from the election and we now see loud and clear what defines the John Key government - a willingness to bend to public opinion and give the people just enough of what they want

How deliciously fitting that National should celebrate the first birthday of its third term with the decision to turn down Shanghai Pengxin's bid to buy Lochinver Station from the Stevenson Group, even though the Overseas Investmen

Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee has had a hard look at how social media is being used to report on Parliament ... and decided that everything is working pretty much fine as it is. Hooray!

Parliament's powerful Privileges Committee – it is, apparently, mandatory to refer to it as such in print, so I shall shorten the term to PPPC or P3C – has just put out a report on "the use of social media to report on parliamentary proceedings".

It's one thing to galvinise the base, quite another to win over the general electorate. And it's hard to see a strategy which Jeremy Corbyn can use to achieve that

As a favour for a mate, I penned (keyboarded?) a few lines for The SpinOff on Jeremy Corbyn's election to the Labour leadership in Britain. And a bunch of other commentators did the same. Here are my views:

 

Will taking the Union Jack off New Zealand's flag "open the gates of hell" and give John Key absolute power? No. No it won't.

So last night I had a bit of fun on TV3's Story, commenting on the conspiracy doing the rounds in cyberspace about the real reason behind the push to change New Zealand's flag.

The reasons given for imposing an order stopping anyone from being able to access Into the River do not justify it. The order is wrong.

Yesterday I wrote this post on the decision by the President of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Dr Don Mathieson, to issue an "interim restriction order" in respect of the young adult novel, Into the River.

Just how dangerous can a book be? And in order to combat that danger, how far should our expressive freedoms be restrained?

The young adult's novel, Into the River, certainly seems to divide folks. I should note at the outset that while some unkind souls may say that I behave as if I'm smack in the middle of the book's target demographic market, I haven't read it.

How long has it been since the death of a single child has saved so many other lives? And now that we are paying attention, how do we get the next step right?

When has a single death and a single image saved so many lives? That picture of Aylan Kurdi lying on a Turkish beach has changed everything around the five year refugee crisis started by the Syrian war.

Today’s refugee crisis is one result of doing nothing to stop Bashar al-Assad after he used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Everyone talks about the human consequences of intervention. But we also need to look at the human consequences of doing nothing.

It was a catastrophically wrong decision to fail to intervene two years ago.

The opposite of intervention was never going to be peace. It was always going to be this; children like Aylan Kurdi, dead on a Turkish beach fleeing certain death back home. 8 million Syrian refugees forced to flee their homes.

There are ninety towns in New Zealand with a population between 5,000 and 20,000. If each of those towns took ten refugees, and our larger cities took 100 each, we’d triple our quota to nearly 3000 without any going to Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington.

New Zealand would be a proud example of practical, no-nonsense compassion. 

 

This week, 11,000 people in Iceland offered to house a refugee in response to a Facebook campaign. The country is only obliged to accept 50. A couple spent millions buying a boat to rescue families drowning in the Mediterrean.

The job of the media is to tell, and sometimes show, truth to power and also the public. Editors and journalists who made the conscious decision to publish the photos of the drowned Syrian refugee toddler did just that. The question is will this image be the catalyst to change history as others have in the past? 

Should the little lifeless body of a three-year-old Syrian refugee lying face down in the sands of a Turkish beach be published?

It is a question editors and journalists have been grappling with around the world since the image of Aylan Kurdi was despatched.

New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values - unless it involves the inconvenience of bringing a few more desperate people into New Zealand for a new life.

Back in February of this year, the House debated a Prime Ministerial statement on New Zealand's contribution of some 143 military personnel to help combat ISIS in Iraq.

Talk to social workers and experts trying to get New Zealand's most troubled kids safely through to adulthood and the impression left is that the best thing to do may also be the thing that's most politically anathema to this government

When politicians start talking about "radical overhauls" and headlines speak of "sweeping changes", I confess a little scepticism, even nervousness.

Blaming the Auckland housing bubble on immigrants is like saying 'cars are too expensive in New Zealand because the Chinese are buying all our cars.’

It fails to correctly define the real problem - which is affordability, not immigration. The average wage can no longer buy the average house.

Europe takes in only a small proportion of the world's refugees yet when you consider the dog whistle politics and lack of human decency towards the men, women and children desperately trying to reach its shores, you'd think it was being wiped out by an alien species.  

According to the late French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, there is nothing more unsettling than the continued movement of something that seems fixed.