The Dim-Post

March 29, 2012

Political theatre watch, best defense is a good offense edition

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:04 pm

According to media reports, Judith Collins is suing Trevor Mallard and Radio New Zealand on the basis that this interview is defamatory. But if you listen to it, Mallard is pretty careful. Will Collins claim that the interview implies that he stands by the much more direct statements he made about her in the House under Parliamentary Privilege? I’ll be interested to see what our various law-bloggers say about this.

There’s also a (high) chance that this is never intended to see the inside of a court-room – that the threat of a lawsuit is merely political theater designed to shift the focus away from the civil war currently underway inside the National Party, and onto an adversarial, Labour vs National framework, while also allowing Collins to get some breathing space by refusing to answer questions pending the outcome of the enquiry, court-case etc. It’s exactly the same tactic they used over the teapot tapes, which didn’t play out too well.

Tax in New Zealand

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:00 am

Rob Salmond takes a look at New Zealand’s tax system and compares it to the rest of the OECD. His conclusion. Low income New Zealanders pay more tax than they would in almost any other OECD nation, and high income New Zealanders pay less tax than they would almost anywhere else.

(The neoliberal reply to this would be that the wealthy can invest their money far more productively than the government, so the current settings are more likely to drive economic growth. I think anyone making that argument should be forced to eat every news story ever written about the finance company debacle.)

I don’t think Rob’s work factors in Working For Families, which changes things a bit. Those on low incomes with no children – ie those who can easily move to Australia, taking their future tax streams with them – seem hardest hit by the current tax system.

March 28, 2012

The epistemology of political denials

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 4:04 pm

Via Stuff, re the ongoing ACC privacy debacle:

Collins has insisted she is “100 per cent certain” neither she nor anyone in her office was responsible for the leak of an email about Pullar.

I’m always intrigued when politicians issue these blanket denials, because they’re usually so much cagier (‘It would be inappropriate to comment pending the outcome of the inquiry . . .’). I recall a similar blanket denial back in 2008 when someone taped Bill English at a National Party fund-raiser. Someone in Labour – Mike Williams? – denied that anyone in the Labour Party was associated with the incident. Which made me think that Williams knew exactly who had taped English, because how else could he make a definitive statement precluding anyone associated with the Labour Party?

Collins’ office is a bit smaller, but she can’t know for sure whether one of her staffers leaked Pullars’ name and then lied to her about it, unless she knows exactly who did leak it. If you follow me.

Basically I just like saying Huawei

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:22 pm

Coincidentally, I bought myself a Huawei phone the other day. I remarked at the time that it was the first Chinese brand item I’d ever purchased, and wondered how long it’d be before the majority of my luxury consumer purchases were Chinese brands. It’s an impressive product, so-far. $150 for a smart-phone running Android 2.2.

Ah, but maybe the price is so low because I’m paying an external cost in compromised data security. If Huawei installed a back-door onto the OS of the phone it could access my Twitter and Facebook accounts. It could like things on my behalf without my knowledge!

Maybe I’ve been overwhelmed by brand-loyalty here, but the fears around Huawei winning the bid for the ultra-fast broadband network sound like bullshit to me. Consumer broadband is not a secure or strategic piece of infrastructure, and it’s subject to security audits. If Huawei did install back-doors in the products and they started showing up in those audits, the company would lose all its international business overnight.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Greens’ scare-mongering over this makes me wonder how principled their stand on the Crafer farms sale really was – did they genuinely act out of principle, or was xenophobia a motivating factor?

March 27, 2012

Galtian overlord watch, nice work if you can get it edition

Filed under: economics — danylmc @ 11:51 am

From the Herald, yesterday:

Mighty River increased its chief executive’s pay by 34 per cent, or $450,000, to $1.8 million. Most of the increase resulted from the company meeting performance targets.

And now today . . .

Electricity generator and retailer Mighty River Power, which the Government intends to partially privatise later this year, reported a net profit of $17.6 million for the six months to December 31, down 81 per cent compared with the previous corresponding period.

Chart of the day, peril of the center edition

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:10 am

This shows the total number of votes recieved by the Liberal National Party and the Labour Party in the Queensland state election, in which Labour was almost totally wiped out. As you can see, there wasn’t any swing to the right – the LNP vote was almost exactly the same as it was in 2009 when they lost to Bligh’s Labour Party. What happened is that Labour’s support collapsed by almost 50%, after Bligh pressed ahead with a policy of asset sales.

It’s not hard to see something like this happening to Len Brown next year. If you ‘move to the center’ – as most left-wing politicians from the Blair/Clinton era are want to do – you really have to take your base with you.

March 25, 2012

Even more advice for David Shearer

Filed under: policy — danylmc @ 7:25 pm

In the spirit of this Stuff article, that combines several totally contradictory strategies for the new Labour leader (Move to the left! Move to the center!), here is my short take on what Labour should do to win in 2014, based less on my own preferences and more on simple observation of what successful opposition parties have done before:

Have a vision. I know, you already have a vision. A high value knowledge economy. Education. Finland. The problem is that we’ve been hearing this knowledge economy line for a long time, and the National Party has already identified the education sector as a target for reform.You’re not differentiating yourself from the government or critiquing it if you’re promising basically the same thing.

Your vision should be something that defines the government in a negative sense, and yourself in a positive sense, and that ties in with your flagship policy, which you should be signaling the broad details of at least eighteen months out from the election. Example: in 2008 National campaigned on growing the economy, which John Key and Bill English were experts on, and which they claimed Labour had mis-managed. Their policy was tax cuts. Closer to the election they signaled the details (‘North of $50 dollars a week for 90% of New Zealand workers! Wow!’), but from real early on in Key’s leadership everyone knew that he promised better economic leadership than Labour and strong growth through a policy of lower taxes. You should have a similar duel vision. This is what’s wrong with the country. National isn’t fixing it. We will. Here’s how.

Events, dear boy. Events bring down governments – but only if the opposition can wed them to something more meaningful. Currently Labour has no strategy around events – they happen in a vacuum. Nick Smith resigned last week, and that’s ‘bad for the government’ – except it isn’t in any enduring sense because the opposition hasn’t defined a vision of what’s wrong with this government, so they can’t tie events to it in a credible way. In the 1990s the Labour opposition under Helen Clark attacked the Shipley government as being about ‘sleaze and cronyism’ – which was brilliant, since all government is about sleaze and cronyism (Clark promised ‘open accountable government’ as her contrast). So every time some shoddy deal came to light it reinforced to the public that negative vision the opposition presented of the government was valid. Imagine how much worse the Nick Smith/ACC saga would have played out in that environment.

Some pundits claim that Labour shouldn’t be too negative. They’re wrong – you should be almost completely negative, until the election campaign itself rolls around. Then it’s government-in-waiting time. When you’re the opposition, negative is what you’re being paid for – but you do need to offer up that initial, positive vision in contrast, and you marry the negativity to events and ‘the vision thing.’

Explaining is everything: Some pundits love to repeat the phrase that ‘in politics explaining is losing’ – the subtext being that the public are too stupid to understand any complex political or policy issues. But the political science consistently shows that in matters of controversy the public looks to their political leaders (amongst other people) to explain what’s happening and to argue their case. This is something National is really good at – Key especially – and Labour generally doesn’t do at all, which means our window of political debate is constantly being shifted to the right as National wins almost every argument by default (Welfare and education being the obvious examples). The great exception to this phenomena: Capital Gains Tax. The conventional wisdom was that this policy was political suicide, but David Cunliffe went out, made the arguments and won them all. By the time the election came around public support for Capital Gains was roughly double the level of support for the Labour Party. Not explaining is losing.

March 24, 2012

Chart of the day, Eumenides edition

Filed under: media,Politics — danylmc @ 9:23 am

Fran O’Sullivan tries to put a positive light on Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins’ (see attached chart) role in the ACC-Nick Smith fiasco:

Any Cabinet minister sitting in “The Crusher’s” shoes – particularly a politician with as strong an instinct for self-preservation as Collins has – would quickly have worked out the impact of Boag’s email was they were also likely to be dragged into the same mud-pool which subsequently swallowed Nick Smith.

The ACC Minister would quickly have reached the conclusion that all Boag’s email did was to compromise her.

Hence she sent it to the ACC.

And if she’d checked with Smith – the previous Minister – before she did so, National would still have one of its top performing Cabinet Ministers.

There’s a nice element of fate here. This government (and Labour before it) have a tendency to counter-attack when any member of the public steps forward to make a complaint, be it valid or not. The standard response from most Ministers to a criticism in the media is to anonymously leak material to the media to embarrass the complainant. (Paula Bennett is in trouble with the privacy commission because she was a new Minister when she tried this and didn’t realise media outlets would happily publish her smears without attribution.) It’s nice to see this practise blow-up in the government’s face.

March 22, 2012

Cui bono

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 7:51 am

Via the Herald:

Nearly 300 sacked port workers have won back their jobs after Ports of Auckland’s u-turn decision to drop moves to replace them with contractors and re-enter collective agreement talks with the Maritime Union.

The ports company, which had boasted a “bulletproof” legal case, made its surprise decision last night after an informal conference in the Employment Court.

The backdown follows a Herald investigation into a ports manager who was at the bargaining table with the Maritime Union and was also allegedly recruiting non-union wharfies for a private stevedoring company.

Emphasis mine. If this allegation is correct then it sheds a new light on things. Perhaps POALs management was merely acting opportunistically, but this raises the possibility that the decision to break the union was a commercial decision made to enrich POAL’s management – a decision that’s cost the citizens of Auckland somewhere in the region of a hundred million dollars.

If there’s substance to this – and why else would the company have reversed its position so dramatically? – then Brown’s decision to support the port over the wharfies looks even more ill-advised.

Smith’s bad dream

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:25 am

I think Tracy Watkins is wrong when she claims:

The letter that sank Nick Smith’s career was nowhere near as damning as the one that Prime Minister John Key was prepared to let slide just a day earlier.

The second letter makes reference to two other National MPs disclosing a conflict of interest, which Smith fails to do, and he also omits to mention his relationship with Pullar.

But I suspect the decision to sack Smith was made when Winston Peters announced it was a sex scandal, and Smith then refused to comment on his private life, a development that tipped the balance against him.

It was an odd chain of events that led to this: Smith had a relationship with Pullar, who then devoted herself to a vendetta against ACC, a department Smith then became the Minister of, which then sent Pullar thousands of confidential case files (under circumstances that are still very murky), which Pullar evidently confronted Smith with in an attempt to reach a settlement.

The settlement obviously didn’t happen, so Pullar leaked the patient files to the media. Pullar’s name was leaked to the media as punishment, either by ACC or their new Minister, Judith Collins, and it’s not hard to guess which of the two is more likely to dish out this sort of punitive vengeance. Presumably Collins was unaware that Smith had intervened in Pullar’s case.

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