Has Act leader David Seymour got the easiest job in the world, or what? Roll out of bed, turn on the radio and hmm…there do seem to be a lot of problems out there in the world. Must think of something. And so it came to pass that this morning, David Seymour took up his sword and shield to fight for a world that’s about to be denied the rich and vibrant beauty of tobacco advertising. Avast ye hordes of faceless bureaucrats aiming to put tobacco products in plain packets! David Seymour is in the House! Plain packaging may save lives, but does it have to be such a dull way of saving lives? Read the rest of this entry »
Budgies, so their Wikipedia page says, are popular pets around the world due to their small size, low cost, and ability to mimic human speech. Which is a reasonably good description of Finance Minister Bill English eighth Budget. Especially when it comes to the mimicry bit about providing an adequate response to this country’s social and developmental needs.
In reality, the $1.6 billion of new investment will be spread desperately thinly, and targeted to virtual extinction. This modest amount will be dwarfed by the $2-3 billion programme of tax cuts that the Prime Minister is mooting for election year 2017. On past performance, those tax cuts will be frittered away on consumer spending… and will only heighten the income inequality exacerbating the social problems that this Budget deliberately fails to address. Read the rest of this entry »
According to former PM and UNDP leader current Helen Clark, the allegations leveled at her this week in a Foreign Policy magazine article by the prize-winning UN journalist Colum Lynch have been ‘totally fabricated’.
Hmmm. That would be very, very surprising. Foreign Policy is a heavyweight journal. More to the point, Lynch has been the most widely respected journalist covering the United Nations for over a decade. Here’s his bio:
Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy’s Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations. Read the rest of this entry »
In his victory speech at the Cannes film festival this week, the British film director Ken Loach warned that the rise of far right parties in Europe was being fuelled by the economic policies of austerity, and manifested in a welfare bureaucracy that systematically denies assistance to those in most need. Regardless, the media has focused its attention on the anti-immigrant, Islamophobic policies of the European far right, with its scary echoes of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s. Meanwhile, the economic failure underlying the scapegoating barely rates a mention. Read the rest of this entry »
Libor. It stands for the London Interbank Offered rate. Back in 2012, Libor became synonymous with a scandal involving the dodgy manipulation of how interest rates were fixed – during the years before and after the Global Financial Crisis – thus affecting the cost of money for bank customers and corporates all around the world. Here’s an explanation of how Barclays Bank (and other banks) set about rigging the $US 5.3 trillion a day global foreign exchange market.
By 2015, about $US6 billion in fines has been levied in the course of the Libor settlement.
For this country, one of the interesting things about the subsequent wave of banking reforms has been that New Zealand has disengaged itself from the Libor rate setting process:
The Danish, Swedish, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Libor rates have been successfully terminated, without disruption to the financial markets.
Unfortunately, that may not be the end of the story. Last month, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) filed proceedings against Westpac over activities that have some distinct echoes of the Libor scandal. Read the rest of this entry »
This week, New Zealand’s crisis of poverty and homelessness has been making headlines around the world.
At exactly the same time, Electricity Authority has unveiled the final version of its pricing plan for electricity transmission. This will change the way transmission prices (which comprise about 10% of the average power bill) are computed, and will add hundreds of dollars a year to power bills for many ordinary consumers. Those consumers living in depressed communities on the West Coast, in Northland and in Auckland will be hardest hit. Consumers living elsewhere in the South island and in some other regions will gain reductions, and the Tiwai Point aluminum smelter will enjoy a power bill cut of at least $20 million. Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks to Sacha Baron Cohen, Kazakhstan will always seem like a bit of a jokey, ramshackle kind of place. To that end, the Stuff story last week about the New Zealand courts’ recent compliance with the wishes of the Kazakh dictatorship was illustrated with a picture of Borat.
The Kazakh reality that’s depicted by Human Rights watch isn’t quite as funny:
Kazakhstan heavily restricts freedom of assembly, speech and religion, and torture remains a serious problem. In 2014, authorities closed newspapers, jailed or fined dozens of people after peaceful but unsanctioned protest, and fined or detained worshippers for practicing religion outside state controls. Government critics, including opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, remain in detention after unfair4 trials. Recently adopted changes to the criminal code, as well as a new law on trade unions, contain articles restricting fundamental freedoms and which are incompatible with international standards. Torture remai9ns common in places of detention and while some police officers faced charges, impunity remains the norm.
So what did Kazakhstan’s rulers want from New Zealand, and why are we giving it to them? The information in question included IP and email information about critics of the Kazakh government, contained in information uploaded to the Mega site, formerly owned by Kim Dotcom. Read the rest of this entry »
Monopolies are bad for people, and bad for capitalism, too. Look at what happened in the late 1980s when a Labour government handed a state monopoly over to Telecom – which proceeded to screw its customers over prices, spent the bare minimum on new technology and blocked innovation for the best part of a decade, or more. Remember how many years it took before you were allowed to transport your existing phone number from one telco to another?
Telecom fought ‘number portability’ tooth and nail. It is what advantaged players do, within private sector monopolies or near-monopolies. They extract maximum profits from captive markets, and feed them to their shareholders. Innovation dies in that climate. Currently, there is no reason to think the proposed media mega-merger between Fairfax and NZ Media Holdings will be any kinder to the needs of society, or of its customers. That’s why competition policy – and the Commerce Commission – exist. Supposedly, they act to protect the public, and to save capitalism from its own worst instincts. Read the rest of this entry »
For years, observers have noted the contrast between Prime Minister John Key’s ordinary Kiwi bloke persona, and the patrician prat more commonly seen in Parliament. This week though, the prat has been in plain sight. Nominally, Key got expelled from Parliament yesterday for disrespecting the Speaker, David Carter, by continuing to talk while Carter was on his feet. Rather conveniently, that expulsion became the news story, rather than the more embarrassing reality. All week, Key has chosen to join with the scamsters in smearing the reputation of charities such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace etc by linking them – falsely – to the Panama Papers.
Even beforehand, Key and his staff should have known that the names of such charities had been used fraudulently by the clients of Mossack Fonseca, and without their permission. Yet even after the charities in question had publicly pointed out they had been victims of the scamsters, and had nothing to do with the fake shell companies in the Panama Papers that had stolen their names… Key still refused to apologise. Instead, and under questioning on this point by Greens leader James Shaw, Key was continuing to defame the charities when he got expelled from the House. Read the rest of this entry »
Not many heroes so far in the Panama Papers saga, but any number of villains. Those villains happen to include: criminals laundering their ill gotten gains, terrorists funding their nefarious activities, and shadowy figures guilty of varying levels of larceny stashing their wealth in bolt-holes, offshore. Much of the talk about the need for greater “transparency” and “reputational risk” is about whether New Zealand is aiding and abetting such people – either (a) consciously for gain (b) carelessly or (c) via an ideological reluctance to regulate the foreign trust sector.
In the murkier, moral grey zone however, reside the lawyers and lobbyists and enablers who profit from this trade – some of which is legal, and some of which isn’t. There are also the pliable politicians, and the lobbyists out to influence them. In addition, there are the investors hiding money from the taxman quite legally – and apparently feeling few pangs of conscience about being social parasites.
So far, the policy response to the Panama Papers revelations has reflected the differences – and yes, these are class differences – in how the problems are viewed. Or indeed, over whether there is any problem at all. Read the rest of this entry »