Monday, October 31, 2022

Democracy wins in Brazil

Brazilians went to the polls today in a run-off presidential election, and voted narrowly to re-elect former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva rather than authoritarian, coup-apologist, anti-environment, covid-superspreader Jair Bolsonaro. Which is pretty good news for Brazilian democracy, the global climate, and actual Brazilians - Bolsonaro managed to murder more than 700,000 of them with his covid-denial, and Brazil's senate has recommended that he face murder charges over it.

I don't know enough about Brazilian politics to interpret the Chamber of Deputies results and work out if Lula will actually be able to do anything, or will have to fight a hostile legislature. But even if its the latter, the change at the top and the democratic ousting of an authoritarian would-be dictator is something to celebrate.

Time for a windfall tax

Last week ANZ bank reported a record $2.3 billion profit - a full 0.6% of total GDP gouged out of our economy. And earlier in the year the Commerce Commission found that supermarkets were making a million dollars a day of excess profits due to their abuse of market power. Now, the Greens have finally stood up with a solution to this problem of corporate greed: tax it:

The Green Party is calling for a one-off tax on large companies making record profits of late due to high inflation fuelled by the pandemic, energy crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Under the windfall tax proposal, the money raised would then support people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

“An excess profit tax would be a simple and effective way for large corporations to pay their fair share, unlocking the resources all of us need to live with dignity, put a roof over our heads and food on the table,” Green Party finance spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said.

The full discussion document is here, and it makes a compelling case. These excess profits aren't the result of innovation, of businesses delivering something new that people want. Instead, they're the result of consistent abuse of market power. And that's something we ought to discourage. Meanwhile, we have a state collapsing under NeoLiberal susterity, where hospitals are falling down and patients dying due to underfunding. Taxing these greedy corporations is one way of fixing that.

Of course, Labour is "meh" about the idea. Which has shades of Walter Nash's infamous "we are not for the waterside workers, and we are not against them", and shows you how much they care about people earning less than $296,007. But hopefully their voters will demand they step up. And if not, well, that's how governments become oppositions.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Climate Change: Bad news and hope

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference begins next weekend, and in the run-up we have the usual series of UN reports reminding us how bad things are getting, and that our leaders are essentially fiddling while the planet burns. Greenhouse gas levels are at record highs, and still rising. In order to avoid making the planet uninhabitable, we need to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, but at present we have no way of getting there: government pledges are insufficient, even if fully implemented. The climate is spinning out of control, with fires, floods and storms worse than ever before. And we may already have passed through key climate tipping points which will make it even worse.

And yet, we still have hope. The good news is that the International Energy Agency says that fossil fuels will peak by 2025, and their emissions will go down under all scenarios. Part of the reason for this is Putin's invasion of Ukraine showing that conflict fuels are unreliable and pushing crash investment in decarbonisation, but it looks like we are actually turning the supertanker around. And while our 2030 pledges are manifestly inadequate, and our 2050 ones not enough to get us to 1.5 degrees, they would (if fully implemented, and its a big "if") get us to 1.8. Which shows us that survival is close, if our governments actually do what they say they will, and we push them to do more.

So that's our job: pushing our government to meet its targets (currently a 21.8% decrease in emissions by 2030, and net-zero-except-for-cows by 2050), and pushing them to do more. Anything you can do personally is great, and will help, but real change comes from policy, and that means government. And that means democracy: campaigning, protesting, and above all voting to get governments who will do what is required and prevent them from back-sliding in response to loud and deep-pocketed industry voices.

("But we're just one small country!" scream the deniers and industry shills. Yes, this is a global struggle. While we do our bit here, others will be doing the same overseas, and against governments far more repressive than ours. We have the easy part of the job. We owe it to people in China and Russia and Iran and Egypt not to slack on it)

We can have a survivable future, but only if we fight for it. Get to work.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

There's more than one way to tame inflation

ANZ bank today reported a record profit of $2.3 billion - 0.6% of our total GDP going straight into the pockets of the rich. Meanwhile, their pet economists are explicitly demanding that thousands of people be thrown out of work to limit inflation:

New Zealand’s unemployment rate needs to increase to around 4.5% to stop adding pressure to inflation, ANZ’s economists say.


“To actually beat back inflation pressures, labour demand needs to fall. Rising unemployment is not a happy prospect for workers or for the housing market. But failing to get on top of inflation would lead to an economy that struggles to perform over the long term, with inflation eroding wealth and complicating long-term decision-making. What price are we willing to pay to avoid that?

What price indeed? Maybe those economists should be asking themselves that? And if they're serious in thinking that unemployment needs to rise for the sake of their precious economy, they should be the change they want to see in the world and quit, rather than demanding other people make sacrifices for their benefit.

More generally, these demands to increase unemployment to tame inflation are effectively a demand that ordinary people, rather than the rich, pay the price of economic stability. But why should we do that? Even assuming "economic stability" is a goal worth pursuing - and I'm not sure we should - there's more than one way to do it. The most obvious is to remove excess demand at the top, by taxing the rich of their excessive gains. Since ANZ wants inflation to reduce, they'll clearly have no objection to the government taking away half of their super-profit "for economic stability". And if they're not, its clear that they're just interested in waging class warfare against the poor, as usual.

This is not how you build trust

One of the recommendations of the Operation Burnham inquiry into the killing of civillians in Afhganistan by the SAS was the establishment of a new Inspector-General of Defence to conduct such inquiries in future. Two years on, the government has finally gotten around to introducing the required legislation to the House. Unfortunately, rather than reducing distrust around NZDF and its dirty cover-up habit, it seems purpose-built to encourage it.

The bill is based on the existing provisions for the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. Like the IGIS, the new IGDF will likely be dealing with classified information, so you'd expect some secrecy provisions. But the new bill goes well beyond the current IGIS framework in its secrecy provisions, which seems excessive.

The first problem is with the confidentiality clause, which forbids IGDF staff from disclosing material relating to an investigation. This is actually weaker than the equivalent clause for IGIS, in that it only covers material certified as non-discloseable by the Minister. But look at the grounds on which the Minister can make that certification: some definitions which mirror sections 6(a) and 6(b) of the OIA (so unproblematic), plus a new one covering information likely to prejudice "the continued performance of the functions of the Defence Force or the Ministry". Effectively this is the creation of a new OIA withholding ground, and its not hard to see how NZDF would view any disclosure of its wrongdoing as prejudicing its performance (given the Burnham coverup, its clear they already think that).

The new IGDF will also have a new power to make wide-ranging gag-orders on "sensitive" information - supposedly to protect "privacy or condidentiality", but is actually about protecting classified or "sensitive" information, a term which includes that new withholding ground of "making NZDF feel bad". This sortof mirrors the powers of a commission of inquiry, but isn't one we grant to the IGIS, or to the IPCA, Ombudsman or Privacy Commissioner, and it seems purpose-designed to enable NZDF cover-ups. Just ask for an inquiry, get their Inspector-General to make some orders, and suddenly everything is neatly swept under the carpet! Given that one of the aims of this bill is to rebuild trust in NZDF, this seems like exactly the wrong way to go about it.

Breaching such an order will be a criminal offence, but unlike the IGIS legislation, there's no inbuilt protection for disclosures in Parliament. Which kindof tells you who NZDF thinks is in charge here.

One bit of good news is that the IGDF - unlike IGIS - will be covered by the Ombudsmen Act, and therefore the OIA. But new information relating to IGDF investigations held by them and other agencies will be excluded from the definition of "official information". This isn't so problematic for IGDF material while inquiries are ongoing. But for completed inquiries, and for other agencies, it means that their response to an inquiry and its recommendations - e.g. summaries, legal opinions, reports on where the hell that file went or how people in Defence HQ were operating their own parallel filing systems - will be forever secret. Which, again, given the trust issues, seems counterproductive.

Overall, it looks like NZDF has taken exactly the wrong lessons from the Operation Burnham inquiry. Where there was a clear need for more transparency to rebuild trust, they have opted for secrecy at every turn. Unless the bill is significantly modified to correct this, we should treat their new "Inspector-General" as just an agent for further coverups.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Labour actually achieves something!

Well, it finally happened: two years into its term, the Labour government finally achieved something:

The Fair Pay Agreements Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament, with the support of Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori.

The bill provides a framework for collective bargaining across occupations - like cleaners, supermarket workers and security guards - rather than just between unions and employers.

Negotiations with employers could be initiated by 1000 employees or 10 percent of the workers under the proposed coverage.

Once that happens, a union representing workers in that industry would be tasked with taking on negotiations and employers would be represented by a business interest group.

As ought to be obvious from the vicious reaction of National and ACT against it, this is good legislation, which will make a serious difference to the lives of ordinary working people. Or at least, it will if it sticks around. But Labour has made such a mess of this term that instead it looks like it will be immediately repealed by the hard-right ACT/National government which is currently on-track to replace them. Given a perfect opportunity to enact change - the first single majority government in 30 years - they instead squandered it entrenching the status quo. And by doing so, they gave up any chance of establishing a new, popular normal, any chance of bringing people with them. Not to mention any chance of giving people something to vote for, rather than just something to vote against. And they have no-one to blame for this but themselves.

What a waste.

Still, at least we got this out of it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A victory for worker's rights

The Employment Court has ruled that four Uber drivers are employees rather than "independent contractors":

Uber drivers in New Zealand have won an employment case ruling they were employees of the global ridesharing provider and not contractors.


As employees, the four drivers were entitled to the rights and protections under New Zealand employment law, including the minimum wage, guaranteed hours, holiday pay, sick leave, KiwiSaver contributions, the right to challenge an unfair dismissal, and the right to unionise and collectively bargain.

The judgment found that although the ruling attaches only to the individual drivers, "... it may well have broader impact, particularly where, as here, there is apparent uniformity in the way in which the companies operate, and the framework under which drivers are engaged”.

Which is obviously very good news for those drivers, and very, very bad news for Uber - and for similar "gig economy" companies. Their entire business model depends on ignoring the law for competitive advantage, undercutting companies which obey it. Now they can't do that anymore. Which should limit the pressure for casualisation and erosion of worker's rights.

Mahuta, cosyism, and ethical standards

The Herald this morning has another episode in its campaign against Nanaia Mahuta, this time focusing on her role in appointing a young relative to a government job. There is no question that Mahuta is being targeted because of her race - no-one would ask questions about her actions if she was pakeha - and yet it also raises real questions about the way government is conducted in this country.

Labour's hacks are trying to minimise the relationship: the person is her "husband's nephew's wife". Which is intentionally structured to sound more distant than it is - in the modern world, the partner of your nepos is also a nepos. They're also pointing out that she did everything required of her (that her actions were "within the rules", as politicians love to say) - and she did. But what was required wasn't much - basicly to declare her interest - and she certainly didn't do more. For example, she still received papers on the appointment, rather than delegating the decision, and she did not exclude herself from Cabinet committee discussions. If an interest is strong enough to declare, it certainly seems strong enough to take those measures - that's what being seen to uphold the highest ethical standards means. But hey, I'm just a pleb, not a Cabinet Minister, so clearly my ethical understanding is deficient.

What Mahuta did was no different to what other Ministers have done, in this government and its predecessors. While the opposition are happy to use those actions as a convenient weapon, they are basicly accepted by our political class. And that I think says something rather unpleasant about the values of that class. While loudly declaring that they oppose corruption, they are in fact happy to accept it and perpetrate it, handing over government jobs to their friends and former colleagues, forking out honours to donors, and so on. None of this is done for envelopes stuffed with cash (well, except for the honours) - its all by personal relationships. It's cosyism, and its not acceptable.

Which brings me to Mahuta's real problem here, the thing which shows corrupt intent: she "suggested" her relative for the job:

Government minister Nanaia Mahuta put her young relative Waimirirangi Ormsby on a list of candidates for a paid appointment to the working group that produced the He Puapua report, documents released to the Herald under the provisions of the OIA indicate.


The briefing document of May 28, 2019, prepared for Mahuta, stated: "We ask that you consider the range of potential appointees, and select a total of five individuals, who you wish to put forward for appointment. When you have selected the individuals you wish to appoint, the next stage of the process is for us to confirm their availability and willingness to be appointed."

It appears that a long-list of names was attached to the briefing but was redacted. The briefing also noted: "you have previously identified a number of potential appointees you would like to consider".

Again, I'm just a pleb, not a Cabinet Minister, but to my ethical understanding, sitting on the appointment committee considering a candidate you have "suggested" is a clear ethical no-no. Not to mention a slam-dunk case of pre-determination for anyone who wants to argue it.

I've seen a number of dodgy appointments over the years, and every single one of them has happened like this: the Minister "suggests" someone, giving a clear steer to officials as to who they want appointed and short-circuiting any consideration of merit. Some of those appointments have been of people who would clearly have made the shortlist on their merits had they applied rather than been shoulder-tapped. But they are all tainted by the manner of their appointment, and the appointees tarnished by it.

There is a simple and obvious solution to this: Ministers just shouldn't "suggest" people for jobs. Maybe we should even be requiring that the candidates considered by Ministers be anonymised, to reduce the possibility of favourtism. But then I guess Ministers wouldn't be able to reward cronies with plum positions or stack government boards with their own people, and instead we'd just have to live with people appointed on merit. And obviously, that would be terrible.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Climate Change: Why farmers should pay their way

Newsroom's Marc Daalder has a look today at agricultural emissions, and concludes that pricing livestock pollution is reasonable, rooted in science and will see global greenhouse emissions fall. But that bit that really gets me is right at the front:

Just 1.16 percent of the population are farmers, but they're behind 5.5 percent of gross domestic product, 48 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and more than 70 percent of the global warming New Zealand is currently responsible for.
So the average farmer emits more than 40 times as much as the average kiwi, and has created sixty times as much warming. And yet, they feel they should be getting a free ride. It's rural entitlement, pure and simple.

Pricing agricultural emissions will lead to reductions in farm output, as dirty producers shut down. Good, because they need to. 5.5% of the economy producing 48% of the emissions is inefficient and unsustainable, and we are better off without it (and no, it won't lead to "leakage"; this is just more scaremongering from a dirty industry trying to deter and delay action).

The 85% of us who live in cities pay for every gram of carbon we produce. We are sick of subsidising dirty, inefficient rurals to destroy the planet. It is long past time farmers stood on their own feet without the support of subsidised emissions. Its time they paid their way.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

A problem of oversight

Last week, RNZ had a horrifying story about MBIE hiring a firm of Israeli cyber-mercenaries for intelligence collection, including on people's religion and political beliefs. Today, they have a followup about MBIE's failure to consult the Privacy Commissioner about the spying:

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) would not say why it did not consult over its privacy impact assessment on Cobwebs.

It also refused to say what details it was now giving the Privacy Commissioner, who last week belatedly asked for assurances the spying is lawful.

The ministry did not respond about how, during the two years in which its use of Cobwebs has been secret, people could have exercised their right under privacy law to ask what data is being gathered on them.

Which shows the problems of our current "good chap" model of oversight: what if the agency isn't a "good chap", and doesn't do what it is expected to?

But this isn't just a problem with MBIE. Both MPI and Customs have internal intelligence agencies, and there are no doubt others. And none of them have any specific oversight. Formal spy agencies are covered by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security; Police have the Independent Police Conduct Authority (for what that's worth). But other agencies doing intelligence work are completely unregulated, even if they are doing exactly the same things as the GCSB, SIS or police. And they are doing exactly the same things: MBIE is spying on people's communications and collecting vast quantities of personal information; Customs runs human intelligence operations to investigate smuggling; MPI does covert operations against paua poachers. And while they're all subject to Te Kawa Mataaho / Public Service Commission, the Ombudsman, and the Privacy Commissioner, none of them really have the specialist expertise required to oversee them.

This isn't good enough. These agencies are spying, so they need to be regulated like the spies. And that means strong, proactive, specialised oversight. If IGIS is unwilling to do the job - and there are reasons why "national security" oversight should not be muddled with that for law enforcement - then we need an equivalent body with equivalent powers to manage the proliferation of agency spies. Otherwise its only a matter of time before one of them blows up in another messy scandal which destroys the reputation of and public trust in the public service.

Farmers need to earn their social licence

Last week, Labour grovelled to the sacred cow, releasing an agricultural emissions plan which was basicly a plan to subsidise their emissions (and so keep them emitting) for a century. But even that was too much for farmers, and so today they sent their tractors into our cities again in protest.

The protests are driven by a sense of entitlement amongst farmers, a belief that they're so important to the economy that they ought to be treated as special and exempt from the environmental and social principles that apply to the rest of us. In 1913 and 1951, they had the numbers and the power to enforce that. In 2022, when 85% of us live in cities, they're just a tiny rural elite, clinging to outdated and toxic privileges.

Of course, they had friends. In Wellington, it was anti-vax rioters Voices For Freedom and the antivax DemocracyNZ party. In Christchurch, it was Nazi Kyle Chapman. Most kiwis find these groups absolutely repugnant. By aligning themselves with such groups, farmers are going to end up joining them at the bottom of the shitlist.

Not that they were doing great on that front anyway. The social licence of farmers depends on two things: their environmental impact, and providing cheap food to the rest of us. On the first front, they're a disaster, polluting the soil, atmosphere, and water with nitrogen, methane, and disease. From a climate perspective, they're the dirtiest, least efficient part of our economy, producing the fewest dollars per ton of emissions. And as for "cheap food", they export 95% of what they produce, and our domestic prices are set by what they can get overseas - meaning that while we pay the full environmental costs of their business, we get no real benefit for that. We could shut them all down tomorrow, import all our food, and it would make no economic difference to consumers, while making us all better off from the reduced pollution. I don't think we should actually do that, but it does illustrate how the costs and benefits stack up for the rest of Aotearoa, and how parasitic this dirty industry is. It also illustrates that we could make quite radical cuts to farm production without affecting our food supply in the slightest (and if farmers would rather export than feed us, that's what export controls are for).

If farmers want to continue to farm, they need to earn their social licence. They can do that by accepting regulation, cleaning up their act, and behaving like responsible members of society. But if they'd rather behave like a spoiled, entitled, elite, then we should just regulate them harder. And if they don't like it, they will have only themselves to blame.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Climate Change: A slow victory over coal

The climate movement has a lot of strands, with different philosophies of action and targets for change. Some target governments, some push for individual change. Some use lobbying, others use protest at varying levels of disruption. One strand has focused on targeting the money that allows fossil fuels to be emitted, hoping to force decarbonisation by cutting it off. And it seems to be bearing some fruit:

New coal power projects are becoming “effectively uninsurable” outside China because so many insurance companies have ruled out support for them, a report has found.

Recent commitments to stop underwriting coal by prominent US insurers AIG and Travelers have brought the number of coal insurance exit policies to 41, according to the latest industry scorecard by the climate campaign Insure Our Future.

The scorecard ranks the top global fossil fuel insurers on the quality of their fossil fuel exclusion policies. It shows that 62% of the reinsurance market and 39% of the primary insurance market are now covered by coal exclusions, with Allianz, Axa and Axis Capital ranking top for the robustness and breadth of their policies.

Many of the remaining insurers without coal exclusions are not active in the fossil fuel sector.

And it makes sense: coal projects increase costs to insurance companies by creating climate chaos. Dumping them (and so making them impossible) is an excellent way to limit those costs. And hopefully they'll figure that out about gas and oil too.

But of course, the UK’s Lloyd’s of London - a club of rich people who insured the slave trade - is the big laggard. Which I guess makes them a prime target for disruption by the other parts of the climate movement.

Member's Day

Today is a Member's Day, but once again looks to be a boring one. First up there is a pair of third readings for Rachel Boyack's Plain Language Bill and Steph Lewis' Biosecurity (Information for Incoming Passengers) Amendment Bill. Following that is the second reading of Ginny Andersen's Crimes (Child Exploitation Offences) Amendment Bill. If the House moves quickly it may do more work on Duncan Webb's Companies (Directors Duties) Amendment Bill, but I don't think it'll get much further. I don't expect there to be a ballot tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Coming home to roost

Labour is a status quo party. Like National, they're committed to low debt, low taxes, and absolutely no wealth taxes on rich people like them. And yesterday, we saw the result of that: a major hospital emergency department which kills people:

The emergency department of one of New Zealand's biggest hospitals has been slammed as unsafe for patients and staff in a damning new report.

An independent inquiry into the death of a patient in June - after she left Middlemore's emergency department (ED) upon being told it would take hours for her to be seen - has delivered a brutal assessment of the hospital's ED.

In a scathing, five-page document, Middlemore has been described as dysfunctional, overcrowded and unsafe.

Written by an unidentified fellow from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the report stated that only the exceptional hard work and dedication of Middlemore's staff was keeping it from more serious incidents.

And its not just Middlemore. Two weeks ago there was a similar report about Palmerston North hospital, which saw a similar completely avoidable death due to lack of ICU capacity.

This is what the status quo parties' low debt, low taxes policy means in practice: chronic underinvestment in infrastructure (and the health system is infrastructure), meaning that things only work by gouging ever increasing amounts of free labour out of workers. That can't go on forever, and eventually things fall through the cracks. In local government, Keeping Rates Low just means shit on the streets and crumbling footpaths. When central government does it, people die. By their funding decisions, our government are murderers. But I guess they were being "kind" to people on $296,007 a year, rather than people who needed a hospital.

This is why we need change. Urgent change. And that means sweeping away the rotten, status quo parties who would rather see people die than pay a cent more. There's an election next year, and we should treat political parties promising underinvestment the same way we treat local government candidates promising it: throw the bums out and elect someone better.

Monday, October 17, 2022

User-pays democracy for some, but not for others

Back in September, the Wellington City Council effectively killed the School Strike for Climate march by demanding they pay an unaffordable "traffic management fee" to a council crony. I was curious about the council's practice in this area, so I asked the obvious question about another high-profile protest: Destiny Church's August 23 hate-march. Did the council also demand they pay for "traffic management"? Of course not.

New Zealand Police requested that Fulton Hogan provided a Temporary Traffic Management (TTM). The TTM was then charged back to the Council via the CBD maintenance contract to the amount of $16,577.48. It is important to note that the TTM was requested by Police & in no way was there any request from the protest organisers, nor dialogue between the Council and the protest organisers regarding the TTM.
According to a subsequent email, the fee was then charged back to police. It is unclear if they actually paid.

There's an obvious followup here of how many other protests the council tried to charge fees, or whether they only target socially conscious kids who will be too scared to fight back. Meanwhile, the clear takeaway message is that if you're planning a protest in Wellington, don't talk to the council. Let the police handle traffic management. It's their job, after all, and if they choose to outsource it to a contractor, that's on them.

Keep chokepoint capitalism out of our justice system

RNZ this morning has a significnat story about the police's plans to shift all their criminal case evidence into a cloud service owned by predatory US provider Axon:

Police are looking to a hugely profitable US taser maker for new ways to capture sensitive criminal case evidence and store it overseas.

They are also considering getting new stun guns, and possibly body cameras, from the $9 billion Axon corporation.

OIA documents show Axon is in the mix for storing all sorts of crime scene footage and "very sensitive" interviews, including on sex crimes, because existing systems are on their last legs.

In a 2020 report, police said: "The expectation ... [is] that all of our electronic interviewing will transition to over the next 18 months - two years."

There are all sorts of reasons why this is a bad idea. The one that immediately sprang to mind was mentioned briefly in a Newsroom article on police camera footage last year: at present, defence lawyers can only view taser footage (or e.g. their clients being tasered, and the interactions that led up to it) in-person at a police station - where Axon tracks everything what they do (and presumably data-mines it and sells the intel back to NZ police prosecutors). So the police are basicly proposing to extend that practice to... everything. The threats to legal privilege (and of course to the right to an effective defence, if police strategicly choose to underfund or pass on charges for access) ought to be obvious.

But there's another reason to dislike it: because Axon's business model is pure chokepoint capitalism. They use predatory pricing and freebie deals to entice police forces into using them, then once their data is migrated, use the threat of cutting off access (requiring expensive migration or total data loss) to continuously hike the price. The copyright industry uses this model to extort producers and lock-in customers; here, Axon is using it to extort and lock-in governments. The beauty (for Axon) is that as evidence storage is a requirement for successful prosecution (and criminal disclosure legally required in all civilised states), the government effectively helps enforce their lock-in. The police simply cannot risk the service interruption of dropping the service or migrating the data, because it would mean cases collapsing and/or criticism from judges. And of course it creates a risk that some billionaire will decide to collapse our court system because someone said something nasty about them on Twitter.

We should not allow this pernicious business model to infect our justice system. The New Zealand police should store digital evidence themselves, in New Zealand, under New Zealand law. It is that simple.

Friday, October 14, 2022

A failure of management

Today National MP Barbara Kuriger resigned her agriculture, biosecurity and food safety portfolios due to a conflict of interest - specifically, an ongoing dispute with MPI over the prosecution of her husband and son on animal cruelty charges. Party leader Christopher Luxon says that this is all Kuriger's fault - the conflict "wasn't registered, it wasn't recognised and it wasn't well managed." Sure. But there are always two people at fault in a situation like this: the person with the conflict, and the person who is meant to be managing them. Which in this case would be... Christopher Luxon. So we have a boss blaming his subordinate for his own failure to properly recognise and manage their conflicts and move them from an inappropriate position. Which is I guess exactly how you expect a big corporate CEO like Luxon to behave...

Except, this being the National Party, there's in fact more people at fault: Kuriger, for not managing her conflict; Luxon, for not managing her properly; and (of course) Judith Collins, who appointed her to the problematic role in the first place, and should likewise have been aware of the issue. You could also point the finger at Bill English and Todd Muller, who appointed her to the food safety and rural affairs portfolios. Weirdly, none of these people saw potentially being in charge of (part of) MPI while your husband and son are being prosecuted by it as a problem. Which tells you something about the level of governance and corruption in the National Party.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Labour's response to police racism: legalise it!

Last month, the the Privacy Commissioner and Independent Police Conduct Authority issued a joint report on their investigation into the police's practice of coercing "voluntary" photographs from young Māori on the street. The report uncovered illegality, systematic racism, and widespread ignorance among police officers of the limits on their behaviour, including some practices so obviously illegal that the Privacy Commissioner was forced to issue a Compliance Notice to stop them (sadly, the IPCA has no such powers). You'd expect the Minister of Police, Chris Hipkins, to be displeased with this, and he is - but not in the way you'd think. Rather than being angry at police for being stupid racist criminals who neither understand or care about their statutory limitations, he was angry that they were being criticised over it. As for his solution to this widespread misconduct, it was simple: legalise it:

Police Minister Chris Hipkins says Parliament may legislate so police can gather young people’s photographs and fingerprints, after a watchdog report deemed the practice illegal.

Hipkins, speaking at the Police Association annual conference in Wellington on Wednesday, said “the pendulum has swung too far” on the issue of privacy rights in light of the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) report.

"I'm absolutely open to change. I do think that intelligence gathering is a core function of police and some of the intelligence gathering that's happened, as of normal in the past, won't be possible any more if we leave the IPCA, Privacy Commissioner finding unchallenged,” he said.

“I am concerned that the report, if left unchallenged, will significantly constrain the police's ability to do their jobs ... I wouldn't take off the table the potential for Parliament to take further action to support the police to do their job.”

So I guess the police are now in the same category as the SIS and GCSB: Parliament will make rules for them, and assure us that this keeps them under control. But when they're found breaking those rules, they'll just retrospectively legalise their actions rather than hold them to account.

The kicker is that the law Hipkins is complaining about - effectively information privacy principle 1 - has been the law since 1993, and it was unanimously reconfirmed by Parliament in 2020. Hipkins voted for it. He also voted for the Policing Act 2008 provisions which ensured police could not retain fingerprints of people acquitted or not charged, and for the 2011 amendments which clarified the relationship between that clause and the youth justice system. In that case, he spoke in the debate, saying that

The police will not be keeping the photographs and fingerprints of young people who are found to have done nothing wrong. They will not be keeping them. That is really, really important.
Now he's proposing that police be allowed to keep photographs of people who haven't even been charged with anything, just for convenience. So I guess it wasn't important after all.

If it wasn't clear already from countless other laws, Labour is just another dirty authoritarian party, who occasionally pretend to support human rights to scam liberal votes. Don't be fooled by them. If you want the police kept under control, vote for politicians who are appropriately suspicious of them. And that means the Greens or Te Pati Māori.

Still unfit to govern

Yesterday the government announced its plan to reduce agricultural emissions. The plan is weak bullshit, but because it involves them taking the slightest responsibility for the pollution they cause (even at massively subsidised rates, offset by even more subsidies), farmers hate it. So naturally, the National Party hates it too, calling it "utterly unacceptable" and promising to repeal it immediately if elected:

National would repeal proposed changes to agricultural emissions pricing, if the Government’s plan put forward on Tuesday goes ahead.

Leader Christopher Luxon labelled the proposal the Government put forward as “unacceptable”.

“It’s a shocker. It's a real punch to our farmers,” Luxon said. “It'd be a very brave Government to go on and pass this without having industry consensus."

Luxon's alternative? To "support whatever the industry wants". Which is a bit problematic when "what the industry wants" is to destroy the global climate and ecosystem on which human life depends - which is what their preferred solution of doing nothing / continuing business as usual entails.

Climate change is the biggest crisis facing Aotearoa. We cannot solve it without significantly reducing agricultural emissions. And by refusing to face up to that and rejecting any attempts to mitigate or moderate farming's climate impact, Luxon is telling us clearly that the National Party is unfit for government. It is that simple.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Climate Change: Labour grovels to the sacred cow

Today, the government unveilled its response to He Waka Eke Noa's bullshit proposals to subsidise farmers through complicated spreasheets not-really price greenhouse gas emissions at the farm level. Sadly, despite the Climate Change Commission calling bullshit on the whole scam, the government has decided to adopt its core features of farm-level pricing and artificially low and subsidised carbon prices. They've been more careful about proposals for offsets, instead proposing a system of direct subsidies for certain types of on-farm vegetation, while allowing farmers to pay for the research to enable other types to be internationally recognised (good luck with that). But the core features of subsidies, complexity, and low prices remain. As for the effects, they're summed up in this table on p59 of the consultation document:


Yes, that's right: any of the farm-level pricing options is less effective at reducing emissions than the default option of just including agriculture in the ETS at the processor level, while being vastly more complicated and expensive to administer. Yes, the ETS is a blunt instrument, and means we don't directly incentivise farm-level changes. But it turns out to be more effective than the specialised, refined, and expensive instrument farmers are trying to foist on us. Sometimes, a hammer is good enough to do the job. What's really annoying is that we knew that all along, and have instead wasted a decade trying to deny it.

So why have they done this? Because the fundamental truth they're trying to avoid is that cutting agricultural emissions means cutting output and farmer profits. What we need to do is cut cow numbers, which can be done easily rapidly within the farm business cycle by just not replacing animals as they go to the works. The government knows this. Farmers know this. Federated Farmers screams it every time anyone suggests they pay their own way (and they're screaming it now, which shows they were engaging in bad faith all along). But they would all rather spew endless bullshit than recognise that fact in policy. So we have endless rounds of consultation and ever more complicated models to desperately try and do the impossible if only the spreadsheets are complicated enough. But in the end they come down to the same thing: reducing emissions means reducing output. Sure, the preferred farm-level levy results in smaller reductions in output. But that's because it results in smaller reductions in emissions. And that's all there is to say about it.

But in addition to being terrible policy, its also terrible politics. Labour is saying "we're pissing off both sides, so we must be doing something right". Which ignores the fact that one of those sides is only 5% of the population, and the other one is 85%. Treating these two sides as somehow equivalent is both foolish and anti-democratic. It also ignores the fact that the 5% will be pissed off no matter what is done - meaning their opinion is basicly irrelevant.

James Shaw has got his headline saying that Labour overruled him and he is unhappy with the plan (ironicly, because he proposed something even more complicated). Which is great for him. But the question everyone needs to be asking him is how exactly he will change this deal if the next election gives him the greater leverage he is constantly asking us for. Because if he's not going to do a Vader and alter the deal, there's not much point in him at all.

Closing the revolving door?

Last week we learned that former Minister Kris Faafoi had moved straight into lobbying, putting him in a position to exploit information learned as a Minister for private gain. Other countries - even corrupt Australia - ban this. And now the National Party has come out in support of such a ban here:

The National Party wants to stop former ministers who have just quit Parliament from being able to immediately become political lobbyists.


It is not unusual for former MPs and ministers to move into consulting after leaving politics, but many countries have what's called a "cooling off" period.

Australia makes its former decision-makers wait 18 months before they can start lobbying, while Canada has a five-year rule.

The National Party wants to see such a policy introduced here, although Brown didn't have a preference for how long the waiting time should be.

Weirdly though, they're wanting the government to lead on this. Instead, they should be offering a member's bill. It wouldn't be hard - take the definition of lobbying from the 2013 Lobbying Disclosure Bill, the prohibition clause from the Australian or Canadian legislation, maybe a regulation-making power to designate additional categories other than Ministers, Parliamentary Undersecretaries, and public service chief executives as being subject to the ban, and there you have it. And that would both show us what National wants, and provide a spur for the government to actually act (in that if they don't, the bill might eventually be drawn - a tactic which has proved successful on electoral law). And if they don't do this, well, we can draw our own conclusions about how unhappy National really is with cosyism.

Monday, October 10, 2022

10/10: World Day Against the Death Penalty


Today, October 10, is the world day against the death penalty. Out of 195 UN member states, 78 still permit routine capital punishment. Today is the day we work to change that.

This year's theme is the link between the death penalty and torture. Quite apart from the use of torture to extract "confessions" in some death penalty states, methods of execution, death-row living conditions, and the suffering from anticipating execution can often constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. Eliminating the death penalty will help eliminate these forms of torture.

The good news is that we are slowly winning. Three countries have abolished the death penalty in the past year: the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Papua New Guinea. Malaysia has also agreed to abolish its mandatory death penalty, which is important progress. But there's still 78 countries to go, plus the seven who retain the death penalty in wartime - and that's a lot of work to do.

The Monday after

The local body election finished over the weekend, and seems to have delivered a tide of reactionary grey NIMBYs over much of the country. Wellington seems to be the exception, electing a progressive Green mayor backed by a left majority council, so they will get to have nice things like intensification, public transport and cycleways, and maybe a bit less shit on the streets. In much of the rest of the country though it appears to be all cars, motorways, "heritage", anti-three waters, and "Keep Rates Low" - all while demanding central government pay for their pet projects.

Palmerston North seems not to have done too badly. From preliminary results, mayor Grant Smith won on the first ballot, in part because there wasn't any real competition. For council, it doesn't seem so bad: both Green and one Labour councillor were elected, and while we lost Labour's Zulfiqar Butt, no-one really terrible was elected. Though the caveat on that is that VFF-candidate James Candish is the highest-ranking unsuccessful candidate, and so could potentially displace the Greens' Kaydee Zabelin on the specials. Turnout seems to have been around 35%, though again that's without the special votes. Which is pretty shit, really.

The good news is that with low turnout around the country and well-publicised problems with last-minute voting in Auckland, politicians seem to be open to fixing the mess of local government elections. The Spinoff has some ideas here, though I'm cautious about trying to replace (rather than supplement) postal voting with physical booths in an STV, general-ward environment like Palmerston North. Ranking even a portion of the ~30 candidates we had took considerable effort and research - its a bit much of an information load to expect people to handle in a few minutes in a polling booth. Which means either encouraging people to do their research first and take their own cheat sheets (which is a discouragement), allowing Australian-style "how to vote" material (culturally alien in Aotearoa), or encouraging councils to reduce ward sizes to give voters a more manageable decision-space (which they will hate). We should however absolutely turn the job over to the Electoral Commission and put the incompetent private election companies out of business. And we should absolutely not give the job to incompetent, unsafe, and fundamentally insecure online voting companies instead.

Friday, October 07, 2022

Pardon them!

Today, US President Joe Biden issued a presidential pardon to everyone convicted of the federal offence of possession of marijuana. Its a good move, an attempt to undo the immense (and racilised) harm the "war on drugs" has caused. And it led to immediate calls to do the same here in Aotearoa.

Naturally, Labour pretended helplessness, with Andrew Little claiming that "We don't have the sort of executive powers that POTUS has. Under our system of government ministers do not interfere in judicial decision-making." Of course, he's lying - section 11 of the Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand gives the Governor-General (which means Ministers, since the Governor-General acts only on advice) full power to exercise the prerogative of mercy, including the power to "grant, to any person concerned in the commission of any offence for which he may be tried in any court in New Zealand... a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions". And that's an executive decision, not a judicial one. Labour could pardon minor drug offenders tomorrow if they wanted to. The fact that they do not tells us clearly that they do not want to; that they support the racialised harm of the war on drugs. That its their war (as well as National's).

But if Labour won't do it the easy way, then there are other ways. In 2000, Parliament issued a statutory pardon to five New Zealand soldiers executed for desertion and mutiny during the First World War. Someone - Chlöe Swarbrick? - could bring a member's bill to do the same for those convicted of bullshit cannabis offences. I've taken a quick stab at what such a bill could look like here.

33,676 people were convicted of possession or use of cannabis between 2010 and 2020. More will have been convicted earlier. They all deserve a pardon. And while a one-off, statutory pardon will not prevent the ongoing harm of Labour's war on drugs, it will undo some of the past harm. But to fix things properly, clearly we need a government which will actually care, one which will commit to change. And we all know that that isn't going to happen under either of the status quo parties.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Labour: From standing for something to standing for nothing

Writing in Stuff, Morgan Godfery argues that Labour has forgotten why it won the 2020 election:

Politics is more than just killing a bad run of stories in the latest media cycle. Politics requires stated aims and actions taken to secure them.

Politicians are fearful of leaning too hard into the lessons from 2020. It was, of course, the Covid-19 election. That means it was a one-off.

But the global circumstances aren’t what made Labour and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern successful. It was their policy responses to those circumstances.

Basicly, in 2020, Labour actually stood for something. "Saving us all from Covid" might not have been popular with the business elite, but it was popular with voters, who didn't want to die. And then, having secured an unthinkable majority government with that promise, they then systmatically backed away from it, let in the virus, and let 2,000 people die. And now, faced with the prospect of another covid wave before the end of the year, they're going "meh", and refusing to give us boosters. In other words, "fuck you, you can die". Which is so far from "we're all in this together" and "team of 5 million" that its impossible to see as anything other than a complete betrayal.

But its not just covid: Labour has backed away from virtually every other major policy promise. Climate change, "my generation's nuclear-free moment"? Nope. Banning mines on conservation land? Nope. Housing? While house prices are falling, and may soon be only as unaffordable as they were last year, its clear that the Prime Minister who owns a $2.7 million home isn't keen on seeing them fall too far or too fast (I wonder why). And even the ordinary stuff you should expect Labour to be good at - health, welfare, worker's rights - are a mess of austerity, foot-dragging, and broken promises.

Basicly, at this stage, its hard to see that Labour stands for anything besides a bunch of Labour MPs (rather than National ones) getting paid $296,007 a year. And that is something that no-one other than the people in line for those high-paying jobs actually gives much of a shit about.

Godfrey suggests that if Labour wants any hope of retaining power in 2023, it needs to name an agenda and pursue it. The bigger question is, given their existing betrayals, whether anyone would believe if.

Austerity is murder

Over in the UK, the radical Tory government is planning more benefit cuts to screw the poor. Meanwhile, there's also a timely reminder of exactly what that means: mass-murder:

More than 330,000 excess deaths in Great Britain in recent years can be attributed to spending cuts to public services and benefits introduced by a UK government pursuing austerity policies, according to an academic study.

The authors of the study suggest additional deaths between 2012 and 2019 – prior to the Covid pandemic – reflect an increase in people dying prematurely after experiencing reduced income, ill-health, poor nutrition and housing, and social isolation.

Previously improving mortality trends started to change for the worse after austerity policies introduced in 2010 when tens of billions of pounds began to be cut from public spending by the Tory-led coalition government, the study said.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found there were 334,327 excess deaths beyond the expected number in England, Wales and Scotland over the eight-year period.

The study talks about "excess deaths", but lets be clear: these people were killed by government negligence. They were murdered by depraved indifference. The only reason we're not talking about genocide - the definition of which includes "[d]eliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part" is because the politicians who instigated this slow-motion massacre likely lacked the intent, as they didn't think about their victims at all. Why would they? Its not as if they were important. Its not as if they were people. Its not as if they went to Oxford or Cambridge or Eton or somewhere else that mattered. And yet, given their depraved indifference, its clear that both David Cameron and Theresa May, the Prime Ministers who presided over this, are murderers. And they need to be held to account for every single one of these deaths.

And to bring this home: this is the social policy Christopher Luxon wants to inflict on New Zealand by advocating for tax cuts and austerity. Every time he opens his mouth about that, he needs to be confronted with these numbers, and asked how many people he is willing to kill to benefit the ultra-rich.

Climate Change: Solving the forestry dilemma

For a long time now the Climate Change Commission has been expressing concerns about the place of forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme. Our net-zero emissions target encourages us to plant trees to soak up our emissions, but if we plant too many, then carbon prices will be too low to force actual reductions. Meanwhile, the ability of polluters to buy forest credits directly lets them "plant and pollute" and also avoid reductions. The Commission's preferred solution has been to try and limit forestry's place in the ETS, excluding fast-gowing (and therefore fast-soaking) pine in favour of slower native trees, but this would likely result in deforestation and even more emissions. Now, Climate Change Minister James Shaw has presented a better option: the government buys the credits and uses them to back the ETS:

Speaking to Stuff, Shaw said the government was exploring forestry’s place in the ETS. One option was the Government became a buyer – or even the exclusive purchaser – of units from forest owners. These units could then enter the Government pool, to be allocated for free or sold at auction.

The Government would receive a method to incentivise new native and exotic forests plus, potentially, more precise control over gross emissions.


If the Government purchased forestry units and then auctioned or gave them to polluters, each unit would be net-zero. Overall, this could decrease the country’s gross and net emissions, compared to the current set-up.

I really like this solution. I'd expect the price paid to forest-owners to roughly track the ETS price (using market averages, or the auction price settings), which should provide a strong incentive to keep planting trees. But those trees will no longer allow additional pollution within the ETS. Which means we get a double benefit: the benefit of those trees on the national carbon accounts, reducing the number of credits the government will need to buy on the international market to meet our interim 2030 target, and the benefit of higher ETS prices further reducing emissions (which will also reduce that international liability). It also allows easy incentives for native over pine forestry - either a differential price to recognise the biodiversity benefit, or allowing native trees to remain in the ETS (though that probably just shifts the problem for a decade).

The big risk is that the government faces clear incentives to penny-pinch and set the price it pays for forest carbon too low, both to save money and due to political pressure from traditional farmers, who are being outcompeted by trees. It would also set a clear incentive against updating the carbon tables for native forestry to reflect new data (and so massively increasing the relative value of natives versus pine), because that would cost the government money. Though you'd hope the Greens would be able to apply enough pressure to keep the government from making such mistakes in the short-term.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Close this revolving door

Stuff reports that former Minister Kris Faafoi has become a lobbyist, planning to distort policy for profit by leveraging the relationships formed as a Minister with public servants and Ministerial colleagues. And in case anyone thinks I'm exaggerating there, its in his slogan: "results through relationships".

This is, obviously, corrupt. Policy and regulatory decisions should be made on their merits, not on who you are mates with. But New Zealand is cursed by cosyism, and apparently a Ministerial pension isn't enough to support Faafoi in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed, so Faafoi is following the well-trodden path. But that's no reason for us to put up with it. Even corrupt Australia bans Ministers from lobbying work for 18 months; Canada bans them for five years. We should do the same. Ministers are already more than well-remunerated for their public service. We should not allow them to continue to corruptly profit from their public roles as some sort of "retirement package".

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

The "endorsement" you give when you want someone to lose

Voting in the local body elections closes at noon on Saturday, and today was the last day to post your votes to be sure they got there in time. So naturally, today was the day Jacinda Ardern chose to finally "endorse" Auckland mayoral candidate Efeso Collins:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern​ has thrown her weight behind Auckland mayoral candidate Efeso Collins​ as a tightly contested race comes to a close.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Ardern endorsed Collins, saying he was a candidate who could “bring together Auckland”.

“In our minds he’s a candidate that can really continue the significant investment that’s been going on into regional economic development [and] public transport,” she said.

As with her "support" for cannabis decriminalisation - which was expressed only after the votes had been counted - you really have to ask: shouldn't she have said it sooner? This is the "endorsement" of someone who feels they have to, for appearances' sake, but doesn't want it to actually help at all. The "endorsement" of someone who actually wants the candidate to lose, but is too afraid to say so. This sort of spineless chickenshittery is everything that is wrong with the Labour Party, and if it continues, they'll deserve to lose.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Why police ignored the Ombudsman

Back in June, the Ombudsman found that the police were unlawfully delaying OIA requests to notify Ministers under the "no surprises policy". The police said they had changed their process. But then they immediately changed it back, raising questions about whether they had lied to the Ombudsman. So how did that happen?

I used the OIA to ask, and their response is here. They explain their new policy, that it was first implemented on 14 July, and then say that it was reversed because

In the ordinary business of transitioning into the new portfolio, the Minister’s office staff outlined their normal processes for following the standard “no surprises” protocol, followed across the public sector and set as an expectation in paragraph 3.22 of the Cabinet Manual. This was first notified to Police on 18 July 2022, during a phone conversation between one of the Minister’s private secretaries and myself...
...which seems to minimise things a little. Because the documentary record shows that the reversal - which happened a month after Hipkins became police minister, so wasn't "the ordinary business of transition" by any stretch of the imagination - happened because it received immediate pushback from one of Chris Hipkins's ministerial advisers:
[PS] tells me [MA] is not happy with this approach. I've resent Case Note to [PS] so she can provide it to [MA].
While there were some meetings, ultimately, the view of the ministerial adviser - a politically-appointed party hack, not a public servant - prevailed over that of the Ombudsman. Because information is power, and ministers and their hacks don't want to surrender the slightest shred of it, no matter what the law says.

(That ministerial adviser's boss, Chris Hipkins, is also the Minister for the Public Service, and is supposed to be leading them on open government. Which makes this another example of his poor leadership on transparency...)

That response also attempts to minimise the scale of the problem, claiming that "approximately 98 percent of Police OIA responses are sent out without being sighted by the Minister or his office". The police have confirmed by email that they are using the OIA statistics they report to TKM/PSC as a baseline, which are deliberately inflated with huge numbers of routine non-OIA statutory requests in order to mask the woeful performance of PNHQ. The police also say that this only affects "high organisational impact" (HOI) requests. 32% of all requests made to PNHQ in 2021 were marked in this way, and the number has consistently increased year after year. The net result is that police arse-covering and ministerial control-freakery is resulting in widespread, unlawful delays to the OIA process.

So will the Ombudsman do anything about this? Sadly, he seems to have swallowed the "only 2%" spin hook, line, and sinker. I guess the lesson here is that if you juke your stats enough, you can get away with anything.

Shifting the window

TOP has always been a pretty progressive party - in 2017 they campaigned on a universal basic income and a (complicated) property tax (as well as arrogance and cat-hating). Their new leadership is now pushing a simpler version: switching taxes from income to land:

The Opportunities Party has hung out its shingle for the 2023 election announcing a policy of $6.35 billion in income tax cuts, paid for by a land tax on residential housing, and welfare debt write-offs.


Under the TOP plan, a tax-free threshold of $15,000 would be introduced, following by a big tax cuts for middle income earners who would only paid 20% tax in income earned between $15,001 and $80,000. A new 35% rate would apply for income earned between $80,001 to $180,000, while the current 39% tax rate on earning over $180,000, introduced by Labour in 2020 would remain.

So basicly a more progressive income tax system, with the decrease at the bottom paid for by a land tax (which will overwhelmingly be paid by those at the top). There's obviously a lot to like here, and the only downside is that its been designed to be revenue-neutral, when instead it could tax land more and use the additional revenue to pay for better public services (such as a health system where completely avoidable shit like this doesn't happen).

As for cancelling WINZ debt, it ought to be a no-brainer. It is odious debt, imposed primarily because benefits are inadequete and Housing New Zealand is shit, and with racism and misogyny to boot. Most of it will never be paid back. Continuing to pursue it is simply an exercise in cruelty. Labour - who campaigned on "kindness" - would rather pretend to be helpless than fulfil its campaign promises and do anything about it.

These are both very progressive policies, similar to those pushed by the Greens (the Greens want a wealth tax rather than a land tax, but either is good). While I'm not going to support TOP - Gareth Morgan and Sean Plunket have basicly poisoned it forever - its good to have other voices pushing the window leftward. And as we've seen with other areas of progressive Green policy, if you win over the public, then eventually the neoLiberal status quo parties will have to follow...