Dunne on budgets past and present

Like him or not Peter Dunne has been around for a lot of budgets and offers an insight into the bad old days of handout/slash budgets compared to the modern tweakism.

The 2015 Budget has been presented, and while Parliament settles down for the next day or so to debate some of the consequential legislation, the public will begin to pick over the entrails to determine their assessment of it.

Essentially, it will boil down to one thing – do they feel personally better or worse off as a consequence. They may take account of the small projected Budget surplus, with bigger surpluses to come in the years ahead, but they will also remember there was to be a surplus this year which has not eventuated, so they will take that promise with a grain of salt.

They will look at the social assistance package, noting with quiet approval the rise in benefit levels (for some, their anxious consciences will be salved by that) but then they will quickly check to see if they are one of the losers because of the consequential adjustments to Working for Families payments.

In most cases, they will conclude that the Government has probably got it “about right” with little real impact on their own circumstances, and so they will just carry on with their lives.

As it should be. Lotto has taken over as the Kiwi dream of deliverance from financial hardship.

Not that they really expected anything different. The days of Budgets being the year’s “Big Bang” have long since passed, with much of the detail announced by Ministers in the weeks immediately beforehand, even though as the Minister of Finance has shown in this Budget the odd surprise can still be delivered on the day.

All of this is a far cry from the Budgets of old, when people would listen in intently, waiting for the feared words, “As of midnight tonight …”, which usually presaged the introduction of new taxes, levies or reductions in some form or other of government services. Gone too are the old traditions of the pre-Budget stock-up of alcohol, and tobacco products to avoid Budget tax increases – even these are indexed now, and movements in rates announced well in advance, so no-one is caught by surprise.

Few truly lament the passage of all that drama.

There is another reason why the Budgets of old should be forgotten. Their fundamental purpose was different – they were the politicians’ version of Scrooge’s Christmas, the one time in the year when goodies were dished out to those whom the Government liked, or wanted to like it, while those whom it did not like or care much about were either ignored or scapegoated. An economic and political morality play, if you like.

Today, the Budget is much more a statement of the Government’s plan of action for the year ahead, a politically and economically strategic document, rather than just handing out the loot.

One thing that not has changed in the transition is the attitude of the Opposition. Be they of the left or the right, be the circumstances adverse or more propitious, Oppositions always oppose the Budget, with as much and fire and passion as they can muster, even though changes of government over the years have led to very few changes in Budget settings.

Benefit levels are a good example – the last significant uplift in basic levels was when Sir John Marshall was Prime Minister, 43 years ago.

Another National government.

When benefits were slashed by National in late 1990, despite its outrage and fury at the time, the Labour-led Government after 1999 did not restore the cuts. Now that a basic adjustment has been made, the Opposition are predictably saying it is not enough.

This is the sort of thing that makes Budget watching such fun – so long as no-one takes it too seriously. Debate will rage in Parliament over the next few days; the pontificating commentariat will have its worthy say; and then, by early next week or so, life will settle back to pretty much what it was beforehand.

Until we go through it all over again next year.

Most people don’t go through it al again, they ignore the budget and the political theatrics surrounding it. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Source: Dunne Speaks

Open Forum – Friday

22 May 2015

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

Open Forum – Thursday

19 May 2015

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

More pressure against mass data collection

The New Zealand public was assured that no mas collection of communications was done by the GCSB. This didn’t stop speculation and claims that mass collection was being done, in large part due to the revelation that Five Eyes partner the USA carried out mass collection.

It was believed by some that this data was then available to our GCSB, despite assurances only specifically targeted people were investigated under legal warrants.

This has changed now, as NZ Herald reports in NZ to face pressure over mass collection of telephone data.

A decision to stop the mass collection of Americans’ telephone data will put pressure on New Zealand intelligence agencies to stop any similar programmes operating here.

Last week the US House of Representatives voted to end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records through the USA Freedom Act, which was already backed by the White House.

The bill, which only affects people within the US, would empower the agency to search data held by telephone companies on a case-by-case basis.

It was re-confirmed that mass collection didn’t happen here.

Rebecca Kitteridge, director of the Security Intelligence Service, yesterday told the same conference that mass surveillance did not take place.

“We do not live in a surveillance state where everything you do online is reported – at least not by the Government. So, please enjoy the freedom that the internet gives you – you are free to click on whatever you want on your device, and you won’t pop up on our system.

“Typically we get our leads through our interaction with the public, and information provided to us by other agencies.”

In a speech Peter Dunne says the US change will put pressure on the Security and Intelligence review that starts this year,

In a speech to a privacy and identity conference in Wellington, Mr Dunne said it was crucial that there were robust systems in place to protect the privacy of personal information from a “coercive or prying” state.

“Last week, the United States House of Representatives voted to stop the mass collection of Americans’ telephone data by the National Security Agency.

“I suspect New Zealanders would have a similar view about their telephone records, and that there will now be pressures on our intelligence agencies to stop any mass data collection programmes they have underway, especially if it is being made available on an indiscriminate basis to other countries.”

Asked after his speech if he believed mass collection programmes were operating here, Mr Dunne told the Herald that the recent US action raised questions that should be addressed in an upcoming review of our intelligence agencies.

“I think in context of the intelligence services review, that American decision becomes pretty relevant. If it is illegal in the United States to gather that data…then, you have to say, if it is being gathered in New Zealand – and that’s an open question – and provided, you can’t have it both ways,” Mr Dunne said.

“You can’t say it’s illegal here [in the US] to provide this data about our people, but it’s not illegal for you [New Zealand] to provide data about your people to us. I think that is the question I am raising, and I think that’s something the review needs to consider.”

The review:

Next month a wide-ranging review headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen and lawyer Dame Patsy Reddy will examine both the SIS and GCSB.

The first regular review of the agencies, it will examine the legislative framework governing them, and consider how they are placed to protect New Zealand’s interests and security.

It would be good – and essential – to clarify the issue of how partner countries could assist with data gathering. As far as I’m aware it would still have to comply with our laws and only be done under warrant in specific circumstances.

Open Forum – Tuesday

19 May 2015

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

Open Forum – Monday

18 May 2015

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

When comfort a gramar nazi

I have a reasonably good knowledge of grammar and spelling and it stands out when I see mistakes made.

I type a lot of stuff online and sometimes make mistakes, usually through carelessness – I often type and post things in a hurry and while multi-tasking. And then I don’t proof-read carefully enough – or at all.

So when I see mistakes that I’ve posted it annoys me.

It matters. Sort of. To some people grammar and spelling don’t matter. But one has to try and cater for everyone’s taste. and no one seems to complain when you get things right.

Study proves success of Psychotic Substances Bill

A study shows that  the introduction of the Pstchotic Substances Bill plus further tightening of legal availability of synthetic highs has “virtually stopped the flow of users needing mental health care.”

So have synthetic users stopped using drugs? Or have they switched to other drugs that either don’t cause the same need for mental health treatment?

Or did the study not look at treatment levels required for the effects of other drugs?

Radio NZ reports in Synthetic drug ban success – study

Otago University chair of psychiatry Paul Glue, who is also a consultant psychiatrist at the Southern DHB, led a study into the impact of the law change, published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Professor Glue said, before the law change, emergency departments saw young people with psychosis, severe mood problems, aggression, depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies as a result of taking legal highs.

“In early 2013, we had a large number of young people turning up who needed admission to hospital related to smoking synthetic cannabis… and so it was obviously a real concern in terms of patients’ health and safety, and really as a public health problem as well.”

“In the middle of 2013, the Psychoactive Substances BIll came along, and that approximately halved the number of products that were available for sale, but more importantly it reduced the number of places where synthetic cannabis could be sold from,” he said.

“We saw a 50 percent reduction in attendances at ED [emergency department] or EPS [emergency psychiatric service], but the presentation was exactly the same, exactly the same kind of demographic, these were primarily young men who had histories of mental illness.”

So the Bill seems to have had an immediate significant impact.

Last year, following high profile campaigns and media coverage about the impact of synthetic highs on individuals and communities, the law was further tightened, removing all products from the shelves.

Under the law, a product has to pass a testing regime and be sold with a licence, and no companies have so far applied for or received a licence.

Professor Glue said, after this change, the number of people needing care after taking legal highs almost disappeared altogether.

“People had gone out and bought lots of products, and then smoked it, and once it was gone, the harm stopped.”

This sounds like the Bill has been a major success. The media hasn’t been reporting problems or concerns.

Are people with mental health issues not taking drugs any more or have they switched to drugs that cause less problems.

United in Compassion Seed Funding – Give a little

Originally posted on unitedincompassionnz:

United In Compassion NZ is in the process of starting a Charitable Trust, however the advocacy and ground work for Medical Cannabis in NZ has already begun.

We have been working together on this for months, some of our members for years even, and there have been countless trips around the country by some of our members to meet the decision makers and influencers in a position to help make Medical Cannabis happen in NZ. This has all been done at personal cost… and one of our members even managed to exceed an unlimited phone contract working on the issue to get access to Legal Medical Cannabis for all those who could benefit.

Please help us finance this work furtherwhile we make the Charitable Trust official.

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Missing surplus has a plus

The missed surplus target is not all doom and gloom.

It forces continued prudence on spending. Governments should always exercise prudence with spending.

When revenue expands spending shouldn’t just expand with it because there’s more money available.

The Government shouldn’t just tighten budgets when the world finances take a dive. They should always be prudent with our money.

A plus side of the missed surplus is enforced prudence.

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