On guest posts

From time to time I’ve said that guest posts are welcome here. Just email me ideas, links or fully written posts. It’s quite a different level to commenting, but I have always encouraged diversity of information and opinion, whether it be via comment or post. Sometimes I post things here that I don’t agree with but that I think will encourage a good discussion.

Some thoughts on this from Gezza:


Corky / 22nd May 2020

… To be fair [new National leader Todd Muller’s maiden speech after election to Parliament] was a good speech…not that I’m any expert on maiden speeches. Too soft and accommodating for my liking. I can get all that stuff from Labour. I want National to be hard; uncompromising and forward thinking…not inclusive. We have had the bs inclusive approach for over 30 years…has it been a success?

Gezza / 22nd May 2020

Ah yes, but the thing is, being truly inclusive as a leader can or should also mean disciplining those who harm that inclusivity with anti-social & anti-inclusive behaviours.
PS: Define “forward thinking” please. No idea what you think that means at the moment. Very vague.

Corky / 22nd May 2020

”Define “forward thinking” please. No idea what you think that means at the moment. Very vague.”

Not really. Forward is the opposite of back or behind. So, if we move forward in the political sense, what has been left behind?

  1. Maori bs.
  2. Weak policing ( corrupt policing?)
  3. Marxist education.
  4. Moronic Covid legislation and rules.
  5. Immigration issues.
  6. Woman’s Affairs. Race Relations Office…and other quangos I forget.
  7. 
RMA.

Have no fear, though. It will be business as usual with Muller. Maybe a few tweaks, here and there. The test of his mettle will be when he pisses liberals off.”


Thanks for that, Corky. Straight up, honest, & to the point response. I think those are all very valid “hot button” issues that are directly relevant, & important, to New Zealand’s political & social scene, to voters, & to all governments’ policy settings.

Thinking about them, I’d say most – maybe all – of those “headliners”, each encapsulates a broad range of related sub-issues – which is probably why simplistic solutions such as “getting rid of them” hasn’t been just been “done & dusted” by any goverment, despite them nearly always being high on the political agenda. (But you have expanded on some of those in more detail in past debates which are now yesterday’s ‘fish & chip paper’.)

Meaty stuff in all those for possible future blog debates. Who knows? We might both even be surprised at some shared views on some of them.

If PG’s happy to accommodate me, & I get some time & headspace for it, I might have a go over the next few days or weeks at knocking up some posts on some of those topics, to see what others have to say about the unavoidable sub-issues they raise.

Or perhaps even you might like to? Your writing’s certainly up to it.

No one here seriously expects literary or journalistic excellence.

PG’s frequently said he’s willing to host guest posts, but very few contributors have shown the gonads or commitment to do substantive posts, preferring instead to just pop a comment here and there into Open Forums that sometimes get overly long & convoluted, broken up & peppered with unrelated discussions; to just post links to where others have done their thinking for them; or some to just snipe occasional riddles or BB rounds they think are RPGs from the sidelines & then run away again.

You or anyone else can either email guest posts to him, or post a substantial (not necessarily long) <i>Comment</i> in Open Forum & he can lift it & turn it into a post – either off his own bat, or in response to a timely email – as he’s done with many of Missy’s “London Correspondent” reports- & occasionally with others’ hoped-for thought-provoking efforts.

The guy virtually has to carry this small but mighty blog on his own. I dunno how on earth he does it, day after day, year after year. I couldn’t find the energy. He’s something special in that respect.

But I reckon we regulars who take advantage of his hospitality & generosity could do more to contribute post contributions & make YNZ broader & discussions more focussed. There are some good thinkers here. They influence my own views & I welcome their contributions as I’ll never have all the answers & nearly always mull over new information or cogent arguments. We probably all should.”

Ardern now proposing a four day working week

On Tuesday the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern proposed having more public holidays to help promote internal tourism to aid recovery from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was criticised, including by NZ First – see Extra public holiday proposal squashed by NZ First.

Yesterday Ardern upped the ante, suggesting changing to a four day working week to help boost retail recovery.

NZ Herald:  Jacinda Ardern floats four-day working week as part of recovery

New Zealand is considering introducing a four-day working week to help boost domestic tourism, productivity and employment after the Covid-19 crisis battered the economy.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flagged the idea of using the shorter working week and additional public holidays as part of a “nimble” and creative approach to resuscitating the economy.

Ardern pointed out the pandemic had taught the country much about productivity as workers adjusted to lockdown.

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day work week,” she said.

“Ultimately, that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that,” Ardern said.

“Think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace, because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”

This suggests the Government isn’t considering making a four day week mandatory, but more that companies could consider it.

The issue was raised in January: Government holds back support for four-day working week

The four-day week has been promoted in New Zealand by Perpetual Guardian, which found that it boosted productivity among its staff by 20 per cent.

Finland’s new Prime Minister Sanna Marin has reportedly called for the introduction of a flexible working schedule that would involve a four-day-week and six-hour working day.

Charlotte Lockhart, chief executive of 4 Day Week, the company set up to publicise the concept, said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should follow Marin’s lead.

Legislating for a four-day week would be difficult, she said, because of the variables involved.

But Ardern could make a significant difference by indicating her support. “It would be great if she made even a public statement … to come out and say there’s real merit in this and we’d like to engage in the process.”

There was widespread support for the idea around the world, she said.

For some businesses it may boost productivity and cut costs, but for other businesses it would likely reduce custom, for example in hospitality, tourism and retail, who tend to operate seven day weeks.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson said it was not part of the Government’s work programme.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government supported workers and businesses working together to make their workplaces more flexible.

Ardern is now suggesting that companies consider four day weeks and more working from home, but there’s no sign of the Government making it compulsory.

Some employees are already on four day weeks anyway due to a reduction in hours (and pay) due to Covid.

Website: 4 day week

Could be heading towards a Grand Solar Minimum but not an ice age

The last relatively low energy 11 year solar cycle, according to some scientists, suggests the planet could be heading for a Grand Solar Minimum. The last time this happened over three hundred years ago Earth experienced the Little Ice Age, but even if we do experience a Grand Solar Minimum it ios thought that global warming will more than compensate, so no ice age is expected.

NASA Climate Blog: There Is No Impending ‘Mini Ice Age’

There is no impending “ice age” or “mini ice age” to be caused by an expected reduction in the Sun’s energy output in the next several decades.

Through its lifetime, the Sun naturally goes through changes in energy output. Some of these occur over a regular 11-year period of peak (many sunspots) and low activity (fewer sunspots), which are quite predictable.

temperature vs solar activity

The above graph compares global surface temperature changes (red line) and the Sun’s energy that Earth receives (yellow line) in watts (units of energy) per square meter since 1880. The lighter/thinner lines show the yearly levels while the heavier/thicker lines show the 11-year average trends.

But every so often, the Sun becomes quieter, experiencing much fewer sunspots and giving off less energy. This is called a “Grand Solar Minimum,” and the last time this happened, it coincided with a period called the “Little Ice Age” (a period of extremely low solar activity from approximately AD 1650 to 1715 in the Northern Hemisphere, when a combination of cooling from volcanic aerosols and low solar activity produced lower surface temperatures).

Some scientists have suggested that the relatively small magnitude of the last solar cycle (SC 24) presages a new Grand Solar Minimum in the next few decades.

grand solar minimum on timeline

In terms of climate forcing – a factor that could push the climate in a particular direction – solar scientists estimate it would be about -0.1 W/m2, the same impact of about three years of current carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration growth.

Thus, a new Grand Solar Minimum would only serve to offset a few years of warming caused by human activities.

What does this mean? The warming caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from the human burning of fossil fuels is six times greater than the possible decades-long cooling from a prolonged Grand Solar Minimum.

Even if a Grand Solar Minimum were to last a century, global temperatures would continue to warm. Because more factors than just variations in the Sun’s output change global temperatures on Earth, the most dominant of those today being the warming coming from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

So it would only impact slightly on the current rate of warming.

We’ve just had five consecutive mornings of light frosts here in Dunedin, which is a bit unusual compared to the last few years where winters have been milder and frosts have been uncommon even in June/July, but this has nothing to do with the grand scheme of things, it’s just a minor variation in the current living level.

 

Peters claims he now knows who leaked his Super overpayment but is appealing something else

Winston Peters took a number of people to court claiming they may have leaked details about his Superannuation overpayment, but he failed to prove who had actually leaked to media.

He now claims he knows who did it, but unless he can show that the court decision was wrong based on the information it had, I don’t think he can have another crack at it, unless he targets different people.

But Peters has a record of making accusations without fronting up with evidence, so this could be a bit of an attention seeking stunt.

Stuff: Winston Peters pursues court action, claims he knows who leaked pension details

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters claims he knows who leaked his pension details and is pursuing court action “for all people who have had their privacy breached.”

In 2017, weeks before the general election, information showing Peters’ superannuation had been overpaid for seven years was leaked to the media.

Last year, Peters appeared before the High Court in Auckland, suing the Attorney-General on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development, the ministry’s chief executive, the States Services Commissioner and former National Party ministers Anne Tolley and Paula Bennet, alleging his privacy was breached.

The court said ruled it could not pinpoint the source of the leak, and dismissed Peters’ claims for damages and declarations.

When he released his judgement last month, High Court Justice Geoffrey Venning said Peters’ information should not have been disclosed to the media, and Peters had a reasonable expectation that it would be kept quiet.

“This was a deliberate breach of his privacy with the intention of publicly embarrassing him and causing him harm,” the judgment read.

It stated that if Peters identified who disclosed the information, damages in the region of $75,000 to $100,000 in total “might have been appropriate.”

Peters has ruled out Bennett and Tolley.

In November, Peters acknowledged neither Tolley nor Bennett were the source of the leak.

I wonder if this is deliberately timed to coincide with National’s current leadership challenges.

His statement begins oddly, with:

“I am not persisting with this case just for myself, but for all people who have had their privacy breached.

Privacy of information is a cornerstone of our country’s democracy. Without it our society truly faces a bleak future.

We now know who the leak is.

But he doesn’t actually say what he is going to do in his statement.

However news reports say he is appealing the High Court decision. He said that proving who leaked was ‘impossible’ but he now claims to know who it was. He also says he was told be ‘media’.

He says he is appealing the law. He says the identity of the leaker is not being tested in court.

I’m very confused.

“I’m appealing the application of the law”.

Asked about having proof of who leaked but again he says that has no relevance in this situation, but he reiterates he knows who the leaker is but can’t name them.

 

Last legs of leadership for Bridges

Talk of changing the Leader of the Opposition is not uncommon, especially by political opponents trying to stir, but after another very poor poll result for himself and for National it looks like the last legs of leadership for Simon Bridges.

In fact bridges says he knows of two challengers and the National leadership will be put to the test by next Tuesday at the latest (when the next caucus meeting is scheduled).

I don’t think National can afford to let it drag out that long.

Poll support has been turned badly against National, They started the year with two good results (RR 43.3% and CB 46%) but a leaked UMR polls this year have gone 38%, 35% to 29% last month (with Labour up to 55%).

And polling last week by Newshub/Reid Research matched this with National on 30.6% (Labour 56.5).

And while in ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ Bridges had been creeping up to 11% in February, UMR had him down to 7% lst month and RR has him on 4.5%.

The performance of bridges through the Covid crisis has been sometimes ok-ish but was often criticised for being out of touch. He also has a problem with his presentation. He often appears to be negative and whiny, and there is no easy fix to that.

there is now open support of an alternative leader from ex-Prime Minister and National leader Jim Bolger: Former PM Jim Bolger backs Todd Muller for next National leader

Bolger told RNZ’s Checkpoint that MP Todd Muller had the attributes to be National’s next leader.

Muller, who worked in Bolger’s office when he was Prime Minister, is understood to have the numbers to roll Simon Bridges, should its caucus make that decision when it meets next Tuesday.

Bolger said he was sure the National caucus was doing a lot of “soul-searching” as it tried to determine the way ahead.

I’m sure some of the National caucus will have informed Bolger of that. Him going public is an ominous sign for Bridges.

And after being defiant following Monday’s poll Bridges now concedes he has challengers. Newshub: MPs will challenge for National Party leadership, Simon Bridges confirms

“There is a focus on the leadership of the National Party. I understand that two of my colleagues will challenge, want to and seek to challenge, Paula Bennett and I for the leadership and the deputy leadership of the National Party,” he told The AM Show.

He refused to name the two colleagues, how he came to know of the challenge, if he had spoken to the MPs, or when they will announce their run for the top jobs.

“I think it is for them to state their leadership intentions. I want to give them the dignity of being able to make their statements,” Bridges said.

Bridges called for the issue to be resolved quickly so the focus can get back on Kiwis. He said he will put his leadership to the test by Tuesday at the latest.

“I am very confident that I will win, but I do want to put it to the test as I say, so we can quickly resolve this and get back to the things that matters for New Zealanders.

When a leader in a weak and weakening position concedes he has challengers it looks like he is toast.

National’s pollster David Farrar as good as confirms the leadership challenge at Kiwiblog: National’s leadership

As with any major political event I will cover it on Kiwiblog, but as has been my long standing practice I won’t share my opinions on what I think Caucus should do… (because he works for the party and because he knowns many MPs very well).

My only advice to National is to not let things fester.


Todd Muller looks the most likely replacement. He has been MP for Bay of Plenty since 2014, and while not well known has done a lot of work on National’s climate change policy, which largely supports what the Government is doing.

He has a healthy majority, getting more than double the votes of his Labour challenger last election.

Judith Collins is another likely challenger, but the ongoing word is she doesn’t have a lot of support among National MPs. Cameron Slater has stopped openly promoting her. All National MPs seem to have distanced themselves from Slater (he switched to promoting Winston Peters three years ago and that appears to be his current agenda) but the taint remains for Collins. Salter keeps dumping on just about everyone else in National.


I was going to post about Stuff giving Bridges some free self promotion – Simon Bridges: Five things we need to do to get New Zealand working after Covid-19 – but that seems to be a last gasp now.


Bridges is being interviewed on NZ now. He starts by diverting to ‘focussing on the issues of the day’.

But he is refocussed quickly and he concedes what has been reported already without naming the challengers.

He switches to electioneering again but is refocussed again. He says he is very confident he and Paula Bennett have the numbers, but they all say that.

He claims he has an ‘overwhelming majority’ support.

He says he isn’t surprised by the polls when asked about Colmar Brunton who is polling right now (to be published tomorrow apparently) and in the current circumstances that is unlikely to help Bridges.


Judith Collins has ruled out challenging.

All the word is that Todd Muller is challenging with Nikki Kaye deputy (the two people are a single ticket).

 

New Zealand situation looks promising as life returns to some normality

New Zealanders have enjoyed getting out and about more under the far less restrictive Level 2, and our Covid stats look very promising for now.

There are just 45 active cases in the country.

Most parts of the country have had no new cases of Covid for some time. The Southern DHB (Otago and Southland) had the most cases a month ago but have had no new cases for 4 weeks – that’s regarded as two full cycles of the virus. There is just one remaining active case.

Total cases by DHB, as at 9.00 am, 17 May 2020
DHB Active Recovered Deceased Total Change in last 24 hours
Auckland 4 174 178 0
Bay of Plenty 0 47 47 0
Canterbury 6 146 12 164 1
Capital and Coast 0 93 2 95 0
Counties Manukau 3 124 127 0
Hawke’s Bay 5 39 44 0
Hutt Valley 0 20 20 0
Lakes 0 16 16 0
Mid Central 1 31 32 0
Nelson Marlborough 1 48 49 0
Northland 0 28 28 0
South Canterbury 0 17 17 0
Southern 1 213 2 216 0
Tairāwhiti 0 4 4 0
Taranaki 0 16 16 0
Waikato 6 181 1 188 0
Wairarapa 0 8 8 0
Waitematā 18 215 3 236 0
West Coast 0 4 1 5 0
Whanganui 0 9 9 0
Total 45 1,433 21 1,499 1

This looks very promising for getting our lives back to normal within the country, but international travel looks a long way off. Limited border easing, for example to Australia, has been suggested but doesn’t look like happening soon.

Cell site attacks

There have been 14 attempted attacks on cell phone towers over the last six weeks, most of them in Auckland and some of them successfully disabling communications at a time that remote communication was all that people had under lockdown.

This is thought to be related to anti-5G conspiracies.

Newsroom:  Auckland may lose reception as cell tower sabotage continues

There have been 14 attempted arson attacks carried out against cell towers and other mobile network infrastructure in the past six weeks.

Of these, 10 have occurred in Auckland, the Telecommunications Forum (TCF) has said in a statement.

Vandalism began in early April, coinciding with a massive uptick in the popularity of false 5G-related conspiracy theories, including one that wrongly attributes blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the wireless technology. Newsroom understands that none of the towers targeted in recent attacks are 5G-related.

“These attacks are infuriating and can have real connectivity impacts for New Zealanders – meaning people could have reduced mobile phone and internet coverage in an area with a damaged cell site, which is a real issue particularly in South Auckland. While we’ve been able to keep customers connected so far, each attack has a cumulative negative impact,” said Tony Baird, Vodafone NZ’s wholesale and infrastructure director.

“This is senseless activity and sadly, the greatest damage it causes is to the local homes and businesses who are having their technology cut off at a time when they need it most,” said Martin Sharrock, chief technology officer for 2degrees.

“Attacks on critical infrastructure are inexcusable at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. A disruption to mobile connectivity can put New Zealanders at risk by cutting off access to critical services like 111, we encourage anyone who sees suspicious activity near a cell tower to contact police or crime stoppers,” Mark Beder, Spark NZ’s technology director, said.

The nutters seem to have had some success spreading conspiracy stories.

NZ Compare, a consumer advice and transparency firm, released a survey in December that found 46 percent of Kiwis are concerned that 5G might affect human health and a third were worried about its impact on animals and plants. Such worries are unfounded, according to scientific experts, but the movement opposing 5G is surprisingly widespread, as Newsroom reported in October.

Anti-5G protesters are concerned the technology could kill bees or give humans cancer, but the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor has launched a new website to dispel these myths.

“The radio waves used for 5G have frequencies that are ten thousand times too low to damage molecules,” the website states.

“Radio waves can heat our body if we are over-exposed to them. However, these effects can only occur when exposed directly to a very powerful source so that the heat builds up enough to damage tissue before it dissipates. 5G sources are simply not powerful enough to cause damage in this way.

That may assure some people but the nutters are unlikely to be swayed by facts or by science.

As people increasingly use mobile phones as their own means of making phone calls it raises risks of not being able to call emergency services due to disabled phone towers – there’s much more risk to life because of that than of too much radio waves.

Dunedin attempting to fast-track CBD car deterrence

The Dunedin City Council has had plans to make the main street in the CBD (George Street) more pedestrian friendly and less useful for cars. They are trying to fast-track this citing Covid-19 as a justification.

However trying to establish a pedestrian dominated street heading into winter seems risky for the success of the plan and for businesses desperate

They have already trialed a car-free area including and around the Octagon in February. This was controversial and heavily criticised by some businesses who claimed big drops in trade.

And the current plan to rush into a major change is being opposed and delayed.

The council were going to vote on whether to go ahead with the changes yesterday – on Monday the Chamber of Commerce and businesses hadn’t even been consulted, but it appears council plans were already under way.

ODT on Wednesday: DCC response plan lambasted

A plan to support local retail and hospitality businesses through Covid-19 Alert Level 2 has been panned by members of the Dunedin business community.

The Dunedin City Council’s proposal is touted in council documents as an effort to encourage people to return to shopping areas and includes a temporary 10kmh speed limit in George and Princes Sts, the installation of temporary speed bumps, and increasing the frequency of Barnes dance crossings.

The proposal was called ‘‘disgusting’’, ‘‘pedestrianisation jammed down people’s throats’’, and an ideologically driven change that ‘‘could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many businesses’’ by a series of business representatives yesterday.

The ‘‘Safer CBD Streets – Covid-19 response’’ plan, which will be considered at tomorrow’s planning and environment committee, was mooted by Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins at the May 4 council meeting.

Yesterday he rejected the notion that the plan represented a major change to the area; that there was only one viewpoint representative of the entire business community; and that the proposal was an example of pedestrianisation.

‘‘Yes, it’s about bringing people to the city centre but it’s about making people feel comfortable that they can return to that part of town and be able to maintain safe physical distance from one another,’’ he said.

‘‘This is about trying to support both customers and retailers to operate in an unusual environment for however long — we don’t know.’’

At a time of unprecedented business turmoil it seems unwise to push through an idealist experiment.

He conceded there had been a trade-off between bringing a plan forward in time for the move to Level 2 and a higher level of consultation, but said another survey was sent out last night to seek views of businesses and building owners in the city centre.

Seems like very little consultation. ‘Another survey’ a day before the council was going to vote seems extraordinary.

The Otago Chamber of Commerce had not been consulted on the proposal and chief executive Dougal McGowan said he had not seen the details until Monday night.

The details had surprised members, and concerns the business community had not had the opportunity to be consulted ‘‘in a timely and effective way’’ in order to have changes ready for the first day out of lockdown was a theme in the feedback he received yesterday.

Heart of Dunedin spokeswoman Nina Rivett said the central business district advocacy group opposed reducing traffic flow and called for at least 12 months for businesses to regain resilience and try to attract people back into the city centre.

Radical change now ‘‘could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many businesses’’.

The vote has been delayed, but just by one day – Traffic changes vote held back

The debate and decision on a contentious 10kmh speed limit through Dunedin’s city centre was delayed yesterday until this morning.

After a one-hour public forum Dunedin city councillors voted 9-6 to delay a decision on the Dunedin City Council’s George St roading plan, “Safer CBD Streets-Covid-19 response”, which includes a raft of health and safety measures, also designed to assist businesses, including temporary wider footpaths, 10kmh speed limits, speed bumps, and increased waits at traffic lights.

The delay would allow George St property owner Cr Jules Radich to seek legal advice over his participation in the debate.

Counsel for the council Michael Garbutt said the office of the auditor-general had confirmed Cr Radich had a pecuniary interest in relation to George St for deliberations in the annual plan.

He believed it also would preclude Cr Radich from participating in yesterday’s planned debate.

That would mean one vote less against the rushed changes.

During the public forum, Generation Zero presenters Jenny Coatham and Lydia Le Gros asked for councillors to consider taking advantage of the NZ Transport Agency’s innovating streets for people pilot fund for both the long-term and the temporary project.

The fear that the proposed temporary changes in the proposal were “the first step” towards pedstrianising the street were voiced by AA Otago district council chairman Malcolm Budd yesterday.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan asked whether allowing retailers to expand on to footpaths might add to the congestion on footpaths and what other measures to allow for physical distancing had been considered for footpaths.

Generation Zero and a Green mayor versus the business community.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said there were more than 70 speed limit signs ready to put in place from yesterday afternoon, as well as “many, many, many” circles to be painted on the road with the Dunedin logo on them “that would remind people that the road space is ‘cars and cycles and scooters and pedestrians’.”

It looks like the council expected to go ahead regardless of consultation and voting.

The Dunedin CBD could be heading into a winter of discontent.

Budget – big numbers but little vision?

The 2020 budget has unusually big spending numbers due to trying to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic crisis. Current New Zealand debt is about 20% of GDP, the budget would over double that to 50% with a reduction back to 40% forecast over the next ten years, so the target is double the relative debt.

But the budget has been slammed as lacking in vision, with a big chunk of money earmarked but not yet committed to anything in particular.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Robertson’s huge numbers fit the Covid-19 moment

The $50 billion figure tacked to the centrepiece Covid Response and Recovery Fund is in some respects a case of magic with numbers.

Nearly $14b of that had already been spent, with a further $16b laid out in the day’s Budget.

Importantly, that leaves nearly $20b of fiscal headroom for further announcements in the months leading up to the election.

Government staffers were quick to state the $50b number was a cap rather than a target, but Robertson undermined that somewhat by saying it would almost certainly be spent within the next few years.

There were still some striking omissions, however. It was little surprise the Green Party came under pressure from supporters for a lack of policy and funding wins.

…Indeed, Bridges’ canned line that the Government was “turning a $50b problem into a $140b problem” seemed underpinned by the roughly $50b of extra borrowing the last National government took out to cover the costs of the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes.

Bridges is gambling that voters’ historic concerns about debt levels will outweigh their desire for sweeping support – Kiwis faced a “tsunami of debt”, as he put it.

But Robertson’s statement that the country faced a 1-in-100 year global shock, forcing drastic measures, seemed more closely aligned to the national (and global) mood.

Ananish Chaudhuri (Newsroom): Budget’s worrying debt-to-GDP red flags

First, the prediction that nominal GDP is poised to fall by 4.6 percent this year and more the following year before starting to grow again. Unemployment is tipped to grow to nearly 10 percent. These are pretty dramatic. This is worse than the recession that followed the global financial crisis, when real GDP declined by 2.2 percent and the unemployment rate peaked at 6.9 percent.

What is even more striking is the prediction that by 2023, debt will be more than 50 percent of GDP. I am assuming this is public debt and does not account for private debt. I am by no means a deficit hawk, but this level of debt-to-GDP ratio poses risks for most nations, let alone a small island nation very much dependent on global economic trends.

This level of borrowing will certainly put upward pressure on real interest and exchange rates and counter-act to an extent RBNZ’s quantitative easing efforts. The net effect is anyone’s guess since a lot of it will also depend on what is happening to rates in other countries.

Overall, the budget much as expected but with some significant red flags in terms of the steeply increasing debt-to-GDP ratio.

Bryce Edwards (RNZ): A Budget with big numbers, but little vision

It’s a politically-astute Budget, but anyone looking for big transformative change will be underwhelmed by Grant Robertson’s Budget 2020, according to Bryce Edwards of Victoria University of Wellington.

Politically astute as in good for this year’s election campaign? Big handouts claimed by each of Labour, NZ First and Greens, with a lot more available to be announced before September.

Elements of the Budget that will be praised include the free trades training scheme, expansions to welfare programmes such as Food in Schools, and the significant increase in social housing.

Expectations of welfare and tax reforms were not met. The Wage Subsidy Scheme is rolled over, albeit with much more targeting. This continues the trickle-down approach of hoping that the provision of money to the private sector will flow through to workers who will keep their jobs. Noticeably, there has been no increase in income support.

Generally, even though the government is now spending much more money, the size of the state isn’t actually getting much bigger. For example, there’s a big focus on job creation, but not through a heavy state role.

Perhaps the most interesting element of the Budget is the $20bn of unallocated spending as part of the Response and Recovery Fund, which the government is keeping aside to make spending decisions on in the weeks and months to follow. Some will call this a slush fund, which is probably unfair in a crisis with no end in sight, where not all spending can yet be determined.

It will depend to an extent to how extra spending is announced and what it is used for heading towards the election. Greens have already been promoting the campaign benefits of what spending they say they have initiated.

Max Rashbrooke: Robertson goes for repair, not rebuild

Crises can be an opportunity for sweeping change. Many people, especially but not only on the left, have decided that the coronavirus’s economic shock, alongside pre-existing problems of environmental degradation and widespread poverty, is the perfect platform for transforming their society and their economy.

The Budget does spend extraordinary sums: $50 billion for the Covid-19 rescue fund, against the normal Budget allocation of a few billion dollars extra. But that spending goes largely into propping up existing businesses – $3.2b for extending the wage subsidy – or into existing structures, as with the extra $3.9b for health.

There are some small green (or indeed Green) shoots of transformational change. Free trades training, in construction and related areas, for two years. An extra $1.2b for rail, which could be part of a transition to a low-carbon way to live. A $1.1b for a green jobs fund designed to employ 11,000 people restoring wetlands and planting trees beside rivers. A further $20b of the rescue fund still to be allocated, of which $3b is for infrastructure.

Mostly, though, this is a measured budget.

This relative caution has several explanations. New Zealand First is understood to oppose many of the sweeping changes the Greens and Labour would like to see. Scaling up programmes is also not as easy as people think.

Stuff: Budget 2020 winners and losers

Winners:

  • Workers
  • The film industry
  • Education
  • Health
  • Transport
  • Public Housing
  • Māori
  • Corrections

Losers:

  • Debt
  • .Hospitality and Tourism (somewhat)
  • Beneficiaries
  • Media
  • Climate change
  • Police

The lack of much for beneficiaries and climate change have been particularly disappointing for the left (which is more Green territory).

Stuff (editorial): Government’s Budget a plan to navigate Covid-19

The Government has laid out its plan for getting the economy back on its feet, coupled with an assurance the country will get through the tough months ahead.

Whether it’s done enough to reassure the public will not be fully known until September’s general election.

Stuff: Parties look to nab wins from $20b ahead of election

A $50 billion Covid-19 rescue package poured out of the Crown coffers yesterday when the government revealed its rebuild plan – but it is the $20b blank cheque that has got the Opposition crying foul.

With just four months and four days until the election, the National Party has labelled it a slush fund for election bribes.

The campaign has unofficially kicked off and even New Zealand First and the Greens started singing from their own songsheets within hours of the Minister of Finance delivering his election-year Budget.

Greens seem to have used the budget to kick off their election campaign (via email):

We have now officially kicked off our Green Reset from the COVID-19 crisis with the release of Budget 2020. We’ve secured massive investment in Green initiatives which will create thousands of jobs while improving life for people and protecting the natural environment.

Voters will decide for themselves whether the Covid-19 pandemic gets sufficient priority over policy opportunism and cynical campaign boosting. It hasn’t helped that Green leaners seem to have been underwhelmed by the budget.

Perhaps there has been some big vision 0 as far as the election and means of Government and political survival.

NZME versus Stuff gets messier, heading to court

Media have been increasingly under pressure over the past decade due to loss of revenue, with a lot of advertising being siphoned off by international Internet companies such as Google and Facebook.

An application for approval for a merger between the two largest New Zealand media companies, NZME and Stuff (Fairfax), was declined by the Commerce Commission in 2017 – details here.

Last year (November 2019) NZME tried again – StuffMe is back, but will the Commerce Commission play ball?

News that NZME has initiated a second attempt to acquire Stuff, after its first was shot down by the Commerce Commission and the Court of Appeal last year, underlines the exacting position the modern media finds itself in.

It’s been clear for some time that the media industry is in trouble. It’s also clear that the media and competition regulators have been even slower than the companies they regulate to fully appreciate the scale and scope of the change.

When the Stuff-NZMEmerger was first rejected by the Commerce Commission, it said that the synergy benefits of between $40 million and $200m a year did not outweigh the loss of a “plurality” of voices and quality in the news media.

Those questions look to be set to rest by a new proposal that would ring fence the editorial operations of the two companies, keeping them independent and competitive, whilst taking advantage of backroom synergies.

This means we could be headed back to the Commerce Commission, which is under new leadership after Mark Berry, the previous chairman, left last year.

Stuff (December 2019): Minister won’t intervene with regulator over media merger, but deal could help

Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi won’t intervene to encourage or advise the Commerce Commission to look again at the case for allowing NZME and Stuff to merge, a spokesman for the minister says.

However, he said the Government could look at a “Kiwi Share” undertaking floated by NZME that would commit the company to maintain certain, unnamed mastheads and “protect journalists’ jobs” if a takeover was allowed.

With the added pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic the possibility of a merger came up again but it has become very messy.

RNZ (11 May): NZME makes offer to buy rival Stuff for $1

NZME is insisting a deal for it to purchase media rival Stuff is still on the cards, despite Stuff’s owner saying it has wrapped up talks with no deal.

NZME said this morning it was asking the government to allow it to buy Stuff for a nominal $1.

Stuff’s owner, Australia’s Nine Entertainment, responded that it had terminated talks with NZME over a purchase plan last week and no deal was in place.

In the latest twist, NZME has since told the NZX that it believed it was still in a “binding exclusive negotiation period with Nine and does not accept that exclusivity has been validly terminated.”

NZ Herald (14 May): NZME seeks interim injunction against Stuff-owner Nine Entertainment

NZME’s bid to buy rival Stuff is heading to the High Court as it locks horns with Stuff’s Australian owner amid an increasingly bitter process.

NZME – owner of the NZ Herald – has applied to the High Court at Auckland for an interim injunction against ASX-listed Nine Entertainment to enforce exclusive takeover negotiations.

The move follows an exchange of statements earlier this week after NZME filed an urgent Commerce Commission application to purchase Nine’s New Zealand media assets for a nominal sum of $1.

Nine responded with a statement saying the parties had withdrawn from the bid last week and had terminated talks.

NZME hit back, saying it still had exclusivity and is now taking legal action to enforce it.
A hearing on the interim injunction is set down for tomorrow.

In a statement to the Herald, an NZME spokesman said the company did not accept that exclusivity had been validly terminated.

“NZME has filed an application for an interim injunction against Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Limited seeking orders to enforce this binding agreement entered into between NZME and Nine on 23 April 2020.”

NZME has spent the best part of five years attempting to buy Stuff but has previously been declined Commerce Commission clearance.

It says the media landscape has been so wildly impacted by Covid-19 and foreign digital giants such as Facebook and Google that it is the best owner in order to save newspapers and journalism jobs.

“NZME’s proposed acquisition of Stuff is important to the continued operation of a robust fourth estate and plurality of voice in this country,” NZME told the NZX on Monday.

NZME and Stuff own most of New Zealand’s daily metropolitan and regional mastheads. As well as the NZ Herald, NZME owns the Northern Advocate, Bay of Plenty Times, Hawke’s Bay Today, Rotorua Daily Post and Whanganui Chronicle.

Stuff’s stable includes the Sunday Star-Times, The Press in Christchurch and the Dominion Post in Wellington.

Stuff (14 May): Proposed media merger turns septic as NZME seeks injunction in bid to buy Stuff

Auckland media company NZME has gone to the High Court to seek an injunction forcing Stuff’s Australian owner Nine not to turn its back on negotiations to sell Stuff to NZME.

NZME said on Thursday it had filed an application for an interim injunction against Nine “seeking orders to enforce this binding agreement entered into between NZME and Nine on 23 April 2020”.

The injunction hearing is due to take place at Auckland High Court on Friday.

Sounds very messy, and expensive for companies that are struggling to survive.

A strong and diverse media is an essential in a healthy democracy, so this is not looking good.