On ‘The Whale’s model’

Danyl at The Dim-Post has posted on The Whale’s model.

You’ve got to give Cameron Slater credit – he is/was an innovator in the media space, creating a new and unique business model I think of as ‘defamation PR’. Lobbyists like Carrick Graham, Katherine Rich and who knows who else could collaborate with him to defame public health researchers doing work critical of their employers. No one else figured out how to monetise blogging in New Zealand.

This sort of monetising of blogging (or use of attack blogging by anonymous PR people) was already already known about but got substantial exposure in Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics.

Unfounded and defamatory attacks by bloggers and is a serious issue, I know well as I’ve been on the receiving end from the likes of Slater and Lauda Finem.

I’m dubious about the benefits of taking defamation action due to the cost and the timeframe let alone the effectiveness, and some people seem to take advantage of this by attacking people due to the low risk of defamation action, like Slater.

And Slater is practiced at dragging things out. He has admitted misusing court processes to inflict costs on people or organisations (he openly admitted this  when trying to play down losing a bid to keep suppression on the case he got diversion on after he admitted attempting to procure a hack of The Standard).

But I can understand people getting fed up with his ongoing and at times over the top attacks with highly questionable motives behind them.

Slater is acting gung ho over the latest defamation action against him but on top of two others it will continue to wear him down.

He claims to be simply holding health researchers to account, but an interesting point was made on this in comments at Dim-Post, comparing Slater’s attacks with Eric Crampton’s critiques.


Whether you like it or not, Slater raises a valid point about “public health advocates” that are basically funded by the state and their zealous advocacy against “the sugar barons” against any other causes of why people get fat. How dare someone who gets tax payers money get questioned!


So much public health stuff that gets into the media are examples of the worst of social science, vast claims for at best modest results. Eric Crampton is very good on applying some very basic scrutiny to their claims.

Flashing Light:

“How dare someone who gets tax payers money get questioned!”

Are the researchers suing Eric Crampton for defamation? No? Then you see the difference between legitimately “questioning” research claims/policy advice and what Slater did, right?

This new defamation action may highlight the difference between Crampton style scrutiny, questioning and holding to account, which tends to be fact based, and Slater style attacks that may be funded by anonymous PR people like Carrick Graham, which has at times in the past aimed nastily at the people rather than giving counter arguments to the issues.

Eric Crampton posts at Offsetting Behaviour.

Cameron Slater (and allegedly Carrick Graham) post at Whale Oil.

Slater has posted on the new defamation action in Defamation? They’ll need to get in line where he got a wee warning in comments:

Unfortunately the ‘other side’s’ lawyers supported by judges take a very dim view of defendants posting claim and associated documents on the internet for the world to see and if appropriate to laugh at.

However Slater can be deaf to good advice.

I suspect it is being privately funded, I suspect a couple of people actually, which will make for interesting reading when that comes to light.


Truth and honest held opinion. The opinion one is fascinating. You can be completely wrong, but escape defamation if you believed what you said at the time was true based on the evidence you held.

But mostly the burden of proof in defamation rests with the defence, it is the reverse of criminal cases. Many plaintiffs forget this, and think they are going to run this long involved “prosecution” only to find out that defamation doesn’t work that way.

And in his post:

The Three Troughketeers have stated they won’t say another word about it until the case has completed. I won’t make such an unrealistic commitment. And I will continue to monitor and report on their public communications and spending while the case is before the courts. If they were hoping for their legal action to result in silence, they can chalk that up as their first strategic error.

However it’s on record that Slater does not have a good record in court actions. Nor on not being silent.

The Whale’s model is floundering somewhat.


Minimum wage and social welfare

Last week the Government announced that New Zealand’s minimum wage would increase 50 cents to $15.25 per hour on 1 April (2016).

The starting-out and training hourly minimum wages rates will increase from $11.80 to $12.20 per hour. It is set at 80% of the minimum wage.

“An increase to $15.25 per hour will directly benefit approximately 152,700 workers and will increase wages throughout the economy by $75 million per year.

For a 40 hour week that works out at $610. Annually it is $31,720.

“With annual inflation currently at 0.1 per cent, an increase to the minimum wage by 3.4 per cent gives our lowest paid workers more money in their pocket, without imposing undue pressure on businesses or hindering job growth.

“The Government has increased the minimum wage every year since coming to office, from $12 to $15.25. This is an overall increase of 27% compared to inflation of around 11%.”

New Zealand was the first country to set a minimum wage, in 1894. Relatively we have one of the highest minimum wages in the world. The current Australian minimum wage is higher at A$17.29, but is as low as US$7.25 in the USA (it varies state to state).

Yesterday Radio NZ had a debate on at How high should the minimum wage be set? (link to audio there).

Eric Crampton, who is an economist and the director of the New Zealand Initiative…

…said among developed countries New Zealand already had the highest minimum wage in relation to the average wage.

Mr Crampton said it was unreasonable to set the minimum wage high enough for people to live off it without any subsidy.

“I don’t think that there is any problem that is solved by the minimum wage that is not better solved through things like wage subsidies and Working for Families,” he said.

The minimum wage was poorly targeted and welfare systems were better placed to support lower-income workers, he said.

“We should look at where the burden of supporting lower productivity or lower income workers should fall,” he said.

“Should it fall on the employers and customers of firms that supply goods and services that are produced by lower income workers? Or should it fall on the tax base more broadly?

“We’ve got a tax system that’s progressive – it tries to spread the burden to where it can be afforded. When we instead put that burden onto employers of lower productivity workers, we knock them out of work.”

Former MP Laila Harré, now the co-owner of a living-wage restaurant…

…said full-time workers should not need to rely on government handouts.

“If people go to work, one should expect to learn a living from that job,” Ms Harré said.

“We have many non-viable businesses keeping themselves viable by surviving on these incredibly low rates of pay, [and] often extraordinarily dangerous working conditions.”

University of Auckland economics professor Tim Hazledine…

…said businesses generally had a great degree of ingenuity to adjust to change.

New Zealanders had a social and cultural expectation that adults should go to work and receive a living wage, he said – and the economy could adjust to that.

The Living age Movement Aotearoa New Zealand increased their suggested minimum to $19.80.

The Movement calls on Government, employers and society as a whole to strive for a Living Wage as a necessary step in reducing inequality and poverty in our society.

Striving for a ‘living wage’ is fine. Whether a much higher minimum should be imposed is debatable.

A problem with a set ‘living wage’ is that one size doesn’t fit all workers.

And if it is set too high then some businesses (and jobs) may not be viable, so the risk is that it would result in higher unemployment and make it more difficult for low skilled and especially young people to get jobs.

New Zealand also has an extensive and increasingly complex social welfare system that supports the unemployed and the unemployable, and also substantially subsidises many low paid (and not so low paid) workers through Working for Families.

Working for Families on it’s own is complicated enough with four types of payments:

  • family tax credit
  • in-work tax credit
  • minimum family tax credit
  • parental tax credit.

As well as that Accommodation Supplements are available and their are subsidies available for pre-school and out-of-school care.

Few would argue over having a minimum wage, although the level will always be debatable.

A higher ‘living wage’ is much more questionable except as an aspiration.

Both broad and targeted social welfare to some extent is expected in a modern society but the levels and availability will always be up for debate.

One problem is that social welfare tack-ons make it increasingly complex, at risk of being in inefficient use of taxpayer resources.

Some call for a Universal Basic Income (UBI):

An unconditional basic income (also called basic income, basic income guarantee, universal basic income, universal demogrant, or citizen’s income) is a form of social security system in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.

A UBI may simplify things but would be difficult to transition to if it meant (as it would probably have to) that some people would get less than they do now, unless it was encumbered with supplemental assistance.

It’s easy to tack on increases, but reducing benefits and subsidies when people have adjusted to and become reliant on current income and welfare levels is tricky and risky.

Some sort of overhaul and simplification of our wage and welfare systems has some merit but would be very difficult to implement unless the country suddenly became rich enough to pay a lot more.