Some humour in politics

Sorry Rodney, this is sad, but it’s also funny.

As a former leader of the Act Party I am expert on poor polls and being written off ahead of every election. It’s no fun.

I well remember after suffering months of unremitting bad news and negative reports getting a text from a senior journalist: “Congratulations!”

I was staying in yet another town a long way from home, exhausted, vainly trying to drum up support.

I remember the elation. Wow. Finally some good news. Filled with eager anticipation I texted: “Thx. Wot 4?” The answer shot back: “Sry. Wrong no.”

That’s very funny.

I have had some low moments in politics but that would be without doubt the lowest.

That’s sad. Politics can be a very hard and thankless job.

Hide right and wrong about left wing social media

In his latest column Rodney Hide writes about an ailing left that lacks puff and policy, and also blasts the political left on social media.

He is right that the left can be appalling in social media, but he is wrong that it is only the left.

Herald: Left lacks puff and policy

The left now suffer from closed minds and moral smugness. They are moribund and backward-looking.

They run from ideas. Opposing philosophies distress them.

They pillory dissenters as stupid or immoral and often both. There’s no debating or explaining, just abuse for those who step outside received wisdom.

The left have taken to social media with gusto. It only takes 140 characters to abuse and attack.

They fill Twitter and blogs with their righteousness and smugness, puffed up by their own perceived moral and intellectual superiority.

There’s no allowance that a person with a differing view might offer an opportunity to learn and to strengthen your ideas and perhaps, just perhaps, to change them.

That’s never allowed as a possibility.

Their minds are closed and they gasp and take offence at any idea or opinion different to their own.

Indeed, ganging up against dissenters on social media is what binds them. Their attacks on others proves to them their correctness and superiority.

The left are puzzled about why they’re politically marginalised but never trouble themselves to listen to those who have turned away from them. They look down on them and despise them.

The left view their political failure as the fault of voters who must be hoodwinked, stupid, selfish, or suffering some other ethical or intellectual shortcoming. Why else would they not be supporting the left when they are so good and true?

The problem is never with the left or their doctrine.

They are a self-reinforcing sect who in their wretchedness and anger are becoming ever smaller. Their narrow and insular outlook prevents them reaching out. Little wonder it’s not attractive to new recruits.

Labour is the narrow party that has shut itself off from the great bulk of New Zealanders.

I’ve seen a lot of all of this on Twitter, Facebook and on left wing blogs. And also on right wing blogs.

But I think that Hide is right, this is a real problem for Labour in particular.

Even Andrew Little has turned bitterly on ex Labour supporters, dissing them calling them right wing for having the gall to criticise Labour or stand against an anointed Labour candidate.

And there is no sign that this burning off of potential support is going to be dampened.

If the left want to attract more support they need to look more attractive.

UPDATE: I have also quoted what Rodney has said at The Standard and they are already  proving his point. That’s both funny and quite sad.

UPDATE 2: Greg Presland has had a crack back in a post – Dear Herald you can do better than Rodney Hide

Greg questions some of Hide’s claims, like the left is moribun and backward looking – only some of the left fits that description, and so does some of the right – and “National is now the vibrant party looking to the future and open to diverse views” is certainly questionable.

But Greg ignores the toxic nature of left wing social media, which is often on show at The Standard.

Land tax slammed but…

Rodney Hide slams the land tax idea floated by John Key this week so that he appears to be thinking about maybe doing something about escalating property prices in Key fiddles while market burns.

Hide says that the land tax won’t work, and that Key won’t want it to reduce land values – which would risk bursting the property bubble, which would risk annoying a lot of landowners who are voters.

The land tax on foreigners is the perfect policy for John Key: it won’t work, won’t upset voters, shows he’s “doing something” and, just to be sure, he’s floated the policy to gauge reaction and to poll.

Not upsetting voters is crucial. No one likes paying tax. But making others pay – especially “the rich” and, even better, rich foreigners – is a plus. The policy won’t lose votes and will win some. Making foreigners pay for our government is smart politics.

That the policy fails is important. There are more homeowners than home buyers. The expectation is not just that house prices stay high but that they ever increase. No government will survive the bursting of the housing bubble.

And Hide is confident that land tax wouldn’t work.

The Government’s number one policy agency, the Productivity Commission, spent more than a year studying housing affordability and produced a 300-page report concluding against fiddling the tax system as any sort of cure.

The commission spent another year coming up with a 350-page report of policies that would work. Such is politics that policies that won’t work are favoured over those that would.

And as well as being ineffective it would be dangerous – once a tax system is in place it is easily tweaked by governments of the future.

The land tax policy is not just fruitless, it’s dangerous. Key says the tax would be annual and could be adjusted for conditions.

The power to tax is the power to destroy. A tax applying to land to be “adjusted for conditions” is a frightening prospect.

I shudder to think what happens to a tax that is introduced with the promise that it will be “adjusted for conditions”.

A land tax is a dangerous tax because it’s easy to ramp up.

It’s the politicians who are dangerous, not the taxes.


From the Housing Affordability inquiry (New Zealand Productivity Commission, March 2012, 343 pages)

The Tax Working Group also considered taxing capital gains, and introducing a land tax or a ‘capital charge’, without coming to firm conclusions about them.


The 2011 OECD economic review of New Zealand supported introducing a comprehensive realisation based tax on capital gains, but recognised that partial exemption or rollover relief for housing could be necessary to facilitate public acceptance. The OECD further recommended that if housing capital gains were not taxed, then the taxation of other forms of savings should be reduced, and further limits should be applied to the extent to which property investment losses can be deducted for tax purposes.

The OECD also considered that such measures should be accompanied by higher property or land taxes that could be designed to achieve the same objectives as a tax on imputed rent (OECD, 2011).

That’s all on land taxes so that doesn’t say much at all about them.

Another report by the Productivity Commission (September 2015, 401 pages) refers to an ‘idle land tax’ and has this detail:

Box 4.3 Land value tax

There is a long literature in economics on the merits of a land tax, going back to Adam Smith (1776). Most taxes create deadweight costs (reduce economic activity). But a land value tax is extremely efficient, in that it does not deter production, distort markets or create deadweight costs. A land tax would reduce the price of land, and encourage the efficient use of land:

A land tax does not distort investment behaviour as it applies to land which is in fixed supply. This creates a tax liability regardless of whether or how well the land is used. As the supply of land is perfectly inelastic (fixed in supply), market prices depend on what purchasers are prepared to pay rather than on the expenses of land owners. Accordingly, land taxes cannot be avoided or passed on and would be borne by land owners at the time the tax is announced. (IRD and New Zealand Treasury, 2009, p. 2)

Indeed, where a land tax encourages land to be improved and used more efficiently, or where some land is foreign owned, a tax on land value can be beneficial to the economy (creating ‘negative deadweight loss’ or ‘negative excess marginal burden’). A 2015 working paper from the Australian Treasury found that of the major Australian taxes, only a land tax offered net benefits to the economy.

New Zealand’s first tax in 1878 was a land tax. By 1982 it constituted just 1% of government revenue, and it was abolished in 1990. One explanation for its decline was that local government rating of the same tax base had effectively crowded out the benefits of a national land tax (Barrett & Veal, 2012).

From the perspective of supporting the release of land for housing, a land tax imposed by central government is attractive. However, it would also have significant effects on current landowners who would effectively bear a lump-sum tax on their wealth, and consideration would need to be given to the effect on those with low incomes, and ways to mitigate this (similar to those available to local government ratepayers).

A land value tax was recommended by the Victoria University of Wellington Tax Working Group (2010) as a way of improving the overall efficiency of the tax system, and funding rate reductions for other tax classes.

Source: Smith, 1776; IRD and New Zealand Treasury, 2009; Australian Treasury, 2015; Barrett & Veal, 2012; VUW Tax Working Group,2010.

That states that “From the perspective of supporting the release of land for housing, a land tax imposed by central government is attractive”.

So it would help discourage land banking (sitting on land waiting for value inflation ) and free up more land for building houses on, perhaps.

Maybe Hide was referring to different reports.

Hide: “Niue deal squeaky clean”

Rodney Hide writes in the Herald that Niue deal squeaky clean.

He acknowledges that he has known the Hagamans for two decades.

I should say at the outset that I have known Earl Hagaman and his wife Lani for 20 years, that I greatly admire them for their business success, what they provide New Zealand, their philanthropy and their integrity.

The Electoral Commission shows that Lani Hagaman donated $35,000 to the Act Party in the year leading up to the 2014 election.

Hide points out that the donation to National (as for the ACT donation):

…the Hagaman donation was correctly registered and made public, as the law requires. There was nothing underhand or secret.

And Hide blasts Andrew Little.

Labour Leader Andrew Little this week got the political blunderbuss out and blew off both feet and then his arms. He never grazed his target.

In my view, his was a disgraceful display of nastiness and political incompetence not expected of a rookie opposition MP and gobsmackingly awful for a would-be Prime Minister.

He summarises the Niue deal:

The Government did the resort’s development to boost tourism to Niue, which has doubled. The project is regarded as a success. The development benefits the Niue Government and people, not Scenic Hotel or the Hagamans.

In 2013 Auckland firm Horwath HTL did an independent review for the board and, among other things, recommended the appointment of a hotel management company.

The following year, on behalf of the board, Horwath ran an Expressions of Interest and Request for Proposals process that culminated in the consideration of two proposals with the recommendation of Scenic Hotels. The board agreed.

Hide names the board members: Ian Fitzgerald (chair), Bill Wilkinson, Toke Talagi (Premier of Niue) and John Ingram.

So the Premier of Niue is implicated, along with three others.

The transaction was not just arm’s length, several oceans of separation lay between the political donation and the management contract. There is no evidence of impropriety. The process would appear a model of probity.

Hide thinks Little is not the same model of probity.

Meanwhile, Little has besmirched a successful and highly regarded business couple, a New Zealand business success story, senior government officials, his own MP’s dad, and the Premier of Niue.

Politics can be nasty. It’s often incompetent. Somehow Little has managed to plumb new depths.

Time will tell whether this latest strategy of leading attacks is going to turn around Little’s and Labour’s political fortunes or not.

Will Little score a hit by firing a blunderbuss of nails at the National Government’s coffin hoping one might find a target and stick? Or has he nailed his own?

Rodney Hide on MP time limits and career MPs

In an NBR column Rodney Hide has suggested MPs should be limited to four terms in Parliament – that’s twelve years – and criticised ‘professionals politicians’.

Time limits will serve public not politicians

Reports of Phil Goff running for mayor of Auckland remind me of the desperate need for term limits.

That’s behind a pay wall so unless you subscribe you won’t see the column. I don’t subscribe but Bryce Edwards tweeted a few of the details.

Rodney Hide: “Time limits will serve public not politicians” – fantastic column on pro politicians

On professional MPs: “There’s no leadership, no principles, no underpinning philosophy or view of life”

“Goff has never made a do-or-die stand and, indeed, has travelled the entire political spectrum and back again”

There does seem to be a growing problem with too many career MPs but that’s a choice of the parties that select them for winnable electorates and put them on winnable positions on their lists.

Hide argues we need a “simple rule that an MP can only serve a maximum of four terms. That one change would transform politics.”

“One quarter of the Parliament would be retired every election. There would be a proper churn”, bringing greater MP diversity

That’s if there’s enough capable people aspiring to MPs that would replace them.

This limiting of MP’s choice to stand or not mustn’t be very Liberal.


Hide on Judith Collins’ leadership bid

Rodney Hide’s Sunday Herald column is on Judith Collins making a bid from the backbench for leadership of National – Crusher throwing her hat in the ring.

The tom-toms are beating and, as incredible as it may sound, around National Party campfires the leadership of New Zealand’s most popular Prime Minister is being questioned.

The questions are sparked by Judith Collins asking the oldest political question of them all: “Why not me?”

I’ll jump straight to Hide’s punch line.

Hers is an excellent plan on paper. To effect it Collins needs the support of her colleagues. But here’s where she falls short. She hasn’t any.

So she’s making a bid hoping that support will swing behind her.

Whether part of the plan or not Cameron Slater has been trying to drive an anti-Key pro-Collins movement, and that won’t help Collins in getting National Caucus support. It’s likely to severely hinder it.

Some in National are getting annoyed, especially those who are against any attempt to allow the people of New Zealand to make choices about our flag.

But would they support a leadership overthrow and potentially lose their hold on Government for that?

Hide’s final words:

National MPs know when they are on to a winner. They have learned from Labour it’s very easy to trash leaders but very hard to replace them.

It’s even harder to replace them with a winning leader.

Rodney Hide defends Williamson

In his Sunday column Rodney Hide has defended Maurice Williamson – but he doesn’t know what Williamnson did or said that offended attendees at an IT conference that prompted the organisers and Williamsoj to apologise.

Hide: No outrage here, just a good laugh

And so Williamson is in hot water. Again. Someone was offended by his MCing at an IT conference dinner. We don’t know who. The person taking offence chose to remain anonymous.

It can’t possibly be right to deprive them of their chosen representative because of an anonymous complaint that he MCed a private dinner function where he said, well, we don’t even know what he said.

So Hide is defending Williamson without knowing what he said. He did acknowledge:

But the company hosting the dinner quickly apologised and distanced itself from Williamson.

This is how that was reported:

Eagle Technology sent an email to all guests apologising for Mr Williamson’s presentation.

“Corallie Eagle, Duane Eagle and all of the Eagle Technology staff offer our sincere apologies to all who attended the NZEUC Conference Gala Dinner last Tuesday night, for the content and references made by the MC, Maurice Williamson,” it said.

Williamso has also apologised:

Mr Williamson has this afternoon put out a media statement in which he apologised for the offence he had caused.

“I was asked to MC the annual ESRI conference dinner event in Auckland last week,” Mr Williamson said.

“I was asked to be as entertaining and as funny as I possibly could. It was never my intention to upset any delegates.

“I overstepped the line on the night and did cause offence. For that I unreservedly apologise.”

But that doesn’t matter to Hide.

I like Maurice Williamson. He’s smart, funny, caring and a good local MP. He’s a gifted orator and puts in the effort to make a good show.

He’s not boring. He’s not politically correct. He bounces up to the edge of acceptability and sometimes bounces right over.

But that doesn’t excuse Williamson from acting inappropriately – which Williamson has acknowledged.

Whatever happened to free speech? Or democracy? Or due process? Or does the right not to be offended trump everything?

Free speech seems to have happened unhindered. And Williamson stuffed up – he forgot his responsibilities in a business situation. Due process resulted in apologies from the event organisers and from Williamson. What’s the problem with that?

Here’s my message to the readily offended: stay home in your dressing gowns and slippers. Leave the raucous Saturday nights to those who still enjoy naughty laughs and who happily risk being offended for entertainment.

Here’s my message to Hide – don’t be such a dick, especially when you don’t know what behaviour you are defending..

Sure Williamson can make whatever jokes he likes wherever he likes. Call it free speech if you like.

But if he is speaking as an MC at an event he needs to use judgement as to what is appropriate for that event. If he misjudges then others can exercise their right to free speech to criticise him.

He wasn’t attending a raucous Saturday night event.

If what he has done has reflected badly on the organisers of the event then he’s responsible for the flak.

If what he has done has reflected badly on the National Party for which he is an MP then he’s responsible for the flak.

If what he has done diminishes his chances of going for the Auckland mayoralty then he may end up having to stay at home in his dressing gowns and slippers.

And Hide may be free to visit him and have a raucous laugh if he likes. They can be as non-PC as they like, when it doesn’t shit in other people’s nests.

Hide: “Never been a successful privilege claim of misleading the House”

Rodney Hide, in response to a post on Grant Robertson’s breach of privilege complaint against John Key, says:

To the best of my knowledge in the history of the Westminster system there has never been a successful privilege claim of misleading the House in any commonwealth jurisdiction.

The test is not whether an answer is untrue but whether is it knowingly untrue.

So a Minister can be mistaken or confused and say next to anything. And they do.

That’s as I understand it. It’s the complaint itself that is the counter hit not its success as a breach of privilege.

Robertson’s Breach of privilege complaint against Key has obvious flaws in it so so Key may easily be able to claim what he said was not “knowingly untrue” – Robertson doesn’t come close to proving the contrary.

Perhaps he didn’t bother trying and doesn’t care. Key’s rhetoric in Parliament looked like a stunt, and Robertson’s breach of privilege complaint looks little more than a “counter hit” stunt.

Rodney Hide – we should care about Craig’s power play

In his weekly column in NZ Herald Rodney Hide says we should be worried about Colin Crai’s determination to lead the Conservative Party at any cost. In Colin Craig saga: Sex scandal without the sex he compares buying leadership with that hard graft of old school politics:

He did not go through the normal gruelling process of convincing a political party to back him. Instead, he started his own.

And threw millions at it.

And put himself number one.

Not for him the usual political vetting process.

Hide knows from hard experience what can happen when a politician who promotes a particular principal – in his case perk busting – then when you prove to be even a little hypocritical you can get hammered for it.

Hide goes on the say we should care about Craig’s apparent determination to lead again.

With his board now gone, he appears hell bent on resurrecting himself a new party.

It’s not Craig’s inappropriate behaviour, whatever it was, that’s the problem.

It’s everything else.

A man that desperate to have a party that will have him, and give him power, is a man who should never have it.

It’s news all right. And we should care.

It doesn’t look very democratic at a party level. It looks like a rich man trying to do whatever it takes to be in power.

So yes, we should care about that.

Fortunately we have a reasonable form of democracy. If Craig succeeds in his win at any cost Conservative Party fight he can then be judged by how much the voters care.

Hide on Peters and Northland

Rodney Hide is both right and wrong in his column about what a Winston Peters win would mean for Northland and New Zealand – Fun and games if Winston wins

He claims Winston would prefer coming a close second, enough to get himself credit and attention but not committing himself to an electorate job he would struggle to manage.

Peters is 70 this year. It’s a long way from Auckland to Northland. It’s even further across the electorate. Peters will be bogged down and busy doing the bare minimum needed to be local MP. I doubt the region will be much troubled by him.

I believe he prefers a close second. Winning would be altogether too much work.

And Hide summarises the political contortions a win would mean.

Peters lives in Auckland. Parliament is in Wellington. That’s how he divides his time. Kerikeri is 250km north of Auckland. So Peters is asking the people of Northland to vote for an Aucklander to elect an MP from Invercargill and empower an MP from Wellington.

But he doesn’t get everything right.

Dunne says he would revisit his Supply and Confidence agreement with National – a deal made when his position was less propitious.

Hide is repeating what a Herald article implied but Dunne has pointed out it was misleading – see Dunne clarifies post-Northland “re-think”.

On winning Northland, Peters would resign as a list MP to clear the way for the next candidate on New Zealand First’s list. That candidate is Ria Bond … from Invercargill.

It clears the way for Ria Bond as next on NZ First’s list, but it doesn’t mean she will take up the position. MPs have chosen not to take up positions before. Parties have been accused of pressuring list candidates to stand aside to elevate people lower on the list.

Hide is probably right about the length of a Peters tenure should he win.

And he would lose in 2017. Northland will return a National candidate in a General Election.

Would Peters even stand again on 2017? Or if he did would he campaign? That would take time and resources away from NZ First’s national campaigning, something that helped NZ First missed the threshold in 2008 when Peters tried to re-take Tauranga and came a distant second.