Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Away

Sorry all, I have been in the US and then Yorkshire and working a bit too hard to blog - that has now been amended. So much to say as well...

Friday, May 19, 2006

I'm in the USA but that budget...

I've noticed the NZ budget... see you didn't get any of your money back, except the contracting industry which is having an ol' fashioned pork barrel building boom on roads. The state sector continues to grow, and organisations like NaZis on Air get more money to propagate their.. well propaganda. Read this unadulterated vomit from the Acting CEO of NZ On Air:
"Acting Chief Executive Bernard Duncan said seeing and hearing our own stories on television and radio and in our music was especially important to New Zealanders because of our size and geographic location.
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What the hell are "our own stories"? Do your stories get put onto the radio or TV? Maybe you ring talkback and you can share your story? That doesn't get funding from the taxpayer. Apparently because NZ has a small population, or is it the land area of the UK, that means it is especially important to subsidise and prop up a bunch of self-obsessed wankers producing TV to make themselves feel better? Apparently construction workers, shopkeepers, farmers, restaurant workers all need to help pay those tossers to "share their fucking stories". It's not my fucking story Mr Duncan!
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Then he says “Local content that tells our stories helps us to connect as a society, and to know who we are as a nation. It allows us to celebrate our culture and consider the things that set us apart from other countries,”
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Connect as a society? You mean we all sit at home playing with ourselves and don't interact without having Mr Duncan take his cut of the loot Dr Cullen takes from our regular earnings to put some actors on TV? So New Zealand didn't connect as a society before TV came along in the 1960s??? Mr Duncan, New Zealanders meet each other socially in real life, they "connect" as you call it, without you propping up the careers and businesses of people doing something they "love". New Zealanders use bars, sport, clubs, churches, workplaces, families, the internet to connect - TV is the least connecting medium of all, it is passive and keeps people at home. The thing that sets New Zealand apart from other countries is not you funding TV programmes, New Zealanders overseas don't identify (or even remember) NZ made TV programmes most of the time - it is something else - and the state doesn't replicate or represent it.
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Now I've vented my spleen on NaZis on Air, the roads...
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Fortunately, most of the projects in the road spendup are quite good - though Labour's list of projects includes umpteen that are already underway and already funded, like the long delayed and much needed Mt Roskill Extension of SH20 in Auckland. Unfortunately, some are poor quality and the huge increase in spending in a short time has fueled massive inflation in the road building sector. At least you can no longer say your petrol tax isn't being spent on roads, now it is - although not guaranteed for more than 5 years.
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So now if you want even more roads, you'll have to pay tolls, more tax or not build the inefficient ones. Don't expect to hear Labour or National talk about roads that are being built that probably shouldn't be... you see flab in the roading sector is growing year on year. Maybe NZ could take a leaf out of the Bush Administration, which has a Democrat Transport Secretary Norman Mineta saying that some highways can be privatised:
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"we will encourage more states to find ways to open up their transportation infrastructure to private investment opportunities. State budgets are stretched thin, while gasoline taxes are becoming increasingly untenable as long-term sources of funding.At the same time, major financial institutions and their clients are expressing increasing willingness to invest billions of dollars in roads and airports."

Friday, May 12, 2006

My budget wishlist


With Dr Cullen ruling out tax cuts according to the NZ Herald, I thought I'd have a go at a budget wishlist. It wont happen, yet, but it covers a few key topics that were worth mentioning. It is more modest than a Libertarianz budget, but bolder than an ACT one I think:
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1. Cut income tax immediately by abolishing the 39% income tax rate, cut the 33% rate to 30% and the 21% rate to 20% and introduce a $5000 tax free threshold. Cut company tax to 30% immediately. Announce further tax cuts, including abolishing the top rate (introducing flat tax of 20%) next year, with a corresponding cut in company tax to 20%, and introduction of a $10,000 tax free threshold in the following year (and abolition of the low income tax rebate). By 2008 company and income tax at a flat 20% with first $10,000 tax free.
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2. Cut GST to 10% (simplifies it and gives some inflationary relief);
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3. Implement the first stage of welfare reform by:
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- Capping money provided to existing beneficiaries by granting no additional payments for having additional children while on benefits;
- Ending inflation adjustment of benefits including accommodation supplement (excluding war veterans and national superannuation);
- Ending DBP payments for parents where the youngest child is 5 or older, replaced with unemployment benefit. Additional children will not make parent eligible for DBP again;
- Introduce one-year maximum term for claiming unemployment benefit, after one year the benefit ceases. Unemployment benefit cannot be claimed again until recipient has at least paid in income tax what had been previously received in benefits;
- Abolish unemployment benefit for under 20 year olds at home and abolish the independent youth benefit, raises minimum age for all benefits to 18;
- Abolish schemes for benefits for artists;
- Abolishing Working for Families package of tax credits (replaced with tax cuts);
- Sell all empty state housing stock (current and as it becomes available), cease funding new state housing stock (sell any currently under construction).
Abolishing Labour's welfare profligacy and tightening up on current beneficiaries
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Announce the second stage of welfare reform by:
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- Abolition of new claims for widow’s benefit, domestic purposes benefit, accommodation supplement, sickness and unemployment benefit when the tax free threshold is raised to $10,000 (to give people time to acquire life insurance, income protection insurance and enter into contractual agreements in the event of family separation). This effectively gives the population two years to make plans for predictable eventualities (unemployment, death, sickness). Ceases the entrance of new beneficiaries into the system so that it erodes over time as current beneficiaries are weaned off;
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4. Announce comprehensive reform of ACC by immediately opening it up to competition for its employer and motor vehicle accounts. 75% of motor vehicle licensing fees to be abolished, replaced with private motor vehicle accident insurance. Competition for non-work/road injury cover to be introduced within three years, followed by privatisation of ACC;
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5. Recommence privatisation programme, selling SOEs subject to competition on the open market, with proceeds used to accelerate debt repayment, some SOEs to have shares partly allocated to the public (e.g. Radio NZ) so that public ownership is genuine public ownership;
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6. Require all government departments, Crown entities and Crown agents to prepare a report of no more than 20 pages as to why they should still exist rather than their functions either be abolished, or operated in the private sector and publish it for public comment. Departments with inadequate reports will be abolished, others will be scaled back or privatised subject to passage of necessary legislation. Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, Human Rights Commission, Children’s Commissioner, Health and Disability Commissioner, Families Commission, NZ on Air, Electricity Commission and Ministry of Women’s Affairs abolished regardless;
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7. Cease funding of the arts, sport and broadcast media, including NZ On Air and TVNZ. Radio NZ funding to be abolished when privatisation complete;
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8. Cease contributions to the Cullen fund, replaced with debt repayments (which will better secure the long term future). Announce first stage of reform of national superannuation that will see contributions to the Cullen fund privatised and placed in the name of all current citizens not receiving National Superannuation. Citizens will be able to continue contributing, cease contributing or remove contributions to reinvest elsewhere;
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9. Abolish import tariffs;
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10. Cease direct Crown funding of roads, replace with full dedication of petrol tax to National Land Transport Fund - announce Transit NZ to become SOE and be privatised by issuing of shares to all citizens.
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See modest really - just phasing out welfare, flat tax and hardly touching health and education beyond given the state run providers independence. It would be too long for this blog to mention all that, and besides, the biggest leap forward would be to cut welfare dependency. Is this too much to ask for if there is a Brash/Hide government?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Nanny teaches you about spending your own money

Now I hope all you boys and girls are listening ok? Good. Now I know you’ve been complaining about the price of petrol, because those big bad men in those evil overseas oil companies (class go booooooo!!) have been putting up the prices so you can’t drive so cheaply anymore. Now I know that’s so not fair, so what we have done – Nanny State – is take a little more money off you all to pay for a website to teach you how to use less petrol when you drive. You see, no consumer based organisation would do this when we can use your money to pay for it.
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So class go here
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Click the pretty hybrid car, yes those expensive ones that use half the petrol of conventional petrol cars and you can look up your own car and see the average fuel consumption. Something you could get from the manufacturer, but we put them all in one convenient place just for you.
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Now click the distance, and you’ll see the more you drive, the more fuel you use. Bet you didn’t know that did you? The more you drive in town or at residential street speeds the more fuel per kilometre, and the more you drive on the open road, the less.
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Now click habits, this is where I really come in. Do you have your car tuned? Do you have your tyres correctly inflated? Do you drive moderate and smooth or fast? Do you use air conditioning or open the window? Well you should know the right answers to those – and you’re naughty if you use air conditioning too much (see here) or drive at 110 km/h…. you bad bad bad driver you, using up more fuel and killing children by the day.
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So, go to Nanny’s website, it only covers new cars and Japanese used imports – so most of you will find it useless unless your buying one of them or own one – and see how you could spend less on a commodity you buy.
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Nanny next will do this for shoes, shirts, electricity, fruit, bread, eggs and all the other things you don’t know how to spend your money on properly. You see Nanny takes a lot of your money to tell you how incompetent you are at spending the rest. (question: why does Nanny tax petrol so much?) Detention! Don't be so rude as to question the need to penalise your addiction to petroleum, haven't you had your environmental lesson today? It is one thing your petrol societal fee pays for. (question: Why doesn't Nanny make more petrol for us so the price can come down?) Nanny doesn't make petrol, Nanny makes websites and documents and laws to tell you to better yourself. Don't be so stupid. (question: Where does petrol come from?) Those evil big companies, it's all because of them that you can run cars, that addiction you all need weaning off of. Thing were better when you walked everywhere (loads of hands go up) No more questions!
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(waking up kicking nanny out of the way) As for me, I thought I’d check out a good car, not a pissy child racer one - the Aston Martin DB9, and it would use 16.6 litres per 100km – bargain for such a beautiful machine, don't ask the price because if you care, you can't afford it. It's a V12, so if 3 pathetic little 4 cylinder car owning Labour voters can get on buses or trains, then me driving it is carbon neutral :) and there would be less congestion.

Nanny State tries to tell Scots to eat well

Scotland has a problem – most of the population eat like they did half a century ago. If it’s deep fried, involves meat and potatoes, or pastry – it’s good. Fruit and vegetables are for English poofters. As a result, half of them are dead by 60, or near abouts.
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NannyKnowsBest blogs on a proposal by the Scottish Executive to requires pubs, as a condition of their liquor licences, promote “sensible eating”. What this means is unclear, on the one hand it could mean that pub food starts to disappear as the locals go to the fish and chip shop first, it could also mean that lardy pies are sold with side salad as compulsory. If it means telling a corpulent Glaswegian lad he ought to have a green salad and apple, instead of a pork pie and deep fried mars bar, it would be an interesting scene “Ah you sayin’ I’m fat laddie, I’ll geyya a smack in the chops ya cheeky sod, gimme ma pie and mars bar ya feckin
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Just don’t tell the NZ Health fascists, they don’t believe anyone should be responsible for their own failure to look after themselves.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rodney back to flat tax?

Rodney Hide continues on a roll of more libertarian ACT policies by saying in a press release:
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"If ACT was writing this year's budget, it would include moves towards a flat tax and a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. A low, flat tax would boost productivity and growth, as well as benefiting Kiwi workers, businesses and communities."
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"Moves toward" weakens it a bit, but it would be nice if ACT went back to its 1996 election policy of a low flat tax (19.5% I recall?). This would be fairer, as there is no way that those on higher incomes consumer ever higher proportions of government services. Abolishing the 39% and 33% rates and cutting the 24% rate to 19.5% would be a great advance in freeing up New Zealanders to enjoy their own wealth, to look after themselves and encourage more skilled people to stay in New Zealand and immigrate there.
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Andrew Falloon is cheering it on, as he should. Not only is it more moral than the status quo and would be a great boost to the economy, but is easy to sell. The more you earn, the more you keep without nanny state looking to confiscate ever greater proportions of your income. The Nats should, in response, be talking about eliminating the top rate of income tax, which is a small step in the same direction (and taking us back to 1999 before Labour introduced it).
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Of course, eliminating the 39% rate and introducing a flat tax are great leaps forward, but not the end game :)

Aussies get tax cuts


It's not much but better than nothing.
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The Australian Federal government is full of pork, subsidies, welfare for middle class parents (sounds familiar?) and special grants for everything from Tasmania to subsidies for airlines to remote locations. In spite of this nonsense, the Sydney Morning Herald reports Treasurer Peter Costello announced some meagre tax cuts in the Aussie budget last night because the Federal Government is now virtually debt free, meaning it spends nothing on interest payments, so needs to collect less taxes.
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The tax cuts are meagre:
Top rate of 47% down to 45% with the threshold raised to A$150,001
Second rate of 42% down to 40% with the threshold raised to A$75,001
30% rate remains, threshold raised to A$25,001
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Plus a cut in fringe benefits tax and increases in low income tax rebates that mean some pay no income tax on the first A$10,000.
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The leftwing blogosphere bemoans tax cuts to the rich (yawn), those people whose money it was in the first place. Jordan Carter in his Orwellian newspeak claims that it is money taken from the poor to pay the rich - what screwed up world does he inhabit?
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Simple lesson to socialists:
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People on high incomes make those incomes from work or investment that they undertake with their own time, effort, brains and money. It is THEIR money before the beloved bosom of nanny state gets her craggly claws on it. Letting them keep an additional 2% of it is about taking LESS from people who MAKE money. The poor don't pay for the running of the state, in most cases they are net recipients or free riders.
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Why?
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Well let all the wealthy Australians earning more than $A75,000 leave and then the poor can get "their money back", and then watch them struggle to find doctors, lawyers, architects, airlines, food or indeed most of the things that business brings them.
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As Costello said, last year rates for lower income Australians were cut, now top rates are being cut and those that get more back do so because they pay more tax.
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From a libertarian perspective it is pathetic, although a small step in the right direction and more than Labour in NZ (or the UK) has done. If the fat in the Australian Federal Government was trimmed then Aussie would gain enormously by cutting rates a lot further and from the efficiencies of abolishing subsidies that prop up inefficient activities and regions. For example, A$1 billion is being pumped into the ABC and SBS to convert the TV channels to digital over ten years - why don't the viewers pay? A big hand out for breeders as well.
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However, as long as Aussie rides on the back of high mineral prices, it has no incentive to seriously reform further.
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Don Brash is saying this will see more kiwis going to Aussie to earn more money with lower taxes, it certainly wont discourage them!

Greens want free buses paid for by you

Green MP Metiria Turei is advocating “free” buses, which, of course, are not free, because someone is forced to pay for them. More theft from the pockets of those who don’t want to use the bus.
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These is evidence to show that free public transport does not relieve traffic congestion, but results in inflationary costs for public transport (operators demand more to run services and get paid it because they are not vulnerable to losing passenger when fares increase), dramatically reduces walking and cycling (why walk when you can hop on a bus for a short trip) and therefore reduces the level of exercise people get. Free buses also get overcrowded because people start taking trips over further distances “for the fun of it”, they ride to places without regard for the cost and they travel at the same time because it is free.
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The free inner city bus in Christchurch on average takes one person from a car per trip – one! The rest are people who would have walked, been a fare-paying bus passenger or wouldn’t have taken the trip.
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Free buses are a recipe for more taxes from you, virtually no impact on congestion, lazy people who don’t walk or bike and full buses at peak times when you really want them.
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The big question I want asked is, why do the Greens want motorised transport to be subsidised at all? Isn't it better that people pay the full subsidised cost of buses or choose to walk or not travel at all?

Ahmadinejad condemns liberal democracy in letter to Bush


Well I was wrong- it seems the letter that Iranian President "I doubt the Holocaust happened" Ahmadinejad to US President George Bush was not diplomatic, it was the tirade of a madman.
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Letters to improve relations are usually polite and generous, giving hope to the recipient that there is a genuine desire to negotiate about differences and live in harmony. Ahmadinejad has no such intent. According to Associated Press, besides slamming the US invasion of Iraq, he queries about the "truth of 9/11" (remember the hoards of conspiracy theories that claim the Bush Administration orchestrated it or that it was done by Jews to defame Islam) and then repeats his desire for Israel to be wiped out "how can this phenomenon be rationalised or explained?" he said.
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Well, read your history books. It was a promise by the colonial power to the Jews and the United Nations agreed to set it up. Yes it almost certainly was a major mistake, but that is that.
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He dismisses the Iranian nuclear programme as technological and scientific achievement by lumping it with others claiming "Why is it that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East region is translated into and portrayed as a 'threat to the Zionist [Israel] regime'? Is not scientific R&D [research and development] one of the basic rights of nations?" Yes it is, and you’re developing the means to destroy your near neighbour, because you don't believe it should exist.
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However, the Pièce de résistance is his condemnation of liberalism and western style democracy as they "have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity,"
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"Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the Liberal democratic systems," his letter read.
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How is that any hope for peace? How can he even be close to reflecting reality? Liberal democracy has spread more than any other political system in the last twenty years, with most of eastern Europe, Latin America and increasingly more of Africa adopting it. It's very simple Mr Ahmadinejad, people have the right to choose who governs them - and not a special committee self-selected to weed out candidates that they don't approve of.
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So Iran's peace pipe is to continue to question Israel's existence, refuses to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities to confirm it is not developing nuclear weapons and to hell with liberal democracy, separation of church and state, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.
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Wonderful - so we're back to square one. Continue to make overtures to Iran and threaten sanctions, and be prepared for military action if Iran threatens to attack Israel.
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Interestingly, Arab newspapers have condemned the letter. Saudi newspaper Asharq Alawat said that Iran is seeking to control the region:
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"Tehran has made public its desire to lead. Iran seeks to control the region and the Middle East and become its policeman. This will lead to the breakdown of the peace process and the sabotaging of the Iraqi dream. We will witness a new arms race and will see governments being swallowed by organizations. It is sufficient to see who is standing by Tehran today to know what tomorrow will bring. " and "If Iran succeeds in its nuclear project, this will give the wrong message to other extremists."
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The Arab Times of Kuwait states: "Iran by its outbursts has rubbed salt into this tense atmosphere by embarking on childish adventures and failing to come out of the revolutionary mode fearing it will bring to the surface its deficiencies."
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As I have said before, the path to peace for Iran is simple:
- Open up nuclear facilities for inspection;
- Cease sponsoring terrorism;
- Cease sabre-rattling over Israel.
BBC on Ahmadinejad's letter
CNN on Ahmedinejad's letter
First part of Ahmedinejad's letter on Islamic Republic News Agency site (website claims to carry full text but doesn't)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Young teenage bitches send bus driver to hospital

The NZ Herald reports in the weekend, 15 brats aged 12 to 15 refuse to get off a Christchurch bus and so bash a driver so much he has severe bruising and may have a spinal injury. How fucking evil is that? This is NOT the world of Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange – but what can you do?
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Apparently the brats wouldn’t get off the bus at the end of the route, so he drove to the depot for help in evicting them (remember Christchurch ratepayers, you subsidise the discount fares they pay). The evil pack, led by several young girls (oh those oppressed underage girls) attacked the driver and a second driver who came to his aid – then St Johns Ambulance paramedics WAITED till the evil entities ran off before treating the severely beaten second driver.
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Where are the Police? Why can’t St Johns Ambulance or the bus driver have pepper spray to attack these little scumbags? Yes, I know their parents would press charges and Cindy Kiro would be saying "we don't understand these young adults" blech.
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Most of the article in Stuff goes on about security for the bus driver and the Labour Department is investigating.
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Sorry??? It isn’t the bus company’s fault that some parents are irresponsible and some young people are like crap on someone’s shoe. Fortunately there is a Police investigation, though the Police were clearly not on hand on the night.
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The moral equivalent left would say they are children, victims of circumstances and need help, not punishment. The conservative right would say the little bastards need prison - I say both.
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If they are found, lock them up for a while - make them clean buses, make them earn enough to pay the hospital expenses and compensation for this driver - make them recompense for their despicable behaviour. Then look at their homes, see what trash lets 12 year olds go out till midnight - see what trash doesn't care. See if you can get the brats to show genuine remorse and move on.
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They are fucking evil – at what point do young teenagers think it is ok to bash a man up and send him to hospital for nothing other than doing his job? It makes me so angry that I hope the lot of them cram into a crapped out car and drive off the road somewhere and kill themselves -think how much force these girls must have used to send the man to hospital with possible spinal injuries. Instead, their loving mummies and daddies have them tucked in bed, listening to their ipods and knowing that the loving state thinks they are children - and are protected.
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Why does this happen? Is it parents who think parenting means 12 year olds can go out till midnight on the town or are allowed to play such evil filth as Grand Theft Auto for entertainment?
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Why isn’t this a national scandal? Why should Leopard Coachlines feel it has to consider dropping late night bus services because of this?
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Arm the drivers, one way or another, and install video cameras – and don’t weep when your little Charlene comes home with her little slutty face covered in pepper spray because she attacked a bus driver.
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You probably wont notice anyway since you're either out or in your room out of your mind on P while having an orgy with Wayne and your mate Cherise, since you don't know where you're little bitch daughter is - got the picture why she behaves like that?

Watch out Vodafone you're next...


Following on from unbundling Telecom’s local loop, the NZ Herald reports Helen Clark has announced that the “rules of the game” for mobile telephony have to change. The government has already changed the regulatory environment, purportedly to allow competition, by requiring Telecom and Vodafone to allowing roaming across their networks for customers of any new operator that builds a network with at least 5% coverage of the population.
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It did this after the Telecommunications Bill had been through Select Committee, because its mates who it sold spectrum to at a discount (Maori company, Hautaki Ltd, which got a discount to quieten a ridiculous treaty claim for mobile phone spectrum) partnered up with Econet wireless (a Zimbabwean cellphone company – not affiliated with Mugabe) and argued they couldn’t build a mobile phone network that provided nationwide coverage economically.
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Econet was set to start a pilot cellphone network in April, but nothing has been seen. Every year it promises something soon and doesn’t deliver.
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So you see, the government has already given new mobile entrants access to the encumbent’s networks, but that probably wont be good enough. Clark is concerned that there hasn’t been much resale of the mobile phone networks (although Telstra Clear has a resale deal with Vodafone that matched it selling Vodafone its GSM spectrum), that co-siting of cellphone transmitters has not happened and new entrants are “unable” to use their competitors’ property.
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Funny that, it is called property. When I build something I own it, and I will decide what I do with it.
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So who is this big mean company that Helen is talking about?
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Let me talk about a company that in 1998 bought the mobile phone business of BellSouth New Zealand. BellSouth started by buying the radio spectrum in an open tender for a GSM cellular network in 1990, as did Telstra (which subsequently sold its network to Vodafone). From 1993 till 1998 it built a mobile phone network from scratch, while Telecom had a monopoly on mobile phone services. By 1998, BellSouth had taken about 20% share of that business and had not marketed text messaging. From 1998 Vodafone invested $2 billion in developing its cellular network and roughly doubled the number of cellsites that BellSouth had installed.
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When BellSouth ran the business, it moaned to the Minister regularly, claiming it needed number portability and for interconnection with Telecom to be regulated. Vodafone took a different approach – it built its network so it would be reliable and provide good coverage, it started selling text messaging (Telecom ultimately had to build text messaging into its CDMA network to enable it to compete) and prepay mobile. In other words, it grew the market and didn’t moan about its competitor. As a result, cellphone penetration in New Zealand soared to reach the levels of most other OECD countries.
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As much as the left moans about Telecom’s privatisation seeing its profits go offshore, Vodafone brought capital onshore. $2 billion that the state was never going to put in, and Telecom ultimately had to respond – and reduced its prices, developed a new digital network to phase out its two older networks. Telecom built the first 3G mobile network and Vodafone has followed. There is competition in mobile services.
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So are mobile phone prices in New Zealand more expensive than elsewhere? In some cases, yes they are. Why? Well, for starters there are less customers so less competition, far easier to build six mobile networks in the UK than in NZ. That competitive pressure is unlikely to happen in NZ. Secondly, councils have used the RMA to make it much harder to install new cellsite – although Telecom and Vodafone do continue to expand slowly. Some of this is driven by Green hysteria about the health effects of cellphone towers (which are nonsense – nobody asks for radio station transmitter masts to be pulled down and they have operated for over half a century). Overseas, there has also been an enormous writedown of investments in mobile telephony, as major operators spent a fortune acquiring 3G mobile spectrum from governments. The networks they are left with are priced cheaply to attract customers and because they are now substantially devalued.
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There could be a third mobile network in NZ and I do not mean Econet. Econet should sell up and let someone who wants to invest in a proper network get on with it. TelstraClear could still do it, but it is a moocher if ever there was one. So the arguments about natural monopoly do not exist, there is an ability to enter the market for mobile telephony. The government should stop talking about incentives that stop the construction of a new network.

Grumpy Helen


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Oh for fuck's sake Helen, can't you do better than sound like a grumpy old lady?
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Rodney Hide blogs on Helen Clark's comment to Newstalk ZB about Dancing with the Stars calling her the "Minister of Fun".
She "cannot abide dancing" and hasn't the time to watch Rodney "make a fool of himself on television".
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Goodness me no - can't have a Prime Minister having fun, or being generous enough of spirit to give a fellow MP credit for giving it a go.
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As Hide says:
"The PM should lighten up. Have some fun. She would be the better for it. So too would the country. "
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Things Helen Clark doesn't enjoy:
- Dancing;
- Television (except BBC World);
and ...

New York Times thinks Bolivian nationalisation isn't!

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George Reisman has blogged about the New York Times article by William Power that claims that Bolivia’s nationalisation of the gas industry isn’t really nationalisation at all. “Bolivia is just struggling for a way to make markets work.” says Powers. Nothing like confiscating 51% of a private company to make markets work.
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No doubt Matt Robson, former Progressive MP – who supports Hugo Chavez, another great confiscator and bully, and warmed to Cuba, would agree. How many Green MPs agree?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Auckland road pricing

I know a bit about this, and have taken some time to figure out my response. This is lengthy so here goes...
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PC has been the main commentator on this that I have seen in the blogosphere. I’ve been devouring the reports and have read some of it (and have been aware of much of it for some time), and it deserves some careful consideration.
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You see on the one hand the concept of road pricing by time of day makes sense. This is because roads, like any other service, get congested when demand exceeds supply. In other industries, telecommunications, airlines, hotels, rental cars, vegetables, when demand is high the price goes up – meaning the provider does well with revenue (and can afford to cross subsidise the quiet times, make a profit or invest in more capacity to allow suppressed demand to be served), and when demand is low compared to supply, the price goes down (better to get some users than to have assets lying underutilised).
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Roads are priced currently – but it does not really vary between vehicles. Yes you pay a bit more in congested traffic through petrol, but that barely has an effect on demand. Yes, heavier vehicles pay more per kilometre than lighter ones (road user charges work well in reflecting average maintenance costs), but that also does not affect times of peak demand.
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The appropriate response is for current charges to be replaced with variable ones:
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For example, instead of paying petrol tax, you’d pay a per kilometre charge. At peak times you’d pay a premium, like you do buying an airfare from Auckland to Wellington at 7.30am on a Monday morning – but just as you get a seat for that price on the plane, you’d get to drive in relatively free flowing traffic. In between peaks you might pay roughly what you pay now, but as you are paying directly for the road, you might think twice about your journeys distance, but you’d also demand good service from the road provider. On a quite Sunday morning you’d pay very little, as the roads are empty and the road provider would be encouraging demand – you’d pay much less than you do now.
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Imagine if all airfares Wellington-Auckland were the same, the planes flying in the middle of the day and on Saturdays would be a lot quieter, because the fares would be double – and at 7.30am on a Monday, the airport would be jammed with businesspeople queuing up hoping for a seat, hoping someone didn’t turn up for their (relatively) cheap ticket. Sounds familiar?
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With road pricing you wouldn’t pay rates for local roads, which should knock about 10-15% off your average Auckland rates bill – or 40-60% off your average rural rates bill. That would be paid for out of road pricing.
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You wouldn’t subsidise public transport either – you see peak travel would cost more by car, making public transport inherently more competitive, and buses wouldn’t be caught in big traffic jams. People might start working different hours, or they might work at home once a day. You see it is a tremendous cost to build roads and railway lines and buses and trains that mostly only get used for short periods – unless the people using them pay for that cost, it is being subsidised.
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OK, so what does that have to do with the proposals in the Ministry of Transport report?
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A little. See the technology exists to do what I described, but the option was rejected in the report in favour of simpler technology that is well proven in Singapore, Stockholm and toll roads in many countries. The other point is that the proposed schemes in the report are designed to do two things:
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1. Reduce congestion (through marginally pricing the road higher at the morning peak); and
2. Raise extra revenue for transport projects.
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The first goal is laudable, but it does raise the question as to what should be done with the extra money. If it is to be spent on transport projects, it should be roads – and the $1 billion + Avondale extension of SH20 and the Victoria Park tunnel (widening of the northern motorway) should be at the top of the list, but much of what I have heard is all about rail. Efficient road pricing will make public transport more efficient and competitive, because it makes peak car commuting more expensive and frees the roads up for buses to operate more quickly.
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However, it is just as legitimate to consider pricing to replace the current forms of pricing – petrol tax and council rates. I believe there probably is enough money available if all of the petrol tax revenue collected is dedicated to roading nationwide and allocated efficiently, and then replaced with road pricing collecting the same amount. Then as traffic grows road price revenue grows, if it declines, then so does revenue – as it should. Less traffic means less need to build new capacity, and less wear and tear (to a point).
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The schemes proposed are a broad range:
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Parking tax (the Greens wanted this, and it would be a regulatory nightmare. Imagine the council inspecting all private property to see who had a car park that should be taxed). Cheap to implement, not very effective and helps deter retail.
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Motorway only tolls - shifts lots of traffic to local streets, making congestion worse. Transit might wonder if tolling the Western ring route will create similar problems.
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Cordon/Area charges – creates boundary issues and many roads within the proposed cordon/area are not congested and shouldn’t be subject to additional tax.
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You see, Auckland is not London, or Stockholm, or Rome or Singapore. It is a low density car oriented city with a rather weak CBD – around 12% of Auckland’s employment is in the CBD, far far less than those cities with cordon/area charges for congestion pricing. The risk for Auckland is it looks like the consultants have taken the overseas approaches and applied them to Auckland, instead of looking at Auckland’s problems and designed an approach to resolve them. The only cordon Auckland could conceivably have that might be fair is for the CBD only, boundary including Grafton Gully and SH1 – and I know that this wouldn’t reduce traffic enough to make it worthwhile, while helping kill off CBD based businesses even more.
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Low density cities don’t need cordon charging, they don’t need high density public transport like rail and they don’t need to be forced by planners into being high density cities.
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Auckland isn’t being eaten up by cars, they are its red blood cells. Less than 5% of Auckland trips are by public transport, although it comprises over 25% of trips to the central business district.
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Unlike PC, I think road pricing is a solution – but not in the way it has been designed and not being operated by any central or local government agencies. There is a big risk that this report and its response will kill off serious consideration of road pricing in Auckland for many years, given the current central and local government politicians, that isn't such a bad thing - but they can both change.
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Road pricing first and foremost should not be about collecting more money, but by charging for roads in a more efficient way than at present. Once you do that, the money gets spent on maintenance and road improvements that motorists want – it may or may not include a second harbour crossing (that will depend on whether people are prepared to pay for it), it may or may not include a Western ring road – and funnily enough, it wont include a more frequent train service to Henderson. The company running the trains would decide that based on fare revenue.
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Perhaps the best submission I have seen so far on this is from the Business Roundtable. It is a pdf file here.
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The Business Roundtable summarises the key points well:
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“Congestion is a manifestation of the problem known as the tragedy of the
commons – the overuse of a public resource that arises from inadequately
defined property rights. The potential costs to a community of road congestion
are enormous. In the extreme form of gridlock, road congestion potentially
removes all the benefits a community might hope to derive from its past
investments in roads.”

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“We consider that a serious impediment to the adoption of more efficient billing
technologies is motorists' justifiable suspicion of the motives of the revenue-raising
authorities. By putting revenue generation ahead of efficient pricing and proposing
such inefficient ways of spending this revenue, the ARPES will surely heighten this
resistance and thereby make it harder to introduce changes. The authorities
therefore also need to revisit governance issues in order to find better ways of
convincing motorists that their money will not be squandered for the benefit of
fringe or minority interests.”
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“Subsidies for buses and trains create a conflict of interest for organisations that are
also making road capacity investment decisions. Congestion charges eliminate the
weak argument for subsidising buses and trains in order to ease congestion.
Instead ARPES proposes to use such charges to increase such subsidies. The
flaws in this thinking are also reflected in the Land Transport Management Act and
need to be remedied. Public transport can only make a small contribution to
Auckland passenger transport needs and a minimal one to the needs of the freight
industry. There is a risk of highly uneconomic public transport investments being
made, at a cost of wasted capital and lower regional and national economic growth.”
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Road pricing is a solution, but as long as local authorities run local roads and Transit New Zealand acts as a bureaucracy to serve political whims, rather than to serve the demands of customers, then there is nobody competent to implement it. The ARPES report does not analyse where Auckland's congestion problems are and designs a solution, but takes possible solutions and models them on top of the network. What was done was what was asked - but if there is to be a next stage, it needs to be looked at the other way, and for there to be acknowledgement that it is far more complicated than just putting a cordon around a part of the isthmus.

Ahmadinejad writes to Bush

Well here it is, a great chance for peace no doubt. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has called for “"new solutions for getting out of international problems and current fragile situation of the world", according to The Times.

IRNA (Islamic Republic news agency) simply reports it without mentioning its content. The Guardian headline says Iran wants a way out of its nuclear problems, but then later clarifies that the nuclear issue is not mentioned.
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Bush should respond. Iran can do four things to improve diplomatic relations with the West and get out of the current problem.
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Iran can:
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1. Renounce the possession and use of nuclear weapons and allow the IAEA full rights to inspect and monitor its nuclear facilities to that end;
2. Cease its support for terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere, denouncing it;
3. Recognise Israel’s right to exist and cease rhetoric calling for it to be wiped off the map. Engage in the peace process;
4. Be a partner with the coalition forces in bringing peace to Iraq and respecting democracy in Iraq.

In return the US can:

1. Renew diplomatic contacts;
2. Remove sanctions; and
3. Commit to the non-use of military force against Iran.

So go on Iran – engage in direct talks with the US to do all that. Prove that Iran just wants to mind its own business and not threaten its neighbours and destroy Israel.
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The problem is that, as Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian reports, Ahmadinejad continues to sabre rattle – saying Israel is a “rotten tree” that can be blown away with a single storm and the Israeli Jews should be resettled in Europe. I suspect the easiest solution is still a bullet to Ahmadinejad's head and for Iranians to be encouraged to get rid of this sick murderous regime in Tehran.
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A polite letter calling for Iran to engage with the international community, cease supporting terrorism and cease pursuing nuclear weapons would be nice. The US does not want war with Iran, but cannot tolerate it threatening one of its most important allies.

Blair should stay

Following the disastrous local body election result for Labour here in the UK, some sniping leftists in the Labour caucus are trying to encourage Tony Blair to resign (and so is the Daily Telegraph ). This follows from his Cabinet reshuffle that promoted Blairites and demoted supporters of Gordon Brown. Blair is adament he is not setting down a timetable for him stepping down, because if he did it would give his opponents in Labour the chance to slow down reforms so that they don't happen before he goes.
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It is clear that Tony Blair sees a handful of individuals, such as Prescott and Charles Clarke as being responsible for the general lack of confidence in Labour, and that he also sees Gordon Brown as gently undermining his premiership (as Brown wants as long a chance as possible to build up momentum for the next election), when he is now almost explicitly calling for Blair to step down. He promoted John Reid as new Home Secretary because he believes he could challenge Brown for the leadership closer to the election, and that needs time (although he vehemently denies wanting anyone other than Brown for that role).
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It is also clear that the “New Labour” project is now unlikely to have a history of being implemented further beyond Tony Blair – old Labour is rumbling underneath and their slobbering fat dribbling tax keen socialist ways can’t wait to come back. Not for them choice in education, or confronting Islamist terror, but higher taxes and more money for union dominated state services.
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The Daily Telegraph claims Blair hanging on will be a hindrance to completing his reforms – I think it is the only think left that will ensure they will happen. I don’t want to wait and hope that David Chameleon Cameron might win the next election and might have some spirit of free-market reform in him.
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For all his faults, and Blair has many – he was elected in 2005 to be Prime Minister for an unprecedented third term, and has a greater mandate than Gordon Brown to remain so. Blair should hang on until around a year out from the next election, then he should announce his retirement and give the Labour Party a few months to get a new leader. The left can then clamour and try to get attention, and hopefully by then the Conservative Party will be something worth supporting.
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Britain did not elect Gordon Brown to be PM, it elected Tony Blair – he ought to serve out his term and implement the reforms he sought to implement, not pander to the whimpering, simpering old leftists that kept the Labour Party in oblivion for eight years. Those vile socialists will have many years to contemplate life in the House of Commons when they help hand the Tories victory in 2009/2010.
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There is a simpler reason for keeping Blair on - he is a lesser threat than Gordon Brown and the longer he stays in, the more likely the Labour left are to act like the fruitcakes they were in 1983 and lose next time around. A lot of Britons are socialists and would have been half contented had the UK fallen under the Warsaw Pact after WW2 - most socialism in the UK now comes out of local government.
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oh and why is a libertarian concerned about keeping a Prime Minister who has helped ever erode civil liberties in the UK, and run a spin based government that covers up and obfuscates in ways that taught Helen Clark much of what she knows?
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Two reasons:
1. Blair's education reforms, giving schools independence and being able to decide their own curriculum is the greatest hope British education has had for a very long time. It is a huge step forward that will be hard to reverse, and will help produce schools that compete, innovate and start to think about how best to meet the needs of students, not meet the needs of bureaucrats in London - and Britain badly needs that;
2. Blair understands the war on terror as I blogged about late last year following his speech at the Labour conference (which his Labour detractors might note that he won):
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"He declared, in no uncertain terms, that the so called “grievances” of the terrorists have to be exposed for what they are – the use of 21st century technology to fight the religious wars of the dark ages – their attack on 9/11 was an attack on our way of life, on the values of modernism – it is NOT about Afghanistan or Palestine.
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He cited how awful Afghanistan was under the Taliban, and how the terrorists and their supporters used Afghanistan and now use Iraq as excuses for waging their war of hatred on modern civilisation. He stated how the UK presence in Iraq is welcomed by the democratically elected Iraqi government, and the UN, and the UK could NOT sit back and let other countries carry the burden. He is unashamedly proud of the British role in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and providing Iraq with a freer democratic government – and it is time to finish the job, confront those who want Iraq to become a terrorist run state and spread liberal democracy to Iraq.
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This is light years ahead of the mealy mouthed pragmatism of Clark and Brash on this issue, Clark happily lets NZ free ride off of Australia and the US for defence – Brash knows better, but panders to the mindless anti-Americanism that braindead journalists and the Michael Moore sycophants adore.
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You see, Blair does not give one inch of credit to Al Qaeda or any other terrorists for their behaviour. He does not surrender the fundamental morality of Western liberalism –a liberalism that protects individual rights (albeit inconsistently), that guarantees plurality of speech, guards against extreme abuses of power and welcomes reason, science and diversity as being the beauty of what humanity is. "
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When Blair isn't good, he is cringeworthy, but when he is good, he is great. Labour will not produce another like him for some time, and Cameron pales in comparison with his slithering around the political spectrum collecting votes wherever he may find them. The war on terror is very very important, and while I do not support the growing risk of misuse of powers by the state to fight it - Blair understands why it is important - this alone, is why I believe he should stay, for now.

Brash wants evidence local loop unbundling will work

Finally National comes out with a press release on local loop unbundling. However, it isn't about property rights, but about economics. Brash wants to see a benefit/cost analysis about local loop unbundling. I would too - it needs some rigorous analysis, by someone with no particular barrow to push on this issue.
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So if the economics don't stack up would National restore Telecom's property rights? No. Property rights are not even mentioned.
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Yes I know it would be difficult to reverse, but if Telecom's property rights can be overriden and contracts with private ACC providers can be overriden, then so can contracts between Telecom and competing ISPs.
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Labour gets the message, National doesn't repeal what it does. Like the 39% income tax rate, National opposed it, but wont repeal it.
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Then half of the post is about the leak. Yawn – who cares. Don, people care about the substance of what the government does, not the nit-picking at a leak.
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I guess I should be grateful that the Nats will oppose it - should I?

Wellingtonians: Ngauranga to Airport transport study


In case you didn't notice, there are bigger transport issues in Wellington than Transmission Gully. Transit is now consulting on a strategy for the most congested corridor in the region- Ngauranga-Airport. So if you are ever stuck entering this tunnel (Mt Victoria Tunnel) on a regular basis then you might give a damn about it.
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This study will be developing a draft strategy for roads and public transport on the corridor and will - understandably - mainly be focused on access between the city and the airport, the region and the airport and access around the CBD.
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Submission deadline is May 15 and the Transit papers on this are located here.
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For my bit, I think the focus should be on:
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- A flyover at the Basin Reserve as a priority, to take Mt Victoria Tunnel-Buckle St/Cambridge Tce traffic off of the Basin roundabout. The land is there for it and it is the next logical step once the inner city bypass is completed;
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- A 2nd Mt Victoria Tunnel and 4-laning Ruahine St and the 2-lane stretch of Wellington Road. Access to the airport is critical for the whole region, and the economic of that work are likely to be far better than Transmission Gully;
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- Longer term designating a preference for a covered trench motorway bypass tunnel from the Basin Reserve to the Terrace Tunnel, with a 2nd Terrace Tunnel. This is the original early 1990s motorway extension plan, and if built could cut a third of the traffic from Te Aro and the waterfront. In combination with road pricing, this could relieve the city of through traffic and revitalise the waterfront by enabling one-lane each way to be removed.
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Public transport? Well once you have rationed the road space with pricing, buses will operate quicker and more economically through the city. The trains are already being refurbished or replaced (and don't say underground rail or light rail - they make no economic sense at all).
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Another idea seriously under consideration is to 8-lane the motorway from Ngauranga Interchange to Aotea Quay, which will relieve congestion at the merges at peak times, but shift the traffic into the city - I'd be fine with extra lanes on the motorway, as long as they are funded by tolls - as is increasingly happening in the USA (such as the 91 express lanes in California)- so those who benefit from the extra lanes pay for them.

John Prescott and the unfortunate size


British tabloid, full of gutter journalists who are interested largely in creating scandal and destroying any semblance of dignity in order to titillate people who don't really give a damn about major social and economic issues - but would rather sell newspapers by pandering to thr worst of people. However, they can also be very amusing or just present you with imagery that you’d rather not know of. Like UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s allegedly tiny penis. David Farrar has blogged on this, and displayed the image the Sun published of his allegedly cocktail sausage size penis. Cactus Kate was right in her condemnation of Tracey Temple – no aesthetics at all, plus a penis a third of average length. Hasn't she got a battery powered friend?
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On the other hand - Prescott probably gave hope to legions of old obese small dicked men who don't necessarily have to pay for it. After all Ron Jeremy did well from being ugly fat and well hung, John Prescott has power to replace his penis.
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Prescott deserves all this of course, after having the state pay his council tax and gaining the title “Two Jags”. This followed his hypocrisy of promoting public transport but never using it, such as him and his wife going by car for 250 metres, because he was too lazy to walk and his wife needed to protect her hair. He also lied in 1998 claiming he was going to Hull by train, when after three miles he got off the train and hopped into his Jag for the rest of the trip. The 250 metres is just lazy, the Jag made sense – but not for a leftie Labour politician wanting everyone else to go by train. He has also left his Jag parked in a disabled spot. Charming.
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On the other side, he gained kudos by punching a protestor who threw an egg at him. Any self respecting man would do the same.
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So while his statist busybody nature means he tells others what to do, and then does what he likes is annoying for the hypocrisy, he also does have a rather laissez-faire attitude to life himself. That in itself is admirable - and for a man who spent his whole life with a tiny penis, and hasn't bothered to get it enhanced (even though he could undoubtedly afford to), such confidence is remarkable.
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Although it is possible his penis retired in size due to atrophy, he quite probably spent his life growing up wondering why he was to be condemned by genetics for his paucity of phallus. Try not to imagine his first time, assuming the woman concerned had seen one before (if not, then so be it) - the nervousness. Or maybe he just punched anyone who hassled him about it. He grew above his ding-a-ling, or rather out and over it.
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So if only he would retire, he can punch people, eat what he likes, shag whoever is willing and drive around in his Jag - then he'd leave us all alone.
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Daily Mail tales of Prescott here and here

ACT on Campus on decriminalising marijuana


Hat tip to David Farrar for pointing me to this one. Helen Simpson (pictured) – relatively new ACT on Campus President shares the view of Libertarianz on this point on the ACT on Campus blog. Prohibition doesn’t work. Trevor Loudon, ACT Vice President has also blogged her post, without stating an opinion. . What a step forward it would be for ACT at least, if not National to talk more about this. Don’t be afraid – parts of Labour say it too, as my last post pointed out.
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As I have stated before a couple of times, and Not PC as well – this all comes down to who owns your life, and who owns your body.
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So when the President of ACT on Campus says it, and David Farrar says it – will it ever percolate upwards?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The tiny libertarian part of Labour

"At the Auckland/Northland regional conference of the labour party tonight these motions were passed:
- That a system of voluntary euthanasia for the termanilly (sic) ill be legalised
- That labour in government decriminalise the personal use of marijuana so that it is deal with as a health and social issue rather than a law and order one."
Stone the crows - if only! (and if only the tax, welfare and economic policy was similarly enlightened).
Bring that part of Labour into ACT and maybe.... ?

Brash talks about nanny state... but

really, will he walk the walk, or will he even consistently talk the talk? Will his team? Sadly it is difficult to tell.
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Speaking in Picton, Don Brash said Labour has been wasteful and poor managers of public services according to Stuff.
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The whole Picton speech is here. Some of the notable points are:
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"Our concern is for the thousands of Kiwi shareholders in our largest company who’ve lost out this week as a result of Labour’s inept handling of this issue. The Government’s bumbling has needlessly worsened the situation for investors, and shows the Government’s complete lack of understanding about how the economy and the capital markets work. "
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So does that mean unbundling is bad or not? Hmmmm. He goes on about the leak, which Not PC points out isn't the point.
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"It was Helen Clark, staring at the prospect of electoral defeat, who said it was okay to steal half a million dollars off the taxpayers of New Zealand, and spend it on her election campaign, knowing full well that in doing so she’d breach the legal spending cap – something our Electoral Act calls a corrupt practice. "
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Indeed - National shouldn't let that one go at all.
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"Helen Clark and Michael Cullen will be leaving behind a terrible legacy of poor incentives and dependency. They’ll leave a mess of poorly-thought-out and politically opportunistic tax and income support policy, which will unfortunately cost all New Zealanders dearly in the years ahead. "
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Exactly, and if National can confront the welfare state it will have gone a long way towards attacking one of the biggest social failures in the past generation.
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"Now of course I can’t tell you at this stage precisely what tax reductions National will propose for the next election – there’s too much water to go under the bridge to make that feasible. But you can be absolutely sure that lower taxes, and much improved work incentives for all Kiwis, will be central to our policy at the next election, and indeed in subsequent elections. Under National, you will pay lower taxes!"
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No doubt better than nothing, but it would be helpful if he could promise cuts of a scale at least like that previously promised. While more and more taxpayers slip into the hardly rich $60,000 p.a. 39% tax bracket, it would be nice if that rate was simply dropped.
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"the National Party is so focused on ensuring one law for all New Zealanders. That’s why we want to abolish separate electoral seats based on race. "
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Good!
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"The reality is that only National understands it’s the actions of individuals that cause the economy to grow. "
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Not only National, but it is good he notices this.
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Well - there is hope, Don Brash does believe in a lot of the right things, and when left to it, he does lean in the right direction. He still remains the National Party's best hope - if only he listened to himself more.

Kiwi FM - you didn't listen to it, so now you pay for it


Not long ago, Canwest decided to try a new radio station format - with 100% New Zealand music and called the network Kiwi FM (unrelated to the former Waikato contemporary hit radio station of around a decade ago). It broadcast in the three largest centres and was a commercial flop.
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You see, most people don't want to listen to a radio station playing just NZ music - in fact, given that commercially viable radio stations in our highly competitive market need only about 5% of listenership to start being worthwhile, Kiwi FM couldn't even manage that.
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So, in short, despite the pleadings of the taxpayer subsidised NZ music industry (they are in it for the culture - except they want to be paid for it) and the Labour government - virtually all of the public does not WANT to listen to NZ music because it is NZ music.
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What a surprise - you choose music you like because of the melody, beat, lyrics, talent of the performer etc -not because it is from New Zealand. If being local mattered, you'd like nothing more than to listen to your next door neighbour on the guitar -or the band at the local pub. Nationalism over music is either marketing bullshit generated by the local music industry or some mind-numbingly stupid xenophobia in reverse, that makes something "special" because it is homegrown.
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Steve Maharey appears to be both - he supports the local music industry, because somehow people who can't generate public support for their music are deserving of money taken from those who don't support them, through taxes. He also thinks there is some sort of nationalistic zeitgeist in local art and culture that needs supporting. It is important you pay for a radio station you don't listen to, because it help binds you to the rest of the New Zealand public - in only the way a politician and university academic knows how - inexplicably!
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So, you see, Canwest - the latest state moocher - was going to close down Kiwi FM and replace it with The Breeze (yawn) in Auckland and no doubt other formats in Wellington and Christchurch. The frequencies that Canwest own can be put to better use broadcasting radio stations that people want to hear, not Kiwi FM. This upset Maharey and the noisy local music lobby, firmly with their snouts in the taxpayers' trough since Labour was elected - so three FM radio frequencies are being made available to Canwest to continue broadcasting Kiwi FM, for free.
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The government has basically announced a package of pork to keep this unsuccessful station on air. Not only is it getting frequencies that should be sold off to the highest bidder, but it is getting taxpayer money for particular radio programmes - which, of course, wouldn't be needed if enough people wanted to listen. The intention is that the station should become "not for profit".
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So you're going to be subsidising a privately owned commercial station to become a non-commercial station - with an audience share of not 5%, not 1%, but 0.5% of all radio listeners 10+ nationwide (0.9% in Wellington and 0.7% in Auckland). Less than most Maori stations, less than Concert FM.
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Tune into it sometime to decide if you're happy about it, and then write to Maharey and complain, and think about whether getting government help to prop up your uneconomic radio stations is a good thing for Canwest to do. New Zealand music isn't special - some of it is good, some of it is awful - none of it has to do about what country it comes from.
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UPDATE: I hate socialism blogs about why Kiwi FM isn't a success and shouldn't be propped up.
Lindsay Mitchell rightfully points out that what is worse is using Kiwi FM's high NZ airplay to bully other stations into playing more- although there is NO legal instrument to enforce a quota - it is all voluntary and as I pointed out here, the CER Agreement and WTO commitments of the government mean it MUST remain voluntary.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Telecom gets a hammering - no you don't own it, unless you have shares

This is my Friday rant.
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$4.72 for Telecom, it was $5.70 a few weeks ago.
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All the slobbering foaming at the mouth "it is ours anyway" mob will be downing their bottles of cask wine in excitement, stroking their moustaches and beer bellies, or their scrunched up envy ridden faces going on about how good it is that those foreign bastards are getting it at last. Ringing up talkback I bet to have a good old moan about the good old days and that bastard Douglas who sold Telecom (actually Clark and Cullen had the same amount of say at the time - Douglas had long been ousted as Finance Minister).
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Simple message - you don't fucking own Telecom. The "you" you talk about, sold it - sold it because "you" owed a mountain of debt and needed the money to pay some back - "you" spent it on welfare and subsidies and the like. "You" didn't spent a cent on upgrading Telecom after that. If "you" didn't like it, then maybe "you" should have asked government to spend less in the 70s and 80s - but I doubt if "you" did.
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Your bullshit argument that "we paid for it so it's ours" is complete nonsense - it is so mind numbingly stupid that it defies comprehension that people who know how to put clothes on can make the argument. This is about as relevant as going to the owner of a car or house you ONCE owned and claiming it is yours again -having sold it previously. You might have built the house, but you sold it and lost all rights to it - fair and square. "Oh but I opposed the sale" - well tough shit. In a liberal democracy your argument lost. The sale proceeded and no party has ever been elected to buy it back.
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So frankly when it comes to Telecom, unless you own shares you can simply fuck off, buy some and then have your say at the AGM, vote on the directors etc.
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Pay attention to something you own, and any contracts you have with Telecom - all your imaginary public good socialistic bullshit is just that - because when it comes down to it, I can't hold you or any of you lot accountable when your socialist bullshit does not deliver - such as with health care.
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It is times like this that I wish that Theresa Gattung just announced that Telecom was pulling out, and I mean pulling out - it was giving notice of the termination of all service contracts, and would be dismantling its network and selling the wire and fibre optics for scrap. Now I know this makes no business sense - but Telecom is entitled to do this - just like you're entitled to destroy your own property (unless it is a special tree or a historic place). Imagine if it did that - then where would you be? No producer has an obligation to supply you with any good or service as of right - remember that. You get goods and services by contract. Just as you can decide to buy no more, so can the producer decide to sell no more.
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Apologies for those who have shares - you do own it, and I'm sure you're feeling less than happy about how much the government has destroyed some of your wealth with cheerleaders across (most) of the political spectrum.
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Sometimes I simply think it is time that consumers realised how lucky they are that producers even exist.

English local elections give Labour a fair beating


England (not the UK) had its local council elections yesterday and while I tend to avoid getting too excited about one side vs. the other (all being different version of Nanny State) I tend to feel the Conservatives are slightly less likely to tax and regulate than Labour or the LibDems.
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Voting is done by ballot box, not postal as in New Zealand and was on a Thursday – so turnout is a derisory 36%. I remember when NZ had voting by ballot box for council elections and turnout average around 25-30% unsurprisingly.
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Unlike New Zealand where, with the exception of perhaps Auckland and Christchurch, party politics are not strong (and even where they are, they have stupid deceptive names with words like now, future, citizens etc to hide them being left or rightwing blocs), in the UK local councils are strongly partisan – effectively being mini-versions of the House of Commons. All the parties see it as a test of overall popular support – and this time round, that would be a fair assumption.
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It seems odd to punish local councillors for what central government politicians get up to. John Bank and the pro-Nat/ACT Citizens and Ratepayers Now bloc won in 2001 in Auckland City, a year before the Nats had their worst election result ever in the general election. A good council (whatever that is) should not suffer because its party is bad in central government and vice versa - but that is what happens in England.
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Labour has suffered an enormous defeat – not helped by the scandals of John “how the hell did he get laid” Prescott, Charles “lets not deport the rapists” Clarke and the media pack anxious for Blair to step down. Labour is looking more and more like a lame duck, probably unfairly so – whereas the Tories, although with some cynicism, are operating in a united, cohesive fashion and David Cameron has injected some life (if not principle) into the party. The LibDems have been rescued from oblivion by Sir Menzies Campbell putting them on life support, so are holding their own.
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Labour lost control of 18 councils and lost 254 councillors, the Tories gained 12 councils and 250 councillors, the LibDems gained 1 council and 18 councillors and 5 councils shifted to “no overall control”, with no single party winning a majority.
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More disturbingly the “we’re not racist we just have lots of yobbos in our party who hate dark skinned people” BNP won 11 seats in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham – pity anyone not white living there. The BNP does well tapping into latent racism and fear of crime among working class white people, you know the sort you don’t want to be sharing a beach in Spain with. The BNP is an odd bunch, the core neo-Nazis who hate Jews (the word Zionist is used in the manifesto) and anyone not Aryan, a neo-conservative Christian core who are not that different from US protestant KKK groups and old fashioned socialists who believe the state should own and do a lot more than it does – national socialists you see? Although if you look at its manifesto, the BNP wants to look at the NZ experience in abolishing agricultural subsidies! I wont be moving to Barking and Dagenham (like I would anyway!).
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I’m just thrilled my own council, Camden, for the first time in its history is no longer a Labour council. Might be nice to see some accountability in a council that is responsible for the monstrosities pictured above, although if the LibDems and Labour co-operate it will be a tax and spend council once more.
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David Cameron should be pleased, Blair will be despondent, and the LibDems relieved. John Prescott will reportedly take the "blame" for the result - the real blame is that England is tired of New Labour spin, and has swung to the right. The poor have gone to the racist right and the middle and upper classes have gone to the Tories.
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Welcome everyone doing school projects on Transmission Gully

You've managed to sustain my hit rate over the three weeks I've said nothing on anything else. There must be around half a dozen classrooms doing this! (I have an invisible counter)
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Just search Transmission Gully on my blog, you'll find tons that isn't pro-Gully, that isn't pro-rail, but is pro-efficiency.
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Remember, it is a long way towards being built. The Transit NZ Board has to decide whether to support it as the long-term option, and then funding has to be found, and the project needs about two years of detailed investigation (easily worth $3-$5 million) first. Transmission Gully wont be a problem for this government, it will be a problem for the next one - it wont be affordable then either.

Bolivia adopts Alliance policy on energy


You don’t hear anything from the so-called “peace movement” about a government sending its military in to steal the assets of private companies – this being what is now happening in Bolivia, as President Evo Morales (pictured) – pinup boy of the left because he is indigenous (though they don’t regard Margaret Thatcher as a pinup because she is a woman, because she didn’t espouse their ideology) – confiscates what he calls “our natural resources”. This is the step beyond unbundling that the Alliance (they still around?) would approve of. Trevor Loudon warned us of Morales when he was elected and Morales links to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro say it all.
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The BBC reports that the Bolivian army has now taken over the Palmasola refinery, and Morales has demanded that gas companies “renegotiate” the terms of their contracts with the government, and they must “sell” 51% of their assets to the state – no doubt at a price the state demands. He demands that the Bolivian state take 60% of production from all gas fields except the two largest, which will have to give up 82%.
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Soldiers have been sent to 56 locations, and Morales has said this is just the start. According to the BBC “Mr Morales said the gas fields were "just the beginning, because tomorrow it will be the mines, the forest resources and the land".
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Fool.
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Ironically, the left wing (but decidedly pragmatic) President of Brazil Lula da Silva and left wing Spanish government are both concerned – because two of the biggest investors in the Bolivian energy sector are Brazilian (Petrobras) and Spanish (Ripsol) companies respectively. On top of that, Brazil imports half of its gas from Bolivia. Gas isn’t a good commodity to transport in large quantities other than by pipeline, so substitute suppliers wont be easy to find.
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Petrobras of Brazil has cancelled all plans to invest more in Brazil and Bloomberg reports that these moves are likely to increase prices in Brazil and Argentina.
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The appropriate response by the companies is to demand that property be returned, otherwise they should use force in self defence. An alternative would be to exit and demolish the refinery, pipes and the rest, take their skills and run. Of course neither will happen – they will face the prospect of having half of their property stolen and negotiate to keep the rest. Ideally the Brazilian and Spanish government should threaten military action to protect their nationals – much as was threatened against Iran in the 1950s when it did the same to British and American oil companies.
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I expect the left will be cheering this on – claiming that the gas “belongs to the people”. Well good on “the people” – let all the companies remove their expertise and see how well the average Bolivian peasant does in figuring out how to get the gas out of the ground, refine it and sell it. If it weren’t for foreign companies using THEIR knowledge and training people to access the gas, then the gas would be useless to Bolivians – much as radio spectrum was useless to Maori (and in fact everyone on the planet) in the 18th century, as nobody even knew it existed, let alone knew how to use it. Bolivian gas, like Venezuelan and Saudi oil only exists because of the application of the mind by scientists and entrepreneurs to the resource, which previously wasn’t even known to exist. The Brazilian, Spanish and other foreign companies accessing, refining and selling it paid substantial royalties to the government to do something the government could not do – now the companies should walk and take everything left of their’s with them.
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The confiscation of property in Bolivia is utterly repulsive, and if Morales does the same to other property, then the people of Bolivia will get what they voted for – a wasteful socialist autocracy, whereby success gets confiscated by the state. I am sure Morales is hoping to make a fortune from high energy prices and redistribute the income – but he will have successfully killed off foreign investment from Bolivia. South America's poorest country will remain so.
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By the way, there is parliamentary support for Evo Morales. Hone Harawira praised him in his inaugural speech, and Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples by press release. I guess because he is indigenous, it's ok to confiscate property and chase off tau iwi investment is it?
- Evo Morales profile on Wikipedia

National and ACT show some principle

Omigod! I'm astounded. Following Rodney Hide's excellent condemnation of the announcement to let anyone and everyone have access to Telecom's local line network, I listened online to Maurice Williamson doing the very same on Morning Report. Well done Maurice, making some of the points I have already made. PC has done a good summary of Telecom's share drop, 10% of value in a day and his updated post of much of the commentary.
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Other responses are:
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NZ First naturally supports it, as Winston has been one of the biggest Telecom-bashers in recent years, courting the "we paid for it" populist vote. Again Winston thinks "The Government must also ensure that this does not only deliver benefits to big city New Zealand, but that those same services reach all the way down to the country roads" so he wants you to subsidise farmer access to broadband - that isn't cheap, since the Kiwishare has forced Telecom to subsidise farmer access to local lines for ages from the line rentals of city businesses and residents.
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Greens support it - as any chance to bash Telecom is welcome, although Nandor even said "Current prices aren’t bad" great chance to regulate then. Nandor reckons it will allow virtually free international calling. Well that hasn't happened anywhere, and in many countries it is due to loony protectionist governments maintained statutory telecommunications monopolies - you know, the sort that the left defended until Telecom was privatised.
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Local Government New Zealand, representing 86 organisations specialising in thieving from the public (local government) supports the move. It thinks rural communities will benefit, which is astounding.
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The Alliance retards foaming at the mouth are clamouring "it's not enough", wanting the government to renationalise Telecom and then service will be cheap and high quality - hmm like it was for decades under the Post Office. Keep taking the medicine guys.
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TelstraClear's CEO is sitting thrilled that lobbying government has increased his company's value far more effectively than investing in infrastructure or winning customers over with better service and lower prices (which anyone who has been a user of Telstra Clear's local Wellington service in recent years will note has been declining significantly). Remember before LLU was seriously on the agenda, Telstra Clear was going to build a brand new local access network for all of residential metropolitan Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Dunedin, and expand the Wellington network to Porirua. Cheaper to lobby to use other people's infrastructure than to build your own of course.
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Russell Brown is thrilled because he believes Telecom is ripping him off, and believes attaching equipment to Telecom's exchanges under LLU is high quality "investment" in telecommunications - but then we always knew he was a leftie :)
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IHUG, like other competitors says the handbrake is off - although it has provided a competitive satellite based and wireless based broadband service for some years. Again, no need to invest further in your own infrastructure.
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Business New Zealand is wary, and is taking a wait and see approach.
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Business Roundtable is damning of LLU, and makes the cogent point that the argument that "everyone else does it" is the same argument that other lobbies, like farming, once said about subsidies and protectionism. A great quote from the press release is:
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“Measures like forced unbundling have been described as infrastructure socialism (“what’s yours is mine”, by government decree). By allowing competitors access to incumbents’ networks on non-commercial terms, the short-term competition they create is parasitical, not the dynamic competition we need from incentives to invest in new and enhanced infrastructure."
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You see, those supporting LLU seem to be doing so for three differing reasons:
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1. It is expected to deliver faster, cheaper broadband services because Telecom is refusing to provide those services, or resale the ability to provide those services to competitors (this I believe is the David Farrar reason);
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2. Everyone else does it, so we should too (the sheeple reason);
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3. Telecom are bastards who have been "ripping us off for years", capitalist scum, "we paid for it", put the boot in, rah rah rah keep the red flag flying (the Greens and I suspect the reason at least a good third of the public will support it).
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The second argument is fatuous, if we took that approach, telecommunications in New Zealand would have been a regulated monopoly or duopoly until the late 1990s. Australia opened up its market in 1997, most of western Europe between 1998 and 2000, New Zealand in 1989. NZ has a completely open postal market, almost every other country (Sweden, Finland, Argentina and the UK excepted) grants a statutory monopoly to its state owned (and relatively inefficient) postal operator.
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The third argument is facile - Telecom was sold by the elected government of the day (Helen Clark and Michael Cullen were Cabinet Ministers at the time), and the proceeds were used to pay off debt "that you borrowed" or to avoid borrowing more for services "that you wanted". You don't own Telecom unless you buy shares in it - get over it.
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So what about the first? Is Telecom not providing faster broadband because there is insufficient demand? Is it not providing cheaper broadband because it is unprofitable? Are competitors not investing in infrastructure because the clear message from government is that Telecom's will be there to use instead? Has Telecom been acting anti-competitively and if so, why have no competitors taken it to court under the strengthened heavy handed Commerce Act?
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When I was in telecommunications policy, one of the clearest messages was that setting up a regulator (which did not exist until 2000/2001) would change incentives in the industry from focusing energy on investment, innovation and commercial negotiation to lobbying and counterlobbying, with the regulator NEVER ever pleasing everyone. Lobbying is cheaper than investing in infrastructure - you just need to have half a dozen well paid suits willing to bang on at politicians, bureaucrats and the media about how hard done by your company is, and how mean old Telecom is ripping everyone off - but your company is the paragon of altruism and will save the day.
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That has simply been proven right.