Sunday, 4 December 2016

Whakatiki St SH2 intersection update

Back in August I launched a petition to the NZTA regarding the Whakatiki St intersection. I am still waiting on a response from NZTA on this... watch this space!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

TPP without the United States is still worth it

Donald Trump's election to the US presidency has effectively scuttled any chance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement being ratified. Plenty of commentators and critics of the agreement have said that TPP is now effectively "dead".

In a way, declaring the agreement dead because the United States might not ratify it gives a great insight into the thinking of the critics of the agreement - TPP isn't all about the United States, and never was. Yet opposition to TPP has obsessively focused on the United States.

MFAT's TPP information demonstrates the market opportunities for New Zealand's exporters to the other members of the agreement. For example, exporters of value-added New Zealand wood products to Japan for example are in for a major windfall. That's not something we should walk away from. New Zealand depends on international trade for our prosperity.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Trump is the product of [insert self-serving explanation here]

I'm loathe to discuss Trump's victory at this year's US Presidential election. Plenty of ink has already been spilled. However I think a number of the explanations being put on the result are simply self-serving, e.g. Trump won because the disenchanted working class, left behind by neoliberalism and globalisation, abandoned the Democrats and voted Republican. Therefore, to prevent a Trump we must reject these things too.

Firstly, the analysis of the results (so far) shows that the reason Trump won was because Democrats didn't come out in sufficient numbers in the right states to vote. Hillary Clinton has managed to win the popular vote (47.8% to 47.3%), but that is meaningless in the US as it's winning states that matters.

Secondly, Trump won the votes of people you'd expect to vote Republican anyway - men, whites, those 45 years plus. He did slightly worse than Mitt Romney among those earning $50,000 plus a year, but they still voted for him overwhelmingly, and slightly better among those earning less than $50,000 a year, but they still voted Democrat overwhelmingly. He did much better among those outside of a union than within.

All of this points to the Democrats not putting up their strongest candidate. Don't get me wrong, I wanted Hillary to win - I think Trump is awful, his business acumen is totally overblown, he has basically no experience in government, he'll push back progress made on climate change, free trade (and ironically labour rights guaranteed by such agreements, although maybe that's the point), without even mentioning his awful attitude towards women, the disabled, Blacks and Latinos. But Hillary carried so much baggage - much of it unfairly heaped on her - that she was always going to struggle.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Back to the 1950s we go!

The group Hobson's Pledge is clearly some sort of joke. One minor point on their views on our national anthem proves it - on their website, under the heading "indoctrination" they say:
Older New Zealanders would remember going to the movies and being required to stand for a rendition of the British national anthem God Save the Queen, singing Anglican hymns and reading the Bible at school prize givings and listening to a speech by some dignitary on the opening of anything official.
You'd think from the above paragraph that Hobson's Pledge are taking issue with the stuffy officialdom of old and the days when we had that Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem nonsense defining New Zealand: an insular, homogeneous, backward colonial backwater with an economy based on selling primary production to the "mother" country (who eventually moved on and joined the common market). It seems from the next paragraph that's not their view at all:
All that has changed. Any rendition of the New Zealand national anthem requires us to mumble through the first verse in Maori before singing the widely understood English words. School prize givings and university graduations require a traditional Maori welcome (powhiri). Openings of anything official require an incantation in Maori (karakia).
God Defend New Zealand didn't become our national anthem until 1977, even though it was written by Thomas Bracken and Joseph John Woods in the 1870s (interestingly both Maori and English versions came about at the same time - the English version was first performed in 1876, while the Te Reo Maori verses were added in 1878, so it was a true partnership, something the Hobson's Pledgers don't like). Even then it is technically only with "equal" standing to God Save the Queen, another one of those stupid historical compromises no-one remembers, which has been rendered obsolete by the mists of time.

The specific issue the pledgers take with God Defend New Zealand is that the don't know how to sing it in Maori. The strange thing is it's not hard to sing God Defend New Zealand in Maori, and it's not hard to learn. The Ministry of Culture and Heritage also provides handy YouTube videos on how to sing in Maori. I'm guessing the pledgers will see this as more indoctrination.

It seems in these two paragraphs, the pledgers assert that things were better in the 1950s because they were more Anglo-centric. That is a damning insight into their thinking. The do not believe in civic nationalism they allege - the idea that all New Zealanders are equal - at all. They believe that being British is superior, and our own home-grown identity, expressed in both the Maori and English verses of God Defend New Zealand is inferior. They apparently want to go back to the 1950s and not be bothered by the realities of being a post-colonial state.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Only two things are inevitable in life...

As the old saying goes, there are only two things that are inevitable in life: death and taxes. In his recent column, Liam Hehir writes that a New Zealand republic is "less than inevitable", even after what you'd think is a fairly good poll result for those of us who support a New Zealander as head of State. Liam challenges me to a wager (I'm guessing as former chairman of New Zealand Republic Inc) that a New Zealand republic is not inevitable. The wager has something to do with painting his house.

It's not a bet I'll accept, not because I don't like painting (did plenty when I was younger, not so into it anymore) but because Liam is right: a New Zealand republic is not inevitable. And it's very odd to me that over the years many people have expressed surprise that I take that view. But in many ways the poll result Liam discusses re-enforces it. Some people think I'm defeatist by saying this, and I'm sure plenty of monarchists take comfort from it.

It turns out that the things that are inevitable - dying and paying tax for the privilege of doing so - are some of the sort of issues that matter most to the public. Inevitably, we're all focused on what affects us the most in life: whether there's a decent job for you to earn a living from, a good public health service if you get sick, a decent school to send your children to, a house to live in and transport between all four. The nature of our head of State is as Liam states a pretty minor issue that, like his weatherboards, may eventually get some attention.

And when it does, it will most likely be just as contentious as the nightmare that became the flag debate and referendums. But ten times worse, because a republic not only touches the thorny issues of national identity and constitutional change, but also the Treaty of Waitangi and the interrelated issue of the legal nature of the state (that is, whether we keep referring to the Government of New Zealand by a shorthand name for a piece of feudal headdress).

Then there's the issue - highlighted in the poll - that while support for both of the republic models is above the golden 50% mark, that doesn't mean (as Liam accurately points out) there's a majority for change, much the same as the final weeks of the flag debate, when UMR polling found a majority of voters supported change, but only 40% wanted the particular flag on offer. It gets even worse when you analyse the motivations - as I did in this Spinoff article - for direct election of the head of State versus parliamentary election, and the huge contradiction of the public's distaste for a politician being head of State, and 44% support for the system (direct election) most likely to result in one.

Unsurprisingly I don't accept Liam's analysis of the reasons for change. To my mind, the case for keeping the monarchy is weak, being built almost entirely on misinformation and nostalgia for a time when we were a part of the British Empire and economically provided for; dependent, apathetic, insular and disengaged from the world (as I discovered during the flag debate, there's a large group of people who view any change to the flag, head of state, anthem etc as moving away from the grand old days of Fortress New Zealand, replete with its pre-EEC economy and welfare state).

The case for a New Zealand head of state, and building a national identity around a narrative of being independent and standing on our own two feet, is much stronger. The claims of an inferiority complex are nonsense - if anything, our failure to make a New Zealander our head of state is the ultimate symbol of tall poppy syndrome.

The good news for Liam though is that the difficulties of change - and the public's general lack of any appetite to deal with them - mean there will be significant barriers to change for some time. The bad news is that the barriers can be removed, and are likely to be in the coming years. Take the Treaty for example: it's highly likely there will be some sort of clarity constitutionally once the remaining Treaty settlements are made. The process for choosing our head of State can be sorted out now at the Governor-General level.

But all this is speculative of course. Like everything else in life, nothing but death and taxes are inevitable.