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How close is too close?

Written By: - Date published: 7:20 am, June 3rd, 2011 - 54 comments
Categories: accountability, corruption, dpf, national - Tags: , ,

How close should corporate interests be allowed to cuddle up to the government? When is a gift not a gift? If it isn’t influence what is it? The Greens have raised important questions surrounding Westpac and the Nats:

Govt denies Westpac ‘buying access’ to ministers

The Government says the Green Party’s implication that Westpac Bank has bought access to ministers through generous corporate hospitality is wrong.

Replies to questions from the Greens to the Government show that nine ministers accepted hospitality from Westpac in the past year, including box seats at the Rugby Sevens, dinner at the White House restaurant in Wellington and tickets to rock concerts.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett attended last year’s Bon Jovi concert in Wellington in the Westpac Corporate Box.

The answers also show staff of 13 ministers accepted similar hospitality from Westpac.

The Greens say ministers should not be accepting hospitality from Westpac when the Government’s master banking contract held by the bank is under review. …

Not a good look? The Nats seem a bit rattled. Key is publicly calling (yet again) for his ministers to dial back on the perks:

MPs told cup must not runneth over

Prime Minister John Key has laid down the law to his ministers over accepting too many corporate box invitations during the Rugby World Cup.

How many is “too many” John?

His warning to be careful about the sort of hospitality ministers accept during the six-week tournament comes after the Greens questioned ministers and their staff accepting generous hospitality from Westpac Bank while the Government’s master banking contract is under review. Westpac holds the contract.

The Nats’ pet blogger is spinning so fast on this one that I can hear the high pitched whine from the Mainland. He tries to ridicule the idea that naked attempts at currying favour can have any effect at all. Its the usual stinking hypocrisy from DPF, who once hounded Winston Peters over a “scandal” involving a single free dinner. (Come to think of it the Nats took out a formal complaint over that one free meal.) Of course gifts to politicians buy influence, that’s why we have laws governing them.

More credible bloggers point out the problems. At Dim-Post:

But what if this is a regular occurrence? Over a three year term this kind of hospitality could easily be worth over ten thousand dollars – but each incident was only a low value, undeclarable gift. I’ve heard some MPs mention that their office fridge is always full of alcohol gifted by lobbyists for the hospitality industry. Crate of beer and a box of wine? Low value: non-declared, but worth thousands of dollars/MP over the course of a three year term.

I think the best way to phrase the question around this issue is: would we be comfortable if these were cash sums, ie. would we be happy if companies that had business arrangements with the government were able to pay MPs moderately small amounts of money on a weekly basis without any disclosure?

Excellent points. And finally I/S, as usual, doesn’t pull any punches:

Key supports corruption

So, John Key thinks there’s “nothing wrong” with accepting bribes from Westpac and other corporates. Of course he does. He is from the corporate world, where this sort of corruption is par for the course. But what he doesn’t understand is that we expect better from our elected officials.

As for the argument advanced by their recipients that these bribes are meaningless, and do not result in improper influence, then why do the corporates offer them? They think they’re getting something out of it – legally speaking, they’re not allowed to offer it if they’re not. And so should we. …

The party that spent weeks hounding an MP over a single free meal has a lot of questions to answer…

54 comments on “How close is too close? ”

  1. sean maitland 1

    Wait a minute – didn’t the Greens get caught doing the exact same thing recently too? Hypocritical much?

    • happynz 1.1

      Care to elaborate? What thing was it that the Greens were doing that equates to National’s ministers enjoying Westpac’s hospitality?

      • RobC 1.1.1

        I’ll elaborate for you happy – Sean is referring to Norman’s trip to the US – y’know, the one paid for by the US Government which is apparently “the exact same thing” as accepting free tickets to a Bon Jovi concert from a corporate business that, oh, has a commercial relationship with the Govt.

        The only thing hypocritical Sean, is the RWNJ’s whining this is all fair and above board for the reasons outlined in the post.

  2. Don’t you love the phrasing.  Key has “laid down the law” to ministers essentially not to submerge themselves too deeply in the corporate trough that their paymasters lay out for them.

    Fairfax resemble North Korea’s state newspaper sometimes.

    Just a little bit of thought would be appropriate before using such obsequious phrasing.

    • Armchair Critic 2.1

      Fairfax resemble North Korea’s state newspaper sometimes
      The main difference, perhaps, is that the government directly instructs the media on what to report in North Korea, whereas in NZ the chain of command is somewhat more convoluted (and less efficient, in the name of appearing to be deomcratic, balanced etc.).
      So much for the market providing a free press.

  3. happynz 3

    Turn on your TV for the evening news and this issue will get little to no play. That’s my prediction. NZ’s media are such lightweights.

  4. Matthew Hooton 4

    In the 1990s, Doug Myers used to send every member of the press gallery a dozen Steinlagers for Xmas. This led to a debate among some journalists about what to do, with two broad views emerging:

    1.) Return the beer, on the grounds that to drink it would risk creating a perception that past or present work on Mr Myers’ business interests was influenced by drinking the beer.

    2.) Drink the beer, on the grounds that to return it would risk creating a perception that you are the sort of journalist whose coverage might be influenced were you to drink it.

    I still don’t know which argument I think is the stronger.

    PS. I can’t recall if Mr Myers also sent beer to ministers’ offices (where I was working) but, if he did, I can assure you that not a single bottle would have been returned and it would all have been drunk by the staff without the ministers even knowing it had arrived.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      Did you get a bottle of wine from John Key at Christmas 2009?

      • Matthew Hooton 4.1.1

        No

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1

          “No” is also the correct truthful answer to that question if one had received a case of wine, instead of a single bottle, if it was a bottle of scotch and not of wine, or if the gift came from the PM’s office not from Key himself.

    • felix 4.2

      There’s actually no debate there for any journalist with a shred of credibility, integrity, ethics, or understanding of their role in a democratic society Matthew.

      Also what sort of prick sends Steinlager?

      • Draco T Bastard 4.2.1

        Also what sort of prick sends Steinlager?

        The people who a) don’t drink the shit themselves and b) are out of touch with the rest of NZ 😛

    • McFlock 4.3

      Hmmm. I’d probably keep the beer (not that I drink Steinlager anyway – probably just give it away), but there’s a difference between an xmas gift and never having to stock your liquor cabinet, getting the best seats in the house for free if you want them, free helicopter rides when you can’t be bothered using the airforce ministerial luxury car, and so on.

      The difference isn’t only in scale – we’re talking about a small value one-off given at a time when gifts are conventionally given, versus creating an expectation of entitlement.

      I suppose a clear example of journalistic conflict would be a story I heard about a prominent tv chef who did one of those “walk the earth, taste the real cuisine” shows. Got pissed off at one manufacturer because chef was refused several hundred dollars worth of free product (outside any arrangement with the producers), so ended up spending an entire day at the factory for barely a mention on the show. THAT is clearly unethical – the expectation of gifts in exchange or under threat of spinning a review or report.

    • Barry 4.4

      3. hand it to the cleaning staff.

      • Matthew Hooton 4.4.1

        By the looks of most press gallery offices, there are no cleaning staff … but, if there were, that would have been a good option.

  5. nadis 5

    To me the most interesting part of this debate is the deafening silence from Labour. For a very good reason. Having been in a corporate box at the same time as previous ministers I think you can guess the reason. On issues like this, all politicians are the same – the reason the greens have clean hands is because they haven’t ever and probably never will be in cabinet.

    On the one hand (as a receiver of corporate hospitality) I don’t believe for a second that this will influence a tender like the govt banking business. But on the other hand – I think it is a shit and lazy look and politicians should avoid freebies of any sort. I know the Reserve Bank has a staff policy that they can accept corporate hospitality but that the corporate has to invoice the staff member personally for “fair value”. If Gerry had received an invoiced for $300 for bon jovi tx and paid it I dont think anyone would have a problem with that.

    • Blighty 5.1

      David Cunliffe has commented that when he was ICT minister he had a strict rule for himself and his staff not to accept any gift from companies in the industry.

    • I agree Nadis that there should be a very simple rule with no exceptions.

      No corporate gifts, no exceptions, and if they offer they should be asked to donate to Salvation Army instead.

      • PeteG 5.2.1

        That’s much better. Fair comment, I agree too, although I’d let them choose an appropriate charity themselves.

        With all the exposure over the last couple of years you’d think they’d have figured it out themselves by now.

  6. RobC 6

    Actually, the problem I have is this sort of thing is an absolute no-no for public service employees so why should elected officials (politicians) have different rules?

  7. PeteG 7

    Some clear rules and guidelines on this would be a good idea, but it is a difficult thing to define what is and what isn’t over the line, and there are a lot of potential anomalies.

    A $5000 party donation from a corporation is ok but a $100 meal or sport ticket isn’t?
    A $5000 party donation from a union is ok but supplied afternoon tea is too?
    Giving a politician a lift in your car because you’re going the same way is ok but no helicopters?
    A $5000 party donation from an environmental group is ok but a complimentary joint is or isn’t?

    I guess the sensible self imposed rule is if in doubt don’t accept anything.

    I wonder if Key was billed for the royal wedding breakfast (if he was there) – that would have been worth a bit.

    Maybe we should all practice what we preach, and not accept any more free toys in return for buying hamburgers.

    • PeteG trots out the well worn cliche that the trade union movement in New Zealand is as powerful and as well funded as the corporates.

      Not even close PeteG.  This is the sort of line that people uninterested in the truth and only interested in winning will trot out, just so they have something to shout to hopefully drown us out when we shout out that NZ is being taken over by the corporates.

      All I can say PeteG is BS, BS, BS.

      The trade union movement has been brought to its knees by a couple of decades of neo right activity.  The 5th Labour Government held the line but did not do much more.

      And coincidentally during this time workers’ wages and conditions have plummeted. 

      Are you able to debate the details PeteG, like National Party donations and Labour Party donations?

      • PeteG 7.1.1

        Steady on MS, you sound like you’ve just watched the Highlanders second half, they must have been using a Labour strategist.

        You’re isolating one thing out of a bunch of examples where they are obviously just to make an overall point, and then exaggerating your indignation to buggery. So you can take your BS back.

        Have a nice weekend off, you might feel a bit better for it.

        • mickysavage 7.1.1.1

          Um Peteg

          Your previous comment implied heavily that the Trade Union Movement contributed the same to Labour that the Corporates contributed to National.

          Do you agree or disagree?

          You are working late.  Is CT now springing for OT?  Hope it is at least at time and a half!  If not I suggest you join a union ; )

  8. RedLogix 8

    This is cut and dried.

    In an earlier corporate life (US based) I used to have to sit an annual test on ethics. It usually took about an hour or so, and each year the questions changed. You had to get it right.

    While there was a clear set of guidelines around normal business to business transactions and relationships… there was a different and much stricter set of rules relating to government business.

    In essence the rule was… no gifting of any sort that could be in any way connected to a particular transaction. ( Corporates themselves frequently donate to political campaigns, but US perceptions around this are different to ours and are considered an entirely separate matter.)

    In this case the gifting from Westpac can be clearly connected to a specific transaction…. the renewal tendering of govt banking… therefore in my book it is clearly and absolutely wrong. No if’s, no but’s, and certainly no spin from that hypocritical buffoon Farrar.

    • ianmac 8.1

      That looks unequivocal to me. I scanned the on-line papers this morning and found not one reference to the issue. Funny that.

  9. randal 9

    so what this really means is the national mp’s are just a bunch of on the make cheapskates.

  10. Bunji 10

    The claims that it doesn’t buy influence are somewhat ridiculous – just the same as “advertising doesn’t influence me”. If it didn’t get the corporate anything, they wouldn’t do it.

    Danyl makes a very good point of several small gifts adding up to more. Currently gifts under $500 are undeclared, but getting $300 tickets to whatever event each week should add up. For political donations if you donate $999 a hundred times it counts as one big donation, so if you get a dozen $300 event tickets from a corporate (or 52 weekly cases of wine etc) in a year it should have to be declared.

    It’s the sort of thing you need clear rules around, as – as Matthew says – if you’re given a crate of beer and it’s not against the rules, are you really going to turn it down? (good work on not letting the minister be influenced by drinking it first Matthew 😉 )
    Altho I should make clear I think advisors should be on the same rules of ethical conduct – those unelected “servants” generally have more power than Backbench MPs after all…

    And the squealing that “Labour do it too” – so what? If some of their ministers/ministerial staff did it, that wouldn’t make it right.

    Stephen Franks on Afternoons yesterday was coming up with an even more ridiculous argument that politicians shouldn’t get too remote from the public and taking their corporate hospitality away from them would somehow do that. a) corporates don’t make up a very big slice of the public / public opinion, b) ministers having to pay their way at events shouldn’t stop them going…

  11. arants 11

    The Greens should ask about Telecom & Sky’s corporate hospitality too. Both probably dispense more than Westpac & both have benefitted from pronounced favouritism.

  12. joe bloggs 12

    Must be a slow policy day when the Labourites start parroting the Greens.

    Evidently someone’s forgotten the Westpac donation of $15,000 to Labour in 2007, or the $23,500 they donated in 2006, or the $30,000 in 2005. Wonder what those displays of benevolence bought?

    Hang on I see a pattern here – a loss of that loving’ feeling from Westpac.

    Could it be this spleen venting from the LWNJs is actually a bunch of sour grapes?

    • RedLogix 12.1

      Evidently someone’s forgotten the Westpac donation of $15,000 to Labour in 2007, or the $23,500 they donated in 2006, or the $30,000 in 2005. Wonder what those displays of benevolence bought?

      Many different people and entities donate to political parties. And while you selectively quote donations to Labour, more than likely Westpac was making similar donations to National at the same time. This is accepted practise….unless you want to condemn and stop ALL donations to political parties (and presumably move fund political parties from the public purse) you really haven’t anything to say.

      What is happening here is quite different. Here we have Westpac gifting individual Ministers immediately during a period when a major banking business tender is being conducted. This is a complete and absolute no-no.

      It is corrupt. Waiting anxiously for burt to arrive and demand all the Ministers involved resign immediately…..

      • joe bloggs 12.1.1

        PeteG has already highlighted the inequity of a system that considers a $30,000 donation from Westpac to Labour to be OK yet a $100 ticket to a game or for a meal to be dubious.

        Perhaps you should give that some thought.

        And while you’re about it, consider also the $300,000 ‘donation’ from Owen Glenn to Labour (sparked by a behind-the-door promise of an honorary consulship, and rewarded with the New Zealand Order of Merit), along with Mike Williams vehement denials (and subsequent offer to resign when he was caught lying).

        That corruption you smell is closer to home that you would have the rest of us think.

        • joe bloggs 12.1.1.1

          How remiss of me – Owen Glenn didn’t buy his NZ Order of Merit for $300,000. It cost him $500,000 in 2005 plus a top-up interest free ‘loan’ of another $100k in 2007.

          Remind me again:
          He wasn’t born in New Zealand.
          He hasn’t lived in New Zealand for over 40 years.
          He wasn’t eligible to vote in New Zealand…

          I wonder? Did Owen ever get his $100k interest free ‘loan’ back? What price corruption, eh?

          [lprent: That is quite off-topic for corporate bribes to ministers and a quite deliberate diversion troll. Your previous comments are similar. You know better and therefore accept the risk you’re taking.

          Banned for a month (and I was reaching for the banned until after the election button). ]

          • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.1.1

            Corruption needs to be stamped out, i wonder what Rodney was offered to accept the knife in the back from Key and Brash?

        • r0b 12.1.1.2

          I’ve got your solution joe bloggs.

          Total ban on all corporate / private donations to political parties and individuals. State funding of parties on a vote share basis. Problem solved.

          Are you with me?

          • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.2.1

            Yes public funding on a vote share basis which is then capped at 25% of the vote. That means that a party with 50% of the vote does not get 2x as much money as a party on 25% of the vote, and it doesn’t get 10x more money than a party on 5% of the vote.

            Levels out the playing field rather nicely 🙂

            • Draco T Bastard 12.1.1.2.1.1

              No it doesn’t. It keeps it tilted in the incumbents favour.

          • PeteG 12.1.1.2.2

            Only partially solved. Changes in circumstances between elections can be significant. If, for example, National and Labour were neck and neck on the polls now would it be fair to fund them based on last election’s votes? And new parties like Mana wouldn’t qualify at all, even if they applied for funds in time.

            There will never be a perfect solution – that keeps all politicians happy. I’d be happy if less was spent on political broadcasts and advertising on TV, and on mail boc drops – some people may actually take some notice, and some of them may be swayed, but I’d be surprised if it’s value for money.

          • lprent 12.1.1.2.3

            joe bloggs will be quiet for the next month. You may have to wait for that answer.

  13. Tom Gould 13

    With Goldman Sachs under investigations by state and federal authorities for rorting around the melt-down, is it fair to ask what government contracts and contacts they have here? Just asking.

  14. Banks are not known for spending money for no return are they? Politicians can say it doesn’t influence any decision making, but corporate interests wouldn’t bother otherwise, now would they?

  15. randal 15

    well just just give them “two” crates of steinlager each and nobody will bea ble to answer anything. q.e.d.

  16. djg 16

    If Nats had not decided to put the contract up for tender would any of this be an issue ?

    Who gets to advise on the tender outcome, is it Treasury or National ?

  17. randal 17

    hooton is fibbing. he wasn’t around when myers was spreading his liquid largesse around before he shoved off to London to get away from the rubes who could be bought witha carton of beer.

  18. Tom Gould 18

    Interesting to see the rampant media coverage of the allegation on Peters about the Kermadec dinner, and then fast forward to the extreme troughing of these born to rule Tories, which passes with hardly a whimper in the MSM and around the Gallery. Maybe it is time the Gallery started to declare their freebee perks and moonlighting jobs, just so we can all be on the same page over who is buying what influence with whom?

  19. I would have thought that Paula Bennett would have done her self a bit more good if she had gone on a diet instead of eating out with Westpac.
    Every time I see her I realise she will soon be costing the health system expenses that should be avoided .

    • Tom Gould 19.1

      Postman, they had both Paula and Gerry at the concert. That catering bill would have fed the average family for weeks, maybe months. I guess with the Westpac cash earnings up by 68 percent to $210m for the half, they can afford to treat these two to an ‘all you can eat’ buffet?

  20. The most disturbing influence in these sorts of transactions is the interpersonal socialising that is done.

    Humans are humans, and we operate at an interpersonal level. Politicians developing ‘relationships’ with people in corporations is far more insidious a form of influence on subsequent decision making than some notional dollar value associated with the socialising. Especially if the interactions are repeated and/or frequent and long-lasting.

    Also, gifts come along with a whole swag of social psychological inferences and deeply rooted norms that influence individuals – whether or not they are aware of those influences. There is so much research on this I don’t know where to start. Being given a gift, some ‘informal help’, being praised by someone, simply being smiled at by someone. All of these kindly dispose us to people in ways that affect our considerations later about issues that might affect that ‘someone’.

    In the US, for some reason, politicians are quite open about how money and gifts provide access to them. They then fight the battle on the claim that, of course, the money/gift hasn’t bought the decision – only ‘access’.

    But ‘access’ allows the kinds of interpersonal influences that matter in decision making. Those interpersonal influences work particularly well when a person is already predisposed to see the ‘someone’ (or their organisation) in a good light. 

    (The interpersonal interactions also occur between journalists and politicians, of course.)

    • McFlock 20.1

      Hell – Bennett got those family skills boxes in the budget based purely on the interpersonal factor, rather than anything so useless as a tender process…

    • PeteG 20.2

      Yep, we live in a complex wee world, don’t we.

      Blogs have obvious merit, but interpersonal interactions are mostly left out of that. That can have benefits and drawbacks – one of which is it can take a lot longer to get an idea of what different posters are really like – if you find out at all. Most do gradually reveal a degree of humanity.

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    Today’s NZPD testimonial from Dr Lara Greaves, Political scientist, University of Auckland: “I love the NZ Politics Daily emails as they help me to keep on top of current events. It’s incredibly easy to skim through and follow the links. I really appreciate these as it means that I am exposed to a ...
    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    4 days ago
  • The Data and Statistics Bill and the OIA
    The government introduced a new Data and Statistics Bill today to modernise and replace the 45-year old Statistics Act. Part of the Bill re-enacts the existing confidentiality regime (with one exception), which while a secrecy clause isn't an especially controversial one. Another part is aimed at removing "outdated" (inconvenient) limits ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again
    RNZ’s Mediawatch and a video clip viewed 42,000 times keep the topic of the Public Interest Journalism Fund fizzing. Graham Adams reports.   A week ago, the NZ Taxpayers’ Union posted a short video clip of the exchange in Parliament between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in which the National ...
    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    5 days ago
  • Multiple sclerosis: the link with earlier infection just got stronger – new study
    Scott Montgomery, UCL For most of the time since the first description of multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1868, the causes of this disabling disease have remained uncertain. Genes have been identified as important, which is why having other family members with MS is associated with a greater risk of developing ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    5 days ago
  • Covid and free speech
    by Don Franks Some commentators have likened the struggle against Covid 19 to the world war experience. To those of us not alive in those times, that comparison can only be academic. What the anti virus battle reminds me of much more is an industrial strike. In my twenties and ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    5 days ago
  • “Angry Blowhards”
    In today’s Herald, their excellent columnist, Simon Wilson, takes to task those “shouty” people whom he further describes as “angry blowhards”. They are those whose prime reaction to the pandemic is anger – an anger they seamlessly (and perhaps unwittingly) transfer from the virus to the government. The basis for ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    5 days ago
  • Looking Forward To 2022.
    Future Tense? Okay, so that’s where we are in 2022. Living in a New Zealand where all the usual rules of politics once again apply. And, guess what? Jacinda’s government, once again, isn’t doing very well – not very well at all.LET’S PLAY A GAME. Let’s pretend we’re half-way through ...
    5 days ago
  • Gordon Campbell on Covid mandates, and the Covid pill
    The cliché about “living with Covid” will not mean life as we’ve known it, Jim. Vaccination is fast becoming a condition of employment, and also a requirement to participate in aspects of social life, such as travel, attending bars, cafes, and concerts etc. These protective measures enjoy a high level ...
    5 days ago
  • NZ Politics Daily: 12 October 2021
    Today’s NZPD testimonial from Prof Alan Bollard, Professor of Practice at the School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington; Chair of the Infrastructure Commission: “NZ Politics Daily” provides a great public service – a quick and unbiased way to check policy announcements and analysis every morning.” Anyone can sign up to NZPD ...
    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    5 days ago
  • Legal Beagle: A submission on the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2)
    I have made a submission on the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2).In preparing it, I looked at the Hansard for the first reading debate, and got name-dropped as someone likely to make a submission. So, of course I did. I focus on a small bit of the ...
    5 days ago
  • Hard News: More tales from the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme
    You may have read last week that two years after the publication of regulations for medicinal cannabis – and three years after the enabling legislation – two local products from a local manufacturer have finally met the minimum quality standards for prescription. You may also be interested to know that ...
    5 days ago
  • Climate Change: Real action requires government
    Over the weekend someone pointed me at a journal article on "The Poverty of Theory: Public Problems, Instrument Choice, and the Climate Emergency". Its a US law journal article, so is a) very long; and b) half footnotes (different disciplines have different norms), but the core idea is that the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Climate Change: Not doing our bit
    Last month the US and EU announced they would push an agreement to cut methane emissions by 30% (from 2020 levels) by 2030 at the upcoming climate change conference in Glasgow. The good news is that New Zealand is looking at joining it. The bad news is that that won't ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Delta’s Week Of Doom.
    Classic Shot: Are the Prime Minister’s formidable communication skills equal to the task of getting her government’s anti-Covid campaign back on track?IF JACINDA ARDERN thought last week was bad, the week ahead promises to be even worse. Sixty community cases of Covid-19, one of the highest daily totals so far ...
    6 days ago
  • Urgent measures needed to allow the safe re-opening of Auckland schools
    Dr Rachel Webb, Dr Jin Russell, Dr Pip Anderson, Dr Emma Best, Dr Alison Leversha and Dr Subha Rajanaidu* In this blog we describe the range of urgent measures that are needed to facilitate a safe return to schools in Auckland and other regions of the country where there is ...
    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    6 days ago
  • Children live online more than ever – we need better definitions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ scree...
    Kathryn MacCallum, University of Canterbury and Cheryl Brown, University of Canterbury   The pandemic has fundamentally altered every part of our lives, not least the time we spend on digital devices. For young people in particular, the blurred line between recreational and educational screen time presents new challenges we are ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    6 days ago
  • Putting Aotearoa on the map: New Zealand has changed its name before, why not again?
    Claire Breen, University of Waikato; Alexander Gillespie, University of Waikato; Robert Joseph, University of Waikato, and Valmaine Toki, University of Waikato   Our names are a critical part of our identity. They are a personal and social anchor tying us to our families, our culture, our history and place in ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    6 days ago
  • Speaker: Yes, of course festival organisers will follow the law on vaccination
    On Tuesday 5 October the New Zealand Government announced that proof of COVID-19 vaccination would be a requirement to attend large events this summer.It took a few days for event owners to absorb the information and understand the implications. By the end of the working week, most of the big ...
    6 days ago
  • NZ Politics Daily: 11 October 2021
    Today’s NZPD testimonial from Jim Hubbard, Cartoonist “NZ Politics daily is a go to for cartoonists, or should be.  Political reporting enmasse like this gives cartoonists and political junkies a smorgasbord to get their teeth into. Essential and I daresay vital reading for those who care about the future of NZ.” Anyone can sign ...
    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    6 days ago
  • 2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #41
    Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, October 3, 2021 through Sat, October 9, 2021 The following articles sparked above average interest during the week: VFX Artist Reveals how Many Solar Panels are Needed to Power the ENTIRE World, Will you fall ...
    7 days ago
  • The Night of Parmenides: accepted
    A bit of good news on the writing front. My 3900-word short story, The Night of Parmenides, has been accepted by SpecFicNZ for their upcoming Aftermath anthology, to be published in early 2022. This is my first published short story to be explicitly set in my home-town of ...
    7 days ago
  • The Virus, the Politician, and the gang member
    . . . . . References Newshub Nation: Gang leader Harry Tam denies Winston Peters’ claims he helped infected woman breach COVID boundary, sparking Northland lockdown Te Ao News: ‘Apologise!’ Mob leader slams Peters’ Covid, Northland allegations Stuff media: Covid-19 – Search for contact of Northland case ‘extraordinarily frustrating’ CNBC: ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    7 days ago
  • Rapid kits, responses, and openings: watch motivations, or catch something worse with Covid…
    Last week was probably a high point for many armchair “experts”, fresh from their high after some deep inhaling of the various musings and fumings, of an actually very smug, and very insualted John “Things all work for me…” Key, former Prime Minister and FOREX trader, had blitzed the ...
    exhALANtBy exhalantblog
    1 week ago
  • Bollocks
    It would appear we have an unwelcome presence in town.Positive wastewater results had been detected in Hamilton and Palmerston North on October 6 and 7. There are 26 cases in hospital, seven of these are in ICU or high dependency units (HDU).One of the people in hospital is in Palmerston ...
    1 week ago
  • World-leading?
    So, the Herald has found someone, as we can see from today’s issue, who is able to explain why we should not claim to have been “world-leading” in our response to the covid epidemic. It seems that we have been kidding ourselves when we celebrated our low total number of ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • Why Is Labour So Frightened Of “Mr Stick”?
    Force Multiplier: Why are Ardern and her ministers so loathe to put a bit of stick about? The “emergency” legislation eventually enacted to authorise the measures needed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic failed to confer upon the New Zealand Government the unequivocal authority that subsequent events showed to be so ...
    1 week ago
  • The Need for an Updated Strategic Approach to Covid-19 Control in Aotearoa NZ
    Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker* The NZ Government appears to have drifted into an unclear strategic approach to Covid-19 control. In this blog we outline one potential way forward: a regional strategic approach that considers “regional suppression” and “regional elimination”. To maximise the success of this ...
    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    1 week ago
  • Mairon: The Actual Source for the Blasted Name
    Long-time Tolkien geeks – or those bemused enough to run across a certain internet phenomenon – might know that ‘Sauron’ is not actually the real name of the Lord of the Ring. ‘Sauron’ is just an abusive Elvish nickname, meaning ‘the Abhorred.’ Sauron’s actual name, at least originally, ...
    1 week ago
  • Forced Re-entry
    The elimination of Covid strategy is not so much defeated but changing circumstances means that policy has to evolve. Our elimination stance was never sustainable or at least it would not be until the rest of the world also eliminated Covid-19. Elimination of the virus was a strategy we adopted ...
    PunditBy Brian Easton
    1 week ago
  • Repeal this unjust law
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Preparing for the flood
    The Christchurch City Council has published new "coastal hazards" data, indicating which places are under threat from sea-level rise. And its not good news: Parts of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula are likely to become unhabitable [sic] as the city council figures out how to adapt to sea level ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • The Virus, Not The Government
    I wonder if Mike Hosking ever reads the paper in which he appears so regularly? If he does, he might have noticed a report in today’s Herald about the problem that could face churches in Auckland if a vaccine passport becomes mandatory for those wishing to attend church services. The ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • NZ Politics Daily: 8 October 2021
    Today’s NZPD testimonial from Bill Ralston, Media consultant and columnist: “NZ Politics Daily provides an invaluable service for journalists, politicians, businesspeople, decision makers and the public at large by providing an easily accessible, exhaustive, link to every significant political story in the country’s media that day. It’s a gem of a service ...
    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    1 week ago
  • Open letter to Michael Barnett, Julie White, et al
    . . Congratulations,  Mr Barnett, Ms White, and your business colleagues. It appears that we will end up having to “live” (ie, get sick, end up in hospital, perhaps in ICU, intubated on ventilators, and possibly dying as our lungs fail) with covid19. But at least businesses will open up. ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    1 week ago
  • Introducing Mr Stick.
    MR STICK: You media types think the people of this country have changed, but you’re wrong. We’re the same tough bastards we’ve always been. Put a bit of stick about – and listen to us cheer!JOSEPHINE MUCH-ADOO: Kia ora, everyone, and welcome to “Introducing”. Today we are very pleased to ...
    1 week ago
  • Skeptical Science New Research for Week #40, 2021
    "Old" research There's little point in trying to best this excellent article describing the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics by Ars Technica authors Jennifer Ouelette and John Timmer, each having a gift for concisely on-target, accessible science journalism. Here at New Research we'll punt and quote the The Royal Swedish Academy of ...
    1 week ago
  • Standing on one leg is a sign of good health – and practising is good for you too
    Dawn Skelton, Glasgow Caledonian University Research shows that people’s ability to stand on one leg is an indicator of health and that getting better at standing on one leg can add to fitness and potentially lifespan. Being able to stand on one leg is linked to increased levels of physical ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: More dishonesty over the CCR
    Last month the Emissions Trading Scheme turned into a farce, when the government flooded the market with credits in a failed and wasteful attempt to Keep Carbon Prices Low. When I asked about the background of this policy Climate Change Minister James Shaw sent me one of the most egregious ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Schrödinger’s Wraith: The Status of the Witch-King of Angmar, 15th-25th March, T.A. 3019.
    My recent re-read of The Lord of the Rings reminded me of one of the vaguer head-scratchers in Tolkien. The status of the Witch-King of Angmar between his death at the Battle of Pelennor Fields and the Destruction of the One Ring ten days later… was he, in the ...
    1 week ago
  • How rainbow colour maps can distort data and be misleading
    Philip Heron, University of Toronto; Fabio Crameri, University of Oslo, and Grace Shephard, University of Oslo   The choice of colour to represent information in scientific images is a fundamental part of communicating findings. However, a number of colour palettes that are widely used to display critical scientific results are ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    1 week ago
  • Gordon Campbell on Korea’s march to global cultural domination, plus a K-pop playlist
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    1 week ago
  • In a lockdown, where does work end and parenting begin? Welcome to the brave new world of ‘zigzag...
    Candice Harris, Auckland University of Technology and Jarrod Haar, Auckland University of Technology   All parents work. The difference lies in the breakdown between their paid and unpaid workloads. That equation is influenced by many things, including education, qualifications, age, ethnicity, financial status, number and age of dependants, gendered and ...
    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    1 week ago
  • Using Rapid Antigen Tests to Improve COVID-19 Control in Aotearoa NZ
    Figure 1: Rapid Antigen Test kit given out freely from the NHS in the UK Dr Jennifer Summers, Assoc Prof James Ussher, Assoc Prof Nikki Moreland, Dr Leah Grout, Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker* Most COVID-19 testing aims to identify infected people. To date, Aotearoa NZ has relied almost ...
    SciBlogsBy Public Health Expert
    1 week ago
  • NZ Politics Daily: 7 October 2021
    Today’s NZPD testimonial from Dr Liz Gordon, Former MP, researcher and blogger I just hate NZ Politics Daily. I get settled in to do a good day’s work and ZAP, it arrives in my inbox like a little shiny gift.  I try to ignore it but my cursor creeps inexorably towards the ...
    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    1 week ago
  • Bryce Edwards: Political Roundup – Will electoral and political finance law reform succeed this ti...
    It’s welcome news that the Government has announced this week that they intend to improve how elections work in this country, including fixing the political finance rules. Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has announced that major reforms will be investigated in the areas of political donation rules, promising changes that will ...
    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
    1 week ago
  • Will Jacinda Stand? Or, Has She Already Fallen?
    Free Falling? New Zealanders needed to hear Jacinda take a firm line on vaccination, issuing stern warnings to those who declared their intention to refuse. Kiwis just weren’t in the mood to let lockdown evaders and anti-vaxxers free ride on their good citizenship. Google’s IT wizards confirmed that Kiwis were, overwhelmingly, ...
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The CCR was a huge waste of money II
    Last month, in the wake of the September carbon auction, I talked about how the government's policy of flooding the market with a "cost containment reserve" of an extra 7 million tons of pollution in an effort to keep carbon costs low was a huge waste of money. Ministry for ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Celebrating Women in Space
    Beautiful, Inspiring, Mysterious!  How do you describe space?  What do you think when you look up at the stars?  The United Nations General Assembly certainly knew how beautiful, inspiring, mysterious, and important space is when they designated a week to be World Space Week.  That’s this week, and the theme for this year is ...
    SciBlogsBy John Pickering
    2 weeks ago
  • COVID Clusterfuck
    Well it has been fun living in the safest country in the world for a year and a half, but a combination of cynical politics from the right, and dithering incompetence from the left, and selfish sociopathy or ignorance on the part of the population , means New Zealand is ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Unsurprising
    Former rugby league star Manu Vatuvei has admitted importing methamphetamine. The Warriors icon was charged in December 2019 with possessing methamphetamine for supply and importing the Class A drug. He previously denied the charges and earlier this year said he would “fight for his innocence” after he outed himself as the sportsman ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Bond, Wokeness and Representations in Cinema
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh The latest James Bond film has come out.  It is apparently to be Daniel Craig’s last incarnation as the Spy Who Loved Me, or raped me as some have pointed out.  There has been much discussion about how woke the new James Bond is and how ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The Virus, the Bubble, and the Trap
    . . . . . References National Party: Open the Trans Tasman Bubble Now (archived) Twitter: National Party – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition Twitter: Judith Collins – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition RNZ: Tourism New Zealand forecasting billion-dollar economy boost if trans-Tasman bubble opens Stuff media: Crack ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    2 weeks ago

  • New Zealand Ambassador to France announced
    Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of Caroline Bilkey as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to France and the OECD. “Aotearoa New Zealand and France have a shared history, and enjoy a strong, collaborative partnership. This includes a strong trade and economic relationship, a shared commitment to support ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Govt welcomes nurses’ pay settlement
    The Government is welcoming news that a new employment agreement for nurses working in public hospitals has been settled. “I am very pleased that the hard work of the Nurses Organisation and District Health Boards has led to a settlement that both can support,” Health Minister Andrew Little said today. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Judge of the High Court appointed
    Māori Land Court Judge Layne Harvey has been appointed a Judge of the High Court, Attorney‑General David Parker announced today. Justice Harvey graduated with an LLB from the University of Auckland in 1992 and commenced employment as a law clerk with Simpson Grierson in Auckland that same year. In 1997 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Kiwis to have their say on plan to reduce waste
    New Zealanders are invited to have their say on proposals for a new waste strategy and options for new waste legislation. “Reducing waste is one of the issues all New Zealanders – especially younger Kiwis - care deeply about,” Environment Minister David Parker said today “New Zealand is one of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Next steps in action plan for indigenous rights kicks off
    Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has today meet with more than 30 national Māori organisations in an online hui, kicking off the process to develop a plan for New Zealand to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration). The previous National Government signed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Iwi-led housing solutions build homes for the future
    Whai Kāinga, Whai Oranga will open on 20 October, to receive applications for investment through Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga – Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Te Puni Kōkiri The $730m fund combines investment from Budget 2021 ($380m) and the Māori Infrastructure Fund ($350m) - the largest investment seen ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • E whakarite ana Te Kāwanatanga i ngā tūāpapa mō tewhakamaumahara ki Te Petihana Reo Māori ka t...
    I te rā nei, i pānuihia e te Minita mō Manatū Taonga, ko Carmel Sepuloni, rāua ko te Minita Whanaketanga Māori, ko Willie Jackson, ā tērā tau, ka whakanuia rawatia te 50 o ngā tau mai i te whakatakotoranga o te petihana mō te Reo Māori me te huanga mai ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • E whakarite ana Te Kāwanatanga i ngā tūāpapa mō twhakamaumahara ki Te Petihana Reo Māori ka t...
    I te rā nei, i pānuihia e te Minita mō Manatū Taonga, ko Carmel Sepuloni, rāua ko te Minita Whanaketanga Māori, ko Willie Jackson, ā tērā tau, ka whakanuia rawatia te 50 o ngā tau mai i te whakatakotoranga o te petihana mō te Reo Māori me te huanga mai ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government green lights rapid antigen testing
    Some of the country’s largest businesses have put in an order for 300,000 approved rapid antigen tests for their workforce, after working at pace with the Government on a new scheme unveiled by Associate Minister of Health and Research, Science and Innovation Ayesha Verrall. A coalition of around 25 businesses ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government lays foundations as Māori Language Petition commemorations take shape for 2022
    Taiaha hā! Taiaha hā! - Te kairangi o te reo hoki mai ki taku tikanga, ki taku taumata, ki taku reo, ki taku ao. He reo whai tikanga, he reo whai mana, he reo whai tangata koe. Ki te whāngaihia te reo Māori he ao tēnā, ki te kore he ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Major contract awarded to power NZ Battery investigation
    A consortium of specialist firms has been awarded a major contract to advance the New Zealand Battery Project’s feasibility investigation into a pumped hydro storage scheme at Lake Onslow, the Minister of Energy and Resources Megan Woods has announced. “This contract represents a major milestone as it begins the targeted ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Additional Funding for Foodbanks and Social Agencies
    The Government has approved $13.55m from the Covid Response and Recovery Fund to support foodbanks and social sector agencies, Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni has announced. “Foodbanks and social agencies across Auckland are doing a great job supporting their communities and the Government is today providing them with more ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Generating a new generation of guardians
    The Government is supporting a Whakatōhea-led project undertaking landscape scale restoration in forests and around vulnerable rivers within the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan says. “The Whakatōhea Tiaki Taiao project will employ four people to undertake pest and weed control, ecosystem restoration and monitoring over three ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Parts of Waikato, Northland staying at Alert Level 3
    The parts of Waikato that have been in Alert Level 3 and Northland will remain in Alert Level 3 for a few more days, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. Auckland remains at Alert Level 3, Step 1. “Based on the latest public health information, ministers have decided that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New courthouses for Tauranga and Whanganui
    The Government is moving ahead with new courthouses in Tauranga and Whanganui, which the Justice Minister says provide an opportunity to redesign court facilities that help put victims at the heart of the justice system. “These courthouses are part of the 10-year infrastructure investment plan to restore and modernise Ministry ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Speech on the launch of the consultation on the development of the Emissions Reduction Plan
    Tēnā koutou katoa. Ngā mihi o te ata. Earlier this month Save the Children wrote to me with their most up to date analysis on the impact of climate change. What they said was that children born in Aotearoa today will experience up to five times as many heatwaves and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Opportunity to shape NZ’s first Emissions Reduction Plan
    The Government is inviting New Zealanders to inform the country’s first Emissions Reduction Plan with the release of a consultation document containing a range of policy ideas to decrease the country’s emissions, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced today. The Emissions Reduction Plan will set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15, Virtual High-Level Segment
    Kia ora koutou katoa. I want to thank China for hosting this critically important Conference of the Parties. We are all here for the same reason. Biodiversity loss, and the ongoing degradation of nature, are accelerating at an unprecedented rate. These losses are causing irreparable harm to our planet’s ability ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Government books show resilient and strong economy
    The end of year audited Crown accounts released today show the Government’s health led approach to the COVID-19 pandemic has protected New Zealand’s economy. “On almost every indicator the accounts show that the New Zealand economy has performed better than forecast, even as recently as the Budget in May. It ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • ​​​​​​​Health system is ready for assisted-dying law
    The health system is ready for the implementation of the End of Life Choice Act when it takes effect next month, making assisted dying legal in New Zealand, Health Minister Andrew Little said today. The law received 65.1 per cent support in a public referendum held alongside last year’s general ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Taking a lead in threat to curious kea
    Reducing lead poisoning of kea, the world’s only alpine parrot and one-time New Zealand bird of the year winner, is the goal of a two year project being backed by the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme, Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan says.  “Lead poisoning is a serious threat to this ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Government provides certainty to working holiday and seasonal visa holders and employers for summer
    The Government will extend Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas for six months to provide more certainty to employers and visa holders over the coming summer period, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has announced. “This offers employers and visa holders the certainty they’ve been asking for going ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Lower card fees good for businesses, consumers
    The Bill to help lower the cost of the fees retailers get charged for offering contactless and debit payment options is another step closer to becoming law, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Dr David Clark said today. “COVID-19 has changed the way we spend our money, with online and contactless ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Mandatory vaccination for two workforces
    High-risk workers in the health and disability sector to be fully vaccinated by 1 December, 2021, and to receive their first dose by 30 October School and early learning staff and support people who have contact with children and students to be fully vaccinated by 1 January, 2022, and to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Fund allows more Pacific community led vaccinations
    The Government has made $1.1 million available through ‘The Prepare Pacific Community Vaccination Fund’ to directly support Pacific community-led initiatives towards increasing vaccinations, said Associate Minister of Health, Aupito William Sio. “The best way to protect our communities from COVID-19 is through vaccination. “We need to explore every avenue to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Small business at heart of economic recovery across APEC region
    The Minister for Small Business says support for small and medium enterprises will remain ongoing as the Asia-Pacific region moves through response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuart Nash today chaired a virtual summit from Wellington for the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting (SMEMM). “APEC Ministers responsible ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Restrictions on abortion medication lifted for health practitioners
    Abortion services can now be provided in primary care, meaning people can access this care from someone like their trusted GP and in a familiar setting, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. “By lifting some restrictions on the funded medications used for early medical abortions, more health ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
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  • Record day for Māori vaccinations
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