How the middle class always wins

Article requested by NZ Herald but not published

When in the early 1990s Margaret Wilson, now Minister of Labour, ran into problems with Wellington politicians opposed to Waikato University setting up the law school she was to run, she mobilised the district’s burghers and farmers. She got her law school. read more

Which stories shall we tell ourselves?

Article for New Zealand Books, issue 50

“Nothing is more important to a country,” onetime Australian Treasurer and Prime Minister Paul Keating told the Knowledge Wave conference in August, “than the way it thinks about itself.” Right now, this country, barely a nation, thinks it is small, far away and slipping off the pace. read more

No flicker left to fan

Random thought on the MMP review committee

Random thought on MMP Helen Clark once led the charge against MMP. Now she has doused the fires of public resentment with cautious centrism. The MPs on the review committee had no flicker left to fan into life.

So, unless Parliament as a whole has a fit and decides to overrule its committee, MMP stays intact. read more

How not to waltz Matilda

Book review for NZ Books Issue 49

Waltzing with Matilda; should New Zealand join Australia? By Bob Catley, Dark Horse Publishing, Auckland, 2001, $29.95, ISBN 0-9582146-1-1
A chilling graph presented to Auckland business leaders on 14 May undermines Bob Catley’s thesis. Auckland, the graph showed, lost 3.4% in GDP per capita in $US terms between 1990 and 2000. A good reason, you might think, as Catley does, to throw in our lot with Australia. Except that the graph shows Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide all also falling, by amounts from 1.3% to 2.0%. read more

Do Labour and the Alliances swap votes?

Random thought, 18 May 2001

It is part of the political folklore in the Alliance and other places that Labour and the Alliance scrap over some of the same votes. Thus when one goes up, some of that is won at the other’s expense.

And intuitively, this folklore seems to hold merit.

Moreover, in the mid-1990s it did seem from the polls that Labour’s recovery leading up to the 1996 election was at least partly at the Alliance’s expense. read more

Jim's bank: The real point is the opportunity cost

Random Thought 22 February 2001

The real point about the Kiwibank is its opportunity cost to taxpayers. If $80 million is invested in yet another bank to an overbanked country that $80 million is not available to fix bad roads or build hospitals or schools.

This point escaped Richard Prebble who argued the $80 million should go instead on education or police services. But that is current spending, not capital spending, and turns up in a different place on the government’s books. read more

The Treaty is No 1 healthgiver

Random Thought Dec 11 2000

The Health Strategy released at 3.30pm 11 December is a slender document, unburdened by hard-edged thinking but burdened with some politically soggy tendencies that may well lead to some telling attacks from ACT and National.

Nowhere is there any suggestion people might take some individual responsibility for seeing to their own good health and for the consequences of good and bad decision-making. The burden for seeing individuals’ health is squarely on the state’s shoulders. Prevention is very much the junior arm of this government’s health policy though it does make interpersonal, family, school and community violence one of its 13 “priority population health objectives”. read more

Women at the top

For the Far Eastern Economic Review

“It’s a boy!” cooed the Dominion’s headline reporting the appointment of Terence Arnold as Solicitor-General on September 8. That this was thought remarkable tells the story of women’s monopolisation of the four top administrative and legal posts in New Zealand. read more

The new government’s defence policy

Colin James for Defence Quarterly, March issue

Foreign Minister Phil Goff says cancelling the F16 contract is just “reprioritising expenditure”. Actually, it marks a strategic shift.

Few on the left like the armed forces, which most of their persuasion associate with militarism, the instrument of aggression and oppression. They dismiss any military threat and so don’t feel they need even to see the forces as guard dogs. They are most comfortable with the armed forces as rescuers, through peacekeeping and peacemaking, a role which transforms militarism into humanitarianism. read more