Bill English's really taxing question

The knee-jerkers are out in force, fighting tax changes. They are premature.

Bill English’s “working group” of academic economists, lawyers, accountants and businesspeople is still to get to its core question. Even then it is unlikely to canvas all possibilities.

English set up the group in May. He challenged it to redesign the tax system from the ground up and from the inside out. read more

Getting more matey with the big Oz

It’s not a good look, National Australia Bank’s manoeuvre to skim hundreds of millions of dollars off the New Zealand taxpayer.

Regardless of the eventual Supreme Court decision years into the future, after the tax lawyers have drunk their fill from this brimming trough, the billions the Australian banks have denied the tax system, legally or not, are not the mark of good citizenship of this country. read more

Making big policy in defence

Defence is high policy. Or is it? That question is at the core of Wayne Mapp’s defence review.

Most often “defence” is parked in talk of weapons, platforms and personnel. That keeps it safely out of polite society. So polite society keeps the defence force hungry: a guard dog it has to have but keeps in a kennel in the yard. read more

Local and global — the emissions target tango

Here are two angles on the 2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). One is the greens’ slogan to “think globally, act locally”. The other is to think locally and act globally.

Greenpeace and others who back a 40 per cent cut take the first route.

The world is headed for trouble, they say. Sure, if New Zealand stopped emitting GHGs completely that would not avert the trouble. But if everyone takes on board the global predicament and takes local action, that would limit the global trouble. And we would be good citizens of the world. read more

The modern National party on show

Does Bill English have a radical rightwing economic agenda and did we see flashes of that this past week in Treasury Secretary John Whitehead’s speech on the public sector and English’s foreign investment rule changes?

Is this the vulpine National party slinking out from its lair to ravage an unsuspecting populace? Is that what we will see on show at the party’s conference this weekend? read more

Flagging the atmospherics of mana

Colin James’s Dominion Post and Otago Daily Times column for 20 July 2009 Note how respectfully China’s government has been treating one of its indigenous minorities recently. And note China’s vote for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Note also that China has arrested a Chinese-Australian Rio Tinto iron ore negotiator for stealing unspecified state secrets. And note that Chinese state steel companies are not happy with their negotiations with Australia on iron ore prices. read more

The economics of whacking kids

An enrolment deadline for the yes-means-no/no-means-yes referendum passed on Friday. Have you worked out how to vote? Will you vote?

Why vote? It is only indicative. MPs ignored the 82-92 per cent majority votes in the three previous citizens-initiated referendums, in 1995 on the number of firemen and in 1999 on reducing the number of seats in Parliament and on the needs of victims and minimum and hard labour sentences. read more

A positive way to an eco future

Federated Farmers is adamant: food, a necessary of life, must not be in the greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme (ETS). John Key and his Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, are adamant it must be in.

When the National party and Federated Farmers are openly at odds on a major issue, that is serious politics. read more

Smart electricity is a complex regulatory challenge

Here are two views about the electricity industry: it charges consumers too much; and the large government-owned parts don’t deliver big enough dividends to the government. The government holds both views.

Here are two more views about the electricity industry: for the good of the clean-green brand the proportion generated from renewable sources must rise; and generators must be free to build non-renewables plants. The government holds both views. read more

Bashing banks is easy. But what comes after?

Sir Fred Goodwin last week reduced his pension to $875,000 to escape a court case. That is a bad bank story. When banks go bad, voters get angry and politicians are cats on hot bricks.

Sir Fred was chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, a big and venerable bank which he made enormously bigger with reckless acquisitions and then crashed with a reckless attitude to risk. read more