Saturday, January 10, 2009

National - business (bribery) as usual

DPF says he would rather see the Tino Rangitiratanga flag flown one day a year (as a favour to the supply partners) than give millions to racing and MFAT to make the Minister look good.

Yet John Carter, the new Minister for Racing is already big noting about special favours to the racing industry. What makes the racing industry worthier or needier than others? What is the moral imperative for making taxpayers fork out for new running rails?

Unemployment in the US - how high?

The UK Times out-headlines the LA Times

The first tells us, Worst year for US unemployment since Second World War and the second, U.S. unemployment hits 16-year high: 7.2%

Of course the first writer is using absolute numbers and the second is talking about the rate.

In the US unemployment hit 7.3 percent in 1992. In the same year Canada and NZ hit 10.2 and Australia 9.5 percent.

One of the reasons I suspect unemployment didn't worsen in the States (and may not go much further this time) is they do not make it easy for people to stay unemployed. They do not fund a universally and indefinitely available dole out of general taxation.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Another ban

We returned yesterday from Taupo where we had stayed just around the bay from where a 9 year-old girl was tragically killed. It was desperately sad for all parties. No words suffice.

However, I was most interested in the ensuing action of the local Maori Authority Trust Board, Tuwharetoa. They imposed a raahui on about a kilometre stretch of bay which took in a number of upmarket hotels and holiday apartments. A raahui bans people from swimming in the area. It was conveyed through official signs slapped on lamposts etc.

The weather was blisteringly hot and I imagine many people would have felt rather aggrieved at not being able to swim or boat in the lake outside their property or hotel room. But they appeared to be respecting the protocol. However, as the ban was imposed "until further notice", I do not think that will be the case indefinitely.

(A correspondent to NewstalkZB suggested that the raahui would remain in place until a tapu-lifting fee was forthcoming.)

Lowering drink/drive limits

The Press appears to be leading a crusade to have the alcohol driving limit lowered. That's OK. The more they agitate and manipulate stats the more opportunity there is to rebutt their claims.

In New Zealand overall road deaths are dropping. The Press say;

Behind the encouraging raw statistic of a lower death toll is the continuing large role of alcohol in road accidents in New Zealand, which makes it welcome that the Government intends to consider lowering the blood-alcohol limit to bring it more into line with levels elsewhere...

...It is worrying too that despite all the publicity about the dangers of drinking and driving, the number being caught over the limit is rising steadily. It has more or less doubled, going from 25,133 in 2003 to 34,700 in the first 11 months of last year alone.

"More or less doubled" is an exaggeration. The rise is closer to 50 percent.

Queensland lowered its blood-alcohol limit and got an 18% fall in road fatalities and a 14% fall in serious accidents.

But are the two related?

Here are NZ's latest road death statistics;

Last 12 months
As at 09 Jan 2009 361
Same time last year 428

That equates to a drop of 16% and we didn't lower the alcohol limit.

In Germany, alcohol-related crashes more than halved.

I can find no substantiation of this beyond one made about Cologne.

Since Germany introduced a 50mg blood alcohol concentration drink-drive limit in 1998, the number of alcohol-related accidents in Cologne has more than halved, and the number of drivers caught with a level of more than 50mg blood alcohol concentration decreased by approximately 25 percent (Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2000, in Alcohol Healthwatch, 2000).

Just as a side comment, if lobbyists are going to use Germany's reducing road toll (similar to ours) as a reason to drop alcohol limits than they should be consistent and use it as a reason to abolish speed limits on the open road.

Seriously, I hope that the new Minister for Transport is going to exercise a rigorous level of scrutiny over claims made in support of lowering our existing limit. We should not be persuaded to do so just because 'that's what they do somewhere else.'

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Winners and losers

Bill Ralston lists what is hot and what is not in 2009. He includes in the hot list

Roll on the next wave of tax cuts.

...and in the not hot list....

Because you won't get a tax cut and the Government keeps making nasty noises about how you should get a job.

Two things are happening to beneficiaries which will actually advantage them.

1/ The EMTR will decrease for those who undertake some work. Effectively a beneficiary will be able to work a full day at the minimum wage (or just above) and not lose any of their benefit. 2/ Benefits are going to be indexed and this will be guaranteed by legislation.

As for "making nasty noises about how you should get a job", no more than Labour had been. Both parties agreed that work is the best way out of poverty. Making it happen is quite another thing.

As for tax-payers being hot, tell that to low income earners. Hot under the collar maybe. And for those that do receive them, cuts are likely to be gobbled up as quickly as they are implemented. Think ACC premiums for starters.

New art blog

Spent yesterday updating my artist site. I am doing some marketing and wanted to separate out my art from my politics. Politicos don't mind the art but I am less sure about vice versa. So I had to create a new e-mail address in order to have a separate profile. Then I ran into the problem of not being able to duplicate the blog address so thought I would copy the content to a temporary address and then delete the old blog and change the temporary address to the deleted one. Bugger. Can't be done. Although the old address is not in use blogger tells me it is not available. So my new site is still called "Lindsay Mitchell Artist" but the url is

Confused? Have a look and let me know what you think.