Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Frack Me reports Probe into fracking announced.

I have always found the idea that fracking increases the likelihood of earthquakes quite hard to believe, however there are enough questions around the process that make this investigation a good idea.

A fracking moratorium isn't a bad idea either. NZ's economic growth is dependent on a mixed model that includes fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. However that doesn't mean we need an open door policy. Decent profits need to be combined with looking after our environment.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

RIP Sir Paul Callaghan

Eminent New Zealand scientist and thinker Sir Paul Callaghan died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. My thoughts go out to his wife and family. Many months ago my mother sent me this link to Victoria University's inaugural Chancellor's Lecture which Sir Paul gave. If you have the time to you should watch it, it is very thought provoking and inspiring stuff.

Population Growth and Proportionality

The final specific issue being looked at under the MMP Review is the effect of population growth on the proportionality of Parliament.

First we need to look at how the size and number of electorate seats are decided in New Zealand (I didn't know this before today and it is quite interesting). Under the Electoral Act 1993 the South Island must have sixteen electorate seats. You divide the South Island general electoral population (920,999 based on the 2006 census) by sixteen to get the South Island quota (57,562). Then divide the North Island general electoral population (2,690,437) by the SI quota to get the number of electorate seats for the North Island (47). You apply the same maths to the Maori electoral population to get the number of Maori seats (7).

As the North Island population continues to grow disproportionally to the South Island it means that more electorate seats are needed (this is likely to be more pronounced after the next census which will likely show a drop in the South Island population). Where do these seats come from? They are taken from the list seats. Since 1996 the number of electorate seats has gone from 65 to 70, list seats from 55 to 50. At some point in the future this will affect the proportionality of Parliament.

As a keen supporter of MMP and proportionality I think we need to cap the number of electorate seats, at 72 for example (I'm sure some math wizz out there can work out the perfect number). The number of people per electorate would rise but I don't see that being a problem in the foreseeable future. Currently we have 57,562 people per electorate, in Australia it is between 85,000 and 100,000, the UK is 68,175 and in the US it is nearly 700,000.

I believe we could happily live with electorates of up to 100,000 people before we need to look at enlarging the size of Parliament itself.

Ahead of the game reports. Glad to see an MP is now on the case.

And to brag a little bit, Donald Shoup was the subject of the article I linked to last week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Goodbye Nick Smith

It appears Nick Smith is due to resign this afternoon. It might seem tough for a small error in judgement but as a minister you need to be beyond reproach. Bit embarrassing for John Key as he has publicly rejected the need for Nick Smith's resignation. I will be interested to see David Farrar's take on it. Update: Nick Smith has resigned in the house as of a few minutes ago.

I would not work for them! has an alarming article on employers asking interviewees for access to their Facebook accounts.

This is an incredible breach of anyone's right to privacy. The logical next step is asking to be allowed into their home so you can have a look around. Hard to believe that employers think this is appropriate.

I have no problem with employers asking if interviewees are involved in anything that could potentially damage the company, but prying into their private life without any evidence or grounds for suspicion is just off.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Internet is not the Enemy

A month ago David Farrar blogged on a recently released report that challenged the conventional wisdom on the effect of the internet and piracy on the entertainment industry.

I finally got around to reading the report myself and it makes for a fascinating read. The key points as seen by myself:
  • Between 1998 and 2010 the worldwide entertainment industry grew from $449 billion to $745 billion
  • We are living in an age of content abundance
  • For content creators there are amazing opportunities
  • The role of the traditional gatekeepers/middlemen is changing and in some cases they are no longer needed
  • The internet presents more opportunities to make money from entertainment than it does to threaten it

The report looks at four parts of the entertainment industry (Movies/TV, Music, Books and Video Games) and there are some incredible case studies of artists who are adapting to the digital content revolution.

The report is called the Sky is Rising and for those interested in entertainment and the internet, particularly those concerned about the attempts by major media companies to control the internet, it should be a must read.

Monday, March 19, 2012


The next issue being covered by the MMP Review is the question of what happens when a party wins an electorate seat but its percentage of the party vote does not reach 0.83%, creating an overhang.

Overhangs are themselves a hangover from First Past the Post and New Zealand's attachment's to electorate seats. They would not be a problem in a list only parliament, however the New Zealand voting public is a wee way from being mature enough to handle a list only parliament and I'm not sure it is even desirable.

So the questions remains how do we deal with them?

The electoral commission offers three options for managing overhangs.
1) 120 + overhang (a party is allowed to keep any overhang seats it wins, but other parties are still awarded the same number of seats they are entitled to and the size of the legislature is temporarily increased)
2) 120 + overhang + balance (Allow the overhang but compensate other parties with additional seats to ‘balance’ the number of members in the legislature to ensure overall proportionality, this increases the size of the legislature as well)
3) 120 - overhang (A party is allowed to keep any overhang seats it wins, and the corresponding number of list seats allocated to other parties is reduced to maintain the overall number of seats in the legislature, the size of the legislature does not increase)

I am in favour of option two. Overhangs are an inevitable consequence of a system that values electoral seats so highly and I believe it is very important to maintain the overall proportionality of parliament. This also reduces the likelihood of overhang seats wielding disproportionate influence (Although some may argue they already do).

New Monbiot

The latest from George Monbiot:
No Primrose Path

Walkwise faces the chop reports that Walkwise faces the chop.

I have always questioned the need for Walkwise and so am not particularly alarmed by the news. If Wellington is the fantastic city we believe it to be than visitors should feel like they can approach any Wellingtonian on the street and all Wellingtonians should take an active part in keeping an eye out for trouble.

One Walkwise patroller who I see around seems to be the complete opposite of these intentions anyway. Everytime I see him he is walking around with his head down and paying little attention to what is going on around him, he also seems to patrol very secluded areas where he will be of little help to visitors.

I know it is unfair to taint all Walkwise patrollers based on my observations of one of their number but I would not be surprised to hear similar stories from others.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Taxing Parking reports the NZTA is about to receive a report recommending the government start taxing free work carparks.

Obviously this will infuriate the anti-tax brigade but the idea does have some real merit in encouraging more people to use public transport and car poll etc.

It also reminded me of this fantastic article I read a few months back about the cost of free parking which is well worth a read.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Black Caps

When I left work today the Black Caps were 132/2. When I arrived home twenty minutes later they were 133/7. There is something beautiful in the Black Caps ability to collapse. Best summed up by Dylan at CricInfo:
Someone should come up with a term for the special kind of angst created by being a New Zealand cricket fan. I don't think that fans of other countries will ever truly understand the soul-crushing feeling of watching their team promise so much and then crash back down so suddenly. Occasional moments like the Hobart test or the WC quarter-final last year just serve to build up hope so it can be crushed all over again. Maybe only English football fans can come close to experiencing something similar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Go Rick Santorum!

It appears that Rick Santorum has won both the Mississippi and Alabama Republican primaries and I could not be more pleased.

It might seem odd for a liberal to be happy with Santorum's victories but the logic is simple.

The longer the Republican primary season goes on, the less time Mitt Romney has to focus on beating Barack Obama. If Santorum continues to run Romney close then Romney is likely to be forced further to the right which makes it harder for him to pick up independent votes in a general election.

And OMIGOD if Santorum actually ended as the Republican Presidential nominee, well that might just be an excuse to get very very drunk (Happy drunk not drown your sorrows drunk).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Two Broke Girls

TV2 are currently broadcasting a show called Two Broke Girls. I had read online that it was terrible and so avoided it. I saw about two minutes of it last week and those two minutes confirmed what I had heard.

Now Paul Casserly at the NZ Herald has summed it up perfectly:
In just a few minutes of viewing you'll realise it's really a moronic, laugh-track-riddled sitcom that makes Two and a Half Men seem complex and subtle.
Who is the moron at TVNZ who greenlit this show and who are the morons who watch it? More importantly when will they be lined up and shot?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wellington City Bus Review

The deadline for submissions on the Wellington City Bus Review is this Friday, the 16th March. You can read about the proposed changes here.

To complete an online submission click here.

Gareth Hughes has produced a submission guide for the Green Party looking at a couple of key issues.

It takes about five minutes to complete the online submission and if you use the bus regularly or care about public transport in Wellington you should take the time to present your views.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kony 2012

I'm sure everyone is aware by now of the Kony 2012 viral video. Below is a link to a great blog by Ethan Zuckerman examining the campaign.

Unpacking Kony 2012

The Party Lists

The fourth issue being considered by the MMP Review is the questions of open or closed lists. Currently we have closed lists in New Zealand. In a closed system, the party determines the order of candidates on its list, and voters are not able to express a preference for a particular candidate. In an open list system voters are able to rank the candidates on the party list.

Firstly it is important to note that an open party list system is unworkable. It is simply too complicated for the average voter to understand and voting should not be complicated. We can always dream of a more politically engaged voting public however it is hard to image anyone but the most ardent Young Labour members ranking all seventy candidates on the list.

Secondly if you dislike a parties list there is a much simpler and elegant solution, don't vote for them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dual Candidacy

Also being considered by the Electoral Commission is whether candidates should be allowed to stand in electorate seats and on the party list. Why is this a problem? Some people dislike the idea of an Electorate MP being voted out by the people of that electorate and being returned to Parliament on the party list.

But how often is a Electorate MP really tossed out by an electorate. More often a few hundred or thousand swing voters change their mind and an MP loses their seat. A case in point is Waimakariri. Clayton Cosgrave won Waimakariri in 2008 with 16,360 votes to Kate Wilkinson's 15,970. In 2011 Kate Wilkinson won with 16,787 votes to Cosgrove's 16,145. Did the voters in Waimakariri really toss Clayton Cosgrove out considering he only lost 200 votes?

What really happened is that ACT decided not to field a candidate, with their 1700 votes in 2008 going to Kate Wilkinson in 2011. If the Green Party had chosen not to run a candidate then it is most likely their 1200 votes would have gone to Clayton Cosgrove and he would still be the Waimakariri MP (A much better solution would be preferential voting, which I will touch on in a later post).

A few hundred or thousand voters changing their minds does not mean that an MP has nothing to offer his party and the people of New Zealand, they can also still act as a secondary electorate MP.

Removing dual candidacy would also unfairly hurt smaller parties who have no chance of winning the majority of electorate seats dominated by Labour and National. Denying them an important forum to promote their ideas and limit their media coverage.

There is always the possibility of a sitting electorate MP being soundly rejected by their electorate and returned to parliament on the list, however democracy will never be perfect and removing dual candidacy will be of more detriment than the occasional back door MP.

Dimpost again provides a good analysis on this issue:

I tend to think this is a complaint made by people who just don’t like MMP, rather than a valid problem with the system.

Monday, March 5, 2012

No sense of humour but the beer is rubbish

It would appear some wine drinkers do not have a sense of humour:

Beer advert leaves bitter taste for wine drinkers

That said their entire argument is wrong. They should be focusing on the fact the Export Dry (and Gold) are rubbish beers and any self respecting male would not be caught dead drinking them!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

By-election candidates

The next issue in the MMP Review is should list MPs be allowed to contest by-elections (without first resigning their list seats)?

I have to agree with Dimpost on this one: Why not?

I don't believe we expect anyone else to resign their job to contest a by-election so why should a list MP. The people of the electorate are entitled to as wide a field of candidates as possible, if they don't like a list MP standing then they don't vote for them. It is as simple as that.

I think it would be much more interesting to consider banning an MP who's resignation triggers a by-election from contesting that by-election (Stand up Hone Harawira!).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thresholds Part Zwei

The second part to the thresholds question in the MMP Review is the one electorate seat threshold. This holds that if a party wins one electorate seat then the 5% threshold does not apply to them and they are allocated a proportion of seats. Why does this exist? The MMP Review website states:

The Royal Commission recommended the inclusion of an alternative threshold for representation because it believed its use would make it easier for smaller parties to gain representation, reduce wasted votes and contribute to the overall proportionality and diversity of a Parliament.

Great intentions undoubtedly, however I feel this rule has failed us as evidenced by the 2008 election, when Act with 3.65% of the vote won five seats and NZ First with 4.07% won none. Act was entitled to one MP as it had won an electorate seat. But the allocation of four extra seats when NZ First had won a greater proportion of the popular vote made a mockery of the system.

Removing the rule would also hopefully stop the prostitution of democracy as evidenced in Epsom in 2008, 2011 and Coromandel in 1999.


Hypocrisy in Hollywood
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