Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Totally Local

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  • Russell Brown,

    It's also worth noting that there are some other things the Swiss system doesn't get right. Switzerland has the highest rate of working homeless in the world, outside the US. Not a good place to be be in a low-status job.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18521 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    California has recently made some silly choices

    Note that Prop. 13 has been in place for over 30 years, resulting in a gradual stranglehold on state funding, which even Democratic legislatures have been powerless to address.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 799 posts Report Reply

  • Kong,

    The people are exactly the silly arseholes I'm talking about. But for all of the current problems of California, the system being decried here as though it were a serious criticism of direct democracy rather than a cherry picking farce, is the exact same system that also made California incredibly rich and desirable in the first place. Which it will continue to be when the dust settles.

    Referenda can be used for stupid things. So can simple power, like it was in the hands of George Bush 2. But the nice thing about what's happening in California is that the people don't have anyone to blame but themselves, so with any luck a lesson may actually be learned.

    It's also worth noting that there are some other things the Swiss system doesn't get right.

    It's worth noting that every system gets things wrong at times. But there are a lot of things to be said for Switzerland so it's hardly the knockdown argument against direct democracy that Angus seemed to think. As for California, even calling it a direct democracy is a joke - it just has elements in it's constitution much like most democracies. That they've been used in ways that seem foolish hardly knocks the system down. It just knocks the ideas they voted for down.

    Since Jul 2009 • 89 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    WRT Switzerland being well governed they have good trains too and they don't use their unsympathetic geography as an excuse on that, it's just an engineering problem. What happened to the New Zealand that built the Raurimu Spiral? I remember the stushie over electrifying the North Island Main Trunk line too and with Peak Oil looming what a good investment that was! Along with the serendipitous decision to lay fibre optic all along it for signalling that ended up being the internet backbone.

    I like this discussion, here in the UK there is no sense of it being 'our' democracy in the way that is being expressed here, except that it is developing here in Scotland. I think that is not uncoincidental with the Edinburgh parliament being elected by MMP (currently we have a minority govt, sound familiar?). I just find it sad that in NZ the discussion is how to stop the politicians from selling off what remains of our assets when there should be a discussion over which useful assets for the future we should be building. I like the idea of a national cycle route though I am not persuaded it is the best use of available resources.

    What alternatives would people like the govt to invest in? with or without the private sector or simply because the private sector is not interested but we want it anyway (surely what a govt is for?).

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Scottish MP's

    A charming bunch of focussed idealogues celebrating 10 years of democracy.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Peter: research, especially medical (not pissing in anyone's pocket here), general scientific (why is it that 2 good scientist friends, paleosedimentologists, went over the ditch to Oz? Funding dried up-) and innovative farming practices- I am *not* talking diarying et traditional all - I am thinking about environmentally benign fishfarming as an instance.

    Another area I am personally interested in is - encouraging new ways of building/revamping homes to suit & fit *our* environment. Thus far, there's been flurries of enquiries & legislation to try and fix somethings that've gone wrong, and token gestures towards insulation of older homes, and tinybuggerall for alternative power suuplies...real government investment in these areas could produce truly lasting & beneficial results-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Not a good place to be be in a low-status job.

    I think that can be said of many countries, including this one.
    Its queer how one's occupation has a status, it puts me in mind of the Hindi caste system. A low status job doesnt make anyone any less of a human being.
    What are we doing to ourselves.

    alternative power suuplies...real government investment in these areas could produce truly lasting & beneficial results-

    New Zealand with its high level of individual homes is the perfect place to try, on a large scale, making homes energy self sufficient...
    Oh thats right we have power companies to support. Much like the US has all those bankers to keep in $4000 suits.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/28816321/the_great_american_bubble_machine

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1159 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    @Islander
    Now you've gone and pressed one of my buttons!

    Research: back in the early '90s research in NZ got butchered. It was billed as hitching science to the 'Knwoledge Economy' but it was a power grab. Largely by the Medics who were pissed that they couldn't get MRC (now HRC) funding for piddling little 'studies' of no evidential basis and less statistical power because the biomedical researchers in the Universities were winning it all on the spurious basis that their proposals were good science, asking important questions and trying to swim with the big boys in international science (parochial science is often bad science). The biomedical researchers were forced to compete for a smaller pool with the chemists and physicists and ag researchers.

    It got worse, there was no funding for a program of basic research, asking those important questions. Instead you got funding for one study for 3 years then you took ALL the thing you didn't discover firmly in those 3years and went to another pool for money to develop it to the point where you could flog it to the Venture Capitalists or BigPharma.

    Consequently we know a lot about little pockets of health needs but have no national pictures. The research is written up in the New Zealand Medical Journal and disappears. Meanwhile research becomes extremely short termist and researchers become dilletants flitting from project to project without any structured program of investigation.

    Applied science is all very well but the science on which it feeds has to come from somewhere. If you have nobody discovering or inventing the basic building blocks then you are reduced to building on other people's IP which reduces the value if it is ever sold.

    The only way this is being done is through Royal Society of NZ funding for a few groups which is an old boys network par excellence. The world is filled with New Zealand scientists who can find no fit back home for their skills and experience gained overseas in top research labs.

    The idea of yoking science to the economy is a nice one in principal but it assumes you know the necessary answers already. The world is not like that and our level and depth of knowledge about it is nowhere near good enough. So by all means use funding to direct some funding but you need to realise that allowing people to follow their curiosity gets the best out of them and your research dollar. People who go into science to make money are either deluded fools or rogues whose results bear close scrutiny.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    On the more general issue, I would like to see a BORA check on referenda (because there's none at the moment).

    Well, there is a check on binding referendums - because each binding referendum requires legislation to give it force, and that legislation is subject to a check (binding local referendums are subject to the Bill of Rights generally, and specifically under s 155(3)).

    It's true that there isn't on CIRs, but I'm not sure it would actually make sense ... I'm not sure how a CIR can actually affect a right. We could have a CIR vote in favour of killing all blonde babies, but the rights of blonde babies to live wouldn't be impinged.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Peter - excellent explication (dont mention the Marsden to James or Catherine who were -and still are, because they're scientists- building up a truly intriguing picture of paleotsunami here-)

    *I suggested some areas of directed funding, but thoroughly agree that just 'funding for research in science' - and o yes, for the long term
    (3 years is a risible term-length - strangely tied into the political term pehea?)- is the desired way to go.

    andin - yes indeedy. Once you have megacorps (within ANZ, the electricity corps are mega corps) somehow - there isnt $$$ availablke for -o, solar power? Wave-generated power? Small local ram setups?

    I live in a remote area: our little private water-scheme is under threat because of nice new regs to prevent...what?
    Goodness knows what would've happened to our power-generation scheme if we'd been able to get it off the ground :)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    What alternatives would people like the govt to invest in?

    Early stage innovation funding and support, management and governance training, high value creative and knowledge industries not subject to the tyranny of distance from markets.

    Whanau-oriented wrap-around social services that harness existing community strengths.

    The kind of stuff we can do as a young Pacific nation with global connections and talented, pragmatic people.

    Something ambitious.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16281 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I lived under prop 13 for 20 years - it has a bunch of real flaws that are largely political: firstly it can't be repealed without 2/3 of the citizens voting for it - secondly it locked in very low property taxes (rates) for people who owned property at that time - that makes it pretty much impossible to repeal it since older people who are the ones owning the property are much more likely to vote. Valuations were expected to normalise eventually - but haven't because later laws allowed people to move and keep their pre-prop13 bonanza - commercial property was also included and of course companies never die.

    It resulted in a lot of structural inequity in the property tax system - my old boss, a pre-13 tax payer owned a home worth 10 times mine - he paid less than half the tax I did.

    In CA schools/police/fire/etc used to be largely paid for by cities through property taxes - post prop 13 the state is responsible for funding a lot of these things - that's good for poor cities which used to have much worse schools than richer cities - post prop13 things are better but schools in general are worse off than they were, the CA education system now really sucks - we ponied up the money and used to spend $20k a year to send our kids to a private school. State income tax in CA maxes out at 10%, that's not something they can increased (federal tax is a further 33-35%)

    Note: in NZ your rates are set by a city looking at how much money it needs and then apportioning it between rate payers depending on the valuations of their properties. In CA property tax is fixed to a limit of 1% of the property's actual valuation and valuation increases are limited to 2%/year (unless a property is sold) - even though inflation is usually much more than that.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2033 posts Report Reply

  • Brickley Paiste,

    The panel is Phil Twyford, Rhema Vaithianathan and myself

    Who is myself? Why does he spell his name with a lower-case letter? Wait. Perhaps this odd use of the reflexive pronoun gives gravitas where there is none. Who will be there? Not boring old me, that's for sure. No, it will the exciting myself! Ha ha!

    At least Bob's style sounded cool. Pirate ships they rob myself/ Sold myself to the merchant ship ...doesn't quite have the same poetic umph.

    Whatever. I'm going to go feed I now and possibly treat I to a glass of wine. Seen. Still. Bombaklat.

    Since Mar 2009 • 163 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Arbury,

    I must say I'm generally not a particularly big fan of referendums - they tend to be a bit backward looking.

    I think Twyford's bill has a couple of purposes. The first is to point out the hypocrisy of Rodney Hide's general support of referendums while not wanting one to verify the Super City (or generally for anything he thinks the result won't be to his liking). The second is a more practical purpose of making sure that if any council assets were to be sold, there would have to be a damn good justification for it.

    For example, if we had a $1.5 billion council asset sitting around (the Port comes to mind) and its sale was mooted, and justified on the grounds that every single dollar of that sale would go into building the CBD rail loop - then perhaps it would be worth it, or perhaps the people of Auckland could agree on selling an asset to fund such a crucial piece of infrastructure. Without the referendum clause it might be far easier for the money from an asset sale just to end up in a slush fund.

    It would also certainly put council off selling assets - nobody wants to be defeated in a referendum of course - which 99% of the time is a good thing.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 216 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Don't referendum systems inherently favour conservative politics? They provide legal means to enforce the status quo public position.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Disenfranchise minorities too.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16281 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    @Sacha

    Whanau-oriented wrap-around social services that harness existing community strengths.
    The kind of stuff we can do as a young Pacific nation with global connections and talented, pragmatic people.
    Something ambitious.

    Nice though I would like measures to ensure it isn't driven by dogmas but we have in place studies to ensure it is bringing good value added. That need not invalidate cultural inputs but those should not be allowed to be means of failure or degradation. We should be ambitious for those programs to be the very best too.

    And of course the elephant in the room of why there was a power grab for science funding is that as a proportion of GDP NZ spends little on Science and R&D. National scrapping the R&D tax relief was a seriously retrograde move. What would they prefer to get companies doing what is good for them? Legislating that they must spend a set proportion of income on govt approved research?

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    They provide legal means to enforce the status quo public position.

    I think the date of women's voting rights in Switzerland (1971/1990) I mentioned on the previous page pretty clearly reflects that...

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 682 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    kong,

    But there are a lot of things to be said for Switzerland so it's hardly the knockdown argument against direct democracy that Angus seemed to think.

    The Swiss are the European byword for "conservative" politics and yes it works well within their direct democracy. Depends on how you view conservatism in terms of it being good or bad politics as to how much of a knockdown that is.

    But the nice thing about what's happening in California is that the people don't have anyone to blame but themselves, so with any luck a lesson may actually be learned.

    And the lesson learnt will be that they must be more conservative, like the Swiss? I think that for direct democracy to work the electorate would need to tend more conservative.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I think Twyford's bill has a couple of purposes. The first is to point out the hypocrisy of Rodney Hide's general support of referendums while not wanting one to verify the Super City (or generally for anything he thinks the result won't be to his liking).

    Well, couldn't Twyford take a call in the general debate and do that?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11786 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I think Twyford's bill has a couple of purposes. The first is to point out the hypocrisy of Rodney Hide's general support of referendums while not wanting one to verify the Super City (or generally for anything he thinks the result won't be to his liking).

    Well, couldn't Twyford take a call in the general debate and do that?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11786 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    I think the date of women's voting rights in Switzerland (1971/1990) I mentioned on the previous page pretty clearly reflects that...

    In 2003 they allowed for the grandchildren of immigrants to naturalise as Swiss if born in Switzerland.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Um, the State of California is pretty much bankrupt. They're going to have to start paying employees in IOUs.

    Given that that's what money is anyway, that's not too much difference.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1625 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Well, couldn't Twyford take a call in the general debate and do that?

    Doing it this way is more fun, and gets an hour devoted solely to the topic, rather than a 10-minute call. And at the end of it, you get a Hansard record of exactly where everyone stood - which is quite useful on an issue like this.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1625 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Arbury,

    Well, couldn't Twyford take a call in the general debate and do that?

    That would only achieve the first purpose though. And this is a more obvious way to point out Act's hypocrisy.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 216 posts Report Reply

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