Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: New Zealand rockets up the anti-Corruption ratings: a non-Spinoff investigation

19 Responses

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Well it doesn't really matter which way you choose to dice the cake, NZ is near the top of the World rankings with regard to anti corruption which is good and the alternative view pushed by the "Standard" and Bomber is bollocks!
    Hurrah, unicorns all round.

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 575 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Though rankings are relative measures only: even achieving a global "least worst" still equates on an absolute scale to "could try harder".

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1820 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Thiel be right mate!
    - it's the Kiwi way...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7743 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    these sorts of rankings are stupid anyway

    very good analysis from the laymans point of view ie me.
    All I heard was a mild bit of nationalistic horn blowing and once over, really lightly, in MSM and then it disappeared. Which I guess is all, they decided, the general readership needed or wanted to know.Now back to sports news

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1715 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4586 posts Report Reply

  • simon g, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    NZ is near the top of the World rankings with regard to anti corruption which is good and the alternative view pushed by the “Standard” and Bomber is bollocks!

    The opinions of fringe bloggers don’t mean much at all. The views of the leader of the opposition matter a good deal more.

    And when that opposition party was National, and its leader was Don Brash, they called Helen Clark’s government “corrupt” (not implied it, but explicitly said it). When it was pointed out that NZ was top of the very same world rankings (and it was) they said “oops, our bad” … well no, of course they didn’t, they just said “corrupt” again. (“Alternative facts” didn’t begin with Trump).

    So, apples with apples, please.

    (Edit: just one example among many) – https://web.archive.org/web/20070510021623/http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=7645

    "... the most corrupt government in NZ history"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1269 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    Without actually going and looking at any of the data (so putting in considerably less work than Graeme) I would focus on

    Although I suspect it gives lie to Transparency International’s outline of the results as shocking because so many countries score below 50

    It does not give lie- It is going to depend on how skewed the data is (where the commonest range is and if there are extreme values), but this seems to be further complicated by the difference with 2012 as well so what I am about to say is a bit of a simplification. If you have a few extremely (score near 1) countries and the vast bulk of countries with low levels (rating in the 50s) you could have a mean of 45 and few countries with high corruption. Similarly you can have a lot of countries with badish scores (30s) and a few extreme well behaved countries and also have a mean of 45.

    Rather than that, the reason it is not shocking is that it is basically the same as the past few years. For the percentage of countries that scored below 50: 2016 = 69%, 2015 = 68%, 2014 = 70%, 2013=70%

    (OK I went and looked at the data for the last part)

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Thomas Lumley, in reply to David Hood,

    Although I suspect it gives lie to Transparency International’s outline of the results as shocking because so many countries score below 50:

    I'm going to partly disagree with David Hood and agree with Graeme here. The standardisation doesn't guarantee that a lot of countries will be below 50, but it certainly tilts the scale that way. Worse than that, it's possible that the proportion below 50 could increase even if all the changes that occurred were improvements (or the reverse).

    The fact that improvements in one country will tend to lower the values (not just the ranking, which is inevitable) for other countries is more fundamentally wrong, though. Reducing corruption in other countries is good for New Zealand, not bad. This isn't rugby, where someone has to lose for us to win.


    There can be good reasons for scaling an index differently each year. The motivation for 'grading on a curve' in the literal sense in large college classes is that each year's exams are completely different, so it's plausible the population is more stable than the difficulty of the test. If that's the case, scaling away year-to-year differences in mean and variance is sensible.

    Here, the idea is to have the same inputs to the index each year, and it's quite plausible that there are changes in the population -- that there are trends in corruption either around the world or in large groups of countries. In that situation it doesn't make a lot of sense to use a different scaling each year.

    On the other hand, it is still true that given the actually-existing scaling, a country does have to be pretty bad to get a grade below 50. It's just that this is a contingent fact about the scaling, and might not be true in a different, better world.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to simon g,

    And when that opposition party was National, and its leader was Don Brash, they called Helen Clark’s government “corrupt” (not implied it, but explicitly said it). When it was pointed out that NZ was top of the very same world rankings (and it was) they said “oops, our bad” … well no, of course they didn’t, they just said “corrupt” again.

    This arose from a very specific set of facts:
    1. The Labour Party had spent a bunch of money they were not entitled to spend on Pledge cards and leaflets (this bit adds a little to the concern, but isn’t particularly noteworthy).

    2. More importantly, the Electoral Commission advised them before the election that the card were election advertising, and that the money spent on them was an election expense.

    3. Number 2, above, should have been no surprise to anyone. While there might have been confusion about whether they money was able to be spent on the pledge cards, there should have been no confusion whatsover that the material was election advertising and that its cost was an election expense. This was not a difficult call.

    4. Knowing that this spending would count toward their spending limit, and knowing that it may already have put them over their spending limit, Labour decided that the rules oughtn’t to apply to them, and kept spending money on election expenses, knowing that this would mean they spent well in excess of the spending limit we put in place to ensure fair elections.

    5. Deliberately spending more money on election expenses than the spending limit is a corrupt practice. It can result in prison, and anyone involved in the decision who was an MP could be convicted as a party to that corrupt practice, and would lose their seat.

    6. The Electoral Commission referred this deliberate over-spending to the police. The Police interviewed the Prime Ministers chief of staff who told police that there was a dispute about whether the spending on the pledge card was permitted within Parliamentary rules, and that this meant no-one had deliberately overspent. This was false. Even if the auditor-general had ruled that the spending on the pledge card and leaflet were proper uses of Parliamentary funds, this would have made no difference to whether the spending counted toward the overall spending limit. It clearly did, and there is literally no argument against this.

    Having been presented with a government that had deliberately committed a corrupt practice, for the purpose of winning an election, Don Brash and others called the government corrupt. The title was truly earned, and a bunch of people are lucky they didn’t end up in prison, or kicked out of Parliament.
    The incompetence of the police, in accepting the legal interpretation of the Electoral Act given by a suspect over that offered by the Electoral Commission, and the short time-frames that then applied for filing prosecutions are the only reasons they got off.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3198 posts Report Reply

  • LeighKennaway, in reply to andin,

    Now back to sports news

    Apparently Richie McCaw was asked to comment, but he is still away on honeymoon.

    Lower Hutt • Since Feb 2016 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Lynn Yum,

    I wouldn't say this index is "stupid", but I always thought TI's report is pretty much a PR exercise because it is a PERCEPTION index, not a measure of actual corruption. I'm sure the lower ranked countries are really corrupted, but perception and reality can come apart.

    This is from their FAQ:

    Why is the CPI based on perceptions?

    Corruption generally comprises illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden and only come to light through scandals, investigations or prosecutions. There is no meaningful way to assess absolute levels of corruption in countries or territories on the basis of hard empirical data. Possible attempts to do so, such as by comparing bribes reported, the number of prosecutions brought or studying court cases directly linked to corruption, cannot be taken as definitive indicators of corruption levels. Instead, they show how effective prosecutors, the courts or the media are in investigating and exposing corruption. Capturing perceptions of corruption of those in a position to offer assessments of public sector corruption is the most reliable method of comparing relative corruption levels across countries.

    Which is to say they don't really want to do the hard yards and find a better metric for measuring corruption.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    The incompetence of the police

    Have they ever successfully prosecuted anyone under the Electoral Act? Seem to wimp out every time I've seen.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19554 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    I wouldn't say this index is "stupid", but I always thought TI's report is pretty much a PR exercise because it is a PERCEPTION index, not a measure of actual corruption.

    From past surveys I was sure I'd read somewhere that it was built from journalists' input and perceptions, which must be a false memory or maybe a different survey. Reading down Graeme's list, it (NZ's rating at least) seems to be far more weighted by perceptions of business leaders and executives, economists and other consulting firms whose primary clients are businesses.

    This doesn't make it meaningless and ability to do business in a country isn't a useless metric for transparency, but it does (to me) seem more consistent with how the index might reach conclusions which seem at odds with a government's general conduct towards its people. eg. All the Dirty Politics stuff wasn't necessarily 'bad for business' as long as you were on the right side of it, and this current government and its senior Ministers have a strong emphasis on meeting with and listening to business lobbyists.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Lynn Yum, in reply to izogi,

    I'm not sure if it is more biased towards business POV. TI's index is like meta index. Three of the source indexes are: Political Risk Services, World Justice Project and The Bertelsmann Foundation, which are statedly not catering to business but academics, the general public and governments.

    I think it is more of a case of New Zealand banking on previous reputation. All the recent Dirty Politics stuff, all the gory John Banks/Kim Dotcom mess don't seem to register externally. Or maybe there are simple data entry errors as Graeme mentioned.

    No one should be complacent about corruption in New Zealand, it should have no place here (or anywhere else) but it still happens. But I'm sure some politicians would like to pat themselves on their back having seen this TI report.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    I’m not sure if it is more biased towards business POV.

    for generating the relative placing of countries between sources, they are imputing against the sources with more that 50% country coverage. So the most important sources, in order, are:

    Global Insight Country Risk Ratings (covers all countries) 176 coverage
    World Economic Forum EOS 141 coverage
    PRS International Country Risk Guide 140 c0verage
    Economist Intelligence Unit Country Ratings 129 coverage
    Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index 129 coverage
    World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 110 coverage

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Dirty Politics, Panama papers, various scandals around political contributions have failed to move the 'perception'?
    These rankings invite complacency and self-congratulation. We have little reason to be complacent.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2083 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    These rankings invite complacency and self-congratulation. We have little reason to be complacent.

    Too true. It's more than a little reminiscent of that brief fool's paradise atmosphere that existed following the Christchurch quake of September 2010, when NZ's "first world" regulatory standards were touted as having saved us from the kind of carnage that had happened in Haiti.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4586 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    Incidentally, about 8% (depending on how you round it) of the movement in countries from 2015 to 2016 was caused by the inclusion of a new source.

    Some R code:
    https://github.com/thoughtfulbloke/transparency/blob/master/transparency.R

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to David Hood,

    Incidentally, about 8% (depending on how you round it) of the movement in countries from 2015 to 2016 was caused by the inclusion of a new source.

    I knew there'd be a bunch of extra things going on in there :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3198 posts Report Reply

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