First Union's Morgan Godfery on the black and blue Greens, raging against the system, getting deep with GoT, winter chills put heat on hospitals, Winston does a Don, a great Kiwi feed and more

Today's Top 10 is a guest post from Morgan Godfery the communications and media officer for First Union.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to david.chaston@interest.co.nz.

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact gareth.vaughan@interest.co.nz.

See all previous Top 10s here.

1. Dual citizenship, not voters, turf out Green senators in Australia

First, it was Scott Ludlam, the Palmerston North-born senator who discovered his New Zealand citizenship prevents him from taking his seat in the Australian senate, and now it’s Larissa Waters, the Green senator with Canadian citizenship. The double-disqualification tops off a horrendous month for the Australian Greens who are dealing with internal dissent after Senator Lee Rhiannon openly criticised the party leader in what some see as a split between the party’s left wing and its “apolitical” environmental wing.

2. Depending who you ask, the New Zealand Greens have had a great month, or a terrible one

According to the Herald’s former chief political commentator, John Armstrong, Green co-leader Metiria Turei’s admission that she misled WINZ in an effort to feed her daughter was a self-interested admission. That’s unfair and reflects how Armstrong views the world: politics is a game – people make moves, they do things out of self-interest or self-advancement – rather than out of a genuine belief, whether personal, ideological or otherwise. Turei’s admission was no doubt heartfelt, but the important story is not her motivations, it’s the system that forces people to lie to feed their families.

3. Speaking of the system, Matt Taibbi’s fiery take is out

“Taibbi wrote “The Divide” to demonstrate that unequal wealth is producing grotesquely unequal outcomes in criminal justice. You might say that’s an old story, but Taibbi believes that, just as income disparities are growing ever wider, so, too, are disparities in who attracts the attention of cops and prosecutors and who doesn’t. Violent crime has fallen by 44 percent in America over the past two decades, but during that same period the prison population has more than doubled.”

4. Then again, things aren’t all bad – Game of Thrones is back

Before you switch off, let me assure you: GoT isn’t just about blood, battles and sex. It’s an intellectual experience as well. For the best breakdown of each week’s episode see The Atlantic’s GoT “roundtable”. Three writers discuss each week’s episode including the political manoeuvres, the societal implications of, say, mining dragonglass and even what each episode might say about the world today.

5. Speaking of TV, Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake is back

Patriotic New Zealanders will be disappointed Campion has taken the action to Australia, but the show, Top of the Lake: China Girl, promises the same neo-noir, the same deeply unsettling story and another powerhouse performance from Elisabeth Moss, star of the Handmaid’s Tale, whose New Zealand (or Australasian?) accent is the best since Anthony Hopkins in The World’s Fastest Indian.  

6. TV is great during a cold snap, but look out for winter ills

 Hospital emergency departments are struggling to cope with people, many of whom cannot afford a GP visit, checking in for diagnosis or treatment. According to Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg “the Health Vote in the 2017 Budget is an estimated $215 million behind what is needed to cover announced new services, the pay equity settlement for care and support workers, increasing costs, population growth and the effects of an ageing population, compared to the 2016 Budget.” Are these facts, overcrowded hospitals and underfunding, related? I’d say “yes”.

7. But is help on the way?

Labour leader Andrew Little, flanked by his MPs outside of the Kilbirnie Medical Centre in Wellington, announced a Labour government he leads will inject an additional $8 billion into the health system over the next four years. The first question is “would this violate the party’s own ‘budget responsibility rules’ (BRRs)”? Well, according to consultants from BERL, no. The party could increase health spending while remaining within the core Crown spending to GDP ratio the BRRs set.

8. Winston Peter’s does a Don Brash

Aside from fiery denunciations of neoliberalism, Winston Peters is also promising a referendum on the Maori electorates. In a speech to the party faith Peter’s promised New Zealanders would get their say on the “tokenistic” seats. However, it’s hard to imagine either Labour or National agreeing to the “bottom line”. National quietly dropped its opposition to the seats and now says the decision to abolish them belongs to Maori voters. Meanwhile Labour’s Rino Tirikatene has a Private Members Bill in the ballot that would entrench the seats, just like the general seats.

9. In other news, former PM John Key receives another accolade

Key is set to become an honorary companion in the Order of Australia, the highest “order of chivalry” in Australia, for his outstanding contribution to Trans-Tasman relations, though a part of me feels as if this is simply Malcolm Turnbull recognising his personal political hero. Then again, other honorary companions from New Zealand include former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, so it’s not like the Order of New Zealand where there can be only 20 living members. Everyone has a shot at an Australian honour…

10. Finally, for lovers of New Zealand cuisine

Some people say New Zealand lacks its own cuisine, and that might be true. What we know as New Zealand cuisine – mince on toast! – is sometimes a British rip-off or at the very least British-inspired. But this culinary tribute to Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington is Kiwi as. 

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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34 Comments

YP 3. It's very interesting. A violent. crime rate deduction not quite equating to a doubling of prison inmates, if I read that correctly. So does that confirm that if criminals are locked up we are all safer, even if the doubling up obviously includes a good percentage of non violent crimes, it surely must be a stat that cannot be ignored if we all want to live safe and secure.

GoT is just like our housing market and watching commentators on Interest.co battling it out. If you haven't seen it, you are really missing out, it is brilliant

Bit less tits and dragons on here to be fair.

And GoT has sucked since they ran out of books to adapt IMHO.

You are probably correct in the tit department but I reckon there are a few dragons

The TV show based on venture capitalists investing in productive enterprise means Dragon has taken a new meaning vastly different to the "give me my free lunch" property investors speculators that frequent these forums.

You are so right, I wasn't meaning dragons as on Dragons Den, is was meaning the unpleasant snarling variety

On point 2, Turei's fraud:

'it’s the system that forces people to lie to feed their families'

except that the vast majority don't lie and cheat the system.

Nothing like using workarounds to get more money out of taxpayers, like Bill English did, for example, and like Simon Bridges still does, as far as I am aware.

Indeed the system doesn't force people to lie. But it does encourage them to do so, since by lying about your circumstances you can get more money. That's not particular to NZ though; it's a feature of any system which gives money to some people and not to others depending on their circumstances.

That says a lot for the integrity of those who don't lie and cheat, and perhaps also for the effectiveness of WINZ enforcement.

It's also a strike in favour of Gareth's UBI proposal. Under that, in its purest form, everybody gets the same money from Government. So there's no point pretending to be something you're not - you'll get the same money regardless.

"It's also a strike in favour of Gareth's UBI proposal. Under that, in its purest form, everybody gets the same money from Government"
hardly ; the pure form would be not take the hard-earned cash out of taxpayers pockets in the first place. Having people complete a tax return most certainly an encouragement to lie.

Would it have been ok then to lie about my income when I was on the breadline. Then the tax that would have gone to her benefit would not have been there....

Systems are neutral. They cannot of themselves encourage or discourage people to lie. Personal morality determines whether the Turei's of this world decide to embark on criminal enterprise.

Poorly designed systems can provide opportunity to lie.

Yes, but converting opportunity to theft is a conscious, criminal response.

The criminal enterprise aspect of your comment is interesting, and worth exploring. How do you gain a pecuniary advantage when money itself is a fraud?

Relate it back to theft, where an essential element is depriving someone of their property. Who ultimately owns money that is produces Ex Nihilo? Who is ultimately deprived when the money is created, in the words of Iain Parker, as "unpayable interest bearing debt"?

Careful scarfie, that'll mindf**k most people :)

Interesting about the criminal enterprise/morality/ethics/personal responsibility issue. Most of our existing operating system depends on harming others either directly or indirectly yet is considered legit if "wealth" is being created. Anything done to preserve/restore real and natural wealth or stop the harm being caused is practically outlawed.

Saw a poster the other day - "Organised religion is like organised crime; it preys on peoples weaknesses, generates massive profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate" - I thought it sounded just like capitalism.

Scarfie.Insofar as tax is the expropriated monetised exchange value of labour, welfare fraud is by extension theft of labour.

What would you call a system which rewards people who lie and doesn't reward people who are honest? How can that be said not to encourage people to lie?

Certainly personal morality determines whether or not you respond to that encouragement. It's greatly to the credit of the many honest beneficiaries that they don't. But I don't think you can argue that the encouragement isn't there.

Ms de Meanour. That system is called much of business and personal life. There is clear reward in lying in multiple aspects of human existence. But those systems, including welfare, are not constructed to intentionally facilitate lying so can't be said to inherently 'encourage' lying. The decision to do so is a personal one that is instructed entirely by human nature. That some systems are easier than others to exploit through dishonesty, is irrelevant to the the question of cause.

I would normally confess to being a semantical pedant at this point as I understand what you are saying but I have a beef with others who are attempting to justify Turei's rorting of the system on the grounds that 'she needed it' (more than the tens of thousands of others who didn't resort to theft and lying) or because the benefit was so low she had no option.

Ask that question another way. What would you call a system that penalises people who save for their retirement and rewards those who don't. That's what means testing achieves & it is rather unpalatable and disconcerting that some commentators are voicing support for a return to it.

But you could equally argue that those who have been able to save for retirement have been fortuitously blessed with more talent, health and good fortune than those who haven't (setting aside the feckless for a moment). Our whole system is built on addressing imbalance (again setting aside the social contract argument) so why would the pension process be any different?

Well agree you have to set aside the disadvantaged and perhaps the clueless, but overall the only way to implement that is to set a pension so low that it keeps the recipient just on the breadline and then add on where/as necessary allowances for special circumstances or handicaps. That way you may send a strong message that if you don't save to support your retirement, this is where you will end up. Probably many would say this is what we have now anyway. It is a tricky one eg how do you deal in an equitable manner between the one (a)who made his first million by being born and the one (b)who was born into a underclass family of twelve and then proceed to cater for all the inbetweens,? As you say imbalances are built into society but there well be a heck of a lot more b's than a's and believe means testing for pensions is actually targeting the middle classes and is too counterproductive, negative, even draconian.

It doesn't seem realistic to think that many will choose to have little so that they can get the pension at the level it is right now, any more than many choose to be unemployed so they can get the dole. The numbers aren't that high.

What you'll probably see is a few leeches on the poor end (as with the dole) and a few leeches on the wealthy end - hiding their money in trusts etc. so they can collect benefits, a la students I've known who got full student benefits despite being from wealthy families, because their parents were able to effectively hide their income and wealth. There will always be a few without ethics who seek to exploit any situation - whether it's a welfare beneficiary, a finance company director, or an MP claiming an accommodation payment they shouldn't be.

Agree with the thrust of that in that the shifty and dishonest are a minority, either end of the food chain, therefore a universal pension, ie without means testing, must on the numbers, cater to the vast majority of pensioners who are straight normal people. That is obviously a pretty broad brush approach, but if it provides equally to the by far largest percentage of the population, then it's probably about equitable as you are going to get.

I believe it's called needs-based social welfare.

"What would you call a system which rewards people who lie and doesn't reward people who are honest?" - Taxation ? or perhaps business ? or love ? - all seem to be pretty good answers.

Once again we have confirmation of 200m annual underfunding in the public health system. We need to implement border recording of overseas visitor travel insurance details and match these with the cost of healthcare they receive (1.5% of Vote Health = 200m). The cost can then be recovered from the insurance industry who are currently being subsidised by the public health sector. This will eliminate the underfunding issue faced by health.

The actual debt owed by overseas defaulters was published about 2 weeks ago at $300 million

Agree, details of visitors insurance should be captured on arrival at the border

Is there a link to that please? not doubting you, would like to show that to people I know who work in health and are being faced with making pretty stringent cuts.

Unfortunately I didn't think to save it - I can't remember whether it was an article in NZ Herald or a passing snippet on the AM news on ZB - but, my memory is a steel trap on such matters

Here is a Stuff article from May 2015 - two years ago
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/68424897/Foreigners-cost-DHBs-m...

Debt 2 years ago was $200 million, does not include international students on student visas

Thank you, much appreciated very kind of you to dig it out.

rosser. A left wing CTU economist pronouncing that we are underspending on health by $215m is not 'confirmation'. Other valid views are that our expenditure at 9.5% of GDP (if ACC health expenditure is included), is above many OECD countries, including Australia.

Thanks Middleman - over to you Morgan to validate your figure of 215m. It does however tie in with my own estimate of what is leaking out of the public health system every year from treatment costs provided to overseas visitors not being recovered (1.5% of Vote Health). Because we do not have a full-proof system of identifying these costs they remain hidden. And based on projections of growth in overseas visitors the figure will be 300m annually in 5 years time.