Bubble illusion

There’s something blowing in the wind, and it’s not friendly to the Government. Two weeks ago they were in trouble over Australian travel. There’s just no way to explain why quarantine-free travel has been one-way for so long. Why are we so far behind at our end?  

Panicking, what did the Government do? It rushed out a housing announcement best described as bat-excrement crazy. Even the leftie commentators were reporting, ‘renters thrown under the bus.’ A policy and PR disaster, by the end of the week nobody believed the Government’s policy would make a jot of difference to housing affordability, for all the damage it’s doing.

A quick word from our sponsor, ACT’s Brooke van Velden has been very effective at prosecuting the Government on this mess. See her popular petition here and widely read Stuff column here.

Back to our programme. This week the Government will try to get back on the bubble. Today they’ll announce details of the travel bubble with Australia. That is, if their trouble with vaccination doesn’t overwhelm them. It’s got so bad Kiwi Indians would have more chance of a vaccination back in the old country.

Free Press hears they are being mocked by their families in India for having moved to a third-world country. We hesitated to believe this, given India is a world leader in the number of people in absolute poverty. Well, it turns out they are leading us in COVID vaccination. Five per cent of Indians are vaccinated, versus barely one-in-a-hundred Kiwis.

We predict the Prime Minister is going to have to cock her head to one side and look thoughtful quite a lot more this week, because the bubble is more harrumph than triumph.

The simple fact is that there is no need for a bubble. The bubble illusion is not just the ongoing mirage of travel to Australia being tomorrow, next week, but wait, next month. The whole concept is an illusion.

The Government does not need a bubble. It does not need an overarching agreement with the Australian Government. It does not need to worry about what the Australians do with their borders, because the Government of New Zealand does not control their borders, it controls ours.

Our Government needs to do its job and provide what the Prime Minister promised on April 16 last year, “the world’s smartest borders.” It needs to start saying that quarantine requirements at the border will reflect the risk that people coming actually have COVID-19.

Here is a principle so simple even the current Government can apply it: No COVID, no quarantine. Start with the countries that have no COVID-19 and allow people who’ve been in them for at least two weeks to come without quarantine.

That would open up RSE workers from the likes of Samoa and the Solomon Islands for the poor horticulturists. Not to mention, they need the money. As an added bonus, it would strengthen New Zealand’s geopolitical position by being their best friend in troubled times, before you-know-who replaces us in the role.

The fact we couldn’t get people into the country from COVID-free Pacific Islands shows why we had no hope with Australia. The bubble illusion has been happily trotted out by the Government (and usefully bought into by the National Party) as the reason Aussies can’t come here, when really we just needed to run our borders better.

Australian States opened to New Zealand on October 16. That’s the day that they actually introduced smart borders, six months after our Prime Minister announced them. They simply apply quarantine to people who are a risk, and let those who are not go through. It depends on whether you’ve come from a COVID-free place or a hotspot.

If you are identified as a hotspot, you can’t enter other states. Pretty simple. Earlier this year, they identified Auckland as a hotspot for a while. They even called it a ‘Commonwealth hotspot.’ They’re treating New Zealand like the seventh state, but thanks to our Government we’re acting like a lump of wood.

This week the Government will announce that people will be able to come from COVID-free Australian states without quarantine. If we really hope, it might happen from April 16, one year after the Prime Minister promised the world’s smartest borders, and half a year after the Aussies did what we’ve just done.

The Government must explain why this late arrival of the obvious is a triumph, not harrumph. Free Press predicts they will demand gratitude for the feat. We should tell them to get off the podium and back to work.


Free Press Extra!

Due to a technical error, some readers received only half of last week’s Free Press. We were grateful for the positive feedback on just half an issue. If you are ready for the full copy, it is produced (we hope) below:

Free Press, Monday 29 March, 2021

Hard to find material

If you would like to read Roger Partridge’s latest excellent column, it is here on Chris Trotter’s blog. Normally Roger’s columns appear in the Herald. This one, a thoughtful critique of the Government’s proposed New Zealand History curriculum, did not. Meanwhile a powerful video from Mothers Matter, designed to promote maternal mental health, has been ordered off the air by the Advertising Standards Authority.  You can still watch it online here.

Podiocracy (noun a system of government where all power rests in a podium)

David Seymour opposed the Government’s rushed gun laws alone against 119 MPs.  His simple message: It’s not about guns, it’s about the law. If the Government can take away someone else’s rights in just nine days, without asking, why would you think your rights are safe?

We should have seen the warning when oil and gas exploration was banned by podium announcement. There wasn’t so much as a Cabinet paper to back the announcement. (We can’t prove there weren’t letters from a class of children taught by a NZEI member).

As the story goes, first they came for the licensed firearm owners. Now it is the property investors. Those who tell them to cry me a river of crocodile tears really should pay more attention. They could be next.

The problems with the podiocracy are three. The diktats don’t actually achieve their goals. They divide the community, persecuting sections of it. They require further measures to fix their mistakes.

Licensed firearm owners were hurtfully made the foil of the Government’s political theatre post March 15. As we know, the ban was ineffective. Only a quarter of the firearms estimated to be banned were handed in. Meanwhile gun crime has gotten out of control with enough gang shootings in New Zealand to fill the LA Times, and the Government is undertaking a second buyback already.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has told us that banning oil and gas exploration didn’t help reduce carbon emissions and may even hurt. We have visited Taranaki, as with licensed firearm owners, people feel assaulted by the Government of inclusion and kindness.

Natural gas is a good fuel for reducing carbon emissions, but the Government has scared the industry off our shores. There is more coal in our future thanks to the podiocracy’s lack of foresight, and crazy adventures such as ‘pumped hydro’ besides.

Now we turn to the Government’s surprise attack on residential property investors. The announcement that the so-called bright line test will now extend to 10 years was not only predictable but predicted.

David Seymour said in 2015: ‘… this tax is the acorn of a capital gains tax. It is a measure that will grow from two years to five to 10 to 15 years. You watch, it will eventually apply to a wider range of homes. It is the acorn that the National Party has planted that will grow into a full-blown capital gains tax.’

The removal of mortgage interest deductibility is worse. Picture a couple that bought a unit, their first home, kept it as an investment when they bought a larger home as their kids aged. They now have a half million dollar mortgage on a half million dollar property. Their interest bill at 3 per cent is $15,000. At 33 per cent marginal tax rate, they have lost a tax exemption worth $5000.

They will pass what they can on to their tenants. Their tenants are trying to save a deposit. When the Government said they would tilt the balance towards first home buyers, they have put a tax on landlords that will ultimately be paid by the people they’re trying to help.

So much for the ineffectiveness of the policy, it is also hateful and divisive. For a century, income tax has been on income, not revenue. Calling mortgage interest deductibility a ‘loophole’ is offensive. It wrongly feeds the idea that landlords have been taking advantage, when they’ve just been following century-old tax law.

Next comes the additional interventions. The Government knows its policy will push up rents. Now it’s talking about rent controls. As economic interventionists and P-users both know, any idiot can start, the hard part is stopping.

Where to from here? As David Seymour said in his Waitangi Day State of the Nation Speech, we need a revolution in the standards of Governance. We need a four year term, independent select committees, and the Regulatory Standards Bill passed into law. Only then will the citizens of New Zealand have a fighting choice against the silly ideas of Labour and National politicians.