Monday, 23 February 2015

Super idea

David Seymour's call for a referendum on superannuation changes is a good one, but the politics is still tough.

I'm not a fan of referenda in general. But John Key's painted himself into a corner on this one, having promised that he'd never touch superannuation. Everybody knows that best policy here is to announce, today, changes that will start phasing in at some future date. For example, the government could today announce changes that would apply from, say 2022, when the age of eligibility would then start rising by a year every 2 years or so, and that, from 2022, Super would be CPI-indexed rather than wage indexed. 

This could have provided a clean way out for Key. Having promised no changes, Key could have announced a referendum and say that he wouldn't reverse his promise on it unless he had a specific mandate. 

Except the immediate move from Labour would be to frame it as a win for Labour. And Key won't want to hand them that. 

The only way it works now is as a referendum on a bundle of changes sufficiently different from whatever Labour's proposed that Labour can't claim it as a win. Either that or getting a time machine and running the referendum before Labour moved to support changes to Super.


  1. Unfortunately, the unwillingness of Chch police to investigate burglaries long pre-dates the quakes.

  2. Can't you kinda do this already, by hiring your own investigators to then pass details on to police for prosecution? Or at least you could if the cops would then act on the information received; I understand that they don't like that kind of thing.

  3. Thought your last part was very relevant - the police seem to have little sense of what the general population would regards as priorities. A list of the ways in which they waste time and resources would be a very long list

  4. "There seems to me to be a growing international push to shut down research that disagrees with the comfortable public health party line". heck yeah, there certainly is. very timely comment given the ructions before and after the Food Matters Aoteoroa conference last week

  5. There's a difference, John.

    Academic freedom means that researchers should go where they think truth leads. It also means that they shouldn't be trying to shut down others' research. Continued attacks on funding sources makes that kind of research impracticable.

    By contrast, pointing out that a public popular anti-GMO conference is presenting results far outside the scientific mainstream is hardly stopping Serlini or anybody else from doing their research.

  6. "Continued attacks on funding sources makes that kind of research impracticable".

    so this bunch of academics have driven out the industry funded work? killed it off. just how narrow a field is "that kind of research"?

  7. Sorry to be anecdotal, but I'm old enough and clapped out to have gone to university in that generation when most of my classmates were the first members of their family to get beyond high school.

    Their parents held ordinary labouring jobs; many were migrants from rural Europe in the post-war period and worked in factories.

    Many of their parents from southern Europe spoke minimally English. That didn't stop quite a few of them have been quite successful in business, be it running a shop, a construction business or farm.

  8. Well, there's lovely stuff like this from anti-science, anti-GMO people.

    On industry funding in health areas at Universities, tobacco funding is banned, so anything they might want researched on vaping is forbidden.

    The Canterbury public health crowd tried banning alcohol-industry funding after I received industry funding, regardless of that I built way more academic freedom into my contract than they had in their lucrative MoH contracts. One might wonder whether fears of maintaining those contracts had them wanting to get industry funding banned for others.

  9. There's no mention of public funding in that Kevin Folta though, and US-RTK declare just one donor above $5k (Organic Consumers Association) so is that really a problem caused by public funding?

    Your second link is much more on point, and I agree with plenty there, though it clearly doesn't amount to a shut-out as I thought you were suggesting.

    It's also interesting to look at the same issue across topics. For tobacco and alcohol, industry funding is readily available to help counter "the line" whether through universities or not. Your concern is that there are barriers to it being accessed through universities.

    For pesticides on the other hand (also a food issue), it is industry funding that is maintaining "the line". So there are no industry funds available to those asking questions of the status quo and co-funding requirements make it almost impossible to get public funds to address the questions. In this case though, you're quite happy to cast aspersions at those asking the questions. By painting those of us interested in such questions as fringe loonies, those aspersions do actually make public research funding much less likely.

  10. I think the problem here is the same problem faced by other public sector bodies: a government funded organisation with:
    - opaque performance measures (last time I checked crime data was cleansed by the police force, so there's obviously an incentive to massage stats to show good news)
    - limited transparency over its function (what is the proper allocation of resources to burglaries or violent crime - and does that distribution of resources meet everyones needs?)
    - zero transparency over its effectiveness (how do you know if they even tried to find the burglar - or if their actions elsewhere are actually reducing the incidence of burglaries compared to the zero intervention strategy?)
    - and consequently, generally poor staff morale and few incentives for high performers.

    In my view if you can find a government department (ie; monopoly) which meets those criteria, you can almost guarantee that it is doing a poor job because nobody even has any idea over what it's actually doing or whether it could be better. User pays policing would in my view be a welcome change. I also think that policing would be a perfect candidate for an Uber style disruption, the only question is precisely how that could happen.

  11. If my aspersions are that powerful, you're really not going to like the cover of the latest National Geographic.

  12. nope. doesn't bother me at all. not a single mention of pesticides in that story - not in the online version anyway.

  13. weird - right?

    i've just realised that all this time you've probably thought i was anti-gmo per se. that is definitely not the case. i accept that some new organism could be really great. gmo science seems to me like a basic technology, meaning that the potential uses are hugely diverse. what fool would rule out the prospect of any benefit from this whole endeavour?

    i am way more concerned about large long-term pesticide exposure than gmos as such.