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Insights 37: 5 October 2018
Read: Eric Crampton examines in his Newsroom column whether truancy actually ruins your life
Listen: Bryce Wilkinson discusses on Radio NZ whether our tax money is being well spent
Latest report: Fit for Purpose? Are Kiwis getting the government they pay for?

New Zealand Firstís Values
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
It does not happen too often that politicians do what I want them to do. It is even stranger when this almost makes me change my mind.

New Zealand First’s Respecting New Zealand Values Bill has achieved this remarkable feat.

When I received my permanent resident visa three years ago, I wrote an NBR column about the experience. What irritated me at the time were two things. First, that I received it with no sort of welcome letter. And second, that I never had to pledge anything to New Zealand in return.

The contrast with Australia, where I previously held such a visa, was strong. There I had to sign an Australian values statement which stated the basic rules of Australian life. Among them were freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, and equality of men and women.

As my column argued, requiring such a symbolic act of migrants is a national reassurance. “The public needs to know that whoever comes to New Zealand as a migrant or an investor will not change the New Zealand way,” I wrote.

It is the same argument that New Zealand First have now made to support their Bill, which MP Clayton Mitchell wants to introduce to Parliament. And yet, the details of the Bill make me wonder whether it is such a good idea after all.

Besides those items from the Australian values statement, the New Zealand First Bill requires migrants to commit not to campaign against alcohol consumption.

As a liberal, I believe that in our free land, people should have the right to drink alcohol.

However, there was of course a temperance movement in 19th century New Zealand. That makes it hard to argue that campaigning against alcohol was un-kiwi. The only difference is that campaigners back then were mainly Protestant whereas modern campaigners might be Muslim. But maybe that is the point of the Bill.

To make matters worse, any meaningful value statement must include support for parliamentary democracy. But how credible is this coming from a party that just pushed its waka-jumping legislation through Parliament?

When I wrote in favour of a values statement, I had the democratic and liberal clarity of Australia’s statement in mind. To see what New Zealand politics can do to it now makes me wonder whether something like that would ever be possible in New Zealand.

On Virtue Signalling and Virtue
Roger Partridge | Chairman |
It would take a humbug not to feel proud seeing our Prime Minister on the world stage last week. Coinciding with the 125th anniversary of New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to grant women the vote, her appearance was a profound affirmation of New Zealand’s openness, diversity and inclusiveness.

And in contrast to the political bombast that dominates world news, hearing Jacinda Ardern espouse humanist values like fairness and kindness – along with strength – to describe her leadership style, was a welcome relief.

Her presence at the United Nations was a triumph, signalling many of our young nation’s greatest virtues.

But signalling virtue is not always the same thing as being virtuous.

We can see that only too well with last week’s release of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Regulatory Impact Statement on the coalition government’s proposed legislation banning further offshore exploration permits.

The Ministry notes that the Government’s policy objective is to “to show global leadership by demonstrating that New Zealanders can be better off while taking action to reduce our impact on the climate.” It is this virtue signal that led to the offshore exploration ban.

Unfortunately, the official advice from MBIE suggests the policies will not achieve their desired objectives.

Rather than reducing carbon emissions, as gas supplies decline, MBIE warns of the possible closure of Methanex’s New Zealand plant, resulting in increased global greenhouse gas emissions as methanol production is shifted to less efficient overseas plants.

And far from increasing the prosperity of New Zealanders, the Ministry advises that the policies will likely make New Zealand poorer.

The costs run into the billions. The mid-point of MBIE’s forecast losses to the Crown to 2050 is $16.6 billion (with a net present value of $7.9 billion). The mid-point of forecast losses to the petroleum industry over the same period is $19.2 billion (with an NPV of $2.1 billion).

In addition, the Ministry advises of likely broader, unquantified economic impacts on the Taranaki and national economies, along with risks to the security and affordability of the supply of gas and electricity.

Rarely has the discrepancy between virtuous objectives and delivered values been greater than in the offshore exploration ban.

The Prime Minister and the Government should take heed that they will be judged not by the virtues they signal, but by those they deliver.

SchrŲdingerís Canadians
Dr Eric Crampton | Chief Economist |
Erwin Schrödinger never actually put cats into boxes that might or might not kill them, depending on a radioactive isotope’s random decay. It was only a thought experiment designed to show that the unseen cat could simultaneously be considered both dead and alive, until the box was opened.

But what should we make of the interesting box the Canadian government has built for the children of Canadians living abroad? Whether inspired by Kafka, Joseph Heller, or Erwin Schrödinger,  Canada’s bureaucracy makes children simultaneously Canadian and not-Canadian, depending on whether they’re at the border or at the High Commission.

In 2016, the Canadian government decided that any Canadian travelling to Canada must enter Canada on a Canadian passport. Dual citizens who had let their Canadian passports lapse would need to undertake the painful process of applying for a Canadian passport from abroad.

Fair enough, you might say, even if some Canadians living in New Zealand must get a copy of their birth certificate from Manitoba to do it. That requires faxing a printed PDF form to Manitoba unless you want to mail it there. We continue to forget how lucky we are in New Zealand.

Canada is a backward, backward country.

But here’s the tricky Canadian box in which my Kiwi kids find themselves.

The Canadian government’s “Am I Canadian?” quiz says my kids are Canadian because I was born in Canada. If we ever want to visit family in the old country, the kids will have to travel on Canadian passports – or they might not even be allowed onto the plane.

They are too Canadian to enter Canada without a Canadian passport.

But those same kids are not Canadian enough to be issued passports by the Canadian High Commission.

They first must apply for, and be awarded, certificates of Canadian citizenship. That five-month-long process seems designed to weed out weirdos who want to be Canadian but are not eligible for it. It is not designed to help out younglings forced to be Canadian by accident of their father’s birth.

As far as the Canadian government is concerned, my kids are simultaneously too Canadian to enter Canada without a Canadian passport but not Canadian enough to have any simple way of acquiring one.

They’re Schrödinger’s Canadians, except the bureaucratic box is real.

You can check out of the Canadian asylum any time you like, but you can never really leave.
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