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Insights 28: 2 August 2019
Eric Crampton discusses in NBR why a digital services tax would work against New Zealand's interests
Read our new Research Note: When the facts change: How the ICCC saved New Zealand from a policy disaster
In Newsroom, Eric Crampton comments on the Royal Society's report on plastic pollution and the need to focus on well-managed landfills

Trans-Tasman monitoring
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
A collegial relationship between Treasury and the Reserve Bank is a good thing in principle. Monetary and fiscal policy remain the most important levers of economic policy, and the two institutions in charge of those levers need to exchange their views.

While it is propitious when two important branches of government work well together, it can be problematic if one of them then monitors the other.

Treasury and the Reserve Bank are jointly reviewing the Reserve Bank Act. Both organisations are represented by their staff in this review.

The two organisations are already so closely cooperating that the review staff even have business cards with both logos. Their addresses are similar anyway: No. 1 and No. 2 The Terrace, Wellington, respectively.

The institutional links between the two bodies go deeper. When the Reserve Bank established a Monetary Policy Committee, the previous Treasury Secretary took a seat at the table as an observer.

The Reserve Bank Act review, however, now proposes to make Treasury the monitoring agent of the Reserve Bank and ensure it is “effective, efficient, and accountable” on behalf of the Minister of Finance.

An alternative proposal would have been to create a supervisory council as an independent agent of the Minister. However, that was regarded as more expensive and less consistent with the new Board governance model for the Reserve Bank.

Still, given the past and current closeness of Treasury and the Reserve Bank, should not a monitoring agent be more removed from the object it is supervising?

To a degree, this is not just a Treasury and Reserve Bank problem. It is a New Zealand or a Wellington problem. New Zealand is famous for its two degrees of separation; in the capital, it is usually less than that.

So here is an idea: Since the Australians are also looking at better ways to monitor their regulators following the Hayne review, why not have a Trans-Tasman supervisory agency? Having a few friendly foreigners in the team might work well on both sides of the Tasman.

Something for the two governments to discuss at the next CER talks.

Better management, research and outcomes
Joel Hernandez | Policy Analyst |
Just on the horizon is the promise of better management of student data and the potential for better research on New Zealand school performance. Better data and insights are invariably the precursor to improvement and better outcomes for students.

The Ministry of Education is in the early stages of rolling out the Edsby student data platform under Te Rito, New Zealand’s student information management system.

Edsby is an award-winning digital learning and data platform for schools, designed to strengthen the continuity of student data during the 12 years of compulsory schooling in New Zealand.

The aim of Edsby is to reduce the administrative burden on teachers and schools, and to improve the quality and timeliness of data provided to the Ministry. It also intends to aid teachers in tailoring support for students, ensuring all communities receive equal chances for success, including transient, Māori, Pasifika and special needs students.

What makes Edsby so special is it collects data at the classroom level across all 2,500 public schools in New Zealand. This is noteworthy as current education research often only uses school-level data, which can miss important nuances within the classroom – in particular, peer-effects.

If integrated into Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) – while still prioritising data privacy – the insights gained from Edsby could be revolutionary for education research, evaluation and policy in New Zealand.

Used in combination with existing Ministry and Census data in the IDI, research using classroom level Edsby data could finally provide evidence for current debates in education.

For decades, educators have argued the relative merits of classroom (ability) streaming. Research using Edsby data could finally settle this debate, or at least contribute valuable empirical evidence to this emotive topic.

Furthermore, used in combination with NCEA results, Edsby data could be used to study the effectiveness of modern-learning environments, or different organising structures for the curriculum.

Current debates in education are too often based on ideology and politics. New Zealand must base its education policy on evidence. The IDI is a world-leading database – even beating countries such as the United States and Australia in integrated data. There is no justification for a lack of evidence or an evaluation framework.

To that end, the Initiative will demonstrate in a forthcoming report what can and should be done with the world-leading data in New Zealand to improve education outcomes for all New Zealand students.

The Floccinaucinihilipilification of Jacob Rees-Mogg
Toby Fitzsimmons | Research Intern |
Jacob Rees-Mogg is the quintessential English conservative. The so-called ‘honourable member for the 18th century’ has a taste for double-breasted jackets and vernacular pedantry.

His style was made clear after saying the longest word in Parliament, “floccinaucinihilipilification”. This word Rees-Mogg learnt as a schoolboy means the habit of estimating things as worthless.

Rees-Mogg’s first tweet was in Latin and translates as “Times are changing and we are changing with them.” Although it is hard to think he took the second part seriously. Or the first.

As a British intern at The New Zealand Initiative, I notice Kiwi-English usage that would make Rees-Mogg cringe.

The most infuriating is ‘yeah nah’. Such an absurd ambiguity is a sure sign of the looming demise of clarity.

Before long, the ‘yeah nah’ speakers will be talking about the ‘cold hot’ weather, the ‘white black’ tone, or how they are feeling ‘good bad’.

Thankfully, Rees-Mogg’s writing guidelines for his staff have gone viral. The degeneration of the English language shall now be reversed.

The guidelines demand that the name of every non-titled male should end in Esq. For the uninformed, esquire originally meant shield bearer. It is a courtesy title of respect for anyone below the rank of knight. Perhaps if you were more than an esquire you would have known this.

If Rees-Mogg’s style guidelines do not make his staff too embarrassed to write, the long list of banned words would make any communication impossible.

Got, lot, unacceptable, due to, very, hopefully – all are banned for being clichéd, ungrammatical and informal. We have just got to stop using a lot of these unacceptable words due to their very severe overuse and misuse. Hopefully.

While you might consider Rees-Mogg’s peculiar tastes amusing, they did "trigger" some commentators. Stephen Pinker called the style guide “a list of irrational, arbitrary & linguistically obtuse personal peeves”. The Guardian found Rees-Mogg’s strictures as showcasing his authoritarian politics.

These modern critics fail to understand the mind-set of Rees-Mogg. That his rules are “irrational” and archaic is precisely why he likes them. By expending such effort into anachronistic writing, Rees-Mogg is proving his longing for the past – and a desire to recreate it today.

So should I, Toby Fitzsimmons, Esq., adopt these writing guidelines? Torn between their interesting curiosities and nuisances, I have only one response: “yeah nah”.

On The Record
All Things Considered
  • Graph of the week: New Zealand's money: How do you compare?
  • US social psychologist Jonathan Haidt reveals why we're living in an 'age of outrage'.
  • An inconvenient truth about tax in New Zealand.
  • Housing markets and migration – Evidence from New Zealand.
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