Today marks 150 years of New Zealanders keeping in time

2 November 2018

“Gliding-on” dramatised folklore about New Zealand’s public servants for television;  cardigan-clad gossipers, who when not gathered around a tea trolley, were clock watching for a 4.35pm end to the day. And tens of thousands of government employees throughout the country clocked off at the same moment.

New Zealand led the world in adopting a national time. New Zealand Standard Time, 11 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, came into force at noon on 2 November 1868. Despite GMT originating in England, Britain did not standardise its time until August 1880.

There had been a battle of the clocks in New Zealand throughout the 1860s. Although Auckland shared “Wellington time”, local mean time varied, illustrated with 34 minutes difference between Napier and Invercargill. Provincial Governments, keen to preserve symbols of their autonomy, obstructed standardisation. There was no overriding need for a common time while communication was primarily by sea.

This changed in 1866 when a Cook Strait cable connected the North and South Island telegraph networks. The influence of the Postmaster-General further shaped developments when he directed all post offices to adhere to “Wellington time” from January 1867. What then became known as “telegraph time” – and the time on post office clocks in all town centres – increasingly undermined parochialism despite what some saw as tyrannical caprice in Wellington.  Resistance was particularly strong in Dunedin.

“At noon on Monday 2 November 1868, all well-regulated clocks in the North and South Island that were either connected by the telegraph to Wellington, or regulated by a telegraph office clock, struck 12 at the same moment Wellington’s town clock did. Although this was not recognised at the time, this was a significant moment of union for a fledgling and divided colony.” (There were 10,000 imperial troops on active service at the time in New Zealand.)

It was 78 years later, on 1 January 1946, when New Zealand Standard Time was set 12 hours ahead of GMT, or 180° east of Greenwich. This meridian lies closer to the Chatham Islands than the North and South Islands but the change (from the meridian set in 1868 of 172˚30΄ E just to the west of Christchurch)  simplified the relationship between NZST and GMT. However, it means that dawn arrives late in midwinter, especially in south-western parts of the country.

International agreement to base time on a prime meridian through Greenwich occurred in 1884.—1985/series

US President trumpets need for NZ-type control on birth tourism

1  November 2018

Concern about the impact on the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement of granting residence to asylum seekers detained on Nauru is rooted in the privileges of New Zealand citizenship. Ministers in Australia speak of precluding entry in perpetuity. That could mean that some refugees ultimately qualify for a restricted type of citizenship. Their situation may be analogous to the visa requirements imposed on New Zealanders with convictions; having been a refugee refused residence in Australia may become a character constraint on the grant of a visa to enter Australia. (But would such a restriction trouble people desperate for a “normal” life?)

A fundamental change in the prerequisite for acquiring citizenship a dozen years ago doesn’t seem to have troubled many New Zealanders. What used to be a jus soli – of automatic citizenship if born in New Zealand – was surrendered with general acceptance to prevent birth tourism – the backdoor access to citizenship by pregnant foreign tourists conveniently being in the country when their child was born. Birth in New Zealand now conveys citizenship only if a parent is lawfully resident here (if neither is a citizen.)

In a much more public way,  in the run-up to the midterm elections next week, President Trump has declared an intention to override by Executive Decree the 14th Amendment right to citizenship of any child born in the United States.  This citizenship by birth, guaranteed by the Constitution, which was once widespread, subsists in much of the Americas – if somewhat unsatisfactorily from Canada to Argentina –  despite the President declaring that “…We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States … with all of those benefits.”

Although some label this as divisive rhetoric, no European state now has “birthright citizenship”. The last was Ireland which repealed the entitlement in 2005.

New Zealand law changed in 2006, followed in 2007 in Australia.


31 October 2018

Yesterday’s NZ Politics Daily lists 19 social media items commenting about the Minister of Immigration exercising his discretion to grant a residence visa to Mr Sroubek (who once upon a time gained resident status as Mr Antolik ) an imprisoned drug smuggler and criminal associate of the Hell’s Angels, whose responses at a recent parole hearing were described by the Judge chairing the Parole Panel as self-exculpatory, evasive, long-winded and …. manifestly untruthful.

None seems to understand the Minister’s motivation. Few are sympathetic to his refusal to give reasons for his decision. Some infer from the Minister’s actions that his advisers persuaded him that the Czech Republic is a corrupt and lawless society where Mr Sroubek would soon fall victim to extrajudicial killing should he be repatriated. The Opposition immigration spokesperson is agitated by such a portrayal of the Czech Republic, a long-standing EU democracy.

But how does the Czech Republic measure up as an effective, corruption free, politically stable democracy committed to the rule of law and the well-being of its citizens? The Worldwide Governance Indicators provide a sound basis for comparison. Although not placed like New Zealand in the 90 – 100 percentile on the WGI six dimensions of good governance, the Czech Republic is in 75 – 90 percentile for five of the dimensions.  However, it drops to the 50 – 75 percentile for the Control of Corruption, aligning it with states like Italy, Spain, Hungary, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Latvia and Greece  – and ahead of Central and South America, most of Asia and Africa, Russia etc.

The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index provides a similar sort of picture. Of the 31 countries in the pilot survey, the Czech Republic (Czechia) is ranked 28th – with a hopeless tax administration and weak integrity systems.  Canada topped the Index, New Zealand was second helped by a very strong integrity rating, and Australia was third.

Worldwide Governance Indicators 2018


New Zealand Czech Republic
Voice & Accountability



Political Stability / Absence of Violence



Govt. Effectiveness



Regulatory Quality



Rule of Law



Control of Corruption

100  70





Have the Worldwide Governance Indicators lost their shine?

30 October 2018

The 2018 update of the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) was published last month.  Despite the continuing support of the World Bank and the Brookings Institute, the enthusiasm that has previously accompanied the release of the WGI data seems extraordinarily diminished this year. Few national agencies report satisfaction with – or concern about – the assessed change in the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised.

The WGI is a composite of more than 30 data sources, including international and non-government organisations, think tanks, and private sector institutes. Much of that data is separately published. A strength of the WGI is its comprehensiveness.

The WGI provides 20 years of data on processes by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of governments to formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the State for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions. These dimensions of governance are grouped as:

  • voice and accountability;
  • political stability and absence of violence;
  • government effectiveness;
  • regulatory quality;
  • rule of law; and
  • control of corruption.

Over those 20 years some notable changes in the quality of governance have occurred although movement among the top and bottom dozen countries is generally gradual – and the gap between the bottom and the top rankings doesn’t lessen.  When they are good they are very very good, but when they are bad…..

Scandinavian countries together with Singapore and New Zealand have always measured well on most of the governance dimensions. The 2018 WGI continues that pattern.

The New Zealand Auditor-General has used the WGI as a measure of good governance in the NZ State Sector in the Annual Report of that agency since 2011.   The relevance is evidenced this year with New Zealand as best ranking country in two of the WGI dimensions,  and second, third, fourth, and eighth in each of the other dimensions.

Worldwide Governance Indicators  2018

Voice & Accountability Political Stability & Absence of Violence Government Effectiveness Regulatory Quality Rule of Law Control of Corruption
Singapore   41  99 100 100  97  98
Norway 100  90  99  96 100 100
Sweden 100  81  96  96  99  98
New Zealand  99












Netherlands  99  80  97  99  97  95
Finland  98  88  98  97 100  99
Switzerland  98  93 100  97  99  97
Denmark  97  76  96  92  98  99
Luxembourg  97  96  94  94  95  96
Germany  96  67  94  95  91  94
Austria  94  86  92  91  98  91
Iceland  94  97 91  90  91  93


Climate change and destruction of nature apparently of most concern to young people

10 October 2017

Worldwide a substantial majority of those aged between 18 -35 are optimistic and see the world as full of opportunity, even though only 50% believe they can actively contribute to decision-making in their countries.  That is a conclusion drawn from responses to the Global Shapers Annual Survey for 2017 released last month under the auspices of the World Economic Forum. The survey is compiled from responses of about 25,000 members of the Global Shapers Community –  with input proportional to nationality.  The New Zealand hub had 20 respondents (30% male).  (Perhaps the less forceful influence of young voters on the general election results than the predicted “youthquake”, confirms the survey finding that many young people question whether they can actively contribute to decision-making in their country.)

The survey shows that climate change and large-scale conflicts are real global concerns to those under 35.   As in previous years the most serious global issue is “climate change/destruction of nature” ( 48.8% of votes ).  “Large-scale conflict/wars” is ranked second,  and third is “inequality (income, discrimination)”  with 38.9% and 30.8% of votes respectively.

The Middle East and North Africa is the only region that ranks “large-scale conflict/wars” as the top issue (53.6%)  followed by “religious conflicts” (38.8%) and “poverty” (29.9%).

Reflecting concern for climate change, over 91% of young people “agree” and “strongly agree” with the statement that “science has proven that humans are responsible for climate change”. There is striking difference though between different income-level economies. In the low-income category, only 37.8% “strongly agree”, while across the other income-level groups no fewer than 71% “strongly agree”.

With the exception of Oceania, respondents consider that corruption remains the most pressing concern in their own countries.   “Government accountability and transparency/corruption” again ranked 1st with 46.9% of votes globally. It is followed by “inequality” (38.1%) and “lack of economic opportunity/ employment” (30.5%).

Apparently young Australians and New Zealanders see things differently.   “Climate change/destruction of nature” continues to be their top concern (63.3%) both globally and at the country level.  For the 238 Australian and New Zealand respondents (designated as Oceania), climate change is more than a global issue.  The survey observes that “ it is something that affects young people in their everyday life and that is already affecting their future and immediate environment”.


Should giving hackers access to data about 143 million customers diminish a company’s suitability to advise US on tax integrity?

6 October 2017

A characteristic common to publicly funded agencies is ensuring their appropriation is spent – use it or lose it. This may be seen as a splurge in the final days of the financial year.  Last week – the end of the United States Government fiscal year – saw an extraordinary example of this. The IRS has been troubled by tax-identity fraud and data breaches.  Congress earmarked more than $100 million for cybersecurity upgrades and identity theft prevention measures. But remedial progress has been slow.  Nothing  exceptional there.

What is surprising is that on 30 September the Federal Business Opportunities database (more flexible than the GETS “awarded contracts” facility on the NZ Government Procurement website)  indicated that a “sole source order”  for $7.25 million had been awarded by the IRS to a credit service provider to “verify taxpayer identity” and “assist in ongoing identity verification and validations”. Apparently only one company was deemed capable of providing the service, needed promptly to prevent a lapse in identity checks. while officials resolved other contractual issues. There was no contest.

As the financial year expired, a contract was awarded to one of the three main US credit checking agencies – the chief executive of which had devised a corporate strategy of gathering as much personal data as possible and finding new ways to sell it.

However the company has admirable corporate documents.   Its ten core values begin with “ Commitment to Integrity” and “Understanding that our employees are trusted stewards of our data, we strive to demonstrate unyielding integrity that is transparent in our actions…” and so on.

The company understands the market place;  “Data breaches are on the rise. Be prepared.”  “You’ll feel safer with (us)…”

It was “…strengthening its legacy of excellence, integrity and reliability.”   Apparently for the IRS it would a good partner  “to safeguard the integrity of our tax administration system.”

But the company is Equifax.  A company which only weeks previously experienced a major data breach exposing social security numbers, personal information and credit worthiness details of about 143 million people in the United States, and undisclosed numbers in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Equifax is also one of three credit reporting companies in New Zealand.  Its website states that Equifax holds data on more than 3.4 million credit-active individuals and approximately 600,000 companies and businesses throughout New Zealand, providing customers with the ability to make more informed decisions.  There has been no publicity about any New Zealanders’ records being exposed, possibly as the Australian and New Zealand operations of Equifax, bought from Veda in 2016, may not have been integrated into the company’s North American systems. Nonetheless these “credit-active individuals” are unlikely to consider themselves to be “customers” of Equifax.

Equifax discovered on 29 July that its US data had been accessible to hackers since May.  The Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee chairman said it was as if “the guards at Fort Knox forgot to lock the doors”. It was more than a month later before the hack was publicly announced.  The chief executive stood down.

But matters get worse. The US Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation into circumstances behind the sale of $1.8 million worth of company shares by three executives several days after the data breach was found – and weeks before it became public knowledge.

.The Senate Finance Committee Chairman said  that “In the wake of one of the most massive data breaches in a decade, it’s irresponsible for the IRS to turn over millions in taxpayer dollars to a company that has yet to offer a succinct answer on how at least 145 million Americans had personally identifiable information exposed”.



NZ Ombudsman established 55 years ago

4 October 2017

Fifty-five years ago ( 1 October 1962 ) New Zealand appointed its first Ombudsman.  This was the first such appointment outside of Scandinavia.  Empowered by Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) Act 1962, a “simple” 29 section Act, the Ombudsman was charged with investigating and reporting to Parliament on maladministration in Departments of State.  The Ombudsman could respond to a complaint or act on his own motion.   A process of reporting findings to the relevant agency or to the relevant Minister and including recommendations in the Annual Report remain a core aspect of the current Ombudsman’s Act.  It was a further 20 years before the Official Information Act extended the jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the Official Information Act. Subsequently the Office took on responsibilities under the Protected Disclosures Act and the Crimes of Torture Act.

The Schedule to the Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) Act listed the “Government Departments” to which the Act applied and “Other Organisations”.  The Schedule reflects how much the machinery of government has changed over the intervening 55 years.

There were 43 Departments – without distinguishing between Public Service departments and those that were not Public Service; eg the Air Department, Army Department and Navy Department, Police Department, NZ Government Railways Department, Post Office, State Fire and Accident Insurance Office,  NZ Government Life Insurance Office, and Tourism and Publicity Department were listed.  The Law Drafting Office and the Legislative Department were separate agencies, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was undivided, the Department of Justice was still monolithic, as was the Works Department, and the Public Service Commission which employed all public servants ( later to become the State Services Commission ). The Department of Maori Affairs, Maori Trust Office and Department of Island Territories had not been integrated, and so on.

A further 22 agencies were listed as Other Organisations.  These included the Government Stores Board, National Provident Fund Board, National Roads Board and so on, including parts of departments that were legally outside the direct control of the relevant Minister.

The Schedule included “The” in the title of every agency.

The first Ombudsman, Guy Powles (knighted in 1962) was a Wellington lawyer. As a colonel he commanded NZ Artillery in the Pacific theatre in 1944, before becoming a founding member of the Department of External Affairs working on issues arising from the surrender of Japan. Appointed  Governor of Samoa in 1949 he spent the next ten years preparing that territory for independence. He was the High Commissioner to India until becoming the Ombudsman in 1962 – a role he held for 15 years.

Peter Boshier, the incumbent Chief Ombudsman, is the eighth to hold that office.