Go on, get stuck in, billions and billions, fix this mess properly

Diary of the last 12 hours and next three budgets


If you had asked me: do you reckon prisoners here would ever be forced to give birth in handcuffs, you know, here in New Zealand, not in Alabama or a prison movie, I would have said, nah, sounds a bit extreme even for a prison movie.

But no. Turns out that's what’s happening, here: women forced to give birth in handcuffs, with prison officers in the room.

Social media has been full of people saying: let me tell you what it's like to give birth just in case you’re out of the loop, and also: let me tell you how completely entirely out of the question it would be that I would be going anywhere pal, get real.

AUT’s new Dean of Law, the awesome Khylee Quince, gives it a quick and comprehensive assessment: 

a breach of the manual, as well as the Bill of Rights Act, the Crimes Against Torture Act, and the Treaty of Waitangi as well as unlawful and unethical, and distressing to read.

The overwhelming majority of female prisoners have lived histories of trauma, and these practices serve to physically and psychologically re-traumatise women at their most vulnerable.

Any day this week would be a good day to say: this is stopping right now, and also: sorry, we obviously had no idea what we were thinking.


Plenty of buzz about the Budget, with the minister out on the speaking circuit.

The gavotte begins once more. He makes soothing noises; the commentariat responds with a tilt of the head asking: are you just making soothing noises or are you going to get real, big boy?

The soothing noise so far seems to be: this is the first of three budgets and this is still chiefly about covid recovery so don't expect everything now.

The commentariat’s response is: yes but you have to admit these truly are exceptional circumstances for borrowing like nobody’s business, bro. You're not going to pass up the chance to go hard, are you?

Clint Smith writes:

Back when the Government was elected, Treasury projected a $32b deficit and $85b of revenue this year. Now, it's on track for a deficit under $10b and $100b of revenue. Plenty of room to boost benefits, invest in housing & fighting climate change AND keep debt under 50% of GDP.

James Shaw goes further to say, in slightly more polite words than I’m putting in his mouth,

FFS you had a once in a lifetime opportunity to do serious spending last year on the climate crisis borrowing billions and we asked you to do it and what did you do, sweet fuckall, that's what. We bloody hope you'll do better with this second once in a lifetime opportunity.

I’m with James Shaw. This is not to say this government has not been achieving plenty, being interventionist and active and constructive in all kinds of ways across many sectors. There might not have been all that much in the way of big marquee numbers, but there has been plenty of action helping to build change - for example: the huge push in apprenticeships; the DOC green recovery jobs - and all of it marking them out as noting like that absolute shower of a spectator government that preceded them. 

Meaningful and lasting improvement can come from that kind of change.

But it is also true that they have big latitude to make epic change as well.

Pass me the cheque book for a minute, go on.

I really want to see the market get absolutely flooded by state investment. To repeat myself from earlier this year:

The majority of the residential housing developments in Singapore are publicly governed and developed, and home to approximately 80% of the resident population. Don’t you reckon that could work better than the private sector owning flats and letting out shithole dungeons in Wellington for 5OO bucks and hoovering up more than a billion a year in accommodation supplements? 

I want to see them borrow ten billion, hell, twenty and put it into building on a massive scale, which includes bringing in the necessary people and resources to make that possible.

I want to see that huge act of flooding suck all the growth expectation out of our ludicrous and utterly dysfunctional property speculation casino.

Also: a few billion, in order to hand out free e-bikes to hundreds of thousands of people and move them into a new transport mode and bring those emissions down and change the natural way of life, all inside one month. I am totally not kidding, go on, just try me.

Oh, and a few billion towards dealing with the methane coming out of our cows. Find a solution, or lose the cows. There’s your incentivisation of innovation.

Go on, get stuck in, billions and billions, fix this mess properly.


In related news it turns out that car trips of 15 minutes or longer can lead to poorer life satisfaction, poorer family life satisfaction, declining community participation and lower productivity at work.

I just bet it does. Last week, because I got a last minute appointment with the surgeon and because I’m still a post-surgical-non-bike-rider, I had to drive in commuter traffic. This is something I try to never do because I have seen what it's like. 

On the drive home, stop-starting all the way, I looked around and thought: why do  you subject yourselves to this every day of the week? Why? This is insane.

Anything has to be better than that, and other cities have already shown us what can be done. Amsterdam has done it. Copenhagen has done it. Seville has done it. You really can leave it all behind.

In response to yesterday's column, reader Jack wrote his:

25 years ago l rode a bike to work for 8 months. Was cynically smashed by utes 3 times and had to bail 4 other times. Broke wrist and 2 helmets. Too dangerous by far.

Last November I bought an e bike. No hint of danger in 5 months. 


1. Some bike lanes. 

2. Driver behaviour has improved a lot. 

3. E-bikes travel faster so pre-empt driver annoyance. 

4. Greater acceleration allows e bikes to get out of trouble when needed. 

I love my e bike. Saved me $300 in fuel already, blood pressure lowered. I'm a lot fitter. As a 69 year old, the hills are too much for me on a normal bike. E bikes ARE the future

Oh hell yes. 

Also, on yesterday's topic of a cycle lane for the harbour bridge, people have been asking: what can we do to give our support? Very glad you asked!

Liberate the Lane! May 30


Reading a tired old trope and feeling weary, just thinking about explaining what's so wrong with it, when along comes Nandor Tanczos.

Onya, Nandor.

Dude with bad take

I respect Maori as a culture. I honestly do. I’d be proud to stand next to a Maori man and say that we are brothers. But a few are using century old grievances to sow division: to seize control, and no- that is not alright. And the gaslighting. The gaslighting has to stop.

Moira, with a good answer 

Grievance industry? Being paid out 1c in the dollar? Total payouts since 1990 is wait for it.... Equal to 2 months national super. 30 years of evidence and compensation is TWO months Nat super and paid out at 1%.

Nandor Tanczos, with an even better one

To put that another way, the Govt paid $120m to the West Coast as compensation when they ended rimu logging. Kai Tahu got $170m for the loss of the entire South Island.


Reading about scruffy post-final behaviour in the Novotel where the Chiefs were staying, and thinking more generally about pack behaviour and stuff I wrote last week about Good Guy Syndrome.

Get a load of this aftermath of the sentencing of Aussie sports star Jarryd Hayne.

His fans have not by any means been accepting this treatment of a top  bloke and they have been vilifying and abusing his victim. 

Commenting on it all, Catherine Lumby puts it best: 

There is a kind of bro code that can exist and an impetus for them to stick together regardless of the facts that are put in front of them 


This time last Friday I was hurrying to get the newsletter out early and I have to apologise, readers. God what a dog's breakfast. Sorry about that. 

Someone wrote:

 I told them: Proper window into the outlier brain though eh?

Anyway, you’ll have noticed that the corrected edition still required one further correction, namely the answer to quiz question number 8.

Apologies, here you go.


Best literary criticism of the week, possibly the year.


While we’re talking literature, and just to maybe underscore that whole outlier brain thing, I wish to share a brainwave. 

Here is the brainwave: 

  1. Make yourself  a new Substack.

  2. Give this new Substack the name New York Times Bestseller List 

  3. Voila! You can now call yourself, thanks to the Substack you write, New York Times Bestseller List Author

  4. You’re welcome


This has ended up being a very long newsletter, so I’m going to hold over the latest Fourth Form Music memories, from Renee Lang and Andrew Frame, until tomorrow, along with a mighty piece of cultural history entitled Where Have All the Wowsers Gone?

But the beat goes on. Of course it does.