Archives for August 2022 | Josie Pagani



Kiwibank's critics were spectacularly wrong

Today, Kiwibank has over a million customers, including 40,000 businesses. We own an asset worth multiples of our money down, and NZ Post, the Super Fund and ACC have all made money out of it. The public enjoys better banking services, and even satisfaction with Aussie banks has risen because they were forced to lift their game.

At the risk of inviting an FBI raid on our lifestyle Mar-a-Lago, I possess a copy (stamped ‘’confidential’’) of the consultant's report that forecast Kiwibank would fail.

Investment bankers, political opponents who called it a ‘’dog’’, and banking academics were totally, completely, spectacularly, wrong at the one thing they were paid to be right about. Woof.

Read how Josie says it can gain the scale Kiwibank needs for its next phase in Stuff, here.

Lessons from Salman Rushdie in the age of cancel culture

I hate name-droppers. Anyway, in the 1990s, writer Salman Rushdie came to New Zealand and had dinner with my mum and other New Zealand writers, including my then stepfather Maurice Shadbolt. They were told to arrive at a restaurant to meet an unnamed guest, and tell no-one. Life for the author of The Satanic Verses was one spent in hiding following the fatwa of the Ayatollah of Iran calling on Muslims to kill him, along with all those ‘’involved in the publication’’ of the novel. Last weekend, Rushdie's luck outrunning the 40-year fatwa ended.

The common principle of Rushdie’s critics is that if you offend someone’s beliefs then you are at least partly in the wrong, and so threats are somewhat excused. Giving offence justifies violence. It is monstrous position. Words are not violence. Violence is violence.

Being prepared to offend is how we progress. You cannot tell people that the Earth orbits the sun when centuries of status and identity depends on forcing everyone to agree that the sun goes around the Earth. Usually, offensive views are simply offensive. But sometimes, occasionally, they are Galileo. How are you going to tell truth-tellers from the bad mannered? Who is going to make the call about which is which? Ayatollahs? A panel of expert judges appointed by the government and clergy of the day?

Fear of giving offence is causing writer JK Rowling to be cancelled. ‘It causes columnists like me to pause before defending her right to have her say. Fear of violence and fear of offence might prevent The Satanic Verses being published today. Cancelled, it would avoid offending anyone. We would be deprived of the right to decide the book’s merits for ourselves.

Josie's defence of Salman Rushdie in Stuff is here.

Maybe the Reserve Bank was right

It was valid for the Reserve Bank to ask which was the greater risk in 2020: a bit more inflation or an economic collapse. Get it wrong on inflation, and we pay a price in cost of living. Get it wrong in the other direction and the damage would be catastrophic. Economists calling for the Reserve Bank to go back to focusing on a single target, price stability, are really arguing that, in the middle of Covid, the law should have prevented the Reserve Bank from trying to minimise job losses and business collapses.

If the Bank’s critics had their way, the Bank would have looked at the Government’s borrowing for the wage subsidy then increased interest rates in response. Stimulus would be fought with punitive interest rates.

The deliberate policy of price stability through increased unemployment is background to National’s big policy announcement last weekend. National would introduce incentives and sanctions to force more young people to work. I am all in favour of young people in work, but National’s policy conflicts with their support for giving the Reserve Bank the sole target of ‘price stability’ (ie targeting inflation).

No amount of upskilling unemployed young people will make a difference if the Bank targets a minimum level of unemployment to restrain inflation.

Josie's column in Stuff.

How it feels to be sanctioned by Russia

When I called Russian President Vladimir Putin a murderous criminal and a liar, I wasn't expecting he would notice or retaliate.

I am concerned that Russian authorities may try to seize the family super yacht. We certainly won't be docking in Sebastopol any time soon.

My Polish stepmother's reaction to my news? ‘’Keep a low profile.’’ She knows what Putin's old KGB friends are capable of.

Being banned from entering Russia is obviously not going to shut me up. This column was going to be about the Reserve Bank, but monetarists will still be wrong next week. They can wait while I again remind you that Russia is a violent, outlaw, aggressor country led by a war criminal.

When I lived in Europe, a Ukrainian friend gave me some of their vodka to try. We gave her Marmite in return. Russian poison tasted better, she said.

Josie's message to Russian warships is here.

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