Auckland Housing Crisis: Legal, Policy and Economic Factors

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This piece was written as part of the course LAWGENRL 438: Housing Law and Policy at the University of Auckland.

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Question: What legal and economic factors have contributed to the Auckland Housing Crisis, why is it concerning, and what legal mechanisms (policy) can be adopted to address it?

I           Introduction

Auckland’s median house price rose 18% in 2014,[1] and less than a third of Aucklanders now own their homes.[2] The 2015 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey ranks Auckland as ‘severely unaffordable’, the seventh most unaffordable housing market in the developed world.[3] Both the Reserve Bank and the Treasury indicate that the housing situation in Auckland is a ‘bubble’, ‘unsustainable’ and a threat to New Zealand’s economic recovery.[4] Qualitative data also show that young New Zealanders are expressing anxiety about their ability to own a home.[5] Housing affordability in Auckland has become a significant social and economic problem (“Auckland housing crisis”).

This main issue in this legal opinion is what legal mechanisms can be implemented to address the Auckland housing crisis?

The analysis will be divided into three parts:

The first sub-issue sets out the context, why is housing affordability in Auckland a crisis and does the government have a moral or legal duty to intervene?

The second sub-issue looks at what legal and economic factors have contributed to the crisis and the effectiveness of existing policies and legal mechanisms,

The third sub-issue is forward looking by looking at how a capital gains tax can be effectively implemented by the government.

This opinion will analyse a combination of laws, policy documents and economic indicators.

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Debate: Should the Queer Movement Break Up?

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Gay Protest

This is a short debate written for Craccum Magazine of the University of Auckland published on 25 August, 2014. The piece is written to satisfy the format of a debate, and do not completely reflect my current views. I argued for the Affirmative in the motion, and Tessa Naden, the Queer Rights Officer of AUSA of 2015 argued for the Negative.

The Motion is “This House Believes It Is Time For The LGBTI Movement To Break Up”

Affirmative. Let us get one thing clear: to say the LGBTIA movement should break up is not the same as saying there are no more gains to be made for LGBTIA people. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is to say that each identity is better at advancing those gains for themselves if they were to pursue them separately.

When you conflate all of these diverse groups into one movement, you risk the dominant narratives appropriating what is already scarce political capital at the expense of others.

While we would like to think that we are one happy family all pursuing the amorphous goal of “equality”, each group is now speaking irreconcilable interpretations on what equality entails. While the marriage of these groups catalysed from facing the same oppression from society, now the challenges and solutions for each group are not just different, they have become antithetical to one another.

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An analysis of the political rhetoric surrounding budget politics and austerity in New Zealand

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This is a piece that was produced for POLITICS 769 Advanced Research Skills at the University of Auckland

Abstract: Political parties and governments around the world, even those on the left, recently have converged on the standard of ‘fiscal responsibility’ and ‘austerity’ when it comes to public accounting and annual budgets. This piece analyses the rhetoric used and some of the politics behind this phenomenon in New Zealand.

Texts: Budget debate speeches of Party Leaders, Clark (2006),[1] Brash (2006),[2] Key (2015),[3] Little (2015),[4] Turei (2015).[5]

budgetspeech2015-national

I           Introduction

‘Political language, is designed to make lies sound truthful, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind’.[6] This report examines how governments and opposition parties employ rhetoric to frame themselves as sound economic managers of New Zealand. The last two Governments have gone through a boom as well as the Global Financial Crisis (“the GFC”), and both Labour and National have deployed language to convince the public that they can manage the ‘good’ times as well as the ‘bad’, often in contrast to each other. The analysis explores whether the rhetoric employed is connected to existing ideological differences, how it shifts depending on the economic climate and whether it changes depending on whether the party is in opposition or in Government. To achieve this, this report analyses five budget debate speeches (“budget speeches”) by political leaders across these temporal and contextual distinctions. Speeches from the 2006 Budget and 2015 Budget are selected to elucidate this contrast between different Governments and the economic climate. This report will analyse and discuss the effect of language used to frame taxation and spending, and place it in the broader context of political branding, political niches and the wider trend of ‘austerity fever’ occurring around the world. The conclusion will demonstrate how rhetoric on responsible economic governance has diverged and converged based on these variables.

II         Research Question

How have political parties used ‘humanistic’, ‘responsible’ and ‘irresponsible’ rhetoric to portray themselves as possessing sound economic governance?

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Linshui Protests: China’s Paradoxical Approach to Protest Coverage

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This piece is written about the protests that are currently unfolding in Linshui, China.

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Chinese police clashing with protesters. Source: Weibo

A violent protest erupted in China yesterday following the demonstration of thousands of people at the displeasure of the government’s decision not to build a high speed rail through the city of Linshui that would have been key to its development. Despite the lack of media coverage, I thought I would write my thoughts. The response of the Chinese government warrants special attention as China in the past year has not hesitated to express its own ‘concern’ about the protests that exploded in Baltimore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Chinese residents were seen hurling rocks at swathes of police, foreign journalists were assaulted and detained, and Chinese SWAT teams were deployed to ‘maintain order’. The pictures and videos show a backdrop of half-completed concrete buildings, and the squads of armoured police evokes a comparison to what is currently happening in disaffected parts of the United States.

The Linshui protest is interesting, because it is a ‘pro-development’ instead of an ‘anti-development’ protest. The largest protests in recent Chinese history have so far been against the fast pace of growth and the associated environmental degradation. However, this time it was sparked by the  decision to build a shorter but cheaper high speed rail around the city instead of through it. This is a superpower which has so far maintained domestic order primarily by trading civil rights for economic development, and the promise of that is being challenged here.

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How are quantitative and qualitative analysis similar, and how might they reasonably differ?

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This piece compares and contrasts two case studies to discuss the ontological and epistemological differences between quantitative and qualitative analysis. The case studies are related to drug use and mental health. This discussion incidentally covers some issues that arise in philosophy of science, but its primary purpose is to evaluate the two different paradigms in social research. This essay is produced for a politics assignment and can be found here. The quantitative study can be found here, and the qualitative study can be found here.

plato's cave

Plato’s Cave – showing a simple relationship between what can be known and how we know it.

Comparative Evaluation of Quantitative and Qualitative Research: Two Case Studies

I           Introduction

The divide between quantitative and qualitative social research (“research”) is both institutional and methodological.[1] Historically, researchers have tended to define themselves within one school, and elected to use one approach over another.[2] At a methodological level, Bryman states that quantitative and qualitative research has divergent underlying assumptions regarding method, methodology and perspectives about knowledge.[3]

The division between quantitative and qualitative research stems from a fundamentally different conception about the ontological nature of knowledge.[4] Quantitative research views knowledge as being objective and separate from the individuals who perceive this world. On the contrary, qualitative research views knowledge as being inseparable from the subjects which perceive it, hence its subjective nature.[5] The ontological nature of knowledge thus informs the epistemological approach adopted by each paradigm.[6]

Despite this fundamental difference, the goal of both methods is to produce knowledge, to discover the ‘truth’ about this world.[7] This means for both methods, the steps in the research cycle need to be sound. Accordingly, this paper will compare and contrast the ways which quantitative and qualitative research both have to meet similar criteria of research plausibility, authority and validity.

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What is the relationship between education, age, and the level of support for civil liberties?

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This blog analyses the Role of Government IV data set from the International Social Survey Programme in 2006 in New Zealand. The full report was conducted for a politics paper at the University of Auckland. This is a brief summary to share my findings. A disclaimer to everyone that I have not done any formal statistics at university, so the analyses may contain (accidental) errors and unfortunately it will not be at a super advanced level (partially self-taught). Hopefully the results will still be useful and interesting. 

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Background

Politicians and academics often talk about the importance of education, and it is often linked to developing a more tolerant, pluralistic and liberal society. If you want to be a bit more cynical, the conservative media also portrays higher education as a liberal indoctrination tool. This piece examines that relationship in New Zealand.

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Who am I? Moving to New Zealand and Navigating my Asian Identity in New Zealand

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Below is an article which I wrote for my friend Asher Emanuel for his publication Ours. You should check it out. It contains different perspectives of young people leading up to the New Zealand General Election in 2014.

photo-asakid

Max Lin and his family moved to New Zealand from Taiwan when he was very young in search of a fresh start. But being Asian in New Zealand has brought its own challenges. Now at uni, Max hopes that New Zealand can still live up to the qualities that brought him here in the first place. 

When I was six-years-old my father told me that we would be moving to New Zealand. I didn’t actually question why at the time; neither did I think about what it would all mean. To me as a child, it merely felt like we were going on another holiday – I went through the motions of life and jumped on a plane with my mother, sister and brother. Except this time we would stay here.

My mother had to give up her job as a pharmacist in Taiwan to look after us. My dad had to stay and work in Taiwan despite being a haoemodialosist because his licence would not be recognised here. I know many families who gave up their jobs, left their friends and their culture so that their children would have a better life. I wasn’t allowed to tell any of my friends and extended family that we were leaving (not even my grandparents) because it would jeopardise my parents’ employment and my grandparents would not ‘allow’ it. My parents did not really explain why at the time. They just told me it was a secret and I treated it like a game.

I had never received formal education in Taiwan, so going to school was always going to be a new and frightening experience. This was all the more confusing with was so much going on in my head—I used to think in Mandarin Chinese, and it was impossible to articulate my mind in what would be my third language. I was extremely shy and for the first few years my report card at school was filled with “poor” and “average” ticks.

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Reflections on the Umbrella Revolution and (the state of) Hong Kong

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Below is a post from my Facebook on 1 October 2014. This post has also been edited by Ana Lenard and published as an article in Craccum Magazine, the official student magazine at the University of Auckland.

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You must all pay attention to Hong Kong.

The first thing to say is that not everyone is born into a democracy. I was lucky enough that a few years after I was born, a technocratic and progressive elite in Taiwan held the first presidential election just before I moved to New Zealand (after lifting what had been “the longest imposition of martial law by a regime anywhere in the world” at the time and ending one party rule). While I have not experienced its oppression (although my parents and grandparents speak of it), I do remember the opposition winning for the first time when I was a child, and also casting a vote in what would have only been its fifth election when I was old enough to vote (20). Taiwan owes its democracy now partially to a student movement that pressured the government to liberalise.

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Reflections on the Occupation of the Taiwanese Parliament (Sunflower Student Movement) over the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement

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Below is a post from my Facebook on 19 March 2014.

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I don’t usually write long posts on Facebook, but here is a bit of introspection.

I lived in Taiwan during the formative years of my childhood, and with my family still there, naturally I would care about what is happening in my country. I write this with mixed emotions. Even now I feel weird referring to Taiwan as a country. Because many people will no doubt correct me that ‘No, Taiwan is not a country’ – ‘because it is not part of the UN’, ‘did you not know that your government still claims jurisdiction over mainland China?’, ‘It is part of China’ or ‘It is China’. I am not here to debate technicalities; please spare me things which I already ‘know’, and have lived my life trying to understand and reconcile. I merely ask the question: how do I refer to the place I am from, if not a country? I have always ‘felt’ like it was a country, and it has the semblance of one. For the sake of political correctness, should I be calling it Taiwan, China, Republic of China – depending on who I am talking to? Even the above feels like a crude summary. I believe this crisis of identity has been something that has affected my Taiwanese friends as well.

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The Rise of China and Normative Constraints

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The Rise of China and Normative Constraints

Max Lin, 1635489

This piece will focus on the English School and the American ‘pivot towards Asia’ in light of Obama’s recent trips to the region. The piece will begin with an exposition of the theory and evaluate it against other major theories, followed by a explanation on the policy. Finally, the theory will be applied and discussed.

Obama says Asia-Pacific is his top priority. Courtesy of ABC News.

The English School

The English School shares similarities to both realism and idealism. Having said this, within the English School there are also major disagreements. The strands of English School theorists can be divided into three waves, starting with the Classic English theorists such as Martin Wight and Charles Manning. The second wave includes James Mayall, and recently the English School has undergone a renaissance with contemporaries such as Barry Buzan. As a crude summary, the classical theorists see less potential for international progress and places high priority on ‘plurality’ and order, while the latter theorists are somewhat more optimistic on the normative possibilities of change and new norms in an international society.

Nonetheless, there are five uniting features for all English School theories. Firstly, that the [stable] organisation of states in the international sphere is one which necessarily emerges from a mere ‘international system’ to an ‘international society’ governed by ‘norms, rules and institutions’. English School theorists place primacy on these normative rules [at least in competition with other factors such as the balance of powers in realism and liberal institutions in liberalism]. Thirdly, the English School believes order is the norm, which is where the English School most drastically diverges from classical realism. However, the English School does not share the Kantian notion of the potential or inevitability of radical change (some possibilities exist where critical theory overlaps). The final arm of the English School is that it examines ‘facts’ in the context of history, and behaviour in the context of meaning and motive. In summary, they are ‘anti-rationalist’, sharing this with constructivism.

Courtesy of Global Security
Courtesy of Global Security

To what extent is The Pivot consistent with the English School?

The key issues in the region include nuclear proliferation of North Korea, trade navigation in the South China Sea and reassuring American allies with the rise of China. Other concerns purported by the United States administration include engaging with regional institutions, expanding trade and advancing democracy and human rights.

Courtesy of BBC
Courtesy of BBC

At face value, the pivot towards Asia seems unreservedly realist. With China’s growing economic and military influence, the United States is merely shifting its resources to ensure there is a balance of power [for the US] in the region. On the other hand, the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, and multilateral security treaties and assurances appear to align with liberal notions.

It is my contention, that the purpose and value of international theories is to best model and predict international behaviour. Therefore, there is some tension with the normative element of the English School. The attractiveness of the English School, however, is that it is not mutually exclusive with the realist and liberal notions above. The English School delivers by first acknowledging that the balance of power is one norm in the international society, but also applies other structures or ‘rules’,  such as diplomacy, international law and the mutual recognition of sovereignty.

Despite claims by countries and observers such as ex-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd praising the policy in light of China having a ‘hard-line, realist view of international relations’, China is not as a pariah outside the international society. China subscribes to the same institutions of trade (joining the World Trade Organisation) and diplomacy (having a permanent seat on the Security Council) and therefore has a corresponding interest in preserving these rule-based norms. For example, China’s own Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership can be seen as utilising these diplomatic and institutional norms to benefit her and simultaneously preserve order. China’s support for North Korea is waning due to international norms of her alleged support of human rights abuses (third wave interpretation, more radical). Moreover, it would be to the detriment of China if it flouted its obligations as an international ‘citizen’, as it would be not be able to appeal to the same rules say if the United States decided to punish China’s undervaluation of her currency especially when the undervaluation is considered legal under the World Trade Organisation.

Courtesy of ASEAN
Courtesy of ASEAN

One last observation to make is that with increased cooperation in the region, and further recognition of these norms, order would be preserved. Ironically, with China’s growing clout in a stable environment, it could play a greater role in counter-terrrorism operations and international peacekeeping. This is an unsustainable burden currently shouldered by the US which has been in part the US rationale behind the Pivot. When order is preserved by pluralism, new norms can emerge for solidarism. This is when progress develops and where order intersects with justice.

Courtesy of the US-China Institute
Courtesy of the US-China Institute

Conclusion

The advantage of the English School is that it is seen as the via media between realism and idealism, and incorporates anti-rationalist approaches of constructivism. The short-falls include the difficulty to test the theory as these norms are not fixed. Ultimately, I want to flag two more issues worthy of contemplation. Firstly, how norms can be tiered in an international society; for example, when the US and its allies export a set of norms such as liberal democracy versus China’s state capitalism, both can subscribe to a higher ‘norm’, and (2) how the English School provides a convincing account of how these norms can create divisions, resist establishments, assimilate each other, and/or co-exist.