The Greens’ Internet Rights and Freedom Bill

April 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Greens have released a crowdsourced bill – the Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill. It’s a serious and valuable contribution to politics and the Internet. There are three major aspects to their proposal.

  1. Ten Internet rights and freedoms
  2. Creation of an Internet Rights Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission
  3. Creating a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for the NZ Government.

The ten proposed Internet rights and freedoms are:

  1. Right to Access
  2. Freedom from search, surveillance and interception
  3. Freedom of expression
  4. Freedom of association
  5. Right to privacy
  6. Right to encryption technology
  7. Right to anonymity
  8. Right to a safe and secure Internet
  9. Freedom of innovation
  10. Freedom from restriction

The full bill is here.

While I don’t agree with everything in the bill, there’s a lot I do agree with, and I think it would be an excellent bill to pass first reading and go to select committee for feedback.

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Armstrong on Oravida

April 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

The Prime Minister took the rather unusual step of offering free advice to Labour yesterday. It was advice Labour would do well to heed. But it is unlikely to do so. At least not yet.

The gist of John Key’s message to Labour went something like this. “Make my day. In fact, make my election day. If you want to continue to rate below 30 per cent in the polls, just keep talking about the things that do not matter. Just keep doing that until election day.”

Among the things that do not matter – according to Key – is Labour’s pursuit of Judith Collins and who she did or did not have dinner with in Beijing six months ago and what she did or did not tell New Zealand’s ambassador afterwards.

Key is right. There is a massive disconnect between the Wellington Beltway and the rest of the country as to whether Collins had a serious conflict of interest in her dealings with milk exporting company Oravida during her trip to China last October, given her husband is a director of the firm.

While Labour tries to variously tease and bludgeon more information out of the Justice Minister, the rest of the country could really not care less and – in Key’s view – voters are much more exercised with the more fundamental questions of how the respective parties’ policies are going to affect their community in terms of education, health, law and order, and so forth.

And when they do release a significant policy, they make basic tactical stuff ups such as releasing their policy the day before Easter so it disappears without trace.

 

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Telecom goes uncapped

April 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Telecom has launched a range of “unlimited” broadband plans which do away with monthly data caps.

The plans start from $109 a month on copper-based ADSL and entry-level fibre “ultrafast broadband” services. A $10 discount applies if customers also have an “ultra mobile” plan with the company.

Telecom is also offering uncapped broadband on VDSL copper connections for $119 a month and on 100 megabit-per-second fibre connections for $139 a month.

Retail boss Chris Quin said Telecom might manage traffic from customers who took up the plans, “particularly at peak times”, by prioritising time-sensitive services such as Skype, internet television streaming and online gaming over other services.

This would ensure “the best experience possible for the greatest number of users”, Quin said.

Some smaller internet providers including Slingshot and Orcon also offer uncapped broadband plans, though major rival Vodafone does not.

This is a very welcome move. Having the largest ISP offer some uncapped plans should see many other ISPs do the same. Good to see Telecom taking the initiative – as they also did with mobile roaming rates.

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Reaction to Jones quitting

April 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

Shane Jones’ shock decision to quit as a Labour MP will lead voters to draw one conclusion and one conclusion only: that he thinks Labour cannot win the September general election.

His departure is close to an unmitigated disaster for Labour. For starters, unlike the bulk of his colleagues, Jones could reach into segments of the vote – especially blue-collar males – who have switched off Labour. He was in the process of switching those traditional relationships back on.

So why did he go?

He was a major weapon in helping Labour to win back more of the Maori seats.

Perhaps of most significance, Labour has lost the one man who would have acted as the essential go-between in securing Winston Peters’ signature on a post-election coalition or co-operation agreement between Labour and New Zealand First which enabled Labour to govern.

Jones, however, may have seen himself ending up as a paralysed economic development minister in a Labour-Greens coalition which saw him having to constantly battle on behalf of any project with environmental repercussions.

Jones at best would have been the symbolic Minister with Russel  Norman having the veto.

He might not have intended it, but his leaving is also a massive blow to Labour’s morale at one of the worst possible times – just five months before election day when the party is endeavouring to motivate its membership to go door-knocking to get out the Labour vote.

The question is, why not stay until  the election?

Vernon Small writes:

 Disarray. There is no other word to describe the mess the Labour Party plunged into last night.

Not only did it have to come to terms with the loss of one of its strongest performers in Shane Jones, the party seemed to freeze like a possum in the headlights.

Press secretaries were either unable to help, unhelpful or offline, and party president Moira Coatsworth and secretary Tim Barnett initially went to ground.

Former leader David Shearer was gracious enough to confirm he knew of the resignation, but other MPs said it was a “bolt from the blue” and “gutting” before a gagging order went around the caucus.

Poor old Matt is earning his money!

If anything was designed to scream “crisis” it was this. Jones will be a serious loss to the party.

He has strong blue collar crossover appeal to Pakeha and Maori, and in the regions.

Who will now be leader of Labour’s Maori caucus? Nanaia Mahuta?

There is an upside in Labour getting Kelvin Davis back, who many people (including myself) rate. However he does not have the profile, mana or connections that Jones did.

In a Herald story:

Dover Samuels, a former MP and close friend to Mr Jones, said the Labour Party should take some of the blame for failing to keep him.

“He always pointed out to the Labour Party that if you didn’t take middle New Zealand with you you will be in the Siberian ring of the Opposition for the rest of your life. And I think, sadly, they didn’t hear that. They’ve got their own agendas.” 

Labour’s lurch to the left has claimed another victim.

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Labour’s Tukituki candidate

April 23rd, 2014 at 11:27 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s Tukituki candidate, Anna Lorck, says she won’t delete a 2011 tweet in which she called David Cunliffe, now her party’s leader, a “bully”.

The tweet, posted on December 6, 2011, says: “Can’t wait till Cunliff [sic] turns up in HB … we haven’t forgotten he sacked our DHB … he’s no leader, he’s a bully.”

This is a tweet she published *after* the last election.

It refers to the fallout of Mr Cunliffe’s February 2008 decision, when he was Minister of Health, to sack the board of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

Ms Lorck’s PR and marketing company, Attn!, worked with members of the sacked DHB board, advising them on public relations issues at the time of the sacking.

Yesterday she defended her previous stance.

“Everyone knows I was against the sacking, and as a person dedicated to my region I took Labour’s decision very hard and I protested for quite some time.”

“What I tweeted shows that I’m prepared to front up and speak out for the people I represent and work for. I think that’s what the people of Tukituki expect, want and deserve in an MP,” she said.

I suspect Labour however want someone who can effectively campaign for the party vote and promote David Cunliffe to be Prime Minister. Ms Lorck does not appear to be that person.

Other tweets From Anna Lorck:

August 31, 2011 – “Labour looked like they hired a rent-a-crowd to protest outside PM public meeting in Napier tonight. #provemewrong”

September 1, 2011 – “#5 child just told me that John Key is her man! Big talk for a 2yrs. Must have heard her mother and friends talking politics.”

So why is she standing for Labour?

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Everest Base Camp Day 14

April 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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Day 14 was a rest day in Namche, and for once an actual rest day – no hikes up mountains for a couple of hours. It was also my first shower, shave and non-vegetarian meal in 11 days, and I really can’t say which I enjoyed most!

This is the after photo of me having showered, shaved and changed. You really do not want to see the before photo!

Somewhat amusingly, Namche is probably the area where I came closest to doing myself a serious injury. I walked down a pathway without noticing a yak coming the other direction and almost collided with it! It takes a while to have to get used to look for livestock as you walk out from your lodge.

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Saturday is market day in Namche, so we went along to have a look at the wares. People come from all over the region to trade and sell goods. If it isn’t here, you probably won’t be able to get it anywhere. Managed to buy a few things for nieces and children of friends.

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Later popped into the Everest Bakery (the bakeries in Namche are excellent) and thought Mark Unsworth would be excited that even there they have a Manchester United fan photo.

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During the afternoon we went to one of the local bars for a free film showing. It was Sherpas: True Heroes of Everest. A great documentary on how basically no one would ever make it to the summit of Everest without the Sherpas who go up in advance and lay down the ladders, set up the camps etc.

In relation to the issue John Stringer raised, I don’t think a five year ban of climbing Everest would benefit the Sherpas. In fact some years ago the Nepalese Government did try and restrict the number of expeditions up Everest, and it was the Sherpas who complained that it left so many of them without income.

Also worth noting that even if Nepal tries to ban expeditions, then China can still allow them from the Tibet side – and again this is exactly what did happen when Nepal did restrict them – everyone just started climbing from Tibet.

The best thing that can be done for the Sherpa guides and porters is to place pressure of climbing companies to pay good wages, to have a strong focus on safety and to make sure all Sherpas are insured against accidents or death, so their families are looked after. You can’t however make Mt Everest a non-dangerous mountain.

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Our guide had his 24th birthday today, so we arranged a surprise birthday cake, and the assistant guides made up some drinks which were a combination of whiskey, coke and orange juice. We had a very fun night celebrating.

We’d had a drink or two at the bar earlier , then the drinks over dinner, and then hit another bar after dinner. Was a very good night, and suffice to say that when I had a headache the next morning – for once it wasn’t altitude sickness.

Also very funny was just after we crashed, I heard my room mate’s phone suddenly say in an American female accent “What can I help you with”. This set us both off with a fit of giggles and laughter that could be heard several rooms down.

Was great to have a relaxing recovery day. Much needed. Two more days of trekking to go.

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General Debate 23 April 2014

April 23rd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Shane Jones leaves Labour to take up job for National Government

April 22nd, 2014 at 6:11 pm by David Farrar

3 News has reported that Shane Jones will leave Parliament as early as next month. He has accepted an appointment by National to be the Pacific Economic Ambassador.

This is a huge blow to Labour. Jones had a rare ability to connect with working class New Zealanders, and his decision to abandon Labour before the election can only be taken as a vote of no confidence in Labour.

It will be fascinating to learn of how the job offer and acceptance came about. For my 2c, its good to see Jones take up a role where he can do some good for New Zealand and the Pacific.

But Labour will be reeling from losing not just their 5th highest ranked MP, but someone who less than a year ago wanted to lead the Labour Party – and is now bailing out on it.

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Wolak on electricity reforms

April 22nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Frank Wolak writes in the NZ Herald:

There is not a lot to like about residential electricity prices in New Zealand.

According to data from the Ministry of Economic Development, average residential retail electricity prices have almost doubled since 2000. This had led to calls for drastic reforms of the industry to better serve the interests of New Zealanders.

This desire to “reboot” the electricity supply industry is understandable, but it is almost certainly not the best course of action. 

Frank Wolak is the economist and electricity expert whose earlier work is cited numerous times by Labour as rationale for their electricity nationalisation policy. His explicit rejection of their policy as undesirable, speaks volumes.

As a participant in many electricity industry restructuring processes around the world, one important lesson that I have learned is that all reforms start with significant unintended defects that can only be eliminated through a rigorous ongoing analysis of market outcomes and targeted regulatory reforms.

Unintended consequences may include running out of power, as is almost the case in California.

Many features of the current industry structure are consistent with international best-practice and a number of positive changes have been implemented since I completed my report for the Commerce Commission in 2009.

This is also a key point. Labour quote Wolak’s 2009 report, and ignore that there have been significant changes since then. This is oen reason why retail price increases are less than half under National, than occurred under Labour.

Wolak also has a number of suggestions as to how to improve the current regulatory framework to benefit consumers more. I agree with him that the focus should be on making competition work better – not on destroying the competitive generator market as Labour proposes.

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Whedon releases film as a download

April 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Joss Whedon is releasing a film he wrote as a US$5 (NZ$5.84) digital download, bypassing the normal channels of independent film distribution.

In a video announcement following the premiere of the supernatural romance In Your Eyes at the Tribeca Film Festival, Whedon says the film will immediately be released online via Vimeo On Demand and InYourEyesMovie.com.

Great to see one producer embracing the opportunities of the digital age, and experimenting with potential new business models. I hope it does well.

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Labour again focusing on the big issues

April 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Labour’s Immigration spokesman Rajen Prasad says he would be concerned if British television cook Nigella Lawson was given an exemption to come to New Zealand solely because of her celebrity status while other cases of people in more need were being rejected.

Labour now campaigning on keeping Nigella out of NZ. That will go down well.

Although she had no convictions, Ms Lawson was ineligible for a visa because the United States had refused entry, so a discretionary ‘special direction’ was required for her to enter New Zealand in May to film another advertisement for Whittakers chocolate.

Mr Prasad said as a general rule he did not believe people who abused drugs should be allowed in to New Zealand but there should be discretion to allow it in special circumstances.

Really? So he thinks Bill Clinton should have been declines a visa, because he smoked pot at Oxford? Also should the Beatles have been banned?

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Everest Base Camp Day 13

April 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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We stayed overnight at Orsho. It isn’t on most maps as it basically consists of one sole teahouse. However it was one of the best places we stayed at. The dining room was upstairs so we got a great view of the landscape, and also all the people going past.

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This is the view looking up, from Orsho. Magnificent.

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As we were preparing to leave this man rode past on his horse.

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Our route ahead, along the valley on the path on the right.

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Once again we had a couple of dogs follow us. But this time they were less endearing. On a narrow path, they were darting in and out around our legs and you had to be careful not to trip on them. But worse, yaks will often attack dogs and so what happened is that when yaks turned up, the dogs hid behind us. That had the potential to end badly for us!

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At this stage we’re dropping below 4,000 metres but still lots of snow covered peaks.

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The view as we pas through Pheriche.

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It was a long day trekking. We covered 15 to 20 kms.

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You can see Tengboche in the distance, with peaks behind it.

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The remains of a bridge that collapsed. I think they tried three times to have a bridge here but it kept collapsing on the far side due to the unstable rock. Finally they did an alternate bridge down at river level.

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Getting back into walking through bush and trees.

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We got to Tengboche for morning tea. You can see the famous Buddhist monastery.

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Inside the monastery.

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The front entrance of the monastery.

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The Nepalese porters carry incredible loads. Those working for trekking companies have weight limits of 24 to 30 kgs. Each porter tend to carry two bags or packs. But the independent porters have been known to carry loads of over 100 kgs, as they get paid per kg. Here is the load being carried by a porter up a 600 metre vertical ascent hill.

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The path down from Tengboche to the river was one of the few parts I really did not enjoy. It was hot, dusty and a rocky surface.

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At the bottom we had a bridge to cross. As you can see you really want to let the yaks get off the bridge first, rather than try and squeeze past them!

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Then we had a 400 or so metre ascent, but this was actually more pleasant than the downhill.

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You can see here the path we took down from Tengboche.

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Readers with good memories may recall this from Day 4. This is where we diverted from the main Base Camp route to go up to Gyoko. So the loop was now complete.

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We had a late lunch (2 pm) at Khumjung. Pretty hungry as had been trekking since 7.30 am. This crow decided to help itself to some of the leftovers. What happened next was hilarious. Another crow flew down next to this one, keen to share in the food. This crow then made a sound which everyone one of us heard as “Fuck Off” and the other crow flew away. We were in near hysterics at this.

Then around an hour to Namche Bazaar. Despite being a mainly downhill day, was a reasonably tiring one. We got in around 3.30 pm, so were on the trek for around eight hours.

Tomorrow is a rest day at Namche, and then two more days of trekking back to Lukla.

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General Debate 22 April 2014

April 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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ACT proposes three strikes for burglaries

April 21st, 2014 at 7:50 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

More than 2000 families will return home this Easter weekend to find they have been burgled, and Act says it is the only NZ political party to offer a serious solution.

Party leader Jamie Whyte outlined its policy on the crime today, confirming that burglars will spend three years in prison if convicted of the crime for a third time under its policy.

Three years for a third strike sounds about right.

The maximum sentence for burglary is ten years imprisonment. The three strikes for burglary policy would send all burglars to prison for at least three years without parole if convicted of the offence three times, whether it be in one burglary spree or over many years.

The idea is that burglars stop burgling. With only 2% of burglaries resulting in imprisonment, then the risk of getting caught and convicted doesn’t outweigh the benefits of being a burglar.

Mr Whyte said burglars convicted of one or two charges of burglary will not see any change to their sentence, except that a judge would warn the offender of the serious penalty of another offence.

That’s a key thing. After the second strike they need to be aware that a third strike will result in a significant jail term.

Mr Whyte said currently about 4000 New Zealanders are sitting on a first strike, 32 on a second strike and no one has been convicted of a third strike offence under the three strikes for violent crimes policy.

That’s a great success. We don’t want people getting a third strike.

The policy is modelled on a three strikes for burglary law introduced in England and Wales in 1999. Burglary in England has since dropped by 35 per cent since the introduction of the three strikes. After a third conviction for burglary offenders in England are imprisoned for three years with parole.

So this is a policy introduced by the UK Labour Party. If National wins re-election I am optimistic they would agree to support this policy, if ACT make it a key policy for their support. NZ Labour will oppose it I suspect – as they also opposed the three strikes law for serious violent and sexual offending.

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Monday Motivator – Serene Fiordland Forest

April 21st, 2014 at 11:45 am by Richard Hume

Monday Motivator 18

Serene Fiordland Forest, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

I  have just returned from a week photographing around the lower South Island. It was an excellent trip and I look forward to seeing some new panoramics as I get the film processed in the coming days.

This photograph is from a previous trip and has always been a popular one capturing a little of the essence of the amazing Fiordland National Park.

Click on the image for a larger view of this photograph.

Cheers

Richard [richardhume.com]

YouTube: Timeless – A Panoramic Journey

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Everest Base Camp Day 12

April 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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I thought this marathon might be of interest to Matthew Hooton as he couldn’t make the Southern Lakes Half Marathon last month. He’s a great lover of the region and it raises a lot of money for charity so I look forward to viewing his registration.

The course is incredibly nasty. Apart from the cold, it has lots of rocks and uphill. The fastest time last year for a non Nepali was a bit over six hours!

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As we headed down from Gorak Shep, we again saw the glacier.

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I had a small fall on the way to Lobouche, where we had morning tea. I was okay, but as you can see one of my drink bottles did not fare so well. It’s quite annoying as it now only holds around 700 ml instead of a litre!

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We’re walking alone the narrow trail, with the valley stretching below us.

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Then you end up in the valley itself which is much easier trekking.

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There is an area with scores of memorials to fallen climbers. This one is for Scott Fischer who was a famous guide and mountaineer who died in the May 1996 disaster.

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You can see many of the other memorials lined up.

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Then it’s more narrow trails to descend on, but with great views to look at.

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Then we hit more wonderful valley walking with peaks in the background.

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A baby yak. So cute.

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We descend almost 1,000 metres over the day.

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Two huge landslides as a reminder of the instability of the region.

We spent the night at Orsho, which is very small and not on most maps. Will blog more on that tomorrow.

Spent around six hours trekking today, but much more relaxing as it was mainly flat or downhill, and the wide valley sections are so easy. Just what we needed to recover from a pretty tiring previous day.

Despite the descent I still had a very mild headache from the altitude sickness, but almost inconsequential compared to previous days.

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General Debate 21 April 2014

April 21st, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Why just two co-deputy PMs?

April 20th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

The Greens could share the deputy Prime Minster role in a coalition with Labour, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman last month said he was keen on the role.

Ms Turei said she would like to be deputy Prime Minister along with Dr Norman.

“There’s no rules that stop there from being more than one deputy Prime Minister,” she told The Nation.

“Russel and I have had a co-leadership role in the Greens that’s worked very well for the Green Party. I think something similar would work very well for the country as well.”

Why stop at just two?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were five co-deputy Prime Ministers?

David Parker, Russel Norman, Winston Peters, Metiria Turei and Hone Harawira could all be co-deputy Prime Ministers. They could rotate being Acting PM between, whenever David Cunliffe is overseas.

I guess Kim Dotcom can’t be an official sixth co-Deputy Prime Minister, but maybe as a consolation prize they could make him the Secretary of Justice?

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Everest Base Camp Day 11

April 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Today (Wednesday in real time) is the day we head up to Base Camp.

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Another early start. Up at 4.45 am and away by 6 am as we have to trek to Gorak Shep, have a wee break there, then go to Base Camp and back to Gorak Shep. It was good to get away early as we avoided most of the crowds going from Lobouche.

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Those peaks in the distance are where Everest Base Camp is.

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If you look at a map of the area and see a reference to a pyramid, well this is it. Part of some Italian research facility.

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Those peaks again getting closer. I could stare at them all day. In fact I did!

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One of several memorials to dead climbers we passed.

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A great shot of this peak with the sun rising behind it.

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On a very narrow part of the track, some yaks came down as we were going up. Their horns got rather too close for comfort!

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I like this photo of the shadows of the eight of us trekking along. There were five Kiwis from Wellington in our group, and we had three Nepalese guides.

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Remember that dog from yesterday? Well him and a mate decided to follow us today. The two of them trotted along with us all the way to Gorak Shep, presumably hoping we would feed them. They never pestered us and were quite lovely, but the guides joked that if you gave them even one bit of food they’d then follow you all the way back to Lukla!

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You can see the famous Khumbu glacier that stretches down from Mt Everest.

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A fairly unsturdy bridge.

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Gorak Shep ahead. The tea house we will stay at bills itself at the highest in the world at 5,180 metres above sea level.

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Apart from yaks and mules, they even have horses here.

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After a one hour break, we carried onto towards Everest Base Camp. A very rare directional sign. This is not like NZ tracks with marker signs everywhere. It would be very easy to get lost here without a guide.

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This is actually the site of the original Everest Base Camp that Hillary and co used. I’m not sure when they swapped sites but it was many years ago.

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Another cool shot of part of the glacier.

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Recall the advice that you should always be between a yak and the wall, not the cliff. Well on this section it was cliffs on both sides so we just moved a bit off the track for them. During the morning we saw well over 100 yaks move a huge amount of gear to Base Camp for teams planning to attempt the summit.

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And that is Mt Everest in the background. The best view of it is around an hour before Base Camp.

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You can’t really see it from here but that is Base Camp to the left of the glacier.

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Another shot of Everest.

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Now you can start to see the tents at Base Camp.

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A close up of some of the glacier.

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And we are at Base Camp. It is considered very rude to go beyond this point and wander around the tents without an invitation.

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You can see most of the Base Camp tents next to the glacier.

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Me at Base Camp. A long 11 days to get here.

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Posing with Mark Russell from Ideas Shop (you can see their logo on my borrowed hat if you look very closely). Mark organised the trip and did a great job making it all happen. He has been a great companion (along with K, H and J) despite our slight variation in political preferences!

And no he did not trek in that shirt – put it on just for the photo!

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Mark Inglis commented on an earlier post that while Base Camp is (sort of) the end for us, it is only the beginning for those who are going on to ascend the summit like he has done. The ledge above is the initial climb for those going up to Base Camp 2.

At times during the trek I flirted with the idea of how amazing it would be to actually try and ascend the summit one day, after a few years of training. However during the trek I was also reading “Into Thin Air” on my Kindle, which is the first hand story of the very sad 1996 expedition/s which saw 12 people lose their lives, including Rob Hall. It’s an amazing and captivating book.

Of course two days after we were here, the avalanche occurred near Camp 1 (not Base Camp) which was another sobering reminder of how dangerous the mountain is – not just up in the death zone above 8,000 metres.

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On the way back we passed through this rockslide area, and just as we entered it there was a very minor rockslide. Small rocks, so wouldn’t have seriously hurt anyone. But it did make us move quickly through that section in case any larger rocks decided to come down.

On the way back it started to snow, which made us very grateful again for our early start. We set a fair pace going back and got to Gorak Shep again around 2 pm.

The day wasn’t as tough as the Chola Pass, but it was still reasonably challenging. Six to seven hours trekking is tiring, and most of that time was above 5,000 metres so it only took a small ascent to get out of breath.

Very satisfying to have made both the Chola Pass and Base Camp. Also I decided that I wanted this to be an Ibuprofen free day so didn’t take any pain killers for the headaches. There were a couple of times when I regretted this, but overall they were not too bad, and less severe than when ascending to Gyoko. So you do acclimatise – but different people at different rates.

Tomorrow sees the start of the descent. That doesn’t mean all downhills though – a mixture of up and down – but with more down than up. We hope to be back at Namche Bazaar in two days.

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NZ and the Debacle that is now Everest

April 20th, 2014 at 8:30 am by Kokila Patel
 

<8708992.jpg>As we celebrate death,  resurrection, and ascension this Easter, we have the news of another massive human tragedy on Everest. 12 or 13, perhaps as many as 20, climbers are dead. Chomolungma has reasserted her majestic terror.

New Zealand obviously has a close cultural affinity with Everest through Ed Hillary’s first ascent with Nepalese Indian Sherpa Tensing Norgay on 29 May, 1953 (61 years ago). There was also the 1996 death of Rob Hall at the summit staying with his trapped American client Doug Hansen, as his legs and hands failed (made all the more poignant when his final satellite phone call from the summit to his wife was played on the radio, “Sleep well my sweetheart. Please don’t worry too much“).

John Krakauer was one of the lucky survivors of that ill-fated 1996 expedition and was covering the climb as part of a commercial deal for Outside magazine.  He later wrote the Into Thin Air book which was made in to a film.

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Rob Hall

The Neil Finn song “The Climber” is also about that event.  On 22 Feb. last year, it was announced Christian Bale will play Rob Hall in another movie of that 1996 tragic climb (Universal Pictures, Working Title working with Emmett/Furla Films).

So, the commercialisation of Everest and the issues surrounding its ascents continue. This was certainly something Ed Hillary lamented and was critical of.

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Brain Blessed

Also last year, during a visit to NZ (to make ads for an Australian bank in NZ) British actor Brian Blessed (‘father’ of Blackadder, series 1) currently starring in a series of NZ bank ads, said adamantly, “I don’t think there should be any expeditions to the mountain unless they are climbing it without oxygen – 29,035ft is just high enough to be climbed without oxygen.

“It’s achieving nothing in the development of human will and human achievement and in the spirit of adventure. It’s all vanity.” He said first Everest conquerors Hillary and Tenzing were different because they were “going into the unknown”.

“Blessed said people did not appreciate how dangerous an Everest ascent could be. He described the need for weeks of acclimatization and the difficulties of conquering the various stages of the climb.

On the eve of the 6oth anniversary of Hillary & Norgay’s ascent, mountaineers revealed a new insult to the great mountain – a ladder across the Hillary Step. This is a tricky 12m high outcrop of rock just before the final stretch to the summit itself.  Hillary climbed it by working his way up a crack or fissure of the rock face, which is why it carries his name.

Congestion and waits of longer than 2 hours (serious at this altitude) are now occurring at the Step, which is a natural bottle neck and has caused so many deaths, particularly during the 1996 season when it was discovered by Hall that there was no fixed rope at the Step. 520 climbers have reached the summit of Everest in the last climbing season.  Similar commercial congestion caused the 11 deaths on K2 featured in the film The Summit K2 (2013), now surpassed by this 2014 Easter tragedy.

The Guardian covered the plans to put the ladder up the Hillary Step to ease that congestion.

Frits Vrijlandt,  president of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, said the ladder could be a solution to the increasing numbers of climbers on the mountain. I think the solution would be to restrict the ascents to 100 a year, and run a lottery.

Apa Sherpa, who climbed Everest a record 21 times before retiring in 2011, described the Hillary Step as “very hard” and said a ladder was a good idea.

Pertemba Sherpa, who played a key role in the British expedition led by Sir Chris Bonington, and climbed Everest’s south-west face for the first time in 1975, told The Guardian that the security of the sherpas working on the mountain should be paramount.

“The route is changing, there is more rock, less ice and snow. It’s very dangerous,” the 65-year-old said. “For [the] safety of sherpas, this is good.”

So, differing views.  Putting a ladder up would reduce the congestion (not much) and probably increase the number ascending, so the bottlenecks may remain or even get worse.

For me, the issue is about the growing commercialisation of Everest and the “need” to ascend, as some form of personal development or enrichment or “vanity” as Brian Blessed rightly calls it.  This is what I would do:

1. A no-climbing moratorium for 5 years to allow a pause in the rapid commercialisation process and to allow the fraternity to reflect and refocus.

2. A covenant that a party must climb to a certain height, and bring down a certain weight of rubbish (tents, used oxygen tanks, etc), or a dead person for burial, as part of a compulsory acclimatization and a prerequisite before they are allowed an attempt at the summit. (A bit like foresters required to replant trees after they harvest stands of wood).

3. Perhaps an absolute age range limit on the mountain and certified years of climbing experience.

I’d be interested in David’s thoughts and his impressions of the risks we impose on Sherpas, Nepalese and other poor Third World mountain people (such as the Pakistanis on K2) porting, guiding and otherwise servicing our Western obsession with climbing these mountains.  Why not just go to Base camp as he is doing: enjoy the scenery, the challenge, support the Nepalese, but don’t risk their and other climbers lives insisting on climbing to the summit?
~ John Stringer
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General Debate 20 April 2014

April 20th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Prices stable

April 19th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

The consumers price index (CPI) rose 0.3 percent in the March 2014 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. Higher tobacco and housing prices were partly countered by seasonally cheaper international air fares, vegetables, and package holidays.

Cigarette and tobacco prices rose 10.2 percent, following an 11.3 percent rise in excise duty in January. “The CPI without cigarettes and tobacco showed no change in the March quarter,” prices manager Chris Pike said.

That means no cost of living increase, if you are not a smoker.

Also of interest is that despite the scare stories about power price increases of 24%, the quarterly increase in the cost of electricity for households is only 0.07%. Remember that figure.

Also food prices are down 0.3% in March, and are only 1.2% higher than a year ago.

 

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Latest poll

April 19th, 2014 at 3:06 pm by David Farrar

Roy Morgan reports:

Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a large jump in support for National (48.5%, up 5.5%) now with its largest lead over a potential Labour/Greens alliance (40%, down 5%) since July 2013 …

Support for the Labour Party has fallen to 28.5% (down 3.5%) – clearly the lowest support under new Labour Leader David Cunliffe, and the lowest Labour support since April 2012 …

Also of interest:

The latest NZ Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating has jumped to 143pts (up 10pts) with 65% (down 4%) of New Zealanders saying New Zealand is ‘heading in the right direction’ compared to 22% (down 6%) that say New Zealand is ‘heading in the wrong direction’.

I guess New Zealanders are not as fascinated over Oravida, as Labour are.

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Everest Base Camp Day 10

April 19th, 2014 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

As I had mentioned the afternoons, evenings and nights can get bitterly cold. Ironically you tend to be less cold outdoors when trekking as the activity warms you up, and also you may have sun on you.

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Most tea houses have a burner like this. They don’t use wood though, buy yak dung. Yaks are very valuable – in fact a yak costs more (US$200 to US$900) than the average annual income! The burners hep heat the common areas up a fair bit but they often don’t start them up until 5 pm or so.

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The guidelines for the trek said you sleeping bag should be good for -10 degrees. Mine is rated for +2 degrees only so I purchased a thermal liner which adds 11 degrees on which would mean I should be good for -9 degrees or so.

However when we got here the guides said you really want something that can handle -20 degrees so at Namche I hired this huge sleeping bag for 12 days. A very good investment as it only cost $2 a day and it really did make a difference.

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This is it rolled out. It definitely did the job keeping me warm. However I still found I needed the thermal liner and slept with icebreaker leggings and top plus socks and hat.

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We got underway around 8.30 am and this is the local peak by Dzongla.

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Most of the day was a narrow slightly ascending path. It was largely snow covered and slippery in parts. Unlike yesterday when a slip would mean a fun slide down a snow bank for 20 metres, here a slip would mean a 100 to 200 metre slide down snow and rocks. Best to be avoided.

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We had morning tea here this amazing view of peaks in the distance.

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These tents belonged to a group of climbers who were ascending the nearby Lobouche peak. We could see them in the distance making slow but steady progress.

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We then rejoined the main trail up to Everest Base Camp, which is much wider than the narrow paths we had been on.

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And here’s Lobouche. Height around 4,920 metres.

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Have to love the energy efficiency. Why waste good heat!

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In the afternoon we did a quick 40 minute climb up a hill. This dog decided to come with us.

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Our destination tomorrow. Everest Base Camp is at the foot of those peaks.

Very exciting to now be just one day away from Base Camp. Was also good to have a more relaxing day than yesterday!

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General Debate 19 April 2014

April 19th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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