No minimum price for alcohol

April 25th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Judith Collins announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has received the Ministry of Justice report, The Effectiveness of Alcohol Pricing Policies.

The report considers options for a minimum pricing regime and the possible costs and benefits.

Ms Collins says the Government will not be introducing minimum pricing on alcohol as this would hit moderate drinkers in the pocket when there is no compelling evidence that increasing the price of alcohol is the correct approach.

The Government will allow time for the new alcohol reforms to bed in and to assess their impacts, including the development and implementation of Local Alcohol Policies which are likely to take up to two years to come into full effect.

Ms Collins says the Government’s changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act aimed to strike a sensible balance to curb the harm of alcohol abuse without penalising moderate drinkers.

“New Zealanders who drink responsibly and moderately should not be unfairly targeted. Introducing a minimum pricing regime would see alcohol companies earn around $131m extra a year at the $1.20 minimum price point,” says Ms Collins.

The alcohol companies will be hoping Labour wins office as their former spokesperson, Lianne Dalziel, demanded that there be a minimum price of $2 a standard drink. This would mean it would be illegal to sell a bottle of wine for under $15 a bottle.

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Everest Base Camp Day 16

April 25th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar


This was the final day of trekking. A pleasant walk through the valleys back up to Lukla.


Different views to higher up, but still incredibly beautiful. Also nice to be tramping again in shorts and one layer – not in below freezing conditions.


Again many more crops grown down here.


But still the odd snow covered peak.


The final valley.


The final ascent. I estimate we claimed a total in excess of seven vertical kilometres over the trek.


Great to have colour back in the bush.


And after 16 days we are back at Lukla, where we started.


The English in the local bars can be amusing. See the above “tit bites” instead of tidbits!



And not sure Coca-Cola appreciates that spelling! I wonder how many people tried to order a cock before they changed it :-)


We then had the final farewell dinner with the five of us, and the porters and guides. I couldn’t resist ordering a Yak Steak. Yes they’re cute adorable animals – but they also taste quite good.



And then we drank. To paraphrase, what happens in the tea house says in the tea house, but it was a lot of fun. The fact we had to be up at 5.00 am for an early flight did not deter us. A great 16 days trekking, with views you really won’t get anywhere else in the world.

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Lest we forget

April 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Last Post. The video was for British Remembrance Day, but is equally appropriate for us.


General Debate 25 April 2014

April 25th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Jones cites Greens influence as factor in departure

April 24th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports:

Departing Labour MP Shane Jones’ antipathy for the Green Party went so deep he once told Labour’s leadership he would not be a minister if he was “second fiddle” to Green co-leader Russel Norman as deputy prime minister or in a senior economic role. …

Asked whether David Cunliffe had tried to keep him by promising a ministerial post if Labour regained the Government benches, he said he had told Labour’s leadership some time ago he would struggle to be a minister if Mr Norman or other Green MPs held senior posts.

“The Labour Party I came into is a party of New Zealanders. Some are on the left, some are on the right. The sweet spot is in the centre. I’m not interested in ever campaigning for the Green vote or going out there promoting Labour as only being able to govern if it has some sort of Green organ transplant.”

The reality is that Labour’s policies are all veering quite hard to the left. I’m going to do a more detailed blog post on this, but when you compare their policies today compared with say the Clark-Cullen Government – they have moved to the left in almost every case – and most of their new policies are Green party policies.

Stuff reports the response from the Greens:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei hit back this morning, calling Jones sexist and questioning the amount of voter support he brought to Labour.

“It’s probably a good thing that he’s going, he’s very much a 19th century man in a 21st century world, and I’m not sure he’s going to cope with the changes that need to come,” Turei said on Firstline.

“I think there’s been real issues around with Shane and his sexism. I think the comments he’s made and the very derogatory statements he’s made about women in the past, in particular women in authority, has been a real problem.”

She denied Jones had appeal to working class men.

“He’s claiming he’s got lots of support, but not enough that’s kept him in Parliament. I don’t know that he has a great deal of support in his caucus either because that hasn’t kept him inside Parliament.

“At the end of the day, he’s leaving. The Greens are staying. He won’t be part of government, he won’t be a minister and the Greens are intending to be so after the election on September 20,” Turei said.

The problem for the Greens is they have little chance of being in Government, unless Labour also does a deal with NZ First.  And in a piece I do agree with, Tim Watkin states the reality:

Labour and the Greens simply aren’t a viable two-party government as the polls stand, which makes New Zealand First simply vital to any potential change of government. While New Zealand First has left its options open re coalitions and there’s plenty of smart money on Winston Peters’ preference for backing National-led – or at least incumbent – government, any path to a change of government currently looks to lead through New Zealand First.

Labour’s going to have to do some serious growing to find another path to government. So as it stands, if New Zealand First tells Labour it wants a formal coalition (something history tells us Peters prefers), but it will only consider a coalition if the Greens are excluded, well, Labour will have to exclude them.

Yep. Because what else can the Greens do?

When this scenario was put to Greens co-leader Metiria Turei on The Nation she said “if they [Labour] need us for confidence and supply, they need us to be government” and if the Greens are needed, “we, the Greens, are in a very strong bargaining position”.

Except they’re not. At all. If New Zealand First said they would only go with Labour if the Greens were sidelined and Labour bowed to that demand, the Greens would have two choices: Give confidence and supply to that government, or opt out and let a National-led government stay in power. Surely they couldn’t let the latter happen, so they would have to allow themselves to be sidelined. Again.

The Greens can not abstain on supply and confidence, because then Labour and NZ First would not be able to govern.  There would either be a new election or a National-led Government.

And considering how close Jones and Peters are, can anyone imagine Peters will let the Greens become Ministers, when their influence is what drove Shane Jones out of politics?

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Responding to Tim Watkin

April 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged on the 6th of April that the latest stories on Countdown seemed to be crossing the line from legitimate criticism to a bit of a smear campaign.

Tim Watkin did a response to my post. Now I’m no longer trekking, I thought I should respond to his points as I stand by my assertion that the latest set of stories were more just putting the boot in by allowing everyone to have a whinge. I stand by my views that in relation to their treatment of suppliers, my belief is that Countdown has behaved badly – and that the action by Shane Jones in exposing this is a good thing. But just because I agree with some criticisms of Countdown doesn’t mean I think every criticism is valid.

Tim first responds to my pointing out that the Mad Butcher chain has been found to have run false and misleading ads against Countdown, so hardly qualify as a credible viewpoint.  He says:

On the programme Mad Butcher CEO Michael Morton criticised various parts of Countdown’s behaviour, including the lawyers’ letters he’s been getting since he started doing comparative advertising. As you rightly point out, David, the Advertising Standards Authority have upheld complaints by Progressive against the Mad Butcher. You criticised a later TV3 news story for not including that fact, yet you didn’t mention the fact that Progressive has been criticised by the ASA as well. As The Nation host Lisa Owen asked of Morton on the programme, ‘aren’t you as bad as each other?’.

Indeed Morton was challenged a couple of times about his advertising complaints and was forced to admit that Progressive had complained to the ASA about his ads and won the fight. Morton said it was for technical, minor reasons and his argument is that a large company can use lawyers and complaints processes to suck up the time and resources of a smaller competitor. But viewers were left in no doubt about the ASA complaints and their outcomes. There was no “key fact missing” from The Nation or the video at the top of the story you link to. Did you bother to watch that?

First of all Tim misses the point that having a competitor complain about another competitor is pretty worthless. The relationships between competitors is different to that between a retailer and a supplier. Competitors are competing against each other and trying to steal market share from each other. Of course they are aggressive towards competitors. You see this in numerous industries - 2 Degrees vs Telecom and Vodafone. The petrol companies against each other etc. Hotel chains. In fact a common tactic is to block resource consents for your competitors – hence Park Royal Wellington blocked a Hilton being established on the waterfront. Petrol companies used to routinely object to consents for new petrol stations for competitors. And yes both Progressives and Foodstuffs used to try and stop each other supermarkets being built. We also see these tactics in Auckland with the brothel owners fighting each other.

So having a competitor on the show to have a whine about their competitor really adds nothing of news value unless they can point to something of substance that has been done wrong. And all the Mad Butcher could do was say that Countdown complains about their ads. Well considering their ads were in fact extremely aggressive and wrong, I’m sorry if I don’t see that as a good case. The Mad Butcher ads were of a form which used to not be allowed – direct price comparisons naming a competitor. If you run an ad like that, you need to be 100% sure your claims stack up – and they didn’t for the Mad Butcher.

Morton may claim they lost for technical minor reasons, but I suggest a reading of the actual ASA decision does not support that.

I agree that the ASA complaints were mentioned on the programme. But here is where Tim gets overly defensive. I never ever mentioned the programme. I was up the mountains on an incredibly slow Internet connection and could never have watched a live stream of it. What I was commenting on is the stories on the TV3 website. If the stories don’t include key facts from the show, then that is a problem with TV3 – not with me.

Countdown sells Lotto tickets at the tills. Your New World does not do that. As reported on The Nation, Countdown trialled the scheme over summer, it was popular and is now being rolled out to Countdown supermarkets nationwide (currently over 100 have it). That’s new this year and exclusive to Countdown for now, so it’s not a matter of it being “fine at one group of supermarkets, but not another” or “xenophobic”. You can certainly argue that it’s a fine and helpful service for Countdown to offer, but the argument you’re making is based on wrong facts. Jones is right when he makes the distinction between what Countdown does compared to other supermarkets; you can make your own mind up as to whether you think that makes Countdown more convenient or harmful.

Again Tim misses the point. What has this got to do with Countdown allegedly bullying suppliers, or being a bully? It’ just taking some random complaints and including them together so Countdown looks bad.

And I don’t think there is a big difference between having a Lotto counter at a supermarket and having then for sale at each checkout.

Desperate people make bad choices, it seems. Is that purely their responsibility or are Lotto and Countdown also culpable. Remember, Countdown says it’s a caring member of the communities it works in and is one of New Zealand’s largest employers. It’s a good issue to debate, isn’t it? Something a caring society should be thinking about? Why would you mock even the debate and call it a “smear campaign”?

Because it is an issue unrelated to the bullying issue. Has Countdown bullied Lotto into it? I bet you Lotto were keen as mustard to do this.

If one wants w wider debate on gambling, then have that wider debate. Should Lotto be banned entirely. But the debate should be on Lotto – not on Countdown – unless Countdown have done something wrong.

And my point is that you hit Countdown for the stuff they have done wrong. But that isn’t a licence to give air time to every critic of Countdown on every issue, when they have vested interests such as being a competitor. The main complaint of the Lotto sales came again from a competitor – and his concern is not gambling, but that people spend less at his stores when it is a Lotto day.  That is an issue for Lotto – not Countdown.

Third, I’m curious how you know about the contents of the letter. No-one on the select committee would release it to us or even confirm its contents; doing so would have broken privilege. So I can only assume that either an MP has leaked it to you at risk of a privileges committee hearing or that you’ve been briefed by Countdown on this. Isn’t that something you should declare openly?

And talking of smears, Tim did one himself against me. I’m up a mountain in Nepal and Tim thinks I’m in contact with MPs or Countdown in some secret conspiracy. The reality is I was just going on the news report on TV3′s own website that quotes Countdown saying they just asked for a record of what was said. I even linked to the story, so it seems Tim didn’t even read the stories on TV3′s own website – instead he accuses me of being in the pay of Countdown.

I’ve had zero contact with Countdown on this issue, and in fact ever. All I was doing was offering an honest opinion that the latest stories seemed unfair to Countdown, and Tim assumes I must be working for them.

Even worse he suggests MPs were briefing me and breaching the privilege of the House, when all I was doing was commenting on a report on TV3′s own website that quoted Countdown. The only breach of privilege appears to be from the Labour MPs who obviously told Shane Jones about the letter which allowed him to go out and declare it was threatening. TV3 gave great publicity to the claims it was threatening. Well the letter has now been released and is here.

It is a simple request under Standing Order 232. If anyone thinks that letter is threatening, then they are being hysterical.

But the issue here is the producer of a TV show responds to criticism of the reports based on the show by saying he assume the critic is being briefed by Countdown – with an implication that I’m perhaps getting paid by them.

Here’s the irony – not only do I have no commercial involvement with Countdown – I actually have strong ties to many of their competitors and critics. But as always, I don’t let commercial involvement influence my honest opinion on my blog.

Fourth, you have every right to support Countdown in the hours it wants to sell alcohol. But that’s not the point of Yule’s criticism – or that of two others mayors The Nation spoke to. The purpose of the bill National passed last year was that local communities should have the final word on what hours alcohol can be sold in their community. Judith Collin could explain that to you. 

Tim needs to read the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. It does not give local communities the final word on what hours can be sold. It says decisions on hours (and other matters) must be related to the object of the Act and the licensing authority hears any appeals. A local authority can not just pluck any hours of the nether and state they are permitted hours. They need to be able to demonstrate that the hours will help reduce alcohol abuse.  The licensing authority decides on that issue. 

You claim that: “All you do by restricting beer and wine sales to 9pm is annoy a lot of late night shoppers who can’t buy a bottle of wine with their groceries”. That’s a disputable claim, if not plain wrong. It’s not “all” you do. There’s evidence from both here and overseas that a restriction of alcohol sales by just two hours does reduce the social harm caused by excessive drinking. But whether you accept that evidence or not, you’re missing the point. The new law is clear: it’s simply up to local communities to set whatever hours they want on alcohol sales; there’s no requirement for evidence, just for public consultation. 

Again Tim is wrong. There is a need for evidence. Again he should S81 of the Act that requires the LAPs to be reasonable – and reasonable means a requirement for evidence.

You say “Many Councils are falling into the trap of not distinguishing between specialist bottle stores and supermarkets”, but again the law simply requires councils to listen to the local will. If you think that’s bad law, raise it with the National government that passed it.

And again Tim is wrong. They don’t.

Oh, and one other thing. Progressive was informed of the nature of the complaints against it and repeatedly offered right of reply on the programme. Executives were free to make all the arguments you do and more, yet they repeatedly rejected the offer to appear. Why didn’t you mention that in your post?

Because the are under investigation by the Commerce Commission (which is a good thing) and would be morons to go on TV shows while the investigation is proceeding. Once the investigation is over, I hope they do front up. On the main allegation of bullying against suppliers I do feel there is substance to the allegations. But I don’t think the additional issues are in the same category.

You have every right to think that the complaints by Jones, Morton and Yule are just “whining”. But when several independent sources all make complaints of a similar nature about one corporate’s behaviour, especially a company that is currently being investigated by the Commerce Commission for anti-competitive behaviour, I’d say that’s worth a public airing and debate.

Morton is a competitor. He is not independent. Yule is the head of local government in NZ. I have a lot f regard for Lawrence and he does his job well. But the view of local government seems to be (and shared by Tim) is that they can decide local alcohol policies without a need for evidence. Well, they are wrong. The Act says the policies have to be “reasonable” in light of the objects of the Act.

So I’m very comfortable with my original blog post. Tim says it was factually incorrect – but it was not. He just disagrees with my conclusions. That’s fine – but to have a senior producer allege that I am being briefed by Countdown when I criticise the show – well that reflects badly on someone – but I don’t think it is me.


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Mana protesting against better state houses

April 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Protesters egged Prime Minister John Key’s ministerial BMW as it collected him from a state housing development in Napier this afternoon.

Mr Key was unhurt in the incident but one man was later arrested for obstruction.

The incident happened about midday in Maraenui as Mr Key concluded a visit to a new state housing development.

Earlier, about 10 protesters, some clutching Mana Party banners, greeted the prime minister and challenged him about child poverty and enabling synthetic cannabis to be sold.

They shouted: “One, two, three, four, stop the war on the poor,” and “Maraenui under attack, stand up, fight back”.

So what awful thing was the PM doing in Maraenui that Mana supporters think is an attack on the poor? Stuff has details:

Key appeared slightly miffed that protesters heckled him as he officially opened a new housing development aimed at improving the city’s poorest suburb.

Despite the crowds chanting ”Stop the war on the poor”, Key was impressed with the units saying they were nothing like the state house he grew up in, he told residents.

”The protesters, interestingly enough are protesting for us to do the very thing we’re doing. So they probably should have come in and congratulated us instead of yelled at us.”

Five families have already moved in to the Maraenui development which consists of seven two-bedroom single-storey units, centred around a central communal courtyard.

Crete Pinkham felt “lucky” to be living to be living in a warm, dry home.

”There’s no mould! I lived in mould all these years. We’d clean it up and it would grow back.”

So Mana is against low income families being moved into new warm, dry homes. No surprise I guess, as they are now aligned with the multi-millionairre who allegedly pays below minimum wage to his staff.

Over the last six years, the Government had been working to improve the run-down Housing New Zealand stock, Key said.

Large, uninsulated properties were being knocked down for smaller, warmer units.

”Cold damp homes are no place for New Zealanders. We want to put them in the six star properties we have here.”

Key admitted there was still a lot of work to do, including attracting more social housing providers into the market.

What an awful uncaring Government that is at war with the poor. Thank God we have Hone and Kim to lead us to a better place.


The new Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

April 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald report:

Experienced lawyer Cheryl Gwyn will be put in charge of monitoring New Zealand’s spying and intelligence activities, Prime Minister John Key revealed this morning.

Ms Gwyn will take over the job of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to replace Andrew McGechan QC, a former High Court Judge who was appointed on an interim basis in July.

She is the deputy Solicitor-General at Crown Law, and has previously been a partner at two legal firms, Deputy Secretary for Justice, Acting Solicitor General and chief executive at Crown Law.

Her office will have a larger, more proactive role as a result of Government Communications Security Bureau reforms which passed into law last year.

The reforms increased the scope and resourcing of the oversight regime, and widened the pool of candidates for the Inspector-General role beyond former High Court judges.

The combination of Kitteridge becoming SIS Head and Gwyn becoming Inspector-General is a clear sign that the Government is very focused on ensuring the intelligence agencies act within both the letter and spirit of the law, and that there are no more stuff ups such as occurred at the GCSB.

Retired judges have tended to be not particularly pro-active as Inspector-General. I think Ms Gwyn will be a very pro-active Inspector-General – in line with her new powers.

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Dickens on Labour

April 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Dickens at NewstalkZB writes:

Rajen Prasad’s stand on Nigella Lawson in the weekend was truly laughable. We can’t keep out a visitor without criminal conviction unless they represent truly objectionable viewpoints such as rappers praising gang rape or holocaust deniers. We can’t deny Nigella a visa unless we decide that she really does use too much butter. So it was a Don Quixote moment, except Nigella will never look like a windmill. The real story is that Rajen was not under control. Matt McCarten seems to have lost his legs, just like Benji Marshall – the game line is safe.

Then there was Andrew Little’s outrage yesterday that Wanaka worked over Easter weekend. Labour says they’re all about jobs, but they’re not when they say that when 25,000 people visit town no-one is allowed to profit from it due to an antiquated law. Wanaka jobs are dependent on snow and the Warbirds. They wanted to make money, they wanted jobs so I don’t get what Andrew is on about. When the workers want to work and when the work is there, they work and you let them. That’s called supporting workers Mr Little. I didn’t hear anyone from Wanaka moaning about working when they flouted the law and made hay.

I find it weird that so many people who claim to be a champion of workers’ rights, want to deny them the chance to earn some extra money.

So another week of more gaffes, more overthinking. It’s a weekly wonder. And before all you Labour supporters start thinking I’m some sort of Tory cheerleader, there’s Shane Jones.

Has there ever been a clearer example of a rat leaving the sinking ship than Shane? Last year he charged for the Labour leadership. This year he’s leaving to be a salary boy, jacked up by Murray McCully no less. He’s given up. He can’t see a Cabinet job on the government benches so he’s off to make hay. Can’t say I blame him!

So Labour has lost its mojo. It doesn’t even know how to spell mojo. There’s something deeply wrong. After two terms out of office, they should not be this far out of the race this close to an election. It’s sad.

Labour has just 152 days to convince voters it is a credible alternate Government. This week has made their job much harder.

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Everest Base Camp Day 15

April 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


A wonderful late 10 am departure from Namche and this view as we depart.


The final view of Mt Everest, partly obscured by clouds.


We spent around an hour descending around 600 metres from Namche. Very pleasant trail in the woods.


The view of the valley we head back along, once we descend. Very different to the icy peaks, but still very beautiful.


The view of the river from the high bridge we cross first.


What happens if a porter is crossing the bridge, and a mule decides to cross the bridge also? A very tight squeeze for the porter! At least it wasn’t a yak!


Then we have three hours or so of walking alongside the river.


At the 4th of five bridges, there’s this kid riding a mule. Very cute.


The vegetables are growing now we’re lower down.


Another bridge crossing.


In the final stages, you pass through a lot of villages, where the path is separated from the homes.


A blossoming tree near the bottom of a small waterfall.



And finally Phakding, which can be seen in the distance just beyond the 5th bridge.

A fairly easy four hours of trekking. While we passed through this area 13 days ago, you get quite different views when walking through it in the opposite direction.

Tomorrow is the final trek to Lukla, where we stay overnight before flying to Kathmandu.

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General Debate 24 April 2014

April 24th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

More Kiwis returning home

April 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


The number of people migrating from Australia to New Zealand continues to grow. If this trend keeps up, we may end up with a net inflow for the first time in our history.

Stats NZ reported:

New Zealand had a seasonally adjusted net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 3,800 migrants in March 2014 – the second-highest gain on record. The highest was in February 2003 (4,700), when a large number of overseas students arrived to study at New Zealand universities. Net migration has been positive and mostly increasing since September 2012. The increase since then was mainly due to fewer New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia, as well as more non-New Zealand citizens arriving.

In the March 2014 year, migrant arrivals numbered 98,000 (up 14 percent), and migrant departures numbered 66,100 (down 21 percent), resulting in a net gain of 31,900 migrants. This is the highest gain since the January 2004 year (33,300). The highest net gain ever recorded was 42,500 in the May 2003 year.

In the latest year, New Zealand had a net loss of 12,900 migrants to Australia, well down from 35,500 a year earlier.

This is what Labour calls failed neo-liberal policies.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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

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

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


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


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.


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


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


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


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!



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


The view as we pas through Pheriche.


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


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


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.


Getting back into walking through bush and trees.


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


Inside the monastery.


The front entrance of the monastery.


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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.



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