Dunne on Labour

November 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Peter Dunne writes:

Later this week I will join current and former Labour MPs to celebrate the 80thanniversary of the election of one of New Zealand’s most reforming and innovative governments – the first Labour Government under Michael Joseph Savage. No doubt there will be much reminiscing and catching up with former colleagues, particularly those from the equally reforming and innovative fourth Labour Government in which I was privileged to serve.

Amidst the banter and inevitable backslapping, there will assuredly be reflection on the remarkable Labour Prime Ministers New Zealand has had over the years. Savage, Fraser, Kirk, Lange and more recently Clark come to mind.

For me, the remarkable thing about the Labour Party, which attracted me to join it while still at school, was its ability to continually adapt to the circumstances of the time to promote a new vision for the New Zealand of the future. Savage and Fraser expanded the incipient welfare state Seddon’s Liberals had ushered in during the 1890s to meet the needs of a society recovering from the 1930s Depression. Kirk and subsequently Lange captured the yearning for national identity of the restless baby boom generation and beyond. Lange and Clark oversaw the painful economic adjustment necessary to shift New Zealand from Muldoon’s Gdansk shipyard of the 1980s to the modern dynamic economy of today. Differing circumstances and differing challenges, but the constant was the capacity to develop responses attuned to the time.

And now:
Sadly, today’s Labour Party is but a shadow of its bold predecessors. There is no sense of future direction or purpose, and even in its rare positive moments, the Party’s best offerings seem to be a hankering for yesteryear. The boldness in politics is now coming from the National Party – formed primarily to oppose the first Labour government – with no more striking example than its Budget decision this year to lift basic benefit payments, the first such upward adjustment in over 40 years(including the 3rd to 5th Labour Governments). Labour, the traditional friend of the beneficiary, was left gasping in its wake.
Labour’s challenge today is to recover its soul and its place. In this post market age, there is a still a role for a radical reforming party of the left, if it is prepared to be bold. There is the opportunity to pull together the threads of the Labour heroes and promote a new commitment based around strengthening New Zealand’s national identity through constitutional and social reform, and encouraging diversity. There is still a place for a progressive party promising a new, more co-operative economic approach in today’s globally digitally and free trade connected world. And there is still a place for a progressive party to promote new, innovative approaches to education and social services.
But rather than grasp these opportunities, Labour has become predeterminedly negative.
The latest is Little attacking John Key for talking about domestic security risks. Little said Key was scaremongering! He really should turn on a TV at some stage!
Its approach to economic policy is stalled because it cannot make up its mind on the Trans Pacific Partnership. Its stigmatising of people with Chinese sounding names buying property in Auckland has robbed it of any credibility in the diversity stakes, and its capacity to champion meaningful education reform is zero while it remains the plaything of the PPTA.
This is from someone who served as a Minister in the 4th and 5th Labour Governments.
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Jacinda in Women’s Weekly

November 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

TV3 poll this week had Jacinda Ardern climbing higher in the Preferred PM poll, and closing on Andrew Little rapidly.

Not by coincidence she had this multi-page spread in Women’s Weekly a few weeks ago.

Now Jacinda defended her women’s magazines profiles on Q+A a few months ago:

KATIE You also get criticism for doing soft media, for appearing on Next Magazine’s cover and things like that. Why do you feel it’s important to do those sort of interviews?

JACINDA Yeah, as I said, you know, in the current context, do people watch Parliamentary TV? Do they seek out political ideas in the old traditional forms? No. And we have to be realistic about that. And if someone offers an opportunity for me to take issues like child poverty into another format and reach perhaps a different audience, then that’s an opportunity I’m going to take.

Now I agree with Jacinda. It is quite legitimate to do soft pieces as a way of connecting with voters on political issues. Many politicians do it.

But if you read the article, there isn’t a single mention of a political issue. It is 100% about holidays in Niue (where her parents live and work). It could almost be a travel advertorial for Niue.

So yes it is legitimate to do interviews and profiles with soft magazines, to connect to voters on issues. But is it legitimate when there is nothing at all about politics in there?

I wonder how many more months it will be until Jacinda is polling ahead of Little as Preferred PM?


Government thinks iPredict is a money laundering risk!

November 26th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford reports:

Prediction website iPredict is to be closed down, with the Government deciding it represents a money laundering risk.

The site, run by Victoria University of Wellington, issued a statement to its website on Thursday and on Twitter.

According to the iPredict statement, Associate Justice Minister Simon Bridges refused to grant it an exemption from the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act, declaring that it was a “a legitimate money laundering risk” because of the lack of customer due diligence.

The Government must be joking. Or high.

I really don’t think Islamic State are funding their operations by laundering their money through iPredict by investing $50 on the likely level of interest rates in 2016.

Although iPredict said that most of its transactions were small, three traders hold portfolios on the website worth in excess of $10,000.

One of the site’s higher profile traders, Kiwiblog author David Farrar said the decision was hard to fathom.

“Their turnover is teeny. You could only money launder a few hundred [dollars], maybe a thousand, because their’s just not enough people,” Farrar said, adding that the requirement to give bank accounts or credit card details meant the money should be traceable.

“You could money launder many times larger amounts and much more effectively by going to gaming machines,” Farrar added.

“It just seems like such an overreaction.”

It really is a nuts decision. Most stocks have tiny liquidity. It would be the hardest way to launder money you could think of. Plus unless the terrorists were experts on NZ politics and economics, they’d probably lose most of their money.

So much for being a Government that believes in small Government and proportionate regulation!

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US views on how institutions affect the country

November 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Pew polled US citizens on whether various institutions have a positive or negative effect on the country, The net positives for each were:

  1. Small businesses +69%
  2. Tech companies +54%
  3. Colleges and universities +35%
  4. Churches +33%
  5. Energy industry +7%
  6. Labor unions +5%
  7. Banks -7%
  8. Obama Administration -10%
  9. Large corporates -23%
  10. Entertainment industry -24%
  11. News media -40%
  12. US Government -42%
  13. US Congress -61%

Amazing that the media rank even lower than the entertainment industry!

No tag for this post.

Fonterra board should take heed

November 26th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

A proposal to slash the size of the Fonterra board from 13 to nine came in for hot debate by shareholders at the co-operative’s annual meeting yesterday in the small Waikato town of Waitoa.

Former directors Colin Armer and Greg Gent put forward the suggestion for a smaller board in order to make a ”fitter, leaner, more agile Fonterra”, saying the move would improve board efficiency and decision-making. The pair said boards with double-digit numbers were rare and having six elected board members and three appointed would ensure there were ”no passengers on board”.

The resolution received 54% support from postal and electronic voting and a resounding applause from shareholders at the meeting but to succeed, it needs to achieve 75% support from voting shareholders along with 50% support from shareholder councillors.

The proposal may not have met the constitutional threshold, but the fact a majority of farmers backed it should not be ignored by the board.

There is much research that shows the best size for a board is from five to nine members. Fewer than five means you may not get a strong enough exchange of views. More than nine and it gets fragmented, and the risk is a sub-set of the board start making the real decisions.

The resolution was opposed by the board and Shareholders’ Council, which both said a governance review already under way was a better option. Shareholders have been told the review means an information booklet is sent to them early next year, farmer consultations in February, and a May-June vote at a special meeting.

A smaller board won’t life the international price of dairy. But it is worth doing.


I was wrong on Ahmed Mohamed

November 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

In September I blogged on the case of Ahmed Mohamed who was arrested for making a clock and bringing it to school.

I was on his side and slated the school and authorities.

I’ve now concluded I was wrong, and I think he did this deliberately to get a reaction. The Herald reports:

The Muslim teenager arrested when a teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb threatened to sue his school and the town of Irving, Texas for US$15 million ($23 million), his lawyer said yesterday.

Far from suffering damages he became a celebrity and  got invited to the White House, Facebook etc. He got to talk to the International Space Station. The world was his oyster.

His family moved to Qatar after Mohamed was offered a generous scholarship.

I still think the school and authorities over-reacted, but I now think he played them.



Herald seems to blame security services for terror

November 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Governments will also be aware that each time public fears are heightened, the political climate becomes more difficult for some immigrant communities. In Australia, three-quarters of the population believes a large-scale terrorist attack is likely within the country and a quarter believe one is imminent, according to a poll at the weekend.

Australia has had two terrorist attacks in recent months, and several more attempted. So it is quite rational to believe more are likely.

New Zealand is not immune to these fears and tensions, or indeed the threat that causes them. But so far, our Government has not seen fit to raise the level of alarm. The Prime Minister says one or two of about 40 people under watch are under fulltime surveillance. No country should have cause for terror if its security services are doing their job.

I profoundly disagree with that sentence. It is blaming the security services of terrorist attacks succeed.

Think if one wrote

No country should have cause for fear of crime if its Police are doing their job

Just as the Police can not stop crime in advance, security services can not stop all terrorist attacks. It is impossible. Hopefully they stop most. But if one or more people are determined to kill unarmed members of the public, they will often succeed.

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474 fewer government staff

November 26th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is trumpeting a big reduction in back office staff over the past year, with the number of core administration staff now at the lowest level since the current “cap” was put in place in 2012.

That comes just a day after it was revealed that the Treasury had blown its 390 staff cap by 64 to reach a payroll of 454 full time equivalent (FTE) employees.

State Services Minister Paula Bennett said “ongoing restraint in the public sector and a focus on better frontline services” had seen the number of core Government employees fall by 474 in the past year to 35,632 – 843 fewer FTEs than the cap set by the Government in 2012.

Good. And how does this compare to the past:

Back office staff numbers climbed by close to 10,000 to over 45,000 under the previous Government, she said.

And no doubt will again once they are back in office. Labour has never found a problem to which the solution isn’t more staff and more spending.


General Debate 26 November 2015

November 26th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

I thought it was funny

November 26th, 2015 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

When Jimmy Carr warned The One Show his jokes might get them into trouble, the presenters probably took it as another quip.

But yesterday the BBC1 programme found itself at the centre of a formal probe by the broadcasting watchdog, after a risque comment about dwarves backfired.

Carr, who was on the show to promote his Greatest Hits tour, told viewers that he had once come up with a two-word gag.

He said: “I tried to write the shortest joke possible. So, I wrote a two word joke which was: ‘Dwarf shortage’. It’s just so I could pack more jokes into the show.”

He then looked directly at the camera and added: “If you’re a dwarf and you’re offended by that, grow up.”

Heh I thought that was pretty funny.

But whether you think it is funny or not, one should be able to tell jokes on TV.

Now two viewers have complained to communications regulator Ofcom, which is looking into whether the programme on November 4, broke television rules.

“We’re investigating whether potentially discriminatory comments in this programme met generally accepted standards,” a spokesman said.

It is unusual for Ofcom to launch an investigation against a broadcaster after only two complaints, prompting speculation among insiders that the watchdog wants to make an example of the incident.

Ofcom need to get a life.


Little wins big in Australia – gets an invitation for us to become a state

November 25th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

As Andrew Little flew to Australia yesterday to address politicians today about Kiwis’ lack of rights in their adopted country, an Aussie senator made a suggestion that would likely make the average bloke in his stubbies choke on his tinnie.

Ian Macdonald, who chaired the parliamentary committee that recommended a new law leading to the detention and deportation of NZers, said New Zealand could become the country’s seventh and eighth state.

He said Labour leader Little’s calls for, among other improved rights, access to citizenship for Kiwi expats would not be controversial to most Australians.

“The issue of closer ties with New Zealand is one beyond any limited expertise I might have, but as an observer … I would love to have New Zealand join us perhaps as the seventh and eighth state.

A huge diplomatic victory for Andrew Little. Kiwis who are criminals can stay in Australia for as long as they want, so long as New Zealand gives up being an independent country.

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That’s a high level of ignorance

November 25th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Television presenter Miriama Kamo and her husband Michael Dreaver have admitted carrying out illegal work on their Waiheke home. 

Kamo and Dreaver entered guilty pleas at the Auckland District Court, in relation to four charges jointly laid under the Building Act. 

Charge sheets showed the pair had made adaptations to the property including installing a pot belly stove, a “yurt”, a second storey sleeping area, a verandah, and turning a shed into a reading room.

None of the renovations had building consent and the offences dated back to 2009, with the most recent renovation carried out last year. 

Kamo and Dreaver have spoken to women’s magazines about their renovation plans for the five hectare property, boasting about installing two Mongolian yurts -huts- on the land.

The pair were married at the Orapiu Rd home earlier this year, and on Tuesday Kamo admitted the pair had been so distracted by their wedding plans that they hadn’t paid attention to the lesgislative requirements of their DIY work. 

“I hope that proves our ignorance rather than our intent. If we have intended to break the law, we wouldn’t have talked about it in magazines,” she said. 

If the changes were just putting in a pot belly stove, I can imagine you might not twig you need consent. But how can you not know that adding on an extra storey to your house would need consent?

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538 on Trump

November 25th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Nate Silver writes:

Lately, pundits and punters seem bullish on Donald Trump, whose chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination recently inched above 20 percent for the first time at the betting market Betfair. Perhaps the conventional wisdom assumes that the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris will play into Trump’s hands, or that Republicans really might be in disarray. If so, I can see where the case for Trump is coming from, although I’d still say a 20 percent chance is substantially too high.

Quite often, however, the Trump’s-really-got-a-chance! case is rooted almost entirely in polls. If nothing Trump has said so far has harmed his standing with Republicans, the argument goes, why should we expect him to fade later on?

One problem with this is that it’s not enough for Trump to merely avoid fading. Right now, he has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among theroughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.) As the rest of the field consolidates around him, Trump will need to gain additional support to win the nomination. That might not be easy, since some Trump actions that appeal to a faction of the Republican electorate may alienate the rest of it. Trump’s favorability ratings are middling among Republicans (andawful among the broader electorate).

Trump has net favourability of -18%. And that has been constant for around two months now.

… exit polls like this one have historically asked voters in Iowa and New Hampshire when they made their final decision on how to vote. These exit polls find that voters take their sweet time. In Iowa, on average, only 35 percent of voters had come to a final decision before the final month of the campaign. And in New Hampshire, only 29 percent had.

We won’t really know what it is looking like until 2016.

70% of primary voters are yet to make up their mind. Trump is getting 32% of the 30% who have made up their mind.

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Argentina votes right

November 25th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Hours after Argentina’s political landscape underwent a tectonic rightward shift, president-elect Mauricio Macri announced a series of radical changes that will realign his country’s place in the world.

Following Sunday night’s narrow election victory that marked the first change of government in 12 years, Macri said he would tear up Argentina’s memorandum of understanding with Iran, seek Venezuela’s exclusion from the regional free trade association Mercosur and ease away from a fixed exchange rate with the dollar.

This is the “change of an era”, he declared at a press conference that was itself a sign of greater openness compared to the largely one-way media approach of his leftist predecessor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “We need to be in the world.”

Another elections in which polls under-stated support for the centre-right candidate.

Fernández focused on social programs to address inequality, conducted a centralised economic policy, sought closer trade ties to China and Iran, and aligned herself regionally with like-minded leftist leaders in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Macri, by contrast, has a more global market-orientated stance and looks likely to strengthen links with the United States.

He said his priority would be economic rejuvenation, tackling inflation – currently at around 30% – and encouraging investment.

30% inflation – pity the poor on fixed incomes.


Less staff and more services

November 25th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A decision to cut staff in the Ministry of Youth Development, and instead work with philanthropic and businesses, is an ideological decision which cuts against good process, the Public Service Association says.

Youth Development Minister Nikki Kaye announced today that about 10 staff would go under a restructure which could also see the Ministry’s headquarters move to Auckland.

The cuts were to free up $1 million, which would be put into a new partnership arrangement between the Ministry and philanthropic and business groups to boost the number of youth in leadership programmes from 50,000 to 70,000.

The number of staff is being cut in half, with the savings to go into increasing programmes for youth. That’s excellent, and I hope we see more of this.

She is also considering moving the Ministry’s base to Auckland to be closer to the philanthropic organisations and businesses likely to be involved.

Also good – ministries do not need to be based in Wellington.

Ms Kaye said it would be a big change for a small department, but currently $2.9 million was spent on operational costs by the ministry which administered $6 million for youth development programmes.

Spending $3 million to administer $6 million is way too high.

“That is too much for a small agency. I guess there’ll be 10 fewer officials in Wellington, but that’s 10,000 more places for youth development opportunities.”

It’s tough for the staff affected, but the role of Government is not to create jobs for officials, but to have the right number of officials to deliver government services and policies.


Craig claims $3,000 a month copyright fee for romantic poem!

November 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Colin Craig appears to have claimed ownership of a poem allegedly written for his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.

WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater posted the poem, Two of Me, on his site in July – the day Craig stepped down as leader from the Conservative Party.

In an email to the blogger, seen by media, Craig claimed a “copyright dispute”.

He allegedly wrote that he had withdrawn a previous offer and wanted $3000 per month for the use of his work and a “clear breach of copyright”.

Part of the poem reads: “There is only one of me it’s true, but I wish this were not the case, because I wish that I could have you.”

This just gets more bizarre.

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Police censorship

November 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jarrod Gilbert writes in the Herald:

Sitting in front of me is a 20-page document. It’s my police file. It doesn’t say much, because 17 of those pages are completely blacked out.

I requested my file because I’ve been deemed by the police to be unfit to conduct research – I’ve been banned from accessing basic and uncontroversial police data. As an academic who studies crime, this is rather crippling. It’s also a staggering abuse of power.

The police have deemed me unfit because of my “association with gangs”. This association won’t surprise many people: I did New Zealand’s largest ever study of gangs. It was long, exhausting and sometimes dangerous work, but it was worth it. The research culminated in an award-winning book, and academic publications all around the world.

To get my results I used – in part – an ethnographic method; in other words I hung out with the gangs.

I have been deemed unfit to undertake crime research because I know criminals through studying crime. Bloody hell.

This is ludicrous.

Famous economist Steven Levitt once did research on the economics of drug dealing for his book Freakonomics with Stephen Dubner. That involved spending time with gangs and drug dealers. Would the NZ Police also regard Steven Levitt as unfit to conduct research?

And a 20 page file on an academic? Sure if he has spent time with gangs as part of his research, I would expect some incidental notes about him, but 20 pages?

This Kafkaesque nightmare began when I was leading five researchers (all but one have PhDs and two are full professors) who were working for a large government agency wanting to investigate alcohol-related harms. Part of this project required some basic crime data from the police. It was then that I discovered the lengths police are going to to control research. This is not simply through excluding academics, as they did me, but through contracts that have to be signed to gain basic information. In our case legal opinions suggest that it should be available to any person who asks for it under the Official Information Act.

I would go further. I think all government data, by default, should be publicly available in machine readable format. Obviously personal details should not be included, but I’d love to see the criminal sector databases on convictions, sentencing, rehabilitation etc publicly available so NGOs, researchers and even companies can analyse the data and look for trends, correlations, possible causative factors etc.

The degree of control the police sought over research findings and publications was more than trifling. The research contracts demand that a draft report be provided to police. If the results are deemed to be “negative” then the police will seek to “improve its outcomes”. Both the intent and the language would have impressed George Orwell.

Researchers unprepared to yield and make changes face a clause stating the police “retain the sole right to veto any findings from release”. In other words, if an academic study said something the police didn’t like – or heaven forbid was in any way critical of the police – then the police could stop it being published.

Outrageous. This is not Police private data – this is Government data funded by taxpayers.

These demands were supported by threats. The contracts state that police will “blacklist” the researchers and “any organisations connected to the project … from access to any further police resources” if they don’t abide by police wishes.


After seeking information from the police about their sinister research contracts and to understand why I am banned, I am little the wiser. I have been told the decision to ban me is being reviewed. What I do know is that in an open democracy that puts such a high currency on free speech, the police should not be seeking to muzzle legitimate academic inquiry.

The Police should remove the ban on Dr Gilbert, and change their contracts. It is far enough to perhaps have a clause requiring them to see a draft of any research so they can critique it, but there should be no right of veto.

And further the Government should look at getting this data out of the exclusive control of state agencies, and into the public domain. If (for example) both the Sensible Sentencing Trust and JustSpeak could access criminal and corrections databases, then I’m sure we’d end up with better debate and understanding of criminal justice policies.

It took an OIA request and many months to discover that since the three strikes law came into force, the reoffending rate for strike offences has dropped 62% or so. That shouldn’t require an OIA request. Researchers should be able to find this out for themselves at any time.

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Turkey vs Russia

November 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Turkey has shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, saying the jet had repeatedly violated its air space, in one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a Nato member country and Russia for half a century.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane had been attacked when it was 1kminside Syria  on Tuesday and warned of “serious consequences” for what he termed a stab in the back administered by “the accomplices of terrorists”.

“We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today,” Putin said, as Russian and Turkish shares fell on fears of an escalation between the former Cold War enemies.

I assume the plane was inside Turkish territory.

Turkey had the legal right to shoot the plane down. However that doesn’t mean it should have. Far preferable would be informing Russia of the breaches, and warning them that future breaches will risk being fired on.

The Turkish military said the aircraft had been warned 10 times in the space of five minutes about violating Turkish air space. Officials said a second plane had also approached the border and been warned.

“The data we have is very clear. There were two planes approaching our border, we warned them as they were getting too close,” another senior Turkish official said.

Again Turkey had the legal right, but more prudent would be not just to warn the pilot (who may have orders) but to go up the chain of command.

In Washington, an official said the United States believed the incursion probably lasted only a matter of seconds before the jet was downed.

If correct then it seems regrettable.

I don’t trust what either Russia or Turkey claim. Hopefully an independent country can verify whether it did breach Turkish air space and for how long.

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General Debate 25 November 2015

November 25th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Key on diplomacy

November 25th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting Q&A from Audrey Young with the PM on diplomacy. Some extracts:

Q. Which leader have you got to know a bit better on this trip?

A. Justin Trudeau. I’ve ended up talking to him, for some reason, I don’t know we’ve ended being in these break-out groups and talking to each other. He is extremely friendly and really personable and a thoroughly nice guy. In my heart of hearts I sort of almost didn’t want to strike up an immediate friendship because I was very good friends with [Trudeau’s predecessor] Stephen Harper and feel slightly disloyal. But I have a responsibility as Prime Minister to do my job and also anyway he is just a really nice guy.

Key’s developed good relationships with leaders on the left and right.

Q. What did you make of the Filipino people and why do you think the country hasn’t done better?

A. They are really lovely people and they are incredibly polite so they are very, very nice people and I feel quite tall there. I’m the Sam Whitelock of the Philippines.


Q. What do you think of Malaysia?

A. I like it. On the basis I am never going to be an ambassador so I am not pitching for a job but if they were sending me somewhere, I think as High Commissioner to Malaysia, there’d be a lot worse places to go than Malaysia. The food is great; it’s an interesting place; and I like the climate.

I’ve only ever been to Malaysia for conferences. Would be nice to properly look around one day.

Q. Obama and Turnbull both greatly admire you and it is pretty clear Chinese president Xi Jinping is a fan too. Is that just personally flattering or good for NZ in any way?

Hopefully both. In the end there is no point having stores of political capital unless they can be used for the benefit of the country. That’s where the benefit is. Xi Jinping, I think, but I wouldn’t to overstate things, but I reckon he genuinely does like me. In our bilateral, he was really engaging, really smiley, didn’t use his notes. That is highly unusual for a Chinese leader. He just talked about the issues, how he saw things going.

That is probably the key sign – when you are confident enough to just talk, rather than follow the script.

Obama, I think in a lot of ways we are just easy. A) I’ve been around the whole time he has been around. We speak English. In our system he’d probably be almost right of me. The Democrats are, on our basis, very similar politically to where [National] are. He’d be stronger on climate change, for instance, and maybe the odd issue but generally speaking, pretty right wing, relative to our system. It’s just that the Republicans are very far right.

Cue screams from some commenters here!

I always remember after the G20 [in Brisbane where New Zealand was a guest] I had some intervention [verbal contribution to the issue under discussion] and Cameron texted me and said ‘in all the G20s I’ve been to, that has been the best intervention I’ve heard.’ And Obama came up to me with Cameron afterwards and he said: ‘Ah, it’s a shame you’re not bigger. You’re fun to have around.’ Doesn’t mean they are going to invite me back when they host the G20 but it was kind of flattering.

Our small size can work for us though.  We’re not seen as big enough to threaten anyone!

Q. What is the secret to your success at international diplomacy?

A. Have your own style. The one thing that they like is I don’t read out the MFAT notes. I obviously use them to inform the kind of point I’m making and we have a serious point.

I remember one TV series which had two leaders meeting and they agreed to save time, they’d just pass each other their briefing notes :-)

Q. Are you meeting Merkel at COP21?

A. No, we are going to Berlin afterwards. She invited us back. She had such a great time in New Zealand. She loved New Zealand [when she visited before the Brisbane G20]. She came up to me at the G20 and said she had such a great time and she really loved all the nature stuff. She said so much of her time is spent in meetings inside. The Germans love nature anyway, I reckon as a general characterisation. Her staff said to me she got more coverage in Germany from releasing a kiwi [on Motutapu Is] than what she did at the G20.

Heh.John K


The Queenstown Marathon

November 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I vowed after New York in 2013 to never run another marathon, but the Queenstown Marathon just seemed too beautiful to say no to, so I enrolled for it earlier this year.

Sixteen weeks out I started the serious training schedule. I’d kept up some social running but was a long way off being able to run a significant distance.

Over 16 weeks spent around 64 hours running, covering around 700 kms according to my phone. Mainly in Wellington, but a bit also in Auckland, Dublin and London. I know the location of every water fountain between Westpac Stadium and Scorching Bay. They were the longest training runs – 33 kms from Thorndon to Scorching Bay and back.

Flew down to Queenstown on Friday. There were I think 16 extra flights that day, which explains why Air NZ is their major sponsor.

The weather forecast has been bad all week, but come Saturday and it was near perfect – overcast (so not too hot) but no real rain.



At the start line

The course started at Millbrook which is one of my favourite places to stay in NZ.  From there you head into Arrowtown, and then run alongside the Arrow River for around four kms. I’d biked it before and just as beautiful as previously. The trail had a few bumps in it, and a bit of a climb at the end.

Then it is along Hogans Gully Road to the East side of Lake Hayes.  You run around 90% of Lake Hayes which is equally stunning. The Western side though is really tough – there are three reasonably steep climbs, including at the end. I’m starting to understand who some people who competed last year said you could sue the organisers under the Fair Trading Act for their description of the course as mainly flat.


Around Lake Hayes

Then around 8 kms running along Speargrass Flat Road and the Lower Shotover Road, getting past the halfway point. As  usual, this is the point where the idea of collapsing into a St John Ambulance is quite appealing, and my pace is starting to slow from an initial 11 km/hr to under 10 km/hr. My thanks to Laila Harre who was running her 5th marathon for her pep talk and support. Had many good chats with other runners in the first half. Not quite so many in the second half as you get more exhausted.

But then you hit the Shotover River and the views keep the motivation up, followed by heading along the Kawarau River. Superb views. But around the 30 km mark there is a hideously nasty climb up from the Kawarau River. I’d say 98% of runners walked up the slope. It really wrecks you.

Then around 10 kms to go, heading around the back of Frankton Airport and then alongside Lake Wakatipu. Again the views are amazing, and I’m soaking up the atmosphere despite my slowing pace.


Along Lake Wakatipu

Then it is into the Queenstown Gardens and the final one km is through Queenstown where great crowds cheer you on (and there were lots of spcectators at other locations also), and finally the finish line.

dpf finish


I did New York in 4 hrs 29 minutes and Queenstown was 4 hrs 14 minutes. Was pretty pleased with that considering Queenstown was less flat the New York.

Now I’m looking forward to at least a week off while my legs recover!


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Herald on Goff

November 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Pointedly, Mr Goff offered to bring “a different personality” to the role in his announcement on Sunday. The pity was that he did not offer much else that was different, or indeed much at all. He promises to eliminate wasteful spending and needless bureaucracy. So do they all.

Can he point to any spending committed to by the current Council he does not support? If not, then why should people think rates won’t continue to skyrocket?

He aims for rate rises no higher than at present.

No higher than 10% per annum!!!

He supports higher density residential development and the central rail link. He will not allow the port to expand but he will not sell it, or even shares in it. He will not sell any “strategic assets”.

These are all off-the-shelf positions for a candidate from Mr Goff’s side of politics. Nothing he said on Sunday gave any sign he has been thinking deeply or originally about Auckland and the problems of the council, and what he might do with the sole executive powers of the mayor. Mr Goff has had a long time to consider these things.

It’s swapping one Labour Party Mayor for another.


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Little angling for Rongotai

November 24th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little won’t run in Mt Roskill if MP Phil Goff is successful in his bid for Auckland Mayor, but Rongotai is in his sights.

Little has ruled out running in the long-held Auckland Labour seat saying, “there is a depth of talent out there already”.

Goff announced on Sunday that he would run for the super-city mayoralty next year and would stay on as Mt Roskill MP through to the election.

He would, however, relinquish his Auckland issues portfolio to avoid confusion as to whether he was attending events as an MP or with his mayoral candidate hat on.

When asked if Auckland Central’s Jacinda Ardern was an obvious replacement for the Auckland portfolio, Little said there were a number of Auckland MPs who are “potential candidates for that”.

Little will make his reshuffle announcements in the next week after holding off doing so until Goff had made a decision about the mayoralty race.

Leading the Labour Party and not being “tied to a seat” is a good position to be in, and Little said he would only stand in a seat in 2017 if a “suitable” one came up.

“We could be in a position where Rongotai becomes available so I can’t rule out not standing in a seat,” he said.

Labour deputy leader Annette King holds the Rongotai seat but Little said “depending on what she decided to do” would determine whether he stood there.

That’s pretty unsubtle. Roll over for me Annette!

Little has stood and lost to National MP Jonathan Young in the New Plymouth seat in the last two elections and those losses appear to have taken their toll.

“I haven’t ruled out New Plymouth and I’ve got an office up there and have a presence up there but I’ve run their twice and missed out twice so there are other options I need to consider.”

I recall in 2011 Little was toasted as someone who could win a seat off National, and would do so in his home town. He got heaps of publicity.

The result was Jonathan Young grew his majority from 105 to 4,270.

In 2014 Little stood again.  This time Young’s majority exploded to 9,778.

In fact Little only got back into Parliament because Labour stuffed up their list ranking and failed to achieve the gender target they set. If they had followed their own policy, he would not be an MP!

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20,000 female rugby players

November 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

• 150,727 players – small increase of 163 from 2014
• 80,978 Small Blacks (5-12 years) – increase of 549 (1 percent) compared to 2014
• 42,072 teenagers (13-20 years) – decrease of 242 (0.5 percent) compared to 2014
• 27,677 players aged 21 and over – decrease of 144 (0.5 percent) compared to 2014
• 19,792 female players – increase of 1967 (11 percent) compared to 2014
• 12,109 coaches – increase of 396 (3 percent) compared to 2014
• 1851 referees – decrease of 33 (2 percent) compared to 2014

Almost 20,000 female rugby players is cool – around one in seven players are female.

When I was a kid, 90% to 95% of rugby spectators were men. Now at big matches I reckon close to half the audience are women. Rugby has gone from just being a male sport.

Anyway those stats got me wondering what the gender breakdown is in other sports in NZ? How many netball players are men? How many cricket players are women?

Anyone got data on other sports?


Hide on Labour and unions

November 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in NBR:

The stunning revelation of Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater’s e-book Dodgy Unions is how little they give the Labour Party.

I had always thought it was millions.  

That’s because of the power union bosses exercise over the party. Union bosses get to vote for party leader, they block vote candidate selection, get a say on the party list, have a seat at the all-powerful national council and carry a block vote at regional and national conferences. …

I had always assumed that the Labour Party put up with the unions for the money.

But what’s truly shocking from Dodgy Unions is that Labour sells itself so cheap.

The union movement takes in $120 million a year. It has equity of over $120 million.

But over the past 18 years the unions have given Labour only $700,000. That’s less than $40,000 a year. For every thousand dollars the unions rake in only 33c goes to Labour.

Labour sell themselves cheaply!!

Imagine if the national board of Federated Farmers had a vote for the leader of the National Party, National’s list, electorate candidates and had a guaranteed seat on the board of directors. There would be outrage. And rightly so.

But somehow the unions’ unhealthy sway over Labour is overlooked.

If National had such an arrangement there would be numerous books by Nicky Hager on it. It would condemned by every editorial writer in the land. But Labour gets a free pass for it.

The unions are fat and rich, they have enormous power within Labour but are tightwad funders; so much so that Labour is running deficits unable to afford its pretence of a democratic election for leader.

Labour MPs have long complained union domination is disheartening and disempowering them and their members. The question I have now, is why do they put up with it?

Because they get deselected if they complain publicly.

Labour’s constitution reads like something from the UN. The all-powerful National Council must have a Maori senior vice-president, an affiliate vice-president, a Pacific Islands vice-president, a women’s vice-president, a youth vice-president, a rainbow representative and two representatives elected by Te Kaunihera Maori, one of whom shall be a woman.

The party exhausts itself on identity politics overlaid with raw union power. It’s no wonder it’s broke and out-of-puff.

National’s board is much simpler. Apart from the leader and caucus rep, it has seven members – all elected by the National Conference. No quotas, no representatives – just the people deemed best suited to serve on the board.

The party needs deep constitutional and organisational reform to be fit for purpose. What’s needed is a leadership not pandering to special interests but smashing them.

As their current leader only got elected by the union block vote, that is unlikely.

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