Archive for November, 2006

Blog Outage

November 30th, 2006 at 7:52 pm by David Farrar

There was a planned move to a different server today, but it encountered some problems so the blog was down for a bit, It looks like a few comments may have been lost also.

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David Cameron

November 30th, 2006 at 7:23 pm by David Farrar

The 2006 Council meeting of the International Young Democrat Union kicked off last night with a wonderful function at Australia House, the Australian High Commission, with David Cameron as guest of honour.

I was lucky to have got there early before it filled up (250 attending) and so got to chat a bit with Cameron as he did the room. He was up to date on NZ politics, and international politics generally.

Cameron is definitely charismatic and engaging. Very easy to talk to, and has a nicely developed sense of humour. I do hope he beats Gordon Brown in 2009/2010.

Cameron spoke on the five things conservative parties should do to renew themselves. He made a very good case for why protecting the planet should be just as much a conservative brand as national security. He spoke well too on the problems in Iraq while unreservedly saying he was a great friend of the US and always would be. Cameron had just returned from Baghdad that day.

I had wondered how we managed to get the Australian High Commission to host us, and it clicked into place when someone pointed out the Chairman of the parent IDU is of course John Howard. Thanks John for the wonderful hospitality. The function room we were in was actually used to film some scenes in one of the Harry Potter films. The NZ High Commissioner, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, was also in attendance, and went out of his way to chat to the four New Zealanders who were there, which was appreciated.

The funniest moment for me was chatting to a very senior British politican who upon hearing we are from NZ, went on to reveal that Helen Clark had not curtsied to the Queen at the remembrance day celebrations. All us Kiwis laughed and said she has a habit of offending the Queen and past sins were wearing trousers and refusing to allow grace to be said, despite her role as the Head of the Church of England.

I may be a republican myself, but I do believe you give full respect to the sovereign, while she serves.

Was overall a great evening. The Australian waiting staff filled your glasses up if they get below 80% full, so the wine flowed all night, and I had the pleasure of catching up with old friends and acquaintances from Australia, Sri Lanka, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the US, UK and Taiwan etc. A good turnout from Eastern Europe especially.

The council meeting runs until Saturday. I’m presenting at one session on Friday, and then that evening is the highlight – a function with the person who was Leader of the Conservative Party five before Cameron. I think most would know her name!

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Bye Don

November 30th, 2006 at 7:01 pm by David Farrar

Blog has been down so most will know by now Don Brash is leaving Parliament this year. National owes him a great deal for the increase in votes, members and money he brought in.

I’ll look forward to atending his valedictory speech.

And while I was not keen to lose Don from Parliament, one upside is that Wellington gains an additional National MP with Katrina Shanks replacing Don. This now gives three MPs (Blumsky, Finlayson, Shanks) to cover the Wellington area, plus neigbours Hayes and Guy up the east and west coasts.

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Fiji

November 30th, 2006 at 6:53 pm by David Farrar

There hasn’t officially been a coup, but with the Army Commodore instructing the PM as to what bills to pass and not to pass, Fiji is a country ruled by a military dictator, with a pretence of democracy.

So the coup has not been stopped, it had just happened by acquiescence.

In a way I would rather there had been an actual coup, because I had a cunning plan to book an immediate holiday to Fiji on the day the coup. Airfares would be half price and accommodation probably 75% off. And so long as away from Suva, you’d not even notice any soldiers. So if they do go ahead and make it official, let me know if you want to join us for a cheap coup holiday :-)

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Happy 50th SIS

November 30th, 2006 at 5:58 am by David Farrar

The SIS has had its 50th birthday party and the guests included the CIA Director plus counterparts from MI5, MI6, ASIO, ASIS, CSIS.

Now the best thing about being the SIS, and not any other Department, is you can refuse to reveal the costs of the party on the grounds it is a security matter!!

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MP Pay Rises

November 30th, 2006 at 5:36 am by David Farrar

The annual pay rises for MPs were announced today – normally the most unpopular news of the year. The increases are in line with inflation at 3.8% to 4.1%.

I have for a long time favoured changing the way MP pay rates are adjusted, from an annual to a three-yearly regime. By having an increase every year it always looks like MPs voting themselves a payrise (even though not decided by then).

What I would do is have the Remuneration Authority set the salaries once every three years – around three months before a general election. The level they are set at to reflect it is to last for three years. This way MPs get elected to the job knowing what the salary is, and they get no increase during a term of Parliament.

Won’t save money, or cost more, but would go down better with the public in my opinion.

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Bad Marc Ellis

November 29th, 2006 at 7:56 am by David Farrar

A sociologist from Waikato University (yes seriously) has criticised Marc Ellis for reinforcing traditional male chauvinist attitudes to women on Sportscafe.

Ironically most of my female friends love that show.

Anyway get these quotes:

Overall, our analysis revealed that Sportscafe constructed a discourse about gender that privileged new lad masculinity and reinforced the marginalisation of women, while masking its messages in boyish humour.

Overall, our analysis revealed that Sportscafe constructed a discourse about gender that privileged new lad masculinity and reinforced the marginalisation of women, while masking its messages in boyish humour.

They do note though:

Ellis himself had once been filmed in a sado-masochistic outfit being led on a leash by Matthew Ridge through a gay part of Buenos Aires.

Ellis should be in Cabinet!!!

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Stability

November 29th, 2006 at 7:11 am by David Farrar

Bill English is quoted by the NZ Herald as saying he does not think he will be leader again, and that this is a permament and stable leadership.

I had been thinking much the same yesterday. Unless there is some scandal or disaster I can’t see any scenario where the Key/English team wouldn’t lead National into at least the next two elections, maybe even the next three. And this is a good thing not to be changing as often as National has been.

One also has a relatively youthful yet experienced front bench who should be able to stick together also for at least two or three elections. The average age of the National front bench (top eight) is a fairly youthful 43. Labour by comparison has an average front bench age of 57, so will be just under 60 at the next election.

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Peters proving useful

November 29th, 2006 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

One can only praise the efforts of Winston Peters to stop the Fijian coup, and it is a credit that he has at least got the PM and the Commodore to meet each other in NZ with talks brokered by him.

Peters went to (I think) school or university with the Commodore and is an old acquaintance so he has a better chance than most of achieving something.

The chance of a coup is still high. If another one does happen it will reinforce why allowing even one coup to be sucessful is a very bad thing – they become an accepted political action.

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Heh

November 28th, 2006 at 2:04 pm by David Farrar

G-Man has details of the Government decision to unbundle Kiwiblog. An extract:


“For years now, actually 4, David Farrar has exploited his position as the highest rated blog in New Zealand, despite demands to the contrary. We feel it is therefore in the greater public interest to break-up this virtual monopoly. he has used and abused his position shamelessly, at the expense of others who have been forced to read his amusing yarns and Babylon 5 anecdotes, often against their very will,” said Chairperson Katherine Rich.

Of course the cost of building a blog to compete with Kiwiblog is oh around NZ5c while the cost of building a rival local loop would be around $5 billion, but hey it’s still an amusing analogy.

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Key’s first speech as Leader

November 28th, 2006 at 1:08 pm by David Farrar

John Key has delivered his first speech as Party Leader. It’s a very good introduction to the new Leader and what his beliefs are. I recommend people read the entire speech, but below anyway are the parts that struck me the most:

You may know that before entering politics I had a career in international finance. That career was sufficiently successful that from time to time the media likes to question me about what I might be “worth”.

Such questions imply that in the totality of my life, my investments are the most important assets I have accrued. How wrong that is. As a husband and father, the things I value most in life are not anything you’ll see listed on the Stock Exchange.

I support families. In modern New Zealand they come in many shapes and sizes, so let me tell you that I for one will not pre-judge the construction of them. They are in my view the most important institution in our society, and any government I have the privilege of leading will do what it can to support them.

My father died when I was a young child. I do not remember him.I was raised, along with my sisters, by my mother, in a state house in Christchurch. Back then I thought I was poor and, by most standards, we were. As I grew up, though, I recognised that what my mother gave to my sisters and I was far more valuable than money.

She instilled in us the desire to improve ourselves by our own hard work, the confidence that we were able to do it, and the hope that it was possible to do so. She instilled in me an ethic of hard work and determination and a genuine belief that “you get out of life what you put into it”.

There will always be a social welfare system in New Zealand because you can measure a society by how it looks after its most vulnerable. Once, I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.

Yet, also, you can measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who are able to work, and able to take responsibility for their own lives and their children’s lives, yet end up depending long-term on the State.

The government, of course, has an important role to play in the modern economy. But the appropriate role for the government is in the background, not in the foreground. We need to improve the regulatory and institutional conditions under which firms operate, and then step back and let them establish, grow, export and hire staff.

I am by nature an optimistic person. I am, after all, a Blues supporter. [DPF - heh]

If you are looking for a guide to my political philosophy then I suggest you look no further than the core values and principles of the National Party.

Personal freedom, individual responsibility, a competitive economy, and support for families and communities are the very principles under which the party was formed 70 years ago, and they are as relevant today as they were then.

The National Party will always believe in one standard of citizenship and I want to make this very clear to you today.Yet within that standard of citizenship we should celebrate the cultural, religious and ethnic differences we all bring to New Zealand.

Maori are the tangata whenua of this country, and we have nothing to fear by acknowledging that. It is part of what makes New Zealand unique. I welcome the Maori renaissance, and some of the great initiatives like the kohanga reo movement which have come from Maori, for Maori.

It is a mystery to me why the political Left acts as if it has a monopoly on environmental policies, when it is obvious to anyone who cares to look that all of us, across the political spectrum, with the exception perhaps of the Greens, have taken too long to put the protection of our environment at the forefront of our thinking.

That needs to change. In the National Party we have taken steps to do this, and we will be taking more steps.

I hope this gives you a brief overview of some of the core principles that motivate me as Leader of the National Party.

There is much, much more to come, and I relish the challenge of building the policies and vision that will help create for New Zealand a more dynamic future.

Again I think it was a very good speech. It set out some differences between National and Labour, yet very nicely got away good messages on welfare, education, family and ethnic diversity and the environment.

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Operational Separation for Telecom

November 28th, 2006 at 11:50 am by David Farrar

The Telecommunications Amendment Act has been reported back by the Finance & Expenditure Select Committee, and it looks to be very good news.

The Committee was almost unanimous in endorsing, and improving the bill. MPs from Labour, National, NZ First, Maori, United Future and the Green Party all agreed on the report. ACT were, not surprisingly, against.

The major change is that the Select Committee has voted to impose a three-way operational split on Telecom into network, wholesale and retail arms. This is the British Telecom model, and something InternetNZ advocated in its submission.

This model should actually allow the market to work by putting in place the right incentives for Telecom at the network and wholesale levels.

Other aspects of the Bill are:
* A maximum $10 million fine for not complying with a separation undertaking
* UBS pricing principle remains retail minus
* Provision for competitive backhaul services between exchanges
* No structural separation option

In relation to structural separation, that is the one big thing missing which could have been useful. Having that as a reserve power would help with a genuine culture change at Telecom to make operational separation work. But hopefully it is unnecessary.

Also worth quoting the Select Committee on compensation:

“There are many precedents for this type of regulatory action when a company with market power is required to provide competitors with access to its network or faces controls over the prices it can charge. Moreover, Telecom will be paid a price based on the efficient costs of providing the unbundled local loop. The majority also noted that when Telecom shares were initially offered for sale the Government reserved the right introduce further regulation if effective competition did not emerge.”

This is quite right to my mind (I await being told by the Libertarianz I am out of my mind). A vertically integrated monopoly is that rare beast which should be regulated if competition is stymied. And the problem is that for over a decade Telecom has stymied effective competition. Eight years for number portability is a sad joke. The commercial UBS service was disastrously rolled out. Telecom frankly are lucky to have escaped action for so long. They got too cute at blocking effective competition, that the original reserve power of regulation became the only option.

Kudos to the Minister (David Cunliffe) and the Select Committee Chair (Shane Jones) for getting the bill to this point, and also to all the members of the select committee. As I said when I blogged about our oral submission back in September, there was some really excellent questioning and discussion from MPs indicating they really had done their homework on what can be a very complex area.

It should come up for second reading next week, and based on the select committee report should be passed by the House with a 119-2 vote.

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Editorials on Key

November 28th, 2006 at 5:41 am by David Farrar

The Press Editorial says John Key, has made a promising start to his new job with the successful deal-making over the deputy leader’s position.

And the Dominion Post is even more positive, saying “John Key has achieved the best of all possible starts to the job:

The Press also looks at the expected winners and losers.

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Advice from Armstrong

November 28th, 2006 at 5:30 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong has his “top ten keys for success” as advice to John Key. They are:

1 Maintain momentum through to Christmas and beyond.
2 Get Key to stamp his mark on Parliament.
3 Reach out to the country’s women voters.
4 Seek an urgent rapprochement with Maori.
5 Reach out to other parties in Parliament.
6 Think laterally. Surprise.
7 Respect the enemy’s ability to recover.
8 Stop trying to win unwinnable arguments.
9 Appoint a chief press secretary who can speak for the leader.
10 Nudge Don Brash into quitting politics altogether.

What do people think?

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Who will pay for Eden Park?

November 27th, 2006 at 3:58 pm by David Farrar

Eden Park redevelopment is forecast to be $385 million. Expected funders are:

Trust Board $90m
Lotteries $70m

The City Council is talking $50 million but $26 million may go on roading to it. Likewise ARC is talking money into public transport only. Personally I think the ARC should be making a direct contribution – it is most certainly a regional stadium.

The Govt would find it very hard politically to put in more than $100 million. So the shortfall looks to be at least $75 million which I suspect at the end of the day will end up with Auckland City ratepayers.

I am glad the plans for a hotel and airport tax has been dropped. It would have been grossly unfair to travellers and the tourism industry.

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It’s Eden Park

November 27th, 2006 at 3:50 pm by David Farrar

The Government has bowed to the inevitable and announced it is backing the redevelopment of Eden Park stadium — subject to the resolution of design, funding and governance issues.

The second of those would be messy.

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Key and English elected

November 27th, 2006 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

As expected, the National Caucus today elected, without opposition, John Key as its 11th Leader and Bill English as its 14th Deputy Leader (he was also the 10th Deputy Leader).

In theory John Key is only Leader of the parliamentary section until his leadership is confirmed by the Party Board at which point he becomes overall Party Leader. I suspect a conference call of the Board will happen this afternoon to rubber-stamp the decision.

Key has become Leader after only four years in Parliament – this would be a record for both Labour and National, but of course Don Brash became Leader in just 18 months. This contrasts with Keith Holyoake and John Marshall who were MPs for 25 and 26 years respectively before they became Leader.

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PMS Survival Tips

November 27th, 2006 at 10:33 am by David Farrar

It’s not quite what you expect. Very funny though.

Hat Tip: Steve

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Did you know?

November 27th, 2006 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

John Key and Bill English were both born in 1961, so both are 45 years old.

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A question?

November 27th, 2006 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

If a PR firm is allowed to offer prizes for the first journalist who who uses the word “starkish” in a news story, am I allowed to offer a prize for the first journalist to ask the PM at her press conference a question which has the term “panty-slut boy” in it?

And if so, what should the prize be?

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Hollowing out the Hollow Man

November 27th, 2006 at 7:04 am by David Farrar

It is becoming clear that the Hollow Man book seems based entirely on the stolen e-mails and Hager has in no way gained confirmation from anyone as to the context of some of them, and what actions if any followed an e-mail.

Now this is not to say the entire book can be dismissed. On the face of it I have some concerns over MPs being too involved with fund-raising. I won’t comment more until I can read the book, but I am a strong believer in having this very much done by the organisational wing.

But many of Hager’s wild claims are melting away. The so called “smoking gun” e-mail which Hager claims was forwarded on to the Steven Joyce by Brash, was in fact never seen by Brash, according to him. Now of course some may say “He would say that wouldn’t he” but the burden of proof is on Hager to prove his assertion, and I doubt he can. Plus I know more than 99.9999% of people about how Don’s e-mail system works and can verify certain things.

Don is known to be a very proficient e-mailer. He does read and respond to his e-mail. In fact he is so diligent at doing this, that he would spend hours every week doing thoughtful replies to members of the public who e-mailed him. But once he became Leader the demands on his time were much greater, and he somewhat reluctantly agreed to have e-mail sent to his publicly known addresses to go to a staff member, and he got given a new e-mail address which was only known to a relatively select few, which he maintained.

So while I can not speak to any individual e-mail (esp as this happened after I left Parliament), I can say that it is absolutely correct that e-mail sent in May 2005 to Don’s public address would generally not have seen by him and staff would have made the decision on how it is responded to. If it had been forwarded onto Steven Joyce, then that would indicate they decided to refer it to HQ, and wouldn’t show it to Don.

Also Rod Deane has stated he had never given a cent to any political party, in response to Hager claiming he was a big donor to National. Can Hager verify his assertion?

Talking of funding, I understand I even get a brief mention as a funder because I attended one of the fund-raising dinners last year. My God it doesn’t take much to be counted as a funder.

This article in The Press also deals with more details of what the book has wrong.

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The Unity Ticket

November 26th, 2006 at 10:04 pm by David Farrar

Gerry Brownlee will not restand for Deputy Leader, which means a unity tickey of John Key and Bill English will be elected annointed on Monday. This is a very good outcome for Caucus and the Party, while somewhat tough on Gerry who I think has put in a damn good performance this year, It’s just the reality of politics, that sometimes you move sideways. In the long term I think Gerry will gain kudos for his decision.

My expectations is Bill will be Deputy and Finance, with Gerry No 3 and still Shadow Leader. Beyond that I won’t guess!

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Latest TV Shows

November 26th, 2006 at 12:49 pm by David Farrar

Thanks to some kind friends overseas, I’ve been able to see some of the new series there are, and new seasons of existing seasons. Here’s what we’ve got coming

Heroes – this is the major new hit in the US. Twelve strangers all discover they have powers of some sort and they have to come together to stop an unimaginable disaster. It’s got the mystery of Lost, some wonderful characters and one big over-arching plot. Hiro is my favourite hero – everyone loves him and he even has his own blog!

Robin Hood – a new adaptation from the BBC. I like it. The Robin is very arrogant but appealing. And the Sherriff is wonderfully wicked. Oh yes Marian kicks ass also.

Torchwood – another BBC new series – a spin off from Dr Who set in Cardiff. It’s a mixture of a grimy crime series but with aliens and technology. Oh yes Captain Jack is the main lead.

Grey’s Anatomy – Season Three hasn’t quite got the drama of the previous seasons. The Meredith/McDreamy saga can only go on so long. And all the characters are becoming too nice. Bring back the Nazi!

House – episodes are still mainly stand alone, but with a bit more plot development happening in terms of House who has his leg get better.

Boston Legal – starting to go off this one. Shatner is still hilarious as Denny Crane, but not enough focus on Alan Shore and his outrageous unethical legal strategies. Becoming too much of a soap opera.

Battlestar Galactica – Season Three rocks. It has some amazing plot twists and amazing scenes such as where the Galactica screams towards a planet at full speed, lets off its fighters and then ports away just before it crashes. And you see the Pegasus take on three Cylon base ships. BG has become the cult programme for Sci Fi fans.

Lost – the mystery is starting to fade, but still enough to keep it interesting. I don’t see too many more seasons for it though.

Desperate Housewives – this went downhill in Season Two but Season Three has picked up the pace again. The Carlos/.Gaby wars are priceless and last week the episode with hostages was a stunner. They’ve regained the ability to surprise.

South Park – the second half of Season Ten is as offensive as also. To be balanced they do a two parter taking the piss of atheists which is fun.

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Amusing Lines

November 26th, 2006 at 6:24 am by David Farrar

The SST has highlighted some of the more frank e-mails quoted in the Hager book.

It’s hard not to laugh as one reads them. They are of course totally typical of the sort of debate and advice that happens in parties.

Once I’ve got the full book, I may run a competition for best line. Peter Keenan on how some core supporters are “almost barking mad” must be an early front-runner. Peter is incidentially correct :-)

The more and more that the media report what is in the book, the more convinced I am that not a single “insider” has talked to or co-operated with Hager. Absolutely everything seems to be based on the stolen e-mails. Maybe the full book does have more in it, but the reports to date have only referred to material from the e-mails.

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Laws on Smacking

November 26th, 2006 at 6:15 am by David Farrar

Some common sense from Michael Laws on the anti-smacking bill:

It won’t save one Kahui, Lillybing or Coral-Ellen Burrows.

Which is the real problem with the liberal, white women who are chiefly responsible for this anti-smacking legislation. They think child abusers are like them. That putting up a “Stop” sign in parliament will amend their behaviour. It’s like wearing a white ribbon to stop domestic violence – a meaningless gesture.

They will, in fact, achieve the opposite of their aim. They will make potential criminals of literally hundreds of thousands of New Zealand parents. We “correct with force” because we love, we occasionally smack so that we may save. And we have a very simple message for the Bradfords, Pillays and Riches of this world.

We don’t tell you how to raise your kids. You don’t tell us how to raise ours.

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