Archive for January, 2009

Social Media Conference

January 31st, 2009 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

For those who want to know more about social media and online marketing, there is a conference in Wellington on 15/16 April on it.

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Paula Bennett and Viliami Halaholo

January 31st, 2009 at 3:38 pm by David Farrar

I guess the Sunday papers tomorrow will have more details around Paula Bennett’s family relationship with Villami Halaholo as she has released today two letters she wrote in 2007 and mid 2008 to the Parole Board on his behalf.

John Key has also done a release, and sees nothing improper with her advocacy when she was an Opposition MP. However he has chided Bennett for not revealing the letters to him last week when this issue first went public.

So there are two issues here – the letters, and the revealing of them. Let’s quote from the letters:

My daughter is no fool and she started laying down the law pretty heavily on him. If he wanted to be with her then he needed to make some pretty major changes in his life – and he started to. For every couple of steps forward in the early days he would take the odd one back and the night of the incident (that he has since been convicted for) has been his biggest step back ever and has in retrospect been a positive turning point in his life. It would have been easy for us to turn our back on him at that stage and leave him to grow up in jail, but we can be pretty stubborn ourselves, and my daughter and I believed that it was a complete error of judgment on his behalf, he could move forward, but it was up to him. He moved into my residence at that time as a border and he committed himself to staying out of trouble, obeying the law and finding work.

And he has done that. For the last two years he has made significant and consistent changes in his life. Viliami got himself a job. At first he was temping and working in a factory, when this temporary job came to an end, he went out and found another one and has been working overtime and what ever hours he can to provide for his family.

If he has gone from breaking the law to being in employment and working hard, that is a good thing. And you would expect Paula as the baby’s grandmother to want the father in the family, if he has turned himself around. Of course we don’t know if he has behaved in prison, but imagine this will be known to the Parole Board.

So the issue is more the process one of not revealing the advocacy after the initial stories last weekend. And this can be a headache because there is nothing worse than deciding how to respond to an issue, if you do not know all the facts.

I’m a believer in taking a fairly harsh inquisitorial role when “issues” arise. The way I would handle it is to have a staffer sit down with the affected persons and ask them everything they can think of. When did you first meet him? What exactly has he done? Who as affected? How often have you had to help him out? What letters have you ever written about him? Who knows about X? etc etc. Such a session may take some hours, but in my experience it is better to know too much than not enough.

In this case, the existence of the letters doesn’t seem particularly significant. It is what you would expect from family members, and being an MP is not a reason not to advocate. However being a Minister is such a reason, as they have executiye authority within the Government.

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Provincial Anniversay Days

January 31st, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey blogs that the provincial anniversary days should all be on the same day:

We should be bringing together all of these itsy, bitsy little provincial holidays into one national day so we can all have a day off. It would no doubt significantly improve productivity on all these itsy, bitsy days and ensure we all still get a day off.

We could call it National Provincial Day Off. After all, does anyone really care or know why today is Auckland Anniversary Day and last Monday was Wellington Anniversary Day?

I agree. The whole idea of public holidays is that most of the country is n holiday, so you can relax. Otherwise you’d abolish public holidays and just give everyone two week’s extra annual leave.

So having different holidays in each province is silly. Especially considering we no longer even have provinces!

The holiday should just be set for all of the country as the last Monday in January. It’s a good time for a break.

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Halving prison construction costs

January 31st, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports that Corrections Minister Judith Collins is hoping to be able to construct new prisons at $300,000 per cell compared to $660,000 it was costing under Labour:

Corrections Minister Judith Collins has slammed the “extravagance” of the previous Government’s prison building programme and is looking at using pre-fabricated modular units to slash construction costs by more than half.

She said new jails – which will be required to accommodate the boost in inmate numbers flowing from National’s tougher stance on sentencing and parole – would be “functional, humane and safe” but not “luxurious”.

As an example of Labour’s extravagant spending, she cited the $380 million Spring Hill Corrections Facility in the Waikato which worked out at around $660,000 per cell to build once all costs were taken into account.

“You can buy two houses for that. You’ve got to do better than that.

“There has been a lack of accountability because there has been too much money. We don’t have the luxury of taxes rolling in.”

Ms Collins said she had asked her officials to present her with ideas on prison construction which had been rejected by the previous Government. They had presented her with a modular design used in Australia which, including infrastructure and other construction costs, worked out at around $300,000 a cell.

If they are good enough for Australia, they should be good enough for us!

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Fran says can tax cuts

January 31st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan calls for National to can its 1 April tax cuts and put the money into boosted unemployment benefits and superannuation.

It’s amazing how so many people keep calling on National to break its election promises within just weeks of the election.

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Herald on Yang Liu

January 31st, 2009 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

Finally we have the mainstream media publishing on the Yang Liu citizenship scandal. Well done to the NZ Herald who have a long story by Phil Taylor:

Jones granted Liu citizenship against the advice of Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) officials who informed the minister that Liu was suspected of identity fraud, including entering New Zealand and applying for permanent residency and citizenship under a false name, and was subject to an Interpol red notice indicating he was wanted for arrest in China on charges relating to alleged large-scale misappropriation and embezzlement and of stealing another person’s identity and using it to obtain two false passports.

Liu had not resolved the matter, either by contacting the Chinese authorities or through the Chinese court system, Jones was told, and “had not fulfilled the onus of satisfying … that he meets the good character requirement” of the Citizenship Act.

Jones has not publicly explained why he overrode advice to decline Liu’s citizenship application and earlier this month declined the Herald’s request to do so.

And that is not good enough. MPs and Ministers need to be accountable for their decisions. You can refuse to comment if it is some issue of private business. But you can’t hand out cizienship to alleged wanted criminals and refuse to explain.

And then we have:

By 2007 Immigration officials recommended Liu’s permanent residency be revoked on grounds that he had allegedly provided false information.

The Immigration Minister of the time, David Cunliffe, did not act on the advice, instead recommending further investigation and noting that he did not “discount the possibility of reconsidering it in the future”.

As part of those further investigations, Immigration last April obtained a search warrant to seize from the DIA identity documents Liu had provided as part of his citizenship application.

Two weeks later Samuels wrote to Barker again, condemning the delay and urging Liu’s citizenship application be given urgent attention.

Delegating for Barker, Jones granted citizenship to Liu on August 6, 2008.

Five days later, Liu had a citizenship ceremony at Parliament, in the Maori Affairs select committee room. Samuels officiated.

So DIA are saying this guy is so bad you should revoke his residency, while Labour Ministers not only refused to do that, but did the opposite by making him a citizen and giving him a private VIP ceremony at Parliament.

A second story by Taylor focuses on David Cunliffe:

The Weekend Herald can reveal that Mr Liu was given citizenship nine months after officials advised the Immigration Minister at the time, David Cunliffe, that dual identities allegedly used by Mr Liu were grounds to revoke his permanent residency. They provided a legal opinion in support.

So you have multiple people in the gun:

  • Shane Jones for giving him citizenship, against advice
  • David Cunliffe for refusing to revoke his permanent residency, against advice
  • Dover Samuels for advocating on behalf of Liu, despite knowing about the allegations from China

As I said, it is excellent to see the Herald cover this story. A pity though they did not credit the original investigation by TGIF.

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The Naitoko family

January 31st, 2009 at 9:12 am by David Farrar

Stuff has an article on the funeral of Halatau Naitoko. Regardless of who is to blame, it is incredibly sad that a young man was killed. I have to say how impressed I am with his family who are mourning their loss, undergoing huge media interest yet have retained dignity and have not gone into the blame game.

They absolutely want answers, and will want accountability – and should get it. But I compare this to Steven Wallace where the family almost “lynched” the police officer in the media. While here we have:

Pastor Vosailangi Sikalu speaking through an interpreter told the gathering the blood of an innocent boy had been spilled.

“That blood is crying out for forgiveness,” he said. “Let that be the message to the Government officials and dignitaries, the minister of police, the police commissioner, even to the beloved policeman who fired the fatal shot.”

Now forgiveness should not be mistaken for no consequences. This is the first ever time the Police have killed “the wrong person” and the IPCA and others must leave no stone unturned working out what happened, how it could have been avoided, and most of all whether the care used by Police was adequate.

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General Debate 31 January 2009

January 31st, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Hey what happened to January? I want it back!

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VDSL2

January 31st, 2009 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports on Telecom’s announcement that it will roll out VDSL2 to it cabinets.

If you live within a km of a cabinet in theory you can get 50 Mb/s download speed and 20 Mb/s upload. In reality it will be less than this due to congestion on the backhaul.

It’s good to see Telecom making this available.  The price details will be interesting, once known.

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Neo Nazi Infighting

January 30th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged a couple of weeks ago on Kyle Chapman’s Nationalist Alliance plans to have a whites only community in North Canterbury. That story made both TV channels, newspapers and press (and not a single one of them credited the source of the story but hey it’s a public service).

Anyway Mr Chapman has sent out a further missive, and in it says:

The NF as an org have decided they do not endorse the Land Base. I do encourage NF members to let their officers know how they feel about this project that IS very valuable to our movement.

So you have the National Front saying they don’t support the whites only community, and the Nationalist Alliance urging their members who are also NF members to change the mind of the National Front.

This is why I don’t think it is going to happen anytime soon!

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A viral ad for Air NZ

January 30th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

This is an ad, but it is a short little clip that pokes fun at all the little tricks used to sell you a seat on a budget airline. Enjoy.

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A party SWOT at NBR

January 30th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

In my first NBR online column of the year, I do a SWOT analysis of the parliamentary parties, rather than the normal review of the week in politics. An extract is:

Progressive

Strengths: Jim Anderton. Well respected for his job as Agriculture Minister.

Weaknesses: No brand outside Anderton and no real differentiation from Labour.

Opportunities: To reunite his party back into Labour. If they are to continue as a seperate party, replace Matt Robson as Deputy Leader with Josie Pagani.

Threats: Jim is 73 at the next election and it is far from guaranteed that Progressives would retain his seat if he retires or expires.

Feedback and comments canbe made over at NBR.

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General Debate 30 January 2009

January 30th, 2009 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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Where are her parents?

January 30th, 2009 at 6:48 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

A 14-year-old Whangarei girl, legally too young to have sex, buy alcohol, or drive a car, has shocked police who this week caught her behind the wheel, five times the drink-drive limit and four months pregnant.

This is staggeringly bad. It is not so much that her life is so fucked up, but the damage being done to her child to be.

This is almost grounds for CYFS to remove the baby at birth.

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Interest Rate Margins

January 29th, 2009 at 9:00 pm by David Farrar

intratediff

This graph used the Reserve Bank data and shows the difference between what banks are charging for floating mortgages and what they pay for six month term deposits.

The big spike at the end is the credit crisis at work, but also maybe showing that the banks are not doing too badly.

But what I found interesting is there has also been a gradual increase since 2000 in the margin.

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Blog Bits

January 29th, 2009 at 7:00 pm by David Farrar
  1. Alf Grumble MP blogs on how a South Korean has been prosecuted and faces up to five years jail for his pessimistic financial blogging. If Bernard Hickey was in South Korea I reckon he’d be facing 25 years to life :-)
  2. Adam Smith blogs on how the UK Government has backed away from its plans to force ISPs to disconnect Internet users on the basis of allegations of copyright infringement. Now we just need the NZ Government to do the same, but sadly not looking positive.
  3. Bill Ralston blogs on the killing of Halatau Naitoko and says “Police instructions are quite clear on the use of “deadly force”. You can shoot at an offender to defend yourself or others if you fear death and cannot protect yourself in any other way. You can shoot if you think the offender is likely to kill someone and you cannot delay or arrest him in any other way. You can shoot if that person is likely to kill and is escaping arrest. On all three counts the officers were within their right to shoot at that maniac. Unless the Police Conduct Authority exposes some completely reckless act of negligence by police it would be completely unfair to charge the cop who fired the fatal shot.”
  4. Matt Nolan blogs on how stupid Phil Goff’s idea is that banks should be forced to allow people to break fixed rate contracts without penalty and says it is as sensible as say “I tell you what, while we’re at it why don’t we also make it that employers can break contracts and make employees reapply for their jobs when wage rates are falling (when unemployment is high)?”
  5. No Right Turn updates us on the situation in Canada with the constitutional crisis over the Government losing the confidence of the House just weeks after being sworn in. The latest is the Liberal Party has now backed down from rolling the Government (a sensible move as they faced a massive backlash for breaking their word not to go into coalition with the NDP) and the Conservative Government will pass its budget with the support of the Liberal Party.
  6. Graeme Edgeler makes the case for NZ to consider a limited use of grand juries in cases such as the Halatau Naitoko shooting, as superior to havign the Police and Crown Law decide unilaterally whether to lay charges or not lay charges. Stephen Franks blogs on the issue also.
  7. Scrubone responds to a post on the Standard about how superior “progressives” are to “conservatives”. He points out that despite liberal headed househodls earning 6% more, conservative headed households in the US donate 30% more to charity and that people wh reject the notion that it is the Government’s job to reduce income inequality give four times as much as those who accept it. So in summary he says conservatives walk the walk while liberals talk the talk.
  8. Colin Espiner is back from holiday and is looking on the bright side of life.
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Obama mania

January 29th, 2009 at 5:30 pm by David Farrar

God I am getting sick of almost 24/7 coverage of everything Obama does. Don’t get me wrong – I have no criticism of the job he is doing to date. But the media fixation is just so over the top.

Ian Wishart reminds us that Reagan’s inauguration in 1981 got a 37% TV share compared to 29% for Obama. But Reagan didn’t have the media report on his first ten days with near hourly updates.

As one example, the NZ Herald has done 103 stories mentioning Barack Obama from Inauguration Day last Wednesday to today. 103 stories in nine days.

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From insanity to smugness

January 29th, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Greg Mankiw (Harvard Professor of Economics) blogs on Jane’s Law with the change of Government in the US:

The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.

Heh – somewhat true. I guess this means I have gone from insane to smug!

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Sir Keith Park

January 29th, 2009 at 2:57 pm by David Farrar

Many Kiwis will not have heard of Sir Keith Park, but they should.

In the Daily Telegraph, Tony Benn and Lord Tebbit call for a permament memorial to be established for Sir Keith.

Sir Keith was born in Thames, joined the NZ Army and fought in WWI at Gallipoli. He transferred to the British Army and then the Royal Flying Corps. He shot down 14 planes during WWI.

In WWII he was promoted to Air Vice Marshall (equal to a Major General) l and was in charge of No 11 Group RAF that defended London during the Battle of Britain.

After the war he was promoted to Air Chief Marshal (equal to a full General) and returned to NZ in 1946.  He was elected to the Auckland City Council and died in 1975 aged 82.

Anyway Benn and Tebbit say:

In a combined political career stretching to the best part of 100 years, the two of us have rarely agreed on anything. But on one issue we have discovered common ground – the need for a permanent memorial in London to Sir Keith Park, the Battle of Britain hero.

London is the city that he helped save and the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign is shortly to submit an application to the planning committee of Westminster City Council to erect a memorial statue to this great man. It is an application that we both fervently support because it would give long-overdue recognition to a man whose achievements have never been properly recognised in this country.

Even today, despite the efforts of the Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign, a surprising number of people have never even heard of Park. But he played as important a role as the great Admiral Lord Nelson, who dominates Trafalgar Square, in securing the freedom that we enjoy today. As Hitler’s army gathered in the Channel ports in 1940 in preparation for his planned invasion of Britain, the Luftwaffe was fighting a battle for control of the skies over southern England. Hitler needed to achieve air supremacy for the invasion to go ahead and the only thing preventing him was the stubborn Royal Air Force.

Had we lost the Battle of Britain, Hitler would have been able to knock our country out of the war, either through a direct invasion or prolonged aerial bombardment. The consequences would have been horrific both for Britain and the wider free world.

Now people may say how much is due to the commander. Well he led from his plane – not a desk:

Sir Keith was the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain. Commanding 11 Group Fighter Command, he was responsible for the defence of London and south-east England and his squadrons bore the brunt of the fighting. His role in the battle led the then Marshal of the RAF, Lord Tedder, to say after the war: “If ever any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I don’t believe it is recognised how much this one man, with his leadership, his calm judgment and his skill, did to save not only this country, but the world.”

We can be very proud of Sir Keith.

There is a campaign page where you can go to and support the campaign for a suitable memorial in London to Sir Keith.

The planning applications have just been submitted to the Westminster City Council for a tribute to Sir Keithto be erected permanently in Waterloo Place (next to the Athenaeum) and also a temporary version on the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The statue of Sir Keith will be created by Wellington’s Weta Workshop.

The Park Memorial campaign is currently calling on Kiwis to lend their support to this final stage by sending letters in support of the planning applications to the Westminster City Council. The campaign is aiming to generate as many letters/emails as possible backing the planning applications.

Supporters can visit the campaign web site at http://www.sirkeithpark.com and in the left hand column there is a click through banner that takes you to an email letter of support. All you have to do is drop your name into the profoma and e-mail it off (takes less than 60 secs). Note it works better in IE than Firefox.

I’ve just sent a letter off myself.

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SIS spying

January 29th, 2009 at 12:16 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports that the SIS has released files on individuals whom they no longer monitor. They should be commended for such openness – this seems an initiative of new Director Warren Tucker who is well regarded.

Obviously various current or former Marxists, communists and Maoists are upset about the fact their files reveal the SIS were monitoring them.

But the reality is the world today is very different to the 1970s and 1980s. The western world was, to be blunt, engaged in a massive struggle with the Soviet Union for global control. They communist states were enemies of freedom and the West, and posed a huge threat to our way of life.

And these people who were monitored were active in groups that were on the side of the communist totalitarian states, not our side. They won’t put it like that, but that was the reality. They never ever condemned the communist states – in fact they did friendship visits there and extolled how good they are.

Luckily the Soviet empire collapsed in 1990. We now have the wonderful luxury of having mainly put that threat between us. Today a communist is just a hardline economic socialist. The only threat they pose is to good economic policy, and that is not a matter of national security. It is appropriate the SIS no longer regards people active in communist groups as people who should be monitored.

But again it was different before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It wasn’t just about disagreeing on economic policy.

Now this is not to give carte blanch to everything the SIS did. Some of the revelations don’t put them in a good light and they themselves today probably don’t defend certain things. Again it is to their credit they they are releasing it. But just to make the case that the context in the 70s and 80s was vastly different to today. Unless you lived through it, you can’t no how much the world changed after that glorious summer where totalitarian communist states fell one after another until they were almost all gone.

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Winston did attend!

January 29th, 2009 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports that Winston did attend Karaka after all!

Maybe Winston could become a jockey – he’s small enough :-)

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Why the Otago District Health Board Chair and CEO should be sacked

January 29th, 2009 at 11:27 am by David Farrar

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for some time, and it is topical today as the Herald reports the ODHB Chair is refusing to resign and faces the sack.

The $17 million fraud perpetrated by the former CIO, Michael Swann, is in my opinion a failure of good governance, and that is squarely the role of the Board, with the Chair holding prime accountability. I also include the CEO as they are the Board’s chief advisor, and should have ensured better systems were in place.

Swann is the crook, and of course primarily to blame. Getting away with some fraud for a small period of time is near impossible to stop when a senior official is corrupt.

But the size and duration of the offending removes the excuses from the Board. There were a number of things the Board and/or the CEO could have done to stop the fraud or make it much more difficult to have had it continue.

And this is regardless of the obvious warning signs about a senior official who had around 20 cars and a handful of yachts that should have rung warning bells.

I’m actually a company director myself for a company with around $10 million turnover. Now no company is perfect and fraud proof, but we do have a strong focus on governance and good process. I suspect the ODHB (and part of the problem is they are partially elected) focuses more on stuff like spending the money, rather than the boring side of processes to do with governance and accountability.

I think of all the ways that the CEO and/or the Board should have got some idea there was something wrong:

  1. Was there an internal audit function? External audits generally do not detect fraud. A large organisation should have an internal audit function.
  2. Many of the fake invoices were for software updates that were never done. Was there a policy around independent security checks of the IT system for vulnerabilities that would have exposed these were not done.
  3. Why was the contract for services not competitively tendered? A contract of $17 million over some years should be decided at board or at least CEO level and be a competitive tender. A CIO should not be delegated the authority to decide this alone. A competitive tender would have probably exposed the company was a sham.
  4. Why did the CEO or CFO never get suspicious that they had never met staff from this company they had paid $17 million to? When you are spending that much with a company you should have a relationship with them – you may even have had their Directors come along for discussion.
  5. Did those who signs cheques ever question the invoices? The company I am on is of course much smaller than a DHB, but as a signatory and Director I often question several of the cheques I have to sign. Not in a hostile way, but in a “I don’t know what services this company provided for us, tell me what they did and which approved activity it relates to”
  6. Why did the Board and/or CEO never question the cost of the IT support services? Even if the services this firm was providing was real, they seem to be to be massively expensive. Did no-one have any experience of value for money for such stuff? Did they question the increase in the IT budget? Did they ever say “Let’s tender this out to see if we can reduce it?”
  7. Did the Board have a policy of regular reviews of major suppliers and major contracts? The Board should not do the detailed reviews of course, but they should set the policy and require the CEO to implement it, and make recommendations to them?
  8. Did the Board have a robust financial delegations policy? At what level did expenses have to be approved by the Board, but the CEO, the CFO, Departmental Heads etc? How often did they review this policy?
  9. When a supplier is a major cost (such as $17 million over several years) you expect them to be a well known firm. No one expects the $5,000 a year supplier to be more well known than the ABC computer shop but if you are paying millions to a company you expect it to be well known (especially in a small city like Dunedin), to have a shopfront, be in the yellowpages, have a website. You may even expect to have had some first or second hand dealings with it.

I could go on and on. To be clear – no organisation can ever be so good they fraud is impossible. Corrupt staff can always work out a loophole to some degree. But the size of the scam, the ongoing duration of it, and the fact it would have been so simple to detect, points to a significant failure in policy, process and governance.

Yes there have been changes in Chairs and CEOs during this time. But unless they are brand new into the job, both the Chair and the CEO need to be held accountable for what happened, and not keep blaming it on the corrupt Swann. His scam was not the genius con of the century. It was simplistic and should have been detected far earlier.

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General Debate 29 January 2009

January 29th, 2009 at 10:15 am by David Farrar
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OCR now 3.5%

January 29th, 2009 at 9:32 am by David Farrar

ocrjan09

I remember the days when a 50 basis point drop was a big thing. Now we have 150 point drops that are in line with expectations.

This should start to push mortgages back into the affordable category for more people.  Of course depends where retail rates go.

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Fonterra Director implicated in Sanlu scandal

January 28th, 2009 at 7:42 am by David Farrar

For the first time Fonterra, through one of its Directors, has been implicated as contributing to the Sanlu poisoned milk scandal. This is explosive stuff and could be very damaging to the brand and company.

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