Archive for April, 2009

On sale in Mt Albert

April 30th, 2009 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

sof

Courtesy of Whale Oil.

Incidentally question time in Parliament yesterday revealed that Shearer has actually written four articles advocating for private military forces. They are:

  1. Dial an Army
  2. Outsourcing War
  3. Private Armies and Military Intervention
  4. Privatising Protection

Don’t you just love the titles? Also by coincidence one of the chapter titles in Outsourcing War was “Give War a Chance”, which is also the title of the famous P J O’Rourke book. I am off to hear the great man speak tonight.

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New MFAT Chief Executive

April 30th, 2009 at 12:41 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman are tipping (via e-mail) that NZ Post CEO John Allen is likely to be named Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Incidentally I tipped this back on the 8th of April.

If they are right, then this is a radical change for MFAT. Not only has an outsider never been made CEO before – they don’t have outsiders in any of their senior management team. Every Deputy Secretary(I believe) is from within MFAT.

Most Government Departments have senior managers who have come from other Departments or God forbid even the private sector. MFAT does not. What this means is the only senior managers there are those who have spent decades within MFAT. Hence why this is about Minister McCully wanting a change culture.

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Google News Alert

April 30th, 2009 at 12:28 pm by David Farrar

I have my name as an alert term for Google News. So I get to see when people say nasty things about me. My name is fairly rare but not unique, as this alert showed:

Google News Alert for: “David Farrar”

Shell casings, cigarette butt found near slain 65-year-old’s body
Gaston Gazette – Gastonia,NC,USA
A trail of Styrofoam packing peanuts was found leading from the Farrars’ hallway to the backyard where David Farrar was shot and killed.

Pretty sure it wasn’t me!

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VUWSA and VSM

April 30th, 2009 at 12:22 pm by David Farrar

It is time for National to live up to its core principles and make a commitment to voluntary membership of student associations. VUWSA gives us two good reminders of why students should have the choice about whether or not they hand over millions of dollars every year.

First have a look at this story and comments at Salient about the VUWSA Exec refusing to lay a wreath for ANZAC Day. Scores of angry students – but you know not one of them is legally allowed to quit as a member and get his or her fee back – or refuse to join up and spend the fee joining a group they do wish to belong to.

The other going on is at Salient itself. I’m not going to cover the full story, as it is on Ethical Martini, but Salient (which is funded by VUWSA compulsory fees) threatened Dave at Big News with a defamation suit over a very trivial issue (involving someone from the Salient office spamming his site). Now student media of all groups should be the last to be trying to use defamation laws aggressively against people. Again – if they actually had to earn their money – not get given it by statute – this silliness would largely disappear. Fortunately Salient have withdrawn their threat of legal action.

If you want to give 200,000+ students a choice, then e-mail Minister of Education Anne Tolley and ask her to stick it on the agenda for 2009 or 2010.

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Twitter and Swine Flu

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

swine_flu

Hat Tip: Ethical Martini and xkcd.com.

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Wind powered Wellington

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

NZPA reports:

A $440 million wind farm with future capacity to power Wellington was connected to New Zealand’s electricity grid yesterday.

Twenty 111m-high turbines at Meridian’s West Wind project in the hills of Makara began spinning to generate enough energy for 17,000 homes.

By the end of this year it will use 62 turbines, which have 40m-long blades, to generate enough power for 70,000 homes – the whole of Wellington.

Cool. You get a good view of them from Hawkins Hill.

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General Debate 30 April 2009

April 30th, 2009 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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Lane Walker Rudkin

April 30th, 2009 at 7:04 am by David Farrar

The Press has an article where the NDU says a lot of the problems at LWR have come about because of a marriage split between the owners.

I would not be surprised that this is indeed a major factor. A number of companies have turned dysfunctional when their owner or owners have a relationship split.

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Herald and ODT disagree on a Republic

April 30th, 2009 at 6:19 am by David Farrar

I prefer the Herald’s take:

Peter Dunne’s renewed call for New Zealand to have a referendum on becoming a republic was accompanied by a canny observation. “I am tired of politicians who say it is probably inevitable we will become a republic at some stage but who are unwilling to do anything to bring it about – that is extremely weak,” said the United Future leader.

No names were mentioned but Helen Clark is an obvious candidate for Mr Dunne’s list of loafers. So is Kevin Rudd, who has scotched the enthusiasm for an Australian republic voiced at his own Government’s 2020 summit.

So, too, is John Key. Both Prime Ministers have suggested that cutting free the monarchy is not a priority, given the many serious issues facing their countries. More likely, they see no political gain in committing to a process that would deliver this outcome.

Clark and Key are both republicans with a small r. They think it is inevitable and we should end up there, but will do nothing to bring it about. This is very frustrating for those of us who would like to see change earlier.

Any decision will be a matter for the public to vote on, but we deserve a debate and then a decision.

An increasing disconnection during her reign has added to the inherent oddness of this country’s head of state residing on the other side of the globe. New Zealanders have become blas’e about visits by members of the royal family. Buckingham Palace revealed a similar trait with its tardiness in acknowledging the passing of Sir Edmund Hillary.

The misstep was compounded in public perception when no member of the royal family attended the funeral of Sir Edmund, this country’s most eminent citizen and a man whose conquest of Everest provided a triumphant note to the Queen’s own coronation.

If a republic is, indeed, inevitable, why wait until the end of the Queen’s reign? Delay in the implementation of any good idea serves no good purpose. In the case of a republic, it only postpones the benefits implicit in the pursuit of a singular, unambiguous identity.

I’m pragmatic. I’d happily become a republic on 1 January 2010 which we could do by making the GG the Head of State and have him or her appointed by a super-majority (say 75%) of Parliament. But if one can onyl get majority support by having the move to a republic occur on the death of QEII, then I’m willing to wait.

The ODT disagrees:

Calls for New Zealand to become a republic sound again as the noise of the bugles of Anzac commemorations drift into the distance.

The timing is somewhat coincidental. It is also the time of the Queen’s actual birthday, which is why this debate often flares up at this time of year.

Mr Key, like other observers, has noted the inexorable trend towards severing New Zealand’s last ties with Britain and its monarch but does not see any need for change any time soon.

This is the sensible, pragmatic approach, recognising that our current constitutional arrangements work well.

If the system is not broken then it is hazardous to try to “fix” it.

Although New Zealand’s titular head lives in a land far off geographically and increasingly distant in other ways – and hereditary rule is an anachronism – what is wrong with that when such arrangements can and do work?

There is an opportunity cost.

New Zealand’s healthy democracy is built on the Westminster system and its “unwritten constitution”, and constitutional monarchy has adapted to and survived the rigours of time.

We saw with the Electoral Finance Act that a healthy democracy doesn’t trump a parliamentary majority that will pass the Electoral Finance Act, retrospectively amend the Electoral Act and strike out valid lawsuits.

The current constutional arrangements give the PM immense power. The PM can get the GG sacked at whim. The PM effectively unilaterally appoints the GG.  Having the effective Head of State appointed by a 75% majority of Parliament would reduce the power of the PM, and that is a good thing.

For a start, the process towards a written constitution, a prerequisite for a republic, is daunting.

Would New Zealand return to an upper and lower house? Would the president be elected at large or appointed? How would the Treaty of Waitangi fit?

Would referendums be required on the place of the treaty which, after all, was between the Crown in Britain and Maori chiefs and, like all treaties, was to solve specific problems in a specific time?

Mostly red herrings. I actually would like to see NZ have a written constution that would make it harder for MPs to take away my freedom of speech. But the move to a republic could be done by a few extra clauses added to the Constitution Act 1986.

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More Cullen wit

April 30th, 2009 at 5:57 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports:

He stood to make his farewell speech to Parliament yesterday after nearly 28 years, observing very few people got the chance to deliver what is in effect their own eulogy “or at least a progress report thereon”. …

“[The 1980s economic reforms] certainly caused me some small financial pain. The biggest speeding fine I ever got was driving back from Whakatane to Wellington in January 1990 when I heard on the news that Geoffrey Palmer was supposedly moving to reinstate Roger Douglas as Minister of Finance. I hit 134kph.”

On the political gamesmanship of Parliament’s question time:
It is, in my view, by far the most effective test of the mettle of ministers and their opponents of any Westminster-style Parliament. Imagine, for example, how well George W. Bush would have survived question time on a daily basis if he had been our Prime Minister. It would have taken many Grecians bearing many sorts of gifts to get him through the experience.”

On the different outlooks of New Zealand and Australia:
“An Aussie believes a little ripper is something good. We are just as likely to fear it might be the son of Jack, let in by mistake by Immigration.”

Sigh. I will miss him. I didn’t like his economic policies (in fact I think they represent the missed opportunity of a lifetime- a decade of waste), but he was a great parliamentarian with a real love for the House and its institutions. Sometimes his wit (especially in their final term) would descend into bitterness or nastiness, but most of the time it was a joy to behold.

When I worked in Parliament, a lot of the staff would gather around a TV to watch question time. And obviously you are there to cheer your own side on. But Cullen was the only Labour MP who could consistently get the partisan Labour-hating (in a competitive sense) Nat staffers clapping and cheering as he skewered a National MP with a witty response.

There were times too, when said National staffers would yell abuse at Dr Cullen’s image on TV, when his tongue went from funny to malicious. The relationship was certainly a love/hate one. But for me, I will remember the good times.

Cullen is the last of the three MPs who could dominate Parliament like no others since Muldoon and Lange. The other two were Peters and Prebble.

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Cullen’s best quote

April 29th, 2009 at 9:50 pm by David Farrar

My favourite is:

“To those in government, a genuine thank you for the NZPost appointment. When I attacked National last year for swallowing so many dead rats little did I think that some might see me as one of them.”

Also good:

“The attorney-general does not have to be a lawyer any more than the minister of education has to be a teacher, the minister of health a doctor, or the minister of corrections a convict.”

And some advice for the Greens:

“To the Greens — good luck. But loosen up a bit; saving the planet needs to sound less like punishment for our sins if it is going to succeed.”

Will link to video and transcript when I can locate them.

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Blogs Bits

April 29th, 2009 at 3:24 pm by David Farrar
  1. Trainee journalist Sandra Dickson blogs on why she is not going to become a journalist.
  2. Tumeke celebrate their 4th birthday. Congratulations. They even managed to keep going while the founder was in jail for sedition :-)
  3. Big News has an economic study of female circumcision done by one of the Labour candidates for Mt Albert. Is actually an interesting study.
  4. Bryce Edwards has a review of the 2008 election for the European Journal of Political Research.
  5. Not PC calls Greg Mankiwi illiterate for advocating a negative interest rate.
  6. A guest post at The Standard calls Perez Hilton illiberal for his attack on Miss California’s response to a question on gay marriage.
  7. Keeping Stock blogs on a Bobbitt
  8. Paul Walker fisks The Standard on Zimbabwe
  9. Adam Smith highlights what Labour’s friends say about being in the trenches with them.
  10. Whale Oil has a poster for “The Haliburton Candidate”
  11. The Standard doesn’t think it is a good idea for Phil Goff to criticise National for cancelling tax cuts, when everyone in Labour thinks they should be cancelled.
  12. No Right Turn lashes Kevin Rudd fo ruling out civil unions in Australia.
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Economic Fitness

April 29th, 2009 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Institute has published an analysis of NZ’s lack of economic fitness, and that it is not all about the “recessionary flu”. The Institute notes:

Achieving a step change in New Zealand’s economic growth rate is essential to improve the fiscal position. Unless New Zealand radically improves its growth prospects, basic amenities such as quality free education, health services, environmental protection measures and security in retirement may be at risk.

Yep, we need more pro-growth policies. The recession is a good reminder of how important economic growth is.

Both tax and spending measures should also be on the table to control the deficit, to make room for growth-boosting policies, and to maintain and strengthen support for at-risk individuals through the recession to avoid creating a future social deficit.

A $10 billion a year deficit must be curtailed. The interest on public debt would indeed threaten education and health funding.

The next two proposed tranches of income tax cuts should be cancelled on the grounds that they would contribute to the structural deficit and likely do very little for growth.

Long term, tax cuts are part of higher growth, but I agree these one are unsustainable.

Other spending areas that have contributed to the increase in government spending between 2003 and 2008 of 1.6% of GDP should be carefully reviewed with the aim of achieving their objectives more effectively at lower cost going forward. These include: the Working for Families tax credit system, and health expenditure.

WFF is very inefficient. There is huge wastage or churn as you take money from taxpayers to give it back to the same taxpayers. Welfare should be targeted to those most at need.

The tax mix should also be on the table as part of a long-term rebalancing exercise. Creating new sources of revenue (such as from taxes on property) will create room to finance the cost arising from future demographic pressures. Another objective is to more lightly tax productive investment and savings (for example through gradual reductions in company tax and taxes on savings overtime), while making residential property investment less attractive. This will help to address the structural imbalances in the New Zealand economy.

This is a big call, but one that does have to be looked at.

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P J O’Rourke

April 29th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I am greatly looking forward to the dinner with and speech from P J O’Rourke tomorrow. I have read all his books.

I had to choose between PJ in Auckland or Louise Bagshawe in Wellington, as they are both speaking on Thursday evening.

If others I know are attending the dinner, why don’t we meet up for drinks beforehand? E-mail me to work out a time and place. I am staying near Sky City at City Life, so could use the hotel bar here?

Also for those interested, I am on Media 7 tonight talking with Russell Brown, Nat Torkington and Colin Jackson on the early days of the Internet. You can watch it in the evenng on TVNZ7 or watch it being filmed at Comedy Classic at 321 Queen Street from 5.15 pm to 7 pm.

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Dr Cullen’s Maiden Speech

April 29th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader asked if a copy of Dr Cullen’s maiden speech could be located as it was not online. I put out a cry for help,and someone has found a copy, so enjoy:

New Zealand Parliamentary Debates 23 April 1982, vol. 443, p 441-446

23 April 1982 Address in Reply 441

Dr CULLEN (St. Kilda): I rise feeling like the elusive “scarlet pimpernel” of the Labour Party. Members opposite, or at least some of them, have worked themselves into a righteous lather of trembling indignation about the left-wing academics in the Labour Party. At last, the “one and only” has stood up to be counted. The previous Opposition maiden speakers are not academics by their immediate former profession. I am the first Opposition speaker to be so. Three Opposition members might be classed as academics, but I am not sure about their qualifications: the member for Christchurch Central is a lawyer, and therefore qualified to make an income outside—and that may be an automatic disqualification; and the member for Te Atatu and the member for Mt Albert taught at Auckland University, but as an Otago man I am not clear about their status as academics. When the compliments about left-wing academics are thrown across the House I shall be grateful if they are addressed to me personally and not spread around in an unwarranted fashion.

I affirm my loyalty to the Queen, and her heirs and successors, whoever they may be.

Mr East: And to your old school, Christ’s College.

Dr CULLEN: And to my old school, Christ’s College. I am proud of the fact that my secondary education was not paid for by the taxpayers of New Zealand but by the farmers of Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay. I ripped them off for 5 years then, and I shall get stuck into them again in the next few years, so the honourable member should not bring that subject up too often.

The rest is over the break.

(more…)

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Is he trying to be funny?

April 29th, 2009 at 10:36 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Mr Goff says the person who should be most grateful for the legacy left by Michael Cullen is the current Finance Minister Bill English.

Oh yes, Bill gets up every morning I am sure and says to Mary “Boy am I glad Michael Cullen left me a structural $10 billion a year deficit”.

He gets in to work and tells his staff “Think how boring our job would be if Dr Cullen had not increased spending by $4.5 billion a year in his last budget”.

At Cabinet every week Bill reminds his colleagues of how good a legacy Dr Cullen left them, as he screws them departmental budgets down.

Goff should do stand up comedy if he really said that with a straight face.

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Privatising Protection

April 29th, 2009 at 10:10 am by David Farrar

Privatising Protection is the name of the second article written by David Shearer about the use of mercenaries. I’ve uploaded a copy of it – privatising-protection.

This one was written three years after the 1998 “Outsourcing War” article – in 2001.

What is really interesting is that in 2001 he was an Adviser to the New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. And who was that? Phil Goff of course.

Now I have worked in a Ministerial office. I find it hard to believe you could be an advisor to the Foreign Minister, and submit an article to Chatham House on private military forces without the Minister giving it an okay. The article is summarised by Chatham House as:

When people in the world’s conflict zones need protecting, it is the United Nations which is most frequently charged with ‘doing something’. Often short of soldiers, it should be given another option, to call on professional military companies to provide human security – for a fee.

Pretty clear – advocates the UN hiring private mercenary armies. But as the NZ Herald reports, Phil Goff said just two years later:

Mr Goff conversely referred to mercenary work as “paid murder” in 2003, when introducing legislation banning mercenaries.

So did Goff know of the article before publication? If so, how does he reconcile it with his statement in 2003?

I give full kudos to David Shearer who is not resiling from his views:

He said he was still supportive of using private security forces for peacekeeping as a last resort.

“If you have got a situation where thousands of people are being mutilated and it’s your only option, then your first priority is the protection of women and children.”

I agree with Shearer. But Shearer has also advocated that they may have a useful role in countries with civil wars. He said:

As a result states’ monopoly on dealing with civil violence has persisted unchallenged.

So Labour argue the state has to be a monopoly in corrections and workplace accident insurance, but their likely Mt Albert candidate says there should be no state monopoly in dealing with civil violence or the military.

Now I agree with Shearer, but I can imagine it is going to be very uncomfortable for Labour when he is an MP.  Everytime Goff or King gets up to accuse the Government of having a privatisation agenda, the Nats will laugh and remind them that they have an MP who supports privatising the army. And when you consider Labour’s entire strategy is to basically label everything National does is as privatisation, well Naional can’t wait until Shearer is an MP. Hell, they are probably tempted to endorse him themselves.

I mean look at his free market logic here:

Many factions are increasingly motivated by economic gain through the control of diamonds, gold or minerals. Why not award the concession to a company that will mine and protect the resource, thereby keeping diamonds out of the hands of rebels who will sell them to finance their war?

I love it – profit sharing with the mercenaries. This guy understands free markets and incentives and best of all has no ideological opposition to them. He sure is no Helen Clark.

Of course not being a woman may harm him. The Herald reported:

The Service and Food Workers Union’s northern region secretary, Jill Ovens, said the affiliated unions would not be endorsing any particular Labour candidate.

She said her personal view was that it should be a woman, as Labour no longer had a female electorate MP in Auckland with the departure of Helen Clark.

That is true – they don’t. Cunliffe, Carter, Hawkins, Robertson Goff and Su’a hold the other seats.

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New Zealanders and the Census

April 29th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I agree with the Dom Post Editorial:

Statistics New Zealand has a problem. It is trying to squeeze square pegs into round holes.

The square pegs are the people who identified themselves as New Zealanders in the 2006 census. The round holes are the ethnic categories into which it wants New Zealanders to divide themselves.

Three years ago 400,000 people ignored the categories set out in the census form and wrote New Zealander in the “other” category. By using other sources of information, Statistics NZ has been able to build up a picture of those who refused to tick its boxes. It says more than 90 per cent were of European origin and they tended to be male, slightly older, better off and better educated than the general population.

However, the government statistician warns, in a discussion document issued this week, that if the number who ignore its official classifications continues to grow, the data collected in future ethnicity surveys will be rendered unusable. Good.

I don’t go so far as to say that is good (as I am a major user of said statistics) but I think that many in society are saying they do not regard themselves as purely European. And in fact over time many New Zealanders will have a mixture of European, Asian, Maori and Pacific ancestry. As a country we inter-marry between ethnicities far more than others.

I know people who have British and Maori ancestry. They don’t identify as either European or Maori.

According to Statistics NZ, the data is vital for the development of public policy. It is used to address social and economic inequality associated with membership of particular ethnic groups. Perhaps policy makers could try just addressing disadvantage.

Statistics NZ also suggests those who define themselves as New Zealanders are confusing ethnic and national identity. They are not. It is Statistics NZ that is confused.

According to the government statistician, an ethnic group is one which shares some or all of the following characteristics: a common proper name; elements of common culture such as religion, customs or language; a unique community of interests, feelings and actions; a shared sense of common origins or ancestry; and a common geographic origin.

The reason growing numbers of people are choosing to identify themselves as New Zealanders is because that is what they are, not just in a legal sense, but in a cultural sense.

I think a reasonable case can be made that “New Zealander” is a new emerging ethnicity – not just a nationality.

They are a group whose members have a common proper name, New Zealanders; share a common language, a version of English in which Maori terms and phrases are becoming increasingly common; share common values and interests; and share common origins and ancestry. The majority were born in this country, as were the parents and grandparents of many. There is nowhere else that they call home and no other group of people with whom they identify more closely.

Many Maori words have become “mainstreamed” as part of NZ English.

If what Statistics NZ really wants to know is the racial composition of those who identify as New Zealanders, that is what it should ask for although it might not like the response.

And that may be the way forward. Ask one question on ethnicity and another on racial composition.

But if it is genuinely interested in the ethnic makeup of New Zealand, it should open its eyes. A unique national identity is taking shape. It is one that incorporates elements of Maori, European, Pacific and now Asian culture. Home for its members is not on the other side of the globe. It is here. The language that is spoken is not the Queen’s English or Samoan or Cantonese, it is New Zild. And the values held by its members are not the values of London or Apia or Hong Kong, but of the Hutt Valley, South Auckland, Southland and Wellington.

That is something to celebrate, not to fret about.

Not all New Zealanders would see their ethnicity as New Zealand. Many Maori identify primarly as Maori. First generation Asian immigrants indetify as Asian. The second and third generations far less so, I would say.

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Vector and co

April 29th, 2009 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

Another good development yesterday in the fibre broadband project. As I blogged Telecom put forward a couple of constructive proposals.

Vector announced yesterday:

A group made up of lines companies and local fibre companies has been formed to support the Government’s vision of introducing ultra-fast fibre broadband to New Zealand.

Vector Chief Executive Simon Mackenzie said that the NZ Regional Fibre Group brought together the collective wisdom and experience of several different regional operators with expertise in open access networks.
“We welcome the opportunity to submit on the Government’s Broadband Investment proposal which will leap frog New Zealand to world class broadband.
This is also very exciting, and shows good leadership. Potentially lines companies have the ability to do some areas a lot cheaper than telcos.
Members of the New Zealand Regional Fibre Group include Vector, Aurora, Northpower, Waikato based WEL Networks, Unison, PowerNet, Christchurch City Networks, Network Tasman, and Velocity Networks.
That covers a fair bit of NZ!
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Fighting Back in Tokoroa

April 29th, 2009 at 8:23 am by David Farrar

A great story from Tokoroa:

Mr Pearce said the disguised robber entered the shop as it was closing just before 10pm, produced the rifle and demanded cash.

As he was making his threats, one of the staff members who was watching from inside a nearby chiller surprised the robber and attacked him, and a fight between the robber and two staff began.

A brave and risky move, but sometimes you get an opportunity and the risk is worth it.

The fight continued through the back door into a service alley, where the offender was overcome and fell to the ground, and his firearm was taken by one of the staff members.

So far so good.

“The offender has attempted to retrieve his firearm so a shot was discharged by the staff member to scare the offender away,” Mr Pearce said.

A pretty stupid offender. He’s just had his gun taken off him, and been subdued and he thinks they will just give him his gun back. Very sensible of the staffer to fire a warning shot.

“He has continued to advance on the staff member and another shot was discharged.

“The staff member concerned has told police that he believes he has shot the offender in the legs with this second shot, mainly due to the scream the offender let out.”

Yes the scream would be a good indicator.

Mr Pearce said the robber left the scene on foot. A police dog was unable to track the offender more than a few hundred metres from the scene.

The staffers acted totally appropriately. They did not shoot him to stop him escaping – only to stop him taking the gun back off them.

Police did not encourage victims being robbed at gunpoint to fight back as these victims did, he said.

Of course not. No doubt the Police will now charge the staffers. But rest aassured if they do, the jury will throw it out, as they always do.

The Dom Post has more:

Mr Jiang said yesterday that he was not a hero. “I was not scared. I would do it again. I hate these people. I will never give them any money.”

Yay.

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Leading Edge Losses

April 29th, 2009 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

I’m not an Auckland City ratepayer, but if I was I would be asking questions of Auckland City Council about accountability, after losses of $2.5 million at The Edge.

I don’t think City/Regional Councils should be making commercial decisions on underwriting soccer games or musicals.

That is different to supporting sport or the arts. Relatively happy for there to be sponsorship of subsidies of facilities – that way it is for a fixed known amount.

But why would you have 20 or so elected politicians deciding whether or not you agree with the Edge’s Board that 62,000 to 78,000 people will attend a musical?

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General Debate 29 April 2009

April 29th, 2009 at 7:55 am by David Farrar
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English language skills

April 29th, 2009 at 7:46 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Chinese nursing student is taking her tutors and university to the Human Rights Commission, accusing them of failing her in her final year of her bachelor of nursing course because of her accent.

“My tutors failed me because they said the way that I speak meant people couldn’t understand me, and they said it meant I will not be able to provide proper care to patients,” said Linda Tang, 42, who last week decided to drop out of her course at Unitec because she believed the tutors were making it impossible for her to pass.

“To say my English is not good enough is just an excuse. I feel that what they have done is discriminatory, especially to the Chinese, because we are penalised not for our lack of knowledge or ability, but simply because of how we talk.”

I feel very sorry for Ms Tang who is obviously keen to be a nurse. But the ability to communicate in English is important, and some accents can make it very very difficult for others to understand. No easy answer here as it is very difficult to change an accent, but in a medicla profession, oral communication can be vital.

Ms Tang, who holds a bachelor of english degree and is a former English lecturer at a university in China, said she was confident of her written English ability. Before enrolling at Unitec, Ms Tang said she was a bilingual teacher at Kingsland Institute and taught English to other immigrants.

Which makes it surprising that her oral English was not deemed good enough. One can’t judge withotu hearing, but you would hope she was given feedback early on about the need to improve, rather than just be failed at the end when everything else is okay.

“Maybe I can’t speak English like a Kiwi, but I am bilingual and also speak Mandarin and surely that must be seen as a plus in nursing rather than something negative,” Ms Tang said.

“If Unitec fails Chinese students for not being able to communicate properly in English, Kiwi students should also not pass because they cannot communicate with hospital patients who speak other languages.”

Umm no, English is an official language, and the primary language in NZ.

As I said, a sad case.

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Swine Flu confirmed in NZ

April 28th, 2009 at 9:50 pm by David Farrar

NZPA reports:

Director of Public Health, Dr Mark Jacobs announced tonight that results from some of the Rangitoto College party who tested positive to Influenza A on Sunday, have also tested positive for Swine Flu H1N1.

Results from three of the samples were received earlier this evening from the World Health Organization regional laboratory in Melbourne and all tested positive for the same strain of Swine Flu. Testing continues on a fourth sample.

On the basis of these results, we are assuming that all of the people in the group who had tested positive for Influenza A have Swine Flu. As a result we are continuing with the current treatment which has been based on this assumption.

As they say in Dad’s Army, “Don’t Panic”

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Labour making it up

April 28th, 2009 at 8:14 pm by David Farrar

Good God, I never realised that Labour’s regard for the truth was so remote that they literally just sit around and invent things. Labour has put out the press release quoted below:

National begins dirty tricks campaign in Mt Albert

Press Release by New Zealand Labour at 5:37 pm, 28 Apr 2009

National’s dirty tricks have started even before Labour has selected a candidate for the Mt Albert by-election, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Annette King said today.

First of all don’t you enjoy the hypocrisy of the party that was behind the attempted H-Fee smear, to talk about dirty tricks. Did Annette never notice Mike Williams over in Melbourne?

National and John Key’s dishonest attempt to discredit one of eight potential Labour candidates shows the Government’s eyes are off the ball when they should be focusing on peoples jobs and the upcoming budget.

“National has trawled through research papers written by David Shearer dating back to 1998. The papers looked at the use of private security in war torn nations where innocent civilians, mostly women and children, were dying and there were no better alternatives.

“They’ve fed this information to their right wing blogging friends.

Amazing – she just invents this from thin air. Let there be no mistake, I got the material from no one in National, in Parliament or the Government. I would be very happy to swear an affidavit before a JP to this, or undertake a polygraph. No one in National even pointed me towards this, and the first John Key would have known about this I suspect is when the media asked him for comment.

It amazes me that Labour is so embarrassed by these revelations, that they feel the need to just invent whoppers.

“Instead of this, John Key should be getting his staff to tackle real problems like job losses and the struggling economy.

Again nothing to do with the PM or his staff. Annoys me when people always credit them for our work! I know Labour is anti private sector, but maybe they can not comprehend the idea of people doing stuff on their own initiative.

“Why are they trying to dig dirt on one of the nominees, I predict that by the weekend they would have gone through the whole eight. Unlike National, we don’t yet know who our candidate will be. We are having a competitive selection process which will not be completed until this weekend.

And I urge all Labour delegates to vote Shearer. Far from this being dirt on him, I think it is great he supports a role for the private sector in wars and the military. The problem of course is that his sensible views stand in stark opposition to Labour who are against the private sector being involved in most things.

And I am also bemused how it is considered “dirt” to re-publish an article Mr Shearer wrote in a publicly available journal. Does Labour think there is something wrong with people knowing the views of its candidates on important policy issues? This is not some personal private issue which is embarrassing to Shearer – it is not digging up share transactions – it is a public article on a matter of public policy.

“I hope it’s not a sign of the tactics National plans to adopt for the campaign. Labour is committed to fight a strong, clean and fair by-election

Insert Tui billboard – just like their general election campaign no doubt.

“John Key should stop spending his time on negative politicking and concentrate his efforts on how the budget can address the real problems facing New Zealand,” Annette King said.

Annette – nothing to do with John. Honest. Ask him. Ask me. Give us a polygraph test. Drug me with sodium pentothal. You’ll get the same answer.

The articles by Shearer were found almost by luck in fact. Someone mentioned something to Whale about something Shearer had once written. He mentioned something to me. I asked a couple of friends with access to academic databases to try and fnd something, and one of them found it on an academic database and sent it to me.  Total time on it was around ten minutes.

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