Archive for May, 2010

Definitely too much info

May 31st, 2010 at 5:44 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Answering questions about changes to early childhood education funding during his regular Monday post-Cabinet presser, Mr Key was asked if he would send his children to a centre where 80 percent of staff were qualified teachers or 100 percent.

“I think if I sent my 15-year-old or 17-year-old to early childhood at the moment they’d have a meltdown,” he quipped.

But what if his wife Bronagh had another?

“I’d be extremely worried because I’ve had a vasectomy.”

In the face of the stunned hacks, he said; “It’s probably too much information for the purposes of a press conference but anyway.”

I can just imagine the stunned hacks. You’d be wondering if the PM really said that, and if so what is the followup.

And while the reporters got themselves together: “Boy that’s slowed things down. Any other questions?”

A Radio New Zealand reporter had sufficiently recovered by this stage to ask: “Did it hurt?”

“Not overly actually,” Mr Key replied.

TVNZ then wanted to know if it was a budget cut.

“All I can say is it’s been highly successful but anyway we won’t get into that either.

“Any other questions or are we done for the day?”

There was another, about deep sea digging, and Mr Key said he was happy to dig into a different issue.

Well if Bronagh did have another child, then finally Labour could claim they caught the PM in a lie!

Definitely too much info for a press conference, but at least no one can say we don’t have open government!

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Wellington Bloggers Drinks

May 31st, 2010 at 5:31 pm by David Farrar

Gman has organised bloggers drinks in Wellington:

This coming Thursday, June 3 we will be having bloggers’ drinks at the Occidental, Wellington.

http://www.theoccidental.co.nz/

All bloggers, readers, fans, trolls and stalkers are invited. And a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

On site wi-fi included.

Left wing loonies to Right wing nutbars, all invited.

Date Thursday 3 June, from 5.30 pm to whenever

Occidental bar and restaurant, Wellington.

Hope to see some of you there.

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Well done Paul Reynolds

May 31st, 2010 at 4:41 pm by David Farrar

A reader recently emailed Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds saying:

Mr Reynolds

I have just changed my account to the Total Home package.

I live in Pukekohe, Franklin County. In November 2010 we will become part of the Auckland SuperCity.

There appears to be a lot of confusion amongst your staff on how this change applies to my account.

Could you please confirm that in November 2010, the base charge on my Total Home account will change from $109 per month to $99 per month.

Would you please m ake certain that your staff also know this to avoid the frustrating confusion (in one case a “hang up” – since dealt with)

To his great surprise he got a reply from Paul Reynolds himself, saying:

Thanks for your note.  I am not personally aware of any Telecom tariff changes consequent upon the change to Auckland Super City.  However I have asked CEO Retail, Alan Gourdie, to look into the source of miscommunication and get back to you.

I am very impressed that the CEO of Telecom actually takes the time to reply to an e-mail from a customer, rather than just forward it onto someone else to do.

How many other large companies would have CEOs do the same?

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Logan Brown

May 31st, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Had my first outing to Logan Brown for many years last night. Was for a very very good occasion – my Dad’s 80th birthday.

We had the private room up the stairs, and it was superb. The service was first class, and as expected the food even better.

Had the paua ravioli as the starter. This dish is rightly famous, and can’t be beaten.

Lamb was the main and it was an intriguing mix of both lamb chops and lamb shanks. Unusual to get both in the same dish, but was a nice contrast between the pink and the darker meat.

And a jaffa mousse for dessert. Yum.

Logan Brown hardly needs a good review from me. It is basically the premier dining experience in Wellington. I only go there for special occasions. It was a great place to celebrate a special birthday, and a nice opportunity to have first class food and service.

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Motion of the Day

May 31st, 2010 at 2:03 pm by David Farrar

From the order paper:

1. BRENDON BURNS to move, That this House note the final screening on Wednesday, 19 May 2010 on TV1, of Days of Our Lives, a “soap” aired over 30 years with 40,000-plus viewers, and the great disappointment felt by the faithful followers of this programme.

Will we also have motions mourning the end of Lost or American Idol I wonder?

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Justice Wilson’s Judicial Conduct Panel

May 31st, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I thought that Justice Wilson would resign rather than go through the indignity of what is effectively a public impeachment trial via a judicial conduct panel, but he has chosen not to do so, hence Judith Collins has announced the composition of the panel.

I hasten to add that Justice Wilson obviously strongly believes he has not done anything wrong, or any errors in conduct made by him are relatively minor and do not undermine his ability to continue on the Supreme Court. He has every right to stand by his beliefs, and to have these tested through the process. And if the panel does not recommend his dismissal, he should be able to move on and continue on the Supreme Court.

I should praise the last Labour Government for passing the Judicial Conduct Commissioner and Judicial Conduct Panel Act 2004. Before that act was passed, the Attorney-General could follow pretty much any process they wanted to determine whether to recommend dismissal. This is a fair and transparent process.

The panel appointed by Judith Collins is:

  • Justice Tony Randerson, previously the Chief High Court Judge and now a Judge of the Court of Appeal
  • Justice Helen Winkelmann, the Chief High Court Judge
  • Beverley Wakem, the Chief Ombudsman

No one can dispute the suitability of this panel. A former and current chief of the High Court, plus the country’s chief ombudsman as the lay member. They are the two most senior judges who have not been direct judicial colleagues.

Justice Randerson will be the chair of the panel, as he is the senior judge.

From a public point of view, it will be a fascinating process to witness what will effectively be a public impeachment trial of a Judge of our highest court. This is a once in a life time experience.

The next step is for Judith Collins to appoint a special counsel to present the case against Justice Wilson. He can also appoint a lawyer (or represent himself), and other people can apply to be represented also. I suspect Mr Galbraith will avail himself of that right.

The Ministry of Justice will announce in due course the date of the hearing, and the venue.

UPDATE: This is incredible. Justice Wilson is seeking a judicial review of the findings of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, and a possible injunction against the Judicial Conduct Panel.

This is a high risk strategy by Justice Wilson. His fellow Judges will be squirming with discomfort I suspect.

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Tapu Misa on Haden

May 31st, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

So far the best analysis around what Andy Haden said comes from Tapu Misa, in my opinion:

My eldest son wanted me to leap to Andy Haden’s defence this week because he thinks there may have been some truth to what he said; that he was just being cynical when he uttered the nasty “darkies” word; and that Haden has a point about the physicality of players dictating their style of play.

“If you’re strong, maybe you are more likely to go through the wall than around,” he says.

Her son is quite perceptive, in my opinion.

It sounds reasonable. My son is a smart 17-year-old, a history and politics buff who has never played rugby. He’s doing his best to resist the stereotypes, but he slips too easily into the generalisations being peddled by Haden and others in the rugby fraternity – that New Zealand rugby is being ruined by the dominance of Pacific Island players: big, dim-witted oafs who aren’t capable of playing intelligently.

As with any race-based theory, there’s always a grain of truth. Everybody knows, don’t they, that the island boys are explosive, physical and instinctive, rather than tactical and strategic like the white players.

Almost all stereotypes are based on an element of truth. Otherwise they don’t become stereotypes.

Ergo, the browning of New Zealand rugby is bad. Thanks to Pacific Island players we will never be great again.

Or so the thesis goes. The problem is it lumps Pacific Islanders into a one-size-fits-all problem, as if all players of Pacific descent are cast in the same mould. It ignores the enormous differences between Pacific people, and the range of talents, strengths and weaknesses each individual brings to the game. And that’s short-sighted as well as racist.

And this is the key point. Stereotypes and generalisations can have a place in discussing trends and issues, but it is offensive when you use it to define a group of people in a way which ignores their individuality.

Who exactly is the quintessential Pacific Island player, anyway?

Is it the religious, never-on-a-Sunday Michael Jones, who in his heyday was ranked the best flanker in the world?

Or Sione Lauaki, who seems to get into trouble every time he goes out?

What about Bryan Williams, Joe Stanley, Olo Brown, Jonah Lomu, Tana Umaga, Rodney So’oialo, Mils Muliaina, Keven Mealamu, or George Smith in Australia? Where do they fit on the continuum?

The idea that these players share some kind of inherent mental inadequacy based on their Pacific heritage is ridiculous and wrong. It’s as ridiculous and wrong as the corollary that every Pakeha rugby player is an intellectual giant.

Heh, far far from it.Just think about some of those who are now rugby commentators :-)

It goes without saying that rugby requires different kinds of physical and mental abilities.

Let’s by all means talk about the need for balance in our rugby sides. But if players are being picked for the wrong skills, whose fault is that?

For my 2c, good rugby teams need both instinctive and tactical players. A team of 15 instinctive players will never follow any sort of game strategy while a team of 15 tactical players might never score a try :-)

And one can recognise that players from different races tend to be more one sort, than another, but that is as far as it goes. The merits and skills of the individual is what decisions should always be based on.

And if New Zealand rugby hasn’t worked out how to get the best out of the Pacific players it selects, then maybe it needs to spend more time finding out what makes its players tick and how it can take advantage of the diverse talents on offer in this country. …

Canterbury seems to be on to something – and if we’re to believe the denials, it’s not what Haden and others seem to believe.

The franchise seems to pick the best individuals based on nothing more mysterious than the skills and qualities its selectors think they’ll bring to the game and the team.

And then it puts time and effort into making them better.

That’s what works – not some real or imagined racist quota.

Absolutely.

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Editorials 31 May 2010

May 31st, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald talks All Blacks:

Yesterday’s announcement of the first All Black team of the season, who will play Ireland at New Plymouth, was the subject of even more fascination than usual. …

Henry had already hinted there would be new faces in the squad. Duly, as a matter of necessity rather than of wish, some with high potential as stars of the future were named.

Of the four, Victor Vito, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden are players of excitement and skill – potential matchwinners.

The fourth, Benson Stanley, is unfairly painted as a player whose turn has come only through injuries to others. Yet he is a poised, thinking midfielder with a thunderous tackle and highly rated by those in teams he plays in and often leads.

We’ll find out before too long.

Also on rugby, The Press says Haden must go:

The decision by the Rugby World Cup Minister, Murray McCully, to allow former All Black Andy Haden to continue as an ambassador for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, is a serious blunder.

Announcing yesterday that Haden would be keeping his role, McCully wildly missed the point about Haden’s misconduct and tried to suggest that because of some tepid expressions of regret by Haden about the language he used the matter should now be considered closed.

That is very far from the case. Haden has caused deep offence with a false and damaging accusation. He has not atoned for it, or even come close to apologising. Unless and until he does, he is not fit to remain as an ambassador for the Rugby World Cup programme.

Haden is one of the most connected men in rugby. So long as he doesn’t repeat his offence, I think he will be able to add value to the RWC.

Haden’s appointment as a Rugby World Cup ambassador was a questionable one from the outset. His reputation has long been under scrutiny. His dubious display in the lineout against Wales raised persistent questions about his behaviour on the field

Good God, they are carrying a grudge.

The Dominion Post wants a national school of music:

News that the Government is refusing to stump up with $11 million to help fund a New Zealand School of Music is unsurprising, given the economic climate.

But it is disappointing. Wellington is indisputably the country’s cultural crucible, and such a school – to be a joint operation between Victoria and Massey universities – could only enhance its reputation.

Now, however, the school’s backers face a serious obstacle in the shape of Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce. He has told the universities to consider their options carefully – they had jointly pledged $10m to the school’s establishment – because the Government refuses to fund capital for new tertiary institutions.

The challenge ahead, therefore, cannot be underestimated, especially since what began as a $20m facility is now estimated to cost $60m.

I’m sure they have looked at this, but music often attracts wealthy patrons. There maybe some philanthropists out there willing to help fund the proposed school.

And the ODT talks three strikes:

There is no doubt many New Zealanders will take comfort in the passing into law last week of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill. And if indeed the controversial Act New Zealand three strikes legislation enjoys such a popular mandate, that is understandable.

Crime, especially violent crime, is a slur on society, a source of primal fear and unease and, periodically, the cause of crippling grief, loss and financial hardship for innocent individuals and families. …

National campaigned in 2008 on getting tougher on crime, and Act NZ, more specifically, put forward this law as part of its confidence and supply requirements. …

That is to say, while all agree it is right and proper to be tough on violent crime, that there is a retributive element to any punishment, that there are some recidivist criminals who will never respond to attempts at rehabilitation, the problem is not quite as simple as this law might seem to propose.

Its passage into legislation raises legitimate and fundamental questions: Is it good law? Will it make a difference?

I think it will. Those recidivist criminals often go onto commit scores and scores of crimes, bouncing into and out of jail all their life. Under this law, their third serious violent or sexual offence will see them locked up for a very long time, and the community will be safe from them while they are locked up.

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Clifton on Aussie Imports

May 31st, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jane Clifton writes:

Green co-leader Russel Norman worked up quite a head of steam in Parliament yesterday about the menace posed to New Zealand by its predatory neighbour. …

But Dr Norman was plainly unconvinced. And when he pointed out that the Australian-owned banks that dominate the New Zealand banking system had self-interestedly repatriated 85 per cent of their profits during the recession, when New Zealand really needed the money, Mr English didn’t disagree that Australian shareholders did not have this country’s interests at heart.

But still the ripples of amusement continued.

Dr Norman’s final question brought the mirth right out into the open. “If Kiwibank is sold to Australia, will the Government require Kiwibank to change its theme song from God Defend New Zealand to Advance Australia Fair, or perhaps to Advance Australian Profits?”

Mr English grinned broadly as he answered: “I would find that question easier to answer if it were not asked with an Australian accent.”

For the MP warning against callous, grasping Australian “eeen-terests” and “proi-va-toi-sation” is himself … an Australian (though now a New Zealand citizen).

“Good onya, Digger!” enthused Maurice Williamson.

Reminds me a bit of the former NZ First MP Peter Brown who would launch tirades against immigrants, despite being himself an immigrant from the UK.

For the record Russel has been an Aussie for 30 years and a Kiwi for up to 13.

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Structural Separation Options

May 31st, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Tom Pullar-Strecker writes:

The proposal that the Government take a direct stake in Telecom’s network arm Chorus is alive and well, after briefly being misdiagnosed with an acute case of “copper-poisoning”.

Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds was leaning towards a full demerger of Chorus when he briefed analysts on options for the possible breakup of Telecom on Thursday, the idea being that Telecom shareholders would be issued with shares in Chorus, which would become a separate listed company.

But the two options are not incompatible. The Government could take a stake in Chorus and the remaining shares could be distributed to Telecom shareholders. Indeed, that may be the best outcome. Nor is there a reason why Telecom shouldn’t be allowed to retain a minority stake in Chorus under that or any other scenario. The more investors the merrier.

I am supportive of structural separation of Telecom. And I believe the preferable way to do it, is to issue all existing share-holders direct shares in Chorus. Over time they would attract infrastructure investors seeking lower but safer returns, while Telecom would attract investors in a competitive higher profit arena.

I would place a limit of any “customer” of Chorus owning more than a certain percentage – say 5% or 10%.

It makes no sense for the Government to set up a separate fibre company to partner with a demerged Chorus to lay fibre to three-quarters of New Zealand under its ultrafast broadband (UFB) investment initiative. After talking to Mr Reynolds following the investor briefing, it is clear that is not what he is suggesting.

“We see a demerged business, somewhat related to the existing Chorus, containing both copper and fibre into which the Government and Crown Fibre Holdings could invest on a nationwide basis and with which others could partner. The concept is you are building one national access business that has copper and fibre in it.”

This is certainly an option. One could put the $1.5 billion into Chorus as capital, with special shares not requiring a dividend (for example).

However one has to also be careful with assuming that even a structurally separated Chorus is automatically the most efficient and effective provider of fibre to the home in all areas.

From what I have seen (including a detailed study of the likely costs), electricity lines companies (such as Vector) will be able to roll out fibre to the home considerably cheaper than telecommunication companies due to their existing assets and resources consents. Vector for example has a strong case in Auckland.

There may be a win-win though if Chorus sub-contracted work in certain areas to companies such as Vector and Citylink, if they can do the job more efficiently. Maybe Vector would even want to take a stake in a separated Chorus?

We also have Axia from Canada in the fray, with considerable experience in rolling out fibre. They also may be offering a cheaper or better option than a separated Chorus. I don’t know, not having seen their bids.

I regard it as a major plus, that the process to date has led to Telecom willing to go down the structural separation path. However that does not mean they are automatically the successful bidder.

The decisions in this area will have a profound impact on NZ infrastructure for the next 30+ years. For my 2c the Government should not rush into a decision. It is much more important to get this right, than to worry about whether or not the actual roll-out starts on schedule.

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General Debate 31 May 2010

May 31st, 2010 at 7:16 am by David Farrar
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Teacher assaults

May 31st, 2010 at 6:58 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

At least two secondary teachers are seriously assaulted by pupils every school day, a union survey shows.

The Post Primary Teachers Association says teachers are being punched, kicked, struck with objects, or verbally abused.

I share the concern over teacher safety. Some horrendous assaults have occurred on teachers.

However it would have been useful to not include verbal abuse under the definition of assault. Verbal abuse is also quite unacceptable, but I want to know what proportion of these ten assaults a week are physical, and verbal.

She insisted, however, that it was not a problem in every school.

Principals contacted by The Dominion Post said the majority of assaults were verbal but in a disturbing trend, the age of students responsible for serious assaults such as stabbings were getting younger.

I’d hate to see metal detectors in schools, like in the US, but I do despair at what one can do about these stabbings of teachers.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said while there was “no magic wand” to deal with violence in schools, the Government was taking it very seriously. It had given an extra $15m over two years that would help thousands of teachers receive extra training, including in effective classroom management.

This is well intentioned, but maybe the funding needs to go to detect unstable kids and make sure they get treatment.

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ACC as model for welfare?

May 31st, 2010 at 6:14 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

ACC’s focus on getting beneficiaries back to work could become a model for those on long-term social welfare, invalid and sickness benefits, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Such a new direction would be costly, for example, by funding drug and alcohol rehabilitation and other treatments for social welfare beneficiaries, she said. And it could require a culture change to address.

As a taxpayer it is a cost I would be fairly happy to pay, if successful.

Ms Bennett told the Herald she had particular concerns about people as young as 16 and 17 being put on the invalid’s benefit for conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome or low-level mental illness and remaining on it for a lifetime.

“It feels like sometimes in Work and Income that the whole system is set up to concentrate on what people can’t do.

“If we change that whole culture into one of what can they do, what can we actually do to get that support … it would make a big difference.”

A focus on treatment and work sounds good to me.

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Cactus on Whale

May 30th, 2010 at 6:44 pm by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday had a story on Whale Oil today, and his wife was on TV3 news tonight. It’s difficult to see someone’s personal life and challenges laid so bare.

Cactus Kate has done a post on this, which says things so well, I’m going to do something I almost never ever do, and quote it in its entirety.

HoS appears to have been reading the sad plight of my mate and the mate of many bloggers, Whaleoil aka Cameron Slater.

Today is probably the most truthful article yet on Whaleoil because it was written with cut and pasted words from his wife and best mate aka Spanish Bride from his blog.

I’ve only known Cameron for a few years and all the time I have known him has been under the mantra of Whaleoil. Unlike SB, I have not known him as Cameron, before his spiral into depression.

I don’t know all the background of his fight with Fidelity and what led up to his depressive state, because I wasn’t there. SB was. She remarks that he was a different man before the events leading to his illness. I believe that now totally.

There is no one else I have ever met quite like Cameron as Whaleoil. His behaviour is outrageous. Friends compared notes and said that this is just him. It is not. What makes me astonished though with Fidelity’s conduct is that they do not seem to have at any stage lead him to get help. That is medical help and counselling for rehabilitation. It used to be humourous watching Whaleoil be outrageous. It is now not so fun anymore once everyone has worked out he has a genuine problem.

The answer with Doctors has always been to prescribe more bloody pills. Whaleoil is on more pills than patients at mental homes. I know this because unknown to him I checked his dosage on his pillpackets and asked someone I know who works at an actual mental hospital. He is sedated by a cocktail of these pills which leave him tired, moody and disconnected with the world. When I realised his dosage, I knew the seriousness of the black hole he had fallen into. He’s tried to come off the pills, that too has had bad consequences.

I hate pills as a solution for depression. They are not and they are over-prescribed. I hate watching all too many friends zombie around on them. They are not real people while sedated under the latest and greatest profit minded cure to make everyone “happy”. The underlying problem still remains and I can’t see any joy on being reliant on a pill to be happy, or even stable enough to get out of bed. It takes away the human nature of being happy and sad and managing both states.

Whaleoil does not think consequences, SB has highlighted that all too clearly. He will be fine sitting with you in a bar watching you drink (contrary to popular opinion he does not drink regularly and I’ve only seen him drunk once) then the slightest irritant across the bar and he will be talking about smacking another person’s head in. Change the topic and his attention away and he’s forgotten five minutes later of even being angry.

While medicated and unassisted emotionally with any form of therapy, he simply cannot work. The easiest question for doubters that he can be integrated into the workforce for a 40 hour week is this: would you want Whaleoil working in your office? Five minutes with him and any HR representative would instantly dismiss his job application. Fidelity’s treatment has turned an otherwise creative, intelligent mind into a zombie who now firmly believes he cannot work. At the moment I am on the side of stating that he cannot.

Whaleoil is a great friend because he cares about his friends, but an unreliable one. That is, even the slightest task you know he may not do it on time. As the reliable party in the relationship you have to organise everything around Whaleoil not being able to perform his part. This frustrates him when he realises what has happened.

Insurance companies are not paid to care. I feel however they are paid to follow contracts and assist their clients back into the workforce so they are not made to rely on payouts. There’s no doubt in my mind that Cameron Slater as Whaleoil is one of the most clinically depressed people I have ever met. While the original event leading to this depression may have been minor in the scheme of things Fidelity and the medical professionals who treated him from that point in time have failed miserably and created Whaleoil as we all read him today on his blog.

Fidelity created the monster that is Whaleoil. There is no doubt about that after watching him the past few months. Even when Fidelity were still paying him, the posts were written when he wasn’t actually getting better. On a few good days, a Whaleoil post can be brilliantly coherent, well-reasoned and rational. On a bad day a Whaleoil post can be the most offensive thing on the internet.

There is only so much that friends and family can do for Whaleoil. The frustrating thing is that no one can wave a magic wand and make him better. It has gone past that and I’ve seen everyone try. His close family we can see have tried everything. His wife and kids are amazing in the circumstance, their love is unconditional.

Whaleoil needs serious medical attention from medics without a conflict of interest from working for an insurance company or more medics who border on being criminals in my view – the depression script writers. They should be given Oscars for their script writing abilities. He needs a time out, away from the stresses of modern life getting back to basics of routine and normality. But most of all he needs help and therapy to re-connect with himself, his old self. The one that his wife speaks of but most bloggers would never have seen.

Cameron Slater.

Heard that he is a fucking great bloke.

If Fidelity Insurance found that bloke, I’m sure they would have a case closed and not look like the bunch of cunts they will be made to look like when it is disclosed they haven’t done a single thing, other than medication, to try and find him.

Cactus has said it all.

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One News Poll

May 30th, 2010 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

I’ve blogged at Curiablog, the results of the One News Colmar Brunton Poll.

National is below 50% for the first time, but none of the 5% drop went to Labour.

There’s a lot of lives issues at the moment – budget, mining, ETS, Kiwibank talk etc. I suspect some are pushing support one way, and some the other.

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Clark: NZ deeply racist

May 30th, 2010 at 4:01 pm by David Farrar

The SST reports Sir Ian McKellen’s interview where he reveals Helen Clark told him that NZ was deeply racist.

For example, I met Helen Clark while I was in Wellington. I was invited to her official residence, and waved in by a lone policeman who didn’t even check who I was, then I had a barbecue with her. I congratulated her on the public’s enlightened attitudes towards racial issues, but she disagreed. She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country , and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that.

First I could comment with bemusement how Helen thought attacking critics of her law removing the right of Iwi to go to court by labelling them”haters and wreckers” changed things for the better.

But I am sure that McKennen is correct and Helen did and does think NZ is a deeply racist country. We saw this when she spoke out on the Police shooting of Steve Wallace as being to do with racist attitudes. The fact the officer who had to fire the gun was also Maori was an inconvenient fact.

So in one sense, Clark’s view of New Zealand as deeply racist is no surprise. It would be interesting to ask her successor as Labour Leader whether or not he agrees with his former boss that New Zealand is a very racist country, and what does he plan to do to change it.

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General Debate 30 May 2010

May 30th, 2010 at 10:33 am by David Farrar
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H Fee Mark II

May 29th, 2010 at 8:04 am by David Farrar

Well I think Pete Hodgson’s career as a trusts lawyer (Cactus feel free to comment) is now well and truly over. For those who have not read the legal advice the PM has released, it is here and Key’s statement here.

I’d say this little attempt to smear Key has been about as successful as the last dozen ones Labour has tried, including their infamous H Fee attempt.

You have to wonder how many hours of taxpayer funded Labour work went into trawling through TV footage back to 18 months ago to find something he said at a dinner, and then digging through company files, all in a desperate attempt to prove wrong-doing in Key’s personal business affairs.

UPDATE: Tracy Watkins independently reaches much the same conclusions:

There is more than a whiff of the H-bomb debacle about Labour’s pursuit of John Key over his blind trust. That must be particularly galling for the new generation on Labour’s backbench.

The burning question is why anyone in their right mind would want to revive memories of a Labour Party that spent its dying days in office trawling through Australian court records for non-existent dirt on Mr Key. The equally troubling question for the rookies must be why Labour’s old hands are intent on repeating the same mistakes. …

Why so determined to drag him down? It is not personal. Labour just want to chip away at the fairytale. Mr Key’s rags-to-riches tale of a state-house boy made good is a huge political asset. Understandably, Labour sees a huge upside in denting that and its goal is to taint the fairytale with the usual big money associations. But it hasn’t done that so far with these latest allegations. Nor with the prevous attempts – which, in the case of the H bomb, came at a heavy cost. And the wounds from that had only recently healed.

So if Phil Goff’s leadership was supposed to turn a new chapter, why on earth reopen them – and, in the process, risk reminding voters that the old hands they voted out are still in charge?

There is no new chapter with Hodgson and Mallard still running things.

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General Debate 28 May 2010

May 29th, 2010 at 7:37 am by David Farrar
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Hooton on Privatisation

May 28th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton in NBR points out that in Government Trevor Mallard pushed for private sector investment in some SOEs and/or their subsidiaries. Mallard was right to do so then, and it is still right today. Extracts:

The state manages an SOE portfolio with total assets of $47 billion, more than the market capitalisation of the NZX 50.

Nothing about the portfolio is rational, consisting simply of the leftovers from the large trade-sales of the 1980s and 1990s. Alongside overinvestment in sunset industries, like regional rail and post, sit electricity companies and odds and bobs including a mining company, a manufacturer of pest management products, 371,000 hectares of corporate farms and an educational materials publishing house.

And it is ridicolous to say that this must be frozen in stone for all time.

Mr Mallard hoped that some growth could be funded off SOEs’ own balance sheets but he was also keen for them to partner with the private sector to develop new subsidiaries, which would be listed on the NZX. This, he argued, would provide depth to our capital markets and improve the transparency of the SOEs.
Mr Mallard was clear he was not interested in the type of wholesale privatisations that occurred when Labour had last been in power in the 1980s, but stressed that sell-downs or sell-offs of discrete new SOE investments should be allowed.

This is the challenge. Some SOEs are doing well, and want to expand – often into riskier overseas ventures. They should be able to do so, but the capital for such expansion need not come just from the taxpayer.

Foreign ownership is the big political bogey. If the taxpayer retaining an overwhelming majority stake is not enough, it may even be possible to develop an equity product restricted to the proverbial Kiwi mums and dads. It wouldn’t be as valuable as if it could be on-sold to anyone but that would be something the initial subscribers would know in advance.

Such a policy would not in fact be contrary to WTO rules, as claimed by the CTU.

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A trade surplus

May 28th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Strong export commodity prices have enabled the country to record its first annual trade surplus for nearly eight years.

Exports exceeded imports by one-sixth or $656 million last month, $200 million more than the market expected.

It pushed the trade balance for the year ended April into the black, by $116 million, the first annual surplus since July 2002, Statistics New Zealand said.

Goldman Sachs JB Were economist Philip Borkin said the most encouraging thing about that was the last time a positive annual trade balance was achieved, the New Zealand dollar was below 50c against the US dollar.

An annual trade surplus is rare indeed. And if we look at a graph of the NZ dollar:

Then we realise how unusual it is to have a surplus when the NZ dollar is so high. Thanks goodness for the global commodity price being high.

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Friday Photo- 28 May

May 28th, 2010 at 9:52 am by Chthoniid

Oyster Catcher Family

I used a kayak to get in close to these birds on a beach on Waiheke. It’s a more effective way to get close, as they’re much warier about people on the beach.

The most nervous part was having a lot of expensive camera gear perched perilously close to rather more water than I normally prefer…

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Quote of the Week

May 28th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Goff was interviewed this week by his former colleague John Tamihere, and he was asked about how come he condemns policies he once advocated for and voted for. The response is priceless:

TAMIHERE: How do you say on one side of it, oh no, this is damn good and all that sort of stuff and then on the other side of it say, wow shucks, today I thought about it and what you’re doing John is wrong but when I did it, it was right?

PHIL GOFF: Well, it was right when we did it …

Priceless.

My position is that Labour reducing the top tax rate to 33% and company rate to 28% in the 1980s was a good thing (and I voted for them in 1987) and that National doing the same thing in 2010 is also a good thing.

I can respect that Michael Cullen thought reducing the tax rates in 1988 was a bad thing, and that National reducing them in 2010 is also a good bad thing. I disagree, but at least he is consistent.

But Phil tries to have it both ways, by arguing that it was only the right thing to do when Labour did it.

I wonder if there is anyone on the right who tries to argue the opposite to Phil – that National reducing the top tax rate to 33 was good but Labour reducing it to 33% was bad? I’ve yet to meet them.

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General Debate 28 May 2010

May 28th, 2010 at 8:56 am by David Farrar
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The Best in Iceland

May 27th, 2010 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

A new party calling itself “the Best” looks set to cause a major upset in local elections in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik.

According to an opinion poll published Wednesday by the leading daily Morgunbladid, the upstart party whose candidates have broadcast campaign pledges on YouTube to the soundtrack of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”, could knock traditional political heavyweights out of the ring on Saturday.

The poll gave “the Best Party”, only created last November, 43.1 percent of voting intentions, way ahead of the conservative Independence party (28.8 percent) and the governing Social Democrats, who are trailing with 16.6 percent.

In a video posted on YouTube and filmed on a rooftop overlooking Reykjavik, the party’s leader Jon Gnarr, who happens to be one of the country’s top comedians, called for free towels in all city swimming pools, a polar bear for the city zoo and a Disneyland at Vatnsmyri, the capital’s airport, among other campaign pledges on the inevitably named “best manifesto”.

Who would vote against free towels, a polar bear and a Disneyland?

According to Wikipedia they are also very upfront:

The party has from the beginning admitted that it will not honour any of the promises given prior to elections and been very outspoken about their corruption.

Makes a change from trying to deny it!

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