Archive for August, 2010

Is Len Brown spamming Council staff asking for money?

August 31st, 2010 at 12:55 pm by David Farrar

Whale blogs:

I got sent more than a few copies of a Len Brown email that has been sent to staff at Manukau City Council. The truly creepy thing about this email from the Brown cam­paign is that it was sent to inter­nal email addresses, and it was sent with embed­ded links that if you check the code are hard-coded to the indi­vid­ual receiv­ing it so that the mere act of click­ing on a link can iden­tify you to the Brown cam­paign team. …

Not only is he solic­it­ing dona­tions from staff of Manukau City but he is also encour­ag­ing them to join the cam­paign and it is all being tracked in some sort of big brother creepy way.

The peo­ple that have received this and for­warded to me all say that they have never joined any mail­ing list for Len Brown. The code of the email shows clearly that this email was sent inter­nally, osten­si­bly from the Mayor’s office. …

Bot­tom line is that Len Brown has used coun­cil pro­vided resources to cam­paign amongst coun­cil staff and thereby politi­cized the neu­tral hard work­ing staff of Manukau City.

Sending a fundraising e-mail to Council staff is incredibly unethical, if the report is correct.

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No Right Turn’s OIA study

August 31st, 2010 at 12:07 pm by David Farrar

NZPA have done a story, based on No Right Turn’s OIA study. This is a good example of how blogs can do good quality research and get stories into the media based on their worth:

Nearly all ministers fail to supply information requested under the Official Information Act (OIA) in the required time, a study by a blogsite has found.

Idiot/Savant of No Right Turn, a left-wing blogsite, gathered information using the Act over the past three months on how requests for information were handled.

The fastest answering ministers were: Chris Finlayson (who is Attorney-General, and has responsibility for Treaty negotiations and arts) who answered all requests within the 20 working day deadline and Maurice Williamson (a minister outside Cabinet responsible for a range of portfolios including building, customs and statistics) who answered 96.1 percent on time.

The slowest were:

* Gerry Brownlee (energy, economic development, leader of the house) — 39.7 percent on-time.

* Judith Collins (police, corrections, veterans’s affairs) — 48.3 percent.

* Tim Groser (trade, climate change negotiations) and Jonathan Coleman (immigration, broadcasting, tourism) — 50 percent.

* Kate Wilkinson (labour, conservation, food safety) — 52.3 percent.

* Phil Heatley (fisheries, housing) –54.2 percent.

* Paula Bennett (social development and employment, youth affairs) refused to cooperate with the survey.

The blogger said it was appalling that ministers were not ensuring they met the legal time limit.

Hopefully the sunlight will encourage more Ministers to meet the deadlines in future. They are a deadline – not a target.

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Strangely fascinating

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

At White House Tapes you can hear LBJ ordering some trousers from a tailor, in his trademark coarse language.

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Update on purchase age support

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

The Herald updates:

The Green Party caucus last week decided to have a conscience vote on the alcohol purchasing age and their positions are not all undecided as reported yesterday in a poll of MPs.

Seven of the nine MPs support the purchasing age being 18 for on- and off-licensed premises.

They are Metiria Turei, Russel Norman, Keith Locke, Kevin Hague, Catherine Delahunty, David Clendon and Gareth Hughes.

Yay. Go the Greens!

Labour MPs Jacinda Ardern and Charles Chauvel support the age of 18 for both.

Good. I was surprised when yesterday it was reported Labour’s Youth Affairs Spokesperson was effectively favouring 19 year olds being banned from being able to buy a bottle of wine, but good to see Jacinda (and Charles) are  in fact supporting 18.

This now means twice as many MPs are supporting 18 over 20 – 27 MPs to 14 MPs. The split age still has the most support with 37 MPs leaning that way.

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SCF goes into receivership

August 31st, 2010 at 9:50 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

South Canterbury Finance Limited announced today that it has been unable to complete a recapitalisation and restructure.

As a result, the Company would have been unable to certify to Trustees Executors Limited, in accordance with the terms of its debenture trust deed with Trustees Executors Limited, that it was compliant with various financial covenants under the debenture trust deed for the financial year ended 30 June 2010.

Accordingly, South Canterbury Finance Limited has requested Trustees Executors Limited to appoint a receiver in respect of the whole of its undertaking and assets, and Trustees Executors Limited has done so.

This is not the end of the road – it means TEL now has control of SCF. However it strongly indicates that the Government’s guarantee of deposits will be called on.

Personally I am pleased the Government didn’t attempt a King Canute.

Bernard Hickey writes:

The government’s decision not to support a recapitalisation plan for South Canterbury Finance was the right one. Receivership was the cleanest, simplest and ultimately safest option for both taxpayers and investors.

The government will now have to pay out around NZ$1.6 billion to 35,000 depositers in South Canterbury Finance that were covered under the extended guarantee scheme.

They have already paid out today $1.7 billion. Ouch. However some of that will be recovered over time.

It was clear from Prime Minister John Key’s comments yesterday about the administrative and institutional mess inherited by CEO Sandy Maier that he was no fan of the way Allan Hubbard had created and run the business as part of his own charitable small business empire.

Hubbard was making no interest ‘helping hand’ loans to young farmers and then mortgaging his own assets to make the interest payments.

Which is well intentioned. But he lent too much bad money, and in the end he has left the taxpayer with the bill. That is not generosity. Allan Hubbard is not the victim here – the taxpayer is.

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15 years not enough

August 31st, 2010 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The man who murdered undercover police officer Sergeant Don Wilkinson has been jailed for at least fifteen years.

On June 12 a jury found John Skinner guilty of murdering Sergeant Wilkinson during a covert police operation in September 2008.

Skinner was under police surveillance as a suspected P manufacturer and shot Sergeant Wilkinson with a powerful air rifle after catching him trying to install a tracking device on his Ford Explorer.

Janet Wilson summed this up wonderfully on NewstalkZB yesterday. She said it was not self defence, but quite the opposite – Skinner hunted down Wilkinson and the other office, and shot them like dogs.

It was an execution. I don’t think someone who chases someone in their car, and when catches up to them shoots them multiple times until they are dead is the sort of person who will ever rehabilitate.

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Trevor Mallard’s greatest hits

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

A reader has compiled this little video of Trevor Mallard’s great hits and misdeeds. A nice walk through memory lane.

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One in three chance of a further crash

August 31st, 2010 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

There is still a one-in-three chance of another crash, says Standard and Poor’s global chief economist David Wyss.

“The recession is over but it is a half-speed recovery,” he told a Breakfast With the Economists gathering in Auckland yesterday.

“We have now had four quarters of growth in all the major economies but we are crawling out of recession. And a slow recovery is a fragile recovery.”

Among the risks was the perennial one of another oil shock emanating from the Middle East.

“Another is the financial markets. Europe seems to be settling down but there is still a lot of debt in what we are now supposed to call the ‘olive belt.”‘

I’m surprised he only rates it one in three. I reckon it might even be one in two when you look at how weak the US recovery is also. The saving grace may be Asia.

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General Debate 31 August 2010

August 31st, 2010 at 7:57 am by David Farrar
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A song for Julia Gillard

August 31st, 2010 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

A friend sent this to me. Very cute.

The special votes are still being counted, and they are not helping Labor. Not only is the coalition still on 73 seats to 72 for Labor, but yesterday they overtook Labor on two party preferred voted. Gillard had suggested that Labor’s TPP lead is why the Independents should support them.

Now the Coalition leads on primary votes, TPP votes and seats.

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Did environmentalism poison liberals’ historical optimism?

August 30th, 2010 at 8:24 pm by David Farrar

Fred Siegel is a professor of history and senior fellow at a centre-left think tank in the US.

In this article for City Journal, he argues the rise of environmentalism has poisoned liberals’ historical optimism:

For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, American liberals distinguished themselves from conservatives by what Lionel Trilling called “a spiritual orthodoxy of belief in progress.” Liberalism placed its hopes in human perfectibility. Regarding human nature as essentially both beneficent and malleable, liberals, like their socialist cousins, argued that with the aid of science and given the proper social and economic conditions, humanity could free itself from its cramped carapace of greed and distrust and enter a realm of true freedom and happiness. Conservatives, by contrast, clung to a tragic sense of man’s inherent limitations. While acknowledging the benefits of science, they argued that it could never fundamentally reform, let alone transcend, the human condition. Most problems don’t have a solution, the conservatives maintained; rather than attempting Promethean feats, man would do best to find a balanced place in the world.

In the late 1960s, liberals appeared to have the better of the argument. Something approaching the realm of freedom seemed to have arrived. American workers, white and black, achieved hitherto unimagined levels of prosperity. In the nineteenth century, only utopian socialists had imagined that ordinary workers could achieve a degree of leisure; in the 1930s, radicals had insisted that prosperity was unattainable under American capitalism; yet these seemingly unreachable goals were achieved in the two decades after World War II.

Why, then, did American liberalism, starting in the early 1970s, undergo a historic metanoia, dismissing the idea of progress just as progress was being won? Multiple political and economic forces paved liberalism’s path away from its mid-century optimism and toward an aristocratic outlook reminiscent of the Tory Radicalism of nineteenth-century Britain; but one of the most powerful was the rise of the modern environmental movement and its recurrent hysterias.

The full article is a provocative read.

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Electoral Commission Appointments

August 30th, 2010 at 2:20 pm by David Farrar

Simon Power announced last week:

The Government today named two members of the new Electoral Commission, which has been created as part of the Government’s wider programme of electoral reform.

Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC has been appointed chairperson, while Robert Peden will be Chief Electoral Officer.

There should be no controversy over these appointments. Sir Hugh is the current president of the (old) Electoral Commission, and Mr Peden was the Chief Electoral Officer, of the old Chief Electoral Office in the Ministry of Justice. Both very solid choices.

One further Commissioner is to be appointed, and he or she will automatically be Deputy Chairperson.

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NZ media on Twitter

August 30th, 2010 at 2:06 pm by David Farrar

Bill Bennett has a list of NZ media on Twitter. Very useful.

Also Brenda Wallace has a list of MPs on Twitter.

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Compare and contrast

August 30th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On Breakfast last week, Paul Henry interviewed two principals – one is a campaigner against national standards (and head of Canterbury Principals Union), and the other is a ordinary principal.

I recommend people go watch the video, to see the contrast in attitudes.

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Zealotry exposed

August 30th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Supermarkets are drug “pushers” who are selling high quantities of discounted wine and should be viewed the same as dealers dishing out Ecstasy pills or morphine.

It may seem extreme but it’s a view that Professor Doug Sellman, director of the National Addiction Centre and spokesman for the Alcohol Action Group, is taking quite seriously.

Need more be said. Alcohol Action are not the voice of a balanced group. It is an extreme voice, pushing policies that few New Zealanders would agree with. Sadly, it seems to be the group that the Law Commission gave the most weight to.

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Mold quits TVNZ

August 30th, 2010 at 11:18 am by David Farrar

Fran Mold has today quit as Deputy Political Editor for TVNZ, according to well placed sources.

The reason is an agreement in principle that she will replace Kris Faafoi as Chief Press Secretary to Phil Goff.

However the timing of this is very is interesting. You see Labour have yet to have their “democratic” selection process. Yet the outcome seems certain enough that Fran has quit prior to the 18th of September when the selection is made. I guess, the head office delegates are not going to be listening to who makes the best speeches on the night.

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No data caps?

August 30th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Tom Pullar-Strecker reports:

Pacific Fibre may charge internet providers a fee per customer to use its proposed international communications cable, rather than charging for a set amount of bandwidth, to encourage them to offer generous or unlimited data caps to broadband users. …

Co-founder Rod Drury said carriers had to guess how much capacity they might need on the existing Southern Cross Cable. Pacific Fibre’s approach would be to avoid a situation where consumers faced restrictive data caps while most of the bandwidth available on subsea cables went unsold.

“We don’t want to be `Southern Cross minus 5 per cent’. Why don’t we flip the model around and go to a per-person charging model and then try to give internet providers as much bandwidth as we possibly can for that?” The charges could be segmented by customer type. “You could do it for mobile connections, home connections, schools, hospitals and businesses, and set a reasonable price.”

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Ernie Newman welcomed the approach. “The way the world is moving is towards all-you-can-eat-type plans and any move like that has got to be the way of the future.”

Hear hear.

I pay an enormous amount for Internet data. There is my home Internet connection and my work Internet connection. Then you had the Vodem for mobile Internet. Add on the data plan for the Blackberry and the data plan for the iPad, and you get the idea.

Wouldn’t it be great if Vodafone or Telecom offered a universal data package, regardless of medium. Say 20 GB a month which can be used on any of your devices.

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The OpenLabourNZ conference

August 30th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Need Winz advice or want to challenge Government policy? Just leave a comment on the minister’s Facebook page.

An open, transparent government should interact with the public using the internet and social media, the Labour Party says.

The party held its first OpenLabourNZ conference at the weekend, promising to improve transparency and ways the public can engage the Government. …

Kiwiblogger and National Party member David Farrar, who attended the conference, said it remained to be seen what the Labour Party would adopt.

“But they’ve been having a good open process to get people’s ideas. Often in policy development, a party is pretty opaque, where you just see what comes out in the end.”

The highlights for me were the video contributions from Andrew Raseij from the US, and Senator Kate Lundy of Australia. The best ideas are often already being implemented somewhere else, and this was no different. We also had Senator Lundy’s advisor, Pia Waugh, who was a non stop source of good ideas and enthusiasm.

Turnout was a bit down on what I expected for an event like this, but it was good to see half a dozen MPs there, including Phil Goff. Culture changes only happen if the leadership buys into it – otherwise it becomes a silo.

The Open Labour Wiki will be updated with some of the ideas from the conference, and I look forward to seeing what formal policy emerges from the process.

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MPs on the purchase age

August 30th, 2010 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

The Herald has surveyed MPs on where they stand on the drinking age. They have a story, and full results.

I’ve summarised the results, by party. They are:

18 Split 20 Unknown Total
National 5 16 6 31 58
Labour 6 19 8 9 42
Green 1 8 9
ACT 2 1 2 5
Maori 3 2 5
United 1 1
Prog 1
Ind 1 1
Total 19 38 15 50 122

So MPs for 18 are slightly ahead of 20, but a third of the Parliament favours a split age. What will be important is if a split age is defeated, will those MPs then vote for 18 or 20.

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Should the Government bail out SCF?

August 30th, 2010 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey is one of the few voices arguing that the Government should allow South Canterbury Finance to go into receivership:

But now the government faces an urgent decision between putting South Canterbury into receivership now, or putting in yet more taxpayers money in the hope it can survive and then thrive past the end of the government guarantee.

The choice is a difficult one. The immediate pain from a receivership would be substantial.

Receivership would trigger a payout to investors under the government guarantee of around NZ$1.7 billion. Some believe that shock to the government’s finances would be enough to trigger a review of New Zealand’s sovereign credit rating downgrade by Standard and Poor’s and/or Moody’s.

I don’t believe it would be enough to justify a rating review, but if it did that would immediately increase wholesale interest rates, which would eventually flow through to the entire economy. There is also the fallout on the South Island rural economy.

Any receiver would force through sales of farms, property developments and small businesses, many of whom are not paying the interest on the loans received from South Canterbury Finance. Dairy farm prices in the South Island could potentially take a big hit. Some believe this could send a new chill through the South Island that eventually cost jobs and stunt any recovery of economic growth. That’s because the Australian-owned banks are unlikely to step in to take over the loans.

This is the potential cost of letting it fail. It may be quite huge. It’s easy to just say “let them fail”, but that will mean a large payout by the Government, and a hit to the South Island economy.

South Canterbury Finance does not have a future beyond the end of the Deposit Guarantee. To have such a future, it would need to substantially increase its credit rating, find a new funder and convince already sceptical investors to go naked in backing the finance company without a deposit guarantee. They will also have to do it without their talisman Allan Hubbard, who will be long gone as owner and maestro.

At some point New Zealand’s dairy farming sector, particularly in the South Island, will have to reduce its debt.

When that happens it will be painful.

But as many investors in finance companies such as Strategic, St Laurence, Hanover and Dominion would attest, giving finance companies more time to ‘work it out’ and wait for the ‘market to bounce back’ is often worse than pulling the plug immediately. The New Zealand government faces a bail out decision in the same way Hanover Finance investors did 8 months ago and 12 months before that.

This is the crucial test – can SCF survive in the future if bailed out. Some compare it to Air NZ, which has thrived after a bail out. But there is a major difference between deciding to fly on an airline, or lend money to a finance company.

David Hillary also argues SCF should not be bailed out:

SCF is not a successful business, and it does not have a successful ‘good bank’ to salvage. The damage to SCF’s brand is total, SCF has been selling its best loans, and encouraging its best customers to re-finance elsewhere for probably a year now, leaving it with few good assets left. Its asset origination and management systems and personnel are the problem, and it is what needs to be closed down, not saved. …

SCF’s governance, leadership, culture and practices have been and are so bad that the company’s problems are pervasive, and this means that its liquidation value is likely to be higher than trying to keep it as a going concern.

Whatever the Government decides is going to be pretty unpopular.

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General Debate 30 August 2010

August 30th, 2010 at 7:54 am by David Farrar
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A taxpayer funded union

August 29th, 2010 at 2:36 pm by David Farrar

The SST reports:

UNDER-FIRE EDUCATION Minister Anne Tolley has labelled a campaign against national standards a “silly political game”, and slammed the Principals Association for bringing “nothing positive to the table”.

National standards, implemented in primary and intermediate schools this year, rank all children above, below or well-below benchmarks in reading, writing and maths. Now the Principals Federation is canvassing for money to fund an information campaign against the standards, with the Auckland Primary Principals Association already pledging $60,000. …

The federation is funded from annual subscriptions paid by schools out of government funding. The Auckland primary principals’ group is funded the same way and president Iain Taylor said its $60,000 would help people “learn more about the flaws in the current national standards”.

Few people actually realise that the Principals’ Federation is in fact funded by the taxpayer.  Almost all schools pay the membership fee on behalf of the principal.

As a taxpayer, I’d like a refund please.

If principals see value in joining the federation, let them do so out of their salary – like most other unions.

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Recividist drink drivers

August 29th, 2010 at 10:46 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

The number of repeat drink-drivers caught on New Zealand roads is showing a worrying upward spiral, and is a problem police are struggling to counter.

The number of recidivist drink-drivers has risen steadily over the past three years, and more than 4000 have been prosecuted already this year.

Many of them are involved in fatal crashes.

Figures released to the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act reveal 7200 people were convicted of their third or more drink-driving offence in 2009 compared with 6995 in 2008 and 6639 in 2007.

These are the ones who are the real hazards. They do not drive at 0.05 to 0.08 BAC. They drive at two to three times the legal limit. And if they have been convicted three or more times, it probably indicates they have driven drunk 100+ times. And they are also the ones who tend to flee from the Police, and kill people as they do.

The Government has proposed a zero BAC limit for recidivist drink drivers, and off memory are looking at alcohol locks on their cars. I think the alcohol locks are what may make the biggest difference. It won’t stop all of them, but it will stop some of them.

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A welcome u-turn from Dr Cullen

August 29th, 2010 at 10:17 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Prince Charles is strange and his father so insensitive and prejudiced that he could be a breakfast TV host, says New Zealand’s former deputy prime minister.

Michael Cullen’s comments, contained in notes for a speech he will make in Wellington this week, are bound to outrage supporters of the monarchy.

As a senior Cabinet minister, Cullen described himself as the Labour Government’s “token monarchist” and fought against any move for New Zealand to become a republic.

But, in a major about-turn at a constitution conference on Friday, he will publicly lay out a road map to becoming a republic when the Queen dies.

I’m pleased to see Dr Cullen leave the monarchist camp and join the republicans.

My motivations are not so much the personal characteristics of certain royals. They are:

  1. A republic would provide greater limitations on the role of the Prime Minister
  2. I believe our head of state should be a New Zealander
  3. Hereditary selection for a role is inferior to democratic selection
  4. A move to a republic will probably lead to a written constitution, which would generally be desirable
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General Debate 29 August 2010

August 29th, 2010 at 9:55 am by David Farrar
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