Archive for February, 2011

Our Man in Havana

February 28th, 2011 at 7:42 pm by David Farrar

Greatly enjoyed the opening night of Our Man in Havana at Circa on Saturday night. The play runs until Saturday 26 March.

The play is adapted from the book of the same name, by the great novelist Graham Greene. Greene wrote many good spy novels, and it turned out that during this time he was in fact an agent for M16. Kim Philby was his supervisor at one stage.

The book, and the play, are about a vacuum cleaner salesman who is recruited by the British Secret Service to spy for them. He has no intelligence to report, so he starts to invent informants and intelligence. He even sends back photos of vacuum cleaner parts, declaring them to be weapons of mass destruction. Note the WMD term is actually used by Greene, and this was in the pre-Castro Cuba.

Greene got the inspiration for his book from Joan Pujol Garcia, a Spaniard who was a double agent in WWII for the British and the Germans. He supplied masses of disinformation to the Germans, based on a fictitious network of seven agents and 19 sub-agents. He got an MBE from the British for his services, but ironically after the war ran into one of his German handlers who gave him the Iron Cross for his work.  They never realised he duped them.

Anyway enough about the novel, how was the Circa play?

I thought the play was a smashing good time. The four actors played 31 parts between them, plus they all took a turn as the narrator. The quick fire costume changes were done wonderfully, and the humour was infectious.

Jeff Kingsford-Brown played the lead of Wormold, but also the MI6 chief. His performance was excellent, and he was the glue of the show.

John Wraight’s main role was as Hawthorne, who recruits Wormold. Wraight has a very expressive face (he was superb in the Robin Hood pantomime), and he’s a natural on the stage.

Simon Vincent played a total of 14 roles from the Manuel-like Lopez to The Queen. His appearance as The Queen was almost painfully funny.

Last but not least Jessica Robinson managed to convincingly play both 16 year old daughter Milly and Wormold’s secretary Beatrice.

The photo above (taken by Stephen A’Court) shows a checkers game between Wormold and the Policeman Segura. Everytime you took a checker, you drank the bottle. I must try that game at some stage. The idea of course was to get Segura drunk so he could steal his gun.

I found the play very enjoyable, something most adults could enjoy. The first half was a bit slow to get moving, but the second half was action packed as events moved to a climax. Well worth seeing.

Victoria University Great Debate

February 28th, 2011 at 3:06 pm by David Farrar

The Victoria University Great Debate is on Tuesday March 1st at 6.30 at the Student Union Building’s Hunter Lounge at Victoria University.

The moot is “that there should be a universal liquor allowance for students“.

For the affirmative:

  • Simon Bridges MP
  • James Nokise (two times Billy T Award Nominee)
  • Josh Cameron – allround funny debater

For the Negative:

  • Darren Hughes MP
  • Jim Stanton (One half of Wellington’s Comediettes)
  • Jerome Chandrahasen – stalwart of the Great Debate and Billy T nominee.

The debate is always a very enjoyable affair. Tickets will cost $10, and you can pay at the door.

2011 Christchurch Earthquake Day VII

February 28th, 2011 at 9:37 am by David Farrar

1651: An initial support package for employers and employees has been announced. Employers will get $500 gross per week per FT employee and $300 per PT employee, to be paid to their employees. If an employer ceases business, then employees will get $400 a week net FT and $240 a week net PT paid directly to them. This is backdated to the quake and initially is for six weeks.

1005: Have not blogged previously on this, but huge kudos to Owen Glenn for his personal $1m donation to the earthquake recovery. Despite his appealling treatment by some, he has remained a good friend to New Zealand.

Just noticed that Stuff has a nice page of profiles on the victims known to date. They seem determined that no victim will be just an anonymous death, which is great.

At a macro level we deal with numbers such as 150 dead and growing. At a family level, every death is a tragedy which leaves a family with an emotional burden they never will fully recover from.

General Debate 28 February 2011

February 28th, 2011 at 9:29 am by David Farrar

Global appeal launched for Christchurch

February 27th, 2011 at 5:02 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

Prime Minister John Key today launched the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, a global fundraiser for the recovery effort in the city and the Canterbury region.

“It’s vital we reach as many people throughout the world as possible who want to help. This isn’t just New Zealand’s tragedy – the February 22 earthquake affected countless people internationally.

“Like all Cantabrians and fellow New Zealanders, I have been humbled by the offers of help and assistance pouring in from individuals, organisations and governments around the world. This new Appeal gives people another means of donating to the people of Christchurch and the recovery effort.

Mr Key said the Appeal was designed to complement those already established, such as the funds organised by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

“It’s my intention that the Government will work alongside these organisations to make sure the funds are used in the best possible way.

It will be useful, internationally, to have one official appeal that can be donated to. I expect much of the money donated will end up with NGOs like the Red Cross.

“I am also pleased to announce that the proceeds raised for the earthquake recovery from Saturday’s special Lotto draw will go directly to the Appeal,” said Mr Key.

I think I’ll buy a few tickets. Hopefully the major prize winners might also donate a portion of their winnings.

Mr Key said he was encouraging New Zealanders to give generously to Christchurch.

“Every little bit helps – every donation, no matter how small, will be welcomed.”

Donations can be made at

Telecom, Vodafone and 2 Degrees mobile customers can text chch to 933 to make an automatic $3 donation.

Donations can also be made via internet banking, or at any branch of New Zealand’s retail banks, by depositing into account number 03-0251-0039807-00.

Go to to find out more.

Good to see social media being used by the Government for the appeal.

2011 Christchurch Earthquake Day VI

February 27th, 2011 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

General Debate 27 February 2011

February 27th, 2011 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

Two minute’s silence

February 26th, 2011 at 5:21 pm by David Farrar

From the PM:

Prime Minister John Key has asked that all of New Zealand observes two minutes’ silence for the victims of Canterbury’s devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

“This may be New Zealand’s single most tragic event.

“I am calling on all New Zealanders to stop and remember those who have lost their lives, those who are missing, and the hundreds of people who are mourning family and friends.”

The quake struck on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12.51pm.

“At 12.51pm this Tuesday, the 1st of March, I am asking that New Zealand stops for two minutes as a sign of unity for the people of Canterbury who are enduring a tragedy beyond what most of us can imagine.

“Canterbury will recover and we will do all we can to ensure it does.

“For now we must do all we can to show its people that all of New Zealand grieves with them.”

I’ll do a reminder on Tuesday also.

A quick photoshop

February 26th, 2011 at 4:34 pm by David Farrar

This is the lovely Jed Wilson-Carver, who (allegedly) steals generators while people lie dying in the streets. I covered his criminal past yesterday. Stuff reports:

Fisherman Owen Anthony Jackson, 23, and his co-accused, Jed Wilson-Calver, 22, unemployed, raised their middle fingers to the court after Judge Crosbie denied them bail.

Not even a hint of remorse. The maximum sentence is seven years, if found guilty. Seven years sounds good to me.

In the meantime a viewer sent in a modified photo of big tough Jed.

2011 Christchurch Earthquake Day V

February 26th, 2011 at 11:45 am by David Farrar

1801: Death toll now 145.

The death toll is now at 123, and sadly there are still around 200 people listed as missing.

We are all hoping the final toll will not increase much more, but sadly I think it may. The 200 listed as missing are very specific – a wife saying their husband has been missing for three days – so they are very likely to be dead.

However some of the missing will be amongst the 123 dead – they have not identified them yet – so let’s say 60 of the 200 are already counted as dead. That would push the death toll to 250.

But it seems that the 200 listed as missing does not include the overseas students etc. If that is so it could push it up close to 300.

This photo (taken from CNN) was sent in by a reader, of the iconic ANZ Chambers. That open space at the top left is his bedroom. Luckily he was at work, but one can appreciate how traumatic it was at work or home.  A number of friends and acquaintances down there said that this quake really made them think they were going to die. Those of us from outside can only empathise and do what we can from afar.

General Debate 26 February 2011

February 26th, 2011 at 11:33 am by David Farrar


February 25th, 2011 at 10:12 am by David Farrar

Yay it is back. 9/10 in 44 seconds. The Japanese question was a guess and I got it wrong.

2011 Christchurch Earthquake Day IV

February 25th, 2011 at 9:07 am by David Farrar

1553: This podcast interview of an ambulance driver is gripping.

1551: Amazing photos at the Boston Globe.

1459: The Christchurch recovery Map website is a great resource where people can report and find out what is broken and what is open in their neighbourhoods. They’ve used info from tweets and elsewhere – a great use of social media to make a difference. One can also contact the Student Volunteer Army at or on Facebook at

1456: Christchurch people need your old phones. If you have a phone that works without a power supply, then please let Telecom know and they can get it to a family in need in Christchurch. Website is –

1448: Lowlives have been named. The two men arrested for stealing emergency power generators are 23-year-old Owen Anthony Jackson, a fisherman and Jed Wilson-Calver, 22, unemployed. It is reported “The two skin-headed men waved offensive hand gestures at photographers and court staff and media present in a makeshift courtroom at the Christchurch Police Station”.

Mr Wilson-Calver is the same Jed who in 2006 had $20,000 of fines wiped in exchange for 180 hours community service. The Judge said “he accepted Wilson-Calver was a hard-worker who had the potential to go a long way in life.” Guess he got that one wrong. He also in 2008 was found guilty of ramming his car into another car deliberately, and got eight months jail.

1049: The Government has just announced the 8 March 2011 census has been cancelled due to the earthquake. No date has been set for a replacement one, if there will be one.

The growing death toll is distressing, as is the realisation that major parts of Christchurch will probably have to be destroyed before they can be rebuilt. This is not going to just be a case of repairing some damaged buildings.

On the positive side, great to see the student volunteer army back in action.

General Debate 25 February 2011

February 25th, 2011 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

Offensive Nutters

February 24th, 2011 at 3:49 pm by David Farrar

Some morons have put up a site blaming the quake on, of all things, Gay Ski Week. I was tempted to just ignore the nutters, but it has got attention elsewhere so I decided not to ignore it.

I don’t know if the people behind the site are nutters who really believe what they say, or just trolls trying to cause offence. In the end it does not matter that much.

If it is the former, then these guys are to christianity what Al Qaeda is to Islam – an extreme nutty fringe that does not speak for the vast majority.

To be honest the site is so nutty, I think it is more likely to be trolls.

The cowards behind this have used a .net domain so their identities arre hidden. Not a surprise – if they showed their faces in public, they’d need new faces.

2011 Christchurch Earthquake Day III

February 24th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

1813: 98 now confirmed dead and up to 238 are missing. This includes 90 students and staff from  the King’s Education English language school, and 15 CTV staff.

For general discussion and updates. Should have appeared earlier but got home at 1 am and woke up at 10 am – which also happened to be the time i was due to appear before the Justice & Electoral Select Committee on the 2010 local body elections. The other posts were pre-loaded.

As with yesterday, any politics should be left out of it. All 122 MPs are reacting as human beings to a terrible tragedy, and while they have different roles, they are united in their genuine desire to assist and console.

General Debate 24 February 2011

February 24th, 2011 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

A double fisking for No Right Turn

February 24th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

No Right Turn has had a double fisking in the last couple of days. Cactus Kate, a tax expert, has fisked him over his claims of tax dodging by corporates (he failed to even read the notes to the accounts).

And on the other side of the spectrum constitutional law professor Andrew Geddis has politely rubbished his posts about the national state of emergency. We’ll start with that.

NRT blogged here and here that the calling of a national state of emergency is:

National states of emergency are intended for disasters affecting the entire country – wars, epidemics, that sort of thing. Instead, we’re seeing one cynically used for political purposes, essentially for spin. That is a gross abuse of power, and one we should not accept.


Make no mistake: this is a cynical political exercise, all about who gets the limelight (and hence the credit) in an election year. Again, it is a gross abuse of power. But entirely par for the course for National.

Now Professor Geddis has himself been very willing to criticise the Government when he feels they are acting inappropriately with regard to their powers. He criticised the Act responding to the last earthquake and the sacking of ECan. But in this instance he says:

To use a phrase much beloved of I/S himself, I call bullshit.

First up, the declaration of a national state of emergency does not mean that there is now a power to do all the horribly draconian things that he claims can be done in places like Invercargill, Whangarei or other places far from Christchurch. All the powers given under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDEMA) can only be exercised for the specific purpose of things like “saving life, preventing injury, or rescuing and removing injured or endangered persons”, or “prevent[ing] or limit[ing] the extent of the emergency”.

There is no way that these purposes can be said to exist outside of the immediate environs of Christchurch, so the specter of the police “clos[ing] public spaces in Invercargill” or the like in the wake of this declaration is a complete red herring.

So that puts paid to the so called gross abuse of power.  And as for why make it a national state of emergency:

But what about emergency situations where the resources of a single Group are inadequate to respond? There, help from other Groups may be needed. But getting that help requires those in charge of the affected Group to coordinate with those in charge of others, which is yet another task on top of the many they will have already. Furthermore, all they can do is ask for help – which other Groups may or may not be able to give, depending on availability.

However, now that there is a state of national emergency, two things can happen. First, the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management can take over the coordinating role between different Groups and centralise that process. Second, the Director can instruct other Groups to initiate their own emergency management plans and thus release resources to help Canterbury.

These powers may not be as earth shattering as empowering the police to shut down central Invercargill, but neither are they insignificant. Indeed, it isn’t going overboard to say that the fate of people’s lives may depend on the bureaucratic niceties involved in the declaration of national emergency.

Geddis concludes:

So, like I say – I/S’s posts regrettably are bullshit. I rather fear that he’s fallen victim to exactly the disease he accuses John Key and National of … being so partisan in outlook that everything must have a motive other than the obvious one.

Sometimes even politicians just want to do the right thing.

Cactus Kate is equally blunt when it comes to I/S’s financial literacy. He blogged:

Infratil [PDF] reported a pretax profit of $106 million, but paid only $11 million in tax – an effective rate of 10.4%

This was part of a series to make everyone think that all these evil corporate are evading tax and not paying their fair share. He even got Trevor Mallard blogging in agreement, which tells us much about Trevor’s financial literacy. The difference is NRT is just a blogger, and Trevor was once an Associate Finance Minister.

Cactus Kate explains:

If you click on Infratil’s accounts for example (they are the only one I could find with a comprehensive explanation of their tax balances) on page 53 you will see that here they take the net profit before tax and show a line-by-line adjustment on the tax numbers. The explanation of deferred and current tax is even made by the company in its accounts at page 45 in relatively simple terms.

The explanation for Infratil not paying the full company tax rate is a massive $30.4 million write-back in the “Net investment realisations/impairment”.

It had absolutely nothing to do with tax avoidance, evasion, shirking of their duty or offshore structuring. No cheating. All accounts are audited and signed off by professionals using NZ accounting standards.

And the killer blow is:

If NRT looked at pg 53 he will see that for the 2009 year Infratil made a net loss of $93.8 million before tax, yet had a tax expense of $34.6 million? How can a company making a loss NRT and pay all that tax? Based on the raw presentation of his data this makes no sense at all does it? Why? Because you have to read the data contained in the tax reconciliation and interpreted what has happened in the company.

Perhaps before No Right Thought engaged his fingers defaming a very wide range of directors in New Zealand as “cheating” on company taxes, he may just like to learn how to read and engage his brain and find out just why each corporate hasn’t paid the full tax rate for that particular year.

When you get fisked by both Cactus Kate and Andrew Geddis/Pundit in the same week, you’re not having a good one.

Christchurch Earthquake 2011 Day II

February 23rd, 2011 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

1349: Just grabbed the local Melbourne newspapers. The Financial Review has the factual “Quake devastates Christchurch” headline. The Australian headline is “NZ earthquake kills 65, hundreds still trapped” and The Age proclaims it “New Zealand’s  darkest day”.

1159: Blood Service have put out a PR saying there is *no* need for urgent blood donations, and also no donation facilities currently operative in Christchurch.

1139: Very emotional first hand account of earthquake by Press staffer Vicki Anderson. It’s a must read.

1129: Offers of assistance accepted from Japan, Taiwan, UK, US and Australia. Last earthquake cost $6b to $8b and this may be greater.

1126: PM says Police have confirmed 75 dead, of which 20 are yet to be identified. A national state of emergency has been declared and Civil Defence Minister will make a statement to Parliament. PM says he has notified Phil Goff of declaration and also thanked Goff for his assistance on the ground.

1123: Bob Parker says estimated dead now at least 75. There are also 300 missing but just a few minutes ago a report came of 15 survivors trapped in the CTV building. Also PM has declared flags at half mast until further notice.

0928: Now 39 confirmed dead.

0927: Have placed a widget for easy donation through Givealittle in the sidebar. Widgets are here. Donations will go to the official relief fund if one is established, otherwise 50/50 to Red Cross and Salvation Army.

0922: Earthquakes Video HQ has a video tribute site established, along with details of where to donate.

0917: Air NZ is offering international fares to and from Christchurch for families of only $50 to Australia/Pacific and $400 to Asia or US. Plus $50 domestic fares, and additional flights. Well done Air NZ.

First of all, no politics, no name calling here. Doing so will get your comments deleted and you on a holiday.

  • Google has a person finder app for those seeking someone or have information about someone.
  • Cabinet meets at 0930 and will declare a national state of emergency (as oppossed to a regional one)
  • Official death toll is 38, but it is expected to exceed 65 as multiple bodies are still trapped under buildings
  • Parker has said it has been several hours since a live body has been recovered from rubblem but Police say there are still cries of help from some buildings 

General Debate 23 February 2011

February 23rd, 2011 at 8:49 am by David Farrar

Note apart from an earthquake thread, there will probably be no other posts today. I’m not in the mood for politics. So my analysis of the welfare working group report, Hone’s looming expulsion can wait a day or two.

If you need to discuss things political, you can do it here. Please keep the earthquake thread free from politics.

2011 Christchurch Earthquake

February 22nd, 2011 at 1:51 pm by David Farrar

1824: The death toll is now thought to be around 65. Words are inadequate.

1810: Tv3’s coverage with Hilary Barry has been carried live on four Australian channels – SBS, SKY, 7 and 9. Hilary has done an incredibly professional job in trying circumstances.

1808: Civil Defence have confirmed 17 deaths to date. A terrible terrible tragedy. The toll may yet rise further.

1415: The Police have sadly confirmed reports of multiple fatalities including from buildings falling on two buses. This is very bad. It seems this quake was so near the surface it has done more damage than the last one.

Poor Canterbury. It sounds like a lot of damage but no firm news on those injured or worse.

I’m in Australia for work but will update when I can.

Thoughts are with everyone down south.

UPDATE: House question time cancelled for statements on earthquake. Emergency cabinet meeting starts at 3 pm.

Secondary teachers more isolated

February 22nd, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The PPTA was angry enough when the NZEI settled their pay claim with the Government, they must be annoyed that the Secondary Principals have also reached a settlement, and worse they have had to ratify it

This leaves the PPTA alone with its election year industrial action in support of their 4% pay claim for secondary school teachers.

What is really interesting is the detail of the Principal’s agreement. There is no increase in base salary at all – yes a 0% pay increase. But what they have got is some incentives for good performance – Board of Trustees will decide if they meet the professional criteria.

General Debate 22 February 2011

February 22nd, 2011 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

Goff caught by his own rhetoric

February 22nd, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The TV polls have shown around 60% are against National’s plans to sell part-stakes in some SOEs.

Frankly I thought that was a pretty giood result for a policy which for the last 12 years has been ruled off limits as it is meant to be lethal political poison. The more important indicator was that National’s vote remained high.

Yesterday the polls also showed 60% against Labour’s policy of a tax cut for every NZer by making the 1st $5,000 tax free. Now tax cuts are normally very popular, so it says something about how badly you stuffed up (no way to pay for it) by getting 60% of NZers against having a tax cut.

And Goff’s response to the 60% opposition? He said that those 60% were not knowledgeable about their plan. This 24 hours after he yelled:

Labour says it’s not surprised by the result.

“It shows Kiwis are two-to-one against John Key’s programme,” says party leader Phil Goff.

“Kiwis know that this is bad for them as taxpayers and it’s good for foreign investors. They don’t want it.”

So 60% against a National policy is because Kiwis know it is bad for them, but 60% against a Labour policy is because they are not “knowledgeable”.

Labour’s tax cut for everyone policy was meant to be their big circuit breaker. Instead it has fizzled.

Blunt on Tamaki

February 21st, 2011 at 9:15 pm by David Farrar