Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

A bottle of Grange ends O’Farrell’s premiership

April 16th, 2014 at 2:15 pm by Jadis

Well the Duke and Duchess are touching down in Australia amidst a political storm.  Barry O’Farrell, Premier of New South Wales has just resigned. O’Farrell’s statement to media says:

“I’ve been advised overnight that this morning at ICAC a thank you note from me in relation to the bottle of wine will be presented. I still can’t recall the receipt of a gift of a bottle of 1959 Grange, I can’t explain what happened to that bottle of wine. But I do accept that there is a thank you note signed by me and as someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my actions.

“The evidence I gave to the independent commission against corruption yesterday was evidence to the best of my knowledge. I believe it to be truthful and as I said yesterday it’s important that citizens deal with police, deal with the courts and deal with watchdogs like ICAC in a truthful fashion.

“In no way did I seek to mislead, wilfully or otherwise, the Independent Commission Against Corruption. But this has clearly been a significant memory fail on my part, albeit within weeks of coming to office, but I accept the  consequences of my actions. And that is that as soon as I can organise a meeting of the parliamentary Liberal party for next week I will be resigning the position and enabling a new Liberal leader to be elected, someone who will then become the Premier of NSW.

“Whilst I’m sure you have questions, I don’t think this is the time for those questions to be dealt with. There will be other occasions for those questions to be dealt with. But what’s important here is that again I’m seeking to support  the process of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, a body that I’ve always supported throughout my career. I’ve accepted that I’ve had a massive memory fail, I still can’t explain either the arrival of a gift that I have no recollection of or its absence, which I certainly still can’t fathom.   “But I accept the consequences. In an orderly way, a new leader will be elected to take on the position of Premier of NSW.”

So it was the bottle (wherever it may be) and his own thank you note that did it.

o'farrell note

Now the fun part.  Who will be the next Premier?  My pick is Mike Baird.

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Neo-nazis gain support in Hungary

April 8th, 2014 at 12:58 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Sweeping gains by Hungary’s neo-Nazi Jobbik party provoked concern across Europe yesterday after the anti-Semitic organisation won one in five votes in a general election which returned the maverick right-wing Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to power.

Results showed that far-right Jobbik, which wants detention camps for Roma deviants and has argued that Jews are a national security risk, had upped its share of support by five per cent and had secured 20.86 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s election.

This is very disturbing.  Jobbik is a vile racist party that fosters hatred. While it is only Hungary, the rise of antisemitism again in European politics is disturbing.

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France’s unbeatable deficit

April 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

AP reports:

France’s new finance minister says he wants to renegotiate the speed at which France cuts its budget deficit to limits set by the European Union.

Michel Sapin told French radio station France Inter on Thursday that the 3 percent deficit France has promised its European partners to achieve by 2015 remains the target, but that the “rhythm” at which it is achieved should be discussed.

Sapin, who is taking over as finance minister from Pierre Moscovici, says renegotiating the target “is in the common interest of Europe.”

France missed its deficit target last year and has repeatedly pushed back the date by which it will bring its finances into line with European limits. Its deficit last year was 4.3 percent.

The joys of tax and spend policies.

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Does plain packaging work?

April 1st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The tobacco industry has ramped up efforts to persuade New Zealand against plain packaging, by circulating research claiming to show the policy has not worked in Australia.

However, tobacco control experts have dismissed the findings and say it will take years to see the effects of the policy.

Philip Morris, the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes, has drawn attention to “three separate data sets that demonstrate plain packaging has not reduced smoking rates in Australia”. Two are company-funded surveys of smoking prevalence, by Zurich University and by policy consultancy London Economics. The third is industry sales data, released by the company, showing a 0.3 per cent rise in the volume of tobacco delivered to retailers last year. …

Philip Morris Australia and New Zealand corporate affairs director Chris Argent said that since plain packaging took effect in Australia, “hard data shows that the measure has not reduced smoking rates and has had no impact on youth smoking prevalence”.

“The plain packaging ‘experiment’ in Australia has simply not worked.”

The two surveys tracked prevalence – one of them looking specifically at youth – before and after the introduction of plain packaging.

My view on plain packaging is that *if* plain packaging does reduce smoking rates, then I think it can be justified. However it should only be introduced if the evidence is that it does reduce smoking rates.

The Cancer Council Victoria said the Zurich authors of the youth study had committed a “breathtaking error of logic” in looking for an immediate drop in prevalence. Adolescents’ uptake of smoking was gradual, starting with the first puff, passing through experimentation to an increasing number of cigarettes smoked each day. Plain packaging would take years to affect youth prevalence “because the change needs to occur early in the period of uptake to divert adolescents from becoming regular smokers as they age into adulthood”.

Professor Janet Hoek, of Otago University, echoed these views.

She said it would have been remarkable if the interviewees, after just one year of plain packaging, had “completely forgotten associations the tobacco industry has carefully cultivated over the last decade”. Researchers had always expected plain packaging’s effects on prevalence to occur over the “medium term”, as branding links were replaced in people’s minds by adverse responses to tobacco and smoking.

The logical response to this is to not introduce plain packaging in any further jurisdictions until you do have the evidence that it reduces smoking rates.

In my experience many public health advocates are motivated more by hatred of the companies that sell the products they see as harmful (and tobacco is), rather than actually reducing the harm of the products.

In terms of waiting to see if they work in Australia, one challenge is other measures like changes in excise tax may impact smoking rates also, and we may never know what is the cause of any change.

That is why my preferred way forward is to introduce plain packaging in one region of New Zealand (a large one, maybe even the entire South Island) and then over time measure the change in smoking rates in that region to the rest of NZ. If the change is a greater decline then you have the evidence to introduce it to all of NZ. If there is no measureable impact, then it should be scrapped as ineffective.

Some will say why not do plain packaging, even if it doesn’t work, because anything that hurts tobacco companies is worth doing. Well I can sympathise with that, but I think the precedent it sets is a serious one. Inevitably you will then have certain groups then advocate plain packaging for other products they disapprove of – spirits, beer, wine, soft drinks, fast food etc.

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Fiji sanctions lifted

April 1st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

New Zealand is lifting travel sanctions against Fiji, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has confirmed.

In a statement, McCully said the progress Fiji was making towards holding free and fair elections deserved recognition from the Pacific region and international communtiy.

“There are now more than 500,000 people registered to vote in the September elections, electoral commissioners have been appointed and importantly Commodore Bainimarama has stepped down as the head of the Military.

The Fijian elections are three days before the NZ ones.

It is almost inevitable Bainimarama will be elected Prime Minister. What will be interesting is how he copes without military powers and an actual opposition. For me, it is the second election that will be the interesting one.

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March public polls

April 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

marpolls

 

The above graphs tracks all the public polls since the election, averaging them out every month. The trend for Labour over the last six months is quite pronounced.

The newsletter summary is:

 

There were five political polls in March – a One News Colmar Brunton poll, a Fairfax Reid Research poll, a NZ Herald Digipoll and two Roy Morgan polls.

The average of the public polls has National 17% ahead of Labour in March, the same margin as in February. The current seat projection is centre-right 64 seats, centre-left 56 which would see National form a Government.

In Australia Labor retains a narrow lead, but there have been improvements in the national mood.

In the United States President Obama’s numbers are stable overall but dipping for handing of foreign policy – probably due to the Ukraine crisis.

In the UK Labour’s lead has dipped to just 3% in the wake of a generally positive budget for the Government. David Cameron’s ratings are also increasing.

In Canada the Liberals remain ahead in the polls, but no party is projected likely to win a majority.

We also carry details of polls in New Zealand on the Kim Dotcom, the NZ Flag, Countdown, Len Brown, income inequality Labour’s baby bonus plus the normal business and consumer confidence polls.

This newsletter is normally only available by e-mail.  If you would like to receive future issues go to http://listserver.actrix.co.nz/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/polling-newsletter to subscribe yourself.

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Japan loses

March 31st, 2014 at 11:00 pm by David Farrar

Australia (with support from New Zealand) has won against Japan in the International Court of Justice with a 12-4 ruling that Japan’s whaling programme is not scientific research and it has stated that Japan should not issue any further permits.

The decisions of the ICJ are final and can not be appealed. Of course a state could refuse to implement them, but the reputational loss would be massive.

Japan may halt their whaling programme entirely, or try and create a new “scientific” programme in the future. It has been suggested in the past that they wanted to end it anyway, but didn’t want to be seen giving into the quasi-terrorism of Sea Shepherd. So hopefully they will accept the court ruling, abandon the pretense that the whaling was for scientific purposes and cease operations. That would be a good thing.

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Will NZs boom be affected by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

March 28th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Sir Michael Leigh blogs at the German Marshall Fund:

New Zealand is enjoying an export-led boom. At 3.1 percent, it boasts the highest GDP growth rate of any developed country. Reconstruction after the devastating 2012 Christchurch earthquake has provided an additional boost. Prime Minister John Key of the National Party is expected to win a third term of office in September, an achievement paralleled only by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the period following the global financial crisis.

National is at 79% on iPredict to still be in Government after the election. This is exceptionally high. In 2011, I don’t think they were ever above 61%.

Much of New Zealand’s growth is fueled by trade with China, which has displaced Australia as the country’s largest export market. New Zealand’s exports to China rose by a spectacular 45 percent in 2013. Milk powder and other dairy products were by far the largest export items but meat and forest products also made major inroads into the Chinese market. Four factors explain the phenomenal growth figures: the implementation of the 2008 free trade agreement between China and New Zealand, Beijing’s first such agreement with an OECD country; rising demand for quality food products from China’s growing middle class, which is set to double within a decade; the high quality and competitive pricing of New Zealand’s agricultural products; and the proactive export strategy of Fonterra, the dairy giant owned by 13,000 New Zealand dairy farmers.

The FTA was Labour’s greatest gift to NZ. It’s appalling that Greens and NZ First opposed it. But one has to also credit Fonterra for their export strategy. An FTA provided an opportunity only.

Observers here worry about the country drifting into a dairy-fuelled version of the Dutch disease, with insufficient economic diversification, inflation, and a property bubble. To counter this, New Zealand’s agricultural production is moving up the value scale. The country’s eight universities are teaming up with industry to foster innovation. New Zealand increasingly exports know-how, technology, and services, linked to investment projects. Still, agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy.

It is not a choice of high tech or agriculture. We need to do both.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), now being negotiated by the United States and the European Union, excites curiosity and concern. New Zealanders share Europe’s apprehensions about its possible implications for food security and about the need to maintain high health, safety, and environmental standards. They are also concerned about the bilateral nature of the agreement and the apparent absence of provisions for accession by third parties.

New Zealand is one of only six WTO members that do not have current or expected preferential trade deals with the EU. The abolition of transatlantic tariffs on food exports could put New Zealand at a further competitive disadvantage. There are high tariff peaks for dairy and meat products in the EU and United States which would still apply to New Zealand exports.

This is why the best outcome would be to conclude the Doha round and have a multilateral agreement to reduce tariffs. Without that we run the risk of bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements disadvantaging New Zealand in a relative sense.

More fundamentally, New Zealanders recognize TTIP’s potential for strengthening the rules-based international trading system, in which they have a strong interest. After the failure of the Doha Development Agenda, there may never again be another comprehensive round of global trade liberalization, despite the modest breakthrough in Bali last year. New Zealand would then have to rely on bilateral agreements such as its FTA with China, or the agreement under negotiation with Russia.

It is hard to see the Doha round ever being completed.

Kiwis are under no illusion concerning these countries’ commitments to intellectual property protection, health and safety standards, or judicial independence. New Zealand suspended trade negotiations with Vladimir Putin’s cherished Customs Union after Russia’s forceful annexation of Crimea. This and tensions in the South China Sea are reminders that Moscow and Beijing may not always be reliable partners. TPP and TTIP would effectively set global standards which could be adopted by countries around the world and codified by the WTO.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described TTIP as the economic equivalent of NATO. For all their geographic isolation and growing economic integration with Australia, Asia, and the Pacific, New Zealanders feel they belong to the West and would broadly welcome TTIP as reinforcing values they share with Europe and the United States.

I’ve not paid too much attention to TTIP (as opposed to TPP), but maybe it could be the base for a NZ-EU agreement of our own one day?

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Shorten says never again to the Greens

March 26th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Labor, which suffered a swing against it of about 9.5% to leave it with 27.4% of the vote, has also pointed to voter dissatisfaction with the power-sharing arrangement in Tasmania.

The federal opposition leader, Bill Shorten, said Labor’s formal relationship with the Greens was marked down by Tasmanian voters. Shorten said he could “foresee no set of circumstances that in the event that Labor was elected to government nationally, that we would go into a formal alliance with the Greens”. 

That’s a very strong statement, but reflects how deeply unpopular the alliance in Tasmania was.

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Thomson goes to jail

March 26th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

HE ripped off lowly-paid health services workers, fraudulently using union funds to satisfy his cravings for prostitutes and porn.

He then lied to the nation — under parliamentary privilege — falsely claiming the charges against him were the work of vicious enemies out to cause his downfall.

But the sum total of disgraced former Labor MP Craig Thomson’s dirty deeds and deceit added up to just three months in jail yesterday — of which he served just two hours in the lock-up before being granted bail ahead of an appeal.

Thomson, 49, was given a 12-month prison sentence, but nine-months was suspended over two years.

That’s a light sentence, especially compared to what Taito Philip Field got.

 

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Turkey vs Twitter

March 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Turkey’s government on Saturday accused Twitter of allowing “systematic character assassinations” a day after social media users easily evaded a government attempt to block access to the network.

The attempted crackdown came after links to wiretapped recordings suggesting corruption were posted on Twitter, causing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government major embarrassment before local elections on March 30.

The government’s effort to shut down the service backfired on Friday, with many finding ways to continue to tweet and mock the government for what they said was a futile attempt at censorship. Even President Abdullah Gul worked around the ban, tweeting that shutting down social media networks cannot “be approved.” Turkey’s move to block Twitter sparked a wave of international criticism.

Sad to see a country head down the path towards attempted censorship of the Internet. Of course it has backfired.

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Russia will tremble

March 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand has joined the countries imposing travel bans on those Russian and Ukrainians seen as responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully today said New Zealand had made it clear that Russia’s actions regarding Ukraine and Crimea are unacceptable.

“We have confirmed that New Zealand will not recognise the outcome of the referendum in Crimea,” McCully said.

“Applying sanctions will position New Zealand alongside other members of the international community who have condemned the breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Targeted individuals would be banned from obtaining visas to enter New Zealand.

“We will update and revise the list of those covered by the sanctions based on future developments,” he said.

Putin will be trembling I am sure.

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Enemies of the Internet

March 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Reporters without Borders has released its annual Enemies of the Internet report. The enemies they list, and why are:

  • Saudi Arabia: prime centre of content blocking
  • Bahrain: No Internet spring
  • United Arab Emirates: Tracking “cyber-criminals”
  • USA: NSA symbolises intelligence services’ abuses
  • Cuba: Long live freedom (but not for the Internet)!
  • Syria: online tracking is a family affair
  • Iran: Cyberspace ayatollahs
  • Russia: control from the top down
  • Arms trade fairs: Surveillance dealerships
  • United Kingdom: World champion of surveillance
  • Belarus: Apparatus of repression
  • Uzbekistan: Welcome to digital tyranny
  • Pakistan: Upgraded censorship
  • India: Big Brother up and running
  • Vietnam: Targeting bloggers
  • China: Electronic Great Wall getting taller
  • Turkmenistan: News black hole
  • North Korea: the Web as a pawn in the power game
  • Sudan: Scoring high in censorship
  • Ethiopia: full online powers

How sad the US and UK make the list due to their over-reach of surveillance. Surveillance should be targeted as suspects with probable cause, not the entire population.

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The secret Rudd donation

March 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Australian reports:

KEVIN Rudd’s growing fears of losing his seat at last year’s federal election led to a fundraising drive among his supporters to pay for targeted polling and a secret $200,000 overseas donation that the party believes may have breached state electoral laws.

Labor’s pollster, UMR Research Australia, yesterday confirmed it had conducted a $200,000 “program of research” in Mr Rudd’s Brisbane electorate of Griffith ahead of the election on September 7.

The donation was received and UMR commissioned to do the research — understood to have included focus groups and “robo” call messages to voters — just days before the election without the knowledge of the national secretariat and state Labor officials.

UMR is now refusing to refund the money to the Queensland ALP, which sent a letter of demand for the $200,000 after a meeting of its administrative committee on Wednesday.

I have to say I’m with UMR on this one. They were commissioned in good faith by the party leader to do research, and they did the research. The fact the party now has to refund the donation that paid for it is the ALP’s problem. Unless there is more to this than meets the eye, I think it is outrageous they are asking their supplier to give them money back. It’s almost akin to the allegations against Countdown.

While Mr Rudd denies any wrongdoing, the committee was given legal advice alleging the donation from the former prime minister’s long-time friend Kung Chin Yuan, a Taiwanese-born businessman, may have breached Queensland electoral rules, as well as internal Labor rules on the limits for branches handling finances. Under Queensland laws, any donation of $100,000 or more has to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission of Queensland within weeks of its receipt. Mr Rudd says all disclosures were the responsibility of the party.

ALP state secretary Anthony Chisholm told the committee that until this month, he was unaware of the donation until it was discovered in an audit of the Griffith branch. The audit found the donation was paid directly by Mr Kung into the Griffith branch bank account from his bank account in Taiwan and withdrawn hours later to cover the UMR bill.

The Queensland ALP is demanding UMR pay back the $200,000 so it can return the donation to Mr Kung, a Labor donor since 1998.

It’s no surprise that Labor broke electoral laws. But the refund is their problem, not UMR’s.

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How to stop Putin

March 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Fred Kaplan writes at Slate:

And so the main goal of the United States, the EU, and NATO should be to deter and dissuade Putin from moving his troops deeper into Ukraine. There are two ways to do this, seemingly contradictory but actually (if well-managed) complementary. First, ratchet up the penalties. Second, leave room for diplomacy.

Crimea is gone and done, but the key is now to stop Putin there.

The penalties should include—right now—stepping up military deployments to the NATO allies, especially to Poland and the Baltic nations, which were once tied to the Soviet Union. Another: Draw up plans for containing and countering Russian troops in the event of an incursion into Ukraine—not sending U.S. or NATO troops, but shipping arms, maybe some advisers and black-bag Delta forces—and talk about these plans with the allies, and Ukrainian officials, on open phone lines. Putin surely knows the limits of his army. The ground forces in that sector of Russia could invade Ukraine, but they lack the resources and logistical lines to sustain an occupation for very long, especially in the event of even slight resistance. We have to make him realize we know these limitations, too.

Putin has won a tactical victory with the annexation of Crimea, but he has made a strategic blunder as all his neighbours are turning against him, and his dream of a Eurasian Union will die.

Finally, plans should be drawn up to flood Ukraine with Western money. Putin knows that the Warsaw Pact nations that joined the EU are much better off than those that didn’t. Freedman points out that, in 1990, just before the implosion of the Soviet Union, Poland’s GDP amounted to $64.5 billion, while Ukraine’s was a bit better at $90.2 billion. In 2012 Poland’s had skyrocketed to $489.9 billion, while Ukraine’s was much worse at $176.3 billion. Make plans to turn Ukraine into another showcase—another way of demonstrating to Russia’s thinning gang of allies that they’ve chosen the wrong side.

Shows the benefits of capitalism and trade.

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Improving the relationship with our largest trading partner

March 19th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

While Key’s visit to China this week – built around giving assurances over food safety standards – is unusual, it is hard to argue with the evidence that relations with China continue to deepen and broaden.

Trade with China, an economy strongly controlled by officials in Beijing, continues to grow at remarkable speed.

Yesterday, there was formal announcement that New Zealand would be allowed direct currency trade with China, becoming one of only a handful of currencies in the world to do so.

That’s significant and useful, as we no longer have to do a double exchange by converting to say US first.

All of this came ahead of tonight’s dinner, intimate in terms of state dinners at eight or nine guests a side, believed to be the first with a New Zealand prime minister since David Lange in the 1980s.

In the lead-up to this trip, the schedule appeared lacking in any event which could match the pageantry of last year’s 19-gun salute on the courtyard in front of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

But the night’s dinner suggests both that China has no interest in embarrassing New Zealand over the botulism scare, and that the relationship between the leaders is warm and personal. 

This is Key’s third meeting with President Xi Jinping in a year, possibly the most the Chinese leader has had with any foreign leader.

As Stuff says, this does not win votes but …

Such details win few votes at home, especially with no media attending the dinner.

But in terms of giving confidence that all is well with one of the main drivers of New Zealand’s economy, it is hard to beat.

China has a growing middle class. They is a great opportunity for countries that can produce goods and services middle class Chinese families want.

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If WWI was a bar fight

March 17th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

funny-World-War-one-joke-fight-Germany

 

I love the last few lines especially. From The Meta Picture.

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Australian Labor goes for the racist approach

March 13th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

398810-07434724-a97a-11e3-9a89-1de6a43f024e

 

This is the cover of a brochure put out by the Australian Labor Party against Liberal candidate Carolyn Habib (who was born in Australia incidentially).

Some may argue it is just using her surname, but it is clear the effect they are going for with the following aspects:

  • No use of her first name (Carolyn)
  • The bullet-riddled crumbling wall which looks like a Middle East warzone
  • The military style font

Also the reverse side doesn’t use a photo of her, but a sinister silhouette.

1203_habib2_sp

 

Very nasty stuff.

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Turkish PM also muses about closing down Facebook!

March 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has backtracked on a threat to shut down Facebook and YouTube in Turkey.

Erdogan, who is fighting allegations of corruption, said last week that the government was considering steps to prevent secretly wiretapped recordings from being leaked on the internet, including shutting down Facebook and YouTube.

NZ Labour’s progressive ideas are starting to catch on globally!

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Two state elections this weekend

March 12th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Two state elections this weekend in Australia – South Australia and Tasmania.

If Labor lose office in both elections then they will be out of power in every state and at the federal level. Their one hold out will be the Australian Capital Territory.

In South Australia they currently have 26 out of 44 seats.  The latest TPP poll has the Coalition 8% ahead which could see Labor lose as many as 11 seats.

In Tasmania the Liberals are on 47%, Labor 24% and Greens 18%. The current projections are Labor to go from 10 to six seats, Liberals from 10 to 14, Greens from five to four and Palmer from zero to one.

Tasmania will be especially interesting as Labor have been in power for so long there, but the Labor-Greens coalition Government became massively unpopular with voters and the backlash looks like it will be significant.

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He’d make a good Mayor of Toronto!

March 12th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

TREASURER Troy Buswell, 47, has suffered a mental health breakdown and has resigned from the WA Cabinet, effectively ending his political career.

Premier Colin Barnett yesterday faced an extraordinary press conference, revealing the Treasurer has suffered a “mental health’’ breakdown and had been admitted to hospital in Perth and then Sydney, where he remained for about 10 days.

This comes after he crashed his ministerial car drink driving. It’s amazing Buswell has survived this long:

January 2008: Mr Buswell admits to and apologises for an incident the previous year where he snapped the elastic bra strap of a Labor staffer.

April 2008: Mr Buswell admits he sniffed the chair of a Liberal staffer in 2005.

August 2008: Mr Buswell resigns as Liberal leader.

April 2010: Mr Buswell admits to having an affair with then Fremantle Greens MP Adele Carles. He later apologises over the affair resigns as treasurer.

February 2011: Mr Buswell, as transport minister, admits to clocking up nine speeding fines in three years.

December 2012: Mr Buswell is accused by Adele Carles of alleged inappropriate behaviour at a Christmas party the year before. Mr Buswell sues Ms Carles over the allegations but the case is later dealt with via an out-of-court settlement.

March 2014: Mr Buswell takes immediate personal leave for “health related” reasons. Reports then emerge Buswell was involved in a late-night car crash the night before he took leave.

With that track record, maybe he should move to Canada and try and stand to be Mayor of Toronto!

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A conscience vote in the UK on euthanasia

March 11th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

The legislation of assisted suicide has moved a significant step closer after the Government made clear that it would not stand in the way of a change in the law.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and peers – including Coalition ministers – will be given a free vote on a Bill that would enable doctors to help terminally ill patients to die, The Telegraph can disclose.

That will be a fascinating vote. There will be MPs in all parties both for and against.

Under the 1961 Suicide Act, it remains a criminal offence carrying up to 14 years in jail to help someone to take their own life.

Four years ago, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines that made clear that anyone who assisted a loved one to die while “acting out of compassion” was unlikely to be charged. Since then, around 90 such cases have been examined and no one prosecuted.

So there is a de facto legalisation. It is appropriate the law reflect the reality.

A Bill drawn up by Lord Falconer, a former Labour lord chancellor, to legalise “assisted dying” – allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminally-ill patients – is before the House of Lords. Peers are expected to vote on the plans in the next four months.

If the Bill is supported there, it will then pass to the Commons where some MPs say they have detected growing support for the move – influenced by opinion polls suggesting that up to three quarters of the public would support a change in the law.

A 2010 poll found 82% in favour and just 13% opposed.

Observers in Parliament estimate that just over a third of MPs would back a change in the law, a smaller group is strongly opposed, and up to 40 per cent are undecided.

I think a change to allow euthanasia for terminally ill people in pain would gain the support of most MPs in the NZ Parliament.

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One way to lift turnout!

March 11th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With no one else on the ballot, state media has reported that supreme leader Kim Jong-un was not only elected to the highest legislative body in North Korea, but he won with the unanimous approval of his district, which had 100 percent turnout. 

That’s up from 99% turnout! I guess the threat of execution if you don’t vote was effective!

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10 unusual driving laws

March 8th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports on 10 unusual driving laws.

  1. Don’t eat while driving in Cyprus
  2. BYOB (bring your own breathalyser) in France
  3. Keep your car clean in Russia
  4. Don’t run out of fuel on Germany’s Autobahn
  5. Use your headlights 24 hours a day in Sweden
  6. Don’t shake your fist at other drivers in Cyprus
  7. Carry an extra pair of glasses while driving in Spain
  8. Don’t ride with a drunk driver in Japan
  9. Don’t drive blindfolded in Alabama
  10. Have a beer while driving in Costa Rica

The no blindfolded driving is my favourite.

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The socialist paradise of Venezuela

March 6th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Chavez died on March 5, 2013, after a long battle with cancer. He chose Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, to be his successor, but the ride since his death has been anything but smooth. Inflation hit 56 per cent last year, there are shortages of basic commodities such as cooking oil and flour and one of the highest murder rates in the world keeps people locked in their homes at night.

Imagine a country where the price of goods and services is 50% higher at the end of the year. And then even worse that you can’t buy basic necessities. And finally you cower inside at night. Welcome to the success of socialism. They even have had shortages of toilet paper!

Venezuela has a huge amount of natural resources. Its problem is that it has one of the weakest property rights regimes in the world and has nationalised and confiscated property. So investment goes away.

As for crime, the crime rate is so bad there, do you know what the Goverment did in response? They no longer publish crime data!!

A person is murdered every 21 minutes and the homicide rate has quadrupled in the last 15 years. More people are killed there than in the Iraq War. In the capital city, the homicide rate is 122 per 100,000. That means that over 1 in 1000 residents are killed every year. Over a 10 year period your chance of being murdered is greater than 1 in 100.

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