Labour keep focusing on the Royal Tour

April 9th, 2014 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Earlier today, Labour leader David Cunliffe took a swipe at John Key over the royal visit, suggesting the prime minister was milking the extra “face time” with Prince William and his wife, compared with his own limited meetings.

Oh dear. This is not a good look.

Labour seem to have had an obsession with the Royal Tour (which frankly I find a bore). They first invented a convention that you never have a royal tour in election year. After I pointed out there had been around five ro six previous royal tours in election years, they changed this to be no royal tour within six months of an election, but again there had been royal tours (when Labour were in power) much close to an election than this.

So first they invented conventions, and now they’re complaining they are not getting enough invites to hang out with the royals.

He also described a possible visit to the White House as “pre-election PR from the prime minister ” who was “stage managing the calendar of the year as it suits him”.

Umm, the NZ Prime Minister doesn’t decide the timing of an invite to the White House. In fact such invites are very very hard to get. If the PM is getting an invite, it is because President Obama likes and rates him.

A diplomat made an interesting observation to me a few weeks ago. He said that the national leader who has spent the most time in the last year with the President of the United States would be the NZ Prime Minister. He also said that the national leader who has spent the most time with the President of China would be the NZ Prime Minister. Now it is pretty extraordinary for any NZ PM to be the leader either super-power President has spent the most time with. But to be have had the most face time with both the US and Chinese Presidents – I’d say unprecedented for almost any national leader, let alone a minnow like New Zealand.

Cunliffe said it was very  important that the treatment of the royal visit was as even-handed as possible between the government and the opposition, and also that the visit was well-spaced from the election.

Of course the Prime Minister is going to have more time with overseas dignitaries than the Opposition Leader.

Asked why Key had so many events with the royals Cunliffe said, “I guess he likes the camera time.”

Key said that he would not be at the “vast, overwhelming” number of events on the royal visit schedule and did not believe he was milking the event.

“I don’t actually think anyone’s going to vote National, Labour or any other political party because we’re seen standing next to the royals when they’re in New Zealand,” Key said.

“They vote on the economy, law and order, health and education. As soon as David Cunliffe starts talking about that and not this sort of rubbish, he might do a little bit better.”

That’s actually sound advice. Whining that you have not had enough time with Price William is just not an attractive look – even if you honestly feel slighted.

At his one-on-one meeting with the prince, Cunliffe expected to discuss those issues the visitor wanted to raise. He would also be happy to brief him on things Labour thought were important such as building a fairer and more decent country and including everybody in the opportunities.

“I’m sure that he would agree with that.”

He would also talk about the deeper economic issues, such as the problems with the balance of payments.

Labour’s going to talk about the Balance of Payments with Prince William. Hell I may be a republican, but that’s just a step too far – cruel and unusual punishment!

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Tax revenues down

April 9th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

Worsening budget deficits raise serious questions about National’s management of the economy and its books, Labour finance spokesman David Parker says.

He was speaking after Treasury today reported that the Budget deficit had continued to worsen. A lower tax take had pushed the books into the red by $1.4 billion, $884 million more than expected.

Parker said for four months in a row the books were worse than predicted, with tax revenues falling short of expectations.

“For the November and December figures Treasury said there were timing issues. They were given a bit of leeway. But now even Treasury admits it doesn’t know why the books are even more in the red.

“Somehow (Finance Minister) Bill English is presiding over a growing economy but not getting the tax revenue that should be coming with it. He needs to explain himself.”

Tax revenues are notoriously difficult to project. Even an individual company can easily find its profit will vary from forecast by 10% to 20%. The Government’s tax revenues are based on projecting the combined profits and hence tax payments of several hundred thousand companies. And that’s just on an annual basis – let alone on the monthly forecasts.

Employers may be hiring extra staff which reduces profitability and tax in the short-term. They may be purchasing assets which increases depreciation.

Or it may be that heightened business confidence and economic growth is not actually being reflected in profitability and tax for structural reasons – which would be more of a concern.

English said the figures reinforced the need for restraint in government spending.

“We remain committed to reaching a surplus next year and Budget forecasts next month will confirm we are on track,” he said.

“It is a challenging task that will be achieved only if we remain disciplined.”

Yep. The Government has limited control over how much tax is paid to it by the private sector. It does however control how much money the Government will spend.  Hence the constant need for fiscal discipline.

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A Mega lawsuit

April 9th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Internet Party leader Kim Dotcom is facing a new lawsuit in the United States from six Hollywood film studios.

They claim in their suit the Megaupload founder “facilitated, encouraged, and profited” from illegal file-sharing on the site.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed the suit on behalf of the studios this morning (NZ time).

The lawsuit was filed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Universal City Studios Productions, Columbia Pictures Industries, and Warner Bros Entertainment in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The US Government is already seeking to extradite Dotcom to face charges of copyright conspiracy, racketeering and money-laundering allegedly carried out by his file-sharing company, Megaupload.

It’s an interesting move. Does that signify concern over whether the criminal case will succeed, or was this always planned?

Dotcom is specifically named in the suit, under his most famous name as well as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor.

Kim Tim Jim Vestor???

According to the Government’s indictment, the site reported more than $175 million (NZ$203.4m) in … proceeds and cost US copyright owners more than half a billion dollars.

The studios allege Megaupload paid users based on how many times the content was downloaded by others. But the studios allege the site didn’t pay at all until that content was downloaded 10,000 times.

This is a key detail in both the criminal and civil lawsuits. Other file-sharing websites do not pay people based on how many downloads they get for content they upload. This is how they allege they incentivised copyright infringement, rather than just provided a file sharing platform (such as the new Mega).

This does not mean the lawsuits will be successful. But it is a key factor in why Megaupload was targeted, and not other file-sharing sites. If someone can earn say $10,000 by uploading the latest movie release, well that is a pretty good incentive to do so.

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Brown on synthetic cannabis

April 9th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Russel Brown writes:

With the news yesterday of the attempted arson of a legal highs store in Invercargill, it’s reasonable to ask whether we’re on the verge of public hysteria about synthetic cannabis. The next question would be why it’s happening now, when 95% of retail outlets for such products have been either shut down or forbidden to to sell the products — and those remaining are closely monitored and, for the first time, required to be strictly R18 premises.

What seems to have happen is that the law has been sucessful in closing down most legal high outlets but it has made the remaining outlets more visible.

The list of products deemed low-risk and granted interim approval is a fraction of the nearly 300 legal highs sold in the past few years, before the new Act. It includes half a dozen fairly harmless pill products containing caffeine, guarana, kava, green tea and amino acids, and the rest is synthetic pot. When the full approval process gets underway, all of these will be banned subject to the Authority being satisfied that they present a low risk. It is quite possible that no products administered by smoking will meet the standard.

People forget that prior to the law change there was no regulation at all. Prohibition will not work, so the current law should be given time to see if it is effective.

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General Debate 9 April 2014

April 9th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Everest Base Camp Day 3

April 9th, 2014 at 3:07 am by David Farrar

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Water in Nepal is not generally safe to drink, so normally you boil it first and then also add a water purifier such as Aquamira. Seven drops from each bottle per litre. You’re meant to drink four litres a day to stop dehydration.

On the health front our guide also has a little gadget that you stick on your finger and it measures your oxygen level in your blood and your pulse. On the first night my blood oxygen level was around 95% and resting pulse 56 beats per minute. That was at around 2400 metres. On the second night the blood oxygen was 91% and pulse 67 so it will be interesting to see how much more it changes as we go up.

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Today was a rest day, or more accurately an acclimatisation day. We did a three hour walk in the morning, so it wasn’t that restful. Here we go through some woods up to the local museum.

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You can see the museum at the far left, and the army barracks in the centre. Quite funny to see armed soldiers putting out laundry!

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Outside the museum you get your first view of Mt Everest. It’s the peak on the left in the background.

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This exhibit has some rocks from the dead sea, so stuff from the lowest point on Earth is at the view of the highest point on Earth,

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Me with Everest in the background.

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After the museum we then did a 300 metre climb up the hill over Namche. And I mean a climb. Almost straight up – it was a zig-zag but each zig and zag was only four metres or so. A view of some crop and farm land below.

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A helicopter flying overhead.

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And it landed at a small airport around two thirds of the way up. Only choppers land here now. Once they had six seater planes landing here, but the runway is far too rough for that anymore.

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We finally made it up to 3,770 metres and there was a tea house up there.

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We had morning tea up here and the photos can’t capture how amazing it was. On all four sides we’ve got views of snow covered peaks – yet it was a warm day.

So far during the trek it has been warm during the day – I’ve had on just shorts and a merino top. But in the evenings it is already getting bitterly cold – wearing two layers of merino, a puffer jacket, gloves and a beanie – and am still cold.

 

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I love how they define what a long toilet use is!

Extra is how the lodges make most of their money. The actual room costs around 300 rupees which is around $3.50 NZ only! But wireless is 500 rupees, electricity 200 rupees, a shower 150 rupees etc so that is where they get more of their income from. Still incredibly cheap though.

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This is how I am managing to blog. The local telecommunications tower.

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Quite different terrain up here – bush and open plains to a degree.

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This is by the airport and is the local cremation site. I pity the locals who have to carry a body all the way up here.

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A great view of Namche Bazaar from above.

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One of the things I love about being here is that yaks and mules are constantly making their way along the streets along with all the humans.

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Today is the last day it is safe to eat meat. The hygiene standards (and accommodation standards) drop significantly from tomorrow, and it is not safe to eat meat. So I had a steak as my final meat for the next 12 days.

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And Tau makes 15

April 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

National MP Tau Henare has announced his retirement from politics on Twitter.

The veteran MP announced he will retire at the election.

The 53-year-old former Maori Affairs Minister made the announcement via Twitter this morning, saying: “Well, I’m on my way to caucus to inform my colleagues of the @NZNationalParty that I intend to retire at the upcoming General Election.”

Henare was first elected to Parliament in 1993 elections for New Zealand First in the former Northern Maori electorate.

He is currently chair of the Maori Affairs select committee and a member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee.

I knew Tau when he was the NZ First Maori Affairs Minister. Not too many Ministers would be sitting in their office with some of their staff having a sing-along with a guitar. Tau was actually an effective Minister, and I’ve always been a bit disappointed he never got a chance to be a Minister again.

“I could have put my name in to be nominated but at the end of the day [15 years] is a good haul for a fella like me.

15 years is a good spell. Some in other parties seem to think 33 years isn’t enough! I’ll miss not having Tau around – lots of fun, and he was also a key MP in getting votes for Louisa Wall’s marriage bill from the Nats.

He would be the 15th National MP to retire at or before the election, with the most high profile among those resignations being Health Minister Tony Ryall.

Hopefully lots of new faces in caucus after the election. So far the quality of candidates selected has been good, but many more to go.

Matthew Beveridge has a collection of tweets from colleagues across the House wishing Tau well.

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Stonking confidence

April 8th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The economy is running at the best pace in more than a decade and business confidence is the highest since 1994 according to a new survey.

The latest NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion released today shows optimism and activity were being translated into hiring, investment and better profits.

“The underlying trend is very, very strong – stonking,” NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub said.

Retail spending surged to its highest level since 1994 and building was at its best since December 2003.

The survey shows confidence about the general business situation remained at net 52 per cent of firms positive, seasonally adjusted, the highest since June 1994.

The ten year highs keep getting replaced by 20 year highs.

So obviously this is a time in which we need to increase taxes, scrap our monetary policy, and partially nationalise electricity and housing sectors!

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Parliament Today April 8 2014

April 8th, 2014 at 1:42 pm by Jordan.M

Questions for Oral Answer.

Questions for Ministers. 2.00PM-3.00PM

  1. MAGGIE BARRY to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government ensuring recent broad-based growth and good fiscal management is delivering higher incomes and more jobs for families?
  2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  3. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE to the Minister for ACC: What announcements has she recently made in respect of the ACC levies?
  4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
  5. RICHARD PROSSER to the Minister for Primary Industries:Does he believe that New Zealand’s biosecurity preparations, including Biosecurity NZ, are sufficiently and adequately resourced to protect New Zealand from biosecurity risks?
  6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: By what percentage will New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions increase in the next 10 years, according to the Ministry for the Environment annual report for the year ended June 2013?
  7. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Infometrics estimate that the 1974 Super Fund would have savings of $278 billion, if it had not been axed by the National Government, and does he agree wages would be higher in New Zealand if we had those higher savings?
  8. IAN McKELVIE to the Minister for Economic Development: What announcements has the Government made to further help New Zealand exporters succeed internationally?
  9. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE to the Minister of Commerce: Does he stand by all his statements?
  10. Dr JIAN YANG to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has the Government made about better supporting people with autism?
  11. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that the proposed creation of new Executive Principal and Expert Teacher positions has the support and confidence of school teachers and principals; if so, why?
  12. GARETH HUGHES to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Is he satisfied safety in the petroleum industry is adequate given there have been two fires at installations, six uncontrolled releases of hydrocarbons, 15 events that saw emergency response plans activated, one well integrity issue and three incidents with the potential to cause a major accident, in just the past eight months?

Today Labour are asking whether the Prime Minister stands by all his statements, whether the Prime Minister has confidence in all his ministers, performance of superannuation schemes, whether the Minister of Commerce stands by all his statements, and partnership schools. The Greens are asking about the safety of petroleum production. New Zealand First is asking about bio security.

Patsy Question of the day goes to Dr Jian Yang for Question 10: What recent announcements has the Government made about better supporting people with autism?

Government Legislation 3.00PM-6.00PM and 7.30PM-10.00PM.

1. Land Transport and Road User Charges Legislation Amendment Bill – Committee Stage

2. Industry Training and Apprenticeships Amendment Bill – Committee Stage

3. Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Bill – Committee Stage

4. Trade (Safeguard Measures) Bill – Committee Stage

The Land Transport and Road User Charges Legislation Amendment Bill  is being guided through the house by the Minister of Transport, Gerry Brownlee. This bill proposes amendments to the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Road User Charges Act 2012.

The  Industry Training and Apprenticeships Amendment Bill  is being guided through the house by the Minister for Business, Innovation and Employment, Steven Joyce. This bill proposes amendments to the Industry Training Act 1992 and the Education Act 1989, and repeal of the Modern Apprenticeship Training Act 2000 to implement the findings of the industry training review undertaken by the Government in 2011 and 2012.

The Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Bill is being guided through the house by Chester Borrows, the Associate Minister of Social Development. This bill proposes amendments to the Social Security Act 1964 to make spouses and partners, as well as beneficiaries, accountable for fraud, and to enable the Ministry of Social Development to recover debt more effectively.

The Trade (Safeguard Measures) Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of Commerce, Craig Foss. This bill implements a new safeguards regime for New Zealand.

 

 

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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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1983 – Back in the Day

April 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by Kokila Patel

In David’s absence, I’ll be posting a few items in Kiwiblog fashion – focussed on politics

Q+A are researching the political news archives and looking back.  This snippet from last Sunday

The Labour Opposition Chief Whip Jonathan Hunt had refused to provide Ruth Richardson a voting peer.  Richardson, then a young mum needed to be absent from the house so she could breast feed her newborn baby.  In 1983, Richardson’s vote was essential due to National’s slim majority.

Response from Sir Robert Muldoon

“Jonathan of course is an elderly bachelor, and probably doesn’t understand much of these things, but there must be someone on the other side of the house who has got some compassion for Ruth and the problem in which she finds herself”

I’m cynical enough to believe that Muldoon in needing the vote, found the compassion for a mum on his side of the house (and there’ll be plenty of insiders who can correct this assumption), but what is more interesting is that it is the Labour Chief Whip who did not.  Even so, an invigorated Labour Party would have started to smell victory, and hard to imagine that any breastfeeding mother wouldn’t be bulldozed in that path.

I don’t know the exact legislation or regulations Richardson was helping National to maintain, but during the days of price freezes, ever spiralling inflation, some if not all of the voting must have been through gritted teeth!

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Vance on why Labour can still win

April 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance gives five reasons Labour can still win:

  1. The electoral system
  2. He’s no John Key. But he ain’t Phil Goff either
  3. New Zealand First: a spent force?
  4. The missing voters
  5. A new electoral landscape?

The electoral system definitely favours Labour.

Cunluffe is a very good debater, but so was Phil Goff. The challenge for Cunliffe will not be doing well in the debates, but having a good enough brand leading up to the debates that. Vance puts it like this:

He’s two-parts untrustworthy to one-part fake. And that’s just among his MPs.

Ouch.

Andrea is right that Winston is far less of a force in the House now. However that doesn’t mean he won’t make 5%. A few bribes to oldies and bash up the Chinese is a pretty tested formula for him.

The missing voters is what Labour is gambling everything on. It will help them if they can motivate sympathetic non-voters but I’ve yet to see signs that their own supporters are motivated – let alone non-voters.

National not getting any allies into Parliament is the nightmare scenario. They get 59 seats again but can’t govern.

So Vance is correct that Labour absolutely can win. There’s five months to go. The odds are against them but if they get their shit together they will be competitive.

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General Debate 8 April 2014

April 8th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Everest Base Camp Day 2

April 7th, 2014 at 10:26 pm by David Farrar

KAT0060

We have been drinking lemon tea by the litre. Around three times a day we get a giant thermos of lemon tea to share between the five of us. I haven’t drunk tea for around 30 years but am becoming quite a fan of lemon tea.

Was up at 6.30 am for a 7.30 am breakfast and 8.00 am departure. Today is around a seven hour day trekking to Namche Bazaar. There’s 1,000 metres of vertical ascent and a net altitude gain of 900 metres or so.

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The view ahead.

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Some locals making their own quarry.

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Snow covered peaks in the distance.

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The first four hours or so follow the river with a mixture of uphill and downhill.

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Some superb scenery on the way.

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You really don’t want to be crossing a bridge at the same time as yaks or mules.

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I suspect the river is rather cold.

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You can see two bridges ahead. We cross over the upper bridge. A fall would be unpleasant.

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The start of the big climb up. From here on in it is just 600 metres of climbing and zigzags.

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Crossing the high bridge.

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Towards the end of the climb the path widens up and is much easier.

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Goats will go anywhere!

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Namche Bazaar. We will be staying here for two nights, as this helps mitigate the risk of altitude sickness.

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That’s the view from our accommodation. The height we are at here is pretty close to the summit of Aoraki Mt Cook.

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Dotcom invited to Mana AGM

April 7th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In a statement this evening, Harawira confirmed talks with Dotcom in central Auckland over the weekend to discuss possibilities “for a relationship between the Mana movement and the Internet Party”.

He said the Mana executive had extended an invitation to Dotcom to address its AGM on Saturday,.

Dotcom had accepted the invitation in order to “talk to and understand the views of Mana members” Harawira said.

Oh this is too funny to be true. Hone can’t wait to sell out.

So will any Mana member have the courage to get up and berate Dotcom over the low wages he pays his staff (allegedly below minimum wage).

Will any Mana member say how disgraceful a look it is for him to fly into Huka Lodge in a helicopter to relax for the weekend, while scores of struggling Kiwi businesses had been waiting over two years to be paid by him?

Or will they just ask him how much money they can have for their election campaign?

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Monday Motivator – Boudhanath

April 7th, 2014 at 10:57 am by Richard Hume

Monday Motivator 17

Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal

With David currently in Nepal his images/posts are bringing back some great memories from my own time there. He posted some photo’s from around Kathmandu including one of the famous Boudhanath, so I thought I would include my own version here.

Boudhanath is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu and I have always liked the eyes and colours of this photograph.

Click on the image for a larger view of this photograph.

Cheers

Richard [richardhume.com]

YouTube: Timeless – A Panoramic Journey

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McKinnon says NZ republic is inevitable

April 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It is “inevitable” that New Zealand will ditch the monarchy and become a republic, Sir Don McKinnon says.

Speaking on the eve of the royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the former deputy prime minister said the country has been moving towards republicanism “for a long time”.

“I’m quite certain the royal family understands that completely,” Sir Don said.

”[There are] 54 countries in the Commonwealth, only 16 are realms, and I can tell you now that one Caribbean publicly, and three Caribbean, privately are probably going to give up that relationship with the monarchy when the Queen dies. So it is a diminishing group of countries, and the important thing is for us to openly and candidly debate the issue.”

This is significant coming from the former Commonwealth Secretary-General. Especially that four of the remaining 16 countries are planning to become republics when the Queen dies. Arguably that is a sensible time for NZ to do the same. A plus – no King Charles :-)

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How NZ is ranking

April 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Have had a quick look through the global country rankings that have come out in the last year or two, to see how NZ is placed. Have to say pretty good overall. Here’s what I’ve got, remembering there are around 200 countries:

  • Rule of Law 6th
  • Economic Freedom 5th
  • Best to do business in 2nd
  • Least Corrupt 1st
  • Open Data 4th
  • Prosperous 5th
  • Best to be a woman 7th
  • Competitiveness 18th
  • Peaceful 3rd
  • Democratic 5th
  • Human Development 6th
  • Best for working women 1st
  • Freedom 1st
  • Open Budget 2nd
  • Best to be a mother 4th
  • Humanitarian responses 3rd
  • Smallest gender gap 5th
  • Generous 1st
  • Least failed 7th
  • Trade competitiveness 4th
  • Social progress 1st

You have to say overall New Zealand is a pretty awesome place!

You also wonder at those who claim the neo-liberal reforms have made New Zealand such an awful place that we need to over-throw them.

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General Debate 7 April 2014

April 7th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Everest Base Camp Day 1

April 6th, 2014 at 10:00 pm by David Farrar

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I’d read in Lonely Planet that Kathmandu Airport can be chaotic for domestic flights where yiu may queue there for hours and then suddenly have five minutes to check in, and board etc. It seems they don’t really schedule flights, just queue them up.

However we struck luck. Left Kathmandu Guest House (which was great) at 5.30 am and sailed through the airport in under five minutes to be on board our plane by 6 am. However just as we were about to take off, fog closed Lukla Airport. While disappointed that we had to head back into the terminal, I was glad they were not going to try and land in fog as Lukla Airport is known as the most dangerous airport in the world. There have been seven crashes in just the last ten years with 36 fatalities.

Anyway the dog lasted only an hour and we were boarding again by 7 am and away.

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Some great views of the mountains from above the clouds.

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And after all my worry, a fairly smooth landing and we’re at Tenzing Hilary Airport. The elevation is 2,840 metres.

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You can see here a plane taking off. The runway is only 460 meters long and it is a sheer drop at the end. I think taking off will be more terrifying than landing!

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At the start of the path is this gate to Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, who was the first Nepalese woman to make the summit of Mt Everest in 1993. Sadly she died on the descent when the weather turned bad.

Incidentally the first woman of any nationality to make the summit also had it hard. Junko Tabei climbed it in 1975. On her way up she got buried by an avalanche and was under snow for six minutes until she was dug out.

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This is the start of the track. Later on it is much much rougher as you climb over rocks everywhere.

The first day is a net drop of 300 metres or so. However there is still lots of uphill also.

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Some nice colour.

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There is a golden rule. Never ever get between a yak or any beast and the edge. This part is very busy and we had to give way dozens of times to different beasts.

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A memorial cairn carved on the rock.

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A troop of mules.

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Quite a few settlements along the way.

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One of three bridges we crossed. Quite stable actually.

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You always pass to the left of the many religious monuments.

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Then we got to Phakding. I wasn’t walking in this gear as it was quite a warm day earlier on and you get hot walking. But once you stop walking it starts to get really cold.

Around 12 kms, so only a half day to get here. The elevation here is 2,610 metres.

Also love the quility voice on the billboard!

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The room we’re in. Pretty basic but comfortable. It even has its own toilet which is luxury for out here. The quality of the accommodation declines significantly as we ascend, I’m told. So this is the five star version! No heating so will get very cold at night.

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I liked this lone tree at the edge.

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The view from the end of the town. We cross down into there tomorrow and at the far left you can see the path ascending up. Tomorrow will have around 1,000 metres of vertical ascent.

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Kathmandu

April 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m in Nepal. Currently in Kathmandu, but about to fly to Lukla to start a 17 day trek to the Mt Everest Base Camp and back, along with four other Wellingtonians.

There will be no Internet (or electricity!) in some of the areas we pass through, so very little blogging for the next two to three weeks. There should be the occasional guest post, but not much from me. I won’t be clearing e-mails during this period either, and will be deleting all e-mails unread when I get back as there will be so many of them. So if you want me to read something, send it to me after 29 April.

Anyway have had a day and a half in Kathmandu, and a few photos starting with the most important one.

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This photo is a huge relief as Malaysia Airlines lost my bag (yeah, I know at least they didn’t lose the plane !) and for around 20 hours I was in a state of minor panic. On most trips losing your gear is a hassle, but not a disaster. Just go out and buy some clothes for two days. But if my bag didn’t turn up within 36 hours I would not have been able to do the trek – or would have had to try and buy a huge amount of gear and clothing and (legal) drugs. So was very very relieved when the bag turned up the next morning.

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Like many Asian cities, the electrical wiring is chaotic. By coincidence there are several power cuts a day. In fact as I type this there has been no power for 90 minutes. As it is 4 am, I guess not many have noticed!

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They have some great bookstores here. Will buy a few books after the trek, but no not this one – it isn’t autographed!

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One of the many temples at Basantapur Durbar Square. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Over two dozen temples, many hundreds of years old.

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This is the courtyard where the Royal Kumari, or living goddess, makes an occasional appearance. A young girl (the current one is aged four) is selected to be a living goddess for four years, and is worshipped at various festivals. seeing her is meant to bring good fortune. After she retires as a living goddess, she returns to her family. Few of them ever go onto marry. I guess being married to a former living goddess would be challenging! Especially as their every wish must be granted when they are a goddess!

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A statue of the monkey god.

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There is a purpose to this photo! Look at the size of the heels on her. Massive.

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Nothing stops a determined tree.

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Shiva the Destroyer.

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I love this portrayal.

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Hundreds of wild dogs run and lay around the place. Some, like this one, look very cute. But you never ever pat them as the chance of getting rabies from a dog bite is far too high.

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Yes he is heading straight for me. He seemed to take an interest in me and walked directly over to me, and then stopped next to me. Was a bit wary of patting him with those horns.

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Then we went to see Boudhanath which is one of the holiest Buddhist sites. I love the eyes, that make it so friendly.

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Inside one of the temples.

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One of the three million gods they have.

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This is the wheel of life. I like the depictions of the different heavens and hells. Lots of people being boiled in a pot down below.

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Then we went to Swayambhunath, also known as the monkey temple for obvious reasons. I liked this cute scene. However again no matter how cute, stay away as many have rabies.

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A big array of monkeys making their way over a roof.

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This was somewhat unusual. We saw a public cremation. Many families cremate their deceased here at the temple. This is meant to happen within three hours of death. You can see the body wrapped up being transported.

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Then it is set alight, starting at the mouth!

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And a cremation in full flight. Rather unsettling watching it. At the end, the ashes are swept into the river below. That’s one river you definitely do not want to fall into!

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A victory for intolerance

April 6th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tech workers in Silicon Valley are debating whether Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich got the comeuppance he deserved or was himself a victim of intolerance when he resigned under pressure this week amid outrage over his opposition to same-sex marriage.

It was intolerance. He wasn’t a campaigner or political activist. He dared to make a $1,000 donation in 2008 to a cause that is now unpopular – and got hounded out of his job for it.

Mozilla co-founder Eich, who invented the programming language Javascript, donated US$1000 in 2008 to support Proposition 8, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in California. Voters approved the measure, but it was struck down last June by the US Supreme Court.

In 2008 Barack Obama was also against same sex marriage.

When I blogged on this issue a week or so ago, some moron on Twitter did a comparison to someone who is a member of the KKK. Yes to some on the left, not being a supporter of same sex marriage is just like being a supporter of the KKK and lynching black people.

I’m a right winger who campaigned hard for same sex marriage. I’m thrilled it has been introduced in NZ. But I don’t judge those who had a different view.

On Friday, news of Eich’s departure prompted a backlash on Twitter. Many suggested Silicon Valley was intolerant of people with views outside northern California’s liberal mainstream.

Even Rarebit’s Hampton Catlin said he had not anticipated the issue’s escalation and was saddened by Eich’s resignation.

“We absolutely believe people should be allowed to have personal opinions, but we also believe that we are allowed to disagree and to try and change someone’s mind by expressing our own personal story,” the Catlins said in a statement.

I think it is horrific that Eich was forced out of a job after two weeks – not for anything he did in the job or since being appointed. But due to a six year old donation. It was a victory for intolerance.

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Views on private prisons

April 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday looks at the private prison debate:

The news of a declining number of people returning to jail comes as work gathers pace on a new $300 million private prison being built at Wiri, South Auckland, due to open next year.

Currently, the country’s only other privately operated jail is the 960-bed Mt Eden remand prison in Auckland.

Critics believe the construction of a for-profit facility signals a move towards more of the public system being placed in private hands. Even libertarians believe law and order is the most basic function of government. Surely justice and prisons are the last things we should privatise?

As I have previously blogged, almost all our prosecutions are done by private law firms. It’s been this way for decades. If you think the private sector has no role in providing services in the justice sector, then to be consistent you should be advocating for Crown Law to hire hundreds of extra lawyers and take on all prosecutions itself.

He believes Serco has learned from teething troubles he encountered during his time at Mt Eden. By its second year in charge, Serco had vastly improved its performance and was meeting 95 per cent of the targets set for its six-year deal.

The latest report is here. Mt Eden is outperforming most public prisons on (not having) prison escapes, positive drug tests, violence rates and rehabilitation and also exceeding its targets on reducing assaults, positive drug tests and complaints.

In the face of problems overseas, why are we building a $300m private facility at Wiri? The New Zealand Government will be locked into a 25-year contract, for which Serco is obliged to outperform public prisons by 10 per cent – meaning it will have to show a 27.5 per cent reduction in reoffending, the same as at its Mt Eden operation.

Excellent. Set a higher target for the private prison. If reoffending drops then everyone is a winner.

Jacinda Ardern, Labour’s Corrections spokeswoman, warns that future governments may have to prop up private prisons because of the long-term contracts. “The secrecy surrounding the deal with Serco is a concern,” she adds. “Would Government have to start injecting vast sums of money into the private sector if things started to go wrong? We should be spending money on cutting crime and making the streets safer, not building more expensive prisons.”

What secrecy? The contract for the management of Mt Eden Prison is on the Corrections website. And it’s a silly statement that means nothing to say we should spend more money on cutting crime, not building more expensive prisons. It isn’t a choice of one or another. The Government is spending heaps more on rehabilitation which cuts crime, and the crime rate is dropping significantly. However some of the existing prisons are almost falling apart and their facilities are ancient. Having a more modern prison like at Wiri will assist rehabilitation. So it is not a choice of one or another.

Private prisons, by their nature, have a vested interest in crime rates staying high. That’s according to Dr Jarrod Gilbert, University of Canterbury sociologist and gang expert. “It costs more than $92,000 a year to keep a prisoner locked up in New Zealand, so there has to be a conflict of interest when it comes to rehabilitating people if you are making money from them being in your facility.”

Oh what nonsense. Their contract requires them to reduce reoffending rates. They don’t get paid if they fail.

Does Dr Gilbert also argue that private law firms should be banned from being crown prosecutors because they have a vested interest in keeping crime rates high?

One recent convert to the private system is Mike Williams, former president of the Labour Party and chief executive of penal reform organisation the Howard League.

“We have the second-highest incarceration rate in the world behind the United States and have had a sky-high rate of reoffending,” he says.

“It is time to bring some new thinking into the system and the new focus on having less people return to jail is welcome. It is an experiment that is worth a go.”

Even the hardline Sensible Sentencing Trust is behind Corrections Minister Tolley’s drive to cut re-offending. “If private companies can do a better job of turning criminals into decent human beings, then we are all for trying it,” says spokesman Garth McVicar.

If Mike Williams and Garth McVicar agree on something, then that says something.

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A massive change in RMA consenting on time

April 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Amy Adams announced:

The 2012/13 Resource Management Survey shows the Government’s first phase of RMA reforms aimed at improving consenting processes are paying off, however further reform of our planning frameworks is still required.

The survey of how well councils are implementing the Resource Management Act shows that 97 per cent of consents were processed on time for the 2012/2013 period, compared with 95 per cent in 2010/2011.

“This is a vast improvement from the 69 per cent of resource consents processed on time in 2007/08,” Ms Adams says.

Only 3% are no longer processed on time, compared to 31% under Labour. The non-compliance rate by local authorities has dropped by 90%.

When National left office in 1999, the compliance rate was 82%. This dropped to 69% by 2007/08 under Labour. Since then the trend has reversed thanks to the law changes made by National and generally opposed by Labour.

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General Debate 6 April 2014

April 6th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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