The next Governor-General

August 17th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key is about to consider who the next Governor-General will be. And the word is he may buck the recent trend of appointing a former judge and opt for someone more unorthodox to the role.

Some of the names being tossed around by observers include Sir Don McKinnon, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Philanthropist and recently named Distinguished Citizen of Auckland Rosie Horton said one person stood head and shoulders above others.

“Sir Don McKinnon. He has had an outstanding and highly revered international life and done a stunning job at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and he’s just a very fine New Zealander that we can all be proud of. And he’s come back to New Zealand.

On a personal level, Sir Don would be well suited for the role and would perform it well. However I maintain that former MPs should not be appointed to the job, regardless of how meritorious their post-parliamentary life.  The GG should be non-partisan.

“[Philanthropist and arts patron] Dame Jenny Gibbs is also marvellous, very clever and gracious to meet and such a marvellous role model.”

Dame Jenny is an interesting possibility.

Property investor Sir Robert Jones said the Governor-General should be a New Zealander who was not a token appointment.

He said Kerry Prendergast would “be wonderful at the job”.

Heh I presume this means he is not standing a Mayoral candidate against her. While there would be precedent fer Kerry to be given the job, as Cath Tizard was, I still maintain that Kerry’s national party background makes her a sub-optimal appointment. Again, nothing to do with her personal qualities, but that the GG should not be a political figure.

Asked about Maori academic Sir Mason Durie, Sir Robert said he would be “very tokenistic”, and former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer would be “most unsuitable”.

I can’t see it going to a former Labour PM.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei would support a female representative of ethnic groups, but insisted she was not throwing her own hat into the ring.

I am surprised Metiria only insisted that the GG be ethnic and female. She forget to include the additional criteria of being left handed and disabled.

She said former Rugby World Cup Ambassador Andy Haden “might not be the best option”.

Can agree on that one.

The appointment is the Prime Minister’s alone. He can consult whom he wants, or no one at all.

Which is why I think the effective head of state should be (at a minimum) appointed by Parliament, not by the PM solely.

If Mr Key decided that another judge should live in Government House, then Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias could be a candidate, though husband Hugh Fletcher might be a more popular choice.

There is no way the Chief Justice will give up that job to become Governor-General.

Sir Kenneth Keith, who is serving on the International Court of Justice, may be less controversial than either of them.

Sir Kenneth would be a fine choice in my opinion.

Bye Bye Andy

July 9th, 2010 at 12:41 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Now, on the same programme, he has this week commented on historic sex allegations against former All Black Robin Brooke, made by two unnamed women, one of whom subsequently laid a complaint with police.

“There’s a bloke called Hugh Grant. He got into a bit of trouble like this and I think if the cheque bounces sometimes, they only realise that they’ve been raped, you know, sometimes,” he said.

Haden said there were two sides to every story.

“It’s an equal society now, some of these girls are targeting rugby players and targeting sportsmen and they do so at their peril today, I think.”

Rape support groups have hit out at the remarks.

Minister responsible for the Rugby World Cup Murray McCully said he was only made aware about the comments last night and was now considering the issue.

The problem with Haden isn’t so much the issues he talks about, but the way he talks about them.

My 2c advice for Murray McCully is to consider whether he really thinks it is possible Andy Haden can go another 13 months without one or more utterances like this.

Do you want to sack him after the third, fourth, or fifth occurrence – or get it over and done with now?

Editorials 1 June 2010

June 1st, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald looks at the BP oil spill:

As oil has become a scarcer resource, the search for it has, out of necessity, moved to more difficult locations. Oil companies have had to take a greater interest in inhospitable regions such as New Zealand’s Great South Basin and the waters off Alaska. They are also drilling in water so deep that any problems are beyond the reach of divers. This increases the potential for severe environmental damage if companies do not have adequate safety back-ups. Clearly, that was the case with BP and its Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, it is now apparent that the company has no real idea how to contain, let alone control, the giant oil spill prompted by an explosion at the rig almost six weeks ago. …

The upshot of this ongoing failure is what the White House now says is the worst environmental catastrophe the United States has faced. The Gulf spill has easily surpassed the Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska in 1989, with estimates of the amount of oil leaking each day ranging from 1.9 to 3 million litres.

And The Press talks tertiary education:

At first glance it does seem to be unfair on New Zealanders who aspire to a tertiary education.

With the Government freeze on funding for extra enrolments, universities are proposing higher standards for students, including courses that had previously been open entry. Yet at the same time the Government is encouraging more overseas students to study here, provided they pay full course fees.

The more overseas students you have, the more domestic students that can be funded. It is not an either/or.

As far as the domestic students are concerned, higher eligibility standards would be a positive development, despite the move being fiscally-driven. For too long there has been an expectation of an automatic right of entry to tertiary study. This unhealthy sense of entitlement among school-leavers should be eroded as universities call for higher NCEA pass rates.

And there should also be a national entry assessment for students over the age of 20 years; they currently have open entry despite the fact that mature students have a higher failure rate than school-leavers.

Finally, all those at universities should be told that they must now perform academically if they are to be entitled to re-enrol or, as the recent Budget signalled, to receive a student loan.

Slackers like myself will need to improve performance earlier, or get a job.

The Dom Post wades into the Andy Haden row:

It is to be hoped that Murray McCully does not apply the same standards to his role as foreign affairs and trade minister as he does to his role as Rugby World Cup minister. Otherwise New Zealand will become an international laughing stock.

It is no more acceptable for Rugby World Cup ambassador Andy Haden to refer to Polynesians as “darkies” than it would be for New Zealand’s high commissioners to Samoa or Tonga to refer to the locals as “coconuts” – another racial epithet Haden considers appropriate in “the right context”.

I don’t think anyone thinks it is acceptable. It is more a matter of whether he gets sacked for it.

Haden represents an old, and not particularly attractive, face of New Zealand. The image New Zealand wants to show the world at next year’s Rugby World Cup is of a young, confident nation that revels in the racial diversity of its makeup. His time has passed. He should go.

Ageism instead of racism!

The ODT also weighs in:

New Zealand’s premier rugby teams of today look very different to those of yesteryear.

They are now much bigger and much browner. Reflecting recent generations of mass Polynesian immigration to New Zealand, as well as Pacific interest and ability in rugby, Samoans, Tongans and Fijians are commonplace.

The All Blacks of the past 25 years would be a shadow of what they have been without Michael Jones, Jonah Lomu, Olo Brown and a long line of others. The Pacific has provided strength, pace, skill and leadership, capped with the appointment of All Black captain Tana Umaga in 2004. …

Selecting sports teams is, in essence, simple.

Pick those most likely to help the team win, whatever their colour, background or connections.

The jobs of coaches are precarious enough without them cutting their own throats by letting other considerations influence their judgements.

At another level, of course, selecting becomes more complex.

Choosing those most likely to help the team win is not the same as picking the most talented individual players. What will the impact of the person be on team culture, so essential for success? How will the player fit in with the style of the team? What is the playing balance of the team? Will the player thrive or shrivel?It is against this background that the extraordinary comments of former All Black lock and New Zealand Rugby World Cup ambassador Andy Haden should be viewed. …

The Crusaders’ primary interest has been to maintain winning ways, and they have, by the length of a rugby field, been the most successful in New Zealand at that.

It is reasonable to maintain that genetic and cultural characteristics influence how many Polynesians play rugby.

And it is fair enough for a team, like the Crusaders, to have a distinct style and therefore to be cautious about the number of its players, brown or white, who play a particular way.

But the Crusaders are too clever to be sucked into the racism that applies generalisations to particular individuals.

Exactly. Generalisations have their place in discussions, but you don’t apply them to known individuals.

Tapu Misa on Haden

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

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

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

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

Her son is quite perceptive, in my opinion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who exactly is the quintessential Pacific Island player, anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Editorials 31 May 2010

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

The Herald talks All Blacks:

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

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

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

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

We’ll find out before too long.

Also on rugby, The Press says Haden must go:

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

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

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

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

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

Good God, they are carrying a grudge.

The Dominion Post wants a national school of music:

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

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

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

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

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

And the ODT talks three strikes:

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

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

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

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

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

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