Ralston says keep port land but sell 49% of port

March 11th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former journalist Bill Ralston says he would push for selling a 49 per cent share of Auckland’s port company if elected to the city’s council.

Ralston officially launched his campaign on Tuesday to become the next councillor for the central ward of Waitemata, a seat currently held by veteran local body politician Mike Lee.

Selling a stake in Ports of Auckland (POAL) would net the council $1 billion in badly needed profit, Ralston said.

It could be done by spitting POAL into two parts – the land, which would remain 100 per cent owned by Aucklanders, and the operating company of the port.

“That can become a mixed ownership model with 49 per cent owned by shareholders,” he said.

“There is an ideological majority on that council that say, ‘you can’t sell assets’. They’re trapped in their own closed minds by their old redundant ideology.”

There is absolutely no reason the Council needs to own 100% of the port. Port of Tauranga is a great example of a port that has done far far better with a mixed ownership model than ports 100% owned by a Council.

It would also mean you free up capital to invest in other infrastructure, without massive hikes in rates.

“We need to keep an open mind as to how we fund our infrastructure needs, not just borrow more and tax the ratepayer,” he said.

“The current councillor for Waitemata poured fire and brimstone on the mayor and council over (last year’s) 10 per cent rates increase, and then promptly voted for it.

“Tricky, cynical footwork that I hope the voters of Waitemata and Gulf will remember,” he said.

They will be reminded!

Team JR Development Trust

November 13th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jack Ralston died a couple of months ago.  Brother Bill writes in The Listener about him. He spent a lifetime as a sports coach.

Whale Oil blogs:

Just over 9 weeks ago the sporting-world, in particular New Zealand’s young and developing athletes lost a legend, mentor, coach and all-round terrific guy with Jack Ralston’s death.  So many of us feel that Jack left such a huge legacy which is too great to simply end at this point.  So we have formed the Team JR Development Trust – run completely by volunteers.  This Trust has been set up with the specific purposes of:

– Providing a mentor support structure for promising young athletes aimed at assisting them reach their potential.
– Providing a network of support for encouragement and inspiration and advice.
– To challenge national bodies towards excellence and developmental structures on the athletes behalf.
– To ensure promising triathlon, road and track athletes are adequately funded for coaching and development.
– To identify and provide development opportunities & pathways for young athletes.

We are pleased to announce the Team JR launch function will be held on Thursday 29 November at the Millennium Stadium in the Olympic room and take great pride in extending this invitation to those of you in New Zealand to attend.  We will outline the upcoming activities of the Trust, introduce the Trustees and ambassadors to the Trust who are all people that have been touched greatly by Jack Ralston and hold our first fundraising event in the form of an auction on the night. Light refreshments will be provided.

tribute to Jack that makes it clear what kind of man he was.

You can ‘like’ and follow Team JR Development Trust on Facebook.  You can also donate any amount to the Trust by emailing  teamjrdevelopment@gmail.com and we will provide the necessary details for you to do so.

Event Details
What: Team JR Development Trust Launch (no fee to attend)
Where: Millennium Institute of Sport and Health
When: Thursday 29 November 2012
Time: 6.30 pm – 8 pm
RSVP: email teamjrdevelopment@gmail.com

Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you then.
The Team JR Development Trust

 A great initiative that can make a difference.

Investigative Journalism & Winston

November 10th, 2010 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

NBR carry an NZPA story on Winston’s latest claim:

Overseas ownership of New Zealand news media outlets is in the political spotlight, with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters saying it has eroded journalism standards.

A traditional opponent of overseas ownership, Mr Peters told NZPA he was concerned about the profits of domestic media, banking and forestry companies going off shore.

“It has also led to serious erosion of media standards and journalism reporting because people are given no time to do any work properly, instant sound bites have become the name of the game, and that is sliding its way into tabloid journalism,” Mr Peters said.

International companies that owned New Zealand media outlets had failed to support investigative journalism and had “squeezed the professional capacity” out of the industry, he said.

“I’m the last one in the world that should be making a sympathetic argument for the journalists of this country, but I’m telling you that’s exactly what happened.”

Proper investigative journalism was essential for the democracy of a nation, Mr Peters said.

Now normally I ignore what Winston says, but the irony here is too great. I actually agree we need more investigative journalism, but we do have some sterling examples of good investigative journalism by Fairfax and APN journalists. Namely the superb work done by reports Phil Kitchin, David Fisher, Audrey Young and others in exposing the tissue of lies Winston told about the funding of NZ First and himself by various wealthy businesspeople. It was investigative journalism at its finest and exposed Peters as a charlatan whose reality was the direct opposite of what he railed again.

The comments thread on the NBR story has some superb contributions, such as Phil Kitchin:

I’d love to get answers to questions Winston has never answered Monaco Consul. But the two answers Winston gave me when I got to speak to him during my investigation into NZ First funding and all the lies about the Spencer Trust were…1) Phil, I’m not speaking to a lying wanker (then the phone went dead), and 2) Phil, I’ve told you I’m not speaking to a lying gripper. Do you know what that is, it is a lying wanker who won’t let go (then the phone went dead).

Yes Winston is an unusual champion of investigative journalism. It is like Al Capone criticising the IRS for not cracking down hard enough on tax fraud.

Bill Ralston chimes in:

Congratulations NBR! That is the funniest story I’ve read in years. Hopefully Winston’s return to the political scene will encourage investigative journalists and grippers to reopen their old files and start digging again and he may get his wish!

And Fran O’Sullivan:

Give us break – Audrey Young (NZ Herald owned by APN News & Media) blew the Owen Glenn fiasco open. Phil Kitchin completed the double in the (Dom-Post owned by Fairfax). Great investigative reporting by two first-class journalists working for Aust owned media but under good Kiwi editors.

Exactly. And remember Labour is working hard to get Winston back into Parliament, as they don’t stand a chance without him.

Ralston & Wilson on ‘NZ on Media’

October 1st, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston and/or Janet Wilson (not sure which one of them authored it) blogs:

Over on Kiwiblog Dave Farrar reports on an interesting idea from the redoubtable Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan who talked at a recent Rural Women NZ conference about expanding NZ On Air funding to cover all media, not just broadcasting.

Fran has a good point. Why should what is effectively a government subsidy to ensure there will remain a New Zealand voice in the media be reserved solely for radio and television?

She argues that NZ On Air (or NZ On Media) funding should be made available to worthy local content whether it is broadcast, in print or on the internet. …

Currently NZOA funding is contestable, both public and private broadcasters can dip into it. What’s wrong with private sector publishers and bloggers having access to it also?

Back in the day, when Maurice Williamson was broadcasting minister, the whole idea of contestable NZOA funding was that it was needed for all broadcasters to provide NZ content because otherwise commercial pressure on the channels would mean cheaper imported foreign product would overwhelm locally produced material.

This effect is now being felt not just in broadcasting but all media. So, open up the fund!

Yep. NZ on Air used to be funded by the TV license fee. But ow it is funded out of general taxation, the rationale for broadcast only is weakened.

Frankly, it will eventually have to happen because of media convergence anyway.

Once that wonderful high speed broadband to the home rolls out and the broadcasters start pumping more TV programmes and video into your computer, what’s the difference between a TV channel and, say, a newspaper site like nzherald.co.nz or stuff.co.nz that screens news videos?

And the newspaper sites are putting up considerable video content.

If anyone doubts internet sites lack journalistic nous and quality check on interest.co.nz and Bernard Hickey’s recent great yarn about how this country’s biggest privately owned dairying operation (they own 22 farms) is allowing dozens of calves to starve to death on one of it’s farms in the central North Island.

Hickey’s story comes complete with a whistleblower, graphic video footage and a MAF investigation that oddly seems to have come to nothing in terms of the animals’ welfare. …

Hickey produced a scoop that was eagerly followed by TV ONE’s Close up and RNZ National’s Morning Report, the NZ Herald and others.

Perhaps the most interesting part is that Bernard Hickey has long been regarded with suspicion and resentment by some in the mainstream media, who curl their upper lip at what they see as his self-promotion and entrepreneurial approach to the news business.

Oh Bernard is a media whore of such excellence, he is the Princess Diana of media whores, and everyone else is at the Jade Goody level. Bernard appears on Tv several times a week, and never fails to get the magic words “interest.co.nz” into his dialogue at least twice. I swear he will have the domain name on the coffin at his funeral 🙂

Unlike some though, I don’t see this as a bad thing. I think it is great Bernard has abandoned safe employment within the traditional media, to work online only and turn it into a commercial success. He is in this to make money, and good on him for making sure he consistently gets the brand across. And it has allowed him to do investigations such as the Crafer one, which has been hugely beneficial.

I find it highly amusing that that avowed right wing capitalist has fully exposed the practices of NZ’s biggest farmer, rather than the environmental left movement. Not totally surpised, as people on the right can be very harsh on those who “let the side down”. That is one reason I hate “scummy employers” who are exploitative. They are the reason we get all these rules and regulations on the other 98% of employers.

This is the kind of investigative story that would merit NZ On Media funding.

A good example.

Ralston on left blogosphere and Goff

July 26th, 2009 at 9:45 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS that Goff must watch his back:

It is occurring in the blogosphere, and not on the traditional centre-right sites that love to lampoon Goff and Labour but on centre-left sites.

Ralston gves four examples:

The Left’s curmudgeonly commentator Chris Trotter fired the first shots on his site, Bowalley Road. Incensed at Goff’s statements regarding socialism as a 19th-century doctrine rejected by modern Labour, Trotter blew a fuse. “If this is your view, Phil, that the quest for democratic socialism should be dismissed as something belonging to ’19th-century history’, then I say ‘The hell with you’.” Trotter tells Labour Party members: “Find yourselves a new leader.”

 Russell Brown’s liberal-left Hard News offered Goff the pained advice, that if he “wants to float ideas, could he please ensure they don’t have any holes in them when he pushes them out from the jetty”.

The staunchly pro-Labour site called The Standard picked up on the Burgess fiasco saying: “Phil, get your shit together”. And left blog Against the Current complained “Goff just doesn’t get it”.

I don’t think any of those left blogs (except Trotter) are saying they want Goff to go. They are saying they want Goff to improve his performance. But there is a sub-text about what could happen if he doesn’t.

The blogosphere means we now hear what party supporters once said in private discussions over a beer. That the whingeing about Goff has started after a couple of small mistakes means there is a deep enmity to him on the left of the party and his opponents are beginning to gather steam.

Blogs have increased transparency.

Ralston concludes:

Goff was an intelligent and able Cabinet minister but now I hear Labour supporters wondering if that is enough to make him an Opposition leader capable of winning an election. Frankly, at this stage, there is no one better to lead the party.

Nevertheless, the knives are being sharpened and over the coming year the destabilisation of Goff is likely to intensify. This may not lead to his overthrow but it will ruin Labour’s chances of presenting itself as a stable alternative government.

The most interesting part will be seeing who on the left will first raise their head to make a push for the leadership. As a great New Zealand thinker once said: “It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.”

The danger periods are at the very end and very beginning of a year. But having said that, I do not believe Goff is (yet) at risk. Of the pre-2008 intake only Cunliffe, Street and Jones are seen as potential leaders and all are seen as risky to some degree.

The 2008 intake has some considerable talent, but there is no way any of them will take up a leadership role in their first term.

Ralston on public service

July 22nd, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston makes easy work of the PSA and Labour:

Erect a stake, pile wood around it as a pyre, tie Treasury Head John Whitehead to it and throw in a match.

The man has committed heresy. He said the public service needed to rethink its approach, trim its fat, move out of its comfort zone and generally get its act together or someone else will come and do it.

Shocking. Dreadful. Appalling.

Next he’ll be advocating that the world is not flat and that the Earth revolves around the sun.

The reactions to that sensible speech were so predictably knee-jerk mid-numbingly stupid.

Of course.

“The groundwork is being laid here for privatisation and further deeper job cuts”, says Labour’s State Services spokesman Grant Robertson.

No it isn’t. Whitehead talked of contracting out some services if it made sense. If a department could get say cheaper legal or accounting services from the private sector, why wouldn’t it look at that option rather than retain or expand its in-house services?


The PSA’s Brenda Pilott chimes in, “We’re amazed Mr Whitehead says we should be privatising public services when bad management in the private sector has created the worst global recession since the Great Depression.”

If this is the PSA’s grasp of economics and world finance then God help its members.

Ms Pilott might be interested to know the recession arose out of the credit crunch brought on by the failure of the US subprime mortgage market. Basically a relatively small group of bankers went greedily mad in a largely unregulated market.

To condemn the entire private sector for the failure of one small part of the capitalist system is nuts.

So primary producers, manufacturers, the services sector and any other part of the private sector nationally and internationally must all beat the blame for the recession?

Would we condemn the entire public service because of the single failure of, say, the Corrections Department? Tempting but unfair.

A good example of the stupidity of those who rant against the private sector and think this means all of capitalism has failed.

A horrified Grant Robertson claimed it signalled the resurgence of Treasury’s influence over the public sector.

Hang on. “Resurgence of Treasury’s influence?” Hadn’t his previous Labour government somehow banished Treasury to a corner where it could not exercise any influence over the financial performance of the public service?


Ralston on Peters

July 19th, 2009 at 10:10 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes:

A NZ First conference is coming up next month and it appears Peters plans staging a comeback at the next election. Party members might wonder where he has been for the past several months. Going into seclusion is hardly the way to rebuild a shattered political party. From the email it seems as if he is targeting the economy, the Supercity, cuts to night classes and ACC physiotherapy and the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

In other words, he plans to attack a variety of disparate issues that have nothing in common, other than they are unpopular moves in some quarters.

He is promising a return to what he is good at, populist rabble rousing. The Government is to blame for the international recession. We may be broke as a nation but we should still pay for people to go to macrame classes and get a neck rub. Attempts to get rid of inefficiently competing local body warlords in the country’s biggest city must be stopped. And, if all else fails, go Maori bashing because there are enough rednecks to assure him of 5 per cent at the polls.

It will be very interesting to see who Winston gets on his party list. I reckon almost all his former MPs will run a mile, so his line-up will be even weaker than previously.

Ralston on dirty tricks

June 14th, 2009 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes:

He may have resigned but Richard Worth is not the only victim in this debacle. When you play in the muck you will get dirt on you. It’s a lesson Phil Goff forgot last week and it must take the gloss off the Mt Albert by-election result.

Goff made the mistake of personally championing Choudary’s allegations, and making it all about him.

It is obvious that Goff’s office first leaked the rumour to the Press Gallery that Labour had already warned Key of allegations of sexual harassment by Worth of another woman, who we now know is Neelam Choudary.

Leaving the Korean woman’s allegations to one side, it is also now apparent that the Choudary affair was largely a Labour set-up.

Personally I don’t think Goff was part of the set up. I think the most likely explanation is it was a group of Auckland activists. They took teh stuff to Goff and at first he did not think there was enough to attack Worth on – so instead he just sent it privately to Key. When Key’s COS came back and said he denies it but has been wanred, Goff was happy to leave it there as he probably himself doubted it all stacked up.

But then when Worth was dismissed as a Minister, Goff could not resist the chance to get it out there, so they leaked its existence. And at first it worked, until it became apparent how little proof there was, and that the picture drawn of the complainant was so misleading.  Goff should trusted his initial instincts to not go public with it.

Finally, however, thanks to the efforts of some bloggers and journalists in the gallery, more ugly facts emerged. Goff had sought to keep her name secret. For good reason. It soon became apparent Choudary was not just an ordinary low-level member of the Labour Party, she had tried to become a Labour MP last year.

By offering herself to the bear pit of Parliament she plainly demonstrated she was no shrinking violet incapable of fending off the blandishments of an aged Government minister.

Indeed. Tracy Watkins in the Dom Post sums it up best:

Meanwhile Mr Goff milked the woman’s status as an immigrant who was confused and distraught at Dr Worth’s intentions. When first asked by The Dominon Post if he knew the woman before she came to him, Mr Goff agreed he had, but only for a short time. By the next day, he had put it out there that she was a Labour Party member. When she was revealed this week as Auckland woman Neelam Choudary, it became clear she was no low-level member. She is prominent in Auckland Labour Party circles. The image of a frightened and traumatised woman doesn’t square with the recollections of reporters who came across her regularly on the campaign trail with Helen Clark.

Nor does it square with some of Mr Goff’s colleagues. The woman described as “strikingly beautiful” by Mr Goff is forthright and supremely confident, according to some. Her husband was convicted of an immigration scam.

It is interesting that Goff’s colleagues are quoted on this. Some of them are not too pleased I dare say on the handling of this.

Back to Ralston:

From the beginning, when she first received approaches from Worth, she had kept Goff in the loop. The Labour leader even endorsed the idea she should meet Worth.

We also found out that Choudary had been active on the ground in David Shearer’s by-election campaign in Mt Albert. Hence the inevitable conclusion Worth and the Government were clearly being set up by the Labour Party.

We’re still yet to hear why Choudary was seen having coffee with Worth a month after she alleges the texts and phone calls stopped.

I now find it impossible to give her and Goff’s allegations any credibility. She has insisted Key keep secret the content of the texts that Worth supposedly sent her, so she has made it impossible for the public to verify her claims. Certainly on the basis of the few innocuous texts released so far there is no evidence of any sexual propositions or harassment.

From what we’ve seen so far in the Choudary affair, Worth is guilty, at worst, of being a silly old fool.

No one has come out of this business with their reputation enhanced by what now must be seen as a Labour Party dirty trick.

Goff has ducked for cover, after a couple of weeks of drip-feeding juicy tidbits to the media and taking the moral high ground. That can only be seen as an admission he was wrong.

Yes when Goff won’t front up to media, you know things have gone wrong.

All about Worth

June 8th, 2009 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

So many comments today. First Cactus Kate comments on Phil Goff’s description of Complainant A is “strikingly beautiful”:

Imagine a man from the centre-right of politics objectifying a woman as “strikingly beautiful”. The left would be outraged.

Is it appropriate for a Party leader to be commenting on the physical appearance of one of his members? A member you are meant to be protecting the identity of? At what point did Goff feel the need to comment at all on her appearance? What possible context would it have been necessary to utter this stupid answer?

Kate mischievously suggests the feminist wing will be so outraged it may be BBQ at Maryan’s place!

The Sunday News reports that Richard’s daughter is standing by him:

THE only child of under-fire former minister Richard Worth claims the businesswoman who filed a complaint with police against her dad “has problems and needs help”.

“He is the best man in the world and I love him so much,” Worth’s 28-year-old daughter Virginia told Sunday News. …

“I am standing by my dad and that is all there is to it,” said Virginia Worth, a Newmarket, Auckland, rental car company manager.

“I am 100 percent confident and sure that everything is going to work out perfectly. I’m very proud of my father and he has been the most amazing and devoted parent anyone could wish for.”

There is enormous sympathy for Lynne and Virgina Worth, having to deal with all this.

John Tamihere writes:

The real target is not Dr Richard Worth or the complainant.

They are but a means to an end in the final game. In fact, they are merely unsuspecting pawns.

The head Labour wants is that of prime minister John Key.

He is new to the rough and tumble of bloodthirsty politics, of being in the gutter and having to slug it out.

While he is undoubtedly an outstanding corporate leader, and as such has had to deal with significant issues in regard to huge volumes of money and large numbers of staff and clients, the real dirty side of politics is now in play.

The question is, can he handle the constant and continual harassment and pressure the opposition will bring to bear? …

We see this by Goff insisting that the Prime Minister of New Zealand has to meet this “strikingly attractive” complainant despite the refusal to supply the text messages in advance.

Kerre Woodham writes:

What on earth would possess a man to think he could engage in this sort of behaviour and get away with it? Especially when one of the women was a Labour Party member.

He should be dismissed for that sort of poor judgment alone. There may well be no law against being a randy old goat but some of the allegations make for very uncomfortable reading.

Bill Ralston pronounces on the handling:

At 9.21 am on June 3, like the rest of the media, I received a short email statement from Richard Worth stating he was resigning his ministerial portfolio and would be making no further comment. Seven minutes later another arrived from Prime Minister John Key’s office saying he had accepted the resignation and would be making no further comment.

Hello? What were they thinking? A minister of the Crown resigns and the Government has nothing to say? Did anyone in the Administration seriously think journalists in newsrooms across the country would simply say, “Hey Richard Worth’s resigned but no one’s talking. Pity, well, where shall we go for lunch today?”

I think most people accept now the original press release was inadequate.

The problem with the Goff allegations is that he told Key only some considerable time, perhaps months, after first receiving the information that an Indian woman alleged Worth repeatedly made sexually inappropriate texts and phone calls to her.

He produced no affidavit from her and no texts were given to support the claim. Key instructed one of his senior staffers to investigate. Worth reportedly denied all, and threatened libel action against the woman. In a case where it was Worth’s word against an anonymous woman, Key was forced to accept his minister’s assurance.

And they still are refusing to provide the texts!

And finally the HoS editorial has some advice:

It is probably telling that, when asked on radio what he would do if criminal charges were laid, Key said that he could not sack Worth twice. It plainly implied that he did sack the minister and allowed the public announcement of a resignation as a face-saving gesture. If so, it is plainly the only slack the PM is cutting him. Helen Clark left a back door ajar or or at least unlocked for errant ministers to return; Key makes it plain that it will be a very cold day in hell before Richard Worth holds a ministerial warrant in one of his Cabinets. …

As to Worth himself, it may be beyond his capability to feel any shame. A man who exudes a sense of entitlement disproportionate to his status, he seems incapable of showing remorse about actions that plainly warrant remorse. After a private trip to India in which he spoke in his capacity as a minister while promoting an aviation company in which he had an interest, he was carpeted by his boss but would only allow, with a pained smile, that there had been a “perception” of a conflict of interest.

Well, the crystal-clear perception in that case was everybody’s but his – and this case is beginning to look remarkably similar. Rather than hide behind the niceties of legal procedure, Worth might like to act like a man: tell the public what he said and wrote, and when and to whom. And then he could explain why he considers it acceptable behaviour for an MP, never mind a minister.

This is Richard’s problem. He has the legal issue and the political issue. The best response to the legal issue is to say nothing, but that is the worst response to the political issue.

Ralston on Govt advertising

March 29th, 2009 at 10:13 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS:

John Key’s memorable line about Labour’s “hug a polar bear” programmes, ineffective campaigns that sound good but don’t deliver results, wryly summed up this Government’s contempt for many of the touchy-feely, state-funded marketing campaigns the last Labour administration spawned.

Much of the many millions spent on these things proved to be a cynical exercise to try to convince New Zealanders difficult problems were being effectively tackled when, in reality, they were not.

We face a childhood obesity epidemic, so run a series of ads on television telling kids to eat their vegetables. Not a single kid will be inspired by it to munch on more broccoli, but the public will be reassured that something is being done.

Can anyone honestly tell me that they have been provoked into leaping from their couch and start running around outdoors by Sparc’s inane Push Play campaign?

The total advertising spend by the last Government was massive. There is always a need for certain Government services or policy changes to be communicated, but one has to especially wonder about so called social isses campaigns. Some are effective, but some miss it.

Sure, some public education campaigns are necessary and do achieve results.

For example, the mental health campaign fronted by John Kirwan demonstrably achieved results in changing New Zealanders’ attitudes towards people with psychological issues.

Kirwan and others involved in that programme have taken the stigma out of mental illness.

Yep that is an example of a really good campaign.

Are we having fewer injuries around the home since ACC started mounting campaigns advising us not to accidentally have an accident?

The answer I am pretty sure is no.

Ralston on National

March 15th, 2009 at 8:24 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS:

National has found an unerring ability to plug into public sentiment.

Even when there has been an apparent reverse, such as minister Judith “Crusher” Collins’ frustrated attempt to rid herself of Corrections boss Barry Matthews, most people seemed to sympathise with her, such is the public’s scepticism of the corrections system. …

Even when it comes to doing nothing some ministers do that very well. Health Minister Tony Ryall wisely ducked the row over the Auckland laboratory testing contract, preferring to let the city’s DHB’s stew in their own juice. It was their call to award the contract to another Australian-owned company and the Court of Appeal backed it.

ACC minister Nick Smith’s public flogging of the commission will have won him more friends than enemies, apart from a few sacked board members.

Most people are aghast at the thought that current projections would see the average household paying $47 a week more in ACC levies.

As a journalist, over the course of my career, I have had more people come to me with complaints about ACC than any other state agency, even the Family Court, which attracts grumpily aggrieved folk like a magnet.

Actually, I’m one of those who currently view ACC with a jaundiced eye. As I run a tiny company writing columns like this one, I have just paid, under duress, an ACC bill the size of the price of a small second-hand car. The greatest risk of injury I face in this job is electrocution when I plug in my laptop or being bitten by a rabid politician. I suspect many self-employed people look at their ACC demands with similar loathing.

I know what Bill is on about. I have paid both employer and employee ACC levies since 2003 and the total paid in that time is a staggering amount when you consider that none of the 200 or so staff who have worked for me have had a workplace injury, or in fact (as far as I know) any sort of injury that has led to an ACC claim.

Smith’s attendance at the transport and industrial select committee hearing with ACC chief executive Jan White provoked hysteria from Labour.

Opposition spokesman David Parker claimed Smith was a “gatecrasher” who was “bullying” and “gagging” ACC.

Frankly I think it was a great thing for democracy that a minister showed up at a select committee hearing of his department. They should all the time.

Too often in the past ministers in charge of controversial parts of the state sector have dived for cover, cowering in their Beehive offices, while select committees ripped apart the chairman of the board and senior public servants.

The minister should be just as accountable to a select committee as his minions.

And finally a warning:

Most Aucklanders don’t believe they get value for money from their rates. Most suspect the local body structure of several warring city states is clumsy, inefficient and prevents effective regional infrastructural development.

The ARC’s claim to be the answer that they are skilled regional managers is met with one word. Beckham.

If the Royal Commission and the Government get the new city proposal right, National can breathe easy.

Get it wrong and the Nats can expect a speedy return to opposition.

The reform of Auckland is indeed critical.

Ralston on Labour

March 8th, 2009 at 9:48 am by David Farrar

Today’s Ralston:

Not that Labour’s counterattacks have been particularly effective. It seems to have reverted to the same prophet of doom approach it adopted before the last election. “The End is Nigh!” Everything National says or does Labour hysterically portrays as part of a vast right wing conspiracy to destroy the fabric of our society.

If you listen to the opposition there is nothing wrong with ACC and the Tories are simply out to sell it to evil foreign financiers. McCully is callously ignoring the starving huddled masses that depend on our kind charity. Coleman is just politically grandstanding and there was nothing wrong with the Pacific Division’s handling of immigration issues, despite those police investigations.

Labour’s tactic seems to be to say, “see, we told you so!” Sadly, voters don’t like being told they got it wrong.

Ralston points out there is no nasty rght wing conspiracy agenda:

The truth is this Government does not have some huge hidden right wing agenda. In fact it doesn’t seem to have any sort of agenda. It is really a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

So far the Government has been a triumph of style over substance. National seems to think it can remain in power simply by being better managers and trimming a few costs here and there. Now the first 100 Days programme has passed, it might be nice to see a plan for the next 1000 days.

A fair point. The budget is much anticipated.

Ralston on promises

March 1st, 2009 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS:

The first 100 days programme was all about looking competent and appearing to honour National’s election promises.

Sadly, most of those promises were made in an entirely different pre-election economic climate when it seemed like we could afford them.

Still, Key seems determined to stick by those pledges even if it makes Bill English’s job harder when writing the next Budget.

As long as the Government doesn’t back away from its promised tax cuts it will survive even the blackest budget that English may have to devise.

In these times families are looking forward to even a small amount of tax relief and it is the one promise National cannot afford to break.

The Government can take a holiday on making contributions to the Super Fund. It can even axe the damn thing and nick the fast diminishing $12 billion to further boost the economy.

Most people won’t mind the loss of an abstract concept involving billions of bucks.

They will spit the dummy if they find the Government reneges on giving them that extra $20 a week.


There is of course a set of circumstances, where the out year tax cuts would be reconsidered. When everything else has been tried, spending reduced and the deficit still is unacceptably high, threatening the future.  The OBEGAL needs to be able to move back into surplus over time.

Bit what is pathetic is all the commentators and editorials demanding that the tax cits be surrendered immediately – before the Government has even started to make an impact cutting waste, reconsidering contributions to the Super Fund etc etc.

Even the HoS editorial today does the usual job of advocating they should go, and ignoring the reality that National’s extra tax cuts were fully funded by spending cuts:

It is almost dishonest, when people advocate that the tax cuts can not be afforded, without mentioning that National’s tax cuts were fully funded by cutting spending on KiwiSaver – something which actually will help reduce the impact of the recession as the KiwiSaver subsidies would have removed the money from the economy, while the tax cuts will see most of it spent.

Ralston on National

February 22nd, 2009 at 9:02 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS:

Six months ago Labour was constantly telling us that John Key was weak, untrustworthy and devious, while his National Party was little more than a bunch of washed-up hacks, bereft of ideas and vision. “Slippery John”. “It’s all about trust”. Those were Labour’s chants.

It was a strategy aimed at destroying Key’s credibility and it almost worked but, despite their suspicions, enough voters closed their eyes, crossed their fingers and put their ticks on the ballot paper for National.

Having now discovered those fears were groundless we seem to be giving National the longest honeymoon any government has enjoyed.

I predict that in 2011 Labour’s campaign will not be the same as their 2008 one.

This surge in goodwill is driven by three things. The first is sheer relief. Relief that, despite Labour’s Chicken Little predictions, the sky did not fall when National came to power.

The second is that Key appears to be the ideal personification of the Government he leads. Yes, he can be a bit goofy at times.

If you don’t believe me check out the shot of him dancing with two transvestites at the Big Gay Out. That is definitely goofy. But if Helen Clark was cold and aloof, Key seems warm, natural and approachable.

Key seems that way because he is.

Daily we see news stories detailing some minister taking strong action on some problem that has long affected the country.

Amazingly, most of these actions are based on National’s election promises and they are being fulfilled. Even if you don’t agree with them all, it is somehow reassuring to see them doing what they promised to do.

The Government is very focused on keeping its promises. Hence calls for National to break its word and (for example) cancel tax cuts, or abolish the ETS are pretty futile.

Thanks to Nick Smith, once his changes to the RMA go through, I will never again have to apply for a Resource Consent to trim my garden, the council will not have to spend many hours pondering my botanical behaviour and the ratepayers of Auckland will not be wasting hundreds of dollars every time someone in this city wants to do some gardening.

Soumds like a win-win.

Ralston’s Advertisement

February 17th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston has a job advertisement:

Are you an up-and-coming, energised self-starter who enjoys working in a close and happy team?

• Are you a confident communicator with a strong social conscience?

• Are you looking for a job with more responsibility, good salary and a secure employment contract for up to the next three years? …

• The ideal skill set consists of you having been either a teacher or active in the union movement and being capable of holding a safe seat in a by-election.

• Having no experience is not necessarily a bar to this position but it will help if you are an out of work former cabinet minister or current List MP who is being groomed for stardom.


Currently it looks like a split fight for the job between old hand Judith Tizard, who hasn’t had a lot to do since losing Auckland Central, and new List MP Phil Twyford, a nice enough bloke who used to run Oxfam, but he’s not exactly going to set the world on fire.

Actually I think Twyford will go quite far – probably be a front bench Minister in the next Labour Government.

It wouldn’t be all bad to be the party’s candidate for Mt Albert. It is one of Labour’s safest seats. You would have be proven failed finance company director with paedophilia convictions to actually lose the by-election.

I like how it is “and” not “or” 🙂

Take Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. Around Parliament people call him Charlie Wilson, after the movie Charlie Wilson’s War. It could be because he could start a war if he wanted to but I suspect it’s because Murray does like to party and his office staff looks like they were recruited by Hugh Hefner.

I don’t think Murray would trust Hugh with such an important job 🙂

Predictions on media over next decade

February 4th, 2009 at 10:28 am by David Farrar

As part of their series on ten years of Herald online, a number of media industry people look at the next ten years:

Bill Ralston – Media commentator, radio host
Everyone goes on about the death of traditional media, but the market’s a really interesting thing, it expands and contracts. Very seldom do you see one form kill off another. Everyone’s concentrating on digital – it’s slowly making more inroads into advertising. But it’s not going to kill papers, it won’t cut the throat of radio. TV didn’t kill radio or movies. They all changed and adapted. Everyone jostles around a bit, squeezes up together and continues to make a living.

I am a bit more pessimistic over print media. As Bill later says there are opportunities from this digital age, but I think advertising is going to move more and more online. In the US classified ads have almost died, and Trade Me has sluaghtered a lot of print advertising in NZ. Also online advertising can give advertisers so much more precise information – such as how many people saw an ad, clicked on it, what their demographic profile is etc etc.

Dr Martin Hirst – AUT associate professor, journalism curriculum leader
People talk about the death of newspapers all the time. I would think we have another ten years of newspapers. Journalism will continue in one form or another. I’m not sure if online media are a replacement for newspapers and TV and radio. Online media tends to be a replication of other media, a mirror or extension of their newspaper outlets, not a replacement. Whether this will continue in the future is debatable.

I certainly agree newspapers are still here in ten years. But in thirty? Not so sure.

John Campbell – Television presenter
The problem with television is that it’s expensive to make. We will see a preponderance of niche communications, something for everyone, whether you’re a macrobiotic vegan or Canterbury supporter. And where you’ll find it is online.

How can a construct of broadcasting, born of one channel, reinvent itself in an utterly fragmented market where people have so much choice? How do we survive within that market? That comes down to everyone’s ability to connect with an audience, an audience which has so much choice.

Very astute words from Mr Campbell. The market is fragmented and with PVRs, the emphasis is going on programmes not channels.

Copyright is another thing to consider – I could do a story at 7pm and it could be on YouTube five minutes later. How do we enforce that, do we want to worry about it, what do we do about it? As a rule of thumb I can’t take other people’s work and take it to air. YouTube rides roughshod over all those notions.

But it will also normally be on the TV3 site that evening also, so what is the problem? If it is lack of advertising revenue because it is on You Tube not TV3 site, I think one solution might be for TV channels to embed ads in their online content and stick it on You Tube themselves.

Eric Kearley – General manager, digital services, TVNZ
In the next ten years storage space on home devices is going to increase drastically, and bandwidth prices will decrease. These two in combination will see much more content available on demand.

Yes, yes, yes. You want to see episodes 1 to 6 of MASH, you just push the button and a minute later episode one at least is ready to go.

Rental car company backs down

January 15th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston blogged some PR advice for NZ Rental Car Specialists:

Mr Edwin Chan of New Zealand Rental Car Specialists needs a Public Relations Specialist. Quickly.

If someone is late returning a rental car, loses the keys and you have to tow it half the length of the country at the cost of a couple of grand I’m sure you are entitled, as a commercial business, to bill the hopeless clients extra.

Of course, if two of the clients’ kids (and the keys) lie dead and buried under a garage-sized chunk of the Fox Glacier, you might consider waiving the fee. Not Mr Chan. He continues to pursue the grieving Australian Miranda family for the cash.

Okay, he’s entitled to his money. It wasn’t his fault the foolish boys ignored the warnings and neatly positioned themselves under a plummeting iceberg. It wasn’t his fault Mr and Mrs Miranda had given one of the boys the car keys. They probably wouldn’t have been in the mood to drive the car back to Wellington anyway. People are funny like that when two of their kids are killed.

Mr Chan, you have the law on your side but here is some free PR advice.

When the cops call you and ask you to show compassion, you should really think about it. The police are not known for their liberal handwringing on most issues and maybe the constable that rang had a point. At the very least the call should have rung an alarm bell that you were courting publicity that might be bad for business.

They seemed to have taken this advice, and the family will not be charged. Mainly though it seems due to a benefactor.

As a business owner myself, I know sometimes you just get landed with costs that are no fault of your own, but you have to cover them as it damages you more not to.

I also don’t know why the car company said the car had to be towed back. Just pay a student $50 and give them a rental car free for two days on the coniditon they and a mate drive over there and bring the other car back with the spare set of keys.

Ralston’s Hot or Not 2009 List

January 4th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston does a Hot or Not list for 2009:


  • John Key
  • Working in the Beehive
  • Government Press Secretaries
  • Jonathan Coleman
  • Lockwood Smith
  • Lobbyists
  • Consultants
  • Heavy construction companies
  • Taxpayers


  • Labour MPs
  • NZ First ex-MPs
  • Public servants
  • Policy analysts
  • Trade unions
  • Investment bankers
  • Oil companies
  • Beneficiaries

Ralston on Labour

December 28th, 2008 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston has the same suspicions as me:

I have the horrible feeling that Labour, had it still been in government, would have cancelled the tax cuts and thrashed the exhausted middle class for more revenue while continuing to spend big on its pet policies and boosting the bureaucracy to cope the effects of a recession. That would be a sure recipe for disaster.

2011 will be an interesting challenge for Labour. We will still be running deficits, so either Labour will have to promise increased debt or tax increases if it wants to spend more.

Ralston on National

December 14th, 2008 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes:

National is doing exactly what it pledged to do – a 90-day probationary trial for new employees of small businesses, tax cuts, changes to KiwiSaver, amending bail laws, toughening sentences for violent offenders, new numeracy and literacy standards for schools, and reinstating the wrongly sacked Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

Can it please stop? It is ruining my carefully cultivated cynicism about politics. For decades I have watched governments come and go, promising much, delivering little, usually managing to find some lame excuse for never doing what it promised to do during the election campaign.

No broken promises here – it’s all abour trust.

Not only is it implementing its platform, it also occasionally shows signs of common sense, sensibly abandoning policies when closer inspection shows them to be flawed. The reversal of the cap on the building of new state housing is a great example of this.

National had talked of halting the creation of new state houses, concentrating instead on upgrading existing homes because of the health hazards many posed to tenants.

When it became clear that more new state houses would, in fact, have an even better effect on the health budget it did not hesitate to announce a new building programme.

This, of course, had its opponents crying about “U-turns”, but what moron would stick inflexibly to a plan that won’t work? Surely it is better for a government to say, “We were wrong, this is a better way to go,” than cling to an unworkable strategy?

I am amused by Labour attacking National for saying it would build more state houses, after earleir saying it would just keep the number of houses constant. It’s like attacking National for spending more money on Health than they said they would!

Ralston on a tough start

November 30th, 2008 at 10:24 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes:

Message to John Key and his new Government: No pressure.

Well, just a global financial market collapse, a deepening recession, a growing deficit, a crisis meeting with many of the world’s top leaders, shrinking commodity prices and a body blow to our other big export earner – the tourist industry – from the British departure tax.

Throw in a major terror attack overseas to further destabilise the planet and the crash of the Air New Zealand airbus in Europe and you get the toughest start any Government here has had.

The recession especially is of grave concern. Previous recessions have been for less than a year, while this recession may last two or even more years.

Bill voted National

November 26th, 2008 at 4:32 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston blogs on how he is a regular Labour voter (cancelling out his wife he claims) but that this time he did break pattern to vote National. He states:

The sad truth is my wife insists on having her own political views. I blame those who gave women the vote in the first place. For many years we each cancelled out the other’s vote come polling day.

However, I must admit this year I drifted to the view that Labour was running out steam, out of ideas and out of office. I thought it was time it went and voted accordingly. That doesn’t mean if National performs badly over the next three years it will retain my vote. A Phil Goff-led Labour government is not a scary prospect and given a good excuse I will happily revert to form.

Now, it would be very nice if everybody else who writes about politics let their readers know which way they voted, otherwise I’m going to feel very exposed indeed.

Well I voted National with both ticks. I did give some quite serious consideration to voting ACT though – to reward Rodney for his work with Winston.

I have once voted Labour – the first time I could vote. But it was 1987 and they were the better alternative.

The challenge for John Key is indeed to keep voters like Ralston. They’re urban liberals who won’t be worried by a Phil Goff led Labour, so National needs to give them reasons to stay with National.

Good advice from Ralston

November 23rd, 2008 at 10:04 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes:

The problem is power breeds arrogance. As a minister, you have access to massive amounts of information not accessible to the general public.

You know more than they do. You know why your Government is doing, or not doing, certain things.

The Great Unwashed do not. Inevitably, as a minister, you develop a somewhat condescending attitude to those who elected you.

Worse, the salary, the allowances, the limos, the free housing and the insulating layers of staff end up effectively bubblewrapping a minister.

If you have not had to pay the mortgage, done the weekly grocery shop, filled the car with petrol and listened to a casual conversation at the local pub, the chances are you have bugger-all idea what the rest of us are going through.

While ordinary people are fretting about paying their kids’ school fees, worrying about that big dental bill coming up and watching their earnings being eroded by inflation, as a minister you are, instead, musing the upcoming Treasury forecasts.

No one cares if you had a “good day in the House”.

They would not know and would care less.

The secret to any successful Government is “keeping it real” and staying in touch with the genuine concerns of the voters who put you in power of the country.

Excellent advice.

Campaign 08 on Winston

October 21st, 2008 at 8:12 pm by David Farrar

For professional Winston watchers, the Campaign 08 discussion on Peters is worth a watch – just click play on the main page. Peters refused to appear but Phil Kitchin, Duncan Garner, Vernon Small, Bill Ralston and Barry Soper discuss his highs and lows.

Ralston on Key and MMP

October 5th, 2008 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS:

National’s John Key thrust home another dagger, dismissing any suggestion he would deal with Peters after the election, saying the New Zealand First leader does not come up to National’s standards.

For someone Labour likes to paint as a political novice still wet behind the ears and who needs to “harden up”, Key is playing a pretty astute pre-election game. …

By deliberately excluding negotiations with New Zealand First, he has painted Peters into a corner.

He sends the message to anyone inclined to vote New Zealand First that a vote for it is also an automatic vote for another Labour-led government. That may not be so attractive to some New Zealand First supporters who incline to National.

At the same time, he signals potential Labour voters who may have tired of Peters’ antics that a vote for Labour will see the return of the beleaguered Minister Without Portfolio.

That trick alone should be worth a couple of percentage points to National at the ballot box.

Indeed. Just remember: