Rich on sugar tax

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

Katherine Rich writes at Stuff:

Sugar taxes will extract more money from citizens’ wallets for governments but do nothing to curb obesity.

While sugar is seen by some as the current food demon, it’s important to dial back the hysteria for a fact-based discussion.

Sugars are an important part of people’s diets, providing energy for the body and brain. Over the past decade, sucrose consumption in New Zealand has declined, and reports suggest most people consume at moderate levels.

All this while obesity has been rising. The remaining part of the energy-in, energy-out equation is physical activity, but anti-sugar activists prefer to blame food companies.

Of course.

And note when they propose a new tax, they never propose lowering other taxes to compensate.

The inconvenient truth for those wanting to scapegoat full-sugar carbonated drinks – fizzy – is that there has been a dramatic drop in sales in the past 15 years as consumers turn to the growing array of zero calorie and diet fizz options now available.

With Kiwis eating less sugar and drinking less sugary fizz at a time of rising obesity levels, it’s nonsense to pretend fizz taxes are going to magic away the obesity problem.

I only drink a soda with sugar in it around 1% of the time – if nothing else is available.

Those arguing that because taxes helped curb tobacco harm they will work for sugar overlook the fact that tobacco taxes work only because they add close to 500 per cent to the cost of the product.

Those wanting to apply such taxes to fizz are effectively advocating for a 1.5 litre family serve of Coke to jump from $3.39 to nearly $17.

Don’t give them ideas!

And likening food regulation to tobacco regulation doesn’t bear even the slightest scrutiny. We have to eat food to live. Food consumed in moderation is not harmful.

Exactly.

A fizz tax of 10 per cent or 20 per cent will extract more money from Kiwis but leave buyer behaviour unchanged because, as British nutrition expert Professor Jack Winkler points out, “demand for soft drinks is very inelastic, very unresponsive”.

In his 2011 commentary in the British Journal of Nutrition, he said a 10 per cent tax on soft drinks would, at best, change behaviours by “less than a sip. It would not even cut sugar intake by a gram”.

But it would take more money out of taxpayers pockets and into the Government’s.

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The Countdown allegations

February 13th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Countdown faces a mounting consumer backlash after Labour MP Shane Jones accused the supermarket company of using ‘‘Mafioso’’ tactics demanding cash payments from Kiwi suppliers.

For the second time in as many days the Australian-owned company issued a statement defending its actions, yesterday ‘‘categorically’’ rejecting Jones’ claims.

Using parliamentary privilege, Jones said Countdown management was demanding cash payments from Kiwi businesses on the grounds that its Australian shareholders were not happy with prior profitability.

‘‘They are demanding of Kiwi businesses payments, backdated cheques, and recompense, sir, for the losses the supermarkets assert they suffered last year,’’ Jones told Speaker David Carter in Parliament.

‘‘If they don’t pay these cheques, they are being told, ‘no shelf space into the future’. In any other country, sir, that’s blackmail. That is extortion.’’

Jones said suppliers had sworn him to secrecy and were living in fear, having been told by Countdown ‘‘if you breathe one word of this, we will blacklist you’’.

Describing the tactics as ‘‘Mafioso’’, Jones said they were the type of behaviour that fictional gangster Tony Soprano would be ‘‘very proud of’’’.

Following the claims Jones delivered a letter to the Commerce Commission asking for an investigation into New Zealand’s supermarkets, something Labour has promised if it wins the election.

When this was first reported I was sceptical of the claims. However:

Minutes after Jones made the statement, Katherine Rich, chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, issued a release saying that the organisation was aware of ‘‘a number of incidents’’ where members had been asked for retrospective payments.

‘‘We have raised our general concerns about this practice with the supermarket chain involved. This is a serious issue that is new to the New Zealand grocery sector and we view it as an unwelcome development.’’

This suggests to me there is a very real issue here, and Shane Jones *may* have done a public service by highlighting it.

While I guess you can argue any company can ask any other company for more money, having a customer demand suppliers hand over money based on some sort of retrospective discount is very dubious. Now Countdown have denied the allegations and the manner in which they have asked may not be as Jones says, But the statement by Rich lends credence to the allegations that what is happening is undesirable – it may or may not be legal – but it stinks.

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Food Police want to ban the Milky Bar Kid

February 10th, 2014 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Junk food advertising targeting children should be banned as part of the fight against childhood obesity, scientists say.

A new Otago University study reveals how advertisers use free toys, gifts, discounts, competitions, promotional characters and celebrity endorsements to sell junk food to kids.

Has there ever been a study out of Otago University that hasn’t concluded that the answer is to ban advertising of something?

Childhood obesity rates have risen from about 8 per cent in 2007 to 11 per cent in 2013. . This had corresponded with a rise of Type 2 diabetes in children, which was once known only as adult-onset diabetes.

Has advertising changed in those six years? No. So maybe the increase is due to other factors such as parents not ensuring their kids have a balanced diet and enough exercise.

But Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich, who represents members including Mars and Nestle, said the calls to ban the advertising were emotive.

There were already strict rules governing what food ads could be aired during children’s television programmes, she said.

“The idea of banning free toys and characters sometimes makes me think these people have forgotten the joys of childhood.”

She said past campaigns like the Milky Bar Kid and Cookie Bear had given a generation of kids fond childhood memories.

In New Zealand, Mars, Coca-Cola and Nestle all had policies of not targeting food ads at children.

Ultimately, controlling what children ate was a parental responsibility, she said.

“Children don’t stroll in to McDonald’s on their own.”

Indeed.

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12 questions with Katherine Rich

March 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting 12 questions with Katherine Rich:

3. Was there, and is there still, sexism in the House?
Yes, but you’d strike that anywhere. Just think about the way politics is reported. I’ve never seen a “Battle of the Babes” sort of headline for any electoral battle between male candidates or seen them described with words like feisty, perky or shrill.

Very true.

4. How did you cope with that?
I can’t think of any recent example, but years ago I’d deal with issues with either a sense of humour or by choosing battles. Sometimes I’d be less patient or polite. Although I would, of course, never resort to violence, I did tell one colleague who patted my pregnant tummy too many times that if he did it again I would punch him on the nose. I said it with a smile, but with sufficient firmness that he didn’t do it again.

Heh, I wonder who it was?

8. Your role at the Food and Grocery Council can be a controversial one, especially when you are opposing food campaigners on issues such as food labelling and salt. Are you doing God’s work?
I don’t see it as controversial. I see it more as providing the other side to a lot of grocery industry discussions. You’d be surprised but many shock/horror stories about the food and grocery industry aren’t true. I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who call for fat taxes, bans, salt regulation or all sorts of different warning labels, but many ideas are completely unworkable. A fat tax in New Zealand would raise the price of cheese and butter, so support for these ideas falls away when Kiwis understand the implications. There’s only so much salt, fat and sugar that can be removed from a product before [it] tastes like cardboard. Eating a healthy diet and moderation in all things is something I talk about a lot.

I love that quote I have bolded.

12. Will you always be a Tory?
I’m a centre-right thinker and I did vote Labour in ’87 – my first vote – when they were the more centre-right party.

I voted Labour in 1987 also.

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Will Rich head up Wellington business?

January 14th, 2012 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Names are already being floated for the top job at Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, but no-one will say whether a popular former politician is in the running.

Former National MP Katherine Rich is rumoured to be a contender, although this could not be confirmed by either Rich, who was unavailable, or chamber chairman John Johnston. “We’re in the early stages of a process,” said Johnston.

However, he stressed the chamber was seeking a candidate “who’s got a track record in a senior leadership role with outstanding commercial acumen and very strong relationship management skills.”

Well if Katherine does want the job, they’d be morons to not hire her.

Rich was a three-term National MP front-bencher who is now chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.

Here’s the thing. Before Katherine took up the FGC role, I had never even heard of the FGC. Since her appointment they have been in the news many times. In fact you’ve even had some people complain that they’re become too influential – which is the ultimate compliment to Katherine.

Mind you I’ve still not entirely forgiven Katherine for retiring in 2008. She robbed us of a great Cabinet Minister!

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Criticism of Ellis decision

October 15th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The decision was surprising given that Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and Police Minister Judith Collins had signed a 2003 petition calling for a commission of inquiry, he said.

As did many professors of law.

Rich said the decision was “sadly predictable”.

“It’s interesting we’re spending millions on a Supreme Court building but still directing people to the Privy Council, which I doubt Peter Ellis will be able to access because of the expense,” she said.

Ouch.

“In the court of public opinion, Peter Ellis has already been pardoned.”

On most controversial cases, there are different views on guilt vs innocence. The Ellis case is remarkable in the huge number of people who view his convictions as unsafe. I don’t think I know anyone at all who thinks the convictions should stand.

The case was a fundamental demonstration of the justice system failing to correct itself, she said. “Every country has found a way to deal with those injustices.”

And this is where I think the Minister made the wrong decision.  Of course the officials were always going to have dozens of reasons to say don’t upset the status quo. But the reason we have a Minister in charge, not officials, is for the ability to look at the wider picture.

Brash said he was surprised at the decision because the request was presented with such strong arguments and the 2003 petition had been signed by major figures.

“The New Zealand justice system has let Peter Ellis down and it should have been New Zealand that sorted it out.”

Had he won the 2005 general election, a commission of inquiry would have been ordered, he said.

I really recommend people interested in this case read the Lynley Hood book. If you do you will, like Don Brash, be convinced that the current convictions are very unsafe.

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SST declares victory on folic acid debate

July 19th, 2009 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

According to the Sunday Star-Times, Cabinet tomorrow will throw out Labour’s decision to introduce mandatory addition of folic acid to bread:

THE BUN-FIGHT is over. Bakers will not be forced by law to add folic acid to our bread, bagels, crumpets and English muffins. The Key government will announce this week that it is throwing out the former government’s policy.

Cabinet is expected to formalise the government’s position when it meets tomorrow, effectively putting the controversial issue on the back burner for three years and, crucially, beyond the next election.

The government is not convinced that making folic acid a compulsory ingredient in all bread is necessary, and wants more time to assess the evidence. Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of babies being born with defects such as spina bifida, but bakers say women would need to eat at least 11 slices of bread a day to make a difference to the health of their unborn child.

The Key government favours a voluntary regime. It has been looking for a way to wriggle out of the trans-Tasman agreement, struck by the former Labour government, and due to take effect on September 1.

Community pressure mounted as the deadline approached. Radio talkback shows were last week inundated with indignant callers.

The Star-Times understands that Food Minister Kate Wilkinson on Thursday reached an agreement with the Australian parliamentary secretary for health, Mark Butler, that exempts New Zealand from the new standard.

That is a nice exclusive for the SST, by their political editor Grahame Armstrong.

And the agreement with Australia is much better than unilaterally pulling out. As I have said before, Australian politicians will understand how something can become a major issue.

Under the trans-Tasman agreement, folic acid was to be mandatory in all wheat flour products, including sweet breads and rolls, bagels, foccacia, English muffins and flat breads that contain yeast.

Crumpets, scones, pancakes, pikelets, crepes, yeast donuts, pizza bases and crumbed products were also to be fortified with folic acid.

It was going to be in pizzas also?

Katherine Rich, chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, said many New Zealanders would breathe a sigh of relief because they did not like the idea of the government tampering with their bread.

There were genuine concerns about the health effects and the prime minister was right to delay any decision until all the facts were known, she said. It was also an issue about freedom of choice.

“It’s quite a scary intervention to dose an entire country,” Rich, a former National MP, said.

“A trip to the baker should not be a trip to the chemist.”

Heh – nice line.

The Herald on Sunday also reveals that Rodney Hide has warned and lobbied fellow Ministers about the issue three months ago.

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Rich on Food Safety

June 9th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Former National MP Katherine Rich is now Chief Executive of the Food and Grocery Council. She writes:

If any government decides to mass-medicate every bread-buying New Zealander with a certain additive, it has to be very sure that the costs to the community don’t outweigh any health benefits, and that there are no long-term ill-effects on the population.

Minister for Food Safety Kate Wilkinson faces an interesting test as she decides whether to review or delay a controversial new food standard, which will force all bakers to add folic acid to every single loaf of bread.

The question is, will this centre-right politician – who campaigned vigorously on ridding New Zealand of the “nanny state” – endorse such a major intervention?

An excellent question.

Political ideology and the centre-right principle of freedom of choice aside, however, the big issue is the growing concern that too much folic acid might create long-term health problems for bread-loving Kiwis.

Folic acid has been seen as a miracle vitamin since the 1980s, when increasing pregnant women’s folic acid intake was linked to reductions in birth defects.

No one, and in particular bakers, disputes the beneficial effects on pregnant women. Pregnant women can benefit hugely from taking supplements and eating a healthy diet.

Where some part company is when regulators turn from targeted health programmes for small numbers of women at risk, to a programme of effective mass medication – dosing every man, woman, and child.

I prefer targeting.

Official reports written by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) have been made publicly available. Parts of the reports make disturbing reading to any sandwich-making Kiwi parent.

While it’s been estimated that a pregnant woman will have to eat 11 slices of bread a day to receive the amount of folic acid required, the NZFSA reports confirm in black and white that some New Zealand children will, as a result of mandatory fortification, eat more than their recommended daily intake of folate/folic acid.

In rather alarming advice, the minister at the time was told by NZFSA: “There are unknown risks that may not become apparent for one or two generations. Children will be exposed to much higher levels of folic acid than in previous generations. It may not be until this generation of children have their own children that adverse effects become apparent.”

Does not sound reassuring.

“We continue to have concerns that 13.8 per cent of males aged 5 to 8 years and 8.2 per cent of New Zealand females are going to exceed the upper level intake for folic acid …”

These are the “concerns” that will need to be explained in the event the Government endorses the food standard. It may not be a task the minister will relish.

Katherine is not going soft on her former colleagues!

It’s potentially a very unpopular move.

New Zealanders simply don’t like the idea of governments tampering with their bread. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s own research concluded “84 per cent of consumers interviewed, even after providing information on the reasons for fortification, did not support mandatory fortification”.

So listen to them, and don’t do it.

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Call for Power to launch inquiry into Peter Ellis case

December 15th, 2008 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports that Justice Minister Simon Power has been urged by his former colleagues Katherine Rich and Don Brash (and author Lynley Hood) to launch a commission of inquiry into the Peter Ellis case.

They ask Power to consider appointing an Australian judge to reconsider the case, believing it would be difficult for a New Zealand judge to approach it without prior knowledge or involvement.

The trio also ask that a judge be given the power to recommend a pardon for Ellis if he or she found that a miscarriage of justice had occurred.

Rich said an inquiry into the Ellis case was essential. “Two former prime ministers, 12 law professors, 10 Queen’s Counsel and thousands of other petitioners have already expressed their concerns. This case will not go away until a final review is done.”

Phil Goff expressed support for an inquiry in Opposition, but did little in Government but rubberstamp what the Ministry of Justice advised. This is a real opportunity for Simon Power to show some leadership.

I am not normally a sceptic of juries finding people guilty. I think they got it right with Watson, Bain, Lundy, that antiques dealer etc etc. In fact normally I think juries find too many people not guilty.

But with Peter Ellis, I am aghast at how he was found guilty. I have read many many articles and the Hood book on the case, and each time I am staggered at how flawed the process was.

Simon Power has a great opportunity to restore faith in the justice system. I hope he takes it up.

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If National had not won

November 26th, 2008 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday wrote an article in advance for their 9th of November edition. It was the one they would run if John Key had not won on the night. Normally these would never see the light of day, but they accidentally filed it , it seems. So here is what you would have read the day after the election if National had not won:

SO SURE OF AN OUTRIGHT WIN WERE NATIONAL STALWARTS LIKE FORMER MP KATHERINE RICH THAT SHE REFUSED TO COMMENT LAST WEEK ON THE POSSIBILITY OF KEY NOT BECOMING PRIME MINISTER “BECAUSE IT’S JUST NOT GOING TO HAPPEN”
865 words
Nov 9th 2008 12:30pm Newspapers/Nz Herald

On page: 26

IT WASN’T meant to happen this way. So sure was John Key that he had this one in the box that he didn’t have an option two.

So sure of an outright win were National stalwarts like former MP Katherine Rich that she refused to comment last week on the possibility of Key not becoming prime minister “because it’s just not going to happen”.

Now Key has fluffed his big chance, not by losing outright but by allowing Helen Clark enough room to stick a Labour toe in a door that he was supposed to have slammed shut.

Now the voters can do nothing but wait while the negotiators do the deals that will ultimately decide who governs. While Key is a master dealer when it comes to investment banking, it is Clark who has an extraordinary ability to negotiate coalitions, partnerships and support agreements that most people wouldn’t have thought possible. If the Maori Party emerges as the kingmaker, punters are predicting Clark will have the upper hand.

Now the Dream Team, Key and his sidekick Bill English, face another three years in Opposition, another three years before the ambitious 47-year-old leader of the National Party gets another crack at what has been a lifelong dream.

And have another crack, he will.

Broadcaster and political commentator Bill Ralston predicts Key will be “pissed off to hell” with the loss but will treat it as a setback rather than a failure. He would use the next three years to hone his skills, Ralston said. “This is a guy who has never failed at anything.”

Party insiders doubt there is a chance Key will spit his dummy, quit politics and go back to the lucrative investment banking career that made him a very rich man.

That there will be no leadership challenge is in little doubt. “There is no question he will remain a strong uncontested leader of the Opposition,” MP Murray McCully said. “He will be unrivalled, unchallenged.”

He, like others, doubts Key had thought about a Plan B.

“He’s always been the sort of guy who from the time he thought he might take the job on has only ever had one scenario in mind.”

That innate confidence grew more evident as the campaign progressed, as Key’s media training paid off and as he took more risks _ like discounting a union with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters outright.

Ralston said the only way the National Party would lose Key now was if Caucus voted him out. “And I don’t think they have another alternative leader there. Bill English might think he is but the Caucus are aware that Key is the man.”

One National MP said he had never seen a more disciplined and unified caucus.

Whether English would even want the job is up for discussion. A source close to the inner circle doubted English would make a run for the leadership.

“He’s got the best of both worlds. He’s a family man, a committed Catholic with a busy working wife. He’s got plenty of power and influence without carrying the top dog title.”

And despite this loss, National’s polling leaves the party as a strong Opposition, a position Key is credited with achieving. In the next three years Key would have “more mana and authority than any leader of the National Party going back a long way,” one insider said.

Yesterday’s achievement in terms of the party vote would be recognised as being “substantially the result of his [Key’s] leadership”, he said.

“His stocks are very high. He’ll have a good deal of authority.”

He predicted he would be a “powerful and untouchable leader of the Opposition.”

Observers say Key will waste no time in reshaping the National Party, purging the old guard in the process. Ralston expects to see a new lineup which includes younger faces and a more diverse mix in terms of gender and ethnicity before long. Many of the old guard will “take the hint and the nudge”.

“I think he will very quickly take a knife to the party… that’s going to be a risky process because at the same time you destabilise your Caucus support.”

That he’s capable of the hard decisions is unquestioned. Back in the 90s, Key earned the nickname “smiling assassin” after implementing mass sackings for Merrill Lynch.

Ralston expects heavy scrutiny by Key of what went wrong in the campaign because there was “no shortage of money this time round”.

That would include looking at what tactics didn’t work, the party marketing and organisation, and the billboards and television ads.

The “Mr Nice Guy” strategy would be called into question, he said, and whether the party should have used “attack” advertising and Key should have come across as more assertive.

Blogger Russell Brown of Public Address described the Labour victory as a “bugger the pollsters” moment. “In the end people have responded to the trust message. Maybe in the end they didn’t trust John Key enough.”

Ralston predicted that Key would spend the next three years making sure he earned that trust.
Source: Herald On Sunday
Credit: Herald On Sunday

Katherine was very smart in refusing to comment in advance on the possibility of National not winning. I presume all the other people quoted in the article did comment hypothetically.

Incidentally congrats to Katherine for her appointment as CEO of the NZ Food and Grocery Council. The FGC represents $15 billion of sales and $3.5 billion of exports, and Katherine’s background in agri-business make it a great role for her.

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Political Awards by Steve Braunias

September 28th, 2008 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

Steve Braunias hands out his awards for 2008 viewing on Parliament TV. Some of them are:

  1. Biggest Wretch: Winston Peters
  2. Biggest Flirts: Margaret Wilson & Rodney Hide
  3. Best Valedictory Speech: Katherine Rich
  4. Best Smile: Sue Bradford
  5. Best Impersonation of Eternal Youth: David Parker
  6. Cruellest Wit: Michael Cullen
  7. Best Debater: Michael Cullen
  8. Most Acute Ears: Bill English
  9. Best Reply: Tau Henare

That reminds me I must start the traditional Kiwiblog poll for Best MP shortly.

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Coddington’s column

September 28th, 2008 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Deborah’s column has a few things in it I can’tr resist responding to:

More puzzling than Helen Clark’s refusal to sack Peters is Key’s rush to judgment, ruling out working with NZ First before the committee’s report was tabled.

Key’s no crystal-ball gazer; he can’t know for sure NZ First won’t be back in November.

No. As he has said he would rather remain in Opposition than rely on Peters, as he can’t be trusted. It is called a principled decision. To be fair, it is also probably a recognition that such a Government would only last weeks or months anyway.

Contrast this with the National Party campaigning for convicted paedophile Peter Ellis’ innocence when he’d been found guilty by every court in the land.

How this is even relevant, I don’t know. But it is not National campaigning – it was Katherine Rich and Don Brash. But asking for a Royal Commission into the Ellis case (something I support) is not about campaigning for a paedophile – it is about campaigning for a better justice system.

Several years ago a National insider who quit the leader’s office told me if the party ever dies, trace the DNA back to McCully.

“He’s a trench fighter, and all his decisions are made according to what’s good for him. He was behind Jenny [Shipley] rolling Jim [Bolger], then he pushed Jenny over.”

This is why I responded, because I know this is false. McCully was not supporting Shipley. Far from it – he was a member of the Bolger team trying to defeat her coup. This is a matter of fact – many witnesses would testify to this.

A current National staffer says he overheard MPs discussing what they’d do about Peters if he held the balance of power after the election, and McCully expostulated; “The f***** wants my portfolio.”

This seems unlikely to me. Up until the donations scandal this year, National were actually quite keen to do a deal with NZ First. I know this, because it worried me. It was very well understood that Peters would keep Foreign Affairs and McCully was very relaxed about this state of affairs. This was common knowledge.

Peters has no-one to blame but himself. National were all set to do a deal with him if he made it back. But during the course of the last seven months, he has shown himself to be a man who can not be relied upon.

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Valedictories

September 25th, 2008 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ll put some video up later today,, but for now here are four stories on retiring MPs

  1. Katherine Rich
  2. Clem Simich
  3. Margaret Wilson
  4. Mark Blumsky

While totally respecting her decision, I am still really sad and cut up about Katherine leaving. Katherine would have been a superb Minister and she is just one of the neatest people you can ever get to meet. I have absolutely no desire to work in Parliament again, but if I did I would want to work for Katherine if she had stayed on.

Katherine, Clem and Mark are all from the socially liberal “wing” of National. National’s strength is that blend of conservatism and liberalism. There is a healthy acceptance that National needs both. The “liberals” don’t want to turn National into a conservative free zone, and neither do conservatives want to have National without its blend of liberalism.

The challenge for classical liberals like myself is to make sure the liberal wing is not so small as to be ineffective or invisible. But luckily both the 2005 and the likely 2008 intakes have or had reasonable proportions of “social liberals”.

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Rich and Maharey

September 24th, 2008 at 8:43 am by David Farrar

The Herald has stories on retiring MPs Katherine Rich and Steve Maharey.

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Mallard’s blond confusion

June 7th, 2008 at 9:36 am by David Farrar

Some of the blogs on the left go feral whenever there is any comment on a female MP’s appearance or if they are called a female warlock. So I look forward to their comments on Trevor Mallard and Shane Jones.

We have Shane Jones on radio calling Katherine Rich Katherine Witch, but then clarifying that she isn’t a witch any more as she is leaving National’s Caucus.

And the Herald reports on Trevor Mallard:

In the House last week Mr Mallard couldn’t resist firing a barb in the direction of National’s female MPs, saying they looked very similar and it was hard to work out who was who.

“Some of us have a little bit of a problem in that a number of the women on the National Party benches look very similar,” Mr Mallard said.

“Certainly in looking at their hair colour, I can say it looks like they share their shampoos or hair dyes, and they do look somewhat similar.”

Yeah, and all those grey haired women in Labour look the same too. Well that is the equivalent of what Trevor is saying.

The blonde brigade includes Otago MP Jacqui Dean, Aoraki MP Jo Goodhew and list MP Nicky Wagner.

Indeed, they all are. At least Pansy Wong and Georgina te Heuheu are not blond or Trevor would be getting them confused also. Here are the three MPs:

Jacqui Dean

Jo Goodhew

Nicky Wagner

You really only have to meet them all once to tell them apart. There are those cunning subtle differences such as different faces.

And it seems that National’s production line of blonde women is far from finished, with three new candidates in this year’s election _ Nikki Kaye (Auckland Central), Louise Upston (Taupo) and Amy Adams (Selwyn) _ also fitting the bill.

Ms Upston and Ms Adams both brushed off Mr Mallard’s comments.

Both said they would prefer people judged them on their abilities and what they stood for, rather than their hair colour or appearance.

How novel. Some Labour MPs might agree with them.

But how will Trevor cope with three new MPs to tell apart. Well again it should not be difficult:

Amy Adams (Rakaia)

Nikki Kaye (Auckland Central)

Louise Upston (Taupo)

Now again, those subtle differences such as different faces, different heights, different hair styles may help Trevor cope.

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McCully on Music Month

May 2nd, 2008 at 3:26 pm by David Farrar

People may have noted over time how Labour seems to try and turn every Government opportunity into a partisan event for Labour. One disgraceful recent incident was the attempt to have a medal ceremony for bravery awards in the Labour Party Caucus room.

Murray McCully points out in today’s newsletter the Music Month launch this week:

New Zealanders are now familiar with the sense of entitlement that has become the hallmark of the Clark Labour Government.  Another little reminder of this most unlovely characteristic came this week with the launch of New Zealand Music Month.  Most would consider such an event an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the New Zealand music industry.  But for Judith Tizard and her colleagues it was merely another opportunity to utilise taxpayers’ funds to undertake a bit of gentle marketing for the Labour Party.

The New Zealand Music Commission receives over $1million a year from the taxpayers of New Zealand.  Some of these funds, no doubt, were used to host this week’s Music Month launch event in Wellington.  And a small clue as to the political character of the event may lie in the fact that the National Party spokesman on Arts and Culture, Christopher Finlayson, was not invited to an event hosted by a taxpayer-owned body – the NZ Music Commission.  Never mind.  We are sure that Mr Finlayson as a scholarly and courtly individual will most certainly not harbour a grudge if he finds himself as Minister for this body in six months time.

Stung by her shameful exclusion from the group of prime female vocalists who entertained the Labour Party Conference (the various nicknames for which do not bear repeating in a newsletter with such a cultured readership)  Ms Tizard was apparently determined to make amends.  She climbed onto the stage to accompany musician Chris Knox (yes, the same one you would have seen performing at Labour Party conferences). And witnesses report that she would indeed have made a valuable addition to the Labour Conference quartet.

Towards the end of the Knox/Tizard number, she was apparently joined by completely non-political and dispassionate media commentator Russell Brown (yes, the same one used by state television on channel 7), at the same time as Knox could be heard by the video microphones making a disparaging remark about National MP Katherine Rich.  All in all, another day in the life of the New Zealand Music Commission branch of the Labour Party.

This is not an isolated incident. People will recall the disgraceful behaviour towards Don Brash a couple of years ago at another government funded arts event.

The Dominion Post also has an article on the launch and reports on Judith’s response upon being told she failed music quiz (to be fair I am sure I would fail it also):

“I don’t know the details, honey; I just write the policy and ask for the money.”

Indeed. And very successful at it also – the asking that is.

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Peter Ellis

March 28th, 2008 at 7:32 pm by David Farrar

Poneke blogged earlier this week that Rick Barker has turned down the petition for a royal Commission into Christchurch Creche and Peter Ellis.

This is a great shame.  You see for me it isn’t even so much about whether Ellis was guilty or not. I think most of New Zealand have decided he wasn’t, and he is out now. Just as important to me is having a proper inquiry into how the whole affair was handled, so we can learn from our mistakes. There were simply dozens of issues with the Ellis case that cause concern.

I had been hopeful that if National becomes Government, we might finally get a royal commission. But both Don Brash and Katherine Rich have or are retiring and won’t be in the next Parliament to advocate for it. So we may never get a satisfactory resolution.

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