Preparing for their submission

August 10th, 2012 at 2:34 pm by David Farrar

Room 15 at Tawa Intermediate did a submission to the Education & Science Select Committee for their Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy.

Four of the students now have to appear to give their oral submission, and as this is obviously not something they have experience in doing, they got some expert advice:

Yesterday the student submitters had a very exciting visit from a lobbyist called Mark Unsworth. He came to help us with our verbal submission to the education and science select committee.

Mark’s firm works with a lot of big businesses like Air NZ, Coca Cola and Telecom. Usually clients would have to pay but Mark was very kind and gave us some advice for free. Mark told us about what it is like to go in front of the committee of MPs and helped us with our speeches. He also asked some questions that the MPs might ask, so we were ready for anything they might throw at us. 

Mark was very helpful and we are very thankful for his help and the free pens.

I helped out their teacher in contact with Mark. I just love the fact that the inquiry actually has students submitting to it, as well as teachers, other education professionals and many from the ICT sector. But really great to see students wanting to prepare for their submission, so they can be as effective as possible. If I was at intermediate school, I’d be a bit freaked about appearing before a group of MPs. But it is so vital those setting policy do hear from students, as well as adults. I think we forget how perceptive students can be. I recall at school that we all knew who were the good and the bad teachers – what methods worked to inspire us, and which turned us to sleep.

Backbenchers Year in Review

December 10th, 2010 at 12:05 pm by David Farrar

On Thu 16 Dec, Backbenches are filming their 2010 year in review program. It is at 8 pm, instead of the normal 9 pm, as it will show the following Wednesday.

Instead of it being four MPs, the panel will consist of four commentators – Bomber Bradbury from Tumeke/Citizen A, Jess Mutch from TVNZ, myself and Mark Unsworth.

The first segment will be the best and worst scandals of 2010. There are so many to choose from!

The second segment will be the best and worst generally from the Government and the Opposition.

And in the third segment we rate the MPs – the best backbencher, the best maverick, best rising star, biggest loser, biggest waste of space, biggest surprise best minister and who should be dropped from the list.

And finally we will look ahead to 2011 – the biggest events, biggest issues, and biggest contests as we see them.

Should be lots of fun, and some good diversity of views. Come along if you are in Wellington, and free.

Sin City

June 6th, 2010 at 10:52 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

John Key’s right-hand man is living it up with big-spending lobbyists in the casinos of Las Vegas, sparking questions about their influence on Government policy.

I’ve only been to Las Vegas once, and was dubious about going because of the reputation. However I absolutely loved it there, and definitely will be going back.It is a great city, and non stop fun.

During the day the swimming pools are scorching, and in the evening there is just unlimited entertainment. What I especially loved was the shows – Vegas now gets bigger and better shows than New York and London.

The Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, has spent the past week enjoying a shootin’, smokin’ and boozin’ trip to “Sin City”. He has been travelling with NZ Post chief executive Brian Roche, and lobbyists Mark Unsworth and Roger Sowry – a former National Party deputy leader who remains a member of John Key and Bill English’s inner circle.

Wayne, Mark and Roger has been best mates for probably 20 years or so. Their wives are also good friends, so it is no surprise they holiday together. In the middle of our winter, Vegas is a great choice of destination.

Knowing the three men quite well, I can fairly safely predict that the last thing they’ll be doing over there is talking politics, and regardless you don’t just dump your mates because of their current job.

The Herald on Sunday has been told Key has explicitly discouraged his ministers from publicly fraternising with lobbyists – but it seems this does not apply to Eagleson.

Because they are pre-existing friends. This is not having XYZ Firm take you to Queenstown, and pick up the expenses. They are all paying their own way.

National Party pollster and conservative blogger David Farrar said the success of the firm was due to the lobbyists’ close relationship with politicians.

“They’re successful partly because they’re so well connected.”

Relationships are important. But Mark (and the wider firm) are successful because they build professional relationships with people in all parties. Mark is in fact a former Labour press secretary, and has excellent relations with many Labour MPs also.

Note the direct quote from me used the word “partly”. Relationships only take you so far. Their sucess is also due to their professionalism and no bullshit approach.

Sowry is, in addition to his lobbying work, is a member of the Electricity Commission.

After a long Friday night of free drinks, Unsworth posted online: “Off to the Hoover Dam tomorrow and I think I am the designated driver which is a worry. Still, then we can put the whole trip down as a business expense to the Electricity Commission, no?”

Electricity Commission chairman David Caygill said he was not aware of any official business being conducted in the United States by Unsworth or Sowry, and the line seemed to be in jest.

Heh I love it that they actually checked with David Caygill. As Mark’s former boss, I am sure he was well aware it was Unsworth’s sense of humour.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the trip raised questions over how the entertainment was being funded: “I’ve no idea who’s paying for what over there.”

Goff said fraternisation between lobbyists and Government figures risked giving the impression that access to Government was for sale. “There needs to be caution to ensure that these relationships don’t lead to special treatment for the lobbyists’ clients.”

Good on Goff for not trying to blow this up – his comments are pretty mild. I agree it would be a different issue, if one party was covering the expenses of the others.

News of the trip comes from the Facebook updates of the normally discreet Unsworth.

He wrote that the party engaged in “serious betting” on casino blackjack tables before hitting a bar famous for bartop-dancing waitresses.

“It’s 12:30am Sowry just did a ton on the tables tonight but he’s well up, I am about 10 in front and as Wayne says that doesn’t count the free drinks or being able to smoke cigars inside with a Heinie as you bet.

“We had a great night tonight and pushed on to Coyote Ugly and a duelling pianos bar where we all sang Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Of the many words to describe Mark, I am not sure discrete is one I would use. His Facebook page is often required reading 🙂

More on league tables

October 15th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Firstly the unions are back to squabbling with the Minister, and it is unsure how sifnificant the agreement trumpeted yesterday is. I have asked the Minister’s Office whether or not the actions planned to make it difficult for media to report league tables includes any changes to the Official Information Act.

So long as the OIA is unchanged, I don’t see how one can stop people compiling whatever tables they want. Hell, I might even help set up a wiki where parents can report the data for their local schools 🙂

So for me I don’t care too much what the Govt does, so long as they do not touch the OIA.

But on the subject of the education unions loathing for any sort of comparison of school achievement, I have to quote this wonderful note placed on Facebook yesterday by Mark Unsworth:

I totally support the teacher unions right to protest against being able to rank schools according to how well they perform. This cuts across the hunt for mediocrity which is so important to some in NZ .How dare some parents who want to know how good an education their children are getting.!! And as for the media having access to the information !Bloody hell what would Stalin have thought about that?

I would like to see this move taken further however.
I would start with Fair-Go, Target and the Consumers Institute and that dreadful Consumer magazine that tells us which products and companies and service providers are dodgy or unreliable. Who needs that useless information?

Magazines that reviewed and ( gasp) rated cars ,electronic goods, and new technology need to be ditched as does LINZ which tells us which suburbs are considered desirable. Imagine what would happen if that information got out? Wine, beer and restaurant reviews and rankings, what a waste of effort .Do we really need to know how good a wine is before we drink it? Doesn’t that take the fun away. The same goes for those silly websites travelers use to check out accommodation. A bed is a bed no matter whether its 1 or 5 star, you still fall asleep.
Next on the bonfire would be rankings of investment returns for Kiwisaver and other super schemes. People who can find out who is performing well poorly will only go and move their money and we don’t want that do we. Best we protect those who are not up to the job just like we do with teachers and schools.

NZ will obviously need to pull out of any agencies such as the UN ,WHO,OECD,ILO etc that rates how we compare with other countries on a wide range of indices. That material would be dangerous in the hands of taxpayers wouldn’t it ?

The media need to have a jolly good look at the way they report sport as well. Do we really need league tables for rugby, football netball etc? Surely it’s the taking part that matters. Who really cares about “Top 4 finishes” and semi-finals? It’s all too elitist .I can imagine the TAB may struggle paying out bets when all horses are deemed to have crossed the line together but they will cope .

Last and not least we need to ensure that some of the dangerous new Apps available on i-phones overseas are permanently banned .They allow phones to scan barcodes and customers can find out how one retailer’s price compares with others around the country. That would cause mayhem and only encourage consumer choice. Who needs that in NZ?

I have huge respect for the hard and often unrewarding job that teachers do. However the blinkered view that the teacher unions have that says neither individual teacher or school performance can be measured can only ever be detrimental to our future .They need to move into the real world .


A good editorial from The Press also.

Groser on Agenda

November 30th, 2008 at 4:21 pm by David Farrar

Just watching Trade Minister Tim Groser on Agenda, and it is nice to see someone who is so obviously an expert talk on their portfolio area. This isn’t always possible (or resirable) in every area, but likewise it is nice to have one of NZ’s top lawyers as Attroney-General, rather than a non-lawyer.

Later on Mark Unsworth from Saunders Unsworth talked about the new MPs, and opportunities for promotion. He was pretty complementary of the new MPs from both parties (as I have been also). But what I thought was most interesting was his words on the difference between Ministers in John Key’s Cabinet and Helen Clark’s. Unsworth said it won’t be three strikes and you’re out for Ministers, but more like one strike and you are out. And unlike Clark there won’t be a recycling of Ministers six months later by putting them back in, but once you are out, you stay out.

While I don’t think it will be quite as black and white as that, I do think that life will be very different for Ministers under John Key. Up until her final term, Clark had very few realistic options for promotion, so Ministers were safe. Key has a number of very competent and ambitious MPs in the 2005 intake who will be keen to be Ministers within the next term, and a fair few of the 2008 intake will be aiming to become Ministers in the second term (if there is one) if not before.