SST online edition three weeks out of date

November 11th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Is Fairfax abandoning having online editions of its Sunday newspapers? Previously it was mainly the Sunday News that was embarrassingly out of date, but now it is the Sunday Star-Times also.

The lead story on the SST home page is from three weeks ago. The most recent column is from five weeks ago.

Under latest edition, there are some sports stories from today, but none of them are on the SST homepage. The most recent non sports story is two weeks old.

Now many of the SST stories are on the Stuff website main page, which is good. But what is the point of having a homepage for the newspaper itself if they are not there also? Fairfax, in my opinion, either needs to drop having the SST as a separate sub-site within Stuff, or they need to keep it up to date.

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SST editor made redundant

October 19th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A media source tell me there has been a major upheaval at Fairfax and Sunday Star-Times Editor David Kemeys has been made redundant.

Next month a new role will be created of Chief Editor for Fairfax, in charge of the Sunday Star-Times and all online media.

The SST has been losing readers for some years. It will be interesting to see who gets the new top job, and if they can turn it around.

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Giving one side of the story again

October 5th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A lawyer e-mailed me on this. You can see at this site a massive article in the SST about a woman called Erica and how in a marital dispute she could not afford a lawyer, and how the Judge didn’t allow her to miss a court hearing due to her having cancer. It quotes her saying she needs $300,000 for her future medical care. The entire article is based on what she said, and no attempt was made it seems to talk to anyone else.

Two weeks later, this article appeared, quoting the Family Court principal judge. He provided an extract from the oncologist who said “This is a low grade disease …”, and also how she had withdrawn from various sale agreements which had been reached, and then finally refused to communicate with her ex-husband anymore to try and reach a resolution.

It gives a very different perspective to the original article, and this information should have been in the original article. How is it good journalism to just take allegations, and not seek a response?

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Fairfax Sundays online

September 30th, 2012 at 3:53 pm by David Farrar

Both the Herald and the SST do a pretty good job of getting their major news stories online.

However the SST Columnists section has not been updated for over a month. This is embarrassing. Either don’t have a section for them or make sure it is kept up to date.

Even worse is the Sunday News. Their lead story is dated 5 August – almost two months out of date. Again either remove the Sunday News from the Stuff website, or make sure at least a couple of the articles are recent. Their second to top article is an April 2012 article!!

I know each newspaper is responsible for their own section on Stuff, so it is not the direct responsibility of thr main Stuff team. But nevertheless it is on their site, and if the newspapers can’t keep it current, they should chop them!

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Latest 3 News Reid Research poll

April 22nd, 2012 at 6:48 pm by David Farrar

The headline in the Sunday Star-Times, at Stuff is “Mr Unpopular?” above a photo of John Key, and a story by Anthony Hubbard proclaiming “People are getting angry, John”.

Rather ironic timing then that tonight’s 3 News Reid Research poll (blogged at Curiablog) has National increasing its support since February by 2.3%, to reach 49.8%.

Personally I think this shows what a small bubble some (not all) of the media live in. Just because their Grey Lynn friends are all up in arms over something, doesn’t mean most of New Zealand is.

As for the Labour wet dream headline of “Mr Unpopular” I should point out that the big movement in the poll was a 9% increase in those saying David Shearer is performing poorly. Those saying Key was performing poorly increased by just 2%.

I really do wonder sometimes whether or not the Sunday Star-Times should just be renamed “The Standard”.

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A major fail by the SST

November 20th, 2011 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

I am staggered (but not surprised) that the SST devotes its front page to the results of the Horizon poll, despite the fact that its results are miles out of line with every other pollster, and that certain parties and activists openly recruit their supporters to sign up for the Horizon poll, as it is an Internet panel poll.

Even worse, the SST doesn’t even disclose that the Horizon poll is not a phone poll, but an Internet panel poll.

The spreadsheet above compares the Horizon poll to the weighted average of the five main pollsters. The differences are huge and massive. The SST would know this. Yet they still made this poll their front page, without even disclosing the difference in methodology.

Even worse the SST (at least online) doesn’t disclose the actual percentages for the big parties. I assume this is deliberate because they know if they said National is on 35% only, everyone would laugh.

Incidentially the HoS had a poll done this week over four days by Key Research. Their results are National 55.6%, Labour 26.2%, Green 11.3%, NZ First 3.6%. That is pretty close to the other five pollsters, but again shows how vastly different the Horizon results are.

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SST profiles Key

September 11th, 2011 at 11:03 am by David Farrar

Adam Dudding interviews John Key at length. Some interesting aspects:

The most recent film John Key enjoyed was The King’s Speech, in which a renegade Australian speech therapist saves King George VI’s bacon by nursing him through his stammer.

There was a time when the prime minster thought about trying to change his own speech – with all its mashed consonants and absent syllables. He isn’t quite sure why he garbles his words, but suspects it has something to do with being raised by an Austrian.

“My mother had an incredibly strong accent – although I couldn’t hear it – and she was the main person there, so I’ll have learnt to speak English from her.” It could also be because he’s rushing to get his words out.

But despite the media jabs, in the end he decided it wasn’t worth trying to change how he talks.

Good. Keep it real.

“If you’re dealing with tragedy you learn very quickly that you don’t actually confirm someone has died or that the number of deaths are a certain number, till you’re absolutely sure that number’s right.”

Such as February 22 in Christchurch. “I didn’t lightly say ‘We’ve lost at least 65 people’ on that night,” says Key. The number came from the police, “but I also knew that if it was terribly, terribly wrong – if it was, say, 10 people – I thought, well, I’ll have to go as prime minister.”

You what? It seems after Key had announced that death toll and was heading for bed, officials came back and “they said, ‘Oh, we’re not quite sure exactly now’.

“I remember waking up and thinking, if it’s 10 [people] in the morning, I’ll resign. Just because you can’t mislead the country.”

It would be a horrible thing to contemplate – not the resignation, but that you may have given a death toll which was massively over-stated.

“In the 24-7 blitzkrieg of the media, eventually they’ll tire of every politician, and I’m not unique in that regard. So the things they like about me, I think you have to accept, over time they won’t like so much about me.

“It’s easy to form a view that every time a journalist writes something bad about you it’s because they’re just against you, and they’re just a puppet for the opposition. You can build up these fiefdoms and prejudices.”

These are the defence mechanisms a politician develops as his government collects “a few barnacles and scars”. But the risk of building those is “you’re not actually honest with yourself about whether you’re right or wrong”.

So Key has a once-only policy. “I only watch something once or read something once.” Reading the nice stuff three times, or avoiding the nasty stuff completely, is against the rules.

Not a bad policy. I’m a bit different. I rarely read the nasty stuff about me, unless it is from someone I have some respect for.

“No one believed me, but I was absolutely convinced that on election night 2008, if Peters held the balance of power, I was going to ring Clark and say `it’s all yours’. Because I knew I might be able to put together a government – vaguely – but it would never last. He’s never lasted. Every prime minster has sacked him in the end – it’s just dysfunctional.”

Worth remembering the likely alternate Government is Labour/Greens/NZ First/Mana.

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The new Sunday Star Times

February 14th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

 Sunday Star Times New Property Section

On Sunday 20 Feb, the Sunday Star-Times will re-launch itself. This is rumoured to be in response to falling ratings.

The pdf above tells us that they will have an eight page tabloid property section.

Their news count has been under half that of the Herald on Sunday, so the rumour is their news section will go to 18 pages. Patrick Gower has tweeted stuff he has heard such as a big Anthony Hubbard column on page of A section; Richard Boock on back of sport, Megan Nicol-Reed on back of Focus, and Rod Oram on the back of a tabloid business section. Also Jon Hartevelt as new political columnist, working from the Fairfax Parliamentary hub.

There is also talk most other columnists except Michael Laws have been dropped.

We’ll find out in six days.

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SST v Edwards

February 11th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards has been threatened with a defamation suit by lawyers acting for the Sunday Star-Times. I think the SST is over-reacting, especially as all Edwards has done is publish four sworn affadavits saying Amanda Hotchin did not speak the words attributed to her by the Sunday Star-Times. Edwards has been careful to say he does not know who is correct, and has mainly been calling for the SST to rebut the affadavits.

The SST are refusing to, on the basis of a possible lawsuit by Hotchin.

I don’t know if the SST report of Mrs Hotchin’s words are correct or not. I will make the point that the reporter, Jonathan Marshall, is in the habit of recording his conversations as proof of what has been said to him. I do not know whether or not he recorded this particular exchange.

Mrs Hotchin has said it is too expensive to sue, and has instead effectively fought her side of the story on Dr Edwards’s blog. And I have certainly found it interesting to hear her side. However at the end of the day Brian Edwards can’t adjudicate on the veracity of the report, as he can’t compel a response from the SST.

Mrs Hotchin should file a formal complaint with the Sunday Star-Times, and if not satisified with their response, then complain to the press council. That would allow her affadavits to be tested against any evidence from the Sunday Star-Times. I am suspicious that she refuses to take this step – it does not need lawyers and costs basically nothing – it is her best chance of clearing her name.

But while Mrs Hotchin is not helping her own case by refusing to go down the route of the Press Council, I don’t think it is a good look for a newspaper to use nastygram legal letters to try and shut up a blogger – these are the tactics normally used by the subjects of newspaper investigations – not newspapers themselves.

The SST could simply have responded to the affadavits with an invitation for Mrs Hotchin to complain to the Press Council, and stating they are confident in their version of events.

Threatening Dr Edwards with defamation is also very stupid. It guarantees more and more people will know about the issue, and gets the story into the mainstream media.

Hopefully common sense will preval and Mrs Hotchin will go down the press council avenue for adjudication, and the Sunday Star-Times will keep its specialist defamation lawyers on a leash.

UPDATE: A reader has pointed out to me that the Hotchins themselves have been pretty quick to use lawyers also to threaten defamation. An (offline) HoS story reported in May 2010:

As with Amanda, few who know Mark are willing to talk on the record. Robert Alloway, managing director of Allied Farmers, the firm that absorbed Hanover assets in controversial deal at the end of last year, says the men behind Hanover have a reputation for sending out letters from law firm Chapman Tripp.

“They have deep pockets and aren’t afraid to reach into them. Whether it’s Bruce Sheppard, or me, or anyone saying anything you’d call an opinion, you’d get a letter. Typically I can set my watch by it. If it’s in a Saturday paper, I’ll get a letter on the Tuesday,” he says.

I also understand the Hotchins had their own law firm send lawyers letters to other media, threatening them if they repeated the SST story.

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Whoops

January 30th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rather unfortunate that a story about how new teachers plan to inspire their kids, has a spelling mistake in the headline.

We all make typos (esp me), but this isn’t a typo but an actual lack of knowledge as to how role model should be spelt. I hasten to add that the mistake would not be Megan Reed’s (the author), but almost certainly a sub-editor. Ms Reed actually spells role model correctly in the body of the article.

I wonder if the headline is wrong in the print edition also?

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Kiwi Wikileaks

December 12th, 2010 at 11:32 am by David Farrar

Nicky Hager and the Sunday Star Times have had Wikileaks hand over to them 1,500 cables mentioning New Zealand.

The main article reveals that last August saw the US Government restore New Zealand to full intelligence-sharing status.

They have a 53 page pdf of the cables here.

A story on journalists who have got state department visits is here.

Another story on the anti-nuke laws.

Danyl at the Dim-Post has sorted some of the cables into separate text files, with keywords.

Simon Lyall blogs on how one cable explicitly names the Deputy Director of the NZ SIS, which is a breach of the NZ SIS Act 1969, specifically s13A(1):

Every person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000, who (except with the written consent of the Minister) publishes or causes or allows to be published in a newspaper or other documsent, or broadcasts or causes or allows to be broadcast by radio or television or otherwise, the fact that any person is a member of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service other than the Director.

I guess the Sunday Star-Times decided that a maximum $1,000 fine is not much of a deterrent.

Having googled the name of the Deputy Director, it is fair to say that his involvement in the intelligence community is not exactly a secret – however his current role is.

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Horizon Poll

December 5th, 2010 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

Sarah Harvey in the SST reports:

THE COUNTRY’S next prime minister could be decided by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

A new poll has cast Peters as kingmaker. The 65-year-old left parliament after 30 years as an MP when he lost in Tauranga to Simon Bridges and New Zealand First failed to pass the 5% party list MP threshold in the last election.

The Horizon poll of almost 2000 intending voters shows the often-controversial MP could have the power to decide whether National’s John Key or Labour’s Phil Goff leads the country after the 2011 elections.

In 2008 New Zealand First captured just over 4% of the vote, but the Horizon poll, conducted from November 16-22, shows the party is back in the game with 6% support.

In the same poll National recorded 34.7% support, Labour 28.3%, the Greens 7.9%, Act 2.6%, the Maori Party 1.2%, Jim Anderton’s Progressives 1.2%, United Future 0.2% and other parties 1.6%.

That left undecided at 8.1% and those who preferred not to say at 8.2%.

A key thing to note here in Horizon use an online panel to do their polling. Online panels are growing in usage, but the reliability of them varies greatly.

I am sure Horizon, like almost all polling companies, tries its utmost to be as accurate as possible. Any criticism of their results, is not a suggestion that they are not applying professional standards. It is a reflection that online panels pose extra challenges in terms of how the panel is recruited, how large it is, what topics they are given etc etc.

In trying to assess reliability, one often looks at a couple of things – how do polls stack up against known results, and against other polling companies.

In terms of known results, their final exit poll for the Auckland Council did predict correctly Len Brown would win, but the margin was well off.

Mr Brown has 53.7% support among those who have cast votes. John Banks has 23.8%, Colin Craig 10.4%, others 6.4% and 4.6% will not say who they have voted for.

Taking away the 4.6% who would not say, that is 56.3% for Brown, 24.9% for Banks and 10.0% for Craig. Projected margin was 31%.

The final result was Brown 49.2%, Banks 35.6% and Craig 8.8%  a margin of 14%. The support for Banks especially was significantly under-reported. Now to be fair to Horizon, this may have been due to a last minute surge in Banks voting.

In Sep they released a poll saying National had 30%, Labour 22%, and 27% were not voting, unsure ore refused to say. Removing the 27% to get a % of decided voters (to allow comparisons to other polls), and you have the poll saying National has only 41% of decided voters and Labour 305 of decided voters.

That 41% for National is a figure well away from any other poll. In August and September there were seven other public polls released – the average had National at 51%.

Then we have the latest poll. It has National 34.7%, Labour 28.3%, Green 7.9%, NZ First 6.0%. This translates to a share of decided voters being National 41.5%, Labour 33.8%, Green 9.4%, NZ First 7.2%, ACT 3.1%, Progressives 1.4%.

By contrast the latest Roy Morgan has National 51%, Lab 33%, Green 7%, NZ First 3%, ACT 1%.

There is no sure fire way of saying this poll is definitely accurate or inaccurate. I wish there was.

But I find it very hard to give reliance to the Horizon results. They have twice shown National at 41% – around 10% below where everyone else has them.

They have NZ First at 7% of decided voters – I have not seen anything to indicate that, or any events to explain that.

I even have problems with the result showing Progressives at 1.4% considering they are not standing again.

I do give credit to Horizon for a couple of things. They show the results for both all voters and decided voters. The level of undecided voters is important. Many companies only give out the decided vote share.

They also probe people who are undecided to see which way they are leaning. This is done by most public policy companies, but not 100%.

But I do not think NZ First is at 7% of decided voters. I do think that you can not rule out NZ First making 5% in 2011 if for example Michael Laws is a candidate for them, as Michael would appeal to a considerable following in talkback land. But at this stage it doesn’t look like Laws is standing for them – but never say never.

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Sunday coverage of expenses

June 13th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports Chris Carter is close to quitting Parliament:

New Zealand’s first openly gay Cabinet minister is close to quitting Parliament because he is sick of being attacked as a “luxury-loving gay boy”.

Chris will quite Parliament at the next election – because his colleagues are so pissed off at him.

“Do you want to live your life with this stuff going on all the time? You know, I love being an MP. But there might well be a point soon where I think this is just not worth it.”

Yes, how dare one have to endure scrutiny of spending.

But he said the public perception of him as living the high-life at the taxpayer’s expense was grossly inaccurate – and he still drives a 1996 Suzuki Swift.

The only thing grossly inaccurate is Chris’ perception. It is a shame – he used to have a well developed political instinct, but it has deserted him.

“I have lots of faults … but arrogance, pride and love of luxury are not among them.”‘

So why the $6,000 of limo hire?

No other Minister has been “forced” into hiring them, as you claim you were by the Australian Government.

Matt McCarten writes:

This week the credit card expenses came out on Thursday and none of it was good for Labour.

A number of former Labour ministers clearly didn’t know where the line between their public responsibilities and personal luxury needs started and finished. …

But what these ministers didn’t get is there are rightly different standards for them. They are in the privileged positions of being leaders, where their personal ethics and integrity are important no matter what their political stripes. Carelessly using a ministerial card for personal luxuries is thoughtless at best and corrupt at worst.

There are two types of politicians – those that think it’s a privilege to be a representative of the people and those who think it’s a privilege for us to have them. You can guess which category the ministerial card abusers fall under.

As we saw in the previous story.

And Kerre Woodham writes:

Phil Goff thundered sanctimoniously that Heatley’s position went to his head.

He’d barely been minister for a year, Phil Goff expostulated, and his sense of entitlement was such that he ordered two bottles of wine with dinner. Heads should roll, Phil finished.

Well, as sure as the karma bus will make a stop at your door, Labour has found itself having to explain away thousands of dollars worth of credit card bills run up by its former ministers.

Karma indeed.

Chris Carter, the serial trougher, was at it again. Despite being advised repeatedly as to what was appropriate use for his ministerial credit card, and despite being sent the entire parliamentary policy on credit card use, just as a reminder, Chris Carter continually bent the rules.

Movies, flowers, fruit and massages – whether the massages had happy endings isn’t specified on the bill – all popped up on Carter’s credit card.

Oh Kerre. Too much detail.

And the HoS editorial:

The most extraordinary aspect of the scandal over spending irregularities that has destroyed Shane Jones’ leadership aspirations – and possibly his entire political career – is that he ever imagined he might get away with it.

In numerical terms, Jones is not in fact the worst offender in the latest round of revelations: his one-time colleague in Cabinet, Education Minister Chris Carter, actually ran up 33 per cent more than Jones – on flowers, designer clothing and spa treatments.

Most gallingly, he used his ministerial card to buy flowers for Lianne Dalziel after she was sacked as Immigration Minister for lying about having leaked documents to a television channel.

The logic by which he could regard it as a ministerial duty to console a colleague who had sought to deceive the public remains obscure to everybody but him, it appears.

The thought of personally paying for the flowers did not occur I suspect.

… principal among them is the requirement that no personal expenditure be incurred on a ministerial card. That means precisely what it says: it does not mean that it is all right to run up private expenses with the intention of later reimbursing them.

Many of us run two or more plastic cards and make daily decisions about which to use, for reasons of our own personal accounting. It is no great burden to do so, and it is the least we might expect of someone carrying a card for which the taxpayer picks up the tab.

No great burden and very common.

The events of the week have surely irretrievably damaged the mana of a man who was widely tipped to succeed Phil Goff as Labour leader and, in the eyes of many, potentially the country’s first Maori Prime Minister.

Sad though that is, there is a sense here of history repeating itself. Winston Peters and John Tamihere were in their turn cloaked with the mantle of future premiership.

Hmmn, it does seem to be a sort of curse.

And finally the SST reports:

Jones is being urged not to resign as Goff looks set to use the scandal to shake up his front bench.

Jones and Te Atatu MP Chris Carter face demotion tomorrow after Goff’s return to a party in disarray over revelations going back seven years.

The release of credit card receipts last week show Carter notched up bills for limousines, flowers and massages, while Jones watched dozens of pornographic movies. He repaid the money before he handed in his credit card, but Carter is still paying money back.

Jones, who has been tipped as a potential leader, is considering his future, but has ruled out resigning.

Samuels said Jones shouldn’t quit. “He has got leadership qualities I don’t think anybody else in the party has. Many in Maoridom would be very disappointed if he resigned.”

And besides if Jones goes, who else will be there to grant citizenship for Dover’s mates?

Finally John Tamihere writes in Sunday News:

THIS week the Department of Internal Affairs disclosed detailed lists identifying expenditure of ministers in the Labour Government from 2003-2008. I was a minister from 2002-2004.

I had no idea I could order massages, flowers, porn movies and booze galore. The biggest scalp achieved by the clever release of this information was Shane Jones.

While others erred and were arguably worse, particularly Chris Carter, Jones is the big story.

He entered Parliament as the Labour Party attack weapon on the Maori Party and as a person who had huge cross-over appeal into non-Maori communities.

He has Dalmatian ancestry and was gaining significant support for a tilt at the Labour leadership once they lose the 2011 election.

I am not sure Jones was going to wait until 2011.  Phil Goff’s leadership has been made much safer by this.

The question is, can he survive as a politician? He is a list MP and does not have a constituency to fall back on. He is at the whim of the back-room Labour Party machinery.

That machinery is driven predominantly by a group of women who stretch across the gay, union and the woman’s divisions of the party. They control the moderation committee that decides where you sit on the party list. I sat on that committee for the 1999 and 2002 elections.

All of Shane’s colleagues are going to tell him he has a future in politics and not to quit. And then come the 2011 list ranking, he’ll be given an unwinnable place.

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SST on Andrew Williams

April 4th, 2010 at 6:24 pm by David Farrar

The SST editorial is one I agree with:

Some say the revelation of the mayor’s exploits is part of an Act Party plot against him. Certainly Act’s leader, Rodney Hide, doesn’t like Williams and wants him to go. Some of the mayor’s local opponents are also Act people. But Act didn’t force the mayor to spend a lengthy period in two bars in one day and then to urinate in public. Nor did Act tip off this newspaper about what the mayor was doing, despite vague accusations to that effect. Our reporter happened to notice Williams in a bar. There was no stalking, despite what the mayor’s wife, Jane Williams, has claimed. The reporter observed the politician. He saw him urinate in a public place and then drive the mayoral car home. He put the facts to the man himself. In other words, he did his job. The newspaper duly published the story, and the arguments began.

And a point often overlooked, is this was not a case of being caught short. This was a deliberate decision to take a piss outside the Council building, rather than go inside.

The Sunday Star-Times did not join Rodney Hide in calling for Williams to resign and it is not doing so now.

And neither have I, for what it is worth. Pissing in public is not a sackable offence.Hell, one former Minister even got away with pissing on a waiter in a hotel corridor.

They will also remember that this is not the first time that Williams has behaved in a peculiar fashion. The prime minister says Williams sent him obnoxious texts in the middle of the night. Williams is of course free to disagree with the PM. He is free to text him. But doing so in the small hours is dopey, unpleasant and even a mild form of harassment.

And doing so to the PM is especially stupid. Most people can turn their phones off at night. The PM is one of the few people who does have to be contactable at all hours. Having is cellphone number is a privilege that should not be abused.

The mayor’s supporters will say all this is just colourful and eccentric and nothing to really worry about. And it’s true that there have been plenty of eccentric mayors in New Zealand, although not so many from the rather staid and respectable North Shore.

Williams reminds me of Tim Shadbolt, but with a key difference being Tim can laugh at himself.

A readers’ poll on the Stuff website last week showed an overwhelming majority thought he should go. Williams, who is becoming adept at managing the crises he inflicts upon himself, called a special press conference last week to announce that he would stand for some unspecified post in the elections this year. So – Andrew Williams for the Auckland super city council? Heaven forbid.

I think it will be hilarious if Williams stands, as that will probably encourage Whale Oil to stand in the same ward as him. The meet the candidate meetings should become pay per view events!

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The urinating drink driving Mayor

March 28th, 2010 at 9:38 am by David Farrar

Whale Oil has long suggested (OK, this is Whale – he stated) that some of the more bizarre texts and e-mails from North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams occur while he is under the influence. This has always been denied. Today’s story in the SST by Jonathan Marshall, kills the credibility of those denials:

By chance, the Star-Times observed Williams drinking barside at Takapuna’s GPK bar and restaurant around 10pm on Thursday. He talked to a couple at the popular eatery and could be heard referring to himself in the third person. He said he was North Shore’s mayor and enjoyed his role.

And has been having an extended sulk that mean old Rodney and the Government have taken his job away.

Inquiries with two bar staff revealed Williams had been drinking red wine at the establishment since 4pm. Six hours later Williams left GPK alone and headed down Hurstmere Rd towards the offices of the North Shore City Council, where he has been mayor since 2007.

On his way he stopped, pulled down his trousers and urinated on a tree outside the council offices.

Having the Mayor down trou and take a piss outside the Council offices just makes your city a laughing stock.

And you have to wonder how pissed one has to be to do such a thing, considering he could have gone inside to use their toilets.

Williams then headed for the council underground carpark, collected his mayoral vehicle and drove home to Campbells Bay, a 6km trip.

Williams appears to have got home without incident.

This is potentially the most serious aspect. Now it is possible to drink for six hours and be under the legal limit. However the urinating outside the Council offices strongly suggests a considerable degree of drunkenness.

Shortly after Williams arrived home he sent an email to members of his council’s executive team in which he commented on a scheduled visit the following day by Hide and acting Housing Minister Maurice Williamson.

“These two individuals deserve any and all appropriate comments in relation to the rape and pillage of the North Shore by this Auckland takeover. I have only utter contempt for both of them,” Williams’ email, sent at 11.38pm, says.

I understand the North Shore Council staff were in fact totally professional, and very embarrased by the e-mail their drunken Mayor had sent out to them all.

But eight hours later, when Williams appeared on TV1′s Breakfast, co-host Paul Henry asked the mayor if he respected Williamson.

“Maurice is a good guy, I like Maurice,” Williams replied.

So either he is lying, or he was so drunk when he wrote the e-mail, he does not remember it. Unless he often says “I have only utter contempt” about people he says he likes and is a good guy.

Yesterday, outside his home, Williams told the Star-Times he had not been drinking on Thursday night but a few minutes later said he might have been, he just couldn’t “recall”.

He said he didn’t know if he had been drinking at GPK, and when challenged he responded: “Oh really? That’s interesting.”

So he denied he had been drinking initially and then said he can’t recall. To be fair to him, it is possible he can’t recall.

Asked if he had been working on Thursday evening, Williams replied: “I can’t recall. I might have been. I go to meetings every day, every night.”

Meetings? Like these:

Further inquiries that evening at GPK revealed the mayor was a “very frequent visitor”, “possibly one of our most regulars”, said one waitress.

That’s a lot of meetings.

Questioned about why he urinated on his way to collect his mayoral vehicle, Williams said: “I’m not going to talk about it.”

Maybe he genuinely can’t remember it also? That happens when you have drunk to excess.

When news broke last year of Williams’ early morning texts to Key – which the country’s leader branded “aggressive” and “obnoxious” – the mayor blamed painkillers.

He denied suggestions the texts were sent because he was drunk, saying he had not been intoxicated since his 21st birthday.

So he decided to take a piss outside the Council offices stone cold sober?

Maybe he was also on painkillers on Thursday!

In August 2008 Williams collapsed at a Devonport Naval Base function and lashed out at attending ambulance officers. He was hospitalised. Williams later insisted he had “no recollection” of it and was just “exhausted” from an overseas trip.

There does seem to be a real pattern here.

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The so called security expose

March 14th, 2010 at 11:11 am by David Farrar

What a silly story. It tells us nothing unusual.

Entered Eden Park during Thursday’s cricket international between New Zealand and Australia dressed as construction workers – wearing hard hats and reflector vests hired from a costume shop. Despite having no tickets or ID, the two reporters had unfettered access to construction areas and other restricted zones within the stadium

The getting in without a ticket is silly. Does the SST really think terrorists can’t afford to buy a ticket?

And the access to construction areas in a big yawn also. One could leave a bomb in a bathroom just as easily. And as I said yesterday, one could fake an ID given five minutes anyway.

I take it as a given that if someone really wanted to smuggle a bomb into a provincial rugby match, they could do so. The protection is that the probability of someone wanting to do so is miniscule.

If you really wanted to minimise someone getting a bomb in, you would have metal detectors, frisking of fans, passport level security for staff and contractors IDs etc etc. Now that level of security might be practical and justified for a Rugby World Cup match, but it is ridicolous for provincial rugby matches.

The Australian players are particularly concerned about security right now, following threats by al Qaeda against this month’s IPL tournament in India, and have demanded that rigid security be put in place before they take part in the tour.

And this is the key difference. The tour is in India. New Zealand is not India. India has a long history of violent rebels, of armed conflict, of lethal religious tensions, and in this case there have been specific threats.

If the Gore Liberation Front started shooting government officials, and threatened a campaign of bombings against rugby games, then I would expect security to change.

Took toy explosives and detonators, as well as alcohol, in a bag and on the body, into Waikato Stadium during the March 5 Chiefs-Reds Super 14 rugby game, with Red Badge security staff failing to search one reporter’s bag. He walked freely around all parts of the stadium, approached the Reds’ bench and shook hands with a team manager, entered the VIP corporate box area and spoke with boxer David Tua, got players including All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu to sign the bag containing the toy explosives and walked unchallenged through the players’ tunnel, getting within a metre of the changing rooms before finally being asked to leave by a security guard.

Oh wow. And one could also get within a metre of them at the after match bar the team goes out to. One could also get a fake bomb in a bag within a metre of the Prime Minister (no doubt their next stunt) at most of the many public engagements he undertakes.

New Zealand is not a country that has security based on paranoia. It is based on credible threat. I do not want to live in a country where I get x-rayed going to the local rugby match. Bizarrely, the Sunday Star-Times does.

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SST defends mock terrorists

March 13th, 2010 at 2:36 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

It is understood the newspaper had a reporter carrying fake explosives in a backpack and a dummy detonator on his body. It is believed the “bomber” was able to achieve access to restricted areas at the ground.

Of course he could. It was a provincial rugby match. I could probably do the same if you gave me five minutes with a colour printer and a laminating machine.

Sunday Star-Times managing editor Mitchell Murphy said critics should withhold judgment about the newspaper’s actions until the results of its investigation were revealed.

“Our investigation, which is a matter of significant public interest, was well planned and carefully considered,” he said.

There is little public interest in the fact that someone with a fake bomb could sneak into a rugby game. We don’t have armed guards and metal detectors at the grounds. The main purpose of security is to check for alcohol, not to x-ray and body frisk people.

Security should be proportional to the threat. For the Rugby World Cup one would expect higher security, as it is a potential target. Quite frankly with the aviation industry hysterically over-reacting with security, it’s nice to not have that same paranoia at our local rugby matches.

“We sought legal advice prior to commencing our investigation, and the journalists involved worked under strict protocols.”

He said the reporter carrying fake explosives had a letter outlining the investigation in case he was stopped, which would have prevented evacuation.

A letter!!! For fucks sake.  So does the SST believe that if Police come across someone in a restricted area, with what appears to be explosives, they should take no action because they have a letter with them, saying there is no threat.

I’d love to see the SST try that stunt at an airport!

“At no stage was the public at risk; nor did we break the law,” Murphy said.

It seems no law was broken, but the stunt was still moronic. Of course there was a public risk if their mock bombers had been discovered.

With the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next year, stadium security needed to be first-rate, and the investigation had exposed flaws.

Oh what self serving crap. As I said, I have no doubt I could infiltrate a restricted area of a stadium with a bit of effort. Our stadiums are not designed to be like the Pentagon.

For the World Cup, you do expect a higher level of security, but even then, some common sense. Frankly terrorism related paranoia should not overcome common sense.

Associate Professor Jim Tully, who is the head of the Canterbury University journalism course, said the alleged action was “a silly piece of journalism”.

“It’s one thing to potentially test security measures pretty close to the World Cup, but doing it now seems pretty dumb because they’re unlikely to be in place,” he said.

The story could backfire on the newspaper by damaging its credibility, he said.

A story focused on security is quite valid. But giving people fake bombs just reeks of a PR stunt.

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SST should be prosecuted

March 12th, 2010 at 10:36 am by David Farrar

Just received this press release:

A newspaper stunt at major provincial rugby games last weekend could easily have resulted in matches being called off and stadiums evacuated, Police Minister Judith Collins said.

Ms Collins was advised that a newspaper commissioned people to masquerade as terrorists who then gained access to restricted areas at Super 14 matches in Hamilton and Christchurch.

“The actions are unbelievably stupid and irresponsible. This stunt had the potential to result in games being called off and stadiums evacuated,” Ms Collins said.

“This would have caused not only great public inconvenience and cost, but possibly presented a risk to the safety of spectators.

“Common sense would tell you that running around a stadium dressed as a bomber has the potential to end very badly.

“If there had been panic there was the very real possibility that people – particularly the elderly, children and those less mobile – could have been hurt.

“Police are taking this matter very seriously.”

This is beyond moronic. The newspaper responsible is the Sunday Star-Times. I’ve often criticised the media for creating news, instead of reporting it, but this goes to a new low.

Ms Collins said security at major events is based on risk, and that security at a provincial rugby game will be much less than for a major international match.

“The only thing people masquerading as bombers will achieve is an unnecessary increase in security at considerable cost and inconvenience to the public,” she said.

“The last thing people want is the situation where people have to be body searched before attending provincial rugby matches.”

What were the SST trying to prove? Of course a suicide bomber could blow themselves and lots of other people up at a provincial rugby game.They could also blow lots of people up at a school rugby game, or the McEverdy Shield in Wellington.

I suspect their real intention was to scare monger about the Rugby World Cup. So their aim was to scare tens of thousands of people off globally from coming to New Zealand.

I’m pretty sure there will have been some laws broken by the people who posed as terrorists, but they should not be the ones prosecuted. The people who paid or commissioned them to do so, should face some consequences for such stupidity and malice.

Again I wonder what the SST saw as the end point for this. Do they want every provincial rugby game to have armed police officers, bomb checks, metal detectors?

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SST on Lockie

December 14th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The SST has done an extensive profile of Speaker Lockwood Smith. The beginning:

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS in the snake pit, and somehow Locky remains an innocent. The MP kept smiling his spooky smile through decades of derision and scorn. He began his public life as a fuddy-duddy – should school kids be reading the nasty sex scene on page 96 of The Color Purple? – and threatened to end it as a dork. Smith was appalled at the uproar which greeted his remarks during the election campaign about the small hands of Asian vine-pruners. Gosh, he didn’t mean to upset anyone.

National leader John Key made him say sorry, pencilled him out of cabinet, and in due course sent him to the Speaker’s chair. This is a place where parties put senior MPs they don’t know what to do with. The politician, says a parliamentary insider, was “dead and buried”. But Alexander Lockwood Smith, PhD, 61-year-old owner of a fine baritone voice and the best set of abs in parliament, refused to lie quiet in his grave.

Instead he launched a couple of revolutions and turned himself from laughing stock into an odd sort of political leader. He put an end to aeons of skullduggery and secrecy by publishing MPs’ expenses. He turned Question Time in parliament from a tableau of official evasion into a real test of the government’s mettle. He became that rarest of political animals, the celebrity Speaker. The pundits praised the new hero of accountability and openness.

The whole article is a good read.

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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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The Whale

July 12th, 2009 at 9:58 am by David Farrar

Whale Oil is in both the HoS and the SST. First the HoS is about the “feud” with Pearl Going:

A fixture of the social pages is at the centre of an alleged text and cyber bullying storm. Police are investigating claims from Auckland socialite Pearl Going that she has been subjected to death threats and abuse via text, Facebook and emails.

If there has been death threats, that is indeed a matter for the Police. However as far as I know, having nasty things said about you online is not a criminal issue – if it was I would be going to the Police every second day!

The 24-year-old, related to former All Black Sid Going, has also complained about a year of cyber-harassment involving two websites, neither of which she has anything to do with.

The saga revolves around a dispute over her reputation, qualifications and background, and has drawn in many members of Auckland’s social set.

This is what puzzles me somewhat about the HoS story. I have absolutely no first hand knowledge of Ms Going and the accuracy (or not) of the various claims about her qualifications and background etc. So why doesn’t the newspaper investigate and find out who is correct rather than just report there is a dispute?

Slater said he took exception to Going being included in a list of up-and-coming Auckland socialites published in the Herald on Sunday’s Spy pages because he challenged claims about her background.

Several members of the Auckland social set this week contacted the Herald on Sunday unprompted to raise similar concerns about the background claims.

Again, the obvious thing to do would be to investigate the claims, I would have thought.

And in the SST, they do a full profile of Whale Oil. Some extracts:

Slater’s profane, occasionally rabid, vociferously right-wing blog Whale Oil Beef Hooked (to be read with an Irish inflection) gets 5000-6000 page views a day, including many readers in the media and political establishment. In the past year, it has broken a number of stories that have been followed, often unattributed, by news outlets, notably Winston Peters’ lingering post-election grip on his ministerial vehicle.

Heading home from a weekly yum char lunch with a close group of fellow right-leaning, Seventh Day Adventist-affiliated mates, Slater takes a call about a proposed visit to Fiji, as a supportive guest of the regime, to interview Frank Bainimarama. The Commodore has not been granting interviews with the New Zealand press, but one of his deputies is a Whale Oil reader.

I’d like to go to Fiji also, but am worried I might get shot at the airport as I am more sceptical of the Commodore’s intentions or more importantly his actions.

The local blogosphere is loud and volatile, the new frontline of political debate. But even in this fierce arena, Slater is infamous for dragging the discourse to new lows, with vicious, juvenile, sometimes misogynistic attacks.

Like American gossip juggernaut Perez Hilton, Slater routinely uses Photoshop to vilify his targets: grafting Helen Clark’s head onto the body of a crotchless starlet, or riddling her with digital bulletholes. On seeing an article titled “The World’s Ugliest Dogs”, Slater “couldn’t resist” reposting the story, appended with pictures of female Labour MPs. He has published bizarre sexual allegations against a female Labour official and challenged strangers to fights, including the sons of Folole Muliaga.

“I got sick of the way the media created a frenzy around a fat woman who was sent home by the hospital to die,” he says. “F— them.”

No doubt a genuine Whale quote!

Some stuff on his private life;

Slater found his after the collapse of the security systems company, of which he owned 49%, in 2004 amid rancour with his business partner. The failure ruined Slater financially he had to sell his second home to pay the IRD socially, and eventually, psychologically. The depression he had battled for years became disabling.

As a result, he is unable to work. Because he had income protection insurance, he now receives 75% of his former salary.

“The first year was dark, very dark,” recalls Slater. “I’d stay inside all day, the curtains pulled, unable to make decisions. You open the freezer and try to decide what you’re going to cook for dinner, you can’t even do that, so you go back to bed.”

To get him out of the house, one of his mates insisted he come and work in his office, free of charge. As “an outlet, a place to let off steam”, he says blogging has helped him, as do his daily workouts.

But he still battles despair, takes medication, sees a psychologist each month. Undoubtedly, the desperation of his circumstances has shaped his blogging persona.

“When you’ve got nothing to lose, you’re dangerous.”

“I’ve got no money. I’ve got nothing. What’s anybody going to do, sue me? Fill your boots! You’ll waste 100 grand,” he says.

The best advice I give about Cameron (and he now gives the same advice) to people is to avoid wrestling with pigs in mud, because you’ll just get dirty and the pigs will enjoy it :-)

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SST on Cook vs HoS

July 5th, 2009 at 9:47 am by David Farrar

I suspect the Sunday Star-Times enjoyed getting to print this article:

REPORTERS at the Herald on Sunday newspaper were instructed to steal stories out of the Sunday Star-Times in what the tabloid paper’s former assistant editor calls “industrial espionage” on an unprecedented scale.

The revelations are included in an early draft of a brief of evidence from Steve Cook, who was assistant editor at the Herald on Sunday until he was sacked following rumours of drug dealing.

Cook has taken a case to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) claiming unjustified dismissal he was not charged by police with any offence and although the authority struck out evidence relating to the industrial espionage claims, the Star-Times has obtained a copy of the initial brief.

In it, Cook says that for a period in 2005 soon after the Herald on Sunday’s launch, reporter John Manukia would be dispatched on Saturday nights to the Fairfax presses in South Auckland to get an early copy of the Star-Times.

Manukia, later sacked for fabricating stories, would take the paper back to the Herald on Sunday offices and, acting on instructions from executive staff, “would proceed to lift stories from the SST without any attribution for publication in the following day’s Herald on Sunday”.

Cook says the practice ceased in July 2005, following a “near catastrophe”. The Star-Times had obtained exclusive extracts from a biography of All Black Justin Marshall, which its rival wanted. Manukia was dispatched to the presses to get a copy of the paper.

“That night the Fairfax presses were running late, so when Manukia eventually got his hands on a copy of the newspaper there was only time to phone through details from the book. I asked Manukia to give me the title of the book but instead he gave me the headline on the SST story.”

The Herald on Sunday went to press with the erroneous title, and when editor Shayne Currie discovered the error, “was left with no choice but to stop the presses”, Cook wrote.

Currie yesterday said the behaviour was not “standard practice”. In a statement to the Star-Times he said: “I recall this happened on two, possibly three, occasions, in 2005. It has not happened since. On one of those occasions we did a `spoiler’ story on the new Justin Marshall book, which was being extracted in the SST.”

Media commentator Jim Tully damned the practice, saying lifting stories from another media outlet without attribution was “both unethical and potentially risky as past experience has shown. It is indicative of the intense competition between the Sundays and suggests a note of desperation in not being scooped by a rival.”

I think things are less intense now, but I do know newspapers hate nothing more than missing a story their rival covers.

Cook also gave details in his early brief of “the most incredible example of industrial espionage ever seen in the newspaper industry in this country”. A Herald on Sunday reporter had rented an apartment across the road from the Star-Times offices in Auckland and had a view of the editor’s office, including a whiteboard with details of upcoming stories. Cook claims the reporter was given a telescope and told to ring through details of what the Star-Times was doing that week.

But senior Herald on Sunday reporter David Fisher put a statement on the Public Address website on Friday, saying the telescope was his, and that the so-called spying was “a joke driven by a sense of mischief”. Currie said the incident was a “silly prank” which gained nothing and he did not find out about it until later.

David Fisher’s blog on the issue is here. I trust David entirely as to this being the context to the story.

The ERA heard on Friday that Cook was dismissed from the Herald on Sunday last year after a chain of events that began with a visit to the paper by two drug squad detectives.

They told Currie that Cook and a company car had been spotted on several occasions at a property they had under surveillance.

Currie said that over the following days and weeks Cook refused to provide a satisfactory reason for being there and would not hand over notes. Cook said he wouldn’t provide the notes because he did not trust Currie, who had given his home address to the police officers.

Even I had heard about the rumoured drug involvement. But the key issue will be whether Cook was legally entitled to refuse to hand over his (alleged) notes to his editor, and also whether the HoS followed correct process in dismissing him.

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Cullen interview in SST

April 12th, 2009 at 9:14 am by David Farrar

An interesting interview of Michael Cullen in the SST:

MICHAEL CULLEN didn’t mean to call John Key a rich prick. At least, not out loud. “That was an interjection I never meant to be heard by anybody, not even those around me,” says the former deputy prime minister. “It was under voice,” he explains, mouthing and whispering the infamous words again to show how it happened.

Just like when Steve Maharey said “fuck you” to Jonathan Coleman and Ruth Dyson referred to Katherine Rich as a stupid tart. Also there was no whispering when Cullen called Key a scumbag, so I think we should be careful of rewriting history.

But Cullen was angry that day in Parliament, for family reasons. National leader Key had brought Cullen’s wife Anne Collins into the debate the previous night.

I generally agree that MPs families should be left out of politics. But there is an exception to that rule – when the family members willingly get involved in politics themselves.

I’ve looked at Hansard of that day, and the reference is merely to Anne Collins having supported Russel Fairbrother’s nomination in 2002, and Cullen signing Stuart Nash’s nomination papers in 2008. If you are actively involved in a political party, supporting various candidates, then you are in politics and it is not the same as a spouse who has no political involvement at all.

The politician finds it depressing that “everyone made a federal case” out of his blurt. He’s the father of Kiwisaver, the Cullen superannuation fund, of Working for Families and a return to egalitarianism in the age of excess, and all the media want to talk about is the “rich prick”! Cullen sighs in his blank office.

It was the quote that kept on giving. And the reason it did, was the inclusion of “rich”. If he just called him a prick it would have been forgotten. But by calling him a “rich prick” it implied being rich was a bad, nasty thing – like being a prick.

The government was sensitive to the charge that it was Nannyish, he says, but the rage over the light-bulb ban seemed “highly irrational”. The new bulbs were more efficient, less expensive and more environmentally desirable. But it didn’t think it could reverse the ban either. “When you’re a government that’s been there a long time, you keep doing u-turns and people start seeing you again as weak.”

This is one of the key mistakes third term Governments make. National did it with Punket in 1999, and Labour with various things in its third term. You convince yourself that “winning” and “not giving in” is more important than killing off an issue.

The anti-smacking bill was another strange case: even though National ended up voting for it, Labour got all the flak. Cullen says Labour could not have avoided the issue posed by green Sue Bradford’s bill. Section 59 of the Crimes Act had led to the acquittal of people who had made quite serious attacks on children. And it fitted Labour policy, so opposing the measure would make people say it had no principles.

But it was not a binary choice between the old law and Bradford’s proposal. The Borrows amendment would have stopped those acquittals but not criminalised parents who apply a light smack for correctional purposes.

Cullen still insists he could not have afforded big tax cuts in 2005 when he offered only the “chewing gum” cuts. Treasury was still forecasting disappearing surpluses.

“It’s a brave minister of finance who tells Treasury, `You’re wrong, I think we can spend it’, and then Treasury will produce numbers which will show you moving into significant deficit… I’d have been shot.”

Bullshit. Because he did exactly that in 2008. Even before the credit crisis, the tax cuts he announced were on a far far worst set of books than in 2005. The irony is tax cuts in 2005 would have been sustainable, but his 2008 tax cuts probably will not be.

The National-led government cut 70 staff from the Tertiary Education Commission. “The chances are this will lead to another blowout in low-quality education spending [such as the notorious "twilight golf" courses], which will cost far more than the bureaucrats.

These twilight golf courses occured under the TEC Labour set up. They had hundreds of staff and did nothing about them. WHen there were just 25 staff in the Ministry of Education, they had far better quality control than the montrosity created by Labour. Does Cullen really think twlight golf courses occured because there were too few TEC staff?

Cullen believes “only a tiny group of highly entrepreneurial people will make their way out of any situation, because they’ve got this enormous gift and it’s a lucky gift they’ve got”.

So sucess is all due to “luck” and a “gift”. Hard work, perseverance, education, training have nothing to do with it?

“It doesn’t matter that much how rich people get, provided they’re prepared to pay their taxes. What I always hate is when I hear the rich complaining they have to pay their taxes, that that is so unfair. I’ve always said, `Gosh, I was so pleased when I was deputy prime minister earning enough money to pay so much tax’.”

Dr Cullen has never worked in the private sector. When your income is due to your activites actually generating wealth, you do get upset as almost half of it disappears to Dr Cullen. When you have been on a state salary for 35 years or so, then of course you don’t mind paying tax.

On the PM: “[John] Key is a natural high pragmatist or low pragmatist. He wants to be prime minister, he wants to do things but he’s quite pragmatic about methods. Bill English is much harder-line.” So how come Labour painted Key as a neo-con wolf in sheep’s clothing? “I’d prefer not to go into that.”

This is quite extraordinary. Cullen basically admits that Labour’s negative campaign against Key was false, and they knew it was false, but they hoped the mud would stick. What else did Labour campaign on, knowing it was false?

On “We won, you lost, eat that!” No, he says, he never said that to National. “It’s a wonderful piece of historic myth.”

I think it was directed to business actually. Hansard for back then is not online, so hard to tell.

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SST Interview with Clark

April 6th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve supported Helen Clark’s candidacy for the UNDP job, and have always acknowledge her considerable political skills. It has been her policies and judgement (in the third term specially) I have had issues with. Her interview with the SST reminds me why:

She was surprised by the standing ovation she got in parliament. There were “a lot of people there obviously that I’d crossed swords with, but I don’t believe I’ve ever been seen as a nasty, mean-spirited person. Sure, I’ve been a tough and strong politician but you know not in a way I think of as being personally vindictive”.

So calling Don Brash cancerous and corrosive is not personally vindictive? Suggesting John Key shouts over his wife at home is not nasty or mean spirited? Let us not totally rewrite history here.

She read later that one person Act MP David Garrett had not joined in the applause, but “to be honest I wouldn’t recognise the person, so it’s not of any great moment. Maybe he will learn after a while in politics that there are some things you do and some things you don’t”.

This is the same Helen who walked out of the House as Don Brash was about to start his valedictory speech?

She won’t discuss her legacy, but she does note that during the election campaign “I talked till I was blue in the face saying, `Look, a change of government isn’t just changing a brand of toothpaste there will be substantial change’. “And I think people didn’t want to hear that. Now we see the things that are happening show that it wasn’t just about changing toothpaste. But you can’t rewind the film.”

She admits she is exasperated that her prophecies were ignored. “Of course, but I can’t do anything about it. I always think of that old homily that used to hang on my grandparents’ wall, which said, `Give me the grace to accept the things that I cannot change’.”

And again we get the sense of total denial that Labour did anything wrong. It is all the fault of the NZ public voting for a change, and not realising what they were doing. It just doesn’t even occur to Helen that peopel did vote for change. That they were sick of no tax cuts until the week before the election. They were sick of nanny state. They were sick of her defence of Winston’s behaviour. They were sick of law & order policies that made parole and bail easier to get, not harder.

And her so called prophecies consisted of hundreds of advertisements that said just one thing – you can not trust John Key. It was the most personal and negative campaign in NZ’s history – they did not run even a single positive television advertisement – they were 100% negative.

To be fair to Clark, her view appears to be shared by most in Labour. They still think the public was conned by John Key, and that all they have to do is wait for the public to come to their senses and beg Labour for forgiveness for not letting them rule for ever.

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Mascot always looked shaky

March 8th, 2009 at 11:07 am by David Farrar

A good article by Tim Hunter in the SST on how Mascot should never have been let into the deposit guarantee scheme:

Mascot was one of the smaller lenders in the sector, but not tiny. Its most recent accounts, for the year to March 2008, showed a loan book of $118 million, just over half of which (57%) was lent on property projects of various kinds. The rest of the lending was to charitable trusts for gaming machines and to commercial loans.

The lending was financed by a debenture book of $123m.

Right there, it is clear that Mascot had a problem. Its debenture liabilities were greater than its loan assets. What’s more, the imbalance was more severe in the short term. Only $53m of its loans were due for repayment within one year, while Mascot owed $71m to its debenture holders over the same period.

Before the year was up ie, by the end of this month Mascot was highly likely to hit the wall.

This is the sort of analysis you hope Treasury would have done.

Mascot’s desperate situation didn’t require much detective work. It was laid out clearly in the liquidity profile in its accounts, which showed the company would be in the red to the tune of $6.8m within the next 12 months.

Without a substantial reversal of its fortunes, Mascot had no chance of survival. By the time it entered the government guarantee scheme on January 12, it is highly likely that Mascot was already doomed.

Not all collapses are foreseeable. But this one seemed prety obvious.

Another thing one of the criteria the Treasury could consider in awarding the guarantee was whether the people controlling the company were of good character. In this context it is interesting to note that one of Mascot’s directors, Christchurch lawyer David John Stock, was fined and censured in 2007 by the Canterbury District Law Society for serious misconduct after acting for both his long-term mistress and her unwitting husband, in a deal in which the husband signed away his interest in the family home.

He was also criticised by Justice Willy Young in 2002 for having “a credibility problem” and for repeatedly making “untrue” statements during a court dispute between rival meat companies PPCS and Richmond.

Due diligence on directors should absolutely be a requirement before taxpayers guarantee a finance company.

Treasury used to be regarded as the top performing Government agency. Their breach of the Public Finance Act over ACC, and this stuff up, is tarnishing their former reputation.

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