Showing newest 49 of 77 posts from April 2011. Show older posts
Showing newest 49 of 77 posts from April 2011. Show older posts

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Battle of the Extremists

This election is going to be an interesting one. We have emerging a mostly Maori based Mana party led by Hone Harawira which is lining itself up to take extremist left-wing positions with well known left activists like Matt McCarten and Sue Bradford involved it will stir up wider attention than just for Maori. On the right there is going to the the anti-Maori Don Brash selling up extremist right wing policy stronger than before. If you want some serious mud slinging ground that is where you can find it. The wings will be having a fierce battle.

In the middle the Maori Party and New Zealand First will be battling it out for attention. A space where very few votes seem to be currently sitting but with the Mana and ACT parties going mad on the wings who knows what could happen in the centre with people trying to avoid them. Expect to see National voters going to New Zealand First to escape ACT.

Who knows what the Labour and National Party campaigns are going to end up as battling each other but I suspect they will be worth watching too.

I am very excited about seeing how this election goes right now.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Katrina Shanks vs The Standard

I made a post last week In the House vs Hansard which discussed the ability of MPs to edit their Hansard scripts using Katrina Shanks as an example as she had recently heavily edited a quite well known speech. The Standard has now reproduced it as Editing Away Idiocy. One commenter made this document showing the extent of the revisions more clearly than the side by side style I presented the original post in and points out it is 221 revisions for 742 words if you had difficulty spotting the differences.

The comment on there which struck me most was that by felix:

This is such blatant bullshit. Shanks was rightly ridiculed for her speech and she deserves to be ridiculed all over again for this.
It goes way beyond fixing the grammar. She’s inserting things she never actually said into the record. In parts she actually inserts the opposite of what she said.
The standard of diction has plummeted under National. Airheads like Paula Bennett and John Key regularly stand in the house and abuse the ears of anyone with an ounce of consideration for the language.
It’s a bloody disgrace that a member of parliament can stand in the house and talk complete gibberish and have it recorded as if she’s Winston Fucking Churchill.
I’d prefer that they make an effort to speak like adults, but if these clowns want to stand in the house of representatives and talk like pissed-up teenage bogans at a bbq then that’s exactly how it should be recorded.
That MPs should actually be able to edit their records is questionable especially when it leads to large scale editing as with the Katrina Shanks speech. The correcting does (potentially) allow for significant syntax changes even this being changed means we are losing something of our history. Movement on the issue is unlikely to occur any time soon however.

Another issue that would potentially capture attention from the comments though is this one:

New version :Ōhariu, the electorate where I live
Old version:Especially you know in Ōhariu my electorate
Isnt that a hanging offence , claiming to be an electorate MP ?
I'm not sure her old version was necessarily claiming to be an electorate MP. I would be more concerned  about the corrected version however as last I heard Katrina Shanks did not live in Ōhariu but in Karori.

Don Brash Returns

Don Brash has been successful in his leadership attempt. I was quite frankly surprised because I didn't think it was a genuine attempt to take over the party as ACT's claimed ideology is liberal/liberal where as Don Brash is clearly liberal/conservative a breed that is eminently more electable usually. The takeover coup appeared like it was just an attempt to make ACT more effectively destroyed by making it look like they missed an opportunity for survival.

In terms of what the party should now do for survival they probably couldn't do better than the advice of Cactus Kate a long time ACT supporter. For ACT to survive they need to build a team where leaders don't only just cling to survival for the entire term due to their own casting vote. It needs to stop being so factional. This doesn't mean it cannot be faction in a policy sense that is fine but it needs to stop having so much personal infighting.

The bringing back of Don Brash gives ACT a change to escape oblivion. It may now lose National the election though in a public reaction against a government which includes a strong hard right. Such a decision won't be possible to see the effects of until the actual day on voting however as that is likely to be a decision made on the day if ever there was one. They are also going to have to hope Don Brash doesn't try to get into a stock car again. He has an extra 5 years of awkward added to him doing it now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Origins of Easter

No Right Turn has launched a pretty stinging attack on Easter Trading Laws as being Christian oppression following a spate of tweets on the issue over the weekend. While I agree we could perhaps alter the dates we celebrate a bit the post overstates the issues considerably.

The first thing to note about Easter is that it is wider considerably than just a Christian affair. It is named after the Pagan god Eostre (whose symbol was usually a rabbit) and has been celebrated by many non-Christian groups over the centuries. It is clear in the modern age it is more of a cultural than religious affair. Very few people would consider their main reason for celebrating Easter to be religious. Proclaiming that the whole affair is religious oppression is overstating it considerably and ignores the history of Easter. Saint Valentines Day was proclaimed to be a holiday by the pope in 496 AD and has as much Christian backing to it as Easter but people don't complain we only have it due to religion. The reason they do not is because Christians do not make a big deal out of holidays like Valentines in a religious way any more. The fact that they do for Easter doesn't make the holiday less valid and where holidays are celebrated by a significant portion of the population it is fair to make them public holidays so people can celebrate them properly. Without limitations on trade hours people are forced to work on these days and cannot celebrate them. To not have the trading restrictions would be a tyranny of the minority forcing those people to work on days of importance to them.

As to alcohol laws there is a very good reason we have alcohol laws on public holidays. This is because if there are no alcohol laws people take public holidays as an opportunity to drink to excess knowing they won't have to go into work the next day. It makes sense to keep most public holidays alcohol free and have them as family events. The current alcohol laws over Easter were designed to limit drinking to that which is responsible and not keep shops shut for 4 days at the same time. While we shouldn't be restricting everyone can drink constantly doing it for a few days is not a big deal where there is a purpose for it and the laws are actually reasonably sensible. Having a secular society has nothing to do with wanting a few days a year where people actually spend time with their families. That means concessions people getting time of work are needed and it means some people do need to just deal with the fact they can't get wasted for a few days. Having these things don't automatically make you subject to Christian oppression.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Swiftly Twitter Moves

Whilst I was busy for 4 hours attempting to get from Palmerston North to Wellington by bus in horrific rain and wind twitter has begun storming around with ideas for Don Brash policies if he were to create a new political party. If you have not come across Don Brash before he was the National leader up until the 2005 election but was swiftly replaced after he failed to win so now he is having a go at starting his own party or taking over ACT. The hash tag about him that has begun storming is #brashpartypolicies and it has already managed to grab the attention of the main stream media.

Some examples:
  - Outsource Parliament to the Business Round Table
- Privatisation of State Highway 1 as a quick and easy route to work from Epsom every morning
- Housing: put it in a bubble, and blow it away.
- Orewa Day to replace Waitangi Day as national holiday

If you can think of anything amusing then tweet away. Were Brash not 70 you could also follow his twitter. In the alternative however there is this DrBrash who is quite amusing.


Brash Attacks Continue

Don Brash seems to be creating a constant stream of media to topple Hide as leader and substitute himself. The attacks range from Hide promised to give me Epsom to I will destroy ACT if it does not make me its leader. ACT is stuck in a really awful position now. Don Brash would undoubtedly lead ACT to greater electoral success than Hide. There may be an ideological difference between Brash and ACT somewhat but he is likely to actually be more distant from National in government than Hide would be given Key toppled him as leader so the party could retain some independence. If ACT does not pick Don Brash they are dooming themselves to 2 MPs at the most and quite possibly being outside Parliament entirely as it is very possible Brash would form the new right party he is threatening to and that would destroy ACT if it stood in Epsom.

If ACT does pick Don Brash through it is going to put National in a worse situation in terms of being able to align itself with both the Maori Party and ACT as well as National having its vote reduced from soft voters switching back to Labour to avoid Brash and hard right voters switching back to ACT.

It will be interesting to see what choice they make.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New From Wikileaks

Wikileaks has come out with a new release now of documents showing details of the Guantanamo refugees. With 779 files in total it could take the press a little while to sort through them and report on what it shows but it is good to see some more light shed on the treatment there. At the moment reporting seems to indicate the prisoners left are all ones designated as high risk and some of those moved already were also designated as high risk. Whether these classifications were accurate may be a large sticking point. There is not a lot of detail of the torture known to have happened which was so widely reported in the media already.

It has been difficult for Wikileaks to cope lately with the legal issues they are facing. In addition after they had brought out a few of their international cables people started losing interest so was not reported as widely as it could have been but several important revelations were made. In particular it had the most important effect of showing how honest our governments our with us.

I suspect this time it will not be so pursued by the American administration. They are still focusing on getting Assange for the cable releases and the last thing they want is more press about Guantanamo. I wouldn't be surprised if they refuse to comment after some initial statements. Brining up the record of their torture is not something they want to happen often.

Lest We Forget

On the 25th of April each year we celebrate the lives of those ANZAC troops who gave their lives to defend us. It is also a time to remember the horrors of war and why we should with all our effort prevent conflict from happening.

I had a 5am start today as I am staying about 45 minutes from where the dawn service was being held. Having managed to drag myself out of bed and make my way over there losing my poppy in the process at some point during the walk I arrived to a solemn affair.

The speakers went through various odes/psalms and we gave our thoughts and respects to the dead. I was impressed by the number of people who had made it this year with hundreds turning out in what is not an overly large city when they have the option of the 9:30 service also. The event was too much for some people and three had to go and be taken care of in one of the ambulances. The service was well done although far too few sang along to the national anthem and even fewer sang along to it in Maori. It is important we take these events which define us as a country seriously and I am glad I went along today. If you have not gone to a service before take the time to do so. ANZAC day is not a glorification of war it is a time to commemorate and reflect which all New Zealanders should join in on.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Different Kind of Easter

It appears concerns are now arising what the political resurrection of Brash at Easter could mean. Is this a new era for New Zealand where the far right of the 80's and 90's returns to control? Or will be like the resurrection of Roger Douglas and lead to more opportunities for Trevor Mallard to be kicked out of the House for suggesting they may have died during a debate. Only time will tell; the decision is expected to be made at an ACT party meeting next weekend whether to offer Brash the leadership.

ImperatorFish is ordering in extra holy water, garlic, crucifixes and sharpened stakes just in case.

Queen Coming to the Rugby World Cup

It is a big deal in the media all of a sudden that the Queen can only come to New Zealand for the rugby world cup if Labour agrees as it is so close to an election. This is disappointing as it means John Key was not prepared to actually go and ask Labour first rather than speaking to the press about it. Now there is undue pressure on the Queen to come and on Labour to let her as a result.

The rule that would prevent her coming here is a little silly because she clearly isn't going to go around promoting one political party or another now we are out of the 1800's. While we have the Monarchy we should welcome their visits even if we will one day move to a republic. If they are never allowed to come there is no point in the monarchy other than being an expensive letterhead. It is a trivial thing to be worrying about as a country right now though. New Zealand is still on the brink of recession with high unemployment and a lot of families struggling to make ends meet yet the most important thing for some seems to be John Key going to the royal wedding or the Queen coming for the rugby world cup.

You Learn Something New Every Day

This is real a child with Harlequin Ichthyosis:



It is an incredibly severe skin condition which causes most infants born of it to die very quickly or since it can be detected before birth to be aborted. It is extremely painful and the oldest known person with the condition is a girl called Nelly in the UK who now is only 26. This is just one of a range of dreadful diseases that afflict us as a population that people don't know about. People often do not realise just how common some of these dreadful birth defects are because they never see the children before they pass away at a young age.

Take for example the debate here that led to our requirement for folate in bread to be dropped. The neural tube birth defects lack of folate can cause happens to 1 in 1000 live births and is higher for overall births because children would be aborted or miscarry before the birth. This would be over 50 babies born each year with defects like spinal bifida in New Zealand. The need for folate is in the first month of pregancy when people are not yet aware they are pregnant and thus there are no alternate measures to mass medication other than having women take folate for their entire lives in case they become pregnant. In Canada mandatory fortification of food with folate was found to reduce neural tube birth defects by 46%. The decision to not fortify already may have meant 20 more children born with these birth defects this year alone. Unfortunately we don't know the cause of all birth defects yet to prevent conditions like Nelly's occurring but there are ones we can treat and it is beyond me why we do not. Even one child born suffering such conditions where it is not necessary is a tragedy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Cost of the UK Monarchy

Stumbled onto an amusing youtube video by a monarchist today about the true costs of the Royal Family to the UK:



It is a nice attempt to justify the cost of the royal family although it unfortunately ignores all the extra costs. 40 million pounds is just what it costs to keep the royal family in pocket money. It does not include all the additional cost the state incurs by sending the queen around everywhere, hiring extra police for things or simple one off costs like the royal wedding this year which due to them declaring it a public holiday will cost the UK 5 billion pounds this year. More than its income from tourism could ever be and certainly more than the rent from its lands. Sadly the royal family do not make a profit for the UK although they are quite quaint.

Rahui Katene's Odd Proposition

While going through the comments on a facebook poll about lowering the voting age to 16 I came across an interesting comment. Rahui Katene a Maori Party MP had this to say:

Ignoring the comment about 14 year old's knowing politics better I found her proposition an interesting one proposed by an MP - to cap the voting age at 40. The vast majority of people under 30 actually don't vote at all because they are never given anything that adequately explains what voting is and how our political system works. The most common voters are in fact those aged over 40 so an MP suggesting we do anything bad specifically targeted to those over 40 is incredibly unusual particularly something like restricting voting. Don Brash was crucified publicly for suggesting we raise the retirement age. It would be interesting to see what people would have to say if she had said this in a more public sphere.

Easter

An interesting article popped up for me today on how Kiwis don't know enough about the traditions of Easter. A survey found a mean score of 5/10 for questions about Easter and this according to them shows a decline in knowledge of Easter. The first thing I would point out is that while we don't have an accurate system of recording people's knowledge of Easter but I would say that has probably always been the rate of people knowing obscure religious facts.

As of the last census only 55% of Kiwis were Christian. This has been declining at a rate of about 1% a year through the last few censuses so may well be below 50% by now. Of those who tick yes most would be moderate Christian. For a match up with the stats a mean of 5/10 is actually pretty decent because it means those who are not Christian are able to answer some of the questions and those who are moderate Christians know about half. You really can't expect people to know about your religion when they don't follow it.

Looking at the answers people gave I doubt most actually took the survey seriously:
A 16-year-old believed Christ was referred to as "King of the World", and was crucified wearing a "halo made of bunnies".
 Others believed Christ lived "in the Stone Age" and was an engraver by trade, while another also struggled to name his betrayer until prompted by the Lady Gaga reference.
The answers make me think the person introduced themselves as asking the question on behalf of a particular church because that would certainly inspire me to say Jesus has a halo of bunnies.

For me personally I find Easter a great time to spend time with family and Anzac day falling around the same time is usually a more important concern for me. For whatever reason you celebrate Easter I hope you enjoy it and find some time to spend with loved ones.

Don Brash Comeback Bid

Don Brash has revealed he would come back to Parliament if he was given the leadership of ACT.

This is good for Labour for a few reasons.

It will put off moderate National and Maori Party voters that a vote for National/the Maori Party means a vote for Don Brash in a government party. The Maori Party and ACT both working with National only really works right now because National only really needs the support of one and Hide isn't too extreme on Maori issues. Don Brash could see ACT coming in trumpeting abolition of the Maori seats and other such policies which would see votes fly to ACT from National but make the Maori Party refuse to work with them. Worse still they may paint National as pro-Maori via the strong stances they could take on Maori issues which would send those National voters won over at Orewa back to Labour/New Zealand First who can't bring themselves to vote ACT back again for lack of a distinct difference perceived on race issues between the two parties.

It will also serve to fuel Labour supporters back to come help out the party to see off the evil Don Brash. Hide is difficult to rally against because he just kind of gives people the creeps and John Key doesn't have a whole lot of substance to attack as he doesn't have any clear policy positions. Don Brash is a powerful figure to unite against and his return to politics would strengthen the resolve of Labour supporters because he is known to have strong political opinions.

Finally even if the offer isn't accepted it highlights again how little Hide's own party wants him and Labour will be glad to see news stories on who will be the next party leader not about them. Personally I am curious who will replace Key, he is like all PMs ageing pretty rapidly in the role and looking more like Muldoon every day. It will be interesting to see how much longer he can tough it out and it is really questionable if there is another strong caucus member to take his place at this stage.

The downside for Labour will be that there was a chance of ACT being obliterated entirely this election. Secondly if this makes a large ACT party and National wins it would mean a far more right wing government next term than people would already have been expecting and while this is good for them to win the election after it is a whole load of damage done that they would struggle to undo.

National Candidate

Unfortunately Steve Callahan is not to be the National candidate for Wellington Central. The actual candidate was decided as planned on the 20th and it will be Paul Foster-Bell. Paul has some reasonably decent experience in foreign affairs which as the Dim-Post has pointed out gave him some very important connections.

The chances of Grant Robertson being toppled from his seat however are not high with the level of effort he has put into the local community. He had a smallish majority last time but it will be surprising if it is not quite substantially increased this time. Unless National threw a minister at him it would be unlikely that someone who will clearly be one of Labour's front bench for the next few terms would be unseated.

Paul does have a twitter but unfortunately it is nowhere near as entertaining.

Friday, April 22, 2011

In The House vs Hansard

Parliament now puts all of its discussions online through youtube which you can view at In The House. It is an excellent addition to the public sphere as it allows people to see the quality and nature of MPs speeches far more easily. Previously people had to rely on the Hansard official records of Parliament alone. Something not so widely known that MPs may edit their Hansard records to make minor corrections meaning some of the quirks of the House are lost by reading only Hansard. David McGee in his work Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand states:
Members are tied to what they have said in the House and may make only minor or grammatical alterations to the report. The meaning or substance of what was said cannot be altered in any way, though occasionally there may be controversy as to whether this has occurred.
An example of this editing is the recent Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill speech by Katrina Shanks. The full Hansard record is online here about a third of the way down the page and the video is here.

Here are the two version of her speech. The official Hansard record on the left and what is said in the video on the right:

KATRINA SHANKS (National) : It is my pleasure to take a call on the second reading of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill tonight. It is interesting to note that this bill repeals section 92A of the Copyright Act 1994, which was introduced under the leadership of Judith Tizard of the then Labour Government. We talk about technology and how fast it moves, and we know that since 1994 technology has moved extremely fast. What was relevant then is not necessarily relevant now. It is important when we are looking at legislation around technology—for example, this bill, which is very narrow; it is about file sharing—that we get legislation that can stay true for a period of time and will not be outdated. It is more principle-based, I believe, and that is the way it should be in order to ensure it stays current for a longer period of time in a very fast-changing environment.

The Commerce Committee worked really hard on this legislation, I have to say. The select committee had it for a long time. In fact, I felt very sorry for the officials when they first came in. I think I am relatively savvy when it comes to computers, but when it comes to file sharing my generation does not know much about it; it was not around when I first started using computers. It actually took them a while to explain file sharing to a few of us on the committee. It came down to having little boxes in front of the select committee, and the officials would explain that a bit is taken from this box and a bit from that box—a bit from this computer—until there are a thousand little bits and they make up a file. It takes a bit to get one’s mind round it.

Hon Steve Chadwick: It does.

KATRINA SHANKS: That is right, I say to Steve. It took a little while for the committee to get its mind round what this bill was about. At the end of the day, the committee came to a compromise. We had a huge debate over how we discourage file sharing and how we ensure we are not over-regulating or over-penalising people who file share. But it is really important to remember that file sharing is actually an illegal activity. We talked about two things. One was Internet service provider warning notices. An Internet connection provider such as Telstra or XTRA would give customers a warning if they think they have committed a breach and have been file sharing. One can then get a second warning and a third warning. We also talked about it being about not just breaching it but knowing that one has breached it. A whole generation out there is coming through that does not understand that file sharing—

Jonathan Young: Don’t care.

KATRINA SHANKS: Or they do not care, but I do not think that is necessarily true. They do not realise that what they are doing is illegal and is not right. Out there we have peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. One can put a software program on one’s computer and file share. What is wrong with that? I have three children, who are on the Internet all the time. I do not know whether, as a parent, I would be able to find out whether they are file sharing. I like to think they are not, and I like to think we have educated our children about it. But until I had this legislation before me at the select committee I did not know about it, I have to say. It is quite different from breaching copyright, where someone sends someone else a file. That is different again. If someone sends someone else a file, they may be breaching a copyright, as opposed to what this legislation is about, which is peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. I think it is important to educate the many kids out there. Ōhariu, the electorate where I live, has very high usage of computers, especially by youth. It is really important that we educate our youth and their parents about what file sharing is, and educate them that we should not be doing it. It is different from breaching copyright, and we must bear that in mind.

I am looking forward to debating this bill further in the House, in the Committee stage and the third reading. Thank you very much.
KATRINA SHANKS (National) : Its my pleasure to take a reading a call on the second reading of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill tonight. I think its interesting to note that this bill is to replace the original bill of s92A from 1994 under the leadership then of the Labour government of Judith Tizard and as we know when we talk about technology and we talk about how fast it moves actually since 1994 technology has moved extremely fast and what was relevant then isn't necessarily relevant now. So its important when we are looking at legislation around technology and for example, this, which is very narrow; which is about file sharing—that actually we get a bit of legislation which can stay true for a period of time and won't be outdated. So its more principle-based, I believe, and that's the way it should be to ensure it stays current for a longer period of time in a very fast-changing environment.

Now the Select Committee worked really hard on this bit of legislation, I've gotta to say. We had it for a long time in our select committee. In fact, I felt very sorry for the officials when they first came in. Because you know I think I am relatively savvy when it comes to computers, but when it comes to file sharing which actually is mostly not my generation I've gotta say because it was not around when I first started using computers. It actually took them a while to explain what file sharing was to a few of us on the committee. It actually it came down to we had little boxes along around the front of the select committee, and they'd explain how it takes a bit from this box and a bit from that box and a bit from this computer—until you've got a thousand little bits and it makes up a file. Which actually it takes a bit to get your mind round.

Hon Steve Chadwick: It does.

KATRINA SHANKS: It does that's right Steve. So it took a little while for the committee to get its mind actually round what this bill was about and it came to at the end of the day what this committee came to was it came to a compromise. Cos we had a huge debate over how do we discourage file sharing and how do we ensure that we are not over-regulating or that we're not over-penalising people who file share. But its really important to remember that file sharing is actually an illegal activity and so two things that we talked about. One was ISP warning notices. So you've got a provider you've got Telstra or XTRA who gives you your internet connection and they give you a warning if they think you've breached a by using file sharing and then you can get a second warning and a third warning and with that also we talked about its not just about breaching it but knowing that you've breached it. We're literally whole generation out there and coming through that actually don't understand that file sharing—

Jonathan Young: Don’t care.

KATRINA SHANKS: Or or don't care, but I think that's not necessarily true. They actually don't realise that what they are doing is illegal and actually its not right because what we've got out there is we've got peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. So you can actually go out there, put a software program on your computer and file share. So what's wrong with that? And I know you know I've got three children, who are on the Internet all the time and I actually don't know how to find it actually as a parent about whether they were file sharing or not. I'd like to think they aren't, and I like to think that we educate our children about it. But until I had this bit of legislation before me in a select committee I actually didn't know about it, I've got to say and its quite different to copyright, where someone sends you a file. That's different again because if someone sends you a file you may be breaching a copyright, as opposed to what this legislation is about, which is actually about file-sharing programs peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. So I think that its important to note there are many kids out there. Especially you know in Ōhariu my electorate which has got a high usage of computers, especially in the youth. You know I think its really important that we go out and we educate our youth and the parents about what file sharing is, and how we shouldn't be doing it and it is different to copyright, so bearing all that in mind.

So Mr Speaker I am looking forward to debating this further in the House, through Committee stage and the third reading. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Paula Bennett's Harsh Rule

Paula Bennett has decided it is inappropriate for candidates to visit senior public servants. She has dubbed it as political and argued that public servants would be swamped if she allowed all candidates. Considering this could be up to 10 people over the course of a year I can see how that would make the public service severely swamped assuming every candidate wanted to visit the boss on WINZ. In reality this is a fundamental role of candidates. Our local MPs need to work together closely with the public service to ensure the people in their electorate are dealt with fairly especially with an organisation like WINZ who results in a great deal of work for some MPs. A candidate is no less important than an MP during an election period in this regard, they are constantly meeting with the public to talk about their issues and they need to understand how things work before they become an MP if there is a change in representative. It should not be considered political for someone to do their job.

It will be interesting to see how many National Party candidates will now be declined for visits to the public service this year for these reasons.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pagani's Response

Pagani was fairly widely criticised in both the press and on blogs. He has thus made a response.

Focussing on the Dimpost (The Standard and the media have commented also) he smears as bitter Danyl essentially saying because he votes Green his views don't count:
not surprising that I get misrepresented by that bitter source: DimPost voted Green in 2008, and attacked the Greens then for being too close to Labour. He has also stated that he won’t be voting Labour in 2011.
This is a strategy of Kiwiblog normally who constantly points out the fact people have been to a protest Labour organised or that they belonged to a union to show how their views aren't important.

Pagani goes on to say this:
What in practice are the examples Dimpost and his commenters give as examples of where Labour should oppose harder?
However Pagani's original post was not about "not opposing harder." What Pagani was asking for for Labour to advocate more centralist policy:
They’re waiting for Labour to demonstrate it genuinely understands their needs - and that means endorsing more of what National is doing - the things the voting public approves of.
His position was that Labour should endorse more of National's policies. My question to John Pagani would be what Labour policies should be abandoned and switched for National policies? His new post where he claims he was misrepresented last time actually changed the whole argument though:
No, Labour should not endorse National Policy
and
Labour needs to go to the election with hugely different policies
In this piece Pagani actually gives some good advice and that is that Labour needs to do more hard opposition like the Stop Asset Sales campaign and focus on the issues that matter to New Zealanders. In all of the area's which really matter to Kiwi's he highlights Labour policy is opposed to National so it makes you wonder what on earth was the point of his first post with an entirely different argument.

The second post has a second important message in it however and that is the rejection of the perceptions brought up by Danyl:
keep almost all of the members of the unpopular government the public was glad to get rid of, endorse National’s policies which are mostly horrible failures, and promote no substantial policy of their own
Looking at the second half first Pagani was promoting endorsing policies we currently oppose so it would be surprising if they were not horrible failures in Labour's eyes and endorsing everything National does means having no substantial policy. However he did change his mind since the last post as mentioned above.

As to rejuvenation these are perceptions the public has and yes as Pagani points out they are wrong as Labour does have a high rate of rejuvenation of its caucus. What he ignores though is that while untrue this is a justified perception of the party because all those new MPs have not yet become prominent faces in Parliament with the exception of Grant Robertson, Charles Chauvel and Jacinda Ardern. The rejuvenation had a gap 2002-2005 so a lot of the front bench is people the public knew before. You cannot expect people to know who everyone caucus is and make a reasoned judgement that a third of them are new. They will look at the top 5 people in caucus unless you deliberately promote those new faces. If Labour wants to show it has rejuvenated it needs to promote these people to the public.

Building Worker Shortage

Since my post last week Demise of the Trades there appears to have been some media attention on the issue. In Christchurch the builders are being laid off despite it being known they will be needed again in only a few months time. This is just poor planning by the companies there who will be needing more staff again in the future when all of ours have left for Australia since there are no jobs here. Nearly 4000 workers left for Australia in February alone and this is a growing problem as our wage gap with Australia widens and more and more people leave.

It appears Phil Goff is not following John Pagani's advice however and chosen to attack the government on the issue. At a speech to the NZ Manufacturers and Exporters Association in Christchurch he said:  
It is a misjudgement of huge proportions that the Government has no skills strategy in place to anticipate this demand.
We are now nearly eight months out from the September earthquake and eight weeks since the February quake. Yet the industry and the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority tell me there is still nothing in place to address the need.
Further attacks on the issue can be seen in various other media. Instead of adopting the government's option of doing nothing but maybe considering sweeteners for existing training courses. At the speech Phil also mentioned what he thought needed to be done:
Pre-trade training courses, skill training modules and accelerated apprenticeships should already be in place, but they aren't.
The Government also needs to re-examine procedures for approving and allocating earthquake repair work to end the hiatus in approving repairs which is slowing the recovery process down.
Trade training courses should be available to provide options for the thousands of displaced workers in Christchurch, when the Government's wage support package comes to an end.
I hope we see some action from the Government on keeping these workers in jobs and training up more youth to take on work in the area. National would do well to not ignore the public's concerns. The help Christchurch needs is not a larger unemployment list.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Difficulties

There is one great difficultly when passing legislation relating to technology in the house. Some MPs have no idea what they are talking about:

Pagani's Poor Advice

The Dim-Post highlighted an interesting article by John Pagani who formerly advised Phil Goff only retiring very recently. Danyl is completely right when he says this explains everything.

Pagani states:

The commentary view is that Labour’s problems can be solved with just a bit more smarts, and if only they shifted left it would become suddenly resurgent.
But there is another explanation - one that’s not quite as neat for the left of politics: That a plurality of people actually approve of the job the National party is doing. That the last thing they want is a leap back to the last government. 
They’re not desperate for a leap to the left. 
They’re waiting for Labour to demonstrate it genuinely understands their needs - and that means  endorsing more of what National is doing - the things the voting public approves of.
Mistake one: National is not popular because of its policy if you poll on each one individually they not popular with the public some of them having as low as 30% support. National is popular because of John Key's never changing smile and good branding.

Mistake two: National's policies are what the country needs. If this were true Labour would not have a reason to be standing for Parliament. The whole point of having Labour as an alternative is that they are meant to know better ways to deal with our problems from National. If they cannot claim that then there is no reason for their existence.

Mistake three: More people are turned off by well mounted attacks than are attracted by them. Even if a policy has 60% support not all of that support will be strong and the number you offend by attacking a policy is almost always a minority.

Mistake four: Labour can win without attacking any policy. If it does not attack policy there is no reason to vote for Labour as it is indistinguishable. In addition a lack of attacks will make National's policy more popular. The attacks are intended to have the effect of reducing the popularity of the policies.

Mistake five: Labour is low on the polls because it attacks National policies. Labour is not unpopular due to stances it has taken on things like the economy, health etc. What people got angry at Labour for was being perceived to pander to minority interests. This perception doesn't come from their attacks but from the positive actions they took in government that people have not forgiven them for yet. The response you get from people who really don't like Labour is things like "they support Lesbianism" not "they said decreasing the top tax rate by 6% is bad."

Mistake six: There are votes in agreeing with National. Is there a party to the left of National that aims to get votes by agreeing with their policy? Yes there is and that party is called United Future. Realistically Peter Dunne is unlikely to be in Parliament next term. That area is not a place to attract votes it is one to lose them.

Political parties need contrast. How did National become popular again? The Iwi/Kiwi billboards. Labour needs to differentiate itself from National and do so strongly and on its own terms. Pandering and leaving yourself open to attack is a stupid way to try win an election. Pagani is right about one thing Labour does need to ignore that poll and get on with what it is doing and do it well. However that is the extent they should be listening to that advice.

Facebook's Content System

Facebook decided the other day that a photo of two men kissing at a "kiss-in" protest against homophobia violates its terms and conditions as it prohibits “shares that contain nudity, or any kind of graphic or sexually suggestive content.” That kissing meets this threshold is unlikely to be the reason and the only one left is that it is not permissible to be gay on Facebook. It is simply not fair for Facebook to discriminate in this manner.

On a side note if kissing is something inappropriate on Facebook does this mean we can now flag duck faces?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Peter Dunne's Unusual Support

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Stop Hide

A new Facebook group has popped up called Stop Hide. There has been some very bad changes to our local government system in the last two years due to Rodney Hide and if elected again he will continue to roll out those changes. The examples so far have been the building on the Auckland Supercity in a hugely undemocratic way and stripping back the services all local councils have to provide. Of particular concern for me was the extension of the ability to contract out water services meaning councils now have the power to make them virtually private and once they have signed up to these contracts you cannot change them. One bad council could mess up the water supply for another thirty years. If you want to ensure well resourced and community based local councils with an emphasis on consultation I suggest you join this group. I am hoping even if he does win his seat that ACT polling remains the same because then at most he can bring only one MP with him which is not enough to make him a powerful coalition partner if National were also to be large enough to form government.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Harawira and Greens

Given Hone has given his party vote to the Greens and if fact voted with them consistently in the 2005-2008 Party it is reasonably safe to assume he could actually get on better with them than the Maori Party. If Hone Harawira were to stand for the Green Party would this mean the deal he made with the Maori Party to not stand candidates against them apply to the Greens also? If not Hone might be able to deliver the Green Party something they have no had in a while: a safe electorate seat. In addition it gives him a chance to stand people against the Maori Party by having them stand for the Greens also while they technically could not stand one against him without breaching the agreement.

It is unlikely to happen as Hone will want to run a Maori focused party but it would be interesting. In the name game for his party it would be hilarious if the Real Maori Party was selected as the name especially if the current one ends up out of Parliament but the best name for it is probably Mana and that is most likely to be chosen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Question of the Day

Which State Owned Enterprise is Simon Power going to buy?

Police Inconsistency

When Japanese Whalers are in our economic zone killing a very valuable tourism resource to us the government seems very happy to sit back and do nothing. However when a protest against deep sea oil drilling takes place where the company has not complained the Government takes legal advice to show they have jurisdiction over that area of the ocean then issue a notice preventing those people from protesting by threatening them with imprisonment if they go within a certain distance of the vessel. It is overkill to treat any protest this way, this is the equivalent had the Government mined National Parks of forbidding protesters from coming near the drilling sites to protest. It is clearly a stupid restriction that infringes rights to freedom of movement and speech. This is not private land they are on and the company is not trying to claim harassment there should be no legal reason to forbid the protesters doing their thing.

While I am sure they can be very happy to have thwarted Greenpeace again they have perhaps made a small oversight in that now Greenpeace can demand the police prosecute whalers for breaching New Zealand law as we protected all marine mammals back in 1978. Prior to this they have been able to say they had no jurisdiction which is clearly now no longer the case.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Demise of the Trades

In discussions with friends last week the topic of our number eight wire culture being lost. People simply don't know how to do things for themselves any more relying instead on simply buying new things when something is broken or buying things pre-made they could easily do themselves. We have forgotten the value of self-sufficiency with many parents not passing these skills onto their kids or not having them themselves. In schools classes that teach things like cooking and woodwork are not taken seriously. You end up doing something like making a clock and that will be your entire term. Young people simply are not learning to take care of themselves.

Similarly when it comes to our workforce for some reason our builders are no longer seen to be as skilled as our lawyers. We push degrees over trade skills when both are critical to our economy and need a high level of skill. I spoke to a woman recently who works in furniture making who recently had to lay off a young member of staff because the work had dried up for making quality furniture. Instead we import our furniture from overseas which is at a worse quality and a similar price and there is no real reason for it. The trend is increasingly going to be forced on us however as the senior generation of tradespeople retire and noone is there to replace them because they have not been able to have the capacity to hire new staff to train up. We will end up having to import skilled people to work in New Zealand because we have been so poor at supporting the industry ourselves.

We are seeing the effect of this with the Christchurch earthquake where we may not actually have enough people to be able to build the temporary homes we need despite the lack of other building work at the moment due to recession. It may be that foreign workers have to be flown in to work on the houses. What is worse is that the contracts will have no requirements for apprentices. A great opportunity for young people to get into the trade and the government are not offering them the option. Trade skills need to be taken more seriously if we want to stay a first world country and have high quality services and there simply isn't enough effort by government at the moment to encourage it.

Key on the Spot

While issues such as health and education can struggle to make a bit of headway the National Government is copping some major flack on an incredibly serious issue. They bought new cars. When one preaches fiscal restraint there is no way the change in cars could be justified particularly when the optional extra's seem to be for the benefit of Bill English who still nobody likes. National made a huge mistake in thinking they could get away with it because no matter how minor wasteful government spending will always be a major media issue.

The piece today by John Armstrong is incredible on the issue. The Prime Minister actually denied responsibility in the House for his Portfolio. It is a truly historic moment we are facing if Ministers are no longer accountable for their portfolio's as it actually means we no longer have a democratically accountable government. The words resignation even creep into Armstrong's piece and it would be amazing if this were the issue that were to do it to Key but really he could not have handled it worse from day one and as Chris Carter shows it is not the size of the issue but the handling of it that counts.

If In Need of Inspiration

If you are ever in need of inspiration and cheering up then watch this video. It is a perfect representation of how you can be happy no matter what happens to you. So many of us get caught up in the little things in our lives and how they make things hell. When you really think about it though none of them matter all that much. Life can be enjoyed no matter who you are and what has happened to you.

NZTrillion

A follow up on the UK rap for Andrew Langsley. NZTrillion with their song about our Smiling Assassin:

Scientist Says we Should Let the Kakapo Die

An Australian scientist has said New Zealand should let the Kakapo die out to concentrate on other species. I think this comes out of a lack of understanding of the New Zealand species we have. The threshold he sets is of less than 5000 may not be worth it which is a ridiculous number for out context when so many of our bird species that are iconic would be not worth saving with that threshold. We restored the Black Robin population from 5 to several hundred when two of them were infertile. Just because a bird population is only in the hundreds in the wild does not mean it is not worth saving.

It is of great value to New Zealand to be able to see such a great variety of native birds that do not occur in any other country in the world and to be when we spend only $39 million on programmes total we are making a profit tourism wise because getting to see New Zealand's native environment is a big draw for tourists here. Where a species is uninteresting I am to be honest happy to let it die out if it is incapable of restoring its own population naturally but these are iconic New Zealand birds and should be protected.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Andrew Langsley Rap



I wonder if such level of personal attacks would ever fly here. At any rate it is a great protest rap by a British Labour supporter.

Rob Salmond - Labour Party List

Rob Salmond has done a far superior analysis on the list than I could do yesterday. His analysis covers the entire likely caucus at differing vote percentages rather than merely the top 15 of the list as I looked at. He comes to essentially the same conclusion though which is that straight white males will continue to be overrepresented in the next Parliamentary Labour Party. People forget I think what New Zealand really looks like because when they look to a representation of New Zealand right now they see a government almost entirely of old white men and assume that is what New Zealand is really like.

Another myth he dispels is that the Labour list will not bring in much new talent:

Four new MPs would not be a great renewal effort, of course, but that scenario is one in which Labour falls to its worst MMP result since 1996. Not too surprising that there would be little room at the inn in that circumstance. But what of other possible results? The bullets below list new Labour MPs in three situations, corresponding to 30%, 35%, and 40% of the vote (again with a 4% wasted vote):
  • 30% vote share: Megan Woods, David Clark, Andrew Little, Deborah Mahuta-Coyle
  • 35% vote share: above plus Michael Wood, Kate Sutton, Jerome Mika
  • 40% vote share: above plus Josie Pagani, Lynette Stewart, Jordan Carter, Christine Rose, Glenda Alexander, Susan Zhu, Rino Tirikatene
If Labour reached its target set by Goff of 40% of the vote less than half of its caucus would have been in the Party during the Clark years which would be an astonishing rate of renewal to have a turnover of half the caucus in three years.

Once again the point is also made:
One popular critique was that Labour’s list is union-dominated. Well, duh. They did not call it “Labour” for nothing. Being upset with Labour for this is like being angry at the Greens for having all those environmentalists, or being mad with Germany’s Christian Democrats for having too many religious people. But that critique is at least technically true.
The full piece is well worth a read.

Anti-Protest Sentiment Running

The Prime Minister has attacked protesters of deep sea oil drilling saying the oil company should not be prevented doing something it is legally entitled to do. Which is of course a load of rubbish as the point of protests is to point out bad things which are legal. If something were illegal the remedy would be the police. The fact that someone is legally entitled to do something doesn't mean people cannot protest it and protests are most effective close to the action. There has been no evidence as of yet that they are disrupting the drilling and Petrobas has not asked for help.

Also of note Key said:
"If that was happening on dry land police would be in a position to do something about it"
So for a protest which is not on private land, there is no violence and is not disrupting the persons activity the police should be involved? Seems ridiculous to me that they would be needed. It appears the government is very concerned about this protest however so they have sent in the Navy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Damien O'Connor

Kiwiblog while coming out against O'Connor for his poor language has said that he still has a legitimate gripe as regards the list selection process being controlled by unionists and gays as there is only 1 MP in the top 15 who is a straight, white, non-union male. Kiwiblog himself is adding the white and male categories it appears.

The question is why should it be more?

Labour is a party founded to protect workers rights. Saying it shouldn't have unionists in it is like saying the National Party shouldn't have businessmen in it. At any rate these people did not spend their entire lives working for a union and then became an MP they have merely been involved at some point.

If you subtract the union element from his calculations there are actually 6 straight white males in the top 15 of the party list. This is in other words 40% of the Labour top 15. According to the 2006 census self-identifying Europeans formed 67.6% of the population. Assuming women are half the population that means 33.8% of the population should be white males. They are therefore clearly already over representing their gender/ethnic group by 6.2%. There is only one white gay male MP in the top 15 which would take the percentage of white males to 47% an over-representation of 13.2%. The overall percentage of males in the top 15 is 60% an over-representation of 10%.

Of males in the top 15 two are gay. If you look to Statistics New Zealand's discussion paper on whether to include sexual orientation within the census you will see amongst youth in New Zealand the rate has been calculated at 7.8% and international studies have found varying rates between 4% and 17%. One MP would be 6.7% of the population from the top 15 thus there should be between one and two gay MPs in the top 15 anyway to represent our existing population.

Thus on every category but unions it appears to be a load of total nonsense that the Labour party is being overtaken by special interest groups. It is predominantly male and predominantly white above what would be representative of the New Zealand population. As regards unions there is a reason so many people have union backgrounds and that is because Labour Party values ultimately lead you to getting involved with community organisations or unions. The people who are not in unions actually vote for the same people the union groups do because they share the same values. It is actually somewhat odd for a Labour MP to not be involved with unions who are and always will be a major supporter of the party.

Affiliate unions get two votes out of what is a 36 member selection group. They are a significant voice but by no means control the system.

O'Connor doesn't have a point he is just complaining because the Party won't vote for him in list selections because he is to the right of it and as his comments make clear he is offensive to the majority of members. Phil Goff is right it will probably help him win his electorate but it is damaging for the party overall to have idiots that try to discredit it for no real reason.

The Size of the Opposition

It appears the British government isn't that popular at the moment. Actually let me rephrase that: It appears the British government is more hated than the government of Libya and uses stronger police tactics too. Kettling of innocent bystanders has been reaching an all time high and the number of police complaints about violence is staggering. They seem to attracting truly massive protests with their changes as this video shows and it is destabilising the government:

Labour Party List

The new Labour Party list is out and it is in general quite good and displays a wide variety of talent.

It is good to see Deborah Mahuta-Coyle placed so highly who is an incredibly talented woman and will be a strong MP for Labour in the future. I have not seen any work she has done be bad and she will be a progressive member of caucus.

Kate Sutton, Jerome Mika and Josie Pagani have all been given easily winnable list places and will make excellent additions to the caucus. It will be interesting to see if now that Darren Hughes is gone Josie will switch the electorate she is running in to Otaki as she might have a shot of winning it as well as just being on the list. Jordan Carter who is another excellent talent for Labour particularly in the area of policy has a more marginal list spot at number 40 but with around 37% of the vote Labour could win this slot and bring him into Parliament.

Rino Tirikatene ranks in at number 45 on the Labour Party list which is probably a strategic move. He is not so low on the list as to appear undervalued but he would most likely not win a list spot. This means the people of Te Tai Tonga need to vote for him to get him into Parliament and it is quite important really that is not able to get in on the list instead at least at this first election. Seeing a Tirikatene return to Parliament will be a somewhat historic moment as he fills the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

Damien O'Connor is not on the list which judging from the comments he made about it is probably a good thing. If he is all that important for the rural vote he will win an electorate. He has been in Parliament 20 years now and needs to understand his list ranking overall is not going to be great with that length of time in Parliament unless you are a front bencher. The list is there to bring new talent into Parliament and ensure the most important MPs don't lose their place there it is not to bolster middle ground MPs in case they lose their seat.

Andrew Little has ranked very highly on the list and he is quite talented so this is hardly surprising. Tactically however the Labour Party would have been better to rank him low and rely on him winning his electorate seat. If he is getting into Parliament regardless the people of New Plymouth will have less reason to vote for him and given his level of organisational skills he really should be able to win that electorate easily as it is quite marginal.

Finally the gender balance on the list is unfortunately 4/6 for each group on 10 MPs. As most of the electorates won will be by men this will mean the returned Labour caucus may have even fewer women than it does currently. Looking at the full list however there was not a lot of extra female talent they could have brought further up the list so perhaps they should consider for next election what they can do to draw more talented female MPs. Men and women can perform their roles as MPs quite differently and it is important to have a mix of both.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Video on John Key's Investments

This video has compiled of video clips around John Key's investments and is well worth watching. [Hat tip The Standard]



A part two of it is still to come.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

USA Budget Cuts

The USA has undergone a massive budget cut at $78.5 billion below Obama's proposal which is $38.5 billion lower than last years spend. With an already extensively private system these are large cuts. This has happened because the number of Republican has increased in the senate giving them control over what passes rather than Obama's party the president which is a consequence of not having party leaders being country leaders. The deal itself is a result of the Republican's being able to hold the government to ransom to prevent a shut down of services. If the budget is not passed on time it means government departments would not be able to spend any money and thus a massive effect on services would occur. The Republican's can cut everything they don't want to fund making the budget a lot smaller and at the same time because they are not the Government the Democrats are with Obama they have no projects on their own to start and create cost on the budget.

The US appears to have more immediate cause than most to be cutting its government budget with massive levels of government debt. However this ignores the reality that limiting the size of the state over time increases this risk and shifts more debt onto the public. The US public is already at massive loss due to having to pay many multiples of what other countries do for Health due to its more private nature although Obama has improved this somewhat. What would be best for the US is to accept that it is allocating its money ineffectively and ensure that private citizens are being made to pay off their debt and the government sort out the massive problems of tax evasion it has so it can pay off its own. Given that our own top tax rate is now significantly lower than that of the US it would be somewhat hypocritical to criticise their government for acting badly as regards tax when our own does worse. However the US does have a lot more loopholes/irrational gaps in taxation than our system that could be closed and it should focus on those.

Some Perspective

I often get pretty annoyed when in transit for flights. Being inside airports is not a pleasant experience you never feel entirely normal in them. A touch of comedy puts it into perspective always though.

Hip Hop Tours

If anyone ever wants to complain about the government funding things like hip hop tours again they should consider this first. Russia pays people to spray paint a picture of a penis onto a bridge illegally.

Poll Result: Most Important

The last poll question was what is the most important thing for the state to provide. The results of it were somewhat surprising.

Education came out far in the lead with 32% support showing just how important it is to people. This is reflected in public polling of the most important issue for people at the next election.

Following this there is a three way split between Health, Military Defence and Social Security at 16% which is interesting because of them only Health regularly makes the election concerns of people as something the state needs to provide better.

Crime and the Environment scored only 4% of the vote each showing very low concern for them in most people which is surprising it would have been expected for Crime to be significantly higher.

Finally Consumer Protection comes in with only one vote which gives it 1% about the level of support ACT seems to regularly attract this term which has it effectively in their name as the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.

Getting Down With the Hip Crowd



How do you tell when you have a great house of representatives? When they use the White Stripes in a speech, it sounds musical and it makes sense as this Maryland representative does. Overall lesson: you cannot make an effect a cause.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Stop Asset Sales

Labour launched its new Stop Asset Sales campaign in Auckland a few days ago which is now on Facebook. It is certainly a much better visual campaign than the flyer campaign The Standard came up with a few months ago Not For Sale. It is good to see the efforts being put in to combat what was a really uninspiring policy announced by National in their first speech of the year. The sales planned are not particularly huge but they are likely to drive up the cost of power and they will cost the New Zealand government a lot of money in the long run. It is also important to remember National is unlikely to go into the election saying there will be no other privatisations but these. Things like Kiwirail and Kiwibank may well be up for sale again. Kiwibank is on promise not to be sold unless John Key resigns but looking at how much he has aged in the last two and a half years I really doubt he will be serving a full term as Prime Minister if elected anyway.

State assets are built up over a long time using many peoples tax money. They are the property of the tax payer and should not be sold by the government without some reasonably strict requirements:
  • A significant amount of public approval for sales. 
  • Bipartisan Parliamentary support (and for those parties to be legitimate unlike the 80/90s ones. 
  • The sales are being used to purchase something of greater value for the New Zealand taxpayer such as David Farrar's suggestion the other day for TVNZ to be replaced by a BBC type multi-media broadcaster with the money. 
  • The asset should not be of significant strategic value to the country or that doesn't compete well such as our railway system because it makes private companies able to manipulate the government to save them as they are too important to fail.
The sales proposed by National clearly don't meet any of the requirements listed above. The majority of people are opposed to them as shown by multiple polls. Labour is opposing them strongly so they are clearly not bipartisan. They are not being used to purchase something of greater value but to pay of debt i.e. squandering tomorrows money on today's expenditure and that debt is less costly per year than the profit we make from those assets. Finally power companies are in the "too important to fail" category. Even one day without power is disastrous and New Zealand is more vulnerable than others to an anti-competitive power environment because we get so much electricity from hydro power which can't be moved around. It is not like someone else can just build another plant in another place and the other company go bust when they cannot compete. The effect of an electricity market having hard competition would be extremely negative for consumers.

The effect of National's scheme in giving private investors an ownership share in a secure government company is probably just going to mean increased power prices for less profit to the New Zealand public. The idea that they are going to be "Kiwi mum's and dads" is laughable. Kiwi's own those power companies now and they should continue to.

New Rival for Tau

Tau Henare has a new rival on twitter - Trevor Mallard. Tau Henare is easily the best politician to follow on twitter because what he posts is so funny particularly if you have Clare Curran and Moana Mackey added as well so you can see the arguments they have with each other though. Well perhaps he is second to Steve Callahan now who is taking the Labour Party by storm. Trevor Mallard however may now steal some of Tau Henare's thunder as he is easily the best person to follow on Facebook and very quickly made the 5000 friend limit. Will be interesting to see how he performs on twitter which is far less of a conversation that Facebook which is what he really excels at one there (and which many politicians fail to understand and neglect in preference to announcements only) I am sure he will be an interesting one to follow though even if he doesn't quite beat Tau.

Inconsistency

It seems to me that we need a clear government policy where it comes to dealing with finance company failures. To randomly bail out companies that have gone bust is not a good policy we have now had two very large bailouts to two companies only while the others have been left to their own devices. What the government has done with the last two bailouts which have cost us billions of dollars is to pay for peoples taking advantage of a high risk investment.

In SCF it was fairly straight forward people were receiving interest at unsustainable rates and the company should never have had its guarantee extended.

In AMI insurance it seems the company had been cutting costs on its reinsurance costs to allow itself to have the lowest cost insurance which is why it is now in the lurch.

While we should rightly want to save people from hardship should we really extend this to covering their loss when they have taken an investment too good to be true? Businesses will not act more risky due to being able to rely on a bailout because no company would want to take the risk in profits. It is a moral question however whether the government should be intervening without getting something in return specifically from the investors who are actually the ones who profited by taking the risk until the company went belly up.

I am not saying never provide relief but perhaps limit things to options like the following:
  • Pay relief only to individual investors not the company directly and deduct any profit they might have made during the time they were an investor (for insurance the difference between the premiums they should have been paying.)
  • In some cases have a requirement when bailing out investors that they were not aware of the full scale of the risks (or rather that a reasonable person in their position would not be).
  • When relief is provided to a company it should be a reasonably high interest loan or a share in the company equal to the value of the bailout is provided to the government.
  • Charge companies to be under a government guarantee scheme.
  • When companies are under the guarantee scheme and the PM says they are getting advice from treasury every week that it is going belly up don't repeatedly extend its government guarantee.
We need to be careful about being so free with our money to bail out people who are suffering the loss due to their high interest investment or lowest rate insurance when we have such high levels of unemployment and poverty at the moment which that money could be used to address to so much greater affect. Some people would lose a lot because of refusing to bail out the companies but why should they be bailed out when businesses everywhere are closing their doors with no assistance. We might as well target the money to those we know are definitely in need if we are deciding we have money free for bailouts.

Plain Packaging for Cigarettes

Plain packaging for cigarettes is likely to soon be a reality in New Zealand. Legislation is now being written to bring it into effect. Smoking is not as serious an issue as many people make it out to be but there are a number of smokers drawn unnecessarily into it and brand loyalty plays a large role in that. Is most amusing about the reporting on it is the description of the intended packaging:
If the legislation is passed, cigarette packs would have to be sold in an ugly olive green because research showed this was the least attractive colour for smokers, Ms Roxon has said
Remember never to wear olive green on a night out.