RIP NZPA

August 31, 2011

The New Zealand Press Association, our only national news agency, will close today after 131 years supplying news stories to media outlets throughout the country.

Writing in April about the proposed closure Karl du Fresne called it a seriously retrograde step:

NZPA has fulfilled an historically significant role – one that remains valid even in the digital era. When it was launched in 1880, NZPA had the effect of bringing New Zealand together. For the first time, via the telegraph, New Zealanders had ready access to news and information from beyond their own regions. Historians have credited this with creating a sense of national cohesion in place of the narrow, regional parochialism that previously prevailed. At its peak, 74 member newspapers subscribed to the NZPA service, which gave them access to news of importance supplied by other member papers from all over the country.

Competition between APN and Fairfax which own most of our newspapers will determine how much we lose or gain from NZPA’s demise.


Word of the day

August 31, 2011

Jobbernowl -blockhead, fool.


9/10

August 31, 2011

9/10 in NZ History online’s weekly quiz.


Are we excited yet?

August 31, 2011

Exciting events to look forward to used to be few and far between – just Christmas, birthdays,  and the odd holiday or other special occasion.

Now we’re spoilt for choice. That makes it more difficult for anyone promoting anything to get our attention – and commitment – until the last moment.

This is possibly why the International Rugby Borad chief executive Mike Miller is concerned that New Zealanders don’t realise the importance of the Rugby World Cup.

I’m not among the critics of the Rugby World Cup but even so it hasn’t really been on my radar. We’ve bought tickets for one game and been invited to another but they’ve yet to register as much more than dates in a diary.

However, in the last week I’ve become aware of increasing excitement and not just among people who are interested in the rugby.

The radio was tuned to a sports talk show when I got into the car on Sunday and I heard a caller getting excited about the RWC because it meant Janet Frame’s house in Oamaru would be open.  They’ve even produced special book marks to give visitors.

What’s more Murray Deaker was excited in response.

Who would have thought that sport and literature could mix?

They’re all part of the Real New Zealand Festival which includes events as diverse as a special  Oyster Festival in Bluff and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s Odes to Joy in Christchurch.

There will also be some rugby. The Fijian team is the first foreign one to arrive and when I saw them and the enthusiasm of the people welcoming them I began to realise just what is in store in the next few weeks.

There’s going to be a party, and whether it’s rugby, literature, oysters, music or any of the other dozens of events, it’s something to celebrate and get excited about.


PGW’s loss SFF’s gain – again

August 31, 2011

PGG Wrightson’s misguided attempt to buy into Silver Fern Farms last year cost the rural servicing firm $40 million last year.

Another unfortunate deal with the meat company has cost PGW $9.6 million and made a major contribution to its $30.7m loss for the year to June.

In 2009, the company entered into a 10-year supply contract for livestock to Silver Fern Farms. To the extent that the company was unable to meet the annual agreed level of supply, in certain circumstances it was required to make a payment to SFF related to the shortfall.

Due to the level of supply and current livestock market trends, a provision of about $9.6 million had been made, representing the best estimate of PGGW’s expected liability for shortfall payments over the remaining contract term.

Stock agent’s are supposed to get the best deal for their clients. They can’t do that if the company they work for has tied itself to one meat company.

The huge loss of lambs after the snow storm last year combined with increased demand and much higher prices would have made it a difficult season for PGW anyway and the deal with SFF compounded its problems.

PGW’s loss has been SFF”s gain again.

SFF was on its knees before Craig Norgate led PGW’s merger bid. The penalty payments when that deal collapsed helped the meat company back into the black last year.

We’ll have to wait for SFF”s results to discover the importance of the amount PGW contributed to its bottom line this year.


Who would be left to pay? – Updated

August 31, 2011

Susan Guthrie and Gareth Morgan have come up with a grand plan which they say will ensure equal opportunity and choice for all:

A total rewrite of our taxation and transfer policies to correct the tax dodges available to owners of capital, to explicitly recognise the importance of non-paid work, and to foster equal opportunities for all citizens to participate in society and the wider economy, will go a long way to reasserting the values of egalitarian New Zealand.

In short, the following package addresses what is needed to get back on this path, while ensuring no blowout of government finances.

- An unconditional basic income (UBI) for every adult – $11,000 after tax, whether you’re in the paid workforce or not. This enables more people to choose paid or unpaid work – or not to work at all. Most importantly more would be able to pursue what they want to do, rather than what financial penury forces them to do. We are a rich society so to compel people to opt for paid work or face the stigma of qualifying for a benefit has no logic.

Let’s look at that last sentence again:

We are a rich society so to compel people to opt for paid work or face the stigma of qualifying for a benefit has no logic.

It depends on how you define rich.

We are a country blessed with a wealth of natural resources and human talent but we don’t have the income to pay for all the first world services and infrastructure most of us regard as necessities.

That income comes from work, particularly work which leads to exports, savings and investment from which tax is paid.

Anyone is free now to choose not to work with the very reasonable proviso that they don’t expect the rest of us to pay them when they exercise that choice.

Some people are unable to work and that is why we need a welfare system as a safety net.

But giving anyone who could work the option to do so or be supported by the rest of us is madness.

Why would anyone bother to work unless they could get considerably more than they were being paid for pleasing themselves and who would be left to pay not just for them but little things like health, education, roads and other services and infrastructure which we all net taxpayers contribute to now?

This is not a recipe for equal opportunity and choice, it’s a recipe for social and economic disaster.

UPDATE: Lindsay Mitchell points out other flaws – including that invalids and sickness beneficiaries would be much worse-off.


Events and issues

August 31, 2011

When British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked what was most likely to challenge a government he replied, “Events, my dear boy, events”.

It is not events but issues and the lack of focus on them which is challenging Phil Goff.

In facing, yet again, questions about his leadership he denied he was in trouble and said:

“People aren’t focused on the issues at the moment and we need to focus on the electorate, on those issues, once the world cup is behind us and the election campaign is underway.”

So which issues would he like us to focus on?

The economy? Probably not because the last Labour government in which he was a senior minister mismanaged it badly and there’s nothing in any policy announcements to convince the party has learned the error of its big government tax and spend ways.

The one policy in which the public showed a modicum of interest was the Capital Gains Tax and they don’t want us to focus on that because they haven’t got any details.

Education? No. Labour is critical of National Standards but has no convincing alternative ideas to address the problem of so many young people leaving school functionally illiterate and innumerate.

Health? That’s not a good idea when even Labour’s health spokesperson admits Health Minister Tony Ryall is managing the portfolio effectively.

Security? Another no. It’s difficult for Labour to say much on international security when its foreign policy doesn’t differ markedly from National’s and it has yet to announce any meaningful policy on domestic crime and justice matters.

Welfare? Again this is an area where Labour has been quick to criticise but slow to offer viable alternatives.

These are the big five issues that voters are most likely to be concerned about and Labour has failed to come up with any winning policy ideas in any of them.

That leaves side shows and leadership. There’s been enough of the former to destabilise the latter but although the knives are being sharpened in caucus, the likely successor to Goff lacks either the numbers or the courage to act.

That puts the focus on a divided caucus which already appears to have conceded this election and try as Goff might to shift attention elsewhere that will get far more attention than issues.


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