You think yours is harder?

May 29, 2008

Under the heading Bleating Farmers Cactus Kate challenges any farmer to prove they actually work harder than any city worker or small business owner.

 

I could quote Vincent McNabb who said: “There are those who wrest a living from the land and that’s work; there are those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from the land and that’s trade; and there are those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from the land and that’s finance”.

 

I might also quote Invercargill MP Eric Roy, who when asked about his early impressions of parliament said, “There are too many people here who’ve never had a bad lambing.”

 

I could then talk about those weeks in late winter and early spring when you work from before dawn until after dark in the cold and wet, battling the weather, keeping your patience with recalcitrant ewes, persevering gently with lambs when experience and instinct tell you they’re almost certainly beyond help and not giving into despair when the piles of slinks mount in spite of all your efforts. I could talk about the stress of living on credit for months because your bank balance just creeps into the black once or twice a year if any combination of the market and weather and dollar and interest rates and other variables over which you have little or no control are in your favour.

 

I could mention the long hours, the hard physical work and mental demands of calving, and calf rearing; and how no sooner that’s over than you’re in to mating and irrigating, making silage and hay, while feed budgeting and dealing with staff some of whom don’t care about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it; don’t know how to keep themselves or their houses (which you own and they live in as part of their employment package) clean; and have no respect for their own or other people’s property.

 

Then there’s paying wages which isn’t just working out what the staff and the IRD are owed, but also what goes in child support, to the Ministry of Justice for overdue fines and the finance company for overdue interest and debts – in spite of them starting with a package including accommodation and wages well north of $30,000.

 

I could mention droughts, floods, snow and wind, pests and diseases.

I could also argue about the intellectual snobbery in Kate’s comment that farming isn’t rocket science. It’s not but that doesn’t mean a job which requires brawn doesn’t also require brains and that people who get their hands dirty don’t need to think. Farming requries a variety of physical, personal and intellectual skills including but not limited to engineering, mechanics, fencing, animal husbandry, soil, plant and vet science, accounting, budgeting, HR, determination, intuition, patience, charm and a sense of humour.

 

But there’s no point in the mine’s bigger/harder than yours argument about farming and other work. There is no easy way to earn a good living, wherever you’re trying to do it. Every job has its difficulties and its rewards, and the comment which occasioned Kate’s rant was an observation rather than a complaint.

 

It came from Charlie Pederson who said:  “When I started farming 31 years ago the average dairy herd size was 125 cows. Today it’s 347 and even at that size you are really just scratching along.”  

That could easily apply to any other small business – urban or rural  – because compliance costs and economies of scale have changed so that what would have been an economic operation, in the city or the country,  three decades ago would not be today.

 

 

 


Who are the Timaru Labour Government MPs?

May 29, 2008

At the left of the masthead for The Courier  is an advertisement for Aoraki MP Jo Goodhew with her contact details and the Parliamentary crest and a small National logo which is the sort of thing an electorate MP routinely does.

 

At the right of the same masthead is an advertisement in which the Labour logo takes up a third of the space and under this is “Timaru Government MPs’ office, your link to Government” with an address, and both a Timaru and 0800 phone number. It also carries the parliamentary crest.

 

Trouble is there is no person who is the Government MP for Timaru (and the placement of the apostrophe after the s means it’s referring to more than one Timaru Government MP). This means it can’t be a constituency or list MP’s or MPs’ advertisement so it must be an election advertisement – so why does it have the Parliamentary crest (which means you and I have paid for it) and why doesn’t it have authorisation as required by the EFA?

 

The central vetting committee which Audrey Young  reports has been set up to inspect every proposed publication by every Labour MP and candidate can’t have seen this, unless they think Labour Government MPs don’t count. Of maybe the law of common sense doesn’t apply here.

 

For the record, I rang both numbers and got an answer phone telling me I’d phoned the Timaru Labour Government MP’s (or maybe MPs’) office. Just wondering if you and I pay for that too.


Benson-Pope might go independent

May 29, 2008

Just what Labour needs – the ODT reports that Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope is considering standing as an independent Labour candidate.

Mr Benson-Pope lost the contest to remain the Labour Party candidate on February 2 when he was defeated by Dunedin public relations consultant Clare Curran. Labour Party headquarters staff were on hand to ensure Mr Benson-Pope did not win and some last-minute shifts in support left the MP without the votes to retain the nomination.

This is what happens when the rules enable HQ to out vote the locals.

Mr Benson-Pope has been highly visible in the electorate this year. He has always been regarded as a hard-working and effective MP but seems to be putting an extra effort into his work in recent months.

The Otago Daily Times understands the MP has been telling people in the electorate that, under MMP, they had a choice of voting for Labour with their party vote but that they could vote for any of the candidates.

Inquiries by the newspaper found a high level of discontent in parts of the electorate, particularly centred on the South Dunedin branch, which has the money and the people to mount a campaign in support of Mr Benson-Pope.

A women’s branch has disaffiliated itself from Dunedin South and is considering its options, which include affiliating to the Dunedin North electorate or the party’s Otago regional council.

The South Dunedin branch is now controlled by supporters of the MP, although Labour Electorate Committee chairman Richard Good said yesterday the public comment from the branch was “nothing but 100%” behind Ms Curran.

Public comment might be, but the last thing a new candidate, or the Party, need is the incumbent and his supporters working on a different agenda.

 

When approached for comment, Mr Benson-Pope was reluctant to make any public statements, but did give a brief response: “My loyalty to the party is beyond question and I don’t intend to change that. I understand what loyalty means.”

However, the ODT was told Mr Benson-Pope seemed out for revenge and a few people were “baying for blood” within the South Dunedin branch.

Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton and United Future leader Peter Dunne have both proved that Labour MPs can leave the party but retain enough local support to win their electorates with handsome margins.

Mr Anderton, now loyally behind the Labour-led Government, despite having major personal and political differences with Prime Minister Helen Clark, left to form New Labour. Mr Dunne resigned to position himself for the introduction of MMP in 1996.

Individuals can go independent and win seats, but it’s almost always better for parties if they don’t.

Mr Dunne said under MMP, loyal Labour supporters could give their party vote to Labour but still vote for Mr Benson-Pope and feel their honour was satisfied.

“Effective local MPs under MMP can stand out against a national trend politically.”

Two examples were Labour MP Harry Duynhoven, in New Plymouth, who held the seat with the largest majority in New Zealand while National took the party vote, and National Party MP Nick Smith, who was popular in Nelson but Labour was often ahead in the party vote, Mr Dunne said.

Or Dunne who wins the electorate but the party vote still goes to Labour or National.

Ms Curran said her campaign committee was working well and she had a team of 60 or 70 volunteers preparing to deliver 25,000 leaflets to every household in the electorate.

“There are some members of the party in Dunedin South who found the selection process painful.”

Full marks for restraint when she must be spitting tacks. Benson-Pope won the seat by around 10,000 votes but National candidate, Conway Powell, knocked his majority, and the all important party vote, back by about 5,000 compared with 2002. I’m not going to predict a National win in a deep red seat, but internal ructions always help the other side so even if Benson-Pope doesn’t stand there is enough bad blood being spilt to do some harm to Labour.

Update 1: Monkeys with Typewriters  notes Benson-Pope’s declaration of loyalty to Labour today which reminded me of this declaration  “I’m a loyal Labour Party person,” when questioned about standing as an independent in November last year.

Update 2: David Farrar  points out that if Benson-Pope won the seat as an independent it might help Labour as he’d vote with them and if he takes the seat they’d get another list MP.

 


ODT re-launches on-line

May 29, 2008

There are a few disadvantages to life in the country, one of which is that our newspapers are delivered with the mail which doesn’t arrive until anywhere from 1ish to after 3. By this time we’ve usually caught up with national, international and big regional and local stories from radio, TV or the net.

 I’d suggested to the previous editor that because of this rural subscribers ought to be able to get free, or heavily subsidised access to the digital edition but was told that would down-grade the product for other subscribers.

 I happened to be speaking with ODT political editor Dene McKenzie a few weeks ago and said because of that we were thinking of stopping the paper and subscribing to the digital edition instead. He told me to wait because a new editor, Murray Kirkness, had a  different view and the paper was going to re-launch itself on-line. It has and introduces itself here.

 The digital revolution has just taken another turn for Otago Daily Times readers with the launch today of www.odt.co.nz, an open and free source of local, national, international and sports news.

 We’ll update constantly throughout the day, bringing you the latest national and local news as well as features from throughout our region, New Zealand and the world.

And, of course, it’s all about you. We have designed the site for you, our readers. Now you can interact with the ODT in many exciting and different ways. So, let’s have a conversation at www.odt.co.nz

You’ll be able to comment on stories, vote in polls, send us your photographs, create your own news stories.

Your opinions will help shape the news as never before.

Don’t be scared to contact us. We want both your feedback and your contributions _ stories, photos, events – and we now have the cyberspace to publish what we receive.

The ODT is rightly known for the depth of our local coverage, and we’ll carry that even further online.

Not only will we replicate online the hyper-local stories found in the Regions section of the print edition, but the site takes this further with a unique Your Town section.

Most of the towns in our area get their own home-page, complete with news stories, photographs, events, photo slideshows and weather.

The Southland Times competes with the ODT in Central Otago and further south but there is only one other local paper in the region The Oamaru Mail (owned by APN). It used to be an afternoon paper but is now printed in Ashburton in the morning so the only reason for getting it rather than the ODT has been for the parish-pump stories which will now be on line.

We have also taken into account the importance of tertiary students to the region by creating an On Campus section, complete with news, photo slideshows, blogs and a gig guide.

In spite of giving away subscriptions at orientation students most students don’t read papers, but may use the on-line version more.

 

Elsewhere on the site, our sport coverage will be as comprehensive as ever, ranging from grassroots local games to the most up-to-date news and results from around the globe.

For world news we have signed a partnership with international news giant Associated Press to deliver the latest news and photographs from throughout the world. Wherever news happens, AP is there, and we will be there with them.

We aim to provide depth as well as breadth. Make sure to check out our Opinion and Business section for independent thought and analysis.

Our bloggers will provide a slightly different flavour of opinion, but will certainly be entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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