Stamps from Aotearoa to Zeeland


New Zealand Post is providing the chance for a (t is for) tiki tour through New Zealand culture history, heritage and kiwiana with its latest issue of stamps.

The 26 stamps go from A is for Aotearoa through G for the Good Night Kiwi (you’ll have to be old enough to remember when TV stopped transmission over night for that one); and S is for southern cross to Z is for Zeeland.

They’re spending our money on their campaign again


Bill English  has proof that Labour is spending tax payers’ money on their election campaign – again.

“Labour is at it again, using taxpayer money in a bid to be re-elected, just as they did with the pledge card in 2005.”

Mr English is referring to a document obtained by National under the Official Information Act. It refers to the taxpayer-funded Budget pamphlet titled ‘A fair economy for a strong future’.

“For the first time, the General Secretary of the Labour Party has confirmed that pamphlet was an election advertisement, which was funded and produced by the Labour Leader’s Office.”

The letter reads: ‘The pamphlet is an election advertisement on behalf of the Labour Party, which was produced by the Labour Leader’s office on behalf of the Labour Party’.

Mr English says the Labour Party has become so brazen that the secretary of the party now openly acknowledges they are funding their campaign with taxpayer money.

“Once again, the New Zealand Labour Party appears to be using large chunks of taxpayer funded Parliamentary Service money to pay for election brochures.

“Helen Clark must now confirm that the party will include the brochure as an election expense, although that is no guarantee, since Labour promised to do that with the pledge card but changed its mind after the 2005 election.

“Now all four parties which supported the Electoral Finance Act have been found to have breached it, and three of them are being investigated by police.

“Labour’s now executing the agenda which its self-serving Electoral Finance Act was designed to facilitate. All Kiwi taxpayers are now being forced to fund Labour’s re-election campaign.”

Either they haven’t learned from the damage they inflicted on themselves by mis spending taxpayers’ money at the last election, or they’re so desperate they don’t care. 

[The letter from the party secretary is here]

He helped spill the milk he’s slipped in


Jim Anderton wants a review of the Electoral Finance Act now his party has been found guilty of breaching it.

Given he voted for the legislation in spite of all the warnings about how flawed it was, this is like crying because he’s hurt himself after slipping in milk he helped spill.

P.S. Keeping Stock has quotes from Anderton’s speech in support of the Bill.

Cautious approval but still looking for policy


The ODT is cautiously approving of the announcements from National’s annual conference, but is still looking for policy.

All political party election year conferences these days are less about making policy than they are about making friends.

Thus, the emphasis in such carefully stage-managed affairs is on, firstly, reassurance and motivation for members; and, secondly, the promotion of a successful party “brand” to a wider audience, along with sufficient policy to identify the “brand” as different from the others on offer.

In these respects National’s weekend annual conference will be judged by the party a success.

The motivation certainly worked on me.

A record number of delegates attended, indicating healthy branch membership; the party leader drew a great deal of media attention; better still, Labour’s leaders felt sufficiently unsettled to bid for the headlines the following day.

Mr Key’s 10 pledges which, in these uncertain MMP days, might come to pass in their entirety (and might not), helped identify National not quite as firmly right of centre as party conservatives might hope; in many respects the party under Mr Key is only marginally to the right and it certainly has the appearance of having removed itself from the 1990s.

That is the reality of MMP politics – you don’t win elections with major policy on the margins.

Most public attention will be focused, and rightly so, on the promised tax cuts which are now to be made during the next three years, including Labour’s October proposals.

How they are to be paid for remains a mystery and until more detail is disclosed in the election campaign, comment would be pointless.

In the meantime, Mr Key will just have to put up with Labour’s taunts that he will have to borrow to pay for them. As the song says, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Labour managed years of healthy surpluses without giving tax cuts, so there is more than an element of farce in Michael Cullen and Helen Clark’s reproaches now.

They took more of our money than they needed,  they have no grounds for complaining that National will let us keep a little more of what we earn.

Nor should National’s proposal to increase government debt by 10% by borrowing to fund infrastructure like roads and hospitals set off too many alarm bells. There is nothing wrong about a government borrowing for capital expenditure; it has been inherent in the New Zealand political system for a century or more.

The trouble arises when the funds are instead frittered away to meet expensive short-term promises or favours.

As Labour has done.

The old catch-cry of “borrow and hope” hardly applies at this stage when all of Mr Key’s policies have yet to be announced. The chief concern will be funding the loans at a time of local and possibly international recession, but even here, New Zealand is very well placed.

Providing our traders can continue to sell our produce at good prices to a world demanding more and more food production, there should be no real cause for alarm.

Another reminder of the importance of agriculture in our economy.

Others of Mr Key’s pledges are predictable – discipline in government spending, a limit on the numbers of bureaucrats, cracking down on gangs – and are of less interest than his indication that the private sector will run some government services, and national literacy standards will be set for primary schools.

These are positive policies likely to appeal to many voters who are concerned with the poor results and service in many government departments and an education system too little focused on usefully measurable results.

And we have a right to be cocncerned about these matters.

National’s promise to hold a referendum on MMP either before or at the time of the next election simply fulfils an expectation of the electorate denied to them by a Parliamentary select committee. Mr Key’s opinion, that people will probably vote for a form of proportional representation, is realistic for today but might not be by 2011.

But at least he’s not afraid to give voters a choice.

Mr Key set out only the bare bones of National’s agenda. The obviously long-planned strategy of releasing policy when it suits the party, and then only in the slimmest of detail, is designed to build expectations but not to unrealistic levels.

Judging by what has been announced so far it will be a much more attractive and thought-out package than National’s 2005 effort, and importantly will provide a clear enough distinction from Labour to give voters a plain choice.

But is it a responsible agenda? Miss Clark and Dr Cullen can claim the great advantage of having a proven record of sound economic management.

True, they have been lucky to have governed during good times, and the surpluses Dr Cullen has husbanded have been directed to policies and services that will do Labour no harm at all in the poll later this year.

Good luck with the income and bad handling of expenditure is not sound economic management.

Mr Key has no such record, and National has been out of office for so long that a whole new tranche of voters additionally will need to be convinced he and his colleagues can do as well or better.

Yet what he has announced so far cannot remotely be regarded as representing policies to promote what he has long believed is needed: productive growth. Mr Key needs to play that hand soon.

Cutting taxes, improving education and reining in spending will all promote growth and the election campaign will be soon enough for policy announcements.

Hubbard reassures investors


South Canterbury Finance chair Allan Hubbard has taken the very unusal step of writing to investors to reassure them the company is in good health. Hubbard and

Hubbard felt the current crisis of confidence in the finance company sector after 35 collapses in just over 2 years required a letter to South Canterbury’s investors reassuring them of the financier’s strong position.

In the letter obtained by, Hubbard says South Canterbury was unique in that it had survived depressions, wars and oil shocks and had just 15 per cent of its loans centred in Auckland and Wellington. He forecast a pre-tax profit for the just completed year to June 30 of NZ$85 million (including a capital gain on a dairy farm sale) and a pre-tax profit for the current year to June 2009 of NZ$50-60 million.

He also reiterated comments from South Canterbury management that South Canterbury had NZ$334 million of cash on hand at the end of June and a further NZ$150 million of undrawn bank lending.

 I can understand how investors might be jumpy after the rash of finance company failures, but South Canterbury and Hubbard have a well deserved reputation for prudence.
Hubbard is a very wealthy man but has a modest lifestyle and drives an old VW car.
He a philanthropist who  donates generous amounts to charities. He is also generous with his support for farmers and there are many who owe him a debt of gratitude for the assistance he has given them in establishing their businesses.
South Canterbury’s strength at the moment is that so much of its investment is in agriculture which is the one bright spot in the economic gloom.

NZ’s best cartoonist launches book


Garrick Tremain who in my subjective and biased opinion is New Zealand’s best cartoonist, has launched a book containing his favourites from the past 20 years.

Politics from the pen of a leading cartoonist contains 153 cartoons which is about 2% of what he has produced.

He said developments in his work were evident over the years, particularly in his drawing style.

“I can pretty much date a cartoon from the style of drawing, although drawing is the one thing which constantly disappoints me.

”I’m frequently pleased with the ideas I put into a cartoon but my drawing is always a disappointment.”

Blgging can be like that too – the ideas are good but the writing can be a disappointment 🙂

Tremain said he had not become increasingly controversial in his cartoon work, although newspaper editors had relaxed their own issues about content.

“The media has become more adventurous, less politically correct, and less restrained.

”Even though my tendency is still to do cartoons which may offend a lot of people, there used to be no show of editors publishing my work and now there are more happy to have my cartoons in their newspapers,” he said.

It depends on who you define offend, but good political cartoons should provoke a reaction.

Despite this, Tremain said audiences still had taboo subjects and the topics likely to cause offence changed from region to region.

South Island audiences were less likely to appreciate jokes about sex and toilet humour than their North Island counterparts, but were not so adverse to racial cartoons.

“The further south you go, the more frightened people are of anything risque.

”At the same time, I’ve noticed over the years they [South Islanders] are more accepting of anything which could be construed as a racist remark, which probably has a lot to do with population spread in this country.”

Being more risque-averse could be a result of Presbyterian upbringings, but I hope being less offended by what might be a racist remark does not mean we southerners are more racist.

Tremain said of all the audiences he had drawn cartoons for in his career, Otago people understood him better than anyone, as the region had been more exposed to his style of satire.

“It’s Otago where I first started and found an affinity with.

”I enjoy drawing for an Otago audience. ”They are very loyal,” he said.

When you’ve been enjoying someone’s work for 20 years, he’s earned your loyalty.

Despite trying to retire last year, Tremain said he was humbled and appreciative of the support he received to continue his work, and there was no end in sight for his career at this stage.

“It’s nice to know that what you do is important to some other people,” he said.

And it’s nice to know Tremain and the ODT are going to be keeping us amused and/or outraged.

Only three parties haven’t breached EFA


Which parties have breached the Electoral Finance Act  and which have not?

National, Act and the Maori Party – all of which opposed the changes to electoral law last year – are now the only parties which have not yet been ruled in breach of it, although Act MP Heather Roy was cautioned over a newsletter she produces.

Labour which drafted this anti-demcoratic legislation and the Progressive Party, NZ First and the Green Party which supported it have all breached it.

Does that mean they don’t understand their own law, or they don’t care if they break it?

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