Has UF been sensible?


Matthew Hooton  reckons that United Future’s dismal poll ratings might be reflected in support for leader Peter Dunne in Oahriu where National list MP Katrina Shanks is competing with him for the seat.

When Dunne was interviewed on Agenda on June 8 he said his party had paid back more than half the amount they owed parliamentary services after illegally spending public money on their 2005 campaign.

I wonder if they’ve done the sensible thing and paid the rest back? If not, like WInston Peters and NZ First, every cent they’re spending on their campaigns is a cent they owe us. And that would tell us they think getting re-elected is more important than paying back their debts.

Hat Tip: Roarprawn

Wood waste to boost soils


A Marlobrough company, Carbonscape has patented technology to turn wood waste into charcoal which has the potential to improve soil quality for farmers and horticulturalists.

The company’s website is here and a TV3 report on today’s plant opening is here.

Sth Canty Finance spreads brand


South Canterbury Finance’s 13 regional subsidiaries are going to take on the parent company’s name to raise its national profile and boost investor confidence.

There are several factors which have given the company such a solid foundation, including the integrity of its chairman, Allan Hubbard, and the fact it has a diversified, mostly provincial, investment portfolio with only a small percentage invested in Wellington and Auckland.

Carisbrook wins heritage status


The Historic Places Trust has conferred Category 1 historic status on Carisbrook.

Trust Otago/Southland manager Owen Graham said:

that given Carisbrook’s heritage value and iconic status as a sports ground, alternative re-development options such as creating a public reserve area merited full discussion.

“There is significant scope for sympathetic re-development,” Mr Graham said.

“Although the needs and pressures facing Carisbrook’s owner might result in change to its existing use, it is important to the community that Carisbrook’s character is retained for the benefit of generations to come.”

 The Dunedin City Council had opposed the registration, concerned about the impact it might have on redevelopment options it it succeeds with its plans to build a new stadium at another site. But registration by itself doesn’t offer any protection to Carisbrook.

They give with one hand . . .


It’s taken Labour nine years to allow us to keep a little mroe of our own money, but the day before the tax cuts finally happen we’re faced with power price rises.

On the eve of the Government’s tax cuts some Contact Energy customers have been lumped with a 10 percent hike in the cost of electricity.

The increase in Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin takes effect on November 1 – but is expected to be rolled out nationwide in the coming months.

The company is defending its decision to hike prices, a month after posting a $237 million annual profit, blaming a lack of new generation and problems transporting electricity to the South Island.

Raewyn Fox from the Federation of Family Budgeting Services says many people were hanging out for tax cuts, and this increase will make a big dent in them.

And as the government owns the company, the tax cut we get with one hand will go back in power bills paid to the other.

Correction & Apology: : As The Double Standard and Poneke have pointed out Contact is a private company. no excuses, I didn’t check my facts I apologise and I’m sorry.

However, the give and take still applies because Meridian which is an SOE and Mercury which is owned by an SOE are putting up their prices too.

Whack a poll


Suffering from daylight-saving induced grumpiness?

Give Whack a Poll a go – it’s very therapeutic. 🙂

Clark hints no more tax cuts


Helen Clark intimated to Jamie McKay in an interview on today’s Farming Show that there are unlikely to be any more tax cuts from Labour.

The interview will be on line here later.

And Bill English says  Clark’s promise of a pay jolt for teachers and Michael Cullen’s comments he’s beyond his comfort zone clearly put any future tax cuts from Labour in doubt.

Mr English says National has long been an advocate of placing more trust in taxpayers to make more decisions with their own money.”Let’s not kid ourselves. Despite the begrudging election year tax cuts, Labour thinks it can spend taxes better than taxpayers. If Dr Cullen is really outside his comfort zone, it’ll be Labour’s future tax cuts that are first to get the chop.”
Mr English says National will have an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts. It will be a responsible programme, and a transparent programme.

“National will build on the tax cuts due to kick in tomorrow. We will treat them as the first tranche in our tax-cut programme. That will be followed by another tranche of tax reductions on 1 April 2009, and further tranches in 2010 and 2011.

“We will be disciplined with the taxes that New Zealanders pay, and will make more effective use of existing spending, with a clear focus on the delivery of frontline services.

“The same cannot be said of Dr Cullen, who has been a fair weather Finance Minister. He has spent the windfall gains from the commodity boom, but failed to future-proof economic growth.”


Given my blue bias it’s not surprising I’ve never bought into the National as Labour-lite theory and there can be no clearer difference between the two parties than their attitudes to the public purse.

National treats taxpayers’ money with respect and its policies will create economic growth from which more social services can be afforded.

By contrast Labour has no repsect for taxpayers’ money and its policies focus on redistributing it than in economic growth.

UPDATE: The Farming Show interview is now on line. In it Jamie McKay asks if Labour can afford its tax cuts and the  answer from Helen Clark is:

Obviously they’re costed on the best information we had back before the budget was signed off so they proceed . . . but whether it would be prudent to go any further than that is obviously a judgement for the electorate.  We think we went to the outer edge of what we could do for folk when we made the decision for the budget.

Blood on the floor


On a related matter: Keeping Stock  posts on a piece by Pat Booth  who is sure that Winston Peters’ whistle blower came from inside New Zealand First.

Early emissions cuts will crucify farmers


Farmers would be crucified if Australia cuts its greenhouse emissions before its major trading partners acted.

This is the view of Dr Brian Fisher a former federal research chief and greenhouse negotiator who said:

Australian Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme would slug farmers and other exporters with carbon costs they couldn’t pass on to overseas customers.

A new global agreement on cutting emissions was still “decades away “and Australia will have no influence on other countries by going first”.

“If we choose a target ahead of other countries, we’ll crucify our trade-exposed, emission sectors, we’ll roast them all on a spit,” Fisher said.

“There’s absolutely nothing to be gained by going first. We are climate-takers, not climate-makers. We’ll have no influence by leading with our own policies.”

“Why would we do that? You can just imagine the secret smiles of our competitors, who will no doubt be looking after their own national interest.”

If Australian farmers are going to be in trouble it will be much worse for New Zealand farmers and as a result of that our whole economy.

FTA has fishhooks


The announcement that the United States has signed up for preliminary talks to negotiate a multi-lateral free trade agreement has been greeted with some caution.

Bernard Hickey points out the fish hooks:

A free trade deal with America will never be a deal to make trade free with America. It is a chance for lobbyists in Washington to make money by blocking our dairy, beef and sheep exports, and for America’s most powerful pharmaceutical companies to kill off Pharmac.

And in a later post shows the response from Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation:

“The heightened prospect of greater manipulation by New Zealand of not only global markets, but also our domestic industry and policy, would make an already uneven playing field in the global markets even worse,” Kozak said. “This manipulation of our markets will drive down dairy farmer income in America, force farms out of business, and create a ripple effect swamping dairy plants and other rural businesses – all at a time when our economy is slowing and unemployment is rising.”

If I was a conspiracy theorist I might see a link between this and the survey over how much Chinese people trust food in the wake of the melamine poisoning scandal.

The survey was carried out by Sinogie Consulting whose chief executive Bruce McLaughlin said 

There was not much damage to Fonterra at present but that could change in the long term.

“I would say that Fonterra has to keep its head very low in China at the moment. I think if they start shouting too loudly about the Chinese authorities being to blame, then the Chinese authorities will react and it won’t be pretty.”

He’s right that it wouldn’t be pretty, but he doesn’t admit he could be a wee bit biased because as Roarprawn found with a couple of clicks   his company does a lot of work for a big US dairy exporter.

Free market not at fault


I’m not going to pretend that I understand world financial markets but Stephen Horwitz, from St Lawrence University’s economics department has written an open letter to his friends on the left which makes sense.

You can follow the link to read it in full, but here’s a taste:

 . . . One of the biggest confusions in the current mess is the claim that it is the result of greed. The problem with that explanation is that greed is always a feature of human interaction. It always has been. Why, all of a sudden, has greed produced so much harm? And why only in one sector of the economy? After all, isn’t there plenty of greed elsewhere? Firms are indeed profit seekers. And they will seek after profit where the institutional incentives are such that profit is available. In a free market, firms profit by providing the goods that consumers want at prices they are willing to pay. (My friends, don’t stop reading there even if you disagree – now you know how I feel when you claim this mess is a failure of free markets – at least finish this paragraph.) However, regulations and policies and even the rhetoric of powerful political actors can change the incentives to profit. Regulations can make it harder for firms to minimize their risk by requiring that they make loans to marginal borrowers. Government institutions can encourage banks to take on extra risk by offering an implicit government guarantee if those risks fail. Policies can direct self-interest into activities that only serve corporate profits, not the public.

Many of you have rightly criticized the ethanol mandate, which made it profitable for corn growers to switch from growing corn for food to corn for fuel, leading to higher food prices worldwide. What’s interesting is that you rightly blamed the policy and did not blame greed and the profit motive! The current financial mess is precisely analogous.

No free market economist thinks “greed is always good.” What we think is good are institutions that play to the self-interest of private actors by rewarding them for serving the public, not just themselves. We believe that’s what genuinely free markets do. Market exchanges are mutually beneficial. When the law messes up by either poorly defining the rules of the game or trying to override them through regulation, self-interested behavior is no longer economically mutually beneficial. The private sector then profits by serving narrow political ends rather than serving the public. In such cases, greed leads to bad consequences. But it’s bad not because it’s greed/self-interest rather because the institutional context within which it operates channels self-interest in socially unproductive ways.

Hat Tip: Anti-Dismal

How many babies have died?


Have you noticed anything more on the number of babies in China who’ve died or become ill after being fed baby formula made from milk poisoned by melamine?

I’ve been checking the web for stories and haven’t found any updates since last week’s report of four dead babies and many thousand others who are ill.

Does the absence of news mean there have been no more deaths, or that more babies have died but authorities have clamped down on the media so it’s not being reported?

Update: The Guardian  reports:

The government is now playing down the scandal and Chinese lawyers and advocates who have promised to help the families of sick children seek redress say they are facing pressure to abandon the efforts from officials in some provinces.

“About two dozen of the lawyers have called these past days to say they want to quit the volunteer advice group,” Li Fangping, a Beijing lawyer who helped organise the group, told Reuters.

“Some of them said that they or their offices were told they’d face serious repercussions if they stayed involved.”

Even if the media did report numbers, could we believe them?

Nat MP greener than Greeen


Invercargill MP Eric Roy is aiming for a carbon neutral re-election campaign and launched it by planting trees in yesterday. 

Tree-planting, recycled paper, and eliminating my carbon footprint are all on the agenda as I launch New Zealand’s first carbon-neutral election campaign to retain the Invercargill electorate.

As National’s associate conservation spokesman and an environmentalist, I wanted a campaign launch with a difference.

We’ve spent a lot of time on environmental issues this year, so I thought ‘why don’t I try and run a carbon-neutral campaign’?

Eric planted 20 podocarps in Queens Park yesterday which should be more than enough to off-set the carbon emissions produced while he drives around the electorate.

As well as offsetting my election carbon dioxide with the plantings, campaign material would in the main be hand-delivered around Invercargill, and campaign materials would use 100% recycled paper.

I will have to drive my car sometimes because it’s a long walk to Riverton for election meetings, but the tree planting is my offset.

Eric’s 2 year-old grandson helped with the planting.

He’s my tree monitor.  Over the years he’ll be the one keeping an eye on them for me.  It’s one way to stop him going to live in Australia!

Eric has challenged other candidates to follow his green example but the Southland Times reports :

Invercargill’s Green Party candidate Craig Carson applauded Mr Roy’s attempt to go carbon neutral.

“I think it’s great that he’s doing it. How well it works or not I’m not sure.” Mr Carson said that because he worked fulltime and had limited resources, he was not able to follow suit.

Kermit was right, it’s not easy being green and Eric’s showing that Blue-Green is greener than Green.



Public Service undervalued


The ODT editorialises on loyal service:

Public service is all too frequently derided and devalued in this age of easy individualism.

At least this is the impression one might arrive at given the pall cast over it by this country’s congenital allergy to politicians – an allergy itched raw by certain branches of the media.

The retirement from Parliament of two of Dunedin’s long-serving parliamentarians offers an opportunity to reconsider this mean-spirited and ill-considered tendency.

In their own ways, Dunedin National Party list MP Katherine Rich and Dunedin South Labour MP David Benson-Pope deserve recognition for their years of service.

One of the reasons MPs are so poorly regarded is that most of the work they do doesn’t make the headlines, and can’t, because it’s helping individuals with private problems.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.

39 more sleeps . . .


. . . until eleciton day and we still don’t have a decision on whether party logos are election advertisements under the EFA.

TV not best medium for debate


At first glance I thought Helen Clark and John Key were being arrogant by refusing to take part in televised debates with the leaders of the wee parties.

But then I thought about it and came to the conclusion that a debate with eight people on television would do little if anything for the democratic process and it wouldn’t be good viewing either.

My farmer was channel surfing last night and happened to catch Sky while Peter Dunne was being questioned by Bill Ralston and a panel of journalists. They asked intelligent qeustions and he had time to answer them. That’s a much better way to find out what someone stands for and plans to do than the shouting match an eight person debate would descend in to.

The leaders of the wee parties are understandably miffed that TV3 has now decided to can the debate with them because they’ve lost an opportunity for free publicity and Peter Dunne in particular was no doubt hoping to get his party from its 0 poll rating by playing Mr Sensible as he did in 2002.

But TV3 is a private company and has asked the qeustion who’d want to watch the leaders of the six wee parties shouting at and over each other? The answer was obviously not enough people to draw the advertisers so its made a commercial decision to flag the debate as its entitled to do.

Melamine confirmed in Tatua lactoferrin


Tuatua Cooperative Dairy Company has suspended exports of lactoferrin while it determines how traces of melamine got in to it.

A Chinese customer told Tatua’s agent two weeks ago that melamine had been detected in its product in China.

Further tests were done in both in China and New Zealand, and results on September 22 and 23 confirmed contamination at less than four parts per million.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), inspected the factory on September 24.

Tatua chief executive Paul McGilvary told NZPA today the company’s own investigation detected no melamine in its raw milk.

The company is now working with the NZ Food Safety Authority on a traceback project to determine where the melamine came from.

The traceback was expected to canvass whether the melamine was introduced to the raw milk, either by farmers using insecticides containing cyromazine, an insecticide which breaks down to melamine in mammals and plants, or feeding dairy cows cheap imported feeds such as palm kernel contaminated with cyromazine or its metabolite, melamine.

This is serious, and Tuatua has done the right thing in suspending exports and working with the NZFSA to find out where the melamine came from.

But the risk at the moment is more in the perception than reality and as I said in a post on this issue  on Saturday it’s important to keep it all in perspective.

The poisoned milk scandal has raised awareness of what might be in the food we’re eating which is good, but we need to be careful about causing needless hysteria over “contamination” of food by elements in tiny amounts which won’t cause any harm.

Inquiring Mind  rightly points out the need for oversight of all stages of the supply chain as a result of this.

No Minister  regards this as seriously serious.

Could it breach the EFA?


I don’t usually buy any of the “weaklies” but I had time to spare in Wanaka last week and noticed Helen Clark, living with giref . . . on the cover of the Womans Weekly and bought it out of curiosity.

The story about being fit and the death of mountain guide Gottlieb Braun-Elwart was much as I’d expected but then I noticed this:

And I saw red because I thought that although the photos and story were legitimate journalism, the logo was directly soliciting votes.

I hadn’t bothered to look at anything else in the magazine and it was only when trying to find the story again to blog on it that I noticed a story about Jenny Shipley with the same logo and realised that I’d got the wrong message. The logo wasn’t being used to solicit votes for Labour but to highlight the healthy heart message.

But if my first impression on seeing it with a picture and story of Helen Clark was that it’s an election message, is the magazine inadvertently breaching the Electoral Finance Act?

Sky hasn’t fallen


The New Zealand Super Fund lost $880.75 million in the year to June which is an eye watering amount for most of us.

However, it doesn’t signify the sky has fallen.

The long term trend for investments like the Super Fund is upwards but there will always be short-term fluctuations which means every now and then there will be bad results like this one.

NZ food less trusted


Chinese people are less likely to trust New Zealand food in the wake of the melamine milk poisoning scandal. 

Just over half (51.2 percent) of respondents said they were now less likely to trust New Zealand brands of dairy or other food products than they did before. However, New Zealand still came second when consumers were asked to rate which country’s food products were the most trustworthy – behind the European Union but ahead of the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and China in that order.

That New Zealand food is still regarded as trustworthy is some consolation but:

Sinogie Consulting chief executive Bruce McLaughlin, who is based in Shanghai, said he was surprised New Zealand’s reputation as a food producer had not suffered more.

“People are well aware that it was Fonterra who was involved with Sanlu,” he said.

It was luck not judgement that Sanlu in which Fonterra has a stake wasn’t the only company which used poisoned milk and there are 21 other brands with similar problems. 

Given that, if I was Chinese I’d find it very difficult to trust any food at all and I’m taking a great deal more interest in the fine print on labels when I’m in the supermarket to ensure I’m not inadvertently buying food from China.

Update: Roarprawn notes that the company carrying out the survey is working for our competitors.

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