Rural addresses don’t fit in boxes


Mutter mumble.

I’ve just filled in an on-line form and for the umpteenth time have come across boxes which are designed for urban addresses not rural ones.

Our address used to just have an R.D. number and town; then we added a farm name; then came post codes and now NZ Post wants our RAPID number as well.

(R.D. stands for Rural Delivery, and isn’t a strange abbreviation for road as some people to whom I give my address think.

RAPID  stands for rural address property identification and that number may not be the same as that for the mail box because your number relates to the location of the drive to your hosue which isn’t necessarily where the mail box is.)

Anyway, none of the address details I need to give, except the post card, fits in to the street, suburb, city address boxes most forms have.

It probably doesn’t matter to the people who process the information but it’s an unpleasant, albeit petty, reminder that rural people are a minority and those in official places don’t realise their one-size fits all boxes don’t fit us.

Rotary turns Peters down


The Rotary club of Dunedin  has withdrawn a speaking invitation to Winston Peters but the Otago Chamber of Commerce will still welcome him.

Mr Peters stood aside from his role as Foreign Affairs Minister on Friday after the Serious Fraud Office began an investigation regarding donations to his party.

Rotary club committee director Chris Willis said last night Mr Peters was to have spoken in his capacity as Foreign Affairs Minister on New Zealand’s place in the world.

Because he had stepped aside, and because the September 19 date was getting closer, it was decided to withdraw the invitation, Mr Willis said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said Mr Peters was still expected to speak – in his role as the leader of a political party – at a business function on the same date.

“That hasn’t changed yet. It should be an interesting meeting,” Mr Christie said.

Interesting is such an interesting adjective.

Tui truths


Tui truth n: an  assertion to which the immediate response is, “yeah right” for example:

* The dog ate my homework

* The cheque is in the mail

* We did it to comply with the EFA

* Failing to declare a $50,000 donation was a “genuine mistake“.

McDonalds standard for health


Macdoctor starts by noting the international reaction to how we do things in our health system, including not funding 12 month courses of herceptin, is “are you crazy”.

He concludes with:

You may notice from the above list that the only thing our hospitals excel at is quality assurance. I point out that one of the finest quality assurance programs in the world is run by Macdonalds. They make sure that the quality of their burgers is the same the world over. Universally horrible.

At least our excellent QA systems help us to ensure that the quality of our health system is consistently crap. International standards indeed.

The bits in between make interesting reading too, you’ll find it all here.

[Update: Macdoctor left a comment clarifying, for anyone who doesn’t follow the link and read his whole post, that: ” the first sentence of the quote is made in the context of international standards. I am not suggesting that hospitals do not practice good medicine, given our under-resourced system!”

New passport – why not smaller?


A new design for New Zealand passports features a silver fern on a black background.

It also has a map of New Zealand and the coat of arms although the latter is smaller than the one in the current passport.

Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker said the current design was very similar to other countries’ passports, but the new design was instantly recognisable as being from New Zealand.

“I’m pleased to see we have a passport that’s strikingly New Zealand, is unmistakable and if ever left in a pool of all the other passports in the world, you would pick it instantly.”

The new passport will also have 50 separate security features, making it one of the most technologically advanced in the world.

I don’t have a problem with the new design, but wonder if it’s possible to make passports smaller.

When we travel I keep my passport in a money belt around my waist which is fine when I’m standing but when I sit down it gets in the way and buckles. That wouldn’t happen if it was smaller.

It would be better still if all the information needed in a passport could be contained in something the size of a credit card.

One minister wasn’t sacked


One name is notably absent from the list of errant Ministers who were stood down, sacked or resigned from Helen Clark’s cabinet.

This person was not just accused of doing something unethical, and possibly illegal, but admitted doing it several times over a couple of decades.

This person’s misdeeds were the subject of a police investigation and they found sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case; but decided prosecution wouldn’t be in the public interest.

Who was it? Helen Clark who was Minister of Arts when the discovery that she had commissioned a painting and signed it for a charity auction was made.

The ensuing publicity uncovered several more and she eventually admitted to signing about half a dozen works of art over 20 years although she hadn’t produced them.

I think the police were correct not to prosecute and I don’t think she should have stood down as Prime Minister, but I do think she should have relinquished the Arts portfolio.

If someone signs a bottle of wine or an article of clothing no one is going to think he or she produced it because the labels will clearly show who did. But the signature on a work of art is the label, it’s part of its provenance and says to the world it’s the work of the signatory. A Minister of Arts ought to understand that.

I wrote about that here  and am not going to repeat that post now. But I think that episode is relevant to recent events because it showed she expects a higher standard of behaviour of her ministers – including Winston Peters – than of herself; and because she didn’t appear to accept it was wrong because she never actually said she was sorry.

She didn’t say sorry yesterday either after her grudging admission she had no option but to accept the SFO’s word that no-one leaked information to John Key. But as Keeping Stock  points out, she’s not good at saying sorry.

It was the EFA – again?


There’s nothing suspicious in the removal of Labour Party signange from David Benson-Pope’s electorate office – at least that’s his story.

Labour Party signs have been removed from the front of the Dunedin South electorate office to comply with the Electoral Finance Act, Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope says.

Mr Benson-Pope was contacted yesterday after confusion from the public over the removal of the signs from the King Edward St office, which he shares with Labour MP for Te Tai Tonga, Mahara Okeroa.

“It is nothing anyone should let their imagination work overtime about,” he said.

The removal of party signage from electorate offices was “standard right across the country”, he said.

But the EFA is not supposed to interfere with the work of MPs. Not being able to let your constituents know where your office is would definitely resrtict your effectiveness.

And EFA restrictions on advertising took effect from January 1 so why wait until now to get rid of all the signage?

The Electoral Commission has still to decide whether logos are election advertsiements, and unlike Helen Clark who has a low opinion of the integrity of public servants, I don’t think the commission would leak its ruling to Labour before making it public.

So what’s going on?

Benson-Pope’s explanation sounds like a Tui-truth to me and only lends more credibility to the rumours he’s going to stand for Dunedin South – whether it’s as an independent or for another party, perhaps even New Zealand First as my earlier post suggested remains to be seen.

He could of course stop the speculation by clearly stating he’s not going to be seeking a seat. But it seems he’s been learning from the Winston Peters school of communication which prevents him from giving a straight answer to a simple question.

Whitestone Cheese scrubs up


When Whitestone Cheese  general manager Simon Berry got an SOS saying the crew of the TV comedy Scrubs was missing their weekly fix of WInsor Blue he organised a personal delivery.  

The emergency call came from the show’s production co-ordinator Hillary Hirsch one of whose responsibilities is organising a weekly wine and cheese party for everyone involved in the production. A change of distributers in southern California meant her usual supplier wasn’t stocking Windsor Blue and the cast and crew were getting withdrawal symptoms so in desperation she contacted Simon.

Serindipitously his father, Whitestone managing director Bob Berry, was passing through Los Angeles airport on a business trip the following Saturday so packed a 4 kg wheel of cheese in ice in his carry-on luggage and hand delivered it.

When Hillary met Bob at the ariport and discovered he had a nine hour wait before his connecting flight to Atlanta she invited him to join her at a family barbeque.

Bob said he enjoyed the hospitality and also the opportunity to put the other cheese samples he was carrying in the fridge and re-freeze the chilly pads to keep them cool for the next leg of his journey.

Hillary took the cheese to work the next Monday and the cast and crew were so delighted to get it they held an impromptu wine and cheese party that evening because they couldn’t wait for the usual Friday party. They also photographed themselves with the cheese, signed the photos and sent them to the company and they now hang on the cafe wall.

Bob was in the USA for a marketing trip to Atlanta and Boston but he said the distribution in southern California was sorted out too so the Scrubs crew should be able to get their weekly fix of Windsor Blue. But just to make sure they don’t miss out Bob will hand deliver another wheel of cheese on his next trip to the USA.

How desperate are they?


How low would you go in your efforts to retain power?

Would you for instance allow one of your MPs to leave your party and stand for another to help its chances of getting back in to parliament and yours of having a coalition partner? And if you were the other party would you accept the waka jumper?

I ask the question because the Dunedin grapevine is buzzing with the suggestion that David Benson-Pope is going to stand for New Zealand First in Dunedin South and that Labour will target the party vote but not try to win the seat.

How reliable is the grapevine? It varies and one fact which makes this scenario less likely is that Labour’s Dunedin South candidate is only 45th on the party list. On current polling that means she’d have to win her seat to get in to parliament.

The Dunedin South selection was acrimonious and there’s no love lost between Benson-Pope and Curran but he’s always been very careful to avow his loyalty to Labour.

Has that changed and would Labour sacrifice Curran?

The answer to that lies in another question: how desperate are Benson-Pope, Labour and New Zealand First?



Clark’s world view explained


Helen Clark attacked John Key and the Serious Fraud Office yesterday but it was very much a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

In other developments yesterday, Miss Clark claimed someone from one of the highest offices in the land – either the Serious Fraud Office, Crown Law or police – leaked details of the SFO investigation into NZ First to National.

But it backfired when Miss Clark confirmed she knew about the SFO investigation ahead of her own admission about a conversation with billionaire expat Owen Glenn over his $100,000 donation to NZ First leader Winston Peters.

She knew about the conflict between Glenn’s and Peters’ evidence in February but only chose to admit it this week when she knew the SFO was about to launch an invesitgation then accuses Key of acting on leaks.

The Dim Post  has a theory on this:

At first glance the Prime Ministers allegation that the Serious Fraud Office is in league with the National Party – for which she has not a shred of proof – suggests that she has joined her former foreign minister for a stroll in the gloomy sunless woods of paranoid delusion. . .

I don’t think the PM is losing it – I think she’s partly throwing shit in the hope that some of it sticks but I also think Clark assumes that the SFO staff abuse their authority to empower their friends and destroy their enemies through leaks and political theater because that’s what she would do if she ran the department. The notion that these public servants carry out their investigations with integrity and diligence without turning them into a savage partisan farce is simply unimaginable to her.

No wonder she often appears bitter and disillusioned. She judges others by her own low standards and that must give her a very jaundiced view of the world.

More desperate, still dateless


We are having an election this year, but an increasingly desperate Helen Clark is still leaving us dateless.

Prime Minister Helen Clark continued to play games with the media yesterday about the timing of the election.

The last possible date for the election is November 15 and National Party MP Gerry Brownlee claimed at the weekend that Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton had let slip that November 15 was the date.

Pressed to reveal the election timing, Miss Clark said she had a date in mind but she was not sharing it with the reporters attending her post-cabinet press conference.

Various questions were asked to try and get an indication of the timing, but to no avail.

All Miss Clark would do was refer everyone to the legislation which dictated all things electorally, and recommend they work back from any date they cared to try.

Parliament will go into urgency today and remain in urgency until Friday evening, as the Government seeks to enact legislation crucial to its election campaign.

The emissions trading scheme is at the top of the Government’s list of legislation it wants passed.

However, there were other Bills the Government wanted passed and that Leader of the House Michael Cullen would announce today, Miss Clark said.

Other legislation to be passed could include the Real Estates Agents, the Policing and the Biofuels Bills.

There is a general expectation in Wellington that Parliament will end for the year next week, with final business and valedictory speeches seeing out a busy last session.

Miss Clark would not even confirm that Parliament would end next week.

It might amuse Clark to play games with the media and her political opponents but she is frustrating other people too.

Everyone involved in the preparation and adminsitration of the election needs a date; those who staff polling booths can’t commit to doing other things until they know when they’ll be working. Then there are all the other people organising activities who want to know when the election will be so they can avoid clashing with it.

But this year it is even more important than previously to have a date because the Electoral Finance Act is muffling campaigning and there a whole lot of people who don’t even know there’s an election soon.

The longer she mucks about the stronger the arguments become for a fixed term.

Small benefit bigger costs


The ODT  headline says: Households to benefit from ETS in 2010.

The story says:

About $180 million is likely to flow to households through compensation payments for power price rises under the Government’s emissions trading scheme, Climate Change Minister David Parker says – an estimated $10 a month on an average household’s power bill.

But this is telling only part of the stroy, the compensation is very unlikely to match the rise in power costs and won’t come anywhere near the increase in other costs as a direct result of the seriously flawed ETS which is likely to be introduced.

Besides that, an ETS is supposed to impose costs to alter behaviour to reduce carbon emissions. If people are compensated for the rise in costs the point of the costly exercise in futility is considerably blunted.

Will committee call Clark?


Helen Clark’s startling admission Owen Glenn told her he’d made a donation to New Zealand First has prompted calls for her to give evidence to the privileges committee, but not all its members are sure that’s a good idea.

MPs crucial in deciding whether Prime Minister Helen Clark will be called to appear before Parliament’s privileges committee this week are not interested in a political side show, the Otago Daily Times was told yesterday.

Miss Clark did not go as far last night as ruling herself out of appearing before the powerful committee, but she raised doubts about her ability to add anything material to the investigation about a $100,000 donation to suspended Foreign Minister Winston Peters by expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn.

The donation “clearly occurred”, but whether it went into a lawyer’s fund for fees or whether it was a gift was not something she could shed light on.

Miss Clark also called into question the impartiality of the privileges committee, saying it was the first time in her 27 years in Parliament where an Opposition MP (Simon Power) chaired the committee and his leader, National Party leader John Key, was publicly drawing conclusions about what the outcome of the hearing should be and then acting on those conclusions.

National has five MPs on the committee and all of them would be expected to vote to call Miss Clark. Labour has four MPs and New Zealand First has one. They would be expected to vote against calling the Prime Minister.

That would leave National chasing two of the other three votes from Green co-leader Dr Russel Norman, United Future leader Peter Dunne and Maori Party MP Hone Harawira.

Political sources indicated that two of those MPs were unlikely to vote to call Miss Clark if it only meant National could conduct a political sideshow before Parliament rose for the year.

If the two MPs believed there was something of significance Miss Clark could add, they would vote for her to appear, but they would seek assurances from the chairman that the “narrow field of inquiry” would be adhered to.

“We want no chance for National to take pot shots,” a source said.

The committee is due to meet at 8am on Thursday.

Parliament is due to go into urgency today, raising questions about whether the committee will have time to meet. Without another meeting, the inquiry would die before the election.

Committee members could be granted leave to attend the committee while the house was in urgency, or there was some time available on Thursday night. However, that was also a “very political” decision.

National Party leader John Key said the committee should call Miss Clark and that the Prime Minister had a duty to appear.

She also had a duty to do a whole lot more about her knowledge of the Glenn donation a whole lot earlier but she didn’t.

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