Clark still wants state funding

03/09/2008

Whatever questions Helen Clark is asking over the New Zealand first donations debacle, she’s giving the wrong answer:

Miss Clark said it would be better if parties were State-funded.

“The quickest way to clean up kiwi politics is to move away from corporate funding and substantial individual giving to a transparent process of government-led funding, state funding, of political parties.”

There is a presumption that spending more money attracts more votes. But David Farrar  analysed the amount of money parties spent in elections and how many votes they got and found that wasn’t the case:

Finally we have 2005. Note Labour for two elections in a row have had a higher total spend than National. This time they spent around 30% or $950,000 more than National yet got only 2% more. ACT spent twice as much as NZ First for one quarter the votes. The Greens spent more than NZ First yet got less votes. Of the parties that made Parliament the spend per vote ranged from $3.40 to $34.00.

So while there is a case for overall spending limits, any nonsense about buying elections is just that – nonsense. The last four elections stand testament to this. The impact of money on elections is relatively insignificant compared to policies, party reputation, leadership and media treatment.

As my earlier post  argues, the bar is already set too low for registering to be a political party. They need only 500 members and are voluntary organisations with no right to taxpayer largesse.

If they haven’t got the membership and fund raising capabilities to operate effectively and within the law they haven’t got what it takes to run the country.


Wee towns coming back to life

03/09/2008

Country towns which nearly died during the 80s ag-sag are getting new leases of life for a variety of reasons.

Improvements in technology enable people to run their businesses from almost anywhere. A couple who live near us make a very good living from importing goods and selling them on Trade Me.

Changes in land use from extensive sheep and beef farming to more intensive dairying, horticulture and viticulture have created more jobs and brought more people into country districts which flows through in to the wee towns.

Tourist ventures such as the Central Otago Rail Trail  and the Banks Peninsula Track  bring visitors which creates opportunities for the provisions of food, accomodation and retail.

And sometimes the arrival of a new business is the catalyst which brings a wee town to life. Fleur Sullivan did it for Moeraki when she opened her cafe there and now Jo Seagar has done it for Oxford.  

A group of us went to Jo’s cooking school last year. She told us their first year had gone much better than they’d budgeted for and it was easy to see why. After enjoying the cooking lesson and meal we all bought something at the homeware store on our way out.

But it’s not just the Seagars who are doing well, their business has brought people into their new home town which has created opportunities for other businesses. One of which is Emmas at Oxford a book, gift and gourmet essentials store which Jo encouraged us to visit before we left town.

TV3 profiled Jo and her impact on Oxford. You can read about it and watch the video here.


Is the bar too low?

03/09/2008

New Zealand First has twice used the excuse of a change in adminstration staff for their failure to comply with electoral finance laws of disclosure.

Ben Thomas at the NBR  recalls that the excuse was first used when it was filed its 2007 donations return late and then again over omitting to declare the $25,000 donation from Sir Robert Jones.

Helen Clark  isn’t concerned:

“They’re a small party with a rather amateur organisation. These things can happen.”

Miss Clark has no plans to sack Mr Peters, who has stood down as Foreign Affairs, Racing and associate senior citizens minister.

That means he is still entitled to a ministerial salary, residence and crown car.

“This has happened at the level of party administration I wouldn’t expect to be held accountable for some sort of mistake at the Labour party head office,” Miss Clark said.

In the normal course of events the leader wouldn’t be held accountable for the party administration, but one of the excuses for filing the donations return late was the party was waiting for Peters to return from overseas.

However, even if we accept he’s not responsible for the party administration, if a party can’t run itself properly how can we have any confidence in its ability to run, or help run, the country?

The requirements for groups wishing to register as political parties  in New Zealand are not onerous:

1)      An acceptable party name (and any abbreviation).

2)      Satisfactory evidence of at least 500 eligible members.

3)      Statutory declarations from its party secretary concerning membership, intention to contest general elections, and advising of any component parties.

4)      Party membership rules showing what is required for current financial membership, and candidate selection rules which provide for the democratic involvement of members in the process.

5)      An auditor (or person who has agreed to be auditor when the party is registered).

6)      A party secretary with a postal address (and ideally phone, fax and e-mail contact details).

7)      Either the secretary, or a sitting MP who is a current financial member of the party, to make the application.

The party should also understand and be prepared to meet the ongoing compliance requirements of being a registered political party.

All of that is fairly simple, although New Zealand First obviously has problems with the last point about meeting ongoing compliance requirements.

But that isn’t a reason to make it even easier. The bar is already set too low and one way to raise it would be to increase the number of members required before a party can register.

Under MMP wee parties can have power that is well out of proportion to their membership and share of the vote. It is possible for one, with just 500 members, to hold the balance of power.

That’s not a lot of people – National has a lot more than that in the Waitaki electorate alone. Any other volunatry organisation would need many more members to have a national profile and and a fraction of that sort of influence.

Participation from as many people as possible is one of the signs of a healthy democracy and the requirements to register as a party should not be so difficult as to deter people with a genuine desire to participate in the process.

But it’s not expecting too much for a group which could hold the balance of power to have at least 2,000 members.

That’s not a lot of people to commit to your cause if you’re got what it takes to help run the country; and it might be enough to pay adminsitration staff who have the ability to comply with the law.

[Update: Inquiring Mind has the quotes about the party waiting for Peters before filing its return.]


You can’t fool all the people

03/09/2008

Adam Smith has been perusing the Domion Post’s letters to the editor:

Has there been a bigger irony this year than in race 1 at the Racing Tauranga meeting last Saturday? In this race, there was a horse called Winston and a horse called Who’s Got D’Cash. For the record, Who’s Got D’Cash finished 2nd but, sadly, Winston failed to produce anything.

MATT ARCHIBALD, Kilbirnie


You can fool some of the people

03/09/2008

From the ODT letters to the editor:

Why wait until now to let the dogs loose on Winston Peters? After all there have been vague clouds of uncertainty about electoral donations swirling around since the last election. If the motives to uncover the truth were pure, the investigation should have happened back then. But no, Mr Peters’ enemies have deliberately bided their time until the election is nigh. It simply suits their agenda.

It is patently clear that National’s aim is to destroy, discredit, alienate or neutralise any coalition partners available to Labour. If the election is a close call, Labour’s ability to form a government is compromised.

National and Act have engineered this charade to suit their own purposes. Genuine concerns over the legality of donations should have been dealt with immediately they came to light.

Anyway, as Helen Clark has previously said, the Electoral Finance Act rules applying prior to January this year were so wide a bulldozer could be driven through them. No matter our private opinions of Mr Peters’ handling of the donation saga chances are whatever he did was legal under the legislation applying at the time.

Lynley Simmons – Timaru.


Champion CEO for Meat & Wool

03/09/2008

Dr Scott Champion has been appointed CEO of Meat and Wool NZ.

He is MWNZ general manager for market access services and takes over as CEO at the end of the month.

MWNZ chair Mike Peterson said:

 

“Scott has significant knowledge and experience of industry issues and as the leader of the Market Access and Services team, he has shown us an energy for building important industry relationships that deliver benefits for sheep and beef farmers and the wider industry.

 

“Scott has led the development of our beef and sheep meat marketing programmes and the market access work that contributed to improved access for meat and wool products through the China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) plus the recently announced ASEAN-Australia New Zealand FTA.  This is alongside the range of technical issues work that helps protect our beef, and sheep meat trade and the wool industry.

“Scott has also led a re-focussing of our North Asia beef programmes which now clearly differentiate New Zealand grass-fed beef. He has helped facilitate the growth of commercial industry investment alongside Meat & Wool New Zealand through new joint venture programmes for lamb in North America and beef in North Asia.”

Before joining Meat & Wool New Zealand, Dr Champion was the Research Development and Product Innovation Manager for the New Zealand Merino Company, based in Christchurch. Prior to that he was a lecturer in animal production and related subjects at the School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia. Scott’s PhD thesis looked at sheep nutrition and its impact on wool growth.

 

Dr Champion said he was looking forward to the new role. “This is a time of significant change for the sector and while it’s pleasing to see stronger prices feeding back to farmers, we must use this window to generate better long-term returns for sheep and beef farmers.”

 

Dr Champion said he was committed to ensuring Meat & Wool New Zealand played its role in ensuring the sheep and beef sector contributed maximum value to the New Zealand economy.

 


EFA has “chilling” effect” – Catt

03/09/2008

The law of common sense is muffling free speech.

In an outspoken speech, Dr Helena Catt has outlined the difficulties the commission is having with the new Electoral Finance Act, describing it as containing significant “obscure” sections and uncertainty which had stifled political activity.

“It is clear that having uncertainty remaining within the regulated period has had a chilling effect on the extent and type of participation in political and campaign activity.”

The law was passed under great controversy in December last year, and its provisions applied from January 1 because of the extension of the election period from three months prior to an election.

In Dr Catt’s speech yesterday to the Lexis Nexis electoral finance law forum, she said significant parts of the law were “obscure” and the commission was “unable to be as fast and definitive in our actions or guidelines as would be desirable”.

She warned the Commission’s decision were open to legal challenges, which was made more likely by the heightened litigious environment following the controversy over the new law.

“The Commission is not confident it will be able to reach informed positions on the interpretation of some provision within the election period, and note the situation is exacerbated by the legal reality that it cannot finally determine questions of whether, for instance, an item is an election advertisement.”

National Party deputy leader Bill English said Dr Catt was effectively confirming the EFA was unenforcable.

“This has confirmed National’s worst fears. The voices of those who want to participate in our democracy have been silenced and just a few months out from the election watchdogs still don’t know what an election advertisement is.”

He said the Commission was effectively saying it could not promise the law would be properly policed or applied and said this was “the direct consequence of Labour’s decision to railroad the law into place with the support of NZ First and the Greens”.

The only ones who may be surprised by this are the parties who rammed it through against very good advice.

That advice came from people and groups with no political axes to grind including, as Keeping Stock  points out, the Human Rights Commission.  

But the really chilling thing is they haven’t learned from the experience and are repeating their mistakes with the Emissions Trading Scheme.


I didn’t quite hear that part II

03/09/2008

People who spend a lot of time listening to loud music  risk permanent damage to their ears according to Dr David McBride, senior lecturer in occupational health at the Dunedin School of Medicine.

People listening to music on headphones should have them on half volume and those going into nightclubs should consider wearing earplugs.

“Any time you have to shout at a person an arm’s length away to be heard means you are in an environment that is too loud and you’re damaging your hearing.”

And what about the workers? If any of our staff is working with a fraction of the noise you get in many bars, cafes, restautants and nightclubs we’d have to supply them with ear muffs.

Does OSH not have anything to say about these noisy workplaces? And are there no requirements to protect the ears of the patrons?

Cigarette smoke was an OSH issue and, while cautious about the state interfering in private lives and businesses, I think noise should be too.

I am sick of evenings spent attempting to take part in conversations where no-one can hear properly even though everyone’s shouting.

Many’s the time I’ve just grinned and nodded, hoping desperately that was the appropriate response to what I was only half-hearing; many’s the time a quiet conversation has been ruined by loud music; and many’s the time an evening has finished very shortly after the band starts playing.

I don’t go into shops which play loud music and if I have a choice I leave social venues when loud music starts.

Modern building design and decor with lots of hard services and few if any soft furnishings to muffle the noise make matters worse.

But the root of the problem lies in the volume and therefore the solution is simple: PLEASE TURN IT DOWN – IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THAT LOUD.

 

(Part 1 of this post is here.)


This explains their thinking

03/09/2008

 

Socialist brain

Socialist brain


Farmers & CTU debate pay

03/09/2008

Farmers and growers need long term strategies  for developing their own workforces to counter labour shortages, Councils of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says.

Her comments follow reports that short-staffed dairy farmers were being exploited by southern farm workers demanding “ridiculous” wages.

Peter Macfarlane, director of dairy farm workers recruitment company Greener Horizons Workforce, said some southern farm workers with little experience were demanding up to $50,000 a year plus free accommodation from farmers struggling to attract staff.

This was about $15,000 a year more than would normally be paid, Mr Macfarlane told the Southland Times.

The farm workers, who industry sources said worked between 50 and 60 hours a week on average over a year, were attempting to cash in on the booming dairy industry and record dairy payouts.

I’m not sure that 50 and 60 hours average over a year is correct. Dairy staff work longer hours during the milking season but have much shorter days over winter and farms use relief milkers to take the pressure off fulltime workers.

“There are people out there exploiting the situation because of the staff shortage,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“They are asking to get paid way more than their skills and ability deserve.”

But Ms Kelly said the admission by Southland dairy farmers that they were paying New Zealanders $35,000 per year for 50 to 60 hour weeks was shameful, particularly at a time when they were pressuring the Government to relax immigration requirements.

I’ve already disputed the hours and she’s not taking into account the value of the accommodation which comes on top of wages and is worth at least another $10,000 a year.

Yesterday wine growers were also complaining about the cost of labour while harvesting record crops, she said.

“The dairy farmers are openly admitting that New Zealand workers are available but that they turn them away because they are expecting $50,000 per year – hardly great riches for the long hours and hard work expected of them.

“We are also concerned to hear that it is apparently easy for farmers to replace these workers by employing foreign workers simply to reduce wages.

“Our immigration policies exist to fill genuine skills shortages, not to replace New Zealanders seeking work and not to cut wages and conditions.”

There is a genuine skills shortage on dairy farms – unemployment is very low and it’s extremely difficult to find New Zealanders with the desire and ability to milk cows.

Ms Kelly said New Zealanders were paying huge prices for dairy products and farmers were making more money than ever.

“It is an irony that farmers are happy to accept market demand as an excuse for higher and higher costs to consumers but don’t accept it when it has the same impact on labour costs.”

Ms Kelly said it was time some of this money was committed to building a sustainable industry, including decent wages, training, prospects and conditions of work.

The market has pushed up the cost of all farm inputs including labour. We don’t object to paying people a fair wage. The objection is to paying people with no skills or experience far more then they’re worth – where else could someone without qualifications or experience start on $35,000 plus a house? We’re also mindful that the costs won’t drop when returns inevitably do.

There is good training for farm workers from AG ITO, to universities.  Those with ability and application have good prospects and, while their will always be bad exceptions, there isn’t generally a problem with conditions.

The problem is supply and expectations – too few people willing and able to do the job for a fair wage.


I didn’t quite hear that

03/09/2008

ACC claims for industrial deafness  have increased 658% in the past decade.

Dunedin School of Medicine Occupational Health senior lecturer Dr David McBride said there were 2557 claims for industrial deafness in 1997, and in the past 10 years the number had increased to 19,386.

Dr McBride said noise affected an estimated 1.47 million workers, or 25% of the New Zealand workforce, and he was concerned that despite the knowledge of effective controls (such as earmuffs) since the mid-1980s, there was no evidence to show hearing loss was decreasing.

“We shouldn’t be seeing this in this day and age. Hearing loss has become a silent epidemic.”

Those at most risk of hearing loss worked in the forestry, timber processing and engineering industries, but people in factory production lines, roading, building sites and agriculture were also at risk, he said.

Dr McBride said there were good tools on the market which were quiet, but they were more expensive and many employers opted to give their staff earmuffs instead.

“But staff don’t always wear them. People working in really noisy areas all day do wear them, but when people are in jobs with intermittent noise, they tend not to use them.”

The cost of claims to ACC had increased 787.7% from $6.966 million to $61.837 million during the past decade, he said.

Much of the increase was due to claims for hearing aids, which cost between $500 and $5000.

“They’re very expensive and people can’t afford to pay for them. So they have to go to ACC to pay for them.”

You can provide them but you can’t make them wear them. And there is another explanation for the rise in claims:

Southern Audiology audiometrist Marc Andriessen said his clinic at the Marinoto Clinic had been fully booked for the past five years. However, Mr Andriessen did not believe the increase in ACC claims was due to more people damaging their ears in noisy workplaces.

“There is simply a better awareness out there of hearing loss. Hearing aid companies have been marketing in various ways to make people aware that hearing aids are not big bananas behind your ears.

“They are now very small and people are more open to the idea of wearing them.”

Dr McBride said while he expected hearing loss to become even more common as the population aged, he was concerned about the younger generations damaging their hearing in recreational pursuits.

It was possible for damaged ears to be repaired after short-term exposure to loud noise, but people who spent long hours listening to loud music on earphones or at nightclubs risked permanent damage.

People listening to music on headphones should have them on half volume and those going into nightclubs should consider wearing earplugs.

“Any time you have to shout at a person an arm’s length away to be heard means you are in an environment that is too loud and you’re damaging your hearing.”

Pardon? Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. COULD YOU SAY THAT AGAIN…

(To be continued in a further post)


Kiwis créme of the cup

03/09/2008

New Zealand baristias have won the Bledisloe Cup of coffee making.

The barista-roos and the barista-iwis fought out the annual trans-Tasman barista champs today – it’s the Bledisloe Cup of coffee.

The teams have eight minutes to grind, percolate, froth and pour 30 cups of coffee.

First up it is 10 piccolo lattes and New Zealand, steams ahead of Australia.

For the judges it’s the first sip of the day.

“The competition’s designed as a cafe would be, what the customer would see and would say,” says judge Jeff Dutton.

Eventually it is time for the crème of the crop: the specialist lattes, in flavours like gingerbread. They are not for the traditionalist.

In a record six minutes and 50 seconds, New Zealand delivers their last latte. The final score though is up to the judges.

Can they think straight after so much coffee?

“Yeah,” says Mr Dutton, “we try not to drink too much.”

It is the second most traded commodity after oil, and the number one employer in the world. And these people all take their coffee very seriously.

“We have to work really hard to represent our country,” says Barasta-iwi Carl Sara. “For us it is a pride thing and a love of coffee coming out.”

Coffee, and of course New Zealand, were the winners on the day.

I’ll drink to that but it won’t be in coffee because although I have several vices caffeine isn’t one of them.


Peters-speak is contagious

03/09/2008

Kathryn Ryan is interviewing Winston Peters’ lawyer Peter Williams on Nine to Noon.

It sounds like he’s been learning from his client: it was only a little mistake, other parties have done worse, it’s the media’s fault…

It will be on-line here soon.


ETS won’t harm agriculture?

03/09/2008

Climate Change Minsiter David Parker obviously doesn’t understand the Emissions Trading Scheme he has introduced to parliament because:

Mr Parker said there was no evidence the scheme would have an adverse impact on agriculture.

I’m with The Hive who asks if Parker has misled parliament.

He obviously hasn’t taken any notice of Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers president, Don Nicolson said today, “News that the emissions trading scheme bill has passed its second reading is bad. It is too rushed. What we have is a whole lot of short term political gamesmanship that is divorced from the real world.

“The reality is that the ETS will have a significant impact on our economy, and likely, little impact on the global environment. Science has a long way to go to develop the economical tools to help farming families get even more efficient than they currently are. The risks of this legislation will be felt by farmers and other New Zealanders for decades,” Mr Nicolson said.

“Agriculture will be affected by the ETS from day one. Already farmers are facing significant increases in input costs that are having a big impact on farm viability. The ETS will only make this worse.

“We have heard some suggestions that New Zealand needs fewer animals on farms. For various reasons it is forecast that New Zealand will have nine million less sheep and lambs over the next year. That’s a drop to 21 million sheep from a high of about 70 million. While meat and fibre farmers have had their worst year, financially, for half a century, the ETS will make this situation worse. It will result in less money for farmers and therefore have a negative flow on into New Zealand cities.

“This is a giant leap into the abyss. These politicians seem to have forgotten that it is agriculture that is laying New Zealand’s golden egg. Our farming communities are working very hard every day to produce food and fibre that New Zealand sells to the world and helps pay many of New Zealand’s bills.

“If we want to try and remain a first world country, rather than a third world country, the simple fact is, we need agriculture to prosper and grow. We can’t afford to kill New Zealand’s golden goose. If we do, we will have rural ghettos and a lower standard of living for all New Zealanders. Here’s hoping we don’t kill the golden goose and develop rural ghettos.

It won’t just be rural ghettos. Like it or not agriculture is the cornerstone of our economy, if it goes down the rest of the country goes with it.


ETS gets worse by the day

03/09/2008

The legislation to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme which will have a profound and negative economic and social impact on New Zealand has been reintroduced with 785 ammendments.

Many may be minor technicalities but:

National’s climate change spokesman, Nick Smith, said the Government was rushing it through with reckless irresponsibility.

“This bill has huge implications for every household and every business in this country,” he said. “Don’t do this to our Parliament, don’t risk New Zealand’s reputation with such shonky lawmaking.”

And:

Act leader Rodney Hide said climate change and global warming was a hoax.

“The data and the hypothesis do not hold together. Al Gore is a phoney and a fraud on this issue and the emissions trading scheme is a worldwide scam and a swindle.”

Mr Hide said enacting the legislation would cost New Zealand dearly by driving up the cost of basic goods and ruining businesses and farmers.

“The impact is truly shocking … all we have is a computer model, the answers are written on assumptions.”

And:

United Future leader Peter Dunne said there was no need to ram the bill through Parliament just to satisfy the Government’s agenda. “No harm would be caused by deferring it by six months. It deserves greater attention and we should deal with it in a calm and rational manner.”

There is just one reason this Bill is being rushed through – Helen Clark has accepted she won’t be Prime Minister after the election and knows this is her only chance to bulldoze it through.

It is, as Keeping Stock  says, an outrage:

This is an absolute outrage. This is without doubt the most far-reaching legislation considered by the 48th Parliament. It will impose significant financial costs on individuals and businesses. The Bill that was debated today was unrecognisable from the original Bill, so much has the government had to compromise and do backroom deals to secure support from minor parties. And yet it has received the most cursory scrutiny imaginable from the House of Representatives.


Did they see this coming?

03/09/2008

The good citizens of St Johnsbury, New England, can now peer into the future  and charge for it without fear.

Soothsaying might still be banned in some parts of America, but St. Johnsbury has repealed the ordinance against peering into the future that it had on the books since 1966. . .

Fear of fraud has prompted many communities to ban fortunetelling but critics say it’s not government’s place to decide whether such personal beliefs or practices are fraudulent.

No doubt those who practise soothsaying will have seen this coming.


%d bloggers like this: