Desperate and dirty


Remember how the election’s about trust and we can’t trust Helen Clark to be principled?

It now also means we can’t trust her with numbers.

She told a Grey Power meeting that 60 New Zealanders  would have been killed in Iraq if National had won the last election.  She based that on the assumption that a National-led government would have sent combat troops and we’d have lost the same number on a pro-rata basis as the US which has lost 4,000 people.

She later admitted that 60 was a back of an envelope calculation. She conveniently didn’t mention that Australia sent combat troops, none of whom died in combat.

We’ve got 53 more days of this to go. If she’s this desperate and dirty at the start how low will she go before it finishes?

Monkeywithtypewriter and Keeping Stock also post on this.

Rainy day wit


A why-didn’t-I-think-of-that observation from Marginal Revolution:

It’s a little scary that the world’s largest insurance company hasn’t planned for a rainy day.

Hat tip: NZBC

Kai moana


Charmian Smith interviews Moeraki’s queen of cuisine Fleur Sullivan as a preview to the launch of the book Fleurs Place by Graham Warman and Paul Sorrell here.

At risk of trespassing on Roarprawn’s territory, I can recommend the kai moana platter to which Fleur refers. It’s a tasting selection of whatever’s fresh that day  which is mana for seafood fans and a great way to introduce less adventurous diners to a wide variety of fish and seafood.

Duncan Laing’s funeral


The ODT reports on Duncan Laing’s funeral here.

Readers pay their tributes here.  They include this from paralymipic gold medalist Jenny Newstead:

The thing that people don’t realise is that Duncan had a massive influence on paralympic swimmers. He never treated a swimmer with a disability any different to any other swimmer in the squad. When I swam in Barcelona in 1992, I was two body lengths ahead of the field. They were a bit worried over there, but then they realised I was well trained. At that time, paralympic swimmers were not usually coached by Olympic-level coaches. Duncan set the bar. He said it didn’t matter whether you had a disability or not….

TV1 covers the funeral here.

3rd death & more milk recalled


A third Chinese baby has died and more than 6,000 have become ill after drinking infant formula made from milk contaminated with melamine.

And China’s biggest milk producer  Mengniu Dairy is recalling its baby formula.

Benson-Pope would win?


Speculation that David Benson-Pope will stand as an independent in Dunedin South continues:

The Otago Daily Times understands private polling being undertaken in the electorate shows Mr Benson-Pope would win in a canter should he decide to stand.

His name recognition is high and people feel he was a good electorate MP who was treated badly by the party and trade unions.

If he did win the seat it would create, or add to, an overhang. That would help the centre left because if Helen Clark can stomach Winston Peters she could no doubt put aside past concerns with Benson-Pope to help her retain the reins of power. 


Fonterra not alone


Fonterra is not the only company whose milk powder has been contaminated by melamine in China.

Twenty percent of Chinese dairy firms investigated in the wake of the health scare have been found to have produced melamine-tainted formula, state media reported on Tuesday.

. . . Out of 109 dairy producers checked, 22 had been found to have produced batches of milk contaminated with melamine, including Beijing Olympic Games sponsor Yili and other major brands, state television said, citing China’s quality watchdog.

A Southland Times report of the concerns of a Chinese businessman who wanted to buy infant milk powder earlier this year. This suggests sabotage is not unexpected:

A Chinese businessman trying to buy 1500 tonnes of baby formula in Southland this year was so concerned the formula would be tampered with once it arrived in China that he insisted it be supplied in sealed 1kg containers.

The unusual export request was revealed yesterday by Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny, who said fears the formula could be diluted with other materials like talcum powder or chalk once it arrived in China was the biggest issue for the investor.

The first priority is the safety of the product but this scandal also threatens Fonterra’s hopes  to take advantage of the growing market for milk in China.

Fonterra’s joint venture is a subsidiary of government-controlled Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group, which announced last October that China’s biggest milkpowder marketer would be floated in the second half of 2008.

Chinese yuan-denominated A shares were to be offered in the joint venture founded by Sanlu Group and Fonterra.

The listing was the long-term plan for the venture in the north Chinese province of Hebei, from its foundation — when Fonterra paid 864 million yuan ($NZ150 million) — and its projected revenue for 2008 was 8.6 billion yuan, with a target of 30 billion yuan in 2010.

Headquartered in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, Sanlu is China’s third biggest dairy company, behind the Yili and Mengniu companies based in Inner Mongolia. The company chair who signed the deal with Fonterra, Tian Wenhua, said the joint venture was designed from the start to be floated on the Chinese sharemarket.

Now those plans have been thrown into disarray: Chinese authorities have ordered the Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co Ltd to halt production and its Ministry of Health has ordered all milkpowder produced by Sanlu withdrawn from sale.

And authorities and consumers in China are calling for dairy industry executives involved in the scandal to be held accountable.

Sanlu executives are being targeted after Health Ministry party secretary Gao Qiang told the South China Morning Post the government became aware only a week ago that drinking the milk could cause kidney stones.

Mr Gao denied the government had covered up the problem to avoid detracting from the Beijing Olympics and said it was a “severe food safety accident”.

“Sanlu Group should take a large part of the responsibility,” he said.

That there are so many other companies which used contaminated milk may be a mitigating factor for Fonterra but that will be cold comfort for the families whose babies have died or become ill becaucse of it.

When it comes to a choice between business expansion and baby’s lives, there is only one ethical option. Whoever is responsible for what happened, Fonterra must ensure any company with which it is involved has safeguards which ensure it can’t happen again.

[For more on this issue see Rural Network where Philippa Stephenson writes on reports on bribes and cover ups and that there had been no inspections of the Sanlu factory for three years.]

Spot the difference


The cover story in this weeks Listener (previewed here) asks whether the unions still love Labour. One of those interviewed is Matt McCarten who is general secretary of Unite.

The success endorsed McCarten’s view that staying aloof from political allegiance is more valuable than affiliation. Why, he asks, under MMP would any other party want to help you if all your funding and membership support was going to its comeptition?

He says those unions with “blatant” support for Labour are not necessarily furthering the interests – or felfecting the concerns – of members.

Then we have The Hive’s  transcript of a Radio Live discussion between Marcus Lush, Matthew Hooton and McCarten: 

Lush: . . . Obviously its going to be very important for the Labour party to get these peoples registered and out there voting. . .

McCarten: Yeah well, well, the enrolment is to get out the vote and that’s Labour’s only chance, I mean that is very, very big in the unions, and the electoral enrolments group are spending a huge amount of resource in doing that. But one of the things, the problem they’ve got, a lot of the vote, you know, doesn’t care, and so the unions have got 20% of their membership are not even enrolled, and so they’ve worked out if they can get that up, well that’s going to be 70,000-80,000 extra in, in, in the vote . . .

Can you spot the fundamental difference in the message between these two interviews?

Silver lining


As eyes anxiously turn to financial markets I’m reminded of the silver lining to the cloud of the 80s’ ag-sag.

Few farmers were hit by the 1987 share crash because their equity had plummeted and most had neither the credit or cash to invest in the share market.

Harbingers of spring


Forget the lambs and calves, the bulbs in  bloom and the flowering cherry in blossom. The real sign that spring is upon us is finding the first bird inside.

We have scores of trees in our garden and hundreds, maybe thousands on the farm. But for some reason there’s always a few stupid but determined birds which prefer to try to nest between the chimney guard and the chimney – in spite of the wire netting attached firmly to the top to keep them out.

We’re not keen on this because the sort of things they like to make their nests from are the sort of things which might be combustible if the chimney got hot enough.

And there’s a second problem because of a gap between the chimney and the guard which enables the bird to get inside. The fire sits in the wall between the living room and the hall and the chimney goes through the ceiling in the hall. When the bird tries to build its nest, twigs and grass drop through the gap and the bird follows.

Once there it heads towards the light which takes it in to a bedroom where it hits the window and panics. When a bird panics it tends to make a mess which is bad enough if I find it soon after it arrives and a whole lot worse if I don’t find it until later.

Today’s bird hadn’t been inside long when I discovered it and I was able to get it out before it had left too many visiting cards. But as I cleaned up behind it I wished yet again that this harbinger of spring would be content to stay outside with the lambs, calves, bulbs and blossom where it belongs.

Learning from history


Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it – George Santayana.

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history – George Bernard Shaw.

Helen Clark ought to keep this in mind when considering whether to sack Winston Peters because this cartoon was produced in 1999:

If she doesn’t act on the lessons of the past she’ll prove George Wilhelm Hegel correct in his theory:

What expereince and history teach us is this – that people and governments never learned from history or acted on principles.

(The cartoon is from 20 Years of Garrick Tremain, politics from the pen of a leading cartoonist, published by New Holland, $29.99)

Not just infant milk contaminated


Fonterra’s own Chinese business has launched a voluntary recall of its Anmum Materna milk.

This follows the recall of infant milk powder from Sanlu in which Fonterra has a 43% stake after it was contaminated with melamine which resulted in the death of two babies and made hundreds of others ill.

This particular batch had been manufactured and distributed under licence by Sanlu using what we believe to be contaminated local raw milk,”‘ the company said tonight.

Anmum is one of Fonterra’s most valuable brands in Asia, along with Anlene, and the Materna milk is intended for consumption by pregnant women. Fonterra China said in a statement issued in Auckland that the stock was being recalled because consumer safety was the company’s “utmost concern”.

The company said all its other Anmum and Anlene products had been produced using only milk imported from New Zealand and were free from any possibility of contamination with melamine from locally sourced milk.

This is the sensible and ethical thing to do for the sake of the babies and their families and for Fonterra’s reputation.
But the company’s problems are not confined to infant milk powder:

Separately, Fonterra’s Taiwan business is known to have imported 25 tonnes of the “melamine milk” from Sanlu, with much of it being sold for use in food manufacture.

And the regional Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office is moving to interrogate the head of Fonterra’s New Tai Milk Products, which imported the contaminated milk in late June.

“The person in question is still in mainland China, but prosecutors will question him after he returns to Taiwan,” the China Post reported. “Health authorities have confiscated all of the imported tainted milkpowder, and will destroy all further imports”.

The local Department of Health said that some people in Taiwan may have already consumed processed foods and beverages that were made with 50 bags, or 1250kg of the melamine milkpowder.

Of the total 1000 bags imported, 564 bags have been seized, and Fonterra sold another 434 bags to food processors to be used as an ingredient in cakes, calcium tablets, creams and beverages. The remaining two bags were used by distributors as samples.

Products seized after being made with the milkpowder, include 665 boxes of bottled coffee drinks which were shipped to Hong Kong.

Fonterra’s first priority is to ensure that any of its products which might have used contaminated milk is recalled then it has to work out what it can do to ensure this never happens again.

No company can test all its raw ingredients for every additive with which it might be contaminated. But the delay between the company finding out about the contamination and the recall of the products would never happen in New Zealand and that requirement for saftey first must be applied to our businesses overseas.

Adverse assistance payment boost


Rural assistance payments for farming families facing hardship have been boosted from 75% to 100% of the unemployment benefit.

This is income assitance which is available to farmers who are struggling financially because of an adverse event such as drought or flood.

I’ve no intention of counting this gift hourse’s teeth nor down playing the physical, pschological and financial impact of the adverse events which could trigger the payments.

But I do have a tiny wee suspicion that the timing of this announcement by Jim Anderton who apparently is the Minister of Agriculture, has something to with the proximity of the election.

52 more sleeps . . .


. . . until the election and we know New Zealand First hasn’t paid back the $158,000 it took from taxpayers to fund it’s last campaign, but what about United Future?

Have they repaid their debt to Parliamentary Services yet?

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