Compulsory voting?


The Herald has a readers poll asking if voting should be compulsory.

So far 467 people have voted, 56% of whom say yes.

I’m a definite no because while you can lead people to democracy but you can’t force them to participate.

Democracy gives you the right to vote and freedom enables you to choose to not use it.



The first of this season’s asparagus has arrived.

Grill or steam it until it is al dente then serve with Whitestone Windsor Blue

If you want to go to a little more effort, grate some of the cheese and roll it with the asparagus in thin sliced wholemeal bread – eat as is or toasted.

Add a glass of pinot noir, perhaps Rockburn (thanks to the recommendation of Rayinnz).

The sit back, relax and savour the taste of spring.


P.S. Cheese is protein and calcium, asparagus is a green vegetable, wine is nearly fruit – it’s healthy!

Pundit launched


A new on-line daily current affairs magazine, Pundit,  aims to:

. . . start an intelligent conversation about New Zealand’s place in the world and its future.

Its founders are: 

Tim Watkin (former deputy editor of the Listener and blogger for the Guardian in Britain) and Eleanor Black (former deputy editor at Next and associate editor of California magazine) came up with the Pundit concept in late 2007, while living in San Francisco. They joined forces with broadcaster Ian Fraser in early 2008 and together the trio launched the site in September.

Other contributers are David Beatson, Dr Jon Johansson David Lewis, Jacqueline Rowath and Jane Young,

Hat Tip: No Right Turn

Clark won’t go the distance


Bill English is calling on Helen Clark to let voters know if she’s planning to remain as Labour’s.

Helen Clark will only commit to leading Labour ‘into’ a fourth term. She will offer no assurances about what happens after that.“The public can only conclude that if Helen Clark wins the election, New Zealand will have a different Prime Minister by the end of a three year term.
 He refers to a radio interview in which she refused to give a commitment:

PRESENTER: If you win the ah, this election, if you, if Labour wins this election, will you stick around for a full three-year term.
CLARK: Well someone asked that at the press conference today too and I said I have no retirement plans. Here I am, a fit and healthy woman still our doing the back country skiing and enjoying life.
PRESENTER: But no retirement plans isn’t the same as a categorical assurance that people might need, Labour voters might need or voters might need to vote for Labour this election knowing that you will remain for a full three-year term…
CLARK: Well ah…
PRESENTER: …can you give that categorical assurance.
CLARK: Well ah, I’m going into it obviously saying I’m looking to lead Labour for a fourth term and…
PRESENTER: Full fourth term.
CLARK: Well I’m looking to lead for a fourth term ah, and that’s as much as I can say. I mean I’ve got good health and good energy at the moment. Who knows ah, things can change on you but right now I’m looking for the fourth term.
PRESENTER: It’s not quite categorical. It’s a dead…
CLARK: Well…
PRESENTER: I’m looking for an assurance that, that if Labour win a thir [sic] a fourth term, that you would be there for the full three years or as long as Labour stayed in power.
CLARK: Well I’m not announcing my intentions for the election of 2011 Bill. That would be silly.
CLARK: I’m announcing that I’m on for leading Labour into a fourth term. I have no, underline, no retirement plans.
PRESENTER: And leading Labour out of a fourth term
CLARK: Oh well ah, leading Labour to a fifth term. I haven’t made the decision whether I’ll lead Labour for a fifth term but what I’m saying is there’s an election in eight weeks’ time, and you’ve all got lots of notice, and ah, we’ll debate the shape of the policies of the fourth term Labour-led government.

I presume this is the interview Bill Ralston referred to when he blogged:

On Friday on my Radio Live Drive show I asked her, if she did win an historic fourth term, would she serve the entire term of three years as Prime Minister?
There was a lot of waffling from Helen about her being physically fit and not thinking about retiring.

I pressed the PM, saying “not contemplating or thinking about retiring” was not the same as assuring voters she would stay the course in any fourth term.

She did not give a categorical answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s in a name?

Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of – for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.
Socrates – (469 BC – 399 BC)


 David Fletcher

Walking Inside a Grahame Sydney Painting


We drove from Wanaka to Millers Flat yesterday then backtracked to Alexandra and took the road from Omakau through Lauder and Becks to the Pig Route.

That’s all Grahame Sydney country which prompted the choice of this Friday’s poem by Diane Brown. It’s from her collection learning to lie together, published by Godwit, 2004.

Walking Inside a Grahame Sydney Painting


That uninterrupted blue, then the mountains, snow

rapidly disappearing on this first real day of summer

and closer, another range, lower and crouching, shadows

draped over brown hides, and in the foreground, fields

wheat-coloured, rolling, legendary as the sky. Inside,


the sun stalks the angle of the dormer window, bleaching

clothes thrown not artfully enough on a chair. My lover

and I are writers, after all, and careless of  fabrics and folds.

I tell Grahame I’d use this but I’m not sure how

my poems are usually peopled, crowded with conversations


and this view is too large to contain in words.

Upstairs, windows divide the landscape into bite-sized

chunks. Perhaps if I take it one line at a time?

Already I notice I’ve forgotten three power poles

sprouting in the paddocks opposite. Lines I can’t see


but can imagine, ushering in the rest of the world.

– Diane Brown –



Do we trust the scales?


Darker dawn doesn’t do it for me


This Sunday the clocks go forward an hour, far too early for postponing sunset by an hour in the evening to make up for losing an hour of light in the morning.


The trade off between lighter dawns and longer dusks has escaped the people who pressed for daylight saving to be extended, as has the knowledge that early spring and late autumn weather, down here in North Otago at least, is rarely warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities in the evenings.


People further north don’t benefit from the long twilights we get in the south and there is sense in postponing sunset to enable everyone to enjoy lighter mid-summer evenings. But I strongly oppose the plan to start daylight saving a week earlier and finish it a fortnight later.


One argument for extending daylight savings is that other countries have longer with the clocks forward than we do, but that doesn’t take into account longitude and latitude, which affect when the sun rises and sets, and temperature. Australia is further north than us so has fewer hours of daylight in summer and more in winter than we do. It is also a continent so heats up more quickly than our islands and it is closer to the equator which also makes it warmer than us.


When our hotter neighbour doesn’t introduce daylight saving until November why would we rush into it at the end of September? Last year when the clocks went back as early as they ever had because October 1 happened to be a Sunday, it was very cold and not just in the south. There was snow in Hawkes Bay and temperatures further north were more akin to winter than spring.


All the arguments for extending daylight saving are about leisure, which is important. But so too is work and farmers find it difficult to do what has to be done early in the morning when it is still dark. By the end of September the sun rises here at about 6 15, then the clocks go back and it is dark until after 7.00.


There is a similar problem in autumn. It is pitch black at 6am from the middle of February, the sun is not rising until after 7.00 by early March and extending daylight saving until the end of March the sun doesn’t rise until about 7.30 in North Otago, nearly 8.00 in Dunedin and later still further south. That’s much the same as it is in mid winter.


It is not just farmers but their children who have problems with dawn that late because many will be going to catch school buses in the dark.


That’s a high price to pay for an extra hour of daylight in the evenings, when for the first and last few weeks it coincides with the dinner hour for most people anyway.


I accept the benefits of daylight saving which allows more evening light in mid summer so we can play but in spring and autumn we need more early morning light so we can work.


Sunrise and sunset times for the main centres are here (with standard time) and here  (adjusted for daylight saving).


Poneke puts the case for the negative here.


You can trust this one


There’s a new Labour website – and I think you can trust it.

Hat tip: Keeping Stock who credits Whale Oil.

Trust Busters


Apropos of the previous post . . .

Pledge spectacular failure


The ODT looks at the accusations against John Key and concludes:

Whether people accept his word remains to be seen but Dr Cullen is making his best efforts to show an intent to mislead and his accusation and Mr Key’s admission will generally work in favour of the Labour Party’s present election stance of asking voters whom they should trust.

But that can work against Labour and others, and in the context of the Winston Peters affair few MPs emerge with any credit whatsoever.

The attitude of the Prime Minister, who sacked ministers Lianne Dalziel and David Benson-Pope for lying to or misleading the public, is not untypical, for she has adopted a different quantifying scale with Mr Peters. . .

. . . Miss Clark’s response to this, when questioned by journalists, was that she did not intend to waste any more time on the matter.

That may be the safest political course in an election campaign, but Miss Clark also criticised the privileges committee hearing and described it as “tainted” before it had made its final report, a shameful attempt to influence one of our legal institutions.

She was not alone. Mr Peters himself, Dr Cullen and several other members of the committee, which represents a cross-section of parties in the House, felt moved to comment on the procedures, the evidence, and the accused, and their own conclusions during the hearings which, had the matter been heard in the High Court, would surely have invited a citation for contempt.

Indeed, contempt is a word many voters might well be employing to describe the poisonous state of affairs where the MPs’ behaviour and standards have sunk so low as to bring the very concept of the “people’s representatives” into serious disrepair.

“Our mission,” declared Helen Clark when opening her successful 1999 election campaign, “is to clean up government, and to clean up Parliament . . . the public’s faith in the democratic process must be restored.”

That is a pledge which voters should now measure, nine years later, and judge it to have been a spectacular failure.

Labour asks us to judge them on their record. But many of the promises they’ve kept were election bribes which shouldn’t have been made in the first place. and the most important one on restoring public faith in democracy has not just been ignored, it’s been torn up and ground into the mud.

Is it pots and kettles?


Poneke has challenged me, tongue in cheek, to “give massive publicity” to the editorial in yesterday’s Herald.

He does it because he knows my blue bias and in light of that I thought I’d start with a mulit-choice question:

The editorial is:

a) far too soft on John Key because he’s a rich prick.

b) far too soft on John Key because he’s a rich prick and the media is biased.

c) uncalled for and unfair, the paper’s biased and it’s all a media beat up.

d) John who? What team does he play for?

e) a valid point of view, with much of which I disagree.

I’m opting for e: 

The Tranz Rail story would have been a non-story – the number of shares John held was not relevant to the question he was asked in parliament; they were owned by a family trust not by him personally; and once he realised the trust shouldn’t own them  he gave orders for them to be sold, and they were – at a loss. When he later discovered the number he’d owned was greter than he’d originally said he let it lie, which obviously was a mistake in hindsight but understandable at the time.

It would have stayed a non-story had John handled it better from the start. That he didn’t disappoints me but he’s human, everyone makes mistakes and as soon as he realised that’s what he’d done he admitted it, accepted responsbilitiy and apologised.

Why didn’t he handle it better? I don’t know, but I am confident he’ll have learnt the lesson and won’t do it again; and it is light years away from what WInston Peters is guilty of.

John was guilty of two sins of omission: first by not selling the shares earlier when as a new MP he didn’t know all the rules, and then by not publicly giving the correct number of shares he owned when he found out it differed from the number he’d given earlier. His initial response when questioned by TV1 wasn’t flash but he made up for that when he accepted that and apologised.

Peters by contrast is a long-serving and experienced MP whose sins are those of commission – deliberately flouting rules, lying about it and refusing to admit he’s done anything wrong.

Adam Smith gives his view on the editorial at Inquiring Mind.

More problems for San Lu


San Lu in which Fonterra has a 43% stake is facing another problem with news a lethal bacteria has been found in some of its milk powder.

The Gansu Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision in north-western China issued an emergency notice saying that San Lu’s formulas for older babies contained enterobacter sakazakii as well as melamine, the Lanzhou Morning Post reported.

Described as lethal, entero-bacter sakazakii can cause meningitis or severe gut infections and is recognised by the World Health Organisation as one key pathogen that leads to infant mortality.

It is not yet known how or when the bacteria entered the San Lu formula, but there have been no reports of sickness or deaths triggered by the bacteria, the newspaper said.

At least this time there has been a public warning so if any consumers are still using San Lu products they will know of the new danger and that is the first priority.

But the fact that Fonterra says it doesn’t know about it when it has directors on the board suggests that communication within the company is still not up to scratch.

But Miss . . .


The esteemed poet lauretae Jam Hipkins has lost is heart to the teacher who is moonlighting as a prostitute:

I love your lacy algebra

You ease my present tense

I regard your pleasure’s syntax

As a meagre recompense

For the poetry you’ve taught me

Writ on scented, satin sheet

In our one-on-one night classes

Where we shared our rhyming feet.

If my woodwork is improving

If, perchance, I top your class

It is you, sweet Cupid’s tutor

Who has shown me how to pass

Small wonder, then in Flaxmere

With no teacher of the night

That lonely boys’ testosterone

Can fuel a fiercesome fight.

But do not give them homework

Save love’s lessons just for me

You are the moon’s curriculum

You are my chemistry

If I’m A plus in the boudoir

Then I thank your lesson plan

I went in in short trousers

And I staggered out a man!

“Well, what do you think?” the laureate pleaded. “Will it work?”

“Perhaps,” I said sadly.

“But you may have to pay her to listen.”

You can read the rest of Jim Hopkins’ column here.

For other views on the issue:  Read the rest of this entry »

43 more sleeps . . .


. . . until the election and the Electoral Finance Act continues to bite  those who created it.

Hat Tip: Not PC.

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