Ppphew, what a stench!

September 27, 2008

Apropos of the previous post:


There’s a nasty stench . . .

September 27, 2008

The ODT can smell it:

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.

The Timaru Herald can smell it:

To put Mr Peters out to pasture, as Prime Minister Helen Clark should have, would have been to admit Labour were wrong in supporting him. So the man who once made a show of shunning the baubles of office drifts to the end of this Government’s term still holding the baubles, but without the office. Enough said.

The Press can smell it:

So why is it that for the next two months or more, until the shape of the next government is known, he is allowed to retain his ministerial salary and the other perks of the job? The only answer is that it is still politically expedient for Labour to let him cling to the baubles of office.

The Tarankai Daily News  can smell it:

It’s a sweet lullaby of conspiracy and political back-stabbing, played on the strings of a David versus Goliath battle for survival; a lullaby perfectly pitched to filter out the clangs and bangs of common sense and truth and put the listener into a content, compliant trance over the next six weeks.

The NZ Herald  can smell it:

It is stating the obvious to say Winston Peters should have resigned as a minister some time ago. And that he should go now, after the censure delivered by Parliament’s privileges committee. He will not, of course, and, the New Zealand First leader may even see a silver lining in that dark cloud. The Prime Minister has said she will not reinstate him as Foreign Minister, but that he will remain a minister without portfolio. As such, Mr Peters is free to hit the campaign trail with the salary and perks of a minister but none of the responsibilities. This farce will end with voters having to deliver the Don’t Come Monday letter on November 8.

Michael Bassett  can smell it:

Overtly buying political influence by giving large donations to parties and murky private trusts like the Spencer Trust appears on the face of it to be corruption of a kind that has been foreign to New Zealand, and which is always likely to bring any Parliament into disrepute. When will these matters be investigated by the Privileges Committee? Why has Winston, who has always posed as a friend of the old and the vulnerable, been spreading tens of millions of dollars of public money on wealthy racing magnates who don’t need it, rather than on better health care and services for his supporters? And in particular, why has the Prime Minister been a party to all of this by allowing her ministry to fund Winston’s backers? There is much yet that needs unearthing about this whole murky business.

Colin Espiner  can smell it:

. . . it meant Labour and Winston Peters failed to pervert the cause of justice and will of the majority despite the most underhand of tactics. As I’ve said below in this post, Labour’s attempt to politicise the committee and discredit its findings was shameful – amongst the worst things the party has done in the past nine years, in my opinion.

We know Labour and New Zealand First can’t but we won’t know until election night how many of their supporters are prepared to hold their noses.

[ Cicero  and  Keeping Stock comment on Michael Bassett’s column]


Call this summer?

September 27, 2008

If you’ve been following my posts over the past week you may have noticed that I’m just a wee bit grumpy about the clocks going forward this early.

In support of that I offer the following evidence:

1) Dunedin’s forecast for the next few days:

Day Conditions Min Max
Today
Showers
Showers
7 16
Sunday
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy
8 14
Monday
Fine
Fine
7 15
Tuesday
Showers
Showers
6 13

2) Snow in Queenstown

3) I’ve just been talking to a friend at  Dome Hills who tells me it’s snowing there too.

4) Dutchie left a comment on a previous post to say he’d got stuck in snow while campaigning today.

It might be summer in the North Island but it’s not even late spring down here.


Sanlu to be sold?

September 27, 2008

NZPA notes media reports from Beijing which say Sanlu, in which Fonterra has a 43% stake may be sold to its rival Sanyuan Food Company:

Sanlu group may be forced into bankruptcy and taken over by Sanyuan, the China Daily reported.

Fonterra, the world’s biggest dairy trader, owns 43 percent of Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co., but to day told the Wall Street Journal that it hasn’t been approached about selling its stake.

“No one has contacted our people on the board about a purchase,” Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier said.

. . . A  Sanyuan official, who refused to give her name, confirmed to the China Daily the company’s acquisition plans.

Sanyuan has emerged untainted in the recent milk scandal. As a result, its share prices have soared and sales skyrocketed.

This confirms yesterday’s post on Inquiring Mind.


Poisoned milk troubles spread

September 27, 2008

Problems with products contaminated by melamine in the wake of the poisoned milk scandal have spread beyond China’s borders.

Baby cereal in Hong Kong and snack foods in Japan which contain Chinese milk have been found to contain melamine.

And baby animals  at the Hangzhou Wild Animal Park near Shanghai have kidney stones after being fed milk powder.


Melamine in NZ export lactoferrin

September 27, 2008

One of New Zealand’s most expensive exports, lactoferrin, which sells for about $500,000 a tonne, has been contaminated with melamine.

But food safety officials say they don’t know how the contamination occurred and are now looking at whether the melamine was in the raw milk.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority thinks the contaminated lactoferrin might have come from more than one company. NZFSA direcctor of compliance and investigation Geoff Allen said:

“We’re still waiting for official results from all of the manufacturers of lactoferrin, so I can’t say which one is in and which one is out.”

Yesterday Mr Allen said the authority was considering any role which might have been played in the contamination by cyromazine, an insecticide which breaks down to melamine in mammals.

NZFSA has 24 livestock drenches and sprays containing cyromazine listed among registered agricultural compounds on its website.

“The possible contribution of breakdown products from cyromazine is being included in the investigations that are underway.’

Dr Allen had earlier confirmed that NZ lactoferrin sent to China had been contaminated with melamine. “Explanations for its presence in this case include leaching from plastic involved in processing or packaging, or other unintended outcome of the manufacturing process.”

. . . Dr Allen said the contamination was at low levels which did not present any health risk for consumers.

He questioned whether the melamine would be detectable once it was diluted when used as an ingredient in a finished product.

In June, NZFSA published a list of contaminant levels it will allow in animal products, and specified a maximum permissible level of cyromazine and melamine as 0.3mg/kg in sheepmeats, and 0.15mg/kg in poultry and eggs.

This is very different from the poisoned milk scandal in China but it is important that New Zealand food is checked to determine it contains nothing harmful.

The China melamine poisoning has raised awareness of what could be in food which is good as long as it doesn’t create needless hysteria over elements which won’t cause any harm.


Fleur chats to Kim

September 27, 2008

The book Fleurs Place by Graham Warman and Paul Sorrell, published by Penguin is being launched at Fleurs Place tomorrow.

Fleur chatted to Kim Hill this morning, you can listen to it here.


Saturday’s smiles

September 27, 2008

When looking for a joke for today this one seemd appropriate given the chaotic state of financial markets.

A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. The name plate in front of her says she is called Patricia Whack.”Miss Whack, I’d like to get a $30,000 loan to take a holiday.”

Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name.

The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is  Mick Jagger, and that
it’s okay, he knows the bank manager.

Patty explains that he will need to secure the loan  with some  collateral.

The frog says, “Sure. I have this,” and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about half an inch tall – bright  pink and perfectly  formed.

Very confused, Patty explains that she’ll have to consult the bank manager and disappears into a back office. 

 

 There, she finds the manager and says, “There’s a frog called Kermit Jagger  out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow  $30,000, and he  wants to use this as collateral.”

She holds up the tiny pink elephant. “I mean, what in the world is this?”

 

 

 The bank manager looks back at her and says…

“It’s a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan.  His old man’s a Rolling Stone.”

 

 


More light but less heat

September 27, 2008

The clocks don’t go forward until 2am tomorrow but already the weather is proving it’s too early.

Yesterday we had a nor-west spring day with temperatures around 20 degrees, but today it’s less than 10 and it’s raining.

No Peter Dunne  I will not appreciate another hour of darkness a week earlier than it used to be. I’m grumpy already and that’s before I lose an hour’s sleep tonight and have to get up in the pre-dawn chill. Mutter mumble.

Tumeke! suggests two time zones with the North Island clocks going forwards a few weeks before those in the South.

But I’ve got a better idea, why don’t the people in the north be like the birds and fly south for the summer – it’ll be light until around 10pm here in late December.

Update: One of our men just called in to say he’d stopped working a paddock on a hill block at Waianakaru because it’s snowing!


Fonterra learning the hard way

September 27, 2008

Fonterra has learned a very expensive lesson in China, one of which is about trust in a culture where corruption is rife and saving face comes before safety.

As chief executive Andrew Ferrier said, the company will never know  if it was mis-led by officials over the poisoned milk scandal.

Defending Fonterra against claims that it should have gone public earlier, Mr Ferrier said the company thought government officials at all levels were aware of the problem in August. “When our people in China met with the New Zealand embassy we thought the Chinese central government was aware.

“It could have been that people were fooling us at the local government level. We’ll never know.”

A senior Chinese government official is now saying that the problem is under control. But can we believe that?

This will not be the end of Fonterra’s investment in China but as company chair Henry van der Hayden says:

“The lesson for us here is about having absolute control over our supply chain,” Mr van der Heyden said. “We have to make certain that we learn from this.”

That is what they do in New Zealand and our reputation for safe milk on which consumers rely is built on that. That is what must happen in other countries and with other ocmpanies. PGG Wrightson which has dairy investments in Uruguay and Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group which are talking about sourcing lambs from South America, must be equally rigorous.

 Macdoctor  says:

Future investors must learn Fonterra’s lesson well. When you are dealing with an authoritarian society where face-saving is the norm, you must expect that mistakes and bad news will always be covered up. This is not to say that the Chinese are dishonest, far from it, they just have away of handling failure that confuses us. The type of transparency that you see in New Zealand, where even the Leader of the Opposition fronts up and apologises, is one that is unique to the West. Trade with China is certainly possible. Participation in joint ventures will require some work on both of our parts.

When Ferrier was interviewd on Wednesday he said that he didn’t think it would be possible for the San Lu brand to recover. Inquiring Mind reports here  and here that San Lu is close to bankruptcy and that Sanyuan Foods which wasn’t hit by the poisoned milk is likely to acquire it.

In a related story experts are struggling to work out safe levels of melamine in food in New Zealand.


Dead kids or disabled access?

September 27, 2008

A Southland kindergarten is facing a catch 22 situation because if it meets the building code requirement to provide access for people in wheel chairs it will not be able to keep children safely in its grounds.

As the Southland Times says:

 It is madness, just madness, to require a kindy to lower the exterior latch of its gate to afford easier access for the disabled, if this puts it in reach of little 3 and 4-year-olds to escape, and go play in traffic.

 . . . It might seem like there’s an element of Cock Robin to the Invercargill City Council’s assertion that it cannot issue a Code Compliance certificate because its hands are tied.

Actually, that might be right. The real sticking point does appear to be a Department of Building and Housing ruling in favour of the Building Act.

The act, bless it, does require reasonable and adequate access for the disabled.

As far as the kindy is concerned — and presumably this would apply to other kindergartens as well — this has been interpreted as meaning the external latch on the main gate must be lowered from 1.6m to 1.2m. Kindy kids are well capable of employing a little low cunning to get around that suddenly successful obstacle.

The snortworthy conflict here is that there are also requirements under our laws for early childhood education that require, every bit as implacably, that children cannot leave the centre without the knowledge of staff.

Council environmental and planning services director William Watt sympathises that the kindy is caught between a rock and a hard place.

So it is. The rocks are in the heads of the bureaucrats. It’s tempting, though unfair, to add that the hard place would be their hearts. In truth, they do, of course, understand the need for reason to prevail. They just seem to need some motivation to ensure they play their own parts to achieve this.

Among those who have become involved is Invercargill MP Eric Roy, who sees the alarming big picture of every childcare centre in the country having children at risk when they undergo re-licensing or try to make improvements to their facilities.

He says that when he asked Education Minister Chris Carter which was more important, disabled access or children’s safety, the response was that “both needs must be considered equally”.

Such an answer is palpably nonsense. Not everything balances.

Dead kids versus denied disabled? One of those outcomes actually is worse. See if you can guess which one, Minister.

At least the Minister of Building, Shane Jones, made more sense when he replied that a solution must be found that meets the purpose of both the Building Act and early childhood regulations.

Seldom do we find ourselves quite so relieved to receive a statement of the bleeding obvious.

This is the problem with one-size fits all regulations.

Of course people with disabilities should be able to have reaonsable access to public places, but that right must come second to children’s right to be safe at kindy.

When our daughter was young I occasionally invoked the this-is-a-matter-of-safety clause clause which she knew was non-negotiable. The Building Act needs to have a little flexibility to apply the same rationale so that rights of access give way to safety if they’re in conflict. 

What we need here is not so much the law of common sense as common sense law.


Mud sticks . . .

September 27, 2008

. . . to the hand that throws it.


42 more sleeps . .

September 27, 2008

. . . until the election and we’re officially in recession.


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