TV not best medium for debate


At first glance I thought Helen Clark and John Key were being arrogant by refusing to take part in televised debates with the leaders of the wee parties.

But then I thought about it and came to the conclusion that a debate with eight people on television would do little if anything for the democratic process and it wouldn’t be good viewing either.

My farmer was channel surfing last night and happened to catch Sky while Peter Dunne was being questioned by Bill Ralston and a panel of journalists. They asked intelligent qeustions and he had time to answer them. That’s a much better way to find out what someone stands for and plans to do than the shouting match an eight person debate would descend in to.

The leaders of the wee parties are understandably miffed that TV3 has now decided to can the debate with them because they’ve lost an opportunity for free publicity and Peter Dunne in particular was no doubt hoping to get his party from its 0 poll rating by playing Mr Sensible as he did in 2002.

But TV3 is a private company and has asked the qeustion who’d want to watch the leaders of the six wee parties shouting at and over each other? The answer was obviously not enough people to draw the advertisers so its made a commercial decision to flag the debate as its entitled to do.

Melamine confirmed in Tatua lactoferrin


Tuatua Cooperative Dairy Company has suspended exports of lactoferrin while it determines how traces of melamine got in to it.

A Chinese customer told Tatua’s agent two weeks ago that melamine had been detected in its product in China.

Further tests were done in both in China and New Zealand, and results on September 22 and 23 confirmed contamination at less than four parts per million.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), inspected the factory on September 24.

Tatua chief executive Paul McGilvary told NZPA today the company’s own investigation detected no melamine in its raw milk.

The company is now working with the NZ Food Safety Authority on a traceback project to determine where the melamine came from.

The traceback was expected to canvass whether the melamine was introduced to the raw milk, either by farmers using insecticides containing cyromazine, an insecticide which breaks down to melamine in mammals and plants, or feeding dairy cows cheap imported feeds such as palm kernel contaminated with cyromazine or its metabolite, melamine.

This is serious, and Tuatua has done the right thing in suspending exports and working with the NZFSA to find out where the melamine came from.

But the risk at the moment is more in the perception than reality and as I said in a post on this issue  on Saturday it’s important to keep it all in perspective.

The poisoned milk scandal has raised awareness of what might be in the food we’re eating which is good, but we need to be careful about causing needless hysteria over “contamination” of food by elements in tiny amounts which won’t cause any harm.

Inquiring Mind  rightly points out the need for oversight of all stages of the supply chain as a result of this.

No Minister  regards this as seriously serious.

Could it breach the EFA?


I don’t usually buy any of the “weaklies” but I had time to spare in Wanaka last week and noticed Helen Clark, living with giref . . . on the cover of the Womans Weekly and bought it out of curiosity.

The story about being fit and the death of mountain guide Gottlieb Braun-Elwart was much as I’d expected but then I noticed this:

And I saw red because I thought that although the photos and story were legitimate journalism, the logo was directly soliciting votes.

I hadn’t bothered to look at anything else in the magazine and it was only when trying to find the story again to blog on it that I noticed a story about Jenny Shipley with the same logo and realised that I’d got the wrong message. The logo wasn’t being used to solicit votes for Labour but to highlight the healthy heart message.

But if my first impression on seeing it with a picture and story of Helen Clark was that it’s an election message, is the magazine inadvertently breaching the Electoral Finance Act?

Sky hasn’t fallen


The New Zealand Super Fund lost $880.75 million in the year to June which is an eye watering amount for most of us.

However, it doesn’t signify the sky has fallen.

The long term trend for investments like the Super Fund is upwards but there will always be short-term fluctuations which means every now and then there will be bad results like this one.

NZ food less trusted


Chinese people are less likely to trust New Zealand food in the wake of the melamine milk poisoning scandal. 

Just over half (51.2 percent) of respondents said they were now less likely to trust New Zealand brands of dairy or other food products than they did before. However, New Zealand still came second when consumers were asked to rate which country’s food products were the most trustworthy – behind the European Union but ahead of the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and China in that order.

That New Zealand food is still regarded as trustworthy is some consolation but:

Sinogie Consulting chief executive Bruce McLaughlin, who is based in Shanghai, said he was surprised New Zealand’s reputation as a food producer had not suffered more.

“People are well aware that it was Fonterra who was involved with Sanlu,” he said.

It was luck not judgement that Sanlu in which Fonterra has a stake wasn’t the only company which used poisoned milk and there are 21 other brands with similar problems. 

Given that, if I was Chinese I’d find it very difficult to trust any food at all and I’m taking a great deal more interest in the fine print on labels when I’m in the supermarket to ensure I’m not inadvertently buying food from China.

Update: Roarprawn notes that the company carrying out the survey is working for our competitors.

Wang’s wrong about Wong


Act candidate Kenneth Wang has put up billboards like this in Botany:

Act candidate Kenneth Wang and his billboard, which he says offers a 'two for the price of one' deal for the Botany electorate. Photo / Richard Robinson


Act should be upset with him because it’s the party vote which counts and he’s telling people to vote National with their party vote.

And National’s candidate Pansy Wong is upset with him because she thinks the billboard breaches the EFA and because:

Neither does Mrs Wong think her electorate wants “more Chinese MPs” to represent them.

“Botany is a multi-ethnic electorate and residents will vote on the strength and commitments of the candidates beyond our skin colours.”

The billboard is telling people to not vote for Pansy in the electorate so it won’t have to be counted in her candidate’s budget, but if it’s suggesting people vote National with their party vote it ought to have National authorisation and would have to count in the party’s overall budget.

Apart from that, I’ve never understood why Act stands in electorates which it probably won’t win but might split the vote and allow the Labour candidate through the middle.  It’s doing the same thing in Wellington Central where Heather Roy may split the vote with Stephen Franks and make it easier for Labour to take the seat.

 Hat Tip: No Minister

Rules don’t apply to NZ First?


When Pita Sharples complained that a New Zealand First staff member had heavied the Maori Party over voting against censuring Winston Peters I asked if the staffer was employed by the party or parliamentary services.

Tim Donoghue  has found that the employee was Tommy Gear and:

Mr Gear, who has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from Parliamentary Service for a job many in NZ First know little about, did not return calls yesterday.

I suppose a party that thinks it can get away with not repaying the $158,000 it stole from the public purse before the last election by saying it’s donated the money to charity thinks it can also get away with its staff who are paid by parliamentary services doing its political work too.

Hat Tip: The Hive

More problems with milk


The Phillipines government has ordered that three Anchor brand flavoured milk products be removed for testing.

The Philippines’ Bureau of Food and Drugs had initially ordered seven Fonterra products be tested for melamine, the chemical found in Chinese milk products including infant formula, which has caused kidney complications and at least four infant deaths.

But during the weekend Philippine officials limited this to three Anchor Wam flavoured-milk products – Mango Magic, Orange Chill and Strawberry Spin – which the bureau said were not produced in New Zealand.

Officials had initially also included Fonterra’s Anchor Lite milk, Anlene low-fat milk, Anmum Materna and Anmum Materna Chocolate, but removed them from the list because the products were manufactured in New Zealand.

A Fonterra spokesman said yesterday that the products involved were made with milk from New Zealand, which had been repackaged in China.

Why would you go expose yourself to the expense and risk of repackaging in China something produced and processed in New Zealand?

What about Jill?


New Zealand First deputy leader Peter Brown told a campaign meeting that New Zealand doesn’t want immigrants from countries with a class system or where women are subservient to men.

There is more than a little irony in this statement coming from a man who came from Britain. But if he didn’t see that he probably wouldn’t recognise the contradiction between his words and the inherent sexism in this statement either:

In this country “Jack is as good as his master, and Jack’s wife is as good as Jack”, he said

Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that in New Zealand women are individuals in their own right, with their own names and not just appendages to men.

Hat Tip: Keeping Stock

UPDATE: Keeping Stock has a caption competition.

UPDATE 2: Ex-expat  also takes issue with the racism in Brown’s comments.

Concern over unchecked powers


The ODT is uneasy about the Search and Surveillance Powers Bill.

On the one hand, the police must be able to act quickly and effectively to combat crime in this electronic age.

But they must also work within defined parameters.

Freedoms acquired over centuries can be jettisoned in a trice if great care is not taken in the devising and drafting of new legislation.

The nature and extent of the parameters in the proposed Bill – and how they would work in practice – are as yet unclear.

This is cause for some uneasiness.

Enabling police to act more quickly in urgent situations is a good thing, but there is a need for caution if the checks on their powers which exist under current legislation will be lost.

Aiming for $150 lambs


Federated Farmers is launching a campaign to raise the average price of a lamb to $150 in five years.

That’s around three times the price paid last season and nearly twice what’s expected this season.

Feds says better returns will come for efficiencies and rationalisation in the supply chain and that farmers will need to commit to supply contracts with meat companies, and spread the killing season.

The sheep and lamb kill will be down by about nine million head this season. That will leave a lot of spare capacity at freezing works which will force rationalisation on meat companies.

But committing to contracts and spreading the season are easier said and done because unless you have irrigation and/or scope, when you sell is dependent on feed which varies with the rainfall.

The demand for by-products also impacts on farmer returns. One reason lamb prices were so low last season was that prices for wool, pelts and tallow were well down too.

40 more sleeps . . .


. . . until the election and the latest poll is still trending blue.

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