EFA leads to target

October 7, 2008

Big News  reports that women dressed in black went to the home of Family First director Bob McCoskrie at the weekend, stuck about 1000 knives in his lawn and taped an intimidating note on his door.

It’s presumed they traced him because his home address is on Family First’s authorisation statements as required by the Electoral Finance Act.

It should be enough for the Electoral Commission to be satisfied that those who register with it are bona fide, there is absolutely no need for anyone else to know where they live.

MMP still a mystery

October 7, 2008

People’s understanding of MMP has improved but a survey  carried out by the Electoral Commission shows that it’s still a mystery to some.

Commission chief executive Helena Catt said it knew from past experience that levels of knowledge would keep increasing and peak on election day.

The results were pleasing in that this election could be the one taken with the highest levels of understanding since MMP was introduced, she said.

In the survey of 3000 potential voters, 67 percent correctly identified the party vote as more important than the electorate vote in deciding the numbers of MPs each party gets.

“Equally pleasing was finding that only a fifth think that MMP’s hard to understand, a significant shift from the quarter saying the same thing last year,” Dr Catt said.

Ignorance of MMP isn’t restricted to the voter in the street. I remember an interview with the leader of one of the wee parties (Jim Anderton I think) after a previous election who said he’d been horrified when one of his supporters gave him his electorate vote but gave his party vote to Labour.

But the knowledge that 33% still don’t udnerstand it’s the party vote that counts give some credence to the this morning’s post about it being better if some people didn’t vote.

Tax cuts trimmed

October 7, 2008

The red ink is worse than expected so National is scaling back its tax cuts.

“We have made some changes to our tax package in light of the news Michael Cullen dished up in yesterday’s pre-election fiscal update (Prefu),” Mr Key said.

“The thrust has not changed. But we are being realistic about what is fair and affordable in light of the mess Labour will be leaving behind it.”

Following on from the Labour tax cuts of October 2008, National would still be making further tax reductions on April 2009, April 2010 and April 2011.

“The largest chunk of this tax reduction will be provided on April 1 next year.

“For someone on the average wage, the actual amount of the tax cuts will be similar to that which we have previously signalled, and I will detail those numbers tomorrow.”

Guyon Espiner said on TV1 (not on line) he thinks the average income earner will still get around $50 a week off their tax but the upper income earners won’t get as big a cut as was expected.

How bad will it get?

October 7, 2008

Adolf Fiinkensein over at No Minister  thinks the dairy industry’s a bit off colour and it’s going to infect the rest of the country.

He bases his diagnosis on five symptoms:

1 Sliding world commodity prices for dairy products

2 The melamine scare in China and other Asian countries.

3 The world wide credit crunch caused in the first instance by the Democratic Party’s drive for ‘affordable housing’ for indigent blacks and the subsequent sub-prime fiasco.

4 Most of our major farm banks are Australian owned. (Australians don’t understand NZ agriculture)

5 Our trading banks’ attitude to risk and their habit of re-rating individual client risk from time to time.

I agree dairying is not at the peak of health it was a few months ago, but my prognosis is more positive than Adolf’s.

To address his points:

1. World prices for dairy products are going down but this is a correction after hitting a record high. They’re still well above the historical average and while they’re likely to be volatile in the short term they’re unlikely to go right back to where they were before the boom and the medium to long term outlook is positive. As Adolf notes the dollar is going down and that will help off-set any decline in commodity prices.

2. The melamine scare may actually help us because although Fonterra is a minority shareholder in San Lu, more than 30 companies were also victims of the poisoning. Because of that it’s regarded as a Chinese problem and companies which had used Chinese milk, in China and other countries, will be looking for suppliers whose milk they can trust – and one of the first they’ll come to is Fonterra.

3. The credit crunch is already having an impact. Mataura Valley Milk has put construction of its new plant near Gore on hold; planned dairy conversions are on hold and farmers are closing their cheque books. That will have a negative impact on the people who supply and service them but as long as the farmers have reasonable equity they’ll weather the storm.

4. Regardless of who owns them, the banks employ people who understand agriculture here and they’re not going to want to threaten their equity by doing anything which will put a farming business at risk if they can avoid it.

5. If banks are worried about their debtors, and they have reason to be, I think those who’ve borrowed for houses will have more to worry about than dairy farmers.

People who converted for this season or are in the process of converting for next season, who budgeted on a higher payout than is now expected and have little equity will be overstretched. However, one good thing about dairy farming is the cash flow. Unlike sheep, beef and cropping where you get one or two large payments a year, dairy farmers get paid each month and as long as the banks get their share of that they will probably be prepared to watch and wait.

As well as that, interest rates are likely to come down and providing the banks are reasonably confident of farmers’ performance in the medium term they will probably give them a bit of leeway in the short term to allow them to farm their way out of trouble.

That doesn’t mean everything on the farm is rosy, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was in the 1980s.

Then we’d been dependent on subsidies which were stripped away but the economy was still highly regulated; inflation was over 20% and interest rates were higher still.

We’ve adjusted to life without subsidies and are stronger because of it; and  in spite of Labour’s scorn for the “failed” polices of the 80s and 90s, they’ve left them more or less alone so the economy is freer and stronger. Interest rates are higher than desirable but they’re likely to come down and while inflation too is above the comfort level, it’s still well below the levels we faced in the 80s.

Dairying accounts for about 25% of our exports so Adolf is right that if its off colour the rest of the country will catch the bug. There’s no doubt the economy is sick,  and dairying will be affected, but because it was fitter to start with it’s better equipped to withstand the infection than most other sectors.

Cutting the tax cake

October 7, 2008

National: for every dollar in tax cuts there is almost a dollar for increased expenditure on priority issues dear to the public’s heart – this is the nearest you’ll get to having your cake and eating it too.


Labour’s policy will take the cake you’ve baked, share it around and, when pressured, give you some of the leftovers.


ACT will provide no cake. They will however, give the tax cuts needed to enable you to purchase a dietary plan of your choice which depending on how well you manage your allowance may or may not include cake.


The Maori Party will hold a hui and invite you to share the cake your bring as koha.


New Zealand First will ask you to pay for cakes that it will sell, give away or eat themselves as its leader sees fit.


The Green Party will legislate so you have to make your own cake from low fat, low sugar, high fibre, home-grown organic ingredients and share it with your neighbours.


The Progressive Party will nationalise all the bakeries then force you to eat badly made state baked cake.


The Libertarianz will ask, “Why do we have to have cake anyway?”


More time on forms than farm

October 7, 2008

Does this sound familiar?

Ask any farmer, and the complaint is the same: “Bloody paperwork. I spend more time filling forms than I do looking after my animals. It drives me to distraction.” I’ve heard those self-same words more times than I care to remember (Magnus Linklater writes).

It could be New Zealand and any business and I suspect it’s the same the world over however, the writer is referring to farming  Britain.

You can read the rest of the column here.

Lessons from China

October 7, 2008

The melamine milk poisoning has highlighted China’s defects but of course there is much to admire in that country.

Roderick Deane found lessons we could learn  from China on a recent visit.

And Kathryn Ryan interviewed David Speary  a New Zealand teacher who spent seven years at a provincial Chinese training college.

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