Melamine crisis fuels demand for Fonterra


Demand for Fonterra milk powder has increased in Aisia in the wake of the melamine poisoning scandal in China.

Fonterra Australia’s managing director Bruce Donnison said the company had had numerous enquires from Asian buyers seeking an alternative supply of milk powder.

Separate to its Sanlu investment, Fonterra has been the biggest foreign exporter of milkpowder to China for nearly 20 years.

It has recalled only one batch of its own branded products, some Anmum Materna milkpowder for pregnant women, which was made with Sanlu milk.

It’s fortunate that the melamine poisoning is seen as a Chinese problem and that Fonterra’s well deserved reputation for high quality standards means its produce is still in demand.

Get out of my shower


One of the downsides of rural life is poor water pressure.

On good days we can have a reasonable shower. But if the cows are in paddocks near the house the demand for water in troughs competes with that for the house so pressure drops and if someone’s filling the sprayer from the big hose in the yard there’s no water for a shower at all.

Because of that the new regulations which are going to dictate how powerful your shower can be isn’t going to affect me in practice but I still object on principle.

The new regulations are among amendments to the building code and cover hot water systems and will require the flow rate in showers is about half of what you get now.

Nick Smith says:

Hundreds of thousands of people who start each day with a good drenching in their showers will be shocked to learn Labour wants to make such little luxuries illegal over time.

“There is no rhyme or reason to these regulations. One’s house size should not affect how much water you can use in your shower. This silly regulation particularly discriminates against families. In addition, people often shower for longer when water flows are weak, so savings end up being minimal.

“Households with solar, wetbacks or heat pumps may be using negligible electricity to heat their water. It is illogical to put restrictions on shower flows when no restrictions are put on bathing which uses significantly more energy. These regulations apply even if you’re not connected to the national grid or town water supply.

“National is all for efficiency and that is why we back improved home insulation, solar hot water, and heat pump technologies. These regulations are a misguided attempt at efficiency. What they really are is about using less. We don’t have to be so green that we can’t be clean.” 

“People should be free to use as much water as they like when showering, provided they don’t expect others to pay for their profligacy. User-pays is a far better approach than nanny state.”

Water and energy efficiency are noble aims but once again Labour and the Greens are going for one-size fits all compulsion rather than allowing people to choose how they reduce their power and water consumption.

When a government can’t leave us alone in the privacy of our own bathrooms they’re way past their use by date.

No Minister is similarly unimpressed.

How much is enough?


Tracy Watkins thinks John Key is offering enough:

A year ago, Key might have risked over promising and under delivering on those amounts.

But that was a vastly different world..

The failure to deliver more may peel off some soft support among those who were leaning toward National but, because of Working for Families, will not be a whole lot better off.

But the rest will probably agree with Key that it’s a package that’s right for the times.

So is it enough? You’d have to say yes.

Colin Espiner says the tax plan is tailored for the times.

Herald commentators  aren’t impressed:

John Armstrong says families on low wages are not so well off with National but:

Overall, the tax package wins plaudits for being fiscally responsible. It won’t win big in electoral terms because of its generosity – someone on $80,000 only gets $6 a week more than they would from Labour’s package.

As for National’s plan for rescuing the (sinking) economy, there was nothing new today. We’re still waiting.

Audrey Young says:

National’s tax package does what it promised in some respects, doesn’t meet promises in other respects and offers some complete surprises.

One of the surprises was the promise of an independent earner rebate. . . .

. . . But the biggest concern will be National’s commitment to reverse what many see as protections in the KiwiSaver scheme that Labour recently passed.

They stopped a loophole allowing employers to effectively deny KiwiSaver employees pay increases on the basis that they have done deals on KiwiSaver contributions.

National sees this through different glasses, giving employers freedom to give non-KiwiSaver employees pay rises equivalent to their contribution increases to KiwiSaver employees.

Excepting one is pay rise for today, another is one you can cash in only at 65.

It is a recipe for exploitation and unfairness.

Brian Fallow says:

At first glance the big transfer of money in National’s tax package is from KiwiSaver accounts into people’s pockets.

In the short term that gives them more to spend at a time when private consumption is flatlining.

But you can’t have your cake and eat it.

. . . Other elements of the plan are also disappointing from the standpoint of lifting our long-term growth rate – less of an increase in infrastructure spending, and the scrapping of the research and development tax credit.

At least it does not make the rather grim fiscal outlook released by the Treasury any worse. But it is only marginally better.

 Inquiring Mind has done a round up of comments on the blogosphere, which covers a range of views, some of which as he puts it can charitably be described as a partisan perspective.

UPDATE: goNZofreakpower  and Dave Gee  weren’t on Inquiring Mind’s list but are also worth a look.

UPDATE 2: So is Liberty Scott.

Blood on the streets


At least one person was killed and more than 400 people were injured in a confrontation between police and political protesters in Thailand.

It makes our election campaign very tame by comparison – and that’s something for which we can be grateful.

How big is government?


Luke H at SOLO printed off a list of the government departments, state owned enterprises, councils and quangos – all 407 of them – and it took nine A4 pages of normal print.

If you can’t visualise just how much that is pop over here to read the list and see the pictures.

But don’t even try to think about the paper work each of these 407 bodies generate with their rules, regulations, reports . . . it’s too depressing.

The economic plan


National’s economic plan includes:

* a boost for superannuation. John Key said:

“Because superannuation is calculated on the average wage, our economic package and our commitment to maintain superannuation rates at 66% of the average wage will see a subsequent rise in the incomes of retired New Zealanders receiving superannuation.”

* enduring and affordable Kiwi Saver.

National Party Finance spokesman Bill English says changes announced to the KiwiSaver scheme are designed to ensure it is fair and affordable for New Zealand now and in the years ahead.


“National’s KiwiSaver package strikes the right balance between savings and supporting economic activity in today’s environment.


“National will ensure that KiwiSaver is accessible, and contains incentives, to enrol and retain as many New Zealanders as possible.

* no added borrowing and no service cuts:

National’s Finance spokesman Bill English says the party’s economic management plan begins to improve the Crown’s financial position and the longer-term productivity of the economy through careful revenue and spending initiatives.

“National will not slash spending at a time when people are looking to the government for a sense of security. In developing our economic management plan, we have concentrated on the fundamentals of the economy, and particularly on laying the foundations for a future increase in productivity.

“We are also beginning to peg back the operating deficits revealed in the pre-election fiscal update.

“New operating allowances will be the same for National over the next three years as they would be under Labour. National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.”

* a tax package  for the times. John Key said:

“Taxes affect decisions to work, save, spend, or invest, so tax can have a big impact on economic growth and future prosperity.

“Our tax policy is one of responsible reform. People want to know that valued public services will be protected and that effort will be rewarded. Business wants to know that competitiveness will be maintained and that consumer confidence will be supported.”

Mr Key has reiterated that the package announced today requires no additional borrowing, or cuts to frontline services to fund it.

“There is, in fact, a small saving to be made, of $283 million, which will be used to begin reducing the operating deficit.

* discipline, growth and security

National Party Leader John Key says the challenges facing the New Zealand economy require a focus on disciplined government spending and a plan for future growth.

. . . “The surest way out of the red ink is for the New Zealand economy to grow faster. I am absolutely committed to ensuring that happens, and today I am announcing tax and fiscal policies which demonstrate my intent.

“New Zealand’s economic recovery must be built on improved productivity and a better environment for investment in jobs and growth. To ensure this happens, New Zealand needs a government with a strong economic management plan.

“Our economic management plan will provide the needed fiscal stimulus while strengthening New Zealand’s position in the longer term by boosting economic growth.”

National’s plan has five essential components:

1. Improving productivity across the public sector by ensuring a strong focus on the provision of frontline services.
2. Stopping the massive rise in head office bureaucracy that Labour has encouraged, and we will deal with the regulatory and compliance issues that smother Kiwi businesses.
3. A programme of ongoing tax reduction. We will pass these tax changes into law before Christmas.
4. A step-up in infrastructural investment in vital national assets like roads and an ultra-fast broadband network.
5. An unwavering focus on lifting education standards. New Zealand simply can’t afford to tolerate the long tail of underachievement in our schools.

“I have always believed that given the opportunity to choose a path to a more successful, enterprising, and prosperous nation, New Zealanders would sign up to policies that would bring a brighter future. But with the current world economic situation, the choices have become starker.

“The Treasury forecasts released earlier this week paint a very bleak picture of the future, for a long way ahead, if we remain on our current course, if we keep our current policies, if we keep our current government.

“My colleagues and I are offering a very different way forward. It involves some clear choices. It requires us, as a nation, to be prepared to back ourselves. That is what the package that I have put before you today is about.”

Voters have been offered a clear choice – stick with Labour which got us into this mess, or opt for National which has a plan to get us out of it.

In commenting on National’s plan, Keeping Stock says:

Key’s comments on us, “as a nation, to be prepared to back ourselves” are excellent, and provide a strong contrast with Labour’s strategy – to go away and think about the situation some more – known in some circles as “paralysis by analysis”.

The choice is clear – the party of procrastination or the one of action.

Taxpayers buy $40m high country station


The government has just spent $40 million  buying St James Station in Canterbury.

The purchase of the 78,196 hectare St James Station, in the central South Island, envelopes the largest Crown pastoral lease in the country.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the purchase protected the precious land from farming and development.

The value reflects well on the good stewardship of the Stevenson family who have owned the property since 1927.

All pastoral lessees will be pleased that the price paid recognises the value of the lessees’ interest in their properties.

But many will also be disappointed that such a large tract of land will be lost to farming.

Nats tax cuts less but more


National’s tax cuts are lower than planned before the mess Labour’s made of the economy became evident, but still more than we’d get from Labour.

Workers on the average wage will get an extra $18 a week from April 1 next year under National’s tax package, and they will receive $47 a week more than they do at present by 2011.

The tax cuts would be funded mainly through cuts to the KiwiSaver scheme.

. . . Incorporating Labour’s October 1 cuts the same worker would be $47 better off by April 1, 2011.

The package outlined by Mr Key included movements in both the thresholds that different rates started and drops in the actual rates themselves.

It also included a tax rebate of $10 per week for taxpayers earning between $24,000 and $50,000 who do not receive anything from Working for Families.

Labour, which ought to have known more about the state of the economy, is going to take two weeks to adjust its policy in light of the bad outlook. But National to whom the amount of red ink would have been a bad surprise has managed to get its policy out in just two days.

Who’re we going to trust – Labour, who already knew what was happening and still don’t know what to do about it, or National who have assessed the situation and acted?

Too many groups too little for causes


Last month was blue for prostate awareness, and orange for atrthritis, this month it’s pink for breast cancer, it was Hospice Appeal last Friday and there was an envelope in yesterday’s mail for Plunket.

Almost every time I go to town there’s someone selling raffles outside the supermarket and hardly a week goes by that there isn’t someone on the street or the phone asking for money for a very worthy cause.

The Manawatu Standard  wonders if it’s all getting too much:

Every week is another awareness week – if not for cancer, for some other health, disability or learning difficulty group.

If you have a conscience, your pay packet is constantly clobbered to help these genuinely good causes that need our support.

What worries me is that there are so many support groups in New Zealand now, all doing pretty much the same thing for different-flavoured causes. All with administrators organising volunteers, many with PR companies helping produce professional media kits, many with little widgets for the public to buy, to wear, to keep, to raise awareness to raise funds to help. Every day brings another awareness day, week, month, year.

Nobody’s going to like this and nobody’s going to have the stomach to do it. Feelings will be hurt. But honestly, what’s needed isn’t so much a rosy glow of pink lights over Palmerston North as a strong searchlight review of the whole fundraising industry, to get rid of duplication and the constant blaring barrage to give to every cause going.

There’s also a compelling argument that support, treatment and research shouldn’t depend on donations from the generous. What are our taxes for, if not to look after New Zealanders?

There will always be a place, and a need, for private philanthropy but I do wonder if a little judicious rationalisation of the many worthy groups might mean lower overheads with less duplication which would require less time, energy and money spent on the organisations and leave more for the causes.

Only 3 parties at meet the candidates


Invercargill & National MP Eric Roy, Labour list MP Lesley Soper and Green candidate Craig Carson took part in a public election meeting  organised by the Southland Branch of the National Council of Women last night.

Where were the representatives of the other parties?

The Invercargill no-show comes on top of news that only six of the eight  parliamentary parties are going to be represented in a multi-party debate in Queenstown.

The wee parties’ MPs can’t be everywhere but if they can’t find candidates or other representatives who won’t disgrace themselves or their parties to turn up at election meetings then why should we take them seriously?

Aged Care still upset with EC


The chief executive of Healthcare providers, Martin Taylor, who said the Electoral Commission is in a “catatonic state  of inaction” earlier in the week repeated his complaints on Jim Mora’s Panel  (part 2)yesterday.

The aged care sector wants to highlight issues of concern but are concerned about breaching the Electoral Finance Act. They sought advice from the EC and were advised to consult a lawyer but because there is no case law they are still in the dark.

The fault lies with the EFA however, I understand Taylor’s frustration when the EC says it won’t make ruling until after the election.

That’s like being told to play a game although you won’t know the rules until the final whistle has blown.

Maori prefer Labour


A Maori TV/Baseline poll shows Maori still prefer Labour.

In previous MMP elections Maori voters have overwhelmingly supported Labour on the party vote, but this year the Maori Party is campaigning to capture it.

The Maori TV/Baseline Consultancy poll of 420 Maori voters on both rolls showed 52 percent would give their party vote to Labour, 20 percent to the Maori Party and 15 percent to National.

New Zealand First and the Greens both rated 5 percent, while United Future and ACT received less than 1 percent support.

Maori Party leader, Tariana Turia has said the party will consult members after the election about which, if any, of the two major parties they should support.

Who can we trust?


The ODT looks at the qualities we expect in a Prime Minister then says:

Miss Clark and the Labour Party have tried to base the thrust of their campaign on only one of these, “trust”, in one sense calling for voters to trust the experienced hands of the past nine years, and in another to distrust Mr Key for his inexperience and “flip-flops”.

But only the simple-minded with accept this criteria as all that is required.

Above all, as managers of the country’s economic fortunes, one characteristic voters should be looking for in a prime minister is the level of skill and experience of the commercial world they bring to government, as well as the choices they are likely to make in finance ministers.

There is reason to be wary of both Labour and National.

Michael Cullen has been an astute treasurer and a fortunate one.

Fortnunate yes, but would an astute finance minister overtax us for nine years in preparation for a rainy day and still have a bare cupboard when the storm breaks?

He has been lucky to have the whole of the past nine years overseeing an economy in generally prosperous times (although that prosperity has been built mostly on private debt), has been able to choose between banking the additional income or spending it (until 2005 he banked it; he has spent most of it since), and meeting the key policy proposals of Labour’s manifesto as well as rewarding its supporting parties.

Bill English was National’s treasurer in far more difficult, though improving, times, and comparatively briefly, but has shown a cool head in reining in some of his colleagues’ more extravagant expectations and has a background that should give reasonable confidence to voters.

Post-election, one of these men will face a world economic situation not paralleled in their lifetime or practical experience, with little extra cash in the bank and a period – possibly a decade – of difficult conditions and demands in the national economy.

Running the government in a period of austerity will be very much harder under MMP than meeting expectations in prosperous times.

Running a country is a bit like running a household or a small business, but with much bigger numbers. However, MMP complicates matters and adds to the costs. Policies are agreed to not because they’re good for the country but to secure support from the wee parties –  money for the racing industry, gold card, buy NZ made campaign, Families Commission . . .

31 sleeps . . .


. . . until election day and 19% of people  ought to have a comprehension test before they’re allowed to vote.

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