Campaign openers

10/10/2008

National and Labour launched their campaigns on TV and radio tonight.

Who do you trust?

Helen Clark:

I believe I can offer the leadership which will keep taking New Zealand ahead. I know there’s been an incredible transformation in this country’s economy and society during the years I’ve been prime minister. I want us to continue making the changes that will make our families strong and our small country great.”

John Key:

“New Zealand has always been a great place to live, work and raise a family but the past nine years has become a story of lost opportunities.

“When the economy was going okay the Government failed to take advantage of that and reduce taxes, increase growth and financial security.

“You work hard, you do the right thing, you pay your taxes and you try to raise your family responsibly. You are entitled to expect the same level of commitment and responsibility from your government.”

The contrast couldn’t be greater.

One is refusing to face up to the most serious economic crisis in decades, ignoring the fact her government squandered the good years and left us unprepared for the bad and with no plan to get us out of the mess.

The other recognises the problem and that while we have a responsibilities, so too does the government.

Over at The Hive, Queen Bee notes the contrast in styles:

One is of hope and positivism, the other is largely negative and supposedly about trust.


Fonterra donates $8.4m to Chinese charity

10/10/2008

Fonterra has donated $8.4m ($US 5m) to a Chinese charity to establish a health care programme for mothers and babies in poor rural areas.

“We want to do what we can in China to help, particularly in areas around infant health and maternal issues,” Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier, told NZPA.

He today signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing with China Soong Ching Ling Foundation secretary Li Ning to fund the programme over five years.

It will set up community centres in rural and underveloped areas, with tools and resources to support prenatal and postnatal care, and provide information to ensure healthy pregnancies and babies.

Babies in poor and rural areas were some of the first reported to be affected by melamine-contaminated infant milkpowders sold by Fonterra’s Chinese joint venture, Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co, in which it held a 43 percent stake.

For more than a week reports on the numbers of babies who had become ill had remained at four dead, 12,892 infants in hospital, 104 with serious illness, and close to 40,000 others affected but not needing major treatment.

But Reuters reported this week the number of affected children has risen to nearly 94,000, 46,000 of them in Hebei province, where Sanlu is based, and neighbouring Henan province.

But Mr Ferrier said the $US5m donation was a gesture which should stand on its own as a reflection of the tragedy: it was not trying to link it to the milk contamination.

“Being associated with healthy food to infants…in the environment of this huge tragedy that has happened across the country, we thought that this would be a small gesture that Fonterra could show the broader Chinese community that we really care about children and their health,” he said.

“If we can help Soong Ching Ling Foundation particularly help infant health in rural areas where there’s the most poverty, that’s a great place to be helping out.”

The foundation already has a successful project for the safety of mothers and infants.

The new programme will build maternal and infant community hubs in China’s rural and underdeveloped communities, and will include exchange and teaching programmes to help give local health workers, obstetrical and paediatric doctors, and nurses in rural areas new opportunities to learn best practices in healthcare.

Fonterra has been the biggest exporter of milkpowder to China for 20 years and Mr Ferrier said it was strongly committed: “We are part of Chinese society”.

Sanlu was one of 22 companies which had its milk poisoned by melamine and because it is seen as a Chinese problem, Fonterra’s reputation has not been affected. However, as a shareholder, I am pleased the company is making this donation to help the people and I hope that the best practices include the advice that breast milk is best for babies.


Fairfax not in contempt

10/10/2008

High Court judge Tony Randerson and senior Judge Warwick Gendell have dismissed charges  of contempt of court laid against Fairfax Media over publishing transcripts of secret police recordings in relation to last year’s terror raids in the Ureweras.

Bomber comments on this at Tumeke!


Views on the poll

10/10/2008

Tim Selwyn at Tumeke! says no-one has told Centrebet about the latest Roy Morgan poll because the odds on Helen Clark winning have gone out to $4.50.

The Hive  notes The Greens & Act have earned their improved ratings.

No Minister   says this poll shows the Maori Party holds the balance of power.

Inquiring Mind  hopes it’s a rogue result.

Jafapete  says it’s game on.

Roarprawn also notes the Maori Party are king or queen makers.

Matthew Hooton has a poll of polls which is a little more comforting.

Cicero  is sceptical.

Frogblog thinks Roy Morgan is a sweet talker but wonders if the poll’s a rogue.

Tim Watkin says it’s out of step with other recent polls but John Key may have put an unlosable election at risk by trying not to rock the boat.

Bomber sees a seachange


SFO – no NZ First fraud

10/10/2008

The Serious Fraud Office investigation has found that there was no fraud involved in the doantions to New Zealand First from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers.

However, Director Grant Lidell said other laws may have been broken.


Everyone said the polls would tighten . . .

10/10/2008

And the latest Roy Morgan one certainly has.

National’s down 7 to 40.5% and Labour’s up 1 to 37.5%.

The Green Party is up 2.5 to 9%, NZ First is down 1 to 4%, Act is on 3.5% (up 2), the Maori Party is up .5% to 2%, Progressive is up 1 to 1% United is up .5 to 1% and others are up .5 to 1.5%.

While I don’t like the result, I’m even more puzzled by the confidence rating:

The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating at 108.5 points (up 5.5 points) has risen as the election campaign has begun with 48% (up 4%) of New Zealanders saying the country is “heading in the right direction” compared to 39.5% (down 1%) that say the country is “heading in the wrong direction.”

The Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence Rating (102.3 points, down 7.6 points) however has halted its recent climb dropping sharply as only 39% (down 7%) of New Zealanders say now is a “good time to buy” major household items.

The poll was taken between September 22 and October 5 which means it finished before the PREFU which showed the dreadful state of the nation’s books.

If anyone still thinks the country is heading in the right direction after that it is indeed proof that people ought to be required to pass a comprehension test before they’re allowed to vote.


Nats campaign opening on You Tube

10/10/2008

The Naitonal Party campaign opening is on You Tube.

It will screen on TV 1 at at 7.10 and be broadcast on RadioNZ Naitonal?) at 8.40.


Let the punishment fit the crime

10/10/2008

Champaign County Municipal Judge gave a defendent a tune up and offered him the chance to reduce his fine by facing the music.

But the defendent, who was charged with playing rap music too loudly on his car stereo, chose to pay the $US150 fine rather than accepting a reduction to $US35 if he spent 20 minutes listening to classical music.

Vactor, 24, lasted only about 15 minutes, a probation officer said.

It wasn’t the music, Vactor said, he just needed to be at practice with the rest of the Urbana University basketball team.

“I didn’t have the time to deal with that,” he said. “I just decided to pay the fine.”

Champaign County Municipal Court Judge Susan Fornof-Lippencott says the idea was to force Vactor to listen to something he might not prefer, just as other people had no choice but to listen to his loud rap music.

“I think a lot of people don’t like to be forced to listen to music,” she said.

She’s also taped TV shows for defendants in other cases to watch on topics such as financial responsibility. As she sees it, they get the chance to have their fine reduced “and at the same time broaden their horizons”.

I don’t know how effective these sentences are, but I like the way she tries to link the consequences to the actions which brought the defendents to court in the first place.

Or As Gilbert and Sullivan put it more poetically in The Mikado:

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time —
To let the punishment fit the crime —
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!


Portside

10/10/2008

The View

and the sea food platter

from Portside.

And as a bonus, you can watch the little blue penguins come ashore a few metres from the restaurant when you’ve finished your meal.


Let’s party

10/10/2008

New Zealand Universities Students Association and the youth wings of the major parties are encouraging young people to hold parties on election day to highlight the importance of voting.

Those doing so can enter a competition to win the services of bFM host Micky Havoc as DJ.

I wonder if you have to be young and whether party parties count?


Maori Party aims for 8%

10/10/2008

It’s the party vote that counts in MMP although at the last election the Maori Party got into parliament by winning four seats.

However, this time they’re not content with that – they’re aiming for all seven Maori seats and 8% of the party vote which would give them 10 MPs.

One of their policies is entrenching the Maori seats, but if they succeed in they’re aim for the party vote they’ll prove the seats aren’t needed.


Mums & babes at risk

10/10/2008

A review of maternity services in Wellington has concluded that poor relationships between doctors and midwives, a shortage of both these maternity specialists and poor emergency transfer procedeures are putting women and babies at risk.

However, Health Ministry officials and the independent review team said though there were opportunities for improvement, the region’s maternity care was “as safe as services anywhere else in New Zealand”.

As good as anywhere else is meaningless if anywhere else isn’t good enough.

Kathryn Ryan interviewed  Dr Lynda Exton, a Chirstchurch GP who has just published a book, The Baby Business ,in which she says women are more likely to die during child birth durning childbirth and babies are more likely to contract serious infections than any time in the last 30 years on maternity services.

Kathryn also spoke to NZ College of Midwives chief executive Karen Guilliland who disputed some of the figures and findings in the book.

The Press interviewed these two women and Dr Pat Tuohy, Ministry of Health chief advisor for child and youth health.

There is an international shortage of obstetricians and midwives. That situation has been worsened in New Zealand by changes to maternity services which began in the late 1980s and which have resulted in an exodus for GPs from obstetrics.

Apropos of this issue, it’s baby loss awareness week.


Women prefer brains to brawn

10/10/2008

Is this news?

Big muscles will get men far but it is the nerdy glasses that will take them the distance.

American researchers have found women prefer geniuses over dumb jocks whether, it is for one-night stands or long term relationships.

Mark Prokosch, from North Carolina’s Elon University says a lot of it is about subconscious choices.

A completely unscientific research project among women of my acquaintance found that it’s actually a lot about conscious choices.


Responsible start – ODT

10/10/2008

The ODT gives National’s economic plan a mixed review but says it’s a responsbile start and concludes:

Voters should consider, however, why after 10 years of favourable global economic conditions the country now faces “an ocean of red ink 10 years into the future”, as Mr Key says.

The answer is, of course, twofold but interlinked: the Clark Government decided to spend very large sums on subsidising wages and savings, increasing the bureaucracy and “future-proofing” superannuation, at the same time as a great many wage and salary earners went on a debt-fuelled spending spree.

Many will agree with Mr Key that economic recovery must be built on stronger fundamentals, such as improved productivity and a better environment for investment in jobs and growth, but can he and National part the sea of red ink and lead us to the promised land with this plan? It has a sense of confidence and responsibility about it, and some of the hard decisions that must be made have not been dodged, a rare approach before an election.

This is a stark contrast to Labour. They’ve done nothing when they’re supposed to be running the country now and say they need a couple of weeks to come up with a plan for what they’ll do if we’re silly enough to vote them back to ruin run it for another three years.

But there is much more it could do to improve the state of the books by removing or reducing the Clark Government’s extraordinary and costly range of benefits for the relatively comfortable and employed.

Mr Key and his colleagues need reminding that the Government’s books have until this year produced surpluses continuously since 1994, when National was in power – and after the Bolger government had taken seriously the need to reduce spending.

I am sure John Key and his colleagues don’t need reminding of that. But you only need to look at the what’s-in-it-for-me response to the economic package to work out why there is no axe wielding.

Labour have clung on to power with bad policy that was good politics. National won’t be able to do anything from opposition and good policy that is bad politics doesn’t win elections.

The key now is to find good policy that is also good politics so National gets elected to govern us out of the mess that Labour got us into and that’s not easy in these difficult times.


Where did the surpluses go?

10/10/2008

Dene Mackenzie asks why there’s been an $8 billion turn around from a $2 billion surplus to a $6 billion deficit in the national accounts.

You can read his answer in full here, but the essence is:

In 2005, Dr Cullen was crowing that his fiscal strategy involved meeting the cost of much of the Government’s capital spending from operating surpluses, rather than from borrowing.

“Some people argue that is acceptable to borrow to fund capital spending because that is what a household or corporate would do. However, it is dangerous to take these comparisons too far when applied to the Government.”

Many important areas of capital spending did not generate a direct monetary return or contribute directly to raising growth that could be used to offset the cost of extra debt, he said in the 2005 budget policy statement.

Economists spoken to yesterday were nervous about making comments that could be construed as political.

But, in general, they agreed funding infrastructure spending out of cash, rather than borrowing, contributed to a cash balance turning into a deficit.

The economists believed Dr Cullen was embarrassed by the growing surpluses and faced the choice of giving it back to the people through tax cuts or spending it.

Dr Cullen was a reluctant tax-cutter so he spent the money on infrastructure, policies like free early child care, Working for Families and KiwiSaver.

In short, he overtaxed us and wasted too much on redistributive election bribes rather than policies which would have improved economic growth.

I am not going to blame Labour for the global economic crisis but if they hadn’t squandered the good years we’d be in a much better shape to weather it.


Hopkins declares an interest

10/10/2008

This is one of those sentences I wish I’d thought of:

The brain is a strange machine. Some days it plods along, like a Christmas shopper loaded with presents they don’t need for people they don’t like. Other days, it flashes through the blue of its own sky like a Spitfire.

You’ll have to read the rest of Jim Hopkins’ column to understand it, but this one is pretty clear in isolation:

So I’m declaring an interest and standing aside from writing about the election and politics, much to the noble editor’s great relief, and yours too, perchance. There’ll be plenty of other people with axes to grind. For the next few Fridays, I’ll just focus on fun.

Declaring an interest and focussing on fun. That’s a pleasant change from many others who declare their boredom and focus on the tedious.


29 more sleeps . . .

10/10/2008

. . . until election day and Labour’s supposed to be governing but still hasn’t come up with anything to address the economic crisis.


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