Still playing politics


John Key’s offer of a bi-partisan approach in the interests of the economy has been thrown back in his face by Helen Clark.

She was talking economy again today too, but in much less bipartisian tones.

“A change to a leader with the learner wheels on no longer seems as interesting as it might have, even a few weeks ago,” says Clark.

She said she welcomed Key’s offer, but played it right down, saying her team has already got it sorted.

“At the moment it’s something that’s being looked at by senior officials, and Bill English has been kept abreast of that.”

If experience leads to this sort of arrogance and pettiness we’re better off without it.

Immigrants welcome but can’t buy land


The Green Party policy welcomes immigrants but its economic policy  wants to stop them from buying land.

If someone from overseas buys land here they will almost certainly do it with foreign currency which is of benefit to our economy and it’s not who owns the land but what they do with it that matters.

Panelists at a farm forum I attended in July – two farmers, an accountant and a farm advisor, – were adamant that foreign investment in land was a good thing.

It boosted prices so vendors recieved more for their properties which they were able to reinvest elsewhere in the economy.

The new owners farmed the land so that they and/or their staff became part of the community contributing not just economically but socially too. If they chose not to keep the farm, it  was put on the market and available for another purchaser from New Zealand or elsewhere because no matter who owns it, they can’t take land away.

What people do with land is a matter for local and central governments through district and regional plans and the Resource Management Act. Foreign owners already have to satisfy the Overseas Invesment Commission before they buy farmland and that is a sufficient hurdle to ownership.

The Visible Hand in Economics also has questions about restricting land ownership to New Zealanders.

Nats want bi-partisan approach to bank guarantees

John Key held a media briefing today to make a statement on our banking system and confirm that National will take a bi-partisan approach to bank guarantees.

Yesterday Fran O’Sullivan  stressed the danger to the New Zealand economy of not having a guarantee for wholesale deposits.

Michael Cullen said on Agenda this morning  that the government is receiving advice around a wholesale scheme but he didn’t seem to see any need for urgency.

Key was also careful to say he sees no imminent crisis, however he does see a need for action.

On the contrary, I remain convinced that, with the appropriate policy responses, our banking system can navigate the challenges that lie ahead in reasonable shape.


However, it is my view that the sooner we are able to resolve the current issues around the deposit guarantee scheme, the sooner we will give certainty to those involved in the banking sector, those who depend on our banks, and others, such as the Australian authorities who, because of the structure of our market, have a close interest in these developments.


At a time when confidence will play an important role in our economy, more certainty sooner, should be our goal.


I am, therefore, making this statement because I want to confirm to Helen Clark and her colleagues that the National Party is prepared to work with them to ensure that decisions can be made during this election period, when it would be too easy for politics to get in the way.

I also want to convey the importance of our government taking a proactive approach to settling the complex matters that are yet to be resolved.

. . . we need to be clear that the overall priority for New Zealand is the continued health of the New Zealand banking system.


I therefore today repeat my offer to Helen Clark that the National Party will support any sensible measures to protect New Zealand’s banking and financial system against the impact of the current international credit problems.


To the extent that these measures require further Crown guarantees, we are prepared to support them in a bi-partisan way.


To the extent that taking such measures would require agreements or actions to ensure that the banks bear their appropriate share of the burden moving forward, I offer our constructive engagement, with the intention of bi-partisan support.


If, for the reasons I have spelt out today, the Government accepts the need to find some form of agreement with the Australian Government about the framework for moving forward, then my colleagues and I will actively support that process.


I will ensure the personal involvement of myself or my colleagues in any discussions the Government wishes to have with the Australian Government in order to provide reassurance about the durability of any understandings that are reached.

The full statement is here.


First bbq of the season


It’s very pleasant to pass a Friday evening with good friends, a glass or two of wine (Charles Wiffen sauvignon blanc) and the first barbeque of the season.

However, just a wee quibble, having been to Argentina,  no food from a gas barbeque – not even fresh asapragus – can match that from an asado like this. . .

. . . which was cooked by an Argentinean friend for a party at our place in February.

Or this in Argentina:

Or this in Uruguay:

That didn’t take long


Hat Tip: goNZo Freakpower

Hat Tip: No Minister

Vote for just me.

Hat Tip: Macdoctor

New word from a glasshouse


I live in a glass house papered with typso typos.

It’s what happens when you type faster than you spell and proof read for sense so grasp the words but fail to notice that individuals letters have been transposed.

That means I am in absolutely no position to throw stones at other people’s typographical errors but I couldn’t resist this from Matt McCarten’s column in the HOS:

This is the first time most of us have seen Key in a prolonged setting where he was tested, in this case by the prime pinister.

Prime pinister – isn’t that delightful? Especially in this context where Helen Clark was trying to keep Key pinned down.

P.S. In light of John Ansell’s post on McCarten’s misnaming Key as Keys, I noted that the column gets the name right – but that like the typo may be due to the paper not the writer.

Chinese govt accepts partial responsibility for melamine poisoning


Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, has taken the rare step of saying the government has some responsibility for the poisoned milk scandal.

The government feels “great sorrow” over the crisis which has sickened more than 50,000 children, Wen said in an interview published in this week’s Science Magazine.

“We feel that although problems occurred at the company, the government also has a responsibility,” Wen said in the Sept. 20 interview posted on the website of the magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A Chinese version of the interview in the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper quoted Wen as saying the government had been especially lax in “supervision and management.”

“We will handle the incident sincerely and seriously, and draw deep lessons from it,” said Wen, who has won the admiration of ordinary Chinese citizens for his visits to the country’s poor rural areas and for rallying victims of the devastating May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province.

This is a big admission from the leader of a country which rarely admits the government makes mistakes.

But I don’t expect his contrition to extend to an acknowledgement that a lack of media freedom exacerbated the problems because the scandal was not widely publicised until long after the link between infant formula and babies becomeing ill was known.

Bets back polls


The punters, like the polls, are backing an election win for National.

The Australian bookmaker Centrebet is paying just $1.15 for John Key to be Prime Minsiter and $5 for Helen Clark to retain power and the odds have been changing in Key’s favour.

Centrebet is offering $A1.15 for a Key victory, which has steadily shortened from $A1.47 since betting opened in February, while Clark’s odds have lengthened from her opening price of $A2.60.

Centrebet’s political analyst Neil Evans said 90% of the close to $A200,000 ($224,500) bet on the race had been on a Key victory.

“It’s been one-way momentum,” he said. “Clark would have to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and I can’t see that rabbit coming at all. The people backing her are speculative punters, just because she’s out to a big price. But the people that are there to win, and win only, are betting National.”

The largest bet had been placed by an Auckland man a fortnight ago $A47,000 on a National victory at $A1.22, from which the punter stands to reap about $A10,000 profit.

“That’s a very, very big bet from a Kiwi with an Australian bookmaker and that’s as good a statement as you’ll get that New Zealand’s headed for a change of government.

. . . But Labour supporters can take heart that Centrebet got it wrong last time.

The day before the 2005 election, the bookmaker was offering $A1.65 on a Don Brash win, compared with $A2.10 for Clark.

Whether you’re polling or gambling you can monitor and measure the trends but there can still be upsets on the day, especially under MMP which isn’t a two horse race .

Cleaner without kids


You could almost feel sorry for the Green Party over the reaction to their population policy.

Except that like a lot of other Green initiatives, in spite of no doubt worthy intentions, it’s got lots of fish hooks and I’ll confess one of the reasons I took the bait was because it reminded me of the campaign by green (though not necessarily Green) people against disposable napkins.

Let me start with a confession: I used disposable nappies.

 When I say used I don’t mean wore because I don’t think they were invented until I was long past needing them. What I mean is, I used them for my children.

In mitigation I’ll add that for the first two it was only when we went out that I exchanged reusable cloth nappies for the convenience of disposables. With the third it was necessity which persuaded me to give up on the cotton ones because he had a brain disorder. That left him incontinent and by the time he was two the old cloth and safety pins just couldn’t cope with his bowel and bladder capacity so I turned to disposables which could.

Napkins are one of the things people like to kid you about when you’re pregnant but once the baby arrives you just do what has to be done with them and I never considered that to be worthy of debate.

However, that was before I came across no fewer than five separate articles in the space of a few weeks which did their best to convince me otherwise.

By the time I got to the end of the fifth diatribe I was beginning to think that choosing to drape my babies’ bottoms in disposables I was commiting a major crime against the environment.

My conscience was eased a little by a single contribution of the contrary viewpoint which sought to convince me that with everything involved in growing, harvesting and processing the cotton and turning it into napkins plus the water, power and soap powder used in washing them, cloth nappies might be even less kind on the environment that disposables.

However, my relief was short lived because these counter-arguments were made by a representative of the company which makes disposables and while I didn’t doubt his sincerity I couldn’t ignore the suspicion that the claims he made could be influenced to some degree by self-interest.

But even if he was biased, there was still some truth in the environmental impact of cloth nappies so either way I couldn’t win.

If I used reusables I wasted natural resources but so did disposables and that also left the problem of disposal because in spite of what their name implies one of the problems with disposables is their disposability, or lack of it.

Not that I ever thought about such things when deciding which nappies to use because whether I used cloth or disposables had nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with my children’s comfort and my convenience.

Once my son died I no longer had to worry about napkins, but the arguments are still raging – and each time I come across them I wonder if they do because it is women who are still much more likely to be involved in the purchase, use, laundering or disposal of napkins? Isn’t there something predominantly used by men which is equally problematic?

Obviously the environment would be better off without any napkins but until someone designs people who are born with the control which makes them unnecessary maybe anyone with the best interests of a clean, green world at heart would just be better not to have babies at all.

Do we want a circus?


The joy of political commentators like me would know no bounds as such an unwieldy motley crew of conflicting parties would be a magnificent circus to watch in action.

Of course, it would be a disaster in these economic times when a clear, single-minded approach is desperately required to the recession and international market collapse and, instead, New Zealand delivered itself a muddled, bickering coalition of the unwilling and the wilful.

Bill Ralston on what could happen if a silver, bronze and most of the other runners (Labour, Progressive, United Future, Green Party, New Zealand First, Maori Party)  beat gold (National) and the other runners who’d go with them – Act, United Future and Maori Party.

Is he being premature only putting the Green Party on the left when it isn’t announcing its preferred coalition partner until tomorrow?

No. They might be fooling themselves but when you look at their criteria for their preferred coalition partner they’re not fooling anyone else that they are seriously considering going with National.

And that’s one of their biggest weaknesses – if they were strong on the environment and moderate on social and economic policy they could sit in the middle and hold the balance of power election after election. But because they’re on the far left, their options, and their influence are limited to Labour.

20 more sleeps . . .


. . . until election day and not all the news is political.

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