Who’s to blame?


The ugly picture painted by Treasury’s latest figures  can’t all be blamed on the turmoil in world financial markets.

Treasury has painted a very ugly economic picture for the incoming National government with cash deficits increasing, growth shrinking, tax revenue diminishing and unemployment rising.

Surely some of the blame for this can be laid on the failed policies of the noughties, if only because if labour was in power they’d be sure to blame it on the “failed” policies of the 80s and 90s.

Independence key to progress


Macdoctor wondered if he and Roarprawn  are the only ones to apprecitate John Key’s cleverness in offering ministerial roles to the Maori Party.

Phil Goff does too and he’s a wee bit tetchy about it:

Mr Goff said the Maori Party had decided to “bind” itself to National.

“It has made this decision notwithstanding the fact that in every Maori seat, voters on the ground gave the majority of the party vote to Labour, outpolling National by six to one.”

Rather than binding itself to National, the Maori Party would be showing it is independent of Labour and therefore establishing it as the only centre party in parliament (one-man vanity vehicles don’t count).

Keeping Stock  points out that only 55% of those on the Maori roll voted.

As only about half those eligible choose to be on the Maori roll that leaves a lot more Maori who didn’t vote for Labour than did, but that’s irrelvant now anyway. Labour lost the election and is in opposition, National won and is in a position, with or without the Maori Party’s support to help the Maori people.

That’s what the Maori Party is in parliament to do and if they turn their backs on this opportunity they’ll be letting them down, binding the party to Labour consigning it to the wasteland of the left occupied by the Greens.

Country car



The petrol station attendant said, “You from the country?”


I followed his eyes from the mud-encrusted tyres, up the dusty sides to the number eight wire which does duty as a radio aerial and grinned weakly. I’d meant to wash the car before I left home just as I always mean to give it the regular valet service it undoubtedly deserves. But regular seldom translates into frequent and who would notice if it did when I live on an unsealed road?


When it’s dry the cleanest car will be dusty again by the time it’s driven the first 100 metres from our cattle stop. And if it’s wet the sides will be splashed with mud before I’ve even made it to the gate.


This explanation for exterior mess does not however, excuse the interior muddle caused by the debris which gathers inside the vehicle. I could justify the sunglasses, AA book, maps, first aid kit, box of tissues, duster, CDs, sunscreen, umbrella, child’s emergency bag, pens and small change. Even the old sack in the boot might be excused as being prepared for an as yet unencountered emergency.


But I have no excuse for the shopping lists, hair bands, logbook last used in February 1988, long-lost toys and the other yet to be discarded detritus of family life.


It’s just as well the car is generally regarded as on-road transportation because if keeping it respectable is difficult trying to keep farm vehicles clean and tidy is bordering on the impossible.


The raddle, stock books, tools, rope, dog chains and other less easily identifiable necessities of farm life to be found in the cab accumulate so fast they might well be regarded as fittings. Then there’s the dust and mud and worse which collect inside and out which are an inescapable by-product of working outside in all weathers.


None of this matters when the vehicle is used solely for farm work and the driver is dressed appropriately. But it can leave those using it for other duties in better clothes decidedly the worse for the encounter as I discovered when I took the truck to town and arrived with a broad and dirty stripe where my once white blouse had met the seat belt.


But my worst trip in the truck was one with a toddler at my side and our second child only a few week’s from birth. All went well until I tried to get out. After a brief and fruitless struggle with the door I remembered my farmer had mentioned it sometimes stuck.


His advice in that case was to unwind the window and open the door from the outside. That was all very well for those with the required length of arm and upper body strength but I lacked both.


The only alternative was to get out the passenger door which was easier said than done. Trying to squeeze a pregnant belly past the steering wheel and toddler’s car seat to the other side was quite an act.


The fragile grasp I had on my sense of humour wasn’t helped when having done it, I met the eyes of an onlooker who was coping with an advanced case of hilarity caused by my antics.


I remembered this when my farmer needed the car and offered me the truck in its place a couple of weeks later and decided to stay at home.

Unit pricing – yes please


If 700 grams of whatever costs x and 1.3kg costs y which is cheaper?

I stand in the supermarket faced with this equation and go back to school maths classes with trains travelling in opposite directions and different speeds and I know there’s going to be a crash because my mind just goes blank.

Because of that I’m with Consumer magazine which has made a call for retailers to display unit prices.

Buying two packs of 100 teabags could be cheaper than one 200 pack, but it was harder to figure the best deal when comparing such things as 700gm and 1kg blocks of cheese, it said.

Consumer said manufacturers and supermarkets did not make it easy to compare prices and sometimes smaller packs worked out cheaper than large packs or bulk items.

Even if it didn’t save me money, I’d welcome the move as it would free me from from the stress of revisiting those long ago maths lessons.

Meandering mint


Deborah has been growing mint over at In a Strange Land and she’s very sensibly contained it in a pot.

That’s what I ought to have done when I took a few roots from my mother’s garden after she died.

Instead I just popped them into the garden where they grew and grew and grew and now the mints has taken over the rest of my herbs and is threatening the vegetable garden too:


Never too late


It’s supposed to never be too late to say sorry, and there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind when presented with new evidence which shows your previous stance was wrong.

So I’m not going to criticise Phil Goff because he’s admitted Labour got the Electoral Finance Act wrong.

But I’d be very interested in what he knows now that the party didn’t know a year ago when so many people and groups provided so much evidence that it was  a dogs breakfast and an attack on democracy.

And like Keeping Stock, I wonder if his new deputy and former Minister for Common Sense agrees with him.

That aside, I am confident National will show more common sense, graciousness and understanding of the importance of cross-party support for constitutional matters when drawing up the replacement than Labour did in ramming through the original.

NZ 5th in gender equality


New Zealand is ranked fifth in an international list of countries which have closed the gender gap.

Norway heads the list, and three other Scandanavian countries dominate the ‘Gender Gap Index’, which monitors progress in political, education and economic spheres.

New Zealand came fifth and was the first non-Scandanavian country after Finland, Sweden and Iceland.

130 countries were monitored. The UK rated 13th and Australia 21st.

Ranking tells only part of the story, being not as good as perfect isn’t bad and being better than appalling isn’t good.

I take it the ranking looks at women’s participation, but I wonder how we’d all rate if it also looked at men’s involvement in what have been, and maybe still are, predomiantly female roles and activities?

Leadership of the past


The ODT editorial is headlined Labour’s odd couple  and while it acknowledges the strengths of Phil Goff and Annette King, it also sees weanesses:

Mr Goff is justly proud of his blue collar constituency and his representation of it, but he also has a first class honours degree in political studies and worked for his education at hard manual labour.

He is no ivory tower liberal intellectual; indeed, one view of his appointment as leader might be as a desire by the Labour caucus for a more conservative party, closer to its roots.

The elevation to deputy leader of Annette King – another bright spark but of similarly conservative background – adds authority to the argument.

Both are confident, forceful debaters in Parliament, have succeeded in tough portfolios, and will ensure the tyros on the Government benches face a vigorous Opposition.

But Mr Goff is 55 and Mrs King 61.

When the next general election is scheduled to be held, they will not be able to be represent the fresh young face of Labour to the electorate.

John Key and Bill English will only be 50 and many on National’s front bench will be younger.

More than half the electorate will be similarly younger.

The decision by Helen Clark (58) to resign immediately as leader, and for Dr Cullen (64) to follow suit, cannot be regarded as other than actions motivated principally by self-interest, and humanly understandable.

To give them credit their immediate resignations gave a clean break, prevented the instability which would have come from the limbo between the election loss and inevitable leadership change and also gave Labour some positive oxygen in the news.

But in three years’ time, let alone in six, the causes which motivated their idealism and political careers (likewise those of Mr Goff and Mrs King) – anti-war activism, feminism, environmentalism, anti-nuclearism, opposition to apartheid, the rise of the Maori rights movement – will have ceased to have resonance either to a regenerated Labour Party or to the wider public.

There will be an entirely new range of concerns to keep the 30 and 40-somethings interested in politics.

In Miss Clark’s case, especially, there seems to have been no prior effort made by the caucus or the party to take the time to carefully assess the election prospects, consider the possibility of loss, and frame a new leadership to take Labour into the future and match National on its own terms.

Such a change should have been planned 12 months ago, and time given for both wings of the party to mull over the options.

Could that ever be done without destabilising the caucus?

Nor does the Goff/King leadership represent a response to the revitalising of party membership, which has been taking place these past two or three years, now reflected in the 13 new MPs elected on Saturday.

Mr Goff and Mrs King, able as they are, echo a leadership of the past 15 years, not of the future.

Positioning David Cunliffe as the party’s finance spokesman implies that he may well eventually become the leader, in the absence of Steve Maharey.

If the argument that Miss Clark and Dr Cullen’s abrupt resignations were intended to ensure Mr Goff and Mrs King were elected as some kind of interim strategy, then Miss Clark has achieved what she intended in terms of who should succeed her.

In this context, Mrs King can only be regarded as a stop-gap deputy.

Mr Goff will seize the change he has been waiting for and will make the most of it: he will be a formidable Leader of the Opposition as the new Government settles in, and if National and Mr Key are unable to convincingly shape a coalition that reflects prospective New Zealand within the next three years, he may well have his best chance for the country’s top job.

But leadership of a political party is not just a matter of appearance; the notorious factionalism which the past deeply divided the Left has under Miss Clark’s warrant been contained.

She made a practice which has served the party well of promoting those who posed a threat to her, or otherwise bringing them inside the executive, rather than giving them room to plot outside.

There is no shadow of doubt, too, that the past nine years have seen a virtually leak-free Labour caucus, so Mr Goff and Mrs King have inherited a well-disciplined group.

Keeping it that way will be a challenge, but the fact that both Miss Clark and Dr Cullen will still be present is a form of guarantee for the new management team.

It is important for democracy and the country that a strong Opposition is available to test the Government.

Mr Goff and Mrs King have been given a chance to prove it, but the choice of them is one of exigency rather than succession planning.

It’s not their ages in itself because people a lot older than 55 and 61 could be intelligent and energetic leaders. It’s that the causes which motivated them are the causes of the past and after a relentlessly negative election campaign, which failed, Labour needs to be looking positively to the future.

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