Opera for Christmas

December 7, 2008

The Solid Energy Ensemble of Southern Opera brought their Spirit of Christmas to Oamaru this afternoon: one conductor, two pianists, 16 singers and 20 songs, and a sponsor not normally associated with the arts.

I’m not qualified to critique them but was captivated and was sitting with people who know a lot more about music than I do and they were impressed.

The concert was in the Opera House which is nearing the completion of its first major restoration and refurbishment since it was opened 101 years ago.

The project has been controversial as any costing $10 million would be, but the results, inside and out, are impressive.

opera-house


Triple tagged

December 7, 2008

I thought I’d been tagged twice but I was actually triple tagged and somehow overlooked the third tag which came from  goNZofreakpower .

(In my defence, WordPress has a malfunction with its links and any blog which has Homepaddock in its blogroll or gets one of my posts in its automatically generated possibly related posts turns up as a link so I can’t tell a genuine link and a random one).

Still, now I’ve caught up with the tag I’m  supposed to link to the person who tagged me, post the rules, share seven random or weird facts about myself and tag seven random people at the end of the post with their links.

Since I did that here  I’m not going to repeat it, not least because I don’t have the imagination or life experience to match the random facts which goNZo came up with 🙂         


Key tops Trans Tasman’s political roll call

December 7, 2008

Trans Tasman’s political roll call will be available to subscribers tomorrow but the print edition of the Sunday Star Times gives an edited version which puts John Key in the top spot with a score of 9/10.

Bill English follows on 8.5, Judith Collins, Tim Groser, Anne Tolley and Tariana Turia are third equal with 7.5.

Helen Clark, Pita Sharples, Murray McCully, Chris Finlayson, Paula Bennett and Phil Goff all score 7/10.

The SST reports that the lowest scoring National MP is Colin King on 2.

King, a former farmer and three times Golden Shears camp, took his roasting in good part, saying he “wouldn’t be a bit surprised” about the ranking. But he said while he might be invisable to some Wellington analysts, he’d doubled his election majority in Kaikoura and in his first term had followed the good advice of keeping his mouth shut and breathing through his nose. A log of his work had been “back room” and he was part of a “champion team”.

Trans Tasman’s rankings are determined by six parliamentary insiders. They are based on MPs’ performances in Wellington and doesn’t take into account the work they do in their electorates so King’s response is fair.

He was part of 2005’s large intake of new National MPs, not all of whom can be stars in the house. His electorate majority of 11,077 which was 57.8% of the vote, shows he’s won the support of people of Kaikoura which at 23,706 square kilometres is the fourth biggest general electorate in the country.

He was also 1.5 above the lowest MP in Trans Tasman’s rankings – Labour’s Ashraf Choudhary who dropped from 1 last year  to just .5/10 and he’s a list MP so can’t use the excuse of having an electorate to serve for his non-performance in parliament.


Williams jumped or pushed?

December 7, 2008

John Key said on Agenda this morning that he’d expect out-going Labour president Mike Williams to resign from his government appointed directorships.

Radio NZ  reportsthat he has already done so.

But Mr Williams says he was advised by the agency that oversees Crown owned companies, the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit or CCMAU, that his resignation was expected by ministers in the new government.

Mr Williams says he has now resigned from Genesis Energy, the New Zealand Transport Agency and GNS Science.

In a small country it id difficult to avoid appointing people who share your political affiliations and their ability to do what’s required is the most important thing.

However, there is a strong case for obviously partisan appointees to resign when the government changes and whether he jumped or was pushed Williams was right to stand down.


Key won’t be telling us what to do

December 7, 2008

National has too many urgent priorities to get distracted by social engineering initiatives, John Key said on Agenda this morning.

He used the call to ban smoking in cars as an example of this.

He’s not a smoker, he doesn’t like the habit, he supports the ban on smoking in bars because of the affect on staff and other patrons, but he said he’s not going to get distracted from the important issues with legislation telling people they can’t smoke in their own cars.

I have several vices but tobacco isn’t among them. I’ve always hated smoking, have never tried it and supported Labour’s initiatives to make smoking in enclosed public places illegal. That argument was simple, it was a health and safety issue where smokers’ rights came second to everyone else’s right to clean air.

But smoking is legal and legislating to stop people doing it in private is a step too far.

I listened to the discussion between Jim Mora and his guests on the panel on Friday  and understand the dangers of smoking in vehicles, not just to smokers but also to their passengers some of whom will be chidlren,  but would prefer education to stop it rather than compulsion.

One of the reasons Labour lsos the election was anger at the interference – real or perceived – by the state in the private lives of its citizens and John Key is wise to keep National from the murky waters of social engineering.

Sometimes, in spite of compelling arguments against something, we have to accept that the government can’t and shouldn’t take responsbility for everything we do, especially when it needs to stay focussed on far more pressing problems.

(A transcript of the Agenda interview  will be here soon).


Feeding the dog

December 7, 2008

acc


ACC & my part in the blow out

December 7, 2008

The ACC budget blow out is a very big number – a $1.3 billion short fall  in the earners’ account over three years on top of a similar hole in the non-earners’  account. But most of those big sums are a result of lots of little ones and I’ve contributed to two of them in the past month.

The first was because of a back injury.

It happened when I bent down while doing some housework. It’s something which has happened off and on for years and started after carrying my son in a front pack.

The school bus stopped about 700 metres from our house and when our daughter started school I thought it would be better for both of us if we walked to and fro rather than driving. We had to take her younger brother too but that was in the days before the heavy-duty super buggies available now and the buggy we had wasn’t built for the unsealed road.

Dan had a brain disorder which left him with multi-handicaps and he couldn’t hold his head up and therefore couldn’t be put in a back pack. However, I had a front pack which supported his head so strapped him in and off we went.

That worked for the trip to the bus before school so I put Dan in the front pack and walked back to meet the bus in the afternoon and all was well until I woke next morning. I could hardly move because of the pain in my lower back which told me that the frontpack designed for little babies obviously wasn’t meant to be used for bigger and heavier ones.

Ever since then I’ve had a recurring back problem which usually fixes itself if I dont’ stand still for long and sit straight when I’m working at a desk. But this time the pain persisted so I sought help from a physio who worked some magic on the affected area on four successive visits, gave me exercises to do in between and sent the bill to ACC.

The second happened after I tripped over  at a wedding last Friday.

I treated the sore wrist which resulted with ice and a compression bandage when I got home but it was still very painful and swollen when I went to the after-wedding lunch next day. Several people there, including some nurses, regaled me with horror stories of minor injuries which became major because they weren’t treated early and said I should get it x-rayed in case I’d broken something.

So I went to the ED at the local hospital where I was given an ACC form to fill in and seen by a nurse who asked what I could and couldn’t do. I could make a fist, wriggle and splay the fingers, couldn’t rotate my wrist far or lift with that hand.

She told me I was doing the right thing with the compression bandage and keeping the hand elevated; put it in a sling and recommended paracetomol for the pain. She then said that the radiologist didn’t get called in at weekends unless there was an urgent case so I should come back on Monday if there was no improvement.

By Monday the swelling was down a little and I decided I didn’t need an x-ray but ACC would have been billed for my Saturday visit and Macdoctor  is reliably informed that it costs about $300 for an ACC form to be processed, accepted and assigned to a manager; and ACC would have been charged an extra $38 or so for the consultation with the triage nurse.

If we didn’t have ACC the taxperyer would have paid for my trip to ED but I suspect my visit would amount to a lot less in the hospital budget than $338.

Macdoctor reckons ACC pays $39 for a physio visit, so I’d have been charged $156 for the treatment of my back had I had to pay myself but it would have cost ACC $456.

There’s obviously something wrong with a system where the admin costs so much more than the treatment and maybe the government’s plan to open it up to competition might help because a private business wouldn’t surivie with initial overhead costs per claim of $300.

Private companies might be able to be more flexible than the state run organisation with better incentives like lower premiums for employers with good safety records; or offer no claims bonuses so that people don’t bother claiming for minor complaints like mine.

I say might deliberately because until the options are investigated we can’t be sure if opening ACC to competition will work.

But it’s worth looking into and if introducing competition doesn’t offer substantial savings the government will have to come up with Plan B because if something doesn’t change the billion dollar budget blowouts might just be the beginning.


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