PM’s office minds its manners

August 24, 2009

John Key shares a birthday with my mother (same day, different year) which makes it easy for me to remember; and, having remembered it, I sent him a card in my role as Southern regional chair of the National Party.

I signed it from the region and deliberately didn’t put my name on it because I didn’t want anyone to worry about a response.

However, I must have stamped the envelope, as I do with most correspondence, with my farmer’s and my initials and surname because last week we got a letter addressed to X.Y. and X.X. Homepaddock, thanking us for the card.

His office must follow the same good manners in acknowledging correspondence as Lindsay Mitchell told us the Queen’s does.


Do Maori vote for non-Maori?

August 24, 2009

I’m listening to a discussion on Afternoon’s panel and have just been told that only about 1% of Auckland local body representatives have been Maori; that means the system doesn’t work and that Maori aren’t properly represented.

But does it?

That presupposes that none of the people Maori vote for win seats – regardless of whether or not they’re Maori and/or that Maori people vote only for Maori candidates.

I’d be very surprised if that was the case, but regardless of who votes for whom, once people are elected they’re bound to represent every one of their constituents.


Poverty for baby boomers?

August 24, 2009

Poverty for baby boomers, the headline says.

The story reinforces it:

Baby boomers could end up living in poverty if the Government does not urgently address issues of income, housing and health, says a study published today.

But that is only part of the story.

The living standard of baby boomer retirees – and everyone else – depend not just on the government addressing these factors.

It also depends on other government expenditure and income. Both of those will be affected by and have an impact on economic growth and productivity. And those will be the major determinants of what the government and individuals can afford.

Future wealth and well-being also depend a lot on what we do for ourselves. If we look  only to the government, we’re making ourselves prisoners of public fortunes and political whim.


Monday’s Quiz

August 24, 2009

1. Who adopted Anne Shirley?

2. Who said, “People who life in New Zealand by choice as distinct from an accident of birth, and who are committed to this land and its people and steeped in their knowledge of both, are no less ‘indigenous’ than Maori.”?

3. Where is Colonia del Sacramento, (if there’s more than one, I’m looking for the World Heritage site).

4. What is a haugh?

5. How many teeth does a hogget have?


In praise of democracy

August 24, 2009

Last week was the the first time, New Zealand’s Prime Minister and the next four in Cabinet were out of the country at the same time. That left the fifth ranked minister, Tony Ryall in charge.

Life, and government, continued as normal.

Democracy worked.

Let’s not take that for granted when at the same time, at least 26 people in Afghanistan were killed in election-related violence.


What does $10 buy?

August 24, 2009

The ODT reports most Otago schools will abandon adult learning next year when changes to government priorities withdraw funding from hobby classes.

“You could still run courses, but the adults would have to pay all of the fees. They won’t be subsidised any more.”

Mr Craigie said adult students paid about $50 a term for ACE courses.

However, without the Government’s funding, they would be expected to pay more than $100 a term for each course.

Over a four-term year, it could cost students between $400 and $500, making it too expensive for many adults.

Let’s get add a little more to this discussion.

There is a high attrition rate in night classes. In each of the four years I’ve taught Spanish people rarely come to every class and several drop out altogether. That isn’t a reflection on my teaching, other teachers report a similar falling off in numbers, particularly over winter.

On average we had about 15 people on the first night. When we went for one term four or five dropped out and when we went for two terms the last couple of classes had only seven or eight students. Missing the odd class is inevitable, because people have other things to do, some knew when they started they wouldn’t finish the course because they were off on the holidays which prompted them to learn Spanish in the first place, some had other more important things come up and some found learning Spanish wasn’t for them.

Would it have made any difference if they had been paying more for the classes? I’m not sure. However, I am quite sure it is not good use of taxpayers’ money to subsidise classes for people who don’t turn up.

Another point to consider is that a lot of courses don’t run for the full year. Most continue for only one or two terms which would drop the cost to students to quarter or half the $400 to $500 cited.

That’s still a lot of money for some people, but regardless of how long the courses run, it’s only about $10 a class.

What else will $10 buy you? You’d pay more to go to a film.

But the more important question is, what is the best use of taxpayers’ moeny?

Keep in mind, we are facing a decade of deficits. You don’t just have to consider what else the money could go on now, you have to remember that it is borrowed money which will have to be repaid, cutting in to what is available for future spending.

Given that, what would you rather spend the money on, classes to improve literacy and numeracy for people who really need it, or on hobby classes for people who may or may not turn up to them?


Keeping it simple better all round

August 24, 2009

Dairy farmers are being criticised for using palm oil kernel expeller.

Environmentalists are concerned about the effects of felling tropical rain forests which have been replaced by palm plantations.

There is another side to that debate.  Andrei at NZ Conservative points out the hypocrisy of criticising developing nations for doing what developed nations did for years.

However, I have some sympathy for the criticism, albeit for different reasons.

New Zealand’s natural advantage is the climate which enables us to have low cost, free range farming systems. Feed supplements like PKE increase production but they do so at a cost. That might be justified at last year’s record payout but now that the forecast payout for this season is well back it probably isn’t.

The payout goes up and down and there’s very little farmers can do about that. But we do have a fair bit of control about inputs. Keeping the cost of them down with simple systems, based on grass feeding, helps maximise profits in the good years and minimises the damage in the bad ones.

What farmers feed their cows is a business one. But sometimes what’s good for the environment is also good for business and I think less PKE might be better for both.


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