Word of the day

November 18, 2010

Ichthyomancy – divination through the examination of fish entrails.


Is anyone making money from books?

November 18, 2010

I’ve just got an email from Whitcoulls telling me it’s taken 25% off the price of all its books (in-store, not on-line).

It had a similar offer a fortnight ago. Paper Plus did the same last weekend and the on-line bookseller Fishpond (which is very good for getting books not in stock elsewhere) had similar discounts recently.

Does this mean there’s usually a huge mark-up on books, is it a sign that not enough people are buying books and is anyone making much money from them anymore?


Thursday’s quiz

November 18, 2010

1. What do bolshevik and menshevik mean? 

2. Who is sitting on John Key’s left?

3. What is the noun of assemblage for priests?

4. Who said “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”?

5. What is a chronogram?


No point taxing what you can’t change

November 18, 2010

The government has always made it clear agriculture wouldn’t be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme unless our competitors did it too.

None of them have any intention of doing so in the near future and Climate Change Minister Nick Smith has given a very clear message that it’s unlikely we will either:

New Zealand farmers are unlikely to be brought into the emissions trading scheme in 2015 unless scientific advances are made in reducing animal emissions and our trading partners make giant strides in putting a price on carbon, the Government says.

Speaking at the Federated Farmers National Council yesterday, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith noted the Government had already said it would not proceed with the inclusion of agriculture and other sectors until it sees comparable progress from other countries.

Including agriculture here when it’s not done anywhere else will make our produce less competitive. It won’t make any improvement to global emissions and may even make them worse if production drops here and increases in other places where it is less efficient.

The requirement for scientific advances before agriculture is included is also important.

The point of emissions taxes is to change behaviour.

Science has not yet come up with anything which will help to reduce agricultural emissions so there’s no point taxing them.

This doesn’t mean New Zealand is doing nothing to fulfil it’s Kyoto commitments. The Global Research Alliance, which was a New Zealand initiative at the Copenhagen conference last year, is attracting praise and investment from around the world.


Foreign investment essential for higher standard of living

November 18, 2010

John Key would have had little if any opposition when told Federated Farmers’ National Council:

Politicians who were unwavering advocates of trade and investment when they were in government have somehow turned into defenders of Fortress New Zealand while in opposition.

Their views appear to have changed 180 degrees, for the sake of politics.

That is a shame, because at stake here are New Zealand jobs, New Zealand incomes, and New Zealand futures.

The reason we allow investment to flow between countries – both into New Zealand and out of New Zealand – is because it benefits New Zealanders.

We don’t do it for any other reason – we do it because we benefit from it.

In particular, overseas investment in New Zealand creates jobs, boosts incomes, and helps the economy grow.

Overseas capital can make things happen here that wouldn’t otherwise happen, grow businesses that wouldn’t otherwise have the means to grow, create jobs that otherwise wouldn’t exist, and pay wages that are higher than they would otherwise be.

Overseas capital makes New Zealand a vastly more productive country.

So there is absolutely no way we could enjoy the standard of living we do without overseas investment.

And part of that standard of living is being able to afford the education, law and order, and health services that our families want.

A recent study concluded that overseas investment in New Zealand lifted national income by around $5 billion between 1996 and 2006. That is an estimate of the return to New Zealand from overseas investment, over and above the cost of paying interest and dividends on that investment.

Could those who criticise foreign investment come up with any practical ideas on how to get a $5 billion increase in income from domestic investment alone?

He gave examples of how investment in the wine industry,  PGG Wrightson, Synlait, CRV Ambreed and Anzco had been beneficial to the country then said investment is a two-way street:

New Zealand businesses and individuals are themselves investing abroad.

There has been considerable investment, for example, by New Zealand dairy farmers in overseas farms. Fonterra, of course, has processing facilities in a number of different countries.

A free flow of investment also allows New Zealanders to diversify their savings across different countries and different industries. Most of the savings that are in the Super Fund, for example, and in many KiwiSaver funds, are invested overseas.

In fact, the total amount of equity investment into and out of New Zealand is surprisingly balanced. According to the latest figures, New Zealanders have around $53 billion of equity invested abroad while overseas investors have $61 billion of equity in New Zealand.

So international flows of investment – both into and out of New Zealand – are very important for our standard of living.

He then acknowledged that people are concerned about foreign ownership of land.

 I think the fact that people are concerned with overseas ownership is perfectly legitimate.

But we should be careful not to let those concerns get out of hand.

For a start, about a third of New Zealand – including our most iconic land – is protected by being in the conservation estate. So no-one from overseas can come in and buy Mt Taranaki or the Franz Josef Glacier, for example.

Second, it is a simple fact that land can’t change nationality. People can change nationality, of course, and factories can be relocated overseas. But a piece of land in New Zealand will always be here in New Zealand.

Because it will always be here, the use of that land will always be subject to New Zealand laws and regulations. And ultimately we as New Zealanders get to determine what those laws and regulations will be.

Third, and contrary to what some people might think, there hasn’t been an acceleration of overseas sales in recent years.

In fact, as at a couple of days ago, only 11, 203 hectares of land has been sold so far this year. That is certainly well below the peak of 380,000 hectares that were sold in 2006.

Fourth, the issue of whether businesses and properties are owned by New Zealanders or people from overseas, is for the most part, squarely in our own hands.

What I mean is that no-one can be forced to sell their business to an overseas investor, just as no farmers can be compelled to sell their land to foreigners.

Obviously with mortgagee sales or receiverships things get a little more complicated but, in general, people who feel very strongly that New Zealand-based assets should remain in New Zealand hands are free to sell only to New Zealanders.

Exactly. Vendors who don’t want foreigners to buy their land don’t have to sell to them.

Moreover, New Zealanders can always buy land and other assets back. What makes that difficult isn’t the rules around overseas investment, it is the fact that New Zealand has a poor savings record and therefore a relatively small stock of capital available for investment.

If, as a country, we saved more, we would own more of the assets in New Zealand, including land, as well as being less in debt to overseas lenders.

Another very good point. If we saved more we could afford to pay more when buying.

Then there are safeguards in the Overseas Investment Act and regulations government must follow under that Act. The government has reviewed this to ensure it has the right balance between three key objectives:

  • welcoming desirable investment, in recognition of the benefits it brings for New Zealanders
  • providing a stable investment environment, where the rules are settled and everyone is clear about what they are; and
  • addressing public concerns about overseas investment, particularly in regard to land.

This review has come to three conclusions.

The first conclusion is that the Overseas Investment Act is a fundamentally sound piece of legislation.

The Act makes it clear that it is a privilege for overseas people to own or control sensitive New Zealand assets.

In particular, it lays out that foreign investment in land is only acceptable if it substantially benefits New Zealand, according to a range of factors which include, among other things:

  • the creation of new job opportunities in New Zealand
  • the introduction into New Zealand of new technology
  • increased export receipts for New Zealand exporters
  • the introduction into New Zealand of additional investment for development purposes
  • increased processing in New Zealand of New Zealand’s primary products
  • protection of native bush and other indigenous vegetation; and
  • protection of game species and walking access.

In addition, farm land has to be offered on the open market so that New Zealanders can bid for it as well.

These are very stringent criteria.

In fact, these are the very same criteria that Phil Goff was trying to pass off as brand new policy a few weeks ago. I welcome his endorsement of the current provisions of the Overseas Investment Act which, of course, was passed by his government back in 2005.

The second conclusion we came to in this review was that the existing process – not the key rules themselves – was too slow, cumbersome and costly.

We therefore made some changes last year to simplify some of the less-important regulations, cut red tape and speed up processing times for applications.

Those changes have been very effective. In the year to date the average time for processing an application has dropped from 63 days to 42 days.

The third conclusion we came to was that a couple of additions should be made to the existing rules.

These additions would make sure that all public concerns about overseas investment, both now and in the future, could be covered off under the rules.

So the Government is adding two more factors that ministers must consider when they assess the benefits of a proposed overseas investment in New Zealand land.

The first new factor is very wide-ranging and looks at whether New Zealand’s economic interests will be adequately promoted by overseas investment.

This will allow ministers to consider, for example, whether any of our key exports are in danger of being controlled by an overseas entity, or whether there are non-commercial motivations driving a proposed overseas investment.

The second new factor is a “mitigating factor” which looks at whether the investor has a meaningful commitment to New Zealand involvement in the running or oversight of the investment.

That could include, for example, part ownership with New Zealanders, appointing New Zealanders to the board, or listing on a New Zealand exchange.

We could look across the Tasman for a model. Australia requires the head office of at least some, it may even be all,  foreign-owned Australian companies to be based in Australia and their chief executive to live there too.

So in conclusion can I stress that we allow overseas investment to flow between countries – both into New Zealand and out of New Zealand – because it benefits New Zealanders.

With the appropriate checks and balances in place, this investment is good for jobs, wages and growth.

After reviewing the overseas investment regime, and making some amendments to it, the Government is satisfied that we do now have the appropriate checks and balances.

Foreign investment in New Zealand and New Zealand investment in other countries has economic and social benefits.

Providing the interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders are safeguarded we have nothing to fear and lots to gain by enabling investment to flow freely in to our country and out of it.


November 18 in history

November 18, 2010

On November 18:

326 – Old St. Peter’s Basilica was consecrated.

 

1105 – Maginulf elected the Antipope Sylvester the IV.

1210 – Pope Innocent III excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV.

 

1302 – Pope Boniface VIII issued the Papal bull Unam sanctam (One Faith).

1307 – William Tell shot an apple off of his son’s head.

1421 – A seawall at the Zuiderzee dike broke, flooding 72 villages and killing about 10,000 people.
 

1477 – William Caxton produced Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres, the first book printed on a printing press in England.

 

1493 – Christopher Columbus first sighted Puerto Rico.

1626 – St. Peter’s Basilica was consecrated.

A very detailed engraved image of a vast interior. The high roof is arched. The walls and piers which support the roof are richly decorated with moulded cherubim and other sculpture interspersed with floral motifs. Many people are walking in the church. They look tiny compared to the building. 

1686 – Charles Francois Felix operated on King Louis XIV’s  anal fistula after practicing the surgery on several peasants.

1730 – Frederick II (Frederick the Great), King of Prussia, was granted a royal pardon and released from confinement.

1785  David Wilkie, British artist, was born (d. 1841).

1793 – The Louvre was officially opened.

1803 – The Battle of Vertières, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

1809 – In a naval action during the Napoleonic Wars, French frigates defeated British East Indiamen in the Bay of Bengal.
 
Bay of Bengal map 1800s.png 
1836  Sir William S. Gilbert, British dramatist, was born (d. 1911).

1861 – Dorothy Dix, American journalist, was born (d. 1951).

 

1863 – King Christian IX of Denmark decided to sign the November constitution that declared Schleswig to be part of Denmark.

1865 – Mark Twain’s story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was published in the New York Saturday Press.

1874 – En route to Auckland with immigrants, the Cospatrick caught fire and sank off South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Cospatrick fire kills 470

1883 – American and Canadian railroads instituted five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.

1903 – The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty was signed by the United States and Panama, giving the United States exclusive rights over the Panama Canal Zone.

1904 – General Esteban Huertas step down after the government of Panama fears he wants to stage a coup.

 

1905 – Prince Carl of Denmark became King Haakon VII of Norway.

1909 – Two United States warships were sent to Nicaragua after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) were executed by order of José Santos Zelaya.

1916 – World War I: First Battle of the Somme ended– British Expeditionary Force commander Douglas Haig called off the battle.

Douglas Haig.jpg

1918 – Latvia declared its independence from Russia.

1926 – George Bernard Shaw refused to accept the money for his Nobel Prize, saying, “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.”

1928 – Release of the animated short Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, featuring the third appearances of cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

1929 – 1929 Grand Banks earthquake: a Richter magnitude 7.2 submarine earthquake, centered on Grand Banks, broke 12 submarine transatlantic telegraph cables and triggered a tsunami that destroyed many south coast communities in the Burin Peninsula.

 

1930 – Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai, a Buddhist association later renamed Soka Gakkai, was founded by Japanese educators Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda.

 

1938 – Trade union members elected John L. Lewis as the first president of the Congress of Industrial Organisations.

1939 Margaret Atwood, Canadian writer, was born.

1940 – World War II: German leader Adolf Hitler and Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano met to discuss Benito Mussolini’s disastrous invasion of Greece.

1940 – New York City’s Mad Bomber placed his first bomb at a Manhattan office building used by Consolidated Edison.

1942  Susan Sullivan, American actress, was born.

1943 – World War II: Battle of Berlin: 440 Royal Air Force planes bombed Berlin causing only light damage and killing 131. The RAF lost nine aircraft and 53 air crew.

1947 – The Ballantyne’s Department Store fire in Christchurch  killed 41.

1949 – The Iva Valley Shootin after the coal miners of Enugu, Nigeria struck over withheld wages; 21 miners were shot dead and 51 wounded by police under the supervision of the British colonial administration of Nigeria.

1961 – United States President John F. Kennedy sent 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam.

1963 – The first push-button telephone went into service.

1967 – The United Kingdom government devalued the Pound sterling from $2.80 to £2.40.

1970 – U.S. President Richard Nixon asked the U.S. Congress for $155 million USD in supplemental aid for the Cambodian government.

1978 – Jim Jones led his Peoples Temple cult to a mass murder-suicide that claimed 918 lives in all, 909 of them in Jonestown itself, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo J. Ryan was murdered by members of the Peoples Temple hours earlier.

1983  Jon Johansen, Norwegian software developer, was born.

1987 – Iran-Contra Affair: The U.S. Congress issuesdits final report on the Iran-Contra Affair.

1987 – King’s Cross fire: 31 people died in a fire at the city’s busiest underground station at King’s Cross St Pancras.

 

1988 – U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law allowing the death penalty for drug traffickers.

1991 – Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon released Anglican Church envoys Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland.

1991 – The Croatian city of Vukovar capitulates to the besieging Yugoslav People’s Army and allied Serb paramilitary forces.

1993 – North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was ratified by the USA House of Representatives.

1993 – In South Africa 21 political parties approved a new constitution.

1999 – In College Station, Texas, 12 were killed and 27 injured at Texas A&M University when the 59-foot-tall (18 m) Aggie Bonfire, under construction for the annual football game against the University of Texas, collapsed at 2:42am.

 

2002 – Iraq disarmament crisis: United Nations weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix arrived in Iraq.

2003 – In the United Kingdom, the Local Government Act 2003, repealing controversial anti-gay amendment Section 28, became effective.

2003 – In a 50-page, 4–3 decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state may not “deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.”

2004 – The Clinton Presidential Center was opened in Little Rock, Arkansas, containing 2 million photographs and 80 million documents.

Bill Clinton Library Adam Crain Archipreneur.jpg

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


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