Word of the day

June 24, 2011

Scobiform –  like sawdust or scrapings.

Te Tai Tokerau close – iPredict

June 24, 2011

People putting their money on iPredict are favouring Hone Harawira to hold Te Tia Tokerau in tomorrow’s by-election.

Vote share contracts were launched this week for tomorrow’s Te Tai Tokerau by-election, and the market is predicting an extremely tight race. Hone Harawira is expected to receive 41.1% of the vote, with Labour’s Kelvin Davis a close second with 40.1%. The Maori Party’s Solomon Tipene is expected to receive 18.0% of the vote. However, Mr Harawira’s position in November’s General Election has strengthened over the past week, with the market indicating he has a 70% probability of winning Te Tai Tokerau in November (up from 52% last week).

The Electoral Commission website still isn’t showing Mana as a registered party but Graeme Edgeler has a media release saying it has been registered.

That means if Harawira wins his gamble will have paid off with extra funding as the leader of a registered party.

iPredict isn’t a poll but that result does reflect last week’s poll showing Harawira just ahead of Labour Kelvin Davis.

Maori electorates have a low voter turnout in general elections and people are usually even less enthusiastic about voting in by-elections.

The result could hinge on the parties’ ability to motivate people to vote, if indeed the race is as close as polls and iPredict suggest.

Can we rely on them? The last word on that goes to Rob:

   Chris Trotter – and others – are saying the polls understate Hone Harawira’s support because a lot of his supporters use cellphones, and/or are young.  . .

Ah, yeah.  Parties doing badly in the polls always seem to argue that for some reason their supporters aren’t getting polled.  . .

There might be a bit more variation in tomorrow’s byelection, because it is for the country’s northern-most Maori electorate, and if the stereotypes are true, there is a disproportionate number of the country’s drug dealers in that electorate – people who famously buy cheap prepaid cellphones on Trademe rather than have a landline.   But I’m always dubious about stereotypes, especially self-serving ones, and this one is a bit too pat. I’m also not too sure if drug dealers are particularly conscientious about voting.

Tomorrow we might know no more about the drug dealers but we will know how good the predictions were.

Why didn’t he do this yesterday?

June 24, 2011

Manufacturers and Employers Federation Northern CEO Alasdair Thompson should have apologised properly yesterday.

Instead he compounded the stupidity of his initials comments with two prolonged interviews here and here.

Now he’s finally said what he should have said yesterday:

The Chief Executive of the Employers & Manufacturers Association, Alasdair Thompson has issued an unreserved and unqualified apology for his comments and behaviour in the media yesterday on the issues to do with equal pay.

“I apologise for my poor choice of words and bad judgment during the discussion about gender and productivity in the workplace,” Mr Thompson said.

He said what started out as a genuine concern for the problems women face in the workplace soon disintegrated into facile observations that did a disservice to what is a very serious matter.  

“I raised issues that were misplaced and irrelevant to the discussion,” Mr Thompson said.

“I realise my remarks offended many people.

“I have personally always supported equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity, respect and courtesy for both women and men in the workplace. 

“The EMA unquestionably believes in equal pay and both the EMA and I believe gender plays no part in the productivity of a person, and that there is no justification for gender to influence what someone is paid.

“Although this experience has been very painful to me, it has also served as a valuable lesson – one I shall never forget.”

A lot of other people won’t forget it either.

Should they do so, Lew at Kiwpolitico has some very good advice  for anyone else at risk of putting both feet in their mouth.

UPDATE: Brian Edwards thinks Thompson has a case for complaining to the BSA.

PSA blaming wrong government

June 24, 2011

The Public Service Association is blaming the government for the loss of 100 Department of Conservation jobs.

The PSA is on the right track but has the wrong government. It’s the previous one which is to blame.

Labour made unsustainable increases in the cost of the public service in general and DoC in particular.

It took an aggressive  approach to increasing the conservation estate under the tenure review process, paid ridiculously high prices for high country land but didn’t provide for the extra costs of looking after it.

Now DoC’s budget is overstretched and its staff are paying the price for Labour’s folly.

Friday’s answers

June 24, 2011

Thursday’s questions were:

1. What does a luthier do?

2. Who said: “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”?

3. What are the two missing lines in this verse:

If you can keep your head when all about you

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

4. It’s  pomme de terre in French;  patata in Italian; patata  or papa in Spanish and puteito in Maori, what is it in English?

5. What is a Brassica oleracea botrytis?

P0ints for answers:

Robert got one and a thanks for correcting me (Maori Dictionary http://www.maoridictionary.co.nz/index.cfm?dictionaryKeywords=potato&n=1&idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan= said puteito is obsloute).

Andrei got three.

David got three and a bonus for deduction.

PDM got two and an almost (right family for the Brassica, but wrong member).

Gravedodger got two and an apology for taking him back to school memories.

Adam wins an electronic batch of biscuits with four right.

Paul got two and a bonus for wit.

Answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »


June 24, 2011

9/10 in the NZ Herald’s changing world quiz.

Honesty compels me to confess there was a fair amount of luck involved.

No need for another investigation into milk price

June 24, 2011

The Ministries of Agriculture and Economic Development and Treasury havelaunched a second probe into Fonterra’s pricing of milk.

They could save themselves a lot of time and effort by reading the National Bank’s Agrifocus which says :

On the face of it, it seems the rise in the price of fresh milk can be largely explained by the increase in international dairy prices and on-farm costs. Furthermore, the increase in fresh milk prices has not been out of step with the increase in the price of other staples. Its per unit cost when compared to other substitutes is particularly curious as it takes a considerable amount of money to produce, collect, transport, process and manufacture, store, ship and keep cool. In many cases milk is a far superior, nutrient–rich product.

If price increases alone are the precursor to an inquiry, then we would seem to need a lot of inquiries into other areas! Of course this will not be the case. The real issue is how economic agents adjust to the realities of a rising trend in real commodity prices – a reverse of the trend seen over the prior century.  New Zealand benefits hugely from such a trend, though there is a consumer cost along the way.

We export food and those exports are one of the few bright spots in the economy at the moment.

When demand and prices are high on international markets the price increases on the domestic market.

That doesn’t make it easy for people struggling on tight budgets but the problem isn’t high export prices it’s low incomes.

The report looked at the  rising cost of milk must be considered in conjunction with comparable movements in other staples and substitutes; rising input costs at the different levels of the supply chain; and international dairy prices.

Looking at the price movements of key foodstuffs over a 10 year period shows that the price of fresh milk has increased by 36 percent over this period, or 3.6 percent per annum. Over the same 10–year period, the headline inflation rate has risen 31 percent. Interestingly though, the price of different types of meats, bread and other dairy products, such as cheese, have all increased more than fresh milk over the last 10 years! The price of sheepmeat is the front-runner, increasing 73 percent over the last 10 years, over twice the rate of headline inflation.  There is some irony in this.  Economists normally point to competition as a way of keeping a lid on prices and there is certainly a lot of competition in the sheepmeat industry, so much in fact that people are calling for consolidation! So here we have an industry that has more competition and fragmentation than the dairy sector, which has seen higher price rises!  Of course, the underlying causes of price movements are far more extensive than that (i.e. reduced sheep numbers has led prices higher) but we still thought it worth noting.

Prices have gone up but let’s put it in perspective. A comparison with other liquid products (which don’t have the nutirtional benefits milk does) shows:

 It costs $1.84 for a standard litre of milk, $2.73 for a litre of bottled water, $1.52 for a litre of fizzy, $1.92 for fruit juice and $5.12 for a litre of beer (according to Statistics New Zealand).The price differential between milk and water is particularly curious in a country such as New Zealand where it is fine to drink water out of the tap.

In addition, we are trying to move up the value–added chain as an exporting nation but sometimes bemoan some brand–based products.  The suggestion that some branded milk products are priced too high seems perverse when we have constantly been told by various commentators, academics and successive governments that we need to build brands and market our products to add greater value (i.e. extract more money out of consumer wallets).  Especially when you consider the tap water/branded water differential!  It would be nonsensical to suggest that dairy companies should build brands offshore but not try to do the same in the domestic market. The discontent at the price of branded milk products seems to go against all the business principles that various individuals have preached over the last 20 years. And there is always the simple fact that if you cannot afford the branded product you can always purchase the unbranded one, which particularly in the case of fresh milk is very close in quality and content.

The other factor which impacts on the milk price is the cost of production.

Dairy farm total input prices have increased by nearly 34 percent, 3 percent more than aggregate consumer prices, and 2 percent less than the price increase for fresh milk.This would, on the face of it, seem to explain nearly all the observed milk price increase over the past 10 years. Ultimately, a complete examination would include other parts of the supply chain, notably the dairy processing sector, the two New Zealand supermarket chains and local dairies. This analysis would include margin and cost movements, but because of commercial sensitivity, it is difficult for us to obtain a complete dataset that would allow a full assessment for fresh milk.

Eleven of the 17 farm working expenditure categories have increased more than the price of milk.

The main culprits are fuel and electricity, which have increased a whopping 92 and 87 percent respectively over the last 10 years, or 9.2 and 8.7 percent respectively year-on-year.

One of the reasons fuel and electricity prices have increased is the imposition of the ETS. If Labour acts on its threat to force farmers to pay additional ETS levies it will impact on the price of milk.

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