SMOG alert


Keeping Stock calls them SMOGs – social media own goals and Clare Curran has scored a big one.

It’s bad enough that she tried to smear John Key by ranting about a PR company on a Red Alert Post, but to make it worse Quote Unquote points out the conspiracy is even deeper and darker than she suspects.

 Hill & Knowlton is huge – it even has a branch in Morocco – but it is a small cog in the vast global (i.e. evil) machine that is WPP.

WPP controls 20 companies in Auckland – well, you’d expect that of sleazy Auckland – but it also controls six companies in virtuous Wellington, PR agencies, ad agencies, pollsters and the like. I can reveal their names: Designworks, MEC, Milward Brown (Colmar Brunton), Ogilvy & Mather, PPR and Y&R . . .

. . . But it gets even worse. Y&R’s clients include the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Te Papa, the Met Service and the NZSO.

That’s a worry.

If you follow Curran’s logic the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Te Papa and the Met Service are all evil.

Does that explain the bad weather?

Word of the day


Bombilate – loudy hum or buzz continuously.

Another day, another filibuster


It’s Member’s Day at parliament but nothing much will happen again as Labour continues filibustering to prevent the passing of legislation enabling voluntary student union membership.

National’s Dunedin MP Michael Woodhouse put the arguments for choice:

 I have a high regard for the Otago University Students Association (OUSA) and Otago Polytechnic Students Association (OPSA). I think they generally provide a good service to students, represent value for money, and if I was an undergraduate student again I would probably join. But that would be my choice. I see no rationale for being compelled to join, and support the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill, a member’s bill presently being debated in Parliament.

I find the rhetoric by opponents of voluntary student membership (VSM) somewhat confusing – almost doublespeak. Opponents of VSM claim that choice would devastate services, silence students and actually curtail freedom. Indeed, OUSA president Logan Edgar has spent two nights in a cage this week to make this very unusual point. VSM opponents also claim that compulsory membership gives students more freedom. It simply does not make sense. We’ve long since dispensed with the idea of compulsory membership of unions and I fail to see why student unions should be treated any differently.

 The question not answered by anti-VSM proponents is this: if student associations are so important, if they represent such good value for money, why the morbid fear that students will take flight when association membership is made optional? This labels students, our brightest young and our future leaders, as lacking the simple skill of deciding for themselves whether joining an organisation is appropriate or valuable to them.  And if they do, associations should be more focused on why it is that students see such low value in membership than on maintaining compulsion.

One reason put up for the possible reduction in membership under VSM is of financial constraints – that students, otherwise keen to join, may not be able to afford the very reasonable OUSA or OPSA subscription. Readers should consider this in the context of the very high spending behaviour of students during Orientation Week on events costing much more than the subscription to OUSA. Another argument against VSM is that organisations such as OUSA and OPSA would need to spend a disproportionate amount of their resources on marketing. This would be quite unnecessary. The best advertisement for membership of student associations is satisfied students. But if associations are worried that first-year students in particular do not understand the value of membership, all they need to do is continue to restrict attendance at orientation events to OUSA and OPSA members. Problem solved.

Some VSM opponents argue that student membership fees should be likened to rates paid by local ratepayers. I don’t agree with the comparison. Ratings authorities are subject to a number of constraining laws relating to consultation, planning and oversight that are not imposed on student associations. Further, student associations are not apolitical. They have clear political links. Many students compelled to be members are thoroughly sick and tired of some associations’ behaviours, for example:

• The burning of the New Zealand flag by a VUWSA executive member in the grounds of Victoria University’s Law Faculty on Anzac Day in 2007.

• The expenditure of $40,000 by an OUSA staffer to spend a year travelling the world researching student drinking habits – then delivering a four and a half page report on her findings.

• Several high-profile financial misappropriations by student association executive members.

Students associations claim to provide an important advocacy service by lobbying to the university council and the Government on issues such as interest-free loans, the fee maxima, and universal student allowances.  They do, but the problem with political advocacy of (in OUSA’s case) 22,000 students is that it is just not possible to represent the common political interest of such a large and diverse membership. A significant cohort of students with differing views to the executive is disenfranchised by the position taken. That is not acceptable in an organisation where membership is compulsory.

At the end of the day this comes down to a simple principle of freedom of association. No New Zealander should be compelled to join an organisation of this nature against their will. On this principle alone, I support the change to voluntary student membership.

Labour sees student unions as a training ground for future MPs and supporters.

This is obviously blinding them to the stupidity of their filibustering.

All that does is show that they think compelling students to join a union is the most important thing they can do in parliament.

PM resigns GG calls snap election over Sky Hawk scandal


The Prime Minister has resigned and the Governor General has announced a snap election after Labour dirt-diggers uncovered a scandal.

“They always said it was the little things that get you and I’ve tried to be really careful. But I honestly didn’t think it would matter if I took one of the Sky Hawk fighter jets to play with when they’re not worth anything,” a visibly upset former Prime Minister told reporters.

“They couldn’t get the payment to the PR agency for my Letterman appearance stick. They couldn’t say anything about my decision to keep away from debates between the wee parties because they agree with me on that  so they began digging deeper.

“One of their people happened to glance up while rifling through my rubbish bin and saw the Sky Hawk sitting on my lawn. There was no way I could deny it was there so the only honourable thing to do was resign.

“The people deserve an opposition which focuses on what really matters and the longer they were distracted by attempts to attack me personally, the further away they got from what they should have been doing.

“Now I’ve resigned, they’ll have time to work on policy development, help their constituents and begin looking like a government in waiting.”

The former Prime Minister was about to say something else but his words were drowned out by the sound of flapping wings from a herd of of pigs flying overhead.

Look at retailers not producers


Federated Farmers and Fonterra are both pleased that the Commerce Commission has decided it has no basis for a price control inquiry into milk.

However, it’s not ruling out a further inquiry  into how Fonterra sets the price it pays farmers and what it charges other processors.

Sue Chetwin from Consumer is calling for a milk commissioner and  Labour and Green MPs want the Commerce select committee to launch another inquiry.

If they’re doing that, should look at the whole supply chain.

The Commerce Commission report said there was enough retail competition between  two major supermarket chains, dairies, service stations and other retailers.

I’m not so sure about that. Almost everything is more expensive at dairies, service stations and other small retailers. Those are the places you go for emergency supplies, not normal grocery shopping.

That leaves the supermarket duopoly.

It is difficult comparing prices here with those overseas because of the exchange rate and different taxes, but our observation at restaurants and supermarket during our recent trip to the USA and Canada was that food there seemed to be cheaper than it is here.

Some prices in a Walmart in Canada were: beef mince $9.50/kg; T bone $16.22; sirloin $11.10; stir fry $15.06; roast beef $12.06; bacon $10.44; pork tenderloin $10.96; pork chops $8.80.

I don’t have local comparison for these, but a  New Zealand boneless leg  lamb was selling for $14.92/kg  at Walmart, I saw it priced at $29.99/kg at a New World  here yesterday.

A frozen leg of New Zealand lamb was $13.62/kg.

It looked good but beside it were Walmart’s own brand of frozen loin chops selling for $20/kg. The bag was full of ice and had they been a tenth the price we might have contemplated buying them for dog meat.

Eggs were $2.98/dozen; skim milk cost $1.38/litre, full cream milk was $2.77/litre..

Cheddar cheese cost $13.43/kg which, taking the exchange rate into account, wouldn’t be much different form here.

The only thing that was far more expensive – and to our admittedly biased taste buds, not nearly as nice – was ice cream. A small cone cost $5.

Prices recorded at one supermarket and the gut reaction from purchases at other supermarkets and restaurants aren’t much to build a case on.

But our overwhelming impression was that food was cheaper and we wondered how much that had to do with greater competition between supermarkets there in contrast to the duopoly which operates here.

If there’s to be an investigation into food prices it needs to be a thorough one which includes retailers not just producers and processors.

Dairy prices trending down


In polling and business it’s the trend that counts and the trend in dairy prices is down.

The trade  weighted index dropped for the fourth time in a row in the fortnightly globalDairyTrade auction.

However, it wasn’t a big drop – just 1.3% – and prices are still above the long term average.

Whole milk powder was down 0.3% to $3,474/MT; skim milk powder was down 1.4% to $3,479/MT; anhydrous milk fat dropped 7.2% to $4,297/MT; butter milk power was up 3.3% to $3,319/MT; rennet casein was down 4.6% to $9,498/MT; milk protein concentrate icnreased 1.7% to $5,632/MT and cheese was down 2.3% to $4,220/MT.

Not even appealing to their own


When a party is dumped into opposition after several terms in government one of its priorities is to shore up its core supporters.

Labour might have thought its anti-farmer, kick-the-rich and redistribute what they can policies would appeal to its base but a Fairfax Research International poll shows that isn’t so.

Even the strugglers who Labour might have regarded as among their most loyal supporters are backing National.

Of those who were struggling, 42 per cent backed National and 40 per cent Labour. The roughly even split was the only one of the three groups where Labour came close to National’s support levels.

Among the “comfortable” National led by 66 per cent to 21 per cent, while in the middle group National was at 58 per cent against Labour’s 27 per cent.

One explanation is that people have grasped what Labour has not:

Michelle Rowe, who runs the Newlands foodbank, said people were more accepting than in the past because of global problems and disasters closer to home.

“They look around the world, at the US … and at the Christchurch earthquakes and they see others worse off than them,” she said.

“Lots of people are saying the Government is doing its best; that it’s just a sign of the times.”

Individuals, households, charities and businesses have accepted that times are tough and the causes of that are largely beyond the government’s control. Most also accept the need to take a more austere attitude to their own spending and quite rightly expect government to have a similarly Presbyterian approach to the public purse.

But there is another explanation: even strugglers prefer National’s aspirational approach to Labour’s policies aimed at division and redistribution.

They understand that independence and self reliance are much better in the long-term than reliance on government support.

Even the most optimistic of National supporters expect the polls to soften nearer the election but Labour shouldn’t hold its breath in hope that those disillusioned with the government will give their votes to them.

A party which is failing to appeal to its own will struggle to win support from anywhere else.

August 3 in history


On August 3:

8  Roman Empire general Tiberius defeated Dalmatians on the river Bathinus.

881  Battle of Saucourt-en-Vimeu: Louis III of France defeated the Vikings, an event celebrated in the poem Ludwigslied. 

1492  Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos de la Frontera, Spain. 

1527  First known letter was sent from North America by John Rut.

1645  Thirty Years’ War: Second Battle of Nördlingen (Battle of Allerheim).

1678  Robert LaSalle built the Le Griffon, the first known ship built on the Great Lakes.

1783  Mount Asama erupted in Japan, killing 35,000 people.

1801 Joseph Paxton, English gardener, was born (d. 1865).


1811 Elisha Graves Otis, American inventor, was born (d. 1861).

1811  First ascent of Jungfrau, third highest summit in the Bernese Alps.

1852 First Boat Race between Yale and Harvard, the first American intercollegiate athletic event. Harvard won.

 1860 The Second Land War began in New Zealand.


1860 W. K. Dickson, Scottish inventor, was born (d. 1935).

1867 Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1947).

1887 Rupert Brooke, English poet, was born (d. 1915).


1900 The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was founded.

1913  Wheatland Hop Riot.

1914  Germany declared war against France.

1916   Battle of Romani – Allied forces, under the command of Archibald Murray, defeated an attacking Ottoman army, under the command of Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, securing the Suez Canal, and beginning the Ottoman retreat from t.e Sinai.

1920   P. D. James, English novelist, was born.


1923 Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th President of the United States following the death of Warren G. Harding the previous day.

1924 Leon Uris, American novelist, was born (d. 2003).

1926 Tony Bennett, American singer, was born.

1934  Adolf Hitler becomes the supreme leader of Germany by joining the offices of President and Chancellor into Führer.

1936  Jesse Owens won the 100 meter dash, defeating Ralph Metcalfe, at the Berlin Olympics.

1938 Terry Wogan, Irish television presenter, was born.

1940  Italy began the invasion of British Somaliland.

1941 Five days after its arrival in Wellington, the four-masted barque Pamir was seized in prize by the New Zealand government, which then regarded Finland as ‘territory in enemy occupation’.

Finnish barque Pamir seized as war prize

1941 Martha Stewart, American media personality, was born.

1949  The National Basketball Association was founded in the United States.

1958 The nuclear submarine USS Nautilus travelled beneath the Arctic ice cap.

1960  Niger gained independence from France.

1972  The United States Senate ratifies the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

1975 A privately chartered Boeing 707 crashed into the mountainside near Agadir, Morocco killing 188.

1981  Senegalese opposition parties, under the leadership of Mamadou Dia, launched the Antiimperialist Action Front-Suxxali Reew Mi.

1985 Sonny Bill Williams, New Zealand rugby and league footballer, was born.

1997  Oued El-Had and Mezouara massacre in Algeria; 40-76 villagers killed.

2001  The Real IRA detonated a car bomb in Ealing injuring seven people.

2005  President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya of Mauritania was overthrown in a military coup while attending the funeral of King Fahd in Saudi Arabia.

2007 Keeping Stock was launched.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

If you prefer history with more pictures you’ll find it here.

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