Brash wants to be Education Minister


The NBR reports that Act leader Don Brash would jump at the chance to be Minister of Education in a future government.

That doesn’t surprise me, it was one of the portfolios he spoke about wanting when he was first a National MP.

He has always talked about the importance of education as the bridge to independence and success. 

His speech on Act’s education policy is here.

Mi español está muy oxidado


New Zealanders don’t have a good reputation for speaking  languages other than English.

In our defence, if you don’t speak English as a first language it is a logical one to pick up as a second, but if you already speak English it’s difficult to know which of the many others to choose for a second.

That said, learning another language not only enables  you to communicate with native speakers, it helps you understand their culture and it’s also good intellectual exercise.

I had a year of Latin and three of French at school – without distinction –  but was prompted to learn Spanish after hosting an AFS student from Argentina.

A couple of years at university and three months at language school in Spain was enough to make me confident with the basics and, with the help of a Uruguayan friend, I taught night classes for a few years.

But I’ve had little opportunity to speak Spanish recently and language like any other skill requires practice. Without it, I’ve gone backwards and the phrase I employ most often is lo siento, mi español está muy oxidado – I’m sorry my Spanish is very rusty.

I have good intentions of listening to Spanish radio and music but  International Languages Week has reminded me that I haven’t acted on the intent.

I could say a lo mejor manaña,  maybe tomorrow, except someone who lived in Spain told me that manaña in that context doesn’t mean tomorrow, it just means not today.

Text for a winner


Good Morning is running a contest to Find A Star.

One of today’s semi-finalists is Libby Hamilton.

She’s a delightful young woman, has a stunning voice and would be a very worthy winner.

If you have 99 cents to spare please text A to 8687.

Organic milk not sustainable


Fonterra’s organic milk operation is another casualty of the GFC:

Fonterra’s Group Director Supplier and External Relations Kelvin Wickham says the co-operative remains committed to the organics market but as growth in this market has significantly slowed since the global financial crisis, Fonterra needs to make changes to its organic operations.

Organic milk attracted a premium for producers but enough consumers aren’t willing to pay extra for it.

Mr Wickham says the organics market was hit hard by the global financial crisis and market indications are it will not recover to previous levels.

“All categories felt the effects but particularly the category in which we sell – packaged dairy foods – where prices and volumes are still below 2008 levels.

“Research shows people are now less willing to pay the premium for organic products. In addition, consumers are gaining more confidence that everyday products are being produced more sustainably and are more acceptable so they no longer see the need to pay the premium for most organic products.

When budgets tighten luxury products are the first to go and organic milk is in that category.

A lot of the support for organic products is based on emotion rather than science and if consumers think or feel that ordinary food they buy is being produced in a safe and sustainable way they don’t need to spend more on speciality organic produce.

Fonterra is meeting suppliers this week to tell them its plan which includes:

Concentrating Fonterra’s North Island organic suppliers in one hub around its key certified organic processing site – Hautapu. This will reduce the number of Fonterra’s organic suppliers.
Reducing the amount of product processed at Fonterra’s other two certified organic sites – Waitoa and Morrinsville.
Prioritising the organic product range to focus on cheese which provides the best returns.
Focusing on emerging Asian and Australasian organics markets where there are stronger returns and growth potential.

Mr Wickham says the first two points will mean considerable transport and manufacturing cost savings for Fonterra’s organic business.

“Our organic farmers are currently spread right across the North Island. This means substantial transport costs for the business.

“In addition, focusing most of our organic product through a single site will mean we are able to create efficiencies of scale in processing the milk.

Carting milk the length and breadth of the North Island hardly fits the sustainable model. It’s a waste of fuel and adds substantially to costs.

“We understand the big commitment many of our farmers have made to the organics programme and that this transition will not be an easy one to make. The decision to reduce our organics operation was not taken lightly but we need to get the business back into a break-even situation.

“We will honour all of our organic contracts through to their formal termination dates, which in some cases are four-five years away and we will work with our farmers as they make the transition out of the organics programme.”

This decision will be hard for the farmers who’ve gone to the trouble and cost of changing to organic production but it will be better for the co-operative if the organic operation stops losing money.

It could also provide opportunities for boutique dairy producers who might be able to buy the organic milk and use it as a point of difference in markets which are less price sensitive.



iPredict adds Fonterra payout forecasts


The online predictions marketiPredict is launching stocks for five year forecasts of Fonterra payouts:

Draft stocks are currently available at,13546,13546#msg-13546 to enable traders to review and comment on their fine-print prior to the formal launch.  Dairy farmers and other dairy industry experts are also encouraged to comment and trade.

“Fonterra is New Zealand’s most important company, responsible for around a quarter of our exports and around 7% of GDP,” iPredict CEO Matt Burgess said today.

“Until now, the only source of rigorous data about the company’s future payout to farmers has been the company itself, and then usually with only a two-year horizon.

There’s a very good reason for that – an open market for primary produce is very volatile. 

There are so many variables which affect supply and demand it is extremely difficult to predict very far into the future with any degree of certainty.

Who knows what the exchange rate will do, what the weather will be like here and where our competitors are, how much fuel and fertiliser will cost, what decisions politicians might make which affect production and price . . .?

“With iPredict’s new stocks, dairy farmers, the wider industry, economists, banks, the government and everyone with an interest in New Zealand’s medium-term economic prospects, will be able to obtain free snapshot information on how the company is likely to perform, in terms of payout, for the next five years.”

Mr Burgess said the stocks would be based on Fonterra’s final payout, per kilogram of milk solids, to a 100 percent share-backed farmer (before retentions), for the five financial years from and including 2010/11.

“Currently, Fonterra is forecasting a payout in the range of $8.00 to $8.10 for 2010/11 and $7.15 to $7.25 for 2011/12.  The iPredict stocks will provide farmers and everyone else with an independent assessment of the forecast payout.”

Mr Burgess said the iPredict forecasts for the three further out-years would be more indicative but would give a general indication of the likely performance of the company.

“iPredict produces consensus views on the likelihood of future events, based on the theory of the ‘wisdom of crowds’.  This holds that where people pool their perspectives and knowledge about a future event, their opinion is likely to be accurate,” he said.

iPredict’s binary contracts of political and economic events had an accuracy rate of 88%, he said.

Predictions markets like iPredict are mainstream throughout the world, with the most prominent being in the United States.  iPredict operates in New Zealand with authorisation of the New Zealand Financial Markets Authority.  The company is owned by Victoria University of Wellington.

It will be very interesting to follow this but I suspect most punters will be from outside the industry.

Insiders find farming itself is enough of a gamble, without the added excitement of prediction markets.

SMOG pollutes campaign clear-air


National Party MPs’ blogs have been labelled boring.

As an active member even I will admit there is some truth in that accusation but there is a very good reason for that. Exciting posts usually generate publicity of the wrong kind.

There is no better example of that than the SMOG (Social Media Own Goal) over at Red Alert which Keeping Stock details:

We’ve blogged a bit about SMOG’s lately; Social Media Own Goals. Well, Clare Curran has scored an absolute beauty today. Over at Red Alert, and under the heading The importance of being Labour, she blogged:

    Have had a gutsful of the white-anting of Labour from both the right and the left of politics.

White-anting is an Australian expression. It means undermining . .

Now Clare, as she proudly points out is a “public relations professional”. So what was she thinking when she followed he first post up with one entitled The importance of being Labour #2? There she blogged:

 And on another note, re white-anting; the attempts by the Greens to encroach on Labour territory . . .

Comments in response from the left aren’t impressed with this born-to-rule attitude and include:

  • Greens white-anting Labour?

    Surely you mean, contesting the same constituency rather than ‘encroaching’, right?

    You seriously think you have the unquestioning allegiance of my vote as a worker?

    I don’t think you need to look to far to see why mobilising labour in NZ is facing a few hurdles with this kind of thinking.

Discussion also raged on Twitter, prompting Dim Post to post on why the left should vote strategically.

 And Imperator Fish asks if Red Alert is damaging Labour.

The answer to that is yes.

There are only so many column inches in papers or minutes of air time available for politics and the last thing any party needs is to have them covering this sort of spat.

It would be better to be accused of being boring than producing SMOG that pollutes the clear air needed to run a positive campaign.

August 23 in history


79  Mount Vesuvius began stirring, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.


1305  William Wallace, Scottish patriot, was executed for high treason.

1328  Battle of Cassel: French troops stopped an uprising of Flemish farmers.


1514  Battle of Chaldiran ended with a decisive victory for the Sultan Selim I, Ottoman Empire, over the Shah Ismail I, Safavids founder. 

1555  Calvinists were granted rights in the Netherlands.

1572   St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre – Mob violence against Huguenots in Paris. 

1595  Michael the Brave confronted the Ottoman army in the Battle of Calugareni.

1708  Meidingnu Pamheiba was crowned King of Manipur.

1775 King George III declared that the American colonies existed in a state of open and avowed rebellion.

1793 French Revolution: a levée en masse was decreed by the National Convention.

1799  Napoleon left Egypt for France en route to seize power.

1813  Battle of Grossbeeren, the Prussians under Von Bülow repulsed the French army.

1839  The United Kingdom captured Hong Kong as a base as it prepared for war with Qing China.

1858  The Round Oak rail accident in Brierley Hill, England.

1866  Austro-Prussian War ended with the Treaty of Prague.

1873  Albert Bridge in Chelsea, London opened.


1875 William Eccles, English radio pioneer, was born (d. 1966).


1896 First Cry of the Philippine Revolution was made in Pugad Lawin (Quezon City), in the province of Manila.

1900 Malvina Reynolds, American folk singer/songwriter, was born (d. 1978). 

1904 The automobile tyre chain was patented.

1912 Gene Kelly, American dancer and actor, was born (d. 1996).


1914 World War I: Japan declared war on Germany and bombed Qingdao, China.

1914 – World War I: the Battle of Mons; the British Army began withdrawal. 

1921  British airship R-38 experienced structural failure over Hull in England and crashed in the Humber estuary.  Only 4 of her 49 British and American training crew survived. 

1923  Capt. Lowell Smith and Lt. John P. Richter performed the first mid-air refueling on De Havilland DH-4B, setting an endurance flight record of 37 hours.


1929  Hebron Massacre during the 1929 Palestine riots: Arab attack on the Jewish community in Hebron in the British Mandate of Palestine, continuing until the next day, resulted in the death of 65-68 Jews and the remaining Jews being forced to leave the city. 

1934 Barbara Eden, American actress and singer, was born.


1938 English cricketer Sir Len Hutton set a world record for the highest individual Test innings of 364, during a Test match against Australia. 

1939 New Zealand writer Robin Hyde died in London.

Writer Robin Hyde dies in London

1939  World War II: Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In a secret addition to the pact, the Baltic states, Finland, Romania, and Poland were divided between the two nations.


1942  Beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad.


1942  The last cavalry charge in history took place at Izbushensky.

1943 Nelson DeMille, American novelist, was born.

1943   Kharkov was liberated.

1944   Marseille was liberated.

1944   King Michael of Romania dismissed the pro-Nazi government of General Antonescu, who was arrested. Romania switched sides from the Axis to the Allies.


1944  Freckleton Air Disaster – A United States Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator bomber crashed into a school in Freckleton, England killing 61 people.

1946 Keith Moon, English musician (The Who), was born (d. 1978).


1946  Ordinance No. 46 of the British Military Government constitutes the German Land (state) of Schleswig-Holstein.

1947 Assisted immigration to New Zealand for British people resumed after WWII.

Assisted immigration resumes after war

1947 – Willy Russell, British playwright, was born.


1948  World Council of Churches was formed.

1949 Rick Springfield, Australian singer and actor, was born.


1951 Queen Noor of Jordan, was born.


1954 First flight of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. 

1958  Chinese Civil War: The Second Taiwan Strait crisis began with the People’s Liberation Army’s bombardment of Quemoy.

1966  Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first photograph of Earth from orbit around the Moon.

1975 Successful Communist coup in Laos.

1977  The Gossamer Condor won the Kremer prize for human powered flight.


1979  Soviet dancer Alexander Godunov defected to the United States.


1982 Bachir Gemayel was elected Lebanese President amidst the raging civil war.

1985  Hans Tiedge, top counter-spy of West Germany, defected to East Germany.

1989  Hungary: the last communist government opened the Iron curtain and caused the exodus of thousands of Eastern Germans to West Germany via Hungary.

1989  Singing Revolution: two million people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania stoodon the Vilnius-Tallinn road, holding hands (Baltic Way). 

1989 – 1,645 Australian domestic airline pilots resigned after the airlines threaten to fire them and sue them over a dispute.

1990  Saddam Hussein appeared on Iraqi state television with a number of Western “guests” ( hostages) to try to prevent the Gulf War.

1990  Armenia declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

1990  West and East Germany announced that they would unite on October 3.

1994  Eugene Bullard, The only black pilot in World War I, was posthumously commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.


1996 Osama bin Laden issued message entitled ‘A declaration of war against the Americans occupying the land of the two holy places.’

2000  Gulf Air Flight 072 crashed into the Persian Gulf near Manama, Bahrain, killing 143.

2006 – Natascha Kampusch, who was abducted at the age of 10, managed to escape from her captor Wolfgang Priklopil, after 8 years of captivity.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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