Word of the day

October 10, 2011

Disgregate –  to separate; disintegrate; scatter.

Occupy Sesame Street

October 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street has provided opportunites for the capitalism against which the protest was launched with a website selling Occupy Wall Street products.

It has also spawned copy cat occupations the best of which is Occupy Sesame Street:

“Rainbow Connection” is actually about corporate malfeasance. Listen to the words! Also, price of gas still too high. #occupysesamest
We can’t decide which makes us angrier: that 1% of puppets eat 99% of the cookies, or the fact that none of those cookies are vegan
Still camping out at Oscar’s to make Cookie Monster switch to fair trade veggies. No progress on that yet, but Oscar may count as freegan!
Join us! Camp out in front of Oscar’s trashcan until Cookie Monster switches to fair trade veggies. Bring your zombie constume(just because)
Big Bird is too big to fowl!
We are now on a hunger strike to force Elmo to disclose his financial records. No more subsidized crayons for wealthy puppets!
We will not rest until the alphabet and most numbers are redistributed in an equitable manner! Also, gas prices are too high!
Hat tip: Tim Worstall

It’s about trust

October 10, 2011

In 2008 Labour tried to convince voters the election was about trust.

They were attempting to convince us that they could be trusted but John Key and National couldn’t.

Their record (pledge card, Electoral Finance Act, support for Winston Peters and Phillip Field . . . ) and their inability to find any dirt on Key foiled that plan.

This term National has worked hard to show it can be trusted, even in the face of financial and natural disasters beyond its control which provided the opportunity to be much tougher.

Labour however, has been inept in opposition which means it can’t be trusted in government.

One reason for its poor performance has been the propensity for its MPs to let down themselves and their party.

Even now, on the eve of an election when staying on message and keeping out of the news for the wrong things is so important, MP Charles Chauvel has been caught out.

On Friday Kiwiblog showed an email he’d written with a letter to the editor for a lawyer to send to the Dominion Post and today he has evidence that Chauvel breached standing orders with a media release which aimed to make him look good.

The first is stupid, the second is a contempt of standing orders both provide yet more reasons not to trust Labour and Kiwiblog is promising part III of this tomorrow.

The power is in the middle

October 10, 2011

The Green Party has been working hard to soften its far left image and has even been suggesting its open to a much closer relationship with National.

First term MP Catherine Delahunty isn’t following the party line on that:

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty has said she will resign if her party entered a coalition deal with the National Party – a call that undermines the credibility of the Green Party’s bid for more mainstream political appeal by leaving open the possibility of such a deal.

Ms Delahunty did not return calls, but Otago University politics lecturer Bryce Edwards confirmed she made the comment when responding to his questions during an interview on Friday.

“I clearly asked her: ‘If there was a Green Party MP that was a minister in a National-led Government, would you resign from parliament?’ She said, ‘Yes I would’.”

That’s a very silly stance when the power under MMP is in the middle.

If the Greens keep to the far left they’ll always be Labour’s lapdogs. If they are prepared to entertain a deal with National they are in a much stronger position.

One reason MMP hasn’t worked well in New Zealand is the absence of a party in the centre which stands for something identifiable. If the Greens really are prepared to be more mdoerate on social and economic issues while putting forward strong but reasonable environmental policies they could be that party.

National better for Maori

October 10, 2011

National never does well in Maori seats but the Mana Party’s new candidate in Tamaki Makaurau is a John Key fan.

Kereama Pene, a Ratana minister who last year described Key as a brilliant speaker added more praise for Key and the National Party yesterday:

“We’re in a recession right now, and I’ve got to think like the rest of the country that he has done a pretty good job.”

Asked what Mana leader Hone Harawira would think of his view, given that he had walked away from the Maori Party because of his dislike of National, Mr Pene said: “National is actually the group that have done most of the great things for Maoridom over the last 20 years. You’ve got to give praise where it’s due.”

He said the Treaty settlements process, the Waitangi Tribunal and kohanga reo were all implemented under National.

He is quite right about that – National governments have done a lot to help Maori and this one has worked far better with the Maori Party.

Labour, under Helen Clark, said the Maori Party was the last cab off the rank for coalition negotiations. National opened the door to the Maori Party although it didn’t need its support to govern.

The National Party also has a far better record than Labour of selecting Maori candidates in general electorates.

The latest Marae Digipoll shows National support in Maori electorates, while still low, is increasing. Support from Maori in general electorates is almost twice as high as among those on the general roll.

That is likely to continue as more Maori realise they are better off being independent rather than looking to the government to solve their problems.

Landcorp dividend poor return on assets

October 10, 2011

The state’s farming business Landcorp is paying a dividend of $27.5 million  compared with $18m last year.

That is an impressive figure in isolation but not in relation to the company’s $1,663,000 $1,663,000,000 of assets.

A return of only a little more than 1.6% on assets isn’t unusual for farms but it is an appalling return for a State Owned Enterprise.

Landcorp isn’t one of the assets National is proposing for partial sale. Nor should it be. The protracted sale of the Crafar farms show how difficult it would be to sell as going concern and the company would be a very bad buy – it is forecasting a dividend of only $15m next year..

But having $1,663,000 tied up in an operation which provides such a poor return on investment is not good use of public money.

The best strategy isn’t sale of the company as a whole but a gradual sale of the farms leading to the eventual winding up of the company.

De-murking the perks

October 10, 2011

Retiring MP Rodney Hide deserves our thanks for shining a light into the murk which surrounded MPs’ perks.

The perkbusting happened by accident . . . It was only when he inquired about the rules governing the expenditure of money by MPs that he discovered there were none, or very few.

“I asked ‘When can I use a taxi chit?’ – and no-one knew. It was basically “Whenever you think it’s appropriate”. I was stunned that you could stay in a hotel room and not present your expenses.”

So was the public when Hide blew the lid off the ruses politicians were using to pad out their relatively modest salaries – tax-free two-for-one superannuation subsidies, free domestic air travel for MPs’ families, subsidised international travel for MPs and former MPs and free home phone lines, not to mention a complete absence of anything resembling proper oversight. It was one rule for politicians and another for the rest of the country.

Hide’s disclosures outraged his fellow MPs. He’d shattered a cone of silence that had been observed for decades by MPs from all parties.

Whether or not the expenses were abused, there was huge potential for abuse which was lessened considerably when John Key opened them to scrutiny.

The introduction of the Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Bill is another step along the path of further accountability and transparency.

Among changes proposed in it are:

  • Most travel and accommodation entitlements for MPs and ministers will be  set by the Remuneration Authority rather than Parliament’s Speaker or the  Minister responsible for Ministerial Services.
    • The current voluntary  disclosure regime for MPs’ travel and accommodation expenses will become a  statutory requirement.
    • The amount that can be deducted from MPs’ salaries  for non-attendance in Parliament will increase from a maximum of $10 a day to  0.2 per cent of a MPs’ salary – $270 a day at current rates.

MPs should be paid fairly for the job they do and have all reasonable work-related expenses covered, as other employees do. Since they are paid from the public purse the expenses should also be open to public scrutiny where possible and practical.

Whatever the make-up of the government after the election, this Bill should be enacted as soon as possible.

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