Word of the day

October 17, 2011

Obscurantism – opposition to the spread of knowledge; being deliberately vague or obscure,the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known; a style in art and literature characterised by deliberate vagueness or obscurity.


14/15

October 17, 2011

14/15 in Stuff’s kids’ quiz – 1 lucky guess, let down by music again.


9.7% to go

October 17, 2011

Federated Farmers is celebrating the news that 90.3% of Canterbury dairy farms aren’t harming the environment and the improved working relationship with Environment Canterbury which contributed to that.

Robin Barkla, Federated Farmers Vice-President and a Whakatane dairy farmer. said:

“It says a lot that yesterday well over 200 dairy farmers were at the Lincoln dairy fielday. Environment Canterbury not only announced the 2010/11 results but were openly discussing with farmers how to better manage effluent.

“The large numbers attending tell me these are farmers looking for a better way. The three Canterbury dairy chairs all feel that the days of ‘them’ and ‘us’ are gone and on that score, Federated Farmers couldn’t be happier.

“With 99.56 percent of Canterbury’s 921 dairy farms being randomly inspected last season, this is a comprehensive environmental picture. Not only that, but these inspections are carried out under user-pays principals.

“I’d like to think that environmental transparency is a good thing. What these results tells me is that 90.3 percent of Canterbury’s dairy farms did not pose a threat to the environment last season. . . “

The goal is 100% compliance and the good news of high compliance doesn’t make the 9.7% of non-compliant farms acceptable.

“Federated Farmers main focus has always been on the rate of significant non-compliance. That is where environmental harm comes from. While the rate has crept up slightly, the fact is our Canterbury members are light years away from the season when one in five were significantly non-compliant. Those days are gone.

“Modern dairy farming is hugely complex and Canterbury’s 921 dairy farms operate under 10,137 consent conditions. The sterling result is that 9,630 consent conditions are fully complied with,” Mr Barkla concluded.  

Mention dairying and too often someone will preface it with the word dirty.

Any pollution is unacceptable but the 90.3% of farmers who do all they should and more to look after the environment shouldn’t be damned because of the minority who cause the problems.


Permission to tackle tough issues?

October 17, 2011

The Main Report’s sacred cow survey was designed to show where respondents stood on some of the critical issues which the major parties are generally reluctant to tackle.

Some conclusions from responses include:

•   Labour is campaigning the election is a choice between Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and Asset Sales. However 18% of our respondents support both a capital gains tax and partial asset sales.

•   There are some interesting differences between supporters of MMP and opponents of MMP. MMP supporters tend to favour a CGT (68% in favour) while opponents are opposed (67% against).

•   Likewise 60% of MMP supporters are against partial asset sales, while amongst MMP opponents the same number (60%) are in favour.

•   Some issues resonate regardless of the views on MMP. Strong support for raising the retirement age, supporting more immigration from MMP supporters and opponents, plus strong opposition to selling land and rural assets to foreigners. •   One ironic result is with the Maori seats. MMP supporters are split on retaining the seats with 35% in favour and 37% against. Amongst MMP opponents, only 9% are in favour and 82% opposed. The irony is under First Past the Post the number of Maori seats would grow from seven to 12.

•   As to whether Parliament has too many MPs, only 38% of MMP supporters agree compared with 75% of MMP opponents.

•   MMP  supporters are  also  more interventionist,  with  38% supporting  a  more economically  interventionist  Govt compared with 19% of MMP opponents.

•   There is an interesting correlation between those who support raising the retirement age and those who support a capital gains tax. Only 24% of those who are against increasing the retirement age support a CGT, while 52% of those who support increasing the retirement age also support a CGT. They are presumably the fiscal hawks.

•   We also get a correlation between support for raising the retirement age and supporting partial asset sales. Partial asset sales are only supported by 38% of those again raising the retirement age and by 62% of those who do support lifting the retirement age.

•   Republicans and monarchists also have quite different profiles. 39% of monarchists support a CGT compared to 54% of republicans. On the issue of partial asset sales 53% of monarchists are in support as opposed to 47% of republicans.

•   Monarchists are not fans of MMP with only 30% support, while amongst republicans it has 53% support. Republicans tend also to be more economically interventionist with 41% wanting more intervention in the economy compared with 21% of monarchists.

•   Finally it is of little surprise economic interventionists tend to support a CGT, oppose partial asset sales, support MMP, support a republic and oppose foreigners being able to buy land.

The Main Report concludes:

As NZ moves into an election campaign, The Main Report Group sought to probe the opinion of those who subscribe to its publications, and met surprisingly vigorous responses to some of the issues the main political parties keep ducking. Those responses were accompanied by sophisticated and highly intelligent commentary.

It’s clear a majority believe a rise in the retirement age is inevitable. The Govt should get on with framing a new policy. But will it
continue to shackle itself to no change, because it is fearful of antagonising the elderly, the most powerful voting bloc?

The elderly won’t be affected by any change to superannuation it’s people younger than 50 who would face a higher retirement age. The affordability of the retirement age can’t be taken in isolation from other costs.

That said, I am not opposed to increasing the age, gradually over time so people have plenty of notice and time to prepare for working longer or supporting themselves until eligible for state help.

One of the really surprising outcomes of our survey was the number who don’t support MMP. They outnumbered those in favour of MMP. Could this be a pointer to the outcome of this year’s referendum?

I’m not sure why MMP is included as one of the sacred cows that parties won’t touch when the government is giving us a referendum on the issue at the election next month.

Even if more people support change, and other  polls indicate opinion is still tending towards a small majority in favour of the status quo, the challenge is to find an alternative which will get majority support in the second referendum.

Parliament has too many MPs, the Maori seats should be abolished, and NZers are not yet ready for a republic.

If we still had FPP we’d now have more than 100. One reason we have so many is the attempt to ensure electorates have a similar number of people without making the rural and provincial ones too big.

I agree Maori seats are no longer needed and that the issue of republicanism isn’t a priority.

As for partial asset sales, the National Govt may draw comfort from the survey which shows support in moderate or strong terms ahead
of those expressing opposition totally or to a degree.

A capital gains tax met a more equivocal response. And there is no appetite for a return to Muldoonist-style intervention in the economy.

So, as we look at the results of this survey, we ask – are NZers ahead of their leaders in realism and courage?

To answer that question you have to look at the survey and respondents.

It got 534 responses. They don’t say how many people were asked to complete the survey but they come from its database which includes: politicians, civil servants, embassies, financial and legal industry associations, business executives;  road, rail, sea air operators, customs brokers, forwarding agents, importers and exporters; energy & environment professionals, service providers, legal advisors, local government planners;  dairy, sheep, meat & wool and arable farmers and agricultural executives.

They tend to be better educated and earning more than the general population and not a representative sample of all New Zealanders.

That doesn’t mean that leaders shouldn’t be looking at some of the sacred cows but most of those identified in the survey won’t be in election manifestos nor be priorities for whichever parties are in government after the election.

However, I think the electorate understands the difficulties facing the country and the world.

Tough times provide the opportunity to tackle some of the tougher issues – but does that mean a majority are prepared to give a government permission to provide some tougher solutions?


Protection hurts poorest most

October 17, 2011

Fonterra is keen to act on a report by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee that recommends a push beyond major cities in India by both the New Zealand government and private sector.

The Inquiry into New Zealand’s relationship with India identifies New Zealand’s role as a co-host of the 2015 Cricket World Cup as an opportunity and potential for the film, education and technology industries.

But dairying stands out as the big area of opportunity because India’s protected dairy industry may struggle to supply a market that is already the largest consumer of dairy products and is forecast to double over the next 15 years.

“We were told that the Indian dairy market has multi-billion-dollar potential for New Zealand, but only if tariff and regulatory barriers are removed,” the report said.

New Zealand exported $136.9 million worth of dairy products to India in the year to March 2011. India’s tariffs on dairy products range between 20 and 60 percent.

Fonterra, which is investigating the feasibility of dairy farming in India, submitted that New Zealand will need to make the running to advance its relationship with India.

“Fonterra is prepared to contribute resources for this purpose alongside the Government,” the report said.

The benefits of this for New Zealand and India ought to be obvious, but the Green Party has reservations.

“The Green Party is for stronger national interest tests on foreign investment in New Zealand, and a level of protection for New Zealand industry and services, particularly from low-wage competition.  We also sympathise with efforts by Indian farmers to protect their domestic agriculture, which could be undermined by a rapid and substantial removal of tariffs on imported food.”

Protection helps a few producers and the politicians who provide the protection.

It comes at the cost of lower production and higher prices which hurt the poor  and hungry the most.

Any move back to protectionism would also undermine the years of work New Zealand has put in to negotiating the free trade agreements which help us earn our keep and stop us turning into a third world nation.


Meeting the candidates

October 17, 2011

A long serving MP told me that the incumbent in a safe seat was always at a disadvantage at pre-election meet-the-candidates-meetings.

The other would-be MPs could say almost anything ,secure in the knowledge they’d never get to parliament to be held to account. The incumbent had a much harder task of making no promises s/he couldn’t realistically deliver.

With MMP the MP might expect to have at least one other candidate on the same side of the political spectrum to balance the opposition but at North Otago Greypower’s meeting on Saturday it was five to one against the sitting MP.

However, National’s Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean was more than a match for the other five candidates representing the Alliance, Green, Labour and Democrats for Social Credit parties and an independent.

She presented the facts and figures on National’s term. This included the explanation that superannuation had gone up 18.9% since National came to power and the sobering reminder that around half of New Zealand households were net tax recipients and 71% of net tax was paid by the relatively small number of people earning more than $150,000.

She also explained the importance of continuing to rebalance the economy to move from high spending, taxing and borrowing to savings and export-led growth.

Unlike the other candidates Jacqui is actively campaigning for both the party and constituent votes and she gave examples which showed her knowledge of Waitaki, its people and their concerns; and the breadth and depth of her work across her 34,888 square kilometre electorate.

As for the other candidates?

Like Jacqui, the Green’s Sue Coutts was articulate and exuded warmth and conviction. She was clear about her party’s policies, though unlike Jacqui, was much stronger on aspirational goals than practicalities.

Labour’s Barry Monks began by saying he didn’t realise he was expected to make a five mintue speech. This showed he’d failed candidates 101: if invited to a meeting, ascertain date, time, venue and purpose and what’s required.

The independent, David Ford, told us he was an entrepreneur. Any positive impression this might have created was spoiled when he went on to say he’d returned to New Zealand after 38 years overseas with only $10,000 which suggests he wasn’t a particularly successful one.

The Alliance candidate, Norman MacRitchie, who received 93 votes in the last election, wanted to repeal the States Services Act.  The Democrat for Social Credit candidate, Hessel Van Wieren, who gained 140 votes in the last election, tried to convince us the Reserve Bank could solve all our problems by creating more money.

When the speakers finished the man two along from me accused the bloke between us of having made up his mind before he got there. I suspect that was true of most of the audience, but at least they’d made the effort to get to the meeting and listen to other points of view, even if it only confirmed preconceived ideas.

For less biased reports on the metting see: party candidates set out policies for voters in the ODT; and Waitaki Candidates grilled on asset sales in the Timaru Herald.


Happy headlines

October 17, 2011

ODT – All Blacks muscle way into World Cup final

Too big, too strong and, most of all, just too damn    clinical. The All Blacks beat the Wallabies 20-6 in the World    Cup semifinal last night, and showed they have the muscle and    grunt to go with the renowned finesse in the side . . .

Southland Times – ABs trample over Aussies

France versus 4 million, the All Blacks have their date with destiny after surging into the Rugby World Cup final. . .

The Press – Screaming for All Black joy

After living through their city’s devastation, Christchurch residents could
finally scream for joy . . .

Dominion Post – All Blacks reward party faithful at fanzone

Clad in black, with faces painted in silver ferns, a crowd of thousands cheered the All Blacks to victory in Wellington’s fanzone last night . . .

NZ Herald – Epic All Blacks deliver on huge night

Yes we can and yes we did – in style . . .

And not so happy:

The Australian – Wallabies outplayed out smarted all blacked out

THE Wallabies’ World Cup campaign lies buried in the graveyard of Eden Park after they were bundled out of the tournament by the All Blacks last night . . .

Sydney Morning Herald – Great hope of rugby fumbles and bumbles when he was needed most

If that was Quade Cooper’s best game ever, as captain James Horwill fearlessly  declared it would be on match eve, then one can only wonder what  his worst has  been . . .

The Age –  Kiwis on the cusp after walloping Wallabies

AND yea, verily, it is written. Though long have our Kiwi cousins walked in the  shadow of the Valley of Death, through World Cup loss after World Cup loss, as  an entire people plumbed the depths of despair, now, now the hour is  upon them. The promised land is now just up ahead around the bend . . .

Peter FitzSimons gets full credit for graciousness in the last column.

 


%d bloggers like this: