Word of the day

December 5, 2011

Volunteer – someone who renders aid, performs or undertakes a service; someone who expresses willingness to serve or assumes an obligation voluntarily;  someone who holds property under a deed made without consideration;  a cultivated plant growing from self-sown or accidentally dropped seed; to give or offer to give voluntarily; to perform or offer to perform a service of one’s own free will; to do work, usually charitable, without pay.

(Today is International Volunteer Day)


Act agreement aims to constrain spending

December 5, 2011

Act’s confidence and supply agreement with National appears to be aimed at less spending rather than more.

Both parties recognise that irresponsible increases in spending between 2005 and 2008 caused our current fiscal problems and agree that could happen again.

To that end they’ve agreed to legislate in the next two years to ensure that increases in core Crown operating spending, excluding finance charges, unemployment benefit, asset impairments and natural disasters, will be subject to a limit no greater than the population increase multiplied by the inflation rate.

Act’s sole MP John Banks will be a minister outside cabinet holding the portfolios of Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Small Business, Associate Minister of Education, and Associate Minister of Commerce.  He will also be a member of the Expenditure Control, Economic Growth and Infrastructure, and Appointments and Honours committees.

 

 


UF support at a price

December 5, 2011

National has a supply and confidence agreement with United Future:

Under the deal, Mr Dunne will remain Minister of Revenue and associate Minister of Health, as well as picking up the portfolio of associate Minister of Conservation.

Mr Dunne has also won new gains including investigating a free, annual health check-up for over 65s, no sale of any part of Kiwibank or Radio New Zealand.

He has also secured the retention of the Families Commission.

The question of this deal was never a matter of if but when and at what cost.

Even though Dunne won only his seat, I suppose he had to get something to show for his vote.

The Families Commission might be small beer in the context of overall government spending but given Bill English says we’re facing spending constraints for the foreseeable future the its retention is an expensive and unproductive luxury.

“Balancing the books and returning to  surplus is one of the most important things the Government can do to  build a stronger and more competitive economy,” Mr English says. . .

But getting back to surplus won’t be easy. In many ways, restraint in the public sector has only just started.

“The Government is committed to meeting this challenge. We’ve taken steps to control spending and get on top of debt, while putting in place  policies that build a more competitive economy and more real jobs.

When the need for restraint is so great, it’s a pity that axing the commission, which is an obvious way of cutting costs with little or no impact on anyone but those who work for it ,is no longer an option.

I wonder what the cost-benefit analysis of it would show and how all concessions made to minor parties since MMP was introduced would fare under similar scrutiny?

The confidence and supply agreement is here.


What’s normal?

December 5, 2011

Quote of the day:

. . .  I asked them whether that experience, and then being in Christchurch when it disintegrated had led them to a permanent sense of impermanence, that normality is fragile.

They disagreed with the premise of the question. Instead, they believe that no one should assume a  ‘normality’. The world will always shift unexpectedly so one should just look forward, determined to make the best of whatever circumstances throw up. . .  Stephen Franks

Most of us are comfortable with the familiar, the certain and the normal. But life has a way of testing us with the uncomfortable, unfamiliar and abnormal.

Each of us has a different way of dealing with that and it’s usually not what happens to us but how we deal with it that determines our happiness and possibly survival.

In the words of Victor Frankl:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. 
And:
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
And
When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.
Some of us, through accident of birth and circumstance, are better able to cope with the hurdles which disrupt normal life.
But that doesn’t alter the premise that life is neither certain nor fair and for most of us, it’s not what we’re given but what we do with it that makes the difference.

Not enough or too many?

December 5, 2011

Some people are worried that not enough people voted, others worry that too many did.

I wouldn’t go so far as Lindsay Perigo who wants to protect freedom from democracy and makes a call to decretinise the vote:

. . . “When, pre-election, I saw pubescent zombies being interviewed about why they intended not to vote, I was simultaneously relieved that they wouldn’t be adding to the Labour or Green tally … and aghast that more energetic cretinswouldbe.

“I call upon the Justice and Electoral Committee to address the issue of too many airheads voting and thus boosting Labour’s and the Greens’ representation artificially. Only humans should be allowed to vote—and only humans who pass literacy tests, linguistic and political.

“Longterm, individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be enshrined as absolute in a constitution—and thus placed beyond the grasp of half-wits. Freedom must be protected from democracy.

“Disenfranchising cretins, then de-cretinising the franchise: this ought to be a priority for any new freedom party such as is now being widely mooted to emerge from the ruins of ACT,” Perigo concludes.

But when I read Kerre Woodham’s column vote for Winston and you get other NZ First members? Really? yesterday, I could understand where Perigo was coming from:

 . . . The number of people who called to say they didn’t realise that voting for Winston would mean other people would get in has been teeth-grindingly extraordinary.

“Sooooo,” I’ve been asking, “when you ticked New Zealand First as your party of choice, what did you want to happen?”

“I just wanted Winston to get in to keep the Government honest,” they reply.

“And what about the other members of New Zealand First? Did you know who was on the party list?”

“No,” they replied as one. “We just thought we’d be getting Winston.”

“I was very surprised to see Andrew Williams get in,” one exclaimed. “What’s he doing there?” she asked.

I’m sure there are New Zealand First voters who knew exactly what they were doing and what they would be getting but an alarming number think of New Zealand First as a one-man, Winston Peters band.

We’ve had MMP for 15 years and this was the seventh election to use it yet people still don’t understand how it works.

I’m loathe to add anything to an already over crowded curriculum but there is a case for civics to be taught in school.

I suspect most of those who voted for New Zealand First would be far too old to benefit from the lessons, but maybe their grandchildren or great-grandchildren would learn enough to stop them repeating the mistakes of their elders.


Voting for selves or party?

December 5, 2011

Who’s supporting whom in Labour’s leadership race is exercising the minds of political tragics.

I know, and care, too little about the inner machinations of the party and its relationships to make even a half-educated guess about who’s in which camp.

If you’re interested Whaleoil has done the numbers; Cactus Kate has divided caucus into forwards and backs  and Keeping Stock has a guess at who’s backing who.

But the more important question for the future of Labour isn’t which of the two Davids, Cunliffe or Shearer, has the support of whom, but why.

Are the members of caucus voting for themselves or the party?

The answer for those who’ve passed their electoral best-by dates, at least those on the list, is obvious. They’re voting for themselves.

If they were voting for the party they’d have already accepted the party they played in the election loss and would have announced their resignations to allow some of the newer former MPs who lost their seats back in.

Since they haven’t you can be sure they’ll be backing the candidate least likely to axe the deadwood – whichever of the two that is.


First they came for the courthouses

December 5, 2011

Seven courthouses, including Oamaru’s historic stone one, have closed for earthquake strengthening.

“None of our buildings are more risky than they were last week or 10 years ago, but we now have information from experts that quantifies the risk and the remedial work required and that this work can’t be done while buildings are  occupied.”  

Before the Canterbury earthquakes this might have been regarded as an over reaction but since February 22nd the safety of buildings is being taken a lot more seriously.

But how far do we go in making buildings safe and who will pay for it?

A couple of weeks ago Jim Hopkins, Waitaki District’s deputy mayor, highlighted the problem:

Given that New Zealand is basically a head-on collision between two tectonic plates, the threat of earthquakes and the risk of building collapse is universal, inescapable – and fearfully expensive to fix. . .

This much is clear. The Royal Commission will recommend stricter codes. It’s got no option. And the government – whoever it is – will adopt those recommendations, if only to reassure the insurers. It’s got no option, either. And that has implications everywhere, except possibly in Auckland, where only scattered outbreaks of architecture have been detected. But in the provinces, where the population is, at best, static or, at worst, declining and the demand for new commercial space is as hard to detect as the pulse in a rock, the cost of strengthening buildings will simply be too great. They’ll come down or be left to crumble. . .  

To paraphrase that famous quote, “I have seen the future and it isn’t there”, what we’ll have is transformation by demolition, with much of the country’s architectural character, charm and history reduced to rubble because we simply haven’t got enough people or money to do anything else.

Oamaru was supposed to be a city. It had a port, good farmland, was close to the gold fields and far from the land wars.

Settlers arrived, used the local stone and built grand buildings. The gold ran out, peace was restored and the promised city was never realised.

That might well have saved many of the buildings which weren’t knocked down and replaced with concrete and mirror glass. It was only relatively recently that people realised what a wonderful asset the collection of grand, old – by New Zealand standards – stone buildings the town had and moved to preserve and restore and find new uses for them.

The courthouse is one of them. If it’s not up to standard how much more of the townscape is in the same category?

Some of the buildings are privately owned and the cost of strengthening them will be the owners.

Many others are owned by the District Council which is in no position to spend many millions of dollars on them.

The thought of all those beautiful buidlings being demolished is horrifying, so too is the thought that they might kill people. But how could a small town possibly pay for the work that will be needed to bring make them quake-proof?


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