Word of the day

November 2, 2013

Epicaricacy – taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others; joy at another’s pain; Schadenfreude.


Why National is popular

November 2, 2013

Tracy Watkins has identified five reasons for National’s continuing popularity:

– John Key. As the world plunged towards doom and gloom in 2008, Key seemed like a leader for the times – cheerful, optimistic and a tonic for voters ready for a change after nine years under Labour.

He has also been National’s first genuinely charismatic leader in a long time. . .

Middle New Zealand also instinctively trusts Key as someone who understands hard times. But it is also a case of “what you see is what you get”.

I first met John when he had been an MP for only a few months. He hasn’t changed. He’s comfortable in his skin and doesn’t try to be anything he isn’t.

– Steering a course through the global financial crisis. In his speech to the Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce this week, Key made a point of highlighting National’s determination not to slash and burn in response to the global financial crisis and the massive debt burden that welcomed it into office.

Previous National governments would have worn the scorched-earth label as a badge of honour, and Key’s government came under pressure from some quarters to hack into government spending under cover of the crisis. That National resisted doing so – and even increased spending on welfare initiatives at the height of the GFC – has earned Key a reservoir of goodwill with voters and neutralised Labour’s attacks on him as a Right-wing wolf in sheep’s clothing. . .

The focus has been on getting more for less, and it’s working.

– Softly, softly government. Change may not be fast under this government, but the cumulative effect of many of its decisions will be far-reaching.

Small movements on the tiller can result in big changes of direction over time, taking people with you.

–  Tragedy and disaster. National might have thought it had enough on its plate when it won power in the midst of a world wide economic crisis and the domino-like collapse of finance companies, including South Canterbury Finance, which required a $1.7 billion bailout. But it has also been tested by a succession of New Zealand’s worst tragedies and disasters, including the Pike River mining disaster, killing 29 men, and the Canterbury earthquakes, which cost 185 lives and left a repair bill of billions of dollars.

It has been a staggering run of bad luck, but electorally it did National little harm since the events were beyond its control and enhanced its credentials as a safe pair of hands.

–  Raising the bar for ministerial performance. Key is known to keep his ministers on their toes by putting them through yearly performance appraisal reviews and laying out his expectations during individual chats at the start of each year. . .

Ministers know they are there to make a positive difference, not as of right, and there are other capable and talented people in caucus ready to step up.

#gigatownoamaru understands you have to work to meet targets.


Rural round-up

November 2, 2013

Fonterra on notice – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra is on notice from its leading independent director, Sir Ralph Norris, that another food safety scare would have serious global implications.

While it may be inaccurate and unfair, Fonterra is saddled with the melamine adulteration in China in 2008 and the DCD fertiliser concerns earlier this year, followed by the precautionary recall because of a botulism scare in August.

“That means it is important for Fonterra to learn from the whey protein concentrate events. The fact that the botulism scare was a false alarm doesn’t diminish the work of (our) inquiry,” Norris said. . .

Focus goes on communication – Alan Williams:

Fonterra’s communications team is being renewed as public relations contractor Baldwin Boyle Group (BBG) makes way for more in-house employees.

Five of the 33 recommendations made by the independent inquiry for the board concerning the botulism scare in whey protein concentrate are aimed at better communication.

The first recommendation is that Fonterra needs to continue building a directly employed, strong, specialist, and experienced communications team.

That should be done in key global markets, supplemented with contracted, high-calibre local expertise where appropriate. . .

Tough year for tulip grower – Alison Rudd:

Spring brings magnificent swathes of colour to Southland as hundreds of hectares of tulips bloom. But for tulip producers, the flowers are a byproduct and the real value of the plant lies in its bulb. Reporter Allison Rudd talks to one of the van Eeden family about the changing industry.

For many decades, van Eeden Tulips was the only tulip bulb producer in New Zealand of any significance.

For 45 years, it supplied most of the bulbs grown by commercial flower growers, home gardeners and council parks and reserves departments, before branching out into exports in the late 1990s. . . .

More Southland dairy farms expected – Terri Russell:

Low sheep returns and high milk prices have contributed to a rise in dairy farm conversions in Southland.

New dairy farm conversions totalled just seven for the 18-month period to July. But a recent spike in new conversions comes after Fonterra announced its record forecast payout of $8.30 per kilogram.

Environment Southland consents manager Stephen West said there had been more dairy farm conversion applications in the past four months than there had been in almost two years.

The surge in conversion numbers also coincides with the plan change 13 deliberations drawing to a close.

Plan change 13 has required all new dairy farms to obtain a resource consent before becoming operational since April last year, and the decision on whether the rule will become permanent will be made in December. . . .

No dividend, but Alliance’s system sorted – Sally Brooker:

Shareholders who packed out the Alliance Group Ltd roadshow meeting in Oamaru last week were told they are not getting a dividend.

Chairman Murray Taggart, an Oxford farmer who has taken over since Owen Poole retired on September 30, said times had been ”tough for meat processors and exporters”.

The equity ratio and operating cash flow were good, but not sufficient for a dividend. . .

Fonterra Acquires Stake in Bega Cheese Ltd:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited has acquired a 6 per cent shareholding in Australian dairy company Bega Cheese Limited.

The 9.3 million shares were purchased at AUD4.95 per share for a total cost of AUD46 million.

Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings said, “Australia is an important market for Fonterra, and we are committed to growing our already strong presence.

“There has recently been a lot of consolidation activity in the Australian dairy industry. It is important that Fonterra participates, and we have confidence in Bega and the strategy it is pursuing,” said Mr Spierings. . .

Foreign investors buy more South Island farmland:

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved the application by a Singaporean investment management company to buy half the shares of New Zealand Pastures Limited, a locally-owned company that operates seven South Island sheep and beef farms.

The farms :Three Rivers, Grantham Springs, Hitchin Hills, Quailburn, Hills Creek, The Styx and Huntleigh, cover almost 23,500 hectares.

Singapore company Duxton Asset Management is buying the shares on behalf of itself and two other overseas investment funds. . . .

Stalwart’s last stand gets support of mates – Ruth Grundy:

When his mates got wind John Hough was making his ”last stand”, they thought they would go along for the ride.

The Rakaia shearer and Shearing Sports New Zealand official who will only admit to being ”not 70 yet” began shearing at 18 and first competed in open-class shearing 40 years ago. . . .

#gigatownoamaru appreciates its rural hinterland.


Wanting what someone else has got

November 2, 2013

One of the more unattractive traits in people is wanting what someone else has.

It can cause people to become dissatisfied with what they’ve got if they think someone’s got something better, even if they were satisfied with what they had before.

It happens with monkeys too.

Is this the foundation for politics of envy?

#gigatownoamaru wants to be the fastest town in the Southern Hemisphere – and is working for it.


#gigatownoamaru

November 2, 2013

Oamaru is already New Zealand’s Sharpest town and the country’s Steampunk capital.

We’re doing our best to make #gigatownoamaru the Southern Hemisphere’s fastest town as the first gigatown too.

Photo: Who knows where this is? #gigatownoamaru

The image was created by Golding Arts, and published with his permission, please respect the copyright.


Focussing on what doesn’t matter

November 2, 2013

The Labour Party’s constitutional changes have given more say, and power to the members.

It has, they say, made the party more democratic. Although quite how allowing organisations more power than individuals can be described as democratic is debatable.

Regardless of that, members are having more say and unfortunately for the party’s PR machine, that is what is getting the publicity from this weekend’s conference.

Yesterday Stuff published some of the more radical proposals including  one that would force the candidate selection committee to consider a range of factors, including sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, disability and age, to ensure they are “fairly” represented in the party.

. . . But there are a raft of other controversial remits to be debated at the conference that will turn the focus on Labour’s social agenda.

They include a radical change to abortion laws that seems to take doctors out of decision-making and give a pregnant woman “the opportunity and freedom to make the best decision for her own circumstances”. . . 

Other proposals are:

* Maori language made compulsory in state schools and teachers required to be competent in te reo

* Privatised state assets renationalised with compensation based on “proven need”

* The Government’s roads of national significance project dumped and the funds put into public transport

* Teaching of civics and democracy mandatory for all schoolchildren

* Laws to discourage excessive alcohol consumption, a review of the purchasing age, alcohol availability and an increase in the price of booze

* Prisoners again getting the right to vote

* A national sex and sexuality education programme dealing with sexual diseases, contraception methods, consent, sexual orientation and gender identity

 * New Zealand becoming a republic

* An apology for the Foreshore and Seabed Act passed in 2004

* A prohibition on school boards of trustees restricting same-sex partners from attending school balls

* A Pasifika television station

* A Maori language newspaper

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson agrees the apology should be issued:

“I am glad that almost a decade after passing this shameful piece of legislation, which denied access to the courts to people based on race, the Labour Party is ready to discuss an apology,” Mr Finlayson said.

The National government repealed the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2011 with the support of the Māori Party and United Future, and restored the right of Māori to go to court through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.

“I would suggest that the Labour leadership also apologise for their the party’s abysmal treatment of Tariana Turia because of her principled stand over the issue,” he said.

“While they are at it, they should apologise for the way Helen Clark called Dr Pita Sharples, a man who has devoted his life to improving Māori educational achievement, a ‘hater and a wrecker’.”

“They should apologise that Ms Clark deliberately snubbed the 35,000 New Zealanders who made a hikoi to Parliament to protest that discriminatory legislation, preferring to pose for a photo opportunity with Shrek the sheep.”

“At the same time, Labour may wish to say sorry for the way Treaty of Waitangi settlements stalled almost completely during their nine years in power – averaging 1.6 settlements per year, and needlessly delaying the resolution of these grievances for the good of the country. Last year, the government signed 15 deeds of settlement with iwi, only one fewer than Labour’s total for nine years in office.”

This has brought out several helpful suggestions in social media about other apologies Labour should make, including one to Shrek, although as he’s dead just now that’s a bit late.

Back to the conference.

What members in any party want isn’t always consistent with the party’s philosophy and principles.

People join parties for a range of reasons among which is the desire to push a particular barrow and the party is just a vehicle for doing that.

The trouble for the party is that some of these barrows are more interesting and newsworthy than what else might be going on at the conference and therefore get attention.

The selection criteria proposal has already been watered down but not sufficiently to wash from voters’ minds the conviction that Labour is still focussed on social engineering.

It also leaves questions about what the party thinks is important and how different that is to what matters to voters.

John Armstrong writes on the conference:

. . . You could be excused thinking this might also be an opportunity for the caucus spokesmen and women in key portfolios to give some indication of their thinking even though they may not have been in those roles for very long.

Instead the conference will devote several hours to wrangling over the wording of a “policy platform” document setting out Labour’s values, vision and priorities which has already been months in the drafting.

The platform is supposed to answer that perennial question: what does Labour stand for.

You can safely bet that 99.9 per cent of all voters will never set eyes upon it, let alone read it.

This is the kind of navel-gazing exercise a party undertakes and completes in the year after an election – not a year out from the next one.

It all reinforces the impression of a party focused inwards rather than outwards.

That is underlined by the series of policy remits which deal with such pressing matters as compulsory Maori language classes in schools, apologising to Maori over the foreshore and seabed farrago, state funding of political parties (a hardy annual) and entrenching the Bill of Rights (whatever difference that would make).

Many of the items amount to wish-list policies produced by the party’s sector groups. The words “out of touch” spring to mind.

While all this navel gazing was going on, the government was getting on with what matters, including announcements on a replacement for the Teachers’ Council and the decision to not allow the damming of the Nevis River.

Even on a matter of moment – state asset sales – Labour seems to be living in the past. One proposal up for debate at yesterday’s workshops would have had a Labour government reviewing the state-owned enterprises model so that it was no longer “pro-capitalist” and enabled “workers’ participation, control and management of industry”.

The “policy proposal” would have also required Labour to “re-nationalise” every state asset privatised by the current National Government, with compensation being paid only to shareholders with “proven need”.

That is a blunt retort to Bill English’s jibe that if Labour opposes asset sales so much, why doesn’t the party commit itself to borrowing the money to buy them back.

Exactly where the line would have drawn on compensation is not clear. But there would be some mighty unhappy investors in Mighty River Power if told they were not going to get their money back. That would amount to theft – and would have seriously dented New Zealand’s credibility as a haven for foreign investment, as well as sending all the wrong messages about saving.

The proposal was voted down by delegates. The question is how it managed to make it onto the conference agenda – and why something better was not put up in its place. Sometimes political parties need protecting from themselves.

Labour’s membership may feel liberated by recent changes in the party’s rules. But more influence brings the need to act more responsibly. At some point, however, Cunliffe is going to have to lurch back to the right. It won’t happen today. But it will happen. Watch for some real fireworks within Labour when it does.

Cunliffe won the leadership on votes from members and unions and he’s been feeding them left-wing rhetoric.

Whether or not he believes what he says is difficult to fathom because he varies his message to suit his audience.

However, the impression that remains is that he and his party are lurching to the left.

That might appeal to some of those who didn’t bother to vote last time. But it will repel some who did vote for the more moderate policies promoted by Labour under Phil Goff and won’t give their votes to support a more radical left agenda.

Gains on the left flank could be lost from the centre and go to the right.

While the party is focussing on what doesn’t matter, voters are worried about what does – the economy, education, health and security.

That’s National’s focus too and it’s making a positive difference to the country as the series of good news stories grows.

Meanwhile #gigatownoamaru is focussed on becoming the Southern Hemisphere’s sharpest town,

 


7/10

November 2, 2013

7/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.

#gigatownoamaru is on track for 10/10 in the quest to be Southern Hemisphere’s sharpest town.


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