What is that tune?

November 6, 2013

I know the music that plays in the background of the railway advertisement on TV but it’s name eludes me.

There’s an electronic jelly sponge waiting for anyone who can tell me what it is.

Maybe one of #gigatownoamaru’s many musical people, or someone from further afield can help.


Today’s top tweets

November 6, 2013

https://twitter.com/JordanMcCluskey/status/397905368690331648

https://twitter.com/Inventory2/status/397891521761910785

https://twitter.com/CactusKate2/status/397871110491881472

 


Word of the day

November 6, 2013

Pule – cry plaintively, querulously or weakly; whimper; whine.


Rural round-up

November 6, 2013

Fonterra 2.0 – Willy Leferink:

There has been more than a little soul searching by Fonterra’s Board. For all the bad press it gets slammed with locally, I can say from the World Dairy Summit in Japan that Fonterra is not just respected; it is admired by many and even feared by some across the world.

With its independent report on the non-botulism scare, Fonterra’s Board dropped a very big hint that things are going to be different going forward in deeds more than words. Given former act leader Rodney Hide admitted in print this year that “politicians leak all the time,” it must have come as a shock to the media that such a critical and sensitive report was kept tight right up until 2pm last Wednesday.

I didn’t have an advance copy just a general heads up so I raced to the internet at the same time as everybody else. There was no leak and nor was it timed to clash with some other event; Honesty 1 v. Spin Doctors 0. Even the media conference was webcast live for anyone to watch anywhere on earth. I don’t want to sound like a commercial here, but wait, there’s more. Critical parts of the report were translated into key languages so I guess Fonterra’s Board did not want there to be any ambiguity.

Yet the words of Jack Hodder, who chaired Fonterra’s independent board inquiry, sticks in my mind – the biggest thing that needs to change within Fonterra is cultural. . .

 Farmers urged to vote in historic meat co-op elections:

Given strong moves to restructure New Zealand’s red meat sector, Federated Farmers is describing the director elections for Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group as historic.

“If you want empowerment in your farming business then as shareholders you need to vote,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Chairperson, newly returned from a World Farmers’ Organisation event in Zambia.

“Set against a backdrop of what could be up to three million fewer lambs and declining stock numbers, future generations of farmers will ask current shareholders how they voted. . . .

New sentencing options for polluters not needed, says minister:

The Government has rejected a suggestion that more flexible sentencing options for judges are needed to help the fight against agricultural polluters

In a speech to the Environmental Compliance Conference this week, Environment Court judge Craig Thompson says more imaginative sentencing options could lead to better outcomes for both the environment and farmers.

Judge Thompson suggests that judges should have the power to shut down the worst offenders altogether.

He says those farmers or farm companies place a huge burden on the enforcement and prosecution resources of councils that are unfortunate enough to have them as ratepayers. . .

Fonterra and Tatua paths might cross in Australian tangle:

Cross-ownership and joint ventures could see two New Zealand rivals working together depending on the outcome of wrangling for ownership of an Australian dairy company.

Dairy companies throughout the world often own a stake in competitors or operate joint ventures, an Australian analyst Jon Hauser of XCheque says.

“There’s a whole range of commercial joint ventures and ownership structures between private companies and private companies, and private companies and co-operatives,” Hauser said. . .

Fleeced: 160 sheep stolen from field near village of Wool – Adam Withnall:

Dorset police are appealing for witnesses after 160 sheep were stolen from a field near the village of Wool.

The rustlers are thought to have had to use a large lorry to move the animals, which were all marked and electronically tagged.

Police said the incident took place between 8am on Saturday 2 November and 2.30pm on Monday, at the field which lies next to the A352 between Wool and the nearby village of East Stoke. . .

 

Gigatown competiton could benefit a rural town:

Farmers see the benefits for their rural town if it were to win Chorus’s year-long competition to bring the fastest broadband speed to one New Zealand town

FWPlus followers tweeted that it could have both indirect and direct benefits for farmers.

“Fantastic urban internet will help rural communities indirectly by helping their towns thrive,” @AaronJMeikle tweeted

The one-gigabit per second broadband speeds – up to 100 times faster than most cities around the globe – would act as a magnet and attract businesses to relocate to that town, he tweeted.

Another direct benefit, he tweeted, was that it would provide services that fitted farmers’ time constraints.

This is why I’m supporting #gigatownoamaru


GDT Price Index down 1.8%

November 6, 2013

The Price Index in this morning’s GlobalDairyTrade auction dropped 1.8%.

GDT Trade Weighted Index Changes

gdt 6.11

 

 

 

 

The price of anhydrous milk fat increased 6.9%; butter dropped 7.0%;  butter milk powder was up 1.8%; cheddar was up 1.2%; lactose increased 3.2%;  milk protein concentrate was up by 4.6%; rennet casein and skim milk powder both increased by 5.% and whole milk powder dropped 3.7%.


Normal for whom?

November 6, 2013

The depraved behaviour of the self-titled Roast Busters isn’t regarded that way by their friends:

Female friends of the Roast Busters have spoken out in support of the boys accused of having group sex with intoxicated underage girls.

The girls, aged between 16 and 19, are standing by their friends, saying their behaviour is nothing more than normal teen antics.

“They are good guys,” said one. “They can make really dumb decisions but they are being teenagers.

“What they are doing is very wrong… they should not have put this on Facebook. They wanted to be famous, they got their fame but in the worst possible way.”

But the girls, who do not wish to be named, claim the bravado we’ve seen from the Roast Busters is just that – even though police believe the group may have exploited a number of drunk, underage victims.

“People know that they are Roast Busters and they go hang out with them and do stuff [… ] but they’re not rapists, they’re cool dudes.” . . .

The female friends of the Roast Busters told 3 News that Facebook anarchy is now the norm, so too is drunken “group sex”.

“People send it on Snapchat, who cares […] it’s normal in west Auckland, its normal here […] Not for everybody though it’s just the young ones 13- to 15-year-olds – that’s what they do.” . . .

Normal for whom?

Not anyone with an appreciation of what’s right and wrong.

Not anyone who understands that actions have consequences.

Not anyone with respect for themselves and other people.


Cavalier attitude to taxpayers’ money

November 6, 2013

The Press, which is very familiar with insurance issues in Christchurch was less than impressed with Labour’s plan to establish a state-owned insurance company.

. . . The proposal for a new state-owned insurance company – KiwiAssure – would, Cunliffe says, be an effort to address problems over the responsiveness of private companies in settling claims and of the price of insurance. But in a market as competitive as the New Zealand one is, the price of insurance is determined by risk and the cost of covering it on the overseas reinsurance market. That applies whether the entity is private or state-owned. A state-owned enterprise required to lower its prices or be more generous towards customers than competitors could only do so at the expense of taxpayers.

As for the implication that a state-owned enterprise might provide a better customer experience in general than a private company, that only shows how far Auckland is from Christchurch. There are many in Christchurch who have dealt with EQC who could put Cunliffe right on that point. . .

The Herald is equally unenthusiastic about the idea:

. . . Ironically, the frustrations experienced by home-owners in Christchurch have much to do with government insurance in the form of the Earthquake Commission. . .

Nothing in the policy announced by Mr Cunliffe at the weekend dealt with any of the real insurance policy issues arising from Christchurch. The announcement was little more than a replay of a commercial for KiwiBank which, like it or not, could be saddled with the insurance company. “KiwiAssure will work for all New Zealanders,” Mr Cunliffe declared. It would be “a service-focused, state-owned company that has their best interests at heart”. It would “keep profits from this crucial industry in New Zealand”.

Wisely, he did not quite claim it would offer cheaper premiums than existing companies. Christchurch had an insurance company that did that. AMI had come to dominate the local market by undercutting competitors and the earthquake exposed its inability to meet all of its liabilities.

The AMI experience is salutary for national taxpayers, too, when they hear Labour’s assurance that its company would not carry a government guarantee. The present Government quickly came to the relief of AMI’s policy holders, taking over the worst liabilities and selling AMI as a going concern to the multinational IAG. It is hard to imagine a Labour Government acting any differently if a state-owned insurer fell into the same trouble.

Insurance is almost the last business that should be nationalised. Its purpose is to share risk internationally. Labour’s company, like KiwiBank, might appeal to those who dislike profit-seeking private enterprise and prefer to deal with a state agency, but they will be under-written by a global insurance network of private enterprise. The profits of insurance provide security for all its subscribers.

The illusion of a “home-grown alternative”, as Mr Cunliffe calls it, has a powerful commercial appeal.

Members of the Insurance Council do not relish competing with a new state company for that reason. Taxpayers should be wary too. When a political party goes into business for no reason better than ideological satisfaction, it is likely to create a commercial lemon requiring ever more capital to survive. Let us hope this is one we will never see.

The ODT raises concerns:

. . . The suggestion KiwiAssure will be run by Kiwibank is not sensible.

The success of Kiwibank will be put at risk by tacking on an insurance company with a domestic focus.

Voters only have to look at the downfall of AMI, a Christchurch-based insurance company which substantially undervalued its reinsurance obligations and ended up with the Government – and taxpayers – having to step in to bail it out.

Of course, a government bail-out is exactly what will happen to KiwiAssure if it does not spread its reassurance risks widely.

Reinsurance for a totally-owned government-controlled insurance company will be expensive.

There can be no discounted policies on offer; it does not make sense.

Residents of Christchurch, and other cities and towns, should be asked how they feel about the state-run EQC, or the many people waiting for some help from ACC, to get some indication of whether they feel comfortable with a state-owned insurance company looking after their interests.

Overseas-owned insurance companies, although receiving much criticism for the slowness of their reviews and delays in payments, at least have a global reach of funds on which to draw. . .

Labour’s insurer will be completely exposed to events in New Zealand, a country at major risk of incurring heavy losses from natural disasters. . .

The Auditor General’s report on EQC said its response in Christchurch had been mixed.

There is nothing in the report to give any confidence in a new sate owned insurance company.

Labour leader David Cunliffe  tried to get some traction for the idea in Question time yesterday but gave Prime Minister John Key an opportunity to remind everyone of the risks instead:

. . . According to the public register, believe it or not, a total of 96 insurance firms have a full licence from the Reserve Bank’s carry-on insurance business in New Zealand. I have heard of a group proposing to set up a 97th insurer. The only point of difference is that that insurance business would put hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money at risk by entering a market in which that group has no expertise and for which it cannot offer any competitive advantage. That cavalier attitude to taxpayers’ money comes from who else but the Labour Party. . . 

Hon David Cunliffe: Is it not true that the Prime Minister called Kiwibank a “failing institution” after almost a million Kiwis signed up as customers; therefore, why could not KiwiAssure also provide a locally owned, competitive, and high-quality option in the insurance market?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is great that it has taken to supplementary question No. 4, but we will get to the heart of it. These are the reasons. For a start off, let us just take Kiwibank. Yes, it is a good little business. I might point out, though, that it has taken $860 million of taxpayers’ money and it has never paid a dividend in over 10 years. Secondly, the insurance market is hardly a free ride, because insurance companies happen to be in the process of paying $20 billion out in Christchurch. So if we had KiwiAssure, which the member wants to talk about, then New Zealand taxpayers would be paying a fortune into Christchurch. Thirdly, it is a competitive market at the moment. So if one assumes that they are just going to lay off their risk, they will be laying it off with the same reinsurers. Fourthly—     

. . .  Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To my fourth point as to why an insurance company would be a bad idea—name another major bank that operates in New Zealand that has an insurance company. It would not make sense to lend money [Interruption]—no, lend money—and actually have the insurance on the same property they are renting. They do not do that. . .

Finance Minister Bill English got a further opportunity to reinforce the risks in the proposal:

David Parker—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with IAG’s submission to the Commerce Commission that “there is real potential for major banks to begin underwriting their own general insurance products, and to compete directly with the incumbent insurance companies at the underwriting level as they already do at a retail level of the insurance market”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I have no responsibility for the opinion of IAG New Zealand but I can give the member the benefit of the experience of watching and working closely with the Reserve Bank to reduce the risks of our banking system to the New Zealand taxpayer. There have been 3 or 4 years where capital requirements have been increased, the core funding ratio has been increased, and we have put in place an open bank resolution system. The idea of a bank taking on more insurance risk is about the dumbest proposal that could possibly be made in the light on the events following the global financial crisis. The member should think very carefully before putting forward a policy that heads in exactly the opposite direction to where every other country in the world is heading.

Hon David Parker: Am I correct, then, to infer that he does not support the creation of a Kiwibank-style insurer to serve New Zealand consumers, which would reduce the dominance of overseas-owned insurers, keep profits in New Zealand, and bring added competition, added flexibility, and choice to New Zealanders?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is exactly the misleading pitch around this proposition. If there is one thing every taxpayer in the developed world now understands but the Labour Party does not, it is that the risk would be on taxpayers—taxpayers in Ireland, Spain, the US, and the UK. A billiondollar impost on New Zealand taxpayers arises exactly from financial institutions taking too much risk and loading it on to the Government. That is why his proposition is stupid. . .

Hon BILL ENGLISH:  . . . Secondly, what is surprising here is that when we have had the biggest manifestation of risk, it going wrong, and its impact on taxpayers in 100 years, the Labour Party still does not get it.

Hon David Parker: Why should anyone accept what the Minister of Finance says about KiwiAssure when 10 years ago he was pouring scorn on Kiwibank, saying it was “a small bank that has got no long-term viability.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is a small bank and it has never paid a dividend. It is great that it meets the needs of New Zealanders but it is certainly not an argument for creating a parallel insurance company. It is absolutely clear from our experience with the Earthquake Commission, AMI Insurance, and South Canterbury Finance that when the taxpayer has to underwrite this kind of risk, it can go wrong and taxpayers can be up for billions of dollars. Having low-income people working in the rain, paying their PAYE, and underwriting financial risk is as dumb an idea as you can have in the 2020s.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would any sane New Zealander believe that last diatribe given that just 10 years ago, when the Cullen fund was announced, he said the very same thing about that, then went down just last week to its 10-year celebration and humbly had to admit what a fool he was?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, as the member will know, because he was there, I did not say that. I did praise Dr Cullen for finding a way of stopping the Labour caucus spending billions of dollars in surpluses. If Dr Cullen had been there, he would have said that that was why he set up the Superannuation Fund—to protect New Zealand from the Labour caucus.

The one thing that is saving us from Labour’s cavalier attitude to taxpayers’ money is the proviso on the policy that a business case stacks up.

It is very unlikely a business case will so this isn’t so much policy or a promise as an attempt to get votes in the Christchurch by-election the outcome of which will be settled well before the business case is found to be faulty.

The business case for #gigatownoamaru stacks up well.


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