Word of the day

January 8, 2014

Nazzy (Y0rkshire) – intoxicated, drunk.


Living wage doesn’t apply

January 8, 2014

An advertisement on the Green Party website:

Intern for Kevin Hague

Kevin Hague’s office has a vacancy for a parliamentary intern for 2014.

This is an unpaid, voluntary position based in Wellington. A minimum of 8 hours a week is required but the hours worked are negotiable. You will be required to go through a reference check and application process with both Kevin’s office and Parliamentary Service.

This position will give you the opportunity to see first-hand the work environment and process of a Green Party MP, and contribute to their team. The nature of the work is flexible around the applicants’ level of skill and interest but some background in Health, ACC, NZ politics, or Rainbow Issues will be preferred. . .

This from the party which is promoting the so-called living wage.

It obviously doesn’t apply here.


How liberal are you?

January 8, 2014

I’ve added a new word to my vocabulary today – minarchist.

That’s what I am according to this quiz which asks what kind of libertarian you are.

You Scored as Minarchist

Minarchists are libertarians who advocate a strictly limited government and usually a more decentralized form of it. Minarchists may vary in the degree to which they think that government should be limited, although the bare bones position is essentially nothing more than police, courts and the military. Minarchists tend to think that some minimum level of government is a necessary evil, or at least an inevitability. The contemporary libertarian movement in America is dominantly minarchist, although it has had a long history of dialogue and debate between minarchist and anarchist libertarians.

lib

The reliability of that answer – if such quizzes can be called reliable anyway – is compromised because I chose the middle option for several questions when I didn’t know enough about the people or issues to make a reasoned response.

Hat tip: Not PC

 

 


Kurow’s Hay people felled by fire

January 8, 2014

When we passed through Kurow on our way home from Wanaka last week I took a photo of the Hay people:hay peopleThe ODT reported they’re Minions from the movie Despicable Me.

Various manifestations of the Hay people have been an annual fixture in the town for several years, thanks to the imagination and creative endeavour of local volunteers.

They’ve featured on this bog in 2009; 2010; 2011; and the Rugby World Cup special.

Sadly, this year’s people have been felled by fire.

Hay can spontaneously combust and it’s a bigger danger if it was baled when it’s too wet or green.

That would be a sad end to this year’s hay sculpture, but it would be worse if it was the result of vandalism.


Rural round-up

January 8, 2014

Milk’s carbon footprint cut by 63 percent:Tom Quaife:

Since 1944, efficiencies in the dairy industry have allowed fewer cows to produce more milk. As a result, the carbon footprint per pound of milk produced has fallen by 63 percent, according to a noted expert.

“In 1944, it took four cows to produce the same amount of milk as a single cow in 2007,” Jude Capper, assistant professor of dairy science at Washington State University told those attending a session at Alltech’s 27th Annual International Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium on Monday.

Dairy farmers have made major progress over the years, which is something the industry should be proud of, she said.

Capper has researched this subject extensively and published articles in scientific journals, including the Journal of Dairy Science.

She is also at the forefront when it comes to debunking the myth that modern agriculture is worse for the environment than the farms that dotted the landscape in the 1940s. . .

Scientists help farmers make dairies green:

Cows stand patiently in a tent-like chamber at a research farm in western Wisconsin, waiting for their breath to be tested. Outside, corrals have been set up with equipment to measure gas wafting from the ground. A nearby corn field contains tools that allow researchers to assess the effects of manure spread as fertiliser.

Scientists based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have started a slew of studies to determine how dairy farms can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. They will look at what animals eat, how their waste is handled and the effects on soil, water and air.

Their work is part of a government-sponsored effort to help farmers adapt to more extreme weather and reduce their impact on climate change. The studies also will support a dairy industry effort to make farms more environmentally friendly, profitable and attractive to consumers. . .

Bunnies on the run – Lynda Gray:

Cute and cuddly…almost. Meet Newton, one half of Euan Butter’s dynamic rabbit-busting duo.

Newton, a six-year-old ferret, and his white and pink-eyed side-kick Snowy (2) love nothing better than wreaking havoc in rabbit warrens and holes throughout Central Otago.

Euan, a pro-rabbiter for “donkey’s years” says ferrets are a good secondary rabbit control tool he’s used for the past 15 years, flushing out the last of the pest following major control operations.

He keeps the ferrets at his Alexandra base and carts them around Central Otago on the back of his ute in straw-lined boxes. . . .

Distillers grain prices slump as China rejections clog pipeline – Christine Stebbins and Karl Plume:

The price of distillers’ dried grain has slid 20 percent in a week as U.S. exporters shied away from selling the corn-based feed grain to its top customer China after Beijing rejected shipments containing an unapproved GMO corn strain.

“Everyone is just nervous. If you load something no one knows if someone is going to take it or not,” said Ryan McClanahan, a Kansas City-based trader with Commodity Specialists Co, which supplies DDGs to both domestic and export markets.

“People have just stopped loading vessels, containers domestically so the product is just backing up in the domestic market,” McClanahan told Reuters. . .

Oh rats! – Mad Bush Farm:

This morning my poor mum rang me in a terrible state. The panic in her voice was all too real. The problem? One rat sat on her bench making itself comfortable, oblivious to the drama going on just beyond, by the human occupant making a frantic call on the telephone.Call for help made to second to youngest child in her brood of six children, to come up and deal with said Mr Rat.

 
I went straight up there to sort the thing out. Yes there it was, as large as life cleaning its whiskers, unafraid that doom was now overshadowing its very existence. (cue evil laughter)
 
Fortunately, it wasn’t one of those horrible ugly water rats that show up from time to time. It was a native bush rat or Kiore. Even so, it was not welcome in my mother’s home. A few shoves, and it headed out the door. I chucked some rat bait under the deck and that should have been that. . . .

Winter mountain biking on Heaphy Track permanently approved:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today announced at Karamea on the West Coast the permanent approval of mountain biking on the Heaphy Track from 1 May to 30 September each year.

“The Heaphy Track is New Zealand’s ultimate multi-day mountain biking experience. It traverses dramatic and diverse landscapes from mountain forests, to expansive grasslands and wild West Coast beaches,” Dr Smith says.

“The three-year trial has been a success and it is timely to make it a permanent feature of Nelson and the West Coast’s visitor attractions. Year-round mountain biking has also been approved on two other Kahurangi National Park tracks – the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and Kill Devil tracks.” . . .


MPs’ employment spats expensive

January 8, 2014

Spats between MPs and their staff are proving to be very expensive:

The Taxpayers’ Union has released figures showing that MPs are chewing through more than $65,000 per month on payouts to avoid messy employment grievances.

“While every other New Zealander must follow the letter of employment law, MPs are often ignoring it and having the poor taxpayer fund the resulting payouts,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

“Many of the payouts result from MPs sacking staff on the spot. It appears that parliamentary officials offer generous settlements to avoid cases going to the Employment Relations Authority.”

The Taxpayers’ Union is aware of two examples of instant dismissal due to a minor party leader being unwilling to hear his employee’s response to minor allegations made by a colleague. The former employees were offered confidential payouts from Parliamentary Service well above what the individuals were advised they would be awarded in court.

“Parliamentary Service is effectively buying the silence of former staff, some of whom have been treated appallingly by MPs.”

“Parliamentary Service contracts include an instant dismissal clause when there is an ‘irreconcilable breakdown’ of the relationship with the employee’s MP. The legality of the clause is questionable and it appears that the Parliamentary Service offers these generous settlements to avoid them being challenged.”

The six months of severance pay figures total $395,941 and show the average payout is approximately $20,000.

Ministerial Services has refused to provide the equivalent information for ministerial staff. A complaint regarding that request is currently before the Ombudsman.

PARLIAMENTARY SEVERANCE PAYMENTS

Severance payments made to former parliamentary (non-ministerial) staff in the 6 months ending 13 November 2013.

• Support staff working directly to Members of Parliament: 11 payments totalling $122,935
• Other Parliamentary Staff: 9 payments totalling $273,006.

Paying employees to leave isn’t confined to parliamentary service.

It is usually the easiest and fastest way to solve a problem and it can be the cheapest.

However,  a large sum of public money has been spent on this way and the Taxpayers’ Union is right to question it.

If these payments are happening because MPs are doing wrong then that is a problem which must be addressed.

However, one of the questions that should be asked is whether it is the fault of the people involved or the laws under which they have to work?

It is very difficult to sack someone these days, even when they are not doing what they should be the way they should be doing it, creating more work and stress for other staff and the employer, and costing money through their incompetence.

Employees need protection from bad employers and MPs should not be responsible for wasting public money because they ignore employment law nor should they be leaving parliamentary services to clean up messes they have made.

However, good employers shouldn’t have to keep bad employees or pay large sums to compensate them for terminating their employment when they aren’t doing what they are paid to do to the standard required.


Southern swell of confidence

January 8, 2014

A southern swell of confidence is set to drive record activity this year.

A record wave of business activity is set to sweep across the nation in 2014, driven by a swell of optimism from the South Island, according to ANZ’s quarterly Business Micro Scope survey of small firms. Retailing, agriculture and manufacturing are leading a lift in optimism which has seen firms’ expectations of their own activity, hiring and profitability for the coming year soar to new highs.

Fred Ohlsson, ANZ’s Managing Director, Retail and Business Banking, said:

“Rising confidence is sweeping across New Zealand, further boosting the outlook for businesses and the economy in 2014. Construction and agriculture are caught in the tail wind of the Canterbury rebuild and increasing commodity prices. But optimism is at or near historic highs across all major sectors, paving the way for a broad-based uplift in business activity, employment and economic growth.

“These factors have come together to create a sweet spot for the South Island, with optimism in Canterbury spilling over to the rest of the island whose record-high optimism now tops that of Canterbury itself. Though not quite at these levels, business confidence in Auckland also enters the New Year at a new high which bodes well for the role of our largest city in the upturn.

It is significant that optimism is at or near record high in all sectors – not just construction on the back of the Canterbury rebuild.

Highlights from the Dec 2013 ANZ Business Micro Scope survey of small firms:

[Net percentages reflect the balance of sentiment – i.e. positive minus negative responses]

• Confidence is at its highest since comparable data was first collected in 1999, with record numbers of firms expecting to up activity, hiring and profitability in 2014.

• A net +45% of firms expect to lift business activity in the coming year, double the long-term average. A net +17% plan to take on more staff and +29% expect profits to rise.

• Confidence in Canterbury (up from +21% to +27%) is spilling into the Rest of the South Island (up from +21% to +30%) which now leads the nation. Auckland firms continue to gain confidence, reaching a new high for the region of +24%.

• Services is the most upbeat sector, at +25%. Retailing recorded the largest lift in confidence (from +14% to +22%), followed by Agriculture and Manufacturing. Agriculture was the top sector for profit expectations for the first time in two years.

“These findings mirror what we’re hearing from customers: they see the approaching growth wave and are gearing up to ride it in a way that positions them better for future economic cycles. For a nation of small businesses, this spells good news for employment and the ongoing strength of our economy.”

Confidence is  vital for business investment – it’s what encourages them to take risks, including the risk of employing more people and  increasing pay rates.

It also tends to be infectious – businesses which see confidence increasing in other businesses are more likely to feel more confident about, and see new opportunities for, their own.


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