Word of the day

March 11, 2014

Allegator –  one who alleges.


No money for big spending promises

March 11, 2014

Despite stronger economic growth, government revenue continued to track below forecast in the seven months to 31 January, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“This makes it even more important for the Government to continue carefully managing its spending as we target a return to surplus next year,” he says.

The Government’s financial statements for the seven months show the operating deficit before gains and losses at $1.06 billion, or almost $640 million larger than forecast in the Half-Year Update in December.

This was due mainly to core Crown revenue at $38.3 billion coming in $830 million below forecast. It was offset partly by lower core Crown expenses and higher returns from crown entities.

“While we have spending under control, government revenue can move around and is therefore more difficult to forecast,” Mr English says. “We remain on track to surplus in 2014/15 but, as we’ve said, this is a challenging goal and we need to remain disciplined.

“The extent to which tax revenue is likely to remain below forecast will become clearer as officials work through forecasts for the Budget. Timing issues appear likely to see some of the current variation narrow by the end of the financial year.

“The lower revenue is at odds with other macro-economic indicators that have been broadly in line with the Half-Year Update forecasts and, if anything, point to even stronger economic growth in the second half of the 2014 fiscal year.”

Continuing strength in sharemarkets generated gains on financial instruments of $2.8 billion, which was $1.4 billion ahead of forecast. As a result, the Government’s operating surplus at $3.4 billion was $690 million larger than forecast.

This reinforces the need for continued care over public spending and policies which promote growth.

It also shows there is no money for big spending promises and any party with expensive policies will be taking us in the wrong direction.


Rural round-up

March 11, 2014

Dairy Women’s Network’s community leadership award finalists announced

The Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) has announced the three dairy farming women who have been selected as finalists for its annual Dairy Community Leadership Award.

They are Chris Paterson from Rotorua, and Megan McCracken and Ann Kearney, both from Kerikeri.

The award recognises the voluntary role dairy farming women play in leading their communities by sharing their time and skills beyond the boundaries of their own farm gates.

The winner of the award will receive a $2500 scholarship to attend a leadership programme of their choice in New Zealand. . .

Ahuwhenua Trophy farms to have field days – Stephen Bell:

The three Ahuwhenua Trophy Maori farming award finalists will open their farms to the public through onfarm field days.

Putauaki Trust–Himiona Farm, Ngati Awa Farms, and Ngakauroa Farm from Bay of Plenty, and Te Rua o Te Moko from Taranaki are having field days today, Friday, and next Wednesday. 

After the recent Fish and Game New Zealand survey Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink said this is the best antidote. . .

Meating the market 100 years – Andrew Ashton:

A week of celebrations to mark the 100-year-old link between the people of Oamaru and the Pukeuri meat processing plant began on Friday with a centennial reunion for past and present employees.

Joyce McDougall (90) started work at the plant in 1951, and was one of the first women to be employed. She said Friday’s ”meet and greet”, in Oamaru, had been a chance to catch up with past colleagues.

”I just wanted to come and see how they have all weathered.” . . .

Irrepressible 234 selected as link ram: – Sally Rae:

When it comes to prolific breeding, it does not get much better than Lochern 234-07.

The Perendale stud ram, bred and owned by Alan and Annette Williamson, from Ida Valley, has been selected as a link ram for the Beef and Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test, which aims to help sheep farmers identify the best genetics across sheep breeds.

The ram’s selection required about 1500 straws of semen to be collected, which would be used in all five trial sites throughout New Zealand over the next four years.

Mr and Mrs Williamson already had 200 straws in storage from last season, so when they were combined, it could result in about 2500 new progeny, Mr Williamson said. . . .

Rural sector makes beefy contribution to urban Christchurch:

They may not be turning the same kind of dollar as their dairy farming counterparts right now, but when it comes to contributing to Christchurch city’s economy, sheep and beef farmers are leading the way.

That’s according to recent research by Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU) which was commissioned by Aqualinc Research to examine expenditure flows into Christchurch from local farms and their households.

The research, which focused on farms from the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts, also included an assessment of the expenditure in Christchurch from rural businesses as a result of serving those farms and their households, as well as an assessment of employment generated on account of these expenditure flows. . .

Meet David Brunton who believes the future of agriculture demands professionalism, thoroughness and tenacity – Art4Agriculture:

Today’s guest post comes from budding young plant doctor David Brunton

“I like to think that things that start as a dream usually turns into reality, if you are willing to work hard with diligence, motivation and passion towards it. These dreams usually seem unachievable at the start however the pathway on which we choose to chase these dreams ultimately determines the outcome”.

My name is David Brunton and my story begins as a young child on the farm, getting my hands dirty, driving the machinery and ultimately paving a pathway towards my future ambitions. Not only did I grow up in the best location for a child, the wide open spaces of the country, but I also never had to put up with any siblings. We (my parents and I) farm two hours west of Melbourne, at Vite Vite North in Victoria’s western district running a mixed farming enterprise of super fine merinos, prime lambs and winter cereals. . .

Fonterra Milk for Schools Hits the High Seas:

The ships have set sail to deliver nearly 5,000 Fonterra Milk for Schools milk packs to Kiwi kids on the Chatham, Stewart, and Great Barrier islands.

Around 160 children from 17 schools across the islands now have the opportunity to join their mainland friends to drink milk every school day.

Operations Manager In-School Programmes, Louise Aitken, says the Co-operative wants to make sure that all Kiwi kids year one to six and their schools have the opportunity to be part of the programme.

“Bringing schools on board in the Chatham, Stewart, and Great Barrier islands demonstrates what Fonterra Milk for Schools is all about – making great dairy nutrition accessible to New Zealand kids no matter where they are,” says Ms Aitken. . .


Flag discussion and vote next term

March 11, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has outlined a plan to hold a public discussion and vote next parliamentary term on New Zealand’s flag.

In a speech at Victoria University today, Mr Key said it was his belief that the design of the current flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.

“I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag,” he says.

He outlined a plan for a cross-party group of MPs to recommend the best referenda process, and a steering group to ensure the public has the opportunity to engage in discussion on the flag and to submit design ideas.

“It’s really important that consideration of a new flag includes genuine input from New Zealanders.  All voices need an opportunity to be heard,” he says.

“A flag that unites all New Zealanders should be selected by all New Zealanders.  This decision is bigger than party politics.”

Mr Key says he wants to give a clear assurance and commitment that retaining the current flag is a very possible outcome from the process, and there will be no presumption in favour of a change.

He says New Zealand retains a strong and important constitutional link with the monarchy that he did not see a groundswell of support to change. 

“Our status as a constitutional monarchy continues to serve us well,” he says.

Mr Key says that should he have the privilege of remaining Prime Minister after the general election in September, he would write to leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament asking them to nominate an MP to join a cross-party group to oversee the flag consideration process.

The group would recommend the best referenda process to follow, and also be involved in nominating New Zealanders from outside Parliament to form a steering group which would be primarily responsible for ensuring the public has the opportunity to engage in the debate.

“One of the tasks of that steering group will be to seek submissions from the public on flag designs.

“I would like to see the referenda process completed during the next Parliamentary term, so it does not intrude on the 2017 elections.”

I welcome the opportunity to discuss a new flag and am pleased it is not being rushed to take place in this election cycle.

Cross-party oversight, a steering group outside parliament and plenty of opportunity for public engagement is a sensible process.

My preference would be for a two referenda.

The first would allow us to choose the preferred option if there was a change, the second would allow us to choose between that and the existing flag.

I support the idea of a new flag in principle, the existing one isn’t distinctive nor is it easily recognised – even by New Zealanders.

The announcement came in a speech at Victoria University:

Anzac Day is approaching and, as you know, next year we will commemorate the centenary of that fateful landing by the Anzacs on the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915.

In the struggle, the sacrifice, and the wretchedness of Gallipoli, an Anzac reputation for courage, endurance and mateship was forged that has endured long after those who survived that campaign have passed on.

Each year, on Anzac Day in particular, we remember our fallen as we should and as I hope we always will.

But once the centenary has passed, I think it will be time for us to take some decisions about how we present ourselves to the world beyond 2015.

For more than a hundred years the New Zealand flag has served us well, and we in turn have served it well.
It has given us an identity.

We have given it our loyalty.

But the current flag represents the thinking by and about a young country moving from the 1800s to the 1900s. A time before commercial air travel. A time when we had less of a role in the Pacific, and a time before Asia registered in our consciousness. That was a time before the rise of superpowers and before we had forged a formidable reputation on the battlefields of Europe. It was prior to the first tour by the New Zealand Rugby Union to the UK, and when our forebears thought their colonial protector would always be there for their descendants.   

When you think about it, those who had a hand in the flag’s design did well to include symbols that have endured for more than a century.

But it’s my belief, and I think one increasingly shared by many New Zealanders, that the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.  

The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom.

We retain a strong and important constitutional link to the monarchy and I get no sense of any groundswell of support to let that go. Nor could we or would we dispose of the cultural legacy which gave us a proud democracy, a strong legal system and a rich artistic heritage.

Each of these we have evolved and interpreted in our own way as an independent nation.

I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag.

Some people say that we should look at the flag only if we’re also reviewing our wider constitutional arrangements.

I don’t agree.

Our status as a constitutional monarchy continues to serve us well.

It’s an arrangement that provides stability, continuity and keeps our head of State above party politics.

However, this country, the way we see ourselves in the world and the way others see us, has changed dramatically in the past century. Our flag does not reflect those changes.

I acknowledge that New Zealanders have a range of views on the idea of changing the flag. I also acknowledge that significant change can be difficult and unsettling for some people so this is not a debate to undertake lightly, or quickly.

But my personal view is that it’s time our flag reflected that we are a sovereign and successful nation that rightfully takes its place among developed economies in the 21st Century.

We are in a tremendous position to enjoy the benefits and challenges that our inter-connected and globalised world offers.  

We are a country of travellers. Overseas experience is a rite of passage for many young Kiwis.

We are an open economy. Initially we were forced into it when Britain joined the Common Market but now we embrace the challenge of selling our goods, our services and our ideas into some of the most competitive markets in the world.

We do business all over the globe and, every year, 100,000 of the world’s young people come here to learn. In doing so they become part of the next generation of connections with the countries to which we are closely linked. 

We are fiercely protective of our independent foreign policy, and rightly so. That does not mean we don’t act in concert with other like-minded countries over many things. Of course we do. We are a constructive and engaged nation always willing to work either behind the scenes or at the top table in international negotiations.

We stand ready to respond, when asked, to international emergencies, to contribute to international peace-keeping when appropriate and, from time to time, to serve in a military capacity in potentially hostile situations.

So we are independent, but in no way isolationist.

It’s my contention that when we engage internationally, in forums ranging from secondary school debating to the United Nations, or from age-grade representative sports teams to the Olympics, we should be represented by a flag that is distinctly New Zealand’s.

A flag that is only New Zealand’s.

A flag that is readily identified by New Zealanders, and with New Zealanders.

I believe the current flag is not that flag.

I believe that not only can we do better, but that this is the right time to get on with it.

At the same time, I acknowledge there may be many New Zealanders who want to retain the existing flag, and that will be one option.

I have given careful thought to this.

Back in 1965, Canada changed its flag from one that, like ours, also had the Union Jack in the corner, and replaced it with the striking symbol of modern Canada that all of us recognise and can identify today.

Fifty years on, I can’t imagine many Canadians would, if asked, choose to go back to the old flag.

That old flag represented Canada as it was once, rather than as it is now. Similarly, I think our flag represents us as we were once, rather than as we are now.

By law, the flag can be changed by a simple majority of Parliament but, as I’ve previously said, I do not believe that such a decision is one that MPs should take for themselves.

A flag that unites all New Zealanders should be selected by all New Zealanders.

This decision is bigger than party politics.

I would like us all to talk about it, but I do not think that it should dominate or distract from the other debates that occur in an election year.

The Government certainly has a lot to talk about in 2014. When the country goes to the polls, National will be asking New Zealanders for their continued support for our programme – a programme that has put New Zealand back on the right track.

The progress we have achieved has not come about by accident, and continuing that progress will not be achieved by chance.

We came into office with the country in recession, finance companies toppling and a Global Financial Crisis paralysing financial markets.  

But our careful stewardship of the Government’s own finances, our Business Growth Agenda, and the determination of our strong team of ministers to get better value for New Zealanders and their families from public services, have been the right choices at the right time.

As Finance Minister Bill English says, we go into this year’s election focusing on managing growth, rather than on managing recession.  Managing growth gives us far more choices about how we support New Zealanders and their families, particularly the most vulnerable.

We have a lot to do, a lot of ideas, and a lot to talk about, so the Cabinet has agreed that we should look at the steps that New Zealand would need to follow if it were to formally consider whether to change the flag. However, we will leave the real work until the next term of Parliament.

That also means that it will be under our existing flag that we will commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings.

At dawn on April 25, 2015, here, and on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and at New Zealand diplomatic posts around the world, we will lower to half-mast the same flag under which our forefathers fought so valiantly, so far away, a hundred years ago.

It is under the existing flag that we will remember the sacrifices made by New Zealanders in battle, and the sacrifices made by their families.

I do not under-estimate the significance of the flag to New Zealand’s servicemen and women and their families, but being respectful of our history does not lock us permanently in the past.

Organisations like our armed forces have undergone significant change over the generations. What does not change is their willingness to defend on behalf of all New Zealanders the values that define us and which we cherish.

Those values and our commitment to uphold them will not be compromised or eroded in any way by a change of flag. From time to time, countries do change their flags. If we do it, we won’t be the first and we won’t be the last.

If New Zealanders choose a new flag, it will serve us in times of celebration, and in times of mourning.

It will be the flag that is hoisted at a medal ceremony as we celebrate the achievement of an individual or team that has done our country proud.

And it will be the flag that is lowered to half-mast as we mourn together the passing of a New Zealander who has made a significant contribution to the affairs of our nation.

It will be the flag that serves us on every occasion because, in the end, the flag is a symbol of our unity. Our allegiance to it symbolises the bond we share for each other, and for this country that we have the good fortune to call home.

If we choose well, it will become internationally recognisable in a way that our current flag is not, despite more than a hundred years of use.

As I say, change can be difficult but it’s also remarkable how quickly the new becomes familiar.

A flag can never be all things to all people. As we consider alternative designs, there might be some people who want a stronger representation of our Maori heritage, or of our flora and fauna. The colours we might choose to represent us are, right now, far from certain.

Long decades of sweat and effort by our sportsmen and women in many codes over countless competitions give the silver fern on a black background a distinctive and uniquely New Zealand identity, and a head start in our national consciousness.

For example, it’s our silver fern, rather than our flag, that’s etched in the crosses marking the final resting place of all New Zealanders who are interred in Commonwealth War Graves overseas.

Interestingly, it’s the maple leaf that’s etched in the crosses of Canada’s fallen in those same cemeteries.  

I admit to liking the silver fern but I’m also open to other ideas and designs.

So I come to this debate advocating change, and with a personal leaning towards the silver fern, but I also want to listen to the debate, and see the possibilities before making up my mind on my preferred design.

I urge others to do the same.

For people who have doubts or concerns, I want to give a clear assurance and commitment that retaining the current flag is a very possible outcome of this process, and there will be no presumption in favour of a change.

I would like us to enter this discussion with open minds and a shared sense of purpose and privilege about our task. 

Most important, I think, is that the designs from which we eventually choose are unique, confident and enduring. 

We want a design that says “New Zealand” in the same way that the maple leaf says “Canada”, or the Union Jack says “Britain,” without a word being spoken, or a bar of those countries’ anthems being heard.

We want a design that says “New Zealand,” whether it’s stitched on a Kiwi traveller’s backpack outside a bar in Croatia, on a flagpole outside the United Nations, or standing in a Wellington southerly on top of the Beehive every working day.

It’s really important that consideration of a new flag includes genuine input from New Zealanders. All voices need an opportunity to be heard.

It’s also important, in my view, that these discussions and debates happen outside party politics.

So next term, should I have the privilege of remaining as prime minister, soon after Parliament re-commences I will write to the leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament. I will ask them to nominate an MP to join a cross-party group to oversee the flag consideration process.

That cross-party group will have the task of recommending the best referenda process to follow. For example, it would look at the question, or questions, that would need to be asked in a referendum.  

The cross-party group of MPs will also be involved in nominating New Zealanders from outside Parliament to form a steering group, which will have primary responsibility for ensuring that the public has the opportunity to engage in the debate.

One of the tasks of that steering group will be to seek submissions from the public on flag designs.

As I said, the role of the MPs’ group will be to make recommendations on the best way to proceed so I can’t give you more details about the process just yet.

But I can make the commitment that there will be genuine public engagement, including the opportunity for people to submit designs and suggestions, and that ultimately the decision on whether or not to change the flag will rest with New Zealanders themselves.

I would like to see the referendum process completed during the next Parliamentary term, so it does not intrude on the 2017 elections.

Cabinet has asked officials to give advice on the best way to set up these various processes.

Finally, I want to say that I am not putting the flag debate on the table today.

It’s already on the table, and it’s been there quite a long time.

But until now the debate’s been mostly conducted via letters to the editor, editorials, opinion polls and by a few passionate adherents of designs that some people happen to champion.

My purpose today is to say that this debate is too important for it to continue rumbling on in such a casual and ad hoc fashion.

The time has come to discuss the flag formally, carefully and respectfully, allowing all New Zealanders to have their say.

Only by doing that will we arrive at a point where we have an answer that we will all then be bound by for a long time.

If together we support a new design, then it will be with the understanding that it will serve and represent us for the rest of our lives.

If, on the other hand, we reject change then my view is that the people will have spoken and the idea should be shelved for a good long time.

I have raised this now because as Anzac Day approaches, and we turn our minds to the countdown to next year’s centenary, we will reflect on our past but also think about our future.

In my view, that’s an appropriate time to write one small but significant new chapter in our national story by re-considering the flag.

It’s my observation that each generation of New Zealanders is becoming more confident about asserting their Kiwi identity. That’s because we’re increasingly comfortable in our Kiwi skin.

When we go out in to the world, we do so with a strong sense of where we come from.

Our flag should reflect that. 

I urge you all to think about it, and to have your say when the time comes.

For my part, I will embrace the opportunity for us to come up with a New Zealand flag that reflects and celebrates our New Zealand-ness, and that inspires us to do the same.

Then, I think, the flag will be serving us in the same way that we serve it.

(The bold is mine).
Photo: Today I invite New Zealanders to discuss our flag. Everyone will get a chance to have their say: www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/speech-victoria-university-0


Three smogs and you’re . . .

March 11, 2014

First there was a tweet from Labour leader David Cunliffe complaining about rising power prices which clearly show they rose far more steeply when his party was in government:

:power prices

Hat tip: Keeping Stock

Then there was the tertiary education spokesman who didn’t check his spelling:

spelling

And yesterday there was this:
Photo: Making false election promises already...

Three SMOGS – social media own goals – and you’re not looking like a government in waiting.

As someone with an unfortunate propensity for typos, I know how easy it is to make mistakes.

But a political party ought to ensure other eyes to check their tweets and Facebook posts before they hit publish to save themselves from SMOGs.


Knowledge is power

March 11, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has called on the wee parties to be upfront about which party they might support after the election.

. . . Announcing the election date on Monday, Mr Key said he is the only New Zealand prime minister to have been so upfront about an election date – and he challenged the minor parties to be, in his words, equally forthright about who they would work with post-election.

He said New Zealand First leader Winston Peters could announce right now that he would go with the largest party, but he won’t.

Mr Key said all the anecdotal evidence he has heard is that Mr Peters would partner with Labour and the Greens: “That’s what I hear,” he said, “so that’s what I’ve got to work on.”

For his part, Mr Peters says the Prime Minister is scaremongering. “He’s never talked to me on the matter,” says Mr Peters, “and whatever his planning skills are, mind-reading is not one of them.” . . .

Peters always insists that who he’ll support will be up to voters.

It will of course, but without telling us which party or parties his would support he’s leaving voters in the dark and expecting them to vote blind.

Knowledge is power – giving voters a clear indication of their intentions helps them make an informed decision.

Peters’s refusal to be clear is simply playing politics.


With respect

March 11, 2014

Prime Minister John Key gave plenty of notice for the 2011 election and he’s done the same for this year’s:

Prime Minister John Key has announced the 2014 General Election will be held on Saturday 20 September.

“I’m announcing the election date well in advance as I believe this gives New Zealanders some certainty and is in the country’s best interests.”

“It is my practice to be up-front with the New Zealand public and provide plenty of notice about election timing.”

National will be campaigning on its strong record in Government and its plans to continue the good progress New Zealand is making over the next three years.

“I am proud of the work we have done to protect vulnerable New Zealanders and help strengthen families and communities through difficult times.”

Mr Key says, “I have already contacted the Governor-General to advise him of the election date.”

The Government’s intention is that the House will rise on Thursday 31 July and Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday 14 August.

Writ day will follow on Wednesday 20 August, and nomination day will be Tuesday 26 August.

He is not indulging in the gaming previous Prime Ministers did in an attempt to give themselves an advantage over the opposition.

By going early he’s treating the election and the public with the respect they deserve.

He’s putting all parties on an even footing in giving politicians, would-be politicians and party volunteers the date around which they’ll need to plan and execute campaigns.

It also helps political tragics plan whatever else we might have going on in our lives.

The early announcement makes  life easier for the Electoral Commission and others involved in the administration of the election too.

It would be easier for all involved if we had this certainty every election year, as we would if there was a set date for an election:

. . . His personal view was that elections should permanently move to a “September to September” cycle as international summits tended to be held in November. The time it took for coalition agreements to be struck meant the House could be required to sit in January, he said. . . .

A September election does mean campaigning through winter and early spring when calving and lambing are underway.

But a set date which avoided the late September/early October school holidays would give plenty of time for coalition negotiations before November and allow the house to sit and a new government to get down to work well before the end of the year.

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