Word of the day

March 12, 2014

Batrachomyomachy – a tempest in a teacup, making a mountain out of a molehill; petty quarrel.; the battle between the frogs and mice, a comic epic or parody of the Iliad.


Word of the day

March 12, 2014

Appetency – an eager desire; longing; instinctive inclination;  natural bond; attraction.


Rural round-up

March 12, 2014

Three top dairy farms open to the public: see for yourself:

The public are being invited to see for themselves real dairy farms in action, in this case, finalists for the 2014 Ahuwhenua Trophy BNZ Maori Excellence in Farming Award for Dairy.

“Given what’s been in the media over the past 24-hours, this is frankly the best antidote,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“It is an opportunity to see three top-performing dairy farms in action tomorrow, Friday and next Wednesday.

“This is also a chance to talk to the trustees, the farm managers and the organisers of this fantastic competition.  Above all, it’s a genuine opportunity to use your Mark I eyeball and see for yourself what a modern dairy farm is and perhaps, what it isn’t. . .

Fine over quad bike death:

Share-milking company Holden Farms Limited has been fined $28,125 and ordered to pay reparations of $75,000 after a farm hand died last year when the quad bike he was riding rolled on top of him.

Holden Farms pleaded guilty in the Tokoroa District Court to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of Gary Tantrum.

Mr Tantrum died one year ago tomorrow while he was mustering cattle on a farm at Mangakino in Waikato. His quad bike rolled while he was riding up a steep slope. It fell on top of him, crushing him causing fatal injuries. . .

Rural contractors need to bone up on employment obligations:

Agricultural contractors need to ensure they are on top of their all employment and health and safety obligations, according to Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ)

“Our industry is working hard to encourage and attract good people into the sector,” says RCNZ chief executive Roger Parton. “It is all very well having a top-of-the-line tractor, but it is not much use if there is nobody to drive it!”
He says one way of ensuring that both employers and employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and obligations is to have written employment agreements in place.

“It is actually a requirement of employment law to have EAs and these should be signed before any work begins.” . . .

Life after Cloudy Bay: New Kiwi classics (and barely a single Sauvignon Blanc among them) – Olly Smith:

I’m just back from the vineyards of New Zealand.

You don’t need me to tell you about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which has hordes of fans.

You’ll know Cloudy Bay, but try Greywacke (pronounced Greywacky) by Kevin Judd, winemaker at Cloudy Bay for two decades. Outstanding.

And breaking out from Sauvignon Blanc, how about the spine-tingling Paddler Grüner Veltliner, Kumeu  River Chardonnay, Vinoptima’s exotic Gewürztraminer, or the world-class reds of Craggy Range in Martinborough?

Otago in South Island is showing glimpses of world-class Pinot Noir. . .

Cloudy Bay vineyard leads oyster season globally:

This year, two of New Zealand’s finest local luxuries Cloudy Bay Pelorus and freshly shucked oysters will be served together as a first of the season food and wine pairing. From 10 March, 19 of New Zealand’s top restaurants will be taking part in the launch of Cloudy Bay Pelorus & Oysters. The delicious crisp palate and creamy complexity of Cloudy Bay Pelorus is the perfect wine match for the taste of freshly shucked Bluff oysters.

Joining New Zealand, top restaurants in Australia including Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will also take part in this new Cloudy Bay culinary experience. Diners will be able to indulge in perfectly chilled Cloudy Bay Pelorus, served by the glass or bottle with freshly shucked bluff oysters served over ice in a custom made Cloudy Bay wooden crate. . .


Labour’s wrong again

March 12, 2014

Labour is claiming that current government debt is worse than it was under Sir Robert Muldoon.

But they’re wrong again.

In cash terms, Labour is right.

But to base such a claim on the cash figure is economically and financially illiterate.

Firstly, inflation means the dollar value of the amount concerned – $52 billion – is rather different in 2014 compared to 1984.

But that is not the most important thing.

Anyone with an ounce of financial nous knows debt should never be viewed in isolation. An 18-year old will, typically, be carrying much less debt than a typical 38 year old but the 38-year old is usually better off financially because of assets to offset that debt.

And so it is with government debt. The key figure is debt as a proportion of GDP: here, government debt is forecast to top out at 30% over the next couple of years and then fall.

To put this in context, gross government debt peaked at a little higher than 78% in 1987 and net government debt – the more important measure – peaked at 67% of GDP.

It is currently at  27% of GDP . . .

That peak of 78% for gross debt and 67% of net debt in the mid 80s was under Labour, when several of its current MPs were in power.

That was due in part to Muldoon’s foolish policies but those were very different from the ones National has now.

Debt is higher than it should be, no thanks to Labour’s policies as a result of which it was forecasting a decade of deficits when it went out of power.

The increase in debt in the last five years is also due to a deliberate strategy to take the harder edges off the effects of the Global Financial Crisis and deal with the effects of the Christchurch earthquakes.

Which of the spending National took to cope with those would Labour cut?

How would it do that when it’s fought tooth and nail against every single measure National has instituted to cut back Labour’s public service excesses, reduce costs while maintaining services and get the economy back on track to surplus?

How could it do it when its media releases show its economic and financial illiteracy?

Labour either doesn’t understand the numbers or it’s deliberately misrepresenting them.

Either way it is wrong again.


Taxed into oblivion

March 12, 2014

Quote of the day:

Personally, I’ve never heard of an economy taxing its way to greatness but I have sure heard of economies taxed into oblivion. – Federated farmers Dairy chair, Willy Leferink.

No party is promising tax cuts, but Labour and the Green Party are threatening us with more and higher taxes based on political philosophy rather than economic sense.


Not all over yet

March 12, 2014

Chris Trotter thinks the election is all over bar the counting:

UNLESS SOMETHING HUGELY DRAMATIC HAPPENS between now and polling day, 20 September, the General Election of 2014 is all but over. The National-led government of Prime Minister, John Key, looks set to be returned for a third term by a margin that may surprise many of those currently insisting that the result will be very close. What may also surprise is the sheer scale and comprehensiveness of the Left’s (especially Labour’s) electoral humiliation.

By which dark paths must one travel to reach these gloomy (for the Left!) conclusions? Simply stated, one has only to follow the basic precepts of psephology (the study of elections and electors).

No matter whether you approach the forthcoming election from the perspective of the socio-economic context of the contest; contrasting styles of political leadership; the policies of the major players; the parties’ organisational heft and their respective financial resources; or the many factors influencing turnout; the advantage lies decisively with the National Party. . .

The advantage does lie with National.

It can campaign on its achievements, Prime Minister John Key is the most popular leader in recent political history, National’s caucus is united, several retirements mean the new one will be refreshed, and it will be presenting some big new ideas with small price tags.

The unity isn’t only in caucus, the membership is also united and supportive of the parliamentary wing of the party.

Photo: Election date: September 20. Like and share if you back John Key and National for #3moreyears http://nzyn.at/3moreyears

Labour by contrast has achieved little in opposition, has a leader who is less popular than the unpopular one he replaced and who doesn’t have the confidence of his caucus which is divided. With only one retirement announced it looks old and stale, and policies presented so far have been botched in their presentation and come with big price tags.

If we were voting under First Past the Post, National could be looking forward to a landslide.

But under MMP, it’s not enough for the major party to do well, it will almost certainly need coalition partners and none of those who might fit in a National-led government are particularly strong.

It hasn’t happened yet in New Zealand, but the smaller of the big parties could cobble together enough votes to trump the bigger one and lead a government, albeit a potentially very unstable one.

The six months to the election isn’t long for a divided and dismal Labour to climb higher, but it’s plenty of time for even a very popular government to falter.

If a week is a long time in politics, six months is far longer.

National has the record, the talent and the policies to win a third term and Labour does not.

But there is no complacency about the election outcome.

Good things might come in threes, but there’s absolutely no guarantee enough voters will support  a third term.

The omens are good for another National-led government, but there’s no certainty.


No room to splash cash

March 12, 2014

Parties on the left like to think the government is the answer to most problems.

By contrast, National recognises the importance of individuals, households and businesses, and careful management of government resources.

Hon KATE WILKINSON (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What will be the focus of the Government’s economic programme going into the election on 20 September?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government will focus on building on the recovery that is now under way to support New Zealand households and businesses, to create more jobs, and to earn higher incomes. Now that we have been able to manage through a very significant recession and the impact of the earthquake, and clean up some of the damage done by the last Labour Government, we will look forward to helping New Zealanders organise the capital and the skills required to take advantage of the very substantial opportunities offered by a growing Asia- Pacific region.

Hon Kate Wilkinson: What progress is the Government making with its economic programme and how is this helping households and businesses?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, the recovery in the economy is principally the work of New Zealand’s households and businesses, supported by Government. Government policy that has helped to support that has been to get the Government finances under control and get back to surplus; and to focus on all those areas across the economy that support growth, such as better infrastructure investment, a tidier, more effective, and more efficient system for giving young New Zealanders skills, reducing welfare dependency, re-regulating the use of our natural resources so that we can be a prosperous economy as well as a clean, green economy, and, of course, there are many other ways we have been supporting New Zealand households and businesses.

Reducing the burden of government is one of the bests ways to help people and businesses.

Hon David Parker: Why is he claiming that everything is going swimmingly when the $1 billion deficit to 31 January in his Government’s accounts is $637 million worse than he forecast in just December?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I have pointed out regularly in this House, we can control expenditure to a significant extent but revenue can fluctuate. In this case—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, bear in mind that in the previous financial year we finished about $3 billion ahead of budget. On the most recent figures in this year tax revenue is about $800 million

behind budget. The people who should take the most notice of that are the Opposition parties, because it makes it pretty clear there is not room to splash cash everywhere in election year.

Hon Kate Wilkinson: What are some of the ongoing economic challenges the economy faces, and how will the Government work to overcome them?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Probably the main economic challenge is to manage our way through the next growth cycle, avoiding the excessive damage created during the last growth cycle under the last Labour Government. For instance, it is inevitable that interest rates will rise some time this year, according to decisions of the Reserve Bank. We want to make sure that interest rates are not driven to 10.5 to 11 percent by bad Government policy and excessive Government spending. That is probably one of the best things we can do to support New Zealand households.

Government spending has a significant influence on interest rates.

Labour’s profligacy was a major cause of high interest rates, National’s Presbyterian approach to other people’s money has helped to keep them low.

Hon David Parker: Is it correct that having inherited close to zero net Government debt he is soon to clock over $60 billion of borrowings; and is this more than any other Minister of Finance in New Zealand’s history in nominal terms and the worst in real terms since Muldoon?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, but it is another symptom of “Planet Labour”, a place where the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes never happened. Voters will increasingly see a party marooned on “Planet Labour”—1970s Fabianism at its worst.

Hon Kate Wilkinson: Going into the election on 20 September, what economic policies will this Government reject because they would impose costs on households and cost jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is pretty clear from lessons learnt from the last cycle through the early 2000s up to 2008 what policies to avoid. One of those is a sharp increase in Government spending, because that will push interest rates up much faster than they need to go. The second one would be imposing a costly emissions trading system, which is guaranteed to put power bills up by around $500 per year and, in combination with a single-buyer electricity authority, would make household electricity bills significantly more expensive, not cheaper, as the Opposition claims.

Labour and Greens both plan to tax us more, directly and indirectly, and then splash the cash around.

Not only will that leave us with less of our own money, it will fuel interest rates and inflation.


Greens thin-skinned?

March 12, 2014

Shane Jones is unrepentant about insulting  a potential coalition partner and one of its MPs.

Labour MP Shane Jones says Greens are too thin-skinned after the party laid a complaint about his attack on one its MPs.

Greens’ head of staff Ken Spagnolo said he had raised Mr Jones’ comments with Labour head of staff Matt McCarten.

Mr Spagnolo said it was not a formal complaint, but he had told Labour that Mr Jones’ comments about Greens’ fitness to govern were “unhelpful”.

Mr Jones, Labour’s economic development spokesman, had criticised Green MP Gareth Hughes on Radio Waatea for “carrying on like a mollyhawk” in his opposition to offshore mining.

The comments earned him a telling off from leader David Cunliffe, who said that the comments about a potential coalition partner were inappropriate.

Mr Jones was unrepentant this afternoon.

“Is this the same Green Party that complains of Colin Craig being too thin-skinned?” he said.

“I’m from Kaitaia. I know it’s mollyhawk in the north. Further down the line it’s mollymawk. Now I could’ve got my names wrong but people should just loosen up.

“The thought that it’s led to a complaint, I’ll just leave the public to judge that for what it is.” . . .

Th Greens are often likened to watermelons – green on the outside and red inside but melons have thick skins.

Insulting potential coalition partners might not be helpful it you’re trying to appear like a government in waiting, but this does look more than a little thin-skinned when Russel Norman is refusing to retract his comments about Conservative leader Colin Craig.

It’s also a distraction.

Heads of staff are supposed to keep their heads down and stay out of the headlines.

If Spagnolo felt the need to raise the issue with McCarten there was no need to go public about it.

Jones was also in trouble for comments about Asian students.

Meanwhile Cunliffe confirmed he had spoken to Jones about straying outside his portfolio areas and using strong language to attack the Green Party.

But he had not been disciplined

“I’ve spoken to him. The message to caucus is …that all of us are consulting with our colleagues if we are crossing portfolio and manage our comments in a proper way.”

He said Jones was a much-valued colleague but occasionally his rhetoric crossed the line. There was a clear understanding not to attack potential coalition partners.

At the weekend Jones criticised the number of foreign university students – a responsibility that crossed the roles of Grant Robertson and Raymond Huo. Cunliffe said it was a heat of the moment debate comment and fully understandable. . .

This is straying into New Zealand First’s xenophobic territory. It also highlights tensions in Labour between its factions,  once more gives Jones more attention than the rest of his colleagues put together, albeit for the wrong reasons.


Labour on sinking sand

March 12, 2014

Labour MPs trying to criticise National for price rises have very short memories:

Hon David Cunliffe: How does the Prime Minister expect everyday New Zealanders to keep up with the cost of living when many of them will be paying 7 or 8 percent more for their power and some face increases of up to 24 percent in this year alone?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One of the hallmarks of this National-led Government that is in contrast to the previous Labour Government is that, in fact, wages have been going up faster than the price of inflation. It is worth remembering that in terms of electricity prices, they make up less than 4 percent of the CPI. So in overall terms, when one looks at the CPI, some things go up and some things go down. For example, car prices went down, clothing and footwear prices went down, and household contents went down. So in many categories lots of things went down; the odd things went up. Overall, most consumers have not actually faced power increases of that level.

When wages increase faster than inflation, as they have recently under National, people have more purchasing power.

When, as happened under Labour, inflation beats wages, people have less purchasing power and end up worse off,

Hon David Cunliffe: If that is all so rosy, why did the Prime Minister try to blame Transpower when Transpower’s charges make up less than 10 percent of electricity prices and Transpower stated that its increases are likely to be less than $1 a month on average; and is the truth of it not that the power price increases are going to the privatised companies and enriching the foreign buyers that he is in league with?

Hon Bill English: What a load of nonsense.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To quote the Deputy Prime Minister, what a load of nonsense. If you look at what has been driving up power prices insomuch as there have been rises at all for consumers, it has been a combination of Transpower increases and lines companies, if one looks at those two together. Interestingly enough, though, if we look at, say, for instance, the last 5 years of power price increases—

Dr David Clark: Out of touch—5 long years.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, 5 long years with half the power increases, because they have been 19.7 percent as opposed to 39.1 percent for the 5 years under Labour.

Increases of 19.7% might seem high but they’re about half the 39.1% increases that happened during Labour’s last term.

There’s no hope that they will be lower should Labour return to government when they’re ETS policy will add hundreds of dollars to power bills.

Louise Upston: Do official measures of the cost of living include electricity prices, and what does this tell us?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, a very good question. The electricity prices in the CPI differ slightly from those that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, but they tell the same story. Over the last 5 years, going back to December 2008, electricity prices in the CPI rose 19.7 percent, and in the 5 years before that they rose 39.1 percent. So it is no wonder people think that power prices are high—in 5 years under Labour, electricity prices went up by 40 percent. That is why you cannot trust Labour when it comes to power prices. . .

The only thing you can trust Labour with is that their policies will be costly for us all.

Hon David Cunliffe: When will the Prime Minister listen to New Zealanders who are facing median house prices that are up by 8.6 percent on last year, when first-home buyers are now being shut out of the market, which he has made safe for speculators?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One of the things that the Government has been doing is working hard to ensure, actually, that first-home buyers can get into the market. There are a few ways of doing that. Firstly, the release of land will have a substantial impact. But let us just ask any first-home buyer we like what they would prefer to pay for their floating mortgage rate. Would they prefer to pay around 5 percent at the moment under a National-led Government, or 11 percent under Labour, which is what it was when we came into office?

Hon David Cunliffe: Speaking of interest rate rises, given that wholesale rates appear to be on their way from 5.75 percent to 8 percent, can he confirm that a household currently paying $500 a week in mortgage costs will face another $136 a week by the time that mortgage hits 8 percent?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, it is likely—I think the interest rates will make a gradual return towards a slightly more normalised level, but it is worth understanding that we have interest rates that are on a 50-year low. Secondly, if we want to talk about individual consumers, I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition is worried about them at the moment, because he showed absolutely no worry about them when interest rates were at 11 percent. When the Government was putting so much pressure on spending, it was forcing up inflation and forcing the Reserve Bank to raise rates. In fact, let us just take that household that has a $200,000 mortgage. That household, in comparison, is paying $200 a week less today than when Labour left office. You see, when we go to the polls on 20 September and the voters ask themselves who they can trust with the economy, it certainly will not be Labour that will be the answer coming from their TV sets.

We can’t trust Labour to run themselves, they’re certainly not ready to be trusted with running the country.

Hon David Cunliffe: When the Prime Minister said in 2008 that New Zealanders should “not be fearful of their next bill”, why are so many people now fearful of their housing, power, and other bills, under this uncaring National Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, the member is wrong. I did not make that statement, and he will never actually be able to demonstrate that I did. I was asked about the definition of poverty, and I said that the definition, at least of being well off, is that you are not fearful of a bill. But if it comes to bills, then I say this to New Zealanders. What would they rather have: a 19.7 percent increase in power prices under National, or a 40 percent increase under Labour over 5 years, and 72 percent? Would they rather have interest rates at about 5 and a bit percent, or would they rather have them at 11 percent? Would they rather have an economy under a National-led Government that is growing in excess of 3.5 to 4 percent, with 1,500 people a week coming off welfare and going to work?

Would they rather have an economy that most people around the world have envied? And would they rather have an economy that is actually going to be back into surplus?

Labour are standing on the sinking sand of their poor record in government compounded by expensive and impractical policies should they be returned.

That contrasts with National which can stand firm on its record for restrained spending, lower taxes and economic growth in spite of the financial and natural disasters it’s had to face.


March 12 in history

March 12, 2014

538  Witiges, king of the Ostrogoths ended his siege of Rome leaving the city in the hands of the victorious Roman general, Belisarius.

1622  Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, was canonized a saint by the Catholic Church.

1689 The Williamite war in Ireland began.

1821  Sir John Abbott, third Prime Minister of Canada, was born  (d. 1893).

1831 Clement Studebaker, American automobile pioneer, was born  (d. 1901).

1832 The Filippo Taglioni ballet La Sylphide received its première performance at the Paris Opéra.

1832 Charles Boycott, British land agent and source of the term to boycott, was born (d. 1897).

1864 Arthur’s Pass was “discovered”.

 Arthur's Pass 'discovered'

1868 Henry O’Farrell attempted to assassinate Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.

1880 Henry Drysdale Dakin, British-American biochemist, known for the Dakin-West reaction, was born (d. 1952).

1881 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first President of Turkey was born (d. 1938).

1881 Andrew Watson made his Scotland debut as the world’s first black international football player and captain.

1894  Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time.

1908 Rita Angus, New Zealand painter, was born  (d. 1970).

1912 The Girl Guides (later renamed the Girl Scouts of the USA) were founded in the United States.

1913  Canberra Day: The future capital of Australia was officially named Canberra.

1918 Moscow became the capital of Russia again after Saint-Petersburg held this status for 215 years.

1928 The St. Francis Dam in California failed, killing over 600 people.

1930 Mahatma Gandhi led a 200-mile march, known as the Dandi March, to the sea in defiance of British opposition, to protest the British monopoly on salt.

1932 Barbara Feldon, American actress and model, was born.

1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation for the first time as President of the United States in the first of his “fireside chats“.

1934 Konstantin Päts and General Johan Laidoner staged a coup in Estonia, and banned all political parties.

1938 Anschluss: German troops occupied Austria.

1940 Finland signed the Moscow Peace Treaty with the Soviet Union, ceding almost all of Finnish Karelia.

1946 Liza Minnelli, American singer and actress, was born.

1947 The Truman Doctrine was proclaimed to help stem the spread of Communism.

1948  James Taylor, American musician, was born.

1957 Marlon Jackson, American singer and musician (The Jackson 5), was born.

1966 Suharto became President of Indonesia.

1968  Mauritius achieved independence.

1971 The March 12 Memorandum, was sent to the Demirel government of Turkey and the government resigned.

1992 – Mauritius becomes a republic while remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

1993 Several bombs exploded in Mumbai killing about 300 and injuring hundreds more.

1993 North Korea said it planned to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and refused to allow inspectors access to its nuclear sites.

1993 – The Blizzard of 1993 – Snow began to fall across the eastern portion of the US with tornadoes, thunder snow storms, high winds and record low temperatures.

1994 The Church of England ordained its first female priests.

2003 –  Zoran Đinđić, Prime Minister of Serbia, was assassinated in Belgrade.

2004 – A President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, was impeached by its national assembly for the first time in the nation’s history.

2005 – Tung Chee Hwa, the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong, stepped down from his post after his resignation was approved by the Chinese central government.

2009 – Financier Bernard Madoff admitted to scamming $18 billion, the largest in Wall Street history.

2011 – A reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant melted and exploded and released radioactivity into the atmosphere a day after Japan’s earthquake.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


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