Word of the day

May 16, 2014

Virtuecrat –  political figure who preaches his or her own morals as a cultural imperative; a person who is convinced of his or her moral superiority; (also) a politician or other public figure who seeks to promote morality.


Rural round-up

May 16, 2014

One in the eye for dairying’s critics – Jon Morgan:

Dairying is the popular whipping boy of the age. Dissembling politicians, rabid environmentalists, lazy news media, ignorant online commenters – they all have a go.

They peddle the usual half-truths and blatant lies: Dairying is responsible for all water pollution, dairy farmers are saddled with too much debt, they are running too many cows, using too much nitrogen fertiliser and poisoning the soils and plants, they mistreat their workers, they don’t pay their fair share of taxes, they’re responsible for global warming, the moral decay of today’s youth, war in Ukraine, the Pope turning Communist and, don’t forget, they also shot JFK.

However, one or two of their assumptions will have to be revised after the release of the latest DairyNZ economic survey.

It was a surprise even for those who support dairying to learn from the survey – which has been running for 50 years – that the costs of dairy farming have stayed the same for the past 25 years and that farms are as affordable as 40 years ago. . .

Angus cleans up at Steak of Origin Grand Final:

Colin Brown from Cambridge has been named Grand Champion in the 2014 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin competition with his Angus processed at AgResearch Ruakura.

After being a finalist in previous years and his Lake Farm Beef brand winning Supreme Brand in 2009, Colin has taken out the competition, sponsored by Zoetis, to find the country’s most tender and tasty sirloin steak in the Grand Final at AgInnovation in Feilding this evening.

Colin is humbled with the announcement.  “I am absolutely thrilled with the result after being named as a finalist four times in the last six years, and finally taking the title”, he says. . . .

Victory for man with big stake in beef:

It’s taken a few years, but an artisan beef producer has finally cracked the big one.

Colin Brown of Lake Farm on the shore of lake Karapiro in Waikato won the grand champion title in the Steak of Origin competition this week with a pure Angus sirloin steak.

He’s been a finalist for four of the past six years and in 2009 he won the supreme brand award with his Lake Farm Beef brand.

He’s a small scale operator, producing his beef from 100 cattle, and selling directly to customers through the internet. . .

Rockstar awards showcase our rockstar dairy industry:

The only shame about last Friday’s 2014 New Zealand Dairy Awards, at Auckland’s SkyCity, was the absence of the dairying’s most ardent critics.  Instead it was the perfect showcase for the capability and dynamism of New Zealand’s leading export industry. 

“I can forgive the print media as the Canon Awards were on the same night and the media at our industry’s event got to see dairying in its dynamic reality.  Special thanks must go to the brilliant MC Mike McRoberts but especially the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“I honestly thought there would have been more than one Member of Parliament present but as MP’s go, the Minister for Primary Industries is a very big fish indeed.

“After the awards I saw one political party leader in a debate label-dairy low value.  There is no way you could hold those views if he’d attended these awards.  That’s the problem we have.  There are some who won’t risk shaking their beliefs by opening their eyes. . .

Firenze sires 40,000 cows, retires:

With more than 40,000 daughters in New Zealand alone there’s no denying Firenze has been one very busy bull.

The herd improvement company CRV Ambreed retired the 12-year-old holstein-friesian bull this week at a ceremony in Hamilton.

Firenze has generated about $8 million in revenue and produced about 650,000 doses of semen that have been sold around the world.

Now he’s heading back to the farm where he came from near Dunedin.

His original owner, Philip Wilson, says he’s going to ensure Firenze sees out his days in style.

“Well, we’re just bringing him home because we are proud of him and we reckon he deserves a bloody good retirement. . . .

UN look to Marlborough grape vine pruning crews – Chloe Winter:

Marlborough’s autumn colours are slowly disappearing as vine-pruning contractors move in to prepare the vineyards for next season’s growth.

Alapa Viticultural Services owner Alan Wilkinson has a team of 230 workers for the pruning season.

The workers were from Thailand, Japan, Samoa, China, Malaysia and the Czech Republic and would stay until the end of the season in September.

By that time, more than four million plants would have been pruned, stripped and wrapped, Wilkinson said. . .

 Bee’s conference breaking ground for the industry:

This year, for the first time, Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group will be joining with the National Beekeepers Association to host a New Zealand Apiculture Industry Conference in Wanganui.

“The theme of this conference is “Working Together” with a critical focus on advancing our fast growing and vital industry that is pivotal to New Zealand’s economy, with an estimated annual contribution of $5 billion a year,” says John Hartnell, Federated Farmers Bee Chairperson. . . .


Editorial approval for Budget

May 16, 2014

From south to north:

The Southland Times writes of felines and finances:

As the budget debate was winding down in Parliament yesterday the most popular story on the Stuff website was still “Cat saves boy from dog”.

Bill English will hardly be distraught. He knows this is not an election-losing Budget.

It’s the first since 2008 to project a surplus. Technically, it is perfectly possible for a Government to be rolled in an election year while economic figures are doing OK. Jenny Shipley managed it while running budget surpluses and with economic growth knocking around 3.5 to 4 per cent.

But the public had emphatically soured on the politics of her administration whereas the Key Government, for all that it has had a wretched couple of weeks, would still need to subside spectacularly to find itself in such straits.

English has found himself in the fairly happy situation of not needing a budget that would quicken any pulses . . . merely keep them steady. This one will surely manage that.  . .

Australia has done English the very considerate favour of delivering a gasper of a hard-times Budget just days before his. So if it was a test, we’d be the winners, right? And who doesn’t like beating the Aussies? Big tick for the Nats, then?

Truth to tell those contrasting fortunes are indeed likely to accelerate the net immigration inflow of more than 38,000 this year. That’s assuming people have been paying attention, what with that fabulous cat footage.

 

The ODT calls it a clever document:

This was the Budget that National – right from the time of its re-election in 2011 – would have hoped it could produce leading into this year’s election.

Mr English has not swayed from his path of fiscal restraint. Sure, he has had to borrow heavily during the past six years, but not to the extent the country plunged into recession.

Now, the return to surplus gives options such as paying down debt.

The careful management of the country’s finances by Mr English, and his team of ministers, has helped ensure New Zealand has been mainly immune from the worst of the global decline affecting Europe, parts of Asia, the United States and, latterly, Australia.

Economic growth has been one of the highest in the OECD and, for once, all Treasury indicators are pointing in a positive direction.

This was a Budget of few surprises, but with enough good news to count for something. . .

It will enable Prime Minister John Key to go into the election campaign confident his 2008 promises of fiscal restraint, providing the best care for families, and delivering a better public service have not been compromised.

Opposition parties will have to promise big to counter National, and if they do, the onus will be on them to say exactly how they will fund those promises. . .

If he is looking for a document to define his legacy as Finance Minister, Budget 2014 is a good place to start.

There is some criticism the Budget is too conservative, but that personifies Mr English, who learnt the trade from former finance minister Sir William Birch. And would most New Zealanders rather have a gambler as a finance minister, or a safe pair of hands?

The ”Boy from Dipton” has lived up to his reputation as a ”conservative” politician in every way.

The Timaru Herald opines on the Budget highlight:

The contrast was telling, helped by the fact Australia’s Budget and ours came just two days apart.

Theirs: there will be pain for everyone.

Ours: we’re operating with a surplus and tax cuts may even be on the way.

But hey, we’re heading into an election, so there’s bound to be some gloss. They aren’t.

The National Government has worked long and hard on being able to say it is spending less than it is collecting, and right on cue it has achieved that.

Selling off a few state assets and spending most of the proceeds has helped, of course, and as Labour’s David Cunliffe rightly points out, National has borrowed a massive $56 billion in its tenure, which costs $10 million a day in interest.

He says that’s a lot of money that could be spent on lifting kids out of poverty, which indeed it is.

But because National is the Government it sets the agenda, and the agenda yesterday was for enough lollies to keep sugar levels up without creating a free-for-all. . .

It’s a steady Budget without attempting to buy votes.

The best thing about it?

It’s not Australia’s.

 

 

The Press writes of seeking the recipe for growth:

When he delivered his first Budget six years ago, Finance Minister Bill English faced a grim prospect. Even though the global financial crisis had not yet hit, the economy had gone into recession some time beforehand.

Government debt was at a reasonable level, but spending in Labour’s last years in office had ballooned and, according to Treasury projections, the Government faced deficits for a decade or more ahead.

National had been elected promising responsible Government finances and a stronger economy, but without changes those looked unlikely.

English smiled yesterday as he took delivery of the bound Budget document and well he might. By delivering a surplus, albeit a tiny one, several years ahead of what he had forecast several years ago, today’s Budget will be brighter than even he expected it to be by now.

Since it came to office six years ago, the Government’s core promises have been that it would deliver a stronger economy, responsible public finances and a better public service.

In 2011, after the earthquakes, it added a promise to rebuild Christchurch. Those pledges have become a mantra and can be expected to be repeated today.

Without engaging in a wholesale slash and burn, it has kept public spending under control while maintaining services.

So far as it is possible for a government to claim credit for the performance of the economy generally, National can be pleased with the prospect of growth possibly hitting more than 4 per cent this year. The trick will be to make that growth enduring. . .

In spite of the benign aggregate position it should not be forgotten that, as an Otago University survey reiterated last week, New Zealand still has significant pockets of deprivation.

There are likely to be numberless reasons for them but a growing economy delivering opportunity and jobs offers part of the solution for sustainably dealing with them.

The Marlborough Express writes the jobs challenge continues:

. . . Finance Minister Bill English told Parliament the realisation of job growth forecasts depends on the confidence of businesses to invest more capital and employ more people.

“That is where new jobs come from. They do not come from the Easter bunny.”

The Easter bunny didn’t get a mention when English unveiled his sixth Budget yesterday.

The test will be how much his programme can lift confidence and stimulate growth to create the environment that will put priority on employment growth.

The Dominion Post notes the crowd goes mild:

This is a deliberately bland and even boring Budget. The Government has clearly decided that grey and safe is its best hope in election year. The only surprise was free doctors’ visits for under-13-year-olds. Middle New Zealand will welcome it, as it will many of the other, carefully telegraphed, handouts. More paid parental leave: who could object? A bit more help with childcare costs: why not?

National has made a virtue of small gifts: it shows that the party is “responsible” and not spending money it doesn’t have. And that is why the $372m surplus is intended to have such political heft. The amount is piffling within a $70b budget, and would make no economic difference if it was an equally mouse-sized deficit.

But the surplus is the signal that a caring government has brought us home safely after a nasty trip through recession. And if we carry on being careful and good, the Government says, life will carry on improving. Finance Minister Bill English gave a hint of tax cuts to come, but waffled when pressed. So that means National is keeping its tax promises till closer to the election.

The real question is: is this all the voters want – thrift, mild rewards, steady-as-she-goes? The dissenters have pointed to National’s noticeable lack of flair and imagination. No big new policies, no bold new directions, no surprises.

But that is what the John Key Government is, and so far it has won elections. In tough times, the Government has spent freely to keep the ship afloat, and then it has slowly brought it to the fiscal shore. Now it welcomes us to dry land. . .

Much bolder moves will be needed, including a capital gains tax. But National’s caution here is a drawback, not an advantage. Sometimes problems are serious and need action. National seems to believe it will be enough to cut red tape and remove some of the planning obstacles in the way of housing. It won’t.

At present there is little rage about poverty, inequality and the housing crisis. These problems are raw and real but voters are patient and only a minority of voters now seem to actually hate National. It will probably take another term before a majority is truly fed up with Key and his band. In the meantime, this bland document may be a document for the times.

The Manawatu Standards call it a Budget comfortable fit for many Kiwis

There may be little bling to Finance Minister Bill English’s sixth Budget but, like a pair of sensible shoes, it will make for a comfortable fit for many New Zealanders.

It was a budget light on ambition, heavy on prudence, in its commitment towards a modest $372 million surplus, but with a few policies bearing a distinctive Labour hue to them.

Its “steady as she goes” tenor does shrewdly mine the Kiwi ethos. Yes, a tax cut would have been nice, but they’ve balanced the books and haven’t forgotten the children. So she’ll be right.

It is a budget good enough to serve its purpose, whether that is pragmatic progress towards further surpluses and the lure of an eventual tax cut or simply placating middle New Zealand until after the general election in September is a matter of perspective. . .

The NZ Herald says the Budget steers safe course in rough waters:

The Treasury gave the show away in the Budget’s supporting documents, mentioning that while tax revenue is running at a lower level than expected, some of the Government’s intended spending has been “rephased” to produce the surplus it has promised.

Opponents can call it a trick of “smoke and mirrors” but the verdict that matters comes from credit agencies. They are unlikely to be concerned. Spending rephased is spending we might never see unless surpluses can be maintained. . . .

The Budget’s best feature is the value Bill English seems to be getting for little extra spending on public services. Departments know the results he wants and seem to be delivering them without complaint from providers or the public.

They have stopped demanding endless increases in funds and he shared the credit with them yesterday for his surplus.

Doctored it may be, but it will get better.

The Herald’s last point is a pertinent one and one of the National governments successes – getting better pubic services for less money.

 


Friday’s answers

May 16, 2014

Andrei and J Bloggs provided Thursday’s questions.

For that they get my thanks and for stumping us all they win an electronic batch of shortbread which can be collected by leaving the answers in a comment below.

 


Darien Fenton not seeking re-election

May 16, 2014

List MP Darien Fenton won’t be seeking re-election:

. . . Ms Fenton has been a Labour list MP since 2005. . . 

She is only the fourth member of Labour’s caucus to announce she won’t be seeking re-election.

That she and two of the others are list MPs enables the party to refresh its list without upsetting sitting MPs, providing of course the party at least maintains the vote it got at the last election.

Who pays how much

May 16, 2014

The left often complain that wealthy people don’t pay enough tax.

The figures show that’s not the case:

That excludes Working For Families which means households with two children don’t pay any net tax until their income reaches more than $50,000.

Contrary to the line the left spin, the wealthiest few pay the most.

Countering another of the left’s complaints that tax cheats aren’t targeted as hard as beneficiaries who cheat, the Budget included a $132 million allocation to crack down on tax evasion.

 

Photo: We’re committed to making sure everyone is paying their fair share of tax. http://ntnl.org.nz/1okJfNJ


Voting with their feet

May 16, 2014

The contrast between the Australian Budget delivered by Treasurer Joe Hockey earlier in the week and New Zealand’s Budget delivered by Finance Minister Bill English yesterday was stark.

Trans-Tasman migration is a reliable indicator of the state of the two countries’ economies and even before the Budgets were delivered, the tide had turned in New Zealand’s favour.

. . . A net immigration inflow of some 38,100 this year is very high by historic standards, mainly reflecting more New Zealanders deciding to stay here instead heading to Australia or further afield in search of greener pastures.

It’s hard to argue with the way that people vote with their feet. Pattrick Smellie

The message from both Budgets is likely to reinforce this trend.

 


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