Word of the day

December 11, 2014

Slimsy – flimsy; frail.


Rural round-up

December 11, 2014

Wellington decision makers get the facts on irrigation:

“Highlighting New Zealand’s international excellence in irrigation practice to urban audiences and dispelling myths is key to getting greater acceptance of water storage and irrigation throughout the country,” said Andrew Curtis, CEO of IrrigationNZ at a breakfast of over 70 politicians, industry and business representatives and NGOs in Wellington this morning.

The breakfast meeting was arranged by the national body representing irrigators and the irrigation industry, IrrigationNZ, as part of its efforts to educate New Zealanders about water storage and irrigation and to emphasise the link to food production.

In his opening remarks, Minister for Primary Industries Hon Nathan Guy congratulated IrrigationNZ for bringing together the capital city’s key decision-makers to learn about the irrigation industry. . .

 

Reduced milk payout challenge to farmers, but recovery likely to commence in 2015-16 – Rabobank:

While the reduced milk price forecast means New Zealand dairy farmers will face significant challenges in the coming 12 to 18 months, the medium to longer-term outlook for dairy remains sound, agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank said today.

Commenting on today’s announcement that Fonterra has further cut its farmgate milk price forecast for 2014/15, Rabobank New Zealand CEO Ben Russell said while the challenges New Zealand dairy farmers would have to deal with in the immediate term were “acute”, farmers should have confidence in the medium and longer-term outlook for dairy, with Rabobank expecting a price recovery to commence during the 2015-16 season. . .

 

Small towns face dairy payout pain:

Small towns which service the dairy sector will be the first to feel the impact of the lower milk payout, Fonterra warns.

The payout has fallen below $5 to $4.70 per kilogram of milksolids – down from $5.30/kg.

It’s the third time Fonterra has lowered its farmgate milk price since the opening forecast for the 2014/15 season of $7, announced in June.

The federation’s chairman, Andrew Hoggard, said it would be midway through next year before farmers felt the impact of the reduced payout. . .

Small dairy farms can still be profitable – Keith Woodford:

Last week I wrote about the changing scale of dairying. Farms are getting bigger and they will continue to do so, driven by the combined power of scale and financial leverage.

Unfortunately the title I supplied for that article (‘The changing scale of dairy’) was changed in the Sunday Star Times to ‘Dairy is all about scale’. This title implied that there was no future for small dairy farms. However, those of us working with farmers know that small farms can indeed be profitable, and there are many factors other than scale that influence that profitability.

The false impression in last week’s Sunday Star Times article was further compounded by a headline sentence, inserted by editorial staff, that there were 1900 farms with 4.8 million cows. The correct number for 2013, as stated in the article itself, is 11,900 farms. . .

Asian markets fuelling growth for NZ mussel industry:

New Zealand’s iconic Greenshell mussels are proving a hit with consumers in emerging Asian economies and fuelling export growth for the sector according to peak governing body Aquaculture New Zealand (AQNZ).

“Asia can’t get enough New Zealand Greenshell mussels,” AQNZ Chief Executive Gary Hooper said.
“The popularity is driven by the quality, purity, taste, health properties and the reputation of the product. Consumers deliberately seek out premium New Zealand farmed mussels because they know they come from pristine waters, are handled with integrity and are guaranteed safe products they can trust.” . .

 

Forest safety brain trainer for Tree fallers – Switchback’s Steven Falk joins International Safety Conference:

The Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) is pleased to announce that forestry teamwork expert Steven Falk from British Columbia, Canada has been confirmed as a keynote speaker for it’s flagship forest safety conference series March 2015. The summit runs at Rotorua’s Distinction Hotel on 3-4th March and Bayview Eden Hotel in Melbourne on 10-11th March.

Steven Falk’s team of trainers at Switchback has worked with manual tree fallers in British Columbia for many years. He reports, “Our feedback shows that 96% of participants thank us for the training/coaching and express a desire for their families to be able to participate in further Switchback training.” . .


Thursday’s quiz

December 11, 2014

1. Who said: People don’t notice if it’s winter or summer if they’re happy.?

2. In which play by whom would you find the characters Oberon, Titania, Puck and Bottom?

3. It’s saison in French, stagione in Italian, estación in Spanish and wa in Maori, what is it in English?

4. What are equinoxes and solstices and when do they occur?

5. Is the quote in question one right?


Key # 1 again

December 11, 2014

TV3 political editor Patrick Gower has named Prime Minister John Key as politician of the year.

Trans Tasman named him politician of the year last week too.

There could simply be no other. John Key was out on his own this year for one simple reason – he won.

Yes, the Prime Minister’s performance ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

In fact, Key went from the crème-de-la-crème to the crème-de-la-crap at times.

But Key won. He got National across the line. It was an incredible victory. It defied the political gravity of a third-term and was against the odds of the campaign. . .

I am not sure that anyone except political tragics were particularly interested in the campaign.

To get that was far from easy for Key. The Dirty Politics scandal could have destroyed other campaigns and finished off other leaders.

The election campaign was weird. It was dark too. And it was incredibly brutal for all those involved.

There is no doubt that Dirty Politics knocked Key over at first – National lost control of its campaign.

Yet Key survived. He stood his ground.  In the words of son Max, he “manned up”.

It was like Key absorbed all of the negativity directed at him, and then, like some kind of comic book character, spewed it all out again as some kind of positive force.

There was unpredictability everywhere: Whaledump, Rawshark, Winston, Colin, rappers, hacker(s), Dotcom, Eminem, Cortex and don’t forget Speargun.

National and Key’s defence was simple – they had a plan, and they stuck to it.

“The plan” is a grinding, relentless strategy based on simple messaging and a self-belief that the Key juggernaut can eventually ride out almost anything.

It has been proven time and time again, and this time was proven on the biggest stage (an entire election campaign) facing the greatest degree of difficulty (an entire book of scandal).

Helped in no small part by a dismal and divided opposition which wasn’t looking like a government in waiting.

Key’s politics this year was a potent combination of on the “macro” level, stubbornly sticking to strategy, and on the “micro” level, being what’s called a “clutch hitter” or “big game player” who rises to the occasion.

Key made big moves at a strategic level and stuck to them, and he made big calls in day-to-politics that worked for him too.

On the macro level, one part of the plan that worked well this year was Key’s semi-upfront declaration of his potential coalition partners at the start of the year.

Looking back, it really was a masterstroke – it gave voters a clear picture of how a National Government would work.

Key also gave himself the space with the decision about giving Colin Craig a electorate seat deal and even more space when it came to working with Winston Peters.

In the end, he ruled out a seat deal for Craig because he looked too crazy and wanted him at arms-length. It was a big call but a good call – imagine if Key had been apologising for Craig on the campaign trail as well as dealing with Dirty Politics.

With Winston, Key kept him at arms’ length. But by not ruling Peters out, he always kept himself in the game, it always looked like National could form a Government no matter how bad the polls got.

The PM had the courage and sense to let voters know what they would and would not get with a National-led government.

That provided another stark contrast with then-Labour leader David Cunliffe who stupidly copied Winston Peters’ line that he’d let the voters choose without giving them all the information they’d need to choose wisely.

Key’s and National’s strategy included a bedrock of policies tailored for the centre voter, and conservative political management. They then turbo-charged this with an overload of “Brand Key” marketing.

Key used these to keep his vice-like grip on the centre-ground, and if he has that – National wins. . .

But there was nothing certain about that win.

Steven Joyce’s recent admission that National was polling at 44 percent in the final week and might have needed Winston to govern shows just how different it could have been. . .

Gower’s other awards:

Runner-up politician of the year: Andrew Little.

Back-bencher Kelvin Davis.

Runner-up political non-politician: Kim Dotcom, Whale Oil and Nicky Hager.

Radio Live’s Duncan Garner lists the year’s political winners and losers:

1. JOHN KEY

For all the obvious reasons. He is still the PM and he is still widely popular according to the polls. He had the kitchen sink thrown at him and he almost won the election outright. He’ll have to watch it doesn’t go to his head.

2. ANDREW LITTLE

Couldn’t win a fight in a kindergarten but ends the year on top. His caucus didn’t want him, his party didn’t want him, his electorate didn’t want him. Yet he ends the year looking strong and competent as Labour’s new leader.

3. KELVIN DAVIS

He beat Hone Harawira and therefore beat Kim Dotcom – do I have to say anymore?

4. SUE BRADFORD

She knew Dotcom and Harawira were in an unholy alliance and she put her principles before it all. She called it right – she has values and principles that are beyond reproach whether you agree with her politics or not.

5. CAM SLATER – WHALEOIL.

Yes he’s a dirt-bag, muck-raking, scum-bag attack blogger, but he likes it that way. He doesn’t play by any rule book yet he’s been judged a journalist by the courts. Despite having his dirty laundry aired for the world to see he remains talked about, his blog gets more hits than ever, he breaks stories and the PM returns his texts. Oh and he wins mainstream media awards.

(Close mention: Paula Bennett, now talked about as the next National Party Leader)

His losers are:

1. KIM DOTCOM

Threw millions at trying to rig an election, but the public weren’t fooled. He’s now fighting to stay out of jail. Rest my case.

2. HONE HARAWIRA

He picked the wrong rich friends. Should have stayed poor. At least he’d still be in Parliament. Woeful judgement.

3. LAILA HARRE

See above.

4. JUDITH COLLINS

Was on track to be the next National Party Leader – now she’s struggling to be heard from the backbenchers. Huge fall from grace. Career in tatters.

5. DAVID CUNLIFFE

Came across as a fake and then apologised for being a man. Do we have to say anything more? Awful defeat.

(Close mention: Grant Robertson, rejected twice as Labour’s future leader. That will hurt and in politics if winning if everything, Robertson has twice failed. Ouch. Still, he has huge chance to recover well.)

 

 


Education the key

December 11, 2014

A new OECD report appears to show inequality is growing in New Zealand.

But NBR editor Nevil Gibson discusses what it really shows:

. . . The four-page summary report based on a working paper, Trends in income inequality and its impact on economic growth (See report here), and statistical tables, has been seized on by the media the opposition as a “failure of trickle down economics” and a case for higher taxes on the rich and more redistribution to the poor.

In fact, this is not the case. The main reason is the dated nature of statistical material, while the policy suggestions carry a heavy caveat that “Redistribution policies that are poorly targeted and do not focus on the most effective tools can lead to a waste of resources and generate inefficiencies.”

The figures that show New Zealand’s growth was inhibited by increased income inequality are based on the period 1990-2010. The figures show “real disposable household income” in New Zealand from 1985 to the GFC (2008) was around the OECD average and well below countries such as Australia.

In the five years post the GFC, New Zealand disposable incomes among the top 10% fell 2.2% (OECD average 0.7%) while those in the bottom 10% fell the least, 0.5% (also the OECD average). Average New Zealand incomes fell  0.9% compared with the OECD average of 1.8%. . .

The GFC hit the richest but National’s policies to look after the most vulnerable during the GFC gave them some protection.

. . . But the main interest in the paper is the evidence it offers on the main mechanism through which inequality affects growth.

This is that the wider income gap between the lower middle class and poor households compared to the rest of society undermines education opportunities for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds, lowering social mobility and hampering skills development.

In other words, it is education rather than taxation that is the key: “a lack of investment in education by the poor is the main factor behind inequality hurting growth,” the report says.

“This compelling evidence proves that addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth and needs to be at the centre of the policy debate,” says OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría:

“Countries that promote equal opportunity for all from an early age are those that will grow and prosper.”

Few would argue that successive governments in New Zealand are seriously deficient in this area and the biggest deniers would be the Labour government of 1999-2008.

The OECD handout summarising the report observes:

“People whose parents have low levels of education see their educational outcomes deteriorate as income inequality rises. By contrast, there is little or no effect on people with middle or high levels of parental educational background.

“The impact of inequality on growth stems from the gap between the bottom 40% with the rest of society, not just the poorest 10%. Anti-poverty programmes will not be enough, says the OECD.

“Cash transfers and increasing access to public services, such as high-quality education, training and healthcare, are an essential social investment to create greater equality of opportunities in the long run.”

As mentioned, the paper also finds no evidence that redistributive policies, such as taxes and social benefits, harm economic growth, provided these policies are well designed, targeted and implemented.

Well-off New Zealanders already carry a high tax burden – more than half of the population pays no tax except GST – so I don’t think any party can justify higher taxes on the basis of this report.

As the report itself warns,” not all redistributive measures are equally good for growth.”

Inequality increased under Labour’s high tax, high spending policies of the noughties.

It has improved under National which has reduced taxes and taken a much more careful approach to targeting spending where it is needed most needed.

One of those areas is education:

The key message of the OECD’s report on inequality, released today, is investment in education and is not a prescription for higher taxes, says the Taxpayers’ Union.

The Union’s Executive Director, Jordan Williams, reacting to the OECD report and interviews with Grant Robertson and Russel Norman on this morning’s Morning Report says:

“Grant Robertson and Russel Norman want to use the report as justification to tax high incomes more, even though the top 6% of income earners already pay 37% of everyone’s income tax. They are trying to use the OECD report to frame small efficient government and incentives to work as a bad thing.”

“We’re disappointed that Mr Robertson continues to refer to the made up economic theory of ‘trickle down economics’. Mr Robertson must know that no such economic theory exists. No economist has ever argued that in order to make a poor person richer you should make a rich person richer first. Economists have, however, argued that economic growth and freedom makes us all, rich or poor, better off.”

“The biggest cost of living is people’s tax bills. Instead of wanting to solve inequality by cutting government waste and taxes at the low end, politicians immediately want to tax more so they can distribute it to constituencies.”

The background to the oxymoronic ‘trickle-down economics’ argument Messrs Robertson and Norman referred to on radio this morning to is available in a piece by New Zealand Initiative Researcher Jenesa Jeram republished with permission.

“Mr Robertson is now shadow Minister of Finance. He should be focused on arguing real economic data, not taking on his own straw men arguments,” concludes Mr Williams.

The poor won’t get richer by making the rich richer first. But nor will taking more than is fair and reasonable from anyone help those most in need.

Higher taxes and poor spending don’t help the poor and harm the wider economy.

Education is the key to helping the poor, along with carefully targeted investments in health and other services needed to provide equality of opportunity for them.


December 11 in history

December 11, 2014

361 – Julian the Apostate entered Constantinople as sole Emperor of the Roman Empire.

630 – Muhammad led an army of 10,000 to conquer Mecca.

969 – Byzatine Emperor Nikephoros II was assassinated by his wife Theofano and her lover, the later Emperor John I Tzimiskes.

1282 Llywelyn the Last, the last native Prince of Wales, was killed at Cilmeri.

1789 The University of North Carolina was chartered.

1792 – French Revolution: King Louis XVI of France was put on trial for treason by the National Convention.

1890  Carlos Gardel, tango singer was born  (d. 1935).

1904  Marge, American cartoonist, was born (d. 1993).

1907 Fire swept through Parliament Buildings destroying Bellamy’s restaurant but missing the library.

Parliament's library escapes great fire

1917 Lithuania declared its independence from Russia.

1918  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer and Soviet dissident, Nobel laureate, was born (d 2008).

1931 The Statute of Westminster was passed granting complete autonomy to Britain’s six Dominions. It established legislative equality between the self-governing dominions of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of Canada, the Irish Free State, Dominion of Newfoundland, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa.

Statute of Westminster passed

1936  Edward VIII’s abdication as King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Dominions beyond the Seas, and Emperor of India became effective.

1940 David Gates, American musician (Bread), was born.

1941 Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, following the Americans’ declaration of war on Japan in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbour. The United States, in turn, declared war on Germany and Italy.

1942 – Donna Mills, American actress, was born.

1943  John Kerry, American politician, was born.

1944 Brenda Lee, American singer, was born.

1946 The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was established.

1954  Jermaine Jackson, American singer (Jackson 5), was born.

1958  French Upper Volta gained self-government from France, and became the Republic of Upper Volta.

1972  Apollo 17 became the sixth Apollo mission to land on the Moon.

1997  The Kyoto Protocol opened for signature.

2005 Cronulla riots: Thousands of White Australians demonstrated against ethnic violence resulting in a riot against anyone thought to be Lebanesen (and many who were not) in Cronulla Sydney.

2008 Bernard Madoff was arrested and charged with securities fraud in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

2012 – At least 125 people were killed and up to 200 injured in bombings in the Alawite village of Aqrab, Syria.

Sourced from Wikipedia and NZ History Online.


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