Word of the day

April 1, 2020

Physic – medicinal drugs; treat with medicine; the art or practice of healing disease.


Thatcher thinks

April 1, 2020


Rural round-up

April 1, 2020

Hope from the high country – Philip Todhunter:

Covid-19? It’s like opening your front door and finding two metres of snow on the ground just after you’d put all your new fencing in.

The fences have been wrecked. You look at the damage, you shake your head, and then you get on with managing your way through it.

In the back of your mind, you know that spring will come, the tonnes of snow will melt, and the grass will grow again.

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent. . . 

Coronavirus: can the economy recover – Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor:

The economic ride down is likely to be sharp and steep. But when consumers eventually emerge from lockdown, what will the recovery look like? Andrea Vance and Iain McGregor investigate.

Weighing sheep in a yard in the brown foothills of North Canterbury’s Hundalee Hills, Ben Ensor is an unlikely soldier on the frontline of New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As the country prepared to shut down, to stop the spread of coronavirus, the sheep and beef farmer was separating merino stock under the shadow of rustic woolshed. Hooves beat up clouds of dust, as his farm dog herded them into a race.

With 6000 sheep, and around 500 cattle, Ensor can’t close down. Like nurses, doctors, pharmacists and supermarket staff, farming and cropping have been deemed “essential“. . .

Kiwifruit taste test goes south :

Kiwifruit growers will not be paid for their fruit’s taste profile this season after the country’s only testing facility dropped the test.

Eurofins Bay of Plenty is the country’s only testing facility for the drymatter component of kiwifruit, which gives growers and Zespri a direct indication of the fruit’s taste profile.  

The lab now tests only for residues in fruit, leaving post-harvest processors grappling with how to evaluate fruit quality. . .

Keep calm, carry on – Colin Williscroft:

The Government is well aware of farming’s importance and is doing everything it can to ensure the primary sector continues to operate as close to normal as possible, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

“Farming has been the backbone of New Zealand and that will that continue long into the future,” O’Connor says.

Cabinet understands the role farming plays in the economy, along with the need to maintain farming systems subject to seasonal and biological cycles, including the lifecycle of animals and grass growth, restrictions other businesses around the country are not subject to. . .

Meat industry in better shape today to cope with downturn – Allan Barber:

When I started to trawl through possible topics to write about this week, I had the bright idea it might be worth asking meat processors what contingency plans they have in place in case an employee, more particularly one on the processing floor, tests positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus. So far my research suggests it’s not yet an issue that has received a great deal of consideration by many companies, although it’s certainly on their radar.

In an update to farmers, Silver Fern Farms states its position as “The reality is that an outbreak, or the understandable precautionary response of our people, is likely to see an impact on our processing capacity in coming weeks. It is realistic to expect that with a workforce of 7000 we will at least have precautionary isolation within our workforce. We have processes in place to ensure that, should this occur, it can be managed. We are working on the various contingent options and will keep you updated should there be any disruption to processing.” . . 

Coronavirus: George Eustice applauds farmers as ‘hidden heroes’ :

Defra Secretary George Eustice has labelled farmers ‘hidden heroes’ for keeping food on the nation’s plates during the Covid-19 crisis.

In an open letter to the food and farming industry, Mr Eustice paid tribute to ‘all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed.’

The statement described farmers’ response so far as ‘extraordinary’ and thanked those involved in food production on behalf of the country.

“In the face of what is perhaps the greatest health challenge this country has faced in our lifetime, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed,” he said. . .  

 


Quotes of the month

April 1, 2020

NZ is the Possible. We care equally about our environment, our consumers, our people, our animals and hope to make enough profit to keep going again next year. We are genuinely world leading in our approach. – Trish Rankin

So one way to think about Covid-19 is as a test of various systems around the world — political, medical and economic. Markets believe those systems are failing that test. – Tyler Cowen

A coalition government that struggles to implement meaningful policies. A prime minister at ease schmoozing with other leaders amid the glitz and glamour of the world stage. A second-in-charge who clearly sees himself as a co-prime minister. – Liam Hehir

There are far fewer people out there celebrating the real, powerful stories of Indian migrants. Like my sister-in-law, who moved to South Auckland from India as a kid, won top of the year at Auckland Uni, won a full PhD scholarship to Cambridge University, was awarded a Leader of Tomorrow at the Gellen Symposium of Switzerland, and is currently lecturing at Harvard while running a start-up. She’s probably the best poster girl you could possibly find for everything New Zealanders want to be known as: smart, determined, ballsy … and proudly Kiwi. – Verity Johnson

We were focused on being statistically safe, rather than being actually safe, which is a trap we are all guilty of falling into. . . They all said we put far too much focus on paperwork and forms and controls and not enough on engagement with people.  Jono Brent

After three years, we have books of inquiries and less than a pamphlet of implementation. Richard Prebble

But the epidemic might well have effects far beyond any that its death rate could account for. The world has suddenly woken up to the dangers of allowing China to be the workshop of the world and of relying on it as the ultimate source for supply chains for almost everything, from cars to medicines, from computers to telephones. No doubt normal service will soon resume once the epidemic is over, even if at a lower level, but at the very least supply chains should be diversified politically and perhaps geographically; dependence on a single country is to industry what dependence on monoculture is to agriculture. And just as the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of, so countries may have strategic reasons that economic reasons know not of.

The danger is that the epidemic will be used as a justification for beggar-my-neighbour protectionism, and for zero-sum game economics, to the great impoverishment of the world. Judgment, that mysterious faculty that is so difficult to define or quantify, but which undoubtedly exists, will be needed to adjudicate the claims of strategic security and economic efficiency. Even in situations in which there is hard scientific evidence to guide us, such as the present epidemic, judgment is still required. The present highly-charged political atmosphere, in which opponents can hardly bear the sight of one another, or conceded any value to their ideas, is not conducive to its exercise.- Theodore Dalrymple

Remember what they’ve suffered and don’t make other people suffer the way some of them have been suffering because they are no different, while they may look different and they may sound different but we’re all the same. – John Sato

Donald Trump takes comfort from the fact that it has killed only a handful of Americans so far. He forgets that the chart of an epidemic is exponential, as each person infects several people, and the power of such compound interest is, as Albert Einstein supposedly said, the eighth wonder of the world. The economist Tyler Cowan points out that it’s hard to beat an exponential process once a certain point has passed.

Last week Greta Thunberg was still telling the European Parliament that climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces. This week Extinction Rebellion’s upper-class twits were baring their breasts on Waterloo bridge in protest at the billions of people who they wrongly think may die from global warming in the next decade. These people are demonstrating their insensitivity. They are spooked by a spaniel when there’s a wolf on the loose. – Matt Ridley

Dairying was an economic sword for New Zealand against the GFC. Now we will be looking to exporter Fonterra and the dairy industry it leads to wield that sword again against a pandemic scourge.Andrea Fox

Clearly,  however  much  New Zealanders  might  believe  there is  much to gain  from a united  front  in this  time of  crisis,  the  role of a  vigilant   Opposition   is  perhaps  just  as  vital. – tutere44

He waka eke noa – the canoe which we are all in without exception. We are all in this together. – Simon Bridges

Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years. Cameron Bagrie

The world has not “completely changed.” What was good economics last month is good economic policy today. To come out of this recession we need to reform the Resource Management Act, have more flexible and less onerous employment laws. We need a welfare system that discourages dependence and an education system that does not turn out one in five functionally illiterate. We desperately need a health system that is not crippled with deficits. Richard Prebble

I also expect to see increasing but at times grudging acknowledgement over the next six months that agriculture and food are the fundamentals of the economy that provide the funds for most of the items we have to import. Further, within agriculture, it is our pastoral products that are the products with most reliable international demand. Unfortunately, there will still be some who remain unwilling to acknowledge that reality. – Keith Woodford

The size of a bureaucracy is not necessarily a sign of its strength or efficiency, any more than the swelling of an oedematous leg is a sign of its strength and efficiency; rather the reverse. A small bureaucracy concentrates intelligence, while a large one disperses it. Theodore Dalrymple

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent.Philip Todhunter

We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours. No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility. – Stefan Löfven

I have long thought that if it were not for complaint, we should have very little to talk about. Complaint is like crime in the theories of the first real sociologist, Émile Durkheim: It is the glue of society. Without opposition to crime, society would fall apart. Without complaint, most of us would remain silent and have no relations with others at all. – Theodore Dalrymple

But the fact is that writing helps one to endure what might otherwise be unendurable. I suppose I should know exactly why, but I don’t, except to say that the knowledge that you are going to write about something unpleasant puts a screen between yourself and your own experience.Theodore Dalrymple

Laughing together is as close as you can get without touching. – Gina Barreca

Humour rewards originality, offers diversion, enhances intellectual functioning, encourages emotional endurance, promotes a sense of alliance and releases tension without dismissing the seriousness of the situation.

Out of emotional chaos, humour devises a form and crafts a meaningful sense of control.

Humour insists on the most significant forms of freedom of assembly: the assembly of souls and minds, the community of the anxious and the brave (all of us at different moments), the gathering of storytellers, truth-tellers and eager listeners. – Gina Barreca

  Do you really need to drown those people in red tape and bureaucracy? I think we’re going t ave to look to lighten the load on them and let business start to flourish a bit. These aren’t normal times – John Key


Safe better than essential

April 1, 2020

The government is deciding what is an essential business or service, Act says it would be better to determine what is safe:

 . .. If the objective is to stop the spread of COVID-19, then the test should be whether something can be done safely, not whether it is essential. Moving to a test of safety rather than necessity would be a much better way of fighting the virus while salvaging businesses.

‘Essential’ Compromises ‘Safety’

The Government rightly says it is essential to have food available. Once food is available in an area, no other activity is permissible. But making people travel further to visit a smaller number of bigger and busier stores undermines our goal of reducing the spread of the virus. Supermarkets have remained open because they are essential but they have only undertaken safety mechanisms more recently. Under a safety approach, only food stores with safe processes would be allowed to open, but all stores with such processes would equally be able to open. . .

It would be just as safe for butchers and greengrocers to be open, following best practice of allowing one customer in, one out and keeping everyone two metres apart, as it is for supermarkets, perhaps even safer if it meant fewer people in supermarkets.

Couplands announced yesterday it will close its South Island plant because it mostly supplies its own shops in the south and these aren’t deemed essential.

The bakery supplies about a third of the South’s bread. The plant closure will cause shortages and panic buying. Again, providing the stores have practices which keep their staff and customers safe, they should be able to stay open and lower the pressure on supermarkets.

Instead of the objective test ‘can this be done in a way that is safe’ we are facing a subjective test ‘does the Government think you need this.’ This level of government power is not sustainable.

Breakdown Of The Rule of Law

Subjectivity leads to absurdities and a breakdown of the rule of law. The Government has decided that eating halal meat is a goal important enough to justify opening some butcheries. Driving to the beach for a walk or a picnic is not. Which one is safer? . . .

Halal meat can be bought from supermarkets and a halal butchery isn’t any more or less safe than any other butcheries. It’s the safety practices they follow to protect staff and customers safe that matter, not religious practices.

If the decision to close butcheries isn’t reversed millions of dollars of meat will have to be dumped. That would be an unconscionable waste.

The closure of butchers is also risking animal welfare:

The Government’s decision to exclude independent butchers from the essential business list during the COVID-19 lockdown will cause an animal welfare crisis in the New Zealand pork sector, says an industry group.

All independent butchers across the country have been classified as non-essential businesses and been forced to close as part of the Alert Level 4 lock-down for COVID-19.

However NZ Pork said the decision would likely result in the sector having no place to house up to 5,000 surplus pigs on farms every week.

“By not being able to sell fresh carcass pigs to the independent butchers and other segments, we will be faced with a significant animal welfare issue,” said chief executive of NZ Pork David Baines . . 

Back to Act:

Trust The People

Underpinning the ‘essential’ approach is a belief that people can’t be trusted to judge what is safe. (Can I do this without coming within two metres of others?, without touching things other may have touched?).

Safety Approach: Essential For The Recovery

We are going to have to recover as an economy. Free Press is approached daily by businesspeople in a state of despair. Their working capital may or may not last the first four weeks, it certainly won’t last further. Being able to operate under a safety approach is, to borrow a term, essential. Essential to what? Essential to people protecting their livelihoods in the coming months. . . 

The more businesses that continue operating, the more people who are able to keep working, the less the economic and social damage the lockdown will inflict and the faster the recovery will be.

What Would A Safety Approach Look Like?

A safety approach would involve a basic set of rules that people must follow. A two metre rule (Free Press regrets this would exclude televised dance competitions). Can you do this whilst remaining two metres from others? Yes or no? A ‘touched object’ rule. Can you do this without touching objects others outside your household have touched? Yes or no? A regular testing approach. Can we guarantee regular testing and contact tracing is possible? Yes or no? Obviously there is more to do, but we need to start developing a safety approach rather than an essential approach, pronto.

The only justification for the lockdown is to keep us all safe.

Whether or not a business can operate safely should be the only criteria for allowing it to do so through the lockdown.

That won’t compromise personal health and will help economic and social health.


Minimum wage increase on hold

April 1, 2020

The government has come to its senses and put a hold on the minimum wage rise that was supposed to come into effect today.

Employers, business groups and economists have argued that imposing a pay increase on businesses in the current environment would endanger businesses and risk jobs for the people the policy was aiming to help.

“We realised that a steep increase would have been imprudent at the best of times and foolish in the extreme when so many businesses are unable to function and so many people are facing redundancy,” spokesperson for the Ministry of Policy Reversals Ms Fairly Frugal said.

“When the government is asking everyone to unite for health’s sake we realised we had to stand together with employers and wait until the economy picks up before forcing a wage increase on them.

”It was a difficult decision but difficult times require governments to accept that political philosophy has to take a backseat to prudence and common sense.”

Business groups greeted the announcement with muted enthusiasm.

”It’s good to have our concerns acknowledged, but we’re not very happy that the hold on the increase will only be until noon,” BusynessNZ spokesperson Ms Penny Wise said.


%d bloggers like this: