Too poor to ignore potential riches underground

July 9, 2012

Quote of the day:

. . . Conservationist groups who argue against prospecting do their cause no good.

Even they should accept we need to find out what’s there first.

Then we can do the maths and have the discussion.

Our economy is in no shape to allow us the luxury of ignoring the potential riches beneath our feet.

It might not be possible, or desirable, to get them all out, but surely we can benefit from some of the bounty bestowed on us. – Herald On Sunday.

One of the reasons Australia is wealthier than us, with higher wage rates and other benefits from a faster growing economy, is its mineral wealth.

We do need to find out what riches might be waiting underground, and undersea and then find out the costs and benefits of extracting them.

Modern mining techniques can limit damage to the environment and eventually leave the land in as good or better state than it was.


Is that all there is?

January 26, 2012

The so called teapot tape has been released on YouTube..

It’s not easy to hear what is being said by John Key and John Banks in their pre-election conversation because of the background noise.

But from what I could hear and understand there is absolutely nothing to cause embarrassment or upset to anyone.

If that is all there is, the Herald on Sunday and TV3 who had the tape and made such a fuss about it really need to look at themselves, their standards and motivation.

They inferred  implied the contents were politically sensitive and potentially embarrassing.

They told us it was in the national interest to release them. If that’s all there is it wasn’t. They are simply boring.

The HOS and even more so TV3 turned a non-event into a potential scandal and then someone from one of those media outlets or Bradley Ambrose, the reporter who, inadvertently or not, recorded the conversation, gave something to Winston Peters which enabled him to do what he does best – manufacture outrage to generate attention.

The only embarrassment is to the media who created an issue out of nothing.

I am not linking to the recording because I am unsure of the legal position but if you can’t find it you’ll save yourself 10 minutes and 46 seconds of boredom.

Whaleoil, Kiwiblog and Keeping Stock also have posts on the recording.


No ruling on private in public

November 23, 2011

Justice Helen Winkelmann has declined to give a ruling on whether the conversation between John Key and John Banks was private because it would prejudice an on-going police case.

 “I have not reached any view on whether this was a private communication,” Justice Winkelmann said in her decision.   

“Indeed my decision turns upon the inadequacy of the evidentiary material before me to reach such a view, and in any event, the inappropriateness of my undertaking a mini trial as to whether certain conduct constituted a criminal offence … in advance of a police investigation or trial.”   

The decision means legal doubt remains over whether the conversation between Prime Minister John Key and Act’s John Banks was private, and it may be illegal to publish the tape.   

Up until now media with copies of the tape or a transcript have been reluctant to publish because of the risk of legal action.

If the Herald on Sunday and TV3 had been sure it wasn’t a private conversation they would have published a transcript of the conversation.

Instead they made do with insinuations and someone passed at least some of content on to Winston Peters to enable him to do what he does best – saying something to grab attention but nothing for which he could be held to account.


An accident?

November 17, 2011

Quote of the day:

Anyone gullible enough to swallow the story the taping of the Key-Banks tea party last week was inadvertent, as the Herald on Sunday claimed? The reality is Sunday tabloids don’t cover events other media attend during the week, unless they can get an exclusive. And the only way to get an exclusive of the tea party was by way of subterfuge. But you have to admire the HoS brazen effrontery in claiming it had acted ethically. And how about those politicians who in one breath said it would be illegal to tape a private conversation, and, in the next, said John Key was panicking in filing a complaint with the police? Trans Tasman

Whether or not people are swallowing the story, the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll shows the issue hasn’t done much damage to National  and has done nothing to help Labour.

It also shows that the vandalism of National’s signs by a now-former member of the Green Party hasn’t cost it any support.

The poll had National dropping a point to 53%, Labour down to a 10-year low of 26%, the Green Party up to 13% and, thankfully, New Zealand First on only 2.2%.


The trouble with volunteers

June 12, 2011

Whaleoil has come across Labour Party  emails, finan­cial details, party plan­ning infor­ma­tion and mem­ber­ship data among which is the minutes of a meeting of Labour North which say:

The meeting was reminded of the successes and achievements of the LN collective – in fundraising and public meetings. The role of the office and MP were clarified, noting these add value to the collective, and to use Parliamentary services for best outcome for the LP.

The Herald On Sunday asked MP Darien Fenton, who was at the meeting about this:

She said minutes of meetings were taken by volunteers and could contain errors.

However, she conceded that there had been pressure to use the Parliamentary staff member for party business.

“It has been an area of tension. It is an ongoing discussion with them about how we protect the role of the staff member and the MP. . .”

The trouble with volunteers is that they do sometimes get carried away with their enthusiasm and they might make errors.

However, MPs should be very well aware of the very clear division between what Parliamentary Services staff and funds do on behalf of constituents and what a party and its members do for political ends.

An MP who was taking part in campaign discussions should have left the meeting and the minute taker in no doubt at all that Parliamentary Services had absolutely no role in any outcomes for the Labour Party.


Jon Morgan wins Rural Women ag journalism award

October 21, 2010

Jon Morgan from the Dominion Post has won Rural Women New Zealand’s 2010 award for  journalists who highlight acheivements of rural women.

He was commended for writing stories which shine a spotlight on rural issues for a largely urban readership.

The Runner-up for the award was Liz Brook, who writes for Central Districts Farmer.

“We set up the award with the Guild two years ago to encourage greater balance in rural journalism,” says Rural Women New Zealand National President, Liz Evans. 

 “It is rewarding to see more articles being written about women in rural communities achieving extraordinary things, both in farming and in the general rural environment. 

Morgan’s winning stories were: Sweet smell of lambing success and Unlocking women’s rural skills .

Brooks winning stories were: Beefing up the meat industry and Staying true to the land and to God.

These awards were announced at the Guild of Agricultural Journalist’s annual dinner. Other winners were:

BNZ Partners’ Rongo Award recognising excellence in agricultural journalism: Richard Rennie,  for a portfolio of articles which appeared in NZ Farmers Weekly and NZ Dairy Exporter, focussing on issues around the possible sale of the Crafar farms to overseas interests.

Runner-up: the team from NZX Agri’s Country-Wide monthly newspaper, for a series of 12 articles entitled Prime Movers, largely the work of journalist Sandra Taylor.

 BNZ Partners ‘ Farm Business Writing Award: Sandra Taylor, for two articles in the Prime Mover’s series which appeared in Country-Wide.

 AgResearch Science Writers Award, established to enhance standards of science writing, especially about pastoral agriculture: Jon Morgan.

 Horticulture New Zealand Journalism Award, set up last year to recognise excellence in agricultural journalism focussing on New Zealand’s horticulture industry: Jon Morgan. 

 AGMARDT Agribusiness Award, which recognises high quality information about and effective analysis of national, global and other agribusiness: Herald On Sunday journalist, Maria Slade.

Federated Farmers Rural Photography Award, for a single photo that illustrates a rural event or activity – agricultural, horticultural, industry, human interest, on farm / off farm, or any activity reflecting life or work in rural New Zealand: NZX Agri journalist and photographer, Marie Taylor.

The Guild’s own award, designed to encourage and recognise excellence among journalists with three or fewer years reporting on agricultural issues, The Agricultural Journalism Encouragement Award: Blair Ensor of the Marlborough Express.


Country can’t afford what teachers deserve

September 19, 2010

I spent a year at Teachers’ College during which the most important lesson I learned was that I would be a bad teacher.

I also learned to appreciate and value good teachers.

I agree they deserve to be paid more but the country can’t afford what they’re seeking and contrary to what teachers’ unions would have us believe not all teachers are good.

Quite why they think teachers are different from every other group where you have a spread of ability is beyond me. If they seriously believe their own propaganda and don’t realise that some teachers are spectacularly good, a few are spectacularly bad and the rest are somewhere between they must be on another planet.

That might also explain their insistence on seeking salary increases well beyond the country’s ability to pay.

They say they’re underpaid when compared with other OECD countries but so are the rest of us and as Kiwiblog points out a more useful comparison would be between pay rates and GDP:

In Australia 3.5% of GDP is spent on non-tertiary education, and in New Zealand it is 4.0%. So we are already paying more as a percentage of GDP, than Australia. Hence the solution is to increase GDP, not to increase the share spent on education.

Only three OECD countries spend a higher percentage of GDP on non-tertiary education than New Zealand.

He followed that up with these figures:

The OECD doesn’t seem to have up to date average wage data for NZ, but there is good data on GDP per capita. So let’s compare teacher salaries to GDP per capita. Taking a primary teacher with 15 years experience, the data is:

  • Australia $46,096 salary vs $38,911 GDP per capita = 118% ratio
  • UK/England $44,630 vs $34,619 = 129%
  • France $31,927 vs $33,679 = 95%
  • Luxembourg $67,723 vs $78,395 = 86%
  • US $44,172 vs $46,381 = 95%
  • NZ $38,412 vs $26,708 = 144%
  • OECD $39,426 vs $35,138 = 112%

So in fact New Zealand is paying primary teachers with 15 years experience far more, compared to our national wealth, than the OECD average, and than Australia, the US, UK, US, France etc.

Even if ones takes secondary teachers with 15 years experience, NZ at 144% pays far more relative to national wealth than even Luxembourg.

Picking up on this Kerre Woodham reckons teachers are unpatriotic and the Herald On Sunday says teachers aren’t doing too badly.

That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be doing better. They could, and given the importance of the job they do, they should. But not until economic growth improves enough to make their claims affordable.

Even then, they’d have a much stronger case if they accept that different teachers have differing abilities. The good ones deserve more money, others need more help to improve, or they should accept, as I did,  they’re not good enough and find another job.


3 out of 3’s not good

November 2, 2009

An opposition party desperate for publicity would normally be pleased that three of the country’s biggest papers devoted their editorials to it.

But Labour wouldn’t be celebrating the editorial round ups they were given last week.

The ODT editorial was headlined Earning Trust:

It damns Phil Goff with faint praise, says the team he leads is shy on talent then gets to the nub of the matter:

 One reason delaying its return is the question of trust.

There were sufficient numbers of dodgy practices by Labour when in government to help speed the party’s exit from power; any attempted repetition of that behaviour so early in its term of Opposition should be a dominating concern of Mr Goff and his colleagues.

The Dominion Post’s editorial was headed No shortcuts for labour’s sinners.

The party’s MPs have lost touch with the voters who elected three straight Labour-led governments.

If they were doing their jobs, the MPs would know, from their daily contact with constituents and interest groups, what the pressing issues are.

Labour’s MPs resemble grumpy, disinherited members of the landed gentry who have been turfed out of their comfy gentlemen’s club for not paying their subscriptions and are trying to fast talk their way back in past the doorman.

But there are no shortcuts. If Labour’s MPs want to regain the good opinion of the public, they will have to earn it.

Voters are drawn to politicians who seek to serve their (voters’) interests. They are repelled by politicians who seek to serve their own interests.

The Herald on Sunday editorial was headlined Labour lose moral compass:

Barker has acted dishonestly.

Hughes has sacrificed principle for patsy-ism.

Goff has just cowered and, when confronted by political reporters outside the Labour Caucus room with nowhere to hide, obfuscated.

Labour’s leader must now stand up and take responsibility for the deception that was conducted with funds entrusted to him by Parliament.

Barker should be sacked from all his Caucus responsibilities. Hughes, too, must be left in no doubt about how repugnant his rationalisations are.

These, then, are the simple truths that are demanded of Labour’s tarnished leadership.

And these are the truths Labour has forgotten.

Using public money for party polling was wrong, but it’s Labour’s response to it which has kept the issue live and raised issues about integrity which won’t be countered easily.

Parties have to earn public trust before they win votes and Labour spent last week showing once again why it can’t be trusted.

As Meat Loaf might have sung: We don’t like them, we don’t trust them, we don’t want them and three out of three’s not good.


On ACC they said:

October 18, 2009

Not all editorials and columns agree with the government view on ACC’s problems and solutions.

But there is concensus that there is a big problem in need of an enduring solution.

Southland Times:

That belt-tightening exercise we’re enduring with ACC – there comes a point where what you’ve got is no longer a tightened belt. It’s a tourniquet. Confuse the two and something’s going to blacken and fall off, writes The Southland Times in an editorial.

Many eyes are bulging at the severity of the huge rises to ACC levies, and the toughening up of the qualifying criteria. These measures, including an extra $320 a year coming out of the average wage (which actually seven out of 10 workers are on or below), do need scrutiny for over-reaching.

ODT:

Of greater concern is the growth of future liabilities, from $9.4 billion to $23.8 billion in four years, and a good deal of the responsibility for widened and costly coverage can be laid at the door of the Clark government.

An example is the physiotherapy benefit . . . According to the Government, the subsidy introduced by Labour in 2004 and budgeted to cost $9 million a year had by this year risen to $139 million and was projected to rise to $225 million by 2011-12, with no equivalent rise in rehabilitation rates.

It has quoted other examples of how the scheme has developed far beyond its original concept to cover diseases like leptospirosis and brucellosis and medical conditions like asthma, when, it argues, these should instead be paid for out of Vote Health.

To these might be added trauma of various kinds suffered by victims and perpetrators resulting not from accidents but from criminal acts, mental injury arising from workplace trauma, and sports injuries.

When it began with the 1972 Accident Compensation Act, only those who were employed were entitled to claim for workplace accidents. That soon changed to cover all accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, regardless how injury occurred.

Timaru Herald:

The unworkable or unprofitable parts will have to be bundled back into a Government scheme. And somewhere in the middle the romantic notion of a Government-funded no-fault system will have to be modified in a politically-acceptable way.

It is a Herculean task and one that will provide a stern test for the National Government. Whatever happens in the long term, what is crystal clear today is that taxpayers will have to dig deep to get ACC out of the mire. Having a unique highly regarded system is great in theory. It is also extremely expensive.

The Press:

What would really undermine ACC and its no-fault comprehensive coverage principle would be a lack of firm action taken now to control its costs, with major levy rises not just a short-term source of financial pain for New Zealanders but something that continues well into future years.

The Nelson Mail:

Though there has been no shortage of spin around ACC’s balance sheet and performance during National’s 11 months in office, it is clear some significant changes were needed in order to bring the scheme back under control.

Some of the proposals will sail in – no more entitlements for injured methamphetamine “cooks” for example – but increased levies have already provoked wide-ranging protest.

Dominion Post:

There is no such thing as a free ACC system.

That must be central to the honest conversation the Government is asking New Zealanders to have about the scheme. Stripped to its essentials, the scheme is an insurance one, and that means any entitlement in the scheme costs money, and must be paid for by levies.

The debate must also recognise that the ACC was established to compensate people who are injured. It was not meant to be an extension of the social welfare system, cushioning people against all misfortune. The distinctions it makes are arbitrary, and can be seen as unfair . . .

. . .  The job facing Dr Smith and his colleagues is to convince the public that what is being done is fair, and within the spirit of the deal that saw New Zealanders trade away their right to sue for a no-fault right to compensation.

That deal remains a good one. It should be made to work and made affordable, not torn up.

Taranaki Daily News:

The massive increases aimed at the two-wheelers just highlights what a sorry mess ACC has become. The corporation was introduced in 1974 on April Fool’s Day which probably says much about what it has become – a $24 billion liability to the taxpayer.National promised to put the boot into bureaucrats and under-performing government departments when it came to power last year.

ACC was clearly in its sights and so it should have been.

Quite apart from the horrific imbalance between money taken in and that dished out, New Zealanders have become sick of the tales that have leaked from the corporation throughout its 35-year existence.

Remember the outrage of the prisoner being paid ACC for injuries suffered during the act of crime?

While those criminal instances might be a fraction of the ACC’s overall costs it nevertheless highlights the stupidity of parts of its system.

Past abusers of ACC are partly responsible for the current tightening in all areas.

Deborah Hill Cone:

A benefit now has a cosier name – an entitlement – which is “a right granted by law or contract”. Big. Difference. . .

There has been a lot of talk of entitlements over the ACC-in-a-pickle problem. . .  And the punters who have “entitlements” are no longer called claimants; they are clients, lest it might sound as though they are putting their paw out. The ACC public relations dude told me the Labour Government had asked for the jargon change – Labour understood the power of Neuro-linguistic Programming. The theory was that people had actually paid their premiums and so shouldn’t feel they were getting summat for nothing. Dinky idea, but as we now know, the premiums do not cover the cost of the ACC scheme – so claimants are getting something for nothing. Actually. . .

. . . I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why it is that large corporates, such as Fonterra and Air New Zealand, can opt out of ACC and self-insure – but I can’t. Oh, I get the practical reason – that I don’t have a lazy mill to cover a claim – but where is the policy rationale? The opt-out clause (cosy name: the “partnership programme”) takes 15 per cent of the country’s workers out of ACC. So if these corporates can manage their health and safety liabilities more efficiently than ACC, what does that say about ACC?

Herald on Sunday:

. . .  in the 35 years since ACC was established, so many bits have been carved off and clipped on that it bears little resemblance to the original design.

Anomalies abound: people who work in dangerous jobs pay more in earner levies than people who work in offices, but rugby league forwards incur no more expense by way of premium payment than those whose leisure preference is macrame. . .

More profoundly, many of its conceptual assumptions have been corrupted by this piecemeal regulatory intervention. ACC has not been reviewed since the 1980s and, once it has dealt with the immediate crisis, the Government would do well to consider another reassessment of the entire system.

In 1974, we entered a social contract by which we surrendered the right to sue. As a society, we were keen to avoid the litigious and ludicrously expensive American model.

But it is not an absolute truth than our system is better. Anyone who spends time in the US will quickly notice the lengths to which people go to avoid posing a risk to others.

That carefulness flows from fear of being sued, of course, but it’s worth wondering whether we here have grown too accustomed to being reckless of others’ – and our own – welfare, in the knowledge that someone else will pay.

If nothing else, the crisis we face now reminds us that we are all that someone else.

Deborah Coddington

The Government can remain insurer of last resort for dangerous employers with bad track records, but why should safe, careful employers who look after their workers continue to pay high levies and cross-subsidise the former?


Please, tell me this isn’t serious

February 1, 2009

When the list of inventions which could improve life is so long, why would anyone waste their time on a website which emails reminders that the women in your life might be pre-menstrual?

I don’t know which is worse, the website or the fact that a newspaper which wants to be taken seriously thinks it’s a good idea.

People who treat the other people in their lives with the consideration and respect they’re due all the time wouldn’t need a reminder and if the others are so stupid they need an email reminder to behave like intelligent and reasonable human beings they probably don’t understand the importance of good manners and chocolate either.

UPDATE: a monkey ought to know better.

UPDATE 2: Deborah at The Hand Mirror  puts it succinctly.

UPDATE 3: In the interests of balance: Kiwiblog  and Monkeywith typewriter give the males’ point of view.


Macdoctor blog of week

December 14, 2008

The print edition of the Herald on Sunday has given its blog of the week to Macdoctor for his post on the government’s decision to fund 12 months of herceptin.

The blog is always good reading and the award is well deserved.


No regrets?

November 2, 2008

It is legitimate to ask questions about the characters of those who want to lead our country.

Although that doesn’t mean we should expect our leaders to be perfect.

We all make mistakes and providing we admit what we’ve done, accept responsibility, apologise, make ammends and learn from the experience we should all be able to move on.

However, that process has to start with the admission and acceptance and what amazes me is that in looking for the speck in John Key’s eye Helen Clark has completely overlooked the log of wood in her own.

There’s good reason for the Biblical caution, let (s)he who is without sin cast the first stone and yesterday’s editorial in the Dom Post  reminded us of some of the things Clark would doubtless like us to forget.

But more worringly her response to questions asked by the  Herald on Sunday  suggest she’s forgotten them too: 

I would like to ask you what your biggest regret is about your handling of politics and policy in the past three years.

I have no regrets, and I wouldn’t even dream of trying to manufacture them.
I’m sure you do have some regrets.

No regrets. Never look back.

Never look back?  That is deeply ironic from the woman whose eyes are constantly on the rear vision mirror examining (but not altering) the “failed policies” of the 80s and 90s, whose attacks on National are on what it did in the past and whose philosophy is shaped by events of the 70s and 80s.

But irony isn’t the worst of it. If to err is human, the inability to accept she’s erred is arrogant and dangerous.

Arrogant because it means she thinks she and her party have done no wrong and dangerous because if she doesn’t accept she’s made mistakes she can’t learn from them and is doomed to repeat them.

If she thinks there’s nothing to regret in the last three years then we can’t trust her to deliver anything better in the next three.


Dirty driving

September 21, 2008

The Herald on Sunday  looks at who’s driving eelction strategy and discovers Helen Clark is Labour’s chief strategist:

But at the tactical level, some decisions are backfiring. Clark says the election is about “trust”. She reinforces that message by using “dog whistle” tactics which could have come from the Crosby Textor campaign textbook she usually decries.

. . . In the past she has deputed senior politicians such as Trevor Mallard or Phil Goff to be the party’s attack dogs and rark up her opponents, but this time she is getting into the gutter.

Another sign of depseration? Why would she risk so much by getting down and dirty if she had a cleaner alternative to winning?


Only a fool would pick a fight with Bob

July 27, 2008

If Winston Peters has any personal insight he’ll already be regretting picking a fight with Sir Bob Jones who has said he will write to Wayne Peters asking what happened to the $25,000 he wrote for the Spencer Trust in 2005.

Peters has said he has “no involvement with that trust” administered by his brother, but former NZ First staff member Rex Widerstrom told the Herald on Sunday he was prepared to swear an affidavit stating the trust was set up around the time of the Winebox Inquiry to funnel anonymous donations from people who wanted to support Peters’ various legal battles.

Peters might also ask himself why he questioned Sir Bob’s memory:

Despite Peters’ claims of a failing memory, Sir Robert said that he recalled the background to the donation very clearly.

“There was a lot of drinking and when we got round to the subject [of the donation] there was a tremendous argument and I said ‘Winston, I’m not giving you anything’. Finally to get him off my back I said ‘you can have $25,000 on the basis of friendship’,” Sir Robert said.

Asked if he believed it was plausible Peters knew nothing of the Spencer Trust, he added: “Of course he [Peters] did… [But] there was no bloody mention of the Spencer Trust. The money was to go to his party.

“I don’t tell bloody lies. Why am I in the firing line for an act of benevolence? I won’t tolerate it.”

It would be difficult to find any reasons why Sir Bob and his staff would lie. There are plenty of reasons why Peters might – starting with a political career based in part on his attacks on big business involvement and anonymous donations to political parties.


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