Greenwash, exercise and soup


Discussion with Simon Mercep on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* Envormation – a New Zealand-based website which aims to help consumers cut through the greenwash by understanding key environmental information about products and services. (hat tip Idealog).

*  How to fall in love with exercise.


* The Soup Chick

Hypothetical questions, Politics Daily, World #1s,


The power of the hypothetical question opened discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today.

While on matters political we also looked at:Politics Daily, Dr Bryce Edwards’ excellent round-up of political news and views; and the Listeners equally compelling read for political tragics – NZ Election Live.

We finished with international number ones – because every country is best at something; and a selection of absurd signs and disclaimers.

I found the last two sites via Ideaolog’s newsletter Daily Bacon to which you can subscribe here.

Seeking stats good and bad


Stats Chat is running a Stat of the Week competition with the chance to win an iTunes voucher:

  • Anyone may add a comment on this post to nominate their Stat of the Week candidate before midday Friday August 12 2011.
  • Statistics can be bad, exemplary or fascinating.
  • The statistic must be in the NZ media during the period of August 6-12 2011 inclusive.
  • Quote the statistic, when and where it was published and tell us why it should be our Stat of the Week.

Next Monday at midday we’ll announce the winner of this week’s Stat of the Week competition, and start a new one.

Follow the link above for the fine print.

Idealog reports that Stats Chat is run by Auckland University’s Department of Statistics.

“We’re looking for bad, exemplary or fascinating examples of statistics,” says blog coordinator Rachel Cunliffe.

Professor Thomas Lumley, a regular contributor, wants New Zealanders to be more aware of statistics and the role they play in the media.”

“We see numbers in the media every day and we want people to think carefully about them – what they actually mean and whether or not they make sense,” he says.

Those who adhere to the Stratford Theory of Numbers will know they often don’t make sense and will have no difficulty finding examples to prove it.

Wasted opportunities


The nine years from 1999 to 2008 were ones of wasted opportunities.

Successive Labour led governments squandered the surpluses, concentrated on redistribution rather than growth, created huge liabilities for future generations (ACC, KiwiRail . . . ) and turned middle and upper income families into beneficiaries.

In doing so they lost sight of their aim to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD.

The New York Times’ Economix blog has a post asking: What Happened to Argentina?

A century ago, there were only seven countries in the world that were more prosperous than Argentina (Belgium, Switzerland, Britain and four former English colonies including the United States), according to Angus Maddison’s historic incomes database.

 New Zealand was one of those former British colonies and we too have lost ground since then.

This week’s Idealog newsletter  points out that every country to the left of New Zealand on this graph was poorer than us in 1909, all the ones above us are wealthier than we are now.



This is why we’re so disappointed that the previous government failed to see through its stated aim to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD, and why we’d like to see John Key’s government commit itself to achieving the task. This isn’t about wanting more toys, overseas holidays or dining out more often; it’s about being able to afford the education, health care, infrastructure and quality of life that we want for ourselves and our loved ones. We must reverse this slide.

This point was also made by Don Brash in a speech entitled New Zealand’s Economic Outlook: Can We Ever Catch Australia?

Far from raising New Zealand into the top half of the OECD, we actually sank back a rung or two over the nine years that Labour was in office.
This is extremely serious.  If we continue to languish in the bottom third of OECD countries – even worse if we continue to slide backwards – the things which have made New Zealand a pleasant place to live and work will gradually disappear.  We won’t be able to afford the healthcare which those in richer countries take for granted, nor the standard of education which richer countries take for granted.   Income distribution will become progressively less egalitarian – as we’re forced to pay our most skill
ed people some approximation of the lifestyle-adjusted incomes they can earn abroad – with all the social implications of that.   

Economic growth isn’t about wealth for wealth’s sake.

It’s about earning the money to afford the first world services and infrastructure we need.

Afford doesn’t mean borrowing to saddle future generations with debt. It means earning what we we need by increasing economic growth.

The difficulties we face in doing that are many.

Labour not only wasted the opportunities provided by surpluses when they were in power, they increased public spending to a level which isn’t sustainable. That is now adding to our debt and holding back the recovery.

Thanks to them benefits are no longer regarded as temporary assistance for people in need as most ought to be, they’ve become “entitlements” to which people feel they have a right regardless of whether or not they need them. Working/welfare for families, interest free student loans and paid parental leave are all examples of that.

Another of the barriers to growth is illustrated by the hysterical reaction to the suggestion by Gerry Brownlee that the government does a stock take of mineral resources under public land. Anyone would think he was suggesting clear-felling every tree and turning every national park into an open cast mine.

All he’s doing is sensibly suggesting that we ought to know what we’ve got. Once we do can we make intelligent decisions on what, if anything, we do with it.

Every centimetre of every part of the DOC estate is not pristine wilderness. Some of it  is weed and pest infested wasteland  – the weeds and pests on which threaten native species. Some might well be more attractive if it was mined and replanted than if it is left untouched.

We’ve had nine years of going backwards. We can’t afford to waste opportunities now and among the opportunities available is the mineral wealth which lies beneath the ground.

If it is possible to use some of that, without damaging the environment, we should do so to help foster the economic growth which will enable us to fund the first world services we need but can no longer afford.

Milking it for publicity


Idealog called it an udderly odd commercial:

Worst and proud of it


You have to give them points for novelty.

While everyone else is striving to be the best, the people behind a new, on-line magazine aren’t even pretending to be okay.

They’ve called it Worst and it’s dedicated to bringing you the worst of everything.

It came about when the editor decided:

Instead of  glamourising what’s glamourous and photoshopping what’s already too beautiful, why not give a try to celebrate the worst in every kind of arts/fashion/music/other? The ugly ones! The cheap & not cheerful! The grothesque! Because, so often, what is really hideous, horrible in taste, and kitch beyond comprehensible is nothing but a shameless peak into our bright future. If you doubt that worst things will be repackaged and returned to us in years to come, just take a look recent TV. To paraphrase Woody Allen, we don’t throw our garbage, we recycle it into our culture.

The first issue is here, and if this is the future I’d rather go somewhere else.

Hat Tip: Idealog

Best case worst case


Idealog interviewed David Skilling, chief executive of the NZ Institute on his views on the economy.

You can read it in full here, so I’ll just give a taste with his view of the worst case outlook for New Zealand:

I think the worst case is not terrible, catastrophic, Third World status. Worst case, I think, is probably Fiji with snow: bit of agriculture, a bit of tourism, friendly people, half-decent rugby team. And that’s pretty much New Zealand. So it’s not terrible.

But on current course and speed, there’s going to be a 60 percent income gap between ourselves and Australia in 20 years’ time.

And the best:

I don’t see any reason we couldn’t overtake Australian incomes within the next 20 years or so. Australia only overtook us 30 years ago. If we wanted to invest heavily in our primary and secondary industries, but also in education, R&D, and high speed broadband; if we had a real view about growing firms and attracting firms from overseas; and if we create an environment that’s conducive to the growth of scale firms, then, yeah, I think it’s possible.

It’s really up to us. Many of the trends globally are breaking in our direction. We need to seize the opportunities.

Rhetoric not realised


Remember Labour’s 1999 promise to transform the economy?

Victor Heeringa looks at what’s happened in reality and he’s not impressed.

The greatest failure, in my view, is that Labour’s rhetoric about transformation has proven to be just that. Fancy talk.

He was writing in the September-October issue of Idealog which is now on line so you can read it  in full by following the link above.

Procrastination flow chart



This came from Project Sidewalk with a Hat Tip to Idealog

Head & heart


Idealog asked New Zealand Institute chief executive David Skilling why economic growth is important. He said:

It matters in terms of the quality of health, education and social services that we can afford in this country. Also, importantly, it gives a sense of confidence and momentum.

If you look across history and across countries, periods of sustained economic growth go hand in hand with improvements in welfare, better treatment of immigrants and minorities and more generous attitudes towards social and environmental issues.

And we’re losing 70,000 New Zealanders permanently each year, and we have done for quite some time.

Simple really – it’s not economic growth or social services, it’s both. We need economic growth to pay for social services. 

A stronger economy sustains a better society which in turn helps the economy fuelling a virtuous cycle of head and heart.

The full interview with Skilling is on Idealog TV here.

Dream or nightmare?


The September/October issue of Idealog (not yet on line) asks why ministers can’t be drawn from talented Kiwis from around the world and comes up with its suggestions for a dream cabinet.

The only MP in the list is Winston Peters because:

Admit it: you’d miss him. He keeps Foreign Affairs because we prefer to appreciate him from a distance.

Their dream might be turning into a nightmare which illustrates the dangers of writing something several weeks before it’s read.

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