Incompetent or ?

November 9, 2018

A decision to deport a convicted criminal could be made in a very few minutes.

A decision to give residency to one needs a lot more time than it got:

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway made the decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency in less than an hour.

The revelation has led to calls from the Opposition for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack her Immigration Minister.

Lees-Galloway said he did not read the full file on the Czech drug smuggler, and instead “read the aspects of the file that I thought were necessary to make the decision that I made”. . .

How can you know what you need to read to make a decision if you don’t read all the information you have?

“I took the information that I had and I took the time that I felt was necessary. I read various aspects of the full file. I didn’t rely solely on the summary.” . . 

Various aspects? That’s not the full file and it defies belief that he could have read even some of the information that has made this decision so inexplicable and granted residency.

National Leader Simon Bridges has renewed his call for the Prime Minister to sack Lees-Galloway over the “careless decision” after Lees-Galloway claimed he carefully considered all the relevant information.

He allowed a drug dealing gang associate to remain in New Zealand without reading all the information available to him, Bridges said.

“Either Lees-Galloway has misled the Prime Minister or she’s misled New Zealanders.

“The Prime Minister has defended that decision for the past two weeks, telling New Zealanders it was a ‘difficult decision’ but that she had been assured by Lees-Galloway he had given it ‘careful consideration’.

“We now know he hadn’t.”

An hour was not careful consideration of what was a dangerous decision and it was not acceptable due diligence from a senior Cabinet Minister, he said.

“Lees-Galloway’s credibility is now shot. The Prime Minister cannot expect the public to have confidence in any of his decisions given his careless approach to Sroubek’s residency.

“The Prime Minister now has no choice but to sack Lees-Galloway from Cabinet immediately.”

Woodhouse said Lees-Galloway had arrogantly refused to reveal the evidence upon which he made his decision, saying it was not in the public interest.

“He insisted it was a complicated decision not taken lightly.

“The Prime Minister even went as far as saying Lees-Galloway ‘shared with me the careful consideration that he gave this case… it was clearly a very difficult decision’. Only clearly it wasn’t,” Woodhouse said.

The evidence was now overwhelming that Lees-Galloway didn’t do his job, he said.

“It is now clear he made that call without asking questions and without proper consideration of the facts or the track record of the convicted criminal he was allowing to stay. Sroubek needs to go and Lees-Galloway does too.” . . 

To have read all the relevant information and made that decision indicates gross incompetence or something conspiracy theorists would delight in.


Petrol pain pressures policy on hoof

October 25, 2018

The pressure from the pain of petrol prices has forced a government backdown:

National Party Leader Simon Bridges has welcomed the Prime Minister’s forced backdown on her regional fuel taxes, and called on her to overturn her excise increases and remove the regional fuel tax imposed on Aucklanders.

“After pressure from the National Party over her Government’s decision to impose more and more new taxes on record petrol prices the Prime Minister has today finally backed down and ruled out rolling the regional fuel tax out beyond Auckland while she is Prime Minister.

“This is in spite of her Government introducing legislation which would have enabled the 11.5 cent per litre regional fuel tax to be rolled out around the country from 2021. It has already been imposed on Aucklanders.

“Fourteen other councils had already started discussions with the Government saying they wanted the tax and will be surprised to hear about the Prime Minister’s backdown today.

“Her Transport Minister was also be surprised at his Prime Minister’s unilateral decision. This was forced policy made up on the hoof by a Prime Minister under pressure over her disregard for the costs her Government is imposing on New Zealanders.

Policy on the hoof is becoming a habit. This time it’s doing the right thing but it’s not a good way to govern.

“New Zealanders will be relieved. These taxes on top of record petrol prices are hitting them hard and pricing them out of their cars yet this Government was blindly forging ahead with new taxes because it can’t get its spending under control.

“The Prime Minister needs to go further, do the right thing and throw her numerous new taxes out completely. She should remove the regional fuel tax from Auckland as well as her first four cent national excise tax increase, and pledge not to impose any more new taxes.”

 She can cast blame on fuel companies but nearly half the cost of a litre of petrol is tax.

It was bad enough when all the money collected was spent on roads, it’s much worse now some is being spent on cycleways and public transport most of us will never use.


Two taxes missing

October 13, 2018

On Monday Jacinda Ardern told us fuel companies were fleecing us.

Yesterday we learned two taxes were missing from her numbers:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s calculation of how much extra tax Kiwis are paying at the petrol pump on Monday did not include the recent excise tax or Auckland’s Regional Fuel tax.

National Leader Simon Bridges said the Prime Minister has got this “badly wrong,” and has made a “staggering mistake.”

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said her comments were “based on the most accurate information Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had compiled at that time.” . . 

Between October 27, 2017 and September 28 this year, petrol prices have risen 39c, according to MBIE data – Ardern said just 6.8c of that increase was due to “taxes and levies.”

That 6.8c increase is made up of a 1.77c increase in Emissions Trading Scheme (EST) taxes and 5.04c of GST over the same period, MBIE data shows.

But the 10c a litre Auckland Regional Fuel Tax and 3.5c a litre fuel excise tax, introduced on September 30, were not included in the “taxes and levies” side of Ardern’s equation. 

What’s worse: a Ministry that doesn’t know what almost every motorist could have told them, or a Prime Minister and staff who don’t ensure the numbers are right, which means right up to date?

 


Rural round-up

October 10, 2018

High lamb prices will hit profit – Nigel Malthus:

Alliance Group has warned that its annual result, due to be reported in November, will show a drop in profit.

“The financial performance of the company this year will be down… meaningfully,” chief executive David Surveyor told farmers attending the company’s roadshow meeting in Cheviot last week.

However, he assured shareholders the company is profitable, the balance sheet remains “incredibly strong, and for the avoidance of any doubt we have the ability to make sure we build our company forward.” . . 

3 M bovis farms confirmed through bulk milk testing – Sally Rae:

 Only three farms have been confirmed through bulk milk testing as having Mycoplasma bovis – but the Ministry for Primary Industries says it is too early to speculate about final results.

The second bulk milk surveillance programme was being undertaken now as spring was the best time to test for the disease, the ministry said.

Infected animals were more likely to shed the bacteria after a stressful period, such as calving and the start of lactation
.

To date, almost 10,000 of the country’s 12,000 dairy farms had completed two rounds of testing, MPI said in an update
.

Govt committed to Mycoplasma bovis eradication; $25.6M spent to date – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – The government has paid $25.6 million in compensation claims related to Mycoplasma bovis and remains committed to phased eradication, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

One of the biggest challenges for farmers has been navigating the compensation process and Ardern and O’Connor announced a new recovery package aimed at making that easier.

The package includes a team of rural professionals who understand both farming and the compensation process who can sit down and work with farmers on their claims. The Ministry for Primary Industries has also produced an improved compensation form and guide and an online calculator of milk production losses. It will also provide regional recovery managers for key areas. . . .

Marc Rivers: The man with Fonterra’s fortunes in his hands – John Anthony:

Marc Rivers has a TEDx talk. And it’s not about numbers, profit and loss – and there is no mention of balance sheets.

Rivers, Fonterra’s top number cruncher, is not your typical chief financial officer.

Unlike their charismatic chief executive counterparts, chief financial officers are generally regarded as robotic accountant types, capable of presenting a company’s financial position in jargon that few people understand. . . 

State of the Rural Nation Survey finds rural dwellers less likely to talk to health professionals

  • Seven in ten people have felt increased stress over the last five years
  • Those aged 18-39 feeling the most pressure
  • 61 percent said living rurally limits access to mental health resources

A recent survey has found that 70 percent of rural New Zealanders have felt more stress over the last five years.

The State of the Rural Nation Survey, conducted by Bayer New Zealand and Country TV, asked participants several questions regarding their views on critical topics impacting rural New Zealand today, including a series of questions around mental health.

Of those who responded that they had felt increased stress over the last five years, over half (54 percent) attributed financial pressures as the main reason, while the impact of environmental factors (ie droughts, flooding, hail) on people’s work and livelihoods came in at a close second (49 percent). . . 

Gene editing in brief: What, how, why:

Embracing gene editing could have huge benefits for New Zealand’s primary industries and we shouldn’t be scared of the technology, scientists say.

The latest paper in a series from the Royal Society Te Apārangi outlined five ways gene editing could be used in farming and forestry and scientists are keen for Kiwis to discuss the issue.

It sounds scary, though.  So what’s it all about?

Gene editing (also known as genome editing) is the targeted alteration of a specific DNA sequence. While older genetic modification technology typically added foreign DNA to a plant or animal, gene editing involves precise modification of small sections of existing DNA.  . . 

Mental health workshop focus on rural people:

Workshops being held across the country are equipping farmers and rural professionals with the tools to recognise and support those who are struggling.

NZ Young Farmers has organised five of the Good Yarn workshops, the second of which was held in Carterton last week.

Greytown dairy farmer Rachel Gardner, one of 14 attendees last week, is encouraging other young people to talk about mental health. . . 

Meat measurement technology given funding boost :

Adelaide-based AgTech startup MEQ Probe has received $500,000 funding from Meat & Livestock Australia and industry partners Teys Australia and the Midfield Group to test ground-breaking technology to objectively measure the eating quality of meat.

Coming just a few months after MEQ Probe took home a coveted Pitch in the Paddock prize at the tri-annual Beef Australia event, the funding also includes investment from MEQ Probe founder, AgTech betaworks Availer.

It will enable a commercial pilot of the MEQ Probe technology, which uses nanoscale biophotonics to measure the marbling and tenderness of meat; both major drivers of eating quality.   . . 

 

Blueberry orchard for sale offers jam-packed opportunities:

A substantial blueberry orchard with its own commercial processing plant and refrigerated pack-house – producing one of the rarest but highest-yielding blueberry crops in New Zealand – has been placed on the market for sale.

The 8.8-hectare property at Gordonton in the Waikato features some eight hectares of blueberry plantings under canopy cover, along with buildings, equipment, and plant used for picking, sorting, packing and chilling blueberries.

Planted on peat soil and regularly fertilised, the orchard has some 15,000 trees – including 500 of the new Jaac variety of blueberry which produces a heavier-yielding crop than traditional clones. Other blueberry varieties grown in the orchard include Powder Blue, Tiff Blue, Centra Blue, O’Neal, Sunset, and Velluto. . . 


Who’s fleecing us?

October 10, 2018

Jacinda Ardern reckons fuel companies are fleecing us.

The Motor Trade Association says that isn’t so:

. . . MTA Chief Executive Craig Pomare says the biggest influences on prices at the pump are the landed refined price of petrol and diesel, taxes and the value of the NZ dollar against the USA dollar.

“Competition also has a big effect in New Zealand. It is well recognised that the deregulation of the market and the emergence of Gull, and other smaller independents such as Challenge and G.A.S. have affected prices in the areas where they operate. So too has the widespread use of discounting.”

Mr Pomare says the independent fuel retailers have minimal control over their daily pump prices.

“Most of these small businesses have contracts with the oil companies which give them very little wriggle room when it comes to setting their pump price.

“We take issue with the Prime Minister for suggesting that service stations, or oil companies are ‘fleecing’ motorists. Last year’s review of pricing by MBIE found no evidence of this. Like others in the sector, and the public, we support a further detailed market study to give us all more information on pricing structures.”

He says if the Government is seriously concerned, there is plenty of precedent for reviewing fuel taxes and either lowering them, or holding off on further increases.

Michael Barnett, chair of the Auckland Business Chamber has no doubt where the blame lies:

The tipping point for fuel consumers has been the blunt and ineffective fuel taxes imposed by local and central government. The margins identified by media today are less than most retailers would seek and have not changed.

It is worth noting:

• The major fuel companies welcome the proposed investigation from the Commerce Commission

• Of the 1,500 service stations in New Zealand, over 1200 are mum and dad running their small businesses, employing people and trying to make a profit. They deserve a return on the risk

• There are 20% more fuel providers than 5 years ago – does this signal a lack of competition?

The currency and additional Government taxes have created a price point consumers find unacceptable.

Consumers don’t only find the price unacceptable, Many also find it unaffordable.

The National Party has called for the tax increases to be dropped.

The Government should axe its fuel tax increases to provide immediate relief to motorists, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s response to record high fuel prices is to announce yet another inquiry.

“She’s saying consumers are being ‘fleeced’ while her Government is driving up fuel prices and taking hundreds of dollars from Kiwi households through higher taxes on fuel.

“The inquiry will take months and any resulting changes could be years away. Meanwhile New Zealanders are paying record prices for petrol and the Government is collecting hundreds of millions of extra tax from them.

“Unlike petrol, talk is cheap. And the Government is a big part of the reason why petrol prices are so high.

“The importer margin, the profit petrol companies make on every litre of fuel sold and which the Prime Minister wants more information on, is 31 cents per litre and around the same as it was last year. The amount the Government makes is $1.25 – and that keeps increasing.

“The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year, with Auckland families paying $324 extra as a result of higher petrol prices and this Government’s decision to hike fuel taxes. It’s pricing Kiwis out of their cars.

“There are a number of other reasons behind record petrol prices and National supports another look at the practices of fuel companies, something we also looked at in Government, but the Government should also be looking in the mirror.

“While the Government passes new legislation and waits for yet another report it should provide immediate relief to motorists by putting a stop to its relentless imposition of new taxes.”

The Taxpayers’ Union agrees:

Taxpayers’ Union Economicts Joe Ascroft says “When the Government was legislating for fuel tax hikes, we argued that these taxes punish hard-working families – especially those that live in the city-fringe and are forced to commute for work. The Government should back the call from the Opposition and provide much-needed relief to family motorists who are struggling.”

“Now that National has called for fuel tax repeal, it must meet that commitment if it goes back into Government in 2020, 2023, or later. It’s easy to argue for tax cuts in opposition, but walking-the-talk in Government is much harder. The Taxpayers’ Union will be watching closely
.”

Who is fleecing us?

The government that is taking nearly half the price of fuel in tax and worsening the pain by spending the increases not on roads but public transport and cycle ways most of us will never use.


For campaign or not?

September 30, 2018
Jacinda Ardern hired an advertising company to photograph her trip to New York

In the past, New Zealand Prime Ministers have had a staffer from their offices take photos, but Ardern had a crew of three from agency Augusto’s New York office.

They have been used on social media and Ardern told the Herald on Sunday some would also be used for campaign purposes.

This morning the Prime Minister’s office clarified that the images would be used for “stock footage and social media content that the government would be using in the future”, which they said is inside the rules. . .

Stock footage and social media content for government use is in the rules for the party leader’s fund, campaign material is not.

So who is right – Ardern who says that the photos will be used for campaigning, or her staff who say they won’t?


PM there and here

September 27, 2018

Happy headlines are following Jacinda Ardern in New York.

Back home the media are looking past the stardust to the continuing saga over Derek Handley and the position of Chief Technology Officer he was appointed to then disappointed from.

NZ Herald opines:

There can be no doubt the Derek Handley saga is a train wreck that is now threatening to derail confidence in the Government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may have been hoping she could leave the domestic turmoil of the past few weeks behind her, while she – with partner Clarke Gayford and baby Neve – wows world leaders and their delegations at the United Nations in New York.

But she clearly wasn’t banking on tech entrepreneur Derek Handley yesterday releasing his text and email communications with her and former Minister for Government Digital Services Clare Curran, and speaking further about the whole sorry saga – including bemoaning his lack of apology or explanation in the matter of the bungled chief technology officer recruitment process.

Possibly Ardern thought sacking Curran from that ministerial post – and Curran’s subsequent resignation from all her ministerial portfolios – was enough to put the incident to rest.

However, yesterday the PM found herself having to fend off accusations she had misled Parliament over her own communications with Handley, Finance Minister Grant Robertson was forced to correct his answer in Parliament over emails between Handley and Curran, and new Digital Services Minister Megan Woods was clearly forced to finally call Handley to apologise for the “impact this has had on him and his family”. She also had to retract her statement there had been a confidentiality agreement with Handley over his financial settlement.

What a shemozzle.

It still doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion for anyone – if indeed this end of the matter. . .

This is a serious black mark for the Government. The overall unease around communication, competency and transparency over this issue is now raising questions about the PM’s leadership and the Government’s integrity in general. . .

Audrey Young writes:

It is becoming a habit – for the second time in three weeks, National leader Simon Bridges has accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of misleading the public.

This time she has also been accused of misleading Parliament as well as the public and Bridges has demanded she correct her statements.

Ardern put up a strenuous defence on both counts that there was no need for corrections. . .

But Kiwiblog quotes Hansard: and shows on the 18th and 19th of September in answer to questions from National leader SImon Bridges that taking the most generous view of what she said, she was at the very least economical with the truth.

Back to Young:

Until now, the fiasco, mainly over an undisclosed meeting, had reflected badly on Curran but the contagion has spread to Ardern and made the Government look amateurish.

Grant Robertson had to correct an answer in the House today he gave last week on Clare Curran’s emails to Handley and Woods had to retract a suggestion that the severance contract with Handley may have been subject to a confidentiality clause.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters swore blind Ardern was blameless of anything and everything.

True, she will not have to correct any answers she has given to Parliament.

But that is almost irrelevant because even if she did, it would not undo the damage she has done to herself.

A train wreck, a schemozzle,  a fiasco. These aren’t adjectives any government wants applied to them.

But nearly a year into office, the one that explains the mess is amateurish.

 


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