Sir Bill has earned his title

June 4, 2018

Former Prime Minister, long serving MP and genuinely good man, Bill English has more than earned the title conferred on him in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Wallace, the electorate he first won, and Clutha Southland the biggest general electorate in the country, which it grew into under MMP were blue seats.

But it takes hard work, a genuine interest in people and the determination to make a positive difference for them to earn the loyalty and respect from constituents he did.

In the run up to the 2001 election and its aftermath he showed a lot more loyalty to his colleagues and some in the party than they did to him, but as he told us during the election campaign last year, he got back up again.

He did that through hard work, determination and focus not on ideology but on what was wrong and how to make it better.

Soon after he became Finance Minister he called a meeting of senior people from the welfare ministry.  One question he asked was who was responsible for getting people off benefits.

The answer was no one. Bill said that had to change and under his leadership of the social investment approach it did.

The way New Zealand came through the GFC, the focus on the quality of spending rather than the quantity, and the willingness to spend more upfront to reduce long term costs are a very positive reflection on him.

So is the very healthy state that his government left the books in.

The position of Finance Minister demands gravitas. When he became Prime Minister he showed his warmth and wit, and also,the strength of his family.

He isn’t only a good politician, he was an exemplary boss.

One way to judge a politician is by the way they treat their staff. Joanne Black wrote this of Bill:

On my worst day in the Beehive, I inadvertently emailed a sensitive document to someone outside the building with the same name as the intended recipient, who worked for another minister. The person who received it behaved honourably and nothing came of it, and the next day it became public anyway, as intended.

But I will never forget my torment when I realised there was nothing I could do that could fix my error. That was the only occasion I have ever deliberately banged my head against something – my desk, in this case. (It hurt, and it didn’t bring back the email. I do not recommend it.)

Key’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, came in to work out what to do. I went to Bill’s office and waited for a meeting to end so I could tell him what I’d done. He listened, looked down at his papers and said, “Bugger.”

Although my actions must have disappointed him, he did not raise an eyebrow, much less his voice. You need to be more than just a decent person to succeed in politics.

A minister and a Prime Minister who were not only politically on top of their game, but also believed in public service and were calm and humane in that high-stakes environment, inspired great staff loyalty. . .

Another way to judge a politician is by the way they value volunteers.

The grapevine told Bill that I was facing a very difficult situation. He was Prime Minister at the time and there were several particularly challenging matters he was dealing with but on a morning when he had many much more important matters to deal with, he took the time to phone me.

When I thanked him, I said we were immensely grateful for the practical and moral support we were getting, that it really did help to know people cared and that friends all round the world were praying for us. He said, “I will be too,” and meant it.

He is a good man who served his people and his country well. He is no longer in politics but he will still be in service.

For all that and more he has earned his knighthood.

The full Honours List is here.


Rural round-up

January 3, 2018

We don’t need a national conversation about Predator Free 2050 – Joanne Black:

We’re long passed needing to talk about wiping out pests – what we need is a national conversation about national conversations.

On a visit to Auckland recently, I saw that Predator Free 2050’s project manager had been quoted as saying the organisation was not advocating any specific technology for pest eradication. Rather, its role was to “advance our understanding of the range of options available for the task and facilitate a national conversation as to which approaches meet our collective social, ethical and practical standards”. . . 

Rising tide of milk weighs on sentiment- Rabobank’s latest dairy outlook :

The “rising tide of milk” has seen sentiment in the global dairy industry begin to wane, as growth in exportable surpluses across key milk-producing regions gains momentum, according to Rabobank’s latest Dairy Quarterly report.

The report says the global market will “confront a wave of exportable surplus” in coming months, estimated to be 3.2 billion litres higher year-on-year (in liquid milk equivalents) for the six month period October 2017 to March 2018. . .

Young couple show how it’s done – Pam Tipa:

A young dairy farming couple have increased their equity by at least $500,000 in two-three years on a less-than-ideal Far North farm and despite two years of low dairy payout.

They were losing money on a $7/kgMS payout before becoming a partner farm three years ago under the jointly funded DairyNZ and Northland Dairy Development Trust (NDDT) project.

Tony and Briar Lunjevich, of Kaitaia, told their story at the NDDT annual meeting. They are 50:50 sharemilking for Tony’s parents at Takahue and purchased an adjoining run-down beef block just before the partner farm started. About 22ha of this block has now been added to the 107ha milking platform. . .

Huntaway Bowie rescued after night trapped on ledge – Pam Jones:

When Bowie the 2-year-old huntaway decided to chase a rabbit over the cliffs in St Bathans on Sunday, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

But his holiday adventures led to a night stranded on a ledge and an emergency callout yesterday involving 13 volunteer firefighters. . .

NFU President’s New Year message 2018:

“As we look ahead to the next year, we will see an Agricultural White Paper and Agriculture Bill that will shape our industry for generations to come. Despite the uncertain times, I am confident that the NFU has set a clear path for farming and that working with the industry, stakeholders and Governments across the UK, we can all secure a future that delivers for the country, society and thousands of family farms.

“Farming is the bedrock of the UK’s food and drink sector, now worth £112 billion to the nation’s economy, providing jobs for 3.8 million people. Future policy must enable British farmers to invest and grow so the sector can continue to play its part in a successful UK post-Brexit.

 “With Brexit negotiations now past the initial phase, it is more important than ever that we recognise and support the work of British farmers in providing the food for our nation, maintaining our iconic farmed landscape and contributing billions of pounds to the UK’s economy.


Case for MOM

July 5, 2012

Joanne Black has a good case for the Mixed ownership Model for state assets (on-line here next week):

. . .  I need think only of Solid Energy’s plans to build a lignite-to-briquette plant to remind myself why ownership of these companies is better left to people who can afford to risk (that is, possibly lose) their money, than to have such investments funded by taxpayers.

I imagine most of us could think of several hundred things on which the government could more urgently and usefully spend our taxes than on finding out whether converting lignite to briquettes actually works. It might not.

that is not a reason for Solid energy to not pursue the project, but it is quite a good reason why someone other than taxpayers alone should pay for it.

Opponents of the MOM have focussed on the income that will be lost when a minority of shares are sold.

They conveniently overlook the costs, and the risks, that will be reduced when they’re shared by other investors.


Let principals and boards do what they do best

December 31, 2011

Quote of the day:

Principals and boards already have a mass of responsibilities so why do they also need to manage property portfolios that must, at some schools, be worth a fortune? It would not get schools out of the chore of fundraising, of course, but it would mean professional property managers could do what they do best, while the principals and boards focus on the role of teaching kids. Joanne Black discussing private-public partnerships in the Listener (not yet on-line).


Discipline not passion leads to success

May 14, 2011

Quote of the week from Joanne Black in The Listener:

“So here we are a mite over six months from the general election, and the idea of Hone Harawira, John Minto, Annette Sykes, Sue Bradford and Nandor Tanczos et al joining together in a political party induces the same warning bells that used to ring when a group of friends announced they were going to flat together. You could run a sweepstake on whether it would all fall apart once the meat-eaters were told they had to use a separate fridge, or over whether there should be a roster of whose turn it was to write the roster.

In this case, there might also be the potential for seeds of discord, with Minto having led a successful anti-racism group and Harawira being uncomfortable with the thought his kids might date Pakeha. There’s no shortage of passion among the names so far associated with the Mana Party, but it is discipline rather than passion that is the hallmark of the most successful political parties. . . “

Black did omit Matt McCarten from the list of party people and he does have a track record in getting start-up parties going. He was active in the early days of the Maori Party and played an important role in the campaigns which got co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples into parliament under for the Maori Party.

However, one good strategist and organiser isn’t enough. Successful parties also need cohesion and unity of purpose.

The Mana Party looks a lot more like a collection of activists with individual platforms than a group of people united by shared vision and values.


A dog of an idea

December 10, 2009

In a list of Labour’s spending excesses, Duncan Garner writes:

Michael Cullen spent twice what he had to buying back KiwiRail from Toll.

The purchase suited Labour for political reasons. They campaigned on KiwiSaver, KiwiRail and Kiwibank. But it was not good value for money – taxpayers’ money. Cullen would never have spent his own dosh on such a buy-up.

I note KiwiRail is now valued at half what Cullen paid for it . .

In her Listener column Joanne Black writes:

My elder daughter and I are much excited at the moment by what name we would give a cat . . . Naming a dog? That would be so much easier. If I had a dog I’d call it Kiwirail.

Apropos of this, like Whaleoil, I’m not impressed with Otago University’s decision to grant Cullen an honorary degree.


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