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


Rural round-up

February 13, 2020

Equity losses dog dairy farming – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy analysts agree with the key factors of a Rabobank prediction of falling dairy land values over the next five years.

Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins said land values have been in neutral for the past decade and are likely to drift downwards over the next five years.

In her report, Afloat but Drifting Backwards, she predicts an average $6.25/kg MS farmgate milk price, which will be barely break-even with low investor confidence, high farm debt, tighter Reserve Bank regulations, foreign capital restrictions and the costs of environmental compliance also factors. . .

Goodbye Britain again :

Those of us who have been around for quite a few years will remember the unhappy and heady days when Britain joined the then EEC on the January 1, 1973.

Up until then, NZ had enjoyed unlimited access to Britain for its agricultural products and at one stage there was even a law passed that said they had to be given priority for our exports.

When Britain joined the EEC, many NZer’s felt hurt and disappointed that the so called ‘mother country’ had deserted us and that we now had to find new markets for our agricultural exports. . .

Busy field days tenure comes to an end – Sally Rae:

Ask Sharon Paterson to recall the most memorable moments during her tenure as event manager-secretary of the Southern Field Days, and an unlikely response is forthcoming.

It was the day she and then organising committee chairman Logan Evans were chatting to Prime Minister John Key and deputy Prime Minister Bill English when they were “photo-bombed” by Road Safety Southland mascot Harry the Hippo.

“That was so hilarious,” Mrs Paterson recalled.

Thousands of people will converge on the small, rural settlement of Waimumu this week for the event, which is held every second year — this year from Wednesday to Friday. . . .

Are you up for the challenge? – Nigel Malthus:

A new event for the 2020 Southern Field Days will be an ‘Amazing Race’-style challenge.

The event is aimed at exciting and informing young people about employment opportunities across the agricultural sector.

Pitched at school pupils, school leavers and career changers, the “Food & Fibre Discovery Challenge” will have participants following clues and answering questions as they navigate around the grounds between participating exhibitors.  . . 

Fiftieth year for New Zealand innovation – Richard Davison:

Fifty years ago, the spirit of “fair go” led to a new branch of rural competition in Balclutha, that has since spread worldwide.

The Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships take place in the South Otago town once more tomorrow, but it is only thanks to the self-described stubbornness of former Clinton farmer Don Moffat that the woolhandlers will be celebrating 50 years of competition this time round.

Otago Shears chairman in 1969-70, Mr Moffat believed the efforts and skill of the South’s woolhandlers were such that they deserved their own branch of competition. . . 

Share-farming and leasing properties enabled a Riverina couple to reduce risk – Olivia Calver:

Entering farming is becoming more and more restrictive as land prices surge, but Kendra and Brent Kerrisk, Ganmain found share-farming and leasing properties enabled them to get a foothold in the industry.

The Kerrisk’s, both from rural backgrounds in New Zealand, came out to Australia 14 years ago with the goal to buy a house with some acreage. . .

 


Chance for a change?

January 29, 2020

One of John Key’s legacies is announcing the election date early in the year.

He did it, Bill English followed his good example and now Jacinda Ardern has done it too.

This year’s election will be on Saturday September 19th, which is the anniversary of New Zealand women gaining the vote.

Will that give the party with a woman leader an advantage?

Who knows? People vote for and against parties and people for a variety of reasons, many of which have little if anything to do with whether or not it will result in good governance.

If history is a guide, the advantage lies with Labour. We haven’t had a one-term government since MMP was introduced, and the last one under FPP was in 1975.

But history also tells us that this is the first time since MMP was introduced that the party with the most votes is in opposition. It also tells us that it is rare for that party to be polling at similar levels of support it got in the last election and more often than not, polling higher than the party leading the government.

So is National in with a chance to win?

Yes but it won’t be easy and it will depend not only on it at least maintaining its support, it will also depends on what happens to the other parties.

New Zealand First has been hovering below 5% in recent polls. If it doesn’t improve on that, it would be out of parliament, unless it wins a seat.

In spite of its vehement criticism of National’s accommodation with Act in Epsom, NZ First might welcome something similar in a seat with Labour that, if it won, would mean it wouldn’t have to get 5%.

Then there’s the Maori Party. A strong candidate could take a seat from Labour and, in spite of National inviting it into government when it didn’t need to, it might go left rather than right.

Nothing is certain, but In spite of Ardern’s vow to lead a positive campaign, she will find it’s very hard to defend the government’s record when so much of its achievements have fallen far short of its rhetoric.


Not so popular

December 3, 2019

There is little doubt that Jacinda Ardern’s leadership enabled Labour to gain enough votes in the 2017 election to cobble together a coalition government.

Her fans among the commentariat would have us believe her popularity is unquestioned.

But over at Kiwiblog David Farrar has the numbers that tell a different story:

    • Governing Party – Clark Labour 45%, Key National 55%, Ardern Labour 39%
    • Opposition Party – English National 39%, Goff Labour 33%, Bridges National 46%
    • NZ First – 2001 2.7%, 2010 3.1%, 2019 4.0%
    • Greens – 2001 6%, 2010 4.5%, 2019 7.0%

And how is the PM as Preferred PM

    • Clark 2001 41%, Key 2010 56%, Ardern 2019 36%

Popular yes, but not as popular as her predecessors.


Stardust dulls in sunlight

August 7, 2019

A Prime Minister who is well regarded overseas is good for a small country.

But being well regarded overseas isn’t good enough. A Prime Minister has to earn, and keep, approval at home and the stardust that settled on Jacinda Ardern early in her leadership is dulling under the sunlight of scrutiny.

There is no doubt she is a good communicator, compassionate and likable. As Matthew Hooton told Sky New Australia, she would be a good princess or president without power, but she is a hopeless Prime Minister.

But, but, but what about the way she handled the aftermath of the mosque shootings?

There is no question she did that well but that’s the New Zealand way. Other recent Prime Ministers, Bill English, John Key (who did at least as well after the Canterbury earthquakes) and Helen Clark would have reacted with similar compassion.

But those Prime Ministers also delivered, and this one is failing to. Matthew Hooton, again, on the year of delivery:

. . . For those still committed to reality-based politics, Ardern’s “year of delivery” is as credible as her earlier promise to be “transformational”.

KiwiBuild, the Billion Trees programme and the Provincial Growth Fund handing out only 3 per cent of the money Shane Jones has paraded are the most risible. . .

He goes on to list more failures and there are plenty of them.

He isn’t alone in his criticisms and that’s not surprising for people on the right of the political spectrum but even the very left blog The Standard is saying it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania:

Despite the babies and the engagements, maybe it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania.

Let’s not bother with the criminal waste of tax on hundreds of working groups, existing to successfully suppressing oppositional opinion through co-option.

Oranga Tamariki has got three investigations underway for removing children, and is being kicked all over the park by the media. Cue another year of paralysis by analysis. . . 

. . .  it’s a very partial leadership. It’s not ‘transformational’, it’s not the year of delivery. What is this government?

This is the weakest leadership on policy of any government since the last term of Holyoake, 60 years ago. That’s on Ardern.

It’s time, since we are now getting emails to volunteer and donate money on their behalf for the next election, to expect more from Jacinda Ardern.

Coming from the left that’s damning.

But wait there’s more. Her interview this morning with Mike Hosking was a train wreck which Steve Braunias dissects:

O the joys and woes of being Prime Minister! One minute you’re swaying your hips for the cameras in the lovely warmth of Tokelau while the world gazes with adoration at your picture on the cover of Vogue, as chosen and commissioned by Her Royal Highness Meghan Markle the Princess of Trans-Atlantica; the next minute you’re back in New Zealand, there’s a serious sex scandal rocking the Labour Party, the cops have gone feral at Ihumātao, the weather’s gone all to hell – and worst of all, you’re stuck on the phone for your regular Tuesday morning convo with Mike Hosking.

It’s paramount that the Prime Minister keeps her cool and shows every sign of being at ease and in control when she makes media appearances. There is but one emoji to maintain: the one with a smiley face, round and yellow and all good, expressing the optimum vibe of inane happiness. . . 

But good cheer and happiness was entirely absent during Ardern’s 10-minute interview with The Hosker on Newstalk ZB this morning. Her appearance was an emoji trainwreck, and it crashed every time that the Prime Minister called the ZB talkback host by his first name.

She said it 11 times. . .

He goes on to give an emojiological analysis of those 11 times.

It’s behind the paywall and it’s worth paying for, here’s a taste:

The interview which prompted this is here.

There was no stardust dazzling and personality sparkling there and even had there been it is no longer enough.

Stardust is no use without substance and personality doesn’t pay the bills.


We can be grateful

March 22, 2019

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response to last week’s massacre has been the opposite of what the killer intended – unity instead of division.

We can be grateful that Muslims in Christchurch and the wider New Zealand Muslim community reacted with forgiveness and inclusiveness.

We can be grateful that by and large, the horror of last week’s massacre has been met with compassion here and overseas.

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response from politicians has been appropriate and non-partisan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invited Opposition leader Simon Bridges to accompany her to Christchurch on her first visit, following the example set by then-PM John Key who invited the then-Labour leader to accompany him to the city after the earthquakes.

Since then the PM has shown compassion, empathy and resolve and the Opposition leader has offered support when it’s been appropriate but otherwise left her to it, as he should.

We can be grateful that the changes to gun laws announced are reasonable.

We can be grateful that today those who choose to can observe a two-minute silence in honour of the 50 people who died.

We can be grateful that this will provide a prompt to the media to reduce the saturation coverage so they don’t cross the line from news to voyeurism.


It’s only words

March 8, 2019

Chris Trotter has seen through the conjuring :

WHAT IS IT? This weird, emotionally energetic style of politics that promises “transformational” change and then, mysteriously, fails to deliver it? . . .

Nameless though it may be, few would deny that Jacinda Ardern is its most brilliant local exponent. . . . So effective are “Jacinda’s” communication skills, that a great many New Zealanders have taken to confusing her declarations with actual achievements. Those who point out the discrepancy between the Prime Minister’s magnificent words and her government’s less-than-magnificent deeds are not well received. But, that does not mean they are wrong. . . 

 So richly evocative of selfless activism and against-all-odds success was her declaration that Ardern’s audience’s critical faculties were suspended. Almost as if the promise and the deed were one and the same. Some people might call what she did “casting a spell”. Others, even more provocatively, might call it “magic”.

But, magic of a certain kind. Ardern’s are not the sort of spells that begin with fantasy but end in reality. Jacinda is no Churchill. Rather than a magician, she is a conjurer. What Ardern weaves with her words are not the intentions that lead to actual deeds, but the dangerous illusion that what is being asked of her has already been accomplished – made real by the unmistakable sincerity and the power of her will. Once she has declared her determination to end child poverty, who could be so churlish as to point out that the children of the poor are still with us?

Ardern’s conjuring is perfectly suited to that crucial group of voters who detached themselves from the National Party in response to what they saw as the “awful” problems which John Key and Bill English had failed to address during their nine years in office. . . 

Ardern’s game-changing intuition was that all these voters really wanted to hear were different words. Commitments, promises, studies, working-groups, projects: policies filled with good intentions and promoted with powerful displays of empathy. The number of voters eager to focus on the fiscal mechanisms required to pay for Labour’s kinder, gentler New Zealand were considerably fewer. . . 

Every successful conjurer, however, must have their very own Jonathan Creek. Somebody to design and build the equipment that turns the conjurer’s masterful misdirection into a reality that baffles and delights. Ardern’s misfortune is to preside over a coalition government decidedly lacking in Jonathan Creeks. Thanks to Clare Curran, Phil Twyford, Iain Lees-Galloway, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, too many people in the audience are being distracted from Ardern’s magic spiel. Some are even beginning to work out how the tricks are done.

This is not how the story is supposed to end. Not with people wondering whether the Prime Minister’s promises are ultimately achievable.

It’s not that “Jacinda” has become less likeable. . .  It’s just that Ardern’s “Magic Politics”, as with all kinds of fiction, is absolutely dependent on the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief.

If (or should that be ‘as’) people discover that fighting climate change and ending child poverty will require the imposition of real and rising taxes, then Ardern’s illusions will begin to fade. The voters will start noticing the strings attached to her magical promises.

And the spell will be broken.

She’s very good with words, especially those that touch emotions, but it’s only words and empty words at that.

Change and progress require more than empty phrases. They require decisions and actions.

The government is nearly half way through it’s term and what has it done to make a positive and sustainable difference to New Zealand?

This government, and it’s leader have over-promised and failed to deliver.


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