Judges’ decision

January 30, 2015

Miriama Kamo, convenor of judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014 responds to Eleanor Catton’s criticism:

Esteemed academic Peter Munz once said to me, “The wonderful thing about the humanities is the lack of one answer to any issue, there is always debate, there must always be discussion and there may not ever be consensus.”  

 I’m reminded of this as I watch, with a mix of admiration and dismay, the debate fuelled by Eleanor Catton’s comments about the political state of our nation and her feeling that she is a victim of a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. I am interested in listening to all of it, but wish only to comment, as the convenor of the judging panel of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014, on the continuing conversation surrounding our decision-making.

The New Zealand Post Book Awards is a multi-category, multi-genre competition. It is quite unlike the Man Booker competition, which considers only fiction. The Luminaries won the Man Booker competition, a thrilling achievement. Last year it went on to win the New Zealand Post Book Awards prize for fiction.  In doing so, it won New Zealand’s equivalent of the Man Booker. It then went into contention for the supreme prize against three other exemplary finalists of different genres.  It did not win that supreme prize; Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer did.  

I’m as impressed as I am bemused by Eleanor Catton’s belief that The Luminaries should have won the supreme prize. I’m impressed because we don’t have a proud history of owning our achievements, of proudly proclaiming our talents. Perhaps this is a by-product of a nation that did suffer a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Comments like Eleanor’s make me believe that this is changing. But I’m bemused because, putting aside that it diminishes the achievement of the supreme prize winner, Jill Trevelyan, it betrays a belief that our judging panel should have fallen into line with an international panel of judges. This is at odds with Eleanor saying that she grew up with the erroneous view that Kiwi writers, and by extension Kiwis generally, were somehow less than British and American ones; that we did not, and perhaps do not, back our own opinions or our own talent.

There was no sense on our judging panel that it was ‘someone else’s’ turn to win. We made a literary judgement, not a political statement. Given that our opinion did happen to align with the Man Booker judges and we did award The Luminaries our top fiction prize, it is at least churlish and, at most, mischievous to suggest that The Luminaries did not win its due in New Zealand.  

But then, that’s the beauty of the humanities. Such decisions rightly inspire debate. Like the Man Booker judges, we were a group of individuals making a collective decision. We worked hard at the task in front of us and, in my view, we made wise and well-placed decisions. I was proud to honour Eleanor’s incredible work, The Luminaries. I was proud to award prizes to all the finalists that night of the New Zealand Post Book Awards, and to crown, as supreme winner, Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer.  It deserved to win.  But in the grand tradition of debating and discussing the arts, I urge you to read all of our finalists before making up your own mind.

Well said and isn’t it good that she says it by way of addressing the criticism and not criticising the critic?

David Farrar also responds to Catton reasonably at Kiwiblog and Trans Tasman opined:

Catton . . . 
illustrated the old wisdom “artists are children,” and it is a little baffling why people seem to expect profundities about politics from them.  In Catton’s case, she is only the latest in the long tradition of NZ literary types who feel their country is too grubby and philistine for them to bear for too long.

It is one of the most tiresomely adolescent aspects of the Kiwi arts scene, and it gets more intense whenever their fellow NZers are so uncouth as to elect National Govts.

Catton isn’t a “traitor” though, despite what talkback host Sean Plunket – increasingly resembling a retired Rotarian – called her on his programme. It is just another case of artists being a bit silly. There is no need for this sort of over-reaction.

Quite.


2014 blogging in review

December 31, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 450,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 19 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Among the stats are most viewed posts:

The top referring sites:

  1. nominister.blogspot.co.nz
  2. keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz
  3. kiwiblog.co.nz
  4. twitter.com
  5. lindsaymitchell.blogspot.co.nz

No Minister is consistently the site from which most visitors come.

Keeping Stock is still a top referrer even though, sadly, it has gone into recess.

And the five most active commenters:

 

  • 1 robertguyton 1286 comments
  • 2 TraceyS 1197 comments
  • 3 Dave Kennedy 1045 comments
  • 4 Mr E 984 comments
  • 5 Andrei 645 comments

Thank you all for reading and even more for contributing to conversations.

I’ve been blogging much less since late September. Readership has dropped as a consequence – I’m hoping that’s a case of less quantity and more quality. :)

P.S. Thanks to WordPress and its staff who provide the platform for this blog, give prompt and helpful assistance when it’s required and provide such good service.

 


Foulers cry foul

September 14, 2014

Internet Mana  is complaining about Prime Minister John Key’s decision to declassify documents which will prove accusations against him are baseless.

. . .In a joint statement, Mr Harawira and Ms Harre say the reported intention of the Prime Minister “to arrange the selective declassification and release of documents for his own political purposes” represents an abuse of the Prime Minister’s authority in his capacity as the Minister in charge of the GCSB and the SIS. . .

If the PM didn’t release documents they’d accuse him of hiding something but when he says he will release documents they’re still complaining.

This is a case of the foulers crying foul.

They’re the ones who’ve allowed themselves to be bought by Kim Dotcom who is doing his best to interfere in the election.

The PM not only has the right to release this he has a duty.

This isn’t just about him. It’s about New Zealand, New Zealanders and our security.

Those who don’t understand that should read Charles Finny’s excellent guest post at Kiwiblog:

. . .  The Labour Government that saw us through World War II, and those from 1957-60, 1972-75, 1984-90 and 1999-2008 have not sought to change our position in “five eyes” because the leaders and senior Ministers of those Governments have realized how lucky we are to be part of this agreement and knew how fundamental the intelligence derived from it was to the security of New Zealand.  Ultimately the most important function of government is to protect the people.  “Five eyes” plays a very important role in our ongoing security.  There was a wobble under Lange which saw New Zealand denied access to some processed intelligence from the US, but access to the raw communications intercepted by the four allies continued throughout.  Under Helen Clark the full flow of processed intelligence resumed.

I cannot believe what I have just heard saying about today.  What we now call is as much a creation of Labour as it is the National Party.  It is crucial to our continuing security.  It protects us against the hostile actions of foreign governments, terrorist organizations, and international criminals.  Of course the same foreign governments, terrorist organizations and criminals hate the ‘’fives eyes agreement” and want it dismantled because it stands in their way.  I can’t believe that a Labour Leader would align himself with these forces and put this agreement and our position in it so much at risk.  If his senior colleagues do not call Cunliffe on this, shame on them too.  Our national security is too important to be put at risk by short term political opportunism.

Even when Helen Clark thought we lived in a benign strategic environment her government didn’t short-change  or subvert our security the way the left is now attempting to.

 

 


National Party 2014 list released – UPDATED

July 27, 2014

The National Party has released its list for the 2014 election:

The National Party list for the 2014 election brings together a strong mix of both experienced political leaders and fresh new talent, says National Party President Peter Goodfellow.

“Our 2014 list shows the benefit of our ongoing rejuvenation programme. If National was able to match its election result from 2011, we would bring in as many as 13 new MPs, alongside 46 returning MPs.

“With the depth of talent we have to choose from, settling on a list that balances new blood alongside valuable experience was not an easy task. However, we believe we’ve struck the right mix that will allow for renewal and continued stability in a third term.”

A list ranking committee made up of about 30 delegates from around New Zealand gathered in Wellington yesterday to settle on the List rankings for the September 20 election.

Mr Goodfellow believes the list underlines National’s credentials as a strong economic manager which is working hard for all New Zealanders to deliver more jobs, better public services, and higher wages.

“Our list draws on people from all walks of life, from the social sector, to medicine, business, and agriculture. We have a good blend of candidates from a variety of diverse backgrounds.”

Mr Goodfellow says that sitting MPs and Ministers have been broadly ranked in their current order, but also notes there are a number of electorates with new candidates who are likely to join #TeamKey in September.

“The Party is in great heart, and I want to thank all those MPs who are retiring at this election for their contribution to their country. I also want to thank their families for the sacrifices so many of them have made to support a busy MP.

“Despite positive polling the National Party has a huge task ahead to ensure our supporters get out and vote at this election. An unstable far left coalition remains a very real risk to New Zealand’s positive outlook.

We’ll be working very hard until polling day to sell our positive cohesive plan for New Zealand that builds strongly in what the country has achieved over the last six years.”

The National Party List for the 2014 General election is:

 

1 John Key Helensville
2 Bill English List
3 David Carter List
4 Gerry Brownlee Ilam
5 Steven Joyce List
6 Judith Collins Papakura
7 Hekia Parata Mana
8 Chris Finlayson Rongotai
9 Paula Bennett Upper Harbour
10 Jonathan Coleman Northcote
11 Murray McCully East Coast Bays
12 Anne Tolley East Coast
13 Nick Smith Nelson
14 Tim Groser New Lynn
15 Amy Adams Selwyn
16 Nathan Guy Otaki
17 Craig Foss Tukituki
18 Simon Bridges Tauranga
19 Nikki Kaye Auckland Central
20 Michael Woodhouse Dunedin North
21 Jo Goodhew Rangitata
22 Chester Borrows Whanganui
23 Todd McClay Rotorua
24 Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga Maungakiekie
25 Nicky Wagner Christchurch Central
26 Lindsay Tisch Waikato
27 Louise Upston Taupo
28 Tim Macindoe Hamilton West
29 Jami-Lee Ross Botany
30 Paul Goldsmith Epsom
31 Melissa Lee Mt Albert
32 Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi Manukau East
33 Jian Yang List
34 Alfred Ngaro Te Atatu
35 Maurice Williamson Pakuranga
36 Jacqui Dean Waitaki
37 David Bennett Hamilton East
38 Jonathan Young New Plymouth
39 Brett Hudson Ohariu
40 Maggie Barry North Shore
41 Ian McKelvie Rangitikei
42 Mark Mitchell Rodney
43 Simon O’Connor Tamaki
44 Mike Sabin Northland
45 Scott Simpson Coromandel
46 Paul Foster-Bell Wellington Central
47 Joanne Hayes Christchurch East
48 Parmjeet Parmar Mt Roskill
49 Chris Bishop Hutt South
50 Nuk Korako Port Hills
51 Jono Naylor Palmerston North
52 Maureen Pugh West Coast – Tasman
53 Misa Fia Turner Mangere
54 Todd Barclay Clutha-Southland
55 Andrew Bayly Hunua
56 Matt Doocey Waimakariri
57 Sarah Dowie Invercargill
58 Barbara Kuriger Taranaki-King Country
59 Todd Muller Bay of Plenty
60 Shane Reti Whangarei
61 Alastair Scott Wairarapa
62 Stuart Smith Kaikoura
63 Wayne Walford Napier
64 Simeon Brown Manurewa
65 Hamish Walker Dunedin South
66 Lewis Holden Rimutaka
67 Karl Varley Wigram
68 Candidate TBA Kelston
69 Linda Cooper List
70 Letitia O’Dwyer List
71 Mark Bridges List
72 Boris Sokratov List
73 Matthew Evetts List
74 Carolyn O’Fallon List
75 Christopher Penk List

I was a member of the list-ranking committee whose deliberations are confidential.

It is not breaching that to point out that both the rejuvenation and depth of talent provide a stark contrast with Labour.

UPDATE:

David Farrar has the effective list places and percentage needed for list candidates to get into parliament.


Right on top of blog rankings

July 1, 2014

Open Parachute’s monthly blog rankings show the right on top:

Visit Rank Blog Visits/month Page Views/month
1 Whale oil beef hooked 1758095 2957997
2 Kiwiblog 445721 771086
3 The Daily Blog 218234 345266
4 The Standard 201495 443470
5 Auckland Transport Blog 155853 160244
6 Throng New Zealand 53729 94004
7 The Dim-Post 53509 75134
8 Sciblogs 39662 50631
9 Liturgy 36160 50478
10 Keeping Stock 33807 53244
11 No Right Turn 26757 35029
12 Homepaddock 26471 36951
13 NewZeal 21726 35094
14 No Minister 20898 27292
15 Music of sound 14879 18833
16 Imperator Fish 13552 17547
17 13th Floor 12544 17630
18 Save our schools NZ 12355 14307
19 Keith Johnson Wellington NZ 12120 12574
20 Offsetting Behaviour 11835 16377

 

The combined total of the top left-wing blogs, which are at third and fourth, is still less than Kiwiblog which is second and miles from Whale Oil in first place.

Dim Post from the left is seventh and Keeping Stock from the right is 10th. I’m at 12, No Minister, which is more right than not is at 14th and Imperator Fish which is left is 16th.

I ditched Sitemeter because I kept getting a window asking me to sign in to it and now rely on StatCounter to record visits:

stats6.14

 

 


No place for the faithful?

June 24, 2014

Labour’s rules state it should have 65 list candidates but it has ranked only 64.

Five sitting MPs have opted not to be on the list and so have at least three candidates who are trying very hard to win an electorate.

There is something in that for them – they will be able to say to voters the electorate vote is the only way they can stay in, or enter, parliament.

But there is also danger in that for Labour.

It’s the party vote that counts and these people will have divided loyalties between campaigning for their own jobs and for the wider good of the party.

That they jumped suggests they knew they wouldn’t get good list places anyway – though if they’re confident of winning electorates that might dent their egos but do no other harm.

Whether they jumped before or after list ranking deliberations doesn’t matter, it’s another sign of internal ructions in the party.

Given that, what puzzles me is why several candidates who are standing in seats they can’t possibly win weren’t included in the party list at all?

Kiwiblog shows 14 candidates unranked.

It’s a thankless task campaigning in an unwinnable seat even if you console yourself that there could be party votes for the picking.

Why then wouldn’t the party dignify them with list placings instead of showing that it appears to have no place for these faithful foot-soldiers and their small teams of volunteers?


Stones from glass house

June 16, 2014

The Labour Party has been caught throwing stones from a glass house – again:

A wealthy Auckland businessman, whose links to the National Party led to a minister’s resignation, also made a secret $15,000 donation to the Labour Party – and hosted a Cabinet minister at a lavish dinner in China.

The Labour Party has previously accused the Government of “cash for access” deals with Donghua Liu, who received citizenship after lobbying from National minister Maurice Williamson and whose hotel was later opened by Prime Minister John Key.

But the Herald can reveal Liu, 53, also paid $15,000 at a Labour Party auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time, according to a party source.

The source said Liu also hosted Rick Barker, the then Internal Affairs Minister, at a dinner in his hometown of Chongqing.

Mr Barker, who is now a regional councillor in Hawkes Bay, confirmed he was a guest at the dinner and also visited Liu’s cement company while on holiday in China

But he said he was not aware Liu was a Labour donor and he was not in China on official business as a minister. . .

Political donations made at fundraising auctions or dinners are not recorded individually, but the total amount raised is declared. . . .

Kiwiblog corrects that last statement:

. . . If a donation at an auction or dinner is larger than the disclosure threshold it must be declared with the identity of the individual who made it.

The disclosure limit in 2007 was $10,000. Liu donated $15,000 to Labour. The party should have declared him as a donor. . .

This is yet another Labour failure to abide by the disclosure rules.

There is another interesting aspect to this story – it comes from a party source.

That points to instability and unhappiness in the party’s ranks and raises some questions:

Who knew about the donation then who is in caucus now or still active in the party?

Why didn’t s/he/they warn the MPs attacking National over Liu that they were throwing stones from a glass house?

What has prompted the source of the story to talk now and what else does s/he know that the public ought to know too?


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