A good bloke


I first met John Key in 2005 when he’d been an MP for a couple of years and I was National’s Otago electorate chair.

He was relaxed, personable and genuinely interested in the people he was meeting.

I was at a dinner with him in Christchurch on Thursday evening – just him, a couple of hundred others and me – and he was just the way he’d been six years ago.

As he went round each table, chatting to everyone, it was like watching a movie star except with him it’s not for show. He is a really good bloke, genuinely interested in people, relaxed with them and likes them and they respond to that.

One of the friends at my table commented how rare it would be in most countries for a political leader to be interacting with people like that and it must make life difficult for his security people especially in a less formal setting than a dinner.

To their credit the security staff cope really well, although yesterday one got a little more than he bargained for.

Canterbury engineering students hung a sign out a window saying “John, mate, come up for a yarn with your country’s future engineers” and he did.

It’s about 4 minutes into the clip before John sees the sign.

There was a bit of banter between John and the students and one asked if one of the security men would challenge the students’ arm wrestling champion.

The story and video have gone round the world giving publicity money can’t buy and reinforcing again just how difficult it will be for the opposition to counter him.

When was the last time a group of students cheered any Prime Minister, let alone a National one?

Offsetting Behaviour loves the informality of New Zealand politics  and reckons a National win is underpriced at  95% likely to win the next election on iPredict.

Keeping Stock says: If John Key’s personal popularity translates into electoral support, National may yet be able to do the MMP unthinkable after November.

I can dream, but  know that getting more than 50% was very rare under First Past the Post and hasn’t been done at all since we’ve had MMP.

US dairy head calls for balance


Jerry Kozak, head of the USA’s Milk Producers’ Federation is calling for a move away from the dairy product price support programme (DPPSP).

. . . is the dairy product price support program the best use of federal resources to establish a safety net to help farmers cope with periods of low prices? Is it effective? I believe, the answer today on both counts, is no.

He says the DPPSP reduces total demand for US dairy products, dampens the ability to export and encourages foreign imports; acts as a disincentive to product innovation; supports dairy farmers elsewhere at the expense of US dairy farmers; it isn’t effectively managed to fulfil its objectives and the price levels it seeks to achieve aren’t relevant to farmers in 2010.

For all of these reasons, what NMPF is now focused upon is a transitional process that shifts the resources previously invested in the dairy product price support program, to the income protection program that I have discussed previously.

In summary, discontinuing the DPPSP would eventually result in higher milk prices for U.S. dairy farmers. By focusing on indemnifying against poor margins, rather than on a milk price target that is clearly inadequate, we can create a more relevant safety net that allows for quicker price adjustments, reduced imports and greater exports. As a result of our DPPSP, the U.S. has become the world’s balancing plant. As time marches on, so, too, must our approach to helping farmers.

He’s not suggesting an end to subsidies but it is an acceptance that the current subsidies don’t work which has been welcomed by Fonterra and Federated Farmers.

There is still a long way to go, however.

My geographically challenged post yesterday on US trade protection reminded Off Setting Behaviour of  a Washington Post story on how the dairy industry crushed  Hein Hettinga, an innovator who bested the price-control system.

It’s four year’s old and long – five pages – but an instructive, if depressing read, on the dangers of protection.

Did you see the one about . . .


Think tank + teach tank = sea change – John Ansell reckons it’s time for the right to use the power of emotion. While you’re there you might find how to say my hovercraft is full of eels in 76 languages entertaining, if not useful.

Foreign investment explained – the Visible Hand in economics fights feelings with facts. He also has an excelent example of price discrimination.

Organ Markets – Offsetting Behaviour on letting donors come before non-donors.

Inglorious grammar – Something Should Go Here laughs at grammar Nazis.

Academic writing in one lesson – Anti Dismal has a wonderful Calvin & Hobbes cartoon.

Cut funding better results – Cactus Kate finds under funding leads to success.

Nigel Cox on C.K. Stead followed by the prologue and the last post  – Quote Unquote has a tale of literary revenge.

Question time in the House of Lords. Seriously – Dim Post finds real Hanard transcripts imitating satire. He’s also had a horrible thought prompted by the end of daylight saving.

Fish for freedom – Phillip D at SOLO shows how a goldfish seller got stung.

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