As Aussies see us

April 6, 2015

Cameron Stewart writes in The Australian on how, and why the trans-Tasman tide is flowing in New Zealand’s favour:

Jennifer Zhu, a former Australian public servant, was writing briefing notes for incoming prime minister Tony Abbott when she hatched her own Pacific solution.

She leans forward so her story can be heard above the rhythmic grunts of the dragon boat teams gliding across New Zealand’s ­Wellington harbour at dusk. “I was in Canberra working on the briefings for the change of ­government [in 2013] when I realised how much the public service was going to be cut [under Abbott],” she says. Her Australian boyfriend, ­fellow public servant Iain McKenzie, 28, chimes in: “We could see that promotions were unlikely.”

“So I looked up a website,” continues Zhu, 27, who now works for ­Immigration New ­Zealand, “and there were lots of government jobs here. We thought, ‘Why not?’ ” After a year in Wellington, they haven’t looked back. “We both have good [public service] jobs and it’s a much more relaxed culture,” says Iain. “We’re not leaving anytime soon.” . . .

Stewart gives other examples of Australians and ex-pat New Zealanders who have moved here to work in a variety of occupations including farming, viticulture, nursing and hospitality then looks at why the tide has turned.

What has happened is that somewhere, somehow, perhaps in the dead of night when no one was looking, Australia and New Zealand have swapped sides. Cocky, confident Australia is now home to dysfunctional politics, yawning budget deficits, rising unemployment and an electorate unwilling to accept tough reforms.

By contrast, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is running the most successful and ­stable centre-right government in the world. Whereas Abbott might not survive his first term as leader, Key, 53, is into his third term and has never been more popular. Key presides over a country that is no longer a dead-end backwater but one that enjoys plentiful jobs, strong economic growth and is on the cusp of a budget surplus. All this despite its second-largest city, Christchurch, being devastated by the earthquake of February 22, 2011, which left 185 people dead, the city centre in ruins and a $40 billion clean-up.

Even the Kiwi dollar, for so long the poor cousin to our own currency, is at virtual parity these days. “I’ve been here for 15 years and I’ve never seen this before,” mutters the woman at the Melbourne airport currency exchange as she hands me fewer $NZ than I gave her in $A. “They must be doing something right over there.”

GDP growth in New Zealand last year was 3.3 per cent compared with 2.8 per cent in ­Australia, while unemployment was 5.7 per cent in the December quarter compared with 6.1 per cent (now 6.3 per cent) here. Forget rugby; New ­Zealand is winning a bigger game. When Abbott visited New Zealand in February, he had to ­concede Key has led “a very successful, a really, really successful centre-right government. There are lessons for ­Australia in what you have done.” By contrast, the New Zealand press pack suppressed giggles when Key told an Australian journalist: “I think it’s a bit harsh to describe it [Australia] as one of the more unstable democracies in the Pacific.”

As a result of this trans-Tasman shift in ­fortunes, we are seeing something we have not seen for a generation. The tide of Kiwis coming to our shores has ebbed while the number of those going back home has flowed. This year the trans-Tasman migration is likely to be in New Zealand’s favour — something that has not been seen since Australia had “the recession it had to have” in the early 1990s. . .

[Prime Minister John]Key says Australia’s mining sector and growth in the big cities has slowed, making the country less attractive. “It is harder; I don’t think the opportunities are there in the same way, while on the other side of the equation there are lots of opportunities here in New Zealand and while they may make less money the cost of ­living is generally a lot lower.” . . .

A friend who works in Australia says he earns more and a lot of things cost less there than they do here. But when he takes into account the higher tax rate and other compulsory costs he pays the difference isn’t nearly as big as it appears.

It is often said that Key runs New Zealand like a CEO rather than a politician and that there are clear parallels in style with another self‑ made millionaire-turned-politician, Malcolm Turnbull. “I know [Malcolm] well and I like him,” is all that Key will say of Turnbull, wary of wading into leadership speculation.

Key is a delegator rather than a dictator and makes a habit of consulting in person with ­several of his ministerial colleagues each ­morning. He holds informal meetings ahead of formal Cabinet sessions so that people can float ideas or shoot them down without undue embarrassment. “Most people realise we are not doing extreme things,” he says. “We try to explain what we are about.” He says he is “unashamedly pro-economic growth” but prefers the path of pragmatism over ideology. “My instincts are very much in the middle so I am not fighting internal demons,” he says. “I am not a secret right-winger who wants to do things.”

He does not accuse Abbott of being a secret right-winger but the truth is that compared with Abbott, Key is much more of a pragmatic centrist economically and is more liberal socially, having voted for gay marriage in 2012.

It says much about Key’s political skills that he managed to usher in an increase in the GST in 2010, a debate that both sides of Australian politics are unwilling to have. Ironically, Key did this despite Howard, the architect of ­Australia’s GST, advising Key over a lunch in Auckland in 2010 that a rise was too risky. “I said to [Howard] ‘I am going to raise the GST and drop personal tax rates’ and he said, ‘Don’t do it’. He said, ‘You’ll have the obvious ­argument that the price of bread goes up and it will be felt more keenly by the poorer person and so you will lose that debate’.”

But in the end Key chose to pursue the reform and succeeded, with surprisingly little political bloodshed, in lifting the GST by 2.5 percentage points to 15 per cent while cutting personal and company tax. As a result, New Zealand’s top personal tax rate is now only 33 per cent compared with 45 in Australia, while the company tax rate is 28 per cent compared with 30 per cent here. Key has also been part-privatising state assets in power, coal and aviation, a path that causes political grief in Australia. Key’s reform record has been helped by ­having a first-rate finance minister, Bill English.

In welfare reform, Australia is looking to ­emulate the New Zealand system, which is ­saving billions in long-term payments. In 2011, Key adopted a new model of welfare that ­identifies groups at risk of long-term welfare and establishes special targeted programs for them. “We’ve done a lot in what is called the ‘investment approach’ to welfare reform and we have been genuinely investing money up front in people who would otherwise be long-term beneficiaries,” says Key. When social services minister Scott Morrison addressed Canberra’s National Press Club in February he spent most of his speech lauding the New Zealand model and promising to look at what Australia could adopt from it.

Part of Key’s popularity stems from what political analyst Colin James calls his macro- personality. “Key has a remarkable rapport with ­people across the political spectrum and that is unusual. Bob Hawke probably had that but ­certainly Rudd, Gillard and Abbott didn’t.” . .

Because Australians and New Zealanders are allowed to work in each other’s countries without restrictions, migration statistics are not definitive but they do suggest that far more Australians are now moving to New Zealand to live. While there will always be a flurry of movement because of family ties between the estimated 600,000 Kiwis in Australia and 60,000 Australians in New Zealand, the total number of ­people from ­Australia moving to New Zealand (including New Zealanders returning home) has soared in the past two years to February from 15,355 to 23,571.

Spoonley says the ­number of non-Kiwi ­citizens arriving from Australia to live in New Zealand has jumped by 50 per cent in the past two years, from 5234 in the 12 months to ­January 2013 to 7895 this year.

Job opportunities and quality of life have driven this trend. According to data comparison website Numbeo, apartment rents are on average 24 per cent lower in New Zealand than in Australia and apartment costs per square metre 36 per cent lower. The national median house price has stayed flat at $350,000, according to the Real Estate Institute NZ, and even in Auckland, where the market is hottest, the median price of a house — $675,000 — still ­compares favourably with Australian cities.

New Zealand also enjoys a reputation for better work-life balance, although OECD ­figures suggest New Zealanders only have ­marginally more leisure time than Australians. The downside is that salaries in New Zealand are also around 30 per cent lower on average, although this gap is said to be closing.

Even so, New Zealand is trying to make the most of its moment in the sun, having recently held job expos in Perth and Sydney and another in Melbourne later this month to spread the message that “New Zealand is one of the best performing economies in the world right now and the demand for skilled workers is high”. . .

The current contrasting fortunes of both countries could easily be reversed in years ahead, and the traditional flow of Kiwis to ­Australia could resume. Like Australia, New Zealand is heavily dependent on the health of the Chinese economy and its dairy industry, the country’s biggest export earner, suffered sharply lower prices last year.

In addition, the rebuilding of Christchurch is adding around 1.25 per cent to GDP growth each year but this will tail off as the city nears completion. Even so, a report last month by Moody’s Investor Services predicts continued strong economic growth for at least the next two years and for New Zealand’s budget to return to surplus — a word that Australians can only dream about.

Key concedes that New Zealand has better growth and employment than Australia right now but declines to brag. “We want a strong Australia,” he maintains. “A strong Australia is good for New Zealand. No relationship is more important to New Zealand … there is naturally a bit of rivalry but Aussies are looked at fondly here. Most people, I think, look at Aussies and go, ‘It really is the lucky country even if it has one too many creepy-crawlies and sharks’.”

Key lists several high-profile Australians who have come to New Zealand to live, but his final one packs a punch. “The Australian High ­Commissioner [Michael Potts], who is just about to finish his time here, is not going back to Australia,” the PM reveals. “He is about to live down the road here in Wellington,” he says, pointing out the window. “His wife is a Kiwi so they have made the call they are going to live in New Zealand.”

Key cannot hide his grin. Now even the ­diplomats are defecting. It’s taken a generation, but the Bondi Bludgers are finally enjoying their revenge.

 

"A great read from The Australian on why so many Kiwis are coming home: http://nzyn.at/1FbFD4s"


Abbott survives 61 – 39

February 9, 2015

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot has survived the spill vote on his leadership with 61 votes to 39.

That is not a convincing win.

Unless he can win back the confidence of those unhappy with his leadership this will be seen as the first battle in an on-going war.

That won’t be good for the government, the Liberal Party or Australia.

 


Hard to hang on when cracks appear

February 9, 2015

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is facing a leadership vote this morning.

If he wins it, his victory is likely to be temporary. It is very hard to hang on to the leadership once cracks appear in a caucus.

He benefitted from that as Labor went through a prolonged leadership uncertainty with Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard then Rudd again.

We’ve seen it in New Zealand with members of the Labour caucus undermining successive leaders.

One of the reasons John Key’s leadership and the National Party have been so successful is because the caucus has been disciplined and united.

No doubt there are some robust conversations behind closed doors, which is healthy. But there has been none of the disunity or disloyalty that signal a caucus in turmoil and a leadership in trouble.

It is, of course, much easier to be united when your leader and party are popular.

But whether disunity and disloyalty precipitate a poll plunge or follow it, one builds on and encourages the other.

Party leaders come and go, and an unhappy and leaking caucus is a strong sign that the going is likely to be sooner rather than later.


Sydney siege

December 15, 2014

How terrifying it must be for the hostages in the Lindt café in Sydney, those who know them and those trying to help them.

After an update from NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn, this is what is known now about the Martin Place hostage crisis:

  • Burn says the situation is now a “negotiation” and the police intend to pursue it “peacefully.”
  • Burn will not say whether the five people to emerge from the cafe escaped or were released.
  • The crisis may continue into tomorrow. An exclusion zone is in place around the Lindt Cafe and Martin Place.
  • The police will not confirm what the gunman is asking for. Nor will they confirm how many people remain in the building. . . .

Five hostages have escaped from the café.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged people to go about their business as usual:

. . . “We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator, we don’t know whether this is politically motivated although obviously there are some indications that it could be,” Mr Abbott said.

“We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm. . .

Hostages were being forced to hold an Islamic flag against the window of the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place after at least one gunman stormed the premises on Monday morning.

“This is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people at a time like this, but our thoughts and prayers must above all go out to the individuals who are caught up in this,” Mr Abbott said.

“I can think of almost nothing more distressing, more terrifying than to be caught up in such a situation and our hearts go out to these people.”

Mr Abbott said NSW police responding to the unfolding siege were receiving strong support from Commonwealth agencies.

“The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open, and generous society,” Mr Abbott said.

“Nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.” . .

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the government is monitoring the Sydney siege:

“Our hearts go out to those involved and our thoughts are very much with them and their families,” says Mr Key.

Prime Minister John Key contacted Prime Minister Tony Abbott directly to offer a message of support, shortly after the siege got underway today.

Currently, agencies are unable to confirm the nationalities of those involved, including whether any New Zealanders have been caught up in this situation.

Authorities in New Zealand and Australia will continue to stay in close contact as events unfold and facts become clearer. . .

It is almost impossible to guard against fundamentalists motivated by misguided beliefs.

The challenge is to be vigilant and prepared without unduly restricting the freedom of the majority who are innocent and pose no danger.


November 4 in history

November 4, 2014

1333  The River Arno flooding caused massive damage in Florence.

1429   Joan of Arc liberated Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier.

1576   Eighty Years’ War:  Spain captured Antwerp.

1677  The future Mary II of England married William, Prince of Orange.

1737   The Teatro di San Carlo was inaugurated.

1783   W.A. Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 was performed for the first time.

1791  The Western Confederacy of American Indians won a major victory over the United States in the Battle of the Wabash.

1825  The Erie Canal was completed with Governor DeWitt Clinton performing the Wedding of The Waters ceremony in New York Harbour.

1839   The Newport Rising: the last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in mainland Britain.

1852  Count Camillo Benso di Cavour became the prime minister of Piedmont-Sardinia.

1861  The University of Washington opened in Seattle, Washington as the Territorial University.

1864  American Civil War: Battle of Johnsonville – Confederate troops bombarded a Union supply base and destroyed millions of dollars in material.

1889  Menelek of Shoa obtained the allegiance of a large majority of the Ethiopian nobility, paving the way for him to be crowned emperor.

1890   London’s first deep-level tube railway opened between King William Street and Stockwell.

1916  Ruth Handler, American businesswoman and inventor of the Barbie doll, was born (d. 2002).

1918  World War I: Austria-Hungary surrendered to Italy.

1918  The German Revolution began when 40,000 sailors took over the port in Kiel.

1921 The Sturmabteilung or SA was formed by Adolf Hitler.

1921   Japanese Prime Minister Hara Takashi was assassinated in Tokyo.

1921  The Italian unknown soldier was buried in the Altare della Patria (Fatherland Altar) in Rome.

1922 In Egypt, British archaeologist Howard Carter and his men found the entrance to Pharaoh Tutankhamun‘s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

1924 Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming was elected the first female governor in the United States.

1930 Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup.

Phar Lap wins the Melbourne Cup

1937  Loretta Swit, American actress, was born.

1939   World War II: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the United States Customs Service to implement the Neutrality Act of 1939, allowing cash-and-carry purchases of weapons by belligerents.

1942   Second Battle of El Alamein – Disobeying a direct order by Adolf Hitler, General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel led his forces on a five-month retreat.

1944  World War II: Bitola Liberation Day.

1946  – Laura Bush, American educator, 50th First Lady of the United States was born.

1950 Charles Frazier, American author, was born.

1952   The United States government established the National Security Agency.

1955   After being totally destroyed in World War II, the rebuilt Vienna State Opera reopened with a performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

1956 James Honeyman-Scott, English guitarist (The Pretenders), was born (d. 1982)

1956   Soviet troops entered Hungary to end the Hungarian revolution against the Soviet Union.

1957 Tony Abbott, Australia politician, Liberal leader, was born.

1962   In a test of the Nike-Hercules air defense missile, Shot Dominic-Tightrope was successfully detonated 69,000 feet above Johnston Island – the last atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States.

1966  Two-thirds of Florence was submerged as the River Arno flooded with the contemporaneous flood of the Po River which led to 113 deaths, 30,000 made homeless, and the destruction of numerous Renaissance artworks and books.

1970  Genie, a 13-year-old feral child was found in Los Angeles, California having been locked in her bedroom for most of her life.

1973   The Netherlands experienced the first Car Free Sunday caused by the 1973 oil crisis.

1979   Iran hostage crisis began: a group of Iranians, mostly students, invaded the US embassy in Tehran and took 90 hostages.

1993  A China Airlines  Boeing 747 overran Runway 13 at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak International Airport while landing during a typhoon, injuring 22 people.

1994   First conference that focused exclusively on the subject of the commercial potential of the World Wide Web.

1995  Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an extremist Orthodox Israeli.

2002  Chinese authorities arrested cyber-dissident He Depu for signing a pro-democracy letter to the 16th Communist Party Congress.

2008   Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected President of the United States.

2008  Proposition 8 passed in California, representing the first elimination of an existing right to marry for LGBT couples.

2011 – The Hellenic Parliament rejected a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou following a failed attempt to hold a referendum on a Eurozone bailout.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Security agencies foil terror attack

September 18, 2014

Australian police have arrested suspected terrorists in Sydney and Brisbane:

A SERIES of anti-terrorism raids were sparked by intelligence reports that Islamic State supporters were planning a public execution in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.

Details of the planned attack have emerged in the wake of the biggest anti-terrorism operation in Australia’s history, involving hundreds of police officers in co-ordinated raids across Sydney and Brisbane this morning.

Mr Abbott was briefed on the police raid on Wednesday night, which included intelligence that public beheadings were planned. “The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country,” he told reporters.

“So this is not just suspicion, this is intent and that’s why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have.”

LIVE UPDATES: Terror raids

NSW Police will allege that some of the Sydney men arrested in the operation had communicated with the Islamic State organisation while developing their alleged plan to seize a random member of the public and behead them live on camera. . . .

Some comments on the raids:

    1:41pm: Labor leader Bill Shorten is holding a press conference about the terror raids.

“The raids will no doubt come as a shock to many Australians.”

“It does remind us that the threat of terror can actually occur on our shores.”

“The reports of what these people were allegedly preparing are truly shocking.”

“Australians should be reassured by the capabilities of our security agencies. People should be reassured that our [agencies] are able to do their job before bad things happen to people.”

He said four major terrorist attacks planned on Australian soil had been disrupted since 2003 with the participants convicted and jailed. . .

 

12:44pm: NSW Premier Mike Baird said the alleged plot, to behead a person on the streets of Sydney, was “undoubtedly horrifying”.

“But I want to pay absolute … thanks to the authorities that have done their job,” he said.

“We want to say to the community: be assured, the actions [today] show that every single effort will be made to ensure that we are safe.”

12:42pm: NSW Premier Mike Baird is holding a press conference about the anti-terrorism raids.

He warned those who wanted to harm the community that “we will hunt you down”.

“To those that think they may be operating in dark corners, we are shining the light upon you,” he said.

 

This puts into perspective what Prime Minister John Key said last night:

New Zealanders face real threats and as Prime Minister of New Zealand I can either choose to walk away from protecting New Zealanders or do my job. I will never walk away from protecting New Zealanders.

If we ever lived in a benign strategic environment we don’t now and that is why security agencies must have the powers they need to protect us.

 


Rural round-up

February 10, 2014

Staff vital part of dairy farm –  Sally Rae:

At Willowview Pastures in North Otago, staff are considered an integral part of the business.

Owners Geoff and Katrina Taylor run the dairy farm on the lower Waitaki Plains near Waitaki Bridge.

Employees were given responsibility for particular on-farm tasks, described by Mr Taylor as their on-farm ”niche”, but still kept up with what was happening farm-wide. . .

Homeopathy and farming; let’s do better, media – Grant Jacobs:

Today Fairfax NZ News published at Stuff.co.nz an article titled, Homeopathy key for dairy farming couple. Unsurprisingly this has been spread to other sites, including pro-homeopathy sites.

Unlike many (most?) articles at Stuff, no means of commenting on this article are available.

Let’s quickly look at key problems in this story.

We might use as inspiration the TED slogan, “ideas worth sharing”, altering it to fit our purposes “information worth sharing”, considering ‘information’ and ‘news’ to be synonymous.

It carries with it a catch: if the information isn’t sound, it’s not worth sharing – not worthy of a place in a newspaper or news website. . .

Welsh shearers learn by competing in NZ – Helena de Reus:

Competing in New Zealand is a chance for Welsh shearers to learn from the best.

Welsh shearing team manager John Davies is touring the country with shearers Gareth Daniel and Richard Jones to contest the four-test Elders Primary Wool series between New Zealand and Wales. The series reached Balclutha at the weekend.

”New Zealand have the best sheep shearers in the world, so it’s good to learn from them and compete against the best.” . . .

Wool titles go far and wide:

Young shearers and woolhandlers fought for three titles at the Otago Shearing and New Zealand Woolhandling Championships in Balclutha yesterday.

The three winners of yesterday’s competition once again hailed from outside Otago, with Erica Reti (Gore) winning the New Zealand junior woolhandler title, Carlton Aranui (Raupunga, Hawkes Bay) winning the Otago junior shearing, and Dylan McGruddy (Masterton) taking the intermediate shearing title.

Two South Island woolhandling circuit titles were also awarded, with Liv Gardner (Southland) winning the junior section and Juliette Lyon (Alexandra) taking the senior. . .

Hort NZ to lobby on labelling:

The national horticulture body says it will continue to keep a close watch on moves by Australian supermarkets to remove New Zealand food products from their shelves, even though nothing has come from political talks on the issue.

The two big supermarket chains in Australia, Coles and Woolworths, are backing the Buy Australian campaign and as part of that, say they’ll stop stocking New Zealand products in their house brands.

Prime Minister John Key raised the issue at a meeting with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott last week, but was told it was a commercial decision for the supermarkets and did not breach the Closer Economic Relations (CER) free trade agreement between the two countries. . .

Drought roadshow starts:

Farmers in Hawke’s Bay, East Coast and Bay of Plenty – areas still recovering from last year’s drought – will attend a roadshow this week to find out how they can drought-proof their farms.

They’ll hear from Marlborough farmer Doug Avery, who’s been inspiring farmers around the country with the story of how he and his family rescued their farm from collapse after a series of droughts in the 1990s. . .

 


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