Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Past and Pending

The ongoing inquiry into the collapse of the CTV building is a subject I find much more interesting than the murder trial that is currently all over the news.
The evidence that has come out to date seems to reflect poorly upon the people involved in the design and construction of the building, and is certain to shake up the engineering profession.  The inquisitorial nature of the proceedings are a welcome relief to the confrontational approach used in criminal law.
As the inquiry is still underway, and is due to run for at least another month, I will keep as silent a watch as I can on it, and try to make a decent post from it once the findings are published.

The Shins - Oh, Inverted World, 2001

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Count To Ten (parts four to six)

National wants to reduce crime.  Most of us do, maybe even criminals.  So the PM announced these targets:
Targets to reduce overall crime by 15 per cent, violent crime by 20 per cent and youth crime by 5 per cent over five years were announced by the Prime Minister.
As with the other announcements I've discussed, there's no "how" and no funding allocated, so it seems the goals will be met out of existing budgets and other things will be dropped, or more likely the targets are pie in the sky.  At least with this one they will monitor progress every six months, though measuring does sound like back office stuff that National were, not so long ago, hacking and slashing.
There's a quick and easy way to drop crime rates; make stuff that is currently illegal, legal, or at least not illegal.  Granny had a story on the subject last evening.

The Clean - Compilation, 1986

A Thing Well Made

The Mixed Ownership Model Bill was passed into law yesterday, the government passing the legislation despite the efforts of the opposition, questions from various commentators about the viability of the sales and strong public concern with about 80% of people opposing the sales.

The focus on Peter Dunne as the MP that allowed the legislation to pass is, in my opinion, misplaced.  In accordance with the principle of collective responsibility, I believe each of the 61 people that voted for the Bill are equally responsible.  As the vote was 61 for versus 60 against, any one of the 61 could have ensured that the Bill was not passed.  This would have brought the government down, however I have no objections to that happening.

As I have said before, I do not support the Mixed Ownership Model Bill.  I take a dim view of the Bill, because one of its effects is to take assets that are owned by the people of New Zealand and held on their behalf by the government (whichever government happens to be in power).  Taking assets is akin to theft.  Using legislation to enable theft does not legitimise the theft, as the ongoing Waitangi Tribunal proceedings demonstrate, and the use of legislation to legitimise the otherwise illegal or immoral actions of a government is a tool employed by dictatorial regimes, left, right and third way, around the world, since time immemorial.  None of which makes it right, and all 61 people who voted for the legislation are equally to blame.

The actual sales are still not certain to go ahead, for several reasons.
National have chosen to target assets that rely on water supply and have prepared, but are yet to introduce, legislation that will reform the ownership and management of water.  It goes hand in hand with the upcoming reform of local government, however the implications for the asset sales process seem to have been under-estimated.  Claims for the ownership of water are yet to be resolved by the Waitangi Tribunal.
The government may fall before the sales can proceed.  It seems unlikely, given that it has been 100 years since a government lost the confidence of the House.  However this government has a thin majority, as demonstrated by yesterday's vote, and has been dogged by controversy, forced into backdowns and mocked.  Given the falling trend in the polls, I expect there are a few backbench government MPs who are feeling a bit insecure in their seats.  Though there is a more recent precedent than Mackenzie in 1912 for the power that backbench MPs hold when there is a slim majority, and controversial policy.

The idea of having "Mixed Ownership" is not viable long term.  It is a half measure, half-arsed, ambivalent, equivocal.  The companies subject to the MOM Act must, at some stage, be returned to the ownership of the citizens on New Zealand.  The question of whether this is done Argentine style or via a buy-back, and if a buy-back is selected, how and at what price, must wait until we have a new government.

The alternative to a 49% sale, and return to full public ownership, is the sale of 100% of the companies.  The Prime Minister may have alluded to this in his answer to the final supplementary question to Question Two yesterday.

The allusion in the choice of the title for the post is an analogy.  I'll leave it to readers to decide how good an analogy it is; I rate it as OK.  It's one of my favourite songs, and it has links to Christchurch.

Muttonbirds - The Muttonbirds, 1992

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

We The People

Another excellent and detailed post from lemattjuste, on asset sales and s59 repeal

Hunters & Collectors - Cut, 1992

Count to Ten (parts two and three)

The government's ten point plan includes two educational goals.  From the National Party website:

The Government has two targets for boosting skills and employment: 
  • In 2017, 85 per cent of 18-year-olds will have NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification (up from 67 per cent in 2010).
  • In 2017, 55 per cent of 25-34 year olds will have a qualification at Level 4 or above (up from 52 per cent in 2011).

I'd be stoked if I were the Australian government - more free training for the future workers and taxpayers of Australia.  But of course it's not going to happen because National have not considered how they will fund it.  In the press release there's no mention of where the money to increase the numbers of people passing NCEA Level 2 by 27%.  After the reductions in funding for trades and apprenticeships, night school and tertiary education, and reduced access to student allowances and loans, the otherwise unambitious goal of an extra 3% (isn't that about the margin of error on surveys?) is likely to be challenging.

I'll give National credit on this one, I think they do have a viable plan.  It will be announced shortly and I'm not wanting to steal their thunder so I'll leave it to them and give out only this little clue - have a good look through your Weetbix packet.  If you've passed National Standards you should be capable of filling out the details.

The Clean - Compilation, 1986

Stein um stein

This is #201.

Rammstein - Reise, Reise, 2004

Hello Are You There

John Banks, he's kept his head down, presumably so National don't lose their ability to pass legislation.  Here's there because the PM, courtesy of some studious looking the other way with his hands over his ears while chanting "la la la I can't hear anything", has not lost confidence in Mr Banks.
It all came back to a question of whether Mr Banks had acted within the law, or not.  Here's Mr Key quoted on Stuff:
Key said he had not spoken directly to Banks but the ACT leader had given ''an absolute and categorical assurance to my office'' that he acted legally.
So, just the legal test, then.

But when it comes to moving people off ACC (and into the caring arms of WINZ), a legal and moral test applies, according to Mr Key.  Have a listen to him on the radio this morning - the section in question is between 2:09 and 2:30 running time.

Now that's as it should be with ACC.  We collectively gave up our right to sue, and in exchange gained an entitlement to ACC.

The standard required of ACC staff, according to Mr Key, is higher than the standard required to hold a ministerial warrant, even though the impact of decisions made by ACC staff affect many fewer people.  Surely Mr Key should have equal or higher standards for himself and his ministers.

Consolidated - Play More Music, 1992

Everything Must Go

The f*cking 61 thieves that constitute what passes for government around here these days have just won their little victory in their attempt to legitimise the theft of the family silver.  It's striking how they've done it in a similar manner to thieving dictators all around the world, throughout recorded history.

The next questions are:

  • how can the sales process be held up for as long as possible?
  • how can the date for the election be brought forward, to get rid of this avaricious bunch?
  • how can the stolen assets be returned to their rightful owners?
And, importantly, did the mask slip today?  At the end of Question 2 today, the PM said:
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: [...] History tells us that companies that are run privately, where they are listed on the stock exchange, have continuous disclosure, and are open to all of the analysis by stockbrokers and by analysts in the market, tend to be better run.
" privately..."?  I understood this was to be, what was it, "Mixed Ownership" or "Partial Privatisation".

Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go, 1996

Monday, 25 June 2012

Everything's On Fire

A quick plug for lemattjuste and his take on asset sales.

Hunters and Collectors - Human Frailty, 1986

Count to Ten (part one)

National have another plan.  This latest one has ten points and relates, nominally, to "Better Public Services".
Part One relates to reducing long term benefit dependence.  I'd love to be able to say "National have all the answers."  Unfortunately it looks like not only do they not have any of the answers, they are still struggling with the fundamentals that underlay the questions.
So what do they have?  They have a target:
The Government is targeting a 30 per cent reduction in the number of long term beneficiaries on Jobseeker Support from 78,000 to 55,000 by 2017.
But that's about all.  No mention of how.  I'd like to think they might do something innovative, like:
create an environment where the jobs were created (by the private sector, or the public sector) to fulfil a need amongst the community, or, failing that,
give the 23,000 people plane tickets to Australia, where successive governments have fostered an environment that does keep the economy going.
But this is National.  They regularly fail to exceed the low expectations I have for them.  Which means, unfortunately, more beneficiary bashing, more dog whistling and nothing to show for it, bar misery, contempt and aching all round.

Parts two to ten to come.

The Clean - Compilation, 1986


Katherine Rich has been appointed to the board of the Health Promotion Agency.
For readers who think the name is familiar, Katherine Rich is an ex-MP, was once ranked fourth in the National Party caucus and is the chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, a lobby group.
John Key is unconcerned:
"I'm comfortable that she'll be able to manage any conflict....It's important that a board has a range of different views."
At least he recognises there is a potential conflict of interest.  Any conflict of interest, potential or real, could more easily be avoided by not appointing her to the board in the first place.  Are we that short of suitable people in New Zealand that we have to have Katherine Rich?  No.

How bad could a conflict of interest be?  The HPA takes over the functions of the Alcohol and Liquor Advisory Council (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council (HSC) and parts of the Ministry of Health.  Part of the HPA's role will involve upcoming reforms to alcohol law.  Supermarkets, as major sellers of alcohol, have a vested interest in alcohol law reform, and specifically, ensuring any reforms do not reduce their profitability.  So there is potential for a pretty significant conflict of interest.

Elastica - Elastica, 1995

Thursday, 21 June 2012


While I should really identify as a republican, or at least I've always thought I should, the idea of a president and another layer of centralised government holds no appeal at all.
Whereas having our head of government on the other side of the world, not doing anything and leaving the exercise of their powers to the governor general, and not costing us any money, seems very pragmatic.  Pragmatic in the same sense that democracy was said (by Churchill) to be the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
It never seemed unreasonable to pay the hosting costs of the Windsors, when they visit.  Murray McCully was happy to have reasonably large sums spent on VIPs that most people have never heard of for the Rugby World Cup.
What grates is that we are, apparently, not allowed to know anything of the costs for the upcoming visit by our future King.  That's not an issue that relates to the usefulness or otherwise of the monarchy, it's the common courtesy of our government telling us what they are doing with the money we pay as taxes.
The Prince of Wales could at least have the decency to fly on a commercial flight, rather than demand we charter a plane for him.  The commercial flight will be coming here, and there's no need for the extra greenhouse gases a charter flight will create.

Split Enz - Dizrythmia, 1977


The gaping hole in my recent commentary has, it has occurred to me recently, been on the topic of asset sales, as proposed in National's Mixed Ownership Model Bill.

I am totally opposed to the Mixed Ownership Model Bill.  It makes no sense at all, and has been so seriously debunked and discredited, it is appalling that it can be supported by a majority in parliament.
Having given up on the economic arguments, because they don't stack up at all, National's supporters who have the stomach to try and defend them on this issue are left with "Labour did it too" and "Labour won't commit to buying back the assets".  Both of these are fairly weak arguments.
"Labour did it too" only is true if we look back to the 1980s, when Labour were over-run by ACT.  Labour were voted out for their bad behaviour.  So too will National be voted out, at the next election, due to their bad behaviour.  They are too late to change their minds without a massive loss of face.  The best they can do, in the face of a massive opposition to the policy, is hold the sale process until after the next election.
"Labour won't commit to buying the assets back" is disingenuous, coming from a party whose leader cannot commit on gay marriage and does not remember where he stood on the Springbok Tour (I was under ten and I remember clearly what my opinions were).

The Mixed Ownership Model Bill, if passed into law, is an act of treason, and everyone who votes in favour should be tried.

Massive Attack - Mezzanine, 1998

UPDATE - And due to the strength of my opinion on the matter, I wrote to my local MP, who is a member of the National Party, and expressed my opposition in the strongest terms.  Having seen the quality of the questions he has asked in Parliament, I expect at best a dim-witted response.


On the radio this morning Richard Hale, an energy consultant (whatever that is), told us about how the high exchange rate and overproduction were the main causes of petrol price drops (as they usually are), along with the crisis in Europe (which is a bit more of a novelty).
He finished of by saying that they thing that we didn't know, and was important, was how low the price would go.  And that's when his credibility evaporated, for me.  Fuel prices have been rising for as long as I've been buying fuel, and longer.  It's not difficult to predict the fuel prices will continue to rise, even an economist could predict that.
The recent fall is a blip on an increasing trendline, and the important question is not how low the price will fall.  After all, that's an easy question, not much more than 5 to 10%.  The important question is how long the fall will last.  And again, the answer is pretty easy, not very long, maybe a few months.
The big picture question that our energy consultant did not address is how society will adapt to a future where energy is scarce, and expensive.  I suspect he did so quite deliberately, because that's a difficult question to answer.

Headless Chickens - Body Blow, 1993

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

It's No Reason

In the Herald on Sunday a day or two back, more evidence was provide to support the idea that it is quite possible to be extensively educated and still be an idiot.
Case in point, a staff member at UCan who vastly over-rates his opinion and beliefs and is campaigning for a fast food chain to add a bacon sundae to its menu.
His rationale?  Well:
"I'd never thought of putting bacon and ice cream together but it makes sense - maple syrup makes bacon taste better and it goes really well with ice cream too," he told the Herald on Sunday.
Needless to say he's not at UCan for his culinary skills, he's in a faculty noted for it's slavish adherence to a lack of imagination and lip service to basic stuff like rigorous enquiry.
He is correct that bacon is delicious, as are maple syrup and ice cream.  Together?  Nah.  From a fast food place?  Never.  So, add it to the menu, see a fraction of the population buy one, once.  And take it off the menu before the sales fall to dismal levels.

"And a bacon ice cream sundae annoys all the sorts of people who really need to be annoyed from time to time."
And this is the real kicker on the educated idiot front.  As if the 'bacon and ice cream taste good, if you include maple syrup" line wasn't shallow enough, it is backed up with a "it will upset people I disagree with".  The decision to introduce bacon sundaes will be made purely on economic grounds, not on the frivolous thoughts of an academic.  The scary thing is he is in a position of influence, as a lecturer and tutor, and if this is the extent of his reasoning we have to question the value of the courses he teaches, and the degrees they are part of.

The Church - Seance, 1983

Old Schoolyard

And a bit more thought provoking today was question eight, about the cost of the first PPP school, in Hobsonville.

It appears that the cost of delivering the school via a PPP is about $2million less, out of a budget of over $110million, than if it were delivered using traditional procurement.  Under 2% is not a huge amount, and it excludes $4million, or thereabouts, on deciding to go for a PPP approach.

If the National Party are so convinced of their ideology, why did they need to commit $4million of taxpayers' money to having some consultants endorse it?  The "National won the election and have the mandate" argument, as applied vociferously to asset sales, seems to work just as well for PPPs, so why is the $4million needed again?

Most new schools are built very much by the private sector, who undertake the design and construction, and there are plenty of questions to ask about whether private sector involvement is always the most cost effective option, but in the absence of alternative procurement models e will not know.  Also, I expect Labour are not ready to ask such questions, lest they expose their mutated roots.

The Minister should be acknowledging that the private side of the PPP is expecting to make a profit, in fact without business cases that show they will, they could not have proceeded to put a tender forward.  That profit is part of the $110million, let's say it's a little under 10%, i.e. it will cost $100million, the remaining $10million is the profit.  Surely the Minister should be asking why the goverment can not build the school, sans profit, for the same $100 million.

Cat Stevens - Izitso, 1977

The Heat Is On

Phil Heatley found himself in all sorts of trouble this afternoon, unable to answer some quite specific questions.  Lockwood Smith intervened immediately after the first attempt by the Minister to answer the primary question, and after some comparatively kind words about the question being on notice, quite specific and answerable said this:
The Minister’s officials have had a couple of hours to work out the arithmetic, and if they cannot work it out, they should be sacked. The House deserves an answer.
Not much room for interpretation over what the Speaker thinks in that statement.

Unfortunately for the Minister, and for people like me who are interested in the answer, Mr Heatley resorted to the "it's complex" excuse for not providing an answer.  Here's the primary question:
6. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does he agree with Molly Melhuish’s calculation that the amount charged by SOEs for electricity for an average consumer is $265 per annum less than is charged by non-SOE retailers, and if not, what was the weighted average of the annual total retail price charged by SOEs and their subsidiaries to a residential consumer using 8,000 kilowatt hours of electricity compared with the weighted average of the price charged by non-SOE suppliers, according to the most recent data?
I've underlined the bit that Mr Heatley apparently found too difficult to answer.  And here's the thing, with data available it's quite possible, and not that difficult to answer.

So why didn't Mr Heatley answer?  I can think of two reasons.  One, his support staff are incapable, or incompetent.  Possible, but unlikely.  Or two, Mr Heatley knew the answer, but didn't like it and is insufficiently clever to blag his way past the question.

Which leads inexorably to the question of how is it that Mr Heatley manages to hold Mr Key's confidence, and a ministerial warrant?  Send him to the back benches, it's inconceivable that he's the best National have.

The question raised by Clayton Cosgrove is an interesting one, and it cuts to the heart of the privatisation issue.  What is it about state owned power companies that means they charge less for electricity than privately owned ones?  If they are on an equal footing, and since they are both required to provide a return on investment, what's the difference?  Ideology aside, what's the answer?  I'm genuinely interested.

Glenn Frey - Beverley Hills Cop soundtrack, 1985

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

42 Wheels

ACC is, as mickeysavage described it at waitakerenews, is a slow moving but inexorable force.  It will be one of the major contributors to the downfall of the current government and the only real questions are who, or how many, it will take with it.
To recap, the scandal has, to date, taken one minister, the CEO, the chair of the board and several board members.  It has started a number of investigations and today it was the subject of a snap debate in parliament.
The thing to remember (and I think you got it wrong mickey.  Sorry) is that there are no heroes here.  Just victims, and by that I mean "most of the country".  Bronwyn Pullar has the support of some very influential people and does not need the left running defence for her too.  The focus should be on National, their ineffectiveness and their stupid ideas on what to do with ACC.

Hunters & Collectors - The Jaws of Life, 1984

We Care A Lot

National has given up the legal process of appealing against rulings that people caring for family members must be paid.  They are putting a brave face on it, but their appeals were churlish and defied a sense of fair play.
The unscientific poll associated with the story above has about 90% of respondents supporting payment to family carers, with a slight preference (the 90% is split 50% to 40%) against capped payments.  However the government plans to cap them anyway.

Faith No More - Introduce Yourself, 1987

A New Season

Dr Lance O'Sullivan, who I identified as a person with the courage to stand up for what he believes in, in this posthas left his job at Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika in Kaitaia.
All the best for you future endeavours, Dr O'Sullivan.  I am sure we will hear of you again in the near future.

The Church - Starfish, 1988

Trouble in the Message Centre

Eric Roy (I'm pretty sure it was him) was Speaker for question time today.  He was better this time than last time, but still pretty hopeless at making ministers answer questions.
Question 10 was exceptionally bad, where Judith Collins was asked what knowledge she had of an item of expenditure and she refused to answer on the grounds it was an operational matter.  Messrs Mallard and Little pointed out that a minister's knowledge, or lack thereof, is not operational, but it was to no avail.
Shabby, Mr Roy.
Incidentally, if I were Labour I would be using Little and Mallard to question Collins at every opportunity.  The parallels with the libel proceedings make Mrs Collins look distinctly uncomfortable.

Blur - Parklife, 1994

God Only Knows

iPredict crashed today, due to heavy loads caused by the resignations at ACC and the Auditor General's investigation into the SkyCity convention centre deal.
Rumours have floated around for some time that iPredict is subject to quite a fair bit of insider trading, so it would be interesting to see the comparative timing of the announcements, the crash and the stocks being traded.  It's also extremely unlikely we will see any such data.

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds, 1966

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Send Him Away

John Banks had trouble declaring his connection to SkyCity.  It looks like Mike Hosking did too.  What is it with SkyCity and supposedly reputable or intelligent people just forgetting what the right thing to do is?  It's like once a casino becomes involved, people decide the usual ethical requirements no longer apply to them.  It's insidious.

And TVNZ have responded by banning Hosking from SkyCity related journalism.  Now he's in the thrall of the gambling "industry", he's conflicted on a whole lot of stuff, not just SkyCity.  Given that it could become a topical subject, that limits his capability and casts doubt on his integrity, and that's the start of the slippery slope to ineffectualness.  If I were TVNZ I'd be considering whether Hosking was a liability.

Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, 2009

The Men's Movement

The government has announced additional fees for the Family Court.  Charles Chauvel asked about them in Question Ten today.

It's quite clear that this is more poorly thought-through penny pinching back room bureaucracy generating rubbish that further disadvantages women.

Poorly thought through because National have not looked at the impacts.  In the primary question Mr Chauvel asked:

10. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister for Courts: What decrease, if any, in the use of the Family Court after 1 July is expected to result from his decision to introduce fees of $700 plus a daily hearing fee of $1,812 for applications for divisions of assets, and fees of $220 for childcare disputes, both of which applications are at present fee-free?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts) : In answer to the question, based on last year’s modelling there were 18,000 applications before the court that would be liable for the payment of fees. About 8,500 childcare disputes and about 1,700 property disputes would be expected to pay the fees. The balance would be expected to avoid the fees, either by applying to the registrar of the court for a waiver, of which there is expected to be a significant number granted, or by finding some other way to sort out the dispute and not come to the court.
First, last years data are not modelling, they are recorded data.  Modelling is looking at what might happen.  While a description of what happened previously is interesting, it's not an indicator of what is likely to happen once changes are implemented.  The lack of an answer to the question indicates National haven't looked into the issue, or have and didn't like the answer.
Penny pinching because the costs recovered are less than 10% of the cost of running the Family Court.
Back room bureaucracy generating because now a system to collect the fees needs to be set up and run.
And finally, disadvantageous to women because women bear, amongst other things, the financial brunt of relationship breakdowns.

Consolidated - Play More Music, 1992

Lonely Stretch

Vehicle registration costs are going down, petrol excise and Road User Charges are increasing.  What could be exciting about that?  Ken Shirley, the CEO of the Road Transport Forum has the expected whinge.

"The road user charges are a significant amount - about 10 per cent - of that road freight cost."It will have an impact on everything from flatscreen TVs through to packets of Weet-Bix.''
Yeah yeah yeah, whatever.  Bulk transport of goods by road is only possible because we have access to cheap, compact, safe, high energy density fuels at the moment.  Once they are no longer cheap...
Anyway, let's say that petrol excise is paid by private vehicles for personal transport, and RUCs are for transportation of goods etc.  The government expects:
the petrol excise increase will raise an additional $55 million in the 2012/13 year and a total of $235m over the first four years.The increased Road User Charges will raise $38m extra in year one and $186m over four years.

With a quick calculation we can convert these into increase rates for total annual distance travelled by the NZ vehicle fleet.  Skipping the detail, the government expects an average annual increase for private vehicles of 2.6%.

Considering that traffic volumes have remained reasonably static for the last five or so years, and considering that there are no good economic reasons to expect a sudden and significant increase.  So, 2.6% is plausible, but probably on the high side.

So, on to heavy vehicles.  The expected average annual increase is a little over 7%.  And that's well beyond the bounds of plausibility.

My calculations have a number of assumptions, but they are conservative.  For example, private vehicles might become more fuel efficient, thereby reducing the amount of petrol excise collected, and requiring higher traffic growth rates to meet the revenue projections.  Another example, some of the RUCs will be for privately own diesel vehicles.  The increase rate for petrol vehicles is likely to be about the same as private diesel vehicles (unless people are suddenly about to start driving their diesel 4WDs a whole lot more), and are a lot lower than the goods transportation vehicle increase rate, so they would be masking the true rate, which would be even higher than 7%.

Meanwhile the RoNS are being pushed further out on the national land transportation plan.

The Triffids - Born Sandy Devotional, 1986

Monday, 11 June 2012

It's Coming Down

In the next month or so the government will announce changes to:

  • special education.  I'm guessing there will be something late this week or early next week.  And it will fly under the radar.  I've discussed special schools before; there is a place for them and a "one size fits all" approach will disadvantage a small but significant section of our youth.  As they don't and probably won't vote National, the decision is easy for the government.  The section is the one where children can benefit from being removed from their day-to-day environment (the stereotypical bad homes) and taught skills that they have not learned at home, to help them become functional members of society.  Back to stereotypes - special schools are, for some children, an effective way of breaking the cycle.
  • water management.  I expect something in the next month or so, possibly in conjunction with or following closely on the heels of Nick Smith's return from exile.  Primarily because Nick Smith is the only member of the National Party caucus that has a reasonable understanding of the issues.  Again, this will fly under the radar, and will be couched in terms of "efficient water management" and "good practice".  The effects will include increased commercialisation of water, emphasis on water being treated solely as a resource and commodity, and the reduction of local control over water.  If you care about water (and remember, more than a few days without it and you are dead), you should care about these changes and the seizure of control they entail.  If you only care that it comes on when you turn the tap, and goes away when you pull the plug, go back to sleep.

CAKE - Fashion Nugget, 1996

The Only One

Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples are considering standing for re-election at the next election.  I suppose they have to reconsider their decisions to retire, because the Maori Party has lost votes and support since going into government with National.
I expect that even if they decide to stand again, it will be to little purpose because only Mrs Turia will win her electorate seat, leaving the Maori Party as a lame duck party, like ACT and United Future.
And that's a sad end to a party that was founded on some good principles.

Morphine - Good, 1993

Hand of Doom

Is anyone else horrified that our government:

  • talks about compulsory sterilisation from a starting point of "we've considered it" before moving to "but we dismissed it"?
  • proposes to spend $100,000,000.00 (yes, a hundred million dollars) on what are, effectively, agents fees for selling our assets?  As if the asset sales themselves were not outrageous enough.

Black Sabbath - Paranoid, 1970

Been Caught Stealing

Like everyone else before the courts, Kim Dotcom is entitled to be considered to be innocent until proven guilty.  The FBI stealing his stuff, in contempt of a judge's instructions, is outrageous.
A proper Prime Minister would be expressing his outrage at the breach of our sovereignty and the outright disrespect for the rule of law in our land.  There are protocols for doing this, but Mr Key has ignored them, preferring to deliver some cheese to the Queen.  Farcical.

Jane's Addiction - Ritual De Lo Habitual, 1990

Sunday, 10 June 2012

F*ck Tha Police

Well, that seems to be the attitude that the government are taking on pay and conditions.  I wasn't expecting National and Tiki Taane to think along the same lines.
I have some respect for the police in New Zealand, they are mostly free of corruption and bad behaviour is the exception, rather than the rule.  I do tend to have rose-tinted glasses for looking at them and say that things could be worse when, perhaps, I should be saying they could be better.  And they could be better.  However, I digress.
Reducing pay and conditions for what is an unpleasant and unsociable job invites corruption and discourages people from taking up one of the more important jobs in society.
Increasing the link between pay and performance degrades and de-emphasizes the human aspect of policing, and the humanity of the police is both essential, and unmeasurable.
As anecdotal evidence of the humanity of the police, I once worked as a telephone counsellor and one evening spoke to a person in the process of killing themselves.  Needless to say it was quite a harrowing experience, first time and all.  I took a long drive home after my shift finished at about midnight or whenever in the wee small hours, and while not concentrating fully in an apparently deserted small country town I treated a Stop sign like a Give Way - I slowed down so I could stop safely if I had to, but with no traffic about I drove through without coming to a complete halt.  I was pulled over promptly by a policeman who was following me.  I explained why I was a little distracted and carried on, warned with a few mild words and an instruction to go straight home.  It was the second time I had ever been pulled over and with all the stories I'd heard about ticket quotas, I fully expected a fine.
Performance pay can only be implemented when performance is strictly measured.  Measurement is easiest when it includes simple things like arrests made, tickets issued and successful prosecutions.  When individual officers are driven to chose between pay and using their discretion and humanity, many will go for the money, especially if their pay and conditions are reduced.  I can see that National's plan is not a good one.

N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton, 1988

Losing Touch

It's not the polls that matter, it's the trends.  And the trends don't look too good for National.

Time to ram that legislative agenda through at all costs and hope there's no scandal that results in the loss of that razor thin majority.

The Killers - Day & Age, 2008

Tell Me What To Do

A quick question - would a true liberal party allow party votes, and the idea of collective caucus responsibility? Surely to be truly liberal it would require every vote, even as part of government, to be a conscience vote.

The Front Lawn - Songs From The Front Lawn, 1989

robertguyton: The Backdown Budget

Robert Guyton asks why Hekia Parata has been made to carry the can for the teacher ratios stuff up.  And it's a fine question - the tired and cynical fingers of Bill English are all over this.  And the call of "the buck stops with me" from Mrs Parata is poorly placed - as I understand it the phrase originated from Harry Truman when he was President of the USA.  The equivalent in NZ is, of course, John Key - why doesn't the buck stop with him?  Because he's in Europe?  Back Tuesday?  Not good enough.  What happened to collective responsibility at Cabinet?  And what are the financial implications of the backdown?  Please explain.

robertguyton: The Backdown Budget

To Sir With Love

In today's NZ Herald, Rodney Hide has written an opinion piece called "Time for PM to revoke Sir Douglas' knighthood"
Despite usually being wrong and generally only half thought out, Rodney Hide's opinion pieces are generally worth a read through because they are thought-provoking.  Also, given the ongoing sideshow that is the ACT party, I wondered initially whether he was referring to Roger Douglas.  Turns out I wasn't the only one, in the comments "Andrew Johnson" suggests the same thing.  Turns out he wasn't suggesting this at all, though in my opinion such action would be deserved.
This bit here turns up fairly early on in the piece:
The Prime Minister made a good call returning titled honours to New Zealand. I understand Sir and Dame. The letters PCNZM and DCNZM mean nothing to me.
I understand that the principle difference is the use of the honorific "Sir" or "Dame".  We have always recognised achievement, and the changes over the previous twenty years or so have included who awards the honour and whether a title is or is not granted.  Whatever else happens, people get to add a whole lot of fairly meaningless (to people who are unfamiliar with them) letters after their name.

The knight that Rodney Hide suggests is stripped of his knighthood is Douglas Graham, who as a director of Lombard Finance was convicted of breaching the Securities Act by making untrue statements, under the strict liability provisions of the Act.  I can not condone his actions.

For me this is tricky territory.  The use of honorifics such as Sir, Dame, Lady, Lord etc. is hopelessly outdated and cringe-inducing.  So while I support the process of formally recognising our great achievers, I'd like to see the whole honours system updated.

Once an honour is bestowed upon someone, there must be an excellent and compelling reason to revoke it.  Douglas Graham received his KNZM for services as a Minister of the Crown and as a Member of Parliament.  His work as Treaty Negotiations was, to the best of my knowledge, difficult and done well.  His actions that brought about his conviction under the Securities Act are completely independent of his work as a Minister and MP.  If, hypothetically, his KNZM was awarded for services to business, then there might be grounds to consider stripping him of it.

Lulu - To Sir With Love 7", 1967
Tina Arena - Songs of Love and Loss, 2007


Questions for the PM, live on Stuff at noon on Tuesday.

Photo credit -

And Stuff say, in their advertisement of the Q&A session:
"ask what you want of the Prime Minister this coming Tuesday."

So here's what I want to know:

  • Why did you sanction the abandonment of one proposed policy that the voting public of New Zealand have rejected (changes to teacher ratios), when you have refuse, to date, to abandon an equally unpopular policy (asset sales), and do you accept that most people who voted for National did so in spite of the proposed asset sales, rather than because of them?
  • What examples can you show us of higher standards of transparency and accountability from your government, and how do you reconcile your promises from 2008 with the actions of John Banks and his contempt for electoral law, and Paula Bennett with her musings on eugenics?
  • Is there anything of an ethical or moral nature that is contentious or controversial, like the Springbok tour of 1981, decriminalisation of cannabis or gay marriage, that you would go on the record as supporting or opposing unequivocally?
  • Will New Zealand be a richer or poorer country once you finish your time as Prime Minister?
  • To which charities do you donate "a significant proportion" of your Prime Ministerial salary?
  • Is the brighter future you promised to New Zealanders to be found in Australia or Hawaii?

I can't go onto the live chat, for employer/internet related reasons, but I'm intending to email my questions in.  I encourage anyone who reads this to put their own questions up.  Not too many, though, because we need John in the House on Tuesday at 2pm to answer questions.

Others have commented and I have to ask too, who thought it was a good idea to publish a picture like this?  It's bloody awful, and the cut-down version Stuff have it on their website makes it clear that the press honeymoon is well over.

Exploding Budgies - The Grotesque Singers, 1985

I'm Back

And there's so much to say, and so little time to say it.  Back to business/blogging as usual.

Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000

Thursday, 7 June 2012

How Many Times

The recent brain-fart from Paula Bennett, where she mused on the virtues of eugenics, compulsory abortions and mandatory sterilisation, was notable.  Apart from revealing the ignorant or vacuous nature of Ms Bennett (why should we be subjected to a Minister who muses about eugenics?), and the baser side of the populace in responding to her dog-whistle (ugh, the non-scientific polls make awful reading, at times), and the blatant attempt to distract from Mrs Parata's debacle (gosh, that's almost enough of a list), it's part of a developing theme.
Today Stuff has an article of a baby that died unnecessarily.  While a lot of the circumstances are not stated, it seems clear that the baby and family were living in terrible conditions and dire poverty.
The blame for the death is then sheeted home to the family.  The article reflects on how messy their house was and how there were inconsistencies in the descriptions of the circumstances that lead to the baby's death.  But that's avoiding the underlying issues of why the government is not addressing the issue of poverty and the consequences.  Apart from the obvious and pragmatic response that there are few votes in it.
I don't care if it was the state or private charity that should have been working with this family, it seems likely that there has been a serious systemic failure here (and throughout the country) and our media blithely dismiss it on the grounds of individual responsibility.  Here's how I'm calling it - the failure of an individual to fulfil their individual responsibilities does not affect or negate the collective responsibility we all have to look after the weak and the vulnerable and people in their time of need.
Heads should roll, and the MSM need to take a good hard look at their attitudes.

Brother Beyond - Get Even, 1988


A few thoughts on Hekia Parata and her u-turn on class sizes.
The only good thing to come out of this is some temporary relief for children as they pass through the education system.  There is no acknowledgement of wrong-doing, or error in the agenda National has for education.  One outcome from this is that National will continue to pursue their agenda, they just need to find a new way of doing it.  Another possibility is that this will go on the back-burner while other, less contentious issues are progressed.  Either way, this is not a victory for anyway, and especially not National.
I must say, the spin put on this by National and supporters really is polishing a turd.  And I don't think that they have fully thought through the implications.  Sure, this appears to show that National "listens to the people".  But to stay true to form, National must now be seen to listen on other contentious issues.  Asset sales, anyone?  I hope that petition for a referendum is coming along well.
It also shows that some of National's policies are rooted in populism, rather than evidence, research or even ideology.  Though this was an ideologically based decision, all round.  It shows that National believe that if a particular presentation of their ideology is not palatable, they have others.
I would like to see Hekia Parata stay on as the minister.  Her credibility is blown to shreds and I'd prefer to see this government limp on to its inevitable end with ineffective lame-duck ministers than letting it pursue its agenda with ministers who are capable of wreaking more damage.
And won't question time next week be fun.  My money is on the Greens (again) to make the running.  There are so many questions around the financial impacts alone that it should be a field day for the opposition.

PJ Harvey - Dry, 1992