Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Honours and the Republic

The Government has seen fit to give Helen Clark the Order of New Zealand, supposedly our highest honour, replacing Edmund Hillary on the list. I suppose on the basis of her tenure she deserves an honour as much as any other politician but I think there is something very unsavoury about giving such a polarising politician our highest award.

Actually, I find the whole honours system very unsavoury. The idea that you receive an award from the Government - who are, after all, meant to be serving us not the other way around - seems very feudal to me.

They also chose to give Peter Jackson a knighthood. Again, I guess he deserves it as much as any New Zealander. But it doesn't add anything to his accomplishments, which I think stand on their own merits. He doesn't need the 'Sir' to tell the world how successful he has been.

The honours systems brings the republican debate into focus. Keith Locke, with whom I wouldn't normally agree on anything, wrote a piece in The Bin Liner (otherwise known as The Dominion Post) the other day, in support of New Zealand becoming a republic. While I have my doubts about what sort of republic the likes of Keith Locke would turn New Zealand into, I whole-hearted support his sentiment.

The one thing that makes me a republican is the idea that my children cannot grow up to be head of state of New Zealand because that role is inherited by the eldest son in a family twenty thousand kilometres away. In America, every child is taught at school that they can aspire to be the President. In New Zealand, we cannot teach our children that. We believe our own children are not good enough to be our head of state. The only ones who are, under our constitutional conventions, are the descendants of a corrupt, despotic, incestuous family in Britain. I find this situation offensive.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 - the year NZ decided to join the Third World

As 2009 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the year in retrospect. It was a year that opened with hope for those of us who believe there is a better alternative to the ever-waxing tide of government regulation and expenditure that we have seen under successive New Zealand governments for the last 15 years. The new National government was elected on a platform of economic growth and prosperity.

Alas, after one year of National, the signs are that this is a conservative (with a small 'c') government that is not prepared to change anything that the previous Labour government put in place and that is prepared to increase the burden of regulation and government interference in the economy through initiatives such as the new emissions trading scheme and increases in accident compensation levies.

The truly alarming news out of this government came late in the year when the Minister of Finance announced that the goal of the 2025 Task Force, to match Australia's GDP per capita by 2025, was "aspirational" and unrealistic. The effect of this is that, for the first time ever in my observation of politics in this country, the government has conceded that New Zealand's future is as a Third World, not a First World, country. This alarming news is made worse by the widespread acceptance of the Finance Minister's view in the mainstream media. Personally, I find this situation very depressing and for the first time in many years I find myself reassessing whether New Zealand will continue to be my home.

I am fortunate in that my family and I have dual citizenship and can live and work anywhere in the European Community as well as in New Zealand. My children are still at school but they are already citizens of the world, having travelled to a number of countries at a young age and having already become fluent in other languages. It is apparent that they will be highly productive citizens of whichever country they eventually settle in and I don't think I am being overly boastful when I say that they are exactly the type of young people that New Zealand needs to retain. But it is difficult to remain loyal to a country that seems intent on squandering its future.

Hopefully 2010 will see the National Government come to its senses and follow through on the platform of economic growth and prosperity on which it was elected. If it does not, it will be betraying not only the electors who put it in power but the future electors of New Zealand like my children.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Easter Trading Bill Defeat - How Medieval

If a retailer is prepared to open on a particular day and staff are happy to work on that day and customers are willing to shop on that day, then what business does Parliament have in interfering in the arrangement? Where is the harm?

Actually, I know the answer already - the only harm is to the socialist sensibilities of the those who imagine that we live in some sort of real life parody of medieval feudalism where workers are virtual slaves and are too stupid and ignorant to negotiate with business owners in their own interests.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Science Has Left the Room...

It seems that the climate change debate has gone beyond any semblance of rationality. I can't understand why many scientists, who are otherwise so rational and objective, cast their rationality out the window and resort to shouted slogans and insults when discussing this issue.

For example, the much-acclaimed Pharyngula (the blog name of biologist PZ Myers) today had this to say about fellow scientists who oppose the accepted wisdom of global warming, "..there are two broad categories of denialists, the ones who are sincerely nuts (like Monckton) and the ones know better but are lying to make a profit for their cause (like the odious Steve Milloy)."

He goes on to say, "...the most reprehensibly dishonest 'scholar' of the bunch, Jonathan a Ph.D. in developmental biology and should know better but everything I've read by him has led me to the conclusion that he is also profoundly stupid."

I think it only reflects on Myers, who I normally follow with interest and respect, that he should resort to such personal abuse.

Ian Stewart, the English mathematician said, "Religion hinges upon faith, politics hinges upon who can tell the most convincing lies or maybe just shout the loudest, but science hinges upon whether its conclusions resemble what actually happens."

By this definition, science has left the room in the global warming debate and all that remains is politics.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

NZ - a future nation of domestic servants?

It was interesting to hear Bill English's reaction to the 2025 Taskforce's recommendations on policies New Zealand should follow to catch Australia in GDP per capita by 2025. The taskforce was set up by the National Party-led Government as a condition of its 2008 election coalition agreement with ACT. English didn't disagree with the taskforce's recommendations so much because he thought they were likely to fail to meet the objective, rather he dismissed the objective itself. It other words, he said it was unrealistic for NZ to try and catch Australia.

Let us think about what this means for a moment. Australia's economic growth hasn't been spectacular in recent years, in fact, it has been quite modest in comparison with China and some other Asian nations. Australia itself will have its work cut out trying to keep up with its Asian neighbours over the next 15 years. If NZ doesn't even keep pace with Australia, where does that leave us?

I think the answer to this question is obvious. It will leave New Zealand as an increasingly poor country in an increasingly prosperous region. We are already starting to take on the characteristics of a third world nation with low wages and poor infrastructure, and an economy based on commodity exports and low-cost tourism. If the trend continues, New Zealanders in the future will work for Chinese and Malaysian companies as low-cost labour, manufacturing consumer goods or pharmaceuticals; or as domestic servants making the beds, cleaning the toilets and tending the gardens in wealthy Asian homes. We will become a remittance economy with New Zealanders working offshore sending money home to enable unemployed relatives here to survive, just like many Pacific Island economies today.

Is this what we aspire to? According to Bill English it is. Essentially he is saying New Zealand should not try to compete with its neighbours in the region. We should lie down and allow ourselves to be rogered by those who have the fortitude to compete on the world stage.

I have never before heard such a pathetic, defeatist vision for this country. If this is all English and his cronies think the people of this country are capable of, they should all resign immediately.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Antartic Ice Retreating? Yeah Right!

Mark Steyn has a really good article on global warming here but the really cool (excuse the pun) revelation is in a comment from 'William' about the well-publicised retreat of Antartic ice. See for yourself here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RIP Anna Woolf

Your ideas were heroically honest in a world where lies pass as facts and where consensus is more important than truth. May your words live on and inspire the sort of courage in others that you have demonstrated in the past few months.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bin-liner Continues Global Warming Propaganda

As Whale Oil points out in his blog here, the New Zealand news media finally appears to be waking up to the global warming fraud that the rest of the world's media has headlined for a couple of weeks.

Not Wellington's Dominion Post, however. This newspaper, which some people refer to as New Zealand's Pravda but which I prefer to call the bin-liner, is today running a full front page article in its international section and three full pages in another section promoting the global warming myth and the political 'solutions' to it. There is, of course, nothing in the newspaper at all about the scandalous fraud that has been revealed at the Climate Research Unit in the UK or the misinformation coming from NZ's own NIWA institute. The DomPost couldn't have made it more obvious where it sits on this issue - clearly on the side of the fraudulent claims and the totalitarian solutions being adopted by our Government and others overseas.

It's too much to expect even moderately balanced reporting from this bin-liner. Mind you, I think bin-liner is too good a use for it. If it wasn't covered in bullshit already I'd use it in the toilet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This Country is Poked

So, we now have an emissions trading scheme that will cost the country over $100B. We have residual ACC claims of $24B. We have leaky homes liability that ratepayers will have to pick up of tens of billions of dollars. We have rapidly rising health and welfare costs. And we have a Government that was elected on a platform of economic growth whose flagship project is a cycleway. Does anyone else see the pattern here? This country is facing huge increases in Government spending in years to come to support all these profligate schemes and that spending will not be supported by increased growth and earnings.

I am already planning my early retirement to some warm and peaceful tax haven. I intend to make damned sure I'm not around to foot the bill for all this foolishness.

Hide-Bound Ideas on the ETS

So Rodney Hide is finally stepping up to the mark and criticising the Emissions Trading Scheme. I'm sure the huge volume of e-mails he has had from supporters has jolted his conscience, just like it did with his profligate overseas travel spending.

The Herald reports that Maori Party MP Rahui Katene returned the swipe, beginning her speech by noting it was a joy to work with a party "not tied down in Hide-bound ideas". What he or she (I've really no idea which) means is that it is good to deal with a party (National) that has no principles. How true!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Global Warming Fraud and NZ's ETS

So now we have the smoking gun evidence for what we all suspected - that the scientific case for Anthropogenic Global Warming is a carefully orchestrated fraud. The less gullible of us already knew that the science was dubious (see my earlier post here) and that there was some deliberate manipulation and cherry-picking of data going on, but what we didn't know was that there was deliberate lying behind some of the claims. Now we do.

The timing is fortunate because the New Zealand Government is about to foist a dreadfully damaging emissions trading scheme on this country and they are doing some cynical backroom dealing of their own with Maoridom to get the support of the Maori Party.

It is not too late for the Government to withdraw from this farce with their integrity intact. They can justify the backdown because of the revelations around the scientific fraud that has been exposed in the UK. The ETS is a huge mistake that will cost New Zealanders billions of dollars in direct cost and tens of billions more in lost competitiveness and poor economic growth for decades to come. And we're going to look pretty stupid if we end up the only country in the OECD with such an onerous emissions trading scheme when the current scandal causes other governments to rethink their own proposed schemes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Anzac biltz on drunken violence - is this really necessary?

Police forces across Australasia have chosen a single weekend for a blitz on what they say is a trans-Tasman problem – booze-fuelled street crime, according to Stuff.

Is this really necessary? What does the drunken antics of hooligans on New Zealand streets have to do with Australia? Why would our police force need to cooperate with their Australian counterparts over what is purely a domestic issue?

This sounds awfully like coordinated thuggery on the part of the two countries' police forces, as if beating up young drunks on both sides of the Tasman legitimises it.

I appreciate we have a problem with binge drinking in this country but I also think that this highly-publicised and unnecessary campaign will do nothing to stop drunken violence but rather will provoke it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who would want to be an MP anyway?

Aren't the media hypocrites having fun? These tossers for whom work consists of knocking out an article or two per day and who spend the rest of their time propping up the bar at their local watering hole, are pointing the finger at Ministers and MPs who use their entitlement to take partners on trips. And the blogosphere is just as bad with the lefties crowing about Rodney Hide and the righties crowing about Chris Carter.

To quote Rhett Butler, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

Let's get something straight here - Ministers and MPs are not well paid. Certainly I wouldn't do what they do for anything less than several times their salary and allowances. Most of them work seven days a week and, when Parliament is sitting, all hours of the night. They draw the odium and contempt of at least half the population even when they are doing a good job. Sure, there are some lazy fools amongst them who don't pull their weight and who would have trouble holding down a regular job at McDonald's, but most of them work damned hard for bugger all reward. And they are ENTITLED to take their wifes, partners and lovers with them on overseas trips. They are not stealing, they're simply claiming what their employment terms allow them to.

So I think it is time the media backed off and turned their tiny minds to the real issues facing this country - the economy, crime, government spending and bureaucracy.

Incidentally, I do think it is time to reform Parliament again - and we shouldn't have to wait to 2017 as John Key has proposed (god, will that guy ever commit to anything?). We should abolish MMP, return to first-past-the-post, and reduce the size of Parliament by a half. We would be left with a better standard of MP and the whole show would cost a lot less. Anyway, that's another blog...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

At least someone in this country has some backbone!

Young men 'will fight back' against police who try to take a DNA sample under the new Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill, says Maori party. Good on them, I say, because this bill goes way too far in its subjugation of individual rights.

From 2011, the police will be allowed to take DNA samples from anyone they intend charging with an imprisonable offence. Consent will not be needed, and samples will be able to be taken without judicial approval, says this article in The Herald.

This proposed law is disgraceful. We all know the police will take as many samples as they can because ultimately they would like to have everyone's DNA on file - it makes their job easier after all - and it's obvious that the criteria of 'intent to charge' can be applied to any person they arrest on any pretext. In other words, this bill gives the police the right to treat everyone like violent criminals and to hold them down while a DNA sample is forcibly taken from them - and presumably to beat the crap out of them if they try to resist. And all without the requirement to present any evidence to a judge to justify their thuggery.

This is like something out of Stalinist Russia and its introduction needs to be fought tooth and nail!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Has Drink-Driving Policing Gone too Far?

Last night my wife paid a late visit to the supermarket. She was gone a lot longer than I expected and when she arrived home she told me she had been stopped by a police drink-driving checkpoint and made to complete a road-side breath test. She failed it and was required to accompany an officer back to the police station for an evidential breath test.

Fair enough, I hear you say? Well, the thing is, she had had nothing to drink - not a skerrick in the previous 24 hours. Even as he arrested her, the officer said to his colleagues that this case was clearly a "mouthwash" one. And so it turned out to be - my wife scored zero on the two evidential breath tests she was required to undergo at the station.

Now my wife is a very law-abiding person who has worked closely with the police in her job as a social worker so she was far more understanding than I would be. But it raises the question of why, if they knew she was very unlikely to be breaking the law, they had to infringe her rights by arresting her for what they knew would be a futile procedure?

I appreciate that we need laws to protect society from the irresponsible and negligent actions of those who care little for the rights of others. But this draconian programme of harrassing law-abiding motorists to prevent the possibility of people drink-driving seems to have gone way beyond what is reasonable. I am often underwhelmed by the figures, published by the police themselves, that show they stop thousands of motorists nationally each week for only a small handful of prosecutions. And all the resources going into this campaign are diverted from assaults, burglaries and other serious crimes.

I don't blame the police - they are just blindly following the laws and meeting the targets the politicians have laid down for them. Clearly, police officers need greater discretion in cases like this and the politicians need to allow police managers to use their judgement in terms of the resources and focus they put into this area.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Good and the Bad of New Zealand

I am feeling content as I sit in the salubrious rooms we have hired in Martinborough for the weekend, drinking fine wine, eating delicious snacks and looking forward to the slow-cooked Angus beef we have ordered from the chef for dinner. Thoughts of a $10 billion deficit, the ACC levy rises, new taxes, the recent battles we have had with city council officials, and all the other distractions of daily life in Godzone are pushed far to the back of the mind.

The thing is, life can be so good in this little country of ours. And you don't have to be Bill Gates for it to be so. We should be grateful for such an idyllic existence.

I just wish the politicians, the bureaucrats, the social scientists and the media pundits who try to make us all adhere to their idea of what a good and just society should be, would just leave us alone to enjoy the one we already have!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ACC levies to rise - backlash needed!

ACC levies to rise! No, not the right solution, Nick Smith, you fool! Go to the bottom of the class.

There needs to be a backlash over this like the 'fart tax'!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ACC - the alternative welfare system

The only time in recent years that I have had cause to claim ACC was for a particularly severe case of occupational overuse syndrome (known as OOS - what used to be called RSI). I had been spending even more time than usual at the keyboard and had developed such severe pain in my back and shoulders that I couldn't sleep. The physiotherapist I saw pointed out that I could claim ACC for her costs but NOT if the injury had been done at work! If it had been done at the gym, fine, I could claim, but if it had been caused by my work, I couldn't!

This incident brought home to me what a perversion of the original intent of the scheme ACC has become. If I had made up a story about how I was under stress because of some imagined childhood trauma, then I would be covered. If I have a genuine (and genuinely debilitating, I can assure you) injury from work, I'm not.
It certainly bears no resemblence to the accident and workplace injury insurance scheme it was conceived to be.

The future liability for current claims is $24 billion. That is $6,000 for every man, women and child in New Zealand. I certainly have no claim on that $24 billion, neither does any member of my family. I have no friends or associates that are off work on ACC. So where are these claims coming from? Well, in the main they aren't coming from the working population of New Zealand. They're coming disproportionately from those who would otherwise receive welfare benefits. So John Key is right, for once. ACC has become an extension of the welfare state - the safety net below the safety net.

We have to start weaning people off this profligate scheme. It has to be fair and reasonable if it is to survive, and that means fair to those who pay the bill - the workers, employers and taxpayers of New Zealand. The right answer, of course, is to abolish and/or privatise it. Jim Bolger's government had the balls to do that. It remains to be seen whether this National Government has any at all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pseudo nonsense

John Key, acting on the advice of his science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, plans to make pseudoephedrine-based cold remedies prescription-only medicines.

I am self-employed and when I get a cold I need to be able to continue to function in my work and family life. Pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines are the only effective treatment. Aside from the cost and inconvenience of having to see a doctor to obtain it, our national shortage of GPs means that it is often impossible to get an appointment with a GP in a hurry unless your are seriously ill. By the time I get to see the doctor and have a prescription filled, my symptons will usually have passed. So, a ban on over-the-counter sales of these cold remedies will greatly inconvenience me, cost me income and ruin my productivity for the period I have a cold.

I'm told that the vast majority of "P" is produced from imported ingredients and that abuse of over-the-counter sales has been virtually eliminated through the current vigilance of pharmacists. So what is the point of penalising law-abiding citizens?

This Sir Peter Gluckman already has his fingerprints all over the stupid Emissions Trading Scheme (see my post here). What other foolishness is John Key going to implement on this guy's advice?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Telecom - seeing the eye of the beast

This afternoon I saw the Telecom New Zealand everyone complains about. I confess I've been a defender of Telecom over the years and thought they were pretty unfairly treated by the media and the previous Government. After all, they are our largest company and anyone who has seen my previous blog on large companies in NZ (here) will know that I think the main reason for New Zealand's relatively poor economic performance is the difficult environment it provides for large companies. So I'm not normally a whinger about corporate greed. However...

Today I discovered that Telecom has been overcharging me (and no doubt countless other customers) on domain name hosting. Telecom charges me $15.75 per month or about $190/year for my domain name when most other providers charge $30 - $40 per year. Now maybe I deserve to be ripped off because I'm too lazy or too stupid to check Telecom's pricing on a regular basis. In my defence, I'm a pretty busy person and I'm not the one in our household who pays the bills. In any event, that doesn't excuse Telecom ripping its customers off.

When I rang Telecom and spoke to the Filipino (or Malaysian or resident of whichever other South East Asian country currently hosts their help desk) in their Complex Technical Support Department (don't even ask!) about the overcharging, he informed me that Telecom has no obligation to match their competitors' pricing or to keep their customers informed about their highly uncompetitive rates. I responded that I would expect a good corporate citizen to do just that. I'm afraid I failed to convince him. I suggested he might like to refund the overcharging for the last two years. He couldn't see the logic in doing that, even when I pointed out that when I take the matter to the telecommunications commissioner it was likely Telecom will be ordered to refund every customer they have overcharged. He couldn't see the logic in that either.

This is the sort of unethical corporate behaviour I have heard people accusing Telecom of for years. As I say, I've defended the company against such accusations. Well, I can now understand why people detest the company so much. The amount involved is small so that's not my concern. The thing that amazes me is that our largest company can have such a serious ethics and integrity problem. Perhaps the previous Government was right to attack the company with every legislative, policy and public opinion weapon it could. Perhaps they saw on a grand scale what I have just experienced on a very small scale. I recall Paul Reynolds, the CEO, stating publicly that things had changed under his management. Clearly the beast hasn't changed its spots that much.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taito Phillip Field Jailed for 6 years

It is sad to hear that former MP Phillip Field will go to prison for six years for bribery and corruption, particularly so as it must be a further blow to his Samoan community with the devastation in his homeland at this time. What is perhaps sadder was the poor judgement shown by his colleagues in the Labour Party at the time he was being investigated and those in his community who seemed to regard his prosecution as some sort of racist vendetta.

The sentence seems stiff but I'm sure the perversion of justice charges he was found guilty of pushed it up from the few years that might have been expected.

It is time to move on and I hope those in the community who criticised his prosecution will see that justice has been done and appreciate that corruption of this nature must be rooted out.

Monday, October 5, 2009

ETS - Earnest Trivial Self-flagellation

So, the Government is about to impose an Emissions Trading Scheme on us. That's just what New Zealand needs - another millstone around the necks of the few enterprising people who try to produce goods and services, and thereby create jobs and income, in this quaint little backwater we call home. Environment Minister Nick Smith says of the Government's proposed scheme that it "will be the first of any country outside of Europe and, as of 1 July 2010, will be the most comprehensive."

Leaving aside the fact that even the IPCC scientists are starting to admit that global warming is a myth (e.g. see, this scheme will do nothing to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and it will cost New Zealanders more than $2B per year. That cost will be added to our already expensive power bills and the price of everything else we buy.

New Zealand produces 0.2% of the world's so-called greenhouse gas emissions. China produces about 20% and this is expected to double by 2050. China has been lauded in the international media recently for talking about self-imposed limits on emissions - but these are not absolute reductions, they are only talking about reducing the CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP. Given China is increasing its GDP by 8 - 10% per year, this still means a substantial increase in emissions. So any reduction we make is going to be trivial in comparison to the increase in emissions coming from China alone. At best, our savings will be a futile gesture. At worst, they will drag our country further towards the economic basketcase we appear so determined to become.

The ETS is nothing more than economic self-flagellation and, like the physical form, it may give us a feeling of righteousness, but our self-inflicted wounds will weaken us while China and other countries gain an economic advantage from our misplaced idealism.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Richard Dawkins - Doing God's Work

It is Sunday evening and it seems appropriate that I am finishing the day reading Richard Dawkins' wonderful book on evolution - The Greatest Show on Earth. Dawkins finds it necessary to do battle from time to time with the fools who deny one of the greatest achievements of human inquiry - that of understanding how we evolved to have brains large enough to ponder this very question. To illustrate what he is up against in these anti-knowledge nuts, I will quote an anecdote from the book.

"My colleague Dr John Endler, [who] recently moved from North America to the University of Exeter, told me the following marvellous - well, also depressing - story. He was travelling on a domestic flight in the United States, and the passenger in the next seat made conversation by asking him what he did. Endler replied that he was a professor of biology, doing research on wild guppy populations in Trinidad. The man became increasingly interested in the research and asked many questions. Intrigued by the elegance of the theory that seemed to underlie the experiments, he asked Endler what that theory was, and who originated it. Only then did Dr Endler drop what he correctly guessed would be his bombshell: 'It's called Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection!' The man's whole demeanour instantly changed. His face went red; abruptly, he turned away, refused to speak further and terminated what had hitherto been an amiable conversation."

This shows the close-mindedness of those who blindly maintain their belief in the ancient myth of creation when confronted with the overwhelming modern scientific evidence for evolution. I think the most interesting thing about such blinkered thinking is the obvious fragility of the person's religious faith. Surely, if their faith was solid, they would welcome the ability to test it against the scientific evidence and not turn away from the debate?

Ironically, Dawkins is surely doing God's work - if there is a God. Ask yourself whether, if you assume that a supreme being exists, He would rather have His most intelligent biological creations sitting around blindly mouthing obsequious platitudes to Him (i.e. praying) or using that great brain He gave them to understand the true wonder of what He has accomplished. I'm pretty sure He would be handing out points to those like Dawkins, who honour Him by using their gift of intelligence, rather than those who shut down their brains when presented with the overwhelming scientific evidence. If heaven exists, then I'm sure St Peter will usher Dawkins to the very front of the queue!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Credit Where Credit is Due

Anyone who has read my older blogs, and friends who have heard me ranting, will know that I am no fan of the New Zealand news media. In fact that is an understatement and just to avoid doubt, let me reiterate - I think the NZ news media is the worst in the Western world. Our broadsheet newspapers are pretentious versions of English tabloids, our television news reports are infantile and our radio station hosts are poor imitations of American shockjocks (and the worst is National Radio, which is simply talkback for the liberal left intelligentsia).

However, giving credit where credit is due, this afternoon I heard an interview that was the exception to the rule. Maggie Barry's interview of Michael Bain, brother of Robin and uncle to David, on Radio Live was superb. She asked all the hard questions such as, why go public now (is it because David is about to seek the return of the estate in court) and why does he have so much faith in his brother's innocence when he had only seen Robin three times in the last 25 years? What's more, she did it without interrupting all the time and being otherwise offensive to the interviewee.

The interview made me remember what a great current affairs journalist Maggie was before she was put out to pasture as a gardening programme host. Around the same time, we had another great journalist and interviewer in Lindsay Perigo. The amazing thing about Perigo was that no one knew he held rabid right wing political views until after he retired as a political journalist. These days no one is in any doubt of the political persuasion of most NZ news media people (witness John Campbell, who was disgracefully sycophantic towards Helen Clark in his pre-election coverage last year).

Bravo, Maggie Barry. The country desperately needs more of your kind in the media.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The ‘H’ Debacle – Where Will it End?

So the bureaucrats of the NZ Geographic Board have, entirely predictably, decided to change the name of the city of Wanganui. Never mind that the residents of Wanganui overwhelmingly don’t want it changed and the historical case for change is, at best, speculative. They’ve done the politically correct thing and will ensure the city and its businesses incur hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in cost changing everything from street signs to letterheads.

So what is next? Will Petone have to be changed to “Pito-one”, Porirua to “Pari-rua”, and Otago to “Otakou”?

The Maori language is not immutable. Maori themselves have adapted their language to modern times, adding a huge number of new words to the language (such as “kawhe” for coffee) and adapting others where necessary. They have adapted many English words and names for their own use (as such “Poneke” for Port Nicholson). And it is not as if Maori, particularly young Maori, are paragons of usage and pronunciation when it comes to English (yes, it’s “youse bros” I’m talking about).

So, it is a little rich when they come over all indignant and high-handed about a Maori place name has changed marginally over time through common usage, which may be the case with Wanganui (or it simply may be, as I have heard at least one Maori language scholar state, that the word was always pronounced with a “w” sound, not a “wh”).

As other bloggers have been quick to point out, there are far more important problems for Maori to be concerned about such as family violence, criminal offending rates, health and educational achievement.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Yet more taxes

I see the NZ Labour Party is saying they will support the National Government in introducing capital gains tax on property ( That's just what this country needs - yet more taxes!

The thing that amazes me about New Zealand is the way the politicians and media seem to have this impression that there are all these 'rich' people out there living off the pig's back who are capable of paying more taxes.

Let's examine one of these so-called rich people. Charlie works in a middle management role in a bank to support his wife and two children. He earns $100K before tax. He will be paying about $30K in tax and ACC levies, which leaves him with about $70K or $1,400 a week. That sounds like a lot of money but let's look at his expenses:

- $500/week goes to pay his mortgage on the relatively modest villa he and his wife are doing up in the weekends
- $100/week goes to pay the rates and insurance on the villa
- $150/week goes on the energy to heat and light the villa (actually this is low, given the price gouging by the Gov't-owned energy companies)
- $100/week goes on petrol for his (modest) car
- $400/week goes on groceries (again a low estimate for a family of four)
- $50/week goes on a myriad of other Government charges such as motor vehicle registration, 'voluntary' school fees, passport fees, etc.

What does that leave our rich man? $100/week to cover everything else:
- Clothing
- Entertainment
- Furnishings
- Arts/cultural interests
- Sports
- etc.

Of course, on most of the above, the Government takes one-ninth in GST. And the Labour Party want to hit him with more taxes? To fund what? Oh yes, to fund their new Ministry of Social Inclusion! WTF?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Justice only for the politically correct?

I see the NZ Green Party leader is complaining about the cost to the taxpayer ($38m so far) of the BNZ tax avoidance case. The natural extension of his whinging is that the BNZ shouldn't be contesting the case at all. In other words, he is saying that large taxpayers shouldn't have the right to natural justice and the rule of law shouldn't prevail. They are guilty by accusation.

It always amazes me how liberal left politicians and commentators, who are the first to cry about human rights and natural justice when one of their constituency is charged with a crime, are happy to abandon their principles in the case like this.

Their willingness to compromise on their scruples where it suits them politically is hypocritical and a very slippery slope that ultimately leads to Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

$406M for 1/4 mile of road

The NZ Government is to spend $406M on a short piece of road in Auckland. All 440m of it - that's the old quarter mile! What are they paving it with - gold bricks? This apparent bargain, which is being paid for mostly by those who don't live in Auckland, will make it slightly quicker for the people of the North Shore to drive their cars into the central city. I don't normally find myself in accord with the Greens but I'm with them on this one - what a complete waste of money! Christ, spend it on trains, buses, donkeys and carts...anything else has got to be a better and cheaper solution to Auckland's transport woes than a $406M quarter mile sprint track for one-person-per-car Aucklanders to get to work!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Nanny State Peering in Our Windows

Yesterday, I was listening to New Zealand's human rights commissioner, Roslyn Noonan, talking on the radio about the forthcoming referendum on the child smacking law. For anyone outside New Zealand who might be reading this, this law repealed the legal defence of reasonable discipline available for parents. The law means New Zealand parents can be charged with assault for smacking their children.

Firstly, let me make it clear that I have never smacked my children and I find it appalling when I see other parents whacking their unfortunate kids. However, I believe most parents are the best arbiters of their children's behaviour and that if they want to administer a reasonable and non-injuring smack then that should be their prerogative.

Ms Noonan said that parents should be supported (by state bureaucrats, of course) so that it is not necessary for them to administer physical punishment. This is the primary issue I have with this law. Its proponents believe that bureaucrats have better judgement in the upbringing of our children than we parents. They believe it is good and proper for the state to look in the windows of every house in the country to ensure parents are adhering to their view of what constitutes good parental behaviour. They want the power to dictate not only how we discipline our children but what they eat, what games they play, how they interact with other children, etc.

I find their Utopian view of a nanny state that interferes with every aspect of people's lives far more concerning than having parents physically discipline a child when they consider it necessary. It seems that child welfare, like environmentalism, has become the cause du jour for disaffected, left-wing politicos to impose their views on the rest of us.

We don't need their interference to bring up our kids to become good citizens and confident adults. So, to put it bluntly, they should bugger off and leave us alone!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to create a small business...

...give a New Zealander a large business!

The old Aussie joke is a little mean but I'm afraid it has a lot of truth. Over the past 25 years we have seen all the large NZ industrial companies either fail or reduced to slim shadows of their former selves. Fletcher Challenge, Carter Holt Harvey, Brierley Investments, Telecom, Air NZ, Fisher and Paykel...even Fonterra has not performed as expected following its creation from the dairy companies Kiwi and NZ Dairy Group.

I believe the reason that NZ is number 35 by GDP per capita (2008 purchasing power parity) and Australia is number 4, is that Australians know how to build and sustain big companies. Likewise the US, UK, The Netherlands, Finland, Italy and the other countries in the top 10.

We consistently read surveys rating NZ one of the best countries in the world to do business and we hear our prime ministers raving about our successes like Swazi, Line7, Old Fashioned Foods and Xero and how they are pursuing policies to encourage such innovative start-ups. But it takes a hell of a lot of Swazis to make up for one failed Fletcher Challenge. Our previous government managed to wipe $2B off our largest company, Telecom, in one day through their bumbling management of telecommunications policy. Think of how many Xeros it takes to make that up!

The record shows that NZ is a barren place for big companies. We're too small and too isolated with too high a cost structure, I hear you say. Finland is small and isolated and one of the most expensive countries in the world in which to live and do business and yet they have Nokia (and Kone and Metso and many other world-leading companies). And most of Finland is in darkness for half of the year!

New Zealanders love to see our sports people win and our musicians and film-makers on the podiums at world events, but when it comes to success in business, our petty jealousies come to the fore. This is a country where too often people vandalise expensive cars out of spite. Unfortunately, many New Zealanders do not appreciate that the owners of those cars are probably providing them with jobs.

If this country wants to climb back up the international ladder, the only way we are going to do it is to create and grow some very big companies. Unfortunately that will inevitably mean we'll create some very wealthy people along the way. New Zealanders and our governments need to learn to love and nurture big businesses if they are to earn the standard of living they expect.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Newspaper Replies

The response to my letter from the General Manager of The Dominion Post:

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Over many years I have found that readers' tastes, preferences and ideas vary greatly and that the daily newspaper finds it impossible to meet everyone's desires and needs.

We are constantly lambasted for positive/violent news on the front page and so purposely leaven the offering with warmer, more empathetic news and pictures when they are available. The picture of the cute dogs in their coats is part of that. It doesn't appeal to you but we know that it resonates with many of our readers. Kids and animals always play well. Similarly, we gave extensive coverage to the Melbourne shooting and subsequent arrests because we believe there is interest in what happens with our closest neighbour. The Korean crisis had already had plenty of coverage for days, similarly the evolving situation in Iran which got strong coverage today. But for trying to vary the offering you accuse us of being something of an English tabloid or gossip magazine. I make no apologies for the paper being seen as populist if the alternative is that we are seen as elitist or only interested in the serious and the mundane. A newspaper that takes such an aloof approach is doomed. A daily paper is a smorgasbord, it delivers a lot to its readers who can choose what they want from the buffet.

I note you think you will be better served by the web. Interesting to note that when you read online the news that you will be looking for in RSS feeds and searches will actually be produced by the Dominion Post and other newspapers and news agencies. Without the papers your internet diet would be thin to say the least. I hope newspapers will still be around to provide you with that.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More on newspapers...

Here is the letter I sent to the editor of our local newspaper in response to his letter inquiring why I have cancelled my subscription:

Thank you for your letter of 15th June regarding my cancelled subscription to The Dominion Post. You say you would like to know why I cancelled and I am happy to outline the reasons.

Firstly, I find that the Internet is increasingly my primary source of news. I receive RSS feeds from the BBC, The New Zealand Herald and other sites that I find present the local and international news in a far more accessible and comprehensive format than your newspaper.

But the main reason I have cancelled is because I do not like the direction that The Dominion Post has taken in the last several years. Take today's edition (20-21 June), for example. The front page lead, with a red banner headline, is a story about a minor fraud committed by a Wellington man against a TradeMe executive. Surely a red banner headline signifies a more important story than this? Most of the rest of the front page is taken up with a story about some dogs that people have knitted coats for! The only other story on the front page is a small piece about the weather for tonight's test match.

Then we go to the World news section. The entire front page and most of page two is taken up with background pieces on a Melbourne gang family that is really only of minor interest to New Zealanders. The leading world news story - the evolving situation in Iran - is given two short columns on page 3. If the North Koreans land a missile on Hawaii tomorrow, I dare say you'll tuck it in after the stories about cats and babies and the diets of minor entertainment industry figures!

Simply put, your newspaper has turned into a cross between an English tabloid and an American gossip magazine. You are clearly aiming at the populist market and are no longer interested in being a serious broadsheet that focuses on genuine news. I can't blame you for pursuing this strategy - going by the recent article on your front page about your increasing readership (which, frankly, is another indictment on your use of your front page), it is successful. But if I want gossip and so-called human interest (or puppy interest) stories, I would rather read the Women's Weekly.

If it is any consolation, I no longer watch the television news for the same reasons.

I appreciate you writing to inquire about my cancellation. Perhaps there is hope for your newspaper after all.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What will I use to wrap the rubbish in?

I've given up newspapers. Finally. For some time now, I've tended to get most of my news online with RSS feeds from BBC, NZ Herald and Stuff, and I've been getting more and more frustrated with the print media. The local newspaper here in Wellington is the Dominion Post, which came into being about five years ago when the morning paper, The Dominion, was merged with the The Evening Post. The editors like to proclaim its success with self-congratulatory articles about its increasing circulation and that may be fact, but they've done it by turning a good broadsheet into a trashy tabloid-like rag. Banner headlines on the front page now proclaim social interest articles interspersed with political commentary rather than heralding genuine news.

I have long since given up on TV news and recently stopped listening to our public radio because it is slightly to the left of Mao Tsedong in its editorial policy, so I'm left with the wonderful, eclectic, catering-to-all Web as my sole source of news.

I don't feel I've lost anything at all.