Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

When Mike Williams and Matthew Hooten agree on something political it’s time to sit up and take notice.  During their regular spot, “Commentary From The Left And From The Right” on National Radio this morning (Monday 5 March) , they talked about Ports of Auckland. They agreed that management is a dinosaur (Matthew’s word), and that the dispute with the union is unnecessary. 

I don’t know much about the dispute other than that Ports of Auckland wants to set up a contractual workforce similar to that at the Port of Tauranga.

I also didn’t know much about Ports of Auckland’s expansion plans, and I’ll bet that most Aucklanders don’t either.  Particularly as Aucklanders are so lethargic about politics compared with those of us who live the Capital.  Should they be worried? Heck yes. Ports of Auckland wants to use 200 hectares of prime waterfront to expand the port. Management wants to compete with Tauranga and Marsden Point.

Problem is, Auckland can’t take the super sized container ships that are the future of shipping. The port could only take them in a very few very high tides. Tauranga is deep enough to take them, but isn’t big enough to take many. Marsden Point easily has 200 hectares available to expand, and it can take lots of these big ships. The cost of expanding Auckland Port is huge and a waste of valuable resources.. Marsden Point is the obvious place for NZ’s major port. All that’s needed is $40 million to build a train line between Marsden Point and Auckland. 

So, Aucklanders, get off your butts and do something about the management of Ports of Auckland. At stake is something far bigger than a union dispute. You’ll end up paying mega bucks for an expanded port that won’t be used, and you’ll lose a piece of your waterfront. If i heard correctly, part of this $2 billion spend on roads in Auckland will go on accessing the port.

I haven’t researched any of what I heard on the radio, but like I said, when all this comes collectively from Mike Williams and Matthew Hooton, and they are in total agreement that the management of Ports of Auckland is wasting resources trying to be something that it never can be, then it’s time to delve further. 

Something’s wrong at Ports of Auckland, and it goes way beyond a dispute with the union.


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A while ago I posted “A Diamond is Merely a Lump of Coal That Did Well Under Pressure” At the time I was reflecting on the power of this imagery, how it encapsulates so many ideas about strength, inner beauty, hard work and so on.
But take a look at the blood diamond calligram “Not All Diamonds Are The Same”

The literary and visual image of a diamond as a thing of beauty and desirability has been tarnished by their use to fund corrupt governments and military activities in parts of Africa. However, the Kimberly Process sought to keep these Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds from being traded. The governments of participating countries are required to certify where the diamonds have come from and to guarantee that the diamonds being traded are conflict free. The diamond industry and various NGOs such as Global Witness, as well as other member states, are official observers who can check that the certification process is genuine. It has been successful in helping some countries reduce the flow of conflict diamonds and to increase official stocks but Zimbabwe is a notable exception.
So it seems incredible that the Kimberley Process has authorised exports by two companies operating in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields. Members of the military are known to have tortured and killed workers in the mines, and used the money from the diamonds to fund illegal government activity. Global Witness has suggested that members of Zimbabwe’s ruling party may use revenue from the area to fund the intimidation of voters ahead of elections.
As a result of the decision to authorise the Mirange diamonds Global Witness has withdrawn from the Kimberly Process, an organisation it helped set up.
Previously, The EU and the US had blocked any move to lift the ban, but late last year said that Zimbabwe has made considerable gains in addressing areas of non-compliance. It’s hard to see how, especially as the military is still involved in running the mines.
Lifting the ban undermines any credibility that the Kimberly Process may have had, and raises the question why, the US and EU have suddenly changed their positions.
Consumers can no longer be reasonably sure that a diamond certified by the Kimberly Process is not a blood diamond. The only thing a responsible person can do is insist on seeing the provenance of the stone being purchased. Some retailers, such as Michael Hill, already do this.

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It seems that the OECD has been somewhat mischievous in its reporting of the gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand. One can only wonder why it has reported its “findings” in such a dramatic fashion. Why has it only told part of the story?

Tony Alexander, chief economist BNZ, has looked closely at the OECD data it used to claim that New Zealand has the fastest growing gap between rich and poor in the developed world. Alexander reports in his weekly overview that the gap was accelerating between 1986 and 2000, but since then the gap has continued to close.

So for the last ten years, while in other OECD countries the gap has continued to increase, the gap between rich and poor in New Zealand has been closing. A good thing. A fact not reported by the OECD.

Tony Alexander attributes the closing of the gap to the reforms of the mid eighties finally reaching their full economic effect in the mid nineties.

While some people might find his opinion galling, the fact remains that in New Zealand the trend is to closing the gap between rich and poor.

An increasing gap between rich and poor gives rise to social discontentment and resentment. Perception can become reality in people’s minds and that is why I accuse the OECD of being mischievous and biased in its reporting.

I would go further and suggest that the misleading claim by the OECD is dangerous to New Zealand’s social cohesion and that much of the damage has already been done and is difficult to undo. Peoples’ first impressions and perception are often lasting and difficult to refute, a behaviour well known to advertisers, marketers and those in PR.

Nonetheless, the gap between rich and poor in NZ is much higher in 2010 than in 1986, and there are too many people who, for whatever reason, are unable to feed and house themselves adequately … The gap needs to close, and close more quickly.

The OECD statistics are available on http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/39/45/49170007.xls

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“The gap between rich and poor has widened further in New Zealand – and in Sweden – than in any other developed countries in the past 25 years …. (The OECD report ) calls for “three pillars” of action to close the gap – investing more in education and training, helping all groups into jobs, and closing tax loopholes to make the rich pay a fairer share of taxes.”

Simon Collins,  NZ Herald December 7 2011

Warning: the following contains unverified “facts” (there’s an oxymoron!),  and a mixture of my own opinions and those of others.

Much of the discussion I have heard today (National Radio Morning Report and The Panel) has focused on taxing the rich to pay more for government services, which raises two points – who are the rich, and how do you tax them.  Bernard Hickey said that the rich are those earning one and a half times the average wage ie in NZ, $70,000;  one of Jim Mora’s guests suggested that California’s bid to increase taxes of those earning US$250,000 is about right; another guest referred to Obama’s suggestion to tax millionaires to pay forgovernment projects, but also pointed out that in NZ only about 30,000 people earn more than $100,000. Bernard Hickey also suggested that NZ could close one tax loophole here by introducing a land tax, given that some rich people had quadrupled even quintupled their wealth over the last ten years by buying properties.

Someone I spoke to today (he was on the Savings and Capital Working group and has worked in the finance and energy sectors) said that taxation is the least of NZ’s problems. He knocked off the other two pillars in one blow by explaining that the export/manufacturing sector we need can’t develop because of one key factor – no energy policy. Overseas investors won’t come here, because our energy supply is inconsistent, inefficient and costly! Exporting commodities such as logs yields a fifty per cent return, exporting a partially transformed product eg cardboard boxes yield about seventeen per cent, and a fully transformed product eg furniture yields about three pc return. Why? Not just because of investment in plant, but because of problems with energy supply. Apparently, ten years ago the Dairy industry planned to have half its milk production in “elaborately transformed” product … It hasn’t happened because of the investment costs … And no energy policy.

So with an energy policy we wouldn’t have such a large unskilled workforce, people would have to be up skilled to manufacture “transformed product”. Productivity would increase and we could stop worrying about who these rich people are who will pay for clean rivers, public education, public health, and universal super, as well as working for families, and interest free loans.

Who would have thought it … An energy policy  …  Bring back Electricity Corporation?

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It’s been announced that 400 million dollars from the sale of state assets will be used for farm irrigation. What are the chances that farmers accessing this money will first have to demonstrate that farm run off doesn’t end up in the nearest rivers and waterways? That waterways are effectively protected by effluent tanks, tree planting to help sieve excess minerals, and so on …

Otherwise it’s a lolly scramble, but the lollies are toxic …

Our waterways are already polluted by farm runoff, subsidies for farm irrigation may only worsen the problem.

As an aside, government forecasts include doubling dairy production, yet there are no suggestions where the land is going to come from, or how the land and water is going to be protected from the doubling of production. As economist Rod Oram pointed out, it doesn’t add up.

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Is anyone else puzzled by poll results that show most New Zealanders don’t want the sale of state assets, yet most New Zealanders will vote for a National government?

It doesn’t add up. JOIN THE DOTS NEW ZEALANDERS. If we don’t want state assets sold, then don’t vote for the party that wants to sell state assets.

If New Zealanders are thinking we can have it both ways, that retaining a majority share of fifty one per cent in state assets means that we’re not really selling the assets, then think again. Minority share holders have rights, particularly those holding over twenty five percent. Their ownership cannot be prejudiced by the decisions of the majority share holders. RETAINING A FIFTY ONE PERCENT SHARE IN THE ASSET MEANS WE HAVE SOLD THE ASSET.

And another thing. Ninety per cent of New Zealanders don’t want our farms sold to foreigners. Yet the party most likely to allow the sale of New Zealand farmland is the National party. Where is the logic?

Once I was a green National. But I believe the state should retain full ownership of it’s assets, and productive land should stay in New Zealand ownership. The argument for majority ownership of fifty one per cent by New Zealanders is even more flimsy when it comes to land ownership. It’s too easy for greedy New Zealanders to have a two or three percent ownership then sell their vote to the

minority share holder. Now I’m plain green.

But what really bothers me is not the colour of people’s politics, it’s the lack of logic, the inconsistency, the stupidity of saying “I don’t want our state assets to be sold” then in the next breath effectively saying “I’ll vote for the party that will sell our state assets”

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“RNZ top job another for home team” was the editorial in Sunday Star Times April 17. Broadcasting Minister Coleman has appointed Richard Griffith to chair Radio New Zealand.

Griffith is a) a PR pro and b) a National lackey having been media advisor to a previous National Government. Griffith is the sixth appointment by this government to a Board of seven.

This is a problem for at least three reasons:

RNZ is the closest New Zealand has to Public Service Broadcasting. It should be free from political interference and commercial pressures, so it can educate and inform the public without bias. Its independence is important to democracy. Can RNZ now be seen as unbiassed?

As the editorial points out, National has often complained that RNZ journalists are lefties. Is Griffith expected to get rid of this “perceived bias”?

The editorial reminds us that the government has just loaned $43.3m to Mediaworks (owns TV3). Not only is this yet another bailout of a private company, but way more scary is the possibility that the government is stacking public and private broadcasters to get good press in an election year.

Politically I’m a green national and I’ve supported this government til now. Actually, til Bill English said that NZ should be a low wage economy, meaning we compete with Vietnam and Cambodia for low wages – given that China and India have publically stated they want higher wages for their workers. How much crap does this government think New Zealanders can swallow?

Scrapping RNZ independence is the last straw for me.

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