Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Saving the Church

I had the strange experience of sitting next to a retiring left-wing Auckland local body politician on a plane over the weekend. Her day job was a “landscape architect”. Some of the highlights of the conversation:

IP: Oh, so at which university did you do your architecture degree?

LWALBP: I didn’t do an architecture degree.

IP: Oh, right. So what does a landscape architect do? Are you like a gardener?


IP: So you don’t dig holes and move soil around and plant trees?

LWALBP: (Mindless, incomprehensible babble proceeds)

Then this ripper:

IP: So, given that you’re retiring, what has been the highlight of your years of local government experience? What’s been your greatest achievement?

LWALBP: I was instrumental in saving the Methodist Church in Mount Eden.

IP: Oh, great. Why did it need saving?

LWALBP: Because the Methodist Church was going to sell it.

IP: Why were they going to sell it?

LWALBP: Because people weren’t going to church services anymore.

IP: Oh, right. So you got more people to go along to Church?

LWALBP: No, I secured council money to get a fundraising campaign, and got some money from Council to help keep the Church going.

IP: Why did you want the Methodist Church to keep going in Mount Eden?

LWALBP: Because it’s a pretty building, and people should be able to sit in their cafes and look at it while having their coffee.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Labour's Next Leader?

I tend to agree that Labour's caucus would be bloody stupid to roll HC before the next election. Changing leader never works. I simply don't agree with the revisionist view that Moore helped Labour mitigate an absolute disaster when he was made leader seven weeks before the 1990 election: Labour had its worst result since 1935 at that time.

Helen Clark clearly has the support from Labour's three factions: the unions, the organisational wing, and the rainbow faction. None of them support Goff, and they never will. Helen Clark has successfully, over the last fourteen years, weeded out pretty much anbody who doesn't support her, and has fashioned the Party in her own image. That's good politics, and is a tribute to her political skill, ruthlessness, and longevity.

Goff's faction--the rump that still exists, consists primarily of Clayton Cosgrove, Harry Duynhoven, Annette King, Damien O'Connor, Dover Samuels, George Hawkins, and Paul Swain. Several of them are retiring at the next election. But that's it. Cunliffe could potentially support Goff, and he's politically much more closely aligned to him, but would only do so to see Goff fall flat on his face following a major defeat. Cunliffe aspires to the job himself, and would much rather take the deputy role to a left-leaning leader, see the leader take the hit, and slide into the job himself.

Having said that, Labour's MPs are a mercenary bunch: they don't generally have options outside of Parliament, and will swarm to whomever is most likely to save their skins. Maharey has cooked his own goose, and despite his prior ambition, he's now no longer interested in the leadership, and is most likely to announce in the next few months that he is taking up an academic post at Massey University and not standing at the next election. Mallard has also spoiled his ambitions with his muck-raking backfiring on him.

So who's left for leadership contention? Michael Cullen, a list MP, will retire soon after the 2008 election, rather than serve out a term in opposition. Annette King will be 61 at the next election: she would be a safe deputy leader, but she won't aspire to the role in opposition.

Mark Gosche has the political skills to grab the leadership if he wants it, but he's taken a back seat over the last few years to focus on his family life. He would have the support of the unions if he wanted it, and has the back-door cunning to snaffle the job for the Left in the Party. But there's no indication that he wants it.

Helen Clark will resign after the next election, but not before. Her problem is that there is nobody of the Left remaining who has the skills, and isn't tarnished by her office, to replace her. Pete Hodgson could emerge as an interim leader, which would satisfy the Left of the Party, but his macchiavellian tendencies, and downright human nastiness, will see him fall over quickly. Cunliffe could work as his deputy, hoping to inherit the leadership when Hodgson fails. Goff won't work as Hodgson's deputy.

Goff's only hope of winning the leadership after Clark steps down is to take over finance, and force Cullen out of the deputy leadership before the election. Both are reasonably likely. Goff will have to play a long game to undo Clark's years of stacking her party with her own supporters. If he takes the leadership, he cannot expect to get Labour into Government within the next two terms. That is a demoralising position for any leader.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bad Nat

One of the temptations of an opposition party running high in the polls, in a relatively strong economic climate, with large fiscal surpluses, is to do as little as possible to damage its political constituency by presenting alternative options to the electorate. There are sound reasons for this. The most important of which, on broad economic policy, is that the flailing Government, short of good ideas, will steal the Opposition’s agenda at any cost to retain office.

For this reason, the Nats aren’t going to announce any broad economic policy until after Michael Cullen delivers his last budget next year. Apart from the risk of copycat policy-making from the government in retreat, the Nats simply don’t know how much money there will be to play with. All the indications are that Labour will throw caution to the wind, and use every resource at its disposal to offer massive bribes to the electorate. Fiscal prudence will be the first victim of Labour’s 2008 budget. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Cullen revises the Reserve Bank’s inflation agreement, to allow Alan Bollard to allow looser monetary policy within Cullen’s massive spending binge.

I simply don’t agree with criticisms of John Key as Labour-Lite. We won’t know what the big ticket policy items are for another ten months. The proof of the accusations of pink toryism won’t have any validity until John Key and Bill English commit to higher government spending in the long term. Frankly, I just can’t see that happening.

While I’m sympathetic to the view that Kate Wilkinson didn't actually endorse the proposal (instead saying it was a "welcome contribution to the discussion"), she should have slammed it immediately. It’s simply bad political practice to encourage a document from the Families Commission that is economically unworkable.

The country simply can’t afford to pay new mothers parental leave for 14 months in the short, or even medium term. And nor should the National Party be welcoming it. Sure, Kate Wilkinson was only publicly stating that she will take the proposal to Caucus. Yet any indication that the Nats are prepared to outspend Labour with taxpayers’ money, is a bloody poor message to be sending to overburdened taxpayers. It’s bloody stupid to be hinting at a massive fiscal injection independently from National’s broader economic policy.

John Key took a much more moderate position on Breakfast TV this morning, and certainly wasn’t endorsing the proposal. But Wilkinson should never have been endorsing it in the first place.

What Wilkinson should have said, and what John Key should have said this morning is:

“Look. The reality is that after eight years of Labour Government, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have thrown billions upon billions of taxpayers’ money at all kinds of social problems. Taxpayers have paid for it, and the cost has been years of missed opportunity for New Zealanders to grow their incomes. Governments generally don’t spend money better than individuals do. Labour has shown for eight long years that it is ideologically opposed to people becoming wealthier, and instead throws money at people it wants to bribe. National is committed to allowing New Zealanders who aspire to have more, to have the economic independence to make their own choices with their money.

The reality is that New Zealanders simply aren’t wealthy enough to afford such a gold class paid parental leave policy. We aren’t wealthy enough to pour billions more money into health and education, as Labour has done, with no improvement in outcomes. If we’re going to spend more taxpayers’ money, we should expect much better results for taxpayers. We just haven’t had the better results. We can’t afford to be paying 24,000 more civil servants, either. New Zealand taxpayers are struggling to get ahead, not because we don’t have a gold class paid parental leave policy, but because Labour believes in taxing New Zealanders so heavily that they can’t get ahead.

There is a problem in New Zealand with a low birth rate. It is an enormous financial commitment for middle income New Zealanders to have children. Ironically, the state currently encourages many people without the tools to advance themselves economically or socially, to have children they’re not equipped to have. That isn’t a workable policy prescription. The solution is to provide an environment where people take responsibility for the children they do have, and for the state to allow those who do take responsibility for their actions, to have greater freedom to exercise their choices with the money they earn.

This policy proposal from the Families Commission is a precursor to the Government bribing you again with your money at the next election. Michael Cullen will announce another $500 million in his budget, because he is hellbent on doing all he can to expand the size of the state, at your expense. That policy prescription doesn't work. You save and invest your money far better than Michael Cullen does."

It should have been a huge opportunity to slate the excesses of this Labour Government, that they have set up the absurd Families Commission, full of irrational civil servants, who have nothing better to do other than come up with stupid policy proposals that just aren’t affordable. Instead, Kate and Judith have missed the boat by taking a woolly approach that will never be implemented.

Monday, August 27, 2007

When the Poultry Comes Home To Roost...

Politics can be a dirty game. Just ask Don Brash.

Having inherited the leadership of the National Party after its biggest ever election defeat in 2002 to within a whisker of winning the Treasury benches in 2005, it was always clear that Labour’s knives would be out for him.

It is an unwritten convention in New Zealand politics that while politicians themselves are fair game, an attack that is likely to bring harm against the family of the politician isn’t. The Press Gallery generally cooperate with this. Thus when Trevor Mallard and David Benson-Pope claimed under parliamentary privilege that Brash was involved with another woman, Brash decided he’d had enough of politics: that his family and personal life were more important than becoming Prime Minister.

It is the nature of parliamentary life that MPs spend most of their time away from their families. This puts a strain on their relationships. They are also permanently in the public spotlight, and are subject to the kinds of temptations away from home that they simply weren’t exposed to prior to coming to Wellington.

MPs from all sides of the House have, in the past, suffered marital breakdown. It isn’t new in politics. It’s also not uncommon for a jilted spouse, out of spite, to break the story: thus David Lange’s split with his wife hit the headlines in 1989. So too did Don McKinnon’s, some years later, in similar circumstances.

The story is never about the break-up, or the infidelity, for good reason. Gallery journalists are not immune to aphrodisiacs of fame and power, and are frequently too close to the political players to risk damaging media relationships about matters that the public doesn’t want to hear about. Yet when a jilted wife decides to out her husband for having an affair that has led to the end of a long-term marriage, the story gathers a degree of legitimacy.

So too is there legitimacy around a public figure making public, moral statements that are at odds with their behaviour. The hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich, then speaker of the US house of representatives, leading the charge against Bill Clinton, after thrice-married Gingrich had served divorce papers against his critically ill wife while he was having an affair, made Gingrich a legitimate target. Brazen hypocrisy, as Gingrich found, is bad politics.

So too is the story of Trevor Mallard’s marital split legitimate. This is the same man who hounded Don Brash out of public office. It is simply cowardly for the Gallery to put Mallard’s break-up—which they have known about for two months, after Mallard went around the Gallery explaining it to them, and how he expected them to respect his privacy—in the context of all the other failed marriages in politics.

Again, the story isn’t about Mallard’s marital split: it’s about the hypocrisy of a man who deliberately conspired to dirty political life in New Zealand for political gain, engaging in the same kind of behaviour that he alleged of Don Brash.

Trevor Mallard’s family legitimately deserve privacy at this time. Mallard himself doesn’t deserve. It has been well known in Wellington for some time that Mallard’s marital split has not come about simply due to the stresses and strains of political life: there is another person involved. It is time the media fronted up and asked Mallard the hard question: in light of the way he used Don Brash’s personal life to destroy Brash’s will to continue in politics, what right does Mallard think he has to be treated with respect and privacy when his marriage breaks down?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Muckraking Tony Censors Blog--Again!

You would have thought that Tony Milne, Labour Party council member and left-wing candidate for Council, might have learned from his last censorship activities: despite his attempts to conceal the outrageous and defamatory claims he made on his blog about Mayoral front-runner Bob Parker, it appears that Tony still has time to read from Pete Hodgson's song-sheet.

I made a comment on his post pointing out that I expected Tony to censor it, but the fact that Tony got into hot legal water the last time he engaged in muck-raking doesn't seem to have deterred him.

Tony Milne is not a bad guy. He's relatively bright, given the company he keeps. But he does seem to be very misguided. It's clearly not in his nature to engage in this kind of shit-flinging. How much pressure are otherwise good and hard-working Labour Party officials under to attempt to assasinate the character of National's leader?

How long before these otherwise upstanding and loyal Labour Party members see the light, and accept that trying to pull down John Key will only damage their political fortunes further? Or is another strategy at play? Is Pete Hodgson on a suicide mission within the Labour Party: to harm its electoral chances so significantly as to prime the Party for a total purge next year?

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Party Line

Question: What is the connection between David Benson-Pope lying to everybody again about the activities of his staffer, and rules to “enhance the transparency of campaign finance laws”?

Answer: On the face of it, nothing.

Except when you consider this.

It isn’t just Helen Clark, David Parker and David Benson-Pope who are spouting this spineless waffle. All the Ministers are, at any opportunity.

The wonks are in overdrive coming up with this shit. Throughout the public service, sustainability has become the catch-word for more money. Leading the charge is the Ministry for the Environment, with all sorts of useful advice on how to be green.

But it is everywhere. The Ministry of Economic Development--those who never actually create any economic value--tell us how to run sustainable businesses .

Thus, tourism has to become sustainable tourism. Transport, the biggest single industry contributor to carbon emissions, is obviously fronting a big chunk of the work. MAF has come up with a big body of work to look at agricultural sustainability. The Ministry of Education has advisers telling schools how they should go about building “sustainable buildings”. Te Puni Kokiri now exists to promote Maori economic transformation in an environmentally friendly way. Research into sustainability has become a key theme. All in all, there are some 22,000 pages and policy documents on government websites discussing environmental sustainability.

Evidently, it hasn't occurred to anybody in government that government itself would be a whole lot economically, and environmentally sustainable if there weren't so many fucking civil servants blowing so much precious air talking about it.

The communications units of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Development are being beefed up this year in anticipation of outrageous levels of public spending in the second half of next year on reducing energy use and environmental sustainability. Huge advertising that will echo everything that Labour has said, but done nothing about, its biggest policy platform of this term.

Millions upon millions of taxpayers’ money will be spent by government departments preaching Labour’s dying gasps of office. As a voter, you simply won’t be able to tell the difference between a Helen Clark advertisement for Labour, and a Helen Clark advertisement for sustainability. You will be overwhelmed with so much crap on television telling you to turn off your lights, drive more slowly, wear warmer clothes, shit less often, and swimming to Australia rather than flying Emirates, that you will be oblivious to the noise of any other kind of advertising on television. Except for the one with Jonah, that tells you that you should keep on watching telly and rack up more energy use, and not pay your power bill.

Because the Government hopes that by making a whole lot of noise about what you should be doing to drastically change your lifestyle, you will lose sight of the fact that on sustainability issues, the Government hasn’t actually achieved anything. Transport emissions have flatlined because of rising international oil prices: not because Labour’s done some grand and brilliant thing to magically make people more efficient. Agricultural emissions have climbed. Industrial energy consumption has grown with economic growth. As the government has hired tens of thousands more civil servants to huff and puff their way through analysis, so too does the Crown’s carbon footprint now need a much larger shoe.

The Government also wants you to forget in election year that the one tool that industry has to mitigate its carbon emissions—planting trees—has been wiped out by a greedy, tax-addicted government that is not just confiscating forestry carbon credits from industry, but also penalises foresters for not planting trees in the first place. It is the great nationalisation of forestry by any other name. The result of it is that there are fewer new trees being planted now than in several generations. New Zealand’s forestry stock is smaller now than fifty years ago.

You won’t hear that next year, because this Labour government doesn’t actually care about the reality. To ensure that you don’t hear about the reality of what is happening in the forestry industry, Labour, through Mark Burton, is introducing a piece of legislation banning the forestry industry from promoting its message next year, under the guise of restricting “third party advertising”.

You won’t hear from industry affected by Labour on its all-talk, no-action sustainability message. You won’t hear the contradictions, because only the Government, through its stupendous public information campaigns, will be telling you their side of the story.

The astonishing reality is that the reason David Benson-Pope and Helen Clark needed Madeleine Setchell out of her critical role at the Ministry for the Environment was not because they don’t trust her neutrality. On the contrary, they trust Satchell’s neutrality too much. The last person they need managing the Government’s biggest re-election spend-up is a person who might actually exercise a degree of impartiality and objectivity.

Not at all. For this kind of crusade, Labour needs somebody much more partisan.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Miss Piggy in Pink

Hot on the heels of Labour’s back-down on the Therapeutic Medicines Amendment Bill, there is no good news that Labour’s fortunes will improve in the next six months. Instead Labour is setting itself up for further electoral humiliation by treating taxpayers and democracy alike with contempt.

Mark Burton is a bumbling failure, and waste of political space. October’s local body elections are fast approaching, yet the Local Government Minister presides over a portfolio that has done nothing to radically reduce the unconscionable waste that Auckland’s civic leaders are engaging in. Instead of fixing Auckland’s not inconsiderable problems, Burton responds in the House today with this stunning piece of bureaucratese:

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Local Government) on behalf of the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: The Government is working in collaboration with Auckland councils on governance arrangements, because it is committed to promoting Auckland’s future as a world-class, internationally competitive city region. Key elements of this work include a stronger regional governance structure, an overarching regional strategic plan—that is, a “one plan”—and the regional sustainable development forum to develop such a plan.

He says nothing about capping rates, eliminating tracts of public servants who populate the seven local authorities in Auckland, or anything remotely concerning local electors in Auckland: good water systems, good roads, and a transparent and understandable, unified resource management and building structure.

The problem isn’t that Mark Burton is lazy. Instead, Burton is distracted. He has set his sights on silencing opposition to the Labour Party’s more extreme activities, and the moves to squash anybody who disagrees with the Labour Party take much higher priority than reforming the mindless garbage that is local government in New Zealand generally, and local government in Auckland in particular.

Next week, we will see Burton introducing the Electoral (Small Party Bribery and Labour Party Enemy Gagging) Amendment Bill into the House. The Bill will have two parts.

The first part will reallocate the taxpayer-funded slush account that determines how much of your money that political parties can blow during an election campaign on television advertising. The broadcasting allocation model that the Government proposes is a classic example of pork-barrel MMP politicking. In exchange for the support of the Greens, United Future, New Zealand First, and Progressive, Labour will give them a larger share of a bigger pool of broadcasting money to campaign at the next election.

This move is nothing short of corruption. The Labour Party clearly hasn’t listened to voter outrage at how they stole public money at the last election to pay for their campaign: they are extending the model again to give more money to their friends.

The broadcasting allocation model doesn’t need reform. It needs to be scrapped entirely. The model is an anachronism of two-party first-past-the-post electioneering. The only acceptable reform is to remove the funding source entirely, and raise the thresholds of party campaign spending, to allow each of the political parties to spend their own money on television advertising.

The second part of the Bill is even more insidious: it places draconian limits on how much third parties can spend advertising their positions. The Government calls this the “Exclusive Brethren clause”. That is bullshit. In reality, it limits the amount any third party can spend on any measure.

Let’s take the recent example of the well-organised opposition to the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill. My own view is that the legislation was a no-brainer. I find it staggering that such a trifling little move as applying the same regulations to voodoo remedies as pharmaceutical remedies stirred so much public debate. In the end, Health Minister Annette King blundered, and allowed voodoo science to mount much better arguments against the legislation than she could.

Yet that is political debate in action. Annette King’s performance was a political experiment rivalling Dr Bunsen Honeydew in incompetence.

To appropriately extend the Muppet analogy even further, Mark Burton has turned himself into Sam the Eagle of New Zealand politics. Having failed to win the argument on supplementary medicines, the Government now wants to ensure that there is no further opposition from interested parties on future legislation. Burton will try and ram this act of political censorship through under urgency.

And there’s a good reason why it wants to do it.

Labour’s problem is that it has left its legislative agenda too late to hold honest, open discussions and bed policies down before the election. As Idiot Savant notes, In November, on the eve of election year, the Government will introduce its policies on climate change.

A big chunk of the policy will involve hammering the forestry industry by placing impenetrable penalties on cutting down trees. Not only do forest owners miss out on the carbon credits that the Government confiscates from them: they will be thrashed for not creating the carbon credits in the first place.

Understandably, foresters are pissed off. So too are the thousands of mum and dad investors who ferreted away a proportion of the money that the government hasn't yet extorted from them as a savings vehicle, only to have it compromised after the fact by a Government that concerns itself more with punishing productive business than creating wealth for New Zealand.

On their behalf, forest owners will launch a major campaign expressing their position. The Labour Party does not want voters to hear the forestry industry’s arguments on the cusp of an election year, because they know they simply no longer has the political capital to win the small arguments, let alone the big ones.

This has nothing to do with "evening the playing field" of democracy. No single lobby group has anything like the power and authority of central government. Cabinet Ministers individually have whole swarms of press secretaries and policy analysts to mount the best arguments. If the combined resources of the $60 billion state cannot beat a $1 million advocacy campaign by a lobby group, then that speaks wonders about the paucity of the state's ideas. There is no place in a civil society for eliminating the competition for ideas in debate.

The last thing the Labour Party needs going into an election year is to lose the major debate about its major platform of its third term: sustainability. Its only means of winning the debate is by using the coercive power of the government to silence other views.

It’s time to play the music, and bring down the curtain on this muppet show of a regime.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Did Sneaky Tony Get The Lawyer's Call?

Whale-Oil highlights a sneaky change from Labour Party national councillor, and left-wing Christchurch city council aspirant Tony Milne on Tony's website.

Mustering the kind of bitchiness that only the radical left can manage, Tony referred to certain nasty "rumours" surrounding Christchurch Mayoral front-runner Bob Parker.

A sneaky revision of Tony's post deleted the reference, but he didn't remove an admonishing comment from innocentIII, tut-tutting Tony for reverting to socialist type.

Why did Tony remove the venomous remark? Was it simply an attempt to clean up his own behaviour, or did he get a call from Parker's lawyers threatening a defamation action?

Naughty boy, Tony. You should know by now that if you aspire to becoming a public figure, and you're going to engage in mud-slinging, you don't put yourself on the wrong side of litigation. The Labour Party just doesn't have enough money to bail you out.

Slightly new look...

Slightly new look to the site. Mainly 'cos I wanted to include a couple of features that weren't available on the new version of blogger.

Consequently, I've got rid of most of the old links. Any readers who think they're worth adding to my links should add comments here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Peak Oil for Dummies

Over at Kiwiblog, one of the themes of resident freak commenter, Roger Gnome (a Political Science honours student at Otago who normally runs the theory that New Zealand would be much better off if all employers were exterminated, and everybody was unionised), is peak oil. Along with the apparently looming global warming crisis, the world as we know it is reaching the end of “cheap oil”. According to the theory, new oil discoveries are in decline; production from currently exploited oil fields is at its highest point, and as demand for oil increases as the global economy grows, the price of oil will massively skyrocket.

There are two general theories around peak oil: the first that an imminent crisis is upon us, that by 2010 oil demand will outstrip production and prices will increase to a point that will cause global recession. The second, less gloomy theory, is that oil production will plateau, prices will increase gradually over time, and oil and energy uses will change to divert the gloomy outlook that the peak oil theorists advance.

The major problem with the peak oil theory is that the economic assumptions that they have been stunning in their flaws. In 1974, Marion Hubbert developed the “Hubbert Peak Theory", and applied it to a range of mineral resources: natural gas, coal, and metals. His predictions have had a mixed reception: he suggested coal reserves would last another couple of centuries. His natural gas claims relied on what was initially fairly scant knowledge of natural gas reserves.

Initially the alarmists claimed oil production would peak in 1989. Hubbert calculated that oil production would reach its peak in 1995. Later, he revised his predictions to 2005. The current consensus from peak oil alarmists is that 2010 is the year when oil prices will rise so dramatically as to cause global crisis.

The reasons for the changing predictions are much more broad than the environmentalists who advocate the theory want you to know. To make accurate forecasts about oil production on the one hand, and oil consumption on the other, you need to have a clear picture of the variables. The variables include the use of technology (which determines how easily you can drill the oil out of the ground), the accuracy of estimates of oil reserves, the alternative uses of oil and its substitutes in energy production, and geopolitical factors, in both OPEC and non-OPEC countries, which have major effects on the production of oil.

Suffice to say, for the last twenty years, peak oil enthusiasts have systematically taken a pessimistic view of oil production in their estimates, for both OPEC and non-OPEC countries. While proven middle eastern reserves are generally overestimated to gain better production rights within OPEC, knowledge of existing reserves in non-OPEC countries is fairly well documented. Yet peak oil proponents using the hubbert forecasting theory have monumentally failed to accurately estimate production and reserve levels even where there is good knowledge about oil reserve levels.

The reality is that oil production is determined by demand for oil, and geopolitical factors, rather than the status of reserves. Proven oil reserves are not running out anytime soon. Production technology is improving, making it less expensive to exploit existing proven reserves. Relatively high levels of oil now have nothing to do with oil supply, but everything to do with geopolitical tensions, and OPEC’s ability to exploit those tensions to maximise their oil returns
And, as we have seen in New Zealand’s Great South Basin this week, as oil prices increase, it becomes more economically viable to exploit other oil resources at current prices. This is consistent with a global trend of additional oil supplies coming onstream, outstripping demand for oil.

So here we have a pattern over the last twenty years: peak oil enthusiasts denying the data, making henny penny predictions about oil production which never eventuate, and continuing to extend the crisis date outwards to suit their analysis. Recent peak oil alarmists have claimed variously that “peak oil” will result in energy wars, recession, starvation, and worldwide devastation.

The predictions just don’t stack up with the facts. Existing oil reserves are in a very slow decline. That goes without saying. But existing oil reserves do not equate to total reserves, particularly as prices encourage new reserves to come onstream.

There is a common theme among those who advance peak oil theory. They are almost invariably from the environmental lobby. They are not in the business of making accurate economic forecasts. If they were, their predictions of peak oil prices would have led them to invest in oil companies, and made them very wealthy if their theory panned out.

The environmentalists' solutions for this supposed peak oil cataclysm aren't based in reality, either. As with the Kyoto Protocol, the rising demand for oil isn't coming from the Western society that the green lobbies want to punish in their great leap backwards, but from China and India. The US, and the OECD generally, is consistently investing in less oil-dependent technologies anyway. Meanwhile, as the ever-choking smog clouds rise over Mumbai and Shanghai, their increasing consumption of oil been an even greater contributor to rising prices than instability in Iraq and Iran.

There is no need for panic. The environmentalists’ will to transform people’s views through scare-mongering has little to do with oil production and supply, and everything to do with their desire to punish oil companies and reducing human dependency on oil. It’s an environmental argument, and trying to produce fringe pseudo-economic petrification theories as an excuse is as dishonest as their data.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Maia-watch is, admittedly, an amusing game to play on the internet. It ranks even more highly than Idiot-watch and Jordon-watch. Here we have a trio of cloistered, fringe pinkos who have nothing better to do with their time than loathe the system that gives them the luxury and freedoms to protest.

But by far, Maia-watch is the best fun of all, because she is just such a preposterous freak. Fish in a barrel.

It is no coincidence that the New Zealand blogs that most vigilantly scream against oppression are the first blogs to ban any comments that diverge from their own views. In recent months, in turn, Maia, Jordon, Idiot, and Tony Milne have all either tightly moderated comments, or banned them entirely. So much for liberty and wanting to explore other world views.

Maia is a stunning example of the excesses of the welfare state, and how socialists have become totally disconnected with sensible New Zealand. She is a screaming, hysterical, radical feminist Marxist who can only advocate her astonishing views by leeching off the education and welfare system that capitalism affords. One of my favourite aphorisms, “there is no welfare without wealth”, is completely lost on her.

Maia is the high-tide mark on welfare system abuse. Here we have an able-bodied, reasonably intelligent, active person with some skills, in a market that is crying out for skilled labour. Instead of going to a job every day and contributing to society, Maia works as a semi-professional rent-a-crowd member. She attends every protest under the sun.

If, like Nicky Hager, she were independently wealthy and reliant on a trust fund, such social indolence could almost be tolerated. But instead, we the taxpayers of New Zealand are the trustees of Maia’s funding source, and she abuses it at every opportunity.

Take this post, in which Maia expresses adulation for American communists in the 1940s and 1950s for brainwashing their children, and causing children to play Stalinist games involving persecution. In Maia’s world, not for the first time, we see children are a conduit to ideology.

Or try this perplexing piece of trolldom, where she makes the peculiar claim that “our racist police and justice system disproportionately beat-up and lock-up Maori much more frequently than Pakeha.”

Here Maia admits that in the past she has protested at Anzac Day dawn service, and has that perennial issue of how to diminish the public's perception of soldiers' bravery. She asks how is it that we commemorate soldiers, but not people who die from illnesses. Well, duh: it does not take an act of bravery to contract typhus. It does take an act of bravery to go to war to defend your country against totalitarianism, and defend the freedoms that non-combatants, such as Maia, take for granted every day.

Maia is very vocal about rape and rapists. Here Maia defends a woman who made false rape complaints by stating that the Police take a woman-hating view of rape anyway, that rape is no more subject to false complaints than any other crime, and implies that the woman who made the false complaint was most likely crying out for help as the victim of previous abuse. In this peculiar “all men are rapists” catch-all, Maia ignores the fact that Police can only investigate actual rapes that have occurred. In Maia’s world, whenever a rape allegation is made against another man, that man should be arrested and thrown in jail, because it is highly probable that at some point he has raped a woman before, and the Police are rapists for seeing the world any differently to her.

Then we have Maia searching her own blog statistics, and seeing that somebody googled her with the terms “rape a woman” and “get away with it”. This followed Maia’s comments that men get away with rape with impunity. Her next move was to post that she is now “terrified that this man is now going to add to that number.”

And that folks, is just in the last three months. That’s excluding Maia’s bewildering paranoia earlier in the year that a toddler child she is babysitting will grow up to be a rapist.

Here Maia jumps on the fringe bandwagon again as she protests outside the Australian “Embassy” (sic) about John Howard’s plans to stop Aboriginals from abusing their children, murdering each other and wallowing in booze and drugs. Maia’s solution, apparently, is to give Aboriginals a whole pile of money to allow them to choose their own destiny (plainly ignoring that the latter has been federal Australian policy for the last thirty years, and has failed spectacularly).

And finally we have this “capitalist dogs” comment which stirred so much ridicule towards her in the blogosphere. Maia has never held down a proper job or worked in an honest occupation her whole life. She protests anything that moves. She has been brainwashed inside the respective departments of Women’s and Maori studies at Victoria University. This prejudices her against anybody who invests money in a business to create wealth.

Clint Heine held Maia to account last week, asking the quite legitimate question as to where she got the money, as a welfare beneficiary, to go to Australia to shit-stir over there. In response, one of Clint’s commenters suggested that Maia needed a dildo up her.

And then the crap really began to fly. In her own inimitable style, playing distraction-debate better than anybody out there, Maia claimed rape. Or at least, threatened rape. Not only was James, apparently, a wannabe rapist for suggesting that Maia needed a dildo, so too was Clint for allowing the comment to stand.

Thus the pinko end of the blogosphere seethed and writhed in self-flagellating ecstasy, as they found themselves the victims of attempted sexual assault. All from an initially crass comment from somebody who is prone to making crass comments.

Clint shouldn’t have to apologise to anybody in the blogosphere for the tone of one crass comment made by somebody else. There was not a single allegation of sexual abuse, and it takes an extremely warped mind to interpret the statement “get a dildo up you” as an intention to commit sexual assault.

Clint was doing no more than calling Maia to account for being a stupid, hysterical bitch who exclusively cloisters herself among people who don’t question her pathetic, taxpayer-funded anarchist lifestyle. Maia posts into the blogosphere outrageous man-hating, anarcho-communism. It is totally appropriate for Clint to ridicule her. He can’t do so on her blog, since she’s banned his comments.

It isn't because Maia is a woman that she's being held to account. It's because she's making ridiculous, stupid comments on her blog. If Maia is going to insist on posting her outrageous views, she should expect that from time to time people will call her out for being a stupid bitch. Calling her a stupid bitch is one of the many freedoms that we have in a liberty-driven, capitalist society that also allows Maia to advocate her freakish world view.

Angelfish takes Maia to task for labelling everything rape, and diminishing rape as a term. Maia responds by pointing to a post from Simon, who suggested that he would offer Maia a job in his Karangahape Road establishment. Maia claims that Simon is also threatening sexual assault, as cutting off her WINZ income by offering work in the sex industry constitutes rape.

At no point does it occur to Maia that she has broader employment alternatives, outside of WINZ. She could simply go out and get a regular job.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Oh, what a sordid bunch they are...

Those who have been involved in local government for a long time will tell you that it is a complex beast. Local government politicians will point to their grand plans for greater civic outcomes. They will point to every infinite activity that their council is involved in, and waffly pinko bullshit, such as “develop people and community focused policies”. That’s City Vision for you.

Their core principles are:

1. Make Auckland City Council more democratic through effective public participation and political accountability
2. Promote a diverse city that provides opportunities for participation and belonging for people from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds
3. Conserve our heritage, promote quality urban design and celebrate our arts and diverse cultures
4. Honour the Treaty of Waitangi and continue to strengthen our partnership with tangata whenua
5. Enhance the principles of public service in our Council through responsible social, financial and environmental approaches to the management of the city
6. Implement policies that address social and economic inequalities in the community.

Yes, that is the actual politically correct hogwash that substitutes for policy from that sorry bunch of losers. What is missing from the formula—staggeringly—is not a single commitment to delivering quality roading, water or wastewater services. Nor does CityVision make a single commitment to improving building consents or RMA processes. The touchpoints between ratepayers and local authorities—the services that ratepayers actually use from Council—are the great hole that has been lost in successive local government engagements in the last twenty years. CityVision is simply the apex of absolute disgust with which ratepayers hold local government generally. While CityVision councillors swan off overseas on exhorbitant junkets, ratepayers are seeing less and less actual service delivery. At the same time, in the last six years, local government spending—and ratepayers’ contributions—have grown a massive 60%.That kind of wanton profligacy simply isn’t sustainable.

What CityVision won’t tell you is that they hiked rates more rapidly than any other Council in Auckland history.

There is one thing that council is mandated to provide that overrides everything else in the community: basic roading, property consents process, and basic civic infrastructure.

It is here that I have reservations about supporting Citizens and Ratepayers Now in Auckland City. Yes, they are the only group in town who can make a difference. The question is, will they?

This is C&R's one chance in a generation to get Auckland City back on the right track, providing the basic civic needs of Aucklanders. They need to apply real focus and bloody-minded commitment to achieve it.

Aaron Bhatnagar has posted about some of the outlandish spending proposals of CityVision. Pet projects from drop-kick pinkos who seek to build empires to themselves are vastly wasteful, of course. It goes without saying that that kind of spending simply has to cease. But it would be a totally inaccurate picture to say that is the only thing wrong with local government.

No more sorry example of the excesses of Auckland City, and just how the city has lost its way, can be seen in the Queen Street upgrade. Queen Street used to be a busy, bustling, if slightly drab part of the city. For the last six months it has been absolute hell to drivers, pedestrians, shopkeepers, and businesspeople alike. The entire length of the street has been torn up for "improvements". All along the street are signs telling us how much better Queen Street will be once the changes are through.

Yet much of the work in Queen Street has been shabby and tawdry. From Mayoral Drive to Wellesley Street, a vast flood of water floods down the footpath when it rains, leaving pedestrians ankle-deep in water, rather than flowing into stormwater drains. The quality of the paving is appalling: poor quality workmanship paid for by a Council that does not hold its contracted services to account. Instead of working its way along Queen Street piece by piece, and focussing efforts to concentrate all the services gradually along the Street, the idiots who planned the works have successfully taken the entirety of Queen Street, and much of the CBD with it, out of action. Gallingly, so inept is Auckland City that it has produced signage announcing all of the wondrous things that the new Queen Street will provide. Including a sign announcing that a lovely new park bench will be bolted to the ground on the footpath. Cost of the signage? $4,000. Cost of the park bench? $1,000. Value of pissing off ratepayers by wasting their money advertising stupid inane shit? Priceless.

And now we have the not very surprising news that the costs of the upgrade have blown out by 100%.

A friend of mine is a manager at Auckland City. He is politically pretty left-wing, which normally discounts him from being a friend of mine. Yet I keep him around because I can berate him about the outrageous activities of Council. Three years ago, he used to put up good counter-arguments to my suggestions that Council is a wasteful pile of manure and needs fundamental change. Now the counter-arguments have ceased. He now agrees that a complete clean-out of council administration is needed. Staff turnover is running at over 30%. Council management is awash with unnecessary layers of administration that do nothing, and have no performance targets. Service delivery has declined. Large tracts of bureaucrats exist simply to promote their own projects, and stymie others. Huge numbers of civic servants are employed to monitor a vastly increased number of external consultants. When a consultant fucks up, contracts are renewed. Nobody is ever held to account. In this environment, the few talented people are leaving in frustration, leaving even less quality behind.

Auckland City needs much more than cancelling the Left’s absurd policies. It needs a complete clean-out of civic administration, starting with the top. CEO David Rankin has to go. So too do at least eight of the twelve layers of management. All service delivery functions should be outsourced to private entities, and Council should hammer external providers to deliver what they are contractually obliged to do.

Council needs to get back to basics and focussing on its core responsibilities. I don’t want to hear about rates rises being capped at the level of inflation from Citizens and Ratepayers. That simply isn’t good enough. Auckland City Council is a fat, lazy, bloated dog full of cancer. It needs to be put down. Council staffing could, and should, be reduced by at least thirty percent. Council functions should be restricted to fixing its roading, water, and wastewater services, and providing the best possible services to ratepayers that are not otherwise delivered to the community.

The formula isn't complex at all. Improve basic service delivery for things that ratepayers actually need. Get rid of the bullshit. Slash the local government bureaucracy. Hammer your service providers to perform. Provide strong roading, water, wastewater, and council services.

Bad management and poor civic administration has flourished under Dick Hubbard’s council because left-wing councillors simply do not have a grip on what is happening in the city.

I hope like hell that Citizens and Ratepayers have a sweeping majority after October 13 this year. I hope also that they have the balls to carry through with the drastic reform that Aucklanders need.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Double, double, toil and trouble...

One of my occasional correspondents, that bastion of personal human industry and frequent flyer miles, the Hon. Judith Tizard, has had a rough time of late.

Poor Judith. It's bad enough that she has to cope with the combined stresses of being an associate arts minister and minister of consumer affairs. In addition, Judith has the considerable responsibility of being patron of the Auckland gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual communities, and Helen Clark's closest personal friend. While Judith doesn't have to put up with the drudgery of living in the Prime Minister's home anymore, she does have to put up with taunts from the National Party about her work ethic. That kind of workload is enough to drive anybody to tears.

This is simply not fair. In almost eight years of ministerial, sub-cabinet office, Judith has been nothing if not loyal to Helen Clark. When other Labour MPs have shown disloyalty, Judith has been there to comfort the Prime Minister.

It just isn't on for Jonathan Coleman to refer to Judith Tizard's broomstick. While Coleman galavants around in the knowledge that his medical knowledge was acquired through a legitimate public learning institution, Tizard is correct that it is sexist and mean to bring up the vexed issue of the Minister's domestic duties. Judith wants the world to know that since becoming a minister outside cabinet, she has not touched a vacuum cleaner, a dust-cloth, made the bed, scrubbed the toilet, or done anything close to operating a broomstick.

On the other hand, Judith Tizard is an excellent cook. Being the quintessential entertainer, and as one of the unofficial hostesses at Premier House, she has developed a reputation for fine dining and food. Take this recipe of Judith's for French onion soup, a favourite in the Labour Party caucus:

1 large black pot (if a pot is unavailable, a cauldron will suffice)
6 large brown onions, sliced thinly
2 gallons of dog stock
6 legs of toad
The hair of one albino monkey, or alternatively, one of Darren Hughes' eyebrows
3 fenny snake skins
Salt and pepper to taste
Babboon's blood optional.

Friday, June 22, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Local Government Conference Announced

I am delighted to announce this afternoon a $15 million conference to take place at Waitangi, on the Chatham Islands, in the week of 5 October 2007.

The conference will be the largest ever gathering of local authority politicians and employees ever held in the Southern Hemisphere. The gathering will draw together some 1,200 local authority politicians across the 86 territorial local authorities in New Zealand, as well as some 25,000 people directly employed and contracted to local government.

Local government in New Zealand spends some $6 billion of ratepayers’ money annually, and consumes approximately 4% of GDP. The summit will bring together interested parties to discuss some of the most pressing issues of modern local government.

The three day conference will include keynote speakers of an international calibre on such innovative subjects as:

  • How to Eliminate the Last White Straight Male from your Workplace—Local Government New Zealand Chair Basil Morrison
  • The RMA, And How It’s Just Too Permissive of Sensible Development—Mayor Bob Harvey
  • How to Railroad, and then Withdraw from, Massively Expensive Projects that the Public Doesn’t Want—Hon. Trevor Mallard
  • Ministerial Vetoes: Why Judges are Bastards when they Overturn Them—Chris Carter
  • How To Rort Ratepayers With Water Charges When You’ve Promised them Otherwise—Dr Bruce Hucker
  • Ratepayers Views and How to Sideline Them—Open Panel Discussion
  • Resisting Local Government Reform—Your Job Is More Important Than Their Money

The all expenses-paid conference will be free to all local government interested parties in New Zealand. The conference will take place the week before local government elections this year. Sponsored by a group of interested ratepayers, the $15 million summit will take place in the idyllic surroundings of Waitangi, on Chatham Islands. Conference attendees will be provided with free airplane transport to Waitangi, free airport transfers, outstanding conference and accommodation facilities, and fittingly sumptuous food and beverages on a local Chatham Islands theme.

Attendance by all local government mayors, elected councillors, community board members, senior management, middle-senior management, middle management, middle-junior management, senior-junior management, middle-junior management, associated management and related support staff is compulsory. Prospective candidates for local authority representation in 2007 are strongly invited to attend.

Conference organisers state that it is their desire to thank all the people involved in local government for the outstanding work that they do in guarding and maintaining ratepayers assets, and for the stellar work they do every year in adding value to the towns and cities in which they operate.

Conference organisers report that on the final day of the conference they will be holding a special fireworks display, of a kind never before seen in New Zealand. Following negotiations with Yuritkin Abdurakhmanov, the Associate Director of Black Market Sales in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the conference organisers have announced a particular treat for attendees. “We have spent some $25 million in addition to the conference expenses for some of the most eye-wateringly brilliant pyrotechnics available in the world today,” says Geoff Rateful, the chairman of the conference organising committee. “Some ratepayers might consider this to be an unnecessarily extravagant move. We believe, however, that local government members in New Zealand deserve every luxury we can provide for them.”

In unrelated news, the International Atomic Energy Agency has disclosed that an anonymous customer has recently spent $25 million on a “suitcase nuke” device in Tashkent. The vessel transporting the device was last spotted heading East from Lyttleton, New Zealand.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Just Good Friends

I have eleven Sarahs in my cellphone contacts list. One of them I vaguely remember as a former boss’ wife, who brought her husband meat rissoles into work one lunchtime. I ate the rissoles, got her number, and texted her every week for the next six months asking for more of the rissoles. She never delivered again. I don’t know why I still have her number.

The others I have known more intimately at various stages in the last couple of years. They never cooked me rissoles, and probably never will. With the exception of all but two, whom I have been seeing recently, I don’t think I will see them again. I would delete all their numbers, but I can never remember which ones are meaningful numbers, and which ones need to be trashed.

I am always suspicious of the proclivities of guys who claim to be straight, and yet have lots of chick friends. It has always occurred to me to be a total waste of time. Chicks, in the main, are not very smart, not very good at sport, overly emotional, frequently cranky, and really rather dull. They are, as a gender, prone to blaming others for their many errors, are incapable of taking responsibility, and refuse point-blank to continue a thought to its logical conclusion.

I have come to the inevitably stunning conclusion that chicks make passable girlfriends, good housemaids, and excellent mothers. But with few exceptions, not as friends. Which is why I have devised a system to classify the chicks I know into these three categories:

  1. The older woman. Being an orphan, I have no shortage of women over the age of 35 who mother me. I send them cards on Mother’s day, and in return they cook me dinner when I am hungry. I expect them to scold me when I misbehave or speak rudely to others. I don’t expect them to tell me about their sex lives, because, frankly, thinking about your mother having sex is just sick. I’ve found that if I don’t forget a mother’s day, I can maintain long-term, platonic relationships with these maternal surrogates.
  2. The housemaid. In this category I include secretaries, receptionists, waitresses, airline hostesses, nurses, and retail shopgirls. These are all jobs that a chick does best. In one of my local bars recently, a male waiter, whom I have nicknamed “Spike”, asked me what I wanted to drink. I looked at him sulkily, and then texted the three hot waitresses who were otherwise occupied with other customers, demanding that they look after me instead. I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect if I am paying exhorbitant prices for drinks in a bar with hot chicks that I will be served by them, rather than the spotty guy with stupid hair. These chicks exist in part for me to flirt with them, which I do excessively. But they also exist to serve, and in that respect, it is unwise to have sex with them.

    In my experience, the only possible consequence of shagging a chick is that at some point in the near future she will become extremely cranky with me. Since I have never taken to saliva-laden beverages, I’ve never thought it appropriate to seriously hit on a waitress. If I did start shagging a chick who worked in one of my bars, either she would have to stop working at the bar, or I would have to find a new one to drink at. I don’t like going to new bars, so that rules that option out. In that sense, these chicks are not friends. They are hot acquaintances who serve my immediate needs. I do not keep their cellphone numbers so that I can spend time with them and learn interesting things about their otherwise inane lives. I mean, really. If they were such terribly interesting human beings, what would they be doing working in a bar?
  3. Girlfriends. I do go through a lot of these, often concurrently. It never ceases to amaze me why I am not on better terms with many former girlfriends. Some of them, to be fair, have been purely psychotic . More have demonstrated that they have no sense of humour. Such was the case with all of the dour chicks I have dated in the last few years who showed no sense of humour when I didn’t call them back. Still more have demonstrated a variety of social problems, ranging from vegetarianism to owning too many cats to not being willing to iron my shirts. The latter point is really pretty critical to me. If my charm is no longer strong enough to encourage a girlfriend to iron my shirt, then in my view the relationship is irreparable, and I am only delaying the inevitable, and making it harder for them by pretending otherwise. But do you think I get credit later on for dumping them?
My main fault as a man, I suppose, is not my lack of modesty, but that I am just so bloody good looking, and charming to boot. I acquire female acquaintances very quickly. I don’t need to hear a chick’s perspective on the world to understand how a chick thinks. A chick’s thinking is invariably inferior to mine, and no matter how many times I listen to her jabbering, I am not going to become a more intelligent human being for listening to her.

With only a rare few exceptions—primarily chicks who I went to university with, and have cunningly, and surreptitiously turned into mother figures as they’ve aged and I haven’t—I don’t delude myself into thinking I can be friends with chicks.

There are some guys I know who go out of their way to be friends with chicks. Even ugly ones, which I have always thought as particularly pointless. They consider themselves to be more evolved species, and even make such absurd claims as being able to understand that futile, incomprehensible beast that is woman better.

I mean, really. What the fuck kind of point are they trying to prove?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Power Games

I never cease to be amazed at the distances that the Left will travel to spin in their favour, at the expense of truth and human dignity. The death of Folole Maliaga is the case in point.

Let’s look at the facts now in the public domain. Folole Maliaga was morbidly obese. She was suffering from critical respiratory failure, as a result of that morbid obesity. She was released from hospital, with a stiff cocktail of drugs and a breathing machine, to deal with that respiratory failure, and was told that her death was imminent if she did not dramatically change her lifestyle.

Instead of taking the drugs, Mrs Maliaga rejected them in favour of “traditional Samoan medicines”, while continuing to use a very non-traditional oxygen machine. It has also become clear that that machine was not designed or expected to support life.

Mrs Maliaga did not pay her power bill. She also did not pay her telephone bill. What tends to happen, when people do not pay their utility bills, is that they get cut off. There really is little point in having chargeable utility services if nothing happens when people don’t pay them.

When the power to Mrs Maliaga’s home was disconnected, Mrs Maliaga’s family sat around and sang hymns for a period of three hours.

Mrs Maliaga died.

This is a story that can be interpreted in several different ways. The mass media-driven hysteria, emphasised in the blogosphere and among left-wing activists with barrows to push, is also becoming more subdued with a critical eye being cast on what really happened. The "Mercury are Murderers!" brigade is looking more ridiculous as the other contributory factors in Mrs Muliaga's death come to light.

There are already far too many players in this absurd scenario.

When the story first broke, SOE Trevor Mallard called for calm, requested that the public wait for a police investigation into the affair, and refused to comment on the situation. Ducking for cover? Well, not quite. It’s difficult for a Minister without the information to make a useful comment without appearing heartless.

Doug Heffernan from Mercury didn’t help his own career prospects by wading into the argument as soon as the news broke, defending Mercury. When you’ve got an hysterical family member making accusations against the company, it simply isn’t wise for a CEO to even attempt to counter the accusations immediately.

His response should have been: “We are extremely sorry that Mrs Muliaga died. We will be conducting a full investigation into what we did, will cooperate with any police inquiry, and will take full responsibility for any consequences that occurred as a direct result of Mercury’s actions. Our thoughts are with Mrs Muliaga’s family, and we will do anything we can to help them.”

Easy press release to write. It doesn’t accept culpability for her death, doesn’t suggest Mercury will dodge responsibility for it, and gets rid of the beat-up for a bit. The PR guy who thought otherwise should be fired, and Heffernan’s own head will probably roll for his naivety in failing to do just that.

But the two most troubling aspects of the case concern two of the most vocal self-appointed Mercury critics, and the media’s blind, uncritical acceptance of what they have said.

Brenden Sheehan, who has variously been described by sloppy journalists as Mrs Muliaga’s nephew, her son-in-law, and “relative”, is not a media novice. He is the chief shit-stirrer for the Public Service Association. In recent times, he has led PSA strike action against TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and the Public Trust.

Sheehan is head of the PSA in the Hawke’s Bay. With his very calculated usurping of Mrs Muliaga’s spotlight, and particularly given the nature of some of his public comments, it’s not certain whether Sheehan is pursuing the interests of the Muliaga family, or his own political interests.

It is understandable that when a person dies in tragic circumstances, that family members may seek outside parties on which to scapegoat their grievances. What is astonishing is that the media can allow a seasoned political manipulator such as Sheehan to use the tragedy for downright opportunism.

The second unforgivable personality is Helen Clark.

Clark’s potential choice of targets was broad. They included:

  1. The hospital that discharged a critically ill woman with an oxygen machine at home, reliant on her continuing to use a complex cocktail of drugs to assist her to breathe. Hard for Clark to take this option, at it would undermine public faith in a public health system that she has poured billions of dollars into.
  2. The social welfare system that was sufficiently inflexible as to provide the means for a critically ill woman to pay either her power bill, or her phone bill. Again, Clark has championed how much better social services are under Labour, so this isn’t viable.
  3. Annette King, who as health minister began a vastly expensive anti-obesity campaign, which in Mrs Muliaga’s case, hadn’t filtered through. Difficult to criticise her own Minister.
  4. Mrs Muliaga and her family, who chose not to call an ambulance when the power was disconnected. Hard for a Prime Minister to make that call without appearing heartless. Given Clark’s historic reputation for warmth and tenderness towards other people generally, it would be out of character for Clark to take this step.
  5. Mercury Energy. A subsidiary energy retailer of an SOE. Potentially a big, callous, corporate beast that Labour voters love to hate. The risk of criticising the energy retailer is that it will lead to massive shareholder value, but given the public’s general loathing towards utility companies on the whole, it’s much harder for the energy retailer to look good.

Of course, the PM could have simply stayed out of the debate completely, allowed the police to conduct an investigation, and for the facts to rule, but the chance of the media exposure when she needs it most became too good to miss.

She did it with a style that only she can manage: she refused to acknowledge Mighty River Power executives outside Mrs Muliaga’s home, and has pointedly ordered Mighty River to apologise for their role in Mrs Muliaga’s death. By doing so, she has effectively jeopardised Mighty River’s legal position before an autopsy has been carried out, and by sanctioning the blame against Mercury before a police inquiry has been carried out, has led to a massive loss in shareholder value in the state-owned company.

For what benefit? A couple of photo opportunities at a time when she needs them most.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Practical Application of Labour’s Electoral Act Reforms

Hand-wringing socialists are coming up with piss-poor on-line defenses of the Labour Government’s gerrymandering of the electoral act to silence its critics in election year, and provide a forum for its own friends—the unions—to launch full-on attacks against the Government’s foes.

Welcome to the law of unintended consequences. Except in this case, it is easy to believe that the Government actually intends these consequences to occur. What Labour has done is make no distinction between organisations that exist to advocate in the public’s mind on behalf of its membership—such as the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association, the Cancer Society, the Heart Foundation, and Federated Farmers; and those organisations that have the membership clout, and affiliations with the Labour Party, to significantly change public opinion merely through promoting issues among its own membership—such as trade unions.

The difference between trade unions and other interested lobby groups is one of incumbency. Trade unions already have the Government’s ear, through their dominance of the Labour Party. Andrew Little doesn’t have to mount a public campaign to get the Labour Party to listen to him: he just calls up a Labour Minister and lets them know his thoughts. The organisational advantage for the Labour Party is that through its relationship with the unions, it has a captive market of members among which to advertise Labour policies.

Not so with the Heart Foundation. The only way that it can get the Government to act in its interests is through political lobbying, and spending resources winning public hearts and minds to make it a public issue. And here lies the great gerrymander of Labour’s electoral act reforms: it favours interests that are already close to Government, while severely restricting the right of those organisations that aren’t cosy with Government to generate public interest.

Let’s look at specific examples of public lobbying by special interest groups over the last few years, and which campaigns will and won’t be allowed under Labour’s proposals:

Rev Up The Government: Remember this? A group of Auckland pro-roading interests put together a campaign promoting increased spending on roads in Auckland. Exactly the kind of public lobbying that has been used to raise awareness of public issues in election year. In 2005 the campaign received particular attention because the Labour Party hijacked the website in a patsy pro-Labour transport initiative. Now, under Labour’s proposals, the Rev Up The Government campaign would not be allowed to spend more than $60,000 in an election year. That’s five modest advertisements in the NZ Herald.

PPTA Campaign Against the National Party: The PPTA spent massive amounts of money in 2005 attacking the National Party, among its 15,000 members. All perfectly legal under Labour’s proposals.

Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind: Spends substantial amounts of resource lobbying Government for better services for its members. If it spends more than $60,000 publicly promoting better services by Government for its membership, it will break Labour’s proposed law. The RNZFB's membership already wants better services for its members. The only way they're going to get them is by either lobbying government, or publicly encouraging non-members to support policies that will further the Foundation's interests.

PSA Campaign Against the National Party: 55,000 members. Can spend as much money as it likes promoting the Labour Party to its membership.

Employers and Manufacturers Association: Spends money lobbying Government on everything from better tax treatment of research and development, industry training, and lower compliance costs for business. If it spends more than $60,000 in election year promoting these issues, it will break the law.

EPMU: 50,000 members. Unlimited spending on promoting the Labour Party to its members, and attacking National.

Federated Farmers: If the FART tax campaign had taken place in an election year under Labour’s proposals, Federated Farmers would have broken the law.

No More Rates Campaign: Spent more than $60,000 on newspaper advertising pressuring Government to limit the rating powers of local authorities. Government eventually acknowledged that it was of sufficient public concern to warrant a select committee inquiry. Would have been illegal under Labour’s proposals.

A cursory look at Scoop's Politics thread gives readers an idea of the huge number of special interest groups that spend significant resources promoting its views to bring make its issues, public issues. Some are successful in geting the public behind them; others, like the Exclusive Brethren during the 2005 election, actually hurt National. Yet in Labour's cynical move to create itself a political advantage next election, it will wipe out the ability of all of these organisations to spend more than $60,000 publicly promoting their own interests.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fuck YOU, You Thieving Bastards!

The Labour Party has managed, quite successfully over the last seven years, to introduce stalking horses for broader policy measures that suit its own interests. By framing the debate, applying its monumental spin machine to the task, and distracting the opposition off-message on trivial issues, it can then follow-up with the sucker-punch of inevitability. It is inevitable, once campaign finance laws are introduced restricting the ability of political parties to raise money, that laws providing for taxpayer funding of those political parties are introduced, to “protect democracy”.

It has been good politics until now. Now the public are sick of these lying, cheating, self-serving bastards. The National Party should take note.

The Labour Party wants to cut off National Party funding—donations from individual members—any way it knows how, while preserving its own funding base—the unions—and enshrining that in law. That is one outrage, which the National Party is focussing on.

But the main outrage is Labour’s assumption that the public will accept spending millions of dollars a year of taxpayer’s money on political parties to spend and campaign as they see fit. This is the point that National needs to consistently run home: having been caught cheating stealing taxpayers’ money at the last election that they weren’t entitled to, and having legislated it to make that spending lawful after the fact, the Labour Party now wants to keep its filthy snout in the trough.

Labour’s argument for doing this is dishonest, and yet again assumes voters are too stupid to spot self-interest where it lies. The justification for Labour’s public funding is that its donation disclosure regime will make it harder to raise money. Well, Labour can’t have it both ways. Either it is benefiting from loose donation disclosure rules at the moment—allowing it to receive, as National does, large tracts of funding from a small pool of donors, or it doesn’t.

The reality is that Labour’s funding has dried up. Its only source of money is the unions. Labour is massively in debt, following the 2005 election spending fraud. It doesn’t have any other means of raising cash. This sudden concern for the integrity of party funding—that hasn’t occurred to Labour to be an agenda item until, miraculously, it reached the stage in the political cycle where it was raising less money than National—has become a lobbying position for dipping in to taxpayers’ funds permanently.

Well, Labour: you can have all the disclosure rules you want next election. It isn’t going to stop you from being voted out of office. But the cynical vote-yourself-cash policy will be repealed by National. There is no public mandate for you to steal yet more taxpayer money and spend it on staying in office.

Labour’s exemption on unions campaigning at election-time will be short-lived: every time a union message is broadcast at election time, it will be viewed by voters for what it is: Labour Party advantage, and yet another reminder of how the Labour Party is writing the rules to suit itself. National’s only recourse, in government, will be to remove the ability of unions to campaign during election time.

And if the Labour Party becomes reliant on its taxpayer-funded base, it will be even more badly damaged by a National Government removing the trough from which Labour can feed.

This kind of selfishness from a party so desperate to stay in power is almost enough to drive a guy to sedition.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Licence to Print Money?

Have a look at this.

Section 30 of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989 reads:

Reproduction or imitation of currency

(1)No person shall, without the prior consent of the Bank,—

(a)Make, design, engrave, print, or reproduce; or

(b)Use, issue, or publish—

any article or thing resembling a bank note or coin or so nearly resembling or having such a likeness to a bank note or coin as to be likely to be confused with or mistaken for it.

Now look at this.

Did the Labour Party get permission from the Reserve Bank before printing $10 bills?

Apart from the astonishment that the Labour Party appears to have enough money to embark on this kind of expensive self-promotion while it still owes the taxpayer over $800,000, shouldn't somebody investigate whether it is also breaching the Reserve Bank Act?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Direct Action on Section 59

The liberal hand-wringers have set up this nifty piece of technology that allows New Zealanders to email their MPs with their views on the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

For those people who can distinguish between occasional smacking on the one hand, and physical abuse on the other hand; and who believe that the State's first priority should be protecting children from real physical abuse, rather than occasional smacking, I invite you to take the following steps to email all MPs with your opposition to the Bill, using this same website.

To do so, take the following steps:


Send your message to all 121 MPs.

Create your own email message.

Press "Next".

Fill in the form with your email address, and first and last names.

Click "Next".

Change the Subject Line to "Don't Repeal Section 59".

Paste the following message:

Along with the vast majority of New Zealanders, I strongly disagree with the Green and Labour Parties' moves to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act. Far too much of taxpayers' money has been spent so far debating this tedious and trivial issue.

As the law currently stands, parents who beat their children unreasonably are given no protection under Section 59. There is no overwhelming case history of parents who have escaped prosecution, or conviction, for committing violent acts against their children. On the other hand, the State appears to have been unable to prevent far too many parents from inflicting genuine harm on their children.

The repeal of Section 59 does nothing to protect a single New Zealand child from criminal abuse. It is a red herring inspired by social engineers who have run out of ideas in confronting some of the main causes of child abuse: poverty, poor education, poor health outcomes, substance abuse, and intergenerational welfare.

On the other side of the debate, there is genuine concern from many law-abiding, caring, and loving New Zealand parents that a repeal of Section 59 will criminalise an occasional use of reasonable force against children.

There is no public mandate for the legislation. It is dividing New Zealanders, and in particular, their faith in the parliamentary process. I urge you not to support this Bill, and instead to concentrate your efforts on reducing serious harm against New Zealand's most vulnerable children.

While in the long term, a public debate on the benefits of smacking versus other forms of discipline may overwhelmingly result in a preference for non-smacking disciplinary measures, this attempt to criminalise law-abiding and successful parents, for no benefit to the children concerned, strikes of monumental political stupidity.

Deal with the important stuff first.

Kind regards,