Friday, August 29, 2008


Trevor Mallard opened at the business breakfast I attended at the Wainuiomata RSA this morning. He made hay with the just-released MSD social report which shows improvement in a number of indicators. Fortunately I followed (there was only Labour, National and ACT present!) and was quickly able to reel off a list of trends which are going in the wrong direction - violent crime, truancy and violence in schools, teenage birthrate, STDs, receipt of sickness and invalid benefits, substance and alcohol abuse. The thrust of my speech covered National morphing into Labour and depriving the electorate of a clear choice, the 20 Point Plan, why special privilege for one business hurts the next, why we wouldn't want, in a month of Sundays, the government running supermarkets and nationalising plumbers yet accept that they run schools and hospitals. Surely food and running water are as important as education and hip operations? It strikes me, as I watch faces, that many people have never thought at this level.

The audience seemed mainly concerned about social problems, crime and political correctness. When asked what we could do about the list of negative trends I described, I was right where I wanted to be and received the first spontaneous round of applause from the audience when talking about the consequences of 'paying babies to have babies'. It's an issue that touches a nerve and one I am deeply concerned about.

Paul Quinn has a limited repertoire and no firm philosophy. But he has the polls (and PM) on his side. At some point the meetings always degenerate into who is telling the truth? Trevor or Paul?

Trevor is very secure in his electorate. He knows the local issues and should, after so many terms. But he concluded by asking them to re-elect him because, indicating the National candidate, "He will be in on the list anyway." Quinn is at 48. Mallard knows the anti-labour vote is so strong he is prepared to ask for just the electorate vote.

I asked for the Party Vote so ACT would have more MPs in parliament giving National direction and spine. More MPs that were prepared to call a spade a spade and not keep sweeping problems under the carpet. More MPs who are not happy with just the status quo. More MPs pushing for real change.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


My mum is a retired teacher. She just rang me to tell me to write down the following letters;


This is how one of the local primary children spelled 'Pacific Blue' in a story related on paper. Spelling what they hear. Obviously some words are more aurally familiar than others.

Rodney on entrepreneurship and more

Staying on the subject of Rodney Hide I have only just come across this interview. For ACT candidates especially, have a listen. None of us wants to appear lacking at public meetings and attempt to cram in a fair bit of policy around this time. If you are anything like me the grey cells start running out. Listening instead of reading is sometimes a more efficient use of what is left.

This is a great interview about entrepreneurship, tax, the economy, role of government and ACT's short and long term goals. Finding it is fortuitous for me as I have a business breakfast to address tomorrow. I feel more confident knowing my own response to matters such as business indulging in special pleading (at the expense of other businesses without their hands out) is echoed here (far more ably I hasten to add:-)) We need to clone Rodney but by the time the state had grudgingly given us permission we would doubtless have exhausted our money, energy and enthusiasm.

Hat tip Angel Investment

What has a man to do?

Politics has got to be the most unrewarding, butt-kicking, unmanageable business there is. If it wasn't for Rodney Hide, newspaper editors around the country wouldn't have their lucrative front page stories. Talk-back hosts would be scraping the barrel for another topic to ignite the passions. And John Key would still be sitting on the spiked MMP fence that has become almost as unpopular as the Berlin Wall, thanks to a certain show pony's odious shenanigans.

But today, as the Winston debacle winds up to full force, the man responsible hardly rates a mention. Not on the front pages and not in the editorials.

Johnny come-very-lately steals the show by almost, just about, very nearly, ruling Peters out of participating in a National cabinet. (Note that is not government and not necessarily the Peters' Party). It's a decision about as bold and decisive as another he made yesterday earning him the headline, Key slams bill - but has backed it for now.

What has a man got to do to earn the deserved credit he so badly needs to then translate into voting support? There is little Hide hasn't tried.

Now he has delivered the headlines that make the shiny Key shine even more. And has, to boot, to publicly praise the man who is really standing in the way of his party's advancement.

The electorate is as fickle as finance companies and as dense as dirty dishwater. Even yesterday people were still saying Winston has done more good than harm, Winston looks after us. Winston looks after himself. Period.

Will Peters ever get what he deserves? If there was any real justice in this world he would. And so would Hide.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mark to stand in Rimutaka

Just heard on radio - Ron Mark is standing in Rimutaka.

That explains why he has been turning up at the same meetings I've been at.

Could he win it? He has a following and Paul Swain is retiring. Who is the Labour candidate? A young Chris Hipkins. Won't touch Mark's mana.

Winston's bacon could be saved yet again. Damn. Surely not.


Last week COSS (Hutt Council of Social Services) held a candidate meeting. The coverage of meetings is always interesting. Editor of the Hutt News, Simon Edwards, does a great job of distilling screeds of matter into a flowing and highly readable piece. Right from the outset our comments were addressed to pre-notified questions. I never actually used the word "hammock" and stressed that ACT would support funding for the volunteer sector but at the same time look to reduce welfare spending. But otherwise what he has reported is a fair representation. I did get impatient with some of the worthies in the audience. They put a question about dealing with the growing number of people suffering from dementia and I talked about funding medicines and about how we might look to increase the workforce in that and other aged care services. Of course my suggestion was too radical and eyes were being rolled and tut-tutting noises made. Hence I earned the sub-heading 'told off'.

Still spare a thought for the National candidate, Paul Quinn who was reported as seeming "to struggle for answers to some pre-notified questions".

"While it may be good politics for National to save most of its policy announcements until closer to the election, it's not a good look on the hustings right now for him to have to keep saying 'more on that later'."

I must tell you about Robert, my son, who is highly intuitive if a little off the mark sometimes. He spotted the photo below upside down on the bench. "Oh Mum, you look like a real leftie," he said. "That's because you are looking at the Green candidate I replied." "Oh yeah."

Douglas "talks up" flat tax

Roger Douglas was covered by TV One news last night at a candidates meeting in Auckland "talking up" flat tax. ACT's promise is for a flat rate of 15%.

One of the things that instantly impressed me about Roger was his dismissal of personality politics. He wanted candidates "on message" on the campaign trail.

You know as a candidate that the media will cover one, maybe two of the points you make. The Hutt News has covered two local meetings so far and on both occasions ACT has been reported as primarily pushing for economic growth, having a plan to lift incomes by $500 and why that is so important.

Now it looks like I'll be able to start pushing flat tax as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Confirming a right to live off others

The Australian government plans to stop welfare payments to those families whose children are truant. This has caused an angry protest from various groups.

The very same situation could apply here in the near future.

What a bind we find ourselves in. The benefit bind. Of course if there weren't benefits in the first place these secondary issues couldn't vex us.

But as the state-funded benefit system does exist the public will be asked to decide what it is for. Is it a paternalistic operation based on reciprocity - the state will support you with conditions and obligations - or is it a system captured by 'clients' calling the shots; who see their 'entitlement' to live off the efforts of others as all-abiding. Because at the moment it leans to the latter.

Irritatingly I cannot find a clear-cut preference for either. There is no right for one person to make a claim on another's property unless the other agrees. Once, most New Zealanders understood and accepted this. About granting a right to monetary support by others Robert Stout, Premier during the 1880s said; ‘I consider that to be a most dangerous principle for any State to confirm’. How right he was.

But at present a majority will say it is a good idea to make beneficiaries send their children to school, get them immunised, pack them healthy lunches, etc and in doing so concede a right to be supported. That still leaves others questioning why they are even in need of support? Why is one citizen being forced to fund another's choices?

So when governments start laying down conditions of receipt in respect to bringing up children I am very wary. Conservatives will embrace the idea and abandon the bigger debate. Left liberals will oppose it saying, what debate?

If, however, welfare was provided through either private insurance or charitable organisations the problem of incentivising bad living is minimised. Or, and I see this as the best (most saleable) option in the short term, benefits to working-age able people become short-term assistance only, the problem is also much smaller.

Protestor packs up knitting

Poor Mrs Allardice. After being called names and threatened by post, she has decided she won't be sitting outside the new Dannevirke brothel knitting and recording the names of visiting clients.

What Mrs Allardice had promised to do was interfere in the lives of other people.

Now it looks as though someone is promising her the same. I won't condone such an action but it is rich in irony.

Live by the sword etc.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Freedom of information curtailed

This is bizarre. An Auckland judge has ruled that news websites cannot publish the names of two accused murderers but tv, radio and print newspapers can.

The judge must believe there are people who could misuse information that have access to the internet but who do not necessarily listen to tv or radio or read newspapers.

People can always get information if they have the time, inclination and energy. And if they know where to look. Some people will google names through idle curiosity, others with malicious intent. People with malicious intentions, those who may threaten family members for instance, are probably motivated enough to put in some effort.

What next? Banning newspapers? How does he propose preventing blogs from publishing the names?

Incomes of immigrants and their offspring

Here are a couple more graphs/tables from a report into the experiences of immigrants to New Zealand. The first shows that of those individuals holding a Bachelor's Degree or higher, Scots earn the most and Koreans the least. The difference is significant at nearly $40,000. Some of the reasons suggested for the low median incomes for Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea are that their female labour market participation rate is lower (more stay-at-home mums?) self-employment and living off assets.

The next table shows however that full-time employed Chinese New Zealand-born have the highest median incomes. All of the NZ-born ethnicities are earning considerably more than their overseas-born counterparts. That is good news in as much as children are doing better than their parents. All of the NZ-born ethnicities are earning more than Maori. Not such good news for Maori.

Zoning - "Notoriously controversial"

Will some smart ACT candidate pick this up and make a noise with the voucher policy?

Dog morality

Dogs learn morals from owners

Dogs have morals??

Dogs can be taught cause and effect. Some seem better equipped to remember what pulling washing off the line results in. And it isn't a treat. But do they lie about thinking whether pulling the washing off the line is a good or bad thing to do?

Yet we do overlay a capacity to be moral on animals. Right from infancy we allow children to be comforted by animal soft toys that are their friends and protectors. But we expect at some point that the child realises the effect is actually in their head. Nevertheless the child has learnt some empathy. They will pass that on to a pet and their friends.

So assuming animals have morality is a construct that serves us well. Usually. What about those bad bastards that want to teach bad bastardness to their dogs?

When I was looking to replace my last dog, about 5 weeks ago, I spent some time at the SPCA. In the late 70s I did a brief stint there as a volunteer. (Very brief - I couldn't handle sacks of dead puppies.)

The SPCA has now become the CYFS of the dog world. Many of the dogs are being held while owners are prosecuted. Many have been terribly maltreated. Their cage doors exhibit various instructions about whether the animal can be put in the yard with other animals or which other animals in particular. Whether it is an animal that is suited to be homed with children. So many now have the physical aspect of the broad skull which I guess comes from interbreeding with Bull terriers, Mastiffs, Staffies etc. (I took one such dog home once and had a 5 month nightmare. She wasn't violent - just completely chaotic and increasingly powerful.)

But the SPCA seems to be possessed of a rigid ideology that all animals are salvageable. It reminds me of the CYFS ideology that all babies are best with their biological mother. The failure of either dogma can be tragic.

I left the SPCA last time saddened. I saw too many animals that looked like a risk. Perhaps persevered with longer than they should have been. And the environment isn't exactly the Hilton for Hounds.

Believing animals have morality seems a little screwy to me. It suits us to believe in such when the truth is such a faith can turn around and bite us.

'Girl' is gradually learning my right from wrong. And she is giving us all a lot of pleasure with her antics and exuberance. But I wouldn't fall into the trap of believing she can intellectualise. She's just a dog. Albeit it a very lovable one.