Should we fence all rivers to protect toddlers from slack parents?

The Dominion Post devotes half this morning’s front page to the bleatings of a drowned toddler’s uncle that the council should have fenced the river in which his 2 year old nephew drowned.

A family hit by a drowning tragedy had repeatedly pleaded with the council to build a fence where a toddler died.

Sukhraj Singh, 2, died and his cousin Archilles Kaui, 3, remains in hospital in a critical condition after the pair wandered into Gisborne’s Taruheru River on Thursday.

“I’ve been asking myself all night, would this have happened if the fence was put up in our neighbourhood? And the answer is no. Because those toddlers would not have been able to get past the fence”, Sukhraj’s uncle Hemi Jahnke said.

And why were the toddlers able to get anywhere near the river? The Dom finally reveals all in paragraph 10:

Before the tragedy, Archilles’ mother, Diana McIntyre, had been visiting Sukhraj’s mother, Jamie Taewa, at her home in Atkinson St. It was thought about 10 to 15 minutes passed before the women noticed the two toddlers had wandered off.

Well sorry, but any mother who lets a toddler out of her sight for 10 or 15 minutes near a river has no one to blame but herself if the child drowns.

That’s a hard thing to write at this sad time, especially as the poor mother may well have arrived at the same conclusion and does not necessarily share the uncle’s view.

But for the uncle to blame the council (ie the rest of us) is outrageously unfair.

Members of the family were part of community group Kia Kaha Mangapapa, a charitable trust started to try to make a positive difference in the area. The idea of a fence at the reserve was brought up at several hui called with Gisborne District Council last year. Archilles’ parents, Ms McLean and Frank Kaui, attended one of the meetings.

Mr Jahnke said the council had agreed to put up the fence.

“They did have a plan for the fence but because the fence was going to cost too much it started getting smaller and smaller. Eventually it turned into just a fence around the culvert.”

He was angry with the council.

“How many lives have been lost in river accidents because the council says they haven’t got enough money?

“And them listening now is not going to bring back Sukhraj. It’s not going to bring back a baby boy. But someone needs to be held accountable.”

Damn right. And I think most of us have a fair idea who.

Gisborne District Council acting chief executive Nedine Thatcher-Swann said it was “inconclusive” whether fencing the reserve would have made a difference at this stage.

Fencing every waterway into which a poorly supervised toddler could wander would certainly make a huge difference to the amount of public money available for other services. Or to Gisborne residents’ rates bills.

In my view the Council did exactly the right thing in refusing to assume the role of parents.

“Around the country and the world it is very unusual to find our natural environments – rivers, lakes or ponds – fenced.”

And so it should be. Do we really want to turn our country into an unsightly baby-prison, just so we can protect our toddlers from slack parents?

I grew up in a house near the Waiwhetu Stream in Fairfield, Lower Hutt. The Stream got a bad press for being badly polluted down the industrial end, but the suburban reaches were and are a delightfully meandering waterway that greatly enhances the ambience of the area.

It remains unfenced, despite being bounded by houses for miles, and is dotted with reserves, also unfenced.

Presumably, parents who choose to live there, like mine did, also take responsibility for watching their children.

I hope the Dominion Post will reflect on the message their story sends, and provide some balance in the coming days.

Published in: on November 5, 2011 at 10:50 am  Comments (26)  

Ad that Dom banned cleared by ASA

My ACT ad that contained 40 statements of fact has been cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority.

MAORI RADICALS ADVERT NOT IN BREACH – ASA

The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a complaint about ACT’s controversial “Fed up with pandering to Maori radicals?” newspaper advertisement.

Twelve people argued the advert was “misleading, offensive, racist, in breach of the requirement for a due sense of social responsibility and likely to play on fear”.

The ASA said a political party advocating a robust view on matters of public interest allowed the public to see the party’s position. There was no breach of codes and no grounds for the complaints to proceed, it ruled.

Yet the Dominion Post refused to “allow the public to see the party’s position”. 

As a private company, they had the right to ban the ad. (Whether they had the right to charge ACT full price for the space is another matter.)

But the public also has the right to know that the capital’s daily newspaper is politically biased against ACT.

This is the ad that the Herald ran, and the Dom banned:

What sort of democracy do we live in when a monopoly newspaper can be so cravenly politically correct as to ban a question that most of its readers would answer Yes to, backed by 40 true statements?

Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 10:51 am  Comments (5)  

The Evans Bay Turtle

What is it about Wellington and its circular landmarks with eccentric nicknames?

The under-50s won’t remember when the twin-domed Welsh Dragon Bar in the middle of Kent and Cambridge Terraces used to be a public toilet block, known by all as the Taj Mahal.

At the far end of the same dual-dragstrip is the Basin Reserve, so named after the 1855 earthquake turned Basin Lake into a swamp, which the council then turned into a sports reserve.

Over in Thorndon there’s the parliamentary Beehive, which Sir Basil Spence designed on the back of a serviette. And the Cake Tin, named by yours truly in response to a call for a nickname by the Evening Post’s Angus Morrison.

(Note: popular rumour has it that the Cake Tin was named by an Auckland talk show host, which is why it wasn’t popular for a long time with Wellingtonians. Still others say it was Andrew Mehrtens. Being a rather obvious name, it was probably all three of us.)

And now we have a new stadium to name: the Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre in Evans Bay. It’s not quite circular, but near enough.

The Dom Post’s Hank Schouten is calling for nicknames, so I sent in this letter:

Like the Cake Tin, the new Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre is a good example of smooth, single-minded design.

Now, what to call it?

I worry that the architects’ favourite, The Limpet, while anatomically accurate, might be a bit, well, limp to catch on.

So what about the Saucer (as in flying), the Clam, the Oyster, the Stingray, the Flounder, the Slater or the Frisbee?

(Had they built it where Councillor Andy Foster wanted, it could have been the Downtown Indoor Sports Centre — DISC.)

A friend of mine argues noisily for The Trilobite, a creature I had not heard of, but which it clearly resembles.

But the nickname with the best combination of stickability and seaside relevance would have to be the Turtle.

What do you think? Feel free to suggest a name of your own. I may run a poll of the best of them.

But to me, if I squint as I drive round the bays I see a beached, bleached white turtle shell whose occupant is wisely staying indoors.

(As well he might. When I drove past on Monday, there was thick snow just around the corner in Shelly Bay.)

How we make the news in Aussie these days

The Tasman wage gap, which John Key once pretended to want to close, is also a poverty gap.

Here’s how it’s being reported in Australia. 

Of course, setting the poverty line at 60% of median income is a typical lefty linguistic trick. 

Poverty is starvation. Being only 60% as rich as the averge person is envy.

Still, relative to 30 other First World nations, New Zealand’s performance is shameful:

20th for children living in poor households

21st for infant mortality

29th for measles immunisation rates

29th for child health and safety

3oth for teen suicides.

Thanks Ross for sending me this clipping.

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm  Comments (2)  

New London Olympics logo

    

Thanks Mike for sending me this. Wish I’d thought of it!

 

Published in: on August 11, 2011 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Well done, DomPost

After hammering the Dominion Post on Close Up for banning my ACT ‘Maori radicals ad’ that contained 40 statements of truth, I’m pleased to be able to congratulate the paper for yesterday making these two letters their lead and second letters of the day:

Where does that ‘science’ definition leave Al Gore, then?

Lorna Sutherland’s comments (Letters, August 8) highlight an interesting attitude to democracy and proper science. 

(That’s meant to say August 8. Of all the eccentric habits of WordPress, automatically turning the number eight followed by a close bracket into a smile takes the cake!) 

Does she agree that her denial that Lord Monckton should be permitted a platform to discuss climate change extends to former United States vice- president Al Gore, who is similarly lacking expertise and experience in science?

Is she aware that Dr John Abraham’s comments on Lord Monckton are subject to critical comments about misrepresentation and falsehoods ?

By what measure would we ever give the Greens, Niwa’s Dr James Renwick or anybody else the right to decide what may be presented by any person on any subject in public?

Real science is proven by sceptical trial and debate. False science has hidden data, insufficient record of proof, and protection from open query and dissenting opinion.

Real science isn’t proven by so-called consensus, authority or taking someone’s word for it.

Is Ms Sutherland aware no peer- reviewed scientific proof appears to exist that climate change, warming or whatever is driven by human-induced carbon-dioxide emissions, and the theory is supported by conjecture only?

I suggest she take tuition on what it means to live in a democracy.

GRAHAM CLAYTON
Taupo 

What have these people to fear?

Our climate change scientists and, maybe, politicians, seem to be running scared. They have refused to debate climate change with Lord Monckton because the matter is now agreed upon and settled among scientists. Really?

It was also said that to debate with him would give Lord Monckton and his unscientific ideas credibility. If our scientists’ views, which cost a lot of money, are so right, what have they to fear?

IRENE FAGAN
Island Bay

Well said, Graham and Irene.

Published in: on August 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm  Comments (1)  

STATE MOUTHPIECE MUZZLES MONCKTON: Is TVNZ the new BBC?

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post about TVNZ banning climate sceptic Lord Monckton, it so happens that I myself have been invited to appear on Close-Up tonight to talk about race issues. Should this drive more visitors here, I’m promoting this post to the home page so it’s the first thing they see! I saw and met Monckton today in Wellington and his accounts of similar attempts by the Left to shut him down and smear him were chilling. I’ll be posting on the experience soon. Now on with this post of two days’ ago…

You may recall the recent Close-Up interview with global cooling-warming (take your pick — he does) proponent James Hansen.

And do you recall which sceptic our government TV channel brought in to debate with him to provide balance?

Me neither. 

That’s because they didn’t make him debate anyone.

(The science is settled, remember?)

Now fast forward to this week. Same programme. Same channel. Same issue.

Only this time, the visiting climateer is a sceptic — with a flair for political incorrectitude.

He’s none other than Margaret Thatcher’s former science advisor Lord Christopher Monckton, here for a few days after a rip-roaring tour of Australia.

Now whatever else Monckton may be, he’s not boring. He’s articulate, amusing and opinionated, in the great tradition of British celebs.

In other words, he’s great television. 

So why won’t TVNZ let him on?

Because they can’t find anyone to debate him.

Huh?

Seems at government TV, only the sceptics get challenged. Warmists — even confused ones who used to be coolists –  just get believed.

We’ll come back to TVNZ’s obvious bias later.

But isn’t there something fishy about not one of our loud, proud warm-mongers being prepared to defend their position on this supposed crisis?

After all, the government has just conspired to ratchet up the price of your food and petrol and most everything else.

Why? Because of the supposed desperate need to impose a carbon trading scheme on our already struggling economy.

So wouldn’t you think Nick Smith would be itching to get stuck into the guy who’s been telling him for years that the climate crisis is a hoax?

Or John Key, who used to agree it was a hoax — till he figured there were more votes in saying it wasn’t?

Or any number of Greens, those brave eco-warriors whose relentless pessimism and loathing for their species got us into this mess?

Or one of the eleven experts at the so-called Victoria University climate debate I went to and blogged about — all of them clustered courageously on the same side?

Why doesn’t even one of these ‘believers’ have the courage to defend their position against the man they like to dismiss as a ‘potty peer’ and a ‘swivel-eyed loon’?

Seems Monckton is a man the warm-mongers love to hate, but hate to debate.

Why?

Seems that after all their huff and puff about the science being settled, Messrs Key, Smith, Norman, Trenberth and co. are decidedly unsettled by the thought of being found out.

(As, of course, was Al Gore.)

Of course, they’ll say tangling with Monckton is beneath them. He’s a nutter. Must be. Listen to that posh voice! Get a load of  those big bug eyes!

(The result of an hereditary condition, oddly enough unconnected with the ability to think.)

No mention of why Margaret Thatcher would choose him out of thousands to advise her on matters scientific.  They didn’t dub Maggie the Iron Lady for being soft in the head.

If these climate sages are so sure of their case, why not front up and use their superior logic to shut Monckton up once and for all?

Isn’t that what a real expert would do?

What does their mass no-show tell you about the honesty of our nation’s climate scientists and cabinet ministers?

And prime minister?

And anyway, why does TVNZ feel the need to have anyone at all debate Monckton? Why not apply the same standards to the sceptic as they applied to the scaremonger/warmist/coolist?

Is TVNZ trying to outdo the Biased BBC?

New evidence of eco-exaggeration

How ironic that Close-Up’s attempt to close down the climate debate should come in the same week as the Daily Mail ran this story:

Climate change far less serious than ‘alarmists’ predict says NASA scientist

This is, of course, another NASA scientist, not Hansen: 
Dr Roy Spencer, who works on the space agency’s temperature-monitoring satellites, claimed they showed ‘a huge discrepancy’ between the real levels of heating and forecasts by the United Nations and other groups.

After looking at the levels of radiation in the atmosphere over the past ten years, he believes the Earth releases a lot more heat into space than previously thought.

In other words, the computer models were wrong — just as thousands of sceptics (sorry, deniers; sorry, denialists) have been saying.

Now, come to think of it, this is not the first time I’ve heard about global heat escaping harmlessly into space. I first heard a leading sceptic bring it to light about two years ago.

And which sceptic would that have been?

You guessed it: the apparently not-so-mad Monckton.

I’ll be at his Wellington talk on Friday. I hope to see you there. (Whether you see him on state telly is another matter.)

For details of how to see Lord Monckton in Auckland on Thursday, Wellington on Friday and Whangarei on Saturday, hurry to the Climate Realists website.

Warm-mongers pressure PRINZ into pulling plug

Neil and Esther Henderson have been doing an excellent job bringing a dose of sanity to the climate debate — and Lord Monckton to New Zealand.

But one of Monckton’s scheduled events lost its original sponsor thanks to pressure from our brave eco-exaggerators.

Rest assured, though, Neil and Esther have saved the day.

Read this excerpt from their latest newsletter to see what they’ve been up against:

PRINZ, having volunteered to host two of the public events, has received an overwhelming barrage of negative publicity for their gall in allowing someone whose opinions are perceived as being ‘outside the politically correct mantra’ to speak in public.

PRINZ hunted far and wide to find someone to oppose Monckton in a debate and was unable to find anyone willing to front up.

Funny that.

PRINZ was prepared to continue and turn the debate into a ‘discussion’, but the vitriolic hatemail continued to such an extent that PRINZ has now made the decision to pull out of the Auckland event, and we, the CLIMATE REALISTS have taken over the arrangements.

Well done, that couple.

(And a brickbat to PRINZ for being cowed — but a bouquet for still going ahead with their Wellington event.)

The organisers of the business luncheon with Lord Monckton on Thursday have also received some very strongly worded correspondence questioning their integrity in hosting Lord Monckton and urging them (pressuring them!) to cancel.

Are business people are made of sterner stuff than communication people? Surely not!

Neil and Esther continue:

People, this is horrific!!!

What has happened to free speech in New Zealand?

We would like to urge every single one of you who is concerned about what is going on here, to contact Close Up closeup@tvnz.co.nz and challenge them about their decision not to interview Lord Monckton.

Do it now. I sent them this:

Your bias is showing

Mark and team,

 I was going to say I can’t believe your cowardice in canning your interview with Christopher Monckton.

 But then I guess I can.

If any of you at TVNZ still believe in free speech, I urge you to reconsider, stop being brainwashed by socialist liars, and let the man be heard.

Otherwise be prepared to incur the wrath of the blogosphere – a not-insignificant challenger to your supposed omnipotence.

John Ansell

Back to Esther and Neil:

Did Jim Salinger, Gareth Morgan, Rod Oram, Martin Manning, James Renwick, Kevin Trenberth, James Hansen….(think of anyone else you’ve heard prating the AGW mantra) need someone to present an alternative perspective before they were reported in the mainstream media?

We strongly believe Lord Monckton has a right to be heard. And we believe the public of New Zealand has a right to hear him and make up their own minds. There are an amazing number of accusations flying around the internet about Christopher Monckton. Here is a quote from one of our members who shall remain anonymous:

  • “Until this week, I thought Christopher was a rather obscure eccentric Englishman, with a keen interest in mathematics and climate change and a talent for entertainment. “Now, after dredging through endless pages of biography by Greenpeace, Bickmere, Abraham, etc, I’ve discovered that he is an international celebrity of huge importance. “Whole libraries havebeen written about his exploits; newspapers and bloggers record his every move and mood; scholars minutely analyze his spoken word, correspondence, logo, status, etc; activist groups mobilise at his approach.Seldom does little New Zealand have the opportunity to hear directly from an orator capable of generating such controversy and excitement on the world stage.” 

For my money, Monckton did more than any other single person to inform the world about the Climategate scandal and the shonkiness of Al Gore’s movie, and to neuter the Copenhagen talkfest.

I confess I believed Gore at first.

I was wowed by the slickness and clarity of his PowerPoint show.

I loved the way he got up in that cherrypicker to highlight the hockey stick graph.

And I had no reason at all to doubt his facts. (Like the fact that his hockey stick graph was bogus.)

It took brilliant communicators like Monckton — and Bob Carter and Ian Wishart and Jo Nova – to alerted me to the depth of my own gullibility.

Never again.

Neil and Esther:

We need to get out there and let people know that we have a right to doubt —  we have a right to be skeptical about everything we are spoonfed by the media, and having just witnessed what manipulation goes on behind the scenes, we need to call the media to account and demand balanced reporting and open debate.

Damn right we do.

The real deniers are the scientists and journalists who try to deny us our right to be sceptical about scientists and journalists.

I know from personal experience that the media are far more interested in entertaining than informing. And if the facts aren’t entertaining enough, they just make up facts that are.

They need to be exposed every time they do that. Which is almost certainly many times a day.

I am, of course, rather sensitive to press bias, given that less than a month ago the Dominion Post refused to run ACT’s 40 true statements on the race issue.

What has happened to free speech indeed.

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 7:00 pm  Comments (44)  

JK — master sidestepper

I like John Key. He’s a nice guy, a great husband and father, and might just be the most astute politician any political party ever had.

He’s just not a good leader for our country.

You can tell this by the way he sidesteps and spins his way out of all the tough questions.

Now I happen to believe that when a citizen asks a question of his elected servant, that servant should do the citizen the honour of answering it.

And if he sidesteps the question, I think we should call him on it.

And if he keeps sidestepping, we should keep calling him on it until he learns to respect his employer. 

So that’s what I’m going to do in this post. 

In Sunday’s Star-Times, 50 New Zealanders, including me, were asked to put a question to John Key.

You can see my question below. 

And you can see how JK sidestepped it.

And not just my question. Also questions from Sir Colin Meads, Gareth Morgan, Don Nicholson, Oscar Kightley, Denis Dutton, Michael Laws, Peter Chin, Phil O’Reilly and others.

This PM, like the last one, has the sidestepping down pat.

So much so that it reminds me of that other famous JK, All Black John Kirwan. (For the culturally challenged, that’s him on the left.)

Here’s a selection of those questions and answers — punctuated by the interjections I wish I could have made.

1. Sir Colin Meads, former All Black: Do you think you are doing too much for the Maori people? Is it just to keep their votes?

We are putting our focus and energy into the settling of historic claims and the sense of grievance it conjures, so we can move on into the next phase of this country’s history. I think it would be a betrayal of Kiwis’ basic sense of decency to forget the past and the legitimate claims of iwi.

Sidestep. Everyone agrees about the legitimate claims. But what about the illegitimate ones? Like the recent half billion dollar payment to Tuwharetoa.

By all accounts, that iwi was so happy with their 19th century payout (for the then-barren Volcanic Plateau) that they dug up their late chief negotiator and propped him up against a tree for the celebration party.

But at the same time I am determined New Zealand will not become stuck in that past.

You mean like stuck with the temporary Maori seats you promised to abolish — a promise you broke to forge a totally unnecessary alliance with the Maori (sovereignty) Party?

 I am optimistic the next phase can be characterised by better race relations and an even more strongly united sense of our shared aspirations as New Zealanders.

Sounds idyllic. United? Sounds like One Law For All — a concept your predecessor promoted and you ditched to please your new mates.

7. Oscar Kightley, film-maker and comedian: Pacific heroes Michael Jones and Inga Tuigamala gave you their support, and that of their supporters, because they thought that, under National, Pacific people would be owning factories and not just working in them. When do you think that will happen?

Lifting New Zealand’s economic performance will help all New Zealanders, and I know that is also what Inga and Michael believe.

So why have you ruled out so many policies that would lift New Zealand’s economic performance?

Michael has said publicly it was my aspiration to bring all New Zealanders forward, including Pacific people, which convinced him to support us. I know our strong commitment to economic growth in the Pacific nations, including business mentoring, is important to New Zealand’s Pacific people.

Sidestep. Oscar asked “When?” 

10. Greg Fleming, chief executive of the Maxim Institute: Are there any issues you care enough about that you would be willing to lose all your political capital for them?

I have some bottom lines, and I care deeply about many issues, not least of which is education. I have said I would resign as PM if superannuation entitlements were ever cut. However, political capital is important because it is a measure of how well the public is receiving your policies. Democracy demands the involvement of voters in all the decisions you make,

You mean like with the anti-smacking referendum, where you ignored 85% of voters?

so it can be a balancing act.

Likewise, we have three support partners whose views must be balanced against our own.

I know we’re not meant to ask this, but: Why must the views of the Maori Party be taken into account? After all, their supporters gave their party votes to Labour.

Yet to feather your own political nest you:

a) broke the promise you made to the electorate to abolish the race-based seats

b) gave $500 million of our money to Tuwharetoa for land they’d already been paid for in the 19th century

c) bribed the tribes to get them to support the ETS (where you broke another promise not to lead the world)

d) secretly signed us up to a UN convention that opens a new track for the Treaty gravy train

e) gave away the foreshore and seabed to any iwi with a sense of grievance and a smart lawyer.

That is the nature of MMP government.

Maybe it’s time we got rid of it.

So you’re saying you’ve got one bottom line. You’d sacrifice everything else to keep superannuation payments from being cut.

Isn’t this just Winston Insurance — for when the Oracle returns and reminds his bewildered flock about National’s broken promise over the superannuation surcharge in 1990?

14. John Ansell, designer of the famous “Iwi-Kiwi” billboards for the National Party election campaign in 2005: If you’re genuine about closing the Tasman wage gap, why are you driving up New Zealanders’ power and petrol prices with an emissions trading scheme, when Australia and all other countries have deferred their climate taxes because so much of the science is fraudulent?

I believe human-induced climate change is happening.

Why? Why are you now a Climate Scientologist when you were one of the first to conclude it was a hoax? (A view now clearly shared by our biggest trading partners.)

Further, by refusing to implement the ETS proposed under the former Labour government, we have halved the fuel and electricity costs facing businesses and households.

Oh great. So we’ve progressed from Dumber all the way up to Dumb.

New Zealand, as a responsible international citizen, and as a country that values its clean, green environment, must act to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Why, when…

a) there’s hardly any of them.

b) it won’t change the climate in the slightest.

c) it won’t help you achieve your goal of catching Australia — since even Aussie’s Labor government isn’t dumb enough to punish their people with a tax on the breath of life?

However, this must be in ways that result in the least cost to society and the economy.

Sidestep. You didn’t answer my question. So here’s another one for you…

Which has the least cost to society and the economy:

a) A 5-10% power price rise plus a 4-8c a litre petrol price rise?

b) A 0% power price rise plus a 0c a litre petrol price rise?

15. Peter Elliott, actor: How difficult is it to reconcile the recent success of New Zealand’s ideological stance on nuclear issues with President Barack Obama, when the National Party vilified and ridiculed the instigators of our anti-nuclear policy?

Just days after becoming leader of the National Party in November 2006, I announced my unswerving support for New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation. I said then that under my leadership the anti-nuclear legislation will not change, and it won’t. New Zealanders are proud of the anti-nuclear policy, and it is iconic. As I said in 2006, I believe in that position and see absolutely no reason for change.

Translation: “Where Helen stands, I stand.”

(Will you be going to the UN too, in return for promoting the opponent so many of us worked so hard to defeat?)

20. Roger Kerr, executive director, Business Roundtable: Unlike your predecessor who famously said, “The government’s role is whatever the government defines it to be”, you have endorsed the concept of limited government. What do you regard as the proper limited role of government?

A vital role of government is to improve the living standards of New Zealanders. Sometimes it can do that by funding or providing services itself; sometimes by keeping out of the way of private enterprise. I am not overly ideological about the role of government; I believe in what works.

We look forward to the next OECD GDP per capita rankings to see whether your policies are taking us up or down. Will you take us ahead of the hapless Greeks or be overhauled by the clever Koreans?

I note those same policies have already widened the Tasman Wage Gap.

25. Peter Chin, mayor of Dunedin: When will the government be required to meet the same levels of transparency it demands of local government – especially since the increasing costs of such central government imposed compliance (annual plans, consultation etc) become a further burden to be met by ratepayers?

Central and local government are not directly comparable, but the process of accountability and transparency seems to me to operate in a similar way. For example, both central and local government are subject to the Official Information Act. Through that, expenditure by government – no matter whether it is central or local – can be scrutinised publicly.

Sidestep. Peter was talking about annual plans. How come local governments have to submit annual plans and central government doesn’t?

And how come a prime minister can get away with saying he’s got a plan for achieving his stated goal, when he hasn’t?

26. Don Nicolson, president of Federated Farmers: Do you categorically know if our assumed “clean-green” and “sustainable” brand is a primary reason why consumers in the growing markets of Asia, the Middle East and Africa buy New Zealand food products and if not, why not?

As I said in a speech to Federated Farmers last November, we ignore environmental concerns of our overseas customers at our peril. I said then that environmentally aware consumers across Britain and Europe were increasingly demanding higher environmental standards for the food they buy.

America’s largest supermarket chain, Walmart, is introducing a Sustainability Index. It includes factors such as the impact on natural resources, energy and climate change in the manufacture of its products. I believe consumers in other markets like the ones you cite will increasingly become sensitive to environmental concerns. I do not believe we can differentiate between those types of markets.

Sidestep. The question is not whether Walmart has a Sustainability Index. It’s whether a large percentage of their customers base their buying decisions on it.

As I said to the conference last year, regardless of your view about the environment or climate change, the opinions of your consumers will ultimately decide how well your products sell.

Do you really think our exporters need to be told that? If our professional marketers don’t think it’s a problem, why should the government get involved?

27. Ruth Lim, Sunday Star-Times reader, Christchurch: You went through the public school system and seem to have fond memories of your time there, as evidenced by your recent visit to Burnside High. You have also done very well in the business and political world since. What are your reasons for sending your own children to private schools?

I believe all New Zealanders should have the freedom to make choices, especially when it comes to issues like education and healthcare. New Zealand has excellent schools and one of the reasons for that is different schools are able to cater for students’ various needs. My children enjoy their schools – they’re a good fit. As all parents know, if your children are happy at their school it makes a big impact on their all-round wellbeing.

Sidestep. John, you once said our private schools were no better than our state schools.

If so, why do you and every other senior politician I’m aware of (Labour’s former education minister Mallard included) send your children to private schools?

You know private schools tend to be better. You lead a private enterprise party. Why not be honest and say so — proudly?

30. Denis Dutton, professor of philosophy, University of Canterbury: We continue to lose our smartest, most imaginative and entrepreneurial young people to Australia, the UK, and the US. New Zealanders have a tiresome repertoire of self-delusional excuses for this (“They will come back to raise families”, “We can replace them with Zimbabwe-trained professionals”, “If they are so greedy, who needs them”, etc). Our loss of university-trained citizens is near the top of the OECD. What three initiatives would you put in place to staunch New Zealand’s haemorrhaging of its best young talent?

Ensuring New Zealand remains a lifestyle choice for returning New Zealanders and new migrants means developing a package of initiatives which will endure.

Sidestep. Staunching the haemorrhaging means convincing our  kids not to leave in the first place.

These include an attractive tax system, incentives for businesses, and world-class health and education. New Zealand will always see its young people doing an OE. While many come back home, there will always be those who settle into a new life overseas, and we can’t begrudge them seizing those opportunities. However, we can continue to develop a suite of policy initiatives to ensure we can compete with other countries to attract not only our own best and brightest, but the very best in the world.

The question asked for three initiatives. The answer provided none.

42. Michael Laws, mayor of Whanganui: One of the primary reasons Labour was voted out of office in 2008 was a perceived political correctness that dominated its political thinking. Is the National government not guilty of the same – with its decisions on parental smacking, the spelling of Whanganui, the repeal of the seabed legislation, its embrace of Whanau Ora and its relationship with the minority Maori Party?

One of the government’s priorities this year is to make significant reforms in social sectors like the welfare system, education, the justice system, health and state housing, to deliver better results. All New Zealanders deserve a future with less unemployment, welfare dependence, crime and all the social problems that go along these. To secure this brighter future, we have to get to grips with some of the big issues in these areas which have long been left unaddressed, and we need to tackle these issues as a nation. If National, with its confidence and supply partners, can make headway in these issues, then all New Zealand will benefit. But I don’t believe it’s something National should do alone – having the support of our political partners and New Zealanders across the spectrum is crucial. One thing I believe strongly is that there is no room in New Zealand for separatism. And, although there will be bumps along the way, we need to acknowledge that this is the only way forward.

Sidestep. 169 words and not one on-topic. Never mind Kirwan, that’s Bryan Williams territory.

43. Gareth Morgan, economist and investor: What is the single most important policy advance, to your mind, if NZ is going to have any chance of closing the income gap with Australia?

I have always maintained there is no one silver bullet. It will be a raft of policies that lift New Zealand’s economic performance. Reforming our tax system in a fair and equitable way is one. Reducing red tape, boosting infrastructure such as broadband, electric rail and road networks, driving better performance in the public sector, and encouraging innovation, particularly in science, are others. This will be an ongoing programme, year-on-year.

Sidestep. Gareth asked you for your signature dish, not the whole menu.

44. Phil O’Reilly, chief executive, Business New Zealand: We’re a nation of small businesses, but we really need to develop more global-sized firms like Fonterra to secure our economic future. What are the two most important policy levers you would pull to increase our chances of growing more global companies?

To grow more successful companies in New Zealand, we have to be a better place to run a business. And that doesn’t happen with just two policy levers – we actually have to do hundreds of things well as government, so businesses have the confidence to invest, grow and create higher-paying jobs.

That’s why we have been busy in a whole lot of policy areas from the RMA to trade agreements, to tax to transport, to science to electricity, to education to capital markets, to local government to broadband, and so on. With action in all those areas we increase our chances of growing more successful, internationally competitive, bigger businesses.

Sidestep. Phil didn’t say there should be only two policy levers. He asked for the two most important.

47. Selwyn Pellett, businessman: In business a CEO is hired who knows his craft, understands his chosen market and knows how to extract value from it in the interests of all his shareholders. The corporate goals are almost always achieved with a clear inspiring vision that all stakeholders buy into it. If this is the prescribed business wisdom for success (strong, strategic and inspiring leadership) and you are the head of our business party, do you think that New Zealanders should also demand this of our prime minister?

Running a business is one thing, running a country is another. There are obviously some similarities but it is the job of a prime minister to articulate a vision for where the country is heading, why we want to get there, and how. Voters demand that of political leaders, and that is what I am focusing on.

Wrong. The job of a prime minister is not to talk about getting there. It’s to get there.  

You articulate a vision of closing the Tasman Wage Gap. That’s good.

And you articulate why you want to close it. Also good.

Then you fail to articulate how you’re going to close it. Not so good.

And as a result you’re failing to close it. Bad.

In other words, John, your non-plan is not working.

Now people may think this post is mean. Part of me really doesn’t want to talk like this. I’ve got friends in the National Party, and I have no personal animosity towards John Key at all. Quite the reverse.

But there’s a bigger issue here. The future of our country.

For the last 10 years, under two dominant leaders, New Zealand has been a parliamentary dictatorship.

Now, thanks to his unparalleled political skills, what JK wants, JK gets.

And what JK wants is popularity.

And that’s the wrong motivation. It wasn’t Don Brash’s. It’s not Roger Douglas’s. Nor was it Winston Churchill’s or Margaret Thatcher’s or Ronald Reagan’s.

Real leaders get out of bed in the morning hell-bent on creating a better country. Not just building a bigger majority.

That’s why real leaders like Churchill and Thatcher (and in New Zealand, Douglas) will be remembered long after mere politicians like Clark and Key are forgotten.

Where is the New Zealand leader who can talk straight?

One who doesn’t need to sidestep?

Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm  Comments (5)  

Dom damns PPTA

I love the way those brash  Noo Yawk ad men go right to the heart of an issue in the bluntest of Anglo-Saxon.

(I try to do the same.)

Here’s their take on a common pestilence: unions that put bad teachers before good teachers and children.

I thought it would make a cute backdrop for a post in praise of this morning’s brilliant DomPost editorial about the PPTA’s latest extortion demand.

Teachers need to get real

There has long been a suspicion that reality stops at the door to the teachers’ staffroom.

Now is a time for restraint, not political game-playing. The PPTA is on the wrong side of public opinion. It should abandon its pay claim and focus on improving the quality of teaching.

There is no denying that good teachers are underpaid. But that will not change until teacher unions allow schools to remunerate their staff according to their abilities. No government could afford to bump up the salaries of good teachers by giving all teachers a pay rise.

In Switzerland, I’m told most teachers are paid around NZ$120,000 a year. And who hires them? The parents.

The Post Primary Teachers Association’s ludicrous claim for a 4 per cent pay rise for secondary school teachers lends credence to the theory.

The world is just emerging from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Government is effectively borrowing $200 million a week to maintain existing levels of services, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands have received little, if any, pay rise for the past two years.

The majority reluctantly accept that is the price they must pay for job security. At a time of crisis, everybody – employers and employees – has to tighten their belts.

For the PPTA to demand a big pay increase at such a time is to show gross insensitivity to those who pay teacher salaries through their taxes. For it to demand the increase after its members received 4 per cent pay increases in each of the past three years is to show secondary teachers, or their union at least, are completely out of touch with the real world.

Teachers perform a vital role. They shape the scientists, doctors, cleaners and electricians of the future. As every parent knows, some – those who inspire, engage and excite pupils – are worth their weight in gold. It would be almost impossible to overpay them. However, there are others who go through the motions for a weekly pay cheque and a third group who are simply not up to the job.

Yet the present pay structure does not allow schools to differentiate between the performance of good, indifferent and bad teachers. They are all paid on the basis of their years of service and the responsibilities they hold.

If teacher unions are as serious as they say they are about wanting to keep good teachers in schools, they should work with the Education Ministry to devise a formula that allows schools to pay great teachers what they are worth and send a message to poor teachers that they should review their career options.

Every child knows who their outstanding teachers are. Didn’t you?

Me too. I had about three. I still keep in touch with them 35-40 years later.

Certainly every principal knows who his star performers are. As does any parent who cares about their child’s progress.

I’ve always made a big fuss of great teachers. Anyone who can mesmerise over two dozen hormonal teenagers into mastering  quadratic equations or psychoanalysing Hamlet is one of society’s true heroes.

We had one a few years back who inspired our 12 year old to write a 150 page novel in three weeks.

Like any12 year old, the boy preferred zapping aliens online than pouring prose out of his keyboard.

But this magnificent teacher said “Jump!” And the kids said, “How high?”

As for the dullard teachers, they’re not hard to spot either.

They’re the ones with the long queues of parents snaking out the door and down the corridor on meet-the-teacher nights.

I had one of these for science at high school. More than one actually. Together, they’re the reason I know nothing about science except how to spell it. (Oh, and how to sing the Periodic Table – but that came decades later).

When this guy eventually retired, he apologised to all those he’d mistaught over the years. Which was a fat lot of use.

He should never have been allowed near a classroom. Instead, thanks to the PPTA, he ended up being paid more than his younger, smarter, more diligent colleagues.

For that union to suggest that teachers can’t be measured is exquisitely hypocritical. After all, their members have no trouble applying numerical grades to the children they teach!

But back to the editorial: 

Alternatively, the unions could work with the Government to identify other areas of saving in the education budget. The overstaffed ministry would be a good starting point.

Every 1 per cent increase in primary, secondary and early childhood education salaries costs $50m. Contrary to what the teacher unions and their members appear to believe, the Government is not sitting on a big pot of money. Every extra dollar paid to teachers or other public service employees has to be cut from other areas of government spending or borrowed from overseas.

Whoever wrote that, take a bow.

(Get in touch and I’ll buy you a beer.)

 

Published in: on May 5, 2010 at 11:59 pm  Comments (2)  

Scientific poll backs fern flag

The Herald DigiPoll results. Photo / Herald Graphic
A Herald-Digipoll of 600 today echoes last Friday’s less scientific Close Up poll of 12,000 New Zealanders who want to see us adopt a new flag with a silver fern.

Oddly, the greatest mood for change comes from 40-70 year olds and those outside Auckland, with Aucklanders and 18-29 year olds favouring the Union Jack.

That’s the exact opposite of what I would have expected – a campaign for change driven by middle-aged provincials.

(Seems we baby-boomers are an island of radicalism in a sea of conservatism.)

It would now be good to see another poll, independent of the newspaper that’s leading the campaign for change.

It will be too easy for conservatives to view this Herald poll as akin to a Greenpeace poll on global warming.

But this is a great day for those wanting change, as it means the issue will start to move on to the government’s radar.

All the moreso as it reinforces the prime minister’s own instincts about the silver fern being the right symbol.

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 9:31 am  Comments (2)  

Guardian reports IPCC admission it exaggerated glacier melt

Just kidding with the banner
- but is the media bias melting?

You know the end is nigh for any dishonest movement when its leading liars are forced to resort to truth-telling.

It was the same in the dying days of Soviet communism when Gorbachev confessed that his country had been living a lie.

The surprise with this story about exaggerated Himalayan glacier melting is not that the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change would present science fiction as fact.

That’s old news.

What’s new news is that Britain’s blinkered left-wing Guardian would do the honest thing and report it.

Is liars too strong a word to describe those who’ve deceived the world into believing they needed to divert $45 trillion to fix a non-problem?

Read this excerpt and see what you think: (more…)

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Cousin Graham’s Samoan tsunami fund

(Source: ONE News)

I nearly fell of my chair when my cousin Graham Ansell’s face appeared in the One News review of the year’s events.

I knew Graham, Diann and family had a lucky escape from the Samoan tsunami, but I didn’t know his story had been filmed – or that he’d helped to raise $15,000 for the survivors.

(I even found his story on the BBC News site.) 

(more…)

Published in: on December 26, 2009 at 4:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Let’s fly this fern

In the 21st century, the New Zealand flag should not be a British flag, or a Maori flag, or an Australasian flag. 

It should be a New Zealand flag – for all New Zealand, and only New Zealand.

The symbol that best unites us is surely the ponga or silver fern, first worn  by the NZ Native Rugby Team of 1888.

The silver fern says nature. It says Maori. It says New Zealand. 

It’s ‘us’.

But which silver fern is fit to grace our flag?

I believe the leaf must have a simple, timeless elegance. If I could draw, it wouldn’t have taken me 23 years to show you what I mean.

But only this year did I find a designer who could translate my vision of the perfect fern.

His name is Kenneth Wang, former ACT MP and owner of BrandWorks. 

Twenty  years ago, Kenneth designed the winning poster for the Auckland Commonwealth Games. He was a joy to work with.

I told him I needed a smooth, flowing, classical fern. A few emails later, he’d produced exactly the design I’d had in my mind for 23 years. 

Then, thanks to the miracle of PowerPoint, I set our fern against 141 different backgrounds.

I tried black and white, every shade of blue and green and teal and red - and every combination of stars, bars, panels and stripes I could think of. 

I tried silver ferns and gold ferns and black ferns and white ferns, before confirming  that white looked best. 

Among my six finalists below, I’ve tried to cater to every flag faction, from  sports buffs and nature lovers to traditionalists and Maori.

So now, please tell me which one you’d fly from your flag pole. Then vote in my flag poll.

 WHICH ANSELL/WANG FERN FLAG?

A. Classic black

B. Clean green

C. Stars on blue

D. Silver lining

E. Maori colours

F. Land and sea

Thanks to Anthony Hubbard from the Sunday Star-Times for sparking this post by asking if I had any views on the flag.

It’s fair to say he did not expect the reply, “I’ll send you 141 designs!”

Thanks also to David Farrar, who has said he’ll link to it. I’d assumed my right-of-centre mates would be hostile to this idea, and didn’t know David was a republican and big flag-change fan. 

Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 3:08 am  Comments (56)  
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