Iwi/Kiwi — the Sequel and the Prequel


Come back Helen Clark, all is forgiven.

You may have thought Ethics was a county in England. You may have trampled on our free speech in election year. But at least you locked in our right to a free beach.

Just yesterday we learned that John Key can no longer guarantee that right.

He can’t be sure a group of part-Maori, part-Pakeha New Zealanders won’t one day tax you for the right to swim, sail or fish in your own bay.

By Christmas he may well have traded away tens of thousands of square kilometres of New Zealand coastline for a resource he prizes more highly than all the oil in our territorial sea.

Five Maori Party votes.

There’s a word for that, and it’s not trader.

There was a time not so long ago when the National Party could say it was to the right of Helen Clark on matters Maori.

It had a leader with principles for whom I was proud to create advertising.

As the billboard below made clear (but was cynically misinterpreted by the left), there was never any doubt who Don Brash stood for.

As any dictionary will tell you, Kiwi means all New Zealanders, which clearly includes those represented by the last three letters — iwi.

But when John Key gives iwi the right to negotiate directly with the Crown — meaning former Ngai Tahu lawyer and strongly pro-Maori minister Chris Finlayson — who will speak for Kiwis?



Critics on the left thought it dishonest to characterise Helen Clark as ‘Iwi’. After all, did her Foreshore and Seabed Act not claim the coast for the Crown?

It’s a fair point.

But it was not the way the National Party saw things at the time.

They viewed Labour’s bill as deliberately embedded with fish-hooks that iwi could use to eventually hook the resources they craved.

Below is the long copy forerunner of the Iwi/Kiwi billboard, which I wrote a year earlier to spell out National’s concerns.

It talks of their fear of vague concepts like tikanga Maori and customary rights.

In 2004 the Nats believed those concerns to be real, but it would now appear those fish-hooks were blunt. In the six years since, few if any tribes have succeeded with their coastal claims.

So while Clark may have been Iwi next to Brash’s Kiwi, alongside Kaumatua Key she’s ‘Kiwi as’.

Key’s foreshore and seabed plans are frightening, as he’s repeatedly shown he’s willing to sacrifice the national interest for the interests of the National Party.

For a fascinating insight into principles as a tradable commodity, click on the magnified image at the very bottom and read my 2004 body copy.

You may need to pinch yourself as you do.

Yes, this is the National Party trying to scare you about Labour’s coastal management — when most of the same fish-hooks are now part of their own policy, but sharper.

Enjoy the exquisite hypocrisy.


Click on the below image to magnify the body copy, then again if you need to.

 This post is also appearing on Muriel Newman’s site www.nzcpr.co.nz.

Note: I’ve submitted the billboard at the top to the Coastal Coalition. Hope they decide to run it.

Published in: on August 2, 2010 at 1:15 pm  Comments (9)  

Only NZ and octopus undefeated

  Team Rank     Odds Lost To
 1 NZ   32 2000/1    0  
 2 Spain    1    7/2    1 Switzerland
  Brazil    2    9/2    1 Holland
  England    3    6/1    1 Germany
  Argentina    4    7/1    1 Germany
  Holland    5   11/1    1 Spain
  Italy    6   14/1    1 Slovakia
  Portugal    9   22/1    1 Spain
  Ivory Cst   10   33/1    1 Brazil
  Paraguay   11   50/1    1 Spain
  USA   13   66/1    1 Ghana
  S. Africa   18   80/1    1 Uruguay
  Australia   20  100/1    1 Germany
  Switzerland   25  200/1    1 Chile
  Slovenia   27  250/1    1 England
17 Germany    7   16/1    2 Serbia, Spain
  France    8   20/1    2 Mexico, S. Africa
  Chile   11   50/1    2 Brazil, Spain
  Uruguay   13   66/1    2 Holland, Germany
  Ghana   13   66/1    2 Germany, Uruguay
  Serbia   13   66/1    2 Australia, Ghana
  Denmark   18   80/1    2 Japan, Holland
  Mexico   20  100/1    2 Argentina, Uruguay
  Nigeria   20  100/1    2 Argentina, Greece
  S. Korea   23  125/1    2 Argentina, Uruguay
  Greece   24  150/1    2 Argent, S. Korea
  Japan   25  200/1    2 Holland, Paraguay
  Slovakia   27  250/1    2 Holland, Paraguay
  Algeria   29  350/1    2 Slovenia, USA
  Honduras   30  500/1    2 Chile, Spain
31 Cameroon   13   66/1    3 Denm, Japan, Holl
  N. Korea   31 1000/1    3 Braz, Iv Cst, Port

The odds above are those offered by British bookmaker William Hill on 26 May, a few days before the start of the World Cup.

(My rankings are those of the bookie, not FIFA.)

Note that William Hill cruelly rated New Zealand twice as unlikely to lift the trophy as North Korea (at 2000/1 compared with 1000/1).

This despite the All Whites’ FIFA ranking being 26 places higher than Kim Jong-Il’s hermits (78th to their 104th).

How very ironic, then, that our so-called easy-beats should end up as the unbeatables — indeed the only 2010 finalists to remain undefeated in World Cup Finals since 1982.

But even New Zealand’s surprise showing must take second place to the stellar achievements of Paul the Psychic Octopus.

In picking Germany to beat Uruguay for third, and Spain to beat Holland in this morning’s final, the oracle mollusc finished the tournament with a perfect 8 correct picks out of 8.

William Hill could do worse than offer him a job.

Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Now it’s just Old Zeeland and New Zealand…

… who remain unbeaten at the World Cup.

I’d love Holland to win the trophy, after watching those brilliant Dutch teams of the 70s dip out to hosts West Germany and Argentina.

Before the tournament I picked Brazil (the only country to win the World Cup on a foreign continent, which they’ve done twice), then Germany.

But I picked the Germans for their mental toughness. Not their flair.

But what flair they now have — similar, ironically, to Cruyff’s Dutchmen of ’74.

This is a very special German team — the only team since Pele’s Brazil in 1970 to score four goals three times in the one World Cup.

And as this comparison shows, they’ve done it with two games to spare, conceding only one goal in those wins, as against the greatest-ever Brazilian side’s four:


beat Czechoslovakia 4-1
beat Peru 4-2
beat Italy 4-1


beat Australia 4-0
beat England 4-1
beat Argentina 4-0

So my head says that unless they implode like the Hungarians of 1954, Germany will beat both Spain and Holland.

(Which will leave only one Zealand unbeaten :-))

Of course, a Dutch patriot could make a similar argument for the Oranje. They’ve now gone 26 matches unbeaten, with 14 straight wins in this World Cup if you include qualifying.

But then Ferenc Puskas’s Hungarians had gone 31 games without tasting defeat. They’d thrashed West Germany in the first round, reigning runners-up Brazil in the quarters, and reigning champs Uruguay in the semis.

Their form continued in the final, where they led the Germans 2-0. But they peaked too soon and the rest is history…


beat South Korea 9-0
beat West Germany 8-3
beat Brazil 4-2
beat Uruguay 4-2
lost to West Germany 2-3

I guess, as any Crusaders fan knows, it’s about who’s ahead at the end of the last match.

If Klose can avoid getting red carded against Spain, I still think it’ll be those fearless young Germans.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm  Comments (1)  

The Invincible All Whites

A bizarre bit of statistical flotsam flitted into my mind about 4am yesterday as the German football maestros were giving the Argentinian handball player Diego Primadona his karmic comeuppance.

It’s so unreal it could be straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

(Make that Ricki’s Believe It or Not.)

It goes like this.

If world number one Spain or three-time winners Germany win the 2010 FIFA World Cup, only one team will finish the tournament unbeaten.

And that team will not be Spain, and it will not be Germany.

(You’ll remember the Spaniards were upset by the Swiss in their first match. And the brilliant Germans suffered some sort of brain explosion against the Serbs in their second.)

Nor will the unbeaten team be five-time champions Brazil or four-time champions Italy, who lost to Holland and Slovakia respectively.

It will not be two-time champions Argentina, or their Falklands foes and Wembley one-hit wonders England, both of whom were blitzkrieged by Germany.

It will not be 1998 winners and reigning runners-up France, who qualfied by dubious means, were smashed by two Mexican waves, then surrendered, squabbling, to South Africa.

It will not be former World Cup placegetters Portugal (edged by Spain), Chile (outplayed by both Spain and Brazil), South Korea (beaten by Argentina and Uruguay)  or the USA (yes, they were 3rd in 1930 — beaten this time in extra time by Ghana). 

It will not be the back end of the Czechoslovak pantomime horse, since the Slovaks were beaten by fellow former double bridesmaids Holland.

It will not be two-time placegetter Yugoslavia’s latter-day sliver, Slovenia (ousted by England), or its rump Serbia, who went to all the bother of upending Germany, only to succumb to unglamorous Ghana and Australia.

Same story with former hosts Switzerland, who gored the Spanish toreadors, but were burned by the not-so-hot Chile and could only draw with the humble Hondurans.

It will not be those Hondurans, who went down to Chile and Spain, or Spain’s latest Latin victim, Paraguay.

Or two-time hosts Mexico, who fell to that neighbouring pair of one-time hosts and two-time winners, Uruguay and Argentina.

It will not be former European champion Denmark or Greece, each of whom was karate-chopped by an Asian former host (Denmark by Japan, Greece by South Korea), with the Greeks being lassoed by the Argentinian gauchos for good measure.

It will not be any of the Johnny-come-latelies from Asia and Africa: 

  • Japan (pipped by Paraguay on penalties)
  • Cote d’Ivoire (just beaten by Brazil)
  • Australia (butchered by Germany)
  • Cameroon (who recorded a hat-trick of one-goal losses to Denmark, Holland and Japan) 
  • Algeria (trumped by Slovenia and the USA)
  • Nigeria (nudged out by Argentina and Greece)
  • hosts South Africa (gatecrashed by Uruguay 3-0), or
  • Ghana (cruelly denied by those greedy Uruguayans on penalties after squandering a spot-kick winner at the death).

It most certainly will not be the outrageously misnamed Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, who were monstered by Portugal 7-0, clobbered by Cote d’Ivoire 3-1, yet, oddly, barely shaded by Brazil (2-1).

Spain and Germany are playing in the semis. That means one of them will end up with two losses.

The other will line up in the final against either Holland or Uruguay — both currently unbeaten.

So the championship decider will be between a team that’s lost once, and a team that’s yet to lose.

If one of the teams that’s already lost (Spain or Germany) lifts the trophy, then the only unbeaten team of the 32 that started World Cup 2010 will be none other than…

… (drum roll please)… 

… the 1000-1 rank outsiders…

… a team that conceded ten goals more than they scored in their only previous finals appearance…

… conquerors of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Bahrain…

… everybody’s 32nd favourites…

… New Zealand!

(I might add that those 1000-1 odds were offered by the New Zealand TAB — Lord knows what they were paying overseas.)

At worst, we’ll have to share the unbeaten mantle with one other team.

If the winner of Holland v Uruguay beats the winner of Germany v Spain in the final, then the unbeaten teams will be either:

  • Holland and New Zealand


  • Uruguay and New Zealand.

(I figured it was only fair to put our rivals’ names before our own, since if they win they’ll have won, um… seven matches to our, er… none.)

But on present form, it look like we won’t have to share.

The youthful German juggernaut should steamroll the Spanish the same way they crushed their Argentinian cousins.

The Dutch should have too much flair and/or discipline for Uruguay.

And Germany should be able to outpace their old enemy in a rerun of the epic 1974 final.

If that happens, I repeat… the only team to leave South Africa without a loss to its name will be… ours.

And that’s not all. Oh no.

On top of that wacky claim to fame, Kiwis will be entitled to a special bonus boast

Having earlier beaten Serbia 1-0, then seen Serbia beat Germany 1-0, and Germany beat everyone else that matters (including Australia 4-0, Argentina 4-0 and England 4-1), we’ll be able to brag with only slightly twisted logic that we’re the Giant-Killer Killers of World Football.

Not a bad outcome from our only actual recent win!

In honour of this remarkable achievement, I suggest this team be christened the Invincible All Whites — a cheeky play on the Invincible All Blacks of 1924.

OK, so those All Blacks won 32 out of 32 and these All Whites drew 3 out of 3. Who’s counting?  This is the world game.

Roll on Brazil 2014 and the first All Whites’ victory.

P.S. Aren’t statistics fun?:-)

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 2:02 am  Comments (1)  

Today is…

In honour of possibly the stupidest tax in New Zealand history, which comes into effect today.

The above was produced with the help of the intimidatingly multi-talented Grant McLachlan (lawyer, columnist, screenwriter, researcher, cartoonist, animator, designer, yacht club commodore, etc., etc., etc.)

If you like it, pass it on.

 The more the public can be encouraged to link their price rises with John Key’s and Nick Smith’s totally pointless ETS, the sooner the Nats will be encouraged to scrap it.

Published in: on July 1, 2010 at 1:12 am  Comments (1)  

Key has faith in IPCC

A prime minister needs to be a jack of all trades. So it’s not really fair to expect him to be master of many.

But we do expect him to be a good judge of which masters to place his faith in.

On global warming, as you can read here, our prime minister places his total faith in the much-maligned IPCC.

With his idiotic climate tax due to start hitting you in the pocket the day after tomorrow, read this and weep. 

4 FEBRUARY, 2010


I’ve never had so many questions for a prime minister before.

No doubt because of the higher prices those listeners will soon be paying because of the ETS.

An emailed question:

In view of the overwhelming evidence that the IPCC has produced a flawed document and flawed policy, would he consider postponing the extra charges on petrol and electricity coming into force on July 1?

If not, where does the tax money go? I have not been able to get a satisfactory answer from anyone.


It’s not our intention at this point to delay the ETS.

And what I’d say about the Emissions Trading Scheme that we have in place is it’s at the very mild end of an Emissions Trading Scheme.

So why do I say that?

Beats me, John.

Because your scheme is the most punishing emissions trading scheme in the world. No country outside the socialist EU is silly enough to have one.

And theirs only punishes 4% of their economy, while yours punishes 100% of ours.

Also, 80% of European trade is inside Europe. So their companies are on a level playing field with their competitors.

Whereas 100% of New Zealand trade is outside New Zealand. So our exporters’ are playing on a field that’s tilted in their competitors’ favour.

Well firstly, basically the price of carbon is capped at $12.50.

So it’s significantly lower and can’t rise for the period of time that it’s in for the first few years.

Secondly, where does the money go?

It gets recycled.

So the old scheme Labour had proposed actually sucked, in the end, tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money out of the economy into the pockets of the government.

That’s right. The only scheme dumber than National’s was Labour’s.

Dumb and Dumber. Is that the best this country can be?

We’re not doing that.

We are taking a modest amount and giving it to people who plant trees or come up with technological answers to climate change.

So it’s quite modest.

Tell that to the shivering pensioners and other strugglers you’ll soon be hitting with higher petrol, power and grocery prices — on top of your GST rise and any normal price rises.


Are you still receiving advice on climate change from Dr. Gluckman?


I don’t get really my major advice on climate change from him. I do talk to him.

But he doesn’t provide the formal written advice. That comes from other government departments.


Such as?


Well, NIWA provides advice.

That would be the same NIWA who were donkey-deep in the Climategate racket?

The Ministry of the Environment provides advice. Some comes from Forestry actually.

That would be the foresters who can’t believe their luck at being compensated for trees they planted after 1989, even though they neither expected any compensation, nor think they deserve it.


Plus the IPCC. Which a lot of those entities you talk about take their advice from.


Yeah, a combination of things.

For instance, if you look at the most recent advice I had before I went to Copenhagen – and we can come back to that and the merits or success of that particular meeting.

But, if you go and have a look at that, the advice we’ve had is that NZ has warmed by about .8 of a degree, just under 1 degree, over the last (I think it’s) 50 odd years.

Yet back in the pre-industrial 18th century, there was a rise of 2.2 degrees in 36 years. From natural causes. 


That’s the advice you had before you went?


[No response]


You know that advice is now under severe criticism.


  This is New Zealand, not… not…


Yes, but are you aware that that is under severe criticism now?


Well, I think we’ll go back to the debate.

There are always going to be arguments over the merits one way or the other.

What you can say is that those that wanted a focus on climate change and nothing else, such as Greenpeace, were winning public opinion.

And there was a big push in that direction.

And we were out of sync with them.

Because we said: New Zealand needs a balanced approach between creating jobs and growing our economy, and dealing with our environmental issues.

On the other side of the coin, there are clearly those who think this is all a load of rubbish – it should be completely discounted as a left wing plan.

Er, yeah. You’d think a right-wing government would have been wise to that possibility.

And what happened since the Copenhagen breakdown, there has been growing scepticism around the world.

Not since Copenhagen, John. Since Climategate. Which was before Copenhagen. Big difference.

I think the pendulum will eventually settle somewhere around where National has been the whole way through.

You mean the Al Gore position? I don’t think so.  

We will eventually do things about climate change, because we are expelling more greenhouse gases. The population is growing.

How do we deal with that in a practical way without asking people to change their standard of living?

But you are asking people to be poorer — even though New Zealand has next-to-no population, and expels next-to-no greenhouse gases.

Oh and is — so you keep telling us — supposed to be trying to become as rich as Australia.


So you still subscribe to CO 2 being a driver of climate change?


Well, it’s not just CO 2, it’s methane and nitrate.


What would it take to disabuse you of this theory?


I think the first thing is: factually, we can measure the rise in greenhouse gases.

We can measure quite accurately the rise of CO 2 and methane and nitrate in the atmosphere.

So that’s not debatable.

Nor is it an answer to Leighton’s question, John.

What we can’t do, I guess, is ever – when it comes to science – 100% say that there’s a cause and effect: because that’s rising, that’s having these implications.

 And that’s where the debate often rests.

That’s where it should rest — until the cause and effect is proven.

It should not rest with the knee-jerk acceptance of a highly dubious theory as fact.

It should certainly not rest with the squandering of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a non-solution to a non-problem.

You’ll get those who say climate change is responsible for Hurricane Katrina, catastrophic weather conditions, and actually cooling.

And a lot of the people making the most bizarre claims (now discredited) are those very same people you take advice from — the climate scientologists of the IPCC.

(It’s not necessarily always changes in warming. Changes in weather patterns.)

Others will say they are not.

But if you go back to the bulk of the scientific evidence, it overwhelmingly supports that there is an effect.

The real evidence says the effect is minuscule.

Yes, a bunch of computer models are forecasting all manner of doom and gloom, but they’ve been programmed to produce the result their politicised programmers want.

And how have those projections panned out in real life?

Very badly.

Here’s the Global Warming Model Validation Scorecard. By 2006, when this site stopped counting, the models’ record of successful predictions stood at: Won 1, Lost 27, Drawn 4.

(Ever wonder why scientists only ever call them projections, not predictions? It’s because they get it wrong over 90% of the time.) 

Dodgy computer models are not evidence.

Now, can that change? Will it change?

I don’t know.

But all I can tell you is that a lot of people, for a long period of time, have looked at this.

And the overwhelming bulk of scientific evidence supports it.

Even if you go to someone like Bjorn Lomborg, he would say to you — yes, the Sceptical Environmentalist — he would say to you, “Climate change is happening, but is it worth fixing?”

He would say, “Pour money into fixing the world’s water supplies,” for instance.

Glad you mentioned Dr Lomborg. Let’s have a look at what he actually said.

Here he is at the TED conference in 2005.

He said a number of different groups of economists were asked to rank the world’s fifteen biggest problems by how cost-effectively we could solve them.

All groups rated one problem 15th and least worth trying to fix.

That problem? You guessed it: global warming.


Not because it wasn’t happening. But because we’d have to spend $150 billion a year cooling the planet. And with all that money, we’d still only be able to nudge the temperature down by a gnat’s whisker.

It’s simply not worth it.

With half that money — $75 billion a year — we could fix all of the world’s major problems. Including all of the world’s communicable diseases like AIDS and malaria.

Lomborg also said something else very interesting.

He talked about what would happen if we let the market system kept lifting poor people out of poverty at the same rate as it has been.

He said that by 2100, the average Bangladeshi will be as wealthy as today’s average Dutchman. So they’ll be well able to adapt to any climatic problem they may face.

(And we all know how the Dutch coped with their little water problem centuries ago — when they had less technology than today’s Bangladeshis.)

So I personally believe human-induced climate change is occurring.

New Zealand’s got to take a responsible approach for a variety of reasons.

 But not one of those reasons stacks up.

Most of the foresters don’t need compensating, and those that do would only set us back about $20 million.

No country is going to take action against us for not having an ETS when they either haven’t got one themselves or (in the case of Europe) it doesn’t apply to agriculture or anything except heavy industry.

But I don’t think we should be at the extreme end of the debate.

So why are you?

If the world’s first all-sectors, all-gases ETS doesn’t put us at the extreme end of the debate, what would?


Let me ask you again: What would disabuse you of that belief that you’ve adopted?


Scientific support that we are wrong.


Are you — with the greatest respect to the office of the Prime Minister — can I suggest to you that you are ill informed, and the sources that you’re getting your information from are not providing you with up to date and accurate information?

The scam of man-made global warming – of man-made climate change – is being exposed all over the world at the moment.

Even the New Zealand Herald, while it still held reserve at the end of the Editorial yesterday, finally woke up from it’s 40 year sleep and wrote an editorial that said this scam is going on.

Time Magazine – all the pro-anthropogenic global warming pushers in the media  – have backed off and are now saying we need to go back to square one and work with real science, and not the nonsense that’s led the prime ministers of the world to tax their populations.



So isn’t the answer here, though, to say, “Look, let’s accept for a moment that it is occurring” – and I accept your perspective that it’s not. 

No that most certainly is not the answer, John.

Before you commit billions of dollars of taxpayers to fixing a problem, the burden of proof must be on the scientists to prove that the problem exists.

You should not just “accept for a moment that it is occurring”.

That’s lazy leadership.

It’s a very long-term problem. Whatever happens, it’s a long-term issue.

The history of the world’s climate is an extremely long-term issue. And as paleontologist Professor Bob Carter will tell you, by the standards of the past we’re going through a rather chilly phase at the moment, with relatively little carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

But I don’t suppose Dr Gluckman and his IPCC friends mentioned that, did he John?

And where the debate becomes ridiculous at one level is when someone like myself and other leaders turn up in Copenhagen, and world leaders like the head of Bangladesh — the President or Prime Minister of Bangladesh — gets up and says — as she did actually at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Trinidad and Tobago — that hundreds of millions of people were starving in her country as a result of climate change.

Well, actually, there’s been long-standing problems in Bangladesh, and I think to start rooting them all back to climate change is ridiculous. 

You had Bolivia and Venezuela getting up at Copenhagen saying that climate change was the evil that was causing capitalism.

Well, I mean that’s a ridiculous statement.

So you’re less ridiculous than Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and the president or prime minister of Bangladesh. Hardly cause for celebration.


But you are in good company now. You’ve got Osama Bin Laden on your side.


 Oh right. So…

But my point is simply this.

We have a very modest system, which we can gear up or ultimately can gear down.

If, at the end of the day, we plant a few more trees in New Zealand, work on expelling less greenhouse gases, in my view — and build greater efficiency, fuel efficiency and the likes — in my view they all have merits and benefits.

We have a million hectares of erosion-prone land in New Zealand. Let’s fix that anyway.


The Australian ran a piece today… [went on to talk about the article that said that trees may not be the carbon sink we thought they were.]


Yeah, there’ll always be a debate. But if you look at it, we have years of research and evidence that shows that trees do suck co2 out of the atmosphere.

So does grass. Why can’t our farmers get any credits for that?


I want to conclude it with this.

The claim was, “The science is settled, the consensus has it.”

Both of those are fallacies. They are now becoming unravelled big-time.


Well, I would go back to you and say what I started with.

I think the debate got extreme on one side pre-Copenhagen.

I think you are seeing a predictable push back the other way.

But I’ll be amazed if, in a few years time, you’re still not seeing countries around the world attempting to do something about this problem.

I’m not saying they’ll- Well, if they’re smart, they won’t sacrifice everything in their economy and all these stupid things for taking a sole and singular focus on climate change.

But I think countries will deal with it.


Dr Lomborg, who you quoted earlier, said, “The brave thing to do at the moment is nothing.”

He said that. And somebody wrote to me this morning with a question for you: “Are you brave enough to do nothing?”


Well, it’s not a question of being brave.

I think the answer there is that if New Zealand did nothing, what would be the implications on the international markets – given we export around about a third of our economy, and want to export more?

And the answer is, there will be pushback.


Given what the leading media in the UK is saying at the moment — and other places, but the UK seem to be of major interest to us on this front — no pushback.

None whatsoever.


Well, I don’t know, ‘cos you’ve got the UK being taxed on that front. You’ve got all of Europe in an Emissions Trading Scheme.

So you are saying that… See, you can argue the merits of it one way or the other. But in the end, the Europeans, the Americans…

In the end, John, the Europeans aren’t taxing agriculture. So they can hardly get upset if we don’t either.

The Americans aren’t going ahead with their cap and trade scheme.

The Chinese won’t be getting an ETS any century soon.

And to cap it all off, Australia’s delayed the scheme we’re supposed to be working in with for at least three years. (A delay that new PM Julia Gillard has endorsed.)

That’s all our main trading partners.

So where will the reprisals be coming from? 


Have I drawn your attention though this morning to the fact that it really is unravelling?

And can I ask you to make further enquiry?


I will.

I hope Leighton asks him to report back.


What debate are we prepared to get involved in? Certainly sooner or later someone has to say, “The emperor has no clothes.”

We have to have- Chicken Little has to be called home to roost, so that we can have that debate, so that we can actually know what direction to go to.

Because we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars of peoples funds, nations’ funds, right at the time of a global catastrophic financial meltdown.


I think the truthful answer is: you’re not going to get as straightforward and binary black and white answer as that any time real soon.

Because I think there will be conjecture and debate and quite ferocious arguments put up by both sides for decades.

What we do know is: the population of the world is getting larger.

We know that they’re industrialising quicker and consuming a lot more carbon.

The question now is ultimately: Does that have any long term impact on the world?

And the scientific evidence that we see indicates it does, and that we should attempt to do something about it.

From New Zealand’s point of view, I think that if we don’t play our part in the world, we’ll have our reputation tarnished. We’ll have reduced access for our goods and services.

So now that we’re playing our part and the rest of the world isn’t, will the rest of the world give us increased access? Or is our shining reputation just one for stupidity?

But I think we should do it in a considered and modest way. And that’s what we’re doing.

Enjoy your considered and modest prices rises after Thursday.

Thanks to Karen Bridgman for the transcript of the interview.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 1:26 am  Comments (4)  

A poem for Jeffrey Wigand

Grant McLachlan, Dan McCaffrey and I were having dinner at Leuven last Wednesday, when who should plonk himself down at the next table but Jeffrey Wigand, the legendary Big Tobacco whistleblower.

I haven’t seen Russell Crowe’s portrayal of him on The Insider, but I recognised him from a Breakfast interview that morning.

Grant greeted him like a long-lost friend. And Dan, tongue firmly in cheek, launched into a rave about how soaring cigarette prices were unfairly punishing our beneficiaries.

And boy, did Dr Wigand seize the bait. With shark-like ferocity, he replied that anyone caught spending their welfare check on cigarettes should have their benefit cut.

(Sounds fair to me.)

I could see at that moment why Jeffrey Wigand was such a handful for those tobacco lawyers. He’s one determined guy, who speaks in the plainest of English. I wish we had more of them here.

I told him I’d send him this poem from my book I Think The Clouds Are Cotton Wool:


(First verse sung to the tune of A Bicycle Built For Two

Hazy Daisy,
Give me your cancer, do;
I’m inhaling
More of your smoke than you;
It’s hard to believe that soon we’ll
Be meeting at my funeral,
And when I’m dead
It can be said
I was basically killed by you.

. . .

Nothing on this planet kills
Like W.D. and H.O. Wills;
Not the tiger, not the shark,
Not Al-Qaeda in Iraq;
More than Hitler or Bin Laden,
Genghis Khan or Joseph Stalin;
Mussolini and Saddam
Haven’t done a lot of harm
Next to the collected horrors
Of a certain Philip Morris.

Kaiser Bill and Mao Zedong
Hardly put a jackboot wrong;
Idi’s army in Uganda,
Tutsi-butchers in Rwanda;
Even naughty old Pol Pot
Couldn’t slaughter like this lot;
The worst of men from history’s annals
Did not kill like RJ Reynolds.

Slobodan Milosevic,
Serbia, the loss of which
Must have hurt — and serves him right —
But not as much as Winston Light.
Evil Nicolai Ceaucescu,
Though he left us kids to rescue,
More Romanian orphans die
From nicotine than Nicolai.

Mr Benson, Mr Hedges —
Killers both, the state alleges;
Rothmans, Carlton and Winfield —
Murderers who stand revealed.
As their legal team tap-dances,
Ask them questions, they give cancers;
Should there be a total ban?
Why not ask the Marlboro Man?

Marlboro Man, that great romancer,
Just before he died of cancer,
Choked, “I think … at last … I’ve hit
Upon a … failsafe … way to … quit.”

Lawyers stall and judges fudge;
Politicians dare not budge;
Big Tobacco’s biggest three
(Reynolds, Morris, BAT)
Hide behind the same defence:
“Inconclusive evidence.”

. . .

(This last verse sung to the tune of Chim-chim-cheree)

Chim-chimney chim-chimney
Chim-chim cheroot;
Time we were giving
Tobacco the boot;
How many more, how many more
Graves must be filled
Full of the smokers
You jokers have killed?

© J Ansell 2003

I hope he likes it.

A few years back, when the air quality in most pubs was on a par with the inside of a chimney, I plucked up the courage to perform the above in a bar full of smokers.

I thought I’d be lucky to get out alive, but I wanted them to know how I felt about their selfish habit.

And did they attack me?

Er, no. They clapped and cheered, and voted me the bar tab for best poem of the night.

So did my brave recital cause them to rethink their attitude toward polluting other people’s lungs?

Again, no. When the reading had finished, most of them went back to the bar and lit up a fag.

Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

What do kiwis, helicopters and pterodactyls have in common?

If the above is all Greek to you, don’t worry — just wing it. Why? Because the root word for wing in Greek is pter. 

You’ll find it hiding in helicopter and pterodactyl. And, in its longer form pteryx, in the official name of our beloved kiwi, apteryx.

Now it may strike you as odd that our flightless national bird should be any sort of relative of the mega-winged prehistoric predator, let alone of the rotor-bladed mechanical whirlybird.

You may be thinking that our little nocturnal groundgrubbing stickybeak could hardly have less in common with these two high-flying giants.

And there, I’m afraid, you’d be dead wrong. There’s a secret link, you see.

It’s the a at the front. In Greek, a means without or not. As in:

  • amoral — not moral
  • apathy — without feeling
  • atypical — not typical. 

In the same way, we get apteryx without wing — flightless.

And as in English, the Greek adds an n when it precedes a vowel. So an also means without. Hence:

  • anaesthetic — without sensation
  • anarchy  — without  a ruler
  • anhydrous — without water.

As for the helico part of helicopter, that’s Greek for spiral. Science buffs will know it in its other form, helix.

Oh, and the dactyl in pterodactyl means finger.

(Mind you, dactyl also means toe, just as pter sometimes means feather. So pterodactylwinged finger could just as easily mean feathered toe.)

Who said English was the only crazy language?

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Leftist UN appoints leftist PM to absolve club-wielding leftist peace activists

So the UN thinks a former NZ Labour PM is the ideal neutral party to investigate the Israeli clash with the so-called peace activists off Gaza.

As they say in Tel Aviv, כן, בטח  (yeah right).

Could Ban Ki-moon’s promotion of Sir Geoffrey Palmer have anything to do with another former New Zealand PM not a million miles from his office?

Because we know her views on the Israelis and Palestinians, don’t we?

Clue: here’s a 2005 photo of her former foreign minister and successor Phil Goff getting unusually chummy with former PLO leader and Black September terrorist group founder (think Munich 1972) Yasser Arafat.

Let’s hope fellow Labourite Sir Geoffrey will be sufficiently impartial to ask why the Mavi Marmara was carrying peace activists like these:

Ahmad Umimon — Hamas operative.

Ken O’Keefe — Hamas operative. Tried to enter the Gaza Strip to form and train a commando unit.

Hassan Iynasi — Financial supporter of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization.

Hussein Urosh — Activist in the IHH organization. On his way to Gaza to help smuggle Al-Qaeda operatives into the Strip.

Fatimah Mahmadi — Active member of “Viva Palestine.” Tried to smuggle forbidden electronic components into Gaza.

Thanks to Kiwi in America via Kiwiblog for the link.

I note David Farrar’s more generous view of Sir Geoffrey’s appropriateness. But in politics, perception is everything.

And that means no matter how expert in maritime law our former PM may be, and no matter how impeccable his integrity, his link to a party that’s so shamelessly partisan is bound to cast doubt on any judgement he may make against Israel.

Published in: on June 9, 2010 at 12:40 am  Comments (2)  

The best public service is private

Thomas Sowell

I’m a big fan of the uncommonly sensible writing of Stanford University economics guru Thomas Sowell.

In his latest opinion editorial on the Atlasphere site, he argues that the best form of public service is private enterprise:

Many starry-eyed young adults who are fresh out of college have dreams of helping their fellow man via the public service sector. But when has a bureaucrat ever bestowed mass prosperity?

 Every year about this time, big-government liberals stand up in front of college commencement crowds across the country and urge the graduates to do the noblest thing possible — become big-government liberals.
That isn’t how they phrase it, of course. Commencement speakers express great reverence for “public service,” as distinguished from narrow private “greed.” There is usually not the slightest sign of embarrassment at this self-serving celebration of the kinds of careers they have chosen — over and above the careers of others who merely provide us with the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear and the medical care that saves our health and our lives.
What I would like to see is someone with the guts to tell those students: Do you want to be of some use and service to your fellow human beings? Then let your fellow human beings tell you what they want — not with words, but by putting their money where their mouth is.
You want to see more people have better housing? Build it! Become a builder or developer — if you can stand the sneers and disdain of your classmates and professors who regard the very words as repulsive.
Would you like to see more things become more affordable to more people? Then figure out more efficient ways of producing things or more efficient ways of getting those things from the producers to the consumers at a lower cost.
That’s what a man named Sam Walton did when he created Wal-Mart, a boon to people with modest incomes and a bane to the elite intelligentsia. In the process, Sam Walton became rich. Was that the “greed” that you have heard your classmates and professors denounce so smugly? If so, it has been such “greed” that has repeatedly brought prices down and thereby brought the American standard of living up.
Back at the beginning of the 20th century, only 15 percent of American families had a flush toilet. Not quite one-fourth had running water. Only three percent had electricity and one percent had central heating. Only one American family in a hundred owned an automobile.
By 1970, the vast majority of those American families who were living in poverty had flush toilets, running water and electricity. By the end of the twentieth century, more Americans were connected to the Internet than were connected to a water pipe or a sewage line at the beginning of the century.
More families have air-conditioning today than had electricity then. Today, more than half of all families with incomes below the official poverty line own a car or truck and have a microwave.
This didn’t come about because of the politicians, bureaucrats, activists or others in “public service” that you are supposed to admire. No nation ever protested its way from poverty to prosperity or got there through rhetoric or bureaucracies.
It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.
Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing “compassion” for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.
The wonderful places where you are supposed to go to do “public service” are as sheltered from the brutal test of reality as you have been on this campus for the last four — or is it six? — years. In these little cocoons, all that matters is how well you talk the talk. People who go into the marketplace have to walk the walk.
Colleges can teach many valuable skills, but they can also nourish many dangerous illusions. If you really want to be of service to others, then let them decide what is a service by whether they choose to spend their hard-earned money for it.

Sowell is the author of Basic Economics, The Housing Boom and Bust and many other books about economics, education, race and other subjects.

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm  Comments (1)  

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)  

Green MP would find Stone Age tools unsustainable

Photo: www.bronze-age-swords.com

On Backbenchers last week, Green MP Catherine Delahunty (below) was asked what she’d do if she found there was $100 million worth of gold buried beneath her private property.

She replied that she’d plant a garden.

Because gardens are sustainable.

As David Farrar points out, Ms Delahunty opposes all forms of mining, not just gold.

So to describe the Greens as Luddites would appear, at least in Catherine’s case, to be very unfair.

To the Luddites.

This eco-warriorwoman would seem to favour rewinding civilisation 43,000 years — to before the first paleolithic flint mines.

Now for your average Stone Ager, life was no picnic at the best of times. But take away his trusty flint adze and he’d be well and truly at the mercy of the Earth Mother.

(Or Catherine, as she’d surely become known.)

As for the comparatively modern 5,000 year old Bronze Age family above, in a Delahunty world, their sword, spearhead and arrow tips would be outlawed as unsustainable.

Bang goes their defence capability.

City made of pots by Zhan Wang

And the lady of the house can forget about doing any cooking in those new-fangled bronze pots.

For alas, bronze  does not grow on trees. It’s made by mixing a smidgen of naturally-occurring tin with nine smidgens of naturally-occurring copper.

All of which must be — sorry to have to break this to you — mined.

If Bronze Agers would struggle to do without mined metal, how is modern man supposed to cope?

Or is modern man the last thing the Greens are concerned about?

Published in: on May 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm  Comments (2)  

Kevin Dunkley at Exhibitions Gallery till Saturday

I Caught My First Fish On That Wharf

Just Another One of Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

After a Quick Dip in the Tide, it was Time for Some Market Research and to Stoke Up the Embers

I think of my friend Kevin Dunkley as the Eternal Teenager.

Or as Kiwi Kev, the quintessential New Zealand character.

(Which is someone who’d never say quintessential.)

In the 80s, Kevin and I were a team on the ICI account at Colenso Communications. 

One year, we got an award for an ad about a kiwifruit spray called Attack.

The brief: tell growers that kiwifruit sprayed with Attack can now be sold in Japan.

Our solution: a full page ad with the huge headline: Japanese Approve Attack on Kiwis. (Would have worked even better in the 40s.)

These days, Kevin’s getting a big name as a painter of these wonderfully nostalgic scenes of idyllic Kiwi summers.

They bring back fond memories for former kids of a certain age.

I well remember having a two-tone Mark II like the one above, and spending weekends in a caravan just like that old blue one.  

I love Kevin’s hard-case titles too. Most wouldn’t make a lot of sense anywhere else:

Sal Was As Rough As Guts. But He Made The Best Greasies In The World.

We Used To Tell Everyone We Had Been Up To The Boohai Shooting Pukekos.

After A Few Hours Of Yacking With Ted, It Was Time To Rattle Our Dags.

The titles are so much a part of his paintings I suggested he put them somewhere visible.

So at his last exhibition, he wrote the titles on bits of corrugated iron and dangled them from the paintings on hooks.

Until Saturday, you can Kevin’s work at the Simply The Best exhibition at Exhibitions Gallery in Featherston Street.

I see After a Quick Dip… sold before the exhibition even opened.

So get in quick before every old beach bunny discovers this national treasure, and his prices start going through the roof.

If you miss the exhibition but still want to invest in a Dunkley (or check out more paintings like the above), go here.

Published in: on May 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm  Comments (1)  

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)  

The IPCC Chairman’s New Clothes

RogerfromNewZealand has a very clear and interesting site called Global Warming (or is it Global Cooling?).

It brings together most of the main points of the scam in a way that’s easy to follow.

He even has an offshoot site devoted to debunking the debunkers of the deniers. (I think I got that right!) 

Roger’s version of The Emperor’s New Clothes, above, definitely goes in my “Wish I’d thought of that” file.

I’ve long thought the Hans Christian Anderson story (ironically written in Copenhagen) was the perfect analogy for global warming and other scams.

Roger’s reasons for each character’s inclusion are well worth a read.

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 2:11 pm  Comments (4)  

Rudd pushes Aussie ETS back 3 years. Key’s Big New Tax due inside 3 months.

Australia’s left-wing Labor PM has just put off their ETS for at least three years.

Meanwhile our left-wing National PM – who says he’s ambitious for New Zealand and claims he wants to catch up with Australian living standards – will be punishing his people with an ETS inside three months.

Rudd’s backdown shows the power of new Liberal leader Tony Abbott’s campaign against “The Big New Tax”.

What a shame New Zealand doesn’t have an Opposition.

If we did, it could put a climate change invoice for $3000 in every letterbox, complete with a few basic facts about the real science of climate change.

Then the public would know what the sceptics know, and the ETS would be a red-hot election issue.

Wanted: one Opposition.

Note: according to the Doomsdayers who love to terrify our children (which includes many warmmongers), the world is going to end in December 2012. Is Rudd’s 2013 deadline just his subtle way of telling the faithful that the ETS is off for good?

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 11:46 am  Comments (6)  

Key trades your prosperity for green votes

Thanks to reader The Silent Majority for sending me the above quote from John Key’s campaign blog.

Silent Majority sums up the flip-flop:

Well we are the world leader now John Key, way out in front, leading the charge, putting our businesses, farmers and exporters at risk, jobs will be lost, beef and sheep farms will convert to forestry, small rural communities will struggle, costs will go up across the board, for everyone, and our noble efforts will make not one iota of difference to the world climate.

When the facts change, John Key, intelligent people are willing to change their mind. You are an intelligent man John Key, so change your mind, before it is too late.

Perhaps that should be ‘change your mind back.’

Because as Opposition Leader, he had it right.

Yet as Prime Minister, little more than a year later, he became the world’s first national leader to pass a law punishing carbon-based life forms for emitting carbon.

In doing so, he ignored a slew of evidence that the world has been much warmer in the past than even the most extreme warm-monger says it’s likely to get in the future – and that those warm times were times of great abundance and prosperity.

He refused to look at evidence that the evidence of his advisors was not evidence at all.

Instead, he chose to believe a theory put about by a discredited religious sect masquerading as scientists, who base their claims on doctored computer models that dissolve on contact with reality.

John Key won’t delay the ETS, as the more sensible Australians and Americans have done.

Why not?

Because he simply doesn’t listen to anyone outside the NIWA/ Environment Ministry climate clique.

Just as they don’t listen to anyone outside the increasingly comical IPCC (Intergovernmental Perpetrators of Climate Cockups).

And so to July 1, and the aforementioned expense to our economy. Power prices up. Petrol prices up. All other prices up.

All because of John Key and Nick Smith’s determination to lead the world in saddling their people with a pointless solution to a   non-problem.

In a future post, I’ll publish a transcript of an interview that shows you how thoroughly the PM has been captured by one side of the climate debate.

In the meantime, you might ponder why John Key and Nick Smith would change their minds so completely on this issue from their time in Opposition.

Could it be the Nats are locking in those female urban liberal green votes “at the expense of our economy”?

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 12:19 am  Comments (2)  


When the perpetrators of the Emissions Trading Scheme are  brought to account, don’t let them try to fool you that they didn’t know what they were doing.

Below is a 2005 column by then-Opposition MP Nick Smith, where he argues strongly against the concept of taxing carbon dioxide.

The column appeared on Nick’s website on November 25, 2005.

Which is richly ironic.

Because it was exactly four years later, on November 25, 2009, that the same Nick Smith made this ‘madness’ law.

Read his breathtakingly hypocritical letter and weep:

The appetite of Dr Cullen and this Government for more taxes is legendary, 43 new and increased levies and taxes have been introduced. The latest is the carbon tax. It will add 6c per litre to the price of petrol, 7c per litre to diesel, 6% to all power bills and put the price of coal and gas up by 9%.

As will his own Emissions Trading Scheme, when it comes into force on July 1.

This week National launches the axecarbontax.co.nz campaign. The new finely balanced Parliament gives us the opportunity to send the carbon tax the way of the fart tax.

Yet in the next Parliament, which National now dominates, where did they send the carbon tax?

Not the way of the fart tax. More the way of the Anti-Smacking Bill.

Into law.

The madness of the Government’s new carbon tax is that New Zealanders will be the only people in the world paying it. It will drive up the costs of living and undermine the competitiveness of New Zealand business for negligible environmental gain.

You were right, Nick. 

Somehow, you foresaw that Australians would change their prime minister, then their Opposition leader, then their minds over whether to punish themselves for their use of CO2.

They figured it was madness. Just like the old you once did.  

You correctly predicted that the Canadians would give carbon taxing a wide berth.

And that the Americans won’t be doing any capping and trading any time soon.

Of course, you didn’t bank of the EU bringing in their scheme. But then, as you know, it only affects 4% of their economy.

While yours affects 100% of ours.

But as for those other predictions – that it would drive up all our costs, undermine our economy and not change the climate one iota – on all three points, you were spot on.

After July 1, every time we fill up our cars, pay the power bill or fork out record sums for everything from jeans to baked beans, we’ll be thinking of the man who made it all happen. 

Labour Ministers may take pride in being toasted at International Climate conferences for being so bold and brave, but there is no justification for New Zealand going out in the cold by itself on this issue. 

None whatsoever, Nick. So, um… why did you?

New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions made up only 0.4% of the global total and on a per capita basis our emissions are half those of countries like Australia and the United States. We are the only Southern Hemisphere country with binding legal obligations under Kyoto and giants like China and India have got off scot free.

As you say – I mean said – it’s madness.

A further concern of the carbon tax is its impact on inflation, interest rates and the exchange rate. It will add to the costs of fuel and power and these flow right through the economy to basics like food. This puts pressure on inflation, which in turn drives up interest rates and the kiwi dollar. The Government’s carbon tax is a classic example of the way the Government is making things tougher for the productive exporting sector. It just makes their policies of 2006 being the ‘Year of Exports’ an exercise in shallow spin.

In other words, you guys are happy to sabotage our economy, as long as John Key can stay onside with Lucy Lawless and the lady liberals?

It is also interesting to note who gets exempted from the carbon tax. Big industries like Colmalco, New Zealand Steel and Golden Bay Cement have the option of Negotiated Greenhouse Agreements (NGA’s). These are being done on the basis that such big players would relocate if imposed with the carbon tax. The flaw is that many small and medium businesses face exactly the same competition but just get dumped with the cost.

I don’t know enough about this part of the ETS to comment. Anyone care to fill me in?

(Please put that pistol down, Mr Smith. I was speaking figuratively.)

These agreements also drag New Zealand back into the Muldoonist era of industries pleading special cases to Ministers and mates rates for those who cuddle (or at least don’t criticise) the Government.

Muldoon, ah yes: that other populist National Party leader who talked the centrist talk, but walked the socialist walk.

The worst aspect of the carbon tax is that it will not make one iota of difference to New Zealand’s emissions. We know from previous occasions when Labour raised the petrol tax that 6c per litre extra will not reduce consumption. Even Treasury’s briefing papers to the incoming Government conceded it would have a negligible effect. The only conclusion is that the carbon tax actually has nothing to do with Kyoto or climate change but is just an excuse for Dr Cullen to get his fingers deeper into the pockets of New Zealanders.

Not just Dr Cullen, Dr Smith.

National believes, with public support, we can defeat this new tax. ACT, United and NZ First all campaigned against it during the Election. Labour and the Greens do not have the numbers. The Maori Party may determine its fate. In Parliament however, the fart tax was killed off by people power and the carbon tax could fall the same way.

A major show of people power is the only thing this government would respond to. They’re certainly not responsive to common sense.

The Nelson and Marlborough economies are struggling. The last thing we need is another $25 million being sucked out with this new tax. If you would like to assist the ‘axecarbontax’ petition and campaign, contact my office. We need to bury this lemon.”

By Nick Smith, local MP

On July 1, this lemon – sugared up a bit, but still a lemon – becomes law.

When it does, all those bad things Nick Smith railed against in 2005 will happen.

Only not on Labour’s watch.

On his.

Both Nick Smith and John Key have been sent the most compelling evidence for why the science of climate change is shonky. 

Yet they take not a blind bit of notice.

Now they’re saddling your household with a bill of $3000 a year in price rises if you’re lucky.

If the carbon price rises from the initial $25 to the predicted $100, your bill will be $12,000 a year.

And this from a government that says it’s main goal is to catch Australia.

Yeah right, Minister.

Published in: on April 24, 2010 at 11:25 pm  Comments (4)  

Political erectness in Porirua

This photo [blurred to conceal the boy’s identity after a complaint from his father] was taken at the 2008 opening of Porirua’s Te Rauparaha Arena [link to press article removed].

In front is [name removed], a descendant of the great chief.

Behind the 11 year old are two chaps who seem  unusually excited to see him. (I think the third one may be texting.)

In fairness to young [name removed], the tattooed flashers’  attentions are nothing personal.

I’ve noticed they’re just as excited to see thousands of other Porirua children.

The kids have to pass a lineup of these wooden woodies on the way to their swimming lessons and basketball games.

Am I the only parent to find this a bit off?

Oh I’m sure there’s a fascinating cultural reason why the Porirua City Council had to erect carvings of violent rapists outside a children’s recreation centre.

But does that mean they’re free to display images which, were they not Maori, would be classed as pornography?

Did the Ngati Toa carvers really have to go so far out of their way to offend?

UPDATE: 8  OCTOBER 2011: I’ve just received a phone call from this boy’s irate father accusing me of using his son’s image for depraved sexual purposes.

He wants to meet me to explain the depth of his offence in person. Otherwise he will go to the police.

I invited him to do just that, as I’m not convinced that a meeting with an enraged descendant of Te Rauparaha would be good for my health.

However, I’m always sorry when something I do creates unintended offence, and I’m sorry that he and his wife feel upset by this post. 

He asked me how I would feel if our positions were reversed. The answer is that they wouldn’t be. I simply would not allow a young son of mine to pose for a newspaper in front of statues of men with erect penises.

If I did, I could hardly claim to be offended by the predictable media reaction.

I had thought I would take the post down, but having looked it up and read the words the man objected to, I now have no intention of doing so.

I stand by every word I’ve written.

But out of respect for the father’s concern, I have now blurred the image, withheld the boy’s name, and deleted the link to the original article.

My verbal apology was not enough for this man. After continuing to berate me for some time, he asked me if I would furnish him with a written apology.

At that point, I lost it. I’ve just woken up after a long day farewelling my father and am in no mood for grovelling. I said, “No” and hung up. 

In case I haven’t made myself clear, I certainly am sorry for having caused him offence, but certainly am not sorry for highlighting yet another New Zealand cultural double standard.

UPDATE : 8 NOVEMBER 2011: Here’s a short testimonial to the character of Te Rauparaha from A Mission of Honour by John McLean:

“The demon devoured all his prisoners, himself tearing open the living mother and holding the half-formed embryo upon a pointed stick in the flames to be afterwards devoured.”

That was from the diary of the ship Acheron, after her Captain Stokes had returned from Te Rauparaha’s killing fields at Kaiapoi.

For the Porirua City Council to honour this monster with his own stadium is akin to the Germans building an Adolf Hitler Gasworks or Phnom Penh opening a Pol Pot Ping Pong Palace.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 12:24 am  Comments (6)  

Historical hysteria

Looks ominous, doesn’t it? Until you read the date.

Published in: on April 16, 2010 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lindsay Mitchell’s fine art

I’ve always thought Lindsay Mitchell was one of our braver  commentators, tackling as she does the thankless subject of welfare.

Lindsay’s not a naturally rambunctious person like many political types.

But those who’ve met her cannot fail to be impressed by her warmth and sincerity.

She’s a volunteer, with great empathy for the women whose lives she seeks to improve.

And she makes sense.

A fan of her letters, Sir Robert Jones came out to launch her ACT campaign in 2008.

(Sadly, Lindsay was insulted with a demoralisingly low list ranking by the local MP and is now lost to the party.)

But as you can see here, there’s another side to Lindsay Mitchell. She’s a magnificent portrait painter, inspired by C F Goldie.

Her deep affection for Maori women may surprise those who equate a hard line on welfare with being anti-Maori.

Until Sunday, a selection of her paintings are on sale as part of an exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts on Queen’s Wharf.

I went last Sunday and think it’s well worth a visit.

Published in: on April 16, 2010 at 12:12 am  Comments (14)  

PPTA declares war on education ministers

When all the fluff is stripped away, teacher unions exist so that:

  • Teachers who can’t teach can’t be stopped from teaching.
  • Those who can teach can’t earn more than those who can’t.

In my book, that makes the PPTA the educational equivalent of a Big Tobacco lobbyist.

They know that a teacher’s ability to explain and fascinate is what determines whether or not a child learns.

They know that the difference between a competent and incompetent teacher is the difference between children’s success and failure.

They know that one boring teacher can kill hundreds of children’s enthusiasm for a subject forever.

They know all this. Yet they still turn out stomach-churning ads claiming that they care about children. 

Well, this latest billboard surely confirms that they don’t.

Just when the National government is bringing some real-world standards to our increasingly dumbed-downed education system, what does this supposedly child-centred union do?

Publicly brands education ministers Anne Tolley and Steven Joyce as dimbulbs.

Wow, that’s really bright. The Dale Carnegie negotiation strategy: guaranteed to win friends and influence the employers’ employers.

Now I’m told the dimming campaign is really about the government’s decision to relieve you and me of the burden of paying for other people’s hobby classes.

Hard to say. The billboard gives no clue. But no matter.

Never waste a crisis, as the saying goes. And a grievous (and possibly unprecedented) insult like this can certainly be parlayed into a crisis.

The Nats should grab this slur as the perfect excuse to smash the teacher protection racket the way Margaret Thatcher smashed the miners.

If you ever hear a unionist sounding plausible about how national standards will stigmatise children, remember: their sole interest in your children is to keep the worst teachers in front of them.

Published in: on April 11, 2010 at 9:30 pm  Comments (4)  

Owed to installation art

 Talk of the Turner Prize in my last post reminded me of a little poem I wrote about the 2001 prizewinning ‘installation’ below.

Actually, installation is a slight misnomer, since clearly not a lot of installing went on.

The ‘work’, if we can call it that, had the refreshingly self-explanatory title The Lights Going On and Off.

And by all accounts, it delivered on its promise with metronomic efficiency.

And no, in case you’re wondering, that geometrically-appealing ceiling was not part of the exhibit. That’s the aircon. Everything below that is the art con.

This decidedly spare room won British so-called artist Martin Creed the Turner Prize of £20,000. (It’s now £40,000.)  

Before I present my own version of the empty room, you must  read this majestically pompous official justification of the fraud from the Turner Prize website: 

For the Turner Prize exhibition, Creed has decided to show Work # 227: The lights going on and off.

Nothing is added to the space and nothing is taken away, but at intervals of five seconds the gallery is filled with light and then subsequently thrown into darkness.

Realising the premise set out in Work # 232, Creed celebrates the mechanics of the everyday, and in manipulating the gallery’s existing light fittings he creates a new and unexpected effect.

In the context of Tate Britain, an institution displaying a huge variety of objects, this work challenges the traditional methods of museum display and thus the encounter one would normally expect to have in a gallery.

Disrupting the norm, allowing and then denying the lights their function, Creed plays with the viewer’s sense of space and time.

Our negotiation of the gallery is impeded, yet we become more aware of our own visual sensitivity, the actuality of the space and our own actions within it.

We are invited to re-evaluate our relationship to our immediate surroundings, to look again and to question what we are presented with.

Responding to the actual condition in which he has been asked to exhibit, Creed exposes rules, conventions and opportunities that are usually overlooked, and in so doing implicates and empowers the viewer.

‘Allowing and denying the lights their function’ – I love that.

The more cynical media were predictably underwhelmed. Tom Parry from The Mirror wrote:

‘Take a bare white room with a light switching on and off and what have you got? A Turner Prize winner.’

Just as predictably, the artistic mafia leapt to the fraudster’s defence. This from Germaine Greer in the Newsnight Review:

‘He wanted to get the biggest effect with the least effort. It’s the dis-proportion between the effort and the effect.’

No argument there.

But when the Chairman of the British Council for Contemporary Art objected to the awarding of so much financial effect for so little artistic effort, he was rewarded with what an art critic might call the hessian receptacle – but which you and I would call the sack.

In his honour, I penned the following:


The exhibit resembles
A large empty room
With a solitary cupboard
Marked TOWELS,
As through the front door
The sophisticates pour,
Oozing glamour
And elegant vowels.

To a volley of cheers
The artist appears!
He’s applauded
And generally fêted,
But no one’s quite sure
What the towels are for;
Then the sprinklers come on
And they get it.

(c) J Ansell 2003

Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 6:34 pm  Comments (1)  

London’s Awful Tower

No contest, is it?

Announced just in time for April Fool’s Day, the practical joke at right is meant to do for the London Olympics of 2012 what the Eiffel Tower did for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1889.

No, I don’t mean “Make it a laughing stock”.

To me, this molten mangle looks like the Eiffel Tower after a direct hit by George Jetson.

Its official name is the ArcelorMittal Orbit, after the steel company of the UK’s richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, who’s kindly donating the materials. 

(Salvaged, I suspect, from a decommissioned Blackpool rollercoaster.)

It can surely be only a matter of time before the Sun or News of the World dubs this spaghetti of scaffolding the Awful Tower.

The public reaction has so far been mixed: a mix of contempt, derision and sardonic British resignation.

Architectural historian Gavin Stamp condemned it as a “ridiculous, over-inflated doodle”.

Evening Standard reader Colin Snelling of Melbourne thinks it “looks like an old helter-skelter from a Butlins holiday camp from the 1950s”.

And I love this gem from John Stallard of Gerrard’s Cross: “Someone should check to see if the Forth Road Bridge is still there.”

The outrage has, of course, drawn praise from the usual quarters, though even that has been strangely muted.

Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey said, “At first sight, it seems an eccentric Meccano-like jumble, but then you see the parabolic beauty characteristic of Kapoor.”

(Er, unless you’re looking at the above official photo, in which case you just see the jumble.)

Kapoor, by the way, is the perpetrator, Anish Kapoor.

My ears pricked up when I heard he’d won a Turner Prize.

This annual insult to the British taxpayer doles out huge prizes for  installations like this (admittedly only a finalist – I suspect the mattress by itself, if accompanied by the regulation ludicrously irrelevant multisyllabic title, would have won).

I once wrote a poem about a Turner Prize winner, which I’ll publish here shortly.

Last word on the Orbit to Colin Snelling: “What an opportunity missed to create an icon for this century.”

(In New Zealand we have a name for that missed opportunity: Te Papa.)

Published in: on April 9, 2010 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

To beat false alarmists, expose the patterns

The best disinfectant for persistent greenwash is sunlight.

All too often though, thanks to our typically-socialist scientists, politicians and media, the Left are left free to operate under cover of darkness.

Ads like this would blow their cover.

(It works best horizontally as one long, wildly bucking graph.)

The way to neutralise the false alarmists is to graphically present their patterns of deception. 

Shine the light on the various beatups, so people can see how they’re being conned time and again.

Such a ‘teach tank’ campaign of daily factoids like this would educate the public about the real world, and allow them to rest easier in their beds.

It could also be employed right now to get the Nats to dump their mad ETS.

Funding anyone?

As a famous lefty president didn’t quite say, the only thing we have to fear is unbalanced fearmongering.

Published in: on April 8, 2010 at 1:19 pm  Comments (5)  

Word origin: Canary

Two popular misconceptions about the word canary are enough to put even the most dogged linguistic sleuth off the scent.

If you’ve studied Latin, you might reasonably point out that canere means to sing.

So it must follow, mustn’t it, that this little songbird takes its name from that sing-songy verb that also gives us canto, canticle and cantata, (not to mention accent, chant and sea shanty)?

Only it doesn’t. 

Canary and canere may look and sound like lexical kissing cousins, but they come from totally different word families.

You’d be right on the money, though, if you guessed that the canary bird hails from the Canary Islands, that sunny Spanish chain off the coast of Morocco.

But if you were then to jump to the etymologically logical  conclusion that the islands must be named after the bird, then I’m afraid you’d again be twittering in the wind.

In fact, the bird is named after the islands.

And the islands are named after another beast entirely, as you can see from their coat of arms, below.

(My use of dogged at the start was a bit of a clue.)

That’s right, the little yellow birds weren’t the only native species to grace the archipelago.

Also sharing the islands when the Romans came across them were some rather big and fierce dogs. 

Dog in Latin is canis, as in canine – like those four pointy, dog-like teeth that you can feel in your mouth with your tongue right now.

And there were native people there too – the guanches – who worshipped said dogs to the point of mummifying their remains. 

And the Romans called these dog-worshippers canaari (the ones with dogs), and the island on which they found them Insula Canaria (Island of Dogs).

Today the Spanish call that island Gran Canaria and the 7-island group Islas Canarias.

The modern descendant of that ancient cantankerous canine is the presa canario or dogo canario, which means (you guessed it) Canary dog.

And so, as we near the end of this wild canary chase, we see that canary birds are named after the Canary Islands, which are named after Canary dogs.

Or not.

You see, there’s also this other theory doing the rounds…

Some believe the Romans might have named the islands after a species of  Monk seal that also lived on Gran Canaria.

Lived, note, not live. That seal is now extinct, but this drawing gives you some idea of why the Romans were moved to name it  canis marinus (dog of the sea).

So to recap: canary has much in common with birds, dogs, islands, people and seals. But nothing whatever to do with singing. 

What a bird-brained language.

Thanks to my friend Fay Clayton, whose books on etymology teach me something new every day about the fascinating origins of our words.

Posts like this will be a regular feature of this blog, and some of Fay’s books will be available for you to buy.

Published in: on April 6, 2010 at 10:33 pm  Comments (3)  

Hanging in Palmerston North

Iris was manning the Taiwanese stand at the Palmerston North Festival of Cultures last Saturday, so I drove up to join her for the weekend.

Not for nothing is Palmerston North not known as the Manhattan of the Manawatu – though the festival revealed it to be more of a multicultural Mecca than I’d realised. 

But I do think its reputation as New Zealand’s Suicide Capital is a tad overstated.

That said, I couldn’t help but smile at a local photographer’s choice of studio name (above).

As for the unfair dismissal of New Zealand’s seventh largest conurbation as boring, I think it’s important to compare apples with apples.

Or in this case, Palmerstons with Palmerstons.

When we compare Palmerston North with the world’s three other Palmerstons (if you don’t count Darwin, which used to be called  Palmerston), we get a totally different picture altogether.

We see that it’s far and away more exciting than at least one of them.

Palmerston North makes Palmerston in the South Island look like a small country town –  notwithstanding the latter’s impressive artificial moa (below).

Moa and war memorial, Palmerston, Otago.

Google searches for other Palmerstons yield a small city in the Northern Territory (not far from the aforementioned state capital and former Palmerston, and close to an even earlier Palmerston that appears to have been discontinued) and a small town in, of all places, Wellington County, Ontario.

Pictorial searches reveal the interesting coincidence that both the surviving Australian and the Canadian Palmerstons are distinguished by their unusually prominent water towers.

The water towers of Palmerston, Northern Territory
(left) and Palmerston, Ontario.

This revelation is, I think, a strong clue that pound for pound, icon for icon, person for person, Palmerston for Palmerston, there seems little doubt that New Zealand’s northernmost Palmerston  is not only the most populous, but also the most vibrant  Palmerston on the planet.

Probably ever. 

(Not counting the one that became Darwin.)

Boring? I don’t think so.

The Suicide Capital tag was, of course, coined by John Cleese, who  opined that “If you ever want to kill yourself but lack the courage, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick.”

What Cleese did not realise was that he’d insulted the home town of New Zealand’s equivalent of himself, one John (Fred Dagg) Clarke.

(Even his name is similar, as is his reputation as his country’s funniest comic product – with the possible exception of the haka.)

And the proudly parochial Palmerstonian JC responded immediately from his home in Melbourne with the suggestion that the city landfill be renamed The John Cleese Memorial Rubbish Dump.

Not to be outdone by their favourite son, one of the locals went one better and christened the tip’s topmost garbage heap Mt Cleese.

But Johns Cleese and Clarke are not the only funny men to have utilised Palmerston North for comic effect.

Some years earlier, Clarke’s idol Barry Humphries decided that Dame Edna Everage’s dowdy, lugubrious bridesmaid Madge Allsop should also be a born and bred (and somewhat battered) Palmerstonian.

But this time, the local signwriters had got in first. By an astonishing coincidence,  since 1920 – before Barry, Madge, or even the ancient actress who played Madge, the late Emily Perry, were born – the local Palmerston North bus company had been known as Madge Coachlines.

The Student City’s homage to the Arabic numbering system?
Pompeii pizzeria behind.

Our weekend in Palmerston North was pleasant enough.

The Festival of Cultures allowed us to sample a range of cuisines, some of it edible.

To my wife’s relief, I suppressed my strong instinct to enter the  Saudi Arabian tent and enquire as to whether their schedule of  entertainments in the Square that afternoon would include any stonings or beheadings.

For dinner, since we’d just despatched stepson on a European tour that would take in Pompeii – one town that makes Palmerston North look very much alive – it seemed appropriate to try the  restaurant of the same name. 

That’s it above, behind what appears to be the Student City’s  homage to the Arabic numbering system.

Unfortunately we picked a night when the Palmy Pompeii was experiencing one of its most deafening and violent eruptions – a  seething mass of Massey undergraduates who’d decided to lay waste both to this pizzeria and their fellow diners’ eardrums.

Not bad grub though.

The John Cleese connection continued when I got chatting with the  eccentric Scottish owner of our motel, the Supreme Motor Lodge (which I chose and recommend for its private spa pools).  

When I asked the way to Mt Cleese, he not-so-subtly let slip that he himself had acquired the mantle of New Zealand’s Basil Fawlty.

I then realised I was in the presence of the legendary motelier who’d imposed a lifetime ban on the entire population of  Wainuiomata. 

When I asked him whether he’d eject me if I were to now admit to a Wainui address, he fixed me with a wild-eyed Caledonian glare and rumbled, “Absolutely!”

I was curious to know what scale of atrocities had given rise to  such a deep-rooted loathing.

“After all,” I mused, showing solidarity with the standard Scots prejudice, “it’s not as though Wainui is infested with Englishmen.”

“It’s even worse than that,” he growled, seeming to plunge into the post-traumatic hell of a witness to a wartime massacre.

He then recounted three separate Wainuiomartian invasions when his establishment had been systematically ransacked by Nappy Valley neanderthals.

The culprits came from the suburb’s high school, touch club, and another institution whose name escapes me.

Now as my advertising hero Bill Bernbach used to say, a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money.

And this guy’s got principles, because, he told me, he recently turned down a $17,500 booking from the Wainuiomata Darts Club.

I believe that’s called slinging out the arrows and an outrageous fortune.

Another linguistically quirky sign to catch my eye last weekend was this one on an otherwise nondescript Korean restaurant.

Students of French will have spotted that De Coree (albeit with an acute over the first ‘e’) is French for Korean.

Why give a French name to a Korean restaurant in New Zealand? Je ne sais pas.

Published in: on April 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm  Comments (3)  

Think tank + teach tank = sea change

Why should the Left have a mortgage on talking to the heart?

The big problem with the Right is that they don’t understand the emotional power of a few short words and pictures.

Especially pictures.

They think the force of their logic should be enough to persuade people to make sensible decisions. Logic laid out in longwinded articles, speeches and press statements.

Maybe it should be. But clearly it isn’t.

Our long history of socialist governments making shortsighted decisions (both Labour and National) shows that.

I’ve made the above poster to show how a punchy pictorial message can trump the most elegantly-crafted 1000-word article on the same subject.

Imagine the effect of this in your daily paper. Which would grab more readers: the poster or the article?

No contest, right?

That’s because the mind processes in pictures. And over half of us are visual learners.

OK, so what does this suggest about the way the Right goes about its job of converting the convertible (as opposed to preaching to the converted)?

It suggests to me that it needs a retail arm to distill and showcase the excellent work of its many policy wholesalers.

(Think the Business Roundtable, the Centre for Independent Studies and the Centre for Resource Management Studies – all of whom, despite their diligence, reach only a tiny fraction of the population.)

What these think tanks need to get their messages out to the 99% of people beyond the beltway is a teach tank.  

A teach tank’s sole job would be to distill the essence of all that world class research into easily-digestible, posterised morsels that can be fed to the general public one bite at a time.

The bites could be ‘nutshell’ newspaper ads, or posters slapped on walls (again, why should the Lefties control the streets?), or emails – whatever works best for the subject of the day.

Each nutshell ad would contain one fascinating factoid. Just one.

As they roll out day after day, naturally-curious people would come to trust the brand for giving them new insights into the workings of the world.

I’ve spoken about the teach tank idea to a couple of Business Roundtable CEO Forums, some potential funders, and again last weekend at the Summersounds Symposium in Nelson.

In fact, the speech was rewarded with an audience-judged Be Upstanding Award, which was nice – but not as nice as some serious funding, which has so far proved elusive.

(The heavy hitters of the Right are not as free with the cheques as the Left may like to think.)

If you know anyone who’d be keen to support the teach tank, I’d be keen to make the ads.

If the Right wants to create a real political sea change, it must  harness the persuasive power of short words, simple pictures and emotion, and use it to tell the public what’s going on.

Published in: on March 27, 2010 at 1:49 pm  Comments (15)  

Lose the Latin, your lordship

 The world owes a great debt of gratitude to the explanatory powers of Lord Christopher Monckton, my 2009 Man of the Year.

His magnificent speeches have done more than any others to alert the world to the ulterior motives of the global warmmongers.

But even a great man can have an off day.

In this letter to Kevin Rudd, Lord Monckton seems more intent on showing off his Latin, Italian and French than making sure his readers understand his point: 

Therefore, a fortiori, transnational or global governments should also be made and unmade by voters at the ballot-box.

In fact I have never argued that, though in general the market is better at solving problems than the habitual but repeatedly-failed dirigisme of the etatistes predominant in the classe politique today.

The questions I address are a) whether there is a climate problem at all; and b) even if there is one, and even if per impossibile it is of the hilariously-overblown magnitude imagined by the IPCC, whether waiting and adapting as and if necessary is more cost-effective than attempting to mitigate the supposed problem by trying to reduce the carbon dioxide our industries and enterprises emit.

Let us pretend, solum ad argumentum, that a given proportionate increase in CO2 concentration causes the maximum warming imagined by the IPCC.

The answer is that the “global warming” theory is not true, and no amount of bluster or braggadocio, ranting or rodomontade will make it true.

Three Latin and four French expressions in five paragraphs. (And the Italian braggadocio for good measure.)

Now I studied French for seven years and Latin for two, but I confess I had to look up a fortiori, dirigisme, solum ad argumentum and rodomontade.

How about you? Am I the only ignoramus who’d have preferred he’d stuck to the English? 

Here, in case you need them, are the translations:

a fortiori  ‘Even more so’: if all donkeys bray, then a fortiori all young donkeys bray.

dirigisme  Control by the state of economic and social matters.

etatistes  Statists.

classe politique  Political leadership. 

per impossibile  As is impossible.

solum ad argumentum  For argument’s sake.

braggadocio  Empty or pretentious bragging.

rodomontade  Arrogant boasting or blustering.

Published in: on March 27, 2010 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  

‘My hovercraft is full of eels’ in 76 languages

Just farewelled stepson on a school Classics trip to Greece and Italy.

Add in the Vatican City and the stopover in Thailand and by the end of the trip his list of countries visited will stand at 11.

At his age (16) I had yet to embark on my first overseas flight – a  hockey trip to Christchurch. My first real overseas trip came at 21.

It’s a very different world from the 1970s, and a grasp of foreign phrases has never been more vital.

Here is one of the most vital, translated into every language the intrepid young traveller is likely to encounter.

(Like the overgrown child I am, I still can’t help but chuckle at the Cebuano, Thai and Tagalog words for hovercraft)…

Afrikaans  My skeertuig is vol palings.
Albanian  Hoverkrafti im është plot me ngjala.
Arabic  Hawwāmtī mumtil’ah bi’anqalaysūn.
Armenian (Eastern)  Im odatirry li e odzadz.kerov.
Aromanian  Pãmporea-a mea-i ãmplinã di uhelji.
Azerbaijani  Hoverkraftimin içi ilan balıǧı ilə doludur.
Basque  Nire aerolabangailua aingirez beteta dago.
Belarusian  Moj pavetrany čoven pouny vugramі.
Bhojpuri  Hamar mandaraye wali jahaj sarpminan se bharal ha.
Breton  Leun gant sili eo ma aeroglisseur.
Bulgarian  Korabãt mi na v’zdyšna vãzglavnica e pãlen sãs zmiorki.
Catalan  El meu aerolliscador està ple d’anguiles.
Cebuano  Puno ug kasili ang akong hoberkrap.
Chinese (Cantonese)  Ngóh jek heidínsyùhn jòngmúhnsaai síhn.
Chinese (Mandarin)  Wǒ de qìdiànchuán chōngmǎn le shànyú.
Croatian/Serbian  Moja lebdilica je puna jegulja.
Czech  Moje vznášedlo je plné úhořů.
Danish  Mit luftpudefartøj er fyldt med ål.
Dutch  Mijn luchtkussenboot zit vol paling.
English  My hovercraft is full of eels.
Estonian  Mu hõljuk on angerjaid täis.
Faroese  Luftpútufar mítt er (skít)fult í álli.
Finnish  Ilmatyynyalukseni on täynnä ankeriaita.
French  Mon aéroglisseur est plein d’anguilles.
Frisian (Northern)  Min luftdümpetbüüdj as ful ma äil.
Galician  O meu aerodeslizador esta cheo de anguías.
German  Mein Luftkissenfahrzeug ist voller Aale. 
German (Swiss)  Mis Luftchüssiboot isch volle Aal.
Greek (Modern)  To hóverkráft mu íne gemáto hélia.
Hebrew  Harahefet sh’eli mele’ah betzlofahim.
Hindi  Merī ṃḍarāne vālī nāv sarpamīnoṁ se bharī hai.
Hungarian  A légpárnás hajóm tele van angolnákkal.
Icelandic  Svifnökkvinn minn er fullur af álum.
Indonesian  Hovercraft saya penuh dengan belut.
Inuktitut  Umiaryuap Publimaaqpaga tattaurniq ammayaq.
Irish (Gaelic)  Tá m’árthach foluaineach lán d’eascainn.
Italian  Il mio aeroscivolante è pieno di anguille.
Japanese  Watashi no hobākurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu.
Korean  Nae hoebuhkeurapeuteuneun changuhro kadeuk cha isseyo.
Latin  Mea navis aëricumbens anguillis abundat.
Latvian  Mans gliseris ir pilns ar zušiem.
Lithuanian  Mano laivas su oro pagalve pilnas ungurių.
Luxembourgish  Mäi Loftkësseboot ass voller Éilen. 
Macedonian  Moeto letačko vozilo e polno so jaguli.
Manx  Ta my haagh crowal lane dy astan.
Māori  Kī tōnu taku waka topaki i te tuna.
Malay  Hoverkraf saya penuh dengan belut.
Malayalam  Ente prrakkum-paetakam niraye vlankukalanu.
Maltese  Il-hovercraft tiegħi hu mimli sallur.
Marathi  Majhī hoḍi māsaḷyaṅni bharlī āhe. 
Norwegian  Luftputefartøyet mitt er fullt av ål.
Occitan  Mon aerolisador es plen d’anguilas.
Persian  Havercrafte man pore mārmāhi ast.
Polish  Mój poduszkowiec jest pełen węgorzy.
Portuguese  Meu hovercraft está cheio de enguias.
Romanian  Vehicolul meu pe pernă de aer e plin cu ţipari.
Russian  Moio sudno na vozdušnoy poduške polno ugrey.
Scottish Gaelic  Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein loma-làn easgannan.
Shona  Hovercraft yangu yakazara nemikunga.
Slovak  Moje vznášadlo je plné úhorov.
Slovenian  Moje vozilo na zračni blazini je polno jegulj.
Spanish  Mi aerodeslizador está lleno de anguilas.
Swahili  Gari langu linaloangama limejaa na mikunga.
Swedish  Min svävare är full med ål.
Tagalog  Puno ng palos ang aking hoberkrap.
Tamil  En kappal muzhuvadhum meengal.
Telugu  Naa hoavarkraapht aṅthaa eelu chaepalathoa niṅdipoayiṅdhi.
Thai  Hō woe khrāp kong phom tem pai duay pla lha.
Tok Pisin  Bilong me hangamapim bot stap pulap maleo.
Turkish  Hoverkraftımın içi yılan balığı dolu.
Ukrainian  Moje sudno na povitrianij podušci napovnene vuhrami.
Vietnamese  Tàu cánh ngầm của tôi đầy lươn.
Welsh  Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod.
Yiddish  Mayn prom (shveb-shif) iz ful mit veners.
Yorùbá  Ọkọ afategun-sare mi kun fun ẹja arọ.
Zulu  Umkhumbi wami u’cwele hinoka za’semanzini.

Thanks to Omniglot for this linguistic treasure. For even more languages, including Klingon, go here.

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 5:33 pm  Comments (4)  

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