February 2008

Oh dear Gordon Brown has upset some folk


How Brown now Gordon? UK PM turns Fuji frontman – 01 Mar 2008 – NZ Herald: World / International News

I don’t write the Herald headlines contrary to claims at The Stranded. I checked this story and it turns out it is about Fiji NOT Fuji.

Anyway, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s image is being used to promote holidays under the military dictatorship in Fiji – as UK travellers to the country are being told to be prepared for riots, and not to talk politics. Of course the advice being given to tourist is complete bollocks. Riots my arse. Fijian’s just don’t riot.

They also have the gumption to interview Laisenia Qarase, former Fijian prime minister, who described Downing Street’s backing for the tourism campaign as “odd…the country is quite unstable and we have a regime that is dictatorial and undemocratic”. Yeah right, it was dictatorial and undemocratic AND corrupt under his government.

Anyway here is the offending image.

For those looking for great holiday they can go to Fiji’s visitors bureau to check out some good deals.

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Ouch!


‘Dead’ man wakes under autopsy knife – 01 Mar 2008 – NZ Herald: World / International News

CARACAS – A Venezuelan man who had been declared dead woke up in the morgue in excruciating pain after medical examiners began their autopsy.

Carlos Camejo, 33, was declared dead after a highway accident and taken to the morgue, where examiners began an autopsy only to realise something was amiss when he started bleeding. They quickly sought to stitch up the incision on his face.

“I woke up because the pain was unbearable,” Camejo said, according to a report on in leading local newspaper El Universal.

Awwwwww, I bet it was excruciating.

Labour's affordable housing


Housing ownership lowest for 50 years – New Zealand news on Stuff.co.nz

Welcome to 9 years of hard Labour and their wonderful housing policies.

Home ownership is down to its lowest level in 50 years, according to a new report.

Twenty years ago, almost 74 per cent of Kiwi households owned their home, but that fell to just 67 per cent by 2006, according to the Centre for Housing Research, a research agency set up by the Housing Corporation.

Home ownership is at a level last seen in the 1950s, according to the latest census figures analysed in the housing report.

A doubling in median house prices since 2002 and the worst interest rates in a decade are pushing the dream of buying a home further out of reach – especially for the poor, young and single and most of all, single parents.

Fewer people under 40 are buying their own homes. They are also taking longer to do so – and it is costing them relatively more, according to Professor Philip Morrison, author of the report.

Is this some sort of Tory plot to embarrass Labour? Well no it it isn’t, the report has been issued by Centre for Housing Research, a research agency set up by the Housing Corporation.

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Chris Trotter has turned


Helen’s zeitgeist goes missing – Columns and commentary – The Dominion Post

Chris Trotter just 4 short months ago was lustily singing on the stage the horrid new Labour campaign song. Now he is openly fomenting a coup against Helen Clark.

Prime Minister Helen Clark’s fast-dwindling coterie of media allies tell us it would be madness. The throng of political journalists hanging around John Key agree. But what, exactly, is mad about the idea of replacing Helen Clark with Phil Goff?

According to the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll, Labour is now more popular than its leader. That suggests the Government’s catastrophic numbers are being driven by Miss Clark’s unpopularity not the party’s.

This marks an important shift in the electorate’s response. For most of the past eight years the prime minister has consistently outperformed her party in popularity. She was Labour’s greatest asset, the wind beneath its wings. She has now become the lump of lead on its back.

Trotter opines the reason behind her loss of zeitgeist.

At the level of day-to-day existence, however, the irritants are anything but vague.

We recoil in horror from rising food prices and falling property markets. The banks swallow more and more of our income, and the IRD seems to claim most of what’s left. Our friends migrate (usually across the Tasman) from where they regale us with stories of huge salaries and unlimited career prospects.

People don’t need to be told that, when a 1kg block of cheese cost $17, and a litre of petrol a buck-seventy, something has gone very seriously wrong.

But what? And why? Those are the questions New Zealanders would like their prime minister to answer.

For months they’ve been waiting for her to acknowledge their unease, and, if possible, offer an accurate diagnosis of it.

They have waited in vain.

Miss Clark is no Bill Clinton: she cannot look her supporters in the eye and say, “I feel your pain”.

At heart, the prime minister is a diligent and rather uninspiring policy wonk, who has never really understood that politics is not about the head, but the heart.

The voters are simply not in the market for “tonnes of policy”. What they’re in the market for are tones of empathy.

In that respect, at least, Peter Dunne is right about New Zealand’s race for the Beehive being similar to the Democratic Party’s race in the United States for the White House.

In their affinity for political managerialism, Helen and Hillary are alike. But, do Mr Key’s speeches echo our own electorate’s hunger for “Hope” and “Change” in the way Barack Obama’s echo America’s?

Yes, in a strange way they do. Mr Key may not be as effective a speaker as Mr Obama, but his personal political narrative (poor boy raised by a solo mum, who transcends his humble origins to achieve remarkable success) is strikingly similar – and so is the way voters have loaded their deep longing for fresh explanations and new beginnings on to the young challenger’s shoulders.

Labour’s caucus needs to get its head around this – and soon. Because the longer it delays replacing Miss Clark as leader, the more time it is allowing for the voters to convince themselves (if they have not already done so) that Mr Key is the prime minister they are looking for.

Trotter is now openly derisive of Clark, the momentum has moved and Clark must now watch for the knife-men as well as try to turn an unconvinced electorate. The next polls, if they don’t show a bounce, will be her death knell as well as for the party. Any party that builds its success off of the back of a cult of personality will plummet sureer than a helicopter’s glidepath.

Winston is a liar

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The reason for light blogging yesterday

Ok, here is the reason for light blogging yesterday.

First up we all know the ex-missus took the car and house keys to Wellington with her. Then the taxi to take the kids to school took an hour to get here, then the ute wouldn’t go in reverse. Finally a mate needed someone to urgently take a Toyota Landcruiser to Whitianga….why? No idea but when a mate is in need you help out.

Soooo….Grandma Whaleoil picked the kids up and took them to the Remuera HQ’s of Whaleoil-land. I went and picked up the Landcruiser and drove to Whitianga…the GPS and Google Maps both said 2 hours 30, I proved it could be done in 1 hour 55.

At 19:15 my mate arrived from Waiheke Island via helicopter, I gave him the keys to the Landcrusier, he gave me the keys for the car he left at Ardmore, I put on the life-jacket (always a little disconcerting) and jumped in the chopper and headed back to Ardmore. A pleasant and fascinating 30 minutes later I was on the ground and heading to pick the kids up. I was home by 21:00.

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More Media Whoring


Editorial: An idea whose time has come – Editorials – The Dominion Post

Watch out Master Faaaraaaaar, the Apprentice is growing strong.

The DomPost must have had to swallow a little pride and when Tane and his fellow labour sponsored bloggers get up this morning and read the paper they will spit their Hubbards across the table.

Here is their editorial…oh and of curse it was a “inventive blogger” and member of the VRWC that came up with the “Idea whose time has come”.

Alas, the online auction for an honorary consulship has been revealed to be the work of an inventive blogger rather than a Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry initiative, The Dominion Post says.

The bidders who offered half a million dollars, Holden utes and assignations with supermodels in exchange for the position will instead have to earn the good opinion of Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters if they wish to add the title honorary consul to their letterheads. The auction was pulled by Trade Me after receiving “a number of complaints” and because the seller was unable to deliver the item listed.

But this is an idea whose time has come. And it is one that should be applied to a wider range of positions than just honorary consulships. Instead of assigning plum diplomatic posts to politicians who fancy a spot of OE before heading off to tend the flower beds and write indignant letters to the local newspaper, they should be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Surplus cabinet positions should also be put under the hammer. Everybody knows there is barely enough work for 15 ministers. The remaining ones should be flogged off, and so should national honours.

Who knows how much Jonathan Hunt or Russell Marshall or their National predecessors Paul East or John Collinge might have been prepared to bid for the entree to London society that is provided by being appointed high commissioner to the United Kingdom and ambassador to Ireland. Who knows what value Mr Hunt attached to being appointed to the Order of New Zealand alongside the likes of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the late Sir Edmund Hillary. An auction might have recouped the cost of the taxi fares Mr Hunt ran up during his 39 years in Parliament, though the bidding would have to have been fierce, given that he spent $29,000 in one year alone.

Of course, there are those who say an informal auction has long existed for honours and that overseas appointments have more to do with services to political parties and the need to lever time-servers out of Parliament’s leather seats than the country’s diplomatic needs.

But a formal auction would be manifestly superior. Not only would it widen the pool of bidders and direct funds to the consolidated account rather than party coffers, it would also avoid the sort of confusion that now hovers over the most recent Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn. Did he get the honour because he gave $7.5 million to Auckland University’s new business school or because he gave the Labour Party $500,000 and loaned it a further $100,000?

An auction would also avoid the speculation that now surrounds Mr Glenn’s interest in being appointed honorary consul to Monaco. Was he responsible for the large anonymous donation NZ First president Dail Jones says appeared in the party’s bank account late last year but that Mr Peters says was never made? He’s not saying. In an open, transparent system there would be no need for confusion or obfuscation. Bidders could make known their identities and would receive the heartfelt thanks of the populace, spared the cost of footing at least part of the Government’s bill.

Let the bidding commence.

Fran on Key


Fran O’Sullivan: Key running into verbal danger – 01 Mar 2008 – Politics: New Zealand Political News, Analysis and Comment including 2008 election coverage – NZ Herald

Fran O’Sullivan discusses Key and warning him not to sleepwalk to victory. I don’t think he will, but Fran does give the warning.

National Party leader John Key gives all the appearances of being in cruise control, coasting down towards the election on the back of a huge poll lead.

He is not known as the smiling assassin for nothing. But he earned his stripes in the cut-throat world of international forex dealing, not politics.

Labour might still be able to trip him up if it is of a mind to ditch Helen Clark and convincingly sell its policies while Key stays immersed in “me-too-ism” mode; persuade voters that Key’s “George Bush-style” verbal mishaps are not gaffes at all but evidence of a hidden “New Right” policy agenda.

Or trick Key into mishandling the planned “neutron bomb” Labour is telling “the beltway” it will disclose – just which senior National MP allegedly conspired to bring Don Brash’s leadership down by leaking his private emails to Nicky Hager at the 2005 election.

Personally, I don’t think Key is that dumb to allow Labour to play silly cards like those. The “neutron bomb” will be a damp squib against National and will only be a neutron bomb for Labour’s poll ratings. Labour unbelievably, along with their client-blogs still think that personal attacks and smears will wash it with the public at large. i would have thought they would have learned by now. Alas they haven’t.

Right now Key’s greatest ally is Helen Clark. It is the Prime Minister’s successive political misjudgments which have cost Clark her position as New Zealand’s “most preferred prime minister” and sent Labour’s own ratings into a death spiral.

It was Clark’s inner circle, particularly her chief of staff Heather Simpson, who combined with the party central to plunder some $800,000 of taxpayers’ funds to help Labour win in 2005. Labour was ultimately forced to pay the funds back after a damning auditor-general’s report. The party has been on the back foot ever since.

But Clark didn’t learn. Her kitchen cabinet then put up the hapless former minister Mark Burton to introduce the obnoxious Electoral Finance Act which the Herald rightly labels “an assault on democracy”. It was another politically inept step which will continue to dog Labour right through this election year.

Last week’s surreal run of events illustrated just how far she has become detached from the bedrock common sense which characterised her earlier years as prime minister. The events included Clark publicly shunning Labour’s major financial donor Owen Glenn at the opening of the University of Auckland’s new business school and subsequent labelling the Herald as a “Tory paper which had shown no charity to Labour during its 91 years of existence”.

It has become a truism in the Wellington beltway that Labour will never roll the woman who has successfully won them three elections. But the Cabinet Ministers who were ruthlessly dispatched by Clark for minor misdeeds and the backbenchers who face the prospect of losing their jobs following an election defeat will make their own calculations.

In 1996, Michael Cullen – now deputy to Clark – led a deputation asking her to stand down to ensure an orderly leadership transition. Clark refused and went on to triumph in 1999. But that was then and this is now.

If Clark’s miscalculations continue the odds that she will face a second deputation will increase.

And now for the warnings about the inherent nastiness of Labour.

But if Cullen, with his superior management skills, took on a caretaker role the electoral focus would sharpen.

He is the politician Clark sends in to handle the tough jobs when inferior ministers fail. He has defused the foreshore and seabed issue and is now backstopping David Parker whose pig-headedness on climate change issues is paving the way for a major dust-up with New Zealand business.

Importantly, Cullen has Key’s measure. This was evident in Parliament where Key sat like a stunned mullet when Cullen took him to task over a newspaper report that quoted the National leader saying “we would love to see wages drop” during a conversation he held in Northland about the gaping wage differences between New Zealand and Australia.

Key’s comment does not make logical sense. But his propensity to mangle his syntax or wrong word himself gets him into trouble. This was evidenced at last year’s National Party conference with his embarrassing reference to a “Labour Government that I lead”.

If Labour had not been immersed in the Owen Glenn affair, courtesy of a misjudgment by party president Mike Williams, Cullen would have got much greater purchase with his claim that Key has a hidden agenda.

Cullen will continue to ruthlessly mine Key’s lapses of brain-mouth co-ordination. These won’t matter too much if and when Key gets to be prime minister. Political journalists will just laugh with and at him, as they did with former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger when he came back from each foreign tour with a new accent. But in the crucible of an election year the stakes are much higher.

It will not have escaped Key’s notice that Cullen will also try to snooker National by unveiling costly but popular policies in his forthcoming budget.

Key needs a gameplan to deal with Labour’s dirt agenda and much more discipline on the verbal front. If he can get on top of his weaknesses the election is his. If not, Labour may yet have a chance.

Open speculation now of Clark's demise


Leader in waiting – 01 Mar 2008 – Politics: New Zealand Political News, Analysis and Comment including 2008 election coverage – NZ Herald

There is now open speculation of Clark’s demise and the take over of Phil Goff.

It was the first time in 12 years that the issue of the Labour Party leadership has been openly and legitimately discussed as a possible negative rather than an asset – the last time was when Clark saw off a coup attempt in 1996. Goff was the natural subject: he never says “no comment,” and he is the most likely to become the next Labour leader if Labour loses the next election.

For his part he played it perfectly, confirming with conviction that Clark’s leadership was perfectly safe, and saying the party had not wasted a second on “interfactional strife” – not that there were factions any longer.

That is not doubted. But Goff is odds-on favourite to lead the party in Opposition if Clark loses the election.

Quietly there is speculation that blood is already on the floor, specifically the Ninth Floor. But is Goff really the player? Audrey speculates;

THE NEXT LABOUR LEADER

PHIL GOFF
Best bet since Maharey announced he was quitting and Mallard wrestled Henare in the corridors of Parliament.

ANNETTE KING
More respected in the caucus and as able as Goff, but colleagues know better than to ask. She would refuse. She has found love and will do nothing to compromise it.

AND THE NEXT GENERATION…

SHANE JONES
The perfect candidate on paper, expert in Maoritanga and Harvard-educated, but the first-termer is not experienced enough and not steeped in party culture.

DAVID CUNLIFFE
Has won over the public for his strong leadership in health but has still not won over his caucus, who have as little regard for him as they do for his ego. Could be deputy material.

CLAYTON COSGROVE
The Mike Moore acolyte has won respect from the Left of the party for his ability to put differences aside – but not that much respect.

DARREN HUGHES
Clever, witty and able but needs another six years under his belt to shake off the kid-brother image and show his serious side.

MARYAN STREET
A classic modern Labour MP – policy-driven feminist with a strong human rights bent – not as scary as she sounds. Could be an a contender for deputy to Goff.

DAVID PARKER
Bright, methodical, a details man but has too much of an academic approach to the job.

ANDREW LITTLE
Ruled himself out of Parliament next term but could do a Bob Hawke after 2011 if other leadership combinations have failed.

It will be fun watching the destruction. Personally I think that with the building of a Cult of Personality around the photoshopped image of Helen Clark may have consigned Labour to self-destruction.

Armstrong on Cunliffe


John Armstrong: Cabinet’s Action Man cops sacking backlash – 01 Mar 2008 – Politics: New Zealand Political News, Analysis and Comment including 2008 election coverage – NZ Herald

Cunliffe is “in charge now” and that is the core of the problems now besetting Labour in Health. Has he over-stepped in Hawkes Bay?

In talking tough, he has made the DHBs whipping-boys to some degree. They are going to take the rap when things go wrong, rather than the minister. The sacking of the Hawkes Bay board and Anderson’s appointment thus serve also as a message to other DHBs about the limits of Cunliffe’s patience.

This is fine for Labour politically when the DHB concerned cannot fight back – the case with Capital Coast Health, where the community’s fears about the DHB’s capacity to provide essential treatments far outweighed any sympathy for largely faceless board members.

It would seem to be the reverse in Hawkes Bay. The ousting of locally-elected board members by ministerial fiat has provided a lightning rod for dissatisfaction with Labour.

The strong community backing for the board and the accompanying backlash against the Government have obliterated any faint hope that Labour might have had of recapturing the Napier and Tukituki seats.

The main worry now for the party is what Cunliffe’s wielding of the axe in Hawkes Bay will do to Labour’s party vote not just in that province, but in provincial New Zealand as a whole.

Unfortunately fro Cunliffe and Labour the locals are pissed and more will come of this.