Friday, August 31, 2007

A Leadership Spill in the Wind?

Phil Goff is denying that he's after Helen Clark's job.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10460943

I guess that means that we can expect to see the friction within the Labour Caucus heat up as the respective bagmen do their numbers stuff. Game on?

How the mighty are fallen

I heard the news yesterday about League legend Andrew Johns' arrest in London for possession of an ecstacy tablet, and his rather lame "someone slipped it into my pocket" excuse. However, I was quite stunned when I awoke this morning to hear of Johns' startling admission that he had been doing recreational drugs for 14 years. Brad Walter, the League writer for the Sydney Morning Herald has the whole story, which he described on RadioSport this morning as the biggest story in League since the Bulldogs' salary cap rort a few years ago. Here's his story - plenty of related links on the page too:

http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/my-14-years-of-drugs-joey/2007/08/30/1188067281119.html

Johns was one of the players who could truly claim "icon" status during an illustrious career. His revelations last night will be sending shockwaves through the League community, and will inevitably raise more questions than they provide answers. Who knew about Johns' habit? Was it swept under the carpet because of who he is? Who will be the next to 'fess up to a habit?

NRL CEO, David Gallop has a big problem on his hands - this from another SMH article:

"NRL chief executive David Gallop says Andrew Johns' confession that he depended on drugs and alcohol throughout his entire career illustrates the pressure the world's best footballer was under.
Gallop said "it was a very distressing story" that Johns had used recreational drugs throughout his 12-year career, but says it is of no surprise to the NRL that a player has an issue with drugs.
"It's an insight into the pressure that he has been under for many years and he should be given credit for his frankness," said Gallop.
"I think we've known for some time and we've acknowledged for some time that drugs are a problem in the community and footballers are not immune from it.
"It is no doubt damaging for his reputation and the image of the game."


Interesting to me is Gallop commending Johns on his frankness. Would he have been so frank if he hadn't been busted in London? Brad Walter also opined on RadioSport this morning that Johns is about to release a biography, in which his drug habit would be disclosed. Last night's events won't have done advance sales any harm! Geez, I'm getting cynical in my old age!

Meanwhile, the All Blacks have arrived in Europe - I'm willing to wager that the only ecstacy they'll be tasting is that when they are handed the Rugby World Cup later in October! Bring it on!!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fame at last!

I had a very pleasant surprise when I logged on this morning. Not only was there a batch of new comments, but the Great One, the one-and-only David Farrar, had linked to my post last night about poll-rigging.

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/08/and_yet_another_poll_rigging.html

I feel like I've made it to the big-time!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dodgy Polls

Following the release of the latest Herald-Digipoll yesterday, the Herald website carried a Preferred Prime Minister poll, which I followed with interest, having seen several similar polls hi-jacked in recent months.

Throughout the day yesterday, John Key had a clear lead - consistantly polling at over 60%, while Helen Clark was polling at around 28%. Always happy to give trolls like roger nome a hard time on Kiwiblog, I posted "progress scores" several times throughout the day, and again this morning. Here's what I posted at 8.44am"

"Inventory2 Says: August 29th, 2007 at 8:44 am
Herald “unscientific” (their words) PPM Poll update:
Key: 3492 votes (60%)Clark: 1611 votes (28%)
Total votes @ 8.40am: 5773
Even Labour’s famed “poll-spammers” seem to have deserted the sinking ship SS Labour!"


By this time, the poll had been relegated from the nzherald.co.nz front page, given that these things normally only have a shelf life of 24 hours.

Tonight, I logged on to Kiwiblog before coming on here to blog, and found an interesting post:

"peter mck Says: August 29th, 2007 at 7:29 pm
Slightly off topic again - but in the Herald Poll yet again Labour are spamming votes in favour of Clark in the preferred PM poll they are undertaking - over 400 votes have been lodged in favour of John Key in the past hour.
Is this a trick Muldoon would have done if a poll went against him?
This is just another display from a desperate and pathetic Labour Party
."


Naturally curious, I went and investigated - and found the poll reinstated to the front page! The graph was completely different, and there had now been 11,926 votes cast. In that time, Clark’s total went from 1611 to 7002 (+5391), and Key’s total went from 3492 to 4124 (+632), and Clark now led Key by the same margin he had enjoyed over her - 60% to 30%. Quelle surprise!! I smell a rat! The last time a poll changed dramatically like this, IP addresses at Parliament were traced as the source of the spamming. Is the 9th Floor busy again tonight - a little damage limitation?

Postscript: In the time I have been blogging this, a further 119 votes have been cast, with only 34 of these for Clark (28.5%). It would appear that normal business has been resumed!!!

Mike Moore's revenge

Revenge is sweet, especially when you wait 13 years for it! Mike Moore stunned most of us with his opinion-piece in this morning's Herald - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10460368 - right from out of left field, he launched a withering attack on Helen Clark and her government, accusing her of a Muldoon-like policy of "personal destruction".

Reaction was swift, and widespread, and this has been a significant story on radio, tv, and of course on the blogs. And one of the blogs with a very interesting take on Moore's attack was Audrey Young's - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/blog/story.cfm?c_id=1501219&objectid=10460525 - Audrey believes that Moore is sowing the seeds for Phil Goff to make a play for the Labour leadership. Here's the nuts and bolts :

"But more importantly he was a model for the right faction of the Labour Party. The likes of Jim Sutton, Phil Goff, Phillip Field, Clayton Cosgrove and Dover Samuels did not try to undermine Clark's early leadership.

Without that discipline Clark would never have succeeded as leader. Even the invitation of key front benchers to step down in 1996 was a private poll-driven event by colleagues who believed she could not recover lost ground, rather than a bid to undermine her further.

So why has he breached his own discipline now?

It is possible he was sickened by the recent Labour attacks on John Key - and Clark's "plausible denability" over them.

(Of course she did not know of Trevor Mallard's taunts to Key in the House about the H-fee, nor his Brash-Foreman handiwork, nor the allegations of National's American bagman last election. Any party's hit-men are forbidden from telling the leader about any of their dirty work, precisely so that they can distance the party from it, if need be.)

Perhaps Moore has had one too many old mates who are being levered out of Parliament when he sees more deserving cases for it."

It's shaping up as another bad week for Labour - a pasting in the Herald-Digipoll, and now this! There are definitely cracks appearing in the dam - how long until it bursts?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rising from the Ashes - It's the Phoenix!

I've spent enough time bleating about the government this week, so it was great to clear the brain and spend this afternoon on the sofa, remote control in hand. First-up it was a good win for the Warriors to book their place in the NRL playoffs for the first time in a few years - just a shame that Manly showed so little respect for the Warriors by fielding a depleted team - but great to see Mt Smart bursting at the seams again. I'll be keeping an eye on the Eels v Dragons game on Monday night - IF (and it's a big "if") the Dragons could beat the Eels, the Warriors could finish the regular season as high as 4th, giving them home advantage for the start of the playoffs.

But my major source of interest today was the debut of the Wellington Phoenix in the A-League - and what a debut it was! 2-nil down with about 12 minutes to go, the Phoenix threw the kitchen sink at the defending champions, Melbourne Victory, to take a well-deserved draw thanks to goals by Daniel (what is it with these Brazilians and the single names?) and All Whites striker Shane Smeltz. In the last few minutes the Phoenix came oh so close to a remarkable victory with substitute Royce Brownlie hittng the post with the keeper beaten, Smelz heading just over the bar and Ross Aloisi blasting wide as the final whistle sounded. Add to that a missed penalty by Daniel in the first half, and it was a case of "what might have been" for the newcomers.

Two things stood out. At 2-nil down, the Phoenix's predecessors, the Kingz and the Knights would have jacked it in and given up. Not so the Phoenix, nor are they likely to with former All White Ricky Herbert as coach! Even more impressive was the crowd of almost 14,500 at the "Ring of Fire", as the Cake Tin has been christened by Phoenix supporters. It was like watching football from abroad with the crowd singing and chanting, and I'm guessing that many will be back for another dose of "Yellow Fever", especially if the early promise from the Phoenix can be maintained. This scribe, a rugby man through and through, will definitely be planning a trip to Wellington to catch a Phoenix game, and maybe an ale of two at the Backbencher, the watering hole for Phoenix supporters.

OK - just a quick word on politics - David Farrar covers off all the issues at www.kiwiblog.co.nz and the weekend press has generally been pretty tough on the Government. The Ship of State seems a little rudderless at the moment - where to now for Helen?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bugger!

From the "Oh dear, how sad, never mind" department - David Farrar reports on Kiwiblog that no less a cheerleader for the left than Nicky Hagar, author of The Hollow Men, has come out publicly today and commented on the Electoral Finance Bill. Here's the link:

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/08/hager_on_electoral_finance_bill.html

During an interview with Mikey Havoc on Bfm, Hagar told the nation that this was "the type of legislation you'd expect to see from the Nazi party"! That's right - the man whose "expose" of National's tactics in the 2005 election, which the EFB is designed to prevent, is telling us that the Government has gone too far. Surely, over the weekend, the "brains trust" of the Labour Party (is that an oxymoron?) will be digesting this latest, unpalatable revelation. Surely, Hodgson and Co will stop trolling through rubbish bins, and Helen will call of the attack dogs. Surely, Labour cannot proceed with this obnoxious, insidious piece of legislation. Surely Phil Goff's BBQ will be working overtime this weekend......watch this space!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Playing the Man

When I was younger (more years ago than I care to remember!), I played a lot of rugby. One thing that was always drummed into us by coaches and referees (and repeated by me during my 10 years of refereeing) was to play the ball, and not the man. From time to time, players would get a little carried away in the heat of the moment, and dispense a bit of "bush justice"; other times, players would go onto the field with a predetermined plan to play the man, and get away with it for as long as they could.

And so it was when Parliament resumed a couple of weeks ago, Tuesday 7 August, and the Labour government launched its offensive against John Key. Although the Prime Minister took no active part in the attacks, it was clear from her demeanour in the House that she knew about them and approved of them; in all likelihood, the attack had its genesis in her office. This was bourne out by her comments about Key's reported wealth. Last week's revelations about Air NZ's flights to Iraq took the wind out of the government's sails, however the policy of playing the man began afresh yesterday.

John Key led off the General Debate with a lively speech, focusing on the insidious Electoral Finance Bill, which is providing rich pickings for the opposition at the moment - long may it continue! Pete Hodgson led off for the government, and rather than defend the EFB, or his health portfolio, or anything else, he launched into an attack on Key, claiming serious breaches of the Electoral Act and the Companies Act, based on returns that Key had filed between 2002 and 2005 as the his addresses at the relevant times. Bill English immediately followed, noting that "on a day when New Zealanders were thinking about high interest rates, events in the global economy and the state of the health system, the most important thing was apparently where Mr Key lived in 2002." National has since tabled a letter from the Clerk of the House confirming that there had been no breach of the Electoral Act, and Hodgson, far from "putting up", has stated on Morning Report this morning that he know "doesn't know" if Key broke the Electoral Act, and now says it is "possible" that Key breached the Companies Act - a far cry from his allegations of the previous afternoon. Brent Edwards followed Hodgson, and talked about the "risky strategy" that Labour was following - that the public would simply see it as "mudslinging".

Already, there has been plenty of negative comment directed at Labour. John Armstrong in the NZ Herald notes "Coming the day after the latest Roy Morgan poll showed Labour trailing National by nearly 20 percentage points, however, this rehashing of ancient history is in danger of looking like desperation. Labour risks looking Nero-like - fiddling with trivia when far more pressing problems daily confront the Government and consumed by nothing else than its own survival." Meanwhile the Herald has also run a comments thread on the issue, with public opinion overwhelmingly against the government - here's the link: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10459398&pnum=0

One of the hallmarks of this government has been its nastiness, especially in this third term - remember the "affair" jibes, the "cancerous and corrosive" comments. Maybe it's time for Labour to stop playing the man; failing to heed the warnings is highly likely to result in an electoral red card in 2008.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Going, going, going........

The press for the Electoral Finance Bill continues to be bad news for the Government, and deservedly so! Labour and its new-found interference-runner, Winston Peters, continue to defend the Bill, and have confidence in the Select Committee to create workable legislation out of the insidious, repressive mess that passed first reading.

David Farrar at http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/ continues to lead the charge against the EFB in the blogosphere, and deserves all the plaudits. It took the MSM a while to cotton on just how much they could be affected - maybe someone did the sums on the potential loss of advertising revenue - but it is pleasing to see that the tide of media opinion has continued to turn against Labour. Meanwhile, rather than reinvent the wheel, here's a couple of links from Kiwiblog today:

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/08/nz_law_journal_on_electoral_finance_bill.html

This is a thread with a link to articles from the latest New Zealand Law Journal. The article concludes with the following:

"This Bill is fundamentally obnoxious and should be scrapped."

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/08/john_key_on_electoral_finance_bill.html

This is a thread referring to John Key's speech to the National Press Club. DPF's thread has a link to the full speech, which he urges all of us to read in full. I'm off to do just that! In the meantime, all of us who believe that this Bill constitutes a significant threat to our freedom of speech, and ultimately, our democracy must band together to send a message to the arrogant Labour-led government that they cannot and will not be allowed to attack us in this manner. Kill the Bill!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Electoral Finance Bill - where now for Labour?

Opposition continues to mount against the Electoral Finance Bill, despite the protestations of the Prime Minister, sundry Cabinet Ministers and even Winston Peters. Yesterday's Herald on Sunday carried an excellent editorial slamming the intent of the Bill, and the comments by the PM and Justice Minister Mark Burton that the Select Committee can somehow salvage the Bill. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10458562

The opening comments are right on the money:

"Legislation passed to address specific problems is almost invariably bad law. So it is with the Electoral Finance Bill, which is an egregious challenge to democracy and our freedom to express political opinions."

It is amusing to watch the back-tracking of the Government as they try to convince us that it was their intent all along to let the Select Committee make a silk purse out of the sow's ear that they have been given. They've even rolled out Winston Peters to ask supplementary questions going back to the mid-1990's. The Government has totally miscalculated the public mood on this issue, especially now that the MSM has come on board against the Bill. This is a mess entirely of the government's making - arrogantly thinking that they could railroad through draconian legislation which would impose unparallelled restrictions on their opponents, they have met with significant and vocal opposition, especially in the Blogsphere. Already taking a pounding in the polls, the government is, happily, between a rock and a hard place, and this correspondent is enjoying watching their discomfort!

Lastly, WhaleOil has posted a classic: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/?q=node/4754 I agree with the sentiment, but have cautioned him to destroy the image before Dear Leader adopts it as her official campaign photo for 2008!


Friday, August 17, 2007

Winston & MFAT

There was an absorbing exchange during Question Time this afternoon. Q4 pitted Murray McCully against Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters. Here's how it unfolded:

Air New Zealand—Charter Flights
4. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What communications, if any, were made to him or his office by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding Air New Zealand’s discussion with the ministry about carrying Australian Defence Force personnel to Middle East locations?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): My office was informed yesterday morning that an article was due to appear in the next day or so about the charter flights. Today at midday I received a report from the ministry’s chief executive on the same subject.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister assure the House that the answer he has just given is in accord with the best recollections of his officials; that is, do his ministry officials absolutely accept that they failed to advise him of Air New Zealand’s plans, as they should have done?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: To the chief executive officer’s great credit, he has accepted that he made a mistake. He, having made a mistake, which has been identified as not telling me—[Interruption]—and which is what this issue turns on, not on a whole lot of ballyhoo and bumf from the member over there, that is where the matter rests. [Interruption] That is where the matter rests; he says he made a mistake in not telling me.
Hon Murray McCully: Can I ask the Minister again whether we can be assured that the response he has given to the House this afternoon is in accord with the best recollections of his officials; that is, do they absolutely accept that they failed to advise him of Air New Zealand’s plans, as they should have done?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Simon Murdoch has sent a report to me, which is now in the hands of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Defence.
Gerry Brownlee: That’s not the question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I am answering the question, if that member will keep his mouth shut for 5 seconds.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is the process of answering the question. Interjections only create disorder. I do not want to have the answer heard in silence—I want to give members an appropriate opportunity to comment—but when there is an abuse of that opportunity, then yes, it will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Murdoch says: “I have reviewed my actions in handling the information available to me in January. In hindsight I accept that even though the information was partial and contingent, I had the opportunity to pass it on to the Minister of Foreign Affairs by way of a heads-up and I did not do so. That was an error on my part, for which I now apologise.” That is where the matter should rest.
Keith Locke: In giving the green light to Air New Zealand, was the ministry at least in some measure acting on signals from Government Ministers, such as the opposition of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to a rapid withdrawal of American and Australian troops from Iraq, Helen Clark’s reluctance to bring up the issue of the war when she visited Washington, and the ongoing reluctance of Ministers to openly criticise the war in Iraq and the human rights violations at Abu Ghraib prison and the Guantanamo Bay detention centre?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Three statements were just made, purporting to be in the form of a question. All three of those statements are demonstrably, palpably false, and they should not be presented in this Parliament by any self-respecting member of Parliament, let alone by a political party.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister assure the House that at no stage did any ministry official communicate information about the planned Air New Zealand charters to him or his office?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: There was a group of officials, one of whom was the defence liaison in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who could be construed as being responsible for reporting to my office. But having looked at all the information, Mr Murdoch, to his great credit, and even regarding the circumstances, which might be ones of amelioration that are redeeming of him, nevertheless says: “At the end of the day, I made the mistake, and I apologise.”
Gerry Brownlee: That wasn’t the question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That being the case, if there was any material communication that would not go to the core of his apology, the question would be relevant. But, of course, it is not.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the House have an assurance that at no stage did any official from his ministry communicate in writing or in any other form with him or his office about the Air New Zealand charters?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I have had a chance to review this matter with my officials and the head of foreign affairs over the last 24 hours. To the best of everyone’s recollections, there were no communications to the Minister of Foreign Affairs or to his office. Otherwise, this issue would never have arisen in the first place.
Hon Murray McCully: How does the Minister reconcile his statements in the media last night and this morning that the ministry was given little information by Air New Zealand and that the company had also failed to get back to the ministry, as it had expected, with the statement by Air New Zealand’s chairman, John Palmer, this morning that all the relevant details were provided to the ministry, including details of the flights, when they would take place, and what they comprised?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That last phrase is the most apposite part of the question. What they comprised was never advised to foreign affairs—that is, who was on the plane, their designation and description, and where they were going to go when they arrived in Kuwait were never described to foreign affairs. It happens to be a fact that had foreign affairs known that, I think its reaction would have been different. However, because of circumstances, that was a matter of confidentiality in respect of the contract itself, and I can see how these circumstances have arisen. The point is that a mistake was made. A lesson has been learnt. We will not repeat that mistake in the future.


Two things stand out from the exchange. Why did McCully ask Peters THREE TIMES if he was sure that his officials had not told him about the Air New Zealand situation? Was McCully setting a trap? Was he insinuating that Peters knew more than he was owning up to, or does he have some inside information? Did he lure Peters into misleading the House? Time will tell, no doubt. But the other salient point - just what did Peters mean when he said "We will not repeat that mistake in the future."?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Labour's Own Goal?

From time to time I check in to Ian Wishart's The Briefing Room - http://www.tbr.cc/ - so I was very interested when they broke the story early this afternoon that Air New Zealand had been flying Australian and American soldiers into the warzone in Iraq. After Labour has hung its hat on attacks on John Key over his supposed inconsistencies over involvement in the Iraq war, this was NOT the news that Labour needed to hear today. Nobody is denying that it happened - in fact, there is a wealth of evidence that it did. The issue is whether the Government was told. Air New Zealand is adamant that the government was briefed in advance - Peters and Goff are denying that they had ever been told.

From what I'm hearing on the radio as I type this from Barry Soper, top MFAT official, Simon Murdoch is going to be hung out to dry. However, given the sensitivity of the whole Iraq question (demonstrated by Labour's concerted attacks on Key over Iraq), it is inconceivable to me that Peters and/or Goff were kept out of the loop. Phil Goff has just held a hastily-convened media briefing, which would suggest that the government has hastily rolled out a damage-limitation strategy. This is a major embarrassment to the government - they're not having a good run at the moment; not that I'm complaining! It's certainly not the kind of news they need to turn the polls around!

Ian Wishart cops a lot of flak from the government, but he seems to have scored a direct hit with this one, and I'll be buying a copy of Investigate Magazine in the morning!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Musings on the Body Politic

It's been an interesting few days for those of us who closely follow politics. Firstly there was Labour's co-ordinated attack on John Key, followed by a bit of retaliation from National; then there was Hone's hikoi into the Red Centre of Australia, kindly paid for by my fellow taxpayers and myself; there was the row over Dr Prebble and what seems to be a clear conflict in his statements - either he "forgot" about Benson-Pope's "free and frank" revelation, or he "didn't consider it critical" - however, I venture to suggest that he can't have it both ways!

Most interesting to me though (especially in light of my introductory post on this blog) is that the MSM all of a sudden seems to have picked up on the content and intent of the insidious Electoral Finance Bill, for which submissions close on 7 September. This thread at Kiwiblog tells us how to go about making a submission: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/08/incinerate_the_electoral_finance_bill.html

Meanwhile, it's reported that Helen Clark is starting to backtrack over this Bill. I'm sure that has nothing whatsoever to do with last night's Colmar-Brunton poll result, which shows National on 53% support, 17 points ahead of Labour, and with the ability to form a Government on its own. Sure, it's a long time until the election (ain't that a shame!), but the government's behaviour over the last week shows that they are under intense pressure. An interesting week awaits in the House!

Sunny Nelson

No posting over the weekend, as the author and his better half took a much-needed breather in Nelson - well, actually very little time spent in Nelson itself, as the friends we were catching up with live out at Wakefield. It was the first time I'd been to Nelson for about 10 years, and it was hard not to be impressed - the development in the surrounding areas is incredible, and there's some VERY impressive real estate in the region. However, that also means that there are some pretty hefty mortgages as well, and with the creep upwards in interest rates, there must be many homeowners feeling squeezed.

However, it was a very pleasant weekend in a very pleasant part of the country, and we'll be back soon! Meanwhile, there's work to be done!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Attacking John Key - Risky Business??

John Armstrong reports in the NZ Herald this morning on Labour's "offensive" against John Key at Question Time yesterday

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10456424

This was a particularly calculated attack, and Key will be learning to be more careful about what he says in future. However, I believe that Labour crossed the line with the Q+A on the "affordable housing" question, with the digs about Key's house being built over two sections, with a tennis court on a third.

Question Time will become a farce if it turns into a forum for government MP's to ask patsy questions which have very little to do with ministerial responsibility. Question Time is supposed to be a time where Ministers are called to account for goings-on in their portfolios, but has increasingly become (and not just since Labour came to power) a forum for the government to preen before the cameras.

Meanwhile WhaleOil http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/?q=node/4684 links the attack to the latest Roy Morgan poll result, which shows National, at 49% support (up 2) with a 14% point lead over Labour at 35% (down 1). Daylight is third! Will yesterday's events be a springboard for Labour, or will the public see the attack as a cynical and desperate attempt by a Government in its death-throes? I'd go for the latter, but then again, hope springs eternal!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Key Speech

If the media reaction was anything to go by, you'd think the only thing that John Key said to the National Party Conference was about leading a Labour government. To their credit however, the NZ Herald website has published Key's speech in full here
I've now taken the time to sit back and read through the whole speech, and it certainly makes interesting reading. The emphasis on education is welcome news, although I would like to hear what National plans to do with the 20FreeECE policy which many of us in the ECE sector are currently grappling with. As a parent of two teenagers, moves to make home ownership a realistic aspiration for our children is also music to my ears. I'm also delighted with National's attitude towards families - this quote in particular will get no argument from me!!
"Families are, in my view, the greatest institution in our society, however they are made up. A government I lead will support them.
But supporting parents, most of whom do a good job of raising their children, does not mean meddling in their lives or telling them what to do all the time. I believe in the power of people to effect a real change in their family's circumstances, if they are given the space and the encouragement to do so"
I don't think I'm alone in believing that the current government has become arrogant in its "we-know-best" attitude - the latest moves to restrict food sales in school canteens is a prime example - and I'm dead keen to see New Zealand move away from state control, and actually give us, and especially our children the freedom to make choices and decisions, to take a few risks, and to learn from their mistakes.
All in all, it was a very encouraging speech for those who are looking for change in 2008, but not merely change for change's sake. I'll let John Key give his own conclusion:
"Delegates. It is said in politics that governments get voted out, oppositions don't get voted in. Maybe that in itself is a good enough reason to toss this Government out.

But surely if the only reason we are elected in 2008 is because Labour has come to the end of its run, we will have failed ourselves. Our party has much more to offer than that. New Zealanders deserve more than that.

Our people deserve a vision for this country - a vision that's about them, not what's best for the Labour Party.

So let me say this. My vision is that when our children and our grandchildren are deciding where to make their life, they choose New Zealand; that in a global world where they are free to call almost any country home, they choose New Zealand.

And they do it because they can see a positive future where they will be paid what they are worth.

And they do it because we're a country that's growing in confidence.

And they do it because we're a country where people are safe and where we can see out our final years in dignity.

And they do it because we're a country that respects and cares for the land we live on.

And we care about our communities.

And fundamentally we care about one another.

So when you leave here today, and as you prepare for next year's election, never forget what you are fighting for. You are fighting for tomorrow. For the chance to shape tomorrow. For the chance to make a difference and to leave behind a better New Zealand.

Because it's time. It's time for confidence. It's time for optimism. It's time for a National Government. It's our time.

That's what we are fighting for and it can't come soon enough
."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Provinicial Rugby Alive, Well and Living in the Hawkes Bay

Well done to the Hawkes Bay team on a gutsy win over Wellington today in the Air New Zealand Cup. It was a game low in quality, but memorable for the never-say-die attitude of the Magpies.

This match, more than any last season, vindicates the NZRU's decision to extend the Air NZ Cup competition to 14 teams, and includes the likes of Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Counties-Manukau and Tasman. New Zealand rugby can only benefit from having more players exposed to a competitive level of rugby week in, week out. A crowd of around 10,000 on a wet and murky Napier day was proof that there is still passion in the provinces, and a desire to see top-level rugby played outside the main centres.

Back to the drawing board for Wellington - they will be kicking themselves for losing a match that should have been theirs for the taking. It'll be a big night for the Hawkes Bay team and their faithful supporters, and a thoroughly deserved one!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

It gets worse for the Government

The Dom-Post reveals this morning that State Services Commissioner, Dr Mark Prebble, knew about David Benson-Pope's reservations about the appointment of Madeleine Setchell TWO MONTHS before the issue became public.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/4150740a10.html

This must be a HUGE embarrassment to the Clark government, having already lost Benson-Pope, and with Environment Ministry CEO Hugh Logan implicated up to his eyeballs. Likewise, given that Dr Prebble has frequently enjoyed the Prime Ministerial Seal of Approval, Clark's political judgement must again be called into question. She has only herself to blame - she had innumerable opportunities to kneecap Benson-Pope for his past misdeeds, but failed to exercise them.

Here's the money quotes:

"Dr Prebble revealed his involvement yesterday as he began a formal inquiry into the handling of Ms Setchell's employment.
He said mistakes had been made because the process had evolved too quickly.
"Clearly I've made some myself. If (Mr Logan) made the mistake of not remembering at the right moment, then so did I."
He said the terms of reference were deliberately broad so that the actions of everyone involved in the matter - including him - could be scrutinised.
But his comments sparked a chain of events that led to Miss Clark saying last night: "I am advised ... that, given the breadth of the terms of reference of the inquiry, (Dr Prebble) is now considering whether someone outside the commission should conduct the inquiry."
National's state services spokesman, Gerry Brownlee, said Dr Prebble's revelations would send shockwaves through the public service.
"The man who is supposed to be the watchdog for public service neutrality knew about David Benson-Pope's interference, but simply forgot."


Clark must immediately remove Prebble from having anything to do with this inquiry. There's a strong case for the terms of reference to be extended to cover his "revelations". The mere suggestion that Clark is letting Dr Prebble make the decision as to whether to stand aside is outrageous! She must act quickly and decisively.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Greetings! Welcome to Keeping Stock.

If the forces of cyberspace have brought you here, then welcome! After spending an increasing amount of time in the blogsphere of late, I've decided that it's time to have my own presence. The General Election is now not much more than a year away, and if the Labour Government manage to push through the Electoral Finance Bill in its current form, this may be the only place where one can safely and legally criticise. New Zealand's mainstream media are strangely silent about this obnoxious peice of legislation, so it's time for the man or woman in the street to leave the safety of the silent majority - that's the theory, at least!

What can you expect from me? I have opinions, and I'm not backwards in expressing them. I'm deeply disturbed by the course that the Clark Labour-led government has taken New Zealand, and I want to see the back of them in 2008, or sooner! I'm not averse to a good, old-fashioned arguement. Work commitments will limit me to some degree, but I hope to post most days. It won't all be politics, especially when there is a Rugby World Cup to be won in a few weeks! Likewise, where there's a news item of interest, I'll have my ten cents worth.

Once again, welcome, and do visit again!