Friday, February 29, 2008


OK - so everyone christens these scandals, and I am no exception!

What IS going on at the HB DHB? Cunliffe's action in sacking the DHB Board has gone down like a lead balloon, and it sounds as though the good folk of The Bay aren't buying his story. So where did all this originate? This extract from Bill English's speech in the General Debate on 18 July 2007 gives some insight:

"I am sure Annette King is worried about her involvement in the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board scandal. What a scandal that is. As my colleague Tony Ryall pointed out today, she was fast-tracking the appointment of Peter Hausmann, the principal tenderer for $50 million of public money, when he was being fed the tender documents for comment by the chief executive of the district health board. And, of course, I am sure that Mrs King is worried about the role of her husband. He was second in charge of the district health board, and he is now working for Peter Hausmann, the principal tenderer for the $50 million contract whom she appointed to the board. So if Annette King does not want to go now, I am sure she will want to go soon."

Tony Ryall - same debate, same day:

"What is more, real problems are happening in district health boards throughout New Zealand. In question time today we asked the Government to explain a series of emails from the chief executive of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.
Chris Auchinvole: Did they explain?
Hon TONY RYALL: They did not explain what is going on here. We asked just a simple question: is it right that 2½ months before a tender was released publicly, the chief executive of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board was asking one of the likely tenderers to comment on the tender documents? Is it right that 2½ months before anyone else got a copy, the chief executive of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board asked for a copy of the documents to be sent to a contractor likely to bid—a contractor whom Annette King was fast tracking for appointment to the very same district health board? What is going on?"

Who is the Hawke's Bay DHB CEO referred to? Why, none other than Chris Clarke, formerly executive assistant to Helen Clark.

To be continued.......

Still more on the HB DHB

No Minister carries this link from the Dom Post this morning:

Why are we being prevented from learning what is REALLY going on at the Hawkes Bay DHB?

Has the government had enough bad news this week?

Why is the Director-General of Health running intereference for the government?

This has "MAJOR COVER-UP" written all over it!!

Hat tip: No Minister

UPDATE: 10.20am - I have just been directed to this link by a commenter:


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Winston Behaving Badly

Didn't Winston pack a right and proper tantie when he got back to Wellington today. You didn't see it? Well then, let me enlighten you!!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is New Zealand's Foreign Minister. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the public face of New Zealand on the international diplomacy circuit. And frankly ladies and gentlemen, it's not a good look, nor is it the first time it's happened.

Meanwhile Audrey Young takes a real swipe at Winston in her blog tonight - and with good cause. Here's what she had to say:

Surely Winston realises that the media is in campaign mode for National now, so why is he pouring petrol on the fire??!!!

More on the HB DHB

This is one story that won't go away any time soon. But from what I've read, both web-based and in the print media today, there is a very suspicious undertone.

It's public knowledge that Ray Lind, Annette King's husband was Deputy CEO of the Hawkes Bay DHB some time ago. It's public knowledge that he has a business relationship with Peter Hausmann, appointed to the HB DHB by Annette King. It's public knowledge that there is currently an investigation underway into the awarding of contestable contracts for services to Hausmann without a contestable process.

The Dom-Post is carrying this story:

Under the heading "CEO acted against board, says chairman" it begins:

"Hawke's Bay District Health Board chairman Kevin Atkinson believes chief executive Chris Clarke and board member Peter Hausmann worked together to have the board sacked.
Mr Hausmann, the subject of an ongoing investigation into an alleged conflict of interest, was given a letter from Mr Clarke to his lawyer to use in his submission to Health Minister David Cunliffe.
The scathing letter criticised the board's performance and described a "toxic culture" in the relations between board and management.
The letter appeared in correspondence from Mr Hausmann to Mr Cunliffe, which the minister considered before making his decision to sack the board yesterday

Later on in the article we read this:

"Mr Clarke's letter says he would be away when the board considers its response to the Health Ministry review panel looking into Mr Hausmann's alleged conflict of interest, and asks his lawyer to represent his views in his absence.
Mr Clarke said he believed a change of governance was imperative, due to "a toxic culture between board and management, a clash of values and an absence of trust"

So who is Chris Clarke, and why would a DHB CEO and one of its government-appointed members try to undermine the board? This from The Hawkes Bay DHB's website:

"Chris Clarke, Chief Executive Officer
Chris Clarke’s background of top-level health appointments, backed by accountancy and law qualifications make him well suited in his position of chief executive officer of Hawke's Bay District Health Board. He has strong strategic and leadership qualities, and is a good communicator.
Prior to joining HBDHB Mr Clarke was director of health services development at Capital and Coast District Health Board. He holds degrees in law and commerce from Canterbury University.
His experience in the health sector is extensive, including general manager of public health and hospital services of the Southern Regional Health Authority, and general manager of strategy and communications for the same organisation. In 1994 he spent a year with the World Health Organisation working with developing nations in Eastern Europe. He also worked in the UK for the national health service in Wales, as part of a New Zealand health service exchange fellowship. Chris Clarke also worked as executive assistant to the then, deputy prime Minister, Helen Clark, from 1989 to 1990

"Chris Clarke also worked as executive assistant to the then, deputy prime Minister, Helen Clark, from 1989 to 1990" - does anyone else smell a rat here?

Kiwiblog rebranded

DPF, as well as his new look, has a new by-line:

DPF’s Kiwiblog - Fomenting Happy Mischief since 2003

Don't you just love it when people's (such as Peter Davis) words come back to bite them in ways that they has never envisaged. Not only has Dr Davis entered the political fray; his words are now immortalised in the blogosphere - no doubt an unintended consequence!!!

Electoral Commission in the news

The NZ Herald is running a story this morning that has implications for all of us who indulge our political fantasies on the World-Wide Web. Here 'tis:

The Electoral Commission's rethink has been prompted by Andy Moore, or more specifically his website which was shut down by the EC, but subsequently returned as a blog, so as not to contravene the Electoral Finance Act. Andy's only a young guy, but he has certainly managed to put a cat amongst the electoral funding pigeons. It's good news that the EC is looking to put personal websites on the same footing as blogs - yet another anomaly of the rushed EFA process!

Meanwhile, it must be noted that the EC was very quick to shut Don't Vote Labour down, but we're yet to see the fruits of their investigations into the Standard/Labour Party complaint. Maybe Lee C or WhaleOil could update us.

Cunliffe - "I'm running the show"

National's Hawkes Bay MP's Chris Tremain and Craig Foss will have mixed feelings this morning. On one hand, the government has just literally decreed them as electorate MP's for life with David Cunliffe's decision yesterday to sack the elected Hawkes Bay District Health Board. On the other, they will now be at the epicentre of a legal challenge to Cunliffe's decision, and the inevitable firestorm that will ensue.

Cunliffe is in a difficult position here, but that is why he earns a Cabinet Minister's salary. There have been problems with the Hawkes Bay DHB for some time, not merely since last year's local body elections. Unfortunately for him, some of those problems involve Annette King's husband and his business partner, Peter Hausmann - there are allegations of conflicts of interest, and "insider trading" over the awarding of contracts by the DHB, not to mention the rather unfortunate "redundancy" of a whistle-blower who didn't like what she saw. Paula Oliver of the Herald backgrounds this:

"Unceremoniously dumped from their jobs, they feel they are the victims of an unwanted saga that was started by former Health Minister Annette King, allowed to fester by her successor Pete Hodgson, and has now been unfairly cauterised by Mr Cunliffe.
From the moment Ms King appointed Peter Hausmann to the board in 2005, things started turning pear-shaped in the region known as the fruit-bowl of New Zealand.
There were immediate concerns among other board members that Mr Hausmann's company, Healthcare of New Zealand, would probably be involved in tendering for a DHB contract worth up to $50 million.
Indeed it was, and a conflict of interest arose. Life for the board would have been a lot easier if it had never had to deal with the Hausmann conflict - although that is not to say that such conflicts cannot be managed successfully.

However, this one spiralled out of control when a whistleblower stumbled across an email that appeared to suggest Mr Hausmann knew more about details of the upcoming tender than he should have.
And so began an ugly battle that has seen Mr Hausmann vigorously defend his integrity, the board lurch into the media spotlight in a way that hasn't done it any favours, and relations between the Beehive and the board break down as an inquiry into the matter drags on and on

The full NZ Herald article can be found here:

Paula Oliver also makes the point that the losers in this are the people of the Hawkes Bay "who need good health services. And it is those very people who voted long-time board chairman Kevin Atkinson and several more of these board members back into their jobs only last October."

We have not heard the last of this story, and time will tell if Cunliffe has made the right decision or overreacted. But the question must be asked - why Hawkes Bay and why not Wellington?

Update: Craig Foss, National MP for Tukutuki has blogged about this:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


This is a complete steal from Kiwiblog, but it debunks the myth that National is sleepwalking to victory by saying "me-too" to Labour policy. Bogusnews posted this last evening:

"Bogusnews Says: February 26th, 2008 at 6:16 pm

You labour guys really crack me up when you go on about National not having any policies. Consider the policies Labour has stolen from National such as:

Removing the $1,890 cap on charitable donations. Donations of any amount, up to an individual’s total net income, will be eligible for the 33.3% rebate. Removing the 5% cap on the level of donations that can be deducted by companies and Maori Authorities.
National announced on 27 February 2007; Government announced in 2007 Budget

Full-cost funding for community groups that better covers the true costs of service delivery. Less bureaucracy and fewer compliance costs.
National announced on 16 May 2007; Government announced in 2008 Prime Minister’s Statement

All payments which reimburse volunteers for actual and reasonable expenses will be tax free, regardless of the amount of the payment. Honoraria payments will be tax free up to an amount of $500 per year per person.
National announced on 16 May 2007; Government released a discussion document on 1 November 2007

A greater emphasis on trades training in schools. Giving schools more flexibility to offer their students trades and industry training opportunities outside their school-gates. Expanding school-based apprenticeship training.
National announced on 18 June 2007; Government announced on 30 January 2008

Giving the police the ability to issue time-bound, on-the-spot protection orders to protect families.
National announced on 1 November 2007; Government issued discussion document in mid-December 2007

Committing all fuel tax revenues to the National Land Transport Fund.
National had in 2005 election policy; Labour announced on 25 July 2007

Serious consideration of Public Private Partnerships for roading projects.
National policy for many years – most recently confirmed on 17 Sep 2007; Government announced on 7 February 2008

Allowing lines companies to invest in generation, especially from renewable energy sources.
National had in 2005 election policy; Government introduced with Electricity Industry Reform Amendment Bill, first reading 11 Dec 2007.

Devolving carbon credits to post-1990 forest owners
National announced on 6 March 2007; Government announced on 20 September 2007

An emissions trading scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
National proposed on 6 October 2006; Labour announced on 20 September 2007

A multi-year programme of personal tax cuts
National policy for many years; Government announced on 7 February 2008

Reducing the rate of business tax from 33% to 30%
National had in 2005 election policy; Labour announced in 2007 Budget

Promoting housing affordability by freeing up the supply of land and cutting building compliance costs
National announced on 5 Aug 2007; Government announced in 2008 Prime Minister’s Statement

So please Labourites, lay off already on the National has no policies business. It makes me think you are even more blinded by your bias than you are. If anything, Labour’s the one who is pinching policies because they can’t think of their own."

Hat-tip - Kiwiblog and Bogusnews

"Fomenting happy mischief"

tr.v. fo·ment·ed, fo·ment·ing, fo·ments
To promote the growth of; incite.
To treat (the skin, for example) by fomentation.

I can't say I'd ever heard the word fomenting before, so I had to look it up. But "fomenting happy mischief" is what Helen Clark and Peter Davis have accused the New Zealand Herald of this morning - here's the story:

I can only assume that the meaning the First Couple is using in making this claim is that of "inciting", although the other word they use - happy mischief - do seem to be something of an oxymoron. The Herald story begins thus:

"The country's First Couple yesterday hit out at the Herald, accusing the paper of showing no charity to the Labour Party and "fomenting happy mischief".
Facing opinion polls putting her Government about 20 points behind National, Prime Minister Helen Clark said the Herald had run a silly campaign against the Electoral Finance Act and was a Tory paper which had shown no charity to Labour in the party's 91 years of existence

The Herald also reports that Dr Peter Davis has again written to the Herald, this time about Glenngate. Given Clark's outrage when Davis was targetted by the media a couple of years back, I wonder how she feels about him writing unsolicited letters to the editor - by disclosing his identity, he himself has entered the debate.

Meanwhile, the Herald categorically denies the First Couple's allegations - this is how the article closes:

"Helen Clark's claim that commercial issues were a factor in the Herald campaign against the Electoral Finance Bill was rejected emphatically by Herald editor Tim Murphy. The campaign was solely motivated by the law's restriction on free speech and its anti-democratic nature."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Million Dollar Bauble Man

"The baubles of office" - ah, doesn't that phrase evoke memories of times long ago? Well at least just before the 2005 election, when that wonderful expression was used by Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First to describe NZF's likely position after the election, said baubles being the thing furthest from Winston's post-election considerations. Well, at least up until he was given the role of Foreign Minister after confidence-and-supply negotiations.

How things have changed. This morning Stuff carries the news that our fine, upstanding Foreign Minister has racked up travel and accomodation bills totalling a mere $940,000 during the term of this government. Read this:

Now I will be the first to concede that the Foreign Minister travels a lot, as of necessity, but Winston's annual expenditure has exceeded $440k in each of his first two years in the role, making him the most "high maintenance" member of Clark's administration. He even spends more than the PM herself - $100k more last year alone! That's a helluva lot of baubles, and makes the "in the region of" $100,000 anonymous donation to New Zealand First last year seem like small change. No wonder Winston denies its existence!

Happy Birthday Helen

Regular readers of Keeping Stock will not be surprised to know that I am not Helen Clark's biggest fan. However, the Herald notes that today is Helen's 58th birthday, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge her today - so, Happy Birthday Prime Minister!

Interestingly, I listened to John Cowan's Real Life radio show on Sunday night, where Helen Clark was his guest for the hour. The image projected by the Prime Minister was completely different to that which we normally associate with her - she was pleasant, chatty, and animated, especially when talking about her nieces. It was not a side to her that I have seen often. Politics is a demanding mistress, and it was an interesting reminder that the people we see on our screens every night backbiting, putting down their opponents, and generally sounding superior to us mere minnions are real people too in real life.

Monday, February 25, 2008

So when is it going to happen Phil?

Increasing speculation over a leadership challenge in Labour has "prompted" Phil Goff to issue a statement this afternoon - Stuff carries the story under the headline: "Goff denies desire to replace Clark" - here's the link:

A denial eh. We all know what that REALLY means. It seems as though the BBQ at Phil's Karaka residence has been working overtime in the last few weeks.

Hat tip: The Hive


I caught an interesting discussion on Newstalk ZB this morning - Justin de Fresne, the morning host on the Wellington feed tossed this out for discussion.

Two weeks ago, a small plane was hijacked at a provincial airport - the two flight crew and one passenger suffered minor injuries. As a result, a high-powered government committee will advise Cabinet of the need for security upgrades at airports the length and breadth of New Zealand, and great cost to the taxpayer.

One week ago a light plane and a helicopter collided in mid-air at Paraparaumu Airport, above a busy residential and commercial area, and an unmanned control tower. Three people were killed, and it was a miracle that there were no casulties on the ground. The Civil Aviation Authority does not believe any action is required.

Do we have our priorities right?

Winston - Donation? What Donation?

Ahhhhhh.....the plot thickens within New Zealand First. Last week there was the "revelation" by party President and new leap-frogging MP, Dail Jones, that there was a significant anonymous donation to NZ First just before the proposed "donation" to Starship was announced. Winston was reported to have been ropeable when Jones made his statement to the media, which he (Jones) later confirmed - Winston's response was that Jones was "completely wrong" and there was no donation from Owen Glenn.

What a difference a weekend makes. Winston must finally have caught up with Helen Clark's utterings on Glenngate, and has used the "It never happened" defence! This from todays NZ Herald:

This is getting interesting. Claire Trevett tells the story:

"Yesterday Mr Peters refused to say where the money was from and appeared to deny its existence.
When asked, Mr Peters said: "There's no question ever that any such a thing ever did happen."

Asked if that meant "there was no big anonymous donation", Mr Peters said "precisely". When further pressed he said: "I have no idea what is being spoken of because no such thing ever happened.""

Dail Jones is sticking to his story, and has shown in the past that he is a man of high priniciples, whether you agree with his views or not.

Meanwhile, the new-look Kiwiblog also features the story this morning, and DPF has some "novel" suggestions as to where the money that Dail Jones talks about might have come from - feel free to add to DPF's list -

UPDATE: Audrey Young has blogged about Winston and Glenngate this afternoon, and she ain't holding back!!!

Helen's "hebdomas horrenda"

Tracey Watkins from the Dominion-Post must have been reading Keeping Stock, as she has picked up my theme from Saturday's blogging - - in her political column this morning. Here 'tis:

So what's the connection? Here's how Tracey begins:

"If last year was Labour's annus horribilis, last week must surely top it as Helen Clark's hebdomas horrenda.
On top of the Owen Glenn fiasco – and fiasco it is when the prime minister has to spend an evening dodging snaps of herself with a wealthy supporter – the Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll delivered a kick in the guts to Labour's hopes of starting the year first-up and best dressed. A yawning 23-point gap and possibly worse to come. Indeed a horrible week

Now it has to be said that the Dom-Post, of all the major dailies, has been kindest to Helen Clark's government - possibly because they have to co-exist "inside the beltway" in Wellington - entirely understandable. However, even the Dom-Post is sensing that the tide is going out on the Labour government, which can only be bad news for Helen Clark.

And in closing, Watkins is yet another columnist to draw the readers' attention to the rich irony of last week's events. She concludes:

"But if transparency was supposed to be the defence to Glenn's New Year honour, it makes it even more inexplicable that Williams would forget to mention the billionaire's interest-free loan after the 2005 election. Knowing that Glenn's name was out there as a big money backer, Labour should have been primed for questions once it put him up for an honour in the heat of an election year.
Just as it did over the Electoral Finance Act then, Labour has allowed its political antennae to go missing in action over the Glenn affair.
For a party which exerts so much energy applying The Hollow Men test to National's campaign finances, it failed to apply even the simplest smell test to its own.
It's the ultimate irony that the very thing Labour thought it could use to ensnare National, its Electoral Finance Act – the secret donors and mates rates deals – could deliver the coup de grace to its own hopes instead

Kind of sums it all up really!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Laws on the Brethren

Michael Laws has written another very poignant piece in today's Sunday Star-Times about Lucy's illness. We also learn that Lucy's prognosis, whilst still very guarded, is much better. That is good and welcome news. Anyway, here's the link:

A bit of background here. When Laws moved to Wanganui in the early 2000's, he had a weekly column with the local daily, the Wanganui Chronicle. His pieces were always opinionated, typical Laws, and often controversial. The cynic would say that Laws was preparing the ground for his 2004 tilt at the Wanganui mayoralty. There were two frequent targets of his ascerbic wit - the St Pius X Society, a strongly conservative Catholic fellowship, and the Exclusive Brethren, who have a significant population in Wanganui. Laws made many verbal attacks on the EB, and received the attention of the national media with his assertion that the Brethren should not be allowed to breed, such were their excesses of ritual and custom. I don't know if EB members in Wanganui were subscribers to the Chron, but I'm sure they knew how he viewed them!

Fast-forward to February 2008, and a crisis in the Laws whanau. I'll let Michael tell the story in his own words:

"Meanwhile Leo and I keep a watchful eye on a room just three doors down. We think Lucy has her golden child gender equivalent in here Oliver, a wide-eyed, beatific three-year-old. His mum and dad are Exclusive Brethren and we appreciate the irony that one of their strongest critics should have a child similarly afflicted.
Whatever their political naivete, the Brethen wrap their church around little Oliver. They are also generous in their prayers for Lucy and the greeting of her worldly parents. In turn, I am humbled by their humility and any cynical reserve departs. I offer prayers for Oliver and openly talk of a time when the corridors will echo with the laughter of our two precious kids at play. What do barriers matter at such times?
I once opined that the Brethren should not be allowed to breed, such were their excesses of ritual and custom. Oliver's illness, and his parents Oslo and Jenny, teach me otherwise. If all kiddies were so loved then Starship would not have become synonymous, in certain sections of the media, for being a repository for battered children. Brethren do not bash their kids: they love them every bit as we love Lucy.
Oliver is on morphine to withstand the pain of the drains from his chest cavity siphoning the fluid that accumulates around his lungs. Lessons should not come so painful, nor from such suffering of innocents.
Because we are all in this together. This is the place where kids, parents, clinicians and nursing staff fight the worst excesses, not of humanity, but of human disease. One of the parents tells me that she has counted 14 children die on this ward since she arrived with her own girl. I shudder at the reminder that mortality is so close

"Lessons should not come so painful, not from such suffering of innocents" - through the trauma of Lucy's situation, it seems that Michael Laws may be experiencing something of an epiphany. Since my own "faith journey" began, I have always believed that God has a rather ironic sense of humour, and that sometimes He has to expose our frailities to us in a way that cannot escape our attention. I hope that Michael and Leo will know that churches throughout Wanganui (and indeed throughout New Zealand) will have remembered them in prayer this morning - our church certainly did - and they will be comforted by those prayers, and encouraged by the response that Lucy is showing to her treatment. Kia kaha Laws whanau. I'll leave the last words to Michael Laws:

"Who is to say that both Starship's specialists and the power of prayer is not working? "Certainly, not me."

Glenngate on Sunday

It's hardly a surprise, but the Sunday papers are all over the Glenngate saga, which is more bad news for the Labour Party, given that both the Fairfax and Roy Morgan polls were taken BEFORE Glenngate got major traction in the MSM.

Bou of all the sories on offer this morning, I really enjoyed this piece from Deborah Coddington in the Herald on Sunday:

In the first three paragraphs she REALLY hangs Labour out to dry:

"Every girl who's been around a few suits in her life knows there is no such thing as a free lunch. Last week, the Prime Minister, who seems to have led a very sheltered life when it comes to men and romance (and that's not necessarily a criticism), discovered the truth of this cliche.
Owen Glenn, Labour's 2005 electioneering sugar daddy, couldn't keep his mouth shut when it really mattered. He "kissed and told", so to speak, about his $500,000 donation and $100,000 loan, and Clark and party president Mike Williams now smell as sweet as the dead rabbits we hang on the fence to attract the hawks.
This is not just a scandalette, as one commentator said, but a stinky, hypocritical farce: Labour passes the Electoral Finance Act saying it makes political party funding transparent, and is caught hiding a donation of around $10,000 (10 per cent of an interest-free loan) - and from a "rich prick", no less

"A stinky hypocritical farce" - I think I've probably used all those words this week on commenting on Glenngate, but not run together in the same sentence!! Coddington's headline of "What Goes Around Comes Back to Bite" pretty much says it all. Hmmmm, now when is the next 3News poll due out??

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Helen's Bad Week

Yeah, I know, it was going to be a series about Helen's bad days, but she has had the week from hell (sheesh, I almost feel sorry for her - almost!), and this little piece of new will have capped it off for her:

Here's what the fine folk at Roy Morgan have to say:

"Support for the Governing Labour Party is down 4% to 32.5%, while the Opposition National Party is up 6% to 51.5% following the very positive media coverage of its leader, John Key, attending the Waitangi Day dawn ceremonies in the absence of Prime Minister Helen Clark who once again chose not to attend.
The fall in support for Labour has seen the National Party open up a lead of 19% (up 10%) over the Labour Party, the largest lead the National Party has enjoyed since August last year. These are the key findings of the latest New Zealand Morgan Poll."

This pretty much mirror-images the Colmar Brunton poll released on Sunday, which also gave National a 19 point lead - that's an alarming set of bookends for Helen to consider as she sips her reheated tea this morning. It's certainly not "relentlessly positive" news for her, and worse still, the period of the poll EXCLUDES all the negative media coverage this week over Glenngate, and of course THAT photograph!

UPDATE: Helen's Bad Week just got worse!!! The Fairfax poll has even worse news for Labour, if that were possible. Check this out:

National with 55% support, now 23 points ahead of Labour. Key with 44% support now 15 points ahead of Clark. Have a nice weekend Prime Minister!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Glenngate - Trouble at t'Mill for Labour

The Hive - - has become an essential daily read. This afternoon they are linking to a story in The Press suggesting there is some degree of upheaval in the Labour Party- here's the link:

Here's a couple of snippets:

"Labour's embarrassment over the affair was made clear last night when Prime Minister Helen Clark sat out an official hongi that would have brought her and Glenn face to face.
Earlier, Clark was forced to admit that Williams had tendered his resignation over the way he managed public statements about Glenn's financial contributions to the party coffers. Clark refused to accept the resignation.
However, party officials are now upset that damaging details of a private conversation between Williams and Clark were made public

Further down we read:

"The Prime Minister's office has flatly denied it leaked the news of Williams's resignation attempt and Williams himself is refusing to talk."

"It was a private conversation between Helen and me. I have no comment," Williams told The Press yesterday."

Now that casts a different light on things! Is Helen Clark making a power-play for absolute control of the Labour Party? Has the PM's office deliberately undermined the Labour Party's President? Or is someone else playing one off against the other? These are interesting times indeed, and I am sure that any of the aspirants to the Labour Party leadership, whenever that is vacated by the PM are paying close attention to the goings-on around them. Especially, so the word is, the Hon David Cunliffe.

Margaret Wilson Stepping Down

The Herald reports that Margaret Wilson will be standing down after the election. Here's the link:

This comes as no surprise, and was foreshadowed towards the end of last year. Regular visitors to Keeping Stock will know my thoughts on her ability and conduct of the House during the time that she has served as Speaker, and they are not complimentary! However, today is not the day for further criticism. I guess thoughts now turn to who National may appoint as Speaker should they prevail in November - Clem Simich currently serves as one of the Assistant Speakers, but hiow about this out of left-field - Maurice Williamson. He is an outstanding debater, one of National's best, and has a quirky sense of humour, which would, I believe, be a real asset to that role. What do you think?

Caption Contest

Come one, come all, I know you're an imaginative bunch. Help me find a caption for the above piccie!

I'll lead off with a starter for ten:

"Look here Pal - I will defend a woman's honour if I have too - just ask Tau!"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Buy Yourself a Consulship

Ever wanted to be an Honorary Consul? Then TradeMe has the deal for you!!

Make sure you read the Questions and Answers - there are some classics!

Is Labour Now the Clark Party?

The NZ Herald and other media are reporting that Labour Party President Mike Williams yesterday offered his resignation over the Glenngate saga, in particular for his misleading comments about the interest-free loan. Here's the link:

Now that's all well and good. But can anyone explain this?

"...but Prime Minister Helen Clark refused to accept it and told him "not to be silly".

Why would Williams offer his resignation to Helen Clark, and not the elected Executive of the Labour Party? Are the New Zealand Labour Party and its parliamentary wing now one and the same? Is Helen Clark in complete control of the Labour Party. If that is the case, it is a VERY interesting development, with some significant ramifications for both the Party and its MP's.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Winnie InThe Pooh?

Well, you wouldn't read about it eh! I take off for a round of golf this afternoon, and while I'm out the excrement hits the air-conditioner in New Zealand First's offices.

There now seem to be very strong indications that Owen Glenn has been putting it out a bit - his money that is - and that as well as bankrolling Labour to the tune of $500k plus $100k loaned interest-free, Glenn also made a donation to Winston (whoops, sorry!!) New Zealand First. "How could this be?" you might ask. "Isn't Winston, the Caped Crusader of the People of New Zealand above such things? Doesn't Winston hate with a venegeance the influence of "big money" in politics? Well, look at these words from and about Owen Glenn, reproduced from Audrey Young's blog:

"Owen Glenn this afternoon has strongly hinted that he gave New Zealand First the large anonymous donation that appeared in its bank account in December.
But he categorically denies having offered the Maori Party $250,000 at the last election for going with Labour.
Glenn's response to my questions about whether he was the sources have come via Steve Fisher at Baldwin Boyle PR firm in Auckland who spoke with Glenn this afternoon.
"He had absolutely nothing to do with any monetary offer to the Maori Party, nothing to do with it at all," Fisher said. "As far as New Zealand First is concerned, he said to go and talk to them."
When I said I had talked to president Dail Jones and that he didn't know, he said Glenn was aware of that but alluded to the fact that the party was trying to track down leader Winston Peters in Africa.
It was simple enough for Glenn to deny he was behind the Maori Party offer, and that is totally accepted.
It would have been simple enough to deny he had donated to New Zealand First.
The fact that he didn't suggests that he did. He just thinks it is up to Peters to say.
We are all ears

We are all ears indeed. Things have moved on overnight (I'm concluding this on Thursday morning), and whilst Winston has denied that Owen Glenn gifted NZ First 100k baubles, the suspicion remains. And considering Winston's past track record of making stident accusations against individuals and corporations based on innuendo, flimsy evidence and - suspicion - there is a rich irony when the boot is on the other foot!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Owen Glenn Clause

There were lots of strange "going-on" throughout the passage of the Electoral Finance Act last year. However, one of the strangest what what has been christened the "Owen Glenn Clause". This occurred when it suddenly became apparent to Labour MP's on the Justice and Electoral that by outlawing donations to poltical parties domiciled offshore, Labour was kissing goodbye to the prospect of further donations from one Owen Glenn. The Select Committee hastily took a tea break, and upon the resumption, the committee chair, Lynne Pillay was miraculously able to suggest a way forward, thus allowing Labour to retain its wealthy expatriat patron. The Owen Glenn clause was born.

How do we know this? Well, dear readers, consider this from Hansard on 4 December 2007 - Tony Ryall speaks during the Committee stage debate on the Electoral Finance Bill.

"Let us look at the next purpose, which is to “prevent the undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes;”. Let me tell members about that. Not only is there preservation in this legislation of money from big unions, which can spend as much as they like, but the bill was specifically amended to allow Owen Glenn to give another half a million dollars to the Labour Party. I will tell the Committee what happened. The members opposite proposed an amendment that stated that anybody who was not on the New Zealand electoral roll and who lived overseas could not make a donation. They said that would be illegal. It was the party opposite that brought an amendment to the select committee and said that no one who lives overseas and is not on the electoral roll should be allowed to vote. Then we asked about Owen Glenn.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I sought your intervention, in the case of John Key, on the question of the principle of allowing someone to speak for 10 minutes. I was talking about someone who is a party leader; I was not talking about fly-by-nighters who turn up and decide they will indulge themselves and get 10 minutes, as well. The member can have a go later on, but not two calls in a row.
The CHAIRPERSON (H V Ross Robertson): The decision is that of the Chair.
Hon TONY RYALL: I am here today representing more people in Tauranga than that member ever will. More people in Tauranga voted for me than for that member.
But let us get back to the third subclause, which is to “prevent the undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes;”. The Labour Party brought forward an amendment to state that someone could not donate money if he or she was overseas and not on the electoral roll. We made a comment about Owen Glenn. A very hasty coffee break was organised and within about 15 minutes down came Lynne Pillay, who said that they wanted to change the rules so that someone can donate from overseas if he or she is a New Zealand citizen. That is the Owen Glenn subclause. Owen Glenn can now give another half a million dollars to the Labour Party. So much for preventing the undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes!”

If Labour, New Zealand First, the Greens and the Progressives REALLY care about the "undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes", they have a VERY strange way of showing it!

You Know Something's Wrong When.....

....when even your own supporters are dissing you!! Lee C over at Monkeys with Typewriter ( alerted me to this. TVNZ has been running a follow-up on Sunday's Colmar Brunton poll. Not only has John Key shot out to a nine-point lead over Helen Clark in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes, but now it is revealed that 27% of Labour supporters believe that the National leader will lead the country after the election. Here's the link:

Helen Clark remains upbeat and says ""This simply encourages me to redouble my efforts to get on and make a real fight of it." That's as may be - but she sure doesn't need Glenngate swirling around at the moment.

Glenngate - The Sorry Saga Continues

Just when Helen Clark thinks Glenngate has gone away, after Owen Glenn issued a statement through his PR firm,Baldwin Boyle yesterday, it has all blown up in her face again. Glenn now states that he is going to be New Zealand's Honorary Consul in Monaco, and all that is awaited is Winston Peters' sign-ogg. The Herald has this "interesting" new development:

This is becoming pure farce! Does Glenn, once thought Helen Clark was the bees knees, to the extent that he was happy to shell out $500k of his own money to get her re-elected (without which Labour would, in all probability NOT have won the election). Then he told a reporter that her performance in the current term was "adequate" - hardly a ringing endorsement from Labour's single largest backer. Then he was offered a Cabinet role, to which the PM replied on Saturday "It never happened", softened on Monday to "I have no recollection". Not to be overlooked is Glenn's call for New Zealand's anti-nuke laws to re overturned to facilitate a free trade deal with the US. Now Glenn is about to become New Zealand's representative in the Mediterranian tax haven, subject to Winston Peters' sign-off - the self-same Winston Peters who hates with a vengeance the influence of "big money" in politics.

As I have remarked on a couple of occasions, the PM told Cabinet at its first meeting this year that she wanted "relentless positivity" as Labour headed into election year. I could be wrong, but I don't think that Glenngate is quite what she was meaning!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Glenngate Keeps On Growing

Labour must have hoped that a denial from Owen Glenn, delivered as part of a statement on the Glenngate saga would have taken the wind out of this issue. By contrast, the more that emerges, the more questions need to be answered.

The Hive is following this story with zeal and passion - read what they said this afternoon, complete with the full text of Glenn's "explanation, issued via the PR company he has retained, Baldwin Boyle:

The Hive is also carrying Bill English's latest challenge to Labour to 'fess up, under the title "Was Labour Telling the Truth?", and Audrey Young's latest blog offereing on the same subject. On the subject of Glenn's interest-free loan to a cash-strapped Labour Party after the 2005 election, Young has this to say:

"As for the loan, David Farrar points out the discrepancy between Labour's denials that it had received another loan from Glenn [he was being asked in the context of Glenn receiving a New year's honour] and the fact that the interest-free component of the loan it did receive is legally classed as a donation.

Mike Williams told me on Friday that the loan was made last year and that it would therefore be declared in Labour's 2007 donations that must be with the Electoral Commission by April 30.
Williams should have declared that loan then and there even if it is not, colloquially speaking a donation. Presumably he didn't because he knew it would look bad.

I don't think it is a federal case that he did not - but Labour deserves to squirm over its relationship with Glenn and the way it tailored the Electoral Finance Bill to suit its own self-serving circumstances. The original cabinet paper on electoral reform banned all donations from overseas sources. The final product banned donations from overseas unless it was from an ex-pat donor."

It must be a real bummer when you frame a law to suit your own purposes,and it comes back to bite you on the bum. Ah well, so much for the "relentless positivity" that Helen Clark was talking about after the year's first Cabinet meeting!! In the meantime, One News has run the story tonight which will please the PM no end - here 'tis:

Cullen Has His Excuse

Read all about it at the Herald website:

The first few paragraphs say it all:

"Those hoping for big tax cuts may be disappointed.

The New Zealand government's operating financial surplus for the six months to December 31 has come in way below forecasts at $815 million, according to figures released by Treasury this morning.

The surplus is $1.7 billion - that's 67.5 per cent - below forecast, primarily due to Super Fund investment losses caused by depressed global equities markets.

Dr Cullen will not be happy with the result, but he will be pleased that it will destroy the arguments of those who claim the operating surplus is available as cash to spend or return as tax cuts."

Then again - that's only THIS YEAR'S surplus - 2007-8. What has happened to the rest of the record surpluses"?

Peter "High-Wire" Dunne

The Herald has an interesting story this morning about Peter Dunne and the "difficulty" he faces balancing his negotiations with Michael Cullen on tax cuts with United Future's policy position. Here's the link:

The Herald notes that both Dunne and Peters face the challenge of differentiating their parties from the government, and on the strength of any number of polls in the last few months, they're being singularly unsuccessful. In my opinion, the public has correctly identified Dunne and Peters as legitimising the illegitimate, i.e. keeping the Labour minority government in power, and are sending them a message through the polls. The Herald sees it thus:

"Both Mr Dunne and Mr Peters are ministers outside Cabinet in Helen Clark's Government, but their portfolios are important ones.
Closer to the election both men will need to carve out niches for their parties and that may require them to attack Labour - possibly even in their own portfolio areas.
Mr Dunne said he felt he needed to raise the issue of his dual roles with Dr Cullen to "clear the decks" before Budget decision-making began in election year.
"We will be doing our jobs as professionally as we can," he said.
"Provided a fair measure of common sense applies, I don't foresee a problem - but it is an area that has some potential difficulties associated with it

Aha!! Peter's been supping from Annette King's cup again, as common-sense rears its ugly head! However, I don't believe that Dunne and Peters can successfully maintain this charade in an election year - especially Peters who faces an absolute dog-fight to get NZ First back into Parliament, and who has shown in the past that "marriages of convenience" are quickly forgotten when Winston First is at stake. Interesting times await methinks - what do YOU think?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Two Words Labour Dread - Colmar Brunton!

The latest Colmar Brunton poll was released on One News tonight - see the details here:

In short:

National - 53% (down 1)
Labour - 34% (down 1)

But even more significantly, the Preferred Prime Minister result:

John Key - 36% (up 1)
Helen Clark - 27% (down 3)

I guess there'll be more soul-searching on the 9th Floor tonight and tomorrow. It will be interesting to see Clark's mood and demeanour on Breakfast tomorrow morning, and whether Paul Henry quizzes her over Glenngate.

Glenngate - Bill English Weighs In

The Hive is reporting that Bill English has taken a swipe at the government over the issue which they have christened "Glenngate" - here's their story:

In his statement English refers to the inconsistencies in the statements of the various protagonists - Mike Williams, Helen Clark and Owen Glenn himself. He accuses Williams of "at best, misleading and, at worst, lying to minimise embarrassment for Helen Clark" but then lays down the challenge to the PM:

"“Helen Clark needs to say why she has let Mr Williams’ lie stand, and why she has failed to correct it.
“She also needs to tell us whether she knew about this loan, which under her own legislation is defined as a donation, and whether any of her Cabinet Ministers were in the know as well, particularly when they were signing off on Mr Glenn’s New Year’s Honour.
“In addition, Helen Clark must explain the claim by Mr Glenn that she tried to lure him into politics, suggesting he could be given a Cabinet post.
“This whole saga reeks of hypocrisy. At the same time as the Prime Minister was pushing through the draconian Electoral Finance Act to supposedly inject more transparency into election financing, Labour appears to have done a deal to conceal support from a major donor who then received a New Year’s Honour.
“Is this the latest manifestation of the Clark dictum that it’s only when you get caught out that you come clean?

The last line is a real dig at the PM and some of the discipline issues she has faced - Benson-Pope - supported until it was clear he has misled Parliament; Taito Philip Field - supported until he upstaged the PM at the opening of Parliament last year; Trevor Mallard - numerous times! I'm sure too that English was only too happy to remind the media of the irony of these revelations, so soon after the passage of the EFA.

Payback, or revenge, is sweet so they say. I just hope that National doesn't get so hooked upon this issue that they lose sight of the ultimate revenge - a resounding spanking administered to Labour by the electorate in November. Meantime though, Labour has been majorly embarrassed by this turn of events - certainly it's not the "relentlessly positive" news that the PM was so keen to be generating in election year!

Hat tip - The Hive

Mixed Feelings

Yes, I have decidedly mixed feelings after reading two articles in the Sunday papers about the return of the Waiouru medals. Check these out: and

I don't quite know what to think here. Is Auckland lawyer Chris Comeskey a hero for negotiating the return of these treasures, or is he a villain for being a party to extortion. Both articles make it clear the Comeskey will provide the Police with no information whatsoever that may lead to the arrest of the thieves. On the other hand however, without his skills as a negotiator, the medals may have been lost to the families of the recipients, and ultimately to New Zealand forever.

Which is the greater evil? In the meantime, it would appear that the Police have a long way to go before apprehending the offenders, and their pronouncement yesterday that "the net is closing" may be premature. However this is one occasion I'd love to be proven wrong!

What do you think?

Words Louder Than Actions

There's another interesting column from Bill Ralston in this morning's Herald on Sunday where he comments on recent policy initiatives - here 'tis:

First Ralston deals with Labour's attempts to "muscle up" on the tagging issue. He says:

"The issue of tagging hit the headlines and Helen Clark immediately announced the Government would ban the sale of spray paint to under 18-year-olds and impose harsher penalties for graffiti.
In case it has escaped anyone's attention, under 18-year-olds are banned from buying liquor and cigarettes but they seem to be able to access these forbidden fruits with ease, and there is no reason to expect they will have any more difficulty laying hands on spray cans once the ban comes into force.
Harsher penalties are unlikely to have much effect, either. There are some heavy penalties for using drugs but some people keep happily getting stoned anyway

Ralston notes that it's a perception issue - suddenly, after the death of a tagger in South Auckland, people are talking about it - so the government has to be seen to be acting. But he then notes that tagging is not a new phenomenon - it's been an issue for a couple of decades - but, of course, it's election year, and the government "must look like it is in charge" - aaaahh, that's it eh. Personally, I don't believe the ban will achieve anything - not until young people's attitudes I blogged about a couple of weeks ago here - - are realigned.

So on to Housing - Ralston notes:

"Many thousands of low- and middle-income earners have been struggling with finding affordable housing for more than 10 years. Last week, the Government announced an affordable housing strategy and a shared equity scheme.
Well, actually it's been announcing an affordable housing strategy and shared equity scheme since 2004. This week it simply recycled the proposals and added a couple of extra ideas for investigation.
National's Phil Heatley was quick to point out that the Government's proposed affordable homes were not so easily afforded by the needy.
The average household income in New Zealand is $68,000 a year but the average couple would need to earn $70,000 to service a mortgage on the "affordable" home. If there is only one breadwinner in the household and he or she earns the necessary $70,000 then, of course, the Government declares that person to be rich and taxes the last desperately needed $10,000 of their earnings at the top tax rate of 39 cents in the dollar.

As I blogged the other day, Labour has dug a hole for itself with the confusion that a single-income household can be considered "rich" at $60k by IRD but "poor" up to $70k by Housing New Zealand. As well as muddying the waters, this suggests more "policy on the hoof" from the government, and hastily-conceived policy is bad policy - witness the Electoral Finance Act!!

So Labour still has a dilemma, well summarised by Ralston, to whom I'll leave the last word:

"The Opposition has the advantage in an election year of being able to announce new strategies and programmes. Governments which try to stand on their past record generally fall. They have to come up with something fresh to survive.
What Helen Clark is attempting to do is gazump John Key by demonstrating her Government still has plenty of ideas and policies, and that it has not become stale and moribund after three terms in office. That is a good concept, so long as those new ideas and policies are more than just words

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Good News!

Breaking, and very welcome news!!

The medals stolen from the Army Museum at Waiouru have been recovered:


The Hollow Woman - Part II

In the light of yesterday's embarrassing and potentially damaging revelations about Owen Glenn, Labour's single biggest patron, there has been a lot of butt-covering going on. By whom? Well, this morning's NZ Herald gives us a clue:

So, Dear Leader says it never happened. Does she REALLY expect us to believe her? Because, Dear Leader, your track record on credibility issues isn't great. Only last week the PM exposed as untruthful over her accusations of National's support/non-support of treaty settlements. This is the PM who "was so busy with paperwork I didn't notice" that her motorcade was travelling at up to 170kph. This is the PM who signs artwork she has not created. This is the PM who was part of a cabinet - Deputy Prime Minister in fact - who withheld crucial financial information from an incoming government - and who continues to blame and berate that party for a budget which had to sort the mess out.

Why would Owen Glenn lie about this? What does he have to gain? By contrast, who has everything to lose here? Yep, that's right - Helen Elizabeth Clark. My theory is that Glenn has fallen out with Labour - the love affair is over, just as it is for so many who supported Clark and her cronies in 1999, 2002 and 2005. The cracks are appearing in the Labour caucus and maybe, just maybe, Helen Clark doesn't rule with the same iron fist that she used to.

In the meantime, is there any truth in the rumour that Nicky Hagar was seen boarding a flight to Monaco, tape recorder in hand, as he researches his next book - The Hollow Woman?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hoist By Their Own Petard

Oh dear. The Labour Party has some SERIOUS questions to answer following an article in this morning's Dominion Post about their wealthy "patron", Owen Glenn. Here's the link:

At the risk of upsetting Bomber, who took exception to me commenting about another blog story I'd linked to, DPF was first on the case, so here's the link to his thread, with comments:

However, I have my own thoughts too Bomber! Having spent the last three years taking the moral high ground over party funding, the EB, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, Labour has been hoist by its own petard - namely the Electoral Finance Act - remember that one? - the piece of legislation that was "going to stop John Key and the Exclusive Brethren rorting the election" to quote Dear Leader and her parsimonious deputy. Now it seems as though Labour received Glenn's donation well before the involvement of the EB was known to anyone (including the EB themselves!), so attempts to pass it off as a response to the EB's campaign (and has anyone yet refuted the claims in those brochures? Thought not!) are spin, spin and spin.

Meanwhile, there's two other points of significant concern in the DomPost article - firstly Glenn's "revelation" that, to quote the DomPost
"In the past, Miss Clark had tried to lure him back to New Zealand and into the Labour Cabinet, suggesting that, with his background, he would be a sitter for the plum role of transport minister."

Have we reached the point now that Cabinet positions in Clark's government can be "bought" by way of strategic donations? And secondly, Glenn's reported comment that

"As for Labour's performance since his controversial donation, Mr Glenn said Miss Clark had done an "adequate" job, having got a free trade deal with China. But now, for the sake of expediency, New Zealand needed to drop its no-nuclear stance and do a deal with the United States.
"Get the bloody thing. Pump another $4 billion into the country so we can afford another beer and put another ten bucks on the horses

Aha! So Labour's precious anti-nukes policy is for sale as well is it? Now I don't seriously believe that, but it does make Labour's protestations over Key's acceptance of New Zealand's nuclear-free policy seem rather - ummmm - hollow!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Great Question!

Phil Heatley, National's Housing spokesman asked one of the best Supplementary questions today that I've heard for a while - here 'tis:

"Phil Heatley: Why, under Labour, is someone considered to be a high-income earner by the Inland Revenue Department when he or she is on $60,000, but a low-income earner by Housing New Zealand Corporation when that person is on $70,000 and wants to buy one of its houses?"

There was much mirth and merriment before Housing Minister Maryan Street answered, prompting this exchange:

Hon MARYAN STREET: The member refers to the household income, which is the standard level for accessing a Welcome Home Loan. That is two people earning $35,000 each. They are not high-paid workers. Their household income is the threshold at which a Welcome Home Loan kicks in.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister started that answer by saying: “The member refers to …”, then told us what I referred to. I referred to the fact that the Inland Revenue Department considers someone to be on a high income when that person is on $60,000, yet Housing New Zealand Corporation considers someone to be on a low income when that person is on $70,000. She did not answer the question, and she misinterpreted me. Could she please answer the question.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The situation is absolutely clear. What Housing New Zealand Corporation refers to and what the member is referring to is a household income of $70,000. What the member is referring to with the Inland Revenue Department is individual income of $60,000. Indeed, the National Party cannot have it both ways. It cannot argue one day that $60,000 is indeed a very low income and $70,000 is actually terribly, terribly high.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a document that shows that $68,000 is the average household income according to Statistics New Zealand.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the statement of the chair of Housing New Zealand Corporation that one will need a household income of $70,000 to buy one of these—
Leave granted.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table “Affordable housing too dear for most”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table “Affordable homes still too expensive”, from the New Zealand Herald.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Minister consider it contributes to affordable housing if people buy an expensive and very good house next door in order to knock it down to build a tennis court; if not, will she be inviting Mr Heatley to take it up with Mr Key and advise him to start walking the walk, not just talking the talk?

Cullen's contribution qualified for the Low Blow of the day - he's obviously still in full "envy" mode after last year's "rich prick" jibe - so much for Helen's "unrelenting positivity" eh!! But well done to Phil Heatley for exposing the government's confusion over who is rich and who is poor! That man deserves a DB!

Food Prices Skyrocket

Radio Network news has just announced that the grocery price index rose by a massive 1.3% in the month of January - a rise which would translate to an annual increase of over 15%! I'm sure that this comes as no surprise to anyone who has visited a supermarket in the last few weeks.

No doubt the increase in dairy product prices will be a major factor in fuelling this increase - I bought a 500gm pack of butter this morning - for $3.99 on special. It's not that long ago you could buy butter around the $2.00 mark. Milk and cheese are becoming luxury items. The government won't be happy, although a spike in inflation may be just what Michael Cullen needs to put the brakes on the tax cuts he is so idealogically opposed to! And with reports of dairy farmers in the Waikato already down to one milking per day, and some farmers are already drying their herds off as the drought continues, are we in for a dairy crisis as well as a crisis in power supply?

Power Supply - Where Are We Headed?

Garth George, as I have previously blogged, is seen by many a relic of days gone by. However, having had the pleasure of meeting the man, and listening to him tell his life story, I see him somewhat differently. I enjoy his Thursday column in the Herald, and like the way that he calls things as he sees them, and bugger what people think! Today, he's zeroed in on the looming power supply crisis - here's the link:

He opens thus:

" Can you believe it? That in the year 2008 of the 21st century this country again faces a looming crisis in electricity supply.
That in spite of a decade or more of steady economic growth, accompanied by power company profits as obscene as the annual Budget surpluses, the electricity generating equipment and transmission infrastructure are in such a state of disrepair that they cannot be relied on

That there is, according to a report in this newspaper on Tuesday, a distinct possibility that householders may face power cuts in the depths of the coming winter.
That something called the "Winter Power Group", having decided that there could be a power crisis, met in Wellington yesterday to discuss, among other things, "contingency planning"."

With all the bad economic news hovering around at the moment, uncertainty over power supply is the last thing New Zealand needs. However, in this case the "long, hot summer" may indeed be a culprit, although that will be of precious little comfort to Annette King! George then apportions blame:

"It would be nice to be able to point the finger at this eight-year-old Labour-led Government and blame it for this almost incomprehensible debacle.
But that wouldn't be entirely fair, for the present state of the electricity industry probably dates back to the eight-year National-led administration of Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley and particularly to a long-forgotten rooster named Max Bradford.
Nevertheless, there is a Minister of Energy who needs to take responsibility for this situation and there is a Government-appointed Electricity Commission, set up in 2003, to ensure that the situation I've just outlined never happened.
It has as its principal objective under the Electricity Act "to ensure that electricity is produced and delivered to all classes of consumers in an efficient, fair, reliable and environmentally sustainable manner".
It would seem that in five years it has failed miserably to carry out its mandate, since, once again, we are faced with a winter, not of discontent - although there will be plenty of that - but of disconnection

I note that Gerry Brownlee has a question this afternoon on this very subject:

GERRY BROWNLEE to the Minister of Energy: Has he received a report on yesterday’s National Winter Group meeting led by Transpower; if so, what did the report conclude on electricity supply security in New Zealand for this coming winter?

The answer will be awaited with interest. In the meantime, Garth George is not content to highlight the problem; he actually proffers a solution:

"The great irony, of course, is that the environmentalists, concerned with our empty "clean, green" and "100 per cent pure" boasts, would throw up their hands in horror if anyone were to suggest that New Zealand adopt the cleanest, safest and cheapest generation available in the world today - nuclear power plants.
But we have made such a thing of our nuclear-free (or rather, anti-nuclear) stance for so long now that it seems to have become part of our national psyche.
Just how long the nuclear Luddites will hold sway remains to be seen, but in the meantime it's time someone woke up to the fact that, without an adequate and reliable supply of electricity, real progress in this country is doomed

Nuclear power - is that the answer? What do you think?