Friday, July 31, 2009

Stating the obvious


We see that Nai Yin Xue has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of twelve years. We reckon that's at the very low end of what Xue deserved. However we hope that at the end of his sentence, he is driven to the airport and put on a plane back to China so that he does not bleed the sytem further.

However, we had a chuckle at this statement for his celebrity lawyer Chris Comesky:

Asked about why Xue abandoned his daughter at a Melbourne train station, Mr Comesky said: "He will regret leaving his daughter at a train station in Melbourne for the rest of his life."


Talk about stating the bleedin' obvious! Of course Xue will regret leaving his daughter at the Melbourne station, in full view of security cameras. He will regret it, but only because he got caught.

The Friday Forum - 31/7/2009

Flippin' heck - not only is it Friday again, but it's also the last day of July - where is the year going? Still, spring is only a month away, and there are already a few lambs in the paddocks on the outskirts of town, so a feed of spring lamb is not too distant either!

But we digress; it's time for another Friday Forum, so let's get the korero going this Maori Language Week. You know the rules; the floor is yours!

Ineptitude

Regular readers of Keeping Stock will be aware that we have been frequent critics of sports administrators, especvially the IRB, ICC and NZRU. But is there a more inept sporting organisation than FINA, the world swimming body?

Ask yourself - who else would declare performance enhancing polyurethane swimsuits illegal, then allow their use at the world championships? A host of world records has tumbled, and a host of Neville Nobodies have toppled some of the world's best swimmers. Even some of the winners are freely admitting that the high-tech swimsuits are then reason for their success!

It makes no sense to us that something could be legal today, even though it has already been declared as illegal next year. FINA's world championships are a complete and utter farce.

Not a good look

For many, many years, Act leader Rodney Hide was known as Parliament's "perk-buster". So we wonder if the MP for Epsom was embarrassed by Sir Roger Douglas' performance on One News last night.

We're not questioning whether or not Sir Roger was entitled to recover most of the cost of an overseas holiday with his wife. However his attitude left much to be desired, and he came across as arrogant and patronising. It did not reflect well on the former Finance Minister, nor on the party he represents.

And what made Douglas' attitude even more ironic was that yesterday afternoon his colleague John Boscawen questioned Bill English over increases in government spending!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ashes test #3 - weather permitting!


England and Australia resume combat for the Ashes tonight, weather permitting, with the scheduled start of the 3rd test at Edgbaston in Birmingham. The piccie above suggests that a start on time might be very, very optimistic.

Cricinfo previews the match (if it gets underway!), which is crucial to the series. Of course, the Australians have to make all the running now to at least level the series and retain the Ashes, whereas the English, and supporters like Barnsley Bill will be delighted if there is not another ball bowled this summer!

.tay tuned for updates over the next five days.

The jury is out ...



... in the Taito Phillip Field corruption trial. And interestingly, as the Herald reports,
TPF is being kept in the cells while the jury deliberates:



The jury has retired in the trial of former Labour MP Taito Phillip Field.

Justice Rodney Hansen told the jury to take their time and not rush their decision.

Field has been remanded in custody while the jury deliberates.

As there has been no mention as to whether the jury is sequestered until it reaches a verdict, we won't be taking comments. We will, of course, be only to happy to discuss Labour's fine Pasifika MP once the jury has returned its verdicts.

Phil Goff - the $124k man




Just when Phil Goff had his fingers crossed that the worm would turn for him, we now discover that he is New Zealand's most expensive MP. The Herald reports:


Politicians spent over $4.1 million of tax payer's money on accommodation and travel in six months.

The figures were released by the Speaker Lockwood Smith this morning.

MPs claimed a total of $4.166091 million in expenses between January 1 and June 30 this year.

The Government alone spent over $3.5m on accommodation and travel expenses, including over $1.5m on "surface travel" around New Zealand.

Labour leader Phil Goff ran up the most expenses as an MP, while Foreign Minister Murray McCully's travel gave him the biggest bill of any minister, figures released for the first time today show.


So, the name "Whack-it-on-the-bill Phil" is most appropriate then. We also find out just how Phil's spending has been distributed:

Mr Goff's travels around New Zealand made him the biggest claimant outside of Cabinet, running up $124,480 in bills.

This was made up of $79,027 in surface travel, $35,035 in airfares, $10,294 in Wellington accommodation and $124 in out-of-Wellington accommodation.


The almost-$80k in surface travel seems to us to be a heck of a lot of money, and is more than twice the cost of his air travel. So the question must be asked - is Phil Goff the Jonathan Hunt of the 21st century? Perhaps Phil would be better advised to spend more time in his office, smartening up his act, and cutting down on the gaffes that have characterised the last few months for him. After all, we doubt that he's been invited to many BBQ's lately!!


UPDATE: WhaleOil may have uncovered part of the reason why Phil's "surface travel" costs are so high ...

He's back!

Yes indeed - Ferrari has announced that Michael Schumacher will be back in the seat of a red F1 car next month to replace the injured Felipe Massa. Stuff reports:

Seven times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher will replace injured driver Felipe Massa at Ferrari if he passes a fitness test, the team said early today (NZ time).

The German, now 40 years old, retired from Formula One at the end of 2006. All being well, he will make his comeback in Valencia, Spain, next month.

"Ferrari intends to entrust Michael Schumacher with Felipe Massa's car for as long as the Brazilian driver is not able to race," the Italian team said in a statement.

"Michael Schumacher has shown his willingness and in the next few days he will undergo a specific programme of preparation at the end of which it will be possible to confirm his participation in the championship starting with the European Grand Prix on Aug. 23."

That race is one of the few Schumacher is unfamiliar with since the Spanish street circuit was added to the calendar only last season.



That's great news, and it will inject some much-needed interest into Bernie's Travelling Circus. When The Schu retired, he had clocked up a record 91 F1 victories, and if he gets the bit between his teeth again, who would rule out him hitting the hundred GP victories, a record which would probably never be threatened, let alone beaten? The tifosi, Ferrari's loyal followers will be excited this morning.

In the meantime, there's good news about Massa - he is now conscious and out of intensive care after his freak accident at the weekend. We wish him well.

Shrinking violet or Happy Hocker?

Natasha Fuller, the woman at the centre of allegations against Paula Bennett must be wishing she'd kept her gob shut. And she must also be cursing the internet. She obviously hadn't realised that every word she typed on places like the TradeMe forums was traceable. But Dave at Big News has been doing some detective work, and he's uncovered some VERY interesting stuff - have a read of this:

Natasha Fuller is the beneficiary who is getting $715.00 a week on the dpb to spend most of her day on message boards complaining she cant get the Training Incentive Allowance, despite boasting as being a fully trained private investigator..

She posts as the happy hocker – surely a spelling mistake – on message boards, as well as justyns.

There are indications on the message boards that Fuller was unlawfully collecting a benefit while living with her partner. If so, she should be taken to task for it because she was not entitled to it. Her high income partner didn’t give her much money. It is claimed that Fuller was on the benefit while living with her partner. I have not been able to verify that claim, as WINZ won't tell me (I didn't ask either). She got pregnant in June 2007, around about the time she was described as a sole mother who used a WINZ enterprise allowance to run a small business that failed. She also allegedly got a 10K WINZ grant to buy a car and have it signwritten for her business before crashing it and getting another one.


Well done Dave! If there was a whiff of scandal over Ms Fuller when this story first broke, there is an overwhelming stench now, and Labour's attempts to smear Paula Bennett smack of desperation. Ms Fuller is clearly a bit of a loose cannon, and very adept in finding innovative ways for the taxpayer to fund her lifestyle. Paula Bennett has done us all a favour by exposing the facts of this case - not the half-truths that her political opponents would have us know.

All of that leads us to the inevitabnle conclusion that the Happy Hocker is anything but a shrinking violet - she knows her way around the system, and she knows her way around the media - but sometimes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!


Hat-tip: Big News

TV3 in the gun

We didn't watch the TV3 programme about Clayton Weatherston the other night. But we have followed the buzz on other blogs, and we were interested to read this morning that the Corrections Dept will lay a complaint with the broadcaster. The Herald reports:

The Corrections Department will lay a formal complaint with TV3 after a journalist infiltrated a prison to speak to convicted murderer Clayton Weatherston.

Reporter Alison Horwood interviewed Weatherston's parents, Roger and Yuleen, which was broadcast on 60 Minutes on Monday.

During the story, Ms Horwood spoke of visiting Weatherston in prison. The breach of security has broken strict Corrections Department rules, said Mike Martelli, general manager of the office of chief executive Barry Matthews.

He said all media interviews with prisoners require the approval of Mr
Matthews. "No approval was given for a journalist from TV3's 60 Minutes to interview prisoner Clayton Weatherston, nor was any approach made to the department requesting an interview.

Mark Jennings, TV3 director of news and current affairs, said he understood Ms Horwood had filled out the Corrections' form [to visit prisoners] correctly and spoke to Weatherston, who gave her his CV.


Whilst Alison Horwood may indeed have been an approved visitor to Weatherston, we understand that the issue is that she did not disclose her status as a "journalist" to Corrections. That is, in our humble and considered opinion an outrage, and reflects very poorly on both TV3 and Alison Horwood. The last thing that Clayton Weatherston needs is further publicity, and we hope that TV3 accepts that it has erred big-time here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More on Basher Bennett

Over at Kiwiblog, DPF has posted more information on the supposed "beneficiary-bashing by Paula Bennett. The women involved have hardly been shrinking violets it would seem - they seem to have been very adept at disseminating their information (or should that be misinformation?) via the MSM, via Labour MP's, and via the internet courtesy of Facebook, TradeMe forums and the Hand Up website. And yet they are filled with faux outrage about their privacy being violated! Hmmmm......

And Bill Ralston has blogged on the issue at Media Scrum. He opines:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett just taught Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller a valuable lesson. The media is a double-edged sword.

Johnson and Fuller launched into the debate in the media over cutbacks to the Training Incentive Allowance they had been getting because they were sole parents on a benefit and were wanting to do further study courses next year.

Bennett, unimpressed by their arguments that she considered selectively left out some valuable financial facts, published figures showing their full income from the state including benefits and allowances.

Cue roars of outrage. Ms Fuller was "astonished". Ms Johnston was "flabbergasted". Green MP Sue Bradford called it "beneficiary bashing". How dare Minister Bennett make public their financial information without getting their permission?

Hang on.

Johnston and Fuller had already taken some of their financial information public when they talked to the media, established a website and blogged about it.

They put themselves in this position by making public pronouncements, which were picked up and used by Labour in the House to attack Bennett and the Government.

Bennett believed they had not made full disclosure of what they had received from the state and brought this information to the public's attention.

The rules are simple and Ms Johnston and Ms Fuller need to understand them.

* (1) If you stand up in public and make a statement, be prepared to have someone contradict you. That's democracy.

* (2) If you stick your nose into a political fight, someone is likely to bloody it.

* (3) The public, to which you have just appealed, has the right to hear all the facts, not just the ones you chose to reveal.

What is more, the mainstream media have a responsibility to print those facts, as distasteful as you may feel that may be, because they have a duty to run balanced stories.


Indeed - Ms Johnston and Ms Fuller seems to have forgotten that kitchens can be very warm places, and neither seems to have a particularly high heat threshhold. To bastardise the Bard, wethinks they doth protest too much!

Beneficiary bashing?

The media spotlight is shining on Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning. But from what we've seen on Breakfast as our brain slowly comes to life, she has a wealth of support.

One of the "complainants", Natasha Fuller, aired her views on Breakfast this morning. We were suspicious that she kept speaking in the plural "we" this; "we" that. That suggests to us that Ms Fuller is part of a wider campaign to discredit Bennett and the government. And we can hazard a guess at where the trail might lead, eh Phil and Annette.

In fact, in the few moments in which we moved our laptop up to our office, that's pretty much confirmed. We're listening to Annette King on Newstalk ZB, and it's clear that she knows pretty much everything there is to know about Natasha Fuller and her welfare entitlements. We smell a set-up, especially given that King boasted early in the term of this Parliament that she had Bennett in her sights.

Meanwhile, public opinion seems to be strongly in Paula Bennett's favour. If she HAS breached the Privacy Act, we hope that she cops it sweet, because the majority of New Zealanders won't care a dot. People know a rort when they see one!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"In the head"

Yes indeed; according to the Dom-Post, Mary Anne Thompson, the former head of the Immigration Service believed in the head that she had a doctorate from the London School of Economics. The story says:

Former immigration chief Mary Anne Thompson believed "in her head" that she had a doctorate from the London School of Economics while applying for top level government posts.

Thompson, 53, faces two charges of using a document a curriculum vitae with intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage and one of attempting to use a document.

At a depositions hearing in Wellington District Court yesterday, Crown lawyer Grant Burston outlined the case against Thompson, saying though she did work toward a master of philosophy with the top-ranked school, she was never awarded a PhD.

During a police interview, Thompson acknowledged she did not hold a doctorate but had believed "in her head" she had one.

She resigned from the senior position in the Labour Department last year after being accused of a conflict of interest for helping family members gain residency in New Zealand.

Thompson had applied and got jobs at the Maori Affairs Ministry, the Treasury, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Labour Department, and wrote a book using the title "doctor".

Mr Burston said after gaining a bachelor of arts with first class honours at Victoria University, Thompson applied to the London School of Economics and was accepted into the master of philosophy course, and later transferred to a PhD course.

In 1983 she left London to live in Kiribati and was accepted into the school's thesis programme.

She sent a thesis draft to the school in 1989 but it was sent back with comments that it needed a lot more work and was half way between a masters and a doctorate degree.

The school's documents showed a reproduction of the declaration for her masters in philosophy but not for a PhD degree.

Mr Burston said that in 1990 she sent bound copies of her thesis for examination but she did not undergo the oral examination, and as a result no degree or master of philosophy was confirmed.

He outlined the jobs Thompson had applied to within the government falsely asserting she had the doctorate degree from the school.

Contracts were drawn up using the title doctor before her name.


Perhaps she was another "victim" of the dreaded narcissistic personality disorder which later took hold of Clayton Weatherston's mind. That is the only thing that we can think of, which would drive an apparently intelligent woman to claim that she was something that she wasn't. But then you read this bit:

In 2004 she applied for the job of chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet but when challenged about the veracity of her claim to be a doctor, she withdrew her application, citing personal and lifestyle reasons.


Hello! The alarm bells sounded in 2004, and there was suspicion that Mary Anne Thompson was not who she said she was, or more specifically, who her head said she was! And yet Thompson was allowed to stay on as head of the Immigration Service until the excrement hit the air-conditioner in April 2008. We smell a very large, very stinky kiore mate (dead rat).

Not corrupt; just naive

So said Taito Phillip Field's lawyer in closing the defence case yesterday. The Herald reports:

Taito Phillip Field had been naive and his business affairs could be "shambolic", but that didn't mean the former MP was guilty of corruption, accepting bribes and perverting the course of justice, his lawyer said yesterday.

For Field to be convicted on the charges he faces, jurors would have to believe the Crown's assertions that he'd abandoned a lifetime of public service to act dishonestly and corruptly, Paul Davison QC said in his closing address to the jury at the High Court at Auckland.

"All his adult life he's engaged in selfless service ... and led an exemplary life. Suddenly, in September 2003 he put it all aside on what was to become a sustained period of criminal conduct."


We guess that makes a change from "being guilty of nothing more than helping his constituents", as Helen Clark and Michael Cullen maintained after the release of the Ingram report. We have our thoughts on the matter, but as the jury is about to decide TPF's fate, we'll keep them to ourselves - and ask that you do likewise.

Just a thought ...

Who's in control of things at TVNZ? There seems to be money for everything at the moment, including Paul Henry's jaunt to visit Helen Clark in New York.

But the real killer for us is this question - why is TVNZ providing 2 hours of free advertising for an aging Australian heavy metal band and its over-priced tour of New Zealand next year. Isn't advertising a way for TVNZ to EARN money instead of shelling out?

Monday, July 27, 2009

On your bike!

OK - confession time - we're NOT cyclists. We're never going to be remotely like those lycra-clad athletes who peddle their way around France every July - in fact you wouldn't want to see us in lycra - of that we assure you! But we're delighted that John Key has made an announcement today about his beloved cycleway, and we're even more delighted that W(h)anganui gets a look-in - read on:

Prime Minister John Key has announced that construction will begin by summer on the first legs of his national cycleway, including a route from Lake Wakatipu to Bluff.

He detailed several trails for his "patchwork quilt" of a cycleway between Kaitaia and Bluff, on which the Government will spend $50 million over three years.

Mr Key told Local Government NZ's annual conference in Christchurch the Government had set aside $9 million from the $50 million New Zealand Cycleway Fund for projects earmarked for a 'Quick Start'.

He said 21 mayors and chaipersons had recommended a small number of projects they believed could be started this summer.

The projects that have been selected for 'Quick Start' are: Waikato River Trail, Central North Island Rail Trail, Mount Ruapehu to Wanganui, St James Trail, Hokianga to Opua/Russell, Hauraki Plains Trail and Southland Around the Mountain Rail Trail.


Any initiative which brings more people to a region is an initiative to be applauded. The drive from Mt Ruapehu down to W(h)anganui (whether via the Parapara highway or the River road) is indeed scenic, but it's not for the faint-hearted. But the platform is there for a fantatstic tourism project which could bring some much-needed dollars to the region. On that basis, we're very pleased with today's announcement.



Dom-Post on Goff

This week has begun for Phil Goff in the same manner in which last week ended - with a kicking in the press. Today, it's the Dominion-Post with this editorial which begins:

Labour leader Phil Goff is finding life is not easy in opposition.

He overplayed his hand in the Richard Worth affair, and now he has botched efforts to offer an alternative to the Government's handling of the lengthening dole queues.

His initial proposal to give the unemployment benefit to anyone who lost his or her job regardless of family circumstances was ill-considered.

It would, as critics were quick to point out, have meant that the wives or husbands of those earning millions would be entitled to the benefit. Mr Goff backed off that quickly enough - now it is "about ordinary low and middle-income New Zealanders who desperately need transitional help when somebody in the family loses their income". He's still reluctant to spell out just what a middle income in New Zealand is, and has left himself open to criticism with his botched attempt to provide an example.

Labour offered up Bruce Burgess, who has lost his job, does not qualify for the unemployment benefit because his wife earns $21,000 a year and believes he now faces losing the lifestyle block the couple bought in 1992. Mr Burgess said: "I think it should be realised that if you work for years and years you would get some help."

It was later revealed that Mr Burgess also owned a property in Papakura and an apartment in central Auckland. Those investments may not have panned out as Mr Burgess would have wished, but it is doubtful that many New Zealanders would join Mr Goff in regarding him as a low- or middle-income battler who should get taxpayer help.


Oh dear! The Leader of the Opposition seems to have made himself particularly unpopular with media outlets by struggling to get his story straight. He got offside with the Herald last week, although the Herald was partially the author of its own misfortune by virtue of its failure to fact-check. We are quite certain that senior journalists will be putting Goff's releases under the microscope in future. That represents a spectacular "fail" for his media minders.

But it gets worse - Goff's understanding of simple economics is called into question:

The onus is now on Mr Goff to provide his own costing - and to explain how that would be funded at a time when the Government's revenues are being shrunk by recession- diminished tax takes.

Simply whacking it on the bill is not the answer. Not only could that see New Zealand's credit rating downgraded - adding to interest bills - it also saddles future generations with the consequences of the profligacy of those who were unwilling to live within their means.


That's right - Phil just doesn't seem to be able to grasp the fact that there isn't any more money to spend. Why? Well, it's partly because of the global financial crisis, but in our humble and considered opinion, much of the blame needs to go on the former executive - of which Mr Goff was #3 - for its woeful economic management of nine years of prosperity.

And lastly, the leader writer takes a poke at Labour's confused ideology with this conclusion:

Mr Goff also risks opening a debate he may not wish to have. Much has also been made of the fact that many of those now being made redundant have paid taxes for years and are entitled to get something back. It would be a mistake for Labour to pursue that notion. It immediately begs the question why those who have not paid any taxes should be entitled to anything.

New Zealand has a welfare system, not a social insurance system. Citizens pay according to their ability through the progressive tax system, and receive according to their need through a welfare programme that rests on income testing.

However, the bottom line is that Mr Goff does not recognise the reality of the situation New Zealand is in. The Government can take the sharp edge off the recession, but it cannot make it go away. The sooner Mr Goff accepts that, and acknowledges taxpayers should not be subsidising disappointed property investors, the sooner he will be able to start Labour on the comeback trail.


Indeed - so Phil Goff needs to front up and be honest about what he and Labour REALLY stand for - but we won't hold our breath waiting!

The cost of Greenpeace's campaign

Greenpeace has made a big song-and-dance of late with its "Sign Up" campaign featuring such icons of New Zealand ('scuse the tongue in cheek) as Keisha Castle-Hughes. Greenpeace wants us to sign up to a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2020.

So how much would that cost? According to Tracy Watkins in the Dom-Post this morning, meeting Greenpeace's plucked-out-of-the-air target will cost EVERY New Zealander around $3000 per year, or $57 per week per person. That's $15 BILLION annually, more than the current cost of the Health budget.

Regular readers will know that we here at Keeping Stock are somewhat skeptical about Climate Change, and all the hyperbole that surrounds it. When a bunch of peaceniks like Greenpeace tells us how to spend our money, we react. So our message today to Greenpeace is thus: butt out!

We are pragmatic enough to realise that the government has to fall into line with the rest of the world on this, but we are delighted to hear Nick Smith say that we do NOT have to be world leaders. Fair enough too - economically, we are a drop in the bucket; trying to save the planet on our own would be catastrophic to our economy which is already under immense pressure. And we applaud Smith for this (our emphasis added):

But Dr Smith said the Government had to be realistic. "The usefulness of the economic analysis is that it starts crystallising for the public the tradeoffs. It's very easy to ... sign a Greenpeace petition for a 40 per cent reduction in emissions without recognising that's going to cost you $3000 a year."

The Monday Quote - 27/7/2009

Could it be anything other than this piece of insider advice to the hapless Phil Goff? Written by The LaBour Party Staffer Known As Eddie, it read thus:


Phil, get your shit together

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First blood to the Springboks

The Springboks took the victory, 28-19 at Bloemfontein. As a match, it never reached great heights; pressure from both teams produced frequent mistakes, and the Irish referee with the French name, Alain Rolland ensured that he was the centre of attention, as NH referees are wont to do.

The Springboks deserved their win. They shut the All Blacks out in the second quarter, and when they led 17-3 shortly after half-time, a runaway win seemed to be a possibility. To their credit, the All Blacks came back strongly in the last half-hour, and but for a dropped pass by Jason Eaton on the Bok 22 after a period on attack (leading to a try at the other end), who knows what might have happened.

The experiment of bringing Brendon Leonard in for Jimmy Cowan failed. Leonard looked way off the pace, and the combatitive nature of the match would probably have suited Cowan better. Once the trip to South Africa is over, maybe Leonard should be sent back to the Waikato team to get fit.

We're too tired to do too much detailed analysis this morning, so you'll have to go elsewhere for that. However, the All Blacks will take encouragement from their second-half showing, and will be rueing the late penalty which saw them miss out on a consolation bonus point. They'll be a lot happier down at sea level in Durban next week, and last night's match showed that there is not a lot between these teams. Perhaps the vagaries of the draw give South Africa the advantage in this year's Tri-Nations, but an All Black win next week would turn that on its head.

There's only one certainty - you can read about it and debate the game ad nauseum at Keeping Stock!

Friendly fire for Phil

We read Bill Ralston's headline - Blogosphere shows Goff must watch his back - and read the story with interest. But rather than Ralston reporting on right-wing bloggers, he's alerting the Labour leader to attacks from much closer to home, and from gentlemen and ladies with a vested interest - read on:

Phil Goff had better start looking over his shoulder. When it came to power, National was banking on six to 12 months of destabilisation in Labour as it feuded and fought over the leadership once Helen Clark left.

That failed to happen then, but it's starting now. It took just a couple of minor miscalculations by the Labour leader. His handling of some of the Richard Worth scandal stirred up internal party rumblings but these were muted by the need to maintain a united front for the Mt Albert byelection.

A stumble over the dole for all followed by the fiasco over Bruce Burgess, the unemployed man who was supposed to be the poster boy for Labour's dole plan who turned out to have two rental properties, and the anti-Goff movement is under way.

It is occurring in the blogosphere, and not on the traditional centre-right sites that love to lampoon Goff and Labour but on centre-left sites.


Ralston then goes on to list them; Chris Trotter (Find yourselves a new leader), Russell Brown (if he "wants to float ideas, could he please ensure they don't have any holes in them when he pushes them out from the jetty".), and The Labour Party Staffer Known As Eddie (Phil, get your shit together). That's pretty potent stuff, from people who do have some standing in the blogosphere.

And if the identity of Eddie from The Standard is who we have been told it is, that must be hugely worrying for Labour, and indicates some overt disloyalty towards Goff. We have been reliably informed that The Labour Party Staffer Known As Eddie was moved to Auckland from Wellington for the duration of the Mt Albert by-election campaign, so that person is an insider, not someone sniping from the fringes.

Meanwhile, Ralston notes the role of the blogosphere:

The blogosphere means we now hear what party supporters once said in private discussions over a beer. That the whingeing about Goff has started after a couple of small mistakes means there is a deep enmity to him on the left of the party and his opponents are beginning to gather steam.

He has done himself few favours with his media team in Parliament. With the Worth and Burgess stories, they held back from journalists material that didn't suit their case, thus earning a big black mark from the press gallery, with whom they desperately need a relationship of trust.


We concur with Ralston here. Goff's media minders, and by definition Goff himself have now twice "cried wolf" with the media, and have been ruthlessly exposed as dodgy, misleading and even outright dishonest. So much for the high and mighty Labour Party which fought the last election on the issue of trust!

And in closing, Ralston effectively writes Goff's political obituary, with which we agree wholeheartedly:

Goff was an intelligent and able Cabinet minister but now I hear Labour supporters wondering if that is enough to make him an Opposition leader capable of winning an election. Frankly, at this stage, there is no one better to lead the party.

Nevertheless, the knives are being sharpened and over the coming year the destabilisation of Goff is likely to intensify. This may not lead to his overthrow but it will ruin Labour's chances of presenting itself as a stable alternative government.

The most interesting part will be seeing who on the left will first raise their head to make a push for the leadership. As a great New Zealand thinker once said: "It won't happen overnight but it will happen."

Weatherston-free

No; Clayton Weatherston hasn't been freed for any reason - you'll note that there is a hyphen in the title line!

Rather, because of the entirely predictable Clayton Weatherston overkill in the Sunday papers, Keeping Stock will buck the trend, and declare itself a Clayton Weatherston-free zone today. There's plenty of other places where you can express your opinion.

Christian Music Sunday - 26/7/2009

English worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman is another of our favourites, and this is his "signature" song.

Written at a time when his church was doing some soul-searching of its own, this beautiful song goes right to the heart of our relationship with God. It comes to the inescapable conclusion that all our songs, our prayers and our acts of worship mean little, without Jesus at the centre of our lives - it really IS all about Him. It's a song we first heard not long after we came to faith in Christ ten years ago, and one we've played and sung often in our own role as worship leader - enjoy The Heart of Worship


Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Tri-Nations continues

The All Black-Springbok rivalry might not be the oldest on world rugby, but it's certainly the fiercest and most enduring. We chuckled yesterday when we heard this quote from from Springbok lock Victor Matfield:

Matfield described Tri-Nations tests against New Zealand as the pinnacle for any top South African player.

"I come out in goose-bumps just when I think about the haka, I don't even have to be facing it, and for any Springbok they are the opponents you most want to play against and most want to beat," the 32-year-old vice-captain said yesterday.

A chance to play against the Lions was one of the big motivating factors in keeping Matfield involved with the national team after their 2007 World Cup triumph. However, it wasn't because they are the toughest international nut to crack.

"What made the Lions series special was the fact that we only play them once in every 12 years. You only get to play them once in your career, so you want to beat them when you do," Matfield said. "But we all know that the level of play will lift now for we are going into the Tri-Nations, which is the toughest competition in the world. New Zealand and Australia are the two top teams ... . to be No 1 they are the teams that you have to beat."


We bet that went down like a cup of cold sick "up north"! We can imagine the "42 old farts" that English captain Will Carling so famously referred to in 1995 choking in apoplexy over their pink gins. But what will hurt the NH boys the most is that Matfield is dead right.

We had the pleasure of watching the All Blacks beat South Africa at Ellis Park in 1997 - one of the highlights of our rugby-watching life. At that match, we garnered an understanding into just how much rugby is embedded into the South African psyche. Any win against the old enemy over there is special; at altitude even moreso. And it will indeed be at altitude in the rarified air of Blomfontein, where tomorrow morning's match is contested.

For once, we're going to sit on the fence - this one is too close to call. The All Blacks showed great heart against Australia last week, but that may not be enough against the world champions, especially on the highveld. But the South African outfit is not without its weak links, most noticeably in coach Peter de Villiers, who seems hell-bent on a confrontation with his employer.

The All Black selectors have opted for the running game, with the inclusion of Leonard and Rokocoko. But to to that will require gaining parity up front, and that's never easy against the Springboks. The Boks will certainly have a lineout advantage through Matfield and his mate Bakkies Botha, but we expect the All Blacks to have an edge at scrum-time, and once again, Richie McCaw might just be the difference between the two sides. The All Black loose trio functioned very well last week, after a nervous first 20 minutes.

This is potentially the match of the Tri-Nations, with both sides at pretty much full strength. We'll be heading to bed a bit earlier than usual tonight; this is one match that will definitely be worth waking up for!

Is Labour history?

Ah yes, the Roy Morgan poll - National won't take too much comfort out of this month's Roy Morgan poll - the party has dropped 2 percentage points to 52% support, but that's pretty much what one would expect in these recessionary times, whilst support for the governing coalition remains pretty strong at 57%.

It's a very different story over on the opposition side. Whilst overall support for opposition parties is up by 1.5 percentage points to 43%, NONE of that translates to increased support for the Phil Goff-led Labour Party. Labour has actually DROPPED 1.5 points to sit at 30% support, whilst the gains have been enjoyed by the Greens, and by the Smoke and Mirrors Party, aka Winston First, which may or may not actually exist! Yes, Labour is a mere gnat's whisker from polling in the 20% range!

But wait, as they say; there's more. According to the commentary, this Roy Morgan poll was taken between July 6 and 19th. That's the period up to and including last Sunday - BEFORE Phil Goff and Labour began their Very Bad Week, where once again, they didn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. Goff has twice misled the country now, but this week he also dropped the media right in it - and that hardly seems to be a recipe to curry favor with an electorate that now views him with the utmost suspicion.

Phil's week (how low can you go?)

Phil was looking forward to Friday. He'd had a shocker of a week - sheesh - even The Labour Staffer Known As Eddie who posts over at The Standard had reminded him of the fact with a post entitled Phil; get your shit together. Now that WAS worrying. He could handle the criticism from the government benches, from right-wing bloggers and from the media, but this was a little too close to home.

He'd stayed largely out of the limelight on Thursday and Friday, and was looking forward to heading back to Karaka to re-group and prepare to face another week. And then it happened - he heard those three words guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of the strongest Labour Party Leader - Roy Morgan Poll ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

No more Progressives?

While we were over at NBR looking at DPF's piece, we came across another interesting story:

The Progressive Party is effectively standing aside at the next election and its members have been told they are free to join Labour if they want to.

Party leader Jim Anderton says in his latest newsletter that working with Labour is the best way promote Progressive Party ideas in mainstream politics.

He said he had discussed dual membership with Labour's New Zealand Council and there were no problems with it.

"This means Progressive Party members are free to join their local Labour Party branch and retain their Progressive Party membership," he said.

A spokesman told NZPA the Progressive Party would not run a candidate list at the 2011 election and would not campaign for the party vote.

Mr Anderton is its only MP. He has held the Wigram electorate -- previously known as Sydenham -- since 1984.

In last year's election the Progressive Party won less than 1 percent of the party vote.

Without Mr Anderton's grip on Wigram it would need to break the 5 percent threshold to hold any seats.

The decision not to run a candidate list in 2011 means that Mr Anderton, who has turned 70, will continue to be its sole MP -- if he decides to stay in politics and if he again won Wigram.

He has not announced his intentions but since the election there has been speculation that this could be his last term in Parliament.


So - it looks like it's farewell to Jim the Progressive, and to his party of one. We can only assume that Jim the Progressive doesn't see Rogernomes Phil Goff and Annette King as the future of the Labour Party, and that he can now walk away, having exorcised the devil from the Labour Party.

Will Peter Dunne take a hint?

Farrar on Goff

The Lord of the Blog, David Farrar (DPF) writes a weekly column for NBR, and publishes it weekly on Kiwiblog. Today's column is entitled Prime Minister Phil Goff?, with the emphasis, we believe, on the question-mark! DPF begins:

Four words I do not believe we are likely to ever hear are “Prime Minister Phil Goff”.

I am not a person who is normally complacent about elections and their outcomes. In fact this is probably the first time I have been willing to predict an outcome in advance, let alone two and a half years in advance.

As a contrast, even at 8.30 pm on election night in 2008 I was unsure about the outcome, despite John Key having led in every poll for the last two years. I was nervously texting away that if the later voters follow the pattern of 2005, it could be a hung Parliament. Certain politicians to this day tease me about my lack of conviction, until almost every vote was counted.

Previous elections have been the same. Even in 1990 I was nervous until the 50th seat had been declared.

So what makes me so confident Phil Goff will never be Prime Minister, to break a habit of a lifetime and say so? No, it is not a kneejerk reaction to his week of blunders. I’ve been heading this way for some time.


DPF then goes on to detail his reasons, and although we won't steal his thunder, let's just say that he makes a pretty compelling case. It's well worth a read, and you might even get a chuckle out of it. We are old enough to remember Bill (Sir Wallace) Rowling, so we can assure our younger readers that a comparison with him is not flattering!!

The Friday Forum - 24/7/2009

It's Friday again, and although we had a good drop of rain yesterday, it's fair hosing down this morning, with a dollop of hail thrown in for good measure. In the meantime, we've lain low for most of the week after a visit to the doctor on Monday and a diagnosis of bronchitis. Ah well, at least we don't have Swine Flu!

But we digress - it's time for the Friday Forum, so come on in, dry off, and have your say. There's no shortage of comment-fodder today, so welcome aboard, and go for it!

The floor, as always, is yours ...

Dom-Post on provocation

This morning's Dom-Post editorial comes out strongly in support of plans to repeal S69 of the Crimes Act. It begins:

Section 69 of the Crimes Act says culpable homicide that might otherwise be murder may be reduced to manslaughter "if the person who caused the death did so under provocation".

It is an archaic part of the law that unconscionably turns the victims of society's most serious crime into victims for a second time as their reputations are sullied by the people who killed them.


The leader writer then lauds Justice Minister Simon Power for going where Labour was not bold enough to go after the latest Law Commission recommendation of two years ago:

So it is good news that Justice Minister Simon Power will reform this part of the law, something Labour failed to do two years ago. The minister says: "I do not believe this defence has any place on the statute books. It wrongly enables defendants to besmirch the character of victims and effectively rewards a lack of self-control."

Mr Power must be careful: he risks becoming the new century's Ralph Hanan, a reforming National justice minister who, with a far-sighted justice secretary, modernised much criminal procedure in the 1960s. The jury is still out on that. But Mr Power is showing considerable political courage in a sphere imbued with tradition and expense.


Inevitably, there will be claims that Power is reacting to the saturation coverage of the Weatherston murder trial. That's probably, in our humble and considered opinion, a reflection of our cynicism towards politicians of all hues. But we agree totally with the writer's criticism of the former government, which was twice advised that a law change should be considered. On the second occasion, there wasn't even a Cabinet paper prepared.

It was galling to see Liane Dalziel try to introduce a Member's Bill yesterday, and we were delighted that the Government refused leave. Dalziel and her colleague Charles Chauvel had nine years to propose a law change when Labour was in government. We believe that it is entirely appropriate that the Government drives this small but important law change, not yesterday's people.

Phil's week (the story continues)

We began a diary for Phil Goff yesterday, so here's the latest instalment:

Friday: After a day out of the limelight, Phil hoped that the firestorm around him would subside - fat chance! He opened his Herald, and his meusli was spluttered all over the room as Phil read Claire Trevett's piece...

Confucius says when something is coming back to bite you, run for the hills.

So when National Party ministers turned up to bait Labour leader Phil Goff over Bruce Burgess, it was to find Mr Goff had indeed run for a conveniently prearranged engagement in Timaru.

That didn't stop National's fun. The story Labour told was that Mr Burgess had lost his engineering job and did not qualify for a benefit because of his wife's $21,000 income. That story was printed in the Herald - and then Mr Goff went on to tell the rest of the world via media interviews and his Twitter account.

The story Labour did not tell was that Mr Burgess also had two investment properties - which he had told them but which they deemed irrelevant.

Unfortunately for Labour, National did not deem it irrelevant.

So it was that Mr Burgess began the week as the champion of the Labour Party for epitomising the need for their brand new, shiny policy to abolish the spousal income test on people laid off in the recession. He ended the week as the champion of the National Party because of the opportunity to rub Mr Goff's nose in the badly backfiring publicity.


How will this saga end? Will Phil emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes after self-immolating, or is this latest gaffe, on top of the Neelam Choudary "honey-trap" the end of the line for the Leader of the Opposition? Watch this space ...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Honour amongst thieves

This report from Stuff suggests that Clayton Weatherston has some VERY difficult years ahead of him:

Murderer Clayton Weatherston has reportedly been moved into at-risk prison unit after a bounty was put on his head.

Weatherston was yesterday convicted of fatally stabbing his former girlfriend Sophie Elliott 216 times.

Two sources told Newstalk ZB Christchurch Men's Prison inmates had taunted Weatherston from the moment he arrived at the prison.

One of the sources said $55,000 had been offered in exchange for Weatherston's "unpleasant death" and that price was expected to reach six figures.

A Corrections spokesperson said the department did not comment on a prisoner's management for safety and security reasons.


All we can say is that one reaps what one sows, and Weatherston will have an abundance of time to reflect on the consequences of his personal harvest.

WhaleOil responds

We blogged last night about Andrew Williams' clumsy manipulation of his TradeMe auction, and included his self-serving media release.

We've just received another media release, this time from the one-and-only WhaleOil, so in the interests of fairness we will reproduce it in full as well. We trust the judgment of our readers to work out who's made a complete and utter fool of himself (and his office) here! Here 'tis:


Williams’ charity fiddle most disappointing

Cameron Slater, owner of the Whaleoil blog today criticised the behaviour of North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams after it was discovered Williams had not only fiddled with a charity auction to prevent legitimate bidding, but had also been the highest bidder to spend time with himself.

“Mayor Williams issued a very strange press release late on the evening of 21 July confirming he had interfered in bidding on the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust charity auction, “ said Mr Slater.

“This is a shame because I had actually fundraised close to $1000. Mayor Williams then hypocritically demanded I give the money to the charity anyway even though he prevented me from legitimately bidding for the prize of spending ninety minutes with him in a flight simulator,” said Slater.

“But what Williams didn’t mention in his press release is that not only did he prevent a nice big cheque from reaching the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, he was so scared of the result he was the highest bidder for his own auction through his daughter’s Trademe account. Adding insult to injury, the cheapskate Mayor only bid $150 for the charity.”

“It is a shame that this charity has been cynically used by Mr Williams in order to protect his fragile ego.”

“It’s not the first time Mr Williams has hurt the Rescue Helicopter service. He also argued hard against the Regional Amenities Funding Act which would guarantee proper funding for this and other Auckland regional services.”

“I remain committed to exposing the outrageous, erratic, and offensive behaviour of Mr Williams – a man who deserves the title ‘Clown of Campbell’s Bay’”.

ENDS

Phil on video

Bryan Spondre at interest.co.nz has just uploaded the video of Q2 from Question Time yesterday, and it's must-see stuff - so here 'tis, without further ado - the REAL fun starts about 5 minutes in:


Sophie's Law


We mentioned a few weeks ago that a Facebook group had been formed on the Weatherston case. That led to some anxious moments, and ultimately, the group was taken down, at the request of Sophie Elliott's family.

The group has been re-created, but the focus is no longer on Clayton Weatherston. The focus now is all about the provocation defence, or more to the point, its abolition. The group's founder, Gregory Edwards writes:

You may have noticed that the name of this group has changed.

Now is not the time for vengeance--now is the time for doing something positive!!!!

That's also why I've gotten rid of that ugly picture of Clayton Weatherston and replaced it with something much more positive.

Today we begin a campaign to enact Sophie's law; let no other family have to go through the hell that the Elliotts went through.

The Minister has signalled that he wants legislation drafted that would eliminate the partial defence of provocation for murder. The politicians will only do it if they know there is a will to do so from the electorate.

I'm setting up a website today which will be outlining what you, normal NZers can do to make sure it passes, with information, Q&A and news of where we're at.

Until then--make sure that you make sure that you talk to everyone you know about getting rid of provocation.

Can we do it? Yes we can!!!!


We joined this group yesterday, and completely endorse it. And Gregory Edwards is right - let's forget about Clayton Weatherston, and focus on something meaningful - a law change which will prevent his likes from dragging a victim through the gutter. And we commend Gregory on his initiative, and his passion to see justice done for Sophie Elliott.

Very interesting

The Dom-Post reports that the police file into the theft of Don Brash's e-mails has been re-opened - have a read of this:

Police have been interviewing parliamentary cleaners and security guards after reopening their investigation into the Don Brash email files.

A team of up to four police officers has been involved in the investigation which is understood to have been reopened several weeks ago after Police Commissioner Howard Broad put one of his top officers, assistant commissioner Steve Shortland, in charge of reviewing the Brash file.

MPs and parliamentary staffers are expected to be interviewed as well. It is understood the Independent Police Conduct Authority is also investigating after a complaint from Dr Brash.


Let's hope that eventually this matter can be resolved. And we wonder if a drop of cold sweat has run down Nicky Hager's spine this morning as he reads his Dom-Post. We still strongly believe that the police have not paid Hager anywhere near the amount of attention that he deserves.

Phil's week (so far)

Monday: Phil Goff had a "big idea" and went public with it. He got lots of media attention. The week was off to a good start, and Phil was ready to "man-up" in Parliament on Tuesday.

Tuesday: The bad started badly for Phil. Guyon Espiner told the nation that Phil had jumped the gun, and had released a half-baked policy which has not been approved by his senior colleagues. Parliament reconvened after the holiday break, and Phil took a pasting. To make matters worse, David Cunliffe forgot that Labour was the opposition as he grandstanded over interest rates, and Francesca Mold put the boot in on the 6pm news.

Wednesday: It was time to seize back the initiative! Phil's minders alerted the media to Bruce Burgess, hand-picked to represent the middle class in need of temporary welfare. The Herald dutifully reported, only to have to rewrite its story later in the day when more information came to light. Phil took ANOTHER pasting in the House. He escaped another pasting on the TV news, but only because of Clayton Weatherston - hardly an endorsement!

Thursday: Just when Phil thought it couldn't get any worse, it did! The Herald carried a story correcting its story from the day before, and John Armstrong wrote this:

This has been an especially awful week for Phil Goff. It is not just that the Labour leader has made two blunders - the first being a policy mishap and the second being caught out by failing to reveal pertinent information. It is that a pattern of bad judgment calls is starting to emerge. That will be causing his colleagues some serious concern.

Twice within the past two months, Goff has sought to cause National discomfort only to end up pinging himself by failing to disclose facts which ended up being revealed by his opponents to his embarrassment.


Oh dear. What can possibly happen next in the Chronicles of Phil? Feel free to speculate, but you know that we'll faithfully report it!!


UPDATE: You know that Phil Goff has MAJOR problems when no less a personage than "Eddie" at The Standard (and we all know who Eddie REALLY is, don't we?) tells Phil to "get your shit together"!!

Provocation to go?

That seems highly likely. The Dom-Post reports that Simon Power is to make a speech today, in which he will discuss the government's intention to change the law. The story says:

Killers will lose the right to claim provocation as a defence after murderer Clayton Weatherston's attempt to smear his victim.

It is understood Justice Minister Simon Power wants the controversial defence scrapped as soon as possible and will announce his intentions today.


There's little doubt that the Weatherston case has highlighted this issue, and it may be the one good thing to come out of this dreadful business - the Dom-Post notes:


Mr Power would not be drawn yesterday on Weatherston's use of the provocation defence, as the case remains before the courts until sentencing, which is due on September 15. But he is understood to believe that allowing defendants to besmirch their victims through claims of provocation has no place in the law. He will make his position clear today, and is expected to announce details within the next few days on how the law will be scrapped.

The Law Commission urged the Government to change the law in 2007. It said in a paper that provocation could not be justified as a partial defence and would be better dealt with during sentencing. Deputy president Warren Young said yesterday that the commission maintained that view. Provocation as a defence was outdated and inappropriate.


Given that Labour's justice spokesman Charles Chauvel has already proposed similar legislation, it can be expected that there will be cross-party support for this law change, which is commendable. But most importantly, it will ensure that Sophie Ellioott's tragic death was not in vain.





Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Clown story

To think that the good voters of North Shore City turfed out our old mate George Wood for the Clown of Campbell's Bay - if only they could vote again!

Andrew Williams has excelled himself tonight. He's been running a charity auction, and his arch-nemesis WhaleOil has been conducting a thinly-veiled campaign to embarrass the Clown. Williams thought he was smart, and at the end of the auction, he got WhaleOil black-listed by TradeMe. But such is his ego, that he had to tell the world - check out his self-serving media release below. There's just one problem for the Clown of Campbell's Bay - he appears to have diddled the auction!

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. We hope that George Wood is ready for the by-election!




From: Mayor Andrew Williams
To: Mayor Andrew Williams
Sent: Wed Jul 22 20:27:21 2009
Subject: Mayoral News Release: Charity wins double as auction hijack attempt thwarted


22 July 2009

Charity wins double as auction hijack attempt thwarted

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust stands to win double from a charity celebrity auction due to the ‘black listing’ of a rogue bidder determined to hijack the event for his own politically motivated ends, North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams revealed today.

“Right wing political blogger Cameron Slater has been raising contributions from his supporters on his political website in order to hijack the event to satisfy his own inflated ego and undermine the good purposes of the charity auction,” Mayor Williams said.

“The auction, in which people can bid to take a one hour ‘flight’ in Flight Experience Takapuna’s state of the art flight simulator with celebrities including Prime Minister John Key and television personalities Susan Wood and Mike McRoberts, is the initiative of an enterprising young North Shore man Lewis Simmons.”

“I am not prepared to see this young man’s good efforts shot down in flames by a rogue bidder out for self promotion at the expense of all of Lewis’ hard work just so that he can make a petty political point opposing the stand I have taken to preserve local democracy in the super city debate.”

“However, Cameron Slater outsmarted himself by promising his contributors on his blogsite on Monday 20 July that he would donate all the money he raised toward his auction bid (around US$ 400 ) to the charity (The Auckland Westpac Helicopter Trust) regardless of whether his bid was successful or not. So by grounding his bid, the Trust gets both his money and that of the successful legitimate bidder – a win / win for the Trust.”

“I hope Cameron Slater is big enough to park his ego in the hangar and accept the ‘black listing’ in the spirit of the auction, which after all is to raise as much money as possible for an essential and worthy cause, saving lives,” Mayor Williams said.

++ENDS

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Andrew Williams, JP | Mayor of North Shore
Email mayor@northshorecity.govt.nz
Tel 09-4868687 Fax 09-4868445 Web www.northshorecity.govt.nz
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

North Shore City Council

1 The Strand, Takapuna

Private Bag 93500, Takapuna,

North Shore City, New Zealand


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