Sunday, October 31, 2010

The stuff of nightmares ...

He's back ...

OK; it's a long stretch from ASPIRING to return to Parliament to actually winning his way back in, so there's still hope. But given that it is Winston Peters we are talking about, and given that it's onHalloween that he has risen from the crypt, this is the only way we could find any peace tonight ...


PS: Has he paid the $158,000 back yet that he's owed since 2005?

Hong Kong horror caption contest

The mood is dark today, so then's only one thing for it; to face our demons head on. So have a squizz at this awful picture below, then have a go, and see if you can find some humour in the situation ...

We'll try and start:

Is there a hole in the ground I can crawl into?

McCarten rewrites history

Now look; we know that Matt McCarten has just announced his candidacy for one of Labour's few safe seats, and he'll be seeking publicity. But he's not going to make too many friends in Mana ridiculing Sir Peter Jackson. His Herald on Sunday piece this morning begins thus:

It takes a long time to build a reputation and just one moment to destroy it. Sir Peter Jackson may think he won his battle with his hobbits, but his halo of sainthood has disappeared and won't return.

Many of us remember Jackson as that tubby, geeky guy in baggy shorts and big glasses who endeared himself as a self-effacing movie buff who became an international household name because of his talent. We revelled in his fame and even gave him a knighthood.

Making his home and work base in New Zealand, he provided jobs for Kiwis and that placed him alongside Sir Edmund Hillary as an iconic New Zealander we looked up to. Everything the glossies print about him is gushing and reinforces our warm fuzzies.

But this month the illusion was shattered.

Our man morphed into a slimmed-down, suited-up media mogul with a metal fist that he was unafraid to use to squash those who annoyed him.

Now launching a personal attack on Sir Peter Jackson is one thing; telling porkies is another, and we thought that Matt McCarten was a bit more honourable than that - he continues:

The NZ Actors' Equity has been trying forever to reach agreement on basic conditions for actors from New Zealand film producers. Jackson point blank has refused to even meet.

To get Jackson's attention, the union wrote to their counterparts around the world asking for support, up to and including a possible boycott of Jackson's next film.

That certainly got his attention. All hell broke loose. Jackson threatened to take his toys offshore and disingenuously insisted the whole thing had been concocted by some Australian union thug against us poor defenceless Kiwis.

Oh dear; that's the first time we've heard anyone suggest that the boycott of The Hobbit was only "possible", not that it was the real deal. I guess McCarten believes it though, and he also believes that if he and others on the left repeat the half-truth often enough, others will believe it as well.

Now just to set the matter straight, this is what the actors resolved; this is taken directly from the August 17th letter, which can be read here:

“Resolved, that the International Federation of Actors urges each of its affiliates to adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical feature film “The Hobbit” until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand providing for satisfactory terms and conditions for all performers employed on the production”.

Does that sound like a "possible boycott" to you? If we were to receive a letter which said "adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act", we would not regard that as a mere shot across the bows. This was a black-listing, plain and simple.

It would appear that The Hobbit is going to loom large during the Mana by-election campaign, as McCarten closes with this cryptic comment:

It's not appropriate for me to write about that campaign from now on, except to say I want to make a stand against how we have allowed ourselves to become grovelling serfs in our country at the behest of international money.

But here's some good news. NZ screen producers have agreed to meet Equity to negotiate standard terms and conditions for actors.

In the meantime, they will use the internationally union-approved Pink Book as the minimum basis for performers' contracts.

This is a huge victory for Equity.

Go the hobbits.

Quite how Matt McCarten can claim this week as a "huge victory" for Equity when the government has passed urgent legislation to redefine contractors in the film industry is bemusing. Even Chris Trotter has had the good grace to admit that the labour movement failed in spectacular fashion. We have no doubt that McCarten believes what he has written, but we'd venture to suggest that few others outside the left-wing cabal he inhabits would share his view.

We wish him well in Mana though; if he cannibilises Labour's vote (we won't say Kris Faafoi; the woman on TV who said she'd vote Labour even though she had no idea who the candidate was said it all!), the hard-working Hekia Parata might just sneak through.

Christian Music Sunday - 31 October 2010

We've used this version of this, one of our favourite worship songs before, but we are in need of an uplifting of spirit this morning! And the London Comminity Gospel Choir and Matt Redman certainly oblige, with this rendition of one of Redman's signature songs of praise - Blessed be Your Name.

The song itself is a timely reminder to be thankful to our awesome God, not just in the good times but in the time of trial as well, which we are currently experiencing (which is nothing to do with the rugby!). The words of the bridge are especially pertinent:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Worship IS a choice; a choice that we make this morning!

Enjoy, and may God bless you today ...

Reflections on defeat

Australia 26; New Zealand 24

Two things are certain after the Wallabies scored an after-the-hooter win against the All Blacks last night; firstly, the two teams on display are the best two teams in world rugby; secondly, there is nothing between them.

We mentioned in our preview that the All Blacks had been good at capitalising on mistakes this season. Sadly, it was mistakes that cost the All Blacks last night; a slow start and a poor finish. The Wallabies were rampant in the final minutes, and the All Blacks lost composure in a manner which was just a little bit scary less than a year out from RWC 2011.

Take nothing away from the Wallabies; they were magnificent, and thoroughly deserved their victory. In David Pocock, they have unearthed a loose forward who could one day rival Richie McCaw for the title as the best #7 in world rugby. The Australian backs were at their brilliant best going forward, although there is a huge question mark over Quade Cooper's defence. On the night, they were simply the better side.

24-12 ahead with 20 minutes to go, Daniel Carter's night was over. It was the critical moment of the match. From the very next play, the Wallabies attacked down the left, replacement winger Isaiah Toeava missed a tackle, and Drew Mitchell scored. From there on, there was an air of inevitability about the outcome. The All Black defence was stoic, but the mistakes kept coming. Stephen Donald twice kicked away possession, and then when the All Blacks did get on attack, missed a critical penalty which would have given them an eight point lead with just minutes remaining. Donald then compounded things by missing touch in the dying seconds as the All Blacks clung to a five point lead.

It was a costly miss; Australia attacked again, and after a number of phases James O'Connor scored, then coverted from wide out; long after the hooter had sounded.

The Wallabies, to a man, played very, very well, and the glory is theirs. The All Blacks played well, but not well enough. The All Black loose forward trio was magnificent; McCaw, Kaino and Read all had hugely physical games. Behind them though, all was not well, and when Carter was pulled, it all went pear-shaped. The decision to select Donald ahead of Colin Slade or Aaron Cruden as Carter's back-up for this tour may prove to be a very costly mistake by Henry Inc.

So there you have it. One final comment; the NZRU must not take another match to Hong Kong until an international standard playing surface can be guaranteed. In fact we'll go a step further; this was a match that should never have been played; period. The last thing that the Wallabies needed pre RWC 2011 was a shot of confidence.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bledisloe Cup in Honkers; live blogging

It's almost game-time; come on Black! If you're not near a telly or a radio, you can follow the match with us. Welcome aboard!

The second half is about to begin; how the match changed in the last ten minutes of the first half. The All Blacks will need to continue that dominance now ...

45min - Sustained pressure from Australia to open the second half, but the All Black defence is resolute
47min - Giteau misses ANOTHER penalty - no change to the half-time score
The game is being played at a frenetic pace, and the two benches will play a part; who has the greater depth?
52min - Try-time! Ma'a Nonu scores after a turnover, and a storming run from Richie McCaw. All the Aussie pressure has come to nowt. Carter converts, and the All Blacks lead 24-12
60min - Afoa and Donald replace Franks and Carter, and Drew Mitchell scores. James O'Connor is Australia's third goalkicker, and he converts from the sideline - 24-19
67min - The Aussies butcher another try; what a shame!
70min - Donald twice kicks away possession, but Mitchell kicks it dead from his own side of halfway
72min - Cowan leaves after a strong game
75min - Donald misses from 15m in after a sustained attack from the All Black forwards
81min - Bugger! The Wallabies score after the hooter, after Donald missed touch - 24-all, and O'Connor converts his own try to give the Wallabies a last-gasp win

We'll do a full review in the morning, but hearty congratulations to the Wallabies on a hard-fought victory after a pulsating test match. This was 2000, 2001 and 2002 revisited. Donald's late missed penalty kept the Aussies within reach, and Robbie Deans' record against Graham Henry improves from 1-10 to 2-10!


The teams are on the field, the official palaver is about to start, then it's game on ...

2min - an early miss from Kurtley Beale, then another; two pretty awful goal-kicks
5min - Australia are getting all the early ball, but the try is bombed as Dan Carter makes a spot tackle
7min - the weight of early possession tells, and Quade Cooper scores after Nonu slips on a very dodgy playing surface. Giteau misses, and it's 5-nil
17min - a penalty to the All Blacks at last! Carter hits the post from near half-way
19min - another penalty miss from Carter
22min - Ashley-Cooper scores after some woeful All Black defence; 12-nil Australia, and the All Blacks need to pick up their game; and soon!
26min - another All Black mistake, and they are hard on defence again, but the Aussies concede a penalty at scrum-time
30min - the All Blacks turn defence into attack with a length-of-the field move; Mealamu is denied, but Cowan scores under the posts after sustained pressure. The Black Beast has woken up! 12-7 Australia
33min - Cooper's kick-off goes out on the full, and the All Blacks launch another raid. Cory Jane scores; Carter goals from wide out, and the All Blacks lead 14-12
37min - Giteau misses another penalty, but the big worry tonight is the All Black lineout
40min - the Aussies concede another scrum penalty, and they are now on a warning. Carter kicks a ripper, and the All Blacks head into the house 17-12 ahead. Aussie Bob will be spewing!! It's cup of tea time, then we'll be right back!

A rich irony

We blogged earlier on Chris Trotter's rather candid but vitriolic piece on the ineptness of the labour movement and the Leader of the Opposition in The Hobbit wrangle. After that, we read a couple of his other blog postings, including this one, where Trotter writes:

Right-wing bloggers made much of the "peaceful" march by Sir Richard Taylor’s technicians. But to describe a column of people who headed into downtown Wellington with the intention of intimidating – and quite possibly invading – an Actors Equity meeting as "peaceful" is disingenuous. Nor was I the only one to find the querulous, passive-aggressive video harassment of Simon Whipp, Frances Walsh and Robyn Malcolm as they attempted to return to their hotel from Wellington’s Matterhorn Restaurant late on the night of 20 October, deeply, deeply creepy.

This is what happens when the news media is permitted to use its enormous power to whip up public antagonism against a designated "enemy". That it ended in death-threats against Whipp and Walsh, and the verbal intimidation and harassment of the other Equity representatives was entirely predictable.

We were struck by the rich irony of Chris Trotter complaining about intimidation and harassment. Where were his complaints about "harassment" when Joe Carolan (who has commented on the other Trotter ost we blogged about) and John Minto picketed TVNZ demanding the sacking of Paul Henry, a worker? Where were his complaints of "intimidation" when unionists stormed Sky City earlier in the year at the National Party conference. Where were his complaints of "deeply, deeply creepy" behaviour when Kees Keizer infiltrated the National Party conference before the 2008 election, secretly recorded private conversations and then leaked them to the media? And where were his complaints when 'Megaphone Len' Richards assaulted a protester outside the 2007 Labour Party conference?

The simple answer to that is that there were no complaints from Chris Trotter, and that's the rich irony of his blog-post yesterday. The likes of Trotter and others on the hard left will doubtless argue that the examples referred to above are legitimate means of protest by the working man against the filthy capitalists.

Intimidation, harassment, and deeply, deeply creepy behaviour is the same, regardless of who it is perpetrated by. The unions have got used to having things their own way, and to dictating the rules of engagement. If The Hobbit dispute has shown us one thing, it is that the old-style bully-boy tactics of the trade unions can be rendered ineffective when the bullied party fights back.

All Blacks vs Wallabies; 30 October 2010

It's a dead rubber between the All Blacks and the Wallabies in Hong Kong tonight in terms of the Bledisloe Cup. But with the Rugby World Cup final now less than a year away, there's a whole lot at stake for both teams.

The Wallabies will be desperate to turn around a 10-match losing sequence against Graham Henry's men. It all started so well for Robbie Deans with a win over Henry's men in 2008, but since then it's literally been All Black. In the late 1990's and the early 2000's, the Australians had developed an annoying habit of winning the close matches, often at the very last moment. Thankfully, sanity has returned! On the other hand, the goal of a perfect test match season is just five matches away for the All Blacks, with this match shaping as the biggest hurdle.

Both sides are treating this match seriously, and have named full-strength sides. Australia welcomes back Ben Alexander and Drew Mitchell, but we reckon that the All Blacks will gain far more from the return of Daniel Carter. Our only doubt there is over Carter's ability to last 80 minutes; we're not fans of Stephen Donald, and if Carter runs out of puff, we hope that the match is safe before he is subbed.

Neither side has played together since the last Tri-Nations match, so it will be a test of the respective preparations. Both coaches are meticulous in this regard, as evidenced by the haste with which Henry was trying to get back to his squad in Auckland last weekend to maximise his time with them! But there are likely to be mistakes early on, and one thing that Henry's team has done very well this season is to capitalise on mistakes.

The Hong Kong heat and humidity will test both sides. A number of the All Blacks have had a lean diet of rugby over the last six weeks. I guess that by midnight tonight we'll know if that was a good thing or not. By the same token though, the Wallabies lack strong competition below Super Rugby.

After a hiatus from test match rugby, following such an entertaining season, we are really looking forward to tonight's match. We'll endeavour to blog throughout, and will doubtless have some thoughts in the morning; hopefully we'll be reflecting on another All Black victory.

No, Mr Speaker, No!

We have had nothing but admiration for Dr Lockwood Smith's speakership of the 49th Parliament. We were frequently critical of his predecessor, whom we regarded as the second-worst Speaker since we began taking an unhealthy interest in things political in our early teens, more than 40 years ago. His obvious love of the parliamentary process, and his attempts to make Ministers accountable at Question Time have been especially commendable.

Dr Smith has been a breath of fresh air; until yesterday. The Dom-Post reports:

Millions of dollars of taxpayer funds will be spent by MPs on foreign jaunts without any public scrutiny of individual habits.

The change to disclosure rules, announced by Speaker Lockwood Smith yesterday, means trips such as those taken by Rodney Hide and his partner to Hawaii and Europe last year will be secret.

"It's interfering in their privacy and they've paid for it," Dr Smith said. "It is not a public expense, it is a private matter."

After he was appointed Speaker in 2008, Dr Smith opened up public scrutiny of MPs' use of their international travel rebate.

Yesterday he reversed that decision because he said he was "troubled" by a "lack of integrity" in what was being made public.

"There has been this mish-mash of items included in there that are not genuine expenses, that are not as transparent as they might be, and I believe this format gives greater clarity," he said.

Dr Smith may have been "troubled" by the earlier decision which he reversed yesterday, but we believe that it was an entirely correct decision. Any spending of public money by MP's from whatever side of the House should be open to scrutiny.

Are we doing Mr Speaker an injustice here?

Rumblings from Bowalley Road ...

Chris Trotter isn't happy, and the object of his unhappiness is the Leader of the Opposition. At his blog, Bowalley Road, he writes:

SIR PETER JACKSON surely deserves another academy award for his masterful direction of The Making of The Hobbit. Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens similarly merit an Oscar for their superb script. And, of course, Sir Richard Taylor and his team at Weta Workshops must be honoured for their amazing special effects. (The "protest march" down Lambton Quay and the "rally" in Civic Square were both superb examples of the PR illusionist’s art.

Less impressive, however, has been the labour movement’s critical response to Sir Peter Jackson’s production.

Coming straight off a remarkably successful Labour Party conference and into a week where the core values of the New Zealand labour movement were about to be given mass reaffirmation at CTU-organised "Fairness at Work" rallies across the country, Phil Goff should have been champing at the rhetorical bit.

Because, let’s face it, if the Leader of the Opposition can’t persuade the rest of New Zealand to join Labour and the CTU in reaffirming the values of fairness, solidarity and egalitarianism. Well then, he’s not going to be elected Prime Minister – is he?

Hoooooo boooooy. This is going to get nasty; you just know it; and it does. Trotter spends several paragraphs chronicling the events of Wednesday 20 October, before unleashing this serve and volley:

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, like a possum caught in the headlights of an oncoming Mack truck, made no visible attempt to avoid the looming collision. Terrified at the prospect of having to attack a national "icon" like Sir Peter, they simply closed their eyes and hoped that the fearsome anti-union juggernaut now bearing down on the entire labour movement would somehow miss them.

Then Sir Richard unleashed his special effects – with devastating results.

At this point it should have been clear to both labour leaders that their forces were sustaining enormous losses. Constrained by the legal and moral undertakings pursuant to her agreement with the Hollywood moguls, Ms Kelly’s options were limited. But with Parliament in session, Mr Goff could have made full use of parliamentary privilege to launch a devastating counterattack against Sir Peter and his growing chorus of anti-union acolytes.

By refusing to fight back, the Opposition transformed what was rapidly escalating into a full-scale, Government-led attack on the entire union movement into a complete rout. In the absence of unassailable Labour counter-arguments, the mainstream news media stuck slavishly to Sir Peter’s anti-union script.

The week, which had begun with such high hopes for organised labour’s triumph, ended with its total, ignominious and unnecessary defeat.

Now it's been apparent for some time that Chris Trotter is not the world's biggest Phil Goff fan. Goff will never lead the Labour Party as far to the left as Trotter and his comrades would wish. But this piece is different to others he has written; it's marked by his vilification of the labour movement.

Yes, dear readers. Chris Trotter, dinosaur that he may be, has at least had the honesty to admit that the labour movement has been remiss in this entire affair. Whilst others on the left have argued and continue to argue that it was all a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy engineered by Warner Brothers, Trotter pins the blame correctly; a "critical failure" by both the labour movement, and by the Opposition Leader by virtue of his silence, which continues. If ever there was an opportunity to return to the House and lambast the government, it was there on Thursday when the employment legislation was debated under urgency. Phil Goff was visiting Wanganui.

As with Matt McCarten, we are poles apart from Chris Trotter in a political sense. By like McCarten, Trotter says what he believes, and we commend him for his candour in this piece.

Friday, October 29, 2010

McLeod on the unions

We read this piece from Rosemary Mcleod yesterday, and mentally filed it away. We stumbled across it again this morning, but there was a pile of work to be moved. The desk is a little tidier now (but not so tidy that a good portion of tomorrow won't be spent at the office!), so here goes.

Under the headline Union vision dimmer than a Hobbit's burrow McLeod opens thus:

I'm pretty sure I've witnessed the most inept industrial action of my lifetime.

The word I'm struggling for - and which is so missing in The Hobbit fiasco - is professionalism, or the art of knowing what you're doing.

In union undertakings, as in business or government, you should be able to detect it. It helps.

If nothing else, the list of credits at the end of a movie should put actors in their place.

They are nothing without producers, directors, cameramen, makeup and hair people, the people who hold the cables, dialogue coaches, sound recordists, set dressers, the people who supply lunch, the people who make the clothes, script writers, publicists, marketers, insurers, drivers, stunt people, the people who haul props around, set builders, and the bankers who put the money up front.

To put so many jobs in jeopardy by industrial action is to take on a heck of a lot of responsibility, and to court failure. And by the way, most of those other workers, the wide pyramid on which an actor stands in solitary splendour, are freelancers who are glad to get the work.

Rosemary McLeod knows a bit about the entertainment industry, and we reckon that her views on the Hobbit dispute are worthy taking a good look at. And her profile at NZOnScreen also indicates that she has been one of the freelancers she refers to in the paragraph above. That adds to the worthiness of her viewpoint.

And McLeod is particularly severe in her criticim of CTU president Helen Kelly - read on:

I wonder in particular what Ms Kelly, the president of the Council of Trade Unions, thought she'd gain from her personal attack on Sir Peter Jackson. It had a hallmark of tall poppy syndrome, the drive by lesser lights to undermine and snuff brilliance that is such an unfortunate trait of ours.

Just who is she, and what time zone does she operate from? Does she imagine that we're back when her father was a prominent unionist, before deregulation of the economy, when people - workers and employers - were tethered into permanent positions, and disputes followed a predictable pattern? Well, the world has moved on.

What was she thinking, anyway, when she called Jackson a "spoiled brat"? She apologised - after a lengthy interval - for that, but the words left her mouth in the first place for a reason.

McLeod is quite astute with that last comment. A remark such as that made by Helen Kelly doesn't just come; it is the product of a conscious thought process. Of all the gaffes that various union officials have perpetrated throughout this drama, Helen Kelly's is the most blatant, and quite possibly the most calculated. To get the public onside with the unions, Sir Peter Jackson had to be demonised. It was, as the young people of today say, an "epic fail".

But McLeod isn't quite finished, and a couple of the actors themselves cop a serve - she opines:

I suspect that the two spokeswomen for Equity, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Robyn Malcolm, will regret they ever fell for the blandishments of the aptly named Australian union leader Simon Whipp, who set the threatened international actors' boycott in motion.

Before this happened they were the public's darlings, but darlings can turn overnight into dog tucker. Look at Paul Henry.

Ain't that the truth? Rosemary McLeod has turned out a very perceptive piece here; well worth the investment of a few moments of reading time, and a few added minutes of work-avoidance as we blogged on it. After all; it's Friday!

Oh really?

Let us be crystal-clear from the outset; there is no way that we condone the use of death threats under any circumstances.

But we couldn't help but feel just a dash of scepticism when we read this in the Herald this morning:

Actresses and unionists have received threats, including some against their lives, during the heated row over The Hobbit movie.

Police have been called and private security arranged for some of those targeted.

The worst threats appear to have been aimed at Australian union boss Simon Whipp and Actors' Equity organiser Frances Walsh, although actresses Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Robyn Malcolm have also been abused.

The threats have become so bad the union has hired a guard for its Auckland office.

Malcolm is selling her home and has pulled back from some high-profile marketing. She was reluctant to comment this week on any abuse.

Mr Whipp, the Australian-based director of the Media, Entertainment & Artists' Alliance who has been in New Zealand during the row, said he and Ms Walsh had both received death threats.

"I don't know that Jennifer has, but she has received some terrible things in the mail."

Verbal death threats were also left as voice mail messages at the Alliance's Auckland office, where Actors' Equity NZ is also based.

If there have been death threats made against those perceived as being the villains in the piece in The Hobbit controversy, that's not on. Criticism and condemnation is one thing; making threats is a step too far.

But the cynic in us has stirred. It seems awfully convenient that those perceived as the villains in the piece have suddenly become the victims. These are people who work in the public eye, and who are adept at getting their message across. We wonder if there is another agenda at play here; perhaps a tactical retreat, or a damage-limitation exercise.

Does anyone else smell a rat?

This Sporting Life - 29 October 2010

Hey, hey; it's Friday. HB Proud is in the midst of university exams, so you'll have less to read this week, but hopefully plenty to comment on.

Rugby is the sport of the week. We'll preview the All Black match in Honkers tomorrow, but we're really looking forward to it. Both sides are at full strength, and it should be an excellent match. First-up though, there are the semi-finals of the ITM Cup over the next two evenings. We're picking an upset tonight in Christchurch. Canterbury looked lethargic last week against Waikato, whilst Wellington has run into form at the right time of the season. A month ago, there was the prospect that Wellington might even finish outside the top seven, but the team has finished the season strongly.

And tomorrow night, we'll tip Waikato to upset Auckland. The Waikato forwards ripped in to the Cantabs last week, and they like nothing more than smashing Aucklanders! If Waikato can control the ball as they did last week, the Mooloos will get up tomorrow night.

But the match of the weekend isn't any of those three. Tomorrow afternoon, the mighty Butcher Boys from Wanganui line up against North Otago seeking a third consecutive Meads Cup title. Although they haven't quite hit the heights of the last two seasons, we have every confidence that the Wanganui lads will do enough to see off the Oamaru pretenders tomorrow. Ele from Homepaddock is likely to have a different view, of course!

What else is ahppening this weekend? With all the palaver over The Hobbit, and with catching up after a weekend away and a short week, we must confess that haven't paid much attention to sport. The Kiwis should thrash Papua New Guinea in Rotorua, and the clash between the Brits and the Ockers is always fiery. The big match in the Four Nations is next week, at the revamped Eden Park. And the Breakers have made the best possible start to the Aussie NBL with a 3 and 0 record putting them at the top of the table.

Now, what have we forgotten? Ah yes, the World Rowing Championships. Whoever organised this event in mid-spring in New Zealand was taking a big punt, but it looks as though the weather will cooperate; the forecast is for settled weather for most of the next week. There should be some rich pickings for the New Zealand rowers on their home waters; we wish all the competitors the very best for a great week of rowing.

That's it from us today; it's time for you to tell us what YOU think!

What can be done?

A Masterton mother is at her wit's end; how does she punish her 11-year-old ratbag son? The Herald reports:

A desperate mother is begging for help to punish her 11-year-old son, who has admitted ransacking graves and starting a fire in a $300,000 spree of destruction with a mate.

The Masterton woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, broke down in tears while speaking about her boy, who has an attention deficit disorder, and her loss as to make right "the terrible things he's done".

She said she was "really scared of the lines he's going to cross next".

"I'm at the end of my rope. I don't know what to do with him. I really need help," the solo mother said. "I've grounded him but I don't know what else to do.

"It's the community he's hurt, so I need suggestions from the community about any reasonable punishment I should give him.

"And I'm not talking light punishment here - he needs to take things to heart and it's got to stick so he never forgets it."

We really commend this woman for going public, and we can sympathise with her dilemma. We were twice the victims of very young offenders earlier this year. Included in that offending were sadistic acts towards animals. Two of the offenders were barely of school age, egged on by a 10-year-old sibling. Although the police apprehended the children on both occasions, they were powerless to do anything of consequence, to their frustration as well as ours. The children later committed a more serious offence, and have been removed from the neighbourhood by CYFS, to our relief.

So we can understand how torn this mother feels; torn between her love and concern for her son, and for the community which has been hurt by his destructive actions. If ever there was a poster-child for the further lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, it is this boy.

So let's be helpful here this morning. Does anyone have any constructive suggestions for this mother-in-crisis? We'd love to hear your thoughts ...

An alternative to Breakfast - 29/10/2010 - Final edition

Yep, you read right; we've given Paul Henry three weeks of the attention that he deserves. But we don't want to reach the point where we are flogging a dead horse, so this will be the final of our daily pieces, where two of Paul's favourite subjects are discussed; women's magazines and "bottom issues"

We hope that these pieces have brightened your mornings; we've had fun, but the time has come to move on ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Second thoughts ...

Sometimes we hit the "publish" button before we've thought things through. We posted during the lunch break today about civic affairs in Wanganui. One of our concerns was a rumour which is doing the rounds. It seems well-founded, but it's a rumour nonetheless.

We probably ought to have paused a moment, and re-read what we'd posted. Accordingly, we've pulled the post, with the caveat-to-self that the issues raised might be worthy of comment AFTER the fact, when they may no longer be the stuff of rumours. If nothing else, we try to be honourable bloggers!

Super Tana

You have to hand it to Tana Umaga. Like fellow 30-something Brad Thorn, he is the consummate sporting professional.

There was widespread scepticism when Umaga returned from France earlier in the year to be a player/coach with Counties-Manukau in the ITM Cup. But Umaga has proved the nay-sayers wrong. Counties narrowly failed to make the top seven for next year's competition, but Umaga led a revival in rugby for the Pukekohe team.

And today, he has received his reward; he has been given a Super Rugby contract for 2011 with the Chiefs - the Herald reports:

The Chiefs announced today that All Blacks legend and Counties-Manukau representative Tana Umaga has signed with the Chiefs for the 2011 Investec Super Rugby season.

Head Coach Ian Foster said "After a number of conversations with Tana during the Counties-Manukau ITM Cup season, we are delighted to announce he will be with us for the 2011 season."

"We've been really impressed with Tana as a player and his impact with Counties on his return from Europe. We believe he will be a valuable asset to the team as he brings a high level of experience, knowledge and leadership."

Tana Umaga said he is looking forward to his new role. "I am pleased that I am still able to contribute both on and off the field. Playing for the Chiefs was a good fit as I will be able to continue to work with some of the key Counties-Manukau players, like Fritz Lee and Tim Nanai Williams."

We reckon that Umaga's return to almost the top level is a fantastic tale. He will become the oldest player to play Super Rugby, and it's notable that his career goes right back to the very first Super 12 match in Palmerston North in 1996 (which we attended), where the Auckland Blues beat the Wellington Hurricanes. The 2010 Tana Umaga may not have the explosive pace he once had, but he has the smarts, the ability to keep the ball alive, and most importantly, he still has the passion for the game.

And here's a thought. Graham Henry (should we call him an Old Boy Racer?) could do far worse than have Umaga involved with the All Black squad as RWC 2011 approaches. Whilst we hate the term "role model" in many of its usages, we reckon that Umaga is a true role model for young professional sportsmen.

We wish him every success for 2011, and who knows, even a bit beyond that.

A line in the sand ...

The 2011 election is now just a year away, give or take a few days. And this afternoon in Parliament, we reckon that there will be a line drawn in the sand; a line that will serve as a reminder to voters as to who supports what.

The government will introduce legislation, and take the House into extreme urgency; a measure rarely used, and not to be encouraged. The legislation applies to the film industry only, and will prevent those retained as contractors later going to court to claim that they should have been employees. It is a small but important distinction. The reason that it is important is that last year, the CTU funded a court case whereby a film industry contractor did just the legislation will prevent. It's little wonder that the CTU is apoplectic; its power is being eroded, and given its performance over the last month or so, that can't be bad.

So how will the numbers stack up today? That is the critical question, in terms of today's sitting being an indicator for next year. Clearly, National will support the legislation, joined by Act and United Future. That's enough to ensure that the legislation will pass.

The Greens vehemently oppose this legislation. Then again, the Greens seem to vehemently oppose any form of money-making, so that comes as no surprise; capitalism is viewed as the unpardonable sin. Russel Norman is accusing the government of selling out; no surprises there either.

The Maori Party has yet to give an indication of where it stands, and that is no surprise either. But what of Labour?

Stuff reports that Labour will oppose today's employment law change. And Trevor Mallard is reported to have made a stinging attack on John Key and the National-led government in the House last night. That in itself is interesting; where's Phil? One of the most notable features of this whole debate has been Phil Goff's silence. He led Labour's Great Leap to the Left at the party's conference a fortnight ago, but since then there has been a series of union stuff-ups, with The Hobbit at the top of the bill. Phil Goff's silence has been deafening.

We can only conclude that Phil Goff privately applauds the PM for his intervention and negotiation to keep The Hobbit in New Zealand. That, of course, would bring him into conflict with a large chunk of his caucus, and with his multi-hat-wearing party president. We're not sure if Goff is back from Australia yet, and it will be interesting to see whether he's present in the House today, as both leaders are normally out and about on Thursdays. But doubtless all those Labour members with union affiliations will be rolled out today; Sue Moroney, Su'a William Sio, Darien Fenton, Carol Beaumont, Trevor Mallard, Ruth Dyson, Iain Lees-Galloway; who have we missed? And doubtless the CTU will emerge from those Labour members' contributions as pure and blameless, whilst John Key's tally of babies eaten will have grown exponentially.

So there you have it, dear readers. In 2011, the electorate will be presented with a clear choice. One one hand you will have the Greens and the union-dominated Labour Party, who have still failed to condemn the CTU and actors' unions for almost scuttling 1200 jobs. On the other hand you have National, and the parties who support John Key's government (the Maori Party excepted, for the purposes of this post) who fought to retain an industry, and a significant number of jobs.

Could the choice be any clearer?

The golden rule of PR ...

Helen Kelly obviously hasn't heard the golden rule of public relations.

We were almost on our way out the door and off to work this morning when Kelly's visage came up on the telly. If we were expecting her to be regretful over the role of the CTU and the trade union movement in The Hobbit debacle, we were quickly disappointed. Once we had heard Helen Kelly utter the words "It's outrageous that a foreign corporation..." the decision to head on down to work was a simple one.

So what was that about a golden rule? Simple; it's this one:

When you're in a hole, stop digging!

An alternative to Breakfast - 28/10/2010

Greetings! In this morning's edition, Ali Mau learns the folly of telling Paul Henry about embarassing moments which are "not for publication" - enjoy:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A big decison for Middle Earth

UPDATE #2 - From the Beehive - here's John Key's media release:

Hobbit movies to be made in New Zealand

Prime Minister John Key this evening announced an agreement has been reached between the New Zealand Government and Warner Bros that will enable the two Hobbit movies to be directed by Sir Peter Jackson to be made in New Zealand.

"I am delighted we have achieved this result," Mr Key says. "Making the two Hobbit movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but it will also follow the success of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy in once again promoting NZ on the world stage."

As part of the arrangement the Government will introduce legislation in Parliament tomorrow to clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees as it relates to the film production industry. It is this clarification that will guarantee the movies are made in New Zealand.

"The industrial issues that have arisen in the past several weeks have highlighted a significant set of concerns for the way in which the international film industry operates," Mr Key says.

"We will be moving to ensure that New Zealand law in this area is settled to give film producers like Warner Bros the confidence they need to produce their movies in this country."

Mr Key confirmed the Government has also moved to widen the qualifying criteria for the Large Budget Screen Production Fund to improve New Zealand's competitiveness as a film destination for large budget films like The Hobbit.

The impact of this will mean an additional rebate for The Hobbit movies of up to US$7.5 million per picture, subject to the success of those movies.

The Government and Warner Bros have agreed to work together in a long-term strategic partnership to promote New Zealand as both a film production and tourism destination.

"My Government is determined to use the opportunity that the Hobbit movies present to highlight New Zealand as a great place to visit, as well as a great place to do business," Mr Key says.

The strategic marketing opportunities for New Zealand from the movies will be worth tens of millions of dollars. The Government will offset US$10 million of Warner Bros marketing costs as part of the strategic partnership.

New Zealand will also host one of the world premieres of the Hobbit movies.

"I'm very pleased that we have been able to ensure that the winning combination of Sir Peter Jackson, New Line, Warner Bros, MGM and New Zealand as a whole will have the opportunity to produce these movies together," Mr Key says.

"It's good to have the uncertainty over, and to have everyone now full steam ahead on this project."

This is fantastic news for the New Zealand film industry, the tourism industry and the economy in general. Despite the best efforts of NZAE, the MMEA and the CTU, the government has managed to keep the project on track. Well done to all those who have fought to achieve this goal.

Decision time for The Hobbit? There's a media conference at the Beehive theatrette at 7.20pm this evening, so watch this space ...

UPDATE: 7.20PM - The two Hobbit movies will be made in New Zealand, and legislation will be introduced into Parliament tomorrow.

John Key 1; CTU Nil!

More to follow soon

McCarten for Mana?

Matt McCarten is holding a press conference at 2pm today.

According to the NZ Herald, he is going to announce his candidacy for the Mana by-election. We wonder if this has anything to dfo with the selection of Phil Goff's staffer Kris Faafoi as the Labour candidate over Josie Pagani.

Watch this space. Mana could be about to become very interesting; very interesting indeed, we reckon!

The fight is on

We've just arrived at work, and turned the laptop and the radio on. As we type this, Mike Hosking is interviewing Helen Kelly on Newstalk ZB, and it's fair to say that the fight is on. Kelly is banging on about attacks on workers' rights, and how "outrageous" it is that the government is "selling out" employment law to the big guys from overseas.

Kelly is especially upset that the government is talking about legislating to define who is a contractor and who is an employee; such a sticking-point for the CTU that it took a film worker to court last year to have them reclassified as an employee, which presumably would have made that person potential union-fodder. It would seem that any legislation will be enacted with speed, and perhaps even - shock; horror - without the union movement being consulted.

In our always-considered opinion, Helen Kelly should be very careful in what she is saying. She is already one of the villains of the piece in this whole row, and even though she has apologisied for calling Sir Peter Jackson a "spoiled brat" amongst other things, we have no doubt that she still believes that the CTU's way is right, and that it is the only way.

Why do we say that? Well, Helen Kelly told Hosking that legislation is not necessary, given that the union had settled with Warners. That is, to us, the ultimate cop-out. It was not Warners who instituted a local boycott of The Hobbit, and it was not Warners who hastily urged brethren unions from around the globe to join them in the no-work order. The blame for that lies fairly and squarely with the union movement, most notably with Simon Whipp of MEAA, NZ Actors' Equity, and the CTU, led by Helen Kelly. They were the ones who tried to dictate.

It has all turned pear-shaped for the union movement in the last week, and it would appear that the CTU has presented the government with a gilt-edged opportunity to act. Get the beer and chips in; the fun is about to begin!

An alternative to Breakfast - 27/10/2010

We remembered to set this post up this morning, unlike yesterday when we had a bad case of Mondayitis on a Tuesday!

Anyway, have a chuckle as Paul describes a clever little gadget suggested by a reader which is guaranteed to "transform your toilet life"; need we say more? Enjoy!!

Keeping Stock health warning: Do NOT watch this video when you have just taken a sip of tea or coffee!!

Breaching name suppression

The Herald has a story this morning which names the victim of the shooting by a 12-year-old boy which we blogged about yesterday.

However, when the accused went to Court yesterday, the names of both accused and of the victim were suppressed. The story we quoted from said this:

The victim cannot yet be identified, as to do so would identify the accused.

Has the Herald wilfully breached a suppression order, and will the publishers and journalist Andrew Kourabadis be prosecuted?

We wonder what Cameron Slater thinks about that.

NOTE: We have refrained from publishing a link to this story; if the Herald has cocked things up, they can carry the can themselves!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where does Phil go now?

Of all the political polls released in the last few months, one has been out of step. The Roy Morgan poll was showing higher numbers for Labour, and lower numbers for National than wither the One News or 3News iterations.. The important word in that sentence is, of course "was".

Roy Morgan issued its latest poll on Friday, after polling between the 4th and the 17th of October. All three regular polls now tell a similar story. According to Roy Morgan, if an election had been held during the polling period, John Key's National government would have romped home. National has risen 2.5 percentage points to 55% support, whilst Labour has dropped 3.5 points to just 33%.

This ought to have been a period when Labour solidified the gains it had made in the previous Roy Morgan poll. GST went up, and Phil Goff announced Labour's alternative tax policy, including removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables. Towards the end of the polling period, Labour held its conference, where it unveiled its Great Leap to the Left. It's all been for nought, it would seem.

We're wondering if this poll will be the final nail in the casket of Phil Goff's leadership. Labour trails National by 23 percentage points just a year out from the election. And imagine what the poll might have been like had polling been done in the last ten days, with secondary school teachers striking as exams loom, and with a few bolshie actors and the CTU boycotting Sir Peter Jackson's pride and joy!

We reckon that it's now or never for Labour if they are going to replace Phil Goff before the 2011 election. And we can't help but note that David Cunliffe seemed to be about as self-satisfied as Craig Foss's peacock of the same name while he was asking the first Question of the Day. Is Cunners Labour's leader-in-waiting? Perhaps Phil Goff will be seeking out Kevin Rudd whilst he is over in Australia for some advice on life after a leadership coup!

A twelve-year-old killer

The Waikoto Times reports that a 12-year-old boy has admitted manslaughter today, and becomes one of New Zealand's youngest killers - read on:

A 12-year-old boy pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter in the High Court at Gisborne this morning, making him one of the country's youngest killers.

The boy, who has name suppression, entered the dock with his father.

The boy had been charged with murder but entered the plea on what was meant to be the first day of his trial.

Heavy suppression surrounds the case, but it can be revealed the boy's father was also to face a charge of being an accessory to murder after the fact.

However, the Crown, police and defence counsel struck a deal which saw the pair plead guilty to lesser charges. The father pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

The victim's name remains suppressed, as is their relationship with the accused and where or when the killing took place. The Waikato Times is fighting to lift the suppression order.

We wonder if this is one case where the public interest would be better served if some of the details of the case remained suppressed. Already we know that the deceased was shot, and that as noted in the story above, the 12-year-old was initially charged with murder.

But it horrifies us that another pre-teen will, in all likelihood, go to prison for takling another person's life. We're all only too familiar with the case of Bailey Junior Kurariki, who served around seven years in prison for the manslaughter of pizza deliveryman Michael Choy. Kurariki was part of a gang of youths in a robbery which went wrong, with fatal consquences. Kurariki continues to lve on the edge of the law, and will more than likely spend much of his now-adult life in prison.

It is, however, an indictment on our society that people so young are committing such brutal crimes. Sadly, we don't have any answers. Does anyone who might be out there?

Must have been a leftie ...

John Howard was reportedly unperturbed by having a shoe thrown at him by an anti-Iraq war protester last night - the Herald-Sun reports:

HAVING a pair of shoes thrown at him on live TV was "all in a night's work'', former prime minister John Howard said this morning.

"Is anyone here taking their shoes off? I'm looking around,'' Mr Howard joked during a studio interview with Macquarie Radio this morning.

"All in a night's work,'' he added.

"I've been thrown at by experts so why should I worry about that?''

Two shoes were thrown, but neither hit Mr Howard during ABC's Q&A program, which also saw the former PM blindsided when he was quizzed by David Hicks about why he was left at Guantanamo Bay military prison for five-and-a-half years.

He had just finished answering questions about the Iraq war when the protester, a disgruntled member of the audience, struck.

Isn't throwing shoes at people so 2009? But we have come to the conclusion that the shoe-thrower was a leftie. How did we reach that conclusion? We've just heard on the radio that the protester has contacted ABC, and asked for his shoes to be returned!!

Not surprisingly, ABC has told him where to stick his shoes, and all power to them!

An alternative to Breakfast - 26/10/2010

Whoops; we're running late this morning, but better late than never.

There are plenty of people who think that Paul Henry is a dickhead; here's the moment when somebody gave voice to such thoughts:

Best served cold

The Herald carries the story of Hamish Chang and his tinfoil-wrapped bedroom, courtesy of his Dunedin flatmates - read on:

Hamish Chang has revenge on his mind, after returning home to his student flat in Dunedin to find his every worldly possession tightly wrapped in tinfoil.

The prank was sprung by Mr Chang's flatmates when he arrived home on Sunday to his George St flat from a week in Christchurch and pushed open the door to his bedroom.

Inside was the gleaming, shiny handiwork that had taken his five flatmates - and another friend - more than a week, 600m of foil and 30 hours of labour to complete.

No matter how big or small, hardly a single item of Mr Chang's property had escaped the tinfoil treatment - from the walls and ceiling to his desk, bed and pillows, and even the individual pins holding up the posters on his walls.

"The attention to detail here has been outstanding," Mr Chang, 20, a third-year accounting student, said yesterday.

The shiny stunt has already attracted national attention, featuring on last night's TVNZ One News bulletin and on the 3 News website.

One of Mr Chang's flatmates, Vinnie Schumacher, 21, a third-year law student from Wellington, said the flatmates set to work on October 17 and worked for a few hours each day.

For novelty value, this story is right up there. It made both major news bulletins last night, and we have to say, the flatmates did an outstanding job! But how the heck could impoverished students afford all that tinfoil?

Anyway, Hamish Chnag has taken the prank in good spirits, but has vowed revenge. Let us take this opportu nity to remind him of the old adage; revenge is a dish best served cold!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Monday Quote - Labour Day edition

Paul Holmes' column in the Herald on Sunday was full of juicy quotes, and is worth a read in its entirety. His opening salvo however is deemed worthy by us of the accolade of the Monday Quote - enjoy!

Man, I'm angry. Angry that a group of gullible actors have allowed themselves to be used by some bolshy, left-wing filth from Australia who may or may not simply want to get The Hobbit filmed over there.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Don't actors watch the news? Are actors so isolated in their precious and irrelevant world of the stage and the dressing room that they do not actually realise there is a terrible, terrible recession going on and that this is exactly the wrong time - absolutely the wrong time - at which to be taking on a giant which is hurting itself badly?

Can they not see this? This is so obviously the wrong time to take on Warner Bros. Wrong time, wrong people, wrong place. And the New Zealand actors have just destroyed themselves. I doubt if Jackson will ever hire one again. Why would he have a resentful ingrate on his set?

It's hard to disagree ...

Not before time

We caught One News last night, and were delighted to see the announcement by Housing Minsiter Phil Heatley about a review of state housing policy. The Dom-Post has more details this morning - read on:

State housing is set for its biggest shake-up in decades with the Government poised to abandon the "state house for life" policy.

With thousands stuck on waiting lists and a third of state houses occupied for more than 10 years by the same family, time-limited tenancies could be introduced as early as next year – initially for new tenants, but likely to be rolled out to all tenants except pensioners and the most vulnerable tenants over time.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley said the options were yet to go to the Cabinet so no decisions had been made, but he was considering changes including three-year, five-year and 10-year tenancy terms with a right of review after that time.

It is a significant change from the previous policy that tenants are not moved on, regardless of a change in circumstances.

The shake-up will not end there. The Government will also look at moving on singles or couples who stay in their three, four and five-bedroom state homes long after children have left home.

It's hard to see a downside to this policy. It has already been favourably received by social agencies, and even the state house tenant interviewed by One News reckoned that it was a good move by the government. It also seems to have caught the left on the hop; given that it's Labour Day today, perhaps they're too busy celebrating the advent of the 40-hour week all those years ago.

Heatley acknowledges that there will be opposition:

Mr Heatley said he expected some of the moves to be controversial, but it was time to have a debate. "Most New Zealanders accept that [a state house] is the only taxpayer benefit left where you get it for life and no questions asked. That does need to be challenged."

The onus will go on Phil Heatley and his Cabinet colleagues to come up with coherent and workable alternatives to the present policy. But we are in complete agreement with him when he says that it is time to have that debate. As Labour lurches to the left and hitches its wagon to the union movement, the time is ripe for National to take the lead in setting policy, not to allow the left to dictate through its campaigns of fear and loathing.