Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dissing Sir James' legacy

Stuart Nash is one of the more impressive of Labour's crop of 2008. In years gone by, the Napier electorate would have ensured him a job for life as an electorate MP; it was a solidly red seat. However Chris Tremain bucked the trend in 2005 beating the incumbent Russell Fairbrother, then romped home in 2008 as the tide went out on Labour. The sacking of the Hawkes Bay District Health Board by then Health Minister David Cunliffe gave Tremain a huge boost, and played a part in his 9018 majority.

Stuart Nash is keen to win Napier because the way the polls are at the moment, he's right on the bubble in terms of list placings. You'd think he'd be picking his fights carefully, but apparently not; Hawkes Bay Today reports:

A Labour Party proposal to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables has come under fire from food processing giant Heinz Wattie's, and Hawke's Bay MPs.

Heinz Wattie's chief operating officer Michael Gibson said the policy sent a strong message that only fresh fruit and vegetables were healthy foods.

"Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables are recognised as nutritionally comparable to fresh equivalents and provide convenient and affordable forms of such important foods," he said.

Mr Gibson said there were times during the year when canned and frozen products were also cheaper and more convenient than their fresh counterparts.

The policy would also discriminate against local producers, as imported fresh fruit and vegetables would be exempt from GST, but locally-grown frozen and canned products would have tax added.

"As we have already advised Labour MPs, this exclusive GST exemption would have a significant impact on Heinz Wattie's' business, which is one of the largest producers of frozen and canned vegetables in Australasia," Mr Gibson said.

Now anyone with a reasonable memory should know that Hawkes Bay and Watties are joined at the hip. The late Sir James Wattie is one of the Bay's most revered sons. Te Ara, the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand tells his story. Sir James died in 1974, but his company and his legacy lived on, even after Watties was sold to Heinz in 1992.

So; there's the context for this story; Stuart Nash is treading a very dangerous path. The two local MP's have been far wiser and more circumspect - read on:

National MPs have also criticised the policy, saying it would unfairly hurt the Hawke's Bay food processing industry, a major employer in the region.

Napier MP Chris Tremain and Tukituki MP Craig Foss said removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables would "screw the tax scrum against the food processing industry in the province".

"From the smallest packhouse to Heinz Wattie's and McCain, Hawke's Bay workers will be wondering why Phil Goff thinks GST should be used to discourage investment in food processing and the creation of jobs."

Not so Stuart Nash. In supporting Phil Goff's plan to take the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables (and as Labour's revenue spokesman, he may have even helped to develop the policy). In a full-frontal attack, he's dissing the quality of the brands grown, processed and packed in his own backyard by people who he will solicit votes from; check this out:

Napier-based Labour list MP Stuart Nash said the policy would help make healthy choices more affordable.

"It's dreadful that Tremain and Foss have come out and criticised a policy that will increase the health and wellbeing of many families in Hawke's Bay," he said.

Mr Nash said lowering the cost of fresh food would not affect sales of frozen and canned produce, but increase overall fruit and vegetable consumption.

"One of the consequences of this is that people will begin to change their diet and understand that healthy options is the way forward, and that includes frozen vegetables."

Stuart Nash has made a huge error here in our ever-humble opinion. There's absolutely nothing wrong with frozen or canned fruit and vegetables. Right now we have packets of Watties peas and beans in our freezer, and the SteamFresh packs are great to toss in the microwave, heat and serve. The brocolli, cauliflower, carrots and corn are crunchy, tasty and nutritious, and we don't even mind having to pay the GST on them! Fresh vegetables are great, but we live a busy life, and reckon that frozen vegies are way better than no vegies at all.

Heinz-Watties employs around 1900 Hawkes Bay people. If Stuart Nash really wants a long career as an electorate MP, he should be making his constituents his highest priority. In the meantime the good folk or Napier, Hastings, Havelock North and the surrounding areas will reflect on their good fortune in having strong local representation from the local MP's.

All Black review - Sunday 31 July 2011

From now until the end of the Rugby World Cup, we'll review every match that the All Blacks play. And we have to say this; there was a lot to like about last night's 40-7 rout of a sub-par Springbok team.

Yes; 21 top Springboks are either under the knife, or rehabilitating injuries if you believe the South African management. That this is happening in Rustenburg, far from the maddening crowd is not in dispute. But this was a test match between New Zealand and South Africa, and the All Blacks could only play against the side that ran out against them.

The All Blacks started the game at pace, and for the most part did not let off. There was an intensity about their play in the opening minutes that stirred this long-time rugby watcher's heart just a little, and an intent to move the ball wherever possible.

The hard work was done by the All Black forwards. They dominated the South African scrum, won the lineout battle, and were superior at the breakdown. Andrew Hore had a commanding match, and will be putting all sorts of pressure on Kevin Mealamu for the starting hooker's berth. Hore was like a fourth loose forward, winning several turnovers. The loose trio had storming matches; Richie McCaw looks to be getting back to full rugby fitness, and he and Adam Thompson managed the interchange between flanker and #8 really well. Ali Williams was a lot more accurate than at Dunedin, and Sam Whitelock had another strong game.

The backs relished the space being created by a combination of a dominant All Black forward pack and a hesitant South African defensive line. Jimmy Cowan was far more decisive than the previous week, and it was great to see Dan Carter running at pace, and putting players into gaps. Some of his kicking though was aimless, and although he re-took the world points scoring record and became the first player to pass 1200 test match points his goalkicking was average by his own high standards.

Outside Carter Ma'a Nonu made ground almost every time he carried the ball, and Conrad Smith looked much sharper. But the wingers were the rockstars last night. Cory Jane has had a hooror season thus far, but last night it was all forgotten. He went looking for work, broke tackles at will, and his first try was an absolute cracker. The thumping of the silver fern after he dotted down showed just how much the black jersey means to Cory Jane, and he almost certainly earned a RWC place on the back of that performance alone. Zac Guilford was almost as good, but fell off the pace towards the end when he took a freak and accidental boot to the ribs. And at the back, Mils Muliaina showed that he reserves his best for the big games. Piri Weepu, Colin Slade and Sonny Bill Williams all got game time, and we hope that pdm noticed an improvement in Weepu's service; he seemed to be clearing the ball a lot faster last night.

As we said in opening, there was a lot to like about the All Blacks' performance. Given that four first-choice All Black forwards were missing, there will be some real competition for places come RWC time. Likewise in the backline, and especially at wing where any of Jane, Guilford, Sivivatu or Gear can slot in. Finally, we are developing some genuine, test-quality depth.

Next week's match against Australia in Auckland will be another step up in intensity, but that is a quality that the All Blacks had in spades last night. With Keven Mealamu, Brad Thorn and Kieran Read likely to return, we may get some insight into the top All Black side come September/October. We're now looking forward to our date with the All Blacks in Wellington on October 2nd more than ever, especially as it's a day-time match. A terrific three months of international rugby lies ahead, and you'll read all about it right here at Keeping Stock!

Christian Music Sunday - 31 July 2011

As with last week's offering, today's featured song comes straight from the Book of Psalms. Once again, we're sure that it's not the treatment that King David envisaged when the words of Psalm 36 were first penned.

Third Day is one of our favourite Christian bands. It wasn't long after we decided to follow Jesus that Third Day entered our consciousness, and this was one of the songs that did it. It's a simple song; only six lines of verse, but the words are straight from scripture. More than any other one song this one reawakened our love or music and led us to the realm of worship music.

So here you go; enjoy:

We hope that this song blesses you as much as it has blessed us!

Kerre Woodham writes...

Kerre Woodham posted the following on Facebook last night:

From John Minto's blog re the lunch with Tony Blair: 'Among the other media to attend and hope their photos appear on the society pages in the next few days were Newstalk ZB's Kerre Woodham, the Herald's Fran O'Sullivan, and Bill Ralston.'

John, John, John. I'm not the one gagging for the papers, the radio and the tv to record my every utterance. I don't manufacture pathetic stunts to try to get the reporters attention. Count the number of times Fran, Bill or myself have been in papers. The only reason I appear in the media is because it's my job - J.O.B. Remember that word? You however would wither on the vine and die without media attention. Save the sniping. You're not just irrelevant, you're a hypocrite.

She's dead right. Professional agitators such as Minto thrive on publicity. Think back to the 1981 Springbok Tour; how was it that the media just happened to be in the right place at the right time so often (in a day when there were far fewer media resources than there are today; they didn't even have cellphones!)? The anti-tour movement played a compliant news media like a fiddle.

John Minto is a skilled manipulator of the media. He knows how the game is played, and to grudgingly give him credit, he does it well. But we're on Woodham's side here; Minto fights for so many causes that he is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

There is one campaign on which we would support him though; a campaign against employers who systematically rort the IRD over extended periods by failing to pay the tax they have deducted from their employees, and spending it on other things. That would be a fantastic cause for John Minto to pick up on, as a union organiser. And we would further suggest that he could start with a protest outside the offices of the Unite Union, a;lthough that might present Minto with an ethical dilemma, because HE is one of Matt McCarten's staff!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Green hyperbole

Toad, the Green Party's anonymous website presence has excelled him/herself today. Toad is protesting at the decision by the University of Canterbury to confer an Honorary Doctorate on Ruth Richardson. And he/she concludes his/her blog post with this little gem (with our emphasis added):

Richardson was the author of the Mother of all Budgets, slashing welfare benefits and introducing charges for healthcare and massively hiking fees for tertiary education.

Today, the oldest of the Children of the Mother of all Budgets are in their late teens or early twenties. They are frequently those who have never had paid employment, those whose families have been devastated by poverty, and the suicide victims who Te Ururoa Flavell now wants to be buried outside the entrance to the urupa, where they can be condemned forever.

Ruth Richardson caused this. She is the most evil New Zealander of the last century. She should be vilified, not honoured by the University of Canterbury with a doctorate she didn’t even study for.

Toad should be ashamed of him/herself. We would have expected better than this kind of hyperbole from the party that regards itself as more principled than any other. And to the anonymous commenter who has attached him/herself to Keeping Stock over the last few days accusing us of being nasty to Phil Goff, might we say this; there's nastiness; and it comes from the Left.

The first step...

The All Blacks' road to the 2011 Rugby World Cup begins tonight in Wellington when they face a sub-par South African side. It's a match that the All Blacks will be expected to win, and to win well, but there are plenty of sub-plots to keep our interest.

The side is getting closer to a first-choice All Black team. Clearly Brad Thorn, Kieran Reid and Tony Woodcock will be in the top All Black line-up come RWC time, and it's great that Woodcock will be playing for North Harbour in the next few days. Thorn's expected return next week leaves Ali Williams and Sam Whitelock competing for one position against the Wallabies.

The loose forward mix is interesting. We have no doubt that Adam Thompson will be competent at #8, and in combination with McCaw and Kaino, the All Blacks have a strong loose forward trio tonight capable of providing the impetus for an expansive game. McCaw and Thompson may swap places at times tonight, but neither holds a candle to Reid, who has the potential to develop into one of the greats in the role. We have no qualms about him having another week off to recover from an arduous Super Rugby campaign, not Brad Thorn who is the consummate professional, and will be back fit and ready next week.

The backline has a RWC look to it, with the exception of the wings. Cory Jane will be looking to have a huge game tonight as he tries to salvage something from his personal season from hell. Zac Guilford was the form winger in Super Rugby, but play didn't really run his way last week. The Carter/Nonu/Smith combination has a settled, experienced feel, and we'll be looking for Sonny Bill Williams to make an impact in the second half if Nonu can soften up the defence.

Whether or not the "real" Springboks are in camp at Rustenburg will be irrelevant tonight. This is a test match between rugby's most bitter rivals, and that is the attitude that the All Blacks must take onto the Westpac Stadium pitch tonight. Nothing less will be acceptable. A dominant performance and a comprehensive victory will be the best first step that the All Black's can take toward's rugby's biggest prize.

Cross-posted at The Sports Geek - we'll be blogging there as well from time to time...

The poll misery continues ...

We thought that Thursday's Roy Morgan poll would be the last for July, but we were wrong. The latest Herald Digipoll is out this morning. And it merely confirms all the other polls which have emerged in Labour's Winter of Discontent. The Herald reports:

Voters prefer Labour's remedy for the economy over National's, according to the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey - but they still don't like the doctor.

A slip in support for Labour has given Labour leader Phil Goff a massive challenge to make up ground four months out from the election.

In the latest survey, Mr Goff has again dropped back into the single digits as preferred Prime Minister - down to 9 per cent, from 12 per cent last month. He remained well behind Prime Minister John Key, who stayed steady on 70 per cent.

Among decided voters, the Labour Party also dropped three points to 33 per cent despite relatively strong approval of its new capital gains tax policy.

National increased its support slightly to 52, despite substantial opposition to its plans for partial sales of some state-owned enterprises, including among its own supporters.

Oh dear; three polls now where polling has taken place entirely after the release of Labour's game-changer, and Labour has lost support in each and every one of them.

And the message that this poll is giving is clear; the public does NOT want a Phil Goff-led Labour government. Goff himself can't even shake off the shadow of his predecessor; read on:

The slump for Mr Goff reversed several months of slight improvements in his personal rankings from 8 per cent in October. To rub salt into the wound, his predecessor, Helen Clark, also gained ground by two points to reach 8 per cent after steadily dropping since she left office.

And Goff himself cops a flogging from the member of the expert panel commenting on this poll:

Jon Johansson, a politics lecturer at Victoria University, said the poll showed that even when Labour had ideas that met with public approval the voters were not receptive to the "current messenger."

"There's no hiding the fact that the public are not responding to a Phil Goff-led Labour."

Mr Johansson said Mr Goff needed to give up on a head-to-head popularity contest with Mr Key and let other caucus members take a greater role.

"They really need to run a campaign that de-emphasises leadership because so long as the overriding comparison in voters' minds is Key versus Goff, that is not good for Labour.

"At the moment it's a straight out popularity contest that Goff has lost. There is nothing Goff can personally do to change on the back of a 30-year narrative in politics."

Jon Johansson is dead right. Phil Goff entered Parliament in 1981, and apart from a brief hiatus between 1990 and 1993, has been there ever since. He is yesterday's man, not Labour's hope for the future. We suspect that this weekend, there will be an increasing body within Phil Goff's caucus which is thinking of survival. Parliament resumes on Tuesday for its second-last sitting of the current term, and a quick, bloodless coup at caucus would give the new leadership team three weeks in the spotlight.

But who? We're tipping a Parker/Street pairing, which will appeal to most factions within the party, except perhaps Damien O'Connor's self-serving unionists. All that remains is to see whether there is a will within Labour's caucus to get the phone back on the hook.


No; we're not talking about Phil Goff. But it's sad this morning to read that AMI Stadium in Christchurch is unlikely to ever be used again in its current form; the Press reports:

AMI Stadium looks set to become the latest high-profile casualty of the Christchurch earthquakes.

Several high-level rugby sources have confirmed the ground is in a far more serious state of disrepair than previously disclosed.

One described the ground as "knackered" and said "there's no way" the Crusaders will play at the ground next year.

Another added the venue, which has been the heart of Canterbury sport for more than a century, may never reopen in its current guise.

More importantly, the foundations of the Deans and Paul Kelly stands sank in the February earthquake and need to be levelled.

Engineering reports detail the damage, but offer no cast-iron solutions on how to fix it. One option would be to pour tonnes of concrete under the stands, creating a man-made platform, which could then be used as the base to jack the stands back to the level.

However, if salvage work does go ahead, no guarantee can be given it would work. New construction techniques written about only in theoretical terms would need to be designed.

The second horn of the dilemma – the expense – now appears prohibitive.

AMI Stadium did have earthquake and business interruption insurance. But the degree of uncertainty around the risky rebuild means it would take years to fix.

It may be more cost-effective to walk away and rebuild on a new site less at risk of liquefaction.

Both from a sporting and a community perspective, this is bad news for Christchurch, a city which has had more than its share since September 4th. Be it as Lancaster Park, Jade Stadium or AMI Stadium, the ground has played host to some of New Zealand's finest sporting moments; a remarkable comeback by the 1965 Springboks, Ian Kirkpatrick's try against the Lions in 1971, New Zealand's first test cricket win against Australia in 1974, The Colin Croft/Fred Goodall drama in 1980, and one of the greatest Ranfurly Shield matches between Auckland and Canterbury in 1985. They are but a few of the legends of the grand old stadium.

Now it seems as though the Canterbury faithful have trudged down Moorhouse Avenue for the last time. We've been to the stadium a couple of times; to an ODI against England in 2002, and to a Super 14 match a few years ago where the Crusaders put 50 points on the Brumbies. It's been a wonderful venue, and it's a huge blow for a great sporting city that its one international venue cannot be used, and may have to be demolished.

Replacing AMI Stadium is not going to be an easy task. Land will be in very short supply, with much of the east of Christchurch ruled out due to liquefaction. One option that has occurred to us is the vacant land opposite Russley Golf Course and adjacent to SH1 near the Airport. We understand that it's been the subject of much wrangling between the land-owner at the Airport authorities over its future use, and we don't know whether the footprint is large enough for a stadium.

If AMI Stadium is written off, and the site deemed unuseable, it is going to create a huge dilemma for rugby in particular. The Crusaders will again be homeless, and the likelihood of international rugby in Christchurch is remote. That's not good news for a passionate rugby city. We will be watching developments with this story with much interest.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Not very inspiring ...

It's getting nearer and nearer to the General Election. And doubtless politicians will be getting plenty of invitations to speak at functions up and down the land.

Wisdom suggests that they should be very careful about what invitations they accept; very careful indeed. Because if they're not careful, they might end up with embarrassing news stories like this one from the Marlborough Express (our emphasis added):

New Zealand is in danger of becoming divided between the haves and have nots, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

Eighteen people heard Mr Goff speak at the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce inspiring speaker series at the Marlborough Convention Centre, in Blenheim, yesterday.

Labour is lagging heavily in the polls, however he said he was not despondent, and believed there was still a chance Labour could win the election.

Oh dear. Clearly the lure of hearing Phil Goff speak in the Chamber's "inspiring speaker series" wasn't very inspiring at all!

A Poll-dance Caption Contest

Yeah; we know we had a caption contest yesterday, but we saw this cartoon over at David "Happy Feet" Farrar's place earlier in the day, and given that we had focused on polls this morning, it was too good to pass up.

The rules are as usual; on topic, short, pithy, amusing and non-nasty. Let's have some fun this Friday afternoon!

Hat-tip: Blunt, for the excellent cartoon

This Sporting Life - 29 July 2011

It's Friday again, and it's been a messy week for us; remind us not to move again. Well, we haven't actually moved yet; that's a few weeks ago, but cleaning up the whare for sale has been a stressful experience, and the skip bin is almost full! We've had some much-needed exercise over the last few days, so we guess that falls broadly into the category of sport!

Rugby is the main focus at the moment. The compressed ITM Cup rolls on and on with a full round over the weekend, and more mid-week games next week. Bay of Plenty has been the surprise package so far, and leads the table from Wellington. The mid-week match between these two teams should be a belter.

But the big game this weekend is tomorrow night at the Cake Tin. The All Blacks should and will be far too good for South Africa, who as usual are being dodgy in the extreme. Thje official line is that the 21 players left behind are either "under the knife" or "rehabbing". In reality, they are in camp in Rustenburg, a town not known for its state-of-the-art sports medicine facilities, but a nice place for the Springboks to train together away from prying eyes. It's foot-on-the-throat time for the All Blacks tomorrow night. We'll have a full preview tomorrow.

The Warriors are back at home on Sunday, facing the Canberra Raiders. The Raiders are a tough outfit to beat at home, but on the road they're nowhere near as formidable. The Warriors have shown terrific form in the last two weeks, and should be too good.

In other news Valerie Adams has beaten her arch rival with a name that we won't even try to mention in the Diamond League in Stockholm, and is in great form ahead of the World Track and Field Champs in a couple of weeks. Michael Campbell finished his opening round strongly in the Irish Open, and at 5-under is just one shot out of the lead. With Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy contesting the event, this will probably be the most convivial professional tournament of the European year.

There's bound to be more, but She Who Must Be Obeyed is beckoning, and there's more clearing up to do. On that note, the floor is yours...

Roy Morgan reports

Roy Morgan is the only one of the major polling organisations that polls and reports fortnightly. For some reason, the last Roy Morgan poll reporting was delayed, and it was only released 10 days ago. Labour's polling improved, but of course the poll was taken before the release of Labour's "game-changer".

Roy Morgan reported again yesterday, and as you will see from the graph below, the game HAS changed for Labour, but not in the way that Phil Goff was hoping. In short there's been a 2% swap between the two major parties; National up two to 52% and Labour
down two to 31.5%. Gary Morgan sums it up succuinctly:

The latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows support for Prime Minister John Key’s National-led Government is at 57.5% (up 2.5%). Support for Key’s National Party is 52% (up 3%), ACT NZ 2% (down 1%), the Maori Party 3% (up 0.5%), and United Future 0.5% (unchanged).

Support for Opposition Parties is at 42.5% (down 2.5%) — Labour Party 31.5% (down 2%), Greens 7.5% (unchanged), New Zealand First 2.5% (down 0.5%), Mana Party 0.5% and Others 0.5% (down 0.5%).

If a National Election were held today the National Party would easily be returned to Government.

This is bad news for the Labour Party, with the General Election now less than four months away. And it's merely confirmation of the bad news delivered by the other polls. Let's sum up the ones released in July (counting the latest Roy Morgan):

  • Herald Digipoll: National 51.2%; Labour 36.1 % - difference: 15.1%
  • 3News poll: National 55.1%; Labour 29.9% - difference: 25.2%
  • One News poll: National National 53%; Labour 27% - difference 27%
  • Fairfax poll: National 56%; Labour 29% - difference 27%
  • Roy Morgan poll: National 52% - Labour 31.5% - difference 20.5%

Looking at all those recent polls, not just any one in isolation, must be scary for the Labour strategy team. It must be scary too for those on the lower reaches of Labour's party list, faced with the spectre of unemployment post November. If change is to come at the top, the momentum for that change will come from the bottom.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rent-a-mob Caption Contest

We've had a busy day today. She Who Must Be Obeyed has us in cleaning and throwing out mode as we prepare to sell our whare and move almost to the countryside. So we haven't spent much time blogging, or even thinking!

We have had the radio on though, and we heard about the protests outside Eden Park where Tony Blair, the former UK Prime Minister and Labour Party leader was speaking. "Who might have been there?" we wondered to ourselves, thinking of the normal rent-a mob suspects who show up to such events. Well, here's who; quelle surpr

So let's have some fun. You know the drill; keep it shorty and pithy, relevant, humourous, and above all, don't get nasty; there's enough of that elsewhere.

Fill your boots!

Bad news for Terry

There's bad news for Terry Serepisos this morning. But it's even worse news for his creditors; the Dom-Post reports:

A Kiwi property investor who claims he has been duped out of more than $1million has used a private investigator to freeze Swiss bank accounts of alleged international loan scammer Western Gulf Advisory.

WGA, owned by Indian-born Ahsan Ali Syed, is the same company used by Wellington property developer Terry Serepisos for a yet-to-be-received US$100m (NZ$114m) loan to restructure his Century City group of companies.

McNabb Group Properties – which paid NZ$1.1m in loan fees to WGA for a US$50m loan that never eventuated – has filed criminal complaints against WGA in Switzerland and Bahrain.

The moves follow a series of events that began last August when MGP sought funding for an Auckland hotel and for the Waihi Gold Discovery Tourism Centre, and was approached by WGA's New Zealand middleman, Daniel Hunt. MGP followed due diligence for several months before advancing $1.1m to WGA to cover loan fees.

But alarm bells started to chime in mid-March when the loan did not eventuate on the agreed date and WGA breached the agreement by not returning the fees when requested.

The company hired private investigator Mark van Leewarden, who travelled to Dubai and Switzerland with enough evidence to persuade Swiss banking authorities to freeze WGA accounts. The Bahraini bank accounts of WGA were frozen last month by Australian investors who claimed Mr Ali had scammed them for A$100m.

MGP boss Gary McNabb said WGA had threatened to sue the New Zealand company for US$6m.

"They have no grounds at all in law to sue us. Our contract with them – which is under Swiss jurisdiction – says that if they don't perform, they have to return all our funds to us immediately."

The reports that WGA was nothing more than a front for elaborate scam have been circulating for months. That didn't stop Mr Serepisos. To the best of our knowledge his cheque from WGA hasn't arrived in the mail yet, and now it looks as though it won't.

Doubtless this revelation will lead to further action in moves to liquidate some of Serepisos' companies. We only hope that funding is in place for the Wellington Phoenix, whose season is not too far away.

Ask Matt too...

The lead story on the Herald's website this morning is of financial irregularities at Auckland University of Technology. Jonathan Kirkpatrick, a former Anglican minister, gay rights advocate and former partner of Tim Barnett, the former MP for Christchurch Central has had his assets frozen by the Court, and is likely to face a police investigation. A sum of around $500,000 is reported to be involved.

The Herald story carries a photograph of Kirkpatrick either opening or closing the door of his home, and the body of the story includes this line:

Mr Kirkpatrick, too, refused to comment when approached at his Mt Roskill home yesterday. "I'm not going to talk to you," he said.

Now, this is a matter of public interest, and the Herald has attempted to obtain comment from the man who is allegedly in the frame for the disappearance of a large sum of money. That's what journalists do.

Why then has no Herald journalist gone to visit Matt McCarten at Unite Union's offices, and asked him to comment on the apparent disappearance of well over $250,000 which was owed to the Inland Revenue Department but not paid over an 18-month period? Surely that is a matter of public interest as well.

We know that some journalists have been trying; one tweeted to us yesterday that McCarten was not answering phone calls or returning e-mails. But the Herald's silence is deafening. Could it have anything to do with the fact that McCarten writes a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday?

We've made it easy for them; we've already drafted a list of questions which could be asked. So come on Herald journo's; let's see a photo of a defensive Matt McCarten on the website tomorrow, telling you to get lost. Better still, we might even get an answer from McCarten as to why it's ok for a union not to pass on tax collected on behalf of its staff.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another double Standard

Over at The Standard (we looked in from outside; our comments aren't wanted there), Irish Bill has again brought up his favourite hoary chestnut; John Key's choice of holiday locations. He blogs:

A classic from stuff:

Prime Minister John Key said the Government had had very little room to move on the economy.
”The public recognises that the rest of the world isn’t in great shape and so New Zealand is having to contend with that global environment,” he said.

Most people would look at the tough global environment and cut the Government a bit of slack, he said.

Key is holidaying in Hawaii after a trip through the United States last week, where he met with President Barack Obama and a string of top American officials.

What is it with these guys? The green-eyed monster is alive and well over there, and the commenters are having a field day with comments such as these:

  • Afewknowthetruth 1.3

    It wouldn’t be so bad if Shonkey just took a holiday. The problem is, life is a continuous holiday for him. He just goes from one piss-up/luncheon /entertainment to the next and never actually does anything useful in dealing with the planetary emergency we are engulfed in.

  • Marjorie Dawe 2 Thank goodness our government books were in such good condition when the Nats took over. We spent 9 years paying back the previous accumulation of debt after 1999.
    It allowed our celebrated dicKey to take a holiday almost immediately on winning the election as well. The world is on the brink of a meltdown and his plans done change do they. I would have to agree with Afewknowthetruth as life is one long holiday.
  • Kaplan 1.2 Actually I read it is a critique of john, yet again, shrugging his shoulders and saying we can’t help you*. The fact that he is choosing to make this announcement from his Hawaiian holiday home really just helps to illustrate the depths of his ignorance towards the general public

If it wasn't so repetitive and boring, this obsession with John Key and his holidays, it might almost be funny. But on this occasion, their double Standard is showing; while Key holidays in Hawaii with his family on his way back from his trip to the United States, a very senior Labour MP (who we will not name) is on holiday in Bali. That, of course, doesn't upset Irish Bill one iota, because it's obviously ok when his side does it.

Actually, the more we think about it, being banned at The Standard isn't such a bad thing after all.

Questions for Matt McCarten

We blogged a couple of weeks ago about the hypocrisy of Matt McCarten opining about tax rorts for the rich when he was a tax rorter himself. Stuff has a very interesting story, which shows that McCarten and Unite's rorting is even worse than first thought; check this out:

Inland Revenue is chasing unionist Matt McCarten's Unite Support Services for $150,750 in unpaid taxes after the department forced the company into liquidation last month.

McCarten's vehicle, which supplied administrative support services to the youth-orientated union Unite, was put into liquidation by a High Court order last month after the IRD pursued it for "failure to provide for taxation," according to the first liquidator's report.

The Official Assignee rated the prospect of a dividend as "unlikely," and is looking into the company's possible interest in an Onehunga building lease, the report said.

The liquidator will contact McCarten to verify Unite Support Services' interest in the building, which may have outstanding arrears owed on the lease.

IRD is seeking almost $4000 costs, $97,000 in a preferential claim and a further $49,800 as an unsecured creditor with proof of debt.

The Unite union assigned an interest in a lease and the provision of educational activities to McCarten's company, according to its 2009 financial statements, the latest lodged with the Companies Office. The union has the right to take action against McCarten's company if there's a default on the lease agreement.

The union ran afoul of the IRD after failing to pay tax on revenue accrued between October 2007 and March 2009. After racking up $134,000 in unpaid tax, it agreed to repay that at a rate of $8000 a month.

Now we knew about the $134,000 debt, and the $8000 per month payment deal that Unite union has negotiated. But to learn that Unite Social Services Limited, for whom McCarten is listed as the sole director was somewhat shocking.

For McCarten, his union and his company to have have incurred debts to the IRD of well in excess of a quarter of a million dollars is outrageous. And the story above confirms that this was a systematic rorting of the tax system, running from October 2007 to March 2009; more on that later.

So we have some questions for Matt McCarten:

  • How many staff members did Unite Union and Unite Social Services Limited employ?
  • How much of the money owing to IRD was PAYE, deducted at source from employees and held in trust?
  • How much of the money owing to IRD was for Student Loan deductions from employees?
  • How much of the money owing to IRD was for Kiwisaver deductions from employees, and employer deductions for Kiwisaver?
  • Who was responsible for making payments to IRD?
  • Who made the decision to withhold payments to IRD, and is that person still an employee of Unite Union or Unite Social Services Limited, or an office-holder of either of the aforementioned?
Last but not least, and noticing the dates during which payments to IRD were systematically withheld, here are some final questions:

  • Was the money owing to IRD used for other activities?
  • How much of the money withheld and owing to IRD was used for Unite union campaigns or publicity?
  • How much of the money withheld and owing to IRD was used for any activities in any way related to the 2008 General Election?
  • What donations of money, time and/or resources were made to political parties in the period October 2007 to March 2009, and which parties were the beneficiaries of donations from Unite Union or Unite Social Services Limited?

And lastly:

  • What would Unite Union and Matt McCarten's reaction be if an emploer employing staff who are members of Unite Union withheld payments to the IRD totalling more than $250,000, and for a period of eighten months?

Now we don't expect to get any answers from Matt McCarten, or from any officer of the Unite Union. But maybe, just maybe, someone in the MSM will contact McCarten, and pose a list of similar questions.

Matt McCarten bleats long and loud about rat-bag employers ripping off their staff. The manner in which Unite Union and Unite Social Services Limited has systematically ripped off every taxpayer in New Zealand, but especially its own staff should be wisely publicised and strongly condemned.

A very significant poll

The Fairfax Media - Research International poll is out, and for context, we'll quote the very last line first:

The Fairfax Media-Research International poll was conducted between July 21 and July 25 and surveyed 1004 eligible voters. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Yes, dear readers. This is the first poll taken wholly since Labour released the details (such as they are, eh Trevor) of its proposed Capital Gains Tax. The "game-changer" as Phil Goff described the tax package is anything but; here's the carnage:

Time is running out for Labour and Phil Goff 17 weeks out from the election as a new Fairfax Media-Research International Poll shows the party staring down the barrel at its worst result in 15 years.

National continues its extraordinary run of popularity in today's poll, recording 56 per cent support – enough to comfortably govern alone if the results were repeated on election night in November.

Labour is on 29 per cent support – within a whisker of its worst result under MMP in 1996, when it won just 28.19 per cent of the vote.

The results will be a blow to Labour, which was pinning its hopes on a proposal for a capital gains tax on investment properties proving a game-changer in the election campaign. But on today's poll – the first since Labour released the details of its tax package – it appears to have had no impact or may even have weakened the party's support.

On those figures, Labour would lose five of its sitting MPs, including three of its rising stars, Stuart Nash, Kelvin Davis and Carmel Sepuloni.

The damage would be worse if it were not for five Labour MPs retiring at the next election.

Translated into seats in Parliament, National would have a monster voting bloc of 71 MPs.

Oh dear! And the results are no better for Goff on a personal level; read on:

It shows that Mr Key remains hugely popular with voters, recording 53 per cent support as preferred prime minister over just 6 per cent who prefer Mr Goff.

Labour is taking the results on the chin. Mr Goff was unwell last night, but a spokesman said it was clear that Labour needed to "get out and sell our alternative vision" of keeping the country's assets and making everyone pay their fair share of tax.

But of big concern to Labour is the party's continuing failure to woo back female voters who have deserted Labour for National under Mr Key.

With Helen Clark as Labour leader, female voters were the party's secret weapon but National now polls as strongly among female voters as it does among males.

The message is clear from this poll; it doesn't matter how much MP's and activists "get out and sell our alternative vision"; the public isn't listening. No-one wants to hear what Labour has to say; the phone is, as they say in the classics, off the hook.

This poll will be a huge b;ow to all those who were expecting a bounce for Labour. Last week's Roy Morgan poll gave them a glimmer of hope, but Fairfax's post-tax announcement poll was well and truly dashed those hopes.

Where to now? Does Labour accept that defeat is inevitable, and try to limit the damage under Phil Goff, or will this be the poll that leads to a change in the leadership? We guess that the answer to that question lies with the likes of Stuart Nash, Kelvin Davis and Carmel Sepuloni, who on these numbers will be joining the job queue in December.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Of Gareth and the deal-or-no-deal Greens

Only National, Act and United Future do deals in smoke-filled rooms to exploit MMP. We know that, because the Greens keep telling us, and does the Labour Party. It must be true too, because the Lord Mayor of Riverton, Robert Guyton said on this very blog just a couple of weeks ago:

The general public believes, quite rightly, that the Greens are clean, don't play the unscrupulous games the other parties play and, while they might be a bit 'overly-sincere and excitable', are good people.

OK; the sarcastic bit is over, and tongue has been extracted from cheek. The Greens and Labour are trying for all they're worth to dismiss talk of a deal in Ohariu, but they're fooling no-one. Under the headline Calling BS on the Greens' "deal", John Hartevelt blogs:

The Green Party has taken great offence at the suggestion they are tied up in some kind of agreement with Labour in the Ohariu electorate.

Co-leader Metiria Turei told off the media via Twitter for not getting their side of the story before pushing what the party is now calling "rumours'' of a deal in Ohariu. The party insists there is no deal with Labour. Rather, there is some convoluted position whereby Greens candidate Gareth Hughes doesn't tell people to vote for him or for Labour's Charles Chauvel ... but he does say that incumbent Peter Dunne is a dinosaur and ought to go; that the Greens are concentrating on the party vote; AND that, by the way, they reckon Mr Chauvel is really rather great. Ahem, wink wink, nudge nudge.

Well frankly, I call BS on the Greens' position.

The Greens love to think of themselves as whiter than white. They don't engage in those grubby political shenanigans like the others.

They make a great performance out of criticising and poking fun at other parties playing the system. One of Hughes' defences, for instance, is to point at the deals being done by National and its partners in Epsom and Ohariu as much grubbier than anything they're up to.

But the only difference is that National and its partners are being more open with people about what they want to achieve. Spelling out to voters what they want might annoy some people, but trying to tell it via smoke signals must be worse.

Hartevelt is absolutely right on the money here. The Greens are big on talking about their principles, but sometimes they don't walk the talk; and this is one of those times. Their actions here, which they are trying to distance themselves from are excatly what they have been criticising National and its support parties for.

John Hartevelt concludes:

The fact is, the Greens have a golden opportunity to help replace a centre-right MP they don't like with a leftie liberal who is much, much more to their liking. Hughes is a much higher-profile candidate in Ohariu this time around and he could get a lot further than in 2008 in helping get Chauvel over the line in a race against the Dunne/National bloc.

Hughes and his Green mates need to man up and say what they want. Forget stuffing around with the semantics of "formal approaches'' to Labour, or whatever. Just make it crystal clear to Ohariu voters what's on the line and what they can do about it. They are a party that has gained more out of the MMP system than any other. They probably have the most nuanced understanding of any party about MMP. But they're being wimps.

Someone send the Greens a memo: we're not playing tiddly-winks here.

Dead right. Gareth Hughes and the Green Party need to stop the shadow-boxing here, as do Phil Goff and Charles Chauvel. The contest in Ohariu will be between Chauvel and Dunne, and Hughes and Katrina Shanks will be mere bit players. So let's stop the charade.

The bottom line is this; NO Green Party candidate in ANY electorate wants your candidate vote, so a vote for a Green Party candidate is a wasted vote. And you'd better think carefully before giving the Green Party your party vote either; without winning any electorates (because they don't want to), the Greens will need to get over the 5% thresh-hold to return to Parliament, and if they don't, your party vote might be wasted as well!

Now, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that we won't be voting for the Green Party in any form. The "principles" they boast about go out the window when they indulge in the most basic misinformation as they have in this case. The mere fact that the Greens are doing deals to exploit MMP, but are denying that they are doing deals is another argument to Vote for Change in November's referendum.

Is Damien in trouble?

Damien O'Connor is a bit of a maverick MP. When he made his "gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists" comment after Labour's party list was released, it was clear that he had alienated himself from a large chunk of Labour's caucus. He earned himself a rebuke from his leader, although O'Connor himself may be one of Phil Goff's few supporters in the Labour caucus.

But we don't know what has prompted this outburst on Red Alert last night - he blogs:

I thought we lived in a free democracy. Since when did a sign become illegal when expressing an opinion or encouraging people to act? Does this ban all signs at marches that may in any way be linked to a movement or political party. The EC needs to pull their heads in. This is not the 1930s in Europe.

This is really odd. In blogging this cryptic post, O'Connor has raised far more questions than he has answered. Obviously, something has gone down at the Electoral Commission (EC). What could it be?

Has there been a complaint to the Electoral Commission about Damien O'Connor? Has the Electoral Commission referred more alleged breaches of electoral advertising to the Police to investigate? Or perhaps the Police officers investigating the complaint referred to them by the Electoral Commission have made a decision, and the Labour Party is about to be prosecuted.

And O'Connor's not alone in his criticism of the Electoral Commission; Clare Curran has commented:

Hope the Electoral Commission is reading this. Is this what our democracy has come to?

I agree with you Damien

Well; here's the kicker. It was the LABOUR Party which passed the insidious Electoral Finance Act. Long-time readers will remember that Keeping Stock originally came into being because of our oppsition to Labour's attempts to limit free speech in election years.

But wait; there's more. Labour voted FOR the repeal of the Electoral Finance Act, and FOR the replacement legislation, which was advanced by Justice Minister Simon Power.

That inconvenient little fact diminishes Labour's online bleat. Had Labour opposed tighter restrictions on electoral advertising, O'Connor and Curran might have a point. But Labour didn't, and so they don't

And that, dear readers, is called the Law of Unintended Consequences. Labour is hoist by its own petard, and seems to believe that it is above both the law that it created, and the replacement law it supported.

Another Global Warming casualty

It was Wellington's turn to fall victim to Global Warming yesterday. Not only did snow fall in places where snow isn't supposed to fall, but a new and unwanted record was created; the Dom-Post reports (with our emphasis added):

Kiwis nationwide hunkered down while the coldest day of the year to date brought power blackouts, travel chaos and soaring firewood sales.

Temperatures plummeted throughout New Zealand yesterday, falling to minus 6 degrees Celsius in Tekapo and Stratford, while Canterbury experienced a blizzard.

MetService forecaster Micky Malivuk said yesterday was Wellington's coldest since records began in the 1940s.

At 11am, it was 4.4C in Kelburn, 4.1C in Lower Hutt and 3.9C in Upper Hutt.

And Christchurch wasn't far behind, nor the Queen City:

Christchurch's maximum temperature yesterday was 1.9C, the second-coldest since a 1.2C day in 1918.

Auckland had its fifth-coldest day on record yesterday.

We're not surprised that yesterday was such a record-breaking day. We flicked in and out of the Metservice's Wanganui page with some frequency yesterday, and ironically, the day's highest temperature was reached around 9pm last night when the mercury hit 7.9*! For most of the day the temperature here was somewhere in the 6* band, although at one point we felt a chill, and the thermometer dropped to 4.9* in a matter of minutes.

Doubtless the climate scientists and warmists will have an excuse for yesterday's cold snap. We remain unconvinced however that man is solely responsible for climate patterns, which have of course been changing since Creation. But nothing will change the fact that yesterday was bloody cold!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Not good enough Phil

Phil Goff made a song and dance last week about the alleged Israeli spy scandal. "Nobody tells me anything" he lamented. It was an allegation he's repeated several times since then, as recently as this morning, when TVNZ reported:

Labour leader Phil Goff denies he was briefed on the SIS investigation into suspicions that Israeli backpackers were spying in Christchurch.

Goff is furious over the Prime Minister's entire handling of the affair, including claims yesterday that the Labour leader was kept in the loop.

Goff insists he was not briefed before, during or after the investigation and says he has texted the head of the SIS to complain about John Key's comments.

Key told TVNZ's Q A programme yesterday: "I personally didn't brief him, but my understanding from the director of SIS, Warren Tucker, is that he was briefed and he was shown the same note and report that I saw."

Goff told The Dominion Post that Key was wrong.

"I have not received that report, I have not seen any report, I was not aware of the allegations," Goff said.

Now if the allegations made by Phil Goff were true, he'd have grounds for complaint. The problem for Phil though is that his allegations AREN'T true. Goff as much as conceded that at his press conference this afternoon, although you have to read quite a way down this Stuff story for confirmation. Here are the words which hang Phil Goff out to dry:

Goff was angry that Key claimed he was briefed on the investigation. After hearing Key's remark, Goff contacted SIS director Warren Tucker for a ''please explain''.

Tucker told him he had ''flicked the issue past him'' during a regular meeting with Goff in March. The pair meet every eight weeks. Goff said he couldn't recall the matter being discussed in the meeting, which occurred a week to a fortnight from the quakes.

Goff said he was shown one of three documents about the investigation this morning, but wouldn't discuss its contents.

''The head of the Security Intelligence Service said he flicked the issue past me and said there wasn't much to it,'' Goff said.

''He 'didn't dwell on it', was his comments.

''If there had been anything of substance said to me I'm sure I would recollect it.''

Oh dear. Phil Goff has impugned a number of reputations over the last few days. He essentially accused the SIS Director of failing in his legally-required duty to brief Goff. He essentially accused John Key of lying when Key claimed that Goff had been briefed by the SIS chief. But the reputation he has impugned the most is his own.

Make no mistake; this is a serious stuff-up by Phil Goff. "A week to a fortnight after the quakes" puts this issue right into the timeframe when Darren Hughes had his little problem. Whilst we can understand that Phil Goff might have been preoccupied at the time, this memory lapse is inexcusable. Last week's Roy Morgan poll might have bought Phil Goff some time, but this stuff-up shines the spotlight right back on Labour's leadership.

A chilly Caption Contest

It's bitterly cold here this afternoon. We've had sleety showers and hail on and off throughout the day, the southerly wind is howling in now, Antarctic style, and if the temperature got to 7*, it didn't stay there for long. As we type this it's 5.8*, or -1* when wind-chill is factored in. No snow though; that's a bit of a disappointment!

The brain has been a bit frigid too today, and from comments we've seen around the place, we're not alone in that. So let's try to warm up the grey matter; have a look at this photo that we filched from Twitter, and give it your best shot.

You know the rules; rip into it!

Pizza Wars

The Herald on Sunday reported yesterday that Hell Pizza had wormed out of paying money to charity; the story began thus:

Hell pizza refused to pay $10,000 the company had pledged to Telethon - after the company's boss asked workmates for advice about how they could avoid paying the "dorks".

Warren Powell initially agreed that Hell would pay the sum to the KidsCan charity in exchange for "exposure" at the Viaduct headquarters of the Big Night In Telethon in 2009.

Suppliers including Goodman Fielder and Red Bull donated boxes of supplies to the company and Hell staff were asked to volunteer their time for the event.

But after seeing reports that some of the money raised was failing to reach needy children, Powell reneged on the deal, says Julie Helson, chief executive of KidsCan.

Helson said Hell Pizza used negative reports about the charity as an excuse to not pay what it owed.

"He reneged on it and they just didn't pay up," she said. "We got nothing.

"Powell was so rude to us, he was filthy, really derogatory."

Hell Pizza has built its reputation on very edgy marketing. On this one though, the Hell Pizza people have well and truly shot themselves in the foot. Yesterday the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter were alive with people condemning Hell Pizza's penny-pinching, and pledging their loyalty elsewhere.

And in the ambush marketing coup of the year, a competitor has responded; read on:

Domino's Pizza last night pledged $10,000 to children's charity KidsCan to fill the void left when a competitor, Hell Pizza, reportedly refused to pay the sum it promised to donate during a telethon.

Hell Pizza director Warren Powell initially agreed that Hell would donate the sum to the KidsCan charity in 2009.

However, KidsCan chief executive Julie Helson said Mr Powell "reneged" on the deal after seeing reports that some of the money raised failed to reach needy children.

Domino's NZ general manager Josh Kilimnik said last night that his company was stepping in because it was "the right thing to do".

Now, we're quite partial to a slice of pizza now and then, and on occasions, we've even been known to eat several slices! We don't have a Hell Pizza branch in Wanganui, which is good for them, because if we did, they would be losing our custom. We do have a Domino's Pizza outlet whoever, and given that no pland have yet been made for dinner this evening, we might just have to go and give them some of our dosh.

Well done Domino's for doing the right thing by KidsCan. Meanwhile Hell Pizza might reflect on deadly sin #3; greed!

Kiwi Wins Tour

Yes, yes, an Aussie took home the Yellow Jersey, but if you persevered long enough through the presentations, then you will have seen Julian Dean and his Garmin-Cervelo squad collect the team prize – bloody well done, that man. For the record, joking aside etc, I am breaking the habit of a lifetime and cheering that Aussie victory – it’s just this once though, ok.

It’s a been a fascinating and exciting last week of the race, the Schlecks threw everything they had at putting Andy on the top step but had to settle for being the first brothers ever to share the podium. Andy Schleck’s escape on the Col d’Izoard for victory at Galibier will go down as one of the tour’s great exploits but Evans taking his own destiny in his hands and pulling the younger Schleck back to a mere 2 minute gain as he chased his tiring opponent up the final climb will have its own place in legend. Cadel has well and truly put the jibes about “never attacking” and being a “wheel-sucker” to rest this year.

Contador’s never-say-die defence of his crown turned the boos of derision at the pre-race presentation of the teams , into cheers of admiration on the slopes of Alp d’Huez – how fickle we sports tragic are. France as a nation will be cheered as they have followed the efforts of Voeckler to retain the lead with the unearthing of a new talent in his team mate Rolland who took home the white Young Riders jersey. The French have a similar relationship with the Tour as the Brits do with Wimbledon…although their drought only extends from 1985, their search goes on.

Another, less official, record set was George Hincapie’s “greatest domestique” effort of aiding his 9th team-mate to yellow (Armstrong’s 7 wins, Contador and now Evans) although to most, his varicose veins will be more familiar than his face. He also equaled the record number of tour starts of 16 this year, and will surely be back next year to take that record outright.

Finally a first Green Jersey for Mark Cavendish and Great Britain. Racking up his 20th stage win in four starts on the Champs this morning ensures his place in history as well. By comparison the great Robbie McEwan only managed 12 wins in his career. Cav’s Highroad team are without a sponsor for next year but with the way he racks up the wins, I’m doubting that situation will continue for long, rumours of a move to Sky are probably just Pommie wishful –thinking.

So that’s it for another year, the only question that remains to be answered is: Will Julia Gillard announce a public holiday to attempt to distract from her Carbon Tax troubles celebrate Cadel’s win?