Monday, October 31, 2011

Home safe and sound

Bula! We're home from a fabulous extended weekend in Fiji. And the weather that greeted us when we got home around tea-time wasn't too much of a shock to the system!

It was our first-ever visit to Fiji, but it's definitely not going to be our last; we absolutely loved it. The weather was warm, the cocktails were icy-cold, and the people were wonderfully friendly and helpful.

OK; we went to the tourist zone (Denerau Island), and the drive there from Nadi Airport isn't exactly scenic. But to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, rumours of Fiji's demise have been greatly exaggerated. We read in the paper yesterday that in July this year Fiji topped 70,000 tourists in a month for the first time ever. The tourists are flocking there, and the money they are spending is providing thousands of jobs for Fijians; that has to be good for the local economy.

Visiting somewhere that's in the same time-zone as New Zealand is great too, and the New Zealand dollar goes quite a distance in Fiji. We've even become rather partial to Fiji Bitter!

The challenge will be getting up tomorrow morning and heading to work with enthusiasm for the day ahead, but a good night's sleep will do wonders. But politics and other mundane things will have to wait until tomorrow, when normal blogging will resume.

Homeward bound...

Our self-imposed exile from the world has, by necessity, to come to an end today, and we're on our way home.

We've had a great break away; it's been just what the Doctor ordered, quite literally. Both SWMBO and ourselves hadn't realised until we stopped just how we've pushed things this year. Neither of us is getting any younger, and whilst the plan for the last couple of years has been to ease off a bit, we haven't yet found the right balance. These last few days have been very therapeutic though.

But needs must, and we've got deadlines to meet at work tomorrow. We should have time to blog a little when we get home to our whare this afternoon, so stay tuned.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Christian Music Sunday - 30 October 2011

We can't believe that there's barely two months of 2011 left; the year has literally vanished before our eyes.

But it's been a significant year for us with a number of changes on the work front, and a move to a new whare in the country where ther beauty and wonder of God's creation is all around us from sunrise to sunset, and in the starry evenings.

So it's that which we celebrate this morning; the vivid greens on the trees and new life springs forth, the blossoms in the orchard, and the young animals on the farms we overlook. It'll be summer soon enough, and then the new life of spring will be but a distant memory; for the moment we give the glory to the One whose hand designed it all:

Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It ain't half hot!

We're sitting in a cafe at the moment under cover and under a fan, but the heat is still smothering. But the cafe has free WIFI, so a bit of discomfort is worth it.

Our little excursion is going well, and relaxation is at the top of our list of priorities. To walk into our air-conditioned room is bliss; views of the sea are a bonus. We 're eating far too much, and the cocktail at sunset last night was bliss.

Right; enough about us; SWMBO has a shopping itch that needs scratching, and we know not to stand between her and retail therapy. We may blog again before we head home; then again we mightn't. We might just be too relaxed!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Friday Forum - 28 October 2011

It's Friday again, and another weekend beckons. It's also just four weeks and one day until New Zealand goes to the polls.

So feel free to talk politics today, if the mood takes you. If you'd rather talk about something else, that's all good too!

The floor is yours; all we ask is that you treat one another with a modicum of decency...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lighter blogging ahead...

The last few months have passed in a bit of a blur. Notwithstanding the distraction of the Rugby World Cup, we've had a few challenges to face on the work front, but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

But in the meantime we're dropping out of the rat race for a few days, and along with She Who Must Be Obeyed, we are taking the opportunity to get away, and freshen up physically and mentally.

We've got a few posts pre-loaded, and if we end up near a wireless connection, we might have something to say on any burning issue that takes our fancy. Other than that, it'll be largely a diet of lighter blogging for a few days.

We'll be home some time on Monday, after which normal business should resumed in the run-up to the election. But right now, we have a plane to catch; what a shame about our carbon footprints!

The A Team Caption Contest

One of the things we enjoyed about RWC2011 was the preponderance of amusing photoshopped images, of which the image below was but one.

We didn't want to tempt fate by publishing this one before the RWC final, but now that "Bill" is safely in New Zealand's custody until 2015, we can. You know the rules; keep 'em brief, pithy and amusing, stick to the topic, and don't get nasty, because this is a time for celebration!

Let your imagination run wild this morning...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get that thermal camera to Aotea Square!

We've just been sent a link to a most amusing story; check this out:

These are the damning images that prove the anti-capitalist protest that has closed St Paul’s Cathedral is all but deserted at night.

Footage from a thermal imaging camera taken late at night reveals just a fraction of the makeshift camp was occupied.

An independent thermal imaging company, commissioned by the Daily Mail, captured these pictures after similar footage from a police helicopter found only one in ten tents were occupied after dark.

And here's the damning evidence:

Who would have ever thought that Occupy protesters would be deceitful? We wonder now if the rumours we've heard about very low occupancy rates at Aotea Square overnight have a similar basis; that the supposed occupiers are only going to occupy during the day.

And there's Len Brown's solution; a dawn raid. It would seem that he would certainly meet the path of least resistance!

Who pays?

Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer has posted the above photo on Facebook, and writes:

At thousands of ratepayers' dollars a day, a team of security guards now stand around the perimeter of the Aotea Square occupation 24/7. I presume its to protect the "non-violent" occupiers but then again councillors have been told the public doesn't care about the occupation so it's weird that the site is now being so heavily guarded. Also at ratepayers' expense is a 2m high perimeter fence that has been hired and now keeps the public out and provides a good wall for the occupiers to put their banners on. For those wanting to go freedom camping, this is now the safest spot in NZ!

So who's paying for this? Surely, it's not a cost that the ratepayers of Auckland should have to bear. And why has a team of security guards been deployed?

Given Matt McCarten's pronouncement at the weekend that the occupiers now plan to stay until the election on 26 November, it's time that Len Brown took some decisive action. There are strong suggestions that most of the tents at Aotea Square are unoccupied at night, which makes it something of a Clayton's occupation; clearly many of the "99%" prefer the creature comforts of home instead of roughing it for the cause, which really dilutes the value of the protest.

So come on Len; far, far less than 1% of your ratepayers are occupying Aotea Square; why should the 99% plus be having to pay for what is essentially a political protest masterminded by the unions, the Mana Party and the Greens. End it now Len.

No launch for Labour

We're not quite sure what to make of this; the Herald reports:

The Labour Party has broken from tradition by deciding not to have an official campaign launch this year.

It will instead mark the start of its campaign in a low-key way - with a policy announcement on savings to media tomorrow in its own caucus room.

The decision not to have a launch event is unusual - the events are considered to provide valuable media and television coverage of a leader speaking to an audience of supporters in the lead up to the election.

The National Party will hold its event on Sunday in Auckland and is expected to focus on Prime Minister John Key.

By contrast, Mr Goff does not feature on any of the party billboards although he does front most of the television advertisements.

Campaign spokesman Grant Robertson said the party wanted to focus its campaign on the policy differences between the parties, rather than a popularity contest.

Is this a tacit acknowledgement by the Labour Party that Phil Goff is unelectable as leader? Or is it perhaps a sign that Phil Goff is not going to figure much post-26 November?

Whatever the explanation, it seems highly odd that Labour has canned its campaign opening. And Grant Robertson is at least candid about the task Labour faces:

He denied it was an attempt to keep Mr Goff - who is struggling to poll well as preferred Prime Minister - out of the public eye. He said Mr Goff was in the television advertisements and would be in the leaders' debates.

"I think everybody can see John Key is an extremely popular Prime Minister. But we want New Zealanders to know they've got a clear choice here, and it's a clear choice about policies."

We agree; there IS a clear choice about policies. Voters can choose between National's less-is-more approach, and see the economy return to surplus in 2014-15. Or they can choose Labour's borrow-and-hope policies, most of which are uncosted, and see the record deficit for the 2011-12 financial year exponentially exceeded over the next three years at least.

And in the meantime, we think that there's every chance that the phrase "We're not trying to keep Phil out of the public eye" will appear on a certain brand of beer's iconic billboards.

Judge for yourself

Did French rugby centre Aurelian Rougerie head-butt and then eye-gouge Richie McCaw late in the match on Sunday night? Watch this video closely, then make your own mind up. We've made our decision:

The time for a citing may or may not have expired, but surely the IRB cannot ignore this blatant incident of foul play.

UPDATE: The deadline of 10.45pm last night has come and gone, but there has been no citing in the Rougerie case. Aurelian Rougerie's act of foul play will go unpunished, whilst the IRB gets in a lather and fines France for crossing the half-way line during the All Black haka. It would seem that Will Carling's 57 old farts are still in control of rugby.

TVNZ's stuff-up

TVNZ caused an online frenzy last night. Sometime around 9.30pm, a Breaking News ticker appeared on the screen as you see below:

That set social media sites, especially Twitter abuzz. There was such a rush of speculation that Maritime New Zealand had to issue a statement advising that the Rena was still in one piece, and that salvage work was continuing at full speed.

TVNZ has since put this down to a "technical error", but technical errors of that nature don't happen without human help. Regardless of who stuffed up, it's poor form by TVNZ; there is considerable angst over the fate of the Rena, where salvors are working in dangerous and cramped conditions. Quite simply, TVNZ jumped the shark.

On a brighter note, more than half of the 1300 tonnes of oil on Rena have now been pumped off. We have nothing but admiration for those who are battling to prevent further environmental catastrophe off the Bay of Plenty coastline.

Hat-tip (for the image): Whaleoil

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is David Parker in strife?

David "Happy Feet" Farrar gave Labour leadership aspirant and Epsom candidate David Parker the chance of a lifetime. The author of New Zealand's most widely read blog allowed Parker to compose a guest post, which was published on Saturday.

Unfortunately for Parker, he chose to include in his post an allegation against the Act Party, the Sensible Sentencing Trust and former Act MP David Garret. We will not repeat the allegation, but Farrar has already added a disclaimer to the post, presumably to innoculate himself from legal fallout. And the Act Party, the SST and Garrett have all given categorical denials of Parker's accusation.

And it's gone a step further; the Sensible Sentencing Trust has today issued this media statement:

It could be a very expensive election for Labour MP and Epsom candidate David Parker after he has been caught out telling lies and faces possible defamation action.

As a guest commentator on Kiwi Blog under the heading 'What’s going on in Epsom' Mr Parker stated that the Sensible Sentencing Trust had made a large donation to the Act Party in exchange for Trust lawyer, David Garrett, being appointed Act's law and order Spokesman at No. 5 on the list.

Mr Parker's allegations may be found here at Kiwiblog.

Sensible Sentencing Trust Spokesman, Garth McVicar said the Trust had never made a financial donation to Act or any other political party.

"The Trust has many thousands of supporters throughout New Zealand and I imagine many of them will be very concerned to think their donations may be given to a political party."

"I would like to take this opportunity to assure our supporters that the Trust is strictly non-aligned and not one cent of donations has ever been given to any political party."

“Mr Parker's allegations are untrue and damaging to the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

"As Founder and Spokesman of Sensible Sentencing Trust I believe his comments to be a personal attack on my integrity and honesty."

"I have asked our lawyers for a legal opinion on taking proceedings against Mr Parker".

It hasn't been a good day for Labour today as far as the Epsom election race goes. We will be watching with interest to see whether Parker does the pragmatic thing, unconditionally withdraws an allegation which has been denied by all those involved, and apologises. If he does not, it may be a costly lesson for him, both financially and in terms of losing the opportunity to form a government if National does indeed have Act as a potential coalition partner because of the attacks on the party and on John Banks.

PREFU released

The Pre-Election Economic and Financial Update (PREFU) has been released this afternoon, and whilst the situation is far from healthy, there is some positive news; the Herald reports:

The government's growth forecasts for the next five years are largely unchanged in its pre-election update from the May budget, though the latest bout of global jitters has thrown up a number of risks if the world economy goes pear-shaped.

The Treasury has kept its estimate the government's books will return to an operating surplus by 2015, even as gross domestic product grows more slowly than earlier expectations.

Finance Minister Bill English told a media briefing in Wellington that comes down to a clamp down on Crown expenditure, lower interest rates, and a pick-up in employment likely to reduce transfer payments by more, even as tax revenue fails to improve as fast as forecast.

"Government spending is just beginning to fall as a percentage of GDP, and our external liabilities, the most significant vulnerability, has fallen from 85 percent of GDP to 70 percent," English said. "By international standards it's still too high and it will take some time to get down to satisfactory levels."

The smoother track of Treasury's forecast will help allay fears last month's double downgrade of New Zealand's sovereign credit rating derailed the country's economic recovery, which has been putting a lot of stock in the delayed Christchurch rebuild effort.

This year's PREFU is a significant improvement on that delivered in 2008, when the phrase "A Decade of Deficits" entered the lexicon. The economy was already heading into recession at the time of the PREFU, and Audrey Young from the Herald had signalled back at the time of the 2008 Budget that all was not well; she wrote at the time:

The cupboard is almost bare and that is the way Michael Cullen planned the 2008 Budget.

He has delivered a Budget that offers a little of something for almost everyone but his biggest gift is to National - an election-year headache.

There is so little cash left to play with, $1.75 billion, that National will have little headroom to make attractive tax promises without saying what funding commitments Labour has made it will scrap.

That is what Michael Cullen promised and that is what he has delivered. The $1.75 billion isn't real either because $750 million of it was earmarked for health long ago.

Phil Goff's revealing comments this week showed that Labour is into legacy politics and this is a legacy Budget - a legacy to National. It will make it harder for National to win and if it does win, it will make it harder to govern.

Labour MP's constantly pepper Bill English with Questions for Oral Answer trying to emphasis what a prudent custodian of the public purse Dr Cullen had been. PREFU 2008 was Michael Cullen's parting shot to New Zealanders.

And whilst what English has presented to the electorate today isn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination, it shows an economy on track to return to surplus in the 2014-15 financial year.

The cost of rebuilding Christchurch is forecast to rise further; it's now expected to top $20 billion. That is a huge cost for New Zealand, but it is a cost that simply must be borne.

Let the 2011 election campaign begin, now that the books have been opened; Ruth Richardson's enduring legacy to New Zealand. Labour and the Greens need to be challenged on where the billions of dollars in unfunded policies already announced will come from, because there is simply no money for extravagant policies, promises and inducements.

Owe your future

Here's a website we're looking forward to...

Although it might not be coming that soon; there are a lot of Phil's promises to add up!

The Epsom battleground

Labour has recognised the strategic importance of the Epsom seat in next month's election. It's taken them a while, and it may not be refelcted in their choice of a candidate beaten in the last two electorate contests elsewhere, but the gloves are off.

This morning's Herald reports on an apparent dirty tricks campaign against Act candidate John Banks; check this out:

Allegations of a dirty tricks campaign against ACT's Epsom candidate John Banks are rife and the blame is being laid at Labour's feet.

Pamphlets are circling highlighting past comments made by Mr Banks, including anti-homosexuality and racist ideas.

Right-wing bloggers say it's all part of nasty campaign tactics by Labour.

But Mr Banks, who's trailing behind the National candidate, isn't letting it bother him.

"I've been around public life for 33 years and 14 elections, nothing much upsets me."

Labour's Phil Goff denies any knowledge of the allegations.

"I don't know anything about that at all, the Act Party is suffering in Epsom not because of any dirty tricks campaign but because people believe that ACT has nothing to offer New Zealand."

Once again the Herald is just getting around to reporting a story that has been in the blogosphere since Friday. Whaleoil had the scoop then.

But there's a real irony to this; Labour is trying to pigeon-hole John Banks on the basis of comments he made as far back as the late 1970's. Does that then make other MPs' comments of similar or slightly more recent vintage fair game?

Yes; this may end up as something of an own goal for Labour, and especially for it's leader and his deputy. Because if they're going to make a fuss of comments that John Banks made in the late 1970's, ought we not take an interest in policy decisions made by politicians in the mid-to-late 1980's for example?

Alert readers may remember a lengthy post we did back in June on the vexed subject of asset sales. In it, we listed the 17 assets sold by a Labour government between 1987 and 1990, for a total sum of $9.49 billion dollars (in 1980's value). This was not partial privatisation; these were wholesale sell-offs, often at significantly less than commercial prices. Phil Goff was a member of the Cabinet that voted for these sales; every single one of them. Even had he opposed them on a personal level, he is bound by the concept of collective Cabinet responsibility. And he was joined at the Cabinet table after the 1987 election by Annette King.

Now the 1980's have long passed, and we know only too well that Phil Goff has recanted his former adherence to the economic direction of Sir Roger Douglas. But if the Labour Party is going to try and hold John Banks accountable for comments he made over 30 years ago, Phil Goff and Annette King must be prepared to be held accountable for decisions made at the Cabinet table ten years later. We know that it's an issue that Labour is acutely sensitive about; it was a dig at Phil Goff's past record on asset sales that lead to us becoming persona non grata at Red Alert just a month ago.

Labour cannot have it both ways. And given that Labour's key electoral plank this year is its opposition to partial privatisation of state assets, you cannot help but wonder which strategic mastermind left the door open for people's past statements and decisions to be put under the microscope.

Hypocrisy much?

If you'd been reading The Standard yesterday, you could be excused for thinking that John Key had leapt onto the stage at Eden Park on Sunday night, comandeered the microphone, and claimed the credit not only for the All Blacks' win but for anything and everything else you could name. The vitriol from a few commenters was revealing.

And so we waited with interest to see similar condemnation of Len Brown, who unlike the three-to-a-ute All Blacks, had a ute to himself in Auckland's amazing parade yesterday. It will be a long wait, we suspect!

And we doubt, had they seen them, that there would be any condemnation of Phil Goff, Jacinda Ardern, Carol Beaumont and Carmel Sepuloni, who proudly posed for photographs among the throng:

Now we don't have a problem at all with Phil and his friends showing their colours. But let's have some balance here; on, hang on; we're talking about The Standard after all...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reflections on a remarkable evening

It's only 14 hours since the Webb Ellis Cup was presented to Richie McCaw, but in some ways it seems much longer. We've slept; briefly. We've been out for brunch; blotting paper food was the order of the day! We've done some chores; now we feel ready for a sleep, except we have friends coming for an early BBQ tea.

But what a magnificent occasion last night was on so many levels. More than 61,000 people packed Eden Park; tens of thousands more squeezed into fanzones and bars, whilst parties were taking place up and down the country. The TV viewership figures were just under 2 million; take into account all of the above, and it's likely that close to 3 million people in New Zealand alone watched last night's RWC final.

And what a game it was. The French, to their credit were magnifique. From their challenge to the haka iuntil those desperate last few minutes they played with heart and passion. They defended stoutly, and took the All Blacks on in every facet of the game. Some will say that the All Blacks played poorly; we would argue that the French caused them to play poorly. Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy led a splendid French forward effort, but they were only able to crack a lion-hearted All Black defence once.

On the other hand, the All Blacks were anything but fluent, suffocated by a stout French defensive effort. Piri Weepu had a night to forget, but he can be forgiven; his deeds the previous two matcheshad played a pivotal role in getting the All Blacks through to the final. Richie McCaw and Kieran Read were a match for their French counterparts, and Brad Thorn was simply Brad Thorn. To see the hard man of All Black rugby in tears at the end of the match was surprising, but his tank was empty. Graham Henry said earlier in the season that the All Blacks needed to learn how to "win ugly"; on the basis of last night's performance, the teacher did a masterful job.

And there were two special heroes off the bench. Stephen Donald proved us wrong when he replaced Aaron Cruden in the first half, and Ali Williams put aside the fancy-Dan stuff, and played his best 25 minutes of the year, grafting in the tight with his locking mate, and knocking over any Frenchman who came in his direction.

The last ten minutes seemed like an eternity, but when the French turned the ball over with four minutes to go, we gave thanks for the presence of so many Crusaders on the field; the ball was held tight, and the clock was run down as the French tried desperately and unsuccessfully to steal it back. We watched the match on Sky and recorded the Maori TV coverage which we watched this morning. And we swear; the last ten minutes on replay was every bit as tense as it was in real time!

And then the final whistle sounded, and how the All Blacks celebrated. The French were noble in defeat, and the All Blacks gracious in victory. What a night it was.

We went out for brunch this morning, and everywhere we went, people looked shattered but happy. We doubt that many will have late nights tonight. And as we type this, the Victory Parade in Auckland is about to begin, with enormous crowds lining Queen Street on a stunning Auckland afternoon.

In the last six weeks, we've lost some of our shyness, and we seem to be learning how to celebrate success; that's great, because we're much better at tearing our achievers down than celebrating their achievements.

What an amazing 24 hours it has been; let's just hope that we don't have to wait another 24 years to celebrate a third RWC victory.

The best yet?

South Africa set the standard in Rugby World Cup hosting in 1995. The Rainbow Nation was little more than a year on from the historic democratic elections which propelled Nelson Mandela and the ANC to power, and the celebrations were huge when Joel Stransky broke New Zealanders' hearts with an extra-time drop goal.

The 2003 tournament in Australia wasn't bad either, although it would have been far better had the NZRU not made a hash of the co-hosting rights, and been sidelined.

There's never been a really successful RWC tournament in the Northern Hemisphere. The main factor there is that matches have been spread around so much that there has been no continuity, and no central focus point.

There was surprise and disappointment when the 2011 tournament was awarded to New Zealand. But the IRB's decision has been fully vindicated by what we believe has been far and away the best RWC tournament yet. There are all sorts of reasons behind the success of the tournament, but we reckon it's primarily becuase the tournament has been played in one country, and that it has been played in a country with a strong rugby heritage.

New Zealanders embraced RWC2011; that 15,000 people would turn out in Palmerston North to watch rugby powerhouses Georgia play Romania would have been unthinakble a couple of months ago. But it happened; the city supported one side, and the surroubnding district supported the other, and a third of the crowd wore red or yellow buckets on their heads! That was just one of a number of remarkable scenes from RWC2011.

We have no doubt that RWC2011 has been the best tournament yet. New Zealand has lived and breathed rugby since early September. Visitors from overseas have come here in their thousands. And the All Blacks have emerged victorious, under immense pressure from the Stadium of Four Million and from themselves.

We hope that the IRB has noted that a small, passionate country can host an outstanding RWC tournament for them. RWC2011 should be the template for future events.

Not everyone's happy though...

The All Blacks had a magnificent, if ugly win in the Rugby World Cup final, but of course not everyone's happy:

To use that immortal line from one of our all-time fave movies, Monty Python's Life of Brian:

There's no pleasin' some people.

On the other hand, Whaleoil has a great suggestion; today is ALL BLACKS DAY! We have no problem agreeing with that!!

What a difference...

What a difference four years and a Rugby World Cup victory makes:



Well done Ted and Richie; you deserve the spoils of victory!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


NewZealand 8; France 7

New Zealand has won the Rugby World Cup! At the start of this season, Graham Henry said the All Blacks had to learn to win ugly. He must be a great teacher!

We'll have a full look at the match in the morning as a beer awaits right now. But they hung tough and didn't choke against a magnifique France.

Have a big night guys; you've earned a blowout! You are now the World Champions, and nothing can ever take that mantle away.

Christian Music Sunday Encore - 23 October 2011

Because this is a very special day, and because we can, here's a second CMS thread today; a song from Delirious, the title of which says everything about today; Now is the Time

Now is the time for the All Blacks to silence the critics. May tonight be an unforgettable night, for all the right reasons.

Christian Music Sunday Special - 23 October 2011

Brad Thorn plays his 59th and final test match for New Zealand tonight, bringing down the curtain on an incredible international career. Since his debut for the Brisbane Broncos in 1994, he has played more than 370 matches of top-level football, be it rugby league or rugby. He's won NRL Premierships, State of Origin, Super Rugby and Tri-Nations titles. But there's one gap in his resume.

Brad Thorn is a hard man, a hard trainer, and the consummate professional athlete. At 36, he still plays with the enthusiasm of a much younger man. In this story from the Daily Telegraph in Australia, he is lauded by his former coach and mentor Wayne Bennett; a rare accolade indeed.

But there's another side to Brad Thorn; he's a follower of Jesus. He became a Christian after acknowledging an emptiness in his life despite having all the trappings of success. His faith isn't of the "out there" variety, but it is what shapes him as a man, as a husband and father, and as an athlete. He is a man of integrity; never better displayed than when he turned down an All Black call-up in 2001 because he wasn't sure he could commit to rugby.

Fourtunately for Thorn and for New Zealand, he was given another chance, and is now the rock of the All Black scrum. He is a man of few words but huge deeds, and is a "strong tower" in the team. That made today's song choice a no-brainer!!

Brad Thorn is off to Japan after RWC2011; a nest egg awaits him, and the chance to set his young family up for life after rugby; who would begrudge him this opportunity? We wish him God speed.

The RWC Final previewed

RWC2011 has been an outrageous success. Despite the protestations of the naysayers, the ticket revenue target has been exceeded, and before Friday's play-off match, more than 1.35 million people had attended matches around the country.

But that all counts for nowt tonight. The final is a one-off, winner-takes-all match, and as a friend of many years standing is wont to say "There's no second prize in a gun-fight". Graham Henry, Steve Hansen, Wayne Smith and Richie McCaw have invested eight years of their lives in eighty minutes of rugby tonight.

The All Blacks start as hot favourites, and interestingly, there has been no attempt to try and paint any alternative scenario. That's because the All Blacks deserve to start as favourites; they were clinical and relentless against Australia, whereas the French, in feline terms, used up several of their lives in scraping home against a 14-man Welsh team.

Much has been made of the French having an advantage over the All Blacks at RWC time. That's not entirely so; sure, we lost to them in 1999 and 2007, but we beat them in the 1987 final, and again just four weeks ago; both times by 20 points. And we don't see the 2011 vintage of Les Bleu having anywhere near the panache of the 1999 French team.

That is not to say that France will not be competitive. They have a hardened forward pack, and an excellent loose trio. But so does New Zealand. Tony Woodcock has played a lot of rugby in RWC2011, and has got better with every minute. Owen Franks has likewise peaked, and Keven Mealamu played what we believed was his best-ever test match last Sunday; he was outstanding. Brad Thorn will be keen to make his 59th and final test a memorable one, and Sam Whitelock's athleticism is a real asset. And as good as France's loose forward trio may be, the combination of Read, Kaino and McCaw is the best in the world at present.

But it is in the backs where we reckon the All Blacks have an advantage. The dual halfback combination of Yachvili and Parra is competent, but we simply believe that from there out, the All Blacks are man-for-man better. The French midfield combination of Mermoz and Rougerie could be their Achilles heel, and the All Blacks breached the French at will in their pool match. Cory Jane played out of his skin against Australia, and Israel Dagg has been electric on attack throughout the tournament.

New Zealand should win this match, and could win well. But coulds and shoulds count for nothing in a sudden-death match. The All Blacks will need to be mentally strong, and to be confident without being complacent tonight. A start similar to that which they gave against Australia would be ideal, if not essential.

It's fair to say that this is the most anticipated rugby match ever in New Zealand; even moreso than that wonderful day on 20 June 1987. Eden Park will be packed with more than 60,000 fans, most of whom will be clad in black. Everything points to history repeating tonight, but there's always that nagging doubt. Let's hope that Henry and co can have this All Black side finely tuned tonight both physically and mentally, and that all those years of frustration and pain can be consigned to the bin.

Go the All Blacks; make it happen.

The build-up continues - Game Day!

After 24 years, four months and three days (but who's counting?), the time for a second Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand has arrived. New Zealand and France go head to head at Eden Park tonight at 9pm.

We won't be at tonight's match, but close friends will be. But we were at Eden Park on 20 June 1987, and it was an afternoon that we will never forget. We were able to get a ticket through the local rugby union because of our involvement in the sport, and we jumped at the chance. We sat on the terraces at the Cricket Avenue end of the ground, perhaps ten rows from the front. When Michael Jones scored the All Blacks' first try, it was right in front of us.

It was a cool winter's afternoon, fine for the most part but punctuated by a shower or two. Because it was almost the shortest day of 1987, the sun was low behind the western stand, and our visibility of the two second half tries was limited. There were of course no big screens in 1987, so we had to wait until we got home the next day to watch them on video.

At the end of the match, the crowd streamed onto the field to watch the presentation of the Webb Ellis Cup, ourselves included. We watched as David Kirk kissed the cup, then had to drag a reluctant Andy Dalton out to share it. Dalton of course did a hamstring in training for the opening match, and even though he was the captain of the All Black squad, he did not play in the tournament; his loss was Sean Fitzpatrick's gain.

From there we adjourned to the Referees clubrooms in the No 4 stand at Eden Park, now the ASB Stand for a celebratory drink or two. It was packed with revellers such as ourselves.

We remember that day as though it were yesterday; we were there to see the All Blacks create history and become the first holders of Bill, otherwise known as the Webb Ellis Cup. 24 years, four months and three days on, it's time for history to repeat.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Get well soon Quade

We're not great fans of Kiwi-Aussie first five-eighth Quade Cooper, although we do acknowledge that he has some silky skills going forward. But it gave us no pleasure whatsoever to see him drop like a stone last night with what seems to be a serious knee injury.

RWC 2011 hasn't been kind to Cooper. He came into the tournament having been luck, in our opinion not to be suspended for a knee to Richie McCaw's head. That made him the tournament's bad guy. His luck deserted him in both the quarter and semi-finals, and completely ran out last night. He tried a big step on a Welsh opponent, and his knee went from underneath him without a hand being laid on him.

It was an ironic exit, but given the tournament that Cooper has had, not entirely inappropriate. And to its credit, the Eden Park crowd gave him a sympathetic reception as he was helped from the field in obvious distress.

Quade Cooper faces a lengthy lay-off, and is likely to miss most of the next Super Rugby season. We hope that he has a smooth recovery from what is reported as an anterior cruciate ligament rupture. Perhaps he could spend some of his rehabilitation time reading up on how to tackle, which would make him a far more complete footballer.

Kia kaha Quade.

Thanks a bunch Mr Gosche

Mark Gosche held a number of ministerial posts during the first term of the Clark administration. He resigned as a minister in 2002 due to his wife being seriously ill. We actually met him personally around five years ago when as local MP, he deputised for one of his ministerial colleagues opening a conference we attended, and he seemed like a thoroughly pleasant bloke.

But unfortunately, a decision he made as Minister of Transport has come back to haunt us; Clio Francis from Stuff reports:

The government fund that will help pay for the Rena clean-up has been purposefully depleted for years after it was decided there were too few oil spills to warrant its large balance.

A leading maritime academic has called the decision to reduce the fund "foolish and shortsighted" and said successive governments had placed little priority on the maritime environment.

The Oil Pollution Fund – made up from levies collected from the maritime and oil industry – is expected to be almost completely drained in the Rena clean-up.

A decade ago, the Oil Pollution Fund contained about $12 million but now totals only $4m after a decision was made by then transport minister Mark Gosche to draw the account down. The purpose of the fund is to have sufficient cash rapidly available in case of an oil spill and all ships over 24m long or weighing more than 100 tonnes must contribute. What they pay is decided by the gross tonnage of the ship and not their "threat" level – an issue currently subject to review.

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand executive director John Pfahlert said the total revenue collected by the fund had been cut about 10 years ago because of the few oil spills in New Zealand.

A 2010 Maritime NZ review of the levy said of the past decision to deplete the fund: "It was decided the level of reserves was too high and that an active programme should be established to reduce the reserves. It is timely to review the levy to ensure it represents an efficient, effective and equitable way of collecting revenue for the OPF and to consider the future ramifications of under-recovery on the OPF."

Oh dear; so at a time when Labour and Green MP's are accusing National of stuff-ups over the Rena stranding, we discover a skeleton in Labour's closet.

And with the benefit of hindsight, Mr Gosche's decision has been lambasted; read on:

Auckland University associate professor and maritime law expert Paul Myburgh said New Zealand had never faced such a serious oil pollution incident as the Rena.

"Given the reality of maritime limitation of liability, it is inevitable that governments will always have to cover a portion of the clean-up costs and consequential economic consequences of a spill. That is why we levy the industry in the first place."

It had been "a foolish and shortsighted decision" to reduce the levy, he said.

The sum of money involved is relatively small, but there's an important principle at stake here; the fund should never have been drawn down and not fully replenished on the basis that an oil spill might not have happened. When that kind of attitude is taken, you can almost guarantee that Murphy is just around the corner.

We hope that this fund is the subject of an immediate review by the current Minister of Transport, and that such a laissez-faire attitude as that revealed from the former Minister is quickly consigned to the history books.

Breaking news...

There's been a significant earthquake near Raoul Island, north-east of New Zealand. And a tsunami advisory has been issued.

It's early days yet, and it will hopefully come to nowt. But the Japanese and Boxing Day tsunamis are still fresh in our consciousness, so it's best to be aware.

Watch this space; we'll update with any news.

UPDATE: Here's the latest from Civil Defence...

UPDATE II: The tsunami advisory has been cancelled; good news for the Rena salvors!

Martin Snedden writes...

The Herald has published an open letter from Martin Snedden to the people of New Zealand. Because it's an open letter, and because we can, we're reproducing it in full here, with our own comments to follow. Snedden writes:

We set out to make people happy and proud. I think we've achieved that.

It's been a really tough last 12 months for New Zealand. The magnitude of the Christchurch disaster and the complexity of the road to recovery have knocked us all. Pike River added to our sadness. On top of that, the economic recession has lasted long and bitten deeper than any of us expected. We've grieved for those directly affected by these events and worried about our country's future.

Rugby World Cup 2011 hasn't solved the problems but it has given us some fantastic relief at a time when we needed some form of escape. Our collective efforts have given us just cause to be proud of who we are and, most importantly, to start smiling again. The nation's morale has lifted.

Our thousands of guests have sensed our mood and responded brilliantly, adding rich colour and flavour to this celebration of our national game and our country. We owe them heaps.

Maybe the All Blacks will win tomorrow, maybe they won't. I fervently hope they do but, regardless, New Zealand's hosting effort will be rightly regarded as a huge success.

The key to that is how people genuinely embraced the notion that great hosting is about taking care of guests first and placing our own needs second.

The atmosphere in every stadium has been magical. One day we would discover our Irish heritage, next day we'd become Welsh. What on earth would international TV viewers watching the Georgia versus Romania game have made of so many spectators at that match wearing red or yellow buckets on their heads?

Maybe we've been a bit crazy at times, but we were convincing enough at both Eden Park and Otago Stadium for Brian O'Driscoll to truly believe tens of thousands of Irishmen had made the long trek to New Zealand to support his team. The reality was that it was mostly us Kiwis who had taken his men to our hearts.

Every community throughout New Zealand that's had responsibility for hosting a slice of the cup has done so selflessly and with great passion. The Real New Zealand Festival and the showcasing initiatives led by the NZ 2011 Office have been a great success, broadening our focus well beyond rugby to enable thousands of non-rugby Kiwis to enjoy and contribute to the tournament.

Let's celebrate the key role Auckland has played in encouraging people to embrace the tournament. There were some major issues on opening night but Rachael Dacy and her Auckland team have done a great job igniting a vibrant and united city that Aucklanders have long craved. The waterfront, the Fan Trail to Eden Park, the street flags and bunting, the wonderful school projects, all of these and much more helped enormously give this event its mojo.

Some said the "stadium of 4 million" concept was fanciful, unachievable. Thankfully, most Kiwis preferred to take up our challenge.

The success of this event truly belongs to the people of New Zealand. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you. New Zealand's triumph is rightfully yours to savour.

We've long been admirers of Martin Snedden since we first met him in the 1980's when he played cricket for Auckland against our beloved Central Districts in Palmerston North. And we actually saw his first-class cricket debut, against the touring English team at Eden Park in 1978. It's fitting that Eden Park will be the venue for the climax of Snedden's role as CEO of Rugby New Zealand 2011; it's a venue with which he and his family are intertwined.

After a distinguished playing career, Snedden became CEO of New Zealand Cricket in 2001. Among the issues he had to confront were the bomb blast in Karachi, and the threatened player strike over contracts; both resolved, to everyone's satisfaction. When he left NZC to take up his current role in 2007 we were sure of one thing; RWC2011 would not fail because it was not well organised.

Martin Snedden has been outstanding as RWC CEO. We would hope that is recognised by Her Majesty the Queen at some point; Sir Martin Snedden would be a worthy title. He's now hinted at a return to cricket, and with an ICC World Cup taking place in New Zealand and Australia in 2015, one wouldn't bet against Snedden having a pivotal role.

So as Martin Snedden thanks New Zealand, we take this opportunity to congratulate him and his team on an outstanding tournament; they have done New Zealand proud.

The build-up continues - 22/10/2011

As we sit at our laptop and listen to sound of the rain on the roof this morning, it's just under 39 hours until kick-off in the RWC2011 final between New Zealand and France; but who's counting. This is indeed a memorable moment for rugby in New Zealand, and for New Zealand as a whole. So we doubt that you'll be surprised to hear that most of our focus this weekend will be on things to do with the oval ball.

Australia won the bronze medal last night, but it wasn't a match that will linger long in the memory. Wales was flattered by the 21-18 scoreline, inflated by a converted try in injury time. Both teams tried hard, but one almost sensed that their hearts weren't quite in it. Still, more than 53,000 people trekked to Eden Park to watch the match.

And it was confirmed yesterday that RWC organisers achieved their target for ticket sales; that's great news given the current economic environment. Sure; the government underwrote a $39m deficit, but we understand that doesn't take into account GST revenue, and the GST on almost $270m of ticket sales is around $40m. Add to that the GST component of every beer, every hotdog and punnet of chips and every night's accomodation during RWC, plus the tax on the fuel for all those motor homes we've seen on the roads, and Bill English will be pleased with the additional tax revenue.

And lastly a photograph we've held back until late in RWC2011. Even in places where the RWC circus didn't pitch a tent, New Zealanders have embraced the tournament. The home below is in Carlton Avenue in Wanganui; on the main road through the city, and seen by anyone travelling through; we pass it by most days. It's been decorated like this since before the USA Eagles spent time preparing in the River City way back in early September; check this out:

Well done to the owners of this home, and the thousands of others who have taken the time to dress up their homes, their cars and themselves and get into the party spirit. Sure; there are still a few naysayers; that was always going to be the case. But the claims that New Zealand would be a "Stadium of Four Million" have been well and truly realised, and New Zealand has turned on far and away the best Rugby World Cup tournament yet.

47 games down; and just the one that matters remains; Go All Blacks!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why are they still there Len?

We received a copy of a letter today. Penned by Auckland councillor George Wood, it's addressed to Auckland mayor Len Brown, and it raises a very valid question; why are the Occupy Auckland protesters being allowed to remain in Aotea Square when their "occupation" is in contravention of Auckland bylaws, and therefore illegal?

Here is the letter, reproduced with Cr Wood's permission:

We share Cr Wood's concern that an apparently illegal occupation of council land is being countenanced by the Mayor of Auckland and his CEO. It's even worse now, given that Aotea Square has been designated as a Fanzone for Sunday night's RWC final. The potential for public disorder has just got a whole lot greater. Is Len Brown prepared to take responsibility for that if things turn ugly?

So the question needs to be asked; why is an occupation that both the Mayor and his CEO concede is illegal not being shut down by the council, and by the Auckland police? We're wondering if the reason is political; after all, Len Brown received a lot of support from the unions in last year's election campaign, and from the Unite union in particular; and the Unite union is instrumental in organising the Occupy Auckland protest.

It would seem that Len Brown's loyalties are greater to those who campaigned for his election
than to the citizens of Auckland. Is that good enough?

Thanks Sir Butch, to be fair...

The legend of the Mad Butcher, Sir Peter Leitch will grow just a little more with the official opening of his latest gift to New Zealand; the Herald reports:

A billionaire and a Kangaroo paid tribute to New Zealand's maddest league fan, Sir Peter Leitch, at the opening of his sports museum in Manurewa yesterday.

Housed in a Holmes Rd coolstore - a nod to his Mad Butcher roots - and another building, it's a museum like no other.

Supporters enjoying a beer checked out the memorabilia - heavily rugby league-influenced, but also holding tributes to motor-racing great Stirling Moss, squash legend Dame Susan Devoy, Olympic shot-put champion Valerie Adams, rugby union and boxing - that Sir Peter has collected over decades.

He was his usual colourful and very loud self, even jokingly yelling at a mate: "Don't f****ing touch anything or you'll be asked to leave."

Prime Minister John Key, philanthropist Owen Glenn, Australian league great Andrew "Joey" Johns, Warriors coach Bluey McLennan, Rugby Union chief Steve Tew, Kiwis Monty Bentham and Logan Swann were among the politicians and friends present.

Sir Butch has gathered together an amazing array of sporting memorabilia over the years, and it's fantatstic that he is now putting it on show for sports enthusiasts to see. We'll certainly be visiting when next we're in Auckland.

And league great Johns (who is assisting the Warriors next year) paid a special tribute:

"I remember running into this [guy] in 1995, and thinking, 'Who is this madman? Over 16 years - it doesn't matter he's been knighted and sold his businesses and made some money - he's still the same person. That's what I love about him."

Johns paid tribute to Sir Peter's charity work, singling out the way he'd raised cash and flown a large number of Christchurch fans up to Auckland for a Vodafone Warriors game as a break from their earthquake-devastated city.

"It's what the Butcher does; he cares about people and he's giving back to the community. He's a special person."

Joey Johns is, to use league lingo, dead-set right about Sir Butch; he is a giver. And another former friend of the Labour Party also had his say; read on:

Mr Glenn said every country needed a Mad Butcher, and former Kiwis coach Graham Lowe said the museum was an excellent asset for the area.

Sir Peter said he hoped the museum would become a top tourist attraction in Auckland. "This belongs to New Zealanders, they own this. I've bequeathed the whole thing - the contents - to New Zealanders."

But it wasn't for boffins, he said; instead it was for the everyday person.

The picture above should really tell the Labour Party just how far they've fallen from their roots and their core constituency; the average New Zealander. By refusing to vote against Winston Peters when the motion to censure him went before Parliament in 2008, Labour effectively called Owen Glenn a liar, preferring Peters' version of events to that of Mr Glenn, despite the fact that Glenn was Labour's biggest financial backer. Now Labour MP's have turned on Sir Peter, despite his generosity of spirit. That saddens us deeply.

It hasn't deterred Sir Peter Leitch though from ensuring his collection stays in this country. For that we should all be very grateful, to be fair.

Thanks a whole bunch Sir Butch!

A fourth editorial...

As is it wasn't bad enough having the daily newspapers in Aucklnad, Wellington and Christchurch dissing its Work and Wages policy, Labour has taken another hit this morning.

Dunedin is a Labour stronghold; it always has been, and it probably always will be, for reasons that we can't quite fathom. But the good citizens of Dunedin awoke to an editorial from the esteemed Otago Daily Times yesterday that will give Clare Curran (MP for Dunedin South) and Dr David Clark (candidate for Dunedin North) a severe case of dyspepsia. The ODT leader writer opines:

In an ideal world New Zealanders, particularly the lowest paid, would earn more money.

There would be more to spend, too, on hospitals and schools and other worthy services.

But legislating for higher wages - as Labour says it would if it became the next government - is counter- productive.

That is because basic economics means money has to be earned. Printing money, in effect what the United States has been doing of late, or forcing businesses to pay staff more cannot lead, long term, to either more jobs or higher wages.

The bottom line is New Zealand and New Zealand businesses, in a highly competitive world, have to be profitable. It is they and, particularly the taxes paid by the staff they employ, that earn the money to support public servants, benefits and public services.

The leader writer seems to have a pretty good grasp of his/her subject; you can't just make people richer by ordering someone else to pay for it with THEIR money. And it is upon that proposuition that Labour's Work and Wages policy fails.

But wait, as they say in the informercials; there's more and the writer isn't finished, drawing an analogy with Greece:

This fundamental truth has been fudged in the West for years, and we are all beginning to pay the price. Greece exemplifies the fool's paradise.

Inefficiencies and dislocation from economic rules have placed that nation on the brink of defaulting on its debts. In essence, what applies to individuals applies to nations. Everybody and every country has to earn their living.

Thus, the productive sector must be fostered rather than hindered, a matter most obvious in export businesses.

If they are uncompetitive they disappear because no-one buys their products. Likewise, competition in many domestic industries spurs a tough struggle for survival. All these businesses cannot afford profligacy or higher costs and must be effective and efficient.

It is all very well for Government, local government and state-supported organisations to be wasteful or to choose to pay "fairer" higher wages, but they are sheltered from the ultimate pressures of the marketplace.

Of course, that is not to also say there are not poor employers who do abuse or exploit staff, and systems and protections must be in place to ensure reasonable recompense and conditions.

And surely most of us feel unease at the reported salaries - some of which soar into the many millions of dollars a year - of some private enterprise CEOs and associated mandarins.

Labour's work and wages policy released this week, however, is likely only to undermine labour-market flexibility and therefore competitiveness.

Labour would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and abolish the 90-day trial period. It would have all holidays - not just most - that sometimes fall on a weekend transferred to Mondays and introduce statutory rights to redundancy and change pay equity legislation.

Every item, in its own way, will add costs to business which will, inevitably, mean higher prices to everyone.

We agree wholeheartedly with the opinions expressed by the leader writer. What Labour is proposing is a Utopian solution to a very complex problem for which there is no quick fix, as I believe that fellow blogger Robert Winter and we have agreed, although we come to that conclusion from perspectives which are poles apart.

Dragging New Zealand kicking and screaming back to the bad old days of the 1970's (when the Cooks and Stewards on the Cook Strait ferries would strike during school holidays because their chocolate biscuits had been withdrawn) is not the answer in our ever-humble opinion. Unions and business owners need to work together collaboratively to icrease the productivity and profitability of the workplace, because that, rather than government decrees is what will increase wages.

And despite that concerns of the trade union movement, there is no convincing evidence of widespread abuse of the 90-day trial period for new employers. If there was, you can bet your shirt that the unions would have been screaming it from the roof-tops. Sure; there are bad employers, but the overwhelming majority of employers are more concerned with making a bob than with renewing their workforce every 90 days. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of employers taking on staff who they would NOT have employed prior to the 90-day trial period becoming law.

This policy has the appearance of having been written by unions for the benefit of unions. Given that the unions remain as Labour's only significant financial backers, it's not surprising that Labour has repaid them in kind. But a trip back 35 years in terms of industrial relations is not what the New Zealand economy needs right now.

The Friday Forum - 21 October 2011

It's Friday again, and a long weekend beckons. For our friends in the Hawkes Bay, it's an even longer weekend being the province's Anniversary Weekend; lucky them!

So anyway, that means it's time for the Friday Forum; a place for general chat about whatever's pushing your buttons this morning, and we know that some people have buttons that get pushed more than others!

Welcome aboard; have your say; all we ask is a modicum of respect for one another's viewpoints. After all, it'd be a boring old world if we all saw things the same way. The floor is yours....

Consistency at last

It may have taken eight years, but at least we have consistency in All Black selection; here's the team for Sunday night's RWC final:

Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Adam Thomson, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams

There's just one change in the 22, where Adam Thompson predictably replaces Victor Vito on the bench. Other than that, it's a very settled looking team, especially in the forwards where the first-choice eight will play their third successive match together after Kieran Read's return from an ankle injury. And this week, there's been no mention of The Foot; we guess that Richie McCaw proved a point last Sunday.

This is a very, very good team. Around 11pm and Sunday night, we'll know if the 2011 All Blacks are a World Champion side.

Emmerson on Work and Wages

Rod Emmerson must have been reading the editorials yesterday on Labour's Work and Wages policy; he's even more cutting than the leader writers!

Further evidence of why we reckon that Emmerson is the best daily cartoonist in the land.

The build-up continues - 21/10/2011

As we type this, it's 63 hours until kick-off in rugby's biggest match for 2011; the Rugby World Cup final. We've got friends who are heading up to Auckland tomorrow, and we're not at all jealous; cue Tui billboard!

But first, there's the small matter of the play-off for third and fourth between Australia and Wales. It's the match that no-one wants to be a part of, but in 1987, it provided one of the most memorable matches. On a sunny June afternoon, Rotorua International Stadium was packed beyond capacity, and the crowd roared as Wales snatched a last-gasp 22-21 victory. Two days later, just before the kick-off in the RWC final, two young men carried a banner around Eden park, as you were able to do in those innocent days; it read:

The All Blacks came forth and conquered;
the Australians just came fourth

The All Black team is about to be named, but we'll cover that off seperately. The French have already named their side; the same one as beat Wales last Saturday. The conclusion of RWC2011 draws ever nearer...

Gaddafi dead

The BBC is reporting that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has been killed; the Herald has the breaking news:

Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled Libya with a dictatorial grip for 42 years until he was ousted by his own people in an uprising that turned into a bloody civil war, has been killed.

Revolutionary forces overwhelmed his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after his regime fell.

The 69-year-old Gaddafi is the first leader to be killed in the Arab Spring wave of popular uprisings that swept the Middle East, demanding the end of autocratic rulers and the establishment of greater democracy.

"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed," Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told a news conference in the capital Tripoli.

His death decisively ends a regime that had turned Libya into an international pariah and ran the oil-rich nation by the whims and brutality of its notoriously eccentric leader.

This is good news in terms of the chances of democracy finally being established in Libya. We suspect though that it will be a tortuous path.