Monday, April 30, 2012

Burnouts at the cemetery

There were reports last week of a number of boy racers being prosecuted for doing burnouts whilst en route to the Akatarawa Cemetery near Upper Hutt.

This afternoon, Stuff has released raw video footage of the alleged offending. And to be honest, it's pretty ugly stuff. See for yourself at this link.

The mother of the deceased young man is defending those being prosecuted; check this out:

Raw footage has emerged of boy racers doing burn outs during a funeral procession outside of a cemetery in Wellington.
The video posted on Facebook shows multiple cars with their wheels spinning so hot the road outside Akatarawa cemetery in Upper Hutt was shrouded in thick smoke.
The incident happened as mourners were making their way to the cemetery to bury Troy Kahui on March 12.
His mother Karen Kahui last week said the burnouts were a respectful, and safe sendoff for her 22-year-old son, who died from a heart condition.
''It was an appropriate sendoff for a person who was absolutely passionate about drift cars.''
However, police said the incident was the worst involving boy racers in the area in the past five years.
Hutt Valley area commander Inspector Mike Hill said the boy racers also performed burnouts about 100 metres from Birchville Primary School, caused disruptions to traffic in the city, and put the public in danger.
Their actions last month were disrespectful to people buried at the cemetery and intimidated families coming to visit their loved ones, Hill said.
''I'm not aware of anywhere in New Zealand culture where it's acceptable [to do burnouts] at a funeral or after a funeral or in and around a cemetery.
''It's a sacred place.''
Kahui today disagreed.
''It's not disrespectful.
''[At a funeral] you're supposed to be celebrating somone's life.
''That was his life.'' 

Firstly, we sympathise with Ms Kahui on the death of her son. But we cannot agree with her sentiments about celebrating his life. Celebrating someone's life ought not involve wilfully breaking the law, and intimidating members of the poublic going about their lawful business. Nor is it in any way honouring anyone doing burnouts through the gates of a public cemetery.

We don't know how many people are buried at Akatarawa, but we are pretty sure that there will be quite a few whose lives were cut short early by people doing stupid things in cars. Do their lives and deaths have so little meaning that a gang of young men with loud cars and big egos can shatter the peace of a sacred place?

Even if the deceased was a fan of fast cars and tyre smoke, there is a time and a place for everything. Outside and even into a cemetery, especially whilst other burials were in progress is neither, in our ever-humble opinion.

Even Emmerson can't resist...

We somehow missed this cartoon at the weekend. But even Rod Emmerson can't resist expressing an opinion on Labour's leadership "issues":

So much for this story just being a right-wing blog fantasy...

We can't help but wonder...

So former Labour Party president Mike Williams reckons that David Shearer's leadership is secure; 3 News reports:

He told 3 News Firstline this morning, that Mr Shearer has the support of the vast majority of Labour MPs.
"I rang around some caucus members yesterday… and there's no mood for change at the moment, I can tell you that."
Mr Williams says if Labour does decide to change leaders, again, it must do it by the end of the year - two years out from the next general election.

So we can't help but wonder; is this the same Mike Williams who rushed off to Melbourne in late October 2008 in the hope of finding incriminating evidence against John Key on the H Fee issue? History will record that Mike Williams came up short on that occasion, and soon after, the public kicked Labour to touch, being heartily sick of their gutter tactics.

If that Mike Willians and this Mike Williams are one and the same, we also can't help but wonder if Mike Williams is the right person at the moment to be expressing unconditional confidence in David Shearer's leadership.

Time to clean up ACC?

Having commenced legal agtion for defamation against Trevor Mallard, Andrew Little and Radio New Zealand, it seems that ACC Minister Judith Collins has a new challenge today; sorting out ACC. Phil Kitchin reports in the Dom-Post:

A recording of a critical meeting between senior ACC managers and the whistleblower who exposed a massive privacy breach reveals the corporation misled its minister and the public.
The corporation has alleged that client Bronwyn Pullar threatened at the meeting to go to the media unless she was given a guaranteed two-year benefit.
It also alleged she said that she would withhold details of the breach involving private details of 6500 other clients – including sexual abuse victims – if her demands were not met.
Once details of the privacy breach were revealed by The Dominion Post, the ACC referred its extortion allegations against Ms Pullar to police.
However, a recording of a key meeting in December between Ms Pullar, her support person Michelle Boag – a senior National Party figure – and two ACC managers is at odds with the corporation's claims that were included in a report ordered by ACC Minister Judith Collins.
The ACC was given a transcript of the meeting more than three weeks ago, but has refused to correct its report.
Ms Pullar said it was outrageous that, having been provided with the recording, the corporation was refusing to correct a "blatant lie" on a public report.
Before publishing the report, the corporation did not ask Ms Pullar or former National Party president Ms Boag for their account of what was said at the meeting. ACC also complained to police about the alleged extortion threat before completing its report. 

This muddies the waters further in the whole Bronwyn Pullar/Michelle Boag saga. But if the suggestions that ACC purposefully misled Judith Collins are true, it is something quite extraordinary.

We will await developments with interest, and Ms Collins is not the type to take these kinds of behaviours lying down. We suspect that there are going to be some searching and direct questions facing the ACC hierarchy today, and some frank talking from ACC's Minister.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Christian Music Sunday - 29 April 2012

We love this time of the year. From our whare on the hill, we get to see the sun rise and we get to see the sun set. And this week, as the "golden weather" drew to a close, there have been a couple of glorious sunsets, followed soon after by the sight of the new moon slowly disappearing over the horizon.

Those cosmic displays are a reminder to us of the awesome world that God created for His people to enjoy. But it's also a reminder that the same God yearns to be in relationship with us, and that's something we often struggle to get our head around. In fact you could say we're "amazed"!

So this song seems especially relevant today; from one of our favourite bands, Kutless:

May the God who created the heavens and the earth bless you mightly today and always.

Would you buy a used car...?

It just won't go away...

Sometimes in politics, stories take on a life and a momentum of their own. And the vexed question of David Shearer's leadership of the Labour Party is an example of that.

Since IrishBill blogged his concerns at The Standard ten days ago, it's been the politcal question on everyone's lips; how long has David Shearer got? Political journalists are openly posing questions now, and Tracy Watkins writes again on the subject this morning:

The left is divided over whether Labour's "unfortunate experiment" with David Shearer needs to end.
Some say Shearer has no leadership qualities, others that he is like Helen Clark early in her tenure.
Commentator Chris Trotter has labelled Shearer "the unfortunate experiment", saying he was wrong to support him. "He ain't anybody's kind of leader."
Academic Bryce Edwards agrees. "It's dragged on so long now that the honeymoon is over and there's nothing to show for it."
Speculation about Shearer's future was sparked by the departure of chief of staff Stuart Nash, known to have clashed with press secretary Fran Mold over the leader's low profile.
Nash's replacement is seen as an ally of deputy leader Grant Robertson, who is the leading contender to replace Shearer. Others touted are David Cunliffe, and former union boss Andrew Little. 

And although there are denials from within Labour, most of us who follow politics have been around long enough to be sceptical; read on:

Robertson yesterday reiterated he backed Shearer. "There is no truth to any rumour I am challenging him."
Cunliffe said he was "pissed off" at some of the speculation. "David is a good and decent leader who deserves a chance."
But Edwards said the speculation was "destabilising" and it was hard to imagine Shearer fighting to retain his role. "He's the sort of person who will quickly accept his fate."
Changing horses now risks reinforcing the view Labour is not ready to govern. 

This is indeed unfortunate for Labour. Parliament resumes on Tuesday, and the opposition should have the government on the run. But instead Mr Shearer will quite literally be looking to his right (Grant Robertson) and to his left (David Cunliffe) instead of across the foor of the House.

We think that it was the late Sir Robert Muldoon who made the comment about the enemies within your party being more dangerous than the enemies across the floor. As long as this issue drags on, Labour's effectiveness as an opposition will be blunted.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Random numbers

Here's a few numbers for those of you with a statistical bent:

1,095,968 - the number of people who party voted for Act, United Future or National in 2011

12,000 - the number of people who turned out to watch the Blues lose their eighth match of the Super Rugby season last night (sorry Blues fans)

9258 - the number of people who packed Vector Arena on Tuesday night to watch the Breakers win the ANBL championship

3500 - the number of people reported by RadioLive (4pm bulletin, 28/4/2012) to be on the Aotearoa Is Not For Sale hikoi in Auckland this afternoon. (Yes; even the woeful Blues drew nearly four times that number on a wet Friday night!)

61 - the number of votes that National, Act and United Future hold in the 121-seat 50th Parliament

60 - the number of votes that Labour, the Greens, NZ First, the Maori Party and the Mana Party hold in the 121-seat 50th Parliament

One - the majority, and therefore the mandate.

Yes indeed; politics is a numbers game all right. Where were the tens of thousands of protesters today? What happened to the predictions of this being the biggest hikoi ever?

Perhaps the opponents of the government's plans to sell a minority shareholding in a few state assets got their own numbers wrong. 

RIP Sir Fred Allen

We've just seen on Twitter the terribly sad news that one of New Zealand rugby's greatest servants has died. Sir Fred Allen is reported to have passed away overnight at the age of 92. Sir Fred had been suffering from leukaemia for several months.

The All Blacks website provides biographical details:

Fred Allen has had a long association with Auckland and Auckland rugby but actually hails from the South Island. Born in Oamaru he was educated in Christchurch and it was for Canterbury that he played his first representative rugby, for the Primary Schools side in 1933. Joining the Linwood club he helped them to championships in the under 18 grade (1936) and second grade (1937). Graduating to senior ranks in 1938 he captained Canterbury Colts that year, then was chosen for the full representative side 1939-41, captaining the side in some matches.

During World War II he served as a lieutenant in the 27th and 30th Battalions. He appeared for Services teams, both in New Zealand and overseas as well as representing Wellington and Waikato when back in New Zealand in 1944.

At war's end Allen was selected for the 2nd NZEF "Kiwis" Army team that made a wonderfully successful tour of Britain in 1945/6, playing entertaining rugby of a very high standard. Allen was one of the great successes of the tour, playing in 28 of the 38 matches (only Johnny Smith and Jim Sherratt played as many games). Tour commentator Winston McCarthy described him as "Absolutely immaculate in his football. He could sidestep off either foot, he had a turn of speed, he had good hands, he had a good head. He was a beautiful footballer."

Back in New Zealand Fred Allen represented Auckland (from the Grammar club) and went on to captain the All Blacks in the two test series against Australia in 1946. He toured Australia, again as captain, the following year, playing in six of the 10 matches, including both tests.

After trials in 1948 Allen was, as expected, appointed captain of the All Black side that toured South Africa in 1949. That series, though the tests were each very close, went to the Springboks 4 - 0, though the All Blacks scored the more tries. Allen, who shouldered much of the coaching on that tour, was affected by injuries and stood down from the final two test matches. He retired from serious rugby after the tour.

Turning to coaching Allen was remarkably successful He was selector-coach of Auckland 1957-63 when the province established a new Ranfurly Shield record tenure of 25 matches. An All Black selector 1964-65, he was coach from 1966 to 1968 when the team won all 14 tests played. And teams coached by "Fred the Needle" were not only successful, they played very attractive rugby.

No All Black coach in history has had or will have a success record comparable to Sir Fred's record. And until his death, he was the oldest surviving All Black. And even in recent years, he has had some sage advice for those who administer and coach the game in New Zealand.

To Sir Fred's family we extend our most sincere sympathy on his passing. He was a wonderful New Zealander, and his knighthood in June 2010 was richly deserved. We are unlikely to see his like again.

Rest peacefully Sir Fred, good and faithful servant.

UPDATE: The Herald backgrounds Sir Fred's knighthood:

Allen was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to rugby in 2010. He had previously been awarded an OBE in 1990.
The New Zealand Rugby Football Union awarded him the Steinlager Salver in 2002, and in 2005 he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
Allen's wife Norma passed away in September 2009, and his only regret in accepting the Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit was that she was not there to share it with him.
At the time of his award, John Key said: "This honour gives the people you have touched the chance to show their appreciation for your hard work, your dedication and your achievements. It also gives the New Zealand public the opportunity to recognise your efforts.
"On behalf of the government, my parliamentary colleagues and all New Zealanders, thank you."

Great news for the North

Northland is often seen as a province with more than its share of negative social statistics. So the North received some very welcome news yesterday; Stuff reports:

Refining New Zealand shareholders have given the final green light to a $365 million upgrade of the country's only oil refinery.
Until the annual general meeting in Whangarei this afternoon, the fate of the project was hanging in the balance.
The board had already approved the decision in February, but the sheer size of the investment meant shareholders had the final say.
There were concerns that some of the petrol giants who are the cornerstone shareholders would not support the proposal.
But after auditor PwC completed the official vote count, the result was positive - 64.5 per cent in favour.
The success of the resolution means construction of the Continuous Catalyst Regeneration (CCR) platformer, to be installed at Marsden Point, will kick off in 2014.
Once up and running, the CCR investment is expected to boost operating earnings by $60m, and increase shareholder dividends by 30 per cent.
The new platformer allows a wider range of crudes to be processed in a more efficient way, with energy-efficiency savings accounting for 70 per cent of the value.
The project is also expected to boost the Northland economy through the creation of 300 new jobs, with twice as many other roles created in supporting industries nationwide. 

This will be a terrific stimulus to Northland. It's an area of high unemployment, so any significant industrial development that provides job opportunities in both the construction phase and ongoing will be welcomed.

We have friends who do business in Whangarei. And one thing they are grateful for is the government's efforts to upgrade the highway between Auckland and their city. State Highway One north of Puhoi is not a great road, and desperately needs upgrading. Our friends tell us that there is much anger over the politicisation of their road and lifeline, and that Labour will never win an electorate in the north whilst it continues with patronising references to the Puhoi to Wellsford upgrade as the "Holiday Highway". For most Northland businesses, it is their key connector for getting goods in and out, and they hold the Labour and Green politicians who sneer in the utmost contempt.

So  it's good news for Northland on several fronts at the moment. And that's good news for New Zealand as a whole.

Perception is everything

Campbell Live did a pretty masterly hatchet job on Epsom MP John Banks last night, and the Herald has more information this morning:

Act leader John Banks asked for a $50,000 political donation to be split into two parts so it could be made anonymously, says Kim Dotcom and one other witness.
Dotcom said the request was made on April 15, 2010, when Mr Banks was preparing to campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.
He said there were at times three other people in the room while the donation was discussed - and Mr Banks rang later to thank him for it.
The allegation comes after police were asked to investigate Mr Banks' listing of a $15,000 donation from SkyCity as "anonymous".
Political candidates are required by law to declare donations if they know who made them. Failure to do so is punishable by up to two years' imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.
A vacancy is automatically created if any MP is convicted of an offence punishable by two years or more, no matter what punishment they get.
In the case of Mr Banks, a conviction would place at risk his Epsom seat under the Electoral Act and force a byelection. The loss would leave the Government exposed, with its 59 votes in the 121-seat Parliament supplemented only by United Future's one and the Maori Party's three.

Time will tell whether the allegations against Banks have any foundation. But in politics, perception is everything, and John Banks has a mountain to climb to rebuild the damage inflicted to his reputation last night. 

We don't know if the taped phone calls that Campbell played last night had been doctored, edited or enhanced in any way, but they portrayed Banks in a very unflattering light. And frankly, it is hard to believe that the MP couldn't remember whether Dotcom's helicopter had flown him from Mechanic's Bay to Coastville and return.

This story has, as they say in the trade, grown legs. We have little doubt tht there are political forces at play, especially given that Trevor Mallard was tweeting jubilantly last night before Campbell Live went to air:

Watch looks like they've got more on Banks. remember he is their majority for asset sales and selling our law 2casino bosses

But irrespective of that; if John Banks has failed to declare anonymous donations which he knew the source of, he has made a grave error of judgment for which he must take the consequences. We may be partisan in our political views, but that does not extend to giving a free pass to those who knowingly break the law. John Banks has some explaining to do.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The final chapter

We've kept an eye on the sad case of Sahara Baker-Koro; a young Wanganui-born girl killed and raped by her step-father. The final chapter of this tragedy played out today in the High Court in Napier today; Marty Sharpe from the Dom-Post reports :

Kerry Ratana has been sentenced to 16 and a half years' jail for killing and sexually violating his five-year-old step daughter Sahara Jayde Baker-Koro.
Ratana, 25, killed Sahara on December 20, 2010. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied a charge of sexual violation.
Ratana appeared before Justice Denis Clifford in the High Court in Napier this morning.
Justice Clifford imposed a minimum prison term of eight years and three months.
The court heard an emotional and tearful victim impact statement read by Sahara's paternal grandmother Karen Koro.
Mrs Koro said Sahara was a dearly loved daughter and grand-daughter who had an infectious laugh and "enough love for anyone who came into contact with her".
Ratana performed "a cowardly act" when he took her life, she said.
Mrs Koro said life would never be the same for her family and she hoped Ratana had had time in prison to reflect on his actions.
"We won't be able to hug her, kiss her, or tell her how much we love her," she said.
She said her husband was particularly distraught as he had been very close to Sahara, and the pair often spoke on telephone and would both cry when they had to say goodbye.
Ratana bowed his head and wept as she read, but later when Justice Clifford recited the facts concerning the sexual offending Ratana became agitated, shook his head and muttered "nup". 

We know this whanau, and that's the main reason why we have maintained an interest in the progress of the case. Sahara was, from all reports, full of life before her life was snuffed out by Kerry Ratana, her mother's boyfriend. Aged just five, she had her whole life ahead of her until the man that her mother had brought into their home committed the gravest of breaches of trust.

Ratana has repeatedly expressed his remorse. We wonder whether he's remorseful for taking Sahara's life (he still denies the sexual violation case, despite having nbeen found guilty by a jury), or whether he's remorseful because he's off to prison. Only God and Kerry Ratana know the answer to that. But this bit might give you a hint:

As Ratana was led out of the dock today, he lunged toward a Dominion Post reporter, picking up his laptop and punching it to the ground. He was then restained by four guards and led away, struggling.  

Our heartfelt prayers and aroha go out to the Koro, Baker and Ratana whanau, all of whom now have to live with the consequences of Kerry Ratana's brutality. But above all, we pray for eternal peace for Sahara, who deserved far better. 

Arohanui Sahara.

The Friday Forum - 27 April 2012

It's Friday again, and it may well be the end of the golden weather. We've had an amazing autumn; since the storm at the beginning of March, the weather has been beautifully settled. March rainfall was about a third of average, and April hasn't been much better, so a drop or tow today will do wonders for our tank and our gardens; everything's just a little dry at the moment.

It's been an odd week, with Anzac Day falling right in the middle. Yesterday felt quite odd; rather like a Monday, except it wasn't! But the weekend is within touching distance now, and normal business will resume next week.

So what's on your mind today? The Friday Forum is your place to have your say, rant, rave, vent your spleen, and generally get things off your chest before the weekend. There are no rules, and you choose the agenda. All we ask is that you show a modicum of respect for the views of others, even if you disagree with them.

Right; that's enough from us. The floor is, as always, yours...

Speaking of Waitakere Man

Our reference to Chris Trotter's Waitakere Man in our earlier post was totally coincidental. We hadn't seen his latest opinion-piece when we authored the Quote of the Day last night, and scheduled it for publication this morning.

But the segue is undeniable, if simply a matter of luck. Trotter opines:

Confession, they say, is good for the soul, so I have a confession to make. I was wrong about David Shearer. I made the mistake of believing that a politician with a brilliant back-story couldn't fail to give us an equally brilliant front-story.
Well, as Sportin' Life tells the true believers in Porgy & Bess: "It ain't necessarily so."
And, now I (and I suspect you) know it ain't so. David Shearer is a thoroughly likeable, decent bloke, and his record at the United Nations is truly inspirational but, come on, let's face it: he ain't anybody's kind of leader.
David Shearer, like David Lange, is a creature of the factional and personal animosities dividing the Labour caucus.
Bluntly: he was put there by an unholy alliance of Right and Left-wing MPs to prevent the Labour Party's choice, David Cunliffe, from taking the top job.
David Lange, however, had one thing going for him that David Shearer does not – a gift for oratory.
When David Lange opened his mouth the words flowed out in gorgeous, highly ornamented and persuasive profusion. His soaring rhetoric had the power to transport entire audiences to the vivid world of the Langean imagination. "I see a country", he would say, and within a few inspirational sentences, we could see it too.
David Shearer, by contrast, can barely string 10 words together. And, when he says "I see a country", he means Finland. 

Ouch! This is a most remarkable denouncement of David Shearer by Trotter, the grumpy old grandfather of the Left. The comparison with David Lange is purposefully designed to be unflattering, and it is.Chris Trotter does ignore the fact however that David Lange won two elections for the Left.

And after a brief review of the Lange years, Trotter continues the attack on David Shearer; read on:

David Shearer's singular lack of political leadership skills has spared us that fate.
If the first David story was a tragedy, the second is pure farce, and everybody can see it. In certain Labour circles his elevation to the leadership was hailed as "the experiment". In those same circles, it is now being described as "the unfortunate experiment". 
That kind of vicious, stiletto thrust might have been avoided if David Shearer had made up for what he lacked as a speaker, with what he offered as a thinker. If only, in his two, much ballyhooed, "direction-setting" speeches he had given the country some juicy, red, ideological meat to chew on.
If only he had been able to plainly set forth an overarching philosophical framework from which later, more specific, Labour policies could be hung, then none of the muttering and stuttering would have mattered.
But those two speeches showed not the slightest trace of "big picture" thinking. On the contrary, they showed every sign of having been inspired by an Auckland-based focus-group, and composed by a Wellington-based committee.
The only picture they painted was one that revealed Labour's deficiencies. That not only did the party lack leadership, but it also lacked ideas. Oh, that Labour possessed speechwriters like The West Wing's Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborne. 

And Trotter has one final blast for the wafer-thin Labour caucus:

So, what have we learned from this debacle? What has Labour learned?
If by "Labour" you mean its caucus, I would say absolutely nothing. If you're talking about the party itself, nothing it didn't know already: that caucus picked the wrong guy.
It's time for the Labour caucus to put an end to "the unfortunate experiment" and begin a new one. They could call it "democracy" – and stop taking their party for Grant-ed. 

This is a very candid piece by Chris Trotter, and it's bound to generate comment both in the mainstream media and the blogosphere. He has totally undermined David Shearer's leadership which he clearly never supported in the first place, and his final comment is a shot across Grant Robertson's bows. And we reckon that his statement that the Labour caucus has learned nothing from two election defeats is right on the money.

That Labour has stacked the Leader's Office with Robertson supporters suggests that a Robertson leadership challenge is a done deal, despite the party's rank and file strongly supporting the other David, David Cunliffe. Labour's woes are far from over.

Quote of the Day - 27 April 2012

Cameron, a Wellington-based lawyer, had been the clear front runner for the Shearer job.
He is seen as having close links with Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson, sparking suggestions the appointment of Robertson loyalists in senior positions was leaving the deputy well-placed for a future tilt at the leadership.
When approached last week Mr Robertson rubbished the leadership speculation and said he had no interest in the job.
The appointments seen as "Robertson-friendly" include his former Wellington Central campaign manager Patrick Leyland, who accompanied Shearer to Nelson last week and filmed the Labour leader's second "vision" speech. There are also suggestions Jordan Carter is poised to replace Chris Flatt as party secretary. 

Where's Chris Trotter's "Waitakere Man" when Labour clearly needs him?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Here we go again

What do Julia Gillard and David Shearer have in common? AdelaideNow reports:

VICTORIAN ALP and union sources say a fresh leadership challenge against Julia Gillard could be mounted by August.
Former PM Kevin Rudd is still regarded as the best option.
But it is believed some Labor MPs are pushing for a ticket led by Defence Minister Stephen Smith with Employment Minister Bill Shorten as his deputy.
Sources have told the Herald Sun continual abysmal polling and the damaging Slipper affair have made a challenge more likely, despite Ms Gillard's emphatic win over Mr Rudd in February.
"There is a growing realisation that next year's election could turn out like the catastrophe of Queensland," one source said.
"But if the polling improves, the threat of a challenge will diminish."
Another senior party figure said Ms Gillard was seen as incapable of turning around Labor's fortunes because she was so damaged in voters' minds.

The resignation of Peter Slipper won't have done Julia Gillard any favours. She must have thought that there would be a few months' hiatus after her resounding win over Kevin Rudd in the Labor Party leadership spill in February, but that now seems optimistic.

Julia Gillard's tenure as Prime Minister of Australia and as the leader of the ALP has been a case of one damn thing after another. After the hidings dished out to Labour in state elections, it seems barely credible that she could lead Labor to a victory in the Federal election next year. 

The Australian Labor Party seems far more divided even than its New Zealand counterpart and it faces the prospect of a worse result than NZ Labour's 27% in November 2011. But we remain unconvinced that Rudd is the right person to succeed Ms Gillard. We will be watching developments across the ditch with a considerable degree of interest.

We can't help but wonder...

David Clark is the newly-elected MP for Dunedin North, and is a member of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. Today, he's in Auckland hearing submissions on the legislation that will empower the government's mixed ownership model for SOE's.

So we can't help but wonder; should an MP sitting in select committee hearings be communicating information given to the select committee by way of social media? We've just checked Mr Clark's Twitter page, and to date he has sent no fewer than 29 tweets along lines such as these:

    Most so-called 'mum & dad investors' don't have money to pay power bills let alone to buy assets they already own.

      Partial-privatisation is like partial-pregnancy

      But this most recent one is a doozie:

        Today all submitters oppose legislation . I wonder if Govt representatives are hearing concerns?

        And we wonder whether Mr Clark might have been so busy arguing the Labour Party's case via social media that just perhaps HE hasn't been hearing everything either. Personally, few things aggravate us more than people using cellphones or lap-tops when in a meeting which they should be giving their undivided attention.

        Perhaps we need to put David Clark on SMOG-watch!

        Trouble at t'mill continued

        We blogged last week about the tensions that are gathering around the leadership of the Labour Party. We noted that if The Standard was openly talking about dissatisfaction within the party, then there was a better than even chance that the rumours we were hearing from a variety of sources were well-founded.

        Claire Trevett is a political journalist with the Herald. And she's been doing some digging which joins quite a number of the dots. And tucked away in the middle of her story is a very interesting angle; check this out:

        But insiders said his departure was hastened by conflict within Mr Shearer's office.
        Mr Nash and, to a lesser extent, John Pagani - another of Mr Shearer's advisers - are understood to have disagreed with his chief press secretary, Fran Mold, about the extent to which Mr Shearer should lead attacks on the Government rather than refuse to be drawn into oppositional politics.
        Mr Nash is believed to have been keen for Mr Shearer to focus on building up his "non-politician" image, focusing on being optimistic rather than engaging with National.
        But Mold and others in Mr Shearer's leadership team believed that was being taken too far and starving Mr Shearer of the media coverage he needed.
        Mr Shearer last week led the charge on the Crafar farms sale, but the previous strategy of keeping him away from subjects on which Labour had a negative line gave rise to speculation about the leadership after his deputy, Mr Robertson, was left to lead Labour's reaction on major issues such as Nick Smith's resignation as minister over troubles in ACC.
        Mr Shearer said he did lead reaction on many issues but also recognised that his other MPs were "very able" and should be allowed to contribute.

        We reckon that this is a fascinating insight into the thought processes of those with influence in the Labour Party. David Shearer, it was decided by Messrs Pagani and Nash, should be kept at arms-length from the nasty stuff. Labour wasn't deciding to drop the nasty stuff altogether, which is one of the messages the party ought to have taken from its 2008 and 2011 election defeats; rather, it would just pretend that Mr Shearer was above all that.

        Perhaps we should thank Francesca Mold for suggesting in a back-handed way that David Shearer needed to front the attack stuff. It may not have been the direct intention of her strategy which was to get Mr Shearer in front of the cameras more often, but at least her strategy wasn't going to present a falsehood.

        Let's face it; whether we like it or not, politics is a robust environment which attracts a certain type of individual. We would never put ourselves up for public office, simply because there are too many skeletons in our closet from days when we were younger and less wise than we now are!

        But for Labour to pretend that Mr Shearer was a new breed of politician who didn't get involved with attack politics was blatantly dishonest. Stuart Nash and John Pagani should hang their heads in shame for concoting such a strategy.

        And in the meantime, Mr Shearer will be at work today in an office which is now dominated by allies of Grant Robertson, his ambitious deputy leader. It seems that nothing has changed within Labour despite Shearer's protestations to the contrary, and that Damian O'Connor's "gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists" still rule the roost. Surely, David Shearer is living on borrowed time.

        SMOG spreads across the UK

        Last year, we claimed credit for the acronym SMOG (Social Media Own Goal). As the election campaign gathered momentum, SMOG became widely used in the blogosphere; largely because the Labour Party kept scoring them!

        We were up early this morning, and we noticed a comment on our Twitter feed from one of the UK's leading bloggers, Guido Fawkes which read:

        Labour sends out first infographic via Facebook and gets it wrong. Doh! [IMAGE]

        We responded to him with this:

        Down these parts, we call that a SMOG; a Social Media Own Goal; the NZ Labour Party has made it a fine art!

        We didn't hear any more from Guido, so we'd put his tweet and our response away in the memory bank somewhere. So imagine our surprise and delight when James Stephenson (who has just done his own blog post on Keeping Stock which is well worth a read) alerted us to this:

        Labour Too Positive About Economy

        On the day the recession returned with GDP coming in at what Gordon Brown would describe as “negative growth” the Labour Party released their first fancy Obama-style infographic on Facebook.
        Unfortunately it was what is known in the trade as a ‘SMOG’ – a Social Media Own Goal. The bar chart was all too positive…

         We might be a small country at the bottom of the world, and Keeping Stock might be nothing more than a very small blog in a very large blogosphere. But we're feeling rather chuffed that something that we stumbled upon (by accident more than by design) may yet enter the global blogosphere vocabulary!

        F-off Sanitarium

        They’re at it again. Bullying small businesses catering to the niche market of British expats and former OE-ers who discovered decent products during their time in the old country. I mean, beautiful as this country is, it’s really not survivable without Walkers Crisps, Frank Coopers Marmalade, Yorkshire Tea and mushy peas, is it?

        They successfully stood over my own local supplier of unavailable or unmatched delicacies (Onehunga English Corner Shop – plug plug, it’s on Victoria street) now they’re trying the same tactics on a similar shop in Richmond.

        This is what a pot of Marmite looks like

         My message to Sanitarium is simple: Nobody who buys Weetabix is under any illusion that it’s the same inferior, minced-cardboard tasting, product that you purvey under a similar-sounding brand name; just as nobody is under any illusion that the let’s-try-and-imitate-Vegemite black gunk you’ve run into production problems with, bears any relation to actual Marmite. Clue: it’s got sugar in it, you’re doing it wrong.

        My message to the government is equally simple: If this company is going to act like a standard corporate bully, it’s high time they were treated like one and had their Company Tax exemption by dint of being a “religious organisation” removed.

        People Power or Sneaky Power

        The Finance and Expenditure Select Committee has begun hearing submissions on the legislation that will underpin the government's mixed asset model of ownership for selected SOE's. Totally unsurprisingly, the majority of the submitters oppose the policy. We say "unsurprisingly", because generally those in support of a policy just let the government get on with it. But the Dom-Post reports:

        The Government has been accused of treachery during emotive pleas for it to dump its plans to partially sell state-owned assets.
        Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee yesterday began hearing some of the almost 600 submissions it received on legislation to enact the Government's controversial mixed- ownership model.
        The Government plans to sell up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Genesis and Meridian, and further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand, although it does not need to pass new laws to sell shares in the airline.
        People Power Ohariu was formed after last year's election to convince UnitedFuture leader and MP for Ohariu Peter Dunne to vote against the bill.
        Mr Dunne has the deciding vote. If he and ACT leader John Banks support it, the Government has the numbers to pass legislation by 61 votes to 60.

        So what do we know of People Power Ohariu? DPF has been doing some digging:

        United Future’s policy was very clearly known before the election and Peter Dunne got re-elected on it.
        Her voice breaking and close to tears, People Power Ohariu spokeswoman Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati told the committee the sales were “nothing less than treachery”.
        “It is absolutely ludicrous that in our country a group of 61 people can make decisions that have serious, serious, implications for our country and our children’s future and our land.”
        That is an unusual name. Presumably the same person who is a Mana Party activist.
        And it is interesting to see how she thinks it is treason to announce a policy 10 months before an election, have it as the most contested issue of the election, and have parties than supported it gain 61 out of the 121 seats.
        And the implications for the children’s future and the land is just ridiculous hyperbole. My God, its some minority shares in some power companies. Contact Energy got wholly sold off in 1998 and the world didn’t end. In fact, barely anyone noticed.
        People Power Ohariu spokesman John Maynard said it was particularly concerned about the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement being negotiated among New Zealand, the United States and at least eight other countries.
        This is the John Maynard that Whale pointed out was President of the Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa.

         It's clear that People Power Ohariu is little more than opposition activists dressed up in neutral clothing. And we reckon that is rather sneaky, if not downright dishonest.

        Last year's election was a contest on asset sales. The Stop Asset Sales campaign was central to Labour's whole campaign, and there were as many asset sales billboards around last year as there were Labour Party ones. And we all know what happened on 27 November; Labour salumped to its worst MMP result, and National received the highest MMP party vote.

        The Left continues to complain that John Key does not have a mandate for the mixed ownership model. We reject that. We reckon that John Key had his mandate the moment he was able to advise the Governor General that he could form a government. Being a minority government did not stop Helen Clark from her legislative programme between 1999 and 2008, including some serious constitutional reform.

        So organisations such as People Power Aotearoa should be up-front about their membership and their motives. PPA is clearly political in intent, aiming to ramp up pressure on Peter Dunne. Ohariu was targetted by Labour, but Gareth Hughes was unable to persuade enough Green voters to support Charles Chauvel and they came up short, and Peter Dunne was legitimately elected. By all means PPA is welcome to submit to the select committee, but establishing the political bias of the submitters enables members of that select committee to hear the submission and ascribe whatever weight they wish to to it.

        The Dom-Post's verdict on Shearer

        The Dominion-Post editorial yesterday delivered its verdict on David Shearer's leadership of the Labour Party; and he's unlikely to be pleased; check this out:

        Labour leader David Shearer is surprised National's woeful start to the year has not translated into a jump in support for his party.
        He should not be. Labour will not win back the voters that have deserted it in droves till Mr Shearer starts presenting it as a credible government-in-waiting.
        He has singularly failed to do that in the more than four months he has been leader. He has yet to advance a coherent vision for New Zealand, let alone policies on how that vision might be achieved. The two "positioning" speeches he has so far delivered have been laced with feel-good platitudes, but have not spelled out how the Labour Party he leads is materially different from the one overwhelmingly rejected by voters at last year's election. Until he does so, the old adage about voters preferring the devil they know to the one they don't will continue to apply.
        Mr Shearer's reaction to the latest polls, which show Labour flatlining at below 30 per cent while National continues to push the 50 per cent mark, was telling. It was, he said, "sort of surprising" given the controversies that have dogged the Government this year. But Mr Shearer must do more than simply wait in the hope that centre voters, the ones who decide elections, will grow dissatisfied with National and come flooding back to Labour. The fact that National has retained a 20-point lead despite the forced resignation of ACC Minister Nick Smith, allegations of cronyism surrounding the SkyCity conference centre deal and opposition to the sale of the Crafar farms to Chinese buyers bears testament to that. 

        Worse is to come; the leader writer suggests that Mr Shearer take a leaf out of another opposition party's book; read on:

        Mr Shearer should look to the Greens to see the value that comes from a political party determining what it stands for and developing policies in line with its beliefs. They have a clear line on just about every issue, allowing their MPs to operate with confidence and certainty. Aided by an influx of promising MPs, they are filling the void left by Labour and, as a result, have consolidated the record support they attracted at the last election.
        Labour, by contrast, has left voters guessing. On the one hand, Mr Shearer says he wants a strong, modern economy in which everyone who is able to pulls their weight, including those dependent on the state; on the other, he is yet to say whether he still thinks Working For Families "in work" tax credits should be paid to beneficiaries, funded from the taxes of struggling workers who in many cases do not qualify for it themselves. 

        The leader writer is bang on the money. Although we disagree with most of the Greens' policies, Russel Norman has done an outstanding job fronting the party at the expense of co-leader Metiria Turei who is often hidden from view during Question Time. Both he and Winston Peters have totally outshone Shearer, whose new label as Sort-of Leader of the Opposition sees him look uncomfortable in the House and as Labour's frontperson.

        Some people are just not cut out for leadership, although they may well do sterling work behind the scenes. Phil Goff was one of those; an excellent Trade and Foreign Affairs Minister, but less excellent leading from the front. David Shearer may well prove to be the same.

        And just to complete things, the Dom-Post has a final rebuke for David Shearer:

        The official line is that Mr Shearer, a relative newcomer, needs more time to introduce himself to the wider party membership and take public soundings on where Labour went wrong in 2011 before he can start steering his own course. He also professes himself to be relaxed about his slow start, claiming voters only really start paying attention to politics in election years, meaning there is still plenty of time for him to set out his stall.
        He is right about one thing. The race for the 2014 election is a marathon, not a 100-metre sprint. The problem is that the other contenders have already left the starting line and are disappearing into the distance, while he is still in the changing sheds tying his laces.  

        Quite so. And we wonder if the reason he's still trying to tie his laces is because someone not too far away from his deputy leader tied his shoes together. The news that his new Chief of Staff is a close ally and friend of Grant Robertson will do nothing to dispel the suspicion that David Shearer may yet retire from the race.