Sunday, September 30, 2012

The rumours are true

We blogged on Wednesday about rumours that Khoder Nasser was pushing Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams as a package deal. And it seems that this rumour was right on the money; with the 2012 NRL Grand Final just a few hours away, Fox Sport reports:

Sonny Bill Williams will only play in the NRL next year if Quade Cooper is beside him, with the pair looking certain to be in the same team, whether it be league or union.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned Williams and Cooper will now come as a package deal, such is the desire of the two stars to play together.
While Williams has long been linked to the Roosters, he has never publicly said which club he is joining - nor has he signed any NRL contract.
Cooper, whose stunning attack on the ARU has signalled the end of his Wallabies career, has suddenly become an integral part of any deal Williams does sign for 2013.
Williams revealed this month that he was attempting to lure Cooper to the NRL next year, and he was obviously aware of the Wallabies five-eighth's issues with Australian rugby when he backed him to succeed in a code switch.
In an extraordinary outburst, Cooper has jeopardised a $2.25 million deal in Australian rugby by openly criticising the national team environment and lack of quality facilities.
We're going to take a punt right here and now, and say that Sonny Bill Williams will be without a gig next season. The Roosters would be daft to take this deal, and it would be nigh on impossible for them to stay within the NRL's salary cap if they signed the big-noter Nasser's suite of players.

And why would the Roosters be interested in Cooper anyway? He has shown in recent weeks that he is a loose cannon, his defence is hugely suspect as is his decision-making under pressure, and to cap it off, he's had two knee surgeries within the last twelve months. He would be a highly speculative investment for the Roosters.

Is it one they are prepared to make to get Williams? Or has the Khoder Nasser Effect come into play, with Nasser pricing his clients off the market? We will be interested to see how this plays out, but we have a suspicion that Nasser is going to have to enter into negotiation with someone other than the Roosters.

Photo of the Day - Ryder Cup special

We mentioned on Friday night when previewing the sporting weekend that the golfers participating at the Ryder Cup are simply playing for the honour of representing their teams. There's not one cent of prize money.

But don't think that they aren't trying; check out this shot of Ian Poulter in the afternoon round on Day Two. Storming home with five successive birdies and some superb pressure putting, Poulter was the face of the Ryder Cup as he and Rory McIlroy claimed the final point of the day:

The USA has a 10-6 lead going into the twelve singles matches tomorrow morning (NZ time), but Poulter and his European teammates will not hand back the Ryder Cup without a fight. It's great theatre, great drama and great golf, and we absolutely love it!

Filling up the trophy cabinet

The Webb Ellis Cup and the Bledisloe Cup are already secure in the NZRU's trophy cabinet. They will now be joined by the trophy for the inaugural Rugby Championship after the All Blacks have thrashed Argentina by 54 to 15 this afternoon.

This was far and away the best All Black performance of the season. Even after conceding an early try, the All Black machine was unstoppable. The four-try bonus point had been secured before halftime, and three tries were added in the second half.

Argentina did not play badly. But no team in the world would have stayed with the All Blacks today when they flicked the switch. The interplay between forwards and backs was as good as it has been for several seasons, and the finishing was first class. 

Cory Jane helped himself to a hat-trick, with the last coming in the dying moments of the match. Intercepting a loose Argentine pass well on his own side of halfway he sprinted down the right-wing touchline, then fended off the last defender to score in the corner. Julian Savea had a terrific match on the other wing scoring twice, and being prominent in general play as he went looking for work. And Ma'a Nonu had far and away his best match of the season both on attack and defence.

In the forwards Kieran Read had a huge game, but none of the forwards played poorly. The dominance was based on a strong forward effort, and an ability to use the ball with ruthless efficiency. It was a most enjoyable match to watch, and we are already thinking that a trip to South America might be in our future, now that Argentina is a fixture in the Rugby Championship.

Lastly, we got a glimpse of things to come when both Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw were rested for the last twenty minutes of the match. Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden both fitted in, with Cruden making an immediate impact, splitting the defence and putting Nonu away. And Aaron Smith is the find of the season; he has a huge All Black future ahead of him.

So now it's on to South Africa. Here's hoping that the All Blacks can get up for what is now a dead rubber. And the wounded Wallabies go the other way, for a date with Argentina at Rosario where we suspect they will struggle in what seems likely to be Robbie Deans' last match as coach.

But it was the All Blacks' night. The world champions are the Rugby Championship champions as well, and they've done it in style. From the spine-tingling haka at the start to a try at the end, it has been a most memorable rugby occasion.

Christian Music Sunday - 30 September 2012

It's almost a month into spring and it's the first morning of daylight saving, so morning broke even earlier this morning!

So today's choice of song was a simple one. Cat Stevens made this hymn famous in the 1970's, before he converted to Islam. But its origins go back even further; the words were penned in 1931.

The version we've chosen today is sung by Hayley Westenra:

A glorious morning it is too, and in the morning sunlight, the signs of "God's recreation of the new day", the final line of the hymn are there for all to see; enjoy!

The Black Horse really IS dead!

It was a doubly bad week for the National Bank's iconic Black Horse; the Herald reports:

National Bank's iconic horse Cody has died.
News of Cody's death emerges in the same week that ANZ announced that its National Bank brand will be absorbed into the parent company, so the black horse logo will disappear, and Cody will no longer gallop across TV screens.
As news of the merger broke, social media erupted with talk of what would happen to the beloved stallion. ANZ repeatedly assured customers and the public that Cody was happily grazing in a Waikato paddock.
"At the time those comments were made, we were unaware of Cody's sad passing," Stefan Herrick of ANZ said yesterday. "He was a fantastic mascot and a fine actor and will be missed by everyone."
In an exclusive interview with the Herald on Sunday, Cody's owner and trainer Bex Watts said she was devastated at having the animal she called her best friend put down.
"It broke my heart. He had been unwell for quite a while. He was 17 years old, which is a decent age for a big horse that has had an active life, but he had internal tumours."
Watts hasn't spoken publicly about Cody's death, but she said the bank announcement made the time right.
She said Cody enthusiastically developed his signature National Bank pose, in which he reared up on hind legs.

Oh dear. You'd think that ANZ would have done some basic fact-checking before they told the world that the Black Horse was "happily grazing in a Waikato paddock." It's another PR fail for the ANZ Bank, and Rod Emmerson's cartoon from the other day was prophetic.

McCarten on "integrity"

Matt McCarten's Herald on Sunday column this morning is headed Fools in charge erode integrity of our society.

Oh; the irony. Matt McCarten preaching about integrity is akin to Trevor Mallard or Winston Peters complaining about the behaviour of senior MP's, or to Gerry Brownlee and Parekura Horomia becoming ambassadors for Rebel Sports.

McCarten never did get around to answering the questions we asked him a while back, especially these ones:

Last but not least, and noticing the dates during which payments to IRD were systematically withheld, here are some final questions:
  • Was the money owing to IRD used for other activities?
  • How much of the money withheld and owing to IRD was used for Unite union campaigns or publicity?
  • How much of the money withheld and owing to IRD was used for any activities in any way related to the 2008 General Election?
  • What donations of money, time and/or resources were made to political parties in the period October 2007 to March 2009, and which parties were the beneficiaries of donations from Unite Union or Unite Social Services Limited?

And lastly:

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

Before Matt McCarten starts throwing stones at those he accuses of lacking integrity, he ought to step out of the glasshouse.

The Daylight Saving Blues...

Morning has broken, and daylight saving has begun. The powers-that-be couldn't have picked a worse weekend to move the clocks forward. On the other hand, we ought not have stayed up so late last night watching cricket, knowing that dawn would come an hour sooner!

The Black Caps almost certainly bowed out of the ICC WT20 tournament last night with a six wicket loss to England. But they will be feeling hard done by this morning.

England fast bowler Steven Finn has an annoying habit of dislodging the bails at the bowler's end with his leg as he bowls. And he does it with some frequency, which as a result has the umpires calling "dead ball", but not until after the batsman has played. And sadly for New Zealand, last night's three "dead balls" produced in order a wide, two runs to Kane Williamson and a boundary to James Franklin. That was a total of seven runs denied to New Zealand, plus an extra ball for the wide that was ruled out. In addition, Simon Taufel, once rated as the world's best umpire had a shocker, with two wides not given late in the innings; one that ballooned well over the tall James Franklin's head, and one that was far down the leg side, which Taufel seemed to rule had brushed Franklin's pad when it patently didn't.

So that's nine runs, and three extra deliveries denied to New Zealand. Let's say for argument's sake that each of those deliveries had produced one run, and you could add 12 to New Zealand's total of 148 on a difficult batting surface. England won with an over to spare, but had they been chasing an extra dozen, who knows how it might have turned out?

Even English correspondents find it bemusing. Cricinfo's UK editor David Hopps commented thus:

But Finn's collisions are not funny, they are serious. Imagine what the outcome would be if Franklin had struck that boundary from the last ball of the match, thought he had won the game for New Zealand, only for dead ball to be ruled, the runs to be scrubbed and Finn to send the batsman's stumps flying with the next delivery.
The solution is staring everybody in the face. It should not be a dead ball, it should be a no-ball. The batsman gets the benefit of the runs accrued and an extra ball as well. If batsmen stumble into the stumps in the process of playing a shot, they are given out hit wicket. For a bowler to suffer a no-ball is a far lesser punishment.
Stuart Broad, England's Twenty20 captain, said: "The best solution to it is for Finny to stop doing it. Today New Zealand were unlucky but it might cost us an important wicket at this stage. But it is also important in a world tournament not to focus so much on that because he is in a nice rhythm and it would be dangerous to make him worry too much about that."
Ross Taylor, New Zealand's captain, was quick to praise Finn's display, but that praise was tempered by his belief that the ICC approach is misguided. He wants cricket to introduce a version of football's advantage law - allow the game to progress as normal unless a batsman is dismissed, in which case dead ball should be called retrospectively.
"For Finn to get two wickets up front put us on the back foot - when the ball was new was probably the easiest time to score," he said. "But I disagree with the ICC rule when he breaks the stumps. It is a rule for one person in particular. Unless a batsman gets out you should just carry on." 

It was certainly a bizarre situation, and on this occasion, Finn and England clearly benefitted from the bowler's actions. James Franklin will feel especially cheated, having smoked an off drive to the boundary on the last of Finn's transgressions; clearly not distracted by the bowler's collision with the stumps.

Be that as it may, morning has indeed rolled around and a stunning morning it is, despite sleep being in short supply. We may have to address the sleep situation after the All Black's match against Argentina at lunchtime! It's a veritable sporting feast to mark the onset of Daylight Saving, but we're starting to wonder if it's possible to have too much of a good thing! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We thought we'd heard the last of him...

The Comedian just won't go away. He was re-sentenced in July, having been discharged without conviction by District Court Judge Philippa Cunningham last year, a decision sent back to the Court for review by the High Court.

But he still won't take his medicine; Stuff reports:

An Auckland comedian is appealing an eight-month home detention sentence for indecently assaulting his four-year-old daughter.
The man, who has name suppression, pleaded guilty in March to indecently asasulting the child.
At his first sentencing, Judge Philippa Cunningham discharged him without conivction saying he was a talented New Zealander and the consequences outweighed his offending.
However, The Crown then won a High Court judicial review over the discharge and ordered the District Court to resentence the man.
He was sentenced by Judge Mark Perkins in July and Fairfax Media understands the man lodged his appeal the same month he was sentenced.
A hearing was held yesterday where a judge reserved their decision.
The offending occurred on December 9, 2009, after the man returned from a Christmas party in an intoxicated state.
He tried to have sex with his then wife but she rejected him and they went to sleep. Later in the evening the child came into the bed and slept between the couple.
The man woke up and proceeded to sexually assault the child. 
He claimed to have no memory of the event. 

The Comedian still got off pretty lightly for what was a serious sexual assault on his four-year-old daughter. But he obviously still believes that he is the victim of this offending.

He couldn't be more wrong. The only victims of The Comedian's offending are his daughter, and his former wife. They are the ones who were traumatised by his drunken offending.

In a past life, The Comedian may have been able to "make people laugh". But there is nothing funny at all about committing sex acts on children, even if unintentional, and there is nothing funny about getting so drunk that you are unable to distinguish the private parts of a four-year-old girl from those of an adult woman.

If there is to be any chance of The Comedian making a useful contribution to the community in the future, he first needs to 'fess up and accept the consequences of his dreadful offending. In the meantime, we just wish we'd heard the last of The Comedian.

Joining the dots...

On Thursday we heard that TVNZ's Close Up programme was in for an overhaul. This morning the Dominion-Post announces this:

Outspoken broadcaster and Dominion Post columnist Sean Plunket is severing ties with Newstalk ZB.
Plunket, 48, has presented Sean Plunket Mornings in Wellington since January 2011.
He succeeded long-time weekday morning host Justin du Fresne at the station.
''I'm parting with a little sadness,'' said Plunket, whose last day with the network will be December 21. ''It's been more fun than I've had anywhere else in broadcasting.''
Plunket has had a varied career that has included stints with TV3, Television New Zealand's Fair Go programme, time in the parliamentary press gallery and 14 years as Geoff Robinson's co-host of Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme.
The Radio Network's general manager of talk programming, Dallas Gurney, said Plunket had done really well for Newstalk ZB.
''It is the No 1 commercial station in Wellington and Sean's done a particularly good job of consolidating that position after taking over from Justin du Fresne,'' Gurney said. 

Is this merely a co-incidence, or might this be indicative of TVNZ's plans for the midweek 7pm current affairs slot?

Whaddya reckon?

O'Sullivan on inquiries, pies and Penthouses

Fran O'Sullivan draws on words and events from days gone by as she notes that John Key's announcement that there will be no further GCSB inquiry is unsurprising; she opines:

John Key's decision to rule out a further inquiry into the latest government fiasco involving New Zealand's spooks fraternity is hardly surprising.
There is an old maxim in politics that it is not a wise idea for Cabinet ministers to "kick your own ass with your own boot". Apart from being physically inelegant (and for some impossible) it has the net effect of making it rather clear that the Cabinet minister in question is happy to shoulder some of the blame for a political disaster.
The net effect of holding any further inquiry as the Greens want is that it would inevitably bring into public view Key's own ministerial oversight of the Government Communications Security Bureau.
This is not an area that the Prime Minister is going to probe any time soon.

John Key will be pleased that the school holiday recess for Parliament has arrived. The opposition parties will continue to play political games, but with Parliament in recess, they will be largely preaching to the converted. We strongly doubt that Police Commissioner Peter Marshall will accept Russel Norman's invitation to investigate the Dotcom fiasco further.

There has been little for the Government to rejoice over in the last few months, as O'Sullivan notes:

His Government has started to fray around the edges. This is not terminal by any means but it does require more focus.

She is right on the money here. We hope that John Key uses these two weeks wisely; to get Ministers in, to issue a few attitude readjustments, and if necessary, to consider a reshuffle. A year into his second term as PM things have not gone as well as we would have hoped, and now might be the chance to rearrange the pieces on the board; the 2014 election will roll around quickly.

And lastly, Fran O'Sullivan reminds us of an earlier spy drama; one in which she played a small role; she concludes:

The first big story in my own journalistic career was not a result of fearless investigative digging by me.
Like many "scoops" it was pure happenstance.
My 10-year-old son brought home a briefcase that had been left on the fence outside another press gallery journalist's house.
It was of course the infamous SIS briefcase.
Then - like now - I can't name the spook whose briefcase contained the legendary Penthouse magazine and three cold meat pies, plus notes of a dinner party conversation hosted by a German diplomat and much more. The spook had three ID cards.
The SIS later tried to respin the affair by telling the late Graeme Hunt, who wrote about it in a book on the security services, that the contents of the briefcase were not as reported.
The GCSB's incompetence is even more alarming as it has resulted in a person being unlawfully spied on - not just tipping a bucket of the proverbial over the spooks.

There was an element of farce in the SIS pie-and-Penthouse saga, just as there seems to be an element of farce over everything surrounding Kim Dotcom. John Key needs to get his administration back on track, and the next two weeks will be the ideal time to do just that.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A weekend for the couch potato

Regular readers will know that we enjoy a bit of life to fit around our sport. And we have to say; it's a long time since a weekend of sport has looked so tempting. In no particular order, here's the menu:

  • The Ryder Cup; golf's greatest contest
  • The NRL Grand Final
  • The AFL Grand Final
  • The ICC World T20 tournament; a double header tonight with Pakistan playing South Africa and India playing Australia
  • A full round of ITM Cup matches
  • A full round of the Barclay's Premiership
  • Round Five of the Rugby Championship, with a rare treat; the All Blacks playing Argentina at Sunday lunchtime.

Quite where we'll fit in time to sleep, eat or get into the garden this weekend is anyone's guess. It's one of the weekends where we will give thanks and praise for that wonderful invention known as MySky. We also have to fit in Wanganui's Heartland match against North Otago this morning, and a catch-up lunch and ale pre-match with Wanganui old boy (now living upo near the big smoke) Jaba. And as fate would have it, we're batching this weekend!

The Ryder Cup is a special highlight. This weekend the best players from Europe and the USA go head to head at Medinah Country Club in Chicago in their biennial contest. And after the copious quantities of cash for which they play week in and week out, this week they play simply for the thrill of the contest, and the honour of representing their team. The teams are as strong as they have possibly ever been, and the final foursomes match on Friday morning (US time) should be an absolute cracker; Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods will play Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.

We'll still find time to blog; after all, what use is a laptop if you don't have it on your lap whilst watching the telly? And whoever said that men can't multi-task? But if our eyes are hanging out on stalks by Monday morning, you'll understand why. And we're just grateful that it's not Bathurst until next Sunday! 

Happy sporting viewing...

No, no and thrice no!

The Herald asks, and we reply:

No, no and thrice no! After all, TVNZ is looking to IMPROVE its 7pm prime-time offering, and the German giant who has a cavalier attitude to the property rights of others and who thinks that jokes about rape and the Holocaust are funny would most certainly not achieve that particular objective.

RIP Mrs Slater

Cameron Slater blogs:

I have been dreading writing this post for months now. I have put it off and put it off. Mum would have wagged her finger at me and said what you put off today you just have to do tomorrow…and so it has come to pass.
At 0720 this morning my beautiful mother passed away holding Dad’s hand.
She found out a year ago that she had cancer and she set about planning what remained of her life. In February she was told she had at best 12 weeks left to live and in her usual way she just said she would see about that. As is usual she was right about that.
My Mum was a mentor to me, a calming influence, a peacemaker and taught me more about politics and people than anyone else.
I well remember her ticking off many MPs, including Prime Ministers in her forthright Presbyterian manner. She didn’t care for their positions or their titles, she just spoke her mind on things that mattered.
My Mum cared for everyone else and was the most unselfish, giving person you could ever know. Even in her last days she was thinking and caring about other people.
She handled her illness like she handled her entire life, with dignity, grace and a steely strength.
I am going to miss my Mum, I loved her very much.

We've never met Cam, or his parents for that matter. But we have chatted with him online in recent weeks as Margaret's illness progressed.

It's some eight years since we lost our mother, and more than 20 years since our father died. But the death of Cam's mother this morning has touched a part of our soul, and we write this post with a very large lump in our throat, and with misty eyes.

We extend our sincere condolences to the whole Slater family today. May they be comforted in their grief and loss by the peace that passes human understanding, and by the knowledge that Margaret is free from pain and suffering and in a far better place. And may they take comfort from these words as they reflect on a life well lived.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
 John 3:16 (NIV)

Rest peacefully Mrs Slater.

Of killer questions, inquiries and Russel Norman

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman appeared on Breakfast this morning, and if he was expecting a soft ride, he got a rude awakening. Nadine Chalmers-Ross, the Breakfast business reporter was sitting in the hot seat, and skewered Dr Norman with a killer question. You can view the video of the interview here, and the fun starts at the around the 1:38 mark; here's the transcript of the question:

But with respect Dr Norman, when this inquiry was announced, all you said was that it should be a transparent process; you had no issue with the Inspector-General carrying it out. So why have an issue now, rather than then?

That would have to be one of the better questions asked of a political leader in the last wee while. The obvious conclusion, and not the waffling answer that Dr Norman gave was that the outcome of the Inspector-General's inquiry was not the one that the Green Party and the Labour Party wanted. He has also shown considerable disrespect to Justice Paul Neazor, a former Solicitor-General and High Court Judge, and a man of far higher integrity than Dr Norman.

And now, Russel Norman is calling for an inquiry into the inquiry, and he also wants the Police to waste time on yet another inquiry. He is grabbing at straws in trying to draw parallels between this case and the Teapot Tapes, where information was recorded unlawfully (in the opinion of the police who investigated), and then made available to news media organisations and politicians.

Russel Norman's request to the police is blatant political grandstanding. Oddly, when he tried to front-foot revelations just prior to the election that a Green Party activist whose partner worked in his office had coordinated a campaign of billboard vandalism, he did NOT call for a police inquiry; perhaps the only time in living memory that the Greens haven't called for an inquiry! So perhaps it's time for the police to revisit that as well.

As for Nadine Chalmers-Ross; if she is going to ask the hard questions of politicians of whichever hue, perhaps the Breakfast producers need to find a way of giving her a higher profile way, given that Petra Bagust avoids tough interviews like the plague, and that Rawdon Christie has made no attempt to hide his political leanings in recent weeks.

There's no "Quade" in team

Quade Cooper says he's not going to play for the Wallabies again, unless changes are made: Stuff reports:

Wallabies first-five Quade Cooper said he would not play for Australia unless changes were made to the "toxic" environment surrounding the team, which he felt was "destroying" him as a "player and as a person".
The 24-year-old has been sidelined for Australia's last two Rugby Championship tests in South Africa and Argentina because of a knee problem but sparked huge controversy with tweets and comments made over the weekend.
Offered the chance to clarify his position on Thursday in an interview with Fox Sports, with whom he has a contract, Cooper said he would not play for Australia or sign a new deal with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) unless improvements were made.
When asked if he would play for the Wallabies if he was picked in the side, Cooper said he would not.
"No, like I said, it's the environment there at the moment is one that I don't feel comfortable in and if I don't feel comfortable and if I don't feel that I can give 100 per cent for my country and that yellow jersey, that's a very big problem," he said.
"For me to improve as a player and as a person, you want to be in the best possible environment. I feel that environment is destroying me as a person and as a player so I can't do my best to represent myself, my country and my friends to the best of my ability." 

Whether the Wallabies' environment is what's destroying Cooper "as a person and as a player" is open to debate. But as we suggested earlier in the week, we reckon that his management has a bit to do with it as well; her certainly seems to be suffering from a bout of the Khoder Nasser Effect.

Quade Cooper needs to remember the old motivational maxim that there's no "I" in team. He certainly seems to be determined to burn his bridges with the ARU, because contrary to what his manager is probably telling him, he's NOT bigger than the game of rugby.

Quade Cooper's publicly-aired discontent has been (in our ever-humble opinion) ill-advised and poorly executed. It seems highly likely that Cooper is about to find out that the game is a whole lot bigger than him and his manager, and that there will be no "Quade" in team either; for some time to come.

Photo of the Day - 28 September 2012

The photoshopping might not be that flash, but we laughed out loud when we saw this on a friend's Facebook page a few minutes ago:

Pictures do indeed tell thousands of words!

Dunne on "principle-free Labour"

We blogged yesterday about Labour's desperate move to try and exempt trade unions from Green MP Holly Walker's Lobbying Disclosure Bill. We are not alone in our criticism; United Future lone wolf MP and former Minister in Helen Clark's government Peter Dunne takes a free hit (with our emphasis added):

Hon Peter Dunne
MP for Ohariu
Leader of UnitedFuture

27 September 2012
Dunne: Principle-free Labour protects its union buddies

Labour’s call to have trade unions exempted from a potential lobbying register is shameless protection of its union backers, UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said today.
“This is sleazy politics trying to find a principle to hide behind,” Mr Dunne said.
“For this lobbying regime to have any credibility it would have to apply equally to all, and that includes business groups and trade unions. They are two sides of the one coin.
Mr Dunne said Green MP Holly Walker acknowledged that her Lobbying Disclosure Bill needed to be fine-tuned and adjusted, but it was founded on having a transparent system, which the public would welcome.
“Unions try to shape and influence policy and legislation day in and day out, as do business groups and others. Let one rule of transparency apply to them all.
“Labour’s whole ‘business is bad and needs to be watched, but unions are forces for good’ approach is simply pathetic, and this is a shameless example of Labour looking after its buddies.
“This is just another demonstration of how Labour is in the pocket of sector interest groups, and why New Zealanders don’t see them as a viable alternative government.
“When will Labour get back to championing the causes and the issues of everyday New Zealanders?”

 Despite having been a Minister in both National-led (1996-1999) and Labour-led (1999-2008) administrations, Peter Dunne had a falling out with Labour after the 2008 election. He indicated before last year's election that he was not interested in working with Labour again, had Phil Goff been able to form a government.

So it's not entirely surprising that Dunne has come out swinging over Holly Walker's Member's Bill; Labour's attempt to let their backers hide behind the law whilst everyone else's lobbying is disclosed is indeed, as Dunne put it "a shameless example of Labour looking after its buddies.".

We look forward to this Bill returning to Parliament, and especially the Committee Stage debate, where Labour MP's will defend the indefensible. It ought to provide plenty of blog-fodder going forward. In the meantime we commend Peter Dunne for his pre-emptive strike.

Dear ANZ

Here's an message to the marketing gurus from the ANZ Bank as they prepare to "retire" the National Bank's iconic black horse.

Hi folks - to give you credit, you've been really quick to bash out advertisements urging National Bank customers not to be afraid of becoming ANZ customers.

You're sending the black horse to the knacker's yard, but you're reassuring folks that it will be business as usual, albeit in new uniforms. You've even got people ringing up and e-mailing talkback hosts telling them that very thing.

Your marketing campaign is slick, and all-encompassing. We're getting adverts on the radio, on the telly, and even on the computer, on places like YouTube and Facebook. We don't know how much this campaign is costing you, but all that saturation advertising at peak hours can't be cheap.

But here's the rub; we are neither customers of the National Bank nor the ANZ Bank, so as far as we go, your efforts are going to waste. And if we are already getting sick of all these advertisements just 24 hours into your campaign, how many other people are going to be turned away by this campaign?

The sharks are circulating, and the competition has been quick to respond with advertisements luring National Bank customers to come on over. Just be careful that your slick PR campaign doesn't backfire on you.

There; we feel better now! Has anyone else noticed the bombardment of adverts though? We wonder at how much this PR campaign has cost, and we wonder if ANZ-National is going to get value for money.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Neazor Report

The Inspector General of Security and Intelligence Justice Paul Neazor has reported on the Kim Dotcom/GCSB fiasco, and John Key has released the report this afternoon. You can read the full report here.

It is clear from the report that the GCSB was remiss in not checking of its own account as to whether Dotcom was actually a New Zealand resident. That is a basic error, which ought not have been made.

And John Key is not happy; this from the media release at :

“The GCSB relied on information provided to it by the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand. In my view, reliance on another party by GCSB is unacceptable.
“GCSB had a responsibility to fully understand what the change to the Immigration legislation in 2009 meant for its own operations, including whether individual visa holders were protected or not.

“It is the GCSB’s responsibility to act within the law, and it is hugely disappointing that in this case its actions fell outside the law. I am personally very disappointed that the agency failed to fully understand the workings of its own legislation.”
“I have received an apology from the Director of the GCSB and an assurance that he will take every step to rebuild public confidence in his organisation.”
As part of that process, Mr Key has sought an assurance that there are no other cases of people’s communications being intercepted unlawfully. The GCSB will be reviewing past cases back to 2009 when the Immigration Act was changed, and will report to the Prime Minister and the Inspector-General on this matter as soon as possible.

This blunder by the GCSB has given the Opposition plenty of opportunity to put the squeeze on the Government, and some opposition politicians have been more effective in doing this than others. But it has been a distraction that the Government could patently have done without.

The whole Kim Dotcom saga has been almost farcical. That does not change the fact however that, as Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge noted yesterday, the application to extradite Dotcom will be decided on the basis of evidence collected by the FBI and put to a grand jury in the United States, not the bungled New Zealand surveillance operation and the raid of Dotcom's home.

UPDATE: It has now been confirmed that John Key has apologised to Kim Dotcom for the GCSB's unlawful activity.

Close Up closes down

We blogged late last year about Close Up presenter Mark Sainsbury having been immortalised by a muppet created in his image. But even with that kind of assistance, Sainsbury is about to suffer the unkindest cut of all; the Herald reports:

TV One's top-rating current affairs show Close Up is set to be axed by the end of the year, with a "fresh" show tipped to replace it.
A press release issued this morning said TVNZ was "proposing" to wind down Close Up, which has been hosted by Mark Sainsbury in TV One's 7pm slot since 2006.
Media commentator John Drinnan predicted the changes in July, and TVNZ Head of News and Current Affairs Ross Dagan said they were being made as a response to viewer feedback.
"Close Up remains the number one daily current affairs show by a substantial margin, but ratings for us and for our competitors in this important time slot have diminished over time," he said.
"We're committed to staying at the forefront of what New Zealanders want to see and we owe it to them and to ourselves to continually evolve and enhance television current affairs.
"We want to reinvent the early evening slot, to present the stories of the day in a way that is very different to what has gone before."

Clearly, Campbell Live has made inroads into Close Up's market share. We wonder if the former's pandering to a rather large German chap has assisted that at all.

We seldom watch either Close Up or Campbell Live. If there's something coming up that piques our interest, MySky obliges for us, and then we can watch what we want without advertisements, and whatever else dresses itself up as "current affairs".

We would hope that TVNZ might actually come up with a meaningful programme to fit a key time-slot. We will not however hold out breath, as asphyxiation is the most likely outcome!

Quote of the Day - 27 September 2012

Today's quote comes from Sky Sport rugby commentator Scotty "Sumo" Stevenson, who whilst watching Jimmy Cowan's farewell to New Zealand rugby last night observed:

Well; it's not the most attractive game of rugby you've ever seen, but it beats watching The Ridges.

What more can you say? Nice one Sumo!

RIP Andy Williams

A show-business career spanning 75 years has ended; Yahoo News reports:

With a string of gold albums, a hit TV series and the signature "Moon River," Andy Williams was a voice of the 1960s, although not the '60s we usually hear about.
The singer known for his easy-listening style and his wholesome, middle-America appeal was the antithesis of the counterculture that gave rise to rock and roll.
"The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there," he once recalled. "Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred — not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself."
Williams' plaintive tenor, boyish features and clean-cut demeanor helped him outlast many of the decade's rock stars and fellow crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s, hosting hugely popular Christmas television specials and becoming closely associated with the holiday standard "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
Williams, who continued to perform into his 80s at the Moon River Theatre he built in Branson, Mo., announced in November 2011 that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and vowed to return to performing the following year, his 75th in show business.
The 84-year-old entertainer died Tuesday night at his Branson home following a yearlong battle with the disease, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday.

Andy Williams is forever associated with the song Moon River. But his repertoire was far wider than that as we had brought home to us when we typed his name into the search bar on YouTube. And here's what we've chosen as a tribute:

RIP Andy Williams, and thanks for the memories.

Emmerson flogs a dead horse

Few words are needed to complement Rod Emmerson's brilliant take this morning on New Zealand's latest banking merger.

But we wonder; who will be New Zealand Cricket's marquee sponsor now? Not that Australian bank, surely...

Quelle surprise!

Who would have ever seen this coming? Kate Chapman from the Dom-Post reports:

Labour wants trade unions excluded from a potential lobbying register and blames the MP who drafted the plan for including them in the first place.
Green MP Holly Walker's member's bill would require those who lobby politicians to be registered and adhere to a code of ethics.
It passed its first reading with unanimous support from all parties, but Labour has since put forward an amendment that would exclude trade unions. 

There is, of course method in Labour's madness:

The unions are major backers of the Labour Party. 

Indeed. The volumes of cash with which unions support the Labour Party have been well chronicled. Perhaps the most voluminous example is the Service and Food Workers' Union, which over-spent its election budget by $167,364 in 2005, as it pumped almost a quarter of a million dollars into the Labour Party's war chest. Oddly, the SFWU recorded a loss of $218,000 in 2005; we wonder how that happened! But the union's former general secretary Darien Fenton entered Parliament via Labour's list in 2005, so the investment must have been deemed as having a return.

To her and the Green Party's credit, Holly Walker is not buying into Labour's dodgy amendment; read on:

Despite Labour's stance, the Greens are confident the bill can pass through Parliament with the support of National and other parties.
Ms Walker told a select committee yesterday that the bill was drafted too widely and she expected it to be changed during the parliamentary process.
However, she did not believe trade unions should be excluded altogether. Rather there was room to close other loopholes so small and non-profit organisations were not unfairly burdened.
"We need to have transparency about who has access and influence in that system. We think the public has a right to know who's influencing members of Parliament and on which issues."
The lobbying register also had to be practical and fair, she said. 

Labour cannot have its cake and eat it, and Ms Walker is right to be calling for transparency to be extended across the board, including trade unions. That may upset the Labour Party, especially those members of caucus who are amongst the ones described by Damien O'Connor as "self-serving" when he made his infamous but honest comment last April. But that's tough; transparency is like a window, not a two-way mirror.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Khoder Nasser Effect

There's a big stink brewing in Australian rugby circles at the moment, and it surrounds Wallaby first five-eights Quade Cooper. Georgina Robinson from the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

IF QUADE COOPER'S intention was to stir the thick and soupy rugby pot during delicate contract negotiations he well and truly hit his mark.
The injured Wallabies five-eighth's calls have been received with wide-eyed intrigue by the rugby community, members of which are waiting for the frustrated talent to fire the next missive in his as-yet one-sided war with the most powerful figures in Australian rugby.
Whether or not his comments about the ''toxic'' state of the sport are motivated by a desire to get the upper hand in negotiations with the Australian Rugby Union is unclear.
The ARU and the Wallabies are keeping quiet in the face of their former golden boy's sustained attacks while, beyond the briefest of ''not happy'' comments from Reds chief executive Jim Carmichael, Queensland have also shut up shop.
But the world, or at least the ever-dwindling pool of Australian rugby fans, coaches, players and officials, is watching. And a surprising number of them are on Cooper's side.

Interestingly, this has all blown up at a time when Cooper is in negotiations with the ARU; at least his manager, Khoder Nasser is. Nasser, of course, is the media-shy (year right) manager of a chap by the name of Williams; SB Williams.

The rumour doing the rounds at the moment is that Nasser has offered Cooper and Williams to the Sydney Roosters NRL side as a package deal; to get Williams, the Roosters have to take Cooper as well. Whether the Roosters can afford both Williams and Cooper and stay under the salary cap is anyone's guess, but we reckon that Cooper has little future in league, because his defence is - how can we say this kindly? - lacking.

It's odd that Cooper is so publicly biting the hand that currently feeds him; the ARU. But that's what the Khoder Nasser Effect does to people; it inflates their sense of self-importance. Just take a look at former Nasser client, Anthony "The Man" Mundine.

And of course Nasser's earning potential will have taken a knock with Mundine having split from his former manager a couple of months ago. But if Khoder Nasser thinks that the combination of Quade Cooper and the NRL is the key to his future prosperity, we'd suggest that he have another think. Perhaps he;'s suffering from a bout of the Khoder Nasser Effect himself.

A question for Wednesday...

Who remembers this iconic photograph from days gone by?

Let's do some imagining. What if a similar group existed within the current Labour caucus; who would be a part of it? And what tucker would they be sharing, given that this hypothetical situation takes place on a week when MP's were not living on lentils?

And just to be fair; who might be meeting from the National caucus, and what would be their food of choice? Is there yet a Fish and Chip Gang within Winston's caucus that gathers when he leaves the precincts of Parliament to dine at the renowned Green Parrot? And where would disaffected Green MP's congregate?

But that photo of Labour's Fish and Chip Gang is a real blast from the past. For nostalgia's sake alone, it deserves an airing.

A good-news story

Stuff has a new section called Stuff Nation, which gives people the opportunity to contribute. And it is from there that this good-news story comes; check this out:

On Wednesday, September 19, my neighbour's house caught fire. On instinct, knowing he would be sitting where he always was, I ran into his lounge to try to get him out.
Another man, who I later discovered was named Matt Butler, helped drag my neighbour to safety, after I had yelled for help as I struggled to pick him up on my own.
From the moment my wife noticed the smoke to all of the above happening was 30 seconds, at the most.
I remember speaking to Matt, and then repeating the above few lines to many ambulance staff, fire and police men and women, followed finally by press reporter Caroline King.
The whole incident happened so quickly. Between emergency services leaving the street and Caroline turning up, I had folded the rest of my washing and put my two daughters to bed, explaining the importance of the smoke alarm on my eldest's bedroom ceiling.
I hoped my neighbour was OK, and really thought that was it - an interesting evening. No big deal.
Seeing the front page of The Press the following morning almost knocked me over. What was I doing front and centre? It wasn't long before my phone started going, texts and calls from friends, family and people I hadn't heard from for a quite a while!
My colleagues in the office where I work took me out for lunch. Emails were flowing into my inbox, radio stations were contacting me for interviews. And everyone was saying things like: "Legend mate", "Amazing!" "Good job!", "Not everyone would do that", and the one I have grown most embarrassed of, "You're a hero."
What the heck had happened for me to deserve all of this praise? All of these kind words? Wasn't what I did just normal? Why is everyone so excited?
Put simply, that following day has made me feel incredibly humbled. The things people have said to me online and in person have been so kind, albeit so embarrassing.
We do look out for each other in Christchurch - this sense has grown stronger since the quakes, no question, but prior to that the people within the St Albans community have always looked out for each other. I just saw this event as another occasion of Christchurch community spirit in action.
Just like the neighbour from across the road who looked after my daughter for me while my wife and I talked to emergency services. Or our other neighbour who ran a power cord to the units behind the one that was burnt after Orion cut the power for safety reasons. 
Nothing more than community spirit.  

This is a terrific first-person account. Lucas Lormans doesn't see himself as anybody special; just someone who acted instinctively in an emergency.

But what he did in that emergency saved Matt Butler's life, and on that basis Lucas is a hero, albeit a reluctant and embarrassed one. It's great that Stuff is providing him and people like him a forum to say their piece.

If we were confronted with the same situation that Lucas Lormans experienced last week, we hope that we would react in the same instinctive and swift manner that he did. We hope that is never put to the test however. But we salute him, and hope that an appropriate agency rewards his life-saving bravery, even if it embarrasses him all over again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It had to happen...

The story of the man with the eel up his bum has been the most-read story on the Herald's website for the last couple of days.

And you just knew that it would be just a matter of time until to Tui billboard people got in on the act; which they have:

Good stuff from the beer that has given us plenty of laughs over the last however many years!

Tweet of the Day - 25 September 2012

Patrick Gower from 3News blows the whistle on David Shearer's alarmist rhetoric from earlier in the day:

Earlier Stuff reported:

Earlier it was revealed that English, the Finance Minister, knew spies were involved in the Dotcom case before the Prime Minister was alerted.
Labour leader David Shearer today claimed English had signed an indemnity order which made New Zealand liable for all costs if Kim Dotcom decided to sue - but after earlier declining to comment so he could check his paperwork, Mr English said this afternoon that was not true.
"It was a suppression order relating to the court proceedings; the leader of the Opposition has said I signed an indemnity, that's not true." 

One wonders who passed the dodgy information on to David Shearer, which has enabled him to single-handedly take the focus off John Key and onto himself. Watch this space; we may have an update soon.....


Patrick Gower and Peter Dunne have their suspicions....

One bad Apple...

There's an old saying that one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch. But Apple (as in the iPhone makers) may have a bigger problem than just one apple; the Herald reports:

The company that makes Apple's iPhones suspended production at a factory in China on Monday after a brawl by as many as 2,000 employees at a dormitory injured 40 people.
The fight, the cause of which is under investigation, erupted Sunday night at a privately managed dormitory near a Foxconn Technology Group factory in the northern city of Taiyuan, the company and Chinese police said. A police statement reported by the official Xinhua News Agency said 5,000 officers were dispatched to the scene.
The Taiwanese-owned company declined to say whether the factory is involved in iPhone production. It said the facility, which employs 79,000 people, will suspend work Monday and reopen Tuesday.
Foxconn makes iPhones and iPads for Apple Inc. and also assembles products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. It is one of China's biggest employers, with some 1.2 million workers in factories in Taiyuan, the southern city of Shenzhen, in Chengdu in the west and in Zhengzhou in central China.
The unrest happens at a critical time for Apple. The fight started days after the launch of the latest iPhone model in the US and eight other countries. The phone quickly sold out in most stores in the US and Apple has a three to four-week backlog of online orders as it ramps up production to meet demand.

And Apple shareholders are already nervous enough:

On Monday, Apple said it sold 5 million units of the new iPhone 5 in the first three days, less than analysts had expected. Its stock fell 1.4 per cent to $690.50 in midday trading.
The fight in Taiyuan started at 11 p.m. on Sunday, "drawing a large crowd of spectators and triggering chaos," a police spokesman was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
Order was restored after about four hours and several people were arrested, said the company, a unit of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. It said 40 people were taken to hospitals for treatment.
The violence did not appear to be work-related, the company and police said. Comments posted on Chinese internet bulletin boards said it might have erupted after a security guard hit an employee.

We wonder if the likes of Sue Bradford will communicate their concerns about this incident to the world and the conditions in which Apple workers live and work, by way as Ms Bradford was the other day, of her iPad.

That Apple is struggling to meet global demand for the iPhone 5 though (and all the accessories which will, of course, be incompatible with previous iterations) suggests that we won't have to worry about rushing to an iPhone retailer to upgrade any time soon.

Of eels, spies and a cartoonist named Emmerson

One of the reasons why we enjoy Rod Emmerson's cartoons so much is his ability to segue topical but completely unrelated stories together.

And he has excelled himself this morning:

Great stuff! It's put us off jellied eels for life though!

The Dotcom fiasco

News broke yesterday that the Government Communications Security Bureau had acted unlawfully in its evidence-gathering in the Kim Dotcom case; the Beehive website reports:

Prime Minister John Key today announced he has requested an inquiry by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security into the circumstances of unlawful interception of communications of certain individuals by the Government Communications Security Bureau.
Mr Key says the Crown has filed a memorandum in the High Court in the Megaupload case advising the Court and affected parties that the GCSB had acted unlawfully while assisting the Police to locate certain individuals subject to arrest warrants issued in the case. The Bureau had acquired communications in some instances without statutory authority.
After being informed about the matter by the Director of the GCSB on September 17, the Prime Minister referred the Bureau’s actions to the Inspector-General, Hon Paul Neazor. The Inspector-General is an independent statutory officer with the power to enquire into any matter related to a government intelligence agency’s compliance with the law.
Mr Key says he has also asked the Inspector-General to recommend any measures he considered necessary to prevent the issue from happening again.
Mr Key expressed his disappointment that unlawful acts had taken place.
“I expect our intelligence agencies to operate always within the law. Their operations depend on public trust.
“I look forward to the Inspector-General’s inquiry getting to the heart of what took place and what can be done about it,” says Mr Key. “Because this is also a matter for the High Court in its consideration of the Megaupload litigation, I am unable to comment further.”

This is another in a series of apparent gaffes by authorities assisting the FBI to collect evidence against Kim Dotcom and his Megaupload cohorts. It is simply not good enough.

The Herald details the nature of the unlawful conduct:

The Government Communications Security Bureau did not have a warrant to intercept communications in the lead-up to the raid on the Dotcom mansion in January.
Prime Minister John Key has revealed the GCSB was acting without his sign-off when it was working with police to locate people who were subject to arrest warrants.
He said he had not issued a warrant and was not briefed on the operation.
He said he believed it was a mistake rather than a deliberate flouting of the law, but the inquiry would investigate how it happened.
The first he had heard of it was on Monday.
Mr Key said the operation was not done under the watch of Governor-General Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae, who was the director of the GCSB until mid-2011 when he was appointed governor-general.
Mr Key has requested an inquiry by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security into the unlawful interception of communications by the GCSB, saying it had acquired communications without statutory authority.
The law that governs the GCSB allows it to intercept the communications of foreigners without a warrant in some circumstances - but it cannot intercept New Zealand citizens or residents' communications even when it has a warrant and both Dotcom and his co-accused Bram van der Kolk.

Here's hoping that the inquiry announced yesterday by the Police is swift yet comprehensive, and provides an explanation about how such a fundamental error could have been made. But most importantly, we hope that it will produce changes to procedure so that such a blunder can never be repeated.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Laws on child poverty

Michael Laws' weekly column in the Sunday Star-Times is often provocative, and not infrequently over the top. But he raises a valid question with yesterday's effort, which begins thus:

One of the great liberal myths in this country, subscribed to by a myriad of political and lobby groups, is that "child poverty" is rampant.
The very term is a lie. So too the statistics: that 270,000 children are estimated to be living in this mythical poverty. And that's why they go to school each day, inadequately and infrequently fed and clothed.
That's why - argue Labour, Greens and their fellow travellers, we have to feed those kids at school because they are in poverty and their parent/parents cannot feed them.
The truth is that every child who arrives at school without breakfast and/or lunch is actually a victim of neglect and abuse. Their parents are not worthy of the name.

Can anyone actually define the term "child poverty", or is it one of those terms which has slipped into the lexicon, but which means a range of different things to different people?

That's not to deny that there is genuine hardship in the community; we see that ourselves through our work, and through the volunteer work we do in the local community. But does it exist on the scale suggested by some? That's a matter of debate.

Laws continues:

Last week TV3's Campbell Live provided the most graphic proof yet of the scale of neglect. It compared two year 6 classes at two Auckland schools - decile 10 Westmere and decile 1 Edmund Hillary primary - and compared their lunch boxes. The results were startling - and seriously searing current affairs television.
At Westmere, all 24 of the kids had lunch, 23 had breakfast and 22 had fruit in their lunch.
At Edmund Hillary, only 14 of the 27 kids had lunch, 22 had breakfast and zero - yes, nought - had fruit in their lunch. In fact, their lunches primarily consisted of chips, snacks and fizzy drink.
When asked if he was surprised at this outcome, the Hillary headmaster said that he was, but blamed the minimum wage for his pupils' plight.
It was the most magnificent example of Pakeha liberal blame- shifting given that 60 per cent of the school roll is Maori and 39 per cent is Pacific Islander.
No child - and I mean no child - should ever be going to any school in this country without lunch. Only a truly inept individual would allow their child to do so and it is time to blame and shame.

We don't always like the way that Michael Laws plays to his radio audience, or to elements of the community. He is an unashamed self-seeking publicist. But he raises some valid points, even though the way he expresses them is somewhat more extreme than we would. His views should not be ignored simply because it is Michael Laws expressing them.

Simply throwing money at the issue of poverty (whatever "poverty" is defined as being) hasn't worked. The more money that is spent, the greater the problem seems to become. Laws closes by suggesting an alternative approach:

It should be an instant notification to Child Youth and Family when a child arrives at school without food. The parent who approves that abuse should not be a parent. 
Examine their circumstances and you will likely find other antisocial instances instantly, all blighting the innocent child.
But no. The liberals would prefer to feed the symptom and ignore the malady. They would prefer not to judge. And thereby condemn literally thousands of Kiwi kids to the same blasted existence as their parent/parents.
I'd start at Edmund Hillary School. And that year 6 class. And with a principal who thinks that he can blame lower wages for hungry kids. When responsibility rests where it must - with those who make the deliberate choice not to care, not to provide and not to be a decent parent. 

We don't agree completely with what Michael Laws says in his closing paragraphs. But the issue of parental responsibility is definitely the elephant in the room, and it is something that must be addressed  before New Zealand wastes more money that it does not have trying to solve a problem that is not simply a financial one.