Friday, November 30, 2012

Caveat emptor

Back in the day when we were considering a career in law, we actually studied Latin; to School Certificate level even. And one phrase that has stuck with us is caveat emptor; translated literally it means let the buyer beware.

The sentiment behind the expression is the same today as it was in Roman days. Our Dear Departed Dad used to say that if something sounded too good to be true, it probably was. That too is a mindset that has stuck with us, which is why we've never invested money in a finance company!

But Stuff reports on a modern-day application of caveat emptor; check this out:

A Trade Me scammer who conned customers out of nearly $50,000 has been sentenced to nine months home detention.
Elmira Rafiee, 25, was charged with 57 dishonesty offences after selling cut-price iPhones and iPads that buyers never received.
She used websites Trade Me and Sella to contact her victims directly pretending to be selling products they were interested in.
Forty-five people fell for the scam and Rafiee pocketed $48,332, in part to fund a drug habit. The highest single amount paid was $1100 for an iPad.
When caught last year, Rafiee admitted the charges and was given time to raise the money to repay the complainants.
She came to Auckland District Court today able to pay $14,500, which her lawyer Mark Edgar said was "the accumulation of a lot of scrimping and scraping".
He proposed she pay $100 a week through a job at a beauty salon to take care of the balance, provided the judge allowed her a community-based sentence.
Rafiee was supported in court by family even though her lawyer said she had brought shame on them among the Iranian community.
Judge David Harvey remarked on the high level of premeditation which involved buying courier bags and providing tracking numbers to "the hapless purchasers".
And the victims were not limited to those who fell for the scam.
The credibility of the specific websites and the entire online marketplace was tarnished, he said.
Judge Harvey said the aggravating factors of computer fraud were often overlooked by the court.
"There's a level of dissociation between the offender and the victim," he said.
"With real world fraud it takes a certain level of grit because you've got to eyeball the victim."
Upon sentencing her to home detention, the judge said he hoped the six years of repayments would be a constant reminder of Rafiee's offending.
He also tacked on 200 hours of community work and banned her from the internet for the first six months of her sentence. 

Whilst there's no excuse for Elmira Rafiee's offending, TradeMe does bring the whole caveat emptor thing to life in a 21st century context. Whilst the vast majority of TradeMe traders are honest, there are some scumbags out there. But surely, checking a person's feedback and profile, even if they haven't traded much is the bare minimum that any buyer would do before handing over their hard-earned cash.

Judge Harvey is right on the money about the level of disassociation between victims and offenders in online fraud; it's a very impersonal crime. But those purchasing online should take some precautions, and have an understanding that the Deal of the Century may not be that at all.

As we said above, none of this excuses Rafiee's cynical, premediated offending. But as long as they are people who will take the bait, fraudsters such as her will continue to propser. All we can say to that is caveat emptor; let the buyer beware.

UPDATED: "Internet not connected"

UPDATE: It's a Telecom fault, we've now discovered. We have the internet at work, but not (when we left) at home; which is where we do a good portion of our work!


For some obscure and unknown reason, we're getting the dreaded "Internet not connected" message on our laptop this morning; we hate it when that happens! So blogging is temporarily on hold. 

Hopefully all will be well at the office. Speaking of which, we're looking forward to the rollout of Ultra-fast broadband in the very near future. The fibre is in place right outside, and we're very soon going to have a techie come in to connect us up. For our businesses, which rely on communication, it's going to be a real boost; we can't hardly wait! 

 Normal business will resume shortly...

We can't help but wonder...

The media is in a lather this morning about Paula Bennett's "Zip it, sweetie" jibe directed towards Jacinda Ardern who was interjecting on Ms Bennett's reply to a question in the House. Likewise, the media got in a lather a few weeks ago when John Key chided Farming Show host Jamie Mackay on his "gay red shirt".

So we can't help but wonder; where is the outrage over Human Rights Commission senior staffer Dr Judy McGregor describing Christopher Finlayson as a "Queen" which we blogged about yesterday? The MSM has been absolutely silent on this.

Perhaps it's OK when the Left does it; that's the only possible explanation. Welcome to New Zealand; the land of double standards and hypocrisy.

What a great turnaround

Just one year ago the New Zealand test cricket team took a terrible beating from Australia at Brisbane. They crawled off to Hobart with their tails between their legs, whereupon they provided one of the sport's great turnarounds to record their first win in Australia for many years.

Late last night, it was deja vu all over again. Having been thrashed in Galle (there's no kinder word to describe it), the Black Caps rebounded to beat Sri Lanka by a whopping 167 runs at the P Sara Stadium in Colombo. It was a comprehensive team performance as Kanishkaa Balachandran from Cricinfo reports:

New Zealand shrugged off five consecutive defeats with one of their most memorable victories in recent times, squaring the two-Test series with a 167-win at the P Sara Oval. Hammered in under three days in Galle, New Zealand stretched the hosts in Colombo by holding the edge over all five days and rounded things off just after tea, despite a resilient 84 by Angelo Mathews.
It was New Zealand's first Test win in Sri Lanka since 1998, and in a remarkable coincidence, that victory at the R Premadasa Stadium was also by the same margin. This win drew parallels with their inspiring win at Hobart a year ago. On both occasions, New Zealand were hammered in the first Test, but stunned the hosts by showing the resolve to fight back. While the Hobart Test was anybody's game till the final moments, this Test was dominated by the visitors and coming into the final day, the only realistic outcomes were a New Zealand win and a draw.
New Zealand's penetrative seam attack - one of the positives to come out of an otherwise horror of a year - set it up by getting the top four the previous evening. The twin failures of the top order were responsible for Sri Lanka's struggle through the Test. It meant that Sri Lanka were left with only one option - to play for a draw. They had to derive inspiration from Faf du Plessis' marathon effort at the Adelaide Oval earlier this week to deny Australia.
Mathews was the only batsman who looked like emulating du Plessis, but lacked support to help him last the distance. Thilan Samaraweera's early departure, due to a communication breakdown early in the morning, only made the task tougher for Mathews. Dropping the ball towards short cover, Samaraweera set off for a non-existent single and was three-fourths down the pitch but Mathews wasn't interested. Jeetan Patel threw the ball to the wicketkeeper, who broke the stumps before a deflated Samaraweera could make his ground.
The wicket put Mathews' survival skills to test. With the seamers swinging it towards the pads, the captain Ross Taylor set unconventional fields for Mathews, placing a silly mid-on and two fielders close at short midwicket on one occasion. Only five boundaries were scored in the morning session, with the focus more on wearing the bowlers down.
The afternoon session was dominated by spin, with a spinner operating from one end for the entire duration. Tim Southee bowled round the wicket with a packed on side field, with a short leg, backward short leg and short square leg to create some opportunities. Doug Bracewell, for a short period, bowled short of a length to Mathews with the wicketkeeper up to the stumps.
The Prasanna Jayawardene-Mathews stand frustrated New Zealand for 35.3 overs. New Zealand tried hard to create chances, placing fielders around the batsman when the spinners were on. The breakthrough after lunch came via Todd Astle, who generated good drift with his leg breaks. The one that got Jayawardene was one that drifted away and bounced more, clipping the shoulder of the bat. Suraj Randiv lasted only 11 deliveries, when he edged Trent Boult to second slip.
Nuwan Kulasekara joined Mathews to add 46. Astle bowled loopy full tosses, that were clubbed over deep midwicket by Kulasekara and Mathews too used his feet to Patel and smashed a six over long-on.
New Zealand were waiting to get hold of the second new ball to unleash their seamers. They would have been anxious to get quick breakthroughs and avoid a last-minute scramble for wickets, keeping the weather in mind. Poor light had curtailed play in the final session in the first four days, but Sri Lanka couldn't stick around long enough for any divine intervention.
Boult got the breakthrough straight after tea when he had Kulasekara fending to Kane Williamson who took a low catch at gully. Williamson, who plucked a brilliant catch in the same position on the fourth day, took another stunner when he took one inches off the ground to get rid of Shaminda Eranga. The third umpire studied several replays before giving it out. Boult rounded off the match when he had Mathews edging to Martin Guptill at second slip, giving New Zealand their first Test win in 2012.

This was a terrific performance from New Zealand. Having said that, one win does not create a winning culture and New Zealand has a tough next few months with two away tests against South Africa and a home series against England. These series will be a real test of the team's mettle.

But there are so many positive signs. Ross Taylor batted wonderfully well in Colombo. Kane Williamson has a big future ahead of him, and Daniel Flynn is showing grit in the #5 position.

And our bowling stocks have not been this strong for some time. Trent Boult is emerging as a left-arm quick of rare promise who is able to get good batsmen out. With him, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell all being in their young 20′s, there are finally some positive signs about our bowling. And I hope that they persist with Todd Astle, with whose father we have jousted over the years. He is a very promising cricketer, and leg spinners should be encouraged!

Congratulations to Mike Hesson on his first test match win in charge, and to Ross Taylor who played two captain's innings, whilst managing his bowlers well in the oppressive heat of Colombo. But the best news we've heard this morning is that the Black Caps are keeping their feet on the ground, and not getting carried away with the win with further challenges ahead. That suggests that this team is in it for the long haul, and that can only be good news for New Zealand's long-suffering cricket supporters.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Father Time beckons Punter

Ricky "Punter" Ponting is retiring from test cricket; Nine MSM reports:

Ricky Ponting has announced his retirement from Test cricket in an emotional press conference that left captain Michael Clarke speechless and on the verge of tears.
Clarke was unable to answer questions regarding Ponting's announcement ahead of the Third Test against South Africa in Perth.

Ricky Ponting has announced his retirement from Test cricket in an emotional press conference that left captain Michael Clarke speechless and on the verge of tears.
Clarke was unable to answer questions regarding Ponting's announcement ahead of the Third Test against South Africa in Perth.

"No I didn't have a feeling it was coming," Clarke said when asked how Ponting's retirement would affect the team.
"The boys are obviously hurting, he has been an amazing player for a long time."
Clarke, visibly overcome with emotion, then paused and choked back tears before saying "And that will do me for today. Sorry, I can't answer that."
Ponting will equal Steve Waugh's mark of 168 Test matches in this match, the most in the history of Australian cricket.
The entire Australian squad turned up for the press conference on Thursday in Perth where Ponting made his announcement.
Turning 38 next month, Ponting is the highest Australian run-scorer of all time and has been described as the greatest Australian batsman outside Sir Donald Bradman.
The Tasmanian has 13,336 Test runs to his name, only Indian Sachin Tendulkar has scored more in the history of cricket.
Ponting suggested after the second Test in Adelaide where he made four and 16 that the end might be near, and his fate was now in the hands of selectors.
"It's a decision I thought long and hard about," Ponting said. "It's based on my results in this series, which haven't been to the level required of a batsman in this team.
"Over the past couple of weeks my level of performance hasn't been good enough."
Cricket Australia Chairman Wally Edwards said Ponting's retirement decision and announcement was typical of the way he had approached his cricket since becoming a first-class player in his teens and a Test player at 20.
"Ricky is always uncompromisingly straightforward and leads from the front – he has made a decision that he believes is best for him, his family and his team," Edwards said. 

Ricky Ponting has been a tough and uncompromising competitor. But in recent times there have been signs that his eyes, his feet and his hands were not longer working in combination as well as they had in the past. He has chosen to leave the test arena on his own terms rather than have the indignity of having the Australian selectors end his career.

We are fortunate to have seen Ponting bat on a couple of occasions. He will hold a place as one of the very best batsmen of the modern era, and has been a wonderful servant of Australian cricket both as a player and as captain. Father Time has caught up with him however.

We wish Ricky Ponting well for whatever he chooses to do in his life after cricket. The Australian side just won't quite be the same without him and his battered Baggy Green.

Is Julia Gillard toast?

Julia Gillard is in strife up to her chin; The Australian reports:

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard enabled the incorporation of a union slush fund from which her boyfriend later stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by formally denying to authorities that it was a trade union organisation.
A newly released document confirms that a letter Ms Gillard wrote to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 rejected the commission's assertion that the Australian Workplace Reform Association was ineligible for incorporation because of its union links. The document also confirms that Ms Gillard, then a salaried partner with Slater & Gordon, drafted the rules for the association - without opening a formal file, without consulting the senior partners and without taking advice from expert lawyers within the firm.
The revelations contradict Ms Gillard's claims at media conferences and in Parliament that she played a limited role in the formation of the association, from which Mr Wilson and his crony, Ralph Blewitt, later misappropriated more than $400,000.

Read more:
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard enabled the incorporation of a union slush fund from which her boyfriend later stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by formally denying to authorities that it was a trade union organisation.
A newly released document confirms that a letter Ms Gillard wrote to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 rejected the commission's assertion that the Australian Workplace Reform Association was ineligible for incorporation because of its union links. The document also confirms that Ms Gillard, then a salaried partner with Slater & Gordon, drafted the rules for the association - without opening a formal file, without consulting the senior partners and without taking advice from expert lawyers within the firm.
The revelations contradict Ms Gillard's claims at media conferences and in Parliament that she played a limited role in the formation of the association, from which Mr Wilson and his crony, Ralph Blewitt, later misappropriated more than $400,000.

Read more:
 THE Prime Minister will enter parliament for the last day this year under intense pressure to explain new allegations she was heavily involved in the creation of a union body later used as a "slush fund".
The Australian reports today that documents, released after 17 years, show Ms Gillard argued the case for the incorporation of the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association.
Ms Gillard told her employers at the law firm Slater & Gordon in 1995 that the association was a "slush fund" to be used for the re-election of union officials.
However, it eventually became the vehicle through which major union fraud was committed, with $100,000 from it being used to buy a Melbourne home which Ms Gillard's boyfriend, union official Bruce Wilson, lived in.
Ms Gillard has always vehemently denied any knowledge of the fraud.
She has admitted having only been involved in providing legal advice to Mr Wilson and their friend, union bagman Ralph Blewitt, as to the incorporation of the association.
The newly released documents, a record of interview about the association between Ms Gillard and Slater & Gordon then-senior partner Peter Gordon in September 1995, show Ms Gillard alone prepared the response when the authority suggested it was ineligible for incorporation due to its "trade union status".
The documents show that Ms Gillard in 1992 wrote to the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs in Western Australia, where the association was being incorporated, arguing for the decision to be reversed.
The revelations come as Victorian police begin interviewing key witnesses as part of an investigation into the Australian Workers Union scandal.
Fraud squad detectives have contacted at least two people, including retired Greek-born builder Kon Spyridis, who said he spoke with police on Monday in relation to payments he'd received from the AWU in the mid-1990s.
Police have also contacted former Slater & Gordon employee Olive Brosnahan, who in 1993 did the conveyancing on the Melbourne property at the centre of the affair.
This week Ms Gillard refused to answer repeated questioning in parliament from Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop as to whether she wrote to the authority to vouch for "the bona fides of the AWU Workplace Reform Association".
On Monday, Ms Gillard told parliament: "The claim that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has now made is a claim that appeared in The Age ... The correspondence he refers to has never been produced, so the claim has been made but no correspondence has ever been produced."
The documents relied upon by The Australian were released by Slater & Gordon's former equity partner Nick Styant-Browne, after Mr Wilson's interview on the ABC's 7.30 on Tuesday night.
However, Mr Styant-Browne released them on the basis that Mr Wilson's interview meant that he had waived his legal confidentiality as a former client of the firm.
The documents also show Ms Gillard wrote the association's rules.
While they emphasised worker safety, her document did not outline that the association was to be used for the re-election of officials.
It was also revealed the rules Ms Gillard used were "cut and pasted" from rules she had earlier used when incorporating the Socialist Forum which she had helped found at Melbourne University in the 1980s.
Last night, Ms Gillard's spokesman told The Australian the PM had "no recollection of receiving or sending the claimed correspondence in this matter".

The allegations are hugely damaging to Julia Gillard's credibility. She told the Australian Federal Parliament this week that "no correspondence has ever been produced". Now the correspondence HAS been produced, and Julia Gillard's role in the messy affair has been revealed for all to see.

The timing of this could not be worse for Ms Gillard. The Australian Parliament goes into recess after today's session, with a huge, dark cloud hanging over here. It will provide her opposition fertile ground over the summer break.

Watch this space for developments.

Why we love test cricket

We love a variety of sports, but cricket is our oldest and dearest love. And when that love affair began somewhere around 50 years ago, there was but one format of the game at international level; test cricket.

The test match game is one for the purists. But even those with a passing interest in the wonderful game will have appreciated three magnificent test matches in the last week, one of which will conclude tonight.

England was humbled in the first test match of their series against India. Going into the second test at Mumbai, Indian skipper MS Dhoni asked for a spinner-friendly pitch which was duly delivered. India won the toss, batted and immediately struggled against recalled English spinner Monty Panesar. When England batted, another recall, Kevin Petersen played the innings of his life to give the English a large first innings lead. Panesar and Graeme Swann then bowled the Indians out cheaply for a second time, and the English knocked off the necessary 57 runs without losing a wicket. It was a remarkable turnaround from an English side which, Alastair Cook apart had been outclass by the hosts.

On to Adelaide. Australia completely dominated the opening day of the second test against South Africa. The Proteas fought their way back into the game on the second and third days before Australia left them 430 to win the match. The South Africans lost early wickets, and going into the last day were up against it. But fighting innings from AB de Villiers (33 of 220 balls), Jacques Kallis (46 off 110 balls, on one good leg) and debutant Faf du Plessis  (110 off 376 balls) saved the match and possibly the series for the South Africans. The final day wasn't pretty, but it was gripping cricket. Even going into the last few balls of the match Australia could have won. But a defiant South African batting effort saved the day.

And right now, New Zealand is poised to win the most unlikely of test victories. There's no easy way to say it; New Zealand was hopelessly outclassed by Sri Lanka in the first test at Galle. Only Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Daniel Flynn emerged from that match with any credit.

There must have been some frank words exchanged en route to Colombo because it has been a transformed team performance. There are still worries about the top order batting, but Ross Taylor (142 and 74) has led from the front. Kane Williamson batted superbly in the first innings which helped to establish New Zealand's dominance, while debutant Todd Astle provided terrific support to his skipper last night before being dismissed in bizarre fashion. He swept a ball from Sri Lankan spinner Suraj Randiv, the close-in fielder turned away, and in doing so the ball rebounded from his heel and ballooned out to mid-wicket where it was gleefully caught.

And before the Colombo gloom descended, Sri Lanka had been reduced to 47 for four, chasing a total of 362 to win, which would be a record at the P Sara Stadium. Key batsmen Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have all been dismissed.

The most positive aspect of the two tests has been the form of Tim Southee and Trent Boult who are emerging as an attacking bowling combination of genuine quality. It's been some time since we had pace bowlers bowling in tandem and keeping the pressure on their opposition. And with two late wickets, and a history of taking second innings scalps Doug Bracewell could yet be a factor later today.

Needless to say, we'll be in front of the telly from after 5pm tonight to watch the New Zealanders hopefully wrap up one of the more unlikely wins in recent history. True fans stand behind their teams through thick and thin, and that simply makes rare away-from-home victories all the more sweeter. They must bowl well, and hold their catches, like this ripper that Kane Williamson took to end the Sri Lankan first innings:

Test cricket; based on what we've seen in the last week, it's the new black!

Is this appropriate?

Dr Judy McGregor is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. She's also been a journalist, editor and university lecturer. She was first appointed in 3 February 2003 for a five year term which was renewed for a further five years on 20 January 2008 until 19 January 2013. Both those appointments were made by the former Clark Labour government.

So it was no surprise that Dr McGregor was a keynote speaker at Labour's recent conference. Although she is supposed to be politically neutral, she is known to be affiliated to the Labour Party.

What was more surprising was the content of her speech at the conference; check this out:

A quick search of the 2011 election results website shows that Annette King won the Rongotai electorate from National's Christopher Finlayson with Green co-leader Russel Norman in third place. Given that Dr Norman is in a heterosexual relationship and has children, and that Christopher Finlayson is openly gay, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out who Dr McGregor was referring to.

Of course, it's not the first time that Mr Finlayson has been the subject of homophobic insults from the Labour Party; check this out:

Trevor Mallard has gone into bat for his former benchmate over at Red Alert. Amongst other things, he says:

I don’t accept the view that he is picked on because he is gay. He is picked on because there is a common view that he has travelled too much. But there is no doubt that lots of people are putting an extra boot into Chris because he is gay. One only has to look at Whaleoil (yes I did) or many comments on Kiwiblog to see the bile that homophobes are writing.
All of us make mistakes in our jobs. Sometimes we don’t see it. I’ve had a few examples. Would have been better for my career if I didn’t call Tau Uncle Tom or if I kept some space between us.

Now Trevor Mallard is not entirely a babe in the woods when it comes to homophobia. So we helpfully added this comment

Inventory2 says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Trevor – I commend you for your loyalty to a colleague, especially one you admit you are not close to. However, when you are making accusations about homophobia, maybe you ought to preface it with some self-condemnation of a certain interjection that you made against Christopher Finlayson last October, which is recorded in Hansard. Perhaps it can be explained under the “We all make mistakes at work” banner.

It's since been moderated, with a comment from Trevor Mallard who says "I understand what homophobia is". Indeed he does; check this out, from the Hansard of Question Time, Thursday 15 October 2009 - it's the crossover between Q11 (to Christopher Finlayson) and Q12:

Hon Steve Chadwick: Will he provide an answer assuring that there will be no decrease in Government funding for the arts and culture sector as a result of any increase in charitable giving by private individuals to the arts and cultural institutions?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am seeking to grow the arts budget. I have made it clear on a number of occasions that the Government has very real responsibilities to fund the arts and that, in addition, the increase in funding from private and corporate sources will encourage an explosion in the arts.

Education—National Standards

12. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her reported statement that—[Interruption] Tinkerbell, can you settle down?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not acceptable. I ask the House to come to order. The member asking the question often interjects when other members are asking questions. I ask him to just ask his question.

So what's your first thought when someone says "Tinkerbell"? Here's what comes up when you type in Tinkerbell on Google. It's obviously OK for Mr Mallard to make comments like that to an openly gay National MP in the bearpit that is Parliament, but when someone makes comments against one of his gay colleagues, that's homophobia. We're guessing that Trevor Mallard's decision to censor a factual and carefully-worded comment might suggest that he's not happy that his words have come back to bite him. That's his problem.

We accept that Dr McGregor's comment was intended to be a joke. But so was John Key's banter about Farming Show hot Jamie Mackay's "gay red shirt", and look at the furore over that.

There are two aggravating factors here however. Firstly, Dr McGregor is a senior public servant, and is supposed to at least have veneer of political neutrality. So what is she doing cracking jokes at a Labour Party conference? Is it her intention to follow her fellow HRC staffer Dr Rajen Prasad on to Labour's party list?

The second is far more serious. The Human Rights Commission subscribes to the Yogyakarta Principles. According to the HRC website:

The Yogyakarta Principles set out the international human rights standards that all countries must meet to uphold the human rights of sexual and gender minorities.
All people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the same rights and freedoms. All sexual and gender minorities in New Zealand have these human rights, whichever word they use to describe their sexual orientation or gender identity.
These include, for example, people who identify as: takataapui, lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transsexual, transgender, whakawahine, tangata ira tane, mahu (Tahiti and Hawaii), vakasalewalewa (Fiji), palopa (Papua New Guinea), fa’afafine, (Samoa, America Samoa and Tokelau) akava’ine (Cook Islands), fakaleiti or leiti (the Kingdom of Tonga) or fakafifine (Niue island).
The Human Rights Commission recognises and values this diversity of identities and communities and acknowledges the difficulty encompassing this diversity under any single umbrella term. Some intersex people, for example, may prefer to use the words ‘sex or bodily diversity’ – while others may simply wish to be known as male or female.

It quite frankly beggars belief that someone who subscribes to those principles by day can have such a cavalier attitude to gay people by night. We are surprised that the MSM has not picked up on this as they did with John Key's aforementioned comment.

Today, we call on Dr Judy McGregor to, at the very least issue a formal apology to Hon Christopher Finlayson. If she were a person of principle, she would also accept that she made a colossal error of judgment which rendered her unfit to hold a senior role within the Human Rights Commission.

Likewise, we call upon both the President and the Leader of the Labour Party to apologise publicly to Hon Christopher Finlayson for this remark, given that it was made on their patch. That is the very least that could be expected of them.

Will any of the above happen? Don't hold your breath. Labour may try to create the impression that it is the party for minorities, but in reality they even worse than those whom they condemn. 

What a difference two years makes:

Jacinda Ardern had a lot to say about The Hobbit two years ago; check this out:

"It wasn't a necessary change" says Ms Ardern, of the small change to employment laws which guaranteed that The Hobbit could be filmed in New Zealand adding millions of dollars to the economy and creating employment for hundreds.

Two years later, and all is forgiven. Warners are no longer telling the Government what to do (and in reality never did), and Ms Ardern accepts an invitation to the World Premiere of The Hobbit; an act of considerable grace by the organisers:

The Hobbit-haters become red carpet wanderers. Make your own judgment on that.

Hat-tip (for the video and photo): Whaleoil


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Fellowship of the Labour Party...

There was a moment of mirth during Question Time this afternoon. Tau Henare asked a patsy question of Steven Joyce who was acting on behalf of Finance Minister Bill English. It was all played pretty straight until, around the 3:50 mark Henare asked Joyce "What reports has he seen about other potential productions we might see in New Zealand?" Here's the fun, courtesy of In the House:

As entertaining as Mr Joyce's lengthy answer was, the beam from Labour's back bench was the highlight of the whole thing. David Cunliffe found the whole situation most amusing. 

And Joyce's closing line was perhaps his best:

We are due to hear more about the conclusion of this particular story in February of next year, but I understand that it might be a little bit of a flop, because, rather than giant eagles, the fellowship have decided to put their faith in an elderly mallard.

Good stuff! 

Hobbit Fever

Wellington has turned on a glorious day for the World Premiere of The Hobbit; check out the picture below, via the Dom-Post:

The crowds have flocked into downtown Wellington. DPF is watching the fun from the Downstage Theatre, and has just tweeted:

Crowds at Courtney Place almost impassable. Now enjoying view from 2nd floor of Downstage Theatre


Regan Cunliffe from Throng blogs:

When Rachel Hunter said to New Zealand’s Got Talent finalists, J Geeks, “I hope that you get the opportunity to go show the world…” they should have replied:
“Yeah, nah, don’t worry, J Geek vs the World is coming soon to TV3″.
Their new show, from the makers of The GC, has been in development for TV3 for over a year.
J Geek vs The World received $20,000 in development funding from New Zealand On Air prior to TVNZ being granted $1.6m in funding for New Zealand’s Got Talent and has received an additional funding of $6,500 since then.
New Zealand’s Got Talent declared “we’re hoping to find New Zealand’s next big thing” when they launched the series 11 weeks ago. Haven’t they already been found?
I wonder if there was an internal memo at TV3 encouraging staff to vote for their stars.

Oh dear. Someone at TVNZ's talent identification department is going to be VERY red-faced over this.  Regan Cunliffe's piece is well worth a read in its entirety. TV3 certainly seems to have successfully ambushed its state-owned competitor.

Of Rod Emmerson and Unexpected Journies...

Our favourite cartoonist has produced an absolute beauty this morning:

And if Brendan Horan runs out of gardens to tend whilst his troubles are dealt with, he's welcome to come and tend to ours!

Well done Rod Emmerson.

The Dom-Post on The Hobbit

Most unsurprisingly, the Dominion-Post's editorial this morning centres on the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which will take place this afternoon. Under the headline There and back again the leader writer opines:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms ... " So began the journey that took Bilbo Baggins from Hobbiton to the Lonely Mountain and back again.
And so began a journey that has taken film-maker Peter (now Sir Peter) Jackson from Wellington to Hollywood and back.
Along the way J Tolkien's creation had to contend with trolls, goblins, giant spiders and Smaug, the dragon. Jackson has had to deal with accountants, jittery film bosses, Actors' Equity and the Council of Trade Unions.
Bilbo returned to his hobbit hole rich and possessed of a magic ring, but his neighbours never looked at him the same way again. About him hung the unsettling aroma of adventure.
Jackson returned from his first foray to Hollywood with a clutch of Oscars for his work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he too found perceptions had changed. About him hung the aroma of success. He was no longer a hometown boy made good, but a movie mogul. Hence Actors' Equity's attempt to use The Hobbit as a vehicle for settling long-running industry grievances.
A dumber strategy is difficult to imagine. The Lord of the Rings gave thousands of Kiwis a start in the film industry and became the greatest marketing tool New Zealand has possessed. Tolkien fans flocked to see the places where the story they loved was brought to life. 

Ah yes; NZ Actors' Equity, their Australian counterpart MEAA and its spin-master Simon Whipp, and the CTU led by Helen Kelly did their best to ensure that The Hobbit was not filmed in New Zealand. It was a classic case of a union cutting off its nose to spite its face. Sir Peter Jackson alleged at the time that it was a money-and-power grab by the unions, and his view was reinforced by John Barnett from South Pacific  Pictures who described MEAA as making "duplicitous and inaccurate claims", and who pointed out the MEAA had in fact been deregistered by the Registrar of Incorporated Societies for non-compliance.

The Dom-Post continues:

The Hobbit is doing the same. Over the past year, 2000 people have been employed on the three films Jackson is making from the book and work will continue for another two years.
To organise an international blacklist of the project was close to being an act of sabotage.
Yes, The Lord of the Rings was shot in New Zealand, yes, Jackson wanted to make the films here, yes, other potential English-speaking locations were already unionised. However, for every argument to suggest Warner Bros would have no choice but to bow to union demands, there was another to suggest it would pack up and go elsewhere.
Ultimately there is only one reason The Lord of the Rings was shot in this country and only one reason The Hobbit is being shot here – Jackson.
If he had not picked up his parents' Super 8 camera all those years ago, there would have been no Weta Workshop, no Wingnut Films and Wellington would not have become a world-renowned film-making hub. 

Sir Peter Jackson is indeed a master film-maker, and his influence within the New Zealand film-making community and its off-shoots is self-evident. The people of the likes of James Cameron wish to live here and make movies here is largely due to Jackson's influence.

The Dom-Post is not generally seen as overly supportive of the Right. But in closing, the leader writer applauds the John Key-led government:

If Jackson felt Actors' Equity was jeopardising the project, he needed to be listened to. Fortunately he was by the Government, which changed the law to ease Warner's concerns and pumped even more public money into the project. 
Some things are too important to gamble on a coin toss. New Zealand is a minor player in an industry in which tax breaks and publicly funded incentives are part of the furniture.
The choice before John Key's Government was simple – stand on its dignity or sweeten the pot. Today's red carpet premiere of the most eagerly anticipated movie of 2012 confirms it made the right choice. Other potential locations will be looking on in envy. 

We agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. We add our congratulations to the many accolades already directed to Sir Peter Jackson and all those involved in the first Hobbit movie project. 

It will add to Jackson's already-considerable reputation, and to the reputation of the New Zealand film industry and New Zealand as a whole. That can only be a positive thing.

Media balance

Much has been made of suggestions that John Key got more media coverage than Phil Goff in the last election.But it goes both ways as the Herald story demonstrates, Under the headline PM misled public on water ownership - Maori Council Adam Bennett writes:

Maori Council lawyer Felix Geiringer this morning challenged John Key's claim no one owns water and said the Prime Minister had misled the public on that point.
Justice Ronald Young is hearing in the High Court at Wellington the challenge to the Government's plan to partially privatise Mighty River Power next year taken by the council, the Waikato River and Dams Claims Trust and the Pouakani Claims Trust.
The council argues it is unlawful for the Government to sell shares in the company because that would affect the Government's ability to make redress for any Maori ownership claims over the Waikato River and other water bodies.
But Mr Key has dismissed the council's claims a number of times, saying his Government's view was that under common law no owned the water in rivers, lake and other water bodies.
But this morning Mr Geiringer said Mr Key was wrong, and his statements were an "error of law" and "meaningless".
Mr Geiringer said he believed Maori could potentially establish full blown ownership of water and his submissions included a number of examples of that.
But Mr Key's claim underpinned the three key decisions by his Government which the council is challenging in court which were;
# the decision to convert Mighty River Power into a "mixed ownership model" company which can be partially privatised,
# the decision not proceed with "Shares Plus" or any other mechanism for redressing Maori proprietary rights in water, and,
# the final decision to partially sell the company which is expected next year.
But Mr Geiringer said Mr Key had misled the public on the ownership of water.
"It's tricksy on behalf of the Prime Minister who pretended to the New Zealand public that he was basing his decision on the common law that no one owned the water when he wasn't really.
"In secret the Crown knew that it was possible to own water and therefore that formed no part of their decision-making but that's not what he told New Zealand."

Mr Geiringer is, of course, the paid spokesman for the Maori Council, and as a lawyer it is his job to articulate his client's argument. The Herald gives plenty of column space to that argument.

The Herald however gives far less space to Justice Ronald Young's response to Mr Geiringer's advocacy; read on:

However, Justice Young challenged Mr Geiringer's claims, asking him repeatedly to explain how Mr Key's statements were an error of law. That led to a heated exchange which ended only when Justice Young told an increasingly frustrated Mr Geiringer to" take a deep breath and count to 10" and to "remember where you are".

Oh dear. Justice Young can apparently see right through the Maori Council's kite-flying exercise, but that of course is far less newsworthy than unsubstantiated and unflattering references to the Prime Minister. Based on comments we have seen from journalists attending this hearing, the Maori Council's application seems destined to fail.

And as an afterthought, Phil Goff's claims of media bias during the 2011 election campaign are as much a kite-flying exercise as the Maori Council's legal challenge to the Crown. The 80 photos of Mr Goff that Claire Robinson found were 80 photographs more of him than his strategic genii would allow to appear on Labour's election campaign billboards.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thought for the Day - 27 November 2012

From Homepaddock:

We must confess; we'd never thought of it that way. So next team there are bean sprouts in our salad, we will pay homage to the sacrifice they made for our waistline!

And yes; we love bacon too!

How the Left views Sir Peter Jackson

There has been no shortage of anti-Sir Peter Jackson and anti-Hobbit rhetoric in the media and around the blogosphere in the last few days. But quite possibly the worst example of all is this comment left on Kiwiblog just a short while ago:

Why does the Left despise Sir Peter Jackson. Is it because he is successful? Is it because they don't like his movies? Or is the green-eyed monster alive, well and living in New Zealand?

Sir Peter Jackson is a hugely successful and talented film-maker and businessman. His movies have provided millions of people around the world with hours of entertainment. And he has done more than anyone else to make the film industry in New Zealand of world class. He ought be feted and not despised.

A victory for common-sense

The Greens called for an inquiry into the process of hydraulic fracturing, known more commonly as fracking. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright has conducted that inquiry, canvassing a wide range of expert opinion. And as Radio New Zealand reports, the Greens and Gareth Hughes in particular are going to be VERY upset by the outcome; check this out:

A long-awaited report on fracking from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment will support the use of the gas extraction practice, Radio New Zealand understands.
Dr Jan Wright will release her findings on Tuesday afternoon.
Fracking has been used in New Zealand for 20 years. The practice involves pumping fluids underground to expand cracks and get at trapped pockets of gas.
Previous international studies have suggested the method can trigger earthquakes and mud volcanoes, and can contaminate drinking water.
Radio New Zealand has been told Dr Wright will reject that and say fracking can, and does, operate safely in New Zealand.
However she will suggest that tighter regulations within the industry would be useful. Dr Wright will give details on proposed regulations when her full report is released next year.

"Fracking can, and does, operate safely in New Zealand."  Let's by all means tighten regulations to ensure that there is no ongoing harm, but fracking has essentially been given a clean bill of health by Dr Wright, an independent public servant appointed to her role by Labour in 2007. 

The Greens thrive when they have causes to advance, and fracking was one of those causes. The Greens' front-person on fracking was Gareth Hughes, and he has flown the length and breadth of Aotearoa stirring up support for his and the Greens' cause. One can only speculate as to the size of his carbon footprint with all the fossil fuels consumed to get him to and from his destinations. It must be larger than Ronald McDonald's! We just Googled "Gareth Hughes fracking" and came up with 12,900 results. Today's expected announcement from Dr Wright will be a body-blow to the Greens and their youthful MP.

We are fortunate that New Zealand is mineral and gas-rich. We are less fortunate that a small but vocal minority opposes every effort to extract those minerals and gases from the land and sea. The release of Dr Jan Wright's report on fracking today is a very welcome development, even if it likely to produce calls from Gareth Hughes and his fellow MP's for an inquiry into the inquiry.

Of Hobbit-haters and other words that start with H...

The Herald reports:

Three Labour MPs, including its leadership team of David Shearer and Grant Robertson, will attend the red-carpet premiere of The Hobbit tomorrow despite strong criticism over the deal to appease the movie's makers, Warner Bros.
Labour's leader and deputy leader, and Rongotai MP Annette King, have accepted invitations to the premiere in Wellington - joining six National Party Cabinet ministers, including the four who negotiated with Warner Bros executives in 2010 over tax breaks and an employment law change.
Labour's criticism in 2010 earned them the nickname "Hobbit-haters" from National MPs, who claimed that Warner would film it elsewhere if the Government didn't move to change the law.
Mr Robertson denied it was hypocritical to attend the event after criticising the deal with Warner Bros which included a change to employment law to set out the legal status of film workers as contractors rather than employees. "I remain staunchly opposed to the legislation passed by the National Government in this matter. We thought it was wrong and unnecessary and still do.
"But I've never been opposed to the movie or the story or anything like that, just to the way the law was changed."
Mr Robertson said it was appropriate for him to attend - he was the MP for Wellington Central and The Hobbit had employed a large number of people in his electorate.
The Green Party also criticised National at the time and a spokeswoman said none of its MPs were going.

 Grant Robertson wants to have his cake and eat it. Had not the change to employment laws been made, there is every chance that The Hobbit would have been made elsewhere. As Mr Robertson notes, The Hobbit provided employment to many of his constituents. Had the Government not acted, that employment would have been put at risk.

Instead, the Government DID act, a small but important change was made to employment laws (which nobody involved in the making of The Hobbit seems to have been disadvantaged by), the film was made right here in New Zealand and it will premiere tomorrow night. And Messrs Shearer and Robertson along with Annette King will enjoy their moment in the spotlight and on the red carpet.

Doubt remains over whether the Greens were invited and turned the invitation down, or whether they were simply not invited. If it were the former, fair dues to them for their consistency.

And the Labour MP's are not the only ones to leverage off The Hobbit in recent days; a reader sent us this picture at the weekend of two Young Labour activists trying to get signatures for their PPIR petition on the Mixed Ownership Model:

It's telling that Labour will revel in the glory of The Hobbit after its union mates led by Labour Party aspirant and CTU head Helen Kelly almost managed to torpedo the movie project in New Zealand and the economic benefits that will accrue. There's a word for that, and like Hobbit, it starts with an H.

We hope she survives until 2405

The Herald has the story of an elderly benefit fraudster; check this out:

Eighty-three-year-old Eileen Marie Farquer fleeced the system for quarter of a century, pocketing almost $215,000 in benefit payments.
The frail-looking Te Puke pensioner managed to hide her offending for more than 25 years but her dark secret was finally uncovered after she drove into the path of a fully laden fuel tanker in March and ended up in hospital with serious injuries.
Farquer hobbled into the Tauranga District Court on Friday with the aid of a walking stick to be sentenced on five benefit fraud charges. She appeared bewildered and confused.
Farquer had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge each of making a false statement and obtaining by deception and three charges of dishonestly using a document.
Partially deaf, she needed special headphones to listen to Judge Christopher Harding and was given permission to sit in the witness box beside him rather than in the dock.
According to court documents, Farquer used the name Lee J. Strauss in 1987 to get an unemployment benefit, and continued to receive benefits in that name until June 3 - a period of 25 years.
A year later she used her real name to get another unemployment benefit which she received until December 10, 1993, when she was granted superannuation.
During that time she also filed two income review forms and an emergency benefit application using her fake identity.
As result of the car crash south of Te Puke on March 30, police received information that Farquer was receiving two benefits. On May 24 police searched her Tauranga Hospital bedroom, her site at Bledisloe Caravan Park in Little Waihi and a storage unit in Papamoa.
During those searches police found and seized documents in her true and fake identities.
When interviewed by the Social Development Ministry on July 19 Farquer admitted she knew what she was doing was wrong, and had used the extra money to live and pay debt.
Farquer was overpaid $214,780.88 between April 21, 1987 and June 3 this year that she has arranged to pay back at $10.50 a week.
The ministry opposed home detention, arguing it was an inadequate response.
But Farquer's lawyer Cate Andersen told Judge Harding her client was remorseful and had offered to pay all the money back.
Judge Harding told Farquer he had read medical reports that detailed her health difficulties, including her ongoing needs as result of the crash.
"In all the circumstances I am prepared to exercise my prerogative and show you the mercy of the court and you will instead be sentenced to 12 months' home detention," he said.

 To put this into context, David Lange was the Prime Minister when Eileen Farquer began her life as a benefit fraudster, and Trevor Mallard and Annette King were just coming to the end of their first term in Parliament. New Zealand had just two television channels and the All Blacks won the inaugural Rugby World Cup tournament. She continued to rort the system for 25 years, and has ripped off those of us who pay taxes to the tune of almost $215,000 over that time.

And it's a very generous offer of hers to pay her debt off at $10.50 per week. That equates to $546 per year. On that basis it will take her 393 years to pay back what she stole from the long-suffering taxpayer.

So here's hoping that Eileen Marie Farquer lives to the ripe old age of 476 years old, so that she can pay back what she owes the taxpayer. It's a nice thought, but obviously hopelessly unrealistic. So is there really any point in making an order for reparation in a case like this?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Secret Dairy of...

Steve Braunias has played a blinder with his latest Secret Diary episode. Unsurprisingly, the target is a politician by the name of David; here's a teaser:

Took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror this morning, and really liked what I saw.
Flashed a winning smile. It was boyish, but also adult. It was sincere, but also ruthless. In summary, it had everything.
Threw my head back and roared with laughter. Nodded my head enthusiastically and burst into applause. Spun my head right around and vomited up buckets of green sick.
Might save that last one for special occasions.
Oh, hang on! I already did it all weekend at the Labour Party conference.
It really impressed MPs such as Louisa Wall and Charles Chauvel. It was as though they fell under my spell. "We'll follow you to hell and back," they chanted.
"Well," I said, "I can take you halfway." 

 This is vintage Braunias. The only thing we need to know is this; is it satire, or is it factual; especially Friday's instalment?

Quote of the Day - 26 November 2012

Our Quotes of the Day are normally brief; one or two paragraphs. But Andrew Fernando has written such a good and lyrical column on Cricinfo that it is worth repeating in its entirety; check this out:

When Sojourner Truth said the "night was often darkest before the dawn", New Zealand's Test travails were not the subject of her commentary. But on the first day of the second Test, the endeavours of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson appeared to give sporting credence to her words, though they have much left to achieve yet.
Five days ago in Galle, New Zealand's batsmen played Rangana Herath like he was bowling grenades at them while they were being waterboarded. Seemingly clueless on how to defuse good spin bowling, the visitors poked, parried and stumbled their way to their lowest Test score in an already distressing year. At the P Sara, suddenly they were transformed. When the evening rains arrived to force an early close of play, Williamson and Taylor were batting on what is by far New Zealand's biggest partnership this year, and their best stand against a top-eight side since March 2009.
What was most striking about New Zealand was the sudden swell of steel in their demeanour. At the toss, Ross Taylor said his side needed "to show the public that we can fight", and his decision to bat first after their woes in Galle suggested he intended to walk the talk. It would have been easy for him to leave that mountain for another day. It had rained overnight and the P Sara pitch has historically been good for fast bowling, and though some would have questioned his judgement if he had opted to bowl first, that decision would be far from unjustifiable. Moreover, New Zealand's opening bowlers had built into some fearsome form through the limited-overs series, and were perhaps only one wicket away on the second morning from changing the outcome of the first Test. Still, Taylor chose instead to lay the gauntlet down for his batsmen. It was a track full of runs, and through his decision, he implored the batsmen to pull their weight.
New Zealand's desperation was also manifested in Brendon McCullum's ire at being wrongly given out lbw. In Galle's second innings, he punched his bat on his exit out of frustration for having played an unnecessary shot, but in Colombo his mood was closer to fury. He had been playing tightly, and when the umpire raised his finger, he scowled at the official, and cursed and spat his way to the dressing room, where his wrath probably took an even more palpable turn.
It is often said of batsmen who defy difficult conditions that they appeared to be playing on a different pitch from their peers, but the temperament and tone of Taylor's partnership with Williamson was New Zealand batting from a different universe from their incompetence in Galle. There, New Zealand had spoken of being positive, yet batted so dourly in some parts that Sri Lanka were not under any pressure in the field, and attacked so unwisely in others that they gifted away their wicket. Yet somehow in Colombo, Taylor and Williamson struck up exactly the right tempo, one which New Zealand should not stray far from, and worked the bowlers and the field like they had been in form for weeks.
Taylor should perhaps be especially pleased with his day's work, having played perhaps his most mature innings to date. When he reached triple figures off a respectable 189 deliveries, he had only hit eight boundaries in his innings - the fewest he had hit in any innings in which he had made a hundred. His wagon wheel shows only one boundary to midwicket, and even that was on on-drive on which he rolled his wrists. His favourite slog sweep, along with most of the power-strokes that characterise his batting, were shelved during this innings, and singles and twos were preferred instead. He had spoken of being positive against spin bowling ahead of the series - a feat he achieved today, yet he hit no fours off the spinners, not even off the part-timer Tillakaratne Dilshan. It is a statistic that betrays the will of a man who wishes to make a break from the bleak past.
Williamson's natural game is more adapted to handling spin, and perhaps his calm presence at the other end helped Taylor stave away the hankerings to hit out. Off the back foot, Williamson was impeccable, allowing him to pinpoint gaps almost casually despite Mahela Jayawardene's persistence with aggressive fields throughout the day. Unlike Taylor, who had to battle through a nervy period at the start of his innings, Williamson's knock was almost chanceless. He picked the lengths early and used his feet effectively to blunt the spinners. His steady hand and a technique built around defence is often a refreshing change in a side in which those qualities seem undervalued, but today, Taylor chose Williamson's approach and their partnership flourished as a result.
New Zealand are still a long way from avoiding a record sixth consecutive loss, and they will know all their success today came on a pitch that gave very little to bowlers of every ilk. It is not only a batting performance that must be extended on day two, it is one that must be emulated in the months to come, if New Zealand are to scramble out of their rut. But Taylor and Williamson have given the visitors a better start to the second Test than anyone would have imagined in the days leading up to the Test, and perhaps the side has left rock bottom behind. 

One good day does not the end of a form slump make. Here's hoping however that the second innings at Galle was as bad as it will get for the Black Caps for a long, long time.