Thursday, February 28, 2013

Poor Duncan (part deux)

UPDATED: According to the old saying, there's more than one way of skinning a cat. In fact we're sure that Gareth Morgan knows numerous ways!

But we're digressing. Just as there is more than one way of skinning a cat, there's more than one way of playing audio files that a certain radio network might prefer that we wouldn't; check Duncan Garner out here:

Isn't technology wonderful; and not a single cat was harmed!


It seems that Mediaworks is unhappy that audio from Duncan Garner's programme yesterday where he jumped the shark over the Supreme Court asset sales decision; check this out:

Almost all of Mediaworks' audio content can be accessed online. Why might they be being so coy about this particular gaffe?

And then came Roy Morgan...

Parliament has just gone into recess for a week. And right on cue, the latest Roy Morgan poll is out; Scoop reports:

Roy Morgan Poll - National With Huge Lead Over Labour

Finding No. 4867
Available on Website:
On February 28, 2013
See Roy Morgan Online Store


Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a large gain in support for Prime Minister John Key’s National Party to 47.5% (up 3.5% since early February and the highest since July 9-22, 2012). Support for Key’s Coalition partners shows the Maori Party 2.5% (up 2%), ACT NZ 0.5% (unchanged) and United Future 0.5% (up 0.5%).
Support for Labour is 30.5% (down 4%); Greens are 12.5% (down 1%), New Zealand First 3% (down 1%), Mana Party 0.5% (unchanged), Conservative Party of NZ 2% (unchanged) and Others 0.5% (unchanged).
If a National Election were held today this New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows that the National Party with some minor Party support would win the Election.

Gary Morgan says:
“Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a surge in support for Prime Minister John Key’s National (47.5%, up 3.5%) now with its biggest lead over the main Opposition Labour Party (30.5%, down 4%) since July 2012. Support for third party the Greens has also dropped to 12.5% (down 1%).
“Today’s result was surveyed prior to Opposition Leader David Shearer’s cabinet reshuffle and suggests the changes were badly needed by an Opposition Party that is yet to make a serious dent in the strong lead held by Prime Minister Key’s National since the 2008 New Zealand Election, now over 4 years ago. Although the next NZ Election is still over 18 months ago, Labour must significantly improve its position if it is to have a real chance of regaining power in late 2014.”
Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your party vote?”
This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone with a NZ wide cross-section of 1,052 electors from February 11 – 24, 2013. Of all electors surveyed 4% (up 0.5%) didn’t name a party.

Maybe that rogue 3News-Reid Research poll wasn't so rogue after all. This is more dreadful news for Labour.

But David Shearer will be pleased about one thing; Roy Morgan doesn't do a preferred Prime Minister poll. That might have spoiled his week off completely!

Poor Duncan...

Duncan Garner got sold down the river by his news journalists yesterday.

Those sitting in the Supreme Court listening as the Chief Justice read the Court's unanimous decision got fooled as the Court found in favour of the appellants on one small point. That finding led to a frenzy of Twitter action; a frenzy in which RadioLive's newsroom was to the fore. Here's how it played out on air:

Garner may indeed have been sold down the river, but he didn't let that affect his glee when the decision was wrongly conveyed to him. You could tell from his tone and his words that he was readying himself for the big scoop; the scoop that every journalist worth his salt craves. He was going to take it to the Government. Around the 40 sec mark he declares it to be a "massive story developing this afternoon that completely undermines its economic programme". He was lining up John Key for a grilling. He played audio of Bill English confirming that there was no Plan B. It was, said Garner "a very, very serious story for the Government indeed".

History will record that no Plan B was needed by Messrs Key and English. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Maori Council's appeal, and found unanimously in favour of the Crown. So note the change in tone in Garner's voice at around the 2:40 mark when the real story breaks; the wind goes from his sails very swiftly.

It will be interesting to see whether yesterday's happenings cause the Courts Department to take another look at the way that information is disseminated from courtrooms, especially when courts are actually sitting. The half-truths and misinformation that was doing the rounds yesterday left a number of media organisations red-faced; the Herald was another to put two and two together and get twenty two.

In the meantime, we reckon that Duncan Garner will do a quick double-check of his sources next time he seeks to embarrass the Government, because yesterday the embarrassment was all Duncan Garner's.

Now; about that mandate...

The John Key-led Government is about to put a minority stake in Mighty River Power up for sale. It was a policy foreshadowed well before the 2011 General Election after John Key had honoured a pledge that there would be no asset sales in National's first term.

The parties of the Left campaigned long and hard against asset sales. Labour's opposition was tempered by the fact that the 1984-1990 Lange/Palmer/Moore government in which Phil Goff was a well-ranked Minister sold more assets than any government in New Zealand's history or since. To their credit, the Greens have at least been consistent in their opposition to asset sales.

New Zealand went to the polls in November 2011 knowing the different parties' stance on asset sales or partial privatisation. There were no secrets. John Key was able to form a government, and that gave him a mandate to implement policies that he had campaigned on. That's how MMP works, and of course the parties who oppose asset sales are the ones who were most enthusiastic to see MMP retained. Labour's flip-flop saw the party score its worst electoral result in over 60 years, barely registering more than 25% of the party vote.

The parties of the Left of course did not accept defeat. Using provisions for Citizen Initiated Referenda, Labour and the Greens hi-jacked this procedure in an attempt to force a referendum and re-litigate the lost 2011 General Election. For almost a year, Labour and Green MP's have proudly boasted how well petition collection is going, and yet still they have failed to reach their threshhold.

And this morning on Firstline, Tony Ryall explained why:

The Green Party has been accused of collecting signatures from foreigners and children to make up numbers in an attempt to force a referendum on asset sales.
The Maori Council yesterday failed in its bid to halt the partial sale of Mighty River Power, the Supreme Court ruling that selling shares in the power company wouldn't impair Maori interests in water.
The Opposition has backed an attempt to collect the 310,000 signatures required to force a nationwide referendum on the issue. Earlier this month they said they had nearly 400,000, collecting well beyond the target as it was likely a significant number would be ruled invalid.
Speaking on Firstline this morning, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said it's not truly a citizens-initiated referendum, and the result wouldn't matter anyway.
"Let's be clear about this referendum – it's not a citizens-initiated referendum, it's a Parliamentary-initiated referendum," says Mr Ryall.
"It has citizens, it has overseas visitors, it has children. This was a Green Party-funded, taxpayer-funded signature collection process. The Green Party paid staff members to go out there and collect signatures.

It does not surprise us one iota that there are anomalies in the Left's signature collection process. But it matters little, as any referendum will be non-binding, and in any event before the referendum is held, Mighty River Power share parcels will already have been sold. We will most certainly be applying for a shareholding, and will quite likely gift shares to our children as well if demand permits.

You see, Tony Ryall nails it with this comment (our emphasis added):

"They've got to prove they've got the right number of signatures, there's up to a year before the referendum happens. The real referendum on this was the 2011 general election. We campaigned on it, we made it clear and we've got a mandate."

Mr Ryall is 100% correct. The issue has already been decided when the Government was given a mandate in 2011. Those on the Left cannot accept this, but they are just behaving like spoilt children.

Even this morning, Chris Hipkins was trotting out Labour and the Greens' line that polls before the 2011 General Election showed 80% of New Zealanders opposed asset sales. If that is the case, why has it been such a struggle for Labour and the Greens to get even 10% of the voting population to sign a petition at which they have thrown huge resources?

So much time, effort and taxpayer money wasted on an exercise in futility...

Did Oscar have another "problem"?

The test results are back on the substance found in Oscar Pistorius' bedroom; Stuff reports:

Oscar Pistorius' representatives have named the substance found in his bedroom after the shooting death of his girlfriend as Testis compositum, and say it is an herbal remedy used "in aid of muscle recovery."  

But intriguingly, there is another use for Testis; read on:

A product called Testis compositum is also marketed as a sexual enhancer, good for lack of stamina. Some online retailers advertise oral and injectable forms as testosterone boosters. 

There's no doubt that Pistorius' trial is going to be a sensational one, with wall-to-wall media coverage. And given the nature of the allegations made against Pistorius, the media will be looking for an angle to portray anything that is remotely salacious

We simply hope that when the blaze of publicity is upon him that Oscar Pistorius doesn't suffer from "performance anxiety" or anything else that Testis may have helped him with.

The fallout continues

The fallout from the over-zealous security at Eden Park on Saturday continues. Under the heading Watch out for those paper planes Sportsfreak blogs:

One of the features of this England tour has been the return of test cricket to Eden Park after a break of seven years.
Eden Park. A soulless revamped collection of rugby stands, with the only contrast being that strange Resene mural.  Bleak, echoing, concrete Eden Park.  Completely unsuited to test cricket.
But the English are in town, and the not totally unreasonable temptation to fleece their travelling fans has meant that test cricket is returning there at the expense of the vastly superior Hamilton’s Seddon Park.  The power of the Pound, or more accurately, the Aussie dollar owned by expat accountants working in Sydney.
So that, while not being ideal, is understandable.  A test at the end of March at the rugby temple with its embarrassing short boundaries straight.  And to prepare for this there were a couple of Saturday night shorter form versions of the game.
The T20 went OK; a range of top-edged sixes possibly even adding to the bravado of that form of the game.
But, from all accounts, it was a complete fail at the ODI last Saturday.  Just when you thought everything was going OK under the sun along came … the Fun Police.
The events on the day are best described here.
I love seeing all the different banners and always marvel at what people come up with. My favourite was ‘BJ or Root?’ It disappeared during the match and I heard someone say it had been confiscated by the Fun Police”
Seriously, a double entendre gets you evicted in 2013?  It also turns out that the people dressed as bananas, hippos, bunny rabbits and pigs also got turfed out.  87 evictions with not a single arrest; that’s pretty telling.
Then there was the incident of the inflatable beach ball.  It took intervention from Tim Southee to snatch a confiscated ball off a bully in a high-viz vest and return it to the crowd.
But that was before the big menace; paper planes.  Imagine that; a day out at the cricket and people had the temerity to throw around some paper planes.  Not sure what exact threat they posed but, given the mood of the day, clearly the people throwing those had to head home early.
Even Richard Prosser is probably OK with a bit of paper dart throwing amongst friends.
Parts of this tour are going to be tough enough as it is, and there is the potential for embarrassment in the tests.  But this is a tour with a significant travelling fans component to it.
Please New Zealand Cricket, and your hired bully-boys.  Give it a rest.

There's no doubt that New Zealand Cricket has bowed to pressure from it's euphemistically-described "commercial partners" to play a test match in Auckalnd after a long absence. This is despite the fact that Eden Park is wholly unsuited to test cricket in its recalibrated form.

Nonetheless we will be enjoying quite a bit of the Third Test between New Zealand and England, dependent of course on how long the match actually goes for! We're sure though that we will enjoy it far more if security is low key, and only deployed when there are genuine instances of disorder. 

A tale of two valedictories

There have been two valedictory statements delivered to Parliament in recent weeks. We put up video of Dr the Rt Hon Lockwood Smith's speech a couple of weeks ago; now the Dominion-Post gives an overview of Charles Chauvel's speech yesterday, prior to his departure for New York; check this out:

Labour MP Charles Chauvel has taken a parting shot at his colleagues, saying they should stop searching for the enemy within.
Mr Chauvel, a supporter of former leadership contender David Cunliffe, gave his valedictory speech in Parliament last night.
The Wellington-based MP is heading to New York to take up a position with the United Nations.
In his speech last night, Mr Chauvel said those responsible for Labour's failed 2011 election campaign should resign - and the party should move on.
"It's unproductive to keep trying to locate and exclude the supposed enemy within.
"Instead, in order to avoid history repeating, it's time for an honest, open and overdue assessment of why the 2011 campaign produced Labour's worst ever electoral result."
Those responsible should make dignified exits, Mr Chauvel said.
In a thinly veiled dig at David Shearer's recent reshuffle, he said the "undoubted talent and diversity" of Labour's caucus should be included in the shadow cabinet.
Mr Chauvel said he wanted to see Mr Shearer as prime minister by the end of next year. "I regret that I won't be his attorney-general and I appreciate the statement that he shares that regret." 

Speculation over just who the list of "those responsible for Labour's failed 2011 election campaign" comprises is rife. At the very least however, it must include former leader Phil Goff, and former deputy Annette King. Given Mrs King's refreshment to Labour's front bench on Monday, an early exit seems unlikely for her.

So who else? Labour's "strategic genius" Trevor Mallard must be in the frame. Grant Robertson retained Wellington Central, but his party vote in the electorate was well below par, even by Labour's standards of 2011; was Mr Chauvel referring to him? Was Clayton Cosgrove, who lost the Labour stronghold of Waimakariri a target?

And then of course there's David Cunliffe. How much did his dreadful and offensive speech at the Avondale Markets hurt Labour? And by seeking employment elsewhere, is this an admission from Charles Chauvel himself that he played a role in Labour's worst election result in over 60 years?

This was indeed a remarkable valedictory speech from Mr Chauvel, neatly summed up by this tweet:

Did the PPTA sue them too?

The PPTA is taking legal action over the Novopay fiasco. Whether legal action is the right way to be going is open for debate; we would have thought that the priority was putting Novopay right.

That's what the PPTA has decided though, and good luck to them. We wonder however whether the union was as litigious when the education sector having well-chronicled problems with Novopay's predecessor, the Datacom payroll system.

We suspect that the PPTA's appetite for suing a Labour government would have been akin to turkeys voting for Christmas to occur monthly. That would suggest that this legal action is more about politics than it is about actual relief. In this of course the PPTA is ably assisted by a compliant news media which as Brian Rudman declared yesterday "trying to convince people the country is heading for “hell in a handcart”.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mighty River Power shares for sale!

The Supreme Court has just ruled that the Maori Council's appeal against the decision of the High Court has been dismissed.

The Mixed Ownership Model can now proceed.

UPDATE: The Herald reports:

The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal by the New Zealand Maori Council to block the Mighty River Power partial privatisation.
The full court of five Supreme Court judges was unanimous in its findings.
The decision lets the government proceed with the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power.
The Maori Council bypassed the Court of Appeal and took its case directly to the Supreme Court after losing in the High Court in December last year.
It argued that the sale of Mighty River Power and other power companies before issues around what ownership rights Maori may have over freshwater and geothermal resources was a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Prime Minister John Key said last week that as long as the court delivered its decision this month, and it was favourable to the Crown, the Mighty River Power sale, the first under his Government's flagship ``mixed ownership model" legislation would proceed as planned during the second quarter of this year.
That would allow another power company, either Meridian or Genesis to be partially sold in the second half of this year.
Lawyers for the Crown had hoped the decision would be delivered last Monday to allow the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River to go ahead according to the Government's "preferred timetable''. However the court which heard the case over two days on January 31 and February 1 informed the Maori Council and Crown lawyers it could not meet that timeframe. The delay in delivering the decision has fuelled speculation the five judges hearing the case had differing views.
Bill English, in a speech delivered this afternoon, reiterated his commitment to the programme of power company floats .
The float would be a "shot in the arm" for capital markets and was expected to remain 80-90 per cent owned by New Zealanders, English said in a lunchtime speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce today.
"New Zealanders will be at the front of the queue for shares," he said. "Including the Government's majority stakes, ministers expect 85 per cent to 90 per cent of the shares across the programme to be held by New Zealanders, after the IPOs."

 Stand by for an outpouring of angst from those who still don't get it that they lost the last election...

UPDATE #2: The Supreme Court decision can be viewed here, and the media notes (the Court's reasoning, with less legalese) can be viewed here.

A remarkable confession...

Over at Kiwiblog, DPF blogs:

What an admission from Brian Rudman in the NZ Herald:
With job lay-offs, unaffordable housing and a call for better public transport, Labour should be making inroads.
Despite the best efforts of Opposition politicians, single-issue campaigners and me and my colleagues in the media, most Kiwis seem resolutely unconvinced that this country is heading for hell in a handcart.
A stunning admission by Rudman. Not a huge surprise that he admits to trying to convince people the country is heading for “hell in a handcut” as Rudman is well known as a left wing columnist. But his inclusion of  his colleagues in the media speaks volumes.
They see their role to convince New Zealanders that their country is fucked, with the implication being unless of course they change the Government.
Will the NZ Herald let Rudman’s comments stand that the role of his media colleagues has been to use their best efforts convince people the country is damned?

If ever proof was required that a significant portion of the New Zealand media is anti-Government, a member of that very media has provided it.

It is a remarkable confession from Brian Rudman, although only remarkable as to the fact that he has made the confession. What he has confessed to is already widely suspected.

The Bear Essentials...

Air New Zealand has released its latest safety video, and it's another cracker; here 'tis:

Air New Zealand's safety videos have become a real feature of the company's innovative marketing, and this one is no exception. Well done to all those involved.

And as coincidence would have it, we just started reading Bear Grylls' autobiography last week when our iPad momentarily gave up the ghost, and we were forced to go back to a real book. He certainly has some "interesting" experiences to draw on!

Quote of the Day - 27 February 2013

Brian Edwards reflects on the 3News/Reid Research poll; he blogs:

In an earlier post I argued that political polls tend to be self-fulfilling on the basis that people are reluctant to vote for a persistently low-polling party or leader. Our natural instinct is to back winners. The high-rating leader is also able to bask in the warm glow of his poll success while his low-rating opponent has to engage in an unconvincing dismissal of the poll result and an equally unconvincing defence of his and his party’s performance that presumably led to it.

TV3’s latest Reid Research poll may not be accurate. Labour may not have only 32.6 percent support or the Greens only 11%. National may not be within cooee of 51.4%. But for the moment, and until the next moment, that’s where the parties stand. National supporters will take heart; Labour and Green supporters will endure a small chip in their confidence.

But it’s in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes that the effect is most dramatic. According to this poll, John Key on 41% has a massive 31% lead over David Shearer on 10%. The Labour leader is back where his predecessor was just before the election – only worse. And yes, I know, it can’t be right, it isn’t fair, and the only poll that matters is the poll on election day. But it’s a really bad look and the very last thing that Shearer needs as he announces his new front bench line-up.

And here’s the main point: Shearer’s future will be determined by the polls. If he lingers too long under 15% the uneasy peace which he has quite skilfully negotiated between the Labour Caucus factions will become increasingly fragile. The knives will be out. He might well have been better during today’s reshuffle to take the Clark approach and bring Cunliffe, who has after all publicly declared his loyalty, back into the tent, if only close to the flap.

And then there’s the likeable and engaging Grant Robertson – young, ambitious and only one step away from the glittering prize. As he pondered the results of this latest TV3 Reid Research poll, what thoughts might fleetingly have traversed his consciousness?

Dr Edwards is right; political polls are self-fulfilling prophesies. And we wonder how many polls showing David Shearer at a mere 10% in the preferred Prime Minister stakes will roll by before the Labour caucus gets restless.

The other issue of course is the party rank and file. Labour activists are angry at the treatment meted out to David Cunliffe and those who dared to express their democratic opinion that he might be a better leader than the incumbent. Political parties rely on activists and supporters doing the grunt work around the country. If Labour continues to alienate its activist base and its supporters, they may simply vote with their feet, their time and their donations.

Still; we don't imagine that the Green Party will be complaining...

David the Shearer Caption Contest

Labour's new Education spokesman Chris Hipkins is getting his reddened locks lopped off today in the name of Shave for a Cure, and good on him. 

But he may have erred in asking David Shearer to do the honours:

You know the rules; keep 'em short, pithy, to the point and most of all amusing, and don't get unnecessarily personal; ginga jokes are so last year! Other than that, you're merely limited by your imagination.

Go on; just like David the Shearer, you know you want to...

We can't help but wonder...

David Cunliffe is one of Labour's better orators. Yesterday, from his place on Labour's back bench he led Labour's opposition to the Child Support Amendment Bill; check this out:

Few of David Cunliffe's colleagues were in the Debating Chamber to enjoy his oratory, but we are sure that many more were watching the proceedings of the House from the privacy of their offices.

So we can't help but wonder; how many Labour MP's were silently wondering whether they had backed the wrong horse when Labour's leadership was on the line earlier this month, and how many were silently rueing a missed opportunity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells loves cricket; possibly even more than we do. And he's written an excellent opinion-piece for the Herald today which we will republish uninterrupted; he opines:

The last few weeks have seen me travel the country following our national cricket team as they play England. I want to this week write about a few things that I've noticed while sitting, clapping, cheering or eating and drinking.
Unfortunately for 33 per cent of our population, Auckland is the worst place to watch cricket in New Zealand. I understand the arguments for Eden Park remaining Auckland's home of cricket: Eden Park was a cricket ground before a rugby ground, Auckland Cricket has half the votes on the Eden Park Trust, Auckland Cricket make money out of rugby ticket sales in the winter, the players' facilities are good, the drop in pitch has become one of the fastest in the country, it's an easy ground to catch a train to, there aren't any other places to play at the moment, Panda Catering make amazing superdogs and the toilets aren't disgusting.
But despite all this, the fact remains most Aucklanders are turning their backs on watching live cricket - numbers are dwindling - which I find sad. Mainly because I grew up watching cricket at Eden Park when 20,000 people turned up to a test match and watched 2.01 runs scored an over, or 40,000 people would watch a one-day international where batting against slow bowling was almost impossible in the second innings.
Still, they turned up.
In those days there was drinking from cans. There was sunburn. People packed their own lunches. They brought their own spirits in chilly bins while some people took scorebooks and scored.
The police provided most of the security - occasionally chasing drunk, nude men across dry outfields and forcing them back over small fences where they were covered up with police hats, given a gentle clip and then evicted.
The boundary line was the base of the fence. Nobody dived for fear of getting hurt. If someone retrieved the ball inside the line the umpires took their word for it. There were no five-minute stoppages while an umpire inside the stand reviewed the decision the umpire in the middle had made. Mexican waves were something that people in Mexico did.
But administrators wanted to enhance the cricket viewing experience. They didn't want drunk people ruining the game for the sober. They wanted players to feel safer.
The police couldn't justify sending 50 police to look after 40,000 people anymore either so private security companies employed people who don't like cricket to watch over the playing surface like thugs. The caterers wanted to make more money. The breweries wanted to make more money. And pressure came on umpires to make fewer mistakes.
So 20 years later what have we got? Well, there's little doubt the cricket has got better.
The bowling is faster. The bats have improved and players are hitting the ball further. Spin bowlers can turn the ball both ways accurately by throwing it. The umpiring has become more accurate too.
But has the cricket viewing experience improved? For our largest city the answer would have to be a resounding, no.
Eden Park has lost its soul. Firstly, fans are forced to watch cricket at night. The straight boundaries, while being the same for both teams, are nothing short of farcical. The beer is served in warm plastic bottles and the food is the same as it was in the 1980s. It's a tough ask for patrons to sit for eight hours on plastic seats eating crap food while drinking warm beer. Kids can't even play games on the playing surface at the lunch break - one of the most memorable parts of my childhood cricket experience.
So while Dunedinites, Wellingtonians, Hamiltonians, Napierites and Hastonians revel in their simple yet comfortable surroundings, and Cantabrians look forward to their new ground at Hagley Park, an Auckland cricket fan waits. Waits for the day he or she can again enjoy watching cricket in their city.

We share Jeremy Wells' pain. We travelled to Auckland in early 1975 to watch the weekend proceedings of the test match against England. more than 30,000 patrons packed Eden Park both days of the weekend, and the atmosphere was electric. This of course was the match that nearly resulted in the demise of Ewen Chatfield who was struck on the head whilst batting, never his strongest suit.

We were again at Eden Park in the summer of 1977 when Richard Hadlee bowled one of the most memorable overs of his career. The crowd on the terraces went crazy and the "Hadlee, Hadlee" chant rang out, accompanied by the banging together of empty cans; of which there were dozens. The following day, Hadlee launched a breathtaking counter-attack with the bat after New Zealand was reduced to 30-odd for five after a blistering spell of fast bowling from Dennis Lillee. Those were heady times.

As Wells notes, things have undergone a quantum shift since those more innocent days. Back then you could park your car on the lawn of a house within 200m of Eden Park for a couple of dollars. You could take your own beers and food, so a day at the cricket was eminently affordable. 

Eden Park c2013 is a very different beast. We were fortunate to have been invited to enjoy hospitality by a business colleague. The view from the upper levels of the stadium is superb. We still reckon that it is a fantastic venue, but not necessarily for cricket. When the ground was realigned, we can't understand why the pitch wasn't left as it was, or resited straight down the ground.

We will pay Eden Park another visit next month when the final test match against England is played there. The presence of England's Barmy Army for the test series will add some atmosphere to the concrete jungle, but Eden Park is not a venue worthy of test cricket.

Hamilton and Napier will feel aggrieved to have lost out to Auckland for the hosting rights to the final test. New Zealand beat England the last time the two teams met at Seddon Park, and the ground is a true cricket ground. And McLean Park at Napier is another fine venue, although the groundsman there needs to come up with a way of making the pitch there just a little more sporting; it is presently too batsman-friendly.

Eden Park's days as a cricket ground are numbered. Given the park's role in the history of New Zealand cricket, that is sad. But cricket needs to find a new, cricket-friendly home somewhere in the Auckland metropolis. The big question is this: where?

We can't help but wonder...

David Shearer was critical of Nick Smith's return to Cabinet when John Key reshuffled his team a few weeks back. Shearer took delight in repeating the line that Nick Smith was "a retread from the past"; check this out:

 Nick Smith first entered Parliament in November 1990, and did not become a Minister until 1996 when he was appointed Minister of Conservation. In contrast, Annette King was first elected to Parliament in 1984, and was a parliamentary undersecretary to the Minister of Employment and of Social Welfare between 1987 and 1989. In 1989, she was elevated to Cabinet, becoming Minister of Employment, Minister of Immigration, and Minister of Youth Affairs. She was a Minister in the Lange/Palmer/Moore government before Nick Smith had even been elected to Parliament.

So we can't help but wonder; if Nick Smith is "a retread from the past", what does that make Annette King? A solid tyre on a horse-drawn carriage perhaps. Once again David Shearer seems to want to have his cake and eat it as well.

UPDATED; Has Ricki Herbert been axed?

UPDATE: Wellington football reporter Jason Pine has had a phone call from Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante. The first that 'Nix players knew of the impending departure of their gaffer was when they tuned in to media or turned their computers on this morning.

The intrigue deepens...


Truth has a big scoop:

 THE Wellington Phoenix have axed coach Ricki Herbert.
Truth understands the decision to replace Herbert was made yesterday.
The Nix owners – the most high profile being the controversial Gareth Morgan – are keen for Herbert to remain in charge for the rest of the season before he takes up a part-time Director of Football role.
But last night it was unclear if Herbert will accept the role.
A source suggested he may opt to turn his back on the last placed club today leaving the Nix coach-less ahead of tomorrow’s A-League fixture against Newcastle.
Herbert, who doubles as the All Whites coach, will now put his energy and focus into securing New Zealand’s place at the 2014 World Cup in Rio.
Has the axe fallen on Ricki Herbert? Stay tuned...

Quote of the Day - 26 February 2013

The Herald has another story on the over-the-top security at Eden Park on Saturday. It includes this observation from a recent arrival:

Gerwyn Samuel, a recent immigrant from Wales, could not understand why people would be evicted from a stadium simply for enthusiastically supporting their country.

"I find myself worried since I went to the cricket at Eden Park on Saturday," Mr Samuel said. "Worried that a child will get thrown out of a ground for banging those inflatable ANZ sticks too enthusiastically. Worried that should I want to watch Wales play the All Blacks, I won't be able to sing!"

But wait; there's more! After noting that a few of the ejections were for proper reasons, the Herald has this:

However, Kevin O'Carroll echoed the sentiments of many when he said he would not attend future events at Eden Park.

"I for one feel like I would not return to Eden Park, just in case I inadvertently have too much fun and suffer the wrath of some idiot in an orange vest who is intent on ruining a great atmosphere," Mr O'Carroll wrote.

"Please, please review your stance on security interventions at Eden Park, apologise to those fans who were ejected for virtually no reason at all, and if possible, contact them to offer free entry to at least one day of the forthcoming test match." 

We could not agree more.

RIP Phillip Leishman

We've woken this morning to the sad but not unexpected news of the death of Phillip Leishman.

Leishman's TV career began in 1971, and right up until his cancer relapsed recently, was still working on his golf programme. He was primarily a sports broadcaster, but ventured into other fields as well, such as several years of hosting TVNZ's Wheel of Fortune.

We've just watched Peter Williams break the news on Breakfast. Williams and Leishman were close colleagues at TVNZ in the pre-Sky TV days, when TVNZ's sports department was a who's who of New Zealand sports broadcasting royalty. 

Peter Williams paid an eloquent tribute to his friend and colleague with the utmost professionalism. He has just recounted the story of himself and Leishman both having the opportunity to play Augusta National on Phil's birthday the day after the 2006 US Masters. Memories such as that are irreplaceable.

In recent years, golf has been Phillip Leishman's primary focus, and he has travelled the world visiting the best and most interesting courses, reporting on the top tournaments and interviewing the best players in the world. For golfers such as ourselves, his programmes have been manna from heaven!

Phillip Leishman is survived by his wife Michelle and three children. Our thoughts and prayers are with them this morning, with Phil's wider family, and with his many friends and colleagues. Broadcasting in New Zealand is better for his contribution, and poorer for his passing.

Arohanui Phil; rest peacefully.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The red face of the NRL

Who would want to be the Face of the NRL? Todd Carney and Brett Stewart have been under the curse, and now it's struck down 2013 Face of the NRL Ben Barba; The Age reports:

BULLDOGS superstar Ben Barba, who was due to launch the new NRL season on Wednesday night, has been suspended by the Bulldogs indefinitely.
The Bulldogs confirmed today that Barba, the Dally M player of the year in 2012 and a key player in the club's charge to the grand final, would be suspended after being informed of "a number of "behavioural issues". It is unclear as yet whether the ban will extend to the opening round of the premiership next weekend.
“Whilst we all know the undoubted on-field attributes and abilities that Ben displays, we must always maintain our focus on the more important issues of personal development and accountability,” chief executive Todd Greenberg said. “It is our hope that the media and the many rugby league fans understand and respect the need for privacy in order for Ben and his family to make the relevant adjustments that are required for him to return to the playing field.”
Barba said in a statement released by the Bulldogs: "Today is a very difficult day for me as I feel I've let my family, children, cub and supporters down. My issues relate to seeking help for personal issues that I face day to day.
“I'm incredibly sad to be stepping aside as I've been so blessed with what's happened to me over the past few years, but I feel as though I would be wearing a mask if I didn't confront the matters I've been dealing with until now.
“I feel it is best to deal with these problems front on and I believe that by doing so this will make me a better person and player in the future.
“This will be a step by step process for me and whilst I hope to return to football soon, I hope that through this next period you can respect my privacy so that sooner rather than later I can return to playing rugby league as best I can.
“When I do, I hope that everybody sees a better person.”

Ben Barba is an incredibly talented young football player. Here's hoping that whatever the "behavioural issues" he faces can be addressed, and that Barba can get back to the business of plying his trade in the NRL.

In the meantime however Ben Barba joins a long list of NRL players to have fallen from grace with their clubs and with the NRL, whilst the rumours start about the nature of his "issues". Perhaps the NRL should just scrap its Face of the NRL, because it's doing more harm than good.

The Retro Reshuffle

David Shearer has reshuffled his caucus deck chairs; Stuff reports:

Annette King, Phil Twyford and David Clark have been promoted to Labour's frontbench in a party reshuffle unveiled today.
Shane Jones will remain on the front bench pending the Auditor-General's report into the Bill Liu case.
Among the big losers were Trevor Mallard who was bumped off the frontbench.
Labour leader David Shearer unveiled his new line-up this morning.
He said it was a mix of "new talent and experienced hands".
King returns to the front bench after some time in the middle benches following her demotion as deputy leader.
She will take up the health protfolio.
Dunedin North MP David Clark has flown up the ranks and will take on the economic development portfolio.
Chris Hipkins will take on education, Andrew Little justice and Phil Twyford housing.
Leadership contender David Cunliffe and Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel have been bumped from the top 20-ranked Labour MPs.
Shearer said Clark was a "rising star" with the economic grunt needed for his new portfolio.
He will work alongside David Parker who retains the finance portfolio.
King was passionate and formidable, Shearer said.
Twyford was "one of our top performers".
Wigram MP Megan Woods will pick up tertiary education and Sue Moroney has returned to the top 20. 

Annette King's last promotion was when she vowed to take down new Social Development Minister Paula Bennett in 2008. Given that Paula Bennett is still Minister for Social Development, we'd say that's not a vow that was kept. Mind you, her replacement Jacinda Ardern has barely laid a glove on Ms Bennett either.

And it would seem that the cunning plan to have Shane Jones succeed Winston Peters as leader of NZ First has been thwarted. Mr Shearer has obviously decided that it is safer to have Mr Jones in Labour's waka, rather than run the risk of him sinking it from outside.

David Clark's promotion is interesting, and remarkably quick. But the Rev Dr Clark will now have to start coming up with ideas rather than merely reciting cliched party lines. His progress will be watched with interest, and as fellow Presbyterians, we wish him well. Presbyterian thrift and pragmatism is indeed what is required in these tough economic days, rather than throwing bucket-loads of borrowed money at every problem.

Lastly, we wonder if Trevor Mallard is getting the message that his days in Parliament are finite, and that the finish line is in sight. Then again, he entered Parliament at the same time as Labour's new rising star, Annette King 29 years ago, so he may have good cause to be feeling hard done by. 

But as Labour continues to recycle MP's, is it any wonder that this has been dubbed the Retro Reshuffle?

Tweets of the Day - 25 February 2013

David Shearer will shortly announce the outcome of Labour's reshuffle. But already, the Twitter faithful are in prediction mode:

We'll have the news for you after 1pm; that's if it's newsworthy.

UPDATE: How could we leave Shane Jone out?



The Herald reports:

Buller conservationists plan to hold a wake for a 500-year-old kahikatea tree that was felled by the Department of Conservation so it could extend a nearby tramping hut.
DoC is adamant the tree had to go to keep trampers staying at the Mokihinui Forks Hut safe.
However, Westport conservationist Peter Lusk is horrified, and says the tree had stood firm for centuries.
"It was here when Abel Tasman sailed past," Mr Lusk said today.
The hut was extended as DoC starts to open up the Old Ghost Road walking and tramping route, with an expected surge in numbers.
With boughs overhanging the hut, DoC had chopped it down and cut it up into firewood, rather than move the hut, Mr Lusk said.
People familiar with the area were grief-stricken: "It's like you've lost an old friend."
A small group of nine has been organising the April 6-7 wake, and he thinks at least 50 people will attend.

Let's get this straight; DoC, a pretty conservative organisation at the best of times has cut down a tree because it posed a risk to human life. That's how it seems, but it's not good enough for a few.

DoC's area manager responds:

DoC Buller area manager Bob Dixon said the department had invested $75,000 transforming the 1960s ex-forestry hut.
Moving the hut would have been "phenomenally expensive" in a constrained site; "and we have plenty of trees". It was standard operating procedure when there was a risk to people.
"We are not interested in Mr Lusk grandstanding, particularly when the safety of people is uppermost."

We couldn't agree more. And being caring, sharing types, we've even found a song that Mr Lusk and his fellow parallel universe dwellers can use at the "wake":

Photo of the Day - 25 February 2013

A not-so-subtle dig at England from the Eden Park terraces on Saturday:

We're not sure if these guys were evicted or not; horsing around is frowned upon!

Over-zealous security

We enjoyed our day at Eden Park on Saturday. The result did not go the way that we had hoped, but this is a very good England side (there: I said it Barnsley), and New Zealand will face a stiff challenge in the upcoming test series.

But not everyone made it to the end of the match; the Herald reports:

Cricket fans were evicted from Eden Park for throwing paper darts, trying to start Mexican waves and even cheering too enthusiastically in a "bonehead" security crackdown that raised the ire of a top Black Cap.
Police said 87 people were thrown out of the ground during the New Zealand-England one-day international on Saturday - but none were arrested or charged.
Injured Black Caps bowler Mitchell McClenaghan took to Twitter to vent his frustrations with the security.
"People getting kicked out for starting Mexican waves tonight ... I'm sorry but that is ridiculous!" he wrote. Followed by: "How are we to get support if it's not enjoyable to come and spend a day out :("
One fan - dressed as a rabbit - was ejected for trying to start a Mexican wave, while several were thrown out for making darts out of paper "4/6" signs that were handed to spectators as they entered the ground.
Herald cricket columnist and long-time fan Jeremy Wells described the oppressive nature of the security operation as "insane".
"Security is there to enforce the ground rules for people's safety, but I didn't see anybody's safety jeopardised at all," he said.
"All I saw was boneheads kicking people out for doing nothing."

We're with Jeremy Wells here. From where we were seated, we had a great view of the terraces at the Cricket Avenue end. And we saw a number of instances of security personnel being somewhat over-zealous, including some of the "incidents" referred to above. Sadly, the Fun Police was out in force.

It was a glorious summer's day, and people were there to enjoy the occasion. There was no trouble whatsoever that we saw when the security guards started to enlist the help of the police to evict spectators.

There were no streakers, and no pitch invasions. We didn't see any fights on the terraces, and apart from the occasional wind-blown beach ball floating over the advertising hoardings, nothing was being thrown onto the ground or at players.

The result of the match was a foregone conclusion from well before the innings break, so it's only natural that there was a degree of restlessness amongst the crowd. But in our ever-humble opinion, guards over-reacted.

Sure; they have a tough job, and there's a fine line between good-natured banter and fun, and widespread disorder. But once the evictions started, they made a rod for their own backs.

At one point during England's chase, a guard confiscated a beach ball, hiding it behind the hoardings. The ball boys tried to rescue it, but the guard wouldn't let them. A chant of "We want our ball back" sprung up from the terraces, and was picked up around the ground. Tim Southee was thwarted once by the guard, but under the guise of signing an autograph got the ball back into the crowd, to loud cheering.

If New Zealand Cricket is serious about attracting a new audience, it needs to take a good look at Saturday's events surrounding security. Why would anyone pay good money to go to the cricket when "boneheads" as Jeremy Wells describes them throw people out for merely having fun?

Tough for Patrick to swallow

The latest 3News-Reid Research poll was released last night. And it seems that the result was not the one that Patrick Gower wanted to write about and talk about; check this out:

National is on 51.4 percent – that’s up 4 percent. That's come off Labour, down two to 32.6 percent. And the Greens are also down two points as well, to 10.8 percent. New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters is on about 3.4 percent.
Turning now to the minor parties, they are not up to much at all. ACT remain on death watch – only one person out of 1000 is prepared to vote for them. That's better than Hone Harawira and his Mana Party.
In the Parliament, National would have 64 seats – a clear majority, without needing support partners who won electorate seats. Labour, the Greens, and Mr Harawira's electorate seat would only get the left bloc to 56.
In the preferred Prime Minister's stakes, Mr Key is on 41 percent – the same story, a bounce of nearly four points. Mr Shearer is back on 10 percent, and Mr Peters and Green Party co-leader Russel Norman are both well back, but still registering out there.
Mr Key may try to make out it's not, but this poll really is all about him. His performance and National's are intrinsically linked. If he goes up, National goes up, and vice versa.
The majority of the public are clearly not blaming Mr Key for the flat-lining economy and all the job losses out there, which are becoming all too real, or maybe they don't see the Labour-Green bloc as a viable alternative.
Mr Shearer's personal performance has really improved of late, but these numbers will leave the left hurting. Four years on, they still struggle to compete with Brand Key.
And tonight, the Opposition will be left asking themselves: just what do we do about Teflon John?

The polls are a bit of a mystery at the moment; 3News, One News and Herald polls all favour National, the Fairfax poll favours the Left bloc (Labour/Greens/NZ First/Mana/Maori Party) and the Roy Morgan poll swings back and forth between the Left and the Right like a pendulum.

But this is the most emphatic of the recent polls. And what Paddy Gower DIDN'T tell viewers in this piece was the timing of this poll. Polling was conducted between the 16th and 21st of February. That means that the last three days of polling were set against a background where opposition parties were bagging John key and National over the Auditor-General's report into the Sky City Convention Centre report. Put simply, either the carnage for the Left in this poll would have been even worse, or the voters simply don't care about the technical niceties of the process that Key and co followed; they just want the thing built and the jobs created. We suspect it's the latter.

Labour will be especially disappointed by this poll. The infighting will continue now that David Shearer's leadership has been rubber-stamped. With each poll, the 2014 General Election draws nearer, and there will be plenty of nervous Labour MP's.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Carnage at Daytona

A few weeks ago, young American driver Kyle Larson completed a clean sweep of the three major midget car titles in the international series at Western Springs.

As good as he is in the open-wheelers though, Larson's goal is to break into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The pathway to that is via NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series. And although Larson got plenty of attention for today's Nationwide Series opener at Daytona, it was for all the wrong reasons; check this out:

Thanks to NASCAR's rigorous safety standards, none of the drivers involved in this crash was injured, But debris from Larson's car, which was sliced in two caused injuries to up to a dozen spectators.

NASCAR's traditional season opener, the Daytona 500 races tomorrow morning NZ time. MySky is already set and waiting!

Should such information be disclosed?

DPF blogs:

I blogged on Thursday how the Herald ran a blog post from James Dann that was both factually incorrect and also failed to disclose Dann stood for Labour for the Christchurch City Council.
Well again on Friday they have run a blog post by Dann (of course attacking the Government again). Once again they do not mention that he is a Labour Party candidate.
How can the Herald justify not telling its readers that the blogger whose work they reprint, who constantly attacks the Government, is in fact a political party candidate?

DPF is right on the money here. If the Herald is going to run opinion-pieces from those with a vested interest, that interest ought to be disclosed irrespective of which side of the political divide the author comes from. To present a biased political opinion as fact does no-one justice.

The New Zealand Herald was once a world-class newspaper. Those who made it so must be turning in their graves at the standard of the Herald today.

Greg King vindicated

Lawyer Greg King has been post-humously vindicated; the Herald reports:

High-profile lawyer Greg King, who died last year, has been cleared by the Ministry of Justice of wrong-doing after a prisoner accused him of over-billing for legal aid.
King, who defended Scott Guy-murder accused Ewen Macdonald in the most high-profile trial of 2012, died in November. His death was reported to the coroner.
A Rimutaka prisoner convicted of sexual offences had complained King had over-charged for his services by inaccurately putting in for hours worked by his wife, fellow lawyer Catherine Milnes-King.
But the ministry's deputy secretary of legal and operational services, Nigel Fyfe, told the Herald on Sunday an investigation found nothing untoward on King's part.
"Legal aid was approved in advance. There is nothing to indicate any wrong-doing, so the matter has been closed and we are writing to the complainant to tell him."
The ministry investigates all complaints about legal aid lawyers. In King's case they examined invoices and allegations he'd over-billed.
King defended the prisoner, who has name suppression, at his High Court jury trial in Wellington in September 2011. The man, in his early 50s, was convicted of 19 sex offences against six young people.
The charges included rape, indecent assault and doing indecent acts.
The man maintains his innocence. He is serving a preventive detention sentence but is fighting to have his conviction overturned and a retrial ordered.
He contended the hours put in for Milnes-King, who had acted as second counsel in the case, were inflated.
He wrote to the Herald on Sunday outlining his concerns, including serious misgivings about King's handling of his case.
Milnes-King declined to comment.

Readers may remember that the Dominion-Post tried to confront Greg King with these allegations on the day he disappeared. He was found dead the next morning. We blogged at the time that the Dom-Post had done nothing wrong in seeking comment from Mr King, but that its denials of having done so were a very bad look.

As for the complaint itself, it seems that the complainant is lashing out at all and sundry, blaming anyone but himself for his current predicament and lengthy incarceration. If his allegation was the tipping point that drove Greg King to apparently end his own life, he will probably derive a perverse sense of satisfaction. Most of us however will be sad that an outstanding lawyer's life was ended prematurely.