Sunday, March 29, 2015

We're back, because it's a very special day

UPDATE (the morning after the night before):

So near, and yet so far away. Australia comprehensively outplayed New Zealand, and are deserved World Cup champions.

But take nothing away from the New Zealand side. The players can hold their heads high. They defied our world ranking of #4 to make the final ahead of India and South Africa. They played wonderful cricket throughout the tournament, and they united the nation behind them. And ...they played the game in the true spirit of cricket, without resorting to the pettiness that afflicts some teams.

I'm proud to have been a New Zealand cricket supporter for most of my almost-60 years. One defeat won't change anything; I am behind this team for the long haul. The World Cup has been a triumph for cricket, even if it did not end triumphantly for the New Zealand team.

Stand tall Black Caps; this is just another step on the journey to achieving your true potential as a team.

And as for me, hibernation awaits. But as has been shown in the last 24 hours the blog is still "live" and can be reactivated should the occasion arise. I simply can't make any commitments beyond that, but it's heartening to be missed!


It is indeed a very special day in New Zealand sport today, so for that reason only, Keeping Stock makes a one-day comeback, which may be extended to tomorrow.

What a day of sport awaits. The Hurricanes will finish the weekend top of Super Rugby, The Warriors will be looking for a win over Brisbane, the Phoenix will hope to beat Sydney FC even if no one turns up, and then there’s a late night ahead for tonight.

Firstly, what a ridiculous decision by FFA to even schedule an A-League match against the CWC final. Only diehard football fans will be watching the ‘Nix game on the telly, on either side of the Tasman. And FFA’s refusal to allow the Phoenix to bring the start time forward shows its contempt for the club.

But I can hardly wait for the World Cup final. I have followed cricket with a passion since the very early 1960’s, so I have experienced almost every emotion possible courtesy of the New Zealand side. But there’s something different about this outfit.

You often hear the expression in business that “There’s no “I” in team”. But that’s exactly the ethos of this team. The egos have been left at home, and the players are tight with one another. Mike Hesson; I salute you.

I was privileged to see some of the players up close before the quarter-final in Wellington last week. They were the most relaxed elite sportsmen I’ve seen for some time, and whoever has helped get them to that state deserves a huge round of applause. And because they are relaxed, they are playing world-class cricket. Martin Guptill has the highest individual score of the tournament, and needs ten runs today to overtake Kumar Sangakkara as the highest run-scorer at CWC15. Trent Boult has the most wickets and Tim Southee has the best individual bowling performance. And no other batsman has scored their runs at a better strike-rate than Brendon McCullum.

McCullum’s leadership has been inspirational. I was upset when Ross Taylor was axed two years ago, but I am delighted to say now that Hesson made the right call, and that he has continued to make good calls along the way, like the selection of Grant Elliott. And as one who has supported this team for most of my almost-60 years, I am happy to name this current side as the best New Zealand side I have ever seen.

Good luck to Brendon McCullum and his team this afternoon. You are playing the game with panache and flair, but you are also respecting the traditions that make cricket such a wonderful sport. This cricket fan is immensely proud, and although my support is not conditional on a win today, hell, it would be great if you could upset those Australians in their own backyard! Give it your best shot; kia kaha Blackcaps.

And as a last hurrah, do you think they might be playing today especially for this bloke?

Check out Martin Crowe's emotional opinion-piece at Cricinfo. If you're a TRUE cricket fan, and you can read this without a lump in the throat or sand in the eyes, you're a more staunch man or woman than me!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The last hurrah

Last night was like no election night we can ever remember. The 2014 General Election may just as well have been a First Past the Post election as National stormed to an outright majority; 61 seats in a Parliament of 121 MP's. New Zealand will have the stable, centre-right government it needs.

The sideshows were largely ignored, and people focused on the Big Game. A friend posted a list on Facebook this morning of ten things we have learned from the 2014 election campaign; #10 read thus:

10) that, in the end, you can trust the New Zealand public to get it right.

The New Zealand public sorted out the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the goats when they started going to the polls on September 3rd. The spectacular failure of the Moment of Truth on Monday was definitely a factor, and National has reported its internal polling surged a couple of percentage points in the last days of the campaign. But the public did indeed "get it right".

And they didn't need our help. We were silent for the last four weeks of the election campaign after being caught in the crossfire of the Hager book. Today, we want to thank Mr Hager for doing us a favour!

"How so?" you may ask. Blogging can become an obsession, and we were in grave danger of that when fate, in the form of Hager, intervened. In the last four weeks we have rediscovered some balance in our life. No longer do we head straight to the computer when we get out of bed in the morning. We can read articles now without mentally trying to find an angle to blog about. We're in a much better head-space.

We said some time ago we might take a sabbatical after the election. It is in fact going to be a permanent sabbatical, and this will be the last post on Keeping Stock; our last hurrah.

We were just going to quietly fade away, but we have had a number of e-mails and comments from long-time readers enquiring as to our welfare and our future plans. We're very grateful for those, and it has reinforced that we have provided an avenue for discourse over the last few years.

We're far from perfect, and we have made mistakes along the way. For that we apologise without reservation. But what's done is done, and if there are consequences, we will own them.

We've often said we, like Oscar Wilde, can resist anything except temptation. But our resolve is strong, and this is definitely Keeping Stock's last hurrah. Any future endeavours, unlikely as they are, will be open, transparent, and with a name attached.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited, commented and interacted over the last seven years; your support has been very much appreciated. But now it's time for us to move on. The country is in the very best of hands, and our raison d'etre has ceased to have any meaning. 

This is our last hurrah; it's been nice knowing you all.


UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment. There are too many to respond individually, but we will be in touch with those for whom we have e-mail addresses at some point. 

We commiserate with our Green friend Dave bsprout Kennedy; at 7pm on Saturday night he may have had dreams of becoming an MP, and good luck to him for trying. But those dreams were quickly dashed. And we almost feel sorry for David Cunliffe this morning; almost!

That's it; retirement awaits us...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What has Andrew Williams done to upset Winston?

The release of the New Zealand First party list is imminent. But somehow, Stuff has seen a copy of the draft list, and it's fair to say there will be some unhappy campers with one in particular; check this out:

NZ First MP Andrew Williams is set to be dumped to a seemingly unelectable position on the party list, and former MP Ron Mark is set to rejoin the party ahead of the general election. 
Stuff understands a draft copy of the NZ First list, determined by the party's selection committee last weekend, has Williams ranked at 13 and Mark at 9.
The draft list is understood to have MP Richard Prosser ranked at No 3.
Prosser became infamous in 2013 for writing in his regular column in Investigate magazine, that all young Muslim men - or those who "look" Muslim - should be barred from flying on Western airlines. The rights of New Zealanders were being "denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan", Prosser wrote. He later apologised for the comments.
NZ First leader Winston Peters was ranked at No 1, and deputy leader Tracey Martin was at No 2 automatically under the party's constitution.
Prosser would not confirm his ranking, saying there would be an official announcement in the next couple of days.
Williams was No 3 on the party list at the 2011 election.
NZ First would need to get more than 10 per cent of the vote on election night for Williams to return to Parliament. 

Andrew Williams' political career looks to be toast. That's a shame, because he has been one of NZF's less controversial MP's over the term of the 50th Parliament. He hasn't dissed an entire religious group, he hasn't ranted on Twitter, and he hasn't been investigated over his use of Parliamentary Services money. He hasn't even been sighted late at night, watering the capital's many trees!

Mr Williams is a little put out, as well he may be; read on:

Williams said his ranking on the list came as "a bolt out of the blue".
"I think most people would agree around Parliament I've been a pretty able MP," he said.
"I've performed for the party, I've done a lot of hard work for the party and I've represented the party as well as I could."
The ranking was no reflection of his ability or contribution, but attributable to internal party politics, Williams said.
"I've had the most portfolios of any MP. I've had 11, plus I've been an associate to Winston on foreign affairs, trade, SOEs and finance," he said.
"So I've had a very heavy workload, and the portfolios I've had have been pretty solid ones, like local government, veterans' affairs, conservation, environment, energy; all of which I've been solidly batting on."
Williams said he would like to know what the selection committee's criteria were for selecting the top 10 candidates for the party.
He had sought an explanation for the drop but had not received a response. 

In reality, the only person who matters when NZ First's list is selected is Winston Peters. For many years, the party has affectionately been referred to as Winston First, and for good reason. Nothing happens in Winston First without the party leader's seal of approval.

So clearly Andrew Williams has upset Mr Peters in a pretty significant manner. How else can one explain being ranked BELOW  Asenati Lole-Taylor on the party list?! Can anyone help elucidate us all?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Prefu; economy on track for surplus

In a far cry from the Decade of Deficits Day in 2008, the 2014 Prefu, the symbolic pre-election opening of the books, has passed with barely a ripple; Stuff reports:

The economy is growing strongly, but Treasury has cut the amount it expects to raise in tax and with it, the size of future surpluses.
Today the Treasury released the pre-election economic and fiscal update (Prefu), giving an update on the state of the Government's books just a month out from the election.
Crucially, Finance Minister Bill English's long promised surplus for 2014/15 is said to be on track by Treasury, the Crown's official bean counter. The surplus is, in fiscal terms, wafer-thin at $297 million, down from $372m in the last forecast, and equivalent to just 0.2 per cent of total economic output.
But the outlook for surpluses in the following years is markedly weaker than it was in May's Budget, delivered just two months ago.
In each of the next three years Treasury has cut the projected surplus by $500m, meaning the combined surplus between now and mid-2018 is $6 billion, some $1.5b below what it was expected to be in autumn.
The lower surplus forecasts means there is less scope for new spending by the Government, and that Crown debt would take longer to reduce.
Today Treasury said debt, in nominal terms, would now peak at $67.9b in 2018. It was expected to peak at $65.5b in 2017. With debt taking longer to fall, Treasury said, based on current settings, payments to the NZ Superannuation Fund, put on hold when National came to office as the recession hit, would be delayed a year to 2020/21.
Nevertheless, the economy in general is "growing strongly", Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf said.
Forecast to grow at  an average of 2.8 per cent over the next four years, Makhlouf said this was "above its sustainable long term capacity to grow" meaning inflationary pressure on the economy is building with a strong residential housing market in Auckland and Christchurch. 

That the economy is forecast to continue to grow strongly, but not too strongly, is good news indeed. Unemployment is falling, more people are in employment than ever before in New Zealand's history, exports hit $50 billion for the first time ever, and inflation remains low. Much of that can be attributed to Bill English's "steady as she goes" management of the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and the recession which followed. 

And Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf sounded a warning today in releasing the Prefu:

DPF on the last week, and on changes

David Farrar blogs:

Over the last week or so I have seriously considered walking away from . While some will take huge pleasure in what has happened, let me say that it is genuinely traumatic to have hacked e-mails to and from yourself (even if you were not the one hacked) floating around, and to also realise that because you are a blogger and pollster, it means you and your office is fair game. One of the worst moments was having a senior staff member of mine, who is also a very good friend, tell me that she had been worried that I might think she was the leak, as our politics are different. I hate the impact this is having on so many people.
Some of the revelations coming out, also do not show aspects of the blogosphere in a good light (to put it mildly) and I’ve thought quite a bit about how this impacts the wider blogosphere.
I don’t believe that the book shows me having acted in any way inappropriately. I have  gone out of my way to be open about my background and leanings and relationships, and I follow my own views when I blog – hence why I campaigned against the Government last year on the copper tax (despite being a Chorus shareholder!). I never have taken any form of money or kind for blog posts, and disclose even the mist minor gifts.
There is part of me that wants to walk away so I am no longer a target. Politics is far less important to me than family and friends. I’ve also considered whether to do what Cameron often calls me, and become a travel and arts blogger, and have less or almost no focus on politics. But the trouble is the blog for me is an outlet on what I think – what I like, what annoys me, what amuses me, what appals me. And I can’t imagine it can function as that, if I try and avoid politics. I do genuinely blog because I like having my say – that is my primary motivation.
Also I do like to think, without being immodest, that I do make good contributions to politics in NZ. I can data crunch, I have a 20+ year history of political knowledge which can put things in context, I have good relationships, and I generally get good feedback on my commentary in the mainstream media. I’m far far from irreplaceable, but there are not that many people who have the time, skills and employment situation that allows them to substantively blog.
So after some reflection, I have decided to carry on, but to make some changes. I want to improve trust in myself, Kiwiblog, and perhaps the wider blogosphere. So I’ve decided on the following.

You can read about the changes DPF is proposing to make to Kiwiblog here. He's obviously given this considerable thought before blogging his thoughts; the cyber-equivalent of putting pen to paper, we suppose.

We've been doing our share of thinking over the last few days as well. We've often said that actions have consequences, and we're reflecting on that at the moment. Where that takes us is yet to be decided.

It would be easy to walk away, and delete the blog and the seven years of effort that have gone into it. Whether or not that is the right thing to do however is one of the things we are reflecting on. It would be the path of least resistance, but that doesn't make it the right decision.

After the meeting we had yesterday, we have work coming out our ears. At times we have put blogging ahead of work, which isn't a good strategy. Our focus this week is going to be where it needs to be, and that may not be the blogosphere!

We'll still be blogging, but it's not going to be our first priority when we stagger out to the lounge in the morning, and our blogging will not be as frequent. And to be fair, we may even discover that there's more to life than trying to have an opinion about everything!

As we flew back from Christchurch late yesterday afternoon the views along the Kaikoura coastline and mountains and of the Marlborough Sounds were stunning. But they were also a reminder of how insular one can become. That's definitely food for thought...


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Working for Whanganui

The National Party's campaign slogan for 2014 is Working for New Zealand. But on Friday, National showed it is Working for Whanganui as well.

Retiring Health Minister Tony Ryall was in town to help launch Chester Borrows' campaign for a fourth term as MP for Whanganui. Whilst he was here he made a very significant announcement which has delighted a local health provider; check this out:

Tony Ryall
15 August, 2014

$2m initiative for healthier Wanganui families

Health Minister Tony Ryall today announced Te Oranganui has been selected to lead a $2 million anti-obesity initiative in Wanganui which will help families improve their health.
Mr Ryall shared with news with locals while out and about in Wanganui this morning with Whanganui MP Chester Borrows.
“Healthy Families NZ is a new $40 million initiative which aims to improve people’s health where they live, learn, work and play in order to prevent obesity,” says Mr Ryall.
“It is a complete reform of the way we address the underlying causes of poor health, including obesity, smoking and excessive drinking.
“Te Oranganui, who is also the lead agent of Whānau Ora in the region, will lead the Healthy Families NZ initiative in Wanganui. They will recruit a dedicated health promotion workforce who will work with schools, early childhood education centres, workplaces and sport clubs to encourage and support people to make healthy lifestyle choices.
“Encouraging individuals and their families to live healthy, active lives is part of the government’s approach to reducing the prevalence and consequences of chronic disease in New Zealand,” says Mr Ryall.
From October 2014, Healthy Families NZ will roll out to 10 communities – East Cape, the Far North District, Invercargill, Lower Hutt, Rotorua, Whanganui, Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura, Spreydon-Heathcote and Waitakere. It is expected to reach around 900,000 New Zealanders.
Healthy Families NZ is based on one of the very few anti-obesity programmes that actually work - Healthy Together Victoria programme from Australia.

Te Oranganui is far more than "just" a Whanau Ora provider. It is a leading , innovative health promotion organisation with a track record of success in improving outcomes.

The Healthy Families NZ initiative is an excellent one. As Mr Ryall notes above, it is about a new approach to chronic diseases such as those arising from obesity, smoking and drinking. Although Te Oranganui is an Iwi Health Authority, it works right across the community. In addition to operating Te Waipuna Health Centres in Wanganui, Waverley and Ohakune, Te Oranganui offers a range of services including disability support, mental health liaison, and services for infants, children, youth, families and the elderly.

This investment in the Whanganui region will be most welcome. Getting to the root of issues such as obesity will lead to significant savings further down the track. We commend the Government for showing in a tangible way that it is Working for Whanganui.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Haere rā Tariana

Tariana Turia has mellowed since she first entered the public consciousness. In the mid 1990's, she was one of the faces of Maori activism in and around Whanganui, and was one of the leaders of the occupation of Moutua Gardens/Pakaitore in the city.

Mrs Turia became a Labour list MP in 1996. She famously left the Labour Party in 2004 to form the Maori Party, and since 2008 has held ministerial roles in the John Key-led Government.

Yesterday Mrs Turia bade farewell to the place that has been her second home for 18 years. Here's her valedictory speech, courtesy of In the House:

Whilst we do not share Mrs Turia's political views, she has earned our respect in recent years. Joining John Key in government was not popular with many Maori, but there is little doubt that Maori have benefitted more from being in the whare than from being outside, in opposition.

We also admire Mrs Turia for sticking to her principles when she could no longer abide by the Labour Party's Foreshore and Seabed legislation. It took a lot of guts to stare Helen Clark down, but that is exactly what she did.

Mrs Turia also paid a warm tribute to Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson. The issue of treaty settlements is both complex and controversial. This was her mihi to Mr Finlayson yesterday:

I cannot leave this House without recognising a real friend, Chris Finlayson. Chris is the greatest Treaty settlements Minister that we have ever had in this country.
In our iwi we have had the longest litigation in the history of this country over our river. It is just around the corner, and I want to say thank you to you so much for working so hard alongside our whānau, hapū, and iwi of Whanganui. 

It will indeed be a moment of significance when the claim of the Whanganui River iwi is finally settled. Whilst it is unfortunate that won't happen during Tariana Turia's tenure as MP for the region, she will doubtless be closely involved in the process.

We wish Mrs Turia a long and happy retirement from public life. We are sure her husband, children and the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she proudly referred to yesterday will be pleased to see her a little more frequently.

Haere rā Tariana.

A golden start

The Commonwealth Games are off to a flying start for the New Zealand track cycling team. The world champion men's sprint team of Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins has added a Commonwealth Games gold medal; the Herald reports:

New Zealand struck gold for the first time at the Commonwealth Games in real style at the Chris Hoy velodrome today.
The trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins flew around the 250m track in a Games record time of 43.181 seconds, eclipsing the record they had set in qualifying a couple of hours earlier.
The ebullient Dawkins immediately lifted his bike above his head saluting a block of New Zealand fans, before a New Zealand flag was produced and draped around the trio's shoulders.
"We came here to win gold and to walk away with that is just...unreal," Mitchell told Sky Sport.
"I think we just had to do the same process we did in the qualifying, we rode really well. We went out quicker and to back up like that is a credit to how fast these guys [Webster, Dawkins] go really."
They always had their noses in front of gallant England, who recorded a time of 43.706s.

As world champions, courtesy of their victory in Cali, Colombia earlier this year, they were favourites. But it's one thing to have that mantle; another altogether to justify the tag.

The men's sprint team has emerged as the class turn of New Zealand track cycling. Considerable resources have been invested in developing sprinters of international standard, and this year's success is the pay-off for that investment. With World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medals, they must be in the early running for the Team award at the Halberg Awards early next year.

Here's hoping that this morning's gold medal is the first of many for the New Zealand team in Glasgow. The Commonwealth Games may not be in the same league as the Olympics, but we can still expect some outstanding performances from our athletes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Well done Wellington Phoenix

When Newcastle United beat Sydney FC four-nil on Tuesday night, the gulf between the English Premier League and the A-League was there for all to see. So expectations were modest for the Wellington Phoenix when the side took on West Ham United at Eden Park last night.

But it was fairytale stuff for the 'Nix; Stuff reports:

West Ham United have had their Premier League bags sent packing, stunned 2-1 by the Wellington Phoenix in Auckland tonight.
Two goals in the first half-hour of the Eden Park exhibition saw captain Andrew Durante and Alex Rodriguez dispatch excellent finishes to give the Phoenix one of their most iconic victories in the short history of the A-League club - and one which will no doubt be remembered for years to come.
In fact, Wellington Phoenix captain Durante described it as a win for the entire country.
"First and foremost, beating a Premier League side is a huge achievement for this club," Durante said.
"It's great, it was a great feeling. The team are very excited. It was a big occasion for us and a big occasion for New Zealand. We're just glad that we contributed to a pretty good game.
"Credit to West Ham, they put us under the pump, especially toward the end of the game. Ernie spoke to us all week about just enjoying ourselves, not going into our shell and letting the occasion overawe us."
Phoenix coach, Ernie Merrick, said it was important to keep feet planted on the ground and the performance represented a positive step.
"You know me, I'm very careful not to get carried away with something like this," Merrick said.
"Glen Moss pulled off a couple of great saves, it could have gone the other way but there are a lot of good signs. I won't get carried away with it. West Ham were a wee bit unlucky today.
"It was crucial for us to put on a good performance, to win the ball and keep it. Our real strength was a rock-solid backline who were well protected by a bank of midfielders. 
"For the boys to perform like that, it was outstanding."
Merrick said the important thing was now for his side to re-focus for Saturday's game against Newcastle United.
"We want to play well there. My concern is getting them to recover for the next one." 

In a result which the Phoenix back office might have dreamed of, but would never have seriously considered, Saturday's double-header in Wellington has turned into a genuine series final. The two losers, West Ham United and Sydney FC will play for pride and third place. And the two Round One winners will be playing the main game, and the Phoenix players will have the unparalleled opportunity to claim two EPL scalps in the space of just a few days.

We heard last night from a Wellington friend there are just 4000 tickets left for Saturday's double-header. Unfortunately, we have a couple of commitments we can't break on Saturday, or we would be there. But we reckon those remaining tickets will be snapped up quickly, and the Ring of Fire will be packed to the rafters on Saturday.

The Wellington Phoenix organisation deserves lots of credit for taking a punt and organising the tour by Newcastle and West Ham. Here's hoping the financial results are good enough for them to make it, if not an annual at least a regular event on the footballing calendar. If nothing else, the 'Nix players have shown that the EPL sides venturing down to New Zealand will be given a good pre-season test.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A tale of two bowlers

One of these two bowlers has been deemed by the ICC to have an illegal bowling action. The other has not:

So whose action is illegal then? Stuff reports:

Black Cap Kane Williamson has become the first New Zealand cricketer to be suspended from bowling in international cricket because of an illegal action.
It was announced today that Williamson, a part time off-spinner, would not be able to bowl in the international game until he had remedied his action, submitted it for reanalysis and satisfied assessors of its legality.
The suspension is a blow not only to Williamson but to the Black Caps team as a whole. While the 23-year-old is pre-eminently a batter, he is often used as a bowler.
Williamson has bowled in 34 tests and has 24 wickets at an average of 40.66 while in his 54 ODIs he has taken 23 wickets at 30.91. In T20 he has taken three wickets at 37.00.
He made his test debut and ODI debuts for the Black Caps in 2010 and his T20 debut in 2011.
A statement from New Zealand Cricket this afternoon said independent analysis of Williamson's action, conducted earlier this month at Cardiff Metropolitan University, had concluded his elbow extension exceeded the 15 degrees of tolerance permitted under International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations.
Williamson was reported by the umpires and the match referee during the second test between the West Indies and New Zealand at Port of Spain in June. 
He last bowled for the Black Caps in the second T20 in Dominica on July 6. 

You can take it as read that we don't have much faith in the ICC's ability to manage bowlers with suspect actions. And few bowlers have more suspect actions than former Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Murialitharan.

Yes; Williamson's action is dodgy, and remedial work will hopefully help him conform to the rules. But it was an outrage that Murali was allowed to gain such a huge advantage as a bowler by the degree of flex he had, supposedly as a result of a childhood deformity.

The ICC changed its laws to accommodate Muralitharan. It was kow-towing of the worst kind, and his career statistics remain tainted in our view. The ICC's laws of illegal actions are an ass, especially when they are selectively enforced.

More good news; the Aussies envy us!

Australian Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey is in town. And as he ponders the sea of red ink in the books he is trying to balance, a legacy of Labor/Green profligacy across the ditch, the politics of envy have reared their head, in the nicest possible way; TVNZ reports:

Joe Hockey has called New Zealand's economy "the envy of the world" during his first visit here as Australian Treasurer.
Mr Hockey told TV ONE's Breakfast today that Australia could learn some lessons from their Kiwi neighbours.
"New Zealand has done a splendid job, the Key government is a standout government around the world and as a result of that it is heading towards a surplus," he said.
"New Zealand is starting to live within its means."
Delivering his first budget this year, Mr Hockey said he was forced to slash spending by $10 billion because of the previous Labor government's overspending.
"They took us to a position where if we don't take immediate action we will face much bigger debts," he said.
"If you make the difficult but important decisions up front then you get the benefits down the track. We've got a long way to go to catch up to the budget position of New Zealand."

Joe Hockey started out in the same position that Bill English was when he inherited the New Zealand books in 2008. At the time, Treasury was forecasting a Decade of Deficits. History will show English's parsimonious financial management has done the job, and the books are headed back into the black four years ahead of prediction.

It's rare that our trans-Tasman cousins are so effusive about New Zealand, but on the issue of the respective economies, Joe Hockey has little option. He inherited a mess from Kevin Rudd, and he could do much worse that take some advice from Bill English as to how to get his books in order.

In the meantime, migration to Australia has almost dried up as the former Lucky Country is down on its luck. Thousands of those who left New Zealand during the recession to try their luck over the ditch are returning as New Zealand returns to economic prosperity, and as the Australians recover from their Rudd/Gillard hangover.

Who's the Lucky Country now Joe?

Tweet of the Day - 23 July 2014

We blogged earlier in the week about the tragic death of Newcastle United football fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney in the MH17 disaster. As Dave Goosselink from 3News tweeted last night, Newcastle United and Sydney FC acknowledged the tragedy before they went head-to-head in Dunedin last night:

Tonight attention turns to Eden Park in Auckland for the match between West Ham United and the Wellington Phoenix. By a quirk of extremely bad timing, we will be arriving home FROM Auckland where we have been attending a computer conference just as the match kicks off! Had we twigged as to the dates, we would have extended our stay in Auckland.

This tour is a brilliant initiative by the Phoenix. Here's hoping the club is rewarded with a bumper crowd in Auckland tonight, even if we are not amongst it.

Dedicated to the cause

Hamish Walker is the National Party candidate for Dunedin South. He'll be going up against Labour MP Clare Curran, who doesn't have the comfort of the party list to fall back on.

And Hamish Walker has shown just how dedicated he is to the cause; Ele from Homepaddock reports:

Hamish Walker, National’s candidate in Dunedin South received one of those Ice Challenges and accepted it with a twist.
He chose to do it by total immersion in the sea at St Clair,wearing a kilt, with the support of some Young Nats and the accompaniment of the bagpipes.

Can't say THANK YOU enough to John BP, Katy H & Liz B who were stupid enough to join me this morning for the Ice Challenge- what commitment to the National Party!

It goes to show there’s no sea cold enough to stop the pursuit of party votes for National and #TeamKey who are seeking #3moreyears.
You can see it on video here - while you’re there you could like his Facebook page too.

You've got to have a reasonably tough hide to jump into the sea off Dunedin at the best of times. But to do it in the middle of winter, clad in a kilt and the the accompaniment of bagpipes is not only fitting for the Edinburgh of the South, but a rare old show of dedication.

Dunedin South is traditionally a Labour stronghold. Clare Curran had a majority of just over 4000 votes in 2011. Significantly though, National won the party vote in Dunedin South which was a fantastic effort. If there is to be an upset, who better to deliver it than a Dunedin-born, kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing lad by the name of Hamish, totally dedicated to the cause?

Best of luck Hamish Walker. Here's hoping there was a wee dram waiting to help you thaw out!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Photo of the Day - 22 June 2014

How's this for a mood shot of Rory McIlroy reflecting on his wire-to-wire win in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool?

All things being equal, we might even get to the Royal and Ancient at St Andrew's next year to witness at least one day of Rory McIlroy's defence of the Claret Jug, and the title of Champion Golfer of the Year. That'll be another item crossed off the Bucket List!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another win for Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko has rebounded in the best possible way from a forgettable final round in the Britsish Women's Open last weekend. The LPGA Tour website reports:

Is it really even a surprise anymore when Lydia Ko does what she did Sunday? Seventeen-year-olds aren’t supposed to be that unflappable, that immune to pressure. They’re not supposed to step up to a 72-yard shot, needing a birdie, and hit it to four feet for the win. But never before has there ever been anyone this good, this young. With the birdie, Ko finished off a final-round, bogey-free, 6-under-par 65 to emerge with a one-shot victory and the fourth LPGA win of her career and second this season. “I came in today with a goal of shooting 6-under. After my first nine I said, I definitely can shoot that,” Ko said. Ko, the No. 2 player in the world, still swears she gets nervous on every shot, even if she never seems to show it. The four-footer she drained on the last was particularly clutch considering Ko entered the 18th with a one-shot lead before So Yeon Ryu drained a snaking right-to-left 30-foot bomb on the 17th hole. But Ryu, playing one group behind Ko, missed a must-make 6-foot birdie on the last to finish one back of Ko at 14-under-par for the tournament. “I actually couldn’t see it properly because I was behind some people,” Ko said. “I kind of saw by the crowd’s reaction.” Unsurprisingly, Ko becomes the youngest player in LPGA Tour history to cross the $1 million mark (17 years, 2 months, 26 days) and that doesn’t even include the money she didn’t receive after winning twice as an amateur. Ko’s 65 came with birdies on two of the last three holes. However, Ko’s still focused on the pocket money that comes from birdies. The 17-year-old who doesn’t even have her driver’s license has an allowance deal going with her mom where the amount she gets increases with each shot under par she finishes.

Lydia Ko is turning into golf's equivalent of an ATM. not that anyone would be surprised. For a rookie professional, her consistency has been little short of amazing, and it seems only a matter of time before she breaks through to win the first of what we predict will be many majors.

And in men's golf, Hamilton professional Steven Alker took a big step towards the Holy Grail of the PGA Tour today.  Alker finished in second place in the Boise Open, losing in a sudden-death playoff to Steve Wheatcroft after the pair finished the regulation 72 holes tied at 24-under. 

Steven Alker's season earnings on the Tour have risen to US$211,580, and shot him up ten places on the money list to ninth. The top 25 players get cards for the Big Tour next year, and Alker is now more that US$100,000 ahead of the 25th-placed golfer. He would need the worst possible run of luck, and almost every player immediately below him on the money list to win tournaments to miss his promotion from here.

It's been a great morning for New Zealand golfers.