Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Road Toll

Read the Herald, the Dom, Stuff, wherever - all the news we ever get over our holidays are news of every single crash and road safety. First, it starts with grave concerns from the Police over expectations the roads will get busy over the holiday busy, then a message from the police warning everyone they're cracking down on speeding and drink driving, then the news pours in of every crash on every road, and then its followed up by debate and outrage.

Are Kiwis shit drivers? Do we speed like idiots? Why does it seem we all get on the piss before driving? Is it Aucklanders leaving Auckland the main problem? Whatever the answer to our road safety blunders is, it's the million-dollar question we all want the answer to. To add perspective, our road toll is high for a developed country, with fatalities twice as likely per capita than Germany; though not high by world standards. With a situation as complicated as this, it's probably a variety of factors. Without a lot of time, a team of crack researchers, a million dollar inquiry budget, and an abundant supply of Pepsi - I can't find out for sure. But we'll have a crack at a few hypotheses.

The Car
New Zealand has an extremely high car ownership rate, often the highest per capita in the world depending on studies, with 3226614 private vehicles at the 2006 census. Our car fleet is almost entirely used Japanese imports (95% of cars in 2006), and the median age of our vehicles was 12 years old. Since most people own an old pre-owned Jap reject, people are probably less likely to have a great deal of respect for their vehicles. Not to say people don't love their cars, but more that people would be much more cautious driving a 2011 dealer-new Lamborghini than a 1996 Toyota Corolla. 

Our standards of road worthiness are high, which says our cars are in decent condition; but a fleet of older cars says their safety features are outdated, and their older engines would need more aggressive driving to keep up on the roads.

The Road
As an urban planning student, I can testify to heaps of roads in New Zealand being designed really really shit. Not just Auckland having crippling transport issues, but our state highway network having many dangerous stretches and areas, with most of our highways simply being retrofitted rural roads. Highways have evolved over time, and their designs and safety features are outdated and often unsuitable for their current use as high-speed cross-country connections. The road leading South of Auckland is built on the old Great South Road, built 150 years ago as a military service route in the New Zealand Wars. The road to the bach in the Coromandel was built on old goldminers' tracks from a similar era. The corners and stretches on these roads were never designed to handle the traffic volumes and speeds required today. The Manawatu Gorge is another example of a road that is unsafe by design, and now it's out - we're forced to drive over the even more unsafe Saddle Road where I got stuck behind someone so scared they were doing 35km/h the whole road.

We have very few dual carriages outside of Auckland and Wellington, which are inherently safer roads. Only driving from Auckland to Hamilton will you spend a significant distance of an inter city journey on a dual carriageway. Western Europe and much of the United States, even Malaysia has most cities connected by dual carriageways.

The Driver
Our driving age has been lower than many other countries for a long time, but it's foolish to think it's young drivers doing all the damage. They're a soft target in our road safety concerns, and there's a lot of sentiment towards them that distracts people from everyone else's driving - and I don't mean old granny drivers, Asian drivers, or woman drivers. Our driver licensing is reasonably lax, especially considering older drivers who went though a far more lenient driving test system. Licenses are not often renewed, and skills are not often retested. Laziness and 'knowing what you'll get away with' on our roads is pretty bad, most of the people that annoy me on roads are those older than me. 

Road safety is worse outside of the cities, implying that road rage is not a major issue. Since most drivers doing the long haul in the holiday period are parents - sober, responsible, experienced adults - it seems the spike in car crashes is not caused by the usual road baddies of speeding young boyracers on their restricted license who've been drinking beer in their illegally lowered Nissan Skylines. 

The Journey
New Zealand, as much as we say is a small country, is still 5 hours driving from Hastings to Auckland, 3 hours from Napier to Gisborne, and the travel times get longer in the larger and more sparsely populated South Island. When we pack up the car and head out, the journey distance is often long, through what becomes montonous farm scenery on winding rural roads. No wonder that drivers get tired on these journeys, or at least tired of the passengers with them, especially as these are usually parents being stuck in the car with the kids for 2-8 hours in a day. 

Driving to the conditions is important too. New Zealand doesn't have terribly wild or extreme weather, as much as we keep saying we do, but it is very changeable. Driving from Auckland to Wellington for example will see you change through several climate zones and dozens of weather conditions in a 9 hour trip. These weather conditions, especially precipitation can be dangerous, or even sunstrike from low sun at its rise and set; can be hazardous to driving. Being cooped up inside a car all day with the air conditioning and the radio can make a driver oblivious to the conditions outside.

While there's no definitive answer, our unique cars, use of cars, and ways of driving cars on our very unique roads gives us our special place for having an unusually high road toll for a developed country. Our car fleet and road network are unusual for a developed country too, and a variety of factors contribute to our dismal record. Without knowing more specifically the causes behind so many car crashes, it's hard to pick where we should try to fix it. Road safety upgrades occur all the time, but their high price tag often means they're too little too late, such as the billion-dollar Puhoi-Wellsford highway where to government plans to completely rebuild the road. There's no need for pessimism though, there are surely solutions to make our roads safer, but it will require a great deal of strategy from planners, politicians, and engineers.

* Image above a parody of the NZ Herald website front page, made myself. Information for this post derived from Wikipedia - Transport in New Zealand.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

One of my Christmas presents this year, is this cheeky book...

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, by Ha Joon Chang. The person with the audacity to give it to me is my Dad, who saw someone reading it on the train in London and that made him think of me. Bless. It wasn't mean spirited though, he said it would be good to add another perspective, and food for thought nonetheless.

I will endeavor to read it this summer, even though I'm not much of a reader. Hopefully it will add a little something, maybe a more pragmatic and practical edge to these posts. I doubt it will make me a socialist though, I'm highly open to new ideas and I'm aware capitalism isn't perfect, but other systems are certainly less so.

I've barely started though, I have a book by David Seymour to get through, and an Edward de Bono that I'm still finishing. Maybe I'll post about it again when I'm finished!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Racism Or Reality?

There's a debate going on publicly between AUT professor Paul Moon and Ngāpuhi leader David Rankin, over whether there is a need to distinguish Māori family violence from other family violence. Of course, a grim subject, but nonetheless it has raised interesting points. If you read other blogs, you're probably mindful that Cameron Slater at Whale Oil has already covered this, so I'll try not to duplicate ideas.

“There is no such thing as Maori child abuse or Pakeha child abuse”, says Professor Moon, “there is just child abuse. By putting the word “Maori” in front of it, a stereotype is created which is inaccurate and dangerous”.
The idea in this is that there is no need to discriminate Māori as a separate variety of family violence, as it labels Māori unfairly, branding them all as especially prone to family violence. If you were a responsible Māori parent reading this, surely you'd be upset as being labeled such, so fair call really. 

‘We come from a warrior race’, says Mr. Rankin, ‘but colonisation has meant that we no longer have any battles to fight and we have too much time on our hands so that violent energy is not used up’.
Interesting statement, knowing the way academics and the general public feel, it won't be taken very seriously. I don't agree with it entirely and the wording is particularly blunt, but there are elements of truth in there. Uncomfortable truths from a Māori community leader, and not ones to brush off so lightly either. The statement above does allude to high unemployment in the words "too much time on our hands," which is not a uniquely Māori issue, but one that is reality for them. I would disagree with the colonization element, or that Māori are genetically disadvantaged as a "warrior race," but those are another issue altogether. 
‘The Government has been throwing millions of dollars into these problems but the situation is only getting worse’, he says.
Well, I did write about exactly that yesterday if you read my post about the 2012 new year. No political party has a strategy or solution for tacking social issues, and the more headlines about these problems that come out, the more money the government throws at things. Headlines create public outrage, which creates political pressure, which just makes scared and nervous throw more money into CYF or something else to calm the public and hope it fixes things. I have always said that if money fixes things, we would have fixed everything a long time ago; David Rankin clearly says that this blind expenditure does absolutely nothing. 

Racist Reality

The strange thing about this case is they are both right, labeling the ethnicities of the victims and perpetrators of family violence doesn't do anything constructive, but the sad truth is that it is a problem that is worse in Māori and Pacific Islander communities than others. A friend of mine told me that almost all the victims of child abuse that need treatment at Starship Hospital in Auckland are of these two communities. Child abuse is not exclusive to these communities at all, but it'd be foolish to simply disregard these patterns. To prevent blind and indiscriminate spending, the government needs to create a plan to tackle these issues, seeing where correlation ensues causation, such as poverty and child abuse being closely related. 

It would be interesting to see what Paul Moon has to say about tackling these issues, I do get sick of politically correct academics being so quick to criticize but slow to help, whee their 'academic prowess' would be more appreciated. David Rankin is a person with authority in this issue from his community involvement, 
Mr Rankin suggests that whanau take a greater role in monitoring their members. ‘This is a problem for all Maori’, he says. ‘Its time for us to take that warrior energy and deal to these thugs’, he argues.
At least David Rankin has constructive points to offer, saying that Māori need to own their problems better, and work together to solve them. The implication of collective responsibility means that we have a duty to do something about family violence when we are aware of it, which goes for all communities, not just Māori. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 - The Year, Not the Movie

In the last post I wrote here (yes, this is the link to it), I briefly recapped the year that has just been, wild and wacky 2011. This post is the sequel, the guestimates of what will happen in 2012, based on planned and probable events and extrapolations from 2011. With even the rise of the sun not being entirely certain, I will reinforce that this is only speculation from a weird kid who watches King of the Hill, don't even think of taking this very seriously.

Labour - Last Year's Losers
They are in rebuild and repair mode, they've been beaten badly by the voters in the 2011 general election, with the cherry on top being the loss of Waitakere to Paula Bennett at the last minute. Labour needs to do something about their brand, image, policies, outlook, organization, and strategy. Something big. I maintain that the best offense is a good defense, that they need to prove themselves as worthy opposition before thinking they will make worthy government. In the usual swing between National and Labour, leftist parties like Labour win when the economy is working well, and people turn their attention to service provision and social inequalities. 

Their plan of attack will need be economically minded though, with the recession and deficit still burning issues in New Zealand, with the appearance of being fiscally strong and responsible crucial to purporting wealth redistribution and government services. Experience in the private sector is the best way to do this. Their desire to connect back with the 'Waitakare Man' should be through empathizing  with the average worker who is employed in the private sector, and probably worried about their job security and budgeting their income. Shearer picking David Parker for finance is a step in that direction, the man has told me personally that he is a capitalist, and his work in a law firm and other businesses shows he can do the job. 

National - How to Build A Brighter Future
They won the election, and congratulations to them, they deserved it. National was the most inspiring party in the 2011 election, promising the security New Zealanders want in tough times, and rosy plans for better infrastructure and other services. They did alright in the first time by not stuffing anything up, the second term will be about them proving they can do that and more, by moving the country further forward rather than preventing it from sliding back. People demand more from the government in the second term, after extending their trust to them, they want to see if their government can do more. 

All the promises sound great, but what we want to see now is a clear plan and the results that ensue. We want to see headlines telling us how many new jobs have been created, how the government debt is shrinking at an acceptable pace, how infrastructure such as new roads are being built and then are working efficiently. With high public expectation, seeing results will be crucial; good results will see National soar to unprecedented popularity, bad results will see David Shearer the next prime minister at the next election. There is a difference between debt and deficit, spending and revenue need to be balanced to clear deficit in order to pay off debt. 

To ACT, Or Not To ACT
The fate of the party depends on a lot of interesting stuff happening now. It is no secret John Banks does not embrace all of ACT's values, but so far he is proving he can live up to nearly all of ACT policy. There's plenty he agrees on, and as long as he can stick to those issues, the ACT message is being continued. Disagreements on social issues such as alcohol reform, drug reform, and gay marriage are ones ACT people hope he doesn't get hung up on. From working with him on the Epsom '11 campaign, he's committed to our economic policy, and he's capable of pushing this under the ACT banner. 

As for leadership, policy, and organization; Don Brash's departure leaves plenty of opportunity and risk in naming his successor. ACT is prone to pragmatism versus romanticism debates over promoting libertarian values, my personal view is to favor pragmatism to earn back votes, with the key to stay on message but to also be relevant to the current economic situation. The growing feeling within some in the party is also that economic and social issues are not mutually exclusive, and some party faithful are hoping to see a drive for social liberalism led by the next leader. Since ACT performs best in opposition, it may be worth slightly distancing ACT from National to maintain uniqueness as a brand and earn back votes.

A Green Thorn In the Side
Russel Norman and Metiria Turei led the Green Party to an outstanding election result in 2011, largely by siphoning votes from Labour by appearing more relevant and responsible. Most of their success, really, can be attributed to locking their crazies like Catherine Delahunty in a cage, and ridding themselves of controversial Keith Locke and Nandor Tanzcos. They should be hated by Labour for taking a large share of votes that would have been theirs otherwise, while parties like National and ACT already hate the Greens for being opposed to all their plans. The Greens will likely be the thorn in everyone's side, stealing attention from Labour and screeching "NOOO!!!" at every utterance from National and ACT. This term with 14 seats, the Greens will be a very large thorn, in which public support can go in one of two ways. Either the public are disillusioned by their inability to allow the government to get anything done, or the public will be very supportive of how strong they are in in standing up to the government. Russel Norman has ruled out coalition with National, but hasn't ruled out working with National. Time will tell…

Winston First
The headline says it all really, there is no party other than Winston. His performance in parliament will decide the fate of the party, where like the Greens, it all depends on whether people think he's a dick or a hero for the shit that comes out of his mouth. He will plague question time with pathetic comment, being in the way of every party to put himself first. People do got for this behavior under the impression that it "keeps the government honest." His style of  bullshit in government will be judged with that criteria, and he'll be "gone by lunchtime" if his meddling doesn't live up to that standard. Oh, and still waiting for that $158k...

Other Interesting Shit
Since the last post (again, link) was a big list of stuff that happened in 2012, I'll also cover a few bits from that in another list to speculate on 2012.
  • Asset flogging: Mighty River Power is first on the block, this will need to go very smoothly and quietly to work, any hiccups in asset sales will cause a huge uproar and probably riots outside John Key's house in Parnell.
  • Social issues won't be solved any time soon. More headlines tends to see more money thrown at issues. Not long until there are more social workers than lawyers, as no party has a plan to tackle issues such as alcoholism and child abuse. Money doesn't solve them, real help does.
  • The Alcohol Reform Bill is a topic big enough that I'll need heaps of posts covering it. The passion and burning desire to push it through is fading though, with news headlines no longer fueling it and pressuring politicians, the debate will need to be made in the public. A lot of time, money, and effort has been invested in the bill though, and it's not going to magically go away.
  • Debt will remain one of the big issues for a long time, private debt far exceeds public debt, so this issue has a plenty of time left.
  • The economy is still fragile, and world stability depends on the stability of big players such as the United States, PRC, and the European Union. 
  • Especially with the December shakes, the Canterbury earthquakes will remain a big issue in New Zealand, and the recovery very contentious. So far, it is the third most expensive natural disaster ever, and more aftershocks have it gunning for second place.
  • The XXX Olympiad, or 2012 Summer Olympics in London should be fun. If New Zealand wins heaps of stuff, the country will feel good and John Key will look good. Will be a bit of a downbuzz after having the Rugby World Cup here, but pubs will be pretty fun nonetheless.
  • The United States presidential election is expected in November, the race will be interesting as always.
  • Her Majesty the Queen will have her Diamond Jubilee in February. I'm a monarchist, and will be celebrating this. Monarchy may well become a debate again, but support will probably remain strong with the media saying good things about her celebrations.
  • The DPRK (North Korea) will have another dictator. Expect nothing new.
  • Nerds think mobile phones will have quad-core processors. No idea why making a phone that doesn't drop calls isn't the next priority.
  • The Mayans have a calendar that says the world will end in December. If it's anything like that movie, it sure will be. My money on the cause of the apocalypse will still be on Rick Perry becoming president. (Watch this video for the LOLs)

I'm a terrible optimist, so I'm sure 2012 will be a blast! Get the popcorn out and we'll see what interesting stuff comes in the new year. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

That's the Way It Goes 2011

With 2011 and it's election done with, what can we expect to see in 2012?

Recap 2011

Overall, a year of contempt for the status quo for some, and to the rest of us a year of random unpredictable shit happening pretty much because "fuck you, that's why." A clear difference between New Zealand and the rest of the world and an interesting pattern of how the two are connected, in many interesting and bizarre ways. Our economy seems entirely at the mercy of government expenditure and the whims of economies overseas, especially without biggest trading partners being China, the United States, and Europe. On the other hand, we've bucked the trend by not following the rest of the world in big austerity measures, big rioting and public backlash to economic policy, or losing rugby games!

People in New Zealand have been fairly content with their lot this year, as reflected in the 2011 general election results, with social issues being fairly low key, and people having good faith in the re-elected National government. We've been brought down by grounded ships, economic downturn, devastating earthquakes, and kept on edge with uncertainty; but we've had some positive stuff too, like hosting and then winning the Rugby World Cup, being comparatively safe from the global recession with business mostly as usual across the country, getting even more deliciously unhealthy food in Auckland, and getting a glimpse of a winter wonderland with snow as far North as Palmerston North. (It did not snow in Auckland, I was there when it allegedly happened, and I would know snow when I see it!)

The next post will be on predictions, expectations, and hopes for the new year 2012. Coming soon!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas :D

With 2011 over, and a crazy year for politics it has been, a merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Capital Cool

The last week, I've been in Wellington seeing family and ACT colleagues in the Capital of Cool. While Wellington seems to be populated with urban lefty hipster types studying a BA at Vitcotria University to most people in Auckland; I have personally lived there for 7 years and visit the city frequently with most of my family still based there, and I know it is an awesome city, just awesome in a different way to Auckland. That aside, Wellington is our political seat, and I have spotted several politicians out and about town, including Metiria Turei (Green 1), Phil Twyford (Labour 33, Te Atatū), David Parker (Labour, 4), Denise Roche (Green 11) , and Andrew Williams (NZF 3). Yes Andrew Williams, the Clown of Campbells Bay. He was spotted outside Tap Haus on Dixon Street. We were tempted to wind him up.

Along with seeing politicians, I saw the Occupy Wellington protest still existing up by the Michael Fowler Center, where the same man who pulled his pants down in an Epsom electorate debate was wading in a fountain near the protest camp. We were impressed to see he had traveled such a distance to cause political nonsense. While the opposite of nonsense, was the opening of parliament by the Governor General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, with a military welcome, with a colleague from Palmerston North staying in Trentham being involved. 

The weather at first was crap, even for Wellington, but got better over the days. Gave plenty of opportunity to check out neat food and coffee places in the city though, with my recommendations being;
  • Memphis Belle - Awesome little café on Te Aro Park where the baristas are experts, best coffee in the city by far.
  • Great India - The best thing about this is their $12 lunches, with exquisite curries and a great restaurant atmosphere, not to mention outstanding service.
  • Tap Haus - It's on Dixon Street, and it's got a huge variety of imported and craft beers for the connoisseur, as expensive as it is!
  • Karaka Café - In the new building near the boat club, it's Māori themed, serving hāngi alongside beers and coffees, but the views of the city are great and good location across the road from the library.

Wellington's railway system has always been far superior to Auckland's, though much more expensive to ride, and I did get the opportunity to use the new trains that have been installed, which were immaculately clean and quiet, and the safety messages over the intercom almost trick you into thinking you're on an airplane.

But it wasn't all play and no work, my time in Wellington was well spent catching up with Wellington colleagues post-election, discussing plans and ideas of where to move forward for the 2014 election and beyond. Big thanks to everyone that was involved, including ACT on Campus Wellington president Sam Bonner, and a happy birthday to Amanda Richardson!!

Christchurch Christmas Quakes

"If it looks unsafe; stay out" 
If that's not the last thing people in Christchurch need to hear before Christmas Day.

Another earthquake with two large aftershocks, all measuring above 5 on the Richter Scale, and all situated very close to the city center. Eastern suburbs are again plagued by liquefaction and flooding, while hilly areas by the sea have seen cliffs erode into the water. Dust clouds have been seen from the cliffs where rocks have released dust while moving, not to mention a plume of dust coming from the Red Zone, presumably from the battered cathedral. 

Airport operation was immediately suspended, pending checks to ensure the runway and other infrastructure were indeed safe. The airport reopened at approximately 6pm, with only cosmetic damage, but no damage to runway. Airlines are now responsible for restarting services and ensuring backlogs are cleared, especially with the backlog creating congestion at Auckland and Wellington.

Fortunately there is no Civil Defence emergency, with the Christchurch City Council (minus Bob Parker, who is on holiday in Taupō) and Civil Defence managing things well on their own, with no additional help from Wellington needed. The utilities are holding up well so far, though 15000 homes served by Orion are without power temporarily. With few injuries and no fatalities, fortunately the city has got away with this one relatively unhurt. 

With the new government, the Christchurch situation will be at the front of many member's minds upon their return to the house in February. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee will be back to work and very busy with the new issues brought up with the latest shakes. More damage and more insurance woes are hardly what Christchurch wanted for Christmas, so the assurance from government that they can sleep soundly on Christmas Eve will be needed. Brownlee is the member for Ilam, a local, should be a challenge he can rise to. 

* Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Swearing the Oath

You have been elected by the people of your electorate and of New Zealand to represent them in Parliament, to facilitate the rule of the Crown. The least you can do is swear an oath to the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. Of course, there are those that do not appreciate the honor and responsibility that is granted in becoming a member of parliament, and have chosen to take the initiation into parliament less seriously. The Green Party, Mana  Party, and many within the Labour Party want parts of the initiation removed or altered, to remove the Queen as the sovereign and God as their personal deity. While we no longer preach a national faith, nor force the monarch to make all our decisions; to drastically change this solemn initiation compromises the integrity of government.


New Zealand is a multicultural nation, with citizens supposedly equal and respectable regardless of their race or religion. We may not be so much a Christian country, neither is the Church of England pushed as an official national faith; but the affirmation to enter parliament is still valid. All members of the Green Party, and many in the Labour Party chose to use the affirmation instead of the oath. Raymond Huo is Buddhist, and did not use the Christian initiation. For agnostics, atheists, pagans, and other beliefs; the term 'God' would be inappropriate and technically unlawful. In Canada, an additional affirmation was created in 1905 to say,
"I, [name], do solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare the taking of an oath is according to my religious belief unlawful, and I do also solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II"
which is essentially an affirmation with an explanation. While the oath may be rigidly restricted to monotheistic beliefs, the affirmation should be the lawful alternative. The oath needs to be a very personal and sincere declaration of intention, as is the affirmation. The presence of God is a personal choice that an MP can make.


New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. Whether ideologically good or not, it is near indisputable that the system has produced a degree of stability and security almost unmatched in the world. It is a fallacy to believe that monarchy is impractical when it has worked so well for the entirety of our nationhood. The Queen is an integral part of our government and it would invalidate the government, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the sovereignty of our country. It makes no sense that MP-elects would want to compromise the institution that they have worked so hard to get into. The oath is from a British imperial statute, the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, and has predecessors dating back to the Magna Carta, probably the oldest law in force in New Zealand, the famous document that began our parliamentary system. Politicians refusing to acknowledge the monarch as head of state are refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of their own office. Former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris said in 1993: "The oath to the Queen is fundamental to the administration of the law in this country. It signifies that, here in Canada, justice is done — not in the name of the Prime Minister, or the Mayor, or the Police Chief, as in totalitarian nations — but by the people, in the name of the Queen,"


While discussion about the precise wording and meaning of the oath is totally acceptable, an oath or affirmation is a necessary initiation rite into parliament, and disrespect of these are a sign of disrespect to the institution of parliament. The oath and affirmation need to be a very personal and solemn declaration, and must reflect the beliefs of the person taking the oath, meaning that God should not be a compulsory term as forcing people of other faiths to use the term would be technically incorrect in itself. An affirmation can encompass everyone, as it is irrespective of faith. While monarchy and republicanism can be (and often are) subject to debate, to become a member of parliament below the monarch, one must acknowledge the monarch. 

I was disgusted by Hone Harawira's conduct this year in his stupid game around the oath, it shows the seriousness in which he treats parliament and his role as an elected member. It now seems there is more complaint about the oath, how seriously do the complainants take this government and their commitment to it? Fortunately, Lockwood Smith is faithful to the laws of the land, and only those serious about representing their constituents in parliament will be allowed in.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kim: Farewell, Earthlings

Well, let's be honest, he's not human.

Kim Jong-Il should have a eulogy with his achievements in starvation, torture, abuse, corruption, nepotism, cronyism, authoritarianism, torture, and so much more. DPRK media may be brainwashing the country into mourning, but there is no cause for any change of emotion. The Koreas will still be at war, and the oppressed people of the North will continue to be subjected to further abuse at the hands of the next dictator; the groomed heir who will make the third Kim in the dynasty. I don't know how people can put up with such a daft pseudo-monarchy. It's not a proper monarchy, there is no constitutional limits that outline the roles and responsibilities of this leader (that are taken seriously) unlike the British monarchy. It's simply a dictatorial family ripping off one of the most tortured countries in the world. Kim Jong-Il lived a life of luxury and excess, gorging on lobster, washed down with cognac, and then finished with cigars. A kid who grew into a family of such excess would never give it up to help people he has no connection to.

In the New Zealand Army, the lowest-ranked people are the first to eat at a meal, and the highest-ranked are the last to begin eating. While rank and authority commands respect for people at the top, they respect their soldiers by ensuring their welfare first. The army leads by persuasion, not coercion, and it is a failure to command by authority rather than respect.

If the DPRK wants to run such a militaristic state, they can take a leaf out of the New Zealand Army's book when it comes to feeding its people.

The title of this post was inspired by a quote from an article in The Economist, the photo depicts the late Mr Kim in 2005.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shearing Labour Into Shape

My personal congratulations to David Shearer and Grant Robertson, for becoming leader and deputy leader respectively of the Labour Party. The challenge now is to turn a historic low into something more. Labour can do worse, the trick is for these two to dig their heels in and stop the party sliding back any further, then to get the party back on it's feet if they want to get more than 30% in the next election. Like Good Guy Greg, I aim to do constructive criticism, so here's some key points for them (and aspiring Labourites) to watch out for.

Business, Not Bureaucracy
Labour's caucus of union hacks and public sector bureaucrats is no qualification to run the country. Get some experience in the private sector to understand New Zealanders and New Zealand's economy. Most people work for a business, you would help that majority by having the same experience.

Crunch the Numbers
The world is far more concerned with economic responsibility than it has been in a long time, so a good image to project would be one of sound and stable fiscal policy and economic management. The high-spending Clark days are long gone, and Labour will appear competent and responsible by hinting it is ready to make hard decisions, but also to be innovative and creative with the economy. Losing a round of 'show me the money' again puts Labour straight into the toilet.

Social Heart, Economic Brain
This would help them be more centrist, balance social provision with money on the mind. Be careful how much things cost, and see if there is a way to maximize provision while minimizing costs. Hard to argue with that.

Watch the Image
Ensure Shearer has none of the qualities that the public finds fault with John Key. Remember that New Zealand usually votes a prime minister out when they are tired of their leader and they can remember the name of the closest competitor. Shearer needs to have a strong and positive image that is memorable in the minds of the public for good and positive reasons. The party cannot risk appearing economically incompetent or as weak leaders, either lead to political suicide. Unions and union connection are unhelpful, as the largely non-unionized workforce will have little sympathy for this cause. Like National has done well, connections to real New Zealanders working for private businesses and sending their children to public schools will help.

These are points for ALL of the Labour party and their supporters to note. Again, useful information, and worth using.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Deregulate All the Things!!

This meme is circulating Reddit at the moment, and was spotted by an ACT colleague of mine, since it was rude that someone stole my idea!!

The picture and caption refer to John Banks becoming Minister of Regulatory Reform, as the member for a party specifically interested in deregulation. Sir Roger Douglas will be proud, and so are we, getting the Public Finance Act amended to make changes outlined by Rodney Hide's Regulatory Standards Bill to ensure government spending is limited and more accountable. Banks as Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Small Business, Associate Minister of Education, and Associate Minister of Commerce; has put ACT's philosophies in crucial places, to ensure limited government and targeted assistance. The ACT philosophies of hand-ups not hand-outs, is well represented.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winston's Crew

Everyone that voted Winston First just for a laugh, should stop laughing and start feeling guilty. We all know about Ol' Winnie and his pathetic political career, obsessed with the "baubles of office," hating Asians and other groups, rallying support from old people scared of change, denying acceptance of money from Owen Glen, playing childish games with the media, and stealing over $150000 from the taxpayer. But what about the cronies he's brought with him. Receiving 6.8% of all party votes, Winnie gets himself and seven mates in parliament to oppose anyone and everyone. An editorial in the New Zealand Herald by Kerry Woodham mentions that people were only interested in getting Winnie back in, not aware that MMP means he will get to squeeze in more losers.

1. Winston Raymond Peters, Pensioner, St Mary's Bay
This guy goes without saying really, a veteran of political shit-stirring in his 28 year career, a lawyer by profession despite having policies to write expedient laws for populist policy and breaking current laws (still waiting for the $158k Winnie), and losing his magical Tauranga seat to Bob Clarkson in 2005. He's led a populist-extremist party since 1993, getting decent support from fellow pensioners, racists, bigots, and the politically misled. He got back in parliament this year by capturing support from disillusioned Labour voters (especially after Goff suggested raising the minimum wage), and capturing media attention by claiming to know everything there was to know about the "tea pot tapes" with John Key and John Banks apparently discussing ACT leadership and Don Brash. Credit where credit is due, he is a fantastic media whore and shit-stirrer.

2. Tracey Martin, Power-Hungry Councillor, Rodney
Been a long time Winston supporter, stood in Rodney this year and garnered party votes from the oldies. What I know from Rodeny locals, is that she's well connected to old people organizations, allowing her to campaign to that demographic virtually free of competition, especially with Colin Craig (Conservative), Beth Houlbrooke (ACT), and Mark Mitchell (National) being more credible than Tracey.

3. Andrew Williams, Clown of Campbell's Bay
If you're from Auckland, you will already know this character too well. This is Mr Get-Pissed-And-Piss-Everywhere-In-Public, the old North Shore mayor who is such a friendly bloke, he decided to get wasted and send abusive text messages to important members of parliament, including the PM himself. Clearly has fantastic working relationships with key figures in government. Voters everywhere are asking who the hell got this dickhead into parliament, this is where people who voted NZF look into the mirror and feel guilty. 

4. Richard Prosser, Redneck, Waimakariri
Ban the burqa! Give bank tellers and convenience store owners guns! Compulsory military training! Party like its a Muldoonist dictatorship! WHEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! This the guy that's getting the article in the Herald today for being a right-wing bigot that the taxi federation has already called a 'redneck' for saying taxi drivers should be armed, which is obviously not popular with taxi drivers. His extreme conservative social views have caught attention before he's even got to parliament, and good thing too, they'll be extremely unpopular, and probably will not garner the full support of the party. What a team player.

5. Barbara Stewart, Teacher and Business Owner, Waikato
My research finds her to be quite baggage free and a competent politician. Her values include one law for all and cutting taxes. No complaints there!

6. Brendan Horan, Failed Weatherman, Bay of Plenty
Tim Hickey had to replace this guy when everyone saw how useless he was at reading an autocue and pointing to cloud icons on a map. Not sure if this guy has any political credibility. My digging returns nothing, for me to assume he is a personality and not a politican. Judging on personality and his résumé, this is not going to be very constructive, or competent.

7. Denis O'Rourke, Lawyer-Councillor, Port Hills
This guy has a decent record too, yet another councilor though. Denis used to be a more of the Labour Party, which is an unusual start for a Winston First man, then went on to the Christchurch City Council to look after CCO's and oppose asset sales. Though a lawyer by profession and a businessman himself, he could have done more in the Labour Party, a bigger unpopular opposition party.

8. Le-Aufa'amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor, Samoan South Aucklander, Manuakau East
Maybe she's unaware of the political stances her party has against her people, but her profile on the party website says she's determined to give everyone in Manukau East jobs and feels like the Labour Party has screwed the community over. Honorable, though she has little on her CV under 'list of acheivements' after unsuccessful campaigns for election in Maungakiekie and within the Auckland City Council.

A great line-up from New Zealand First. Can't wait to see the inevitable factions and disagreements that are bound to open up, especially if Winston doesn't whip his caucus sore. No doubt they will come up with outrageously funny remarks and comments over the next parliamentary term, and they will serve to make no progress be of no help to opposition parties such as Labour and the Greens. New Zealand First never promised to do anything constructive, jokes on everyone that voted for them for thinking they weill this term.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Loudest One-Man Band

With ACT's future uncertain and an uneasy relationship between Epsom MP elect John Banks and the party closely watched, this is big news. Banks and Key have come to a confidence and supply agreement, with John Banks delivering great results for the party.

The agreement has impressed the party, with John Banks sticking to party principles and campaign promises such as school choices, limited government and spending, and monitoring our economic progress. His performance has been outstanding, and has been lauded by politico's everywhere as doing more with one seat than the five or more ACT has held previously.

Don Brash speaking at Corelli School, North Auckland
ACT may be a one-man caucus at present, but his effectiveness so far has been great, living up to his Epsom promise of being 'experienced and effective.' This will be a good public look that ACT is not as inept as the election critics would suggest, and if the pattern continues, will improve the image of ACT before the election. The relationship with the party, who do not see Banks as a devout ACT libertarian, will surely improve with this news. Party president Chris Simmons has already told the party that this is " testament to the hard work we have put in not only in the last week, or last month, but to the hard work we have all put in over many years." 

The most controversial feature in this agreement so far, is charter schools. ACT has long pushed for greater choice and freedom for parents and students in the education kids get. Don Brash released the ACT education policy at the independent Corelli School in Brown's Bay on Auckland's North Shore, where the focus was on "the money following the child" and offering schools the freedom in their business, and parents the choice in their child's education. Corelli was used, as it operates independently, with a focus on the performing arts, attracting bright students with potential in that field. 

Teacher unions are pissed off, as always. They point out we already have a successful and largely devolved education, which is true, but there is room for charter schools to emerge where there is demand for a different style of education. The main grievance is close to unions of course, that is the autonomy charter schools have in employment terms and conditions. They cite figures from the United States of charter schools failing, but the circumstances in the United States are far different, with independent and semi-independent schools in New Zealand already far outperforming their American counterparts.

John Key is happy with the deal. Unions will always be pissed off where freedom and choice drive policy. The real news in all of this is that John Banks is doing extremely well as a one man band in parliament, living up to ACT policies and ideas, and making great progress in coalition with National.

UPDATE: Close Up on TV One, at 7PM Tuesday 6th December, featured David Selfe from the Corelli School to support the idea of charter schools. He accused the PPTA (Post Primary Teacher's Association) of sticking their heads in the sand, and ignoring the idea that schools are already run like businesses, and it is denial to say this doesn't work.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No News ACT

ACT's candidate for Wellington Central and promising star Stephen Whittington has made news. He's greatly admired in the party, has potential as a politician, and has a large number of supporters, especially in ACT on Campus. He's done the cleverest thing by making news over comments about John Banks and the direction of the party. Apparently, Banksie is "economically ignorant and interventionist" and said this in response to talks about Banksie and the Colin Craig Conservative Party (or CCCP).

I do not know whether this is a gaffe, something malicious, or an intentional public release. But the blogosphere and the news media are already sensing something going on within the ACT Party. After a piss poor election result, the party is having discussions on what should happen next. The situation of course is that Brash has resigned, and Banks is the only ACT member in parliament. This changes  everything for the party, so the next few weeks of discussion are crucial to what will happen, deciding th future of the party and many politicians careers.

It is too early for the media to know anything about what ACT is thinking or feeling. With nothing at all certain and a ground-up review of the party underway, there is literally no telling at this point what could happen. Party president Chris Simmons has commented on the issue to dampen concerns, especially those of Epsom voters who will want to know their representative-elect will stay on message.

If you want news on the ACT party, I doubt there'll be anything coming from the yellow team for a little while yet. We'll just have to LOL at the Labour Party until then. Speaking of which, David Parker is now out (ignoring my advice), the right is calling David Cunliffe the "silent T" for self-evident reasons, and David Shearer appears to be the front runner. Post-election politics still interesting!