Red Alert

Archive for February, 2010

I don’t care about compensation. I want a network that works!

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

This is  what I’m hearing from young mothers. From people who rely utterly on their mobile phone and who don’t have a landline. Who don’t have a lot of discretionary income, so texting is the primary form of communication. Who need a working phone to be able to get through their day, juggling children, a job and other family responsibilities.

Telecom’s XT network is a critical piece of new infrastructure. It’s new, it’s supposed to be the future and it should work.

There is now a growing clamour for answers about the XT network and about the 111 service, which is part of what’s called the plain old telephone service (or POTs). In other words, POTs should never break down. It’s part of that institution called the NZ Post Office which Telecom emerged from when it was privatised.

Telecom is now hastily trying to increase the capacity and resilience of the new network which strongly suggests that the new network went live without enough capacity and the degree of resilience required.

The number of outages bears this out and serious questions must be asked of Telecom as to what testing procedures were undertaken before it went to market; whether it was properly funded and whether it has sufficient resilience to give the public confidence in this important piece of new infrastructure.

On TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds kept repeating how angry he was at the outages in the network. I don’t think being angry cuts the mustard any more. He needs to take responsibility and inform the public.

At what point is he going to reveal just what lies behind the network’s fragility? And what does the government have to say on behalf of the New Zealand public? Steven Joyce continues to duck and weave. At some point the public pressure will overtake his reluctance to get involved. I wonder what MED are thinking and what their advice to him is right now?

You are not allowed to put a new car into the marketplace without a rigorous set of tests and without it meeting a set of required safety standards. Nor should you be able to flick the switch on a new mobile network without appropriate testing.

Telecom’s got some serious explaining to do. I think the Government should be demanding answers. I worry that consumers like the mum who told me she just wants a network that works doesn’t seem to have a voice.

Who is representing consumers here? Seems like a big gaping hole to me.


Tsunami coverage

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

Like many people, I wasn’t aware of the tsunami alert until my alarm switched on and Sean Plunket was on-air, with the special Morning Report.

Reporters were on deck in Whangarei, Hawkes Bay, north of Auckland, Akaroa….other people, such as Civil Defence, were put on air.

I flicked across half a dozen commercial stations and it was normal programming. A reporter stopped a boat going in the water at Akaroa. They’d been listening to a radio station but weren’t aware of the danger. Meanwhile, TVNZ proceeded with Q and A.

Doesn’t this again under-score the value of a well-resourced, non-commercial radio network?


“Axe the Tax” bus hits the road

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

Labour’s initiative to travel the country by bus to inform ordinary New Zealanders about the destructive impact of an increase in GST is now underway.  Led by leader Phil Goff and finance spokesperson David Cunliffe, Labour’s MPs believe strongly that any increase in GST must be fought, as it is simply not fair.

As we know, National plans to increase GST by 20% (from 12.5% to 15%) in order to fund tax cuts to the top 10% of wage and salary earners.  We think this proposed increase is wrong for a number of reasons, but primarily because it simply isn’t fair to the vast majority of hard working kiwis: to those 800,000 families struggling on a household income of $60k or less, or the 75% of New Zealanders earning below the average wage.

No one voted for this tax increase, and the Prime Minister actually said that he wouldn’t increase GST.  Increasing taxes for those most vulnerable in our society will only widen social and economic dislocation rather than increasing demand and stimulating the economy into recovery.

A recent Economist article noted that countries need to be careful that they don’t increase tax and loosen monetary policy too quickly (as in 1939 and in Japan in 1997) as this could force the global economy back into recession.  There is simply no economic logic to this tax policy.

So, if you see the bus on the road, toot in support.

The Axe the Tax bus hits the road

The Axe the Tax bus hits the road

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Filed under: GST, Tax

Rally New Zealand

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

I was disappointed to learn this week that the draft 2011 world rally calendar doesn’t include the iconic Rally of New Zealand. The official position of RallyNZ appears to be to wait until the draft schedule is confirmed, but it now looks unlikely we’ll make it.

I was particularly disappointed to learn that the government had turned down backing for the event. This week Gerry Brownlee was trumpeting the fact that the government was sponsoring the World Paralympics Athletic Championships, so I asked him why he wasn’t backing Rally New Zealand. In response he questioned the economic benefit of the event.

The world rally championships is a huge international event, bringing huge TV audiences and offering considerable tourism potential. Media reports suggest those involved in the motorsport industry feel other governments give better backing to the event, no doubt that played a part in our being excluded from the 2011 schedule.

Major sporting events bring huge economic benefits to New Zealand. While we’re all focused on the Rugby World Cup, we’d be mad to overlook events like the Rally of New Zealand, which appeals to a very different (and possibly bigger) international audience.


Tsunami Warnings

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

As a result of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile, there are tsunami warnings in place for effectively the whole of the NZ coastline, but particularly the east coast. There have been 1.5m waves through the Chathams, and smaller increases recorded in NZ. The key messages from Civil Defence are that this is serious, that later waves may get bigger, and people should stay away from beaches.

Civil Defence site has regular updates.

Our thoughts are with people in Chile effected by the quake. There have been a number of deaths, and many after shocks right across the country.

UPDATE: 11.29am It seems that surges have stabilised for now, but Civil Defence warn there may be higher waves over next 6-12 hours. 1m surge reported in Northland.


Whose going into Cabinet? II

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

Seems to be firming up on Nathan Guy.

Some discussion of Amy Adams getting the out of Cabinet role. Key getting worried about performance of most of the women ministers.


Why did I buy a new mountain bike?

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

Because I thought we would have a cycleway. But according to the Herald not a metre has been built since John Key announced it a year ago.

And btw how much fibre has gone in as a result of Joyce’s work?


Time to stand up

Posted by on February 27th, 2010

Sick to death of National and ACT’s Frankenstein vision for Auckland?

Tired of their fake listening campaigns, and bogus assurances they are going to ‘put the local back into local democracy’?

Join the protest outside the select committee hearings this Tuesday lunchtime.  Let Key, Hide & Co know that Aucklanders deserve and demand better.

12 – 2pm  Tuesday 2 March   Quality Hotel Barrycourt, 20 Gladstone Road, Parnell

If you care about:
* the corporatisation of our local democracy
* the loss of local voice
* moves to make it easier to sell the Ports of Auckland and other assets
* unfair boundaries and inadequate representation
* undermining protections for the Waitakere Ranges
* tokenistic representation for Maori
* the rushed and undemocratic process the Government is using to push the super city through
…then join this lunchtime rally and show the Government Aucklanders won’t take the super city lying down.

Spread the word – send this facebook link to all your friends.

All political parties, groups, individuals welcome to attend. The rally will be peaceful and orderly.


Polls support Radio NZ

Posted by on February 27th, 2010

An admittedly unscientific Wellington street poll by student journos shows more than 50 percent support for Radio NZ, while its even less scientific web poll shows 90 percent against the funding freeze..

http://www.newswire.co.nz/2010/02/radio-nz-money/

If you want to add your voice, go to www.handsoffradionz.co.nz  and sign the e-petition

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Filed under: broadcasting

Act still exists?

Posted by on February 27th, 2010

A shadow of the old Act Party is having a conference this weekend. Numbers are way down and there will be enormous anxiety at the performance of the party in its ministerial roles, in the polls and in the house where Roger Douglas acts as whip and seems to regard it as the place to have his senior siesta.

Their  centrepiece of economic reform The Brash taskforce was laughed off stage by Key before it was presented to the public.  

Hide’s most noteworthy activity has been a trip to his girlfriend’s family wedding.

The three strikes bill has been gutted – it might be a decade before the number of extra prisoners will get into double figures.

Hide is fighting Roy’s zoning proposals because they will knock $150k average off house prices in much of his electorate.

Most likely result will be another Dunne or Anderton one person party. Best result for Labour could be that Roy scrapes in on Hide’s coat tails – because they hate each other and all those votes would come from national.

Have fun.


Dear Mr Speaker (again)

Posted by on February 26th, 2010

After protesting at parliament last week, followed by Labour MPs writing to the speaker, cleaners at Parliament have sent their own letter to the Speaker, asking him to assist. This is a big deal for these cleaners to do this, just as it was for them to protest outside parliament last week – they’ve never done it before and as they say, they are largely invisible, working during the night when politicians are sleeping to keep their offices clean and maintained to a high standard.

Jaine Ikurere images 9Meanwhile, I want to introduce you to Jaine Ikurere, who cleans John Key’s office. She’s signed the letter, and like the other cleaners at Parliament, earns just $12.55 an hour.

I hope Mr Speaker listens to Jaine and her fellow cleaners.


Prisoners Aid Funding

Posted by on February 26th, 2010

It looks like funding for the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society is a goner. There is a story in the Dominion Post today that PARS will lose its $2.5 million contract.

This is a tragedy. PARS play a vital role in helping prisoners re-integrate into the community. For well over a hundred years they have helped with accomodation, facilitating job opportunities, and perhaps more than anything else, just being there for people who many in society want to ignore. They perform roles that busy probation officers simply can not do.

As Clayton Cosgrove notes in the article, the community will be less safe as a result of the funding being cut as people released from prison will lack the support to stop them from re-offending.

There are reports of concerns about some financial management issues. The work PARS does is important enough the the Minister and the Department of Corrections need to actively intervene to ensure it survives.

The overall issue of incarceration and rehabilitation in New Zealand needs attention. In the meantime, no matter what we might think of some prisoners, most people in New Zealand prisons will at some point re-enter society. Surely the key task while they are in prison, and immediately on their release is to work with them to make sure we do all we can to prevent further crimes being committed, and to help them find a path to meaningful and positive future. This is what PARS does, and the government needs to help them keep doing it.


Leaders reply strikes a chord

Posted by on February 26th, 2010

Phil Goff’s response to Prime Minister John Key’s statement on February 9 has resonated strongly within Chinese and Ethnic communities.

The speech has been “heavily” quoted in the Chinese-language media in NZ and been at the heart of many political debates in the community.

Last Friday Phil Goff gave a comprehensive interview with Auckland-based WTV on various issues including GST, R&D, how to grow economy and “catch up with Australia”.

Common sense would tell that if the Government is serious about catching up with Australia we need to look after the bottom 50 percent of wage earners not the top 5.

In New Zealand, the total income earned by the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers is about 17 percent proportionally, and the total tax they pay is 12 percent. While in Australia the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers pay the same proportion of tax of 12 percent, but the total income they earned is 25 percent.

To put it in lay-terms, Australia’s bottom 50 percent of taxpayers have a bigger share of the total income, which means income is more equally distributed in Australia before tax is taken into account.

If National are really keen on closing the gap with Australia, the focus must be on the bottom 50, not the top 5.

Feel free to use this translated version of Phil Goff’s speech.

And to the National supporters that read this, if you read Phil’s speech with no prejudice, you will see why Phil has been so warmly welcomed by Kiwi-Asians.

During the huge Chinese New Year Celebration on Saturday 13 February attended by over 65,000 people, I was proud to learn that Phil Goff had more photos taken from the crowd than the Prime Minister himself!

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Local boards get to choose colour of carpet

Posted by on February 26th, 2010

John Trust Me Carter has been reassuring angry Aucklanders since the middle of last year that the Government is going to give real powers to local boards. There are many undemocratic aspects of the Government’s super city agenda but for my money this is the one that people care most about. And if it is not sorted out, it is the thing that will do the Nats most damage across the Auckland electorates.

Mr Carter has been at it again this week at the select committee, repeatedly assuring submitters the boards will get real powers and inviting them to hear a briefing from officials this afternoon on the Government’s plans for board powers.

We’ve just had the briefing. Newsflash: Local boards will get to choose the colour of the carpet at the local library but will have precious little else in the way of real powers.  Actually to be fair, they will also have the power to shift park furniture around and allocate the graffiti clean up budget.

The Government has failed again to deliver on its promise to empower local boards in the Auckland super city.

Key, Hide and Co are turning Auckland democracy upside down. Local boards elected by local citizens wont be able to pass a by-law. And yet, the new transport and water corporate structures whose initial directors are appointed by Rodney Hide will be able to make by-laws independently of the elected Council.

The boards wont have any regulatory powers at all, not even the power to regulate dogs, brothels, and liquor licensing that Rodney Hide promised in April last year.

On any issue that matters the boards will have only the power to talk among themselves, and beg the Super Council to do something.

They will be able only to “propose” local by laws to the super council, and “give input” to regional by laws and plans. They won’t be able to hire staff, own property or have any legal status.

They won’t be able to move a bus stop or paint a yellow line on the side of the road. These things and the great majority of the Auckland Council’s operations will be handled by powerful corporate entities that operate completely independently of local boards.

What is left: libraries, local parks and facilities? Officials told the select committee that libraries and facilities will be run on a regional basis, but local boards can have input into things like design and fit out. In other words they get to choose the carpet.  Welcome to the new face of local democracy.


So was the urgency worth it Gerry

Posted by on February 26th, 2010

Sometimes you can get too smart for your own good. Gerry Brownlee did this week. He put far too much in an urgency motion. He was offered a deal that included questions. He has now revealed that he wanted at least one Select Committee to sit at Parliament by leave at the the time the house was sitting.

Labour said no. Gerry lost his cool rejected the deal and ended up getting much much less through than he would have otherwise.

He found out that if the opposition decides to go into a no co-operation phase hours can be spent with no progress whatsoever.

He also found out that Christopher Finlayson (no QC) notwithstanding his FIGJAM approach doesn’t have the brains to stand and take a call even when he has his instructions wrtitten down for him.

Hope that Brownlee enjoys explaining to the next Cabinet and caucus what happened and that Hone Carter can give advice as what to do next time.


Radio rallies in two cities

Posted by on February 25th, 2010

Great turn-out today at the rallies in support of Radio NZ at Parliament and also in Christchurch.

Group3

Labour and Green MPs turned out to support the 200+ people who arrived with just a day or two’s notice to express opposition to Government efforts to freeze-cut  Radio NZ’s services.

Meanwhile I was addressing a smaller gathering outside Radio New Zealand House in my Christchurch electorate, saying  the Government should look across its broadcasting spend at what efficiencies that might be applied to support Radio New Zealand.

All up, the state has a net flow of than half a billion dollars into and out of broadcasting. Finding $1 million across that array of funding and revenue would be easier than finding similar savings from Radio NZ’s under-pressure $38m budget. And the difference that sort of money would make to Radio NZ would be considerable.

Today we also launched a website – Hands off Our Dial – www.handsoffradionz.co.nz – to provide an ongoing site for people to register their support for Radio NZ. It includes an e-petition to provide more signals to the Government that Radio NZ is a much-loved institution and cuts to services are not acceptable.

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Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics (II)

Posted by on February 25th, 2010

English can’t help himself digging deeper in his hole.

Caught out in Question 4 today at Question Time contradicting himself on whether the economy was growing or shrinking, he fell back on challenging the truth of the quotes.

Here they are, both sourced from Hansard:

“Because we did not think either policy was appropriate in the circumstances of what, under his party’s management, was a very poorly performing New Zealand economy, which was then hit by the global financial crisis”(Question 2, 23 February 2010)

‘Yes we could make substantial gains in the integrity of the tax system. Under the previous Government the number of people paying tax on $4 million did not change in 10 years even though the economy grew significantly” (Question3, 23 February 2010)

His main thrust, however was to repeat old lines that “the tradeable sector had been in recession for five years”, because the economy was “unbalanced” – ie NZ does not export or save enough and consumes and borrows too much.

Leaving aside his use of language – let’s be clear that Labour agrees that the economy is currently unbalanced (I blogged as much last week)

The key issue is what the government is doing about it, or not doing. On this commentators are scathing:

  • Bernard Hickey said the PM’s opening speech to Parliament “did nothing….worse than nothing. He shut down the debate… saying ‘tough. My backers own property….I’m not brave enough to challenge them’…”
  • The Manufacturers and Exporters Association said the government “would do no more than tinker” and noted “How the PM expects a broken tax system to be fixed without any changes is beyond me”.
  • John Armstrong said “Yesterday’s programme is a tax cut package masquerading as an economic growth package….Those expecting something special will be disappointed”.

So, has Mr English deliberately set out to embarrass his leader by reminding everyone how weak, shoddy and indecisive his government is perceived to be  right across the political spectrum?

Or is it just another “accident” in what was a slow motion train wreck of a week for National in the House.


Finlayson forgets to take a call

Posted by on February 25th, 2010

Christopher Finlayson made a real hash of the house this morning. Tried to push the Judicial Matters Bill, a relatively minor bill with nothing urgent in it under urgency. Not the done thing even for minor constitutional reform.

His attempt fell apart when despite being in the house he forgot to take a the call necessary to progress the bill. We then went on to the student loan legislation.

For someone who is the government’s chief legal officer his lack of understanding of process was surprising to say the least.


Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Posted by on February 25th, 2010

Bill English has been “trying it on” in his use of statistics, no doubt to try to get off the defensive around inequitable tax policy, his lack of a plan for growth and an embarrassingly strong performance by NZSF and ACC in the recent Crown Accounts.

Mr English alleged in a release last week that revisions to GDP data issued late last year showed the economy grew by “less than 1% a year”.

The Government Accounts  had been released the day before. Labour had attacked the government for having suspended superannuation prefunding and cutting ACC, when the investment performance of both had risen strongly.

Based on the Statistics NZ revised data, the average GDP growth for those three years was actually 1.74%.

The more relevant GDP growth benchmark, averaged over Labour’s last term in office, was 3.2% GDP growth per annum.

That was significantly higher than during National’s previous term in office of around 2.6%.

It was higher, year on year, for the three year period Mr English quoted, than the UK (2.6%), US (2.5%) or OECD average (2.3%)

This strong and sustained economic expansion was achieved alongside:

  • a massive reduction in Crown debt (net debt cut from 24.8%  of GDP to zero);
  • unemployment of 3.4%, the lowest in 21 years (less than half of today’s 7.3%)

This was achieved precisely because Labour did not follow Mr English’s advice in 2005 and 2006 to give early tax cuts. In short, not taking Bill English’s advice in 2005/06 meant NZ could afford a Budget in 2008 designed to support Kiwi jobs through the recession.

So if that was the real big picture, how did Mr English come up with his odd numbers?

  1. First, using highly variable quarterly GDP statistics, not the more aggregated and reliable annual numbers
  2. Second, choosing a short period impacted by the global recession to   bring the average down.
  3. Finally, by taking advantage of retrospective statistical revision  called chain linking whereby when recent data falls sharply (for example due to the recession) previous years are “smoothed” down to fit the trend.

The bottom line is National would give its right arm to have economic performance numbers today that matched the average under the last Labour government.

We have a Minister of Finance who has shown himself not above skewing data for political ends.

Lesson for Bill English: “when in a hole, stop digging”.


Heatley resignation- Key did not want him to resign

Posted by on February 25th, 2010

There is something very odd going on with the Heatley resignation. It seems John Key has said in his media conference that he did not think he should have resigned. I was beginning to question my view that he was pushed. From Mr Key’s own words this would seem to be so.

More to come I am sure, but it is clear this is not decisive leadership from Key.