Red Alert

Archive for May, 2010

New Zealand Music Month 30/31- Chris Knox

Posted by on May 31st, 2010

The godfather of NZ music, Chris Knox is a terrific performer, song writer and lover of music. From the anarcho greatness of The Enemy to the polished punk of Toy Love, the DIY alternative noise of Tall Dwarfs and the box of chocolates that is his solo work, he has pushed boundaries, and found the mainstream all at the same time. “Not Given Lightly” is the reason I was allowed to play annoying alternative music in the seventh form common room, and having Chris play it at our civil union was brilliant. His music has sold bread and beer, but he has never ever sold out. You are my favourite all time musician Chris, and you and the lovely Barbara are very special people.

The actual video for Not Given Lightly is not on You Tube, but you get the gist from the version below, and you can watch the real thing at Amplifier UPDATE: As Brenda helpfully pointed out in the comments, there is a great collection of Chris videos at NZ On Screen, including the real Not Given Lightly video, as shown below. And the bonus video is to show you just how far Chris has reached. “Its Love”, a fantastic song of his solo album Beat, was used by Heineken for a commercial, and inspired this person from Detroit to express his love for the song in his own unique way.

Thats it for Music Month. Apologies for anyone who found the posts annoying, but I hope it has reminded you of the great Kiwi music that is out there- old and new. Please keep buying the CDs, paying for the downloads and going to the gigs. Its part of us all, and the musicians need your support to keep going.

More talk of internet access being a human right

Posted by on May 31st, 2010

In France and Greece consumers have a legal right to internet access. In Spain, Finland and Estonia it has been (or is being) enshrined as a human right. Earlier this year, the BBC commissioned a survey of more than 27,000 people in 26 countries that found that 79% of adults regard online access as a fundamental right.

This time the Sydney Morning Herald reports discussion initiated by Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre executive director David Vaile, backed by the former head of GetUp! Brett Solomon, who is now executive director of in the US.

Red Alert ran a bit of a discussion on this issue last year. It is particularly relevant given the government’s intention to include a suspension of internet access clause into the new Copyright Bill about to come before the Commerce Select Committee. Labour supports the Bill (mostly) but opposes suspension.

I am interested to hear the Australian Human Rights Commission president Catherine Branson QC’s comments that:

while the Commission had not yet looked at internet access as a human right; it did recognise internet access may raise issues “relevant to the right to freedom of expression” as defined in a United Nation’s covenant on civil and political rights.

Let’s do lunch

Posted by on May 31st, 2010

Couldn’t help but note this line in the media statement from Jason Paris,  MediaWorks CEO about departure of Colin Caldwell, MediaWorks TV Director of Sales, leaving his role to set up an independent business consultancy.

“Colin has made a significant contribution to the commercial success of MediaWorks, over the last 18 years, and I thank him for both the long hours and long lunches he has contributed towards that success…

That resonates because my daughter has just landed a job in media in Auckland. When she asked the employer if they’d meet over coffee, the woman said, “No darling, this is Auckland, we do lunch..”

I suppose this all helps the Auckland economy and NZ wine industry but would it be approved by the Government’s newly minted Productivity Commission?

Key happy with 10k of cycleway from $50m budget – aimed at one job – his

Posted by on May 31st, 2010

I suppose the cycleway has had $50m worth of photo-ops for John Key.

And he has smiled and waved as our cash goes on administering not very much.

I’m the biggest fan of cycling in the Parliament. But this idea of a trail from North Cape to the Bluff was never going to work. According to Key via the Herald we’ve had 10k of new trail and a bit of tidying of existing trails.

And this is high quality expenditure while night classes are cut for the second year in a row?

Remember this was to be the unemployment breaking big idea from his (photo op full) job summit.

The public interest #2 Will the market deliver it?

Posted by on May 31st, 2010

According to Tom Pullar-Strecker in today’s DomPost there is still a strong possibility of the government taking a stake in Telecom’s network arm Chorus.

This is despite Communications Minister Steven Joyce ruling it out last week in the House when he was asked:

Clare Curran: Will he guarantee that the funds the Government has set aside for investing in new fibre infrastructure will remain dedicated to the roll-out of new fibre infrastructure?


Clare Curran: Does he agree that there is no public benefit in diverting funds into a purchase of Telecom’s old copper network?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government has been clear all the way along that it does not intend to spend money purchasing existing infrastructure from any existing bidder.

The Government hasn’t really been that clear about anything. There is a veil of secrecy around its process to choose a vehicle to roll out ultrafast broadband to the country. The industry is very confused. And increasingly unhappy with what appears to be the big problem: What to do about Telecom?

Telecom is struggling to work out what to do. It has now proposed structurally separating though how it plans to do that is very unclear. It has talked about a de-merger, which is curious because in order to de-merge (like for instance AOL-Time Warner), you have to have first merged. Telecom and Chorus are not a merged company. Are Telecom and Paul Reynolds making it up as they go along?

Did Telecom think that they would have to be part of the fibre roll-out and that the government would have to pick them? How have we ended up in a situation where a few weeks out from a deadline for preferred tenderers to be announced, Telecom have suddenly gone into a tail spin about structural separation. Or has there been a parallel process going on behind the scenes all along between the Govt and Telecom?

I’ve recently made several points about this:

This is NZ taxpayers money, it’s an investment in our future. We must not sink public money into a project that could ultimately about delivering profit to shareholders. Especially if those shareholders aren’t NZ-based.

Fibre is the future, copper is the past. Telecom are fixated on their copper network and don’t believe that the country should migrate to fibre straight away. Should they lead a fibre company wont that mean ongoing delays to rolling out fibre? We must not be making a decision that takes us backwards and is ultimately about buying into the past.

Investment in fibre will allow a new generation of providers to develop. We must allow that to happen.

And just as has been the case with mobile termination rates, market behaviour, posturing and stand offs should not influence the ultimate decision. A deal that requires the Crown Fibre Holdings Company to effectively buy out or invest in Chorus is questionable. No matter how such a deal is dressed up.

Should a company that has demonstrated its failure to properly design and build a 3G network be handed more than a $1b of taxpayer money? Telecom must not be propped up to save its bacon. It must be a decision based purely on merit and what’s best for NZ.

What is Telecom’s future? And what does the government really want? I think they are trusting the market to deliver the outcome. And I’m not sure that’s going to work. It certainly doesn’t appear to be working for Telecom. But more importantly it doesn’t appear to be working in the public interest.

Given that they wont have a conversation with the industry or the public about the best way to spend public money on ultrafast broadband, here’s what I think.

That the roll-out of fibre infrastructure needs to be via a regulated monopoly. Perhaps all the parties could agree to work together to achieve this. The Regional Fibre Group, led by Vector, Chorus and Vodafone/Axia. A collaborative solution. To do this requires a circuit breaker. And of course the public need to assured that the Commerce Act wasn’t being breached through collusion. But NZ’s interests are not being served by the current situation. And Steven Joyce must reassure the public that a parallel process behind the scenes with Telecom is not occurring.

Problem is, Telecom still seems to think they can manipulate government. Old habits. And it still seems to be down to who will blink first. Doesn’t seem to me to be in the public interest.

Andy Haden…actually – it’s not ok

Posted by on May 31st, 2010

I had to take a little bit of time to consider whether or not I was over-reacting to his ‘darkies’ comment.  I knew that there would be a suggestion from the general public that our country has just become far to PC and overly sensitive and I didn’t want to jump the gun on it but…after thinking about it – Andy Haden you made a huge mistake and it’s not ok.

I don’t know what the general expectation is from the public but if they think us PI’s should just smile and laugh when we are called ‘darky’, ‘booga’, ‘coconut’ – then sorry but in this instance maybe some of us don’t don’t feel like being the ‘jovial’ Pacific Islanders.

There is of course friendly banter that takes place amongst PI and with non-PI friends and family – but that only works when there is a trust between those involved in the exchange.  If the context isn’t right and/ or the person isn’t trusted, then it quickly becomes patronising and offensive.  Andy Haden might have a few close PI mates that he can use terms like ‘darkies’ with – they probably don’t have a problem with it.  But the problem when you use a term like this publicly, is that the rest of us don’t have a friendship/ relationship with you and therefore our suspicions are aroused immediately and offence is naturally taken.

The expectation from some corners that Andy Haden lose his position as Ambassador were fair. He demonstrated an inability to live up to fairly reasonable expectations when he used a term which in this day and age, is unacceptable.  It’s not just about offending a fairly large group of people in NZ but its also about his wisdom with regards to knowing what is appropriate and what is not.

The voice of opposition #OpenLabourNZ

Posted by on May 31st, 2010

Being in Opposition  is an important part of our democracy. Better to be in government obviously. But Opposition has an important role. One of the things you get to be is a voice for people who, for whatever reason, can’t or wont speak up.

To hold the government to account on their policies and their tactics, and to voice alternatives that are better.

In other words, to articulate the public interest. Yes?

New Zealand Music Month 28/29- The Mint Chicks

Posted by on May 30th, 2010

The Mint Chicks powered through the latter part of the first decade of the century with some terrific ‘noise-pop’. Hailing from Auckland the band had a huge year in 2007 and swept the music awards, before promptly re-locating to Portland, Oregon. There have been a few line-up changes but the Nielsons are still the core of the band, and their album released last year, and EP this year show they are still going strong.

And because its nearly the end of the month, a bonus track. The Mint Chicks doing Ray Columbus and the Invaders classic She’s a Mod.

AB PI degrees

Posted by on May 30th, 2010

Henry’s decision to select Benson Stanley and Victor Vito as new All Black squad members stuffs this weeks wisdom from Chris Laidlaw and Andy Haden that Pacific Island players can’t be bright enough to think strategically and talented enough to be All Blacks.

Coddington 90% right

Posted by on May 30th, 2010

Pretty good article from Deborah Coddington on the need for Landcorp to buy Crafar farms.

She proposes a partial float of Landcorp. I disagree. But she is 90% right. correct.

New thinking: careful experimentation #OpenLabourNZ

Posted by on May 29th, 2010

The future is all about data. Stuff that’s produced by people like you and me. And how it is distributed, used and re-used.

Data you generate. Data that cannot exist without you. Now that data is valuable, it is the new lock-in. Anyone can build another auction site, but 200 million ratings can’t be acquired overnight. Anyone can build another bookstore, but 10 million reviews can’t be acquired overnight. Google. Amazon. eBay. Flickr. Facebook. YouTube. Everything where the value is created via data you create in the first place.

Is there such a thing as digital philosophy? If so, I think I’ve found one. A digital philosopher that is.

JP Rangaswami is chief scientist at British Telecom (BT). He writes a blog under the name Confused of Calcutta. I only discovered him today.

And I’m not sure I understand everything he’s saying. But what I like is that he’s challenging our existing paradigms (man after my own heart).

This piece, sent via twitter today is called Musings about evil. And he talks about the importance of data and careful experimentation.

It took IBM 40 years to “become evil”. It took Microsoft 20. It took Google 10. It took Facebook 5. It took Twitter 2.5…….

Actually nobody “became evil”. Becoming evil is not suddenly getting easier. What we’re seeing is the confluence of a number of trends:

  • Growth in the power of the consumer, in consumerism, a post-Nader, post-Sixties phenomenon
  • Advances in information transmission and reproduction, particularly with the advent of the internet and the web
  • Emergent affordability and ubiquity of edge devices that increase the number of people connected to each other

He contends that despite the huge amount of change that is occurring, business,  and ways of doing business, have not changed. Which is creating problems.

No new business models have emerged … since the year dot, there have only been three ways of collecting value for services provided: pay-per-drink, all-you-can-eat, get-someone-else-to-pay. We have a litany of terms for the third way: advertising, sponsorship, patronage, gifting, subsidy, freemium, it doesn’t matter. There are still only three models.

The way we store, share and use data is becoming incredibly important.

These are some of the reasons why privacy and sharing and not-sharing are needing to be discussed, understood, legislated for. These are some of the reasons why identity and intellectual property and net neutrality are critical issues, issues that must be resolved in a sensible way.

It’s going to take some time before we have the conventions, practices and laws to make the digital landscape the land of the free and the home of the brave. Until then, our watchword should be careful experimentation. But experimentation nevertheless.

Read his piece. And think about this stuff.

This thinking lies at the heart of the issues that underpin copyright in the digital age. We must do some new thinking about what we produce, how important it is, who gets to use it and how they use it. Government can and should have an enabling role in this I believe.

If you’re interested,  my speech in the first reading of the Govt’s Copyright Bill (replacement to Section 92A) raised some of these issues. The big question is, what to do about it?

Hat tip: @LaurenceMillar

Child workers in NZ – what to do?

Posted by on May 29th, 2010

Earlier this week, along with Moana Mackey and Carol Beaumont, I attended a Youth Forum in Gisborne organised by Young Labour, the NZCTU and local unions.

It was a wake-up call for those who were there to listen to the 40 or so young people – almost all of them still at school – talk about the issues facing them as they take on work. One young woman talked about how she thought her employer would go ballistic if she asked for a written employment agreement, even although the law says she is supposed to have one.   Most of the young workers there didn’t have much of an idea about what they could expect from their employer and what their employer could expect from them.  All were being paid less than minimum wage – because for workers under 16, there is no such thing.

I spent a bit of time talking to one young woman who delivers for the local newspaper. Her story was no different to the many thousands of other young people who are taken on as leaflet or newspaper deliverers, told they are independent contractors, and end up being paid a pittance.

NZ has a  tradition of school-kids working for spare money and I’m sure many of did so in our youth.  These days, Kiwi kids work on farms, in convenience stores, in fast food restaurants and retail outlets, and on the streets delivering advertising and newspapers. Kids are often eager to earn the money to buy extras.  In some cases, their families need them to work to supplement family income to help make ends meet.

But children’s work in in NZ is very loosely regulated, and is out of step with the other first-world countries.  There is no minimum age for employment in New Zealand. Our labour legislation defines an employee as “any person of any age”.  But more concerning than that, there is no minimum age for a self-employed person or anyone else who performs work under independent or dependent contracts. In other words, a child can enter into an agreement as an independent contractor, where they have to pay their own ACC, GST and other tax, and where they are expected to understand their rights under commercial law.

The hours of work of young people tends to be much more closely regulated overseas, while NZ only has a  general guideline that work hours should not be such that they endanger health & safety, and in the case of young people 15 and under, the hours should not interfere with school attendance.

Health and Safety legislation applies to young people working as employees under the Employment Relations Act, where generally kids under 15 should not undertake hazardous work and shouldn’t be employed between 10pm and 6am. But these rules don’t apply to kids working as contractors, such as newspaper and leaflet deliverers.

Statistics tell us that one child each year dies from a workplace accident and several hundred are seriously injured, and the working hours of many interfere with their educational progress.

Then there’s the National Government’s 90 day trial period and the obligation-free work of employers who employ children as contractors.

We need to discuss these questions :

  • Should there be a minimum age of employment?
  • Should there be minimum wage and standards for young people working?
  • Should kids under 16 be able to be employed as contractors, without employment rights?

I’m assuming that no-one would want to regulate babysitting arrangements, lawn-mowing and odd jobs, but when our kids get into the corporate world, shouldn’t there be better standards?

New Zealand Music Month 27: Fat Freddys Drop

Posted by on May 29th, 2010

The infectious groove of Fat Freddys Drop has defined the “Wellington sound” of recent years. They bestrode the first decade of the century with a mixture of dub, reggae, soul and funk that seems to never fail to deliver, both on record and live. There have been a few line-ups changes, but the great songs just keep coming. They are currently touring a theatre show, which by the sounds of things is a fantastic event. They are touring Europe with the show later in the year, and further international success awaits them.

and for the benefit of any Dom Post journalists reading. I think FFD are awesome, I really did enjoy Shihad at the ACDC concert, does that make me ‘young and hip’ again? 😉

Heading for the tour of Taranaki

Posted by on May 29th, 2010

Over the last couple of years I’ve progressively been doing more exercise. Really started when I realised that being fit and fat wasn’t good enough and that putting on a kg or two a year meant there was much more pressure on my heart and lungs than there needed to be. I did events including the Karapoti mountain bike ride and round Taupo but didn’t do much training and still ate too much.

So I’ve been eating a bit less and getting up a bit earlier to exercise  a few days a week. Good results – abut 20kg lighter and knocked more than half an hour off my round Taupo time.

Recently I managed to crack the wheel on my old bike and decided to invest more than I ever imagined I would in a new carbon frame Trek. And it does make a difference. Power seems to go more directly into the tarmac especially climbing hills.

But I need a target. Did the Lake Brunner ride ok but not satisfied that I got close enough to my potential. So the target became the three day Tour of Taranaki. I’ve never done a club or regional event before. All races have in fact been “fun” rides.

I’ve entered the “D” grade = because there is no “E” grade in this event. And I have no idea how I will go. There are about 50 entries in the grade and if I can stay with the peloton most of the way I will be happy.

There is a time trial on the first day – only 7k  – but I’ve never done one before and won’t be getting the special bike or bars. That afternoon there is a 61k undulating ride from Normanby.  The next day has a 60k morning and 50k afternoon race out of Stratford and on the Monday (if still able to ride) we will do 90k closer to New Plymouth.

I’m told the weather is sometimes pretty unkind – having much more body fat helps in the cold but not in the wind.

A week out I’m looking forward to it with a weird sense of anticipation. Have got a cold and the last fortnights training has been light. May have bitten off more than I can chew. Reading Julian Dean’s great blog for inspiration.  Puts clearly some of the challenges of cycling.

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Filed under: sport

Mondayising ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day

Posted by on May 29th, 2010

As I have raised previously here I think there needs to be a serious debate about ensuring that New Zealanders get the 11 public holidays a year that they are entitled to under the Holidays Act. The issue is back in the spotlight this week after the EPMU have raised it as part of negotiations. Interestingly the NZ Herald waded into the debate in their editorial yesterday, and came out in favour of Mondayising.

By international standards, New Zealanders work long hours and do not enjoy an inordinate number of holidays. In the interests of fairness and uniformity, they should enjoy the full fruit of what they get.

This is exactly right, and should be the basis from which the discussion about public holidays flows. The biggest issue that has been raised with me since my earlier post is the question of undermining the sanctity of the days. However I think the Herald has this exactly right as well when discussing the RSA’s concerns about any change.

The RSA is right about the increased sanctity of Anzac Day, but that is the precise reason it is wrong to fear that might be lost if the day were Mondayised. People understand the importance of April 25 and February 6 as the exact dates of important historical events. They want to commemorate those events on those days. That will never change. It is, therefore, no reason to deny the statutory holiday that usually falls people’s way on those days.

I think the best of both worlds is possible where the actual days are given the respect that they absolutely deserve, but on occasions when they fall on the weekend the statutory holiday allocation is retained.

The biggest issue for me in this matter is the changing nature of the working week. Mondays are in fact a common regular non-working day for those in hospitality and retail, and therefore they miss out in terms of public holidays, especially when we consider that other holidays such as Labour Day and Queens Birthday always fall on Mondays. This may mean a different kind of amendment to the Holidays Act, either separately or in addition to dealing with the ANZAC/Waitangi issue.

Anyway, I am keen to hear your views, and whether this is something people in your workplace have talked about or are concerned about.

Advertised vs actual broadband speed: there is a difference!

Posted by on May 28th, 2010



A wee bit hard to read but kind of speaks for itself. Refer to previous post for context. Glad we are having this debate. What should be done?

New Zealand Music Month 26- The Clean

Posted by on May 28th, 2010

Where it all began. The Clean (David and Hamish Kilgour and Robert Scott) provided the impetus for Flying Nun and the inspiration for a whole load of bands who drove the so-called Dunedin sound and alternative music around the world. I just love this comment on you tube

The Clean is the Velvet Underground of the Southern Pacific! I’m from Finland and The Clean was my favorite band in 1986 and still is. Your tiny little part of the world touched very much my tiny? little part of the world in the far north. Strange, eh?

They continue to make great music, collectively and through solo projects and Robert’s leadership of The Bats. This song is 29 years old, and it still sounds as fresh and spikey as ever. The first time I heard it live was at Sammys at the Flying Nun 10th anniversary party. I am not sure you could call what followed dancing, but my god I loved it!

Transparency – we can do more

Posted by on May 28th, 2010

I’ve just had a set of answers to written parliamentary questions back from Key in which he refuses to list the occasions on which Ministers have declared an interest in Cabinet or Cabinet Committee matters.

He claims that continues a previous practice. I’m not sure if that is correct. I for one was never asked.

If Ministers have acted properly and  declared interests then that forms part of the Cabinet minute. Or sometimes they are given a warning that an item is coming up and they leave the room.

Some of us have non-pecuniary interests that we work through with the Cabinet Office or in my case SSC and the Treasury.  I wasn’t given papers – including policy papers – in areas I was conflicted.

Seemed to work pretty well. I would have no problem with the fact that I acted properly being public.

To take a contrary view doesn’t look flash.

Maybe it is another issue for #OpenLabourNZ.

New Zealand Music Month 25- Shihad

Posted by on May 27th, 2010

I have to confess I never really got Shihad. They have an incredibly loyal following though, and have consistently sold well. When they opened for ACDC at Westpac Stadium I thought they were great, and they did incredibly well in a huge stadium. In any case, this song is good and punchy, and just a little loud if you are about to hit play.

Red Cross – Helping Create Hope for 150 Years

Posted by on May 27th, 2010

I expect most of know of and have positive views about the Red Cross.   The role of the Red Cross internationally in war and disaster zones is well understood.  Just this week I read a story in the Herald about Mr Jack Kelly a NZ prisoner of war in World War 2 who had been held in atrocious conditions in a German prisoner of war camp in Greece.  He put his survival down to Red Cross parcels he received.

The mission of New Zealand Red Cross is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilising the power of humanity and enhancing community resilience and their principles are Humanity-Impartiality-Neutrality-Independence-Voluntary Service-Unity-Universality.

I was lucky enough last night to attend a presentation on the work of Red Cross at Parliament and I learned about the full range of Red Cross activities internationally and within NZ.  The work within New Zealand was greater than I had understood and includes – installing first aid equipment in public places, running first aid courses, delivering meals on wheels (750,000 per year), running a drug and alcohol harm minimisation programme ‘Save a Mate’ (targeting young), providing transportation to hospitals, running Op Shops, supporting refugee resettlement and coordinating emergency response to disasters. A most impressive range of acivities delivered primarily by volunteers.

One specific and growing role that Red Cross plays within New Zealand is the provision of breakfast to hungry children through their Breakfast in Schools programme. Demand for this programme is on the rise. While it is a very positive initiative I am sure that I am not the only person who feels angry that we have such poverty in this country. For a comparatively rich country that is a major food producer it is a disgrace that such child poverty exists. Over 200,00 breakfasts were served in over 40 schools in 2009. Red Cross believes up to 20 further schools will be added during 2010. Budget 2010 by lifting GST and making cuts in areas like Early Childhood Education will increase poverty. 

Mr Jack Kelly talked about the NZ value of a fair go.  What is clear is that many NZ children do not have a fair go and this Government will make this situation worse.

Filed under: Budget, poverty