Red Alert

Archive for October, 2010

PS to Where’s the Beef?

Posted by on October 31st, 2010

Quiz question – In which Leonard Cohen song do the words “where’s the beef?” appear?

First correct answer gets a small but perfectly formed reward 😉

Where’s the beef?

Posted by on October 31st, 2010

I got back from a trip to Washington today to hear our media outlets trying hard to say something of substance  about John Key’s visit to the East Asia Summit in Ha Noi. So, I might be a bit imbued with things American after a a few days there, but I am reminded of an old American advertising slogan  which Wendy’s ran in the 80s against a fictitious rival. Their (imaginary) hamburger was all fluffy bun and a tiny meat pattie, so Wendy’s slogan became “Where’s the beef?” It was taken up by Walter Mondale against Gary Hart in the Democrat Presidential primaries in 1984 when he said that every time Gary Hart said “new ideas” he was reminded of the ad which said “where’s the beef?”

And so it is with John Key and the East Asia Summit. Our PM,  aka Mr Smile-and-Wave, sat next to Gen Thein Sein from Burma for dinner because Myanmar comes just before NZ in the alphabetical seating arrangements. According to one media report (NZPA), Key told him “that NZ had some concerns and wanted a proper democratic election” – as opposed to the pre-ordained elections due to occur on 7 November. Say what? The whole NZ Parliament passed a resolution unanimously a few weeks ago, calling on the Burmese junta to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, allowing them and her to participate in the elections, and calling for the junta to allow the 3 freedoms – association, speech and assembly. Don’t you think he could have “beefed” it up a bit?

Then according to Newstalk ZB, he said he had “a feeling” (!) that Japan was interested in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, this really complicated trade deal amongst some Pacific-rim countries, including us and America. Where’s the beef PM? Or the seafood, or the value-added timber products, or the technology and IP? Did he talk to them about their position on agricultural subsidies?

Then, poor old Jessica Mutch was reduced to telling us how they had to go through scanners in Ha Noi, in a brave attempt to give the meeting some gravitas. That’s only because there was no substance to report. Where’s the beef PM?

What about the comment on Russia – “they’re a really interesting market”?!! Can he see it from his kitchen window too?

Then there is John Key’s exchange with Hillary Clinton. It was “relatively brief” he said because he is going to meet her this week in NZ. This is arguably our most important US exchange in his term so far.  A few days ago, Jonathan Milne in the Herald was “beefing” up expectations around this. Let’s see if John Key can deliver some beef this time, not just a fluffy bun.

Key forgets about US FTA as he reduces worker protection for Warner Bros.

Posted by on October 31st, 2010

When I was Minister of Labour we signed up to two big trade deals China and P4 (NZ, Chile, Singapore and Brunei.

Both pretty big deals – the associated memoranda were designed to protect us from undercutting – the competitive race to the bottom of the wage/skills spectrum. CTU and Business NZ both played a positive role because they saw our future heading up that spectrum.

Since then both organisations have been supportive of the work both governments have been doing on a NZ/US FTA. The CTU have worked with the AFLCIO whose support will be vital especially but not only for Democrat members of the house who must approve any agreement or at least give the President permission to negotiate with particular conditions. And Democrats and US unions don’t naturally support free trade. Nor for that matter do a significant proportion of Republicans.

The Memorandum of Understanding between China and New Zealand is very clear :-

4. The Parties recognise that it is inappropriate to encourage trade or investment by weakening or reducing the protections afforded in domestic labour laws, regulations, policies and practices.

As is the P4 Memorandum of Understanding

5. The Parties recognise that it is inappropriate to set or use their labour laws, regulations, policies and practices for trade protectionist purposes.

6. The Parties recognise that it is inappropriate to encourage trade or investment by weakening or reducing the protections afforded in domestic labour laws.

The important point for this blog is that it is inappropriate to reduce protections to encourage investment.

Which is exactly what the government did in order to secure the Warners Hobbit investment.

I don’t think it is likely that anyone will take a case against us – but one thing is for certain, any plans we had to work with the AFLCIO towards a US free trade deal died when Key gave Warners the pen on our industrial relations legislation.

GST fraud foreign student gets home detention

Posted by on October 31st, 2010

Stuff reports :-

An Auckland student has been sentenced to five months home detention and ordered to pay reparation of $30,000 for GST fraud, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) said today.

In a statement the IRD said Bing Liu was caught using dummy companies.

He was sentenced in the Auckland District Court after admitting to 15 charges related to GST returns involving $44,350.

Liu, who is in New Zealand on a student visa, listed himself as a director for 10 companies registered with the Companies Office and filed GST returns for them

Seems weird to me – maybe the judge thought we would get some money back or there were circumstances not reported but I think this is a classic case for immediate deportation. Important to get message to students that they have no right to be here and any crime certainly one of this scale and complexity results in them being sent home.

I remember

Posted by on October 30th, 2010

 The US is holding its mid term elections this week. There’s been quite a few election adverts run on various blogs, especially Kiwiblog. Not sure this advert was one of them.

It has resonance here for next year’s general election campaign. Because I remember lots of things that previous National Govts have done to this country that have taken us backwards. The current one is  heading in the same direction.

No doubt the right wing commenters will go to town. But I want my memories to be about pride in our achievements and the principles that we have and continue to uphold. And I want to feel hope for our future.

Hat tip: Dave Oliver

Gaynor gets it – there is no plan

Posted by on October 30th, 2010

This week’s major developments, the Hobbits and the Australian/Singapore sharemarket deal, are further reminders that our political leaders are quick to respond to popular causes but are hopeless at developing a long-term economic strategy for the country.

Prime Minister John Key has saved The Hobbit by dropping an additional $20 million-plus into the pockets of Time-Warner, a corporate giant with a sharemarket value of US$36.4 billion or about 90 per cent of the total value of all domestic companies listed on the NZX.

But how does this fit into New Zealand’s overall economic objectives? Have we become cargo cultists who are prepared to drop on our hands and knees when overseas corporates threaten to leave and take their glittering gifts with them?

Doesn’t need any extra comment.

Filed under: economy

Key losing the plot

Posted by on October 30th, 2010

To be fair to John Key he was living overseas when it happened but even reading a two page briefing note would have meant he understood the issues. No wonder he got dicked by Warners.

Prime Minister John Key has defended his Government’s tax deal which secured The Hobbit movies in New Zealand as far less generous than Labour’s Lord of the Rings deal.

Labour in government closed the massive tax loophole used for movies, horses inter alia which meant that it was a heads I win, tails I can’t lose situation because the taxpayer covered the losses.

Those taxation loopholes were heavily exploited in the 1990s and Michael Cullen got a very hard time for closing them. The tax rules (and effective subsidies) the LOTR got were Nationals.

Read your briefings John.

Filed under: Tax

Are your speeches hot, Bill?

Posted by on October 29th, 2010

In the book Pam’s Political Confessions, there is a quote that Lyndon Bird Johnson once said to economist J.K Galbraith which effectively describes Bill English’s recent performance in the House:

Did y’ever think , Ken, that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your own leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.

If you have watched Bill English during Question Time, I’m sure you will feel that Mr Johnson is right on the money (no pun intended!) with our resident Minister for Dipton.

We have heard the Finance Minister constantly repeating the lines that he is putting right nine years of economical ‘mis-management’ by Labour.

Two years have passed of the three year term and it’s now time for Mr English to take responsibility for New Zealand’s financial situation, instead of laying the blame on the Labour Government.

Warner’s Guide to Dealing with NZ Government

Posted by on October 29th, 2010

Filed under: humour

Hope new TUANZ CEO will be a strong independent voice

Posted by on October 29th, 2010

Just announced.

TUANZ is pleased to announce that Paul Brislen has accepted the role of Chief Executive, starting in the new year. Paul has been both an observer and participant in the telco sector for the past decade, first as a journalist and commentator and lately as the corporate communications manager at Vodafone New Zealand.

Paul replaces Ernie Newman. I know him and he’s a good operator. And I hope he’ll be a strong independent voice in the telecommunications industry which we urgently need at this time. There is a huge amount of uncertainty and frustration about ultrafast broadband. The government’s secrecy and slowness around how and who will roll out our newest and most important new network for generations is painful and requires more voices speaking out.

Just yesterday, Rod Drury from Xero expressed his frustrations at the Rural Broadband Symposium in Rotorua  about the Government’s handling of the UFB and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI). He called for a circuit breaker.

I think it’s a really scary time for the industry, there’s a lot of uncertainty and I think everyone’s scared that there’s winners and losers. Standing back from it, the bit that frustrates me is that there doesn’t seem to be a national technology plan. We’re in a process and the process means that people can’t actually talk to each other so it’s quite frustrating.”

What really scares me is the demand side’s not there, so if the government is putting fibre past the curb, what’s the reason for a consumer to connect to that? As important as the work that’s happening in the industry, somebody should be out talking to Apple and working out how do we actually get at all that US content onto our networks, how do we buy that stuff rather than an arcane little company in the middle of Newmarket that’s got some distribution rights. We’ve got to work out where these content pools are so that consumers want to spend $100 or $150 a month on broadband, because it’s going to need that sort of money for the business case to work.

Well it’s about time a few more people said publicly what they think. I hope TUANZ will.


Who’s Next?

Posted by on October 29th, 2010

I’m a Matamata girl, well I was born and raised in Walton to be precise, about 10 kms north of Matamata.

The whole Hobbit thing has been great for my home town and I too am an advocate of it continuing to be filmed there. But there are other small people who are endangered in Matamata and I expect they will be asking for tax-payer hand-out to keep their multi-million industry and its associated jobs going.

I’m talking about the racing industry ( although it is of course true that those who work in the industry are not all small).

Thanks to this Government’s economic mismanagement, the racing industry is really struggling. And to make matters worse, the additional funding put in by Labour when Winston Peters was Minister of Racing was stripped away by National this racing season because the country couldn’t afford it.

What a slap in the face to that industry to see that suddenly, the country could afford it when Warner Bros rolled into town.

How come an American corporate entity deserves tax-payer subsidy, but a home-grown industry employing thousands year after year doesn’t?

And are there more deserving cases who could have done with the $33m without selling our independance as a country down the tubes, demanding changes to domestic law without seeking the opinions of New Zealanders via a select committee process?

At least Tau Henare says what he thinks

Posted by on October 29th, 2010

He’s just done a rant in the House about how workers won’t be disadvantaged by this change in employment law. In fact they should all be grateful because the National Government is protecting NZers from foreign unions.

Labour are essentially traitors is his line. Hmmmm. Standing up for our sovereignty against a US corporate makes us traitors?

I don’t like his style. Don’t like most of what he says. Don’t like his bullying antics. But at least you’re in no doubt about what he thinks. Can’t say the same for most of his colleagues. They’re all sitting there with their heads down not participating much.

You’d think a government bill changing our employment laws would be hotly debated by the government. Well it’s not.

NZ law: brought to you by Warner Bros

Posted by on October 29th, 2010

I love the Hobbit. I’ve read it twice. My kids applied to be extras on the Hobbit. Am really pleased the films will be made here.

But just why are we changing our employment law to strip protections from film workers?

I don’t know. And it appears the government doesn’t know either. Or they do, they haven’t got their stories straight.

Yesterday Steven Joyce said in the House that if we didn’t change the law under urgency then the Hobbit films wouldn’t be made here.

In question time yesterday Gerry Brownlee insisted that Warner Brothers had no role in requiring this law change to go ahead:

Keith Locke: Did Warner Bros require that changes to our industrial legislation be passed this week, therefore requiring urgency in Parliament today?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Warner Bros did not put any requirements on us to do anything. The New Zealand Government has recognised that there were employment issues that needed to be sorted out, and we are going to move to clarify those. We think that the last 7 weeks have been shameful as far as the support for the film industry is concerned, and we are going to urgently move to fix that situation.

Who’s right? What employment issues had to be sorted out? And why does it have to happen in urgency? The government is not putting up any cogent reasons to change the law. Govt members are not even trying to argue a case for the new law. Unless… did they offer to change the law off their own bat because they thought it was a good idea?

Does anyone other than the government think we need this law change? We are strongly arguing the case against it.

Here’s what we think:

  • The National government is using this as an excuse to further undermine the rights of New Zealand wage and salary earners
  • If the change to employment laws was really the “critical” issue for Warners, as John Key has claimed, why was the relevant Minister Kate Wilkinson not at the negotiating table?
  • The changes they are proposing to employment laws are entirely unrelated to the earlier dispute with the New Zealand Actors Equity and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.  That was about independent contractors wanting to remain as independent contractors but to negotiate collectively.  This law change is about whether an independent contractor can be considered to be an employee.
  • The government says this is about clarifying the law, but this isn’t about clarification, it’s about removing protections.
  • The current law says that if you’re hired as an independent contractor but for all intents and purposes you are treated as an employee, other than the fact you are not entitled to employment rights such as sick leave, holiday pay and redundancy pay, then the courts will look through that contract and recognise you as an employee.
  • This is a very important protection in the law.  This will allow film companies to deprive workers on basic rights including sick leave and holiday pay. 
  • As Professor Nigel Haworth from the Auckland University Business School said it is very unusual for a developed nation to go this far to make an investment attractive.  He cannot see the need for a change in the law because it has already been very well clarified.  He sees this as a move back to an Employment Contracts Act style model and a reduction in protections.

There’s no need to amend the Employment Relations Act. We’ve been making movies in NZ without problems for years.

I don’t know what to say, other than it’s not about consistency. It’s not about an economic plan, it’s not about sensible law making. It’s not about a strategy to build long term sustainable industries. It’s not about any of those things.

 It’s about a shambles, opportunism and populism. What on earth do NZers make of it?

Filed under: economy

A young Kiwi in Japan sent this

Posted by on October 29th, 2010


Filed under: humour

Mickey Mouse solution

Posted by on October 29th, 2010

Warner Bros

Filed under: humour

A Shortcut to Disaster

Posted by on October 28th, 2010

I have learnt today that the Food Safety Authority in collaboration with the meat Industry are about to conduct a trial on a new system of meat inspection at freezing works without the assistance of Meat Inspectors.

It is an interesting contradiction and my fear is that industry self regulation is the object of the exercise. Such ideals have proven all too often to be disastrous from international experience. At a time when the meat industry is under extreme pressure at every level from farmer to marketplace the risk is that inadequate inspection leading to any form of contaminated export meat would cripple our meat exports and reputation as a quality food producing nation.

Apparently no details have been made available to the meat inspectors so the assumption is that chain workers will carry out assessment of the health of the carcasses and the Vets will sign off the consignments for export. If you presume no skill is necessary to be a meat inspector we might be ok. But as I know to get the inspections spot on takes training, skill and experience. One mistake identified by our trading buyers and we are doomed.

The question is, does the risk justify the cost savings if any over time?? It is also ironic that in Select Committee today the Food Safety Authority was trying to convince us of the importance of robust systems for food safety under the new Food Bill.

There will be a few hard Questions for them at the next meeting !!!

John Armstrong gets it mostly right today

Posted by on October 28th, 2010

The debate has started on the Bill which removes rights from many workers in the film industry, Hobbit Bill It’s really good that The Hobbit movies will be made in NZ. But at what price? There’s a lot of rubbish being written and said about it today.

The worst thing for me is that this government will change the law and compromise our workforce pretty much at the drop of a hat.

Opportunism and populism. Not principles.  I agreed with John Armstrong in today’s Herald when he said:

What kind of a country, however, sells its democratic soul for 30 pieces of silver?

The answer is a small one. And one where the economy shows little sign of recovery in the short term.

Filed under: economy

Gordon Campbell on the Hobbit deal

Posted by on October 28th, 2010

Gordon Campbell has a great post (pretty long) on the Hobbit issue :-

Great. The Hobbit stays here. Everyone’s happy about that – you,Hme, John Key, Robyn Malcolm…we’re all so very happy, at least until we look at what the government has given away. Sir Peter Jackson is happy because he is spared from living in Ireland or Budapest for the next two years. Warners are happy because they got showered with more money. Just how happy Warners are feeling right now can probably be gleaned from the basics of that deal : if the films are successful, Warners gets an extra $US15 million subsidy plus an extra $10 million injection into a co-marketing campaign – plus an expansion of what qualifies for re-imbursement under the Large Budget Screen Production Grants Scheme.

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Posted by on October 28th, 2010

I understand that the Employment Relations Bill is not available on line.

Link is to pdf – no doubt government will get it’s act together sometime and better quality will be available.

Superstar – caption contest

Posted by on October 28th, 2010


Filed under: humour