Red Alert

Archive for June, 2011

iPredict this week

Posted by on June 30th, 2011

Key Points:

* Mana Party looks secure in Te Tai Tokerau for General Election

* Act and UnitedFuture improve hold on Epsom and Ohariu

* National firms up its support in New Plymouth

* OCR likely to increase in December and March 2012

* John Key remains overwhelmingly favoured to remain PM

* MMP remains favoured despite launch of anti campaign (more…)

Filed under: ipredict

R&D is worth banging on about

Posted by on June 30th, 2011

I keep banging on about the importance of R&D in our economy. But here’s an interesting graph on R&D.

R and D graph

 It shows the number of patents filed per dollar spent on R&D. We come out about fourth best, in other words, we’re really efficient at converting our R&D money to patents.

 Before we start congratulating ourselves, imagine spending more. We spend less on business R&D than almost all those other countries. Yet if we use this graph as a guide, each $1 million we spend in addition would likely provide us more patents than just about any other country (up to a limit of course).

 Then look at Korea. Where will it be in 20 years – exceed our GDP – it currently comes in just behind NZ?  You bet.

 Patents are not everything. We are NOT good at commercialising our ideas, often in the form of patents. There are other reasons for that. But it’s the starting point for commericalisation.

 R&D is worth banging on about.

The All Black, the Journo and the Asia:NZ Foundation

Posted by on June 30th, 2011

I was glad to hear of the appointment of former All Black (and current New Zealand Rugby union President) Bryan Williams and renowned journalist Richard Long onto the Asia:NZ Foundation Board of Trustees yesterday.

As a Chinese-born MP (and Asia:NZ Trustee) I believe these two appointments reinforce the importance that the Asian region has to the future of New Zealand.

The pair brings a wealth of experience and history of excellence with them.

Bryan Williams was one of the first Samoans to play for the All Blacks, paving the way for the many who have followed him.

Richard Long was the editor of the Dominion newspaper for more than a decade before it merged with the Evening Post in 2002. Earlier this year he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Journalism.

The Asia:NZ Foundation’s mission goal is to increase New Zealand’s links with Asia through business, culture, education, research and media.

With these two high-calibre Trustees joining the board, I believe that even more New Zealanders will become aware of Asia and the opportunities that exist in the region.

Rodney Hide private eye

Posted by on June 30th, 2011

Just seen outside my campaign office on Te Atatu Rd: Crown car pulls over, Hon Rodney Hide gets out and takes a picture of my humble campaign office.

One wonders: Does he like the architecture? The tasteful red and white paint job? Is he getting ready for a new career as a private detective after November? Is this a suitable use of Parliamentary-funded Crown car and driver? If it’s work done as a Minister, will he answer parliamentary questions on it? Can I OIA the photo of my office? I wonder if Tau was miffed that Rodney didn’t snap his office across the road?

Any theories about this strange Ministerial behaviour?

Red Letter day

Posted by on June 30th, 2011

I spoke to what was probably the penultimate AGM of the Bexley Residents Association last night.  I was there as a member of the association as a local resident and as their local MP. I will just let you read what I said.


Posted by on June 29th, 2011
If people make history, then more history is being made now than in any century before 1990. In fact, over 28% of all history made since the birth of Christ was made in the 20th century.

Source: Angus Maddison, UN, The Economist

I discovered this graph via Twitter from Alan Kohler, who is a respected, if somewhat economically dry, Australian financial journalist and business editor amongst other things. He produces the Eureka Report

Am sure you could measure history in different ways, but the graph is stark.

New Zealand’s first tertiary high school

Posted by on June 29th, 2011

Met with Stuart Middleton at the Manukau Institute of Technology today, the driver behind NZ’s first tertiary high school where students are simultaneously enrolled at school and MIT. The idea is that they transition from school, where most are about to leave anyway, and pick up a course at MIT. It’s a model that deserves copying.

Mainly because students can see some outcome of their learning – and therefore get really passionate about it – the Tertiary High boasts impressive success. Their latest results for NCEA Level 1 for Maori and Pasifika are below, and remember this is from a group that otherwise were on the path to dropping out of school.


Nationally – 60.8% at MIT – 80%


Nationally – 54% at MIT – 71%

Pretty good results. We have a 20% drop out rate in NZ – 20% of 16 year olds are no longer at school. The big factor, according to Stuart, seems to be that once kids drop out it’s really difficult to pick them up again. Instead if they move to some other learning, it doesn’t matter which so much, but one that gives a qualification, the chances are incredibly high that they go on to another qualification.

Not rocket science, perhaps, but a scheme that’s based on principles worth instituting into policy.

Assets and losses

Posted by on June 29th, 2011

Two big issues of concern in The Press and/or Stuff website

One, the question of whether the Christchurch City Council (+ Selwyn and Waimkakariri councils) are  even more likely now to be pressured or positioned into selling public assets given they are unable to reinsure $5 b+ worth of assets. The three councils are looking to Government to provide some assurance; and although it tut-tuts the idea it would force counicl asset sales, this is a Goverment with a stated position in favour of selling down public assets to retire debt.

 Secondly, the accompanying  Stuff poll which suggests half of those polled will leave Christchurch or would if they could. Personally I am not experiencing anything like that number. People are fragile at the moment. The quakes of June 13 have drained residual energy; many people are just coping, no more. Winter is starting to bite and the gaps in last Thursday’s house/land announcements are becoming clear. Hopefully things are at their lowest ebb…

In Defense of Alasdair Thompson (kinda)

Posted by on June 29th, 2011

Poor Alasdair Thompson – he got the “hospital pass.”
He had to go on National Radio for the Employers’ and Manufacturer’s Association and defend its position against legislation that would help to identify where women were getting paid less for doing the same work as men.
He was given the job of defending the indefensible and he came up with, well, the inplausible. But what else could he do?
There was no logical way he could mount the EMA’s opposition to a Bill proposed by Catherine Delahunty MP that simply gives employees transparency about pay rates so they can see if equal pay laws are being adhered to.
So, in the absence of logic he chose prejudice. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and it won’t be the last.
Now that the EMA have distanced themselves from the statements made by their spokesperson, will they now drop their ridiculous opposition to equal pay?
That’s the real test of what they stand for.

What do you love…

Posted by on June 28th, 2011

Breaking news… (I think). From Twitter.

What do you love? It’s Google’s latest thing. Just click here to see.

It’s all about how to bring a whole bunch of tools together. It’s a mash up, a mysterious new service. It’s just there. It hasn’t yet been announced. (I don’t think)

For the people using it, it’s about how to get access to stuff. For Google,  it’s about how to continue to be ahead of the game and capture the lion’s share of the “go to” market.

I think it’s a giant marketing tool. Google seems to be all about ideas. And ensuring it’s the place we all want to be.  It would be interesting to see Google’s gameplan for our region though.

As someone said to me today; there are two Googles. One is the marketing machine that keeps pumping out the products that keeps us all enthralled and is assuming rapid market dominance in the digital environment. The other is a bunch of geeks who like to create stuff. Google’s roots.

We have lots of the latter in New Zealand. How can we keep them here, while supporting and helping build our own digital industry?

Have a look. is Google’s new service silently launched on the Internet. WDYL stands for “What Do You Love?”. The site is aimed at offering single point search across multiple Google products like ‘Google Translate’, ‘Google Trends’, ‘Google Books’, ‘Sketchup’, ‘YouTube’, ‘Google Alerts’, ‘Google Product Search’ and so on.

EMA and the grievance “gravy train”

Posted by on June 28th, 2011

News out that Alasdair Thompson is clinging to his job.

EMA board chairman Graham Mountfort says “we are following a sound and thorough process as a responsible employer must.”

But it seems there’s one rule for the bosses’ organisation and one for the rest of the workforce. The EMA, and Alasdair have consistently moaned about the cost and process of personal grievances, yet this is exactly what the EMA is going through now.

Here’s the man himself on Q and A last year, at the time the government was planning to take away both the process and substance in the sacking of  thousands of workers:

ALASDAIR Process is important. But substance is most important.

PAUL What is difficult about the process?

ALASDAIR It is a difficult process, it is a difficult process – well it is, but I’m not saying process isn’t important, it is important. But if you’ve gone around – if you’re building a home for a Jewish person and you go writing swastikas all over the walls and so on or something like that, and it’s pretty obvious that that’s a pretty bad thing to do.

PAUL Yes, on your bike.

ALASDAIR Yeah, on your bike. But you still should get the process pretty much right. But the point is if you don’t get it 100% right you’re still pinged.

PAUL You could be forced to rehire the incompetent bloke……

ALASDAIR Not only rehire, but you get pinged for $30,000. (not true by the way : average settlement is around $3,000 for most workers)

I would have thought in this instance that the substance was pretty clear. But lawyers are involved. The exit package is being argued over and I bet you it will cost the EMA a lot more than $3,000, let along $30,000.

Alasdair had this to say a year ago last year in the NZ Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom:

Employers & Manufacturers (Northern) chief executive Alasdair Thompson said many members wanted the grievance-free employment period extended to all businesses, though it was less applicable to those employing highly educated, skilled workers.

“This is not new. In the private sector the personal-grievance gravy train is something that needs continual reforming.”

I watch with interest how the EMA handles this situation. They have to follow fair process (even although they disagree with it) and I venture to suggest that one of the problems of the so-called “personal grievance gravy train” might rest with organisations like their own, where well paid executives use the system to extract as much money as they can.

Wasn’t it the National Government who extended personal grievances to all employees – including Alasdair Thompson?

Lusk and Williams out themselves

Posted by on June 28th, 2011

Williams and Lusk


Got a bit of a hard time for a series of posts which slowly linked Whaleoil, Simon Lusk, Jordan Williams and Steven Joyce first to the Brash Act coup and then to the anti MMP campaign.

They have gone public over the last 24 hours.

Lusk and Williams first two to like the Facebook page.


Now of course in the interests of transparency they will tell us who is paying them.

Doubt it is John Banks who singlehandedly funded the Brash coup. At the moment he looks like he is going to get into Parliament with the support of the Leader of the National Party, with an other likely to be his leader Brash.

Filed under: act party, MMP

Back Benches this week Grant and the retirees

Posted by on June 28th, 2011

EQUAL UNLESS YOU HAVE THE MONTHLY SICKNESS?: The Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA) Chief Alasdair Thompson is in the poo after saying that while he believes women should be paid more he suspects the reasons a woman tends to be paid less is because of her monthly sickness and taking time off to have a baby. Women around the country have roared—so should it be Alasdair’s head? And does he have a point? Are women paid less because they call out sick more or because they have children? Or is it due to the fact that women don’t negotiate for higher pay? Or work in lower paid fields? Do we need to change the law so that women are paid more fairly?

A STATE HOUSE FOR…THREE YEARS?: Changes to Housing New Zealand could abolish the time honoured tradition of a State House for Life. The Government says that only the very needy will receive a state home and only for the time that they need it. Those whose financial status improves could be moved on. Are these changes positive or will people be getting the boot unfairly?

LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 29th of June. Our Panel: ACT MP Heather Roy, Labour MP Grant Robertson, and National MP Chester Borrows.

How to win young workers and influence them

Posted by on June 27th, 2011

The ACT Party had costly advertisements in the weekend newspapers telling young workers that ACT supports them so much that they will cut their wages.

“ACTs solution (to youth unemployment) is simple, cost-effective and unobstrusive. Allow youth rates again. That would provide young people many more opportunities to get their foothold on the job ladder.”

If there are all these jobs out there for young people on low wages, who’s doing them at the moment?  Guess who – workers getting higher pay.

So ACT’s answer to youth unemployment is to take jobs from older workers and give them to young workers on lousy pay – just to do them a favour?

It’s a bit like Paula Bennett telling the House that a young worker of 52 years of age is delighted to have a job as a “checkout chick” when she was asked about a bottom line for youth pay.

Spare me.

Double Dipton discovers social media

Posted by on June 27th, 2011

Screen shot 2011-06-27 at 1.20.42 PM

Bill English has discovered social media. How on earth will he find time to answer one whole question per week?

Still, it’s more than he answers in Parliament…

La Croix: Bienvenue en NZ

Posted by on June 27th, 2011

Busy weekends are part and parcel for MPs and I enjoy them. However, I never expected a request for an interview from a reporter of a newspaper that is located as far away as Paris.

Mr Francois d’Alancon, a senior reporter from French daily newspaper La Croix, and I had a two-hour talk in Auckland over the weekend.

We covered extensive subjects from the Rugby World Cup (for which he’s assigned to do a series of stories), “beautiful New Zealand where there are more sheep than people”, and more relevant to my portfolio – the New Zealand Chinese community and its integration into New Zealand society.

The interview, to a large extent, brought with it a sense of reminiscing. The kind of feeling one often has when overseas. The feeling of missing New Zealand no matter how long you have been out of the country for.

It is not uncommon to hear people say that they don’t realise how strongly they feel about New Zealand until they go overseas.

The fresh air, the landscapes and everything that makes New Zealand unique. It’s the kind of feeling that often motivates us to think what we should do to make New Zealand a better place for our future generations.

Like it or not, New Zealand is a small and isolated (geographically) country.

A big thank-you to the Labour Government who secured the Rugby World Cup hosting rights for New Zealand. Without this major event in New Zealand this year it is hard to imagine that newspapers such as La Croix – one of only three daily national French newspapers to turn a profit – would have any interest in us.


Te Tai Tokerau

Posted by on June 27th, 2011

My take is that Hone will have to make a choice on whether he stays at home until November to defend his seat or working hard around the country effectively helping Labour take back the other four Maori seats.

In either case there is a very real possibility of Labour winning all seven in November – especially given the way Pita Sharples rejected Hone’s overtures this morning.

And it is the end of any thinking person of the left supporting Mana because there is no guarantee of Hone winning and a very real chance of party votes for Mana being wasted. If Sue Bradford had still been a Green they would have been in the box seat.

What we’re missing out on…

Posted by on June 26th, 2011

Statistics before culture….

The Chaser’s War on Everything has been cutting edge TV in Australia since the mid 2000s. It’s stopped for now though they tried to bring it back during the Royal Wedding (got squashed by the BBC).

It’s irreverant, it pisses off politicians, celebrities, people in high places. But it’s comedy, it’s clever, it’s out there and it’s taking the piss.

We used to be funnier here. We used to do this sort of stuff. But we seem to have lost our ability to do it. Or pretty much.

Why? We’ve got to sort this…

Tweet of the Week

Posted by on June 26th, 2011

Politically it’s been a pretty interesting week but in terms of Twitter there really was only one game in town. The only thing that even came close to the number of tweets about Alasdair Thompson’s outburst was the number of spelling variations of his name…

Tweet of the Week:  Classic limerick. Someone had to do it.

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 7.07.36 PM

Press tweet of the week: I think he should do this. Although it does sound a bit like she’s planning to take him out.

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 4.52.40 PM

Ironically it did get people talking about pay equity at least. And other things….

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 7.38.54 PM

When Tau thinks you’ve gone too far you know you’re in trouble:

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 4.53.37 PM

And finally just coz it’s funny :)

Screen shot 2011-06-26 at 6.51.44 PM

The Business Codgerati

Posted by on June 26th, 2011

There’s been a lot of flak about Alasdair Thompson’s comments last week (and rightly so). He’s shown the worst side of the business codgerati. Business organisations and right-wing acolytes like Jenny Shipley have been distancing themselves big time. The organisation he heads, the Employers and Manufacturing Association (Northern) is having a Board meeting tomorrow to decide his future.

The Sunday Star Times editorial says today that “it’s reminded us silly we used to be” and how this kind of standard sexism was once standard in New Zealand politics and business…….“it’s so 1950’s.”

The SST goes on to say :

“But we should not be too complacent about this.  If bosses have become more enlightened and workplaces more friendly to women and minorities, in some ways they are more worker-unfriendly than they used to be……  in some ways workers have less power to push for change than they had in the 1950’s.  Some employers think this is fine; they regard unions as obstacles to commercial progress. That is about as crass a stereotype as the one about the skiving menstruators.”

That is so true and well done to the SST for nailing this. While every business organisation now spouts their policies on equal employment opportunity, flexible working hours, work life balance and their opposition to discrimination their prejudices are still there for all to see among many of them.

Every time there’s talk about giving workers more bargaining power or strengthening their rights, the codgerati are out there, saying “it’s a return to the past” or “it’s going to ruin us”.

Witness the reaction to the $15 minimum wage and ACT’s backward looking ideas that youth rates are going to solve youth unemployment.

Still a long way to go.