Archive for September, 2011
Chris Finlayson has changed his Urewera fix it bill, but he won’t say when he will make it publicly available. He didn’t seek leave to table it in the House today, despite the fact that people are expected to speak to it in select committee in less than 20 hours time. Great to see his commitment to democracy on show.
Worse, National stopped Labour from tabling in the House our amendments to improve the fix it bill by inserting already agreed provisions of the Search and Surveillance bill that would control the exercise of police powers.
Jonathan Coleman has been insisting for months that National’s commitment to public broadcasting lies in in NZ On Air’s contestable funding model. National MP Nikki Kaye parroted this in a recent column in the NZ Herald:
We believe that quality and diversity in local content is best provided through contestable funding which promotes competition for quality, content diversity and the availability of programming across multiple channels and platforms.
In the past year, more than $81 million of contestable funding was made available through NZ On Air for locally made television. The Platinum Fund, which was launched in 2009, provides $15 million in contestable funding for New Zealand television content. This funding gives priority to high-end drama, current affairs, documentaries and special event programming – material that is generally considered to be public broadcasting programming.
TVNZ’s recent Statement of Intent (SOI) for the next 3 years tells a different story. It might be a commercial channel now, but it’s still the state owned broadcaster. An SOI is technically a contract between the broadcaster and shareholder. Presumably Coleman signs it off. If he did, then he has endorsed what runs counter to his public position on public broadcasting; quality content. The SOI says:
Notwithstanding the inherent uncertainty of any contestable funding scheme, there remains the risk of potential misalignment between the programming objectives of NZOA with the commercial objectives of TVNZ. This could result in the inability of TVNZ to attract NZOA funding for commercially attractive local programming.
To mitigate this risk, we will engage NZOA to align objectives, agree aims for commercially attractive local programming and address potential revisions to funding criteria.
What does this mean? TVNZ is going put the heavies on NZoA? Did Jonathan Coleman agree to this?
If TVNZ pressures NZoA to direct a higher proportion of funds toward commercially viable/populist genres then there is going to be less money available for programmes that have a strong public service value but might not pull in a mass audience- such as those on TVNZ7 which Coleman claims can still be funded by NZoA.
And then there’s the bit where TVNZ says its moving further into the pay channel business:
The challenge is to harness this digital presence to drive revenue growth and other commercial benefits. To mitigate this risk, we will continue to pursue growth in our pay channel business and further grow and diversify our video on demand business.
We will continue to strengthen our position along the content value chain by retaining our mass audience, by forming strategic relationships with both local and international content rights holders, and by increasing funding from NZOA;
Enhance our rights management capabilities to optimise the commercial value from the content rights we do secure, particularly in relation to our multi-platform distribution strategies…
Well, TVNZ’s a commercial operator now. Let’s not pretend it’s otherwise. But NZ on Air should watch out. And I wonder what further deals are planned with Sky TV?
There’s been a bit of reporting about this. Not much. I guess the RWC is on and all. Grant Smithies wrote a good piece in the SST called Fade to Black which is worth a read.
It’s interesting that Maori TV (which has become the quasi-public TV broadcaster in NZ) has stolen a march on TVNZ with it’s “quality” broadcasting during this time. What can we all look forward to under this brave new world?
Whatever it is, Jonathan Coleman should cease to pretend he believes in quality public broadcasting.
TVNZ’s reinvigorated commercialism is indicative of a shift in the media environment that intensifies competition for ratings and increases the cost of providing content with high public value but sub-optimum audience appeal. TVNZ’s SOI shows why Coleman’s assurances that the content on TVNZ 7 will still be available is mistaken. Diversity of digital platforms do NOT mean a diversity of content.
Auckland journalist Colin Hogg (who runs the production company which produced Talk Talk on TVNZ7 and had its final show last week) summed it up when he wrote:
“TV these days is basically programmed by the ad agencies, which is pretty sad,” Hogg writes. “The cultural impact of the loss of TVNZ 7 is that there will be no outlet for shows like ours, or Media 7, or Backbenches. In years to come when we look back for archive of this time, all we’ll find is Motorway Patrol, Border Patrol, Dog Patrol, food shows and freak shows about fat people.”
We can do better than this.
Any discussion about the future of NZ’s media has to be about the stuff it produces. Not just about the networks or channels that transmit it.
NZ content needs a boost. Our local industry is generally talented, whether it be screen production, journalism, current affairs, writers, producers. But it’s generally not thriving and energetic. It feels tired and struggling against a tide of advertising-driven content. Much of it purchased cheaply from offshore to fill our screens. Journalists struggle to meet the increasing demands of multi-media and multiple deadlines with diminishing staff in many newsrooms.
Public funding for broadcasting is shrinking. It’s simply not considered important by this government. The commercial broadcasters are fighting for more dominance. And the consumer is losing.
Had a really interesting discussion today with a respected prominent figure in NZ (based) media. He said Jonathan Coleman should resign for accepting TVNZ’s recent Statement of Intent (SOI).
The SOI said that it would pressure NZ on Air to approve more commercially attractive local programming and address potential revisions to funding criteria. That’s essentially the Minister signing up to a strategy which sees it’s own SOE do a funding grab for commercial gain (separate blogpost following on this).
A ray of sunshine in the gloom is the steady rise of some various independent NZ (digital) media (this list is not exhaustive) who are making a go of it in this new environment – such as Interest.co.nz, Scoop, BusinessDesk, AllAboutthe Story, Idealog – and the rising viability of specialist subscriber news.
I think they are an important part of the future media landscape but this will only become apparent in a more competitive environment. What customers ultimately want is good content. Whether it’s in the publicly funded sphere, or a competitive commerical sphere. Currently, we could do a lot better in both.
A competitive and thriving media and content creation sector is needed to deliver diversity. The New Zealand broadcasting sector currently lacks a diversity of ideas because, unique in the world, the government has abolished the public television broadcasting function. Radio New Zealand’s frozen budget puts it under such pressure that it must consider fundraising via a trust or commercial sponsorship to pay for some of its programmes.
To incentivise competition—and get the best from it—we need to be aware of the extent to which the ownership and control of our digital media lies outside New Zealand, and whether our access to content is limited by those who run the media system in their own interests.
I think that’s an important issue right now. Don’t you?
Chris Trotter has strong opinions, when I get the time to follow him – which isn’t often. But this short story, about Blue and Harry, stalwarts of the good old days of unionism, has turned up on my media monitoring, repeated in every little down-home country paper throughout the country. Blue says :
“I heard that Darien Fenton woman talking on the radio the other day – Labour’s industrial relations spokesperson. You know what she says?”
“What did she say?”
“She says: ‘Nobody on the Left is calling for the reintroduction of compulsory unionism and national awards.’”
“Never asked us”, said Harry.
“No, she bloody didn’t”, muttered Blue. “But I know what I’d like to ask Darien Fenton. I’d like to ask her how much longer Labour’s going to let this wretched experiment in voluntary union membership go on before declaring it a failure?
“Ninety-one out of a hundred, Harry. Ninety-bloody-one! That how many private sector workers lack union protection. Hundreds-of-thousands of ordinary Kiwis stripped of the ability to negotiate with their employers on equal terms. To look the boss in the eye and say ‘no deal’, without being sent down the road.”
Yep, well Blue and Harry (and Trotter) have got that right. There’s only 9% of private sector workers covered by unions and collective bargaining in NZ. It’s not a NZ only situation – and there’s plenty of international evidence mounting now, including from the IMF and the OECD, that the decline in unionism and collective bargaining has contributed to rising inequality and even the GFC.
I honour the commitment of the Blues and Harry’s and of those who followed them. I’ve worked in workplaces where there’s been strikes for weeks on end. I have my share of war stories, just like many Labour MPs (and they’re not all glorious). We worry about leaving the next generation much worse off than the one we inherited from their struggle. But the world has sadly changed. In Blue and Harry’s day, a casual worker would have been unheard of. Working the weekend for ordinary rates would be a strikeable offence. But women getting equal pay, paid parental leave, domestic leave and four weeks holiday were also just as unthinkable, so it’s not all about what happened yesterday.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t injustices, low pay and exploitation. There is plenty to go around.
But Blue and Harry would find today’s workplace unrecognisable and while we learn from our history, yesterday’s solutions aren’t the only solutions for today’s problems. Try, for instance, telling a young IT worker they should be compulsorily bound to a union.
So, Blue and Harry (and Chris Trotter) be patient. Talk with me if you want – anytime. Labour’s policy will be announced soon. We will be standing up for workers, and as we have always done, standing up for the poor and the lowest paid, and taking into account the fragmentation of the labour market, the huge inequalities that have developed, and the need to create a fairer society for everyone.
Have just seen via Computerworld that 14 Government websites will be offline til Wednesday as the result of a failed system upgrade over the weekend. Upgrades aren’t always successful but surely there should have been a contingency plan in place to roll them back.
Seems like an IT fail. Perhaps Mr Joyce would care to explain? Or Nathan Guy? Or someone else?
The websites are:
Ministry of Consumer Affairs
Financial Service Providers Register (FSPR)
Government Procurement Solutions
Insolvency and Trustee Service
Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ)
Motor Vehicle Traders Register
New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals
Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR)
Radio Spectrum Management
Societies and Trusts
The outage notice on the MED website says this:
We apologise unreservedly for any inconvenience experienced as a result of this outage. Please read on for further information about the impact of this outage.
The Ministry of Economic Development is working to resolve an outage affecting a number of its websites.
The outage occurred during preparation work on Saturday evening to upgrade the servers hosting these websites. The websites will be unavailable until at least midday 12:00PM NZST Wednesday 28 September.
In the interests of transparency, I am continuing to put up the correspondence between Labour and the Government on their draft video surveillance Bill.
Below is the link to the latest response from the Attorney General: Letter – AG to Labour MPs (September 26 2011)
[UPDATE]: Here is Labour’s response – Letter – Labour reply to AG (September 26 2011)
ACT and National will push voluntary student association bill through parliament this week on the last Members Day. We can expect a good deal of student opposition around the country. Good for them.
Next year, students won’t pay any fees to student associations. That’s inevitable, would you pay your council rates if they were voluntary? Wherever student associations have become voluntary they effectively collapsed.
What happens next?
Well, the university, polytech or institution will step in, charge students a levy, and continue some of the services through subcontracting companies or students to do it for them. It’s already been gazetted (NZ Gazette No. 138). Institutions can charge students for: advocacy and legal advice, careers advice and guidance, counselling services, employment information, financial support and advice, health servieces, childcare facilities, sports and recreation facilities.
In other words, all the stuff that supports students and makes these institutions of learning vital, interesting places.
So, voluntary student association membership will result in … money taken off students compulsorily, leaving them with no power to determine what services are kept. Taxation without representation is one way it can be represented.
The National-Act spin that student associations are the last bastions of compulsory unionism is bollocks … it’s idealogy pure and simple.
We could’ve had a good, enduring Bill with an opt out clause and some rules around accountability of student association spending. I’d spoken a number of times with Heather Roy about some possibilities. She was willing to compromise when she her Bill looked in doubt but held the hard line when she thought she’d get it through.
Too bad, fortunately it won’t last long.
This weeks post is (unintentionally) brought to you by the ACT party! Tweet of the Week – Don Brash announces ACT’s intentions to decriminalise marijuana. I look forward to watching John Banks and Don Nicholson promote this policy on the hustings!
Press Gallery Tweet of the Week: I really thought this article was a parody when I first read it.
Then out of the blue ACT deputy leader John Boscawen announces his resignation. Means a clean sweep of current ACT MPs – all either resigning or being pushed out.
I love this phenomenon – Press Gallery start singing MPs praises once they’ve announced they’re leaving!
The Egonomist suspects a far darker intent…
And just a reminder that despite our political differences here in NZ we really have nothing like the extremes they have in the US. These tweets from conservative commentator Ann Coulter were in response to the public outcry about the recent execution of Troy Davis, a man convicted of murdering a police office 20 years ago. Davis’ supporters called for a new trial given that he was convicted on eye-witness evidence and since then nearly all the non-police witnesses have withdrawn their testimony saying they were pressured by police to make the statements.
Every country worth its salt should have some kind of solid manufacturing base. It should also have an economic development policy that decides which industries to invest in for its future.
NZ could be a nation of makers. Our economic future could be geared towards using the digital environment as the platform to grow a new generation of innovators, who use their skills inside New Zealand to build a strong and ground-breaking industry that provides skilled jobs and technological advances.
Imagine what that could mean if we seriously meant it. Here’s what we need to be doing more of. Because look what can happen.
Two examples. The first was written up last week in the DomPost:
Wellington open source software firm Catalyst IT has won a seven-figure contract to develop the news website and supporting systems for the South China Morning Post.
The English-language newspaper is based in Hong Kong and has more than 100,000 subscribers.
Catalyst director Mike O’Connor said South China Morning Post (SCMP) had invited it to bid for the tender to rebuild its news portal after discovering Catalyst had expertise in the open source content management system called Drupal. Catalyst also uses Drupal to support Fairfax’s Stuff website, and the Otago Daily Times and Scoop websites.
The SCMP deal was worth “seven figures over a number of years”, O’Connor said, and included management of its reader subscription service, site management and hosting services.
The 130-person firm would look to set up an office in Hong Kong in the next few years to support SCMP and other clients there, he said.
Catalyst co-director Don Christie said the company was also finding early success with its joint venture, Totara, which launched in April and distributes and supports learning management software for corporates based on the popular open source elearning software Moodle.
Totara – owned by Catalyst, Wellington firm Kineo Pacific (formerly the Flexible Learning Network), and British firm Kineo – customers have included Nike, British supermarket giant Tesco, BP and New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Department and Social Development Ministry, which use the software to train staff.
Christie said Catalyst had spent about $3 million over two years helping to develop Totara and in setting up Wellington broadband monitoring start-up TrueNet, in which it holds a majority shareholding.
During the week I met with a small Dunedin-based export company Perreaux Industries, which is a New Zealand based manufacturer of state-of-the-art hi fi audio amplifiers, preamplifiers, CD players, home theater systems and other hi fi audio equipment. They have a niche market overseas, they describe their market specialities as the sophisticated software circuitry and rock-solid construction. They use a Christchurch company to construct the circuit boards using high tech robotics.
The interesting thing is that they’ve been around since 1974. Whatever they’re doing works.
They operate out of a backstreet warehouse office space which is hard to find, in Mosgiel, Dunedin. Their market is overseas. They are part of our future. And we need to value them and their ilk more.
Hi tech, software, weightless exports. Part of our future. A nation of makers. A digital nation. Could we be?
For those of you who don’t know, the Nek Minnit phenomenon has taken off around the country, and it seems the world. Scary, since it came from a short video clip from a prominent Dunedin Skateboarder Levi Hawken.
Levi and his mate Colin made a You Tube clip. You can see the original below. It’s had nearly 700,000 views in the last couple of weeks. A few parodies are now appearing. The one above has just been created. I reckon it’s apt. No doubt there’ll be more. It’s all good fun.
I’m still trying to work out which dairy in (South) Dunedin he was standing outside when he left his scooter! Apparently there’s a range of t-shirts and hoodies being made with the Nek Minnit phrase. I guess it’s just one of those things…
The NZ Herald ran a piece today on it. Twitter has an extraordinary #nekminnit stream happening
Update: I think the correct spelling is Nek Minnit
Update 2: Vaughn Davis explains the phenomenon on Radio Wammo a few weeks ago
Talking to a young guy yesterday. Knew him when he was at secondary school about a decade ago.
He now lives in Aussie. Not because he wants to but because he feel it is the only way he can get ahead.
Over to watch of few games at RWC and to see family.
Drives a truck.
Earns roughly double what he got here. And then there is the employer funded super on top of that. Cost of living not much different.
His rig is slightly bigger but much more sophisticated than here. He gets lots more training on the job and he reckons he is about three times as productive.
I reckon he has to be more productive because his wages are higher and hs employer trains him more and invests in better capital goods for him to use, in order to make a profit.
Yesterday, US President Barack Obama spoke from the Brent Spence bridge over the Ohio River about the vital connection between jobs and infrastructure repair.
The Brent Spence bridge has been rated functionally obsolete and unsafe, it carries nearly twice the traffic it was designed to handle, and earlier this year, chunks of concrete fell from its upper level.2 And it isn’t the only essential piece of infrastructure that’s falling apart.
It’s shameful that our bridges are literally crumbling while construction workers are unable to find employment. America’s infrastructure needs work, and Americans need jobs.
The solution is obvious: Put people back to work repairing our bridges, dams, highways, schools, and the rest of our failing infrastructure.
We’re putting pressure on Congress to pass a jobs plan that does just that. But we need to make the problem visible. That’s why the American Dream movement is setting out to find and photograph the jobs that need doing—and we need your help.
I received this email early this morning from MoveOn, a political network which is driving progressive change in the US.
We don’t have anything like that here. But we do have skills shortages, we have infrastructure that needs repairing, rethinking and renewing, while the national Government spends billions on new highways.
We have a government that is actively dumping existing skills sets (rail) . A govt that is not investing enough in apprenticeships. That doesn’t have a plan to create jobs.
Labour would not dump our rail engineering skills. We’d foster them. We will invest in apprentices trainig for our young people. We do have a plan to grow jobs in strategic industries.
Let’s do what Moveon is doing in the US and show the government what needs doing.
Can you take a picture of a job that needs doing in your community? It could be a bridge, dam, road, school, or any other piece of our infrastructure that needs repair, rethinking. Email it to me firstname.lastname@example.org
DFT 7295 (that’s the loco) hauls two of KiwiRail’s new AK class passenger cars and a rebuilt viewing car on their delivery run from Dunedin to Christchurch this week . The AK class passenger cars were built by KiwiRail’s own Hillside Engineering plant in Dunedin. These two cars will be used for staff training, before being used on long distance services. These are the first two of 17.
This is what Kiwis can do. Build stuff. Quality stuff. We should be proud of this.
Instead the National Govt is sending work overseas that could be done here. As a result Kiwis are losing their jobs, settling for lesser jobs or heading to Australia.
Why can’t we do it here? Even if it costs a bit more (by Chinese standards) the standards are demonstrably higher, we keep the skills inside NZ, we pay wages, they pay tax. It’s better for the country.
Labour would get the work done here. The Hillside and Woburn rail workshops have huge potential. Not just for rail.
I know Kiwirail has been approached by other Kiwi companies keen to get other manufacturing and fabricating work done here. I also understand that Kiwirail’s head office isn’t too keen on actively purusing these ideas.
Why is that? Have they been told to run the workshops down. Surplus to requirements? If so this is a national scandal.
Three years ago the nation was full of hope about Kiwirail’s potential. Today the name has been tarnished and associated with a political push to grind down a proud and productive manufacturing industry and skill base.
Hat tip (for the video clip): Julian Blanchard, Labour’s candidate for Rangitata
There appears to be an on-going vendetta against workers in New Zealand’s entertainment industry.
Sure, the NActs are happy to line up beside local artists at events like the Rugby World Cup, but their actions are spelling doom for many of our most talented.
First, there was the decree from on high that all NZ entertainment workers are “contractors” and have no right to challenge their status under New Zealand law. There was the shameful spectacle of our government depriving New Zealand workers of rights in order to bow to Warners and Co., along with the ugly denunciation of anyone who dared speak out against this move as “hobbit-haters”.
Now, Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced that New Zealand has cleared the way for overseas actors and musicians to come here whenever they feel like it, even if it’s at the expense of New Zealand entertainment workers. His policy changes mean that those representing actors, musicians and other entertainment workers no longer have to be consulted when overseas acts want to come here. Understandably, the Screen Directors Guild of NZ is expressing concern about the implications of the moves to alter the process for the entry of temporary entertainment industry workers into New Zealand. They say it is potentially damaging to the local screen and entertainment industries.
My old union, the Musicians’ Union did its best to promote New Zealand music, but they never stood in the way of overseas performances unless it meant New Zealand musos would be disadvantaged. It was their job to stand up for New Zealand talent and they did it responsibly.
Labour’s spokesperson for Immigration, Ruth Dyson, and Arts and Culture spokesperson Steve Chadwick say the change could mean that roles in local productions could be filled with overseas performers and that these pressures, along with strife in Public Broadcasting and local playhouses, such as Downstage, put at risk many New Zealand careers.
John Key’s justification for changing the laws around the Hobbit was to protect New Zealand jobs, yet his Minister of Immigration has opened the door for all and sundry.
Our proud record of cultivating NZ identity through the Arts, fostered under the leadership of Helen Clark, is faltering.
Who hates who now?
Rarely would I agree with statements from Dr Don Brash, but he had me nodding my head in agreement for parts of his interview on Chinese Radio AM936 this morning.
Regarding Government spending, Dr Brash said the current National Government had spent much more than the previous Labour Government.
Dr Brash went on to say that both the previous National and Labour governments had managed government debt well, meaning the current John Key-led Government started from a good point. However under Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English’s watch, government debt has gone from bad to worse.
This reminded me of our debate with National MPs in 2009. National claimed that ACC was leaking millions of dollars under Labour, we argued that the figures do not back up the National Governments unjust cutting of services and upping of ACC levies and that National’s claims were nothing more than scaremongering.
But it has now proved that the ACC debacle of 2009 was just a pre-cursor that led to the National Government hiking ACC levies before they privatise the organisation should they get another term in office.
The world will be a much nicer place if politicians would say what the issues really are (as they are).
Bill English’s repeated lines such as “in the last long nine years” and “economic mismanagement by Labour” may give him an instant boost in his blame game, but the facts will be spelt out sooner or later – just as Dr Brash did this morning.
No secret – I’m massive All Black fan and have prejudice towards Hurricanes – Weepu, Nonu and Jane. (well mainly former Canes).
The team for Saturday is as I would select it.
But in a fortnight we need to change. Bit of a risk before seeing form v France but this is as I see it now.
We have probably the most versatile starting backline ever. Weepu can play 1st V, Nonu can play 2nd V to wing, Kahui can cover centre and Jane fullback.
All we need is Williams and a halfback. Carter won’t come off unless injured and if he is Weepu can move out.
Read will play next weekend and is the best number eight in the world. But we need Thomson as a reserve loosie.
My solution, drop Slade who has never played well under test match pressure, add Thomson to the reserves and go with a 5 – 2 split.
Here’s the letter making our clear position in response to the Government’s proposed legislation:
Interesting disclosure from David Farrar yesterday. He, along with Matthew Hooton, and (waste of members money) PSA are bankrolling Bryce Edwards, one of the few remaining supporters of the Alliance, to provide the political commentary which mainly attacks Labour and the Greens from the looney left. The guy makes Margaret Mutu look like a well balanced academic.
As we all know the majority of Farrar’s income comes from the taxpayer via a “research” arrangement.
I wonder if Bill English signed the deal off or whether it was just a nod and a wink.
I was pleasantly surprised by the NZ Herald’s editorial today backing the Palestinian bid for statehood. That’s in line with popular support across the world. A recent poll conducted in conjunction with the BBC showed the a majority of people surveyed across a range of countries, including the US, support the Palestinians bid. I would imagine the same would be the case here.
The Palestinians have been trying to secure a state for years based on the internationally recognised 1967 borders with Israel. The longer the talks go on, the more that Jewish settlers build their homes inside a future Palestinian state – around half a million at last count with numbers growing by more than 5% a year.
The issues are not that complicated. Palestinians want to determine their own future. They want freedom, just like other Arab states who we back wanting the same thing. They already conduct democratic elections. What makes it complicated is the Palestinians are occupied by Israel. And Israel’s tail wags the US dog. Already Obama is coming under pressure from the Republicans for not being staunch enough backing Israel.
Obama doesn’t want to give Palestinians the chance of a vote, because the US will need to veto it. And that will look bad in the eyes of not only Arab states, but most of the rest of the world’s states which will support the Palestians.
That’s a US problem. New Zealand should support the Palestinians simply because it’s right. It won’t solve the problem, it won’t stop more settlers building on land that’s not theirs, but it’s an important principle.
Meanwhile, there’s powerful paddling to avert a showdown.