Wednesday, 29 June 2011

RWCRWCRWC and you can’t sue me – there I said it!

There are times when the attitude of some people towards money leaves me absolutely speechless. Well, no actually I guess it doesn’t do that so much as leave me grasping for words that do justice to their utterly stomach turning greed.

Who am I talking about in this case? Well there are plenty of candidates right now, and no, this is not a bitch about the rich from an impecunious writer. Instead it is a bitch about the extremely greedy (who also happen to be rich) by an impecunious writer.

My targets today are...(drum roll or cheese roll if you prefer)... the IRB, the NZRFU, and the National Disgrace Government.

My moan is about the upcoming Rugby World Cup and the ridiculous measures being taken to protect the interests of the official sponsors.

I can understand that sponsors who have paid the equivalent of the GDP of a mid-sized European nation to be associated with the event would not want their competitors to piggy-back onto their advertising without stumping up any dosh of their own. That’s fair enough and anyone from a rival company trying to get their advertising into the stadium deserves to get their ears clipped. But the trouble is that it doesn’t just stop there; these corporate gluttons want nobody within a whale’s sonar range of each game from advertising their company or products and services. In some cases it will be an offence if the advertising can simply be seen from the ‘clean zone’ they have defined around each venue.

Another of the most obvious and silly measures is that even some of the stadia have had to change their names because they have the names of sponsors not associated with the event. The cake tin will be known as Wellington Regional Stadium to spare the feelings of ANZ Bank who is an official sponsor.

But these multi-nationals have extremely high-level help to protect their interests. They have pressured the New Zealand Government to pass legislation to protect them. But unlike the laws they pass to (allegedly) protect you and me against home invasions, street bashings and drunk drivers, these laws will actually be enforced and probably to the fullest extent of the very severe penalties provided within them.

To the best of my knowledge our Government has two Acts of Parliament and one set of regulations currently in force to protect these already far too powerful people. The first of these is the Major Events Management Act 2007 (MEMA) and subsequently the Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Act 2010 and the Rugby World Cup (Empowering) Regulations 2010 have passed into the anus of our history.

What these laws have done apart from restricting our freedom of expression in some rather bizarre ways, is they have made officers of the New Zealand Government servants of these multi-nationals, but servants paid for by you and I. This is because enforcement of these pieces of legislation will be carried out by the Ministry of Economic Development. According to the Fairfax website this week they designated 40 staff members to ‘police stadiums (sic) throughout the country’ and to look out for ‘deliberate or malicious advertising attempts’.

Now this is serious stuff because for two months or more these 40 people who are being paid by you and I will be unavailable to do any work on our behalf and the cost won’t stop there because any prosecutions brought will also be paid for by us.

So am I making a mountain out of a slag heap? I don’t think so. The legislation provides for penalties of up to $150,000 and the indication is that for once something close to this will be sought for maters which should really be dealt with in the civil courts by litigants who are more than capable of funding such prosecutions themselves.

And some of the banned activities are just so stupid. For example I found in MEMA that a B&B cannot put an advert on their website offering special Rugby World Cup packages. Now packages like that have been offered by accommodation providers for ever and I doubt that anyone has believed those places were in any way associated with the event. It’s just a way of offering a special rate during a major event. But according to the official guide to MEMA the local B&B would only be allowed to advise they had vacancies or a special rate during September and October without mentioning the event that is the reason people are seeking accommodation.

 In another equally stupid example a bar can have a sign outside advertising ‘Team A v Team B Live On The Big Screen Tonight’ but they cannot say ‘Joe’s Bar Presents Team A v Team B Live On The Big Screen Tonight’ despite the fact they haven’t even mentioned the words Rugby World Cup 2011 (wash my mouth out). I note also that you cannot have a printed Rugby World Cup Guide brought to you by blah blah. Which means we won’t be able to get a cheap one in the newspaper unless they remove all advertising by non RWC sponsors for eight pages either side of it (sorry I just made that bit up).

Don’t get me wrong I am very pleased the RWC has come to New Zealand; although I’m pretty pissed off I couldn’t afford to get any tickets. However I will be watching it and I will be backing the ABs and I hope like hell they don’t pick any injured players this time.

I just think it’s plain wrong, however that we are dancing so frenetically to the diabolical piper’s tune.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Saving money or reputations?

What’s a good investment? It seems a simple enough question, really. But quite apart from the financial uncertainties associated with investments these days; there are a couple of other issues that need careful consideration before handing over your dough.

The recent avalanche of finance company and bank crashes reminds us of another consideration which in simpler times never crossed our minds; the possibility that a bank can go belly-up.

Add to that the increasing numbers of that (now) none too exclusive club who have been dipping their little pinkies into the piggy banks that held our money, and you have enough worries to consider slitting open the old Sealy Posturepedic. It’s times like this I don’t feel so bothered about not having anything to invest.

But this week my attention has been drawn to yet another hazard of investing thanks to the vigilance of Greens co-leader Russel Norman. I guess I always knew there was a chance the company you entrusted your investments to might invest those funds in something you didn’t approve of. It stands to reason that if you invest with a bank or finance company you are hardly likely to know about every investment they make. Hopefully they disclose to you where they have stashed your cash, but they are unlikely to divulge every investment they make in the normal course of events.

But what Russel has discovered is very unsettling. He has found the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (I thought the cupboard was bare) has purchased shares in a company based in Mumbai called Larsen & Toubro. That in itself might not sound too worrying, but L&T is a multi-billion dollar company which according to its website “is a technology, engineering, construction and manufacturing company. It is one of the largest and most respected companies in India's private sector.”

Now that sounds quite promising, but of course a closer inspection of what this PR means reveals they construct equipment for use in the petro-chemical industry, ammonia based fertilisers, nuclear power plants, and most important of all, they are involved in the death trade. That is to say they also manufacture weapons systems and are apparently currently working on a contract to supply nuclear submarines to the Indian Government.

Now call me a sandal wearing old hippie if you like, but I would just be appalled to think any of my money was helping to bolster the petro-chemical industry or the chemical fertiliser industry, and I’d really lose the plot if I found my money was being directly used to kill people or at least develop the means for doing so.

I realise that as a mug taxpayer (or constitutional hold-up victim, if you like Graham), that some of my tax money is already going towards such causes albeit not nuclear ones. However, for the time being, I am neither able to definitely confirm or deny this nor prevent my money being taken in the first place.

However with an investment that would normally be a different situation. I could choose to not invest with companies that do that sort of thing, always providing I can trust their disclosure information. The situation with the New Zealand Super Fund, is a hybrid of the two; I can’t stop the bastards taking my money, but I am now acutely aware of how they are investing it and I don’t like it one little bit.

Hopefully the Greens will be able to shame the NZSF and JiangQi’s ragtag mob into pulling out all funds invested with Larsen & Toubro. They could start with pointing out the inconsistency between the NZSF’s obligations as laid out in S58 (2)(c) of The New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Act 2001 and repeated in 1.1(c) of their Statement of Responsible Investment Policies, Standards and Procedures dated 19 October 2009.

The Act states: The Guardians must invest the Fund on a prudent, commercial basis and, in doing so, must manage and administer the Fund in a manner consistent with - avoiding prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community.

Now given our nuke free status and the fact we have made much of our opposition to nuclear power and especially nuclear weaponry, I’d say providing financial investment to a company who is making nuclear subs is definitely prejudicial to our reputation as a responsible member of the world community. (Are there any of those left?)

So we need to see the heat go on the NZSF to do the right thing and after that the Government can do the right thing by firing the idiot directors who obviously thought this was a good idea.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Keep your eyes on his hands

For someone whose name can mean to sharpen a knife, the loose cannon that is CURRENTLY the member for Te Tai Tokerau is not very sharp.

He doesn’t seem to have any sense of self-awareness or perspective. His latest hysterical outburst is to suggest we have a Maori (read Harawira) Parliament. He has some fluffy idea that all the Maori MPs should work together for the good of Maori rather than following the edicts of their respective parties. Hmm, there’s a great idea, and perhaps all the Pakeha members could also turn their backs on their parties and form a Pakeha Parliament working exclusively for the good of Pakeha?

Somehow I don’t think (S)Hone(k)y would approve of that one. I suspect that such a suggestion would be greeted by accusations of racism.

Ever wondered why people seem to think this phenomenon can only operate in one direction? The trouble is; many of us make this concept even more deeply embedded in the national psyche by talking of ‘reverse racism’ which is semantically incorrect if you think about it. To reverse racism is to be an integrationist, which is actually the complete opposite of a racist. So I plead to all my Pakeha colleagues to drop such nonsense terms in favour of the accurate one, which is racism. After all if you look up the definition of racism you will find it described as a bigoted attitude towards other races and a belief that one’s own race is superior to others. The definition as with the trait is not linked in any way to people of any particular skin colour or background.

But to return to my original point; the member (and I’ve often referred to him as an utter member – though not in exactly those words) for Te Tai Tokerau. Actually I don’t believe he is the member for TTT anymore. The stupid rules devised by pollies to look after their own sorry arses say that he is (for now), but I believe anybody elected to an electorate seat on a party ticket loses their mandate as soon as they quit their party. He says he is going to win the seat again in the ridiculous and wasteful bye-election he has insisted upon calling, but it is obvious that even he realises this is extremely unlikely. His latest behaviour following a poll conducted by Maori Television’s Native Affairs programme shows very clearly that he knows his time is up. The poll showed Labour’s candidate almost completely closing the gap on him, but HH isn’t remotely fazed. His explanation is that his supporters don’t have landlines and therefore weren’t polled. I’m not surprised he is so sure about this; most of his supporters come from his dysfunctional whanau and most of them are the sorts that would use cheap mobile phones along with a never-ending batch of nicked SIM cards.

But I saw signs of something much more worrying in HH’s responses to that poll which makes me more than usually concerned about the upcoming bye-election. I do hope the electoral commission people keep a very close eye on how that event unfolds because the way Harawira is talking I can see a very real possibility that dodgy electoral practices are inevitable. He is already tossing about veiled threats towards those in his former party, which, though vague in nature, quite possibly carry with them the promise of something more. He has also spoken quite strongly about “the need to ensure his supporters cast their votes”. Not an offensive turn of phrase on its own, and a wise political sentiment.... were it delivered by somebody else that doesn’t have a history of violence and intimidation, both personally and among his aforementioned dysfunctional whanau. However when such a statement is made by a Harawira, the electoral commission would do well to scrutinise every single aspect of this bye-election to ensure that people are not ‘transported’ to the polls and coerced into voting for the incumbent member. They would do well to check the rolls very closely to weed out any duplicate voting or any other sort of ruse that might push his numbers up.

You can’t trust pollies at the best of time; they often lie to protect their interests and frequently stoop to dirty tricks to get their own way. In a funny sort of way HH is actually less of a problem than some of the others because he is such a loud-mouthed buffoon, that he gives fair warning of what he is. Some of the quieter ones are probably even more of a danger - although somehow I can’t see someone like Phil Goff (and he’s off) having the balls to pull some of the stunts this guy does.

I’ve left the best bit until last. Shonky Hone(k)y delivered his stunning vision to a rapt audience of his supporters in.... wait for it.... (New York? Auckland? Or even Whangarei?) ....all wrong. He delivered it in the gigantic political centre and metropolis of Panguru! For those who haven’t been there, Panguru (pop 300) is a delightful place, just a five minute ferry ride across the Hokianga Harbour from Rawene. Good to see Hone really knows how to pull a crowd!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The numbers game

Do you ever feel you are just being treated like a number? I know I do quite often. Most of us get that feeling when you go to see our bank manager and if you’ve ever had to deal with government bureaucracies – those ones that are ‘there to help us’ you will also begin to get that feeling pretty quickly. Election time is another at which we are reminded that as far as those in power are concerned, we are just numbers to get them elected, or numbers they have to overcome to get elected.

However this whole numbers issue goes a lot further and dominates many other areas of our lives. Frequently governments deny funding to services because they claim there is not enough people who will benefit and just this week we have seen more cruel examples of the government’s drug buying agency (doesn’t that have a ring to it?), Pharmac denying treatment to a desperately ill woman because basically as far as they are concerned she is just one and therefore not a large enough number to justify the expense of her treatment. While it is hard to deny the fiscal logic behind such moves it is impossible to avoid the obvious moral issues involved.

But it doesn’t end there; an even more pernicious form of ‘the numbers game’ is being practiced by a body who on the surface of it seem like a jolly good bunch of chaps and chapesses with the well-being of our country in general and its native fauna in particular. What makes this even worse is that this body has gained the backing of a government official who by the very nature of her position carries with her an implied credibility.

The group to which I refer is the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Incorporated or Forest & Bird as they are more commonly known. This incorporated society that purports to be keen on preserving our native fauna is a keen supporter of sodium fluoroacetate (FCH2CO2Na) a nasty metabolic poison that is highly toxic to mammals and insects. We more usually know of it as 1080.

Their new cheer leader is the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright. Well sorry Ms Wright, but you are very wrong in this case and, just for the record, you are no bloody friend to the environment you are charged with protecting.

But what has this to do with numbers, apart from the name of the death agent? Well it is the old story of scare tactics involving numbers (as they usually do). According to the New Zealand Herald, Ms (Not) Wright says that unless 1080 is used over large areas (numbers again) of the mainland ‘iwi could vanish from unprotected areas within a generation and native birds could disappear from New Zealand's forests.’ Now I’m sure the commissioner actually meant KIWI, but that’s Granny Herald for you – and of course that masterstroke that APN pulled  a while ago by centralising their subbing operations and cutting down on the number of subbies left to do it. It might have been a Freudian slip, but that implies the powers behind APN actually think about these things and that might be stretching it a bit. The scariest thing about that misprint is that it could be true for both kiwi and iwi if they DO keep using 1080.

(Can’t Be) Wright says 1080 is cost-effective and safe (er what part of toxic to insects did you not understand?). Furthermore she claims a moratorium on 1080 would destroy more of the landscape. So if we don’t spread this poison that WILL (not might) kill a whole lot of non-target species all over our land, we will lose ALL of our fauna and flora?

Well have I got news for her! First piece of news that will blow her sweat shop produced socks off is that I have found a point of agreement with that ridiculous looking hairstyle known as Peter Dunne. Ol’ Dunne & Dusted and I are in agreement over the need to stop the use of 1080. Who would have thought it?

And Dunne has pointed out to the Commissioner that 1080 has been used for around 50 years and we are not making any headway at all. We currently spend $100M each year on the stuff and still we have not managed to get on top of the problem. The Hairstyle says we are only spending $2M a year looking for a better way. Now I might not be the brightest financial bulb on the tree but it occurs to me that you could achieve quite a lot of less harmful and better directed possum, mustelid and rat eradication programmes for $102M than you can for just $2M. (Check out those numbers!)

But it’s not just the numbers that are a nonsense here; it is also the entire approach. You see numbers need to be kept in some sort of context to have any real meaning and it is easy to throw around big numbers to tempt people. Too often we choose short-term gains over the bigger picture. For example it is easy get a lot of people to buy cheap sweat shop produced socks that fall apart after a few months than to pay a much higher price for a pair that were made in a safety conscious factory where the workers are valued and well paid. It doesn’t seem to matter much of the time that the initially dearer items will last so much longer they will, actually work out cheaper because they won’t have to be replaced so soon.

Thus it is with issues like control of exotic pests. Nobody wants to do the hard yards and actually put some effort into finding a way to do this without polluting the environment which will be much dearer to put right even if it can be done at all.

We’ve got to stop acting like he old woman who swallowed a fly. I’m sure we can all remember the final line:

I don’t know why she swallowed the fly

Perhaps she’ll die

There’s nothing surer if we don’t stop using these sorts of methods. Forest & Bird should be trapped and released to some remote island and Ms Wright needs some serious corrections.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Out with the old, in with the older?

Wonderful news! In election year we have another new party to deliver us from the boredom dished out by all the other losers in this un-beautiful game.

Well actually, strictly speaking it isn’t a new party; it’s actually a rather old(er) one that appears to be getting a new face-lift (or is that Botox injections?).

You see the new re-vamped and dynamic party that is going to take New Zealand by storm is the Association of Consumers & Taxpayers (that’s ACT – not Act as so many nitwits write).

Yes the old party is getting new life – or should that be the new party is getting old life? God help us there are enough dried arrangements among them to hold a florists convention.

Time was (and still is, I hope) when we had begun to celebrate the fact that most of us live longer than our forebears. Ref: the forebears were: Mummy Bear, Daddy Bear, Baby Bear and Lodger Bear.

We were proud of the fact we carry on activities long after the use-by date our ancestors thought appropriate. And for the most part it has been a good thing – apart from a few horrendous old bats dressing up in clothes designed for their grandchildren or great grandchildren and some silly old buggers fathering kids in their 70s, which I think is just plain wrong, not to mention an abomination for their 30-year-old wives.

Repulsive those these images are they are like a beautiful vision upon which to meditate compared with the implied rejuvenation of the ACT party. I think all politicians should be required to complete an Enduring Power of Attorney in regards to their care and welfare so that when they go completely ga-ga we can remove them to a place of safety and (more importantly) AWAY from the corridors of power.

Just look at the new face of the ACT party. It is not the sort of visage one associates with bright NEW opportunities. Their front bench even includes one old bugger who’s still on the reserves bench at the very least until after November. As for the rest of them, I doubt if there are more than two who could possibly be under fifty years of age. Sir Rogernomics is nearly 80; Dong Brash is 70 odd; Rodders is for the high jump (probably because he is too young for their new vision; Boscawen can’t be far short of 60; and Hilary Calvert must be 50 odd, given she was a lawyer for 25 years.

I reckon ACT will be lucky to return with as many seats as they have currently. But if they do it is going to be with an extremely aged caucus. Voters might do well to give thought to whether they would have enough years left in them to still be on the perch come 2014.

If you consider Brash, Boscawen, Banks & Bob the Builder (who seems to be their latest bright young thing) as likely then between them their combined ages must push close to 300 – and with all this surge of geriatric energy old Rogernomics might decide to stand again and take tea average age up to around 70.

So what is it with the ACT party? Why do they imagine that a bunch of old farts would be better than some new blood? Well first of all I doubt that anyone under 50 would have a bar of ACTs policies and secondly, and I think this is the real reason; these old buggers are suffering from a rare type of dementia. It’s called Prick’s Disease; rather like Pick’s disease which causes changes in character, socially inappropriate behaviour, a decline in the ability to speak coherently and poor decision making, The difference between Pick’s and Prick’s Disease is the type of people it affects.

Thankfully this is all just a sideshow and ACT has about as much chance of getting good voter support as I do. Nobody much under 60 will vote for them anyway and most of their potential voters will forget which day is polling day or get lost on the way to the polling booth. Should they manage to conquer those two obstacles they will the n have to remember what it is they went there for and who they were going to vote for should they remember the first bit.

So roll on November. May you roll all over this useless shower that are going to be draining the money from our wallets for the next three years. Hopefully we will wake up in December and realise it has all been a nasty dream. Alternatively, if ACT does any good, it will be free mobility scooters and incontinence pants for all in the first budget next year.