Joe Hendren

[ Home ] [ Articles ] [ Blog Home ] [ Travel ] [ Links] [About Me]

Friday, May 14, 2021

Tribute to David McPhail - a memory from my primary school days.

Sad to hear about the death of David McPhail today.

When I was 11-12 McPhail and Gadsby was one of my favourite programmes on TV, and my Dad was also a big fan of McPhail in particular.

In my last year at Mt Pleasant Primary School (1988) I wrote a series sketch comedy pieces for our end of year school concert to perform with my friends. My biggest inspirations were McPhail and Gadsby and the Muppets. To most I assume it signalled there was something pretty odd about this 12 year old, but that show was my first public political act.

Long before I was an Alliance 'die hard', I didn't like the Forth Labour government. I admit to playing Richard Prebble in one sketch but in my defence I played him as a dog - an 'asset hound'

In another I was a newsreader who announced a plane carrying an orchestra had experienced engine trouble and was forced to jettison some of the instruments - "There is no danger, whatsoever, to the public". I was then hit from above by a 'piano' made out of cardboard that was rigged up on a pulley. My friend did a perfect shot on the night and it landed directly on my head. This was followed by a weather report that a 'cold front was sweeping across the country' - my friend then crossed the stage with a broom.

As you can see my sense of humour has not improved.

Our little show was a big hit with the parents, and my brothers class also gave us a big cheer before we started as they had some idea as to what was to come. Now that I have attended school concerts as a parent I have more of an idea as to how out of the box our little show was!

All I wanted to say was a big thank to you to David McPhail - you are a taonga and an inspiration who will be long remembered - even for out of the box 12 year olds with an keen interest in political satire and surrealist humour.


Friday, March 06, 2020

Jeanette Fitzsimons

Am sad to hear about the sudden death of Jeanette Fitzsimons. I really respected her fierce but quiet intelligence. When sitting though televised leaders debates during election campaigns, for me, Jeanette was regularly the only voice of sanity and reason. When Jeanette spoke you usually learnt something, but that rarely came accross as the intention.
I have been recently thinking and reading up on the role of intellectuals in New Zealand culture, and the anti-intellectual attitudes they often face. Jeanette is an interesting example of a public intellectual in New Zealand. In some ways her humble, quiet manner allowed her to be intellectual when others would have been shot down over the same issue.
Its also interesting many of the tributes make reference to her work on the farm and using a chainsaw just the previous day - sure that was part of who she was - but the fact this has been highlighted probably also tells us something about how New Zealand continues to value the practical and directly empirical other the intellectual and theoretical.
For a few of us at least, the muddy gumboots are an irrelevance to her thoughtfulness, quiet wisdom and insight.


Sunday, November 05, 2017

Fletchers shut down in the face of accountability - a long history

On October 25 this year FIRST Union members and Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) protested outside the Fletcher AGM at Auckland museum to highlight low pay and to oppose Fletcher's plans to build houses on the culturally significant Ihumatao site.
The Chairman shut down the meeting. What might not be widely known is that the Chairman only gained the power to shut down an AGM in 1988 following similar protests at Fletcher AGMs in the 1980s.
From Foreign Control Watchdog 60 December 1988 p4.
The directors of Fletcher Challenge Limited obviously feel very sensitive about their connections with South Africa and Chile and about their treatment of Maori land in the Bay of Plenty and Indian land in Canada. In true democratic tradition two motions passed at the FCL annual meeting in Wellington in November were aimed at silencing the criticisms of the company's policies by small shareholders. (Remember CAFCA is now a capitalist organisation which owns 200 FCL shares).
To stand for a directorship of FCL now you will have to own 5000 shares. At today's prices that will cost you $24000. That move will rule out of contention 77% of the company's shareholders but more importantly for the company will, mean that ratbags such as Dick Cuthbert of Hart cannot stand for election. In addition, the chairman may adjourn a general meeting "without giving any reason therefore” if it becomes. "unruly or disruptive”.
We can only assume that the directors of Fletchers have been so impressed by the style of democracy that is practised in their favourite countries - Chile and South Africa that they have decided to implement similar strategies here. Incidentally, it was left to Bruce Wallace, ex-frontperson of Foreign Correspondent, to explain the reasons for the new rules in the”Christchurch Star” on November 2, 1988. Brucie said that the proposal giving the chairman power to adjourn the meeting as he saw fit was put forward because, in previous years "shareholders had not been able to enjoy the meetings as they should”. Of course the blacks of South Africa, the Chileans, Canadian Indians and Maori are having a ball."

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 28, 2017

TOP CAT on anti-union fat cat

Maybe I am a bit optimistic to think the social media kids of today who will know who Top Cat is, but he is strangely relevant......

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is the fall of the Palace an opportunity for Auckland's rail aspirations?

Last week we saw the sad sight of the 124 year old Palace Hotel fall to the ground, seemingly as some 'reconstruction' work was going on. Auckland lost another piece of its history - it is unfortunate the CBD has so few such pieces left.

Yet when I heard the news a thought suddenly struck me - the site could be a key part of Auckland's future. On Thursday the Transport Committee of the new Auckland Council will meet. (Hat tip Jarbury) One of the first items on their agenda will be considering the business case for the CBD rail tunnel from Britomart to Mt Eden.

The Palace Hotel site would be perfect spot for a SkyCity entrance/exit to the proposed Aotea/Midtown underground railway station. It would be approximately 80 to 100 metres from the Midtown platform to the street. Given the capacity of this station is expected to be greater than Britomart it would make sense to have a greater number of exits to spread the foot traffic.

Say when they rebuilt the site they included a small underground retail precinct with a large 'subway' type entrance on the corner facing SkyCity. This could be linked up by underground pedestrian subway when Midtown station opens, and the retail alongside immediately gets a massive foot traffic boost. I imagine being able to get a escalator up that big hill from Queen Street would be pretty popular for pedestrians as well as rail users.

If the business case for the CBD rail tunnel works out as well as is expected, there should be no need to involve the private sector in a so called public private partnership. These are nothing new - its worth remembering all the private sector railways in 19th century England that were all bailed out by the Government. Instead I wish the Council look back to the mojo of Henry George and Julius Vogel, and look to fund rail projects by ensuring the public recapture the 'unearned increment' of those holding the land. Why should private enterprise privatise the benefit of public investment merely because they live next door?

Keeping these issues in mind doesn't even have to be particularly radical. At the very least there should be a developer levy with the funds going towards the rail tunnel.

The council could also look at buying strategic sites around the proposed stations and develop these areas with provision for their transport plans. Another thought - could we have the pedestrian subways we will need for Midtown before we get the station? The construction activity will help the Auckland economy in the downturn, and the ability for the council to make the leases dependent on the needs of the transport development could potentially lower overall long term costs and improve outcomes. Plus the fact the council could gain some of the benefits of the expected increase in property values once the station is operational.

Riding on the Singapore MRT last year it dawned on me how much easier and cheaper it must be to design and build an excellent public transport system when the Government owns 58% of the land (most land in Singapore is leased). Hopefully with the new Auckland Council in place and a spacial plan in development, some of the tragic planning mistakes will be rectified and Auckland's transport problems will improve. A lot of this puzzle is rethinking how we are using the land.

I hope the Council look at buying the Palace Hotel site - its in a useful location. Before the collapse the owners of the Palace Hotel were looking to reopen the building as a brothel. To end on a cheeky note, there seems no reason why the ground and underground floor of the new building could not be an entrance to Midtown station. Brothels usually don't want or need a high profile street entrance! That said, it is not a kind of establishment I have ever frequented!!

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bye Bye Bloglines - sob

Sad to hear that Bloglines will be shutting down its servers, just over a week away, on 1 October 2010.

I've used Bloglines as my primary blog reader for some years. Sometimes a simple uncluttered interface can be so much easier to use than something that tries to do all the bells and whistles.

Unfortunately this blog, or at least the counter of subscribed readers is going to take a hit with bloglines shutting down. Around half of my subscribed readers (22), at least according to feedburner stats, use bloglines to read this blog.

So dear readers I would appreciate it muchly if you were able to transfer their subscriptions over to another blog reader. Thanks to a recommendation of a friend I am trying out Google reader. This link shows you how to download your subscriptions from Bloglines and upload them into Google reader, so you don't have to go entering all your blog subscriptions in again.

Another option is to subscribe by email. If all else fails put this into your blog reader.

Since Bloglines came along all those years ago, it is clear that blog readers have fundamentally changed the way people read blogs. While they certainly make it more convenient, I suspect they are one reason the smaller blogs do not get as many visitors as they used to, and don't attract as many comments. I am comparing the situation to when I first started blogging over six years ago now, and even saying that I feel old. Despite this I suspect the advent of blog readers has increased readership overall.

Another change, which I am not sure is for the better is that some blog readers have presented only the first few lines of a post as a teaser, rather than the entire post. Some blog owners have adopted this format so that readers are forced to click through from a blog reader to the site to read the entire post. In some cases this may be motivated by wanting to keep their visitor count up. Personally I find all these click throughs annoying - if I want to read something I want the entire post on screen thank you very much. Sometimes I don't bother reading blogs that force me to do a click through to read anything. Even Public Address!

It is also possible this 'teaser' culture has encouraged people writing on blogs to structure their posts more like news stories.

Be interested on peoples thoughts on these blog related ramblings. Also interested to hear what other blog readers people use, and how they find them.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Satire: Garrett to discuss identity theft with Israeli officials

Act MP David Garrett today confirmed he is to travel to Israel to meet with officials and security experts to discuss identity theft and passport fraud.

"Israel have many years of experience in forging passports from a wide range of countries. They represent international best practice."

"Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency has previously used identities of disabled people as part of security operations. I successfully obtained a false passport using the identity of a dead baby.
I look forward to learning from their experience" said Garrett.

Mr Garrett also noted that his Act party leader, Rodney Hide had taken a sympathetic attitude towards Israel after two Mossad agents were caught attempting to illegally obtain New Zealand passports in March 2004. After then Prime Minister Helen Clark criticised Israel for their actions, Hide said her anti-Israel sentiments were "an embarrassment". The Act party also defended the right of the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army to visit New Zealand, after a stay was placed on all high level visits pending satisfactory resolution of the passport affair.

Mr Garrett also looks forward to discussing the Day of the Jackal with real intelligence operatives. "I want to know if more of the techniques from the book can be used for real."

"This is great stuff. Its just like the Boys Annual I read when I was 26."

The discussions with Israeli officials will be held alongside a tour of Israel by New Zealand MPs, led by the Speaker the Hon Dr Lockwood Smith

Garrett also hopes to discuss his trip with former Defence Science Agency chief Stephen Wilce, who has claimed to be a former MI5 and MI6 intelligence officer.

"Right thinking people can be rest assured they will not expect undue scrutiny when they lie and in Stephen's case, embellish their CV to impress the Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service".

All quotes by David Garrett have been made up for the purposes of satire. He is scheduled to take part of a Speakers tour of Israel, however he is not meeting with Israeli officials to discuss passport fraud.

The attitude taken by the Act party in relation to the Israeli passport affair is based on true sources, including the quote from Hide.

In 2004 two reported Mossad agents, Eli Cara, 50 and Uriel Kelman, 31, were caught and jailed for trying to illegally obtain New Zealand passports. In June 2005 Israel made a reluctant apology to the New Zealand Government where they promised that "Israel commits itself to taking steps to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents in future."

Yet in January 2010 a senior Hamas official was murdered in Dubai, and it emerged that the death squad used forged passports from countries such as Britain, Germany, Ireland and Australia to enter the United Arab Emirates. Many of the real 'owners' of these passports turned out to have visited Israel or were living there with dual citizenship. Thanks to the Israeli operation innocent civilians now found themselves on Interpol arrest warrants for murder and other serious charges. In response both Britain and Australia expelled Israeli diplomats.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Could you table a punched card in parliament?

During Question Time in Parliament today, Green MP Sue Kedgley asked how the Government could possibly reduce alcohol related harm while it continues to allow the liquor industry to spend $73 million a year promoting alcohol. To support her question Kedgley sought to table a CD containing recent television advertisements for liquor.

The Speaker, Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith, promptly refused permission to table the CD, and became quite ratty with MPs who were having trouble understanding his ruling. He later clarified that he was using a very narrow definition of 'document', that being that a document is a piece of paper (Hat tip NRT)

"Mr SPEAKER: The Standing Orders provide for the tabling of documents, not for the tabling of CDs. If members want CDs tabled, they will need to change the Standing Orders.

When documents are tabled in the house, copies of each are put in every wooden in-tray in the parliamentary complex, unless you ask the messengers not to.

Last night on TV1 there was a documentary about the cruel people who keep big cats as pets, and the sad tales of owners killed and maimed when their big puddy cats suddenly revert to being wild animals, and surprise surprise, attack them. No doubt there would be some people who would like the idea that a lion could be tabled in parliament, with a live copy of the lion then appearing in every office in-tray. So it is is probably fair that documents to be tabled in parliament should be restricted to things that can be easily reproduced (hmm so can lions, but it takes a while).

But in the digital age there is no reason why 'documents' should be restricted to paper. A CD can be easily reproduced. It also should be relevant that a definition of 'document' that includes digital formats is already part of the law. Take the definition of document in the Official Information Act for example.

"document means a document in any form; and includes—
(a) any writing on any material:
(b) any information recorded or stored by means of any tape-recorder, computer, or other device; and any material subsequently derived from information so recorded or stored:
(c) any label, marking, or other writing that identifies or describes any thing of which it forms part, or to which it is attached by any means:
(d) any book, map, plan, graph, or drawing:
(e) any photograph, film, negative, tape, or other device in which 1 or more visual images are embodied so as to be capable (with or without the aid of some other equipment) of being reproduced

That got me thinking about how the speakers ruling today could be further tested. If one printed out one of the ads on the CD as a printout of binary code, would the Speaker have to accept it on the basis the document happened to be on paper? Ok, maybe it would be better to use hexadecimal to save trees.

Then I thought of a better test. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, before floppy discs or CDs were invented, computers relied on punched cards to input information. These were pieces of stiff paper that represented digital information by the presence or absence of holes in the paper at predefined positions.

This would be a good test of the Speaker's ruling as it is a document made of paper, but happens to represent information digitally.

If the Speaker said no to punched cards, I would then try a document written in braille, which essentially is a similar concept to a punched card. Now if the speaker refuses a document printed in braille, this could make it difficult for a blind person to be a member of parliament.

Am I attempting to trifle with the speaker? Yes, of course :)

Lockwood Smith is normally a good speaker, and deserves some credit for improving the quality of questions and answers at during Question Time. That said, the times I have listened to Parliament this week Lockwood has appeared grumpier than usual. I don't think Lockwood's ruling that a document must be on paper does his office any credit, and I think that is unfortunate. I hope the Speaker 'reflects' on his ruling once again.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Australian minnow socialist parties give the left the mandate to govern!

The Australian election over the weekend has dealt a hung parliament with neither Labor or Liberals (ie Tories) with a overall majority.

Straight away the Tories started screaming that because they won the most number of seats and the highest number of primary votes they should be the government. This is constitutionally a lot of bullshit and is based on some self serving mathematics.

Under a Westminster style parliament government formation is based on gaining a majority in the House of Representatives. If Tony Abbott cannot gain the support of 76 MPs in a house with 150 seats he cannot be Prime Minister. Projected results expected to give Tony Abbott one or two more seats than Labor. Yet if the centre-left can combine the support of the Greens and a few independents they will be able to form a legitimate government.

The inescapable fact is that no party won the election. While there was a 4.87% swing against Labour, the party led by Tony Abbott only gained 0.63%. Hardly a strong mandate to be Prime Minister. The Greens gained by far the largest positive swing of all the parties, gaining 3.63%. While the election of the first Green MP in the lower house is to be celebrated, the inescapable fact is that the Greens were robbed by an electoral system that is fundamentally broken. With 11.42% of the primary vote the Greens would have won 17 seats under proportional representation. It is a small consulation that the Greens hold the balance of power in the upper house (the Senate).

Back to Abbott's dodgy maths. Abbott is attempting to claim a mandate because the Liberals and the parties that normally support the Liberals gained more votes than Labor on its own. Of course its is fundamentally ridiculous in this situation to compare a coalition of parties on the right and not also add the Green vote to the centre left.

If we add the Labor total of 38.51% to the Greens 11.42% we get a figure stupidly short of a majority - 49.93%. Rather amusingly, it is the stupidly small Socialist parties that push the centre left over 50% and give the left the mandate on a first preference basis. These are the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Equity Party, on 0.07% and 0.09% respectively!

Hence my tongue in cheek title :)

The Labor party won the popular vote, on a two party preferred basis, with 50.67% of the vote, compared to the Liberal share of 49.33%.

Over on Red Alert, Chris Hipkins wonders about the public reaction in the situation where the government ends up being led by the smaller of the two major parties. This could happen in Australia as a result of this election, and is even more likely to occur in New Zealand given we have a proportional electoral system.

The public reaction will only be a problem if the born to rule screaming from the Tories is given the oxygen it does not deserve. What it represents is a demand for single party rule on the basis they failed to gain the support of a majority of the population, just as the Tories used to demand their right to rule under First Past the Post when over 60% of the population did not vote for them.

Despite it being constitutionally improper and fundamentally undemocratic Tory friendly commentators in Australia on Saturday night started the screaming - 'our party won the most seats'. They were just following the lead of the UK Conservatives who attempted the same swindle in the aftermath of a hung parliament in the UK earlier this year.

In the case where the smaller of the two main parties gains a majority in the house by forming a support arrangement/coalition with a minor party, in my view the left needs to welcome this as a result representative of the wishes of a larger number of voters.

I look forward to the day the National party in New Zealand is stranded on 55 seats, and Labour forms a government with say 49 MPs and support from the Greens and other parties providing 12 or so seats. Let the Tories scream away - it will be a day to celebrate as our proportional electoral culture matures once again, and the FFP mindset of the dinosaurs finally gives up for dust.

PS: Of course there is an argument that the policies of the Australian Labor party are essentially those of a centre-right party, and it is true that many Labor MPs would have more in common with the Liberals than they do with the Greens or the real social democratic left. A grand coalition of the major parties is not going to happen - the aim of my post was to highlight Abbott's dodgy maths and willful constitutional ignorance.

PPS: The percentages may change over the next few days!

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 06, 2010

Update on Hawkins and why a by-election would be good for Labour

In my last post I looked at how Labour leader Phil Goff was handling the fallout from Chris Carter's brain explosion, and the reaction of Labour MP George Hawkins to being mentioned in Carter's missive.

Carter claimed Hawkins was to face a challenge from within the party for the candidacy of Manurewa, the seat Hawkins has held since 1990. I said that Hawkins reaction demonstrated the same 'sense of entitlement' that Goff (justifiably) criticised Carter for in relation to large travel bills.

Hawkins has now announced an intention to stand for a local board in the October Auckland local body elections. He says he will withdraw his nomination for his parliamentary seat if he is elected, meaning that he will not stand at the next election. But if he is not elected to the local board he will stand for parliament again.

The least charitable interpretation of this would be to claim Hawkins is attempting to discourage a potential challenger to his seat, as nominations close on the 1 September. The most charitable interpretation was that standing down from parliament for the local board was always Hawkins intention, and Carter chose to put an uncharitable spin his intention for effect.

Yet in either case Hawkins still gives the impression of wanting to hang on for dear life, which looks like a sense of entitlement to me. I still hope the challenge happens.

The more I think about it, the more I think a by-election in a seat like Manurewa or Te Atatu would be entirely in Labour's interests. Take this for a scenario.

Hawkins resigns from his seat, and challenges Carter to do the same thing. Labour regain the initative, and Hawkins gains a graceful exit in the arms of a grateful party.

Explain to the public that while by-elections are expensive, at the end of the day democracy and the right of the people to have a say is worth more. This would tie in with a strong message about the lack of democracy in the Super City too. Highlight how National Maungakiekie MP Sam Lotu-liga oped to stay on the council after being elected an MP, and avoided a by-election for the political convenience of his CityRat mates.

At the beginning of the by-election campaign/s Labour annouce they will use every public meeting to tell people about the National party's attempts to bring back the Employment Contracts Act in drag, and every pamphlet delivered for the by-election will also be accompanied by a leaflet explaining the negative effects of the proposed employment law changes on 'every wage and salary earner'. Strong soundbites against '90 days' echo through news bulletins for three weeks.

Labour would be bound to win Manurewa with an ok candidate and Te Atatu with a strong candidate, which would help build momentum and exposure and make it more difficult for the Nats to control the news agenda. There is not likely to be any harm in the Greens running good candidates in either seat, for the same reasons.

So Chris Carter is going on two months 'sick leave'? Is this to waste just enough time so the 'election is too close for by-election' excuse can be trotted out? Please Chris, you may not care for Goff, but please resign from parliament immediately for the sake of the party you claim to care about. The public want you gone.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, August 02, 2010

Telling Carter to go while protecting Hawkins is a mistake

Overall Labour leader Phil Goff has handled the impact of his MP Chris Carter's brain explosion reasonably well. Carter's antics, which have included sending an unnamed gossip sheet to the parliamentary press gallery yet addressing the envelopes in his own handwriting, must go down in New Zealand political history as one of the most inept attempted coups ever. It has to take a vain individual to start an whisper campaign against his leader, when the said individual secretly wants everyone to know it was him all along.

Goff has made the best of a bad situation, using last week as an opportunity to demonstrate how he can be a decisive and strong leader. While Goff has done well overall, some weaknesses in Goff's public position have begun to emerge. The suggestions from senior MP Trevor Mallard and Goff that Carter is 'unwell' may be an honest attempt to explain the bizarre behavior of the later, however this may rebound on Labour if Carter and Government MPs accuse Labour of bullying. Better to state the facts of Carter's behaviour and let the public work that one out for themselves.

The second weakness is the apparent differing treatment of Carter and long time Labour MP George Hawkins during this affair. In his gossip sheet to the gallery Carter alleged unionist Jerome Mika was looking to challenge long time Hawkins for his Manurewa seat, and that Hawkins was threatening a byelection if the challenge went ahead. Significantly, Hawkins refused to deny this was the case when he was questioned about this by journalist Rebecca Wright.

Not only did Hawkins chose to comment on an issue that should have been immediately redirected to the press office of his leader, he did so in such a way that confirmed 'all sorts of rumours'. I am not saying that Hawkins conduct is on the same scale as Carter but the underlying issues at stake are similar.

Goff has criticised Carter for having a sense of entitlement. From the looks of things you could say exactly the same thing about Hawkins sense of entitlement to his seat. Hawkins said that it wouldn't be the first time someone with political ambitions has eyed his safe Manurewa electorate as an easy way of getting into Parliament. That goes for staying there too George.

While acknowledging the seat was subject to a party selection process, Goff sent a message of support to Hawkins by saying "I am confident that George is well supported by the people in his electorate and that he would be confident of being elected even if it was contested". At the same time Goff has called on Carter to resign his Te Atatu seat as he no longer represents the Labour party. The danger is that the Te Atatu electorate committee could also demonstrate support for their troubled MP, as they have now done so.

For these reasons, and some potential legal difficulties in expelling Carter from the party, its good to see some Labour figures backing of this threat for now. A plea bargain of sorts may emerge, perhaps along with a lighter punishment like suspension, where Carter promises not to publicly comment on the leadership of the party, not to travel or be involved in any way in the selection of a new candidate for Te Atatu. Carter has already said he will not stand at the next election. Better to state the facts of Carter's behaviour and let the public work that one out for themselves.

It would a great shame if Hawkins held on for another three years on the back of Carter's stupidity. When now Act MP Roger Douglas resigned his Labour seat in 1990 he anointed Hawkins has his successor, and Hawkins has been a member of the right wing faction in Labour ever since. After a single bumbling term as a minister between 1999 and 2002, Hawkins was quietly told to stand aside as a minister before others made the decision for him. Hawkins career isn't going anywhere, and Manurewa stands as one of the most obvious electorates where rejuvenation is required.

I have only briefly met Jerome Mika, so I don't feel I can comment on his suitability as a candidate. I have heard he is not lacking in ambition, and that he is such a natural at 'working a room' that he sometimes does this at work. Recognition among some of South Auckland's large industrial sites, along with support from Labour's Pacific networks could make some interesting numbers. He may not win the nomination, but Jerome would help send a message.

To my mind the worst thing for Labour would be the appearance of an attempt by head office to stop the challenge to Hawkins, as this would only give Carter's outbursts more credibility and highlight the differing treatment of Carter and Hawkins. Either Hawkins should face the challenge with a little more grace than he has demonstrated so far, or he should announce his intention to stand aside at the next election. The later would also allow alternative candidates to emerge - a more open contest can only increase the chances of Manurewa getting the kind of MP its healthy majority deserves.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Economics for Everyone - free seminar today

Heading along tonight to the second part of 'Economics for Everyone' a free presentation by Canadian union economist Jim Standford, hosted by the Fabian Society.

Last weeks session was so well attended, they had to move the talk into the larger downstairs room at the Trades Hall. Great to see so many people there, and Jim provided a jargon free introduction for those who feel they know little about economics. I also think its useful for people who may know a little more. I often find looking at a subject in a new framework allows for clearer thinking - in essence it makes you a better teacher, and Jim is a great teacher.

If you missed last week you can catch up with the audio podcast

The first seminar, 'Understanding the Logic of Capitalism', was be held last Tuesday.

The second, 'What Went Wrong? The Failure of Neo-liberalism, and the Alternatives', will be held today: 22nd June 5.30pm – 7.30pm, at the Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road. Auckland.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

TVNZ make a mockumentary of their own decline

So, for a 50th Anniversary of television broadcasting in New Zealand, TVNZ did a mock celebrity game show with heavily forced product placement.

It would be nice to think this was a spoof, but sadly TVNZ could not have done a better demonstration of what is wrong with our publicly owned broadcaster if they tried.

The programme could have been so much more - they had a treasure trove of New Zealand cultural history at their fingertips. A means to show how TVNZ has not only been a camera lens, but involved in New Zealand life itself. Dig out clips of those old programmes no one has seen for years, even if people don't know what it is they can still laugh at the haircuts.

It was like TVNZ went to Te Papa only to read the trashy magazines in the waiting area. They really sold themselves short.

The answer to this disaster may be in the demographics. The only ratings that matter are the eyes attached to the 18 to 35 year olds - the olds don't really count. Hopefully the ratings are senstive enough to pick up the large number of TVs that went off before the first half hour was up - mine certainly did.

TVNZ did use a few clips from old shows and news broadcasts, but they were so short one could have blinked and missed them. Perhaps the advertisers were worried the public might remember what real public broadcasting looked like....

Well might I just scrape into the 18 to 35 age bracket, yet I remember TVNZ when it was a real public broadcaster.
To make matters worse, Tumeke reports the Minister of Broadcasting Johnathan Coleman ordered TVNZ to deliver a new channel exclusively on the Sky pay TV platform, thereby undermining investment in TVNZ's own Freeview platform. "It is hardly conceivable that a more tragic and self-destructive present could be opened on such an anniversary. To use the Head of Digital's own assessment it will mean a "slow suicide" of the TVNZ digital channels (whose charter funding is set to run out in a few years). Great news for the SKY shareholders and another concocted reason to sell off the state broadcaster, so we can see why the National government did it."

Against the Current also suggests John Key's government is readying TVNZ for sale.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coalition of losers govern in United Kingdom

This is the headline the Conservatives and their apologists in the media would have screamed had the Liberal Democrats chosen to form a government with the Labour party, and left the Conservatives as the largest party and the opposition.

So on the grounds that no party actually won the election, the new Conservative Liberal Democrat government should also be called a coalition of losers. Of course its asking too much of the fans of the Tories to expect consistency. While I loath the Blairite Press Secretary Alistair Campbell, he succeeded in uncovering the clear pro Tory bias of the Murdoch controled Sky News and their political commentator Adam Boulton. Stunning.

I don't actually believe the headline in this post. Constitutionally speaking it is simply irrelevant that the Conservatives happened to win the largest share of the vote (36%). All that it is required is for a government to demonstrate it holds a majority in Parliament. Over 70% of Britain did not vote for the Conservatives. A rainbow coalition/support arrangement that comprised of Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties would have been just as legitimate as the Lib Con government that has just been formed, and in fact would have been more representative of a greater number of UK voters.

So why didn't the UK get a more progressive government?

The alternative so called 'rainbow' government was undermined by a number of factors. A significant faction of the Labour party, just like the born to rule Tories they really are, demonstrated an unwillingness to share power when they foolishly publicly dismissed an offer by the Scottish National Party to support an alternative government. Labour chastised the SNP for wishing to appear relevant, precisely because that is exactly what the SNP were - as vital to an alternative government as Labour. It is likely members of this faction, such as the loathsome David Blunkett, wished to drown an alternative government because there was too much danger of real electoral reform being the result. Some may have feared greater devolution of powers to the Scots and Welsh assemblies, even independence, but the result of this election is likely to increase pressure for this anyway - politically speaking the Kingdom is anything but United.

Another fear was that the SNP, the Welsh Nationalist party would demand some protection from the savage cuts to public spending as a price for their support. Actually this would have been a very democratic result. The Tories have no mandate outside Avalon - in Scotland they won a single seat and 16.7% of the vote, while in Wales the Conservatives won 8 seats out of 40 and 26% of the vote. In Northern Ireland they and their new partners won absolutely nothing. A coalition of losers indeed. It was England that voted for the Tories. So while the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish may have felt for the greater cuts imposed on the English, they would have had a simple reply - you got the policies you voted for.

I believe Nick Clegg chose to form a government with the Tories in the final week of the election campaign, perhaps even before. I discussed some of the rationale for this in my previous post. Nothing else seems to explain his pronouncement in the final week that he would first try and form a government with the largest party. He would have known then this was likely to be the Tories. Just as I predicted, this move cost the Lib Dems significant numbers of seats as voters ran back to the major parties. I believe in doing this Clegg had another purpose - he was preparing his party to back the Conservatives over Labour.

It is also apparent that the Lib Dems are closer to the Tories in terms of their approach to dealing with the deficit. Yet a programme of savage cuts to public spending threatens to deepen the recession - Herbet Hoover made a similar mistake in the United States in the 1930s, and despite this neoliberals across the world are demanding the same mistakes be made all over again.

In a touch of irony, apparently Cameron made his first speech as Prime Minister as a rainbow could be seen across the sky of London. Now how powerful would that have been if Britain had been welcoming a rainbow coalition instead?

Labels: , , ,