Friday, June 30, 2006

NZers support Australia in moment of defeat...

Cow abduction

Cattle-terrorism, cows disguised as deer, cows disguised as grass.

It won't help; 89,000 cows abducted and counting...

Hat tip: browncardigan

Economic experts say Workchoices bad for productivity

BIS Shrapnel have released their latest Economic Outlook noting that labour and skill shortages will severely constrain Australia's economic growth in coming years. The June 06 report (the media release is public, the report is for subscribers only) argues there is an urgent need for policies that improve labour productivity and increase the pool of skilled labour, however it states:
"the Federal Government’s latest WorkChoices legislation will do little to improve either and is deflecting the debate away from how to grow the pie bigger, to how best to cut it up."
Interestingly, since the election of the Howard government in 1996, real public and private funding for vocational education and training has declined 18% per student (compared with a 25% increase for private secondary students) according to research (presentation only) by the Monash University Centre for the Economics of Education and Training.

Tana to Toulon

According to planet-rugby and the Sydney Morning Herald, Tana's signed with French second division side Toulon.

According to Tana's agent, Rob Brady, the deal's not yet done.

So what about the NZ Herald? They've got this story both ways; the headline says it's done but the story says it's yet to be confirmed.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

25% of AWAs being investigated for breaches of minimum standards

The AFR reports (not online) that the employment regulator is investigating almost a quarter of new Australian Workplace Agreements for breaches of the pay and condition minimum standards:
  • 14% of AWAs have been found to underpay workers
  • 11% have breached leave standards.

The Office of the Employment Advocate urges some caution with these figures however as the sample is small. That said, it's a troubling start.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dust: won't cause asthma, has no calories

According to the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, you no longer need to obsessively vacume your house to avoid asthma. Their research, which followed 600 kids with high risk family histories, suggests that "avoiding house dust mite allergens from birth does not prevent the onset of asthma, eczema or atopy in high-risk children." Marjorie will be pleased.

Swannies win the flag in 2016...

My mate Dan Field-Read has just been selected in the Sydney South Pigeons which is a team selected as part of the NSW AFL talent development strategy. A star in the making, Dan's a modest chap who captains the Newtown Swans U13s (when he's not otherwise busy caring for my daughter). Paul Roos will be pleased.

Policy buzzwords: Innovation

For a number of years I've been working on various policies and projects that are directly or indirectly focused on innovation and productivity. Yesterday I went to a conference where two Australian academics with extensive international experience, Roy Green and Jonathan West, spoke. Here's a few key points that I took from their presentations:
  • Innovation is not concentrated in any one specific industry but is concentrated within only a handful of firms within any one industry
  • Major impediment to innovation is the management of risk, therefore only large companies or major financial institutions are able to pay for innovation (and generally capture the benefits of it, compared with those that actually have the ideas)
  • Because of this, Ireland have systematically developed domestic investment capability/instruments to offset the risk of a major decline in foreign direct investment funds e.g. Enterprise Ireland
  • Australia has the fourth largest private investment funds but less than 1% is invested in technology stocks - primarily because the large super funds prefer blue chip stocks over riskier investments
  • In manufacturing, companies that have low staff turnover tend to be the most innovative - Japanese companies particularly exhibit this characteristic and, against global trends, have increasingly stable workforces (note that the Australian workforce is one of the most casualised according to most commentators)
  • Innovation has not created thousands and thousands of jobs, it's probably deleted them, a classic case study is the impact of online banking on employment in the banking sector

Food for thought. Papers from the conference will be online here.

Updating the threads

I was at a conference yesterday, which I might try to blog on as it was surprisingly good, and so didn't get a chance to update a few threads.

Chloe of Wainui and Lynn of Tawa are the preferred alternative leaders of the National Party, having won 47% of the votes to defeat Key and any of his potential running mates.

  • Any suggestions on their major policies and/or points of difference with the current administration?
  • I imagine Chloe will not be wearing Trelise Cooper!

I picked Ruben Thorne's recall right but I'd selected Tuitupo and not the third halfback, Cowan. I also picked a second specialist number 8, Tuiali'i, as well as Kaino but instead the selectors have gone with a third hooker, Hore (who was in my squad but ahead of Oliver) and a fourth lock.

Alkatiri did go - Gusmao's brinkmanship succeeded. This morning on 702 they're reporting that Gusmao will call another election if he can't find, and have the Parliament confirm, another Prime Minister. Here is a link to ABC's Kerry O'Brien interviewing Horta about the situation.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

All this heat and light signifying nothing...

I don't recall the precise quote, however my big brother did this and I've always thought it was fantastic....Can you hear us

Monday, June 26, 2006

Alkatiri reported to be resigning

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Timor-Leste Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, is about to resign. This follows significant speculation as who would ultimately win the very public showdown between President Gusmao and Foreign Minister Horta, on the one hand, and Alkatiri on the other.

For excellent background information and an overview of the constitutional issues, check out Club Troppo's piece from last Friday.

All Blacks tri-nations squad

Former All Blacks Sean Fitzpatrick and Richard Loe have picked their squad for the tri-nations but what about the armchair experts?

backin15 ABs

Backs: Muliana, MacDonald, Hamilton, Gear, Rocokoko, Howlett,
Toeava, Tuitupo, Nonu, Mauger, Carter, McAlister, Weepu, Kelleher

Fowards: Tuiali'i, So'ioalo, Collins, Kaino, Thorn, McCaw, Masoe, Jack, Williams, Eaton, Hayman, Somerville, Tialata, Woodcock, Mealamu, and Hore.

The only surprises here will be the inclusion of Rueben Thorn over Flavell and Andrew Hore over Oliver. Oliver I thought had a pretty poor game against the Pumas losing his first two or three throws.

Key can't count...

Grabthar's Hammer points out a major stumbling block to John Key's ascendency to the Treasurer's job; he can't count. Key claims that Kiwis are moving to Australia in record numbers when in fact the numbers have been dropping since January this year:

"the number of departures has dropped 36 percent and the net-departures have dropped 33 percent"
Oppositions always use scandal, rumour and wild speculation to make political points but they must at least get the numbers right!

Elsewhere, there's a discussion about whether Key also mis-stated the difference in incomes in Australia and New Zealand.

Hat tip: Haydn at Grabthar's Hammer and No Right Turn.

Two teams, three close results...

I still think Graham Henry's got it right and NZ needs to have two full teams both capable of playing in next year's Rugby World Cup but I am a little nervous based on the last three weeks results. Henry has said as much himself. In no one game, did the All Blacks dominate and in a fortnight, they're up against the Wallabies who looked pretty good against Ireland.

National leadership poll: who and when?

National leadership poll: who and when?
Key/English in October '06
Key/English before end of '06
Key/English by July '07
Key/Rich anytime
Chloe from Wainui and Lynn of Tawa
Free polls from

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ten reasons 1970 was a bad year for music

Each to their own of course, but had I been able to write a list of musical misadventures, I'd have started with:

  1. Hendrix died of a drug overdose
  2. not to be outdone, so to did Jopin
  3. The Beatles officially split up
  4. that git Beck was born
  5. as was Mariah Carey
  6. Michael Jackson's vocabulary peaked with ABC
  7. David Cassidy obscurely sang I think I Love You with the Partridges
  8. The Carpenters got Close to You
  9. James Taylor got a start, and is apparently still touring, with Fire and Rain
  10. and Robert Altman declared that Suicide is Painless

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Birthday tomorrow

It's my 36th birthday tomorrow. There's five things that I'd like:

  1. Dinner with my wife
  2. A hug and kiss from my baby
  3. The day off
  4. To watch Australia to beat Croatia at the pub
  5. To finish my book.
Not too much to ask... better than dying aged 36 as did Doc Holliday, Bob Marley, and Princess Diana.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

National's Cub Scout Shadow Ministry

It has long bothered me that the pretender to the office of Prime Minister has neither been a Minister nor a member of a government. He's in fact the first leader to be unable to win his own seat. Sure he was the Central Banker, but the two roles don't compare - Helen's not pimping to take the role of Govenor of the Reserve Bank so why trust Don with the keys to the ninth floor? Likewise Key is light on experience to be asking to be the Minister of Finance. The simple fact is that being a Minister is not like being a banker or a sharetrader. These are both complex roles, sure, but they're not the best preparation for senior government office.

Looking across National's front bench, they're incredibly light on parliamentary experience. From my quick review, only English, Ryall and Carter have been in government. Brash, Brownlee, Key, Power, Collins and Rich all joined after National moved to the left of the Speaker.

Good old David Farrar, irons in too many fires me-thinks, claims that in 1999 Labour was light on experience but he's quite wrong. Aside from Clark and Cullen, Goff, Sutton and King had all been Ministers and Mallard had been Chief Whip.

35 year old dies on the Kokoda Trail

The SMH reports that a 35 year old man died on the Kokoda Trail last week. The Victorian had been in training for four months. Terrible news for his family.

As I'm shortly to celebrate my 36th birthday and was thinking about taking on the Kokoda Trail with a friend in 2007, I might rethink...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Human rights in Singapore

In 1996 I worked on Alick Shaw's campaign for Wellington Central during which David Lange spoke at a fundraising dinner. I was reminded of this because of comments by various bloggers, No Right Turn and David Farrar particularly, about Helen Clark's recent meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. At the fundraiser, Lange told a story about one of his first meetings with the then Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. Lange had been advised by his officials that he should raise New Zealand's concerns with Singapore's tendency to imprison people without trial. Lange agreed and raised the matter only to be told that "it was so much less controversial than executing them". Progress of sorts?

I can't help but note that some of the less sensible commentators on Farrar's blog regularly refer to Singapore's economy as an example for New Zealand to follow but seem conveniently ignorant
of the poor state of human rights.

Four Corners on Timor Leste

Four Corners story on the near collapse of Timor Leste last night, Monday 19 June, was one of the best pieces of investigative journalism I've seen in years.

At the heart of this story is a dispute between Prime Minister Alkatiri and the President Gusmao. Gusmao clearly wants to sack Alkatiri for his failure to curb growing civil unrest but is constitutionally restrained from doing so without first going to parliament, a parliament controlled by Alkatiri. However, Jackson alleges that Alkatiri has been "stoking the fires" by arming civilians and inciting them to violence. If these allegations are proven, Gusmao will be able to act.

Jackson was able to interview all the main players, including Alkatiri, Gusmao, and Foriegn Minister Horta. She also tracked down eye witnesses who claim to have documentary evidence that Alkatiri provided civilians with weapons - this frequently meant trekking into the mountains surrounding Dili.

The full transcript of the show is online and it will be repeated this Wednesday evening at 11.35pm (and also on ABC2 on Wednesday at 7pm and 9.30pm). ABC and Jackson must be odds on for a Walkley for this piece.

Monday, June 19, 2006

All Blacks beat Ireland, Wallabies flog England

The All Blacks have beaten the Irish two-nil to maintain their record of 19 wins and one draw (10 all in 1973). The Irish played very well albeit in conditions that made it difficult for the All Blacks to play their expansive game (they tried anyway). The Irish now take on the Australians in Perth. This should be a close game.

I thought Casey Laulala played pretty well and although the Haka website is critical of him, I prefer Wayne Smith's comments. Smith said Laulala made all his tackles and three line breaks. It's a pity that the Haka site aren't posting Tracey Nelson's analysis, a detailed breakdown would be useful. I still have my doubts about Flavell. Though his high tackle on O'Driscoll was neither malicious nor particularly serious, it still cost points. I don't remember the last time Rueben Thorn conceded a penalty?

England's second straight loss to the Australians doesn't signal their demise nor any Australian resurgency. Both teams are rebuilding after the last World Cup. New coach Connelly will however be pleased that his selection experiements did not backfire.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I've just discovered a blog about Wellington, Wellingtonsta. A fine town, still my spiritual home, particularly when the weather's good (which sadly isn't all that often). Nevertheless, there's more to a place than its barometric reading! Great coffee (Masi), great bookshops (Unity), record shops (Slow Boat) and the ever present prospect of getting into a drunken argument with Winston Peters...

Included are some shots of Wellington including an old photo from the Millard Stand at Athletic Park... anyone remember the last test match played there, NZ beat Australia 43 - 6, in atrocious conditions (not including fog however).

Saturday, June 10, 2006

National's volatile leadership

David Farrar's sadly muted company of malcontents are debating the prospect of changes to Labour's leadership team. This little head-fake is designed to divert attention from the mounting pressure on Brash and Brownlee.

The simple point is that Labour has had strong and very stable leadership since 1993. Firstly Helen Clark and David Caygill, and then Helen and Michael Cullen. Over this same period, National have had 4 leaders (Bolger, Shipley, English and Brash) and even more deputies (McKinnon, Creech, Sowry, Brash himself, Nick Smith and now Brownlee).

When Brash and Brownlee are replaced, as they must surely be for National to be even vaguely competitive in 2008, whomever replaces them will be the fifth and eighth leader and deputy respectively.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Offer me suggestions, offer me alternatives

and I decline...

Goddam Youtube sucked up another evening of work.

1. Coolest REM song is It's the end of the world as we know it
2. No alarms and no surprises is a weird video (Karma Police looks like David Lynch directed it)
3. Noel's ok, Liam's not, and despite all their bullshit, Oasis recorded some great songs like Live Forever
4. Yeah, so I like Coldplay (paricularly in never never land with my chosen family)
5. Shihad are the Duane Monkley of rock.

And the Andrew Brough/Fits track, Down in Splendor, is on the Love My Way soundtrack - I was surprised!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mark Latham is not a criminal

Mark Latham's very public demise has at least avoided a criminal conviction. Earlier this year he got into trouble when he took exception to a photographer taking pictures of him with his kids. This is fair enough, but Latham actually wrestled the camera from the News Corp journo, took it home and smashed it.

Today the courts put him on a good behaviour bond for two years rather than finding him guilty of malicious damage. The SMH reports that the judge in the case describe Latham's actions as:
"...way out of line. He has certainly overstepped the mark in relation to the

Latham is a tragic character and he's lucky to have avoided the criminal conviction. That said, I think the judge has clearly determined that the journalist's actions were provocative in handing down this sentence.

NSW in deficit

While the federal government enjoys the spoils of an ever increasing surplus, NSW is now officially headed for a $696M deficit. Treasurer Costa has decribed the situation as one off, I'll leave it to others as to what this might mean...

Two blokes on the rise

As I drove the 3 kilometres home from central Sydney tonight I caught a lengthy discussion (did someone say traffic jam) between Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, and someone else (who runs Harris Farm Markets) on 702. Both Turnbull and Shorten were clear, concise, and articulate. Both put their points strongly but without invective or malice.

Turnbull, federal Liberal member Wentworth, for did a great job of simultaneously slagging Bob Carr and NSW and advocating greater investment in public transport. Turnbull neatly avoided criticising public/private partnerships but still made it clear he saw the cross city tunnel as a disaster.

Shorten, AWU national secretary, likewise was strong on public transport and infrastructure generally, but was at his best on IR. In what was close to the ideal radio grab he detailed the findings of a recent study that found almost 100 percent of respondents had lost conditions since the workchoices reforms were enacted. In response to the hosts challenge that the same study found that workers also report wage increases, Shorten noted that the research showed that for many this increase was only a few cents... (I'll track down the report).

These two blokes appear well placed for future leadership roles within their respective parties . Both would be a hell of a lot better than the incumbents.

More on the Snowy

As I familiarise myself with the Australian blogosphere, I've come across two blogs which also discuss Howard's move to stop the sale of the Snowy.

Polemica notes that Howard's put Iemma and Beazley in the odd position of being pro-privatisation while he heroically stands in their way.
"A conservative government, rabidly pro-privatisation, has pulled the plug on the sale, leaving Iemma and Beazley - notionally but not necessarily anti-privatisation - out to dry in the middle of the political desert."
Likewise Larvatus Prodeo quotes Howard in full rhetorical jingoistic fervour.
"I have listened to that, and it is important that on occasions a government have both the courage and the willingness to change its mind on something."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Political leverage

The Commonwealth exerts enormous influence over the States with a relatively limited effort. Take the latest phoney war over the sale of the Snowy Hydro scheme (jointly owned by NSW, Victoria and the Commonwealth). The PM was supportive of privatisation although he expected strong public opposition but then he had a change of heart. Something about it being an "icon". This led to the NSW Premier, the majority shareholder, saying the deal can't proceed.

Iemma will be disappointed by Howard's backflip for a number of reasons. Firstly, Howard beat him to it and secondly, NSW need the cash.

In the lead up to the NSW state elections next year, expect to see more of this (in health and education particularly). Howard has probably only delayed the sale, but the delay will further expose the new NSW Premier and give the NSW Liberals a better chance of winning in 2007. This is a clever tactic and an effective application of George Kennan's containment doctrine.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Shane Warne's love child

Australian cricket has a well deserved reputation for knowing how to make a buck. I suspect Steve Waugh is not happy about their latest effort however. Shamelessly trading on his reputation as a family man and all round good bloke, he was Australian of the Year in 2004, Cricket Australia are selling a lifelike baby dressed in Australian garb called "Little Steve". He can be yours for a lazy $250 AUD.

I guess calling him little Shane wasn't an option?

The (nuclear) power and the passion

John Howard's set to announce an inquiry into whether or not Australia should build nuclear power plants. The issue is controversial, unsurprisingly, and today, 4 June, the papers are carrying stories about an old Cabinet paper that identified 14 potential sites where the plants could be located.
This is interesting for all sorts of reasons but the one aspect that really appeals to me is the prospect of Peter Garrett playing a strong role in presenting Labor's position.

Garrett's been a little quiet since entering parliament only a year or so ago, but this is precisely the sort of issue to leverage his profile. He's been on ABC radio once or twice since this story first broke but both more senior members, particularly Jenny Macklin and Anthony Albanese may pull rank.

He did make these comments a few weeks ago however:
"...this government has been delinquent and negligent in its ability to actually address climate change. There was nothing virtually in the Budget to deal with it. We were a blocker of Kyoto. We have not supported our renewables and our alternatives in anything like the kind of way we should. We are seeing about a half billion dollars of investment halted in wind. We are seeing the fact that nukes won’t really satisfy the problems of meeting reduction in greenhouse emissions and yet the Prime Minister is prepared to fly the kite."
A full transcript is here.

Gillard's unparliamentary language

Julia Gilliard, federal Labor's spokesperson on Health, got kicked out of parliament last week for calling the Minister of Health, Tony Abbott, a "snivelling grub". Odd thing was that a week earlier Abbott himself had referred to a Labor member as a snivelling grub and despite the protests from Labor, no action was taken against him.

The difference in the treatment of the two parliamentarians has little to do with their respective parties but is down to the views of different Speakers. The first was under the Deputy Speaker, Peter Lindsay, whereas the second was under the Speaker himself, David Hawker.

You can hear both comments as well as the Speakers final comment on the matter thanks to the ABC.

Wallabies (probably) won't win William Webb Ellis

There's a story in today's, 4 June, Sun Herald (not online however) about Stephen Larkham being the essential player in the Wallabies RWC campaign. This is one of the reasons I can't see them winning in 2007. Larkham is a brilliant player, easily one of the best first five-eighths in the world, however he is injury prone and the Wallabies don't have adequate cover.
  • Mat Rogers is not playing enough rugby in the number 10 jersey
  • neither is Giteau
  • Sam Norton-Knight is a good player but can't command a starting spot in the Waratahs.
Contrast this situation with the All Blacks who will be able to call on Carter, Luke McAlister and Nick Evans, all of whom are first choice five eighth for the respective teams and all of whom have been and will be playing in position in the lead up to the competition.