Dec 31, 2007

Pacific Watch: Venezuela In The Pacific

We reported a few weeks ago on Professor Jane Kelsey's positive attitude to the rising Cuban and Venezuelan influence in the Pacific. A very similar attitude seems to be adopted by leftist groups in Australia. This article is a few weeks old but gives the flavour of this viewpoint. The same website carries an interview with Venezuela’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania, Vladimir Villegas.

The team here at The Hive are less positive about this new influence in the Pacific than Professor Kelsey and Green Left in Australia. We will continue to monitor developments closely.

Will The Start Of The New Year Be A Good One For Edwards?

Latest polls (those taken after Christmas) are suggesting that the momentum in Iowa might be with John Edwards. One poll has him just ahead of Clinton. Is Clinton worried? Not that much, this analysis explains why.....

We continue to believe that the dreadful developments in Pakistan will help Clinton. This factor did not influence the Mason-Dixon poll.

Obama's campaign will be seriously wounded if, as the cited article suggests, he comes third in both Iowa and new Hampshire.

Phoenix Stun The Jets

Well done Phoenix. Read all about it.....

New Year Honours

The New Year Honours are out.

It was good to see that Giff Davidson was given such a big honour. Giff has worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of New Zealand and business. And he has done a wonderful job in helping foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners settle in to New Zealand. Very well deserved.

It was also good to see Margaret Shields recognised. The Hive still feels upset at the way Ian Buchanan staged his coup three years ago to unseat her as Chair of the Regional Council. It is for this reason that The Hive team had no sympathy when Buchanan was at the receiving end of similar treatment from Fran Wilde this year.

And good on Ken Stevens. You were given a hospital pass with Export Year, but you did the best to turn things around on behalf of the wider business community. We like to think that you have rewarded for this as opposed for the $20,000 you donated through Glidepath to Labour in 2005.

We were also delighted to see Gary Hawke recognised. Our only complaint about your work in recent years is that you allowed Jonathan Boston to move from academic to Government apologist/evangelist on climate change.

The NZ Herald is critical of the award for Owen Glenn. We have no issue beyond his poor choice of party and University to bankroll. We need more people like Owen supporting key education institutions.

Dec 30, 2007

Pacific Watch: Will New Leaders In Nauru and Solomon Islands Stay Allied To Taiwan?

Taiwan is certainly pulling out all the stops to keep their support. Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bien has phoned both new leaders to congratulate them on their victories and to assure them "that his administration would continue various cooperative projects with the countries" - ie the cheques will keep coming.

According to another report in Pacific Magazine Chen got the answer he was wanting from the Solomon Islands "Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua told President Chen on the phone yesterday afternoon that his Government’s “Look North Policy” would seek to further strengthen relations with Taiwan. He also reassured President Chen of his Government’s support and commitment to continue the fight for Taiwan’s recognition in international organizations such as UN, WHO and so forth."

Ahead of the phone call with Nauru's new leader, Radio New Zealand International reported "The newly appointed president of Nauru, Marcus Stephen, has reaffirmed his government’s support for Taiwan, ...He says Nauru will continue to be a strong advocate for Taiwan and will vote in support of Taiwan’s cause. Mr Stephen also urged other Pacific countries to either reinforce their support for Taiwan, or to open up a greater dialogue with that country to further cement regional unity"

Will Support For The Small Parties Rise In The Run Up To The NZ Election?

David Farrar in Kiwiblog analyses some of the comments made by Matt McCarten in today's Herald on Sunday. We agree particularly with Farrar on his comments on McCarten's assertion that "Third parties always rise at the expense of the big ones during the campaign proper." For as start this is not always the case, as has been proved in previous elections. The 2008 election is also a different to recent elections. We have a Government falling apart before our eyes - people want stable Government, and to ensure this, there is going to be a strong urge to put the support for a small party to one side and vote for the party (in this case National) that offers that stability. We don't rule out small parties taking votes from Labour as Labour disintegrates the longer Helen tries to keep the top job, but National will remain strong up until polling day.

It is interesting to us at The Hive how commentators from the left like to talk up Winston Peters' chances of pulling the rabbit out of the hat and getting back into Parliament. We believe that the only way this is going to happen in 2008 is if Winston creates a major rift with Labour. This will probably mean bringing the Government down early (not something that the leftist writers are really wanting). This would serve the dual purposes of increasing publicity and rehabilitating Winston in the eyes of the key players in National, none of whom trust Winston, and none off whom appreciate the lap dog role is he playing for Labour. Winston knows that with support from Maori, ACT and the United, National possibly won't need Winston's support.

The Bhutto Effect On The Primary Race

Patrick Healy has another political memo in the New York Times today. He focusses on the impact that the Bhutto murder has had on the way various candidates are deporting themselves. "The Bhutto assassination is one of those rare things in a presidential race — an unscripted, unexpected moment that lays bare a candidate’s leadership qualities and geopolitical smarts."

The Hive's view is that the assassination and subsequent chaos in Pakistan will be a significant boost for both Clinton and McCain.

How Do The Iowa Caucuses Work?

There is a good primer in the Wall Street Journal.

The Race For The Republican Nomination

AP is today carrying a useful summary of all the contests for the Republican nomination, not just Iowa and New Hampshire.

The article begins: "The Republican presidential race has gone from merely unpredictable to chaotic. As the first votes are cast Thursday, contests are tight in many states. Most GOP candidates have seen their fortunes shift in the homestretch. No one has a clear path to the nomination."

What Our Readers Say

Postive comment is much appreciated. We therefore enjoyed finding the following comment on sagenz:

"A blog I only recently discovered and already much admire, The Hive has an excellent post on realistic commercial solutions for New Zealand energy needs. It is a position I have long believed in. Use sustainable sources to generate and store hydrogen and then use that stored energy when you need it. This gets around the fundamental problem that sustainable energy sources generally have, which is that the time of generation is not the same as the time or requirement and traditional storage methods are not commercially viable. "

Fran On The Big Economic Questions For 2008

We thought her column in the NZ Herald yesterday was the last for 2008, so it was a bonus to find more views from Fran O'Sullivan in The Herald on Sunday. Fran predicts turbulent waters ahead for the economy in 2008 and looks into the big questions. What will the inflationary impact of a price of carbon be and how will the Reserve Bank react to this? Will the world wake up to New Zealand's dire current account deficit problem? Will the New Zealand dollar return to a level more supported by the fundamentals? And will New Zealand and Australia do the sensible thing and collaborate on the policy response to climate change? Fran suggests collaboration on a safety valve as a good starting point.

We were particularly pleased to see the tribute paid by Fran to the great work being done by Catherine Beard on climate change. Catherine has been subject to major criticism by a range of groups but has soldiered on and keeps producing work of the highest standard. We wish the media took more account of what Catherine is saying.

Dec 29, 2007

Taiwan Watch: Ma Not Guilty; Japan Opposes Referendum

Given that tension between China and Taiwan is likely to rise in 2008 with the referendum on Taiwan's UN membership and a Presidential election both scheduled, and as the coverage in the New Zealand media on these issues is so poor we thought that we would start a regular watch for our readers on developments.

There are two interesting developments to report today. KMT Presidential hopeful, Ma Ying-jeou was yesterday found not guilty on corruption charges by the High Court. Prosecutors are, however, considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. Ma's former secretary Yu Wen, a co-defendant in the trial, was sentenced to one year in jail for using fraudulent receipts to claim reimbursements from Ma's special allowance fund.

There are rumours that the Government has more corruption dirt on Ma - so watch this space. This is important as Ma is the candidate that Beijing wants to win the Presidential election. Tensions have a better chance of easing if Ma is President.

In another development Japan's PM told China's Premier yesterday that Tokyo opposes Taiwan's planned referendum on UN membership. We quote from the Taipei Times:
"We don't want a situation in which Taiwan's referendum leads to tensions between [the two sides]," said Fukuda, who is in China for a four-day visit.
China has been angered by the Democratic Progressive Party's insistence on holding a referendum alongside the presidential election next year on whether to seek UN membership using the name "Taiwan."
Many countries, including the US, have opposed the referendum, saying it could be seen as a step to declaring full independence.

Why is this important? A formal declaration of independence by Taiwan could draw a military response from China. This could then draw the US, Japan, Australia and others into a conflict.

The referendum is a cunning ploy by the DPP Government to raise tensions and anti-China sentiment in the run up to the Presidential election, and boost support for the DPP.

China is on best behavior in the run up to the referendum as it is beginning to understand Taiwanese democracy better. We hear rumours that some countries that currently recognise Taiwan have been persuaded to defect to China, but China has asked that no announcements be made until after the referendum. The loss of "diplomatic allies" causes real indignation for the average Taiwanese voter. Taiwan has several "allies" in the Pacific, and would like to both keep them and add to the list.........

Iowa and New Hampshire Races Remain Tight

The 34 page opinion poll analysis published yesterday by the LA Times and Bloomberg is worth a read. It shows a very tight race in both states.

The Bhutto killing may also have an interesting impact. The "poll findings suggest Clinton might gain stature in both states if Democrats' concern about world affairs increases after Thursday's assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The poll shows that Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire consider Clinton far better equipped than her rivals to safeguard national security -- as do Democrats around the country.Such a shift in focus away from domestic policy also could affect the Republican presidential contest and benefit Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose campaign has rebounded in New Hampshire. He's second behind Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.The poll found that Republicans in New Hampshire and Iowa consider McCain best qualified to handle foreign affairs"

Pakistan Watch: Benazir Bhutto Obituary and What Her Death Means For Musharraf and for US Policy

You might like to read the obituary in today's New York Times.

The same paper carries an analysis about what Bhuto's murder means for President Musharraf' position. Our own view is that unrest and anti-Government protest, particularly over the next few days is inevitable, and Musharraf's actions won't be able influence this much.

And there is a good news analysis of what this means for US policy. "The assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday left in ruins the delicate diplomatic effort the Bush administration had pursued in the past year to reconcile Pakistan’s deeply divided political factions. Now it is scrambling to sort through ever more limited options, as American influence on Pakistan’s internal affairs continues to decline."

Kiwi Conservation Makes Page 4 In Today's New York Times

There is an interesting article on Operation Nest Egg and other efforts to save the Kiwi in today's New York Times.

The Beauty Of The Market Economy

Ernst and Young Managing Partner Rob McLeod has published a good opinion piece in today's NZ Herald. We are sure that Rob won't mind if we quote extensively.

"simply giving money to individuals or countries, whether it be by individuals or governments, does not address the causes of poverty."

"governments cannot create wealth; they can only take it through taxation and redistribute it. There is ample evidence that redistribution can do harm as well as good, through creating welfarist attitudes and because it often breeds corruption."

"redistribution efforts pale into insignificance compared to the most powerful tool for lifting people out of poverty and misery: the market economy. Take Bill Gates, for example. What he has achieved as a software entrepreneur has done more to transform and enrich the lives of millions than his philanthropy."

"Consider the power of wealth creation compared to wealth redistribution in a New Zealand context - Treaty of Waitangi settlements. While important as a matter of justice, their economic significance has been exaggerated.

For example, there are about 633,000 Maori, and treaty settlements to date total around $743 million. This represents a one-off sum of almost $1200 per Maori which, at an after-tax rate of 4 per cent, represents an annual income of just $48 per recipient. The message is clear: governments, let alone treaty settlements, cannot be a source of material wealth for Maori."

"Maori have to generate wealth by participating in the market. A Maori school-leaver who starts work at 16 on $12 an hour, plateauing at just $20 per hour at age 25, would by 65 have earned a lump sum equivalent of $646,000. The equivalent tertiary qualified Maori starting at age 25 on an income of $42,000 that continued to increase each year at an average rate could expect to accumulate a lump sum of around $1.7 million by 65."

He concludes "So in thinking about our New Year's resolutions this year, for sure, let's all commit to giving generously to our chosen charities. But let's also remember the best thing we can do for New Zealand's less fortunate citizens: promote the changes needed to improve productivity and create the rising tide that lifts all boats."

Well said sir!

Pacific Watch: China And The Cook Islands

Poneke has an update today on new developments in China's relationship with the Cook Islands.

Fran's 10 Top Stories For 2008

In her last column until 26 January, Fran O'Sullivan has written a wish list of 10 top stories for 2008.

There is some similarity between some of the wishes and what The Hive has been suggesting. No return for Green and NZ First, Phil Goff rolling Helen Clark before the election for example (our view Phil, is that if you are going to do it, do it early, so Helen can have a good go at the ILO job which comes up in December. She would do the job well, and have lots of mountains to climb near Geneva.)

There are others which we think are more fanciful. We can't see Peter Dunne not making it and we think that Rodney Hide is still looking OK in Epsom. We also can't see the scientific "consensus" on climate change breaking up quite so fast.

Interest rate cut - maybe, but probably not if the Budget is as generous as we all suspect.

White House interns all 70? If Hillary wins they will all be young men -silly. If it is McCain they will all be 80, so the President appears young.

Prebble better not be the only public servant to go in 2008. The whole lot have become far too politicised. At the Hive we want all Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries and all Ambassadors and High Commissioners to tender their resignations. They all needn't be accepted, but at least it would allow National a clear run at the policy clean up that is needed.

Dec 28, 2007

Maori Party Contempt For Labour

We are not always a fan of political analysis by Chris Trotter but thought his commentary today in the ODT very accurate. He focuses on the growing rift between Labour and the Maori Party, and on the attitudes of Hone Harawira in particular. We have posted before on our growing respect for Hone, and for his oratory skills in particular. Trotter concedes that National is almost certainly going to have the largest number of seats in the next Parliament. He also sees Maori as being unlikely to enter a coalition with Labour. As a result he concludes, "With the Greens struggling to surmount the 5% MMP threshold, and NZ First unlikely to clear it at all, Labour's only realistic chance of forming a government depends absolutely on gaining Maori Party support. Helen Clark's already weak political position just got a whole lot weaker."

Labour Shortage: Government Responds - By Text

Pressure from the ODT's Rosie Manins (who again has a front page article on the subject) has seen an item on TVNZ news take up the cause. The Government has responded, by sending a text or an e-mail to all those in NZ on working holiday schemes encouraging them to head for Central Otago. The response from industry seems to be mildly positive, but with people believing that this is too little, too late. Sorry, David Parker. Your chance of winning the seat back is now lose to nil. Not a good start to the year.

A Rant On Left's True Interest in Climate Change

Several articles, blogs and the silly Editorial in the current edition of NZ Listener have helped create the following rant.

Whether it be the Democrats in the US or the Labour Parties in New Zealand, the UK and Australia, parties of the centre left have been drawn to the issues surrounding climate change, and see these issues as a great new means by which they can capitalise on popular support to either hold on to power (New Zealand and the UK) or win power (Australia and the US).

Why is this? Why are the rank and file of these parties so easily mobilised by talk on climate change? And why do the policy responses proposed rely so heavily on taxes and mitigation, rather than on technological solutions – carbon sequestration and hydrogen?

In summary, we believe that parties of the left see climate change as a once in a lifetime opportunity to redraw the political map, in a way that suits their interests. But the opportunity could be lost if it becomes widely accepted that abundant, non-polluting fuel sources might be close at hand. The opportunity to create a new political paradigm depends on the twin arguments that oil production is peaking, that it is a finite resource that is going to run out, that it is inevitable that the price of oil must rise, and that time is running out, we are reaching a tipping point, we have to cut our greenhouse gas emissions now.

Why? Because if you believe in “peak oil” and that we have reached a tipping point on climate change, it not too big a jump to the conclusion that it is essential to force behavioural change, and what better than the collectivist solution to behaviour change. People need to be discouraged from using the private motor car, instead they should travel in public transport. People living out in the suburbs are selfish because they need to commute, lets build more high rise buildings in the cities, and collectivise the way we live also. To achieve this we will impose a price on carbon and ration the amount that can be emitted. By playing with the rules, we can determine what industries remain competitive, we can stop those already rich dairy farmers getting richer, in summary, we have a wonderful new mechanism to control.

And we might also have a chance to challenge the current economic orthodoxy. Maybe we can convince the masses that economic growth is a bad thing- environmentalism might be fused with economics to create the new sustainablility paradigm (see for example the Editorial in the current edition of the Listener – someone has been reading Bill McKibben) and read nearly every speech from the Government.

But won’t the people rebel once they realise that they can no longer behave the way they like to behave, they can no longer fixate on the private motor vehicle, they can no longer by a large section out of town for lifestyle reasons, when they realise that all their costs are likely to rise?

Of course not. Climate change has replaced both God and Marx. Up until the age of revolution the down trodden were kept under control through religion. Life might be hell, but belief in God meant that if you behaved, and stuck to the agreed norms, you would live for eternity in a happier place. The Marx came along, and “Marx light”, as we call socialism. By belief in the Party, in a great leader, in the solidarity of the union etc. people were likewise prepared (for a few years anyway) to put personal interest aside for a respect for a great collective good.

Unfortunately for many God is increasingly hard to believe in and is losing support because you can’t prove that he exists through science. Marx was tried and failed dismally. Socialism was almost as disastrous. Then along came the 1980s. People relearned the basic principles of economics. The market was able to reign free. People who would never have dreamed of doing so before, began owning shares and property. They became more prosperous. The left lost favour. Any left wing party wanting to have any hope off achieving power had to change its economic orientation and also embrace the market. Economically, there is now very little to differentiate parties of the centre left and centre right. How can parties of the left differentiate themselves in these circumstances?

Along comes climate change and a new chance to revert to the original collectivist, control economy model that parties of the left have always hankered for. Climate change is even better than religion. There is a real chance that people will be panicked into a radical change. 9 out of 10 scientists believe in it. And there are now popular high priests on the subject preaching so effectively on the subject that pretty much everyone is becoming a true believer. The media is daily buying into the agenda. No storm, flood, heatwave, blizzard occurs without climate change getting the blame. If something isn’t done fast the sea level will rise, fertile farmland will flood. We face a Noah like great flood and global starvation at the same time. No doubt there will be plagues and don’t forget the locusts.

But there is a threat to all this happening. The hydrogen economy. A near limitless source of energy that doesn’t produce greenhouse gasses. An economy that will allow growth to occur without the environmental guilt.

New Zealand for example has a wonderful opportunity to lead the way in hydrogen solutions. We have a relative abundance of energy (both power from renewable sources such as wind and hydro and huge coal reserves – 1,000 years worth of coal reserves) and we have lots of water. If the wind is blowing and we have a heavy snow melt or lots of rain, New Zealand has more energy than it can use. The spot price for electricity drops to close to zero. Why not turn it into hydrogen? All you need electricity and water. The hydrogen could be used to power cars, trucks and busses, and even buildings or groups of buildings. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas contribution could reduce substantially.

The problem is that while hydrogen is easy to make, it is very difficult to reticulate and store – particularly over long distances. The big cities (Wellington will be the exception once its wind farms are all up and running) are quite a long way from the energy sources that would be the best locations for making hydrogen. More research is needed to solve the problems associated with reticulation and storage. New Zealand has the scientists available to do this research and solve these problems, but they are being told that this is not a high priority. Funding is tiny compared to the potential opportunity.

So why are the media not asking some fundamental questions about what is going on? About Government’s true motivations and about why we are underfunding the obvious solution to our climate change dilemma?

Why are more journalists not going to the companies and sectors that are going to be most directly affected and ask them what the Government’s climate change policies are going to mean for them?

Why have they not questioned why someone with a history of far left political engagement was hired by MfE to develop the PR strategy for Government to deliver the new left wing nirvana?

The Dominion Post

Poneke has some harsh words to say today about the Dominion Post, both in terms of its production and also its editorial content (and editor).

We highlight one paragraph to give you the flavour of this:

"The Dominion Post is a half-hearted newspaper even at its best, which is not very good at all. It was supposed to make “twice the noise” of its parents The Dominion and the Evening Post but it rarely makes half as much as either of them did. There is stuff all of The Dominion in it. Most of the Dom staff, including the competent and experienced editor, Richard Long, were pushed out by the Evening Post staff who took over and made it in effect a morning edition of the Evening Post, edited by the latter’s Tim Pankhurst, who possesses none of the journalistic tenacity that made Long one of the best journalists the capital has produced. It even looks like the Evening Post and has the latter’s obsession with Peter Jackson’s every sneeze and like the Post it acts as the publicity agent of whoever wears Wellington’s mayoral chains, at present Kerry Prendergast, who has a hot-line to Pankhurst’s desk."

We are not that pleased with the standard of journalism in New Zealand either and are also often critical of the Dominion Post, but we wonder if the Dominion Post is fully to blame for all of this. The relationship between our politicians and media is a particularly strange one. We are a very small community, and there is not much which a journalist or lobbyist can pick up around Wellington or even the country that is not reasonably widely known. The politicians know this and have built up a system by which the real scoops are leaked to those journalists who are not going to be too searching in analysis and who are not going to go for the jugular the next day. Helen Clark's (and previous PM's) meetings each week with Ian Templeton are the best example of this. In Wellington the Mayor provides the same service for the Editor of the Dominion Post. Pankhurst gets to know more than almost anyone else, and more than even the Deputy Mayor, about what is really going on. It is win/win. Predergast gets her key policies supported and Pankhurst gets his front page news - who broke the news on the plans for the new tunnels? (we did actually but only 500 or so read us regularly. Pankhurst had it on the front page of the Dominion Post for all to read a day before the Regional Land Transport Committee got to see what was being proposed.) Another factor, more peculiar to Prendergast is that she is a bully. She tries to bully people into accepting her views. If you don't toe the line or if you criticise her you are cast out into the wilderness. Pankhurst knows this. But Pankhurst does show his teeth sometimes. His endorsement of Ian McKinnon as Deputy Mayor was not in line with the Mayor's thinking at the time, indeed it forced the Mayor to change tack quickly.

We don't think this is healthy, and we think it particularly unhealthy when, as is happening right now, the Mayor and the Editor of the Dominion Post are of the same mind on important issues such as Transmission Gully. But we think it is indicative of a problem that is bigger than just the culture of one newspaper. It is a nationwide problem.

In contrast to what is going on here, people should have a look at a feature/analysis Patrick Healy of The New York Times on Hillary Clinton (remember she is still a New York Senator) published on Christmas Day. It was genuinely searching and was based on "an interview with Mrs. Clinton, conversations with 35 Clinton administration officials and a review of books about her White House years". An example of the type of journalism we don't see much of in New Zealand.

Benazir Bhutto Assassination

The Hive team would like to add its voices to those who are condemning the murder of Benazir Bhutto and at least 22 others overnight. The 8 January election in Pakistan has become more of a farce.

The assassination has led Poneke to reflect on the benefits of the secular state as opposed to the religous one.

Refreshing Look At Climate Change

The NZ Herald today carries a commentary by Malcolm McPhee which has a refreshing look at the climate change debate. McPhee also seems to be suggesting that Government motivations are not all they should be.

Dec 27, 2007

New Hampshire Possibly Even More Interesting

Five days after Iowa, New Hampshire has its say. The race there is more complex for both parties than currently appears the case in Iowa. It is a couple of days old now, but we thing this summary from the Wall Street Journal is a pretty helpful update. In summary, Clinton and Obama appear very close, and McCain is gaining. This appears to be a particular blow for Romney.

Iowa: Clinton Moves Ahead Huckabee Lead Narrows

The latest poll of likely participants in the Iowa caucus, now only just over a week away, shows that on the Democrat side Hillary Clinton was supported by 34 percent of the people surveyed followed by John Edwards with 20 percent and Barack Obama with 19 percent. The poll was taken Dec. 20-23. In a poll taken Dec. 16-19 by the same group, Clinton led with 29 percent to 25 percent for Obama and 18 percent for Edwards. Other polls out before Christmas had Obama nearly neck and neck with Hillary.

In the Republican race Huckabee's lead narrowed slightly. In the latest poll, he was supported by 23 percent of those questioned to 21 percent for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 17 percent for Senator John McCain of Arizona and 14 percent for former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The earlier survey showed Huckabee with 28 percent support, followed by McCain at 20 percent and Romney at 17 percent.

As we reported a couple of days ago Giuliani is now campaigning actively in Iowa having planned originally not to. Likewise John McCain has put in a surprise appearance. A good summary of what is going on appeared a few minutes ago in this LA Times blog.

Meanwhile Huckabee went hunting yesterday and shot a pheasant. He also gave an interesting statement on conservation declaring that hunting is good for wildlife. "The truth is hunters are the ones who preserve the species," he said, since hunters have an interest in preserving wildlife and their license fees pay for conservation efforts. "In many cases extinction comes from not having some level of hunting. It's the hunters who actually keep the wildlife alive. A lot of people think that when you hunt you're destroying the wildlife."

What is The Hive's view on all this? We still think Hillary is sitting pretty for the overall nomination for the Democrats. If this latest poll is acurate, Obama has a big problem. We have not written off McCain on the other side. Yes, he is probably too old, but he seems to have the best team supporting him. Age seems a less serious flaw than the negatives associated with the rest of the field.

Labour Shortage: Central Otago Mayor Wants A Fight

The labour shortage issue we posted on yesterday has made it back onto the front page of the ODT, with an article again written by Rosie Manins. The Government is facing a real rebellion in the South! Not only is Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt threatening to take the Government down, but Central Otago Mayor Malcolm Macpherson is entering the fray on the labour shortage issue and "stupid" Labour-led Government policy which discourages backpackers from seeking work. Macpherson is preparing to raatlle cages in Wellington.

Where is Labour's great white hope, the local member of Parliament David Parker when he is needed? He could not be contacted for comment - bad call David.

Another interesting snippet relevant to our comment on the positive role being played by workers from Vanuatu - "some of the guys from Vanuatu are earning more than $1,000 a week".

Are The Greens Really Being Squeezed By Both National And Labour?

Kiwiblog yesterday carried a list from NZPA of the top 10 political stories/themes carried by the Association. One of these listed was on the squeeze that we and others have reported on, with Labour and National both seeking and succeeding to take votes from the Greens. A couple of the people who commented on Kiwiblog have questioned whether the Greens and National do compete. As this is a topic on which we have done some work we thought we could add a useful contribution to this debate.

The problem for the Greens (and they are far from unique in this) is that they are an amalgam of interest groups. The Green title suggests a strong concern for the environment. Jeanette Fitzsimons would be the standard bearer for this faction Then you have the far left economic thinkers - Rod Donald and now the new co-leader Russel Norman represent this group. You have the dope smoking lobby - Nador. And there are other groups - Sue Kedgley for example, is a food safety campaigner.

In the same way that the Party represents different interests people vote Green for different reasons. Greens do well at the young end because they are seen as anti-establishment. You have the committed young environment activists, the young communists etc all voting for them. You have the hippy types who never grew up - the type of demographic who never really grew up and still live in the Coromandel, Nelson/Golden Bay etc. And you also have the wealthy but environmentally concerned residents of the major cities - the types who were in the first wave of people putting their names down for hybrid Lexus SUVs. These people often vote Green too.

The demographic in Wellington Central for the average Green voter there is almost identical to the average National voter. (One recent poll by a business group of their members put support for Green in Wellington at double figures, not that much behind Labour.) If there is going to be a switch from one party to another, these voters are toying up between Green and National rather than even considering giving Labour a vote. This group of Oriental Bay apartment dwelling Greens is the first group to feel the squeeze. These people are not communists (not anymore anyway). They are Green out of concern for the planet. They feel deeply uncomfortable with the Green economic agenda, and they don't much like Labour's agenda either - look at the rebellion going on right now inside the Business Council for Sustainable Development over attempts to hijack the agenda Labour's way). If National is prepared to support the Kyoto process (was it not National that signed up in the first place??) and do something domestically then these people will seriously consider a vote for National in 2008. These people are also serious enough about this subject to realise that Labour is being opportunist on the climate change issue. It took over 6 years for them to act, and they are acting now only because many MPs face political oblivion. If you doubt this analysis go shopping at Commonsense Organics (Wakefield Street not Kilbirnie) and look who is also there.

The second group being squeezed is at the young end. The 18 year olds who voted Green last time around are finishing off their studies now or starting work at Treasury, MED, MFAT, Bell Gully, Chapman Tripp etc. The world is a more complex place in their eyes than it was three years ago. The conversation at Astoria, Arabica, and Trade Cafe is of a totally different nature to that at the Student Union or out in the Quad. Unless they are employees of NZAID, these people are not going to vote Green this time around. Is it to be National or Labour?

A final group experiencing the squeeze if the "green"business person out in the provinces. The organic farmer, retailer, exporter, tourism operator. They have been known to vote Green out of concern for the environment, but are seriously angry at what Green has actually delivered - $2 million in organic farming research across the entire country - what a joke! They seem to be thinking National this time around.

Dec 26, 2007

Differing Views On The Solution To Climate Change?

There is an apparent difference of view between articles carried in today’s Otago Daily Times (incredibly you can read The Economist leaders for free but to read an opinion piece in the ODT online you have to pay $1!!) and in the Christmas issue of The Economist .

The Economist notes that the glacial pace of global negotiations on climate changes argues in favour of local, sectoral regulations (the article does note, however that this would be second best to a global solution based around a global carbon price set by either a carbon tax – The Hive’s preference – or by a cap and trade system – like the New Zealand Government’s proposed system).

In the ODT Peter Lyons writes a thoughtful analysis which concludes that self interest will stand in the way of action at nation state level but hopes that global warming might be a big enough issue to force national to put self interest aside and agree to some form of supra-national government structure to help solve the problem. We agree with much of what Lyons has to say, and commend his summary of the “tragedy of the commons” and the “prisoner’s dilemma” and suggests all our negotiators read the article.

We are less accepting of his treatment of the WTO and UN systems in the same breath. The UN is rightly held up be Lyons as an example of what doesn’t work, but the WTO dispute settlement process is pretty effective and the best that the world has yet to come up with. Radical as this idea might be, The Hive believes that a solutions to the global emissions challenge that should be given very serious consideration is looking at how the WTO might take a lead. Aside from giving solutions some real teeth through the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism, the WTO is best placed to deal with the big problem confronting most countries when they consider showing leadership on climate change – industry leakage (industry being rendered less or non-competitive by carbon taxes or emissions trading regimes and then moving offshore to locations without these policies). Lyons highlights this problem in his “prisoner’s dilemma” comments.

For the record we believe that both The Economist and Lyons are right. In the absence of a global solution lets begin to act locally in a carefully considered way. But lets not give up on the global solution goal.

Labour Shortages Really Hurting

One of our team related a story a few weeks back. Driving between Queenstown and the West Coast she passed large groups of workers from Vanuatu walking into Crowmwell beside the state highway. The workers were constantly being tooted or waved at by passing cars. It was all friendly. The locals appeared delighted that these workers were in Central Otago. Incredible for a conservative part of the country? No, these workers are the salvation.

A read of today's Otago Daily Times shows why. On page one a story suggests that export quality cherries will be left to rot this year because there are not enough workers available to help pick them. Another story on Page 19 (by the same journalist Rosie Manins) tells a very similar story.

All those interviewed suggest that while the migrant workers from Vanuatu and elsewhere in the Pacific are a positive development, changes to the employment rules for backpackers and other foreign visitors have created such a perception of difficulty in obtaining work permits that these visitors don't bother to apply for work. Yet, for the Central Otago cherry harvest, and the grape harvest, casual work by short term visitors to New Zealand has proved essential to counter the serious people shortage in the economy (New Zealand has one of the highest labour utilisation rates, and lowest unemployment rates in the world).

Why has it become more difficult for backpackers etc. to get the casual work that is so essential to parts of our economy? According to one of the ODT articles, it was because then Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope believed that the schemes that had allowed backpackers to work "created border security problems, which caused trouble for industry because of lack of controls on workers and how they are treated."

The new policy allows a foreign visitor to New Zealand without a work permit to apply to work for but one employer for a maximum of 28 days. The application costs $180. Under previous policy, foreign workers were able to secure permits for up to 9 months. Industry has been screaming ever since the changes were made and in response Government has backed down a little and allowed employers, as a transitional measure, the opportunity to employ foreign workers for up to 4 months starting 26 November. Unfortunately, the ODT articles suggest that the damage has been done. The perception is out there that foreign workers, other than those brought here under formal migrant employment schemes, can't work, so they don't apply for vacancies.

This is not just a problem for rural New Zealand (non-Labour voting parts of the country). The towns and cities had also become dependent on foreign workers to keep the tourist and hospitality industries alive. Now these sectors are hurting too. Cherries rotting on the ground instead of being exported is serious enough, but tourists getting slow or no service in even more of a worry. Tourism is our biggest export industry. Bigger even than dairy.

Why has this situation developed? Is it really a reaction to 9/11?

No, it is the result of the traditional fear by organised labour (who continue to pull the strings of the left wing faction of the Labour Party) of foreign workers. Organised labour have seen the current skills and people shortages as a great opportunity to negotiate wages up without there being any commensurate increase in productivity. The last thing the unions want is for employers to continue to enjoy the safety valve that was the previous policy towards foreign visitors. And the union strategy has worked to some degree. Have we heard that many screams about increases in the minimum wage?

The Hive believes that this is one area where National can differentiate itself from Labour. We need an urgent return to the rules that allowed foreign visitors to work for up to 9 months (and why not extend this to 12 months?). The migrant employment scheme from the Pacific needs to be expanded. And while National are at it, a full overhaul of immigration policy, to make it even easier to come to New Zealand to live and work, would be hugely beneficial for the economy.

And National needs to fire the entire staff of NZAID and start again. We need to see the countries to our north in the same was as Cromwell residents. Our labour shortage salvation. Aid policy should be re-oriented away from the current "poverty alleviation" dogma to one which focuses on education and skills training. While for Australia and New Zealand the demographic outlook is grim, with an increasingly aged population inevitable, we have a large pool of eager and young workers sitting unemployed or underemployed in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Lets make them even more employable, and help move them into productive employment for a few years in Australia and New Zealand. This will help Australia and new Zealand, help the economies of the Pacific as a proportion of the wages earned are repatriated, help the economies of the Pacific further by returning experienced and better skilled workers, help the economies of the Pacific by providing a better educated and better skilled workforce, by reducing the dependence of the region on Chinese and Taiwanese cheque book diplomacy, and increasing stability (there is nothing more unstable than the current mass of young unemployed or underemployed men in these countries) in a very fragile region.

Wellington The National Cradle For Technology and Innovation

With its concentration of Crown Research Institutions, Universities, Government Departments and the private sector (Wellington is still head office for almost as many large companies as Auckland) it has seemed to the team at The Hive that there is a huge opportunity for Wellington to be known as a centre for educational and research excellence, and the place where the innovative ideas and new technologies come from. There have been problems in getting all these institutions to work together and understand the need for collaboration with the private sector, but thanks to a few of the city's leaders business, and political, this is starting to happen.

Two examples of what this collaboration can achieve - super conductor cabling and super conducting magnets is featured in an article today in the Dominion Post. Good on the Dominion Post for running this and for Nick Churchouse for writing the story.

Dec 25, 2007

Christmas Lull Before Iowa Storm

The residents of Iowa are enjoying a couple of days respite from the intense campaigning for the 3 January primary. Pretty much all the candidates have left the state for Christmas.

On the Republican side former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was unabashed in defying political correctness and showing a television spot stressing that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ.

While pitching his message to evangelical conservatives in Iowa, Huckabee said on CBS television Sunday that he would be president "of all America."

"And that's how I served as governor," he said. "People look at my record and they didn't see that I put a tent out on the capitol grounds and had healing services, and I didn't replace the dome with a steeple."

As for the Democrats Hillary Clinton was shown wrapping presents marked with her signature policies: universal healthcare, alternative energy, bringing troops home from Iraq, and nursery school education for all infants.

Obama, the Illinois senator bidding to be America's first black president, appeared with his wife and two young daughters in front of a Christmas tree and log fire to stress his core message of hope and change.

"In this holiday season, we're reminded that the things that unite us as a people are more powerful and enduring than anything that sets us apart," he said in his seasonal spot.

The bad news for Iowa residents is that the campaigning is going to get more intense. Republican front runner Rudi Giuliani is so worried about Huckabee that he is shelving plans to ignore Iowa. He will be there with the rest of the pack straight after Christmas.

Rudi also got a seasonal message out. "With the primaries coming so early this year, I've got to tell you, I'm having a little trouble getting my holiday shopping done," he said, offering the same gift to all voters -- a safe America, low taxes and a fruitcake.

Dec 24, 2007

PacificWatch: What Does Chinese Competition With Taiwan Do To Fragile States In The Pacific?

As a new Cabinet was being announced in the Solomon Islands a few hours ago a few people in the wider world has been wondering which way Honiara will swing in the Taipei or Beijing recognition stakes. Both will no doubt be trying to outdo the other in the chequebook diplomacy stakes. The stakes are high in both capitals, but can societies such as this cope with this pressure? As a reminder we found this post on an interesting blog.

Instead of occasional references to the pervert former Attorney General who is about to be extradited to Australia our media should be watching other developments far more closely.

Focus On Climate Change Due To Pressure From The Greens?

In his final politics column of 2007 in The Press Colin Espiner suggests that the Greens forced Labour to take climate change seriously. Rubbish. Read the Curran report. Labour was intent on making this the central plank in its policy portfolio well into 2006. Labour saw National as being vulnerable on the issue (don't forget that Don Brash was still leader). David Parker, with the help of Clare Curran and the media team at the Ministry of the Environment were given the task of making this the public's #1 concern. Anyone who disagreed was to be discredited.

With the Ministry for the Environment team clearly not up to the task, Treasury, Ministry of Economic Development, MAF and Transport teams were mobilised under close scrutiny from both Helen and Heather on the 9th floor of the Beehive. Deputy PM Cullen was told to take a leadership role also.

The result is a new cult. We must all believe in climate change and agree with the Government's proposed policy response. To disagree is to risk, as one letter writer actually suggested in a letter to the Dominion Post recently, being as evil as holocaust deniers.

Helen's strategy has been unbelievably successful. The media have been compliant falling for the Curran inspired strategy hook line and sinker, and even big business is going to great lengths to avoid being painted as politically incorrect. When the Government recently introduced its legislation, 119 MPs supported it, only 2 were brave enough to oppose it.

This is nothing to do with the Green Party, indeed, as we are seeing in the opinion polls, it is deeply threatening to the Greens. They are being squeezed from all directions.

The Hive does believe that climate change is an important problem that needs to be addressed. We support global action and New Zealand playing a leading role in achieving this action. We also support domestic policies that are going to make a difference at a global level.

But we are not going to hesitate to hold the Government or National Party to account for adopting bad policy, or policy that is motivated by political as opposed to global environmental impact motives. And we will continue to hold the media to account for not seeing through what is currently going on.

Where All That Tax Is Going

In a post yesterday David Farrar on Kiwiblog draws attention to a think piece carried the day before in the Sydney Morning Herald on the challenges faced by right of centre parties the world over, as parties of the left adopt similar economic policy settings.

One issue not canvassed in the article was the ability of parties of the left to spend money wisely - to focus on quality, not quantity.

There is a classic example in today's media, with the Ministry of Health revealing that its staff have increased 25% since 2003 and with the number of staff earning more than $100,000 increasing from 94 in 2002 to 194 in the latest financial year. This would not matter if we were seeing a commensurate improvement in the quality of health services. But as all New Zealanders know this is not the case. Most of the country's health boards are in crisis. Wellington's problems are perhaps the best known, but they are far from unique.

This is frankly a disgrace. Will the Labour-led Government do anything about it? We doubt it, indeed we predict that the response will be to allow the Ministry of Health to employ more people.

Thailand Election Result: More Instability Ahead? And Why Should New Zealanders Be Interested?

It seems that the allies of deposed Thai PM Thaksin have done best in the Thai elections. But they have not achieved an absolute majority. To govern, a coalition partner will need to be found.

How is the Thai military going to react to this news. They deposed Thaksin a couple of years ago. Will they simply stand by and watch as Thaksin's people take back power, or will they put big pressure on smaller parties not to join a coalition with Thaksin's People Power Party? And how will the military react if a People Power Government allows Thaksin to return from exile?

Aside from being concerned about instability in a trading partner of growing importance (thanks partly to the FTA negotiated on goods trade three years ago) New Zealanders should be aware that an important negotiation between Thailand and New Zealand is pending. The negotiation of the services component of the FTA. The reason New Zealand went ahead an signed an FTA without services (services make up almost 70% of NZ's GDP and almost 30% of exports) was because the Thaksin Government was unwilling to open up the services regime, in which Thaksin and friends were major players, to further international competition. Will a People Power Government be anymore willing to open the services market in 2008?

New Zealand Dollar: A Good Buy? Don't Forget The Kyoto Effect

Both the NZ Herald and Dominion Post are carrying a good analysis by Catherine Harris of NZPA of the factors underpinning the value of the New Zealand dollar during 2007.

One of the topics for debate in 2008 will be whether there has been a paradigm shift in international money markets which means that the New Zealand dollar is not as overvalued as many (including the team at The Hive) have maintained. The likely permanence of high global prices for dairy is the major argument underpinning the idea that the New Zealand dollar is on a new and higher value path.

The Hive does not reject this argument absolutely and looks forward to the debate. We do accept that there is now an almost exact correlation between the global price of oil and global dairy prices (through the effect that demand for bio-fuels is having on dairy herd feed prices). If oil prices power upwards then dairy prices may yet have further to rise.

This is potentially very exciting for the New Zealand economy, but the extent to which we can really cash in is being constrained by the Government's climate change policy response. The #1 reason for haste by Government is to remove the incentive that currently exists to deforest and convert land that is currently covered by trees into dairy farms. Why? Because the Kyoto rules are working against New Zealand. Deforestation will potentially increase the size of the New Zealand liability (now already a minimum of $1 billion). The Kyoto rules do not recognise the fact that dairy farming in New Zealand might create fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairying in Asia, the Americas and Europe. So even though it might be better for the planet to do more dairy in New Zealand the rules, and now New Zealand Government policy, are discouraging this.

Dec 23, 2007

US-China-Taiwan Tensions

Very interesting article in the NY Times today, which throws some light onto why China refused entry to Hong Kong to the US warships a few weeks back. The Chinese are now suggesting that US Secretary of Defense Gates did not tell them about forthcoming arms sales to Taiwan when he was in Beijing in early November. Gates said he did. Gates is also making some comments which could be interpreted as suggesting divisions inside China between the civilian and military leadership.

To help redress the balance, Winston Peters' good friend Condi Rice is reported in the same article as describing the forthcoming referendum in Taiwan as "provocative". Xinhua like that comment by the way.

The Hive has an analysis of the forthcoming Taiwan referendum in preparation.

Who Reads The Hive?

The Hive is targeted at New Zealand politics and international politics of interest to New Zealand readers. As a result the great bulk of readers are from New Zealand. Not surprisingly most are from Wellington. Auckland falls into second spot. Readership in Dunedin has grown rapidly since we started our focus on Clare Curran.

We are read also in 25 other countries. Australia and the United States are competing hard for second space. Sydney and Canberra read us most from Australia, while Maryland, DC and Virginia are the biggest readers from the States.

Some Further Reflections On The Curran Report

We have now had time to digest the full SSC report on the Curran affair and all the annexes. They make fascinating reading. They show clearly that Curran was more than a public service communications advisor, she was constantly providing political advice. She should have been employed by the Minister in his office, not by the Ministry for Environment.

It is also clear that Clare Curran was seen by the Ministry as more than just a short term contractor. She was known to be close to the Minister and because of these links there was at least one meeting with CEO Hugh Logan.

The SSC report is interesting on this point. It suggests that Private Secretary Justine Daw had exaggerated Curran's relationship with the Minister (see her e-mail of 19/6/06 in which she describes Curran as David Parker's "right hand woman").

We know Justine Daw. She is (or was) part of the "A" team in MfE. She was a former staff member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and had returned reasonably recently from a posting at the New Zealand Embassy in Paris. Recruiting her from MFAT was regarded as a coup and she was chosen for the role in Parker's office because she was regarded as highly professional and a very safe pair of hands. You can see this in everything she wrote. Indeed, much is made of her well chosen words to exonerate the Minister elsewhere in the report. Daw would not have used the "right hand woman" comment lightly.

Dec 22, 2007

Another Pre-Christmas Secret: New Zealand's Kyoto Liability Continues to Rise

Thank you Catherine Beard. Catherine has analysed Treasury's latest calculations which show that New Zealand's Kyoto liability for breaching its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets has climbed a further $252 million to nearly $1 billion.

For the record, The Hive team think that these calculations remain conservative. If NZX and some of the environmental groups get their way, the price we pay for carbon credits will be almost double those used in Treasury's calculations. This would make the New Zealand liability closer to $2 billion.

Design Fault Known Before Canterbury Delivered

We warned you a few weeks ago that Defence Minister Phil Goff was in the hot seat. Today the Government - as usual, just before Christmas, has fessed up to one of a number of scandals that it has been trying to control. The design fault that saw a rescue boat lost overboard in a storm was known before the Canterbury was delivered.

So why was nothing done about it???

A second inquiry, into the death of Able Seaman Byron Solomon on October 5 when an inflatable boat capsized alongside the Canterbury, is due to report early next year.

Watch this space.....

2008 Electorate Candidates

Thank you David!

David Farrar has very helpfully posted a list which he will update regularly on the candidates that have been selected for each electorate. National clearly has some work to go to catch up to Labour in terms of declared electorate candidates but there are still a few gaps for Labour also.

Herald Editorial Agrees With Fran

It gets worse for the government. Instead of being forgotten in the pre-Christmas rush, the Curran report is getting close scrutiny. The NZ Herald Editorial today is worth a read. Overall it is suggesting a whitewash. We quote its final sentences as it raises big questions about Parker's motivation, and also about the state of the public service.

"Mr Parker certainly made the correct noises after mentioning Ms Curran to officials. But subsequent developments do not sustain the argument that his was a passing, non-partisan reference. Contrary to the report's finding, they point more towards orchestration of the appointment of a political ally who contributed to a political agenda.

Nor do those developments suggest the independence of the public service was uppermost in most minds, including those of the unnamed officials who failed even to recognise the implications. Doubtless Mr Logan's resignation shortly before the report's release was meant to create the perception that someone was paying a penalty. He, however, was not even at the ministry when Ms Curran was hired. The reality is that, at virtually every turn in this affair, the public service has been ill-served."

At The Hive we are hearing more noise suggesting the SSC boss Prebble is now mortally wounded, and that the Ministry for the Environment itself might be fighting for survival. This instability and continuing scandal is not what the Government needs at the start of election year.

Fran O'Sullivan Calls SSC Report On Curran a Whitewash

A very interesting analysis of the full SSC report on the hiring of Clare Curran in today's NZ Herald by Fran O'Sullivan. Fran highlights many of the report's more interesting findings and factual content including Curran's suggested list of champions for the Government's climate change policy - "key players" were Professors Ralph Sims, Jonathan Boston and Ralph Chapman, the EMA, Rob Fenwick (then chairman of the NZ Business Council Sustainable Development), Peter Neilson (NZBCSD chief executive), Henry van der Heyden and Barry Harris (Fonterra), environmentalist Gary Taylor, David Wratt (NIWA), Suzie Kerr (MOTU), Morgan Williams, Alex McDiarmid, NGOs (Greenpeace, etc).

Maybe the New Zealand media should note this list and act accordingly when seeking comment on climate change matters in the future.

Two New Public Poll Averages Out Yesterday

David Farrar and Molesworth and Featherston both published their public poll averages yesterday. Farrar's is summarised on his Kiwiblog.

Both averages show the same trend a widening gap for National over Labour and declines for smaller parties such as Green, which hovers very close (but still above) the 5% threshold. The most recent polls have Green below this threshold.

Farrar comments that he expects the Greens to pick up next year as we move closer to the election. This could well happen, but we have not seen Labour (and National) gunning so actively for the Green vote. The Greens also seem to be suffering because of their close support for Labour on issues such as the Electoral Finance Bill. NZ First seem to be suffering the same disease (we call it lapdog fever). When will both parties jump off the lap and start to growl? And might this mean an earlier election than Labour is wanting (at this stage all signs are that Helen is wanting to hang on until the bitter end, and end that could extend until 15 November).

Four New Texts On Agriculture Circulated Overnight in Geneva

The New Zealand summer diaspora means we have correspondents all over the world. Our Geneva correspondent reports that New Zealand WTO Ambassador Crawford Falconer has been busy and overnight circulated four new texts on the possible way forward for agriculture in the troubled Doha Round. The texts related to domestic subsidies. The topics are on the overall reduction of trade-distorting support: a tiered formula; final bound total AMS: a tiered formula; de minimis; and Blue Box.

Those interested - they are quite technical - can download the proposals from

It is good to see the agriculture negotiations continuing. Trade Minister Phil Goff told one of The Hive team that if the Doha Round was only about agriculture we would probably have a result by now.

Dec 21, 2007

Pacific Watch: China-Taiwan Competition in the Cook Islands

We wrote recently suggesting the need for more scrutiny by the NZ media about developments in the Pacific, particularly relating to competition between China and Taiwan. We wrote an analysis about the recent establishment of diplomatic relations between Niue and China and questioned how this squared with Niue's constitutional status.

The Cook Islands have the same constitutional status as Niue. And like Niue, China has spread its tentacles in the Cook Islands direction. There is an excellent analysis of this by Poneke. Poneke also bemoans the lack of in depth coverage of this topic in the New Zealand media.

Impact Of The Emissions Trading Regime

Brian Fallow in the NZ Herald has an interesting analysis that suggests that one third of the tax cut being absorbed by the increased prices being caused by the planned emissions trading regime.

Dec 20, 2007

New Zealand Summer Break 2007/08

The Hive team is beginning to spread around New Zealand and the world. We will not be back together for three weeks. The Hive will continue to be updated daily. The focus may be more international than national (there will be a particular focus on the start of the Primaries in the US). Local stories may be more thoughtful as time has been too short or more thorough analysis of some important issues.

We wish our readers a very happy Christmas and a successful New Year. Those in the southern hemisphere, we hope you have wonderful, hot weather. In the north, we hope the winter is not too extreme.

Our full service will resume on around 15 January 2008.

SSC Report on the Employment of Clare Curran Raises Many Questions

The SSC has released its report on the Ministry for the Environment's employment of Labour Party activist Clare Curran. It raises serious questions at The Hive, particularly over the processes used when employing her. Like others we see a total disconnect between the State Services Commission conclusions and the damning contents of the report. No wonder they released this just as everyone is leaving for their Christmas break.

For example we quote: "Overall, the process used was not appropriate for a situation where the Minister had initiated consideration of a contractor. The Manager - Communications did not receive appropriate advice and support from senior managers about how to handle such a sensitive case. The emphasis on speed of engagement relative to managing potential risks around political neutrality contributed to make the process appear as if it was a scramble to hire someone suggested by the Minister."

The full report is well worth a read.

The Hive team are also interested in the weight being applied to Curran's Australian experience, as supposedly qualifying her for this contract. We have been doing some digging. Here is a taste - Clare wrote for the Australian Left Review in 1991. What is the Australian Left Review? It doesn't exist anymore but it was none other than the monthly magazine of THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF AUSTRALIA.

More on this is the New Year.

Balance of Payments Deteriorates

The Hive is a little concerned at the quarterly balance of payments figures that were released today. These figures mean that for the year ended September 2007 the deficit was $14.2 billion (8.3 percent of GDP). This compares with a deficit of $13.7 billion for the year ended June 2007 (8.1 percent of GDP).

New Zealand's International Investment Position as at 30 September 2007 was a net liability position of $151.1 billion, 1.6 percent higher than at 30 June 2007. A net liability position means that New Zealand's financial liabilities to the rest of the world exceed assets.

We hope that those who continue to speculate on the value of the New Zealand dollar have a good look at these statistics. They are a further confirmation that the current value of the New Zealand dollar is not justified by the fundamentals.

Of concern to The Hive is the flat performance of goods and services exports. If it was not for a new item - oil exports, there would have been a serious decline in overall goods exports. The field producing this oil is not expected to be producing such large volumes for that much longer.

Logan Resigns

As we have been reporting for some weeks Ministry for the Environment CEO Hugh Logan's position has become non-tenable. Today he has resigned.

Goff Excited By Progress On US FTA Front

Further evidence of progress being made on the US FTA front is contained in an article in today's NZ Herald. Trade Minister Phil Goff is reported as saying that there was "exciting potential" in the possibility of US involvement in the agreement known as P4, although discussions were very much at a formative stage.

The Hive believes that Phil should be excited. Pulling this off, along with the China deal, the Gulf Cooperation deal and progress on all fronts bar the WTO would make Goff the most successful New Zealand Trade Minister ever. Not a bad springboard for the party leadership.

The Hive also takes note of some of Mr Goff's caution. It is clear that more work needs to be done to seal US involvement in the P4. Media should respect this by not building up expectations too high too fast.

Fallow On Climate Change Challenge

As usual their is a very thoughtful and realistic opinion piece from Brian Fallow in the NZ Herald. Today he talks about the realities of reaching a global agreement on climate change.

They Are Voting With Their Feet

An alarming report in the Dominion Post on the number of New Zealanders who left for Australia in the last 12 months. "Almost 41,000 people left for Australia in the past 12 months, up an "alarming" 20 per cent on the previous year, according to opposition politicians.
The figures show a continuing flood of mainly working-age professionals, sales people and trades workers, adding to shortages here."

These are exactly the people we don't want to lose.

Dec 19, 2007

We Like This Response To The EFB Best

but it might not be legal for us to keep showing it beyond 1 January.

US and New Zealand About To Enter FTA Negotiations

You read it first on The Hive over the weekend, with hints earlier last week. According to a story on Bloomberg, lobbyists in Washington have had confirmed to them the news that the US is planning to begin negotiations on joining the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (also known as P4). According to this report the negotiations might start as early as January.

The Hive hears the same thing from New Zealand and Chile and can advise that David Walker, who has just completed negotiating the FTA with China, will be the Chief Negotiator of the new agreement on the New Zealand side. Walker was the Chief New Zealand negotiator of the original Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership.

What is currently unclear is whether the existing P4 partners will be willing to begin negotiations just on investment. An earlier suggestion by the US to do just this was rebuffed initially by at least Chile. Singapore may also not have been that keen on a negotiation that just focuses on "rules governing foreign investment in areas such as express delivery, insurance and telecommunications" as the Bloomberg story is suggesting.

Good and Bad News For Wellington

Great news that Peter Jackson has secured the contract to make The Hobbit and its sequel.

Potentially less positive is news that former deputy Mayor Alick Shaw has been put onto the board of the new entity that will be the merger between Transit New Zealand and Land Transport New Zealand. Shaw was not a supporter of Transmission Gully, and will no doubt seek to have the funding that has been earmarked for Transmission Gully diverted to fund the work required on the Ngauranga to Airport project that has just gone out for public comment.

Government's Strategy Is Largely Successful

The Government's strategy of signalling the possible size a tax cut, and having Trevor Mallard both plead guilty in Court for one offence and apologise in Parliament for another has been largely successful in distracting attention away from the Electoral Finance Bill. It is really only the NZ Herald that has remained resolute and kept it at the centre of attention. The Government was also wanting to try to get all of Mallard's problems out of the way before the Christmas break so that they will hopefully be able to be forgotten over the summer break.

Well Said Again New Zealand Herald

We quote from this morning's Editorial "The Electoral Finance Bill's passage through Parliament late yesterday corrodes democracy and shames those whose names stand beside it as it enters the statutes. From January 1, political discourse will be less free, except for political parties - those private organisations that happen to provide the incumbent members of Parliament."

Dec 18, 2007

North Asia Strategic Balance Gets More Interesting

Japan's successful destruction of a mid-range ballistic missile in space adds to the complexity of the strategic equation in North Asia. While the headlines suggest that this is designed to both protect against and send messages to Winston Peters' new best friends (most are shorter than he is) in North Korea, the real message being sent to Beijing. It is also the natural extension of the US decision ssome years ago to sell Aegis (sea based anti- ballistic missile technology) to Japan.

Why should we be interested in this??

Most obviously it might cause Winston's mates to do something silly.

More generally the US, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong are immediately involved, and Australia (up until Rudd anyway) was indirectly a participant. Australia is our biggest economic partner followed by the US, China, and Japan. Jump the UK, then you get to the ROK. Skip Germany, then comes Taiwan. Hong Kong is not far behind.

We have critical interests at stake. Peace and stability is best for our interests. Anything that disrupts the balance should be analysed closely.

But It Was Not Enough

The Electortal Finance Bill has passed 63 votes to 57.

United Changes Position on EFB

Some good news today, Peter Dunne and his United Party have made the right decision and will vote against the Electoral Finance Bill. Of course, we like to think that lobbying, and the analysis and pressure from blogs such as this have had an impact.

As we noted a week or so ago, Peter Dunne, also distanced himself a little on the Emissions Trading Bill, signalling a willingness for Select Committee consideration to stretch into the next Parliament - so that Parliament can get this policy right.

Mallard Apologises In Parliament to Erin Leigh

Trevor Mallard interrupted the debate on the Electoral Finance Bill to read our a short apology to Erin Leigh.

Mallard Pleads Guilty in Court

and pays $500 to a Salvation Army drug and alcohol rehabilitation course.

What Better Way To Distract Attention Away From The EFB? Lets Talk Tax Cuts

Dr Cullen has just advised that he has $1.5 billion available for next year's tax cut, and is even talking about the possibility of a second cut at some stage in the future.

While this is positive news, we find it interesting that Dr Cullen would put these comments out just before the vote on the Electoral Finance Bill in Parliament this afternoon.

Australia Delays Apple Dispute Once More

According to reports out of Geneva Australia has not agreed to the first request by New Zealand to establish a panel to consider the complaint about apple access. Australia can play this card but once. A panel is now expected to be formed early in the New Year.

The Hive welcomes this action as a sign of maturity in the bilateral relationship. We are pleased that those worried about a possible political backlash have been overruled. This complaint should have been taken years ago. Of course, if Australia had agreed to a bilateral dispute settlement mechanism being established under CER, then there would have been no need to go to Geneva.

We hope that the new Australian Government, with its huge majority, will take advantage of this mandate to have a new look at all the quarantine restrictions that have been erected to shield Australian agriculture from competition. This would be very welcome in developing countries, and would do much to improve Australia's image in Asia and the Pacific. It might also just save Australia from the ignominy of being dumped as permanent chair of the Cairns Group.

Bali Roadmap Now Published

The outcome of the Bali Climate Change Conference - the so called Bali Roadmap is now available on the UNFCCC website. Why it took so long to have this posted we do not know.

UNFCCC = United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Has The Next Government Already Been Formed?

Who is opposing the Electoral Finance Bill? - National, Maori, Act.

Who is raising serious questions about the emissions trading law? - National, Maori, Act.

Have Labour's tacticians maybe blundered and forged what had previously been thought to be an unlikely alliance? - Maybe.

Might Peter Dunne be risking three years completely out in the cold if he goes ahead and supports the Electoral Finance Bill today? - Yes.

Helene Ritchie Spends $8 A Vote

We will scrutinise the raw data in due course, but the Dominion Post has an article reporting on the spending by Mayoral candidates in this year's local body elections. Helene Ritchie was the big spender, but she was allowed to be as by standing for the hospital board as well as Mayor she could spend up to a total of $70k compared to Mayoral Candidate's maximum of $60k (is the law an ass??).

Helene ran quite a few TV ads, including at prime time. We are amazed they were so cheap. If TVNZ and others can be held to this price schedule next year, the restrictions imposed by the Electoral Finance Bill may not be as bad as some are thinking.

Interesting Analysis By Colin James

There is an interesting analysis in today's NZ Herald by Colin James. He too tries to select a politician of the year, and like most others he has it wrong - in our view. Colin selects Jeanette Fitzsimons for his award. We disagree with this because Jeanette has allowed her party to fall below the 5% threshold, and to be too deeply associated with the Electoral Finance Bill. On TV last night and again today in the Dominion Post - the Greens (well Russel Norman anyway) are there staunchly defending this deeply unpopular measure.

By Colin's analysis is most interesting in providing reasons why Helen Clark should not - as Trans Tasman and the Herald's John Armstrong claim - be politician of the year.

Interestingly he also describes Phil Goff as the " star of the Cabinet this year and her successor-in-waiting". Given Mike Moore's not so subtle messaging in the Dom Post today, the PM will be even more uncomfortable.

More From Moore

Another opinion piece from Mike Moore in a major daily - this time the Dominion Post (no electronic link found yet sorry) is the last thing Helen will have wanted to see. Moore's references to BBQ politics will be understood immediately by the PM - reference to a failed coup against her some years ago, reportedly hatched around the BBQ. This Christmas however, Goff is cleverly absenting himself abroad so it will be up to others to see whether he has the numbers. The PM may well have received reports of Moore and Goff's late night drinks together at Europa Bar and Restaurant in Auckland a few months back.

Moore repeats that the Electoral Finance Bill "has no parallel anywhere in the free world". He also repeats his view that the Government is legislating to stop dissent.

Does Moore not accept the great leader Winston Peters' view that New Zealand democratic principles are different to foreign democratic principles? So what happens elsewhere in the free world doesn't matter.

On Winston Peters there was a wonderful interview on TVOne News last night - a woman on Lambton Quay suggested that he was suffering from short man syndrome.