Mar 31, 2008

Breakthrough Expected In WTO Agriculture Talks

Reuters is reporting expectation that progress will be made in the stalled WTO agriculture negotiations - chaired for the moment by NZ WTO Ambassador Crawford Falconer.

WTO: Wanted New Chair Of Agriculture Negotiations

Is anyone else wondering why MFAT has left open the Deputy Secretary job vacated by Derek Leask who has gone to London to warm the seat for Winston Peters? Because the WTO Ministerial keeps being delayed, and until it is held, the MFAT CEO is not wanting to risk undermining the WTO negotiating process by announcing that the current chair of the key agriculture negotiation Crawford Falconer has been appointed Deputy Secretary, and that he will have to return to Wellington (there is agreement in the WTO that the negotiating group chairs have to be based in Geneva). So the announcement will be delayed until late April or early May - whenever the WTO Ministerial meeting is over. We will hold back on comment on this appointment until it is made. Likewise we will keep dangling the news on Falconer's replacement. He has a busy few weeks ahead, so we don't want to put him off his step.

Can You Believe It - More Chaos Likely At McKays Crossing?

The Dominion Post reports that pot holes have opened up on SH1 at McKays Crossing. This means that major traffic delays are inevitable. Hive to Transit - try an new contractor.....

Stressful Trip For The PM?

With the PM heading off overseas today interest in what happens back home within her caucus remains high, particularly as this is really the last chance for change to occur should change be wanted. Keeping Stock reports on knives being sharpened. We are not so sure that they will be used. We know that there are numbers being done, but we don't see enough members of the caucus having the courage to front up for change. But like others we will be watching very closely over the next few days.

NZ Dollar To Fall 10c Against The US$ This Year?

The BNZ says that this will happen. Lets hope for the sake of the export economy that this happens, but be prepared to pay the price at the fuel pump.

Too Little Time For Consultation On China FTA?

The Dominion Post reports that some are calling for a longer consultation period for the China FTA. The Hive tends to agree but in reality the number of people and organisations who really understand what this agreement mean are pretty few in number. They will be all over this deal from day one. Twenty days will be enough for them. The Hive would not object to a longer period being given.

Are The Good Times Over For North Asia Beef Exports

Owen Hembry writes a good review of the big issues in today's NZ Herald. The Hive sees real threats to New Zealand interests in this region - an Australia-Japan FTA and the US-Korea FTA being high on the list. New Zealand is going to have to redouble efforts to maintain its position. FTA negotiations with Japan and Korea need to be very high priorities for Government.

Good Support For China FTA

The Herald DigiPoll shows 44% support for the China FTA with 32.4% saying no. Given that the media on this deal has been negative this is a very good result for New Zealand and the Government. The Hive expects support to grow once the detail of the agreements (there are several)is available next Monday.

Mar 30, 2008

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Green Light For FTA Signing

It is good to see that the last hurdles (Chinese Foriegn Affairs Protocol Department) have been hurdled and the signing of the FTA with China is confirmed for 7 April. Also impressive is the size of the delegation going to witness this historic event. This must be the biggest trade delegation ever.

Might An FTA With Taiwan Be Possible?

Singapore seems to think so....

Taiwan is New Zealand's seventh largest export market.

The Canadian Bid

The Sunday Star Times takes a look at the Canadian bid for Auckland Airport. We hope the confidence expressed in the article proves correct.

Is Fran Hinting At Something More?

Interesting reflections this morining in the Herald on Sunday on Charles Chauvel and Michael Cullen. Could Chauvel perhaps be Cullen's eyes and ears on more than climate change???

Chauvel is a relative neophyte as far as parliamentary politics is concerned. The former lawyer - now a Labour MP - who made his name while working for legal firm Minter Ellison, got offside with the Prime Minister when he issued a press statement welcoming his appointment as a ministerial undersecretary before any confirmation from Helen Clark. That confirmation is still waiting.

But Chauvel is well-plugged into Finance Minister Michael Cullen and his circle of Associate Finance Ministers, and is sufficiently confident of his own powers to secure confidence from business that he will act as his "own man" by chairing the select committee sessions rather than as a simple cipher for the Government.

Officials Share Concern Over Thermal Power Generation Ban

Fran O'Sullivan reports on the contents of a Cabinet Paper on the moratorium on new thermaal power generation. It seems to be agrreing with concerns from a wide range of business groups including the Business Council for Sustainable Development.

A big issue that the committee will need to confront is the planned moratorium on new thermal electricity generation.

The Cabinet's business committee considered proposals for the planned 10-year moratorium last August.

A Cabinet paper obtained by the Herald on Sunday noted there were potential risks associated with introducing a moratorium on new thermal generation.

Among the risks are the potential harmful effect on electricity supply; perceptions on the security of supply; and the impact on the exploration for petroleum products.

Up You Greenpeace

Kerre Woodham doesn't much like Greenpeace either, for reasons similar to those held by The Hive....

Government Divided Over Climate Change

Fran O'Sullivan writes today in detail on one dynamic - the growing concern over David Parker's performance - that readers will have read about at times in The Hive..

The Government concedes that the programme may now have to be delayed while officials determine that the new fuels will make a positive contribution rather than simply cause harm through impact on food prices.

Cullen is worried about this.

But Climate Change Minister David Parker takes a more zealous approach. While Parker concedes the introduction of the new rules may have to be delayed he does not concede the basic principle is wrong.

Political support for the biofuel legislation is now shaky.

Parker remains confident this issue can be worked out.

But my soundings yesterday suggest the concerns over his management of the climate change suite of policies is growing. Parker's tendency to shout down business people who raise legitimate concerns over the operational impact of the Government's policies is not endearing him to senior ministers such as Cullen, whose focus is the international competitiveness of the New Zealand economy.

What it will come down to is a contest between the realists - and I would include Cullen at the top of that list from the Government side - and the zealots.

Parker's approach has major flaws. Let's hope Cullen gets the opportunity to exercise a moderating influence in response to the select committee's deliberations.

Mar 29, 2008

Aiport Sale Decision Out Next Week?

Queen Bee has this afternoon fielded two calls from very good sources, outraged at information that the Government might be planning next week to announce the decision to decline the Canadian offer to purchase 40% of the shares in Auckland International Airport. These callers were also amazed that the mainstream media were not giving more scrutiny to this issue and placing it in its wider strategic context. We can only agree.

Let us recap. A year or so back Investment New Zealand (a sub-set of NZTE) hosts a delegation from Dubai which gets taken to Auckland International Airport to see a potential investment target. This group express interest in making an investment. Phil Goff steps in and says "no way".

More recently a Canadian Pension Fund begins sniffing around Auckland International Airport. The Government announced policy in three areas which some have interpreted as attempts to reduce the attractiveness of the Canadian offer - increased regulation of the NZ airports (share price drops), announced an end to stapled securities (share price drops), and most recently announced a change to the OIO regulation (share price drops). But the Canadians don't flinch and press on regardless. They bend over backwards to try and make the deal acceptable. What more could the New Zealand Government want?

If it is true that the Government is about to say no, what signal is this sending to the rest of the world?

And why is the Government rushing to make this decision next week? Surely not because the PM is out of town and wanting to avoid taint from the controversy that will inevitably unfold (which ever way the Government decides to go)?

And is it not hypocrisy of the highest order that the PM will, on her way back from her two trips to London and her participation in the NATO summit on Afghanistan, be in China to witness the signing of the most important trade agreement since CER, an agreement which is encouraging freer trade in goods and some services, and increased investment flows between China and New Zealand, within days of potentially having sent a very clear message to the world that your investment isn't welcome?

And what about thee 25,000 or so ordinary Kiwis who stand to receive $1.8 billion if this sale proceeds - $1.8 billion that will provide liquidity to our financial markets at just the right time???

These are huge issues which should be across every front page.

So come on mainstream media do your thing. And fellow bloggers - don't hold back. Our future prosperity is at stake.

CER 25 Years On

Fran O'Sullivan looks at the current state of the CER relationship. Where is Australia????

Don't Forget The Small Parties

John Armstrong in today's NZ Herald looks at the small parties and the role they play in MMP politics.

Herald Analysis Of Poll Result

Paula Oliver analyses the latest poll results.

Singnificant Moves In Herald Poll

National still has a commanding lead but Labour has made up some ground. There is hope for the backbenchers yet. Decision time? Last chance - stay with Clark or give Cullen even greater exposure? Have a nice overseas trip PM.

While the media will probably focus on the narrowing of the gap, it is notable to The Hive that National can still poll at around 50% after a bad three weeks. Minds have been made up.....

Mar 28, 2008

Should Winston Resign?

While it is great to see such strong support for the China FTA it is disconcerting to see that our Foreign Minister is not prepared to announce support for this major foreign policy achievement. We don't believe that Winston's position is acceptable.

Dirty Don Says No To Rodney

The Dominion Post reports today that Don Brash has ruled out running for Parliament - for any Party - at this year's election. We think that this is a pretty good call. While positive about Roger Douglas being on the ticket we feel that ACT would be better focussed on attracting some new names rather than politicians that have had their time. Don Brash certainly falls into that category.

We Were Worried This Might Happen

We feel sorry for Palmerston North, but the OzJet deal always worried us.....

Renewables Have A Downside

The Major Energy Users Group reminded us yesterday about one downside to our dependence on renewable electricity generation - high spot prices.

“The flaws in the policy to ban new thermal power stations are being graphically illustrated by current high electricity spot prices,” said Ralph Matthes, Executive Director of the Major Electricity Users’ Group (MEUG).

“Yesterday provisional spot prices at Haywards averaged 19 c/kWh. These are extremely high prices reflecting relatively tight supply. Yet there was no security of supply risk yesterday, just generators pricing their output to reflect current and possible future scarcity. The existence of unreliable and intermittent renewable generation such as wind did not mitigate the high spot prices.

“The prolonged sequence of extremely high spot prices since the start of the year will flow through to higher financial derivative prices and retail prices. Major power users’ with spot exposure are hurting today. In the near term smaller commercial and household consumers will feel the cost of current high spot prices.

Matthes concluded by commenting

“The evidence that relying on more renewables rather than a mix of generation types will lead to extreme spot prices and the need for inefficient peaking thermal plant is happening almost everyday with the current prolonged summer weather. Government needs to heed the signs and urgently rethink the proposed ban on thermal generation”

Government Faces Defeat On Biofuels Bill

Paula Oliver reports on the prospects for the passage of the Government's biofuels bill in today's NZ Herald.

Growing concern about the merit of biofuels is threatening to derail a Government push to get the new fuels flowing out of petrol pumps in little more than three months.

The biofuel bill, now before a select committee, proposes to make oil companies begin selling a small but progressively higher amount of biofuels each year from July 1.

But while the bill passed its first reading comfortably, widespread political support is no longer as assured because of worries that the legislation does not deal strongly enough with questions about whether biofuels will come from sustainable sources.

Global debate about biofuels has shifted in recent months and in Britain - where the fuels are set to begin flowing on April 1 - a dispute is raging about whether biofuels will do more harm than good by leading to rainforest destruction and food shortages.

The Hive understands that Deputy PM Cullen is not pleased with the way in which this issue has been handled and that Climate Change Minister is under some pressure to somehow find a way for the Government to extricate itself from the position it now finds itself. Cullen has wider concerns about the climate change policy response, and the Government is preparing for a tough time in the select committee on the emissions trading legislation.

Poor Journalism

Garth George wrote this in yesterday's NZ Herald:

And, most sinister of all, it is greed that has enticed this country to seek a free trade agreement with China, a move that will eventually have dreadful consequences for each and every one of us.

Garth, can you please explain what these dreadful consequences for everyone of us are going to be?

Also we disagree over the suggestion that New Zealand was motivated by greed. As we recall it four years ago New Zealand was confronted with the news that Australia and China were considering starting FTA negotiations. Australia had just negotiated an FTA with the US and New Zealand was facing the prospect of losing market share in areas such as beef in the US, we didn't want the same thing to happen in China. Chile likewise had announced that it was going to negotiate an FTA with China. Chile's FTA with Korea had just destroyed our wine and kiwifruit exports to that country. Was the New Zealand Government motivated by greed? No. By a need to act responsibly in an increasingly competitive world. Starting the FTA negotiation was a sensible and responsible policy response, and the fact that we have now leaped ahead of Australia will mean that for a couple of years, New Zealand will enjoy beneficial market access to this important market. It is a tough world out there. Our exporters need all the help they can get.

We are not known for being strong supporters of everything this Government does, but we must stress the China FTA is a very good thing for New Zealand and that it a major achievement for the Government. Criticism of the type made yesterday by Garth George needs careful scrutiny. We believe that it is unfair. Indeed it is plain wrong.

Mar 27, 2008

Clark To Go To China

We believe that this post from No Minister and the referenced article from the NZ Herald are a bit misleading. There are a couple of procedural issues standing in the way of an absolutely final decision on the signing of the China FTA on 7 April. We understand that the Pm is still planning to be there for the signing.

We also think that the NZ media is being unfair on the PM and Government. NZ has done all you could expect on Tibet. We are not out of step with other countries of our type. The FTA is not gagging New Zealand.

Stop listening to Maoists like Keith Locke. What did he and his parents say about the original invasion of Tibet? Did they resign from the Party? So why is Keith so anti-China now? Could it be because China is no longer Maoist?

On the leadership challenge we are hearing that it has no legs. Unless there is a catastrophic poll result over the weekend, Cullen will not be challenging. Goff never planned to. There is no reason for the PM to stay home from a job security perspective.

Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship?

What do you think?

More On Tax Cuts

Having spelled out our own views an hours or so ago it was good to read Paula Oliver in the NZ Herald on the tax cut issue

A sense of deja vu surrounds Finance Minister Michael Cullen's argument that public services will suffer to fund the tax cuts National will promise in this year's election.

It's the same argument Dr Cullen made against the tax cuts that National trumpeted in the 2005 election battle.

Remember the lines? National's plan was "just crazy" and people should think about how many teachers and nurses would have to be chopped to finance those cuts.

But this time, there is a glaringly obvious difference and it's one that could make it harder for Dr Cullen to convince the public.

The difference is that this time he, too, is going to deliver tax cuts.

Emissions Trading: Forestry

One of the more complex and contentious issues confronting the Select Committee considering the Government's emissions trading legislation is the treatment of forests planted prior to 1990. Brian Fallow reviews the two sides to this issue in today's NZ Herald.

Do Tax Cuts Have To Be Small?

Dr Cullen admits that his tax cuts won't be as large as those that National will be proposing. He falls back to the usual line that bigger cuts (it used to be - "any cuts") will be at the cost of social services. But will they? We don't see National proposing cuts to education, health, social development etc. What we do see is calls for waste in Government expenditure to be reduced and a stemming of the growth of Government agencies. These, as everyone in Wellington knows, are growing without control. Is this leading to improved social services? No.

Prepare For Bigger Power Bills

Electricity prices could rise 40 to 50 per cent, adjusting for inflation, because of the Government's ban on gas-fired power stations and its target for 90 per cent renewable power.

A report by the Centre for Advanced Engineering says the Energy Strategy will suppress demand for gas for electricity-generation by about a third.

It will also slow exploration and development of more gasfields, and mean a loss of flexibility and security of power supply.

Read the full story in the Dominion Post.

Mar 26, 2008

Big Drop In Business Confidence

Just spotted this from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce. It is not good news

The latest Auckland Chamber of Commerce business opinion survey points to a general deterioration in a number of important performance indicators.
The Chamber’s quarterly survey provides an important snapshot of where small and medium Auckland region businesses think they are headed as 81% of the 1000 surveyed employ 20 or fewer staff.
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says businesses are significantly more pessimistic than they were in December. “This has to be of concern when the region generates more than a third of New Zealand’s productive economic activity, and small and medium businesses provide most of the engine’s cylinders.”
Mr Barnett says a “stand out” survey finding was that 64% of the survey respondents expect the general business situation in New Zealand will deteriorate in the next six months. This is an 80% increase on those who thought so in December, and three times as many who were pessimistic a year ago.
The number of business owners expecting the performance of their own business to deteriorate nearly doubled between December (17%) and this month ( 31%). Just 11% expected this outcome a year ago.
In other findings, more businesses expect:
• softer demand for staff over the next three months;
• to make less investment in buildings and machinery over the next year;
• that significantly higher costs will squeeze profitability over the next three months;
• significantly less demand from New Zealand customers over the next quarter;
• that interest rates will rise further over the next year.
Mr Barnett says 65% of respondents now expect interest rates to rise during the next year, up from 50% in the December survey. “Coupled with this is the suggestion that mortgage rates will go still higher, despite the Reserve Bank not lifting the official cash rate. With many small businesses using borrowings secured against mortgages this will obviously have an impact.”
Barnett adds, “The ability of business to absorb further price increases appears to be over if as the survey suggests demand and turnover are headed south.”
“Perhaps rather than pushing huge State driven capital projects it may be time to invest in the “business engine” (the Golden Goose for the last 8 years).
If not, whichever party wins the Treasury benches risks inheriting an economy in danger of turning ice cold.

An End To Public Holidays?

The Editorial in today's Independent Financial Review cites the influence of David Farrar and Jim Donovan and essentially takes up Jim's proposal to abolish public holidays and give employees 10 extra days of leave which they can take when they want to, as opposed to the current situation where stat holidays are fixed. Well done Jim and David.

50.3% Of Public Servants No Have 5 Weeks Annual Leave

The Independent Financial Review has a front page article on leave inflation. When Government introduced the complulsory 4 weeks leave provision employers were assured that this would not see those already on 4 weeks leave moving to 5 weeks leave. Now it turns out Government is a pretty poor role model for the rest of the economy. 50.3% of permanent full-time staff in the public service now have 25 days leave. Good journalism. Bad Government.

(this was our 1,000th post by the way)

Failure May Be best For The Canadians

Fran O'Sullivan has another look at the Canadian bid for Auckland Airport. She suggests that rejection of the bid by Government may be no bad thing for the Canadians - given the current share price....

Big Drop In Consumer Confidence

The big drop in consumer confidence is a worry. It comes hard on the heels of a big drop in business confidence. The RB really needs to be thinking about easing.

Helen Clark: ILO

The latest Trans Tasman talks about the rumour that the PM might go for the top job at the ILO. It suggests that the campaign would need to be well underway by now and that the PM would not stand a good chance because the incumbent is also from the Southern Hemisphere.

We agree with both points, but note that talk of Clark for the job came from the ILO and that there are people in the organisation who would love to have a person of such high profile in the top job, so geography would probably be overridden by mana.

That said, the PM would need to be campaigning very soon, if not already. Unless she resigns or is dumped in the next few days, we can't see there being enough time for a campaign to be mounted.

The next big UN job coming up appears to be UNEP.


Does anyone else find it annoying that Geenpeace should try and disrupt a coal export, completely consistent with our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, from New Zealand which produces 70% of its electricity from renewables? Where do the crew on the Rainbow Warrior come from? Which countries? What is their renewables record? It may not be too bad, so long as nuclear is classed as renewable.

Mar 25, 2008

Global Food Crisis Looming?

The rush to be seen to do something to respond to climate change is beginning to have global impact on food supply. Some predict that millions will starve. This CNN report suggests that we have 10 years of high prices to look forward to.

BAYGATE : Governance Turned On Its Head

Several aspects of the Baygate scandal require further scrutiny. One that we find particularly strange is the notion that that the Board had lost the confidence of the CEO. Isn't something wrong here? Isn't it supposed to be the Board's confidence that matters? Since when do CEO's call the shots and control their boards (actually at local government and DHB level this seems quite common, but it is not supposed to be the case).

Our view is that there is far too much steering and control of DHBs and local councils by the CEOs they are employing. This is the natural result of having boards elected by the public without concern for the skill set of those being elected. Too often the Councils are not really equipped to govern. And CEOs too often take advantage of this.

While we are concerned about what has gone on in Hawkes Bay we are increasingly seeing system wide problems. It is looking increasingly necessary to look at a complete reform of the DHB model.

Todd Energy Slams Proposed Ban On Gas Fired Power Stations

The Dominion Post has a copy of Todd Energy's submission on the Government's emissions trading regime:

The Government's planned 10-year ban on gas-fired base-load power stations is "ill-conceived", posing risks of much higher power prices, and risks for the gas and oil sectors, power security and the economy.

Place of the "Sacred" in Modern Society

Perhaps because of the current controversy over Easter trading laws, Colin James has a go at the issue of religion and the "sacred" in modern society.

Royal Commission Risking Hijack?

The NZ Herald editorial today warns that minority interest groups might actually like the current plethora of local authorities in Auckland and their interests might end up dominating the work of the Royal Commission.

Mar 24, 2008

Who Is Ma Ying-jeou Taiwan's President designate?

The New York Times today runs a good profile....

New Zealand Exporters To Face Stiffer Competition

The Australian Labour Government is convinced that Australian exporters are not exporting enough. Partly for this reason the Government has instituted a review of Australian trade policy. But even before this review is completed the Government in Canberra is taking action by increasing the value of an export subsidy programme - the Export Market Development Grant.

The scheme's funding will be increased by $50 million. Changes to the scheme include increasing the maximum grant by $50,000 to $200,000, raising the turnover of eligible businesses from $30 to $50 million, reducing the minimum expenditure threshold by $5,000 to $10,000 and by allowing the cost of overseas patenting to be claimed. Grants would also be available to regional and industry groups that promote Australian exports.

The New Zealand Government made change to the New Zealand Export Market Development Scheme for Export Year 2007. It will be interesting to see whether the Australian policy announcement will see New Zealand following suit in this year's budget.

86,000 Attend Warbirds: A Pity They Couldn't Shop

The ODT reports today that 86,000 people visited the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow over the last three days.

It is a great shame these people had to drive to Queenstown to shop!

The Government has chickened out of taking a decision over Easter trading. This is a disgrace. But even if they did not want to bite the bullet nationally, they could at least, have removed the anomaly which sees Wanaka and Rotorua closed while Taupo and Queenstown are open.

A Good Blog Can Boost Sales

The Press looks at the use of blogs by business to boost sales.

We stress the following factors:
  • well written
  • regularly updated
  • interesting
  • a bit different from the competition
  • easily understood by the non-geek

Economy: Not All That Bad

James Weir talks to lots of economists about the final quarter 2007 GDP figure due out Friday and the year ahead in today's Dominion Post. Any recession is seen as likely to be short and shallow.

Roger Douglas Explains His Policy Agenda

In today's NZ Herald Roger Douglas takes Herald columnist John Armstrong to task for his desription of the Douglas policy proposals as "hard Right".

One expects Helen Clark or Michael Cullen to describe conventional economic thinking as irrelevant "hard right" ideology. That sort of deception is their stock-in-trade.

But for John Armstrong to claim that what I said last Thursday was to "spell out his 'hard-right' agenda for New Zealand's economic salvation" is not only nonsense, but demonstrates how successful Helen Clark has been in labelling anyone who has an alternative policy as being "hard right".

To call what I said "hard right" is hugely ignorant.

He then goes on to explain each of his policies and why they are not "hard right". The Hive welcomed the Douglas proposals last week as they would work to boost productivity. We are not hard right either, indeed we see ourselves as pretty much middle of the road....

You should read the full article, but we will just share this on education

What's "hard right" about adopting the education system of Helen Clark's socialist heroes, Sweden? That's broadly what Act is advocating.

The great irony there is that Helen Clark and Dr Cullen are behind the times even by socialist standards. The Swedish education system hasn't been hard-left socialist since 1992. That year, the Swedes introduced what has always been Act policy - where every child gets a scholarship to take to the school of their choice. This puts the power in the hands of individual teachers and parents, not the state, and not the teachers' unions.

Mar 23, 2008

DHB Conflicts Of Interest

As regular readers will know we have been gobsmacked at the extent that members of DHBs around the country have conflicted interests. This has come to light through the Government's ham fisted attempts to shift the focus away from Annette King, Ray Lind and Hausmann in the Hawkes Bay DHB case.

In particular we have been bemused at the role being played by Ken Douglas in the Hawkes Bay affair and the fact, that as a conflicted person himself, he is on the Capital Coast DHB, also a DHB with some problems. Are we not correct in recalling that Sir John Anderson is involved in some way with that DHB? That would not be much of an issue but for the fact that Ken Douglas was deeply involved in the governance committee that oversaw last year the finalisation of the Wellington Regional Strategy (there were people deeply unhappy about Ken's role - first some thought that the Mayor of Porirua Jenny Brash should have been perfroming that role - everyone else on the oversight committee was a Mayor, and secondly people thought that Ken was conflicted as he was Chair of Positively Wellington Business, one of the entities most affected by the outcome of the Wellington Regional Strategy process.) Ken was part of a committee that selected - guess who, to Chair The Wellington regional Strategy Committee, a remunerated position??? Yes, Sir John Anderson. We think this is beginning to stink.

We have also been asking how Hausmann is so conflicted in Hawkes Bay when there must be conflicts around Ken Douglas in Wellington. The company involved, of which Douglas and Hausmann are directors is big throught the North Island. Sure enough Ken has had to declaare an interest - see an interesting post by Whaleoil. Note also the role that Douglas is currently playing at the Capital Coast DHB - With Anderson really busy, who do you think is calling the shots????

Finally we find the whole role played by Douglas in acting as the mouthpiece for Healthcare NZ and in reviewing the first draft of the review committee's report very strange. Has he never been to an IOD training course? What is the difference between Governance and Management? he is playing a non-governance role even tough he keeps on stressing that he is an non-executive Director.

The Hive is non-political and has no real axe to grind with Health Minister David Cunliffe. David, you thought that you might be able to get this one to go away. It won't and it is just about the get very bad. To survive you are going to have to take some very bold decisions. You are going to need to disolve Capital Coast DHB (to be consistent) and you might need to start moving away from Sir John as your savior. And avoid Ken Douglas like the plague (Yersinia pestis).

An Open Letter To Hu Jintao

Dear President Hu

Recent events and comments in the People's Daily has made the life of those sympathetic to China in the West a bit more difficult. Yes, we know that the Dalai Lama and his friends were responsible for the protests, but shooting demonstrators and talking about "the shattering of the conspiracy and sabotaging activities of the 'Tibet independence' forces" is not the way to win friends outside of your borders.

Can we suggest the following:
  • fire the Editor of The People's Daily;
  • fire who ever it was who led the response on the ground to the demonstrations in Tibet;
  • make all those arrested and who were guilty of property damage do some community service to make amends;
  • release those who protested but did not damage property;
  • don't execute anyone, but feel free to otherwise throw the book at anyone guilty of physical assault;
  • ask the Dalai Lama to show a bit more restraint and offer to send an envoy to meet him in a neutral location to ensure his concerns are discussed;
  • allow tourists to return to Tibet immediately;
  • ask your Embassies and Consulates abroad to write Op Eds to all local newspapers reminding people what life in feudal Tibet was like (particularly for the slaves) before Deng Xiaoping moved in from Sichuan to liberate Tibet;
  • invite any Foreign Minister who wants to, to visit Tibet this year;
  • allow the foreign media (not just Hong Kong media) immediate access to Tibet.

Should you follow this advice and should there be any further disturbances - be light handed. Everyone will know that the Dalai Lama is up to no good.

Have a very good Olympics and keep your economy growing - the globe needs that growth!

Yours sincerely

The Hive Team

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Pensioner To Cullen: Certainty Please

Today's Sunday Star Times is tied up in ideological knots. We have two articles that can only be described as anti-National or anti-John Key by Ruth Laugesen, an editorial that suggests that New Zealand should be taking a tougher line with China over the FTA, and extra-ordinarily ignorant opinion piece by Michael Laws, also (negative) on China, an anti-Reserve Bank article by former NZTE Chair Phil Lough, and a very interesting letter from New Plymouth pensioner Rob Sorely, who writes an open letter to Michael Cullen on the Canadian bid for 40% of Auckland Airport. We can't find an electronic link so have repeated it in full. Everyone should read this letter, and other bloggers should be posting it:

A Pensioner's Open Letter To Michael Cullen

Certainty please

You may have heard a sigh of disbelief when three weeks ago or thereabouts (we old people lose track of time) you and your government colleagues decided to give yourselves the power to block the Canadian bid for 40% of Auckland International Airport.

What surprised we oldies was the timing. We are a generation who, in our time, did business against a backdrop of reasonable certainty: if we undertook in a contract to transfer a business or whatever to a purchaser in six months time, then we did it and knew that the civil law was behind us.

The people at the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board appear to be a decent crowd. They want to buy 40% of our Auckland International Airport shares and add the investment to their portfolio. They gave all of us - including the Overseas Investment Office - notice last November; and they have spent, it seems, about $10 million on complying with the rules and sending their offer to every shareholder, big and small (among the latter are over 20,000 ordinary "mum and dad" - and granddad and grandma - shareholders.)

The Canadians were in familiar territory. They knew that their offer might be accepted and, then again, it might not - they had done their homework and had offered a good price which as time passed, was now worth a 40% premium on the market value of the AIA shares. Many shareholders could see that the shareprice would allow them to reinvest in other undertakings including stockmarket-quoted utilities at (if the NZ sock exchange index continues in the doldrums) bargain prices. Did Michael Cullen not say in August 2005 that we need foreign capital to develop the economy?

Then along came the government on March 3. An Order in Council was canvassed over the Cabinet table, was agreed to, but never put to a representative vote. The message went out: We now have the power to veto overseas investments.

Why the late retrospective Order-in-Council? You and your advisers could have given the Canadians - and the public - notice of your intentions back in November last year when the CPPIB lodged the application with the Overseas Investment Office. This was an issues of national importance according to the prime minister's recent observations to journalists and surely it merited immediate attention.

We of the older generation are not at all keen on retrospective legislation or last-minute decisions. We prefer to live with certainty, respect for property rights and, within the law, the honouring of private contractual decisions. We expect reasonable notice of impending change; and we think the present and succeeding generations will want the same. And we who have studied your Parliamentary career and had the added pleasure of meeting you and hearing you speak (as I have) know that you are a man of traditional values.

If the government thinks that the recent polls show that the public has been impressed with its actions then it might think again. The 3% gain might have been 13% (who knows?) if they had not upset so many. At the end of the day 27,000 investors said "yes" to the Pension Board and cocked a snook at the Government and their last minute change of rules. How many of these voted Labour at the last election? Would 10,000 be a reasonable guess, extrapolating from the 2005 election results?

We would have been more impressed if the Government had said: "This Canadian investment worries us. We shall have to consider whether the rules should be changed to give us powers if there should, in future, be some similar overseas proposal."

Now that the shareholders have made their decision might it be wise to let the sale take its course and hope that the last-minute intervention will soon be forgotten?

Rob Sorely
New Plymouth

Rob, have a think about re-addressing your letter to The Clerk of the House, and lodge a formal complain under Standing Order 315.

Did World Temperatures Drop Last Year?

And —by enough to virtually offset the entire “unprecedented warming” of the last century?

We certainly haven't read this in the Dom Post recently.

According to this article from the Center For Global Food Issues

Britain’s Hadley Centre, NASA, and the University of Alabama/Huntsville say the temperature drop since January of 2007 was measured between 0.59 and 0.75 degree C. This includes an unusually cold winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and the harshest Chinese winter in a century. Part is due to a regional cooling in the Pacific called La Nina which appears every 4-5 years, but the strength and global scope of this cooling has been startling.

It certainly was a cold winter in New Zealand last year. Was this due to greenhouse gas emissions? Or are some other factors at play?

Easter Photo

Since it is Easter Sunday we thought we should have a photo on a religious theme. What better than Barak Obama with his inspiration Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Ralston On Baygate

Bill Ralston also writes on the Baygate scandal in the Herald on Sunday. He reminds us of the strange circumstances around Anette King's letter writing

"When neither you nor your spouse is having an affair it is probably best that you do not write letters and make public statements denying any shagging is going on.

This is political common sense 101, yet former Health Minister Annette King has done exactly that in a breathtaking act of stupidity, neatly adding the missing ingredient of sex to the scandal surrounding the Hawkes Bay District Health Board.

King, while Minister of Health, reportedly wrote a threatening letter to a board employee who had alerted King's husband Ray Lind, then chief operating officer of the board, to rumours that he was having an affair.

After the board was controversially sacked by new Health Minister David Cunliffe, King went public, alerting media to the sex rumours. Now, when confronted by reporters with questions about the letter, she accuses the media of being part of a "dirty tricks campaign" and refuses to confirm the letter exists, saying she cannot find it on the ministerial database, avoiding the question of whether she wrote it privately to the board employee.

Sacked board chairman Kevin Atkinson confirms he saw the letter."

and asks searching questions as to why Hausmann was appointed to the Board in the first place, and why Hausmann took so long to decalare an interest in a contract. He suggests that this scandal will not go away until a full and truly independent enquiry is held. Since no such enquiry will be called until December at the earliest, this suggests that the scandal will fester away right through the election campaign. Poor political managment we say.

Baygate: Clear As Mud

Fran O'Sullivan reviews that state of play on the Hawkes Bay DHB scandal now that the review report has been issued. The Hive still has a number of questions on this report - for example, why did Healthcare NZ seem to get an extra consultation from the reveiw team? Is is simply the result of a better understanding of how the system works - a benefit of having someone like Ken Douglas on your board? Clearly Hawkes Bay DHB was a mess, but is it a worse mess than other DHBs? Is it normal for DHBs to be so populated with people who derive benefit from DHB contracts? Why was Hausmann appointed to the DHB in the first place?

Taiwan: Back In KMT Hands

As we predicted, the Chinese Nationalist Party, the KMT, has swept home in the Taiwanese Presidential election 59% to 41%. That seems a pretty strong mandate, and shows how badly Chen Shui-bian and friends screwed things up.

The media will be suggesting tomorrow that this heralds major change in China-Taiwan relations. Don't bank on this.

Ma Ying-jeou will certainly not be pushing for a formal independence from China (being content with the current de facto independence). This might help speed up improved commercial links with the mainland, particularly air and sea links. But China will not be satisfied until Taiwan has returned to the bosom, and Ma can't deliver this. Taiwan will still be seeking its own international identity, will still play games in the Pacific etc. and will still be wanting to buy bigger and better arms systems from the US. And because Ma is likely to be better behaved in US eyes, these sales are more likely to go through. Perversely this might make tensions worse with China at a political level (while making armed confrontation less likely).

Will New Zealand have the courage to issue a statement of welcome to Taiwan's new leader and commendation to Taiwan for holding yet another successful democratic election??

Mar 22, 2008

Labour Goes Too Far In Wooing Chinese Voters

The ex-expat posted in January about the rising political power of the Asian vote in Auckland. This has certainly not been lost on Labour which has being doing everything it can to corner this vote. Chris Carter has been given the task of winning the Asian communities over. And even though it will be a complete waste of money, he will be joining the PM and Phil Goff at the signing ceremony for the FTA with China in Beijing on 7 April. As there is no reason from a Government perspective to have Carter make this trip we are assuming that the travel costs will be put down as an election expense.

Queen Bee was somewhat surprised and angered to be delayed for 20 minutes of so a few weeks back when trying to get into Parliament buildings at the same time as 400 or so members of the Chinese community (the anger was the result of the line into the Beehive being essentially non-moving because those in the line seemed only interested in watching a Dragon dance). The reason for this delay is now clear - the Chinese community had been invited to a Chinese New Year celebration in Parliament (the Herald article attached refers to the Grand Hall - which is the old wing just next to the Executive Council Chamber, but from recollection that was where Queen Bee was. We suspect that the Chinese New Year function was in the Beehive Banquet Hall) by Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter. It seems that Carter took the spirit of the Government Government too heart (everything we do is to get Labour re-elected) and put up a poster saying "Labour Party Supports Chinese"

We leave the rest to the NZ Herald

Putting up a banner declaring "Labour Party supports Chinese" at Chinese New Year celebrations last month has landed Minister of Ethnic Affairs Chris Carter in hot soup.

National complained - saying the minister played party politics at the Beehive event, attended by 400 representatives from the Chinese community, diplomats and MPs - and Speaker Margaret Wilson agreed.

The Speaker has reminded Mr Carter that "it is a long-standing convention that events within the precincts of Parliament must not be party political ... and asking that this does not happen again".

National's Pansy Wong, Parliament's only Chinese MP, said the banner had cheapened what was the most important celebration of the Chinese community.

Mr Carter accepted that putting the banner up was a mistake.

"[It] was put up in the Grand Hall in error and the issue has been discussed with the Speaker's office," he said.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said at the function that the Government placed great value on its relationship with the Chinese community.

Paul Krugman: Partying Like 1929

Paul Krugman looks today at the parallels between the "Great Depression" and what we are seeing at present in the banking sector. He is clearly worried that the lessons learned in the 1930s seem to have been forgotten

Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues at the Fed are doing all they can to end that vicious circle. We can only hope that they succeed. Otherwise, the next few years will be very unpleasant — not another Great Depression, hopefully, but surely the worst slump we’ve seen in decades.
Even if Mr. Bernanke pulls it off, however, this is no way to run an economy. It’s time to relearn the lessons of the 1930s, and get the financial system back under control.

New Zealand regulators should also be taking note.....

Could China Have Given The DPP A Victory?

Voting is now well underway in Taiwan in its Presidential election. Until a couple of days ago, a victory by the incumbent pro-independenec Democratic People's Party looked impossible, but the New York Times reports today that the Chinese crackdown in Tibet has changed the dynamic quite significantly.

The suppression of Tibet protests by Chinese security forces, as well as missteps by the Nationalist Party, which Beijing favors, have nearly erased what had seemed like an insuperable lead for Ma Ying-jeou, the Harvard-educated lawyer who has been the front-runner in the race.

For the record The Hive is still expecting a win by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

US Economy: The Slump Spreads

The downturn that was initially seen as a problem for Wall Street alone is now showing worrying signs of spread. The New York Times looks at the spread and its implications

Indeed, some economists fear it will last longer and inflict more bite on workers and businesses than the last two recessions, which gripped the economy in 2001 and for eight months straddling 1990 and 1991. This time, these experts say, a recession in which economic activity falls over a sustained period and joblessness rises across the board could even persist into next year.

Tide Retreats Too Far For Labour

Noelle McCarthy muses today in the NZ Herald about why New Zealanders are so keen , like the French, to leave town over public holidays. She suggests that it is something to do with not liking shoes (McCarthy writes often about shoes).

The Hive team have dispersed around the country for different reasons, to recharge batteries and to get closer in touch with real New Zealand. The full set of impressions is not yet in but here are two examples:

9 business people sitting around a table in Albany (Northshore Auckland) talking politics and drinking a very nice Chardonnay. All extremely hostile to the PM. She has done her time. Not much interested in National's policy, but it must be better. Main question is whether those in Epsom will vote Rodney Hide on back in? Consensus was that they should to give National a support option. Is there anything Labour can do to win or get close? Not with Helen Clark at the helm.

Further south, heartland New Zealand. Country golfclub. Post match discussion with twelve golfers. Topic, Helen Clark has to go. Actually uncomfortable at the strength of some of the language about the PM, and how personal it has become. What can Labour do to improve things? Get rid of Helen.


Labour's loss of support in these two areas would appear irreversible, and Labour's persona and that of the PM have merged. Is it possible that because the average person is being alienated by a PM who is maybe past use by date, that Labour is suffering a more severely negative reaction than might otherwise be the case?

This is something else for Cullen and Goff to think about. It will be interesting to see whether Cullen has hung around the 19th at Bridge Pa to gauge opinion there.

1630 Jobs To Go In Northland

A number of the submissions made on the Government's emissions trading legislation are appearing on websites. This one from the Northland Chamber of Commerce caught our eye. In it there is a claim that the Government believes that there will be significant impact on employment in the Northland region as a result of the proposed policy. This is a much larger impact than the recently announced Feltex closures in the Manawatu for example, and seems an incredibly bold move for Labour in election year. Why has this not been picked up by the mainstream media??

This is the relevant section from the Northland Chamber's submission:

The impacts of supporting the Emissions Trading Bill are job losses and a diminishing of our economic baseThe Government’s figures show that 1630 jobs would be lost in Northland alone – a 2.7% contraction.

Taiwan Elections Today

With Taiwan going to the polls today we thought that readers might be interested in the front page from today's Taipei Times. We will analyse the results tomorrow. We are anticipating a win for the KMT.

These elections are always tense, both inside Taiwan and for China. Just to make sure all remains stable the US has moved two carrier groups close by.

Just How Big An Impact Is Expected From The Emissions Trading Scheme?

Fran O'Sullivan quoted Rodney Hide as saying the following in her column this morning in the NZ Herald

On Thursday Hide revealed that Treasury estimates showed the impact of the emissions trading scheme on the economy would be major. For New Zealand to hold to its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels may be beyond the scope of the proposed trading regime. Taking the 2013-2050 period, there would be a cumulative cost of some $30 billion if a carbon price of $21.50 per tonne was applied, and, $72.4 billion if a $50 price was used. This must be offset.

There is talk around Wellington of another study commissioned by Treasury (Infometrics might have done this) which has a conservative estimate of 53,000 jobs being displaced by the policy. The estimate is deemed to be conservative as it assumes the exchange rate will adjust automatically every time a major plant closes, or industry goes under. In the real world the exchange rate doesn't necessarily move this way.

There is also talk of a study showing that the current scheme will render meat and wool production completely non-viable post around 2025 and suggests an actual date for the closure of the last sheep and beef farm in New Zealand.

There is also a rumour that a major study by NZIER is due out next week. And that the news will not be good for advocates of the Government's policy.

Watch this space.

John Armstrong On The New ACT

It is good to see that NZ Herald columnists don't collude. John Armstrong also looks at the new ACT party today, but takes a completely different line from Fran O'Sullivan. Armstrong can't understand why ACT would be wanting to make life more difficult for National and suggests that the policy prescription outlined by Roger Douglas last week might do this. He ends by warning that National might chose to go with NZ First and leave ACT out of Government. He doesn't explain how NZ First is going to get back into Parliament, which, of course, is a pretty hard question to answer right now.

An ACT Resurgence?

Fran O'Sullivan has a serious look at the new ACT Party (new since Roger Douglas decided to stand). She looks at the return to serious and credible policy (not just productivity but climate change also). Fran suggests that

Act will have no problem in scooping up at least 3 per cent of the party vote this year and could well go much higher if advertising guru John Ansell - who created National's billboard for the 2005 election - succeeds in differentiating Act's brand while his former client sits on its hands. Ansell has come up with the "Act to bring your children home" slogan to illustrate the party's push for a 20-year plan to overcome the big gap between New Zealand and Australia. Making the first $30,000 income tax-free for families, and, getting rid of the 39 per cent top threshold will have cut-through.

Fran also looks at ACT's attempts to encourage other prominent New Zealanders to run for Parliament and looks at Don "the rake" Brash, and Catherine Judd as possibilities. The Hive is not sure about Brash. We understand that National is planning to gift him to the women of Washington D.C. (should the Clintons be the next door neighbours - in the VP's Residence, we are sure that Don and Bill will get on like a house on fire. Many stories and tactics to share!!)Brash standing for ACT might cause a reconsideration of this posting.

Finally Fran looks at another possibility. Now that National has swung so far to the centre, would the new ACT necessarily want to support National in Government?

The more interesting question to pose is whether Act could get into bed with Labour. Douglas cites the "Helen Clark" factor (she has orchestrated the party list to drum out the Rogernomes) as a negative. But Act could work with a Phil Goff-led Labour.

Hide says from his perspective the issue is what policies Act could negotiate as part of a coalition agreement. Not with which major party.

Of course, for this theory to work, Goff would need to the the leader of Labour at the time of the election.......

Mar 21, 2008

National Lead Up In Roy Morgan Poll

Contrary to expectations, after a less than impressive two weeks, National has extended its lead over Labour according to the latest Roy Morgan poll. National is up 1.5 to 51%. Labour drops to 34%. The Greens and NZ First have also dropped.

Roy Morgan Research see a correlation with Consumer Confidence.

This is a major blow to Labour. They have tried everything over the period that this poll was taken. The public, however, seem to have made their minds up. What is not clear, is whether a change of leader will now make a difference.

Investigate Doesn't See Coup Happening: Is Their Reasoning Good?

Ian Wishart looks at the tensions within the Labour leadership in the latest issue of Investigate. He doesn't see that a coup is likely because of the current predominance of the Labour left. "For the [Labour] Right to rebuild Labour, this group [Goff, Cullen, Cosgrove, King, Cunliffe] needs the Left-wing to be routed at the next election. Nothing less than a National Party blitzkrieg will sweep clean Labour's stacked Party list MPs like Wall, trade unionist Darien Fenton, Maryan Street, Lesley Soper or Charles Chauvel."

This is an interesting take. However, does it stack up as an analysis? Have Wishart actually done the numbers on who will be in the caucus after achieving 36% of thereabouts in the Party vote? Will the left be more of less dominant?

The Hive must confess to not having completed this analysis (in fact it can't be completed until the Party list is out) but our initial work is showing that while Phil Goff is the obvious replacement for Clark, the numbers post election are likely to favour a candidate from the left. Certainly most of the selections in the Wellington region are left leaning.

We also think that Chauvel is miscategorized by Wishart. He is socially liberal but identifies more right than left on economic policy. He is also not a Clark man (not anymore). Indeed, he is right now a Cullen man.

We don't place Cullen as a rightist either. Not as far left as Clark or Anderton, but certainly not a Goff or a Moore. This is why, should there be a change under the current caucus composition, Cullen might get the numbers - he bridges both camps.

We are not saying their will be a coup. What we know is that the numbers are being done, mainly by disaffected MPs. Everyone is watching the polls. Goff, will not move. Cullen may not either, but this is last chance to become PM. If a compelling case can be put to him he might just say yes. The PM's forthcoming trip is the last chance for a coup to happen pre-election.

Of course, another reason to move now would be to help influence the list rankings for 2008. We can't see Clark, if she remains in power, doing Goff and the right any favours in these list rankings.

Schwab Also Signalling Delay In WTO Ministerial

USTR Susan Schwab is also signalling the likelihood of a delay in the WTO Ministerial meeting that until the last day or so had been planned for Geneva in the week beginning 14 April. Speaking yesterday in Beijing Schwab said that she foresees a WTO Ministerial in the next "4-8 weeks". This still keeps the week beginning 14 April as a possibility, but it doesn't fill one with confidence that this will be the timing.

Clinton Has Opened Up A Huge Lead In Pennsylvania

The latest polls are showing a big lead (17 percentage points) for Clinton over Obama in Pennsylvania. She also has some important endorsements.

Gallup Shows Similar Result

A Gallup poll just out is showing a similar result to the Fox poll. McCain will beat Obama easily, but it will be a much closer race between Clinton and Obama. Clinton has also opened up a big lead over Obama amongst Democrats.

Clinton Now Looking Best Bet For The Democrats

With Obama now fatally wounded by his Pastor/mentor/inspiration opinion polls are showing that Hillary Clinton has a chance of beating McCain. The latest Fox poll shows that Clinton would beat McCain (just) but that McCain would beat Obama.

Voting With Their Feet

New Zealand emigration to Australia has just hit a six year high. Why? Because Australia's higher productivity growth rates have allowed wages to rise there. The wage gap between Australia and New Zealand is becoming enormous.

Government Shows Typical Boldness On Easter Trading

Continuing Government inaction on Easter Trading laws shows that Labour hasn't the appetite for a fight with the Union movement. This is a shame as the current law is an ass, and it holds the economy back.

Mar 20, 2008

Douglas Productivity Prescription Rejected By John Key

Well ACT supporters now have a clear choice.

At The Hive we are non-partisan, and simply rate policy against likely outcomes. There is no doubt that the Douglas prescription would boost productivity growth. But as Key reminds us - whole sale cuts to the public service, education vouchers and health privatisation may not have mainstream support.

So how is this for an idea - benchmarking the public service.

Lets look around those companies with multiple clients who are regarded as good service suppliers. Then lets compare levels of service and staff numbers from these companies with state entities - health, education, social development etc and compare the difference.

Vodafone, would be an interesting place to start. They actually might have more clients than the biggest Government agencies. What is their staff? Does anyone have major complaints about the level of service offered by Vodafone?

Growing Productivity

At last a policy prescription that makes real sense. Thanks to Roger Douglas for suggesting it, and Stuff for reporting it:

* Cutting the top tax rate from 39 to 33c in the dollar;
* Adjusting income tax thresholds to take account of wage growth since 1999;
* Making the first $20,000 of income tax-free;
* Introducing education vouchers for all children;
* Renting out hospital wards to health staff to practice privately;
* Dump the Working for Families scheme;
* Review all Government spending with the aim of saving between $3 and $5 billion.

Irish Trying To Unpick WTO Agriculture Deal

This is probably no surprise but the language coming out of Ireland on the WTO agriculture text is becoming increasingly strident.....

Further Delay In WTO Ministerial Meeting?

EU Agriculture Chief Mariann Fischer Boel is quoted in the attached article as saying that Ministers from trade powers might meet in late April or early May to seek a breakthrough in long-delayed negotiations for a global trade deal. This timing is predicated on the asumption that new compromise proposals on core areas of the World Trade Organisation talks could be floated by mediators at the end of March or in early April.

That is at one level encouraging, but at another deeply discouraging. Readers might recall that post Davos we were anticipating an WTO Ministerial at Easter. Then we were told mid-April (indeed we know of at least one global lobby group that has made bookings in Geneva around this timing and the hotels are full of Government bookings). Does this mean a further delay?

Winston The Kingmaker?

Winston believes he will be in a position to enter negotiations with the party with the largest number of seats in Parliament after the election.

You have to be in Parliament to do this Winston...

Where Does Winston Stand On China FTA?????

Inquiring Mind's take

TV3's take

Newstalk ZB's take

Are you confused?

Update On Standing Order Complaint

It looks as though the complaint under Standing Order 315 is unlikely to delay the Government's decision on the Canadian bid for 40% of Auckland Airport.

Mar 19, 2008

Winston Declares Opposition To China FTA

Having appeared to support the China FTA yesterday, Winston Peters has flip flopped and now opposes the deal. How a Foreign Minister can oppose a major foreign policy achievement is beyond us. Winston, you can't do your job properly anymore - time to resign...........

Fed Cuts 0.75%

The Federal Reserve made another big interest rate cut this morning in the US. The differential with New Zealand is now an enormous 2.25% as opposed to 8.25%.

Baygate: Muck Raking?

Very strange article in today's Dominion Post. Did King write this letter and why would she do this?

More Detail Emerges On China FTA

Fran O'Sullivan reports on some more of the detail of the China FTA. She also notes the responsible attitude being adopted by Winston Peters on the Tibet issue.

Changed To Overseas Investment Regulations: Someone Has Woken Up To Standing Order 315

It will be interesting to see how the Government tries to extricate itself from this one. Only 3 members of this Select Committee are from Labour. Good on Fran O'Sullivan for picking this up.

Mar 18, 2008

Greenhouse Policy Coalition Gets Angry About Shape NZ Surveys

This has just come our way - can't recall seeing any media outlets pick this up

Open Letter to Editors

I write to express my amazement about how uncritically the media is accepting the results of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development’s surveys that come out of their “Shape NZ” market research.

The latest survey tells us that 54% of respondents think NZ should become a global leader on climate change and that 58% agree or strongly agree to a question about emissions trading (a highly simplistic question about emissions trading that was misleading in itself).

The questions I think that need to be asked is how are the survey’s conducted? The article quotes the results as being from 746 business decision makers; but who are these people? The surveys are able to be filled in by any-one who goes onto the NZBCSD website. As such they are self selecting which by definition would make them biased from the start. For all we know every-one filling in the survey is employed by the government working on emissions trading policy or is setting up in business to trade carbon units?

The reason I ask these questions, is that as some-one who has read a great many submissions on the Emissions Trading Bill from a range of different industries, these survey results do not reflect business opinion – from any sector that I have come across.

I talk regularly with business leaders and CEO’s from a wide range of industry associations and without exception they are growing increasingly concerned at the increased energy costs they can foresee if the Emissions Trading Bill is passed without significant amendment.

Using survey’s to get an answer you want is one of the oldest PR tricks in the book. To avoid this accusation, opinion type surveys should ideally be conducted by independent market researchers who are members of the market research industry association which has a code of conduct.

As someone commented to me – if you asked people if they were prepared to have a cold shower every day to reduce emissions – the answer would make a good Tui Bill Board – Yeah Right.

Catherine Beard
Executive Director
Greenhouse Policy Coalition

China FTA More Popular Than Labour

We can't understand why some are suggesting that the China FTA is unpopular with New Zealand voters. Labour would kill for 39% popularity!!

Cullen/Clark Tension Brewing?

Interesting difference of opinion between the PM yesterday and Cullen today on the possibility of a recession......

Who Cares About $600 Million?

A bit of a blunder from Government but luckily no one seriously suggested a delay in tax cuts.

World Watching NZX This Morning

Wall Street has responded reasonably well to the emergency action taken by the Fed overnight, but the sell off in Europe and Asia has been heavy. It will be intersting to see how the NZX opens today. As the first market in Asia to open there will be global interest in the direction set.

"Weasel Words"

Not what Minister Cunliffe would want as the main headline in today's Dominion Post. Marty Sharpe reports on the report released yesterday.

Baygate: Editorial Says It All

It will be the fervent hope of Health Minister David Cunliffe and Director General of Health Stephen McKernan that the report, released yesterday, into conflicts of interest at the Hawke's Bay District Health Board ends speculation about why Mr Cunliffe sacked the former board and appointed a commissioner to run health services in the region. It is a hope that is doomed to disappointment, the rest of the Dominion Post editorial

Tibet And The China FTA

Fran O'Sullivan looks at the complications that current problems in Tibet have caused the New Zealand Government.

Helen Clark has a huge diplomatic opportunity ahead of her.

She will arrive in Beijing fresh from a meeting with political leaders of other social democratic governments in London. This places her as a message bearer on behalf of the Western world should she choose to do so.

Right through the long free trade negotiations, Clark's senior ministers have been careful not to provoke hostility from Labour backbenchers, trade unions and other political parties that are concerned at China's human rights record.

The free trade deal will be accompanied by statements on environment and human rights ideals. But they are merely statements, not part of the formal agreement.

The Tibetan crisis has inevitably awakened strong feelings among New Zealanders who hold the expression of human freedoms dearly.

Helen Clark needs to deal with the issue quickly if the upcoming FTA signing is to be seen as a political plus.

China FTA "Excellent"

While the Government hasn't been revealing much, National Trade Spokesperson Tim Groser, who has been briefed on the deal, has shared details of the agreement with the NZ Herald. He declares the final result "excellent".

Mar 17, 2008

Baygate: Read Craig Foss MP

There are interesting posts on the detail of the Baygate scandal, and the clearly close relationship between the DHB's CEO and Hausmann on Craig Foss MP's blog. We found this post on a $200k plus contract to Welcare interesting. Note the answers on tendering.

Here is the commentary from Craig Foss on this from another post

This contract and the processes that led to it were slammed by Audit New Zealand.Wellcare is a subsidiary of Healthcare New Zealand.This program was set up to train people who were on a benefit for a job in the community care sector. It was very expensive and out or 16 or so who started training, I understand 4 went on to work. EIT (HB) already provided a NZQA approved course in this field as did at least one other local provider but neither were asked to tender.In April 2006, the CEO claimed to the board that it was tendered , and yet a month later after questioning, as you will see from the DHB minutes linked above, the CEO and a Government appointed board member told the board, it had not been tendered.The reasons I understand were along the lines that no other provider could provide a full wrap around service as Wellcare could.Now what on earth does that mean?

No Need To Fear New US President On Free Trade

We don't actually lose much sleep here at The Hive about Obama or Clinton's trade policy. Both speak nonsense on the subject, and both appear dangerous, but as neither has a hope of election to the Presidency this is all academic.

Nevertheless, World Bank boss Bobbie Zoellick has seen the need to make some reassuring comments:

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in an interview that once in the White House, the winner of November's election would find it hard to block an agreement, should tortuous negotiations at the World Trade Organisation succeed by then.

Hillary Clinton has said she might not finish the 6-year-old Doha world trade talks, and she and her rival for the Democratic party nomination, Barack Obama, have both criticised a 1994 free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico for costing U.S. jobs.

Zoellick, who helped launch the World Trade Organisation's Doha round in 2001 as the top U.S. trade official, recalled how in 1992 former president George Bush concluded talks for the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada and passed it to his successor, Bill Clinton, for signing.

"President Clinton gave some consideration of whether he should move this forward and I think he decided it would be devastating for North American relations if he didn't," he said.

"So I guess I would pose the same question. If the Bush administration is able to close a global trade deal, first off whether it's President (John) McCain, who has been very supportive of trade, or if it's a President Obama or a President Clinton, can they really walk away from a global trade deal?"

"President Clinton didn't run on a trade agenda but he found it hard to walk away from the one he was handling," he said.

US Financial Markets

Paul Krugman writes about the B word.

Page one of the same paper details the B(ailout)....

Tibet Crackdown A Shot In The Foot By China

With Taiwan about to go to the polls for its Presidential election, the recent unrest in Tibet could not be more badly timed for China. Even China's friend Ma Ying-jeou is distancing himself from the mainland...

Evidence Of Grim Past Uncovered

Some may forget that the current headquarters of the WTO has a dark secret. Before the GATT Secretariat moved in in 1977, the building had been home to the International Labour Organisation. Evidence of the building's grim past has just been discovered, with a number of murals from the socialist realism school uncovered when plaster and wall boards were removed. The paintings had been sensibly covered up by the GATT soon after moving in! WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, a member of the French Socialist Party, is aparently overjoyed at the discovery as he "has always championed the harnessing of globalisation for workers' benefits.

"There are only advantages in returning to a time in history when the people wanted to create an international system which prevents the repeat of a traumatic situation such as the first world war which they came out of," Lamy said."

These Suggestions Seem Sensible

But what would these people know????????????

No Need To Worry: New Zealand Holding Up Well

So says the PM. The Government is planning any policy response...

Carry Trade Under Pressure

There were big movements in the $NZ and $A today. Here is Bloomberg's take

Could This Be Worse Than 1987?

There was speculation a few weeks back about whether the current global meltdown would be worse than 1997. Now people are talking 1987. This on what happened today in Asia....

Baygate: Meet The Healthcare New Zealand Board

We have been surprised to read about the extent to which DHB Board members have conflicted interests. Then we saw Ken Douglas interviewed on TV, saying that Hausmann had been vindicated. Funny that, Ken is a Healthcare NZ Board member. Isn't it interesting how Healthcare NZ Board Members are on DHB Boards - in this case Ken is an elected member. This from the Healthcare NZ website:

Ken Douglas, ONZ, Director

Ken was a life-long Union leader both in the Wellington Region (1956 - 1979) and nationally as the Secretary of NZFOL from 1979 until 1987 and as the President of NZCTU from 1987 until 1999.

During this period he was New Zealand representative on the World Union Movement Executive; President of the Asia/Pacific Regional Trade Union and a workers rep on the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). He was particularly involved in working parties on skills, training, creation and economic development.

He has been a member and Government appointee on a number of Boards, Committees and Working Parties both in New Zealand and at International forums over the last 30 years.
He is currently an appointee or elected member of a number of Boards including Air NZ, NZ Post and NZ Trade and Enterprise. Ken Chairs the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (Positively Wellington Business) and is an elected member of the Capital & Coast District Health Board, where he chairs the Hospital Advisory Committee. He is also an elected member of the Porirua City Council , where he chairs the Strategy and Finance Committee . He is a member of the NZ Rugby Union Board and an active participant and administrator in Golf.

His interests are political history, political economy and his 10 grand children and 1 great grand son.

Tibet Problems Should Not Affect FTA Signing

Rather than use the Tibet problems as an excuse to embarrass the Government over the forthcoming FTA signing in Beijing, critics should be seeing the FTA as an opportunity for the New Zealand leaders to signal direct to China's leadership our concern at what is going on in Tibet. Helen Clark will be meeting with a number of European leaders immediately prior to arriving in China. She would therefore be well placed to convey a message on behalf of the wider 'western community' direct to China's leadership - should the FTA signing go ahead.

Well Considered Cuts To The Public Service A Good Thing

The Editorial in today's Dominion Post looks at National's plan to cap core public service positions (the scalpel not an axe terminology rings some bells to us). It thinks that this is a good thing - if handled with care. Meanwhile Vernon Small has an article about wage growth pressures in the public service.

The public service wage bill will increase by $800 million during the next five years on current trends, according to Treasury and State Services Commission figures.
A report on public sector pay pressures, issued under the Official Information Act, shows that in the year to last June, the size of the core public sector rose by 5 per cent, or 2,067 people, to about 42,000.

The average wage was also up 5 per cent at $56,619, leading to an overall 10 per cent increase in the wage bill. That raised the wage bill $216 million for the year to June 2007. If the same trend continued the payroll would rise $800 million to almost $4 billion by 2012.

Baygate: The Report

Fran O'Sullivan wrote yesterday about the process followed by Hausmann's legal team to try and effect change in the report due out today - the one that everyone claims will vindicate them....

Baygate: Police Investigation

Strangely the article that was in the SST and on the Stuff website on the police investogation into Baygate has been removed from the Stuff website. There is no explanation. We note that there is a very brief reference to the Police complaint on the front page of today's Dominion Post.

Mar 16, 2008

Cullen's Tactics Have Made A Difference

The latest ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll is interesting. Cullen's traps have made a bit of a dent. How the PM has benefited we don't know but this might be enough to save her. Don't read anything into Goff beginning to show - he is not going to mount a challenge. We are not saying that Cullen will either, but we know that the numbers are being done. Lets see what the next few poll results bring. If we don't see change in early April we will see Helen at the helm until the election.

Winston Peters has had huge publicity over this period but there has been no rebound for his Party. What more can the poor boy do???

Should The Minister of Police Resign?

Now that an investigation by the Police must be underway (in response to receiving a complaint), how is it possible for Annette King to remain Minister of Police given that her husband's role is so central to the Baygate scandal? If she stays on as Minister and the Police reject the complaint, or say there is no case to answer, will this not smell really bad? Would it not be prudent political management for Labour to find a new Minister on Monday? Why not David Cunliffe? He seems to be in charge of things.......

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Chris Trotter on Key

Chris Trotter has joined the long list of people advising John Key to learn to keep his mouth shut when he is unprepared.

Poor old National Party, it must realise by now that its Key Problem is only going to get worse. How is this guy going to explain the party's policies without a cheat-sheet? Even more worrying, how's he going to perform when pitted against Helen Clark in the leaders' debates?
And that's the other half of my story about THAT girl.

When the beautiful vision turned out to have nothing to say, I'd suddenly notice the OTHER girl. A little plain, perhaps, and definitely sartorially challenged (what's with that tartan skirt?!) but, striking up a conversation, in just a few seconds, I'd be locked in the best discussion of the entire evening.

And, as the hours passed, and my wine bottle emptied, it slowly dawned on me that the OTHER girl really wasn't so plain. In fact, Ms Tartan Skirt was beginning to look quite sexy.

What is unclear to The Hive from the above is whether Chris Trotter is seeking to build bridges to or to hit on the PM?