Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Good things take time? Time for Fonterra to offer Kiwis a better deal.

With all the controversy over the Greens policy on Fonterra, I thought I'd provide a bit of background, and then evaluate the situation consumers find themselves in.

Fonterra, was formed from the amalgamation of NZ Dairy Group and Kiwi Dairies, which originally arose as farmer cooperatives in a similar structure to the current megabrand, from the Waikato and Taranaki respectively.

At the time of the proposed merger, which correctly predicted that the gains in efficiency would deliver improved performance to dairy farmers, there was a concern amongst consumer advocate groups that in the long-term, there would be reduced competition in the market for dairy produce within New Zealand from such a mega-merger.

In fact, this concern was such that the proposed merger was flagged by the Commerce Commission for investigation of the potential of anti-competitive market structure. Especially that, within NZ, at least, it would possess the capability to become a monopolist price setter. Therefore, in response, to allay concerns, the major concessions was with respect to local consumers, that in NZ, the merged entity would have to sell milk to rival firms at the same price it sold to its own distribution and wholesaling outfit.

However, since that time, milk distribution, at least, has consolidated into two main product lines, Fonterra-brands controlled Anchor, and Meadowfresh. This duopoly outcome has highlighted the inherent flaws in the concession granted to local consumers, which allowed Fonterra to come into existence in the first place.

While this was a Labour initiative, to strongarm the Commerce Commission by using enabling legislation, there was largely a bipartisan consensus on this issue. Both the politicians, and the public of New Zealand recognised that this deal would create increased earning potential for farmers, and increase export receipts in a time of increasing trade deficits. They allowed for this cash-cow, pun intended, to be created, and yet now, we see Fonterra taking advantage of this monopoly status that the New Zealand public gave them on the domestic front.

In addition, the dairy industry is a huge producer of negative externalities, be they carbon emissions, increased nitrification of lowland soils, rising river and lake pollution. The New Zealand public, for the most part, has embraced the dairy industry, and its capability to generate enormous windfalls, yet Fonterra, has not returned the favour in any meaningful way other than farmers spending their money here. All relationships require a least a little give and take.

It would be most unfortunate if in order to deliver improved environmental outcomes, and cheaper local prices in fair consideration of what the dairy industry takes (and has been given in the past) by the public of New Zealand, that tighter and increased regulation was necessary. Therefore, in recognition, Fonterra should offer its New Zealand consumers a 20% discount on the world price of exported produce. Good things do indeed take time.

I mean, we all at least want those two old buggers to have the chance of catching a fish, right?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Mistakes of a Generation Frustrate Young Kiwis

January 23, 2008

The “generation gap” concept, which was first coined in the 1960s, is about to come back to haunt its progenitors.

The Baby Boomer generation, which is about to retire, have had unprecedented wealth, and freedom in the history of Western civilization. But this freedom in which they seized the hour, has come at a cost many 1960s generation adolescents perhaps may find ironic.

Now the same people that went out and experimented, and opened their minds, and worlds; have become the mirrors of their forebears generation, the very squares and hypocrites they claimed their parents to be.

In fact, the Baby Boomer generation is even worse than their predecessors. Around the developed world, and in New Zealand, they have, with their votes, sacrificed the Welfare State, which guaranteed freedom from poverty, ill health, and illiteracy, on the altar of Thatcherism/Rogernomics, and worshipped the twin pagan ideals of monetarism and individualism. The generation to which they bequeath the world faces unprecedented and costly problems as a result of worship of false idols. At the same time, our generation must be bold, and show the courage to combat problems generated by our forebears.

1. Climate Change/Global Warming - This problem, while not initiated by the Baby Boomers, has been neglected to the extent that it now presents a real danger, not just to standards of living, but also to the continued existence of life on this planet. They have delayed making the tough decisions on renewable energy, which represents our only panacea, in order to keep living above the means of the country and the environment.

2. Consumer and Household are at record levels, along with record interest rates. Tax structures which encourage zero-risk investment have forced a generation of homeowners out of the housing market, and the move towards franchising in business had lead to widespread occurence of low-wage job factories. The real median wage is only 33% of what is was in 1974. In many cases, people have to simply borrow money to survive - they cannot wait and save up for that filling.

3. The Abandonment of “Free Education” and our Export of Young Talent.
A generation which had its education paid for by their parents taxes, now seeks its children to pay their own, citing poor attitudes towards study among their own generation as sufficient justification for tertiary fees, so they can enjoy the benefits of lower taxes themselves. The Baby Boomers neglected their many opportunities to intervene to prevent rising tertiary fees in the 1990s, to the extent that an three year education costing around $30,000, is most many can afford these days, and those post-graduate students, who typically generate much of the wealth in a small country, find little reason to stay.

This situation is also untenable. Eventually, fees will have to come down in proportion to income, and universities funded properly, if New Zealand wants to remain an educated country, meaning Generation X and Y will be required to pay for their own children’s education as part of tax, as well as their own.

The solution is not more monetarism, but less. The time for negotiated renewal has long since passed. It is time for the leaders of Generation X and Y to stand up and forcefully grab the baton of power from the unrelenting Baby Boomers. The reason for this is not so that we can become a fresh tide of the same sea, but to embrace the seemingly forgotten virtue of community and national vitality, and place it on the scales of liberty, which have become so unbalanced in the last 25 years.

“A view to the future with an eye on the past.” This correction in direction need not be a retreat to the glorified past. In fact, people tend to look at the past with rose-tinted glasses - otherwise how else would National be polling in the late 40s? Take what has worked in the past, not uncritically, and reforge it in the oven of the public arena in open debate. Where do we want to take our country in 20, or 30 years? What has the political support in the broader progressive community?

Many of my generation, my friends, colleagues, and political allies, possess both the necessary ideas and will to embark on this process of reform. Our detractors and political opponents remain engaged want to continue to engage the issues of now and the future with the tools of the past, to the detriment of the community at large.


Wednesday, 17 October 2007

CTU to push for $15 minimum wage.

The CTU believes that the minimum wage should be set at 2/3 of the average wage from the previous year.

The Labour-led Government, whom some of the CTU's constituent unions belong to, should embrace this proposal - and aim to implement it at the 2/3 rate by the end of 2011 if they are re-elected next year.

Assuming that the minimum wage will rise to $12 p.h. at the end of the year - this movement to $15 represents a similar step to the rise from 2005 to 2008.

It is a 20% pay rise for the lowest-paid workers, who if single and without children - a constituency left behind by Working for Families according to the National Party, would be boosted from $360.96 to $451.20 per week (pro rata) - a boost of $91.24 per week over three years.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Fiji lifts Public Emergency Regulation -

Cmdr. Bainimarama has approved the RFMF's Military Council's decision not to extend the Public Emergency Regulation - which was reimposed on September 6 in light of comments by ousted PM Laisenia Qarase which were interpreted as potentially destabilising for the country.

This in itself is a baby step towards returning to democracy, as it just returns the situation to where it was prior to the 6th of September. However, the interim government has made other important steps as well:

* The Census Bureau is in the final stages of preparing for the Census that is expected to undertaken in late 2007/early 2008.

* Reducing public expenditure through small austerity measures, and working through the Fiji Islands Commission Against Corruption - has removed public officials who long have been working for their own benefit.

* The establishment of a Council for Better Relations in Fiji - in lieu of an elected parliament - has improved consultation - but will cannot and should not serve analagous to an elected parliament.

Now the interim government should move to remove some of the more draconian restrictions that remain in Fiji - including the suspension of the Great Council of Chiefs, and encourage criticism of government ministries being seen not deliver the mandate of the President Ratu Josefa Illolio.

Whether Commodore Bainimarama likes it or not, the interim government (hopefully sooner rather than later) will have a successor democratic government - and that the reasons for removing the Qarase government will come under scrutiny. It is important for the interim PM to reestablish the international communities trust, by for example, pledging in private not to reinstitute the PER.

With regard to the court case proceeding against the dismissal of the Qarase government, Bainimarama will not lose or gain supporters domestically if he moves to abrogate the constitute the constitution if either defeat in the court case or the mandate of the interim government is under threat - it remains a small step further provided it is brief - and results in the reinstitution of a very similiar constitution promulgated by Sitiveni Rabuka in 1997.

If the stay of the interim government remains short, i.e. within 3 or 4 months of the date set by the EU (March 2009), and his leadership delivers an end the divisive racial politics promulgated by his predecessor, history is likely to look back kindly on his administration.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Ahmed Zaoui Free!

Finally, this man has been set free from the claws of the Fist, who would seek to return him to Algeria to face a show trial and certain execution. It is a great injustice that it has taken so long to prove that he is not a security threat.

Whatever you think of Mr. Zaoui, his religion, and his politics - they are not relevant to prevent a man seeking to settle in New Zealand.

Opponents, have stated that the government should intervene, to avoid risking being seen as a "soft touch", "any bloody foreigner bludging off the taxpayer" etc.

Whatever happened to justice and fair process? Those people advocating the aforementioned views obviously only find democracy and liberty convenient as principles when it suits them. I would be ashamed to have their votes if I was a politician.
The government has no right to interfere in the legal process of immigration, lest it be accused of racism and favouritism.

Mr. Zaoui was never a threat to this country, and those who say he should go should think about leaving themselves. Your views are far more threatening to NZ's liberal democratic system of government than Mr. Zaoui's - who is an educated man, and a campaigner for democratic change in military ruled Algeria.

By cancelling popular elections it was set to lose in 1990, the Algerian government turned the Islamic Salvation Front from a political party into armed resistance, and greatly contributed to the rise of Islamic extremism in North Africa. Mr. Zaoui is simply an opponent of military dictatorship, and when the effort to oust the illegal regime failed, he decided to seek a new life in NZ, so that he and his family could get on with their lives.

A poll conducted on asked voters whether he should be allowed to stay in New Zealand; the reading at 3pm was 31% for, 66% against. This poll only demonstrates an anti-Islamic xenophobic tendency among a select group of voters, who aspire to government, rather than any hint of illegality. In fact, if a poll was conducted on any random innocent Islamic man, it is likely that this theory will be confirmed. If Mr. Zaoui was a white Zimbabwean farmer, convicted in absentia for attempting to destabilise the government, perhaps a minor official in Ian Smith's apartheid-style regime, how many of those now calling for deportation of Mr. Zaoui would change their tune?

Monday, 10 September 2007

TV3 Poll 9-9-07

Interesting results:

National 47%
Labour 37%
Greens 7%
NZ First 3.2%
Maori 1.8%
Act 1.5%
United Future 0.1%
(n.b. assuming that JAP is also 0.1% - not listed)

That transfers into
National 60
Act 2 (Heather Roy will be happy with this result)
United Future 1
Govt. of 63 seats.

Labour 47
Greens 9
Maori 4
Opposition of 61 seats.

What transpires here is that National has a slim majority of 2 seats. Labour is only 3 seats down on the last election results. This result will give Labour hope, according to PM Helen Clark - whose comments (and the video) can be found here.

Nevertheless, this poll is traditionally viewed as "pro-Labour" and yet still National governs, this should be a concern for the Government, especially as the vote for its centrist support parties (many of whom's voters could never vote Labour) have flocked to John Key's National.

Instead of attacking Mr. Key, perhaps Labour could focus on consultation for new-generation policies for example, the further extention of health provision concerning dental care (NZ's rate of tooth decay is sky rocketing, especially amongst those who simply cannot afford to see a dentist), gradualistic extentions to paid parental leave, and a small shifting of tax thresholds.
This will undermine the Opposition who will be actually required to discuss policy, whether they come up with their own ideas or simply come down on the wrong side will be up to them.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Exposing Garth McVicar - Sensible Sentencing Trust

Response to the article in the Sunday Star Times 2-09-07:

Mr. McVicar has recently returned from the United States (Utah) where he viewed a different style of gaol than in present in New Zealand. Tough justice for offenders.
I don't object to this. It is important that serious criminals are made to realise the error of their ways, and that safety of the public is of higher concern than rehabilitation. And the deterrent for offending must be set high.

But jail is not about vengeance, or revenge. It is society's way of keeping troublesome individuals out of the way of the law abiding public. Ideas advocating cruel and unusual punishment such as inadequate food, clothing, or lack of hygiene, and "torture", and even the death penalty - reflect vengeance - not justice.

Mr. McVicar appeals to those who would stoop to breach fundamental human rights in order to seek to vent a vengeful wrath on criminals - and in doing so, give up the human dignity that we celebrate so. But he does not share their 'wrath', but seeks to wield their opinion as a blunt instrument against the Labour-led government, when in fact, the previous National administration enacted little or no measures in response to public demand for harsher sentencing.

As many of us know, there remains for the most part an unspoken bi-partisan convention that crimes are prosecuted according to just law, rather than a public lynching - otherwise why bother with courts? But Mr. McVicar, and the parties the Sensible Sentencing Trust specifically advertised in support of at the 2005 election: quote "Vote for parties who are tough on crime - National, Act, United Future, NZ First" that then advocated policies that broke with that convention.

Why is that important, you might ask? Sure: Either the parties were being dishonest with regard to their policies on justice, advocating this and that, but having no actual intention of carrying it out once achieving office; or, hugely increasing spending on Corrections to house all of the extra inmates, and pushing for the use of methods more commonly associated with Third World dictatorships. Does Simon Power (and the other aforementioned parties' corrections/justice spokesperson still advocate these same ideas?).

Garth McVicar had (and perhaps he still does have) a great opportunity to move the political landscape in favour of tougher (but fair to both punished and the law abiding public) sentences, but by masquerading as a legitimate pressure group when in fact his goal is only to see centre-right government in power demeans those victims whom depend on him to deliver the goals of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.