Friday, April 18, 2014

A Good Friday reflection...

For Christians, Easter is a time of particular significance as we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus - the very essence of our faith. For us, this Easter is particularly significant; it's fifteen years this Easter since we began a journey to become a follower of Jesus. It's a journey on which we will continue until our days on God's earth are done.

Music has always played a special part in our life, but when we became followers of Jesus, a whole new world of music opened up - contemporary Christian music, with all genres from soft folk to hard rock and hip-hop covered. We are blessed to be able to combine our love of music with our faith journey.

One of our favourite bands is the Grammy Award-winning rock band Third Day - southern rock, influenced by bands such as Lynard Skynard. And this is one of our favourite songs, and especially pertinent today. It's called "Thief" and tells the story of one of the thieves crucified alongside Jesus - the one who recognised Jesus' divinity as death approached, and to whom Jesus, almost dead himself uttered those amazing words

I tell you the truth. Today, you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Jesus makes that same promise today for those who choose to follow Him; the gift of eternal life, freely given, but at an unimaginable cost. All you need to do is ask.

However you celebrate or observe this season. may you have a blessed Easter.

Footnote: This will be our sole contribution to the blogosphere today. A little reflective silence will do us no harm whatsoever. See you all tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter good news #2

Well; this one is a mixed news story. For those who want the current Government re-elected on 20 September, it's fantastic news. For David Cunliffe, Russel Norman and Metiria Turei and their MP's and supporters, it make make Easter a little less palatable.

The latest Roy Morgan poll is out. And as Morgan polls tend to do, it has lurched again; here's the commentary:

Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a large jump in support for National (48.5%, up 5.5%) now with its largest lead over a potential Labour/Greens alliance (40%, down 5%) since July 2013 as New Zealanders celebrated the visit of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Support for Key’s Coalition partners is little changed with the Maori Party 1% (down 0.5%), ACT NZ (0.5%, unchanged) and United Future 0% (down 0.5%).
Support for the Labour Party has fallen to 28.5% (down 3.5%) – clearly the lowest support under new Labour Leader David Cunliffe, and the lowest Labour support since April 2012, the Greens have fallen to 11.5% (down 1.5%), New Zealand First 5.5% (unchanged), Mana Party 1% (up 0.5%), Conservative Party of NZ 2% (down 0.5%) and Internet Party (1%, up 0.5%) while support for Others is 0.5% (unchanged).
If a National Election were held now the latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows that the National party would regain Government for a third term.

And it's not just the party figures; New Zealanders are feeling very, very optimistic just at the moment; read on:

The latest NZ Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating has jumped to 143pts (up 10pts) with 65% (up 4%) of New Zealanders saying New Zealand is ‘heading in the right direction’ compared to 22% (down 6%) that say New Zealand is ‘heading in the wrong direction’.

It's the confidence rating that is Labour's biggest hurdle now. When three times as many people think New Zealand is heading in the right direction than think it's not, where is the mandate for change? 

So as David Cunliffe, Russel Norman and Metiria Turei eat their hot cross buns and Easter eggs they will doubtless ponder this poll which came out as Parliament went into a school holiday recess. Sure, Roy Morgan polls tend to be all over the place, but after a string of poll disasters, it was the one skerrick of hope they had. Where do they turn now?

Song of the Day - 17 April 2014

Curly Sue has been feeling creative again. We've just received this via e-mail:

 Clustertrucked (with apologies to AC/DC)
I was caught
On the motorway behind a slow truck(Cluster)
I look around
I think ‘ordinary Kiwis’ don’t like to be stuck (Cluster)
My mind raced
And I took the political view (Cluster)
And I knew
And I knew not just any old policy would do (Cluster)

Cannot be dumb
Move minds and hearts
Aim the guns
Keep cars and truckers apart 
You've been-clustertrucked

Free up the highway
Keep speeds up, in the right lanes
Regulate truckers, yeah truckers
They’ll never complain 
And if they do 
We’ll remind them of 2008
We make the rules, who really cares
Yeah, yeah, if their, their, goods arrive late?

I was shakin' at the knees
I am helping Kiwis
Yeah sweating the small stuff
You've been - clustertrucked,clustertrucked
Yeah yeah yeah, clustertrucked
Oh, clustertrucked
Trucking industry on its knees
Use Kiwirail please?

Clustertrucked, clustertrucked
Yeah yeah yeah, clustertrucked
Clustertrucked yeah, yeah, yeah clustertrucked

Said yeah, it's alright
I’m, doing fine
Kiwis gonna love it
Its Cunliffe time
I’m so fine

Clustertrucked, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Clustertrucked, clustertrucked, clustertrucked
No criticism, baby, clustertruck
You've been clustertrucked, clustertrucked
Clustertrucked, clustertrucked
You've been clustertrucked

Just in case you've been living under a rock, or you've never heard of AC/DC (who may have played their last gig), check out the inspiration:

Thanks a bunch Curly Sue; let's rock it out into Easter! And if you're on the roads, as we will be on Saturday, take care, and don't get Clustertrucked!!

Armstrong on Collins and truth

John Armstrong takes a close look at the Judith Collins/Oravida allegations. Under the heading Peters faces wait to complete Oravida jigsaw Armstrong opines:

Winston Peters has gotten to the very heart of the vital matter of whether Judith Collins is guilty of such a serious conflict of interest that she would have to be sacked from the Cabinet forthwith.
In tandem with Labour's Grant Robertson, the New Zealand First leader has pieced together a jigsaw of separate events and happenings involving Collins, the milk-exporting company Oravida, and the Chinese border agency which blocked dairy imports after the Fonterra botulism scare last year.
It goes beyond Collins creating the "perception" of a conflict of interest — something the Cabinet Manual stresses Cabinet ministers must avoid and which Collins acknowledges her actions created.
The two Opposition parties claim enough information has now seeped into the public domain to suggest Collins had a real conflict of interest — one from which she stood to benefit from financially.
Unfortunately for Peters and Robertson, a rather vital piece of the jigsaw is missing.

Well colour us surprised; Winston Peters had made an allegation that he cannot substantiate! Just like the impending sale of Huka Lodge to the Chinese; just like any number of Peters beat-up over the years, he cannot deliver the coup de grace. There's a good reason for that; in the Oravida case, there IS no coup-de-grace.

Armstrong continues, getting to the heart of the issue:

That piece, which would join all the dots, is proof that Collins lobbied a Chinese official to exempt Oravida from China's freeze on dairy imports.
Without that proof — and Collins strenuously denies that she engaged in any such behaviour — the evidence remains circumstantial and any conclusions are therefore only conjecture.
The latter commodity is not sufficient reason for John Key to relieve Collins of her ministerial warrants; he has to take his minister at her word. If that word is found to be in conflict with the truth, however, then he will have to dump her from his ministry.
Given she has issued repeated denials in the House, she would probably have to leave Parliament altogether if she is found to have been economical with the truth. That Collins is risking such a tough sanction suggests she has been truthful.

John Armstrong does a far better job than the likes of Patrick Gower, Duncan Garner and Corin Dann have done. Instead of being duped by Peters' promises to bring down a Minister and with her John Key, Armstrong understands that all that Robertson and Peters have is rhetoric and speculation. They have no evidence that Ms Collins discussed Oravida at that infamous dinner. On the other hand, Judith Collins has steadfastly maintained her position.

And Armstrong closes with a reference to Winston Peters' time-honoured modus operandi:

Easter good news #1

The Easter weekend is just hours away. And it's great to head into the weekend on the back of some welcome good news; Stuff reports:

The labour market is taking off, with more jobs advertised in March, continuing a run of rises for three months in a row, a bank survey shows.
A strong economy is now being accompanied by rising employment, that will provide a backbone to household income growth over the months ahead.
The latest ANZ job ads survey points to unemployment falling from 6 per cent at the end of last year to 5.7 per cent at the end of March and dropping even more in coming months.
The number of job advertisements lifted 1.1 per cent in March, seasonally adjusted.
"This bodes well for an ongoing downward trend in the unemployment rate." ANZ said. 

This is the news that New Zealand needs to hear. Job growth is the last remaining plank of the economic recovery to become firmly embedded, but there are some definite signs of that happening. We expect the March Household Labour Force Survey which will be released in early May to confirm that unemployment has fallen below the 6% mark.

The Government has a very good story to tell when it goes to the hustings in a few months. The economy is recovering strongly, the budget will be back in surplus next year, growth right across the economy is strong, and employers have the confidence to create new jobs and invest in their businesses.  

Why would any sensible voter put that at risk?

Henry on the #Clustertruck policy

Paul Henry gives his verdict on Labour's transport policy:

This policy is a complete and utter #clustertruck; need we say anything more?

Quote of the Day - 17 April 2014

Claire Trevett from the Herald gently (or not-so-gently!) mocks David Cunliffe this morning:

Former Labour Finance Minister Michael Cullen's 2006 prophecy of "jam tomorrow" will come to fruition today, although it may not quite be the kind of jam people were hoping for.
It will be a traffic jam.
Realising there are votes to be gained from angry holidaymakers stuck in traffic for hours, Labour took measures to try to harvest them this week by releasing a groundbreaking holidaymakers' transport policy.
Labour has long been driven by a drive to reduce inequality. So it announced it would drop the need to register caravans and trailers and cut road user charges for motorhomes and campervans.
The coup de grace of the policy was the ban on trucks from using the right-hand lane on three or four lane motorways - an attempt to peg into the futile rage that swamps drivers whose aims are thwarted by said trucks.

As "Kiwi families" loaded up their surfboards and fishing rods, David Cunliffe's Caravan of Love was here to help. "Fun can quickly turn to frustration when the family realises the rego for the caravan has expired or there's a big truck hogging the fast lane."
Cunliffe declared, "Kiwis are sweating the small stuff too much."
Somebody else may be guilty of that as well.
The trouble with delivering something to entice voters while sitting in traffic jams is that it also gives them time to think things through to their logical end. Once they get to that end, Labour's policy could well be counterproductive. That logical end is even bigger traffic jams.
Encouraging the use of caravans and campervans by making them cheaper to run is only likely to make those jams worse. It is also debatable whether banning trucks from using the right-hand lane only on three or four lane motorways will make any difference at all. It is not the large motorways, but rather two- or one-lane places such as the Brynderwyns where motorists get stuck behind trucks trying to overtake each other for weeks on end.
Then there was the us and them mentality it risked encouraging. The caravaners can console themselves with knowing that the $34 saving on registration helps pay for the extra fuel used up in hours of idling in those traffic jams. But for bach owners, tent campers and hotel users, banning caravans and trailers altogether would be more beneficial. There is a further blow for bach owners. Not only would they get stuck behind more caravans and motorhomes with happy families inside beaming at the extra dollars in their pockets, but they would also have to pay the capital gains tax Labour intends to impose on baches.

Oh goodness; the mere thought of the words "David Cunliffe" used in combination with "Caravan of Love" is almost enough to cause us to regurgitate our breakfast. We apologise profusely to anyone else who experienced a similar outcome!

But Ms Trevett has made her point extraordinarily well, for which we applaud her. And who knows; if Labour sees a large hole appearing in the National Land Transport Fund, it's Capital Gains Tax may suddenly be extended to include caravans as well as baches!

Collins fights back

Judith Collins is not taking the latest allegations against her lying down; Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has hit out against the latest conflict of interest allegations levelled against her by Opposition MPs.
Collins has been under fire over allegations she used her ministerial position to benefit her husband's business interests.
She was also refusing to name the Chinese border official who she, Oravida managing director Julia Xu and chairman Stone Shi, who were close personal friends, shared a private dinner with while on an official trip to China.
The latest allegations levelled by NZ First leader Winston Peters under parliamentary privilege were that Collins went to the rescue of Oravida after it wrote to the Government seeking assistance after the Fonterra botulism scare last year.
The letter said Oravida had been "profoundly negatively" affected by the disaster and urged "ministers and the New Zealand Government to help us to navigate through this difficult time".
Collins has avoided the media, but told RadioLive today the allegations made by Peters were "utterly untrue".
"Worse than that, TV3 and Winston Peters have made utterly false comments and stated as fact things that are not fact," Collins said.
"Pretty much everything" about the allegations was false "and I'm not going to to dignify them with a response", she said.
"I'm not responsible for the company, I'm not responsible for actions that they take and I'm absolutely disgusted at the way in which my family has been dragged through this by some elements of the media."
She denied it was a bad look for her to meet with Oravida after the company wrote to Trade Minister Tim Groser and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy seeking government help.
"It does not look wrong. It looks no more wrong than the fact that 41 companies wrote or received some funding from the Government because of the issue," Collins said. 

David Cunliffe made a rare appearance in Parliament yesterday to lead the attack on Judith Collins. But given that he still refuses to name those who donated anonymously to his leadership campaign, and given those donations were hidden away in a secret trust which Mr Cunliffe hoped would remain secret, he is the last person who should be calling for transparency.

Opposition MP's used three of their eight allocated questions yesterday during Question Time to attack Ms Collins, but made little progress. There's a good reason for that; it's a beat-up, and no amount of hysterical shrieking, mud-slinging and innuendo can change that. 

Winston Peters promised to release damning evidence against Ms Collins to Parliament yesterday, but once again he came up short. His allegations against Judith Collins are as strong as his allegation earlier this year that Huka Lodge had been sold to Chinese buyers.

And the Minister of Justice knows who her real friends are:

Any ties that Sir Peter Leitch may have still had to Labour from the Clark years were severed when Darien Fenton attacked his character in 2011 for daring to say something nice about John Key; the ultimate act of class treason in Ms Fenton's eyes. We applaud him for sticking up for his friend; that's the mark of the man.

We will predict that Judith Collins will survive this because, apart from having fallen foul of the Prime Minister's "no surprises" policy, there is no evidence that she has done anything wrong. 

There is plenty of innuendo, there is no shortage of mud being flung, but there is no evidence of wrong-doing. Sure, she is suffering some reputational damage, but in the absence of any evidence that Ms Collins directly or indirectly intervened on Oravida's behalf, the Opposition has nothing.

A taste of things to come?

Just imagine it. It's Easter 2021, and Prime Minister David Cunliffe watches the traffic on the Auckland Harbour Bridge from his Herne Bay "mid-range do-up".

PM Cunliffe is still basking in the glory of his election win. Written off after Labour's annihilation in 2014, David Cunliffe reassumed the Labour leadership after the 2017 election when the Grant Robertson/Jacinda Ardern combination was unable to stop John Key winning a fourth term as Prime Minister. Together with his young and enthusiastic deputy leader Phil Goff, Cunliffe was able to cobble together a coalition with the Greens and 75-year-old Winston Peters' Winston First, Second and Third Party, enjoying the slimmest of majorities. But already the cracks are appearing, and there have been calls for a new election due to allegations of vote-buying.

But that's all in the back of the PM's mind as he watches the caravans roll over the bridge. Every New Zealander now owns a caravan, thanks to the Government's extravagant election bribe on the back of a $25 billion surplus delivered by outgoing Finance Minister Sir William English. Cunliffe has tasked Executive Finance Minister and Co-Deputy PM Russel Norman with the task of spending the entire surplus within twelve months, and Norman has approached his role with relish. Better still, they don't have to register them.

And then it happens; is this a taste of things to come in David Cunliffe's New Zealand, the Caravan Capital of the World?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Serious allegations against Kim Dotcom

Serious allegations have been made against Kim Dotcom in Parliament this afternoon. 

Speaking in the General Debate, and under parliamentary privilege, Rodney MP Mark Mitchell recounted an incident which occurred at a function he attended last year. Here's what Mr Mitchell had to say:

Mr Speaker,

I stand in this house today to make a statement.

Late last year my family had been at a property in my electorate where my stepson had been testing his rally car in preparation for competing in his father’s memorial rally.

Later that evening my wife Peggy and I attended a barbeque at the same property.

While there I was confronted by Mr Kim Dotcom who was also a guest.

I could only describe the conversation as chilling, direct threats were made by Mr Dotcom towards our Prime Minister. He stated that he could and would destroy the Prime Minister and that he already had Members of our Parliament working with him to achieve this.

We left immediately, because I have had many years of dealing with and being exposed to violent and intimidatory people I didn’t immediately recognise the seriousness of the situation.

But sadly in our vehicle with my wife it was obvious that she was shaken and the nature of the threats had frightened her.

I didn’t believe Mr Dotcoms claims that Members of our New Zealand Parliament were actively collaborating with him.

A good opposition’s job is to challenge the Government, to ensure that Ministers remain laser focused on their portfolio’s, to challenge policy ideas and try to present an alternate Government.

I watched in amazement as it became apparent that members of parliament were collaborating with Mr Dotcom at his Mansion in Coatesville.

I felt that a sinister corner had been turned for the first time in our country’s history when Opposition parties appear to have given up challenging our Prime Minister through debate and Policy ideas and have instead turned to assisting Mr Dotcom in his mission to destroy our Prime Minister.

Every time one of the opposition MPs drove into the Dotcom mansion they were driving past people and being served by people who were scared, who hadn’t been paid, who were struggling to support their own families. Imagine what they were thinking when they saw our country’s political leaders bowing down to that same person. Where could they turn for help when the country’s Political leaders appeared to be in the back pocket of Mr Dotcom.

Is it true that Mr Dotcom tasked Labour with further development of a IT policy he had been working on?

Is it true that Mr Norman leader of the Green Party was tasked with challenging his extradition to the United States?

Is it true that Mr Peters was given questions by Mr Dotcom to bring to the house to attack the Prime Minister?

I’ve now had time to reflect on the abusive behaviour of Mr Dotcom at the function I attended in my electorate late last year.

The violence of the threats towards our Prime Minister have not left me and today I felt it was important to place these matters on the record of this house.

I believe the people of this country are beginning to question the real motives of Mr Dotcom.

From my own experience he is a man who uses threats and intimidation on people to get what he wants.

I wait to see what the next instruction or order given from the Dotcom Mansion is to members of this house?

These are very serious allegations that go right to the heart of New Zealand's parliamentary democracy. Similar allegations have been made in the blogosphere, but for the first time, Herr Dotcom's attempts to subvert democracy have been placed on Hansard. They will remain on the journal of the House forever.

These are allegations which simply must be addressed and confronted. If Dotcom has indeed made specific threats about the Prime Minister, or for that matter any person they should be investigated thoroughly. We do not doubt Dotcom's capacity to carry threats through.

And if Members of Parliament have conspired with Dotcom to intervene in the course of the justice system and to help him follow through on his threat to "destroy the Prime Minister", that would send shock-waves through the political system.

If the allegations made by Mark Mitchell are not true, let those against whom they were made, including Kim Dotcom deny them. If there are no denials forthcoming, we can only assume that something very rotten is going on in New Zealand politics, and that our misgivings about Dotcom's entry into the New Zealand political system are well founded.

UPDATE: Courtesy of In the House, here is the video clip of Mark Mitchell's speech: