Friday, April 25, 2014

A wonderful morning

We have had a wonderful Anzac morning in Adelaide. 

Fear not; we're not about to join the likes of DPF and try and become New Zealand's leading travel and lifestyle blogger. In fact we hadn't intended to blog at all, apart from this morning's Anzac Day tribute. But what we have experienced this morning has been deeply moving and uplifting, and definitely worthy of sharing.

We left our Adelaide lodgings at 5.45am and made the short work to the War Memorial outside Government House where a very moving dawn service took place. It was our first experience of an Anzac Day commemoration outside New Zealand, and was well worth the indignity of a 5am alarm clock whilst on holiday!

Along with what seemed half the crowd of thousands, we adjourned to a cafe for breakfast after the service, then we went for a walk. As we sat with a coffee just across the River Torrens from the Adelaide Oval we noticed the crowd building up along that Anzac Day parade route. People were out with their deckchairs and picnics well over an hour before the scheduled start of the parade.

Adelaide's Anzac Day parade was an eye-opener. Our hands are still red from all the applause accorded to the veterans who marched in a parade lasting almost two hours. There was a small New Zealand contingent at the head of the parade, followed by a steady stream of Diggers; some walking unassisted, some with walking frames or mobility scooters, some in wheelchairs and others in vehicles. This chap epitomised the parade for us:

He's got his wheelchair folded up, and is using it for support. But he was determined to complete the march under his own steam, and he did. The human spirit is indefatiguable.

The numbers of WWII veterans decline each year. But there was a large complement of Vietnam war veterans marching, who themselves are no longer young men. They were received warmly; a far contrast to the reception accorded them at the end of the Vietnam War:

There was also a large contingent of Vietnamese veterans. They too were accorded a very warm reception by the huge crowd lining the streets of Adelaide:

New Zealand was not forgotten. The crowd sang both God Defend New Zealand and Advance Australia Fair at the dawn service, and the New Zealand contingent leading the parade was greeted with cheers and applause. The Anzac spirit is alive and well.

It has been a privilege to experience Anzac Day as the Australians observe it. With the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign just one year away now it will be a time when New Zealanders and Australians can unite as never before to remember the fallen, and to honour their sacrifice.

Anzac Day 2014

We're currently in Australia. And it seems absolutely fitting today to join with our Anzac brothers and sisters to commemorate the 99th anniversary  of the landing by Allied forces at Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. We are attending a dawn service in at the War Memorial in Adelaide, and later this morning we will watch the parade through the city. It will be the first time we have attended Anzac Day commemorations other than in New Zealand.

The story of that fateful day was one of tragic loss of life by New Zealand and Australian troops, and by the Turks as well who lost 80,000 men in the nine-month campaign. Over 8500 young Australians didn't make it back from Gallipoli, and 2721 New Zealand soldiers died; around a quarter of all those who landed.

Our grandfather was one of those who went to Gallipoli and returned. But he came back to New Zealand with a bullet lodged in his hip, and nightmare memories of the squalor, the noise and the death.

World War I ended in 1918, but just 21 years later, England and Germany were at it again, and naturally New Zealand responded to the call. Our late father was a member of the 2NZEF, and saw action in the deserts of North Africa, in Crete and in Greece. One of his proudest moments late in life came when he was awarded a medal by the Greek ambassador for his service.

Dad may have come home from WWII without physical injuries, but the psychological damage was evident, and deep. He was a man about town prior to the war, but we never knew that man. To us he was intensely private, exceedingly loyal, and prone to bursts of anger. As we have aged, we understand why. He never spoke of the war, except on Anzac Day when he would march with his RSA comrades, and then adjourn for liquid refreshments and share memories with the men who held a common bond. But it was a part of him that we never saw.

In later years, a brother saw service in Vietnam and Cambodia. By the grace of God, we have never been required to serve our country in war, and we pray fervently that our children, and their children (when they arrive!) will be likewise spared. 

War is futile, but sometimes, freedoms have to be defended. It's hard to imagine what the world would be like today had Hitler prevailed. But the cost of war is vast on so many levels, as members of our family and thousands of other families have discovered.

We honour the fallen of New Zealand, Australia and all war-torn nations today; we honour those who returned. And we express the fervent hope that the world will never go to war again.

 We close with the immortal words from Laurence Binyon's For the Fallen:

Lest we forget.

Footnote: Barring anything of earth-shattering importance taken place, this is all you will hear from us this morning. We may blog later in the day; then again, we may choose not to. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Emmerson on Shane's Great Escape

Very few words are needed to complement Rod Emmerson's fine cartoon in today's NZ Herald:

The only thing that we can't work out is the razor wire; is it there to keep Labour MP's in, or to keep the voting public out?

Quotes of the Day - 24 April 2014

There has been so much written about Shane Jones' shock departure from politics that we could blog about it all day. But we're on holiday, so have selected two small snippets.

The first one is from Andrew Dickens at Newstalk ZB who, let's just say, is not normally right-leaning in his opinions. Dickens opines thus:

I’m getting tired of asking ‘what is Labour thinking?’. But that’s what we’ve been saying all year long.
It’s time for them to be firing shots. The election is 20 weeks away, the budget just days away, and Labour is firing shots alright - right into their own feet.
Rajen Prasad's stand on Nigella Lawson in the weekend was truly laughable. We can’t keep out a visitor without criminal conviction unless they represent truly objectionable viewpoints such as rappers praising gang rape or holocaust deniers. We can’t deny Nigella a visa unless we decide that she really does use too much butter. So it was a Don Quixote moment, except Nigella will never look like a windmill. The real story is that Rajen was not under control. Matt McCarten seems to have lost his legs, just like Benji Marshall - the game line is safe.
Then there was Andrew Little's outrage yesterday that Wanaka worked over Easter weekend. Labour says they’re all about jobs, but they’re not when they say that when 25,000 people visit town no-one is allowed to profit from it due to an antiquated law. Wanaka jobs are dependent on snow and the Warbirds. They wanted to make money, they wanted jobs so I don’t get what Andrew is on about. When the workers want to work and when the work is there, they work and you let them. That’s called supporting workers Mr Little. I didn’t hear anyone from Wanaka moaning about working when they flouted the law and made hay.
So another week of more gaffes, more overthinking. It’s a weekly wonder. And before all you Labour supporters start thinking I’m some sort of Tory cheerleader, there's Shane Jones.
Has there ever been a clearer example of a rat leaving the sinking ship than Shane? Last year he charged for the Labour leadership. This year he's leaving to be a salary boy, jacked up by Murray McCully no less. He’s given up. He can’t see a Cabinet job on the government benches so he’s off to make hay. Can’t say I blame him!
So Labour has lost its mojo. It doesn’t even know how to spell mojo. There’s something deeply wrong. After two terms out of office, they should not be this far out of the race this close to an election. It’s sad. 

That's pretty powerful stuff from Dickens, but he's dead right in our ever-humble opinion. Good government needs to be balanced by good opposition, and the quality of the Labour opposition at present is sadly lacking.

And the second quote comes from right inside Labour's tent with the words of Clayton Cosgrove, on of the head honchos of the ABC faction. Drawing a rugby analogy, Cosgrove provides this gem:

List MP Calyton Cosgrove, a close friend of Jones, said he was "gutted'' his mate was leaving and admitted it would hurt the party five months out from the September 20 election.
The pair have been close for several years. Both came from business backgrounds before joining politics and had worked closely together on many issues, latterly Labour's attack on supermarkets.
"I am gutted he's going. He will leave a massive hole in our movement because he had such an appeal,'' Cosgrove said.
But he said he respected the call Jones had made.
Cosgrove would not comment on whether he was aware of Jones' move beforehand but conceded the resignation would not help Labour.
"It definitely takes away one of our big hitters. Shane was like a ballistic cannon when he fired. When you lose anybody that's a talented bloke ... it would be like losing Richie McCaw from the Crusaders. It makes your job a bit tougher.''

Labour has so few "big hitters" that the loss of Jones is going to be a huge hurdle for the party.  It's going to show now how inept so many of Labour's MP's gahave been this year as they focus on the things that DON'T matter to the vast majority of New Zealanders.

Of course MMP makes the impossible seem possible, and Labour still has a chance of cobbling together some kind of coalition of the desperate and dateless, but in reality, would you trust them with New Zealand's finances when they can't even organise themselves? We certainly wouldn't.

Song of the Day - 24 April 2014

We may be in a different land, but Curly Sue has been in touch again. And that can only mean one thing; the mickey being extracted.

If you were a child of the 1970's you'll remember English band Supertramp. With much pleasure, we present to you Curly Sue's slight re-arrangement of Goodbye Stranger:

"Goodbye Labour"
(Shane Jones bids "Haere ra" to his party)
It was an early morning Easter day
I was up before the dawn
And I’m not so sure I enjoyed my stay
But I must be moving on

I consulted with my whanau
and I got straight on the phone
Said “I've had my fill of Labour
And I must be moving on” (yeah, yeah)

Now I don’t believe what Cunliffe says
Is the undisputed truth
And I want to be in Pacific trade
While I still got my youth

I don’t need political rancour
And media scrutiny is a pain
Just the thought of Hotel TVs
Sends a shiver through my veins

And I will redefine ‘Shane’
‘Shane’ will be brand new
I'll never look behind me
And my troubles will be few

Goodbye Labour it's been nice
Hope my leaving wont paralyse
Tried to see your point of view
McCully made my dreams come true
Goodbye Trevor, Goodbye Dave
Will we ever meet again?
I feel no sorrow, I feel no shame
Come election, you’ll feel pain

Party devotion is not for me
Backbench demotion has set me free
Islands in ocean, far away
Is the life I’ve chosen every day
So goodbye Trevor, Goodbye Dave
Will we ever meet again?

Will Labour win? I think they won’t
Another poll just fell
And silent T doesn’t get the throne
I guess it's just as well

Calling out Countdown’s behaviour
Was really good for me
Say National’s my saviour
 Well its better than the Greens

And I will redefine ‘Shane’
‘Shane’ will be brand new
I'll never look behind me
And my troubles will be few

Goodbye Labour it's been nice
Hope my leaving wont paralyse
Tried to see your point of view
McCully made my dreams come true
Bye Jacinda, Goodbye Clare
Gee your cupboard’s looking bare
I feel no sorrow, I feel no shame
Come election, you’ll feel pain

Now I’m leaving, got go, hit the road
I say it once again
As I’m leaving
Not sorry I’m not stayin
Bye Jacinda, Goodbye Clare
I’m leaving, I’ve got to get away

For those of you unfamiliar with the tune but who want to sing along with Shane's little waiata, here's the original:

We thank Curly Sue warmly for this little ditty. It will be in our mind as we holiday today!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tweet of the Day - 22 April 2014

We can only speculate that Trevor Mallard was in shock when he posted this last night:

The published reactions are only the first three on a lengthy list. Few of them were positive towards the MP for Hutt South, and several suggested that he ought to follow Shane Jones' example.

Here's hoping that Mr Mallard is overseeing Labour's social media in the run-up to the election, as there will be SMOG's (Social Media Own Goals) for Africa!

Labour's own manufactured crisis

At last Labour has a crisis to be concerned about; even if it is its own crisis; Vernon Small from the Dom-Post reports:

Disarray. There is no other word to describe the mess the Labour Party plunged into last night. Not only did it have to come to terms with the loss of one of its strongest performers in Shane Jones, the party seemed to freeze like a possum in the headlights.
More than 90 minutes after the story broke there was no official confirmation, and leader David Cunliffe and his deputy David Parker neither returned media calls nor issued any statements.
Press secretaries were either unable to help, unhelpful or offline, and party president Moira Coatsworth and secretary Tim Barnett initially went to ground.
Former leader David Shearer was gracious enough to confirm he knew of the resignation, but other MPs said it was a "bolt from the blue" and "gutting" before a gagging order went around the caucus.
His replacement off the list Kelvin Davis - a mate of Jones - said he knew nothing.
It took Coatsworth until well into the evening to finally confirm Jones was quitting, just as Cunliffe and Jones went into a meeting together.
If anything was designed to scream "crisis" it was this. Jones will be a serious loss to the party.

Forget that manufactured manufacturing crisis that Labour was a party to in 2012-13. This is a genuine crisis for Labour, and it's happening right now.

And it's not just Vernon Small saying this. Over at the Herald, John Armstrong opines thus:

Shane Jones' shock decision to quit as a Labour MP will lead voters to draw one conclusion and one conclusion only: that he thinks Labour cannot win the September general election.
His departure is close to an unmitigated disaster for Labour. For starters, unlike the bulk of his colleagues, Jones could reach into segments of the vote - especially blue-collar males - who have switched off Labour. He was in the process of switching those traditional relationships back on.
He was a major weapon in helping Labour to win back more of the Maori seats.
Perhaps of most significance, Labour has lost the one man who would have acted as the essential go-between in securing Winston Peters' signature on a post-election coalition or co-operation agreement between Labour and New Zealand First which enabled Labour to govern.

Shane Jones has clearly blindsided the Labour Party's top brass. Pretty much the closest thing Labour had to Chris Trotter's mythical creature Waitakere Man, Jones appealed to the kind of voters that have deserted Labour as it forgot its working-class-and-proud-of-it roots, and set out to appeal the the urban elite in the likes of Grey Lynn and Wellington Central.

Armstrong also spells out the logistical implications of Jones' decision to bail out:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Haere ra Jonesy

Shane Jones will leave politics at the end of May. And it's all Murray McCully's doing; the Herald reports:

Labour MP Shane Jones will leave politics at the end of next month, saying he had come to the conclusion over Easter that it was time to go.
Mr Jones said he had told Labour leader David Cunliffe of his decision as well as the Party President Moira Coatsworth.
He has been in talks with Foreign Minister Murray McCully for some time about a possible role in an international fisheries management role and expected that to go through.
He said he would leave at the end of next month after reflecting over Easter about his future.
TV3 reported Mr Jones would be taking on a role of Pacific Economic Ambassador, created by the National Government especially for him.
Senior members of Labour were not aware of his decision to leave.

This is a serious blow for the Labour Party. Jones' profile grew significantly in the run-up to Labour's Got Talent last year. At times this year, Jones has seemed to be the only Labour member doing any serious work, and the decision of the Commerce Commission to investigate Countdown's business practices was a feather in his korowai.

Shane Jones also became the unofficial leader of Labour's Maori caucus last year after Parekura Horomia's passing. Today's announcement will have significant implications for Labour's relationship with Maori.

And Stuff reports shock within Labour's ranks:

The Labour Party appears to have gone into shock tonight over the news that high-profile list MP Shane Jones is to quit both  the party and politics before the next election.
Neither Labour leader David Cunliffe, nor his deputy David Parker returned calls.
The decision will be a big blow to Labour which loses one of its strongest performers in election year and at a crucial time when it is struggling to make headway in the polls.
Party president Moira Coatsworth and secretary Tim Barnett did not respond to calls and senior Labour press secretaries also had their phones switched to voicemail.  

Every National MP retirement announcement in recent months has been greeted with cries about rats deserting a sinking ship. But it's hard to see any other spin on Jones' decision than him not wanting to spend another three years in the wilderness of opposition.

Will tonight's announcement see the unravelling of David Cunliffe's caucus. Best we stock up on beer and popcorn, from our vantage point across the Tasman!

Photo of the Day - 22 April 2014

Just so Merv doesn't have to point out the blindingly obvious, we've shamelessly stolen this image from Whaleoil. Just to make it even more blindingly obvious, we've left his little caption underneath.

But really; how could you resist?

And yes; the dog does look miserable. It must have heard the Roy Morgan poll result that came out on the eve of the Easter weekend!

We can't help but wonder...

Rajan Prasad, one of Labour's hidden talents got himself noticed yesterday. Questioning the decision to give a special work visa to Nigella Lawson, despite her admited drug use, he expressed thoughts on drug use that might be better kept to himself; check this out:

Mr Prasad said as a general rule he did not believe people who abused drugs should be allowed in to New Zealand but there should be discretion to allow it in special circumstances.

So we can't help but wonder; given that Green Party co-leader Russel Norman admitted (very freely) on The Nation the other week that he had used cannabis at some past time, is Dr Prasad saying that the man David Cunliffe might need in order to form a government ought never have been allowed to immigrate to New Zealand?

We're not big on people who use illegal drugs either. But we would suggest that Dr Prasad talk to his colleague Darien Fenton, a self-confessed recovered heroin addict about the power of second chances.

Right; see you later. We have a plane to catch!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Photo of the Day - 21 April 2014

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 88th birthday today. And this photograph of the Queen has been released to mark the occasion:

We reckon Queen Elizabeth still has a few years of loyal service left in her, but she has lived a remarkable life so far. We wish Her Majesty a very Happy Birthday, with many more to come.

Quote of the Day - 21 April 2014

We've resisted any urge to comment on the Aaron Smith "selfie" story which broke last week. But sitting in an Auckland cafe yesterday we read Paul Lewis' column in the Herald on Sunday and laughed, as did SWMBO obeyed when we passed the paper to her.

So here's a taste of Paul Lewis' column which runs under the headline Making a dick of themselves (beware: this may not be everyone's cup of tea):

This is not a column for the faint-hearted. It's about All Black Aaron Smith and the puzzling trend of athletes and politicians choosing to take pictures of their genitalia with said pics winding up on the internet.
This is not an apology for Smith; taking a naked selfie and sending it means, frankly, he could be dumber than a toaster. But it's the psychology of the whole thing that intrigues. If I was called on to write a list of things I would never do, taking a picture of my meat and two veg and sending it to someone would be very high.
So what is it that stimulates blokes to take a picture of their bits and ping it off to an unsuspecting world? It can't be that they think it is erotic. Women, oddly enough, don't fall down in a swoon because a male reveals his, er, character.
I mean, let's face it, God must have been on a day off when the Celestial Design Department responded to the brief on the male genitalia. It's a classic design fail. Functional, yes, but why couldn't they and/or evolution have made it look like something attractive to women? I mean, if it looked like a giant edamame bean with two discount vouchers to Jimmy Choo's, we might have a decent rationale for exhibitionism.
No, men in the public eye who take pictures of their best friend is likely down to two simple explanations: overblown pride and a dumb belief in your own press releases; that somehow you are so famous that a pinky post will not damage your image at all.
Politicians are supposed to be media savvy but that can't explain the wonderfully named Anthony Weiner, whose inability to stop sending weiner-pics to women led to having to wave bye-bye to the New York mayoralty race. There was Australia's own Peter Dowling, chairman of the Queensland parliament's ethics committee (true!) who stood down after sexting a pic of himself in a glass of wine. Ah, yes, a penis looks better in a pinot. Room temperature, naturally.

There's quite a bit more to Lewis' story, including a wonderful reference to former baseball star Joe DiMaggio, but you'll have to follow the link and find the story for yourself. It is a very entertaining yet perceptive piece of social commentary however.

You can be assured of one thing. We will NEVER take a photo of ourselves in a state of undress, much less post it anywhere. For that, the blogosphere should be eternally grateful!

The Keeping Stock political poll #2

Our second Keeping Stock political poll has closed. Less people voted than in our first poll in March, but given that the poll ran in the run-up to Easter Sunday, that is not surprising. 

But the results were even more emphatic than last time, as can be seen in the comparative chart below:

This biggest surprise once again was the almost complete lack of support for the David Cunliffe-led Labour Party. Only two of the almost-300 people who took the time to express an opinion ticked Labour as their preferred choice for their party vote.

Now we know that we are a right-leaning blog, and make no apologies for that. But we also know that plenty of people who disagree with our views visit here and comment. For the second month in a row, Labour was out-scored by the Greens. Is it possible that after the election on 20 September we could have co-Leaders of the Opposition?

We will continue this totally unscientific experiment, if for no other reason than because we can! Our next poll will go up around the May 13th, and will close at 7pm on May 20th; four months to the very minute before the real McCoy does on 20 September 2014.

Thanks to all of you who expressed an opinion.

Bubble? What bubble?

Apparently, the New Zealand economy is a bubble about to burst. Well, that's what a lone "expert" thinks, but his views have been swiftly dismissed; Stuff reports:

The Government is playing down predictions published by powerful US business magazine Forbes that New Zealand is on the path to economic disaster.
Economic analyst Jesse Colombo yesterday labelled New Zealand's economy a bubble which will pop devastatingly.
The current housing bubble was creating a mortgage bubble, he said, with almost half of outstanding mortgages currently having floating interest rates.
Rising interest rates would eventually pop this bubble, banks would experience losses on their mortgage portfolios, "the country's credit boom will turn into a bust" and over-leveraged consumers will default on their debts, Colombo said.
"Not only is New Zealand's banking system dangerously exposed to the country's property and credit bubble, but so is the entire economy."
Acting Finance Minister Steven Joyce last night dismissed 28-year-old Colombo's theories as "alarmist" and described him as a "bubble-ologist".
"His view on life is that the whole world is pretty much in a bubble and there's no place he doesn't pick on," Joyce said. "I wouldn't be paying too much for that level of analysis. He's a little bit like [earthquake forecaster] Ken Ring. He's out there predicting catastrophe at every turn." 

Whilst of course Labour and the Greens would secretly love to see Colombo's prediction come true (for political purposes only), it's not likely to happen. Colombo has appeared to cherry-pick his data, to produce his prophesy of doom and gloom, as is duly noted:

Infometrics managing director Gareth Kiernan said Colombo had picked out all the high-risk metrics he could find to build an "end of the world scenario".
If his predictions ever came to pass then the economy would be in trouble, but no one was really forecasting that to happen, he said.
"You would need a bit of a catalyst to kill off the housing market so sharply and I don't think, given the outlook for economic growth over the next few years, a lift of a couple of percentage points in interest rates is going to do that."

Even Bernard Hickey, no friend of the current Government thinks that Colomo has over-inflated his bubble; read on:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lighter blogging ahead

We've blogged a lot over the last couple of months. We've also had an exceptionally busy start to the work year. As a consequence, the batteries are running a little flat.

So we're doing something about that, and She Who Must Be Obeyed and ourselves are having a wee getaway. We're currently visiting family in Auckland, after which we will board a big silver bird for a short trip across the Tasman. Unlike New Zealand's premier arts and travel blogger, we won't be documenting our every move, but we will endeavour to stay in touch.

So blogging may be lighter than usual for the next week to ten days. Then again, some of our partner bloggers like Mykuhl and James Stevenson might be challenged to contribute. Of course, when we return we will be relaxed, restored and dangerous! Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen.

Bear with us, and we'll be back full-time around the end of the month. In the meantime we have places to go and people to see! 

And don't forget to cast your vote in the Keeping Stock election poll which closes at 7pm tonight; exactly five months out from the real thing.