Politics: Where the f**k is Cunliffe?

On holiday it would appear. That is why no one had heard from him for a while, yet one would consider that it was rather unwise to be advised to take such a break given the ever mounting negative outlook for Cunliffe & Co.
The perfect moment to make yourself known and kick up a fuss is while the PM is on his own break, yet Cunliffe takes a break almost at the same time thus maintaining the status quo while his party takes another dive in the polls.
Its looking unlikely Labour can claw their way to victory but stranger things have happened. Much talkback radio still debates Cunliffes leadership abilities and ponders if pressure is building up within the party to knock him off and put Shearer back in the hot seat.
While I would personally find this scenario highly amusing I think it would backfire a little like how it did for Labour during the Palmer/Moore era when Helen Clark managed to slip in a poll question that asked if they changed their leader would that make you vote for them and poll results said ‘yes’ so out went poor old Geoffrey and in came big Mike but what a disaster that whole debacle was.
In the Shearer/Cunliffe case, it would just be suicide. Think about it. You put some nice guy up as leader, one who can barely cut a sandwich let alone cut it as leader, continually destabilise him and eventually get him to stand down, then vote in the man who was causing the destabilising who promises the world but delivers nothing, then after he turns out to be an even shitter leader than the one before, replace him with the one you did have before months out from an election where your opposition has been riding extremely high in the polls and their leader as whipped any of your leaders as preferred PM for donkeys years, and expect to win the election at hand?

No they can’t do that, they have to maintain continuity and although it looks likely that Cunliffe will fail, he will have to push on through for the Labour party to get through their mess and come out the other side with some idea of what went wrong otherwise they will continually blunder their way through the next year with blind eyes.

Obviously National has to shore up some friends first to make sure they hedge their bets but its looking so good, so far for them. As Duncan Garner pointed out the other day, the Dotcom bombshell should have been deployed as soon as he had it to hand, not delayed and played with like a football, kiwis don’t like those types of tactics and it could very well backfire on Dotcom who I think is starting to wear a little thin on some Kiwis.

The shittest months of the year are in swing and so the door knocking in the wing and the rain begins. One a side note, what influence could the weather have on voters? Anyone looked into that?

Economics: A random lesson

As with most families, each member typically has different tastes and interests. Growing up it was no different with me. As soon as I was able to see over the kitchen bench I was preparing my own breakfast, lunch and dinner, my parents also attending to their own preferences. This is not bad parenting on their part, in fact quite the opposite.
Now you may be asking “what does this have to do with economics?”
Well it has a lot to do with it, primarily around the notion of efficiency and collective deadweight loss.

Simply put, when my mother cooked a large dinner say for our family, basing it on the assumed preferences of everyone who would partake in the meal, it was always appreciated and well liked (who would want to criticise mothers cooking!) however what mother could not know was the exact amounts each individual would consume and what their taste preferences were and thus there was leftovers or surplus food, usually slapped together for lunch the next day so not all was lost, but still that leftover lunch tomorrow might not be what you wanted, not to mention all the dishes stacked up that no one really wants to do since everyone was involved in consuming the shared meal.

The flip side to this is when each of us got our own dinner individually. We would all select the items we felt like on that particular day, cook it using the resources we wished to use or in some cases not use, eat when we felt like it and usually since we made the mess by our own actions we usually cleaned up after ourselves thus wastage was kept at a minimum and efficiency in the kitchen was born! No more dirty dishes staked up, no more leftover food waste in the bin or for lunch the next day, no more arguments about dinner choices. Everyone was satisfied, happy and content with their own choices made by themselves for themselves.

This efficiency is lost in the real world.
With you being taxed without no say on how that money will be really spent, you are in a situation like the collective family meal. You put up with it but your preferences are rarely met and there is a large deadweight loss involved.
If you were like the individual preference scenario, you could, as you would choose your own meal when and where you liked, you could choose where and when you spent your money that wasn’t being taxed away and spent without much say by yourself. Deadweight loss would be minimised if not eliminated and everyone would be better off since you had more money to spend on the things that concern you specifically.

Politics: Will the ‘Dotcom bombshell’ be a dud?

Your guess is as good as mine however Dotcom better know that by saying that, he has put himself on such a pedestal that if his bombshell bombs out, then his credibility will certainly take a hit.
But like any good businessman he has hedged himself but only doing it 5 days out from the election, so effectively creating an air of distrust among some about Key and his knowledge of Dotcom in the early days pre raid but so much so that be placing the bomb so close to the election date that if it does prove to be a dud he will most likely be history or partial history so no major repercussions but whenever you set yourself up, you better know what you are talking about and are 100% certain that whatever information you have up your sleeve has to be sharp, pointy and stick into your opponent right where it will hurt otherwise it is as pathetic as holding up a bank with a banana.

Certainly on the surface of it all, Dotcoms case involving Key, the GCSB and the NZ Police has been a little amateur and possibly naive to think they could do the things they did however, the tolerance of the electorate is not an issue that can be ignored. The Internet-Mana Party is all well and good should it promote relevant policy but the more it keeps looking like Dotcoms proxy political weapon, then people on the margin will start to turn off.

This election is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in decades. We have a potentially third term National government doing quite well for themselves, an economy that is pretty stable, possibly not at rockstar status but not doing too bad all things considering, and an opposition that is fractured, solid but indeed segregated. Throw Dotcom into the mix playing happy families with one of the extreme left partys of New Zealand politics and you have a recipe for a close election. National can not rest on their laurels. They must prepare for a battle for it probably will be.

Opinion: Not all publicity is good publicity…

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton was on about $2 million a year during the last America’s Cup campaign.

The salaries have emerged a week after Dalton told a press conference that without an immediate multi-million-dollar cash injection from taxpayers, the syndicate would be “gone by the end of the month”.

This latest spill from the Herald will certainly have some fatal consequences with the publics love affair with beloved Team New Zealand. Already seen as a ‘rich mans sport’, it does not matter if the figures are true or not, the damage has already been done. $2m seems like a pretty high salary given how contentious the whole Team NZ cup campaign is so I will be surprised if Dalton did receive this much however I would imagine the figures to be fairly high, enough to pretty well piss off your average kiwi. After crying poor a couple weeks ago, this revelation does nothing to help their cause. The only course of action Dalton could take now would to be come out with the real salary figures, something I don’t think he would consider doing as that in itself is a pretty dangerous tactic however some reaction is called for is Team New Zealand is to try save face with the New Zealand public.

If the salary claims are true, then it does explain how Dalton amassed such a vast property portfolio

Politics: The young ones…the Internet Party list

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With an average age of just 33, the young candidate list for the Internet Party is rather refreshing in the somewhat stale world of grey suit-and-tie politician’s that lurk under todays sun. The list contains many unfamiliar faces and names but all seem fairly talented in their respected fields. Will this new ‘yoooff’ face of politics help sway that demographic that just doesn’t give a toss to vote come the next election? Time will tell although I would put a couple bucks down to say it could well do so. For me, I was interested in the Internet Party until Mana came along and sold its soul out so I regard both with equal suspicion but putting that aside from speaking to friends many do seem to gravitate towards Kim Dotcoms cause like a satellite falling into orbit around a large mass, once locked in to the ideology, they are unable to break away from the gravitational pull that the Internet Party has. I love all their policys, well most of them but if they ever were in a position to put into place any of them, at what cost would it come to the country? That is the question to ponder.

I do also find it weird how Dr Russell Norman did his PhD on the democratic processes of the Alliance Party, to then employ former Alliance MP Laila Harre in the Auckland office, who then leaves to enter politics proper again in a party leadership role for a German multi-millionaire facing extradition charges who has just cozied up to a party from the far left of New Zealand politics. Its just strange but probably one of those ‘only in New Zealand’ type of things.

The youth vote is integral to the Internet Partys ultimate success and credibility. If they cannot harness that then there won’t be much point flogging a dead horse, although with the planned ‘party party’s’ they are organising throughout the country in the lead up to the election featuring many New Zealand music artists who will be performing (at what rate I wonder) it could well be the bread and circus’s that the voting kids out there need to sway them to vote for a voice representing their generation and issues that concern them. Just look at the promo pic. Smartly dressed, intelligent people with a somewhat ‘still in touch’ leader at the helm…it could be a recipe for success as there are no old fogeys to be found, as kids these days seem to distrust old fogeys since they seem the most corrupt and dodgy *cough* John Banks *cough*.

The Internet Party is probably the most exciting thing to happen to New Zealand politics for decades, even if you don’t like Dotcom and his set up here, you have to admit if you follow politics, it has certainly made for some interesting thought experiments on the possible consequences of his political ambitions not only in the short term but for the long term interests of the next generation of voters and politicians to come through the ranks. A changing of the political guard is about to take place age wise as the young replace the old. It started with sort of John Key coming through and you can see it in the Green Party list. A lot of the old tree huggers and activists are gone and in their place are smart academics like Julie Anne Genter and Gareth Hughes etc. Maybe not at this election but certain in the next two to come, more of this younger generation will be coming through the ranks bringing ideas and real world knowledge to issues that will, like it or not, be affecting us all in this digital age.

The latest polls show Labour slumping badly (even before Cunliffes latest cock up)so where are those votes going? Greens? Possibly… most likely some are. Mana? Probably not. The Internet Party? Again could be some spill over from the Labour train wreck but at this stage i guess its a little hard to tell where that support has or will eventually go. The core Labour voter is still with them but those marginal swing voters is what will bring the left across the line, and by having this Mana/Internet Party the dilution is such that the fracturing that has occurred with the left vote will leave them all worse off. National should be pretty pleased with how things are going.

The Internet Party top 5:

1. Laila Harre (Leader), TBA (electorate)
2. Chris Yong, Te Atatu
3. Miriam Pierard, Auckland Central
4. David Currin, Whangarei
5. Beverley Ballantine, Ilam

Opinion: The Team New Zealand Dilemma

Should we give Team New Zealand more money for another challenge or not? If my eaves dropping at the dentist this morning is anything to go by then the answer from the common taxpayer is an emphatic NO.

Im torn. I am an Americas Cup fan first and foremost, following it since the glory days of ’95 and I like many have ridden the roller coaster ride we have over the last 19 odd years. But I do feel in this last instance the team crying poor to the media is starting to wear a little thin.

Yes I understand the whole conundrum Team New Zealand find themselves in but is this a good investment for New Zealand as a whole? As Grant Dalton points out in this interview, its not a sport grant, its a business grant for the wider marine industry in New Zealand, or at least thats the spin he puts on it to present his case to the public, knowing that asking for another hand out will go down like dead rats for dinner. The fall out from this could be more severe than Dalton et all thinks. Already people are turning their backs on Team New Zealand, where as only some months ago they were probably their biggest fans, wearing their shirts and hanging out at Shed 10 with the thousands of others watching the racing and wondering what the f$*k went wrong, so Daltons timing could have been better. Politically it could be something National could leverage given public sentiment. By saying ‘no more hand outs’ makes them look good. Meanwhile the opposition partys in a weird turn of face want to help Team New Zealand. Wasn’t it only a few months ago too that many of them were screaming what  a waste of taxpayers dollars the Americas Cup is?

Back in 94/95, Sir Peter Blake mortgaged his own house to pay the entrance fee for the 95′ Americas Cup which begs the question, if Dalton et al had any faith in the team and sponsorship cash to roll in, could he not mortgage some of his own $12m property portfolio to get some temporary funding?

As the deadline for entries in the 1995 Cup series loomed, Sefton and Blake put in a New Zealand entry, even though they had not secured sponsorship. Blake had to mortgage his house in Emsworth, England to fund the $US75,000 entry fee. “If the entry fee had been $5000 more, New Zealand would not have been here,” Blake said in San Diego, “because I didn’t have any more.” – Sir Peter Blake Trust

Dalts to his credit has done his but to get the team this far to their ‘strongest position sponsorship wise’ so I guess you could let him off the hook however although his press conference the other day was not intentionally trying to back the Government into a corner over some more cash, it sure looked that way as the media presented it that evening.

The economic impact report stated that for the $36m funding ETNZ got for the last cup campaign, there was a $87m impact to the New Zealand economy. Is it really worth it? Some economists will say yes but some will say no. Are we just floating a boat in a race that is so stacked in favour of the defender that it will continually be a lose on race day situation? Many on the street cry ‘where is that $87m? I never say any of it’ but indirectly they would have with I guess lower tax levels and credits and benefits etc they might get, in other words its benefits the macroeconomy but at what price? What could those $36m could have been spent on alternatively? Or even better, saved by taxpayers by not taking that from them in the first place? Now we get into tricky territory.

Peter Cresswell reckons that if its so good for the marine industry then basically they should fund it and Im inclined to agree. Sponsorship by business for a private concern I have not problem with, I actively encourage it but public funding for a private venture, then thats different and its getting old.

My prediction is that Team New Zealand will survive, the brand is far too strong for it to break in half over a couple million dollars in temp funding but the public’s love affair with Americas Cup is fading fairly fast.

Travel: Heritage Auckland

Auckland cops a lot of flak from other parts of the country, even from within the city limits itself but for my I have always loved Auckland. No, I love the Auckland CBD, as odd as that may sound.

The last few weeks has seen me run and walk most of the CBD exploring out of general interest and also need as I will be looking for an apartment in a few months so I’ve been trying to get a proper feel of the place before its all go. Auckland’s history has always been an interest to me, given how young the city really is. How many people really know when walking along Fort Street that they are actually walking along the original beach of Commercial Bay? What about a stroll up Shortland Street (formerly Crescent), the first real roadway in Auckland leading from the beach up to Princes Street? Or the random high tide mark that is on a pavement stone on Queen Street, hundreds of meters from where the sea laps at the wharfs today?

It is all this and more that keep me coming back for more, even if it is just to stand in one place where a photograph was taken a hundred years ago and to see the same building, except without the horse and carts parked outside but now people and cars.

I spent all of last Friday walking up and down Queen Street, learning about historic buildings using this very informative and quite unknown guide found here on the atrocious Auckland Council website to find out more about the buildings that I have passed countless times over my lifetime in Auckland but with our eyes focused on the horizon or our smartphones, we have never thought to look upwards to study the architecture of these old and sometimes original buildings of this horrid gully turned main street.

The heritage images website is also a good one to search the archives for old photos of Auckland. A few examples of the old and new perspectives are found below of my favourite spots in town.

My favourite part of Auckland has to be Fort Street even though today it is nothing special, but for me given it follows the old shore line, it really give you a sense that you are walking on top of the original bay where settlers and traders would have pulled their boats up onto and before them the Maori, my other ancestors who apparently string the heads of the slain enemies along the beach on poles. Fort Street used to be downright shady, today its slightly more attractive although still a concrete wind tunnel. Unfortunately a lot of the old buildings have gone but the streets beach like curve remains.

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Queen Street in parts is quite interesting too. Like this spot where you can see where the Ligar Canal ran. The guys in the old photo are on the corner of Queen and Fort Streets.

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Shortland Street’s significance only became apparent to me recently and once you understand where things were placed before the reclamation of Commercial Bay/Fort Street, you can see how this curvy street was once the easiest track that one would have used to get up to the then main street of Princes Street where most official buildings used to be. Walking along it today it feels quite cool to be treading the path well worn by many early settlers and Maori alike.

Unfortunately a lot of heritage buildings were lost during the 1980s and the contrast between the elegant old and stark new is very clear in places and in some cases, plainly obvious given the sites still have not been built on (Fort Street carpark for one) but with some imagination sparked by some imagery you can get off the heritage images website you can fill in the blanks or replace whole buildings where now office blocks stand. One example is outside the old Central Post Office now the Britomart Train Station…Look at all those awesome old buildings that stand on the other side where QEII square is now. What a shame indeed.

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There are plenty more parts of Auckland I could go into detail but download the Heritage Walks PDF and go exploring yourself. Much better being there in person amongst the sights and sounds of a modern metropolis.

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