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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why Australia is richer than New Zealand

A lot of discussion has been generated in the blogosphere (and in real life) regarding the National Party's recent bout of snivelling about how NZ isn't doing as well as Australia economically. If Don Brash is fixated on staring at the other guy's dick and wondering why he's falling short he should keep it to himself. I'm sick of it.

You want to know why Australia has the miraculous ability to have a higher GDP per head than us? You want to know why they have more money than us? You want to know why - despite the unions, the higher taxes, the regulatory red tape, the layers of bureauracy, the routine early retirement - why Australia is wealthier than us? - It's pretty basic: they dig shit out of the ground that they forcibly expelled the native population (which dies on average 20 years before the colonists) from and sell it to other countries. Understand now? Or do I have to drag out the facts? This is from the horses mouth:



The value of the minerals industry is etched in Australian history and identity, and has helped Australia achieve its position as the sixth wealthiest nation, per capita. The benefits of the minerals industry to the Australian community extend far beyond export profits. [...]

Australia’s largest export earner is the minerals industry. It -
• contributed $43.8 billion in mineral and energy exports to Australia’s economy in 1999–2000, accounting for 44.9% of Australia’s total merchandise exports or 34.8% of total goods and services,
• contributed $1.9 billion (as a conservative estimate) in high-technology exports in mining services in 1999–2000, which is more than Australia’s current wine industry exports,
• was among the top three producers of ten of the world’s most valued minerals in 1999
• dwarfed all other sectors in terms of value added per worker-for example, it was more than four times the national average to national income or gross product in 1995–964, and
• accounted for 19% of the value of Australia’s fixed assets and natural capital in 1998.
Over the past 20 years the resource sector has contributed around $500 billion to Australia’s wealth⎯almost 1.5 times the earnings of the agricultural sector over the same period.
In 1999-2000, total payments to government from mining were $4.75 billion, consisting of $3.52 billion in taxes and royalties and $1.23 billion in transport levies.
#1 Producer/#2 Producer/#3 Producer
Bauxite: AUSTRALIA/Guinea/Brazil
Diamond: AUSTRALIA/Russia/Botswana
Gold: South Africa/USA/AUSTRALIA
Iron Ore: China/Brazil/AUSTRALIA
Lithium: Chile/China/AUSTRALIA
Mineral Sands: AUSTRALIA/South Africa/Canada
Nickel: Russia/Canada/AUSTRALIA
Tantalum: AUSTRALIA/Brazil/Canada
Zinc: China/AUSTRALIA/Canada

They don't call it "the lucky country" for nothing. The line in their anthem about "wealth for toil" is relative - there certainly isn't anything in there about having to have a knowledge economy to succeed in the world - just grab your shovel, cobber! A graph in the link shows in 1980 the export value of minerals and agriculture were equal. In 2000 minerals are almost twice that of agriculture. Does this help to explain why they have done supposedly so well compared with us over the last 25 years?

The real question - given their demonstrably and proportionately vast mineral wealth - should be why are they still after a hundred years of massive extractive industrial growth only slightly ahead of us economically? The only really shrewd thing that I can see they have bought with all that wealth - is us!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How to spread Didymo through a National Park

The outskirts of Mt. Aspiring National Park, north of Lake Wakatipu. It's not just kayakers and fisherman, but boatmen and 4WDers that can spread the algae too.

Some of the roads are shocking.

Aucklanders may be alarmed to see a Pajero in the actual environment in which it was originally designed to traverse. And it isn't even being used to pick up the kid from school... I know, weird.

NB: This post is now Privacy Act compliant.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Southland didymo pics

What lurks beneath?

Oreti River (@ less than 1 year)

Mararoa River (@ approx. 2 years)

RNZ reports:

The invasive alga didymo is continuing to spread through the South Island, with five new discoveries in catchments close to or previously affected by the pest.
Biosecurity New Zealand has confirmed that didymo is now in the: Upukerora River in the Te Anau catchment; the Gowan in the Buller catchment; the Twizel and Ohau Rivers in the Waitaki catchment; and the Fraser River in the Clutha catchment.
On the plus side, Biosecurity says a just-completed survey of North Island catchments shows didymo has not yet spread north.

Can you believe the spin? "On the plus side"! Their overwhelming negligence is in an early enough stage that it isn't in the North Island... yet! Biosecurity need to have a purge of the negligent staff who let this plague establish itself as a seemingly permanent fixture. Fire those fucking hopeless arseholes and the Ministers who blindly rubber stamp their shit. They are sabotaging the environment, fishing, tourism, lifestyle and heritage. What will the next generation inherit? Slime thick across every river system in the country.

Where was the immediate quarantine to start with? A series of little signs next to rivers saying people should clean everything - that's simply ridiculous. It only takes one to spread it. The attitude of responsibility transference (blame shift) present within that bureaucracy is that it is the people who don't pay attention to their bullshit little signs that have caused it all. No - it's Biosecurity's fault from go to woe. This is a disaster. How long until it catches a ride on Te Ika-a-Maui?

As I have consistently stated since December Biosecurity plans for it to spread - not to contain and eradicate. An immediate quarantine - a 100% no-go area should have been thrown up when first discovered and the kayaks that almost certainly brought it in should be thoroughly inspected at the borders, then that summer the affected rivers should have been damned and then flushed, sprayed, burnt - whatever it takes - to get rid of it. Then we wouldn't be in this situation.

And we'll keep our ears pricked for Russell Brown and his defeatist/apologist friends to come to Biosecurity's aid and claim once again that they've done a wonderful job and that my idea is wrong and impractical... So I'll have to say it again for those people because they just don't seem to get it:
1. This is an environmental catastrophy.
2. Didymo must be eradicated - not protected.
3. Quarantine must be thrown up and enforced completely.
4. The only way to eradicate is to "flush" the affected rivers.
5. We can re-stock the rivers afterwards.
6. Biosecurity is completely responsible for this mess.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Southland: It's a bit shit

Currently down South on routine business and had an opportunity to get out of the delightful Queenstown office of Tumeke! today and head even further South. I've never travelled further south than Gore (on that occassion our team noticed a local inhabitant, seemingly human, like you or me, but he was drinking his cappaccino with a straw - another startling and extraordinary anthropological marvel discovered during that legendary expedition: I must thank the Phrenological Society of the University of Auckland for the use of their equipment - the species Homo Sapien Goreaccino Inbreedus is still awaiting verification). The Shire never seemed so far away. I'll post images when I nag someone competent into telling me how to do it. But in summary:

Impressions of Southland

After passing through Kingston at the end of Lake Wakatipu and leaving Otago one enters Southland. Southland's motto, as stated on their welcome sign, is "Spirit of a nation" - and so taken with that profoundly resonant assertion of patriotism (despite the vaguely white supremicsist overtones) usually reserved only for events like netball - they have a website: spritofanation.co.nz. (Leading the vote on what part of Southland is best I note that Invercargill (321) is running a very close second to a place called Thornbury (325): which means that Tim Shadbolt hasn't got an internet connection yet?).

One is taken by the dull monotony of the landscape and it's cold empitness as one ventures west from Mossburn. At this point I was going to say that Southland's saving grace is the magnificent Manapouri and Te Anau Lakes - with their awesome breadth, serene water and virgin forest backdrop they must be one of the most becalming invocations of sublime solicitude in the world... and then I realised they are really in Fiiordland - not Southland and were not historically part of the Province either - so, sorry Southland has no saving grace. Never mind.

The first thing to mention here is that the Didymo infestation is ruining the rivers of Southland (as well as others). Biosecurity is useless and has mishandled this from the beginning. I was heartened to hear a seeming reversal of policy from the Green party the other day when they criticised them - I hope this is meaningful and not the usual bullshit - as the last thing Frogblog had to say on the matter was how wonderful Jim Anderton was and how the great his policy of doing nothing to halt the infestation was. My team and I inspected the Mararoa and Oreti rivers. The former was covered in a brown sludgy muck that was quite thick in places: this is why they call it "rock snot." It is slimy and has a 100% coverage across all rocks, plants and anything else in the water (Have pictures - will post later). The Oreti has the beginnings of the slime and appears as a fine sort of brownish residue at present. This shit is invasive and the only thing that is supposed to stop it is an A3-sized sign by the river telling people to please clean everything that touches the water! Highly distressing.

After Manapouri we head south. Boring. The only interesting thing on the 100km to Tuatapere is the biggest possum I've ever seen lying dead in the middle of the entrance to a one lane bridge. Should have ducked - shitty luck.

Tuatapere proudly boasts it is the "midway point on the Southern scenic route" and is famous for sausages (which we couldn't find). So that was a bit shitty. Like most of Southland it has a railway station without any railway. So that's got to be a bit shit for them.

Riverton is like a down-market version of Lyttleton in a dodgy part of Onehunga/Sydenham/Petone sort of a way. It's too manky to have "charm," but could manage "eclectic" on a generous day. So that's still quite shit. Huge racecourse though - absolutely gigantic in proportion to it's population. Obviously a big gambling problem - that's shit.

Invercargill. What can one add that hasn't already been said? A grid city for a grid population of Christians. It was 5:10pm and the street lights came on because it was dark already. It was also 6 degrees. The "city" was filled with a smokey coal stench and the southern half was even worse - blanketed in a thick, acrid, grimey smog that was absolutely filthy and made me nauseous. Every man and his dingo had a fire going - the chimneys were pouring it out like a Filippino rubbish tip. Invercargill is dead flat, dead boring, and if the standard of housing and dress sense is any measure, also dead broke. Most of the time trying to converse with locals so they would say "r" with that rolling accent (which is cute) was for naught. The girls, like most in Southland, were fairly chubby and looked to be closely related to one another. It couldn't have been more completely crap if it was raining shit. But then, just to really put things into perspective, to put the icing on the cake that is New Zealand's Southern-most region there is...

Bluff. The small town sits at the end of a bleak penninsular, at the end of a bleak province, at the end of a bleak island. A dirty great aluminium smelter squats across the treacherous-looking harbour entrance which quickly turns to muddy tidal flats where old boats are left dumped and rotting. The foreshore esplanade is littered with wrecks, strewn with abandoned buildings and blighted with fuel tanks. It's like a post-apocolyptic version of Devonport of the 1960s. It is one of the few towns that doesn't even seem to have any entrance or marker. No proud moment to proclaim their existence - just a fertiliser plant and a string of delapodated factories to welcome visitors curious enough to see where State Highway One ends up: which is a signpost at the end of a small carpark above the lolling sea breaking around the kelp leathered rocks, indicating 4,800km to the South Pole. Would be a great place to eat fish and chips. But I didn't have any. So that was a bit shit.

And so back to Otago through the second most boring drive in the country after the Christchurch-Ashburton stretch of the suicide-inducing Canturbury Plains (I now understand why people burnt it all down - pure boredom). Invercargill however is so boring and so filled with smoke one wonders whether the population aren't trying to burn it all down in their own way, day by day. The main road goes right through it - north-south without deviating - all the way, basically, the entire length of Southland. The inspirational names appended to the townships line the route: Winton, Dipton, Lumsden, Athol, Garston... Emotional, vesceral! And one cannot help but remember as one speeds as fast as practicable northwards the leaders from the loins of Southland that have given their mana to raise the province to the stratosphere of greatness: Mark Peck and Bill English to name just all of them.

In conclusion, Southland is a bit shit.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Socialist Federal Yugoslav Republic of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Montenegro, Serbia

Montenegro has voted for independence from their union with Serbia. They already use the Euro (without any formal agreement to do so!) so membership of the EU is a definite and realistic objective - and maybe an urgent one. Welcome to the international community.

The Montenegran Foreign Minister was talking to the BBC saying he knew the BBC had recieved a statement from his Serbian counterpart, yet he had not had any call from him. Being as how it is Serbia's only access to the Mediterranean there must be a few gritted teeth in Belgrade right now.

Serbia must presumably negotiate with Montenegro about splitting the debt and assets of what used to be Yugoslavia. There's Kosovo for the Serbs to think about - but that's not Montenegro's headache any more. The threshold for the referendum was set at 55% and the latest figures indicate a 55.4% vote in favour. So I wonder what bitterness will be felt by the 44.6%? Remember what happened when Slovenia announced independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 (I think it was) - the Serbs sent tanks in and there was a brief battle and then they left - now Slovenia is inside the EU as one of the new 10 nations. The new, kinder, gentler, less genocidal Serb leadership these days would never jeopardise their relationship with the EU to pull that sort of stunt again.

55% seems like an odd, compromise sort of threshold that the EU came up with apparently. The votes on Quebec "independence" from Canada was set at 50%. Western Australia voted in 1933 at above 60% for independence from the Australian Commonwealth (from memory) but Canberra and Westminster rejected it. The East Timor referenda on independence was very high, above 70% I think. Many constitutions have 2/3 as the proportion needed to enact major constitutional change. The MMP referendum was about 54% -ish.

I think that perhaps we could sort of have it both ways in any future constitution: make it 50% - but of total registered voters. So at an impossibly high 100% voter turn-out the threshold would be 50%, at only a 50% turn-out then it would take an impossible 100% vote to reach the threshold. At 75% turn-out it would need a 3/4 vote. I'm not sure about this but @62.5% turn-out = 87.5% threshold, @ 87.5% turn-out = 62.5% threshold. Now unfortunately if we had this system MMP would not have been passed, and Montenegro with a 86.3% turn-out would have needed about 64% vote and would thus have failed. With our usual 80-85% turn-out figure we would have to get about a 2/3 vote - which is not unreasonable for major decisions. The higher the turn-out the smaller the threshold. It's something to look into.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Film Review: Poseidon


Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Cast: Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Emmy Rossum, Richard Dreyfuss, Mia Maestro

A disaster - a wet, soggy, awful mess. For all of the pointlessness of Dreyfuss' three or four whole sentences of total dialogue, the improbability of two firemen winding up in the same group , the implausability of the only people they meet alive in the entire journey through the ship being a group with the lead actor's daughter, the death of the non-whites, the tedium and anti-climactical ending... for all that... it was still crap.

The characters are crude and under-developed, the story (beyond a group getting to the top of an upside down ship) is non-existent, the lines are as if poorly (and humourlessly) translated from Petersen's native German. Acclaimed for the WWII submarine epic Das Boot, Petersen can only manage a muted echo ping of Das Booring with this remake of the "original" disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

The claustophobia is occasionally present as are elements of trauma and tension; but never enough for us to overcome indifference towards this group of roughly sketched people. Some of the set-piece scenes are just too long, too predictable and too choreographed and well lit to convey the necessary terror. There are big sets, big spills, explosions and action scenes; but so has every Hollywood schmovie - so what? The feeling at the end of this film was a resounding consensus of "Oh, is that it, then?" Best viewed when it comes out on TV - in the ad breaks of your preferred channel that is. You won't miss a thing.

1.5/5 stars

Friday, May 19, 2006

Submission to authority

My municipal contribution for this month (Auckland City Council Long-Term Plan 2006-2016 submission, for what it's worth) was squeezed into the tiny little windows provided on the city council's website. The Council's position is obsessed with rates and rates increases which pre-supposes that it is the only real issue and that their current staff/management/systems are operating acceptably: they are not. The bureaucracy seems very heavy, the officers intransigent, the elected leaders easily distracted, the minor decisions and planning like tree plantings, curbing, footpaths etc. usually very poorly made - but there is no place for us to put that.

There are so many issues that need addressing the last two points in the copy of my submission (below) probably seem minor. But the apparently small issues are usually city-wide problems. For example: I note that the local bluestone volcanic curbstones opposite the Town Hall on Queen Street are being ripped up (where are they going? who is taking them? Why? $?) and being replaced by Chinese stone (that's what a Council staff member told me) that is being scuffed to make it look more like the curbstones that they are replacing !? Yes, it sounds idiotic, it sounds like a supreme waste, a totally unnecessary, unwanted and inappropriate mistake, but I'm seeing it with my own eyes.

There are trees planted almost at random at completely wrong locations for their type, like the one on the corner of Ponsonby and Jervois Rd outside the Gluepot building - so it obscures the historic 3 lamps on the awning and will grow to obscure everything. There are pohutakawa being planted on narrow footpaths right next to the curb where they will inevitably have to be cut down at the point where they start looking good because there isn't enough room for them (see top of New North Rd - compared with the exact place a pohutakawa should be on the Khyber Pass-Symonds St. intersection where there is plenty of room and it would look great and that is where they have planted a boring, shedding, cold plane tree). Also many park benches are actually facing the street instead of facing the park - duh.

The other issue is the estimated growth in population from approx. 430,000 to 500,000 in 2016. The first issue is where they are going to live? - cheap, shitty, slums at the present. The second issue is who are they and who will they become? The % of Asians goes from 30% now to approx. 36% of total pop. in 2016. They don't have the estimates for anything beyond that probably because they will pass the Pakeha/European pop. share shortly thereafter and they don't want to freak out the white ratepayers. Since our non-immigrant natural increase is zero that means all these extra people will be immigrants. Auckland cannot get to grips with aspects of it's heritage if it is overwhelmed with so many immigrants who cannot possibly integrate properly at such high numbers. Why they can mention "Maori", "Pacific" and "Asian" by name but not mention "European" (only a reference to "pioneers") and recognise their place in the heritage/cultural/community order of things is inconsistent. How does an acknowledgement of the fact of "diversity" end up becoming a policy to maintain "diversity"? Isn't one of the important values also "integration" with the existing community by adopting their practices? With so much churn (gross pop. movements) of over 33% in 2001-2006 (according to the ACC's figures) we have a huge transient pop. who can often vote etc. and yet know precious little about where they (temporarily) live, most do not know their way around geographically let alone culturally - and that's just the taxi drivers! The pop. is thus "unstable" being rootless, potentially alienated even from "their own" community.

Many immigrants are elderly and do not understand English etc. and are basically, literally peasants - is this making us a unique Pacific city? - unique in a good way? But the council must deal with the highest % of immigrants in the country (as well as internal migrants) with little assistance from central govt. Public transport patronage is increased because of immigrants/foreign students but without a corresponding increase in quality or timeliness of services - a rail system would be helpful.

I don't see why we have to increase pop. numbers in this confined area with big infrastructure/political/traffic problems on a seemingly infinite basis. The increase in pop. will obviously have an impact on our quality of life - not just by cultural differences/habits but by the volume of numbers. Do we have an "optimal" pop. density? A related issue is with big numbers of transients landlords will flourish while home-owner-occupiers will be on the decline - meaning run-down dwellings and under-investment in housing stock generally. Why would you bother to get involved in anything other than your own non-English speaking cult/cultural group/gang if you know you will only be living in one part of the city for a few years? If your intention is to move on then participation and the necessity to integrate or adopt to local customs etc. will always be low - as will be your expectation and inclinations to bother to learn any of the history of the area and it's people etc.

Are we all happy that by 2030 Asians - and mainly one's born and raised in Asia will be the largest "ethnic group" of the population on the current elite consensus of keeping a high immigration policy? And that by 2050 fully half the population in Auckland City? Must the city be an immigrant city as it was in the distant past and has become since the early 90s? Proposals to formalise ghettos like making Balmoral into "Chinatown" would be a chronic mistake. When the govt. is intent on ensuring that immigrants and their kids keep as much of their foreign-ness as possible how will this change us? When I see Chinese and Korean language signage everywhere, and I do mean everywhere (on and in buildings, in shops, vehicles, notices, grafitti etc.) across the city and big Chinese flags proudly displayed down Dominion Rd and Chinese laterns strung down Queen St for a whole month c/o the city council I do wonder at the wisdom of importing everything from China.


---------------------------SUBMISSION TO ACC-------------------------------
1. Meaningful widening of Dominion Road for future lanes of traffic and parking over next 30 years to create a world class retail boulevard. 20m width all the way to Richardson Rd. Start from city-Balmoral Rd. City-Balmoral RD cost: $50-$70m - possible parking metering to raise revenue & increase rates from raising value of property & re-sale of new properties with frontage after annex.

2. Need co-ordination of undergrounding of overhead wires and footpath upgrading. Costs could be put on to utility companies. Legislation to enable this possibly for parliament to enact to assist. What is Minister for Auckland's job? Every new footpath in area where overhead wires exist MUST BE UNDERGROUNDED at same time. Aim to have all Isthmus fully undergrounded in 30 years. Possible ability (via legislation) to rate overhead wires (& exempt only underground utilities) to encourage them underground.

3. Lobby Govt. to create a Transit Authority for the entire Metroplolitan area to have own legislation to build rail system only with own dedicated financing, accountability etc. - nothing at all to do with buses or ferries or anything else - just the rail system to keep focus.

4. A system of emergency sirens. Primarily to alert public to a tsunami or volcanic warning - can be tested every ANZAC Day at 1pm to begin/end 1 min. silence & to mark formal end of commemoration activities/restrictions and beginning of normal activities. Sirens that cost approx. $4k can be heard for 5km therefore to cover all of Isthmus area + Waiheke Island @2km coverage per siren @95% pop and 1km coverage along coast @ 100% coverage to 2km inland = approx. 40-50 units. @$4k each = $160k-$200k. But the method of switching them on and off would probably cost at least this along with suitable independent (battery) power to each. So too with poles on which to put them - or tops of buildings. Total cost approx. $2-3m.

5. Auto-dial emergency system to alert public to tsunami/volcano natural disaster via cell phones and Telecom dialling all landlines with a recorded message. Cost -? Govt. could force them to provide this service?

GUEST BLOG: The Bomber Code

----------------------------GUEST BLOG: M Bradbury-----------------------------

I have read some of the critics reviews, and I'm really not sure what the American press were expecting, a type of mission impossible 4 action extravaganza with Tom Hanks and Divinci battling it out with light sabres - ending with a guest appearance from Jesus Christ telling tom hanks that he is his father

It's a good movie, a bit long at the end, but a fair rendition of the movie.

The book is better - I'm sure Opus day would say that about the Bible as well.

The historical Central question behind the movie and book is why was Mary Magdalene character assassinated by the Catholic Church from a disciple with a special relationship with Christ to that of a prostitute...

Dan Brown and his conspiracy chums suggest it's because of a Christ bloodline from Magdalene and throw in the worst excesses of internal power schisms within the Catholic Church during the crusades to back up this theory.

However - you don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to have legitimate questions about the authority of the Catholic Church, and I think this is the tragedy of the book and movie - the council of Nissia in 325ad was a bringing together of all the bishops to discuss what would be in the Bible and to settle the theological argument that Christ wasn't simply a great prophet and the most perfect human being, but that he was in himself divine. The latter argument won the day because it gives the church more authority from a divine Christ rather than a great example of a person Christ. And the debate over what was to become the bible and the decision to leave the gospel of Mary out of the final version can be viewed as pure misogyny on the part of a group of powerful men, as opposed to the bloodline conspiracy. So the intrinsic flaws and vested interests of the powerful during the creation of the church, don't get scrutinised as thoroughly as they should 2000 years after Christ's death because it gets swamped by the grand conspiracy narrative.

A little like the release yesterday of the plane crash into the pentagon - there are serious questions about what the American Government knew or didn't know about September 11th, but that gets drowned out by grand conspiracy theories over a cruise missile striking the pentagon or not


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Auckland to Auckland: We're fucked

"Cullen to Auckland: pay more for roads" said yesterday's NZ Herald front page headline.

And: He expressed irritation at a meeting with the Auckland Mayoral Forum at a proposed 5 per cent annual cap on regional rates rises over 10 years. [...] "He said the future lies with roads and buses - that rail will never work," said an official.

Auckland to Cullen: get fucked, arsehole.

Return Auckland taxes to Auckland. Stop trying to do what every government has done and fuck Auckland over while Wellington (to pick one example just purely from random) gets it's own way. Wellington has divided the Auckland region into so many agencies that they can't do anything as they are in meetings every day trying to figure out who should be doing what given that every year another agency to solve the problem of too many agencies comes along.

Condemning Aucklanders to buses forever and forcing Aucklanders to pay tolls on their already existing roads is Treasury bullshit to the max. If Cullen is so proud to differ from the Treasury mantra why doesn't he do so on this issue? Oh, that's right, he's a South Islander living in Napier who once described Auckland as a "great crushing weight" on the rest of the country - that was the quote - was it not. What a git. That "great crushing weight" saved Labour's bacon on Election day and that Auckland Labour voter would benefit most from him taking public transport seriously. The budget is tomorrow; but the tagging is on the wall for anything credible to be announced.

And the intellectual giants, engineers, planners and transport experts making the incisive decisions to guide Auckland's future as a First World powerhouse metropolis, leading city of the Pacific and the nation's commercial capital?:
Last week's meeting, which Dr Cullen called to discuss new funding sources for Auckland's transport needs, was also attended by Prime Minister Helen Clark, new Transport Minister Annette King and Auckland Issues Minister Judith Tizard.
If the Special Olympics ever had a transport committee it would be them.

I note the money for Auckland's transport woes that Labour bangs on about rectifying after years of relative under-investment usually goes on things like making a separate viaduct that exits on the left and closing down the perfectly good one that exits on the right so it can't be used at all - even in emergencies. Yeah - great priority settings there all right. Next time you go over the Hopetoun St bridge you can look down and ponder the great planning minds of Transit NZ that thought that was so urgent that it had to be built immediately. And then you can ponder, as you look at how this 2-300 metre off-ramp so exactly duplicates the now abandoned one, upon the minds that built the one on the right in the first place. Why? WHY? FUCKING WHY? - was it designed by the same person? Is he in charge of everything now? Are they going to decide next that the off-ramp should be yet another viaduct - this time in the middle? The pdf of lame excuses, photos and diagrams of this squanderous ineptitude is here.

The report goes on:
In a letter in December, he and former Transport Minister David Parker said electrifying the network was not an immediate priority, even though that is favoured by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority.

Although that agency was set up under the regional council at the Government's behest, Dr Cullen is keen to assert the Beehive's right to dictate terms of the rail upgrade through its own organisation, Ontrack.

No, what self-respecting million+ city has electric rail? That's just weird. It never works in other countries. Other cities like New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney... Wellington... they wish they had no electric rail like Auckland and had to rely on diesel buses. They are green with jealousy. Yes, diesel buses forever - that is Auckland's public transport future under this and every government to date. Thanks, Treasury. Thanks, Wellington. Thanks, Dr Cullen. How can we ever repay you all? Oh, that's right: with more petrol tax and tolls on our public roads. *slow clap x3*

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's the plan, Rick?

NZ Herald reports:
Civil Defence Minister Rick Barker today hit back at claims the Government's emergency planning was insufficient and would result in total confusion. Wellington and Canterbury Civil Defence emergency managers (CDEM) have criticised planning after the recent tsunami false alarm.
He [the Minister] added: "We do have a plan...if a tsunami was on its way to New Zealand we would have warning.
"We would press all the bells necessary to alert people through police, fire, civil defence emergency groups and we would have a very powerful and a very coordinated response. Of that I am very confident."

Not the first time a Minister has been very confident about something so very, obviously, ineffective or even non-existent. The bit I like best is: "We would press all the bells necessary to alert people. But, Mr Barker, there are no bells!

In pursuit of my project to have a one minute of silence at 1pm on Anzac Day - signalled by sirens - I contacted the Civil Defence chief of Auckland and asked what system of emergency sirens we have. He told me that we have none. None at all. Zero. 1.2 million people in the Auckland Metropolitan area, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and alongside the fault zone which is at sea... and we have no sirens to alert us! The procedure in case of a tsunami warning would be that the police would drive around the waterfront telling people to evacuate! Right..... so the police would drive down into the kill zone and risk their lives knowing that a tsunami is coming... ? Yeah sure, they may be a bit intellectually sub-normal, but they aren't completely without a sense of self preservation. I'm sure they saw what happened in the Indian Ocean tsunami. The Civil Defence guy said that putting sirens everywhere to avoid complete carnage would cost too much and there were no plans to do this.

At about $4000 for a siren that can be heard at 5km in still air we would not need many to cover the coastal areas. It seems a very small cost to save a lot of lives. They can be tested every ANZAC Day at 1pm. There would without any doubt at all be complete and utter confusion if a tsunami was on it's way now - without any effective way of alerting people or coping with a mass evacuation. The Minister is a moron and a liar. Witnessed today in Parliament when he was answering, trying to weasle his way out of answering, questions by Nick Smith:

"400 agencies," said Rick Barker, "proper provision at a national level," he said, "robust... can be improved," emphasising "robust" again he went on to express confidence in the "National Plan". The man was blathering that "we have poured substantial increases" into it and then mentioned a "60% increase" without any timeframe or context. Then he said the "National plan as it stands is an adequate description..." "description"? A description of a disaster waiting to happen. A description of a dog's breakfast. Barker thinks this "adequate description," where police cars all drive down to the many hundreds of kilometres of coastal roads where they will be killed in an attempt to alert people of impending disaster is "robust." He is truly astounding. But, he says part of this "robust" 2 year plan includes a school programme called "What's the plan, Stan" What about some fucking sirens to alert us so we don't all fucking end up drowned? What about that for a fucking plan? What are kids being told to do - grab an emergency boogey board? Is the programme a brainstorming session so they can report their ideas back to the minister? Is the programme five minutes of silence, staring at a blank blackboard?

Anyway, I will put the siren idea to the Auckland City Council via the Annual Plan submission. Aaron Bhatnagar has also said he would mention it to the C&R Now Councillors. Maybe at least our little patch will have a fighting chance.

The Herald also reports: "Tomorrow Exercise Pacific Wave -- an exercise involving 28 countries around the Pacific -- will test warning procedures." So, nothing at all will be hapenning tomorrow then.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Film Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand

Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammar

Not having seen the first two movies in this series, or the Marvel comic books from whence the superhero saga originates, and never having appreciated the wisdom in transfering pubescent fascination with all-powerful beings in varying degrees of leotards onto the big screen, I was somewhat ambivalent about where Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen would take this sci-fi superlative. To the max and beyond - as it turns out - and usually in a good way.

The plot: In the future mutants (humans with an x-gene that manifests itself at puberty) with super-powers (each have a different sort involving power, speed, mind reading etc.) are in danger of being "cured" out of existence by the US government as normal mainstream humans feel threatened (with the help of political fearmongering) that the mutants will misuse their powers and take over. The weaponisation of the "cure" that will make them normal humans and destroy their power instantly is by way of injections loaded into guns. McKellen's Holocaust-surviving meglomaniac character doesn't help ease the tension with Republican-type for us or against us speeches to the disgruntled mutant underclass and a formation of the "Brotherhood" to stop the normal humans at any cost. Stewart plays the professor at a university for well-adjusted mutants who organises a resistance to the other resistance in favour of co-operation with the administration using his team of x-men. So there are sort of three sides in this countdown to genocide.

The parallels with discrimination, misuse of state power and contemporary political discourse are very strong and does a great deal to elevate the storyline above the gargantuan fight scenes, full orchestral love matches and - at times - almost laughable scenarios: especially Kelsey Grammar as blue Secretary for Mutant Affairs. It took a while to overcome the absurdity of it all for this reviewer not acquainted with the earlier two movies. But, for all the teeth, claws and special effects this sci-fi action flick was actually quite enjoyable. The later spectacular assault on Alcatraz Island, where the "cure" is being manufactured in the name of "freedom" definitely trumps the earlier scenes beset with someone with a power to make all the objects in a nearby vicinity float around - tedious compared with what is to come.

A colleague who had high expectations was a little disappointed by the lack of new characters. I thought there were plenty. It was the Star Wars type acting and cheesy lines here and there that was a bit wobbly. It's big screen entertainment that threatens to become overwhelming - and that's as it should be.

3.5/5 stars

Official site - requires Macromedia 8 (?)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Aussie blood suckers

Isn't it interesting how quickly an infestation of foreign pests are dealt with when the Ministry of Health is in charge? When Biosecurity is in charge it could take many years, and in the case of the Didymo plague - apparently never. So it is at least a positive sign that the Health Ministry is in charge of getting rid of the southern saltmarsh mosquito – a known carrier of the Ross River virus (RRV) which has been discovered in a remote area of the Coromandel.

A spokesman for the national surveillance programme, John Gardner from the Ministry of Health, said the discovery of the three sites, just north of Colville, were "a real disappointment".

The mosquito, ochlerotatus camptorhynchus, was first found in Napier in December 1998, and has since been identified at Muriwai, Mahia, Porangahau, the Kaipara and Mangawhai harbours, Whitford, Whangaporoa and Wairau.

The mosquito was "an aggressive biter with the potential to cause significant nuisance effects for people, livestock and birds", Mr Gardner said.

Not just an "aggressive biter," but an aggressive daytime biter. So the barbecue and going outside and generally our lifestyle (in the coastal areas at least - where 4/5 of the country lives) is going to be ruined if this pest takes hold. Imagine the worst sea lice experience transferred to land (if the descriptions are to be believed) - that would be intolerable.

The Ministry reported last year:
The mosquito has been successfully eradicated from the east coast of the North Island, Whitford, and Mangawhai. Attempted eradication programmes are still underway in the Kaipara (including Whangaparoa) and Wairau.

That website is also important as it has information on the programme of eradication and the systematic way the Ministry has gone about "treating" the sites and timetables for eradication. The mozzies can fly up to 5km so it is important to get them early. Compared to the appalling fumblings of the Ministry of Biosecurity over the painted apple moth and the non-action over Didymo it could be a case study. And one cannot feasibly be more plain on this point: Biosecurity doesn't want to eradicate they want to monitor and let it spread (and probably because they don't have a clue, appoint poor leaders, report to poor ministers and default to doing nothing in order to grow their own budget as their inaction makes the problem more insolvable) - that is why they do not have any eradication timetables. Health wants to detect it immediately and eradicate it forthwith - there is no monitoring-for-the-sake-of-research bullshit. More ranting and Anderton-bashing here.

I would like to know how the mozzies are getting here in the first place. Ships and their cargo are the obvious culprits - and maybe smaller vessels too. I hope there are systems in place to prevent that happening.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


An Advisor for the "E-Government Strategy & Policy" contacted me "looking to get some input from the New Zealand blogging community regarding the potential future blogging may have as a tool of communication by State servants and services (not, as of yet, elected representatives). As part of the E-government strategy, the State Services Commission is currently assessing the potential value of blogs in the public sector to engage with stakeholders, exchange information and views on policy and service delivery."

Well the obvious thing would be to put up a post about it and let you, the commenters have a crack as well. The Advisor then added that their responsibilities - and by extension probably that of all staff in the public service and by further extension that of any blog operated in an official capacity - were to:

  • maintain political neutrality
  • support the government of the day (if those don't contradict?)
  • avoid contradicting current policy
  • avoid bringing the department into disrepute

    Now I see nothing incompatible with that as far as presentation of posts go as long as the official blogger is competent and does not try to respond too off-hand to comments. Because the comments may get personal or heated it may even be appropriate that the official blogger/moderator even not get involved with comments at all and just passively note them. I consider the ability for punters to make comments and have them available for others to comment on to be absolutely criticial to the success of any official blog.

    So here are the questions he posed:

    1. Blogs have connotations of being personal, and are often opinionated. Do you feel either or both of these are essential aspects of what a blog is?

    2. Do you think a blog is suitable tool for an organisation to communicate with? What risks / safeguards do you think they carry/need?

    3. Are you aware of the NZAID blog? Do you have any thoughts on its utility?

    4. Do you feel a blog would provide more transparency for State servants/services? Do you feel there is a lack of transparency currently?

    5. Would a blog be an appropriate medium for discussion on policy or

  • Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Our Constitutional Gerrymander

    Dame Silvia's musings on the Treaty of Waitangi and our constitution prior to leaving office to sit on a war crimes tribunal for Cambodia has come as no surprise to me. Many people in this country would have expected her to perhaps do somewhat more than take the less than one hour to sign off on the Foreshore and Seabed Act (you know, the anti-constitutional one that the UN report has found wanting) whilst holidaying at an undisclosed location when it was sent to her for her assent, given that many petitions asking her, begging her, to taihoa had been pouring into Government House since it was rushed into law with the utmost of undue haste after being re-written at the last possible moment by two ex-pat Poms (Michael Cullen and Dale Jones) and a cobbled together coalition of fear in Parliament earlier that week. In that respect the woman is negligent and has failed the people in order to reinforce the government and executive power at the expense of constitutionality. In that respect she is in no position for us to treat her words with anything other than tepid scepticism at best - dismissive contempt at par.

    So in that context, that is to say the stench of hypocrisy forewarned, let us review her recent comments:

    "If we are to make changes to our constitution to reflect the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand society, it is important that all New Zealanders walk together at more or less the same pace."

    Dame Silvia made the comments in a speech entitled "Our Constitutional Journey" to the Legal Research Foundation at the Northern Club in Auckland.

    She said that since the 1970s there had been a consistent call from Maoridom for constitutional change to give greater effect to the Treaty of Waitangi.

    The place of the Treaty in constitutional arrangements was one of the most important questions facing the country.

    "It is not an issue that we can address with hasty reforms. It is something that all New Zealanders need time to reflect on, and discuss."

    When she says "it is important that all New Zealanders walk together at more or less the same pace" she means that the slowest walker, ie. the most racist, red neck, Taranaki/Waikato/BOP benificiary of their forefathers' Crown-sanctioned genocide (ie. the exact same thing she is supposed to be bringing to justice in Cambodia) and wholesale land theft, or the streams of ignorant immigrants, can forever veto reform and can stop us moving forward. She is saying that Rosa Parks needs to stay at the back of the bus and behave herself until the boss man has a change of heart... at some stage in the very distant future. She lecturers us in glib vice-regal platitudes about going slow:

    "As any good tramper knows, it is no good if a few eager-beavers take off ahead while others get left behind. The same can be said of significant constitutional change. "

    Well, Cartwright, maybe the people being "left behind" are racist scum who have been oppressing all the other people and deserve to be alienated. Maybe those laggards have to see the others reach the end point to have confidence to get a move on and join them. White South Africa's referendum to end Apartheid in 1992 only just crossed the 2/3 threshold - would Cartwright have recommended they put that off for 50 years while the slow ones catch up? There are far more applicable, thoughtful and sanguine analogies than the depressing and negative one she chooses to draw.

    Like the American constitution that had such fine words but failed to live up to those sentiments for many of it's people so the Treaty could be seen in the same light.

    Cartwright is just doing what Governor-General's of old used to dispense: soothing inaccuracies and living out Pakeha Mythology - every bit as much as if she had the chooks feather hat on and declared that there is no racism in New Zealand. Only now the silly hats are gone but the essence of their political ideology and calculated appeasement has not. Is it in every Governor's job description to placate ignorant, beligerent Pakeha? When that negligent woman signed that Bill into law she chose to walk down the wrong path. She chose to ignor the warnings. She chose to let that constitutional journey go backwards - and then she has the temerity to opine on the matter and ignor her own constitutional malfeasance. The whole situation is just pathetic.

    As far as her appointment to Cambodia goes I hope she doesn't go on holiday and then take less than an hour to read all the evidence before passing judgement on the accused in the same manner as she conducted the affairs of state while Governor-General. She is marginally more helpful in a judicial role than in mine clearance however, but there's nothing to stop her doing some of that once the trials are over.

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    For want of wisdom in Solomons II

    That idiotic woman opens her yap hole once again.:

    Prime Minister Helen Clark says she is "aghast" at the appointment of two Solomon Islands MPs accused of inciting last month's violent riots as cabinet ministers.
    Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has handed Charles Dausabea the police and national security portfolio and Nelson Ne'e has been given tourism and culture.
    Both were arrested and charged with fomenting the riots that erupted last month after Snyder Rini was elected prime minister amid corruption allegations.
    Mr Sogavare today said on National Radio that there was nothing wrong with the appointments as the charges against the ministers were unsubstantiated and unproven.
    But Miss Clark today said the appointments risked further damaging the Solomons already fragile international reputation.
    "When I heard about it I was absolutely aghast frankly, because these people are both in prison," she said on Newstalk ZB.
    "They are charged with very very serious offences."
    "There's going to be very strong views from New Zealand expressed that these appointments, if they go through, would have serious ramifications not only for the Solomon Islands but also for the Solomon Islands international reputation."

    She should be aghast that they were charged and even more aghast that they were imprisoned in the first place. It is the quality of Australian justice and administration that ought to be under scrutiny here - not the democratic decisions of duly elected representatives.

    Just because she has her lackies in positions of power so she avoids being charged with forgery and defeating the course of justice over Paintergate does not give her a platform to be aghast at anything that the Solomon Island leaders have done. And as for ramifications for international reputations, the hypocrite ought to try reading the UN investigation into the dirty little secrets about her government's treatment of Maori as second class citizens before she dares to make aspersions on our neighbours.

    Full post on Solomons and the Australian take-over/riots etc. The magistrate responsible for the jailings, Kieren Boothman was a Kalgoorlie magistrate in the Court of Petty Sessions: "Magistrate Boothman came to WA from Northern Ireland. In 1999, he set up the Family Violence Court in Joondalup, north of Perth. "

    Independent Prosecutions Authority


    We need an Independent Prosecutions Authority separate from the law firms whose secret tenders lead them to hold Crown warrants to prosecute in the name of the Crown as government prosecuters. Other countries have this system, including Australia:-

    ...effective removal of the prosecution process from the political arena by affording the Director an independent status in that process... there will be a separation of the investigative and prosecutorial functions in the Commonwealth criminal justice system. Once a prosecution has been commenced and referred to the DPP, the decision whether to proceed with that prosecution is made by the DPP independently of those who were responsible for the investigation.

    Compared to our state of affairs with "Crown Law":-

    The Solicitor-General, the chief executive of the Crown Law Office, is the chief legal advisor to the Government (subject to any views expressed by the Attorney-General). In addition, the Solicitor-General is responsible for the conduct of the prosecution of indictable crime. The office of Solicitor-General is entrusted by statute with specific rights, duties and functions and is also responsible for performing most of the statutory and ex-officio duties of the Attorney-General. - in other words the Solicitor-General is the de facto Attorney-General (esp. since the current one ain't a lawyer - derrr!) and also effective Prosecutor-General. In typical Westminster System style it devolves far too much power into the hands of a single person whose appointment is done with much secrecy.

    In the interim however an independent body that can initiate legal proceedings on behalf of the public doesn't even have to be part of the government. As long as someone who has a healthy scepticism of the govt. (like Bob Jones) is willing to put up some cash as a public service it could be run entirely privately. Paintergate anyone? The filing cost to lay an indictment is $30 from memory.

    Police could still prosecute as they do now - or perhaps just for lesser offences.

    I have been in favour of a police/prosecution split for some time - but I make this recommendation as Murray McCully has put the cat amongst the pigeons by attacking the appointment of the Solicitor-General, Terence Arnold, to the Court Of Appeal in most unparliamentary terms.

    "Arnold, having piloted the culture of obsequious acquiescence which now infests our law enforcement authorities, is not fit to serve on the bench, let alone the Appeal Court bench.

    Arnold has been trouble from day one. He's earned his stripes by doing the Labour government's bidding and thus cannot be completely trusted to be a fair and independent arbiter of justice. Favours for favours is what it boils down to - if Arnold had prosecuted, or even taken a fraction of the interest he showed in personally prosecuting Nick Smith MP, over Paintergate or whatever would he be looking at the bench of the Court of Appeal from the judges' side? - of course not. And the Attorney-General appointing him? Well, none other than Michael I-don't-believe-in-Supreme-Law Cullen IANAL. For a job well done from their point of view. And disturbingly in the press release announcing it I can't find any corresponding announcement of a new Solicitor-General. Surely he can't continue in both roles!!?

    The back room deals over judicial appointments is praised by the legal profession's heirarchy as they are the primary benefactors. McCully's outburst has been criticised in disappointingly partisan terms from some quarters.

    McCully (in the same opinion piece) also criticises the police for not prosecuting the Labour party's significant and blatant election overspending. Having the police in both investigation and prosecution roles is often unsuitable for many matters and this is one of them. An independent body, with enough funding naturally, could be attached to the Ombudsman's office even. Or at any rate could be responsible to parliament directly rather than to the executive. It would add credibility.


    Another idea is to have investigator/ombudsman as Tribunes, perhaps half a dozen or more to act in the interests of citizens in holding government to account. At the moment we have the Ombudsman and the Health and Disability Commissioner, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Inspector-Generals etc. - they could act as the first of the Tribunes. Collectively the Tribunate could have investigative powers and a referral to the prosecution service (IPA) to charge and prosecute if a majority of tribunes, (or maybe unanimous) agree - thus the lone Tribune on a crusade cannot persecute anyone by themselves except through investigation. The appointment of the Tribunes and the head of the IPA is crucial to get right to avoid the problems we have now. The Tribunes could even have their own prosecution department. I know that some will balk at making these positions publicly/popularly elected a la the USA, but what other form of selection has the same credibilty to carry out the mandate? 2/3 parliamentary vote + general vote of confirmation at elections? Candidates not to have been a party member or contributor for at least 5 years? 10 years? Needless to say one of the Tribunes must be what is now called the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority.


    Found an informative, short article by Auckland law Professor, Jim Evans about NZ judicial appointments:

    Some of the early appointments were not free from political influence. Five of the 16 persons appointed as judges in the nineteenth century were prominent politicians: one of these, Sir Robert Stout, who was appointed Chief Justice, had been a former Prime Minister.7 In 1918, the then current Attorney-General, Sir Alexander Herdman, later (as we shall see) Mr Justice Herdman, earned some notoriety by effectively recommending himself for appointment. He seems not to have abandoned interest in politics, because in 1935 he abruptly retired from the bench to accept nomination a day later as an independent candidate for Parliament. He then promptly made a savage attack on the prevailing Government.

    Those were the days, eh! The problem is our actual statute law has not really changed to prevent any of this - just our conventions. I've gone on about Cullen's suitability as A-G before so I'll leave him out for now and focus on what may be needed for the future in any constitution:

    A-G's role to be similar as now (except judicial appointments) and to be a minister and member of the Executive Council (though not necessarily Cabinet), and must have a sort of formal legal qualification (not necessarily a current practicing cert. or even a fully completed LLB but something approaching it?) and be an independent MP who has not been a member or participated or contributed to a party for at least 5, or maybe 10 years. But there are no independent MPs... in our current system. Now in my ideal parliamentary framework we would have something like a specialised 66-ish seat Senate from where the executive and PM will come and a much enlarged House of Representatives (perhaps even around 1000 members) who are representatives of every community (smallest unit of local government) and are part-timers with modest meeting allowances and no actual stipend unless they are on a committee. From that huge pool I'm sure there will be many MPs who would be eligible for A-G. The Govt. of the day must have that voice of sanity and non-partisan independent judgement to help guide them rather than have the position handed around the current heirarchy like it was the town bike.

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    AU talking to me?

    Yesterday I picked up a stray Auckland University convocation booklet - listing this season's graduates - that was left by one of the begowned, trenchered intellectual elite... at the pub.

    It's fascinating. The achievements of each doctoral student especially so. There is some amazing work being done in the field of eyesight/vision/optics - although the wider purpose of "The Avian Entopallium" is not clear apart from the student gaining employment "in Dr Wild's laboratory, investigating aspects of sensorimotor integration in songbirds." Dr Wild himself has a DSc for his work on the avian brain. There's a b-grade movie in there somewhere.

    Other work ranges from the seemingly irrelevant/wanky/indulgent, "Constructing the 'Other': On being a Man and a nurse" to the utterly perplexing, "An in vivo Investigation of Oxaliplatin- and Paclitaxel-induced Peripheral Neuropathy" and let's not leave out "Supramolecular Fullerene Porphyrin Assemblies" - stuff you couldn't really bullshit your way through a job interview about. Then there's the startlingly simple "Video Surveillence" of Dr Qi Zhang, following her break-through "Robot Vision" paper of 2001. It sounds as much like a sci-fi comic as it does a cheesy b-grade movie!


    It is interesting to note the large amount of doctoral theses by women, about women:

    "Recognising Women's Responses to Heart Disease Symptoms: Different Groups Respond in Different ways"
    "'Their Stories, Our Stories, My Stories' The Intersectionality of Age and Gender Through the Voices of Mid-life Sportswomen"
    "'Mr Jones' Wives': World War II War Brides of NZ Servicemen"
    "TV Love: Television and Technologies of Intimacy" (the Mary Tyler Moore Show seems to be a major focus)
    "Aroha's Granddaughters: Representations of Maaori Women in Maaori Drama and Theatre 1980-2000"

    But also the nature of some of the topics that women pursue:

    "...Parents of Pre-school Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Issues of Access"
    "The prediction of functional outcome after stroke"
    "Transcending Cancer: Narratives of Long-term Survivorship"
    "Improving Outcomes for Suicidal Adolescents"
    "Therapeutic Effects of Massage on Coping with Stress and Migraine: A self-regulatory Perspective"
    "Inter-country Adoption of Eastern European Children in NZ: Issues of Culture"
    "Emotional Control and Breast Cancer: Implications for Coping..."

    Psychology and Education are probably weighted to females anyway, but it is interesting the sorts of subjects covered and the description. The word "coping" appears at least twice. There are probably equal numbers of male and female doctorates - and the sort of issues that females are interested in are generally different than the males.

    Men's topics include:
    "Effects of the Argentine Ant... on NZ Native Forest" (Eradication on Tiritiri Matangi island reserve seems to have worked well)
    "Is the Decline of Democracy in Papua New Guinea Inevitable? A Democratic Audit of Papua New Guinea"
    "NZ Defence Acquisition Decision-making: Politics and Processes"
    "Darkness, Death and Distortion: A Sociological Examination of Moral Panic Theory and the Gothic Subculture"

    And can you tell this guy was a journalist: "The Matrix Ate My Baby: Play, Technology and the Early Childhood Subject"

    I am of course drawing on the ones that contribute to my idea that men and women value different things. I am always astounded by the immense amount of work and intelligence that makes up the Univeristy of Auckland. Even the time and effort expended on issues I would consider of minimal utility is still a great credit to the student undertaking it.


    Not so much in the doctoral roll but in the vast amount of undergraduate students. When I graduated BA in 1995 there were hardly any Asians, and I mean maybe only a couple of dozen, from the Arts Faculty. I put this down to (and this is a decade ago I must emphasise) the composition of the Asian students (and they totalled at least 20% even then) being almost entirely overseas students studying commerce. Nowdays the migrant community is probably sending their kids through like the normal Pakeha middle class people they are supposed to be. I still can't see parents in Asia sending their kids to Auckland to study for a BA unless it was a conjoint degree with something practical!

    But it isn't just the dry wasteland of commerce that attracts high Asian numbers, Science and Engineering are especially popular. The Education Faculty is almost entirely deviod of Asians - there might be five (and two Indian names) out of the 300+ graduating. Less than 2%. Now let's look at the names for BCom: out of about 800 graduating, maybe a third. No doubt most of these are international students.

    The names must be a nightmare. Some are so similar - some identical.

    My theory of Chinese names is that they are the most efficient manner of, well not so much naming as numbering, the vast population. With a well founded, multi-millenia history of bureaucracy and record keeping I think they developed the easist way of keeping track and recording millions of individuals. You can't have a roll call with names like Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten Windsor or Henare Whakahuehue Te Kariatiana Kahurangi Ngakawa-Smith times 1.3 billion - it is utterly impractical. It also doesn't fit with the Chinese view of the cheapness of human life (massacres/human rights abuses/prisoner organ harvesting/executions etc.) it is far to individualistic to have such long names, especially if you're going to be charged, tried and executed all within 48 hours for doing something the corrupt official running your district doesn't like. What's the point of spending all that time filling it out on the death orders when Cha Phi Win or He Wha Nga will suffice. It's like (to an outsider) they have a list of only 100 basic names with very slight variations permissable perhaps with a small fee. Maybe if you live past 20 you get a middle name?

    Efficiency. Data input effeciency. That's what it looks like. Like the language generally: there aren't any joining words in Chinese - it isn't "Do you have the time please?" it's just "time!" or perhaps on a really formal occasion "time now!". It sounds incredibly rude and abrupt to English-only/NZ ears.

    So with that totally unresearched series of assertions in mind check out the problems that our almost entirely non-Asian, non-Chinese academic and general staff have to deal with nowdays on a personal and administrative point of view and imagine if these guys all turned up in the same class:

    From the list of this year's BCom graduates alone:

    Jia Wang
    Jiajing Wang
    Jianing Wang
    Jingjing Wang
    Jia Yu
    Jiaying Yu
    Jia Liu
    Jing Liu
    Jingjing Liu
    Yi Liu
    Ying Liu
    Yu Liu
    Yujing Liu
    Yun Liu
    Jingyi Liu
    Yue Lu
    Jing Luo
    Yuan Tian x2
    Dan Li x3
    Qi, Qian and Qin Zhang

    And it goes on and on and I haven't got time, but the old Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" routine springs instantly to mind. Yu talking to Mei?

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006


    Mr Parker said he could not see how the Prime Minister could re-appoint him as attorney-general while there was a complaint to the law society. [NZH]

    It took a long time to bring down our most notorious "bad-boy" legal eagle, Christopher Harder, and that was for pot smoking, prostitutes and assaulting other lawyers amongst many other (how should this be put) unfortunate lapses in professionalism - so Parker being cleared must surely be something of a fait accompli.

    My concerns are with the current Attorney-General, the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Finance Minister, Dr Michael Cullen MA PhD IANAL. That's right "I Am Not A Lawyer" - just remember that when the A-G offers an opinion. This is the man who has publicly threatened the independence of the judiciary on numerous occasions. This is the man who stated (I recall listening to it on radio recently): "I don't believe in Supreme Law" - as in he doesn't want us to have a constitution or any rights in a modern entrenched law sort of way. Our fundamental rights and freedoms and power of the government should be at the whim of the executive and parliament completely unchecked - that is the position of the New Zealand Attorney-General who is, I will state once more, not a lawyer. His training is in the history of economics.

    So what intellectual company does our Attorney-General, our top legal officer, keep? Who would Cullen's legal equivalents be as far as constitutional theory goes? Given his stance, from whom would he draw inspiration? Who are his soul mates, his comrades in arms? Hmmm...

    And why is it that Cullen gets to be A-G - apart from the absolute confidence of the PM and the sharing of her authoritarian views and use/abuse of the Westminster system? Something to do with the other lawyers in the Labour heirarchy, like Lianne Dalziel being discredited, untrustworthy liars I think.

    Kiwi survives

    I thought it was dead, and then all of a sudden: It's alive! Alive! Maharey to the rescue of embattled, failed Canwest concept. Brave it was - but foolhardy. NZ music month/soft govt./"youth network" pledge by Labour party... cue: government subsidy.

    The government will grant Kiwi FM access to new FM frequencies, under an agreement that will help the 100 percent Kiwi music station stay on the airwaves, Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey announced today. [1 May]

    "The government is committed to working with radio broadcasters to grow New Zealand music," Steve Maharey said. "We support the concept of a station that plays 100 percent Kiwi music, and we're keen that it has the opportunity to develop and expand the range of Kiwi music it plays.

    Begs the question what the fuck National radio does. "National" radio... you know... the official state radio network... yeah that one... how much NZ music do they play? Much, much less than you'd think. And then there's the quality. "Taumaranui on the Main Trunk Line" and anything by "When the Cat's Been Speyed" is high rotate along with Wayne "Fucking" Mowat's Most Awful Renditions of the Early 20th Century show. If any government sponsored/owned station should be 100% it's NATIONAL Radio, surely? Surely! Oh but that's right, I forgot... I'm sorry... the pretentious, nannied, "cultured" resolute bird-callers would have a hissy fit... the lengthy letters from Karori housewives would be carted into the foyer of the Minister for Arts and Culture (yes her) by the bag load and... yeah, exactly.

    Steve Maharey said the station had been granted the use of three FM frequencies for an initial period of one year, during which time it would work towards becoming a not-for-profit organisation.

    "Towards"!? It's ratings are almost negligible! It certainly can't be profitable at the moment - or else why would Canwest (just a few months ago) announce the format was being scrapped: it is already a non-for-profit!

    "Kiwi FM will take up the new frequencies from July. They will be Auckland 102.2FM, Wellington 102.1FM and Christchurch 102.5FM. As part of the agreement to use the frequencies, the station's brief will be to significantly expand its content to include a greater range of New Zealand Music.

    "At least eight new specialist shows, funded by NZ On Air, will be included on the new format. These include shows for Independent, Alternative and New, specific genres, unsigned artists, label features and more."

    Kiwi FM was launched by CanWest MediaWorks in February 2005 and is currently the only radio station that currently plays 100 percent Kiwi music.

    Steve Maharey said airplay of New Zealand music had doubled since March 2002 when the government and the Radio Broadcasters Association launched a Code of Practice for New Zealand music content. Kiwi FM was one of the ways the industry could build on that success.

    Well it was well on it's way to doubling before Kiwi and it's coming about was partly a method of Canwest staving off threats of a compulsory NZ music quota - wasn't it?

    CanWest CEO Brent Impey welcomed the announcement: "CanWest has long been a strong supporter of Kiwi Music. Kiwi FM was launched a year ago to enhance this support. This agreement puts Kiwi in a positive position for the future."

    No shit. He was probably doing cartwheels. A hospital pass to the government - congrats. Canwest shareholders will be delighted.

    So Canwest can get to launch the commercialised banality of generic brand "The Breeze" on the old Kiwi frequency like they planned? Not so much killing two birds with one stone as resusitating them. Frequencies (to labour the avian metaphor) are like hens teeth. They are worth millions of dollars and Canwest - courtesy of the Labour government - get one for free. Is this what the government means by Public-Private-Partnerships?

    Guest blogger, Mr Bradbury, has written some excellent analysis of Kiwi's predecessor, Channel Z, and it's important role in the radio and music system of breaking new local talent to the mainstream - a function since lost with Kiwi as it tends to the nostalgic. [sorry no link] So the news that better shows will be promoted is hopeful. But with 100% NZ music it is still pushing it uphill with a toothpick.