Marae at Parihaka Pa to get better broadband while engineering projects are pampered down south

Fresh from sprinkling fairy dust in Taranaki – or rather, redistributing taxpayers’ hard-earned money – Shane Jones headed south and announced a plethora of handouts and investments in Otago.

The three marae in the historic Parihaka Pa complex in Taranaki were the beneficiaries of the first of the latest handouts from the Provincial Growth Fund.  They have been upgraded to high speed broadband with PGF support *.

It has taken a while, but this much-denounced colonisation thing at last is showing glimpses of having a positive side.

Down south, Jones pumped a much bigger sum – almost $20 million – into re-establishing KiwiRail’s Hillside workshop and  almost $8 million into a raft of engineering projects.

Oh, and with a billion trees in mind presumably, $63,000 will be spent on supporting eight 17 and 18 year olds to enter careers in forestry.

And then there’s a $10 million spend “to establish Otago as the centre of New Zealand’s creative digital industry over the next ten years … ”  ** 

But what does this intervention by central government do for the aspirations of other regions which might hope to become the centre of the country’s creative digital industry?

The announcements were all registered by the Point of Order Trough Monitor, which reports: Continue reading “Marae at Parihaka Pa to get better broadband while engineering projects are pampered down south”

Boris gets an election

At the fourth time of asking, Britain’s House of Commons granted PM Boris Johnson’s wish for an early election.  If the House of Lords agrees, it should take place on Thursday 12 December.

Why couldn’t his opponents have hung on a bit longer, given their majority in the lower chamber? Having by a supreme effort denied Johnson ratification of his Brexit deal by 31 October and got the EU to extend the Brexit deadline to 31 January, it’s hard to see what credible strategy they could agree on.  Voting the deal down would have begged the question (from the EU and the voters): what next?  So they stopped dodging the unavoidable. Continue reading “Boris gets an election”

Phil’s failure to fix things prompts further calls for his firing – but there’s an electoral case for Nats to hope he stays

Fresh calls for PM Jacinda Ardern to sack Transport Minister Phil Twyford have followed accusations the minister has misled Parliament.

Twyford is on record in Parliament as saying no one from the previous NZ Transport Agency Board asked to stay on before all were axed in September. Now he has conceded at least one board member did so.

National’s Chris Bishop says misleading Parliament is yet another nail in the very badly damaged coffin that has Phil Twyford’s name on it.

“He has repeatedly stood by his claim that all five NZTA board members walked willingly out the door. It wasn’t until media backed him into a corner that he admitted some were shown the exit”.

On TV news shows, Twyford is labelled a laughing stock, as they list his failures with KiwiBuild and the Auckland light rail project, two key Labour policies in its 2017 election programme. Continue reading “Phil’s failure to fix things prompts further calls for his firing – but there’s an electoral case for Nats to hope he stays”

Nth time lucky for Argentina

“Centre-left opposition candidate Alberto Fernández has been elected president of Argentina in a vote dominated by economic concerns”, according to the BBC.

Well yes – as far as it goes.  

Since his election in 2015, right-of-centre incumbent president, Mauricio Macri, had tried, with limited success, to put Argentina on a stable growth path.  The economy stuttered.  So the Peronist Justicialist party stormed back in to resume its historical mission. Continue reading “Nth time lucky for Argentina”

Brexit and the popular vote – a lesson in folly that should steer NZ First away from facile referenda

Veteran journalist David Barber, a champion of  voluntary euthanasia, and Ken Orr, spokesman for Right to Life, have found common ground.  Both agree that our elected politicians should not be passing the buck on the End of Life Choice Bill to a referendum.

They question the need for a binding referendum being held at the 2020 general election, if the contentious End of Life Choice Bill is passed at its third reading on November 13.  This is the consequence of the nine MPs of NZ First pledging to support the third reading of the bill on the condition that Parliament votes to support its supplementary order paper requiring such a referendum.

But the Brexit shambles in Britain provides ample evidence that a referendum can undermine a democracy rather than buttress or strengthen it.

The shambles is the subject of an article, headed Brexit is putting parliamentary democracy in question, recently published by the European Council on Foreign Relations, an international think-tank.  

It begins:

“Brexit may well become a textbook example of the damage that a referendum can wreak on parliamentary democracy.” Continue reading “Brexit and the popular vote – a lesson in folly that should steer NZ First away from facile referenda”

Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?

This blog asked whether Donald Trump might have made a serious error – perhaps even a fatal one – when he acquiesced in Turkey’s attack on America’s Syrian-Kurdish allies. He managed to irritate key supporters in the US Senate and early polling suggested a drop in support for his Middle East policies among Republican voters.

Failure to stand up for allies, dislike of Turkish self-assertion, fears of an ISIS resurgence and a sense that the US was being railroaded, all seem to have played some part in this reaction.

But for an explanation of why this might work out splendidly for the US (and Donald Trump), look no further than the piece by Israeli political analyst Zev Chafets on Bloomberg. Continue reading “Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?”

Solomon Islands govt terminates “legally defective”deal with Chinese enterprise

The Solomon Islands government has terminated a strategic cooperation agreement signed by the Central Province government and China’s Sam Enterprise Group.  Attorney-General John Muria says it was “unlawful, unenforceable and must be terminated with immediate effect.

The five-year lease deal alarmed residents on Tulagi and officials in the SI government and caused concern in Wellington, Washington and Canberra. China’s Sam has not commented. Company executives met SI  Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare when he visited China this month, shortly after diplomatic relations opened between the two countries.

The agreement contained references to trade and minerals, including a possible oil and gas development as part of a “special economic zone”. However, its broad wording could have enabled China Sam to build strategic assets such as deep sea ports.

Muria said the agreement signed had significant legal “defects“, including an illegal clause which would exempt China Sam from having to obtain Foreign Investor status under Solomon Islands laws.

The deal was also not vetted by the attorney-general’s chambers, as required of all provincial and national level agreements, he said.

A reader reminds us Tulagi harbour is the resting place of an RNZN corvette HMNZS Moa which sank in April 1943 after being struck by Japanese dive bombers while refuelling from a US Navy tanker.  Five ratings were killed.

Tabuteau hands out more PGF money for skills and employment – this lifts investments in Tairawhiti to $200.1 million

Two East Coast enterprises will have their businesses boosted by distributions from the Provincial Growth Fund announced this week.

Parata Contracting Limited, based in Ruatoria, and Gisborne-based Four Seasons will each get a chunk of the $1.6 million being dished out.

Parata Contracting is listed as a roading service provider.

Four Seasons Packhouse was developed by growers to provide a service that involves the harvesting and packing of buttercup squash ready for export.

It also helps  growers in the packing, marketing and distribution of feijoas and citrus to local and export markets.

The Point of Order Trough  Monitor recorded the latest PGF distributions this week when they were announced by Fletcher Tabuteau, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development. Continue reading “Tabuteau hands out more PGF money for skills and employment – this lifts investments in Tairawhiti to $200.1 million”

With an election coming next year, Zuckerberg defends free speech

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is under attack because of the consequences of too-free speech on his platform.

But it’s possible he may be a more considerable public figure than many had him down for, after he made a reasoned and principled address defending free speech (and his company’s approach to it) at Georgetown University last week.

The immediate kerfuffle was over political campaigning.  The Trump campaign put out a social media ad which implied that Democratic candidate Joe Biden had corrupt motives in helping fire a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the Ukrainian company which employed his son.  Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential contender, riposted by attacking Facebook for letting politicians run advertisements with false claims.  To prove her point and get some publicity (good for her, not so good for rival Biden), she ran a self-proclaimed false ad – on Facebook. Continue reading “With an election coming next year, Zuckerberg defends free speech”

$13m granted to teach Siri to speak Te Reo – but some of it will be directed to the British and US boffins whose help is needed

The Taxpayers Union promptly picked up on the spending of millions of dollars of public money, almost beating the Point of Order Trough Monitor to sound an alert.

The union focussed on just one of four projects to be funded from a trough labelled “Strategic Science Investment Fund”.  This project – to receive $13 million of taxpayers’ money – aims to teach Siri to speak Te Reo.

Siri (Wikepedia explains) is a virtual assistant that is part of Apple Inc.’s iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS, tvOS and audioOS operating systems.   

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Wood made special mention of Siri in her press statement.

The Taxpayers Union, however, challenged the wisdom of this spending in a press statement headed $13 million teaching Siri to use Te Reo is an IT boondoggle.

boondoggle (for those unfamiliar with the expression) is a project that is considered a waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy or political motivations. Continue reading “$13m granted to teach Siri to speak Te Reo – but some of it will be directed to the British and US boffins whose help is needed”