Posts tagged ‘government’


It’s taken me a long time to blog about sheep

11.04.2015

Living in New Zealand, of course PETA’s latest graphic (on the right) is going to get a few of us commenting. (The above comparison graphic was found on a US Facebook user’s page.)
   A friend of mine, in the US, rightly questioned whether he could believe New Zealanders on this, because we have an interest in ensuring wool exports continue. PETA, meanwhile, is a non-profit set up for the welfare of animals.
   I’m glad he questions, because without people like him, we would be accepting things told to us via media without analysis. He is right to call me out on this. We should be doing it more often, in a civilized atmosphere.
   Putting aside first-hand eyewitness accounts of sheep-shearing, where are the interests?
   PETA’s interests include its US$51 million revenues (its own figures) and the US$47 million it says it needs to keep itself going each year.
   In comparison, the New Zealand Wool Board, which is part of the state and funded by a levy, lost NZ$270,000 according to its latest annual report, on revenues of NZ$11 million. Annual expenses are NZ$3 million.
   You can take the NZ numbers and shave roughly about a quarter off them to get US dollars.
   For our wool board to do our work and keep our wool industry going, it requires about 5 per cent of what PETA does per annum.
   What interests would be served by our wool industry if sheep were left in the state PETA claims is typical? None. It’s in the industry’s interests to make sure that the coat is shorn carefully so that the sheep can grow a new coat for the next season. The medical bills from having a sheep that badly injured would far outweigh anything a farmer could get from wool.
   Running PETA is an expensive business, even if it is a non-profit, and it relies on these campaigns to get contributions.
   I believe in animal welfare, and in many cases, PETA does a good job of highlighting important issues. We’ve even received a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ from them for working with them on causes where we see eye to eye.
   But occasionally, you have to take its messaging with a grain of salt, and this appears to be one of those times.

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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, USA | No Comments »


This government’s comedy of errors lately—and few to capitalize on them

07.05.2014

Polity has gone through the MFAT OIA documents relating to Judith Collins’s visit to China, where she met with Oravida thrice.
   I’ve been reading them but out of order (the second bunch only) and their summary of what I have read gels with my take on things.
   These matters have been covered better on political blogs, but I can’t but help drawing comparisons between the stubbornness of this government with the days of Neil Hamilton, Jonathan Aitken and others in the UK Conservatives in the 1990s.
   The Minister’s latest, that the Greens were quick to capitalize on (as they did with Simon Bridges—which begs the question of where Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is), is this quotation: ‘Does that have anything to do with me? Am I the minister of wetlands? Go and find someone who actually cares about this, because I don’t. It’s not my issue … I don’t like wetlands—they’re swamps.’
   This Cabinet has opened itself up to media attacks because of the relatively large holes in its conduct, of which the above seems typical.
   The odd one, at least to 21st-century eyes, has to be the PM’s defence of Collins, as reported by Radio New Zealand: ‘Meanwhile, the Prime Minister blames Twitter for the stress Ms Collins has faced over her involvement with Oravida … Mr Key said Ms Collins had been under a lot of stress and much of that was driven by comments on Twitter.’
   One of my friends responded, ‘If he’d ever seen the abuse she dished out in her tweets, he’d know she was the instigator of most of it, not the victim.’
   And the PM makes one critical mistake here: he seems to portray social media as some sort of foreign world, where specialist knowledge is required. It’s certainly one that certain members of the old media fraternity love to use.
   The truth is social media aren’t that different: they are merely extensions of what one already knows. If you have been in business or in public service, you should know how to write and communicate. If you’re a reasonably competent writer in your everyday life, then it’s a cinch that you’ll be good at communicating with social media.
   I might get sucked in by the odd troll every now and then, but Twitter stress isn’t a valid enough excuse in my book.
   However, the PM is a smart guy. He knows that most of us will forget in a short space of time and there’ll be another scandal that will surface. So the disappearance of Collins through a time-out might be a good calculated move—at least that’s what he’s counting on.
   But the fourth estate might not be as forgiving this time. Duncan Garner wrote (also noting she needed a Twitter break): ‘The truth is, her story about what she was doing in China with Oravida has completely collapsed. She has lost all credibility. What started as a pop-in cup of milk and a private dinner turns out to be a turbo-blasted official dinner involving both Governments, their officials, a senior Minister (Collins) and a National party donor (Oravida).’
   The problem with all of this is: where’s Labour, in the midst of the greatest gift an opposition has been given for years?
   One friend of a friend noted that maybe Labour shouldn’t be attacking, because we Kiwis don’t like whingers. It is the charge I hear from friends on the right. Labour should, instead, be coming up with solid policies and leave the attacks to the Greens (which is doing a marvellous job) and Winston Peters (need I say more? He remains a great political wordsmith).
   For me, I’d like them to do both if they are to stand a chance. The job of the Opposition is to oppose.
   And failure to oppose strongly may suggest to the electorate that the same thing could happen under Labour.
   Six months out from the election I contested, I had my policies published—which one blog noted was unusual but welcome. That meant my policies were out for twice as long as my opponents’.
   We’re talking about a party that has been in opposition for a long time, long enough to know what it wishes to do should it be handed the reins of government.
   And yet, apart from a few policy announcements here and there, it has been silent. You’d think the names of the Shadow Cabinet would be in our consciousness by now. Embarrassingly, I even forgot David Cunliffe’s name recently in a conversation. I could only call him ‘not-Robertson’. (It is better than the PM calling Grant Robertson ‘Perry Mason’ today, I hasten to add.)
   It makes me wonder if Labour isn’t working and whether the anti-National vote will, indeed, head even more to the Greens this year.

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Posted in business, China, internet, media, New Zealand, politics | 3 Comments »


TPPA could turn the clock back

30.11.2010

During the campaign trail, people tended to ask me if I was left or right. While I cheekily said, ‘Forward,’ many a time (and had at least one imitator), there’s something to be said for abandoning what are, effectively, nineteenth-century constructs.
   And unless you are DI Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes, you need not concern yourself with constructs.
   What society needs is a dose of right or wrong, because all the constructs do is blind people to seeing a contrary argument if they happen to have branded it “left” or “right”.
   There’s no ‘I can see your viewpoint’ because that viewpoint is never aired.
   Fortunately, we didn’t have too much of this problem during the mayoral election though I did have a few people express surprise that I had once run for the Alliance. Meanwhile, Mayor Prendergast was surprised on the night of our TV debate that I sat with Young Nats—though three of them were, indeed, on my campaign.
   If we are all proclaiming we are “independents” and deny any connection with the larger parties, then surely the best quality we could have is to be non-political and unite people from “left” and “right”?
   And, as I also said on the campaign—and long before that—I know of very few people who are “all left” or “all right”.
   A while back, I had a discussion with the co-leader of the Alliance, Kay Murray, and she mentioned that there was a certain policy where the Alliance and ACT saw things the same way.
No Ordinary Deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement   It was with this frame of mind that I read Prof Jane Kelsey’s piece in INM‘s New Zealand Herald today.
   New Zealand is to host the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) talks on December 6, in which, says Kelsey, we would be ‘deepening our commitment to free market policies that affect our jobs, our social and cultural well-being, and ultimately the sovereignty to make decisions as a nation …
   ‘The TPPA would lock us into a model where markets and big businesses rule, ignoring the reality that it has failed.’
   I applaud the Herald for publishing Prof Kelsey’s op–ed, given that there are certain media part of larger groups that may have reasons to limit New Zealanders’ awareness of globalization.
   As much as some would like to hide the figures, the reality is that many globalist policies have failed to generate New Zealand enterprise. They have not enabled us to take advantage of the internet by providing a system geared against us as producers. The level playing field with which Labour tried to sell the promise of Rogernomics in the 1980s, thereby appealing to the fair play nature of New Zealanders, never materialized. And it desperately needed to.
   The result has been a largely technocratic system that has seen foreign enterprises already dictate much of what is done here in business—including accounting practices that have seen taxes that would have once been due here go offshore.
   To those National supporters that were part of my campaign team, I said: I am not against some of your party’s principles. I remember the National where progressive Kiwi-owned enterprise was on the cards as a given, and I believe in that. The main parties no longer really want to discuss this topic, if my memory of the 2008 General Election serves me correctly.
   I would not want to speak for them, but I suspect the younger members of this group would agree with me, having grown up in an era where values and social responsibility have been emphasized more than in the decade—or generation—before. Humanism is sometimes best delivered at the local level by organizations that know their community best, though there obviously are exceptions. They are no dummies: they will have observed this themselves, and may well have judged that market theory needs to be tempered by good (and not overbearing) governance.
   Having your formative years in a recession might be a good thing if you are forced to consider things at that community level. We’ve had quite enough “me decades” in the last 30 years that it’s about time we had a “we” one that had long been forecast by some in the marketing trends’ business.
   And I wonder whether the Prime Minister sees it quite this way.
   I almost wonder whether he favours having a small group called the information-rich and a larger group called the information-poor as this seems to be the next divide that certain forces are poised to take us in.
   In fact, I’ve had Prof Kelsey’s new book, due to be launched this week, for the last fortnight, and it makes excellent reading. And while given to me by friends on the “left”, it takes no political stance and analyses the TPPA for what it is.
   I had no idea that when I received it as a gift I was getting it pre-publication.
   No Ordinary Deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement has been edited by Kelsey and contains essays dealing with each aspect of the TPPA.
   If we thought that the fight against the Copyright Act amendments was tough, TPPA will see a new round, where there will be an assault on internet users’ rights to protect the US entertainment industry.
   Prof Susy Frankel, one of the authors, notes in the book:

It is possible that the TPPA negotiations will require more stringent protections of digital copyright works and more confind exceptions to those protections than the New Zealand law provides …
   The AUSFTA makes all reproductions of copyright works, even those transient in nature, a copyright infringement. New Zealand law does not make the creation of transient copies that allow the Internet to function a copyright infringement. This is important because it means that people cannot be sued for simply using the Internet and looking things online.

This means New Zealand’s unique digital copyright laws could be clawed back to become closer to US law, but there is equally a risk of what is permitted here, thanks to how we define fair dealing versus fair use, narrower.
   Meanwhile, Kelsey warns in her Herald piece:

Ironically, the government may also guarantee rights to foreign firms that it refuses to recognise for Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi.
   US firms are demanding even easier foreign investment rules that would be locked in for all time, when opinion polls show New Zealanders want to stop more land falling into foreign hands. Likewise, the idea of stemming currency speculation by introducing a financial transactions tax may be prevented by these “trade” rules.

All of which hint, to me, at the continuation of a slanted playing field where we remain at the bottom.
   Indeed, when it comes to services, Kelsey is right to point out (in her book) that:

The negotiating positions of governments participating in the TPPA seek to enhance the comparative advantage of their domestic firms, so as to boost their countries’ export earnings from services and strengthen their national economies …
   Achieving [the Obama administration’s goal of trebling services’ exports] would intensify the dominance of US corporations within other countries’ service markets. The US already reports a surplus in its cross-border trade in private commercial services with negotiating TPPA parties, standing at US$10·5 billion in 2008.

We are in part countering the imbalance with tourism at the moment, but given that there are other services—and we spent a good deal of the last generation building our service economy—we may expect an assault from the US.
   These are not the only sectors, but New Zealand needs to brace itself for a continued weakening of our economy should we put all our chips into the TPPA.
   I can say this with some greater cred that I am no longer campaigning: strengthening this country’s economy and building jobs is imperative, and we need to embark on that before opening us further to foreign private enterprise.
   I would prefer to see policies that enhance New Zealanders’ innovation and enterprise, aid our exports, build our infrastructure so we are content providers, and balance these needs with those who are disadvantaged. We need to reverse our continued slide into indebtedness through innovation and that our government, regardless of its label, needs to “govern” to ensure a balance for all citizens.
   It is too tempting, and too easy, for the New Zealand Government to believe it can relive the days of the boom—one that was founded on very little substance, mind—by effectively turning the clock back. Taking the technocratic experiment one step further by now removing the advantages we enjoy in intellectual property and services—now that manufacturing and energy have gone—isn’t something I can see working.
   Having backward policies isn’t going to suddenly take us in to the boom of yesteryear and make the economy rosier, and the Prime Minister, who apparently was no stranger to hard work if his PR is to be believed, needs to realize this.
   He needs, indeed, to position himself and his party to work even harder to promote that idea of progressive enterprise, rather than a route in which we are sold up the creek again. Assenting to the demands of foreign governments, lobbyists and corporations is not the way to do it.

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Igovt hates my answers

29.11.2010

I signed up to the Igovt site for the New Zealand Government today, allowing citizens a single log-on for e-government services (such as the Companies’ Office, where we have to file annual returns). In case you forget your password, you can choose from a variety of security questions they can ask you.
   The following examples are not what I wound up using, because on both occasions, Igovt would not allow the answer.
   ‘What was the primary school you attended the most?’ was the first question. I faithfully put, ‘St Mark’s Church School’. The site returned: ‘Answer is invalid.’
   The cheeky part of me thought, that since this was a site run by the state, only state schools were permitted.

Igovt doesn't like my answer

   I tried another question. ‘What was your father’s place of birth?’
   I entered, ‘Taishan, China’. The site returned: ‘Answer is invalid.’

Igovt doesn't like my answer

   Now, I’m pretty sure that I know better than the New Zealand Government just where my Dad was born.
   Or, I thought, maybe they don’t let people with foreign-born fathers register? That you have had to have been here for a couple of generations. This was part of the Johnny Foreigner policies that someone inside the Department of Internal Affairs implemented.
   Seriously, I think the website has a problem with anyone who punctuates: the apostrophe and the comma were too confusing for it. I’ve written to the DIA to tell them of these bugs and, meanwhile, I’ve opted for some other question on the list. The answer for that question, sadly, is more ambiguous than the precise ones I required for my original choices, but I was running out of options.
   On a more pleasant note, the Igovt website is very nicely designed, and the new interface for the Companies’ Office site is very attractive indeed. The facelift is long overdue, but I am very glad it’s come. Whomever did the redesign did a very good job.

Companies' Office website

Meanwhile, I read that some documents, which weren’t exactly top secret but accessible to thousands of American civil servants, have made it on to Wikileaks. Good.
   Sometimes greater transparency is all our world needs, and the difference between what we had rumoured and what Wikileaks has revealed is that the new stuff has the stamp of approval of the US Government. I really don’t see various world leaders feeling upset at their perceptions as recorded by people inside the US. Most national leaders, one hopes, are not dummies, who will be more than aware of where they stand with the US.
   Now, had the documents been about aliens and UFOs, I would get excited.

PS.: The Department of Internal Affairs confirms there is a punctuation bug. Helen Coffey of the DIA informs me, ‘This fault has been identified for the next release due in the second quarter of 2011.’ Good on the DIA for responding in a timely fashion and for being transparent about its website’s fault.—JY

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Posted in design, humour, internet, New Zealand, politics, publishing, USA | 3 Comments »


Wellington needs free wifi and jobs, not a council that goes nuts with spending

02.03.2010

Back Jack Yan for Mayor Funny how a media article can inspire you to send out a release, especially when you’re a ratepayer and you wonder if our City Council of élites understands how hard it was for us to make that money. In today’s case, it was Lindsay Shelton’s Scoop Wellington op-ed about Wellington City Council going nuts with its spending. Lindsay highlighted not only a $350,000 sculpture for the World Cup—money which I reckon we could use to boost the central city’s wifi coverage—but Dave Burgess’s report in The Dominion Post that WCC spends six times as much as Porirua’s council on food and drink.
   I’m not sure how we can justify those sorts of numbers, but I do have an aim to balance the budget if elected.
   As I wrote today, if we can grow our creative and technological clusters in Wellington—and get free wifi up and running (initially in the centre of the city, expanding outward)—we can grow the local economy and create jobs. After that we can look at partying—but not till we earn Wellingtonians’ respect by doing a bloody good job.
   A city that supports its clusters strategically will be able to balance the budget—and so far, it seems I’m the only candidate who is even willing to talk about this issue.
   We can start improving those communities through the new jobs we’ll be creating, and deal a blow to inner-city crime.
   If we fall behind on the tech side of things, consider this: we will lose the Sevens and any other event because our visitors will be asking, ‘Why can’t I get on to Google Maps on my iPhone without paying for it?’ It’s very simple, and when a mayor and council miss out on the simplest things, then it is time for a change.
   I would have thought a divided council—a complaint of the incumbent, Kerry Prendergast—would mean that we would not be spending massive amounts on things because there would be a lack of agreement. Spending ratepayers’ money, for some reason, seems to get rapid accord in this council—which tells me that when we vote in our mayor and council later in the year, we should have a far greater change than even I would have expected when I began my campaign.
   We have a divided council that needs firm direction on how to grow the economy, and a mayor who understands what ‘world-class city’ means.
   World-class does not mean big. World-class means nimble, modern and transparent.
   In 2010, we don’t need the same old, tired voices. Or the same old élites. The direction Wellington needs is a fresh one that brings new promises.

Incidentally, we have added a Facebook widget for my campaign page on this blog. It’s been placed at a few locations on my sites. Also, as of today, backjack2010.com redirects to jackyanformayor.org—it’s important to have the consistency in the domain name and the campaign graphic (thanks to Demian Rosenblatt).

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »