A muddy future for white gold

Dairy farming is great for us right now, delivering cash to the economy in the world recession. Plasma TV and car makers aren’t doing well. Food makers are doing OK.

So we might say thank goodness David Lange’s “sunset industry” description of farming turned out wrong, thanks to dairy farmers’ productivity leap and a global upturn for food products. This decade dairy exports have been the mainstay. read more

Big brother goes missile cruising

Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, intends to equip its navy with long-range cruise missiles. Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy wants to sell off armoured vehicles. The Tasman is a deep gulf.

The National party fire-eaters who used to meet on the Sunday morning at annual conferences and demand fighters and more frigates have faded. There is no talk from Defence Minister Wayne Mapp of increasing defence spending as a share of GDP (half Australia’s). We are a small Pacific island, distant from tyranny, with no pretensions to power. read more

National and Maori: rights go only so far

National and the Maori party have portrayed the Auckland supercity Maori seats as a spat. It is a fundamental difference. v Hone Harawira will lead a hikoi. Pita Sharples will grump that it is a matter of mana.

Then, logically, there might be a select committee manoeuvre to make it look as if the National had to give in to other parties. There will not be bad blood between Sharples and John Key. read more

Must health be a political illness?

Health is a political illness. Fixing up people’s ill-health bugs, and sometimes kills, governments, even those with buckets of money.

Making health politically healthy is Tony Ryall’s challenge. That makes his job one of the government’s biggest — alongside his 1990s ministerial “brat pack” mates, onetime Health Minister Bill English and Nick Smith. read more

The old guard goes. Now for new ideas

Helen Clark is shipping out to work for Ban Ki-moon. Michael Cullen is shipping out to work for Simon Power. Labour is in transition.

In her valedictory speech on Wednesday, Clark highlighted this generational shift. She went to university at a time when “the baby-boomer generation came of age”. The Vietnam war, the nuclear debate and apartheid were “faultlines” running through our politics, “some ideological and some generational”. read more

Are we in a 'seldom seen transformation'?

The Group of 20 has congratulated itself on acting in concert to save the world. But will it?

At the heart of the crisis is a massive imbalance which at some point has to correct. The United States is afloat on Chinese savings.

It wants vast amounts more of others’ savings to stop the unemployment rout — now 8.5 per cent after the loss of 5.1 million jobs in 15 months — and help it spend more even though spending too much on borrowed money got it to where it, and we, are now. read more

Auckland a world city? Try again

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance told us last week that “for the future” it “sees Auckland as a unique world city in the Pacific and that high liveability factors will remain Auckland’s most valued assets”. Really?

Royal commissioners have the power to compel evidence and their pronouncements have majestic status. Our accident compensation scheme came from a royal commission. So the Auckland commissioners are by appointment magisterially wise. read more

The (im)morality of financial capitalism

Deep in the recesses of New Zealand’s political history lies the A-plus-B theorem. United States Federal Reserve Board chair Ben Bernanke could be mistaken for a disciple.

The theorem was central to the social credit doctrine, which took hold in the 1930s depression among farmers hit hard by the slump and among some professionals not trained in economics. It postulated a gap between what people produced and what they could afford to buy which the central bank or the government should bridge by creating credit. read more

ACT reaches for the red-tape laser

Cross-dressing: John Key told ACT’s conference on Saturday he was going to have a “red-tape bonfire”; Rodney Hide told the conference he was going to be “surgical and laser-like” in trimming regulations.

Isn’t it supposed to be other way round, Key cool and Hide hot? read more

Accidents will happen, even to ACC

Next time we have a big economic up, we might ask just how up it is or whether we are just on a party drug. If it is a party drug, an accident is waiting to happen.

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) has been building funds to cover future liabilities. Those funds performed very well in the “golden years” of soaring sharemarkets. And the economic party times encouraged the government to expand the scheme’s cover and instruct the ACC board to be “fairer”, in part to eliminate injustices and in part to be more generous. read more