Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The rich always find poverty disgusting

I love the way this cartoonist, Hodgson, incorporates champagne bubbles in his caricatures of the rich and powerful. The cartoon is from The Dominion Post of March 29, 2010.

Hong Kong buyers chase NZ farms

As populations rise and resources dwindle, we will see a lot more interest, in the Asian economies, in buying substantial chunks of New Zealand. These farms will then become Chinese, Japanese and Korean farms — in effect, parts of China, Japan and Korea — and will produce food for the folks back home. I don't think New Zealanders have grasped the possible implications of this.

The cartoon is from the Manawatu Standard of March 27, 2010.

New Zealand economy shows 'a pulse'

The consensus seems to be that the recession has bottomed out in New Zealand, and that things will improve from now on. But as the National Government tightens up on sickness and unemployment benefits, and moves to reform the tax system in ways that will almost certainly hurt low-income earners, I think there a lot of anguish ahead. These days, the most I can get for my six-month term deposits at the bank is 5 per cent, compared with 8 per cent before the recession struck.

The above cartoon is from the Manawatu Standard of March 26, 2010.

When does a game become a career?

A cartoon that reflects the changing status of/attitude to rugby in New Zealand. Once a game, it is now a career — and a very lucrative one at that.

On March 24, 2010, TVNZ reported:

Carl Hayman is making no apologies for turning his back on the All Blacks to play for French Top14 club Toulon.

With his contract rumoured to be in excess of $1.2 million a season, Hayman said he has moved on from the national side.

Speaking on Sky Sport's Northern Exposure, Hayman said the time has come to be a bit selfish, whereas everything used to be about the All Blacks and his province.

He said while the World Cup was an attraction, the last one didn't exactly go too well.

The cartoon is from the Manawatu Standard of March 23, 2010.

Jobs exported to Asia

Jobs can also be internally "exported". In the Fairfax chain of newspapers, for which I work, nearly all the subediting is now done at two "hubs" — in Wellington and Christchurch. The Manawatu Standard, which published the above cartoon on March 18, 2010, no longer has any subeditors who work exclusively for the Standard (with the exception of myself, in the advertising features department). There are some subeditors sitting in the office, but they are technically part of the Wellington hub. To emphasize their changed status, they have been separated from the reporters by a no-man's-land of vacant desks.

Seniors' Super Gold Card could be clipped

The "ghost" rising from the grave is New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters, who lost his seat in Parliament in the last election. It was he who introduced the Super Gold Card for seniors (those aged 65 and over), who can get free trips on public transport if they produce it.

On March 11, 2010, an article by Duncan Garner, of TV3 News, reported:

The Government is looking at cutting back the free ferry and bus trips offered to pensioners through the Super Gold Card.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the card will remain but it's exceeding the budget, and the former political leader behind the card is furious.

The Super Gold Card gives the elderly free off peak travel. It's been so popular it has blown the Government's budget.

“The Government of the day didn't understand or know the demand — it was an educated guess,” says Mr Joyce.

Two million dollars alone has been spent on the Waiheke Ferry from a total budget of $18 million.

So the services — the free off peak travel and other subsidies on offer — are now under review.

The Gold Card was Winston Peter’s idea — his reaction is unsurprising.

“Penny pinching behind closed doors,” is how Mr Peters referred to it.

At the time of writing, I think I have used my Super Gold Card only once — to take the bus into town.

The cartoon is from the Manawatu Standard of March 17, 2010.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Increase in fraud predicted in New Zealand

Surely, financial and other deregulation, at a time when even the leaders of society often have little respect for the rule of law, leads almost automatically to fraud. In the absence of an ethical bedrock in society – a society in which greed is often held to be the greatest good – there obviously have to be limits to laissez-faire.

The above cartoon is from the Manawatu Standard of February 16, 2010.

Goodbye to cheap electricity

Among those complaining about the inexorable rise in electricity prices is Age Concern – the organization that represents the interests of the elderly. On March 17, it said:

"The relentless rise of domestic electricity prices is not caused by normal market forces. It is a direct result of market power, which permits ever-increasing profits by gentailers.

"These are the dominant generator-retailers – Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Contact, and Trustpower. Their excess profits come from retail customers least able to afford them.

"The Electricity Industry Bill (currently being considered by a select committee) proposes only minor reforms. These are wrongly focused, and will benefit the suppliers at the expense of consumers...

"Successive Ministers of Energy have failed to act to prevent excessive price rises. Government agrees with gentailers, saying that average wholesale prices must be high enough to ensure new power stations are profitable.

"Domestic price rises are paying disproportionately for new power stations, because the increase in power demand is not coming mainly from them, but from commercial and industrial consumers.

"New Zealand’s electricity market design has failed its promise of being good for consumers. The spot market was designed to drive wholesale prices down, not up. They should reflect the cost of running existing power stations, not building new ones..."

In the above cartoon, from the Manawatu Standard of February 12, 2010, the indifferent dowager on the right represents Gerry Brownlee, (National) Minister for Economic Development and Minister of Energy and Resources.

What did you expect from a Tory government?

That a right-wing National government would want to mine in national parks, reduce/restrict welfare benefits, raise the goods and services tax (GST), and introduce tax cuts for the wealthy should come as no surprise to anyone. Yet I'm sure that many people who voted for National in the last election, because it was "time for a change", are surprised – and perhaps even hurt and angry. They need to understand that changing a government is not exactly like changing the furniture in your living room.

The above cartoon is from the Manawatu Standard of February 10, 2010.