Saturday, 31 May 2008

Weezer's You Tube Culture in 3 minutes...

If you've ever watched a video clip on YouTube, it's almost certain you will have seen at least one of the clips parodied in Weezer's latest music video.

The alternative rock band have created a veritable "best of YouTube" video clip for their new single "Pork and Beans".

Weezer's new music video had 1.2 million videos in the first 24 hours online, and in just a few days has become the most-watched video clip on the internet.

Watch out for these stars of YouTube... Gary Brolsma (the "Numa Numa" guy), Caitlin Upton (Miss South Carolina), Judson Laipply (Evolution of Dance), Mark Allen Hicks (Afro Ninja), the Star Wars kid, Matt McAllister (the world record t-shirt guy)...

... and other internet favourites... the Diet Coke & Mentos scientists, the Free Hugs Campaign, the Soulja Boy dance, Daft Hands, Daft Bodies, Will It Blend?, All Your Base Are Belong to Us, plus many more...

Posted in | 0 comments

Global Warming Swindle debate hits NZ

New Zealand tv viewers are finally getting the chance to see the other side of the "Global Warming" debate, with the British documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle".

The controversial documentary screened on the UK's Channel 4 in March 2007, and was the first time many people had seen or heard different opinions on global warming, which has been the over-hyped baby of the so-called mainstream media.

The Great Global Warming Swindle was created as a rebuttal to "An Inconvenient Truth", the over-recognised and factually incorrect documentary by Al Gore. Martin Durkin's documentary calls the theory of "man-made global warming" a lie, labelling it "the biggest scam of modern times".
It reveals how politicians have been sucked in to the scam, pandering to the "populist" green trend. It's only recently that people are starting to question the unsupportable theory, which has created a multi-billion dollar scientific research industry.

Some critics say global warming is merely a "new religion invention", designed to coax "stealth taxes" out of the world's population (in particular the richer Western countries), to fund a de-facto "Global Government" through the United Nations.

New Zealand's Labour Party were quick to fall for the deception, and are only now beginning to reveal to the public the true cost of supporting the theory of global warming, through taxing the public billions of dollars in so-called "carbon credits" for greenhouse gas emissions.

The documentary's screening here on Prime Television will be followed by a one hour Prime News special debate on the issue of "Global Warming", hosted by newsreader Eric Young.

Panellists for the "studio discussion" are Dr David Wratt (NIWA), Professor Martin Manning (NZ Climate Change Research Institute), Dr Willem de Lange (Lecturer at Waikato University, and former sea level export for IPCC), Cindy Baxter (campaigner), and Leighton Smith (Broadcaster and sceptic).

The fact that the Socialist Watermelon Party (aka the Greens) are quoting Broadcasting standards codes to each other before the programmes have even aired gives you an idea of how concerned they are that the public doesn't get to hear an alternate point of view to their main campaign planks.

* Hat tip: Whale Oil - Greens trying to shut down film

* See also: JAXConservative: Carbon Credits Another Step to World Government Control

Posted in | 1 comments

Benson-Pope looks for a lifeline

Sitting Dunedin South MP, David Benson-Pope, is stoking the fires of speculation over his intentions in this year's General Election.

Benson-Pope has held the blood-red seat since 1999, taking over from Michael Cullen. However he was dumped by the Labour Party as their candidate for the seat this year, after a controversial meeting in February.

DBP's de-selection followed a long run of embarrassing sagas for the Labour Party, including Tennis-gate, Nightie-gate, Panty-gate, and Setchell-gate.

He was replaced by Head Office choice, "popular and competent" PR woman, Clare Curran (aka "David Parker's right hand woman"). (EPMU president Don Pryde - now Labour's Clutha-Southland candidate - and PSA organiser Keith McFadyen also stood for the Dunedin South selection).
The MP managed to get some revenge on the party, with his supporters mounting a virtual coup of the South Dunedin branch shortly after his dumping. The electorate is one of Labour's richest in the country, and has one of the largest LEC memberships.

The Dunedin South electorate office in South Dunedin is actually owned by the local Labour committee, which benefits financially through renting it back to Parliamentary Services.

David Benson-Pope says his "loyalty to the Labour Party is beyond question, but continues to drag out the announcement of his decision to stand as an Independent candidate. He would campaign for the Electorate vote, while encouraging people to give Labour their party vote.
DBP could stand under the sometimes-used "Independent Labour" banner, but in an interview on local station Radio Dunedin this week, he said he would consider standing for another party like New Zealand First or the Greens, if he was approached.

In other DBP news this past week, the Broadcasting Standards Authority rejected a series of complaints against broadcaster TV3 made by David Benson-Pope.

The MP was angry about coverage on 3 News about his attempts to seek re-election in Dunedin South, arguing the reports "breached standards of good taste and decency, balance, accuracy and fairness". All the complaints were rejected by the Authority.

* Whale Oil - Benson-Pope - the gift that keeps on giving
* Homepaddock - Benson-Pope might go independent

Posted in | 0 comments
Sunday, 25 May 2008

Russia wins Eurovision '08 amidst debate over Eastern Bloc voting

Saturday night proved 2nd time lucky for Russian singer Dima Bilan, who beat out 24 singers and bands to win the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade, Serbia.

The long-running song contest is derided by many, but this year's final was watched by an estimated TV audience of 100 million people.

It's the first time Russia has won the European song contest, after a number of top 3 finishes in previous years. Dima Bilan himself came 2nd in 2006 with the pop song Never Let You Go.

Many commentators thought Bilan's chances weren't as strong this year, with a much weaker song, the rock ballad Believe.

However, Bilan turned in a strong live performance, being joined by Hungarian violinist Edvin Marton, as well as roping in Olympic skater Evgeni Plushenko who skated on a stage of artificial ice.

* Eurovision 2008 Winner - Russia: Dima Bilan - Believe

Eurovision voting put Ani Lorak (Ukraine) second in the final with the highly fancied Shady Lady, while Greece's Kalomira finished in 3rd place with the song Secret Combination.

But the real winner, as far as many Western European fans were concerned, was Sweden. Charlotte Perrelli was one of the bookie's choices to take out the contest this year, with her "schlager disco stomper" Hero, but ended up finishing 15th in the Final.

Perrelli is more well known outside Sweden as Charlotte Nilsson, having previously won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden in 1999, with the song Take Me To Your Heaven.

* Dave's choice - Sweden: Charlotte Perrelli - Hero

2008 was the biggest ever Eurovision Song Contest, which is now in its 53rd year. 43 countries took part, with 38 of them competing in two semi-finals before the 25 finalists were confirmed.

Organisers tried to answer complaints over the growing problem of "Eastern and Balkan bloc" voting, separating countries which had a history of voting for each other.

A wildcard "jury selection" was also made in each of the semi-finals, after mainly Eastern European countries progressed from the semi-final in previous years.

* Dave's 2nd pick: Latvia: Pirates of the Sea-Wolves of the Sea
(Think Pirates of the Caribbean meets Rednex and Aqua ;-)

The efforts to limit bloc voting only partially worked, and there are renewed calls from many of the "traditional" Eurovision countries to overhaul the voting system, with some suggesting an "iron curtain has descended across Eurovision".

Some are calling for drastic action with suggestion that Western European countries like the UK, Malta, Ireland, and Germany should pull out of the concert.

(The UK finished last in this year's Final... and while political voting wouldn't have helped that result, Andy Abraham's song Even If was the United Kingdom's weakest entry in a decade.)

Posted in | 0 comments
Thursday, 22 May 2008

Cullen's Budget dubbed "Too Little, Too Late"

New Zealanders will surely be starting to understand that this is an election year, following Michael Cullen's 9th Budget (yep, 9th!) this afternoon.

After months of dampening down expectations of tax cuts for New Zealanders, Cullen's Labour-led government has finally delivered a small package, albeit through tightly gritted teeth.

Michael Cullen & Trevor Mallard search for Tax Cuts

Being election year and well behind in the polls, Dr Cullen has upgraded his previous "chewing gum" tax cuts, to cuts amounting to "a block of cheese" (as the National Party has dubbed them).

The average worker on $45,000 will get to keep around $16/week more of their own earnings, once the first tax reduction and threshold changes come in on October 1st... coincidentally just weeks before the General Election.

Cullen has set a bottom tax rate of 12.5%, which will apply on all earnings up to $14,000. The next bracket of 21% (which is actually an Increase - UP from 19.5%) will apply up on earnings up to $40,000 (previously $38,000).

The 33% (unchanged) rate covers earnings up to $70,000, with Cullen retaining the top rate of 39% (dubbed an "envy tax" by opponents).

Labour is planning further reductions to the tax thresholds will be introduced in 2010/11, if it manages to cling to power after the General Election.

What was most interesting was some of the responses from the other parties in Parliament. Earlier this week, National Party leader John Key said National would offer "meaningful tax cuts north of $50 a week" for the average worker. However, in Parliament this afternoon he did little to spell out National's plans.

Winston Peters (NZ First) and Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green) were disappointed Michael Cullen didn't introduce a tax-free allowance for workers, as is common in many Western countries. United Future's Peter Dunne and ACT's Rodney Hide both admitted the tax cuts and reductions were "a step in the right direction".

It was very interesting to see National's Bill English following the lead of Rodney Hide in proposing to vote for Labour's tax cuts... I'm not sure that would have happened if ACT hadn't made its stand first.

The coalition government's pet "Working for Families" welfare system received a boost, with the first increases brought from from next April to this October.

Fitzsimons welcomed Labour's buy-back of the railways, but pointed out that Dr Cullen's budget was very light on the full cost of this (some estimates suggest up to $1.5 billion).

* Stuff: Budget 2008: Cullen delivers tax cuts

* NZ Herald: 'Two blocks of cheese' budget too little - Key

* NZ Herald: Business reaction to Budget - more needs to be done

Posted in | 0 comments

It's all go for Stagedoor Manor alumni

Congratulations to a few old friends from Stagedoor Manor, on their latest film, TV, and theatre projects.

The Stagedoor Manor theatre summer camp in the Catskills mountains of New York has always been a great training/breeding ground for top performers and creative people, and the early 2000+ era when I worked there seems to have been a very productive period.

Firstly, Congratz to Brett Davern for his upcoming movie, American Summer. It's from the team behind the American Pie films, and has been dubbed "the American Pie version of Risky Business".

Brett Davern plays a Harvard-bound student named Alex Sperling, who spends his summer working with down-on-his-luck cousin Roger (Matthew Lillard), as they turn an empty mansion into "a home for women who belong to the world's oldest profession".

American Summer was being shopped at Cannes for distribution deals. The movie also stars Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite), George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes), and Tom Arnold.

Check out the trailer below, best line is Brett's "Mom, Dad... I'm a pimp!"

Good news also for Sebastian Stan, whose television pilot, Kings, has been picked up by NBC, as a mid-season replacement for its fall line-up.
Kings is described as a "modern-day soap loosely based on the biblical story of King David vs Goliath, in which an everyday guy rises to the seat of political power in his small town." It is written by Heroes scribe Michael Green.

The series also stars Ian McShane as the King, and Aussie actor Christopher Egan as David. Sebastian Stan previously starred in the supernatural thriller The Covenant, and featured in a couple of episodes of the CW show Gossip Girl (starring Covenant co-star and friend Chase Crawford").

Meanwhile the in-demand Skylar Astin, who's been starring as Georg in the hit Broadway musical Spring Awakening (which I managed to catch last year), is preparing for the release of his new movie Hamlet 2.

The film had a successful premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and is due for wide release in the US in late August.

Hamlet 2
is a comedy is about failed actor-turned-drama teacher Dana Marschz (British comedian Steve Coogan), who decides to write a "politically incorrect musical sequel to William Shakespeare's Hamlet"...

Skylar Astin is also part of the workshop cast for the new musical The Nightingale, by Spring Awakening's Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater.

It's based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a Chinese emperor who pines for the heart-piercing melodies of the Nightingale. Skylar will play the young emperor, with Marc Kudisch playing the older emperor.

This trio are just three of many Stagedoor alumns from recent years...

* The awesome Caitlin Van Zandt continues to win rave reviews for her portrayal of Ashlee Wolfe in the CBS daytime soap Guiding Light.

* The always busy Erich Bergen is starring as Bob Gaudio in new Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys, after spending a couple of years on the road in national tours of the musical about The Four Seasons

* The always-smiling Jonathan Lovitz is busy on the US theatre touring circuit... He's just winding up the US national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, and next heads to Florida to play Abraham in Altar Boyz

* Proud Canadian Kyle Golemba is keeping busy with projects in the "upper North American" world of professional theatre, with The Music Man and Fuente Ovejuna

* The hilarious Daniel Evans recently made the move to New York, and is currently appearing as various kitchen implements in Broadway's Beauty & the Beast

* The very bubbly Dana Steingold (bottom right) has been touring the United States, playing the competitive little 10 year old, Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, in the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

* And the multi-talented Connor Gallagher, who previously starred in Broadway's Beauty & the Beast, is now working on the other side of the stage as a professional Choreographer

Posted in | 0 comments
Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Apple 3G iPhone launching very soon

Tech/gadget website Gizmodo has revealed that Apple are planning to unveil the rumoured 3G version of their popular iPhone early next month, rather than the end of the year as was previously expected.

Gizmodo reports that a source "close to the 3G iPhone launch" has told them the 2nd-generation iPhone will be announced on June 9th, and will available worldwide immediately.

The website also says pricing for the new 3G iPhone will be more flexible in some countries than has previously been the case.

Vodafone recently signed a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to 10 countries - including New Zealand - this year. The company hasn't yet revealed a launch date down under, but admits it will force a new form of data pricing, possibly an "all you can eat" flat-rate data plan.

Online stores and even some "bricks and mortar" shops in the US and UK have already sold out of the 1st generation iPhone, indicating that stocks are being wound down to prepare for the updated iPhone, which features faster internet surfing speeds through 3G mobile networks.

* Gizmodo: iPhone 3G Launch Date Confirmed

Posted in | 0 comments

Blog on the move...

This blog is on the move... Dave Gee: Life from Right Field is migrating to a 'custom domain' this afternoon, so the blog may be down intermittently over the 24 hours or so as the settings filter across the interworld...

The new address will be:
(although the old blogspot address will continue to work for the time being...)

(Hoping to be back in time for Dr Cullen's supa-dupa Budget tomorrow afternoon ;-)

Posted in | 0 comments
Tuesday, 20 May 2008

ACT beat Labour to first Pledge Card of '08

The ACT Party have taken a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) leaf out of Labour's book, by releasing a pledge card of proposed policies. ACT's A4-sized pledge card is a little larger than Hillin Cluck's previous credit card-sized card, listing 20 policies against Labour's usual 6 pack.

David Farrar over at Kiwiblog notes the work of former National Party PR man John Ansell in this (Ansell was behind National's popular billboard campaign and Taxathon TV ads in 2005, and worked for Labour in 1993).

ACT has combined the ideas of Rodney Hide and Sir Roger Douglas, with the plain language writing of John Ansell for "New Zealand's biggest pledge card, containing the juiciest election bribe ever".

The pledge card lists 20 policies which the party says would help "create an economy that gives the average New Zealand wage earner an extra $500 a week - enough to outperform Australia and bring our children home".

Most of the proposals are far from extreme, but rather sensible solutions to boost New Zealand's growth rate and average weekly pay.

ACT wants to cut Government waste and state spending, to cut and flatten tax rates, to reduce public service beureaucracy and red tape, and create competitive markets in the big-ticket areas of Education and Healthcare (policies which ACT says are working well in many European countries).

The black holes of Welfare and Accident compensation would also be subject to competition. ACT want to welcome more good quality immigrants to New Zealand, and shake up the country's Law and Order system and Constitutional framework.
A very good pledge card. Still too complicated and wordy for the average voter, but I suspect the highlights will form the basis for a much stronger election year campaign from ACT. I quite like the party's slightly-rejigged logo, and the confident & clever tagline "The Guts To Do What's Right".

* Kiwiblog: ACT's 20 point plan
* ACT New Zealand - Official website

Posted in | 0 comments

How to create instant Ice Sculptures...

This is cool... Check out this little "Hot Ice" science demonstration...

Learn how to create mini ice sculptures in the comfort of your own home, by pouring specially treated water at room temperature...

* Video link from the latest [b3ta] newsletter: "Did everyone in China jump up and down at the same time?"

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Charlotte Perrelli - Hero (Sweden Eurovision 2008)
^ Sirusho - Qele Qele (Armenia Eurovision 2008) ]

Posted in | 0 comments

Another court delay for Bain retrial

The retrial for David Bain has now been delayed from August until next February, at the Christchurch High Court.

Justice Panckhurst said the reasons for the delay were to secure a "fair trial", including the completion of scientific evidence which still needs to be presented to the defence team.

David Bain has been on bail since May 2007, after serving 12 years of a life sentence for the murders of his mother, father, two sisters, and younger brother in Dunedin in 1994.

After a number of appeals by his legal teams, the Privy Council ruled that there had been a "substantial miscarriage of justice", quashing Bain's convictions and recommending a retrial.

(Left) Former convicted murderer David Bain
and (Right) Singing jailbird Trevor Bain

Meanwhile, former Dunedin paperboy Trevor Bain, who was coincidentally released from prison around the time of the 2007 48 Hours NZ Film Competition is now apparently working as a internet consultant for Google on the North Shore, while also appearing as a guest vocalist for various church choirs.

Unfortunately, busy schedules and the dispersement of crew to various parts of New Zealand prevented the "Burt Hall Banana Republic" production team from following up Trevor Bain's story in the 2008 round of the 48 Hours Film Competition.

Their original documentary, Bain: The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story) - a national finalist in the 2007 contest - can be viewed here...

Posted in | 0 comments
Sunday, 18 May 2008

MMP voting system up for debate?

New Zealand's MMP voting system could be up for debate, with the National Party promising a two-stage referendum on whether to retain MMP, if it leads the next Government.

MMP (the German form of Proportional Representation) was recommended by the Royal Commission on the Electoral System back in 1986.

However, it is worth noting that other recommendations by the Commission were ignored by sitting MPs... that separate Maori seats should be abolished (they were retained and increased), and that a threshold of 4% be set (5% was chosen), with that threshold being waived for "parties primarily representing Maori interests".

The 2-vote MMP system - or 'Mixed Member Proportional' - replaced FPP ('First Past the Post') voting system in New Zealand at the 1996 election, after two referendums.

In the first indicative referendum, voters were asked whether they wanted a change in the country's voting system, and were given four options... MMP, STV (Single Transferable Vote), SM (Supplementary Member), and PV (Preferential Vote).

A binding referendum followed at the 1993 General Election, with a simple choice between FPP and MMP.
Many voters believe they were promised a follow-up referendum, once MMP had been in place for a few elections. Unfortunately that was never the case... the only promise was for a review of MMP by a select committee.

That did take place (fairly quietly) in 2000-01, and not surprisingly resulted in MPs from all parties (except NZ First, which didn't want to be part of the review) voting to keep their job security intact.

But now National Party leader John Key says the party wants to hold a fresh two-stage binding referendum on MMP. The first in 2011 would give voters a choice between MMP or "anything else", while a second referendum would be a run-off between different voting systems.

NZ First's Winston Peters and the Green's Russell Norman are (also not surprisingly) against the idea, as MMP has largely worked in their favour.

The 'theory' of how MMP works... although NZ's
fixed Maori seats somewhat distort that reality

United Future's Peter Dunne is known to favour the STV system, and has raised concerns over the nature of the Maori "electorate seats", which reduce the true proportionality of Parliament, and could create an overhang of 4 seats this election, if the Maori Party wins all 7 Maori seats.

* Sunday Star Times: MMP future in doubt under National

* Kiwiblog: MMP Referendum

* Poneke's Weblog: Dunne’s call for MMP referendum wrong, but it is time for a royal commission on the Maori seats, Electoral Finance Act and a republic

Posted in | 1 comments
Thursday, 15 May 2008

NZ Taxpayers pay for Islamic Studies

The New Zealand Government - while not having enough money for generous tax cuts - have managed to find a spare $365,000 to fund a National Centre for Islamic Studies.

Yep, the money has been granted to Otago and Victoria Universities, for a joint venture hoped to be up and running by 2010. Students at the two New Zealand universities will soon be able to study for a BA or post-grad diploma in Islamic Studies, thanks to Labour's generous handout.

Papers under the umbrella of the National Centre for Islamic Studies are likely to include Islamic Politics, Islamic Religion, Islamic Culture, and Arabic.

Peace and understanding and all that, and definitely nothing to do with softening attitudes towards terrorists and the worldwide expansion of Islam...

Posted in | 0 comments

What if Facebook was Real Life?

We've all got used to the quirks and conventions of social networking websites like Facebook, but imagine what Real Life would be like if it was just like Facebook... ;-)

(Sketch from the "Idiots of Ants" comedy sketch group, as seen on the BBC Three TV show "The Wall")
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Paolo Meneguzzi - Era Stupendo (Switzerland Eurovision 2008)
^ Pirates of the Sea - Wolves of the Sea (Latvia Eurovision 2008)

Posted in | 0 comments
Tuesday, 13 May 2008

ACT Party slam Labour's "bracket racket"

New Zealanders are the victims of a "giant tax bracket racket" under Labour, according to ACT party leader Rodney Hide.

He calculates that Cullen's tax racket has collected an extra $10 billion over eight years, robbing a kiwi on the average wage of $4,232.

ACT founder Sir Roger Douglas says the current Labour-led administration has wasted the $10 billion it stole from taxpayers, by refusing to adjust tax thresholds in line with inflation, and "might as well have flushed it down the toilet".

The pair revealed that workers on the average wage need a tax cut of $35 a week just to break even, and return their income to a comparable level to when Labour took power.

Dr Cullen's claimed his "rich prick" top tax rate of 39% - imposed in 1999 - would affect only 5% of workers. The top rate, which cuts in at $60,000 now hits almost 15% of income earners.

(If the threshold had been adjusted for inflation, it would now only affect those on incomes over $74,000).

ACT says it wants to abolish the "envy tax" altogether, and make the rest of the tax system "as low and flat as possible".

The party also wants the first $10,000 of income to be made tax free immediately, giving average earners a tax saving of $50 a week.

(However that $10,000 tax-free threshold is half the $20,000 figure suggested by Sir Roger in a speech earlier this year). Further policy details will be announced on Sunday.

* NZ Herald: 'Bracket racket' has cost taxpayers $10 billion, Act says

Posted in | 0 comments
Monday, 12 May 2008

Cost of Cullen's Train Set Keeps Rising

A report in the NZ Herald this morning reveals the Government may be hiding the true cost to taxpayers of buying back the railways.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen was all smiles last week as he announced the state's purchase of Toll NZ's railway and Cook Strait ferry business for $665 million.

It now appears that Dr Cullen and his Labour-led Government have also agreed to outlay another $200 million, to repay a loan to Toll NZ's parent company in Australia.

That's on top of an agreement to give Toll NZ (which claimed to be a reluctant seller) free rental of prime depot space for the next 6 years, with rumours of substantial price discounts to retain Toll's freight business.

Some analysts estimate the Government's short-term spend on its new train set could top the $1.5 billion mark, after rolling stock and line upgrades are included.

PM Hillin Cluck this morning made a Benson-Pope-style admission on TV One's Breakfast show, saying she "can't confirm or deny" the secret loan deal. Further details are expected to emerge before the rail deal is settled on June 30.

* NZ Herald: Hidden $200m adds to cost of Toll rail deal

Posted in | 0 comments
Friday, 9 May 2008

Tax-free allowance rejected by Cullen

It seems a shame (but not entirely surprising) that Finance Minister Michael Cullen has rejected the idea of a tax-free income threshold, as part of his 3-year tax package expected in this year's budget.

Cullen's announcement came as Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd confirmed his Labour Government's A$31 billion package of tax cuts, after just six months in power.

Rudd has ordered for costs to be trimmed at Government departments there, easily achieving $1.4 billion in savings across the board.

New Zealand is quite unusual amongst Western countries with its lack of tax-free thresholds, where all workers pay 0% tax on the first portion of their earnings.

In Australia, the first $11,000 earned by workers each year is tax free (that will rise to $20,000 by 2012/13). In the United Kingdom, workers can expect a "personal tax-free allowance" of £5,435 (about NZ$13,000) for the coming year, paying 20% on income after that up to £36,000.

Michael Cullen says he discounted a similar tax-free threshold, because "officials said it would benefit few on incomes under $18,000".

What he means is that it would not benefit beneficiaries, although it would give an even tax cut to all working New Zealanders, with a boost that would be felt by most on lower to middle incomes.

The ACT Party meanwhile are pushing for a $20,000 tax-free threshold (for starters), the Maori Party want no income tax for the first $25,000, and even the loopy lefty Greens paused their smoking and striking long enough to call for the first $5,000 of income to be tax free.

Helen Clark has promised a package of "tax relief", which is likely to be mainly made up of more welfare handouts (Working for Families, due for a minimum boost of $100 million).

New Zealanders who aren't married, or don't have children, will continue to fund or heavily subsidise those that do fall within Labour's ever-shrinking target demographics.

* Kiwiblog: No tax free income for New Zealand
* Kiwiblog: NZ vs Australia tax rates
* NZ Herald: Cullen rules out tax-free threshold

Posted in | 0 comments
Monday, 5 May 2008

Winner and Loser of the Week

* WINNER of the week: Boris Johnson (PM)

Politician and former media personality Boris Johnson capped off a weekend of good news for the British Conservative Party, taking the London Mayoralty from red-till-I'm-dead incumbent Ken Livingstone.

Boris ousted the die-hard Socialist who had held control of the City of London since 2000. Livingstone was initially elected as Mayor of London as an Independent, before coming back to the Labour fold in 2004

Gordon Brown's Labour Party were decimated in the local body elections across Great Britain. The party slumped to a 40-year low, losing 331 seats and gaining just 24% share of the vote. That put Labour in third place, behind the Liberal Democrats who picked up 25%, with the Conservatives winning 44% of the vote and adding 256 seats.

* Hat tips: Blair Mullholland and Clint Heine

* LOSER of the week: Judith Tizard (MP)

Judith Tizard meanwhile is widely regarded as one of the worst politicians currently occupying the Beehive... an impression she backed up last week at the launch of New Zealand Music Month in her position of "Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage".
Tixard's attempts to duet with musician Chris Knox fell flat when she didn't seem to know the words to his song. She then struggled to answer a multi-choice quiz about Kiwi Music put to her by the Dominion Post.

When told she'd got only 4/10 correct, Tizard's reponse was a dismissive, "I don't know the details, honey; I just write the policy and ask for the money." Charming.

Tizard was previously the "Minister for Auckland Issues", a job she was so bad at that her mate Hillin Cluck abolished the position altogether last October! This election she will face a feisty young challenger from the National Party - Nikki Kaye - for the Auckland Central seat she has warmed since 1996.

* Hat tips - Clint Heine and David Farrar

* Stuff: Music month kicks off on bum note
* NZ Herald: Battle looming in Auckland Central

Posted in | 0 comments

Labour opens chequebook to Renationalise Rail

Oh dear, they've actually gone and done it... Clark and Cullen have announced this morning that they have spent $665 million of public money to buy back Toll's rail and ferry business, after many months of negotiations.

PM Cluck claims that renationalising the trains would "pave the way for the modernisation of the rail network, which formed a key part of the Government's sustainability agenda."

Finance Minister Michael Cullen will be rubbing his hands together with glee at the purchase, which will trim the Government's coffers even further, giving him yet another excuse to claim that tax cuts for ordinary New Zealanders are not affordable.

The $665 million purchase translates to around $200-$300 for the average taxpayer, which could have gone directly to relieving the pressure of increased food and fuel costs. (And that's before the "couple of hundred million" Labour also plan to spend on expanding the rail network).
The Labour-led minority coalition Government is hell-bent on doing everything it can to ensure that it spends every cent it has got before the election, and locking up as much future spending as possible to hamper the plans any incoming Government.

The current Labour government has used the backdrop of a growing economy (inherited from previous administrations) to bury massive wasted spending on bureaucrats and inefficient state departments. PM Cluck herself has 9 "spin doctors" (more than UK PM Gordon Brown!)

The fastest growing sector since Labour seized power in 2000 has been government administration, with the number of bureaucrats increasing from 26,000 to more than 36,000.

When Labour's talks with Toll were made public in March, National Party deputy leader Bill English said that governments had a bad record of operating rail companies, and that a National-led government would look to get out of the business as quickly as possible.

English also warned that a renationalised railway company would see a return to strikes on the ferries over school holidays, along with a return to the Union-backed practice of "featherbedding" (where Unions require an employer to hire more workers than is necessary for a particular job).

In the early 1980s when the railways were state-owned, they "employed" a whopping 21,000 people, and were losing $1 million in public money every single day. Former Labour Party Transport Minister Richard Prebble says that translates to around $3 million a day in today's dollars.

* NZ Herald: Government buys back rail and ferries
* NZ Herald: Prebble scorns rail buy-back decision

* UPDATE: Nope, under John Key's National Party, the trains and ferries will apparently not be resold, and look set to remain in State ownership for the immediate future.

National are describing the buy-back decision as "reckless" and believe it will end up costing "many hundreds of millions more once rolling stock costs were added to the $665m purchase price".

That's potentially a billion dollars less available for returning some of the huge tax take to ordinary New Zealanders. That will make life more challenging for an incoming government, who will now need to make some gutsy decisions, including slashing state-sector bureaucracy and closing a raft of wasteful Government departments.

Toll New Zealand have admitted they didn't go out looking for a sale, but pressured into it by the Government. Managing Director Paul Little said, "I think we've got mixed emotions. We would have preferred not to have sold... Today is a day we feel pretty flat."

* Stuff: Rail buy-back condemned as 'reckless'
* Stuff: Toll books $235m profit on Govt sale

Posted in | 0 comments