Thursday, 28 May 2009

Let Them Eat Pink Batts!

The National Party has rudely turned its back on supporters, with the decision to cancel its two remaining rounds of (admittedly pretty weak) tax cuts.

The Government is using the "global economic crisis" to justify its decision, but still seems to have found $1 billion to subsidise homeowners who haven't already fitted their own home insulation.

This is part of National's idea of cosying up with the Greens, while ignoring the policies of National's own support partners ACT and the Maori Party. A shocking betrayal... and no matter how you try to spin it, the Watermelon Greens will never fully support a centre-right Government.

And after apparently going through the budgets of Government departments "line by line", they have only managed to come up with a meagre $500 million in savings per year, for the next four years. Pssh. Bring back Aunty Ruth!!!

The bottomless pit of Health again gets a big spending boost - up another $3 billion over four years. Education gets an extra $1.68 billion, while Justice gets $950 million (mainly for more Police, and room for 1000 more prisoners). "Think Big" theories are back, with $7.5 in infrastructure spending planned over the next 5 years.

As Not PC points out, National has now committed to Labour Party policies that it once campaigned against strongly in opposition. Bill English has been too weak to touch Labour's socialist 'Working for Families' programme, which condemns everyday working families (including those on above-average incomes) to Welfare dependency.

Expenditure on Social welfare is forecast to go from an already-awful $17.8 billion in 2008 to $22 billion in 2011, and a shocking $23.5 billion in 2013.

No changes either for expensive socialist luxuries like Interest-free student loans, Universal Superannuation from age 65, and State Housing.

Shame too on ACT for not "keeping National honest" as they promised in last year's election campaign. Not only was Cullen's 39% tax not "gone by Christmas when there is a National led government with ACT putting a bit of courage into them", but now the meagre National Party version of "tax cuts" have also been dumped.

In fact, with increases in ACC levies cancelling out most of last month's tax cuts for most people, ACT has not made even an inch of progress towards the party's policy of 12.5% personal tax up to $20,000, and 15% personal tax over $20,000, along with 15% company tax, and 10% GST.

To be fair, ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas has labelled English's first budget as a disappointment. He points out the current Government deficit is a third of what it was when he took over the reigns in 1984.

Douglas says it took that Labour Party just 3 years to get the books back in black. National's plans will take 11 years to get back into surplus. He also notes the relatively low cost for National to deliver on its key election promise...
"... Delivering the tax cuts would have cost [just] $1 billion, requiring the Government to cut only 1.5% of waste.

Yet National's spending is projected to exceed $65 billion over the 2009/10 financial year - against a backdrop where Government spending is $18 billion dollars higher in real terms than it was nine years ago."
However on the whole, ACT, the Maori Party, and United Dunne are largely supporting National's plans to break its election promise on tax cuts, while refusing to break any of John Key's silly "me too" promises made in the heat of the campaign.

Southern rural blogger Homepaddock is admittedly "to the left" of me, but I agree that households and business would be in a much stronger position, had we not had nine years of over taxing and over spending, and if Michael Cullen hadn't spent the lot last year.

The Government is refusing to take a serious knife to Government expenditure, and instead mortgaging future generations by borrowing billions of dollars. It is time for courage to stand up against the billions of dollars in wasteful spending added by Hillin Cluck and Michael Cullen over their 9 years in charge.

The Libertarianz Party is contesting the Mt Albert by-election, and its candidate Julian Pistorius is reminding voters of the broken promises on Tax. The Libertarianz have proposed an alternative budget, based on their "Don't-Spend-So-Goddamned-Much Plan", promoted during last year's election campaign.
Basically this simple plan requires the Government to stop wasting people's hard-earned cash on inefficient programmes and stupid Government departments, which would leave enough money to be able to abolish GST and make the first $50,000 of all incomes tax-free. Sounds like a plan.

* Not PC - The English Budget: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

* Kiwiblog - The 2009 Budget

* ACT - Budget Never Fails To Disappoint (Sir Roger Douglas)

* NZ Herald - Budget 2009: Main points in brief

* Stuff - Budget '09: Tax cuts gone

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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Lay off the 'P' John Key

National Party PM John Key is revealing himself to be almost as much a fan of the "nanny state" as his predecessors in the Labour Party.

Key has today proposed banning the use of Pseudoephedrine in the making of cold and flu tablets sold in New Zealand.

John Key has asked his new chief science adviser Prof Peter Gluckman to investigate whether pseudoephedrine can be eliminated from all cold and flu tablets available in New Zealand.

He says he understands a number of states in USA have banned the ingredient (actually only Oregon, where it is still available through prescription).

Mike Sabin, a misinformed (or deliberately-biased) campaigner for the anti-drugs lobby, claims there are other effective medicines for treating cold and flu symptoms.

He claims there are "many viable viable alternatives, well over a dozen, that can replace pseudoephedrine, if you like, in cold and flu medications... So in actual fact, there is no need for pseudoephedrine any longer."

This is not true. The "dozen or so" that Sabin mentions are the "PE"-tagged products manufactured under brands like Codral, Sudafed, and Lemsip. These products replace Pseudoephedrine with the ingredient Phenylephrine (hydrochloride, which can't be used in the manufacture of "P" or methamphetamines).

However, despite what the expensive TV ads from the likes of Codral try to spin, the new formulations marketed with Phenylephrine are definitely not as effective as the original tablets/remedies.

The chief executive of the NZ Pharmacy Guild, Annabel Young, backs this up. She says the alternatives to pseudoephedrine (ie. PE) were not nearly as effective in dealing with cold symptoms. (NZ's own Consumer Institute had similar findings after testing the PE products when they first came on the market a few years ago).

In the United States, there has been growing calls against the blanket substitution of Phenylephrine for Pseudoephedrine. Many pharmacists argue that oral Phenylephrine is innefective as an oral decongestant, particularly at the 10mg dose normally used.

At least two studies found Phenylephrine formulations were no more effective as a decongestant than a Placebo. A somewhat more positive study by GlaxoSmithKline's own researchers did find it was more effective than a placebo (although still not as effective as a nasal decongestant as Pseudoephedrine).

Making the drug prescription-only has been suggested by Labour leader Phil Goff. This is almost as bad, as people who just have the regular standard winter cold would have to spend an hour or so at the doctors (with many also paying a healthy Doctor's fee), just to get access to a simple cold remedy.
The monkeys have already taken away the "good stuff"... ie. the genuine full strength 12-hour versions of Codral and Sudafed, which gave decongestant relief for a full work day. These were "modified release tablets" which released the pseudoephedrine slowly over a 12 hour period. Don't let them condemn us to relief-free-colds for life!!

* NZ Herald - PM moves to ban P-makers' vital cold and flu pills

* 3 News - Pharmacists argue over-the-counter sales not to blame for P

* - FDA Mulls Effectiveness of OTC Cold Remedies

* - Substitution of phenylephrine for pseudoephedrine as a nasal decongestant. An illogical way to control methamphetamine abuse

* Not PC - Can’t we just ban stupidity from office?

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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Beatles' Karaoke Crowd a Viral Hit in ad-land

British mobile phone company T-Mobile have followed up last year's train station dance stunt with a massed Karaoke singalong in London's Trafalgar Square.

Last January the cellphone operator borrowed a trick from flashmob veterans Improv Everywhere, organising 350 dancers to break into a mass dance routine at London's Liverpool Street train station. The stunt was part of a television campaign for T-Mobile, aimed at promoting its "Life's For Sharing" slogan.

For the latest flash mob-style stunt, 13,500 people (including tv personalities and pop star Pink) gathered in Trafalgar Square, and with Singstar-looking microphones, joined together to sing The Beatles' hit song, Hey Jude.

An impressive 2,000 Shure wireless mics were apparently handed out around the crowd, with the singing mixed down from 162 channels (including two just for Pink herself).

Like many large group musical attempts, the timing gets a little off, with those towards the back dragging the chain a split second behind the music coming from the screen at the front ;-)

TV host Vernon Kay also led the multi-cultural, multi-generational crowd in renditions of Hit Me Baby One More Time and Is This The Way To Amarillo?, while Pink encouraged the thousands of singers to join her in singing her hit song So What.

Event production company Partizan set up 20 video cameras around Trafalgar Square, with the open air performance being edited down to a two minute advertisement for T-Mobile.

Check out the clip below to see the song and some behind-the-scenes footage...

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Monday, 18 May 2009

Our Fast Food... It Is A-Changin'

Despite the endless propaganda from the greenies and health fanatics, New Zealanders continue to be big fans of fast food. Last year kiwis spent more than $1 billion on fast food, with sales increasing further this year as wallets become tighter.

In the first three months of this year, New Zealanders ate through $300 million in fast food takeaways... that works out to $70 per person! ;-) That spend is up $6 million on the first quarter of 2008, with fast food sales jumping $10.5 million in March to $105.6 million.

Chicken and Pizzas are the biggest sellers, with fish and chips, hamburgers, and ethnic takeaways making up the next biggest block.

At burger chain McDonalds, sales are up about 7% this year, while KFC has seen a 4.1% increase in sales, while Pizza Hut taking were down by 6.4%.

Nutritionists are not impressed by kiwis' love affair with what they see as bad fast food. "Community nutrition advisor" Janne Pasco says people need foods packed with nutrients to ward off disease, and this is particularly important during hard times...
"It is sad that when faced with an economic recession, people are seeing takeaways as representing good value for money particularly when for the same price, and not much extra time and effort, a family of four could have three tasty yet much more nutritious meals."
In the United States, KFC is trying to improve its image after years of bad press for being "an unhealthy fast food option". In an effort to appeal to calorie counters, KFC has introduced the new "Kentucky Grilled Chicken".
The new grilled chicken has fewer calories, fewer grams of fat, and less sodium that the Original Recipe fried chicken. To retain the famous KFC flavour, the chicken pieces are marinated and seasoned with the secret herbs & spices, before being slow-roasted/grilled. Sounds yummy!

To help spread the word, KFC launched a "Free Meal" coupon deal through the Oprah Winfrey Show. The free meal included 2 pieces of the new Grilled Chicken, 2 individual sides (like coleslaw and potato & gravy), plus a "biscuit" (what kiwis would call a plain scone).
Unfortunately for KFC, the offer proved too popular, leading to shortages in many stores, as well as mini riots from angry customers. The company has since offered an apology, and a raincheck offer for anyone who missed out...

I also like the "bowl" range of meals that KFC has in America and some overseas outlets. Crispy chicken is mixed with mashed potatos and sweet corn, covered in gravy, and topped with cheese. (The US version also features a rice option).
KFC introduced a bowl meal very briefly here in New Zealand last year (including Popcorn chicken in the mix), but unfortunately their "limited time only" offer lasted all of about 3 weeks, and the delicious meals haven't been seen since. Shame on you KFC!

Meanwhile, Pizza Hutt is trying to regain market share and increase profits by expanding its range to include oven-baked Pasta. Restaurant Brands holds the local rights to the brand, but has struggled to make money from its Pizza arm, due to higher cheese and flour prices, along with a tough Pizza price war with competitors like Dominos.
The tv commercials currently being playing in New Zealand to promote the new baked pasta range show a Pizza Hut restaurant being blown up, and replaced with a "Pasta Hut" outlet.

The adverts aren't all for show... Yum! Brands - which owns the international company - did test the Pasta Hut brand overseas by converting some outlets to the new name, before reverting to the original Pizza Hut name after 3 months "due to popular demand".

Australian customers were also asked to vote for their preferred name, with the original brand name winning out, although a few stores are co-branded.

Pasta meals have already been introduced successfully in the US, UK, Canada and Australia Pizza Hut restaurants. Pizza Hut NZ is launching the Tuscani Pasta range here in two varieties, meatball napolitana and creamy chicken & mushroom.

* Stuff: We're pigging out on fast food

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

Labour Party is full of Immature Dorks

The Labour Party is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer running the country, after New Zealand voters rejected its diet of mandatory social engineering and excessive spending to create dependency on the state.

Labour still cannot understand that wasteful spending from "the public purse" which it promotes is really just stealing money from regular hard working New Zealanders!

Parliament was yesterday debating the bills to set up the new Auckland Super City council, but frustrated by the fact that another group of political parties have been handed control of the country, Labour MPs began a series of immature stalling tactics.

Labour has already forced votes on almost 1,000 (One Thousand!) "largely trivial amendments" to a Parliamentary bill setting up a transitional authority and creating the Auckland Council.

The filibuster strategy meant last night's debate continued until 1am this morning, with MPs and staff forced to return to Parliament today at 9am, with a Monday sitting also possible.

Tubby Mallard said his party had already invented around 7,000 amendments, and told reporters that "new ones could be written faster than votes could be held".
While genuine amendments aimed at improving bills proposed by a ruling Government are to be encouraged, Labour's amendments were just petty and aimed at time wasting.

Elderly Labour numpty George Hawkins has been given the boring task of moving most of the amendments, and says he hopes he can drag the debate out all day. Opponents also decided to cast votes for every amendment in Maori, which then had to be translated into English, slowing the process further.

A crazy 6 hours was spent voting on date changes in the bills, while 48 amendments suggested alternative names for the new Auckland Council, including "The Funsized Council", "Everyone Belongs Council", or "Auckland Katchafire Council". Really mature Labour.

The loopy Greens joined in the playground tactics, with an amendment to try and force the council to only buy cars with small engines.

The stalling tactics even angered Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia (who is opposed to the legislation, largely because it doesn't include separatist Maori-only seats).

Turia stormed out of the debating chamber "in anger yesterday" for the first time ever, saying Labour had gone too far with its stalling tactics, saying it was a "frace", and Labour was simply wasting taxpayers' money and the valuable time of all MPs.

* NZ Herald: Turia exits Parliament in disgust over Labour attempts to stall Super City law
* No Minister: WasteMasters Exposed
* Newstalk ZB: "Melissa Lee Memorial Council" mooted
* Labour Holds Off Passage Of Bill For The Day

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Free Speeding Pass with Police Camera Fail

The new Aussie-supplied mobile speed cameras introduced by the NZ Police this year are crap-ass, and have been wrongly issuing tickets for twice the true speed of large vehicles. FAIL!

Police have waived over 130 tickets from the new cameras because of proven or suspected cases of inaccurate readings. 43 of the new digital cameras were rolled out across the country in January, at a cost of $4 million, replacing 31 old film cameras.

However, Police have admitted the cameras were initially set incorrectly, resulting in false high readings. The problem seems mainly to affect high-sided trucks and buses, with the cameras' radar beams being "deflected from the sides of large vehicles to nearby metal objects and back, doubling the recorded speed".
Until the problem is sorted out, Police have stopped issuing speeding infringements for large vehicles, giving them a temporary free pass to choose their own speed limits!! As it should be :-)

Officials won't reveal how much money they've lost in speed camera revenue while the problem is sorted out, and refused to admit whether any tickets issued for regular vehicles had also been waived.
$36 million was collected in speeding fines last year, and it is claimed the expansion of the speed camera programme is aimed at lowering the road toll.
A total of 536,995 speed camera tickets were issued in the 15 months to April 15 2009.

* Stuff: Cameras record incorrect speeds

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Monday, 11 May 2009

9 Day Fortnight a Waste of Money

The Government's "Job Support Scheme" (aka 'the 9 day fortnight) was this week slammed by the NZ Institute of Economic Research as a waste of taxpayer money, and useless at fighting unemployment.

I quite agree with the NZIER report which concludes that subsidies to artificially protect jobs should be avoided, and says money would be better spent on targeted training programmes, and promoting business investment.

The 9 day fortnight scheme was the flagship policy from the Job Summit held earlier in the year. It gives companies a wage subsidy of $12.50 per employee for 5 hours a fortnight, provided no more workers are made redundant while the company is part of the scheme (although it can dump workers before signing up to the programme, as was the case with Japanese-owned company Summit Wool Spinners in Oamaru).

The NZIER report calculates that only 2 out of every 20 jobs created by the subsidy are really "new" jobs...
"For every 20 jobs that are 'created' after the subsidy is in place, twelve would have happened anyway, five are just replacing unsubsidised workers, and one is due to displacement. Only two are genuinely 'new' jobs."
So far just three companies have formally signed up to the scheme (Fisher & Paykel Appliances is the biggest), but the Government insists dozens more are considering joining up. The scheme was recently expanded to include smaller firms with 50 employees or more.

NZIER's report lists Job search assistance as the most cost-effective initiative for fighting unemployment, but warned that while training programmes can deliver "long-term benefits", they can also be expensive, and should be focused on goals like raising productivity.
The most cost-effective of possible unemployment-fighting initiatives is job search assistance, concludes the report.

It notes that “Work and Income New Zealand has a well-honed routine of getting unemployed people into work before they even get to draw the unemployment benefit” but right now there is a sheer lack of jobs and also a mismatch between skills and location of the unemployed and where job growth occurs.

Training programmes have the potential to deliver “long-term benefits” but are expensive and should be targeted carefully; NZIER says they should also focus on raising productivity.

* NBR: NZIER slams nine-day fortnight as 'artificially' protecting jobs

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