The Dim-Post

February 12, 2013

Let’s play musical internment camps

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:35 am

Via Stuff:

New Zealand is considering sending potential asylum seekers to controversial Australian detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The move would be an attempt to dissuade “boat people” from making the journey to New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key said.

During the weekend, Mr Key and his Australian counterpart, Julia Gillard, announced New Zealand would take 150 asylum seekers from Australian detention centres each year.

“I wanted to do this, I think it’s the right thing to do . . . my view is that we are helping our mates,” Mr Key said.

This makes so much sense. If ‘boat people’ arrive in Australia they get sent to New Zealand, and if they arrive in New Zealand they get sent to Australian detention centers in PNG or Nauru, because we want to dissuade boat people from coming here, even though none ever have, and we’re doing that by accepting a hundred and fifty boat people a year.

Key looked like an imbecile on the news last night trying to justify all of this, with a subsequent graphic showing the route from Indonesia to New Zealand and the ten-thousand odd kilometer detour required to avoid Australia, and he looked like he knew it.

So what’s really going on? My uninformed guess is that we’ve just been bullied by an Australian PM with a tricky domestic issue who is heading into an uncertain election, that Key had no choice but to accept this ‘deal’, which was probably more of a threat, and they’ve resurrected their nonsensical ‘boat people are a’comin’ scare story to try and frame it positively.

February 6, 2013

The Messiah will come when they are no longer necessary

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 6:58 am

Josie Pagani has a post up on Pundit regurgitating her one big idea about political strategy: that Labour needs to move to the right and embrace National’s ‘get tough’ policies on crime and welfare.

The Paganis have been saying this for years and it still makes very little sense to me. The National Party wants to get tough on welfare, criminals (and teachers) to distract people from their actual policies, or the failures thereof. The number of unemployed rises and falls with the economy, crime has been trending down for many years across the entire western world, and our education system is regularly rated as one of the best in the OECD.

If you’re a National politician you try and solve these problems that don’t actually exist because it’s part of a wider strategy to promote other policies that are unpopular with the general public but benefit your donors and core voter demographics. But why would a (nominally) left-wing politician buy into that scam? Why not address real problems that would help your constituency? Or, failing that, create your own fake problems that advance your own political agenda instead of your opponents? Or – if you’re not inclined to help your voters or advance your own values – just leave politics and go and do something else with your life? I genuinely don’t get it.

Update: Josie responds. Opening quote:

If you think crime, welfare and unemployment are ‘problems that don’t actually exist’ you are out of touch with the facts as well as public opinion.


February 4, 2013

The Novopay BIM

Filed under: education,Politics — danylmc @ 9:35 am

TVNZ and Radio New Zealand have done a couple of stories reporting on the leaked Briefing to the Incoming Minister (BIM) which the Ministry of Education supplied to Steven Joyce about the Novopay debacle. They’ve focused on the Ministry’s warning that Novopay could take 1-2 years to get working properly. I’ve also received a copy of this document, and I was more interested in the Ministry’s summary of what actually went wrong. Briefly:

  • Novopay is designed so that schools do everything online (presumably through a browser or thin client). When the platform was launched there were ‘significant issues’ with the online user interface (UI); for example, it wasn’t possible to submit time-sheets for part-time teachers.
  • The work-around for problems submitting payments via the UI was for the schools to fill in a form and submit it to Talent2’s Novapay service desk via e-mail, and they’d manually enter the payment data into the system.
  • But the service desk wasn’t staffed or trained for this – they were supposed to be supporting an online platform in which the schools did almost everything themselves. So this created a huge backlog of manual payments for them to enter, many of which missed the payrolls.
  • The service center also generated a vast number of errors in payments because it doesn’t have ‘robust quality assurance’ (I take this to mean there’s no verification when service center staff manually submit data: so if someone is being paid $20/hour and they work for ten hours, the manual system won’t prevent a service center staffer from accidentally paying them $2.00)
  • Talent2 aren’t able to produce complete draft payrolls for the schools to QA, so these errors aren’t picked up before the payroll data goes live.
  • The briefing is contradictory on the state of the programming defects in Novopay. The background summary insists that the problems leading to the huge submission of manual forms have been fixed, but in a subsequent section on software defects the Minister is told that new defects continue to come to light, and Talent2 have been unable to fix the existing problems. (I get the feeling they’ve been relying on manual work-arounds, rather than debugging the actual code.)

The Ministry’s solution is to put more resources into the service center while Talent2 fixes up software bugs via a release code schedule (I get the impression the extra software engineering cost is being met by the Ministry).

January 30, 2013

Doesn’t it seem amazing that it took National this long to play the ‘prison labour’ card?

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 10:08 am

If anything will resolve the high exchange rate, urban housing crisis, low wages and exodus to Australia, surely it’s convict labour.

I don’t have any moral/philosophical objection to making prisoners work to offset the cost of their imprisonment, or help skill them up to re-integrate them ‘back into society’, but if you combine it with National’s policy of private prison management, it’s not hard to see how the goals of rehabilitating and releasing prisoners could clash with the prospect of having a subsidised compulsory zero-cost workforce.

Quote of the day, start as you mean to go on edition

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 8:35 am

 If you are in a car and there is a rush of blood to the head and Labour and the Greens do get there, you had better like your radio station because you will spend a long time in a traffic jam, because the first thing that will be gone with those people are the roads.

Prime Minister John Key in his Opening Statement to Parliament yesterday, in which the PM traditionally lays out his policy agenda for the year, our current Prime Minister . . . not so much.

January 28, 2013

My slightly belated political predictions for 2013

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:41 pm

Phil Heatley will be sacked from Cabinet.

David Carter will be nominated Speaker of the House.

In mid May, construction crews operating in Christchurch’s red zone will excavate the basement of a demolished butcher to find a human skeleton buried in a shallow grave beneath the concrete floor. Forensic analysis will determine that the skeleton is that of a male in his late teens or early twenties, that this person died approximately thirty years ago, and that they were buried alive. The skeleton’s teeth will be compared to the dental records kept by Christchurch schools prior to the period and perfectly match those of ex-Burnside student John Key.

Winston Peters and the new Speaker will clash.

January 27, 2013

Slow hands

Filed under: economics,Politics — danylmc @ 8:45 pm

David Shearer’s SOTU speech is here. There’s nothing new in terms of policy, but in value terms it promotes contemporary center-left values, a huge contrast from Shearer’s repeated bizarre attempts in 2012 to win over disaffected ACT voters.

His main critique of the National government is that it’s ‘hands off’. DPF rebutted this argument last week, pointing out the many ways in which National is a ‘hands-on’ government, and in an enormous coincidence the Prime Minister made exactly the same points a few hours later.

I agree with whoever wrote DPF’s post and John Key’s speech – it’s not credible to attack the government’s lack of involvement in the economy when they’re spending $400 million dollars on irrigation in Canterbury, $1.5 billion on broadband, how ever many dozens of billions the Roads of National Significance is costing, and so-on, and so-on. This is not a neo-liberal government.

And looking at ACT’s polling, it seems obvious that the political will for a neo-liberal economic model is dead; the debate is now about what kind of welfare state we want to move towards: a traditional model in the democratic socialist tradition, or a corporate welfare model in which benefits and services are directed away from individuals and into the business sector. I guess you could look at contemporary China or 1960s South Korea as exemplars.

I’m not opposed to this second approach – wouldn’t it be great if we were a country with loads of great, high-paying export focused jobs! But most of National’s corporate welfare measures look like white elephants: roads to nowhere that won’t return the cost of the investment, stadium and convention center boondoggles, etc. It seems to be driven by which sectors of the economy are more effective lobbyists rather than any coherent vision.

January 25, 2013

All part of the service

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 1:45 pm

John Key’s State of the Nation speech is here. I await John Armstrong’s coverage of the speech with interest. He’s welcome to use this opening paragraph if he’s on a tight deadline.

Bulls bellowed; sticks transformed into snakes; stars flared and died; dry rivers flooded and fallow fields bloomed into life after Prime Minister John Key addressed the North Harbour Club today.

January 23, 2013

On cats

Filed under: science — danylmc @ 2:09 pm

Towards the end of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, the main character establishes a bird sanctuary on the edge of the suburbs. Cats from the local houses come and kill the birds, so the hero takes photographs of the mutilated bird bodies and distributes them to the cat’s owners, and then goes a step further and kidnaps a cat (Bobby), which he drives to an animal shelter in another city. I love this interview with Franzen – a bird watcher – in which a reporter asks him if he has anything to confess about his own behavior towards cats:

“Let’s say that I was peripherally involved with some conspirators,” he said. “Never mind where. There was a problematic neighbor with a problematic cat. I like cats – indoors. Some, like this particular cat, are killing machines.

“Over time, I was gradually becoming less than peripherally involved. It occurred to me that maybe we should stop, because if we got caught, it would be pretty bad press. Also, my partner, Kathy – the Californian—feels strongly about people’s connection to their pets. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I write about this instead?”

Let’s just agree that Gareth Morgan – like Franzen and his co-conspirators – is  crazy (And if you haven’t already, check out Morgan’s AMAZING anti-cat infographic.) If you want to stop having fun with the issue and read something informative, I’ve found this article by David Winter and this interview with Mark Farnworth useful.


Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:35 am

John Armstrong on the Cabinet reshuffle:

John Key’s dramatic Cabinet reshuffle displays a streak of ruthlessness hitherto rarely seen in a New Zealand prime minister.

Key has displayed all the sentiment of a corporate restructurer. So ministers are given the chance to perform.

If they do not they are out. Simple as that.

Above all, what the reshuffle does is put the entire Cabinet on notice. National largely got away with last year’s catalogue of blunders and unwanted distractions without too much damage to its support in opinion polls.

Tracy Watkins at Fairfax:

No-one saw the brutal dumping of long-time Cabinet ministers Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley coming – least of all them.

The usual route out of Cabinet for underperforming ministers is a slow slide down the rankings and reassignment to lesser portfolios.

But Prime Minister John Key, a man once known as banking’s smiling assassin, refused to offer them even that fig leaf, giving them just a few hours’ notice of their fate.

Mr Key made no bones yesterday about the reason for his sense of urgency to bring fresh blood into Cabinet – he did not want to repeat the mistakes of his cautious predecessor Helen Clark, who failed to rejuvenate her lineup

People sometimes badmouth the PM’s comms team, but anyone who can sell a minor mid-term Cabinet reshuffle – in which an MP stood down less than a year ago for unethical behavior is reinstated, and an incompetent failure remains in charge of the education system – as an act of corporate-style ruthlessness that puts the Cabinet ‘on notice’, is a stone-cold genius.

Presumably National’s market research has found that people see Key as ‘too relaxed’, ‘not tough enough’, etc, and one of the government’s goals for 2013 is to address that perception. If I’m right then we won’t see the PM declaring he’s ‘comfortable’ or ‘relaxed’ about anything for the next few months.

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