The tail’s preparing to wag the dog

Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) is a vast improvement over our old First Past the Post voting system. Sections of the community who were marginalised under First Past the Post now have a voice. That’s certainly true of Maori, the Greens, and Winston First’s indefatigable blue rinse brigade.
To a degree it’s a good thing.

How long before it becomes an anchor around the legislative neck and makes government impossible?

Where will it all end?

Somebody tell me what to do

I’d like a Gray Power Party to boost my New Zealand Superannuation. What about a Kate Sheppard Ladies’ Party with a persondate to banish manholes to Personchuria. Can we do without a Jockstrap Party to declare the Rugby World Cup ours as of right? There’s definitely a need for a Petrolheads’ Party for the promotion of phallic exhaust pipes for the under-endowed, and a Wouldn’t Work in an Iron Lung Party for the equitable redistribution of filthy capitalistic gains.

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Check your prejudices

ballot box

People don’t vote for policies

In the UK a couple of elections back, the website Vote For Polices showed that when asked to chose their preferred policies without knowing which party’s policies they were, voters preferred the Green Party. The Conservatives fared badly.

vote for policies choices

For whom did they vote in the real world? Yep; the Conservatives, who should have been fourth choice.

Now it’s your turn

Here are two websites where you can check your actual preferences for the imminent New Zealand election. I think “I Side With” is the most realistic:

Please check them out. You will be surprised. For me, I Side With produced a more credible result than Vote Compass; they allow users more sensible fine-tuning of the alternatives. Even so, I was surprised to find that New Zealand First came high on my list.

That led me to check New Zealand First’s policies, and another surprise – despite Winston Peters’ devious, opportunistic, and waka-jumping ways – his party’s policies are, mostly, surprisingly sensible.

Not enough to encourage me to vote for him though.

Sorry Winnie.

Here is my result from “I Side With”

Some of my old friends will be horrified, but my swing to the left has been on-going since waking up to the total failure of neo-liberal policies.

Here are my results from “Vote Compass”

Mana’s position was a surprise too, but despite Hone Harawera’s radical activist past, his policies too are generally sensible. I’d like to see him make his peace with the Maori Party and avoid splitting their vote.





If all else fails guys, RTFM

Read The F**king Manual!Red Peak cartoon

The New Zealand Flag Consideration Panel are an august and varied bunch of highly respected and accomplished Kiwis from a wide range of backgrounds.

12 people on a committee is probably 8 or 9 too many to come up with a good outcome, but you’d expect a good decision anyway from smart people given clear guidelines.


They totally ignored their mandate. The makeup of most of the final 40 selection, and all of the final four, didn’t meet the criteria they’d been given. Those criteria were clear, in line with the advice of vexillologists, and borne out by many other successful national flags.

Like most people, I didn’t appreciate the vast difference between a static 2 dimensional corporate type logo and a 3 dimensional flag moving dynamically in the breeze. I listened to people who understood the task and now I get it. Not so the $640 a day Eminent and August Persons Group. They didn’t get it and they still don’t. Nor does tunnel visioned Prime Minister John Key.

Decide for yourself:


Should we flag it away?

Kiwi and Aussie flags

For once, I agree with the New Zealand PM, John Key. New Zealand needs a new national flag.

I know that some of my friends are passionately opposed to the change, and if some polls are to be believed, so are most Kiwis.

So why change?

  • Many Kiwis, never mind others less blessed, can’t distinguish our flag from Australia’s. My wife is one of them. Recently, the Prime Ministers of both countries have confused the two.
  • The Pacific is infested with similar red, white, and blue colonial-era ensigns.
  • At least five countries’ flags bear the Southern Cross, not to mention a heap of territories and dependencies. Depending upon your definition of a nation, at least twenty bear the Union Jack, and the U.S. State of Hawaii.
  • A distinctive flag is an asset.  Especially to a small country trying to be relevant. Ask any Canadian who’s old enough to remember their stunningly obscure pre-maple leaf design.
  • The Union Jack? It has no relevance to us in this century.

Why not change?

  • Kiwis fought and died for the flag.
    • Really? I served in the armed forces for 20 years. I served for my family, my friends, and for my country. I served for what the flag represented. Fortunately for me, I didn’t get shot at, but I wouldn’t have taken the risk for a piece of blue bunting.New Zealand war grave
    • Another version of this argument is that fallen servicemen and women were buried under the flag. OK, it draped their coffins, but what is engraved into their headstones? The silver fern. I doubt that those people were serving for the flag.
  • We love the current flag!
    • Really?
    • Sigh…
  • It symbolises our nation’s heritage and the Treaty of Waitangi.
    • Bollocks. When I was young, we still had strong ties with the United Kingdom. My parents’ generation talked about England as “Home” despite having never travelled away from Te Ika a Maui in several generations.
    • The treaty was a hastily scrawled document which has never been ratified. Those gains that have been made by Maori over the last couple of decades in the spirit of the treaty were negotiated by Kiwis: Maori and Pakeha.
    • The Southern Cross shines on more than half the planet.

What about a design?

Oh dear.

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GST smoke and mirrors

Phil Goff
The Phil Goff doppelgänger. It seems to have beamed in from Alpha Centauri.

Winston First pinches Phil’s abandoned policy

“No GST on healthy tucker” said Phil Goff.

Yeah, right …

Once upon a time in a galaxy far away there was a bloke called Phil Goff who looked like leadership material and talked a lot of sense. When the dreaded Czarina, vanquished by the smiling assassin from Perill Grynch, scurried off to a lucrative sinecure in New York with a sigh of relief (and an eye on the Ruler of the Universe’s Secretary General’s job). Sensible Phil was sucked into a black hole, and a dysfunctional imposter replaced him.

The Phil Dalek charged out of its lair every week or two, savaged the PM with toothless gums, and offered a knee-jerk negative reaction to every government move, regardless of whether or not the attack was justified.

Phil got the chop and now David Mk IV takes over the savage gumming of Smiling John’s Gucci-clad heels. John Key could end world poverty, bring peace to the Middle East by next Friday, and re-invent cold fusion—Phil and the succession of Daves would proclaim it all the devil’s work. They scratch around for new causes to promote, with no regard to practicality or lack thereof.

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My New Zealand

A View from the South Pacific

When you visit a country you often tend to see it in a better light than do those who live in it. You miss the lurking warts. The reverse is also true: you tend to think that your own country’s problems loom larger than they probably should.

I’ve spent much of the last half century travelling the world and living in places as diverse as Scotland, South Korea, and Fiji. I’ve visited fifty or sixty countries. As a result of that, I became—in my mind, if not in law—a citizen of the world. I didn’t suffer an overdose of patriotism.


4,500,000 people live here. With 4,500,000 points of view. Mine is as biased as any.

The Land

We’re the south west corner of the great Polynesian triangle. Because it’s constantly crunched by the inexorable forces of tectonic plates and geothermal activity, much of the land is spectacular. It has a moderated Mediterranean climate (thanks to Australia stealing the anti-cyclones and sending us a lot of rain) so it’s mostly lush, especially in the lowlands.

Mankind has only been here a thousand years, but with the burning and felling of forest and the introduction of devastating exotic plant and animal species, to a large extent we’ve stuffed it up. Nevertheless, the mountains, the volcanoes, the rivers, the lakes, the fjords and the remnant rain forest—we call it the bush—are stunning.

Much of the farmland is lush and beautiful, although it’s thanks in large part to the use of non-renewable resources like superphosphate and urea. Some steep hill country which should never have been grazed is being ruined by the consequent erosion. It’s crying out to be replanted in forest.

It’s not Middle Earth—that was more than a little digitally enhanced—but it’s pretty good.

Don’t Miss

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The Treasury gets it

It’s a pity they don’t have the ears of our great and glorious leaders. Your taxes pay their salaries but it’s to no avail; the bureaucrats and the politicians are pulling in different directions.

John Whitehead, Secretary to the Treasury, gave a speech in November telling it like it is. These two images, which accompanied his talk, illustrate clearly the problems Just Wondering has been set up to address. When the Treasury Secretary tells the Government publicly that we’re in deep trouble perhaps we should be paying attention and perhaps we should be demanding that Mr Key and Mr English do too.

The must-read text of the full speech is here along with many more graphs showing the sorry state this country is in and indicating the desperate state we’re plummeting into.

GDP gets an F minus; this is the problem

I hate Powerpoint, but I’ll bite the bullet to inflict upon you these two images from the presentation. They say it all:

New Zealand long term growth record


R&D gets an F too; could do better but just isn’t trying

This is a substantial part of the reason we have the problem. R&D is the key to the beginning of the beginning of restoring our prosperity.

New Zealand pitiful R&D spending


If anything is going to get us out of the mess we’re in, it’s innovation leading to high tech businesses earning enough to pay high wages to skilled people. It isn’t going to happen if we continue like this. It’s not only business that’s the problem. Government doesn’t put enough into R&D either.