A new New Zealand? Echoes of Esko Aho

April 10, 2012

 “We decided to conclude the matter with an amusing tale that when I served as Finance Minister in Finland, many people wanted the New Zealand model. This time round, people in New Zealand looked to the Finnish model. Perhaps together they might form a perfect model,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto

You can’t knock down stand up comedian and Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee. He looked beaten at the Finnish line a fortnight ago, but in the wake of the just released United Nation’s World Happiness Survey, in which Finland was ranked number two in the world behind Denmark, he bounced back last week by throwing another custard pie at himself:“Poor old Finns, can’t be first again,” overlooking the fact that, for what it was worth, New Zealand took out the eighth spot. The irrepressible impresario suggested that the Finns were so happy because they were still laughing at his Finnish jokes. 

Jokes? All hell broke loose in Helsinki after his throwaway unfunny Finnish comments two weeks ago. A total of about one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area, which includes Espoo, and that’s what Gerry landed himself in after his comments in Parliament in response to a speech by Labour Leader David Shearer: “…It’s unbelievable isn’t it. That you’d … make a speech saying I want New Zealand to be like Finland which has worse unemployment than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates their people and has no respect for women.”

According to the OECD Better Life Index, Finland’s murder rate is indeed nearly twice that of New Zealand. It also has worse unemployment and health provision. But on economic indicators such as income and life balance, Finland is ahead of New Zealand. Its GDP is also rising faster than ours and its education is rated tops.

Luckily the PM has more finesse than his Minister of Demolition and knows from the musical Finns down under how to quieten incipient storms in teacups: Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you”*. Sunny John Key mollified his new Seoul mate, the recently inaugurated Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the Nuclear Security Summit and defended Brownlee’s sense of humour saying that he was known for his rollicking speeches in Parliament. Or should that have been bollocking?

Gerry Built
His Minister hadn’t gone down as a Nordic Mr Pickwick, though he has the impressive corporeal assets. In vain he had protested that he wasn’t anti-Finland, waving as proof his Nokia cellphone (definitely an old dunger in the mobile stakes)and pointing out that he carried “a little bit of Finland” with him all the time. Finnish commentators picked up more on his girth than his mirth. As John Key said Gerry is a big unit; he carries a rather larger bit of Godzone and is an all round advertisement for 100% pure New Zealand dairy products.

Finnish TV host Tuomas Enbuske, no svelte elf himself, made play of this in his equally unfunny item Gerry Brownlee: Greetings from Finland.* The erstwhile merely Angry Birds* were now apoplectic: this was no porcine single egg pinching: a cartoon porker had poached the whole carton.

Finnishing School
While Brownlees’s expansive cv obviously doesn’t include Finnishing School David Shearer is obviously a keen distance learning student. He was the one who a fortnight ago had began single handedly to play Finlandia.* The new Labour leader’s long awaited positioning speech  called for New Zealand to follow in Finland’s footsteps. The two countries are of the same size with similar problems. About 5.4 million people live in Finland compared with New Zealand’s 4.4 million-not counting the Kiwi diaspora.

At the Cullen Breakfast Club (no round tables here) Shearer said the Finns had managed to transform their small country into a wealthy knowledge economy “through innovation and talent “. Catching up with Australia is obviously old hat; catching up with Finland is the thing now.

The question is not why were so many Finns so thin skinned-in fact very Kiwi-like-in reacting furiously to Brownlee’s for-domestic-consumption-only jibes,  but why our Government has been so touchy and tetchy about Shearer’s Finnish analogy. The answer is that it raises big questions raised about the Government’s economic and social vision and strategy, beyond partial asset sales. The public consciousness is still stuck on the underwhelming  Jobs Summit thinking of three years ago. Bike trails are fine but they are also rather pedestrian and not the main highway to the future. They don’t cut it as a compelling vision of a bravish new world. This is where Shearer sees his opportunity.

Aho Ahoy
The new Labour leader is keen to echo Esko Aho, the largely untested, former Finnish Prime Minister who came into office in 1991. Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, economic development was rapid. Finland built an extensive welfare state and navigated a middle way economically and politically but by the early nineties needed a new prescription, which Aho administered.

Shearer: Aho’s message to the Finnish people was blunt and honest: They had big problems. No-one else was going to fix them. And most importantly: only their brains and talent were going to take them forward. Collectively, the people of Finland took that message on board. They moved forward. They transformed their economy through through innovation and talent. They put at the centre of everything they did great teachers and schools and great science, research and development.”

As his shift-to-the-right positioning statement for the 2014 General Election he added, with a side swipe at our present PM: “Aho made bold decisions.He was, I need to say, voted out at the next election. He thought it was more important to make a difference than to get re-elected.”

Transformation Through Education
Shearer wants to focus on education to achieve this Finnish transformation by focusing on teachers and holding failing schools to account. Rather than hardly educating its people, as in Browlee’s dismissive missile, Finland has one of the best education systems in the world. So of course has New Zealand, only a few points behind it. In 2009 OECD figures ranked Finnish students at 3rd highest in reading, 6th in mathematics and 2nd in science. New Zealand students ranked 7th, 13th and 7th, respectively.

The trouble is that we have a very large tail of underachievers and that we export so many of the best brains we produce, which hardly helps the quality of the domestic talent pool.

The main problem with our education system seems to be our problem with child poverty manifesting itself through the education system in a cycle of socio/ economic/ learning deprivation. Finland has state supplied child care up to the age of seven, not “pre school education”, and their children start school two years later than here. It has the second lowest rate of child poverty in the OECD (New Zealand is 22nd out of 34).

Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields including forest improvement, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications. Finland had a long tradition of adult education and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were enrolled, 40% for professional reasons

Beyond Sacred Cows
Following in Finland’s footsteps is all very well, but recent economic snowstorms have rather obscured the trail. Former vaunted economicons like Nokia  look less shiny in the new telecommunications Jobs market. Nevertheless Nokia, famously once involved in forest products,  may not be today the poster child it once was, but it still generates three times the annual revenue of Fonterra.

He didn’t mention him by name in his speech, but Shearer picked up on the contribution made to economic debate by the late Sir Paul Callaghan.
But as good as New Zealand is at it, there’s a ceiling to how much butter and beef and meat and milk you can make off New Zealand grass. You hit the limit a long time before you get to be as prosperous as Australia.”

Finnish comedians may have used old Aussie sheep jokes in their onslaught on Brownlee but it should now be obvious that it’s now cows that are the bêtes noires in New Zealand. The grass on the other side of the fence is not necessarily greener and we need to have complementary knowledge intensive strategies to boost export earnings.

You can debate diversification until the cows come home but home grown exemplars are food for thought. Shearer gave several local examples of “high value technologies developed right here by smart New Zealanders.” However, he made no mention of the Government’s offshore oil and minerals plans-to make the most of the fourth biggest expanse of territorial waters in the world. Oil has just been discovered off the coast of Ireland-just in time to save that once much vaunted smaller economy. Where does new Labour stand on a possible ocean mining bonanza? Despite mining initiatives set in train by the last Labour Government Shearer was silent on the mineral minefield.

Vision and Focus
He finished his speech thus:
“If ideas help to build a new New Zealand, we like them. If they don’t, then out they go….“This new New Zealand will be the kind of place the rest of world would like to live.
It will be clean,
it will be green,
it will be clever …
and it will be a place that’s good for lambs.”

With the clean and the green are under threat from the sacred cows “clever” is the key here.The bit about the lambs should have got the chop.

We can and should learn things from other countries-we haven’t the time to make all our own mistakes-but we need to do things our way, without the necessity for neo colonial cringe. Picking up on innovative examples in our own country and amplifying them is the way to go. The body politic is less likely to reject home grown solutions than those transplanted out of context from elsewhere.

It’s not just about vision, it’s about focus. As the Finn Brothers sang:
“…You look into the eyes of the world
Hoping to catch your reflection again
Missing all the real life action.”
                   Eyes Of The World

 *Blinks
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6644473/Finns-bite-back-over-Brownlee-comments  
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6701037/Is-happiness-a-Brownlee-joke-away 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XojVmivqDrA  Finlandia   Sibelius    Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYXiGhM-4nkDavid Shearer’s speech A new New Zealand Vid
http://labour.org.nz/newnz  Transcript of David Shearer’s speech to the Cullen Breakfast Club
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl6CHfjeORo&feature=related    Angry Birds Movie Trailer  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UGuyCLGCE&feature=fvst  Finn Brothers – “Weather With You” Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnDnFUBWQsQ   Gerry Brownlee: Greetings from Finland Vid

#Lyall Lukey 10 April 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


The $64 Billion Question: How to Turn Knowledge into Wealth?

February 9, 2011

“We work hard, we have a good quality education system, but we lack prosperity commensurate with our effort…Our way forward must be based on honest analysis, ditching self-serving myths, and embracing a long term vision with relentness commitment to make this a just, equitable and prosperous country, worthy of our children, and a place where talent wants to live.”.” Prof. Paul Callaghan*

2011 New Zealander of the Year Professor Sir Paul Callaghan is one of New Zealand’s best known living scientists. He is also a marvellous communicator, as the videos below demonstrate.

He was the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Distinguished Speaker in 2007 and he laid down a timely challenge  at the third annual Education Leaders Forum in 2009 with a stimulating and provocative presentation Education and culture change: New Zealand’s challenge for the 21st century.*His persuasive argument is laid out in his book From Wool to Weta*, which challenges us to look beyond the farm and the theme park in order to transform New Zealand’ s culture and economy.

 He argues that if New Zealand keeps relying on tourism and farming we will fall all the way to the bottom of OECD rankings pretty quickly. In a word, we are poorer because we choose to work in low-wage activities: “Tourism may provide valuable employment for underskilled New Zealanders, but it cannot provide a route to greater prosperity”.*

What’s the alternative? He argues that New Zealand’s future lies in emerging industries based on science, technology, and intellectual property exemplified by companies like WETA, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare , Gallagher, Tait Electronics and Rakon generating wealth through science and technology-based businesses and a whole host of small, smart companies we’ve never heard  doing stuff that’s incomprehensible to many of us, but the way forward for the country..

His education and science founded vision for New Zealand’s future emphasises that we should utilise science and technology to grow prosperity and a sustainable future. He argues that our landscape is magnificent and helps define who we are, but as a nation we have the potential to be a great deal more besides than a commodity farm and, in David Lange’s words, a theme park for tourists.

He advocates a shift in New Zealand from a reliance on natural resources to knowledge and innovation.  He believes there are unlimited opportunities, but one of  the challenges  is providing students with the skills required to both work in and  create innovative new businesses.

He avers that  “we fail our children through defeatist advice at school, encouraging kids to drop maths and physics because it might be ‘too hard.’ This not only ensures that those children will never be part of the emerging NZ technology sector; they will also never be an engineer, pilot, veterinarian, scientist, doctor or architect.

If we are to build the society we want our children to thrive in we must enhance our prosperity through sensible investment in education, science and technology, coupled with culture change. The first part is the easy bit. The second requires self-belief and a sense of purpose, especially when it comes to scientific research and innovation.

He quotes approvingly David S. Landes from his “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Are Some So Rich and Others So Poor? “*“Rich economies must defend themselves by remaining on the cutting edge of research, moving into new and growing branches, learning from others, finding the right niches, by cultivating and using ability and knowledge.”  David S. Landes

Paul Callaghan was born in Wanganui. He obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University, working in low temperature nuclear physics. On his return to New Zealand he began researching the applications of magnetic resonance to the study of soft matter at Massey University, and in 2001 was appointed Alan MacDiarmid Professor of Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington. He also heads the multi-university MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

 He has published around 220 articles in scientific journals, as well as Principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (Oxford University Press, 1994). He is a founding director of Magritek, a small Wellington-based company that sells NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) instruments.

Professor Callaghan’s many awards include the Blake Medal for Leadership and he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He is a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM). His latest accolade comes at a time when he has been battling a serious illness for many months* while keeping up his manifold contributions to the world of science and the wider community.

As a nation can we lift our sights and shift up a gear in the way we cultivate and share knowledge and tap the talents of our people?

#Feel free to add a comment below and share this post.

*Blinks
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/4628388/Technology-offers-route-to-prosperity
http://edtalks.org/video/turning-knowledge-wealth   Professor Paul Callaghan speaking at Education Leaders Forum 2009 Vid
http://www.macdiarmid.ac.nz/news/video/callaghaninterviews.php  Vid
http://www.ecasttv.co.nz/program_detail.php?program_id=1608&channel_id=84&group_id=73 
From Wool to Weta, Paul Callaghan – Shop Online for Books in NZ http://www.ecasttv.co.nz/program_detail.php?program_id=1608&channel_id=84&group_id=73    Slideshare
http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/econ_articles/reviews/landes.html  Review of Landes The Wealth and Poverty of Nations…”
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4623135/NZer-of-the-Year-battles-aggressive-cancer 

#Lyall Lukey 9 Feb 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


PPTA—Back To Their Past…

February 5, 2011

“Back to their future…
              and to the only chance they’ll get at being 16. “     PPTA ad Press 31/1/11

[Back to your past…
          and to the last chance you’ll get at being a profession.]

 “The first week back at school.
It’s an exciting time for senior high school students. It’s a time when the world starts to appear larger and closer…a time of recognising what is possible…and a time to start seizing opportunities….”

[The first (or the second) week back at school.
 It’s an inciting time for senior PPTA stridents.  It’s a time when the real world (and the election) start to appear larger and closer…a time of recognising what is possible and a time for ceasing opportunism…]

 “Our teachers play a key role in steering students towards those opportunities, then giving them the grounding and confidence they need to take full advantage.
But teachers have returned to school wondering why so little confidence is being shown in them.”

[Your “union” leaders played a key role in steering  teachers by threatening “industrial action” before salary negotiations even started last year and then by co-ordinating petty, disruptive actions which took full advantage of students and parents.  No wonder secondary teachers have returned to school feeling that their negotiations were grounded before take off  while, starting later, the NZEI  piloted through its salaries claim in a brisk and professional manner.]

“Over the past few months, the government has made no attempt to enter into constructive dialogue over the secondary teachers’ claim.
This claim is as much about conditions like class sizes and recognising the importance of extra-curricular work-eg sports coaching and fostering artistic talent-as it is about pay”.

[You misread the auguries, overcooked your salary claim and overplayed your hand. After a healthy (and overdue) 12% catch up in the previous  three years 2010  wasn’t the time to push for another 4% and costly other concessions. In a recessionary environment it would have been smarter to have moderated the initial salary claim to  2-2.5% and pushed the conditions line as a trade-off].*

 “Teachers nurture the talents of our most precious resource-our kids. If we don’t get behind our teachers, what of the future of those kids, and the country? 
If you lose them at 16, you risk losing them forever”.

[Teachers nurture the talents of our most precious resource-our children- and deserve better than a bungled salary campaign which has turned into a PR disaster by alienating parents and employers with the disruption of rostering children home, in some cases close to exams. PPTA leaders need to stop focusing on the past and get in front of our teachers by showing some professional foresight.  It’s  time the association grew out of its own protracted organisational adolescence.
If you lose the support of parents and the wider community, as well as of present and past PPTA members, you risk losing them forever.]

” PPTA
       We stand for education”
        [With your backs to the future?]

 #Feel free to add a comment below and share this post.

*Blinks
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/?s=Teachers+Pay-Thinking   May 2010
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/secondary-symptoms-can-the-ppta-dinosaur-adapt/  Oct 2010
http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/4603403/Salary-and-wages-rise-in-2010 

#Lyall Lukey 5 Feb 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


The Hobbit Hoohah

November 6, 2010

Little Jack Warner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said, What a good boy am I!
   
         Trad.(almost)

 Warner garnered an extra subsidised plum or two and some early Christmas presents after meetings in Wellywouldbe two weeks ago to discuss the production locale for the The Hobbit, Parts I&II due for release in 2012 and 2013.

Forbes, a US publication for the financially well endowed, headlined Prime Minister John Key’s announcement   “Labor Dispute Resolved, New Zealand Economy Saved”.   Certainly the $630 million movies were worth keeping, but are subsidies the way to save the economy? Farmers and manufacturers might have a different view.

On the surface the hoohah was more Extras than Star Wars and Andy Millman would have had a field day.  JR Tolkien, now third on the current deceased entertainers earning list, would be somewhat surprised to have his children’s book in the middle of all the hoopla-and even more surprised at being treated like royalty with his latter day royalties  (Michael Jackson 1,  Elvis 2, Elvish 3).

The talent for the parallel B movie HamsTo Be or not To Be,  shot in 1D and black and white was  a line up of the usual celluloid goodies, baddies and uglies.

 Slimdog millionaire Sir Peter Jackson scored the twin roles of St Peter and a cameo reincarnation of Elliot Ness  from The Untouchables;  Robyn Malcolm aka Cheryl West was cast-and then outcast- as a gangster’s moll after she tried to crack the Whipp and get a more equitable status for her non luminary colleagues; while Helen Kelly, President of the Council of Trade Unions, played first her own father, with her personal “spoilt brat” attack on Peter Jackson, then Ginger Rogers, with her backwards  fancy  fast  footwork. Prime Minister John Key was cast as his former self, a consummate dealmaker and gladhander after coaching in how to avoid fluffing his lines.

But were bit part actors really in danger of being paid an outrageous fortune? Or as Malcolm delicately put it, no doubt harking back to her own acting roots,   “Would I really, in the words of Cheryl West, want to root my own industry?”   

It did all look a little incestuous for a while. The Government  and key industry players were afraid that the movies would go west-or maybe east-depending on the size of the filmic inducements offered. On all sides the truth was stretched further than a Hollywood limo. On TV1’s Hobbit poll the Hoi polloi was split virtually 50/50 over the Government’s hobbledehoy  approach.

Labour couldn’t be too critical. They’d been big Lord of the Rings patrons. Pete Hodgson, one time Minister of LOR, could still land a role in Hobbit I as the Wizard of Was without the need for any makeup.

It was not just multinational Warner versus battling Kiwi actors. The union boycott also had an international aspect too with the temporary presence of Australian actors union import Simon Whipp who tried to whip up a frenzy using the high profile target of Peter Jackson. All he did was provide a convenient whipping boy for the government.

It was hard to be immune to Ian Mune’s  grizzled actor charms in a post-Paul Henry Breakfast  appearance. His Chicken Little piece put the industrial relations issue into perspective. The sky was not going to fall if there were good faith discussions on pay and conditions and on getting a fair suck of the residual royalties sav.  The players needed to be wary of being outfoxed (or, in this case, outwarnered) while clutching their heads and running for cover.

The game of chicken was suddenly halted  but it was too late. The attempted union boycott had handed Warner the plump plum duff on a plate. They wanted and got a guarantee that future industrial action would not jeopardise the Hobbitt productions. The law change from employee to independent contractor was faster than Burt Munro and suited the chief suits if not the thespian Indians.  But other factors, especially the higher kiwi dollar and subsidy sweeteners, weighed more heavily in the likely balance sheet . The main creative talents  of Hollywood  are exhibited by accountants and their legal sidekicks. It’s all about the money, stupid.

Given to quick decision making, Jack Warner once commented, “If I’m right fifty-one percent of the time, I’m ahead of the game”-a sentiment with which our dealmaker  PM would be quick to concur. The film industry is worth about $3 billion a year and could have sunk like the Titanic if the Hobbitt production been shifted, though Titanic producer James Cameron has just announced that Avatar 2 is set to be filmed in New Zealand.

All this helps the tourist industry, all though just how much and in which ways, is debatable. Middle Earth at the bottom of the globe (or the top, if you refer to the Wizard of Christchurch’s upside down map) will attract new tourists to have a gander at parts of wan Gondor land as well as some remnants of Gondwanaland.

The DVDs of the two Hobbit movies will have an NZ tourist promo. At least there will be people in both even if the long and the short of it is that some will be vertically challenged.  But even a population of hobbits is in stark contrast to some of the pristine people-less 100% Pure New Zealand avid advids which have sublime sets but no human stars, let alone any extras.

Of course, in an age of computer generated special effects  live actors and natural scenery are being augmented and in some cases replaced digitally. The film industry  provides young IT people with a marvelous mix of creative projects and deadline discipline at Weta Workshops and elsewhere working on big budget movies with a high quotient of digital visuals.

This burgeoning  industry must have been a big if unstated factor in keeping the Hobbits here and points to the real salvation of the New Zealand economy: productive innovation through teamwork and technology. The presence of such a creative and productive digital galaxy, built up through the LOR trilogy and other big budget blockbusters, is a great asset for the future-and not just for movies-when the Hobbits are history.

Now Secretary of State Hillary (not President) Clinton has come and gone, apart from the defence effects of the still unclear nuclear policy thaw, the big question is how far did the PM get behind the scenes  with advancing a free trade timetable? This is much more important to the country’s  future economic strategy than  domestic subsidies  piled on thick like a premiere red carpet.

Middle Earth has already done the deal with the Middle Kingdom but a free trade agreement with the USA would really be The Deal of the Century .

Perhaps the APEC meeting next weekend will get the Asia-Pacific free trade ball rolling faster.  Russia might even want to play.

Relevant Warner  Movies
The Country Kid meets the Gold Diggers,  The Big Shakedown  Dark Victory  Looney Tunes  Yankee Doodle Dandy  Damn Yankees , Dirty Harry  A Piece of the Action  The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu   Independence Day  Risky Business  Deal of the Century  Strictly Business  The Hudsucker Proxy  Godzilla Raids again  Free Willy 3: The Rescue  The Devil’s Advocate  Eyes Wide Shut  Looney Tunes: Back in Action  Superman Returns  Cop Out  Clash of the Titans   

  *BLINKS
The Hobbit, Part I (2012, co-production with New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and Spyglass Entertainment)
The Hobbit, Part II (2013, co-production with New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and Spyglass Entertainment)
http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/4268360/Why-would-I-      want-to-root-my-industry 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4279251/Jackson-I-feel-enormous-gratitude [see poll results]http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4280779/Hobbits-its-all-about-the-money 

 #Lyall Lukey 6 Nov 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog


Allan Hubbard: Ancient History?

July 7, 2010

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none. 
1805 version

No matter how well stocked or shipshape  their financial larder in these uncertain times, the treatment of Allan and Margaret Hubbard is a bone of contention.

Allan Hubbard was pretty good at making hay while the sun shone, but by all accounts he would have been the last person to adopt a dog in the manger attitude to anyone when the financial skies clouded over. With his eclectic portfolio of investments, including  significant interests in dairying,  he was regarded as milk solid as. 

It’s now modern history that statutory managers are managing the financial affairs of the Hubbards and their investment company Aorangi Securities while they investigate allegations of complex fraud. Allan Hubbard was banned from his office of 50 years, which may have been necessary, but must have been dreadfully hurtful.

Has the Serious Fraud Office  closed this stable door because other horses elsewhere have bolted?  Other untouched Augean stables seem much more likely candidates for an overdue mucking out of accumulated financial ordure, but this Herculean task has seemed beyond the powers of the SFO, though lame duck Securities Commission CEO Jane Diplock  is  keen to see New Zealand securities regulations and enforcement strengthened.

To add to the intrigue, Jonathan Botherway, the brother of  Simon Botherway, annointed head of the new super regulator the Financial Markets Authority and also a Securities Commission member, had a spot of bother with South Canterbury Finance in July 2009, the corporate name most associated with Alan Hubbard, though he no longer has a directorial role, being now ‘president for life’ of SCF.

Jane Diplock has dismissed allegations of a conflict of interest in the decision by the Securities Commission to investigate the Hubbards, with the comment that the situation from which the allegation of conflict arose happened last year 2009 and is therefore “ancient history”. On this timescale 1999 must be pre-historic and Allan Hubbard Methuselah.

Whatever the state of the paperwork and the labyrinthine transactions involved, there is still plenty of support-and even more sympathy-for Allan Hubbard in Timaru, Canterbury and further afield than his namesake Dick managed in Auckland when cereal killer John Banks got stuck into him at the last local body elections.

A former Rover Scout in Dunedin and Temuka, now in his ninth decade, Mr Hubbard is generally regarded as still an all round good scout: both a savvy businessman and a generous philanthropist. He and his wife have played a big role in the wider community for decades in a modest way, as evinced by the number of well-wishers standing by their man*, especially in Timaru, by the sixties Volkswagen he still drives and the modest Timaru suburban house the Hubbards still occupy. Not for them the continuing over conspicuous over consumption of some company directors after their investors have been shut out.

If the VW was the people’s car, the major  finance company with which Allan Hubbard is associated was regarded as the ideal people’s  investment vehicle.

According to the NBR* in June this year Allan Hubbard divested many personal investments into charitable trusts. The Hubbards’ personal wealth had already “shrunk considerably” over the previous 12 months as they propped up South Canterbury finance. SCF had to work hard to qualify for the government deposit guarantee and the support of the Hubbards was crucial to its qualifying.

The financial dominoes are lined up ominously. Alan Hubbard’s long and deep particularly South Island relationships have implications for organizations and individuals well beyond SFC. The SFO has not been noted for the speedy resolution of some  enquiries  but speed is essential in this case.  

There is a lot weighing in the balance for a man who has shied away from publicity throughout his long life and is now in the incandescent glare of media searchlights in his twilight years. Nothing will ever be the same again. The financial genie is out of the bottle, no matter how much he is a financial genius and no matter what transgressions, if any, may have occurred. With it has gone some hard earned credibility, the currency of investment confidence.

Most will sincerely hope that the Hubbard cupboard is neither bare nor devoid of appropriate documentation. Even if it turns out that, like most of us, he has feet of clay, many will still hold that Allan Hubbard should have been subject to statuary not statutory management and that the man deserves his own plinth.  He’d be too modest to accept it, or the rich dainties of the 1805 version:

This wonderful dog
Was Dame Hubbard’s delight,
He could read, he could dance,
He could sing, he could write;
She gave him rich dainties
Whenever he fed,
And erected this monument
When he was dead.

 #BLINKS 
 SFO targets Allan Hubbard | The National Business Review – New
Bernard Hickey talks about the SFO probe into Allan Hubbard  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ppvBNDVm2w&feature=related Vid Timelapse footage of the clouds swirling around Aorangi/Aoraki/ Mt.Cook
Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World  Vid  The most moving musical creation I have seen in years.” Gord Miller

#Lyall Lukey 7 July 2010
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz


Teachers Pay-Thinking outside the soapbox

May 16, 2010

“… the committee considers that teaching is a profession and that teachers are, and should be encouraged to regard themselves as, members of a profession.”  1978 Marshall Report 

“We have a mandate from… teachers who have said they want us to look at planning for industrial action if faced with the prospect of nothing but clawbacks from the Government….”    Kate Gainsford, PPTA President   Press 15 May 2010 

“Industrial action”? In the post-industrial 21st Century?

By largely middle-class  tertiary educated people who have climbed their way out of whatever blue collar lifestyles their families may once  have  had?

By an occupational group whose salaries have done quite well  (not before time) in the last decade, thank you, and which hasn’t  suffered a loss of  income over the last three years  through reduced overtime or the casualisation or loss of their jobs, unlike many of the parents of the children they teach?  (Unless, of course,  they also taught one  of the Community Education courses now canned).

According to international studies such as PISA, New Zealand has one of the most effective education systems in the world.  The  albeit graying cohort of professional teachers  has  played a large part in this success.  But one has to ask the question: is this comparative success in spite of,  or because of,  the rhetoric of the self-styled teacher unions?  

Before negotiations begin tomorrow on secondary school salaries the PPTA’s President Kate Gainsford has predictably announced that a strike plan was already being worked on.  While the last time secondary teachers went on strike was in 2001/2 during a 16 month battle with the government, which led to three one day strikes,  there have been several strike threats in the meantime, for example over salaries in 2007  and now once again over remuneration.

The PPTA is employing the same political reflexes and flexing of muscles rather than minds that it used in the almost decade of annual surpluses inherited by the last Labour government. But the economic context has changed dramatically. There may be some silver clouds on the horizon as well as gold in the Coromandel, but neither can be gainsaid. The budget larder is pretty bare, as the patient English has been pointing out for some time,  in a  futile effort to dampen public sector salary expectations.

Collective pay negotiations are the raison d’etre of the PPTA and the reason why the advocates of bulk funding in the nineties were stomped on in the resulting  political ruckus*.  But if all is fair in love, war and negotiations it may also be counterproductive in the long run if it damages professional credibility.

In 1978, the year of the Marshall Report, I left teaching after a 12 year secondary classroom career, interspersed with secondments for teacher recruiting and a teaching fellowship at UC, partly because the PPTA, of which I had been an active member, was about to embark on its first strikes.  

In the eighties the Association soon managed to rival the Cooks and Stewards Union for the predictability and unpopularity of its threatened or actual strikes and stopwork meetings-not that they were ever strikes in the classic long-term absence from the chalkface sense. It was three strikes but they were never really out.

As somebody who, as a student working in the freezing works from 1959 to 1963,  had watched the standover tactics of the freezing workers union (“all those in favour say ‘aye’,  scabs ‘no'”), and who had written a history thesis in 1965 on Industrial Conflict in New Zealand 1951 to 1961, I thought teachers should use more articulate ways of engaging the public and winning the public relations war  than open votes on “industrial action” which were wide open to group think and intimidation. I still do.

Anachronistic language and inappropriate political behaviour devalues the professional standing of teachers and turns off many natural allies, especially if it is irrelevant rhetoric that  the real industrial unions themselves no longer employ. Some of it would have made real industrial battlers like John A. Lee, on a real soap box, turn pink with embarrassment. 

The EMPU, New Zealand’s largest private sector union, understands that its success as a union is inextricably linked to the performance of the enterprise and the whole economy. Its leaders have to take a whole systems view and be aware of the hard realities of a volatile economy, not just look at one side of the equation out of context. To be credible  the EMPU can’t afford to act like an emu- or emulate the ostrich.

By way of contrast, the teachers’ unions are running some  ineffective we’ll-bring-our-own-crowd protests over issues like National Standards which address the converted, rather than the issues, and miss the opportunity for engaging the wider public in an informed debate.  These campaigns miss the bus entirely and alienate popular opinion.

In Finland there has been a revaluation of the public’s estimation of the teaching profession, brought about by tougher entry standards and a cross-the sectors consensus of the role of education and training in a fast evolving society. This forward-looking approach is demonstrated by the way Nokia has shifted its focus from pulp and paper to cellphone communication technology.

The Nokia knock-on effect runs deeply through other parts of the Finnish economy and is well understood by Finland’s education leaders who would be hard pushed to understand the strategy and tactics employed by education union leaders in New Zealand in their approach to the triennial negotiation ritual.

But then, as the negotiating spoof below shows*, subtlety is not a prerequisite to getting into the negotiating team of either side in any negotiation nor a skill necessarily employed in the actual negotiations.

At least this year the teacher pay talks will feature an interesting contest between performance and skills based elements which may introduce a long overdue meritocratic dimension to counter pockets of entrenched mediocrity.

 #Lyall Lukey 16 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

 *Blinks

 http://www.teachersmatter.org.nz/ 

 http://youtube.com/watch?v=WMl4kYmkx94   Puppets not Muppets: good faith negotiation?

 http://youtube.com/watch?v=85NF9NnHRBo&feature=related  The Top 10 Moves of Ruckus


Key and Letterman-great late showing

September 26, 2009

“…[New Zealand] my favourite country in the world to which I have not  been”.        David Letterman 

On Thursday night’s Late Show with David Letterman  the alphabetical host needed  large prompt cards, the autocue and a very audible assistant.  He still had more miscues than a chalkless (and occasionally clueless) billiards cue. He semed to have something else on his mind.*

 His guest, New Zealand Prime Minister  John Key, a numberman in a former life, just needed the autocue for enumerating  The Reasons You Should Visit New Zealand , counting down from 10. The numerical snooker shots (all black), were carefully set up near each pocket and Key potted them in an affably tradesman-like  fashion, without once missing his cue.

OK, the  lines fed to him by Letterman’s gag writers were not great, but this wasn’t a platform for genuinely genius Kiwi humour of the Conchords kind. Key came across well and delivered in what is a high pressure goldfish bowl.

The Late Show set is trapped in a seventies time warp. Had it been even a nineties Clive James Live show there would have been photos and video clips of the Wonderland Letterman referred to. The focus on the PM and not NZ visuals could have gone either way. Initially a little nervous, his genuine smile and his refusal to take himself too seriously complemented the world weary and wooden  Letterman.

Whether or not viewers remember the PM’s name, the words “New Zealand” and the fluffy fuzzies will spark new neuronal activity in 4 million plus US viewers and flow through to new tourist, convention and business action for New Zealand downstream. This is timely new energy for Key’s Tourism portfolio.

The  “20 hours travel time”  was, of course,  flogged to death.  The USA is as far away from New Zealand as we are from them, but attraction and motivation can overcome the time challenge.  

I recently hosted two NASA visitors who had been persuaded by NASA colleague and futurist Dr Jack Bacon* to detour through Christchurch en route from Houston to Tokyo to attend a high level systems strategies meeting.  Jack had been on our speakers’ circuit a year ago (and a fortnight ago completed another speaking tour here with Kathy) and convinced his colleagues to visit).  All three would endorse No 1 on Key’s top 10 list: “Unlike most of the world, we still like Americans.”

The mix of old and new media messages and this sort of word of mouth endorsement lifts the game up into new levels of business tourism. The 4 minute YouTube clip* gives the promo legs and creates potential links to The Great Kiwi Invite and other  on-line tourist promotion assets.*

Getting on  The Late Show may be an undignified Prime Ministerial pursuit in the eyes of the sniffy, but the 4 minute slot was a great free commercial. It suited Key’s persona and style.  The premeditated sponteneity worked and Key delivered, even if some of the references to Cinnabon and Lohan may have drawn the same bemused and bewildered response among Kiwi viewers, not the Prime Minister’s  prime audience, as tongue in cheek No 5  among Americans: “Get the whanau together, stay in a bach, crack open the chilly bin and slap on your jandals.”   (Cynical exponents of the cheap crack would no doubt say that that’s the only word many would recognise.)

Number 4 was: Visit in the next 30 days, I’ll pick you up at the airport.”  Swapping Cabinet for a cab?  Taxis would be a refreshing change from taxes, but the lead time for most new travellers will be a little longer, so don’t turn the meter on just yet.

Footnote: There’s also a coincidental  bonus (though that word is out of favour in NY while President  Obama is in town).  As well as achieving his main aim purpose of getting on the Late Show early, the PM finds that he can also fit in a flying visit to the UN and do a stand up turn.  He faces a smaller and more challenging audience, especially if Helen Clark slips in, and he’ll get a little less stage time than the 90 minutes the Libyan leader  highjacked the other day, but it’s still worthwhile doing while he’s in town.

Two big bites of the Big Apple and lots of other good video ops like meeting President Obama and being belle of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange!  If he can make it there, He’d make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York.

To save more travel costs he could even stay with the whanau at the temporary Libyan tent village which has been erected near by, complete with nubile security and,  unlike some hotels, running water. 

However,  if he uses this pipe opener at his UN gig  “Have  you heard the one about how we scotched the rumours about why Kiwi bagpipers were invited to play at Colonel Gaddafi’s  4oth anniversary?”  he  might get a chilly reception. 

 At least no one could accuse him of Brown nosing.

 *BLINKS

John Key on David Letterman Top 10 List 2009 Sept

The Great Kiwi Invite

http://www.drjackbacon.com/  

Lyall Lukey 26/9/09  http://www.lukey.co.nz/   http://www.smartnet.co.nz/