Posts Tagged ‘ Australia ’

NZ Defense review starts with whimper, Australia’s ends with bang

It’s interesting to see the contrasts between the New Zealand Defense review (which is underway) and the just completed Australian Defense White Paper released today.

Our defense review started on a somewhat underwhelming note. The most controversial issue being the idea of leasing land off private companies, an idea that appeals until you consider the practicalities and why you’d bother – it’s hardly going to save money in the long term if you already own the land. Mostly the talk was about cutting back, although there’s stuff all to actually cut back. There was no talk of possible threats, or the need to at least be seen by allies like the USA of taking of defense seriously.

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

The Australian’s in typical robust style and going to spend more – and this is a Labour led Government. The Australian paper wasn’t shy about identifying China’s “unexplained military build-up” as a cause for concern in the Pacific. They also recognised the need to at least be able to offer a serious deterrent to possible adversaries, while acknowledging that they would still need to work with the USA.

The white paper offers an opportunity for New Zealand – we get a specific mention. Our review should consider how we can dovetail our defense planning more closely with Australia. They are planning to build a lot of the new capability in Australia. This could offer opportunities to purchase the same equipment, and surely there must be opportunities for business in New Zealand? 

Surely we need to be bolder than the piece meal approach we have historically had. There is every indication that this Government will take defense no more seriously than previous ones. If we aren’t going to be too concerned with it, why not just become a virtual wing of the Australian Defense Forces. Do the same things they are, but on a significantly smaller scale. Buy exactly the same equipment at the same time from the same suppliers, communication, guns, hardware, ships, tanks… exactly the same stuff. Rebuild our air strike force with a few F 35’s they are planning to buy (if we’re allowed) maybe we could lease some from Australia as part of a defense pact.

If we are looking at selling land and leasing it back, how about the same approach for everything else?

Why not approach the Australians on the basis that we will develop our own defense force, but almost as part of theirs. Contract training from them for planes, tanks, ships etc, on the same equipment which we will purchase – work with them on maintenance for equipment, some aircraft done here, some in Australia, same with boats. We could form a close defense pact that allows for our Independence, but with complete interoperability and identical equipment.

We should accept we are a small bit player, I’m sure everyone does already, and embrace it. We should aim to be able to completely seamlessly work with Australia. This gives us a narrow focus and something that allows politicians to focus on more interesting things. It could be adopted in a bipartisan fashion so it’s becomes a policy a bit like the Reserve Bank Act or (possibly) Kiwi Saver. It is just something the Defense Forces can get on with.

When it comes down to it, the majority of Australia’s concerns in the Defense paper are perfectly aligned to what ours should be. The concern about protecting our Pacific interests  should be the same. To simply adopt their review, taking into account our budget constraints, and sit down with them and align our equipment and logistics makes sense.

John Key has shown some vision and creativity in dealing with things since being elected. Maybe this is a chance to put our defense on a new path for the coming years. 

fush n chups… so what’s the fuss?

060217_kiwi

Looking for some chups

It’s interesting (for me) that’s there’s been such a fuss over a blog that doesn’t say too much, but what is does is pretty accurate.

Having just returned from a week in Sydney I’ve been mulling over the differences between Auckland and Sydney – and there an so many.

I’m not talking about infrastructure, which is better in Sydney, it’s the people. In so many ways Sydney feels like Auckland – sprawling leafy green suburbs, it’s built around a harbour so there’s plenty of sea, and the climates are sort of similar.

But the difference that struck me was how much more friendly people seem… Continue reading

John Key inconsistent over Swazi Apparel

nzwars

I say chaps, that's not one of those new Chinese cannons is it?

Barely a week ago our PM was making noises about bailing out Fisher & Paykel because “they are iconic”. 

If it was bad enough that somehow being “iconic” entitled a business to Government largess, F&P manufactures a large portion of their product overseas mainly in China, re-branded their “cheaper lines for New Zealand” ‘Elba’ – presumably we’re too poor here now for the ‘upmarket’ F&P products – and by their own admission, they are really an international company.

Continue reading

Japanese attempt to ‘save face’ on whaling

The latest twist in the Japanese whaling saga seems to be about the Japanese ‘giving up’ doing something it shouldn’t be doing anyway, and then being allowed to legitimately do something it’s doing already, but in a different place.

Essentially the Japanese Whaling lobby are offering to cease whaling in the South Pacific in return for being able to take an unspecified number of whales in the North Pacific.

If you understand a bit about Japanese culture and business negotiations this looks a lot like a face saving proposal.

nissanmaru_2007125115922I think the Japanese Whaling lobby and their supporters within the Japanese Government and IWC have realised they are losing the battle for ‘hearts and minds’ both internationally and at home.

It is likely that in five years or so the Japanese whaling lobby’s intransigence and endless subsidies will wear very thin with the Japanese tax payer, and they already know that international public opinion is very much against them. 

With the economic outlook grim, the Japanese Government will be wanting to cut costs where it can to prop up public spending to mitigate the economic slump. Whaling is not only a waste of money, but it’s clearly annoying Japanese allies and international public opinion, so it would make sense to quietly seek a compromise that avoids the damaging publicity it is currently suffering, while saving the subsidies it pays to the industry.

Personally I credit Sea Shepherd for this desperate attempt to seek a compromise before it gets so bad they are forced into a publicly humiliating back down – something Japanese take very badly.

The endless bad publicity and the clumsy attempts by the Japanese Whaling lobby to frame their industry as ‘reserch’ (by painting the words in English “Research” on the sides of their whaling industries vessels) and wooden PR campaign have ruined any credibility they may have had.

Their defenders in the ‘West’ are usually Japanophiles that perform some curious displays of logic contortion to justify Japanese ‘rights’ t hunt whales in the South Pacific based on flimsy cultural grounds. Hell, if the Japanese want to go and hunt a few whales off their coast with traditional wooden boats and harpoons, be my guest. Huge factory ships with myriad support vessels, spotter boats, and factory ships isn’t ‘cultural’ it’s economic exploitation.

New Zealand, Australia and the other ‘anti’ whaling block members on the IWC should see the Japanese overtures for what they are, an attempt to save face and retain some form of whaling based on the realisation that in five years even their current program will be so unpopular they will be forced to loose face by backing down completely.

The answer to this current proposal and any other like it, should be ‘NO’. 

Let Japanese continue it’s publicly damaged ‘research’ missions in the South Pacific, and let groups like Sea Shepherd oppose them, this is the surest way to close down this industry for good.

Countdown Supermarkets being transformed into Woolworths Australia?

I’m not sure whether many people know this, but Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown are owned by Progressive, which is owned by Woolworths Australia.

I’m guessing the mishmash of brands is due to the three chains being picked up at different times, and I think Woolworths NZ is distantly related to Woolworths UK as is the Aussie version.

It now looks like Progressive is cleaning up these brands.

Woolworths and Foodtown have traditionally been their upmarket brands (i.e. charge more) and Countdown the cheap and cheerful brand, competing directly with Pak’n’Save part of the locally owned co-op Foodstuffs. I’m a bit hazy about this, so I might be corrected but I think Progressive kept the brands separate because of Commerce Commission concerns about the lack of competition when they picked up Foodtown. How keeping the brands separate was going to achieve competition I can’t work out, it may have been more of a cosmetic difference, but it looks like Progessive now think the time is right for a clean up, possibly because they are lining themselves up to buy The Warehouse.

The first step has been the gradual disappearance over the last month of some Foodtowns, which are being replaced with Countdowns. This may seem a bit odd because, for example, the Greenlane Foodtown which serviced a relatively upmarket area, made sense and replacing it with a budget brand doesn’t. That’s until you go inside. The new fit-outs that accompany the rebranding are a carbon copy of the Aussie Woolworths stores – wider aisles, new deli sections etc – quite unlike the Countdowns, or the Foodtowns.

The produce sections have introduced the same layout and Aussie style black crate system unique to Woolworths Australia, which may seem unremarkable to the consumer, but is a major shift for the NZ market which already has a ‘universal’ returnable crate system.

The most interesting thing about the changes (if indeed this is interesting, because I’m sure some of you have already slipped into a coma) is the actual logo changes. I can’t find any examples of the new logo for Countdown online, but it is striking in that it looks like the same colour scheme as Woolworth Australia.

There’s also been an increase in Australian Woolworths goods instore with their branding – a pleasant step up from the rubbish looking house brands they use in NZ which shouts ‘CHEAP & NASTY’ at you from the shelves. I suspect that in NZ the supermarkets have a team of five-year-old’s with crayons doing the house branding because almost without exception they seemed to have entirely missed the point of branding. People might like to buy cheap goods, but it doesn’t mean they have to look cheap!

I’m wondering if this is part of a stealth campaign to eventually rebrand all Progressives NZ stores as Woolworths (Australian) stores. You might ask why they would not just do it, or why they haven’t done it already? after-all there would be some very sensible synergies and cost savings long term from doing this. I suspect the (possible) stealth comes from the sensitivity around the lack of competition in the supermarket business in NZ, it’s an effective duopoly, and all the cute legal arguments in the world about different supermarket brands don’t change that. For any supermarket to stick their heads up is going to draw fire from the Commerce Commission, Consumers Institute etc and lead to a whole lot of publicity they don’t want as anything that reminds people about the limited competition is not good.

I might be entirely wrong, but the similarities are striking, and it will be interesting to see how it shapes up over the next twelve to eighteen months.

IKEA kitchen import

As I have previously mentioned, I imported an Ikea kitchen (and bathroom) into NZ from Australia.

A month on from completion (barring the tiling) I thought I would update everyone on the experience.

There have only been two problems so far…

1/. We didn’t put any oil for the oak tops in the container, I’d had enough of Ikea after spending two days in there and I figured my partner could pick up a can next time she was over in Australia. In theory this was fine, but she declared the can when she was checking in and they wouldn’t allow it on the flight and odds on they would have picked it up when checking luggage – it’s flamable.

So no oil. I thought that shouldn’t be a problem, finding some food grade oil for a wooden kitchen top should be easy right? Well no, it’s actually not been that easy at all. None of the easily available oils – Tung, Linseed, etc are not food grade, in fact they are toxic.

In the end I found an oil online, ‘Osmo Top Oil‘, sold by Natural Oils Ltd. You just brush a couple of layers onto the surface and it absorbs into the wood so there’s not visible layer and like the oil Ikea supplies. It’s not cheap but I only used a tiny bit and you need to keep doing it every now and again. This was the only oil I could find that was food safe.

2/. Dishwasher. The Bravad range sink unit allows for a concealed dishwasher, there is a front supplied for it so it all matches up. I guess this is because Ikea sell a whirlpool dishwasher that fits perfectly into the unit. Over here however that’s not so easy, or cheap. The only concealed dishwashers were $1300 plus so we just used our existing one which fits fine. 

So if you’re bringing over a pallet or container with some Ikea units, put a can of oil in there and spend the extra money and put the dishwasher in as well.

Everything else has been fine. Plumbing was a breeze.

As far as Ikea coming to Auckland, sorry people, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen until the population hits at least two million, get busy making babies!

Here’s a couple of photo’s of completed kitchen, almost, expelair just needs to go up…

 

NZ Backdoor to Australia?

Proposed ANZAC Flag

I see that there has been some grumbling about the numbers that show some recent immigrants to New Zealand are disappearing off to Australia.

I don’t see what the fuss is about, a lot of NZ born New Zealanders are taking off to Australia as well.

It’s really only very recently that people stopped over-selling NZ as an immigration destination, possibly this might have coincided with the tighter management of immigration consultants, but buried on the Immigration Services web site is this very frank assessment of NZ as a potential new home…

http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/settlementpack/

A lot of immigrants have previously been given a pretty rosy picture of life here, and given that many of them are economic migrants, business and job opportunities are obviously an important part of what is a major decision. This is the area where we are a bit lacking in dynamism, and the Australians aren’t.

You can hardly blame people who have already uprooted their families once, not to do it again if they think their prospects are better over the ditch, and clearly a lot of ‘native’ New Zealanders feel the same way given the high numbers making a permanent move.

Instead of having a big bleat about it and blaming the immigrants, we need to look at the reasons and how we can make New Zealand an more attractive place not just for recent immigrants but for the thousands of New Zealanders who disappear every month.

We can’t do much about the weather unfortunately, but global warming might fix that long term, but we can do something about the general economy.

We have gone from being ahead of Australia to well behind them. We need to seriously look at our taxes system comparison to Australian rates, and making the country an economic power house in the region, instead of a back water.  Tax is really the one area we can do something about, by taking the same approach as Ireland (and I know we don’t have the subsidies coming the other way) by setting some highly competitive tax rates for business that create high tech, high value service focused jobs for the country.

This isn’t about ceding control or cultural identity to Australia, it’s about looking at our future and how we can put ourselves in a strong position globally. Even if it were to end up as NZ becoming another state of Australia, we would still retain our unique culture just a states in the USA do. It won’t be an entire solution and like everything has it’s disadvantages. As a medium sized but lightly populated country we already have lost control of huge parts of our economy (if we ever really had control) so in fact becoming part of a wider union wouldn’t be nearly as painful as people think.

The other option is to vigorously pursue closer economic ties with Australia starting with the currency. Our legal system and a increasing amount of regulation is done in partnership with Australia.

Maybe it does require a bit of boldness on this issue – tinkering on the edges won’t change anything – a seismic shift in the relationship with our closest neighbour is what’s needed. It’s whether any political party has the guts to kick off the debate on this issue?

It’s one that will become more important as globalisation grows, and one we need to confront, better to be prepared and have debated the issues than have our heads in the sand on it. We’ve been left behind by Australia because of a myopic world view, it’s time that we started to take a look at what’s going on and open a debate on the issue.