Without fear or favour Peter Isaac tip toes through political correctness and our Five Questions
Dec 24, 2017 - Where do you see the mainstream media now? In a rather stronger position than it appears to see itself. There are the revenue shifts in which their giveaway versions are flourishing especially in property advertising. Similarly the broadcasters have a solid localised radio backbone via carrying advertising for patent medicines, directed at those of mature years, their audience base.
Meguerditch Bouldoukian is considered in the West the leading Arabic-language authority on banking in the Middle East. He now takes our Five Questions on the pending flotation of Aramco and the economic circumstances in which it will take place……
The Saudis appear to have valued Aramco at US$2 trillion. Western commentators have claimed that it is over valued?
The issue of valuation of a company in investment banking criteria has more than six methods. We can say here though that if the two or more sides agree on a method to value ARAMCO then we can wish them good luck. From a conservative approach to the most liberal, its market capitalization is reported to extend from $1.5 trillion to $10 trillion.
Sinister frenzy flourishes due to the failure of ruling classes, ecclesiastics, politicians, educators to purge it ---- Establishment now powerless and swept along helplessly with the vengeful and resentful mob
Gordon Strong is Britain’s leading commentator on Arthurian legend and mythology. He routinely lectures on the subject in the United States and Australasia and was recently the subject of a National Geographic Discovery series. Mr Strong, who lives near Glastonbury, is also an authority on the way in which the atavistic characteristics popularly supposed to exist only in ancient myth and superstition exist today and occur all around us now but in a different form and under a different description. His particular area of applied study is in recurring mass hysteria and its causes and effects. He is the author of the just-published book Consciousness & Imagination in which he reveals the reasons founded in timeless superstition that underpin so many eerie events today. Gordon Strong (pictured) now answers Five Questions on Britain’s current bout of moral frenzy
If we look at these developments in terms of a witch hunt, then this one has been running for longer than most?
The most famous of these in relatively modern times was, of course, the events surrounding the Witches of Salem and this is worthy of note because the state governor simply put an end to the affair by decree. Now and in in this current outbreak we find that no establishment representative can come forward and say, in effect “so far- and no further,” simply because the establishment has been so closely identified with this incendiary issue and its continuation. The BBC is one such entity. It cannot take up a moderating role just because it is so closely identified with the outbreak in the case of the broadcasting entertainer Jimmy Savile. This of course then became compounded as the BBC drew in Sir Cliff Richard. Whether the BBC chairman could have been relied upon for any impartial view is a matter for conjecture. It is almost impossible to identify any inherent bias in the Corporation as the stance of the BBC continually alters, and almost arbitrarily so.
This outbreak has been an equal opportunity one with the highest in the land having been encompassed in its compounding hysteria?
Mass opinion, ‘the voice of the people,’ is always dangerous, and is so often hysterical. The once valued notion of common sense has disappeared from much of society. Being misinformed and ill-educated, few have the wit to act independently. We live in a society where the party line is upheld as the only view. This outbreak, it is true, has been remarkable for its duration and the way in which it has encompassed the entire nation and its spectrum from entertainers, through to politicians, and military leaders. That fact makes this current one so interesting from the point of view of students of myth and folklore and of course witchcraft. Let me give you an example of such an outbreak and a very recent one. It was in New Zealand in the form of the one in Christchurch which is outlined with such clarity in Lynley Hood’s work “A City Possessed.” This outbreak in terms of duration had a beginning, middle, and an end, and focussed on a clear cut situation centred on child care. It was though contained within Christchurch and did not engulf the whole nation. The fervour duration was limited to a comparatively short space of time
It is often stated by researchers such as yourself that these outbreaks in history occurred in response to some natural disaster such as a pestilence or a famine?
The nature of the God of the Old Testament as a ‘jealous’ deity may be relevant here. The desire to punish the wrongdoer is aligned to another contemporary manifestation, the blame culture. In this instance, the high profile and celebrity status of so many of those swept up in the current outbreak gives its own clue. There is an overwhelming notion that those who have received society’s greatest reward, in terms of power and appreciation, have somehow deceived them. The notion that these so-called celebrities were and are imposters, in other words. This impression has been fanned by the popular media which profits mightily from this kind of thing, even though, as we have just noted, it causes the problem in the first place by presenting the public with these false gods. That they have become fallen idols seems now almost inevitable.
So you see the British current hysteria as a modern outbreak of what has been going on since mediaeval times?
It is what has been going on since the beginning of recorded history. Something goes drastically wrong. It is only the form that changes. The implied thesis is that someone must pay the price. In the instance of the current United Kingdom outbreak one senses that politicians and their fellow media inspired celebrities have somehow reneged on their promise to make Britain a better place. People are being told that they have never had it so good. But one does not have to be a seer to comprehend that a vast proportion of the adult population is very disappointed about their lot in general. So in the gulf, the vacuum, in between what was promised either directly or implicitly and what has in fact come to pass is the need to topple these false prophets. Public figures are always vulnerable, and ironically their very prominence makes them an easy target for persecution.
Many people see the most sinister aspect of this current and sustained outbreak is that anyone can officially accuse anyone and the accused are tarred for life?
‘Operation Yewtree’, the code name for the operation to entrap the supposed wrongdoers was only partially successful. Of those arrested, only half of that number were eventually found guilty. In the light of that knowledge it all seems a questionable procedure. There was also a flagrant disregard of one of the most ancient of legal precepts, mentioned in Magna Carta. The adage referring to ‘presumption of innocence’ as well as ‘justice must not be delayed’ was ignored. This is the most chillingly atavistic element of the current situation and this does take us back to mediaeval times when this naming/shaming, as we would now call it, phenomenon began to be recorded in detail. Someone has a grudge against someone - so they are exposed. In the electronic era we have this multiplier. Some aggrieved person is able to identify someone they have never even met, but have somehow cultivated a deep antipathy toward what they represent. In former times an authority figure could, by virtue of the trust they embodied and thus the authority vested in them, call a halt to these outbreaks. But the current nominal repositories of such trust and confidence have become so diminished that they stay silent. The reason is that they know that the hysteria is beyond their control, and because they are fearful that by drawing attention to themselves they will somehow become embroiled also. I include in this category, ecclesiastics, politicians, educators, and in British terms, the ruling class.
Risk dimension is for the very few only insists New Zealand innovator
Lance Lissette is often considered in New Zealand the longest continuously operating figure in electronics, telecommunications, and information technology. In the past he has been willing to talk in public only about his numerous sporting activities. Now, though, he focuses on his commercial career and answers our Five Questions......
You are one of the last, perhaps even the last, of the electronics entrepreneurs from the 1970s-80s era still operational today. How did you get your start?
For many years I was associated as a dealer with radio pioneer Angus Tait. In 1983 I sold my dealership business to Philips. So you could say that I had the good fortune to start pretty much where I intended to finish up, which is with the major league.
This was the era of two-way radio and you are remembered, not surprisingly, as a vocal supporter of two-way.
I was. To some degree I still am. There is such a thing as negative progress. Two way radio was clear cut. It was easily managed by depot control. In contrast the cell phone with all its increasingly numerous options can easily lead to confusion and information overload. Two-way was dedicated to the business at hand. Cellular by definition handles many threads. A piece of entrepreneurial trade craft though is levering off a fading technology and into the new one- which we accomplished as we made the transition into the wider sphere of IT.
You convinced Telecom of the virtues of two-way at a time when cellular was already making inroads?
I did. I went into partnership with Telecom, as it was then known, under the banner of Telecom Fleetlink, and for many years the clarity and uncluttered efficiency of two way radio was there for everyone to see in terms of the freight and parcels delivery industry. Then we went over fully to cellular and we did so and in a rather spectacular way. We went into a joint venture with the Allen Corporation of the United States to install Telecom’s cellular infrastructure. Allen later bought us out and the joint venture became the basis of their cellular infrastructure work in both New Zealand and Australia.
You are known to have firm views on the role in society, at all levels, of the entrepreneur?
Thank you for asking. I most certainly do. I am horrified by the government for example calling for more people to be entrepreneurs. I believe it is shameful for people who are supposed to be in a position of responsibility such as at universities touting courses and education programmes for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Most people sensibly do not want to become entrepreneurs. I never recommend what I do to anyone at all. Why? Because an entrepreneur at any given moment can lose everything they have. The lot.
What are you doing now?
Creating jobs across New Zealand and North America with a simple yet basic product line that at this stage I have no intention to reveal to you. Why am I still out there, and at my stage of life? Because my long experience tells me that I have an essential attribute without which any other skills that I may possess are insufficient to bring anything to fruition. I am talking of luck.
Five Question for UK vicar in British Industrial Heartland .........
Reverend Graham Sawyer (pictured) is well known in New Zealand as a BBC commentator, educator, and cleric. He is now a vicar currently based in the north of England. He now answers our Five Questions ....
1. You have been a Parliamentary candidate -and now you are a man of the cloth. Is the approach to religious extremism by the various authorities the correct one?
No. The response has been to create a climate of fear and to suggest that the "government" is protecting us. In fact, the cause of extremism is flawed foreign policy and economic colonialism e.g. the meddling in the Middle East by Blair and Bush. Rather than seeking to look at the causes of extremism the response by governments is to fuel the fear caused by extremists and thereby seek to give pseudo-legitimacy to the Western governments' failed foreign policies.
2. There is this constant call from leaders of all stripe to separate the terrorism from the underpinning religion?
The vast majority of people of faith are peace-loving and have peace at the centre of their religion. Terrorists of any kind will always take refuge in a book to justify their behaviours e.g. a religious or political text. Modern day fascists in Germany revert to Hitler's writings as much as some revolutionary Communists will revert to Marx. Those with a religious background will use a religious book for similar although dishonest purposes.
3. It is said that the three religions of the book at various historical times endure the throes of some kind of extremism or such zealotry. Are we witnessing this kind of surge now?
We are but it is always present. Think of the Crusades and also Christian biblical justifications from St Paul's writings for resisting the abolition of slavery. Christians have killed far more Muslims than the other way round in the name of Christianity. All religions of the book have parts of their scriptures that can easily be turned to give false legitimacy to extremist behaviour.
4. Do you go along with the theory that the present convulsions, now so evident on the streets of Western cities, represent in effect a striving for religious purity, pretty much regardless of where the victims originated, or, indeed, of their religion?
No. The real problem is the resurgence of nationalism as a result of frustrations with globalisation and austerity concomitant with the failure of capitalism. Think of the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War and the huge reparations inflicted upon Germany - these were the seeds of the Nazi rise to power. See today with the resurgence of fascism in Greece. So-called religious purity comes and goes but is often used by political opportunists.
5. Do you go along with the notion that Western governments are hampered in this matter, whatever its cause, by their need to appease their own doctrinal left wings?
No. Capitalism is the driving force. The un-elected European Union bureaucrats and economists dictate everything and it is the same in other developed countries (New Zealand is a very extreme example). The failure of their policies is causing the potential disintegration of the EU and the resurgence of nationalism and hence fascism in the West e.g. Greece, Hungary etc.
From MSCNewsWire's European Corespondent: Laurence Davis is a by-word in London for fine living and his dealings with Cuba have bestowed on him an aura in the UK redolent of that conjured up by fellow Briton the novelist Graham Greene. The façade of Sautter of Mount Street remains among London’s most famous hallmark store-fronts. For cigar afficionados the Mayfair store is the ultimate destination of any vintage pilgrimage. MSC Newswire entered this high temple of connoisseurship and posed Five Questions to Mr Davis who is pictured outside his store. .
You were among the first to import regularly from Cuba?
We have been dealing with Cuba on and off for 60 years, importing directly certain things but mainly through an importer. We import cigars and rum.
How effective do you believe now were the various US embargoes against the Castro regime?
The US inspired embargo led to a big grey market trade and the quality buyers from the USA have been coming to my stores for years.
As an eyewitness how do you rate the changes since the death of Fidel Castro?
Since the death of Fidel the promise of closer relationships with Cuba has already cooled with President Trump. The effects though are that there is a huge influx of Middle America visiting Cuba. I have to say that though that the quality for visitors of the cigars brought through the shops out there is inferior to the English market selection.
Cuba is still an exotic port of call for tourists?
Cuba is a fantastic tourist destination with many facets of culture communism and some of the most beautiful architecture anyone can hope to see anywhere and which the population enjoys as part of its daily life rather than as set aside monuments and other such museum-pieces of the past. I suggest that Cuba is visited now before globalisation destroys it in the form of the introduction of Starbucks, McDonalds and the numerous American hotel chains.
Do you envisage Cuba as a worthwhile target for intensive New Zealand trade promotion, development?
In practical terms, I think it is very difficult for smaller economies like Cuba to develop anything beyond niche product trade with any nation so far removed from its trade routes.
| From the MSCNewsWire European correspondent || Friday 9 June 2017 |||
Ground floor opening for the state to back IT manufacturing lost. Progeni’s Perce Harpham explains what went wrong...
During the 1980s Australasia’s version of Silicon Valley was New Zealand’s Hutt Valley. Here, a coalition of public and private enterprises had anticipated the screen graphic presentation techniques that would later become standard fixtures. At the forefront of these developers was Progeni led by Perce Harpham (above). Progeni had developed its desk top computer for the global marketplace. It needed just one thing which was a local user base in education. But Apple, whose Steve Wozniak was a constant presence in the Hutt Valley of that era, was also knocking on the class-room door...........Five questions now for Perce Harpham....
As you look now at the immense scattering of public funds in the general direction of encouraging technological innovation, you must feel increasingly disappointed at the failure of the government to encourage your educational application desk top computer, leaving the field open to Apple among others?
The development of the Poly computer system was disappointing on many fronts. The idea for a special purpose computer was conceived by two gifted lecturers in Wellington Polytech. It was accepted by the Education Department. The Government's Development Finance Corporation was charged with doing the sort of job that NASA does with space travel - namely bringing together New Zealand resources to make it happen. Just for once it appeared that NZ was going to do something right in the technology field by taking a problem which we had here and developing a solution for the world market.
The Development Finance Corporation invited us to form a joint venture with them to do the job. The idea was that the Joint Venture would develop the systems software and the hardware, the Education Department would develop the courses and use them in NZ while the JV would make the computers and market them with the courses overseas. DFC said they had cast iron arrangements with Government to buy 1000 machines per year for five years if they met the practical requirements of the Department.
My company, Progeni, then provided highly capable professionals to develop the system including all sorts of innovations, some 30 companies supplied parts and manufactured circuit boards, and the specially designed the moulded cases and the like. Some 60 teachers gave up their Christmas holidays to develop demonstration courses for mathematics, music and all sorts of things where there was a need. We made some 70 machines which were trialled in class rooms. Massey University evaluated the results. They were highly successful and more than met the conditions set down by the Department. The Government then welshed on the deal.
Warren Cooper later told me that he and his colleagues in the cabinet had decided that, and here I quote, " there was no point in spending Government money so that teachers could do even less work".
We bought out DFCs interest in the Joint Venture and tried to carry on. A number of schools then raised money and bought machines. I have been told that another cabinet minister had an investment in the Apple agency in NZ. Apple then was allowed to dump, and I use the word in its formal legal sense, its computers in NZ at about one quarter of their retail price. They targeted precisely our market and destroyed it for us.
We went to China and sold a few machines then built a new model handling Chinese characters. We were on the verge of some major sales when the Tiananmen Square incidents occurred and all the bankers suddenly thought anything to do with China was valueless. Our bank, the Bank of New Zealand, then twice had to be rescued from bankruptcy by the Government. We were the collateral damage. Almost a year after the receivers were appointed we had a major order from the Agricultural Bank of China. It had been delayed by Tiananmen and the company had been destroyed. But I managed to deliver part of the order from stocks that had been stored in China and purchased back from the universities we had given them to. But we were already dead.
Had the Government honoured its commitments New Zealand would have been a world leader in computer-based learning.
To what extent did the death of your chief technology officer Jean Claude de Verrier in the same Chicago DC10 disaster that took the life of Roger Estridge, point man for IBM’s pc development, harm the future of the Progeni desk top development?
Jean Claude de Verrier's (pictured below) death was a huge blow. It did not affect the development of the Poly computers. But it set back our US venture dramatically. Nonetheless it was going well before the receivers sold it to the management for a pittance. It has gone on to prosper as Progeni Inc with headquarters in Dallas. All of the people we transferred to the US who have not retired are still with it. See its website.
After your bid to persuade the Department of Education here to buy the Progeni desk-top, you turned to China. Were you worried at the time and subsequently about (a) copying, and (b) getting paid?
I can only add that one is always vulnerable to copying and you rely on staying ahead of the game so that your new innovations make the copies obsolete. There was never a problem about getting paid. When we went into receivership it was claimed in the press that it was because we had not been paid from China. This was completely untrue.
You pioneered in New Zealand the independent software development house, handling major governmental contracts along the way. How do you view nowadays public systems development and implementation?
I view Government handling of their computer developments as an unmitigated disaster. We formed a Joint venture with a US company to deliver the software for the Wanganui Computer System. We delivered it on time at the quoted fixed price, exceeded the specification, made a profit and paid tax on it. It lasted for 30 years.
In the meantime the Government let a contract to replace our law enforcement system. No NZ owned company made it onto the short list. It was let to IBM. The delivery was supposed to take about two years. After five years and $100,000,000 it was abandoned.
Many millions were spent having an American company develop a health system with no NZ input and it was then abandoned. I remember talking to the project manager nine months after they started. He had only just found out that we did not have the equivalent of the US Sprint telephone system in NZ and was having to redesign the communication system.
More recently Customs went to tender with a contract which essentially specifically excluded NZ companies. Companies like Orion have had to make major sales overseas before gaining any sales in NZ for their hospital systems. The payroll system let to an Australian company was a disaster. The IRD system, over $1,000,000, is being developed by an overseas company.
We are supposedly going to develop a high technology economy. Yeah right!
It is said within the IT industry that pioneers end up with arrows in their back. Is there anything you might have done differently, especially in regard to your international development which many, even at the time, regarded as audacious?
I would not chase Government work unless I was satisfied that we had a level playing field uncontaminated by a cringing belief that our New Zealand capabilities are necessarily inferior.
I would first work on local and overseas companies as well as overseas governments and state governments. The latter, like the NZ Government, want to know if you have delivered similar systems elsewhere but will look at your proposal in an unbiased fashion and the experience of your proposed project team. If this includes people (possibly one or two consultants) who have had the experience you lack as a company but are satisfied that your management is competent then you are in with a chance.
Five questions for ex United Nations Security Council President Terence O’Brien.
Few practitioners from any nation have enjoyed quite such an extended career at the heart of the global firmament as British-born diplomat Terence O’Brien (above). He was president of the Security Council of United Nations during the Balkans conflict. He was one of the principal access negotiators on behalf of New Zealand when Britain originally entered the European Common Market. He has occupied posts in London, Brussels, Bangkok and Geneva. He was the founding director of the Institute of Strategic Studies.
You have been an outspoken opponent of mixing trade with foreign affairs?
This is not strictly accurate. I take issue rather with the jargon that “all New Zealand foreign policy is trade” which is a holdover from earlier times and reflected today in a sense promoted by some New Zealand leaders, that NZ’s success and place in the world is to be judged primarily by the number of Free Trade Agreements that it is able to secure.
NZ’s modern experience especially in respect to emergent Asia proves emphatically that successful trade arrangements depend firstly and vitally upon sound political and diplomatic relationships (China is a prime but by no means solitary example). NZ’s accomplishments in Asia and indeed elsewhere rely in other words, upon earned trust with other governments. Fostering that trust is a political/diplomatic responsibility.
Predictable trade relationships require a great deal more than nimble private sector commercial skills- although those are indispensable of course to overall success and the New Zealand private sector plus NZ primary producer groups have been notably effective in this regard.
To what extent do you view the recent NZ sponsorship of the UN Israel censure as a development of this blend?
There may have been in the minds of some on the NZ side, the thought that sponsorship might earn credits in some Gulf States where NZ seeks to formalise free trade arrangements; but around the UNSC table there is genuine concern about the danger for the future of ‘two state solution’ to the Israel/Palestine conflict ,that has been the long established diplomatic basis for eventual peace. The present Israeli government appears openly to resile from this formula as it continues resolutely to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank, a practice deplored by the UN Security Council. From the moment it gained a place on the 2015-16 UNSC NZ committed itself to contributing to the search for progress on this key issue. Co-sponsorship of the eventual UNSC resolution which calls as well for Palestinians to desist from provocation and terrorism, was the logical consequence.
Looking back on your days as a dairy sector negotiator during Britain’s entry into the Common Market, how do you view Brexit now in terms of NZ diplomacy and trade?
From the perspective of a small, distant but companionable partner of Europe, Brexit appears to be a mistake. It comes too at a time when conservative populism is on the rise within Europe with the emergence of right wing nationalist political groups in several countries. Twentieth century experiences of European mistakes and miscalculations and their devastating global consequences, not once but twice, are not to be overlooked.
British entry into Europe was a taxing experience for NZ. The deals struck for safeguarding NZ trade interests represented a stay of execution rather than reprieve for this country . Within relatively short periods of negotiated transition the New Zealand farm economy was obliged to diversify production and markets. That process drove foreign policy extending NZ political and diplomatic interests to a wide range of new partners (in the Middle East, Communist Europe, Latin America and, most notably Asia) . It consolidated NZ as a genuine world trader with global interests. Global interests are inextricably bound up with global responsibilities even for small countries, and require contributions to global wellbeing and stability.
The process deepened NZ support for international rules based behaviour particularly in trade but also in directly related areas such as peace and security, freedom for transport and navigation, responsible behaviour in global environmental and resource protection and so forth. Because of the very nature of its own being the European Union (EU) has been a notable champion of an international rules based system. But the fact of BREXIT places a question mark over how influential a collective European voice will now be in the future. At a time when American commitment to global rules is questionable under a new inexperienced President Trump, the need for sustained collective European support for the system has never been greater. The foreseeable future suggests that New Zealand will crucially need the courage of its convictions.
How do you feel about the Helen Clark bid to be the UN Secretary General especially in regard to her role as an officer of the UN at the time?
The selection process for a new UN Secretary General in 2016 sought to break new ground - which is always difficult in the UN. Formal candidatures backed by governments and involving public job interviews were decreed for the first time in 70 years. Hitherto candidatures had been exclusively personal affairs and selection decided behind tightly held UN Security Council doors where the votes of the five permanent Council members (US, UK, France, Russia and China) were decisive. This time a new approach was defined in the interests of greater transparency and democracy in the selection process. It is stretching things somewhat to suggest those goals were achieved.
There was a general sentiment beforehand that the new appointee should be from Eastern Europe (which has never supplied a UN Secretary General ) and also be female (which would be a first). In the event neither aspiration prevailed and the choice, of a Portuguese male, was once again taken behind closed doors at the UNSC.
Helen Clark was a creditable candidate and the NZ government campaigned for her, but her success depended first and foremost upon her own efforts. She came as a candidate from within the ranks of the UN itself, but this is not without precedent (Kofi Annan one the most effective SGs, was a UN Secretariat employee). As head of the UN’s largest aid institution she was well known across a very wide number of UN member countries ( especially developing countries).The reasons for her lack of success will probably never be known in full. Her relatively poor showing in the straw polling of UN member countries before the final appointment, was an undeniable disappointment. The most that can be said is that she was a serious contender; and NZ can take some consolation from that.
What are your views on Russia and NZ’s participation in the US-EU trade embargo?
With Russia and NATO we are reaping what was sown. At the end of the Cold War there was an opportunity for the Americans and Europeans to consolidate a cooperative inclusive (of Russia) security system for a post CW Europe. The Soviet led Warsaw Pact subsided into oblivion which is what military alliances historically do when conflicts end, and/or the reason for their existence disappears. NATO in direct contrast did not. It was enlarged with new members, new bases installed and its boundaries extended into Russia’s borderlands - which for the US anyway potentially included Ukraine. But who was the adversary? An enfeebled Russia could do nothing but (as George Kennan amongst others warned) one could not rule out economic recovery by Russia and new leadership that objected to NATO expansion (which included into the affairs of the Middle East) and would push back. Enter Mr Putin, and so it has come to pass. His preemptive seizure of Crimea (where the Russian fleet has had a base for two centuries or so) is contrary to the international rule of law - but hardly surprising in the wake of western foolhardiness.
NZ should sustain a suitably detached policy position over present NATO-Russia. We do not have a dog in the fight. Russia does not threaten the US although Putin clearly intends that Russia be assertive and taken seriously internationally. Russian interference in the US electoral process may or may not have occurred. If it is proven Russians would presumably point to equivalent American policies in the name of “spreading democracy” in Russia ,its satellites, and including Ukraine. They are, on both sides, ‘pots calling kettles black’
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk | Monay 27 March 2017 |||
At large in the northern hemisphere Brent Marris of Waihopai Valley’s Marisco Vineyards answers Five Questions......
Brent Marris and his family have been part of Marlborough vineyards and wine making since the inception of the terroir and its associated appellation. In recent years the family has focused on developing in the Waihopai Valley its Marisco Vineyards and its marques The Ned & The Kings Series. We caught up with Brent Marris (pictured) in Europe........
What has been the impact of Brexit on your business?
The Brexit effect is huge and is due to the weak pound. Because we trade in UK pounds it has impacted on bottom line. A movement of approx 20%. Our fingers our crossed that it bounces back. Or, prices will have to go up, we fear. .
What are your hopes and/or fears for the in-progress NZ-EU trade agreement?
With the NZ-EU trade agreement it is simply that the closer we can get to reducing tariffs and other such charges the better. The more open freedom to do trade, the better from our point of view.
You have just been notably visible on the trade scene in London, and now we have found you at Prowein in Dusseldorf. How valuable are these trade fairs to New Zealand exporters and as a long time exhibitor can you spell out some dos and don’ts for the benefit of NZ industry at large?
Prowein has proven to be excellent from our point of view especially as both more UK and US trade buyers are attending. If you can afford your own exhibition stand then that of course is the best option. But starting out on a New Zealand shared stand is a good beginning. A tip? Having enough meeting spaces on your stand is vital because it offers more chance of serious discussions, the ones with worthwhile results. This is imperative, incidentally, in our experience in terms of selling in the UK and in the EU.
A problem in your sector has been in actually getting paid by importers. What measures do you take to ensure payment?
Payments have not been an issue for us simply because we deal with large reputable buyers in the UK. In the EU zone we have own warehouse space and staff so everyone we deal with we know personally. Communication is the key here, hardly surprisingly.
You produce Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris. Define for us current international tastes and preferences?
Consumers happily enough still love our Sauvignon Blanc while Pinot Gris, Rosé and Pinot Noir are gaining traction. In regard to preferences it is our experience that people love stories and if you can attach a good story to your wine brand then you are ahead. In general, we find our brands are seen as good, honest wine brands of quality that have been around for a good length of time therefore are reliable.
|| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk | Wednesday 22 March 2017 |||
Five Questions for Dr Don Brash..............................
Nobody today in so many different roles and for quite so long has stood at the centre of public life so enduringly as Don Brash. Economist, businessman, banker, politician, the former Governor of the Reserve Bank and leader of the National Party has defied typecasting. At one and the same time severe yet extravagant, austere yet colourful, scholarly yet populist, he has contrived always to reconfigure himself around the times. Now he has stridently intervened in institutionally-fuelled separatism. Shrouded in a protective veneer of high-minded fashionable purpose that makes ordinary people fearful to question it, Dr Brash vehemently, unequivocally declares the voguish syndrome as ultimately destined to tear the nation apart......
You are often considered to be at heart primarily concerned with matters economic and their corresponding data. Yet here you are now immersing yourself in what many might consider a socio-ethical issue?
Yes, most of my career has been about monetary policy, banking, and economic issues more generally. But my interest in economics has always been because of my interest in the well-being of society more generally. I have long felt, for example, that it will be difficult or impossible to maintain a broadly egalitarian society in New Zealand – the kind of society in which I was brought up – if average living standards fall too far below those in Australia because of the ease with which skilled New Zealanders can cross the Tasman for very much higher incomes in Sydney or Melbourne.
If we want the kind of healthcare which those in advanced developed countries take for granted, we have to have the living standards to support that healthcare. A few years ago, there was a big debate about whether Pharmac should subsidize the provision of Herceptin for the treatment of certain kinds of breast cancer, and it was noted that Australia did so. The fact of the matter was that at that time virtually all the countries which subsidized access to Herceptin had higher living standards than New Zealand did; those which did not provide a subsidy, had lower living standards – we were right on the cusp. For me, interest in economics has always been about the implications of economic policy for the well-being of society.
Hence, I was strongly opposed to inflation in part at least because of the totally capricious effects which inflation has on wealth distribution – those who save in fixed interest instruments being thoroughly gutted by inflation, while those who borrow heavily to invest in, say, property, make huge and totally untaxed gains with little or no effort. That has always seemed to me to be grossly unjust.
Will the Hobson’s Pledge Movement become a force in the pending general election? I certainly hope so. I find it very depressing that the National Party has moved such a long way from its roots in this policy area. In 2002, Bill English gave a lengthy and very thoughtful speech, demonstrating clearly that Maori chiefs had ceded sovereignty in signing the Treaty and arguing that the only way for a peaceful future for New Zealand was a “single standard of citizenship for all”.
In May 2003, he pledged that a future National Government would scrap separate Maori electorates, as the Royal Commission on the Electoral System had recommended in the late eighties if MMP were adopted. I made similar commitments when I was Leader of the National Party, as did John Key in the election campaign of 2008. And yet we’ve seen the National-led Government retreat a very long way from that position.
I applaud the fact that the current Government has accelerated the resolution of historical grievances, but utterly deplore the fact that too often resolution has involved not just financial redress but also “co-governance”.
We see the proposed amendment to the RMA requiring all local councils to invite their local tribes into so-called “iwi participation agreements”, involving co-governance on a grand scale. We saw the legislation establishing the Auckland super-city requiring an Independent Maori Statutory Board, with the Auckland Council giving members of that unelected Board voting rights on most Auckland Council committees.
We see the Government negotiating behind closed doors with the so-called Iwi Leaders Group to give tribes some form of special influence over the allocation of water, despite pretending to believe that “nobody owns water”. We see a proposal to make half the members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum tribal appointees.
The myth that the Treaty of Waitangi created some kind of “partnership” between Maori on the one hand (or more accurately, those who can claim at least one Maori ancestor, always now along with ancestors of other ethnicities) and the rest of us on the other is increasingly accepted as Holy Writ, subscribing to which is becoming essential for many positions in the public sector.
So I’m very much hoping that Hobson’s Pledge can help to substantially reverse this highly undemocratic drift after the next election.
You say that the National government is “pandering” to “separatist demands.” Which of these demands do you consider the most dangerous?
Where do I start? I’ve just listed some of the specific policies which are totally inconsistent with any reasonable definition of democracy. Most of those specific policies stem from the underlying myth that the Treaty established some kind of “partnership” between those with a Maori ancestor and those of us without, as I’ve just mentioned. But as David Lange said in the Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture in 2000, “the Court of Appeal once, absurdly, described [the Treaty] as a partnership between races, but it obviously is not. The Treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts.... To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.”
All the specific examples I gave in answer to the previous question stem from the underlying nonsense that there are two (and only two!) distinct groups of New Zealanders, those with preferential constitutional rights and those without them. This is leading New Zealand to disaster with a whole generation of part-Maori believing that they really do have superior constitutional rights to the rest of us.
To what degree would you ascribe this separatist development agitation as being primarily a project of the political class from whatever background?
Certainly, I think what you call the “political class” is the main driver of this separatist agitation, together with arguably most of the educational establishment, where adherence to so-called “Treaty principles” seems to be an absolute prerequisite for appointment to any teaching or leadership position.
The same is true in the public healthcare sector. But there is plenty of evidence that large numbers of the “general public” do not support the separatist agenda but are literally cowed into silence on the issue.
I regularly get people sidle up to me in the street and, after looking furtively up and down the street lest they are recognized by friends or acquaintances, tell me that they strongly agree with me. One university professor did this recently, but swore me not to mention his name or university department. And some of these people are Maori.
Of course, Hobson’s Pledge has two official spokespeople, one of whom is me and the other is Casey Costello, a woman of Ngapuhi and Anglo-Irish ancestry. But two of our very strongest supporters (though not members of our council) are Maori – one a prominent member of the Ngapuhi tribe and the other Ngati Porou.
The latter was a member of our council when we first established Hobson’s Pledge but, because he is closely associated with a political party, withdrew lest his membership of Hobson’s Pledge raise a question about whether we are a front for the political party he is closely associated with.
He resents the separatist agenda because he believes strongly that it is patronizing, implying that Maori aren’t quite good enough to make it successfully without these constitutional preferences.
Bearing in mind your underpinning career in banking, economics and looking now at the broader picture: where is the country now in your view in terms of nuts and bolts things such as balance of payments and foreign debt?
Compared with some other countries, we are in a good spot, with the economy growing, unemployment fairly low and government debt modest relative to GDP. Our banking sector is in reasonable shape. Even the extent of the country’s (public and private sector) total net external indebtedness is somewhat better than it was a decade ago, though still high by developed country standards.
But there are significant problems just below the surface of that apparently rosy picture. Yes, the economy is growing, but that is largely because the number of people in the workforce is growing strongly because of a high level of net immigration: productivity, and thus per capita income, is growing very slowly indeed, and the Government’s initial objective of closing the income gap with Australia by 2025 is not only not going to be achieved, the gap hasn’t reduced materially over the last eight years.
The ratio of government debt to GDP is modest by the standards of many other developed countries, but the Key Government did absolutely nothing to prepare the population for the need to adjust, for example, the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation if government debt is not to explode, relative to GDP, over the next few decades. (Mr English, to his credit, has refused to renew Mr Key’s pledge on this issue.)
And while the country’s net external indebtedness, relative to GDP, has improved somewhat in recent years, that external indebtedness remains at a high level, the consequence of New Zealand’s running a current account balance of payments deficit every year since 1974. Much of that deficit has been funded by banks borrowing on the international markets to fund the explosion of private sector housing debt, the result in turn of another serious policy failing, the failure to deal with the enormous increase in the price of housing (or more accurately, of residential land).