Labour's problems bigger than Darren Hughes

Now that the dust seems to be settling over Phil Goff’s handling of the Darren Hughes affair, it’s worth remembering that this is not central to Labour’s woes.

Labour’s real problem is that it hasn’t got a politically appealing alternative to National.

I am disaster-ed out

First it was the September earthquake in Christchurch. Okay, big drama, but no one killed. That was an easy one. Then there were the floods and hurricanes in Australia, big in Queensland and also in New South Wales. Knew a few people there, but not many dead, although I marvelled at the damage, and wondered how people would ever get their lives back to normal, and occasionally wondered how the country could afford the recovery bill.

Recovery Authority needed in Christchurch

Christchurch needs a special purpose recovery authority with wide powers, plenty of money and the support of the existing local authorities and people of Christchurch.

The government is currently considering the next steps to the rebuilding of Christchurch and these necessarily involve decisions about both substance and process.

A special purpose authority is one option currently being considered, but there are many issues to be resolved before the government commits to that course.

All three elements mentioned above - wide powers, adequate resources and popular support  - are needed to make recovery work, because the problems are so huge, because there is so much to do, and because all the issues are interconnected.

Poor attitudes hold back Christchurch revovery

In Cologne there is the remains of a church that was devastated by Allied bombing during the Second World War. The locals cleared away the rubble and made the remaining bits secure.

Parts of its stone walls still stand broken, forlorn and desolate. I visited the church in 1985. The roof had gone, and inside, there was an eerie feeling of what was once there. It was deliberately preserved as a reminder of the destructive power of bombs, and the havoc war brings to property and people. The rest of the city was rebuilt in a modern style to capitalise on the opportunity to make things better.

Perhaps Christchurch needs an icon to remind people of the destructive power of nature, and to be a visual symbol of the never to be forgotten day on which a city was wrecked.

How are your people in Christchurch?

There's a new protocol evolving for when friends, colleagues and neighbours meet. It is now polite to ask about 'your people in Christchurch." This might refer to their relatives, their friends, their work mates, anyone they know that might have been in Christchurch on the dreaded day - February 22.

It's a useful opening gambit, because it shows empathy with the people in Christchurch, suggesting that their plight in high in the mind of the one asking the question. It also flushes out any tragedy by giving the respondent the opportunity to unburden themselves.

The test of a dictator's power

The test of a dictator's power, and hence their ability to stay in power, is whether they have troops willing to fire on their own people.

An army that is willing to shoot demonstrators enables a dictator to maintain their power against popular uprisings. Ironically the dictator becomes the prisoner of the army which is maintaining his power through their willingness to use force.

In Egypt, the military occupies a privileged and revered position in society. For the last thirty years they have backed Mubarak, and Sadat and Gamel Abdul Nasser before that (which takes us back to 1956).

But once they made it clear that they would not fire on the demonstrators in Tahrir square, Mubarak was finished, because he had no other source of force.

An economic diagnosis: what's wrong with NZ

These are extracts from a speech by a leading economic thinker. See whether you agree.

 "For almost 40 years, since 1973, we've spent more on imports than we've earned from exports.  The difference we've had to borrow from foreigners. 

 "Now there's nothing inherently dangerous about using the savings of foreigners to supplement our own savings.  Not if that money is used to increase the productive capacity of our economy.

 "But it's not being used for that.  It's being used to finance a spending binge off the back of over-inflated house and farm prices.  We're using it to buy things we haven't earned.

 "Today, our net debt to foreigners is about 90% of GDP. That's as bad as in some of the most debt-burdened European countries.

Pike River rescue operation a 'wrong call'

 "First Pike River explosion killed miners says coroner". The headline in the DomPost summed it up last Friday.

And on Saturday the headline also laid to rest the other underling issue about the mine disaster. "Police 'wrong call' blamed for raising coal mine rescue hopes," this time quoting Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn.

Last year I wrote in this column that the police handling of the disaster, had raised false hopes and I criticised the decision by the police commander Superintendent Gary Knowles to label it a rescue operation rather than a recovery operation.

'Rescue' meant that there was still some possibility that people were still alive. 'Recovery' meant that it was about getting the bodies out.

Aussies and Kiwis- contrasting attitudes to performance

Watching Australians being beaten in any sport is never a great hardship for an ordinary red blooded Kiwi bloke, and that the sport in question was cricket only heightened the pleasure. That it was the English team that was handing out the punishment only slightly reduced the joy.

The Poms winning the last test to win the series 3-1 only increased the sense of ecstasy because it robbed the Australians of any semblance of cricketing dignity.

Government must help Pike River people

One of the expectations of governments is that they will do things on behalf of people who can’t do things for themselves, particularly where the people fall into adverse circumstances that are not of their own making.