Hard News by Russell Brown

Going Boom

Once again, the economic indicators continue to confound widespread predictions of gloom: this time, with some fairly outstanding employment figures. Unemployment, down to 4%, is the lowest it's been in 17 years, and the second lowest in the OECD.

There's always a cloud to be found around the silver lining, though, and the Herald concentrates this morning on the developing labour shortage.

Out on the rightward fringe, Ackbar insists that it's all a matter of people skiving on the sickness benefit and declares that: "Maybe when the number of people receiving taxpayers money is somewhat closer to the population of Ashburton instead of exceeding the population of Christchurch there will be cause to celebrate."

He really needs to cheer up a bit. He reaches back to 1983 to show the growth since then in the sickness and invalids' benefit rolls, neatly ignoring the fact that a whole lot of the kind of people now on those benefits were getting "taxpayers' money" inside institutions, that there's a strong demographic factor in the increase, and that sickness benefit rolls have risen in pretty much all developed countries in that time. Actually, right now it's about employment growth. This from the Herald:

The economy created 18,000 new jobs in the three months to June. That mopped up all of the growth in the labour force (14,000 people) and took 4000 from the ranks of the unemployed.

It was "bloke-rich" employment growth - 20,000 more men are now working than were three months ago; for women the figure is 2000 fewer.

At 4 per cent, New Zealand's unemployment rate is the second lowest, after Korea, among developed countries.

Australia's rate is 5.5 per cent and the average among OECD countries is 6.9 per cent.

Over the past year, a humming economy has generated 61,000 more jobs. That has absorbed a 50,000 increase in the workforce and reduced the number of unemployed by 11,000 to 82,000.

I must say, we've even noticed the boom in our household. I can't remember ever having so many offers of work - or being offered better money than we have been lately. Perversely, of course, I actually spend ever more of my time on this here blog ...

The new Molesworth and Featherston has more on the job boom and why it doesn't seem to help the government's fortunes as much as might be expected.

I've been trying to think of what to say about the recent desecration of Jewish graves in Wellington that hasn't already been said: it's rotten and repugnant to New Zealanders. It is, in all likelihood, the work of a very small group of delusional idiots engaging in some sort of copycat action.

Unfortunately, we have lately tended to give more air to fascism's fashion victims than they deserve: witness the rise to media celebrity of a sad man such as Kyle Chapman, the supposed leader of the "National Front", whose actual cohort runs into the dozens.

So it was a rare moment of (relative) political unity yesterday when Parliament passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and all forms of racial hatred, persecution and discrimination. Silent Running blog has a report from the public gallery - and some interesting comments below.

There had to be someone - apart from the appalling David Irving - to spoil the party, and how odd and apt that it should be the Christian Heritage Party, whose leader told GayNZ.com that the attack on the graves "was simply an act of vandalism, it was not the result of people publicly inciting violence against Jews at all."

The Herald has some background on Irving's would-be hosts, the National Press Club, whose name irritates just about every journalist I know, because it doesn't really have much to do with actual journalists.

David Farrar has some expert analysis of National's portfolio reshuffle. Meanwhile, PA reader Conor Roberts offered: "God, if that is the line up for the future, then much of New Zealand society has been left out. Only two women in cabinet and ALL of them are white.God help us …"

Readers seem to have been having a lot of fun with John Banks' website since yesterday's post. Laura said:

As if his personal lack of charisma and over-abundance of irritating self-love wasn't enough (ever heard him turn a speech on an unrelated subject into a lengthy memoir??), now I discover JB can't punctuate correctly. That's right (or in Banks-speak, "thats right") - apparently apostrophes are insignificant if you're the current mayor of Auckland. "Get Johns Letter", "Johns Vision" and "Johns Biography". Shame on you John!

Anthony Trenwith wondered about the curiously youthful picture of the mayor on the home page of the site, compared with this image.

Cam Pitches pointed out that the "Achievements" section of the site "is good for a laugh too":

Under Transport there is nothing that Banks is responsible for. Cheeky even mentioning Britomart (Christine Fletcher) and Grafton Gully (Transit NZ).

Under Law and Order:

"Boy racers have been chased to Manukau City." Brilliant! Barry will thank him for that!

Under Projects:

"I have a vision to publicly own much of the guilt-edged waterfront from Queen's Wharf west to the Harbour Bridge."...

Er, shouldn't that be *gilt* edged?

It might also be noted that Banks campaigned against the Britomart project he is now claiming the credit for …

The poll that alert Auckland voters might be waiting for has turned up - but why it took a private citizen and not the city's newspaper to do it is puzzling. Anyway, as expected, it shows Banks leading but without a majority: the combined votes of his challengers, Fletcher and Bruce Hucker, outstrip his. But five weeks after his campaign launch, Hucker is miles off the pace, and if he can't improve his standing, he will actually have to consider standing aside for Fletcher and concentrate on overturning the CitRat majority on council. The Herald has a story here.

Meanwhile, just quietly, a council report proposes a fund to cover property purchases around the proposed eastern transport corridor - to be filled by Auckland city ratepayers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Oh goody.