Saturday, August 30, 2008

Did she act fast enough?

It's inexplicable to me that the announcement that Peters was to be stood down from his Ministerial responsibilities while the Serious Fraud Office investigates his party's finances was allowed to miss the early evening television news bulletins.

Perhaps though there is hope that this move will in itself be enough staunch the bleeding.

Against that however, is the very good hand that John Key has been dealt in this affair. I've never understood the attraction of John Key but in a series of media performances, presenting his increasingly definite stand on Peters, he has for the first time appeared Prime Ministerial. There's not a lot of appeal in giving "I know our policy but if I told you I would have to kill you"-type interviews. The Peters scandal has finally given him an issue on which he can appear decisive and show leadership. He's been very wise to remove the ifs and buts and ands from his stance, it should be a vote-winner.

The anti-Peters vote is very much larger than the pro-Peters vote. Key's next move should be to attempt to identify a vote for Labour as a vote for Peters.

The Labour leadership should be moving this weekend to head off such an attack.

Sarah Palin

McCain's choice of running mate is perplexing.

The first big problem I see is that the big McCain message of experience appears to be completely blown. Apparently the cable talking heads are hitting McCain surrogates very hard on this issue. Ezra Klein:

Watching the McCain flacks in a continual state of meltdown on CNN, it's striking how swiftly their central defense of Palin is backfiring. When the anchors question her experience -- 19 months in the Alaska statehouse, and before that the mayoralty of an 8,000 person town -- they question Obama's experience. Game, set, match? Not really.The problem for the McCain campaign, as Campbell Brown pointed out, is that Barack Obama doesn't think four years in the US Senate and eight in the Chicago statehouse are insufficient. It's the McCain campaign that believes Obama is inexperienced.

The second big problem seems to be that it's simply too much to ask someone, no matter how talented, to go straight from the Alaska governor's mansion into the heat of a presidential campaign, there will be a lot of public misteps. James Fallows at the Atlantic:

Let's assume that Sarah Palin is exactly as smart and disciplined as Barack Obama. But instead of the year and a half of nonstop campaigning he has behind him, and Joe Biden's even longer toughening-up process, she comes into the most intense period of the highest stakes campaign with absolutely zero warmup or preparation. If she has ever addressed an international issue, there's no evidence of it in internet-land.

The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address. This is long before she gets to a debate with Biden; it's what the press is going to start out looking for.

Thirdly, I wouldn't be picking someone who was currently undergoing this kind of inquiry.

What's next for Labour?

I'd like to sign onto ex-expat's Letter from a Labour voter (almost without reservation)

And that's what is missing from your constant bluster about 'slippery' John Key and his band of evil Hollow men with no policy, a vision for me and other left wing voters to vote for rather than a dystopia to vote against. ...

But thing is, I and other voters still want more. The reason we want more is because we didn't elect you to maintain the status quo, we elected you to build a better society and we know that there is still so much work to be done.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hostage to Fortune

If Clark pushes Emissions Trading through the House with Peters' votes using the figleaf of a Privileges Committee inquiry she creates two enormous hostages to fortune.

The historical view of her Government will be strongly coloured by the eventual seriousness of the charges against Peters and the outcome of the Privileges Committee and SFO inquiries. She will also need the ETS to be an enormous success. If there are too many unintended consequences she will stand accused of driving through the most thoroughgoing and radical economic reform since the first term of the Bolger government without proper care and due process. The more so if it emerges that Clark's support for Peters keeping his job has the explicit quid pro quo of Peters' support for the ETS.

Like Prime Minister Howard in Australia she could find her standing much diminished by failing to leave politics on her own terms and by seeming at the end more interested in retaining power than in exercising it wisely.

New Zealand position on US-India Civil Nuclear Arrangement

Sorry for my continuing obsession with this. My reading of Goff's comments to media outlets in Australia and India on the US-India civil nuclear agreement seems to be confirmed by this press release from Goff. New Zealand is not expecting India to sign either the NPT or the test ban treaty. This is contrary to the surprisingly scant reporting I have seen from New Zealand sources. This release has been widely reported in India.

“While New Zealand remains a strong advocate of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and would welcome India’s accession to these treaties, we have not included these elements in our package of proposals.

“New Zealand engaged constructively in the discussions, acknowledging potential benefits involved in the Agreement and its good relationship with both countries, while noting concerns and the need for consistency in pursuing the objective of non-proliferation.

Rather the Government is seeking stronger protections in the sale of nuclear equipment and technology. These are characterized as 50 amendments to the proposed text rather than an outright rejection of the intent of the US-India deal which was to bring the Indian civilian nuclear industry into the mainstream without India joining the NPT.

Around 50 amendments have been proposed to the original text, with many countries speaking in favour of amendments.

“The key function of the NSG is to formulate guidelines for managing exports of nuclear material, equipment and technology to ensure that this trade does not contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation.

Update: Contrary to my disparaging comments just now Audrey Young did have a good article on this issue prior to the NSG meeting last week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Public Private Partnerships

Since both the major parties are very keen on public private partnerships for transport infrastructure I take it that everyone is well aware of their mixed record of success in Australia and that both parties are equipped with ideas for how to avoid the well-known pitfalls in these schemes. Take for example the debacle of the Cross-City Tunnel in Sydney which resulted in the bankruptcy of the consortium running the tunnel and significantly increased costs for the taxpayer. (For want of a better link, Wikipedia)

Many of these projects are expensive to use and consequently underutilised since commercial imperatives typically require projects to make money over a fairly short period. The state can afford to take a much longer view of infrastructure needs.

Such a long view should these days take into account the likely high price of petrol in the future, I'd much rather we were talking about public transport rather than new roads.

More on Nuclear Suppliers Group

The Financial Times has an editorial supporting the moves by several countries, including New Zealand, to add several conditions to the US-India agreement on sale of uranium to India for nuclear power.

Mr Bush’s allies say it is a pity the international community is dragging its feet in this way. They argue that the deal is strategically smart because it has ended 40 years of hostility between India and the US and balances the rising power of China. But the costs far outweigh any benefits. This deal makes a mockery of the non-proliferation treaty. And it threatens to accelerate the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. This is because every pound of uranium that India is allowed to import for its power reactors frees up a pound of uranium for its bomb programme.

The NSG will again convene next month and must apply as many conditions as possible to India’s nuclear programme before giving the deal the go-ahead. Better still, the next US president should ditch the entire policy. He should opt for an approach that reforms the rules of the nuclear game both for America’s friends and foes.

While the Fairfax papers in New Zealand report that Indian officials are applying pressure in the other direction. Added safeguards would very likely lead to the collapse of Indian political support for the deal.

India Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said his nation will not be pushed on the deal.
"The NSG exemption should be clean and there should be no additional condition," Kakodkar said.

"They may want to push, but India can't be pushed. Civil nuclear cooperation is important, but that doesn't mean at any cost....

"Should we allow ourselves to be pushed? Are we not Indians? Are you not proud of yourself and what you are doing?" Kakodkar said.
India's ruling Congress Party is demanding the deal go ahead with a clean waiver.
"Nothing which impinges or seem to impinge on India's national interest will be acceptable," party spokesman Manish Tewari said.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Last of the Olympics

Like all right-minded people I was happily engaged yesterday in cheering, one last time, for the sporting representatives of the liberal democracies against all those dreadful commies.

I was particularly happy to see this guy get one over the Chinese, even if, as the good folks at Morning Report will surely note, he was just as much a cry baby as the other Australian gold medalists.

Although it seems that Australia just beats New Zealand on medals per capita, we beat Australia on gold medals per capita. Since any red blooded Ozzie will assure you that loosing begins at silver, we clearly win the all important trans-Tasman medal rivalry.


So Biden it was. Ezra Klein makes a very effective case for him here.

Some of the issues that will arise have been canvassed by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic in a series of posts like this one.

Read his 2005 New Yorker profile of Biden and other national security Democrats.


Given this ancient scandal, I quote without comment Sasha Frere-Jones' account of the Coldplay song 'Clocks' in the August 4 New Yorker.

“Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?” is a line from “Clocks,” perhaps the group’s loveliest song. The music evokes the song’s name, revolving around three circling and falling piano arpeggios. The payoff comes when Martin stretches out the words “you are” in a falsetto sung over the piano figure. You are what? Go figure, and I haven’t the slightest idea what is going on with the “tides” and the “clocks” in the lyrics. Doesn’t matter. “Clocks” is a big-budget “Ooh!” with lots of pretty lights—it works. At the end of the song, Martin repeatedly sings, “Home, home, where I wanted to go.” There’s the only part you need take note of—an essentially conservative sentiment, and probably a comfort zone for a guy who grew up thinking he wasn’t particularly cool and lost his virginity at the age of twenty-two.

Nuclear Suppliers Group defers decision, India in uproar, New Zealand under pressure from ally

The Nuclear Suppliers Group did not reach a decision on uranium sales to India and has agreed to meet again September 4.

According to the New Zealand press our stance was slightly more hard line than the interview with ABC Australia suggested

New Zealand is holding out demanding that India sign both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Testing Ban.

Our new ally the US is keen for us to accede to the deal

In Auckland today the a US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Glyn Davies, confirmed he delivered a message to the government here asking again for New Zealand support.

He said his boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had pushed the message when she was here too.

"I mentioned it to your government," he told Fairfax Media. "Its been mentioned by much higher pay-grades than mine."

His message to New Zealand was that it was important to bring India into the nuclear fold.

"We think it is important to find ways to go forward in a transparent fashion with India as they develop nuclear energy," he said. "We think this is the way to do it.

"Its too important given the size of India's economy, given the size of its nuclear infrastructure, and its aspirations in nuclear generation, we need to find a way to embrace them in bring them into the tent."

The Times of India reports that there is much consternation in India at the failure of the talks and any further conditions on nuclear testing for example seem likely to break the fragile Indian political consensus in favour of the deal.

Finally the Times of India also has detailed comments from Goff on this issue. These seem to me also to fall short of asking for India to sign the NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear Testing Ban.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nuclear Suppliers Group Meets in Vienna

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is being asked to approve the sale of uranium to India for its civilian power industry after the India-US deal. They are meeting in Vienna currently. I've posted on this before and it appears that Australia will indeed support this development.

However the vote must be unanimous and New Zealand has emerged publicly as a sceptic. Phil Goff has been interviewed here.

He comments that

GOFF: This is an exemption that is being sought, normally an agreement of this nature would not be approved for a country that was not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. So New Zealand will be working with other countries that I think are of a like mind; countries such as Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and so on to try to find a way of accommodating the desires of the Indian and the American governments while ensuring that any exemption granted would be supportive of non-proliferation rather than working in the opposite direction.

Goff says that at the least India would be required not to test nuclear weapons and signals that New Zealand is looking for various other safeguards but seems to suggest the deal may well go through.

LOPRESTI: And just finally have you hard any rumblings as yet from Vienna as to which way the NSG, the Nuclear Suppliers Group will go on this?

GOFF: Well the Nuclear Suppliers Group it will meet over two days but a number of countries will bring in the requirement for a number of safeguards. One of them is about nuclear testing that we've talked about, but we would also like to see India join up to the IAEA additional protocol allowing broader inspection and access powers. We would also like to see constraints on transfers of sensitive technologies, we would like to see a review mechanism built into any exemption, and we would like to see a termination clause that if India opted out of the safeguards agreement it would need to return its goods and technology received as part of the exemption. None of those things are exceptionable in my view, none of them are unreasonable, they're the sort of safeguards that you would want to have if this agreement is to progress.

So I am happy that we are holding out for stronger safeguards. I'd also like to see India being asked to affirm the goal of eventual disarmament like the nuclear-armed NPT signatories. It seems though that the writing is on the wall for an Indian exemption to the provisions of the NPT and I can't shake the feeling that this is yet another setback for nonproliferation efforts.

Adding Noughts Debuts at 70

Tim Selwyn's NZ blogosphere rankings over at Tumeke put me at number 70. I'm pretty happy with that.

I should enjoy it while it lasts though because either my daily visits have dropped back since July or Alexa is overstating my daily visits compared to Google Analytics which I turned on a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

National's Energy Policy

Tardy comments on my part, it's great to have a properly sourced, though brief, policy document.

My first thought is that I would have hoped to see a greater emphasis on energy efficiency. This is likely to be the cheapest way (per kWh) of improving our security of supply.

This is particularly important to the National party since they are sitting on the fence about returning to a situation where most of our energy comes from renewables.

Because of the extraordinarily cheap hydro power in New Zealand we use electricity to heat our water and our homes and to cook our food. If 50% of our power is coming from thermal electricity generation (as it was this winter) then this situation is insanity from an efficiency point of view. One converts gas inefficiently to electricity by way of heat in the generator and then transmits it ineffiently to the home over power lines and finally converts it inefficiently back into heat. It's much better to just cart the gas to the home and burn it there.

On the other hand if 90% of electricity is coming from sources like hydro geothermal and wind, as Labour hopes, then that may well be fair enough.

If National is serious about maintaining a high level of natural gas in our power generation mix they should also be thinking about how to supply natural gas cheaply to city dwellers, for water and space heating and for cooking.

Second point, obviously the growth of electricity demand has been estimated very differently in the recent past by various Government sources. It would be great to hear from someone why the Minister appears to have reduced the estimated growth rate so much at some point in the last few years. As I have noted before these estimated future growth rates don't seem to have a good record over the medium to long term.

Third point, I am very uncomfortable with a projected reliance on gas power generation. As has been noted elsewhere current reserves will not supply gas for these plants over the life of the station. It's quite possible that gas powered plants built in the near future will require imported gas to run, and thus be at the mercy of the very volatile international market. This is apparently why the new 385MW e3p gas fired generator required a Government underwrite. New gas fired power plants could well require similar underwriting and would seem to be a pretty large financial risk to the tax payer. It would have been good to see the policy address this issue. If imports are required gas fired generation will not keep prices down, which is another aim of the policy.

Of course we may find more gas, and possibly oil, and I'm broadly sympathetic to the notion of making sure that the policy environment is not discouraging exploration. But the fact remains that exploration for deep sea oil and gas is enormously expensive and on an international scale discoveries so far have been minor.

This seems like the worst part of the policy to me, with one paragraph quoting a private presentation given by a scientist at GNS, Chris Uruski, to the National party caucus in 2007. It's pretty clear that Uruski is an optimist about future discoveries and good on him. Those who are interested in what Uruski may have told the National party should look at this recent presentation. (Bottom line on last few slides).

The National policy quotes a possible petroleum potential of 24 billion barrels of oil equivalent, currently in New Zealand we have found roughly 1.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent (almost all of it in gas, this figure from the Uruski presentation), and in the more recent Uruski presentation I have linked to he quotes a more conservative potential of 17 billion barrels of oil equivalent. Finds on this scale would indeed be very significant, but I would stress that these figures are estimates based on geological surveys, not on actual discoveries of oil and gas, or on efforts to work out whether such resouces, once found, can be economically extracted.

One should really be asking what level of risk the tax payer should take in terms of security of supply and price of electricity based on the hope that we will find an order of magnitude more economically extractable oil and gas in New Zealand's territorial waters than we have so far.

I'll leave the important issue of the RMA revision since I don't know much about it. I do suspect National's desire to rewrite this legislation is not largely, certainly not solely, driven by the desire to get wind farms up and running. But getting wind farms up and running would indeed be a good thing.

I'm way behind the play on this one, incomplete selection of other posts here: Visible Hand, Kiwiblog The Standard No Right Turn Frog Blog Colin Espiner

The Phelps Olympics

Like many others I watched a lot of swimming last week, and several interviews with Michael Phelps and his mother.

I've been trying to shake the idea that the gangly, misfit, Baltimore-loving heavy-eating Phelps and his larger than life mother are characters out of a John Waters movie, but I just can't. It's too perfect.

(I'm thinking of the feel-good late career Pecker say, rather than Pink Flamingos!)

The Obama VP selection.

Had definitely decided, based on Meet the Press at the weekend and blog posts like this, that it would be Biden.

But then I read this. So maybe Sebelius or Reed?

In any case I am signed up for the email alert, I'm assured that I'll be the first to know!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obama's platform and Hillary's campaign

A "near final" version of Obama's convention platform is available from The Washington Note.

And a Josh Green article on Hillary's campaign in the Atlantic is available that is very enlightening! It comes complete with a Hollow Men size haul of internal memos, including Mark Penn saying that Obama is "not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values." As James Fallows notes: don't commit your most embarrassing thoughts to any kind of electronic medium!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Mystery of New Zealand's Mineral Endowment Solved

My perplexity about Kiwiblog's reporting of Gerry Brownlee's National party convention speech has been somewhat lessened by the Hive.

In a recent opinion piece in the National Business Review Doug Gordon the chief executive of the New Zealand Minerals Industry Association says

We are a rich nation, second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of natural capital per capita.

Now Brownlee apparently said second to Canada, but what's a few thousand kilometres between friends? The essential aspect of the claim is that we are to calculate per capita and then we will come out on top. Fair enough.

Now I couldn't find a version of this claim on the New Zealand Minerals Industry Association web site so I can't speculate as to whether "natural capital" is the same thing as "mineral endowment", but lets suppose that it is.

I am working my way through the useful report "The Natural Resouce Potential of New Zealand" available here. Our main mineral exports are of course coal, oil, gas and gold. Lets see if this per capita comparison stacks up against our nearest neighbour Australia.

Of course you can tell I am pretty sceptical of even the per capita version of the claim. I don't really want to beat up on either Gerry Brownlee or Doug Gordon but this exercise is a useful reminder of why it is that Australia is doing so well economically at the moment.

First up coal. According to BP we have 571 millions tonnes of proved coal reserves (mostly really nasty lignite). Australia has 76 600 million tonnes or more than 100 times as much, nearly half of it high quality. It may sometimes seem like it but there are not 100 times as many Australians as New Zealanders so we loose this one, even on a per capita basis. (I'm using BP's Statistical Review of World Energy so that the figures are comparable between different countries.)

Sadly New Zealand's oil and gas reserves do not rate a separate mention in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. So I have had to resort to figures from the Oil and Gas Journal volume 104, number 47 page 22. I used my University library access to get on, I am not sure if this available from the main page.

For gas New Zealand has 900 billion cubic feet of reserves while Australia has 30,370. So Australia has roughly thirty times the gas reserves (and roughly 5 times as many people). For oil New Zealand has 0.053 billion barrels of reserves while Australia has 1.592. So again Australia has reserves around 30 times ours.

Moving on to gold, well it's a bit depressing really.

Australia has about 10% of world economic gold resources and is ranked third after South Africa and USA. It is the world's third largest producer, after South Africa and USA and accounts for about 11% of world output.

According to Geoscience Australia the Australian economic gold resource is "just over 5,200 tonnes".

According to GNS New Zealand's gold resource comes to about 12 million ounces. (At least as of 1999, and I have no idea if the definitions of "resource" here are comparable.) Now one tonne is about 35 000 ounces (says Google) so 12 million ounces is about 342 tonnes.
(Arithmetic is not my strong suit so I promise to double check all this in the near future.)

Once again Australia wins, even per capita, with about 15 times as much gold as we have. (Although we seem to be most competitive in gold, I suspect given the way of reporting these things that a gold "resource" is not as useful as an "economic gold resource".)

So at the very least Australia seems likely to win the per capita mineral endowment game against us, given that it has higher per capita reserves of all our main mineral exports coal, oil, gas and gold. I would be willing to bet that Canada (and Saudi Arabia) and probably several other countries do too.

What are they thinking in Christchurch?

Always one to keep up with developments in the old home town, I've been very heartened in recent years by the appearance of bars fit for adults. Most of these are in the great inner city developments of David Henderson. It's a good example of the private sector achieving what local body politicians have patently failed to achieve. For the longest time the heart and soul of the city has been dissipating into enormous suburban malls, in recent years this trend has slowed somewhat.

Henderson's financial difficulties are not good news but neither is the news that the city council has agreed to buy $17 million worth of property off him in a deal that appears designed to attempt to prop his business up at the risk of the rate-payer.

If I was a city councillor I would be asking why the city manager is so often presenting me with complicated property deals and a deadline to vote on the proposal so close that my decision could not possibly be made on the merits of the deal. (For those not keeping score CCC entered into another enormous property deal with Ngai Tahu just days before the end of the local body elections in a move of somewhat dubious constitutionality.)

If I was a Christchurch ratepayer I would be asking why, when presented with such deals, the response of councillors has been to spend the ratepayer's dollar.

If I was a Christchurch journalist I would be ferreting around in the dubious finances and decision making processes of CCC.

As a voter in the upcoming national elections I am heartened by the sudden outbreak of cross-party unity on this question.

Politicians from across the board have poured scorn on the purchase. In a rare display of political unity, National, Labour and the Progressives have all branded the deal a public bail-out for Henderson.

Hat-tip: Tony

The Large Hadron Collider

As Poneke notes, the Large Hadron Collider is about to start up. Particle physics experiments have come a long way since Rutherford.

For those who are interested in what we hope to find I'd recommend this post from Sean Carroll which rates each possibility with a helpful (but subjective!) likelihood.

This is a very exciting time for physicists. The one piece of our basic understanding of the world (known as the Standard Model) that no one has seen is called the "Higgs boson". It's also the most improvised, number 8 wire part of the theory and it's quite possible that we don't understand the detail of this aspect of the theory.

The LHC will almost certainly observe the Higgs boson (95% in Carroll's rating), or whatever it is that in the real world does the job that the Higgs boson does in the Standard Model. Two possibilities for modifications of the Standard Model that might be required by the new experiments go by the name of "supersymmetry" (60% in Carroll's rating) and technicolor (about 5%). Either of these possibilities, or the discovery of something totally new, would hugely revitalise particle physics theory (oh and experiment, my biases are showing).

The nightmare scenario is the observation of just a Higgs boson that looks exactly like the one in the Standard Model and nothing else. That might make it really difficult to build any new colliders, and significantly demoralise those who, like string theorists, hope to one day develop a really consistent theory of universe.

Friday, August 8, 2008


You can be sure the Olympics are going on when ABC News Radio starts reporting the time in Beijing along with all the time zones that are more conventionally thought to form part of Australia.

There's been a lot of talk about the air quality in Beijing. In general my opinion on this has been that the Chinese have been getting a rough ride in comparison to cities like Los Angeles, Mexico City and Athens that have held the Olympics and have terrible smog problems.

So I went looking for data that I could compare across the different Olympic cities. I was appalled to discover that the Chinese government is not monitoring carbon monoxide or ozone levels. (Or at least not releasing monitoring that it may be doing.) This makes it difficult to say very much.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) are making measurements but I haven't been able to find the actual numbers online as yet. Interestingly they are often finding pollution levels 30% in excess of the officially reported values.

There is a good description of the games being played with reporting pollution levels here.

The Chinese are reporting an index that measures the level of particulates, which is currently about twice WHO recommended levels but just below the level that the Chinese promised to achieve when awarded the games. This is being tracked daily here.

Zhang Yimou's films are great so I am looking forward to the opening ceremony smog or no smog.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Come Again?

Gerry Brownlee often seems to be badly placed in the National party energy portfolio.

I was taken aback particularly by this account in Kiwiblog
of his speech at the Convention at the weekend.

Then Gerry Brownlee on energy. Gerry said that if we found Maui field today, it would be worth around $50 billion. Said that concern over carbon emissions doesn’t change the fact that replacements for current fuel sources are not extensively available, so demand will stay high. NZ second only to Canada in our mineral endowment.

There does not appear to be a copy of the speech online so it is a bit unfair to highlight this but I just can't work out what Brownlee could possibly be talking about.

Our near neighbour Australia for example has an entire continent worth of minerals, is the world's largest coal exporter and has large resources of iron, aluminium and uranium to name a few. Not to mention natural gas that is actually being mined not imagined.

The list of countries with larger "mineral endowment" (I love that phrase) than New Zealand would I think be quite a bit longer than this!

I look forward to the full speech appearing.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Appendix to previous post: Intelligence

Since the question of intelligence co-operation is not conventionally mentioned in press discussions of our new "alliance" I will just note two data points on issue number 3 in my previous post, the state of US-NZ intelligence co-operation.

a/ when the Bali bombing took place the Howard government in Australia was questioned in Parliament about why it had not passed on warnings from the US about the risks of terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In New Zealand the then Foreign Minister Phil Goff took press questions because New Zealand had not even received this warning.

b/ The other data point comes from James Bamford's book "Body of Secrets" which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in US intelligence activites. Given that intelligence reporting is so much smoke and mirrors I note that Bamford wrote the book "Puzzle Palace" about the NSA prior to its being officially acknowledged by the US government and wrote this book with some co-operation from the NSA including an interview with the then director. He writes on intelligence issues for the Washington Post. Pretty much the only mention of New Zealand in Bamford's book is a comment that in contrast to the other members of the Anglo-Saxon intelligence co-operation we did not receive a particular briefing (regarding Iranian nuclear activities) and that this could be a result of our nuclear free policy. One wonders how widespread this practice of withholding information is.

(On the other side of the coin, you should also note the account there of the team building activities that the NSA engages in with members of the English-speaking intelligence services. Bamford suggests that there is more than a small element of attempted co-option in this.)