Archive for March, 2015

The Mendacities of Mr Key #11: Sorry, Prime Minister, what ‘mandate’ were you referring to?!

6 March 2015 2 comments


Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking


It seems that Dear Leader is still making it up as he goes along. On “The Nation” this weekend (28 February), he told the people of New Zealand;

“Look, I’ve made it quite clear, for instance, to the Australian Prime Minister that we’re out in two years. That’s our mandate that we’ve got. That’s what we intend to follow through.”

Which immediately raised these questions in my mind…




from: Frank Macskasy <>
to: Dominion Post <>
date: Sat, Feb 28, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor


The Editor
Dominion Post


Did I hear John Key correctly, on TV3’s “The Nation”, on 28 February, when he confirmed that NZ military personnel will leave Iraq after two years;

“Look, I’ve made it quite clear, for instance, to the Australian Prime Minister that we’re out in two years. That’s our mandate that we’ve got.”

What “mandate” is Key referring to?

It can’t be a resolution from the UN Security Council – no such resolution has been enacted to my knowledge.

It can’t be a Parliamentary vote – Key will not allow MPs to debate and vote on such a critical issue.

And it certainly can’t be an election mandate – last year Key categorically ruled out any NZ involvement in Iraq aside from humanitarian aid. (See “Stuff” story, “No New Zealand forces to Iraq, says Key”, 18 June 2014) That is what New Zealanders voted for: no military involvement in Iraq.

So neither the UN Security Council, New Zealand Parliament, nor the voters in last year’s election have given Key any “mandate” whatsoever.

If he has some other mandate from some other authority, I for one, would be curious to see it.

Otherwise, NZ forces in Iraq? No, not in my name, Mr Key!


-Frank Macskasy


[Address and phone number supplied.]




TV1:  The Nation – Transcript – Prime Minister John Key

Previous Related Blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war

The Mendacities of Mr Key #10: “Only two years!!”



The price of being in John Key's club - Iraq - coffins - dead - military - army casualties


This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 March 2015.



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The Mendacities of Mr Key #10: “Only two years!!”

4 March 2015 2 comments



In his recent statement to Parliament, Dear Leader Key made this commitment to the people of New Zealand when announcing that troops would be sent to Iraq;

“The deployment will be reviewed after nine months and will be for a maximum two-year period.”

The question that should be in everyone’s mind is; why should we believe a politician who has repeatedly told lies; gone back on his word; or mis-represented previous situations?

It was only last year, before the September election, that he poo-pooed any suggestion of sending anything but humanitarian aid to Iraq;

But Key said he did not believe it likely New Zealand special forces would be deployed or requested.

“I don’t think that’s likely,” he said.

“We’re just so far away from probably ever having to make that call.

“But in the end in so much as with any global issue, as things play out New Zealand would always look to the [United Nations] Security Council for its view and its sanction of anything that may happen.

“So you can never say never in a world where the Security Council decides that Iraq needs support of some sort – engineers or whatever it might be. That could always be considered but I think that’s very unlikely.”

Asked if that meant he could rule out New Zealand special forces soldiers being deployed to Iraq, even in an advisory capacity, Key responded; “I would say yes’.

He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was working on a proposal for aid and “I don’t think our involvement in Iraq [will be] any greater than that.”

Eight months later – Key is standing in Parliament explaining why NZ troops are being sent to Iraq. Not humanitarian aid, as he promised in June last year.

This is the same man who;

So why should New Zealanders believe any utterances from John Key about limiting New Zealand military involvement in Iraq – when less than a year  ago he had categorically stated there would be no such involvement in the first place?


1. If National wins the 2017 election, expect NZ Army personnel to remain in Iraq longer than two years.

2. Expect the SAS (or other NZ military forces) to be increasingly involved in military operations in Iraq – known as “mission creep”.

3. Expect casualties.

John Key will break his committment to bring home NZ troops after two years.

We have no reason to trust him.





NZ Herald: ‘Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision’ – John Key’s full speech

Fairfax Media: No New Zealand forces to Iraq, says Key

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

Fairfax Media: PM signed papers relating to BMWs

National Party: John Key, Speech: Environment Policy Launch

Science Media Centre: NZ forgoes Kyoto for new climate plan – experts respond

Fairfax Media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Parliament: Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2012

NZ Herald: ETS changes ‘unlikely’ despite pleas Key stands behind comment that S&P more likely to downgrade Labour govt than National

NZ Herald: S&P contradicts Key downgrade claim

Radio NZ: PM rules out more asset sales

Fairfax Media: Key claims confusion over texts with Slater

Previous related blogposts

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – environment

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 February 2015.




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That was Then, This is Now #26 – John Key will let slip the dogs of war

2 March 2015 5 comments

Capitalism and the price of chocolate

1 March 2015 2 comments




From a previous blogpost published on 4 July 2013, in The Daily Blog


The Price of Cocoa (2013)


Three cans of cocoa tell an interesting story.

Can A is the oldest, with an expiry date of April 2011. The can measures 110mm (H) x 75mm (D). It contained 200g net dry cocoa powder.

We purchased Can B sometime  in 2011 (?). The expiry date was March 2012, so it’s the second oldest can.

Interestingly, it also contained 200g net dry cocoa powder. However,   whilst the contents remained the same as Can A – the dimensions of the can inexplicably increased; 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). Same diameter as Can A – but 20mm taller. Contents remain the same net weight.




A month ago we purchased Can C (expiry date, March 2015). The dimensions of this can is the same as Can B: 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). But this time, the contents decreased from 200 to 190g net dry cocoa powder. Ten grams less.




So the up-shot? The can-sizes have gotten bigger – whilst the contents has reduced by 5%.

On 9 June, I emailed Nestle to find out what was going on,

Kia ora,

It has recently come to my attention that two cans of Nestle Baking Cocoa measure 110mm X 75mm, whilst the other measures 130mm x 75mm.

Both contain 200g net  cocoa powder.

The smaller can measuring 110 x 75 has a “best before” date April 2011.

The larger can, 130×75 has a “best before” date March 2012.

It appears that you have increased the SIZE of the can, whilst the contents remain the same.

Is there a reason why the size of the cans  was increased, by 20mm in height?

And can you confirm that the price stayed the same; increased; or reduced; when the change was made from a 110mm height to 130mm height?

(The email was sent prior to purchasing Can C.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, I received no reply from Nestle. [Blogger’s note: I never received any reply from Nestle.]

Unfortunately, I never retained the receipts for Cans A and B, otherwise I could compare prices. But what’s the bet that the retail price probably increased?

And thus it came to pass…

“As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a “categorical pledge” were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.” – George Orwell,  ‘1984’



The Price of Chocolate (2015)


A recent story in the media caught my attention;


Cadbury blocks get the chop


The unattributed Fairfax article further stated,

Amanda Banfield, managing director of Australasia for Mondelez International, the parent company that owns Cadbury, said she expected a backlash.


She pointed to rising packaging costs and a lift in the price of raw materials.

The main ingredients are cocoa, sugar and milk.

So let’s have a look at the prices of raw ingredients.


This commodity dropped in price from NZ$0.22  per pound, in July 2014, to NZ$0.20 per pound, by January of this year, according to;


price of sugar - 7 months


Over the last year, the price of sugar increased, peaking in July last year, before falling back;


price of sugar - 12 months


But taken over a five year period, look at how the price of sugar has dropped dramatically;


price of sugar - 5 years


So the rationale for Cadbury’s decision to de facto increase their prices cannot be blamed on sugar, which is cheaper now than it was, five years ago.

Let’s have a look at cocoa (beans) – and a similar story unfolds;

Six months – a 3.95% increase;


price of cocoa beans - 6 months


Twelve months – a 12.26% increase;


price of cocoa beans - 12 months


However – over 5 years – a 21.06% drop in price;


price of cocoa beans - 5 years


It would be interesting to note if when the price of cocoa beans collapsed to NZ$2,601.96 per metric ton, in March 2013, did the price of a Cadbury’s bar of chocolate increase in size? Or fall in price?

As for the price of packaging, this would be based on a local commodity (paper and ink) and if  New Zealand’s low inflation is anything to go by (an average of 2.7% pa since 2000), would not be much of a factor in pricing. With the exception of four Quarters around late 2010 to mid-2011, inflation has remained at or below 2%, a fallout from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and ongoing recessionary/low-growth influences;


trading economics - inflation 2010 - 2014 nz


So with commodity prices for sugar and cocoa beans lower now than five years ago, and with low inflation, what other cause  could there be for the de facto price price of Cadbury’s chocolate bars?

Perhaps the answer lies with Kraft’s acquisition of Cadburys  for  £11.5 billion (US$18.9 billion) in 2010. Kraft financed the take-over deal by  borrowing a massive  £7 billion (US$11.5 billion) to finance the deal.

However, the New Zealand branch of Cadbury’s did not return a profit to it’s parent company (Mondelez International) until three years later, when it paid a dividend of NZ$40 million to its parent company, Mondelez.

According to  statements, Cadbury NZ’s profit  tripled to $11.6 million, from $3.5 million a year earlier, even as costs fell by  2.3%.

So despite falling costs, and increased profits, Cadbury NZ was struggling to make dividend payments to it’s parent company, and meanwhile Kraft was committed to servicing a £7 billion (US$11.5 billion) loan which had financed the acquisition in 2010.

The reduction in Cadbury’s chocolate bars can therefore be attributed to Kraft’s indebtedness rather than the official company line of increased costs. Unless Cadbury is lying in it’s financial statements, their costs have actually fallen, not increased.

As with many corporate takeovers, the benefits do not necessarily accrue to the public. The number one beneficiary is almost always shareholders, and consumers come a poor second (or third, or fourth…).

In this case, reducing the size of Cadbury chocolate bars by 20% is equivalent to a price increase, and Kraft’s shareholders will reap the rewards of increased profits.

Not exactly a sweet deal for New Zealand consumers.


On 15 February, I contacted Statistics NZ, to enquire how SNZ views reduction in product sizes, whilst retail prices remain the same, in it’s calculation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Dave Lum, from Statistics NZ replied;

The CPI measures price change in a “fixed” basket of goods and services, which means that we aim to measure price change based on quality being constant. In an instance where the quality (in your example, the weight/size) of an item changes, we show a price adjustment to account for the fact that the quality of the item has changed.

 As an example, if the size of a can of beans goes from 300g to 330g for the same price, this is shown as a price decrease for that item in the CPI. Likewise, if the can of beans went from 300g to 250g for the same price, it would be represented as a price increase.

So according to Mr Lum, Cadbury’s “switcheroo” with product sizes, will not materially distort CPI price measures.




Fairfax media:  Cadbury blocks get the chop Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (6 months) Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (12 months) Sugar Futures End of Day Settlement Price (5 years) Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (6 months) Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (12 months) Cocoa beans Monthly Price – New Zealand Dollar per Metric Ton (5 years)

Reserve Bank: Inflation 1990-2014

Trading Economics: Inflation 2010 – 2015

NBR: Kraft Foods (NZ) pays $40m dividend to parent Mondelez

Wikipedia: Acquisition by Kraft Foods

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 February 2015.





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