Home' Greymouth Star : March 18th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, March 18, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1834 - In Dorset, England, six labourers,
dubbed the Tolpuddle Martyrs, are sentenced
to seven years banishment to Australian penal
colony for forming a trade union.
1909 - Einar Dessau of Denmark uses a
shortwave transmitter to converse with a
government radio post about 10km away
in what's believed to be the rst
broadcast by a "ham" operator.
1910 - US magician Harry
Houdini completes three controlled
ights in a Voisin boxkite biplane
at Digger's Rest, Victoria, the rst
controlled ight in a powered
aircraft in Australia.
1965 - Soviet cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov
becomes rst man to leave an orbiting
spacecraft and oat in space.
1967 - e oil tanker Torrey Canyon is
wrecked o the Cornish coast of England,
spilling 919,000 barrels of oil into the sea.
1993 - After six days of deadlock, security
forces storm a hijacked Ethiopian airliner in
the eastern town Dire Dawa, killing two of the
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Stephane Mallarme, French poet (1842-
1898); Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian
composer (1844-1908); Rudolf Diesel, German
engineer (1858-1913); Neville Chamberlain,
British statesman (1869-1940); Robert Donat,
English actor (1905-1958); John
Updike, US author (1932-2009);
F W de Klerk, former South African
president, co-winner of 1993 Nobel
Peace Prize (1936-); Wilson Pickett,
US singer (1941-2006); Dick Smith,
Australian businessman and aviator
(1944-); Brad Dourif, US actor
(1950-); Irene Cara, US singer (1959-); Luc
Besson, French producer, writer, and director
(1959-); Vanessa Williams, US singer, actress
and former beauty queen (1963-); Bonnie Blair,
US Olympic speed skater (1964-); Brooke
Hanson, Australian swimmer (1978-); Lily
Collins, British-American actress (1989-).
"It's easy to be independent when you've
got money. But to be independent when you
haven't got a thing --- that's the Lord's test."
--- Mahalia Jackson, American gospel singer
"Not that I have already obtained this or have
already reached the goal; but I press on to make
it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me
his own." --- Philippians 3.12
Two members of the
Council have shown
they don't believe in
jumping on the "expenses paid list" to attend
Last night the local body was discussing
the question of possible representation at
the 1964 annual conference of the South
Island Publicity Association to be held
in Christchurch on April 18. In reply to
a question as to how this was a ected by
the council's decision to cut its conference
spending to a minimum, the town clerk Mr
N E Clemens explained that it was beyond the
end of the nancial year.
Cr B F Connors said the West Coast had
something to sell and he had noted where this
province had been left o a number of tourist
itineraries. " is conference is an opportunity
for us to continue to hammer the cause," he
remarked. It was suggested Cr L M Schaef
might like to attend. He said he would decline
to go with the council paying.
"I'm a bit sore about some other conferences.
I couldn't go on this basis, but I'll pay my own
way. And I'll give the mayor free board," he
added. Mr Baillie: I might go with him. We'll
pay our own little way!
A local woman is convinced that she knows
of one boy who will make a ne circus
performer some day --- he has the balance and
the nerve. She was astounded yesterday to see
a boy aged between 11 and 13 crossing the
pipeline from Cowper Street to Preston Road.
What made this e ort unusual was the fact
that he was not walking but was calmly riding
"I nearly ran o the road watching him," she
told the Evening Star.
uToday s birthdays
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
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3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (o ce)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
Sports Editor Tui Bromley
Chief Reporter Laura Mills
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
week in a pun
on the French word for both business
activities and political scandals.
Well might he smile. For the legacy of
a turbulent past few weeks of intrigue
may be to harm any hopes ex-president
Nicolas Sarkozy has of avenging his 2012
defeat by Hollande in the next presidential
In quick succession, Sarkozy and France's
conservative opposition have been hit by
allegations of improper use of party funds,
in uence-peddling and leaked tapes in
which the former leader is heard trashing
his then ministers.
ose under suspicion deny wrongdoing
and accuse Hollande's Socialists of
using the judiciary to launch a smear
campaign. e political heat spread to
the government camp when his justice
minister contradicted herself about
the extent of her knowledge of the
investigations under way.
Short-term, the saga has strengthened
the suspicions of the French about the
shadiness of their politicians. It will also
do little to help mainstream parties, left
or right, in town hall elections this month
when the anti-immigrant National Front
--- France's third political force --- expects
But more crucially, it has shown how
Sarkozy's comeback from early retirement
to stand in the 2017 election --- something
the 59-year-old has said he would consider
out of "duty" to the nation --- is held
hostage to legal upsets.
Writer omas Guenole draws
parallels with the classical Greek gure
of Damocles, who according to legend
sat under a sword suspended by a single
horse hair. "Sarkozy is the Damocles of
French politics --- and now he has ve
swords above his head," Guenole, author
of "Sarkozy - the story of an impossible
comeback", said of the ve legal cases in
which he is now implicated.
e awkward link between the law
and executive power in France has fed
scandals as far back as the Dreyfus A air
in the late 19th century, when for political
expediency a Jewish army o cer was
wrongly convicted of treason.
e fact that top members of the
magistrature fall under the hierarchy of
the justice minister both creates scope for
political meddling and feeds suspicions of
it, even when unfounded. e European
Court of Human Rights judged in
2008 that French justice was not fully
A cloud was lifted o Sarkozy's
future last October when a court
dropped inquiries into whether he had
exploited the mental frailty of France's
richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane
Bettencourt, to fund his successful 2007
at still left a separate investigation
open on whether he illegally used funding
from late Libyan leader Muammar
Gadda for the same campaign.
e new twist is that phone taps of
Sarkozy and his lawyer, carried out in
the Gadda inquiry, have prompted
investigating magistrates to open
yet another case after monitoring
conversations they believe show Sarkozy
promised a judge a career boost in return
Sarkozy has made no public comment.
His lawyer ierry Herzog called the
accusations unfounded and a "monstrous"
attempt to destroy the comeback hopes of
the politician still favoured by right-wing
voters for the 2017 presidential race.
"Sarkozy has an excellent lawyer --- in
fact he has several," noted Guenole. "But
it shows there is one big risk that he
cannot do anything about: at he is hit
with formal charges just before the 2017
e snail's pace of French justice means
such a risk --- which would destroy any
presidential bid --- is real. Others argue
that Sarkozy has already been politically
damaged by events of the past few weeks.
A March 7-8 survey by pollster Ifop
just after the rst revelations showed
Sarkozy's popularity ratings fell to 44%
from 50%. is is still above Hollande's
dire 28% score, but shows a worrying
drop given he has yet to re-emerge from
retirement into the cut-and-thrust of
Just as bad, his ex-protege who runs the
conservative UMP party in his absence,
Jean-Francois Cope, faces a preliminary
inquiry over allegations he let his friends
submit in ated invoices for their work
organising Sarkozy's 2012 rallies.
" e country wants solutions. But
increasingly, Sarkozy and his allies are
being perceived as problems," Stephane
Rozes, head of political consultancy Cap
and who advised Sarkozy for the 2007
elections and Hollande in 2012, told
Although Cope protests his innocence,
his already poor poll ratings have been
knocked further and his tenuous hold on
the UMP weakened --- setting the stage
for a battle for leadership of the French
right with unpredictable consequences.
For Sarkozy, the worst-case scenario
would be a party coup led by Alain
Juppe, the veteran ex-prime minister he
replaced as UMP leader in 2004 but who
could go on to position himself for a the
presidential run. Juppe, now mayor of the
south-western city of Bordeaux, has kept
his intentions well under wraps.
Whatever happens, Sarkozy, a political
scrapper at his best when down, is unlikely
to give in without a ght --- even if it
means the implosion of the UMP formed
a mere 12 years ago to settle an earlier
round of old scores on the French right.
Hollande may currently look a poor
bet for winning a second term, given his
failure so far to kickstart the economy and
the lack of con dence he inspires in most
But, some argue, his chances might be
better than they now seem if he is up
against Sarkozy trying to portray himself
as a returning saviour of the country
but looking over one shoulder for legal
problems and leading a divided party
licking its wounds.
"Sarkozy could still play the white
knight," said Rozes. "But he would be a
white knight with chinks in his armour."
Comeback under cloud
Return of 'affaires' raises questions for Sarkozy
Should the Grey District Council dispense
with its 'public' meetings and save itself the
costs of assembling the councillors? at is
the obvious question arising from the rst
two council meetings of 2014, both of which have
simply been rapid rubber-stamping exercises, totally
devoid of councillor input.
ere may be faster council meetings on record than
last week's 15-minute exercise, but it surely takes
the cake for lack of participation from the elected
Including the ve sta reports, there were 12 items
on the meeting agenda, each averaging just 75 seconds.
As with the conductor of an orchestra, the chairman,
Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, directed the councillors to
the appropriate page, the portfolio holders read out
the recommendations --- already written for them by
council sta --- the Mayor asked for a seconder and,
nally, for a show of hands before declaring "motion
is rapid- re exercise was repeated until it was
time for the council to go 'in committee' and it was
time for the public, and media, to leave --- after just
e lack of open, robust and transparent debates begs
two questions: Are the 'real' meetings being held away
from the prying eyes of the public (and media), or are
the councillors simply puppets of the administration,
happy to add their vote to anything that is put before
them? Either way, this is not democracy at work and
certainly not what Joe Public voted them in for.
Aside from the last two apologies for a real council
meeting, another public meeting of the council
committee organising the Greymouth 150th
celebrations was advertised for March 6. A pretty
innocuous subject, we would have thought, but when
our reporter inquired about the Greymouth Star
attending we were told that the meeting had now
been re-designated as a 'workshop' and was no longer
open to the public. Democracy at work? Local body
transparency and accountability to the public?
Ironic, isn't it, that the full Grey District Council
also meets for 'workshops' two hours before each
of its monthly meetings. Or could that just be an
Meanwhile, Greymouth's neighbours in the
Westland and Buller district councils have been
baring their souls in public --- but at least they do so
in the name of democracy.
Council democracy? Crimean takeover
may have high
cost for Russia
It will replace Egypt as a tourist hotspot, its
o shore oil and gas reserves will cement Russia's
position as the world's top energy producer,
and its spas will revive the State sector's weary
workforce. At least, that is how Russia presents
Many in Russia hope the annexation of the
southern Ukrainian region will o er only bene ts
and an opportunity to celebrate the "return
home" of Russia's more than a million "brothers"
after being handed to Ukraine 60 years ago.
But the joy they felt when Crimeans voted
resoundingly to join Russia in a referendum
yesterday may be tempered when it comes to the
tough budget decisions needed to prop up an
economy dependent on Ukraine for energy, water
Russia's chief cheerleader on Ukraine,
parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky, would not
be drawn into listing the potential pitfalls of
welcoming the region of two million people into
the Russian Federation. He preferred to focus on
" ose who most bene t . . . are the simple
people, the simple Crimeans who today are
completely di erent from those people I saw
two weeks ago, with their faces lit up, kissing
their ballot papers," Slutsky said from the capital
"People are happy . . . they are protected, they
will return to the country where they wanted to
be for at least the last two generations, and nally
because historical truth, this historical justice, will
prevail," he told Ekho Moskvy radio.
What they regard a historical justice, making
up for Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's decision
to hand over Crimea in 1954, will also return
a favourite holiday destination, where Soviet
industrial workers were sent to take in the sea air.
After Crimea's parliament voted yesterday to
nationalise the region's main energy company,
Chornomornaftohaz, Russia may be in a better
bargaining position to wrest the o shore and
shelf rights in the Black Sea.
But while the vote plays on Russia's emotional
ties to the Black Sea peninsula, few are
considering how much money may be needed
to turn around a region of shabby hotels, poor
service and a large black economy.
Crimea, a lush region known for its palm-
fringed seafront boulevards and rocky hills, is
subsidised and depends on Ukraine for 85% of its
electricity, 90% of its drinking water and much of
Karen Vartapetov, an analyst at Standard and
Poor's rating agency, calculated that Moscow
would need to pay 38 billion rubles (just over $1
billion) a year to bring Crimea's per capita budget
revenue to the same level as Russia's poorest
regions, such as North Ossetia and Kabardino-
Balkaria in the restive North Caucasus.
It would mean lifting pensions for about
560,000 pensioners from an average $150
a month to Russia's minimum of $180. e
average wage in Crimea stands at $270 a month,
compared with $660 just over the border in
Russia's Krasnodar region.
Russian o cials say they are ready to send
anywhere from 30 to 40 billion rubles in nancial
aid to Crimea to help it move under Russian
control a process Deputy Finance Minister
Sergei Shatalov said would "have a very serious
" ere will be changes in tax laws, the issue of
forming a customs service, an internal revenue
service, and the registration of legal entities and
individuals, inventories and rules to adapt to the
Russian tax system," he told reporters.
"I think it will require some time, perhaps there
will be a period of transition. I do not rule out a
special tax regime."
It will all happen when Russia's economy is
weakening at an accelerating pace, partly because
of its actions in Ukraine, where Russian forces
have seized Crimea and Moscow supported
the referendum in which o cial results showed
almost 97% voted in favour of joining Russia.
According to economist Jouko Rautava, of the
Institute for Economies in Transition at the Bank
of Finland, economic growth in Russia in 2014
could dip below 1% after the "Crimea weekend"
well short of the Russian central bank's forecast
for 1.5-1.8% expansion.
at will mean federal and regional budgets
will have to stretch further to cover Putin's
orders to provide better wages for public sector
workers, bene ts for mothers and infrastructure
" e problems in the (Russian) regions are
getting worse, and there are about 10 to 15
regions which urgently need nancial aid to ful l
Putin's orders," Vartapetov said.
" is is a question of priorities; to help the
Russian regions or send that help to somewhere
else, to another territory," he said, adding that
Crimea could cost less to Russia if it kept taxes
on pro ts like other Russian regions, rather than
sending them to the centre as it does now.
Vartapetov said at least 10 Russian regions
have debts of around 100% of their revenues.
"Access to the debt markets for them is extremely
di cult, and they can only hope for help from
the federal budget," he said.
"And the regions will need more every year
because the economy is slowing, tax collection is
stagnating and expenditure is growing; de cits
are just widening."
Some analysts say that over time, the potential
for domestic resentment will grow, unless Crimea
o ers Russia something in exchange.
Its o shore oil and gas reserves could extend
Russia's energy reach, and Crimea's new leaders
have already suggested Gazprom should buy its
energy major Chornomornaftohaz.
But with Western sanctions targeting those
who have "undermined the territorial integrity"
of Ukraine, Russian companies could come
under pressure if they start taking over formerly
Some analysts say Russia may resort to a tried
and tested way of solving nancing conundrums
bring in the oligarchs.
After funding much of the construction of
Russia's Winter Olympic venues in the Black
Sea resort of Sochi, widely expected to have cost
more than $50 billion, some Russians suggest
Putin will persuade them to stump up cash again
to transform Crimea's tired resorts into world-
beating tourism hubs.
"Crimea would be another headache and a new
'Sochi Olympics' for the Russian oligarchs, who
will be forced once again to plough their money
into a Kremlin-designed project," a source close to
State energy company Rosneft said. --- Reuters
Tourism hot spot, gas reserves . . . and dependency
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