Visualising MPs on Twitter

Don’t worry, this isn’t about visualising what MPs look like while they are tweeting, I’ll leave that to you.

Jayne Ihaka posted a graph on Twitter to show how MPs are connected – not surprisingly most of them communcate within their own political circles.

Jayne Ihaka @Jayniehaka

Made a graph to see how NZ MPs are connected on Twitter…No surprises really!


Chris McDowall has done something similar at NZ Herald, breaking it down to individual MPs in Visualising New Zealand Members of Parliament Twitter networks.

A common critique of discourse that occurs on social media is that we tend to interact with people who already hold similar opinions to ourselves, reinforcing one another’s opinions and biases.

A few months ago I started wondering about the social networks of New Zealand members of Parliament and whether this holds true for our politicians. To find out I collected some Twitter relationship data and experimented with a small visualisation project.

I remembered this work yesterday when Jayne Ihaka tweeted an image of a network graph that she had made and I figured it was about time I wrote it up. I share it now for anyone who might be interested.

There’s a lot of graphics so it takes quite a while to load.

Some of the lower volume Tweeters are very party-centric, for example Stuart Smith (National):

TwitterSmithStuartRino Tirikatene (Labour:

TwitterTirikateneThere’s varying degrees of wider engagement with the more prolific MPs.

TwitterOConnorSimonTwitterClarkDavidAnd a centrist party MP (Maori Party) is evenly (and extensively) engaged:

TwitterFoxMaramaA new age National MP (Chris Bishopl) shows widespread engagement.

TwitterBishopChrisA comprehensive line up of charts here. Visualising New Zealand Members of Parliament Twitter networks

Yeah, it’s Twitter. But some MPs engage quite effectively and it’s one of the easiest ways of accessing MP attention.

TPP – Pharmac fears dismissed by US economist

As US economist thinks that the fears (or fear-mongering) of the effects of the Trans Pacific Partnership on Pharmac and New Zealand drug prices are overly pessimistic.

NZ Herald reports Pharmac TPP fears dismissed:

Leading American trade economist Professor Peter Petri is optimistic that the Trans Pacific Partnership will turn out to be less damaging to Pharmac than people fear.

Trade Minister Tim Groser on Tuesday said the Government would not sign up to an agreement that undermined the pharmaceutical purchasing agency which kept the cost of medicines affordable for New Zealanders.

Petri said the most recent leak of TPP text he had seen, albeit a year old, embodied a set of rules much weaker than the United States had initially sought.

“The idea is to make the process of drug selection transparent and the US had initially proposed a formal appeal process which was then subject to the agreement’s dispute resolution mechanism [one of TPP’s most contentious provisions],” he said.

“The most recent leak suggests that it will be an appeal process up to the country itself to shape … and my guess is it won’t be subject to the dispute resolution mechanism.”

There’s been vastly different views on leaks.

TPP opponents fear that measures to increase the amount of information made available to drug companies about the processes by which Pharmac apportions its finite budget and decides which pharmaceuticals to subsidise will enhance their ability to stir up public concern that New Zealanders will be denied access to this or that life-saving medicine. The effect would be that the companies make more money and New Zealand taxpayers bear more cost.

“No doubt they [the pharmaceutical companies] will make those sorts of arguments,” Petri said. “That’s the price of transparency, that you get people making arguments you don’t like.”

But it was odd, he suggested, for people to deplore a lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations but oppose more of it in Pharmac’s deliberations.

Time will tell who is most correct.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

It looks like the Trans-Pacific Partnership has got some legs in the US and according to New Zealand Minister of Trade Tim Groser it’s action time.

There’s been some determined campaigning against it here, with complaints ranging to the secrecy and lack of details to claimed specific impacts.

Stuff reports: TPP will add two per cent to NZ economy – US economist

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should add about 2 per cent a year to the New Zealand economy, according to a United States economist.

Services, tourism and IT would make up about 40 per cent of the increase, agriculture would make up 25 per cent, and the remainder would come from investment.

For New Zealand one of the biggest sticking points is access for its dairy products. The US, Canada and Japan have highly protected dairy industries.

Petri said the US was “for the most part” working with New Zealand on dairy issues.

There have also been frequent warnings about possible impacts on Pharmac and drug prices here too. Groser assured recently that prescription charges would not go up.

Petri and his colleagues have modelled the outcomes of a successful TPP agreement, which appears to be likely now that the US has agreed to fast track negotiations.

He said the drama over the agreement in the US was mostly over and that the terms would surprise people “in a positive way, they are much less extreme than they have been represented”.

That probably applies here too, with some claiming that the TPP will be the end of new Zealand as we know it.

Regarding the controversy surrounding the TPP, Petri said the issue had not been handled well politically.

“They should have kept negotiations within the room but at least described the broad lines of negotiations more publicly,” he said.

It could have been handled better here by National on the PR level.

If the TPP goes ahead will the benefits outweigh the downsides? We won’t know for some time after it happens, if it happens, and even then there’s certain to be claims and counter claims.

Venus-Jupiter conjunction from Dunedin

I was out and about early evening yesterday and noticed a bright ‘star’ near the western horizon, with another lesser one close to it. It was so unusual I wondered if it was a bright light on a hill, but it was just too high for that.

Twitter answered my question – it was a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, which must be lining up on the far side of the sun. Venus’ orbit is inside Earth’s, while Jupiter is the closest gas giant beyond Earth.

Ian Griffin, director of Otago Museum and also a keen astronomer and photographer, took some cool pictures and posted them on Twitter.

VenusJupiter30June-1Venus and Jupiter shining high in the afternoon sky (I guess about 4 o’clock-ish). Taken from Hoopers Inlet which is on the south eastern side of Otago Peninsula, looking west over Dunedin Harbour. That’s Harbour cone on the left (I see it from the harbour side from home) and Mt Cargill in the distance.


Taken from (I presume) the Peninsula road overlooking Otago Harbour with
the triple volcanic peaks of Mt Cargill lined along the horizon.

VenusJupiter30June-4A little later from a little further west (Ian must have been travelling along the Peninsula road towards Dunedin City).


Just on dusk (5-5.30 pm-ish), zoomed in from a similar location.

Although the Venus-Jupiter conjunction was setting behind Mt Cargill from Dunedin City you see them into the evening (I saw them still just above the western hills at 8 pm.


A zoomed in long exposure after dark. Amazing to see four of Jupiter’s sixteen moons lined up.

Photos posted on Twitter by:

Ian Griffin @iangriffin

Promoting science, innovation and culture in Dunedin New Zealand & beyond. I’m the 8th Director of the Otago Museum, but this is my personal twitter account.

The orbital inclinations of the two planets are similar – Venus 3.23 degrees and Jupiter 1.18 degrees – so they can be seen close together when they line up like this.

National Geographic explained the conjunction in Venus and Jupiter Get Bright and Tight in This Week’s Sky.

If you spot clear skies any evening this week, don’t miss your chance to witness a stunning close encounter of the two brightest star-like objects in the sky.

Venus and Jupiter—both dazzling star-like objects—will appear to huddle close together in the sunset skies this week. This will be the planets’ nearest approach in over a decade.

Both worlds have been slowly converging over the past several weeks, and on Tuesday, June 30, and Wednesday, July 1, they will reach their tightest grouping, separated by less than half a degree. That’s less than the width of the disk of the full moon. So close that onlookers will be able to cover both planets with just their pinky held at arm’s length.

Astronomers call these celestial meetups conjunctions. And this is the second in a series of three between Venus and Jupiter in over a year. The cosmic duo were a bit tighter on August 18, 2014, and will be a tad farther apart in their next encounter at dawn on October 26.

Venus will appear about 6 times brighter than Jupiter even though it’s only a tenth the size. That’s because Venus is eternally enshrouded with highly reflective white clouds and is much closer to Earth. It’s about 56 million miles (90 million kilometers) away while Jupiter is much more distant—some 550 million miles (890 million kilometers).  So their apparent proximity to each other is just an optical illusion.

But before that, Venus and Jupiter will offer one last opportunity for an amazing photo at dusk. As a grand finale, the planets will be joined by the razor-thin crescent moon on July 18th. The tight celestial grouping will span no more than 4 degrees—less than the width of the three middle fingers held at arm’s length.

After July 1st, both planets will appear to quickly separate and sink closer to the horizon. They’ll be lost in the glare of the sunset by the end of the month. Both will reappear in late August as bright morning stars visible before dawn.

Even though conjunctions aren’t that rare, this series is the best between these planets in about 15 years. If you miss the remaining conjunctions, you’ll get another chance next year on August 27.

My take from this is that while Jupiter slowly moves in the background (it takes 2432.5 Earth days to orbit the Sun) Venus and Earth are moving in the same relative direction in their current orbits (Venus’ orbit is 224.7 days).

Harmful Digital Communications Act

The Harmful Digital Communications Act passed it’s last vote in Parliament today with only five votes against. David Seymour had already stated his opposition but Greens also allowed a rare split vote with four of their MPs breaking ranks.

There’s plenty of doom and gloom and ‘the end of the online world as we know it’ comment in social media.

They could get really radical and act like responsible and respectful adults. But it’s easier to blame Government attempts (probably flawed) to protect people from unnecessary abuse and bullying.

Do unto others as you would find acceptable to have done to you sort of thing.

One can hope.

What should really happen is that Members of parliament and political parties should lead by example. There’s probably less hope for that.

Unequal posts on inequality

Anthony Robins has posted an unusually detailed economic analysis in Inequality – Treasury reportnot his usual style at all.

Last week Treasury came out with a detailed and interesting report, Inequality in New Zealand 1983/84 to 2013/14. The web page is here, and the full document (pdf)here. From the summary:

The results indicate an increase in the inequality of market and disposable income per adult equivalent person (using the individual as the unit of analysis) from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Subsequently, inequality has – with some variability – remained either constant or has fallen slightly.

It wasn’t widely reported. What coverage there was repeated the message of the The New Zealand institute, that inequality is supposedly not rising.

Dig beneath the surface however.

Someone has certainly done some digging.

One could almost suspect he could have help from his local MP, who happens to be the Opposition spokesperson for economic development and small business. But they say at The Standard that authors only ever post their own personal opinions without any party or Parliamentary input.

As we all know inequality increased sharply with the neoliberal reforms of the late 80’s – early 90’s. From the report:

It appears that the 1980s reforms – involving cuts in the top income tax rate along with benefit cuts and the ending of centralised wage setting [i.e. the ECA] – are associated with increasing inequality.

The measures level out (damage done) during the late 90’s. They begin to fall with Labour’s increase to the top tax rate in 2001, and Working for Families in 2004. The momentum of this fall continues until 2010, when there is another sharp upturn in inequality following National’s reduction of the top rate and increase in GST.

In short, the last Labour government acted to reduce inequality, the current National government has acted to increase it. Because of the slow (but cumulative) nature of such changes, it is almost certain that the full effect of National’s changes have not yet been measured.

In short, Labour good, National bad.

But there’s an unequal post by David Farrar at Kiwiblog – Despite the rhetoric, inequality not increasing in NZ – this looks at the Stuff article that Robins tried to refute.

New Zealand needs to “change its tune” on , think tank The New Zealand institute says.

The group, which is supported by many leading business people, made the call following the publication of a Treasury paper which found inequality in this country has, with some variability, largely remained constant for the past 20 years. …

The new Treasury report acknowledged inequality in this country did rise from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. But it said that since then inequality had – with some variability – remained either constant or had fallen slightly. (Read the report in full here)

In a statement on Friday, NZ Initiative head of research Eric Crampton said “New Zealand simply has no problem of rising inequality”.

In contrast, income inequality had risen in may parts of the world and New Zealand seemed to have imported the narrative that the gap between rich and poor in this country had been widening to the same degree.

“The most striking finding in the latest Treasury work is that inequality in consumption is lower than it was before the reforms of the 1980s. While salary-based measures of income inequality have not declined as dramatically, a lot of work ignore the fact that the tax and transfer system already works to equalise incomes,” Crampton said.

“In the end, it’s consumption-based measures that give us a better picture of real differences in how people live.”

Farrar concludes:

So when you take account of the tax and welfare system, there is less inequality in NZ than the early 1980s when for some bizarre reason socialists hark back to as a golden era.

There’s lies, damn lies, statistics, economic analysis, bloggers and political proxies.

Hurricanes and Highlanders

The Hurricanes were clear leaders on the Super 15 table, and they were clear winners in their semi-final against the Brumbies last night winning 29-9. Their forwards are playing very well and their backs often look dangerous. Despite missing out through mistakes a number of times they scored often enough to shut the Brumbies out.

So the Hurricanes will deservedly host the final in Wellington next week.

The Highlanders were second on points on the table, just one bonus point ahead of the Waratahs. They went to Sydney to play an away semifinal against the defending champions due to the country ranking system.

Most of the statistics were against the Highlanders. They have rarely won in Sydney and haven’t made the final since 1999 (when they lost to the Crusaders).

But last night the Highlanders out fought and out thought the Waratahs, winning 35-17.

As a Highlander fan it would have been sort of ok for the Hurricanes to have lost so we would host the final in Dunedin but the Hurricanes earned the home game.

So next week it will be the Hurricanes versus the Highlanders in Wellington, and all New Zealand final. They can both be high tempo exciting attacking teams but finals can be different.

It will be interesting to see how it goes. May the best team win, and hopefully it will be the Highlanders!

Open Forum – Sunday

28 June 2015

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

The Kereru Club

Sonny Tau seems to have got the Koru Club mixed up with Kereru.

NZ Herald reported: Ngapuhi leader admits smuggling pigeon

Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau has admitted to being caught in possession of dead kereru and says he deeply regrets his mistake.

Mr Tau confirmed that he was questioned on Tuesday by a Department of Conservation officer about the kereru – also known as native wood pigeon – in his possession.

“I also wish to say this was a mistake, which I deeply regret. The laws around native bird protection are important and to be respected by all, myself included.”

It is believed that Mr Tau was questioned while boarding a plane in Invercargill, and was carrying five of the birds under his jacket.

There’s a lot being said about the wrongs of eating a protected species. It has been defended by some by mostly it’s been strongly criticised.

But one side issue amazes me.

Hiding five dead birds under your jacket – and they’re sizeable birds – seems odd enough.

But thinking you could get them through airport security undetected seems very naive, stupid or brash. Possibly a mix of all three.

Tau was boarding a plane in Invercargill, apparently heading home to Northland. That would almost certainly involve at least one jet flight, which means going through security checking.

I guess unless he was selected for the body X-ray, and the explosives test didn’t pick up any gunshot residue, he could have sneaked them through.

If he had succeeded what state would the birds have been in? They must have been dead a few hours before he started his trip. He would have been several hours at least at airports and in the air with the birds at body temperature – most Invercargill to Northland itineraries would have had multiple stopovers.

If Tau was in the Koru Club rather then the Kereru Club the food would have been a bit less suspect.

The Government has committed more funds to bio-security. I wonder what sort of under-jacket kereru detectors they will install at airports.

Maori males with the appearance of more breast under their jackets than looks natural should be a prime target for bio security attention.

“Israel is run by evil people”

Comments at Kiwiblog include some extreme views at times. Like this:

On Israel Reid thinks it’s a Satanic creation using a Satanic symbol on it’s flag, and that Israel is behind all the world’s problems and behind all the world’s terrorism, including Islamic terrorism.

Israel is run by evil people. It was founded by evil people. The evil people deliberately allowed Hitler to do what he did to the European Jews in order to encourage them to populate Israel after the war. The evil people set Israel up because they are going to destroy it. Then they can turn to the people of the world and say: look, your God doesn’t exist, or if He does, He’s obviously not very good at being God, because He just stood aside and let his own people be destroyed. Now here is our lovely peacemaker, who some wicked people call the anti-Christ, but he’s really not that at all, and look at how he brought world peace, after all that conflict, during which, in part, Israel was destroyed.

And the evil people are doing this because they are working for their king, who happens to be Satan.

None of this makes Jews evil. It makes the people who commit evil acts in their name, evil.

This is a clear and obvious distinction no-one but a moron would have trouble understanding.

That expression is enabled by David Farrar’s very liberal approach to allowing free speech. While it’s on his blog I’m fairly sure it in no way represents his views given his Jewish background.

The comment is currently on 1 up tick and 13 down ticks, and there has been substantial comment, mostly criticism, of it in the thread that follows.


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