Tag Archives: Business ethics

Differential reporting

WTO angers farmers over apple imports

Australian apple growers are angered by reports the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will overturn Australia’s 90-year ban on New Zealand apple imports.

The Age, 13 April 2010

Rotten ruling a threat to apple industry

THE Adelaide Hills apple industry is facing similar devastation to the Riverland’s horticultural downturn, because of a World Trade Organisation decision to allow New Zealand apples into Australia for the first time in nearly a century.

The move is expected to jeopardise the state’s entire $50 million apple and pear industry.

Apple growers yesterday warned the ruling represented both an economic and disease threat.

Australia’s $500 million apple and pear industry yesterday vowed to fight the WTO decision on disease and trade grounds and to launch a major marketing program to convince consumers to buy Australian..

Adelaide Advertiser, 14 April 2010

Free trade benefits consumers and the wider economy

THE World Trade Organisation’s decision to overturn an 89-year ban on importing New Zealand apples will naturally unsettle local producers but it is good news for consumers. New Zealand apples were first banned in 1921 after some were found to have fire blight. The WTO has reportedly ruled that the ban breaches international trade rules and was not, as Australia has claimed, necessary to protect local crops from disease.

The Australian, April 14 2010

NZ apples to take bite out of Australian fruit market

New Zealand’s apple growers have reportedly won a major victory in their 90-year battle to sell fruit in Australia, but mindful of Australia’s mastery of delaying tactics, the industry is not expecting benefits any time soon.

New Zealand Herald, 13 April 2010

WTO win for apple growers reported

NZ apples were first banned from Australia after fireblight was found in Northland, in 1919, probably after infected nursery stock was imported from California.

Australia first banned the import of fruit trees from New Zealand in the early 1920s when the disease spread in this country, and later the import ban was extended to all apple and pears.

Though New Zealand scientists have found fireblight in Australian ornamental plants and shown that the bacterial disease is unlikely to be transmitted on mature, clean fruit, efforts to gain access to the potentially-lucrative Australian market in 1986, 1989, and 1995 were rejected.

Further talks over the restrictions also failed when access was allowed in 2006 with conditions – such as orchard inspections – so strict that exports would not be economically viable.

New Zealand took a complaint to the World Trade Organisation in 2007, on the basis that the proposed constraints were an unacceptable trade barrier. …

Biosecurity Australia said Chinese apples could be imported as long as risks from 18 pests of concern were a “very low level”.

The pests included mites, oriental fruit fly, mealybugs, Japanese apple rust, apple brown rot, European canker, apple scab, apple and sooty blotch and flyspeck complex – but biosecurity officials said they were satisfied China does not have fireblight.

Dominion Post, 12 April 2010

Australia must abide by WTO rules on apples

It seems almost inevitable that Australia will appeal against the WTO’s final report, which is due in mid-year. Such an appeal, while restricted to issues of law covered in the report, would mean another delay.

In the process, however, Australia is besmirching its reputation as a promoter of free trade. At the moment, its trade practices are the subject of 10 complaints from other countries.

New Zealand has no such cases against it. But Australia is not shy of using the WTO disputes process when it feels slighted. It is a complainant in seven cases, and has also registered as a third party in 47 cases, where it believes that it has commercial or legal interests.

Obviously, the Australians are prepared to use the WTO rules when they are in their interests.


New Zealand Herald, 14 April 2010

Cross posted

Extra help with moving

We’re moving. Soon. In about 12 days, in fact. Our packers will be in at the end of next week, we will move out to a motel, and they will finish the job and get everything onto a boat by the middle of the next week. We will camp in the motel for a couple of weeks, and then take the children out of school, and head up to my parents’ place for a few weeks, before jumping the ditch. With any luck, our furniture will arrive at more-or-less the same time as we do.

So we are right in the middle of the huge business of cleaning and tidying, organising disconnections, final bills and insurance, doing change of address notifications, getting the house ready for tenants.

Some of our suppliers have been enormously helpful – thank you AMI and Quinovic (Lambton). As for others….

I spent 30 minutes getting shunted around the Telecom and Xtra systems yesterday, just to organise a disconnect, and final bill. That was comparatively simple, but then I wanted something extra. I wanted to keep our e-mail addresses going for a few months. You would have thought that would be simple to arrange.

Not a hope. Telecom sent me on to Xtra. I spent about 20 minutes navigating their voice system, pursued by the ever helpful voice recognition, which it seemed didn’t recognise the word “disconnect” and “forward”. At one stage, I got directed to a help menu, from which there was no exit. So I hung up and tried again. Eventually I got to speak to a real live person, who alas, had a heavy accent, and spoke very, very fast. I had to ask her to slow down, and even then, it was hard going talking to her. But the final straw came when she wanted my Telecom password, in order to deal with something on my Xtra account. “Go back to Telecom,” she said, “and then call us back.”

Faaarrcckkkk!!!!!

I got it sorted eventually, I think, via a very helpful person at Telecom, who spoke French as a first language, but was exceedingly fluent in English, so I suspect he may have been Quebecois. But I’m not sure that everything is lined up and ready to go, so in a few days, I will gird my loins, and try again.

But I have had enough of helpless Xtra call centre operatives. Xtra is reducing its costs, by pushing the costs to its customers, in terms of time and emotional energy spent trying to deal with their systems and not-very-helpful call centre staff.

I know it’s not fair to yell at call centre staff – they are just doing their job. But I think that Xtra is relying on that nicety just a little too much. It’s impossible to find anyone to make a complaint to, and impossible to get good service. So I think the time has come to stop being polite, and to get Xtra staff, and Telecom staff, to start wearing some of the cost too.

I am not advocating that you harass hapless Filipinos (is that where the Xtra call centre is?) willy-nilly. But if ever I meet someone who works for Telecom or Xtra, in person, I’m going to talk to them about the problems with their service. If they tell me that it’s not their job, I will smile sweetly, and say that given that this is my only opportunity to talk to a real live person, I’m going to take it, use up their time just as Xtra and Telecom so happily use up my time, and suggest that if they don’t like it, well, they should complain.

Never, ever, move, least of all overseas. Should you see a stressed, busy, middle-aged woman with paint stained hands on Lambton Quay, that will be me. Give me a smile, and tell me to hang in there. I need some TLC today.

Update: Thanks to Radio NZ news, and Stephen of Spleen fame, I now know that I am not alone in my dissatisfaction: Xtra has been voted the worst ISP in New Zealand.

Image vs reality

As I am finding it hard to post anything of constructive length, I offer you instead this continuing project cataloguing the promise and the reality of fast food.

The link came from Pharyngula.

Coca Cola in my trolley

I’m white, middle-class, educated, I had my children in my thirties, and all that, so I am smack-bang in the demographic of people who might be concerned about food choices. My shopping trolley is usually pretty healthy – wheatmeal or wholegrain bread, trim milk, olive oil spreads, fruit and vegies, plain cereals, baking ingredients rather than processed products.

But on Friday, I sullied my trolley with a bottle of Coke. Caffeine-free, diet Coke, to be precise, but Coca Cola nevertheless. This was because we had very dear friends coming to stay, and while he enjoys a few beers, and a glass or two of wine, she prefers Kahlua and coke. So Friday night, we packed the children off to bed, and stayed up late, talking, laughing, playing 500, and getting trollied. Lots of fun.

letter.jpgBy coincidence, Mr Coca Cola wrote to me this weekend. It’s a very slick marketing effort – a letter, addressed to me, using my preferred title. (That’s “Ms”, by the way.)

The letter from The Coca Cola Company told me about the efforts they are making to people make “the best choices for your family.” So, they don’t advertise to children aged under 12, they are labelling all their packaging to show the sugar content, they are “helping to bust the myths about sweeteners”, and they are committed to offering a choice.

Those last two are interesting.

We’re helping bust the myths about sweeteners
It’s been claimed the sweeteners used in many diet foods and drinks can be linked to adverse health effects. The weight of scientific evidence simply doesn’t support that. All reputable food safety agencies around the world have approved the safety of the sweeteners we use.

I don’t see how busting myths helps parental choice. It might relieve some parental anxieties, but it doesn’t actually increase choices. So in the guise of “helping”, The Coca Cola company is taking the opportunity do a little marketing – “Look, our products are safe!” Further, if they are helping to bust myths, what they are really doing is ensuring there are less barriers to consumers purchasing their products. So this isn’t about helping parents at all.

We’re committed to offering choice
We offer a range of drinks including sugar-free and low energy options to ensure there is something to suit the individual needs of every family member.

Along the bottom of the letter is a line-up of the products they offer, including various diet drinks, fruit juices, and water. Whether or not diet drinks are any better for you is a moot point, and I have already talked about their alternative sweeteners claim. Fruit juice is high in sugar, so offering it as a “choice” doesn’t make much of a difference. As for bottled water – tap water is perfectly potable in New Zealand, so unless you are halfway between Taihape and Turangi on a long car trip, there’s no real need to buy bottled water.

Then there’s the logo at the top of the letter. “The Coca Cola Company – make every drop matter.” Excellent! Either it’s good for you, so every drop matters, adding to your physical presence, or every drop has some sort of spiritual significance. Your life will have more meaning if you drink Coca Cola Company products.

And just to show how healthy Coca Cola Company products are, there’s a photo of some happy, healthy kids running along a beach. Skinny kids. That’s right, folks. Coca Cola Company products help you to stay skinny too.

kids.jpg

What I want to know is, where did they find clothes to fit those kids?

Saving the environment bottom line

winecarrier2.jpgFor the last few years, supermarkets in NZ have offered people cardboard carriers for packing bottles of wine, much like this one. Very convenient, reusuable, made from renewable sources, and able to be recycled. What’s not to like about them?

But now, one of the local chains has decided it’s not going to supply them anymore. Instead, customers have been invited to purchase a plastic wine carrier, which the supermarket loudly trumpets as being better for the environment, because the customer can bring it back, and use it again, and again, and again.

I’m rather suspicious about this, given that the cardboard wine carriers seem to be quite reasonable, environmentally. So it’s hard not to suspect that the supermarket chain is off-loading the costs of packaging onto its customers. In order to buy more than just a couple of bottles of wine from those supermarkets, customers must now either use the standard plastic bags which the supermarket supplies, or pay for a service that supermarkets used to provide free, the costs of which were absorbed in the supermarkets’ overheads.

It makes me wonder whether the push by supermarkets for customers to buy and use their own bags for ordinary groceries, let alone wine, is driven by environmental concerns at all. You can buy bags for about 99c, or you can use the supermarkets bags, for free. Supermarkets run on very tight margins, so my guess is that if some costs can be passed on to customers, in the guise of saving the environment, then that will have a nice positive effect on the bottom line.

I have no problem whatsoever with supermarkets cutting costs. I just wish they wouldn’t dress it up as being environmental good guys.

Supermarkets aren’t the only entities shifting costs onto other people, and then claiming the environmental credit. The government has made a great song and dance about its Govt3 strategy, where it is trying to achieve a carbon neutral public service. One of the strategies for doing this is to encourage public servants to walk, bike, or catch public transport to work. But as anyone who walks, bikes, or catches public transport knows, this often takes far more time than simply taking a car. Public servants who walk, bike or ride public transport to work will incur greater costs, through the extra time they have to spend getting to work, but the credit for that will be taken by government. Nice. Again, costs are pushed onto a somewhat captive group, employees, but the credit goes elsewhere.

I’m all for reducing environmental costs. But when I do it, I want the benefit, and the credit for making the effort, to accrue to me.