Edgeler says Police investigation not inquiry

Graeme Edgeler writes:

New Zealand has adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This treaty forms part of New Zealand domestic law. As part of the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act, it makes a number of actions, long-recognised internationally as war crimes, express crimes under New Zealand law. A couple of these are in issue to this allegation. Section 11(2) of the Act, and Article 8(2)(b) of the Statute include the following as war crimes:

(v) Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives;

(xiii) Destroying or seizing the enemy’s property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war;

The maximum penalty for someone convicted of a war crime is life imprisonment.

So these are very serious allegations.

Lots of people are saying that there appear to be war crimes. No-one appears to have appreciated what that means. It means we need an investigation into war crimes. In New Zealand, this is a job for the Police.

I think about this not only from the perspective of New Zealand legal obligation to investigate allegations of war crimes, and the right of victims of alleged war crimes to have those allegations investigated, and prosecuted, but also from the perspective of those who are alleged, even if implicitly, anonymously, or collectively, to have committed war crimes.

I agree with Graeme that the Police should investigate.

An inquiry cannot be allowed to interfere with a possible prosecution. The possibility that evidence heard by a commission of inquiry could be evidence that might be heard by a jury at a criminal trial (or more importantly, might be inadmissible at a criminal trial) could mean that there would need to be substantial suppression orders, lest the fairness of future criminal proceedings be threatened.

So you shouldn’t do an inquiry and then a Police investigation. The Police investigation should come first.

I do not know whether allegations contained in Hit & Run are true, or whether the allegations, even if true enough to properly found a charge, are capable of being proved by admissible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. But the Soldiers who were present, those who ordered them to take part, and everyone else involved at whatever level of the New Zealand Defence Force or the New Zealand Government has rights. And one of those rights is to have any allegations against them that need investigating, investigated by a competent authority, without improper pressure being placed on the investigator. They also have the right to have any decision over whether to lay a charge, decided only after a thorough investigation, and considering not only incriminating evidence, but evidence that tends to show their innocence. This is most likely to happen if any criminal investigation begins as soon as possible, and is not prejudiced by a full public inquiry.

I think Graeme makes a compelling case.

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson have authored a book alleging war crimes; they’re not necessarily certain who, but the describe events that could amount to war crimes committed by New Zealanders. This has consequences.

When confronted with allegations of war crimes, New Zealand is obliged not just to find out what happened, but to investigate, and if appropriate, prosecute. But it would be wrong to pursue an inquiry that may prejudice the rights of those now under suspicion of committing war crimes. Commissions of inquiry do not investigate crimes. This is the job of the Police.

The Police should launch an investigation. They are the competent authority.

Labour opposed to Auckland housing development

The Herald reports:

Labour has dropped support for legislation that would see public reserve land at Pt England developed for housing as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with local iwi – labelling the move a “land grab”.

The 300 home development has emerged as one of the most controversial local issues in Maungakiekie in election year and Labour’s candidate Priyanca Radhakrishnan announced her party’s opposition to the development along with housing spokesman Phil Twyford.

Maungakiekie is a marginal seat and Radhakrishnan will be aiming to wrest it back off National after current MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga announced his retirement from Parliament. National’s candidate is Auckland Councillor Denise Lee.

Labour claim they will build 100,000 houses if elected. But everytime an actual housing development is proposed, they turn into NIMBYs and oppose it.

Nick Smith points out:

“The Point England housing development will provide 300 more families with a warm, dry home, enhance the recreational facilities and space for the surrounding community, as well as help settle Ngāti Paoa’s treaty claim and provide a site for a marae.

“This is a choice between land for houses or cows. Eighteen hectares of this site have been grazed by cattle for 30 years. Twelve hectares are to be used for housing. The area of open space accessible for public recreation will be expanded with this development.

“Labour’s contradictory positions on housing and cows are odd. They demand more homes be built but then oppose one housing development after another. They want fewer cows because of concern about water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, except in central Auckland on prime land like at Point England.

So Labour is putting cows ahead of human housing.

Brown selected for Pakuranga

The Herald reports:

National has selected a 25-year-old commercial banker as its candidate in Pakuranga after long-serving MP Maurice Williamson quit politics.

And if Simeon Brown looks familiar to some voters it could be because of a past job – busking in the Botany Shopping Centre.

“I used to go busking at there with my clarinet. It was the best paid job I ever had, I remember once getting $100 an hour. I was only 14 at the time,” he told the Herald.

Brown is a commercial banking senior associate at Bank of New Zealand and is a member of the Manurewa Local Board.

His selection in the safe National seat means he is highly likely to become one of the youngest MPs in Parliament after September’s election.

Pakuranga has been held by Williamson since 1987, and he recorded a 12,867 vote majority at the last election.

Little doubt Brown will become an MP, and be the youngest National MP I’d say. He might be the youngest MP in the House, but that will depend on the Greens list ranking.

While he is young, it is good to see he has some experience in the private sector.

Apology too late from Little

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little will face defamation proceedings after the founders of a hotel chain rejected a late apology over accusations regarding a Niue resort deal.

Little has apologised unreservedly for his comments, after the deal was cleared by the Auditor General last year, and says it is “unfortunate” the case is still heading to court.

The trouble is he refused to do an unreserved apology for over a year and then only did it the week before the trial is due to start.

“Today I want to publicly apologise unreservedly to Mr Hagaman for any hurt, embarrassment or adverse reflection on his reputation which may have resulted from my various media statements.

“I have offered that apology to the Hagamans. I have also offered to make a substantial contribution towards the Hagamans’ costs; an amount I am advised, was greater than would likely have been awarded by the court.”

A substantial contribution suggests less than 100%. So after he has refused to apologise and they have spent $200,000 on legal fees, he then offers to pay a portion of those costs.

However, Little said his offers had been rejected, meaning the case would now head to court.

“That is unfortunate. I strongly believe everybody’s time, not least the court’s, could be better used.”

If he had apologised a year ago, it would not be going to court. The last minute offer suggests he is worried he will lose.

His criticism was aimed at the actions of the Government, and “intended to reflect no impropriety on the part of Mr Hagaman”.

That may not have been the intention, but his words were inflammatory. He said the decision stinks to high heaven. That strongly implied corrupt behaviour.

The Standard declared this to be a vexatious lawsuit that will be laughed out of court. The fact Little has now offered to settle suggests otherwise.

If you don’t like the school rules, choose another school

Stuff reports:

Hunt was enraged to learn that James, currently in year 7, would have to cut his hair or “find a different school,” despite having lived in the coveted Grammar zone throughout his schooling. 

Section 11d of the Education Act 1989 states that a person who lives in the home zone of a school that has an enrolment scheme is entitled at any time to enrol at that school.

So it is his “statutory right,” living in zone, to go to Grammar, she said in the letter. 

The mother doesn’t understand the difference between enrolment and continuation. Her son does have a statutory right to enrol at Auckland Grammar, but once enrolled and attending he has to obey the school rules. If he hits a teacher, wags school, refuses to wear the uniform etc etc, then he can be disciplined and even suspended.

A right to enrol does not mean you are exempt from the school rules.

James wears his hair long in memory of his late grandfather Paul Hunt – who was expelled from Freyberg High School, in Palmerston North, because his own shoulder-length hair broke school rules.

James’ grandmother, Anne Hunt, said James’ hair is important to him because it connects him to the grandfather he never got to meet. 

Hunt said James would be devastated if he had to cut his hair.

Then he can go to Selwyn College.

Hunt questioned why issues around identity and self-expression were at a standstill. 

“I wouldn’t allow James to attend a school that still applies the same rules that resulted in his grandfather’s expulsion fifty years ago,” she said.

Excellent – go to another school then.

Not just London

As we mourn the deaths of four in London at the hands of an Islamist terrorist, it is worth remembering they were not the only ones who died this week as a result of Islamist terror attacks.

288 people in 13 countries were killed in 39 separate attacks this week. They include:

  • A young child is blown to bits by a female suicide bomber in Bangladesh
  • A pregnant woman is among five civilians gunned down in cold blood by Fulani terrorists in Nigeria
  • An atheist is hacked to death by an angry Muslim over Facebook posts attacking religion in India
  • A father and son’s throats are slit by a family member yelling ‘Allah Akbar’ in Paris
  • At least ten innocents are claimed by a Fedayeen suicide car bomber in Somalia
  • A man is tied up and shot to death for ‘cursing Allah’ in Syria

Island Bay cycleway killing jobs

Stuff reports:

After 27 years of running Chappies Dairy in Wellington, owners Sandy and Ken Patel are shutting up shop due to declining business they say is partly due to the controversial Island Bay cycleway.

A lack of short-term parking outside their shop on The Parade in Island Bay has proved to be the “nail in the coffin” for their business, they say.

Four short-term parking spaces directly outside the dairy were removed to accommodate the $1.2 million cycleway, which was built between late 2015 and early 2016. It left the Patels with just a single car park.

So what will Justin Lester do? The cycleway is hated by the vast majority of the Island Bay community. Almost none of them are against having a cycleway – just against this particular design.

It should be scrapped until an acceptable alternative is agreed on.

That sentiment was echoed by a handful of dairy owners along The Parade, including Mersey St store owners Sanjay and Jayshree Patel.

“Nobody listened because they just wanted the cycleway so bad and now it’s our livelihood that is suffering,” Sanjay said.

The cycleway’s layout, which places cyclists between the footpath and parked cars, has drawn criticism from some who argue it has made The Parade too narrow for vehicles and reduced visibility for motorists entering and exiting driveways.

The Parade used to be a wonderfully wide and safe street.

Guest Post: Justice Binnie is a Ninnie

A guest post by Chuck Bird:

I think I should first declare an interest. I have been involved with a group called Justice For Robin Bain (JRRB). Some of the members of the group are women who were friends of the Bain sisters when they were murdered. I say that to explain why I am a little obsessed about this case as I have been over a few cases where I am sure there has been a great injustice done. The Peter Ellis case in another. I will refer to that later.

I thought a bit about the title but I hope to make a case that it is appropriate. In any case Binnie has not only attacked a former Minister of Justice’s integrity but her dress sense as well. The man is irrational.

I first refer to a Herald article (Ref 1) on the 27 Feb this year which is a day after the Sunday (Ref 2) show showed and interview with Binnie.

Focus of my Opinion

The focus of my post is about Binnie’s unfounded and illogical claim that Collins shopped around for the report she wanted. I have never been in Cabinet but I would guess that all the Cabinet Ministers would not have read the whole report. Some I bet some maybe would not have read any but were relying on Collins’ recommendation. Contrary to the view of some I am sure ministers are very busy.

This post is not about David Bain’s guilt or innocence. It is about if Binnie followed instructions and whether Collins acted properly. It is also about whether Fisher (Ref 3) and Judge Callinan (Ref 5) did their reports honestly or gave Collins the reports she wanted with a nod and a wink. It will be about the interview and Sunday’s bias rather than re-litigating the case yet again.

Collins’ view was that Binnie had not followed his instructions properly so she recommend his report be reviewed by Robert Fisher QC and Cabinet agreed. It would have been far easier for her to have recommended accepting Binnies’ report (Ref 6). It would have upset some people like me but there would have been no legal challenge. Bain and Karam would have shared the proceeds and we would not have heard any more about Bain like we have on the Sunday show and are likely to hear more when Binnie comes to lecture the Criminal Bar Association about the deficiencies of the New Zealand justice system.

The Sunday Interview

Sunday gives the impression that Binnie was well respected in Canada and was qualified for the task given to him by the former Minister of Justice, Simon Power. Binnie had never sat as a judge before his appointment to the Supreme Court. He also never was a criminal lawyer. Contrary to the build-up Sunday’s, Janet McIntyre gave him, he was not universally respected in Canada. Many viewed him as an activist judge.

I have never heard of a judge or former judge in New Zealand or Australia attack the integrity of a Justice Minister or another judge as Binnie had and Janet McIntyre did not challenge him on that.

At 4:55 on the interview in reference to Bain he says, “I can hear his answers and make up his own mind.”’ I would be very concerned if a New Zealand judge made such an arrogant and ill-informed statement. Judge’s with experience as lawyers and judges in criminal cases know that psychopaths and sociopaths are extremely manipulative and very convincing liars.

Binnie prior to the interview of Bain claims he had an open mind. That means he knew he could be interviewing psychopath but think he could tell if he was lying.

Below is a question from Binnie to Bain on p91 of his interviews (Ref 7). I have edited it but I reference the full interview.

And they say that he says that you had confided in him a round 1990 that you were sexually interested in a female jogger and that you could commit the sexual offence against her, use your paper round to get away with it and as we know that evidence was eventually excluded by the Court of Appeal but what

I have skipped a little but what follows is very interesting from p91 and p92 of the report.

Q. Did this discussion that he related to the police ever take place?

A. No.

Q. What reason would he have for coming up with an untruthful anecdote?

A. Because our friendship had ended. Ah, at the, pretty much the end of, or faded out and then ended towards the end of the, our seventh form year and we essentially, you know, I – just, it all ended on bad terms.

Q. So it was more than drifting apart? It was actually –

A No, no, it ended on bad terms.

Q. And what was the – why was that?

A. I had witnessed him – because we had goats on our property and I had witnessed him performing a deviant act in that situation. I ‘ m not, I wasn’t completely fooled but it was certainly, you know, looked stupid and obviously embarrassing for him. Ah, and as we know you have to do to take, get the blame away from yourself is point it at somebody else, “It was him , it was him.” So what happened is and you can see, can see in this, in the yearbook for my last year at high school –

It goes on a bit further but it is unclear if Binnie thought he could tell if David was telling the truth by looking him in the eye. Now it turns out that this person is not the only person who David told of his rape fantasy and using his paper run as an alibi. He told a second former friend that Binnie did not query him about. (Ref 8)

If Binnie had any doubts about David’s story which was an attempted character assignation of someone who could affect Binnie’s decision he should have interviewed the person who was being defamed about Bain’s allegations as well as his story regarding David rape fantasy.

Bain’s yarn is about as credible as Binnie’s claim that Callinan is corrupt was willing to take the assignment on the condition he would give the new Minister of Justice, Amy Adams the report she wanted.

Privy Council

Binnie talks like the PC exonerated Bain. They did no such thing. While they quashed his conviction the strongly recommended he remain in custody. I can further quote, “The Board has concluded that, in the very unusual circumstances of this case, a substantial miscarriage of justice has actually occurred. Therefore the proviso to section 385(1) cannot be applied, and the appeal must under the subsection be allowed. At any retrial it will be decided whether the appellant is guilty or not, and nothing in this judgment should influence the verdict in any way.” (R7ef 9)

Because there has been a substantial miscarriage of justice albeit by police or prosecution does not mean that someone is innocent. The Lundy case proves that.

The burning of the murder house

Binnie is very good on half-truths. The house was burned but with the consent of Bain either personally or through his lawyer. I do not know of any complaints made at the time of the first trial about destroying evidence or that his lawyer asked for exhibits to be retained. I am sure that there has been at least one murder house burned to the ground in NZ and I believe this has happened overseas. The police could not have security 24/7 and if the house was torched by vigilantes it could put neighbours as risk.

Binnie’s flawed logic

I do not want to counter all Binnie’s reasons why he thinks Bain is innocent but this one astounds me. In the interview he said if David wanted to kill his family why would he do the paper round and come back and kill his father. Why did he not just go out to the caravan and kill his father? That instantly struck me as a ludicrous statement. If he did that it would be obvious that he murdered his family. He was first convicted because it was alleged that he killed his family and used his paper as an alibi to frame his father. Why did Janet McIntyre see this and question Binnie about something so obvious?

$925k for what?

The only credible point Binnie made was if Cabinet thought Bain was guilty why was he paid $925k? He should not have been. Callinan’s assignment was to start from scratch as if Binnie’s or Fisher’s report were never done. I have read it as have many on this blog. David Farrar blogged about Martin Van Beynenit (Ref 10) view on Callinnan’s report. Callinan is experienced in criminal law as a lawyer and a judge. Binnie did not show any flaws in Callinan’s reasoning he just inferred that Callinan accepted the job on the condition that he would give Adams the report she wanted.

I would assume that Adams rejects this outrageous claim. That is why she recommended no compensation. She says that the $925k was for legal expenses. If you go to the link I referenced to the Van Beyenit’s article there is an audio of one Bain’s supporters. She claims that the $925k was hush money. I agree with her on this. One of the conditions was that Bain or his agent take no further legal action. On reading Callinan’s report it seemed clear to me that his view that David Bain was more likely to guilty of murdering his family than not was not finely balanced but very much more likely. In this regard I agree with Binnie about this hush money (Ref 11). It is a disgrace.

Criminal Bar Association

At the end of the Sunday interview they stated that Binnie will be speaking at the CBA at their conference in August. The invite would have occurred before the interview. I have written to the CBA suggesting they reconsider this invitation in light of the interview. Binnie has accused the former Minister of Justice of being in the pocket of the police and also shopping around for a report she wanted. He accused the same of the current Minister of Justice and by inference is saying Callinan was bought. His action were highly emotion with his very personal attacks on Collins.

Binnie has attacked our whole justice system. New Zealand like every country in the world has some level of corruption. Due to its low population we see cases of professions particularly lawyers getting favourable treatment in court. Some of these cases have all details supressed. We also have the Peter Ellis case being put in the too hard basket. However, having said that Transparency International rates New Zealand along with Denmark as the least corrupt country in the world. Canada where Binnie hails from rates a ten.

I hope after viewing the interview the CBA withdraws their invitation. Alternatively, they could invite Martin Van Beynenit or possibly Michael Laws to speak. That would make for a very interesting conference.

I thank David Farrar for giving me the opportunity to publish this guest post. I have emailed Ian Binnie so he has a right of response.

References

1. NZ Herald article about the Binnie interview on the Sunday show.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11808262

2. The Sunday show interview of Justice Binnie.

http://tvnz.co.nz/sunday-news/dismissal-video-6516206

3. Summary of key findings Hon Dr Robert Fisher QC

https://www.nbr.co.nz/sites/default/files/images/Summary%20of%20key%20findings%20Hon%20Dr%20Robert%20Fisher%20QC%20%281%29.pdf

4. Dr Robert Fisher’s Review of Binnie’s Report

http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1212/Robert_Fisher_Report_viaweb.pdf

5. Justice Callinan’s report. It is worth reading what Callinan calls Incontestable Objective Facts. There are 53 starting on page 114.

https://admin.beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/Ian%20Callinan%20Report.pdf

6. Justice Binnie’s Report

http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1212/02_Justice_Binnies_amended_report.pdf.pdf

7. Binnie’s interview’s including David Bain

https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/David-Bain-appendices-tabs-F-to-J.pdf

8. Bain’s rape alibi-plan evidence kept secret from jury

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10576815

9. Privy Council Decision on Bain

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0705/S00225.htm

10. Martin Van Beynenit’s article in Stuff supporting Callinan’s report.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/82734851/callinan-report-highlights-issues-in-david-bains-innocence-appeal

11. Minister Adams reasons for the hush money.

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/conclusion-reached-bain-compensation-case

The Guardian on UK Labour

The Guardian editorial:

So what is Labour doing? As Britain heads for the EU exit door and Labour loses a byelection in a seat it has held for more than 80 years, much of its energy is focused not on the government but on its own factions. Mr McDonnell says the Labour right is attempting a soft coup. Tom Watson, the deputy leader, accuses Momentum and Unite of taking over the party. The hard left is the scene of bitter infighting. Unite’s Len McCluskey accuses Mr Watson of skullduggery, which is a fine charge from someone who didn’t need to put his union through a premature leadership contest. Labour seems bent on rerunning to the 1980s, only this time with the unions and the party’s big figures lacking the heart, the curiosity or the heft – and the command in Scotland – to pull it around.

Labour isn’t necessarily in terminal decline. A quarter of voters still support it. But the decline is enormous and it can’t go on like this. Labour needs to revitalise its vision and values, rebuild a coalition of interests and find leaders to start turning the current failure around. It won’t do that by obsessing over internal issues. It requires a massive change of direction at the top. Right now, though, Labour simply isn’t up to the job.

Leadership is important.

Intelligence reforms passed

The Herald reports:

The Government’s foreign intelligence agency can now spy on New Zealanders under spying reforms passed into law this afternoon.

The New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill was supported at its final hurdle by all parties except the Greens.

The reforms have not attracted the same level of debate and controversy as the expansion of the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) powers in 2013. That is partly because the latest round of law changes have cross-party support.

The bill brings the GCSB and the NZ Security Intelligence Service (SIS) under the same laws and warranting regime.

In a fundamental shift in policy, it permits the GCSB to monitor New Zealanders if national security issues are at stake.

Full credit to Labour who have not played party politics on this issue, but instead acted to improve the draft bill.

MPs want to kill one in three cows

Stuff reports:

A report commissioned by 35 New Zealand MPs has suggested reducing pastoral stock by 35 per cent as a way to get the country to a target of net zero carbon emissions.

The report by UK-based Vivid Economics and commissioned by the Globe-NZ laid out three pathways to address the Paris Agreement commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.

This has also been long standing Green Party policy. It is of course daft.

If we shoot one in three cows, it will not reduce global emissions. It may in fact increase them as our dairy industry is less greenhouse gas intensive than other countries’. The global demand for milk will remain the same, so there will simply be more cows elsewhere making even more emissions.

10 staff for one patient

Stuff reports:

It is costing the public healthcare system almost $2500 a day to keep Ashley Peacock behind locked doors, despite human rights concerns and his family’s wish for his release.

So he is not being kept locked up to save money. In fact it would be far cheaper to do what the family wish, and release him – as just announced.

The money was spent predominantly on staffing and direct patient care costs, such as laundry and food. About $762,000 was spent on staff wages, CCDHB said.

Two non-government organisation staff worked 22.5 hours a week with Peacock. Eight full time-equivalent health board staff also worked with him, including psychiatry and allied health professionals.

“The majority of staff time is spent exclusively with Mr Peacock,” the health board said.

Not exactly an uncaring health system – 10 staff for just one patient.

When asked by Stuff for a breakdown of assaults by him on his care providers or visitors, CCDHB alleged 29 incidents between January 1, 2016 and January 31, 2017 in its Official Information Act response, although it did not provide any detail.

So 29 assaults in one year. Maybe that is why he has not been released.

The Green Party has been calling for an inquiry into the mental health system. Its health spokeswoman, Julie Anne Genter, said there did not appear to have been any progress on a proposed transition plan out of the facility recommended for Peacock.

Starting the transition was a more desirable outcome than spending almost a million dollars a year keeping him in widely-criticised conditions, she said.

“Instead of locking up that man … [they] should find a solution that’s going to work better for him, and his family, and the people looking after him.”

Well they have announced a solution that will see him out of the facility, but time will tell if he can be safely looked after anywhere else.

Safety before trees

Stuff reports:

John and Margaret Chatterley say they have explored every option to save their protected pohutukawa tree, but fear it may destroy their house.

The Auckland couple has applied for resource consent from Auckland Council to chop down a 12 metre pohutukawa tree in their front yard.

The tree’s roots have intertwined with the gas pipes below their home on Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna, and already caused one gas leak on March 6.

They shouldn’t need to ask permission to cut it down if it is a hazard. Safety should come first.

The Chatterley’s resource consent application to Auckland Council contains documents from a private arborist, gas fitter, and the Contact Energy company, who all acknowledge the pohutukawa tree needs to be removed.

Which should be enough, but …

However, consulting arborist for Auckland Council Andrew Benson wrote in an email correspondence with Auckland Council senior planner Jason Drury that he would like to explore all options before removing the tree.

“Removing the tree to address some localised root incursion seems rather drastic. I’d rather support (with conditions) some root severance to effect the repairs,” Benson wrote.

He’s not the one who has to live there with the possibility of a gas explosion.

Guest Post: TEU on Productivity Commission report

A guest post by Sandra Grey, National President of the Tertiary Education Union:

Productivity Commission’s advice to extend government’s failed experiment in free market education could turn in us into Golgafrinchans

The importance of giving New Zealanders control of what they need from their education system seems to have passed the Productivity Commission by in its final report into tertiary education published on Tuesday. Rather they seem to think it would better to leave decisions over how to manage the system to the invisible hand of the market.

 We already have evidence from here and other nations of what happens if an ‘invisible hand’ gets to work in tertiary education. Trusted quality public institutions are merged, downsized, courses cut, and students abandoned. Over the past five years the government’s experiment in free market education, trialled in some levels of provision, has seen institutes of technology and polytechnics closing courses in small rural and regional communities because they’ve lost out to for-profit providers. Crazily those very same for-profit providers then have to negotiate to use the resources of the public institutions because they are the only ones with adequate classrooms, labs, workshops, and libraries.

We only need to look across the ditch to see what extending this market experiment will do. A few years after beginning a disastrous experiment in marketisation the Australian government has begun to back track because the market is failing students, communities and employers. It has seen profiteering blow out student loan debt, students induced to sign up to courses that are never delivered but the taxpayer paid for, and TAFEs (polytechs) closing courses and shedding expert staff due to a lack of government support.

What’s perhaps even more strange is that the recommendations to extend the invisible hand over all tertiary provision seems at odds with the Productivity Commission’s own findings. After listening to those who work in tertiary education the Commission noted that the system is stuck and unable to adapt because of the regulations placed on the pseudo market that exists in tertiary education by successive governments. Why would they want to extend this approach?

In its findings the Commission provides example after example of innovative and creative teaching in our public institutions – polytechnics, wananga and universities.  Why then would we as a nation want to pin our hope for ‘disruptive innovation’ on ‘new entrants to the market’ rather than working with established providers that have been shown time and time again to be innovative? What is really needed to allow for innovative teaching is the removal of performance based funding approaches, which do little to guarantee quality education (something the Commission definitely gets right).

Instead of assuming the answer lies in expanding the government’s failed experiment in free market education, let’s start a national conversation about what we want from our tertiary education system. This includes kiwis having a say – as we always have through our elected representatives – over where and how we want education provided in New Zealand. Sitting on Queen Street with colleagues we note the dozens of shop fronts for our tertiary providers all competing to get Auckland students while provision in other parts of the country withers. The Commission noted we need more collaboration in tertiary education, but failed to explain how a more market-based approach with institutions scrambling to get more Auckland students benefits communities up and down the country that are already losing out from these approaches. 

Interestingly in its report the Commission criticised the government for having a ‘political interest in maintaining existing levels of regional provision, regardless of demand (p. 355).’ Why is this wrong? If the market is failing communities, resulting in education access being stripped away, then the government should listen to employers, families, communities and students to ensure they provide for those communities.

In the report the Commission encourages the government to use pricing to improve education access. Why not simply retain a publicly managed tertiary education system and pool our resources to meet the needs, rather than waiting for the market to fail and then provide even more public funding to profit seekers who might agree to fill the gap? The government shouldn’t gamble on an experiment to ensure people get access to tertiary education, rather ensure there are sound, reliable, and dynamic public providers here for current and future generations.

The problem with the market experiment is we might find ourselves like the Golgafrinchans in Douglas Adams’ ‘Restaurant at the end of the universe’, who foolishly banished all hairdressers and telephone sanitisers to the B ark believing them unnecessary. While we aren’t banishing people to arks, leaving tertiary education provision to an open market could see students stepping away from studying hairdressing and telephone sanitisation. Before long this would lead to tertiary providers closing those unviable courses and getting rid of staff.  Before we know it, we have a missing set of skills and no one to teach them. We then just hope the market might deliver. But while waiting for the market to respond we, like the Golgafrinchans, could find ourselves wiped out by a virulent disease which thrived in wars covered by unkempt hair and contracted from dirty telephones.

Key’s valedictory

John Key gave his valedictory speech to Parliament yesterday, after just over 14 years as an MP.  He became a front bencher and Finance spokesperson in his first term in Parliament and party leader in his second term. He spent 10 years as party leader and eight as Prime Minister and left National polling in the high 40s.

It was a funny, and at times poignant speech. He paid tribute to his mother Ruth, who was so hugely influential in shaping him. Some extracts:

While I was at high school, I had a weekend job in some stables. I remember coming home one day at the age of 15 to tell Mum I had this brilliant idea: I was leaving school to train racehorses. “No.”, she said. “Shall we talk about it?”, I enquired. “No.”, she said. “Not even the pros and cons?”, I suggested. “No,”—she said—”you’re going to university to study accounting.” That was it. To Mum, no meant no. I do not think she would have lasted very long in coalition Government

Heh.

By nature, I am a pragmatist, not an ideologue. That is because, in my experience, most people just want results that work. Some people have said that my pragmatism indicates the lack of a clear set of principles. I do not think that is true. It is just that my principles derive mostly from the values and ethics instilled in me by my upbringing, rather than by the “Politics 101” textbook.

A lesson others could reflect on.

When I first came here, like all of us, I was an eager backbencher with much to learn. I remember walking out of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee with Roger Sowry, who was an experienced MP, and so I started asking him a million questions. He gave me what I thought was great advice. “John,” he said, “every moment you get, go to the House and watch the politicians who are good in the Chamber—not necessarily the ones you agree with or whom you want to be friends with, but those who can move the place with the power of their argument. Don’t stay in your office or go drinking. You are here to learn.” It was good advice, and I followed it, so every chance I had I came down and watched Michael Cullen, Richard Prebble, Winston Peters, Rodney Hide, Bill English, Simon Power, and Gerry Brownlee. Roger also gave me another lesson in the peculiarities of the place when he added, in the very next breath: “And by the way, John, just because I talk to you, it doesn’t mean I like you.”

That is such a Sowry thing to say!

One time, I was at the Pacific Forum in the Marshall Islands, and when the summit finished, we had some downtime before leaving, so I hatched a plan to go tuna fishing. The trouble was I was due to get an important phone call from the then British Prime Minister, my friend David Cameron, about the atrocities taking place in Libya and to talk about why Britain was taking military action. “No worries,” someone said, “we have the satellite phone.” So we headed out to sea, and just as I had hooked a big one and was hauling it on board, the phone rang. I handed the rod to my diplomatic protection officer, who found some implement to finish off the tuna, which was flapping mightily in the boat. It is fair to say there was a huge amount of noise in the background, and Cameron, who was used to taking calls on secure phones and in a quiet office, said to me: “What the hell is going on there?”. “Oh,” I said, “don’t be alarmed. It’s just that we’re on a fishing boat about a mile out to sea in the Marshall Islands, and I’ve landed a big tuna.” There was this long silence, and then he wistfully said: “God, I wish I ran a small country.”

This is the line that got the most laughs.

I will also never forget the Pike River mine disaster. As the full gravity of the situation became clear, I flew to Greymouth. The impact that event had, and continues to have, on the small community of the West Coast is profound. It also had a far-reaching impact on New Zealand’s workplace health and safety laws. No one should leave home to go to work and never return.

One thing that maybe is not well known is that 5 days after the initial explosion the Mines Rescue Trust had decided it was safe to re-enter the mine. That Wednesday, I was receiving regular briefings on the planned re-entry, so when the phone rang I thought it was to inform me they had gone in. Instead, I learnt that a massive explosion had occurred. Had those rescuers been in the mine, they too would have perished. Let me say to those families directly affected by the disaster that I sincerely wish you could have been provided with the closure you deserve, but I can honestly say I never, in my time as Prime Minister, saw a credible and safe plan to achieve that.

A few people should reflect on that.

The truth is that my confidence in the air force and the SAS grew so much that late last year I decided to tag along on an SAS training day to do a parachute jump from Whenuapai, in my electorate. Needless to say, my office was a touch nervous about the jump, and the kitchen cabinet did not find out until the day before. Anyway, I jumped from 12,000 feet, and sometime after 7 a.m., when I was on the ground again, I rang Bronagh, buzzing with excitement, to declare I was alive and well. I then texted Bill English. I kept it short. “I’m alive.”, I said. His reply was even shorter: “Bugger!”. One minute later, I got another text from him: “Going to give it another go?”.

Heh.

For example, the first death threat I got as Prime Minister, and I kid you not—one of those milestones that goes with the job—was from a not-very-bright guy who faxed it from his house, not realising his phone number was on the fax. I think my secretary had solved it before the DPS even got to her.

Oh dear.

And so, Mr Speaker, my time here is done. I take away many memories of this most remarkable place. I would like to think I leave having made a positive difference to the country, and that is satisfying. I have few regrets in my life, but one is that Mum did not live to see how it all turned out. I hope that she would have been proud.

I have no doubt of that.

So that is it. It has been a privilege, an honour, and a blast. Goodbye, and good luck.

And thanks for all the fish.

McGuinness dies

The Guardian reports:

Martin McGuinness, the former IRA chief of staff and a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, has died just two months after stepping down as deputy first minister.

The Irish republican died after a short illness in Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital surrounded by his family. He was 66, and had a rare genetic disease caused by deposits of abnormal protein – amyloid – in tissues and organs.

Gerry Adams, his closest political ally, confirmed that McGuinness had died. Speaking on Tuesday morning, Adams said: “Throughout his life, Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.

I found Martin McGuiness a fascinating character. As IRA Chief of Staff, he killed or ordered killed many people. He was a terrorist.

But after the peace settlement, he was an instrumental figure in good government in Northern Ireland and was a respected Deputy Prime Minister to a protestant Prime Minister – something that would have been unthinkable once.

Terrorism strikes Westminster

Stuff reports:

The British Parliament is in lockdown after a police officer was stabbed and witnesses reported seeing a car hit a number of pedestrians in a serious and still unfolding incident in central London. 

London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed an incident at Westminster Bridge, outside the British parliament, on Wednesday (Thursday NZ Time) which they are treating as a “firearms incident”.

UK Commons Leader David Lidington has told MPs a “police officer has been stabbed” and the “alleged assailant was shot by armed police” following a “serious” incident within the parliamentary estate.

Terrible news. Hopefully there are no fatalities amongst the pedestrians or the Police.

How to do performance pay for teachers

Roger Partridge writes:

It is easy to understand the teachers’ unions’ objections to performance-based pay. At least if this means basing teachers’ salaries solely on the performance of their students in end-of-year tests. As ACG Sunderland principal Nathan Villars pointed out in this newspaper, that would hardly be fair on the teachers with the less able students. Nor would it incentivise the best teachers to teach in the schools where they might be needed the most.

As the Post Primary Teachers’ Association argued last month, it would be like basing doctors’ pay solely on their surgical success rates. This, the PPTA observed, might discourage the best surgeons from taking on patients with poor prospects.

Yep performance pay based only on exam results would be a bad way to do it.

Modern performance-based pay systems like the Impact system, adopted in 2009 in Washington, DC, recognised that students’ abilities and starting points differ, both across classrooms and across schools.

To address this, they take into account the level of attainment, specific learning needs and the family circumstances of the students entering a teacher’s classroom. They also take into account differences between classrooms such as the number of students a teacher has. A teacher’s performance is then assessed based on their students’ progress throughout the year. It is not just a matter of year-end attainment. It is the “value add” that matters. In the Impact appraisal process, other qualitative measures like classroom practice, and core professionalism round out an overall assessment of a teacher’s performance. And because collaboration is a key component of the system, teachers remain highly incentivised to work with their peers and as a team, despite their remuneration also reflecting their own individual performance.

It is the value add that matters.

This might all seem alien to teachers used to a one-size-fits-all approach to remuneration that rewards time in the job, rather than success in the classroom. But it will not seem strange to anyone else. After all, aren’t most of us rewarded for how well we do our jobs, and not simply for how long we have occupied them?

It works in almost every other profession.