Why not ban normal watches also?

July 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Road safety campaigners are calling for a ban on the use of wearable technology, including smartwatches, by drivers.

Smartwatches from high-tech giants Samsung, Sony, Motorola and LG – which can be used for calls, texts and calendar notifications – are for sale in New Zealand. Apple is releasing its Apple Watch here later this year.

Laws banning drivers’ use of phones – with an $80 fine and 20 demerit points – do not cover the use of wearable technology.

Caroline Perry, of road safety charity Brake, said the law should be widened, stating motorists using smart technology on their watches while driving should face the same sanctions.

“A second’s inattention at the wheel can result in tragedy,” she said.

Yes it can.

And that second can be looking at the time on a normal watch.

It can be having a drink of water.

It can be checking your makeup in the rear view mirror.

It can be tuning the radio.

So stop advocating for things to be banned while driving, and focus on a general law about distractions.

A New Zealand Police spokesman confirmed the use of wearable technology was not captured by current mobile phone laws.

There were no plans to alter legislation to include the new gadgets, but motorists could potentially be charged with careless driving if they were distracted by using a smartwatch.

Exactly.

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A dodgy teacher

July 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Toon has been named as the masturbating teacher. Nothing wrong with that, except he did it at school – which is totally inappropriate.

His poor judgement (and worse) goes back many years. The summary is:

  • 1991 – accused of rape, not charged, by a woman with multiple injuries to the face, nose, jaw,neck and teeth
  • 2000 – leaves Kings after downloading porn on another teacher’s computer. Also accused of two year campaign of sexual harassment against her
  • 2013 – masturbating in a classroom

One has to be weary of the incidents where nothing was proven, but nevertheless the overall picture if of someone who shouldn’t be a teacher. And a bad reflection on Auckland Grammar that they knew of the earlier case at Kings, but did nothing.

 

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An English Parliament?

July 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The UK has developed a distressing habit of making significant constitutional changes for partisan political reasons. Last term it was the Tories’ attempt to equalise the size of electorates – a move which would have improved their electoral system but was driven purely by an effort to shaft the Labour party. That was defeated – the LibDems decided it wasn’t in their partisan political interest for UKanians to have an equal voice in Parliament

Parties tend to promote electoral change that benefits them – hence Labour wanting to get rid of the one seat threshold in Parliament now, but not when it helped them (and National not wanting to).

Hence the best way to assess change is not on whether it benefits the part promoting it (fine to point out their motives) but whether it makes things fairer.

The current UK boundaries are effectively gerrymandered – they are vastly different sizes, so some seats have far more electors than others.

The UK boundaries should be like the NZ boundaries – required to be the same size within a small tolerance.

this term we have “English Votes for English Laws” aka “preventing Scottish MPs from voting on things”.

As with equal sized electorates, there’s a reasonable argument underlying it: the UK has devolved a lot of policy to the Scottish Parliament, so why should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on matters which only affect England?

The simple answer is they shouldn’t. Scotland can’t have it both ways with only Scottish MPs deciding matters on the Scottish NHS yet Scottish MPs also voting on the English NHS.

But the real driver is the desire of the Conservative party – which dominates in England – to lock Labour out of power forever, combined with some pretty toxic English supremacism. Because what EVEL actually means is that in order to govern in practice – that is, enact its policies – a party would not to win not only the confidence of parliament as a whole, but also of English members – basically, an “English veto” on government, forever. England uber alles!

Not really. If a Government had a majority of all MPs, but not a majority of English MPs, they could still pass their Budget, run all the ministries, and pass laws relating to the UK as a whole. They would only not be able to pass laws (without gaining votes from the opposition) that relate to England only. And that is as it should be.

The core problem here is that, for historical reasons, Westminster effectively does double duty as both the UK and English Parliament. But the solution to this isn’t self-serving changes to standing orders to diminish the role of Scottish MPs and make it clear that they are a subject people, but a fully devolved English Parliament with powers equal to the Scottish one.

Here I agree – this is the logical solution. Have a federal system with four devolved Parliaments, and a UK Parliament (and Government).

As for the solution, the SNP is threatening a legal challenge, which will of course fail due to Parliamentary Privilege. Which leaves them with the other option: walk. If the Tories want England, let them have it. At least Scotland can be free.

Many (not most) Tories would like Scotland to walk.

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Venture Philanthropy

July 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

By the late 1990s, the Bethesda-based Cystic Fibrosis Foundation had spent decades searching for ways to alter the course of the deadly lung disease. Researchers had identified the genetic cause of the condition a decade earlier, and incremental improvements in care meant that many patients were living into their 30s.

But frustrated that no game-changing treatments were in sight, the group’s leaders in 1999 placed what many considered a risky bet, deciding to invest millions of dollars in a small California biotech firm. Robert J. Beall, the foundation’s president, believed that putting money into drug companies directly, rather than merely making grants to academic investigators, might persuade the industry to focus on the disease and turn existing research into real-world treatments.

So what happened?

That initial risk, which over time grew into a $150 million investment, has paid off in a big way. It led to the approval in 2012 of a breakthrough drug — the first that treats the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis rather than the symptoms, in a small subset of patients. On Thursday came another big win: The Food and Drug Administration approved a second drug the group also helped fund, which eventually could aid roughly half of the 30,000 patients in the United States.

So by investing in a drug company, and targeting that investment into the area they were interested in, they achieved a major benefit for their cause.

And last fall, the CF Foundation sold its rights to future royalties of the drugs for a jaw-dropping $3.3 billion, the largest windfall of its kind for a charitable organization.

And they got a 2000% return on their investment, meaning they can spend 20 times as much now on helping cystic fibrosis sufferers, or funding more research. A win-win.

The pioneering success of Beall and the CF Foundation in the practice of “venture philanthropy” is prompting a growing number of nonprofit groups to explore whether they, too, might be able to benefit their patients, and bottom lines, by investing in similar ways.

Dozens of organizations, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, have embraced the approach over the past decade.

A great mixture of capitalism and philanthropy.

“There’s a reason why corporate America exists, and there’s a reason why philanthropic organizations exist,” said David Cornfield, a professor of pediatric pulmonary medicine at Stanford University. “When that distinction becomes invisible, it becomes very difficult to know where philanthropy ends and venture capital begins.”

Proponents counter that venture philanthropy has helped to fill a persistent gap that exists between basic academic research funded largely by the government and later-stage clinical trials typically funded by large pharmaceutical companies — a gap known as the “valley of death.”

 “It’s where great ideas, unfortunately, go to die,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who as a researcher at the University of Michigan helped identify the gene for cystic fibrosis in 1989. “If foundations can pitch in there, that’s great. … We need as many models to get there as possible.”

One size doesn’t fit all. But for some charities, it looks like a really good thing to do.

 

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General Debate 5 July 2015

July 5th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Private prosecution dismissed

July 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A top principal has had assault charges against him dropped after a judge ruled he’d been the victim of efforts by his ex-wife to “destroy” him. 

Peter Clague, formerly Auckland Kristin School’s executive principal, was the subject of a private prosecution brought by his ex-wife relating to two alleged assaults in 2010. 

Jeanne Denham alleged two months after the pair married in 2010 he pushed her to the ground, causing significant bruising to her tailbone after shaking her with force, telling her to “shut the f— up”.

She didn’t lay a formal complaint until 2014 and took a private prosecution against Clague through Queens Counsel Marie Dyhrberg. 

Clague’s jury trial began in the Auckland District Court on Monday and on Friday Judge David McNaughton said he was taking the “rare” step of dismissing the charges, following an application from Clague. 

His lawyer Mike Lloyd argued there had been an abuse of the court’s process and on Friday afternoon Judge McNaughton told the jury he agreed after an “anxious” night pondering the application. 

“This whole prosecution is motivated by an intention on the part of Ms Denham to effectively destroy Mr Clague’s reputation and ruin his career, and to consequently damage Kristin School and possibly also to bring pressure to bear on him in relation to a property claim in the Family Court,” Judge McNaughton said. 

He said no properly directed jury would be able to convict Clague. 

“No useful purpose would be served to continue prosecuting that charge for what was essentially a non injury assault made five years ago, and complained about two years ago. He’s suffered enough. I’m bringing this to an end now.” 

I hadn’t followed this case closely but what I had read alarmed me. The Police are pretty good at laying charges for domestic violence, and the fact they had refused to suggested the evidence wasn’t there. Combine that with waiting for years to complain.

It is very rare for a Judge to stop a trial, but the Judge I think got it right in saying this was about utu and trying to destroy the ex.

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Hayley Holt Green MP?

July 4th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Well, she’s back at the University of Auckland (part-time) and is seriously stoked with the 96 per cent she got for an essay on Karl Marx. Politics is her latest thing and let’s just say the Green Party might do well to have a chat, even if they’ve already made the same mistake as many others.

“She gets under-estimated an awful lot,” says Ric Salizzo, the self-described High Commander of Prime’s The Crowd Goes Wild.

“People see the pretty girl on television and judge her straight away – well, more fool them because there’s a lot going on.”

And it does happen a lot: people see the model features and hair, then one plus one equals bimbo, or, as the women’s mags alliteratively put it, “bubbly blonde”.

I’ve met Hayley. She’s definitely no bimbo. A very genuine fun person. Her politics were pretty Green back then, so no surprise she’d be thinking Green Party. I suspect sadly her essay on Karl Marx wasn’t about how he was wrong on everything.

If Holt did stand for the Greens, she’d potentially attract considerable support for them.

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This is not evidence a sugar tax works

July 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Dita De Boni writes:

For a start, a sugar tax is out. Dr Coleman says there’s no evidence it works.

That’s wrong.

Really? Dita’s proof:

It’s well documented that countries serious about obesity have embraced sugar taxes, and those taxes have reaped rewards (and raised revenue). In Mexico, in just one year, the population of the world’s biggest soft drink consumers bought 12 per cent less fizzy.

That’s not proof it is leading to less obese Mexicans. The aim presumably is to reduce obesity, not reduce soft drink sales. Well actually for some I think it is the latter.

Many other beverages such as orange juice, beer and milk are also high calories. A reduction in sales for one sources of calories may have absolutely no impact on obesity.

It also made the Mexican Government more than US$1 billion ($1.49 billion) in tax to put towards further obesity work.

If your aim is to increase the amount of tax people pay, then yes a sugar tax works. But that is not proof that it reduces obesity.

One in six Mexican adults have diabetes. Has the soda tax reduced that proportion? Has it reduced obesity? That is evidence it works, not the fact it decreases sales and increases tax.

 

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Greece should vote no and leave the Euro

July 4th, 2015 at 11:45 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Thousands of Greeks staged rival rallies on Friday (Saturday NZ time) ahead of a weekend referendum that may decide the country’s future in Europe’s single currency, with polls showing voters almost evenly split.

At least 20,000 people turned out at each rally, at the end of a week of high drama following the government’s rejection of an aid deal with international creditors and the closure of banks.

With Greeks asked to decide whether to accept or reject the tough terms of the bailout, three opinion polls had the ‘Yes’ vote narrowly ahead; a fourth put the ‘No’ camp 0.5 percent in front, but all were well within the margin of error.

Will the polls be right?

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras exhorted Greeks to reject the deal, dismissing warnings from Greece’s European partners that to do so may see the country leave the euro zone, with unforeseeable consequences for Greece, Europe and the global economy.

In a televised address, Tsipras said a report by the International Monetary Fund which argued that Greece’s massive public debt could not be sustained without significant writedowns vindicated his advice to reject the lenders’ terms.

Repeating his assault on European partners he accused of blackmailing and issuing ultimatums to Greece, the leftist leader called for calm ahead of Sunday’s ballot.

“On Sunday what is at stake is not Greece’s membership of Europe, what is at stake is whether blackmail will lead us to accept the continuation of a policy which the lenders themselves recognise is a dead end,” he said.

“On Sunday what is at stake is whether we will give our consent to the slow death of the economy.”

Tsipras is lying. If Greece votes no, they will leave the Euro and possibly the EU.

But they should leave the Euro. Monetary union only really works if you have fiscal union also. If they accept the bailout terms, they will get some debt written off, but they will be struggling for decades to come. Sometimes it is better to go bankrupt, and start new.

So they shouldn’t vote No so they get better terms from the IMF and others. They won’t. They should vote No to go bankrupt, and start afresh with a new currency.

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Press Council rules against NZ Herald

July 4th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

When Amanda Bailey complained that her interview with the NZ herald was obtained under false pretences, I said this was something that should be complained about to the Press Council. A number of people did so, and the Press Council has upheld the complaints – which is good.

Some key quotes:

33. By the time the interview had been concluded, all parties should have been quite clear about the nature of the article that was to be written. They certainly had concerns about the likely content, resulting in a departure from usual journalistic practice in the agreement to submit quotes to them for checking for accuracy. There is an element of subterfuge in Ms Glucina’s failure to ensure that they all knew she proposed to write an exclusive article for the NZ Herald.

34. While Ms Bailey was apparently willing to allow her employers to arrange the interview, there is no evidence that she either agreed or accepted that they should represent her in all dealings with Ms Glucina, the NZ Herald, or the media generally. It is significant that the only time she took the initiative and made an approach to the NZ Herald, it was through Mr Bradbury and not through her employers.

35. It is irrelevant that the photographer was introduced, or introduced himself as a NZ Herald photographer – in the light of the confusion about Ms Glucina’s status it was quite likely that the parties assumed that, as they probably believed to be the case with Ms Glucina, he did work for the NZ Herald but not exclusively. It is accepted that he said he worked for the NZ Herald as a staff photographer, but to a person unfamiliar with media practice, this would not rule out the possibility that he did other work as well.

36. It seems that by early evening Mr Currie had spoken to the café owners (or one of them) and had explained the situation. However he did not speak to Ms Bailey, nor is there any evidence that he attempted to obtain contact details for her. Once again, clarification of the basis on which the story was to be published was not a task that could be delegated, or at least not without direct authority from Ms Bailey.

And their finding:

The Press Council upholds the complaints. It finds there were elements of subterfuge in the NZ Herald’s dealings with Ms Bailey along with a failure to act fairly towards her, but more importantly it notes that it is not exclusively concerned with determining whether there has been a breach of specific principles. It may consider other ethical grounds for complaint, especially in the context of its objective of maintaining the press in accordance with the highest professional standards. In this case, it is of the view that the NZ Herald has generally fallen far short of those standards in its handling of a sensitive issue and its failure to respect the interests of a vulnerable person.

A good decision.

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General Debate 4 July 2015

July 4th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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98% of under 13s now get “free” GP visits

July 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Government offer to subsidise free doctors’ visits to children under 13 has been taken up by 96 per cent of GP practices throughout New Zealand.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the rate had far exceeded expectations.

“Of the 1012 general practices in the country, 96 per cent have opted in for free medical appointment, covering 98per cent of children aged under 13.”

That included rural practices too.

“It’s going to make a real difference, because families aren’t going to have to think twice about going to see the doctor,” he said.

The Government announced the $90 million programme as part of last year’s Budget, making children under the age of 13 eligible for free general practice visits and prescriptions from July 1.

 

I comment on this because a couple of months ago the Greens were claiming that the Government had not set the level of subsidy high enough, and that only 90% of families would be covered. I pointed out that the Greens were effectively calling for the level of subsidy to be set at the whatever the most expensive GP in NZ charges. The results show that the Greens were wrong in their claims.

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Is Cheeky cheap?

July 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An Eden Park group is urging Justice Minister Amy Adams to ban palm-sized alcohol sachets, which are being found scattered around the stadium grounds after big games.

An Auckland councillor representing the Eden Park Community Liaison Group is particularly worried that the sachets can be easily smuggled into events with booze restrictions, adding to the country’s already high rate of alcohol harm.

Despite widespread concern that came with their entrance into the market in 2013 – and police dismay at the time – the sachets are still available at some bottle stores for less than $2 each.

Councillor Cathy Casey, a member of the liaison group, said Eden Park management was worried at how many were being taken into the grounds at big events, despite liquor licences banning people bringing their own alcohol.

In light of the complaints, she bought some of the 25ml sachets and was alarmed to find that Cheeky products, flavoured in three varieties and containing around 0.4 standard drinks each, carried a relatively high alcohol concentration of 20 per cent.

Dr Casey was further worried that a powdered alcohol product branded as “Palcohol” could also soon be available in New Zealand, after just being approved for sale in the United States. On behalf of the group, she has written to Ms Adams asking her to intervene and ban the importation of alcohol sachets and powder.

 

No the Government should not ban a particular type of alcohol. Alcohol is alcohol and prohibition in the past has been a miserable failure.

Professor Doug Sellman, director of the National Addiction Centre, doubted banning the products would have a big impact on binge drinking but supported the call all the same.

Dr Sellman did not consider their low price a major factor but there was concern the sachets made alcohol more accessible, especially in public places where booze was either banned or restricted.

And people can pour vodka into lemonade. Will we ban vodka?

As for the so called low price, well is $2 for 0.4 of a stand drink cheap? Let’s compare. To have four standard drinks this way would cost you $20.

Four standard drinks is also:

  • 1 litre of 5% beer
  • 350 mls of 14% wine
  • 700 mls of 7% RTD
  • 140 mls of 37.5% spirits

So what is the cost from The Mill for each:

  • 1 litre of 5% beer – $4.40
  • 350 mls of 14% wine – $4.67
  • 700 mls of 7% RTD – $4.82
  • 140 mls of 37.5% spirits – $4.62
  • 250 mls of 20% Cheeky – $20

So these so called low cost Cheeky drinks are not a cheap source of alcohol. They are a massively over-priced rip off. They cost so much the average tight student will never ever get drunk on them. Public health advocates should be promoting them, not trying to ban them!

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The food police

July 3rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

In a move that has fired up parents, teachers in the UK have won the right to inspect pupils’ lunchboxes and confiscate unhealthy snacks.

“Schools have common law powers to search pupils, with their consent, for items,” Schools Minister Lord Nash said.

“There is nothing to prevent schools from having a policy of inspecting lunch boxes for food items that are prohibited under their school food policies.

“A member of staff may confiscate, keep or destroy such items found as a result of the search if it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances.”

But not everyone agreed.

Iain Austin, a Labour member of the Commons education committee, said: “With Britain tumbling down the international league tables and with a generation entering the work force with less literacy and numeracy than the generation retiring, you would have thought that teachers might have better things to do than rummage through children’s crisps and fruit.”

The row over packed lunches erupted after Cherry Tree Primary in Colchester banned junk food.

Outraged parents said this was unfair because the school’s menu offered “unhealthy” food including high sugar desserts like pancakes, cookies and mousse.

Vikki Laws, 28, said her daughter – six-year-old Tori – was not allowed to eat her sausage snack. It was confiscated and returned at the end of the day with a note from teachers. She said another parent was warned not to give her child Scotch eggs.

For f**k’s sake. The food gestapo inspecting your children’s lunch boxes to see if they personally approve of what you have given your kids to eat. Why stop there – send the teachers into their homes, to approve their dinners and breakfasts also.

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RIP Sir Nicholas Winton

July 3rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Time Magazine reports:

“Britain’s Schindler” stepped up to save children while the world was burning

What if the only way you can be good is to be great? There are moments in history when people are confronted by moral choices so stark that they either have to take risks or turn away. In 1938 it became clear that the Jewish children of Europe were marked for extinction. All across the world, people came to know this shocking truth. And all across the world, people did what we all do—they turned the page of the paper, took another sip of coffee, shook their heads at the tragedy of it all.

Sir Nicholas Winton, who died Wednesday at the age of 106, realized the threat while traveling through Czechoslovakia. Great turning points in human history do not take place in public but in a secret chamber in the hearts of human beings. The heart must be awake before the dramatic action. Winton, a Jew by descent who had been raised as a Christian, decided that he could not simply shake his head and drink his coffee and know that these children would die. His heart woke; he decided to be good by being great.

Winton arranged trains to carry children from Nazi-occupied Prague to Britain. He became the “one-man children’s section of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia.” His plans were ambitious: He drew up lists of thousands of children and persuaded families to accept these refugee children.

So many people today are alive thanks to him.  But remarkably he told no one about it.

Winton kept quiet about his work, and the truth of his heroism did not come to light for decades. For almost 50 years he was silent until his wife found documents in the attic, and his story was told.

He didn;’t even tell his wife he saved 669 children from extinction. He saw his actions as ordinary.

He will not be forgotten.

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It’s Ron

July 3rd, 2015 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Ron Mark is New Zealand First’s deputy leader after caucus members voted to dump Tracey Martin from the position.

Leader Winston Peters issued a statement confirming the change this morning, ending speculation that had swirled around Parliament all week.

The fight for the deputy position is seen as important in terms of an eventual successor to Mr Peters.

A vote on caucus positions was planned for March, but was delayed after the Northland byelection and Ria Bond joining as the party’s 12th MP.

Caucus voted on Tuesday and elected Mr Mark as deputy leader, with effect from today.

Very tough on Tracey who has been a loyal and hard working MP for NZ First.

Mr Peters, who is currently travelling to Tonga, was believed to have supported Ms Martin.

Like Colin Craig, Winston is discovering he doesn’t have sole ownership of his party.

Note I reported this outcome yesterday. My sources were correct.

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Farewelling the Clerk of the House

July 3rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Some very nice tributes to retiring Clerk of the House Mary Harris:

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I seek leave to move a motion without notice recognising the retirement of Mary Harris, the Clerk of the House.

Mr SPEAKER : Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is none.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, we will ignore Mary, so there is no objection from anyone else. I move, That this House recognise the retirement of the Clerk of the House, Mary Harris, and put on record our appreciation and thanks for her years of service to Parliament. Mary was appointed Clerk in December 2007. She began her career in Parliament in 1987. Before coming to Parliament, she worked for the Department of Statistics, producing the labour force statistics in the household labour force survey – team. She was a professional violinist, captained the Wellington women’s cricket team from 1982 to 1986, and was vice-captain of the international 11 in the 1982 Cricket World Cup in Christchurch. She taught Brendon McCullum everything he knows.

I never knew Mary was a top cricketer.

Since Mary became Clerk in 2007 she has served three Speakers—Margaret Wilson, Lockwood Smith, and yourself, sir—all of whom speak very highly of her work and the leadership she has shown, in particular her focus on working with the Parliamentary Service to achieve common goals in the service of Parliament and parliamentarians. Mary’s last day is on Thursday, and I understand that she will be spending some time after that cycling around Italy before returning to build a new home in Ōtaki Forks and to focus on honing her goal of becoming an expert fisher. I know that we all wish her well for retirement, and that we look forward to a booty of great smoked fish being delivered to Parliament and tabled when we can at the next opportunity.

The role of the Clerk is a key one in Parliament. They need to have the trust and respect of basically every MP. They are the most neutral of officials.

Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour): I am pleased, on behalf of the Labour Opposition, to support the Prime Minister’s motion on the retirement of Mary Harris, Clerk of the House. Thank you, Mary, for your years of service to our Parliament—28 of them, starting in 1987. Your experience, as the Prime Minister said, has been in most sections of the Office of the Clerk, from the Hansard Office to select committees to the Deputy Clerk of the House, and then 7 years as the Clerk. Some of us were here under the previous Clerk, Dave McGee, who was considered the foremost authority on the workings of a Westminster parliament. They were always going to be big shoes to fill, Mary, but you have filled those shoes, and perhaps your preparation for facing the googlies of this place came from the fact that you were in the 1982 Women’s Cricket World Cup, averaging 41 runs in that match against our old adversary Australia. I am told that Mary is a right-handed batswoman, and that is the only time that she has shown preference between the right and the left.

Mary is our first woman Clerk and our first non-lawyer as a Clerk, and she has led the House through a great period of change, particularly technological change, with the e-committees. Some of us are still getting to grips with those changes, Mary. She embraced change, but not at the expense of Parliament’s enduring values. She has shown a strong commitment to finding new ways for Parliament to be open and accessible to the people who elect it, and we are the better for it. With Mary’s guidance there have been some important changes in the procedures for the smooth running of the House, such as extended sittings. Under her leadership, the Office of the Clerk has been described as a “little gem”—I think that is probably a pretty good description of Mary herself, actually.

MPs have come to regard her as an impeccable and impartial source of advice, and, like her predecessor, she too is now widely respected in Parliaments around the world. For example, Westminster, the home of our type of parliament, sought her opinion on their governance arrangements earlier this year.

High praise.

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future): I want to share the sentiments expressed by others in tribute to Mary for all that she has achieved as our Clerk over the last 8 years, and the 20-odd years beforehand that she was a servant of this Parliament. I have often thought that there are a couple of essential attributes that a good Clerk requires. One is an absolute poker-face—to be able to listen to all of the debates in this Chamber, absorb their content so that the Speaker can be advised to make appropriate rulings, but never, ever betray a hint of prejudice or interest one way or the other in the course that the debate is taking. Mary, over the years you have proved to be absolutely inscrutable in that regard, and I think it is a tribute to your professionalism, your impartiality, and your skill that at a time when passions have mounted greatly in this House you have been often the one calm voice of order amongst us, so thank you for that.

I would be a very bad Clerk as my facial expressions would give away what I thought of what MPs are saying!

The House has been served very well by its Clerks. I also wish Mary well. I hope she has forgiven me for the several hundred amendments I authored and delivered to the Table Office during the Employment Relations Bill committee stage in 2000 when she was the Clerk-Assistant there :-)

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Trans-Tasman on Housing

July 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman reports:

Opposition parties thought they had found the perfect stick to beat up the Govt on social housing needs, after TV3’s The Nation disclosed Aust charity Horizon Housing could be in the market to buy up to 500 state houses. It had those elements (profits going overseas, privatising state assets, “ foreign” buyers for taxpayer-funded housing stock on the cheap) which politicians regard as hot-button issues for voters. But Govt Ministers batted away the attacks, pointing out the Aust charity would be subject to the community housing regulatory authority, and then coming up with a quote from the Deputy PM of Aust (when the Labor Govt was in office) declaring Horizon Housing to be “an amazing organisation” doing a great job in Queensland.

It is only NZ Labour that has this strange hatred of the private sector. Other Labour parties focus on results and effectiveness. but NZ Labour instinctively think anything private sector has little or no role in providing Government funded services.

To rub it in the PM then cited comments from Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford his party wanted to see a larger, more capable, empowered community housing sector. 

They want a larger community housing sector yet oppose all the policies designed to achieve that.

d

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Labour’s new overlord

July 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Delegates of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) voted in favour of a proposal to merge with the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU).

EPMU national secretary Bill Newson said the discussions had been ongoing for quite some time and it was a milestone for the merger.

 

The new mega-union will have massive power in Labour. This one union will control 13% of the leadership electoral college.

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Dangerous celebrities

July 3rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Public figures such as Kiwi celebrity Jemaine Clement should seek the facts before sharing their opinions on the vaccine debate, an immunisation expert says.

Clement, best known as one of the Flight of the Concords duo, has posted messages on his Twitter feed backing Hollywood star Jim Carry’s anti-vaccination comments.

Carey’s own Twitter ravings to his millions of followers criticised the danger of immunisation, saying jabs poison children with mercury and aluminium.

In a series of tweets, Clement defended Carry’s right to make such observations, saying: “well I guess anti anti vaxxers are important too! My argument is about not closing down debate.”

But this has earned the oprobrium of Dr Nikki Turner, director of the immunisation advisory centre at the University of Auckland.

She said public figures had a lot of influence through their words and they should undertake some basic investigation before taking stances.

For example, in New Zealand, vaccinations no longer contained thiomersal, a neurotoxin Carry said he was against.

And in another story:

Dr Barham-Floreani insists that her position on vaccination is “pro-choice” rather than anti-vaxx. But the vaccination chapter in her book Well-Adjusted Babies (with which Miranda Kerr is apparently so enamoured) is heavy on anti-vaccination content, including:

She implies links between SIDS and vaccinations, quoting a “medical historian” who says, “there is absolutely no way a pathologist can tell the difference between crib death and death caused by vaccination.”

Carrey, Kerr and Clement are experts in acting. If you want to learn how to be a better actor, you should listen to them.

However taking the advice of celebrity actors on whether you should vaccinate your children is stupid and dangerous – it’s like getting medical advice from some bloke in a pub.

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General Debate 3 July 2015

July 3rd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Nauru

July 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A very good open letter to Murray McCully by 28 NZ legal academics about the situation in Nauru. Some extracts:

As you know, in May and June 2014, five members of the Nauruan parliamentary opposition were suspended indefinitely from Parliament. For more than a year, five out of seven opposition MPs (in a 19 member Parliament) have received no funding or resources and have been unable to participate in parliamentary proceedings.

That’s almost the entire opposition nobbled.

During the course of 2014 and 2015, there have been a number of other significant incursions into the free speech of Nauruan citizens, including a 2014 direction from government to local media not to speak to members of the opposition, a May 2015 government directive to Nauru’s only internet service provider to block Nauruan citizens’ access to Facebook, and a May 2015 amendment to Nauru’s Criminal Code introducing a vaguely worded offence that punishes speech which has the “intent to stir up … political hatred”.

This is banana republic stuff. Stirring up political hatred is code for criticising the Government. And no Government should tell ISPs what to block, let alone Facebook.

The dismantling of an effective judicature together with the silencing of the media, opposition and even ordinary citizens on Facebook means that the government of Nauru is now virtually immune from scrutiny of its actions.

Yep.

The five suspended MPs have also had their passports cancelled so that they cannot travel outside of Nauru – a denial of the right to freedom of movement recognised at international law.

Appalling.

Over the past 18 months, you have expressed publicly on several occasions your concern about these developments and have undertaken to raise various issues with the Nauruan government. Nothing has come of this “softly softly” approach and the time for a more forceful approach has arrived. As you have previously acknowledged in relation to Nauru, there is a close connection between democracy and the rule of law, and the effective operation of the justice system. It is not tenable for New Zealand to continue in its role of principal funder of Nauru’s justice sector while democracy and the rule of law are in such disarray and while so many basic human rights are being denied. As well, given our historical ties to Nauru and our position as a Pacific neighbour, New Zealand owes it to the citizens of Nauru to do everything it can to encourage its government to restore democracy and the rule of law.

And it is in our sphere of influence.

1.    Make urgent representations to the government of Nauru in respect of its persistent breaches of human rights and its disregard for the rule of law and parliamentary democracy;

2.    Persuade the government of Nauru to:

  • revoke its decision to cancel the passports of opposition MPs;
  • lift the suspension of opposition MPs;
  • restore freedom of expression and other civil and political rights;
  • and refrain from further interferences with the operation of the justice system;

3.    If Nauru does not move swiftly to take remedial action, withdraw New Zealand funding from Nauru’s Department of Justice and Border Control.

The time for talk is past. Give them three months otherwise the funding stops. We should not prop up authoritarian governments.

UPDATE: McCully is seeking a meeting with the Nauru Government. Good, but we need more than a meeting.

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The other defaulting countries

July 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Greece has defaulted on it IMF payments. So have three other countries. Know which they are?

Zimbabwe (2001), Somalia (1987) and Sudan (1984).

For an OECD member and fully developed economy to be in the company of those three countries say a lot about how monumentally badly their country has been managed.

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PM’s Christchurch Speech

July 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff has the speech here. Major aspects are:

  • A Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill.  The most directive powers under the current legislation will either expire or be amended to provide explicit roles for councils and, in certain cases, Ngai Tahu. The new legislation will apply to a much smaller area and some core provisions will be updated.  It will expire in five years.
  • CERA to go by April. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will provide overall coordination, monitoring and advice on future use of the red zone. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will lead the residential rebuild, procurement and oversight of the public sector rebuild.The Ministry of Health and Land Information New Zealand will pick up other operational functions.
  • A new entity, which we propose to call Regenerate Christchurch. The Earthquake Recovery Minister will work closely with the Mayor, the City Council and officials on how this new organisation will operate. We expect it will work along the lines of an urban development authority. It will deliver on both the Government’s and City Council’s objectives for the central city. We will work together to establish its objectives, functions, funding and powers – along with the appointment of a board.

Looks like more power going to back to the City Council, CERA to go, and a new urban development agency.

Also announced:

So today I can also confirm that Fletcher Residential has been selected as the Government’s preferred development partner for a new $800 million residential precinct in central Christchurch.

The East and North Frame Residential Precinct will provide around 940 new townhouses and apartments to accommodate up to 2,200 residents.

And there will be space for small-scale commercial activities to support the residential community.

For its part, the Government will sell seven hectares of land between Manchester and Madras Streets, from the river down to Lichfield Street, along with a small block in the North Frame.

Fletchers will progressively purchase blocks of land as the residential development is constructed and sold.

Construction will be spread over eight or nine years, and we expect the first homes to be completed within 18 months of a development agreement being signed.

We anticipate that will happen by the end of November this year.

Fletchers will be responsible for designing, building and selling the completed development, subject to minimum requirements agreed with the Government.

The townhouses and apartments are likely to be priced at between $400,000 and $900,000, but this will be for Fletchers to determine.

Christchurch’s centre was dying even before the earthquake. Getting a vibrant inner city going as a place to live, not just work, is crucial.

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Left has won only one out of the last 13 European elections

July 2nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

These are challenging times for Europe’s centre-left parties.

Since last year’s European parliament elections, where the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) emerged as the largest bloc, there have been 13 parliamentary and presidential elections in the EU. Of these, the centre-left has won only one – in Sweden.

Following the ousting of Denmark’s centre-left government last Thursday, only a third of the EU’s population of 503 million is now led by a centre-left head of government or state. Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Malta, Slovakia and Sweden are the only EU members that are on the centre-left.

France won’t be for long. Hollande is toast.

 

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