Doesn’t confidentiality apply both ways?

November 23rd, 2014 at 4:55 pm by David Farrar

I, along with many others, have been critical of Roger Sutton for breaching the confidentiality around the complaints against him by a CERA staffer. The press conference was a very bad idea, as it allowed him to spin his side of what happened.

But if one is to criticise Sutton for breaching the agreed upon confidentiality, doesn’t that apply both ways? A number of stories make it very clear that either the complainant is anonymously briefing media, or someone is on their behalf.

Now don’t get me wrong – the complainant is the wronged party. But if one is to criticise Sutton for talking publicly, then doesn’t the same apply to the other party?

As an example of the obvious briefings to the media.

The Herald:

The woman, who is bound by a confidentiality clause, said she was driven to take a stand because of what she says was similar treatment of other women at the organisation.

Another Herald story:

Meanwhile, other sources say there were problems with measures the commission put in place to keep Mr Sutton and the complainant at a distance while the allegations were being investigated.

These meant that he occasionally worked from Cera branch offices in the city, allowing the woman to work at the organisation’s HSBC Tower headquarters. The arrangement meant the complainant was told where Mr Sutton would be, so the two could avoid running into each other.

However, NZME News Service has been told Mr Sutton allegedly didn’t always stick to the arrangements and there were times the complainant believed they were both in the same building at the same time.

While their paths never crossed, the complainant raised concerns with the commission that Mr Sutton’s actions meant it was a very real possibility, the source said.

And today in the SST:

I’m told Sutton’s victim feels unable to walk down the street in her home city.

Now the complainant herself may not be talking to the media, but she is obviously talking to people who are talking to the media on her behalf. All these stories relay information only known to the complainant.

Now again Sutton is the one who has done wrong, and the SSC also stuffed up majorly with their press conference. But I think the ongoing anonymous briefings to the media on behalf of the complainant is not appropriate either.  Having this issue become an extended campaign of anonymous briefings to the media from one side, may encourage the other “side” to respond. I don’t think that would be a good outcome for anyone.

And once again so no one misrepresents me, I think both Sutton and the SSC are the ones who stuffed up and were in the wrong. But that doesn’t mean that one can’t be critical of what appears to be an ongoing release of information through anonymous sources.

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Slightly different to petrol stations

November 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A supermarket boss told teenage checkout girls to fork out up to $700 when organised thieves walked off with full trolleys.

This sounds just as bad as the petrol station stories about making staff pay for drive offs, but there is a difference.

The mother of one of the Pak’nSave checkout girls said the company was “passing the buck” on to its least powerful workers. “Those sort of huge firms will just push you around and that’s just the way it is, they get away with it,” said the woman, who did not want to be named to protect her daughter from employment repercussions.

Her daughter, then 18, earned $13.75 and worked 10 to 30 hours a week. She was working with a colleague on one checkout early this year when two women approached with two trolleys. After the first, full of expensive goods, was scanned the first woman asked her to get her some eggs.

When she returned the woman was unloading the first trolley into a car as her accomplice prepared to pay the checkout operator for both trolleys – until her debit card was declined. “She said, I need to get another card from the car, then she went out and they took off with the first trolley. Cunning, eh?” said the worker’s mother.

The supermarket’s owner-operator Andrew Soutar insisted the teens were liable to split the cost of the theft, about $700, because they should have prevented it.

This is slightly different. The staff allowed the women to leave without paying. Yes they were conned, but there would be procedures such as don’t leave your till unattended, and don’t let someone leave unattended without leaving the unpaid groceries behind.

This is different to petrol stations where staff can’t actually do anything to prevent drive offs.

Now having said that, it’s still pretty heartless by the store owner. Rather than make the girls pay, I would give them a warning, tell them if they didn’t follow procedures in future then they may be liable, and use it as a training example for other staff on the sort of cons you can get.

The petrol station owners were probably breaking the law. The supermarket owner is not I would say, but I think they are lacking some compassion. It was a fairly sophisticated con, and you should allow people to learn from their mistakes. Having said that, it would be useful to know how explicit and detailed the policies and procedures were on what to do in these situations.

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Where does Fairfax get their stats from?

November 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A year may have passed but the message is still the same. 

The second annual National Day of Action to Bust Rape Culture was held in Auckland and Wellington today.   

Organsier Jessie Hume and 200 other supporters turned out to the High Court in Auckland this afternoon to demand resolutions to an “endemic and devastating” rape culture. 

Hume said half of the supporters formed a circle with one donning red to represent the one in 100 women who receive justice in the form of accountability through the courts when making a rape complaint. 

It’s thought just ten per cent of sexual assaults are reported and only one per cent of those will lead to a conviction, according to the Ministry of Justice. 

I have great sympathy for the cause, but less sympathy for dodgy statistics.

The statistic on only 10% of sexual assaults are reported could well be true, sadly.  It comes from a 2001 report and anecdotal evidence from female (and some male) friends is that many have been assaulted and not reported it.

But the 1% figure is clearly wrong. Fairfax have written it in a way that states only 1% of those reported will lead to a conviction.

I blogged in 2009 on an excellent report by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs which reviewed 2,000 sexual violation complaints over a 30 month period.

They found 13% of complaints lead to a conviction, and of complaints deemed “valid”, 20% led to a conviction.

Not don’t get me wrong both figures are too low, and the story is right that we should have a higher conviction rate for valid complaints. But they are massively higher than 1%.

The research on what happens to complaints is interesting. The data is:

  • 8% deemed “false” by Police
  • 26% deemed “no offence” which usually means the victim withdrew the complaint. This doesn’t mean there was no offence, just that the complainant didn’t want to proceed.
  • 11% did not have a suspect identified
  • 24% did have a suspect identified but were not prosecuted. It was stated this is normally due to victim withdrawal, insufficient evidence or conflicting evidence
  • 18% did lead to a prosecution but the person was found not guilty or the case dropped
  • 13% were prosecuted and a person convicted

Of the 31% that went to trial, 16% had a guilty plea, 30% had the case withdrawn or discharged and 52% went to trial. The conviction rate for those that went to trial was 49% guilty and 51% acquitted.

The biggest factor is victim withdrawal – either initially, or before charges are laid or even charges are laid. This is not surprising as going forward can be extremely traumatizing.  This is where I think the focus should be – on having a less traumatic judicial process for victims. But I don’t support changing the burden of proof as proposed by Andrew Little.

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Harre quits Internet Party

November 23rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Laila Harre said on The Nation yesterday that she is quitting as Leader of the Internet Party, and is no longer on the payroll. Dotcom’s $4.5 million has all been spent it seems.

While saying they mismanaged the last month, she seems to have a long list of others to blame, namely:

  • Georgina Beyer
  • The media
  • Labour
  • Greens
  • The “right” attacking

A week after the election I blogged on why the Internet Party failed. What I put it down to was:

  • Dotcom’s motives were not trusted with the $4,5 milion he out into it
  • Laila was the wrong leader for it
  • The Fuck John Key video backfired massively
  • The Moment of Truth fiasco

The Herald on Sunday profiles Dotcom today.

Three years ago the mansion bustled with up to 50 employees but that is now believed to have dwindled to fewer than 10 people, including a butler, security men, kitchen staff and gardeners.

Having only 10 servants instead of 50. That must be very tough.

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The optimum size of government

November 23rd, 2014 at 11:00 am by Lindsay Addie

Introduction

Earlier this year the Fraser Institute from Canada who research and analyze public policy issues published an article about the optimum size of government. The article cites the research of Canadian economist Livio Di Matteo who has written a research paper on this topic (see end of this post for the web link).

The key question is at what point does increasing government spending actually hinder economic growth and progress on complex social issues?

Over the years, economists have measured the effect of the size of government on economic growth and social outcomes such as life expectancy, infant mortality, homicide rates, educational attainment, and student reading proficiency.

The source data used by Di Matteo was from the OECD.

Findings

The key findings were.

Di Matteo’s analysis confirms other work showing a positive return to economic growth and social progress when governments focus their spending on basic, needed services like the protection of property. But his findings also demonstrate that a tipping point exists at which more government hinders economic growth and fails to contribute to social progress in a meaningful way.

The big takeaway in Di Matteo’s paper is that government works best (ie. economic growth) when government spending is 26% of GDP.  For societal programs the optimum figure is 30-35%. Beyond this point the benefits of unchecked spending by governments on social programmes show less and less benefits. Di Matteo (page 86) cites increased government spending on programmes to reduce infant mortality rates at birth as a typical example.

US Federal Government spending was according to the OECD in 2012 40% of GDP. Also bear in mind the huge US pubic debt ($US18 trillion) is too high. By comparison as of 2014 New Zealand government spending is just under 36% of GDP.

According to the Fraser Institute Canada is an example of what can be achieved by reducing the size of government.

The federal and many provincial governments took sweeping action to cut spending and reform programs. This led to a major structural change in the government’s involvement in the Canadian economy. The Canadian reforms produced considerable fiscal savings, reduced the size and scope of government, created room for important tax reforms, and ultimately helped usher in a period of sustained economic growth and job creation.

This final point is worth emphasizing: Canada’s total government spending as a share of GDP fell from a peak of 53 percent in 1992 to 39 percent in 2007, and despite this more than one-quarter decline in the size of government, the economy grew, the job market expanded, and poverty rates fell dramatically.

It is of note that reducing government spending didn’t increase poverty rates in fact the opposite happened.

[UPDATE]: The Fraser Institute article mentions poverty in Canada. Note the article was written in March 2014 and as clearly stated are not discussing the most recent data and is talking about a specific period.

Conclusions

There are of course many debating points here but the challenge for economists and politicians is to better understand the specific effects of state spending. The mind-set should be that government spending be carefully monitored and not expanded unless there are concrete reasons to do so.

Sources

OECD Data

Measuring government in the 21st Century by Livio Di Matteo

World Bank

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PM and Cook

November 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

The dinner conversation traversed diverse subjects such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Rewi Alley, cooking skills, and Mr Xi’s preference for three-star hotels in China.

Mr Key, who is the chief cook in the Key household, said Mr Xi said he used to be quite a good cook himself but doesn’t cook any more.

I think it is rather cool that despite being PM, he still has time to cook for his family (and can do so). A very good way to stay grounded.

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Review: Interstellar (2014)

November 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

80KoreaPic copy

Went and saw this last night, it was definitely on my list of new releases to see on the big screen, butFury won out first (Review: Fury (Brad Pitt) the Tank movie 2014) and I think I made the right choice despite very good reviews across the board.

I’m not quite sure how to feel about this movie, so let’s cut to the building blocks.

81KoreaPic copy

Lead man is Matthew McConaughey (Cooper) well-known to all of us but not really a big star (U-571etc). This is perhaps his biggest break since Sahara 2005 when he was also the lead.  A restrained, square-jaw, McC is undisputedly manly but does he have the gravitas to carry-it-off? Just I think, as an interstellar pilot.  He’s a reprise of Keir Dullea (Dr. David Bowman) of the 1968 classic 2001:Space Odyssey and this film is essentially an oblique rework. It even has HAL 9000s in the form of “Case” and “Tars” coolOdyssey monolith-esque walking talking robot jenga blocks.

Lead woman is Anne Hathaway and ever since her AMAZING piece in Les Miserables is just legend! We also have Michael Caine, John Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun, appropriately), Ellen Burstyn (The Five People You Meet in Heaven,appropriately) and Matt Damon makes an unexpected mid-way appearance.  Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane of Hunger Games, and the creepy kid in American Beauty) is a crew member. Produced and directed by the UK Nolan brothers; Chris Nolan made his big break with Batman Begins, same year as Sahara.

The synopsis is a team of explorers travel through a wormhole near Saturn, put there by“them” in an attempt to lead us to a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity. “We were never meant to stay here, but to leave.” Things are bad on earth. There is a subplot of the Great Depression Dust Bowl, and the movie even has vox pop video records of actual people talking about that experience but appropriated to the current.

And we get lots of fields of corn, ala Signs (Gibson) and Field of Dreams (Cosner). What is it with corn fields (is it the crop circles)? There’s even a great chasing through the corn fields as per North By North West.  So, several classical movie allusions hidden in here.

Here’s the trailer…

There is a very cool unexpected tsunami scene. I liked too, that since things ‘collapsed,’ drones from India have continued flying for decades powered by solar panels, and occasionally come down.  Cooper ‘grabs’ them using his laptop and harvests their solar units to run his combine harvesters (frustrated farmer-astronaut).  There is also a great piece during the Parent-Teacher interview, when “Murph” the daughter is scolded and gets into a fight for believing the Apollo Moon missions were not a faked conspiracy to bankrupt the Russians into space exploration and expense, now Educational dogma. Space Jock daddy ain’t havin’ that (Unbelievers! …Ah well, back to farm).

The movie tantalizingly does not set us in an era; there’s no opener “Earth: 2034.” Gramps Lithgow recalls the late 20th century, people still drive pickups, there were wars over food. Crops have progressive blights and are failing. “We still have corn, but that too will die.”Most people are farmers.  The earth population is much reduced. NASA has secretly survived, hidden away.  So, perhaps mid 21st century ( 2050?) but it does not pinpoint it for us.  Because this movie slides Time all over the place.

Great special effects, spacescapes, craft, cryogenic freezing, robots, but this movie is a philosophical piece inside the capsules and on icy planets with great views, and so has more humanity and monologues of interest than Gravity had, which was visually spectacular but just lacked the human element. This movie has a good blend of both and the second half is better than the first.

We get lectured about time continuums and poltergeists, gravity as a communication tool transcending time for Beings in a fifth dimension, and all that pseudoscientific gumph. Michael Caine has a lifetime full of blackboards covered in real maths; science and maths as the Hope of humanity. Except mid-mission Anne Hathaway introduces Love.  Maybe love is what should decide what choices we make, isn’t that core to humanity, maybe that’s what things are really all about? Ya’ think? Gee, all that time I waisted on that PhD.

And of course McC (Cooper) is sighing and crying the whole time about his abandoned family back home in the dust, starving, and “Murph” his daughter who daddy promised to come back to. A grudge held across time and space and a whole lifetime. That’s gotta suck.

The movie holds together, with a great climax into a time conundrum reminiscent of the psychedelic Space Odyssey finale, but better explained.

But I’m not sure how I feel about it. I loved the Dr Who time gymnastics (they have to make decisions that will cost them back on earth (if they ever get back)…”every hour we spent here is seven back on earth.”  So they work fast, to get back to family before they die or are as old as they are now.

Some poignant TV video logs to eachother over time, pics of babies coming and going, people aging, as the crew just stay the same, and a tear jerker at the end between Cooper and Murph (no spoiler).

But there were too many implausible bits that jarred.  The crew bar one descend to ahopeful planet leaving the black guy behind to scramble data over the relative longer time and try and learn something about gravity to help the NASA team back on earth. When the crew finally make it back to the ship, well black guy has been there alone for 23 years.  Same with Matt Damon, who has lived an eternity alone on a space rock; and at the end, Anne Hathaway, playing house all by herself for eons.  It just doesn’t wash. People go mad that alone.  What do they do for decades, play Solitaire?

After 23 years Cooper just brushes past the black crew member and doesn’t even say hello. Callous as a comet core. Racism and ageism in space?

And the ending is unresolved, a bit like Space Odyssey.  It felt rushed. Gee, we’ve run out of time in a time movie. The sub plot around the son is simply abandoned, we see him no more. Why all the earlier development and angst? Murph dismisses Cooper, “I’ve got my children around me now.”  Hello?  A lifetime apart, not knowing if he was alive, you’d want a chat and cup of tea, maybe a Mackers, yeah?  Nup. “You belong up there, in the stars..GO!” Man alone in the sunsets stuff.  Saving family by leaving.

Some overly loud sudden crescendos of classical music (I suppose to mirror Odyssey’sfamous sound track of the Blue Danube?).

Overall I enjoyed this. The characters are excellent and the dust threat on earth interesting.  The NASA conspiracy is believable, but once we get out there in time continuums and bouncing off black holes, and breathing pure ammonia, well, the science and attempt to be ‘believable’ lost me. But, a good addition to the sci fi stable this season.  I preferred the story and action of Tom Cruise’s latest outings Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow; and Prometheus; and Gravity.

7/10 stars plus a black hole from me.

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General Debate 23 November 2014

November 23rd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Bill Cosby

November 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Normally one is not inclined to pass judgement on someone who has never been convicted of any crime. But at last count around two dozen women have come forward to say they were drugged and raped by Bill Cosby, which is enough for me to conclude that there is no smoke without fire.

It’s sad as more and more of our childhood icons such as Rolf Harris and Bill Cosby are exposed not just as flawed human beings, but in fact serial predators and rapists.

Also disturbing is that some of the allegations against Cosby are decades old, but only through social media, has they gained global prominence – which allowed other victims to come forward.

Almost beyond belief is the fact that he appeared in Florida this weekend, and got a standing ovation from the crowd.

The Cosby Show was the most popular show on television for much of the 1980s. It was No 1 in the US from 1985 to 1989. For many people Cosby was playing himself when he portrayed Cliff Huxtable. But it turns out he was very much acting.

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Taxpayer funding for America’s Cup should cease

November 22nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Treasury has advised against taxpayer backing for Team New Zealand in the next America’s Cup, labelling it “poor value for money”.

The Government contributed $5 million to Team New Zealand to help retain key staff soon after its 8-9 loss in the 34th Cup in September last year – against Treasury advice – and is considering investing a similar amount to the $36 million contributed last time.

The news that the cup is likely to be in Bermuda, not San Francisco, means that the case for further taxpayer money is even weaker than before.

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The focus should be on students not schools

November 22nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Free uniforms and stationery are on offer to those who enrol at a new charter school.

How terrible. Helping poor families.

Millions of dollars will be spent on new charter or “partnership” schools despite hundreds of spare places at surrounding state options.

I don’t care about schools. I care about outcomes for students. The outcomes in these communities to date have been pretty poor.

That has not stopped disquiet from one principal who says it is unfair to expect lower decile schools to compete with charter schools offering free uniforms, stationery and no donations.

They complain that fees are too high and then complain when a school is innovative enough to not need them.

Six intermediate schools are near the site of Middle School West Auckland, a Year 7-10 partnership school that will have a maximum roll of 240.

The schools have enough spare places to enrol an additional 588 students at Year 7-8, according to the ministry document.

Yes, but they are all offering much the same, while the charter school is offering something different, Parents will have a choice.

Partnership schools cannot charge donations, and the school would provide free uniforms and stationery, Mr Poole said, but not as “sweeteners”.

“What we want is that every child walks through the gate at 100 per cent equal.”

Shouldn’t the left be cheering this on?

Mr Poole said that, despite attacks from opponents of charter schools, they did not get more funding, and start-up costs were well below usual amounts for state schools. Creative budgeting and a lack of expensive infrastructure like playing fields enabled them to offer smaller classes and items such as uniforms, he said.

It’s about flexibility. A charter school has greater ability to set its own priorities.

What’s interesting is that the principal complaining about a charter school offering free stationery took part in a protest march where he complained about funding for stationery.

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Garner on Little

November 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

A bunch of faceless union hacks chose Andrew Little to lead the Labour Party this week.

That’s the truth. It’s as simple and as brutal as that.

Six unions got to vote in the leadership race – but just one union, Service and Food Workers, actually gave all its members the right to exercise their vote.

The other five unions gave the power to about 100 senior delegates to cast the crucial votes on behalf of those on the factory floor.

Who are these delegates? Who knows. If it wasn’t for Little’s 100 union mates who wielded the power and the final say, Little would have come a distant second in this race.

The Labour system is awful. If you want to do membership voting, then do it as the Greens do it – one member, one vote. Not one union delegate having 30 votes.

This is unprecedented for Labour – 27 of its MPs don’t want Little to be their boss.

Yet leader he is. It’s a perverse outcome that looks farcical. But the process is the process – despite it looking like an ass. It certainly doesn’t seem fair to Robertson, and of course he’s gutted and licking his wounds.

So what to make of Little?

In my time covering politics I found him to be straight-forward, competent, organised, gruff, a little grim, dry and blunt but likeable.

So it’s not all bad. Get Labour back up into the early 30s and it’s game on – that’s MMP.

At 30% you lose less badly. At 35% you can govern if Winston chooses you.

At least Little’s not a trumped-up fake like the last leader and a stuttering mess, like the one before that.

Ouch.

But this is a divided bunch. If I was Little I’d offer the deputy leader’s job to Jacinda Ardern.

They need some Auckland influence in there – and she’s a Robertson loyalist. Little could offer the job to Robertson – but then the leader and deputy are from Wellington and that’s a problem.

He must not offer it to failed leadership contender Nanaia Mahuta for all the obvious reasons. And he must promote new blood like Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash on to the front bench.

I agree Ardern is the logical choice for Deputy. She doesn’t want to be his Deputy, but she is a List MP and a servant of the party. She should be told that she has to take the role.

And what about Robertson? Is he finished? I say no.

He’s promised not to run again for leader – but surely that commitment only lasts for this term.

Robertson, in my view, will always have ambitions to be the leader. But he wants to give Little three years.

However, should Little fail and John Key wins a fourth term, Robertson’s commitment to never stand again means nothing.

Little is now the boss. But don’t write off the apprentice – politics is a long game and Robertson is still running a marathon, not a sprint.

Or will he be Jacinda’s campaign manager next time, rather than vice versa?

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A profile of Little

November 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff has a profile of Andrew Little.

In the mid-2000s, the EPMU took on Air New Zealand over plans to outsource heavy maintenance engineering and airport services. Little hired experts and drew up an alternative business strategy.

A former airline executive – on the other side of the negotiating table – was impressed.

“There is a really interesting blend of practical compassion within Andrew. That pragmatism realises the commercial realities of a business … It was a very tense and adversarial approach taken by both parties but there was a degree of calmness about him, borne out of recognising as a leader that he has got to let the situation unfold a little bit.”

He says Little “opened his eyes”.

“We understood [then] the impact of the decision that we would have been taking. He was a measured, reasonable voice as opposed to antagonistic. He played a very good, diffusing role.”

Little is “well regarded” by many in the business world, the former airline executive says.

The irony is Little is more popular with some employers he negotiated with, than some of his rival union leaders.

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Key elected head of the International Democrat Union

November 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Key was yesterday elected Chairman of the International Democrat Union. This is the global union of centre right parties. It is unprecedented for the leader of such a small country to become the chair.

It has 54 members including the Australian Liberal Party, Canadian Conservative Party, Taiwanese Kuomintang, French UPM, German CDU, UK Conservative and US Republican Party. It was founded by Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chrirac and George H W Bush. John Howard has just retired as the Chairman.

I have had some involvement myself in the IDU and the IYDU. To be elected Chair means that dozens of other Prime Ministers and party leaders are in support of you. It is a sign that John Key is recognised internationally as one of the most successful centre right leaders around the world.

Global politics, like domestic politics, often works on the strength of relationships. Key’s ascension to the IDU leadership is significant.

When he first became National Party leader, some on the left mocked Key as someone who would be incompetent on foreign affairs – how could a money trader know anything about diplomacy. Since then Key has developed strong relationships with both the US and Chinese Presidents, is good friends with the Australian, British and Canadian PMs, and now has been elected by his peers to be the leader of the global grouping of centre-right parties.

 

 

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President Obama’s immigration policy

November 22nd, 2014 at 8:24 am by Lindsay Addie

Barack Obama’s announcement yesterday of amnesty for 4.7 million out of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants was widely expected. David Gergen a former presidential advisor has analysed the issue over at CNN.

It isn’t the underlying policy that is troubling. Just the opposite. We have known for years that we would never deport some 11 million people from our midst. Many have become hard-working, productive members of our society, and Congress, working with the White House, should long ago have provided them a safe pathway out of the shadows.

In that sense, this policy is good. One wonders indeed why the President, having decided to take the plunge, didn’t go further and build a pathway to fuller benefits such as health care for those who establish a solid record of work and good behaviour.

Nor is it even the questionable legality that disturbs. On many occasions during our history, presidents have tested the boundaries of their constitutional power through executive orders: Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, his Emancipation Proclamation, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s creation of the Works Progress Administration, FDR’s awful internment of Japanese-Americans, and Harry Truman’s integration of the armed forces were all accomplished through controversial executive orders.

Recent polls agree with Gergen, the public like the thrust of the policy but disagree with using an executive order.

Even so, President Obama’s executive order on immigration seems to move us into uncharted, dangerous waters. It is one thing for a president like Lincoln or FDR to act unilaterally in national emergencies. In nearly all the big examples of the past — like the Emancipation Proclamation — they were also acting as commander-in-chief. As the one foremost responsible for protecting the nation’s existence, a president as commander-in-chief has long been recognized as having inherent powers that stretch well beyond those of normal governance.

Agreed. It is hard to argue that immigration in 2014 in the USA is an ‘emergency’ on the scale of the abolition of slavery.

The Obama administration is citing examples of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr issuing executive orders on immigration but there is an important difference.

The White House has repeatedly pointed to immigration-related executive orders issued by past presidents, notably Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, to support the legality of President Obama’s order and to palliate its partisan sting.

Both the executive orders cited, however, can be distinguished from the case at hand. Reagan granted amnesty to 100,000 undocumented immigrants to close a loophole in the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed in 1986.

Bush’s order, which granted amnesty to at most 1.5 million people (although the actual number who benefited is likely much smaller), also attempted to clean up a piece of legislation.

So whilst his predecessors issued executive orders in relation to an existing directive from Congress (the 1986 immigration legislation) Obama has issued his own directive which is different. Gergen then addresses issues of governance and the Constitution.

One can argue whether this executive order is legal, but it certainly violates the spirit of the founders. They intentionally focused Article One of the Constitution on the Congress and Article Two on the president. That is because the Congress is the body charged with passing laws and the president is the person charged with faithfully carrying them out.

In effect, the Congress was originally seen as the pre-eminent branch and the president more of a clerk. The president’s power grew enormously in the 20th century but even so, the Constitution still envisions Congress and the president as co-equal branches of government — or as the scholar Richard Neustadt observed, co-equal branches sharing power.

The end result is going to be even more distrust between Democrats and Republicans in Washington DC. If Obama had have waited 6 months to give Congress a chance to act it could have led to a bi-partisan solution. The arguments that have broken out regarding why neither side didn’t pass legislation in the House when it had the chance (Democrats between 2008-10 and the GOP post 2010) is just a pointless debate about the past and does neither side no credit. Both parties must share the blame.

The best hope is that the new Congress does address this issue with a bipartisan bill that the President will eventually sign. That will require the GOP to show some constructive cohesive leadership, something they’ve struggled with up till now.

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General Debate 22 November 2014

November 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Smith out of money

November 22nd, 2014 at 6:51 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Recaptured murderer Phillip Smith has had all his money confiscated, and his family and former business partner are refusing to stump up cash to pay for a lawyer.

Tony Ellis, who has represented Smith in New Zealand, has been trying to arrange a Brazilian lawyer to visit him in jail in Rio de Janeiro. But they all want payment upfront. One had asked for a business-class airfare to New Zealand to discuss the case, Ellis said.

When Smith, 40, fled from Auckland Airport on November 6, he told Customs officers he was carrying $10,600.

Whatever money he had when he was arrested nine days ago was confiscated, and was being held under a court order at the New Zealand embassy. It could not be released without court approval.

“It’s a catch 22,” Ellis said. “If he had given me any money, I could have gone over there and organised this, but I don’t have any money to do that.”

He approached Smith’s family yesterday to see if they could provide $2000 towards legal costs. However, a spokesman for the family said they could not afford to help.

Oh dear. His plan is not going so well.

Of course if he had not fled New Zealand, then he wouldn’t have all these problems.

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A blow against free speech at Oxford

November 21st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Just read this article at Vox on how a debate about abortion at Oxford University was cancelled due to protests.

I’m pro-choice but I think it is deplorable that people should try and stop a debate on an issue. The person who got the event cancelled said:

The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups. Debating abortion as if its a topic to be mulled over and hypothesised on ignores the fact that this is not an abstract, academic issue.

How appalling. By her logic we should not debate immigration, welfare, or pretty much anything because they are not abstract academic issues. These are the issues we should be debating.

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Secondary teachers vote for education reforms

November 21st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

80 per cent of PPTA members have agreed to include two new teaching roles into their collective employment contract. They’re a key part of the government’s $360 million policy, which will see the creation of communities of schools.

That’s very pleasing. There are many areas of education policy where the PPTA disagrees with the Government, but it is good to see them willing to work with the Government in an area where they do agree.

The reforms will be excellent for secondary teachers and principals. They will be able to earn $10,000 to $50,000 a year more by taking up roles where they share their skills with other schools and teachers.

The NZEI remains totally against their members getting paid more money!

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Wi-Fi must be banned!

November 21st, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Balclutha parent has resigned from her school’s board of trustees because she believes it is not taking her concerns about Wi-Fi in classrooms seriously. …

Many New Zealand schools operate Wi-Fi in classrooms, but former board member Julia Hunter said she had serious concerns the Government was not paying attention to the growing evidence of biological damage being caused by Wi-Fi, and instead continued to reassure boards everything was safe.

”Sadly, our New Zealand standard is 15 years old and was set on the thermal heating of a 90kg man after only six minutes of exposure.

”Our children . . . are being exposed to this equipment for six hours a day, five days a week.”

Sounds terrible! Except …

Ministry of Education student achievement head Graham Stoop said measurements in New Zealand and overseas showed exposures to radio frequency fields from Wi-Fi equipment were extremely low, amounting to tiny fractions of the limit allowed for the public in New Zealand.

A recent study of two New Zealand schools found the highest exposures were 4000 times below the limit, with typical exposures more than 10,000 times below the limit, he said.

If it was half the limit then maybe you’d get worried.

She also found:

Mrs Hunter said there had been no long-term scientific studies conducted on the harm the equipment was doing to children, and in 2011 the World Health Organisation re-classified Wi-Fi electromagnetic as 2B, a possible carcinogen.

They love that word carcinogen.

”Exposures from Wi-Fi are significantly lower than cellphones. The class 2B classification is also shared with everyday items such as coffee, pickled vegetables, talcum powder and sunblock.”

We must ban coffee and talcum powder in schools also!

 

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A political King

November 21st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Prince of Wales intends to continue making “heartfelt interventions” in matters of national importance when he becomes king, rather than adopting the Queen’s blanket impartiality on public affairs, close friends have said.

As Charles III he will redefine the “evolving” role of monarch, as he believes he has a duty to ask questions of those in power on issues such as the environment, on which he has campaigned for decades. Patrick Holden, an adviser to the Prince on sustainability, told the Guardian: “He feels these issues are too serious to ignore.”

So the next King of New Zealand will be a political campaigning interfering King.

If we’re to have a political Head of State, wouldn’t it be better to be one we can choose?

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Punish the thieves not the workers

November 21st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Customers cost service stations millions by fleeing without paying, but low-paid workers appear to be bearing the brunt.

In the wake of a story yesterday highlighting the case of workers at Masterton’s Night ‘n Day store, which also operates a Gull service station, being docked wages after customers drove off without paying, employees at other stations have come forward with more examples of the practice.

At least one other service station in the Wellington area routinely docked workers for “drive-offs”, and dozens of reader comments and emails spoke of other instances.

“I asked my boss, ‘How are we supposed to stop the drivers?’ And he said . . . ‘You’ve got to try to do your best to stop them getting off the forecourt’,” said a Hutt Valley Caltex station worker, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.

That’s appalling. Would a retailer dock wages off staff to compensate for shoplifters?

Of course staff should attempt to stop drive offs, but in many cases it won’t be possible.

The solution for owners is to report drive offs to the Police, not to take it from their staff’s pay.

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Gower and Trotter on Little’s victory

November 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

It is the great union robbery – the unions have stolen Labour’s leadership.

The unions have installed their man Andrew Little as Labour’s boss through a backdoor takeover, in what you’d call a perverse outcome. …

You see, only Labour’s six affiliated unions have control over the 20 percent vote for the leadership – Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing (EPMU), Dairy Workers, Meat Workers and Related Trades, Rail and Maritime Transport, Maritime, and Service and Food Workers (SFW).

So it is not actually “the unions” which stole Labour’s leader – it is actually just six private sector unions.

Just six unions out of the 144 in New Zealand is hardly representative.

And the EPMU which Little was of course the boss of, has the most votes for the Labour leadership.

It gets even worse. Only the SFW give their members a vote; the other five let delegates decide for its members.

The union vote is not one person, one vote. It is not democracy – it is a union muscle job.

A few score union delegates got to decide the leadership.

And there’s an example of a Labour leader installed by the unions – his name is Ed Miliband.

Just like Little, Miliband didn’t win the British Labour party membership, and he didn’t win the MPs, but he did win the union vote. And right now, Miliband has terrible poll ratings.

The truth is this: Little won the Labour leadership thanks to a handful of his union mates. That doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t do a good job.

Little could not win the New Plymouth electorate. Little could not win the Labour Party membership. Little could not win the Labour MPs.

All Little could win was his union mates.

Chris Trotter also writes:

If Grant Robertson’s young followers genuinely want to roll back the influence of neoliberalism, both within the Labour Party, and in New Zealand generally, then radically democratising the affiliated unions’ processes of representation would be one of the best ways to do it. 

if the union vote had been open to every union member, rather than just the bosses, it is highly unlikely Little would have won.

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Mum and Dad ate all the candy

November 21st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jimmy Kimmel got some parents to send in videos of their kids after telling them they had eaten all their Halloween candy. Superb.

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NZ income mobility remains good

November 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I have often blogged that in NZ we should focus more on income mobility, and less on income inequality. An income inequality focus means you are comparing a 18 year old first time worker with a 45 year old experienced worker, and complaining they don’t get paid the same.

There is nothing wrong with the fact that some jobs and people get paid a lot less than others. What would be concerning is if those on low incomes stay there their entire life. We need a focus on opportunity, not on outcome. Labour’s core policy is to try and ensure equality of outcome, while I believe it is equality of opportunity that counts.

A further Treasury working paper has found:

To summarise the patterns of mobility, we analyse the income changes over the short-term (annual) and a longer term interval (eight years). There is change in incomes between one year and the next, with over 60 percent of the population changing income decile group. The movements in income group are more of a short distance (to adjacent income groups) than long distance. There is substantial change in income over the long-run in both absolute and relative income. Only 22 percent stay in the same income decile group eight years later.

So year on year, 60% of the population change income decile, and over an eight year period, a massive 78% move into a different income decile. This is a good thing.

Of those households in the lowest income quintile, only 45% are still there eight years later. 25% are in the second quintile and 30% in the middle or upper quintiles.

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