Archive for August, 2006

Select Committees

August 31st, 2006 at 4:11 pm by David Farrar

I had a brief appearance before the Justice & Electoral Select Committee today, advocating that Parliament not reduce from 120 to 100 MPs. The Committee was very polite and receptive with a few targetted questions and a bit of humour. I can’t speak for them, but I would be surprised if the bill is recommended to proceed.

Prior to that the Committee was hearing submission on Sue Bradford’s Section 59 bill and there were some very emotional submitters, talking about personal backgrounds with abuse. It was really good to see the Committee dealing with such a horrible issue in a very sensitive non-partisan way. Sure the MPs on there may disagree on what the law should say, but one could tell they were operating in a genuine way.

My third select committee experience for today is to note (thanks No Right Turn) that the Commerce Committee has reported back the anti-spam legislation and I (and InternetNZ) are delighted that the Committee has taken on board all the submissions and make some really really good improvements to the bill. It’s again excellent to see Select Committees doing such a good job. Too many people think Parliament is only about Question Time.

Ran into Sophia from Red Confectionary and local Act on Campuser Jordan K at the select committee, so we had a quick beer at the Backbencher afterwards. Always good to meet new people.

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Unethical vs Illegal

August 31st, 2006 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

Taito Phillip Field has claimed he has done nothing illegal, and with the Police now inquiring into this, he has been stood down.

But the issue has never been one of legality as much as ethics. The criminal code is the bare minimum standards for society. For MPs we expect behaviour well beyond that. Let me illustrate with some examples:

* A (for example) National MP could refuse to help any constituents who are not members of the National Party. This would be 100% legal, yet also deplorable and one would expect the party leadership to come down like a tonne of bricks on any MP who acted in such a way.

* Closer to home, there is nothing at all illegal about immigrants who gained residency through an MP, to choose to paint homes for him as a show of gratitude. It is grossly unethical for an MP to allow them to do that, but it is not illegal.

* An MP could refuse to speak to any rotary clubs unless they pay him or her $1,000 speakers fee. Quite legal but unethical.

* An MP can quite legally accept $100 donations for her political party, from constituents whom he is helping. Again grotesque but not illegal.

* An MP can seduce the 19 year old daughter of a constituent who comes to him to help, and then also sleep with the 17 year old teenage daughter and not break the law in any way, yet be regarded as acting unethically.

* An MP can lie to a QC, and not have broken the law, as the QC was not given the power to require testimony under oath.

* An MP can ring up constituents and pressure them to shut up, and this is not against the law.

* An MP can lie to his Ministerial colleagues in order to get immigration visas approved, yet this is not illegal – only grossly unethical.

The vast majority of what Field has been accused of is not illegal behaviour. While any potentially criminal behaviour such as forged birth certificates should be investigated by the Police, this in no way negates the necessity to have a proper investigation into the ethical behaviour.

And Labour can do this at any time by either giving leave for the Privileges Committee to investigate, or setting up a proper Commission of Inquiry.

NB: Note that some of the examples above are just that – examples – and it is not suggested one MP has done all the above.

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Well done Lewis

August 31st, 2006 at 9:26 am by David Farrar

Congratulations to Lewis Holden who has won NZ Debating’s Bledisloe Cup for public speaking and was also a member of the team which won the Joynt Scroll competition.

Lewis spoke, of course, on constitutional issues!

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The Tazer Debate

August 31st, 2006 at 8:50 am by David Farrar

Keith Ng has what I consider the best contribution around to the Tazer debate.

Keith has provided links to videos showing inappropriate Police use of tazers (including one simply horrible clip showing multiple taserings which kill the victim) but also clips of Police using them to protect the community etc.

Keith comes down on the side of the tazers being available for use, as do I. But this is not carte blanche for the Police to use them at any provocation. I was shocked by the TV3 footage of a police officer using pepper spray on a handcuffed man on the ground, and if incidents like that are allowed to continue, then support for weapons like tazers will dry up.

So the ball is in the Police court. They have them to use them, but how they use them will be the crucial factor in public acceptability.

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RIP Lord Cooke of Thorndon

August 31st, 2006 at 8:26 am by David Farrar

Somewhat shocked to read that Lord Cooke died last night. I wasn’t aware he (presumably) had cancer.

He was one of NZ’s most dominant legal personalities. A worthy member of the Order of New Zealand. His Wikipedia profile has some details on him.

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Zoning

August 31st, 2006 at 7:54 am by David Farrar

Norman LaRocque writes in the NZ Herald on the problems of zoning. Some key points:

* more rigid school zoning laws do not remove selection from the system
* Instead of students being selected by schools, they are selected by whether or not they can afford to buy a house near the school of their choice (selection by mortgage).
* Children of low-income families are excluded from attending popular schools because they cannot afford to live near them
* High-income families have all the choices – they can choose a particular state school by moving to the relevant zone, an integrated school or an independent school if they wish to pay fees.
* Removing zoning can provide increased choice by breaking the link between where a family can afford to live and where children can go to school.
* Zoning legislation raises a fundamental issue: Why should some parents have their right to choice of school denied especially when we know school quality varies, in some cases quite considerably?

And of most interest to me was this:

Research from the Smithfield Project carried out in the 1990s after dezoning shows that Maori and Pacific students took the greatest advantage of choice. The proportion of Maori who attended their local school fell from 82 per cent in 1990 to 69 per cent in 1993. For Pacific students the fall was even greater (from 87 per cent to 67 per cent). For Pakeha, the figure went from 75 per cent to 72 per cent. That’s called voting with your feet.

Norman summarises with some common sense in what is such a polarised debate:

The real issue is which one is better, not which one is perfect. In my view, the costs of zoning exceed its benefits. The changes to zoning laws in the mid-1990s under National and later under Labour had no policy basis. It is time to review them.

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Labour and Field

August 31st, 2006 at 7:07 am by David Farrar

As people will have heard, Field is not just refusing to go, but he is even attacking the Ingram Report claiming it wasn’t fair to him. Surely perfect grounds for a proper Commission of Inquiry to be held.

Anyway why has Clark changed her tune so suddenly? On Monday she was strongly hinting he should go and yesterday she was back defending him. The reason according to my sources is he confirmed that he will withdraw his vote on confidence and supply if Helen keeps pushing, so she blinked first.

Hence one now sees the Unions enter the fray. It is amazing in fact they have stayed quiet for so long (imagine the howls of outrage if this was a non Labour MP accussed of having immigrants work for free for them) and one can only assume that they have entered the battle with the agreement or indeed encouragement of the Prime Minister.

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Political Wisdom

August 31st, 2006 at 6:23 am by David Farrar

Jordan Carter has had lots of advice for National on how its current focus on corruption in Labour won’t work. Some quotes:


As for the rest, the simmering anger from the opposition won’t have been diminished by landing no real blows in Parliament this week. The tide has begun to turn on the election funding issues,

It is that fundamental political integrity which people understand and which drives Labour’s continued high public support, along with the record breaking popularity ratings of Helen Clark.

I suspect much the same result is likely – i.e. no payoff for National other than them trending ever more towards looking unfit to govern the country.

National’s obsessive focus on side issues isn’t paying off for that party politically.

His colleague Tony Milne has also been full of advice:


Thank goodness people are not paying attention to this issue,

National are simply trying to score political points but don’t have a case. Not that that message is getting through from the media.

Oh, yes for those who missed it, today’s Herald Digi-poll now has Labour 8% behind National.

But there is good news for Labour. If they come out and make an unequivocal statement on Taito Phillip Field (along the lines of what the unions are now saying) and also agree to respect the law in terms of electoral and parliamentary funding, then I suspect it will go back to neck and neck.

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Select Committee Oral Submission

August 30th, 2006 at 3:48 pm by David Farrar

I’m appearing before the Justice and Electoral Select Committee tomorrow at 11.30 am to speak to my submission oppossing the Electoral (Reduction in Number of Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill.

Most of the submissions have been against it seems and were heard last week. The Committee kindly delayed hearing me as I was overseas.

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The pressure mounts

August 30th, 2006 at 6:51 am by David Farrar

I am very pleased to see Labour’s Pacific Vice-President call for Field to go, as it restores credibility to a key group.

No, not Labour of course who are beyond redemption, but the PI community. Former Labour PM Mike Moore has now twice spoken out on his deep concern that some members of an ethnic minority seem to automatically rush to defend one of their MPs, even when they have done very bad things – Awatere-Huata is the other example. Such automatic defences, regardless of the merits of the case, are what lead to a lessening of respect for that group.

Tapu Misa writes defending the PI community against Moore’s claims, and I have sympathy for her position that there is no sole community view etc. The problem I suppose is that the only PI views the media have reported to date have been defending him. Incidentally Tapu Misa also speaks a lot of sense on the religion in schools issue – well worth a read.

The Press also reports on the Labour Pacific VP calling for Field to go. I find it fascinating that despite being a Party Vice-President she is not having her calls returned by the President or Leader. Not a healthy sign. Taue also knocks through the spin from Clark that it is up to the party to take action against Field, and nothing to do with her. Taue points out the reality is Clark and the President will decide.

And finally the Press Editorial today is called “Field must go” which really sums it all up.

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Mad Iranian President

August 29th, 2006 at 4:51 pm by David Farrar

Every time the President of Iran writes a letter, the more convinced I am that all stops must be taken to stop him gaining control of nuclear weapons.

His latest letter is to the German Chancellor non less and tries to bond by not only suggesting many of the problems of the world are due to the WWII Allies, but also again advocates the Holocaust never happened, stating:

But, does it not stand to reason that some victorious countries of World War II intended to create an alibi on the basis of which they could continue keeping the defeated nations of World War II indebted to them. Their purpose has been to weaken their morale and their inspiration in order to obstruct their progress and power. In addition to the people of Germany, the peoples of the Middle East have also borne the brunt of the Holocaust.

I mean how moronic do you have to be to write to the German Chancellor asking her to sign up to your holocaust denial theories. Seriously, he’s not all there and the only thing between him and some nukes is the UN. God help us.

The only comforting factor is the certain knowledge Israel will go in and bomb his nuke sites as a last resort to stop him gaining nukes. And of course the whole world will condemn them for doing so, while silently grateful to them all the same.

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Saddam shown Southpark Movie

August 29th, 2006 at 4:40 pm by David Farrar

Oh now this is just perfect. The infamous Southpark movie showed Saddam Hussein and Satan planning to take over the world, and also incidentiallly being homosexual lovers until Satan drops Saddam for not being sensitive enough.

It seems the Marines guarding Saddam have been showing him the movie – repeatedly. Absolutely priceless.

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Labour’s donor letter

August 29th, 2006 at 9:48 am by David Farrar

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Helen forgot to mention that she may not be able to steal $800,000 off the taxpayer next election, which is why she really needs the money!

I find it fascinating that it is an appeal for funds from a party in Government that consists entirely of attacking the Opposition and not promoting its achievements.

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How the spin has changed

August 29th, 2006 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial reviews the Field scandal.

They remind us that before Dr Ingram reported, the “prebuttal” from the Labour ranks was that Mr Field was cleared of serious wrongdoing, Field claimed himself “exonerated”. Then he was deemed to have had a lapse of judgment and over time this was upgraded to a serious lapse.

The Herald correctly states:

Had Labour had the ethics to have instituted a commission of inquiry, with power to call witnesses and documentation, it would have had a different official conclusion on which to base its pressure on Mr Field. That option is still preferable to him being allowed to go quietly from Parliament, but the cost and time expended on the Ingram report mean a second inquiry is unlikely. Labour seemingly hoped the news media and the public would succumb to apathy and “move on” from Mr Field’s behaviour. It misjudged the depth of disquiet.

Finally the Herald has a warning for MPs:

So, if Mr Field is persuaded to leave Parliament, even belatedly, some decorum might be restored to public affairs. The governing parties ought not to stop there. As they consider overriding the views of the Auditor-General, the Solicitor-General and the Chief Electoral Officer by validating retrospectively their unsupportable election spending, they should pause and breathe through their noses. Surely, then, careful thought will tell even the most self-serving of them that on this issue the public is not for turning. They should pay the money back.

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TV3 banned for three days

August 29th, 2006 at 6:29 am by David Farrar

Parliament is the loser with TV3 being banned for showing an MP giving a “fuck you” fingers display to another MP, yet nothing happening to the MP who did it.

For once I’ll defend Margaret Wilson in her decision to ban TV3 for three days. She does have to enforce standing orders. The problem is Standing Orders need to change so media can cover stuff like this. Congress has C-Span – we should be able to handle coverage of our entire debating chamber.

Anyway nice to see that TVNZ have agreed to share footage with TV3 during the ban.

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Sports Site

August 28th, 2006 at 8:51 pm by David Farrar

A new site worth checking out is Sportsfreak.

It has a range of articles from satire to a series questioning SPARC accountability and funding.Also tipping comps,today in history, Am Cam footage etc.

Loads of fun for sports fans.

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Going, going ……

August 28th, 2006 at 9:20 am by David Farrar

It seems even Helen Clark has a limit to how much corruption she’ll tolerate. Well more correctly there is a limit to how many bad news stories she’ll tolerate.

On NewstalkZB this morning she started to suggest that Field should resign as the status quo was intolerable.

The question for Labour now is whether they would be happy for Field to be their candidate in any by-election? Because if they select him as a candidate they will be implicitly endorsing his behaviour.

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www.parliament.nz

August 28th, 2006 at 8:36 am by David Farrar

Parliament’s new website went live today.

Have a look around the site. Lots of good stuff. An example of onew new feature is this page on the Kiwisaver Bill. It has links to the bill, the bill digest, the select committee report back and the Hansard for the first and second readings.

A list of all MPs is here. You can select and sort MPs by electorate, party, role, portfolio, select committee, gender and ethnicity. It looks like not all data has yet been entered (such as ethnicity) but it will be very useful to be able to go and get a list of say all the Agricultural spokespersons for a party.

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Journalists Released

August 27th, 2006 at 11:23 pm by David Farrar

Fox News has just announced their two kidnapped journalists have been released.

Hours earlier a video was released showing the journalists as having converted to Islam, and demanding Blair and Bush also convert to Islam. They have confirmed it was made under duress.

Most people will welcome their release. One problem though is that it undercuts the conspiracy theory put forward by local Greenie Praying Mantis on how in fact they were kidnapped, or are being held by, Israel as a way to scare journalists out of Gaza.

There are time when the one person one vote concept scares me.

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TVNZ’s Sunday on Field

August 27th, 2006 at 10:40 pm by David Farrar

Timing is often crucial in politics, and for Labour the fact the Field issue is still “alive” at tthe same time as their illegal pledge card, which they are seeking to retrospectively legislate, is highly problematic.

Each individual makes the Goveernment look tolerant of corruption and/or self-seeking. Battling both at the same time just makes the perception even worse. I suspect Labour may have to soon decide to concede on one issue, so it can improve its chances on the other. And given the choice between paying back $800,000 or letting Field go, I think I know which choice it will be.

That is made easier by tonight’s Sunday programme on Field. On it Field asserted again he had been cleared, vindicated and exonerated. This is nonsense of course and back in July I documented 44 instances in the Ingram Report which were criticial of Field.

His former electorate agent has said:

* Field (one of Parliament’s wealthier MPs) often took money from people who came to see him for assistance
* No receipts were ever given out for this money
* Field once tried to hide a $100 bill that he had just received from a elderly constituent
* she has no doubt that the e-mail instructing a staffer to hand half their salary over to the MPs wife was authorised by Field
* Field once instructed the date of birth on a Samoan birth certificate to be altered

A former Labour Party officer also said that many of Field’s own constituents couldn’t get in to see him, as he was so busy with immigration matters for people outside his electorate.

Also A Thai immigrant said that she had worked on and renovated no less than three houses for Field.

Finally Sunday also highlighted that his evidence to the Ingram Inquiry about whether he told Siriwan that he had work for him to do in Samoa was contradicted by what he said in a TV interview last September about having him “working on our project”.

The truth will only come out with a proper inquiry with powers to obtain documents and have witnesses testify.

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The Dinner

August 27th, 2006 at 10:22 pm by David Farrar

I’ve often thought the most enjoyable events are unplanned. One of my favourite ski trips was only decided upon at 1 am (we made the mountain by 9 am). One of my favourite road trips involved tossing a coin at every major intersection to decide which routes to take. There’s something great about a day or night which you expect to be ordinary but turns out extra-ordinary.

So hence the great Vegas dinner was unplanned, with the intention being just a quick steakhouse dinner.

We were all staying at the Luxor and thought we would try out the steakhouse before hitting the town. There was Shane, Erica, Nikki, myself, Donald (Scotland) and three of the Finns.

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At the restaurant, as we were a party of eight, and dressed up a bit, they offered us the private room, and that suddenly changed the atmosphere from just a steakhouse dinner to an “occasion”. When you suddenly have the room to yourself it is so much more intimate.

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The head waiter, Brett, gave us the best service you could imagine. He recommended starters, advised on wines, told us stories, and kept us entertained. His tip was US$300 to US$400 which gives some idea how good he was. This is a photo of him with the girls. He just helped make the night.

We had massive seafood platters to start with – lobsters, crabs and oysters galore. The steaks went up to 24 ounces in weight, and the desserts were magnificent. Coupled that with many bottles of fine wine and what I thought would be a 60 minute meal took four hours or so. A superb combination of the best food, best wine, best decor, best service and best company and conversation.

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The final bill was horrifying, but everyone there agreed it was worth the price for such a great night – we all had such a great time. Afterwards we went gambling of course and some then went clubbing where the best champagne flowed. I think the Nevada GDP grew a lot that night.

It was a great great night in Vegas, with many good relations formed between New Zealand,. Finland and Scotland! A night definitely to remember.

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Justified Corruption

August 27th, 2006 at 12:39 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter in the SST basically admits that Labour has acted corruptly with its pledge cards. However as Sir H reports, he justifies it as the price of social peace.

This is an incredibly dangerous attitude. It is the view that so long as we think our side is better than the other side, we are above the law. It is in fact the same view that led to the downfall of Nixon.

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Auckland Boobs

August 27th, 2006 at 11:53 am by David Farrar

The Dominion Post editorial smuggly proclaims that Wellington has the World of Wearable Art, the Rugby Sevens and the International Festival of the Arts while Auckland has Boobs on Bikes.

Kerre Woodham also notes how the controversy drew massive crowds.

What I have found amusing is the number of comments on this blog about the parade.

158 comments on the parade numbers thread.

176 commentsd on the original thread.

And a massive 411 comments on this thread on the police ruling the parade legal.

I think this makes it the most debated issue yet on Kiwiblog!

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Bob the Builder

August 27th, 2006 at 11:16 am by David Farrar

The core of what Bob Clarkson has said about burqas and homosexuality is not particularly controversial, but the way he has expressed it is, I would say, regrettable.

The essence of what Clarkson has said is that burqa wearing (which is not a mainstream Islam practice, but something enforced by only a very small faction) is not something he likes in NZ, and that he also disapproves of homosexuality but tolerates it.

These are views probably shared by many NZers.

However the way Bob has expressed his views is regrettable. Telling people to go home is not a particularly useful way to have a (important) debate on religious tolerance.

And in terms of homosexuality, if two men are holding hands in public, that’s just being affectionatte like any other couple – it’s not promoting homosexuality anymore than me holding my girlfriend’s hand in public is promoting heterosexuality.

Everyone has the right to disapprove of various behaviours. And Bob is right that tolerance is what is expected, not approval. But then why the need to state your disapproval in public? All it does is create an issue, where there should be none.

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Best letter yet!

August 26th, 2006 at 6:22 pm by David Farrar

Go check out this correspondence on Whale Oil between Paul Clarkin and the NZ Police over alleged unsafe driving. It is absolutely classic. Not sure how Whale Oil came across the letters.

Some extracts:


I was already in the process of turning my car right into Fields Lane from the western side of Shortland Street (Queen Street end) when I was first introduced to Dumb Ass A and Dumb Ass B who both simply stepped off the footpath to cross Fields Lane right in front of me.

At this particular point in time we now had said two tonne car, with it’s lights and right hand indicator on, having complete right of way after giving way to the appropriate vehicle traffic.

The chances of these two being able to beat a car that was already committed to turning were about that of Auckland being able to beat Waikato in an NPC rugby match -slim to none.

As soon as I realised that Dumb Ass A and Dumb Ass B had a deathwish, I hit the car horn and the brakes at the same time.

The three air horns which are located on the front left side of the car (the very solid, pointy corner closest to Dumb Ass A and Dumb Ass B) hit a single, beautiful note at about 100 decibels. Now 100 decibels is about 20 decibels louder than the Sprint Cars cars that were deemed “too loud” for the Western Springs raceway, thereby causing it to close because in Auckland at the moment we seem to have an anti-motorsport, politically correct, left leaning, tree hugging, land-rights-for-gay-whales City Council – but I digress.

In order for my car to have supposedly exceeded the 50kmph speed limit that prevails within our fair city as I was making a complete 90 degree right-handed turn, both the car and my wife and I would have been subjected to lateral G Forces of around .92 Gs.

I can assure you that had I actually attempted to carry out such a manoeuvre as your letter suggests, my wife would have given me a rather significant slap up side of my head followed by a not-insignificant lecture and I would have had to spend the rest of the weekend on the couch.

If you get a chance to talk to whichever one of Dumb Ass A or Dumb Ass B who had the perception “that the way my vehicle was being driven was not safe”, could you ask them if they would much rather have had the number plate of the car embedded in their skull due to being mowed down as a result of their own stupidity.

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