Archive for March, 2007

Audrey rates the Cabinet

March 31st, 2007 at 10:28 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young does her annual rating of the Cabinet. The first figure is for this year, and the second a year ago. Comments after each rating are mine not hers. And note I am rating them on the basis of competence, not on whether I agree with their policies.

Helen Clark 7 (7) – I’d be a lower on the basis of the handing of election spending and smacking

Michael Cullen 6 (7) – Here I would have Cullen higher. He has made less mistakes than Clark.

Jim Anderton 6 (6) – about right. Handling of forestry may push him lower though.

Steve Maharey 6 (7) – I would be no more than a five. Probably a four.

Phil Goff 9 (9) – can;t disagree. He also remains de facto Foreign Minister in some areas

Annette King 9 (7) – Maybe a bit generous but yes at least an eight.

Trevor Mallard 4 (6) – Deserves to go down for the stadium, but 4 is a bit rough. I would say 5.

Pete Hodgson 4 (4) – Hodgson was once the safe pair of hands. King kept health reasonably happy for six years and under Hodgson all turning wrong.

Parekura Horomia 5 (5) – Hasn’t made a dick of himself lately so a 5 is about right.
Maori Affairs

Mark Burton 2 (2) – I can’t think of anything he has achieved, but a 2 should be reserved for major disasters. I would be a 3 or 4.

Ruth Dyson 5 (5) – yep an average performer

Chris Carter 8 (7) – I would mark lower for Whangamata Marina – a 7 at best.

Rick Barker 5 (6) – I would make him a 3 or 4 for turning down the funding for Karori Sanctuary when anyone with political instincts should know you approve the venue where the PM launched the policy from.

David Benson-Pope 4 (3) – has been invisible, but this is probably a deliberate strategy

Lianne Dalziel 6 (6) – I might be a bit more generous and say a 7. I am hearing some positive stuff from business about her.

Damien O’Connor 2 (8) – sadly (as he is a nice guy) a 2 is the maximum one can give.

David Cunliffe 8 (8) – yep not only making good decisions in telecommunications but also handling Immigration as well as any Minister can

David Parker 6 (6) – about right

Nanaia Mahuta 5 (6) – makes Rock Barker seem dynamic as her predecessor in Customs. A 4.
Customs / Youth Affairs

Clayton Cosgrove 8 (7) – Cosgrove has surprised many by his steady performance.

So if we take Audrey’s ratings from top to bottom we have:

Phil Goff 9
Annette King 9
Clayton Cosgrove 8
David Cunliffe 8
Chris Carter 8
Helen Clark 7
Michael Cullen 6
Jim Anderton 6
Steve Maharey 6
Lianne Dalziel 6
David Parker 6
Nanaia Mahuta 5
Parekura Horomia 5
Ruth Dyson 5
Rick Barker 5
Trevor Mallard 4
Pete Hodgson 4
David Benson-Pope 4
Damien O’Connor 2
Mark Burton 2

Now it is interesting to look at some stats analysis. Audrey has an average grade of 5.58, while I have 5.53 (hmmn I have been fair). But a year ago the average was 6.05 – so a really clear trend.

Only three Cabinet Ministers improved their score, and each by one point only. Six Ministers declined, one by as much as six points.

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Nuclear Power advocated

March 31st, 2007 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

The Herald has a profile of former British Labour MEP Terry Wynn who is an advocate of nuclear power. An otherwise good profile is somewhat spoiled by the use of the pejorative term zealot to describe him. Use of language like this does have influence. Just as some think tanks always get labelled right-wing by the media, but I’ve never heard them label one as left-wing.

Anyway Wynn points out that nuclear power is one of the best ways to combat global warming, as unlike coal, oil or gas it produce no carbon emissions. He is not alone in this view. Other environmentalists who agree are Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore and British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory.

NZ is a country where nuclear power is less suitable than most, because of our small population, and earthquake propensity. So this is not a debate about what NZ should do, but is a global challenge to the Green movement about their views on nuclear power. Remember 5,000 or so people die in coal mines every year.

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$96,000 for bogan study

March 31st, 2007 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

I was all in favour of the $96,000 grant, until I realised it was not for a study into how to eradicate bogans, but to help us NZers understand our bogan community better.

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Ex Cop Group Sex Video case gets murky

March 31st, 2007 at 9:48 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has the unexpected news that the woman who says she felt manipulated into group sex with Brad Shipton and some other former cops, went on to marry one of the ex cops who took part in the group sex, and was in the video.

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10 is too young for air rifles

March 31st, 2007 at 9:39 am by David Farrar

A near fatal accident at a Northland farm saw a six year old girl almost die after an air rifle pellet ricocheted off a rock, and hit hear, scraping her heart. Thank God she made hospital in time, and looks to be okay.

But one has to question the family in not just allowing their 10 year old to have an air rifle, but to allow him to be using it without supervision.

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Cullen vs Key

March 30th, 2007 at 4:50 pm by David Farrar

Very interesting observations by Transtasman on Dr Cullen dealing with John Key. To quote them:

Much of the economic debate across Parliament’s chamber is still conducted between Finance Minister Michael Cullen and National’s leader, John Key, rather than between Cullen and his National counterpart, Bill English. It has been fascinating to watch, because there is something about Key which really gets under Cullen’s skin. Usually the Finance Minister can be relied upon to be witty and nasty, but most of the time has a sort of inbuilt acidity regulator which keeps the nastiness under control. When he gets stuck into Key, though, it is pure bile and very little wit, such as describing him as a “working class scab” when he became leader.

and later on:

Part of the bile could be just frustration. Labour has not yet worked out how to deal with Key. They played the envy card hard initially, emphasising the National leader’s wealth. This appealed to Labour’s visceral supporters, but made little dent on other voters. There must be a Plan B coming somewhere.

Oh there will be a Plan C, Plan D, Plan E I am sure.

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2007 Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner

March 30th, 2007 at 4:11 pm by David Farrar

They have just had the annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner in the US. These are hilarious, and I think there is something great about the tradition of having the most powerful person in the world having to get up and lampoon himself.

You can see the video above, or read this article for some of the best lines.

Also worth viewing is when the entertainers got Karl Rove up on stage to take part in rapping as “MC Rove”.

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Students show Professors up

March 30th, 2007 at 3:38 pm by David Farrar

There is no group of people more hostile to non left wing values than university faculties throughout the United States. Intolerance of those who do not conform is legendary.

This was shown recently in Florida, when the University of Florida Senate turned down an honorary degree for former Governor Jeb Bush. Now before people start raving, Jeb Bush is a very different person to George Bush. He was hugely popular in Florida (a state with more Democrats than Republicans in it) for his two terms, and had delivered significant extra funding to the University such as $20 million to help them (ironically) attract top faculty and new research centres. Never before had an honorary degree been turned down. It was unprecedented and done purely because Jeb was a Republican.

But there is a good ending to all this. Ashamed at the partisan behaviour of their Professors, the Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring Jeb Bush’s contributions to the university.

Isn’t that great? The professors show their narrow mindedness, while the students, without dissent, recognise that this is not an issue for partisan politics, and showed the maturity their professors lacked. Some quotes:

In an interview after the meeting, Student Body Vice President Arturo Armand said, “I think it shows a lot that the Senate unanimously approved the resolution. We wanted to recognize public service. Forget politics. Forget everything else. We want to recognize those who help out the University of Florida.”

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Tag teamed

March 30th, 2007 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

Tony and Jordan have combined forces to try and pummel me into submission. If only it was as easy as weight of numbers.

Firstly Tony do please try to come up with an original title for your posts, instead of stealing mine. I’ll report you to the music industry for copyright theft if you do it again!

I enjoy seeing them persist in their efforts to deny common sense. I have to stop myself laughing everytime I hear one of them repeat the mantra that this bill does not ban smacking, because smacking has already been illegal for the last 100 years. Quick go arrest three generations of parents. The fact they have left in reasonable force on certain grounds (such as good parenting) but left it out for correction, makes it very clear the intent is to ban smacking for correction.

I enjoy the irony that the more I show up how ridiculous their claims are, the more they try to paint me as confusing the public. Yes the poor thick gullible public who are so stupid that they have been brainwashed by the religious right.

The left’s denial of reality that the public do not support them on this can be seen by comparing this to the civil union bill. The “religious right” opposed that bill fiercely but NZers continued to support the legislation with 60% to 70% support in polls. On this issue only 15% of NZers support the Govt. You can’t blame an hideously unpopular policy on your opponents, when NZers have shown in the past they are quite capable of forming their own views on these issues.

You will notice in the House that the PM is incapable of answering questions on this bill. All she does is repeat her mantra that smacking is already illegal, and try and raise the bogeyman of the US religious right.

But anyway while we are talking about misleading communications, let’s shine the torch back on Jordan. In this post he claims NZers are not overtaxed because our tax wedge is only 20.9%, and this is the third lowest in the OECD.

Never mind that this excludes indirect taxes like GST. Of course one has lower income tax rates, when you also have a relatively high no exceptions indirect tax.

But the real beauty is his hyperbole over student loans. Jordan blogs how wonderful the scheme is now and that $9 billion of debt is fine because it is under Labour’s policies. His exact words:

Overall our student support system now is a generous system that helps low income earners most. It is hundreds of times better than what we had under National in the 1990s

Wow. Get that. It isn’t 10% better or 20% or even twice as good,. It is hundreds of times better. You student should get down on your knees and pray to Helen and Michael every night. they have made your lives hundreds of times better you ungrateful students. Bow down now.

And be grateful to Labour that you get to live at all. Yes again a direct quote:

Instead of lives being stolen by the debt monster, people now have a system that is bearable, nigh on generous

Yes students of NZ. Your lives of misery and slavery are over. Rise up and be free. The debt monster has been slayed by St Labour and you can all sing and be happy now.

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Final vote looks to be 65 – 56

March 30th, 2007 at 7:24 am by David Farrar

As expected, some of the National MPs who voted for the smacking ban bill at the second reading, have withdrawn their support for the third reading, as the Borrows amendment was rejected. Four of the six MPs will vote no now, while two will vote yes.

I think it is 90% likely it will become a Government bill on Monday. But there may be some difficulties. Peter Dunne, who is backing the bill, has said he is opposed to it becoming a Government bill.

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What will Hodgson do?

March 30th, 2007 at 7:11 am by David Farrar

Paula Oliver in the NZ Herald correctly surmises that Pete Hodgson has the dilemma of sacking or backing the Auckland DHB Chairs.

If you do not sack them, then its one more tale of no accountability for avoidable blunders.

But there is considerable danger in sacking them. Amongst professional directors (those whose skills are advanced enough that they are sought by companies for the value they can add at a governance level) DHBs are already widely regarded as an appointment to be avoided at all costs. Their mix of appointed and elected members is a recipe for disaster, their lack of true independence from the central bureaucracy and the fact the Government makes all the big decisions on funding, yet leaves it to DHBs to take the blame for service, all make them highly unattractive. Hence the number of top class directors on DHB boards is already very low. Other crown boards such as SOEs do not have the same problems and have some incredible talent on them.

Now if you sack the three Chairs, this will dry up the talent supply even more. This will impact on DHB performance (governance does matter) and the problems get worse.

The real solution is to change the model, but I doubt the Government has the resolve to do that.

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Small man syndrome a myth

March 30th, 2007 at 7:01 am by David Farrar

Research from the University of Central Lancashire has concluded that taller men tend to be more aggressive than shorter men, hence disproving the myth of short man syndrome.

I’ve always regarded aggression as a tactic, not a loss of control :-)

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Has Iran declared war on the UK?

March 29th, 2007 at 3:35 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been waiting for all the so called reps of the peace movement to condemn Iran for attacking the United Kingdom, and effectively declaring war on them. For that is what they have done by seizing UK troops in Iraqi waters.

Imagine the outcry if the UK or US had done this to Iran.

There is no doubt the UK troops were not in Iranian territory. How do we know this? Because the Iranian Government themselves provided a location which turned out to be in Iraqi territory. It was only after they had this pointed out to them, did they change their claimed location.

Iran should not be rewarded for their act of war. They should not get to use the capture of the soldiers as some bargaining chip to benefit them. They are also in breach of the Geneva Conventions.

Iran are in the wrong and are militarily inferior to the UK, let alone its allies. This is not a time for weakness and appeasement which will encourage repeat behaviour. This is a time for firm deadlines for release, with a clear indication that failure to do so will not be in Iran’s interest.

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Just watch it

March 29th, 2007 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

No I’m not going to tell you what it about. Just trust me and watch it. You’ll feel better for it. It’s less than four minutes long.

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Public Sector CEOs earning more than private CEOs

March 29th, 2007 at 2:37 pm by David Farrar

I was very surprised to see that public sector CEOs are now earning more than private sector CEOs. Private Sector CEOs are ultimately responsible for the most crucial and hardest part fo being in business – how to generate revenue. One can be a world class employer, risk manager, policy developer, technical analyser etc but your company goes bankrupt if you can produce a product or service which people will voluntarily pay for.

I’ve employed and been involved with setting remuneration for several CEO type roles in the private sector. And if they do not have revenue generation as part of their duties, they get assessed at a lower rate than an identical job which does have to generate money to survive.

Now I am not saying public sector CEOs are getting paid too much. In fact some of our public sector CEOs such as MFAT’s Simon Murdoch are world class, and we need to retain them. I think it probably reflects that private sector CEOs are generally underpaid compared to their counterparts in Australia.

What surprised me in the article was the number of public sector CEOs – a whopping 211 of them. That is far too many. John Luxton once advocated that one could reduce the public sector to around five super-ministries. Now that may be too ambitious, but surely we can manage with less than 211 public sector CEOs. At an average of $255,000 each, we are paying $53,805,000 just in CEO salaries.

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Not good enough

March 29th, 2007 at 7:45 am by David Farrar

Helen Clark and Michael Cullen attacked the Chinese journalist who was evicted from covering a meeting with the Chinese Government, claiming he was disruptive.

The tapes showed this was a lie. The PM spin doctor has now clarified that maybe it was not the journalists fault, and that mistakes have been made by the Police.

Great to get this concession, but that’s not good enough frankly. She and Dr Cullen attacked and denigrated the journalist, and they should apologise to him. As should the Police also.

Stephen Franks sat on the select committee which looked into a similar incident in Christchurch in 1999. He blogs about how unsatisfactory the Police evidence to that Committee was, and this seems to be the case again.

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All over effectively

March 29th, 2007 at 7:10 am by David Farrar

Parliament voted down the Borrows amendment 63-58 last night. This is a real shame as I think it was a imminently sensible compromise which achieved everything Sue Bradford claimed she wanted her bill to achieve, without having the uncertainty over smacking.

Those in favour were:

Labour 49
Greens 6
Maori 4
Progressive 1
Peter Dunne, Brian Donnelly, Doug Woolerton 3

Against:

National 48
NZ First 5 (of 7)
United Future 2 (of 3)
ACT 2
Field 1

The bill will pass its third reading comfortably, by at least the same margin but probably more. They did not complete Committee stage though so it seems likely the Government will officially adopt the bill on Monday and pass it next week. They have also added in a clause to have David Benson Pope’s Ministry review the law in two years. This means nothing – his Ministry has been reported as threatening to sack any staff member who didn’t support the bill, so the chance of their review being anything other than a glowing endorsement is zero.

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Conflicts of Interests

March 29th, 2007 at 6:42 am by David Farrar

Auckland DHB Chair Wayne Brown is under fire from National for not continuing with a formal agenda item of declaration of conflicts of interests at every meeting. He says members were still obliged to declare conflicts.

I’m a member of two boards (one commercial, one non-commercial) and on both these boards it is our standard practice to have declarations of conflicts of interests as the first agenda item for each meeting. This is standard governance best practice.

You are required to list on a conflicts register any ongoing interests which might conflict. For example I receive free hosting from Inspire Net so I have declared that to .nz Registry Services as Inspire Net is a customer of theirs.

But simply listing it on the register is not enough. The purpose of having it on the agenda for each meeting is so that having read the agenda and associated papers, we are required to declare if we have a specific conflict for any particular item. And if you do, the board them discusses what action is necessary to deal with it – it can range from simply noting it has been declared to agreeing the director should absent themselves for the discussion.

If Auckland DHB had followed best practice, it may have helped avoid what happened. Having it formally noted in the board minutes that you have declared you have no conflicts on any agenda item is not a trivial undertaking, and one tends to err on the side of caution to protect your reputation should there be an issue at a later date.

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Hell has now frozen over …

March 28th, 2007 at 4:07 pm by David Farrar

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A photo and agreement one would have sworn would never happen. Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams agreeing to form a joint Government. Paisley will become First Minister of Northern Ireland and former IRA Chief of Staff Martin McGuinness will be his Deputy First Minister. Incredible. McGuiness has probably ordered Paisley assassinated at some stage in the past. They have both come a long way.

This is a very good day for the Irish. A lot of hard work ahead, but this is truly historic.

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DPF at Parliament

March 28th, 2007 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter and myself are appearing before the Commerce Select Committee (in Bowen House) at 11 am on Thursday to speak to InternetNZ’s submission on the Digital Copyright Bill.

The Copyright (New Technologies and Performers’ Rights) Amendment Bill sounds a very boring piece of law, but in fact its deals with issues that affect almost every NZer. And also very much the running of the Internet and how ISPs deal with copyright issues.

The bill is well intentioned but quite seriously flawed in its current state. Obviously we are hoping the select committee will make changes to preserve the good parts, and improve the not so good parts.

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The Section 59 march

March 28th, 2007 at 2:26 pm by David Farrar

I’d estimate around 500 people marching against the Bradford/Clark bill and around 30 counter protesters. Recognised a few from Young Labour in the counter march.

Lindsay Perigo was the main speaker and MC and he was in fine form against nanny state. Around six speakers in total. more than a few people winced though when Christine Rankin mentioned the PM’s lack of children. One just knows that will be the segment on the news. It was unnecessary and counter productive.

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The marchers starting to arrive in Parliament.

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All the media there loved the “Legalise Smack” sign.

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Young Labour changing Family First’s name to Family Fist.

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This sign cracked me up. One can escape hell if you hit your kids. I never realised it was so easy. I thought you had to go to church and all that, but it seems all you need to do is a bit of whacking!

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Two of the younger protesters.

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The old sickle and hammer.

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An MP leaves Helen in no doubt as to his views, with this sign in his office window.

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Even Che is against the bill!

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A pretty funny counter protest sign.

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A cute police officer. I’ll leave it to readers to work out which one I mean :-)

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Is this a grope?

March 28th, 2007 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

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The Sun has a story, plus the photo above, of Prince William posing for a photo with two girls who asked for the photo.

They are of course saying he groped her. But did he? You often when posing for photos have your hand on their side. Now HRH is shall we say well advanced, but not necessarily past the ribs so to speak.

So would you consider that a grope? Putting aside that half the population would like Prince William to do so!

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Lies, damn lies and more lies

March 28th, 2007 at 7:10 am by David Farrar

At coffee on Monday a companion observed that I appeared to be pretty heated up on the Section 59 issue. I said that yes I was, but not on the primary issue of Section 59 but because of the absolute lies being told by the Bradford bill backers.

I actually recognise that a reasonable case can be made for outright repeal of Section 59, on the grounds that a small minority of parents can not cope with subtleties such as the concept of reasonable force. If they (Clark/Bradford) were honest that this bill would now ban smacking, but that they are asking parents to accept this restriction in order to help with that small number of problem families, then you might even have got a majority of parents onside and selflessly willing to make that sacrifice for the greater good. In fact almost every person I have spoken to has said that they could be persuaded if it was framed like that.

But the proponents of this bill have lied and twisted and spun. They are the reason 85% of NZers are now against this bill. It has been a catalog of political incompetence. Yes the bill will probably get passed into law, but the political ill will they have generated may haunt them for some time.

So what are these lies? Let us take them in turn:

NZPA quotes Steve Maharey using the standard Labour line of:

“It simply removes the defence of a person who is facing prosecution in court for using excessive force to discipline their children,”

The Labour spin is that smacking is already illegal, and that a defence in the Crimes Act is just something you can use in court. This is with all respect absolute bullshit and we know this with common sense.

Another Crimes Act defence is the right to self-defence. Now does Labour claim that it is illegal to use force to defend yourself in self-defence? Of course not. Take an example. Let us say you are in town and someone pulls a knife out on you and your girlfriend. He goes to stab you. You whack him in arm and he drops the knife. You have just saved your life, and maybe your girlfriend’s.

Now according to the Labour lies, you have just committed a crime, and that your right of self defence is something you will have to use in court. This is obviously not the case, Crown Law will not prosecute you, the Police will not charge you – because you have not broken the law. A defence under the Crimes Act means your actions are not illegal. So for Labour to claim smacking is already illegal, means you accept that defending yourself from a knife wielding maniac is also illegal. They can not have it both ways.

The second lie is that this is all about bating and thrashing, to quote Helen Clark in the Herald:

Helen Clark yesterday said some bill opponents were “demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children”

This ignores that almost all opponents will be satisfied if the Borrows amendment is passed. And it is hysterical nonsense to claim that such an amendment allows any thrashing or beating. It sets the bar very low as only trifling or transitory. The more they try to demonise those who disagree with them as being “child beaters”, the more you piss off 85% of NZers.

Even if one does not like the exact wording of the Borrows amendment, the Government ignores the question of why it simply doesn’t pass a law saying you can not beat or thrash children, but a light smack is okay for correctional purposes. One can only conclude because they do in fact want to ban smacking, but don’t want to admit it.

Then we have the lies and spin over whether the Bradford bill repeals Section 59. It does not (her original bill did). The bill amends Section 59 to remove one defence and insert around four new ones.

Amazingly Tony Milne is arguing that this is a repeal. This I am afraid is a clear example of Labour tactics of arguing semantics over substance.

Let’s take Tony’s argument seriously for a second, that replacing one set of words with another is a repeal rather than an amendment. Let’s say a future Government removes the current definition of murder, and replaces it with a new definition which allows for three degrees of murder (like in the US). Well by Tony’s logic such a Government has repealed murder as a crime!!!

This is where all the Government arguments fall short. They argue legal semantics instead of common sense. They argue it does not ban smacking when it does. They then argue smacking has been illegal for 100 years when it clearly has not. They argue an amendment is a repeal. It’s just an insult to people’s intelligence, and is why 85% of NZers are now against the bill.

The Government is in fact having a false debate. They are arguing the merits of a total repeal of Section 59 vs the status quo. What is on the table is whether or not to vote for the Borrows amendment which will in fact drastically lower the level of force deemed reasonable and allow smacking for correctional purposes, on top of the four other grounds now listed in the Bradford bill.

The Government still appears desperate to get this through Parliament as quickly as possible. Having failed to ram it through under urgency, the signs now are they may make it an official Government bill (which at least would be more honest) so it can progress more speedily. It will be interesting to see if they finish committee stage today.

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Shipton sex video to be banned?

March 28th, 2007 at 7:02 am by David Farrar

In a somewhat weird move, the SPCS has asked the Chief Censor to classify, and preferably ban as objectionable, the Brad Shipton sex tapes.

As presumably only “Mary” has a copy, it seems a waste of time trying to have a private video classified. I mean imagine if everyone started sending in their private sex tapes to the poor Censor’s office asking for a classification?

In fact as SPCS doesn’t have a copy of the Shipton tape, they can’t get it classified I would have thought.

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House affordability

March 28th, 2007 at 6:52 am by David Farrar

Ouch. The latest figures show that if on the average income, 75% of your take home pay would need to go on mortgage repayments. The recommended level is 40%.

I purchased in 2001, luckily before some of the big increases. To pay it off early I’ve been contributing well over half my take home pay. I am looking forward to an increase in my standard of living when it is all finished!

In Auckland it is even worse. There on average you need to out 93% of your after tax income into the mortgage. And in Queenstown it is 105%.

The report calls for a big increase in the housing supply as the only way to fix the problem.

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