Archive for April, 2007

What was she thinking?

April 29th, 2007 at 10:22 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday has the story of how Judith Tizard publicly berated an the Auckland RSA President for allowing other parties to lay wreathes. What on earth was she thinking? Just like Maharey’s “fuck you” comment this shows long serving Ministers acting without thinking.

Auckland RSA president Jim Newman says the Auckland Central MP interrupted him at the Auckland War Memorial Museum before the service, upset at the order of the wreath laying and that National Party Auckland Central candidate Pansy Wong was listed on the programme.

Newman said Tizard publicly humiliated him by complaining that she represented Auckland Central, not National’s Wong, and that the NZ First Party should have been listed before the Act Party.

Tizard then “launched an attack” on Margaret Burke, an employee of the Auckland RSA, accusing her of being an Act Party member and therefore responsible for the order.

And the irony is that Tizard claims she was “aghast” that the wreath-laying ceremony had been “politicised” by allowing other minor parties to participate.

What politicises a ceremony more? Having a couple more wreaths laid in silence, or having a Minister publicly dress down the RSA President for having her political rival involved? Easy answer.

Not that I care much either way if one has all parties or just the Govt, Opposition and local MP lay wreathes, but it is up to the RSA. Having all parties involved doesn’t, in my opinion, politicise the event, but shows how this is a day which transcends politics.

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Stalker alert

April 29th, 2007 at 10:12 am by David Farrar

Poor Simon Dallow. It seems he has an obsessed stalker, and no it isn’t Jessica Alba, but a drag queen called Robert Haddock whose stage name is “Mary Lambie”.

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FBI Director heckled

April 28th, 2007 at 5:20 pm by David Farrar

Some boorish students at Harvard heckled the FBI Director during a speech he had been invited to give. What I find hilarious is what they were protesting over:

“Freedom for political prisoners!” the protestor shouted. “Justice for Herman Bell!”

So one protester was on about a 36 year old conviction of Herman Bell for shooting two police officers in the back. This somehow makes him a political prisoner. And incidentally nothing much to do with the FBI – was a New York state matter, except they arrested him in another state.

“We will never forget the role of the FBI in McCarthyism screamed Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky!”

And another is obsessed with something that finished over 50 years ago.

protests ranging from “stop the unconstitutional repression of the environment”

How the hell do you unconstitutionally repress the environment and what the hell has the FBI got to do with it? Perhaps they arrested it, and forgot to read it its Miranda rights!

“to close Guantanamo”

And do the FBI run Guantanamo? No.

So we had one person protesting for a convicted cop killer, another against a US Senator from the 1940s and 50s, another about the environment, and another on a military run detention centre.

I’m surprised one of them wasn’t also heckling the FBI Director for their role in prohibition in the 30s.

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Destiny support in Mangere

April 28th, 2007 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

Just viewing Agenda on TV One and they said that Destiny NZ “got the third highest party vote in Mangere last election”.

I thought surely not. And indeed they did not. In order the party votes were:

1 Labour 20,900
2 National 3,894
3 NZ First 1,189
4 Green 503
5 United Future 467
6 Destiny 445
7 Progressive 429
8 Maori 330
9 ACT 141

So they were 6th, not third. Maybe what they meant to say was “Destiny NZ got their third highest party vote in Mangere last election”.

But no even this is incorrect. On raw party vote Mangere was their 4th strongest seat, not their 3rd strongest. And on the more useful party vote percentage Mangere was their 7th strongest.

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Maori Party gains support

April 28th, 2007 at 11:21 am by David Farrar

A Marae-Digipoll has good news for the Maori Party, at Labour’s expense. It polled 1,000 Maori and found 39.7% for Labour and 38.2% for the Maori Party.

What is of more use though is the breakdown into 660 on the Maori roll and 340 on the general roll. Now we do not know for sure how Maori voted on the general roll, except post-election polls. But we do know how Maori on the Maori roll voted.

Over the seven seats, at the last election Labour got 54.6% of the party vote and the Maori Party got 27.7%. This poll finds, on the Maori roll, that the Maori Party is up from 27.7% to 48.5% and Labour is down from 54.6% to 34.3%.

While this poll is on the party vote, not the electorate vote (which was even more favourable to the MP at the 2005 election), it certainly strongly suggests the Maori Party will pick up more than it’s current four seats, and maybe all seven.

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Quoting Jordan

April 28th, 2007 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jordan Carter is blogging from the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference. Overseas political conferences are always fun – both politically and socially.

Anyway one thing Jordan said is:

The party over all is united and hungry to win.

With an opponent like Howard, how could they not be? That man is loathsome. His lies and abuses of power, culminating in the attacks on the rights of working Australians through his industrial law reforms, challenge the social democratic heritage of Australia to its very core. The good thing is that now Labor has chosen an electable leader, the public appears to be putting some scrutiny on Howard and his mob – and finding them somewhat wanting.

Now how could that be adapted for say back home:

The party over all is united and hungry to win.

With an opponent like Clark, how could they not be? That woman is loathsome. Her lies and abuses of power, culminating in the attacks on the rights of New Zealanders through her electoral law reforms, challenge the democratic heritage of New Zealand to its very core. The good thing is that now National has chosen an electable leader, the public appears to be putting some scrutiny on Clark and her mob – and finding them somewhat wanting.

Incidentally the latest Roy Morgan polls have the ALP leading the Coalition by 50% to 36% and in NZ have National leading Labour 46% to 34%.

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More irony

April 28th, 2007 at 10:09 am by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard yesterday said:

“I don’t think we can make a change to monetary policy on a narrow parliamentary majority.”

Yet they were trying to make changes to the Electoral Act, a cornerstone of our constitution, on a narrow negotiated in secret narrow majority.

So is Trevor saying monetary policy is more important to have bipartisan support for, than how our democracy operates?

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NZ improving with broadband uptake

April 28th, 2007 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

Some modest but useful improvements in broadband uptake from the OECD.

The strongest per-capita subscriber growth over the year comes from Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Ireland. Each country added more than 5.8 subscribers per 100 inhabitants during the past year.

Some people think my constant going on about fibre to the home is too futuristic. Well FTTH makes up 7% of all broadband connections in the OECD.

NZ’s broadband rate per 100 people is now 14.0 and we move from 22nd to 21st. A year ago it was 8.1 so a fairly healthy 5.9 increase compared to an OECD average increase of 3.4.

Also pleasing to see a preview of what John Key will be saying at his first Party Regional Conference to include:

A key plank of its economic policies will be increasing the speed and coverage of broadband, which Mr Key believes could be crucial for New Zealand business due to its geographical isolation.

It is great to have both major parties not seeing broadband as an IT issue but an infrastructure and economic development issue.

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Sympathies to Jim Bolger

April 28th, 2007 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

Like almost all Nwe Zealanders I had no idea there even was a condition called trigeminal neuralgia, until Jim Bolger revealed yesterday he has been suffering from it.

Quoting Wikipedia:

Trigeminal neuralgia, or Tic Douloureux, is a neuropathic disorder of the trigeminal nerve that causes episodes of intense pain in the eyes, lips, nose, scalp, forehead, and jaw. Trigeminal neuralgia is considered by many to be among the most painful of conditions and has been labeled the suicide disease, due to the significant numbers of people taking their own lives because they were unable to have their pain controlled with medications or surgery. An estimated one in 15,000 people suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, although numbers may be significantly higher due to frequent misdiagnosis.

To describe the pain sensation, patients describe a trigger area on the face, so sensitive that that touching or even air currents can trigger an episode of pain. It affects lifestyle as it can be be triggered by common activities in a patient’s daily life,such as toothbrushing. Breezes ,whether cold or warm, wintry weather or even light touching such as a kiss,can set off an attack. The attacks are said to feel like stabbing electric shocks or shooting pain that becomes intractable. Individual attacks affect one side of the face at a time, last several seconds or longer, and repeats up to hundreds of times throughout the day, or may go on for periods as long as several months or years.

It sounds beyond ghastly, and I am sure many people will be hoping that the surgery is successful in alleviating the symptoms for Mr Bolger.

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16 kids

April 28th, 2007 at 9:46 am by David Farrar

Had to laugh reading about the Assen’s whose 16 kids are returning for their 40th wedding anniversary.

I shudder at the thought of 16 children, especially for the poor mother who had to undergo 15 pregnancies and 15 births.

But the worst thing is that the family had only one bathroom and toilet in the house. My God you would need rosters.

They now have 21 grandchildren also, and presuming they all have partners, the family gathering could be as high as 55 people.

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The minor party coalitions

April 28th, 2007 at 8:25 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young has an article on the way the minor parties are working together on areas they have in common. It’s an interesting and welcome dynamic.

Young comments on how NZ First is a notable exception from the ad-hoc coalitions and that “The fact is they have not been invited – but even if they had been, they almost certainly would have declined.”

I may be wrong but I did ask the MPs at the sedition conference if NZ First had been invited, and they said that they had been e-mailed but did not respond to it.

Considering Winston’s accused the media of treason for writing bad stories about him, it’s probably a fair assumption that his party don’t want the sedition laws repealed but strengthened :-)

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Interest Rates

April 28th, 2007 at 7:52 am by David Farrar

Okay the Reserve Bank has lifted the Official Cash Rate to 7.75%. This is 325 basis points higher than the 4.50% in 1999. Since January 2004 it is the 11th consecutive increase.

What has this done to retail rates?

intrates.JPG

The data is from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, except for April 2007 which is a projection based on the latest OCR increase.

Basically one is going to be paying 3,5% more on your mortgage than in 1999. Now what does this mean for the average family who has a mortgage? It can mean two things.

If the family is well off, they keep their repayment schedule the same, and just pay more every month. If they are not so well off, they pay back their loan over a longer period.

Let’s look at both scenarios for say a $150,000 mortgage and a $350,000 mortgage.

Now in the better off scenario, you just pay the extra interest. Now on the $150,000 mortgage this is an extra $437.50 a month. For the $350,000 mortgage it is an extra $1,020.83 a month.

For the second scenario, we go to Sorted. For the $150,000 mortgage we assume you are paying it off over around 15 years at $1,300 a month. At 6.5% you pay it off in 15 yrs 2 mths with a total interest bill of $77,384. At 10.0% you pay it off in 32 years and nine months with a total interest bill of $281,033.

The $350,000 mortgage is even worse. At $3,000 per month at 6.5% interest it is all paid off in 15 years and six months. At 10.0% it is 36 years. 6.5% has $184,072 of interest while 10.0% has $718,005 of interest.

Even if one can do $3,500 a month at 6.5% it is paid off in 12 years 1 month, at 10.0% it is 18 years. The interest increases from $142,970 to $355,678.

So that is a lot of pain coming. No wonder the Government wants cross-party talks. They’re not about finding solutions – just sharing the pain.

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Paid back!

April 27th, 2007 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

Labour have announced they paid their $824,524 owing to the taxpayer back at 1.01 pm today.

Good.

Now with 65 days to go just United Future and NZ First to go.

And a big thumbs up to Auditor-General Kevin Brady. We should make the 27th of April a holiday named after him :-)

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Field and Destiny

April 27th, 2007 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

Good God. NZPA is reporting that “the prospect of a formal political alliance between former Labour MP Taito Phillip Field and the Destiny Church was strengthened with a meeting last night” and “Mr Field and Destiny leader Bishop Brian Tamaki met in south Auckland tonight and afterward both men spoke of common values.”

So what slogans or party names could one use for this political grouping?

“Twice as evil as before”

“We’re now corrupt and evil”

“A free prayer for every free tiler”

“Still less evil than the Christian Coalition”

Suggestions encouraged in the comments.

Please note the terms evil and corrupt in the above sentences are not meant as literal descriptions but as a hyperbolic statement of my dislike of them. I am sure both men are well intentioned and will be spending eternity with their respective deities in return for their good deeds to society.

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Trotter on Key

April 27th, 2007 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

I only do this rarely, and hope the Independent Financial Review will look the other way over the over-extension of fair use provisions, but Chris Trotter’s column in yesterday’s paper tells a story that would suffer from editing.

So here’s his full, fascinating column. I don’t actually agree with him that it is as significant or maybe inevitable as he writes, but who knows. And remember if you want to read Trotter every week, you can do so by subscribing to the Independent Financial Review (free plug in exchange for copyright breach :-)

Key seizes the moment, and the country?
The Independent Financial Review – 25 APR 2007 : Page 015

In one inspired moment last week, John Key may have cemented his claim as prime-minister-in-waiting.

YOU CAN almost feel the country’s political metabolism changing. The excitable passions of the late 1990s have subsided, along with all that post-Orewa racial tension.

In fact, putting the angst over Section 59 [of the Crimes Act, 1961] to one side, the past six months have been a period of ideological relaxation. There’s a subtle shift in public perceptions of the Opposition, and a cautious reassessment of its motives. Faster than many observers believed possible, the electorate is reconciling itself to the prospect of a John Key- led National Government. The final consummation of this new relationship has yet to be enacted. But it isn’t far away.

And no one should take more credit for bringing about this alteration of political affections than Key himself. From the moment he assumed the mantle of Opposition Leader, Key has worked tirelessly to refashion the electorate’s opinion of National. And he’s succeeding.

Under Brash, the party had come across as elderly, awkward and opaque: a bunch of rich old men in expensive suits, flashing the sort of smug “we know something you don’t know” grins calculated to convince the “punters out in Punterland” (as Brash insisted on calling New Zealand’s enfranchised citizenry) that they were somehow being conned.

Key has ditched the suits and ties in favour of T-shirts and jeans, instantly signalling “young,” “casual,” “relaxed” and “approachable.” And if he hasn’t quite managed to rid himself of the Tory smirk, an impressive percentage of the electorate has allowed itself to be seduced by the Key smile. For the first time in years the women’s vote is favouring National.

Every move Key makes bears testimony to a clear strategic vision, coupled with a singular flair for tactical improvisation and boldness. From the spontaneous volleyball match at Ratana, to the walkabout through McGeehan Close, to Aroha’s big day out at Waitangi, Key has gone out of his way to demonstrate to Maori and Pacifica New Zealanders, especially those living in the vast state-housing estates of the main cities, that he’s a very different sort of “Nat.”

The strategic objective is not only to show the voters a Kiwi who is comfortable in his own, and blind to the colour of his compatriots’, skin, but that over and above being a “good guy,” he’s someone who knows what its like to be on the outside looking in.

Pivotal to Key’s political persona is his upbringing by a solo mum in a state house. This constitutes the “central myth” of his political identity; the “founding legend” from which all the other stories spin off. Crucially, it reassures the poor and disadvantaged that the key elements of the welfare system are safe; that the state assistance required to give everyone a “fair shot” at success (subsidised housing, free health and education, family support) will not be threatened by a Key administration.

This solid political commitment, frees Key to preach the gospel of aspiration, self-reliance and responsibility. In this he is immeasurably assisted by his own life-story. His “rags-to-riches” career is living proof that growing up in a state house is no impediment to educational attainment, financial success or high social status.

As he never tires of telling his audiences seeing all the good things the other kids had when he was growing up didn’t make him envious, it made him ambitious. And if a driving ambition to succeed worked for him, why shouldn’t it work for New Zealand as a whole?

All of which suggests that a major ideological re-orientation is under way in the National Party. Key’s pitch to the electorate eschews the hard-edged neo-liberalism of Brash and his Business Roundtable backers, in favour of the benign, consensus- based politics of Sir Keith Holyoake (with just a hint of Bill English’s Christian social-conservatism thrown in for good measure). Rather than follow American and Australian neo- liberalism into the altogether darker and more dangerous territory of neo- conservatism and Christian fundamentalism, Key and English seem determined to follow the much more voter-friendly course of the British Conservative Party leader, David Cameron.

Keys speech to the Salvation Army’s “JustAction” conference on April 17 illustrated just how ambitious this re-branding exercise has become:

“There are those whose life stories would read very much like Louise Nicholas’s but who will never have their day in court and whose experiences were not confined to the provinces, or to the 1980s, and the perpetrators were not policemen. There remains a dark side to the experiences of too many New Zealand women and children at the hands of too many New Zealand men.”

This sort of language must send shivers up and down the Labour Party’s spine. A National Party leader who, even rhetorically, is willing to reach across the ideological divide and engage with the social justice aspirations of the educated middle class, is even more dangerous to the centre-left than a National Party leader who is happy to reassure state-house tenants that they have nothing to fear from a centre-right government.

But, when Key turned his attention to Section 59 of the Crimes Act, even more terrifying words lay in store for the Labour-Progressive- Green political condominium that has dominated New Zealand politics for the past eight years.

In a dramatic bid to define a broad parliamentary consensus on Sue Bradford’s Private Member’s Bill, Key argued all parties to the debate were agreed on its three central issues:

* To prevent violence against children being protected by the defence of reasonable force;

* Not to criminalise good parents who occasionally give their children a light smack;

* To lower the threshold for acceptable physical discipline.

“So today,” Key told his Sally Army audience, “I say to Helen Clark and Sue Bradford, if you are genuine in your intentions, then let’s get around the table and come up with a set of words we all agree on. Let’s replace the existing Section 59 of the Crimes Act with something that will meet the three objectives we all claim to share.”

Nothing Key has said or done in recent months comes as close to re- defining National in the eyes of the moderate centre of New Zealand politics as those crucial sentences. Through them, he has identified himself as a politician whose aim is to bring reasonable people of goodwill together, in the name of a less violent New Zealand. Not only that, they have cast him as a leader who is no longer willing to march in lock-step with the Helen-haters of the far right and Christian right. In short, Key’s address was the bold and inclusive gesture of a prime-minister-in- waiting.

Now all he had to do was make sure his statesmanlike offer didn’t degenerate into just another partisan manoeuvre. Somehow Key had to reassure the die-hards in his own camp there was more to be gained by diplomacy on this issue, than all out war.

Key knows that Labour is desperate to paint him in the colours of right-wing extremism. How else can it repeat the fear-driven, vote- pumping exercise which won the last election? He also knows that if he allows himself to be driven down the Muldoonist path of pandering to Labour’s blue-collar vote, he’ll end up captive to exactly the same sort of economic distortions. It’s the moderate middle-ground that he needs, and coming out for compromise and consensus is the only way to win it.

But, it was a near-run thing for Key. Backwards and forwards the press-releases flew. The Greens and Labour were happy to talk, but National was imposing unacceptable pre- conditions. Key, no doubt under pressure from his hard-liners, attempted to wring concessions out of Bradford and David Benson-Pope. For a moment, it looked as though the whole initiative might founder.

But Key kept his nerve: he knew that as far as the public was concerned, National had made the gesture, and if the Greens and Labour turned it down they would be the villains. By last Thursday, the skirmishing was over; a face-to-face discussion between Key and Bradford was scheduled for Anzac Day.

A more compelling demonstration of Key’s coolness under fire is difficult to imagine. Those years on the trading floor, where he honed his ability to identify an opening, make an investment and back his own judgment, are now paying significant political dividends.

Such moments are rare in politics. David Lange had one in 1984, when he reached out to Sir Robert Muldoon in the televised leaders’ debate. Clark had another in 1998, when she stood on the steps of Parliament and told the Hikoi of Hope that “enough” was, indeed, “enough.”

In 18 months, we may look back and see, in Key’s inspired offer to “get around the table” on Section 59, the moment when a National Party- led government in 2008 became inevitable.

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Blue Libs Seminar

April 27th, 2007 at 7:38 am by David Farrar

The Blue Libs have a seminar in Parliament on Thursday 3 May with the challenging question “Can National be Liberal?”.

It’s assumed that National is a conservative party. It is not. It has a rich vein of liberalism that in the past has provided a strong root of principle. This seminar will consider those roots and question how liberal values can or should be represented in the National Party of today and tomorrow.

The seminar will be run as a combination of presentation and discussion.

There will be four excellent guest speakers:

Hon Hugh Templeton, former MP and Minister

Chris Finlayson, National MP

Claire Drake, local businesswoman (Limited Editions)

Anna Nuzum, Young Nationals

When: 3 May 2007 – 5:30 – 8:00 pm

Where: Room 2.o29, Level 2, Old Parliament Buildings

Note: Parliamentary security requirements mean that those who intend to come along will need to RSVP to Anna Nuzum on: anna.nuzum@national.org.nz or Ph: 04 473 9234

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Well done minors and National

April 27th, 2007 at 7:08 am by David Farrar

I’ve blogged previously on the Government’s Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Amendment Bill, which has serious consequences for investigative journalism and historians, as it restricts access to the births and deaths register, as an attempt to make identity fraud more difficult.

At the sedition press conference on Tuesday, one of the MPs mentioned that the minors were also working on this issue, and the NZ Herald today reveals that with National, have the numbers to get significant change.

Now this should not be a partisan issue. But as is often the case third term Governments get out of touch and stubborn on issues like this – often because they have been blinded by advice from their officials that this *must* be done. So it is a good feature of MMP that while the Government can get its core policies through (Governments do need to be able to govern) , the other parties can combine to stop or amend stupid laws.

Labour used to be good at working in an MMP environment. They seem to be losing their touch, and there is an intriguing possibility of further legislative leadership by the non poodle minor parties. For they have worked out that if they can gather 13 votes amongst themselves, then all they need to do is get either National or Labour on board.

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Span on Unions

April 26th, 2007 at 10:21 pm by David Farrar

Span has done a series of six (to date) posts on myths about unions. They’re subjective of course but worth reading. I’m linking to each below, with some brief comments of my own.

Union Myth #1 – Union membership is compulsory

Span is of course quite right that union membership is not compulsory. I don’t actually know of anyone who asserts they are incidentally. However they are compulsory if you wish to be on a collective contract (you could try forming your own of course) and in the public sector the Government does give considerable incentives for public servants to join the union.

Also in some workplaces, such as schools, not belonging to a union can result in shall we say strong disapproval.

Union Myth #2 – All unionists want to grow up to be Labour MPs

I could be flippant and say Span’s defence is some want to be Green MPs instead, but no she has a valid point that those who use unions as a stepping stone for parliamentary ambitions are in the minority.

It is interesting to note though that while not many Unionists become Labour MPs, most Labour MPs were unionists.

union myths – #3 unions are just like businesses

Span says that unions are democratic and members have ultimate control. This is true, but I think glosses over the institutional reality that unions (just like almost any democratic society) tend to have an inner core who are hugely influential and powerful. The opportunity for an individual to change things is quite limited unless they are prepared to devote every waking hour to campaigning for change. As I said this is not just a feature of unions but of many groups.

union myths – #4 unions just protect the incompetent

Span posts on the need for proper process, and she is correct that this is important. But I think the current law does weigh process too heavily over substance. Span herself notes that she has never seen a disciplinary process done without at least one flaw. It is difficult to have perfect process, especially small employers who do not have inhouse legal and HR teams.

I would recommend all employers read this post though as Span has provided a useful little checklist of what you should do for fair process.

I would also assert that in certain areas like education, unions do actively protect incompetent teachers. We can debate that some other time.

Union Myths #5 – Shortland Street tells it like it is

I’m hoping no-one really does treat Shortland Street as a guide to reality.

Union Myths #6 – Unions just go on strike all the time

Well of course they don’t – the law doesn’t allow it. :-)

I will say that strikes are much rarer than the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s. Here’s the total number of work days lost through stoppages for each parliamentary term:

1970 – 72 574,000
1973 – 75 670,000
1976 – 78 1,305,000
1979 – 81 1,143,000
1982 – 84 1,126,000
1985 – 87 2,451,000
1988 – 90 906,000
1991 – 93 237,000
1994 – 96 161,000
1997 – 99 53,000
2000 – 02 100,333
2003 – 05 55,654

One can see the dramatic (and excellent) effect the ECA had in the early 1990s bringing work stoppages down to eventually a low of 53,000 person days over three years. It doubled in Labour’s first term (but still way lower than in the past) and went back down in their second term. One year into their third term it is 28,000 which suggest an increase again.

Kudos to Span for posting a good series of issues based posts. If I could be disciplined enough I should do a series on myths around being an employer and small business owner. The issues around recruitment, retention, compliance costs, paperwork, staff morale, cashflow, sacking staff etc are many and varied.

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Vote for the best plates

April 26th, 2007 at 8:52 pm by David Farrar

Go over to Whale Oil where you can vote for the best take the piss out of Labour personalised plates. Whale has had around 100 plate designs submitted by readers and he and I have picked five each so there are ten finalists people can vote on.

To keep the Greens happy, the voting is STV style where you rank then from 1 to 10.

Voting is open for four days, so go for it.

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Letter from John Key to Party Leaders on Smacking

April 26th, 2007 at 1:33 pm by David Farrar

Even though Sue Bradford has said she will not back it, John Key has written to all party leaders seeking support for his compromise amendment. That amendment will defuse all the controversy from the bill and it will probably then pass with 110 or more votes.

The Key letter is:

I am writing to seek your support for a proposed amendment to the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill currently before the house. As you may know, I met with Sue Bradford MP to discuss this amendment with her on 25 April, and she has indicated she will not support the amendment.

The amendment proposes removing the new subsections 59(2) and 59(3) and inserting a clause justifying the use of light smacking that is “minor and inconsequential”, while leaving in place the general prohibition on force for the purpose of correction in the purpose clause of the bill. A copy of the proposed amendment is attached.

This amendment will allow good parents to feel reassured that they will not be criminalised by the new legislation, rather than relying on Police procedure to avoid investigation and prosecution. The clause will also provide clear guidance to the Police that light smacking of a minor and inconsequential nature should not result in prosecution.

It is unfair to rely on the Police to exercise their discretion to make this legislation work, simply because we as a Parliament lack the courage to codify the law in the way we expect it to be enforced. The reality is that there will be widely differing interpretations of this law, and of any procedures and guidelines attached to it, by Police around the country.

We all agree that the purpose of this legislation is to reduce New Zealand’s terrible rate of harming children, but we all probably agree that we do not want to see good parents criminalised for engaging in actions no one considers criminal. I simply believe it is bad law for Parliament to pass a piece of legislation outlawing an activity absolutely, and then expect the Police not to prosecute minor breaches.

My proposed amendment achieves the outcome that I think we are all after, and I seek your support for this change to the bill.

The amendment John Key proposes, to replace the 59(2) and 59(3) is:

Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of a child is justified in lightly smacking the child in the course of their parenting duties if the smacking used was minor and inconsequential, notwithstanding Section 3 of the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Act 2007.

If an MP votes against that amendment, it will make it pretty clear they are voting to ban correctional smacking.

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No smacking compromise

April 26th, 2007 at 7:28 am by David Farrar

One should give credit to Sue Bradford for her willingness to talk to John Key on a compromise, even though no agreement could be reached. This is not entirely surprising considering Bradford has always said she is unwilling to define any acceptable level of force – even light smacking, as being worse than the status quo

Plaque on both their houses points out how extraordinary Bradford’s position is – arguing that reducing the level of acceptable force is worse than the status quo.

Now Bradford has come out and said that the fear parents have that this bans smacking is the fault of bill opponents. But having had occasion to reread her bill this week, her protestations of innocence do not add up. Just look at the official purpose of the Bill:

The purpose of this Act is … abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction.

Now this is as clear as day. None of this Clark bullshit about just removing a defence. The purpose of the Bill is to abolish the use of parental force for correction. Now it could not be clearer. Smacking is a subset of parental force for correction. The purpose of the Bill hence is to abolish or ban smacking. These are Bradford’s own words in her own bill.

This is why compromise could not be found. The aim of the bill is to abolish the use of any parental force for correction.

Now looking through the Bill again I found to my horror the amended Bill is far far worse, in my opinion, than the original Bill was.

Why?

The original bill merely deleted Section 59. It left the law silent on parental correction. It meant there was no specific statutory defence, but the judicial authorities would be able to consider the circumstances of particular cases.

But the amended bill goes far beyond just abolishing the specific defence. It states in s59(2):

Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

I should have highlighted this earlier. This doesn’t just remove parental correction as a defence. It outlaws it by statute. And even worse it specifically wipes out any ability of a court to consider common law in its interpretation. I’d say that any case that makes court, no matter how trivial, will be a slam dunk for the prosecution. Because 59(2) explicitly rules out any defence.

So when Sue Bradford and Helen Clark claim the bill does not outlaw or ban smacking, remember these two things:

(1) The stated purpose of the Bill is to abolish the use of parental force for the purpose of correction

(2) Section 59(2) explicitly forbids the use of any force for the purpose of correction

So remember this bill is not just about removing a defence. The Bill’s own purpose states it is about banning parental correction which uses force, which includes smacking.

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Labour and the Brethren

April 26th, 2007 at 6:53 am by David Farrar

On Monday I got to inspect a couple of extraordinary documents. They were minutes of meetings between Labour Cabinet Ministers David Benson-Pope and Pete Hodgson, and Exclusive Brethren members.

The Brethren were so proud of these meetings that typed up notes of them. And I mean typed up. I presume they are banned from using computers so the minutes looked like they had been lovingly prepared on a manual typewriter – complete with uneven lettering, smudges and all.

Now it transpires that not only did the Brethren meet the PM twice (she claims they were not planned meetings, but the Brethren say there were) but they also met no less than five of her Ministers. And there is no doubt from those minutes these were planned, prepared meetings.

Now Clark would have you believe these scary Brethren were so bad she needed extra Police security to protect her from them. I’m surprised she hasn’t ordered the Police to taser any Brethren member on sight the way she goes on about them. The minutes tell quite another story with the meetings with her Ministers. The Ministers went out of their way to be receptive to the Brethren’s messages, agreeing with them on many issues such as Defence (pointing out the money they have spent on the Army) while disagreeing with them on others like civil unions and nuclear ships. No improper behaviour, it was a typical try and convince a group of NZers that they should support you. And the Brethren went out of their way to thank Ministers for previous policy concessions such as their exemption under the ERA.

Now it is interesting to contrast the helpful friendly Hodgson and Benson-Pope when they were trying to win Brethren support with what they now say (Hat Tip: Clint Heine):

Pete Hodgson (20 June 2006) “… a very strange group of white men who don’t even vote, who put a million dollars on the table to help the National Party…that is a very strange group of people”

DBP (22 Nov 2005) ” …they (National) tried to buy the election with its tax cuts and its underhand campaigns, financed by strange sects and shady deals with industry in return for favours that the voters were never supposed to know about”

So what do we take from all this? Well it destroys the myth that the Exclusive Brethren were somehow controlled by National and operating as a secret front for them. They were doing what groups interested in politics do – meet with MPs to advocate for policies they wanted.

Upon getting the go ahead from on high to start taking an interest in politics, they undertook a series of meetings to learn about the parties and politics. They met not just with MPs and political parties, but also with other people (Owen McShane has commented here on how they approached him) as part of their shall we say steep learning curve. Their wish list of desired policies is almost laughably naive. Former Brash Chief of Staff Richard Long has written about how appalled National was that the Brethren were trying to campaign on the nuclear ships issue, when that was the last thing National wanted in the public arena. All very clear that any influence National had was minor.

The Brethren did two major things wrong, IMO.

1) They should have called a press conference before the pamphlets went out explaining who they were, and what they were doing. If they had done that, the pamphlets would have been a big yawn.

2) Their hiring a private detective to spy on the PM was an appalling lack of judgement, which has rightly led to widespread condemnation.

But those two mistakes don’t change the underlying reality that there was no grand conspiracy. They advocated for a set of policies they believed in, met with MPs from almost all parties, and then advocated against the parties whose policies they most oppossed.

And it is a good sign of the tolerance of NZers that most NZers (see CB poll) are rejecting Clark’s attempts to muzzle the Brethren, even though very few would personally approve of what they advocate. It’s called freedom of speech, not just speech we agree with.

No tag for this post.

The Best Times Of Our Lives

April 26th, 2007 at 6:48 am by David Farrar

Well I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely going to watch the new movie – The Best Times Of Our Lives. It’s the umm plot, yeah the plot.

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Bail on Parole

April 26th, 2007 at 6:35 am by David Farrar

The story of Hiro Joe shows all that is wrong with our justice system.

In 2002 he reaped a 15 year old girl. He got a miserly six year term (less than one third the maximum). Thanks to Labour’s new parole laws, he got parole after one third of the sentence – after a couple of years.

Late last year he then kidnapped someone and was arrested. Now despite still being on parole, he got bail which allowed him to flee.

If someone is out on parole, and they are charged with a serious crime, then they should not be eligible for bail and/or have their parole cancelled. But instead we have the farce where Mr Joe is on both parole and bail at the same time. No wonder he fled – couldn’t believe his luck.

Parole is a privilege, not a right. But again a prisoner is freed despite a “high risk of violent offending and a medium-high risk of sexual offending” assessment.

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The accuracy of carbon predictions

April 26th, 2007 at 6:01 am by David Farrar

Just three years ago, the International Energy Agency said that China would overtake the US as the biggest carbon emitter, sometime after 2025.

It has now been revealed that in fact they will overtake the US this year.

The flawed Kyoto Protocol has effectively zero obligations on China, which will be the biggest emitter. Kyoto is as much about punish the west as it is climate change.

Also makes you wonder about some of the numbers underlying policy decisions, when they can get it so wrong for just one country.

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