Archive for March, 2009

Broadband plans unveiled

March 31st, 2009 at 11:51 am by David Farrar

Steven Joyce has released details of the Government’s $1,500 million investment into ultra fast broadband so that it reaches 75% of NZers within a decade. Key details:

  • A Crown-owned investment company called Crown Fibre Investment Co or CFIC will be established.
  • CFIC will invest alongside private sector co-investors in regional fibre companies that will deploy and provide access to fibre optic network infrastructure in the 25 towns and cities covered by the initiative.
  • CFIC will select local partners based on the amount of additional fibre coverage being proposed, the proposed capital structure, the commercial viability of the proposal, consistency with government objectives and the track-record of the partner.
  • It will be an open infrastructure model that will ensure all telecommunications companies have the option of using the fibre.

The Govt also has a Q&A.

This looks a very good process. Most people in the industry thought a regional approach was preferable to a national approach. So there will be up to 25 local fibre companies that are part owned by the Crown and part-owned by private operators.

A key aspect will be the market structure:

It is expected that ISPs, network providers or other service providers will purchase access to dark fibre and install their own active electronics.  Local Fibre Cos themselves will have a limited ability to install their own active electronics as well, subject to Crown Fibre Investment Company approval.

In turn, these parties (except the Local Fibre Cos) may use these elements to produce a retail broadband (or other) service, which is sold to end-users.  The Local Fibre Cos cannot do this due to their restriction on selling retail services.

These parties may alternatively use these elements to produce a wholesale “bitstream” type of service, which is sold to ISPs or other service providers (Local Fibre Cos can undertake this activity, but as noted above this is subject to Crown Fibre Investment Company approval).  The parties that purchase these wholesale services will then use them to provide a retail service.

So generally the local fibre cos will provide access to dark fibre only. In some areas they may be allowed to provide wholesale bitstream services, but only if needed by the market. And in no circujstances can they provide retail services. Joyce is clearly motivated to avoid the vertically integrated monopoly legacy we have over the copper lines.

Also good to see focus on regulatory issues:

In addition, the government will assess how best to facilitate access to and use of fibre cable deployment on telephone and electricity poles, local authority-owned passive infrastructure such as ducts, micro-trenching and fibre-optic cable “drops” from the street-side into customer premises.  This may involve codes of practice or regulatory or legislative amendments.

And for those outside the 75%:

The government made a pre-election commitment to provide $48 million to improve rural broadband.  The Minister for Communications and Information Technology is currently developing options around this commitment and expects to make announcements regarding the direction of the government’s rural telecommunications policy in the near future.

The framework looks very good to me. The hard part will be evaluating the competing bids – a top class selection criteria, process and panel will be needed.

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The race for Mt Albert

March 31st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Ten people have lined up so far for the Mt Albert by-election – seven for Labour and three for National. The Labour seven are:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. Louisa Wall
  3. Hamish McCracken
  4. Helen White
  5. Glenda Fryer
  6. Conor Roberts
  7. Meg Bates

Twyford has to be the favourite, so long as he can deal with what the Herald calls the “Tizard dilemma”.

Louisa Wall impressed me as an MP. Labour has a pretty bad record of selecting Maori candidates for winnable general seats, so this would be a chance to change that. However Wall did not go out of her way to curry favour with various party factions and they may not want to give her a seat for life.

Hamish McCracken has stood three or four times before and never been ranked above the 50s, which suggests he is not seen as being of the quality needed to have a safe seat. His EPMU background will help with the head offices votes though.

Helen White also has an EPMU background, and is politically quite experienced. Could do well.

Glenda Fryer. Has some profile from Auckland local body politics but I doubt a front runner for the seat.

Conor Roberts. Conor is one of those annoying people – annoying because absolutely everyone likes him! He may be seen as a bit too young for the seat, but on the other hand it has only had two MPs since 1947. Conor would do well on the campaign trail.

Meg Bates. Meg is the only Young Labour President I have not met, so can’t really comment in detail. She used to work for Helen, and Helen generally employed pretty smart people, so she could be another Jacinda Ardern potentially.

The Nats list is:

  1. Melissa Lee
  2. Ravi Musuku
  3. Mike Loftus

As membership is over 200 in their Mt Albert electorate, the selection will get decided by a selection panel of 60 delegates.

Labour’s selection is a panel of seven, made up of:

  • Three people appointed by the NZ Council, one of whom must be a woman
  • Two people elected by the LEC, one of whom must be a woman
  • One person elected at the selection meeting
  • One vote by ballot from those at the selection meeting
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Richard Worth

March 31st, 2009 at 10:37 am by David Farrar

Before I turn to the substance, let us all laugh at this claim from Phil Goff:

“They (directorships) should have been resigned immediately. He would have been briefed as soon as he became minister,” Mr Goff told Radio New Zealand.

“I think that if you breach the cabinet manual in terms of conflict of interest, you’re gone.

“That was certainly the way (former prime minister) Helen Clark ran (things) and I would, too.”

Two words – Winston Peters.

Winston trampled all over the Cabinet Manual. He didn’t declare multiple gifts. He had wealthy donors pay personal expenses on his behalf, and then advocated policy changes that would benefit them. He never declared any of these interests.

And what did Phil Goff and Helen Clark do? They defended Peters. They even voted against the Privileges Committee report (something not even Jim Anderton could bring himself to do).

So Goff’s claim that Labour would have sacked Worth, should be seen for the bullshit it is.

Worth is a brand new Ministers. Key in his own words has bollocked him and given him a final warning. That by itself is a million miles more than what Labour did in the past.

I am glad to see Key take a very tough line here. I am a bit of a purist and think a Minister is a fulltime job. Business interests should be put to one side during your time as a Minister.

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Equal votes for the proposed Auckland Council?

March 31st, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve been looking more closely at the proposed representation for the 23 strong Auckland Council and there are some issues.

At the parliamentary level, all electorates are meant to be the same size, within a 5% tolerance.

At local body level, the number of residents per Councillor is meant to be realtively equal, so that those in one neighbourhood do not get less or more say than those in another. There is some flexibility as small distinct communities (like Hauraki Gulf Islands) can’t be given just 0.4 of a Councillor, but the current Auckland City Council wards are:

  • Avondale-Roskill Ward – 90,459/4 = 22,615
  • Eastern Bays Ward – 45,798/2 = 22,899
  • Eden-Albert Ward – 59,454/3 = 19,818
  • Hauraki Gulf Islands Ward – 8,637/1 = 8,637
  • Hobson Ward – 74,388/3 = 24,796
  • Tamaki-Maungakiekie Ward – 88,218/4 = 22,055
  • Western Bays Ward – 37,704/2 = 18,852

So with the exception of Hauraki Gulf, the residents per Councillor range from 18,852 to 24,796. About as equal as you can get them, without having ward boundaries significantly change.

Now what are the proposed local Councils for the new Auckland Council:

  • Rodney 54,000/1 = 54,000
  • Waitemata 261,000/2 = 130,500
  • Waitakere 198,000/2 = 99,000
  • Tamaki-makau-rau 397,000/2 = 198,500
  • Manukau 387,000/2 = 193,500
  • Hunua 72,000/1 = 72,000

This is massively out of kilter. The local Council boundaries are unsuitable to also be the ward boundaries. So either one has to change the local Council boundaries, or have City wards which do not correspond to the local Council boundaries. Now the RC has not said that the local Councils must be the ward boundaries but they have said four urban wards and two rural wards, and we happen to have four urban local Councils proposed and two rural ones.

But even more out of kilter is the proposal for there to be 3/23 seats reserved for Maori – two elected by voters on the Maori electoral roll, and one appointed by mana whenua. But many Maori do not go on the Maori roll – only about 60% do.

Now population of Auckland is around 1.37 million. 11% of that is Maori which is 0.15 million. However say 40% are on general roll and 60% on Maori roll. So 0.09 million on Maori roll and 1.28 million on general roll.

Three Maori Councillors for 90,000 persons on Maori roll is one per 30,000. Ten Ward Councillors for those on general roll of 1.28 million is one per 128,000.

So even if you accept there should be Council seats reserved for those on the Maori roll and/or mana whenua, the Royal Commission proposal gives four times the voting strength by allocating three seats. The correct number, it seems to me is one seat.

Some may say 3/23 is 13% and that is close to the Maori population of 11% of Auckland. But that overlooks that those on Maori roll also get to vote for the ten at large seats. The correct comparison is population on Maori roll vs population on the general roll in the wards.

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General Debate 31 March 2009

March 31st, 2009 at 9:47 am by David Farrar
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A potential huge win-win for NZ foreign policy

March 30th, 2009 at 7:07 pm by David Farrar

The Tailor of Panama Street blogs:

As we have posted before, New Zealand is currently running for a seat on the 57 member UN Human Rights Council.  Elections will be held in May and New Zealand is currently one of three candidates for three vacancies that will come in the Western European and Other Group (WEOG).  The other declared candidates are Norway and Belgium.

Now this is not a good thing. The HRC is just as bad as its predecessor that was abolished because it was a repulsive joke. The current Council is more into taking rights away than defending them. It is trying to make it compulsory for countries to ban virulent criticism of religion.

There are signs President Barack Obama may be about to reverse another George W. Bush policy and take a fresh look at the HRC.  Bush shunned the Council, arguing it was biased against Israel and ignored flagrant human rights abusers (indeed, many of its members fall into this categrory).   However, as part of a campaign to improve the US’s image in the world, Obama seems to be taking a more cautiously supportive line.  On 1 March, the US announced it was sending an observer to the Council’s current session, to “use the opportunity to strengthen old partnerships and forge new ones.”  Now, UN scuttlebutt suggests that the US might be looking to run for a spot on the Council in the May elections.

This is a golden opportunity.

So far, so good. There is no doubt that the Council can only benefit from having the US actively engaged. But with four candidates for three WEOG spots, someone is going to miss out.  The Progressive Realist suggests that the US has already sounded out the Belgians to see if they would step down to let Washington run unopposed. No word on this yet, but is it too cheeky to speculate whether New Zealand might offer to step aside for Washington? From Minister McCully’s point of view, wouldn’t this advance two foreign policy goals: improve relations with the new US administration and get out of the foreign affairs equivalent of a “polar bear hug”?

That would be a brillant move. It is the best of all worlds. We escape having to serve on the Council (imagine the shame as we have to explain vote after vote), the US rejoins it (the only country that can temper it a bit) and Uncle Barack and Aunt Hillary owe us a big favour.

Hopefully McCully will make the offer to withdraw to make room for the US to stand, when he meets Clinton.

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Norman attacks academic

March 30th, 2009 at 3:51 pm by David Farrar

A bad-tempered e-mail forwarded to me reveals that Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has written to political scientists Nigel Roberts and Stephen Levine to try to stop them publishing the research of an academic opponent of the Electoral Finance Act. Levine and Roberts are currently editing their traditional post-election book due out soon, and the book contains a chapter written by University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards who is evaluating the impact that the EFA had on last years’ election campaign. Norman has emailed them to essentially say that they shouldn’t be publishing it and that Edwards shouldn’t be researching in this area.

The email from Norman, which was sent to Edwards, and which he kindly forwarded to me, is rather extraordinary, and gives an interesting insight into how thin skinned the Greens (or Norman anyway) is of dissenting views. Despite having a PhD himself, Norman is clearly he’s no fan of academic freedom. Edwards has been widely published and reported on in the area of political finance, yet according to Norman, Edwards, “lacks academic credibility in this area”. Could it be that Norman still can’t handle having the EFA criticized? It seems that Norman and the Greens have dug themselves into a hole on the EFA, and while everyone other former fan of the now-repealed legislation has given up trying to defend the indefensible, the Greens are tying themselves up in knots over it all. They are in a political bunker on the EFA and the idea of an opponent of the EFA researching the effect of the legislation is just too much for them.

Worse than that – in Russel Norman’s view – Edwards has said some critical things about the Greens on his blog! Oh dear. Norman says in his email to Edwards, which Norman also creepily sent to the book editors, ‘you have demonstrated a long history of bias against the Green Party, and you have consistently made untrue statements about the Green Party’. Geez, is Norman turning into Winston Peters?! Norman says: ‘Your previous writing leads me to the view that you are simply unable to give a dispassionate academic account of the EFA’s impact on political parties due both to your virulent opposition to the EFA and to your one-sided and inaccurate commentary on the EFA and the Green Party’. Norman or his staff seemingly went through two and a half years of writings by Edwards to compile their dossier on him.

In fact Norman’s email tirade reads like something Rob Muldoon might have said when he was at his worst. The National Party gets requests from lefty academics all the time, but I doubt that the party then sends out hostile replies that question the academic’s integrity because they might be politically biased! I thought that everyone now accepts that academics have their own biases and that for them to pretend otherwise is just a sham.

Put it like this. Jane Kelsey has well known views on free trade. Think how much outrage there would be if the leader of the National Party fired off an e-mail to senior academics saying Kelsey should not be allowed to publish academic reseaerch on free trade, because she doesn’t support it, and she is biased against parties that do support it? There would be an avalanche of outrage – the Association of University Staff would leap in to defend academic freedom etc. Luckily most National MPs have better things to do than try and get academics prevented from publishing academic research.

And funnily enough, Russel Norman’s nasty little email was actually in response to Edwards kindly inviting Norman to have an input into his research. Considering the Green Party had problems obeying the EFA, I would have thought they would have wanted to detail these problems so a replacement law can avoid the mistakes of the EFA.

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NZ Aid

March 30th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Denis Welch blogs an interesting reminder:

With regard to the argument over foreign minister Murray McCully’s decision to pull the semi-autonomous NZAid program back under the umbrella of Foreign Affairs, that tinny sound you can hear is Labour being hypocritical in its attacks on the move.

In the course of research for my book on Helen Clark I interviewed Matt Robson, the Alliance MP who was disarmament minister and associate foreign affairs minister 1999–2002. He told me that he and Clark ‘clashed mightily over the setting up of NZAid, to the point of warfare. She backed Foreign Affairs keeping the aid division with only a few minor changes.

So the change was pushed through by the Alliance, and resisted by Labour. Just like Kiwibank which Labour opposed at first.

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TVNZ upholds complaint

March 30th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I lambasted One News for their errors in a 1 March story on the 90 day probation period law.

Dave at Big News also highlighted their errors, and actually lodged a formal complaint with them.

Dave blogs that TVNZ has upheld his complaint and conceded the story was inaccurate.

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NZUSA

March 30th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I ran into the co-presidents of NZUSA, when down in Dunedin. That reminded me that I had been planning to criticise their response to National’s policy of writing off an additional 10% of any student loan repayments. Note my critical comments are aimed at NZUSA as an institution and not personally directed to the co-presidents.

I would have thought that having hard working taxpayers writing off debt of those with student loans, if they make voluntary repayments, would at least get a small thank you from NZUSA. I mean most sector groups are happy when you give money away for free to their members.

But NZUSA’s response was:

Student leaders are critical of National’s announcement of a new student loan repayment bonus scheme, citing its strict eligibility criteria and lack of vision and scope as its downfalls.

The so called strict eligibility criteria being that they made it easier from their pre-election policy by expanding it to those overseas, and only requiring $500 of repayments over a year – not in a lump sum.

“However most borrowers are already making considerable compulsory loan repayments each week, and can’t afford to make further contributions on top of this. When they are already doing everything they should, why are they now being ignored by the government?”

This is amusing, as compulsory repayments are made through the tax system. Basically those with a student loan effectively pay an extra 10% tax, until they repay their loan. So when NZUSA says people can’t afford to make further contributions, they are in effect calling for lower taxes to list after tax pay. Except they actually attack any reduction in tax rates even though it helps people repay their student debt.

“We question why National has created such a narrow policy that will merely reward the rich and leave everyone else to struggle”

This is the most outraegous part. National is giving away taxpayer money to students and graduates who make voluntary repayments of just $10 a week, and this is called rewarding the rich.

Did NZUSA slam Labour for rewarding the rich when it wrote off interest on student loans? Of course not – even though it massively favoured the well off in society.

Did NZUSA slam Labour for rewarding the rich when it announced that they would no longer restrict student allowances to poorer students, and give them to everyone regardless of wealth? Of course not.

“With such tough economic times, and loan repayment obligations already being met by most loan borrowers, why are the majority being punished and left out of this policy to reduce the debt burden?”

And now NZUSA says this policy of giving away free money to students and graduates who make voluntary repayments, is “punishing the majority”.

I do not, of course, advocate that NZUSA should sycophantically welcome everything National does. But their response to the student loan write-offs was unbalanced to put it mildy – and I daresay totally out of kilter to what would be the reaction from the average student or graduate.

I think National are absolutely nuts to not be introducing voluntary membership of student associations. NZUSA explicitly campiagned against National in the 2008 election. Even though more under 25 voters, supported National than Labour – all those National voting students were forced to fund literature telling them not to vote National.

National could announce a free handout of $20,000 to every student and I suspect NZUSA would condemn them for it, or at the least spend most of their press release complaining it is not $25,000 or it is unfair women students don’t get more than male students or ….

So why is National going to keep forcing hundreds of thousands of students to keep funding student associations who will, beyond any doubt, campaign against National in the next election? It’s almost like National wants to lose the election. I mean could you imagine Labour supporting compulsory membership of (say) Federated Farmers if the Feds spent money telling all farmers to not vote Labour?

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How the news rates

March 30th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Somehow I have ended up on the press release list for TVNZ News. But you see some interesting stuff, including their boast sheet of the ratings for their news shows vs TV3. This is for all viewers 5+.

TVNZ TV3 TVNZ %
Business News 37,630 12,470 75%
Breakfast News 113,350 26,470 81%
Midday News 109,500 30,620 78%
6 pm News 547,710 303,370 64%
7pm CA 437,700 188,590 70%
Late News 162,580 143,240 53%

The percentages are my calculation, being TVNZ’s share of the viewers watching the two channels. 50% means equal numbers watching TVNZ and TV3 News.

On a percentage basis TVNZ does best with the Breakfast slot, gaining four times as many viewers as TV3′s Sunrise.

The main news bulletin is more competitive with only a 2:1 advantage. However at 7 pm it gets more pronounced with Close Up having a larger gap over Campbell Live.

The slot where TV3 gets closest, interestingly, is the late news slot. Is this a Nightline legacy from the days of Belinda Todd?

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Tax Cuts

March 30th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

apr09taxcuts

This is the amount of extra money you will get from Wednesday, if you are one of the 80% or so who do not get Working for Families.

As one can see the biggest proportional drops in income tax are those on the fulltime adult minimum wage of $25,000. Their tax bill will drop a huge 12.8%.

Those on the average wage of just under $50,000 will get a 9.1% drop in their tax.

Those on $100,000 only get a 4.4% reduction in their tax.

Anyone who was on the fulltime minimum wage (and not on WFF) will have their income increase by $1,043 and their tax drop by $301 (instead of increasing by $219) which means an increase in take home pay of $1,344 or an extra $25.77 a week.

And contrary to the cries from the left that the tax cuts favour the wealthy, in fact the total share of taxation paid by the those earning over $100,000 will actually grow slightly from 29.5% to 29.6% of personal income tax.

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UK Minister’s husband claims porn movies as expenses

March 30th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

The husband of Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has apologised for the “embarrassment” he caused her after she used her Commons expenses to claim for the adult movies he watched.

Richard Timney watched two adult films at his home and his wife later claimed for the television package while submitting a £67 bill for her internet connection.

It’s often the little issues that do more damage.

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Lee for Mt Albert?

March 30th, 2009 at 7:36 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that National List MP Melissa Lee may seek National’s nomination for Mt Albert.

25% of Mt Albert’s residents are Asian and 40% of the total population have lived here for less than five years.

If Lee was the candidate, and did win the seat, then her list spot would be taken up by Cam Calder, who was an MP for around two weeks after the election, before National lost a seat due to specials.

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General Debate 30 March 2009

March 30th, 2009 at 7:12 am by David Farrar
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Lockie on Q&A

March 29th, 2009 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

I missed watching it live, but have now viewed the second segment of Q&A online. The guest was Lockwood Smith (and his fiancee).

The panel discussion afterwards was very interesting. It was Therese Arseneau, Paul Holmes, Ron Mark and Laila Harre. They were all very approving of Lockwood’s decision to try and get Ministers to answer the question, if it is a straight forward primary question.

Laila made an interesting point, about why this may have happened. She said that Lockwood is not personally or politically very close to the National Party Leadership. She contrasted that to Margaret Wilson and Jonathan Hunt who were both extremely close to Clark. In fact we got told how every time she had been in the Speaker’s office, Clark had phoned Hunt while she was there. There is a certain incompatability with being a senior advisor to the PM, and being the Speaker. And we saw that when we had the disgraceful collusion over Harry Duynhoven’s status as an MP.

Lockie I am sure values his own public reputation more than making life too easy for his colleagues. Hence why he has tried to change some things. And ironically I think it actually benefits National also, even though some weaker Ministers may find it hard going. The public see a Government as very arrogant when it refuses to answer even the most simple questions. It loses votes eventually.

What I have found interesting is that Lockie has actually introduced a number of changes, not just redefining the line between addressing and answering the questions. They are:

  1. Playing “advantage”. This was referred to as a light handed regulatory approach with clear boundaries, but I see it as a rugby analogy where he concentrates more on kepping the game flowing, rather than penalising every technical infringement. Several times I have heard him say something along the lines of giving the Opposition more supplementaries because a Minister went on too long. So rather than pul everyone up, he is just striving for a reasonably fair process.
  2. The previously referred to moving the boundary between addressing and answering the question
  3. Is cracking down on points or order that are not points or order. Winston used to be the biggest offender at that – I would say only around 2% of his points or order were legitimate, but Wilson would never pull him up.
  4. Discouraging tabling of documents just to be able to read out what it is. He can not stop anyone seeking leave to do so, but has tried to shame MPs by pointing out whenever they seek leave that they are abusing the process and leave should only be sought for documents not already available to MPs. And this seems to have had some effect on reducing such tabling requests
  5. Time – it has been many years since question time took only an hour. Hell Helen called a snap election in 2002 because of a few extra minutes a day of question time. In the last two years it was routinely taking around 100 minutes. It is now a lot closer to 60 again.

TVNZ also has online the transcript of the interview with Judith Collins.

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Repeat killers

March 29th, 2009 at 10:37 am by David Farrar

The Sunday Star-Times reports that nine convicted killers are repeat killers. Very timely story as we debate whether to go with National’s two strikes and no parole law or ACT’s three strikes and life with minimum 25 years no parole law.

I got sent a while back the calculations for Rodney’s claim that 77 Kiwis would still be alive if ACT’s three strikes law had been in place previously. It is:

  • There are currently 391 offenders serving life sentences in prison. Of these, 68 had three sentence episodes for violence prior to the imposition of the current life sentence.
  • There are currently 79 sentenced offenders in prison for whom manslaughter is the major offence. Of these, nine (or 11%) had served three prior sentences for violence before imposition of the current sentence.

So 68 + 9 = 77 people who would still be alive if their killers had been given life after their third serious violent offence. And this is just for those who are still in prison.

So the murder rate would drop by 17% and the manslaughter rate by 11% if the three strikes law had been in place.

What I would find interesting is how many people (in say last 15 years) have been sentenced to three seperate jail terms for violence (and would now be serving a life sentence if the three strikes law had been in place). Also how many of those stopped offending after the third jail sentence for violence and how many carried on offending?

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Ralston on Govt advertising

March 29th, 2009 at 10:13 am by David Farrar

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS:

John Key’s memorable line about Labour’s “hug a polar bear” programmes, ineffective campaigns that sound good but don’t deliver results, wryly summed up this Government’s contempt for many of the touchy-feely, state-funded marketing campaigns the last Labour administration spawned.

Much of the many millions spent on these things proved to be a cynical exercise to try to convince New Zealanders difficult problems were being effectively tackled when, in reality, they were not.

We face a childhood obesity epidemic, so run a series of ads on television telling kids to eat their vegetables. Not a single kid will be inspired by it to munch on more broccoli, but the public will be reassured that something is being done.

Can anyone honestly tell me that they have been provoked into leaping from their couch and start running around outdoors by Sparc’s inane Push Play campaign?

The total advertising spend by the last Government was massive. There is always a need for certain Government services or policy changes to be communicated, but one has to especially wonder about so called social isses campaigns. Some are effective, but some miss it.

Sure, some public education campaigns are necessary and do achieve results.

For example, the mental health campaign fronted by John Kirwan demonstrably achieved results in changing New Zealanders’ attitudes towards people with psychological issues.

Kirwan and others involved in that programme have taken the stigma out of mental illness.

Yep that is an example of a really good campaign.

Are we having fewer injuries around the home since ACC started mounting campaigns advising us not to accidentally have an accident?

The answer I am pretty sure is no.

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Dunedin photos

March 29th, 2009 at 9:34 am by David Farrar

staff-club1

The lovely view from the Otago University Staff Club. Almost enough to make you want to become an academic.

ak-girl

Auckland Girl looking lovely.

at-girl

And this is Austrian Girl, who accompanied me to the wedding, despite the fact we only met on Friday :-)

The wedding was great, as weddings tend to be. I got to make the Best Man speech, which went well despite a total lack of written notes. Mark Blumsky was a superb marriage celebrant and it was just one of those great days.

I’m surprisingly healthy this morning, despite three days of reasonably non stop festivities. Even went for a jog to shake off the black russians.

Don’t fly back to Wellington until Monday, so today will be a nice rest day. I have to say everytime I visit Dunedin again, I remember how much I used to love living here. If I was a member of the Green Party I would make it compulsory for all university students to study at Otago. It’s a great campus, culture and city.

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General Debate 29 March 2009

March 29th, 2009 at 7:55 am by David Farrar
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The Hillary house

March 29th, 2009 at 7:54 am by David Farrar

Oh Good God. The HoS reports:

The future of Sir Edmund Hillary’s home is uncertain, amid family fears that it may be bulldozed by its new owners, and the mountaineer’s Himalayan pine chopped down.

Sir Edmund’s daughter Sarah Hillary said she would be saddened if the house was knocked down.

“I would prefer if someone lived there happily but I can’t control what happens,” she said.

Yes you could have. If you wanted to control what happens, you could have either not sold it, gifted it to a museum or placed a convenant on it restricting future owners. Of course that would mean less money.

But with all due respect you don’t pocket the money, and then start complaining about what a new owner may or may not do.

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Stupid

March 29th, 2009 at 7:41 am by David Farrar

Declaring your partner on Bebo, yet telling WINZ you live alone so you get an extra $340 a week in benefit, has to rank as one of the more stupid things someone can do.

Good to see WINZ on the ball.

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Herald on Auckland Royal Commission

March 28th, 2009 at 2:26 pm by David Farrar

I agree with a large amount of the NZ Herald editorial on the Royal Commission’s report:

The royal commission on Auckland has been as radical as its instigators could have hoped. Under its proposals all existing councils and community boards would be abolished. In their place a single Auckland Council, so named, would be the sole rate-collecting body and repository of all local government power in the region.

And that is a big step forward. One level of rates. One district plan. One set of resourcing consents. One set of bylaws. One Council to decide things (and in the darkness bind them :-)

Crucially, it would be led by a directly elected mayor. The commission has not listened to arguments that only celebrity dilettantes would be likely to win such a race. It suggests the mayor be invested with a degree of executive power, to appoint a deputy and council committee chairs, establish an administrative office, propose an annual budget and initiate policy for the council’s assent.

That sort of role ought to attract the sort of leader Auckland sorely needs, inspirational and, in the commission’s words, “inclusive in approach and decisive in action”.

Again the proposed powers for the Mayor look very good. The Mayor can not rule by fiat, but the Mayor will have significant authority. What this means is that the Mayor can stand on a platform, and be held accountable for what they achieve or do not achieve.

The person would doubtless lead a ticket of candidates for the 23-seat council, 10 seats elected by the whole region, 10 from wards, two from the Maori electoral roll and one appointed by the tribe with mana whenua status. That composition, though, does not look like a recipe for unity, particularly if there is pressure to use proportional representation for the seats elected across the region.

As I said yesterday I am not a fan of the Maori electoral roll, and mana whenua seats. I do like having the at large seats so not everyone is an area rep.  Personally I would divide the four urban wards into smaller wards so each ward has only one Councillor from it. Incidentially the elections will be FPP.

Today’s four cities of Manukau, North Shore, Auckland and Waitakere, and the districts of Rodney and a redrawn Franklin would be wards of the council. Each city would fill two seats and the districts one each. The six would also keep their own elected Local Councils, so called, but they would be comparable to today’s community boards.

On page 322 of the Commission’s report (yes I am reading all 800 pages) they look at an alternative to six local Councils – namely a 20 Council model and 11 Council model. They say the 20 model Council would cost too much and 20 local Councils would be too hard for the Auckland Council to support and manage. But their 11 Council model is well worth considering as an alternative to their six Council model. With 11 local Councils (and I would call them Community Boards) you would have:

  1. Hibiscus-Albany
  2. North Harbour
  3. Waitakere
  4. Auckland West
  5. Auckland North
  6. Auckland East
  7. Howick-Pakuranga
  8. Manurewa-Papkura
  9. Manukau Central
  10. North Rural
  11. South Rural

This gets away from the new Councils being seen as similiar the existing Councils, and brings them closer to the community. Each local Council would have population ranging from 54,000 to 198,000. Under the six Council model they range up to 397,000.

They would be subservient to the Auckland Council, financed by it to oversee the delivery of its services, with certain functions spelled out by Parliament and others delegated by the parent council. There would be no third tier of local representation. Today’s suburban community boards would disappear.

The royal commission was asked to satisfy two divergent aims: to give Auckland unity and to keep decision-making reasonably close to the people concerned. If it has erred, it is in the direction of unity. Its prospectus for the Auckland Council offers all the power and cohesion that is lacking in the present regional set-up. But some will question whether the existing cities and districts are as small as community representation need be.

I agree they are not. I think the 11 council proposal is superior to having just six Councils. And even the Royal Commission didn’t see much differences between six and 11. They did make a strong case against 20.

The commission pretends they would be more than community boards. “They will be a new type of body – a local representative body, which operates within a larger local authority and which provides services and acts as an advocate for the residents …” It is describing a community board.

To be fair, they will also have powers to hear resource consents etc.

Local councils will be further reduced in the public eye by their lack of a directly elected leader. Each will be chaired by someone elected by the council. The commission has rather neatly turned their submissions against “celebrity elections” on themselves.

I think it is more having just one directly elected leader for the Region.

But it is the powers of the proposed Auckland Council and its mayor that deserve most attention.

The commission proposes they go far beyond water mains, drains, land use and transport planning to encompass electricity supply, broadband, telecommunications, social and economic development.

The nervousness of central Government at some of the proposals can be imagined. Auckland is being offered a prescription for a level of self-government greater than any New Zealand city has known. It is a plan that assumes there are capable city leaders ready to step up to the platform the commission has designed. Some of those who instigated the exercise may have to stand for election to prove it has been worthwhile.

I think the ambitions of having the Auckland Council also take on a role for social well-being may be too ambitious – at least for now. I would be tempted to advocate that you don’t expand the aims of the Council for now, so they can initially concenrate on a smooth transition, and making sure current services get done well. And maybe five years or so down the track look at whether the Council is doing well enough to take on additional responsibilities.

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NZ Herald on right to self defence

March 28th, 2009 at 1:48 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald opines:

The outpouring of popular support for shop owner Virender Singh when charges against him were dismissed after a depositions hearing, carries a strong message. It confirms many people are disturbed that a person’s right to defend his property or his family, when forced, can be the subject of judicial scrutiny. That, in turn, puts the spotlight on how the police use their discretion when deciding whether to charge people who use force to defend themselves.

The failure of the prosecution in a string of high-profile self-defence cases suggests something is amiss.

It appears the police are content to pass such cases on to the courts and allow them to deliver judgments. That may be the easiest option for them, but it sends an odd message to criminals and commits the likes of Mr Singh, who tackled youths trying to rob his liquor store, to months of worry and uncertainty. In such cases, the police should act more decisively at a far earlier stage.

The Justice Minister has asked for a report on how the police use their discretion, but seems unconvinced that the law on self-defence needs a thorough review. In that, he will doubtless be backed by many legal experts. But the degree of public unease about Mr Singh’s case and, more generally, the level of violence in the community suggest some change is required, even if it is simply to spell out explicitly the police’s right to exercise discretion in self-defence cases.

I concur.

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Mayor of Auckland

March 28th, 2009 at 11:36 am by David Farrar

The Herald rates the chances of potential contenders for the Mayoralty of Auckland (assuming the Government adopts the key recommendations):

They are:

  1. John Banks – the front runner
  2. Len Brown – good to very good
  3. Mike Lee – good
  4. Bob Harvey – average to good
  5. Paul Holmes – average
  6. Peter Leitch – poor to average
  7. Andrew Williams – poor
  8. Judith Tizard – poor
  9. Blair Strang – dead on arrival

I have not read the full report yet. It will be interesting if the vote for the Mayor is FPP or STV.

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