Archive for September, 2009

Death Toll thought to be 100

September 30th, 2009 at 11:09 pm by David Farrar

40 dead was bad enough, but the death toll in Samoa, and to a degree Tonga,  is now thought to be 100.

Around 15,000 are homeless, at least temporarily.

Samoa has a population of 179,000 so if this was NZ it is would be the equivalent of around 2,410 dead and 360,000 needing shelter.

You can donate online to the NZ Red Cross appeal here.

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No awards for Radio NZ staff

September 30th, 2009 at 5:03 pm by David Farrar

An e-mail sent to all Radio NZ staff today:

2010 New Zealand Radio Awards

This is to advise you that due to budgetary constraints Radio New Zealand has – reluctantly – withdrawn from this year’s New Zealand Radio Awards. As you know, Radio New Zealand’s funding was frozen in this year’s Budget and we have been forced to implement a range of cost-saving measures to offset an increase in non-discretionary overheads totalling $1.5 million in the current financial year.

Unfortunately the New Zealand Radio Awards carry significant entry costs for Radio New Zealand and the decision to temporarily withdraw has been made to protect expenditure on core services. This decision will be reviewed after the 2010 Budget.

Peter Cavanagh
Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief

I understand the staff are less than impressed.

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Backbenches tonight

September 30th, 2009 at 4:34 pm by David Farrar
  • Peter Dunne, United Future
  • Charles Chauvel, Labour
  • John Hayes, National

Topics include becoming a republic and paid parental leave.

They film at Backbencher live from 9pm tonight – but people turn up from about 7.30 to get a good spot and primed.

Watch on Freeview 7 or Sky 97 or online  tvnz.co.nz/backbenches

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Banned by the ODT

September 30th, 2009 at 4:02 pm by David Farrar

Threesixty

This ad was refused by the ODT. Wowsers. I think it is hilarious. Of course ODT has absolute right to decide what ads to accept, but I doubt many other publications would refuse it.

Story on it is at NBR.

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Classic

September 30th, 2009 at 3:49 pm by David Farrar

chat

From Murray.

Sadly while no bad effects in NZ, many Samoan New Zealanders will have lost loved ones, with 39 dead in Samoa.

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Maori Party 2008 Campaign

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

Bryce Edwards blogs a summary of the Maori Party’s 2008 campaign.

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NZ on Media

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

Fran O’Sullivan had what I consider a really good idea, during her speech on political blogging yesterday.

Part of the discussion was around the increasing commercial pressures on newspapers, and their diminishing resources to do investigative journalism etc.

Fran said she thought it was very unbalances that the Government (taxpayer) funds some media through NZ on Air, but this is restricted to broadcasters only.

She advocated that NZ on Air should become NZ on Media, and all media should be able to apply for worthy “local content” projects whether they be TV, radio, print or Internet.

I think that is a concept with some merit. First of all it does make for a more level playing field. But also because a contestable funding pool for print (and Internet) journalism could help turn around the decline in quality research intensive journalism (which is often not commercially viable).

Now as print and Internet has much lower costs than broadcast, I don’t think opening up the field, would lead to a huge amount of money being drained from the broadcasters. Maybe a couple of million out of the tens of millions they grant every year.

Note this is not about increasing the total amount of funding for NZ on Air, but increasing the range of eligible applicants.

Someone like No Right Turn could (for example) have applied for a grant for his research and series of posts on the sedition laws (which helped lead to the law being unanimously repealed).

A newspaper could apply for a grant of say $25,000 to allow a journalist to spend three months working on a story about (for example) the immigration system.

There would be some challenges such as editorial independence, but I think it is a proposal worth considering. Why should TV and radio retain exclusive rights to NZOA funding?

It is worth mentioning that NZ on Air does sort of fund stuff on the Internet – the very worthy NZ on Screen archive of iconic NZ TV shows. However that is funding Internet storage and access of TV shows, which is different to funding contemporary material regardless of medium.

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Fisking Jacinda

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

The Hansard of the first reading of the VSM bill is now online. If I have the time, I want to respond to all the MPs who spoke out in favour of compulsory membership, but for now will just respond to Jacinda Ardern’s speech, as the version of history painted is now one I or my colleagues remember.

Jacinda said:

Unlike the member who is in charge of this bill, I can speak from some experience, having attended a university that looked at voluntary student union membership. I was at Waikato University in the 1990s. I was not a student politician—I want to make that clear—I was a student. I was an observer of what happened, and I voted in the election that eventually led to that university being the first in 70 years, I believe, to go voluntary. I inform members of this House that it was the first university to go back to universal membership, because it learnt that it was a disaster to move to a voluntary system.

Now Jacinda has one thing right. WSU was voluntary, and now is compulsory. But far from VSM being a disaster that students rejected, the return to compulsory membership happened due to the machinations of the then Vice-Chancellor – former British Labour MP Bryan Gould.

You see what Jacinda doesn’t tell you is that Waikato students voted to go voluntary in 1996 by 63% to 37% in a referendum . The supporters of compulsion tried to overturn that the following year with another referendum, which VSM also won easily.

Undeterred they tried again in 1999 in a referendum (triggered by the current law) and got thrashed. VSM won 78% of the vote, in a turnout of around 30%.

So what happened? In 2000 the University, headed by former British Labour MP Bryan Gould, scheduled a further referendum upon receiving a petition late in the year. They scheduled it for a short three day period at the beginning of study week for exams. And they only gave students one days notice of the vote. Their own staff advised against this, and said there should be two weeks notice.

Turnout fell from 30% to around 10%, and compulsion won on its fourth attempt in an election that Iran or Afghanistan would be proud of. I mean at least they get more than one days notice of a vote!

Jacinda’s claim that Waikato students rejected VSM, in fact reminds us of how flawed the referendum model is. Apart from the philosophical objections to having 51% being able to force 40% to join something, you can’t get a fair vote on most campuses. Even if your Labour mate the VC doesn’t schedule the vote to favour the forces of compulsion, you generally have the students association having 100 times the resources of those supporting VSM. More on that another day.

Anyway for those who want more info on what really happened at Waikato, a colleague of mine has put together a summary which is below:

One favourite myth of opponents of voluntary membership concerns the voluntary era at the Waikato Student Union (1998-2000) and the impact of three years of voluntary membership on the association. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern referred to WSU during her speech on the first reading of the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment bill last week. Let’s have a look at her claims.

But first some history and background.

Jacinda claims that Sir Roger’s bill follows previous voluntary membership bills from, in her order, Tony Steel, Donna Awatere-Huata, and then Michael Laws. She has the order wrong. Michael Laws introduced his members’ bill in 1994. It went to select committee in 1995 but lapsed in 1996. The Steel and Awatere-Huata bills were two separate members’ bills that were simultaneously drawn in May 1997. The Awatere-Huata bill did not receive a second reading. The Steel bill was passed in August 1998, but only after a compromise, promoted by some New Zealand First MPs, led to the introduction of referenda as the means to determine whether membership would be compulsory or voluntary.

WSU’s move to voluntary membership happened prior to the passage of the Steel bill. In September 1996, following two years of campaigning by voluntary supporters, WSU members voted 987 to 591 to make membership of WSU voluntary from 1 January 1998. In August 1997 compulsory supporters called another referendum in an attempt to overturn the 1996 decision. This was unsuccessful and students voted to confirm the introduction of voluntary membership. In 1999 there was another referendum, this one triggered by the Steel bill. This time 1984 students voted voluntary, 561 voted compulsory, from a total turnout of 3051. So much for NZUSA’s claim that students don’t want voluntary membership.

Voluntary membership at WSU ended in questionable circumstances. By 2000 WSU had a pro-compulsory president. His executive collected signatures for another referendum but waited until October and the final meeting of the academic year before presenting the petition to council. The referendum was held on 16-18 October. At the time, David Penney, a former president of APSU, the national polytechnic student association and then a university employee, pointed out the problems with the timing of the referendum saying,

the University will have less than one day to officially notify students of the vote, normal practice two weeks; maximum voter turnout may be undermined by the timing of the vote, which is recommended to take place on the first three days of study week when on-campus numbers are low; the integrity of the process may be undermined given the short lead-in time.

Jacinda also claimed that WSU’s return to compulsory membership “happened only after all of the services that (Waikato) students had benefitted from had collapsed.” According to Jacinda the collapsed “services” were foodbanks, emergency housing and a hardship fund. Trouble is WSU never provided any of these things. Waikato students paid (and still pay) separate levies for health and counseling, student buildings, and food, bars and the recreation centre. The university collected levies for these three areas and none of them were affected by voluntary membership.

WSU owned half a dozen rental properties but these weren’t emergency housing. Prior to 1996 they were, however, rented out at below market rates and often to executive members and their mates. In 1995 WSU attempted to justify the use of student money to buy houses by claiming that if they owned enough properties they could eventually force down Hamilton rental prices. I doubt if WSU members were aware they were funding a Waikato version of a Polish shipyard.

Jacinda’s in good company when it comes to making false claims about WSU. In 2000 Steve Maharey complained about the “million the voluntary purists at Waikato fiddled away”. However an examination of WSU’s balance sheets shows WSU’s equity during the three voluntary years fell by $4000; from $578,000 (1998) to $574,000 (2000). I hope Steve’s not using the same calculator at Massey.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at more of these myths.

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Praise for the PSA

September 30th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff blogs:

A shift in the right direction

The news that Treasury is looking to save 30% of costs and increase productivity in the public sector by centralising back office services may surprise some people. …

While the PSA is concerned for the interests of individual staff caught up in the process to centralise these functions, there is sense in bringing back a whole of government approach to much of the states activities, including the back office functions.

All too often unions are seen as instinctively anti-reform, no matter what its merits, and anti anything that may save money.  I’m pleased to see the PSA take a more nuanced position on this issue.

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Another 10/10

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

A new Dom Post politics quiz. Another 10/10 for me – and this time no “intelligent guesses”, so readers should also do well if they have been following the news.

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Tsunami Warning

September 30th, 2009 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

Civil Defence has issues a rare tsunami warning. Stuff reports details:

A tsunami is radiating across the South Pacific following a massive 8.3 magnitude earthquake near Samoa and will hit New Zealand later today. …

The Hawaii center’s updated timings for the arrival of a tsunami in New Zealand are:

East Cape at 9.44am

Gisborne 10am

North Cape 10.12 am

Napier 10.40 am

Wellington 10.50 am

Auckland (east coast) 11.12 am

Auckland (west) 11.39 am

Lyttelton 11.55am

New Plymouth 12.17pm

Nelson 12.23 pm

Dunedin 12.31 pm

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said there was a tsunami risk to New Zealand from the earthquake.

The ministry has issued a tsunami warning for New Zealand coasts.

Ministry director John Hamilton said that the ministry had alerted the country’s regional Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) groups, police, fire service, Ministry of Health, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and other government agencies.

The ministry has activated the National Crisis Management Centre and was co-ordinating central government response.

The CDEM sector was activating its emergency plans.

Regional CDEM groups were working urgently with local authorities, local emergency services and local media to warn and if necessary evacuate coastal areas at risk.

Detailed evacuation advice would come from local authorities and local emergency services.

If told to evacuate people should, where possible, take a radio and cell phone with them, along with essential items such as glasses, hearing aid and medicines.

Note that so far there is no advice to evacuate.

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Tom misses the point

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

Tom Pullar-Strecker misses the point, in my opinion, with his column that the Govt should ban using mobiles for satnav. He wrote:

Last week, The Dominion Post asked the Transport Ministry whether it would illegal from November to use mobile phones as satellite navigation aids in cars.

The initial response from spokesman John Summers was confusing and ambiguous. But pressed for clarification, Mr Summers consulted colleagues and came back with a clear answer:

“You asked whether a driver can look at a navigation system on a mobile phone even it is securely mounted. The answer is to this is no, not while driving.

“Under the Road User Amendment Rule 2009, you can use a mobile phone held in a cradle (including those that double as a GPS device) while driving but only to make, receive or terminate a phone call.  You cannot use them in any other way such as reading a GPS map, reading email, or consulting an electronic diary.”

I would contend that was a sensible and considered position, and that Transport Minister Steven Joyce’s decision yesterday to cave in from pressure from gadget-fans and amend the rule was a mistake.

I contend it was the exact opposite, and the Minister inserting some common sense into the rule making.

Mr Joyce said it was not the intent of the rule to make it illegal for motorists to use the satellite navigation or music functions of their cellphones, “provided these are mounted in the vehicle and are manipulated infrequently”.

He met with officials and instructed them to “amend the rule accordingly”.

Mr Joyce appears to have  thereby explicitly sanctioned people taking their eyes off the road and looking at instructions on their mobile phone, and tinkering with it, while their vehicle is in motion.

That is arguably more dangerous than people using unmounted cellphones to answer calls, the problem the rule change was originally designed to tackle.

Well I’m no fan of the cellphone ban anyway, but there is a big difference between using a device to chat to someone not in the car, and using a device to tell you where to drive.

If Tom thinks there should be no tinkering in cars, will he support banning all car radios?

How long does Mr Joyce believe it would be safe for people to take their eyes off the road? Say it takes 2 seconds to absorb the visual information from a smartphone doubling as a SatNav. In that time a car travelling at 50km will travel 27 metres.

That could be the two seconds during which a child steps out in front of the vehicle.

But here is where Tom misses the point.  The Government has never intended to ban the use of GPS devices in cars. If we did so, we would be the laughing stock of the world as the most common consumer use of GPS is for car navigation. And imagine the impact on tourism as tourists are told they can not use GPS to find their way around – but instead have to use maps.

Incidentally far more dangerous for a driver to be looking at maps while driving, than a GPS device.

You see the stupidity of the draft rule is that using your cellphone for GPS navigation would have been illegal, but using a dedicated GPS navigation device would not be illegal. Now it is, and was, daft to differentiate. An iPhone, for example, has just as large a display screen as some dedicated GPS devices.

This makes as much sense as having a rule saying you can’t use your cellphone to take photos, but you can use a normal camera. Laws and rules should not be based on the technology, but on what it is used for.

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General Debate 30 September 2009

September 30th, 2009 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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The American Olympics

September 30th, 2009 at 6:08 am by David Farrar

President Obama’s decision to go to Copenhagen to lobby for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics, must help their chances of winning.

I’m not sure though it is desirable for the Olympics to keep returning to the US so often.

The US hosted the Olympics in St Louis in 1904 and then LA in 1932. A 52 year break and then LA again in 1984 and only 12 years until Atlanta in 1996.

If Chicago gets it in 2016, then that is three US hostings out of the last nine.

Of course it is technically cities not countries that host it, but in reality they are national bids.

The four bids for 2016 were scored by the IOC as:

  1. Tokyo 8.3
  2. Madrid 8.1
  3. Chicago 7.0
  4. Rio de Janeiro 6.3

It will be interesting to see who wins.

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Unfortunate Timing

September 30th, 2009 at 5:56 am by David Farrar

I’m a regular visitor to Great Barrier Island and yesterday afternoon booked tickets with Great Barrier Airlines for my next visit.

Then a few hours later, I see on the TV news that GBA had one of its planes crash after takeoff, and I get a degree of nervousness – especially just a few months after a propeller fell off another GBA plane. Now this may just be “bad luck” as I understand these are the first incidents for many many years – maybe even decades.

The Herald reports:

The 50-year-old was one of four passengers in the Piper Cherokee, which plunged into a swamp at the end of the Claris Airport runaway on Great Barrier Island about 1pm.

That swamp may have saved lives!

Great Barrier police officer Kylie Robbins – who is also an ambulance driver, volunteer firefighter and rescue-boat skipper – said she and a doctor and nurse from the Aotea Health medical centre waded through the waist-deep waters of the swamp to reach the trapped and injured passenger.

Heh that is very Barrier. The police officer quadruples as the ambulance driver, firefighter and rescue skipper!

She was taken to the island’s medical centre in Ms Robbins’ four-wheel-drive police car, which doubles as an ambulance.

And also leads the Christmas Parade every year!

The damage to the plane could be seen from the air, he said.

“It looked like a wing was buried or broken off. The other wing was sticking up.”

The craft seemed “fairly intact”.

“They are very lucky to have walked away from that. When I called up the hospital, they said [the patients] seemed only moderately injured.

The planes used are tiny. There is no centre aisle – you get in over the wings and even short arses like myself have our heads almost touching the roof when seated. Stuff which makes a crash more likely to be fatal.

Apart from the swamp, what may have saved them is they were taking off, so fell from a relatively low level.

Great Barrier Airlines deputy operation manager Mike Maguire said the plane “failed to sustain a climb after take-off due to unknown causes and descended into a swamp”.

There is speculation that a very strong wind gust tipped the plane onto its side. If that is correct (and there will be a full TAIC) investigation that concerns me even more than a mechanical failure. You can fix mechanical failures but you can’t fix the wind!

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Labour/Greens on electoral finance reform

September 29th, 2009 at 5:28 pm by David Farrar

Just going to respond to press releases from Labour and the Greens on electoral finance reform. Now to some degree it is no surprise they disagree with some of the details in the proposal document. But it is useful to put their comments into context and recent history.

First Labour’s David Parker:

The Government is happy to consult on aspects of electoral law reform that suits it, and won’t look at changes to the donations regime that might disadvantage National, says Labour Electoral Reform Spokesperson David Parker.

First of all I must point out the Government in which Mr Parker served did no consultation on electoral law reform prior to introducing legislation. Yep, zero zip.

Mr Power has consulted all parties over the issues paper, consulted the public on the issues paper and is now giving both parties and the public an opportunity to give feedback on the proposal paper.

So the hypocrisy from Mr Parker is immense. It is also wrong.

The Electoral Finance Reform Proposal issued by Justice Minister Simon Power today shows he is determined to retain the regime governing donations to constituency candidates and political parties even though it became clear at the last election that the rules do not achieve transparency, David Parker said.

Mr Parker does not seem to know what a multi-stage consultation process is. That is because Labour never did them.

The first stage was the issues paper where people could havetheir say on issues, without any idea of the Government’s thinking.

The second stage is the proposal paper, where the Government says this is what we think should happen, but we want your feedback. In some cases they identify options.

The Government has said it proposes no change to the donations law, and the public and parties can give feedback on that before they make a final decision. That is consultation – again Mr Parker may be unfamiliar with the concept.

“Unfortunately, the current regime on donations doesn’t promote transparency. Labour included the regime in good faith in the Electoral Finance Act 2007, but it failed to achieve its purpose.

This is worth stressing. The regime Mr Parker is so bitterly complaining about is one his party passed into law less than two years ago.  Now how about the claim it has failed to get transparency:

“This was shown by the low rates of disclosure by both major parties. National disclosed the source of just $130,000 in donations and Labour just $420,000, though both spent more than $2 million each. This is clearly not transparent.”

Mr Parker is having 2+2=5. He is like the cop who demands tougher powers to search premises, and upon not finding any drugs there, cites it as proof they must be elsewhere and wants even greater powers.

The intent of the donations disclosure regime is to identify the source of any donations that could be large enough to be though to purchase influence. Personally I reckon you need $50,000 before you start to get inflluence but the the law for the last 15 years or so has been set at the lower limit of $10,000. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument to break the privacy of supporters who gives say $1,000 considering that represents 0.02% of a party’s election spending. Even $10,000 is (for a major party) only 0.2% of a party’s election spending.

Even putting aside that argument, how about the complaint that very few donations were declared in 2008. Well there is a very obvious reasons for that. Many donations normally made in election year, were made in 2007 before the increased transparency (which I supported) requirements came in.

In other words if Mr Parker is patient enough to wait until the next election, he may find a higher level of donations disclosed.

Incidentially I do favour some tightening of the limits. I advocated getting rid of the provision for parties to received up to $240,000  in anonymous donations through the Electoral Commission. Mr Parker does not support getting rid of that, I believe.

I also think a disclosure level over a three year term, not just annually, should also be introduced. But that is a debate for another day.

David Parker said Labour strongly believed there should be public comment on potential improvements to the existing disclosure regime.

“But while the proposal paper seeks submissions on other issues, National has clearly already made up its mind on the donations regime because it suits their purposes.”

There are a number of areas where I intend to submit against the Government’s proposed option. That is the whole pointof seeking feedback on a proposal paper.

Finally I must point out how Labour responded when there was real proof of inappropriate donations. The Serious Fraud Office revealed that the Foreign and Racing Minister in the Labour-led Government had received tens of thousands of dollars in personal donations (to pay his court costs) from a source in the racing industry which had greatly benefited by the Minister’s advocacy of extra funding for the industry.

What did Labour do when the SFO revealed this? They complained bitterly about the actions of the SFO. ANd what did then PM Clark say in response to questions in the house? She said she had not had the time to read the report.

So in case anyone thinks there is anything remotely sincere about Labour’s position, think again.

Then we have Metiria Turei:

Metiria of course voted for the EFA and voted against abolishing it. The Greens never used their power to force Labour to consult on the EFB before it was introduced. Their credibility on these issues is much dented after that.

“It is vital that New Zealand’s democracy cannot be bought by big business.

Funnily enough if you look at the spending at the last election campaign, there was masses of spending by lots of unions but no spending from any businesses or business groups. The only purchasing of democracy has been from the left.

But the whole notion of “purchasing” democracy is bumper slogan politics, rather than rational analysis. The relationship between the amount a party spends and the vote they get is pretty weak. As an example Labour spent more than National last election and got whacked. ACT spent more than the Greens and got under half the vote.

“One of our key concerns is that National’s proposals will not stop political parties secretly giving money to third parties to run campaigns,” said Mrs Turei.

Now we get the paranoia. First they worry about third parties donating to political parties, but now they are worried about political parties having so much money they will give it away to third parties to spend.

I’ve yet to meet a political party that gives away its money. Do the Greens have any examples of when this has happened?

If a third party runs expensive ads in a campaign, I am sure the media will ask who is behind that third party, and where did the money come from. And if the third party refuses to say, well the public are pretty good with this stuff, and will tend to punish those involved.

In the 2005 election, the Exclusive Brethren ran a secret $1 million dollar campaign against the Green Party.

From their own money. Or is Metiria saying she thinks National were secretly funding the Exclusive Brethren?

“Another problem is that donations to political parties under $10,000 can be kept secret – the public has a right to know who is giving their MPs money.

Yes, but at what level. As I said $10,000 is 0.2% of an election campaign for a major party and maybe 0.5% for a minor party. Are the Greens saying you can get “favours” for such a small amount?

The Greens of course have an agenda. They find raising money a hassle, as do all parties. They think taxpayers should be forced to fund their political party. And the best way of doing that is setting the disclosure threshold for donations so low, that fewer people donate voluntarily so they can force everyone to donate to them compulsorily through their taxes.

“We are also concerned about the proposal to allow anyone to run electoral ads on TV and radio, as this would lead to the airways being saturated in electoral ads paid for by wealthy special interest groups,” said Mrs Turei.

Consider what they are really saying here. They are saying that in an election campaign, they do not want anyone who wants to criticise a party, to be able to do so through a broadcast medium. They are saying that only political parties should be able to have their voices heard on broadcast medium. Even worse they are saying that only political parties funded by the taxpayer can have their voice heard, while individuals or organisation who want to use their own funds, are banned from the airwaves.

Such defenders of free speech.

“We don’t want to end up like the US where negative campaign ads paid for by big business dominate the airways.”

Ironically almost everything the Greens propose takes us closer to the US system of political finance. It is the limit on donations to parties and candidates that has shifted the spending to the lobby groups.

Oh and their constant bogeyman of big business is tiresome. Again in NZ there were no business funded election ads, but plenty of union ones. And in the US last election the left massively outspent the right.

Again it would be nice to see some sensible analysis rather than slogans.

The Government’s proposals do not include the option of a fixed election date.

A fixed date would provide certainty for the public and political parties, said Mrs Turei, there is no good reason not to have one. The only reason not to fix the election date was to give an advantage to the Government of the day.

Now I agree with Metiria that there should be a fixed election date. But to be fair to the Govt, this is a consultation on finance issues, not wider electoral issues. A change to a fixed election date is a fairly major constitutional issue. It is one I support but probably needs its own workstream.

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Polanski’s Defenders

September 29th, 2009 at 3:53 pm by David Farrar

Some pretty revolting blind eyes being turned in the movie world, as reported in the Herald:

Petitions from leading film directors and other cinema figures, including one signed by the celebrated Polish director, Andrzej Wajda, focused most of their anger on the Swiss authorities. The fact that the Polish-born Mr Polanski was arrested as he arrived to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival was, they said, “a provocation”.

No a provocation is the fact he allegedly raped a 13 year old girl, and fled the country.

A leading French director, Bertrand Tavernier, said: “The Swiss are extraordinary. Here is a law which is supposed to combat drug-trafficking and tax evasion and the first victim they pick on is an artist.”

Oh how dare they pick on an artist. The shame, the shame. Artists are all good noble people.

He did not get arrested because he is an artist. He got arrested because he is an (alleged) child rapist.

The Swiss Economy Minister, Doris Leuthard, rejected suggestions that the arrest was intended to ease strained relations between Switzerland and the US. An extradition treaty between Washington and Berne obliged Switzerland to act, without question, on any arrest warrant issued by the US authorities, she said. The international outcry on Mr Polanski’s behalf implied that there should be a law for ordinary people and another for celebrated film directors, she suggested.

That is precisely what they are saying it seems.

In a radio interview, the French Foreign Minister, Mr Kouchner, said that the Californian and Swiss authorities had acted unreasonably. “It’s a little sinister, this business, to be quite frank,” Mr Kouchner said. “A man of such talent, recognised throughout the world … All this is not nice.”

Being arrested for rape is not nice I agree. Being raped as a 13 year old is even worse I would say. The only sinister aspect is that France has sheltered him for so long.

The jury of the Zurich film festival … accused the Swiss government of “philistine collusion” with the US.

Oh yes those cultural philistines. How dare they arrest a movie director for child rape. Don’t those philistines know it is okay if you are an artist.

The jury’s president, the American actress Debra Winger, said: “[The arrest] is based on a three-decade-old case that is all but dead but for minor technicalities.”

So if you flee overseas, then the case should be dropped if you do it for long enough.

When news of his arrest first came through I was thinking hey maybe they should not send him to jail. But the more the cultural elite complain about what has happened, the harsher I think the sentence should be.

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Fran on the Accidential Empire of Political Blogging

September 29th, 2009 at 2:45 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan addressed several dozen people at breakfast this morning on the topic of the Accidental Empire of Political Blogging. Rural Women NZ hosted the breakfast.

Fran was mainly positive about the impact political blogging has had in NZ, saying the diversity is useful, as is the competition for the media to some degree.

She did have some criticisms, such as accuracy and fact checking, and most of all political bloggers who blog anonymously. Her big call was for more political bloggers to post under their names so there is some accountability for what they say – as journalists have.

She was full of praise for Red Alert and said it has obviously replaced The Standard as the most influential and useful blog on the left.

Whale Oil got a mention with praise for his willingness to savage members of his own party (she joked that his father must be glad he has a life membership that can’t be revoked) but said she thought the pre-election scuttlebutt on Damien O’Connor was a serious error of judgement.

Lots of questions and discussion ranging from has a blogger been sued yet, to press gallery membership. Fran nicely refers to the gallery as a cartel :-)

Was a very good breakfast and even better drinks afterwards, finally escaping around 10.30 am!

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Nandor on Bradford

September 29th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting blog post from Nandor Tanczos:

Sue Bradford announced last week that she is leaving Parliament, citing disappointment at losing the co-leadership contest. It’s an honest statement and she is to be admired for that. She did not add that she is unhappy at the direction the Green Party is headed, but there is no doubt that she would have steered a very different course from that intended by the current leadership. Perhaps she saw little place for herself in the new, unaligned, Green Party.

Nandor makes clear there must be considerable tension over direction and leadership.

Sue was a sometimes controversial figure, but there is no doubt that she has played a key role in the early development of the Parliamentary Greens. She has also played an important role in Parliament, but that is all about to change. Despite her brave face, life after Parliament will be hard to adjust to. Once gone, she is unlikely to get any support from the Greens during this difficult transition, and I hope that her personal support system is strong. She will need it.

Ouch. To be fair almost all former MPs find it pretty hard after Parliament.

The Old Left element of the party, once so influential, will be scarcely represented once Sue has left. Keith Locke, considered by many to be the archetypical communist, is actually nothing of the sort. While he is the oldest member of the Green caucus, his mental youthfulness and his sense of empathy have prevented him from becoming sufficiently doctrinaire. With this new influx, the Green Party is likely to become a more emphatically ‘green-wing’ party than has been possible in the past.

A point I made.

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Vote for the Kaka

September 29th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Royal Forest and Bird Society is having a poll for Native Bird of the Year, and various people (including me) are campaign managers.

You can vote in the poll here.

kaka

I have blogged for Forest & Bird on why people should vote for the Kaka:

The Kaka should be the Native Bird of the Year. The kaka was named after the sounds it makes as an alarm.  It is our native mountain parrot and is the best New Zealand traditions is a loud, noisy and dexterous bird.

As most New Zealanders are, the Kaka is a gregarious and social bird. They like to hang out in groups, and will even rail around a wounded comrade – often putting themselves at great risk.

Long before the first bungy jump was constructed at Skippers Canyon, the Kaka had its own version. You’ll see them slowly ascend and then suddenly close their wings and plummet downwards, pulling up just in time.

Kaka also make great parents. You’ll never see a Kaka investigated by CYFS.
They have sadly often been found dead at the entrance of their nesting hole after a forest fire. They refuse to abandon their offspring.

So for their noisiness, their supporting wounded colleagues, their bungy jumping and their willingness to die for their kids, I say make the Kaka the New Zealand Native Bird of the Year.”

So as Mayor Daley said, vote early and vote often :-)

Voting closes on 14 October.

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Go Treasury

September 29th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I want to see more stories like this:

The Treasury is looking at plans to cut the Government’s administrative staff and costs by almost one third with a centralisation of back office services.

Recruiting, IT, finance and “a range of corporate services” in the public sector in offices nationwide are being earmarked for consolidation to save 30 per cent of costs and increase productivity.

We have in the public sector around 250 IT systems, 250 HR systems, 250 accounting systems etc etc. I am sure there are very significant gains to be made out there.

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Xero’s new pricing package

September 29th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve been a shareholder in Xero from its initial float (and before they had any customers!) but only been using it in my own business for six months or so.

We were using MYOB and as I had paid for that software, I was a bit resistant to going to a monthly subscription but my business manager, Anna, actually convinced me of the benefits after she had used it elsewhere. So we went ahead and subscribed at $49/month.

I can’t describe how great it has been. The synchronization with online banking has saved hours of time, but most of all I can just login to Xero from anywhere in the world and see what bills have been paid or need authorisation, what invoices are going out to our clients etc, and most of all our profitability.

Xero have announced to the share market yesterday, and are advertising the changes – a new pricing model. Currently it is $49 a month for everyone, but now there are three options:

  1. $29/mth – ideal for contractors and freelancers with a small number of transactions
  2. $49/mth suited to most business
  3. $64/mth for businesses that need multi- currency conversion

Xero is keen on feedback from readers, especially those who are freelancers, contractors or in a small business, about how you currently do your accounts (do you just use spreadsheets), what features you most want, is the new price level attractive and is the transaction limit okay?

Details of the packages have been blogged by Rod Drury.

Xero’s product manager (Andrew Butel) and communications manager (Helen Matterson) will be part of the conversation, and I expect Rod D will pop his head in also!

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General Debate 29 September 2009

September 29th, 2009 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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Labour consulted Owen Glenn on GG

September 29th, 2009 at 6:01 am by David Farrar

I think it is wonderful that Labour rewarded their (former) major donor by letting him help choose New Zealand’s Governor-General.

The Herald reports:

Sir Howard Morrison was in line to become Governor General of New Zealand, according to billionaire Owen Glenn. …

He said Sir Howard’s name was on a short list of six when the new Governor General was being chosen.

“When the Labour Party was still talking to me, I actually pushed to have Sir Howard on the Governor General list,” Mr Glenn told the crowded marae.

He said both parties – Labour and National – chose the Governor General.

“He would have been Governor General but for one person.

So Owen Glenn was in the loop enough that he knew how many were on the short list, and who was blocking Sir Howard’s name going forward.  No wonder he kept donating money with such inside access. No wonder he thought he would be made Consul to Monaco.

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Spend aid money on aid

September 29th, 2009 at 5:55 am by David Farrar

The Herald report:

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has been accused of acting vindictively towards overseas aid agencies which criticised his changes to the direction of the aid programme earlier this year.

Labour’s associate foreign affairs spokesman, Phil Twyford, said funding had been cut to the Council for International Development (CID), an umbrella organisation of aid groups, by $650,000 over the next two years.

However, Mr McCully’s spokesman said Mr Twyford was not correct. No final decisions about the funding had been taken and the figures quoted were indicative at this stage.

I’d ask why the Government is funding the CID at all? Shouldn’t it be funded by its 94 members?

One would think that Labour would support spending overseas aid money on well overseas aid, rather than lobby groups in Wellington.

Mr Twyford said he expected the minister to say that he wanted to spend the money overseas instead of in New Zealand.

“The funding of CID is a tiny fraction of the $32 million NZAID spends each year on aid delivered by NGOs.

“It builds the professional and administrative capacity of the NGOs so they can be more accountable for taxpayer funds.”

The cuts threatened to undermine the NGOs’ efforts to be more effective and accountable, Mr Twyford said.

Don’t you love the double speak here. Twyford (the parliamentary spokesperson for aid NGOs) claims that the taxpayer has to pour money into the CID so that NGOs are more effective. In my experience the removal of taxpayer subsidies is what causes NGOs to be more efficient.

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