Editorials 17 February 2010

February 17th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald says electoral law reform is on the right track:

The government has gone the right way about electoral finance reform, consulting all other parties as the previous Government did not.

Inevitably, therefore, the decisions announced yesterday contain some comfort for parties such as Labour that fear private money in politics, and some disappointment for those who welcome all contributions to public life.

My concern is that a future Labour Government will not be as restrained as National has been, and will force through changes that benefit them, even if other parties are opposed. What would be welcome is for Labour to make a clear declaration that they will not in future push through electoral law changes without a political consensus behind them.

There will be no relaxation of the restrictions on election broadcasts, which can be made only by political parties that have to make them with public money and must be kept within the amounts allocated.

It would be better to let, in fact insist, parties use their own money for television and radio commercials, or let them use public funding for any form of advertising they prefer. But Labour and the Green Party were strongly opposed to any change.

I agree. It is very disappointing that no change is recommended. I hope the Select Committee will be open to persuasion.

The decisions announced yesterday do not appear to go far towards resolving the misuse of parliamentary funds for election purposes. The usual rule is that parliamentary information money can be used to push party barrows as long as the material does not expressly urge a vote, a donation or membership of a party.

It is well past time a tougher test was imposed, and not just within three months of an election, which is the best we can expect from this exercise.

I think the likely tougher test during the regulated period would be a huge improvement. I do not think it is practical to have this tougher test during the entire electoral cycle as almost every publication put out by parliamentary parties has an element of seeking to influence voters towards them.

The Press attacks the publicity stunts:

Most New Zealanders recognise for the self-serving farce which it is the Japanese notion of scientific and are appalled by the view that in order to conduct research into whales it is necessary to kill them.

But most people also believe that international pressure and setting, as New Zealand is doing, an example of non-lethal research are more likely to end whaling than the confrontational antics of the radical Sea Shepherd conservation group.

I hate the hypocrisy of the Japanese claiming the whaling is scientific research, but I hate the lunatics of Sea Shepherd even more.

The Dominion Post does not want the taxpayer funding an America’s Cup bid:

Prime Minister John Key says the Government might back a bid as its Labour predecessors did in 2003 and 2007. Labour put $30 million into the underfunded 2003 defence, $34m into the unsuccessful 2007 challenge in Valencia, and, immediately after that loss, pledged another $10m to Team NZ to stop crew members being poached.

Mr Key should think again. It is not the role of government to fund the sporting pursuits or obsessions of millionaire yachtsmen.

The time to put money into the cup was when there was a realistic prospect it would generate a financial dividend. That time has passed.

The cup is of sporting interest to only a small number of New Zealanders. The rules are obscure – and endlessly up for interpretation in court – the competitors are remote and the action is incomprehensible without a television set, computer graphics and the services of commentator Peter Montgomery.

The event’s primary attraction is as a magnet for the world’s wealthy. Hosting the 2003 regatta was reputedly worth $529m to Auckland businesses. The New Zealand team performed commendably in 2007, winning the challenger series and winning two races in the best of nine contest with Alinghi for the cup itself.

But with many of New Zealand’s best sailors now sailing for foreign syndicates and foreign billionaires lining up to bankroll challenges, the prospect of Team NZ again winning the cup is so slight that the Government should forget it.

I agree. Kiwis keep winning the Cup – but not for NZ syndicates.  Leave it to the billionaires to fund.

The ODT examines colonoscopies:

The report on the 33 colonoscopy patients and the Otago District Health Board is a mixed bag. It gives all sorts of detail about the board service, or lack of service, but it fails to spell out answers to basic questions about these patients.

Did the board provide timely and adequate colonoscopies? And was the treatment of these patients according to board and national criteria? What the report does say is that those audited did have “prolonged journeys” through the public system.

In “report speak” that seems to be saying that the answer to the first question is no.

Check early and check often!

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4 Responses to “Editorials 17 February 2010”

  1. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    On the same basis as the DomPOst on the Americas Cup, why are we funding with mega-millions the Rugby World Cup? Especially as the long term bill for the RWC in the form of stadium maintenance will be large

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  2. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    The Dominion Post is falling for the same logic as Key, except instead of picking winners it is now picking losers. That is the wrong argument: if Team NZ was a shoe-in to win it would still be a bad investment for any government. I’ll bet good money that America’s Cup was on the whole a loser for the country – all that expensive fixed infrastructure that became in part redundant the day the cup disappeared and took all the tourist demand with it. Had there been no cup, we get infrastructure that suits demand consistent with the 99% of the time we do not have an America’s Cup in town. The $529 million figure is almost certainly exaggerated and should probably be negative once a no-subsidy counterfactual is considered.

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  3. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Listen to Chris Carter moaning his sorry arse off last night to Larry Williams. God this man is a full blown fruitcake. Wants Murray Mccully to do more for the idiot that boarded the Jap ship. Perhaps Murray could organise a prisoner exchange, Carter for the pirate, I doubt the japs could afford to look after Carter, he’s high maintenance but I’m sure he would be in for a free cruise to Japan.

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  4. david@tokyo (263 comments) says:

    David,

    Agreed that Sea Shepherd’s actions deserve the criticism.

    As for Japan, if you don’t like whaling, that’s fine. Otherwise I’ve got a few points to state.

    First, Japanese government policy is that whales are a naturally renewable source of food, and ought to be utilised in a sustainable and optimal manner. That is the general context for everything that has been going on, and the Japanese certainly aren’t hiding the fact.

    So wind back 40 years. Until the IWC moratorium took effect in the mid 1980’s, total minke whale catches in the Southern Ocean (quotas shared between Russia and Japan) were around 6,000 to 8,000 annually. The FAO observer to the IWC in 1982 noted that the minke catches appeared to be sustainable, and that a moratorium was scientifically unjustified. Nonetheless, in 1982 the politicians of the anti-whaling nations had the numbers, and so the moratorium was adopted in spite of such scientific advice.

    Now, in those days of actual commercial whaling, samples such as earplugs (for whale age estimation) were obtained from the whales that were caught and the biological data obtained was (and continues to be) used in population modeling of the minke whale population or “resource” as the Japanese government considers it. The population modeling is of course necessary for whales as a marine resource. Fisheries management in New Zealand and elsewhere involves a totally similar approach, e.g. Google otoliths.

    Yet, with the moratorium, which was ostensibly imposed by the anti-whaling nations because of a purported insufficiency of scientific knowledge, it would no longer be possible to gain such data. For the IWC as an organization seeking to sustainably utilise whale resources based on scientific knowledge, the moratorium would destroy one of the primary and most important sources of such knowledge. Big contradiction.

    Fortunately, the IWC has an Article VIII which explicitly exempts non-commercial catches from it’s provisions. With a lack of data due to the lack of commercial catches, the Japanese government has since been employing this provision to continue to gather such data on the whale resources that are likely to be hunted again when the moratorium is abolished (or the whalers walk away from the existing IWC organization in favour of a new one that does what it was established to – set sustainable catch limits).

    The provision also requires – the purpose of the IWC being to enable good utilisation of whale resources – that the resources taken for research purposes do be used fully. This is just simple common sense, but the subsequent abuse of the IWC to impose a moratorium by anti-whaling nations opposed to any whaling has led to a situation where, to them, this seems “wrong”.

    So the ultimate problem with Japan’s approach is that it is just a tiny bit too complicated for a great many un-effected people in anti-whaling nations to bother to devote their attention and brains to. The anti-whaling fanatics are the only ones who really care, thus they determine the government’s policy.

    And thus the status quo continues.

    Inertia, apathy. That is why the whaling dispute exists today.

    Now, as for the “non-lethal research” being done by New Zealand. I don’t know the details since it has barely started, but I suspect that the information produced from it is going to be insufficient for the purposes of resource management. If not, the Japanese will be happy to use it to further push their case for sustainable whaling being resumed! (And this is why I think it’s just a political stunt)

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