Archive for April, 2010

Is flying your partner weekly to Wellington to study legitimate?

April 30th, 2010 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale blogs on the domestic air travel bill for Nelson based List MP Maryan Street, being $82,000 over 15 months.

Based on the cost of flying to Nelson, it represents around 15 return flights a month, or 4 return flights a week. Now there will be some non Nelson travel, but even taking that into account, the cost seems very high.

Whale suggests the reason for the high cost is that Maryan’s partner is studying at Victoria University, and possibly is flying to and from Nelson every week also. It is important to stress that there is no proof this is the case. Also on a personal note, Maryan’s partner is a very nice person and I would ask people not to jump to conclusions or do any name calling.

The issue is whether or not the use of spousal travel to study is legitimate. The Speaker’s determination is quite clear:

3.8 Domestic air travel of spouses and partners

The spouse or partner of a member may travel by air at any time on scheduled air services throughout New Zealand, provided that the travel is not for private business purposes.

Flying to attend university is not for private business purposes, so it is absolutely clearly legal.

But the test is not always what is legal. For example it is legal for a Dunedin spouse to fly twice a week to Auckland to go shopping.

The test now being applied, is more “is it reasonable”. Most people think it is reasonable for a spouse to be able to fly to Wellington from time to time so they get to see each sometimes during the week.

But is flying to and from Wellington every week for study (even f the MP is not there) a good look?

Now again I want to stress that it is only an assumption that the travel perk may have been used for study purposes. There is no proof of this, and even if there is – it is entirely 100% within the rules.

But I think just as many other MPs have faced questioning over their level of expenses, it is reasonable for media to make inquiries as to whether this is why the travel expenses are so high for Maryan. It may be that it has nothing at all to do with this, and it is all the cost of travel to treaty settlements, as reported.

Follow the Campaign

April 30th, 2010 at 4:38 pm by David Farrar

If you think putting the alcohol purchase age up to 20 is discriminatory, feel free to join the over 3,700 people on the Facebook page for the campaign, and/or follow the twitter feed.

Rodney responds to NZ Herald

April 30th, 2010 at 3:47 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide has provided a guest op ed, responding to this NZ Herald editorial:

The Editorial is inaccurate in a number of respects.

“A third and final Super City bill, now before a Select Committee, would do two critical things: Establish the 21 local boards beneath the main Auckland Council and set up the so-called council-controlled organisations to run 80 per cent of the city’s activities.”

Wrong. Local boards were established by the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009.  The relevant Bill went through a Select Committee process last year, and was passed into law in September 2009.  The local boards are not “beneath the main Auckland Council”, they are a governance tier of the main Auckland Council, responsible and democratically accountable for decision making of the Auckland Council as it affects their local board areas.

The third Bill establishes (or directs the establishment of) two council-controlled organisations – Auckland Transport and the Waterfront Development Agency.  The only other council-controlled or council-owned organisation that has been approved by the Government to date is Watercare Services Ltd, which was established under last year’s Local Government (Auckland Council) Act as the provider of integrated water supply and wastewater services to Auckland, in line with a recommendation of the Royal Commission.  That provision went through the Select Committee process, was subject to submissions from the public and the consequent Parliamentary process.

“[The Bill] fails to list the powers for the boards, leaving that to the Auckland transition Agency, which has remained vague about their purpose and responsibilities. No one can be sure, with six months until the election, just what the boards will be expected and allowed to do.  If the boards are to be sounding boards only for the community, a major plank for local-decision-making will have been abandoned.  If their powers are left for the Auckland Council to decide, it would be doubtful that real, tangible authority is delegated voluntarily.”

The legislation that established local boards last year set out a range of powers and responsibilities for local boards.  The most important of these is responsibility for the decision-making of Auckland Council in relation to the non-regulatory activities of the Council that are allocated to local boards in accordance with the principles set out in the Act.  The Act requires that the decision-making responsibility for a non-regulatory activity of the Council should be exercised by its local boards unless the nature of the activity is such that decision making on an Auckland-wide basis will better promote the well-being of Auckland’s communities, for reasons specified in the Act.  Real and tangible authority for local decisions is therefore given to local boards by virtue of the strong principles in the Act, and is not dependent on delegation. Other provisions in the Act allow local boards to exercise delegations from the governing body, but these are separate to the local decision-making powers the boards have in their own right under the legislation.

The Auckland Transition Agency has prepared a detailed initial listing of the local activities for which local boards will have responsibility, applying the principles in the Act.  This is so local boards can be operational from 1 November 2010.  Auckland Council will prepare its own listing, in consultation with its local boards, for inclusion in its first long-term council community plan in 2012.

The ATA’s initial listing was put out for consultation in February this year.  It is a very detailed and specific document that would give any reader a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of local boards.

“While local boards may not pass a bylaw, the bill says unelected members of CCOs will be able to do so –and at arms length from public scrutiny.”

The Bill provides that Auckland Transport has the powers of a local authority to make and enforce bylaws in relation to the Auckland Transport system.  No other CCO is being given the power to make bylaws. The process by which Auckland Transport can make bylaws is not at arms length from public scrutiny – it follows standard local authority procedure.  The Bill requires that any meeting at which Auckland Transport intends to make a bylaw must be a public meeting under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

“Even the mayor and councillors…cannot require CCOs to act according to Statements of Intent that the Council would have to write for them”.

The governing body (mayor and councillors collectively) are responsible for governance of the Council’s CCOs.  Statements of Intent are required by existing law, and CCOs are required to account to the Council for meeting the objectives set out in their SOI.

“Three CCOs will be set up in such a way that the Auckland Council will not be able to disband them.”

Only Auckland Transport is being set up as a statutory CCO, requiring an Act of Parliament to disband it.  Watercare Services Ltd could be disbanded by  Auckland Council after 2015, and there is no statutory impediment to disestablishing any other CCO that may be created (subject to following a process through the Council’s long-term council community plan in 2012).

“They will not hold public meetings or be obliged to reveal meeting minutes or decisions in a timely manner.”

Under the Local Government Act 2002, all CCOs are subject to Parts 1 to 6 of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. That means all CCOs in New Zealand, including in Auckland, are required to comply with the LGOIM Act in respect of requests for information held by the CCO, including requests for meeting minutes or decisions.  Auckland’s CCOs are the same as any other Council’s CCOs in relation to both information requests and not being required to hold their meetings in public (except for Auckland Transport, which would have to hold a meeting in public if bylaws were being proposed).

A very nice fisking.

No money

April 30th, 2010 at 11:28 am by David Farrar

Paula Bennett has highlight in a statement:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is strongly rejecting inaccurate claims made on TV3 news last night that she offered money to settle a privacy complaint.

“These allegations are completely untrue,” says Ms Bennett. …

“The subsequent story that money was offered by me to settle the complaint was unbalanced and untrue,” says Ms Bennett.

Ms Bennett says in this morning’s New Zealand Herald, the complainant was quoted as saying there had been no offer of money. When asked about the 3 News report, the complainant said: “None of that is true”.

So both Paula Bennett and Natasha Fuller have said the TV3 report was false, in relation to any offer of money. TV3 should apologise unless they have some proof.


April 30th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I should have got 10 but rushed it. 34 seconds. Quiz here.

A final Dispatch

April 30th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my final Dispatch from St Johnnysburg (from May NBR are only running blogs from NBR staff)  I focus on St Johnny himself:

However it is the qualities of the Prime Minister I want to explore. Why is he so popular, despite New Zealand having gone through a serious recession?

To put John Key’s popularity into context, I have looked both at historic polls within NZ, and ratings for other current national leaders.

Colmar Brunton for One News have been asking Preferred Prime Minister questions since 1984. Lange never made 40%, Palmer, Moore and Shipley gravitated between 20% and 30%. Jim Bolger fluctuated from 10% to 30%. Clark spent most of her nine years at between 30% and 40%, and dipped over 50% just once in June 2002.

Key has averaged 50.6% in his first 18 months of office.

But even more interesting is the approve vs disapprove ratings:

His approval rating is even higher. The latest TV3 poll has 69% of voters saying he is doing a good job, and only 16% (less than one in six) saying he is doing a poor job. Compare this to other national leaders:

  • John Key – 69% approve v 16% disapprove = +53% net approval
  • Angela Merkel – 55% approve v 44% disapprove = +11% net approval
  • Kevin Rudd – 50% approve v 41% disapprove = +9% net approval
  • Barack Obama – 48% approve v 46% disapprove = +2% net approval
  • Stephen Harper – 33% approve v 52% disapprove = -19% net disapproval
  • Gordon Brown – 33% approve v 61% disapprove = -28 net disapproval
  • Nicolas Sarkozy – 32% approve v 65% disapprove = -33 net disapproval
  • Brian Cowen – 27% approve v 69% disapprove = -42% net disapproval
  • Yukio Hatoyama – 21% approve v 64% disapprove -43% net disapproval

Key’s popularity soars above other national leaders – both long serving ones, and also those relatively new to office. His disapproval rating is between one third and one quarter of all the other leaders.

It was only in writing the column that I searched for the approval ratings for the leaders of Germany, Australia, US, Canada, UK, France, Ireland and Japan. I was surprised by the huge gap (especially in disapprovals) between Key and his counterparts.

As for why I think Key is so popular – well I explain that in full at NBR. However here’s one thing I don’t think it is about:

This is not some fluke or coincidence. There is a reason, or reasons for it.

Some point to policy reasons – the fact he has run a reasonably moderate policy regime. I am sure this has helped, but being moderate in itself does not make you popular. It is more a pre-condition (except in times of crisis) than a cause.

My thanks to NBR for the platform for the last two to three years.

An Act on Campus coup d’état

April 30th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Was amused to read in Salient this interview with Rick Giles:

You have since been stood down as President of Act on Campus. Is that right?

No, I’m still president, but unfortunately my vice-president, and a couple of guys on my executive, mid-week from the first week decided this was embarrassing, and they set up their own version of Act on Campus. So we’ve got some nasty in fighting going on, but I am still recognised by the Act Party as the president, and I’ve got more members than they do. There are lots of arguments that can be had, but we’re trying to figure that one out. Unfortunately, they’ve got the keys to the website, but I still consider myself president and I’m doing my best to work that one out.

This is great – just like a South American stand off – two rival Presidents both claiming to be the legitimate President. Will the UN get involved?

Even funnier, is Rick has blogged a chat transcript between himself and rival President Peter McCaffrey:

[4/2/2010 12:22:36 PM] Peter McCaffrey: if i hadn’t have done that, you would have been kicked out yesterday, no question
[4/2/2010 12:22:51 PM] Rick: Using force is against our philosophy, isn’t it?
[4/2/2010 12:23:01 PM] Rick: The free-market ideal is to voluntarily discuss
[4/2/2010 12:23:05 PM] Peter McCaffrey: democratically voting to remove someone isn’t using force rick
[4/2/2010 12:23:15 PM] Rick: To get people to change their minds through reason, not force them to make changes to behaviour.

Oh I love it when libertarians argue 🙂

For what is worth, I understand the ACT Party Leader and President recognise Peter is now the President of Act on Campus.

The new regulated period

April 30th, 2010 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

There is a bit of confusion over this. The Herald reports:

The regulated period for expenditure in an election campaign could be less than three months under provisions of an electoral reform bill introduced to Parliament yesterday.

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill sets out the reforms, most of which were announced in February.

The regulated period under Labour’s old Electoral Finance Act was from January 1 of election year.

Justice Minister Simon Power said in February it would revert to three months before an election.

Since then he has decided that it could be less than three months if an election were held at short notice.

But what is meant by short notice?
The bill defines the default day (with the regulated period starting the next day) as three months before the latest possible date an election could be called.

If the PM announces an election date prior to the default day, then the regulated period starts the day after the PMs announcement, unless the announcement is made more than three months before the election, in which case it is from three months out.

All a bit confusing, so let us take a real example. Parliament automatically dissolves on 22 November 2011 (three years after return of writs). This means the latest date the writs can be returned next time is 18 January 2012. To allow time for overseas votes and recounts, the latest practical date is 7 January 2012.

Hence the regulated period default day is 7 October 2012. If the PM has not announced the election date by 7 October 2012, it starts the next day,

Now say the election date is called for 26 November 2011. This means that if the PM announces it prior to 26 August 2011, the regulated period will be from 26 August 2011.

If he announces it between 26 August 2011 and 7 October 2011, it will be from the day after he announces it.

If he has not announced it by 7 October 2011, then it will be from 8 October 2011.

In a general sense an election can be held as late as approximately 57 days after the date of the last election. If one gets into a pattern of always having the election at the end of November, it means the default day will tend to be around six weeks before the election.

So the likely regulated period is for six weeks, unless the PM gives more than six weeks notice. So what is the normal notice period:

  1. 1981 – 61 days
  2. 1984 – 30 days
  3. 1987 – 46 days
  4. 1990 – 79 days
  5. 1993 – 53 days
  6. 1996 – 144 days
  7. 1999 – 62 days
  8. 2002 – 46 days
  9. 2005 – 54 days
  10. 2008 – 57 days

As I have previously blogged, I prefer setting the default day to be three months before the dissolution of Parliament rather than the final possible date for an election (which can be a slightly subjective matter).

General Debate 30 April 2010

April 30th, 2010 at 8:05 am by David Farrar

NZPA on Keep It 18

April 29th, 2010 at 4:13 pm by David Farrar

The four youth wings had a joint press conference at Parliament today on the Law Commission report. NZPA report:

Keep it 18 spokeswoman Jenna Raeburn, 22, said today it was a contradiction that 18 and 19-year-olds could work in a bar, vote, get married or become a prostitute and politicians were considering taking away their right to drink alcohol.

There were also benefits of drinking, which were not mentioned in the Law Commission report, she said.

“The fact that people like to drink speaks for itself.

“Going out and drinking, and even going out and getting drunk, can be a lot of fun.”

Ms Raeburn said raising the alcohol purchase age would punish the majority for the actions of a few problem drinkers.

There were quite a few questions about what is meant by “getting drunk” and “binge drinking”. Jenna was differentiating between what many of us have been – tipsy type drunk, and heavily drunk, where you cause damage to yourself or others.

The Law Commission report I’m told defined binge drinking as four or more drinks in a night for a woman, and six for a man. Jenna rejected that definition, and some journalists were asserting you can’t disagree with the science quoted.

That got me thinking. If four drinks or more in a night represents binge drinking, then I would say 95% of people at the annual press gallery party are binge drinkers.

If you have six drinks in an hour, that is probably binge drinking. But six drinks over a six hour party, with plenty of food, is not – well to me anyway.

ACT on Campus president Peter McCaffrey, 22, said Members of Parliament who wanted to raise the drinking age should reject any votes they receive from 18 and 19-year-olds at the next election.

“If an 18-year-old is not rational enough to be able to have a beer after work with their workmates, how can they possibly make such an important decision as to who should represent them in Parliament?”

Heh that was a great point.

Young Labour spokeswoman Nicola Wood, 17, said the Government would do better to enforce current law rather than punishing the majority of the 140,000 18 and 19-year-olds who were responsible drinkers.

“Creating a culture of responsible drinking only comes from policy which better enables young people to make positive decisions about how they use alcohol.”

There is some clear evidence that existing laws are not enforced. Off memory only one conviction for serving an intoxicated person and 27 for serving under age.

Young Greens spokesman Zachary Dorner, 20, said many older people also drank excessively.

“Eighteen and 19-year-olds are not the problem — drinking is.”

Raising the purchase age of alcohol was a “discriminatory solution” and could not address the cultural issues around drinking in New Zealand.

The law was also likely to be flouted, he said.

Mr Dorner proposed restricting alcohol supply and advertising, increasing education and treatment accessibility and community control as the best ways to improve the drinking culture here.

Solving the cultural issues around binge drinking are not easy, but making it illegal for a 19 year old to have a glass of wine, with their parents, in a restaurant will just make things worse in my opinion.

Young Nats president Daniel Fielding, 23, said an 18-year-old has the responsibilities of adulthood so there was no justification for restricting their right to consume alcohol.

Young people were a “convenient scapegoat”, he said.

“Solutions need to focus on problem drinkers, not punish all drinkers.

“A blanket measure of raising the drinking age will not change the drinking culture.”

It says something when all four of these parties have their youth wings in agreement on the age issue.

Scoop also has a story, plus audio.


April 29th, 2010 at 3:42 pm by David Farrar

A reader suggests a resemblance. Both are former lawyers who are now in politics for centre-right parties.

Electoral Finance Reform Bill out

April 29th, 2010 at 3:04 pm by David Farrar

The Government has released its Electoral Finance Reform Bill. Have just started reading it myself.

Mainly based on previous cabinet paper. One significant change is they have changed the regulated period definition so that it can never be retrospective (which is very important). So if a PM gives less than three months notice of an elections, the regulated period will be from the day of announcement.

Some key details:

  • Comes into force 1 January 2011
  • exemption from regulation as advertisements “the publication by an individual, on a non-commercial basis, of his or her personal political views on or through the Internet or any other electronic medium.”
  • Regulated period starts the later of day after PM announces date or 3 months before the election date
  • A significant non financial change – anyone on the printed roll can now do an advance vote, without having to justify why.
  • Non party/candidate promoters must register is spend is over $12,000
  • Electoral Commission can provide advice on whether a proposed ad is an election ad
  • Candidate spending limit $20,300 (and inflation adjusted)
  • Party spending limit is $1,015,000 plus $20,300 per electorate, which is a possible $2,436,000 for all 70 electorates
  • requirement for corporate donors to declare all their “associated entities” so donations can’t be split between them to avoid disclosure
  • $1,000 limit for donations from overseas persons
  • New disclosure requirements for total amount of donations (but not identities) in three main categories – under $1K, $1K to $5K and $5K to $10K

Already spotted a few clauses that may have unintended consequences. Looking forward to first reading, and then making a submission. I will also put the case for reconsidering the decision to not liberalise the broadcasting allocation and limits.

Supplementary Member Scenarios

April 29th, 2010 at 10:33 am by David Farrar

The Put MMP to the Vote lobby group has declared their preferred alternate scheme to be Supplementary Member:

The Put MMP to the Vote lobby today declared supplementary member (SM) its preferred voting alternative to MMP.

Co-leaders Peter Shirtcliffe and Graeme Hunt said an SM-elected Parliament would mean the number of list MPs would be slashed and “listers” would be stopped from subverting the will of the people.

“Under a 120-member Parliament, 90 members would be elected by first past the post with just 30 top-up MPs. If New Zealand opted for a 100-member Parliament –– something electors voted for in 1999 –– there would be just 20 list MPs,” Hunt said.

So a 90/30 system, or an 80/20 system if the size changed.

“What’s more, proportionality would apply to list seats only so it would be virtually impossible for list MPs to stop the party that won the most seats on election night from forming the government for the next three years.

“We have recommended SM because it provides for diversity but does not undermine electorate MPs. Under our system, electorate MPs would be denied a place on party lists. This would mean a defeated electorate MP could not return to Parliament via a party list. It would spell the end to electoral double-dipping.”

This is one of the things the public don’t like. However the solution has problems also – if electorate MPs are not on the list, they have less incentive to campaign for the party vote.

“We believe SM, with the appropriate safeguards, would restore faith to the parliamentary system, lead to greater voter participation in parties and foster higher turnouts in general elections.”

The Royal Commission on the Electoral System, which recommended MMP in 1986, said SM would be “likely to build on existing levels of [elector] participation” but added that popular control of Parliament under SM would not differ much from under first past the post.

“Single-party governments would continue to be the norm because the constituency results would not be altered by the allocation of the list seats,“ the commission said.

Now I always like to look at numbers, and how the last five MMP elections would have turned out if done under a 90/30 SM system.

To model this, one has to assume that a party would win the same proportion of 90 electorates as they did of the number that existed at each election.

Here’s 1996

In 1996 under MMP National needed NZ First to get a majority. Under a 90/30 SM, they would still have needed NZ First to govern. SM rewards parties that wins electorate seats, and NZ First won a lot that year.

In 1999, SM 90/30 would have given Labour an absolute majority, meaning they could have governed without the Alliance. Arguably this means the Alliance may have never disintegrated.

And in 2002, Labour would have gained a massive majority.

2005 is interesting. National and Labour would have ended up with 53 seats each, both eight short of a majority. Lab/Gre/Prog would be 56 and Nat/ACT 54. Don Brash could have become PM if United Future and Maori Party went with them. Helen Clark would have remained PM only if she could have got the Maori Party onside – Winston wouldn’t be enough.

As Helen had declared the Maori Party last cab off the rank, it is possible one may have ended up with a Don Brash led Government with the Maori Party, ACT and United Future.

In 2008 a 90/30 SM system would have given National a clear majority.

Back in August 2008 I blogged pros and cons of SM.

I also blogged back then how SM would have worked with no change to the number of electorate seats.

A massive blunder

April 29th, 2010 at 9:29 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

LONDON – Britain’s bedraggled Prime Minister Gordon Brown walked into a political train wreck Wednesday after forgetting to turn off his microphone.

He described a loyal Labour voter as a bigot for asking about immigration, blamed advisers for a “disaster” ahead of next week’s election, then rushed back to the voter’s house to beg her forgiveness.

All the country could do was look on – in shock, amazement and sometimes glee – as the painful, riveting drama played out over television and radio for hours. The debacle created a massive setback for Brown on the eve of the last TV debate ahead of the May 6 vote.

Nail meet coffin.

Grandmother Gillian Duffy, 66, met with Brown at a campaign stop in the northern town of Rochdale and questioned him about the influx of eastern European immigrants who have come to Britain. …

Brown brushed the question aside and explained that Britons were also working in eastern Europe, leaving in his car in a hurry and forgetting to turn off his microphone.

“That was a disaster, they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous,” Brown is heard saying.

Asked what Duffy had said to upset him, Brown told the aide: “Everything. She’s just a sort of bigoted woman.”

This would be bad enough about any voter, but it gets worse:

Duffy, a retired widow who had worked with handicapped children and whose family had all voted for Labour, had questioned Brown on taxes, university fees, immigration and Britain’s record deficit of 152.84 ($323) billion pounds.

The message to every other UK Labour supporter who has concern about immigration, is that your leader thinks you are a bigot.

The latest YouGov poll has Conservatives 34%, Lib Dems 31% and Labour 27% – this was done mainly before the gaffe.

However according to the UK Polling Report Swingometer, it would result in the following:

  1. Conservatives 259 (+61)
  2. Labour 251 (-105)
  3. Lib Dems 109 (+47)
  4. Others 31 (+1)

This leaves the Conservatives 67 short of a majority. Even if the Conservatives extend their lead over Labour to 10%, they still look 41 seats short of a majority. To get a majority, the Lib Dems have to poll less than 30% and Conservatives need to be high 30%.

General Debate 29 April 2010

April 29th, 2010 at 9:04 am by David Farrar

House in Extraordinary Urgency

April 28th, 2010 at 5:27 pm by David Farrar

The House has just gone into extraordinary urgency. This type of urgency is so rare, it needs the permission of the Speaker under Standing Order 56(3) . He must be convinced “that the business to be taken justifies it”.

Normal urgency only has the House sit until midnight (and only from the day after it is moved). Extraordinary urgency has the House sit until the law has been passed – even throughout the night.

Normally this is granted only for stuff like excise tax increases, and indeed it is for that – an increase in tobacco excise tax. Normally this is done at budget time, but it doesn’t have to be.

The bill calls for tobacco excise to be increased in three steps over two years.  It is proposed that the excise on cigarettes will rise immediately by 10% with a further 10% increase next January and a third increase of 10% in January 2012.

Also proposed is a 24% increase in the excise tax on loose tobacco followed by the same 10% increases in 2011 and 2012 as for cigarettes.

“We know that putting up the price is a powerful tool to reduce smoking.  It forces people to cut back, but more importantly it provides a strong incentive for smokers to quit and helps dissuade young people from ever starting to smoke.”

“This represents a huge investment in the future of our country.   Helping smokers to quit is a priority of this Government and one of our health targets,”

I guess this helps explain why they so quickly ruled out increasing the alcohol excise tax.

VSM Submission

April 28th, 2010 at 2:39 pm by David Farrar

Just returned from Parliament where I made an oral submission on the voluntary student membership bill to the Education & Science Select Committee. Had 20 minutes, which is quite good for an individual submission and most of it spent on Q&A which is the best part. The seven MPs seemed well engaged on the issues, with some good questions.

I told a story about the student association president in 1985 who slipped into a lengthy constitutional reform paper, which was unanimously adopted, a clause naming him President for Life of the association, declaring the post to fall to his eldest heirs and successors, granting him a title of 10% of the association’s gross income, and naming him King.

The point of the amusing story, was to highlight that this rule change was legal – there is no requirement for SAs to be democratic, let alone any of the other safeguards Parliament normally insists on when granting the power of compulsion. I contrasted this with local government, whose power of compulsion is tempered by the Local Electoral Act, the Local Govt Act, strict consultation requirements, the OIA, the Auditor-General and even as a last resort the Government’s ability to sack them and appoint a Commissioner – as they did with ECan. In fact I suggested that if the Government thinks Ecan needs a Commissioner, then VUWSA is well overdue for intervention and appointment of a Commissioner, with their legacy of dysfunctionality.

The other point I made, which is also in my written submission (after the break) is that I think compulsory membership is actually bad for student associations as it has robbed them of all incentive to be effective, accountable and responsive. I outlined a model of post-compulsory student associations that I think can thrive. I even foolishly offered my time free of change to student associations, to help them with the transition to voluntary (if the bill passes).

I look forward to seeing the Committee’s report. I don’t regard the status quo as acceptable.

My written submission is over the break, including a couple of proposed amendments to the bill.


Editorials 28 April 2010

April 28th, 2010 at 2:20 pm by David Farrar

All four are on the proposed alcohol law reform. First up the Herald:

Against earlier indications and its better judgment perhaps, the Law Commission has recommended a drastic reversal of 20 years of liberal liquor regulation. …

f Parliament takes the commission’s advice, the minimum purchasing age will be restored to 20 without previous exceptions. A reasonable suggestion that 18 might remain the minimum for licensed premises, with 20 for off-licence purchases, has come to nothing.

Students and other 18 and 19-year-olds will lose the right to drink in bars and clubs unless MPs take a more realistic view. …

Communities ought to be able to decide the character and scale of their liquor supply.

That goes for inner city nightlife districts too. The commission’s proposed prohibition on all-night bars is needless. While a 4am closure would be late enough for anybody most of the time, there is self-evidently a demand for all night services in the central city and they should not be prohibited without good cause and proven benefit.

The past 20 years might not have made us more civilised but previous experience suggests the proposed regime would be a retrograde step, destined for regret.

I like the comment one journalist made to me about the proposed regime. They said they tried to thing of a single thing short on outright prohibition that Sir Geoffrey did not recommend, and they couldn’t think of any.

Next The Press:

There will be support for raising the purchase age to 20 years at all venues selling alcohol, because the experiment of lowering the age a decade ago has been a costly failure.

As critics feared, the age when teenagers begin drinking has percolated down, with many as young as 14 years heavily imbibing, and there is growing evidence of the harm alcohol does to developing brains.

Raising the age should make it harder for under-age drinkers to buy alcohol and less likely for older friends or relatives to purchase it for those as young as 14. The medical evidence also outweighs complaints from older teenagers that it is unfair to raise the liquor purchase age when they can drive or marry at a younger age.

I hate such fuzzy logic. Advocating that the solution to stopping 14 year olds getting alcohol is to make it illegal for 19 year olds to go to a bar or have wine in a restaurant. They also ignore the evidence most under age alcohol supply comes from parents.

While much attention will centre on the purchase age and the proposed increase in the alcohol excise tax, even though the latter is unlikely to be implemented, the commission’s recommendations should be regarded as a coherent package, with the focus on moderation and responsibility.

It’s a coherent package alright. Prohibition was coherent also.

The Dom Post:

The problem the commission faces is that, in seeking to deal with problem drinkers, it has also affected the majority, who believe they drink responsibly.

No-one wants drunks running amok in the capital’s party zone, but nor do they want to be told that they cannot buy a bottle of wine to take home from a supermarket after 10pm.

There are similar reservations over the proposed rise in the drinking age to 20. Whatever the science – and recent research indicates that the effects of alcohol on young brains have been underestimated – convincing the public that people old enough to vote, join the armed forces and marry are not mature enough to buy a cold beer at the end of a hot summer’s day will not be easy.

More particularly, politicians who want the age to rise will have to tell a sizeable chunk of their voters – the 18 to 20-year-olds – that a right they previously had would be taken from them. In the face of a promised organised campaign by young people, including the youth wings of major parties, to keep the age at 18, that is asking for a lot of political courage.

The talk of political courage reminds of of the Yes Minister episode when teh sure fire way to scare a Minister off doing something is to tell them doing so would be brave or courageous 🙂

And the ODT:

Our most recent experiment with liberalisation has proved to be a fatally attractive combination for our youth in the sale of wine and beer in supermarkets and the reduction of the minimum age of purchase to 18 years.

No doubt mature and sensible drinkers have welcomed both innovations – supermarket sales statistics would seem to bear out that presumption – and the State has certainly benefited from taxes on alcohol, for excise tax alone produced more than $900 million in 2008. …

To some extent, the additional recommendations of the commission – restrictions on who can supply alcohol to minors and in what circumstances; increasing the ability of local people to influence how and where alcohol is sold in their communities; a civil cost recovery regime for those taken into custody when grossly intoxicated – may have a greater long-term impact than simply increasing the purchase age. …

The way I count it is one editorial pretty hostile to the thrust of the Law Commission’s recommendations, one very supportive and two somewhat cautiously in the middle – pro doing something, but not everything.

Cutting off the nose to spite the face

April 28th, 2010 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

On the 1st of May, the Shanghai World Expo opens. NZ T&E describes it as:

The World Expo to be held in Shanghai, China in 2010 will be the biggest in world history. During the six months the Expo will be open – 1 May to 31 October 2010 – it is expected to draw 70 million visitors.

This is a major economic and business opportunity, hence the large New Zealand pavilion that will be there.

No Radio NZ has a freeze on international travel, so can’t send someone to cover it. However I understand that one of their staff – Chris Laidlaw – was so keen to cover it (due to his interest and links in this area) that he persuaded NZ T&E that it made sense for them to fund his attendance. They even agreed to guarantee in writing his editorial independence – he won’t be forced to only broadcast good stuff.

Sounds like a sensible win-win. However Radio NZ management have vetoed it. They say it compromises their commercial neutrality to accept funding from NZ T&E.

Now I ask myself – who funds Radio NZ? The taxpayer! Who funds NZ T&E? Also the taxpayer! So how exactly is this being compromised?

So let us be very clear about this. The policy of Radio NZ is that it is wrong for Radio NZ staff to fly to Shanghai, funded by the NZ taxpayer through NZ T&E.

However it is fine for Radio NZ staff to fly to Iran, funded by the Iranian Government.

Madness I say.

Price on DRIP

April 28th, 2010 at 10:26 am by David Farrar

Steven Price has a useful piece on the UN DRIP, and what impact it could have in NZ law.

Starting to get the idea that this has been overblown a bit? Right. It doesn’t provide “rights of veto” over legislation. It doesn’t put Maori on a path to self-determination or separatism. It will not influence all future law and policy practice.

Here’s what it might do. Lawyers may occasionally use it to suggest that a particular statute or statutory power should be interpreted consistently with it, but only where:

1. the statute is genuinely ambiguous, AND

2. the declaration is highly relevant to the issue, AND

3. the lawyer is able to slide around the problem that the declaration is not based on any government promises , and so does not technically raise the presumption of consistency with international obligations; AND

4. the lawyer also overlooks the government’s cautious statement to the UN about the boundaries of its support for the declaration; AND

5. there is a favourable wind.

I think that describes it fairly nicely between those who say there will be absolutely no effect at all, and those saying it is going to have a massive effect.

It’s likely to form but one strand of an argument made up of many others, or it’s likely to lose. Hardly “an invitation to existing courts to expand an existing breach into a chasm”, as Laws would have it.

If it is there, people will try to argue it from time to time. Winning is another issue.

I love the OIA

April 28th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Have just received this response from Television New Zealand in response to an OIA request I made:

Dear Mr Farrar


I refer to your request under the Act dated 8 April 2010.

Following an exhaustive search, and enquiries to the usual suspects, it appears that only one pair of pink handcuffs was purchased by Television New Zealand during the period of 1 March to 7 April 2010.

As I am sure you are aware, the handcuffs were purchased as a novelty prize for Back Benches. They were purchased from an undisclosed location in Wellington, and cost $24.99. I cannot confirm whether this represents a fair market price, or whether we paid over the odds for them.

Yours sincerely

Brent McAnulty
General Counsel/Company Secretary

I am intrigued by the reference to “the usual suspects”. Does Damien Christie make a habit of purchasing such items for TVNZ?

General Debate 28 April 2010

April 28th, 2010 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

Fran on ETS

April 28th, 2010 at 7:21 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

John Key’s refusal to postpone the implementation of the next phase of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) is setting the scene for a ‘winter of discontent’ with New Zealand business.

In just two days the perception of the Key Government as a climate change laggard has morphed into an unwitting climate change leader as our major trading partners, like Australia and the United States, prepare to defer their own schemes leaving this country out in front of the pack instead of the “fast follower” the PM promised.

The decision by Kevin Rudd to delay his ETS until 2013 does place pressure on NZ. It is almost ironic that National is at risk of accidentally achieving Helen Clark’s aim of being a global leader rather than a fast follower in terms of responses to climate change.

Of course the Australian ETS has never been passed into law – it is easy to delay something not yet legislated for.

The NZ ETS was passed into law by Labour in 2008, and them amended by National in 2009. It is already in effect for sectors such as forestry.

The Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce has been adding fuel to the fire by asking its membership to email Key directly to ask for the July 1 cost hikes to be deferred.

The chamber reckons it will increase electricity prices by 5 per cent and add 4c a litre to the cost of petrol and diesel. Its boss Michael Barnett reckons the cost hikes will jeopardise the profitability of small to medium businesses as they get back on a growth curve after the lengthy domestic recession.

I’ll have to read the ETS legislation to check, but am unsure whether or not the Government can defer the entry of those sectors, without amending or repealing the ETS law. If a law change is needed, it couldn’t realistically be done by 1 July.

A massive bust

April 28th, 2010 at 7:01 am by David Farrar

This really was a massive bust:

A national indoor gardening chain would not have turned a profit if it hadn’t been knowingly supplying equipment and advice to cannabis growers, police say.

Directors, managers and staff from the 16 Switched On Gardener stores – which are advertised on national television – around the country have been arrested and charged as part of Operation Lime which targeted businesses responsible for the commercial sale of equipment used to grow cannabis.

Police yesterday raided indoor gardening stores, including Switched on Gardener branches in Auckland and Tauranga and GreenDay Hydroponics in Mt Maunganui.

They swooped on 35 businesses and at least 100 homes throughout New Zealand.

More than 250 suspects were arrested, and 750 charges are likely to be laid. …

They said that over two years undercover officers bought equipment, were given advice on how to grow cannabis, and even bought cannabis and other drugs over the counter.

It is rare to see corporate suppliers charged, rather than just the growers. The key is proving knowledge of what the product was to be used for. If, as reported, they gave out advice on how to use them to grow cannabis, they are likely to be in serious trouble.

A future we can all share in

April 27th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Danyl at Dim-Post has found this video, and correctly blogged he thought I would approve.

I agree it is a wonderful vision of the future, that we can aspire to.

I should pass on Danyl’s warning that it may not be work safe, and will offend some.