Archive for February, 2012

Back Benches 29 February 2012

February 29th, 2012 at 7:40 pm by Kokila Patel

THIS WEEK ON BACK BENCHES: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

CHANGES ARE A COMIN’: Changes to the benefit are a comin’—with reforms announced this week. The focus is on our youth and getting them off the dole and into work. $20 million a day or $8 billion a year is spent on beneficiaries. What are the reforms? Is it about training or incentives? Are there jobs for the unemployed? Do the reforms look at early intervention programmes? Do we need to reform more than our youth sector? Will these reforms fix the problem or leave more young people out in the cold?

SPEAKING OF JOBS: A new poll shows many tertiary students plan to head overseas because they fear they won’t be able to find a job in New Zealand. Are their fears justified? It’s “O” week—should new students keep this in mind when entering University? How do we keep our students in the country?

MMP: In November we decided we wanted to stick with MMP. Now, it’s time to have our say on MMP reform. What changes would you like to see to MMP? What should the threshold be for list seats? Should a list MP be able to stand in a by-election? Should a candidate have to choose between the list and an electorate? Who should rank the list? How many MPs do we need in Parliament? How should we manage proportion of the seats? What if a party wins more electorate seats than it would get under its share of the party vote?

Join us for a night of LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 29th of February. Our Panel: Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty, Labour MP Sue Moroney, New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin, and National MP David Bennett.

Wednesday 9.05 pm and Saturday 10.05 pm TVNZ 7

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Twyford attacks Brown over POAL

February 29th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Phil Twyford blogs:

Len Brown was elected the people’s mayor on a wave of support across west and south Auckland. People opted decisively for his plan for public transport, and a modern inclusive vision for the city that embraced the young, the brown and working people.

Which makes it puzzling that he is choosing to stand by and watch while his port subsidiary tries to contract out 300 jobs. …

It is all the more puzzling given the Mayor’s commitment to reducing social inequality, reflected in the excellent Auckland Plan. It is hard to see how we are going to build a more prosperous and inclusive city by stripping the city’s employees of their work rights and job security. …

It is time for Len Brown and his Council to rethink their demand for a 12% return, and replace it with something reasonable and not excessive. He should tell the port company casualisation is not an acceptable approach to employment relations in a port owned by the people of Auckland.

This is the same Phil Twyford who spent years saying that Wellington should not dictate to Auckland, yet is now trying to bully Len Brown into putting the interests of the Labour Party (for the Maritime Union is part of the Labour Party) ahead of the interests of Auckland.

Len knows he would be toast if he kneecapped a Council subsidiary, just to please the Labour caucus in Wellington.

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Rena pleads guilty

February 29th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The captain of the cargo ship which grounded on a reef off Tauranga last year has pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

The Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef in October last year causing an environmental disaster – spilling oil and containers into the water and killing masses of sea animals. The stricken ship broke in two early this year.

The captain pleaded guilty today in the Tauranga District Court to charges laid under the Maritime Transport Act, Crimes Act and Resource Management Act.

Good to have the guilty pleas. It will be interesting to see the summary of facts when it is released.

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Unfit

February 29th, 2012 at 3:09 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The children have been placed in Child Youth and Family care and their parents are under investigation.

The children, whose ages ranged from five months to eight years old, were found in the van around 11am on Sunday morning.

SkyCity said their surveillance recordings indicated the children had been locked in the vehicle for about 45 minutes.

A couple returning to their car heard the children crying and notified SkyCity security staff.

Staff found the parents upstairs gambling in the casino.

The family was taken to Auckland central police station.

I’m sorry, but there is just no excuse for that. How can you leave a five month old alone without adults, let alone five kids?

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Kim Dotcom needs $220,000 a month to survive

February 29th, 2012 at 3:04 pm by David Farrar

Marika Hill at Stuff reports:

Alleged internet pirate Kim Dotcom and his wife have requested $220,000 per month to cover living costs including security guards, nannies and a butler.

The 38-year-old, who was granted electronic bail last week but is currently awaiting the results of a Crown challenge to overturn it, made the request at the High Court at Auckland today.

Crown lawyer Anne Toohey said the request for $220,000 was unreasonable considering the average New Zealand family gets by on just over $6000 per month.

I knew the cost of living was going up, but I suspect Mr Dotcom wants that sum of money available to him for other purposes – maybe travel.

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When should work testing apply?

February 29th, 2012 at 1:34 pm by David Farrar

At Stuff I blog on when work testing should apply.

For my part I support having just a 12-month suspension of work testing for sole parents who have further children while on the DPB. There is a wealth of research that children who grow up in households where no adults are in paid employment do far worse than other children in other families – even those of the same income level. The DPB should be temporary assistance for parents who find themselves without the support of a partner. Too many recepients remain on it for well over a decade.

You can comment over at Stuff.

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Parliament 29 February 2012

February 29th, 2012 at 12:48 pm by David Farrar

Oral Questions 2 pm – 3 pm

  1. DAVID SHEARER to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his recent statements?
  2. SIMON BRIDGES to the Minister of Finance: What will be the main focus of Budget 2012?
  3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe it is his responsibility, if it is his intention to sell strategic assets, to obtain the best possible price; if not, why not?
  4. HONE HARAWIRA to the Minister for Social Development: Does she agree with the comment in today’s New Zealand Herald that she is stripping away the rights of beneficiaries that she herself had as a sole parent; if not, why not?
  5. Hon PHIL GOFF to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he support proposals to make redundant 63 people in policy and diplomatic positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; if so, why?
  6. SCOTT SIMPSON to the Minister for Social Development: How do the Government’s recently announced welfare reforms balance obligations with incentives?
  7. GARETH HUGHES to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does he stand by his statement that he is “not aware of any reason to justify a moratorium” on fracking in New Zealand?
  8. MARK MITCHELL to the Minister for Economic Development: What reports has he received demonstrating New Zealand’s improved export performance?
  9. Hon NANAIA MAHUTA to the Minister of Education: Does she have confidence in her Ministry?
  10. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister for Social Development: What response has she had to the Government’s Green Paper for Vulnerable Children?
  11. JAN LOGIE to the Minister of Corrections: Does she agree with the finding of the Chief Ombudsman that “transgender prisoners are particularly vulnerable to abuse and/or sexual assault”?
  12. CLARE CURRAN to the Minister of Broadcasting: Does he stand by his primary answer to Oral Question No 11 on Wednesday, 15 February 2012?
Today there are four questions from National, four questions from Labour, two from the Greens, one from NZ First and one from Mana.

Patsy of the day goes to Q8 – What reports has he received demonstrating New Zealand’s improved export performance?

Labour are asking the PM a general question on his recent statements, MFAT restructuring, Education (presumably the teacher sex offender case) and NZ on Air.

Greens are on fracking and trans-gender prisoners. Winston is on revenue from asset sales and Hone on welfare reform. Fascinating that only Mana is asking questions on welfare reform today.

General Debate 3 pm – 4 pm

Private and Local Bills 4 pm – 6 pm and 7.30 pm – 10 pm 

  1. Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill – committee stage and third reading
  2. Southland District Council (Stewart Island/Rakiura Visitor Levy) Empowering Bill – second reading
  3. Hutt City Council (Graffiti Removal) Bill – first reading
  4. Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill – consideration of interim report
  5. South Taranaki District Council (Cold Creek Rural Water Supply) Bill – first reading
This is the first non-Government bills sitting day this year.
The Royal Society bill was infamously filibustered all of last year by its own sponsor, Grant Robertson in a futile bid to stop the VSM bill. The Government could be mean and actually now deliver his own medicine to him and keep the fillibuster up, but instead they have agreed to let it pass through both remaining stages today. The bill was introduced in September 2010 and aims to  to amend the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997 to incorporate the humanities in the object and functions of the Royal Society, plus some other minor changes. It has been supported by all parties at first and second readings.
The Southland District Council Bill was introduced in May 2010 and seeks to establish a mechanism for applying a levy on people visiting Stewart Island/Rakiura. It was supported by all parties at first reading and at select committee.
The Hutt City Council bill was introduced in September 2011 and aims to “to empower the Hutt City Council to remove graffiti that is on private property and that is visible from a public place”.
The Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill was introduced in October 2010 and aims to authorise the Manukau City Council to make bylaws regulating where street prostitution may occur. It will now apply to the Auckland Council rather than just the old Manukau City Council.
It passed the first reading on a personal vote of 82 to 36.
The South Taranaki Bill is was introduced in October 211 and specifies a process for the South Taranaki District Council to follow in order to authorise a transfer of the Cold Creek Rural Water Supply Scheme to Cold Creek Rural Water Supply Limited.
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Who are the news media

February 29th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Law Commission is discussing at public address the issue of who are the news media, and what regulation should there be of the media. You can comment over there and your views will help influence their final report. One extract:

In chapter 4 of our Issues Paper we attempt to answer these questions by posing another, more fundamental, question: what is the function of the news media? What is it that distinguishes the news media from other types of publishers?

These questions are the subject of a very large and divergent academic literature which we cannot traverse here. But it may be worth re-stating the orthodox view that suggests the key functions of the “Press” in a liberal democracy are to:

* act as an independent watchdog on government and other seats of power;

* represent the public (for example in Parliament and the courts );

* disseminate information to the public;

* provide a forum for debate and the formation and expression of public opinion.

You can also make a formal submission to the Law Commission.

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Air travel rules

February 29th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting article at Stuff on air travel rules:

If I can turn my phone on after landing, why do I need to have my phone off when crossing the tarmac?

“The main reason we identified when looking at Qantas’s phone policy was safety. It’s a rainy day, you’ve got your umbrella up, you’ve got your carry-on, you’re talking on the mobile phone, you hit the bottom step before you realise it’s there – and you’re flat on your face.

Oh how effing stupid. They ban all phone use on the tarmac in case someone is clumsy and slips.

Why can’t I have my phone on during flight?

There was a lot of discussion about whether or not phones would interfere with the navigation equipment. No one has been able to prove that they do and nobody has been able to prove that they don’t. Again at the moment, they are erring on the side of safety.

Pretty hard to prove a negative. I think airlines hide behind the safety excuse. They should just say no phone calls on flights, but other phone use is fine.

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Dom Post on Welfare

February 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Those pioneers of the welfare state would never have envisaged the benefit system New Zealand has today.

They would have been appalled by the thought of thousands of perfectly healthy adults spending more than a decade on the dole and thousands more 16- and 17-year-olds being paid to sit around and do nothing.

To them, figures showing one out of every seven people of working age is on a benefit, with 220,000 children living in welfare-dependent homes, would not have been a sign of the success of the system they championed, but of its abject failure.

National’s welfare reforms, due from the middle of this year, aim to address this sorry state of affairs by placing new requirements on all beneficiaries who are fit to work. The requirement on them to make honest efforts to find work is a welcome move to restore the balance in the social contract that underpins the welfare state. 

Yet sadly Labour are opposing the reforms.

Critics who have branded the reforms “nasty” or claimed they spell the end of the welfare state as we know it have either not studied the detail or are deliberately misrepresenting the facts. The reality is that the Government is not threatening to cut or stop payments for beneficiaries who fail to get work, but simply requiring them to make honest attempts to look for jobs and accept reasonable offers that come their way.

Exactly.

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Arctic drilling facts

February 29th, 2012 at 9:22 am by David Farrar

A useful article in Stuff:

Oil drill ship Noble Discoverer is heading from New Plymouth for the Arctic, north of Alaska, to explore for what could be a super-field for oil giant Shell.

The Chukchi Sea off Alaska could hold the equivalent of 4 billion to 77 billion barrels of oil, but it is likely to be gas and light oil condensate. …

Shell plans to drill up to six wells in the Chukchi Sea during the next two northern summers. Noble Discoverer will drill within the Burger Prospect, which is about 90kms off the North Alaskan coast in shallow water of just 42 metres. …

Earlier this month the US Government approved Shell’s oil spill response plan for the Chukchi Sea, which was seen as a milestone on the way to offshore drilling this northern summer. The plan includes a new Arctic capping and containment system to be trialled before drilling starts.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell was required to prepare for a “worst case” oil spill nearly five times that of their previous plan. It also needs access to a rig capable of drilling a relief well that could kill the well if needed.

In a major government caveat, Shell must also stop drilling in any hydrocarbon bearing zone 38 days before November 1, so if there was an accident, all capping, response and well-killing work could be finished in open sea before ice forms in Chukchi waters. That government move reduced the drilling window by about a third.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said this month that Alaskan energy resources held great promise and economic opportunity, but exploration had to be cautious and “under the strongest oversight, safety requirements and emergency response plans ever established”.

So the drilling has been signed off by the Obama administration, with extensive safety and response requirements.

The reality is Greenpeace is against any drilling for oil pretty much anywhere. They want it left on the ground, and for us to abandon travel which involves oil. Now that is a legitimate view, but I’d be more impressed when Lucy Lawless starts taking diesel ships to travel overseas for her Hollywood career, rather than jet planes.

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General Debate 29 February 2012

February 29th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Laidlaw says go amateur

February 28th, 2012 at 3:38 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

All Black great Chris Laidlaw believes the crisis in Otago rugby highlights the need for provincial rugby to return to its amateur roots. …

That would be about as successful as King Canute was (and he was making a point on purpose).

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That will teach the British

February 28th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Provincial Argentine authorities stopped a cruise liner flying the Bermudan flag from docking in one of the country’s ports on Monday, upping the ante in the country’s spat with Britain over the Falklands.

Britain and Argentina fought a 10-week war over the Falkland Islands in 1982 after Argentina invaded the South Atlantic archipelago, which the Argentines call Las Malvinas. The conflict claimed 900 lives.

Tensions have risen before the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict this year and oil exploration by British companies off the islands has raised the stakes.

Bermuda is an overseas territory of Britain, which is why the liner was prohibited from docking in the southern port of Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego province, state news agency Telam said on Monday.

Stopping a Bermudan flagged cruise liner from docking at Ushuaia sure will punish the UK and teach the Brits a lesson.  I expect they will hand over the Falklands this week under that sort of pressure.

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Not elaborate

February 28th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Keith Lynch at The Press reports:

A Christchurch woman was conned out of more than $23,000 in an elaborate online scheme.

The 50-year-old woman, who does not want to be named, met a man through Facebook, spoke to him for about three months online and over the phone, and paid him more than $23,000 after being taken in last month by a hoax story.

The internet conman asked her for the money to get a package out of Australian Customs.

He even sent her a tracking number and the address of a website where she could track the “package” which she was told contained gold nuggets and jewellery.

The woman spoke out to warn others of the dangers online.

“I thought he was reasonably decent person but you can’t really tell,” she said.

“He gained my trust and we even talked about people on Facebook who scam people.”

Before asking for money, the man told her he was travelling to New Zealand and wanted her to accept a package on his behalf.

He sent her a link to a website with a tracking number to monitor the package. But when the package got to Australia it got held up “because they wanted a money laundering certificate”, she said.

“He pleaded, he actually cried on the phone. He got me sucked in. I felt really bad for him.

“He told me he’d pay me back and it would be fine.”

She then sent him about $17,500.

After the man said he needed more help, she sent him another $6000.

This was not an elaborate scam. With no disrespect to the unfortunate victim, but it was a very simple scam. If you have never met the person in real life, then don’t send them thousands of dollars. Don’t even send them hundreds of dollars.

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Yuck

February 28th, 2012 at 12:20 pm by David Farrar

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

A convicted sex offender has been working in schools as a teacher, Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced.

Parata said the schools affected had been notified.

A ministerial inquiry, led by former ombudsman Mel Smith, would be held into how the sex offender was employed. The person had been registered as a teacher since 2000.

“At this stage I cannot discuss the details of this individual case as the matter is now before the courts [in Auckland],” Parata said.

She was “extremely concerned” and was told late last week that the person had been arrested for breaching a condition of their release. The person was in custody.

The Ministry of Education was working with the schools and their communities but it was possible others had been affected, Parata said.

“Parents should be able to send their children to school confident that an individual of this type is not part of that school environment,” she said.

The ministry had asked the courts to vary suppression orders so other schools and parents could be informed.

The ministerial inquiry into the matter would report back by April 30, Parata said.

How appalling. Obviously something has seriously gone wrong for him to have been working as a teacher for 12 years. At this stage the reports don’t state that he has necessarily abused any students, and hopefully he has not. But there will be a huge number of concerned families.

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Parliament 28 February 2012

February 28th, 2012 at 12:13 pm by David Farrar

Oral Questions 2 pm – 3 pm

  1. MAGGIE BARRY to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on Government debt?
  2. METIRIA TUREI to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the Government’s welfare reforms announced yesterday that “…there are plenty of jobs out there for people if they look really hard”; if so, why?
  3. DAVID SHEARER to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
  4. MIKE SABIN to the Minister for Social Development: What changes has the Government recently announced for those on welfare?
  5. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister of Finance: Is it his normal practice to “guess” when determining the business case for selling billions of dollars’ worth of assets?
  6. Dr JIAN YANG to the Minister of Health: What improvements have there been in the National Health Targets?
  7. JACINDA ARDERN to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement “There are jobs”?
  8. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister of Justice: What progress has been made on the MMP review triggered by the referendum at last year’s election?
  9. Hon MARYAN STREET to the Minister of Health: How much funding for district health boards in the 2011-12 Budget was new money for additional services and cost of living adjustments, and how much was the result of reprioritisation of funding which had been maintained from previous budgets?
  10. KATRINA SHANKS to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What progress has recently been made towards the completion of historical Treaty of Waitangi settlements?
  11. BARBARA STEWART to the Minister of Health: Does he agree with the proposal by Pharmac to limit diabetic New Zealanders’ access to subsidised glucose-testing equipment?
  12. JAN LOGIE to the Minister for Social Development: Does she agree with the statement in her Cabinet paper that “Evidence shows that support for beneficiaries to undertake study, such as the Training Incentive Allowance, can be effective in increasing the time participants spend off benefits.”?

Today there are five questions from National, four questions from Labour, two from the Greens, and one from NZ First. Amazingly the NZ First question is not from Winston, but from Barbara Stewart – a first for this Parliament.

Patsy of the day goes to Q10 – What progress has recently been made towards the completion of historical Treaty of Waitangi settlements?

David Shearer is doing the standard Does PM have confidence in all Ministers question, which could go anywhere. Might be about the paedophile teacher inquiry though. Labour also on asset sales, jobs, and health funding.

Greens are on welfare for both questions. NZ First is on Pharmac.

Address in Reply Debate 3 pm – 4.30 pm 

This should conclude today with around 1.5 hours remaining of the debate.

Government Bills 4.30 pm – 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm – 9.00 pm)

  1. Medicines Amendment Bill – first reading
  2. Corrections Amendment Bill – first reading
  3. Building Amendment Bill (No 3) – second reading
  4. Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill – second reading
  5. Search and Surveillance Bill – second reading

The Medicines Amendment Bill was introduced in October 2011 and aims to modernise Medicines Act 1981.

The Corrections Amendment Bill was introduced in October 2011 and  to remove “barriers” to managing prisoners in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, effective, and efficient. It deals with drug testing, strip searching, prison health care, delegation of powers, and prison work.

The Building Amendment Bill (No 3) was introduced in October 2010 and aims to implement policy decisions from the 2009 Building Act review. It was passed on a voice vote at first reading but the select committee reports that Labour and Greens will now oppose the bill as they see the building reforms as being done piecemeal.

The Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill was introduced in December 2010 and aims to replace the land valuation basis for setting rents for pastoral leases with a property-earning-capacity basis for setting rents for pastoral leases. It was supported at first reading by National, Greens, ACT, Maori and United and opposed by Labour.  Labour opposed the bill at select committee saying it “severely compromises the property rights of the land owner, the Crown, to negotiate a fair return on the full value of the land”.

The Search and Surveillance Bill was introduced in July 2009 and aims to implement the Government’s decisions on the legislative reform of search and surveillance powers”, based on the Law Commission’s report, “Search and Surveillance Powers”. It amends 69 different Acts and was supported at first reading by all parties except the Green Party.

The select committee did an interim report in August 2010 and a final report in November 2010. There was considerable opposition to the bill as originally drafted, such as by Tech Liberty.  Significant changes were made by the select committee with the Greens noting “They generally restrict search and surveillance powers more than the original bill, and improve accountability provisions”.  However they still oppose the bill, especially the provisions for Examination and Production Orders. Labour also opposes those two provisions.

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Labour’s review

February 28th, 2012 at 10:55 am by David Farrar

Danya Levy at Stuff reports:

Labour will begin a series of nationwide meetings next week as part of an organisational review into the party’s election trouncing.

The party will hold 18 meetings for members and the wider public to have their say on how Labour can enhance its campaigning, communications, policy process and fundraising.

It has also established an advisory group containing what it calls “critical friends” such as technology entrepreneur and party donor Selwyn Pellet, who last year called for former leader Phil Goff to stand down, political scientist Rob Salmond, and former Waikato University vice-chancellor and United Kingdom Labour MP Bryan Gould.

An advisory group is a good idea. Those who were inside the tent don’t always see the failings the way others do.

Coatsworth said Labour expected there would be calls for party members to have a say on who led the party and there was likely to be some opinions on how Labour set its list.

Labour’s list at the election was criticised for placing fresh talent too low and returning the same old faces when its MPs where slashed from 43 to 34.

It is understood Labour is not overly concerned about its finances because donations last year were similar to those in recent elections and there has been no major dent in its 55,000-strong membership.

Ha the vast majority being union affiliates, where the union pays a small fee on their behalf. The actual number of people who have positiviely said “Yes I wish to be a member of the Labour Party”  and paid a membership fee is understood to be well below 10,000.

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Stage 1 of the welfare reforms

February 28th, 2012 at 10:42 am by David Farrar

The Goverment has announced they will legislate the following this year:

 

  1. Ensuring sole parents with children five and older are available for and supported into part-time work.
  2. Ensuring sole parents with children 14 and older are available for and supported into full-time work.
  3. Extending these work expectations to women receiving the Widow’s and Women Alone benefits and to partners of beneficiaries with children.
  4. Enabling Work and Income to direct people to prepare for work early.
  5. Requiring sole parents who have another child while on a benefit to be available for work after one year, in line with parental leave.
  6. A managed system of payments with essential costs like rent and power paid directly, with an allowance and a payment card for living costs.
  7. Youth Service Providers incentivised to help young people into work, education or training. Young people encouraged to undertake budgeting and parenting courses.
  8. Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment, so childcare costs do not stop young parents from studying.
  9. Sharing information between ministries to target school leavers most at risk of coming onto a benefit from age 18.
I think these changes are well overdue. I note almost no other party is attacking the changes per se, but arguing against the timing saying there are not jobs for people to go into.
First of all in the last 12 months, 35,000 new jobs were created, so the job market is not static.
But more importantly having those on welfare move into work, actually creates jobs in itself. Moving into work increases the household income, and this leads to higher levels of spending which boosts GDP and jobs. Also the number of jobs in childcare increases, as more families on welfare use childcare so one or more parents is earning. I’m not sure how big the flow on impact is, but there is an impact. So politicians who say don’t do welfare reform because there we have unemployment (which we have had for 30 years or so) are actually against welfare reform but just too scared to say so.
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General Debate 28 February 2012

February 28th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Defence lawyers sue over legal aid

February 27th, 2012 at 6:57 pm by David Farrar

The Criminal Bar Association has filed a lawsuit against the Government over new rules for legal aid. Will be an interesting legal tussle.

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Labour not taking sides

February 27th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer says Labour is not taking sides the in Ports of Auckland dispute, but here are two of his MPs on the picket line.

I guess they have no choice as the Maritime Union is actually an affiliate member of the Labour Party, and one of their donors. Not even the documented examples of union hostility to female and non European workers is enough to shake their support of the union.

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Peninsula

February 27th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Peninsula grabbed my interest from the opening scene, and never lost it. The production at Circa was brilliant, and excelled in every way.

Peninsula is the story of 10 year old Michael, growing up in Duvauchelle in Banks Peninsula in 1963. The play captures both the magic of childhood, but also the feel of growing up in rural New Zealand in the 1960s. There were many parts of the play which I could relate to, and brought back memories of childhood.

There are five actors. The opening scene has them as four kids and their new teacher. Michael (Paul McLaughlin) and Ngaire (Laura Hill) are brother and sister, and capture the sibling dynamic so well.  Alex (Phil Vaughan) is Michael’s best friend and Lynette is the class know it all (Michele Amas). Their new teacher is Mr MacIntosh (Jason Whyte) who manages to get the kids, especially Michael, interested in science.

However each actor plays two roles, and the way they seamlessly go from one character to another is part of what makes the play so great. The director has done a magnificent job with making the transitions work.

Vaughan and Amas also play the parents of Michael and Ngaire, and McLaughin and Hill play the parents of Alex. Whyte’s second role is that of Pug the dog, and he really is comic genius in that role.

The set is simple but effective. Four school chairs, and two telephones on poles. Unheard but important is the post office operator who listens in to some of the calls and gossips about them. A screen is used a couple of times to show a pinhole camera in operation (again, brings back memories) and sound effects are deployed occassionally to good impact.

The major plot is about Michael wanting to investigate and map everywhere he goes, and how Mr MacIntosh has fuelled his love for science. The Christchurch science affair awaits.

I won’t give the plot away, but sadly it is not all plain sailing. Without being preachy, the play manages to touch on issues of bullying, of infidelity, of domestic violence and also of historic small town attitudes and prejudice. It doesn’t do this in a preachy way at all, but as part of a well told tale.  The play is lots of laughs, but there are also moments of real sadness, and even a bit of uncomfortableness.

All five actors did a great job bringing their dual characters to life. Michelle Amas was a very convincing know it all kid, but equally good as the satay at home mother who gossips and worries over her kid.   Laura Hill was superb as the bratty sister, and captured the mannerisms as if she really was a school kid. Hill also showed emotional depth with her adult character, as you could almost see the restrained sadness in her eyes.

Phil Vaughan’s child and adult characters were somewhat similar – both very cheeky and relaxed. Paul McLaughlin had the difficult role of Michael, portraying the nice wanting to learn kid who then changes as events transpire. And as previously mentioned Jason Whyte was comically funny as Pug and also excellent as the quiet, dignified teacher.

One of the best plays I’ve been to. It was a very New Zealand play, and all aspects of it clicked so well together to make it a brilliant experience.

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Adam Smith Institute on plain packaging

February 27th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Christopher Snowdon from the Adam Smith Institute blogs on the push for plain packaging the the UK:

The coalition of state-funded anti-smoking groups have started revving up their trusty public relations machine for yet another legislative campaign. While their temperance counterparts concentrate on minimum pricing, the anti-tobacco lobby has its heart set on ‘plain packaging’.  …

It is one thing to force a manufacturer to label a product with a warning, but quite another to confiscate the packaging in its entirety to create public propaganda from private property. Rather than helping people make informed decisions, it seems that the overriding goal of plain packaging is to annoy the tobacco industry, inconvenience retailers and stigmatise consumers. Few of us will feel especially sympathetic towards the cigarette companies, but hard cases make bad law and the senseless trampling on property rights, along with the likelihood that the temperance lobby and diet police will emulate the anti-smoking trailblazers (as ever), has implications that go far beyond tobacco.

That is my concern. Already some in the temperance lobby are pushing for all beer and wine to have nothing on its label except required factual information. So if they get plain packaging for cigarettes, then the push will be for beer and wine also to follow suit, and then of course food that is disapproved of.

Secondly, there are sound consequentialist grounds to oppose the policy. There is no evidence whatsoever that the sight of a cigarette pack encourages nonsmokers to take up a notoriously unhealthy habit, and even ASH do not claim that it will have any effect on existing smokers. Numerous focus groups, including ASH’s own “citizen’s jury”, have expressed profound scepticism about the prospects of plain packaging lowering the smoking rate. 

There are a number of initiatives that could well reduce smoking rates, but I tend to agree that plain packaging is not one of them. I doubt it would stop a single person from smoking.

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Gillard wins 71 – 31

February 27th, 2012 at 1:25 pm by David Farrar

Gillard has won 71 votes to 31. I think this is the highest margin in any contested leadership ballot for the ALP leadership.

Kevin Rudd will never be leader again, and I suspect never be a Minister again.

However I don’t think Gillard is entirely safe. If her poll ratings do not improve, then one or more other challengers will arise. Towards the end of this year is a key time for possible change.

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