Archive for March, 2012

Harre working for the Greens

March 31st, 2012 at 9:38 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Alliance Party leader and Cabinet minister Laila Harre has joined the Green Party’s staff.

Harre will take up the newly created position of issues director and will be based in Auckland.

Heh, issues director. My interpretation of that is she will be effectively the Auckland Campaign Director.

“Laila’s experience in central and local government, coupled with her strong campaigning background, makes her ideally suited to this job.”

The Greens know that keeping their vote high in Auckland is key to retaining over 10% support. Only 3 out of their 14 MPs are Auckland based. I will not be surprised if Harre turns up on their party list.

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Read the whole article

March 31st, 2012 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

The first paragraph grabs you:

A family of 11 are living in a four-bedroomed state house in Shirley, as Christchurch’s rental housing drought continues to bite.

Three are sleeping on the floor. There is only one bathroom, and they take shifts watching television in the lounge.

The extended family of Somali refugees say they are living in Third World conditions. Because of limited hot water supplies, the only shower in the house has a roster.

The kitchen transforms to a “restaurant” at dinner time, the one washing machine is also rostered and scores of shoes crowd the front door.

“In some parts of the world people are living in Third World conditions, but it is not acceptable in New Zealand,” resident Naema Warsame, 33, said.

Sounds like an awful failure on behalf of the state. Why would they put 11 people in a house too small?

A Housing New Zealand spokeswoman said the agency told Refugee Services Warsame’s family could not be housed in Christchurch “because we had no vacant homes”.

She said the new arrivals moved into the Shirley state house without the permission of Housing New Zealand.

So they just took it over? And now they are complaining about it? And they were told there are no vacant homes in Christchurch?  Yet this gets a third of the page three.

Hayden said Warsame’s family had turned down three houses in Christchurch because the family thought they were in the wrong suburb or too damp.

The wrong suburb? So you get to compare NZ to the third world because your 11 person family is choosy about what suburb to live in?

 

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General Debate 31 March 2012

March 31st, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Crossword Answers 30 March 2012

March 31st, 2012 at 7:00 am by Kokila Patel

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Hide on the Brash coup

March 30th, 2012 at 4:25 pm by David Farrar

A must read interview with Rodney Hide in the Listener. An extract:

The moment Don Brash went public with his ambitions over the Easter break last year, Hide realised the game was up no matter what the result. “Once he’d announced the attack on me, I was toast,” he exclaims, relishing the chance to finally tell the story. “Even if I won I was toast, and so I thought, ‘Oh well, I’m toast, and I need to work this through in the best way,’” he says, edging closer to the table as the late sun falls across the street.

“I had to line up the board, line up supporters, line up the Prime Minister, walk them all through it, work out how to handle it. And of course, Don was such a klutz that I ended up organising his coup!” Hide’s final task was a phone call to Brash, whose absent-minded-professor voice he mimics as he relays the story.

“I said: ‘Don, you and I are having a press conference at 11am.’
“‘Oh really?’
“I said: ‘Yes and at this press conference I will be announcing that I am standing down.’
“‘Oh really? Oh, that’s very good of you.’ 
“‘The board will support you and I’ll bow out gracefully.’
“‘Oh that’s very good. Where’s the press conference?’
“‘I said: ‘It’s blah, blah, blah in Newmarket …’ and all the rest.
“‘Where will I park my car?’
“I said: ‘Don. I have organised your f—ing coup for you. You can figure out where to park your f—ing car.’”

Heh.

It is a lengthy and interesting interview.

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National’s Quartus Horribillis

March 30th, 2012 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

In my column at the NZ Herald I review how tomorrow will be the end of the first three months of 2012 and label it National’s Quartus Horribillis.

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It’s Tax return time again!

March 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am by Kokila Patel

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Stuff TV

March 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff announces:

Stuff.co.nz will be expanding in all kinds of ways over the coming year, and one exciting new development will be the launch of an internet TV channel.

The Stuff channel will have loads of great programmes on a huge variety of subjects and in a range of genres, from news to comedy to documentaries. It will follow the same model as smh.tv, launched by our Fairfax Digital cousins in Australia.

It will take our video offering beyond the news and entertainment short-form clips available on Stuff.co.nz and our Sony smart TV app to a new level aimed at providing quality viewing via the internet. Nielsen Consumer Media Insights has found that 595,000 New Zealanders aged 10 and above have watched TV or movies via the web in the past few weeks. That is a lot of people and it shows us that you want flexibility and choice in hows, whats and wheres of your viewing.

We  expect to launch in the next couple of months. When we do, we want to make sure we have a really great selection of New Zealand-produced content to complement our suite of international content.

A good initiative I look forward to. And an example of the converging worlds of print and broadcast media, and why there should be one regulator for standards.

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Councillors being threatened over POAL

March 30th, 2012 at 9:07 am by David Farrar

NZ Herald reports:

Two Auckland Council members are complaining of threatening phone calls from a man trying to make them support a no-confidence vote against the Ports of Auckland management.

No vote was put to a council meeting yesterday, but Sir John Walker and Calum Penrose are angry about the calls, from veteran protester Marx Jones.

Somehow I think the name is very appropriate.

Sir John said a threat was made to him through his wife, who was told “they were going to take me to court, they were going to get at me because of the way I’d been voting”.

He said that was rubbish as he was away when a vote was last held on the port dispute, and he did not like his wife being threatened.

Mr Penrose said he was threatened after telling a caller on Tuesday that he would “definitely” not support a motion against the council-owned port company.

“He [the caller] said, ‘We are going to sue you individually, as councillors, and then we are going to have you sacked. And then we are going to get you’.”

Just more intimidation.

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Friday Photo: 30 March

March 30th, 2012 at 9:06 am by Chthoniid

Something more cheerful today- NZ kaka :)
And yes, that is its tongue you can see inside the beak.

 

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The ballooning industry

March 30th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I have to say I am growing more and more unimpressed with the ballooning industry in New Zealand. After the horrific incident in the Wairarapa where 11 people burnt to death, they complained that the TAIC ordered safety checks on all balloons. They should have seen it as an opportunity to reassure people.

Then last weekend, we had another incident, luckily not fatal. Stuff reports:

A terrified passenger on a hot air balloon that hit trees yesterday said she thought about jumping to save herself.

An eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said he heard screaming from the 18 passengers as the balloon, operated by Up Up and Away, was hit by a strong wind gust and tore on trees while trying to land in North Canterbury about 8am. …

Savannah Hyssong was riding with her partner: “At least half the balloon hit the tree, and the basket was also in the trees. There were massive holes. It freaked me out. The only thing I was thinking was should I jump out and grab a branch.”

A 7-year-old girl was crying during the ordeal, and her father was hit on the head by a branch, Hyssong said. “There were sudden screams of panic. I think a lot of people were terrified.”

In the final attempt at landing, the balloon hit the ground “really hard” and bounced back up, and the basket tipped over, she said.

“We all landed on our backs. It was insane. Freaky – scary as hell. That’s not the way it is supposed to be. After we landed there were still huge pieces of tree stuck in the balloon.

Sounds pretty messy to say the least. But what is the reaction of the company:

A spokeswoman for Up Up and Away, who would not be named, said there was “no forced landing” and “no incident”.

“There was no risk to passengers, no emergency landing, no forced landing. They did a landing under standard procedure. There was a small tear that did not compromise the safety or the air-worthiness of the balloon.”

That sort of response concerns me, and in fact I’d never use that company based on their labeling this as no incident.

A HoS story also said:

 Meanwhile, a Levin balloonist says an investigation into the Carterton crash that killed pilot Lance Hopping and 10 passengers in January is taking too long and was almost certainly the pilot’s fault.

Again, this concerns me. The industry should be demanding the investigation is as thorough as possible, not demanding it cut corners, and just blame it all on the pilot.

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Two further developments in the ACC saga

March 30th, 2012 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key was last night dragged into the widening ACC scandal and forced to deny a report he was part of a group of senior National Party figures who backed Bronwyn Pullar’s bid for a $14 million insurance payout. …

TVNZ current affairs programme Close Up last night said it had received a letter written by Sovereign Insurance to former National Party president Michelle Boag in 2007.

The letter named 28 people, among them prominent National Party figures including John Key and former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, as supporters of Ms Pullar as she sought a $14 million payout from the company in relation to injuries she suffered in a 2002 cycling accident.

The claim, Sovereign said in the letter, was “greatly in excess of her entitlement”.

Ms Boag is a long-standing friend of Ms Pullar who supported her during her battle with ACC, including attending a December meeting with ACC which has sparked investigations by the police and the Privacy Commissioner.

In the letter, Sovereign noted, it had been given a list of members of Ms Pullar’s “claimed support/advisory team”.

The list included Sir Selwyn Cushing, Mr Key, Dame Jenny and Dr Wayne Mapp.

Mr Key was at the time the Leader of the Opposition.

He has said he met Ms Pullar when he first entered politics – which was shortly after her accident – but had not had any contact with her since he became National Party leader.

Last night, he issued a statement saying: “I have not been involved in any ‘claims support’ or ‘advisory team’ for Bronwyn Pullar.

“The claim in the letter that I was part of such a team in 2007, or indeed any other time, is wrong.”

I have no doubt that John Key was in no way part of any support group or advisory team. I can only assume that any high profile person who expressed sympathy for Bronwyn’s position, was claimed to be a member of said support group.

It is worth noting that this is a letter from Sovereign, not to Sovereign. Also Sovereign did not say exactly who gave them “the list”. The most benign explanation is that these names were mentioned at a meeting, and Sovereign mis-interpreted their status. A less benign explanation is that this was a seriously bad case of trying to big-note it, and worse not just big-noting it but getting it wrong. Claiming the support of the then Leader of the Opposition when he has done no such thing, is incredibly poor judgement to say the least.

Meanwhile, it was reported that when Ms Pullar emailed Dr Smith’s letter to ACC in support of her claim last year, she did so using software enabling her to track each time it was opened and who it was forwarded to without the knowledge of the email’s recipients.

Internet security expert Peter Gutman, of Auckland University, said such “web bugs” were uncommon.

“Spammers use it on a massive scale, and beyond that it’s used only by security geeks.”

This is is an interesting aspect. My comments are based on the media report, and one can not be conclusive without knowing exactly what software was used, and how it works.

I’m not a lawyer but am fairly familiar with S252 of the Crimes Act as InternetNZ lobbied for it to be passed. It says:

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years who intentionally accesses, directly or indirectly, any computer system without authorisation, knowing that he or she is not authorised to access that computer system, or being reckless as to whether or not he or she is authorised to access that computer system.

Depending on the software it is arguable that use of such tracking software could be an offence. Of course Outlook also has features where you can get read receipts for your e-mails. But Outlook asks the recipient do they wish to allow a read receipt to be sent.

If receipts of some sort are being forwarded from ACC’s computer system, without their authorisation, that is arguably a form of access. I’m not saying any offence has been committed. I’m saying that depending on the software used, there could be an arguable case.

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General Debate 30 March 2012

March 30th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Crossword 30 March 2012

March 30th, 2012 at 7:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer – Answers tomorrow at 7 am

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A future politician

March 30th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Taken from a friend’s Facebook page. Cute.

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The Nation 31 March 2012

March 29th, 2012 at 8:18 pm by Kokila Patel

Presented By Rachel Smalley (Duncan is having the week off)
The Foreign Affairs Ministry — Foreign Minister Murray McCully on the Ministry’s restructuring.
Robert Ayson (VUW) and Penny McDonald (former diplomat) will debate the Ministry’s future.
A special report on the Bainimarama Government and interview with the Fijian Leader.
Murray McCully will also comment on this and the future of our sanctions with Fiji.
And on Sunday Brian Edwards and Bill Ralston will look back (but only occasionally in anger) at the week and the way the media saw it.

SATURDAY 0930 — SUNDAY EDITION 0800 — TV3

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An independent regime for MPs travel

March 29th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ Herald reports:

Travel perks for former MPs will now be protected in law under legislation debated by Parliament yesterday but the amount spent by each individual former MP will be revealed annually.

The Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Bill costs taxpayers about $1.3 million a year.

Former MPs elected before 1999 and their spouses and widows and widowers are entitled to rebates on domestic and international airfares.

I would’t say the bill will cost taxpayers anything. The existing entitlements are what cost the taxpayers.

Incidentally only 23 of the 121 current MPs will enjoy travel perks when they retire.

The bill shifts responsibility for travel and accommodation of MPs and ministers away from the Speaker and Prime Minister to the Remuneration Authority plus an additional person with knowledge in the area.

This is the key change, and very welcome. Under the joint leadership of John Key and Lockwood Smith there has been both a unprecedented level of transparency with travel expenses released every quarter and every single item on ministerial credit cards released. Key has also reduced some of the Ministerial entitlements such as spousal travel overseas.

The bill also sets in law a requirement by MPs to disclose their travel and accommodation costs quarterly, a practice instigated on a voluntary basis by Speaker Lockwood Smith.

And the bill contains what is known as the “Chris Carter clause” after the ex-Labour MP who went awol after his expulsion from caucus: it increases the penalty for being absent from Parliament without good cause from its present $10 a day to $270 a day.

I think Carter also went AWOL before his expulsion.

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Parliament 29 March 2012

March 29th, 2012 at 1:29 pm by David Farrar

Oral Questions 2 pm – 3 pm

  1. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister for ACC?
  2. MAGGIE BARRY to the Minister of Finance: What are the fiscal and economic benefits of selling minority shareholdings in four State-owned energy companies and Air New Zealand?
  3. ANDREW LITTLE to the Minister for ACC: When was the email she received between 12 March 2012 and 18 March 2012 from Michelle Boag concerning Bronwyn Pullar and the involvement of both in a meeting over a mass privacy breach first printed by her or a staff member in her office?
  4. GARETH HUGHES to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Will he implement a nationwide moratorium on new fracking wells until the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment can assure the public it is safe?
  5. ALFRED NGARO to the Minister for Social Development: How will this year’s annual general adjustment provide greater certainty to those receiving benefits and New Zealand Superannuation?
  6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Has he had any recent discussions with the Prime Minister of Australia over security and intelligence concerns Australia has expressed over Huawei?
  7. CHARLES CHAUVEL to the Minister of Police: Did the Police Commissioner or any of his staff inform the Prime Minister or any of his staff of the decision not to prosecute Mr Bradley Ambrose; if so, on what date?
  8. JONATHAN YOUNG to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What progress has the Government made towards increasing the proportion of electricity generated from renewable energy sources in New Zealand?
  9. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister of Finance: What written reports did he receive from the Treasury during the five months after his appointment as Minister of Finance in late 2008 describing the increases in deposits in finance companies after they entered the Crown guarantee scheme, as referred to in paragraphs 6.2 and 6.5 of the Auditor General’s performance audit report on the Treasury’s handling of the Crown Retail Deposit Scheme, and what did those reports tell him, if anything, about how much the Crown’s exposure to those financial companies had increased?
  10. KEVIN HAGUE to the Minister for ACC: What advice has she received about when ACC Board Chairman John Judge first became aware of the issues that were the subject of the December meeting between senior ACC managers, Bronwyn Pullar and Michelle Boag; and if she hasn’t asked for that advice, why not?
  11. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Housing: What action is the Government taking to make housing more affordable?
  12. LOUISE UPSTON to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What progress has the Government made towards enacting deeds of settlement with iwi in legislation?

Today there are four questions from National, five questions from Labour, two from the Greens and one from NZ First.

Patsy of the day goes to Q11 and unusually is from a Labour MP, Annette King – What action is the Government taking to make housing more affordable?

Labour are also asking on ACC twice, Crown Deposit Guarantee Scheme, and teapotgate,

Greens are on fracking ACC.

Government Bills 3.00 pm – 6.00 pm

  1. Ngati Pahauwera Treaty Claims Settlement Bill – third reading
  2. Ngati Porou Claims Settlement Bill – third reading
  3. Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill – third reading
  4. Trade (Safeguard Measures) Bill – committee stage
  5. Building Amendment Bill (No 4) – first reading continued

The Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill was introduced in September 2011 and seeks to amend the scheme to shorten the repayment holiday from three years to one year and require borrowers to apply for a repayment holiday, plus other changes. It was supported at first reading by National, Labour, ACT, Maori, Progressive and United and opposed by Greens and Chris Carter. It appears to continue to have broad support as there was no minority report back from the select committee.

The Trade Safeguard Measures Bill was introduced in September 2008, and seeks to repeal the Temporary Safeguard Authorities Act 1987 (which embodies New Zealand’s current safeguards regime) and to replace it with a new regime consistent with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. ’Safeguards’ are emergency measures applied at New Zealand’s border, such as a duty. It passed first reading on a voice vote and the select committee report back has no minority report.

The Building Amendment Bill (No 4) was introduced in November 2011 and seeks to also implement the Building Act reviews decisions, including more comprehensive consumer protection measures and clarifying exemptions from building consent requirements.

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”. At second reading and committee stage it was supported by National, ACT and Maori Party but opposed by all other parties including (unusually) United Future.

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Porirua

March 29th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Perceptions of Porirua are standing in the way of attracting new residents, the city council’s marketing guru says.

Communications and marketing manager Barbara Bercic is behind a revised marketing strategy to be considered by Porirua City Council next week, aiming to increase its population by 9600 people by 2031 through promoting the city as great value for money.

A minor quibble but she is a marketing manager, not a guru. Would we refer to the Council’s CGO as the council’s “numbers guru”?

 She acknowledged that people outside the city associated it with the “rundown” eastern suburbs and CBD. “Their perceptions of those areas are that they are depressed, dirty and unsafe.”

But some of those perceptions are shared by the people who live there, according to a 2010 survey that showed a little over half of residents felt a sense of pride in the way their city looked and felt.

I agree when out of towners say something it is a perception. However if the actual people living there say it, well maybe is it more than a perception?

“While satisfaction with individual villages and lifestyles is high, pride in the name `Porirua’ is low and largely associated with the state housing areas and the CBD,” it said. “This view is most pronounced among people in the northern suburbs, younger age groups and households with an annual income of $100,000 or above.”

Mayor Nick Leggett said such perceptions were far from reality and the “city of villages” was a great place to live.

“I think that some people have an outdated view of the city … but we do suffer at times from poor perception.”

The country’s youngest mayor said he “totally owned” the nickname “P-Town” for the city, and used it daily.

“Some people think P-Town is like pure methamphetamine, whereas obviously those who are younger have different connotations.”

Victoria University senior marketing lecturer David Stewart disagreed, saying the use of P-Town reinforced the city’s stereotype.

“The problem with P-Town is that it has an association with drugs and low life, doesn’t it?”

Dr Stewart said he liked the idea of getting people to experience the city’s attractions rather than trying to hook them with a catchy slogan.

Mr Leggett said the Porirua district – which includes well-heeled suburbs such as Whitby, Aotea, Camborne and Pauatahanui – had the fourth-highest income per capita in New Zealand, had been judged one of the world’s most liveable communities, and had the lowest crime rate in the Wellington region.

It is correct that the name Porirua has negative connotations. It is also correct that the city as a whole is very nice place to live and work. Yes there are some suburbs that feature high in negative statistics, but they are a minority.

I have to say that I think P-Town isn’t a great alternative, as it does reinforce a perception of crime and frug use.

The name I have always liked since the mid 1990s (when I worked for the advertising agency for Porirua City Council) was Mana City.  Mana is well known as a name for the wider area, while people do associate Porirua more with the problematic areas.

I bet you less than 1% of people in Whitby list their address as “Whitby, Porirua City”. However a fair few would not have a problem being “Whitby, Mana City”.

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A bad look

March 29th, 2012 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

A former National MP allegedly punched another customer in the face as shocked tellers looked on at an inner-city Wellington bank after an argument over a parking space.

Wellington police yesterday confirmed receiving a complaint from a man alleging he had been assaulted by another man on Monday last week in Courtenay Place. They said the incident was still under investigation.

When I read the story I guessed who was probably the ex MP involved, and I was right :-)

Not naming them, as the media haven’t and it may go to court. Worth noting that it is at this stage an uncontested allegation. There may be a court process to go through. Please do not speculate in the comments on who it is – am sure it will go public at some stage.

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Huawei

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

NBR reports:

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei – involved in a $1.35 billion Ultrafast Broadband project in New Zealand – is almost certainly a front for Chinese intelligence, a defence analyst claims.

That’s the collective view of the security community in the US, Britain and Australia, according to Auckland-based defence analyst Paul Buchanan, who says it would be prudent for Prime Minister John Key to listen to them.

Dr Buchanan worked for the US Department of Defence before imigrating to New Zealand.

Huawei has been blocked from bidding for the national broadband network in Australia. In the US it is blocked by Congress in 2008 from buying networking company 3Com, and in 2010 Congress blocked them from bidding on telecommunications gear for Sprint.

It is of some significant concern that Australia has blocked Huawei, seemingly on security grounds, but I think there is a whiff of paranoia that all Chinese companies are controlled by the Red Army or PRC Government.

Huawei is actually 100% privately owned by its employees, and has been around since 1987. It has 110,000 employees and US$28b in revenues so this is not some small fly by night operator. It works for 45 of the world’s top 50 telcos.

One of its partners is Symantec.

The blocking of it in the US doesn’t mean a lot because politicians in the US use security issues as a form of trade protectionism.  It is concerning that Australia has blocked them, but to this day I am unaware that anyone has ever discovered that equipment supplied bu Huawei has some sort of secret backdoor built into it – if they did, that company would probably lose every customer within weeks.

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Collins taking defamation action against Mallard, Little and Radio NZ

March 29th, 2012 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

ACC Minister Judith Collins is taking defamation action against two labour MPs and a news organisation, her spokeswoman says.

I understand the MPs are Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little, and the media organisation is Radio New Zealand.

It will be fascinating if it proceeds, to see the proof Trevor and Andrew have to back up their assertions.

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A missing fact

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

Stuff reports:

Canterbury health staff are owed 528 years off work.

A report presented to the hospital advisory committee yesterday showed Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) staff are owed 1,099,936 hours of leave.

Nurses have annual leave totalling almost 600,000 hours, which equates to 75,000 eight-hour work days.

Senior doctors are owed 259 hours of annual leave.

The board is the largest employer in the South Island with about 9500 staff.

The 528 years sounds a lot. Turning it into 1.1 million hours makes it sound even worse.

However dividing by the number of staff they have, it averages out to just under 15 days per staffer. Less than the minimum annual entitlement of 20 days a year.

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Should you be jailed for racism?

March 29th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A UK student who posted a series of racist comments on Twitter following footballer Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest has been jailed for 56 days.

Liam Stacey, 21, caused widespread revulsion by reacting to Muamba’s mid-game collapse by writing: ‘LOL [laughing out loud], **** Muamba. He’s dead!!! #haha.’ He responded to criticism of that message with vile racist tweets. …

Stacey initially claimed his account had been accessed by somebody else, but later pleaded guilty to racially aggravated harassment. He was sent to prison to “reflect the public outrage” at his comments.

Stacey also faces expulsion from Swansea University. The third-year biology student had hoped to become a forensic scientist. Describing his tweets, prosecutor Louise Barron told the court: “The offence is clearly racially aggravated.

“There was sustained and gratuitous racism. These were unprovoked comments and persistent abuse. The recipients were disgusted.”

Jailing the student at Swansea Magistrates’ Court, District Judge John Charles said: “Not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world, but the whole world were literally praying for Muamba’s life. Your comments aggravated this situation.

“I have no choice but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.”

Now let’s be very clear. His comments were vile and racist. Some of his actual tweets are here. He absolutely deserves to be vilified in turn, to be kicked out of his university etc. Gloating that someone may die as they have collapsed on live television is awful.

But should someone go to jail just for saying something which is racist and offensive? I am uneasy about that. I think they should be exposed and suffer consequences as most people will shun them for what they said. But I think a prison sentence for a 21 year old who did some racist tweets is not a good thing.

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General Debate 29 March 2012

March 29th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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