Archive for June, 2012

Does NZEI want to ban calorie labels?

June 30th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Almost 59 per cent of DigiPoll respondents approve of publishing of the material, either by the Ministry of Education or the media or both. But 36.4 per cent believe comparisons between schools are unfair.

That’s a useful finding, but is also somewhat beside the point. Even if the majority did not support league tables, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t happen. The majority do not get to decide what information the minority are allowed to have. We live in a free and open society where all government data can be accessed by citizens, except for a few exceptions such as security issues.

But NZEI president Ian Leckie confirmed last night he had written to schools advising them not to release the information to the news media under the Official Information Act.

“It is unreliable information, it potentially disadvantages the education system.”

Any country that used league tables had gone backwards, he said.

He likened ranking schools by league tables to ranking the value of food by calories.

Now let us take that comparison. Let’s say it is true. That it is just as silly to rank schools by league tables as it is to rank food by their calories, rather than taste and protein also.

Now what Leckie is effectively saying that the Government should ban the publication of calorie values on all food. He is saying that because some people will make inappropriate food decisions based on the calorie values, then everyone must be denied information on the calorie value of different foods.

Now that is insanely stupid right? Of course it is. But that is the exact argument he is making with school assessment data. He is saying that no parent should ever be allowed to know a school’s assessment data, because some parents may make inappropriate decisions on them.

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Q+A – 1 July 2012

June 30th, 2012 at 2:14 pm by Kokila Patel

On Q+A this Sunday, National has set itself ten targets to reform the public sector in five years – is it a gimmick or a bold challenge? And with the asset sales legislation passed, is more public sector reform the right focus? What about our stagnant private sector?

Finance Minister – and Deputy Prime Minister – Bill English is live from our Wellington studio. He’ll speak to TVNZ Political Editor Corin Dann in Corin’s Q+A debut.

And the right to die. Is it time for a re-think? As a major anti-euthanasia conference is held in Auckland this weekend, we’ll consider the pros and cons. Alex Schadenberg, International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, will debate Labour MP Maryan Street, who’s drafting a new law to allow ‘end of life choice’. And we’ll cross to South Africa to Dr Sean Davison, who was convicted in New Zealand last year after assisting in his terminally ill mother’s suicide. What does it mean to make the hardest decision?

And finally, those asset sales. With Mighty River Power about to go on the block we talk to Mark Lister, Head of Private Wealth Research at Craigs Investment Partners. Will the SOEs be a good buy for mum and dads? Or are there fish hooks?

Joining Greg Boyed and Dr Raymond Miller of Auckland University on the panel this week are Massey University Vice-Chancellor and former Labour cabinet minister Steve Maharey and Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Barnett.

Broadcast on TV 1 at 9 am

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Simon Collins on welfare reforms

June 30th, 2012 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

Two good articles by Simon Collins on welfare reforms. While not always agreeing with them, I almost always find his articles well researched and fair.

The first article is here.

Tough welfare reforms now going through Parliament may deter some women from seeing the sole parent benefit as a viable lifestyle – but at the risk of long-term harm to their children.

As with almost all policies, there is a trade-off. The reforms should deter some women from having multiple children while remaining on the DPB, but they may cause some hardship for some families. I don’t think the status quo was working or acceptable, so support the reforms.

Now she is pregnant again to a man she met only once.

“It was just a silly thing one night, I got drunk one night in town,” she says. “I was alone by myself that weekend, Antonio had gone to his family. I decided to go into Auckland City with friends and they showed me a whole life that I didn’t know.”

She considered an abortion but rejected it: “It’s a Maori belief, it’s a gift from God.”

A good example of the problem with the status quo.

New Zealand has among the world’s highest rates of sole parenthood, especially among low-income groups for whom the DPB may seem a viable lifestyle option. In the 2006 census, 25 per cent of all New Zealand children and 43 per cent of Maori children lived in sole parent families, compared with an OECD average of 16 per cent.

Otara administrator Delaney Papua, who turns 20 next month and is expecting her first baby in November, says going on the benefit seems to be just what you do when you get pregnant.

“All the people that I know that have kids go on it, so I kind of just assumed that you have to be on that,” she says.

And again, the challenge to break those expectations.

Another woman, Renee, became pregnant with a flatmate while on the benefit when her first two children were 8 and 5, and says it “was never a boyfriend/girlfriend thing”. She also thinks the new law is “fair”.

“If the law had been in place, I just would have been probably more cautious,” she says.

At another McDonald’s recently, she overheard two young mothers with babies talking about how they were trying to get pregnant again.

“I’m loving this benefit shit,” one said. “I’m going to have another baby, I’ll keep having them, it’s free money.”

And that is a very bad reason to have a baby.

In the second article, Collins reports:

A single-parent support group says some women are being driven to abort their babies because they are scared of the Government’s new hardline welfare laws.

Which is why free contraception is a good idea. Contraception is far preferable to abortion.

Julie Whitehouse, of the Auckland Single Parents Trust, says other mothers are going “underground” and trying to hide their babies from authorities rather than go back to work one year after giving birth.

This is a weird and illogical statement. Hiding your baby means you get no reprieve at all from work testing, rather than a one year reprieve. It also means they get no additional DPB. I suspect Ms Whitehouse doesn’t know what she is talking about – or her comments have not been communicated well.

Interviews with solo mothers who have become pregnant again while on welfare have found that most plan to respond to the new law as the Government intends – by taking more care not to get pregnant again, and by agreeing to look for work after a year if they do have another baby.

Excellent. The best outcome is taking more care not to get pregnant.

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Free under six doctors visits

June 30th, 2012 at 11:59 am by David Farrar

Capital Coast Health have announced:

 Capital & Coast DHB are reducing barriers to healthcare for parents of children under six by making visits to their doctor or nurse in this region free for under-sixes during business hours at your regular practice, and after hours at three nominated clinics across the region.

From 1 July 2012 all children under six who need medical care will get it for free, regardless of the time of day. Capital and Coast District Health Board have worked alongside Compass Primary Healthcare Network, Cosine PHO, Ora Toa PHO and Well Health PHO to ensure that whether it’s during working hours or not, children under six will get the health care they need without additional costs for their parents.

“When kids are unwell, it’s important that they get medical treatment quickly,” said Dr Andrew Marshall, Clinical Leader Paediatrics, Capital & Coast District Health Board, “Children under six can be especially susceptible to illnesses and can deteriorate quickly so it’s important that they get the right care, at the right time and in the right place; during the day that means your GP practice as they know you best and after hours there are three clinics across our district in Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti.”

I’m generally not a fan of “free” anything, as it distorts demand for a service. But I do make an exception for under six health care, as they are often unable to communicate what the problem is, and it is best to be safe and get them checked out.

Considering the tight fiscal times we are in, its pretty good that CCH has found the money to fund this.

 

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Shewan on Budgets

June 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Shewan also talks about best and worst budgets:

One of the last big projects Shewan completed at PWC was to review New Zealand’s last 34 government Budgets.

The best finance ministers included Ruth Richardson, Michael Cullen and Bill English “all in their own way”, during different eras, Shewan said. Cullen, especially, was an “unsung hero” for holding government spending down early in his time as finance minister.

Bill Birch and Winston Peters were treasurers during a “non-reformist period of lost opportunities”.

Shewan said that one of the lessons of history was that, “You have to keep reforms going, otherwise you end up facing bitter medicine in the end.

Australia has managed that - continuous reform.

In the course of clearing up his office earlier this month, Shewan found a government booklet from 1981, from the height of the Muldoon era. There were 45 pages of incredibly generous tax incentives for business.

The bad old days, that some want to return to. They now call the loopholes and incentives “green jobs”.

“Without doubt” Muldoon was the worst finance minister of the past 34 years and did the most damage to the economy.

“But I don’t think he realised. I think he genuinely believed what he did would work,” Shewan said, even though Treasury and others advised against his decisions.

The damage was huge and took a long time to fix.

“I’m sad we haven’t learnt from those mistakes,” Shewan said, given the huge blowout in government spending between 2004 and 2008.

“That will be another era that will be judged extremely harshly when government spending grew 60 per cent. It takes a long time to recover from that,” he said.

In the early 2000s, the Clark government enjoyed huge Budget surpluses. “And in my view Michael Cullen did a good job in keeping a lid on spending between 1999 and 2005,” he said.

But in 2005 the government campaigned to bring in massive spending increases such as interest-free student loans and Working for Families, which led to significant “middle class welfare”.

“Often the worst policies are the ones announced on the hoof during an election campaign with no consultation,” Shewan said.

Interest free student loans are a prime example.

However Shewan gives credit to Cullen.

“Cullen is an unsung hero for being ruthless in stopping fiscal promiscuity in the early period of the Clark administration,” Shewan said.

“He was a clever and talented guy, for whom I had great respect though I crossed swords with him [on some issues].”

Cullen did salt money away in the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, when the Government was running big surpluses. …

Present finance minister Bill English had come in during an extraordinarily challenging period, when the economy was already heading for the rocks, even before the Global Financial Crisis hit, then the GFC did hit, followed by the Christchurch quake.

“He has achieved basically zero growth in government spending – that’s a huge achievement,” Shewan said.

It would be interesting to see his ratings for all the Budgets.

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The $350,000 man

June 30th, 2012 at 10:08 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington ratepayers have spent more than $350,000 defending doomed legal action by serial protester Benjamin Easton, sparking a rare bid to declare him a vexatious litigant.

Council lawyers have written to the solicitor-general trying to block the self-proclaimed “unemployed political busker” from filing endless court proceedings and appeals. …

The move to block him from the courts is considered a “drastic restriction of civil rights” by the Law Commission and “measure of last resort”.

Only seven other people have been declared vexatious litigants since 1965.

But the council says its bid is justified.

Figures made public under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act reveal that ratepayers forked out $319,932 on legal action involving Mr Easton in 2009 and 2010 alone, with thousands more going on GST and expert witnesses. …

A letter to Crown Law from council lawyers Phillips Fox says the council has been subjected to a continuous stream of litigation from Mr Easton and aligned group The City is Ours. His pleadings were often incomprehensible with “no realistic prospect of success”, the letter says.

A judge had described his arguments as “convoluted, long-winded, tortuous and circuitous”. He refused to accept adverse decisions, simply filing new appeals with higher authorities after each successive loss.

Although the council was a main target, other defendants drawn into his many proceedings included Radio New Zealand, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Human Rights Commission, the Broadcasting Commission and Bank of New Zealand.

He had also threatened proceedings against the New Zealand Fire Service and Environment Court, and threatened judicial complaints against several judges.

“The council is becoming increasingly concerned that the ratepayers of Wellington are funding the defence of Mr Easton’s persistent and repetitive litigation.

I think there is a point at which you have to say no more.

Mr Easton told The Dominion Post he would challenge any such application and embarrass the council.

“I’m going to slaughter them because they’re cheats.”

He defended his right to bring matters of public interest before the courts, but dismissed the justice system as biased and “corrupt”.

“I’m an untrained, uneducated litigant and they don’t want that kind of litigant beating their top lawyers. It’s really easy to point the finger at me and forget that what I’m saying is right.”

Asked why his court cases had repeatedly failed, Mr Easton said he was prevented from presenting crucial evidence that proved corruption and unlawful decision making by the council.

“I have the evidence and the evidence is not being aired.”

Somehow I doubt that.

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Shewan on taxes

June 30th, 2012 at 9:41 am by David Farrar

James Weir at Stuff reports:

New Zealand should move to a low-level land tax and cut personal tax rates, retiring PricewaterhouseCoopers chairman John Shewan says.

He also says the “elephant” of rising national superannuation costs means a rise in the GST rate to 17.5 per cent in coming years was “almost inevitable”.

Shewan had his last day as PwC chairman yesterday. PwC partner Jonathan Freeman has been elected the new chairman.

Shewan said a land tax rate should be low, perhaps 0.5 per cent of land value each year, and be assessed like a city council rate, with an offsetting fall in the personal tax rate of a few percentage points.

“I still think that is the right thing to do,” he said. That idea was rejected by the Government when proposed by the Tax Working Group, which Shewan was part of. “I regret that,” he said.

High taxes on personal incomes were the most damaging to the economy for growth and jobs. The most efficient taxes were those people could not avoid, such as tax on spending like GST or tax on land “because you can’t hide it”.

I agree with a land tax, so long as other taxes are reduced to compensate. Land tax is both unavoidable, but also encourages better economic use of land, unlike income taxes which actually discourage labour.

New Zealand’s tax system was a “complete wreck” in 1984, but was now one of the strongest and most robust in the world.

The basket cases of Europe, such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, shared a common thread of poor tax systems, with high levels of tax evasion and fraud. “They regard paying tax as voluntary,” he said.

In contrast, in New Zealand most felt they should pay their fair share of tax. Shewan said he was “very proud” of the tax system here.

It is one of the better ones around, so long as we resist the stupidities such as GST exemptions for fresh fruit and vegetables.

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A free speech appeal

June 30th, 2012 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Comedian Stephen Fry has attended a court hearing to support a British man appealing his conviction over a tweet saying he would blow a snowed-in airport “sky high”.

Paul Chambers, 27, from Doncaster, was convicted in May 2010 of sending a “menacing electronic communication” for a tweet that said: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your **** together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

Chambers has attracted the support of several British comedians and he was accompanied by Fry and stand-up comic Al Murray to his High Court appeal on Wednesday.

Fry said the outcome of the case would be “very important” for freedom of speech, the BBC reported.

I agree that it is. We all understand you do not joke about bombs at airports. But joking about them on Twitter is rather different.

“God I hope common sense and natural justice prevail,” he later tweeted.

Chambers was fined NZ$1962 for his tweet, which he wrote when a snowstorm closed the airport and stopped him from flying to Northern Ireland to visit a woman he’d just met.

The Guardian reported the tweet was seen a week later by an off-duty airport worker who passed it on to authorities.

This is the astonishing thing. If the tweet had been seen at the time and taken seriously, I could understand why they might proceed. But they saw it a week later. Massive over-reaction.

The Guardian said Mr Cooper said if jokes were tested in courts, poet John Betjeman may have thought twice about writing “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough”, adding “and Shakespeare when he said ‘kill all the lawyers’.”

The Lord Judge replied: “That was a good joke in 1600 and it is still a good joke now.”

Sounds like the Judge has a sense of humour, and may let sanity prevail.

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General Debate 30 June 2012

June 30th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The Nation 30 June 2012

June 29th, 2012 at 9:36 pm by Kokila Patel

1. Tim Bennett, NZX CEO and Milford Funds manager Brian Gaynor on what the asset sales mean for the sharemarket.
2. Colin James on Mr Dotcom
3. Special two part investigation from Daryll Hutchison on how ground breaking NZ research into nano particles has the potentital to make hundreds of millions of dollars.
4. One of Mr Dotcom’s swimming mates, Vaughn Davis on the Dotcom phenomenon.
5. Bailey Mackey (Producer of The GC) joins Brian Edwards and Bill Ralston for the Sunday media panel to talk about Maori television.

Broadcast on TV 3 Saturday 9.30 am, repeated on Sunday at 8.30 am with the Sunday media panel

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The four members’ bills

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

My column in the Herald (now published Thursdays) was on the members’ bill ballot. This was timed with four bills being drawn from the ballot. They are:

50 Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill Dr Russel Norman
24 Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill Chris Auchinvole
35 Local Government (Salary Moderation) Amendment Bill Hon Annette King
52 Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill Todd McClay

Dr Norman’s bill would ban foreign ownership of “sensitive land”. This is any non-urban land greater than 0.05 square kilometers!

Chris Auchinvole’s bill implements some recommendations from the Law Commission on  habeas corpus applications. Mainly seems to be giving Judges slightly more discretion in dealing with them.

Annette King’s would require the State Services Commissioner to approve local authority CEO remuneration packages, as they do for government departments. Technically a bit of a breach of the independence of local bodies, but worth supporting at least for first reading as may be a useful tool for keeping relativity between central and local government.

Todd McClay’s would ban gang insignia being displayed within government (central and local) premises.

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The Olympic Dinner

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

I was in my penguin suit (no jokes please) last night for the Olympic Gala dinner at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland. This is a major fund-raising dinner for the NZ Olympic team. I was a guest of ANZ Bank, who kindly invited me.

The night was an excellent one. We got to see the NZ team uniforms launched, John Hawkesby was the genial MC for the night, and there was great music, food and drink.

I did suffer somewhat from a sense of inadequacy. I was seated between two Sarahs (very much a case of the thorn between two roses). One has an Olympic gold medal and may just be the nicest person in New Zealand, and the other (equally nice) is responsible for around $54 billion of mortgages, which you know is not bad for a young woman in business. High achievers is not quite the right word for them, but a couple of levels above that. I felt a bit like the dunce who by mistake ends up the top class :-)

The dinner is hosted by the PM, and there were lots of laughs when he announced that now the Mixed Ownership Model legislation had been passed, the Government was going to sell off two of the five Olympic rings.

There was in fact a sell-off, or a charity auction to raise money for the Olympic team. I was amazed that dinner with the PM went for $26,000, while 14 nights accommodation anywhere in the world in a luxury hotel of your choice went for only $18,500. I know which one I’d rather win :-)

Also amusing was when John Hawkesby said that Paula Bennett had told him off for his slurs against West Auckland people, and that if he didn’t apologise she would head-butt him :-)

Only a month until the Olympics starts. I am looking forward to them. One factoid from last night I did not know is that we have (off memory) 23 competitors who are ranked in the top three in the world for their event, and in 2008 it was just nine. That is no guarantee of medals, but is a sign of the potential we have to do well.

The must see race for me will be Nick Willis in the 1500m.

Anyway was a superb night’s entertainment. My thanks to ANZ for their wonderful hospitality. ANZ are one of the official partners of the NZ Olympic and Commonwealth teams. They also sponsor Pairs Rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, Rower Emma Twigg, and Cyclists Natasha Hansen and Sam Webster plus Paralympics swimmers Rebecca Dubber and Cameron Leslie.

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Teacher unions call on schools to flout the law

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

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

Teacher unions have told schools to flout the law and refuse to release national standards data to the media.

But some schools have already released figures showing how many of their students are meeting the standards and what they’re doing to improve achievement.

The Dominion Post has asked schools across the Wellington region to release the information they were required to send to the Education Ministry about the number of pupils at, above, below or well below national standards in reading, writing and maths.

The ministry declined a request for the data, but acting senior manager Dennis Cribb said individual schools could be approached.

About 10 have already responded with information and others have indicated their data will be forthcoming.

Some of the data released includes results from 2010 and 2011, showing pupils’ progress between years.

But teachers union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, said schools should not give results to the news media and should instead refer any requests for the information to the ministry.

“We are entering a new era of `naming and shaming’ schools in order to sell newspapers and even worse, the publication of league tables will be unfair and based on faulty, misleading and valueless misinformation,” NZEI president Ian Leckie said.

The Principals’ Federation has also advised schools on ways to try to prevent league tables being created from the information they supply.

In an “urgent” advisory, NZPF president Paul Drummond suggested schools should “consider reporting in general terms”.

Mr Leckie said parents wanting to know about a school’s performance should talk with the teachers and principal. They could also look at Education Review Office reports.

I never knew that the Official Information Act did not apply to schools. Oh wait, it does.

One should read ERO reports and talk to teachers and principals at schools. One should also talk to pupils and parents. But one should also have an interest in the assessment data for the school. All of them together help make for informed decisions.

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Best reply ever

June 29th, 2012 at 11:33 am by David Farrar

From the parliamentary written questions database:

3061 (2012). Gareth Hughes to the Minister of Energy and Resources (20 Apr 2012): Where, to the best of the Minister’s knowledge, has hydraulic fracturing occured in New Zealand?
Hon Phil Heatley (Minister of Energy and Resources) replied: Underground.
Heh. MPs need to be precise with how they ask questions :-)
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Obamacare is constitutional

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

A big relief for Obama today. Reuters reports:

The US Supreme Court has upheld President Barack Obama’s healthcare law in an election-year triumph for him and fellow Democrats and a stinging setback for Republican opponents of the most sweeping overhaul of the unwieldy US healthcare system in about a half century.

In a 5-4 ruling based on the power of Congress to impose taxes, the court preserved the law’s “individual mandate” requiring that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax.

Opponents of the law had argued the mandate was an overreach by the federal government into the private lives of citizens. The court was deeply divided on this issue, but the majority ruled that Congress’ taxing power was more important.

The law’s “requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s majority.

“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” wrote Roberts, who was joined by the four most liberal members – Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – in upholding the law’s key provision.

Very interesting that the Chief Justice voted with the liberal wing.

This is definitely good news for Obama. Having his major domestic achievement thrown out would have meant he would have very little domestic achievements to campaign on.

However I do find it hilarious that the left celebrate Obamacare as a huge victory for socialised medicine and the like. If a Republican President had proposed the key tenet of Obamacare, I suspect it would be decried around the world as vicitimising the poor.

You see Obama failed to get a law through which set up taxpayer funded healthcare as in the UK, Canada and New Zealand.

What he passed was basically a law saying it is illegal not to have private health insurance and we will fine you, if you don’t get some. Someone on Twitter said:

Oh no, poor people will get proper health care and avoid dying earlier?

Which I thought demonstrated they had no idea what the law actually does. The individual mandate does not extend health care to poor people. It fines poor people for not having health insurance.

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Neuropsychological testing and ACC

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

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

ACC’s methods are again under the spotlight after it confirmed using “neuropsychological and psychological assessments” to help decide if claimants were being straightforward.

That came to light yesterday after claims it uses “lie detector tests” to see if claimants are telling the truth.

Claimant Margaret Read told Radio New Zealand that ACC would not believe her statements of brain and spinal injuries, nor evidence from specialists, and applied a lie detector test.

An ACC spokeswoman declined to comment on an individual case, but said the no-fault insurer did not use lie detector tests.

Asked if any of its processes could be interpreted as a lie detector test, she said that was subjective. “What seems to be being referred to is the use of measures in neuropsychological and psychological assessments to provide some indication as to whether the client is presenting in a straightforward manner; that is, not under- or over-reporting their symptoms,” she said.

“Neuropsychological assessments administer tests which look at the client’s cognitive functioning (thinking functions such as language, attention, speed of thinking, memory, flexibility in thinking and problem solving skills).”

They were used to help indicate whether “clients are either minimising or exaggerating their emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depressive symptoms”. This was also to determine whether the assessment results truly reflected a client’s current emotional functioning.

When a client displayed evidence of a lack of effort, under-reporting or exaggeration of symptoms, ACC would try to determine why “and then provide the appropriate help the client needs to progress in their rehabilitation”.

Labour ACC spokesman Andrew Little said he was “gob-smacked” by the practice, which was evidence of the distrust ACC had for claimants. “It sounds like lie-detecting to me.”

I’m sorry but this is getting rather hysterical. This happens to be an area I know a wee bit about as I am related to a neuropsychologist. Neuropsychological assessments of head injured ACC clients has been happening since at least the 1980s. This is nothing new or unusual.

The assessments are not lie detector tests. They test damage and capacity of cognitive ability.

Of course the tests are designed to measure actual ability and damage, and can detect if people are exaggerating damage. That is why you get expert medical assessments. But that is not the primary purpose of the test, which is to assess capacity. It is like saying seeing a general practitioner is a lie detector test about your back pain.

Again these tests have been done for several decades, as far as I know.

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The poster boy for Christchurch homelessness

June 29th, 2012 at 9:10 am by David Farrar

The media seem to have finally found a homeless person in Christchurch, to photo and highlight. The Press reports:

After nine months living in a tent in a burnt-out, red-zoned home, a Christchurch man believes those facing homelessness should become squatters rather than live in a car.

So is this man homeless because of the earthquake and the lack of accommodation?

The unemployment beneficiary and father of two moved into a garage last month to be closer to his children …

Michael, who has a string of convictions, said he had faced homelessness several times …

There is no doubt that there are housing pressures in Christchurch. When you lose several thousand houses, it is inevitable. But I’m not sure Michael is a great poster boy for the situation.

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A great idea

June 29th, 2012 at 8:51 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Why pay to party? If you want tickets to The Concert, you’re going to have to work for it.

The Concert is a live music event to be held at AMI Stadium on November 3.

Only 10,000 tickets are available and you can’t buy a ticket.

To get a ticket you have to do more than four hours of volunteer work in the community.

The event is co-ordinated by Student Volunteer Army head Sam Johnson who said yesterday that a team of five are working on the project full-time.

”As well as that core group, there is also the student volunteer committee and a team of 50 ambassadors that are taking the volunteering message into schools. They are an amazing group. It takes a lot of effort to put on a concert and we’re all working together to make it happen.”

He said The Concert is about people making a difference in their community, then celebrating at the concert.

Ideas for volunteering are unlimited, he said, and could involve everything from singing songs in a rest home to helping out sports groups.

”We will announce the line-up in mid July,” Johnson said.

”People just need to register their volunteer project on our website, the concert.co.nz or on our Facebook page. Four hours is the minimum you can do to get a ticket.”

The event is R15 with R18 areas and is sponsored by Skinny, a separate division of Telecom.

That’s a smart way to promote and reward volunteers.

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Friday Photo: 29 June

June 29th, 2012 at 8:50 am by Chthoniid

Feeling especially pleased it’s Friday already.  Today’s pic is of the kaka, one of our small number of native parrots.

Click for larger, higher res image

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General Debate 29 June 2012

June 29th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Winston fires and misses

June 28th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tariana Turia says:

Winston Peters has once again demonstrated his love for political theatre by creating a great melodrama out of a series of unproven facts said Tariana Turia following question-time today.

Mr Peters has cast doubt on the value of Whanau Ora – speculating about the spending of “$174 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money-some of which is in this audit here-when many providers are using it to pork-barrel, and rort, and commit fraud”.

“Problem is – and it’s a problem for Mr Peters – the organisation he referred to in the House today has never received any funding from Te Puni Kokiri; it is not part of a Whanau Ora Collective – and in actual fact in the audit he referred to there was no mention of Whanau Ora.

“Mr Peters makes allegations at his whim about Whanau Ora – and deserves to be challenged about the veracity of these claims. Sadly his attempts to undermine Whanau Ora will not work because there is no truth in these claims.

This is very lazy work by Peters. He saw some report about a Women’s Refuge having dodgy accounts. But instead of actually finding out where does it get its funding, he just assumes it is a funded via Whanau Ora and alleges it is as that is his pet target.

A modicum of research would have meant that Peters could have avoided this. It’s not hard. Read the annual report. Ask some written questions. Grand-standing is no substitute.

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Questions Radio NZ did not ask

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

Radio NZ did an interview with a Dave Wooley on ACC this morning. I suspect they are going to interview a disgruntled person a day. Now I think it is fine to interview disgruntled people with ACC, but media should be balanced, and actually ask questions, not just allow one side of the story – especially as ACC can not talk about individual cases in the media generally.

Mr Wooley had a work related accident in 2006 and has just gone off ACC compensation. Radio NZ said his family of six now live off his wife’s salary of $26,000. For a start this is clearly false. They would get WFF of $363 a week (net) on top of that, plus possible accommodation allowance.

They also reported he gets $23 a week benefit and claims that half of that is $11.50 a week to live on. Radio NZ reported this as fact, and never asked him about WFF.

Not only did Radio NZ fail to ask about WFF, and allowed the repeated assertion of a family of six surviving on $26,000 a year, they did not ask a single question about why he was no longer getting ACC. No question about what the medical assessor determined.  No question on what the independent review by Disputes Resolution Service found. No question about anything – just allowed him to say whatever he likes unchallenged.

I have said that some parts of the ACC culture do need changing, and they do. But this does not mean you accept without challenge every claim by every individual who thinks they should receive ACC support. That is not journalism. Next time I hope Radio NZ at least attempt to ask pertinent questions.

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Timaru District Council

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

Matthew Littlewood reports:

A Timaru district councillor is “puzzled” by council management’s refusal to link to his blog.

Hamish Fraser has been running his blog since he was elected to the council two years ago, and has even live-blogged council meetings.

However, recently he asked management to include his blog address on the council’s website.

“We’re in the middle of a representation review, which has pretty big implications for the community, particularly Geraldine, Temuka and Pleasant Point,” Cr Fraser said.

“I would have thought the more community engagement we had on this topic, the better.

“For some people, the blog is the way they interact with me. Certainly a lot of people are finding it easier to comment on the blog or email me than give me a call,” he said.

However, Timaru District Council management told Cr Fraser that it would not include the link to his blog as the “council has no control over the quality, accuracy or opinion contained in your blog”

That’s silly and stupid. A link is not an endorsement. So long as it is clear the blog is the personal opinion of Cr Fraser, then as an elected official he should be able to have it as part of his profile.

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The ACC $250 offers

June 28th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Some of those who have been offered $250 compensation from ACC for the privacy breach, have said it is not enough and they want more.

The problem is that it is not really ACC that is paying them $250. It is me and you, and employers and employees all around the country. It is not the staff or managers who made the breach, or the directors of ACC.

I don’t like my premiums having to go on privacy breach settlements. I pay them to help injured workers. Why should I have to fund mistakes by ACC staff?

Surely I should be given the choice to choose an alternative workplace accident insurer? Why should I have to keep funding a company that is a monopoly, and one that I can’t withdraw my business from?

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Thanks Sir Michael

June 28th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports at Stuff:

The Government has written down the value of KiwiRail’s land and network assets from $13.4 billion to $6.7b and converted $322.5m of debt to equity in a major restructuring of the state-owned rail company.

The change will hit the Budget deficit adding another $1.8b of red ink to the expected operating balance which on Budget day was forecast to be $10.6b deficit for the year to June 30.

Thanks, Sir Michael Cullen. The over the top price you paid (with our money) for Kiwirail was called the Sale of the Century, and it was. Never before has a buyer made such a bad purchase. Toll must still be drunk from celebrating the millions they got from selling a lemon.

Labour or Greens have complained that National is going to sell Kiwirail. If only! There’s no one out there stupid enough to buy it. I doubt we could even give it away for $1.

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