Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

NZ 4th in prosperity index

June 1st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Legatum Institute has released the 2015 Prosperity Index. The top 10 are:

  1. Norway
  2. Switzerland
  3. Denmark
  4. New Zealand
  5. Sweden
  6. Canada
  7. Australia
  8. Netherlands
  9. Finland
  10. Australia Ireland

Our ratings for each section is:

  • Social Capital 1st
  • Governance 2nd
  • Personal Freedom 2nd
  • Education 6th
  • Safety & Security 11th
  • Economy 14th
  • Entrepreneurship & Opportunity 17th
  • Health 19th

Wellington Airport and Uber

May 31st, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington Airport is close to reaching a deal to allow Uber drivers to pick up passengers, which could change the payment terms for all taxi services to the airport.

Currently Uber, a private hire service where passengers order cars on mobile phones, is not meant to pick up passengers from the airport, as doing so avoids paying the $5 fee faced by regular taxis.

Steve Sanderson, chief executive of Wellington Airport has threatened to trespass drivers who breach the rules

It was only fair that Uber paid the same as taxis, as they were operating a commercial business on private property, Sanderson said.

“We want all operators who operate transport services out of the airport to all be on a level playing field,” Sanderson said, adding that he expected to secure an agreement within Uber within a month.

“Taxis and Uber will pay the same amount.”

That’s good. But my understanding is from Day One Uber has been willing to pay this fee. It is the Airport that has refused to let them in, to keep the taxi companies happy. Regardless, good to see progress.

While currently taxis are only charged fees for picking up passengers at the airport, Sanderson confirmed that this could be replaced with a split between pick-ups and drop-offs.

“We are looking at other options of making the fees in the airport more equal to arrivals and departures.”

Sounds sensible.

Taxi Federation acting executive director Tim Reddish said Uber and other similar services should pay the same as taxis, and this should also take into account the money taxis paid to wait outside the baggage reclaim area.

“Any deal struck with Uber has to be on an even playing field basis,” Reddish said.

“The taxi companies that have a presence at the airport tender significant money for that, and that determines that Uber should be paying the same sort of money.”

No. That is a decision made by individual taxi companies to have a rank. Why impose their business model on a company with a different model. Uber cars do not wait around on ranks. They come when a passenger wants them.

Why pay $100m for the Town Hall when you have the MFC?

May 31st, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington’s earthquake-prone town hall is now unlikely to reopen until 2020 – seven years after its doors shut to the public – and it may not end up being 100 per cent of building code.

Wellington City Council staff were told on Monday that the current best-case-scenario was to resume seismic strengthening of the 112-year-old building in September 2017.

The town hall, considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world, was shut in November 2013 for strengthening. But work halted three months later when the cost ballooned from $43 million to $60m. …

City councillors approved a plan last year to strengthen the town hall, along with the nearby civic administration building and central library, for $73.2m.

But while the intention in 2013 was bring the town hall up to 140 per cent of new building standards through base isolation, the goal now is to hit a minimum of 77 per cent of code.

So the price has doubled and the standard has halved!

May 2015: Council approves $96.5m worth of spending in its Long-Term Plan for the town hall strengthening and Civic Square upgrade.

That is around $10,000 per household they are spending. And the Town Hall is next door to the Michael Fowler Centre which is perfectly fine.

Should you lose your licence for this?

May 31st, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The kegs will be dry and the wine glasses empty at Trentham Racecourse for the first time next month after it failed a police booze sting on Wellington Cup Day.

But drunk punters horsing around were not to blame for Wellington Racing Club breaching its liquor licence on January 23.

Rather, it was an underage buyer with no ID being served alcohol on the seventh attempt of a police sting, after six previous efforts to illegally purchase alcohol had failed.

I’ve blogged before that I support suspension of liquor licenses for supermarkets that sell to under age purchasers.

But here the venue correctly refused six times in a row. Only on a 7th attempt did someone not check.

This is pretty unfair I reckon. A race day where you have maybe hundreds of temporary staff serving thousands with long queues is different to a supermarket or bar where you have permanent staff. There should be some threshold at which you conclude they are irresponsible but I am not sure only failing on the 7th attempt is it.

The state of our telecommunications market

May 30th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting report from the Commerce Commission on our telecommunications market. Some key points:

  • Calling on a mobile phone is becoming more popular than calling on a fixed‑line phone, with mobile voice minutes poised to overtake fixed‑line voice minutes
  • Fixed broadband connections continued growing to reach 1.45 million as at 30 June 2015
  • Average data consumed per fixed line is 48 GB/mth up from 32 GB
  • A bundle sufficient for 900 calls and 2GB of data in February 2016 could be purchased for $59 a month compared to $69 in August 2014
  • Fixed line broadband connections per 100 pop have increased from 22.8 in 2008 to 32.6 in 2015
  • Average broadband speed up from 3Mbps in 2008 to 9.3 in 2015
  • 121 mobile phones per 100 people
  • 197,000 premises connected to fibre
  • 922,000 premises have fibre available

More marxist professors than Republicans

May 29th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Nicholas Kristof writes in the NYT:

Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

O.K., that’s a little harsh. But consider George Yancey, a sociologist who is black and evangelical.

“Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”

Sadly true.

Four studies found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who are Republicans ranges between 6 and 11 percent, and in the social sciences between 7 and 9 percent.

Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents).

In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in some disciplines than a Republican.

I wonder if the same would be true in NZ? Would there be more Marxist social science professors than say National supporting ones?

Considering around 0.5% of the population are probably Marxists and 47% voted National, wouldn’t it reveal something about our universities if it was also true here.

Can anyone think of any centre-right social science professors in NZ?

No tag for this post.

Review: Tickled

May 28th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Went to see the Tickled documentary on Monday night.

It was an intriguing 90 minute expose which was equally funny and disturbing.

The film is basically a public service documentary exposing the actions of David D’Amato and his decades of fixation with tickling videos. Not that there is anything wrong with tickling videos (if that is your thing) but the lengths D’Amato goes to to destroy people he has fallen out with, vilify them, bully them and hide his identity.

It all started a few years ago when David Farrier saw an ad for people to take part in a competitive tickling video and asked if he could do one of his light hearted stories on it. The response from “Jane O’Brien Media” was so virulent and over the top (basically saying that they want nothing at all to do with a homosexual journalist and there is nothing at all gay about videos of men tying other men down and ticking their bare bodies), that Farrier got intrigued.

With the technical skills of Dylan Reeve and some whois lookups they pieced together a network of sites all controlled by the one person.

As they started to make more inquiries, JOM flew not one but three people over from the US to NZ to try and encourage them to stop. The encouragement was a series of threats. This made them more determined and they flew to America to do further research and interviews.

They eventually worked out that the person behind all this was David D’Amato who had been sentenced in 2001 for posing as Terri DiSisto, better known as Terri Tickle. It seems after his sentence, he carried on under another persona.

This is one of the true stories that you would think is fictional. the film captures the weirdness of it all, while also exposing some very nasty behaviour from a rich guy who hides behind fake identities.

What I found most fascinating is the motiviation of D’Amato is not money. He doesn’t make money from his fetish. He inherited millions of dollars from his father. He could spend that in dozens of ways to have a happy nice life. But instead for some reason he is compelled to use it to harrass, threaten and intimidate people.

I’d definitely recommend seeing the documentary. It’s engrossing and captivating. They did a good job editing it so it is a punchy 90 minutes long.

A video interview on Vice with David Farrier is below

(more…)

Good one Bish

May 28th, 2016 at 3:20 pm by David Farrar

Chris Bishop facebooked:

This afternoon I got a message on my Facebook page from Joan about a poor wee kitten left on her front lawn, near death’s door. I had a free hour so I raced out to Waitangirua to pick it up. The poor thing was not in good shape – but it was still alive, just.

I got in touch with the Kitten Inn on the way and they said to take it direct to the Petone Vet hospital. They took it straight off me for the doc to check out. I hope it pulls through! The Kitten Inn will take care of it after that, and place it with a loving family. They’ve currently got 100 kittens awaiting homes, and perform a sterling service saving kittens from right around the Hutt. Thanks Susan and your team for all that you do!

Animal rescue charities are the best. Great Bish was able to help and pick the kitten up.

A great idea for Wellington

May 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Imagine heading down to Oriental Bay in July and looking out over the harbour on one of those typical calm, blue sky Wellington winter days. 

You know, the ones that follow the southerly storms and remind us of why we live here. Now imagine doing all this while lounging in a hot, outdoor, saltwater swimming pool. 

One Wellington businessman is working on making the fantasy a reality.

Prefab owner Jeff Kennedy is a member of the Better Te Aro Collective, which wants to rejuvenate the central city.

His idea is to create a hot pool complex next to Freyberg Pool, where the old open air, saltwater Te Aro Baths once were.

That’s a fantastic idea. Wellington has many great summer days (and still getting them in late May!) but the water is never warm. A heated outfoor recreational pool would be great.

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Would be very popular with locals and tourists.

Life and 27 years no parole for Tully

May 27th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Work and Income double-killer Russell John Tully has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 27 years.

It is the second highest non-parole period ever handed down in New Zealand history.

Tully was found guilty in March of being the masked gunman who stormed the Ashburton Winz centre on September 1, 2014 and shot dead receptionist Peggy Noble, 67, from point blank range and three times shot case manager Susan Leigh Cleveland, 55, as she pleaded for her life.

The 50-year-old was also found guilty of attempting to murder case manager Kim Adams. He was found not guilty of attempting to murder case manager Lindy Curtis who was shot in the leg and badly injured hiding under a desk.

Good – an evil manipulative man with a huge sense of entitlement who should never get to terrorise people again. He will be 77 before he is even eligible for parole, and it seems unlikely even then he would be deemed safe to release. So hopefully the families of the victims can now start to rebuild their lives.

A new media venture

May 27th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stoppress reports:

The departures of Tim Murphy and Mark Jennings from their respective roles as the editor in chief of the New Zealand Herald and head of news at MediaWorks were both mourned as casualties of the changing media landscape.

However, the social media anguish seems to have been pre-emptive. 

Earlier today, Jennings and Murphy told StopPress that they were launching a media consultancy called Jennings/Murphy, which would provide strategic media assistance to businesses or individuals looking for advice across editorial, video production, strategic comms and media.

The pair will shortly launch their new website, and Jennings invites those interested in their services to approach them.

With decades of experience between them, countless contacts and inside knowledge of the challenges facing modern media companies, the pair do seem well suited to providing strategic advice for corporates struggling in this space.

The launch of the consultancy does not, however, imply that the newsmen have departed journalism for good.  

In addition to starting this business, the pair also unveiled—cue widespread journalistic cheers—plans to start a news site together.

“We are hoping to develop a home for quality news journalism here that will hopefully fill the gap from which mainstream media has withdrawn a bit,” says Murphy.

Sounds a good plan. Good luck to them.

Murphy says the aim is to develop a site that’s led by editorial judgement rather than web analytics. “We’ve got to turn away from clicks to clocks,” he says quoting a speaker at the recent International News Media Association Awards in London.

“We certainly don’t think there’s a market for something that’s dull or unworthy either. We’re not interested in setting up something that’s straight-laced niche play. It’s got to be broad and it’s got to have high appeal.

“There will be news, current affairs and investigations. And it will be about communicating in a more conversational way than traditional news.”

At this point, Jennings steps into the conversation and reminds me that the website hasn’t launched yet.

“I was smiling when Tim was saying, it’s going to be this and it’s going to be that, because we’re not off the ground yet,” Jennings says.

Like Murphy, he does, however believe there’s a clear gap in the market for the type of stories they’re hoping to tell.

“There’s constant feedback coming to us, with people saying, ‘Why can’t we have this sort of news? Why do we have to scroll to the bottom of Stuff or NZ Herald to find the stories we want? We don’t want the car crashes, we don’t want the Bachelor stories and we don’t want the lost dogs.’.

And half the stories on the main sites seem to be from overseas newspapers, but you only discover that at the very end.

NZ vs Norway

May 27th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

From a TED talk by Michael Green:

Gross Domestic Product has become the yardstick by which we measure a country’s success. But, says Michael Green, GDP isn’t the best way to measure a good society. His alternative? The Social Progress Index, which measures things like basic human needs and opportunity.

Analysts, reporters and big thinkers love to talk about Gross Domestic Product. Put simply, GDP, which tallies the value of all the goods and services produced by a country each year, has become the yardstick by which we measure a country’s success. But there’s a big, elephant-like problem with that: GDP only accounts for a country’s economic performance, not the happiness or well-being of its citizens. With GDP, if your richest 100 people get richer, your GDP rises … but most of your citizens are just as badly off as they were before.

That’s one of the reasons the team that I lead at the Social Progress Imperative launched the Social Progress Index in 2014. The Social Progress Index determines what it means to be a good society according to three dimensions: Basic Human Needs (food, water, shelter, safety); Foundations of Wellbeing (basic education, information, health and a sustainable environment); and Opportunity (do people have rights, freedom of choice, freedom from discrimination, and access to higher education?)

GDP is very important as it allows a country to do a lot of the other stuff, but it is not the only indicator that matters.

Chart 2: A telling comparison: New Zealand vs. Norway
Countries can experience similar levels of social progress at vastly different levels of GDP per capita. New Zealand achieves a Social Progress score of 87.08, which is almost as high as Norway’s 88.36, but at a GDP per capita that is half that of Norway: $32,808 versus $62,448.

The chart is:

slide-21-michael-green

Green comments:

If you look at New Zealand’s scorecard, it does a bit better than Norway on opportunity — on personal rights in particular — and a little worse on personal safety and ecosystem sustainability.

What exactly is driving this? You’d have to ask the New Zealanders. Indeed, that’s one of the things we hope to do next: identify role models for other countries and unpack how exactly they’re doing the things they do well.

I think one of the things we do well is focus hard of equality of opportunity. This is very very different from equality of outcome, but makes a big difference.

This year, we worked out a Social Progress score for the world. We’ve taken the population-weighted average of all the countries and summed it up together. This gave a level of social progress that is 61 out of 100, which means that the average human being lives at a level of social progress somewhere between Cuba and Kazakhstan.

Somewhat depressing but was worse in the past.

Smartphones while driving

May 25th, 2016 at 1:14 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

For years the government has fought to keep cellphones away from drivers, but now it wants to put mobiles back into motoring.

The government will review transport law this year with an eye to ensuring drivers can use smartphones to access safety information.

The aim is to make driving safer, but in reality it could be like letting addicts have their favourite drug within easy reach, a road safety group says.

So whichever group is talking hysterically like that we can ignore.

Ministry of Transport spokeswoman Fran Lovell said the smartphone initiative was one of four “key actions” to cut deaths and serious injuries.

“Smartphones have the ability to interact with the driver without the driver having to physically operate them.

“For example, they can give audible feedback to prompt safer speed or correct lane use.”

She said the transport agencies believed smartphones were the best way to give real-time safety information to road users.

I use Google Maps all the time when driving. It advises me the fastest route and how to avoid congestion. It also indicates where traffic is slow.

Caroline Perry, director for road safety charity Brake, said phones should be switched off, or on silent and completely out of reach.

I don’t think anyone switches their phone off when they get in the car.

The decision to embrace smartphones comes after warnings about their use from the very agencies involved in the review.

A Ministry of Transport report released last September, titled Diverted Attention, said distracted drivers – including drivers on cellphones – accounted for about 12 per cent of all crashes in 2014.

Note that they don’t say what proportion of the 12% were distracted by cellphones.

Do we need preventive detention for the worst burglars

May 24th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

One of New Zealand’s most prolific burglars has died in custody.

Prison, police and judges could not stop Stacey Spinks’ life of crime.

In the end it was a suspected heart attack that stopped the man whose brazen skills led to him racking up over 300 burglary convictions. …

His offending was continual.

He had over 300 convictions for burglary alone, with many others for breaching sentences, impersonating police officers, escaping, and shoplifting.

The man obviously could not be rehabilitated. Burglary is a lesser offence than violent offending. I don’t think you should have a three strikes and you’re locked up forever for burglary. But how about 100 strikes and you’re out? By out I mean an automatic 10 year (maximum sentence) prison sentence for every burglary conviction after you reach the threshold?

No sentence seemed to deter him.

Twelve times he was caught impersonating a police officer. He even handed over a police business card at commercial premises where he asked about security measures.

There comes a point where you accept someone can not be deterred. Then the focus is on community safety. If we know beyond a slither of a doubt that the moment he is out he will carry on, why let him out?

Beware of geographic breakdown of polls

May 22nd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hamilton residents and New Zealand First supporters are among four groups which want fewer migrants allowed in the country.

In a recent Colmar-Brunton political poll, people were asked about the number of migrants the Government should let in to the country.

The results showed 42 per cent of those polled in Hamilton, wanted the Government to let fewer migrants in.

Other groups polled which also wanted fewer migrants included 38 per cent of those living in small towns or rural areas, 53 per cent of Maori and 40 per cent of New Zealand First supporters.

Overall figures showed just over half (51 per cent) of New Zealand voters polled believed the number of migrants being let in is about right, close to a quarter, or 27 per cent, said the government should let fewer in and nearly a fifth, or 18 per cent say the Government should let more migrants in. Four per cent said they did not know.

This is a good example of why one should be wary of reading too much into some poll breakdowns.

The poll is of 1,000 people. Around 3.5% of NZ live in Hamilton so I’d assume only 35 people from Hamilton were polled. That has a margin of error of around +/- 17%.

The Tickled Movie

May 20th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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I was one of the hundreds or thousands who helped crown fund this documentary, which has had rave reviews, and even been promoted by Rolling Stone magazine. Hollywood Reporter reviewed:

When David Farrier came across social-media notice of a “competitive endurance tickling” event in Los Angeles, he thought he’d lit upon another amusingly weird topic for his lighthearted reports on New Zealand television. But the Donkey Lady, frog-eating survivalists and Justin Bieber were nothing compared with what the pop-culture journalist would uncover.

In the captivating and jaw-dropping Tickled, he and fellow first-time director Dylan Reeve chronicle an investigation that would take them down a rabbit hole of legal threats and private investigators, leading to a mysterious deep-pocketed exploiter of young men in the name of a fetish subculture. But the erotic-torture appeal of tickling (who knew?) is only a piece of the suspenseful puzzle. In its genial, low-key way, the film, premiering at Sundance, is a chilling account of cyberbullying, perpetrated on a disturbingly wide scale over many years.

I’ll be moderating the Q+A at The Roxy after the 8 pm showing on Monday 23rd, so if you want to see it in Wellington, come along to that session.

Links to tickets are on their website here.

Unverifiable claims

May 20th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

While 7-year-old Emma battles a lung disease at Starship children’s hospital, her mum is facing another struggle against “discrimination” as she tries to find a place for them to live.

The family is one of many finding it difficult to put a roof over their heads in Auckland, as the Government comes under pressure to deal with those living in cars, garages and on the streets.

Mother-of-three Rhiannon, 44, told media at a Green Party event she had been struggling to find a house after her landlord decided to sell their current place in March.

She had been made redundant two years ago while her relationship also ended, and faced “discrimination” from private landlords and property agents when trying to find a rental.

“As soon as you tell them you’re a sole parent with three children, or that you’re on a Work and Income benefit, they’re not interested in you in this kind of competitive market.” …

Work and Income had offered to lend her money for the family to stay in a boarding house, but she didn’t want to take her children there.

They were on the Housing New Zealand waitlist, but were told it would take at least 18 months to find a place – even though they were high-priority because of Emma’s health.

“I felt like being sick – I was sitting in my car when they rang me and said that, and I just felt like I was going to have a breakdown.”

Rhiannon said she and Emma were currently at Starship children’s hospital while her other two children stayed with family and friends, but she wanted a proper roof over their heads.

“I’m a good tenant, I’ve always paid my rent, and I just really want to get my kids together and back to their schools and live a normal life.”

What is interesting in this story is no surname is given. The media asked for it, but it was refused. Despite this the media have reported the claims.

Now I’m not saying that the situation is not exactly as it has been portrayed. It could well be, and probably is. There are some people who have very tough circumstances and need more assistance.

But there have been dozens of other cases where claims have been made, and further information has come out which gives a different version of events.

Without a surname, it is simply impossible to verify the claims. Media should refuse to report such claims, unless they can be verified. Otherwise it is just propaganda.

Without a surname, you can’t check if there have been any cases at the Tenancy Tribunal involving the person, – for example.

I would have less of an issue with the surname being supplied to the media and then being asked not to publish it – because at least then the media themselves could verify the claims. But the media have agreed to report the claims, without having any information to allow them to verify it. That is a very bad thing.

Cinema competition is working

May 19th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Reading Cinemas Courtenay in Wellington lowered the price of its standard tickets from $16 to $10 – indefinitely. It has taken a similar step in Auckland.

Gold Lounge tickets, which gives gave you more wriggle room in recliner seats at back of the cinema, are now $15.

Victoria University senior lecturer of film Miriam Ross said: “There have been concerns for a long time now that movie attendance is in decline – and that is definitely the case in the US, the UK and wider Europe.

“Now we are seeing that general decline in Wellington.”

Reading Cinemas Courtenay had possibly come to the realisation that they could not compete with the niche audiences that the smaller cinemas attract, Ross said.

“So if they drop the prices, they may be able to entice their own audience back . . . I think this is part of an incentive to get bums back on seats.”

Great to see the prices drop. We’re seeing competition work in two ways.

The first is between cinemas, with many people choosing smaller more cosy cinemas over the larger ones. So the larger ones need to drop prices to attract people back.

The second is between watching it at the cinema, or watching at home with a home theatre system.

Few beneficiaries failing drug tests

May 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Few beneficiaries had benefits cut for taking drugs last year.

Beneficiaries with work obligations are now required to take and pass a drug test when asked to as part of a job application, with sanctions applied to their benefits for failing the tests.

Last year, there were 31,791 referrals for drug testable positions nationwide and just 55 sanctions for failing a drug test, according to Ministry of Social Development (MSD) figures.

Whangarei Citizens Advice Bureau co-ordinator Moea Armstrong said the low number of beneficiaries failing drug tests proved most people were “really desperately keen” for a job and not doing drugs.

That’s good.

He said workplace drug tests should be up to employers and he didn’t see why the Government needed to be involved in the process. Mr Reid said beneficiaries were under enough pressure without the threat of having their benefits cuts for failing drug tests.

It is up to employers. They decide if they ask a job seeker for one. What the Government has said though is if you are on a benefit and turn jobs down because you won’t take a drug test – well the taxpayer won’t keep funding you.

Bay of Plenty-based Te Tuinga Whanau support service executive director Tommy Wilson said he believed the drug testing policy was working.

“I know first hand that it’s working because we have a lot of people within our organisation that come from past drug use and are doing better because they have that put on them,” he said. “I am encouraged that people are being more responsible, realising how important work is and what it can do for the mana of a family to have a parent working.”

It would be good to have some before and after data – ie how many job seekers on a benefit refused drug tests before there were sanctions for doing so, compared to the failure rate now?

Fisher on Robertson

May 18th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

David Fisher writes:

Tony Robertson is a stone-cold killer and rapist who has never taken responsibility.

After he murdered Blessie Gotingco, he worked hard to avoid responsibility for doing so but the evidence was such that it must have been easy to banish “any reasonable doubt”.

When the calls for the inquiry came, the question turned. It effectively asked: “Did somebody else enable Robertson to murder and rape through inaction or incompetence?”

A Government-ordered inquiry by long-time public servant Mel Smith found “Robertson, and only Robertson, can be held responsible for what happened to Mrs Gotingco”.

Robertson did what he did and no one else need shoulder the blame. Corrections and police staff did their jobs when it came to Robertson.

In this awful case, it all comes down to a young man whose character is fundamentally deficient due to a deviant and murderous streak which sets him apart from almost everyone else.

The sad reality is that once someone has served their full sentence, you can’t stop them committing further crimes once released if they are determined.

This is one of the reasons I support three strikes – so the worst of the worst are not released once it is clear they will continue offending.

Robertson was considered for parole on four occasions. The board was confronted with an angry and violent young sex offender who refused to admit guilt in the face of overwhelming evidence. It kept him inside as long as it could. Robertson knew when he was getting out, and it wasn’t early. He told the board: “I will do my time and go out on my statutory release date in December 2013.”

And that was the target date — the point at which there was no legal way to keep Robertson in jail and away from the rest of us.

And he came out and killed almost straight away. So very very sad for the family and friends of the victim. Hopefully this time he will never be released.

 

 

 

 

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Self-defence for family violence victims who kill

May 17th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Victims of family violence who kill their abusers should be able to claim self-defence more easily, the Law Commission says.

The commission’s report on family violence laws, requested by the Government, has recommended lowering the threshold for self-defence to help women who “have endured years of trauma and abuse”.

In its report, the Law Commission said New Zealand had the highest reported rate of family violence in the developed world.

The commission has recommended changing the law to state that self-defence can apply when a person is responding to family violence – even when the threat is not “imminent”, as currently must be the case.

Lead commissioner Dr Wayne Mapp said there were some “deeply-held myths” about family violence, such as that those being abused could simply walk away.

“The reality is family violence in many cases is part of an ongoing, sustained, vicious pattern of violence that traps the person.

“That entrapment means she cannot leave, and that then means she ultimately, for fear of her life, or that of her children, sees no other way out but to defend herself with lethal force.”

Mapp said New Zealand’s self-defence laws were “out of step” with countries like the UK and Australia, and there was “ample evidence” that women convicted here of manslaughter or murder should have been acquitted for acting in self defence due to family violence.

He did not believe changing the law would lead to people using family violence as an excuse for premeditated murder, saying it would be up to juries to decide whether a self-defence claim was believable.

The law change could allow a woman to kill her sleeping partner and claim self-defence, if she made a “believable” case of family violence.

“Such a claim would only be successful if it existed in the context of a sustained long period of family violence, and if you didn’t do that then, the next thing going to happen to you is that you were going to be killed instead.”

I think the Government has to be very careful here.

First of all I agree that it is not as simple as saying that women should simply leave men who abuse them. That is absolutely the right thing to do, but doing so can be incredibly difficult, and in fact dangerous.

However we need to be careful that we do not create an incentive that it is an easier choice to kill your partner rather than leave them.

I’d be more comfortable with someone being able to get a reduced sentence or lesser conviction, rather than a total exoneration.

The other aspect that concerns me is that while there are sadly many many people who do get abused by their partners, you may create an incentive for someone who kills their partner, to falsely claim they were abusing them, and hence it was self defence. And as the partner is dead, you don’t get their side of the story.

So while I can agree the status quo is not great, I think significant caution is needed before extending the definition of self defence beyond imminent danger.

King Lear

May 16th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

With a degree of trepidation I went to see Circa’s performance of King Lear on Saturday night. The trepidation being that since being forced to study Shakespeare at school, I had resisted his work. Also a production that lasts over two and a half hours is normally too long for me.

But I’m glad I did, as it was a stunningly good show. I’d even say it was theatre at its finest. A very fitting way to mar the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare.

The synopsis of the play is:

The story opens in ancient Britain, where the elderly King Lear is deciding to give up his power and divide his realm amongst his three daughters, Cordelia, Regan, and Goneril. Lear’s plan is to give the largest piece of his kingdom to the child who professes to love him the most, certain that his favorite daughter, Cordelia, will win the challenge. Goneril and Regan, corrupt and deceitful, lie to their father with sappy and excessive declarations of affection. Cordelia, however, refuses to engage in Lear’s game, and replies simply that she loves him as a daughter should. Her lackluster retort, despite its sincerity, enrages Lear, and he disowns Cordelia completely.

Ray Henwood as King Lear is masterful – he captures so well a proud wrathful King, and then also his descent into madness. It is hard to imagine anyone else doing the role so well, except perhaps Ian McKellen. Henwood’s eyes are quite captivating as he plays the sad and mad King.

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The play is definitely not a comedy, but there are comic moments provided by Gavin Rutherford who is excellent as King Lear’s Fool. His burbling is often cutting and cruel, yet funny.

Other actors who stood out were Nick Dunbar as Oswald, the steward to Goneril (the oldest sister). Dunbar just seems a natural at playing the evil sneering characters.

Ken Blackburn was also an excellent Duke of Gloucester, who tragically allowed one son to turn him against the other.

Also of note was the conflict between the two brothers Edgar and Edmund, portrayed by Andrew Paterson and Guy Langford. Paterson did especially well with Edgar when he pretended to be a madman, to hide from those seeking to kill him.

The play was directed by Michael Hurst, who is an acclaimed Shakespearean director and produced by Carolyn Henwood (who in her spare time is a District Court Judge and chair of the Parole Board!).

The stage design was simple yet effective. Such a large cast (12 principal actors) saw more of the stage used than normal in Circa One.

An interesting production choice was to have it set in Britain in the 1930s, rather than the ancient past. The costumes were suits, dresses and military uniforms of the era, and it worked. It made the play seem a more modern story, rather than something that could never happen today.

King Lear is a powerful story. It is a tragedy driven by vices of jealousy, lust, power and envy. There is no happy ending, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. Of interest, an alternate version of the play was very popular for around 150 years, until 1838. That version had a happy ever after ending for some. But the original Shakespeare version has reigned supreme since then and is regarded as his greatest work for its focus on the nature of kinship and suffering.

The best play I have seen so far in 2016.

Rating: ****1/2

Can blogs pick up the slack?

May 16th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Gordon Campbell writes:

To state the bleedingly obvious: the blogosphere does not have the resources to compensate for the reduction in competition (and the loss of journalistic resources) that will be the inevitable outcome of this merger.

Why not? Sure, online startups are lively, thriving and multiplying : there’sScoop, The Spinoff, the Daily Blog, Kiwiblog, the Hard News stable, No Right Turn, The Standard, Pundit, the Dim-Post, Eric Crampton’s Offsetting Behaviour,Paul Buchanan’s 36th Parallel….to name just a few. Theoretically, the merger opens up a market opportunity for them. In reality, all of them will be damaged by the merger.

How come? Well for starters – and as this RNZ report explains here – and also here the blogosphere is poorly positioned to pick up the slack. It is run on a shoestring. It has few resources – or no resources at all, in most cases – to do news gathering. Its strength lies in its analysis and commentary; an essential role that the mainstream media has carried out timidly, or not at all. In other words, a genuine symbiotic relationship currently exists between the blogosphere and the traditional media. We rely on their news gathering and increasingly, they rely on our analysis and commentary. So… if there’s a decline in news gathering capacity, this will damage the ability of the blogosphere to carry out its valuable contribution to the public discourse.

I don’t disagree with what Gordon has said, and I’m not keen on the merger. But change can create opportunities.

The main media websites do very well at reporting news, and other sites do very well at analysis. Not just blogs, but NBR is very good at that, and I regard the best political analysis in NZ (by a wide margin) to be Richard Harman’s Politik newsletter.

But I have been thinking about what I would do if Stuff and NZ Herald combine and go behind a paywall. The initial impact would be a hassle. Rather than quote stories from their sites, and comment on them, I’d might have to use other sites such as Radio NZ or Newshub. But they have far fewer stories.

But the other thing I can do is start reporting the news more directly. 80% of stories seem to originate for PRs. I know this as I now get all the PRs. They tend to go into a folder I check once a day or so (if I have time). It is rare I’ll do a story based on a PR, as easier to quote a media story already summarising it.

But if two million NZers get blocked from most content on the Herald and Stuff sites, they’ll look elsewhere for it. I doubt many will pay for it.

I could hire someone to write a few news stories a day on interesting NZ issues. I already have good sources for overseas news.

I could also hire someone to cover parliamentary news and try and get them accredited to the press gallery. The gallery may not like it, but if they are going to hire most of their content behind paywalls, they’ll look bloody awful if they try to block a site willing to publish it freely from being able to access Parliament.

I’m not going to rush into anything, but if the merger goes ahead and the two main media websites combined and go behind a paywall, I will seriously look at whether I can grab a reasonable portion of their two million readers.

Patient Portals

May 14th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jonathan Coleman announced:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is encouraging people to use a new online map to see whether their GP offers a patient portal.

“A growing number of general practices are introducing patient portals. These secure online sites are the health equivalent to online banking,” says Dr Coleman.

“Portals enable patients to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view lab test results online.

“You can have secure conversations with your GP via email, and in some cases, patients can also view their notes online.

“Portals are convenient, secure and real time savers for both the patient and staff at their general practice.

“A new interactive map launched today makes it easy for patients to check which general practices are offering portals. Patient portals are a great step towards enabling New Zealanders to manage more of their own healthcare.”

Over 330 general practices are now offering patient portals, with nearly 136,000 New Zealanders registered to use one.

The map is here.

You can quickly see which medical centres in Wellington City have a patient portal. They are:

  • Island Bay Medical Centre
  • Peninsula Medical Centre
  • Newtown Medical Centre
  • Newtown Union Health Service
  • Brooklyn Central Health
  • Brooklyn Medical Centre
  • Karori Medical Centre
  • Capital Care Medical Centre
  • Evolve Wellington
  • City GPs
  • Kelburn Medical Centre
  • The Terrace Medical Centre
  • Onslow Medical Centre
  • Johnsonville Medical Centre
  • Newlands Medical Centre

I’ve been using Manage My Health for a couple of years and find it great. The main attraction is being able to see which doctors are free when, and book yourself in. But lots of other good features also:

  • Can see your vaccination history and recalls
  • Blood Type
  • All test results
  • Previous prescriptions
  • Secure e-mail with doctors

Family Violence

May 14th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Let us not soften the language we use about a man who hits a woman. It has been called domestic violence or partner violence. Our in-depth examination of the problem today and through next week is labelled “family violence” because an entire family suffers when a parent resorts to violence to control a partner or children. But at its most serious level, this problem is men. Not all men, not even most men, and, as some men always point out, not just men. Women can, and do, resort to violence too.

But this subject is too important to be blurred and broadened for the sake of gender neutrality. New Zealand has one of the worst family violence rates in the world and it is a fair bet women are not responsible for most of it, and certainly not the worst of it.

Why guess? we have a very robust and reliable survey of crime in New Zealand.

The 2014 NZ Crime and Safety Survey found:

  • 6% of women and 4% of men were victims of a violent interpersonal offence in 2013
  • 26% of women and 14% of men were victims of partner violence at some stage in their life

So yes most domestic violence is by men (and certainly the worst domestic violence is), but in the latest year 40% of victims were men which is a very significant minority. A 60/40 split is very different to say a 90/10 split.

We should not listen to claims of provocation, verbal or physical. If we are going to eradicate this disgrace on our society the truth needs to be implanted in every male mind that there is never an excuse for a man to hit a woman.

I agree. I abhor such violence.