Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

A 20 year low for migration with Australia

November 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


Stats NZ reported:

Migrant arrivals (107,200) reached a new high in the October 2014 year. The annual increase was led by more student arrivals, particularly from India, and more New Zealand citizens arriving from Australia.

The fall in migrant departures was primarily due to fewer departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia (down 13,300), compared with the October 2013 year. The net loss of 5,300 people to Australia in the October 2014 year was the smallest since the October 1994 year (5,300).

Net migration to Australia in 2008 was almost 36,000 people so it has fallen by around 85%.


Heading back home

November 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Brazilian court has ordered the deportation of convicted murderer and paedophile Phillip John Smith within 10 days.

Brazilian freelance journalist Alexandre Tortoriello said the court noted New Zealand had offered a police escort and to pay for Smith’s deportation, Radio NZ reported.

Maybe the cost could be charged to Smith out of the $10,000 he has.

Tony Ellis, who has represented Smith in New Zealand, has been trying to arrange a Brazilian lawyer to visit him in jail in Rio de Janeiro. But they all want payment upfront.

Smart lawyers.

Tortoriello said Smith had the opportunity to find a Brazilian lawyer and appeal, but this had to be done before he was deported, which could happen at any moment.

I suspect sooner rather than later.


A WWII hero in Auckland

November 24th, 2014 at 10:01 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A 93-year-old woman living quietly in an Auckland rest home has been revealed as one of the bravest spies of World War Two.

On Tuesday Phyllis Latour Doyle – Pippa to her friends – will be bestowed with France’s highest decoration for what she did 70 years ago. …

She was parachuted into France to get information on German positions and on one mission, into Normandy, she played a crucial role in the D-Day landings. …

She first went into Aquitaine in Vichy France from 1942 and was dropped behind enemy lines under a new code name, Paulette, into the Calvados region of Normandy on May 1, 1944.

Aged 23, she had the identity of a poor 14-year-old French girl to make the Germans less suspicious. 

She used bicycles to tour the area, passing information through coded messages. …

She will receive her honour on Tuesday from French Ambassador Laurent Contini.

“I have deep admiration for her bravery and it will be with great honour that I will present her with the award of Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration,” the ambassador said.

Great to see her being honoured. I still think it was a huge mistake NZ never gave Nancy Wake an honour. I’m not sure if Pippa Doyle is a NZ citizen, but not too late for us to give her one also!


Doesn’t confidentiality apply both ways?

November 23rd, 2014 at 4:55 pm by David Farrar

I, along with many others, have been critical of Roger Sutton for breaching the confidentiality around the complaints against him by a CERA staffer. The press conference was a very bad idea, as it allowed him to spin his side of what happened.

But if one is to criticise Sutton for breaching the agreed upon confidentiality, doesn’t that apply both ways? A number of stories make it very clear that either the complainant is anonymously briefing media, or someone is on their behalf.

Now don’t get me wrong – the complainant is the wronged party. But if one is to criticise Sutton for talking publicly, then doesn’t the same apply to the other party?

As an example of the obvious briefings to the media.

The Herald:

The woman, who is bound by a confidentiality clause, said she was driven to take a stand because of what she says was similar treatment of other women at the organisation.

Another Herald story:

Meanwhile, other sources say there were problems with measures the commission put in place to keep Mr Sutton and the complainant at a distance while the allegations were being investigated.

These meant that he occasionally worked from Cera branch offices in the city, allowing the woman to work at the organisation’s HSBC Tower headquarters. The arrangement meant the complainant was told where Mr Sutton would be, so the two could avoid running into each other.

However, NZME News Service has been told Mr Sutton allegedly didn’t always stick to the arrangements and there were times the complainant believed they were both in the same building at the same time.

While their paths never crossed, the complainant raised concerns with the commission that Mr Sutton’s actions meant it was a very real possibility, the source said.

And today in the SST:

I’m told Sutton’s victim feels unable to walk down the street in her home city.

Now the complainant herself may not be talking to the media, but she is obviously talking to people who are talking to the media on her behalf. All these stories relay information only known to the complainant.

Now again Sutton is the one who has done wrong, and the SSC also stuffed up majorly with their press conference. But I think the ongoing anonymous briefings to the media on behalf of the complainant is not appropriate either.  Having this issue become an extended campaign of anonymous briefings to the media from one side, may encourage the other “side” to respond. I don’t think that would be a good outcome for anyone.

And once again so no one misrepresents me, I think both Sutton and the SSC are the ones who stuffed up and were in the wrong. But that doesn’t mean that one can’t be critical of what appears to be an ongoing release of information through anonymous sources.


Slightly different to petrol stations

November 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A supermarket boss told teenage checkout girls to fork out up to $700 when organised thieves walked off with full trolleys.

This sounds just as bad as the petrol station stories about making staff pay for drive offs, but there is a difference.

The mother of one of the Pak’nSave checkout girls said the company was “passing the buck” on to its least powerful workers. “Those sort of huge firms will just push you around and that’s just the way it is, they get away with it,” said the woman, who did not want to be named to protect her daughter from employment repercussions.

Her daughter, then 18, earned $13.75 and worked 10 to 30 hours a week. She was working with a colleague on one checkout early this year when two women approached with two trolleys. After the first, full of expensive goods, was scanned the first woman asked her to get her some eggs.

When she returned the woman was unloading the first trolley into a car as her accomplice prepared to pay the checkout operator for both trolleys – until her debit card was declined. “She said, I need to get another card from the car, then she went out and they took off with the first trolley. Cunning, eh?” said the worker’s mother.

The supermarket’s owner-operator Andrew Soutar insisted the teens were liable to split the cost of the theft, about $700, because they should have prevented it.

This is slightly different. The staff allowed the women to leave without paying. Yes they were conned, but there would be procedures such as don’t leave your till unattended, and don’t let someone leave unattended without leaving the unpaid groceries behind.

This is different to petrol stations where staff can’t actually do anything to prevent drive offs.

Now having said that, it’s still pretty heartless by the store owner. Rather than make the girls pay, I would give them a warning, tell them if they didn’t follow procedures in future then they may be liable, and use it as a training example for other staff on the sort of cons you can get.

The petrol station owners were probably breaking the law. The supermarket owner is not I would say, but I think they are lacking some compassion. It was a fairly sophisticated con, and you should allow people to learn from their mistakes. Having said that, it would be useful to know how explicit and detailed the policies and procedures were on what to do in these situations.


Where does Fairfax get their stats from?

November 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A year may have passed but the message is still the same. 

The second annual National Day of Action to Bust Rape Culture was held in Auckland and Wellington today.   

Organsier Jessie Hume and 200 other supporters turned out to the High Court in Auckland this afternoon to demand resolutions to an “endemic and devastating” rape culture. 

Hume said half of the supporters formed a circle with one donning red to represent the one in 100 women who receive justice in the form of accountability through the courts when making a rape complaint. 

It’s thought just ten per cent of sexual assaults are reported and only one per cent of those will lead to a conviction, according to the Ministry of Justice. 

I have great sympathy for the cause, but less sympathy for dodgy statistics.

The statistic on only 10% of sexual assaults are reported could well be true, sadly.  It comes from a 2001 report and anecdotal evidence from female (and some male) friends is that many have been assaulted and not reported it.

But the 1% figure is clearly wrong. Fairfax have written it in a way that states only 1% of those reported will lead to a conviction.

I blogged in 2009 on an excellent report by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs which reviewed 2,000 sexual violation complaints over a 30 month period.

They found 13% of complaints lead to a conviction, and of complaints deemed “valid”, 20% led to a conviction.

Not don’t get me wrong both figures are too low, and the story is right that we should have a higher conviction rate for valid complaints. But they are massively higher than 1%.

The research on what happens to complaints is interesting. The data is:

  • 8% deemed “false” by Police
  • 26% deemed “no offence” which usually means the victim withdrew the complaint. This doesn’t mean there was no offence, just that the complainant didn’t want to proceed.
  • 11% did not have a suspect identified
  • 24% did have a suspect identified but were not prosecuted. It was stated this is normally due to victim withdrawal, insufficient evidence or conflicting evidence
  • 18% did lead to a prosecution but the person was found not guilty or the case dropped
  • 13% were prosecuted and a person convicted

Of the 31% that went to trial, 16% had a guilty plea, 30% had the case withdrawn or discharged and 52% went to trial. The conviction rate for those that went to trial was 49% guilty and 51% acquitted.

The biggest factor is victim withdrawal – either initially, or before charges are laid or even charges are laid. This is not surprising as going forward can be extremely traumatizing.  This is where I think the focus should be – on having a less traumatic judicial process for victims. But I don’t support changing the burden of proof as proposed by Andrew Little.


Smith out of money

November 22nd, 2014 at 6:51 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Recaptured murderer Phillip Smith has had all his money confiscated, and his family and former business partner are refusing to stump up cash to pay for a lawyer.

Tony Ellis, who has represented Smith in New Zealand, has been trying to arrange a Brazilian lawyer to visit him in jail in Rio de Janeiro. But they all want payment upfront. One had asked for a business-class airfare to New Zealand to discuss the case, Ellis said.

When Smith, 40, fled from Auckland Airport on November 6, he told Customs officers he was carrying $10,600.

Whatever money he had when he was arrested nine days ago was confiscated, and was being held under a court order at the New Zealand embassy. It could not be released without court approval.

“It’s a catch 22,” Ellis said. “If he had given me any money, I could have gone over there and organised this, but I don’t have any money to do that.”

He approached Smith’s family yesterday to see if they could provide $2000 towards legal costs. However, a spokesman for the family said they could not afford to help.

Oh dear. His plan is not going so well.

Of course if he had not fled New Zealand, then he wouldn’t have all these problems.


Wi-Fi must be banned!

November 21st, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Balclutha parent has resigned from her school’s board of trustees because she believes it is not taking her concerns about Wi-Fi in classrooms seriously. …

Many New Zealand schools operate Wi-Fi in classrooms, but former board member Julia Hunter said she had serious concerns the Government was not paying attention to the growing evidence of biological damage being caused by Wi-Fi, and instead continued to reassure boards everything was safe.

”Sadly, our New Zealand standard is 15 years old and was set on the thermal heating of a 90kg man after only six minutes of exposure.

”Our children . . . are being exposed to this equipment for six hours a day, five days a week.”

Sounds terrible! Except …

Ministry of Education student achievement head Graham Stoop said measurements in New Zealand and overseas showed exposures to radio frequency fields from Wi-Fi equipment were extremely low, amounting to tiny fractions of the limit allowed for the public in New Zealand.

A recent study of two New Zealand schools found the highest exposures were 4000 times below the limit, with typical exposures more than 10,000 times below the limit, he said.

If it was half the limit then maybe you’d get worried.

She also found:

Mrs Hunter said there had been no long-term scientific studies conducted on the harm the equipment was doing to children, and in 2011 the World Health Organisation re-classified Wi-Fi electromagnetic as 2B, a possible carcinogen.

They love that word carcinogen.

”Exposures from Wi-Fi are significantly lower than cellphones. The class 2B classification is also shared with everyday items such as coffee, pickled vegetables, talcum powder and sunblock.”

We must ban coffee and talcum powder in schools also!


No tag for this post.

Punish the thieves not the workers

November 21st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Customers cost service stations millions by fleeing without paying, but low-paid workers appear to be bearing the brunt.

In the wake of a story yesterday highlighting the case of workers at Masterton’s Night ‘n Day store, which also operates a Gull service station, being docked wages after customers drove off without paying, employees at other stations have come forward with more examples of the practice.

At least one other service station in the Wellington area routinely docked workers for “drive-offs”, and dozens of reader comments and emails spoke of other instances.

“I asked my boss, ‘How are we supposed to stop the drivers?’ And he said . . . ‘You’ve got to try to do your best to stop them getting off the forecourt’,” said a Hutt Valley Caltex station worker, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.

That’s appalling. Would a retailer dock wages off staff to compensate for shoplifters?

Of course staff should attempt to stop drive offs, but in many cases it won’t be possible.

The solution for owners is to report drive offs to the Police, not to take it from their staff’s pay.


Red Riding Hood

November 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Had a very enjoyable Saturday night at the opening of Roger Hall’s latest (annual) pantomime at Circa. It was an enjoyable Wellington centric piss take of the old story, which was first published in 1697.

Gavin Rutherford plays the lead role of Grandma Hood with applomb. He is an old hand at playing these roles and his ability to ad lib adds to the humour – especially when he discovers the person he has picked out of the audience at random is also called Gavin.

Carrie Green plays her daughter, Dahlia Hood. Think of a red headed version of Paula Bennett and you’ll get the idea. Her and Grandma Hood are both keen on the same man – Sir Roger Bounder.

Bounder is the villain of the show, played by Patrick Davies. He wants to buy their homes and them turn Zealandia into a housing sub-division so their home values will increase and he makes a profit. The kids happily boo him everytime he is one stage.

Jane Waddell and Jonathan Morgan play Boris and Morris, and provide a lot of the comedic event. They’re ex MPs not on work schemes.

Simon Leary is Lance, the hero of the play – a DOC ranger. He of course wants to stop Sir Roger and win Red Riding Hood’s heart.


Awhimai Fraser plays Red Riding Hood and excels in capturing her innocence.

Finally Tom Truss plays the wolf, who provides more humour than fear.

It’s a good cast, and a very funny script with lots of jokes for the adults – and many Wellington references.

Definitely a great play to take the kids to, or just to go to yourself if you want a couple of hours of laughs.

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Countdown cleared

November 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The competition watchdog has found no evidence that Countdown and its Australian-owned parent Progressive Enterprises used intimidation against suppliers.

The Commerce Commission said that based on the evidence it gathered during a nine-month investigation it “does not believe that Progressive has breached any of the laws it enforces and it will not be taking any action against Progressive”.

So was it much ado about nothing?

Countdown from all accounts is an aggressive company when it comes to supplier negotiations. But that doesn’t mean they have broken the law, and indeed it seems they have not.

However there is a lesson to them perhaps that if you upset your suppliers to the extent they go running to MPs and the media, well your corporate reputation can get damaged.


More to Sutton case than a hug

November 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

A former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority worker has blasted the official investigation into accusations of sexual harassment by former chief executive Roger Sutton as “incompetent”. …

Former communications adviser Tina Nixon questioned whether “people really think that a hug was what it was all about”. …

“No woman in the public service should currently feel confident that any complaint would be investigated professionally and without bias,” said Ms Nixon, who left Cera earlier this year to become economic development programme manager at Masterton District Council.

Cera operated the most “robust environment” she had experienced, in having worked in “half dozen or so” government departments.

Therefore, she said people needed to “get past the breathtaking PR snow job”.

The woman at the centre of the incident had done more for the post-earthquake Christchurch community “than many people I know”, Ms Nixon said. …

I know Tina Nixon well. She’s a friend. Tina is no sensitive 1970s feminist petal. She’s a tough as boots battler who kills mutton birds the old fashioned way by biting their necks. If Tina says that there was far more to this than the odd hug, she is worth listening to when she says the press conference was a “breathtaking PR snow job”

Andrea Vance wrote yesterday:

Gosh. Wasn’t that all a silly misunderstanding over dear old, affectionate Roger Sutton yesterday? Lost his job over a couple of hugs and a few off-colour remarks.

It’s a shame really. On Thursday, Roger was going to speak at a construction industry event in Christchurch called “How to attract women to your jobs”. He’ll probably have to give it a miss now.

Thankfully, those decent chaps at the State Services Commission (SSC) have got his back.

In a year when the public service should be self-flagellating over the mishandling of the Malaysian diplomat sexual assault case and the Roastbusters scandal, the SSC has taken victim-shaming to a whole new level.

Sutton’s victim did not make her complaint lightly. She’s respected, professional (not that this matters) and, like any woman forced into this nightmare, would have worried about her career. But, she bravely made a stand and forced her harasser to face up to his actions.

And how did the SSC reward her for her courage? They allowed her to be victim-shamed. First privately. And then very publicly.

First, she was sent home to work. Sutton remained in his job at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority offices for the course of an eight-week investigation.

Her complaint was upheld. But the SSC did not deem it serious enough for Sutton to be sacked.

I can’t describe the nature of the complaints. But, as described to me, behaviour of that nature is sexist, humiliating, demeaning and an assertion of power over the victim.

I think Andrea makes some valid points. It seems what went on was more serious than was portrayed at the press conference, and allowing Sutton to spin his version of what happened was unfair to the complainant.

My view has been that it would have been preferable for the complainant to raise the issues internally with a deputy Secretary and/or HR manager and have them talk to Sutton and tell him that his style is making some staff feel uncomfortable. And then only if no change, elevate it up to the SSC. While I don’t know the full process of what happened, it seems that these issues are long standing and that there were attempts internally to raise concerns.

The Press has some more details:

The Press has obtained details of the complaint from a source that describes the nature of Sutton’s alleged impropriety.

They include: 

- Suggesting to young female staff that they participate in “visible G-string Friday”.

- Unwanted, body-press hugs.

- Asking the complainant whom she considered to be “hot” and “sexy” and who she would like to have sex with.

- Calling female staff members “honey” and “sweetie”.

A public sector CEO should not be behaving like that. It does create a hostile work environment for female staff.

The Press has seen details provided by another Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) employee as part of the SSC investigation into Sutton.

This alleges:

- Sutton made a sexually suggestive comment about Prime Minister John Key’s wife, Bronagh, in the presence of the chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Andrew Kibblewhite.

That’s rather stupid!

A friend of the complainant yesterday released a statement expressing concern that Sutton’s show of contrition had allowed him to downplay his actions.

“The unfairness of this is just wrong. She has followed all the rules, kept quiet and maintained her dignity, yet the other side gets to play the sympathy card and laud it over her.

“Someone needs to speak for her before any more damage is done and victims everywhere decide there is no point fighting the big man’s system.

“It has torn her up – she loves her job at Cera.”

The press conference was a very bad idea, as it allowed Sutton to frame the issue on his terms.

Meanwhile, State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie yesterday confirmed he was considering sanctions against Sutton for breaching confidentiality. …

Rennie would not discuss the allegations yesterday, saying he was bound by confidentiality clauses, as were Sutton and the complainant.

He believed Sutton had breached the agreement by divulging details of the case at Monday’s press conference and had told him so.

Last night, Rennie said he was considering what action to take against Sutton.

Wouldn’t it have been a good idea and somewhat competent to work out before hand what would be said at the press conference?

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The Dotcom legal team

November 18th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom will face tougher new bail conditions and make a daily visit to the police for at least the next week.

The restrictions – imposed yesterday by Judge Nevin Dawson – ban him from using a helicopter, travelling by boat or going more than 80km from his rented Coatesville mansion.

Dotcom, who is fighting extradition to the United States, must also report daily to the Albany police station.

The new conditions are in place only until next Monday, when Dotcom will appear for a bail hearing in the Auckland District Court.

The restrictions follow Crown lawyer Christine Gordon yesterday making an allegation that the Herald is not permitted to publish.

Fascinating. It is unusual to have more stringent bail conditions applied. Normally, bail conditions lessen over time.

Before the issue of bail, Judge Dawson gave Dotcom’s former lawyers – Queen’s Counsel Paul Davison and firm Simpson Grierson – leave to withdraw from the case.

Simpson Grierson have not just withdrawn but deleted all mention of Dotcom from their website – including editing previous published newsletters.

Would be interesting to know why they withdrew? Have they not been paid? Or is it for professional reasons?

Mr Davison did not disclose to the court why he was stepping down and said the reasons were “private and confidential”.

Wellington barrister Graeme Edgeler acted for Dotcom in court yesterday after the lawyers withdrew. Fletcher Pilditch, representing accused Finn Batato, was also given leave to withdraw as the lawyer for that defendant.

I suspect Graeme costs a bit less than a QC! But that may not be the reason.

We also might get a decision at some stage soon in the John Banks appeal, where allegedly new witnesses have contradicted the evidence given by Dotcom.


Well done Max

November 18th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

If you were Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, you would need and expect the smartest kid on the block for your research and she had that with Max Harris, a Wellingtonian Rhodes Scholar, graduate from Auckland University who has just won what has been called the ‘hardest exam in the world’.

The exam is the Prize Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford University, which is undoubtedly one of the world’s most prestigious academic awards.  Auckland University Dean Andrew Stockley says it is an “incredible opportunity” and Max, who a correspondent says is not only super smart but a “really nice nerd,” is interested in indigenous issues, prison policy and plays sport badly, he says.  A young man to watch, without question. 

That’s a very impressive achievement.

In terms of his future, I named him in 2012 as a future Attorney-General for Labour.


Suppressed name

November 18th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A complaint has been lodged with police against a former politician who tweeted the name of a prominent Otago man who has permanent name suppression.

The man’s lawyer, Jonathan Eaton, QC, confirmed to the Otago Daily Times a “formal complaint was lodged with the NZ police last evening”.

That complaint related to a tweet by a former politician who named the man on Twitter.

The Herald have not named the former politician. It is not hard to guess though. I’m interested in where liability may lie if you do name the former politician who tweeted. Think through these scenarios.

  1. If I retweeted the tweet naming the prominent Otago man, then that would very likely mean I breached the supression order also
  2. If I did not retweet it, but provided a link on my blog to the tweet, would that make me liable? Probably.
  3. What if I do not link to the specific tweet, but did link to the twitter account. Would I be liable? Less clear cut.
  4. And what if I named the former politician who tweeted, but did not link to his twitter account. Is simply naming him something that could make me liable? I would hope not, but like the Herald won’t risk it.

The former politician still has the tweets up, and has repeated the name in a subsequent tweet, so I don’t think he cares if he gets prosecuted. Hard to imagine he won’t be, as the breach is deliberate and sustained. I have sympathy for what he did as I think name suppression should not have been granted, but think it is unwise for anyone to deliberately breach a legal order.

Any commenter who names (or hints at identity) of the tweeter (or the supressed) will get a strike.

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Smith likely to return voluntarily

November 16th, 2014 at 7:06 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Runaway killer Phillip John Smith will voluntarily return to New Zealand to escape harsh conditions in the Brazilian jail system, says his lawyer.

Smith was transferred from the notorious Ary Franco Prison to the Bandeira Stampa public jail, part of the Gericino Penitentiary Complex – the largest public prison in Brazil – on Friday.

If the 40-year-old sex offender chooses to fight his extradition to New Zealand, he could face several months in a dangerous and basic South American prison.

Smith boasted from Brazil that New Zealand would have considerable difficulty getting him back – if they caught him.

But given the conditions behind bars, lawyer Tony Ellis said he expected his client would voluntarily return to New Zealand, rather than go through an extradition or deportation process.

That would be good.

When he is back in NZ, he will face further charges, but to some degree they are meaningless. He is already on a life sentence, and I think his actions have shown he should never get parole, so hopefully he can fade to a distant memory.


Sutton’s future

November 15th, 2014 at 7:49 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton says he is considering his future after an allegation he sexually harassed a staff member.

The allegation accuses Sutton of harassing a senior female staffer, including making inappropriate jokes, comments and giving her an unwelcome hug.

A State Services Commission inquiry into the claims by a staff member is expected to deliver a finding next week. The inquiry has taken about seven weeks. …

Sutton, a flamboyant cycle-riding face of the recovery authority, said last night he could not talk about details of the complaint although The Press understands he has disputed some of the allegations or the alleged intention behind his behaviour.

“I can be a larrikin and make stupid silly jokes. It is a very difficult, stressful job and I’ve sometimes used humour to cope. I wish this wasn’t happening and I was horrified when I learned about it [the allegations],” he said.

“But I’m not the victim. I’ve made some stupid mistakes.”

One has to be careful of commenting without knowing the full details.

However I would make the point that if the issue was his general behaviour, rather than specific attention towards one staffer, it seems a pity it could not have been sorted out without a formal complaint. But maybe that was tried and got nowhere?

CERA staff need to be able to not feel harassed in the workplace, but if it is a case of misjudged humour rather than deliberate harassment, it would be a pity if it resulted in a widely respected CEO departing. But again, conclusions can be dangerous without the full facts.


Smith arrested in Brazil

November 13th, 2014 at 8:16 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Escaped prisoner Phillip John Smith has been taken into custody by Brazil Federal Police, NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush has confirmed.

A New Zealand Police liaison officer in Brazil visited Smith after his arrest and confirmed his identity.

Smith was due to appear in court at 7am in relation to an Interpol Red Notice and the New Zealand arrest warrant.

Bush confirmed Smith was located at a hostel in the Rio de Janeiro suburb of Santa Teresa, Brazil about 2am (NZ time).

He was now in the custody of Brazil Federal Police. 

That is welcome news. All his planning seems to have achieved little except probably getting him back behind bars for longer.

Police would work with the Brazil authorities, Interpol and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in order to make the necessary arrangements to return Smith to New Zealand.

There is no extradition treaty with Brazil but somehow I don’t think they will be keen to have a convicted murderer and paedophile remain in Brazil when they can return him to NZ.


A clusterf**k

November 12th, 2014 at 5:57 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The manipulative killer on the run in South America is now playing mind games through his New Zealand lawyer, police believe.

Phillip John Smith, 40, who fled the country while on temporary release from Springhill prison in Waikato, has contacted human rights lawyer Tony Ellis by email from Brazil saying he wants to make a media statement tomorrow, and telling his victims not to be concerned about their safety.

He was sending encrypted emails so his location could not be identified, Ellis said.

Authorities in Chile say Smith never entered that country after flying from Auckland to Santiago on Thursday. He took another plane to Sao Paulo, and then to Rio de Janeiro.

There are several inquiries underway, but to say the least, it it totally unacceptable that Smith managed to get a passport and leave NZ. Also the decision to give him temporary release looks a very bad one, albeit with hindsight.

Also Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has apologised unreservedly to the family of Phillip Smith’s victims for his flippant comments yesterday.

And he announced overnight the government was also considering if a ministerial inquiry should be held into how Smith was able to flee the country.

Key had talked on Monday about fugitive killer Smith having “done a runner” and had said he would tell Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, whose country Smith was thought to be in: “I’ll just let her know that someone could be out there from New Zealand she may not want to invite round for lunch.”

An insensitive joke.

The family of the man the escaped killer had killed and the boy he had abused said they were revolted by Key’s joke and disgusted that he laughed about it.

Speaking to reporters at the Apec summit in Beijing, Key said he was sorry.

“Obviously it was a very poorly placed attempt at humour and I regret that and I unreservedly apologise.”

“I just misinterpreted the question,” he said.

He said he “absolutely” apologised to the family. They deserved a personal apology from him, and if they wanted one, “I am more than happy to give that to them.”

When you stuff up, apologise.


The cost of domestic violence

November 11th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Sir Owen Glenn’s family violence inquiry has stumbled again, producing a $7 billion estimated cost of family violence based on the mis-reading of a key research paper.

A report by economist Suzanne Snively and Wellington theatre student Sherilee Kahui, published by the inquiry yesterday, said family violence cost New Zealand between $4.1 billion and $7 billion a year – up from Ms Snively’s last estimate in 1994 of just $1 billion.

But the higher figure of $7 billion was based on a claim that 23.6 per cent of women born in Christchurch in 1977 suffered intimate partner violence in the year leading up to interviews when they were 25 in about 2002.

That figure in the original paper published in 2005 by the Christchurch Health and Development Study actually refers to the number of men as well as women who scored 3 or 4 points on a violence victimisation scale for intimate partner violence.

Two-thirds of people in the study scored below 3 points and 9.4 per cent scored above 4 points.

Those scoring 3 or 4 points were described in the original paper as “predominantly a group of individuals reporting frequent minor psychological aggression and occasionally severe psychological aggression”, but “none reported any of the signs of severe domestic violence [injury or fearfulness]”.

So that would mean the estimate is around three times as large as it should be.

NZ does have a woeful record with domestic violence. I have a particular loathing for it. But reports that use such inflated figures probably damage the cause they are trying to assist with.

Personally I’m not very interested in the economic cost of domestic violence. It is the personal cost to those involved which is terrible.


Good employment and wages news

November 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The latest jobs and wages data from Stats NZ finds:

  • Employment up 72,000 in last year, being 66,000 full-time and 6,000 part-time
  • Unemployment down 14,000 in last year
  • Labour force up by 57,000
  • Unemployment rate down to 5.4%, from 6.1% a year ago
  • NZ 9th lowest unemployment rate in OECD of 34 countries.
  • Unemployment rate now 0.7% lower than Australia and US, 0.9% lower than UK and 1.5% lower than Canada
  • The NEET (Not in employment, education or training) rate for under 20s down to 7.2% from 8.1% a year ago
  • Average weekly earnings up (over year) 1.8%, being 2.2% in private sector and 1.4% in public sector
  • Average hourly earnings up 2.4%, being 3.0% in private sector and 1.0% in public sector
  • Male hourly earnings up 2.0% and female hourly earnings up 2.7%
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Kitteridge’s first interview as SIS Director

November 3rd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

If there’s one thing that irks Rebecca Kitteridge, it is being referred to as the new head of the SIS spy agency.

Yes, she became director of the Security Intelligence Service six months ago but it’s the spy word. It suggests the purpose of the agency is spying.

“It’s one of the things that drives me mad,” she tells the Weekend Herald.

“The purpose is security, the security of New Zealanders,” she says.

“And we have to do that by covert means because when people are planning to do ill to the country, they will try to keep that secret …

“But the purpose of it is security. The purpose of it is not to spy.”

A reasonable point that spying is the means, not the ends.

Kitteridge watched the Moment of Truth event in the Auckland Town Hall hosted by Dotcom, and featuring NSA leaker Edward Snowden via satellite from Russia, and the journalist who wrote Snowden’s story, Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald himself was of no interest in terms of security.

“He is a journalist. He has freedom of speech. He is entitled to come here and do his thing.”

But she was annoyed over the claims of mass surveillance.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s not happening, full stop. Not even mini-surveillance let alone mass surveillance.

“What I can say is I absolutely did see what was going on at GCSB and there is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders.”

This has also been confirmed by the Inspector-General and the Privacy Commissioner.

She said the image of a typical SIS officer as an older man was rooted in the Cold War days when the focus was on Russian espionage, but the SIS had well and truly moved on.

And the old image was an anachronism to the reality of today’s 250 or so SIS staff with whom she meets every fortnight, including those in Auckland via video, in what she calls a town hall meeting.

“I had a town hall meeting today … What struck me is that it is not older men but young dynamic lively people, parents, people who go to the supermarket, people who go to the creche.

While it is an offence to identify any SIS officer except the Director, maybe the annual report could include some demographic information of the SIS workforce. My rare dealings with SIS staff had all been older males, but this was some time ago.

What happened in Canada last week — a soldier deliberately run down by a car and another soldier shot while standing guard at a memorial in Ottawa — was one of the main issues.

She said it was a wake-up call because New Zealanders saw Canada as “quite like us” and it was disturbing in that such situations would be very difficult to stop.

This is where she talks about “crowd-sourced terrorism”, a new term to describe lone-wolf acts of terrorism conducted by people who show no intent, after exhortation by Isis on the internet.

“What [Isis] is doing is they are sending out this material which is awful, it’s all on the internet … urges people to do small-scale attacks that are not complicated, that don’t require planning, that don’t require anything fancy, nothing more than a knife or a car or something you can light a fire with that will cause the maximum fear and devastation and havoc and loss of life.

“That is the explicit message and it is to attack the West.”

All that that was needed was intent. Capability was not difficult to put together and the whole purpose was to create a sense of terror in the population.

“I think that whole model of crowd-sourced terrorism that is actually very dispersed and where any individual can do it and they are not concerned about their own life is a very disturbing change.”

Crowd-sourced terrorism. If it catches on, it will be incredibly challenging for the reasons cited – no great capacity for planning and execution needed.

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Broadcasting Standards Authority – September Decisions

October 31st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Guest Post by Nigel Kearney:

Broadcasting Standards Authority – September Decisions

The BSA issued 21 decisions in September made up of 9 TVNZ, 4 TV3, 5 radio, 1 Sky and 2 election ads. Only one was (partially) upheld and, as you would expect, most had no real merit and were quickly disposed of. The decisions can be found here.

There’s no point in trying to analyze the merit or reasoning of the decisions because the very existence of the BSA is inconsistent with free speech. But what we can do is amuse ourselves with the foolishness of the complainants and, occasionally, the authority itself.

The silliest complaint decided in September was made by a Rebecca van der Kley of Christchurch. It concerned a Fair Go investigation into a Christchurch roofer who had taken money from customers and not completed the work. The roofer was interviewed and gave his side of the story so you may wonder what the problem was.

One of the roofer’s excuses for his non-performance was that he had mental health issues. He volunteered this information when he knew he was on camera. Apparently Ms van der Kley was nevertheless sufficently outraged that she decided to lodge a complaint alleging a breach of the fraudster’s privacy.

It’s possible for anyone to complain to the BSA about a breach of someone else’s privacy. It doesn’t matter whether the ‘victim’ considers their privacy has been breached or may even have voluntarily revealed the information. These kind of complaints seem very popular. Normally, a complaint about breach of broadcasting standards has to be lodged with the broadcaster first but a privacy complaint can be made directly to the BSA. I’m no psychologist, but I think maybe the sort of people who make these complaints prefer a ‘blab to the teacher’ approach rather than directly confronting the person they have a problem with, and the privacy standard allows them to do that.

Dishonourable mentions for most unjustified complaining go to Metua Pekepo of Auckland for complaining about inaccuracy where the Internet party was referred to by the name of its bankroller instead of the offical party name, and to Elizabeth Samuel of Kaiapoi for complaining about the word ‘fuck’ being used in show screened after 8:30 and after a warning about ‘frequent use of coarse language’. Apparently it was too soon after 8:30 or something.

As I said above, I don’t believe the BSA serves any purpose, and therefore no complaint should be upheld ever. But it’s worth noting their rationale for declining a complaint by Victor Wieland of Auckland about lack of balance in a global warming story:

“…this item did not purport to discuss the different sides of the debate around the existence, or causes of climate change. It simply reported the latest findings of the IPCC, so it did not amount to a ‘discussion’ which required the presentation of alternative views.”

I wonder if it would be the same if there was a story on the economy consisting entirely of repeating some findings from the NZ Initiative.

This post would not be complete without mentioning the ‘heifers and lardos’ comment by Rachel Smalley. Chris Du Fall of Wellington saw fit to complain to the BSA about this even after the broadcaster itself upheld her complaint and apologized publicly. The BSA rightly rejected the complaint and also noted they would not have taken any action even if the broadcaster had done nothing. The actual comments were, of course, absolutely true and their broadcast was a valuable public service, albeit unintentional.


Interest rates may hold for another year

October 24th, 2014 at 11:02 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Economists now expect the Reserve Bank to keep interest rates on hold until September next year after inflation in the September quarter proved even more benign than it had forecast.

The consumers price index rose 0.3 per cent in the quarter, when the median market forecast had been 0.5 per cent and the Reserve Bank’s 0.7 per cent.

Westpac and ASB have pushed back their forecasts of when the Reserve Bank will next raise the official cash rate to September 2015.

That will be welcome news to everyone with a mortgage.


As this graph from the Reserve Bank shows, home owners have had the longest period of relatively low interest rates in 25 years.


The $800,000 man

October 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An unnamed ACC employee – understood to be investment manager Nicholas Bagnall, who oversees almost $27 billion in taxpayer funds – got over $800,000 in pay last year, likely making him our highest paid public servant.

The breakdown of staff pay in ACC’s annual report yesterday reveals its highest paid received between $810,000 and $820,000 in the last year.

Some may be surprised that a manager may get less than a CEO, but I’ve seen this before with IT Managers getting paid more than their bosses.

The Herald understands the ACC employee is not ACC chief executive Scott Pickering but a member of the state-owned injury insurer’s investment team, as was the corporation’s second highest-paid staffer, on just over $700,000.

Mr Bagnall has led ACC’s investment team for the past 15 years. He would not confirm he was the employee referred to in ACC’s report but said he was “very well paid”.

I don’t have a problem with Mr Bagnall being paid that much, if he is performing well enough to justify it.

The ACC Annual Report shows ACC has financial assets of $27.6 billion and they got a 6.3% return on investment which is $1.6 billion of income. Paying someone $800,000 a year to manage $27.6 billion of assets seems reasonable. A 0.1% improved return of investment of those assets is worth $27 million.