Hooray for Labour/Green Budget Responsibility Rules

I’m delighted that Labour and Greens have signed up some Budget Responsibility Rules. This represents a huge shift for the middle ground of NZ politics.

For the last 20 years or so the parties of the left have campaigned on tax increases and massively increased spending. Now Labour and Greens have said that will keep government spending to under 30% of GDP.

In 2008/09 Labour left office with core crown expenditure at 35.5% of GDP.  It took a massive effort by National to get it down to under 30% by 2015. Labour and Greens opposed pretty much every one of those spending cuts or restraints yet now they are saying they will stick to a similar expenditure level. Again, this is a huge shift, and a massive victory for the forces of fiscal conservatism.

What is the difference between spending 30% and 35% of GDP? Around $12 billion a year.

No wonder the CTU is pissed.

Now it isn’t a bulletproof pledge, and I’ll go through the details. And NZ First has not signed up, and there is no way Labour and Greens can form a Government without them, so they may use that to escape their pledge. But even with those caveats, this is a welcome step for them, after nine years of calling for nothing but extra spending, they have pledged to keep the share of the economy the state spends to the same level as National has got it after eight years.

So let’s take their pledges in turn:

1. The Government will deliver a sustainable operating surplus across an economic cycle.

An OBEGAL surplus indicates the Government is financially disciplined and building resilience to withstand and adapt to unforeseen events. We expect to be in surplus every year unless there is a significant natural event or a major economic shock or crisis. Our surpluses will exist once our policy objectives have been met, and we will not artificially generate surpluses by underfunding key public services.

Of course it is National’s hard work that has allowed this pledge, but still good to have it.

However note the wriggle room – our surpluses will exist once our policy objectives have been met. That could be used as an excuse to never have a surplus, as no Government ever ever says all their policy objectives have been met.

2. The Government will reduce the level of Net Core Crown Debt to 20% of GDP within five years of taking office.

To give future generations more options, reducing government debt has to be a priority. By setting a target, provided that economic conditions allow, we will be able to make responsible debt reductions and invest in housing and infrastructure that strengthen our country and prepare us for future challenges.

Good. Only two more years than National. Again some wriggle room around economic conditions allowing.

3. The Government will prioritise investments to address the long-term financial and sustainability challenges facing New Zealand.

The Government will prioritise responsible investments that enhance the long term wellbeing of New Zealanders – such as restarting contributions to the Super Fund. In addition we will invest in infrastructure to support our growing population, and reduce the long term fiscal and economic risks of climate change.

A bit meaningless as National has said contributions will restart also and is investing massively in infrastructure. This target has no measure against it, like the others.

4. The Government will take a prudent approach to ensure expenditure is phased, controlled, and directed to maximise its benefits. The Government will maintain its expenditure to within the recent historical range of spending to GDP ratio.

During the global financial crisis Core Crown spending rose to 34% of GDP. However, for the last 20 years, Core Crown spending has been around 30% of GDP and we will manage our expenditure carefully to continue this trend.

Actually it started to exceed 30% in 2005/06 when Cullen started to go on a massive spending binge. This is the key pledge. This means spending will not increase faster than the economy as a whole.

5. The Government will ensure a progressive taxation system that is fair, balanced, and promotes the long-term sustainability and productivity of the economy.

The Government will ensure a progressive taxation system that is fair, balanced, and promotes the long-term sustainability and productivity of the economy.

Again no hard numbers for this one. We already have a highly progressive tax system. Labour have promised separately no tax increases in their first term – another huge change from decades of arguing for tax increases.

  • The credibility of our Budget Responsibility Rules requires a mechanism that makes the government accountable. Independent oversight will provide the public with confidence that the government is sticking to the rules.
  • We will establish a body independent of Ministers of the Crown who will be responsible for determining if these rules are being met. The body will also have oversight of government economic and fiscal forecasts, shall provide an independent assessment of government forecasts to the public, and will cost policies of opposition parties.

Excellent – a great idea.

But now comes the challenge for Labour and Greens. Over the last two years they have called for billions of dollars of extra spending that would breach these fiscal rules they have just agreed to.  So which of these policies will they drop:

  • $161 million to eliminate school fees
  • $1.9 billion for health
  • $1.2 billion million for Kiwisaver subsidies
  • $163 million for rural roads
  • $92 million for paid parental leave extension
  • $50 million for more refugees
  • $1.2 billion to eliminate tertiary fees
  • $200 million for Housing NZ
  • $500 million for child policy
  • $60 million for youth unemployment
  • $480 million for special needs students

Just those few promises or pledges total around $6 billion a year. They can’t do half of them under their fiscal rules. They need to be up front with New Zealanders about which policies they are going to fund.

Guest Post: Prisoners hairpieces and human rights

A guest post by David Garrett:

On 16 March 2017, Justice Wylie decided that  denying convicted paedophile and murderer Philip John Smith his hairpiece was a breach of his “human rights”; more particularly, his  right to “self expression”. I know nothing of Justice Wylie or his antecedents, and if I did, I would be very loathe to comment on them, for obvious reasons. But surely this decision prompts – at the very least – a discussion on just what “rights” prisoners in New Zealand jails should enjoy?

It has long been a left wing mantra that here in Godzone, prisoners are sent to jail “as punishment, and not FOR punishment”. Decoded, that clause means that the punishment handed down by a Judge is limited to the deprivation of liberty – the loss  of the right to take the dog for a walk, buy an ice cream at the dairy, and have a beer on the deck in the evening. All other human rights supposedly  remain unaffected: now  we see the right to “self expression” being specifically preserved in the form of the right to wear a hairpiece which was employed as part of a disguise used to  escape lawful custody.

The right to “self expression” appears to be one with few boundaries: recently I saw a UK documentary in which vandals quite openly said that trashing public and private property should form part of their right to “express ourselves”. Rather than guffaw in amazement, the interviewer nodded wisely, and appeared to think that was a reasonable argument.

Well, my view is very different.  Fifty  years ago – which of course is an eternity to millenials – bouncing a cheque was considered to be a shameful thing which warranted a short prison sentence. As recently as 1974, Elton John’s then manager served a 30 day sentence in Mt Eden for assaulting journalist Judith Baragwanath. (His sentence was confirmed on appeal).  

Forty odd years later, it is extremely difficult to get sent to prison: on average a prisoner has appeared before the courts  eleven times – that’s eleven appearances, not eleven charges – before he is sent to jail. Therefore, it is fair to say that prisoners are, with very few exceptions, what used to be called “bad bastards.” So what human rights should those bad bastards enjoy? I do not believe that liberty is the only thing prisoners should lose.

Commenters on Kiwiblog frequently argue that the worst  murderers should forfeit life itself; that capital punishment is the only just penalty for deviant humans such as Philip John Smith. The reality is that there will never be a restoration of capital punishment in New Zealand, no matter how egregious the offence, or how certain the offender’s guilt.  I have on other occasions set out the reasons for my view that it would be inappropriate – and indeed counter productive – if murderers  here faced the death penalty, even as a discretionary sentence.

But that is an entirely different issue from what rights are appropriate for prisoners of the New Zealand justice system. Given the reality – that to be sent to prison one usually  has had to be convicted of numerous offences, often involving violence – I nail  my colours to the mast, and say that a prisoner’s rights should be substantially fewer than those of other members of the community.

Prisoners used to be distinguished by what they wore: their uniforms were either arrows (never quite got the rationale behind that) or horizontal stripes; either way, the intent was to make them immediately distinguishable  from law abiding members of society, both within the jails and  if they escaped. Prisoners used to have their heads virtually shaved – today’s equivalent of a “number two”. So long as they behaved, they were fed adequately – somewhat better than prisoners of war – but put on “Number One Diet” if they misbehaved.  Prisoners who were determined to buck the system could find themselves in solitary confinement, potentially for many months.

So here we are, fifty or sixty years later. Prisoners wear what they like. The prison barber will cut their hair as they wish. There is no solitary confinement, or Number One Diet – that would breach the prisoner’s human rights. As of 16 March 2017, bald prisoners’ human rights include the right to wear a hairpiece – even if the wearing of that rug aided their escape.

In my view, the case of Philip John Smith and his hairpiece should prompt a wholesale review of the doctrine that deprivation of liberty is the only punishment prisoners should suffer. It is my personal view that prisoners should leave a whole suite of “human rights” at the prison gate: they have by their actions, disqualified themselves from the right to wear what they like; from the right to have their hair cut as they wish; the right to have their food fads indulged;  from the right to assuage their vanity by the wearing of a hairpiece.

Establishing a set of prisoners’ rights would legislatively be very simple: an Act setting out what those rights were, and an amendment to the Bill of Rights Act (BORA) that made it subject to the Prisoners’ Rights Act. But while the enabling legislation would be simple and short,  the change in culture would be huge – the last two generations before the present have grown up with a focus on their extensive and inalienable rights – and being “non judgmental” is seen as  perhaps one of the most important.

The corollary of that is that prisoners are seen by many as being individuals who just need  help support and compassion – and perhaps a dose of religion – in order to become good citizens. Sadly the reality is, in my view, very different. In short, and with very few exceptions, most prisoners – and almost all of those who have been to prison more than once – will keep offending until age wearies them of incarceration, usually by their 40’s.

So what do I think prisoners’ rights should be? Obviously the right to be adequately housed and fed – but “adequately housed” should not include underfloor heating in cells. If pensioners have to go to bed early in the winter because they can’t afford heating, why the hell should prisoners be better off? Prisoners ought to have the right to prompt and adequate  medical care – but not access to more than basic dentistry. Many ordinary working people cannot afford to get a root canal or a crown, and thus have an extraction – once the pain becomes unbearable. Again, why should prisoners have it any better?

Prisoners should once again have to wear distinctive uniforms, both to reinforce their status, and to make them easier to catch if they grow tired of accommodation courtesy of Her Majesty. They should again have number two haircuts. They should again face meaningful punishments within jail for breaking or disregarding the rules.

I do not expect any of this to happen – I believe our society has gone too far down the road of soft treatment of those who break its rules, and towards a focus on rights to the exclusion of responsibilities. But let us at least have a debate about it.  If a declaration by a High Court Judge that  to wear a hair piece used as part of a disguise facilitating an escape is a “human right”  does not prompt us to reconsider prisoners’ rights, surely nothing else will.

NZDF responds to Hager allegations

From the NZ Defence Force:

NZDF STATEMENT ON HAGER/STEPHENSON BOOK

The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit and Run, is incorrect, says the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties.

Since the release of the book, the New Zealand Defence Force has spent considerable time reviewing the claims contained in it, despite the allegations of civilian casualties being the subject of a NATO investigation in 2010.

Upon review of Hit and Run, it is evident there are some major inaccuracies – the main one being the location and names of the villages where the authors claim civilians were killed and property was destroyed wilfully during a New Zealand-led operation.

The villages are named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, but the NZDF can confirm that NZDF personnel have never operated in these villages.

The authors appear to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals with an operation conducted more than two kilometres to the south, known as Operation Burnham.

The villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain.

The NZDF has used the geographical references in the book and cross-referenced them with our own material.

During Operation Burnham, New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.

The ISAF investigation determined that a gun sight malfunction on a coalition helicopter resulted in several rounds falling short, missing the intended target and instead striking two buildings.

This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established.

Hit and Run does not prove civilian casualties were sustained in the village where Operation Burnham took place.

The NZDF reiterates its position that New Zealand personnel acted appropriately during this operation and were not involved in the deaths of civilians or any untoward destruction of property.

The NZDF welcomes anyone with information relevant to Operation Burnham to come forward and be assured that any allegations of offending by NZDF personnel would be taken seriously and investigated in accordance with our domestic and international legal obligations. 

ENDS

This is very interesting, to say the least.

Elliott for Napier

The Herald reports:

Havelock North resident David Elliott has been chosen as the Nationa Party candidate for Napier in the upcoming general election.

Mr Elliott, who was beaten by Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule for the Tukituki National Party nomination earlier in the year, saw off competition from local businesswoman Deborah Burnside to secure the right to challenge incumbent Labour MP Stuart Nash for his seat.

The nomination was confirmed today.

Born and raised in Hawke’s Bay, the Cathay Pacific airline pilot returned from Hong Kong to live in the region in 2010. 

Stuart Nash holds the seat with a 3,850 majority. However National won the party vote by 8,500 votes so could be an interesting seat to watch.

Why ban Destiny?

Stuff reports:

Serco has banned Brian Tamaki’s son-in-law from offering a Destiny Church outreach programme at its South Auckland prison.

The surprise move has upset former inmates who benefited from the programme, and prompted a case manager at Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility to resign in protest. …

Warren is the national director of Man Up, a Destiny programme which is focused on empowering men to be better fathers and partners.

He is married to Jamie Warren, daughter of Destiny leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki.

Former inmate Billy Baggs was released from prison in November and said working with Man Up while behind bars helped him break the cycle of drugs, violence and gangs he had been stuck in for most of his life.

“It’s had a good effect on me and my whole family,” he said.

“Even my siblings and old associates are looking at Man Up now, because of the changes that I’ve made.”

I am no fan of the Destiny Church but I recognise they do so good works in their communities, and if their prison programme is beneficial to some inmates, it should be continued.

Asylum

Stuff reports:

“When I went to the police station they took me to a cell and gave me a mattress. There were cockroaches crawling and biting me, I thought to myself this is similar to a police station in Afghanistan!”

It’s just after midnight at Auckland International Airport when Khalid, who we agreed not to name to protect his identity, arrived in late August 2012. He’d disposed of his passport during the final transit before reaching Auckland.

His eyes scan the arrivals area. He finds a policeman and declares he is here to seek asylum. “I was taken to Customs to be strip-searched. It was such a shock you know. Because of my religion, this is not something that I wanted to do,” he says.  …

Immigration officers asked Khalid why he’d left Afghanistan, the route he’d taken to get to New Zealand and what had happened to his passport. 

“At the end they said they’d let me know the outcome. I thought they’d let me go at this point but they told me they couldn’t let me walk around the streets.”

Khalid was told he’d be taken to prison.

“My expectation was when I provided some documents and told the truth I would be taken to a refugee camp but they sent me to the police station where I spent the night.” 

Maybe he shouldn’t have destroyed his passport.

There’s conflict in Khalid’s voice as he explains why he used a false passport to leave Afghanistan.

“I had a UK visa, I could have gone there very easily. But the encouragement of my aunt who was already in New Zealand helped make my mind up. I didn’t want to be disloyal to the embassy because as an employee I didn’t want to misuse the visa they had given me.” 

This is key. He had a visa to go to the UK.

Asylum in my opinion is not meant to be like normal migration, where you choose your desired country to go and live in. It is meant to be that if you flee across the border, you don’t get sent back to a country where you will be persecuted.

Information obtained through the Official Information Act revealed there are​ now 11 asylum seekers holed up in Mt Eden Prison; the average length of stay is four months.

According to Immigration New Zealand statistics there were 269 claims for asylum between  2016 and 2017; 71 of those claims were approved.

So around 20% of claims for asylum are found to be legitimate.

Earth Hour candles

Bjorn Lomborg writes:

Those ‘environmentally friendly’ candles that many participants light? They are a fossil fuel — and burn almost 100 times less efficiently than incandescent light bulbs. (That’s why you won’t ever find a modern hospital using them instead of electricity). Using one candle for each switched-off bulb actually cancels out even the theoretical CO2 reduction; using two candles means that you emit more CO2.

Amazing how many suckers fall for Earth Hour every year.

Edgeler says Police investigation not inquiry

Graeme Edgeler writes:

New Zealand has adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This treaty forms part of New Zealand domestic law. As part of the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act, it makes a number of actions, long-recognised internationally as war crimes, express crimes under New Zealand law. A couple of these are in issue to this allegation. Section 11(2) of the Act, and Article 8(2)(b) of the Statute include the following as war crimes:

(v) Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives;

(xiii) Destroying or seizing the enemy’s property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war;

The maximum penalty for someone convicted of a war crime is life imprisonment.

So these are very serious allegations.

Lots of people are saying that there appear to be war crimes. No-one appears to have appreciated what that means. It means we need an investigation into war crimes. In New Zealand, this is a job for the Police.

I think about this not only from the perspective of New Zealand legal obligation to investigate allegations of war crimes, and the right of victims of alleged war crimes to have those allegations investigated, and prosecuted, but also from the perspective of those who are alleged, even if implicitly, anonymously, or collectively, to have committed war crimes.

I agree with Graeme that the Police should investigate.

An inquiry cannot be allowed to interfere with a possible prosecution. The possibility that evidence heard by a commission of inquiry could be evidence that might be heard by a jury at a criminal trial (or more importantly, might be inadmissible at a criminal trial) could mean that there would need to be substantial suppression orders, lest the fairness of future criminal proceedings be threatened.

So you shouldn’t do an inquiry and then a Police investigation. The Police investigation should come first.

I do not know whether allegations contained in Hit & Run are true, or whether the allegations, even if true enough to properly found a charge, are capable of being proved by admissible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. But the Soldiers who were present, those who ordered them to take part, and everyone else involved at whatever level of the New Zealand Defence Force or the New Zealand Government has rights. And one of those rights is to have any allegations against them that need investigating, investigated by a competent authority, without improper pressure being placed on the investigator. They also have the right to have any decision over whether to lay a charge, decided only after a thorough investigation, and considering not only incriminating evidence, but evidence that tends to show their innocence. This is most likely to happen if any criminal investigation begins as soon as possible, and is not prejudiced by a full public inquiry.

I think Graeme makes a compelling case.

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson have authored a book alleging war crimes; they’re not necessarily certain who, but the describe events that could amount to war crimes committed by New Zealanders. This has consequences.

When confronted with allegations of war crimes, New Zealand is obliged not just to find out what happened, but to investigate, and if appropriate, prosecute. But it would be wrong to pursue an inquiry that may prejudice the rights of those now under suspicion of committing war crimes. Commissions of inquiry do not investigate crimes. This is the job of the Police.

The Police should launch an investigation. They are the competent authority.

Labour opposed to Auckland housing development

The Herald reports:

Labour has dropped support for legislation that would see public reserve land at Pt England developed for housing as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with local iwi – labelling the move a “land grab”.

The 300 home development has emerged as one of the most controversial local issues in Maungakiekie in election year and Labour’s candidate Priyanca Radhakrishnan announced her party’s opposition to the development along with housing spokesman Phil Twyford.

Maungakiekie is a marginal seat and Radhakrishnan will be aiming to wrest it back off National after current MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga announced his retirement from Parliament. National’s candidate is Auckland Councillor Denise Lee.

Labour claim they will build 100,000 houses if elected. But everytime an actual housing development is proposed, they turn into NIMBYs and oppose it.

Nick Smith points out:

“The Point England housing development will provide 300 more families with a warm, dry home, enhance the recreational facilities and space for the surrounding community, as well as help settle Ngāti Paoa’s treaty claim and provide a site for a marae.

“This is a choice between land for houses or cows. Eighteen hectares of this site have been grazed by cattle for 30 years. Twelve hectares are to be used for housing. The area of open space accessible for public recreation will be expanded with this development.

“Labour’s contradictory positions on housing and cows are odd. They demand more homes be built but then oppose one housing development after another. They want fewer cows because of concern about water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, except in central Auckland on prime land like at Point England.

So Labour is putting cows ahead of human housing.

Brown selected for Pakuranga

The Herald reports:

National has selected a 25-year-old commercial banker as its candidate in Pakuranga after long-serving MP Maurice Williamson quit politics.

And if Simeon Brown looks familiar to some voters it could be because of a past job – busking in the Botany Shopping Centre.

“I used to go busking at there with my clarinet. It was the best paid job I ever had, I remember once getting $100 an hour. I was only 14 at the time,” he told the Herald.

Brown is a commercial banking senior associate at Bank of New Zealand and is a member of the Manurewa Local Board.

His selection in the safe National seat means he is highly likely to become one of the youngest MPs in Parliament after September’s election.

Pakuranga has been held by Williamson since 1987, and he recorded a 12,867 vote majority at the last election.

Little doubt Brown will become an MP, and be the youngest National MP I’d say. He might be the youngest MP in the House, but that will depend on the Greens list ranking.

While he is young, it is good to see he has some experience in the private sector.

Apology too late from Little

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little will face defamation proceedings after the founders of a hotel chain rejected a late apology over accusations regarding a Niue resort deal.

Little has apologised unreservedly for his comments, after the deal was cleared by the Auditor General last year, and says it is “unfortunate” the case is still heading to court.

The trouble is he refused to do an unreserved apology for over a year and then only did it the week before the trial is due to start.

“Today I want to publicly apologise unreservedly to Mr Hagaman for any hurt, embarrassment or adverse reflection on his reputation which may have resulted from my various media statements.

“I have offered that apology to the Hagamans. I have also offered to make a substantial contribution towards the Hagamans’ costs; an amount I am advised, was greater than would likely have been awarded by the court.”

A substantial contribution suggests less than 100%. So after he has refused to apologise and they have spent $200,000 on legal fees, he then offers to pay a portion of those costs.

However, Little said his offers had been rejected, meaning the case would now head to court.

“That is unfortunate. I strongly believe everybody’s time, not least the court’s, could be better used.”

If he had apologised a year ago, it would not be going to court. The last minute offer suggests he is worried he will lose.

His criticism was aimed at the actions of the Government, and “intended to reflect no impropriety on the part of Mr Hagaman”.

That may not have been the intention, but his words were inflammatory. He said the decision stinks to high heaven. That strongly implied corrupt behaviour.

The Standard declared this to be a vexatious lawsuit that will be laughed out of court. The fact Little has now offered to settle suggests otherwise.

If you don’t like the school rules, choose another school

Stuff reports:

Hunt was enraged to learn that James, currently in year 7, would have to cut his hair or “find a different school,” despite having lived in the coveted Grammar zone throughout his schooling. 

Section 11d of the Education Act 1989 states that a person who lives in the home zone of a school that has an enrolment scheme is entitled at any time to enrol at that school.

So it is his “statutory right,” living in zone, to go to Grammar, she said in the letter. 

The mother doesn’t understand the difference between enrolment and continuation. Her son does have a statutory right to enrol at Auckland Grammar, but once enrolled and attending he has to obey the school rules. If he hits a teacher, wags school, refuses to wear the uniform etc etc, then he can be disciplined and even suspended.

A right to enrol does not mean you are exempt from the school rules.

James wears his hair long in memory of his late grandfather Paul Hunt – who was expelled from Freyberg High School, in Palmerston North, because his own shoulder-length hair broke school rules.

James’ grandmother, Anne Hunt, said James’ hair is important to him because it connects him to the grandfather he never got to meet. 

Hunt said James would be devastated if he had to cut his hair.

Then he can go to Selwyn College.

Hunt questioned why issues around identity and self-expression were at a standstill. 

“I wouldn’t allow James to attend a school that still applies the same rules that resulted in his grandfather’s expulsion fifty years ago,” she said.

Excellent – go to another school then.

Not just London

As we mourn the deaths of four in London at the hands of an Islamist terrorist, it is worth remembering they were not the only ones who died this week as a result of Islamist terror attacks.

288 people in 13 countries were killed in 39 separate attacks this week. They include:

  • A young child is blown to bits by a female suicide bomber in Bangladesh
  • A pregnant woman is among five civilians gunned down in cold blood by Fulani terrorists in Nigeria
  • An atheist is hacked to death by an angry Muslim over Facebook posts attacking religion in India
  • A father and son’s throats are slit by a family member yelling ‘Allah Akbar’ in Paris
  • At least ten innocents are claimed by a Fedayeen suicide car bomber in Somalia
  • A man is tied up and shot to death for ‘cursing Allah’ in Syria

Island Bay cycleway killing jobs

Stuff reports:

After 27 years of running Chappies Dairy in Wellington, owners Sandy and Ken Patel are shutting up shop due to declining business they say is partly due to the controversial Island Bay cycleway.

A lack of short-term parking outside their shop on The Parade in Island Bay has proved to be the “nail in the coffin” for their business, they say.

Four short-term parking spaces directly outside the dairy were removed to accommodate the $1.2 million cycleway, which was built between late 2015 and early 2016. It left the Patels with just a single car park.

So what will Justin Lester do? The cycleway is hated by the vast majority of the Island Bay community. Almost none of them are against having a cycleway – just against this particular design.

It should be scrapped until an acceptable alternative is agreed on.

That sentiment was echoed by a handful of dairy owners along The Parade, including Mersey St store owners Sanjay and Jayshree Patel.

“Nobody listened because they just wanted the cycleway so bad and now it’s our livelihood that is suffering,” Sanjay said.

The cycleway’s layout, which places cyclists between the footpath and parked cars, has drawn criticism from some who argue it has made The Parade too narrow for vehicles and reduced visibility for motorists entering and exiting driveways.

The Parade used to be a wonderfully wide and safe street.

Guest Post: Justice Binnie is a Ninnie

A guest post by Chuck Bird:

I think I should first declare an interest. I have been involved with a group called Justice For Robin Bain (JRRB). Some of the members of the group are women who were friends of the Bain sisters when they were murdered. I say that to explain why I am a little obsessed about this case as I have been over a few cases where I am sure there has been a great injustice done. The Peter Ellis case in another. I will refer to that later.

I thought a bit about the title but I hope to make a case that it is appropriate. In any case Binnie has not only attacked a former Minister of Justice’s integrity but her dress sense as well. The man is irrational.

I first refer to a Herald article (Ref 1) on the 27 Feb this year which is a day after the Sunday (Ref 2) show showed and interview with Binnie.

Focus of my Opinion

The focus of my post is about Binnie’s unfounded and illogical claim that Collins shopped around for the report she wanted. I have never been in Cabinet but I would guess that all the Cabinet Ministers would not have read the whole report. Some I bet some maybe would not have read any but were relying on Collins’ recommendation. Contrary to the view of some I am sure ministers are very busy.

This post is not about David Bain’s guilt or innocence. It is about if Binnie followed instructions and whether Collins acted properly. It is also about whether Fisher (Ref 3) and Judge Callinan (Ref 5) did their reports honestly or gave Collins the reports she wanted with a nod and a wink. It will be about the interview and Sunday’s bias rather than re-litigating the case yet again.

Collins’ view was that Binnie had not followed his instructions properly so she recommend his report be reviewed by Robert Fisher QC and Cabinet agreed. It would have been far easier for her to have recommended accepting Binnies’ report (Ref 6). It would have upset some people like me but there would have been no legal challenge. Bain and Karam would have shared the proceeds and we would not have heard any more about Bain like we have on the Sunday show and are likely to hear more when Binnie comes to lecture the Criminal Bar Association about the deficiencies of the New Zealand justice system.

The Sunday Interview

Sunday gives the impression that Binnie was well respected in Canada and was qualified for the task given to him by the former Minister of Justice, Simon Power. Binnie had never sat as a judge before his appointment to the Supreme Court. He also never was a criminal lawyer. Contrary to the build-up Sunday’s, Janet McIntyre gave him, he was not universally respected in Canada. Many viewed him as an activist judge.

I have never heard of a judge or former judge in New Zealand or Australia attack the integrity of a Justice Minister or another judge as Binnie had and Janet McIntyre did not challenge him on that.

At 4:55 on the interview in reference to Bain he says, “I can hear his answers and make up his own mind.”’ I would be very concerned if a New Zealand judge made such an arrogant and ill-informed statement. Judge’s with experience as lawyers and judges in criminal cases know that psychopaths and sociopaths are extremely manipulative and very convincing liars.

Binnie prior to the interview of Bain claims he had an open mind. That means he knew he could be interviewing psychopath but think he could tell if he was lying.

Below is a question from Binnie to Bain on p91 of his interviews (Ref 7). I have edited it but I reference the full interview.

And they say that he says that you had confided in him a round 1990 that you were sexually interested in a female jogger and that you could commit the sexual offence against her, use your paper round to get away with it and as we know that evidence was eventually excluded by the Court of Appeal but what

I have skipped a little but what follows is very interesting from p91 and p92 of the report.

Q. Did this discussion that he related to the police ever take place?

A. No.

Q. What reason would he have for coming up with an untruthful anecdote?

A. Because our friendship had ended. Ah, at the, pretty much the end of, or faded out and then ended towards the end of the, our seventh form year and we essentially, you know, I – just, it all ended on bad terms.

Q. So it was more than drifting apart? It was actually –

A No, no, it ended on bad terms.

Q. And what was the – why was that?

A. I had witnessed him – because we had goats on our property and I had witnessed him performing a deviant act in that situation. I ‘ m not, I wasn’t completely fooled but it was certainly, you know, looked stupid and obviously embarrassing for him. Ah, and as we know you have to do to take, get the blame away from yourself is point it at somebody else, “It was him , it was him.” So what happened is and you can see, can see in this, in the yearbook for my last year at high school –

It goes on a bit further but it is unclear if Binnie thought he could tell if David was telling the truth by looking him in the eye. Now it turns out that this person is not the only person who David told of his rape fantasy and using his paper run as an alibi. He told a second former friend that Binnie did not query him about. (Ref 8)

If Binnie had any doubts about David’s story which was an attempted character assignation of someone who could affect Binnie’s decision he should have interviewed the person who was being defamed about Bain’s allegations as well as his story regarding David rape fantasy.

Bain’s yarn is about as credible as Binnie’s claim that Callinan is corrupt was willing to take the assignment on the condition he would give the new Minister of Justice, Amy Adams the report she wanted.

Privy Council

Binnie talks like the PC exonerated Bain. They did no such thing. While they quashed his conviction the strongly recommended he remain in custody. I can further quote, “The Board has concluded that, in the very unusual circumstances of this case, a substantial miscarriage of justice has actually occurred. Therefore the proviso to section 385(1) cannot be applied, and the appeal must under the subsection be allowed. At any retrial it will be decided whether the appellant is guilty or not, and nothing in this judgment should influence the verdict in any way.” (R7ef 9)

Because there has been a substantial miscarriage of justice albeit by police or prosecution does not mean that someone is innocent. The Lundy case proves that.

The burning of the murder house

Binnie is very good on half-truths. The house was burned but with the consent of Bain either personally or through his lawyer. I do not know of any complaints made at the time of the first trial about destroying evidence or that his lawyer asked for exhibits to be retained. I am sure that there has been at least one murder house burned to the ground in NZ and I believe this has happened overseas. The police could not have security 24/7 and if the house was torched by vigilantes it could put neighbours as risk.

Binnie’s flawed logic

I do not want to counter all Binnie’s reasons why he thinks Bain is innocent but this one astounds me. In the interview he said if David wanted to kill his family why would he do the paper round and come back and kill his father. Why did he not just go out to the caravan and kill his father? That instantly struck me as a ludicrous statement. If he did that it would be obvious that he murdered his family. He was first convicted because it was alleged that he killed his family and used his paper as an alibi to frame his father. Why did Janet McIntyre see this and question Binnie about something so obvious?

$925k for what?

The only credible point Binnie made was if Cabinet thought Bain was guilty why was he paid $925k? He should not have been. Callinan’s assignment was to start from scratch as if Binnie’s or Fisher’s report were never done. I have read it as have many on this blog. David Farrar blogged about Martin Van Beynenit (Ref 10) view on Callinnan’s report. Callinan is experienced in criminal law as a lawyer and a judge. Binnie did not show any flaws in Callinan’s reasoning he just inferred that Callinan accepted the job on the condition that he would give Adams the report she wanted.

I would assume that Adams rejects this outrageous claim. That is why she recommended no compensation. She says that the $925k was for legal expenses. If you go to the link I referenced to the Van Beyenit’s article there is an audio of one Bain’s supporters. She claims that the $925k was hush money. I agree with her on this. One of the conditions was that Bain or his agent take no further legal action. On reading Callinan’s report it seemed clear to me that his view that David Bain was more likely to guilty of murdering his family than not was not finely balanced but very much more likely. In this regard I agree with Binnie about this hush money (Ref 11). It is a disgrace.

Criminal Bar Association

At the end of the Sunday interview they stated that Binnie will be speaking at the CBA at their conference in August. The invite would have occurred before the interview. I have written to the CBA suggesting they reconsider this invitation in light of the interview. Binnie has accused the former Minister of Justice of being in the pocket of the police and also shopping around for a report she wanted. He accused the same of the current Minister of Justice and by inference is saying Callinan was bought. His action were highly emotion with his very personal attacks on Collins.

Binnie has attacked our whole justice system. New Zealand like every country in the world has some level of corruption. Due to its low population we see cases of professions particularly lawyers getting favourable treatment in court. Some of these cases have all details supressed. We also have the Peter Ellis case being put in the too hard basket. However, having said that Transparency International rates New Zealand along with Denmark as the least corrupt country in the world. Canada where Binnie hails from rates a ten.

I hope after viewing the interview the CBA withdraws their invitation. Alternatively, they could invite Martin Van Beynenit or possibly Michael Laws to speak. That would make for a very interesting conference.

I thank David Farrar for giving me the opportunity to publish this guest post. I have emailed Ian Binnie so he has a right of response.

References

1. NZ Herald article about the Binnie interview on the Sunday show.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11808262

2. The Sunday show interview of Justice Binnie.

http://tvnz.co.nz/sunday-news/dismissal-video-6516206

3. Summary of key findings Hon Dr Robert Fisher QC

https://www.nbr.co.nz/sites/default/files/images/Summary%20of%20key%20findings%20Hon%20Dr%20Robert%20Fisher%20QC%20%281%29.pdf

4. Dr Robert Fisher’s Review of Binnie’s Report

http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1212/Robert_Fisher_Report_viaweb.pdf

5. Justice Callinan’s report. It is worth reading what Callinan calls Incontestable Objective Facts. There are 53 starting on page 114.

https://admin.beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/Ian%20Callinan%20Report.pdf

6. Justice Binnie’s Report

http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1212/02_Justice_Binnies_amended_report.pdf.pdf

7. Binnie’s interview’s including David Bain

https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/David-Bain-appendices-tabs-F-to-J.pdf

8. Bain’s rape alibi-plan evidence kept secret from jury

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10576815

9. Privy Council Decision on Bain

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0705/S00225.htm

10. Martin Van Beynenit’s article in Stuff supporting Callinan’s report.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/82734851/callinan-report-highlights-issues-in-david-bains-innocence-appeal

11. Minister Adams reasons for the hush money.

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/conclusion-reached-bain-compensation-case

The Guardian on UK Labour

The Guardian editorial:

So what is Labour doing? As Britain heads for the EU exit door and Labour loses a byelection in a seat it has held for more than 80 years, much of its energy is focused not on the government but on its own factions. Mr McDonnell says the Labour right is attempting a soft coup. Tom Watson, the deputy leader, accuses Momentum and Unite of taking over the party. The hard left is the scene of bitter infighting. Unite’s Len McCluskey accuses Mr Watson of skullduggery, which is a fine charge from someone who didn’t need to put his union through a premature leadership contest. Labour seems bent on rerunning to the 1980s, only this time with the unions and the party’s big figures lacking the heart, the curiosity or the heft – and the command in Scotland – to pull it around.

Labour isn’t necessarily in terminal decline. A quarter of voters still support it. But the decline is enormous and it can’t go on like this. Labour needs to revitalise its vision and values, rebuild a coalition of interests and find leaders to start turning the current failure around. It won’t do that by obsessing over internal issues. It requires a massive change of direction at the top. Right now, though, Labour simply isn’t up to the job.

Leadership is important.

Intelligence reforms passed

The Herald reports:

The Government’s foreign intelligence agency can now spy on New Zealanders under spying reforms passed into law this afternoon.

The New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill was supported at its final hurdle by all parties except the Greens.

The reforms have not attracted the same level of debate and controversy as the expansion of the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) powers in 2013. That is partly because the latest round of law changes have cross-party support.

The bill brings the GCSB and the NZ Security Intelligence Service (SIS) under the same laws and warranting regime.

In a fundamental shift in policy, it permits the GCSB to monitor New Zealanders if national security issues are at stake.

Full credit to Labour who have not played party politics on this issue, but instead acted to improve the draft bill.

MPs want to kill one in three cows

Stuff reports:

A report commissioned by 35 New Zealand MPs has suggested reducing pastoral stock by 35 per cent as a way to get the country to a target of net zero carbon emissions.

The report by UK-based Vivid Economics and commissioned by the Globe-NZ laid out three pathways to address the Paris Agreement commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.

This has also been long standing Green Party policy. It is of course daft.

If we shoot one in three cows, it will not reduce global emissions. It may in fact increase them as our dairy industry is less greenhouse gas intensive than other countries’. The global demand for milk will remain the same, so there will simply be more cows elsewhere making even more emissions.

10 staff for one patient

Stuff reports:

It is costing the public healthcare system almost $2500 a day to keep Ashley Peacock behind locked doors, despite human rights concerns and his family’s wish for his release.

So he is not being kept locked up to save money. In fact it would be far cheaper to do what the family wish, and release him – as just announced.

The money was spent predominantly on staffing and direct patient care costs, such as laundry and food. About $762,000 was spent on staff wages, CCDHB said.

Two non-government organisation staff worked 22.5 hours a week with Peacock. Eight full time-equivalent health board staff also worked with him, including psychiatry and allied health professionals.

“The majority of staff time is spent exclusively with Mr Peacock,” the health board said.

Not exactly an uncaring health system – 10 staff for just one patient.

When asked by Stuff for a breakdown of assaults by him on his care providers or visitors, CCDHB alleged 29 incidents between January 1, 2016 and January 31, 2017 in its Official Information Act response, although it did not provide any detail.

So 29 assaults in one year. Maybe that is why he has not been released.

The Green Party has been calling for an inquiry into the mental health system. Its health spokeswoman, Julie Anne Genter, said there did not appear to have been any progress on a proposed transition plan out of the facility recommended for Peacock.

Starting the transition was a more desirable outcome than spending almost a million dollars a year keeping him in widely-criticised conditions, she said.

“Instead of locking up that man … [they] should find a solution that’s going to work better for him, and his family, and the people looking after him.”

Well they have announced a solution that will see him out of the facility, but time will tell if he can be safely looked after anywhere else.