$1.2 million for a basic Council website is too much

July 31st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Christchurch City Council has spent $1.2 million upgrading its “outdated” website.

The revamp included new software, new content and staff training and took three and a half months. The site was last overhauled in 2009 and that version ran on systems that would not be supported past this month.

The $1.2m spend came out of the council’s IT capital budget for this financial year.

The director of a Christchurch web development company said the total cost was a surprise.

“That takes my breath away. You vaguely hear of those sorts of number getting thrown around. I’m struggling to get my head around where that cost would come from.”

The director, who asked to remain anonymous as his company did web development work for the council, said parts of the design, such as the user elements for rates and dog registration, were quite technical, making precise cost estimates difficult.

“[But] we’d have happily done the job for half that and probably, I believe, still arrived at the same result.”

$1.2 million is a huge figure. If they had designed a website where you could interact online with the Council in every area, that sort of price might be justified, but it is primarily just a static website.

As an example I went to their services section to see what could I do online. Under burials, there is no online form to book one in. You download a pdf, print it out, then have to scan it back in and e-mail it to them.

Other services which you can’t do online are:

  • Dog registration
  • Tenancy application
  • Report to noise control

Incredible that they spend $1.2 million and can’t even convert some pdf forms into online forms.

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The future of work for Labour is plagiarism

July 31st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Quin has taken a look at Grant Robertson’s Future of Work discussion paper and found multiple paragraphs that were copied and pasted from other sources, without attribution.

The section in question is titled “Emerging Challenges and Opportunities”.  In total, the section comprises just over 1,200 words.  Among them, a straightforward Google search uncovered three occasions where the drafters of the report directly lifted whole sentences and paragraphs from articles in the Economist and Business Insider.  None of them were attributed, but presented in the body of the text as if it were the drafter’s original work. Straightforward plagiarism, in other words. 

Grant will no doubt blame his staff.

UPDATE: Quin has found even the introduction was plagiarised!

UPDATE2: Labour is blaming Clare Curran for the plagiarism.

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The NZ National Anthem

July 31st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Prime Minister has criticised those slating the tone of the national anthem, saying the process to change it would be the same as the flag referendum they have opposed. 

On Wednesday, Labour leader Andrew Little described the national anthem God Defend New Zealand as a “dirge” and said many Kiwis preferred the Australian anthem. 

If there was to be a change, I agree it should be a referendum.

I’m not a huge fan of the current anthem. But I don’t much like Advance Australia Fair either. I think the best anthems are stirring such as La Marseillaise. Even without knowing the words, I love it.

With the NZ National Anthem, I actually prefer the Maori version. Yes I don’t know all the words, but it seems to be to work much better musically. It has a rhythm to it, the English version doesn’t.

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General Debate 31 July 2015

July 31st, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Health and safety changes minor

July 31st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Richard Rudman is the editor of the NZ Employment Law Guide, and hence an expert in the area of employment law.

He writes at Politik:

The Health and Safety Reform Bill returned to Parliament from the Select Committee last Friday, more than 15 months after the Bill was introduced to the House.

However Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse says he still has some more changes he wants to make. 

He was forced into having the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee revise the Bill after widespread concern within both the Cabinet and National caucus that the Bill would make life difficult for small business and farmers.

There was some speculation that that concern went as far as a threatened rebellion by some backbench MPs. 

If so, the rebellion was put down cheaply. None of the changes made by the Select Committee is that significant in the overall scheme of new workplace health and safety legislation. 

Yet:

But the changes appear to have cost National the support of Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens for the reforms. 

They were looking for any reason to oppose the changes. The reality is this law change will deliver 99% of what the Royal Commission recommended. Yet the opposition parties would have you think that somehow it is a backward step. They’re playing politics, so their union mates can wave some crosses about.

The only significant change is:

Small businesses (those with fewer than 20 workers and not in a prescribed high-risk sector or industry) need not agree to a request from workers to establish a health and safety committee or arrange the election of a health and safety representative. 

That’s it. That is what they are crying is the end of the world. That a small clerical office of say three staff doesn’t have to agree to an elected health and safety rep.

If the industry is at all high-risk, or there are more than 20 employees, there will be a statutory right to an elected health and safety rep. And you know what, a small employer can still decide to have one – just that it is not mandatory. But regardless of this, they still have the same requirements to have a safe workplace, and face prosecution if they don’t.

So as this employment law expert has said, the change made by the select committee is very minor. The outrage by the unions and their parliamentary wings is entirely contrived.

In any case, all businesses — large or small — are required to “engage” with their workers on health and safety matters that might affect them. 

Engagement includes sharing relevant information; giving workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views and raise health or safety issues, and to contribute to decision-making; taking the workers’ views into account, and advising workers of the outcomes. 

In addition, all businesses must have practices that provide reasonable opportunities for their workers to participate effectively in improving health and safety on an ongoing basis. 

Given these duties, exemption from the requirement for a committee or representative seems little relief for small businesses. 

I suspect the union anger is that they see elected health and safety reps as a back door to workplaces, so they can try and unionise them.

The requirement to consult all workers on health and safety matters is far more important than whether there is an elected rep in a small clerical office of four people.

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One American now getting global ridicule

July 30th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Janis Powers blogged at the Huffington Post:

Less than a week after July 4, a day when Americans celebrate our freedom and liberty, Sandra Bland was pulled over for a traffic violation. The lawful traffic stop that escalated into an arrest and culminated in Ms. Bland’s untimely death in a jail cell on July 13 has everyone talking about civil rights in America.

As we debate the boundaries of law enforcement’s authority, I am reminded of my own recent run-in with a traffic cop. While I currently live in the state if Texas, where Ms. Bland was pulled over, my incident occurred on the other side of the world in a place widely considered friendly and accommodating: New Zealand. As a visitor in any foreign country, I never expect my rights as an American to supersede those of the nation where I am traveling. But things just didn’t seem right when I was given a mandatory road-side breathalyzer test, just because I was speeding.

Yeah being killed in custody is so comparable to having to do a breath test because you were speeding.

It was dusk, and we were only two kilometers from our hotel. I just wanted the officer to give me my traffic citation so I could head to the hotel and enjoy a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. How ironic.

Your sav was delayed by two minutes. How terrible.

New Zealand law enforcement may have collected my DNA through a breathalyzer test, but they failed to collect my money for the traffic citation before I left the country. Since I can’t find the ticket here at home, am I the one who’s bending the rules?

And boasting she didn’t pay her ticket.

Her post has been picked up by most NZ media. No surpise feedback at both Huff Post and on her facebook post is very negative.

 

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Crampton on TPP and drugs

July 30th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton writes:

I don’t think that the extensions to drug patents hinted at under TPP are for the good. But it isn’t obvious that they aren’t.

Let’s run the story.

Most new drug development happens in the US and EU, with more coming in now from China as well. It is ridiculously expensive to develop new drugs. Some of that is because the FDA makes things harder than they need to be, but a lot of it is real cost. The US has pretty strong drug patent protection to encourage investment in new drug development: nobody will spend hundreds of millions, or more, on drug research that might lead to one or two commercially viable breakthroughs if they can’t reap the rewards on the ones that pan out.

On that story, New Zealand and others have been free-riding pretty hard. Don’t get me wrong – this is great for New Zealand. We get a pile of generics out of India when they come off-patent here and the drug system saves tons of money. But we’re contributing rather less to the general “let’s develop more new drugs” effort. Price controls on pharmaceuticals do discourage new development (and here’s similar EU evidence), and newpharmaceutical innovation saves lives.

You could imagine an international convention, agreed to by everybody, that would reduce global free-riding on research done in the EU and US in order to get more new drugs developed. We in New Zealand would pay more than we’re paying now, but we’d also be paying a fairer share of the development costs of new drugs. Optimal pricing should still involve poorer countries paying less than richer ones, but you’d also have expected things like iPads to sell for less in New Zealand than in the US on the same kind of grounds – so that part might disappoint.

But think about the rhetoric on “doing our part” on global warming, and wonder why the same “doing our part” arguments haven’t been made about pharmaceutical innovation to save lives.

It’s a fair point.

Overall like Eric I don’t want want longer patent terms for drugs, but the cost to NZ may not be hugely significant. We’ll have to wait to see the costings, if or when there is a deal.

I’m still undecided on TPP, and getting nervous about the rhetoric. I’m a huge supporter of freeing up trade, but this is starting to sound like a very modest deal, rather than the gold plated one we were told was the aim of it.

Some of the US demands in the intellectual property chapter would be bad for New Zealand. We have resisted them to date, which is good. But as part of the final stage negotiating we may compromise on the IP chapter in order to make gains elsewhere. Now that may be okay if we get a really really good deal elsewhere, but not if we don’t.

The two key chapters appear to be dairy and IP. So broadly there are four scenarios. They are.

  1. Good dairy access, no compromise on IP chapter – a great outcome – sign it quickly
  2. Poor dairy access, no compromise on IP chapter – a modest outcome – worth signing
  3. Poor dairy access, significant compromises on IP chapter – don’t sign.
  4. Good dairy access, significant compromises on IP chapter – the difficult balancing act

So scenario 1 is what we want. Scenario 3 is what we should refuse to sign up to. Scenario 2 is disappointing but still a gain for NZ so ok.

Scenario 4 is more tricky. The devil will be in the detail. If we really got eventual unrestricted access to the US, Canadian and Japanese markets then we probably have to accept some painful concessions elsewhere. But if the dairy gains are relatively modest, then compromising on the IP chapter may turn the TPP into something I can’t support. Ultimately I’ll reserve judgement until I read the impact analysis, but I’m worried that scenario 1 is looking rather remote.

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Travel expenses for Wellington MPs

July 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The latest MPs expenses have been published.

MPs need to travel to do their job, so it is no surprise that they have travel expenses. However MPs who live in Wellington, you generally expect to have smaller travel expenses, unless they have particular jobs (such as Opposition Leader) that requires them to travel a lot. So let’s look at the travel expenses for Wellington based MPs.

  1. Andrew Little $26,012
  2. Annette King $21,987
  3. Kris Faafoi $18,677
  4. Trevor Mallard $17,729
  5. Paul Foster-Bell $13,682
  6. James Shaw $12,637
  7. Chris Hipkins $11,858
  8. Jan Logie $11,733
  9. Gareth Hughes $10,927
  10. Grant Robertson $9,652
  11. Russel Norman $7,911
  12. Chris Bishop $6,318
  13. Brett Hudson $3,650

You can understand why Little and King have such expenses. But Faafoi and Mallard are spending almost $1,500 a week in travel, which seems a lot.

To put it into comparison Faafoi and Mallard have higher travel expenses than 80 other MPs, most of whom live outside of Wellington. They are 13th and 15th highest for travel costs out of 93 non Ministers.

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So Little says a referendum needs 50% turnout to be valid

July 30th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little has said:

Labour has moved to have the second flag referendum canned if the first attracts fewer than half the eligible number of voters, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

This is the same Andrew Little who said last year he favours a referendum on the flag and it should be changed. But anyway is this the leader of the Labour Party who forced a referendum on the partial asset sales in 2013 that had only a 45% turnout. So is Andrew Little say the referendum Labour, Greens and the unions forced on the public was a waste of time as it got under 50%?

And how about the union organised referendum in 1995 that had a 27% turnout only?

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Parliament 30 July 2015

July 30th, 2015 at 11:40 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: In light of his admission yesterday that health funding has not kept up with all inflationary pressures under this Government, how will the health budget absorb the increased cost of purchasing medicines that the Prime Minister has said is likely to result from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?
  2. FLETCHER TABUTEAU to the Minister of Trade: Does he agree with the headlines in the Nikkei Asian Review, “Will TPP end with whimper like Doha Round?”, and in Gareth Morgan’s column, “Could the TPP become Key’s most embarrassing moment”?
  3. TODD BARCLAY to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the outlook for the New Zealand economy?
  4. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister for Building and Housing: Does he stand by his statement that non-resident foreign buyers in the Auckland housing market are a non-event; if so, on what empirical data does he base that?
  5. PAUL FOSTER-BELL to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What progress is the Government making in ensuring overseas-based New Zealanders repay their student loans?
  6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN to the Minister of Trade: Has the New Zealand Government provided to other governments involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations any documents regarding New Zealand’s position on specific issues in the negotiations; if so, have those documents been made publicly available to New Zealanders?
  7. CLAYTON MITCHELL to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Does he stand by his statement, “It’s important to strike the right balance between safe workplaces for workers and unnecessary red tape on businesses and I’m confident we have landed in the right space.”?
  8. Hon JUDITH COLLINS to the Minister of Education: What reports has she received on Trades Academies?
  9. JACINDA ARDERN to the Minister for Social Development: How much money has her Government spent developing and testing the ‘predictive risk model’ that was announced in 2012 to identify children at risk of harm and abuse, and in what year will it be rolled out?
  10. MARK MITCHELL to the Minister of Customs: How will the Government’s investment in next generation SmartGates increase security and ensure passengers are processed faster and more efficiently at the border?
  11. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY to the Minister of Education: Has she taken any papers to Cabinet proposing changes for charter schools; if so, is this an admission that the charter school model is not working?
  12. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister of Trade: Why did he say to journalists asking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement “we need adults to do this – not breathless children to run off at the mouth” and why does he think we should trust the Government to protect New Zealand’s interests when the Prime Minister has already admitted on TV that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement may trade away New Zealand’s right to ban the sale of our homes to foreigners?

National: Four questions on the economy, student loans, trades academies and SmartGates

Labour: Four questions on health spending, Auckland housing, child abuse and TPP

Greens: Two questions on TPP and charter schools

NZ First: Two questions on TPP and workplace safety

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm 

Health and Safety Reform Bill – second reading

The Bill replaces the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the Machinery Act 1950 to reform New Zealand’s workplace health and safety system, following the work of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety and the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy.

  • Introduced March 2014
  • 1st reading: March 2014, passed unanimously
  • SC report: July 2015, passed with amendments by majority with Labour, Green and NZ First minority reports

The second reading is a debate of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes for a maximum debate of two hours.

Appropriation (2015/16 Estimates) Bill – committee stage continued

This Bill authorises the individual appropriations contained in The Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the year ending 30 June 2016.

  • Introduced May 2015
  • 1st reading: May 2015, passed without dissent
  • 2nd reading: June 2015, passed 63-58 with Labour, Greens, NZ First against

The debate is an 11 hour debate divided into ten sector debates. The sectors are:

  • Economic Development and Infrastructure Sector – done
  • Education Sector – done
  • Environment Sector – done
  • External Sector – done
  • Finance and Government Administration Sector – done
  • Health Sector – current
  • Justice Sector
  • Māori, Other Populations and Cultural Sector
  • Primary Sector
  • Social Development and Housing Sector

Each debate is a minimum of eight speeches of up to five minutes each, led off by the relevant select committee chairperson.

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Alfred Vincent

July 30th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s longest serving inmate has spent more time behind bars than infamous Nazi Rudolf Hess.

Now 77-year-old Alfred Vincent’s case is heading to the United Nations amid claims he has been wrongly jailed for 40 of the past 47 years.

Auckland-based human rights lawyer Tony Ellis wrote to Vincent last week with news he planned to lodge his case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention by September.

He said Vincent had spent a disproportionally long stretch behind bars in Canterbury prisons for seven convictions in September 1968 of indecent assault on five boys aged 12 to 14 – offending that carried a maximum jail sentence of seven years. 

At the time, he was sentenced to preventive detention because of six previous convictions for indecencies with boys, which saw him jailed for several years in the mid-1960s.

Well he wasn’t sentenced to seven years. He was sentenced to preventive detention. That’s basically a life sentence.

And note that he has been convicted 13 times of sexual assault on young boys. That to me seems to indicate that preventive detention was the appropriate sentence – there was little indication he would stop if not locked up.

“I think it is appalling in a civil society such as ours that you can lock someone up for 47 years when the finite sentence was for seven years. If you do a double murder, you don’t stay in for half that long. It’s absurd,” Ellis said.

I think it is appalling he molested 13 boys before the community was made safe from him.

A psychologist planned to reassess Vincent this monthfor Ellis’ case, and an Auckland University law student was helping Ellis to wade through about 2000 pages that the Department of Corrections had released on Vincent.

Vincent was due to appear in front of the Parole Board in late August, three years after his last appearance, when the board imposed a three-year postponement order.

“I do want to be released from prison,” he said in his parole assessment report in 2012.

“I don’t have sexual thoughts any more. I get locked up at 7pm every night, I keep to myself and I stay in my cell.”

If he is no longer a threat, he should be released. That is how preventive detention works. But I presume there is a reason the Parole Board have not granted him parole. The fact they have scheduled him to appear only every three years indicates he was not seen as a close call.

In 2012, Fairfax contacted all four of his surviving victims from the 1968 preventive detention charges. Three supported his release.

They’re unlikely to now be his targets.

But as I said if he is truly no longer a risk to the community he should of course be released. But the Parole Board needs to judge that off more that his own assertion that he is safe.

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Baphomet

July 30th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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Stuff reports:

A Satanic organisation unveiled a controversial bronze Baphomet sculpture in Detroit just before midnight on Saturday, after trying in vain to have it installed near a 10 Commandments monument in Oklahoma.

Due to planned demonstrations, the group, which is opposed to Bible-themed displays on government land, kept the location of the unveiling of its 2.7-metre-tall monument secret until the last moment, when it emailed the information to ticket holders.

The Satanic Temple unveiled the one-ton statue at an industrial building near the Detroit River just before 11.30pm local time as supporters cheered, “Hail Satan”. Some of the hundreds in attendance rushed to pose for photos.

It could become a major tourist attraction. They could charge for entry, because I imagine most satanic temples are not open to the public.

Baphomet was originally a name given to an idol the Knights Templar were accused of worshiping by King Philip IV of France. Probably all trumped up charges as this is the same King who arrested the Pope and accused him of urinating on the cross.

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This is why you have Ministers

July 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

tolley

Stuff reports:

A plan to treat vulnerable newborns as “lab rats” by sitting back for two years to see if they were abused has been blocked by the Government.

The Ministry of Social Development proposed to include 60,000 children born this year in an “observational study” to test the accuracy of its new predictive risk modelling tool.

It attempts to predict abuse, welfare dependency and the likelihood of a child’s downward spiral into crime on the path to adulthood so it can better target spending.

The Government gave the go-ahead to develop the model in 2012, as part of the Children’s Action Plan. It had now begun testing it. 

But documents show officials had sought ethical approval for one study which involved risk-rating a group of newborns and not intervening in high-risk cases, to check whether their predictions came true.

A furious Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she could not fathom what her officials were thinking.

She has called a halt to the study.

The minister’s handwritten notes on the documents instructed officials: “not on my watch, these are children not lab rats”.

One of the roles of a Minister is to apply the political filter to stuff from their department. The idea that a Government would sign off on not intervening with at risk children just to test the accuracy of predictions is one which no good Minister would let fly.

Personally I’m surprised it even got to the Minister.

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General Debate 30 July 2015

July 30th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The socialist paradise of Venezuela

July 30th, 2015 at 7:03 am by David Farrar

Venezuela has been a pin up country for many on the left for years because Hugo Chavez was a proud socialist who would stand up to the US.

Anyway news.com.au reports on how great things are there:

ORIGINALLY designed as an underground subway station, Venezuela’s most notorious and feared prison is essentially a cement box that sits five storeys beneath the headquarters of the country’s intelligence agency in Caracas.

Known as the Tomb, or La Tumba, the secretive prison is filled with political protesters who are completely starved of daylight, face torturous conditions and are denied basic human rights.

Friends and family of those who have been thrown into the Tomb say the prisoners — mostly made up of peaceful protesters — are being left there to die.

There are no windows to the outside world and the complete lack of ventilation means the air is stale with a lingering stench, while the below-freezing temperatures in the subterranean cells can become unbearably cold. With no toilet facilities in their cell, prisoners are often denied the chance to go to the bathroom.

Those under lockdown in the Tomb are under constant surveillance with microphones, cameras and two-way mirrors monitoring everything going on.

The scant reports emanating from the prison reveal that those incarcerated in the Tomb frequently suffer from cases of extreme illness, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and hallucinations. But little is being done to alleviate their suffering, and activists in the country who draw attention to the plight of political detainees risk suffering a similar fate.

The harrowing conditions of the Tomb represent the alarming increase of human rights abuses which are systematically carried out by a government that is desperate to maintain control.

As the country teeters on the brink of financial chaos, the government is becoming increasingly anxious of political opposition, and their response has been heavy handed.

President Nicolas Maduro’s growing crackdown on political dissidents has become so brutal that his country has developed a reputation among international human rights groups for the arbitrary detainment and torture of its citizens.

As the economic policies fail, they crack down on dissent:

As the country struggles to provide basic goods and services for its people, human rights groups have condemned the direction the government is headed. US Senate testimony given earlier in the year by Santiago A. Canton, executive director of the RFK Partners for Human Rights, heavily criticised the Maduro government’s treatment of Venezuelan citizens.

Very sad.

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The Craig booklet

July 29th, 2015 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

The Craig dossier is on Scribd, put there by Ben Ross. [link removed as dossier is allegedly defamatory]

The Herald reports on some responses:

Mr Slater said he first heard about the defamation claim this afternoon, adding he had not been served court papers.

He said he had two words for Mr Craig: “Bring it.”

Mr Slater said he had “not one single concern” about Mr Craig’s legal action because he was capable of funding his defence and he had evidence for everything he published about Mr Craig on his website.

“New Zealand can find out once and for all what a ratbag Colin Craig is,” he said.

Mr Slater said if someone was going to stand for Parliament, it was important that the public knew about their background, especially if it contrasted with their Christian values.

Asked about Mr Craig’s allegations of “dirty politics”, Mr Slater said: “A: So what? B: Politics is dirty full-stop and if he doesn’t like it then perhaps he shouldn’t play away.”

Mr Stringer, a former Conservative Party board member and candidate who is based in Christchurch, said this afternoon that he stood by everything he had said about Mr Craig.

He said he had never met Slater or Williams, though he had corresponded with Slater since Mr Craig resigned.

“There is no dirty politics campaign against Colin Craig,” he said. “I’ve certainly not been part of one.”

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The Cosby 35

July 29th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A very powerful feature in NY Magazine, with interviews and photos of 35 women with very similiar stories about Bill Cosby drugging and raping them. The photos, all in black and white on the same chair, are stark.

Cosby has admitted in sworn statements that he routinely drugged women to make them more compliant. He argues that this doesn’t make it rape. It does.

 

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Craig sues

July 29th, 2015 at 2:37 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Colin Craig is seeking compensation for alleged defamatory comments made by the “Dirty Politics Brigade”.

He’s making cases against Jordan Williams, John Stringer and Cameron Slater in the order of $300,000, $600,000 and $650,000 respectively.

He made the announcement at a press conference in Auckland this afternoon.

He will also be releasing a booklet that outlines the “campaign of defamatory lies” he claims was purposely launched to undermine him.

If this goes to trial, discovery could be very interesting.

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Building consents

July 29th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is looking at ways to boost the private sector’s role in issuing building and resource consents.

At the same time it is eyeing ways to limit councils’ liability and ensure consumers are protected if builders fold to avoid paying for dodgy buildings.

Speaking to delegates at National’s annual conference in Auckland on Saturday, Housing Minister Nick Smith said a house typically costs about $500,00 to build, but councils would only receive about $10,000 in fees – equivalent to about 2 per cent of the revenue from the house. 

But when a building was faulty they had to pay on average about $200,000 towards the fix-up and may be “pinged” for the full cost.

“By comparison the building sector gets the bulk of the revenue from a building project but  is not paying its fair share of the liability,” he said.

“The building and construction companies are regularly winding their companies up under limited liability and avoiding that responsibility. And under joint and several liability it falls on the councils.”

That was why councils had been “so pedantic and conservative” about processing building consents, so they were not exposing themselves to liability. That in turn meant there were few private providers issuing building consents, even though they could under current law.

He said in Australia about 90 per cent of building consents were issued by the private sector and he wanted more competition and choice here.

We definitely want choice and competition between consenting authorities. That will incentivise them to act quicker and keep costs down.

The competition doesn’t have to be just private sector. One can have competition between Councils. When Christchurch lost its consenting authority, other Councils stepped in.  The Council that draws up the rules doesn’t have to be the Council that issues consents under those rules.

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Herald on power prices

July 29th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

One in five Auckland households switched power companies last year, helping them save an average of $136 in the process.

The Electricity Authority’s annual review of the industry’s performance showed that 385,000 households changed their electricity provider in 2014 using Government-sponsored tools. That was fewer than the previous year, when 396,000 consumers changed companies.

The review by Government’s electricity regulator said the biggest savings were made in Bay of Plenty, where people changing providers saved an average of $318.

Households on the East Coast were most likely to switch companies – nearly a third moved to another retailer in 2014.

The review said growth of electricity brands – including a record-high 27 retailers – had fostered the high rates of company-switching. Aucklanders had the most choice with 21 companies, four of which had joined the market in the past year.

Great to see competition working.

The authority said prices had risen more slowly than retailers’ costs, which suggested that competitive pressure was limiting price rises.

However, prices still increased last year despite the more competitive market. Statistics New Zealand figures showed power prices rose 3.6 per cent – more than three times the rate of inflation.

This is the increase in the 2014 calendar year, but …

In the last quarter, Statistics New Zealand said there was zero change – the lowest annual change since 2001.

Yep a nil annual increase. Here’s the increases for June years for the last few years:

  • 06/07 6.0%
  • 07/08 6.7%
  • 08/09 5.3%
  • 09/10 1.0%
  • 10/11 7.6% (GST increase)
  • 11/12 3.7%
  • 12/13 3.3%
  • 13/14 4.5%
  • 14/15 0.0%

 

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Parliament 29 July 2015

July 29th, 2015 at 11:48 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister of Finance: How has the New Zealand economy been affected by recent international economic developments?
  2. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “it is highly unlikely, actually, that the Government will have to pay any more through Pharmac. But on the basis that it had to pay a tiny bit more, the Government would fund that increase”?
  3. KEVIN HAGUE to the Minister of Health: What advice, if any, has he sought or received on threats to public health in New Zealand?
  4. Dr JIAN YANG to the Associate Minister of Education: What investment is the Government making in Auckland schools to manage growth?
  5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
  6. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Minister of Health: Has core Crown health expenditure kept up with health demographics and inflation growth since 2009/10?
  7. BRETT HUDSON to the Minister of Energy and Resources:What recent reports has he received on competition in the residential electricity market?
  8. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her Government’s commitment that if partnership schools don’t succeed “the Government will be just as quick to close them down as we have been to establish them”; if so, how much taxpayer money is expected to be received by the Whangaruru partnership school between 28 May 2015, the date the Ministry recommended the termination of its contract, and 1 January 2016?
  9. TODD MULLER to the Minister for Building and Housing: What further progress has the Government made to deliver on its policy of delivering more houses in areas of need?
  10. KELVIN DAVIS to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his answer during Oral Question No. 9 yesterday that “No, I have not received any reports” which contradict the official account of the number of attackers in the Littleton serious assault case?
  11. SARAH DOWIE to the Minister for Primary Industries: What recent reports has he received on the growth of the New Zealand horticulture industry?
  12. DARROCH BALL to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her statements?

National: Five questions on the economy, Auckland schools, electricity market, state housing and horticulture

Labour: Four questions on TPP, health spending, charter schools and Mt Eden Prison

Greens: One question on public health

NZ First: Two questions on PM standing by his statements and Anne Tolley standing by her statements

General Debate 3.00 pm to 4.00 pm

A general debate of 12 speech of up to five minutes for a maximum of an hour.

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

New Zealand Flag Referendum Bill – committee stage

The Bill establishes a process for the holding of 2 postal referendums, firstly to determine which alternative flag design is preferred by voters, and secondly to determine whether that alternative flag or the current flag is to be the New Zealand flag.”

  • Introduced: March 2015
  • 1st reading: March 2015, passed 76 to 43 with Labour and NZ First opposed
  • SC report: June 2015, supported with amendments by the majority, Labour dissenting
  • 2nd reading: July 2015, passed 63 to 58 with Labour, Greens and NZ First opposed

There is no set time limit for the committee stage. As the bill has three parts it is likely to be at least three hours.

Appropriation (2015/16 Estimates) Bill – committee stage continued

This Bill authorises the individual appropriations contained in The Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the year ending 30 June 2016.

  • Introduced May 2015
  • 1st reading: May 2015, passed without dissent
  • 2nd reading: June 2015, passed 63-58 with Labour, Greens, NZ First against

The debate is an 11 hour debate divided into ten sector debates. The sectors are:

  • Economic Development and Infrastructure Sector – done
  • Education Sector – done
  • Environment Sector – done
  • External Sector – done
  • Finance and Government Administration Sector – done
  • Health Sector – current
  • Justice Sector
  • Māori, Other Populations and Cultural Sector
  • Primary Sector
  • Social Development and Housing Sector

Each debate is a minimum of eight speeches of up to five minutes each, led off by the relevant select committee chairperson.

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Mercy backfired

July 29th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

When Tony Robertson was found guilty of abducting and molesting a 5-year-old girl a decade ago, a judge could have locked him up indefinitely.

If he had received preventive detention then, it’s likely Auckland mum Blessie Gotingco would still be alive now.

But 10 years ago, the sentencing judge opted to show mercy towards the then-teenage Robertson standing in the dock before him – in the hope he would turn his life around while behind bars and emerge a reformed man.

But it didn’t happen.

And Blessie died.

In prison, Robertson completed no courses of treatment.

He was repeatedly denied parole because of his lack of reform.

He continued to deny responsibility for his attack on the 5-year-old girl. It was all a police frame up, he insisted.

Just as he now denies raping and murdering Blessie Gotingco – her death was an accident, and evidence of rape was planted by police, he said.

At least this crime will have a life sentence, and his denial of responsibility should mean he never gets out.

Robertson’s offending began at age 16, in 2003, and included convictions for assault, aggravated robbery, possession of an offensive weapon, wilful damage, threatening to kill, burglary and receiving.

Then came the Tauranga kidnapping, when he was 18, in 2005.

The offending took place over two days, the worst of which was on December 15.

On December 14, he attempted to lure two children into his car with promises of Christmas presents, saying he knew their mothers and would take them home, court records of the case show.

And when he was caught:

And when questioned over testimony from the other children he tried to entice, who had identified him, he said: “Maybe I’ve got a twin brother that drives the same car as mine.”

Not exactly remorseful was he.

Having been found guilty, he was shown leniency by the sentencing judge.

“You are not simply to be assumed a lost cause at the age of 19,” Justice Patrick Keane told him at that time.

The judge opted not to sentence Robertson to preventive detention – which could have kept him locked up for the rest of his life.

Crown prosecutor Simon Bridges (before he became an MP) had pushed for the tougher sentence, arguing further that if preventive detention were not meted out the sentence should be at least 12 years.

But Justice Keane said that though it was possible the kidnapping and abduction was the start of what could become a pattern, Robertson had a history of violent, rather than sexual, offending.

Sadly the Judge got it wrong. I can see why at 19 he was reluctant to  give him preventive detention, but let us hope he gets it now.

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Human Rights Commission badly skews data

July 29th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Human Rights Commission said:

A gender stocktake of appointments to state sector boards reveals some Government ministers are doing very well while others need to try a lot harder says EEO Commissioner Jackie Blue.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs gender stocktake of state sector appointments shows little has changed in ten years: including those years when Labour were in power.

“It’s 2015 not 1915: Ministers who appoint less than 3 in 10 women to their boards must do better, they have no excuse but to do better,” said Dr Blue.

“I congratulate those ministers close to achieving equity and urge their colleagues to see them as best practice.”

“Ministers doing well include: 45% (Upston) and 50% (Tolley, English) and those who have slightly surpassed 50% (Woodhouse, Coleman, Dunne, Parata). Minister Goodhew achieved 66% female representation and the case must be made that future appointments need re-balancing.”

“However ministers who appoint less than 3 in 10 women to their boards (McCully, Bridges, Brownlee, Key) have a lot of catching up to do.”

However the Human Rughts Commission made a fatal error, as reported by Claire Trevett:

Women’s Minister Louise Upston and Transport Minister Simon Bridges are among those copping blame for the deeds of their predecessors after analysis named and shamed ministers with low rates of appointing women to boards.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue released information showing the percentage of women appointments to boards in ministerial portfolios, broken down by individual ministers.

However, the analysis was based on appointments in the 2014 year and many were before the election resulted in a reshuffle of portfolios.

That means many ministers are now either benefiting from or being blamed for the deeds of their predecessors.

The Human Rights Commission should apologise to the ministers it named. The stocktake by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs just referred to portfolios, and it was the HRC which then attributed them all to the current Ministers, rather than the Ministers in office for most of 2014.

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So Kiwis prefer Australian anthem to our own?

July 29th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has described the national anthem as a “dirge” and said many New Zealanders preferred to sing along to the Australian anthem than our own.

Mr Little made the comment during debate in Parliament on the Flag Referendums Bill, a bill Labour is opposing despite Mr Little’s own desire for a new flag and Labour’s 2014 policy to start the process to secure that change.

Mr Little said while thousands of New Zealanders wanted a change of flag, they did not believe it was the right time.

“This is not a poor reflection on New Zealanders, many of whom would like something different. Many of them want a change to the national anthem too, because they are sick of singing a dirge every time you turn up to a festive occasion. Most of them sing along to the Australian national anthem before they sing along to our own.”

I don’t know any Kiwis who do this. Genuinely interested if you do.

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General Debate 29 July 2015

July 29th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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