A sense of entitlement

November 7th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reported:

An umemployed serial litigant will not get his dole back while he continues to shun paid work, despite challenging the decision in the High Court.

Benjamin Easton, 53, was stripped of his three-and-a-half-year unemployment benefit in February 2010 after telling The Dominion Post he was voluntarily on the dole and wasn’t looking for work.

He had “sacrificed” his career to take up “social issues”, he said at the time.

Mr Easton’s campaigns have included fathers’ rights, the Manners Mall bus route, and the Occupy Wellington demonstration.

After his comments were published, Mr Easton was stripped of his benefit payments, but challenged the decision in the High Court, with his case heard on June 24.

On Thursday, Justice Jill Mallon released her decision, denying a reinstatement of the dole.

“The ministry’s decision to cancel Mr Easton’s unemployment benefit on 25 February was lawful. Voluntary activities undertaken for the benefit of the community do not qualify as fulltime employment,” the decision said.

“Mr Easton has a long involvement in court proceedings and other activities, motivated by his beliefs about certain social issues.

“Mr Easton believes he is uniquely placed to bring to the court’s attention significant improprieties and corruption . . . Mr Easton contends he has always worked.

“[But] the legislation does not provide an unemployment benefit for people who are engaged in these activities. That is so no matter how sincere and committed a person is to the causes they pursue and how diligently and relentlessly that person pursues them.”

But Mr Easton contends his litigation and activism are in the public interest – and insists he should be paid for his services. “The public owe me. I work for the public. The public interest is that I’m remunerated for that work. That’s logical,” he said yesterday.

 No it isn’t. If Mr Easton wants to be paid for his advocacy then he should stand for Parliament or the Council and get elected. But he can’t declare himself a public representative and demand we fund him. Also thousands of us manage to hold down paid employment and do advocacy and community activities.

Easton is also in the news again today:

Activist Benjamin Easton reached the end of the line over his sledgehammer protest in the Wellington CBD when he was jailed for not doing the original sentence.

Wellington District Court judge Bill Hastings warned Easton at the start of the hearing yesterday that it was the day he would be sentenced. Easton has had multiple remands for a number of reason, including an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2011, Easton, 53, was given 80 hours community work by Judge Bruce Davidson after being found guilty on two charges of endangering public safety and disorderly behaviour.  

Easton did only five hours. Community Probation applied to have him resentenced.

Judge Hastings said Easton did not accept his guilt and was unlikely to comply with any community sentence.

”Which leaves me with little option,’ he told Easton yesterday.

He jailed him for two months.

Easton had wanted either a conviction and discharge or to be found not guilty.  

And I want to live in a castle. You don’t always get what you want. Easton seems to think not only should the public be forced to fund him, but also he is above the law. He isn’t.

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Will Easton be jailed

September 4th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Easton at Stuff reports:

Serial protester Benjamin Easton has been warned he could face jail, after failing to complete community work for bashing a Wellington street with a sledgehammer.

Easton appeared in the Wellington District Court today, after finishing just five of 80 hours community work for disorderly behaviour and endangering public safety.

I’m surprised Easton hasn’t managed to do 80 hours of community service. It is not as if he doesn’t have the time to do it, as you know having a job is uncool.

Easton replied that a jail sentence would not be “in the public interest.”

He had lodged a fresh appeal against the convictions with the Court of Appeal, he said.

Judge Butler said jailing Easton would be premature, considering the new appeal.

I’m pretty confident what the results of the appeal will be!

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The $350,000 man

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

But the council says its bid is justified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow I doubt that.

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An expensive protester

February 23rd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Wellington City Council has spent more than $350,000 defending legal proceedings that protester Benjamin Easton has taken over road changes that saw a bus route put through Manners Mall.

The figure was revealed in council documents put before a High Court judge in the latest of the cases.

I almost wonder if Easton is secretly hired by the Council’s lawyers as a money making device for them, and they pay him a 10% commission :-)

The judge was told Mr Easton was homeless after his unemployment benefit was stopped and he was put out of his city council flat because he had not paid his rent.

His current legal action also relates to losing the flat.

He also has a claim against the attorney-general and the Social Development Ministry about his benefit being stopped.

Alternatively, he could go get a job.

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Editorials 3 March 2010

March 3rd, 2010 at 1:01 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald wants the driving age raised even further:

This is a very conservative Government. If there was any doubt about the caution of John Key’s Cabinet it has been dispelled by its decision on the driving age.

Last year its transport officials floated the possibility of raising the age from 15 to 16 or 17 with restrictions until age 18. In January the Herald canvassed its readers on the subject.

The vast majority, 80 per cent of a Nielsen survey of 2300 people, thought the age should be at least 18. A few, 6.5 per cent, thought it should be 20. The Government’s decision: 16.

Personally I am glad the Government did not raise the age to 18 because of responses to an online survey.

I’ve always said tying it to the school leaving age is sensible,

The Dom Post says welfare is a safety net not a right

First it was Christchurch’s Harris family. Theirs is one of the homes into which the taxpayer deposits about $1000 a week in welfare benefits, and who have gained $30,000 extra in “special” benefits since 2000, because they persuaded Work and Income that they “needed” new tyres for their 2007 Chrysler saloon, and to fence a swimming pool at a property they own in the city.

Now it is Benjamin Easton, a man who cheerfully admitted last week that he was quite capable of earning, but who has chosen instead to live on the dole and rent a council flat. He was doing so, he said, so he could bring “the people’s challenge to the courts”

Benjamin will be having his say at Backbenches tonight, and of course he is also commenter here.

The Press examines South Canterbury Finance:

Since the company known today as South Canterbury Finance (SCF) made its first loan in 1926, it has grown to become one the largest finance companies in New Zealand.

Over this period it has played an important role in providing capital to businesses and individuals, especially in the South Island. Like so many other finance companies, however, SCF has struggled during the recent recession, and made a loss of $154.9 million in the second half of last year. But unlike many of these other companies, it is controlled by a millionaire in Allan Hubbard, who has the confidence and the means to produce a rescue package for SCF.

The deal announced this week is consistent with the commitment given by Hubbard last year when he said he would be prepared to use his personal wealth, which the National Business Review “rich list” put at $550m last year, to back his company. …

Hubbard is renowned not for high-living but for being a generous philanthropist and a businessman with integrity. And that integrity was visible this week in the rescue package for SCF and its 40,000 investors.

Give that man a knighthood!

The ODT is not impressed with Airways Corp:

Dunedin International Airport chief executive John McCall has every reason to be outraged after jet flights last Thursday night were diverted to Invercargill because no traffic controller was available.

Here is an essential service, supplied by the government-owned Airways Corporation, that did not deliver.

That failure not only inconvenienced 237 passengers and many of their friends and relatives, but also trashed the reputation of the airport and the city.

Diverting the passengers to Invercargill is surely cruel and inhumane punishment!

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That was quick

February 26th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A unemployed man trying to stop Manners Mall from becoming a bus-only road says his dole has been cut after he admitted he had no intention of getting a job.

Activist Benjamin Easton, 49, also revealed he had not had a job interview since he went on the dole nearly three years ago.

He met Work and Income for a work test yesterday after telling The Dominion Post he was on the benefit deliberately so he could bring the “people’s challenge to the courts” and that he was “perfectly capable of earning”.

Mr Easton said last night he had received a letter from Work and Income telling him he did not meet eligibility criteria and his benefit had been stopped as of yesterday.

One hopes this is an isolated case, but who knows. The vast majority of people on the dole are looking for work, and would much rather be working. However what we don’t know if how big is that minority who see it as a lifestyle.

Mr Easton said losing the dole would force him to move out of his $135-a-week Wellington City Council flat. “If they knock me off [the benefit] I will go back to living on the street.”

No he is not being forced to live on the street. He is choosing to, because he has chosen not to make himself available for work.

The activist has taken cases on a range of issues including an Environment Court appeal against the council’s $11.1 million Manners Mall bus route project.

“If I don’t do this then there isn’t anybody else to do it. I am the only person who knows what it is I am talking about.”

Now that is quite possible!

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A taxpayer funded activist

February 25th, 2010 at 10:27 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Benjamin Easton, who has lodged an Environment Court appeal to stop Manners Mall being turned into a buses-only road, told The Dominion Post on Tuesday he was “deliberately and directly” on the dole so he could bring “the people’s challenge to the courts”.

“It is a sacrifice, really. I am perfectly capable of earning.”

No it is not a sacrifice to force taxpayers to fund your political activism.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she was “appalled” by the comments, and Work and Income officials had called Mr Easton in for an immediate work test after reading them.

Good.

Mr Easton said he had been told to attend Work and Income at 9.30am today, but he was not worried about the potential threat to his benefit.

“I’ll take to them the information of what it is I’ve presented to court relative to the issues I’ve raised, and if anyone’s gainfully employed, it’s me. I’m working hard. The amount of hours I’ve put into these proceedings in the public interest is extraordinary.”

If Mr Easton thinks he is gainfully employed, then he does not need a benefit, so just cut it off.

To get the dole you need to be available for work and seeking work. He is neither.

Mr Easton – who has taken several cases on a range of issues – has lodged an appeal against Wellington City Council’s $11.1 million project to make Manners Mall a bus route.

Mediation is set for next week, but if it fails the resulting court action could cost the council up to $90,000. Last year, it spent $72,000 successfully defending Mr Easton’s High Court bid to stop the proposal.

The appeal is being taken on behalf of protest group The City is Ours, which has applied for legal aid.

I actually oppose the change to Manners Mall also, but I don’t want taxpayers funding the protest. Individuals should use their own resources to protest.

The row comes as Ms Bennett prepares new work-test rules that will see people on the dole lose their benefit after a year if they cannot show an honest attempt to find work.

“If you say, `well, actually, I haven’t done anything and I live deliberately and directly on the unemployment benefit so I can bring the people’s challenge to the courts and to the system’, then we will cancel your benefit.”

She is also planning compulsory work tests for sickness beneficiaries deemed fit to work part-time and domestic purposes beneficiaries whose youngest child is six.

Ms Bennett said she wanted a simplified system for work tests, with graduated sanctions rather than the current sole sanction of complete suspension or cancellation.

Can’t happen soon enough.

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