Edgeler on free speech and boycotts

November 22nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler has a lengthy post at Public Address on the consequences of calling on advertisers to boycott shows. I recommend people read it in full, as it is hard to do justice to it with just some extracts.

I don’t like advertiser boycotts; especially not boycotts of advertisers for the content of the programmes during which their advertising appears, and especially not if that programme is news or current affairs.

Yes, free speech has consequences. But the exercise of free speech in response also has consequences.

There are several aspects to this. I do not think that advertisers should exercise control – even indirectly – over content. For advertisers, the programming is the medium, not the message; a programme is a conduit to the audience of a broadcaster, not something they should generally been seen as supporting. Especially when we are dealing with news or current affairs, those advertising during a particular programme should not be seen as endorsing the views expressed in it. And I think that if people generally treat advertisers as bearing responsibility for editorial content, they are more likely to either want some control over it, or to spend their advertising dollars in a way that has that effect.

We have ad-supported broadcasting. While there might be a place for a real public broadcaster, most of the radio and television we have will continue to be ad-supported. I like that there is a variety of things to watch and to listen to (most of which I don’t). But if we really start holding advertisers to account for the content of programmes or channels on which their ads appear, then they will be more circumspect about placing ads, and some voices may be lost.

That is not to say that those calling for boycotts should be stopped. Their speech is just as worthy of protection as the speech they seek to shut down. I simply ask that they consider not only the consequences of the speech they are protesting, but also the consequences of the speech they engage in.

I may agree that the speech targeted in one boycott is ill-considered, or harmful in some way, but next time a boycott succeeds it might have the effect of reducing speech I like, or think is valuable. Targeting Freeview over something Willie Jackson and John Tamihere have said, or Heritage Hotels for something Paul Henry said over which they had no control (and shouldn’t have control) in order to punish their broadcasters for airing them, isn’t fundamentally different from arranging a boycott of Four (or Mediaworks) for airing an episode of South Park about the abuse by Catholic clergy, or someone else for airing pro-homosexual propaganda like Queer Nation or The L Word.

Well said.  Again, I recommend people read the whole post.

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Dotcom thinks he can be an MP!

September 8th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Kim Dotcom now says he canstand for Parliament at next year’s election.

Last week, the Teutonic tech titan told media he was going to form his own political party, and take a run at the ballot box himself – only for Kiwiblog’s David Farrar to dig up Section 47(1) of the Electoral Act, whose citizenship provision seems to clearly ruleout Mr Dotcom.

But iin a new interview published today with the Washington Post, Mr Dotcom says, “When I made that statement, my lawyers were still looking into it, and their preliminary answer was that you can only run as a citizen of New Zealand. But they went through the full several hundred pages of New Zealand election law, and they found that if I’m a permanent resident of New Zealand who’s lived here for more than a year and is a registered voter — which I will be in November — you can run for office. I’ll get more specifics on Tuesday when I sit with my lawyers, but at the moment it looks like I can run myself.”

Keeping Stock blogs these responses from Graeme Edgeler:

Edgeler 07092013

 

I know whose money I’m on for being right!

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Claiming sole credit

August 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS editorial:

It is a small victory but an important one. Parliament’s regulations review committee has upheld our complaint against the secrecy of teachers’ disciplinary proceedings.

Except it wasn’t their complaint. It was Graeme Edgeler’s. Graeme discovered that one could complain about it to the Regulations Review Committee, write the complaint and filed it. The Herald on Sunday then jumped on board and asked if they could be joined to the complaint – something Graeme agreed to.

The HoS has run a good campaign on the issue of teacher name suppression, and I think it is a good thing they joined the complaint. But would it have hurt them to acknowledge in their editorial the person who actually did the complaint, as the news story did?

The Herald on Sunday challenged the rule because we believe, like the Law Commission among others, it is inconsistent with the principle of open justice necessary for public confidence in judicial proceedings at any level.

Again, Edgeler challenged the rule, and the HoS jumped on board. Again – that was a good thing – but just grates to see no credit given to the person who actually was responsible for the victory.

UPDATE: To clarify, the HoS has run a campaign for some time against name suppression for teachers. They also made a complaint to the Teachers Council about the Council’s own rules. So they are not Johnny come latelys on this issue. However I stand by my point that the editorial should have mentioned that the complaint to Parliament was someone else’s – as their news story did. At the end of the day it was the complaint to Parliament’s RRC which got the successful outcome.  I doubt the complaint to the Council directly was going to lead to any change.

It’s partly a cultural thing. Blogs habitually hat tip, link and credit others. Newspapers tend to do so far less often.

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Teachers Council name suppression

August 16th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler complained to the Regulations Review Committee of Parliament that the rules put in place by the Teachers Council to apply blanket name suppression to all details of their disciplinary proceedings trespassed unduly on personal rights and liberties, appeared to make some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the statute under which it was made and contained matter more appropriate for parliamentary enactment. The Herald on Sunday joined his complaint.

The Committee has reported back and it is a partial victory, which pushes things in the right direction. They have resolved to recommend:

  • the New Zealand Teachers Council change rules 31, 32, and 33 to ensure the proceedings of the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal are open to the public unless the Disciplinary Tribunal makes an order to the contrary 
  • the Government consider introducing amending legislation to specify, in the Education Act 1989, that the proceedings of the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal are open to the public unless the Disciplinary Tribunal makes an order to the contrary on specified statutory grounds.

Their conclusions were that the rules of the Teachers Council:

  • are in accordance with the general objects and intentions of Part 10A of the Education Act 1989 (Standing Order ground 315(2)(a)); 
  • do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties (Standing Order ground 315(2)(b)); 
  • appear to make an unusual or unexpected use of the delegated power in section 139AJ of the Education Act 1989 (Standing Order ground 315(2)(c)); and 
  • may contain matter more appropriate for parliamentary enactment (Standing Order ground 315(2)(f)).

The two Labour MPs on the committee (Street and Dalziel) wanted to go further and find that the rules are not in accordance with the Act and do trespass on personal rights and liberties. Presumably they would have supported the Committee actually disallowing the rules, rather than just recommending they be changed.

The ball is now in the court of the Teachers Council to listen to Parliament and change their rules.

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Tidbits

August 14th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar
  1. Graeme Edgeler fisks Gordon Campbell multiple times
  2. Stats Chat fisks Stuff for saying pet owners have a 29 fold increased risk of breast cancer
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Edgeler on Labour’s undeclared donation

May 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler at Public Address blogs:

If these count as donations (and both Labour, and the Electoral Commission appear to accept they do), then each of the sums above created a separate obligation of disclosure, with 10 working days allowed after each to declare it. The failure to do so within that time period, on each of the four occasions is (unless the Party Secretary has a “reasonable excuse”) a separate offence, carrying a maximum fine of $40,000.

So what about the reasonable excuse? Labour claims it was unsure whether or not a bequest counts as a donation. Edgeler points out:

So I do not consider this is as clear as others believe. However, despite my doubts, I have no sympathy for the Labour Party.

I simply cannot accept “confusion” as an explanation. Being confused about this means you received the money and thought about it whether it had to be disclosed, and just couldn’t make up your mind for certain either way. In a situation like this, if you think you may have a legal obligation to do something, and are confused, the thing you do is check. If the reason the two Labour Party Secretaries involved (Chris Flatt at the time of the first three payments, and Tim Barnett at the time of the last payment) didn’t declare these payments as donations was because they were “confused” about whether it was required then what they’ve realised that what they’re (not) doing may be an offence, but have chosen to run the risk.

I call bullshit on the claim they were confused. If you are confused, then you seek advice. Graeme’s advice would have been:

I am happy to provide you with a legal opinion if you really want, but why do you care? Just file a disclosure anyway, and save yourself some money. At the very least, just call up the Electoral Commission and ask. If they say you a bequest doesn’t count as a donation, then don’t file a return, but otherwise, what’s the harm? 

All Labour had to do was e-mail the Electoral Commission and ask them.

Newstalk ZB’s Felix Marwick apparently has confirmation that the Electoral Commission won’t be referring these matters to the Police, which has disappointed a number of people. There is nothing to stop individuals laying complaints with the police, and I suspect a number will, although it seems unlikely police will pursue charges.

Someone should complain to the Police, and if the Police don’t act, then a private prosecution sounds a good idea.

I don’t know the reasons for the Commission’s decision, but the view that it would be wrong to hold an individual responsible for whatever failure happened in this case (when it may have been someone else’s fault) may factor. This possibility shows, I think, one of the flaws in our electoral law. For something like this, there will often be no reason to sheet responsibility to an individual for a failure like this. The law should allow political parties to be charged directly, not sheet home responsibility only to party secretaries.

I agree, it should be Labour facing a fine, not their former or current general secretaries.

 

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Go Edge

March 22nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jody O’Callaghan at Stuff reports:

Secrecy surrounding disciplining teachers is under scrutiny by MPs, with a lawyer asking that teachers face as much transparency as doctors and lawyers.

Not unreasonable.

Wellington barrister Graeme Edgeler’s complaint about the Teachers Council’s blanket suppression on disciplinary decisions was heard by a parliamentary select committee yesterday.

Teachers Council rules state that no-one, media or otherwise, can publish details of a decision on a teacher’s bad conduct. The council argues that that avoids deterring victims, particularly children, from coming forward to give evidence.

But Mr Edgeler said the presumption should always be openness.

“These rules are wrong. It’s the Teachers Council taking upon itself something that Parliament should be doing and has done in other situations.”

The Regulations Review Committee can effectively rescind the regulation made by the Teachers Council. Hopefully the Council will amend its own rules but …

Teachers Council director Peter Lind said: “Changing the rules . . . could have the unintended consequence of people, particularly children, not coming forward to give evidence.”

Oh nonsense. You really think that the 12 year old lid won’t tell their parents about something bad a teacher did because they’re aware of the rules around name suppression that the Teachers Council has?

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the suppression of disciplinary details was to protect vulnerable victims, particularly in small communities.

Oh, yes of course it is. To protect the victims. How about you don’t name the victims, but do name the teachers.

The point Edgeler is making is that a blanket rule is wrong. Sure if the teacher is the sole teacher in a small school of 10 pupils, then you might consider name suppression is necessary to protect the victims. But you don’t need a blanket rule, such as the Council has. Suppression should be the exception – not the rule.

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Well done Edge

January 21st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler blogs:

I read David Farrar’s post on the secrecy with which the New Zealand Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal conducts its hearings, and, like David, was disturbed with what I read in Kathryn Powley’s Herald on Sunday article. The Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal doesn’t just claim a power to suppress sensitive information, but rather has rules which automatically suppress all information, instead allowing people to seek official permission before publishing particular information.

David observed that “…the rule should be repealed or amended. If the Council won’t do so, then the enabling legislation should be amended.”

My first thought was to comment in agreement with his general observation: secrecy should not be the default position. My second, to point out that his proposed solution of amending the enabling legislation was excessive, when you could just ask Parliament to vote to disallow, or amend the rule – it’s the rule, not the primary legislation, that is the problem.

For some reason I thought the power of regulations review was about regulations made by Cabinet or core Government departments. But it seems not. So Graeme has taken action:

So instead of just writing a blog post, what follows below is a complaint I sent to Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee yesterday evening.

Any member of Parliament can move a motion to amend, or disallow a regulation, but the Regulations Review Committee is empowered to inquire into subordinate legislation, and a successful complaint to that Committee is a good way to get the rest of Parliament to take notice of your concerns. It operates on a more consensual basis than ordinary select committees, but the individual members of the Committee (currently three National and two Labour), have a special power that other members of Parliament don’t have. If one of them moves a motion of disallowance, the House has to vote on it, or the motion succeeds.

So if one or more members of that committee move to disallow the regulation, then it will be automatically disallowed unless the House schedules time to debate the motion.

It will be very interesting to see what happens. Will the Teachers Council amend their rule before the Regulations Review Committee considers the rule?

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Infrequently asked electoral questions

November 10th, 2011 at 1:32 pm by David Farrar

For the geeks, Graeme Edgeler asks and answers them. I like this one.

Well, how would you surreptitiously distort an election?

Nominations having closed, I don’t feel too bad announcing this one more broadly now.

My favoured method involves getting a terminally ill person (perhaps more than one, just to be “safe”), to run in the anchor electorate of a sub-5% party (e.g. Epsom). If an electorate candidate (even an independent) dies between the close of nominations, and the close of voting, the election for that electorate is cancelled (resulting in a by-election), and only the party votes count. That seat couldn’t then be used to get that party (e.g. ACT) into parliament by avoiding the 5% threshold, potentially swinging a close election. And as that person doesn’t need to have any formal affiliation to a party (they might claim to be doing it as a stunt to raise awareness about some aspect of the health system), you might be able to get away with it.

This is a rule we really don’t need, and I’m guessing it’s a hangover from first past the post. Which, to be honest, doesn’t need it either. Given that you’re having an election anyway, let people vote, and if the dead candidate wins, then have a by-election.

I tend to agree. If the US can elect dead politicians, so can we.

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A referendum tool

September 27th, 2011 at 1:47 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler at Public Address has put together a referendum tool, where you answer 10 questions and rate their importance, and it assesses the five electoral systems against your responses.

It is a tool, not a bible. But well worth having a play with and seeing what systems it says you are most aligned with.

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Hone has no excuse

June 1st, 2011 at 2:39 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Hone Harawira plans to appeal a decision that means he’s not eligible for any public funding for broadcasting during the election campaign.

The Electoral Commission released its funding allocations today but because the Mana Party didn’t exist when the deadline passed, it missed out any TV or radio time.

Mr Harawira says he’s disappointed because he got his party registration application in on time, but missed out on the funding allocation through no fault of his own.

“I don’t know that there are appeal options but just because we’re not sure doesn’t mean to say we won’t try. I’ll be advising our Party secretary this afternoon to lodge a formal appeal and to see how we get on. If we’re unsuccessful, we’ll move on,” he says.

The story is wrong and Hone is wrong. You can apply for an allocation, even if you are not registered, so long as you register before mid October.

And Graeme Edgeler wrote on the previous thread:

… however, the Mana Party wasn’t shut out. You don’t have to be registered to apply for an allocation, and I sent Hone a message before the applications closed to try to make sure he knew he could apply to get one.

So Hone was told before the deadline that he could apply. He missed out because he did nothing. And oh yeah there is no appeal.

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Understanding STV

October 2nd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler at Public Address has an excellent Q&A on STV. One or two blogs that purport to be specialist local body blogs have shown a dismal lack of knowledge on how STV works. They should also link to Graeme’s analysis. Some extracts:

But is it a good idea to rank everyone?

Yes.

But if I give someone I don’t like a rank, couldn’t this hurt the chances of candidates I like more?

No.

Your lower preferences cannot ever harm the election prospects of anyone you rank higher than them.

This is key. Don’t try and be strategic and working out who is most popular and hence I will rank them lower as they don’t need my vote etc. Just rank candidates in order of your true actual preference.

But what if I really don’t want to rank everyone?

You don’t have to. If there are a bunch of people whom you think are just as bad each other, or you know nothing about, your vote will still count. If the election comes down to race between people you haven’t ranked, you won’t help determine the result, but if you don’t mind which of them is elected, this shouldn’t bother you too much.

But if there’s someone I really really don’t want elected, I should rank everyone else above them

Yes.

This is again on the mark. If you have no opinions on a group of candidates you can leave them unranked. However if there is a candidate you definitely do not want to be elected, then you should rank all candidates and rank them bottom.

An informed vote is always a good idea.

Even for the District Health Board?

Okay, you got me. Health Board elections are stupid.

Yes they are. Please National get rid of them.

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The budget publicity campaign

June 11th, 2008 at 9:34 am by David Farrar

Labour have produced out of their Leader’s Office budget, a pamphlet promoting the 2008 budget. The NZ Herald reports that it is almost certainly an election expense and will come out of the $2.4 million spending cap:

Wellington electoral law specialist Graeme Edgeler said last night the leaflet met the definition of election advertisement under the Electoral Finance Act.

“It doesn’t say vote Labour, but that is the clear implication.”

It had party colours, the Labour logo, and the party’s tax-cut promises this year and in the future.

He did not believe it could be considered under the exception given to an MP producing material in their capacity as MP.

“This is a Labour Party promotional leaflet.”

It was “almost certainly” an election advertisement and as such should be declared in the party’s expenses.

Any postage costs in sending it out, should also be included!

It may also count as a donation:

Mr Edgeler also said that under the new law, the cost of the leaflet might have to be declared as an election donation by the Parliamentary Service to the Labour Party.

“If I gave the Labour Party $30,000 worth of leaflets it would be a donation – just as if they printed off $30,000 worth and sent me the bill and I paid it, that would be a donation.

“I really don’t see the difference between them sending a bill to me, or getting the leaflets from me, and them sending the bill to the Parliamentary Service or getting the leaflets from the Parliamentary Service.”

It will be very interesting to have revealed the total amount of taxpayer funding spent on election advertising.

UPDATE: It appears the Government was unable to find a happy New Zealand family for their publicity campaign, so they have used an American family!

Well done to Skinny for his detective work. Someone has found another photo of the family which more fairly reflects their situation:

This is very very funny.

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Blog Bits

June 10th, 2008 at 6:42 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne calls the Media 7 show on the Pacific immigration debate a gang-up on Dom Post Editor Tim Pankhurst.

Steven Price points out to the Ministry of Justice that their site for court decisions of public interest, is missing all the interesting ones. To be fair I think it is up to the Judge to tick the box on whether it should go there, but regardless someone in the Ministry should use their common sense and make sure the EFA judgements and the abortion law one go up asap. The latest EFA is here for those who want it.

JafaPete asks whether people are just voting for change for change’s sake. He agrees with Chris Trotter that the anti-smacking bill may have been a turning point. He also says the EFA may have had an impact on the Government’s unpopularity.

No Right Turn covers the abortion debate and High Court decision. I am not surprised with the High Court ruling – it has been apparent for some decades that we have a de facto abortion on demand regime, despite a legislative framework that reserves it for serious danger to physical or mental health. Now I support abortion (up to a certain date) on demand and even though it would probably be a very heated debate, the proper way to change laws is through public vote or the legislature – not through the back door. The issues were covered on this blog back in March, and in a sign of hope it was a reasonably rational debate with analysis, not just name calling.

Graeme Edgeler covers issues in the Criminal Procedures Bill, and does a summary of each of the dozen or so changed. Excellent.

Colin James is not a blogger (in fact I would call him an anti-blogger!) but his op ed on inflation is worth reading.

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