Street drops euthanasia bill

September 27th, 2013 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

A bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia has been withdrawn amid fears it would become a political football during election year.

Labour MP Maryan Street withdrew her End of Life Choice Bill before today’s member’s bill ballot.

I’m sad that Maryan has dropped the bill, because not changing the law means far too many people will have to go through unnecessary suffering.

The bill was not just about people with cancer. It would have allowed people like Martin Hames who had Huntington’s disease to live for many more years, as he would not have had to commit suicide if he had known that he could choose an assisted suicide later on in his life when his disease became more critical.

Street said there would probably be only two more days this year in which member’s bills would be considered by the House.

“Anything that is drawn, including the ones drawn today, will be debated in election year, and I don’t want my bill debated in election year,” she said.

“I’m concerned that it would not get the treatment it deserves. It needs sober, considered reflection, and that’s not a hallmark of election years in my experience.”

The move was simply pragmatism, she said, and she “absolutely” planned to put it back in the ballot after the election.

“Can you understand that sometimes MPs’ thought processes take a swerve in election year?”

Street was believed to have been pressured by Labour colleagues to withdraw the bill amid concerns that some would have to campaign against it, distracting from the rest of the campaign.

I don’t think it is about election year. I think it is about pressure from Labour MPs.

What would be good is if a Green Party MP took the bill and submitted it into the ballot under their name!

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Will Street drop euthanasia bill?

July 17th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

Labour MP Maryan Street is under pressure to drop a member’s bill which would legalise euthanasia because her party is concerned it could be a negative distraction in the lead-up to the general election next year.

If Ms Street’s End of Life Choice Bill was pulled from the ballot, the debate could extend into election year, and some Labour MPs felt this could hurt the party’s run for Government by distracting from its main policies and deterring more conservative voters.

Ms Street said that several colleagues had discussed with her what would happen if the bill were pulled from the ballot in 2014.

I think they are more worried that the euthanasia bill could help the Conservative Party make 5%.

Personally I’ll be very disappointed if Maryan does drop the bill. I think we inflict some terrible suffering on people by not allowing them to opt for euthanasia.

If she does drop the bill, then maybe a Green Party MP can pick it up?

At present, there are 69 members’ bills in the ballot. Nine members’ bills were still waiting for a first reading, so another ballot was unlikely to be held until the end of the year.

Not quite right. Once the number awaiting first reading drops below eight, then another ballot is held. I expect another ballot in August, say September at the latest.

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Tamihere on Labour front bench

October 7th, 2012 at 6:13 pm by David Farrar

John Tamihere on Q+A:

PAUL Yeah, but we’re now 2012, as I say. I mean, do you think David Shearer’s got to really reshuffle that front bench? I mean, you can’t honestly look at that front bench and think they’re performing well as an Opposition.

MR TAMIHERE That’s true, but he’s also got to look to 2014 for the list. 

PAUL It’s critical, because this week – you take this week. Bad week for the government. Should have been. More Dotcom coming left, right and centre at the Prime Minister.

 MR TAMIHERE You’ve got me. There’s no doubt—

 PAUL Wilkinson’s reversal on Mike Tyson.

 MR TAMIHERE Front bench is not firing.

 PAUL No.

 MR TAMIHERE Across the whole line, whether it’s health, welfare or education, and those are the biggies.  …

I’m surprised Tamihere named specific portfolios where he claimed Labour front benchers are not firing. That will not endear him to Maryan Street, Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta.

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The End of Life Choice Bill

July 23rd, 2012 at 4:11 pm by David Farrar

Maryan Street has finalised her euthanasia bill, called the End of Life Choice Bill.  The last bill on euthanasia failed just 58-60 in 2003, so there is a very reasonable chance that such a bill can pass, if drawn.

I believe we need such a bill, and will be supporting it. It is inhumane what some families are forced to go through. They key elements of the bill are:

  • that the person making the request must be mentally competent, as attested by 2 medical practitioners – and that there is no coercion involved
  • that the person suffers from a terminal illness which is likely to cause death within 12 months, or from an irreversible physical or mental condition that, in the person’s view, renders his or her life unbearable
  • A 7 day reflection period
  • Can do an end of life directive, while mentally competent, specifying wishes. Must be renewed every five years
  • Medical practitioners can refuse to be involved
  • Family members can not annul the wishes of the applicant (unlike with organ donations!)
  • An annual review of how the law is being operated

There are no doubt some areas of the bill that can be improved upon in select committee, but to me it looks worthy of support for at least first reading.

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Support for Euthanasia?

April 29th, 2012 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

Sarah Harvey in the SST  reports:

The MP campaigning for the right to die has been buoyed by a poll that shows more than 85 per cent of respondents to a survey supported voluntary euthanasia.

The Sunday Star-Times reader poll of more than 1000 people also found almost three-quarters of people would help a terminally-ill loved one commit suicide, and that support for a law change is highest among men, and those over 60. Labour MP Maryan Street has been working with the Voluntary Euthanasia Society on her End of Life Choice Bill, which would give people the right to “choose how and when they exit this life”.

The private members bill will have to be drawn from the ballot to get a hearing, but Street says the reader poll had the highest support she had seen, with most polls getting 75 per cent backing for a law change.

I wouldn’t compare a readers poll to polls of random New Zealanders. I do think however there is considerable support for a law change amongst the public.

“There is more support out in the community for this than people imagine,” Street said. She had seen a change since a 1995 euthanasia vote was lost 61-29, to 60-57 when it was revisited in 2003. “And, nine years on, attitudes have changed again.”

I think the current law is quite cruel when people like Sean Davison are made into criminals for doing what his mother begged him to do.

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Green Labour fighting

September 21st, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Nelson Mail reports:

A spat has developed after the Greens took exception over Labour MP Maryan Street labelling them more blue than green in Parliament.

Nelson Green candidate Aaryn Barlow, who is on his first election campaign, hit back at Ms Street saying she was desperate for votes while she maintained National could not be trusted.

In Parliament, Ms Street had been making reference to the Greens voting for National’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill, which establishes an environmental protection system for the ocean beyond this country’s 12-mile territorial limit.

She claimed: “This Green Party is beginning to align itself in a foreshadowing of its possible coalition arrangements with the National Party that makes it look now more blue than green.”

The bill passed its first reading by 76 votes to 44 on Tuesday with the help of the Greens, United Future, Act and the Maori Party. Mr Barlow said the Greens would support it until select committee stage, but did not believe it went far enough to protect the environment.

He said: “I find it rich for Labour to accuse us of aligning ourselves with National when Labour have voted for National’s bills four times as much as the Greens this term. Maryan is obviously concerned about Labour voters who are leaving them in droves for the Greens and she is getting desperate.”

I think Labour are starting to get very worried about the extent of their possible vote loss to the Greens.

Let’s say you are a centre-left voter. You’d like a centre-left Government but like over 90% of New Zealanders, think National will win. You then have a choice. You can either vote Labour, knowing they will oppose pretty much everything the Government does, or you can vote Greens knowing the Greens will work with the Government to make it greener in areas they can find agreement, and that the more votes the Greens get the more influence they will have with Government.

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Labour makes it personal

August 18th, 2011 at 6:38 pm by David Farrar

Sarah Young in the Nelson Mail reports:

Labour is recruiting “captains” to “wipe the smug grin” from Nelson MP Nick Smith’s face, but he was not smiling about the ploy today.

Dr Smith says Labour MP Maryan Street’s letter to Labour supporters asking for help with election campaigning is “pretty snide, negative stuff”.

The letter, signed by Labour’s campaign co-ordinator Kate Reilly, calls on people to “make a difference” by becoming a street captain to “motivate and mobilise voters on the day”.

“If we get it right we can be rid of Nick Smith as an electorate MP.

“It’s not complicated but it is important if you want to wipe that smug grin off Nick’s face.”

When I was a campaign manager, I never advocated nastiness towards my candidate’s opponent (Marian Hobbs). To the contrary I made a point of only saying positive things her in a personal, not political, sense.

Most voters don’t like the personal nastiness, and while the stuff about Nick is pretty mild (for Labour) it perhaps helps explain why Street lost the seat by 8,500 votes.

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Labour calls on Government to appropriate an Air NZ plane

February 1st, 2011 at 7:53 pm by David Farrar

Talk about spewing words out in a panic. Maryan Street is reported as saying:

Labour Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maryan Street said New Zealand should do what other governments were doing and charter or provide an aircraft.

“It is not good enough for the government simply to sit back and say we will give the British or the Americans a call if necessary, to see if they can bump our people up their list,” she said.

“A government’s very first responsibility is the defence of its citizens and this government is sitting on its hands while Kiwi families are at real risk of danger in Cairo right now.

“The embassy has told people to leave but are not being given the resources to help them do exactly that,” she said.

“The government could charter a plane faster than it could send a 757 to get there. It could even divert or appropriate an Air New Zealand plane out of London which could get to Cairo quickly.

Yes that is a Labour MP calling for the Government to forcibly appropriate NZ001 and divert it to Cairo. I’m not sure what power she thinks the Government can do this under – maybe the Canterbury Earthquake legislation!

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Labour’s future leadership

July 13th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

As I blogged yesterday, the chances of there being a Labour-led Government after the 2011 election is very remote. Not just because of the gap in the polls, but also because of their failure to rejuvenate, but more importantly their failure to mend bridges with the Maori Party who might hold the balance of power after the election.

So unless there is some big event such as a second recession, or a major scandal, Phil Goff is unlikely to become Prime Minister. So who will replace him, when and why?

When?

Turning to the when, and I still maintain that Goff is safe until the election – even if Labour stay below 30%. There are three reasons for this:

  1. Lack of enthusiasm for the alternatives
  2. The shared delusion that the public will wake up to its mistake and restore them to power once they prove that John Key really is a nasty nasty man
  3. The impact of MMP, sheltering Caucus more than FPP did

The last point is quite important. Under FPP MPs got more panicked by the polls. If the polls showed they were in trouble in their seat, then they were facing the end of their political career, so they would desperately vote to change leaders to try and hold on to their seats – as Labour did in 1990.l

But under MMP, MPs can be protected on the list, so they do not fear bad polling so much. And even though the polls may show Labour losing as many as seven List MPs, the fact is no one knows which seven MPs may be toast until Labour ranks its list, and by then it is too late.

So I am quite confident that Phil Goff will remain Leader until after the 2011 election. But if they lose, I would expect he will retire from the leadership and politics within 6 – 12 months of the 2011 election.

Who?

I believe the next leader of the Labour Party will be David Cunliffe. And yes, of course I have my money where my mouth is and am backing that stock on iPredict.

Why?

It isn’t exactly a closely guarded secret that David Cunliffe isn’t the most popular MP with his colleagues. He probably isn’t the first choice for Leader of more than a handful of MPs. But he will become Leader, because he is basically everyone’s acceptable second choice.

Being the acceptable second choice can be a better position than a faction’s first choice. Similiar politics happened in the Waitakere selection – one faction was backing Twyford strongly and one faction (union) backing McCracken. Carmel Sepuloni came through the middle as the choice acceptable to all sides who could unify the electorate – either Twyford or McCracken would have left a significant minority disgruntled.

It is also worth remembering that Helen was positioning Cunliffe as a future leader, if she got a fourth term. She wanted to keep Goff out, and after Maharey retired and Mallard imploded, Cunliffe was her favoured candidate to succeed her. The 2008 loss, meant that Cunliffe did not have enough experience to be viable at that stage, so she let the leadership temporarily transfer to the man she she had worked so hard to keep away from it.

Why Not?

Cunliffe is basically the only acceptable alternative to the caucus. One can ascertain this by going through the others known to want the job.

Shane Jones – even before the hotel porn saga, Jones was not going to become leader. The women in Labour would rather slit their wrists than elect Jones, and while they are not a majority in caucus, they are a minority too powerful to ignore. Also Jones hasn’t shown the required hard work to become leader – he overly relies on his (quite considerable) natural talent. He is also too right wing economically to become Leader.

Andrew Little – Andrew has made a tactical mistake by combining the three roles of party president, union leader and aspiring MP. There is considerable resentment of this in the caucus, and he is blamed for the lacklustre fundraising to date. One Labour person commented to me that how can you expect the President one week to be getting donations from CEOs, when the next week he is delivering strike notices to them. Add onto that the resentment from List MPs that Andrew will be automatically given a high list ranking, knocking them down the order.

So Andrew will enter caucus with a degree of pre-existing hostility. While he may one day become Leader if he proves himself, he will not be given a Bob Hawke type coronation after just a year in Parliament.

Ruth Dyson – John Key would start going to church (to thank God)  if Labour elected Ruth Dyson as Leader. Nothing against Ruth’s skills, but she is a polarising figure strongly associated with the former Government.

Maryan Street – I rate Street as one of the smartest MPs, and she has the ability to be a strong Minister and maybe even Deputy Leader.  But I don’t see at all the charisma to become leader or prime minister. Maryan being elected as Leader would also see John Key, if not start attending church, at least sending his kids to Sunday School!

Grant Robertson – Grant is a very smart political operator. Too smart to try and become leader after just one term in Parliament. He has what I expect will become a fairly safe seat for him, and time is on his side. I think the bastard might even be younger than me! If Grant stood in 2012, he might do surprisingly well, but I think he knows he is better to wait his time and get more experience before he tries to ascend.

Ashraf Choudhary – just kidding :-)

Then what?

It is dangerous to look too far ahead, but my best pick at this stage is David Cunliffe become Leader in 2012, and he contests the 2014 election.

Labour will have a challenge in replacing him as Finance Spokesperson, with a so few MPs having the necessary skills or background. To my mind, the only credible option would be David Parker. So the leadership team could be Cunliffe as Leader, Street as Deputy and Parker as Finance.

Like Goff, Cunliffe will probably be a one shot leader unless he wins the election. They call this the Mike Moore slot. He doesn’t have (at this stage anyway) the loyalty of enough MPs to keep him in the job if he loses.

If National wins the 2014 election (and no predictions this far out), then Labour will have another leadership change. I believe their post 2014 leader will be their long-term leader – like Clark they will be in the job for 10 – 15 years or so, and they will become Prime Minister.

This could see a Grant Robertson vs Andrew Little battle. That would be very interesting. I’ve been pretty impressed with David Shearer also, and wouldn’t rule him out as a contender also. Kelvin Davis has potential also – but I see him more as a future Education Minister.

Of course a John Key or Don Brash type candidate may enter Parliament for Labour in 2011, and also by 2014 become a potential leader. However the fact almost all their Caucus is standing again, makes it harder for them to parachute any stars in.

Time will tell if my predictions come true.

Tomorrow, I will blog on how I would “sell” David Cunliffe once he is Leader.

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Is flying your partner weekly to Wellington to study legitimate?

April 30th, 2010 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale blogs on the domestic air travel bill for Nelson based List MP Maryan Street, being $82,000 over 15 months.

Based on the cost of flying to Nelson, it represents around 15 return flights a month, or 4 return flights a week. Now there will be some non Nelson travel, but even taking that into account, the cost seems very high.

Whale suggests the reason for the high cost is that Maryan’s partner is studying at Victoria University, and possibly is flying to and from Nelson every week also. It is important to stress that there is no proof this is the case. Also on a personal note, Maryan’s partner is a very nice person and I would ask people not to jump to conclusions or do any name calling.

The issue is whether or not the use of spousal travel to study is legitimate. The Speaker’s determination is quite clear:

3.8 Domestic air travel of spouses and partners

The spouse or partner of a member may travel by air at any time on scheduled air services throughout New Zealand, provided that the travel is not for private business purposes.

Flying to attend university is not for private business purposes, so it is absolutely clearly legal.

But the test is not always what is legal. For example it is legal for a Dunedin spouse to fly twice a week to Auckland to go shopping.

The test now being applied, is more “is it reasonable”. Most people think it is reasonable for a spouse to be able to fly to Wellington from time to time so they get to see each sometimes during the week.

But is flying to and from Wellington every week for study (even f the MP is not there) a good look?

Now again I want to stress that it is only an assumption that the travel perk may have been used for study purposes. There is no proof of this, and even if there is – it is entirely 100% within the rules.

But I think just as many other MPs have faced questioning over their level of expenses, it is reasonable for media to make inquiries as to whether this is why the travel expenses are so high for Maryan. It may be that it has nothing at all to do with this, and it is all the cost of travel to treaty settlements, as reported.

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Labour on Burma

April 22nd, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour seem to have multiple spokespersons and policies on engagement with Burma.

The Dom Post reports:

Three government officials from Myanmar’s repressive military regime are studying English in New Zealand, funded by the taxpayer.

Why, we wonder?

Mr McCully said he had allowed the officials to study here after a review of Myanmar’s involvement in the English Language Training for Officials scheme. That was in line with an international move – led by United States President Barack Obama – to increase engagement with Myanmar in preparation for what were hoped to be democratic elections this year. …

In 2008, Mr McCully – then in opposition – criticised Labour for allowing government-owned company Kordia, formerly BCL, to work in a joint venture doing engineering work on cellphone tower installations in Myanmar. He called the Myanmar government the “Butchers of Burma”. Asked to justify his apparent change of heart, Mr McCully would only say it was “consistent with the international community”.

He said the three studying in New Zealand worked in the civil service in Myanmar. “We don’t do it for people who hold controversial roles.”

Okay – makes sense.  So what does Labour say on it. First their foreign affairs spokesperson:

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Chris Carter said it was important to show the Myanmar officials how democracy should work. “It’s about political education in a way.”

Goodness I am agreeing with Chris. Training up civil servants on how to do a good job, seems worthwhile.

But Labour MP Maryan Street disagrees:

Burma Cross-Party Parliamentary Group chairwoman Maryan Street, a Labour MP, said: “We should not be doing anything to prop up that administration.”

She said the officials – studying in Wellington, Napier, and Nelson – could spy on refugees in this country, leading to possible persecution of families in Burma.

“This is not the same as providing humanitarian support and assistance and training for people who are going back to help develop their country.”

So who speaks for Labour on this issue, and what is their policy?

Finally I wonder if this is a new initiative:

Mr McCully said each participant in the English Language Training for Officials scheme cost about $35,000 to educate over six months – paid for by the New Zealand Government. About 35 officials had visited from Myanmar since 1998.

Guess not.

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Street on FTAs

October 26th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Maryan Street blogs:

Am off right now to Kuala Lumpur to witness the signing of the NZ-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement. This is in keeping with the Labour, and now National, tradition of the Minister of Trade inviting the Opposition Trade Spokesperson along to such events. This isn’t just good politics – it’s good business.

Our business leaders need the security of knowing the policy rug isn’t going to be pulled out from under them at the end of a short electoral cycle. This is about NZ Inc and both Labour and National get that.

Yep. If only someone could convince the Greens and Winston First, and oh yeah the Maori Party also.

Europe and the US are retreating behind protectionist doors, but there are some really encouraging movements in Asia, and we are fortunate to be their neighbours.

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Hooton on ACC

October 16th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton has written on ACC in his opening salvo for NBR. It is only available in the tree version, but some extracts:

In 2001, Australian insurance giant HIH collapsed with debts of around A$5 billion, caused by gross mismanagement, including charging too little for premiums and failing to put enough aside for claims.

The Australian authorities took the matter seriously, including Prime Minister John Howard, who established a royal commission. The company’s principals were jailed for offences including knowingly disseminating false information, filing false financial statements, being intentionally dishonest and failing to discharge their duties in good faith and in the best interests of the company.

I think I know where Matthew is going with this.

This week, New Zealand’s biggest insurer, ACC, reported a NZ$4.8 billion loss on top of a NZ$2.4 billion loss the previous year.

Like HIH, ACC’s crisis was knowingly hidden from the public. The Treasury’s Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update, signed by then finance minister Michael Cullen, did not disclose it, a failure subsequently found by an independent inquiry to have breached the Public Finance Act.

Yes my suspicions are correct.

Even worse were the public statements of then-ACC minister Maryan Street.
On June 26, 2008, ACC was apparently strong enough for Ms Street to announce that 400,000 casual and seasonal workers would get improved cover.

On September 11, she had enough confidence in the company’s finances to announce a re-elected Labour government would cut the motor vehicle levy from $254 to $203.

Three weeks later, and just five weeks before the election, Ms Street was at it again, announcing an expansion of ACC entitlements to people over 65.

The most charitable interpretation is that the former university academic might suffer from some advanced form of oniomania that makes her believe that, despite ballooning liabilities and a global financial crisis, it was possible to keep buying new services from ACC, while cutting its revenue, and expect it to remain viable. Alternatively, perhaps she was just telling lies in the heat of a close election campaign.

I had to look up what oniomania is!

Far from turning itself in to the Serious Fraud Office, Labour now has the audacity to launch a new narrative that accuses ACC Minister Nick Smith and ACC chairman John Judge of establishing some kind of conspiracy to privatise the scheme.

Audacity is the nicest word for it. I still think it is a pity the Government did not demand prosecutions for the breach of the Public Finance Act!

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Putting country ahead of party

October 13th, 2009 at 10:22 am by David Farrar

Readers will have seen the reports that the United States has lifted the ban on full intelligence sharing with New Zealand. The ban on joint exercises is almost all but gone. After almost 25 long years, the relationship is almost restored.

The praise for this should go not just to the current Government, but Opposition Leader Phil Goff and Trade Spokesperson Maryan Street who have been with McCully and Groser in Washington DC.

Despite the politics before the last election, I understand that the Opposition and Government have been posing a united front, and have made clear that no matter what happens in future elections, NZ will not be amending its anti-nuclear law. The Opposition did not suggest it will be gone by lunchtime, but that it has bi-partisan support and is a reality, so it should no longer be a barrier to the relationship.

This, combined with Obama’s own rhetoric about ridding the world of nuclear weapons, has led to a significant warming of relations on the military and intelligence fronts.

So praise, where praise is due. Congrats to Goff and Street for putting the country ahead of their party, and helping enable the Government and US Government to move closer together.

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Selected

July 22nd, 2009 at 12:26 pm by David Farrar

Two private members bills have been selected from the ballot.

The first is the Customs and Excise (Prohibition of Imports Made by Slave Labour) Amendment Bill by Labour’s Maryan Street. This bill comes from the NZ Progressive Bills Wiki, so it shows you do not need to be an MP to have a real input inti legislation. It simply “prohibits goods manufactured or produced wholly or in part by child labour”.

The second is the Te Rā o Mātāriki/Mātāriki Day Bill by the Maori Party’s Rahui Katene. This bill would make Mātāriki, or the Maori New Year, a public holiday – on the day of the next new moon following the day in which the moon rises in the months of May or June.

By coincidence the Greens are having a Mātāriki Party tonight, which they have kindly invited me to. So I guess they will be pleased the bill has been drawn (even though it is a Maori Party Bill) and there will be lots of organic beer being drunk to celebrate!

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Labour and copyright

March 26th, 2009 at 4:59 am by David Farrar

Labour MPs hosted a roundtable on Tuesday evening to discus copyright issues – not just S92A, but longer term issues over how copyright law intersects with modern technology.

I’ll touch on the politics of it more in my NBR column, but this is smart opposition politics, and a good move for Labour. And I’m not just saying that because I was one of those invited – I’ve spent enough time in the Opposition meeting room to not feel a need to visit it often!

The turnout from Labour was impressive for what is not a top tier issue. Comms/IT spokesperson Clare Curran moderated. Arts/Culture spokesperson Grant Robertson was also there as was Lianne Dalziel who chairs the Commerce Committee that will presumably consider the Government’s law change. Maryan Street also there for a bit (Maryan was on the original Commerce Committee and was a key player in getting some good changes made at the select committee – which sadly were later overturned) as was Trevor Mallard and also David Cunliffe. So four former Ministers and six MPs in total.

There were a couple of dozen stakeholders there, and the discussion was useful. The first half probably saw more heat than light, but as time went on there were quite a few areas of agreement. Lynn Prnetice from The Standard and myself even agreed several times :-)

Pretty much everyone agreed the current law is hopelessly inadequate for modern day copyright infringement issues. The law is only really set up to deal with situations where people make money infringing copyright, and is based around economic remedies. But a major problem today is infringement for personal use.

Everyone in the room said that there should be some cheap and quick (but fair) process where personal infringement offences can be adjudicated and dealt with. No one at all said one should be able to avoid paying for works by downloading. The Internet people all thought fines would be appropriate penalties – maybe tied to the value of the work they have infringed plus a penalty. It was thought maybe it could be like the IRD – if you download 100 songs that cost $1 each you’d be fined the $100 value plus maybe 50% penalty so $150. I did joke that people could just disclose their volume of ilegal downloads to the IRD on their tax returns :-)

The rights holders rep said he would prefer Internet disconnection than fines as a sanction, as they think it is a bigger deterrent. I did get the impression though that any sort of meaningful sanction would be a step forward for them.

Quite a lot of discussion over future business models. The point was made that no one has a right to make money from their “art” – they have the right to have the “opportunity” to make money, but technology does disrupt traditional business models, and no industry is exempt – ie the media are just as disrupted by the Internet as the music industry.

I suggested the long term future is something along the lines of you pay $40 a month to your ISP for Internet access, and if you want it goes to $55 a month for Internet access and all the songs you can download legally, and say $65 a month to also subscribe to legal TV downloads and say $80 a month to also get movie downloads. And if ISPs are keeping a share of the license fee, they gain an incentive to crack down on those doing free copyright infringing downloads. A fair few people agreed this would be a desirable future.

I also advocated that rights holders and ISPs should try and get a voluntary agreement, regardless of any law, that allows right holders to have education notices to alleged infringers sent through ISPs. Even without sanctions involved, it is likely this would see a significant drop in infringing downloads. But right holders can’t expect ISPs to act as their mailmen for free s that is a key issue. Ant Healey from ARPA indicated they had been discussing just that with the TCF, which is good.

Without beating up on Healey (who made many constructive contributions), I was a wee bit disappointed that he did repeatedly go on about how the room was unbalanced with so many”Internet people” there and so few artists. This was the one issue that got people a bit worked up as many of the Internet people somewhat angrily proclaimed they were also artists.

S92A was discussed, but the focus was on wider issues around the law. Many people (including myself) advocated for a full first principles review of the law which would take account of today’s world where digital copying is instant and cost free, the fact the nature of infringing is now for personal use not economic gain, and most importantly to look at having a broad fair use doctrine that covers stuff such as parody, satire, fair quoting etc etc. Copyright is not just about music. Healey made the point that you have international treaty obligations so a first principles review may be pointless as you can’t avoid those. Personally I don’t think the two are incompatible.

Overall it was a good initiative by Labour. The MPs engaged well, and were not defensive about their role in originally supporting s92A. In fact a couple of former Ministers said they had been going back through old Cabinet papers to find out why they supported it at the time. The MPs participated but mainly were there t listen and consider possible ways forward for their positioning based on contributions.

No magic solution engaged, but I think most people found it quite worthwhile, and you know the Government would gain some kudos if it did the same and had an open dialogue with relevant Ministers and stakeholders. I think it would help them in progressing a law change.

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Herald on ACC blowout

December 4th, 2008 at 6:41 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald Editorial:

Nasty surprises for incoming prime ministers were meant to be eliminated by Ruth Richardson’s 1994 Fiscal Responsibility Act. The legislation obliged Governments to throw open the books before an election, exposing the Treasury’s best estimates and forecasts. The praiseworthiness of such transparency was quickly recognised at home and abroad. But, unfortunately, the law’s good intention has not been accompanied by scrupulous observance of its spirit and thrust. The latest transgressor is Labour’s ACC spokesman, David Parker, who insists former Cabinet ministers were not obliged to reveal a $1 billion hole in the Accident Compensation Corporation budget before the election.

And remember Labour also say that the $1 billion blowout is not significant.

Mr Parker, for his part, said Maryan Street denied knowing details of the shortfall until October, when she immediately told the Finance Minister at the time, Michael Cullen, and the Treasury. That happened after the Treasury had prepared its pre-election fiscal update. While this meant no specifics of the ACC’s problem could be included in that document, Mr Parker did not explain why these could not have been revealed to the public once they were known.

This, of course, should have been the case. The spirit of the fiscal responsibility law demands as much. An addendum could have been attached to the pre-election update or a public statement about the ACC budget released. Even before then, a fiscal risk flag could have been placed on the pre-election update, as is customary for unquantified sums in pre-Budget documents.

The Herald nails it in one. They could have still released the info or as a minimum flagged it in PREFU as an unquantified risk.

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Labour don’t get it

December 3rd, 2008 at 11:40 am by David Farrar

Labour are squealing over the $1 billion ACC blowout that they kept secret. NZPA reports:

Labour’s ACC spokesman, David Parker, said today Mr Key’s assertions were wrong and the Government was trying to divert attention from its plans to privatise ACC.

You always know someone is cornered when they start trying to distract from the issue by raising the nasty bogeyman hiding under the bed of privatisation.

He said he had spoken to former ACC minister Maryan Street who denied knowing any details of the shortfall until October, when she immediately told former finance minister Michael Cullen and the Treasury.

Note her careful use of words – denied knowing the details. She was informed as far back as May of the blowout, just not the exact figure.

Mr Parker said officials told ministers at the time it would be improper for the extra money to be authorised during the election campaign.

And Parker also misses the point. Even if they did not authorise the extra money, they could have disclosed the blowout voluntarily. That is the point – they knew PREFU was lacking a very significant item. And it is not as if there is any choice about the bailout – the Government can’t simply chooise to stop paying out ACC claims. If the blowout had been in welfare, then the adjustment would have been automatically reflected in forecasts.

It is also debatable if it was improper for the Government to approve funding the shortfall. They approved $150 billion depost guarantee during the election, so what is $297 million compared to that? And again this wasn’t some sort of discretionary expenditure such as deciding to build a new road – it was an obligation.

“There’s some really alarmist language being used around this … it’s 6 per cent of the ACC budget, it’s been blown out of all proportion.”

And this shows why they are unfit to be given the fiscal pursestrings again. David Parker saying that $1 billion over three years is nothing to be alarmed about. Think about how many hip operations, how many exra nurses, how many more computers in schools that would buy?

And his 6% of ACC budget is misleading, as the blowout is in one fund and it is around a 25% blowout in that fund. But hey we now know Labour don’t think 25% blowouts to the tune of a million dollars are worth worrying about, let alone telling anyone about.

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Electorate Polls

November 2nd, 2008 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

I’ve blogged over on curiablog the results fo several recent electorate polls, including tonight’s one in Tauranga. The topline results are:

  • Tauranga – Bridges 26% ahead of Peters. Labour’s Pankhurst in 4th place at 5%. NZ First Party Vote down from 13% in 2005 to 6%.
  • Palmerston North – National candidate Malcolm Plimmer ahead by 3%
  • Ikaroa-Rawhiti – Parekura Horomia 5.4% ahead of Derek Fox
  • Nelson – Nick Smith 36% ahead of Maryan Street
  • West Coast-Tasman – Damien O’Connor 3.5% ahead of Chris Auchinvole
  • Te Tai Tonga – Maori TV/TNS has Mahara Okeroa ahead of Rahui Katene by 10% – 49% to 39%. However Marae Digipoll has Okeroa bejind by 6% – 40% to 46%
  • Hauraki-Waikato – Nanaia Mahuta ahead of Angeline Greensill by 0.6%

All three Maori seats held by Labour are highly competitive. In two seats Labour is ahead and in the seat with conflcitign results, an averaging of them out would see Labour ahead. This means that the Maori Party may not have much of an overhang at all – in fact they could even gain a List MP if they got 4% or so party vote.

Palmerston North is the only Labour held seat that a public poll has shown National ahead in, so far. Due to boundary changes Taupo and Rotorua are technically National’s on paper.

Based on boundary changes and public polls (and note this is not a personal prediction) the electorate seats would be:

  1. National 35
  2. Labour 28
  3. Maori 4
  4. ACT 1
  5. United Future 1
  6. Progressive 1

Labour will in one sense be very pleased to be ahead in all three Maori seats. However this does lessen their chances of winning via overhang.

And the Tauranga result is superb. With only 5% voting Labour on the electorate vote anyway, it means no amount of tactical voting in Tauranga can put Winston back in that way.

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ODT looks at new leadership for Labour

July 8th, 2008 at 12:20 pm by David Farrar

The ODT looks at who will be the new leaders for Labour:

However, within Labour circles the speculation has started on likely replacements. …

But if Labour loses and the election result is close, party sources believe Trade Minister Phil Goff is the principal candidate for the job.

He is seen as a safe replacement who would not shift Labour markedly away from its centre-left position.

Goff is centre-left but more centre than left. He would be far more in touch with the electorate and less likely to make massive blunders such as Clark’s positioning over Section 59.

Police Minister Annette King is seen as the logical deputy leader for Mr Goff, to give the party a gender balance and an Auckland-Wellington split.

Gender balance will be important for Labour. I am not sure King is looking to spend another nine years in politics though. Also her star has dipped this year.

If the polls hold up, Labour could lose up to 18 MPs, including electorate members.

If the defeat is not too broad, Mr Goff will be challenged by Health Minister David Cunliffe and Labour Minister Trevor Mallard.

The conventional wisdom is Cunliffe will stand against Goff. I can’t see Mallard being a contender after his demotion last year.

Both would bring with them an image problem.

Mr Cunliffe was identified early in his career as a potential leader, but has earned the disdain of some colleagues for his “superior” attitude.

However if he has Helen’s backing against Goff, I would not count him out.

A decimation of Labour will see other candidates chancing their arm in the belief that it will take Labour six years, or two terms, to win office.

Energy Minister David Parker and Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove will mount challenges.

Neither is particularly popular with colleagues, and Mr Cosgrove will be a fiercer competitor than Mr Parker.

Parker for Leader? I’m sorry but my first reaction is has the ODT gone mad? But then I realised no they are just parochial and feel the need to include a local person in the speculation.

Mr Cosgrove has been a member of the party since he was 14, and is a protege of former prime minister Mike Moore.

Which is about as helpful in Labour as being endorsed by Dick Cheney is in the US.

Mr Parker is seen more in the mould of former prime minister Sir Wallace (Bill) Rowling, and would offer a leadership style out of step with modern politics.

Hmmn, the ODT has a point. Parker is a lot like Rowling.

Also in the mix at this level will be Building and Construction Minister Shane Jones, a Maori MP of whom was expected great things.

He is said to be “hugely bright” but pompous and obviously ambitious.

I think they have the hugely before the wrong word :-)

My genuine best advice for Labour after the election would be Goff Leader, Cunliffe as Finance and Street as Deputy.

Hat Tip: Homepaddock (which is now a daily read)

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Blaming the Board

June 3rd, 2008 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

Helen Clark is blaming the Housing NZ Board for their luxury conference venues. To quote NZPA:

Ministers knew nothing about Housing New Zealand’s “unbelievable” staff conferences in luxury resorts, Prime Minister Helen Clark said today. …

“These things never came to the attention of ministers,” she said on NewstalkZB.

“They didn’t know. This is a corporation which has an independent board, it has a chief executive who reports to that board.” …

Asked what she thought about the conferences, Miss Clark replied: “Unbelievable. My views are very clear on this … I do not expect them to be accommodating themselves in anything remotely like luxury accommodation.

“Frankly, I don’t know what they thought they were doing.”

So it is nothing to do with Helen, or with Maryan Street her Minister of Housing. It is all the fault of that nasty Housing NZ Board.

What a pity though that Helen’s Government appoints the Housing NZ Board. And who did they appoint to the Housing NZ Board, up until 2005?

Well none other than Maryan Street!

Oh dear.

Let us enjoy how they distance themselves from that one. My prediction is she was “confused” or was never briefed.

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Ministers under pressure

May 29th, 2008 at 8:27 am by David Farrar

The Herald looks at three new Ministers under pressure.

First is Maryan Street who spent all of Wednesday defending the $65,000 conference at Tongariro Lodge (ably backed by various Labour blogs) to then have the carpet pulled out from under her by the PM who declared yesterday it was totally unacceptable, the Minister was wrong, the Chair had been reprimanded and the CEO should have her salary docked.

Clark’s response, while somewhat over the top, is the one Street should have had from the beginning. I do think David Parker went far too far when he actually said he thought the CEO should have their pay docked – does the man not know anything about employment law and undue pressure? Anyway Clark understands that the issue is the nature of the resort. As I said – hold it at Rotorua Novotel and there would be no issue.

It didn’t get better for Street as it was revealed there was a second plush conference in 2003 at the Heritage Hotel & Spa du Vin. Meanwhile the Hawke’s Bay DHB couldn’t help scoring a point, pointing out their retreat for managers cost only $180!

What is surprising is the Street ignored Clark’s advice not to defend it, but did anyway – and then got over-ruled. Street has impressed many for her abilities to date – it remains to be seen.

Then you have Clayton Cosgrove, as more and more questions are asked about what he did or did not know, and how he has claimed there has been no cases of corruption – directly contradicting answers from his predecessor, Again Cosgrove has generally been astute championing populist issues. Hell even I cheered him on as he deals to elements on the real estate industry. But he does appear to have shown a remarkable lack of curiousity when it comes to a less populist issue – the Immigration Service.

The Herald also looks at Parker dealing with both the power shortage issues and the Emissions Trading Scheme. I have to say Parker baffles me. He came in as a potential star and I was initially a fan as he actually had a sucessful business background and appeared to be quite snesible and moderate on economic issues.

I’m not sure what has happened, but he really is struggling for credibility. He is almost cut out of the decision making process on the ETS, and just does not inspire confidence at all. I’m not saying this because he is Labour. Many of their Ministers are quite competent – I just don’t like their policies. I thought Parker would be one of the better ones, but I remain unconvinced.

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WINZ Conference Mark II

May 28th, 2008 at 6:57 am by David Farrar

Another sign of third termitis. Most will recall the fuss over a WINZ conference in 1999 which cost $235,000.

Phil Heatley revealed yesterday that Hosuing NZ has spent $65,000 on a conference for 94 managers at the luxury Tongariro Lodge.

The third termitis is the staunch defence of it by Minister Maryan Street, instead of realising the political impact of holding a conference in a luxury resort.

There are two issues when it comes to public service conferences – cost and location.

In terms of cost, the conference cost around $700 a person. It isn’t an outrageous amount, but neither is it as cheap as if you held the conference in Auckland or Wellington where most of the staff are.

The bigger issue is location. A luxury lodge location is a bad look for a taxpayer funded agency. Doesn’t matter if you get a discount. And if you are WINZ or Housing NZ – an agency tasked with helping low income families especially, it is even more inappropriate.

Street should have acknowledged this, rather than defended the decision.

If you hold the conference at the Rotorua Novotel or the Dunedin Holiday Inn, no one will criticise you for it.

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Watch the Ministers sing

April 15th, 2008 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

If you know of any swinging voters, please make sure they see this video of Labour Ministers Ruth Dyson, Maryan Street, Steve Chadwick (and MP Moana Mackey) singing their anti John Key song. I am trying to persuade National to get it made into a DVD and sent to every household!

Hat Tip: Whale Oil

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State Houses being privatised

April 11th, 2008 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Housing NZ is selling off some state houses. Obviously this indicates that Slippery Maryan is committed to a secret agenda of privatisation.

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