An English Parliament?

July 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The UK has developed a distressing habit of making significant constitutional changes for partisan political reasons. Last term it was the Tories’ attempt to equalise the size of electorates – a move which would have improved their electoral system but was driven purely by an effort to shaft the Labour party. That was defeated – the LibDems decided it wasn’t in their partisan political interest for UKanians to have an equal voice in Parliament

Parties tend to promote electoral change that benefits them – hence Labour wanting to get rid of the one seat threshold in Parliament now, but not when it helped them (and National not wanting to).

Hence the best way to assess change is not on whether it benefits the part promoting it (fine to point out their motives) but whether it makes things fairer.

The current UK boundaries are effectively gerrymandered – they are vastly different sizes, so some seats have far more electors than others.

The UK boundaries should be like the NZ boundaries – required to be the same size within a small tolerance.

this term we have “English Votes for English Laws” aka “preventing Scottish MPs from voting on things”.

As with equal sized electorates, there’s a reasonable argument underlying it: the UK has devolved a lot of policy to the Scottish Parliament, so why should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on matters which only affect England?

The simple answer is they shouldn’t. Scotland can’t have it both ways with only Scottish MPs deciding matters on the Scottish NHS yet Scottish MPs also voting on the English NHS.

But the real driver is the desire of the Conservative party – which dominates in England – to lock Labour out of power forever, combined with some pretty toxic English supremacism. Because what EVEL actually means is that in order to govern in practice – that is, enact its policies – a party would not to win not only the confidence of parliament as a whole, but also of English members – basically, an “English veto” on government, forever. England uber alles!

Not really. If a Government had a majority of all MPs, but not a majority of English MPs, they could still pass their Budget, run all the ministries, and pass laws relating to the UK as a whole. They would only not be able to pass laws (without gaining votes from the opposition) that relate to England only. And that is as it should be.

The core problem here is that, for historical reasons, Westminster effectively does double duty as both the UK and English Parliament. But the solution to this isn’t self-serving changes to standing orders to diminish the role of Scottish MPs and make it clear that they are a subject people, but a fully devolved English Parliament with powers equal to the Scottish one.

Here I agree – this is the logical solution. Have a federal system with four devolved Parliaments, and a UK Parliament (and Government).

As for the solution, the SNP is threatening a legal challenge, which will of course fail due to Parliamentary Privilege. Which leaves them with the other option: walk. If the Tories want England, let them have it. At least Scotland can be free.

Many (not most) Tories would like Scotland to walk.

No Right Turn on the presumption of innocence

July 10th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs on Labour’s policy to require those accused of rape to prove they had consent:

This clearly violates the presumption of innocence affirmed in the Bill of Rights Act (not to mention the Universal Declaration of Human RightsICCPR, and every other major human rights instrument). Under that presumption, the state has to prove each and every aspect of its case (“the burden of proof is on he who declares, not on he who denies”). That’s clearly not the case under Labour’s proposal.

Our Supreme Court has already found that the presumption of supply in the Misuse of Drugs Act violates the Bill of Rights Act for exactly these reasons. They will draw exactly the same conclusion about this proposal – as will the UN Human Rights Commission.

I accept that rape cases are difficult to prove. This change will make them remarkably easier. If Labour gets its way, there will be a lot more convictions for rape. And a lot more of them will be of innocent people. We presume innocence because we believe it is far better for the guilty to go free than for the innocent to be punished. Labour clearly does not believe that any more.

A party which does not believe in and will not defend the presumption of innocence does not deserve your vote. All they deserve is your contempt. If they retain this policy, you should not vote Labour.

I can not believe they will not back down on this policy. Surely it is just a matter of time.

I’m surprised the Law Society and the Criminal Bar Association have been silent on Labour’s policy. It’s hard to think of a policy that strikes more at the heart of the justice system.

No Right fibs

May 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn said:

Meanwhile its worth noting that our MPs enjoy no such protection from the SIS (and hence from GCSB). If John Key wants SIS to spy on his political opponents, all he has to do is sign a warrant

That’s a pretty outrageous fib.

Here’s all the people who would have to be involved in breaking the law in such a way (a warrant to spy on MPs would only be legal if they were taking part in activities prejudicial to security. Section 4AA specifically outlaws the SIS taking any action to further or harm the interests of any political party. So be very clear a warrant to spy on MPs would be illegal. So who would have to be involved in this illegal activity:

  1. The SIS Director who must apply for the warrant. The PM can’t just make up his own warrants. The SIS Director is Rebecca Kitteridge – the former Cabinet Secretary – about as neutral an official as you can get,
  2. The Commissioner of Security Warrants who must also authorise the warrant. That is former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Bruce Robertson. He was appointed to the judiciary in 1987 by Labour, and his appointment as CSR in 2013 was agreed to by the Leader of the Opposition.
  3. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security who would be notified of the warrant. That is Cheryl Gwnn, former Deputy Solicitor-General. She was appointed after consultation with the Intelligence and Security Committee. She was appointed Deputy Solictor-General in 2003.
  4. The half dozen or so SIS staff who would be involved in implementing the warrant.

So the statement that the PM can spy on his political opponents by just signing a warrant, is outrageously false. Idiot/Savant does many good insightful blog posts (even if I disagree with them). But sometimes he just gets hysterical.

Will petitioners be spammed?

December 17th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant blogs at No Right Turn:

Back when I was petitioning for the Keep Our Assets referendum, I discouraged people signing it from filling out the email address and phone number boxes because I did not trust the Labour Party (and specifically the Labour Party) not to abuse this information by using it for purposes other than the one it was collected for (“To keep up to date with the campaign”). 

I am not glad to have that suspicion confirmed.

To point out the obvious: this is a screaming violation of Privacy Principle 10, and possibly Privacy Principle 11 if you take the collecting agency as Roy Reid, the formal petitioner, rather than the parties who provided the footsoldiers. And it is grossly unethical. Quite apart from that, its also stupid, burning both potential supporters and their activist base (who may not be too keen on having their hard work perverted to violate people’s privacy).

As for what to do about it, firstly people have a right of access to information held about them by agencies – so if you gave the petition campaign your email address, you can always check with Labour to see if it has somehow migrated its way into their fundraising and supporter’s databases. And if the information is used, then I recommend lodging a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner. You should also publicise that complaint over social media (or, if you feel like it, by emailing a press release to Scoop – but social media is probably enough, because people like me will retweet it if we see it, and journalists will pick up an easy story like this). Political parties are (sensibly) afraid of bad publicity, and this is the best stick we have to enforce ethical behaviour on them. Sadly, it looks like we may have to use it.

Legally you will have no recourse as MPs are exempt from the definition of an agency under the Privacy Act, but you can publicly highlight any breaches.

Paper insistence

June 12th, 2013 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

So, United Future is apparently ready to re-register as a party, but has been held up by the Electoral Commission’s insistence on paper membership records.

As someone who has grown up in the internet age, this is simply backwards. In an age where I can get a passport, do my taxes, or submit on legislation online, the idea that I have to fill out an actual paper form to join a political party (as opposed to any other organisation) is just arcahic. But its also possibly illegal. Why? Because in 2002, Parliament passed the Electronic Transactions Act 2002, the thrust of which is basically “electronic stuff counts”. …

So basically the Electoral Commission could accept electronic membership records; they just choose not to. And that choice appears to be contrary to S 8 of the Electronic Transactions Act 2002.

Administrative decisions cannot trump the law. The Electoral Commission needs to drag itself into the 21st century and start accepting electronic memberships. And who knows? Perhaps if you don’t need to use bronze-age technology to participate, people might actually start joining political parties again.

Basically I agree 100%. I don’t belong to organisations that I can’t join online. My membership of National has been done electronically for many years.

Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints

June 9th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour, Greens and NZ First are all somewhat hysterically saying that the report leaked (presumably) by Peter Dunne is a criminal matter, and have all rushed off to the Police to try and get him investigated.

I’ll come back to the hypocrisy of opposition parties demanding a Police investigation into a leak, but let us first deal with two recent leaks. The first is the Kitteridge report.

This was a report that was due to be released to the public. The leak changed the timing of that (and was politically very very unhelpful to the Government), but again it was a report written for public release and its classification was sensitive. What is a sensitive classification. There are six types of classifications in two categories. The two categories are:

  • National security classifications where compromise would damage NZ’s security, defence or international relations
  • Policy and privacy classifications where compromise would damage government functions or be detrimental to an individual

There are four national security classifications, They are:

  1. Top secret
  2. Secret
  3. Confidential
  4. Restricted

The Kitteridge report had NO national security classification.

The two policy and privacy classifications  are sensitive and in-confidence, and it was classified sensitive.

While the report was about the GCSB, it doesn’t mean the report was classified for national security reasons. In fact the report was due to be released publicly anyway. This makes the leaking of it a government issue, not a criminal issue. Don’t get me wrong – the leak was appalling, and a resignation is the appropriate  outcome. But talking of Police complaints is hysteria.

Now let us compare this leak to the leak of a Cabinet paper on MFAt restructuring. Unlike the Kitteridge report, the Cabinet paper was not a paper about to be released to the public. Cabinet papers are for Cabinet, and that paper was leaked even before it got to Cabinet (off memory). That leak is clearly just as “bad” a leak as the Kitteridge report, and arguably worse.

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Several on the left are critical of opposition parties demanding a criminal investigation into a leak. No Right Turn blogs:

Firstly, the idea that this leak breached the Crimes Act is utterly ridiculous. Both the offences of espionage (which peters accused Dunne of in Parliament on Thursday) and wrongful communication of official information require that the information in question “be likely to prejudice seriously the security or defence of New Zealand”. John Key was quite clear in his press conference that that was not the case, and there is no possible way in which the leak of material exposing GCSB wrongdoing could be seen in that light. So, the idea that an offence has been commited is pure bullshit, and the Greens should not be trading in it. …

A party like the Greens, committed to democracy and freedom, should be encouraging such leaks, not calling for them to be punished – especially given the shit we’re learning about what the GCSB’s foreign masters have been getting up to.

Russel Norman has sought to justify his position on the grounds that such leaks undermine the idea of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Firstly, this wasn’t an ISC document, so that’s just a non-sequitur. But more importantly, Parliament pays the bills, so it has an absolute right to scrutinise what is done with our money, no matter how secret and sensitive. And I regard it as not just a right, but a duty of politicians on the ISC to inform the public of wrongdoing. If Norman seriously believes what he’s said, then he is not doing his job properly, and should resign immediately so that his place can be taken by someone less credulous and authoritarian.

The authoritarian Dr Norman!

NBR also reports:

Labour and the Greens are illiberal in pushing for a police inquiry into the Peter Dunne affair, and have revealed themselves as anti leaks to the media, says Bryce Edwards.

“It’s incredibly surprising to see Labour and the Greens have called on the police to intervene over the leak of the GCSB,” the Otago University lecturer and commentator tells NBR Online.

“There’s always problems when the police get involved in the political and media realm. It can have a very chilling affect on politics and journalism,” Dr Edwards says.

And the next time there is a leak to say an opposition MP, how could Labour or Greens complain if there is a criminal Police investigation into it? They are so kneejerk desperate to get a media headline that day, they rarely think about the consistency of their long-term position.

Generally those that regard themselves as politically liberal will not want the police involved unless utterly necessary, says the Politics Daily compiler.

“Therefore the threshold for calling the cops into Parliament and newsrooms should be very high. It’s hard to see that this threshold has been reached in this case,” Dr Edwards says.

“Normally those that call the police in on their political opponents are from an authoritarian political philosophy. By contrast, liberals generally regard those that leak government department reports as heroic whistleblowers that are enabling the freedom of information and the right of the public to know what those in authority are doing.”

The Greens, Labour and New Zealand First have now shown that they stand opposed to leaks to the media, says the lecturer.

That’s the second commentator to use the term authoritarian. And I am unsure of the media will like the opposition (presumably) demanding that a reporter’s phone records, e-mails and other communications be seized because she received a leak.

Dr Norman says a key issue is whether the appendix to the inquiry was leaked. Unlike the body of the report, which was always scheduled to be shared with the public, the appendix is secret – and breaching it could constitute a breach of the Crimes Act.

Peter Dunne did not have the appendix. No information from the appendix has been published, so nice try inventing a make believe crime.

Labour leader David Shearer has called on police to seize Mr Dunne’s emails. His deputy, Grant Robertson, says Mr Dunne should be compelled to give evidence under oath. 

On that basis, they must also be demanding that Phil Goff have his emails seized by the Police and Goff should be compelled to give evidence under oath.

Reporting to Parliament on BORA

April 10th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs that he believes the Government’s amendments to the Crown Minerals Bills to make it an offence to interfere in drilling operations at sea should be vetted against the Bill of Rights Act.

I agree.

I support the amendments, and believe that the right to protest doesn’t extend to actually interference in a company going about its legal business.

At present Standing Orders requires the Attorney-General to report to Parliament if a bill ins introduced that may not be in compliance with the Bill of Rights Act. That opinion is advisory, but can be influential. The AG did a video on this process which I blogged a while back. SO 262(1) states:

Whenever a bill contains any provision which appears to the Attorney-General to be inconsistent with any of the rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the Attorney-General must indicate to the House what that provision is and how it appears to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

But this only occurs upon introduction in SO 262(2):

An indication by the Attorney-General to the House concerning the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 is made by the presentation of a paper in the case of a Government bill, on the introduction of that bill, or in any other case, as soon as practicable after the introduction of the bill.

The solution here is to amend SO 262(2) so that there is an obligation to report on any inconsistent provisions prior to each reading of a bill. Possible wording would be:

An indication by the Attorney-General to the House concerning the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 is made by the presentation of a paper at least 48 hours prior to each reading of a bill.

The first reading captures the bill as introduced. The second reading captures any amendments made by select committee and the third reading captures any changes made by the Committee of the whole House.

Standing Orders get reviewed towards the end of each term of Parliament. Hopefully one or more parties will support such a change.

Youth Rates only an option

April 9th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs that businesses don’t want youth rates as McDonalds, Restaurant Brands, The Warehouse, Farmers, Kmart, Bunnings and Countdown have all said they won’t offer them.

This is the thing – the starting out wage is an option only. It is a minimum, not a maximum.

I employ a large number of young people at Curia. I would never dream of offering youth rates to my staff, because I deliberately pay for quality (in fact a recent industry survey showed our rates were the highest of all research companies that took part).

But what is right for some employers is not right for others. Flexibility is a good thing. For some employers being able to hire a 17 year old (or an 18 year old who has been on a benefit for six months) for a bit less, will mean they’ll offer them that job, rather than someone more experienced.  And getting people into their first job is critically important.

NRT on OIA review

February 5th, 2013 at 4:15 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been meaning to blog on the OIA review but have not had time to re-read the Law Commission report and see what parts the Govt is doing, and what has been kicked to touch. Idiot/Savant has though and blogs:

Back in July, the Law Commission published its review of the Official Information Act [PDF]. While it did suggest a number of important and useful changes to the Act – greater guidance from the Ombudsman, a new Information Commissioner to handle education and reporting, extending the Act to cover parliament and the courts – the overall thrust of the review was towards greater secrecy and less transparency. Given these conclusions, I would be quite happy if the review died quietly in a ditch somewhere and was forgotten.

And that is pretty much what has happened. Yesterday, the government finally published its response to the review, in which they said that tight budgets and existing legislative priorities ruled out the full rewrite the Law Commission wanted, and that they are just going to tinker around the edges a bit. Which given the Law Commission’s recommendations, can only be regarded as rearguard victory.

I/S also notes:

What we will be getting is better guidance from the Ombudsman, and an extension of the Act to cover the courts (both wins), combined with broader “commercial sensitivity” clauses (a loss, though Steven price thinks it won’t cover anything the Act isn’t already stretched to cover). The government will also be advancing changes around privacy in its review of the Privacy Act. So overall a narrow win, especially compared with the alternative.

I wasn’t as negative on the Law Commission review as I/S, so I hope some of their other recommendations do make some progress. But it is fair to say it is not a legislative priority.

There is one major recommendation that has not been responded to, and I would like to see the Government adopt – that some information be pro-actively released. Often you don’t know what information is there to ask for.

I’d like to see an automatic pro-active release requirement for all Cabinet level information. It might be say six months after authorship to allow Government time to make decisions, and of course normal rules would apply for exemptions. but wouldn’t it be great to have all Cabinet  and Cabinet committee information automatically released in due course.

if the Government doesn’t pick this up, there could be an opportunity for Opposition parties to make this a policy, and implement it when they get a turn in Government.

More idiocy

February 1st, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

So, it looks like my calling National on its bullshit yeterday has struck a nerve. According to DPF, National’s MP’s aren’t bigots – they just think proper Parliamentary procedure is more important than doing the right thing.

Well, that makes everything alright then (/sarcasm).

But the fact is that there was no infringement of proper Parliamentary procedure. Standing Orders give any member the right to raise issues in the manner Charles Chauvel did. And when they do, I expect the case to be assessed on its merits (which in this case are fairly significant). DPF OTOH seems to think deference and hierarchy and grovelling to the right person are more important and that anyone who doesn’t do this to the satisfaction of those in power should be dismissed out of hand. Which is after all what National and other conservative parties are all about – but its a pretty shitty worldview, and the idea that its more important than doing the right thing is simply ridiculous.

Once upon a time I/S actually could apply intelligent analysis to a situation, but now he seems to have abandoned it.

Standing Orders gives an MP the right to get up and say “I seek leave” for anything at all. But anyone who is not a moron would understand the desirability of actually giving people advance notice of your intention to seek leave. This is nothing to do with hierarchy, and everything to do with whether you wish to grandstand or actually achieve something.

It is entirely unreasonable to expect MPs to decide within two seconds whether or not they agree with a motion being voted on. And it is blatant smear tactics to label people bigots because an MO failed to notify other MPs that he would be seeking leave that afternoon. Idiot/Savant has become the boy who cried wolf. The list of people he has never called a bigot is probably a very small one.

What is disappointing is once upon a time he actually had a fairly good insight of how Parliament actually works, and could do insightful posts. Now he does ill-informed rants.

No Wrong Turn

January 30th, 2013 at 4:31 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogged:

At the moment several African governments are progressing virulently homophobic legislation. There’s Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, which would impose the death penalty for homosexuality and require reporting of homosexuals to the government. And in Nigeria there’s similar, though less brutal, legislation, which would (among other things) outlaw LGBT support groups.

Today Labour’s Charles Chauvel tried to move a motion expressing Parliament’s condemnation of this bigotry:

National vetoed it. 

I think this tells us exactly where National stands on gay rights. They’ll send John Key along to the Big Gay Out, but at their core they’re simply bigots, no different from Family First or the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

Idiot/Savant goes feral and sanctimonious so often, I’m not even surprised anymore. I doubt anyone takes his denunciations too seriously but in case they do, I thought I’d point out how Parliament operates.

A motion by a individual MP is basically never scheduled for debate or voting on. To have an MP’s motion considered, you need to seek permission of the House, and it takes just one individual MP to object to leave being granted. So if you want your motion voted on, then there is a process in place to ascertain in advance that the Government is happy for it to be put (so long as without debate). Basically you discuss it with your party’s whips, they discuss it with the Government whips, and they check with the Leader of the House. This process is widely known and is there precisely so opposition MPs can get non-controversial motions considered. The Government has actually been very accommodating of the rights of the minority through things such as negotiating extended sittings rather than forcing urgency on the House.

Now if we look at the draft Hansard for today, it says:

Su’a WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere): I seek leave of the House to move a motion without notice and without debate about Cyclone Evan.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is none.

Su’a WILLIAM SIO: I move, That this House express its acknowledgment and support to the peoples and Governments of Samoa and Fiji after Cyclone Evan wreaked havoc on these islands just before Christmas last year, and in particular convey its condolences and sympathies to Samoa’s head of State, His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Prime Minister the Hon Tuila’epa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, members of Samoa’s legislative assembly, and the people of Samoa for the loss of five lives, and to the families of the 10 people still missing when floodwaters drove through settlements in the Apia township, dragging people, homes, vehicles, and personal property out to sea and destroying power, water, and other infrastructure, including food crops, and note that for many families it is the first-time experience of losing literally everything, and acknowledge the resilient response of families, people’s organisations, and Governments in both the islands and in New Zealand to aid families and friends in need.

Motion agreed to.

[Continuation line: Chauvel motion]


Motion Without Notice—

CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to move members’ motion No. 4 in my name, without debate.


Motion Without Notice—

 Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is objection.

So Sio had no one object to his motion, but Chauvel did have an objection. Why? It’s simple. Sio followed the process and did his homework by letting the whips know in advance. Chauvel did not. If Chauvel had done the courtesy of letting the whips know in advance he was going to seek leave, then almost certainly he would have got it I suspect. So I/S should direct his rant towards MPs who grandstand rather than follow the process.

People may not be aware but if an MP seeks leave, the whips have only around two seconds to object. You don’t have time to read the motion and decide after a minute’s contemplation. This is why it is well known amongst MPs that you inform the whips in advance of your desire to put it to a vote, and the whips check with the Leader of the House.

I find it appalling that I/S uses the failure of an Opposition MP to follow the process, to label the Government as bigots. It’s pathetic.

No Right Turn on Maori Party

July 19th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant blogs at NRT:

The Māori Party finally met with John Key last night to discuss his stupidity over water rights, and walked away with an assurance that the government will not legislate to overturn any court decision. In some quarters, this is being portrayed as another sell-out. It’s not. Instead, its a pretty useful victory, which resolves one of the primary fears around the Tribunal / court process: that the government will ignore the outcome, and simply confiscate the water on terms favourable to itself and its cronies if they don’t like how things are going. Now, if they keep their word, they won’t be able to do that, and will have to negotiate like a proper Treaty partner should. And that I think is exactly what the Māori Party is there to do.

While I don’t think National would ever have been stupid enough to repeat Labour’s folly of overturning court upheld property rights by legislation, it is indeed a useful thing for the Maori Party to have had it explicitly ruled out.

It doesn’t mean that the Government has to follow the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal. It does mean though if an actual court makes a finding about property rights in water, then the Government won’t confiscate those property rights legislatively.

No Right Turn on Assange

June 20th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant blogs at No Right Turn:

Faced with the prospect of extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, Julian Assange has done a runner, hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy and applying for political asylum.

Its a very weak case. Assange is not facing persecution in Sweden; he is facing justice for his alleged crimes. There’s no suggestion that he won’t receive a fair trial or that he would face cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. As for the fear that he will be subsequently extradited to the US, he will have the full protection of the ECHR on that. And the ECHR will not allow him to be extradited to face the death penalty or torture. Finally, despite his claims today, Assange has not been “abandoned” by the Australian government; they have made it clear that they will continue to offer consular assistance in the normal manner [PDF].

It is of course up to Ecuador who they grant asylum to and on what terms. But under the normal international law criteria, Assange wouldn’t qualify. He’s not a refugee with a well-founded fear of persecution; he’s just an alleged criminal trying to escape justice.

I can only agree with I/S on this issue.

Incidentally I did not think the case against Assange in Sweden was that strong, and that he would have a reasonable chance of an acquittal if or when trial proceeds. His behaviour, while deceptive, was not necessarily criminal.

Ridiculous criticism

May 17th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Why are we paying for Murray McCully to stay in hotels in Auckland?

According to his latest Ministerial credit card receipts [PDF, p. 12], we paid for McCully to spend two nights at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland. The expense is justified as “accommodation during RWC”. This would be entirely uncontentious, except for one thing: McCully represents an Auckland electorate, and I am informed he is on the electoral roll there. Which means he has a home of his own to go to in Auckland. So again, why the hotel? …

Ministers are given credit cards to cover actual, reasonable and necessary expenses – not because they feel like spending a night of luxury on the taxpayer, or just can’t be arsed driving home.

I’m sorry but this is ridicolous. First of all staying for two nights in the Heritage hotel is not a night of luxury. I’ve stayed there as TVNZ put you up there if you are up for one of their shows. It is a very standard hotel. Nothing wrong with it, but not a luxury hotel.

As for why McCully was staying there for two nights, during the Rugby World Cup. Well he was the Minister in charge of a event which is broadcast to a billion people, and has overall revenues of hundreds of millions. At an event like that you could well have meetings starting very early and finishing late, plus a hotel room allows you to hold meetings in it.

I speak from experience. I was the Chair of the organising committee for the ICANN meeting in Wellington some years ago. This is a fraction of the size of the RCW, but was a fairly major event to host, as you had 500 – 700 Internet policy makers here. Despite living in Wellington, I stayed at the official host hotel of the Duxton (and if anyone calls that a luxury hotel, they have not been there often) as it was decided that the extra cost was fairly minimal in the context of the importance of smooth management, which was having all the key decision makers staying together so that as issues arose, decisions could be made quickly.

In the context of an almost billion dollar events like the RWC, a decision by the Minister to spend two nights in the Auckland CBD rather than what can be an hour away in East Coast Bays, is unremarkable and trivial – and frankly criticism of it is ludicrous, especially painting it a night of luxury.

I think those that glamorise hotels have never stayed in one themselves. In the main they are just places they supply a bed you can sleep in and a bathroom you can shower and freshen up in. Sure there are some luxury hotels with stunning views and the like, but 95% of staying in hotels is just about a well located bed.

When I go up to Auckland, I much prefer crashing at a friend’s place than staying in sterile hotels. However sometimes I will reluctantly go into a hotel, because the location in the CBD allows you to do business more efficiently.

Why did McCully stay in a hotel for two nights in Auckland? The exact same reason – it allowed him to do his job as RWC Minister more efficiently.

UPDATE: Looking closer at the actual DIA documents, the title page is headed up “Credit Card Statements and Reconciliations – Staff of the Office of Hon Murray McCully”. This means it is not McCully’s credit card, but his staff’s ones. And when they are paying for something on behalf of the Minister, they always note that. So when there is no such notation, then the expense is presumably for them, not the Minister.

Having made inquiries, it turns out that in fact the two nights at the Heritage was for a Wellington based staff member who was in Auckland for RWC duties. So I look forward to NRT doing a retraction.

When did the increase happen?

May 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Save the Children has released its annual State of the World’s Mothers report [PDF], showing that New Zealand is the 4th best country in the world to be a mother. This is an improvement from last year, when we ranked 6th. Its a legacy of the Clark government, and its policies around paid parental leave and early childhood education that we do so well on these sorts of indices. But as the Scandinavian countries above us show, we can do better; sadly, the present government just doesn’t seem to regard it as a priority.

So we improve in 2011 over 2010, and this is nothing to do with the present Government, and all to do with the Government that got chucked out in 2008. Sure.

As it happens, if you actually read about the report, most of the factors have little to do with Government. They are:

  • Lifetime risk of maternal death (NZ is 32nd)
  • % of women using modern contraception (NZ 9th)
  • Female life expectancy at birth (NZ 10th)
  • Expected years of formal female schooling (NZ 1st)
  • Maternity leave length (NZ 38th)
  • Maternity leave wages (NZ 1st)
  • Ratio of female to male earnings (NZ 8th)
  • Participation of women in govt (NZ 9th)
  • Under 5 mortality rate (NZ 23rd)
  • Pre-primary enrolment ratio (NZ 18th)
  • Secondary enrolment ratio (NZ 3rd)

It seems why we are 4th overall is because we are not very low down in any factor.

The worst place to be a mother incidentally is the Niger. Among more developed countries is it Alaania.

Jumping the shark

April 24th, 2012 at 4:55 pm by David Farrar

The Government today announced:

  • Housing New Zealand has today closed a tender to speed up repair of over 600 of its quake damaged properties
  • The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has just agreed to pay $21 million to Christchurch City Council, its largest individual claimant, allowing the council to begin repairs to around 280 quake damaged properties in its social housing portfolio
  • The Department of Building and Housing (DBH) is making good progress toward establishment of a new temporary accommodation village at Rawhiti Domain in New Brighton, with 20 two bedroom units due to be on site by mid-July and the ability to provide further units as required
  • The Government has already built 63 houses in two temporary accommodation villages at Linwood Park in Christchurch City and Kaiapoi Domain in the Waimakariri District

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn says the package is too little too late (which is a legitimate point of view) but goes on to say:

Brownlee’s inaction and denial means we are going to see a spike in cold-related deaths in Christchurch this winter. People will die needlessly, largely of flu and respiratory diseases, because he did nothing. And that makes him nothing more than a murderer.

This is jumping the shark in a massive way. Its pathetic, and erodes his credibility. I really wonder what happened to I/S so that his hatred of the right makes him so irrational at times.

Freedom of Speech in the UK

April 15th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

On March 8, British teenager Azhar Ahmed posted the following to his Facebook account:

People gassin about the deaths of soldiers! What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed.. The women who have been raped.. The children who have been sliced up..! Your enemy’s were the Taliban not innocent harmless familys. All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! THE LOWLIFE FOKKIN SCUM! gotta problem go cry at your soliders grave & wish him hell because that where he is going..

For posting this, he was arrested and charged with a “racially aggravated public order offence”. That charge was dropped when he appeared in court – perhaps because even the Yorkshire police could understand that “British soldiers” are not a racial group – and instead substituted with one of using a telecommunications network to send a grossly offensive message. He will face trial in July, and it is unclear what sentence he may face.

Now I agree that one should not face court charges for saying offensive things on the Internet. The threshold should be if you are promoting actual violence or crimes. So for example saying “I hate Jews” should not get you in court (it should get you on the front page of the newspaper though) but saying “We should kill the Jews” should get you in court. Saying “I wish all Jews were dead” doesn’t meet the criminal threshold though (in my opinion).

However it is a pity that Idiot/Savant did not also mention this story, which I blogged on. Also in the UK, a 21 year old student was actually jailed (not just charged) for 56 days for gloating when a black footballer collapsed on the field, saying he hoped he was dead, and also using racial abuse when people challenged him.

Now both these cases had defendents say pretty offensive stuff. I don’t think either should be in court. But does Idiot/Savant think it is okay to send people to jail for saying something racist, but wrong to charge people for saying all British soliders should die and go to hell?

My suspicion is that I/S is more a defender of offensive speech he politically agrees with, than of all offensive speech. If not, I welcome his views on the above case.

UPDATE: A few people have said I am being unfair to say that I suspect I/S is more a defender of speech he agrees with.  He has often defended the right of people like David Irving to be heard, so my comment was unfair and I retract it with apologies.

However I do think that considering how often he posts on this issue, his lack of comment on the UK jail sentence for a racist offensive tweet was unusual. As he did not condemn the jailing, I thought he might actually support “hate speech” laws as many on the left do (which motivated the post – to challenge him on this issue), but having checked he blogged in 2004 that he did not, so really the post was un-necessary.

NRT on workplace flexibility

April 3rd, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant blogs at NRT:

National is actually doing something positive for ordinary people for once, with plans to extend flexible working hours provisions – which currently apply only to caregivers – to all workers. Its a good move. The Department of Labour’s review of the provisions found that there had been no problems with their implementation (contrary to the wailing from employers when the law was passed), and that it produced significant benefits for employers (such as reduced turnover and improved productivity).

I’m all in favour of flexible working hours. If only MUNZ were also!

I knew someone would mis-represent it

January 25th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I knew someone would mis-represent what I said on Christchurch City Council, I just wasn’t sure who it would be. No Right Turn claims the prize. he says:

What is it with the right and democracy? In response to tensions in the Christchurch City Council, which have seen councillors criticise the Chief Executive’s lavish pay increase and autocratic style, DPF demands that “some or all” of them “must go”. Because obviously, the last thing you can possibly have in an elected body is disagreement. No, we should shut it down, sack them all, appoint a dictator.

Now unless Idiot/Savant neglected to read past the first paragraph of my post, he has deliberately over-looked the part where I say:

I am not an advocate of the view that on every issue, the minority on a Council must accept the view of the majority if it goes against them. It is quite legitimate to (for example) continue to fight against say an alcohol ban policy, if you as a Councillor thought it was a bad policy and a bad decision.

So I explicitly said disagreement in not the problem.

The fact of the matter is that these councillors are elected. They are there to represent their constituents, some of whom are not exactly happy with their council or its CEO. In other words, they are doing exactly the job we expect elected representatives in a democracy to do.

And again he has missed the key point. I never said Councillors can not criticise the Council, the Mayor or even the CEO.

But what they can not do is publicly state that the CEO should be sacked. Why? It’s simple – they are his employer. The Councillors who have done so have exposed ratepayers to a massive personal grievance and also made sure that if the majority on Council did want to sack the CEO, that they could only do so via a huge payout.

A Councillor can criticise the CEO when their performance warrants it (mind you it is the height of hypocrisy to attack the CEO for accepting a pay rise that the Council itself signed off on), but they can not publicly call for them to be sacked, as they are their employer.

What next? DPF will advocate the unseating of MPs who disagree with the government and criticise the public service?

No. What I would advocate is that a Minister who publicly called for their Departmental CEO to be fired, should be sacked. As their (effective) employer, that would also create an untenable situation. You can’t have employers publicly call for someone they employ to be sacked. I would have thought Idiot/Savant would have some regard for employment laws.

No Right Turn condones corpse degrading of right wingers

December 24th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

It doesn’t take a lot for true colours and foaming hatred to come out, and we see it with No Right Turn, in discussing whether Lady Thatcher should receive a state funeral. He blogs:

Unmentioned: selling the right to spit on the corpse or piss on her grave (because its going to happen, so they might as well get money for it). Hell, they could even provide the service, so that those unable to attend in person could have someone do it for them. Morality? Taste? The market does not know of such things. And if you’re happy with the mass unemployment, poverty and degradation which were the inevitable result of Thatcher’s policies, you can hardly get prissy about a little matter of degrading a corpse.

Worth remembering this the next time he goes on about how liberal he is – you know the stuff about how he’ll defend your right to have views different to his – except of course if you do he thinks your corpse should be spat on and pissed on.

Anderton v Electoral Commission

November 9th, 2011 at 3:53 pm by David Farrar

When I saw that the Electoral Commission had referred Jim Anderton to the Police, I remarked to a couple of people that I was sure he would have a fit and attack the Electoral Commission. I was right. The Herald reports:

Progressive leader Jim Anderton has launched an extraordinary attack on the Electoral Commission for referring him to police for a possible breach of the Electoral Act. …

But Mr Anderton, who was referred to police over election advertising before the 2008 election, said he had done nothing wrong.

Jim thinks he has never done anything wrong in his life. His valedictory was full of how he was right and everyone else had been wrong. If you ask him hig biggest mistake, he will be stumped for an answer.

“I’m authorised to send my constituents any message I damn well like. This is my electorate.

First of all don’t you like how he refers to them as possessions.

Secondly he was not writing to them in his capacity as an MP for parliamentary purposes. He was writing to them to tell them to vote for Megan Woods. Even the thickest of MPs should have learnt by now that telling people who to vote for is not a parliamentary purpose.

Thirdly, MPs are not above the law. He is not a King or a God. He is merely an MP. That doesn’t mean he can do anything he damn well likes.

His arrogance is the same as that which destroyed the Alliance. He demanded the party members surrender total control of the organisation to him, and effectively make him dictator. They refused, so he left.

“And if the Commission wants to start stopping electorate MPs from communicating with their electorate, they’d better get prepared for a breach of privilege complaint, because that’s what it amounts to.

Oh I so hope he tries that – it would be most amusing. In reality all he is trying to do is bully neutral public servants and have them exempt him from the law.

They are interfering with the regular work of an MP.”

It is not the regular work of an MP to write to voters and tell them who to vote for. That is the role of parties and candidates.

“They have a few things like rape and pillage going on around the country, and this is simply ridiculous to tie up senior members of the police force with this kind of garbage.”

In Jim’s world, electoral law breaches are not an offence. I suspect Labour agrees with him.

Mr Anderton said the letter was sent outside the regulated period under the Electoral Act, but the commission referred it to police on the basis that the letter was not properly authorised.

The regulated period has nothing to do with this. In fact, the law for around 20 years has been the same in terms of requiring authorisation.

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn comments:

Yesterday, I was willing to attribute Anderton’s crime to (unforgivable) ignorance. Today, its clear that its one of arrogance. And he needs to be held to account for it.

Dead right.

The Greens jobs initiative

September 22nd, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve noticed that this election that the Greens have billboards and slogans along the lines of “Vote Green to grow the economy”. This is radically different slogan from their rhetoric of a few years ago when the Greens would denounce economic growth as evil and actually argue against growing the economy.

I’m not convinced that their policies have changed, just that they have a better advertising agency. The so called policy to create 100,000 jobs  in fact has less substance than an anorexic Leptotyphlops carlae. Take their claim of 47,000 to 65,000 new jobs from renewable energy. They said:

The global market for renewable energy technology is forecast to reach an annual value of $590–$800 billion by 2015.6 If we can secure just 1% of this market, we can build a new $6–8 billion export industry here at home, creating 47,000–65,000 new cleantech, high-value jobs

Translation provided by a financial analyst:

So if the global market for green tech gets to an incredibly high number and if we could secure 1% of this incredibly high number and if those were highly-paid jobs and if they didn’t replace any other jobs in the economy then hurrah – we would have 65,000 jobs!

If the Greens were promoting a prospectus, you could get them jailed for securities fraud. But it doesn’t stop there. ACT candidate Stephen Whittington points out their massive mistake, which would have them fail NCEA Level 1 Maths. He explains:

I honestly cannot believe that the Greens have made such a simple mistake, in a document which is intended to set out how they will finance their plans to significantly increase Government expenditure.  

The Greens predict that increasing minimum wages will increase tax revenue by $519 million.  Even assuming that people don’t lose their jobs, which they will, increasing the minimum wage will reduce tax revenue.

Increased wages will increase the amount of PAYE collected by the Government.  But wages are also a deductible expense to businesses.  Given that the marginal personal income tax rate is lower than the corporate tax rate, increased minimum wages will decrease revenue from corporate income tax more than will be increased from PAYE, even assuming no increase in unemployment.

In the Green fantasy world, increasing the cost of Labour doesn’t decrease profits and hence taxes on profits. I am amazed they are not lobbying for the minimum wage to be immediately raised to $50/hour as this will cause employers to become more productive to be able to afford to pay the wages. No I am not kidding – this is what they actually argue.

Now in case you think it is only nasty right wingers using evil weapons such as mathematics and logic to attack the Greens policy, let’s look at the comments by Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn. He supports their policies but slams their advertising:

I’ve spent the morning reading through the Greens’ “Green jobs initiative” [PDF]. The short version is that the Greens are promising to “create 100,000 new green jobs through business incentives and government leadership”, specifically through increased investment, building a clean energy sector, and increased support for a green economy. But when you look at it, its not really about jobs at all; rather its about greening our economy, with jobs as a byproduct. Political marketing means that that byproduct is being highlighted, in a way which is at times outright deceitful.

He continues:

 The “big idea” in the policy is government support, through our energy SOEs, for a major new renewable energy industry:

“The clean energy sector is booming internationally. Currently, renewables supply only 15% of the world’s primary energy demands but its share is growing rapidly. The global renewable energy market grew by 6.8% in 2010 alone to reach a value of $389 billion. It is forecast to reach an annual value of $590–$800 billion by 2015. By securing just 1% of this market, we’d create a $6–8 billion new export industry here at home, creating 59,000–81,000 new jobs.”Which is a nice dream, and something we should aim for. Our economy is not very diverse (basically, we export butter and bungee jumping), and if it is to grow we need to start doing other things. Exporting wind turbines, geothermal technology, and smartmeters, and the technology, services and IP related to these is a good idea, and something that potentially fits well with what we already do. But a $6 – 8 billion export sector is enormous – bigger than meat; it would be our third-largest export industry after tourism and dairy. And that’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. Its a good idea, its something we need to do, and its something government needs to help with (after all, pretty obviously the market isn’t going to do it if left to itself), it will benefit New Zealand in the long run. But pitching it as an immediate job-creation plan, and implicitly suggesting we’ll have those jobs by 2015 (rather than in 20 years time) is deceitful and misleading.

I/S concludes:

This isn’t just wrong, it is a mistake. Quite apart from raising questions of the Greens’ honesty and integrity, one of their chief selling points, it undermines the policy itself. This is a perfectly good policy, and it can stand on its merits (hell, even MED agrees that we need active government intervention to build new export industries, up to and including direct investment in growth areas). Fudging things like this hands a gift to detractors, allowing them to dismiss it out of hand: “100,000 new jobs? Yeah, right”.

So, a good policy, but very disappointing marketing around it. Deceit is not the green way, and if you use it to sell your policies, then people will start treating you as liars, just like all the rest.

At the end of the day, the Greens are politicians seeking power. They’re just like all the other politicians – neither saints nor sinners. Just politicians.But politicians who can’t even do simple maths.



The Owen Glenn pledge

September 6th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Owen Glenn says his commitment to donate $100 million to New Zealand youth is not contingent on National and Act winning the November 26 general election.

Glenn said on TV3’s The Nation over the weekend that he would make a donation but said today that his commitment was not contingent on the two parties winning the election, as was suggested by the programme.

“My commitment to this country is not politically motivated, so regardless of who governs New Zealand after November’s election, once my business is sold, which I anticipate will be during October, I will look to announce more on my plans,” Mr Glenn said.

He said he was not trying to influence the outcome of the election through the announcement.

“I happen to believe that currently a government involving both National and Act is best situated to move New Zealand forward and to leverage the opportunity I intend to create through this donation,” he said.

His earlier linking of it to the election outcome excited a couple of people. Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn called it attempted bribery and demanded Owen Glenn be prosecuted and jailed if convicted.

Personally I think the bribery laws are about directly paying people to vote a certain way, not about what is effectively a charitable donation. But I guess one for the lawyers to decide.

But what struck me is the contrast.

If a businessman gets up and announces he will spend $100 million of his own money on helping disadvantaged youth if a political party he has no connection to wins the election, then some on the left call that bribery.

However if a politician gets up and announces he will take an extra $100 million forcibly off rich pricks, and spend it on disadvantaged youth, if his party wins the election (which happens to make that person prime minister, and get a big pay rise) – then that is commendable and noble.

So it is illegal to pledge your own money contingent on an election result, but it is legal to pledge other people’s money.

No Right Turn on OIA

August 18th, 2011 at 9:34 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

At the beginning of the month I commented on preliminary results from my annual OIA performance survey, which has seen Ministerial performance jump significantly since last year. I’m still waiting on a few Ministers (new Ministers had to be sent a two-stage request, and I failed to notice that Tariana Turia refuses to answer her Ministerial email), but here’s another improvement. Last year, Gerry Brownlee was the worst Minister, answering only 39.7% of requests within the statutory 20-day limit. This year, he’s boosted that to 54.8%.

Credit is due to I/S for collating and publishing the stats. It is a valuable public service, and is part of the reason I am sure there has been an improvement.

Gerry has of course had a lot on his plate of late, but in a reply to I/S he notes:

Notwithstanding this, dealing with requests for information under the Official Information Act is a matter that I take seriously and I have instructed my office to instigate a thorough review of the systems and processes used to manage and track requests made under the Official Information Act.



August 12th, 2011 at 9:35 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Parliament unanimously passed the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) today, making some minor but necessary changes to our electoral administration. During the debate, Labour MP Chris Hipkins argued that we should be looking at introducing electronic voting. On Twitter, he asks for people’s thoughts on the issue.

I have just one: is he fucking mad?

The evidence from overseas is overwhelming: electronic voting can’t be trusted. The machines are black boxes. The software is proprietary. They may be run by people with partisan interests. And they’re hackable (not just in theory – in practice). There’s no way for the count to be audited, and no way to tell if the votes entered by voters are actually being recorded, or just sent to the bit bucket.

Electronic voting means putting elections, a vital part of our democratic infrastructure, in the hands of unaccountable, private entities, with poor security and no transparency. We’ll basically be relying on their goodwill that they won’t fix elections. Oh, and blind faith that they won’t leave a yawning security flaw allowing someone else to. As someone who takes democracy seriously, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.

I/S is thinking that the way the US did electronic voting is the only way. I have been pushing for some time that we should trial e-voting for one or more local body elections. Have the option to vote over the Internet, as well as a postal ballot. So no e-voting use of stand-alone voting machines – just use the Internet.

We do banking and tax over the Internet securely, and I am sure can do voting also. We even have a secure government login service which you can use to register companies etc.

And e-voting can be audit-able. Each person who votes can get an e-mail confirmation of how they voted. You could even audit a random sample of voters to ensure their record of voting matches the central record.

And one could have the code for the e-voting software released publicly, so that experts can verify that it is does what it is meant to do.

So I’m with Chris Hipkins. The time has come to at least be trialling e-voting. The logical opportunity is the 2013 local body elections.

UPDATE: The Government has responded to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee review of the 2010 local body elections. They have said:

  1. The Government will look at amending the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 to enable e-voting, with DIA to look into the merits and practicalities
  2. The Government will explore the option of making the Electoral Commission responsible for the oversight of local authority elections