Debating the Threshold

July 29th, 2011 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn has responded to my blog post where I agreed with him on keeping the one electorate seat threshold, but advocated the party vote threshold should be 4%, rather than abolished.

He notes my position is the same as the Royal Commission which said:

the Commission considers that the [4%] threshold is a justifiable and desirable means of preventing the proliferation of minor parties in the House. Such a proliferation could threaten the stability and effectiveness of government.

I/S says:

Which probably sounded good back in the safe, conformist, 2-party world of 1986, where we hadn’t had a coalition government for over fifty years, and political difference and dispute was seen as threatening. But to modern eyes, it seems quaint – not to mention sniffily undemocratic. To point out the obvious, we currently have 8 parties represented in our Parliament, and in the past have had as many as 9. And it hasn’t threatened the stability or effectiveness of government one bit

First of all I would disagree that there hasn’t been an impact on stability and effectiveness. Clark went early in 2002 due to the collapse of the Alliance as one example.

But the measure is not how many parties get into Parliament, but how many do you need to *all* agree to be able to pass a law. Here’s what the situation would be under 5%, and no threshold since 1996:

1996 – Nat/NZF would not have been a majority and would have needed either ACT or Christian Coalition or both United and Legalise Cannabis to govern. Was hard enough to be stable with Winston, let alone needing either Graham Capill or the Legalise Cannabis Party to agree to the budget.

1999 – Labour/Alliance needed Greens to pass laws, and no change at 0% threshold

2002 – Labour/Progressive/UF had 62/120 seats. With no threshold they would be 59 seats. UF had ruled Greens out so they would need either Christian Heritage, Outdoor Recreation, or Alliance to support.

2005 – The only change would be Destiny would have one MP

2008 – National would not be able to choose to pass laws either with ACT or Maori, but only if both agreed. That to me would not be stable or effective.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that our political culture doesn’t support destabilising, winner-take-all, toys-out-of-the-cot tantrum politics. Winston Peters tried that in 1996, the electorate punished him for it in 1999, and our parties have learned their lesson:

Actually with no threshold, there is no chance of a party being wiped out, so I think they would be more likely to have tantrums. Falling under the threshold would no longer be oblivion.

The second reason is mathematical: a “proliferation of minor parties” actually increases stability and effectiveness, by increasing the number of possible majority coalitions, thus reducing the bargaining power of any one party.

You have more combinations, but you need more parties to agree to form a Government. I do not think a six party Government is more stable than a two party Government. Israel has shown us this many times. This is not some crazy theory – they have the empirical evidence – which is why they have raised their threshold.

We have a good example of this in the current Parliament: ACT can’t “hold the government to ransom” and demand big policy concessions because National has an alternative majority with the Maori Party. Meanwhile, the Maori Party can’t “hold the government to ransom” because the National has an alternative majority with ACT. The two parties effectively act as a check on each other’s demands.

And here I/S is just wrong, because the very thing he lauds (the ability to choose ACT or Maori) would not happen under no threshold. National would have had 55 seats, ACT 4, Maori 5 and United 1. You need 62 to govern.

Having an extra 3 or 4 kibble parties at the bottom end simply increases the balance; if one of them doesn’t like your policy, then you go to another. You’re only in trouble if they all don’t like your policy, in which case its probably well-deserved

Nope under a no threshold scenario, if even one of the kibble parties disagrees, then you’re stuck.

The other argument I have against no threshold, is it will encourage extremism. Again not just a theory – look at Israel. With no threshold you can gain a list seat with 0.4% of the vote or 10,000 supporters. Now the way you get your 10,000 votes is to come out with crazy extreme policies (for example a law change so husbands can not be charged with raping their wives) that may repeal 98% of the country but appeals to 0.4%.

And no threshold will encourage extremist parties, and reward them with a seat. And if that seat is needed to form a Government, they will then get some sort of policy win.

As I said I think one can debate a 3% v 4% v 5% threshold, but I believe a threshold is desirable and necessary.

Meanwhile, this illusion costs us in democratic terms, by effectively disenfranchising (at the last election) 6.5% of the population. DPF would probably counter that those people and their views and votes aren’t important. I disagree.

Well they always have the choice of voting for a party likely to be in Parliament. No party perfectly represents my policy views. I choose to vote for the party that I deem most able to fulfil my policy desires.

If you take the view that every person must be able to get their preferred party into Parliament, then why stop at a 120 MP house where the effective threshold is 0.4% if there is no statutory threshold. You could argue for a 500 MP House, so that even parties with 0.1% of the vote get to be represented.

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Defending the Threshold

July 28th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at NRT blogs:

With ACT cutting a deal in Epsom, and Peter Dunne cutting one in Ohariu, MMP’s “electorate lifeboat”, which sees parties gain list seats in parliament if they gain a single electorate, has come in for a fair amount of flack. And today, Labour leader Phil Goff has reminded us all that he opposes it, and that he wishes MMP to have a strict 5% threshold, with no exception for electorates. I think this is exactly the wrong position to take. Why? Because the “electorate lifeboat” improves proportionality.

Phil Goff’s stance is pretty naked self interest. He only opposes it, so ACT will lose representation in Parliament. Goff’s view of a good electoral system is one which gets rid of Labour’s opponents.

My concern is that a future Labour Government will make unilateral partisan changes to the Electoral Act, as they did with the Electoral Finance Act. Simon Power set the model for bipartisan co-operation on electoral issues, but will Labour return his generosity? My concern again is that they will think National were suckers for giving them a say on electoral law, and that they will revert to type as we saw with the Electoral Finance Act and the retrospective legislation to retain Harry Duynhoven as an MP.

Proportionality, remember, was the entire point of MMP. We wanted parties to be represented in direct proportion to the votes cast. The 5% threshold undermines this, but the “electorate lifeboat” provides a way around it. Without it, the Parliaments of 1999, 2002, 2005, and 2008 would have been less proportional, and less representative, thanks to the exclusion of (respectively) of NZFirst, the Progressives, United Future and ACT. That would have been bad for our democracy.

Sometimes the lifeboat gives perverse results, as in 2008 when ACT gained 5 MPs while NZ First gained none despite receiving more party votes (4.07% vs 3.65%). This is obviously unfair. But you don’t remove unfairness by increasing it. The appropriate response to this situation is to give parties in NZ First’s situation representation, not deny it to both.

Even though personally I do not want NZ First in Parliament, I agree (somewhat) with Idiot/Savant. I support the threshold being lowered to 4%, as the Royal Commission recommended, even though this would have led to NZ First staying in Parliament.

I don’t support eliminating the threshold entirely, which would lead to a party on 0.4% gaining representation. I think this would lead to an Israel type situation where miniscule extremist parties have massive say in who forms the Government. Israel has learnt from their mistakes and has been increasing the threshold.

So in my opinion 5% is too high a threshold and no threshold is too “low”. I could possibly be convinced of say 3%, but in the end I think one should stick with the Royal Commission’s model as closely as possible, in the absence of strong reasons not to.

Goff’s – and Labour’s – position is not founded on democratic principles. Instead, it is driven by naked self-interest – most obviously, by a desire to remove ACT from the political equation …

Indeed.

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Distasteful

July 15th, 2011 at 11:44 am by David Farrar

Lockwood refuses to allow Harawira to swear an oath which is illegal under the Constitution Act 1986. It was nothing to do with language – he is able to swear the oath in te reo. But he wanted to use words not allowed. he wanted to use the oath as a speech where he talks about reducing inequalities etc. That is what we have parliamentary speeches for.

Anyway, because Lockwood upheld the law, Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn has compared him to a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

That’s a pretty disgusting smear. It’s the extremism in politics that John Ansell was referring to. I didn’t agree with John’s ad, but I do agree you should be able to have a view that the Maori seats should be abolished, and not be called a racist.

Likewise you should be able to insist someone follows the official oath, without being compared to the KKK.

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Whitcoulls

June 1st, 2011 at 8:57 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The National Distribution Union says it is outraged at proposed contract changes for staff at Whitcoulls and Borders, which were sold last week by administrators.

The contracts, given to staff on Friday to review over the weekend, scrap any previous redundancy payments and force workers to sign away any claims or grievances from their previous employer.

Employees have been given until the end of today to sign up to the new agreements. The union is calling for the contracts to be withdrawn and is seeking legal advice.

NDU general secretary Robert Reid said last week’s ”cautious optimism” about the deal has turned to outrage.

”Never in my 30 years of working as a trade unionist have I ever seen such a blatant ruse to force workers to sign out of their rights and entitlements in a business transfer situation,” Reid said.

”Whitcoulls workers are being asked to sign away any entitlement to redundancy compensation, notice of termination of employment and any claims or grievances from their previous employer. If the administrator made workers redundant today, it would have to make a lieu-of-notice payment and redundancy payment, up to a cap of $18,600 per person.”

And No Right Turn comments:

Businesses who treat their employees this way don’t deserve my money, and they don’t deserve yours. So, I suggest not shopping there if you have the option.

Let’s look at this one step at a time. First of all I saw a tweet which said that less than 5% of the staff belong to a union, and the vast majority have signed the new contract. So let’s not assume the NDU is speaking on behalf of majority of employees.

Secondly it is regretable that any employees are asked to take on a contract with less generous provisions than previously. I’ve been there in the past and it is never something you are happy about.

But thirdly you have to look at why there is a new owner for Whitcoulls – the old owners went into receivership. This means they were unable to run it profitably, and have lost some or most of their inveestment. Now bearing in mind that the stores were unable to be run profitably, it is no surprise that new owners are offering less generous conditions. If they offered the same terms and conditions, then it is highly likely they would also be unable to make a profit, and they’d fold and then there would be no jobs for anyone.

Only in Fantasy Land does the cost of labour not affect profitability and the ability to create jobs.

Fourthly, the existing staff have a choice. They could decline a job with the new owners, which would trigger the redundancy provisions in their existing contracts. Even though the old owners are in receivership they are not bankrupt, and staff entitlements are ranked near the top of the priority queue.

So for some staff, it might make sense to take the redundancy and look for a new job. For others, they would obviously have the security of carrying on.

Then we turn to Idiot/Savant’s advice to boycott Whitcoulls. This will mean that all those staff who did take up the new contract with no redundancy provisions, will then lose their jobs as Whitcoulls closes for good, and they will be left with nothing. I  love someone who hates employers so much, he’ll put 1,000 people out of work to make his point.

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A double fisking for No Right Turn

February 24th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

No Right Turn has had a double fisking in the last couple of days. Cactus Kate, a tax expert, has fisked him over his claims of tax dodging by corporates (he failed to even read the notes to the accounts).

And on the other side of the spectrum constitutional law professor Andrew Geddis has politely rubbished his posts about the national state of emergency. We’ll start with that.

NRT blogged here and here that the calling of a national state of emergency is:

National states of emergency are intended for disasters affecting the entire country – wars, epidemics, that sort of thing. Instead, we’re seeing one cynically used for political purposes, essentially for spin. That is a gross abuse of power, and one we should not accept.

and

Make no mistake: this is a cynical political exercise, all about who gets the limelight (and hence the credit) in an election year. Again, it is a gross abuse of power. But entirely par for the course for National.

Now Professor Geddis has himself been very willing to criticise the Government when he feels they are acting inappropriately with regard to their powers. He criticised the Act responding to the last earthquake and the sacking of ECan. But in this instance he says:

To use a phrase much beloved of I/S himself, I call bullshit.

First up, the declaration of a national state of emergency does not mean that there is now a power to do all the horribly draconian things that he claims can be done in places like Invercargill, Whangarei or other places far from Christchurch. All the powers given under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDEMA) can only be exercised for the specific purpose of things like “saving life, preventing injury, or rescuing and removing injured or endangered persons”, or “prevent[ing] or limit[ing] the extent of the emergency”.

There is no way that these purposes can be said to exist outside of the immediate environs of Christchurch, so the specter of the police “clos[ing] public spaces in Invercargill” or the like in the wake of this declaration is a complete red herring.

So that puts paid to the so called gross abuse of power.  And as for why make it a national state of emergency:

But what about emergency situations where the resources of a single Group are inadequate to respond? There, help from other Groups may be needed. But getting that help requires those in charge of the affected Group to coordinate with those in charge of others, which is yet another task on top of the many they will have already. Furthermore, all they can do is ask for help – which other Groups may or may not be able to give, depending on availability.

However, now that there is a state of national emergency, two things can happen. First, the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management can take over the coordinating role between different Groups and centralise that process. Second, the Director can instruct other Groups to initiate their own emergency management plans and thus release resources to help Canterbury.

These powers may not be as earth shattering as empowering the police to shut down central Invercargill, but neither are they insignificant. Indeed, it isn’t going overboard to say that the fate of people’s lives may depend on the bureaucratic niceties involved in the declaration of national emergency.

Geddis concludes:

So, like I say – I/S’s posts regrettably are bullshit. I rather fear that he’s fallen victim to exactly the disease he accuses John Key and National of … being so partisan in outlook that everything must have a motive other than the obvious one.

Sometimes even politicians just want to do the right thing.

Cactus Kate is equally blunt when it comes to I/S’s financial literacy. He blogged:

Infratil [PDF] reported a pretax profit of $106 million, but paid only $11 million in tax – an effective rate of 10.4%

This was part of a series to make everyone think that all these evil corporate are evading tax and not paying their fair share. He even got Trevor Mallard blogging in agreement, which tells us much about Trevor’s financial literacy. The difference is NRT is just a blogger, and Trevor was once an Associate Finance Minister.

Cactus Kate explains:

If you click on Infratil’s accounts for example (they are the only one I could find with a comprehensive explanation of their tax balances) on page 53 you will see that here they take the net profit before tax and show a line-by-line adjustment on the tax numbers. The explanation of deferred and current tax is even made by the company in its accounts at page 45 in relatively simple terms.

The explanation for Infratil not paying the full company tax rate is a massive $30.4 million write-back in the “Net investment realisations/impairment”.

It had absolutely nothing to do with tax avoidance, evasion, shirking of their duty or offshore structuring. No cheating. All accounts are audited and signed off by professionals using NZ accounting standards.

And the killer blow is:

If NRT looked at pg 53 he will see that for the 2009 year Infratil made a net loss of $93.8 million before tax, yet had a tax expense of $34.6 million? How can a company making a loss NRT and pay all that tax? Based on the raw presentation of his data this makes no sense at all does it? Why? Because you have to read the data contained in the tax reconciliation and interpreted what has happened in the company.

Perhaps before No Right Thought engaged his fingers defaming a very wide range of directors in New Zealand as “cheating” on company taxes, he may just like to learn how to read and engage his brain and find out just why each corporate hasn’t paid the full tax rate for that particular year.

When you get fisked by both Cactus Kate and Andrew Geddis/Pundit in the same week, you’re not having a good one.

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Corruption or Idiocy?

December 7th, 2010 at 6:28 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn has breathlessly labeled as corruption the Government’s announcement of the first ultra-fast broadband contracts.

Why? He blogged:

So, what does this look like by electorates? UFB will be rolled out to:

  • Whangarei, held by National’s Phil Heatley, with a majority of 14,663;
  • Hamilton East, held by National’s David Bennett with a majority of 8,820;
  • Hamilton West, held by National’s Tim Macindoe, with a majority of 1,618;
  • Taupo, held by National’s Louise Upston, with a majority of 6,445;
  • Taranaki-King Country, held by National’s Shane Ardern, with a majority of 15,618;
  • Tauranga, held by National’s Simon Bridges, with a majority of 11,742;
  • New Plymouth, held by National’s Jonathan Young, with a majority of 105;
  • Whanganui, held by National’s Chester Borrows, with a majority of 6,333.

So, the first thing to note is that only National-held electorates get broadband; those with Labour MPs need not apply (sorry, you voted for the wrong person and so must be punished). The second thing to note is the targeting of marginal seats New Plymouth and Hamilton West. It’d be interesting if someone who knew about IT policy used the OIA to delve into National’s rollout decision, but from here it looks like pure pork-barrel politics. And I don’t like it one bit.

Idiot/Savant is like the boy who cries wolf. He slanders so many people as corrupt, that it becomes a meaningless label. Basically it just all comes over as hysterical rants.

His idiocy was picked up and blogged by Clare Curran, but even Clare worked out what weak ground he and she were on, and later did updates backing away “before David Farrar at Kiwiblog has a go”.

I will indeed have a go at such gross stupidity, and even worse effectively slander. Where do I start.

  1. National holds every single seat outside the four main cities (which due to their size are more complex decisions) except for Palmerston North. So I guess the first contracts should have gone to Tasmania, to stop them including National held seats.
  2. Six of the eight seats listed are very safe seats with majorities over 5,000
  3. This is not a case of some areas getting funding, and some not getting funding. All medium to large urban areas will be getting fibre to the home. This is purely an announcement of the first two contracts. Other contracts will be announced in the near future – the difference between being announced first and second is absolutely minimal.
  4. Ever heard of MMP?

Clare initially blogged:

Steven Joyce is a crafty fellow. But even he will overplay his hand one of these days.

Then later as she realised every non metro seat bar Palmie is national held:

Oh and before David Farrar at Kiwiblog has a go and points out that Labour holds only Palmerston North of the general electorates outside the metropolitan centres, that’s true. But it would have been smart for the government to think about this. Instead it doesn’t look so good.

So Steven in the one blog post goes from the too crafty manipulator of funding to National seats to being not very smart for not thinking about the look. He can’t win can he!

Frankly I am sure Steven didn’t spend one second thinking about electorate boundaries with the contracts, and am personally very pleased with that.

Oh and here’s one for the conspiracy nutters. 25% of NZers will not be covered by the UFB initiative. And pretty much 100% of them live in National held seats. So 100% of people in Labour seats will get UFB and only around 65% of people in National sears. Yes, obviously pork barrel politics.

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New Zealand’s Glenn Beck

September 22nd, 2010 at 8:25 am by David Farrar

I am not a fan of Glenn Beck. I do like many of the Fox News presenters (long live Hannity), but Beck is just too over the top with the language he uses against the Obama Government, and holding them responsible for everything bad.

It occurred to me, that we now have our online equivalent in New Zealand of Glenn Beck. This goes to No Right Turn for declaring the Government is a Cabinet of murderers for not lowering the blood alcohol limit for driving. He even states:

So, Cabinet decided to kill 66 people and pay more than $500 million so the liquor industry could continue to make money. They’re murderers, nothing more.

This is extremism that goes beyond even the Glenn Becks of this world.

I guess by NRT’s logic, the last Labour Government decided to kill around 300 people by also not lowering the limit.

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Armstrong on the politics of the earthquake

September 9th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

The politicians are already playing politics, however, though not too flagrantly. Saying you are not going to play politics – as Goff effectively did – is itself a political statement. As was John Key’s decision to cancel his trip to Britain and France. As was Labour’s suggestion that yesterday was not the day for the verbal combat of ministers’ question-time in Parliament to be on display.

I thought that was very smart, and impressed that Labour suggested it. The decision provoked some hysteria from No Right Turn:

Meanwhile, Parliament has cancelled Question Time today, on the grounds that holding the government to account might be upsetting to the people of Christchurch. So, the earthquake hasn’t just damaged several Canterbury landmarks, but our democracy as well. If the politicians believe it is unseemly to query and crow about the earthquake response (which has been good – an example of what government can do for us), then they could not do so. But to deem it unseemly to question the government in any way in the wake of a crisis comes disturbingly close to fascism.

Yes having the Opposition offer to have one less question time a year, is indeed close to fascism. I mean it is just like burning down the Reichstag.

Armstrong continues:

As was the PM’s second visit to Christchurch since the quake. As was Goff’s decision to ask to accompany Key in what was his second visit to the city in almost as many days.

Again thought that was a very neat thing to do.

Labour argues that Goff’s presence is justified by Christchurch being a Labour city.

Oh, just when they were doing so well. I was saying all these nice things about Labour, and they say something stupid. There was no need to justify Goff’s presence – he is the Leader of the Opposition. But to claim justification on the basis it is a Labour city is stupid. Does that mean that if the earthquake had hit the North Shore of Auckland, Goff would not visit – or if it had been another Napier earthquake?

Incidentally Christchurch is not the old republic it used to be. National received 4,889 more party votes in the five urban seats, and if you include the two rural seats, they received 21,472 more party votes.

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No Right Turn’s OIA study

August 31st, 2010 at 12:07 pm by David Farrar

NZPA have done a story, based on No Right Turn’s OIA study. This is a good example of how blogs can do good quality research and get stories into the media based on their worth:

Nearly all ministers fail to supply information requested under the Official Information Act (OIA) in the required time, a study by a blogsite has found.

Idiot/Savant of No Right Turn, a left-wing blogsite, gathered information using the Act over the past three months on how requests for information were handled.

The fastest answering ministers were: Chris Finlayson (who is Attorney-General, and has responsibility for Treaty negotiations and arts) who answered all requests within the 20 working day deadline and Maurice Williamson (a minister outside Cabinet responsible for a range of portfolios including building, customs and statistics) who answered 96.1 percent on time.

The slowest were:

* Gerry Brownlee (energy, economic development, leader of the house) — 39.7 percent on-time.

* Judith Collins (police, corrections, veterans’s affairs) — 48.3 percent.

* Tim Groser (trade, climate change negotiations) and Jonathan Coleman (immigration, broadcasting, tourism) — 50 percent.

* Kate Wilkinson (labour, conservation, food safety) — 52.3 percent.

* Phil Heatley (fisheries, housing) –54.2 percent.

* Paula Bennett (social development and employment, youth affairs) refused to cooperate with the survey.

The blogger said it was appalling that ministers were not ensuring they met the legal time limit.

Hopefully the sunlight will encourage more Ministers to meet the deadlines in future. They are a deadline – not a target.

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Smears from No Right Turn

August 17th, 2010 at 7:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn decides to lie and smear:

In September 2008, John Boscawen donated $100,000 to the ACT Party. In exchange, he got a high list ranking, leading to an MP’s salary of $131,000 a year plus expenses. And now with the overthrow of Deputy Leader Heather Roy, he looks likely to turn that into a Ministerial position paying $204,300.

Looks like Boscawen made a pretty good investment.

What a disgusting post, which he won’t even allow comments on.

First of all, it is well known that John Boscawen has had a successful career in business. His dad was a school teacher and he went to Otahuhu College, so we are not talking inherited wealth. But John is now a multi-millionaire, and to suggest he entered politics to gain a salary of $131,000 or even $204,000 a year is ridicolous – I doubt that is even close to the interest he makes on his investments. Actually it is just a nasty malicious smear.

Secondly John’s donation was made on 26 September 2008. The ACT party list was announced on 20 August 2008, so Idiot/Savant is just telling lies to support his smear when he claims he got his high list ranking in exchange for his donation.

The reality is that Idiot/Savant reveals more about himself, than John Boscawen, with his blog post.He can’t imagine someone not motivated by money – which reflects on him more than he realises. In his world, you can’t donate a large amount of money to something just because you believe in a cause.

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Council for International Development

June 10th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The Council for International Development is an umbrella organisation for aid groups operating from New Zealand. Last year, it criticised the government’s disestablishment of NZAID and shift in the focus of aid from poverty reduction to business growth. In retaliation, Murray McCully has just cut all their funding, resulting in 10 of its 11 staff being laid off.

This is a vicious, brutal, vindictive act of political thuggery. But its also stupid. Those staff perform a vital role in coordinating the efforts of relief groups during disasters. Without them, aid money is likely to be poorly spent. And when the government’s preferred response to disasters is to channel relief funding though NGOs, that will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of that spending.

I disagree of course. First of all I am staggered that the CID has somehow grown so it has 11 staff. I recall the days when it was around 1 to 2 staffers.

Secondly it is nonsense to say they perform a vital role in co-ordinating relief groups during disasters. I worked at the Red Cross for four years, and co-ordination was done globally or bilaterally. This is not to say the CID hasn’t been a group which provides some value, but it is massively hyping it to say they co-ordinate relief efforts and nonsense to say without them aid money is likely to be poorly spent. That is in fact insulting to the Red Cross and Save the Children Fund who are global leaders in effective relief. The demise of some CID staff will not affect the quality of their work in my opinion.

The CID, while providing some useful stuff, was partly a lobby group, and I regard it as improper for the Government to fund lobby groups. It is in fact anti-democratic. The health sector is full of these groups also.

What Idiot/Savant has overlooked is that if CID really does play such a vital role with aid agencies, then the aid agencies themselves can choose to fund CID, rather than the taxpayer. Taxpayer funding go on actual aid and relief, not Wellington lobbyists.

Look at their 2008 manifesto to see that they were very much a lobby group. Now nothing wrong with that, but don’t expect taxpayers to fund it.

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A racist ad by Candle

April 21st, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The Human Rights Act absolutely prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in employment. It is illegal to refuse to offer someone a job on the basis of their race, colour, or ethnic or national origins. It is illegal to even ask an applicant for details which might indicate an intention to do so. Because of this, all newspapers now carry prominent notices in their employment sections warning that they will not accept advertisements which appear to seek to employ people only of a certain race or gender.

So I was quite surprised to be pointed at this ad from Candle ICT on TradeMe, which clearly and repeatedly states that the position is open only to Maori:

As part of an initiative to kick-start the IT careers of Maori graduates, we are seeking up to 30 graduates to take part in an internship project which will see you learning the in’s and out’s of being a successful business analyst. [...]

These internships are open to all Maori graduates nationwide with training being held in Wellington and Auckland…

(Image here in case they take it down).

This indicates a clear intent to discriminate on the basis of race. It would not be acceptable to advertise a position as open only to Pakeha, and it is not acceptable to advertise a position as open only to Maori. Any racial requirement in employment is unlawful discrimination.

I first saw the ad being twittered last night. I am also amazed Candle ICT let such an ad go up. You expect HR firms to know the law.

I note the ad has now been removed.

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They forget history

March 30th, 2010 at 5:13 pm by David Farrar

Brendon Burns blogs:

Today’s announcement violates that fundamental principle upheld by the Right that there should be no taxation (rates) without representation. It axes a democratically-elected body without any public input for the first time at least in recent history. It forces through this bill under urgency from later this afo with no chance for Cantabrians or anyone else to comment.

And No Right Turn exhales about me:

So you’d think that when the present government announced plans to sack an elected council and strip 560,000 people of their vote in regional council elections for four years, as a “defender of democracy”, he’d be similarly outraged about it, right?

But Burns is wrong. This is not unprecedented in recent history. From the Q&A:

Rodney District Council in May 2000
Local Government Minister Sandra Lee appointed a Commissioner, Grant Kirby, to replace the elected Council following a Ministerial review. The Government introduced and passed the Local Government (Rodney District Council) Amendment Bill which suspended elections of Councillors and
clarified the role of commissions, through all stages under urgency on 2 May 2000, with the support of the National Party and all parties in Parliament. This intervention was at the Council’s request.

So it happened under the last Government, and to a territorial local authority which has far bigger impact on people’s lives than a regional council. Also done under urgency, and also done at the request of local Councils – but in this case the ten or so territorial authorities.

What is the big difference?

National in Opposition supported Labour, because they put doing the right thing ahead of petty politics. If a Council has not managed a water allocation plan after 18 years, then it is a pretty sure sign than things are wrong and need fixing. Just waving a stick and saying “try to do better” has not worked.

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Is the PM getting a private spy agency?

March 23rd, 2010 at 1:58 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The Prime Minister has got himself a private spy agency.

OK, so he’s always kind of had one. Since 1990, the External Assessments Bureau, part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, has been providing assessments to the government on foreign events. This was pretty uncontroversial – EAB had no operational role, was focused strictly on analysing information, and its target was strictly foreigners. It could not be considered any form of threat to the New Zealand public.

Having worked in the PMs Office, I got to see the occassional EAB analysis. They tended to be of two types – a country report or a person report, the persons generally being Heads of States and Governments.

They did not tend to use top secret information, from spying. In fact much of what was in the reports, you would find on the Internet. However they were sensitive because they would offer observations that can be blunt, and could upset other countries. Of course, there were probably some reports that did use more classified information that I didn’t see, but the vast majority was based on public sources.

So really, their job is quite straight forward – taking information from multiple sources, and doing summaries for the PM and/or other Ministers. They are often widely distributed within MFAT also – so again these are not generally top secret stuff.

Now, thanks to the Rugby World Cup, its been renamed the “National Assessments Bureau”, and has got itself a domestic focus. As well as looking at the politics of other countries, it will be looking at those of New Zealand. As well as looking at foreigners, it will also be “assessing”, and advising the government on, the beliefs, actions, and plans of New Zealanders.

Now this is a significant change, but it does not mean they are suddenly a spy agency. They have no powers, and AFAIK no field operations at all – they just analyse information and write reports based on it.

I guess the reason their role has been expanded, is because there was no one clear agency who was responsible for domestic security analysis, and there may have been a silo problem (such as the US had prior to 9/11).

As all the EAB, now NAB, is analysis, I don’t think portraying them as a new MI5 or SIS is helpful. Again, they have no powers. They can’t get warrants like the SIS. They can’t intercept communications like the GCSB. They can’t arrest people like the Police. They can’t shoot people like the military.

Having said that, the change is not insignificant, and where I do agree with NRT, is that there should have been some greater transparency around the change, including a better explanation of why the change was seen as desirable. Why, for example, would the Police not be in charge of domestic security analysis?

But NAB has no controls at all. It does not even have to issue an independent annual report giving a broad idea of the scope of its activities. And when they are assembling dossiers on New Zealanders for the Prime Minister’s consumption, that is simply unacceptable.

It has no controls as it has no special powers. It is part of the Department of PM and Cabinet and hence subject to the Official Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Ombudsman etc.

And they do publish an annual report – it is part of the DPMC report.

The NAB website says:

NAB is an unusual organisation. It has no role in providing policy advice to the government and no operational functions, and nor does it provide services to the public. Its mandate is sharply defined: NAB’s role is to provide assessments, not advice. This means that it seeks to explain events and developments, but it does not offer advice on what actions the government might take.

Having said all that, I am interested in the rationale for change, and think there should be a fuller understanding of what “gaps” in analysis there were, that this change will plug.

To that end I have just filed an OIA request with the DPMC for any information about the change of name and mandate for the EAB to the NAB. I have no doubt parts of any papers I receive will be redacted, but I hope to gain some better understanding of the change, and will blog it when I get the response.

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All theory, no reality

February 15th, 2010 at 10:25 am by David Farrar

No Right Turn gives us a great example of the difference between an academic theoretical analysis, and understanding the real word.

He blogs on income distribution:

So, the median income is around the decile 5 boundary of $23,000 a year. …

So, 78% of us don’t even pay the middle tax rate, and the top tax rate is utterly irrelevant to 91% of the population. Remember that next time the government or the media talk about “middle-income” tax cuts – they’re not talking about you, or most of New Zealand. Instead, they’re only talking about themselves.

The Standard have made the same mistake also. You see in New Zealand, we have these things called families and households. What No Right Turn sees as a mass of poor people who will be unaffected by tax cuts, are spouses, older children, many students and even parents of those who do earn more than $23,000 a year, or even $48,000 a year.

If a family has one parent earning $60,000 a year, and one on $15,000 part-time, they both benefit from a change to the 33% tax rate. Because they are a family!!

Likewise most students still get some support from their parents. The income deciles are for adults aged 15 and over, so that covers Year 11 to 13 at school plus full-time tertiary students. And many of those students will have higher salaries once they are not studying.

There are also those on benefits who don’t pay any net income tax. Remember 76% of net income tax is paid by 10% of the population.  But if you are retired and earning just $25,000 a year, that doesn’t mean you are against tax cuts, because you are happy that your adult children will benefit from them.

So ignore the stupid stats and graphs about individual incomes. They are relevant to academic theory, rather than the real world. Household Family income is what affects most people. Now as of June 2009, the median household income was around $64,000. 30% of households have income over $93,000.

If a household is a couple with at least one child, the median annual household income is around $75,000.

Here is what would be a more useful stat. Of households or families that have at least one adult in full-time work, how many of them have at least one adult earning over $48,000 (the threshold for the 33% rate).  It will be a lot more than 22%.

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Jury trials

December 22nd, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Government has done something novel as part of a consultation. It has actually released a draft bill for purposes of consultation. This allows people to give feedback on precise details. The bill is based on the criminal procedure simplification project, so will be controversial within the legal profession.

The bill divides offences up into five categories of seriousness. They are:

  1. punishable by fine only
  2. punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years
  3. an offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 3 years that is not a category 4 or 5 offence
  4. an offence listed in Schedule 1 of the bill (rape, wounding, kidnapping, arson etc)
  5. an offence listed in Schedule 2 of the bill (murder, treason, MP corruption, slave dealing etc)

It is proposed that the first two categories be dealt with by way of judge only trial. No Right Turn is hotly against this, and says it is a breach of the Magna Carta.  He concedes that minor offences do not currently have a right for jury trial, but says a punishment of three years is not minor.

The current law does not allow jury trials for charges where the maximum term is less than three months, so in effect the proposed change is to move the threshold from less than three months maximum, to a three year maximum.

I blogged back in May on this, and listed the offences I could find that would then be tried by a Judge only. They include indecent acts in public (two year max), aggravated assault (three years max), assault with intent to injure (three years max), assault on a child or female (two years max), and theft of less than $1,000 (1 year max).

I am comfortable with the threshold lifting from less than three months, but am not sure if three years is about right or too far. So I did some research.

First of all I thought, what do people actually charged with these offences end up serving. It is almost impossible to ever get the maximum sentence.

The percentage of convictions for an offence listed above, that even got a custodial sentence was very low – ranging from 3% for minor assaults to 15% for male assaults female. This is from Stats NZ 2008 stats.

Then we go to the Ministry of Justice conviction and sentencing report for 2006. Of the 15% who get a custodial sentence for male assaults female, the average prison term is six months. With parole it means out in three months. So 85% get no prison term, and 15% serve an average three months in jail (and these are probably people who have dozens of offences chalked up by then). Is that serious enough to need a jury trial, considering the delays that mean for the victim?

A minor assault has an average prison term of just 1.9 months, so on average out in 30 days.

For theft, only 6% of convictions get a custodial sentence, and the average sentence is 5.6 months so out in 90 days.

Only 2% of cannabis use convictions are custodial, and the average sentence is 0.9 of a month.

Now I have not checked every single offence with a maximum penalty of three years or less, so I am open to persuasion that a threshold of two years or even one year could be more appropriate, but for the most common offences, the resulting penalties are overwhelmingly non-custodial.

The Minister estimates this change would reduce the number of jury trials by around 1,000 a year. It would be useful to have that broken down by type of offence, so one could see what different it would make to have the threshold at say two years instead of three.

Finally, I was interested in what other OECD type countries do – where do they draw the line?

  • France – jury trials reserved for most severe crimes only
  • US – Supreme Court has interpreted the constitutional right to trial bu jury as only applying to offences with a maximum sentence of six months or more
  • Australia and UK – no threshold as far as I can tell
  • Austria – serious criminal cases only
  • Belgium – grave crimes only
  • Canada – only for crimes with a maximum sentence of five years or more
  • Germany – no juries, but lay judges alongside professional judges
  • Greece – a panel of three judges and four lay jurors
  • Italy – only for serious crimes like murder, and a panel of 2 judges and 6 laymen
  • Japan – From May 2009 jury trials resume but only for severe crimes
  • Singapore – death penalty cases only
  • Israel – no juries (as British did not trust the locals)

I find it interesting the countries with a jury made up of judges and lay people. Do teh Judges dominate the lay members of the jury?

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The Human Rights Review Tribunal

December 19th, 2009 at 1:40 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn criticises some of the recent appointments to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

While I don’t endorse his language and descriptions, I do agree with him that the appointments look too politically loaded. Generally National has been much better than Labour in this area, and this is the first set of appointments which look unbalanced. It may be that each individual is qualified, but to have four out of nine members with a political background is not desirable.

The one that puzzles me is Brian Neeson. Brian quit National and actually stood against John Key in 2002. Generally parties don’t have a lot of time for people who quite and break their written word not to stand against the official candidate. So why is National appointing Neeson? It is hardly rewarding a supporter.

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Lighten up

November 24th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn really needs to lighten up sometimes. He proclaims journalism has hit a new low, as Audrey Young blogged about a chicken.

I’m with Big News on this. NRT fails to understand the difference between what a journalist writes for their newspaper, and what they may blog about. Audrey’s story was not published in the NZ Herald. Audrey has done hundreds of hard news political stories. A whimsical blog about an escaped chicken is not a low.

Personally I like press gallery blogs that give us a bit of a light hearted look behind the scenes. I thought Audrey;s blog was very funny. An extract:

The talk of Parliament today has not been Hone Harawira’s future, John Key’s boycott of the Dalai Lama, or Phil Goff ending the 20-year consensus on monetary policy.

What has the whole complex in a frenzy is a chicken on the loose – one I have just captured in image- but only my cellphone.

It is a Leghorn according to the chicken specialists in the Beehive in ministerial offices who have been emailing each other about it all day.

It was let loose a week ago with four other birds by some idiot protestor.

The others have been captured by the SPCA but the fourth one, nicknamed Tegel by the security guards, has eluded capture.

Having worked at Parliament, episodes like that would provide light relief.

Audrey also contributes some chicken crossing the road jokes:

John Key: I haven’t had any advice on that but I’m pretty relaxed about it crossing the road.

Phil Goff: I too have chickens and I know what a difficult decision it can be for chickens when it comes to crossing roads. Labour was perhaps too strict on chickens and we are re-examining our chicken policy, though it should be remembered that it is every chicken’s right to cross the road so long as it does not interfere in the rights of others.

Tariana Turia: In the spirit of manaakitanga, the Maori Party would like to offer a home to the chicken in our offices – after it crosses Bowen St – and its hapu.

Sue Kedgley: Leave it run free range on the mound and give the eggs to Bellamies.

Rodney Hide: Officials have estimated that 108.5 hours have been wasted by the public servants in Wellington gazing out of window onto Bowen St to see the chicken crossing the road. My colleague Heather Roy, the Minister of Consumer Affairs, will deal with it.

Heh, not bad.

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Where do you draw the line?

November 16th, 2009 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

Big Day Out has withdrawn the invitation to Beenie Man, which is the right thing to do.

Prior to that, No Right Turn blogged (as I did) that he did not agree with Charles Chauvel’s call to ban Beenie Man from entering New Zealand. He says:

In case Chauvel has forgotten, we are a country which supposedly respects freedom of speech. And that liberty applies to people we disagree with as well as those we like. The widely accepted limit on freedom of speech is “shouting fire in a crowded theatre”. While Beenie man’s music is hateful, like David Irving’s, it simply does not reach that standard. I am not denying the social consequences of his hate, but they are far too distributed and distant to provide a justification for censorship.

Now as I said, I agree with NRT that banning Beenie Man on the basis of some previous songs is inappropriate. But it has got me wondering – where do you draw that line, the so called shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

Wikipedia says:

The lyrics to some of his songs have been criticized for inciting the murder of homosexuals, with lyrics such as, “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays”[17]. In “Mi Nah Wallah”, he says he would like to cut the throats of all gay men.[18] In “Bad Man Chi Chi Man” the lyric instructs listeners to kill gay deejays, and in “Han Up Deh”, the lyric suggests hanging lesbians with a long piece of rope.

Now since 2005 he hasn’t performed such lyrics. He claims that by homosexuals he meant pedophiles – old men picking up young boys. Personally I regard that excuse as disingenuous considering one of his lyrics is also about hanging lesbians. But the fact is he has not sung such lyrics or advocated such acts since 2005.

The question I ponder is, what if he still advocated such actions through his songs. Would that be sufficient reason to bar him entry?

I think of the comparison to David Irving, whom I also did not think should be banned. Irving is an anti-semite and a Holocaust denier. But he doesn’t actually advocate the executions of Jews. If someone actually did actively advocate the extermination of Jews, I would say that crosses the line.

Now likewise, if Beenie Man still actively advocated the murder of gays and lesbians, I think that would cross the line. There is a difference between mere bigotry and actual incitement to violence.

I’d be interested to hear NRT’s thoughts (and others) on where he thinks the line is. Of course to some degree the line might be like spam – hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

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The left on Taito Phillip Field

August 7th, 2009 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

Well the silence from most left blogs on the shame of Taito Philip Field has been illuminating. Public Address just did a one line post on their discussion board announcing the verdict. Red Alert remains strangely silent. The various Labour Party members blogs have said nothing much. Of course this is similiar to their comments at the time. Nowhere did they call out for their party to do the right thing and stop defending Field as a man of integrity whose only crime was to work too hard.

There was one notable exception. No Right Turn has, not surprisingly, covered Field in detail from the very first allegations, and decried both Field and his apologists.He was the first to suggest Field’s action represented criminal offending – back in Sep 2005.

Some extracts from what he said back then:

On 8 August 2006:

It’s official: the Labour Party supports corruption. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from Helen Clark’s refusal to consider internally censuring corrupt MP Taito Philip Field. …

I expect all political parties in New Zealand to take a hard line against corruption, and when this sort of case comes up, to condemn it and any member involved. Labour’s refusal to do so sends a clear message: that they will turn a blind eye to corruption in order to retain power. This is simply unacceptable, and such a party is not worthy of anyone’s vote.

And on 15 August 2006:

As for the argument that a by-election would threaten the government’s majority, what of it? There are some things more important than being in government – and maintaining the integrity of our political system against corruption is one of them. If Labour can’t stay in power except by looking the other way on this sort of thing, then arguably it shouldn’t be in power at all.

Also of interest in a post from Bryce Edwards, who quotes David Lange in 1997 highlighting dodgy electoral spending and donations returns from Field in 1996. Even back then people were raising issues.

UPDATE: Another honourable exception to the silence was Jeremy Greenbrook-Held. He said in July 2006:

I’m embarrassed that I’m a member of the same political party as this man, and, for the record, would love to see a full privilages committee inquiry into his conduct as an MP. It is not worth loosing Margaret Wilson as speaker to cover this up.

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The madness of a 40% reduction by 2020

July 16th, 2009 at 5:12 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn blogs:

The UK government has just announced an ambitious plan to meet its 34% by 2020 climate change target. The details look like nothing less than a green revolution:

Now you may look at this and think hey the UK is going for a 34% by 2020 target, so why not have NZ go for a 40% by 2020 target.

But here is the key difference. This is about how much below 1990 levels you can get. Now as of 2007 NZ was around 20% to 25% above 1990 levels. So in fact we would be having to go from 120% of 1990 to 60% of 1990 – in other words cut our emissions in half in just a decade. It simply can not be done without shooting a hell of a lot of cows.

The UK in 2006 was already 20% below its 1990 level. So the UK has to just go from 80% to 66% (a 14% reduction on 1990 levels), while NZ would have to go from 120% to 60% (a 60% reduction on 1990 levels).

This is why I call a 40% target by 2002 madness. It ignores where we are at today. It would lead to a huge number of jobs destroyed, and could well lead to increased emissions from other countries as they would take up our drop in agricultural production.

a massive investment by electricity companies in home insulation – £3.2 billion over four years to insulate 7.5 million homes.

This sounds a lot. But the UK economy is 20 times the size of the NZ economy. So in NZ terms that is the equivalent of spending 160 million pounds over four years or NZ$409 million.

And National’s 2009  budget announced $320 million over four years for home insulation. So in fact the UK commitment is only 25% greater.

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No Right Turn on Labour’s OIA changes

July 1st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant blogs on the bill promoted by Labour to supress school assessment information:

There are a number of problems with this. In addition to being “class-based” (that is, targeting information based on its content or type rather than the interests its release might prejudice), it also categorically forbids release. And that has never been part of our OIA regime. While the OIA allows information to be withheld if there are good reasons for doing so, it doesn’t make it mandatory, and an organisation can always just release information if they feel like it. This amendment would forbid them from doing that. It effectively recreates the Official Secrets Act specifically for schools. The “justification” for this – that the public might “misunderstand” or “misuse” the information – is decidedly authoritarian.

This is a nasty regression from Labour, and one which undermines a fundamental part of our freedom of information regime.

I made a similiar point yesterday – this proposed law would make school assessment data more secret than security and intelligence data. The Government has the discretion to release security and intelligence data, but Labour want school assessment data to be prohibited from ever being released.

Such a wonderful commitment to open government and accountabilty for the $6 billion we spends on schools.

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More hysteria

June 17th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn cries out:

Not content with turning Auckland into a dictatorship to prepare it for National’s Wellington-imposed gerrymander, the government is now planning a wider assault on local government democracy, with Environment Minister Nick Smith threatening to appoint administrators to run eight councils if they don’t improve their handling of resource consents.

The Minister certainly has this power (the relevant section is s25 of the RMA), but it has never been used, and for obvious reasons. Local authorities are democratically elected and accountable to the people. Replacing them, even in the area of resource consent planning and processing, with an unelected administrator removes that accountability. It silences local voices and crushes local democracy. And that is simply not acceptable in a democratic society.

I always enjoy having a diehard supporter of the Electoral Finance Act talk about silencing voices and crushing democracy. I mean really.

Nowhere in the rant does Idiot/Savant offer any criticism of the Councils for the reason they are being threatened with Administrators. It is because they are consistently breaking the law and failing to process resource consents in time. Local bodies are not above the law, and frankly it would be a good thing for them to suffer consequences for sticking it to everday residents by not processing resource conensts within the time frame set out in law. This is not crushing local democracy – this is ensuring local Councils are not above the law.

Also NRT fails to grasp that the Minister has not appointed Administrators. He is using his power to do so as a threat, so that they improve their performance and start obeying the law. This is a good thing.

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Accountability for death of Halatau Naitoko

May 31st, 2009 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

No Right Turn has died of shock, upon finding he agrees with ACT MP David Garrett on how it is “incomprehensible” that the police officer who shot Naitoko is not facing charges.

Garrett says:

While not charging the officer concerned with manslaughter is probably justifiable, it seems incomprehensible that the officer is not facing charges under the Arms Act for failing to properly identify his target

The Herald on Sunday editorial also touches on this today.

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I don’t guess there will be an apology?

April 17th, 2009 at 6:25 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported yesterday on various donations to candidates and included:

A mystery entity called Toorak Chambers also gave $3000 each to National MPs Simon Bridges, David Bennett, Todd McLay, and Lindsay Tisch.

When questioned, one of the recipients said it was linked to the National Party and referred the Herald to the party’s headquarters.

They today cleared up the mystery:

Meanwhile, the mystery of $3000 donations to several National MPs from “Toorak Chambers” has been cleared up. Toorak Chambers is an incorporated society which owns a building in Hamilton.

The “donations” were effectively a dividend from profits to the members – National’s central North Island electorate branches.

As a political party is an unincorporated society, major assets such as buildings are always vested in an incorporated society as this is a legal body corporate. So basically the “donations” are rental income. Nothing sinister at all. Toorak Chambers even has its accounts online. The constitution is also online, making it very clear it is the property arm of the CNI Region of the National Party.

Nothing wrong with the Herald reporting of Toorak Chambers. It was responsible, and once they had the full info, they published it.

No Right Turn jumped to conclusions:

National’s response to the Electoral Finance Act, or any attempt to regulate political donations, is to claim that transparency is enough. Then, in practice, they evade and undermine that transparency, using corporate fronts to shield the identity of donors. These are the actions of a dishonest, hypocritical, dirty party with something to hide.

We await the unreserved apology. I am not holding my breath.

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